Thursday Boggle #102

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Boggle 102

Notes from a Proofreading Newbie

The “new job, new city” I’ve been touting the past few weeks is an entry-level proofreading position at a major publishing house here in Canada.

Although I won’t divulge any details about the company or my position, I want to share a bit of my first foray into the professional publishing industry. My prior experiences proofreading and editing for student-run ventures, the library, and my writing and publishing courses are nothing like my experience in-house.

The Game of Self-Doubt

Never before have I felt so uncertain of my spelling, grammar, and punctuation skills. Issues that would be resolved without difficulty in any other circumstance become, in this job, mysteries to solve. Instead of following my intuition and adding a comma where I know I need one, I crack open my Chicago Manual of Style to ensure that I know I need one.

Similarly, if I find that a copyeditor consistently makes an error, such as hyphenating words that should be left as open compounds, I wonder whether I am the one making the mistake. Perhaps the copyeditor included those words on her style sheet, and I had missed them. The copyeditor has been doing this a lot longer than I have; surely she knows what she is doing.

I don’t want to harm the manuscript, after all. The proofreader is the last person to touch the manuscript’s content. The proofreader is the manuscript’s last line of defense against typos, spelling and grammatical errors, punctuation mishaps, and other glitches before publication. If I bungle it up, that’s it—the manuscript will be sent into the world for purchase full of errors.

The pressure only adds to the self-doubt.

I am Proofreader, Mistake Hunter

I have to remind myself that proofreaders exist for a reason: people make mistakes. Manuscripts pass through numerous hands during the editing stage, from the initial substantive edit to the line edit to the copyedit, and then on to typesetting before finally hitting my computer. Back-and-forth between the various editors and the author with additions and changes to and subtractions from the manuscript increases the likelihood of mistakes.

If mistakes didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have my new job.

My fellow proofreaders assure me that my self-doubt is normal. It will fade with experience and time, they say. The more I proofread, and the more feedback I receive on my proofread  manuscripts, the stronger my skills will become, and the more confident I will be.

With time, errors I find in manuscripts won’t lead me into a spiral of doubt, questioning the existence of commas and em dashes. Rather, errors will excite me because I will know that I have made the manuscript better for finding and fixing its mistakes.

Thursday Boggle #101

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Boggle 101

Commitment from a Writing Buddy

Remember when I said I’d start writing again, get working on that idea for a novel I’ve had floating around in my head for a while? Yeah, that didn’t happen. I can give you a dozen excuses why I haven’t been writing (hey, moving to another city for a new job is a legitimate reason, right? …Right?), but the truth is that I’m afraid to commit. I am afraid to commit to writing a novel.

My poet friend, who faithfully meets his writing quota and furthers his poetic skills, admonishes me for not writing fiction. Easy for him to judge—he has to commit to one- or two-page ventures, at most, at a time. I’m not saying that writing poetry is easy (maybe I am just a little bit…), but it doesn’t require the same sort of commitment that a three hundred page, one hundred fifty thousand word novel does.

What if, after all the time and effort I devote to writing the novel, the book doesn’t turn out well? What if I get stuck and can’t finish it? What if I’m not happy with the final result? What if no amount of rewriting can salvage it?

Then an incomplete manuscript will sit on my hard drive for years, untouched, like the one already dying there. I would think that my having written an entire novel before would make it easier to write another. However, that novel’s failure to materialize into something that I am proud of has stoppered my enthusiasm for attempting another novel.

I’ve been through all these thoughts before, and my poet friend reminded me of what is important.

He  said that I should take the risk and dive in. It’s better to have a learning experience (i.e. one that does not succeed), than no experience at all. He said that because I have written a novel before, I can write one again. He also said that I’d be surprised by what I can create—I am a writer, and that’s what I need to be doing.

I, in turn, told him to shove it and go back to writing poetry, you flower-breathing, eloquent swine. And then I smiled, laughed, and opened up those old documents containing my ideas for the novel.

Thank you, poet friend, my writing buddy.

Thursday Boggle #100

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Boggle 100

I made it to my 100th Thursday Boggle post! The weeks sure go by quickly when measured in Boggle games and creative words.

To celebrate, I present my finds in three minutes:

caps cans span rune
taps vans spat cane
maps tans pact math
naps mana sane path
pans pant paths henna

This board is a toughie! What words did you find that I missed? Let me know in the comments.

Around the World in Eighty Days

Around the World in Eighty Days (Oxford World's Classics)Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rating clarification: 4.5 stars

Through the seas, to the Earth’s centre, out to the moon, and now around the world. Finally. The adventures are complete. Verne has taken his readers to every place they could possibly want to go, via every locomotive means they could possibly want to move.

Except by balloon.

Although I was disappointed that the iconic balloon ride was not in fact a part of Around the World in Eighty Days (but it is in the movie renditions), I was delighted by most everything else in the novel. Of Verne’s adventure books I have read, this, and Journey to the Centre of the Earth, is my favourite.

There are a few simple reasons why. One, Verne does away with his favoured scientist cast and instead employs a cast of notably ordinary characters. Without the scientific bent, the novel’s narrative is light, lively, and easy to read. The action breezes by, and the characters are carried along with it with little time to pontificate.

Two, the true protagonist and hero of the story is not the man who the story is about and who has a stake in its outcome, but rather that man’s sidekick—who is along for the ride. The sidekick’s worries, conflicts, and overflowing emotions, which are all a result of his tagging along and which contrast with the protagonist’s calm demeanour, draw sympathy and encouragement. Even though the protagonist and his sidekick are on the same team, I felt as if I were rooting for the underdog.

Third, the novel is entertaining. Verne injects enough humour, unpredictability, action, and suspense into the story to vary its pace and feel, and to keep me intrigued and engaged.

The one criticism I have about the book is that a handful of plot points are resolved in too easy and quick a fashion. The end of the journey jumps upon the reader and Verne rushes to resolve some loose ends. More lengthy resolutions would have prevented me from balking in disbelief.

Otherwise, I would make the trip around the world again.

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Thursday Boggle #99

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Boggle 99