Notes on “a little”

sship practice
I seem to be always submitting stories, and then re-submitting them elsewhere. Sometimes when a story gets rejected, the editor includes some feedback. I do find it a fascinating education when the feedback from one editor is contradictory to that from another (such as “This story is too long given the premise”, versus, “I found myself wanting more development and exposition – it feels too compressed”). Things like that help me realise how much taste comes into an editors selection and not to give up on stories I’m sending off.

Recently, though, I got a nice piece of specific feedback: that the story contained numerous uses of “a little” in close proximity. Nice call. It sure does. “He moved back a little”, “the projection looked a little worn”, etc. I went through the story (with Word’s search function) and combed them out – changing some, removing some, and leaving a few, before sending it out again. I got another story back yesterday and took a look at that too. 28 instances of “a little” in 8700 words. Some of them within a line or two. It doesn’t make for good readability. How could I not pick that up in proofing? I think I’m going to refine my process and add in an extra proof-read specifically to look for this kind of thing – not just “a little”, but any words or phrases repeated in close proximity. With yesterday’s story I deleted a bunch of “a little”s, changed some (“a bit”, “partly”), and left some (sometimes it’s just what I meant). After all these years of writing, I’m still learning, sometimes even the simple stuff.

Book in hand, typos… in hand

The proof copy of the paperback edition of The Tunnel arrived today. It’s very cool, I’ve got to say, to hold the physical result in my hands (as you can see from that goofy grin). The idea of a proof copy, I guess, is that final check before it gets properly published. I knew there would be some tinkering with the cover to do, but what I didn’t expect was to open it up and spot a typo immediately. This is after three proofreads (one by me, and one by someone else [who’s not to blame at all!] and another by me). It’s just a silly thing too – an “at” when it should be “as” – which makes that sentence (“And as Morgan was leaving…”) make no sense at all. Guess I’m going to have to proof the whole thing again. I might have to do that backwards. At least I know that the ebook version is correct (checked it just now – I guess I got the paperback proof printed before that final proofread. Silly).

Uh-oh, typo

Crap. I just got my copy of The Next Time and I’ve left a typo in my story “Berg”. Yes, I do proofread, and proofread again, but this has slipped through. It’s clear to me what I’ve done – made a late change to a sentence and missed deleting an “s” and the apostrophe. It probably worked fine in the original sentence, but now, of course, it looks wrong and dumb. My apologies to the editor, publisher and the other writers. I guess the message for me here is to get someone else to do a final proofread of my pieces too.