There Their They’re

If the editing process is like getting dressed before leaving the house, then that last look in the mirror before you walk out the door – that’s proofreading and copy editing.

It is part of the job.   To be honest, it has its tedious qualities.  Even blogging on it seems tedious, or obvious, or unnecessary in a goes-without-saying way.  But it doesn’t go without saying.  It needs to happen.

I’ve had the privilege of programming work, auditioning people,  and reading submission and I can tell you – programmers, editors, directors, producers – have limited time and attention just like everyone else.  In this process, you are looking for something specifically unspecific, you are hoping to fill slots or find an overall shape that works for a show, a festival, an anthology.  You are waiting and hoping to be dazzled – you are completely open to being dazzled.  The other thing you are completely open to, is being turned off.  The terrible is the friend of the selector – it is so easily discounted and put on the “no” pile.  Easy decisions are hard to come by, and believe me when I tell you that the first 90 seconds of your short film, the first three minutes of your feature, the first paragraphs of your writing, the first scene in your screenplay, all carry an unbelievable amount of weight when any of them are being reviewed in a bulk process.  Everything between completely excellent and bad is a problem in this process – it requires deeper thought, it requires itself to fit in somewhere, it requires talking with other people in the process to figure out whether it works or not.

All that to say – don’t submit sloppy.  Sloppy documents give people a chance to discount you for no reason.  They give readers a moment of distrust that can snowball out of your control.  They allow doubt into the selection and review process.  Maybe the writer isn’t that good, maybe what’s good in this is an accident, since they don’t seem to know grammar or spelling or punctuation – maybe they will be difficult.

Ignoring accepted conventions in grammar, spelling and punctuation do not make you subversive and interesting.  They make you a writer easy to dismiss, reject, or put on the bottom of a pile.  They make you a problem for an editor or publisher.  Most importantly, these types of errors undercut your ability to get through to your audience.  Everyone is overloaded – don’t give anyone a reason to stop reading.

It’s counter-productive to submit documents that are full of errors.  The way you feel when you leave the house without earrings, or with mismatched socks, or accidentally wearing your t-shirt inside out – that’s how you should feel about sending out documents that aren’t as close to 100% as possible — weird and uncomfortable.  Our tendency is to go fast – write fast, post faster – but that only works for things that you intend to last only as long as a twitter feed.

editing marksYou can outsource this part of the process, but initially you might not want to – you might feel overprotective.  Maybe once it’s ready to be published or the equivalent, you can engage someone to be your final eyes on it.  You can certainly take a copy editing or proofreading course, or get yourself a good book.  I like a red pen – marking up a print out is fun – like being the teacher.

I like to take the tedious and obvious nature of copy editing and proofreading as a little gift.  A simple, clear-cut process in a sea of abstract thoughts, feelings, character motivations, pinache and flash.  Cooking a great meal requires assembling ingredients, preparation, tasting, finessing.  Washing dishes is just washing dishes.  Sometimes, it’s nice just to wash dishes.  Copy editing and proofreading is like that.  It makes it easy to step a few feet back from your piece, and sometimes, even see something larger you had missed.  Don’t neglect this step – it’s like wrapping a gift before you give it, or focusing the camera before you take the shot.  It may seem small to you, but it has a large effect on your potential audience.

And that’s who you’re writing for, right?



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For information on E. Amato’s writing and editorial services, coaching and consultations click here.


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