Monday, May 3, 2010

Lessons from Dead Matter

Remember my post entitled Lessons from Dead Matter?

I have just received the dead matter for The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, so I thought I'd shared some more Lessons from Dead Matter:

1. I originally had the following:

They walked to the gas station down on the main highway where Popeye was never supposed to go without asking Velma first.

I hear it in my head as all run together like that.

But the copyeditor added a comma after "highway."

She explained that it is "nonrestrictive."

Okay, I get that. But it just doesn't sound the same, with that pause in there. (I added the comma anyway, but I still don't like it.)

2. I used a word that isn't in the dictionary! Yay, me:

"They don't call me the Royal Rulebreaker for nothing, right, Popeye?"

Copyeditor suggested hyphenated (Rule-Breaker), although not in the dictionary.

3. On one page I had several conversations with the copyeditor about "qm's". Huh? What the heck are qm's? I finally figured it out: quotation marks. Heh....

4. I had a floral easy chair and then four lines later, floral sheets. One of the "florals" had to go. (The easy chair went.)

5. Original version:

Gauzy yellow butterfly wings, tattered and dirty, dotted here and there with clusters of shiny gold sequins and attached to the girl by straps that slipped over her arms like a backpack.

At copyeditor's suggestion, this was changed to: " straps that slipped over her arms like those of a backpack."

Now, I understand that. But it still just doesn't sound right to me.

6. Copyeditors notice repetitions that authors often miss since we are so close to the writing. I'm always amazed at all of my repetitions:

"Y'all get on out of here," she said, throwing her arms out as if to sweep them all out of the house.

[I kept two of them and changed the second one to the word "wide."]

Her livid voice burst right through the metal walls of Dooley's trailer and slithered across the darkness of the backyard and right into the kitchen...

[deleted the second one, although I liked the sound of it]

Popeye looked down at his feet, the guilt stinging his face like fire ants. Silence. Popeye looked up. Velma was looking at him, her eyes narrowed into slits, her lips squeezed tight.

[What was I thinking?! Changed the first one to "stared" and the second one to "glanced."]

He took a piece of beef jerky out of his pocket and held it out for Boo, who gobbled it up and swallowed it whole.

[Changed "out of" to "from."] longer hidden by the thick, overhanging branches of the trees. Tree stumps and boulders and dense, overgrown shrubs line the edges of the clearing.

When you read that out loud, you have "trees" at the end of the first sentence and "tree stumps" at the beginning of the second. Not good.

I simply reversed the order of "tree stumps and boulders."

7. Copyeditors have amazing memories. On page 3 of the manuscript (page three), I wrote that Velma couldn't find her reading glasses.

On page 112 (one hundred and twelve), I wrote: Her hand fluttered up and pushed at her glasses.

Copyeditor wrote in margin: Reading glasses as on p. 3?

Sheesh. [I changed to "pushed at her thin gray hair."

8. Now, get this - FOUR TIMES I referred to a character sitting "at the diner booth."

Copyeditor changed to "in the diner booth."

That is, of course, correct, but isn't it strange that "at the diner booth" was so embedded in me?

9. The following should be one word or hyphenated, instead of two words:

toe-jam [you can tell I am a very classy writer]
ding-dong [as in, "skinny-headed ding-dong"]

But hot dog is two words.

10. I am forever getting that lie-lay thing wrong. One reason for that is because of the way I hear the writing. Since I hear even third-person writing with a Southern ear, the correct version just never sounds right. But I change it anyway. Example:

Then Popeye dashed home to lie on his bed and stare at the ceiling until Velma got home.

[I still don't like the way it sounds. I want him to lay on the bed.]

10. And last, thank goodness for smart copyeditors. The character of Velma recites the kings and queens of England in chronological order to keep her from cracking up.

James V, Mary I, James VI, Charles I...

Those are kings and queens of Scotland. Heh....

So there you go.....lessons from dead matter.


Grier Jewell said...

I looove your dead matter posts! Dead matter reminds me of growing up: We were so poor (how poor were you?), we had to share the same bath water in order of oldest to youngest. I was the youngest...of six. I know all about dead matter, and this ain't dead matter. It's golden.

Danette Haworth said...


I get all hung up on the commas, too. Sometimes I WANT the sentence to sound run on! I was surprised to find out that the p was not capitalized in "plaster of paris."

Barbara O'Connor said...

Grier: That is hilarious! What a luxury to be all grown up and be the first one in the tub. :-)

Danette: I totally relate to that. I think it's a Southern ear thing. Sometimes I have to stick by my guns and sometimes I cave to the Yankees. haha

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this. I just went through all this for the first time and boy was it a big learning curve. :) I am a word repeater a big way.

Grier Jewell said...

Ach! Crivens! Bathin’ is overrated, ye ken. And growin’ up is no verra interestin'.

Kirby Larson said...

Barbara, you can tell me: do you sometimes wish that something rotten happens to the copyeditor -- not real bad, mind you, but like she gets her morning latte and they add hazelnut flavoring to it, which she hates or someone else gets the apple fritter she had her eye on.

Because sometimes I think bad things about my copyeditors.

Even if they do often save my bacon, sometimes I just want to lay down and take all of the commas out of everything I write and maybe the periods too just to spite them

Barbara O'Connor said...

Kirby, you mean you just want to LIE down, not LAY down.


No, I NEVER think thoughts like that.

Mine are much worse. HA!