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Cynus

A quick observation about rereading your own work.

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I recently received feedback on a short story I wrote which indicated I used the word "that" a bit too often and unnecessarily. I honestly had no idea what the reader was referring to, because I hadn't noticed it while I was writing it, but it was then that I realized that I rarely read my own work. I simply write it, send it to my editors, and then go back through on the spots that they had issues with. I never go back and read my own work before submitting it.

And so, with this new realization in hand I set out to read the story we were talking about, and sure enough, I could tell almost immediately what he was talking about. I did use "that" frivolously, and I noticed several other problems as well, such as my comma usage.

I don't know why I've never thought of it before, but I'm going to start rereading my work before I submit it. If I want to strive for perfection, I need to take responsibility for my words, instead of thrusting it all upon the shoulders of my editors.

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I use the word 'then' too frequently. It's easy not to -- just leave it out and it rarely makes a difference.

If I try to read my work after I've made all the changes my editors point out to me, while putting up with the snickers as well, I find I don't catch much because I know it too well. I know what's meant to be there, and I read that instead of what's actually there.

If I had the patience to wait several months before posting, I'd find everything that's wrong, but who has that kind of patience? I certainly don't.

If this works for you, my hat is off to you. I wish it would work for me. If I go back and read a story a year after I posted it, thinking I'd finally produced an error-free one, I find mistakes. Almost always. Bother!

C

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If this works for you, my hat is off to you. I wish it would work for me. If I go back and read a story a year after I posted it, thinking I'd finally produced an error-free one, I find mistakes. Almost always. Bother!

C

It's entirely possible that the reason why it worked for me was because I knew what I was looking for. Maybe it doesn't work for me, but I'm going to try it anyway.

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If I had the patience to wait several months before posting, I'd find everything that's wrong, but who has that kind of patience? I certainly don't.

...If I go back and read a story a year after I posted it, thinking I'd finally produced an error-free one, I find mistakes. Almost always. Bother!

My experience is the same as Cole's. After a week, a month, a year, two years. etc. etc. of posting a story, if I go back I often find little (and sometimes not so little) things that need to be changed. I guess that's why professional writers have publishers that have a staff of highly paid editors that know how to find all those little and not so little things before publication. We're acting as our own follow-on "staff" of editors and it happens after posting. Double bother!!!

Colin :icon_geek:

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I'm fully in support of Cynus on this one. Rereading, even after a single night's worth of sleep, of all draft stages is my embedded habit, and I catch a lot of error. After all, what is a redraft but an attempt to fix the previous draft? Another pair of eyes is a big help, too, once the work gets beyond the rough-out stage and begins to show signs of completion. One of my own biggest problems, laughably, is changing the names of characters in mid-story without being aware. Only once have I had to ask Dude to correct that after posting, and my embarrassment over it still lingers.

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I didn't mean to suggest that I don't edit my own stuff. I certainly to. Constantly, in fact. I've probably edited a story ten times before posting it. I do it while in the writing process, frequently starting at the beginning and reading through to the place I'm at with the writing. But, I was talking about one grand final edit when the work has just been completed. By that point, I'm afraid I often find the thing a little boring because I've read it over so often, and it's very hard to focus on every word, as you must for a thorough edit. That's the edit that I say doesn't work well for me.

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I frequently find myself adding the word that to make the sentence easier to read. I don't use it a lot when I write, so have to add it later.

You're right, it usually isn't needed. But often without it a sentence is less clear. I'm a big proponent of clarity.

C

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I think you can often detect repeated words and phrases in your own work if you read it out loud at some point. This often exposes stilted dialogue, weird turns of phrases, and otherwise clunky description that could be said in a better way.

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I know someone who uses text-to-speech software to listen to stories, and the different approach helps pick up on small errors that would otherwise slip through. I'm also an over-user of "that"... and "just" and ... :tongue:

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The word 'that' is one of the most overused in the English language. It's actually worth doing a word search for 'that' and reading the surrounding text both with, and without the word. If the meaning is the same, delete it.

I am definitely going to start employing this strategy.

I know someone who uses text-to-speech software to listen to stories, and the different approach helps pick up on small errors that would otherwise slip through. I'm also an over-user of "that"... and "just" and ... :tongue:

One of my editor's uses this strategy, and he always catches things that my other editors miss.

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I ran my short story Americano through SmartEdit. (1,943 words)

Adverbs:
really-4 only-2 carefully absolutely heavily personally certainly (1 each)

Selected Repeated Words:
Owen-16 #1 the protagonist's name, Donna-15 #2 the secondary character's name, that's-10 #5, I'm-9 #7, it's-9 #8, like-8 #10, when-6 #18

Clichés:
Oh my God (the only cliché)

Dialogue Tags (Real ones, not just nearby words where there was no dialogue tag):
said (3)

Sentence Start List:
I-14 He-12 The-10 I'm-7 Owen-7 That's-6 Yes-5 Now-5 It's-5 My-5 She-5

Then I ran through my latest novel, A Time When it All Went Wrong through SmartEdit (the 18 chapters that have been posted). It has 70,470 words. What's most notable:

Adverbs with usage counts 10 and over:

really-49 only-44 probably-38 exactly-37 actually-36 especially-18 mostly-14 finally-11

Repeated words that aren't names or titles with usage counts 200 and over:

like-373 when-260 it's-253 that's-237 going-210 don't-210

Redundancies:

absolutely sure (2) and four others I used once each

Monitored words:

that-851 then-284 just-182 ("that" is 1.2% of the words in this story, and includes the 237 "that's" as well)

Possible profanity:

12 swear words with a total of 29 uses; the most popular are hell and shit at 7 times each, but if you add bullshit and shitty it ups the "excrement" family to 10 times.

Dialogue tags (again, real ones):

said-402 asked-152 told-65 replied-52

Sentence Start List (125 and over):

I-931 We-222 He-203 You-173 The-167 Todd-149 That's-133

Very interesting. I'm definitely going to have to look for "that" "then" and "just" in this story and decide what can be excised.

Colin :icon_geek:

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Scanning the topic list for this forum, I noticed this thread had new messages. Wanting to see what was being discussed, I clicked the link. Reading Colin's post about SmartEdit, I was reminded of a story on another forum. Writing it, the author had started each sentence in one paragraph with a dependent clause. Wondering if such software could detect something like that, I wrote this post.

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I found this note I'd written the other day when I searched through material from the Introduction to the Writing of Short Fiction course I took at UC Berkeley. The instructor said, "If you follow every rule everyone promotes as required for 'good writing' then each of your sentences will consist of nothing more than a period."

This was a joke, but her point is valid. I've found that there are times that what I'm writing makes better sense if a rule of English grammar is bent or broken.

Colin :icon_geek:

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I knew you'd come around to my way of thinking at some point. Now we need to pool our efforts and go to work on Pec. Though I think that's hopeless.

Thanks! Always good to be remembered.

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I agree, Paul. However, sometimes stringing a bunch of dependent clauses together can be effective especially in dialogue. That's something else I learned: I can get away with a lot more in dialogue than in narrative (unless it's internal narrative, of course). That's because almost no one speaks using perfect English grammar and composition. Unless they're a teacher.

Colin :icon_geek:

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Narrative, for me, is quite different from dialogue. When I run my stories through my software editor it inevitably underlines vast swaths of dialogue as problematic. For most of this I tell

the software editor where it can shove it, and I leave the dialogue exactly as I had it. People speak in odd ways. Especially casual speech. Especially when so many of my characters

are teens. Those dangling participles and cliches and overuse of certain words and verbing of nouns (heh) are intentional.

However, sometimes it finds things I didn't see, even in dialogue. Then I change those before sending to a real live editor who finds an order of magnitude more errors. The errors the

software finds in narrative I more often agree with and change.

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