2015-03-01

Details - LLAP Mr. Nimoy

I was very saddened to learn of the passing of one of my roll models. For years I dreamed of running into Leonard Nimoy and being able to talk to him as if he were just another person. He was a great actor and an outstanding individual. As a kid, I took Spock to be my roll model. Logical, controlled, and possessing a mind that applied reasoning to solve problems instead of using an emotional response. He will be missed.

My first thought was to title this entry "Disappointed" because I tried to sign up to become a member of the SFWA and their website still has the old rules associated with it (SFWA membership requirements). But, I have a considerable amount of patience and I will continue to monitor their website to see if the new eligibility requirements are posted. As soon as that happens, I will be joining at the associate level. I don't have the time to read all the nominations for awards and I certainly am not interested in attending SFWA business meetings. Hopefully, the SFWA website will be updated as promised and I will become a member by the end of the day.

Today's post deals with the editing of a novel. I'm not talking about the normal editing that a writer goes through in the process of creating the story. I'm talking about the final editing pass that all writers should have done - copy editing. This is usually performed by a separate individual after the writer declares his or her work to be finished. In my case, this is done by my wife. She will typically find grammatical mistakes such as words that sound the same but are spelled differently, tense errors, repeating a word too many times too close together, use of words such as 'that', 'which', etc, and comma usage. It is this last one that we tend to have the most discussion about.

I find this interesting because I've been reading Twitter posts from Linda Nagata (an acquaintance of mine and an award-winning author) about the number of comma-usage changes her copy editor has suggested. Apparently, there are a large number of them. What's even more interesting is that the particular book that she is talking about has already been copy edited and published. This tells me that even copy editors cannot agree on how to use the lowly comma.

There are, of course, times when the use of a comma is mandated and those rules should not be broken. But there are other uses that have sparked widespread debate. One in particular is the use of the Oxford comma. This is the placement of a comma before the final "and" or "or" in a sentence with a list. (i.e. Do you want an apple, a pear, or an orange?) My wife will edit out the comma before the "or". I prefer to leave it in place. This final comma is called the Oxford comma and entire institutions are divided in whether or not it should exist.

If you take a step back and think about this for a moment, it brings up another point. Writing is, and always will be, a very subjective art. Sometimes, it's okay to break the rules. A single-word sentence, even though it is not technically a sentence, can add to the tension to a scene. I highly recommend that every writer have their work looked at by a good copy editor. You don't have to always agree on what they suggest--you are, after all, the creator of the story--but you should at least listen to what the editor has suggested and give the changes serious consideration.

I am making slow progress on Dragonverse Origins. I handed out my first chapter to my writer's group for feedback. As usual, everyone had something different to say. But, every time I go to a meeting, I learn something. This last meeting's lesson told me I need to pay more attention to active vs passive writing. The distinction is often subtle, but writing in the active voice can make a big impact on the reader's view of the story. I will be looking to learn more about this subject in the future.