Friday, December 06, 2013
The craft of rewriting-Revision-Self Editing-Data
By OFW chief editor:
Carlos J Cortes And Renée Miller
Published: April 23, 2013
The make of a car, historical events, distances, times, or movies and television shows we’ve included in our story might pose problems later on. Editing for data errors can only be done with our lists. Why? It’s impossible to track all of these, and we really don’t want to pause in editing, look up what we’ve written, and then go back to editing, do we?
In her novel,
I Do and Other Lies We Tell,
Renee described a vehicle, a beaten up old rust bucket of a truck that a despicable character named Warren drove. The problem? The color of the truck’s interior was impossible. The manufacturer didn’t use anything remotely close to the color she’d given in the initial description. How did she realize this? She made her list. Under “descriptions” she’d written “Warren’s Truck” and the description. Later, when checking back through the list, she researched Dodge trucks made in1966, and found to her dismay, that Dodge didn’t make this color interior until much later. Because she’d written in her list the other pages she’d mentioned the truck’s interior, she was able to correct every entry.
Data cannot be edited without using a list of some sort. We cannot possibly catch or track all of the data contained in an entire manuscript without a reference.
Make note of travel, timelines, distances, dates, figures, factual information, and names. Editors will check these things, and whether we’ve misrepresented facts accidentally or simply didn’t bother to check, our editor won’t be impressed. We must edit basic information ourselves.
For example, our character must drive from Alberta to Ontario. Let’s say we have him drive the distance in a day. It is physically impossible for anyone to drive that distance in a single day. The distance from Edmonton (in Alberta) to Toronto (in Ontario) is just over 2,800 kilometers. If we factor in the speed limit of most Canadian highways, which is between 80 and 100 kilometers per hour, and we’re looking at a minimum driving time of twenty-eight hours, this means driving round the clock. No rest, no breaks for gas, bathrooms, or food. Odds are no one would or could do this.
When we include items like this, we must make notes and check our data to ensure it is accurate.
A child is watching the television in 1982. He’s eating his Cheerios while engrossed in the totally radical antics of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as he does every morning. We vaguely remember the eighties and the Ninja Turtles were really popular. Right? Nope. He can’t be watching them in 1982, because the cartoon didn’t appear on television until the late eighties. We remembered the correct decade, but the minor detail of the specific has made our data incorrect.
In settings that are current, we must be sure we’re just as accurate. Of course, we know what’s on television now, and which manufacturer makes what. After all, we see these things daily. Mistakes are still possible. Perhaps our character has stolen an electric blue Hummer H3 right off the car lot. It’s a brand spanking new 2010 model. Well, that would be great, and we hope he doesn’t get caught, but the Hummer H3 2010 line isn’t factory-produced in electric blue. Nope. One might be able to order such an animal or have one repainted that color, but off the lot we’ll get shades of black, red, white, green, silver, and an “all-terrain blue” which resembles a very dark shade of blue, but not electric blue. These small details seem meaningless and might not be noticed by some readers, but we guarantee someone will notice eventually. Will it ruin the story? Maybe not, but too many data errors will undermine our writing and make readers believe we’re either lazy or not very bright.
When editing for setting, we list dates along with setting descriptions and locations. November in a southern state like Florida would be rather pleasant, while in New York it would be on the chilly side. We’d describe these settings in different ways, and the characters living in these locations would wear different clothing and participate in different activities.
We also check our facts to make sure we haven’t fallen victim to cliches or stereotypes. For example, Canada is not snowbound everywhere, and it’s not cold year round. Each province’s climate is different at different times of the year, just as it is in America. If we’re writing a story set in British Columbia, the climate is much different than what we’d find in Quebec. Similarly, while it rains frequently in parts of England, it doesn’t mean that every day should include a thunderstorm. We make note of these little bits and research to make sure we’ve accurately described the setting.
Renee Miller & Carlos Cortes
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