Watch Those Participles!

I’m blogging today about a grammatical pet peeve of mine: the misuse of participial phrases.

Participles are tricky little devils. They are verb forms used as adjectives. They come in three forms: past, present, and perfect. Past participles most often end in –ed or –en. Present participles end in –ing. Perfect participles combine having and the past participle. Examples are “having eaten,” “having written,” and “having looked.” Participles introduce participial phrases that modify nouns. Here are some examples. “Wandering through the woods, we spotted many types of fungi and lichens.” moss_lichen_fungi “Having finished their dinner, the guests helped their hostess clear the table.” “Thrown against the wall, the ball bounced back and hit me on the forehead.”

Writers need to be careful to use participial phrases correctly. There are two incorrect usages that occur too often in written work that does not receive careful editing. The first is the dangling participle.

A participial phrase, like a single adjective, is used to modify a noun or pronoun. In the examples above, the phrase “wandering through the woods” modifies the pronoun “we.” The phrase “having finished their dinner” modifies the noun “guests.” The phrase “thrown against the wall” modifies the noun “ball.” A dangling participle is one that does not logically modify the noun it precedes. It “dangles” because it is an adjective with no noun to modify. Here is an example: “After eating our dinner the sky cleared up.” Its position in the sentence indicates that the phrase should modify the subject of the main clause, but the subject is “sky,” and the sky did not eat our dinner. So the participle dangles with no noun to modify. The sentence can easily be corrected by supplying a subject for the phrase to modify: “After eating our dinner, we were pleased to see the sky clear up,” or “After we had eaten our dinner, the sky cleared up.”

Returning to the sentences I used as examples in the first paragraph, I’ll show you how a dangling participle makes the sentence ludicrous. “Wandering through the woods, many types of fungi and lichens proved easy to spot.” The sentence now has the fungi and lichens wandering through the woods. “Having finished their dinner, the table was quickly cleared off so that the guests could play cards.” Here the table has eaten the dinner. “Thrown against the wall, I was hit on the forehead when the ball bounced back.” Ouch! Being thrown against that wall really hurt!

Here are two examples of dangling participles I spotted recently when reading stories of folks finding or rescuing pets. “After showing an apartment in one of our buildings, a big, dirty gray cat crawled from under the porch and rubbed against my leg.” “Being all white, I was going to name her Snowball.” The people who wrote these aren’t professional writers and merely wished to express their happiness at acquiring the right pet for them, so they can probably be excused for the inadvertent humor of having “a big, dirty gray cat” showing an apartment or the pet adopter “being all white.” A professional writer should never make this sort of mistake. Yet here is an example from a published work: “Splashing aftershave on his freshly shaved face, the sting on his skin was stimulating.”

The second common error in the use of participial phrases is one I’ve seen more often in work by professional writers. The action expressed in the participial phrase must be simultaneous with the action of the main clause. In the sentence “Wandering through the woods, we spotted many types of fungi and lichens,” the action of spotting the fungi and lichens is simultaneous with the action of wandering through the woods. But in a sentence like this, “Standing, he went to the coffee machine,” the action of standing is not simultaneous with going to the coffee machine. One follows the other. It would be simpler and more correct to say, “He stood and went to the coffee machine.” Because writers like to vary their sentence structure, they can too easily fall into the trap of making mistakes like the one just quoted or like this one—“ Pulling into the driveway, he got out of the car.” He did not get out of the car while pulling into the driveway. What he did was pull into the driveway, park the car, and get out. Such an error is easy to make, but it is just as easy to correct. The author or copy editor should check participial phrases to be certain they reflect action that can occur simultaneously with the action in the main clause.

One other caution about participial phrases: Don’t overuse them! They are a way to vary sentence structure, but they stand out and distract when overused. A simple, declarative sentence does not call attention to itself, but a large number of sentences that begin with a participial phrase will divert the reader’s attention from the story to the structure.

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Book Recommendations

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog, having been preoccupied with other matters that kept deterring me. I’ll try to get back on a more regular schedule, but in the meantime, here are reviews I’ve done recently of four books by friends of mine. These are books I can unhesitatingly recommend, not because their authors are my friends but because they are well and professionally written novels worthy of attention. I should add that I don’t like giving a book a bad review, so if I’m asked to review a book and after reading it I find I cannot give it a good review, I won’t review it at all. I was not asked to review these books. After reading them, I wanted to review them. These four novels are books I have not the slightest qualm about reviewing favorably. I enjoyed reading them and look forward to reading other books by these authors.

Weapon of Blood, by Chris A. JacksonWeapon of Blood
This sequel to the fantasy novel Weapon of Flesh is every bit as good as the first book, though if you haven’t read Weapon of Flesh, I recommend starting with it. Warning: once you start reading either book, you’ll find it hard to put down. The characters are well developed and compelling, the plot is enthralling, and the action nonstop. There are thrills and surprises in every chapter. I can’t wait to read the third book.

The Alien Within, by J. M. Bolton
The Alien WithinThis is an intriguing science fiction tale with believable characters and several unexpected twists. I love space opera, which this is, but it is more than that. It delves deeply into the psychology and motivating factors that have molded the lead characters, Winter and Shaw. Both have events in their backgrounds they have suppressed and concealed, and those events must be faced and dealt with as they cope with alien attacks, difficult decisions, and questions of loyalty and to whom it’s owed.

Captive Audience, by William HatfieldCaptive Audience_
When the cruise ship Jade Viking is drawn up into the hold of a huge alien spaceship, no one on earth knows what has happened to the ship. It seems to have simply disappeared. But its passengers are all too aware of their perilous situation. Some panic, others try to bluff and bluster their way out of the situation, and some, led by actor and martial arts expert Jim Morris, resolve to find a way to free themselves. This is a rousing good adventure with intriguing characters. It kept me reading and left me eager to read the sequel. Morris’s feats of strength and agility at times strain credibility, but that quibble is easy to overlook in this fast-paced, high action space opera.

Billy Boy, by Joyce Milne D’Auria
Billy BoyAs she did in My Blood is Royal, in this related novel D’Auria has again transported her readers to another century and another place. The mining town of Whifflet , Scotland in the mid-1800s is dirty, unhealthy, and filled with families condemned to a hard and poverty-stricken life. Despite or perhaps because of the precariousness of their existence, the people of Whifflet revel in the rivalry between the Scots and the Irish, between Protestants and Catholics, the orange and the green. Into this world comes Billy, born of an unwed young Catholic woman and a married Protestant man. His mother dies shortly after his birth, and Billy spends his first year of life in the poor house. His aunt , his father’s sister, learns of his existence and rescues him. Although the home to which she takes him is in only marginally better surroundings, his aunt is determined to give him an education and a decent chance in life. But his mother’s family are aware of who his mother is, and as he grows up and learns the circumstances of his birth, he is caught up in the rivalry between the Irish and the Scots. The vivid portrayal of the hard life led by the mining families and the difficulty of escaping that life is heart-breaking. It is assumed that all able-bodied young men will leave school at an early age and go to work in the mines. Billy cannot escape the tension between his Irish Catholic relatives and his Scottish Protestant aunt. The reader will keep turning pages, hoping that Billy will not fall into the almost inescapable hardscrabble existence that characterizes most of the villagers. Short chapters make it easy to keep reading “just one more,” eager to follow the ups and downs of Billy’s life. The novel is not all grim. There is laughter along with the tears as the pages are turned and the story unfolds in its unforgettable way.

I hope these reviews will inspire other readers to review books they’ve read recently, and I dare hope that some of you will review books of mine.

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On Childhood Fantasy Writings and the Childhood of Fantasy Writing

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I came across two things in my recent reading that inspired this blog.

First, I have to explain that I am a long time reader of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. I read it from cover to cover. However that takes me some time, and I am now exactly one year behind in my reading. So recently I was reading Robert Silverberg’s Reflections column in the December 2012 Asimov’s. The subject is libraries, and as he spoke of libraries he visited in his childhood it brought back many memories. But that is not the thing that most caught my attention. It was a single sentence in which he said that by 1948 (when he would have been thirteen years old), “I had begun to write my own first pitiful little short stories.” It was that adjective, “pitiful,” that caught my attention. Robert Silverberg is one of the top science fiction writers of our time, and I can’t imagine anything he wrote being “pitiful.” But of course, he’s speaking from the vantage point of a much published author at age 77, and from that vantage point I’m sure those early writings did seem pitiful. And were we to read them now and compare them to his adult output, we might agree with that word choice. But I doubt that he would have used that adjective to describe them at the time he wrote them. I’d guess that he would have been proud of those first efforts, and rightly so, since no matter how pitiful they might seem to him now, they launched him on a path that led to a stellar career.

That reminds me that as adults we need to take care how we judge the early works of children. I discovered as an adult and already beginning to write, a file of stories my mother had kept and stored away. I had written them all in fourth grade when, for some reason, I spent a rather lot of time writing fantasy tales. They are written on wide-lined paper in heavy and now smudged pencil, and I could easily describe them as “pitiful,” probably with far more justification than Robert Silverberg had in describing his stories in that way.

I prefer to think of them as seedlings, needing to be nurtured and allowed to grow. I am exactly one year younger than Robert Silverberg—we share a birthday. But Silverberg never put aside his dream of writing. His seedlings grew and became sturdy plants, flowering into wonderful tales of science fiction and fantasy. I never put aside my dream, either, but the circumstances of my life caused it to languish for many years while my career choice took me in a different direction, and I began to write seriously rather late in life.

However, I am not writing about my experiences nor about Robert Silverberg’s, but about children being encouraged to write and to use their imagination. A child’s imagination, allowed to run wild, can be a wonderful thing. I’ve read a lot of children’s stories, many though certainly not all, with elements of fantasy. Now, I don’t know what elements may have characterized Robert Silverberg’s childhood writings, but I’d hazard a guess that they involved spaceships and aliens. However, my early writings, like many of the writings by children that I’ve been privileged to read, dealt with princes and princesses and fairies and magic and marvelous quests. And gems. Lots of lovely jewels adorning clothes and castles, with golden crowns and walls of gold studded with gems of every color and description.

And that brings me to Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who lived from 1623 to December, 1673. Margaret Cavendish was a brilliant woman, a scholar of science and philosophy, and a writer of essays, plays, and novels, one of which is variously labeled as science fiction or as fantasy and is surely a forerunner of both.

Margaret (Cavendish, nee Lucas), Duchess of Newcastle, of Welbeck Abbey (c1623 - 1673). Duchess Margaret was frequently depicted by Abraham van Diepenbeeck. Image, Courtesy Maureen E. Mulvihill, Princeton Research Forum, Princeton, NJ.

Margaret (Cavendish, nee Lucas), Duchess of Newcastle, of Welbeck Abbey (c1623 – 1673). Duchess Margaret was frequently depicted by Abraham van Diepenbeeck. Image, Courtesy Maureen E. Mulvihill, Princeton Research Forum, Princeton, NJ.


That novel is titled The Blazing World, and while it explores the scientific knowledge of her time and also delves deeply into philosophy and theology, its framework story bears all the characteristics I listed as being present in many early literary efforts of children. A woman from one world (not ours, as we eventually learn) goes on a quest that takes her to another world, called the blazing world at least in part because of the gold and gems that abound there. In it she encounters a weird variety of “men”—bear-men, bird-men, worm-men, fish-men, fly-men, magpie-men, parrot-men, ape-men, and more. She becomes the empress of this world, and engages in long discussions with the various types of “men” on scientific, philosophical, and metaphysical topics. She also summons spirits to question them on theological and philosophical matters. These long discourses are of historical interest, in that they reflect the best knowledge of her era, and are put forth by an educated and highly intelligent woman who dared to write under her own name.* The lengthy discourses would never be acceptable in a modern novel, and The Blazing World is not a novel one would read today for entertainment. It is a window into another time and valuable for that reason.

It is also a glimpse at the childhood of the fantasy novel. Just as modern children writing fantasy indulge in wild imaginings, Margaret Cavendish, an adult woman and a brilliant scholar, allowed her imagination to run rampant. Not reined in by any established canon, ignorant of today’s novelistic strictures, she constructed a world unfettered by precedent and based wholly on her inventive imagination. She even places herself in the story as a visitor in spirit to the blazing world, where she communes with the empress on the aforementioned topics and also on governmental policy.

Today’s readers might find Margaret Cavendish’s novel strange and unappealing because of its lengthy discourses that take precedence over plot development, but they would be judging from the vantage point of over three centuries of evolution in literary styles and tastes. It is as unfair to judge it in that way as it is to find a child’s first efforts at constructing a fantasy tale wanting. Her work is never childish, but it is childlike in that it exudes that type of unfettered sense of wonder that children pour into their stories with no restraint and no concern over exigencies of plot.

Let children explore what it means to construct a story. Encourage them to use imagination to fashion a world of their own making, and let it blaze with gold and gems. Value rather than criticize their literary output, regardless of its shortcomings as seen from an adult viewpoint. A child’s early efforts may seem pitiful, but if encouraged and praised for what they are and not all that they are not, they may well lead to a future of producing commercially viable novels and even literary masterpieces.

*To view other images and information on Cavendish, visit:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/152459896/Mulvihill

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The Arucadi Series, Past, Present, and (I Hope) Future

I’ve already written a good bit about my Arucadi series of books, but I thought today I’d do a general overview of the series: the books already published and those in the planning stages.
schoolpbk2PPpbk2
The books haven’t been written or published in chronological order. The first published was A School for Sorcery, a YA fantasy that I didn’t intend to be part of a series. But things often work out differently for me from the way I plan. I had A Perilous Power mostly written when I saw how I could relate it to A School for Sorcery as a prequel. So I did that, and it became the second published book, although it recounts events that happened around fifty years before Tria arrives at the Lesley Simonton School for the Magically Gifted in A School for Sorcery. Beast RavensBrytesAscent_finalThen I went on to write a sequel to SchoolWhen the Beast Ravens, which takes place at the Lesley Simonton School two years after the beginning of School. That book is followed by Bryte’s Ascent, the events of which take place in the year following the conclusion of When the Beast Ravens.

I had written Mistress of the Wind earlier, but got it published just last year as the first book of a new trilogy titled Arucadi: The Beginning.cover art So it is actually the first of the Arucadi books. It has now been followed by the second book of that trilogy, Bringers of Magic. Bringers takes place about a century before A Perilous Power. MagicBringer-510revIt will be followed by the third book of that trilogy, A Mix of Magics, which I am currently writing. It will, like all the books in the series, be a complete story, but it will also set up a situation that will only be resolved in the final book of the series. I don’t know what that final book will be titled, but I have a general idea of the plot. And chronologically it will come several years after Bryte’s Ascent.

I do know what the plot is and what the title is for the book that will directly follow Bryte’s Ascent. It will be titled Mother Lode, which is something of a play on words, as it involves gem mining in the area of the Arucadian desert town of Marquez, a nefarious scheme to enslave orphaned children to work in the mines, and Lina in her unwanted position of being mother to some of the rescued orphans. It’s started, but not very far along. Why? Because until I got Bryte’s Ascent published there seemed little point in continuing to work on it. Now I’m eager to get going, but I have a couple of other books that have to be completed first.

I have the title and setting but as yet no plot for the book that follows Mother Lode. Throughout Mother Lode, people keep mentioning the town of Pescatil, and they say words to this effect, “Pescatil’s a peculiar place. Don’t know why anyone’d want to go there.” So, of course, my characters are curious about this, especially because no one seems able to explain why Pescatil is such a peculiar place. So they go there to find out. I’ll have to find out along with them, because at this point I don’t have any idea. But I have no doubt that the idea will come. I do know that the book will have a direct connection to the final book in the series.

Then I have an idea for a novel that returns to Tria and also to Wilce, her boyfriend in A School for Sorcery, both now adults and using their magical powers to benefit others. I’ve said several times that Arucadi is similar in many ways to an earlier period in U.S. history, but one difference is, while they have developed trains and buses and cars, they do not have airplanes. So this book will deal with the development of manned flight.

Now, I know that it’s a bit foolish to announce books that are not yet written and may never get written—although I have the best of intentions. I hope that announcing my plans for them will spur me on to actually writing them. Yes, I do need to get very busy if I’m to achieve my goal of completing the series as I have envisioned it. Wish me luck!

So here’s the list of published books with the projected ones included in brackets, in chronological order:
Mistress of the Wind
Bringers of Magic

[A Mix of Magics]
A Perilous Power
A School for Sorcery
When the Beast Ravens
Bryte’s Ascent

[Mother Lode]
[untitled book about conflict between development of airplanes and forces of magic]
[A Peculiar Place]
[final book of series]

And for your enjoyment, here is a promotional video for Bringers of Magic. Please take a look.
Click here. http://youtu.be/jmnhC1wrOG0

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The Nature of Creativity

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I’m currently reading This Shared Dream, by Kathleen Ann Goonan, the sequel to her marvelous science fiction novel In War Times. This Shared Dream proceeds more slowly than In War Times. It needs to, with many viewpoint characters and subplots, and especially because it gives the reader so much to think about.ThisSharedDream I was reading a section last night that got me thinking about why I write. There are many facile answers to the question of why one writes. The chapter of This Shared Dream I was reading was not about writing but about art, and about how the character allows her long-suppressed artistic talent to reawaken and through painting discovers hidden memories and parts of herself that had long been locked deep within her

It made me think about creativity in general and about freeing our creative self, whether it be through painting, sculpting, writing fiction, performing and/or composing music, or something else. There is such a wide range of creative activities that I firmly believe that everyone is creative in some way. The sad thing is that some people never discover and explore their creativity. That doesn’t mean that they don’t accomplish anything. They may be very successful in a career, may be active in community organizations, may lead productive lives. Nothing wrong with that. Many careers are built on creative endeavors. Many community activists are using their creativity in that work. But there are those who go through life never building on that spark of creativity that is hidden within them, begging to be let out but suppressed by all the “busyness” of daily life, always sensing that something is missing but never exploring deeply enough to discover what that something is and what to do about it.

Yet, as Goonan portrays in her novel, giving full rein to that creativity can unlock a hidden part of ourselves. When writers write, when artists paint, when composers produce beautiful melodies, they are drawing forth these things from a font deep within them. It’s somewhat akin to opening Pandora’s box. All sorts of things come out of it. All those crazy ideas that readers wonder how we got. Things that work when we play around with them and things that eventually get discarded as unworkable.

I write because I get a deep satisfaction from unlocking that box and letting the ideas flow out, to be put together in some sort of pleasing arrangement. I suspect that people whose area of creativity is very different from mine get that same sort of satisfaction, of drawing on the very depths of one’s being to produce a work of art of some sort.

This may be especially true of writers because we get to create worlds and populate them, to explore our characters’ psyches, to build bridges to other times and places, to depict horrors and plot paths to happiness.

Then again, I may be prejudiced because I’m a writer. I suspect that any creative person can talk about the ideas she derives from many sources but that sprout ultimately from the depth of her being.

People like Lynn Burr, who creates beautiful handcrafted Santas, collectibles that anyone would love to own.Santa doll-LynnBurr Visit her website, http://www.snowflakebay.com/ and you’ll see a wide assortment of Santa dolls, each one unique and all absolutely beautiful.

Or Nancy Ralston Strife, who sews gorgeous hand-sewn quilts of her own design. Don’t think for a moment that she doesn’t pour herself, her deepest being, into the crafting of these lovely quilts. Nancy's quilt

I could list many more among my personal acquaintances who express marvelous creativity in many different ways. Ultimately, I believe it doesn’t matter what it is that a person’s creativity produces, but how the creator latches on to that creativity to explore and structure his world. It takes courage, a willingness to expose at least to oneself things hidden deep within. The reward is great, not necessarily or even often in a monetary sense, but in the personal satisfaction one receives by finding completion as the creative process.

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Young Adult Literature: Is It Only for Teens?

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When I wrote A School for Sorcery, my first published novel, I wasn’t intentionally writing a book for teens. I wrote the kind of book I enjoy reading, and in line with the injunction to “write what you know,” I wrote about a school and students and teachers. I made it a boarding school, because that was what the plot demanded. And I included the kinds of conflicts that can occur among students and between teachers and students, but because I was writing a fantasy novel and because the school is a school for the magically gifted, the conflicts took on a fantastic aspect. SCHOOL compI soon learned that to a publisher a book with a teen protagonist set in a school for magically gifted teens must be classified as “Young Adult.” I learned that the term “Young Adult,” or YA, referred to kids from age ten up. I did not feel that my books were appropriate for ten-year-olds, but my editor explained that they gave that age as the lower limit for YA books so as not to exclude precocious readers who read well above grade level.

When the book came out, I began hearing from readers, and while many of them were teens, I also heard from many adult readers. I found that reassuring, because it confirmed my belief that my books weren’t written just for teens. I had preteen readers, and I had adult readers. I heard from a grandmother who said she enjoyed my book but she feared it would give her grandchildren nightmares. I heard from other adults who said the book gave them nightmares. I never got that complaint from a child.

I’ve now published the fourth book in the Arucadi series that began with A School for Sorcery. Bryte’s Ascent has a younger protagonist than the other three books in the series.BrytesAscent_final Nevertheless, I believe some adults will enjoy it as well as the teen readers it’s aimed at.

I firmly believe that a good book, well written, that tells a good story will be enjoyed by readers of all ages. I understand that for marketing purposes publishers need to target a book to a particular age group, but I don’t believe that readers will necessarily restrict themselves to books targeted to their age group. girl readingThe Harry Potter books got kids reading and were rightly heralded for accomplishing that feat. But adults read and enjoyed the Harry Potter books right along with their children and grandchildren. Why? Because the books are clever, beautifully written, and deal with the eternal theme of the struggle between good and evil.

As a child, I was an avid reader and read everything I could get my hands on. That included many children’s books, but it also included adult books such as Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason mysteries and mysteries by Agatha Christie. This was when I was still in elementary school—fifth and sixth grades (when sixth grade was still part of elementary school). In junior high I discovered science fiction and read whatever I could get hold of. I don’t recall what else I read, but I do know that in high school I read mostly adult novels, but occasionally novels for teens and even some for younger children, as for example, George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie, which I only discovered when I was in my teens.

What determines whether a novel is worth reading is not the age group it’s written for but the quality of the writing and the universality of its theme. Adults shouldn’t feel embarrassed to read YA literature, and teens shouldn’t be discouraged from reading adult books when those books do not simply appeal to prurient interests. We need to be discriminating readers but should not rule out reading a book simply because we aren’t in its target audience.

I hope that my first four Arucadi novels will please children, teens, and adults. And I hope that Mistress of the Wind and its coming sequel, Bringers of Magic, which have adult characters and are written as adult books, will also please teen readers. I’m sure my readers will let me know. And I hope you who read my blog will share your thoughts on whether you sometimes enjoy reading YA literature.

If you’d like to read Bryte’s Ascent, you can find it here.

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Navigating Between Scylla and Charybdis

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I have a problem. I’m an inveterate editor. I want my manuscripts to be as perfect as possible before I send them out. I fret when I discover a problem, even a minor punctuation error, after the manuscript goes out the door. And that’s usually when I find the error—right after submitting the manuscript.

Recently I blogged about my book Bryte’s Ascent, and why I decided to self-publish. I went through the submission process, which Amazon’s CreateSpace makes very easy, and received the proofs for the paperback edition. With the proofs comes the recommendation that you go through them three times: once for formatting and design problems, once to catch errors in spelling, punctuation, and other technical errors, and the third time for content errors such as inconsistencies or omission of important facts. I was reasonably confident that my manuscript was free of such problems, so I went through it rather hurriedly, checking primarily for formatting errors. The formatting looked good, but I spotted a couple of minor errors in punctuation. When I saw those, I decided I’d better give the entire book a more thorough check. I did, and found several things, all relatively minor, that needed to be fixed. I fixed all I found and went back to CreateSpace and resubmitted the manuscript. Immediately after I did so, I found a place where a comma was needed.

Should I resubmit for one missing comma? Who would notice the omission? The missing comma came at the end of a line, which is probably why I didn’t catch it in the first place. Its absence was less noticeable there. Who would notice? Who would care?

Then I realized something else. I want to write a sequel to Bryte’s Ascent. I have a title and a plot for it, and have written most of the first chapter. And I have the title and a vague idea for the book after that. But … I didn’t include something in Bryte’s Ascent that would set the groundwork for the sequel. It wouldn’t take much. Just a couple of lines of dialog. To add those lines and the missing comma, I’ll need to resubmit the entire manuscript. Should I spend the time? I’ve already spent a great deal of time going over the proofs.

Why didn’t I catch those things before resubmitting? I suppose because it was late, and I was tired and ready to be through with the manuscript and have it on its way to becoming a book. If I had just let it sit overnight and looked at it with fresh eyes and a more alert brain in the morning, I would have spotted the things that needed fixing. But I didn’t, and now I’m faced with a dilemma. Do I resubmit—and that means not only the paperback book manuscript but also the manuscript for the e-book, or do I let it go? I really don’t want to spend more time on it.

I’ve explained all this because I rather think that this is a dilemma faced by all authors who self-publish. Caught between the Scylla of being eager to get the book out there and the Charybdis of wanting to hold on to it until it’s absolutely as perfect as possible, some authors let go of the manuscript too soon, and others hold on to it too long, rewriting, adding, taking out, fixing things that may not even need fixing. Negotiating that narrow strait in between is not easy.Scylla_and_Charybdis I think we’ve all seen manuscripts that have been published unedited and full of errors. The author was too impatient to see her work in print to go through the laborious editing process, or perhaps felt she could not afford to hire a professional editor to do it for her, and her own skills weren’t sufficient for the job. On the other hand, some writers keep tinkering with their manuscript, perhaps because they’re subconsciously afraid to let it go, afraid it won’t be well received. They add a little something here, rewrite that opening scene one more time, change the conclusion just a bit, make this scene more complicated, make that one more suspenseful. The problem is that all that tinkering after the manuscript is basically ready can hurt or even ruin it. It can happen that what the author does to try to improve it complicates it to the point of making it close to being unreadable.

So how do you find the safe passage between those two dangers? If I knew I probably wouldn’t be having such a hard time deciding how to resolve my dilemma. I think the best answer is to find someone—preferably another writer—who will read the manuscript for you and tell you whether he considers it ready for publication. It must be someone you can trust to give you an honest opinion. And the author must be willing to give that person time to read and evaluate the manuscript.

BrytesAscent_finalI hope some of you who read this blog will read Bryte’s Ascent and decide: is it under- or over-edited? Please don’t hesitate to give me your answer. And even if you don’t care to read Bryte’s Ascent, I hope you will share your thoughts on how to know when a manuscript is ready to be sent on its way.

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