Misplaced Modifiers and Messy Minds

My mind is a rather messy place, and I assume most minds are. I think of mine as compartmentalized: writing box, home box, children and family box, financial box, travel and dreams box, housework box, chores box, and so on. When my mind becomes extremely messy I imagine the lids of those boxes being lifted as I sleep and the words moving about, visiting each other, maybe having a party, and then perhaps not making it home to their rightful compartment.

That would definitely explain those lapses when I can’t remember the word I want to use, or how to spell a familiar word. It would also explain how I made a prepackaged salad the other day, used half the lettuce, carefully expelled the air and rubber banded it, put the remainder of the dressing, parmesan cheese and croutons in the fridge, and then tossed the lettuce bag into the trash. keys and stuff 003Or what about when I misplace my keys, glasses, check book? Where are those words when I need them?

I recently completed edits on a manuscript. It was easy going, no content issues to address, just the usual typos, or grammatical errors requiring a quick fix. I love doing edits and noting what the professional editor finds. I wonder how those errors weren’t caught. I usually do at least three revisions/rewrites, so I’m always interested in this aspect of the editing stage. My first response when I see a correction is: “Of course. I knew that. Why did I make that error?” I do understand we don’t read our own mistakes, we can’t see them because we’re too close to the story.

Dunce Holding Paper Money ca. 2001In this edit there were two sentences with misplaced modifiers and one sentence ending in a preposition. I’d written: He’d close his eyes for a few minutes, before taking his clothes off. I should have written: He’d close his eyes for a few minutes, before taking off his clothes. Most of my errors came in the last three chapters. It struck me they came during the stage of my writing where the pace had picked up, as the story rushed like a torrent toward its finish. I do love that last act. Why then were my personal edits better in the beginning of the story? I do spend a lot of time polishing that first act, making sure the reader senses who my characters are, what they want, how they propose getting it, and what stands in their way. The second act I’m deepening their characters, showing the changes and growth, throwing in the conflicts and making them work hard. That final act is the fun one. Bringing it all together in an exciting fashion, putting up the final roadblock, knocking that down, resolving the issues between my hero and heroine, and assuring the reader they will go on to achieve their happily ever after once the final page is closed.

It’s likely that as I re-read my own work (even though I know the outcome of the story) I get swept up again with what I hope is an exciting ending, and therefore I don’t notice the errors.

A beautiful young college student writing on a notebook outdoor

I suppose that’s a good thing from the reader’s perspective, as I’ve created a fun read for them. I wish however, that I could slow down enough in my own reading to catch the errors before sending off the manuscript for professional editing. Do you think it will ever happen? With my messy mind, and my words fraternizing with other compartments, I doubt it. What about you? Are you a clean, orderly thinker, or do you let your words enjoy a good rowdy party every once in a while?

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2 Responses to Misplaced Modifiers and Messy Minds

  1. londonmabel says:

    Now that I’m working in French I’m losing English words. Great, I’ll be mediocre in two languages!

  2. robena grant says:

    London Mabel, good to see you here. Your comment made me laugh, I feel the same way because I never know if I’m speaking Australian or American English, especially if I’m emotional about something. 🙂