Thursday, 16 June 2011

Does Your DEUG Bite?

From the Pink Panther movies we have gained some invaluable quotes. Here are a couple from the legendary Inspector Clouseau:

  • This IZ Chief Inspector Clouseau speaking on the pheaun.
  • You have ra-ceived a bimp. One could get a concussion from such a bimp.
  • Do you have a REUM?
  • Good evening commisonaire. How are you, your lovely wife and all the little commisionaires?
  • Not now Cato.
  • I suggest you count your bees, you may find that one of them is missing.
  • It won't be easy, that is why I have always failed where others have succeeded.
  • All I require is a telephone, my little bag of tools, and some privacy with which to work. That is all I require.

The irony is that a few of these could apply to writing. Some would instantly pinpoint that last one, but when it comes to proofreading, I’d pick the second last one. Why? Because we can be our own worst enemy when reading our own work.

(for example, my pc doesn’t like that last sentence and I’m ignoring it)

They say you should never rely on a friend or family member to critique your work because their opinion will not be the one you need to hear. Perhaps I’m experiencing an exception to that rule because my Mum is a phlegmatic-melancholic, curious and insightful to a tee (and fussy, so if there’s an error in plot or script she picks it instantly), and two of my friends are “grammar-tarians” by way of occupation and know how the English language should or shouldn’t work (hello plot and craft).

The first time I told one of my friends to “let rip and hold nothing back” by way of criticism, she didn’t believe me.

“I had a friend who said that once when she gave me her manuscript,” said JH, “and when I told her the truth it took a long time for her to speak to me again.”

Once she knew I would speak to her no matter what she said (after all, we’ll be in Heaven together for, like, Eternity) and made one or two other comments in regards to other feedback I’d had, she felt comfortable enough to voice her thoughts. I trust her because of her occupation, and because she is well-read and informed when it comes to style and voice.

My other proofie is a high school English teacher, and she’s good for picking out my ‘naughties’ and misdemeanours. When I hand her a red pen and a 120,000 word MS, she doesn’t exactly slip into Teacher Mode, and I don’t want her to. She’s learning my voice, and I’m learning everything I didn’t know about proper use of pronouns and adverbs, as well as alliteration and things like that. She tells me what’s overkill, and which paragraphs kick butt but need rewording.

Neither of these friends hold back anymore, and their suggestions are invaluable to me. If all three people are saying the same thing, I need to take stock and pay attention, and when all is said and done, their advice is making those MSs far stronger.

I’m not in a critique club, don’t have access to writer’s conferences, can’t afford my former lawyer friend who runs an editing service, but I am relying heavily on books and blogs and emails from previously published authors (some of whom have become friends and, God bless ‘em, are totally amazing with what they are willing to share) as well as the feedback of several worthy sets of eyes.

I don’t want to fail where others have succeeded. Finding that necessary advice can be difficult, but it can be done. If someone says they luuuurve your MS, seek a second opinion for the sake of your own growth. Do everything you can to ensure your deug... ahem, I mean your manuscript doesn’t bite.

Decide: When someone offers criticism on your MS, do you say, “Not now, Cato”, or do you endeavour to succeed where others fail repeatedly?

“See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” Galatians 6v11
Vous remarquez ces grandes lettres; c'est bien de ma propre main que je vous écris.

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