Monday, June 28, 2010

There’s No Such Thing as Speed Editing!

Believe me on this one, I know. The painful truth is the only thing you gain for speed editing is a poor quality manuscript. Sure, you can speed read your favorite book and ninety percent of the time understand everything you read, but editing is a different animal.

When you read, your brain picks up patterns in words. You see the letters S-E- and before you read the next letter (E) you know the word to be SEE. This is because your brain has memorized this word; the appearance of it, the shape and pattern of the letters and the size of the word on a page. I’m sure we’ve all seen the spam emails where someone writes a bunch of words, leaving out unnecessary letters. If not, congratulations! I’d love to cut down on the junk mail in my box. The point is, you don’t always need all of the letter in order to read the word.

The reason this ‘pattern reading’ works is because over years and years of practices, your brain has taken pictures of every word as you read and stored it away in the big filing cabinet between your ears. (Some filing cabinets are larger than others, but we’re not here to judge.)

This pattern reading, or as my favorite High School Literature teacher, Mr. Gay, used to call it, photo reading, is a nice gift to have until it becomes so automatic you can’t shut it off. I can’t shut mine off by the way. When I edit my speed reader kicks in.

Editing with your speed reader on is like driving 80 MPH with foggy goggles covering your eyes. Sure you can make out the road, and yeah, you can see the big dog—or was it a deer—in the road, but the small detailed patterns on the road signs become invisible. Your brain starts using all those stored snapshots and you gloss over words that might be missing a letter, or are used incorrectly (homophones are the devil’s bitches.) without realizing you’re skimming even when you thought you were editing.

***tisk, tisk***

I’m a guilty party for editing with my skimmers on. I get so excited about a story I’m working on or a blog post, or, heaven forbid a Facebook post, that I miss the small yet blatant errors staring me in the face.

Are you a pattern reader? Join the club. We meet in the church basement on Monday nights and wear nametags that say…Hello. My name is… Oh, that’s another group entirely. In all seriousness pattern reading has an easy fix. Of course it is fine to pattern read when you’re enjoying someone else’s book, but if you find you’re having trouble when editing yours there are a few tricks that help.

First, and most obvious but worth mentioning, tell yourself YOU ARE EDITING. Sit someplace away from the main traffic pattern in your house. Turn off the music, the television, the kids and the significant other (yeah, mine has a button for that) and tune into your work.

Second, now that things are quiet, read each word one at a time. Hopefully if you are at the point of editing to this degree you’ve already fixed the plot holes and underperforming characters. Reading word by word slows you down and refreshes the snapshots in your brain.

Last, there is no substitute for reading aloud. If you’re writing a best seller you’ll need the practice anyway for all those book reading you’re planning. Reading aloud forces the brain to not only see the word but translate it to sounds in order to speak it. As you read you’ll be able to find missing commas and punctuation marks. You’ll also catch dangling participles and passive voice.

Once you’ve learned to turn off the skimmers you’ll find that editing becomes as second nature as picking up a book and reading. Of course it never hurts to read over your final draft a time or two just in case.

Happy writing.

The Reformed Grammar Guru

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I'm A Grammar School Dropout!

Hello. My name is Ann, and I’m a Grammar School Dropout!

For those of you in the elitist Grammar Police Brigade this isn’t news. You’ve had your eyes on me for a while with my misplaced commas, fragmented sentences, and out of whack homophones. I’ve got a stack of red inked submissions to prove it. Like Hester Prynne, I wear a scarlet letter (only mine is a big fat red G for grammar.)

Yes, I’m an offender in the worst possible way, but I’m on the fast track to changing my evil ways! I’m turning over a new leaf, paying my debt to society, handing in my spell checker, and ***gulps*** taking an English Grammar class.

My high school Lit and Grammar teacher was a year away from retirement with enough sick days saved up to take most of MY sophomore year off. (Yes I used year twice in one sentence. Do you really expect me to be fully reformed on day one?) I blame her for most of my offences. Here’s where I also add my shameless plug for good teachers. IF YOU’RE NOT WILLING TO PUT IN THE TIME, DON’T TEACH! That’s for you Trailer Taylor! You know who you are.

I also blame television for my bad spelling and grammar. They, being people much smarter than me, always say T.V. rots your brain and kills your attention span. They are right. I can’t sit still for the time it takes to pee, much less to proof sixty thousand words. So, Mark Burnett, I’m thinking of suing you. How dare you create reality television so riveting I chose to fry my brain instead of diagramming sentences?

Mostly I blame the college professor who gave me my first A on a research paper. I still remember her smiling at me when I looked at her, shock written across my face. She said the paper was right on target, but if she had graded the grammar I’d have gotten an F. She should have given me the F. Now I think as long as the content is good people will overlook the mistakes. Yeah right!

Alright, alright. Really I blame myself.

So here I go, off to grammar school, again. This time I’m taking you all with me. Yeah, you in the back corner, I can see you even with the hood over your head and the iPod plugged in your ears. Didn’t your Mama ever tell you those things will make you deaf? Even the guy in the back is coming along. If I have to endure the pain of being rehabilitated, you do too!

Class begins here on my blog as soon as I can muster up rewriting my lessons (and for once, proofing them). Stay tuned. There will be tears! There will be dangling participles! There will be manuscripts edited correctly! In the end, Ann will be rehabilitated into a Grammar Guru!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Visit to Awenasa

I was recently blessed with a week on Edisto Island, South Carolina. The secluded, family oriented island was the inspiration for the island of Awenasa. The most amazing part of the trip was actually convincing my husband to drive around for an hour and let me take a few pictures of some of the places you might remember from the book. Hope you enjoy a taste of my favorite island!

If you look closely behind the tree you'll see the island's Police Department attached to the Fire Department. Yea, it’s small. There’s not much crime in Edisto.

The road to Jon's private island. No wonder Shannon got lost. I would be looking up at all the trees the whole time.

The jetty from Shannon and Jon's fight on the beach.

The marsh on the highway. Can you smell the salty sea air?

The church where...well, you'll have to read to find out what happens here.

Okay, so this wasn't in the book, but I love this tree. Every year as we travel down the highway leading to Edisto we look for it. Yes, those are beach toys decorating a tree in the marsh with an American flag above.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Autograph Please!

I never would have thought the most nerve-racking part of this whole publishing business would be signing my name on the inside of the first book sold. Seriously, my hands shook and I had to practice on paper before I could commit to the autograph. I have visions of authors whipping out books to scores of waiting admirer and all I can think it, please not me!
Tell me this gets easier!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Looking for Great Free Advice?

Then you need to be following this lady!

I follow Jo on Facebook but you can also follow her blog. Her advice is priceless yet free; definitely worth your time to read if you have any interest in becoming published or are promoting yourself.