Heading Into the Stretch: Final Edits with Three Readers (High School Boyfriend Continuing)

Due to problems on their website, the deadline for submission of manuscripts to the Faulkner-Wisdom Competition has been extended again, to May 31.

This is wonderful news for those who are  having problems with editing and could use the extra time.

It is a snare and a delusion for anyone whose approach to life is to wait until the last possible minute then race to meet deadlines.

I am not having problems with editing and, in fact, have three skilled readers searching diligently for everything from simple typos to contradictions in names or dates between chapters.. I am especially prone to setting up time frames that under no circumstances are workable, or even believable.  I have traced this flaw to my compulsion to put actual dates to events. I seem unable to curb my need to be specific. That first mistake is  compounded by my inattention to detail, so I never catch the fact that, if Camilla is born in 1893 and Martin in 1880, my  repeated claim that he is twice her age is nonsense and anyone who knows basic math and is even half alert will figure that out. This is the sort  of error that puts a reader off and can also involve considerable re-writing should I be lucky enough to have editors who aren’t afraid to point out that  portions of three chapters will need some work.

I have always been a get-it-in-two-weeks-early kind of girl, and I suspect this time will be the same. My third reader, a friend from Michigan, is coming for a week’s visit and the extension will  give  us time to read the entire manuscript out loud so I can finally get a sense of it as a novel  rather than isolated chapters.

I will hope to submit to the first competition no later than mid-May and will then turn my attention to submitting the same manuscript to at least one other contest.  This will require no further editing  of the main text, just a careful adherence to the particular requirements of each. No two are  alike. Some want a synopsis; others do not. Some require an author bio. Some want a  particular font. For some, you pay the submission fee online. Faulkner-Wisdom is one of a very few that requires you send the short entry form, with check or money order, through the post.

Meanwhile, the readers:

Reader #1

  • ID: My friend, co-author, and fellow editor
  • History:
    • Met in a book club
    • Wrote one novel together
    • Fought like demons during the process then realized we had strengthened our friendship and become better writers
    • Now edit one another’s manuscripts
  • Skills:
    •  Rearranging paragraphs or whole chapters. After reading through the manuscript, it’s as  if she tosses the chapters  up in the air and they fall together in a new way
    • Spotting inconsistencies in every detail of time, place, charactersSuggesting changes that are entirely consistent with my style and purpose
    • Sitting at home, alone, reading the manuscript out loud

Reader #2:

  • ID: The High School Boyfriend
  • History:
    • Met in second or third grade, so have known each other for about 65 years
    • Were sweethearts during our senior year in high school, broke up  when we went away to college
    • Contacts since the break-up:
      • 1970–went out for a beer
      • 1996–got together in our small hometown to walk the territory and see a few old friends
      • 2018–reconnected when I contacted him about identifying someone in a photograph
      • 2019–have been in regular touch ever since
  • Skills:
    • Retaining his southern accent (perfect for this book
    • Framing his comments as questions, an approach that forces me to rethink
    • Having an intuitive feel for the integrity of the story because  he knew the people on whom the main characters are loosely based
    • Having fun with the whole thing

Reader #3:

  • ID: Close friend and teaching colleague from my Michigan days, about twenty years ago
  • History:
    • Met when we both worked in the writing center at a small college
    • Had small offices right across a tiny hallway and so unavoidably got to know  one another
    • Survived and  provided mutual support for an entire year when the work environment became  hostile
    • Have stayed in close touch traveling to  visit in each  other’s homes
    • I consider her probably my best friend
  • Skills:
    • Willingness to devote a good chunk of  her time here sitting in my living  room reading this book with me
    • A hard bargainer, having notified me that she will read for food, specifically scrambled eggs with cream cheese and dill; salmon with veggies cooked in tiny tinfoil tents; Brussels sprouts salad
    • All other  skills remain to be discovered since she has never edited with me

Reader #4:

  • ID:  Me–Retired English teacher who, seemingly by accident, discovered she could write
  • History: Pretty much forever
  • Skills:
    • An instinctive use of language and manipulation of sentence structures (I didn’t spend nearly forty years reading Shakespeare and Faulkner to no avail)
    • A continuous editing of my own work. I edit  as I go, reworking sentences  many times as I write them, then circling back on several paragraphs, or a chapter, to read, double-check, rewrite
    • An appreciation of language as  sound and music,  hence the development of reading out loud as my  primary editing tool–both of my own work and when I am editing  for others.
    • A talent for introducing my friends to this technique. I hold out hope that this isn’t just a talent for manipulating

And  so, onward. If the reading goes  well at the end of April, I might actually decide  to  submit right after my third reader boards her plane for Grand Rapids on May 3.


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