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How to Learn How to Edit

Ross at Play
Updated:

I started writing recently. My first draft was decent enough to not distract editors with grammar errors and awkward sentences. However, I could not describe the rules for punctuation. My knowledge of rules and guidelines for grammar and writing style is that they exist. I do not want my editors looking for errors or weaknesses I could find. I want them looking for the few I miss; and the ones I do not know are poor.

To get there, I have started reading Writers' Guides and volunteered as an editor (with a comment "I will direct you elsewhere where my skills are lacking").

I have just tried running some writers' checking software (Pro Writing Aid). At best, software can identify the questions an editor should consider. The answers should usually be "in this instance in this work, that is okay." I will need help from humans if I am to learn which of the issues flagged by software could be fixed to improve the work.

My thoughts are turned towards strategies for achieving that. Perhaps I should repeat edits already done by experienced editors, and compare our lists of issues? Perhaps they should edit my writing at some point, on the grounds it should reveal what my blind spots will probably be when I edit works?

MY QUESTIONS are: any recommendations for Editors' Guides; any suggestions for strategies or tools; any volunteers?

Ross at Play

Here is an idea that does not come naturally to a born lazy computer programmer - read the software manual!
I would still like something from a required reading list for Creative Writing 101.

Ernest Bywater

I find this site helpful,

http://www.grammarbook.com/english_rules.asp

but I also bend a lot of the rules because the site is about Formal English and I use Vernacular English simply because it has more freedom and is more free flowing.

The other thing I suggest is you look for words you use a lot of and see if yuo repeat any too frequently. Some like 'the' and 'a' and 'to' just have to be used often, but I'm currently revising a lot of old stories and find I need to remove or replace 'as' with alternative, and can frequently drop the word 'that' while I also often removing the word 'and' with a slight rewrite of the sentence. I work hard, now, not not have more than one 'and' or 'as' in the most complex of sentences, and reduce the number in a paragraph.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


I also bend a lot of the rules …

frequently drop the word 'that'


EB. The rules must be known before they can be broken with confidence.

Been there, done that, and would probably use that word four times in a sentence to admit that I do that.

I ran software on a story I thought was very tight. Apparently I am a 'was/were' and a 'could' freak as well.

It also rates me as quite passive. So to all of those who think my comments here are aggressive, "the computer says 'No'."

The scary thing is consistent scores for 'glue index' over 50%, against a recommended 40% maximum. That is what I thought was my forte. Damn, this stuff can be hard, but fun too.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

That's one issue with editing, is that you get different information from different editors. Content editors give you very different information than you get from proofreaders or beta-readers, but you get completely different information from edits from fellow authors, who tend to look at how efficient the story's sentences/sequences are, rather than whether they're 'properly constructed' or not.

As such, I'd suggest you volunteer to edit for others and ask other authors to edit your work. The issue there is that most authors are already overwhelmed, so getting them to dedicate much time is restrictive, but even getting them to do a couple chapters can open your eyes about common errors you might overlook.

If you want, drop me a note and I'll take a look at a couple chapters. Between running it thru Autocrit, and running my own view of how effective your storytelling is, it might point out which issues you may want to consider.

As most student-teachers know, you often learn more by teaching than you do by studying, and who better to help authors than fellow authors?

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

drop me a note and I'll take a look at a couple chapters

VERY MUCH APPRECIATED! I do volunteer to edit. I have even accepted sci-fi. I am sure seeing some examples will help me get started on the learning process. I will not abuse the privilege, meaning I will do everything I know first before asking others.

Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

The rules must be known before they can be broken with confidence.


I know, that's why I listed the website first.

About the use of the word 'that' in Formal English you can get a sentence along the lines of: John knew that it would work.

About using the word 'that' in Vernacular English you get a sentence like: John knew it'd work.

The meaning of the two sentences above is the same, but they read a bit different. The word 'that' after 'knew' is required in Formal English but superfluous in Vernacular English, and the main point of what I mean about the word 'that.' Also, you can safely contract 'it would' to 'it'd' the word 'can' becomes optional, and you can paraphrase some bits to shrink it while streamlining the flow.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


I know, that's why I listed the website first


My comment was meant as:

Thank you for the information about the website. I should know the rules before I consider breaking them.

It was sort of a royal wee-wee. Do I need to put a :) at the end of almost every sentence I write?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

Do I need to put a :) at the end of almost every sentence I write?


Probably. I have a Asperger's Syndrome and tend to take things extremely literally at first glance, many people would say I was pedantic in how I see things.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


Probably. I have a Asperger's Syndrome and tend to take things extremely literally at first glance, many people would say I was pedantic in how I see things.


That's curious. Nobody has ever suggested Asperger's to me; BUT I read the characteristics a few years ago, and I had two 'That's definitely me', one 'Definitely Not', and one 'Definitely Yes and No in different situations'. I sure I'm along there somewhere, but there's no point in asking for a diagnosis if there is no treatment.

The fortunate thing for us is I have some choice over when I am extremely literal and pedantic. I can recognise your name, and choose to answer your comments literally.

One thing that often catches me out is thinking nobody could interpret insults of their ideas as insults of them personally. Apparently, the vast majority of our species do think that way, but I cannot think of any reason to support such bizarre notions. Until I see them walking on water, I assume they are capable of making mistakes, and capable of knowing they do make mistakes. If they could only see the wisdom of turning over their governments and religions to us, they would be much happier.

So, no offense intended to you personally, however insulting my responses were intended to be about your ideas.

I expected people would get the idea that someone using the pen name 'Ross at Play' would not always be serious in the comments they make.

In my moments of free choice, I tend to go to the other extreme. Most Australians constantly talk in riddles, hyperbolae and self-depricating humour. I tend to do that far more than most Aussies. I do assume others will instantly know which comments are not intended to be interpreted literally.

I was beginning to think reactions to my attempted jokes were a typical arrogant American response: shoot at the first perceived insult; ask questions later. :)

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Ross at Play


I sure I'm along there somewhere, but there's no point in asking for a diagnosis if there is no treatment.


Asperger's is a section along the range of issues they call the Autistic Spectrum. It is not as clear cut and as diagnosable as something like a cut in the hand. Many of the ways Asperger's presents can be confused with things from Downe Syndrome up to Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). The reality is the whole Autistic Spectrum represents a range of issues related to something being hardwired in the brain different to what the current medical people call normal. Thus there is usually little or nothing that can be done to treat it. In some cases, like ADD drugs can be used to alter how the brain works to change the behaviours, but, for most cases, the person has to just accept and live with the situation. In a few situations people can develop strategies to help them cope, but that is all.

a typo edit, and the an edit to add: Sometimes the difference in the way the brain works makes it easier for the person to survive in other environments. I once read a report where the best lead scout to have in a hostile environment was a person with ADD because of the way they kept looking at everything little happened within their eye sight they didn't see.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Asperger's is a section along the range of issues they call the Autistic Spectrum. It is not as clear cut and as diagnosable as something like a cut in the hand. Many of the ways Asperger's presents can be confused with things from Downe Syndrome up to Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). The reality is the whole Autistic Spectrum represents a range of issues related to something being hardwired in the brain different to what the current medical people call normal. Thus there is usually little or nothing that can be done to treat it.

What you say is true, but ...

*** Lecture Mode On ***

Asperger's is a long ways from the other forms of Autism. While the symptoms vary, most people with Asperger's can learn to function normally (so few people suspect they have a mental health disorder), though it fairly easy to spot (to those familiar with it): intense focus, an inability to pick up on subtle social cues, poor social behavior and very high productivity.

As a result, many high tech business tend to favor hiring people with Asperger's, although like many with a variety of mental health issues, they tend to favor the arts, in one form or another.

I make a great example. After majoring in Economics in college, I talked my way into a computer job because by being highly productive, I could make my own rules (i.e. they'd make exceptions for my sometimes erratic behavior). My lack of social skills kept me from being promoted beyond a certain level, but I functioned very well in the business world.

From what I've been able to pick up, many authors both here and elsewhere have Asperger's and other mental health issues. Many of these conditions tend to be found in the same people.

But the long of short of this is that the people of Asperger's aren't easily lumped into the whole Autistic spectrum because the are so high functioning. This is a sore point with those with Asperger's, and something that those in the Autistic community refuse to admit because those with Asperger's raise their social standing, but their issues are vastly different. Combining them into a single treatment pool means poor treatment options for them.

In general, while Asperger's victims suffer as children, they generally 'learn' how to adapt in their late-teen/early college years (the same time their peers come down with Schizophrenia). After that, most find jobs which give them enough leeway to get by (like I did). Unfortunately, in their later years (around their 50s and 60s) their conditions tend to worsen and their coping mechanisms tend to fail, leaving them largely unable to work in most environments. That's when many of us in the tech industry switch over to writing: we hopefully earned enough to keep our heads above water and need something to do because we're so dedicated, but largely can't hold normal jobs.

While it's believed both Asperger's and Autism is caused by the same thing (now believed to be some sort of immune disorder in the brain), they're normally diagnosed at different ages, indicating it doesn't occur at the same development stage--though that can't be definitely established due to lack of symptoms.

*** Lecture Off ***

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Asperger's is a long ways from the other forms of Autism.


Personally, I wouldn't pack Downe Syndrome in with Asperger's but the psychs do, I don't know enough to be sure.

I agree with you about diagnosis, I had major issues as a kid and developed ways to manage most of the differences. It was only when my son was diagnosed in his mid teens that I was also checked and diagnosed. However, by the time my son was diagnosed he was what the psychs called his peak training period and they doubted he was able to develop ways to handle it. There are other issues that affect his situation, but that's the situation we live with. On the down side, the comping strategies I developed in the 1960s did not translate into the changing world of the 2000s and my ability to function in a work environment went down when the work environment moved the playing field on me. That's life.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Personally, I wouldn't pack Downe Syndrome in with Asperger's but the psychs do, I don't know enough to be sure.

The key is, while neither is a "mental disorder" in the strict sense, they're both the result of damage to the brain (thus the 'mental' classification). One's a nerve disorder while the other is a developmental disorder, but the damage seems to be related to the brain.

On the down side, the comping strategies I developed in the 1960s did not translate into the changing world of the 2000s and my ability to function in a work environment went down when the work environment moved the playing field on me. That's life.

Again, that's probably due more to your age and the decrease in your coping abilities effectiveness (ability's?). But it sounds like we went through something similar.

The other issue is that many of these (like Asperger's, ADHD, OCDC and Schizophrenia, or at least Schizo-Affective Disorder) are related disorders.

One benefit, though, is it provides us author's with better insights into the mindsets of the mentally ill (for developing characters), though it also means that many of us are worse at "showing" how people respond--since it's largely invisible to us aside from a few clues we've learned to monitor.

Ross at Play
Updated:

Dear EB & CW

Can you both agree you are in total agreement - Asperger's and Autism probably same genetics, but support needed to cope with society vastly different.

The 'points' you are raising are merely additional examples of consequences of a general lack of understanding in society, especially among medical 'professionals'.

May we be kind to each other, given how hard it is for us to just cope with the insanity created by the normal's egos?

I made this comment in jest:

"If they could only see the wisdom of turning over their governments and religions to us [meaning functional beneficiaries of a genetic variation for AS], they would all be much happier."

I now switch into literal hypothesis mode:

My 'Utopia' is a society where those identified with the AS genetic variation are selected for the elite education stream. Jobs like the President and the cabinet; Company boards; headmasters and police chiefs are reserved for that elite. The entire Congress is also reserved, and only the elite may vote.

I think both of you could write that novel. It could be our 'Das Kapital' or 'Mein Kamf' - except it would suggest a society that would function smoothly if it could ever be established.

There would have to be some villians, i.e. leaders of the political parties in the Advisory Congress that the normals vote for. My suggestions are:

* Ted Cruz from the 'God Told Me To Be Intolerant And Stupid Party';

* Ayatollah Khomeini from the 'God Told Me They Are All Wrong Party';

* And from the 'I Told God I Can Do Better Party', take your pick between Hitler, Stalin and Mao.

Switching to dispassionate and reflective mode:

I told EB I would look at the name of who made comments before I draft any replies. If I see the names EB or CW, I will now ensure my replies always:

(a) are either intended to be interpreted literally, or have :) appended to the end

(b) framed so that my points either expand on earlier ideas, or are preceded with an unambiguous 'in my opinion' to allow for ambiguous interpretations.

I had many 'Me too' moments reading the above:

* can develop strategies to help them cope, but that is all.

* few people suspect they have a mental health disorder. [I suggest you amend to: ... they are one of the few with ordered mental capacities]

* [highly productive as computer programmer until]... their coping mechanisms fail, leaving them largely unable to work in most environments [My path there was being punished for interpreting statements literally by my (Government) employer; then 12 year legal battle resulting in untreatable PTSD/depression]

* learn how to adapt in their late-teen/early college years [hoping that will be my 60th birthday present this August]

Switching lecture mode off.

My 'side issues' are:

* severe stuttering until mid 20s, but what remains no longer bothers me

* Class A genetics for alcoholism, but currently enjoying 10,648th consecutive day of respite

* Death imminent from emphysema, and currently not enjoying zero-th day of respite from nicotine addiction

* Two members of my family (of 10 cats) despise each other with a ferocious intensity, and both have sharp claws

* Only other family is my brother (the doctor) and his family. I have not spoken to him in 10 years, and doubt I ever will again. That cuts me from contact with all other blood relatives. I have said about him (using literal mode) 'Many may see a candidate for sainthood. The only difference I see between him and Hitler is their ambitions. One wanted 1/4 of the planet, the other 1/4 of an acre'

Could I interest either of you in a discussion about the willful self-delusion and stupidity of beliefs in Gods? :)

It would seem more productive than exchanges about the wisdom :) of Churchill and Bush & Co. :)

Have a nice day, and please be kinder to each other :)

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Ross at Play


There will have to be some villians


Take my test for leaders of these political parties

I Told God I Can Do Better Party .......(full point for any of Hitler, Stalin and Mao)

God Told Me They Are All Wrong Party .......(full point for almost anybody)

God Told Me To Be Intolerant And Stupid Party

Me Me Me Me Me Party

I'll Try But Won't Rock The Boat Party .......(half point for Barack or Bill)

To Dream The Impossible Dream Party

I Dream The Unending Dream Party

I Walk The Improbable Walk Party

I'd Like To Try But I'm Colored Party

I Let Dick And Donald Go To War Party

I'll Try But I'll Fuck Her Too Party

Please Tell Me What My Lips Are Saying Party

Peanuts Not Nuts Party

I'm Possibly Not A Crook Party

If Only For His Damn War Party

But I'll Fuck Her First Party .......(half point for Bill)

Ein Es Looking Presidential Party

FOR BRITS ONLY:

My Poodle Hates Me Party

Their Fault If They Don't Own Shops Party

FOR AUSSIES ONLY:

I'm Here Now What Party

Beige People Think I'm Very Beige Party

FOR RUSSIANS ONLY

I'm Putting It All Over The Suckers Party

I'm Just Keeping The Seat Warm Party ......(two points for this one)

I'm Dancing While Crooks Take Over Party .......(half point for Vladimir)

What Have I Done Party

FOR CHINESE ONLY

You Just Can't Say It Party ......(highest Scrabble score wins)

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Could I interest either of you in a discussion about the willful self-delusion and stupidity of beliefs in Gods? :)

Have a nice day, and please be kinder to each other :)

Is there a problem with forum replies under the new system? I posted this, hit review to check what I wrote, and the entire post vanished.

Repeating myself again ...

Sorry, but I didn't mean to browbeat, but this is one of (my many) bugbears, since these conditions are not well-understood by society in general and it's also important in an environment like this (where many are likely to suffer from these conditions) that people understand what they're facing.

While I've discussed this in the past, I don't recall Ernest discussing his Asperger's tendency, so I wanted to ensure he understood the distinctions and how the workarounds vary over time. Basically, my response was a pure 'info dump' delivered without context or appropriate phrasing.

Sorry for coming across overly strong (something I NEVER do)! ;P

Ross at Play
Updated:

I had NO INTENTION to suggest anything wrong.

The tone did not seem to match the agreements in content. That's all, and I wanted to spell out what my strategy in the future would be.

I had a LOT of strongly held opinions I was just bursting to get out too.

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