Sorry Editor: I Do Try #MFRWauthor

Every writer dreams of receiving a manuscript back from her editor without any changes needed or problems noted. It’s a pipe dream. Even those things a writer concentrates on removing from her work seem to pop up when she’s feeling most satisfied about whipping bad habits into shape.

I continue to struggle with three common writing mistakes. (Editor: Just three?) Okay. More than three. But for this post I’m doing the most common of my common writing mistakes.

Echoes/repetitions

This mistake takes several forms. It can be using a word in close proximity to a previous use of it. The proximity can be as close as the same sentence or as close as a few paragraphs. However, close the proximity, I know I do this because the word is still hanging about in close proximity in my mind.

It can take the form of repeated structure. When I do this, it’s harder for me to catch than repeated words. I have a Word add on that helps with that. When my editor runs across it, she never misses it. When I finally get that ability, I’ll be glad.

Independently acting body parts

The desire to please him was overwhelming. Her eyes dropped to the floor. Instead of paying attention to what he was saying to her, she dropped to her knees and began to scrabble to find her eyes. A squishy popping sound told her, he’d just stepped on one of them. (Shoot, I repeated the word dropped. See what I mean. That was unintentional.)

Drop your gaze. Don’t drop your eyes. Her feet ran out the door. No, she ran out the door. I’m better than I used to be at this, but gaze/eyes still throws me. I add comments to my revisions pointing out how I think I was correct but will defer to the greater expertise of my editor. (I’m sure she loves getting these notes.)

Ambiguous pronouns

Who or what do you mean? That question shouldn’t arise when reading a book. As a writer, I’ve got the whole scene playing out like a movie in my head. I know who or what I mean when I use a pronoun. That makes it easier to use ambiguous pronouns. Here’s an example from my first submission of Maon: Marshal of Tallav to my Loose Id editor, Kierstin Cherry.

Maon’s one slim thread of hope for a long-term relationship was to find a Domme who could accept him as the switch he was and keep his cock in line. He didn’t know which was harder, but combined, they made that thread whisper thin. Which was why he’d stopped worrying about it. If you can’t have apple cobbler, eat the peach pie. He was dedicated to peach pie.

Shane interrupted his reverie. “You don’t have to accept Randolph’s challenges. They’re only going to get worse. He’s a sadist. He likes rigging you up and seeing you suffer. One of you has to say it’s time to stop.”

The ambiguous pronouns are in bold type.

Here’s the same paragraphs in the final version of the book:

Maon’s one slim thread of hope for a long-term relationship was to find a Domme who could accept him as the switch he was and keep his cock in line. He didn’t know which was harder, but combined, his requirements made that thread whisper thin. Which was why he’d stopped worrying about it. If you can’t have apple cobbler, eat the peach pie. He was dedicated to peach pie.

Shane interrupted Maon’s reverie. “You don’t have to accept Randolph’s challenges. They’re only going to get worse. He’s a sadist. He likes rigging you up and seeing you suffer. One of you has to say it’s time to stop.”

If I’d left the pronoun his in the sentence about interrupting a reverie, the person being interrupted would be Shane. Since it was Maon, I need to make that clear by dropping the pronoun and using some other means of identifying who was interrupted. In this case, I used his name.

I expect to make these kinds of mistakes in a first draft. But when I miss them in my own editing and revising it’s frustrating. But that’s why every writer needs an editor. Even with the best of intentions and hard work, mistakes still plague even the best writers.

The first review of Maon: Marshal of Tallav (five star review!) included this accolade: The editing was almost perfect. That’s all yours Kierstin, Lea Ann Schafer (lines editor), and Jean (proofs).

You can read the complete review at Amazon or Goodreads.

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4 Comments

  • I’ve done the eyeball dropping. Hands tend to wander, and feet often are walking away. Sounds great in the moment until you stop to think about it. Repeated words I’m also guilty of.

  • I do purposeful repeats like that too. English Lit and Shakespeare taught me a lot about word choice and rhythm in writing. My editors let me know the difference.

  • I love this. I howled with laughter at the eyeballs dropping and then getting squished. I do some repeats, trying to watch them. But, I also do ANAPHORA quite a bit that I learned from Margie Lawson along with some of her other techniques. For example:
    Before war, a man felt different. After war, he knew different. Always on alert. Always on guard. Always watching for the next attack.
    I repeated different and always. It creates a flow and beat/tempo while adding details about the hero.

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