Saturday, September 15, 2012

Write what you know. Is that good advice?

I was working on an article tonight and had to do some research to verify some information. Suddenly a phrase popped into my thoughts.

Write what you know.

I'd heard that advice in high school; heard it again in college; heard it once or twice during my graduate studies; read it on the web.

Now I'm wondering, should I be writing about this particular subject?

"Wait a minute," this voice in my head said. "If you write only about what you know, why do you need an imagination?"

Think about it.

Did Lewis Carroll know about what it was like to fall down a rabbit hole?

Did Clement Clarke Moore actually have to meet Santa Claus to describe him so endearingly? 

How many vampires did Bram Stoker run into before he created Dracula?

How much science fiction and fantasy would we enjoy if we had to know everything about other worlds?

See where I'm going with this?

Now, if I have a character who is undergoing a surgical procedure, I would have to do a lot of research to get the procedures accurately on the page. I still wouldn't know how to perform them but I'd could write about them.

I guess if you're writing a memoir, it's best to know what you write, or at least write about what you THINK you know.

So to all those people who told me, who told you, I say go ahead, fall down a rabbit hole before you pen your version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but make sure you're female because otherwise ...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Who needs a proofreader?

Who needs a proofreader?

When I read blogs and forums about self publishing I find numerous suggestions that authors either hire a proofreader or go over their manuscripts thoroughly again and again.

I agree. But even with numerous readings, a manuscript can still have errors.

One of the (supposed) advantages of having a manuscript published by one of the major houses is the availability of professional editors and proofreaders.

But even that doesn't ensure a perfectly clean product. And if you think a little mistake will go unnoticed, think again. Case in point is a copy of Cold Case by Stephen White, which I picked up and read recently. It was a used copy, a hardbound published by Dutton.

Whomever owned the book before me didn't just notice errors he or she highlighted them and wrote above the highlighting. On page 181, for example, the sentence read in part, "...the local corner is an M.D." The reader corrected it with the word coroner.

On the very next page, a sentence read, "A second perimeter of yellow crime-scene tape blocked any closer access to the body."

At this point, I assumed there was a body but there wasn't. And, later, the body was discovered far away from the scene.

On page 189, the sentence read, "You're the psychologist--people wanting vengeance tend be your angry people, right?"

Except for the error referring to a non-existent body, it's easy to see how errors can slip by. And overall, the mistakes don't interfere with the plot or the writer's skill ...  Little errors, yes, but wouldn't it have been shocking if the invisible body showed up later -- alive and well?

Little errors, yes, but not unnoticed.
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