Friday, October 29, 2010

Dashes, Ellipses, and Numbers -- Oh, My!!

Often, writers are so protective of their work - of every word, every comma, every detail - that they're unwilling to try something new, to open their minds to the fact that there might be a BETTER way to do something. Thankfully, I'm not one of those writers. I'm not saying it doesn't sting a bit to know I'm doing something wrong, or that I need to make some changes. But, in the end, it's about the work, making the work better, the best it can be. So, yes, I'm more than willing to learn. To entertain the idea that someone else knows better than I do.

Well, all during this editing process (particularly in the past 10 days or so), I've been enlightened by my new agent, learning new ways to do things, to make the work better. On the surface, these seem so minute, so insignificant, but I think they've made a real difference in my writing.

So, here's what I've learned:

1) I've been doing dashes ALL sorts of wrong. I love, love, love dashes - as you can tell from my blog. Well, here's what I'd been doing in the past - <--just a hyphen and two spaces. But, my agent pointed out that here's how it should actually look--like this. Who knew?? Not me, apparently. lol Can you even imagine how many dashes I had to correct in 400 pages? Umm, a lot. Like, easily over 1,000. Yikes. Lesson learned. (Well, except for writing this blog. Out of sheer habit, I'll probably continue - writing - like - this. Just sayin').

2) I use wayyyyyyyyy too many ellipses, both in my dialogue and in the narrative. I had NO CLUE I was doing this. None. Until it was pointed out to me by my agent. When I realized what I'd done, I changed them, and really liked the improvement it brought. Subtle, yes. But here's what I learned - that when I put ellipses (. . .) so constantly in character dialogue, it makes the characters feel...well...hesitant. Not...confident. Even...wishy-washy. And something neat happened when I turned most of those ellipses into periods -- the writing became a bit more assertive. A bit more sure of itself, more confident. And that includes the way the characters seemed. Again, who knew??

3) Numbers should be spelled out. Now, this one I did know. But, there are really two schools of thought on it (in fact, I just taught from my 1301 textbook about this). Some feel that all numbers below 10 should be spelled out, while others feel that all numbers up to 100 should be spelled out. I was of the former school of thought, and my agent was of the latter. I trust his guidance and made the changes, and liked them even better.

This has been such a learning process for me. And I look forward to learning more in the future! Edits are tedious and challenging, but they're necessary. Anything that makes the work better is......necessary. lol

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