Writer’s life

A writer’s life can be a challenging one. I think I shall have to go on one of my own walking and wine tasting holidays once I have finished this book.

Honestly, is there anything more soul-destroying than editing? I HATE editing. Not even my fancy new toy – Scrivener – can make this more bearable. I LOVE Scrivener. Scrivener is absolutely brilliant. One of the novice writer’s best friends, especially if English is not the writer’s first (or second) language. I am still test-driving it. The trial version is free for 30 days, but I already know I will lay down the $40 required per year so that I can continue to use it. One of the best writing tools ever developed, as far as I am concerned. It has a great spell-check and instant access to a wheelbarrow load of extra tools: a thesaurus and a quotes dictionary, to name a couple. The problem is, there is rather a lot more to editing than checking one’s spelling.

I started the editing process by doing a simple spell-check. It was humiliating but bearable. It was all for a good cause. I then decided to do a grammar check. Bad idea. Very BAD idea. I used Grammarly. Grammarly is not a very nice person. En fait, I think Grammarly hates me. Doesn’t matter, I hate Grammarly as much if not more than it hates me. It lights your grammar mistakes up in red. Bright red, traffic light red. Words that looked perfectly good before Grammarly now look like blood splotches all over the page. Sometimes even whole sentences go red. En plus, it keeps count of your transgressions. At the bottom of the page, there is a small red dot with the number of unforgivable mistakes on the page. 20, 25, 30… It sometimes suggests what you may do to rectify your mistakes, but not always. You know something is wrong, you just do not know what. Sometimes your husband, whose first language is English, does not know either. So neither of you know what to do to correct said “mistake”. I mean “mistakes”.

I had 42 500 words when I started editing. I edited the first chapter. Now I only have 41 700 words left. This is all Hemingway’s fault. Hemingway is a demon. This demon takes pleasure in torturing writers. You subject your text to Hemingway and your screen lights up like a Christmas tree. Yellow if the sentence is too long. Purple if there are simpler alternatives. Green if the passive voice creeps in. Didn’t even know what that was until I met Hemingway. Blue if there are too many adjectives. Some other colour when you use a cliché. I would like to know what is wrong with using the odd cliché. Honestly, I would.

Fine. You write your book with Scrivener, you edit with Grammarly and Hemmingway and you read it through about ten more times correcting mistakes as you go along. Because you keep finding mistakes, every single time you read it through.

If by some miracle, your book survives this process, if you have not shelved it yet, you find out that the next thing to do is to get a beta-reader. As opposed to an alpha reader, I asked? No, no, no…it means the book is not ready yet. It isn’t? No.

Right, so where does one find a beta reader? On Goodreads, apparently. Even though you have never heard of it, you go to the website and open an account. Five hours later you start wondering why you initially came to this website. Because this is a great place to get lost. It is all about books. Books you have read, books you would still like to read, books your friends have read. What you thought about the books that you have read and what your friends thought about the books they have read. There are groups that you can join, where writers are introduced to beta-readers (passive voice, you see?) Oh yes, that was it. There are different types of beta-readers. Sci-fi, romance, crime, paranormal, dystopian (what on earth is that?) and non-fiction beta-readers. Amazing.

Someone in one of these groups suggests that you use your author platform to find beta-readers. What author platform? What is an author platform? Turns out it is a collection of social media accounts. Your social media accounts. Your hundreds of followers on Pinterest, your thousands of followers on Facebook, your tens of thousands of followers on Twitter…your Amazon author page followers, your Nook (Barnes and Noble) author page followers…I can’t remember what the others were called. Also, your mailing list with subscribers from your author website

Once you have corrected the mistakes your beta-readers have pointed out, you need someone to proofread your book. You pay for this. You do? Oh yes, you go to Fiverr and you find yourself a proof-reader. When you have corrected the mistakes your proof-reader picks up, you send the book to an editor. You pay to have your book edited by a professional. You do? Oh yes, lots. And lots. Because your editor hates you too. You can choose a simple edit, a structural edit, or a developing edit (or something like that). Obviously, you pay more the more editing you want. Assuming you are happy with the work your editor did, you only pay once. If not, you find another editor and pay again.

And let me tell you, even if you choose the simplest edit, the manuscript comes back with more red on it than black. So you thought you would write a book. By all means, do so. But be warned, the writing part is the easy part. The editing part is excruciatingly painful. I shall have to follow the advice in my book about confidence building if I am ever to pick myself up from the mud again.

You thought that was it? Silly you. After the formal editing, the book has to be read one more time to make sure no mistakes have slipped in during the editing. WHAT? How is that possible? Well, shit happens. Back to your list of proof-readers. And to Paypal, because it is always payment up front.

I am sure having a baby is easier.

Just so you know: It gave me enormous pleasure to write this blog post in such a way that it drove both Grammarly and Hemingway to hysterics. Small-minded pleasures are the BEST.


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27 Replies to “Writer’s life”

  1. Hahaha! What a great sense of humor you have. And yes, editing is the worse. But, I love the beautiful horse pictures on your site and that’s giving me a little reprieve from my own editing nightmare.

  2. Fascinating – and funny – insight into the process. I am now wondering how, with that many checks, not one person who proofed or edited the Harry Potter books could sort out the horrendous clauses! I love the Harry Potter books but, my god, the clauses!

    I’m a bit weird – I quite enjoy editing and proof reading. I always have. Of course, I have not yet been bullied by Grammarly (because I have never used it, not because my grammar is perfect!)

  3. i know that editing cost you several pulled-out hairs and more gray in the remaining ones, but it supplied me with huge laughs! so much truth contained herein, Margaretha. This post was golden! Your book is going to be alpha-mazing, no beta about it!

  4. I admire anyone who tries to write a book Margaretha – I would have given up and just gone on the Walking & Wine Tour for sure. I don’t think people really appreciate everything involved in writing a book but keep going and I can’t wait to read it!

  5. Grammarly is a butt hole! I love the humoristic (is that word..paging Grammarly) side of writing a book :). Great tips and way to pioneer this arduous process for the everybody else!

  6. Time to celebrate that you wrote a book! Then time to celebrate that there are words left in that book after all of that editing! Grammerlie is my nemesis as well. But I’ve not heard of Hemingway before.

    1. You’re telling me! At this rate, I’ll have to start writing from scratch! Hemingway is tedious but effective. Thank goodness I write non-fiction and only need 40 000. I think novels need twice that!

  7. Grammerly will be the end of us all! As I write this Grammarly has just underlined itself… maybe because I spelled it incorrectly.. haha! Good luck with your book!

  8. The trouble is UK “English” is not the same as American “English” – there are many subtle differences – spelling, grammar & phrases. I once read a book once set in London & the story was about a London family – but it was written/proofread in American English – it really didn’t make sense to a born and bred Londoner ( ie myself). I do proofreading – I prefer UK English – I have done US English proofreading and it is very difficult not to jump to UK English! Your blog is fab to read and makes a lot of sense to me – despite English not being your native tongue! I salute you, well done! 😊

    1. Thanks, Linda. Yes, I prefer UK English too. One can choose which language Grammarly and Hemingway uses: UK or US. How strange that the boat book was proofread in US English. Reading that must have been an interesting experience! Grammarly and Hemingway helps with the spelling and the grammar, but I still have problems with expressions. I tend to translate them directly from my native tongue or from French into English, sometimes with hilarious results.

    1. I am better at writing about it than I am at living this writer’s life. My husband went out riding on his own this morning because I have to finish the editing. A beautiful sunny day in the south of France and I am stuck inside editing a book.

  9. This is priceless, Margaretha. I use Grammarly for my blogs and on my small scale of writing pieces 500-600 words have found editing takes much more time than writing. I cannot imagine going through this process with a book. You have brought the reality of being an author to light. It is not for wimps! I’m so glad you hung in there because I’m betting your book with be amazing!

    1. Even though it drives me to distraction, Molly, I must say that Grammarly does the job very well – it allows me to load a whole chapter (some are 6000 words) at once. Having said that, it still takes me 2 hours to edit a chapter. Same with Hemingway. I am learning rather a lot about writing. Next book will be easier.

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