Leaving the Body

Intelligent Editing: The Blog

This has nothing to do with astral projection or any other form of out-of-body experience…but, inspired by a recent article in Discover magazine, here are five ways for writers to “leave the body.”

  1. Kick with your feet.
  2. Listen with your ears.
  3. Look with your eyes.
  4. Smell with your nose.
  5. Think with your mind.

All five of these verbs describe actions performed with, or processes involving, a certain part (or parts) of the body. The crossed-out part goes without saying. So don’t say it! This is what I mean by leaving the body: if the body part that’s doing the action is self-evident or can be guessed at with a bit of common sense, leave it out of your writing.

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The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North

Jonas David

I just finished reading this, and though it was very clever, and a fresh idea and extremely well written with beautiful prose, identifiable characters and vivid emotions and exciting action, it was also incredibly irritating.

It is another iteration of the timeless story of the villain trying to accomplish something, and the hero trying to stop it. This may sound trivial to you–of course it should be that way, it is the villain’s job to do, and the hero’s job to impede–it is so ingrained in fiction that it’s hard to imagine any other formula. But I’m sick of it. I’m sick of rooting against the character trying to accomplish something, and cheering for the character trying to keep the status quo. It was even more irritating in the case of this book because the story was so good, so engaging, so interesting and exciting up till the turning point when…

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Monday: Find the Typo

Find the Typo

If you were born in March, you might spot this one pretty easily.

The correct spelling is Buenos Aires, as in “air.” The spelling on the window refers to astrological sign Aries. So Buenos Aries would be a good name for some sort of astrologers’ retreat. Is that a thing?

Is each letter its own sticker, or each word? Is this misspelled at every franchise? Go to your local Friday’s and post your findings below!

Have a Typo photo you’d like to share? Please send them to Blog@CiceroGrade.com!

Wednesday: Editing Tricks

Editing Tricks

One thing that doesn’t get enough attention as an editing tool is the Style Sheet. (Yeah, I’m capitalizing it. What? It’s important.)

I’ve made many style sheets throughout the years, but I only just started making them for my own writing. It helps you (or your editor) keep all your proper nouns, stylistic quirks, and story details organized and, therefore, consistent. I organize all mine this way:

Author: If I didn’t write the piece in question, I need to know who did! This is where I list the author’s alias and name, their contact information, and what package they ordered, along with any notes they might have given me. I list each item as a bullet point for clarity.

Title: Only the title goes here, because the title has to reverberate throughout the piece, yes? The title has to make sense for the entire work you’re editing.

Type: This is where I list whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, a short story, novella, excerpt, novel, essay, article, research paper, or whatever. I also put the word count that the piece had when I received it, so after I finish editing it, I can compare the before count with the after count.

Characters: List every single character here, even if the character is mentioned one time on page thirty-six in passing. I organize them by role, then bullet-point their stats: age, appearance, skills, job, hobbies, nicknames, friends, enemies, goal, or anything that is relevant to the piece. If they own a car, I probably don’t have to mention it. If it’s a murder mystery involving a hit-and-run, it goes on there, with every reference to it marked (pages 1, 7-8, 24, and 51).

Locations: Like above, I list every location the piece mentions. The city, state, county, nation, continent—whatever the writer gives us. Mountain ranges, water bodies, roads, villages, nightclubs, ski resorts, ancient ruins, hotels—anything. Each location is bulleted under a parent regional location with the page numbers of the first mention preceding any other notes about it. Read that five times fast.

Numbers and Letters: Here is where I keep all the different forms of numbers and acronym- or letter-mentions. For example, I’d include the first mention of each: distance (length and height), money, chemicals, age and years, and then miscellaneous. Now, if the character goes to the gas station in chapter one and buys a candy bar for $1.04, then in chapter seven is paid $20 for baby-sitting a French poodle, I’d have to include only the first candy-bar instance and make sure that any time I run into a cash transaction, the format matches the one on my style sheet. Make sense?

Formatted Font: This is where I include all the italicized, boldfaced, or underlined things that are consistently italicized, boldfaced, or underlined. I would not, for example, bother to mention when something in dialogue is italicized for stress; that doesn’t have to be checked and re-checked throughout the piece. However, I would include the first instances of direct and indirect thought, onomatopoeia, non-English words, special characters (like the pi symbol), and media titles.

Punctuation: List the used punctuation; ask if the writer uses the serial comma, then include the earliest instance of your answer. What do they hyphenate, when do they use em- or en-dashes, do they use the apostrophe-S on a name like Boris, do they use single or double quotation marks for quoted items within and without dialogue? The list goes on. Whatever you encounter, keep it here as a reference or as a note to check the correct usage.

Word List: Oh, yay! The biggest, most grueling part of the Style Sheet and your piece—the list of all the words you had to check! This list will include words you didn’t know were supposed to be one word instead of two, or words from above (onomatopoeia, non-English words, etc.), or words you’ve just never heard before, or words you had to check the spelling for, or words the writer misuses and the words they meant to use and the words you suggested instead, or the name of a location, a culture, a class, a vehicle, a button, an operating system, a robot, a species, a spell, a breed, or a slang term, or a slur. The first novel I ever edited (about 80,000 words) had 188 words in the list, including the names of gadgetry and non-English words.

References: Finally, list the dictionary and encyclopedia you used to edit this work, and any other fact-checking resource you had to find (but make sure to mark what part of the work made you look at this).

I’ll use Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to show you guys how to format your style sheets on the next Editing Tricks Wednesday! Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

Tuesday: Published Writers’ Rules

Published Writers' Rules“To escape criticism—do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”

Elbert Hubbard

Let’s be honest. Why haven’t you showed anyone your work? It’s scary at first. Of course it is! And you will regret it in six months when the draft you showed is  your “old style.” That’s the thing, thoughif you never show anyone, you’ll never have any way to judge your improvement. (Okay, you could look into your folders of yore, but how often do you actually do that?)

Polish a story. Send it somewhere. Get rejected, edit, then send it elsewhere. Find someone to tell you exactly what is good and bad about your work. The team at Shadows Express never sends a form rejection. That’s why it’s a great place to submit to. What can it hurt?

Countdown to Submission Period: 3 days

Who are your favorite writers, and what is their advice? Post below!

The Spring Issue

The Spring Issue

It’s only a matter of days, folks! The Spring Issue of Shadows Express is on its way. Become a subscriber before publication day (March 21st) to get it in your inbox every quarter!

This is not a submit-n-publish place. Shadows accepts only the best, and when you read pieces like “God’s Telephone” and “Blavatsky’s Bus,” you’ll know: This is where you want your work.

We accept fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. Submissions open March 22nd. Don’t you want to add a magazine with merit to your resume`?

Tuesday: Preposition Rules to Break

Rules to Break

“This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.”

 Winston Churchill

You’ve heard of this rule, right? Don’t end a sentence with a preposition! Well depending on your style, you might want to think of it as only a guideline. Naysayers can quote this book or that, but don’t hold fast to something that might make a particularly fine sentence look confused. Sometimes, for the good of the work, there’s just no way around ending a sentence with a preposition.

There’s a particularly in-depth article by Geoffrey K. Pullum about the quotation above concerning the rule of prepositions paired with an object and those without. Also, there are claims that the “bloody nonsense” comment was misappropriated, but what evidence is there to back that up with?

Prepositions are great. Professors or Grammarphiles might hiss at you, but just smile and say, “What are you lookin’ at?”

Disclaimer: Don’t ever pair “at” with “where,” because it’s redundant. “Where are you?” says it all. “Where are you at?” says more than you would like to think.

And here’s the proper way to write this: EVERY TIME I see somebody spell a word wrong, I look down at the keyboard TO see how close the letter is to the letter THAT’S SUPPOSED to be there [NO COMMA] to see if IT’S socially acceptable to misspell said word.

Just English

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