It would be wonderful to have a special button on your keyboard that would read your writing and correct every error, typo, wrong word, omitted word, added word, or verb tense. It would be really amazing if the “edit key” would automatically rewrite awkward sentences, paragraphs, or chapters. There are software packages that attempt to go beyond the rigidity of spell/grammar-check, but do they do a better job?
No, not really, or only marginally. The computer or software package would have to comprehend the content, distinguish whether the entire piece has a theme, rewrite sentences and paragraphs to support that theme, and draw a convincing conclusion.
How can the basic rules of grammar or spelling downloaded into a software package cover all the exceptions to the rules in language and enhance the quality of the writing? It is not possible. Technology cannot grasp ideas and concepts; nor can it recognize the effectiveness of an argument to convince someone to buy, sell, invest, fund a grant, or use your company. There is no way a machine can determine the feasibility of a fictional plot. It cannot keep track of consistency, clarity, or accuracy. Software certainly doesn’t know the twists and turns of your storyline or the research that only a person can select to support facts. A computer does not have the imagination to create stories and fantasies.
One example of spell/grammar-check or editing software is that it won’t highlight a word as long as the term is in the dictionary, whether it makes sense or not. How many times have you seen “from” as “form” in printed media? Probably a lot, and the list of misses on editing/reviewing software goes on and on. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
The human element cannot be replaced by technology. How many people realize that the little blue underline on WORD that supposedly points out grammatical errors appears when there is, perhaps, another way to present the same material? In other words, your writing may not be wrong at all or it could be showing you there is a valid mistake. That is what the human being can determine and the computer cannot. Use spell/grammar-check as a guide and look at what is highlighted in your writing, but take it with a grain of salt … or maybe a pound of salt.
It gets really upsetting, however, when WORD or another software program changes a word automatically after you’ve typed it. Many times it can be helpful, but many times it can totally augment the meaning of what you’re writing.
Verb tenses are difficult for ALL writers, including myself. We think in present tense, but we write in a variety of tenses, including third-person past. I leave the verbs for my last rewrite, and I’m always surprised at how many verbs need to be changed. This brings me to the rewriting/editing/proofreading process.
My antiquated computer graphics is not near as antiquated as the books and especially the pencils and erasers in the cup. How I wish the pencils were red! I use a combination of traditional skills and new computer skills to write, edit, design, and format all types of printed media, including book manuscripts. As a fiction author myself, I enjoy many genres of books to edit, proofread, and review, including nonfiction, but I can’t edit or proofread my own writing successfully. I need another human being to see what my eyes will not notice, even though my eye has been educated and trained for many years to pickup on “glitches”.
If you write or even type something, it becomes engrained in your brain, basically memorized. It is an organic, biological function of your gray matter. It is something we in the present evolution of humankind cannot change. In the future, perhaps? But then, would we be more machine than human?
When you try to edit/proofread what you have written, your eyes see what they expect to see. You read over errors, typos, and other editorial problems. You can be reading it aloud–which I suggest so that you can hear discrepancies and determine if the writing flows smoothly–and actually say the word that you think is there, not the word that is in print. Mind boggling, but it is a biological fact.
The brain is like a computer (probably the old computer that I pictured above, depending on your age)–data in/data out–good, bad, or indifferent. Have you ever noticed that a person misspells or mispronounces the same words all the time? It was initially engrained in the brain that way so it’s what comes out. The more times you use a term incorrectly, the more engrained it becomes; therefore to you, it sounds and looks correct. Our minds, which are more connected to our conscious, unpremeditated thoughts, allow us to change what is engrained in the hard drive of our brains. You can change your mind, but not the organ which is your brain.
The important principle I want to point out is you should never be upset with yourself if someone else finds an error in your writing. It is not your fault; it’s human nature. To prevent this from happening, rely on a human being, preferably an editor who knows the rules and especially the exceptions to the rules for writing, spelling, grammar, punctuation, correct phrasing and terminology, and the correct tense of verbs. This is referred to as a copy editor.
A further step to make your writing the best and most professional it can be is to work with a content and development editor. Believe it or not, there are rules on how a piece should be written. In overly simplistic form: a theme, definition and support of the theme, and a conclusion. Having a plan to follow keeps you from writing yourself into a corner (writer’s block) or writing in circles (long, drawn-out passages with no action or support to the theme/plot). It’s very frustrating to know where you want to go with a writing project and not have a roadmap to get there.
Even though I have done all levels of writing and editing, from simple copyediting and proofreading to complete ghost writing, I can write myself into a corner or wander in circles just like anyone else. And I do believe the hardest thing for any writer to do is to cut their own words, but it is necessary to weed out the extraneous material that can confuse or lose your readers.
A suggested roadmap:
I know it sounds like a long process, but there are no shortcuts to literary acceptance.
Deborah A. Bowman, CEO, http://www.clasidconsultantspublishing.com
In my effort to get the right information to the right people…writers, of course…my updated site is growing. I just added an “Editorial Services” Page for writers of any genre to improve their writing, get the services they need to take their manuscripts/business documents to the next level: writing, rewriting, ghost writing, proofreading, formatting, design, and publishing.
Or, if you’re stuck, let me know. Questions are free, and I offer a free writing critique of your first chapter, a chapter you’re having trouble with–writing in circles, just doesn’t sound right, or you’re caught between where you are and where you want to go–and copy for business proposals, grants, online or print newsletters, and promotional material.
Prices are always user-friendly and based upon your budget. I negotiate each job separately. I like WIN-WIN business agreements.
Check out my new Editorial page, and read “Who Am I?”, an updated, more complete Bio in less words–how novel!–which replaced the previous ABOUT page. Please send me some feedback on what you like and what I should fix.
Another new page will be appearing soon… this week, perhaps? A section dedicated to all the book reviews I’ve done and will do since I strive to review one book at week. I believe it’s important to support each other in this crazy, ever-changing industry to which we have dedicated our lives.
Keep Writing; Keep Learning; Keep growing!
Deborah A. Bowman, bowmanauthor
Author, writer-editor, ghost writer, visual information specialist, who specializes in manuscript/business-media formatting, image design, and final camera-ready print. She is a social media expert: Facebook.com/Bowmanbooks; www.bowmanauthor.com; LinkedIn, and twitter #Bowmanauthor. She is a literary/business advisor and speaker on Tricks-of-the-Trade in Writing, Editing, and Proofreading; Writing for Your Audience; The Art of Design.
She was certified as a Technical Writer/Editor at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Grad School and worked as Publications Authorization Officer for the Department of Defense and Editor-in-Chief for The Federal Women’s Program newspaper “News & Views” distributed continental Army-wide for over a decade. She has written articles and been Guest Editorialist for the “The Army Stars And Stripes.”
She worked as a reader for The Erie Literary Agency, learning how to overcome pitfalls that can plague even the most seasoned writer. She writes fiction in varied genres: Contemporary Women’s, Psychological Thrillers, Paranormal, Crime Investigation, and YA/teen suspense, fantasy, astral projection and time-travel.
Bowman helped launch ebookstand.com (rated no. 3 in printing-on-demand by Oprah Winfrey) as writer, editor, formatter, and quality control expert, publishing one novel and one anthology of her own.
She has been certified as an Advanced Certified Psychological Hypnotherapist (ACPH) by the National Guild of Hypnotists, running her own hypnotherapy business. She specialized in ADHD teenagers and was featured in “The Washington Post” Parenting Magazine. She has written a monthly column on hypnotherapy in “The Medical News” for many years. She is also available to speak on Hypnotherapy in Trending Society and Businesses. Her novel, LIVING IN A SHADOW (amazon.com/dp/B00AP68CUO), is a psychological suspense/dramatic romance dealing with the emotional, physiological, and neurological side effects of date-rape drugs. Taken from current news media, victims can be any age, any gender, and from all walks of life. What do you do when you can’t remember what has been done to you and the consequences could be death?
The Denny Ryder Paranormal Crime Series, STROKE OF FEAR (B00CFWYAX4), STROKE OF MIDNIGHT (B00F8Z2KAK), STROKE OF SILENCE! (B00JH78VOE) are novellas for young readers and adults alike on amazon.com. Deborah feels it is extremely important to raise awareness on missing children cases. We must teach our children how to recognize potential psychopathic personalities and predators.
Deborah is a firm believer in doing book reviews and assisting other writers to hone their craft, learning from every person she meets as we share our life experiences through printed media and the personal touch.
“Let me help you make a lasting impression in Words and Images!”
Book Reviews, two small words . . . one BIG subject!
We all write because we have to . . . keeping the feelings and descriptions within us would be detrimental to our health, and I am being serious, not “flip” or comical.
Of course, once you write, you want someone, anyone, to read your words. You want to share. You write because you care . . . about humanity, about life, about others in your chosen craft. We write because we are readers first! We are not competing–we are giving. Only life experiences have brought me to this comfortable place.
So how do you get others to read what you write? How do you get Book Reviews? This seems to be the question I hear most from authors of all genres–fiction and nonfiction.
I can’t speak for anyone else. I can only tell you what I choose to do. I review at least one book a week. Please bear with me, just a few more moments, a few more sentences so I can share . . . this time.
I’m retired, though slightly younger than retirement age–not much–and my mobility is somewhat restricted, not as bad as it once was. Yet, I’m not slowing down–I’m speeding up–busier than I’ve ever been when I worked full-time.
In retirement, all I wanted to do was write fiction–the one form of writing that eluded me during my entire working career. I wrote for others and made their words and images look nice, made them accurate, took pride in them, regardless of the subject matter. So now I thought I had time to write my own words and I have. I felt true freedom for the first time since I wrote poetry as a child, wrote songs and lyrics as a young performer, and wrote silly notes to my friends to make them laugh. But that was a long time ago.
Then, somehow, just recently I returned to my roots. My fiction writing was temporarily halted as I began ghost writing for someone else, using “his” voice–not mine–laying out the pages, making “his” words and the images I selected to enhance “his” words look nice, made them accurate, took pride in them . . . I’m not quite finished with this project, but I’m pleased with it. Upon completion, it will be camera-ready, published as an eBook by myself as a gift to my client, and ready for him to use for his own personal crusade–and it is a very noble one.
Even though my time is scarce, and my personal writing is crying out to me for attention, I still review one book a week. I hope to be able to do more in the future. After all, I’m going to be reading anyway. I still write fiction in little “snippets.” It’s progress.
There is so much to learn, so much to share, so much to give. I want to “learn” something from every book I read.
There is a massive amount of writing out there to be read. It was different when I first started writing. Fiction was hard to publish, finishing a book of any genre was a massive accomplishment, many people started books and never finished them, myself included.
I started my first novel on a $99.00 Montgomery Wards portable typewriter, then I paid someone to put it on a word processor. I rewrote it five times. Then I helped launch an eBook site in the late 1990’s, a little premature for eBooks. But, I began learning how to use my skills in editing, writing, layout, format, etc., on a computer with other people’s books. It allowed me to list my own. I introduced one novel and one anthology of short stories that no longer exist, but still live inside me.
Book Reviews . . . two small words . . . one BIG subject!
Most of my own fiction writing requires no graphics except the cover. Now that I am doing some ghost-writing, editing, proofreading, and publishing, I’ve found non-fiction, transformational, business books need graphics to break up the copy and hold the reader’s interest. It’s very different than telling a story where you can’t wait to see what happens to your favorite character!
Of course, Microsoft Publisher is a great program to start the process of incorporating graphics, pictures, and layout design. It’s easy to use and flexible: sizing, framing, changing color, contrast, brightness, and other effects like reflection, glow, WordArt, bevel, shadow, and much more.
I just recently found a great web site: http://www.dreamtime.com . Thousands and thousands of free stock photos or if you need something unusual you can purchase credits to buy photos at extremely low prices ($14.99 bought me enough credits for about 11 pictures).
I was writing a brief non-fiction section for a client on Mahatma Gandhi. We all know that Gandhi was a great spiritual leader, but his story of tribulation in gaining India its independence from Great Britain was one of great sacrifice that failed. No, he did achieve independence, but the plan he had for India as a united, self-sufficient country never materialized after one of his own followers murdered him. The country was taken over by leaders that did not follow Gandhi’s vision. Consequently, India has had social unrest and division among its varied groups of people for over 60 years.
You’re probably wondering why I bring this story up? The icon or symbol of the Gandhi movement was the oldest form of the spinning wheel. It represented the self-sufficiency of growing your own cotton, spinning your own threads, making your own clothes, and the crops feeding the people of the village. I was able to find many, many graphics of this item on dreamtimes and purchase what I needed for about $1.20 in credits. I will include it here as an example of the unusual, but check out dreamtimes for photos and graphics to pull your writing together, mix up the layout, and add interest to your piece!