Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Writing is a Solitary Pursiut, er, Pursuit

John McFetridge

This week I’m going over the final copy edits on my novel, Tumblin’ Dice (and just to continue Dave’s post from yesteray, to be published March 1st, 2012. Here’s a little more about it and here’s the Amazon page .

If you’ve read any of my books you know it’s not an easy job for a copy editor. I try to let the characters tell the story and, like me, many of them have only a loose grasp of grammar and punctuation (it turns out I have no idea when to use a dash and only a vague idea what a comma is for). Sometimes I think the mistakes work well to get across the voice and the feel of what I’m after and sometimes they’re just mistakes. The copy editor can’t know which is which so she has to mark them all – five, six, ten per page. I’ve worked hard over the years to improve my spelling (and spell check sure helps) but sometimes the copy editor catches things like the “Northern Lights Theatre” is actually spelled “Theater” and the Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore is actually spelled “Rams Head Live” with no apostrophy (even, as the copy editor noted, “if it kills me”). She even corrected my mixing up the porn stars Bree Olson and Bobbi Starr in the Scooby Doo parody.

And this is just the copy editing after I’ve had meetings with my editor and gone over the entire manuscript and followed (some of) his suggestions.

And this after my “first readers” read the manuscript and gave some very good suggestions.

And this is after I first proposed the book to the publisher and we talked about what direction it would take, how closely it might be tied to the previous books and what characters might be in it and I followed a lot of his advice.

And this is after I bored my wife for months talking about, “this idea for a book about a rock band from the 70’s who get back together and play the casino circuit.”

So, while the sitting down and writing is solitary (and now that I’m a grumpy old man that means no music, no internet, no distractions at all), the production of a book could have a credit list very similar to that of a movie or TV show. When my first book was published I joked that I didn’t want to have an acknowledgement page because I’d either have to leave so many people out or it would be as long as the book itself.

A long time ago I took courses in Creative Writing at Concordia University and for a while I was in a writers’ group.

So, for me, writing has always been a pretty social activity. What about you, are you in a writers’ group? Do you have people who read and critique your work? How social is writing for you these days?


pattinase (abbott) said...

I am in a writer's group and it is of marginal help because they don't read the work ahead of time. We read it on the spot-which really isn't helpful except for hearing your work aloud. Most of them are poets and reading poetry aloud works better. I do stay in it because I like the people. We are similar politically and mostly of the same decade if not age. But often I think their comments hinder more than help because they think I should return to writing literary fiction. For instance, one guy often says there is not a single character in your story I care about. But do they interest you, I want to say but doubt he would acknowledge that. One guy limits himself to finding places where I need commas or hyphens. Not terribly useful because he uses too many.

Charlieopera said...

First, I look forward to the new one; will order today.

Just this weekend I tried to create a powerpoint presentation (and turn it to video for youtube) for my amusement (reading a chapter from next book). Of course I failed at the conversion but hearing my voice/the dialogue I ran across 5 big mistakes in dialogue. so now I have to read the thing into the computer mic start to finish just to make damn sure it's as close to good as I can get it. Talk about solitary; me hearing me for 400 pages or so. Oy vey.

I have two editors (the wife and I pay out of pocket for a professional editor, which means I always lose money on the book but if I wanted to make money, I never would've given up my past life).

Solitary until right before I wing it to my agent. Then I have at least two readers.

Dana King said...

I read everything aloud to my wife, a chapter at a time. After that I'm on my own, except for a reader or two who gets a look before I write a final draft. (Thank you, Mr. Stella.)

I'm a decent copy editor and fact checker. When in doubt, I leave it for a character to speak, as I can always later say "I knew that. It's the character who's wrong."

John McFetridge said...

Reading aloud is interesting. One of my profs (a poet) had us read our stories aloud and although I was against the idea at first I came around and now I find it helpful.

Charlie, when is the North Dakota book coming out?

Charlieopera said...

July 2012, John. It's a 10 year sequel to my first.

Reviewed Dana's Wild Bill at my place this morning. A great read.