Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Check Twice, Send Once

Carpenters know of what they speak when they say "measure twice, cut once." What does that saying have to do with manuscript submissions? Well, in much the same way a carpenter cannot regrow a cut board, writers cannot undo submission flubs.

Before Christmas I posted my Top 5 WiP to WoS list, consider today's list the rest of my Top 10 things to "check twice" before clicking "send" on a submission:

  1. Beloved Words/Phrases -- As Jeffe mentioned on Sunday, many writers have a certain unhealthy adoration for a handful of words and/or phrases. While the words vary by author, the need to exorcise the excess from the ms is a must. Words and phrases I overuse? "Just," "As" (the precursor to a run-on sentence), and anything having to do with the eyes (my family frequently has entire conversations with looks alone. Apparently, this is not normal and does not translate well into a book -- damnitall).
  2. Redundant Openings & Closings -- While the plot and story are moving along smartly chapter by chapter, I have a strange habit of opening and closing chapters in similar ways. That's, erm, tedious for the reader. Example: Bert opens all the even-numbered chapters by observing something and ends all the odd-chapters bleeding on the floor. Thus the tempo is bleed then watch, bleed then watch... bleed then blech. 
  3. Appropriate Consequences for Actions -- Too often I'm a helicopter-parent to my protagonist. I don't hold her appropriately accountable for her mess. Betray the king? No prob. Short stay in the dungeons then back to being openly accepted at court. Get stepped on by the dragon? Best chiropractic visit ever. Yeah. No. Bitch needs to suffer...and that suffering needs to last for more than a scene. What's the point of sending her through the conflict if it doesn't reshape her?
  4. MIA Words -- My worst, WORST habit is leaving out words. Random ones. A definite article here, a verb there. Gods help me, but I can't see where I've missed them. It doesn't matter how long I let the ms rest. My brain auto-fills. For this reason, my final-reader is someone who hasn't been tortured by the evolution of the ms. She's a close-reader, not skimmer. She's also a complete tyrant. I adore her.
  5. Format -- At first blush, format issues are silly. In the era of digital everything, there is no good excuse for not having your word-processing program default to an industry-approved format. Note: I said "good excuse." However, when I write, I compose on a dark background with light text. It's easier on my eyes. Also, all of my chapter headings are jump-tags from a table of contents. All of my chapters are titled with a short summary of what happens in the chapter. Erm. Yeah. Might not want to send the ms like that. 

There you are, dear reader, my "Check Twice" list. Have you ever sent a ms then seconds later slapped your forehead and shouted, "Aw, crap!"  What was the mistake you wish you'd caught?

T-shirt found on Cafe Press: http://www.cafepress.com/mf/63803387/measure-twice-cut-once_tshirt


  1. Love that T-shirt! And I meant to tell you - I read a trad pub book recently with "distain" in it. #notjustyou

  2. Ha! So awesome, those off-color things that spell-check believes to be accurate. ~cough~ #notjustme