Miss-prints and Tie-pos

I’ve been preparing my entries for March’s Scottish Association of Writers’ conference. There is a huge selection of competitions to try and as I’m not adjudicating this year, I have no excuse for not having a go. I enjoy adjudicating and receiving the bundle of entries for my category, though it’s quite a lot of work to go through each entry picking out its strengths and weaknesses. And then trying to choose the first three for prizes. So often it’s a close run thing though sometimes there is one outstanding attempt that just has to take the first prize.

club winners

Ayr Writers’ Club winners 2018

I supply a critique for all the entries which hopefully the writers will benefit from, as it’s important to try to be positive and give constructive criticism. But this year it’s my turn to be on the receiving end and I’m hoping for some useful advice from the very experienced adjudicators in the categories I’ve entered.

So I’m carefully re-reading my pieces to tidy them up and correct any typos that I have missed before. I dislike reading pieces where the writer hasn’t bothered to edit their work and correct any misprints and I just hate it myself when I realise I’ve missed something on my pieces.

There is a very interesting article in the recent Author magazine on misprints and typos in poetry that have made it into publication, sometimes to the improvement of that particular line of verse. But the one  everyone quotes is the Barker and Lucas Bible of 1631 which proclaimed in the Ten Commandments that ‘thou shalt commit adultery’. And the recent hoo-ha over the Cathay-Pacific plane with Pacific spelt without an ‘F’ shows that no-one is immune from it.

Including myself. Confession time! Every year I make a calendar, using photos taken throughout the year, for close members of my family to use. It’s a fun thing as well as a reminder of what went on in our lives in the previous year. I use Vistaprint for templates and from my previous orders for a variety of things like flyers, business cards, posters and of course calendars, I can see that I’ve been using them since 2002.

So you’d think I knew my way around by now. There was a slight problem with the 2019 calendar template but I had the bright idea of using an older version and changing the photos. This I did and put in my order. I was delighted when they came but it was only when my husband tried to write in a dental appointment to remind himself, that he noticed something was very amiss. It was a calendar with the dates for 2012! I had forgotten that I had to change the dates as well.

calendar

Ooops!

Fortunately I hadn’t sent them round the family. I got back on to Vistaprint but was still unable to access the 2019 template. I messaged them and a few hours later, they messaged back to say they had changed the date on my calendar for me and were sending out new copies post-haste and free gratis. Now that’s what I call excellent service!

So in a couple of days I will have the new calendars and be able to fill in the important dates in my life – the dentist, optician, nurse, etc etc. And of course, the dates for the Scottish Association of Writers’ conference!

Editing Stuff – And I Mean STUFF!

It’s a while since I posted and that is because at last, at long, long last we moved into our new home. Our belongings, which we’d placed into store several months ago, arrived in a huge truck and were unloaded to fill every room of the house with an explosion of boxes. Including the garage. Especially the garage. Stuff everywhere! Where did it all come from? We had cleared out our old house (or so we thought)  before the rest of our possessions were packed in boxes, so what had happened? Have they been breeding while tucked away safely in a store somewhere in deepest Ayrshire?

And so began the daily task of opening a box to reveal its contents, groaning in despair at what we found (a plastic lid for some unknown plastic box? A bashed teapot? A bowl still filled with paperclips?) and consigning the lot to what is known in the West of Scotland as the Coup, and to the rest of the world as the recycling centre.

van

While dealing with this mish-mash of disorganised and unwanted belongings, which I’ll call Stuff, it struck me that dealing with my Stuff in the boxes was not dissimilar to the process of editing in creative writing. The same rules seemed to apply to both.

My Rule number 1 of editing my writing is to put it away for a while, quite a long while, not just a few days and then bring it out for a fresh look.

That is precisely what we did with our Stuff. We put it away in store for quite a few months. And now we’re looking at it with fresh eyes.

When I look at my writing after I’ve put it aside for a while, I can see plenty of bits I want to cut, bits that I want to change and bits that look jaded and cliched.

When we opened the boxes filled with our Stuff…. yup, you get it.

Rule number 2 of editing says that pruning and cutting your work enhances what’s left. Every sentence, every word should earn its place.

Our trips to the Coup with redundant Stuff are becoming an almost daily occurrence and we will shortly be on first name terms with the wee man in charge. At home, we can now almost see the carpet and can move freely around the house without it being like an assault course.boxes

Rule number 3 states that moving the position of an incident to eg the end of a chapter, adds drama and encourages the reader to continue.

I don’t know about drama, unless you count the arguments, heated discussions and explosions of sweary words as we attempt to move furniture around the house. There is too much of it and where we thought to put it doesn’t work. There is a limit to the number of chairs a room can support unless you intend holding a public meeting there.. Why have we so much furniture anyway? Give me the Japanese minimalist style any day.

Rule number 4 says to look out for clumsy phrasing, typos, tautologies and any other errors that detract from the text.

Ok, who put that glass coffee table right where I couldn’t see it? And why is there a huge roll of sticky tape sitting in the cutlery drawer? No, I don’t know where the spare toilet rolls are. Try the fridge.

Rule number 5? Have a coffee. We’ve earned it.

Back to Work!

Now that we are settled in our temporary home – an old town house set over three floors with one room on each and doing wonders for our calf muscles as we trundle up and down – I have no excuse for not getting on with writing tasks.

The edits for my next novel for Tirgearr Publishing, Love Begins at 40, have arrived so I’m working my way through them. I have a great editor, Christine, who picks up on all sorts of details that I miss, like commas and other punctuation marks. I assume that in the heat of creation, I tend to miss them out but in reality, I’m not entirely sure when and what to use. And anyway, each publishing house has its own style so what is acceptable for one is a no-no in another.

Love Begins at 40 will be out in August, about the time when we finally move into our new home so a double celebration will be in order.

And in another success, I’ve just heard that an article I wrote on the Palaces in Kirkwall, Orkney has been accepted for an American magazine, the Highlander. I’ve sent loads of photos for it as well so I’m looking forward to seeing it in print.

Summer appears to be here at last, at least for a few days, and it’s brought everyone out into the sunshine. Long may it continue!

pub

Down by the River

 

Janus – looking both ways

The Roman God Janus is always depicted as looking both ways – back to the past and forwards into the future.

janus

So, looking back: 2017 was quite a year. I self-published two books, A Drop of Rainbow Magic for children and an illustrated memoir,A Scottish Childhood; Growing Up a Baby Boomer.

9780955854057memoir

On top of all that, I spoke and adjudicated competitions at a couple of events, ran several workshops on various aspects of writing, attended conferences and lunches organised by the Scottish Association of Writers and the Society of Authors in Scotland, did readings and sold books at book fairs, as well as writing a children’s book (rejected but still trying!) and revising a novel which was accepted by a publisher.

And in 2018? I’ve finished the first round of editing for the novel, Festival Fireworks, so it’s on to having the cover designed ready for its launch in the spring. I’m 22,000 words into another novel, thanks to the push of NaNoWriMo, and I want to get a move on with that this month.

Who knows what else I’ll get up to? It’s exciting looking forward but also there’s a bit of trepidation too. Anything can happen.

Janus was also the god of beginnings and endings, of gates and portals; in times of peace his gates were closed and only opened in times of war.

Let us hope that in 2018 his gates remain firmly closed to war and that he heralds new beginnings for us all.

A Happy New Year to all my friends and followers!

 

new-years-day-2902679_1280

 

Spot The Deliberate Miss-Take

I designed some new bookmarks to publicise my recent books, ordered a large number and was pleased when they were promptly delivered.

Two days later (and yes, it took me all that time) I spotted a typo on them that I’d missed. To say I was furious is an understatement. I pride myself on my ability to spot an error in a manuscript at ten paces but I had totally missed this one. And not only that, despite reading and admiring them over the two days, I still hadn’t seen the mistake. bookmark

I had made some last minute changes to the wording and in a rush to get the order away in time for the various book fairs coming up, I hadn’t paused to calm down, put on my proof-reading hat and read the wording carefully. I even signed the disclaimer saying I had checked the spelling etc and was happy with everything!

Now all I can see on the bookmark is the typo. It jumps out at me whenever I look at it.

Why is it so hard to proof read your own work? Why can’t we see our own mistakes, yet can spot other people’s right away? Because we read what we think we wrote, not what our clumsy fingers actually typed. Other people’s work is new to us and we don’t have those preconceptions so we read what is actually there and thus spot the typos.

I got some friends to read over one of my books for me and what they picked up that could be improved was quite astonishing. And of course, once I’d had them pointed out to me, I couldn’t miss them.

And I’m probably not as good as I liked to think I was! I once sat a proof-reading test but failed miserably after failing to spot a huge spelling error in the second line!

So one of the morals of this sorry tale is always get someone else to read what you’ve written, no matter how short. But failing that, don’t rush, take your time, go and have a coffee and then come back to it.

However, I remembered the story I heard of how the weavers of those beautiful Persian carpets always wove a tiny mistake somewhere into them as they believed that only Allah was perfect and we mere mortals are imperfect. Googling it, I discovered  that such a belief is common in a variety of religions. In North America, the Navaho Indians always weave an imperfection into a corner of a rug as that’s where the spirit moves in and out of the rug.

The Amish quilters apparently also share that belief.

“One of the first bits of wisdom imparted to a novice quilter is that the Amish, who make some of the most simple but exquisite quilts in the world, purposely plan a mistake into each of their projects because they believe attempts at human perfection mock God.  Of course, any quilter knows that you don’t have to plan for imperfections in your work; they come quite naturally on their own, so I don’t know if this bit of Amish folklore rings true or not, but the idea does.”

from A Single Thread by Marie Bostwick

As a knitter and cross-stitcher, I can tell you how hard it is to create perfection and all my pieces have mistakes in them somewhere and not deliberate either.

So perhaps I should be kinder to myself and not rail about one small typo which could well pass unnoticed by most people.

No prizes for spotting it on my bookmark either!

The Eyes, Black or Otherwise, Have It

I’ve mentioned before the importance of letting other writers read what you’ve written, of having another pair of eyes peruse your work, and I can’t stress it enough.

I’ve been working on revising a novel I wrote a few years ago  which is set in Edinburgh, and which I really didn’t do much about after I finished it, before I moved on to something else instead. (Bad habit of mine!) Recently, I dug it out from my extensive ‘back catalogue’ and sent  it to a friend who happens to live outside of Scotland for her to read and comment on, and I’m very glad I did.

edinburgh close

Steps leading up to an Edinburgh Close

Firstly, factual things in the book that were clear to me as I’d visited Edinburgh often and know it well, didn’t make much sense to her, particularly where people live. Tenements, several storeys high, have a common entrance which leads up stairs to two or three apartments on each landing. These are common throughout the city (and in fact, much of Scotland) and are often beautiful buildings with a long history dating back in some cases in the Royal Mile to the seventeenth century. They are very desirable properties indeed and change hands for large sums. But all this I’ve now had to explain much more in my book, especially as I’m aiming at an American publisher.

edin castle

Even the back of Edinburgh Castle is built as a tenement!

And then there was the question of motivation for the male protagonist’s behaviour. That set me thinking. Why exactly did he waver in his feelings for my heroine? What had happened in his past to make him behave in such a way? I needed to know much more of his backstory to justify it. So I’m intent on sorting that problem out too.

I was also working on a synopsis for the book which I took along with me to the latest club read-around. Reading it aloud to an experienced audience was illuminating. Not only did I ‘hear’ what was wrong, the group were quick to pick up on points that weren’t clear as well. More for me to improve before I even think of sending it off.

I was sporting an extremely fetching black eye at that meeting, having tripped and banged my face on the pavement outside my home. I spent a night in the Accident and Emergency department to ensure I didn’t have a head injury before I was sent home to recover.

Food for thought again, this time very thankful that I live in a country where, when illness or accidents happen, we don’t have to worry about the cost of care, drugs, operations and tests. It is all provided by our wonderful, if much maligned NHS. Yes, it’s short-staffed and underfunded and sometimes in danger of collapse but as an idea, a concept, it is the best thing that this country, or any other, has ever put into practice.

So the eyes have it, whether black or my normal colour, and I’m very grateful too!