Proofreading is done. Yikes. There’s a lot that can go horribly wrong grammatically in six hundred pages.
I have to say, at least 80% of what I had to correct was the result of one thing, and one thing only: deleting a passage, and then not re-reading the entire paragraph before moving on. Again, it comes back to transitions and flow. What, to me, is a seamless transition is to the reader what a former stage acting colleague of mine referred to as a BAFT. A Big-Ass Fucking Transition. But for me, it’s more like a Broke-Ass Fucking Transition.
When Macbeth has to go from cordial to crazy in Act III, that’s a BAFT. When Homer Simpson says, “Screw Springfield, we’re going to Alaska,” that’s a BAFT. It’s a sudden, extreme, but also properly motivated change in a character’s attitudes and behavior, or the direction of a scene. Break the cause and effect chain and suddenly your audience is left asking, “WTF just happened?”
When Calis is trading sword swipes with a Dove swordsman in one sentence, and the next sentence presumes she is already prone and disarmed because the intervening space has been cut, that’s a Broke-Ass Fucking Transition.
Sometimes, I intentionally employ that as a matter of humorous juxtaposition, like when Calis punches her brother in the nose; it jumps right from the cause to the aftermath like an old Looney Toons gag. That kind of juxtaposition is great.
But when edit pass after edit pass leaves thought fragments dangling in the manuscript like so much vestigial appendix, the question becomes: “What is this even doing here?”
Typically, those make good candidates for plain old cuts. Just take the red pen to the whole paragraph, or the offending sentence, and leave it out completely. Obviously, it was unimportant enough that it was partially cut last pass, or else the fragment wouldn’t be all that’s left.
The trickier ones are the ones where the subsequent plot assumes that event to have occurred. Now, if you’re wrestling to keep your word count under control (like I was), simply re-adding whatever was cut (if you can’t remember what that was, that’s a good reason to keep daily or weekly draft backups!) may not be the best option. Then it’s time to get creative with the grammar and still try to get the point across. Sometimes, I fail miserably at that. Sometimes those fragments are the most recent attempt at doing precisely that.
But hey, it’s text on a screen, not cuneiform etchings.
Highlight. Delete. Try again.