Writing and Editing

Some writers hate editing. Some writers love editing.

Editing is sometimes lumped with revising. Somewhere in the mix there’s proofreading.

I say the above and someone will jump all over those words and hack at them with indignant vigor.  The thing is, I read a number of definitions on-line. Some from educational organizations, some from supposed experts, some from a guy named Bernie.

I am neither an editor nor an academic. My grasp of grammar is at best tenuous. I tend to write in a passive voice without realizing it (case in point: “to write” . . . or is that passive? Perhaps it’s just my flair). I sprinkle commas as if I had a leaky bag of them. I use punctuation to add pauses, emphasis, pace, and drama to my writing . . . all without knowing for sure if the punctuation I use do all that.

For instance, I often employ “. . .” to indicate a pause or hesitation. I started doing that because I did not like “…” which, as I remembered reading, could indicate a break in speech or writing. Now I read ellipsis –  “…” or “. . .” – indicates missing text, and an em “—” should be used to indicate pauses, although in researching it, some places indicate an en “–” is more appropriate. I don’t recall where I read it but there are also the dash “-” and double-dash “–” camps.

And don’t ask if any of those come with or without spaces on either side of them. That too is subject to conflicting advice.

The point is that I don’t have a firm grasp about any of that. I presume editors do (I’m sure I’ll hear about that too).

BUT . . . if I don’t — and I freely admit I don’t quite grasp who holds authority on these fine points — do my readers? Unless, of course, they are self-declared grammarians or actual editors.

When I write the following:

She raised the gun . . . then changed her mind, and instead stabbed him in the eye with her épée.

I’m going for a certain pacing as I read that, but my lack of understanding of proper punctuation rules–better yet, my own made-up rules–may cause readers (regular readers, not editors; they know everything) to be confused (passive voice, should rewrite) rather than get what I intended.

Both “. . . ” and the comma (,) are used incorrectly.

Now, while I am likely to have written (hey, lookee there – another passive voice) the above on the first pass, and thought nothing of it upon re-reading it, if all of a sudden I had to submit that for review or publication, I might rewrite the sentence thus (by the way, this very sentence would be flagged for wordiness):

She raised the gun but changed her mind. Instead, she used her épée, stabbing him in the eye.

or . . .

She raised her gun but changing her mind, she instead stabbed his eye with the épée.

OK, about both of those . . . I have a strong desire to add a comma after ‘gun’ because I want a pause there, but that is grammatically incorrect. Note how far I’ve traveled from the original sentence. A sentence that had the exact pacing I wanted, but would make an editor cringe.

I might rewrite it like so:

She raised her gun, changed her mind, stabbed him instead with her épée.

But, again, not the pacing I want. How about:

She raised her gun. She lowered her gun. With a snake-like strike, she pierced his eyeball with the épée.

An editor might ask how snakes manage to hold the épée.

So, why am I writing all this? I sent my submission to Viable Paradise.

I debated for a while if I should send my brilliant short stories or the first few chapters of one of my novels.

The short stories provide varied and wonderful examples of my amazing range as a writer. Chapters from my novels show I am a mature writer, capable of executing longer story arcs and pacing that maintains the reader’s interest and attention.

I opted to send the first five chapters of my 2014 NaNoWriMo novel.

BUT . . . HOWEVER . . . as people might know, what I had was a first draft; a stream-of-consciousness writing example which, while amazing in its own right, is fraught with errors and sloppy writing (but still a highly enjoyable read, I tell myself).

Enter two days of editing, revising, and proofreading. Whatever you want to call it, the process was thus . . .

1) have Melisa read it. She is very good when it comes to finding and pointing out mistakes I make. And not just when it comes to writing, but that’s another story.

2) run it through Grammarly.

3) review and research their suggestion, flagged passages, and highlighted possible errors.

All the while, I want to get as close to the 8,000 words requirement as I could. That limit included a required synopsis for the rest of the novel.

Four chapters would leave me well short of 8,000 words. Five chapters had me going over the word count limit by about four hundred words.

Guess what . . . I cut two hundred and sixty words.

By now I lost most if not all readers, but for them who hung around, this is the revised, edited, and proofread first five chapters of my 2014 as yet untitled NaNoWriMo novel.

dalise_NNWM-2014-for blog

That’s the format they want for the submission. I removed the epilogue in case new readers get a hankering for the rest of the novel; would not want to spoil the experience for them. By the way, my grammar checker tells me I should use epilog instead of epilogue. It’s my little bit of rebellion against the rigors of made-up rules.

For them who are interested, the workshop requires a cover letter telling a bit about myself and why I want to attend the workshop. I won’t attach it here because it has my address and signature, but below is the body of the letter. I include it because I was looking for examples of what to write, and found none.

~ ~ 0 ~ ~

351 Pleasant St., Suite B157
Northampton, MA, 01060-3900

Dear Esteemed Somebody,

Enclosed please find my application fee and submission manuscript for the 2015 Viable Paradise writer’s workshop.

I’m an old guy who had put other priorities in life ahead of his interest in writing. An engineer by trade, I have always enjoyed writing as a hobby. In the past four years, I’ve increased both my output of, and my passion for, fiction writing.

I’m now at a point where taking my writing any further requires serious, knowledgeable, and honest feedback and guidance. My primary goal is becoming a better writer, but I also aspire to eventually find my path to publication. I understand the two goals are often complementary, and I’d like for that to be so in my case.

The majority of my writing consists of short stories, but I’ve written two novels (both NaNoWriMo efforts) and have a third one in the works. I write primarily to satisfy my own reading needs. It is a given, then, I find all my writing both enjoyable and worthy of repeat readings. I understand this has little bearing on whether others would find my writing so, but I believe it’s a good start.

Were I forced to pick favorites, I prefer writing short stories. You might then find it odd my submission consists of the first five chapters of my 2014 NaNoWriMo novel (as yet untitled). The convoluted reasoning I followed in reaching my decision reflects my belief that is where I need the most help.

Thank you for your consideration.

~ ~ 0 ~ ~

I don’t know if anyone will find that helpful, but there you go. Also, if you find any mistakes in the above and on the submitted chapters, please don’t tell me . . .  (or is it — ?) the package is already in the mail.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below. 

WAIT! . . . I should include a photo . . . 



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About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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21 Responses to Writing and Editing

  1. paigeaddams says:

    Lol, I both love and hate editing. I’ve got only a basic understanding of grammar, and am continually surprised the grammar police have not stabbed me with an epee yet. XD Good luck with your submission!


  2. What you shared here is very helpful advice. Thank you…and best of luck with your submission!
    HUGS!!! :-)
    PS…the hummer was a nice addition! :-)


  3. And there was me thinking – egotistically – that you were having a go at me. Note the incorrect use of en dash. Incidentally, ignore dash – which is hyphen, and double dash — which is/was a way on some computers to produce an en dash points of view. A hyphen is only ever used to join words. In theory an en dash is only used to signify a range of numbers 34–79.

    I tell my authors what the rules are, and then ask them what they want to do. It’s their work after all. I think it’s helpful to know the rules because then you can make a conscious decision to break them.

    There is no difference in sense between ellipsis … like that (more common) or ellipsis . . . like that. In practice, there is a key on my iPad for the first and not for the second which has to be made up of full points and spaces and could cause typesetting problems eg line breaks. From memory I think it’s Chicago MoS that prefers the gaps, but I don’t think it matters which you use unless you aren’t bothered about your ellipsis being broken up by a line in which case use …

    Em dash — is used for changes or interruptions in speech. Or, as I read the other day, to separate a clause that contains commas, because separating the middle clause with commas wouldn’t be as clear (as mud) as using an em dash … The trouble with using an em dash outside speech is that it is quite in your face because it shouldn’t have spacing—so—it just looks too much, and doesn’t achieve the intended effect of a pause or a break, which is why people often incorrectly use an en dash – so – in their writing. Very different visual effect. Personally I like – and use it. Writing and rules change, and I suspect with time, the correct use of en and em will become less rigid.

    At the moment the fashion in writing is avoid passive and show not tell. It’s as though everyone has gone on the same writing course. Tend to write is verb plus infinitive so that doesn’t count. Or maybe there will be a writing course even as I type, teaching avoid infinitives. I know of one editor who offers a MS analysis via a computer program looking at use of adverbs ending in ly, use of dialogue tags, and countless other ways the author may have committed pernicious sins.

    Course sounds a bit steep. Hope it’s worth the outlay if you get on. I thought the intro to your novel was good. I got slightly lost in the middle with all the action and different factions but that’s just me.

    I’d probably have started with I enclose, rather than enclosed please find, but I doubt it will make any difference. Good luck.


    • disperser says:

      Still confused . . .

      . . . I don’t remember where I read it, or maybe I heard it on a podcast, but I remember at least one piece of advice (or maybe it was a comment) basically stating grammar, while useful, is nothing but what people come to agree on, and not as rigid as most imagine.

      Since then I’ve always thought I’d rather just forge new agreements than learn what has been agreed upon so far.

      . . . seems a lot less work. Of course, the trick is getting everyone else to agree.


    • disperser says:

      I think I got my computer stabilized . . . I hope.

      Anyway, I wanted to comment on the course cost comment. The one-week course is not as cost effective as the six weeks courses; I’ll grant you that.

      However, it’s roughly $220 a day, and assuming eight hours a day (it can do longer) it’s about $28/hour. Granted, some of that is group stuff, but there is also one-on-one stuff.

      The real question is what one will get from it. Past attendees are very complimentary of their experiences, and many go on to sell their work. That part I’m unsure of; I don’t know if it’s because people just gained the confidence to submit, of if their work improved, making it more apt to be accepted.

      For me, it’s exactly what I said . . . I need unbiased and solid feedback and advice.

      The hourly rate is less than it would cost me to get a repairman at home (and the repairman would be of zero help with my writing), and much less than one-on-one help.

      It’ll be a learning experience, and yes, there is always the chance I won’t learn anything new, and given I already know I’m a (enter preferred superlative here) writer, it may be nothing more than a waste of time.

      On the other hand, the other workshops are out of the running, so this is it if I want to experience it.


  4. mvschulze says:

    My wife also proof-reads most submissions (not comments, however!) and we generally agree on the changes – but not all the time as I think I have a “feel” to be creative in some situations. Like your mention of a comma as a pause, it’s effective but may not be grammatically correct. But it’s effective, and if your intent is to convey something like a pause, even though it may not be conventionally acceptable. So be it. You are the author.
    I’m no expert on writting or reading, but have apparently done ok in my career which demanded some writiing ability; I consider my reading weak, but probably more affected by impatience or attention deficit, or slow comprehension – or some of the above or none of the above – whatever. But I very much enjoyed your short story, was a little confused at the change in first person, got a kick out of the reference to Telsa, and related enthusiastically to the concepts and through process of a possible future society.
    One more thought (and the length of this comment is punishment to you for making me spend so much damn time on yout posts…) Think of using musical scoring conventions in your writing, like 1/2 note pauses etc. ! :-) M :-)


    • disperser says:

      I try not to be overly out there with my personal choices, mindful of the fact my choices are not as informed as those of others.

      I mean, I presume adding a comma or ellipsis will generate the same effect as it does me, but I’m reading it already knowing what I want. Meaning, I know how I want it read, so I add something I think will do the trick. The problem is that if it does not follow at least an approximation of the rules, the reader may read it completely wrong.

      Anyway, I’m trying to bring more discipline to my writing, at least when it comes to grammar.

      As for the change in POV, the chapters used to have titles/names indicating one or the other. The novel (and it is a novel, not a short story) roughly follows two chapters from each POV alternating between the characters.

      As for the the musical scoring, I’m not sure what that means (I love music, but can’t read it or play it).

      I’ll look that up as soon as I can debug my computer which, following an update, is randomly freezing up on me. First time in many years that the PC has given me this kind of trouble (this reply was done on the phone).

      Liked by 1 person

      • mvschulze says:

        Musical scoring also a little vague to me, but uses half note, quatret note, and I think full note symbols (and likely more) to indicate beats, or pauses in timing. Only meant in jest! M :-)


        • disperser says:

          See! . . . that’s where ignorance makes one gullible. I thought it was a helpful writing suggestion, something to do with sentence construction.

          . . . I could come up with my own symbol and educate my readers as to its meaning.

          . . . the problem is that with all the different smiles out there I would likely end up insulting someone with what in their made-up lingo is some type of swear word.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. You made me smile today. Grammar! Ugh! Like you, I’ve done my best to educate myself. One thing I read that helped me was if you are going to do something – such as a dash – be consistent with its use throughout your book. It’s when you aren’t consistent that you risk taking the reader out of story. Good luck with your submission!


    • disperser says:

      I don’t know – because an expert I’m not — but can speculate that … provided the writing is positively brilliant as mine often is . . . readers sometimes will overlook a whole lot of bad grammar.

      It could be that (as I often say, most people >
      a) don’t know grammar, and
      2- don’t really care unless they _ as so few do } work in some type of editing capacity.

      I could be. Wrong.


      • No! You are right! I’ve read before that most readers read for the story and will definitely overlook some bad grammar and punctuation unless it is just way too much to slog through. So, yes, keep up your brilliant writing, and don’t worry about a few stray commas or a little passive voice.

        By the way, I haven’t used Grammarly, but I turn on all the editing features in Word and take a look at their suggestions. I think it’s helpful to have programs like these. I look at every instance of passive voice, and then I decide if I want to keep it or not. Quite often I do. :-)

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Eddy Winko says:

    No wonder you don’t sleep much!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. AnnMarie says:

    Thanks, Eddy, for the laugh!!!

    As for you, bro, thanks for the grammar lessons. Will come useful if I ever decide to continue any of the writing I began twenty years ago . . . or … or ——- whatever!

    I like your cover letter and I do agree with Maddie to be consistent in your choices.

    As for your novels/stories, what I’m looking for is a good read, something that provides some measure of enjoy-ability. When I reach the end of one of them, my thoughts are on the essence of the story and not the grammar. Granted, they have to be good enough to print, but must first be good enough to read.

    . . . or is that “first must be good enough” …

    . . . yeah, I see what you mean.


  8. colonialist says:

    This post had great food for thought, and the comments provided more.
    In the final analysis, the writer uses punctuation to express what he/she wants to express in the way he/she wants to express it. (some authors being bloody minded delight in giving their text all of it without any punctuation whatsoever the reader has to make of it what they will)
    I insert some commas where they are technically ‘wrong’, but where the sentence takes on a subtly different meaning with that pause – and it is that meaning I want to express. In fact, all punctuation should be a guide to how the written words would be translated into speech, so that if read aloud the passage would convey exactly what one intended.
    The classic example is ‘we had sausage, and bacon and egg (or bacon-and-egg)’ as opposed to ‘we had sausage, and bacon, and egg’. In the second, one is not lumping the bacon and egg together, but giving them each the same weight in the list.
    Your: ‘She raised her gun but changing her mind, she instead stabbed his eye with the épée.’ There, I would have added a comma, but after ‘but’ instead of ‘gun’. That is where I would have a natural tendency to pause if reading the sentence aloud, and also it follows the rule of separating an inserted clause from the main sentence.


  9. colonialist says:

    Thank you. Valuable.


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