The lovely Pat Elliott has made me doubly happy today. She has reviewed Dragon Wraiths, over on her blog, saying – in her candid way – “There are a few minor editing errors, but you know, they didn’t stop me loving the book. I’d definitely read another by this author.” Big grins.
Pat has also, very kindly, read my chick lit novel Baby Blues and Wedding Shoes, and provided feedback. Despite having no intention of spending time on the novel this year, it galvanised me to work on it today, incorporating the suggested changes (unsurprisingly mostly to do with grammar.)
The frustrating part, for me, is that all three of the main formatting changes suggested by Pat involve reverting back to the way the text was before I began editing it last year! One is to do with commas: I know I don’t really understand commas, so I purchased a book on punctuation and learned as much as I could. As a result I removed a whole heap of the little buggers, figuring it was better not to have them than to put them in the wrong place. Pat’s main formatting suggestion? More commas!
The second one is to do with layout: putting *** where the text breaks and there is a shift in time or location. I did that originally, but it looked messy, so I took them out and left just a paragraph break.
I’ve spent today putting them all back in.
They are more important in an ebook, as you have no idea what the pagination looks like. With a print book you can put them in only where it isn’t clear that there has been a shift, such as over a page break.
The third grammar point has me puzzled. Pat informed me (and I trust her judgement) that modern publishing no longer uses double quotes for dialogue. Apparently standard form is now to use ‘ rather than “. This poses a problem. Partly because that, too, would involve changing the entire manuscript back to the way it was originally – before an early Beta Reader told me to use double quotes (preferably smart quotes), as that was standard form.
It also poses a dilemma for me personally, because I have come to prefer smart/double quotes. A quick flick through the other ebooks on my iPad showed most of them to still use double quotes.
I Googled it, but still haven’t discovered a definitive answer. The best I can tell is that it is a UK/US thing, with the UK using single quotes and the US double quotes. As the majority of my sales are in the US, I think I will leave the double quotes. (Plus, that means less work!) I’m definitely going to keep Googling for publishing standards, though, as Pat raised a point I hadn’t previously considered. Self-publishing is full of hidden pitfalls and, thankfully, lots of lovely people with maps and compasses to help guide the way through!
The final style point was that my writing has too much internal thought in italics. I agree that such is probably the case, and I spent a chunk of today toning it down. It does make me worry about Two-Hundred Steps Home, though, as it’s probably 20% in italics! I’m not sure where it came from as a writing style, but if it is mentioned by other Beta Readers I’ll have to train myself to write a different way. This is the amazing thing about good Beta Readers – they don’t just help you with that novel, but with all your creative endeavours!
All this has a) given me a headache and b) reiterated that I need a copy editor. As I can’t afford to pay for one, that takes me back to my original plan: trying to find an agent to publish traditionally, so I get that stuff as part of the deal. In the mean time, it’s back to the Penguin book on Punctuation and some paracetamol.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
The steel light of dawn crept in through the curtains and lit the room. It took Claire a moment to realise where she was and what had woken her at such an ungodly hour. Loud, rasping snores resonated through the room. They sounded as if they were coming from behind her, which wasn’t right.
The acoustics in this place must be crazy. That woman needs to consider getting a single room; I feel like something’s sawing at my skull.
The next thing Claire noticed was how narrow the bed was. She felt precariously close to the edge of the bunk, with only a short rail separating her from a four-foot drop. The third fact permeating her foggy brain, seeping through the thudding pain, was the arm around her waist.
Like a movie on fast forward, the events of the previous evening sped past her eyes in brutal clarity. The gin. The quiz. The random questions she’d got right, to much applause. The congratulatory hugs from the group when they came third.
The weight of the arm pinned her to the bed. Claire tried to work out if either of them were naked. As far as she could tell, she was still wearing her t-shirt and pants from the day before.
Phew, that’s something at least.
A brush of warmth against her back informed her that the Scot wasn’t so well clad.
Oh, Christ. This is a single-sex dorm. I’m going to be in so much trouble.
Claire lifted the heavy arm and slid it behind her, holding her breath as the man murmured something unintelligible and rolled over to face the wall. Claire clung on to the foot of remaining bed, not wanting to fall in a heap and wake her room mates.
She peered over the bunk, looking for the ladder, and saw a girl asleep on the floor.
Remembering how unsteady the beds were, Claire flushed as she imagined being in the bottom bunk with any sort of shenanigans going on above.
Crap. Poor woman.
Fully awake, adrenalin pushing the alcohol from her fuddled mind, Claire surveyed the room below. She hadn’t unpacked, so that helped. All she had to do was climb down from the bunk and retrieve her bag and clothes, without waking the girl on the floor or the naked man hogging most of her bed.
With the stealth of a ninja, she moved, one limb at a time. A loud creak filled the room and she stopped, breath held, listening. Ever nerve zinged like a live wire under her skin. She felt she might hear a mouse breathing or the trees growing outside the window. No sound of censorious women could be heard.
Deciding all or bust might be the better option, Claire flipped down from the bed, narrowly missing the sleeping woman. In one movement she grabbed her jeans, handbag, rucksack and shoes. Anything else would have to be marked up as lost through misadventure.
Cheeks flaming and ears ringing, Claire fled the room. Pausing only to pull on her jeans and shoes, she strode along the clean, silent, corridors and headed for the car park.
So much for an extended stay.
With her phone confessing that it was only 5am, Claire was behind the wheel and on her way.
- Comma, Apostrophe, Quote, Grave, Prime, Foot and Inch (fontshop.com)
- A Passion for Commas (webeditorhome.wordpress.com)
- Those Pesky Commas (selfpubauthors.com)
- What a Difference a Comma Makes (writejudi.wordpress.com)
- DIY Editing: A comma conundrum (jwtroemner.wordpress.com)