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RosieAnnie

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PostSubject: Reviewing/Editing Longer Stories   Thu Jan 03, 2013 6:18 am

I'm in the middle of a longer story right now. Well, longer for me, anyway, but not for many of you. I'm wondering how you rewrite and edit yourselves.

In my case, typically I print out the entire story and read it out loud to the cat. While the cat is not much of a critic, reading out loud helps me catch typos, spelling errors, and overused phrases. Typically, I discover that characters are doing so much nodding, smiling, and shaking their heads, it's amazing that their heads don't spin off. Hearing the story, instead of just reading it, has been incredibly helpful for catching that sort of thing.

It's good for me to see the whole thing, too. I am a visual person, and I like to look at things on paper, and not just online.

These methods work fine for 3,000 words or less. But now, I'm up to 8,000 words and 18 double-spaced pages. Even the cat won't sit through all of that. And if I print that on more than one occasion, as I am wont to do, I'll go broke replacing toner.

What are your methods reviewing, revising, and rewriting?

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sistergrace

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PostSubject: Re: Reviewing/Editing Longer Stories   Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:16 am

RosieAnnie,

Like you, I am a big fan of reading what I've written out loud. I also used to read to the cat, but it was my daughter's cat and when she moved out and took him with her, I was left to read aloud to a pretend cat, which strangely, seems to work just as well as reading out loud to the real cat. scratch

In the past, I would also re-read from a printed page, but I quickly abandoned that idea. In addition to the cost and inconvenience of continually printing out more pages, I found myself spending far too much time trying to re-locate the errors I had discovered on the printed document, to correct them on the computer document.

The problem with beta reading our own writing is that often, we already know the thought we were trying to convey, so we already have that image in our minds when we re-read our own work. Sometimes we might even miss writing a word within a sentence, but our brains automatically insert the word, because we know what we MEANT to say, rather than what we actually said.

My suggestion would be to ask someone to beta read for you. Beta readers are wonderful for finding areas that don't quite make sense yet, missed words, and errors of continuity. In the past, I have had beta readers point out things like... How can he be sitting by a tree now, when a minute ago, he was standing in the doorway? or... I just cannot hear this character saying THAT! or... You have the guys holed up in a mountain cabin near (whatever town,) only in that area of the U.S. there are NO mountains! or... You have the statute of limitations running out on all their robberies, yet in Wyoming during that time period, there WAS NO statute of limitation on robbery!

It is important to find a beta reader you can trust to be honest. If you have never asked someone to beta read for you before, you might find it helpful to ask our forum administrator to add your name to the "Fan Fiction In Progress" section of this forum. There, a number of people will be able to read your work in progress and give their opinions. Sometimes their opinions vary, but the benefit is that you are able to take into consideration each different view. Some writers, after using this thread for a while, have come to prefer the methods of one or two readers in particular, and they continue using each other as sounding boards privately, outside of the "In Progress" thread.

Good Luck!
Happy Writing!
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Penski
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PostSubject: Re: Reviewing/Editing Longer Stories   Thu Jan 03, 2013 8:24 am

I can't sing the praises enough of a good beta-reader! I don't know how others can write/post without one. And a good beta-reader is one who will point out what doesn't sound right and not just say how good it is.

There is a thread on the site to ask for a beta reader. You don't have to post your story there, but can give a brief description of the story and what you want (and don't want) from a beta-reader.

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PostSubject: Re: Reviewing/Editing Longer Stories   Thu Jan 03, 2013 8:37 am

I totally agree that longer stories need to have a beta reader. Reading out loud is better than nothing but if you are just reading to yourself you will still miss quite a bit. One possibility is to cross-read -- two of you each with a printout taking turns, one reading out loud and the other reading along to check the errors -- this is what I do for my professional work whenever I can. But, as SisterGrace notes, it is an expensive use of paper and a pain to find the errors on your computer to correlate with the mark-up.

That said, there are many folks on this site willing to beta -- I am certainly happy to do so. I can also recommend, from experience, the fan fiction forum on this site -- if you are not a member -- join it. Your fellow writers will give you good feedback on tone, characterization, and catch some of the typos (though it is not absolute). I've found that very helpful with some of my longer stories.


Last edited by riders57 on Sat Jan 05, 2013 5:41 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Reviewing/Editing Longer Stories   Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:41 am

I'm also one of those who reads stories out loud (although to an audience of stuffed animals, since I'm otherwise pet-less), and actually presumed I was the only one who did that. (Funny how we think we're alone in a habit, but we're not.) Depending on the story, I might print it out once or twice, but am not likely to do so until the later/almost done stages of drafting.

Rosie Annie, I can't really add anything new to what has already been said, but want to chime in on how wonderful the Fan Fic in Progress thread is. As well, a good beta reader is priceless. Good luck in however you choose to proceed.
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EleanorW

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PostSubject: Re: Reviewing/Editing Longer Stories   Thu Jan 03, 2013 2:19 pm

It's interesting, reading how everyone approaches their story writing.
I've never thought of reading my stories out loud (with a couple of more than 70,000 words, I'd be awfully hoarse by the time I reached the end if I did Rolling Eyes ) and nor do I use a beta reader ("That's obvious!" I hear some of you say Twisted Evil ). I just read them in my head as I would any other book and try to visualise the storyline like a film in my head.
To get around the problem Sister Grace mentions, of missing our own errors because of our familiarity with the storyline, when I finish a story I put it away for several weeks and forget about it, and then come back and re-read it fresh, at which point I can spot missed words or plot anomalies much more easily. If I've written a story on the computer, I read it on the computer, I don't print it out, for the same reasons that Sister Grace mentioned - cost of paper and ink and the difficulty in locating errors.
Years ago, when I used to write stories longhand, I would always write in double line spacing so that I could go back and make insertions/alterations in the spacing between the lines. I always wrote in pencil too, so that I could rub lines out and change them, but would often find that I preferred what I'd written first and then couldn't remember exactly what I'd said after I rubbed it out so I gave up doing that and just added any alternate words/sentences above the ones I wanted to change and left all the variants in situ until I'd made up my mind which one I wanted to use. I do the same now when writing on the pc. I never delete a word/phrase before the final version in case I prefer what I wrote first and then can't remember what it was because I overwrote it. I insert any theoretical word/sentence/paragraph changes/additions alongside the relevant parts of the text, either in a different colour, or with highlights, and only delete them when I'm happy with the final ones I choose. However, even after all that, if I happen to go back and re-read any stories I've posted at any time, I'm still apt to make further changes to them. So even after they are finished they are still kind of 'works in progress'. reading

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Ghislaine Emrys
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PostSubject: Re: Reviewing/Editing Longer Stories   Thu Jan 03, 2013 5:21 pm

I agree that a beta reader is very helpful but I think it's important to edit and revise one's own work to the best/fullest extent possible before sending the piece of writing to someone else. That not only lessens the work for the beta reader but may also help you keep that person as your beta reader!

When I teach writing to my students, I ALWAYS tell them to read their work out loud, precisely for the reasons already stated, most notably that reading aloud forces one to read slower and therefore makes it easier to catch errors. Another technique is to audio record the piece of writing--on an iPod or online using Garageband or Audacity etc--and then replay the recording while following along in the text. That also helps one to find errors and by pausing the playback, makes it easy to add revisions whenever needed.

Nowadays, I only make a hardcopy after the third or so draft because, like others have said, it's expensive to print out long stories. However, I do find it useful to print something outbecause, with longer stories, it's easier to go back and forth with hardcopy text to check things. So it's only the longer stories that I ever bother to actually print.

As others have mentioned, waiting a certain period of time and then going back to the text often enables you to look at it with fresh eyes and find things that otherwise have been missed. And having someone else read and comment on the text can also be very helpful. There are numerous checklists available online for peer conferencing/peer editing.

A few other suggestions for self-editing, all strategies I've used with my students:
-- When rereading, focus ONLY on ONE particular language feature. For example, look only at the verbs you are using and see if you have used the same ones repeatedly (Like RosieAnnie's spinning head--great imagery, btw!). Or look to see if you have maintained the same tense or not (ie, do you mix present and past tenses incorrectly). Or read the text just to check for spelling errors. Or check that all the dialog makes sense and is written correctly. Of course, editing in this manner will require multiple readings of the text, which may not appeal to everybody. (It certainly doesn't to my students but, they're kids!)
-- Search online for editing checklists. There must be literally thousands! Then, use them. (My students can be lazy!)
-- Use color to make corrections, as Eleanor said. On hardcopies especially, that will make it easy to find your changes when you go back to type them in. In addition, you can color code your corrections--for each type of error you find, use a different color; colored pencils are great for this. This may help you see what kinds of errors you are prone to make or what kinds of changes you like to make.

Hope this is helpful!

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RosieAnnie

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PostSubject: Re: Reviewing/Editing Longer Stories   Thu Jan 03, 2013 8:36 pm

thankyou thankyou thankyou
Thanks, all, for your suggestions. I agree that the idea of a beta reader is a good one. In fact, someone has already volunteered to peruse this document when it's completed. The value of a fresh perspective can't be underestimated.

I guess I'm trying to figure out just how much editing/revising to do along the way. I don't want to get so caught up in correcting things that the narrative grinds to a halt. When I'm picking up the story after some foolish unnecessary activity like eating, sleeping, or going to work, I read back a couple pages to refresh my own memory, and then I think I have some idea for where the characters want to go.

It seems that, at this point, the best thing to do is keep typing. Stay as far away as possible from revising, and just charge ahead madly to the story's conclusion. Plenty of time for all the "re" verbs later - rewrite, revise, review.

Eleanor W, you are 100% right when you say, reading 70,000 words out loud would make you hoarse! Yet, I still think that hearing the words adds something, especially for dialog. You find out if the character's speech has cadence and rythym. Does it sound natural? Is that the way he talks? Or does it sound like he is trying to cough up a hairball?

Ghislaine, thanks for the suggestions. Checking just the verbs, for example, offers a perspective that had never occurred to me. I still have to watch myself with the dialog tags. Either there are too many, or there are so few that it's hard to tell who's speaking. That's where all that nodding and smiling comes in. *sigh*

Wish me luck, all!

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skykomish

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PostSubject: Re: Reviewing/Editing Longer Stories   Fri Jan 04, 2013 6:52 am

Hello RosieAnnie,

I'm coming a little late to the party, but I think you said something very wise in your last post. I am referring to your comment about just forging ahead and getting the initial writing done. I find that when I give in to the urge to over edit while still writing the first draft, the flow of my story often suffers. So I usually resist major rewrites until I have completed the whole thing, or completed a major section in a longer piece. Then I go back and fix the errors and do some word smithing. After a first rewrite, I put the story away for a week or two, and read and rewrite again. After those steps it is usually Beta time.

I am looking forward to reading this longer piece.
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PostSubject: Re: Reviewing/Editing Longer Stories   Fri Jan 04, 2013 8:32 am

I have to say, I'm finding this discussion fascinating.

I agree with Ghis' suggestions of proofing for specific changes rather than general. Like her, I will read through for verbs -- is tense correct, can I use a more "action" verb, is it too passive? I will read separately through the dialogue -- does it flow, is it in character, etc. I will read through for punctuation (although I have to admit this is where I have the hardest time correcting myself) and to see how often I am repeating a word ("said" -- can it be replaced with a more interesting synonym?, or I tend to have my characters sigh too often). It is after that that I will send it to be beta'd. Once it's back from my wonderful Beta, I'll still probably do all that again then put it aside. Finally after a few days or weeks -- depending on RL demands and my own impatience -- I'll read it through to see if it's saying what I want, etc.

As to the whether to edit as you go or not -- I think that depends on personal writing style. For example, some of us can write a piece in the middle or end then back fill earlier scenes to get to that. I can't. I'm very linear when I write -- I have to go in progression from the beginning to the end. That said, I may get to the point in my writing where I realize I need to adjust something I wrote earlier to fit with where the story is now going. I then find I need to stop the progress and go back and do the basic edit before I can continue, otherwise I hit major writer's block. Similarly, if I'm reading through the earlier parts to refresh my memory and see something I want to change, I will. But I don't do the detailed editing described above until I've finished a draft of the whole story.

The very last edit I do before posting is read through a story to determine if I have extraneous words that can be cut without losing the story, or if there is a minor subplot that is distracting from the main story and should be removed. I like very tight writing, so that is my final check before I post -- and I have to say I usually do end up removing a fair amount. I think on The Goodnight Trail my final edit removed about 250 - 300 words out of roughly 12000 (and even my beta didn't notice when reading it after posting, so they were truly unnecessary words).

So, bottom line, while we can suggest ways to proof and approaches to editing, in the end you need to find what works best for you. That will be different from what works for others -- we each have our own ways of addressing these issues.
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PostSubject: Re: Reviewing/Editing Longer Stories   Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:45 am

I, too, am finding this to be very helpful. At RosieAnnie's suggestions, I read my story aloud, but find that I don't always see or hear my mistakes. Reading through the verbs is a great idea and I will try that.

As to editing during or after, I have to sit down and write my story (or at least the whole chapter in a longer story) out all at once and then edit. If I stop to edit as I go, I find it hard to continue with the train of thought I was riding. So I write, edit, put it aside for a while, and then read, reread and I still miss mistakes!

RosieAnnie, thanks for posing the question.
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Ghislaine Emrys
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PostSubject: Re: Reviewing/Editing Longer Stories   Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:45 pm

Really interesting that the most recent comments discuss writers' preference for writing a first draft and then editing/revising later. Because...That's exactly what current best practice says writing teachers should try to get their students to do!

Forget about spelling, forget about punctuation and capitalization, don't obsess about grammar--just get those ideas down on paper! Time enough later to correct any errors and to revise your work. The idea is that if you stop to question what you've written, before you've completely finished writing, then you may lose your train of thought and lose track (ohh--metaphors! imagery!) of what you wanted to say and good ways in which to say it.

Not that I write that way, though! (Except for outlines of stories, which I can do very quickly.) I very much obsess over whether something should be, for example, a colon or a dash or an ellipsis; or if I've truly selected the very best, the ideal, the perfect word for a sentence. Perhaps this explains why I haven't written very much lately! Very Happy

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EleanorW

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PostSubject: Re: Reviewing/Editing Longer Stories   Fri Jan 04, 2013 5:09 pm

RosieAnnie wrote:
thankyou thankyou thankyou




It seems that, at this point, the best thing to do is keep typing. Stay as far away as possible from revising, and just charge ahead madly to the story's conclusion. Plenty of time for all the "re" verbs later - rewrite, revise, review. I'd definitely agree with that. Write the story down, while the inspiration is with you, and worry about editing it afterwards in case pausing to edit disrupts your 'flow' thumbsup

Eleanor W, you are 100% right when you say, reading 70,000 words out loud would make you hoarse! Yet, I still think that hearing the words adds something, especially for dialog. You find out if the character's speech has cadence and rythym. Does it sound natural? Is that the way he talks? Or does it sound like he is trying to cough up a hairball? If I'm writing an ASJ story, I can 'hear' the dialogue in my head as I read it and visualise the scenes. I personally don't find reading out loud gives me much of an additional insight. But I don't try to write a grammatically/historically correct story, I just write what I 'feel' and hope it makes sense when it's done. sm

I

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