I recently received the dead matter for On the Road to Mr.
[Note: "Dead matter" is the term used by the publisher for the stacks and stacks of the manuscript during various stages of production. It is, indeed, very dead.]
I wrote about my Lessons from Dead Matter for Greetings from Nowhere here.
And for The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis here.
And The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester here.
It's a little depressing to see that after writing lots of books, I'm still making the same stupid mistakes. But, hey, that's what copyeditors are for, right? Or is it copy editors? I can never remember.
So, here are some of my lessons from dead matter:
1. Why can I never, ever remember that the following words are one word? (I think I need an editor for that sentence.)
And the following are hyphenated:
And it's screened porch, not screen porch.
For this book, it was suggested that we hyphenate gol-dern so as not to confuse it with the word "golden." (I know, I didn't get it either.)
It was also decided that this is the correct version of:
(And I am once again reminded of how good I am at insulting people.)
2. After much debate, diddly-squat won out over doodly-squat and hyphenation was required.
3. Sometimes you sit in a chair and sometimes you sit on a chair.
"She plopped down in one of the lawn chairs" was changed to "on one of the lawn chairs."
But "How he longed to go back up there and sit in the lawn chair and play cards all day" was left as is.
*scratches head and ponders this*
4. I'm forever disagreeing with decisions about commas - not because of correct punctuation, but because of the sound of the writing.
For example, there was a lot of discussion about the following sentence because of the doors of the van being left open (but that's a whole other thing....):
Luther took his fishing rod out of the back of the van, and he and Edsel went inside the restaurant to eat pork lo mein.
I don't like that comma there because I didn't want a pause in that spot. I wanted the sound of the words running on. But either I lost or I gave in, I don't remember which.
The same goes for the following, only it's the opposite situation:
But now, a little glimmer of sadness was starting to buzz around him like a pesky fly.
Copy editor took the comma out. I liked the pause it created, but I agreed to take it out. (See how agreeable I am?)
5. We had a great discussion about the phrase gold-ern criminy cripes. Evidently, both criminy and cripes are euphemisms for Christ. (Who knew?) Would I get run out of town for using those words in a children's book? Well, the words are still there and I'm still in town, so there you go.
6. Some Southern expressions prove just too confusing for the average bear, so I give up and take them out. One of them is the expression pure-T, which means 100% or completely. Here's the original sentence from the manuscript:
I know she's pure-T red-hot mad at him.
The copy editor wrote in the margin, "purty?"
[Note: I think my Southern writer pal, Augusta Scattergood, says pure-D, instead of pure-T. The Dictionary of American Regional English actually has both. But it shows pure-T as being more prevalent in the Carolinas, which is where I'm from.]
7. Dear Copy Editor: Please leave the word hisself alone.
8. A giant hickory-nut tree casts shadows that move in the warm breeze, like fingers wiggling over the dandelions in the lawn.
Was changed to dandelions on the lawn.
I still don't like it.
9. Stamp her foot was always changed to stomp her foot.
10. And last, but this one is very, very important, there are no periods after:
So there you have it: Lessons from Dead Matter