Tuesday, September 22, 2015

the blog hasn't died / editing a novel

The blog has been neglected but it hasn't died. I will get back to it. For the last while I've been very busy editing this next novel, Five Roses.

Sure, I've already revised and edited and revised again. Multiply that a few more times. But this stage of working with an editor always brings new questions.  Not to mention the tiny, little copy editing marks that question the placement of words and commas.

This is when I discover that grammatical niceties aren't as intuitive as I'd hoped. Well, no, not intuitive as in an involuntary reflex, but intuitive as in acquired at brain-marrow level after five decades of being a voracious reader. Shouldn't I simply know by now? Seems not.

So I discover that there's a difference between "hanged" and "hung"--which I need to know for this novel because there's a hanging.

I already know the difference between "farther" and "further". I had to work with a copy editor once who believed "further" sounded more posh than "farther", and changed all mine to "further". Fine, I thought. From now on, I'll use "further". I assumed it was like "ago" and "earlier". There's nothing wrong with writing "a year ago" but some writers/editors feel it's more elegant to write "a year earlier". (Which sounds needlessly fussy to my ears, but I am steeped in fairy tales where "long ago" is an existential pre-condition.)  Then I had another piece of writing returned from a copy editor with all the "furthers" changed to "farthers". I finally pulled a tome of GRAMMAR off the shelf and discovered--guess what?--that it's not a question of taste. There's a rule! "Farther" is for physical distance. "Further" is the abstract concept. Perhaps you think that I, as a writer, should already have known that but I didn't. Nor, for that matter, did these copy editors who were paid to know it.

This last read-through should be the last before Five Roses goes to the design people. It is so exasperating, because even after having read these sentences so bloody often already, I'm still seeing bits that make me groan. Groan = swearing. Did I really write, "The bus window was so clouded with dirt she couldn't tell if the moon shone"?  Seriously???? A meteorological adjective in a sentence where I already have the moon? Not to mention that "clouded" is namby-pamby gloss on the state of some Montreal bus windows.

Anyhow, I should be working...


  1. Thank you for the education on further/farther. Also didn't know. Now I just have to figure out a way of remembering which is which. Also thanks for the meteorological chuckles...

  2. Carin, it's easy: farther > far > distance...."Further" is not related to actual distance. That, at least, is how I remember. :-)