Friday, October 21, 2005

The List

I've decided to do is make a list of issues that have been coming up in critique group. Most of these are related to grammar and diction--certain patterns that I overuse and a tendency to use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice :) I'm hitting the point where it's hard to keep track of all the things that have been pointed out before. This should help since I don't want to hear the same problem over again, no more than the group probably wants to read the same problem repeatedly!

Anyway, I've got a Backpack page, and whenever I notice a particular comment being made multiple times I'll be adding it to the list. Then I'll do at least one pass through new chapters with the list in hand. Hopefully this will help me to be more aware of the persistent issues, and gradually they'll disappear to be replaced with new, different problems.

Word Delta: -550 editing changes (haven't done "the list" pass yet).

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Hand-editing: The Typing

Like a lot of the world, I use Word as my primary editor. It is the first word processor I really used (Word 6.0... I did some writing in a DOS-based text editor the name of which I can't remember. I do have a soft spot in my heart for orange text on a black background, though.)

In any case, my time in Word when editing is split between typing in hand-written changes and actually doing the editing right there in the document. Mostly I try to do the first--I work slower on paper, so I think more about what I'm doing, which is a good thing.

Since I work with computers all day, I'm also pretty keyboard driven. Mostly my writing is just plain text, so there isn't a lot of crazy formatting work that needs to get done. The following short-cuts and tactics help speed me through my typing work:

  • Ctrl+arrow keys -- This is my primary navigation in the doc. Right/left moves you over words, up/down moves paragraphs. Hold down Shift while you're at it, and selecting the text you want becomes a breeze. It's like fingernails on a chalkboard for me watching someone move around with just the raw arrow keys.

  • Ctrl+S -- Save! I hit this without even thinking about it. Pause for any reason? My fingers blindly hit save without me having to get involved.

  • Context menu key -- a lot of newer keyboards have a key that essentially does a right-click. This is hugely useful, since it means I can get a context menu without having to touch the mouse. In Word specifically, it's really great in conjunction with the red squiggles under misspelled words. When I see that I've typed something wrong, rather than fixing it myself, I just back up a couple characters, tap the context menu key and generally the first item will be the corrected word. Because of this, I rarely if ever actually run the full spell-checker.

  • Grammar check -- now I know, the grammar checking is rather basic and often gets confused. However, when I'm editing I'll often change tense or shuffle words in other ways that make it easy to mis-type and screw up a sentence. I leave the grammar checking on since a lot of times if it highlights a sentence I'll have dropped a word or changed something I shouldn't have.
That's the round-up of the most important things I use in Word.

Word Delta: -250 from editing, +3200 rewritten