Friday, December 08, 2006

LS: Come Out From Among Them and Be Ye Separate!

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out. ~Author Unknown

If you make a mess, clean it up. How many times have we heard that said, said it ourselves, or have seen it emblazoned on one of those kitschy posters at the card store? You know the kind. All of life’s rules line up in vari-colored ink and ten different loads-O-fun fonts trying desperately but not convincingly to disguise the fact that it’s just another guilt trip.

I find I make messes all over the pages of my manuscript. I type “to” when what I really want to say is “too.” How about the old your-you’re foul up? And of course, the ever popular its-it’s boo-boo.

More messes than I’d like litter my manuscript, and you know what?

It’s not my editor’s job to take them out. It’s mine.

This seems like it should be evident, that every writer scours her manuscript with a scrub brush looking for little messes to clean. But guess what? This isn’t always the case. Many pieces I receive at conferences as well as manuscripts sent to me for endorsement are littered with these little messes, these quick-wipe smudges that are only too easily removed.

Simply put, when you submit a manuscript for possible publication, it should be clean. Most editors will understand something here or there. Nobody’s perfect. But a messy manuscript? Who wants to deal with that? Whether published or not, our job as writers is to present the most sparkling piece of work we can, pristine and polished, so our editors can do their real job, locating weaknesses, elongating strengths, (and whatever else it is they do for which I’m eternally grateful) without their vision cluttered by the smudges of simple, dare I say it, grammar school mistakes.

It’s not only what we have to say that separates a good writer from a mediocre writer, but how we say it, all the way down to the small messes and smudges.

Work hard. Work well. And hand in the best piece you possibly can.

Mundane advice to be sure, but something that will allow you to stand out from the crowd.

Lisa Samson lives in Lexington, KY. As you read this, she’s most likely procrastinating on her blog,


At 9:59 AM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

Great post, Lisa. Reminds me of Ecclesiastes 9:10: "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might." We need to write with diligence and excellence.

At 10:22 AM, Blogger Heather said...

Does this mean I have to star tprooffing my coments?

At 10:56 AM, Blogger Richard L. Mabry, MD said...

"Autocomplete" in MS Word is not the author's friend, as I've found to my sorrow.
Thanks for the reminder.

At 9:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Lisa! By the way, I'm a Kentucky native myself, born in Danville (Boyle County).


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