Drastic change in writer habits during final editing

PRIDE'S CHILDREN, Chapter 1, Scene 1 final editing changes.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 1, Scene 1 final editing changes.

DIY PROBLEMS OF THE FINAL EDIT BEFORE PUBLICATION: DAS INTERNET

I need my brain ON to edit.

That’s basically it.

I can’t edit with my regular brain (CFS brain fog galore) – too many tiny critical decisions to make. And every one of those edits/changes/corrections has to be RIGHT, because that’s what I mean by ‘FINAL EDIT.’

I’m not doing this again, unless one of my hardy beta readers or proofreaders points out that I’ve made another dum-dum. FACTUAL errors WILL be corrected. Stylistic ones NOT. This is it, folks, get your digs in now or forever hold your PIECE.

In Chapter 1, Scene 1, I made over 50 edits. None of them major (no plot or character changes), I am happy to say, but all of them necessary. That is a lot of decisions for someone decision-challenged at the best of times.

I’m writing this post as I go about the complete change in working patterns, and how it affects the writer, ME. In case it helps someone else, or merely for the entertainment value.

So, just block the internet and proceed in a nice quiet environment?

The hardest part right now is that I have to leave the internet unblocked: I’m fact checking, getting quotes right, and using my editing software (over and over and over after changes). My editing software is online. Sigh.

I need to be able to get to my blog and Wattpad to collect comments.

All those critical words left as I posted scenes I am now mining for gold: if something bothered ONE reader enough to mention it in the comments, you can be sure it bothered others – who didn’t take the time to notice, analyze, and write to me about it. Thanks, commenters! You rock.

I’m happy to say it’s been POSSIBLE. Have you noticed a dearth of posts by regulars lately? Summer? I don’t remember from previous years, but it seems I have to surf harder to find anything acceptable to read, and then I dump it more easily because there ISN’T any, and get to work in spite of the distractions. So ‘surfing the internet’ isn’t the distraction it could be.

Reading and storing critiques (and I must admit, some of the lovely positive comments) is taking a fair amount of time. I might have done it as I posted, but then Pride’s Children would probably never have happened – you’re not supposed to put too much time into fixing minutiae as you write, or you get bogged down in far worse questions about native intelligence, ability, and the suitability of the WIP.

[I’m looking into Anti-Social, a little brother of Freedom which blocks only social sites – and any others you add to its list. Possibly I could add everything else I regularly surf – and see if that was good enough.]

Best ways to use editing software

I use AutoCrit, because, although it is online (I think they’re tinkering with it and making it better, though I’d rather have a standalone on my computer), it has the most and the easiest-to-use features for fiction I’ve found in all the software I tried.

Its best feature is a VERY light hand on suggestions – and those based more on a database of similar fiction. Some of the editing software out there thinks it’s an English teacher. And the grammar editors, such as the one included with Word, are painful. Especially for writers of fiction, but just painful.

Problem areas in my writing

My repeated sins are those of a tired or lazy brain: I find myself using the same words, often with different meanings, because a particular word, once used, leaves some kind of mental trace that gives it preference the next time I need a word. A halo, if you please.

Just in the image that starts this post, you see an example: the original has ‘quiet little book signing’ and ‘he lay so quiet.’ On the first page. Within paragraphs of each other. Eeek!

And in something that’s been up for years – nobody ever mentioned this! C’mon people, I ASKED for critique! I meant it!

But the almost-final version of that scene was written either before I purchased AutoCrit, or somewhere within my first months of having it, and didn’t go through the extensive vetting I do now (and am re-doing for every scene before I let them out to paying customers).

I guess you might say it’s a testament to my writing skills and beautiful storytelling that I got away with this – in a story that’s been read here and on Wattpad AT LEAST a hundred times all the way through.

BTW, that’s no excuse.

Other problems in my writing

I think I’ll keep the rest of them quiet for now; there are many, many are fixable, and I would rather seem like a polished writer than completely let you all down!

RELEVANCE to the final DIY product

The remainder of this post is about USING the editing software – but once I get into a working loop, I can usually forget most of the distractions of the net at least for a while, so it’s been worth it.

DO NOTE that you lose all your italics when you paste things into AC, which sometimes makes for oddities.

But it has also been a complete disruption of ‘the way I write.’

And useful to find out that, if I have to, I can.

I don’t like it; the freedom feels uncomfortably like lack of boundaries between the writing world and the real one.

And note that I don’t apply AC to writing until I’M finished with writing AND editing on my own. I don’t use AC to write; only for final revision – and then VERY thoroughly.

And afterward I let the computer read it to me – and I listen.

 So which AutoCrit features are my most useful ones?

All of them. I use every single one of the tabs at least part of the time. Oh, except for Pacing. I don’t get why that one picks certain paragraphs to flag.

I’m often quite surprised at what it turns up in a ‘finished’ scene.

AC’s little grammar lessons on each topic are a quick review of good practices. (Click on How do I use… link).

Other than that, here’s the list of features for subscribers, underlined (the free version lets you check 500 words max, and only gives you access to a couple of the features):

Pacing and Momentum:

The feature I use here is Sentence Variation. It shows you a bar graph of EVERY sentence in your text in order, and summarizes how many of each you have. I use it especially to check my LONG sentences – click on the bar, and they are highlighted in the text – to make sure they parse correctly into chunks and don’t FEEL long.

Dialogue:

Dialogue Tags – I use as few as possible, so it’s nice to have them flag the ‘saids,’ which I use mainly to keep groups scenes moving well. In group scenes, more creative dialogue tags may interfere with just keeping the reader clear as to who’s speaking, so ‘said’ is my go to. Otherwise, such as in the example above where I replaced

“You seemed startled,” said Elise Carter, her face a study in tact, “and then you went further into that head of yours.”

with

“You seemed alarmed.” Elise’s face was a study in tact. “Then you went further into that head of yours.”

To me, the second is more like Kary’s perception than the first, which sounds like a narrator, so I like the second one better. Plus why would she think of Elise’s last name? So I arranged for you to find out Elise’s last name a bit later in the scene in a more natural way, and one more edit DONE.

Adverbs in Dialogue – I rarely use ‘said quietly’ instead of ‘whispered’ unless there is a real distinction there, but often those adverb/weak verb combinations CAN be replaced with a single stronger verb, and it’s a good idea to check what on Earth your brain was thinking when you wrote the thing.

Strong writing:

I check Adverbs, Cliches, Redundancies, and Unnecessary filler words. Each is a quick judgement call. For some characters, the cliches are on purpose.

I mostly ignore Passive Voice and Showing vs. Telling, as I don’t do those things accidentally.

Word choice:

Initial Pronouns and Names and Sentence Starters are useful if you have a habit of clunky sentences, all starting with a name, pronoun, conjunction (And, But…), or ‘ing’ construction.

Generic descriptions flags things like ‘very’ and ‘great.’ I use those mostly in sarcastic comments in direct internal monologue, ie the character talking to herself, or in dialogue to show a character’s speech patterns. But it IS useful to do a quick check to see if you really need ‘really’ in that sentence.

I don’t like the way Homonyms is executed. I get the impression they don’t want to show their actual list, or it is too long to show conveniently, but it shows ALL possible homonyms at the same time, with no way to just check the versions of ‘your’ – so I find it quite useless. There is no way I’m going to write ‘ewe’ when I mean ‘you,’ so having it flagged doesn’t help me at all.

Those I have problems with I do on my own with the Find function in Scrivener, and I’ve tried adding them to the Personal Words selection, but there is a problem there I’ve asked them to look into when a word has an apostrophe. So I know darn well there are ‘yours’ in there, and I can’t find them in AC. Otherwise, Personal Words can be useful – if you think you have a bad habit of overusing certain uncommon words (I have ‘autopilot’ in there), you can add it to your personal list, and AC will flag them for you. I seem to have broken this feature, so I’ve sent in a question about what to do, and haven’t gotten a response yet. The words I put in before I got cute and tried to add some of the homonyms I have trouble with (so I can see just them) still work.

Repetition:

Repeated Words, Repeated Uncommon Words, and Repeated phrases help you notice when you’ve used the same thing within a paragraph or two. Word frequency and Phrase frequency examine the whole text you inserted into the Editor, to give you a total count. Both are quite handy.

I use this one a lot, and examine what it highlights very carefully before I decide whether to leave a repeat or use a synonym – and then I have to rerun the analysis with the new text, because I have the habit of repeating a different word when I change a duplicate.

Sometimes editing repetition feels like chasing my tail, but IF I use it, I want it to be by choice, not accident – for a specific purpose, rather than because my brain is lazy or fogged. Another set of judgment calls, supported by a program which shows me what I actually did, rather than what I think I did.

Compare to fiction:

This last tab has two selections – Overused Words and Combination Report. The latter does Overused Words, Repeated Words and Phrases, and Personal Words in a clickable format so you can check all these things quickly in one place if you wish to.

But the main point is to compare YOUR work to a database consisting of: fiction (default), YA fiction, SFF, or Romance, and to show you how your choice of words stacks up to a wide variety of works in these categories. This is new – there used to be just fiction and non-fiction (I think – it seems to have disappeared, and I may be remembering incorrectly as I never used AC for non-fiction like blog posts).

All comments welcome – editing is a perennial.

Advertisements

13 thoughts on “Drastic change in writer habits during final editing

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      One more step on the road to self-determination: the AUTHOR decides when it is ready – most artists keep seeing a bit that could be improved FOREVER.

      Museum guards are sometimes necessary to stop an artist from doing a touchup!

      But, but, but…

      If you do this too long, the new work never gets your time and attention. Judgement call – and who better to make it than the creator?

      Like

      Reply
      1. Alice Audrey

        I suspect an innocent bystander would make a better judge than me. As to the new work, I always have something going. I have about a hundred book ideas I hope to get to “someday”. I make a policy of pumping out at least one a year. I know. Too slow. But I also have about 30 manuscripts waiting for me to clean them up enough to public consumption.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
  1. J.M. Ney-Grimm

    Thanks for the summary of how AutoCrit works. I’d been curious. My mind is feeling boggled by it currently. I pay attention to most of the parameters checked by AutoCrit when I’m writing (and revising), but I do so in a gestalt way, so the prospect of looking at them separately makes me feel dizzy! 😀

    Probably because I learn better by doing and reading about how to do something. Just reading about a process without also trying it is harder for me.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      It’s a trip – I find it amazing what I’ve done unconsciously. But AC only counts, and compares numbers to other fiction. If I ask, it give me instructions that are extremely gentle on how to use the results of that particular count.

      Very nice – I’m pretty much past the instructions, but I am editing slightly earlier work, and my process obviously had some holes.

      It is MUCH cheaper than getting a human – and less likely to miss the boring things that still need fixing.

      After all this, of course, the humans will have at it – and will probably find other stuff.

      I still don’t have the ability not to get pulled into the story. I wonder how editors and proofreaders do it for hours on end.

      Like

      Reply
    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I agree. My time is far better spent learning how to make my work say what I want than in arguing with someone else.

      Not sure I’d recommend the whole package to beginners, but it works for me.

      An editor may faster, for a given book, but not for a career.

      Glad to see SOMEONE agrees.

      Like

      Reply
      1. Lily White LeFevre

        Likewise! LOL. I believe you have read my long post about the editing class. Getting training in SOME way in how to edit and self-edit is necessary, yes. A writer cannot learn only by doing how to do correctly. But to suggest that therefore they cannot learn? Fallacious and, worse, lazy.

        I am quite fascinated by your process, btw, you have mechanized much of what i rely on my own brainpower to accomplish. I am curious if i would find your approach beneficial/increasing in efficiency or if i would expend as much time/energy in a different way. Since i don’t have to hoard my mental resources as tightly as you i am honestly not sure if the repeated crosschecking would net me anything. Hm. Things to consider next time i get to an end 🙂

        Like

        Reply
        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Although you won’t know until you try mechanized editing help, you healthy young whippersnappers can probably hold most of this in your head.

          But I have found a way to do it, and I only need one way. I can do this pretty fast now, and it is almost fun to see how my mind works. Almost.

          The mechanization comes from a career programming computers – because I knew, for sure, that if I had to do something with one set of data, I would have to do it again a million times as my boss liked the results, but wanted them tweaked. Much easier to write a computer program to do what we needed, make it a bit more elaborate than strictly necessary (ie, include comments, and always print out your inputs and label your output). I can’t tell you how often this worked – after I learned not to do calculations on the back of an envelope.

          Plus my results looked better in reports – and it was easier to find bugs.

          So my brain leans that way already by training. Most writers don’t come from the kind of background I do, so this may seem quite foreign and hard.

          What can I say? Even among writers, I’m in the odd section.

          If you don’t need this now, remember it when you’re old and gray and your usual methods don’t work.

          Like

  2. susieq777

    In what ways do you find brainfogginess complicates the editing process? Sometimes I wonder if it’s brain fog that is the cause for feeling like every idea I have while editing is the same weight as every other one, it’s like intuition goes out the window and I can’t measure the validity of my thoughts and trust what needs discarding, in those situational ’tis best to not edit.

    There’s so many different types of blocking software, isnt there? I use Focus Me. I has a few different settings, and you can specify what you want blocked and what you want to keep. I wish I could install it into m brain 🙂

    Thanks for your encouragement to keep writing the other day. It was really appreciated.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Lost my own comment! Scatterbrained me forgot to post before leaving the page.

      My pleasure – there is enough discouragement in the world to last to the end of time. We don’t need any more, thank you.

      I went off to check Focus Me – it’s only Windows, so I can’t use it. But thanks for the recommendation. I think I can probably adjust Anti-social by adding all my favorite time-wasting sites to its list of social sites. It is still iffy – i can ALWAYS find a way to waste time, especially when I’m having trouble focusing. To be fair to myself, trying to work when I can’t focus is mostly a wasted effort: the rocks roll back down hill after I push them up.

      The brain fog makes it very difficult to make decisions, and editing is mostly decisions.

      Best of luck – keep writing. It’s better than the alternative.

      Like

      Reply
    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I found the writing hard – getting everything down the way it made sense. I’m actually not finding the editing hard, per se. More exacting and painstaking and even tedious, because I’m trying to get every little thing. And the later chapters should need practically nothing.

      But I haven’t had the slightest bit of angst about it, and the writing always makes me dig deeper into angst.

      This is just work. I know how to do it. I like the results, which don’t change anything, but produce a slightly cleaner interface. And there’s nothing I don’t already know how to do, once I notice it needs doing.

      The graphics were harder – I had a long path to getting finished.

      The formatting required precise learning – and I had my specific goal of making it a 1-click change when I fix typos, etc.

      But the editing I’m NOT finding painful. Maybe because this is really a copy/line edit: I’m making sure the dates are sequential, and yes, I did change the timeline slightly – but I didn’t have to re-do anything, only make sure the tighter timeline was referred to properly.

      I think it’s also because my plot was extremely detailed, what with using Dramatica the way I did, so there are no surprises in the What, and the surprises in the How all came about during the writing.

      I’m just plugging along.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

Comments welcome and valued. Thanks!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s