Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Mind, the Writing, and Reality

Once any writing is completed, it remains a rough draft, which means it is full of mistakes. It needs editing and revision. Editing is important on both a personal and professional basis for good communication. Mistakes happen. It’s good to have a sound foundation in how grammar and writing mechanics work, but some new digital programs (MS Word for sure) can help with this during the rough draft process for a manuscript... yet I’ve found they make mistakes with their advice, too.

I think there is a mind-finger-eye connection when writing. My vision knows what my mind was thinking and what my fingers were typing, so my brain knows everything is right. Until that connection is broken, I won't see the obvious mistakes I made. For me, twenty-four hours usually works. What I think I’ve written, and what is contained within a document are two different realities.
The first novel I sent out was rejected, and once I started rereading it, I was embarrassed by my mistakes. Now I reread and edit every completed manuscript up to four times. The longest was twelve times, but it still had mistakes. Why? With the mind-finger-eye connection mentioned above, a time delay is necessary between the writing and the editing to break that connection. Plus, I'm a terrible speller. If I edit immediately after completing a writing my mind knows what I thought when writing and my vision refuses to notice my mistakes. After at least a day’s time, that eye-mind connection breaks and reality returns. Now I can see the misspelling, punctuation mistakes, and incorrect wording. Another problem is in the editing process. With digital documents cut and paste happens a lot. It can cause many mistakes. Again, my vision misses them because my mind is telling me I did it correctly.
Spell check is great, especially for a confirmed misspeller like me, but it can make mistakes, too, especially if the misspelled word spells another word correctly. And all those homonyms -- which to use! Now grammar check often catches those mistakes, but not always. I also keep a list of words I tend to overuse in writing and go through the list at different times in the process; words like before, just, like, remained, seem, then, there, and the to be verbs.
These numerous re-readings also help me find a plot, the setting, and character mistakes, which helps polish the manuscript before I send it anywhere.
Once a manuscript is accepted, it usually goes through two more edits. I still find mistakes in my published manuscripts. How did I miss those mistakes? They always make me feel unprofessional and I wonder if the reader thinks the same thing. I had a new book accepted in January for August publication. I received the content editor's copy. I went through that twice before returning it and the mistakes I found surprised me. I look at wording because concise wording and stronger verbs move the story forward in a better way. I also look for repetitious wording.  Then I received the line edit copy. I thought my first time through caught everything but decided I had time to go through it again. I found more mistakes, mostly clarity issues and wrong character names... I hope I have found everything needing correcting.
These grammar mechanics skills are not only necessary for fiction writers, but for anyone who writes for school, business, or just personal communications.

Visit these other sites for the author's insights on this topic:

Skye Taylor
Diane Bator
Beverley Bateman
Connie Vines 
Anne Stenhouse  
A.J. Maguire 
Dr. Bob Rich
Victoria Chatham
Helena Fairfax
Judith Copek


  1. I never stopped to consider the eye, mind, hand connection, but I know exactly what you are referring to. Unless you give yourself space, your eyes just skip over the mistakes and never notice them at all. Now I know why.

  2. It is so much easier to edit someone else's work than your own. Good topic, Rhobin. I've really enjoyed reading everyone's response to it and have learnt a few new tricks to try out.

  3. Yes, it is easy to read over the mistakes--especially, i find if I've multiple revisions over a short period of time. Thank you for the insightful post.

  4. Mind-finger-eye is such a good and concise way of describing this major editing problem. Great post, and another interesting subject, Rhobin. anne

  5. It's so easy to miss errors, Robin. I've seen glaring errors in newspapers and magazines, but several pairs of eyes have missed them at the editing stage. It's so easy to read on.
    Thanks for the great topic!

  6. Wow! 12 times, that's amazing and I'm not surprised you still found a few errors. There are so many tiny errors that can occur in writing a novel, in so many different areas. I doubt if there's ever a perfect novel published, but I aim for close. Thanks for sharing Rhobin. Beverley

  7. Thank you for the topic, Rhobin, and your interesting explanation for skipping over self-mistakes.
    I'm surprised to read you say you're a terrible speller. I have rarely if ever found any errors in emails and things you send out.

  8. The devil is always in the details, isn't it? You are obviousy very thorough (12 times). But it an take that many times to flush out the errors. And spell check can be one's worst enemy, but it helps. It's good for basic writing, but not for foreign words or some old regionsal words. I like the idea of a mind-eye-finger connection which is why some authors sill write the first draft in longhand, but I've been keying since high school, and by now most of us are mind-eye-typing fingers. Whew!