A Very Productive Evening

I settled in last night with some wine and the laptop and got to work on finishing up my pre-edits of In The Devil’s Arms. I made excellent progress, about twenty pages left to go. On my personal PC, I use Microsoft Word 2010. I got the full MS Office package through a program at work, since we use their applications. Cost me $10 for the entire 2010 suite. The only problem now is my work laptop, which I use a lot at home too, doesn’t have the 2010 software. That did create one issue.

I know a lot of people don’t like the newer MS operating systems and software, but I really like it now that I’m used to it. One of the features I found very helpful was the new search function. It creates a list in a sidebar, and one of the new functions is a preview showing the instances of your search topic, along with the surrounding words. So I did a search for “was.” Too many to preview. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw the total count. Normally the preview lets me look over several sections of text where the word appears, and I can formulate how to rework it and see how close the next instance was.

Anyway, on to the main point. I really need to work on my tendency to ramble. 🙂 Last night, I used the work laptop – my daughter had commandeered mine for her homework, and since I keep everything on removable media, I can work anywhere as long as I have a computer. After I put the little guy to bed, I perched in my kitchen with aforementioned wine and dug in. Nearly three hours later, when I had to stop because my eyes were starting to tear, I had only twenty or so pages left. I did a quick search for my targeted word again and was pleasantly surprised. Knocked out about 400 of them! Most of what I left in occurred in dialogue, or the scene just called for a particular phrase. And I will likely lose a bunch of those too when I go through it one last time. I don’t think I could ever be done finding a way to lose another one. Even to this day, when I look at The Taste of Magic, there are things I would change if I wrote it now.

One other thing I found – even with the focus on that one word, I made a lot of other changes as well. So many times the following sentences then seemed out of place and also needed reworking. Passive voice has been a big problem for me with this manuscript, more so than with any others, but I think I managed to take care of most of it, if not all. No doubt a few eluded me, after a while, I stop noticing those flaws so easily.

And since it’s Friday, tonight should be another productive night – I can stay up later! And, I still have some wine left.

Misused and Misspelled Words

I got an email today from the editor at Noble, with an updated “Pre-Edits worksheet.” While a bunch of it is the same, there are quite a few more things I need to look at again. I did chuckle through some of it, as I read about things that bug me as well when I come across them. And of course, it means a bit more work for me as I go back over things, but I found it a really helpful guide. I also realized my comma usage is what could be considered by some to be “old-fashioned.” But what I really liked a lot were the lists at the end.

The first was about 6 pages of commonly misspelled and misused words. Thankfully, as I read through that, those weren’t an issue for me. Spelling and word usage is one of those things that has always come easy to me, in fact, whenever anyone in the office needs to spell something, they ask me. I can think of one time in the last 14 years where I’ve been wrong, though I’m sure there were a couple of others, that instance is the only that sticks out in my head. Sadly, I’ve seen many of the words on the list misused in published works.

But the list I really liked was the one comprised of compound words. One in particular that caught my eye was “all right.” I know it’s common today to use “alright” and it is in the dictionary, although indicated as Non-Standard, but that has always been one of my particular peeves. I never ever ever use “alright.” It goes back to the days when Sister Maureen was my English teacher in freshman year, and she was absolutely adamant that “alright” was not a word. Along with “alot.” I see that often and it makes me cringe. It is two words – a lot. MS Word even auto-corrects it. I laughed at some of the phrases specific to erotic romance – this is not a list I’m going to share with my daughter when she’s doing her homework, that’s for sure!

The list didn’t include home/hone in. I have always thought the expression was “hone in,” but I see and hear “home in” all the time. Or this one – I was always raised with the expression “buck naked.” Not “butt naked.” Technically, I suppose both are correct, but which is “right?”

Any other words or phrases that bug you or that you’ve heard used one way, and learned they were meant to be used another? Language is constantly evolving, but I wonder if some of the changes dilute or alter the meaning. Certainly some of the phrases in use today that originated generations or even centuries ago, would not have the same meaning as when they were first used.

And lastly, a Happy New Year to all my friends celebrating today.

The Start of the School Year

School is starting! YAY! Although this year, we are starting late – September 13, to be exact. Why so late? Because our district observes the Jewish Holidays, just like many districts around here, though there are several that do not. And since this year, those holidays are the week of Labor Day, our traditional school opening week, it made more sense to remain closed the extra week. Either way, I am so glad to have the kids going back to school.

This year, my little guy is starting kindergarten, and my daughter is entering 8th grade. Last year before high school. When the hell did that happen? But it’s going to be an interesting year, since now both kids will have a heavy schedule. Between sports, dance lessons, CCD, National Honor Society and Girl Scouts, community service hours, not to mention homework, I’m going to be spending a lot of time on the road. Add in my own personal commitments, full time job, writers’ meetings and critique groups, and hopefully other writing-related events to increase in the coming months, and I’m going to be ready for a rubber room by November. No wait, can’t do that, taking the family to Disney in November. December then. No, then it’s the holidays. January is daughter’s b-day. Okay then, reserve the rubber room for February.

But as crazy as that all sounds, having the school year start actually does make life a tiny bit easier. No worries about who has to go where, do I have a babysitter while I’m working, etc. Plus, the kids are so damn tired after their crazy days, that they are all tucked in and usually close to or already asleep by 10:00pm. Then my time kicks in.

It’s going to be nice not to have to chase anyone off my computer (or stand in the kitchen with my work laptop) so I can write. I’ve even outlined a schedule for myself. I have two almost completed WIPs that I want to get wrapped up in the next couple of months. I have another one that I started recently, that stands at about 5K words right now. Big goals with not a lot of time to fit them all in. But if I keep myself organized (ha!) and focused, I should be able to do it. Of course, it would be so much easier if I didn’t have two business trips looming – one at the end of September, one the end of October (and don’t forget Disney in November!). They’re going to be huge time sucks, both during the day while I’m working, and even at home while I prep the household for my absence.

I’ve resigned myself to learning to function on less than 5 hours of sleep a night – for the next stretch, it looks like that’s all I’ll be able to fit in. And then that rubber room is going to look very welcoming.