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Rituals Used for Editing: A Query

One of the rituals I perform when I set to editing: discovering a tool. At the end of each book I take a break from the work, and begin a search for a new tool. Doesn’t have to be spectacular or even shiny. Just something new to learn, work with, and then utilize with my first draft edit. 

Each tool has a lesson behind it; an ideal of what a story needs. The germ and philosophy and desire behind the tool’s creation. Each tool has a point of view on story writing, a new way to look at the words and sentences. Some tools address whole scenes. Some work down at the syllable level. All of them are different than the way I’m doing it naturally.


Read the words out loud. Not in your head. Your brain lies. It lies all the time and it is perfectly natural and even acceptable. Take for instance your blind spot, in you vision. Everyone with eyes who can see has a spot in their vision where things ‘disappear’ and then come back into view. This is caused by the optic nerve in the back of your eye. The nerve In this area there are no light-sensitive cells so this part of your retina can't see. We call this the blind spot. You can witness it yourself by taking a sheet of paper and folding it in half, then about two inches from one side draw a large dot. About two inches from the other side, draw an X.

You might be able to do this on your screen if you have a laptop or tablet. Put a hand over your left eye to cover it, and then focus on the black cross. Start out about half your arm’s length and bring it toward your nose slowly keeping your eye on the cross mark. At some point between the dot will disappear. That is your blind spot.

I expounded on this for two reasons. The first is to demonstrate the length at which our brains lie to us. I mean, you don’t walk around with a hole of nothingness in front of you (or two of them actually) right? But also, you don’t see a hole of nothingness when the dot disappears. You see white paper — or whatever color you are using. Layers upon layers upon layers of deceit. </sigh> Such a piece of work is man.

The second was to demonstrate that — the layer on layers… because that’s what hurts us editing. I have read works by professional writers for years where words or sentences are missing from the manuscript. I’ve even witnessed this phenomena disappear whole paragraphs. We read it, and it sounds right — because our brain ‘remembers’ what it needs to say and makes the words appear, or makes them the correct words. And after two or three re-reads, if you didn’t see it by then, you aren’t going to. Ever, or at least until it is published. I can’t count how many times I have polished up an essay for my blog and felt it was perfect until I published it. As soon as it touched public viewing, the errors bloomed.

To battle this, Read Out Loud.

Reading your work out loud forces the process through three senses: eyes, ears and your sense of rhythm. Reading to yourself, in silence, allows the mind to do what it wishes — and we now understand the depth its wishes can dive to. This not only finds grammatical and spelling errors far better, but also improves your writing for the reader by highlighting areas where it become monotonous and dull and sedating. Here, check this out:

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

Don’t just write words. Write music.

(Gary Provost)

Next and with the same kind of editing we are doing with Provost’s advice, I go to this website and look for redundancy and lulling patterns within the structures of the sentences. Is the Noun the second or third word for several sentences in a row?

Expresso is a little tool to edit texts and improve your writing style. It will teach you to express yourself through writing more efficiently and help make your texts more readable, precise, and engaging. Expresso does not save entered texts to protect privacy. To learn more about Expresso: understand How to use , learn about text style Metrics , or do a quick interactive Tutorial .

Expresso will also help in seeing how many verbs are in the sentences as apposed to nouns. Noun heavy sentences tend to sound stiff and perhaps academic. Whereas heavy verb sentences attract attention and bring us into the story. Also some words sound different when they are used as nouns as apposed to verbs.

Have you noticed that with multi-syllable words, which are used as nouns and verbs in English, as nouns the stress is on the back of the word but used as a verb, the stress is in the front. i.e.


as a verb, "I hope that won't conflíct in any way."

as a noun, "There will be no cónflict."


as a verb, "Remember to recórd the show!".

as a noun, "I'll keep a récord of that request."


as a verb, "I won't permít that."

as a noun, "We already have a pérmit."

Once I find my new tool I use it with the tools I have already approved of, and edit the draft.

. I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition; that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o'er hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire: why, it appeareth no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man, How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals. And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

-- Hamlet 

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