Tag Archives: Editing Tips

Word Confusion Writing Tip

Word Confusion

 

At some point, we’ve all had writing mix-up of words we don’t intend. Within my own writing, I’ve come across some common words that I’ve gotten confused many times. Sometimes – yes – sometimes it does happen – spellcheck does confuse words and inserts the opposite word. Most often these words are interchanges of the others and thankfully I’ve caught them during my edits on the Hunt book.

Three of the most common interchanges of words I’ve come across in my writing of this book is:

Trial vs. Trail

Trial refers to the process of a civil or criminal court trial.

Trail refers to the hiking trails in the outdoors.

With just two vowels in these words, they mean completely different things – almost like light and dark. I’ve caught this so many times that’s it’s not funny. But thankfully, I noticed these blunders. I must have had hiking on the brain when I made these mistakes. After going through so many trial and appeal documents you’d think my fingers and brain would know the difference and type trial instead of trail.

Except vs. Expect

With the interchange of three letters, these two words mean something completely different. I noticed these word exchanges and it transforms the entire meaning of the sentence.

Except means basically exclude, while expect means something is likely to happen. Different meanings altogether, but when I’ve been writing these two words I have gotten them mixed up.

Reserve vs. Reverse

With the interchange of four letters, these two words mean something completely different as well.

Reserve means to hold off using and save it for the future, while reverse means everything from going backwards to acting in a usual manner. Once again one of these words can change the entire meaning of a sentence or passage.

Solution

How I caught these mistakes during my editing was when I was hard editing my Hunt book. I’d make manual changes on a printed manuscript, but then I took it a step further to ensure all my bases were covered.

Even after inserting my edits into the computer, I’d use the search function in Word to double check on finding each of these words. This gave me the added confidence that every single one of these words was correct in the context of the writing. No matter how many times I’ve done a paper edit, there was always one or two trails not corrected.

Writing Tip 

All my problem words have been identified in my Hunt book. I’m sure in the next book I write I’ll encounter new problem words to identify.

Recognize your problem words with interchanges like the ones that plagued me. Write them down. Then do a search function in the document to help you find if those word interchanges are in your document like I encountered in my own writing. The search function can be your lifesaver.

 

Graphic – © Christena Stephens

Fuming Fodder – A Shitty First Draft!

Research Files-Sig
A portion of my Hunt research files.

 

Every writer has had a shitty first draft they thought was perfect and I’m no exception. I’m openly admitting it. I was under the impression my first draft of the Hunt murder story was better than it was and after discovering that even my basic editing techniques were not even applied to this finished first draft I went into depression for about month while I was re-editing it like crazy. It was crap. Friends told me to not be so hard on myself, but I was because I’m a perfectionist.

As one friend mentioned not long ago, the Hunt family tragedy has always spoken to me, since my first glimpse of the Hunt daughters front-page photo to several other times and in other several ways, including experiencing a ghostly visitation in a vacant hospital.

This hard re-edit of this draft turned blood red after I was finished with the pages this time around. Now all my editing techniques of making sure I don’t repeat words in the same sentence, editing out the majority of my “that’s”, cutting adverbs, along with other edits are now consistent. I did not realize how many times I used “however” in my writing.

Other editing included downsizing sections including talking about the early forensics to not leave a reader overwhelmed. While there has been controversy over me adding the murder of the Lamb County sheriff in 1937, it’s always been important in relation to the Hunt murders, because of the fatal bullets from both cases. This chapter is now edited down to still present the jest of the story and why it’s important in relation to the Hunt murders.

Another important item I discovered during this hard re-edit was sections could be edited out completely because it did not further the story along. In the end I cut the manuscript down from 333 pages to 313 pages. Additionally, moving story items to other chapters was needed to keep the flow of the story moving forward.

Plus, I’ve ensured to identify all the characters by their first names and not just their initials. Court documents and newspapers were the worst back then at only including the first initials of people they referenced. Thank goodness I learned detective techniques on how to navigate sites like Find a Grave or Family Search.

I’ve always seen this book with the photographs going with each chapter – not placed in the middle like so many historical nonfiction books where a reader has to flip back and forth from the photos to the chapter they’re reading. With this hard re-edit I noticed photo gaps needing to be filled.

Yes – I’ve learned a few hard lessons from this crappy first draft I’ll never forget for my future writing.

Lesson One: Don’t assume your first draft is perfect, especially when you are taking a massive amount of historical information to condense it into a story.

Lesson Two: Editing and more editing will always make your manuscript better.

Lesson Three: Editing makes sure you’re consistent with the character names.

Lesson Four: The “Search” option in MS Word is the best quick tool you can use to help with Lesson Three.

Lesson Five: Editing helps you go back and fill in gaps you really thought were filled.

Lesson Six: Your title always evolves. I may not stick with Unanswered Justice, but go with something completely different based on a friend’s feedback. After you do a hard re-edit, you may find within your manuscript the solid book title you feel comfortable with and reflects the tone of the story.

So now go edit and don’t take your first draft for granted! I’m off to do round two of editing and photographic travels.

 

Photograph – © Christena Stephens Photography

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