Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tolerating redundancies

While working on the edits for a manuscript, I noticed that a source said “11 p.m. at night.” I brought this to the attention of my editor, who asked if this was a direct quote. It was. Her response? We couldn’t touch it. This ruffled my feathers and I started to protest. I wanted to say that you don’t need to say “at night” if you’ve already said “p.m.” Because, obviously, 11 p.m. is at night! However, my editor was firm about not correcting the quote, and I was forced to sit in my chair stewing over the whole thing.

Of course, a reader might see that and wonder why the editor didn’t correct the redundancy. As well it should be corrected! Yet, my editor was right: Because it is a direct quote, we can’t change it. Sure editors change quotes all the time, and leave things out, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. My editor is the kind to play it safe so she won’t be sorry. And the one we have to make sure we don’t rile up is the person who made that quote.

I can only hope that some readers may realize this, may even understand this. Since it is a quote, maybe it would remind some people of how they have made that very mistake a time or two. Surely, someone has been guilty of saying something like “we didn’t eat dinner until 10:00 at night” or “I’ll get the money from the ATM machine.” (A common example seen among writers? “ISBN number.”)

Those examples illustrate two forms of redundancy: Unnecessary words and acronym confusion. As you can see, you don’t need to say “at night” if you’re talking about dinner. People usually eat dinner at night (I have yet to wrap my brain around why people sometimes refer to their breakfast as “supper” – as I’ve always known “supper” to be “dinner.” However, maybe this is an etymological issue). Likewise, “ATM” is “Automated Teller Machine.” So you don’t need to say “machine.”

Redundancies are one of the easiest mistakes writers can make, whether it’s in a book or an article. They are also easy for editors to miss. Characters and sources are allowed some wiggle room with redundancies, because it’s part of human nature to use them. Redundancies tend to creep into our dialogue a time or two, and in this way, it’s a bit easier for me to have some patience with them. Especially when they are part of a quote in one of my books.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hazards of the game

This week, my publisher and I have been working on the final edits and revisions for the manuscript, Spook City. The book is scheduled for publication next month. When I first started writing about the paranormal, my mother warned me that this might invite the attention of ghosts and spirits, or it might stir up activity in my home. I always shrugged that off, but my mother was right: I ended up seeing quite a lot of ghosts (and not just in my home), picking up the sensation of "others" being in the room with me, have smelled perfume or cologne which I didn't recognize, and even had other things happen like my bedcovers moving up and down on the bed (with me under them!), doors closing on their own and shadowy figures on the walls or moving through a room. These kinds of things are things I grew used to seeing and experiencing, but one particular thing happened today that gave me some serious goosebumps!

There is a popular haunted doll in Key West, Florida named "Robert." Stories of Robert the Doll can be found in books and on the Internet. Because Key West is in my book, I thought it appropriate to include a short summary about the doll. My publisher wanted some extra information on something I wrote, so I hit Google and started searching. Since the information she wanted had to do with videos shot around the doll, I started watching a bunch of videos of the doll. (One particularly creepy video can be found here. After someone removes the doll's hat, you can see a frown on his face towards the end of that video.)

Well, I got caught up watching one video after another, reporting back on what I found. After one video in particular, I was about to look for another video to watch when I felt a pounding on the wall behind me. And even though I am profoundly deaf, I even faintly heard a BOOM-BOOM-BOOM accompany the pounding!

I jumped out of my chair and ran to the front door to see if there was someone pounding on it. I looked out the window and there was no one there! I unlocked the door, opened it, looked around on the porch and went outside. I looked all around. Nothing. No one. I went back into the house and looked out all the other windows, including out the backdoor. Nobody and nothing.

I had even checked on my dog. He wasn't barking, but he did have his ears up and was attentively looking around the room.

I got really spooked. WHAT had happened?? Where had that come from?

I got goosebumps and told my publisher that maybe that was enough video-watching for one day.

And even as I typed up this blog post, I felt a stomping on the floor right behind my desk chair, like a child was angrily stomping his foot on the floor. I know this feeling well because my preschooler often angrily stomps his foot on the floor. However, he was in school at that time, and there was no one there behind me.

Perhaps Robert didn't want all this attention? Perhaps the video clips of Robert the Doll are haunted, too? Perhaps Robert didn't want me to watch those videos?

Whatever it was, it was enough to creep me out. I suppose that's what I get from writing about the paranormal.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I made the "Top 10" list again!

When Carolyn Howard-Johnson voted for my book, 365 Tips For Writers, as a “Top Ten Read of 2005” at MyShelf.com, I was thrilled. It was such an honor to be included on a “Top Ten” list! I’d never thought any of my books would be included on such a list – or that it could happen to me twice. Turns out, I was wrong.

It has happened twice. Once again, one of my books made it to Carolyn’s “Top Ten” list, this time for her 2010 list! And, this time, for my poetry book!

My collection of love poems, Love is Like a Rainbow: Poems of Love and Devotion, has been included on Carolyn’s “Top Ten Reads of 2010.” Hooray! I am very excited and just so overjoyed that another one of my books has made that list. What an honor!

Thank you, Carolyn, for voting for my book and for all of your support and encouragement of my writing endeavors. It has been a pleasure to know you for so many years, and here’s to many more!

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