C is for … Checking the Gate

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?


A to Z Challenge

30 thoughts on “C is for … Checking the Gate”

    1. I think it’s called a “gate” because it sits between the lens and the film — like the gate of a fence sits between whatever it’s keeping out and whatever it’s keeping in.

      It’s so good to have someone else check the gate for you — I’m glad you’ve learned to do that early!

  1. I laughed at your opening. We have this conversation all the time, but it’s “Did you close the garage door?” I believe its essential to have someone “check the gate” for us.

  2. I really enjoyed your explanation of how “checking the gate” is related to writing. It is always nice to have someone overlook your work, since most of the time, they can find errors that you miss.

    1. Kayla — you’re right, often people can see things that we’ve totally missed, because we’ve seen what we expect to see. Thanks for commenting!

  3. In hockey, “getting the gate” means receiving a penalty. That was the first thing that sprang to mind when I started getting into the film language you were sharing with us.

    I’ve written, produced, and edited documentary film. So many details to shooting a single scene.

    How do I know that what I include in my blog is the best? If it were’t the best I could do, it wouldn’t go into the blogsphere. That’s about it.

    1. I never thought of hockey, Rob-bear! Thanks for the chuckle!

      Incredible attention to detail has to be a part of film-making, and of writing. Interesting that you’ve worked on documentary films!

  4. Yes, Beth, we need to be reminded to perfect our craft. My husband is my editor. Although he is not a writer, he does pay specific attention to details. The creative content I leave up to my critique group, or other writers, which is why I value our group so much. Thanks for the post!

    1. It’s good that you have a detail person to read your work. I have a friend who is my first reader, who catches a great deal. I’ve just started with a critique group, and I’m finding that an interesting and useful process. And I don’t know where I’d be without the help of the wonderful freelance editor I work with!

  5. This is a wonderfyk analogy. I’ve been lucky enough to have a few writer buds step up as beta readers. They’ll be my ACs, catching things I miss so I can address them and make the story better, less plot holey and/or more enjoyable.

  6. I am totally enjoying your A to Z posts – I am learning so much and you are brilliant in your analogies to writing. I feel this way before I publish a blog post. I read and re-read and preview and add a comma or fix a spacing issue…
    Looking forward to the rest of the alphabet!

  7. Great post. I don’t spend enough time editing my blog posts, probably b/c I spend too much time editing my students papers.

    But I do take great care of anything I’m submitting for publication.

    Visiting from A to Z.


  8. LOL. I’m with Stacy — it’s always “have you closed the garage door!” I wondered how you were going to use Checking the gate, and turning into writing. But, as always you did a beautiful job. Think you could write just about anything! Nice post.

  9. I always try to have people read my work before submitting it. Used to have a crit group before I moved, but know it’s just trusted friends.

    1. If you have friends you can trust to give you the straight goods on your writing, that’s great, Gwen!

      Thanks for visiting! Come back again!

  10. I do all of the above – critique group, freelance editors, professional agent or editor feedback if I can get it. The last thing I do is email the query to myself to make sure it looks good before I hit the send button on the one to the agent.

    1. Oh, thank you for that “email to yourself” tip, Julie! Great idea. Sometimes an email looks different in its sent form than in its compose form. Excellent.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top