Archive | August, 2013

Self-Editing Tip #21–The Known-New Contract

28 Aug

In keeping with our composition-related topics this week, we’re going to talk about the known-knew contract. Simply put, this states that you give readers a little bit of what they already know as clarification, reiteration, or summary in order to lead in new material. It’s a way to keep the text cohesive by relating it back to what you’ve already stated. This principle is generally taught in relation to academic writing, but I’ve always thought it applies to every type of text (except poetry).

In its originally intended use, the essay, you’d put this to work by grabbing bits of your introduction statements, or details from previous body paragraphs, to clarify and link the new points you make as you move forward.

Ex. Known-New at paragraph level (bold type = known, underlined = new)

Thesis: Solar panels are the future of energy efficiency.

Paragraph 1—a fact is stated: Solar panels are efficient because they reduce x, y, and z.

Paragraph 3—remind readers of the fact to lead in a new idea: Since solar panels reduce x, y, and z, advocates of green living are pushing for tax incentives for those who purchase panels for their homes.

In business writing, this is especially important. Consider a project proposal or summary with lots of technical jargon. Those documents are meant to make a very specific type of (often persuasive) statement. It’s the known-new contract that helps a writer make sure the reader walks away remembering the most relevant points.

Ex. Known-New at sentence level and paragraph level (bold type = known, underlined = new)

Proposal Topic: New Ad Campaign

Paragraph 1—proposal for ad campaign: We propose a new ad campaign for television. A television campaign will increase our company’s exposure to potential customers by 60%.

Paragraph 2—supporting facts: Increasing our exposure by 60% will cost us $x in resources with a potential $x profit.

In fiction, you must remember your audience. If the story is geared towards younger readers, the action of linking previous plot details to the new ones is more important than stories for older readers. The reading skill of tying events together to get that “Oh, I see what just happened,” moment develops with age. Plainly stated, the little ones need the writer to connect the dots for them more often than teens, and teens more often than adults. Don’t insult your audience’s intelligence by including too many breadcrumbs back to the “known.”

Ex. Known-New at chapter/plot level (bold type = known, underlined = new)

Chapter 4—“Melissa, did I tell you about that guy I met at the mall yesterday?”

Chapter 6—“Chris, the guy from the mall, never called.”

There’s a fine balance to strike in order to make a cohesive story that isn’t redundant or dumbed down. It takes practice. Ask yourself, “If I don’t restate this point in some way, will my audience forget about it/no longer understand the text as a whole/fail to put together a key dramatic moment meant to coalesce in this moment?

 

Happy writing!

 

–Amanda Marsico

Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

marsicoam@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/marsicowritesite

https://twitter.com/MarsWriteSite

http://pinterest.com/wordsnsounds/

Contest Update

26 Aug

The fiction contest is now closed. Thank you for your support and participation. Good luck!

Self-Editing Tip #20–The Red Herring

26 Aug

Ok, guys. I promised on Friday that today’s discussion would continue the composition-related tips. Let’s talk about the good ol’ Red Herring principle. Like Chekhov’s Gun, this topic deals with the motivation behind including details in a piece of text. However, while Chekhov’s Gun is inherently good in its intentions—advising writers how to follow up on details—a Red Herring is more mischievous. It might be something you want to avoid for genres outside of mystery/detective or action/suspense/drama.

The label is used to describe two instances. The first is a more general situation not limited to literature: the logical fallacy. The logical fallacy is something you’ll want to avoid no matter what you’re writing. Check your text. You’ve got one if, whether intentionally or accidentally, the premise stated never truly supports the proposed conclusion. As a literary device, non sequiturs do this to the extreme as a comedic tool. Non sequiturs in logic are similar in that the conclusion does not logically follow the support given beforehand, but in logic, the goal is not humor.

Ex. You’ve got so many books in your office! I bet the trashcan gets full quickly.

As a literary device, a red herring is a purposefully misleading detail that distracts from the true plot point or conclusion and, therefore, leads readers to believe x,y, or z is different than it is.

Ex. You tell your readers that Joe is dead. They stop wondering if he was the killer. All the while, the killings continue. The readers don’t realize yet that Joe isn’t dead, he is the killer, and he has continued killing under the cover of his “death.”

This would be a great use of the Red Herring concept. When written in a way that improves suspense, shock, or mystery there’s nothing wrong with misleading readers a little. It just needs to be done within a genre that can support that type of trickery, and done in a way that enhances, not irritates. And remember, confusion is not the same as mystery!

There are so many real-life variations of the red herring, wild goose chase, and other similar plot distractions named after wildlife. Check out the Chewbacca Case and Cherry Picking if you’d like to know more. I can’t list them all.

 

Happy deceiving!

 

–Amanda Marsico

Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

marsicoam@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/marsicowritesite

https://twitter.com/MarsWriteSite

http://pinterest.com/wordsnsounds/

Self-Editing Tip #19–Chekhov’s Gun

23 Aug

Ever read something and wondered, “Why did the writer even bring that up?” or “So what?” or “What happened to that (x, y, z)…?” Ever write something and then never address that point again?

That’s basically what Chekov’s Gun is all about—everything that’s written better be worth the space it takes up in the text. It needs to have a purpose.

The great dramatist Anton Chekhov once said, “Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there” (Valentine 1987).

I’m sure you could use the gun for something else. Maybe you take it off the wall and beat somebody with it. Maybe you take it off the wall and sell it for train ticket money. Who knows? The point is, if you’ve made the effort to point out some detail, readers are going to look for why it’s important. So, make sure it comes full circle, that you get back around to that detail in some way, and that it’s important!

Here is a long list of Sci-Fi and Fantasy literature that effectively uses Chekhov’s Gun to bring details full circle. Use your own reading experience when judging the accuracy of this list, because I have not read many of the novels included.

Next week, we’ll dig into some Red Herring! Hint: it’s not a fish 😉 Until then, have a great weekend with lots of purposeful writing and happy reading!

 

–Amanda Marsico

Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

marsicoam@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/marsicowritesite

https://twitter.com/MarsWriteSite

http://pinterest.com/wordsnsounds/

 

Source: Valentine, Bill T. Chekhov: The Silent Voice of Freedom. 1987. Philosophical Library. Print.

Interview: What Children REALLY Want to Read

22 Aug

Today is a get business done kind of day, so in lieu of a Self-Editing Tip, I’m going to post responses I’ve gathered from children I’ve worked with over the years on the topic of books.

 

Randy, 5

What is your favorite book?

“I have one, but I don’t know it…”

Leah, 4

What is your favorite book?

“Princess Fairy Tale Land.” (Side note: Who knows if that’s the real title)

Why?

“It has a lot of movies with it, and it’s funny.”

Why is it funny to you?

“It has lots of funny words.”

Mackenzie, 4

What is your favorite book?

“’Gigi’—It’s about Gigi, and if Gigi touches something bad an alarm comes on and guards come and put her in a pink tower.”

Why is it your favorite?

“Because I tried it and I liked it!”

Shane, 4

What is your favorite book?

“Lightning McQueen.”

Why?

“It has fast cars, and it’s funny.”

What makes it funny?

“They say funny things. The cars can talk.”

William, 5

What is your favorite book?

“ABC Trains.”

Why?
“Train tracks go under a house, and it’s funny.”

Why is it funny?

“They hit each other. They make butt jokes.”

Leah, 5

What is your favorite book?

“Princess Story Book.”

Why?

“Princesses are so beautiful.”

Is it a funny book?

“No, it’s a beautiful book.”

 

As you can see, the majority of Pre-K and kindergarteners choose their favorite books based on humor and appearance. So, if you’re a children’s writer, maybe some of this input from children can help you out. I’m aware that most of their answers are the same, but that’s what’s golden about it. It points you in a very specific direction. I don’t write children’s literature, but I’ve always wanted to. I collected these short interviews out of pure curiosity in the event that one day I finish the children’s stories I’ve started. We’ll see. I hope it’s handy for you.

 

Have a great Thursday! Be on the lookout for another Self-Editing Tip tomorrow.

–Amanda Marsico

Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

marsicoam@gmail.com

facebook.com/marsicowritesite

https://twitter.com/MarsWriteSite

www.pinterest.com/wordsnsounds

 

 

 

Thank you!!

21 Aug

I’ve reached 100 likes and it’s all because of you guys! THANK YOU from the bottom of my red-ink-filled heart!

Love and happy writing!

Amanda Marsico
Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

Self-Editing Tip #18–Method: Reading for Errors

21 Aug

Track Changes and Comments

How do you read for errors? There are so many ways to do this. From using Comments and Track Changes in Word (my favorite method when editing digital text) to the Colored Pen/Highlighter Method , ideas not for the actual grammar errors to find, but for the way to read for them abound.

I thought today I would share a couple more of my favorite methods so that when you go to implement any of my Self-Editing Tips, you’d also have new ideas on how to mark it up.

The Repeat Read-Through

This is exactly what it sounds like, and it is best for short texts. Choose a type of mistake you want to find and fix. Read your text for only that kind of error. Mark the errors as you see them, or fix them as you go. I have no doubt you’ll see other types of mistakes as you read. That’s ok. Fix them when you see them if you think you’ll forget on your next go-round. If not, mark them in whatever way makes sense to you so that you can come back to it. It’s a great opportunity to integrate the Colored Pen Method into your multiple reads. Each read could get a different pen rather than trying to work with all pens at once.

If your text is really long, this might not be the most expedient option. I’m not saying to skip extra revisions on a large text like a manuscript. It’s never finished after one revision. I’m merely saying that you might want to look for any type of error every time you read it. The next method might be more your style.

Post-it Pages (My favorite method when editing print text)

Post-it Pages

For long texts in print, you can use sticky notes for errors that need revisiting. It’s like the paper version of Comments and Track Changes in Word. Mark small mistakes directly on the text with a red pen–punctuation, typos, misspellings, and the like—or whatever color works for you. For bigger issues that require time and consideration (plot inconsistencies, text that needs to be (re)moved, or topics that need to be researched in order to accurately reference them in the text), make notes on brightly colored sticky notes you’re sure not to overlook. Stick them directly under the line they reference. Remove the note when you’ve remedied it, or mark it as fixed so that you can ignore it on your next read-through. High priority issues get circled directly on the page and accompanied by a sticky note with an exclamation point. Leave these high priority notes hanging off of the page so that you can see them when the document is closed. No way to ignore them, now! Tackle them as time allows.

Dog Ears

For mid-sized documents in print, dog ear the pages you need to revisit. You can combine this with any of the other methods. If every page gets folded, this isn’t the option for you. That would be equivalent to the person who highlights every word in a textbook in the name of “studying.” It’s useless. If your document is in its final stages and there are minimal errors, this could work very well. Neat-freaks like me won’t be able to ignore a folded page among crisp, flat pages with no marks.

 

Side Note

Color Marking

The Colored Pen/Highlighter Method is also great for academic readings of literature for critical purposes, and is also called color marking. Rather than using the different colors to mark errors, the colors are used, based on a key of your creation, to mark themes, motifs, symbols, any number of literary/poetic/stylistic devices, and whatever else is deemed important in the context of your reading.

 

Happy Editing!

 

–Amanda Marsico

Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

marsicoam@gmail.com

facebook.com/marsicowritesite

Twitter: @MarsWriteSite

http://www.pinterest.com/wordsnsounds

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