Saturday, 3 September 2016

I'm sure I put a comma in there...



How does a raw manuscript become a commercial book? With a lot of behind-the-scenes work!

Firstly, there is the content to be checked, and here you need a savvy editor who will check the facts for authenticity and also make sure that you have not made any errors of logic or chronology or, in my case, sprinkled too many ellipses through the text...


For example, in my forthcoming book The Girl from Simon's Bay, I had a rather fraught scene between 2 characters. At one point, the man leaps up towards the girl but... oh dear! I had previously written that they were sitting opposite one another with a low table in between. My hero's leap forward would have ended in disaster as he crashed to the floor, howling in pain from striking a shin on the table. That would certainly have put paid to any frisson of romance...

Once you have rectified any mistakes, the manuscript must be transformed into a recognisable style for publication. And this is where it gets interesting.
Have you noticed that speech marks, these days, are no longer double but single? We may still waggle our fingers into 2 quote marks, but on the page it is simply not done.
"I will never forgive you!" has become 'I will never forgive you!'
And as for paragraphs, well, I could write an entire book on the minutiae of modern indentation.There is indentation for paragraphs, indentation - or not - for fresh sections, indentation within indentation for dialogue...

So, next time you pick up a book, just stop for a moment and take a closer look at the layout of what you are about to read. I think you may be surprised. And this, perhaps, is the key to contemporary style. If we don't actually notice it, that is surely a sign of its success.

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