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Post Your Snippets For Craft Help Here (3 Viewers)

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
Ok, so I'm trying something. I have been told if this is reasonably successful, a subforum could be made for it. So, please, try to keep it on topic.

The idea is to have a section purely for craft and nothing else. We have a section for grammar and we have the Writing Workshop section, but that section is really for short stories and novels. Yes you get critique there on style and craft but it's not specifically for craft and is such a broad church of critique, it doesn't lend itself well to nailing down craft alone. I hope this thread does just that. Other forums have a section like this so I see no reason we couldn't have one here too. From a quick scout around, they're popular.

So what's it about? Instead of posting whole stories or large sections of stories, you post a sentence or a paragraph (or three). Something you're not happy with and want to know how to improve. You could also ask for help with better word choice, better structuring, any number of craft related things. I've already done this a couple of times with things like my 'is this mournful?' thread but never really felt it fitted here well. I think a focused subforum would be helpful for a lot of people.
 
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Phil Istine

WF Veterans
Ok, so I'm trying something. I have been told if this is reasonably successful, a subforum could be made for it. So, please, try to keep it on topic.

The idea is to have a section purely for craft and nothing else. We have a section for grammar and we have the Writing Workshop section, but that section is really for short stories and novels. Yes you get critique there on style and craft but it's not specifically for craft and is such a broad church of critique, it doesn't lend itself well to nailing down craft alone. I hope this thread does just that. Other forums have a section like this so I see no reason we couldn't have one here too. From a quick scout around, they're popular.

So what's it about? Instead of posting whole stories or large sections of stories, you post a sentence or a paragraph. Something you're not happy with and want to know how to improve. You could also ask for help with better word choice, better structuring, any number of craft related things. I've already done this a couple of times with things like my 'is this mournful?' thread but never really felt it fitted here well. I think a focused subforum would be helpful for a lot of people.
Snippets are al very well, but sometimes a bit more is needed to make fine-tuning suggestions. For instance, a character might be perceiving a police officer. Without knowing where or when the character comes from or anything about how he views the police, the noun choices could be numerous: officer, policeman, PC, dick, pig, cop, copper, tec, detective, fuzz, filth, uniforms, bluebottle etc.
That's just one example.
In general though, your idea does have some appeal.
If anything is to change, please be patient. This new software takes a little getting used to and the effect behind the scenes is greatly amplified. It's not just about pressing a few buttons but about finding where those buttons are and whether they do exactly what you expect of them.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Yes, it's a good idea. And a great way to interact for both the poster and the suggester. I haven't got one at this moment, but I will definitely put it up here when I do.
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
Yes, it's a good idea. And a great way to interact for both the poster and the suggester. I haven't got one at this moment, but I will definitely put it up here when I do.
Yeah, same here. I thought about digging through my stuff for an example but I didn't want it to become a 'me' thread again. :)
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
Here's a small section from a draft due for exactly this kind of editing:

Next to the woman’s bench, hanging on a stone column is a large mahogany frame an arm span in either direction. Within it, sits a basic yet accurate map of the earth, and next to that is a drawing of several golden arches, each labeled with a different name, and then another map, landforms and water shapes unrecognizable. It is labeled as Atlantis. The map sparkles with random specs of gold.
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
Here's a small section from a draft due for exactly this kind of editing:

1/ Next to the woman’s bench, hanging on a stone column is a large mahogany frame an arm span in either direction. Within it, sits a basic yet accurate map of the earth, and next to that is 2/ a drawing of several golden arches, each labeled with a different name, and then another map, landforms and water shapes unrecognizable. It is labeled as Atlantis. 3/ The map sparkles with random specs of gold.
1/ You need a comma after 'column'. The sentence loses me after 'arm', although you need a comma after 'frame'. I'm struggling to see the image. 'frame' is a bit nondescript and I have no visualisation of the shape, so therefore when you say 'span', a word that also has no sense of any real direction but rather more 'encompassing' (all directions), the idea of 'either direction' leaves me completely confused. What space is this shape occupying and in what direction is the 'either' referring to? Do you see what I mean? I couldn't even attempt to rewrite this for clarity. You need to be more specific with frame, span and then 'either direction' (West, East, South, North?) would make sense. Ok, having gone through it a few times now I'm going to assume 'figure' (body) for 'frame'. Yes? So we have a statue I think. Now that's starting to make sense. So the 'arm spanning' is in fact arms held out either side of the figure. But then it goes on to say 'within it' is a map of the world, so it can't be a figure ... What I've written above is what the reader will do when they hit this section in the story. Basically, it needs clarity. 2/ Always be specific if possible. Instead of 'several' give it a number. 3/ You don't need 'random' there. Here is where being nonspecific can do some work. 'The map sparkles with specs of gold'. Because it's nonspecific, it's immediately visualised as random.
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
1/ You need a comma after 'column'. The sentence loses me after 'arm', although you need a comma after 'frame'. I'm struggling to see the image. 'frame' is a bit nondescript and I have no visualisation of the shape, so therefore when you say 'span', a word that also has no sense of any real direction but rather more 'encompassing' (all directions), the idea of 'either direction' leaves me completely confused. What space is this shape occupying and in what direction is the 'either' referring to? Do you see what I mean? I couldn't even attempt to rewrite this for clarity. You need to be more specific with frame, span and then 'either direction' (West, East, South, North?) would make sense. Ok, having gone through it a few times now I'm going to assume 'figure' (body) for 'frame'. Yes? So we have a statue I think. Now that's starting to make sense. So the 'arm spanning' is in fact arms held out either side of the figure. But then it goes on to say 'within it' is a map of the world, so it can't be a figure ... What I've written above is what the reader will do when they hit this section in the story. Basically, it needs clarity. 2/ Always be specific if possible. Instead of 'several' give it a number. 3/ You don't need 'random' there. Here is where being nonspecific can do some work. 'The map sparkles with specs of gold'. Because it's nonspecific, it's immediately visualised as random.

This is super helpful. This is one of those sections where there was so much wrong, I wasn't even sure where to start. Here's a revision (I know it still needs work, but I wanted to put an effort into responding to your main critiques):

A massive mahogany framed map hangs suspended between two white stone columns at the heart of the courtyard. It's nearly as long as the woman who lies beside it on a matching stone bench covered in pristine cushions. The images on the left portion of the map show a basic but accurate depiction of Earth. The center is filled with drawings of several golden arches, each stacked on top of the next, each with a tiny scroll of writing - labels, maybe. The space on the right side of the arches is filled with unrecognizable landforms and water shapes, but the cursive writing across the top of that section is clear. Atlantis. The entire map sparkles with specs of gold.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
A map is not an accurate depiction, it is a flat representation of a globe, mind you, 'accurate' and a 'depiction'. I would chop down on the description, "The left side of the map shows the earth.
A certain burger company have hammered the image 'Golden arches' so hard I would look for a way round that phrase. Then it gets too vague, 'Stacked on top of each other'. Do they slot over one another? Get smaller as they ascend
I take it it is the specs of gold that are important, so put them first, "Specks of gold sparkle across the whole map"

I am a 'Never use a five cent word when a one cent one will do' man , so depicts/ shows, entire/ whole, portion/ part,

'each with a tiny scroll of writing - labels, maybe', try 'each labelled minutely'. I know minute is longer than tiny, but you can't say tinyly, and 'minutely' implies something of the neat style of 'scroll'.

Oh, and is she lying on a stone bench, or on cushions which cover a stone bench? It would be easier to compare the length if the bench were in front of the map, beside leaves me doing a sort of comparative juggle in my head, in front the fit is obvious
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
This is super helpful. This is one of those sections where there was so much wrong, I wasn't even sure where to start. Here's a revision (I know it still needs work, but I wanted to put an effort into responding to your main critiques):

1/ A massive mahogany framed map hangs suspended between two white stone columns at the heart of the courtyard. It's nearly as long as the woman who lies beside it on a matching stone bench 2/ covered in pristine cushions. The images on the left portion of the map show a basic but accurate depiction of Earth. The center is filled with drawings of several golden arches, each stacked on top of the next, each with a tiny scroll of writing - labels, maybe. The space on the right side of the arches is filled with unrecognizable landforms and water shapes, but the cursive writing across the top of that section is clear. Atlantis. 3/ The entire map sparkles with specs of gold.
Ok, second pass. 1/ I've mentioned how I visualise words and 'massive' is big but so big, it's beyond scope. I'd bring that down to the more realistic 'huge'. 2/ 'pristine' means 'in it's original condition'. If something hasn't changed its normal accepted state then we assume the state hasn't changed, therefore, pristine is an unnecessary word. If you simply put cushions, would anyone reading that wonder if they were in good condition? If you're going to modify 'cushions' add another dimension such 'plump', 'lavish' etc. 3/ You've removed one unnecessary word but added another. Think carefully about the wording and logic of a sentence. 'The map sparkles with specs of gold' is exactly the same as 'The entire map sparkles with specs of gold'. The only difference is, the second version makes it appear as if some maps in this world may only have specs of gold in a particular location on the map. We would say 'the ball was red'. We wouldn't say 'the entire ball was red'. :) Unless you have something like: 'Unlike the other ball, with patches of red, this ball was entirely red'. Consider the 'assumption' first and only if it differs from the assumed, add in a qualifying. 'The round ball bounced down the steps' V 'The punctured ball bounced down the steps.' If you get this into your thinking, lots of unnecessary words will be lost.
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
Ok, second pass. 1/ I've mentioned how I visualise words and 'massive' is big but so big, it's beyond scope. I'd bring that down to the more realistic 'huge'. 2/ 'pristine' means 'in it's original condition'. If something hasn't changed its normal accepted state then we assume the state hasn't changed, therefore, pristine is an unnecessary word. If you simply put cushions, would anyone reading that wonder if they were in good condition? If you're going to modify 'cushions' add another dimension such 'plump', 'lavish' etc. 3/ You've removed one unnecessary word but added another. Think carefully about the wording and logic of a sentence. 'The map sparkles with specs of gold' is exactly the same as 'The entire map sparkles with specs of gold'. The only difference is, the second version makes it appear as if some maps in this world may only have specs of gold in a particular location on the map. We would say 'the ball was red'. We wouldn't say 'the entire ball was red'. :) Unless you have something like: 'Unlike the other ball, with patches of red, this ball was entirely red'. Consider the 'assumption' first and only if it differs from the assumed, add in a qualifying. 'The round ball bounced down the steps' V 'The punctured ball bounced down the steps.' If you get this into your thinking, lots of unnecessary words will be lost.

Thanks for taking another pass. I appreciate your points about the words massive and pristine. I also like the advice about not adding in the assumed is a great mentality to apply in general. I need to think about what I want to do with the sparkly gold on the map (because it's plot relevant), but I'll take another crack at it tomorrow.

I'm getting ready to do this sort of edit for my whole story (though not all of it is this far off - I pulled a part that has been nagging me on purpose). :) But thinking about my word choice like this really helps me get my head in the right place!
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
A map is not an accurate depiction, it is a flat representation of a globe, mind you, 'accurate' and a 'depiction'. I would chop down on the description, "The left side of the map shows the earth.
A certain burger company have hammered the image 'Golden arches' so hard I would look for a way round that phrase. Then it gets too vague, 'Stacked on top of each other'. Do they slot over one another? Get smaller as they ascend
I take it it is the specs of gold that are important, so put them first, "Specks of gold sparkle across the whole map"

I am a 'Never use a five cent word when a one cent one will do' man , so depicts/ shows, entire/ whole, portion/ part,

'each with a tiny scroll of writing - labels, maybe', try 'each labelled minutely'. I know minute is longer than tiny, but you can't say tinyly, and 'minutely' implies something of the neat style of 'scroll'.

Oh, and is she lying on a stone bench, or on cushions which cover a stone bench? It would be easier to compare the length if the bench were in front of the map, beside leaves me doing a sort of comparative juggle in my head, in front the fit is obvious
Thanks for taking the time to look at this. I really appreciate the feedback, and will apply it to my next attempt! :) It's funny because I thought the same thing about golden arches...probably a sign I should listen to those thoughts.
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
Here's the revised version:

A map hangs, suspended between two white columns at the heart of the courtyard. The dark wood frame just longer than the woman stretched across a cushioned bench before it. Down the center, like the spine of a book, the map is divided by several minutely labelled arches, each formed by two curved and golden brush strokes. I recognize the continents and oceans of Earth under the scripted heading on one side. The other side is covered in unfamiliar landforms and waters. The heading calls it Atlantis, and tiny golden dots mark places across the landmasses of both it and Earth.


Note: for the purposes of the scene this came from, I was trying to stay removed from the first person POV, but I let one “I” through on this version.
 

Irwin

Senior Member
Here's the revised version:

A map hangs, suspended between two white columns at the heart of the courtyard. The dark wood frame just longer than the woman stretched across a cushioned bench before it. Down the center, like the spine of a book, the map is divided by several minutely labelled arches, each formed by two curved and golden brush strokes. I recognize the continents and oceans of Earth under the scripted heading on one side. The other side is covered in unfamiliar landforms and waters. The heading calls it Atlantis, and tiny golden dots mark places across the landmasses of both it and Earth.


Note: for the purposes of the scene this came from, I was trying to stay removed from the first person POV, but I let one “I” through on this version.
You have some punctuation errors (see the text in blue). Otherwise, it looks good!

A map hangs suspended between two white columns at the heart of the courtyard—the dark wood frame just longer than the woman stretched across a cushioned bench before it. Down the center, like the spine of a book, the map is divided by several minutely labelled arches, each formed by two curved and golden brush strokes. I recognize the continents and oceans of Earth under the scripted heading on one side. The other side is covered in unfamiliar landforms and waters. The heading calls it Atlantis, and tiny golden dots mark places across the landmasses of both it and Earth.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
Thanks for taking another pass. I appreciate your points about the words massive and pristine. I also like the advice about not adding in the assumed is a great mentality to apply in general. I need to think about what I want to do with the sparkly gold on the map (because it's plot relevant), but I'll take another crack at it tomorrow.

I'm getting ready to do this sort of edit for my whole story (though not all of it is this far off - I pulled a part that has been nagging me on purpose). :) But thinking about my word choice like this really helps me get my head in the right place!
These comments bring out a helpful topic ... superlatives.

They are innocuously easy to write, and ridiculously easy to overdo. There are three issues.

First, do you need a superlative at all? You're trying to sell the reader there is something here they MUST be impressed by. Most of the time, trying to do that with a superlative simply doesn't work. Use a better or more detailed description instead.

Second, are you using too MUCH of a superlative? Is something "titanic", or is it just 'large'? If you do use a superlative, getting the correct scope is important to keep the reader invested in the scene, rather than thinking, "Really??"

Third is overworked superlatives. In the early 20th century, the worst overworked superlative was "tremendous". You'd think it is in the realm of size, but it was used for everything. Today, it's "amazing". EVERYTHING is amazing. Blech.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
" 1/ I've mentioned how I visualise words and 'massive' is big but so big, it's beyond scope"

Mass is measured in units of weight, pounds and kilos, so 'massive' to me means heavy, it is not necessarily big, nor is big necessarily massive.
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
Thanks for taking another pass. I appreciate your points about the words massive and pristine. I also like the advice about not adding in the assumed is a great mentality to apply in general. I need to think about what I want to do with the sparkly gold on the map (because it's plot relevant), but I'll take another crack at it tomorrow.

I'm getting ready to do this sort of edit for my whole story (though not all of it is this far off - I pulled a part that has been nagging me on purpose). :) But thinking about my word choice like this really helps me get my head in the right place!
The more you nail those little niggles, the less you have to correct in the edits. :)
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
" 1/ I've mentioned how I visualise words and 'massive' is big but so big, it's beyond scope"

Mass is measured in units of weight, pounds and kilos, so 'massive' to me means heavy, it is not necessarily big, nor is big necessarily massive.
I was thinking specifically in terms of size and the writing up for critique, but you are right, and perhaps that's why it always pulls me up. It's the sort of word you see thrown around on YT channels, rather like 'awesome'.
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
Here's the revised version:

A map hangs, suspended between two white columns at the heart of the courtyard. 1/ The dark wood frame just longer than the woman stretched across a cushioned bench before it. Down the center, like the spine of a book, the map is divided by several minutely labelled arches, each formed by two curved and golden brush strokes. I recognize the continents and oceans of Earth under the scripted heading on one side. The other side is covered in unfamiliar landforms and waters. The heading calls it Atlantis, 2/ and tiny golden dots mark places across the landmasses of both it and Earth.


Note: for the purposes of the scene this came from, I was trying to stay removed from the first person POV, but I let one “I” through on this version.
I'm going to give it one last pass! This is the 'process' and how I deal with my own work, so don't take it as an insult, please. :) Now we're getting deeper into it and that shows how much it's improving. I've spoken of removing any word that is assumed, vranger has spoken of superlatives (a no way back position to take) and Olly has drilled down into the definition of 'massive', which should be applied to every word, but now 'specificity'.

1/ 'The dark wood frame ...' Instead of dark wood, find the name of that wood. For instance 'The mahogany frame ...'. 2/ 'tiny golden dots ...' Can dots be large? A dot is tiny, so 'tiny' is redundant. Other than that though, it's starting to look far tighter.

Here's a nice vid on specificity:

 
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VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
1/ 'The dark wood frame ...' Instead of dark wood, find the name of that wood. For instance 'The mahogany frame ...'. 2/ 'tiny golden dots ...' Can dots be large? A dot is tiny, so 'tiny' is redundant.

Other than that though, it's starting to look far tighter.
We had a nice discussion on this subject a while back ...
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
I know that 'Anaphora' is repeating a word or phrase for emphasis but is there a specific name for repeating every other word, as in this example from Apparition:

Each memory brightened his eyes and broadened his smile, and each smile brought him closer to Heather, closer to any person he’d ever met … even perhaps his father.
 
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