Posted: May 24th, 2013 under Crown of Renewal, Revisions, the writing life.
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So today, the nitpicking round it is ongoing, and it’s…always interesting.   Nitpicking has various uses.  One of them can be shortening a book that’s too long (too long defined by publishing economics.)   I think I’ve posted before about some of the shortening strategies.   But this book isn’t too long, so nitpicking is aimed at other goals.   Tyops of course, like that one right there.   Not just letter reversals and misspelled words, but words mistakenly typed in place of others.  “Heard” for “herd.”    “Policed” for “pleased.”  (Don’t ask how I did that one…I don’t know.   Brain burp.  It wasn’t in this book.)   Anything that sticks out as awkward, bothersome, annoying, confusing.   For instance:

Why did I  mention when sheep would be moved to higher pastures in Chapter Two?   Was I thinking  there might be an encounter with a shepherd?   Sheep thieves?  Wolves?  Or sight of a flock?    Is that really what the POV person is thinking about right then,  “Hmmm…how long before there are sheep around?”   No.  It’s not.  And no sheep, shepherds, sheep-stealers, sheepdogs,  or sheep predators are involved in that entire chapter.   Nor is it a prompt to the reader to be alert for these in the same place another time.   In fact, it’s the kind of thing that I put in when I am considering setting the scene (“This is a summer sheep pasture area…where are the sheep?  Oh…sure…they’re in the winter pastures, won’t move here until later…”)  And there is it, in the book itself, as if it mattered.  ZIP.  Not there now.

An earlier run-through noticed that the first paragraph of Chapter One–the very paragraph you don’t want to be too leisurely–was rather languid in a discussion of winter weather, the effect of winter weather on where troops were stationed, and so on, then stuck in a non-POV version–an omnipotent viewpoint section–about what was going to happen.   Again, the writer gets to see (often) the action that will be shown (later) in a different way, and the draft may have it as the writer watches it, not as the characters experience it.  Did that add to the shock of a dramatic event in the first chapter?  No.   Now it’s first sentence weather (because it is plot-worthy) and second sentence you’re in the POV.

Another class of nits: tightening the writing.    Another class of nits: inconsistencies in sequence, in names, in places.  (URGH!)

But now….lunch.




  • Comment by Genko — May 24, 2013 @ 3:16 pm


    Lunch! Very important! And nitpicking, however tedious, is also important. Just finished (mostly) a program ready to go to the printer, and spent a fair amount of time what I call “tweaking” — move this over there, downsize that graphic, upsize that heading, center that, align right, etc. Have to do it, look at it, change it again, look at it, change it a little more, keep tweaking until it looks right. I imagine the process is similar, though of course quite a bit more massive on the scale you’re doing it.

    In the mean time, glad you’re making sure of nutritional needs.

  • Comment by Annabel — May 25, 2013 @ 7:14 am


    Yay for lunch! I have missed your cooking posts on your LiveJournal, but I do appreciate that you’ve been focussing on other things….

  • Comment by GinnyW — May 25, 2013 @ 8:48 am


    It is good to have you back in the conversation!

    Was the absence of the shepherds important to the plot? What I mean is, would the possibility of an inadvertent witness affect the behavior of the characters? And is it important to convey that this is grazing land, that is sparsely inhabited land, rather than wilderness or a more permanently inhabited land?

    I have in the back of the question the memory of Arcolin teaching Burek to watch the livestock as they were hunting bandits in Oath of Fealty.

    Not to say that you are not right about thoughts intruding into the narrative that may have been important to the writer, but need to be conveyed differently (or not at all). It is your willingness to do the nitpicking that makes the books so engaging to read.

  • Comment by Jenn — May 25, 2013 @ 9:58 am



    I am going out on a limb here but I think you are over thinking the sheep. 🙂 Unless of course this is a reconnaissance training for the children of Duke’s East?

  • Comment by elizabeth — May 25, 2013 @ 10:40 am


    GinnyW: Those are the questions I asked myself, but in this instance, the answer was that the writer’s musings leaked into the story. It happens frequently. When writing, more than just story-plot stuff is running through my head, and the text ends up with lots of “writer thoughts” that aren’t really Story. I’m sure that you won’t spot where it was taken from, or miss it.

    However, in case you do find a place in the book where you think it’s needed, feel free to insert the sentence I pulled: “The sheep were still in the valleys below, but in this weather, if it held, shepherds would soon move them into the hills.” Since no sheep had been mentioned to that point, it was a kind of hanging reference…prompting (on the nitpicking run) the question “WHAT sheep? No sheep have been mentioned…”

    “The” kicked the non sequitur into awareness. The definite article is tricky that way. If you write “the sheep” as opposed to “sheep,” you’re implying that particular sheep are referenced. It’s subtle–the definite article is so commonly overused that many readers will simply feel a slight dulling of the prose–but some will be saying “WHAT sheep? Where are the sheep? Did I miss something?” and go back a paragraph or so to find them. I could have removed “the” and it wouldn’t have stuck out as badly…but it still did not fit with the character’s other thoughts, or the situation, and would have led nowhere if I’d left it in. (Hmm…maybe should leave as an exercise for readers: see if you can spot not just the chapter and scene, but the exact spot I pulled it out of…)

    A book I read back in the mid-70s alerted me to the problems of “the.” It’s such a common word, and used so carelessly…we’re used to it, we don’t think about it. It’s become standard with singular nouns. And yet the difference between “The horse grazed in the field” and “A horse grazed in the field” or “The horse grazed in a field” or “A horse grazed in the field” changes both the meaning and the feel of the sentence. “The” specifies which horse or which field. I started pulling out “the” any time I didn’t mean a definite object/person/action. As the book warned, I found my writing back then full of “the” that I’d used carelessly, conventionally. I still use it carelessly and have to yank it out, but less often than back then. As with verbs, we’re often timid about using naked nouns without any modifier at all. Yet there’s nothing ungrammatical about writing “Sheep graze these fields in summer” and unless you’ve specified which sheep, it’s better than “The sheep graze these fields…”

    (Sorry…didn’t mean to run off in a long discussion of “the”. Not aimed at you, GinnyW, but myself, since I just yanked another two “the”s.

  • Comment by Genko — May 25, 2013 @ 11:41 am


    Oh, yes, “the.” Hadn’t thought of that one. The word I pay attention to is “very.” Always yanking that one out. It’s almost never necessary and almost always actually weakens the adverb or adjective it’s attached to. Just like the word “actually” in that sentence. Is it really adding emphasis? Does it really mean anything? Maybe, but when I recast the sentence without it, it’s stronger. I’ll start looking for “the.” I’m pretty aware of it in poetry, but not so much in prose.

  • Comment by elizabeth — May 25, 2013 @ 12:56 pm


    Back in school, when the teacher prodded us to write a longer sentence or paragraph or page…we learned to count words and pad them. Adverbs, adjectives, modifying phrases, all a great help in writing dull boring sentences (though they can be tools for writing crisp, bright, interesting sentences.) Teachers wanted us to use adjectives or adverbs as part of learning vocabulary. (Surely you also had to write a sentence using each word on each week’s vocabulary list.) They also assigned us to write simple, compound, and complex sentences, and gave or took off points based on how many we had of the different kinds.

    The practice in using parts of speech and different constructions wasn’t bad in itself, but divorced from any comments on the purposes of these things (other than grades) we did not learn any of the art of writing.

  • Comment by Genko — May 25, 2013 @ 5:08 pm


    yes, just the mechanics can be deadly dull. Though they are interesting in their mechanical way, and as you point out, can lead to more lively writing, if used well. And that’s where the art comes in.

  • Comment by GinnyW — May 25, 2013 @ 6:44 pm


    I liked the exposition on “the”. In fact, I like these grammatical tidbits.

    I apologize if it sounded as though I was trying to interfere, it just triggered a vivid recollection of another scene. And as Jenn points out, at least one of the young ones from Duke’s East seems to be training herself as a future scout (and whispering in my ear).

  • Comment by elizabeth — May 27, 2013 @ 8:01 am


    “The Last Nitpick Run-through”…found three more nits this morning. How I missed them before I do not know, since I did a global search on [ (that’s right, [) Square brackets are my personal code for “fix this later” and include things like [needaname] and [better word] when I’m being pushed by the story and need to keep writing rather than stop and figure something out. You would think I’d see them while reading through, but since I now do most reading through on the monitor, and it’s MUCH easier to glaze out and not see things that way, it happens.

    Still…just three nits. That’s a lot of words to read for three nits. (And a lot of square brackets found and corrected in previous run-throughs. Plus all the other nits found and fixed.) Are there more nits? Probably. Nonetheless, I’m going to let Editor find them. At this point my eyes cross when I look at the thing. So into the electronic maze it goes, and should be there in her inbox when Editor gets back from the long weekend.

  • Comment by GinnyW — May 27, 2013 @ 9:05 am


    It sounds like a successful launch.

    I hope you have a good Memorial Day, and are not too wet. The news sounds as though western Texas got all the rain at once that should have been spread out over the last year or so.

  • Comment by Richard — May 28, 2013 @ 2:53 am


    Now to celebrate.

  • Comment by Naomi — May 30, 2013 @ 4:21 am


    Saw this morning that Amazon UK is showing Crown of Renewal with a publication date of May 27th 2014… wow!

  • Comment by elizabeth — May 30, 2013 @ 6:12 am


    Really? Wow! That might explain why I got my copy two days ago. Wish I had a copy of the US edition to show off at A-Kon, though.

  • Comment by GinnyW — June 3, 2013 @ 3:14 pm


    I am so jealous!

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