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COLD DEAD HANDS

May 16, 2018

(ORIGINALLY “LAST MINUTE TWEAKS”)

 

This article was originally called Last Minute Tweaks and I wrote it in 2015, but I re-purposed it for today because at the recent 2018 Las Vegas Writer’s Conference, this subject came up time and time again. I couldn’t suppress the inspiration and the old monkey that hangs on every writer’s back. It is, of course tweaked.

We’ve all heard that tired old quote from the NRA’s dear old friend Charlton Heston about “cold dead hands” and some could say the same thing about a manuscript. When it comes to your “precious” (okay, another quote, and don’t make me say which movie), it seems like you can never stop until it’s literally (oh, what a cliché), pried out of your very much alive hands.

During a recent writer’s conference, the subject of editing already published work and last minute tweaks to manuscripts about to be published was a popular topic.

WILL THE EDITING EVER END?

I don’t think I’m revealing any huge trade secrets when I tell you that though my manuscript from Treasure Of The Umbrunna has gone through; #1 not only my own personal multiple edits, tweaks and read-throughs, including with the Henderson Writer’s Group: #2 it’s gone through three (or is it four?) complete edits by my publisher. Even after so many eyes, there are still typos and a few errors, as I’ve had pointed out to me by readers. I’ve been careful not to go looking for them for fear of finding even more, after two years since publication, I’ll find even more stuff I want to change. If there’s ever a reprint, which is costly, by the way, the typos noted by people will surely be addressed, but I’ll likely not do another read-through and tweak. Cold dead hands.

What I can say is through all of that, there hasn’t been a single major change in either story line or plot. I was able to keep true to my polka-dot sewer (my muse) and use my usual – no – my only method of writing. I knew where I wanted to start and where I wanted to end. The rest (the middle) was a total surprise.

BY THIS POINT I’M NO NEWBIE

I must say that by this point in the game, when I wrote Treasure, I was no babe in the woods, cliché intended. I already had ten novels under my belt (at that time), even if they were all unpublished. The only one which might have plotting issues would be the first one, The Cave and even that one might be more of a problem with writing functionality rather than plotting.

It all boils down to fixing the numerous writing mistakes, tweaking minor things. Lots of them.

SO MUCH EDITING CAN CREATE MORE MISTAKES

With so much editing, even if the edits are relatively minor, which in my case, they were, making those edits can also create more errors. When all is said and done, a final run-through is essential!

My first edit was for structure and continuity, not so much for grammar. I made several tweaks and in the process, created some grammatical errors (mostly too many noun-verb combinations starting sentences). The second edit was for grammar and I made lots of corrections but in the process also created some other errors. The third edit was to fix the noun-verb combinations I created fixing the other issues. Along the way, the editor found more grammatical tweaks like show not tell and phrasing she thought would work better.

You have to remember that even though I can do the same thing to others, being an editor myself, and can also do it to my own writing in a limited amount (I’m too close to it), I need that outside eye to see it (forest through the trees).

With so much red ink, through multiple edits, when the final draft came down, prior to printing, there were bound to be slip-ups and things we all missed.

True to what I figured, I found pages of errors on my error sheets (there are 25 lines per page). In total, the count came to almost 300 line items. However, as the final result showed through the readers, there were still typos!

LUSITANIA GOLD

We seem to have done a bit better with Lusitania Gold. At least we haven’t heard any more feedback about typos yet from readers. I found a big one myself, but it has since been fixed and I won’t say where that one was!

Cold dead hands.

BACK TO THE CONFERENCE

Not only did the time to let go come up at the conference, but as part of the goodie bags each participant received, we each got copies of one or another version of Writer’s Bloc. Writer’s Bloc is the annual (or bi-annual) short story anthology put out by the Henderson Writer’s Group. I have short stories in many of them. I happened to get the original Writer’s Bloc, of which I have the short story, The Walk Home. It was the second in the West Virginia Trilogy.

I had some idle time between classes…no…I was early for one of the meals, and I pulled out my copy and read the story. This book came out in what…2009 or something? I don’t remember. Anyway, while I was still mostly pleased with how The Walk Home turned out, I also cringed at some of the writing. I so much wanted to re-tweak it. However, after so many copies already in print, what’s one to do?

Cold dead hands…

It’s dun didded. Let it be. You did the best you could for the time. Be happy and move on!

That was my mantra for the rest of the conference. Keep going and don’t worry about it. As long as you strive to improve, your integrity is still intact. It’s when you get lazy and don’t care that you’re compromised. Don’t let that ever happen!

Happy writing!

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