I'm beta-ing (is that a verb?) for one of my favorite writer friends. It's not something I would normally do, simply because I have so many books coming in from publicists and authors for review (I had six arrive last week), and I am short on a lot of reading free time. I take my beta duties seriously, so I'm not reading at my normal pace -- which is four to six books per week. Yes, I am a literary garbage disposal. I can't help it, I was born this way. *throws on meat suit and demi-pleas around the room*
As a beta, I read each sentence as its own chasm. I try to breathe my way into the world the author has written, while staying separated enough to focus on content. I look for any hiccups that pause the characters when they should go. I'm not a grammar nazi, though I wish I were. My editing skills in the context of grammar are along the lines of Oscar Wilde in that: "I was working on the proof of one of my poems all morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again." What I am, is a content crusader.
Being an English major didn't lend to my following the written rules to a T. I sorely wish it had, but I was too busy being lost in the story to focus on the details. Over the past five years I've changed my wicked ways, and gone back to studying the rules. But I wouldn't label myself grammar girl just yet. I'm more of a story slut - and damn proud of it.
I was tickled reading my pal's post this morning. Because she's such a beautiful writer and confident gal, and I never fathomed her writing insecurities would fall anywhere near the grammar hole. I was reminded, again, how we can never assume anything. Because we're so often wrong in thinking that others lack insecurities that run in our own veins, that dance along our own Pinnochian strings.
Her story is beautiful. Full of southern grace, truth and reality. Honest, tender and ripe -- reading her pages has been like watching a bruise form and heal, a caterpillar cocoon and awaken anew. Transfixed, reading the last 100 pages of her novel had me forgetting to breathe and chewing the inside of my lip.
Yes -- there are slight **slight** hiccups along her story path. But they are minuscule in the grand scheme of creating a beautiful world that will sweep readers away. A strong agent - a great editor - these stalwart champions will be able to snap those baby snafu's out with the flick of their fingers.
What she has, what is gifted to her, is the ability to weave a story so compelling, so beautiful, that it will haunt the reader, open their mind and inevitably shape their world.
What a magical thing, what a glorious beginning. I am so grateful that I've been allowed inside these early pages. That I dusted off my beta boots and slipped inside. Skating along this gorgeous unpolished manuscript has been like polishing suds in a soap box - just the slightest brush of my fingertips sends them flying, leaving the sweet residue of a novel lovingly written and superbly crafted.
Today's word: delineation