Monday, November 25, 2013

Excising the Errors

Two weekends ago, I was mired in edits. I'm not complaining. This is the sort of thing that comes with the territory if one is fortunate enough to get a book published.

When I told my critique group that my editor had shone a light on all of my bad habits, one of the members asked me if I was willing to share what those habits were. And thus, a blog was born. (Thanks, Anne!)

Bad habit #1: Too many character crutches. I had no idea my characters spent so much time sighing, nodding and shaking their heads. My critique group caught these gestures when they were repeated within a chapter, but with a month between meetings (and a novel written in alternating points-of-view), I sometimes got away with it when characters disappeared until the next even (or odd) numbered chapter....at least until my editor got her hands on my manuscript.

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com
Bad habit #2: Point-of-view slips. As the author envisioning the characters from both the inside and the  outside, I had complete access to their thoughts, feelings, gestures and facial expressions. But as soon as I stepped inside one character and told the story from her viewpoint, I could no longer look at things from the same perspective. Regardless of how tempting a visual is, if my point-of-view character can't see herself do it (widen her eyes, for example), I can't put it on the page. I know this...yet somewhere between knowing it and dreaming up my characters' reactions, I lost sight of this rule and these reactions snuck onto the page.

Bad habit #3: This, then that. Okay, I have to be honest here. I still don't understand this one. I just know that I had to fix it. A lot. Sometimes it had to do with a comma. Sometimes, it was a mystery. Enlightened readers, please enlighten me if you understand the reasoning behind this one.

Bad habit #4: The dreaded -ly adverbs. Again, I know better. I thought I'd killed off most of them, only to find a bunch of them nesting in a single paragraph. Apparently, I had not been brutal enough. Either that, or sheer proximity allowed them to reproduce. Yeah. I'm going with that one.

Bad habit #5: Anything other than "said" as a dialogue tag. At one point, one of my characters chirped. Excising that one was a piece of cake, but leads me to....

Bad habit #6: Clich├ęs. I'm happy to say this one was the least of my worries. I'd sent most of them packing before dinosaurs ruled the earth, but a few did manage to slip by me.

It's humbling to have someone else look at your work and give his or her opinion...and it's downright embarrassing to be caught in mistakes you know better than to have made in the first place. Thank goodness for critique groups and eagle-eyed editors who can take a step back, give you a nudge and look the other way while you blush and fix it because without them, our work would stagnate.

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com
I'd like to believe that I can now eradicate these errors, making my first drafts stellar, but it appears that knowing something is a problem is only part of the process. So, I suppose all I can hope for is fewer occurrences...

...and ongoing relationships with good editors.

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