Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ana edits

ana said...

I had a paragraph in the mix, but I found a different line I would like to go over. It is one heck of a long sentence.

He attended the University on a football scholarship. when he realized that he didn’t intend to make a living as a wanna-be football player for the rest of his life, he changed his program from under water basket weaving to the MBA program, and started a successful business in computer consulting.

He attended the University on a football scholarship.

Hmm. In the US, we generally don't capitalize "university" except when it's part of the title (like Bradley University). Now some universities have pretensions that they are THE university and probably do insist on capitalizing it, but that's the sort of red flag -- stray capitalization-- that comes off as old-fashioned. The trend is towards less and less capping at this point. So unless you have a reason for capping it, I'd lc it.
I do understand that there are other English-speaking countries, where they also have universities and a game they quaintly call "football," and at least Britain tends to be more profligate with capital letters. So go with the style of the publishers you want to approach. (Ducking to avoid brickbats from all those "football" hooligans. Hey, what's with those towels, huh?)

when he realized that he didn’t intend to make a living as a wanna-be football player for the rest of his life,

There's a period before this, so here you SHOULD use a capital letter. :)

The first thing to do when you work on simplifying a sentence is to find the verbals-- verbs, verb forms, gerunds (-ing words used as nouns, like "living" there). See if you can limit those, because when they are the actual sentence action (the predicate), they tend to distract. So notice the verbal words:
when he realized that he didn’t intend to make a living as a wanna-be football player for the rest of his life,

The one that is the most cluttering is probably "didn't intend to"-- couldn't? After all, making a living is seldom just a matter of intent. If you really mean that his problem was that he didn't intend, keep it, but just make sure, as it does kind of distract. (But if it's the precise term you want, go with it-- truth always trumps. Well, the sort of truth we have in fiction, anyway.)

Now get ruthless with the rest of that-- what's a "wanna-be football player"? How could he making a living as a wannabe? Either you're a pro football player, or you don't make a living at it. A wanna-be wouldn't make a living. What is it he realized? Possibilities:
When he realized he'd never make a living as a football player....
When he realized he couldn't make the pros as a football player....
When he realized he was only a wanna-be and would never make it as a pro football player....

Thing is, if he would get into the pros, of course he'd make a very good living, so it's not clear whether it's his inability or his lack of desire keeping him from making a living as a football player.

Also "the rest of your life," well, there are few professions LESS likely to be for the rest of your life than pro football (because of the casualty rate). So "the rest of his life" suggested to me that you're saying he couldn't make it in the pros and figured that out early and thought he should prepare for something else? Think through what you mean there, because what you mean isn't clear, and you want it clear.
he changed his program from under water basket weaving to the MBA program, and started a successful business in computer consulting.

This gives that humorous cast to the sentence (basket-weaving). Comedy often has longer sentences. Just pointing that out-- length itself often adds to humor.

Now I teach in a university, and there are several points I'd query right here. Again, other English-speaking countries will have their own terminology (term vs. semester, form vs. grade), so use the terms used in the country of your characters and/or country of your publisher. Anyway, here's what I would flag for a query:
he changed his program
In the US, that would be "his major".

from under water basket weaving

I think this is probably where the humor is. Universities don't actually grant degrees in that. :) Athletes do, however, often major in Phys Ed or Communications, because these majors are supposed to be easy (they aren't actually, in my experience).

Also again, this is dependent in part on the country, but "underwater" is one word in the US, and "basket-weaving" would be hyphenated. The longer the compound term has been in the language, the more likely it will be a single word.

to the MBA program,
The MBA program is a graduate program (also notice you repeated "program," which wouldn't be a problem if you have "major" to start), and the vast, vast majority of those on athletic scholarships are undergraduates. (Vinnie Testeverde, I remember, actually graduated in three years and did play his final year while taking graduate courses, but that is beyond unusual.) So is he an undergraduate (just say "business program" then-- same department, just for undergraduates)?

and started a successful business in computer consulting.
When? When he was still in college? If it's when he got OUT that he started a consulting firm, say, "Later he started" or "After graduation, he started". I think maybe you're trying to cover too much time in a sentence.

Also, while of course, a business major could start a computer consulting business, that's more an "IT" or "CS" vocation. Business majors who know a lot about computers tend to move to IT, where the job prospects are better.

I'm sure this is just a paragraph of quick background on him, but it's easy to get it right and shut up nitpickers like me. :)

Most important for me would be to get the football scholarship thing right. If he stops playing football, he'd lose his scholarship, so you might make that clearer, what he actually does. Of course, this probably isn't a major aspect of the story, so you might not to get too elaborate-- but make sure what you have is accurate. It's hard, also, with comedy, because absolute accuracy might get in the way of funniness. Always a tradeoff-- see what you can do to accomplish both! Easier said than done. :)


ana said...

Imagine me wiping the sweat from my brow. ;)

Okay, I really should have stuck with my first entry. It was much better proof-read and less embarrassing.

Aside from the stupid spelling errors and such, the advice was exactly what I was looking for. I knew there was a better way to phrase this, but when you’re too close to your manuscript sometimes you don’t see the obvious.

Here is the revision. Sorry the MBA is stick’n. (it follows into the story)

He originally attended the university (this originally was a proper name, I just never lower cased university.) on a football scholarship. When he realized he would never make the pros as a football player he changed his major from underwater basket-weaving to business and was now finishing the MBA program. He started a small business in computer consulting to pay his way.

Jami Gold said...

Hi Ana,

Don't forget your comma after your "when" clause:

When he realized he would never make the pros as a football player, <--- he changed his major from underwater basket-weaving to business...

Also, should some of the "he"s be "he'd"?

"...never make the pros as a football player, he'd changed his major..."


"He'd started a small business..."

If those things happened before your stated "now" (finishing his MBA program), then I *think* they should be "he'd".

Hope that helps!
Jami G.

Leona said...

Whew! I'm glad I'm not the only one with convoluted, long winded paragraphs that I can't figure out how to change. ;)

You're exactly right. Sometimes we are too close to it. We know what we mean, so we can't figure out why our brains are saying problem here, fix.

As for embarrassing? Don't worry about it. That's why we send in our stuff that needs help. We want it to work, even if someone else has to tell us why and how.

Have a good day!

ana said...

Jami G, thanks for the help.

Leona, thanks for the uplift. I needed it. ;)

Jami Gold said...

No problem, Ana, :)

Since I missed out on the opportunity to send in any sentences for revision (I just got caught up on the blog last week), I've got to pay close attention to everyone else's to practice everything that I'm learning here.

Jami G.

Anonymous said...

Jami, email me at if you want to submit for an edit. Interesting opportunity awaits you!

Leona said...

You're welcome, Ana! Good luck on the rest of the story. I love humorous writing, but can't seem to keep it up long enough to be the tone of the book. My books end up too serious in tone no matter how much I try.

I also tend to fly right through the sex scenes as I rarely have anything "major" happen during the sex as sex is about fun (or love and romance depending on my, er the character's mood LOL) so once it's clear that it's happened I move on.

I have been working on the tendency to "outline" scenes to get through to the next one for the action scenes as my science fiction story needed them expounded upon, but... See this is a long winded, convoluted... Ugh you get the idea?

I'll keep working on my flaws. When Alicia get's to mine, I'll probably be bowing my own head in shame. (I gave her too many lines as I'd just started reading the blog. I can't remember her exact words, but I got the feeling that the teacher/editor in her had the red pen ready! LOL)

I love this process as it helps all of my writing to read what has been said of everyone's line item edits. Thanks for sending yours in.