Writers love words.
The perils and pitfalls of a writer is they love to read the dictionary.
An entire day can slip by when we start searching for the perfect word to describe a situation we see in our mind. I’m convinced it is built-in our DNA. Who else but a potential writer is given a dictionary on her tenth birthday, and it is her favorite gift, and she reads it from A to Z? Quit laughing at me! We are just perverse enough to play with every possible, and impossible, word.
Max Lucado in his book, In the Eye of the Storm, tells a story about a parakeet. It begins when the bird’s owner decided to clean the cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it the cage. Interrupted by a phone call, she turned to talk when she heard “ssopp!” The bird was sucked in. She gasped, dropped the phone, turned off the vacuum and opened the bag.
There was the bird, alive, but stunned and covered with dust and debris. She bathed him and then realized he was soaked and shivering. She in her compassion picked up the hair dryer and turned the hot air on the shivering bird.
The parakeet never knew what hit him.
A few days after the event, the person who had shared this story contacted the bird owner and asked how the parakeet was.
“Well,” the lady replied, “He doesn’t sing much anymore—he just sits and stares.
“It’s hard not to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over . . . that’s enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.
When I read this story I laughed out loud then cried for the little bird. This is an incredibly visual story, and I related to it on a number of levels. I’m guessing a lot of you relate to it as well.
I’ve been absent from posting my stories for months now, there have been some health issues and the song just hasn’t been there. I have, however, been consumed with the editing of a second book, The Davenport Daughters, the sequel to The Davenport Dilemma. And I have decided I should let my readers in on a little bit of the fun, in other words, the pains and problems of editing.
Editing a novel comes in stages; the first one is after the fun of telling the story is finished. The manuscript then goes to friends who are willing to read a couple of hundred pages and make notes on what doesn’t make sense to them, errors in grammar, punctuation, misspelled words, continuity, characters, etc. These wonderful, diligent people are called Beta Readers; that just means first readers.
Stage Two is when the writer gets the Beta Readers’ notes back — the writer goes through the book, makes the changes on the computer then prints out new pages. By the way, reams and reams of paper along with many, many, many black ink cartridges are used in this process. Office Depot loves me. I am now on their regular delivery route; however, the perversity of a writer is most of the time she forgets to place the order until the ink runs out, and then she has to leave the computer and physically go to the office supply store. Sighing…
Working through the notes, the writer tries to fix whatever problems the readers have found. The grammar, punctuation, and spelling are fairly easy corrections. Sometimes the Beta Reader says I don’t get it or you lost me. And here’s where the trouble begins—this happens because the writer knows what she is saying, she can picture it in her head, but the reader doesn’t have a clue what she is talking about. This is where it gets slow and tedious. The writer attempts to make the story that is in her mind clear to the reader.
The Third Stage comes after the Beta Readers corrections have been made. The writer sits down with the manuscript and reads it aloud from page one to the end of those 200 pages, preferably away from the computer, and making her own editing notes. I hear you asking, Why? Because,—sigh—when you change one thing, it more often than not messes up something else. When a story line is changed then other areas almost always have to be adjusted. And it may be many chapters have to be altered— sighing again. Or it could be you are using the same word over and over and over again and you have to find other words. Or you have already told that story once and you can’t do that again. Or a word has disappeared — this happens during grammar and punctuation corrections. Sighing…
This is where The Davenport Daughters is now. It’s a very long process and most writers at this stage wonder why on earth they are going through this pain and stress. They get up and go to Starbucks or Paneras (my place of choice, the comfy chair up front) to calm down and try to remember why they wrote the dang thing in the first place. Have you ever wondered why you see so many people in those places are drinking multiple cups of coffee and working on laptops?
The Fourth Stage is back to the computer to work through the writer’s personal edits. It’s always dangerous when the writer gets back on the computer. She always, always, always can find a better way to say something—or so she thinks. Actually, it could go on forever and forever and never getting to the complete and total satisfaction of the writer.
But, it has to stop somewhere.
Then the real fun begins. The writer turns her precious manuscript over to the publisher — and, woe is me, it all starts again, sighing. But, that another story for another day!
So, dear friends, this is where my life has been this year. Do you see why I related and laughed and cried at the parakeet story? “It’s hard not to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over . . . that’s enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.
However, I promise you, The Davenport Daughters is on its way! Perseverance is another trait built-in to a writer’s DNA.