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Author Topic: Editing - Everyone Needs It  (Read 2595 times)

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Offline Niarra

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Editing - Everyone Needs It
« on: 11/20/16, 07:13:23 PM »
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This thread was inspired by something very specific, but now that I'm taking the time to write it I'm hoping it might become a place where the community can ask questions and give advice to each other on the technical side of the craft of writing.

I will get to the specific thing that first inspired this post in a moment, but first I want to say a few general words about writing and editing. (I go on for some time here, so if you want to just skip to the meat and potatoes of this post, scroll down to where you see the header: The proper use of a semicolon.)

As someone who has participated in and has many connections with the world of writing, in both the professional and hobbyist spheres, I have frequently found myself in the grip of two different types of thinking, often at the same time: on the one hand a strong desire to encourage more people to embrace the craft, and on the other hand an extreme frustration with how lightly people enter into it. The common saying that goes along the lines of "everyone has a great novel in them" really gets my ire up. When that saying is used to mean that everyone has had experiences in their life that are worth sharing, I can agree. But when it is used to say that everyone is capable of writing a great novel, I begin to see red.

Writing is a craft. It is an art. To truly excel at it requires either great natural talent or a great amount of work and dedication to perfecting that craft. No one ever assumes that someone whose whole experience with the visual arts is doodling cartoon sketches will be able to sit down and immediately produce a great oil painting just because they want to. And yet there is often an assumption that writing is easy, that anyone can do it, that all one has to do is sit down and put words together, and after all can't everyone do that, because we all, you know... talk with words already? In my opinion, this way of thinking greatly diminishes the craft, as well as the efforts of artists who have worked hard to improve within it.

I strongly believe in encouraging people to write more. If you feel you have a love for the art, then by all means explore, work, improve! Even if you have no interest in refining the craft beyond a hobby, language is a cornerstone of civilization and the more you flex those muscles the more you enrich your life and expand your ability to take in the world. And as anyone who has happily pursued a hobby knows, even a hobby becomes more enjoyable the more skilled and adept you become at it and all its intricacies.

But I also believe in strongly encouraging those folks who wish to pursue writing as a craft to remember that it is a craft. Like any craft, it takes time and constant practice and consistent challenge to progress, improve, and move on to new plateaus. It is also important to not forget that it is also an art, and like any art that means it can manifest in many ways, many of which will break the rules for artistic effect - but it is pivotal that one know the rules one is breaking. Which brings me to what inspired this thread to begin with.

As most of us around these parts already know, the SWTOR site recently posted a KOTET short story written by Drew Karpyshyn. As I was reading it, I came across an error that I thought might be worth highlighting, in the spirit of this month being NaNoWriMo (not my thing, but I value the spirit behind it) and in the hope that a thread in which the community could share editing tips might be welcome.

Because here's the thing about editing: everyone needs it. Everyone. The moment you find yourself thinking you don't is the moment when you need it the most. This is not to say that everything written needs to have corrections or changes made to it (you may indeed have crafted a beautiful gem that needs no polishing). But unless you are a natural genius on the level of a Mozart or a Vermeer, practicing your craft inside of a scrutiny-free or feedback-free bubble is almost never a good thing.

An editor of my acquaintance has worked, under signed agreement to not publicize the identities involved, on editing the work of best-selling authors, and the horror stories she can tell of how some of these authors cannot put together a coherent sentence on their own are both amusing and depressing. They might have had a great idea for a story, but that doesn't mean they knew the craft, and without an editor to come along and do the polishing we might have a very different opinion of their books. And this brings me back to Drew Karpyshyn and his KOTET story.

While liking or not liking an author's work comes down fundamentally to a matter of personal taste, at the very least one can still look at the basic rules of the craft. I like to say that writers often come in two types: great story-tellers, and great writers. Some people are both, but often you come across people who are primarily one or the other. For example, I consider J.K. Rowling and George Lucas to be gifted and masterful story-tellers, but mediocre writers. Conversely you can take any number of great academics with unparalleled mastery over the English language who couldn't craft a good story to save their lives.

Drew Karpyshyn, in my opinion, is a good story teller (or at least the games he's worked on tell amazing stories) but a mediocre writer. My opinion of him in this respect is why I adore the games he's worked on but am underwhelmed or extremely bored by his novels. He can be, on the technical front, a very sloppy writer - which is on display in this KOTET short story.

So, without further ado, inspired by reading this short story, and in the hope that it might be a useful discussion for folks working on refining their craft, I give you:

The proper use of a semicolon

This is actually a more contentious topic than some might think. Or at least it can be, within the context of looking at writing as an art, in which rules can be bent or broken, and in which stylistic choices can reshape a genre. But at the end of the day there are some rules that are not about style. The semicolon is one of the most frequently misused bits of punctuation, and when it is ubiquitously misused it can actually prove not just a mere distraction, but an outright impediment to ease of reading.

The most common misuse of the semicolon is to see it used as a universal alternative or direct substitution for a comma. This is not correct. A semicolon can be a direct substitution for a comma only in a single, very specific use: when it is being used to separate a list of items of a similar type or related to the same subject. I might use it, for example, if I were listing out for you all the things I need to pick up from a grocery store. I need milk; eggs; cheese; cereal; apples; and bread. But if you are slotting it in as a direct equivalent to or substitution for a comma for any other purpose, it is not correct.

The broader use of a semicolon is to connect two different parts of a sentence that have an immediate relation to each other. That could be a cause and effect relationship, an illustration of similarities, an indication that one concept follows directly upon another, or just a general attempt to indicate that the two concepts spring from the same root.

I might use a semicolon this way to describe the weather at the beach when I took a stroll to watch the sun set. The wind whistling over the water and down the beachfront as the light fled was colder than I'd expected; I rubbed at my arms under the thin fabric of my sweater and wished I'd worn a heavier coat. Rubbing at my arms and wishing for a heavier coat are directly related to the wind being cold, and thus connected by a semicolon.

To further elaborate on proper uses of a semicolon, I am going to quote pieces of the Drew Karpyshyn short story. I am picking examples where he used a semicolon correctly and also examples where he used it incorrectly. (Because he, like most of us, could really have used an editor.)

A correct use of a semicolon: Senya braced herself as she began her descent; the polluted atmosphere of Ord Mantell made turbulence common. She is bracing herself because turbulence is common.

A correct use of a semicolon: They claimed they wanted the deposed Emperor to live; they believed he still had some role to play. They want him to live because they believe he still has a role to play.

An incorrect use of a semicolon: If she could convince them to help her; to help Arcann… Two items do not make a list, and the broken nature of this sentence (a stylistic choice) means that its intention to become a list is not established. There is also no causal or correlative relationship between Senya and Arcann in this sentence to merit the two concepts being connected. The correct punctuation to use in this sentence should have been a comma.

The night was dark; Ord Mantell's twin moons shrouded by thick, noxious brown clouds. The error here is not in the semicolon, but the nature of the error makes the semicolon suspect. In order to correctly use a semicolon as it is placed in this sentence, the sentence needs to have read (with the correction bolded): The night was dark; Ord Mantell's twin moons were shrouded by thick, noxious brown clouds. The past-tense presentation of the sentence is established in the first segment, so it needs to be maintained in the second. Remember that a semicolon is used to convey direct relationship. It is not just a substitute for a pause in a sentence; that is what a comma is for. (And notice that I used a semicolon there, because presenting the comma as the correct option is predicated directly on what I established in the first clause.) To go back to the original quoted sentence from the story, if that sentence was meant to describe several aspects of the dark night, rather than to explain why the night was dark, it should have used only a comma. The night was dark, Ord Mantell's twin moons shrouded by thick, noxious brown clouds. (Note that with the comma it is not necessary to add the were, because it is now a continuation of the same clause and can rest upon the tense established by was in the first part.)

A correct use of a semicolon: Her steps were slow and cautious; the uneven, hard-packed crust of dirt crunched softly beneath her boots as she made her way through the impenetrable gloom. The crunching dirt is a result of her walking on it.

There were no signs of a camp: no flickers of light in the distance; no whispers of far-off movement; no sentries stepping forward to challenge her approach. While I personally think this is an overuse of a semicolon, it is not technically incorrect because it is listing signs that can be considered part of a group of related items, because they all relate to a camp. However, in my opinion, as a general rule of thumb if you can correctly use a comma to make a list you should consider it, for the sole reason that commas are more "invisible" and are easier on the reader's eye.

She sensed nothing unusual, but her probings were clumsy and awkward: her training had focused primarily on using the Force in combat. This is an example of where a semicolon should have been used, in place of the colon which is not used correctly here. A colon should be used when the purpose of the first clause is to present the second. In this sentence, the intention is totally the inverse. Her training having been focused on using the Force in combat is an explanation for and elaboration on why her probings were clumsy and awkward. There is therefore a relationship between the two ideas, so a semicolon is appropriate. The colon is not.

She recognized the metal gauntlet encasing it: she'd worn the same armor herself for decades. I hesitated to quote this one because it's an example of where things can get murky, but it's only fair to point out that they can be murky sometimes. This is a case where an argument can be made for both a colon and a semicolon being correct. The first clause is definitely presenting the second so a colon might be justified. But it could also be argued that a semicolon might be more appropriate, because what is being highlighted with this sentence is that she recognizes it because she wore it, so it is the relationship between the two concepts that merits their being connected.

A correct use of a semicolon: She had been a Knight of Zakuul herself; these were her brothers and sisters.

An incorrect use of a semicolon: The full breadth of the slaughter sent a chill down her back; grim evidence of the horrors her daughter was capable of. This is a good one, because it also illustrates the importance of keeping a grip on what the subject of the sentence is. In this case, the subject is the slaughter, and using a semicolon here is not only incorrect, but it also has the effect of making it unclear if the grim evidence is a description of the chill down her back or of the slaughter. The correct punctuation to use in this case should have been a comma. The full breadth of the slaughter sent a chill down her back, grim evidence of the horrors her daughter was capable of. A comma indicates that we are continuing on the same subject, either in describing it, or elaborating on it. In this case, we are elaborating on the nature of the slaughter being grim evidence.

Although it is not universally applicable (kind of like the way the 'I before E except after C' rule is almost always true, but not in the case of the word 'weird') one helpful trick to assess whether or not a comma or a semicolon is being correctly used is to substitute either punctuation for a period. If things still work with a period, a semicolon can probably be used. If it does not read correctly, then you should probably gravitate toward a comma instead. (Obviously this does not apply if you are using a semicolon to separate items in a list.) To illustrate how this trick might be applied, let's use some of the previously quoted lines.

Senya braced herself as she began her descent; the polluted atmosphere of Ord Mantell made turbulence common. Substituting a period, it would read like this: Senya braced herself as she began her descent. The polluted atmosphere of Ord Mantell made turbulence common. This still makes perfect sense, and is easily readable. Therefore, it is safe to assume that a semicolon here is correctly applied. While the subjects of the two sentences are related to each other, they can exist as independently articulated thoughts and still make sense. Remember that a semicolon is meant to indicate that two separate things are related. If they cannot actually be separated into two sentences at need, then you have a problem.

The full breadth of the slaughter sent a chill down her back; grim evidence of the horrors her daughter was capable of. Substituting a period, it would read like this: The full breadth of the slaughter sent a chill down her back. Grim evidence of the horrors her daughter was capable of. This does not make as much sense. One is left wondering if the second sentence is actually complete, and there could be some question of what exactly is the grim evidence - the slaughter, the chill, or something we have yet to be introduced to? The second sentence cannot exist independently and be fully complete in and of itself. Therefore, a comma is more appropriate than a semicolon. (Yes, this could potentially be a stylistic choice, but remember, style shouldn't be a justification for error. If your stylistic choice needs to be explained in order to be clearly understood, then it's usually a poor choice.)

I will stop now, because I've gone on for quite long enough. But if even one smidge of this epic ramble was of use to someone, then I'm happy!

I'll close by returning again to the subject line, and the spirit behind it. As someone who is exceedingly bad at rewrites, I understand that putting ourselves in the uncomfortable position of having our work scrutinized and picked apart can be daunting. Not all editing advice that one receives is good. As one grows more versed in and confident with the craft, one of the many skills that evolves is that of knowing when to bend to advice and when to stand firm on your choice. But before we reach the point of making those art decisions, we first need to work on refining the craft knowledge.

If you ever have the chance to work with a good editor, take it! Good editors can be as hard to find as good writers, but if you are lucky enough to stumble into one with a strong and sound grasp of language and a good handle on honest and constructive criticism, grab on and don't let go! They are more precious than electrum!
« Last Edit: 11/20/16, 08:56:42 PM by Niarra »
Niarra Reymark, Jedi Master and Diplomat // Derrad Reymark, Starfighter Ace and Softie // Jheva, Padawan and Pattern Reader // Yatei, Jedi Knight // Zelek Arr, Corn Grower
Sivala, Sith Academy Overseer // Rannayel, Sith Lord and Museum Curator
Erran Veshkgalaar, Mandalorian Accountant // Caustrin Neyvor, Dangerous Puppeteer // Ariza Fey, Psycho and Pyro // Kettur Vaen, Semi-Spook

Offline LVT

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #1 on: 11/20/16, 08:03:50 PM »
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I was always taught that I was supposed to use a semicolon when joining two independent clauses. If you're you're joining and independent and dependent clause, then you use commas.

Not sure if that's valid or my 4th grade teacher lied to me because that's the last anyone cared to be strict about it.
Turari (29, Major, jr. grade CEDF)     Silivia Fenir (21, Freighter Captain)
Lashila Sellara (25, Grey Sith)         Harkasone Milan (29, Philanthropist)
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Offline Imazi

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #2 on: 11/20/16, 08:12:27 PM »
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I thought you only replaced a comma with a semi colon in a list to clear up confusion when commas are also needed. The commas are usually needed to satisfy other grammatical rules. However you make a good point about good writers vs. good storytellers @Niarra.

However, if I had to pick one to start with, I would rather be a good storyteller that has to learn how to write than the other way around. Sadly, I feel like I'm in the later camp. I can write better than I can tell stories most of the time.

Learning grammar is a matter of looking up rules. Though it is a very necessary thing, it's much easier than learning to write a story. No amount of research will give you a good, semi-clear answer to how to write your story. Yet you are always a google search away from a definite statement on grammar, if not a singular opinion.
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Offline Niarra

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #3 on: 11/20/16, 08:18:12 PM »
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I was always taught that I was supposed to use a semicolon when joining two independent clauses.

At its most basic level, that is correct, which is what I was trying to get at when I talked about a semicolon being used to join separate things. The thing to remember is that the only reason you would need to join two independent clauses to begin with is if they are directly related to each other. If they are not directly related or intertwined then there is no reason to be joining them at all. If they are not directly related then they should remain two independent clauses separated by a period - in other words, they should just be two separate sentences. The purpose of a semicolon is to serve as a visual indicator that the writer wishes you to view two separate things as part of one greater whole. Take this paragraph, for example. While everything in the paragraph is about the same subject matter, not every sentence in it has to be joined by punctuation to the other pieces of it in order for the meanings to be strung together. If joining independent clauses always required a semicolon, we would have no use for periods.

I'm not sure if I'm making sense, honestly. I am not a teacher, and do not have expertise in the best way to present things. Apologies if I'm just muddying things.  :umm:
Niarra Reymark, Jedi Master and Diplomat // Derrad Reymark, Starfighter Ace and Softie // Jheva, Padawan and Pattern Reader // Yatei, Jedi Knight // Zelek Arr, Corn Grower
Sivala, Sith Academy Overseer // Rannayel, Sith Lord and Museum Curator
Erran Veshkgalaar, Mandalorian Accountant // Caustrin Neyvor, Dangerous Puppeteer // Ariza Fey, Psycho and Pyro // Kettur Vaen, Semi-Spook

Offline Niarra

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #4 on: 11/20/16, 08:44:53 PM »
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However, if I had to pick one to start with, I would rather be a good storyteller that has to learn how to write than the other way around. Sadly, I feel like I'm in the later camp. I can write better than I can tell stories most of the time.

Learning grammar is a matter of looking up rules. Though it is a very necessary thing, it's much easier than learning to write a story. No amount of research will give you a good, semi-clear answer to how to write your story. Yet you are always a google search away from a definite statement on grammar, if not a singular opinion.

To present a Devil's Advocate argument (or at least a slightly different take on it), I think it could be argued that one shouldn't approach it as two separate goals. While it's true that some people might be more naturally gifted in one arena or another (story-telling versus the technical writing), at the end of the day if you want to write stories then you cannot separate the two. Both are required. In my opinion, it's important to try to advance both skill sets together.

What this thread has already shown is that you will always find people to argue the rules of grammar.  :grin: (And as we know, the internet will give you many different answers to every question, like you said about singular opinions.) In the same vein, you will always have differing opinions on what makes a good story; what is sauce for the goose is not always sauce for the gander. When subjectivity can play such a strong part, it's important not to take anything for granted - and that includes negative opinions as well as positive ones. Artists all have Ego Monsters who rage in all sorts of ways, and if we were to unquestioningly believe ourselves every time we say "this sucks" or "this is awesome" then we'd be doing ourselves a disservice either way.

While telling a good story is partly instinct, I think it's dangerous to fall into thinking it's only instinct. I believe that it can be learned. It can be studied, and lessons can be applied. There are plenty of schools of thought that will try to explain that every story should have a specific structure. Weren't we all taught that in high school when studying the five act arc of a Shakespearean play? But with story structure as with all art it's important to recognize both that variety is infinite, but also that no matter how you put the building blocks together, the blocks are real and have a real shape. There is as much to be learned in analyzing the story structure of a book as there is in analyzing its grammatical structure, and both are vital. And when studying story, we can look at all sorts of other mediums too - because movies and tv shows are still, at their core, fundamentally, about the writing.

What is the story being told? How was it put together? How did the pieces fit? What pieces felt forced or out of place? What worked, and what didn't? Why didn't it work? Why did I like this? Why didn't I like that? Where did the pace lag? Where was I confused? What did I want to know more about, when all was said and done? What did I wish I understood better? Which characters felt false? Which motivations didn't make much sense? Which characters felt like ones I'd seen before (boring!) and which jumped out at me as interesting, and why?

I'm certainly not saying anything new or revolutionary here (mostly I'm just rambling). I just think that while we can certainly observe where the strengths of other artists lie (story versus craft in this example), in the effort to improve ourselves I personally feel the goal should be that the two go hand-in-hand. Being complacent in one arena in the interest of furthering the other is only going to result in the two becoming disassociated, and false assumptions being made about one or both. Strive to better both together, and a good story - quality writing and all - has a better chance of emerging.  :write: Just my two cents!
« Last Edit: 11/26/16, 09:34:22 PM by Niarra »
Niarra Reymark, Jedi Master and Diplomat // Derrad Reymark, Starfighter Ace and Softie // Jheva, Padawan and Pattern Reader // Yatei, Jedi Knight // Zelek Arr, Corn Grower
Sivala, Sith Academy Overseer // Rannayel, Sith Lord and Museum Curator
Erran Veshkgalaar, Mandalorian Accountant // Caustrin Neyvor, Dangerous Puppeteer // Ariza Fey, Psycho and Pyro // Kettur Vaen, Semi-Spook

Offline Imazi

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #5 on: 11/20/16, 09:04:10 PM »
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True, but I don't think anyone starts with equal skill in both areas. Most people are going to be a little lopsided starting out whether they know to approach the matter as two side of a whole or not. Either way, both skills should be continuously developed, so it's always going to be a work in progress no matter which area you favor.

I just think that it much easier to overcome the hurdles of learning grammar than it is to learn story telling. Storytelling not all instinct, but it is largely trial and error. Grammar is far more straightforward than that. One just picks a grammatical camp and goes with it.

However, I find it is more useful to pick a skill to work on then work on it without trying to do everything at once. For instance, work only on keeping the story's tenses consistent, for at least a few stories. That will keep one plenty occupied. People are more likely to make solid progress that way and less likely to be overwhelmed. Manageable projects will be more useful in the long run than trying to get better at everything equally fast.
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Offline Karmic

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #6 on: 11/26/16, 03:22:47 PM »
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I was always taught that I was supposed to use a semicolon when joining two independent clauses. If you're you're joining and independent and dependent clause, then you use commas.

Not sure if that's valid or my 4th grade teacher lied to me because that's the last anyone cared to be strict about it.

Aye.  The rule I went through graduate school with (because independent clauses is complicated words lol) - "Without the semi-colon you'd have two separate sentences."  or if you prefer "Use the semi-colon where you might otherwise use a period instead."

Now not haphazardly ignoring the rest of what Niarra points out about the RELATEDNESS of the sentences.

But it *is* a nice easy way to check and see if you can use a semi-colon or if you used it correctly.  Stick a period in there.  If it works good - if it doesn't make sense - then no (or change the wording so that it does).

Like you said Niarra - when it comes to grammar rules - for most of us hobbyists or those who have been out of school for a number of years - breaking down the rule to something simple to remember is always helpful.


~~
And it only takes that first English Professor who drops a letter grade for every misplaced comma for you to learn to SLACK OFF on the commas.  I always used to write using a comma when I would "naturally pause in speaking."  Yea that's wrong! =D

Might work for conversational speech in your writing, but by golly all I learned from that harsh lesson was just to try to use commas as little as possible so I just don't do it - WRONG.  LOL.

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Offline Imazi

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #7 on: 11/26/16, 08:51:39 PM »
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And it only takes that first English Professor who drops a letter grade for every misplaced comma for you to learn to SLACK OFF on the commas. 

Ouch, that's harsh Karmic. :lol:
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Offline Sebrik

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #8 on: 11/26/16, 09:42:29 PM »
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And it only takes that first English Professor who drops a letter grade for every misplaced comma for you to learn to SLACK OFF on the commas. 

Ouch, that's harsh Karmic. :lol:

I, will, admit, I probably, do use, commas too, much, myself.  Will, be, glad, to get rid, of that, habit.

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Offline Karmic

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #9 on: 11/27/16, 12:14:35 AM »
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And it only takes that first English Professor who drops a letter grade for every misplaced comma for you to learn to SLACK OFF on the commas. 

Ouch, that's harsh Karmic. :lol:

Yes.

Even more harsh considering it was the very first paper requirement of the very first class I took in undergrad college.  UAB Honors Program is no joke and their old head of the program, Dr. Long - a wonderful and amazing professor and woman who I still call a friend.  The paper you wrote about Summer Reading was graded this way - and you knew it when you turned it in that any wrong commas would be dropped a letter grade. 

I think I got a D.

Thankfully she let you redo it for half-credit so I brought it up to a B. =D

And you never made those mistakes again!  :grin:

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Offline Orell

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #10 on: 11/28/16, 10:01:20 AM »
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Ah, semicolon, my long, hated adversary...

...seriously, why is it on the homerow?

My thing with grammar is that, when I write, I generally write in a way meant to be spoken. It's why my dialog tends to be a whole lot sharper than my settings, descriptions and, even worse, my combat scenes.

It's also why I tend to have a lot of run-on sentences in my stuff, I'm a rambly talker so I write and I write until I complete the thought and maybe it's a few ands too late and maybe I should've just stopped a while ago but occasionally it's to express a feeling of breathlessness or nervousness or, rarely self-demonstrative examples because I love being snarky like that.

But there's a concept in computer programming that I think fits well with writing: "The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time." (the ninety-ninety rule)

That's because of all that editing. Creating the bulk of the story, the locations, the dialog, the broad actions, the themes, the pacing, all of that? It's a huge part of the work, no question... but the result is often fairly rough and unpolished. I'm generally fine with unpolished stuff for my RP writing (just trying to get the writing juices flowing, so to speak), but you need to spend a lot of time reworking, revising, even rewriting stuff to sand off those rough edges and get it all working right.

Unfortunately... it tends to take 90% of the time. Because details are a butt.
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Offline Imazi

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #11 on: 11/28/16, 11:41:09 AM »
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I like the rule in writing that the first draft of everything is crap. It's very freeing to think of it that way. The first pass is for getting ideas out all others are for refinement. I personally tend to use each draft to target specific issues like tense, wordiness, grammar, ect. Grammar is typically my second pass if I didn't catch the usual suspects while writing the first draft.
« Last Edit: 11/28/16, 11:43:28 AM by Imazi »
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Offline Karmic

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #12 on: 11/28/16, 12:34:29 PM »
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I like the rule in writing that the first draft of everything is crap. It's very freeing to think of it that way. The first pass is for getting ideas out all others are for refinement. I personally tend to use each draft to target specific issues like tense, wordiness, grammar, ect. Grammar is typically my second pass if I didn't catch the usual suspects while writing the first draft.

That doesn't work for some of us - for me I write as correctly as possible the first draft, as I'm typing it.  I read over for misspellings and typos and grammar once - MAYBE twice (if its like my dissertation...) and then its done.

My continuing to read it will catch nothing.  Its just how I learned to write professionally/academically before I was a teenager and I can't do it any other way.

This method has served me well through college, grad school, thesis and doctoral dissertation, and that one short-story fiction writing class I took in college for my English Minor =D.  (Fun Fact: All my stories were horror genre!  :evil:)

Me reading my stuff more than twice more is pointless - at that point if I'm going for the effort of more editing (for serious purposes) then someone else has to take the crack at it.  I just don't catch more.

BUT! As I said - I learned for professional writing/paper writing.  I never learned from anyone for creative writing and didn't even really start trying to RP forum/story/thread style until after grad school.

So at best I describe myself as a "beginner" story writer/RP writer.  And 100% Actor, not Storyteller.  I suck at making up stories.  Hence why all those short-fiction class stories took me forever in the idea department because every idea I thought of I'd already read the book...  :facepalm:

(Anyone else run into that issue? lol)

And before anyone says anything - thread posting doesn't get edited at all as I write. I type so fast that minor typos that aren't caught - I have the bad habit of not trying to go back and fix.  SORRY!
« Last Edit: 11/28/16, 12:36:33 PM by Karmic »

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Offline Imazi

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #13 on: 11/28/16, 01:56:37 PM »
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Hehe, I can see that for writing isn't for entertaining, but I think creative writing often takes more passes, even if it not for grammar. I tend to do grammar as I am writing too, but things like adjusting for style preference definitely takes at least one additional pass.
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Offline Niarra

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Re: Editing - Everyone Needs It
« Reply #14 on: 11/28/16, 03:52:05 PM »
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As with any art, you tend to run into many examples of how the art side of it means you get as many different perspectives as there are artists, even while the craft side of it means that every artist should be aware of the rules of the craft they are working in.

I fall into the camp of needing to get things right on the first pass. This is not to say that further review and editing may not be required, as it certainly almost always is. It just means that I approach an initial draft from a much more perfectionist perspective. There are many for whom the "just write any old thing for the first draft, you can always improve it later" approach works very well. Those writers generally tend to be the type of people who either enjoy rewrites, or who have learned (regardless of preference) to be very good at them. Rewriting is an art all its own, really, because it requires a very different mindset.

For others, however, and myself among them in the camp I mentioned, the process of the first draft already involves what might be considered extensive editing, either by virtue of writing only short chunks and then immediately editing before moving on, or by virtue of laboring over the crafting during the first pass to an almost excessive degree. This can make for a very long writing process and very slow progress, however. Sometimes being a perfectionist is not efficient! (And I would actually argue that being a strong rewriter is a better skill, because flexibility almost always is, and perfectionists are rarely flexible.)

But whether you are a single draft writer or an expert rewriter, both processes benefit enormously from soliciting the feedback of a critical reader. The former type of writer needs the perspective of someone less consumed by the details, and the latter type of writer needs the perspective of someone who has not reviewed the material 100 times and who can bring a fresh eye to catch what might have been lost between the 1st draft and the 100th.

At the end of the day, every craftsman usually has strengths and weaknesses in their given craft, and that's obviously true for writers as well. Some people might have mostly flawless grasp of grammar and style and presentation, but could really use some critical feedback as regards story structure and pacing. Others might have great story instincts but need help refining a stylistic choice that is not friendly to readers or shoring up technical shortcomings. Ultimately I just have to come back to the value of a good editor, and a willingness to embrace critical feedback.

I've had at least three occasions in my life in which folks embarking on a path of writerly aspirations asked me or contracted with me to give them some editing critique, and on all of those occasions it turned out that, despite their eagerness and what they believed about their state of readiness, they were not in fact ready to hear the honest critique that their work needed. (It's never fun to go into a face-to-face editing session and see the excitement drain out of someone's expression, which is why I now rarely agree to these jobs.  :cry: It's never fun to feel like the meanie.) This is totally normal and not unexpected; when one is just starting on a path, driven along by love and excitement, one often needs encouragement more than critique.

But no matter where on that spectrum we all believe we might fall at any given time, my advice (from experiences on both sides of the aisle) to all folks eager to embrace the wonderful craft of writing would be to keep in mind that the day will come when you not only will benefit from a (constructively!) critical editor, but that you might even come to enjoy hearing that feedback! Just like good teachers inform us and make us wiser, a good editor will help us learn more about our own gift by pointing out to us many of our unconscious negative tendencies, and sometimes even by calling our attention to strengths we didn't fully appreciate because we didn't consciously realize we had them.

To close, I'll roll a PSA and a return to the semicolon subject of my original post into one parting shot by quoting a line from Eric Musco's post today on the forums, regarding the conversion rates on crystals and comms going into effect tomorrow.

In that post he uses the line: Please check the conversion table above, if you would earn more than 2 million credits on a character, we recommend that you spend the appropriate currency before that time so that it is not lost. The comma in red needed to have been a semicolon! Either that, or the sentence should have been adjusted with the addition of an 'and': Please check the conversion table above, and if you would earn more than 2 million credits... In short, those two things have a cause-effect relationship and thus if they are to be joined they need to be joined by something that indicates their direct relationship, such as a semicolon or the word 'and.' Alternatively it could have been broken into two sentences. To remain one sentence, however, it needed something other than a comma. What you should do after reviewing the table is not a continuation of the table or an addition to a description of the table, but rather a separate thing you should do because of the table.

Also... everyone should check the table and spend currency before tomorrow as needed.  :grin:
« Last Edit: 11/28/16, 06:38:29 PM by Niarra »
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