I’ve been doing some contract work lately proofing other people’s writing, both fiction and nonfiction, with a children’s book in the offing. Being of a sunny disposition and sure that those sending their work to me have put it in the best shape possible, I bid what turns out to be paltry sums .
But no more. I’m going to have to charge upscale prices from now on.
Not that the money is the thing. The writing’s integrity is what matters, of course. But here’s the way that works:
By the time the work reaches me, it should have been pored over, the story laid out in a way that attracts the reader, page by page. And the grammar – sentence structure should be varied, amplifying the story as tension develops and is resolved. My job should be one of polishing, looking for inadvertently misspelled words, correcting, adding, or deleting punctuation that in its turn affects sentence structure and indirectly the story itself.
That’s not what I’m finding.
The grander culprit in the work before me is long, convoluted sentences, sentences that are poorly or improperly punctuated. Why the long sentences? I asked a friend that once. He said, in essence, that he was a damn fine writer, and his ability to write these Byzantine sentences proves it. Of course, that’s not so. One might overdo short, declarative sentences, but they do serve a purpose. And who writes so cavalierly that he/she misspells famous persons’ names when it’s so easy to check the spelling on the Net? Who uses commas instead of periods, perhaps thinking that since these two marks are adjacent on keyboards, a near miss counts?
I’ll quit the examples before this turns into a rant but, dear writers out there, when you hire someone like me to proof your writing, it’s really cost-effective to have the manuscript in the best shape possible before I see it.
It really is.