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the editor speaks

some of you may have noticed that there are occasionally comments within my blog posts attributed to an editor. [like this. -ed.] of course, "the editor" isn't actually a separate person, just one of the many characters who lives in my imagination and serves as a useful counterpoint to the voice of "kate the writer".  since i've been editing my own writing a fair bit lately, that character has been thrust to the fore and i thought it might be nice to do a little recap of all the bad writing habits she's noticed in the hopes that it will be able to help others. [let's start with you, shall we? -ed.] the truth is, i probably don't edit my stuff enough as a general rule, which is why there are occasional spelling mistakes and grammatical whoopsies [i'm not even going to ask where you came up with that term -ed.] sprinkled throughout this blog. when it comes to things that i plan on publishing, however, i need to be more cautious and make sure that i'm not about to set myself up for a guest spot in one of those "best of writing fails" lists. you know the ones that i'm talking about- "the sun shone from his behind" kind of thing. [get on with it. -ed.] anyway, here is my internal editor with a few tips on the most common mistakes that i make in my writing...

good day to you all. as kate's internal editor, i notice that she has a number of regrettable habits that frequently require my input- we'll just deal with the writing ones. all writers have bad habits, i imagine, but there are some that can be curbed more easily than others. although my commentary is normally given in italics, i am concerned that you might find this difficult to read in longer stretches and so i shall use regular text for each of the points below. i hope this will not cause any confusion.

problem #1 :: getting too fancy with sentence structure. kate the writer does this far too often and i have to step in out of pity for the reader and uncomplicate things. yes, your tone of voice and writing style should be original, but that doesn't mean it should be needlessly complex. you want people to enjoy a story like they would a lovely bike ride in the countryside and not a roller coaster- taking in the experience and enjoying everything around them, not screaming and wanting it to be over.

problem #2 :: stop using that word. what word? that word that just came into your mind, kate the writer, the one that perfectly summed up what you wanted the reader to get from this part of the story. you've used it four times in two short paragraphs. you do this a lot. it's always a different word, but trust me, there is always a section in your stories where one word just keeping being repeated like it was a religious mantra. choose one instance where it's just perfect and move on. [ugh, it's true... i was editing on the way home from work and i found three or four instances of one word being used multiple times in quick succession. -kate the writer]

problem #3 :: get tense. you know how actions happen in the past or in the present or in the future? well when you're writing about them, you have to choose just one. you're not allowed to slide between all three or, let's be honest, the first two. [note to self: write short story in future tense -kate the writer] [stop interrupting -ed.] when you're wrapped up in the moment, i guess it's very easy to slide from thinking in one to thinking in the other, but it's completely confusing to readers who don't live in your head- which, incidentally, is a good thing, since it's crowded enough in here already. you're not allowed to bend time to your will. pick a tense, past or present [or future!!! -kate the writer] [shut up -ed.] and let your story live within it. when you get famous and widely respected, you can publish whatever babble you want and people will call it genius. only you and i and everyone who reads this blog post will know the truth.

problem #4 :: make plans. seriously, i know how incredible it is when inspiration strikes from the skies above and you're writing as if possessed by demons, i really do. but unless you're going to be limited to something that you can write in one sitting, you're going to continue to start things that never get finished because after that one passionate writing session, you don't know what the hell to do. planning never hurt anyone. take some of that passion and pour it into thinking of every twist and turn that shall befall your character creations. once you have that, then you can connect the dots. plus, you'll know where you're heading. and isn't it incentive to push yourself when you know where the finish line is?

for now, i will stop. i think that if she can conquer these issues, kate the writer will be on her way to being much stronger than she is now at her craft. if you have these same problems, perhaps you might want to work on them as well. or share your tips for working on them, so that she has a better idea of what to do. of course, if you have any other common problems you run into while writing, please feel free to share them and i will do the best that i can to assist you.

that's it, editor, this is dull and you're totally never writing another piece for this blog again. ["totally never writing"? sigh. -ed.]

the picture included with this piece was taken, of course, from i can has cheezburger. here's the original.

Comments

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i agree, smedley [or, smokers totally saved our planet in 1983]

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me :: i agree smedley. [pauses for a moment] did you get that here?

dom :: no?

me :: the aliens who were looking at earth and then decided it wasn't worth bothering with because people smoked even though it was bad for them?
come to think of it, that might mean that smokers prevented an alien invasion in the seventies.

dom :: what ?!?!?

me :: i've had wine and very little food. [pause] but the alien thing was real. [pause.] well, real on tv.

dom :: please eat something.

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