Friday, April 19, 2013

Fear and the Bleeding Manuscript

Once upon a time, I feared red ink … now I look forward to it. The red ink means another set of professional eyes are helping me write a better book. I tell stories; editors keep the reader’s head in the story. Errors, typos, and awkward sentences break the magic of storytelling, and since I spend about a year on each of my novels, I want uninterrupted magic.

There are bad editors, of course. I had one once. She was assigned to me by a major New York publisher and saw her job as bending my book in another direction. Bad editors can exasperate a writer and even destroy the commercial success of a book. Luckily, I now have a good editor, and she has worked with me on all six of the Steve Dancy Tales. It’s been a good partnership. She knows the characters, the storyline, and my foibles.

Honest westerns filled with dishonest characters.

Another way to jerk the reader out of the story is to use a modern word or phrase in a historical novel. In my last manuscript, my editor caught the following words that would be inappropriate for 1880.

nonstop, 1902
freewheeling, 1931
racketeers, 1924
dim-witted, 1934
sidestepped, 1900
lowlifes, 1911
dock-workers, 1913
shoot-out, 1948
best seller, 1889
S.O.B., 1918
run-of-the-mill, 1930
blabbermouth, 1936
gangland, 1912
scam, 1963
headlock, 1905
paddy wagon, 1930

Most readers wouldn't catch these, but I’m glad they've been scrubbed from the manuscript.

I'll go carefully through each edit and editorial comment. Then I'll print the book and read it once again for continuity, clarity, and crispness.

When I finish with this round, it will be off to the publisher for interior design and proofreading. I wish that would be the end, but in this modern world, I’ll also need the book professionally formatted for different brands of eReaders.