Friday, February 08, 2008

Living in the Future

Working at the newspaper has had all sorts of weird affects on me. I'm having a WHOLE lot of trouble keeping track of the date. You'd think it wouldn't be difficult, since newspapers are all about dates. Thing is, at the newspaper, it's all about TOMORROW'S date. See, all the stuff that's going in tomorrow's paper has to say "Today," which means that today is tomorrow...or something like that. I'm a bit confused. On my desk is a sheet of paper that says TODAY IS Saturday, Feb. 9, but I know darn good and well that it's Friday, so... well, let's just say that I'm having trouble remembering what day it is, and leave it at that. It's sort of like living in the future.

I have also found myself suddenly very aware/picky about commas and capitalization and word choice. Organizations never "hold" events. They "have" an event or the event will take place. You hold hands, not meetings.

Words are tricky things. Especially English words. So many of our words sound alike. Here and hear, led and lead (the metal). Their, they're and there. And a lot of times, we spell what we hear, knowing better, but the fingers somehow move faster than the brain. I judged a contest entry (or maybe it was a critique I was doing--don't remember off hand) where the author wrote "make due" instead of "make do."

I am terrible about writing ALL OVER the contest entries I judge. (I use black or blue ink pens, so it doesn't look bloody.) I write a lot, because I want to explain why I'm marking what I'm marking. I give the rules for dashes and ellipses. Sometimes, when I want to know more of what's going on inside a character's head, I'll ask a series of questions. What does he think about what she just did? Is he mad? Curious? Relieved? Why? Why not? So most of it's not "You did this wrong and you're a terrible writer." None of it is meant that way, but hopefully, it doesn't come across like that, unintentionally.

When the dialogue doesn't seem to be leading anywhere, I'll say so, or say something like "This is an awful lot of chit-chat, you might want to focus on your purpose here." But I'm afraid I do tend to get a little impatient when I bump up against chit-chat again and again. Or when the dialogue sounds stilted and unrealistic. Or when I get POV whiplash. And I'm not even a POV purist. I think people ought to be able to change POV in the middle of a scene if they want to, as long as the change is clear. And as long as the switches don't happen every other paragraph. That can give a reader whiplash.

Ah well. I could write more, but I'm out of time, so...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Feel free to get out your blue pen, my grammer skills suck.

I wish more editors were like you. The older I get, and more I read, the more I get annoyed by a plot that itsn't going anywhere. It has become one of my MAJOR pet peeves. I've given up on several series that are considered very good, because despite all the dialogue and action, the plot either hasn't been advanced or has actually regressed...HATE THAT.

AB for LKH is a good example, as are Rachel Caine, and E.E. Valentine. Outstanding writers without direction. Mentally, I envision an airplane in a downward death spiral...crash and burn.