When I first won the Soon To Be Famous Illinois Author Manuscript contest (try saying that ten times fast), I was jittery with excitement to have the novel edited and a cover designed. It took me two weeks to take my already finished manuscript and make it the best I could. I printed it out and read it out loud, making changes. Then I contacted the contest people. They said in a few weeks they would be ready.
Fast forward to August (over three months later). When they said they were almost ready, I was not at all excited. Then, suddenly, they were good to go. Even at that point, I wasn’t all that stoked. There was a form to fill out that required work on my part–a synopsis, adjectives to describe my work, things of that nature. The activity was stimulating, and I finished everything needed over the weekend.
Then I submitted it.
I expected to wait six to eight weeks, but I was told it would be finished by the end of the month. And it was!
The cover was finished first. When I got the email, I was sitting at a coffee shop with two of my writing buddies. We were meeting to support one another on pitch preparations. It’s an awful task, so the accountability and dedicated time really helped. I got to show them the cover.
We all agreed that it was amazing. And, though this will probably sound stupid, I’m going to say it. It was so professional looking! The cover totally looked like something you’d see at a bookstore. It was invigorating.
Then yesterday, I got my copy editing feedback. By and large, it was very positive, which is always a relief. Pacing was good, characterization good, tone and style good (though some extra words could be deleted, which is always nice), dialogue authentic and in character (score!), and then there was grammar.
Now, my grammar isn’t awful. I know the difference between to, too, and two as well as there, they’re, and their. However, I, apparently, don’t know the difference between convince and persuade (or rather, I use convince when I mean persuade). And I REALLY don’t know when to capitalize and when not to capitalize. I REALLY REALLY don’t know when to hyphenate. Seriously, the poor editor probably got a headache from all the eye rolling while deleting and adding hyphens when needed–or not needed. The worst, however, was my insistence on the word “like” instead of “as if”. Kind of glad the whole thing was done via email so I didn’t have to look Ray (my editor) in the face as he explained when to use “like” and when “as if.”
Of course, there were other errors of grammar/style, too. When I was in high school, I took a shorthand class–which sounds like a waste of time, but it enabled me to cuss out bosses right in front of their faces. Just doodling, nothing to see here. Anyway, at that time, the rule was that any number ten or under was written out. Larger numbers were depicted with numerals. This is for business correspondence, so it might still be the rule, but The Chicago Manual of Style says to write out numbers under 100.
I should have also written out thirties and seventies and such, too. Times. My previous grammatical nemesis, the comma splice, made a few appearances. It’s particularly embarrassing when I’m making errors in areas I actually do know the rules about.
There was a part of me gleeful at the grammar lesson, but I am equally sure I’ll forget most of it. This is why a professional editor is so important, especially for writers, like me, who intuit grammar. I’m so relieved that when I submit my manuscript, it won’t be perfect, but at least it won’t embarrass me.
Let the pitching begin!
Next post: My plan is to break down some of the grammar errors I love to employ. Mostly, this is to help drive in my own head the rules so I don’t keep doing it. Prognosis: Fair.