The term checking the gate makes me think of a story my mother often told of her father asking “Did you lock the barn door?” When she’d say, “Yes,” he’d counter with “Are you sure?” which of course made her suddenly unsure, so much so that she’d go back and check.
In film terminology, however, checking the gate has nothing to do with fence gates or barn doors. The gate is the part of the camera between the lens and the actual film, and the term Checking the Gate refers to checking to ensure that there are no specks of dust, scratches, or other debris that might ruin the shot. If the gate is clean, “good gate,” then the cast and crew can go on to the next scene. If there is a problem, then that must be rectified and the scene must be re-shot. A blog called The Black and Blue has a good, concise description as well as a photograph of an AC (Assistant Camera operator in the film crew) checking the gate.
What does this have to do with writing?
To me, this speaks to the process writers go through before sending their manuscript out into the world. We do our best work at crafting the manuscript, editing, revising, polishing. But we can only see so much in our view of this, and we don’t always notice the tiny things that might mar the final product.
That’s when we need to call the writer’s version of the AC over to check the gate — we might get our critique/feedback group to go over the manuscript, we might hire a freelance editor. Someone else needs to take a close look for anything that is in the way of the telling of the story. Only after we get the equivalent of “good gate” are we ready to submit the manuscript.
I am so grateful that I now have two ACs checking the gate for me — a fantastic critique group, and a highly knowledgeable freelance editor.
How do you make sure your work, writing or anything else, is of the best quality before sending it into the world?