The Joy of Editing

Discussion in 'The Library' started by Vyrin, Nov 11, 2014.

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  1. Vyrin

    Vyrin Avatar

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    Simply put, I want to encourage the process of mutual editing and feedback in the SotA Library.

    One of the things I've seen here is that many of us enjoy writing for SotA, but very few seem willing to offer constructive feedback to others.

    Why is that? We know that editing has to be a part of all serious writing. We know that editing can make us better writers. We know that it improves the content that could eventually be offered to SotA. So why is it that we don't see more? I think there are several reasons.

    Issue #1) We are afraid of insulting the author. Many are not used to receiving constructive feedback and can be sensitive. So instead of trying to offer editing advice in a way that will be received well, we don't do it at all.

    Issue #2) Editing is a selfless act. In this type of a volunteer situation, editing brings us no personal benefit or glory. You have to do it because you enjoy the process of seeing others improve their work and offer better contributions for SotA.

    Issue #3) Many don't feel that they know the rules of grammar or the elements of creative writing well enough to offer good feedback.

    Let me start to encourage you by giving you an example of a simple editing scenario that took place on the Round Table. After this, I will offer some thoughts to try to prompt more mutual editing in the library here.

    These are the opening sentences to a short story written on our site. Before I explain what the problem is, can you identify it?

    The escape had gone surprisingly well. As the prisoner dug the last few feet and emerged from his tunnel, he reflected on his life.

    Answer:
    The use of the past perfect verb tense in the first sentence (had gone) indicates an action completed in the past. However, in the next sentence, the escape is still ongoing. Thus, the first sentence would be better written as:

    The escape had gone surprisingly well so far. (Use a qualifier.)
    -or-
    The escape was going surprisingly well. (Use imperfect tense.)

    So how do we overcome the three issues mentioned above to make sure SotA gets the best writing possible?

    Issue #1) I want to give a nod to Karrolanth here. She posted a thread on our site with links to two articles about how to offer constructive feedback. They are: http://www.critters.org/c/whathow.ht and http://www.critters.org/c/diplomacy.ht.

    If you are unsure about whether an author would appreciate feedback, all you have to do is ask! This is the least intrusive way to begin. Simply ask, "I have some feedback I'd like to offer on your story. Do you mind if I share it with you?"

    Most of us need to realize that someone taking the time to read, digest, and offer advice on our story is a compliment. If they didn't care about the story, they wouldn't have offered advice in the first place!

    Authors can also express their willingness to receive feedback in their post. If you are uncomfortable receiving advice in such a public forum, you can always use the Round Table.

    Issue #2) This is something you have to decide for yourself. Do you have the time to help others? What are your motivations? For me personally, I enjoy seeing others improve and come to realize how good their writing can be. Also, I enjoy editing because it helps SotA have a variety of contributions of outstanding quality. In other words, it makes the game better and more attractive.

    Issue #3) Even if you've never studied grammar or creative writing in depth, you still have something to offer! Hearing how other people receive our stories (not just positive comments) is always enlightening.

    Plus, we can all usually spot typos and other obvious mistakes. Pointing these out has a lot of value!

    In summary, I hope you will consider these thoughts and that we will begin to see more editing right in the library here. I am always willing to offer advice. (I put in the disclaimer that I am not a professional editor.) PM me or visit the Round Table.

    And share your own thoughts, and maybe edit this post. ;)
     
  2. Keira OFaolain

    Keira OFaolain Avatar

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    I just want to take a moment to thank Vyrin. We just finished going though and editing Keira's bio. Over all I thought it was fun. Their is nothing worse in my opinion then writing something and knowing it just isnt right but everyone you ask a opinion from tells you its grate. The first 3 days ( and this is miss leading as we only did a paragraph or two a day.) Vyrin pointed out all typos. misspelled words and punctuation. (I will admit their were a lot and to think i was told its grate when in truth it wasn't). The next day we/ HE went though it all again and changed some of the wording so that it was more in past tense and not interchanged as I had it as well as adding more depth over all. this morning we/HE went though it all one last time and we called it good. :)
     
  3. LadyGray

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    Keira, you have found a gem in Vyrin! While criticism is sometimes very hard to take, it is what helps us grow and become better at our craft. My best friend does this for me. She tells me straight out if I need to change something, if I have a gaping plot in my story, and if my heroine has licked her lips or ran her fingers through her hair one too many times. When you find someone like that, give them a huge hug even if you want to strangle them for making you edit and edit again.
     
  4. ReevePrime

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    I applaud the spirit of this thread.

    When I write I often take and/or post my first draft with only a quick reread for spelling. For me it is typically the third or fourth read through that has me pulling at threads, twisting sentences for style and of course still finding spelling or grammatical errors. I'll also be the first to admit I read slow. My comprehension and retention of material is top notch on most days, but I'd wager a book that'll take most people a day or two to read will bog me down for a week or more.

    These points being noted I'd like to make myself available part time for working with writers on story and character development as well as the final editing process. It'll help me by directing my dreadfully slow reading of the wealth of fiction here in The Library and hopefully I can help.
     
  5. LadyGray

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    @ReevePrime,

    I am with you on the length of time it takes me to read nowadays. I used to read voraciously, but between work and writing, the time I have to read is usually reduced to an hour before I go to sleep. And that usually leads to the cat pushing the book out of the way or me falling asleep. :confused:

    @ Everyone else reading this thread,

    I'm with ReevePrime. I would be more than willing to take a look at story and characters if someone else is busy. I love meeting new people and helping anyone who is trying to create something magical. I didn't offer sooner as I needed to make sure my own schedule would allow it.

    Let's get these stories flowing!!!
     
  6. Vyrin

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    ReevePrime, LadyGray - so good to know there are others open to this. Thanks for the kind words.

    I wish we could put a list somewhere of those of us willing to edit. Hmmmm. I will think about that!
     
  7. Gabriel Nightshadow

    Gabriel Nightshadow Avatar

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    Well said Vyrin :D However, I should point out that, based on my past experience as a member of both the Council of Scribes and its successor, the Scholars of Novia, I can honestly say that there are a lot of writers who do not want constructive feedback and are liable to bite your head off :eek: if you offer some :( That's why I have been rather reluctant to do so as a member of the SotA Writing Round Table :oops:
     
  8. Keira OFaolain

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    Well just so everyone knows I dont bite when i get feed back and I am always open to others thoughts.
     
  9. Vyrin

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    I've had my head bitten off so many times it only tickles now. :) Anyway, perhaps seeing others go through the process of editing will coax some to be more accepting. That would be another benefit of seeing it done more in the Library.
     
  10. Gabriel Nightshadow

    Gabriel Nightshadow Avatar

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    That's good to know, Keira :D
     
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  11. LadyGray

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    @Gabriel,

    The sad truth is that those people are everywhere and it takes some thick skin to be able to dish out the criticism and handle the backlash that comes with it. No one likes hearing their stuff needs work and while we may not want to hurt feelings, sometimes we actually have to just sit down and break it to them gently.

    I actually edit professionally on a part-time basis for people and I always preface every meeting with, "These are my suggestions to make your book/story/piece better. You are free to take them or throw them away."

    It also takes some thick skin to be on the receiving end of the criticism without just throwing their hands up and giving up.

    It is a fine line we tread, my friend. Hopefully, those who ask for the help are ready to hear what we have to say with an open mind. Ultimately, it's up to them to decide whether or not they want to take it or tell us we are cracked. :)

    Come play with us anyway, Gabriel. After all, misery loves company? :cool: Heads are gonna roll? :eek:

    Even if I help one, it's worth all having my head chewed off. Just do me a favor...keep the sutures ready for me so you can sew my head back on for later. :p
     
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  12. Gabriel Nightshadow

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    Thank you, LadyGray! I always prefaced my comments to writers with a similar statement, but I guess I wasn't quite expecting such a backlash :eek: As an amateur writer, I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of that feedback, so I tried to be as gentle as possible...:oops: Constructive feedback can really improve the quality of a writer's work. I must say that Vyrin's constructive feedback on my last story really made me think o_O In fact, that very story served as the basis for The New Britannia Theater Troupe's upcoming in-game theatrical production...:rolleyes:
     
  13. Sindariya

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    As one of the recieving end I always ask actively for feedback. I know my lack in grammar and in wording because english is a foreign language. The most times I'm angry about my own mistakes, which the editors find. Vyrin knows how much work I make^^
    When I'm asked for feedback I give it in form of questions regarding the storyline. so the author doesn't feel like under attack and mostly it helps me to understand the intention of the writer and I can then point out what is missing, missleading or too much.

    I'm really grateful when I found an editor who gives a real feedback. That's the only way I can improve.
     
  14. LadyGray

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    @Sindariya, your last statement speaks volumes: "That's the only way I can improve." :cool: Practice makes perfect, my friend.
     
  15. Sir_Hemlock

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    Because i have absolutely no clue lol
     
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  16. Tahru

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    Please put me in the category of "wants to be edited." For the life of me, I think much faster than I type and have a terrible habit of not proof reading enough to find all the errors. It is embarrassing at times, but it could be worse. :)
     
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  17. Keira OFaolain

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    I would be willing to help anyone who would like it. I have thick enough skin when folks point out my stupid mistakes. I would be willing to chance my head helping someone else. :)
     
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  18. Sir Frank

    Sir Frank Master of the Mint

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    I have dealt with several editors that make changes to my work to change my style to something they prefer, rather than letting me have my own voice.
    I can accept corrections, but changing my voice makes me angry.

    So, I'm just going to wait until I can publish my own work and let it stand on its own merit.

    I do acknowledge that editing ought to be done, but I humbly ask editors to consider treating an author's style gently.

    Thank you for your time.
     
  19. LadyGray

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    Sir Frank,

    A good editor, especially a professional one, should NEVER change the voice of the piece. And they should never do it WITHOUT your permission. Stand your ground, my friend. It pays off. If they send you your manuscript back and say, "Well I thought blah blah blah..." about the voice, tell them no and don't accept their change. The do not have the right to change your manuscript and there are other publishers that would be more than happy to have your work.

    This is the exact reason why it has taken almost 9 years for my second novel to finally get published. I didn't like what the editor was asking me to change and I dug in my heels.

    I do professional editing. The last thing I would ever do is change the voice the story is told in. It makes me mad to know that you have had to deal with this.

    LG
     
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  20. Vyrin

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    Style in the sense that you use it is a matter of taste and not a subject of editing. It's like having someone tell you, "you shouldn't like vanilla ice cream, chocolate is better!" Or perhaps to hit home a little more, "you should really play PvP, not PvE!"

    So, I would build on what you said. An author's style should be respected. Editing in my mind helps the author's own creativity to shine as brilliantly as possible.

    However, in the business of publishing, editors have to make money decisions based on an author's preferences to write. The natural outcome is that editors are going to try to tell authors they really should like chocolate better. That's just real life, not a judgment. Authors have the right to shop around for editors that will try to take up their work, but that's subject to market forces.

    Hopefully, people can see that writing here, for simple enjoyment, is different. I've edited many stories on the Round Table and I've also said many times that my comments are the author's choice to use or not. Unless, of course, it's a correction of mistakes of spelling, grammar, consistency, etc.
     
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