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How NOT to write a story description

Crumbly Writer

From a story I just noticed (and decided to bypass).

Pulling the nugget out as larger as his hand.

By the way, that's a complete sentence, not a section (though it is a fragment[ted] of a sentence).

Oyster

Paraphrased to protect the guilty:

Story description:
Wrote those stories a while back, posting them here now, enjoy.

Yeah, thanks for telling me what the story is about and what I can expect. Pass!

Crumbly Writer

The point is, however old the story is, you need to get the description right, otherwise no one will ever find the story. As it is, the description reads like the opening dialogue, rather than a brief description of the conflicts within the story. They provide the historical context, but little else. Aside from the grammatical errors, there's nothing to entire readers.

That said, I can relate to the author dilemma. Despite how many editors I use, few ever deign to bother with the story description, seeing it as a minor inconvience, so I can understand things not being corrected. But to miss such obvious grammatical errors serves as a warning about what the story is likely to contain.

In short, the description serves merely as a warning that the author doesn't give a shit about the story, and you, as the reader, shouldn't either.

REP

My proposed additions to how to not write a story description are those that state:

1. "Just read it."

2. "A continuation of (add prior story name)."

3. Stating that the story is another boring story that is not worth reading.

Ernest Bywater

I wish to nominate the formate of:

This Universe
A story in the This Universe where ....

.....................

As if having it listed in the Universe and it's heading on it doesn't tell us it's set in the universe.

......................................................

Another for honourable mention is:

This is an old story I decided to post, but I'm not fixing its faults.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Another for honourable mention is:

This is an old story I decided to post, but I'm not fixing its faults.


In other words, "This is a story which bores me too tears, I'm so tired of it I'm uninterested in reading it again, and if you're stupid enough to read it, then you deserve what you get!"

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

In other words, "This is a story which bores me too tears, I'm so tired of it I'm uninterested in reading it again, and if you're stupid enough to read it, then you deserve what you get!"


exactly. My reaction is: If it isn't good enough to be worth fixing, then it isn't good enough to be worth reading.

Replies:   Slutsinger
Slutsinger

@Ernest Bywater

I've heard professional authors talk about whether to revise stories when reposting/including in anthologies/etc. There's a real possibility of making a story worse when you try to revise it. I particularly remember Heinlein's discussion of the topic probably in Grumblings from the Grave. I happen to have read both versions of the story in question. The original version is sufficiently inconsistent with modern physics that almost all of us can spot the problems. However, it's a good enough story that I found it easy to suspend disbelief and enjoy a story of a time that never could be. The revision also has broken physics, although it tries hard enough that I expect it to be hard science fiction and its failure is far worse than not trying at all. Also, some of the revisions break the charm of the story. It's technically better, but not as good of a story.
Fixing any typos and grammar issues that get through the editing process when you repost? Sure, that's part of caring about your work. Presuming that you can go back and fix the deeper problems and bring an old story up to the level of your current writing? There are many tales of hubris in that direction.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Slutsinger


There's a real possibility of making a story worse when you try to revise it


I disagree, but then, we may be using different meanings.

In the over 100 stories and guides I've written I've rewritten part of only 1 story, and that was where I used the name of a place in a key part, and was told by a reader that the institution had a very restricted access and they couldn't use that place, so I rewrote that section to use a nearby institution.

In some I've done what I call an addition where I clarify something in the story. In one story I added a note to the end of the chapter after a reader informed me of some requirements to use an institution that wasn't on any of the research sites I went to, including the institution's own website.

However, I've often revised stories to make them more flowing and easier to read by changing a few words, often my editors can't tell what the changes are without having the computer comparing the full text. The sort of thing I d in a revision is where I may use the word as four times in a sentence or short paragraph I'll revise it to replace one with when, another with while, or with because - using whichever word best suits the context.

In a revision none of the places or events change, just a smoothing of the read by better wording of the sentences. If you change any of the events, place, people, or actions it's a rewrite. And in between them you don't change what's there but insert something extra as an addition to the story to help clarify something.

In the Heinlein example you mention, that's a rewrite and not a revision, in my opinion.

edit to add - fixing typos and grammar issues is part of a revision, and is also a major part of the revisions I do.

Replies:   Slutsinger
Slutsinger

@Ernest Bywater

We're mostly in agreement. Much of what I was talking about was what you'd call a rewrite. I do find that revising for flow, grammar, and the like generally improves stories. You have to be a bit careful of character voice. I find that even months after I've stopped working with a story it's sometimes hard to get into a character again enough to revise their dialogue without running the risk of disrupting or muddling their voice. Perhaps as I spend more time writing fiction, I'll get better at coming back to a character's voice. For now, it's something I need to take care of while revising.
Also, I'm sure there are cases where even a rewrite makes a story better. It's just something to be careful of, and something I wouldn't fault someone for not attempting. There are stories out there well worth reading, even if we can all see some errors.

Crumbly Writer

Sorry Ernest, but what you describe as revision I only do once. After writing my entire first draft, I pour over each chapter, rephrasing things and trying to make it clearer, removing anything which doesn't pan out in the course of the story. I also spend time analyzing the story, studying word usages, too many names, slow sections, etc. Once all that's done, I feel confident of my choices.

When I think of revising a story, after that, I think of changing something major. Either cutting extravagant descriptions, modifying a character's presentation or modifying the action, something more major than just playing with a few words. That's more edit than revision. Revision means you're substantially changing the story. Trimming counts, but basically you need to change how the story unfolds to count it as a revision.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

removing anything which doesn't pan out in the course of the story.


to me, that's part of a rewrite.

Over time my skills in the fine detail of using the English language have improves, so when I revise a story it's a simply fine tweaking of the word choices to make the reading smoother. An example of what I mean, is where I would have written something like:

Fred entered the room and gets his bag from beside the bed.

today I'd write that this way:

Fred entered the room to get his bag from beside the bed.

So when I have a reason to make any sort of change to a story (usually fixing a reported typo) I revise it by smoothing out such items like that. There is no change to the actions performed, or to the story itself, just a cleaner wording.

I suspect what you call a revision is what I call a rewrite, and thus we have a conflict due to using the same term with different meanings.

Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

Fred entered the room and gets his bag from beside the bed.
today I'd write that this way:
Fred entered the room to get his bag from beside the bed.

Could you provide us newer writers other examples of ways of rephrasing things you tend to prefer because improve reading flow.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

Could you provide us newer writers other examples of ways of rephrasing things you tend to prefer because improve reading flow.


I'm actually in the process of a guide, much like we discussed about a year ago.

However, the general thing I look at right now is the frequency and the appropriateness of the use of these words: as, and, that. I used to over use the three words quite a bit, especially the first two. When you sit and read something any word the author uses a lot in small areas of text can become annoying, so you need to mix them up a bit.

With the word as you can use alternative like when, and while to mix it up, and often the paragraph will read smoother.

Replacing and with to works in a lot of situations like the example from before. Also, a slight rewording to remove an and or two helps smooth it out.

In vernacular English you don't need to use the word that with anywhere near the frequency you do in formal English. Where formal English has: Fred told Jack that he didn't need to dig the hole. While vernacular English has: Fred told Jack he didn't need to dig the hole. The word that is gone and the meaning stays the same, yet there's less words and it reads smoother.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

When you sit and read something any word the author uses a lot in small areas of text can become annoying, so you need to mix them up a bit.

I agree. After reading your two versions I instantly "knew" the second version was better. It was not immediately apparent why. My first thought was changing and to to could be a very handy technique to relieve the tedium of a lot of sentences with two clauses joined by an and.
And yes, repeating any word, even and, too often closely together does become annoying.

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

I pour over each chapter


Water? Petrol?

Sorry, couldn't resist. I've read several stories recently in which the authors have made the same mistake. ;)

AJ

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


Fred entered the room and gets his bag from beside the bed.

today I'd write that this way:

Fred entered the room to get his bag from beside the bed.


Your second version was obviously "better", but it's not obvious why.

I had a think about that, and in particular, attempted to apply what Steven Pinker (in The Sense of Style) says about how readers process language and the types of constructions that are easier to comprehend.

My conclusion is essentially that word counts matter, they matter a lot, but what I would call 'implied word counts (and punctuation)' also matter.

Your first version is in fact an abbreviated form of:
Fred entered the room. Fred got his bag from beside the bed.

While your abbreviated version is easier to read, there is still a cost to readers to process the and. Readers must think: the idea I just read has been completed, and the next idea probably assumes some words from a previous clause in the same sentence.
The assumed word(s) are usually just both clauses using a common subject (as is so in your example). That is not always so.
Sometimes the next clause will have a new subject. Sometimes the next clause will assume both the subject and verb from the previous clause. In reality, when readers see the and they must prepare themselves for the task of figuring out how much of the previous clause is implied in the next clause. There is a real cost for readers to comprehend this type of construction.

Your second version does not have that cost for readers. When readers see to they know the last idea is completed and what follows is a new idea. One which explains why the previous action was done. This version feels like it flows more easily, because it actually does. Readers are able to move on from one idea onto the next without the need to hold in their memory what has come before - in order to figure how much is implied in the new clause too.

One thing I look for when attempting to fine-tune the wording of sentences is what I call 'implied punctuation'.

Note in EB's first version that it is unnecessary, but not incorrect, to use a comma before the and. In the second version it is incorrect to use a comma before the to.

It doesn't matter whether writers use commas or not in situations where they are optional. The mere fact that a comma could be used somewhere indicates that readers must do some extra processing to comprehend the sentence.

My conclusion is EB's second version flows better because it eliminates an optional comma, and that can save readers almost as much as eliminating an actual word.

Replies:   Slutsinger  sejintenej
Ross at Play
Updated:

Following on from my last post ...
There is one type of construction that particularly irritates me. I see some new writers using it quite frequently, and encourage them to break what I consider a poor habit. I would appreciate more experienced writers views whether my advice to them is valid.

The construction I dislike is introductory phrases used when there is no particular reason for doing so, for example:
While walking into his bedroom, Fred noticed a book on the table.

There are valid reasons for this type of sentence, but I encourage new writers to start with the regular order of subject, verb, and then added information. For this example:
Fred noticed a book on the table while walking into his bedroom.

I frequently find that simply swapping an introductory phrase to its standard position will result in the elimination of an extra word or two. It always results in the elimination of an extra comma after the introductory phrase. I think it's largely irrelevant whether readers actually put a comma after an introductory phrase or not. Either way, readers need to process the sentence as if one is there.

Before anyone accusing of dictating how others should write, I will list some of the reasons when it is sometimes correct to use introductory phrases.
One reason is that an endless stream of subject then verb sentences does get very boring.
Another reason is to simplify sentences that are becoming too complex. When a sentence has other ideas as well as the subject and verb, cutting an adverbial phrase out to get it over with in an introductory phrase can simplify the remainder of the sentences.

My advice to new authors is their routine practice when writing first drafts is attempting to write subject, verb, then anything else - but if the sentence is becoming too complex, then consider pulling out the adverbial phrase into an introductory phrase.

Slutsinger
Updated:

@Ross at Play

My conclusion is essentially that word counts matter, they matter a lot, but what I would call 'implied word counts (and punctuation)' also matter.


As a reader I call bullshit: I have fairly high confidence that I don't expend more effort parsing punctuation. For that matter, I don't inherently spend more effort parsing more words.

For me "Fred entered the room and gets his bag from beside the bed," flows poorly because the tense agreement is wrong. I don't find "Fred entered the room and got his bag from beside the bed," harder to parse than "Fred entered the room to get his bag from beside the bed."

The second tells the reader why Fred is entering the room. The first may imply it, but Fred may actually have gone into the room to assassinate the beautiful woman in the bed for daring to split an infinitive. In the first, the bag may be a distraction (or contain the gun). In the second, it's the point of the trip to the room.

Replies:   Ross at Play
richardshagrin

Why was it important that Fred entered the room? Fred got his bag is likely the only important issue to be told (shown?) the reader. Do we need to know he went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator and took out a beer to learn he took a drink? That he went into the bathroom and raised the lid to take a piss? If it is later important that he be in a particular room, ok, let the reader know. Otherwise, save a few words and let the actions indicate he is moving around the house when it is important. Otherwise, not.

sejintenej
Updated:

@Ross at Play


Fred entered the room and gets his bag from beside the bed.

today I'd write that this way:

Fred entered the room to get his bag from beside the bed.

Your second version was obviously "better", but it's not obvious why.


I think the answer is tense; Fred entered" is past tense "and gets his bag" is present tense. (Ross at Play)

I fully agree with the idea of reducing the use of individual words as exemplified by changing "and" to "to" (Ernest Bywater).

Although I don't bother too much in English there is a concept in decent French that a word does not appear twice on the same page. The articles and pronouns seem to be exceptions. Makes for very interesting reading and difficult writing in a verbose idiom!

In consideration of the starting entry, an introduction of the type under consideration is an advertisement and has to be written as such with care and with consideration for what will attract the intended reader. Become an advertising copywriter and make the professionals quake at your inventiveness.

edit: layout

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@sejintenej

I fully agree with the idea of reducing the use of individual words as exemplified by changing "and" to "to" (Ernest Bywater).


That depends. In the first example, the reader knows that Fred gets his bag. In the second example we're left hanging. Does he get the bag? What if 'Fred enters the room to get his bag from beside the bed.' is followed by 'However the aliens beam him back to their mother ship to retrieve their anal probe.'

AJ

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Slutsinger


flows poorly because the tense agreement is wrong.


@sejintenej


I think the answer is tense.


EB's example was unfortunate, because he made a tense error when attempting to make a different point.

Can we continue this discussion assuming he would have said this if he'd proofread his post:


Fred entered the room and got his bag from beside the bed.
today I'd write that this way:
Fred entered the room to get his bag from beside the bed.


I think he had a valid point that the change he suggested is often desirable, and for several reasons:
#1 It may be useful to help an overly repetitious use of the word and.
#2 (When it is so) it's more explicit the first action was done with the intention of doing the second.
I trust we all agree those may be valid reasons for making that change.

I see another reason why the second is "better". Modern research suggests that the second is slightly easier for readers to parse, and the reason is because of the amount of information readers must remember at the moment they read the connecting word.

The example EB used is not a good one, but consider a sentence that begins with:
Fred baked a sponge cake and ...

Readers must retain a lot of information in their memory at the point they process the word and, because there are so many different things that might come next. The complete could be any of:
(a) Fred baked a sponge cake and John fried some eggs.
(b) Fred baked a sponge cake and entered it in a contest.
(c) Fred baked a sponge cake and a fruit cake.

These three sentences are very different. Their grammatical forms are:
(a) Subject-1 verb-1 object-1 and subject-2 verb-2 object-2.
(b) Subject-1 verb-1 object-1 and verb-2 object-2.
(c) Subject-1 verb-1 object-1 and object-2.

Note how when they reach the word and the reader must retain Subject-1 verb-1 in their memory, and then figure out whether one or both are implied in the part of the sentence following the conjunction.

That is why I think the kind of change EB suggested (changing an and verb form to a to verb form) is inherently easier for readers to parse. After reading a sentence beginning:
Subject-1 verb-1 object-1 to
there is only one way the sentence can continue, with a second verb!

@slutsinger


I have fairly high confidence that I don't expend more effort parsing punctuation.

I am sure it does not seem to require more effort.

My point was not that parsing punctuation requires more effort. It was that readers do expend less effort to parse sentences that require no punctuation, compared to the identical words in a different order that does require punctuation. That is what modern research has shown.

The reason is that sentences that do not need punctuation allow readers to process one idea then move onto the next. Sentences that do need punctuation require readers to hold ideas in their memory for later use while processing other ideas.

I cannot prove it or even explain it adequately, but it is so.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Ross at Play

OK, my off-the-cuff example thought up on the spur of the moment isn't perfect English. However, it does show how many people, myself included, often take the easy way out by using the word and where a different word choice will make the sentence flow smoother. Take one of the examples from the above:

Fred baked a sponge cake and John fried some eggs.

That's most people's first shot at the actions involved, but I think it reads better and smoother without the word and in it. Try this version:

Fred baked a sponge cake while John fried some eggs.

Now, naturally, you do need to keep in mind the wider context of the story needs, but in this case the word change makes the situation clearer in some ways. In the first version the two people can be doing the tasks in different places and at different times, while the second version has an implication of the actions being simultaneously in the same location. If you meant to show two people cooking in the one kitchen, then using when instead of and makes it a lot clearer. I'm not saying the change is always the best, just better if it suits the circumstances you're trying to present.

Edit to add: In many cases this is the type of improvement I mean when I revise the wording of a story.

Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

However, it does show how many people, myself included, often take the easy way out by using the word and where a different word choice will make the sentence flow smoother.

And modern research suggests what you have learned from experience "makes the sentence flow smoother" really does require a little less effort for readers to process (with the obvious caveat of 'when used appropriately').
Thanks for the constructive advice.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


In many cases this is the type of improvement I mean when I revise the wording of a story.


Here's a real life example of what I mean when I revise a story. This is one I'm working on at the moment:

Original text is:

I look around the room, and catch the eye of all present, before I say, "This is not for public discussion or dissemination. Yes, it was."

New text is:

I look around the room to catch the eye of all present before I say, "This is not for public discussion or dissemination. Yes, it was."

...............

A few small changes - replace a word and remove two commas while also making a word bold to emphasis an important point. No change to the actual action or intent in the paragraph, but it ends up a smoother piece of reading.

typo edit

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I suspect what you call a revision is what I call a rewrite, and thus we have a conflict due to using the same term with different meanings.

A "rewrite" is when you completely rewrite something, like when a first draft doesn't work and you decide to take the story in an entirely new direction, or when a chapter doesn't work, so you rewrite it hoping but a better response. A revision is to make changes, but you're talking about cleanup. "Revision", to me at least, means redoing the entire story. That would mean, each time you correct a single typo, you then review and revise the entire story.

I do the same thing, cleaning up multiple paragraphs any time I change something minor something points out. You are revising the passages, but it's hardly a "story revision", it's merely correct a single mistake, regardless of what else you do in the process. Otherwise, you give the wrong impression about what you're doing.

For authors, the key is picking the right words so we're understood. That's why I'm cautious about using such sweeping terms too lightly.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

If you're writing a style guide, I wouldn't emphasize "don't use as, and, and that", as it makes you sound overly pedantic. A better approach is to suggest "You need to be careful of your word choices, avoiding repetition and overuse of common phrases which don't add value to the scene. Consider your words, and check for repetition of common words and phrases."

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

If you're writing a style guide, I wouldn't emphasize "don't use as, and, and that", as it makes you sound overly pedantic.


I wouldn't tell them not to use the words, anyway, because they have their place. But I will tell them to be careful about the overuse of any words too close together.

CW, I'll contact you direct about what I'm writing when I get it finished, because I don't want to go into it in detail here. However, I only intend to cover where I think the major style guides don't suite fiction writing.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

A "rewrite" is when you completely rewrite something


As I said before, CW, I think we'll have to agree to disagree on what the terms mean. Revise means to change or modify. Well, what I'm doing is to modify the wording. Since I'm not changing the action or real content of the story it isn't a re-write which means to make a major change in the meaning of it.

However, we can all use whatever terms we want for not. I think I'm explained this enough for everyone to know what level of changes I'm making, and they know it isn't changing the context of the story in any way.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
awnlee jawking

@Ernest Bywater

I look around the room to catch the eye of all present before I say, "This is not for public discussion or dissemination. Yes, it was."


I think you'd fall foul of modern creative writing experts.

For example, they have a downer on 'start to'. 'Fred started to open the window.' What does it mean, did Fred open the window or didn't he? It leaves the user hanging.

Similarly with your well-intentioned attempt to replace 'and'. Did you catch the eye of all present or didn't you? You're swapping intention to do an act for its actual completion.

I think you should be very careful before using this particular substitution.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play  sejintenej
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

modern creative writing experts ... have a downer on 'start to' ... 'Fred started to open the window.' ... did Fred open the window or didn't he?

Can you explain what their problem is?
Is it because opening a window is an action that would be completed quickly.
I would interpret 'Fred started to sing' to mean he definitely did start, and is still singing.

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

As I understand, the problem is that many beginners pad out their stories with superfluous words like 'start' or 'begin'. The experts recommend that if you can delete them without changing the meaning, they should be jettisoned. In fact, deleting such words can improve the clarity because it stops readers from being left hanging.

'When the security light came on, Tom began to run towards the gate.' Replacing it with 'When the security light came on, Tom ran towards the gate' is clearer and more concise.

I'm sure there must be plenty of internet articles on the subject.

AJ

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

'The Clintonite Scumtrooper began to enter the USS Whitewater self-destruct codes but the orange-skinned Trumpdonian threw his battle wig across the room and beheaded him before he could enter the last digit.'

An example where 'began to' can't be removed :)

AJ

Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

Superfluous words like 'start' or 'begin'. The experts recommend that if you can delete them without changing the meaning, they should be jettisoned.

That makes sense. Thanks.

Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

An example where 'began to' can't be removed :)

'Began' cannot be removed, but 'to' can be.
What do the experts say about when and why to replace 'began to enter' with 'began entering'?

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

'Began' cannot be removed, but 'to' can be.


Good point.
No eye dear. ;)

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking


'When the security light came on, Tom began to run towards the gate.' Replacing it with 'When the security light came on, Tom ran towards the gate' is clearer and more concise.


One of the problems with some of theses discussions is when we use a small section of something to demonstrate what we talk about and someone then makes assumptions about the wider context of what's shown that restricting their view and comments to just what's shown.

Take the example in the quote above. The wider context would appear to be Tom is going to run to the gate, but he may only start to run and immediately stop, in which case the first version is the better wording, or he may start to run and also yell something at that exact moment. We don't know. Thus we need to be wary about the assumptions about the context it's from.

In general, the use of words like start and began need to be used sparingly. However, I found most of the Creative Writing blogs on the Internet are so poorly written that I wonder if the person writes a good story or not. I've seen some of the university Creative Writing text books that should only be used when writing Creative Government Reports

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

Moving back to the types of changes I've been making, here's what I think is a better example.

Original:

She says, "Look, that's a very good offer. Just a couple of related things need to be sorted out. I don't want to leave the staff without work, if I can avoid it. I'd hoped to have someone buy me out and continue here, and use my staff."

Revised:

She says, "Look, that's a very good offer. Just a couple of related things need to be sorted out. I don't want to leave the staff without work, if I can avoid it. I'd hoped to have someone buy me out to continue here while using my staff."

This time I included a bit more in the hope the wider context helps you understand the why the changes makes it better.

typo edit - as usual for me and my buttery fingers

sejintenej

@awnlee jawking

For example, they have a downer on 'start to'. 'Fred started to open the window.' What does it mean, did Fred open the window or didn't he? It leaves the user hanging.
Similarly with your well-intentioned attempt to replace 'and'. Did you catch the eye of all present or didn't you? You're swapping intention to do an act for its actual completion.
I think you should be very careful before using this particular substitution.

This goes equally for the original quotation options: in one he lifted the bag, in the other he went TO lift the bag but did he succeed?
As for this quote I would hope no writer would leave it like that because it absolutely screams for a followup "when he was shot" / "when Freda farted" ....

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


Revised:

She says, "Look, that's a very good offer. Just a couple of related things need to be sorted out. I don't want to leave the staff without work, if I can avoid it. I'd hoped to have someone buy me out to continue here while (using) my staff." [I corrected an apparent typo of 'use' to 'using']


There are a lot of changes I would suggest for that:

She says, "Look, that's a very good offer. Just a couple of related things need sorting out. I don't want my staff left without work, if I can avoid it. I'd hoped someone would buy me out and continue employing them."

My total word count is seven words less than your revised version, and I don't think anything is lost.

I think that the to-form of verbs are very much overused, and if valid in the context, the present or past participle should usualyy be preferred. Doing that almost always reduces your word count.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
sejintenej

@Ernest Bywater

She says, "Look, that's a very good offer. Just a couple of related things need to be sorted out. I don't ............"

I don't know the context but I personally hate the word "says". OK I can take it in a report "I am about to step in when she says .....". I can also with difficulty say "I say [no to that proposal] as a form of emphasis.
Sorry, but that is my personal view

Ross at Play

@sejintenej

I don't know the context but I personally hate the word "says".

Sometimes 'She says' is needed instead of 'She said' in a story written in the present tense.

Ernest Bywater

@sejintenej

present tense story in the first person, so the options are 'says' or 'saying' or different verbs with similar meaning likes 'replies'

awnlee_jawking

@Ernest Bywater

We don't know. Thus we need to be wary about the assumptions about the context it's from.


In this case we do know. I stipulated the proviso that the word could be deleted without changing the meaning. But you made a good point - in general the wider context needs to be considered.

AJ

pcbondsman
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

I'm amazed that no one in this group of authors and editors has mentioned (noticed?) that the two examples (before and after?) Ernest posted starting with "She says,..." are identical.

Ernest, if this was a carefully laid trap, relating to a comment in another thread about actually reading what the original post says, I apologize if I sprung the trap before you were ready.

edited to fix typo.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@pcbondsman

Ernest posted starting with "She says,..." are identical.


Sorry, mate, but if you're talking about the last set of examples I posted they aren't the same. The lead up context is, but the last sentence has 'and' replaced with 'to' then another 'and' replace with 'while'. The 7th and 4th last words of the examples.

Replies:   pcbondsman
pcbondsman

@Ernest Bywater

I'm talking about the post Updated: 1/29/2017, 3:27:55 PM

Original:

She says, "Look, that's a very good offer. Just a couple of related things need to be sorted out. I don't want to leave the staff without work, if I can avoid it. I'd hoped to have someone buy me out and continue here, and use my staff."

Revised:

She says, "Look, that's a very good offer. Just a couple of related things need to be sorted out. I don't want to leave the staff without work, if I can avoid it. I'd hoped to have someone buy me out to continue here while using my staff."


If that's the last, and I think it is, they are exactly the same. An oops with copy and paste?

Ernest Bywater

@pcbondsman

If that's the last, and I think it is, they are exactly the same.


First, not much point in using the date and time to identify a post, because the time stamps are from your local system. Mine shows that as having been posted on - 30/01/2017, 8:21:47 am.

Second, as I said, check the fourth last word (and - - while), and the 7th last word (and - - to), also lost a comma after 'here'.

And yes, i did copy and paste, but I did it from two documents the original and an edit copy.

Replies:   pcbondsman
pcbondsman

@Ernest Bywater

Damn! And I read both more times that I'll admit to.

Sorry

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@pcbondsman

Damn! And I read both more times that I'll admit to.


after your post I had to go back and quadruple check it myself. Mind you, within the first weeks of a new story the readers usually report typos that sneak about fifty reads and checks by half a dozen of us, so don't worry about it.

However, it does show one major point about these revisions being so mild many won't spot them.

pcbondsman

@Ernest Bywater

I think part of what threw me off was that, by pure luck I'd imagine, the two sentences ended up being exactly the same physical length. Yeah, I know. Excuses, excuses, excuses. :)

sejintenej

@pcbondsman

I'm talking about the post Updated: 1/29/2017, 3:27:55 PM
Original:

She says, "Look, that's a very good offer. Just a couple of related things need to be sorted out. I don't want to leave the staff without work, if I can avoid it. I'd hoped to have someone buy me out and continue here, and use my staff."

Revised:
She says, "Look, that's a very good offer. Just a couple of related things need to be sorted out. I don't want to leave the staff without work, if I can avoid it. I'd hoped to have someone buy me out to continue here while using my staff."

If that's the last, and I think it is, they are exactly the same. An oops with copy and paste?

Sorry but what is the problem; they are different? four words from the end replaces a comma.
Not quite how I would write it but then again I am not an accomplished story author

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I wouldn't tell them not to use the words, anyway, because they have their place. But I will tell them to be careful about the overuse of any words too close together.

My point was how you were phrasing it. Instead of focusing on specific words (not to overuse), I'd stress 'review your word choices to avoid repeating ANY words too often.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

As I said before, CW, I think we'll have to agree to disagree on what the terms mean. Revise means to change or modify. Well, what I'm doing is to modify the wording. Since I'm not changing the action or real content of the story it isn't a re-write which means to make a major change in the meaning of it.

I was mainly objecting because you were saying many authors don't revise stories, whereas I suspect the majority made on-the spot corrections when they're pointed out. Thus I wanted to qualify what you classified as a 'revision' (full-scale or spot).

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

'The Clintonite Scumtrooper began to enter the USS Whitewater self-destruct codes but the orange-skinned Trumpdonian threw his battle wig across the room and beheaded him before he could enter the last digit.'

An example where 'began to' can't be removed :)

Substitute "began entering" for "began to" enter" (for reasons previously mentioned. But otherwise, this is clear, as the only began, never completing. The objection was "began" leaves it unclear whether he was preparing, was doing it, or had already finished. In your example, it's clear what happened, so there's no confusion over the use of the term.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

No eye dear. ;)

That's what the blind Centaur said (after his unfortunate encounter with the Greeks).

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

However, I found most of the Creative Writing blogs on the Internet are so poorly written that I wonder if the person writes a good story or not. I've seen some of the university Creative Writing text books that should only be used when writing Creative Government Reports

Every single blogger (and failed author) fill their constant need for new material by writing endlessly on "how to write", while most of them have given up writing books entirely because they're SO busy maintaining a non-productive (i.e. non-paying) blog.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

This time I included a bit more in the hope the wider context helps you understand the why the changes makes it better.

Understood, for me (like you) this is a continual revision, rather than a 'review and revise' each complete story. That's where you confused me before.

Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

I would hope no writer would leave it like that because it absolutely screams for a followup "when he was shot" / "when Freda farted" ....

If Freda started to fart, but never finished, she'd be likely to explode! Talk about the buildup on internal, combustible gases!

Replies:   richardshagrin
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I think that the to-form of verbs are very much overused, and if valid in the context, the present or past participle should usually be preferred. Doing that almost always reduces your word count.

It might reduce the overall word count (of 2 letter words), though it wouldn't substantially change the total page count. Word count estimates assume an average of 5 letters per word.

Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

don't know the context but I personally hate the word "says". OK I can take it in a report "I am about to step in when she says .....". I can also with difficulty say "I say [no to that proposal] as a form of emphasis.

Mentally substitute "She exclaimed mightily," and you're set (in a gentile Southern style).

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

However, it does show one major point about these revisions being so mild many won't spot them.

In most cases, 'cleaning up' code is invisible to readers. If you don't suddenly behead the protagonist, most readers won't notice the changes. The cleaner code makes the story easier to read, but you can't actually expect thanks for the effort. You do it out of personal pride in your work.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

You do it out of personal pride in your work.


Which is exactly is a large part of why I do it, that and making ti easier for future readers to read it.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Which is exactly is a large part of why I do it, that and making ti easier for future readers to read it.

Ease of reading is a major component in reader enjoyment (i.e. they don't have to reread the same paragraph three times), however, as it doesn't affect plot, few readers will recognize the difference, as they tend to forget how difficult it was to read the first time.

richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

If Freda started to fart, but never finished, she'd be likely to explode!

Maybe she would just be an old fart? Is that only for men? Would she be an old fartress?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

Would she be an old fartress?

She's the grandest of old fartresses!

P.S. where does, degrading to fart jokes, rate on the 'Hitler' scale of discussion distractions?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

P.S. where does, degrading to fart jokes, rate on the 'Hitler' scale of discussion distractions?


In the extra smelly section.

richardshagrin

An odious comparison.

sejintenej

@Ernest Bywater

You do it out of personal pride in your work.

Which is exactly is a large part of why I do it, that and making ti easier for future readers to read it.

Certainly but as author you are so into it that there is a danger something will slip through like ti for it so a third party lookthrough is another sieve.

OK Crumbly Writer is innocent of it but some, perhaps too many, authors have spellcheck change words without consideration

Ernest Bywater

@sejintenej

OK Crumbly Writer is innocent of it but some, perhaps too many, authors have spellcheck change words without consideration


major difference between a forum post and a story post - no set aside and review a few weeks later, no check by editorial staff or proof readers. Thus error rate in forum posts are high. Another is I don't really give a stuff about errors in the forum post.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@Ernest Bywater

major difference between a forum post and a story post - no set aside and review a few weeks later, no check by editorial staff or proof readers. Thus error rate in forum posts are high. Another is I don't really give a stuff about errors in the forum post.

I WAS actually referring to your finished stories rather than the forum. When I look back and see some of my own howlers here .......I should reread my comments even more carefully though I reckon I do edit-correct 33% of them

Ernest Bywater

@sejintenej

I WAS actually referring to your finished stories rather than the forum.


Sorry, when I saw you refer to the typo in the previous post of mine, I thought you were having a joke about it.

Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

OK Crumbly Writer is innocent of it but some, perhaps too many, authors have spellcheck change words without consideration

Only because Crumbly doesn't trust most automated software. I prefer making all my errors the old reliable manual way.

Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

I WAS actually referring to your finished stories rather than the forum.

With posts, my tendency is to just hit return without reviewing the message. Once it posts, I'll often review what I said to ensure it makes sense, but not always.

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