Tag Archives: Revision

This Won’s Four Yew, Dad

And yew two Brian.

As you may have guessed, one of the most common mistakes I need to correct in revision is homonyms, or more accurately homophones.

As some quick Wikipedia research points out, homophones are two words that sound the same, and homographs are two words that are spelled the same.

  • Wind (the breezy kind) and Wind (the thing we used to do to clocks) are homographs. (It would be somewhat difficult to run like the wind (the clock one), unless one were to run in place spinning round and round).
  • Fare (the thing you pay cabbies) and Fair (as in the world’s just not) are homophones.

Homonyms refer to words that are both homophones and homographs but have completely different meanings, though in non-technical usage homonyms are used to refer to words that have either or both properties.

  • Fair (the concept of fairness) and Fair (the place with chickens and roasted corn) are homonyms.

I think I make this mistake a lot because of how quickly I was drafting. At my peak I was writing 1800 words an hour with no time to slow down and make the distinction between “would paneling” and “wood paneling“.

Of course I also make the typical mistakes of they’re, their and there and unnecessarily adding apostrophes to thing’s.

Friday’s Harold Emmet sat in his chair smoking a cigar.” Though in this case I did mean the Harold Emmet who comes in on Fridays (clones), as opposed to “every Friday Harold Emmet sat in his chair and smoked a cigar“.

And before “damn you auto-correct” there was “It had been 10 years since man had set food on Mars“. I’ve been paying for that one with my parents for years.

Ultimately this is just one of the things that makes revision both challenging and fun, both for me and my beta readers who hold the more amusing mistakes over my head. To them I say:

“It take’s won two no one. So their!”

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Filed under Round-Ups, Writing

When Should I Drop Into The Action?

A question I’ve been asking myself during revision is how soon is too soon to drop into the main action of the story. Another way to think about this is how much does the reader need to “get to know” my characters before they’ll start caring about all the things that happen to them.

Take a mystery for example. There’s a crime to be solved, and someone who does the solving. Should I start the book with the crime or the detective? Should I get to know the victim a little first before I bump them off?

Now a good story reveals things about the characters all throughout, and those characters can grow and change depending on what happens to them, but what is a good baseline of information I should know?

Here’s another example from a project I’m currently working on. A family is on a cruise line. Some disaster occurs separating the father from his wife and daughter and he must spend the rest of the book trying to find them. How much do we need to know about his family, the ship and the circumstances leading up to the disaster before we’re off to the races. In the case of this example my disaster happens on the first page (within the first paragraph in fact). As the story progresses we find out more about the father’s relationship to the daughter and wife told through his perspective, but they are taken away before we know them at all.

Would the story be better if I had them boarding the cruise line, spending some time aboard and interacting as a family before the crisis? As with most revision questions the best way to determine the answer is to write the scene, and then if I don’t like it I can always cut it. That’s one of my takeaways from revising my first book. The stuff you cut still provides value in that it helped shape an impression of the character in your mind, or helped you to explore the possible ways of telling the story before landing on the “correct” one.

“Flashbacks” are one way to bump the action up to the front. In our mystery example this is our detective with a smoking gun over the killer’s body (or better yet with the killer’s gun aimed at him) then flashing back to what led him to this point. Some of the revision texts I have been reading suggest this is a tired structure and I tend to agree. Non-linear story telling has applications in some stories, but most good conventional mysteries can keep you in suspense until the final conflict without having to show it to you first. And again, in a mystery there is always a decent piece of action in the beginning which is the actual crime itself.

Where has the crisis begun in the books you’ve read? What books have lost you before you reach the crisis? What books reached a crisis point too soon?

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Filed under Writing

Cutting the “Spaghetti Code” out of your Novel

eBook publishing is lowering the quality of fiction! eBooks are poorly edited, and twice as long as they need to be!

Sounds like a job for a programmer.

One of my favorite programming terms is “spaghetti code”. It refers to code that is longer than it needs to be. Sometimes this is because the code is over-complicated, doing things it doesn’t need to. Sometimes actions that are repeated can be condensed into a single function. And sometimes the solution is simply the wrong one and should be replaced with a shorter more elegant solution.

Over-complicated, redundant, ineffective. These sound like literary criticism to me!

There are several reasons why spaghetti code exists:

1) A lack of experience in the programmer.
2) Newer hardware has made it easier to “get away” with slower code. You can always slap in more RAM or a faster processor if the program runs slowly.

A good piece of code should be understandable just by looking at it. Often all of the essentials of what is being done can be seen on a single screen. Sometimes a more detailed read is necessary to fully appreciate it, but the basic idea of the code should be apparent from a first glance.

How does this relate to writing, specifically to eBooks?

Prose can be a lot like code. An action that is repeated may only need to be described once to convey its meaning. The story moves more quickly if the author uses 10 words to say something rather than 100. And eBooks present some of the problems of newer hardware. Books aren’t limited by paper and material costs in their electronic form. I can write 70,000 words or 250,000 and other than the time it took me to write it, there is no cost.

I write spaghetti code the first time out. That’s called a rough draft. A good programmer takes their initial idea and refines it to its most elegant solution. A good author takes what was said in 100 words and says it in 20, and determines what needs to be said at all.

It’s a revision night. I have some debugging to do.

What other ways do you think about your writing or programming? Does anyone know why we programmers single out spaghetti instead of linguine?

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Filed under Trube On Tech, Writing