Writing = hard

Fellow writers, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re looking at your manuscript covered with line edits by your editor and you come across something like this:

I could feel felt . . .

And you stare it. Really? Really? I wrote “I could feel” when I could simply have written “I felt”? What was I thinking? Why is my editor a better writer than I am? Gah!

And then there’s this:

I could still feel the warmth of where his thumb had been1

I wrote “the warmth of”? I’m, like, the WORST writer ever. I totally deserve all the paper cuts this stupid manuscript is giving me. Every single one. Even the one across my nose. Maybe especially the one across my nose.

  1. On her forehead, okay? Don’t go thinking rude thoughts. My fairy book is very chaste. []


  1. shloopy on #

    I make every one of those mistakes…
    Look on the bright side: At least you don’t have to stay up until 11 o’clock at night studying trig.

    I hope your nose heals quickly. 🙂 No writer deserves paper cuts! Hint: Wear gloves when handling paper.

  2. Justine on #

    No! The paper viciously attacked me. Paper is evil.

  3. robyn sch. on #

    I think writing a book where you are concentrating on getting the story down and editing a book where you are focused solely on the grammar are such different activities that you are NOT ALLOWED to feel like an idiot when your editor makes a grammar catch. If she didn’t, then we wouldn’t have editors.

    And shloopy, you try staying up until 3AM with an organic chemistry textbook 10 days before your book edits are due. Life is made of suckage.

  4. Margaret Crocker on #

    Your nose? were you sniffing it?

  5. kim on #

    what are you going to do to the paper?

  6. Patrick, The Space Lord on #

    I figure you are just padding your word count. Nothing wrong with that.

    Where else could his thumb have been? I only put thumbs on foreheads…

  7. Justine on #

    Perhaps on her nose staunching the blood from a paper cut.

  8. Leisa on #

    I just got my Thesis draft back from my Advisor and it looks just like that. It left me staring at the notes thinking, “did I *really* type that?” *Face-Palm* I guess that’s why Editors and Thesis Advisors get the big bucks!

  9. cherie priest on #

    Me too — plus I have trouble with unnecessary past progressive tenses. “She was running across the grass …” instead of “She ran across the grass,” etcetera.

  10. Mary Elizabeth S. on #

    I’ve had that happen. the worst is when you sit there for hours and hours trying to find and fix such mistakes yourself, then show it to a friend who, in about ten seconds, finds hundreds that you missed. then I think, “why did I even look? I’m obviously blind, and shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a story!”

    luckily, i’m working on a first draft right now, so that’s much easier…*sarcasm*


  11. Danica on #

    My friend got a papercut on her eyelid the other day. If that’s not an example of the nefarious ways of paper I don’t know what is.

  12. Kadie-Wa on #

    Across…your…nose? Well I guess it can happen.

    I do mistakes all the time. is that why there are so many green squiggles under random sentances? huh. I never knew that.

  13. Patrick, The Space Lord on #

    what? nose? no no no. Then he would be doing it wrong. index fingers are for noses.

  14. Lydia on #

    “My fairy book is very chaste.”

    for some reason, that made me giggle. 😀

    you are a brilliant author, sometimes however you get so wraped up in a story, you miss some of the minor writing details… 😀

    And across the nose? What were you doing with it?

  15. Patrick, The Space Lord on #

    she was looking to see if the words jumped off the page… It was an honest mistake…

  16. ebear on #

    I still felt warmth where his thumb had touched.

    Can I have your editor?

  17. Lisa Yee on #

    Could you still feel the pain of where the paper cut had been?

  18. Justine on #

    Lisa: Ow! Your mockage is almost as painful as the paper cuts. I’m going to quit writing and become a rabbit farmer. Clearly, it’s the only way . . .

  19. hillary! on #

    I once got a paper cut on my tongue. The sad thing is that it wasn’t even from an envelope.

  20. kim on #

    how did you get it then hillary! ?

  21. sylvia_rachel on #

    i’m a professional editor as well as an aspiring writer, so i know very well how stupid extremely bright and capable people can sound when their brains go just that little bit faster than their fingers. and picking the nits is always much easier in someone else’s work. it’s not you. it’s the nature of writing and editing (and to prove it, i will reveal that i have found some of the exact same boneheaded errors in my own work that i routinely grouse about in other people’s).

  22. Kadie-Wa on #

    Nothing can beat being a good old rabit farmer.

  23. Robert Legault on #

    It’s often not any easier for us editing to catch some of this stuff. it requires concertration not to get caught up in the story and concentrate on these little niceties of language. The second sentence, in particular, could easily roll right by me if I happened to be zoning out a bit. And if you edit all day long, zoning out some is inevitable.

    And I will second the comment above: I find many of these faults in my own first-draft writing when I read it over later. The act of spewing out what you’re trying to say comes for a whole different headspace than editing.

  24. sherry on #

    Editing and writing are very different skills and you aren’t allowed to feel bad about changes that your editor makes. Every editing client I’ve ever had makes those kinds of errors, which I catch. And when I write, I make the same errors myself–and i often need another editor to catch them. So no, your editor isn’t necessarily a better writer–she/he’s an editor. that’s why they get paid the big bucks (ha)! tis much easier to see problems in other people’s work now isn’t it?

    I’m sure your new book is awesome. Can’t wait to read it.

  25. Mark on #

    I have such difficulty with things like this, “I could feel” and “I felt” give me two different vibes. I suppose they are interchangeable sometimes but to me “I felt” feels like the PC guy is writing it – sterile description of a tactile sensation, whereas “I could feel” feels like the Mac guy is writing it and it will be followed by flowery words describing the emotional response.

  26. Laini Taylor on #

    I just wish i was at that stage with my current ms! i’ve never been so desperate to finish anything in my life. just wrote the first draft of the climax in a mad 25-page rush and it’s so bad it makes me want to cry or faint. i don’t know which. i don’t think i can bear to read it, actually. i’ll just take what i may have learned from it and do another hopefully less hideous draft.

    as for editors, i love what susan cooper said — “we couldn’t live without editors. Copy editors, i’m not so sure.”

    ha ha

  27. Justine on #

    Mark: There are definitely times when “I could feel” is the way to go. Sadly not the sentence above. I’m not against verbal modality. Is very useful. But too often it creates imprecision and muddiness when that’s not what the writer’s going for.

    Laini Taylor: I am on the quadrillionth draft. I wish I was where you are. I am so bored with this novel.

  28. Mike on #

    This might sound weird but the word “of” is one that I most over-use. In fact, if I’m looking to tighten up, that little beast is one my eye falls upon with great suspicion. And then, yes, I think–damn–used it again…It’s a little word that pushes a sentence towards the passive voice. Hey, at least you care. That’s gotta be worth something in the end.

  29. Peter D. Tillman on #

    “Writing a balanced, beautiful novel, where plot and character and
    setting and pacing and narrative structure and imagery and, above all,
    story work in harmony and true proportion, is fucking *hard*.”
    –Nicola Griffith,

    Killer writer, nice person. Look her up sometime when you’re in Seattle. You’ll like her, or I’ll eat my socks.

    Cheers — Pete Tillman

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