Saturday, May 21, 2016

oh my god this this this!

Editing isn’t just asking if all the words are spelled right and the subject and verb agree. It’s asking the questions that come after that: Are these the right words? Have we said enough? Have we said too much? Is this even true?

Do the ideas flow intuitively from sentence to sentence to illuminate the subject? What’s being implied here that we might not intend to say? What’s not being said that we might be assuming is implicit?

Are we repeating ourselves unneccesarily? Are we repeating ourselves enough to make the case for our premises? Is the tone appropriate to the audience, and does it need to reflect a larger body of work so that everything speaks with a single voice? What’s the story here? Who is telling it, who is listening, and why should anyone care?

oh my godiva, hold me, I may faint from pure heartfelt love.

This is from the blog Anthimria Rampant  recommended to us by none other than John McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun.


Hermina Boyle said...

Wow, such perfect advice for revising! Thank you for this post, Janet. I'm printing it out!

AJ Blythe said...

DrGoogle can help with spelling and grammar; it's all the other questions that have woodland creatures trembling.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Okay, so I got so caught up in, and lost, in the (so man)links of today’s post that I jumped ship. Are we to talk to each other like we talk to machines? Is that what communication is supposed to be now. Are we to think like machines or are they already thinking and communicating better than us?

“The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim.”
― Edsger W. Dijkstra

Okay, so maybe that’s not what this is all about.
All I do know is that if a huge Sandy, Andrew, Katrina, Great New England Hurricane of ’38 electromagnetic sun-storm took out half our satellites, we’d be (living in caves) communicating again, via paper and pencil as in: Dear Janet, So nice to know you are well.
Love 2Ns.

If this post is about editing well, than chalk this up to pontification after three cups of coffee.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I hate when I have to explain a mind-burp, (so many) is correct.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Found it. It's her May 3rd column. For Anthimria Rampant.

CynthiaMc said...

When I read these posts, I alternate between thinking "I can do that" and "There's no way."

But today is a beautiful morning in Florida as I sip coffee in my garden. My Japanese Chin is having a rare lap dog moment as I write. One of the cats is curled up a poncho on the other garden bistro chair (monsoon season kicked in yesterday. It's clear today but still 91% humidity and the cushions will likely stay wet until the Second Coming). My citronella candle is valiantly holding the bugs at bay. The usual blue jays, cardinals, mourning doves, and squirrels are on parade at the two bird feeders and peanut bowl. Even the tufted titmouse did a flyby. Haven't see the woodpecker yet but it's early. Three ibis just strolled through our yard, a rare treat.

My plumbago, plumeria, African violets, orchids, pink, white, and purple vinca are all in bloom and the lilies are thinking about it.

Wishing you all a beautiful weekend wherever you are in the world.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

And I see labeled Anthimria Rampant's gender wrong wrong wrongity wrong. She's a he.

Some of the May 3rd column went over my head in my pre-caf state. So I'll need to read it later to take it all in. But, the piece that Janet has highlighted? Yes.

Donnaeve said...

Definitely loving this now as I'm editing. Well I can just add it to my list of things to look for - the list which grows and grows, especially now if I add the list I saw here from Mr. McIntyre himself:

Yeah, I did like 2N's and hopped about the internet linking here, there and everywhere.

Morning, ya'll!

Julie Weathers said...

Janet, perfect. We went through something similar to this these past few days on B&W. Someone was working on a query for a fascinating novel. Everyone jumped in to help and worked out all the bumps and jogs, but at the end the magic of the writer's voice was gone. I opined I liked the original version better as the agent would be swept away with the loveliness of the words and images as well as the story.

So, now, he's back to threading the magic back in while keeping things neat and orderly.

Sometimes, when I need a reminder of what a storyteller should be, I go back to Ambrose Bierce's An Occurrence At Owl Creek. It's simple, elegant, word weaving.

Voice is everything. Just make sure it's a pleasing voice.

Carolynn, in 1859 the Carrington Event took place, which was a massive geomagnetic solar storm that hit the earth. Aurorae were observed all over the world. Telegraphs were fried in Europe and North America, operators where shocked, some severely. People could read newspapers in the middle of the night the light was so bright. Miners in the Rocky Mountains got up in the middle of the night because they thought it was morning.

It's interesting to ponder what another Carrington would do. A is for apocalypses.

Personally, as one who treasures letters, I regret our electronic age. If I ever get any money, I will happily collect original Civil War letters. In the meantime,

DeadSpiderEye said...

I tripped up on, "is this even true" and " make the case for our premises" then i saw the attribution. Ah a newspaper man, I wonder how he'd feel being cited in a fiction related blog? If the Baltimore Sun is anything like our nationals, I think he'll be quite sanguine about it.

Kate Higgins said...

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
― George Bernard Shaw

Actually Anthimria is an 'it'...something I am accused of doing with words occasionally. It's a Greek word that means using a noun (or some other word) as a new verb or adjective; e.g. the pulse of cars in traffic when the ferry empties out...". It drives my husband nuts. (maybe that's why I do it)

I live with an ex-editor of a middle-sized newspaper, now A semi-retired, technical editor whose job it is to make sure the understanding remains after the technical, scientific or engineering gooble-de-gook is removed so that 'real' people will understand the meaning.

It's hard to ask him to edit any kind of prose for me because my necessary "fluff" is usually removed to the bare bones of the sentence. However it makes me painfully aware that what comes out of my head may or may not go back into someone else's head with the same meaning.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to stick with my illustration and one dares to try and edit art (note hyperbole there)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Perfect timing. I am doing a 1st 10 pages workshop today so editing is the thing. How perfect. It's the editing that seals the story after all. Hello, Reef. Hope everyone is well.

Lennon Faris said...

Ooh, perfection.

My biggest editing target is the emotion. So many times when I write a scene, I have a certain emotion I want to convey throughout. Then when I read back through it, I realize that I've completely missed the mark. I've said too much or too little, making it sound verbose and cheesy, or stilted and dry. Editing is where my story becomes real.

Joseph Snoe said...

Substitute "writing" for "editing" and the blog entry applies to what writers do with the first set of eyes that see the manuscript.

Colin Smith said...

Yes. Amen. Absolutely. Well said. Now I need to make sure this is what I do all the time!

Here's Donna's link:

Julie Weathers said...

You know, some days editing just flat drains the life and soul out of you and your manuscript. Lennon, I agree. Sometimes the emotion is raw and red as it bleeds on to the page. Other times, it has to be coaxed out or beaten out with a club. The trick is to recognize when it isn't there.

I wrote a scene recently about a wounded drummer boy. I'll tweak it and add some details, smooth it a bit, but not a lot. Sometimes you need to learn when not to fidget your work into a pale reflection of its glory.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Was just pondering this very thing at Write Club today.

BJ Muntain said...

I love John McIntyre. I follow him on Twitter, and he has some of the best, straight-forward, no-nonsense information and advice on style ever.

Yes, I am a style afficionado. An editor at heart, who reads style guides for fun.

And in that vein, I read through some of Anthimria Rampant's other posts. Lots of good stuff, but I fell in love with the blog when I read 'Struck Funk'. Bookmarked and following.

John Davis Frain said...

Some days, just when I'm feeling good, I spend two hours reading the Internet when I planned to spend those two hours writing, and instead of coming away feeling good, I come away feeling admonished by John McIntyre because I'm not keeping up.

Like the old economics quandary, can we have full employment without inflation, I'm forced to wonder, can I keep up with everything I'm supposed to and still live a life?

It's exhausting, this writing (okay, and editing) life and I'm not even an author yet. Some days I want to just walk away and do the things my former friends do. Like understand pop culture jokes about Breaking Bad. Like play a round of golf. Like take one of my kids to the park and not wonder when we're going to leave as soon as we get there so I can get back to my office. Like like like, the list goes on.

I won't, of course. I'll go back and write. And edit. Even though I'm one hundred percent sure there are areas I'm not keeping up. I'm not Mrs. Badcrumble, but I'm not keeping up either.

And I wonder, sometimes, if I'm doing the right thing. I'm not gonna proof this, I've spent too much time already away from writing something.

Jeanne DuBois said...


Christina Seine said...

I had a prof in college who used to harp on focus, focus, focus. At first I didn't understand what he meant. Then someone explained it to me like this, and I finally understood: The elements of your story all have to lead toward a single point, sort of like the way a piece of glass takes the rays of the sun and gathers them into a single point so powerful it can make fire. Your story is the glass. Or, it should be.

Or maybe I'm just a total pyromaniac.
Yeah, that's probably it.

Colin Smith said...

Jeanne's link:

Dan L-K said...

O hai everyone! Thank you for your kind words, which are doing a job of work keeping my impostor syndrome down to muttering to itself in the corner and staying out of my hair.

I'm actually kind of pleased and flattered that anyone could misgender me based on my prose; if nothing else, it's evidence that at least I'm not writing like some [expletive deleted] dudebro. Now THAT would be a deeply discrediting mis-selection of voice.

I'm also thrilled that anyone in the fiction-editing community finds what I say about my craft to be true and useful. While I am, unlike Mr. McIntyre, not a newspaper man myself (a breed which Our john Early seems to be among the hardy last of), it's true that my editing and writing work has been in nonfiction, and that tends to be where I'm standing when I speak ex cathedra on the subject. But I think one could, in a fiction context, usefully read "is this even true?" as shorthand for "is this consistent with what's already been established in the fictional world?" and have it serve the same purpose. While I don't (yet) edit fiction myself, I'm just as fascinated by how the craft applies there - though I also feel like Teresa Nielsen Hayden's essay "On Copyediting" still pretty well stands as the definitive commentary on that, and I have doubts I'll ever be able to offer much on top of her insights much past "Oh this this this, everyone."

...Aaaaand I've gone on quite long enough now, and likely more so. Thank you all for reading and sharing your thoughts, and I hope to see some of you in my neighborhood as well sometime!

BJ Muntain said...

Hi Dan L-K! Nice to see you!

I had to agree with your post on Elements of Style. I find it to be the Dick & Jane of style guides - overly simplistic, not always true, but something to start with.

Craig said...

Damn that makes it sound easy. It is something we have all been shooting for but has probably plumb slipped past us. If not we would have been able to state it. Not as eloquently but close.

Yes Cynthia central FLA is lovely right now. I have eight types of orchids open and the pool is about 88.

Within the week almost all of the close to 2000 Florida butterfly orchids buds we have will be open and the pool will truly be heaven. To me the scent of butterfly orchids is better than orange blossoms. It is cleaner and lighter. They don't get to be as cloying as orange blossoms can be.

Blueberry season is almost over here and blackberry season is opening. Our blackberry bushes got really stressed last year so the yield is down. It would be nice to run a couple of U-picks but that doesn't look too probable.

Hope you all find something to build a plot from this weekend. Stau safe though.

CynthiaMc said...

Craig - butterfly orchids and a pool! I am jealous.

Timothy Lowe said...

Julie, thank you for reminding me to reread that excellent story by "Bitter Bierce." My favorite line by far, one of those magical moments when more words are actually better, is his line, "the man who was engaged in being hanged was..." What a godalmighty (and bitter too) passivity to those words!

Mr. Frain - I have become accustomed to, and taken with, your beautiful optimism in the face of surmounting a full frontal assault, complete with machine guns. I call bullshit. I've visited your wonderful new website. You're an author through and through. I can already tell publishing is in your future.

Let's all remember the words of the late great Glenn Frey and not let the sound of our own wheels...well, something.

Past a certain point (and knowing that point is still its own WIP), combing my own words actually harms their natural flow.

Lennon Faris said...

Hi Dan L-K - you made me look up, 'dudebro.' In my mind, it sounded like this: "doo-DEE-broh." When I couldn't find it in, I re-read it in context and figured it out. New favorite word :)

John - I've thought the same things before. Sometimes when I'm patting my kids to sleep, I'm thinking of ideas for my story. Then I feel guilty for not being 'in the moment' with them. I guess there's a line that we've all got to figure out. BUT I will say, one of the best memories my dad gave us as kids was telling us part of a story every night. It lasted for years and my sister wrote it down, and it fueled all kinds of imaginative thinking as I grew up. He's a robot engineer and never studied writing of ANY kind. But we loved it.

I guess my point is, 'keeping up' and being savvy about publishing is good and all, but it's not the MOST important thing: storytelling is. Storytelling just fills something that 'real life' never can.

Anonymous said...

Gee, thanks a whole hell of a lot, Janet. And by extension, Mr. McIntyre. I just spent way too much time reading and enjoying all the posts on that site (subscribed now). OK, fine, not all-- I skipped the one about Star Wars language.

Dan L-K, I also thought at first you were a woman. Not sure how to say this without insulting a whole bunch of men, but your voice is friendly and accessible. Even when ripping apart someone else's argument or logic, you manage to avoid the condescending and patronizing instructivism common to so many men (yeah, I know, not all men; but damn few women) on the internet. You exemplify your own words: "an ethos of pride in the work but not ego"

John Frain said: "I'm not even an author yet." Yes, John, you are. You're just not published yet.

I'm sitting here listening to neighbourhood fireworks and wondering what holiday I've managed to overlook. I suspect maybe "Saturday Night, We're Drunk and It Isn't Raining" might be the one. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

It occurs to me, belatedly, that I should say none of the men (or women, for that matter) over here in the comments have ever been condescending or patronizing. Quite the contrary. I wouldn't hang out here if you were.

Megan V said...

I've just three things to say.

Revisions and edits have decided to haunt me.
So I've packed a bag.
Now can someone please ship me off to Carkoon?

Okay...make it four things.

Although editing is what makes a manuscript, it's also what makes or breaks a writer. I guess, in a way, that our imposter syndrome is what happens when we think we're broken.

Dan L-K said...

BJ, thank you! Dick and Jane is a pretty decent analogy, come to think of it - if it's what helps you find your feet as you learn the first things about a new skill, then great, but if it continues to be your yardstick your whole life for what makes a good narrative, well, it's time we had a talk.

Lennon, I'm now startled at how much I never noticed dudebro out of context looks like some sort of half-forgotten classicism, and I would begin treating it as such immediately if only I could figure out how to make that clear in print. (Of course, the armchair Latin enthusiast in me is insisting it would be "due-DAY-broe," but really, let's not spoil the moment.)

kdjames, as someone who, even in moments of righteous frustration, is prone to second-guessing himself with thoughts of, "Gosh, am I being too mean here?" - thank you, immensely, for the assurance I've been succeeding so far on a number of fronts that are important to me. If that's a gendered thing, then full credit to the women whose writing (online and otherwise, but especially online) has been an inspiration to me and a model for the type of voice I wanted to adopt. But also to my fellow gamma-rabbit bloggers in the XY neighborhood of the continuum who have been examples of how you can be, like, a guy and have strong opinions and whatnot, but that doesn't mean you need to act like a jackhole.

Kae Ridwyn said...

I am so in love with this Reef - the inspiration, the talent here, is crazy!
Thank you, Janet, for making this possible :D