So ya know when you finish your first manuscript and the internet tells you you aren’t done until at least one person has read it, so you’re like, well my friends aren’t gonna read it, but Mom has to because I’m her kid. So you give it to your mom and she shows up at your bedroom door the next day looking grave with the first two pages of your MS in her hands and about a thousand yellow sticky notes covering it?
Well that’s what happened to me.
When I finished my manuscript, I had no idea what steps to take. I had to rely completely on the internet for assistance, and when it suggested I have somebody who isn’t me go through the manuscript, I didn’t know any writers who would actually go through it, so I was like, K, well Mom can’t say no.
So I gave it to my mom.
Now in addition to giving my mom the first ten pages, I ALSO gave her a Reader’s Prompt, just because I knew without one, she was gonna wreak havoc on whatever confidence I had.
This is what the reader’s prompt said, you be the judge of whether or not it was specific enough in what kind of commentary I was looking for:
Looks good right? You get the right idea. I know you do. Because I took GREAT CARE in making sure it was SO SPECIFIC even a kindergartner could understand it.
Also notice how there isn’t a single mention of line editing. I don’t ONE TIME say, make sure to point out misplaced commas.
You know why?
Because the woman hasn’t been in school for thirty years. That’s why.
AND. AS I PASSED THE PAGES INTO HER GRIP AND GAVE HER A LOOK THAT SAID, I MEAN FUCKING BUSINESS, I MADE SURE SHE KNEW THAT I DIDN’T WANT ANY FUCKING LINE EDITING.
BUT SHE STILL. SHE STILL DID NOT GET THE FUCKIN IDEA.
So, she knocks on my door maybe two hours later. A really sad, desolate knock, and says, in the softest voice, “Honey, can I come in?”
I swear to God, I thought she was gonna tell me my grandpa died.
So I heave myself out of bed, scramble to the door, open it, and see, to my demise, THE FUCKIN PAGES IN HER HAND COVERED WITH FUCKIN STICKY NOTES LIKE SHE WENT TO STAPLES AND SAID “AY, MY DAUGHTER DIDN’T ASK ME TO LINE EDIT, BUT I WENT AHEAD ANYWAY, AND LOL BOY DOES SHE NEED MY HELP, I’LL TAKE THIS WHOLE AISLE OF STICKY NOTES, THANKS.”
We stared at each other for a moment.
I say, “Watcha got there?”
“It’s really good,” she says first (but…), “But, I don’t think you’re aware that you can’t use a comma after the word ‘and’.”
She hands me the pages, and EVERY. SINGLE. STICKY NOTE. SAYS:
“You can’t use a comma after the word ‘and’.”
OKAY WOMAN. PLEASE TELL ME HOW YOU’VE COME TO THIS CONCLUSION. HOW DID YOU LOOK OVER MY WORK AND SAY OMG SHE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT SHE’S DOING, WHEN OBVIOUSLY, AS A WRITER, I PROBABLY DO, AND SEEM PRETTY CONFIDENT I CAN USE A COMMA AFTER THE WORD “AND” AS I’VE DONE IT SO MANY TIMES IN THESE TWO PAGES, CLEARLY I MIGHT NEED TO DO RESEARCH BEFORE I TELL HER SHE’S WRONG ABOUT THIS RULE.
I go, “Um. Yes you can.”
“Well, in school they ALWAYS told us, don’t use a comma after the word ‘and’.”
“It was like, don’t do it, or the world might end,” she adds.
Finally, “OH MY GOD, YES YOU CAN, LOOK IT UP, OH MY GOD DID I NOT TELL YOU I DON’T WANT LINE EDITS, HOW DID YOU DECIDE I WANTED LINE EDITS.”
“Are you sure you can?”
You’d think she would have researched it, ya know? Instead of just assuming I’m an idiot.
“Okay, good, well thank god, because I was really worried you were stupid.”
I took the last eight pages away from her and never let her read another one of my books again.