The dreaded post-its have returned

by M.J. Hearle

Hello, Welcome Reader,

Hope this wintry morning finds you well? It finds me decidedly unwell, surrounded by balled up tissues stained an alarming hue (when your body starts producing liquid the same colour as Oscar The Grouch, you’re officially sick). Before any of you feel the need to call a Whambulance rest assured I’m not seeking sympathy. Not for the bug that’s taken me hostage anyway.

Nope, today I need your commiseration for an entirely different malady – post-ititis. For those unfamiliar with this troublesome strain, here’s a picture to help…well, paint a picture:

Nasty, right? What you’re looking at is the first 150 pages of Winter’s Light – roughly a quarter of the finished manuscript. I sent the book to my agent 2 weeks ago confident that it was pretty polished. I’d read it, my girlfriend had read it, my parents had read it and between the four of us I thought we’d picked up most of the grammatical errors. Evidently, we did not.

My agent, Sue, sent me an email earlier this week saying she’d read and corrected the first 150 pages and was sending the rest of the manuscript back because it wasn’t ‘clean’ enough. My instructions are to sit down and read the whole thing aloud to myself, line by line, page by page – not off the computer, but from a hard copy (sorry trees!). By doing this, she assured me, a lot of the grammatical mistakes my gaze previously slid over will pop out and I’ll be able to save her (and my editor) a lot of work.

As much as sitting down and reading my book again galls me, there’s plenty of good sense in this advice. Sue definitely knows what she’s talking about. It’s amazing how different your writing sounds spoken aloud. You can really detect the musicality, or lack thereof, in the passages and the bum notes are much clearer. So, for you newbie authors out there make sure you set aside some time to read your book aloud before submitting it for evaluation. Trust me, you don’t want to catch post-ititis. It’s not fatal but it’s no picnic either.

In her email, Sue was also quick to mention that she was loving the direction of the story. This is important, as grammatical errors can be fixed – story ones are much trickier to deal with. There’s no point writing flawless prose if your plot is dull and listless. There are a lot of English professors out there who can write much better than I can but have never managed to get published because their stories aren’t compelling.

Speaking of compelling stories, check out the book featured in DOLLY Magazine’s August HOT SPOT section:

Pretty cool, huh? Thanks to the DOLLY crew for showing Winter’s Shadow some love. It’s easy to get a little despondent sometimes during the editing process, the finish line seems to drift further and further away, but there is a finishing line and once your cross it the rewards are worth it. You might even see your book in DOLLY.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a manuscript to clean. I’m going to scrub it until I can see my reflection. Wish me luck.

M . J.

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