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So You Finished Writing, Now What?


by dragonlover8560

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Finally! It's done! You proudly drop your pen on the desk, lean back in your chair, and let out a long sigh as you stare down at the sheets of paper painstakingly covered with handwriting. After many long hours of work, your written work is finished! With a smile, you pick it up and begin to re-read it. However, while you are re-reading your own work or sharing it with a friend, you suddenly realize that there seems to be something missing. Maybe there are a bunch of spelling or punctuation errors that you did not notice before, or some of the sentences seem confusing and are difficult to understand. Or perhaps your writing is missing the sparkle that separates a "decent" written work from a "really great" one. If you want to be able to share your short story, character profile, or article with other people and have pride in the finished product you have invested so much time into, something needs to happen, and that something is editing.

It doesn't matter what format you prefer to write in, editing is vitally important in all different kinds of writing. This is equally true if you are writing a short story or article for publication in the Neopian Times, creating a character development profile for customization/roleplaying, or developing a petpage guide. If you plan on sharing your writing with other people, you want them to come away with a positive impression about what you wrote. Therefore, you must invest time and effort into editing your work to ensure that your writing is of the highest possible quality.

In this article, I will discuss three areas which you should focus on while re-reading your work, to improve the quality of your short story, character profile, or article. Although there are certainly more than three areas that you can change when editing, this should give you some introductory ideas to help develop your own self-editing skills.

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Proofreading and Revising:

It's easy to make the mistake of thinking that proofreading and revising are simply synonyms for the word "editing", since you usually use these skills together while editing a draft of your story, character profile, or essay. However, there are major differences between these two terms. Proofreading is the basic process of checking for errors in your writing. When proofreading, you are searching for simple mistakes, such as:

  • spelling typos
  • correct use of homonyms (words like board and bored which may not be picked up by spell checkers)
  • mismatched grammatical tenses
  • correct use of punctuation marks

Here's an example of how proofreading can change a sentence:

Original sentence: Yesterday the quick brown doggelfox jumps over a log.

Proofread sentence: Yesterday, the quick brown Doglefox jumped over a log.

One helpful tip to use when focusing on proofreading is to start by reading the last sentence of your story/article and working your way backward. This is especially helpful for people who become caught up in the events of their story and forget that they are supposed to be searching for errors and typos. Starting at the end will help you focus on each sentence individually, making it easier to find little errors that would not have been found during a less rigorous search.

Revising is the complex process of changing the way that you are saying your message. When revising, you carefully read each sentence and paragraph, trying to decide if the message will be understood by your reader in the way that you intend. As you read, you are constantly asking yourself questions, such as:

  • Is this sentence too simple or too complex? Can I break it into two separate sentences, or should I combine two sentences into one?
  • Does this word convey the meaning that I want it to? Should I switch it with a different word?
  • Does this sentence make sense to my reader? I understand what I want to say, but will somebody else understand it too?
  • Have I added enough detail? Do I need to further emphasize the important parts of my characters or my plotline?

Here's an example of how revising can improve the way that a sentence delivers a message:

Original paragraph:

Doglefoxes are sly little petpets. They are brown with a white stripe on their head. They have short, furry coats. Doglefoxes will be your friend if you give them a piece of cheese. Pets like to have Doglefox petpets because they are very friendly.

Revised paragraph:

Doglefoxes are clever little petpets. They have short, furry brown coats, and have a white stripe on their head. If you give a Doglefox a piece of cheese, it will become your friend. The main reason why pets like to have Doglefox petpets is because they are very friendly.

Now, obviously, it is impossible to see how well events flow together when you read sentences in backwards order, so the earlier proofreading tip won't be helpful when focusing on the revision aspect of editing. Instead, print out a paper copy of your work and read it out loud to yourself. As you read, listen for sentences or phrases which sound awkward or confusing. Having a paper copy in your hands allows you to quickly mark which areas need improvement and jot down notes or suggestions in the margins.

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How Verb Choice Affects Style

The most common way that writers embellish their writing is by using adjectives and adverbs to add detailed descriptions of the setting, characters, and events occurring. However, it's important to remember that action words are also a great way for you to enhance your unique writing approach. Although two different verbs might have similar meanings, subtle differences between them will affect the overall intention of your sentence.

Here are two passages showing how small changes in verb choice can change the way that a character or scene is depicted:

Passage #1:

Jack paused, staring around the tavern as the door swung shut behind him. As soon as his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he spied the informant he was searching for, seated in a darkened booth at the far corner of the tavern's common room. He swaggered over to the drably-dressed Kyrii, and dropped down into the seat across from her. As the Kyrii watched warily, Jack quickly grabbed a menu and pretended to read. After the tavern's waitress bustled off with his order, Jack bent towards the other Neopet and said, "So, I heard that you have the information that I'm looking for."

"What makes you say that?" the Kyrii replied, drumming her fingers on the tabletop. "Knowing the wrong information can get you into whole heaps of trouble on Krawk Island."

"Look, I just want to get down to business," Jack declared, and the Kyrii frowned. He continued, "For your information, I talked to Larsen the Wizard, and he told me where to find you," he announced.

"Well, if you came here looking for me, you must want to know the location of the Black Pawkeet."

The main character in this passage is pretty self-confident. Even though he is meeting a stranger in a Krawk Island tavern, he's not worried about the other patrons of the tavern overhearing his conversation or noticing him while he is moving towards the Kyrii informant.

Passage #2:

Jack paused, glancing around the tavern as the door swung shut behind him. As soon as his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he glimpsed the informant he was searching for, seated in a darkened booth at the far corner of the tavern's common room. He drifted over to the drably-dressed Kyrii, and slipped down into the seat across from her. As the Kyrii watched warily, Jack quickly picked up a menu and pretended to read. After the tavern's waitress bustled off with his order, Jack leaned towards the other Neopet and murmured, "So, I heard that you have the information that I'm looking for."

"What makes you say that?" the Kyrii replied, drumming her fingers on the tabletop. "Knowing the wrong information can get you into whole heaps of trouble on Krawk Island."

"Look, I just want to get down to business," Jack whispered, and the Kyrii frowned. He continued, "For your information, I talked to Larsen the Wizard, and he told me where to find you," he added.

"Well, if you came here looking for me, you must want to know the location of the Black Pawkeet."

In contrast, the main character in this passage seems pretty nervous about secrecy. He's careful not to draw any attention to himself when making contact with the Kyrii informant, and when speaking with her, he talks quietly so that no one can hear their conversation.

When reading through your own story/article, check and make sure that the action words that occur in your writing suggest the right connotation. If you are trying to portray a fictional character, think about how the words you use to describe their behavior reflect their personality. If you are writing an article, confirm that the verbs you use support the stance or opinion that you are trying to portray.

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The Importance of Terminology Words:

One last issue which you will encounter during the writing process, especially if you are having a friend proofread your work, is the issue of vocabulary. For example, if you were writing a character development or short story about a Lupe doctor, you probably will want to have your character use medical terms when talking to other characters; unfortunately, other people who are reading your story might not know the meaning of these words. When a question about vocabulary occurs during your editing process, you are faced with a dilemma; should you keep these uncommon terms in your story/article to preserve its authenticity, or should you sacrifice them so that more people can understand your story?

Here are two examples of how using (or not using) sophisticated vocabulary affects the style and tone of a story or article:

A passage using advanced vocabulary:

The lost tomb of the fire faerie Elizara was discovered on Dec 14th, Year 3 by the Daring Knight, a three-mast frigate. The Daring Knight was tacking along the Mystery Island coastline, unable to enter open water because a fierce gale had damaged the mizzenmast. "Red" Donner, the boatswain, was supervising the hands on the ship's starboard bow and was the first to see the stone statues guarding the isolated rocky cove. Captain "Stone Dog" Greene immediately made the decision to send the hands to investigate the tomb in the frigate's two boats, as the Daring Knight's keel was too deep to permit it entry into the shallow cove.

For someone who understands sailing terminology, this 109-word passage is not a challenging passage to read, because he or she already knows the meaning of every word. However, even if you do not know the meaning of every exact vocabulary word, it is sometime possible to guess what these words mean through context in the surrounding sentence. In this way, someone who does not know any nautical terms can guess that a frigate is a type of sailing ship, the mizzenmast is a part of the ship, and a boatswain is a kind of person on a sailing ship. I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of sailing vocabulary does not come from personal experience (since I successfully avoided being press-ganged onto the Black Pawkeet many years ago) but through reading many accounts of Krawk Island pirate vessels, I gradually learned the meaning of these terms.

A passage avoiding advanced vocabulary:

The lost tomb of the fire faerie Elizara was discovered on Dec 14th, Year 3 by the Daring Knight, a maneuverable sailing warship with three masts. The Daring Knight was moving in a zigzag pattern, by adjusting its sails with the wind, along the Mystery Island coastline, and was unable to enter open water because a fierce gale had damaged the mast that was closest to the back of the ship. "Red" Donner, the officer in charge of the crewman on deck, was supervising the low-ranking crewmen on the front right part of the ship, and was the first to see the stone statues guarding the isolated rocky cove. Captain "Stone Dog" Greene immediately made the decision to send the low-ranking crewmen to investigate the tomb in the maneuverable warship's two boats, as the support beam on the bottom of the Daring Knight was too deep to permit it entry into the shallow cove.

Although each and every word in this paragraph is understandable without knowledge of sailing terminology, replacing nautical terms with other words makes this passage overly long-winded and clumsy. Because multiple words were needed to replace a single, concise vocabulary term, the length of this passage increased from 109 words to 154 words, a 41% increase in length. The removal of vocabulary words from this passage had one other major side effect: it changed the tone of the passage. The paragraph that used sailing terminology had a very nautical tone: the author seemed to have significant experience with sailing ships, and could use these terms to concisely convey to the reader what had happened. On the other hand, the paragraph which avoided sailing terminology loses the authentic tone of the earlier passage. The author does not seem to know much about sailing; it sounds as he or she is trying to repeat a message that they do not fully understand.

When writing a story or article using more advanced vocabulary terms, your goal is to achieve a balance between terminology and understandability. You want your writing to be understandable to as many people as possible, without sacrificing the authentic tone of your style. As you check the vocabulary in your story or article, here are some of the questions which you may ask yourself:

  • How many of my readers will understand what this vocabulary word means?
  • Will the tone of this sentence/passage be lost if I replace this term with a more common one?
  • Is there any way that I can somehow show the definition of this word so that readers can understand what it means?

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After you have finished writing, concentrating on these three areas during your editing process will improve your article, short story, or character profile. When focusing on proofreading and editing, search for potential errors and change your sentence structure to make your message more understandable and interesting. Choose verbs which will help emphasize the impressions that you are trying to portray. Lastly, consider the difficulty of vocabulary that you want to use and how it will be understood by your audience.

Overall, the most important part of the editing and revision process is to re-read your written work from the viewpoint of your intended audience. By viewing your short story, character development, or article from a different perspective, you can figure out how to change and modify your writing for best effect. I wish you all the best of success in your writing careers!

 
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