Monday, May 24, 2010


       by Gina Sestak

I am grappling with language.

Following an appointment at the Pennwriters Conference, an agent actually requested a full manuscript of one of my novels!  He asked for an electronic copy, so of course there was an initial data corruption crisis that terminally screwed up almost half the manuscript.  A desperate trip to Fed Ex/Kinko's at 7:45 Sunday morning resolved that -- I think.   My most recent hard copy of that section (136 pages) has been scanned and converted to Word.  Now I just have to go through and correct the scanning errors and try to remember the few (THANK GOD) revisions I've made since that copy was printed.
The really difficult part, though, is resisting the urge to do a total rewrite.   This is particularly problematic because the novel is set in 1970 and I find myself second guessing my use of language.  I want the dialogue to seem authentic to the era, without sounding either silly or incomprehensible.  I thought I had that down, but now I'm wondering.

Maybe this insecurity stems in part from my recent reading of Kathryn Miller Haines' latest, When Winter Returns.  KMH has that WWII language down perfectly.  If I didn't know better, I'd think early Archie Goodwin was speaking, it sounds so authentic.  This is particularly impressive because I know KMH -- she is no way old enough to have been around during the early 1940s!

I, on the other hand, lived through the 70s, so there is no excuse if I can't remember when we started saying "wasted" to mean "killed."  

It could be worse, I think.  Authors who set works in the Elizabethan era find themselves in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't conundrum.  Any term more modern than the 1600s is certain to be challenged by picky readers, but who really wants to plow through a novel that uses only the language of Shakespeare?

So I've pulled out my old Doors tapes and tried to slip back into a psychedelic frame of mind.
Does anyone remember Woodstock?


PatRemick said...

I do, and when I saw the documentary last year, I thought: What mothers would let their children go to something like that?
Shows how much I've aged.
Far out.
Good luck remembering the dialogue from those days. At least you remember those days....

Jennie Bentley said...

I know your pain. Sort of. I have to go back to the past sometimes too - the DIYs all have history mysteries in them, and I have to deal with authentic language in some of those - and it makes me damn glad I'm not writing historicals.

Congrats on the request. Fingers crossed!

Joyce said...

Woodstock was in 1969? I was in grade school. 7th grade, I think.

I agree about former Working Stiff KMH. I LOVE those books!

In my last book, I have a lot of Civil War historical stuff, including some letters written by Confederate soldiers. I just had my historian son read those parts. He's really picky, so when it passed his scrutiny, I figured I was OK.

MaryQ said...

Good luck with your submission. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you. Don't worry too much. You probably did fine on the use of language. Hey, there's always 'That 70's Show' to double-check.
I was ten when Woodstock took place. I heard about it, but didn't pay much attention to it. If it wasn't in my little world, how relevant could it be? (a 10-year-old's view of the world)

M Pax said...

Good luck, Gina! Hope you get the scan errors, etc ... all worked out. You'll be fine. Quit worrying. :D

Dana King said...

Sounds like an excuse to watch a bunch of 70s movies to me.