Friday, June 20, 2014

Stuck in the Chunky Peanut Butter Swamps of Time, Part 1

I find myself trapped in a time paradox. On one hand, it’s Friday already. Where has the week gone? And yet it feels like time is dragging like a walking corpse’s broken foot on rough pavement. Does that make any sense?

Of course not. It’s a paradox. And I suspect my current existential crisis has much to do with how I’m dragging through this mess of Accept/Reject edits in my book. 

Ever done Accept/Reject edits in Word? Grace Among the Dead is my third novel and my second published book, but this is the first time I’ve played this game:

You have to be careful, because the blue-lettered parts are only the most obvious items. Smaller bits, like punctuation, you’re liable to miss. Look for the vertical line in either margin; those indicate an edit that needs to be addressed. Yes, those are easy to miss, too. It’s one page at a time, so buckle in and knuckle down. 

On some of these lines where an edit is noted you have to walk the cursor one space at a time to find the edit. Then, to accept or reject that edit, you have to either have the cursor immediately in front of the edit, or highlighted from one end of the longer edit to the other—and the margins of the highlight must be precise, or forget it. Then you have to right-click. 

Assuming you didn’t somehow lose your highlight while doing this, you look for the Accept/Reject line in the drop-down menu. Click on one or the other, for 264 pages and 95,000 words.

If you’re familiar with Death by Powerpoint, then Accept/Reject edits in Word is the hell you awaken into after you die.

I’m happy to see Severed Press stepping up their editorial game, but the proofreader they assigned to me has a fetish for commas and exclamation points. According to her, I don’t use enough of the former and employ too many of the latter. Although many of her suggestions have proven most welcome — I marvel at the change of style and even mood of the scenes — I have to wonder what madness possesses her to tweak my dialogue. 

For instance, bikers named “Crunk” are generally unconcerned about subject-verb agreement when they’re talking. Also, action heroes like Derek Grace tend to speak in sentence fragments. Like this. Especially when narrating some noirish action. Got it? Running those sentence fragments together as one big compound sentence tends to emasculate even the toughest corpse-desecrating mother.

Meanwhile, I have learned many tidbits of modern American English spelling. To wit:

  • Despite there being no “frontyard,” a back yard is a backyard, and there’s no messing with the mass consensus on that one.
  • Merriam-Webster Online and both insist that “faceplant” is spelled with a hyphen between the “face” and the “plant” but a lot more sites along the lines of Wiktionary and multiple YouTube pages showing actual faceplants go with the portmanteau. Grace Among the Dead is written in first-person, and people tend to speak and sometimes (God help us) write colloquially, so I’m going with the colloquial spelling. Also, it just looks better, and seems (to me) to convey the meaning so much more effectively as one word. In short, it’s a judgment call on my part, for which I’ll either hang or walk.
  • Flat screen is two words. Sometimes there’s a hyphen. I think it makes more sense as flatscreen but I must defer to Best Buy. As must we all.
  • Kickboxer is one word. I knew that one before I looked it up, but this page of links backs me up. Note that Google corrected my spelling before it even performed its search. Ha-ha, gotcha there, Miss Smarty Pants Proofreader Lady!

On top of that, I have a squishy middle in the narrative I knew I’d have to handle post-production, along with a couple of character arcs to firm up. Making edits when the document is in this mode is not as easy as it is when you’re in normal Word document creation, so I’ve copied and pasted critical paragraphs in a separate document to work on them there until the read the way they’re supposed to. I’ve got much copying and pasting and editorial retrofitting to go before I sleep.

I wouldn’t have this long weekend ahead of me if I’d taken advantage of getting the galleys back early and ripped right into it. I was actually afraid to look at it—yes, I have problems taking criticism—so I let it go last weekend. I finally asked my editor via e-mail how to do the Accept/Reject thing—I’d had no idea until Monday. And even on Monday, I didn’t get as far as page 9, the last page of Chapter 1. I did better on Tuesday, but I was butthurt and demoralized by the proofreader’s comments. Especially as I resembled her remarks.

Then it got worse. Come Thursday, as I went along popping the Accept/Reject virtual bubble-wrap, I began to wonder if my proofer was giving up on me. I knew where the narrative began to lose traction, and even as I dreaded finding pop-out comments like “This makes no sense” I was dismayed not to find them, as well.

This is all to say I’ve spent my week developing the emotional maturity to edit my third novel. I’m almost there. What drives me on is, if I quit now, my book would be just as good as all the other sketched-in dreck out there. Aside from the obvious considerations for my ego, I don’t have the writers’ networks and connections to get away with that. 

I’ve always known I can make things shine if I can put five more minutes into my work than the other guy. Now that the game is leveled up, I have to make those five minutes count.

So that’s where I am right now, reporting in so my pageviews don’t go into the single-digit toilet as they did the first day I went without posting. If you haven’t read the first book in my series yet, please check out Bleeding Kansas. I thought it turned out pretty good for far less misery. Grace Among the Dead is a more complex tale, though. Regardless, we should have it in your hands in time for your post Fourth of July hangover.