Monday, July 26, 2010

Purses and Shoes

I'll bet you're wondering why I'm writing about purses and shoes this week, aren't you. Given how little I know about the subject, I can imagine you don't expect much content. Well, hang in there, I do have a point.

I'm curious as to how many times you read your manuscript before you wave the rubber chicken over it and bless it as ready to publish.

I was at a Thrillerfest session when Steve Berry was talking about point-of-view and dialog. He recounted a story about his method for making sure that his manuscript was ready to go.

It was called the "Purses and Shoes" approach. His most critical editor would receive purses and shoes for every major faux pas she found in his final manuscript. The level of error was a little subjective, but they were at least at the level of embarrassing.

The interesting point was that these purses and shoes were not your garden variety items from your local JC Penny, or Walmart, these were designer items from Louis Vuitton, Cartier, and the like. Needless to say the stakes were high not only for the editor, who happens to be his wife, but also for Steve. If his wife finds even a couple of critical mistakes, he could be looking at a big bill at the designer store.

Therefore Steve reads his manuscript a lot. And by a lot, I mean a lot, typically at least 75 times according to his answer to my question.

I thought at first that seemed like overkill, but then my editor doesn't have one eye on a $5000 purse in the window of the LV store.

The technique his wife used was every time a particular character was described, or did something, or felt something she would write it down. Then she would go back through and look for inconsistencies, such as a character having blonde hair in one scene, and black in the next, or a character that was afraid of spiders at one point, but had a pet tarantula the next. These are extreme examples, but they do happen.

I read my manuscript all the way through at least 5 times, and through different sections at least 10 or 15 times. I also read the entire manuscript aloud. I find a lot of errors in syntax and timing by using that approach. To a point, I feel that every read is good for finding something that isn't quite right. I'm not sure 75 is the number for me, but it does make me feel that I should probably do a few more.

So tell me, how many times do you read your manuscript?

P. S. I was going to make a comment about wanting an editor like that, but my wife reads this blog, and besides, I'm not sure Jessica Simpson knows much about editing.

1 comment:

  1. A really funny approach to the idea of editing one's self. I think I have to go over my manuscript a bunch of times, but seriously 75?! I think if I want to be a great author someday, maybe that much is probably good.

    Right now, I'm just chugging down the line and finishing stories, one after the other, because I don't want my creative muse to run out on me. So, I'm saving all that wonderful editing for later.

    Write on and good luck editing!


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