Monday, July 8, 2013

Precision, and why I don't give line edits

Prepare thyself for a series of nerdrific posts... it's been a while, right? Are you excited? Afraid? Plotting to find out where I live and toss my laptop off the 19th story balcony?

In the world wide web of writing advice, there are a heck of a lot of vague words/phrases floating around.

Show, don't tell



Body language

Commercial vs Literary

...just to name a few.

The thing is, most of us don't pick up/refer to the OED on a regular basis. We're used to picking up the meaning of words via context. Many words we use daily, we're actually using incorrectly, and, if put on the spot and asked for a definition, would probably stammer out something... pretty substandard.

Some people will say, "I can't define it, but I can recognize it when it's there". Does that sound familiar? Especially when talking about 'Voice'?

But getting back to actual words... let's use 'technology' as an example.

Can you accurately define it without Google/Wiki?

When put on the spot about this exact word, what I said was, "any kind of tool humans have developed to make life easier".

...and the person who put me on the spot, was actually REALLY impressed by that.

Let me ask you this, do you think technology only includes science-based tools, like engineering (hammers/machinery) or information (computers, the internet, cell phones)? What about other kinds of systems, like social or organizational systems?

Actually, it does. The thing is, most people just think of science based things as 'technology'.

We throw the word around without really understanding the scope of what it means.

Now, being dyslexic, I'm probably way more anal about the precision of the words I use, because I got laughed at (or punished) so often in the past by teachers/etc.

...and that's why I don't do line edits for my CP's.

Because I will pick apart every single word in every single line.

And I don't want to do that to people, 'cause, well, it makes me come across as an arrogant know-it-all, even though, most of the time, all I'm trying to do is get clarity.

What do you mean by "____"?

How many of my CP's just recoiled in horror reading that question?

I'm not doing it to be mean, even if it comes across that way. I'm doing it because I care about understanding exactly what it is you're trying to say.

And, if it makes you feel better, I do the same thing to my own work.

That's what I'm going to do with this next series of extremely nerdy posts... pick the hell outta every (important) word and explain why I'm using the words I'm using. To be even more 'fair' about it, I am going to use first-draft work.

Rather than throwing around a bunch of vague terms, I'm going to try to analyze a piece of writing to death, and hopefully, someone out there will find it useful.

PLEASE NOTE, I'm not saying I'm right, I'm not saying, 'do it my way', all I'm trying to do, is let you look into my head for a few minutes and watch the processes I use.

It seems to work for the kind of stories I like to tell. That's it.

If anyone has any questions, or wants to submit a short piece of writing to have me tear it into itty-bitty-bits and analyze it until your brain hurts, please feel free to do send it via email, with the understanding I will post it on my blog.

I don't expect anyone to submit, but I'm going to open up the option just in case.

I have never done that before, because, honestly, I don't feel like I'm qualified to do so. Chalk it up to feeling "not enough", or the deep-rooted anxiety of looking like an idiot.

But someone out there may want a completely un-filtered analysis.

Dyslexia sucks, but perhaps the sheer number of stumbling blocks I've managed to overcome through hard work can be of use to someone else.


  1. It's SO hard to be a CP sometimes for some of the same reasons you mentioned. I often feel like the bad guy when I'm just trying to help!

    1. I hate being the bad guy, but I love it when my CP's are the bad guy to me, since my writing always improves.

  2. I wouldn’t have thought of the term technology to include social or organizational systems. Maybe if more people critiqued writing the way you do the result would be better writers. The only problem with such a thorough examination would be the critique would be longer than the original submission

    1. Yeah, our definitions of words absorb new meaning over time, but past meanings don't necessarily dissolve, so they are carried around, even if all you know of is the 'modern' definition.

  3. I'm an aspiring editor, so I catch your drift. I don't analyze quite that deep, but there tends to be plenty of red in my crits. Feel free to have at any of the flash pieces on my blog. I'd love some detailed feedback.

    1. I suppose, if you are an aspiring editor, what is your focus?

      Mine is always 'clarity before everything else'.

      Most of the time, I think it's easier to say, 'this is wrong', rather than to say, 'this is unclear', because 'wrong' suggests a 'right' answer, and with writing, that's too rigid a line.

    2. Mine would have to be: "if it sounds funny or plebeian (there's an inside joke with that word choice) in my head, that's bad". Editing is the process to make the writing resemble the most highly respected pieces in the genre, while still maintaining originality and without becoming overbearing.

      I suppose I'll submit something specific rather than just open up my repertoire of flash fiction...It'll be in your inbox in just a few moments.

  4. Sometimes you need someone to ask those questions in order to get it right. Not sure if i'm brave enough to submit something quite yet, but maybe soon.

    1. Well, you let me tear apart a query in the past... Was it that painful?


      Yes, like I said to Patrick, it's easier to find people who tell you, "that's wrong". I think, struggling with dyslexia, I'm way more sensitive to hard lines like that. Tell me 'where' it's wrong, not that it 'is' wrong.


Type me out a line of Shakespeare or a line of nonsense. Dumb-blonde-jokes & Irish jokes will make me laugh myself silly :)