Late last night – or really early this morning, I put the finishing touches on the first set of edits I have ever received from a professional editor for a soon to be pro novel people will buy (theoretically, we live in hope) and they will pay me actual, real money for in the happy event people actually do. Buy it. More people than my best friend and my mom, that is. Make that my best friend. My mom, bless her, while she’d want to be supportive, well, I don’t think her life horizons have broadened sufficiently enough to enable her to embrace the prospect of reading a book involving a man loving another man. Even if her first born wrote it.
But I digress. The purpose of this post is not to talk about my mom and whether or not she’d be able to weather the shock of the subject matter of my upcoming debuting masterpiece. It is to talk about one of the rites of passage I’ve just survived, and important steps I’ve recently taken to achieve the goal of first-time novel.
It was a humbling experience. Particularly in the punctuation department. Let’s just say, ten years writing fanfic, sometimes with a beta, most of the time not over the last five, during which I indulged myself in some self styled ‘stylistic’ punctuation quirks….
Now I’m playing with the big boys I’ve got some really bad habits to unlearn. Particularly my predilection to over use the dash. Largely completely incorrectly as well. Oy vey, did my poor editor ever have to deal with a shitload of dashes. For which I feel extremely contrite, and a little embarrassed. I can’t apologize enough.
Based on the eye-opener I’ve received as a result of this experience, I think I can hand out a small piece of advice to any aspiring writer for them to take on board when preparing their manuscript. Two words.
Style Guide. I didn’t know until after my ms was accepted Dreamspinner has one. It basically tells you how to properly format your manuscript for publication. I imagine just about every other publisher has one as well. I don’t know for sure, ’cause I’ve never tried, but I doubt they’d mind if you asked them for it, prior to submitting. Might even impress them you were professional enough to make the effort to find out how to do it right. And then do it. If nothing else, you can find one at Dictionary.com. I’d seriously advise everyone who writes and wants to submit professionally to get a style guide, and have a look at it. You might be surprised to discover stuff you THOUGHT you knew, maybe you don’t.
For instance, once I received my edits, I discovered I had another punctuation problem I was not aware of. The proper use of commas. I thought I knew. I was mistaken. Colour me amazed.
So yeah, I downloaded that style guide. And every writers’ resource they had available I could lay my mouse on. The writer’s job may be to write, but when this one does it, she wants to do it right, the first time. So I won’t waste either my or my editors’ valuable time correcting basic writing stuff I should already know. I want us all to focus on the good stuff like plot, characters, characterization and continuity, not stupid stuff like to dash or not to dash, and for god’s sake the comma does not go there it goes there. Punctuation is important. I gotta bone up on mine.