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  Issue #58

Free Writers' Newsletter

   Dec 31, 2007  

        

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Proofreading and editing

Getting one’s thoughts down on paper may seem to some people as a demanding challenge, as writing is a skill that requires time, concentration, and persistence. Whether it is creative, business or academic writing, writers need to be patient until they are able to be sure that they have actually succeeded in transferring ideas into a written product which is well organised and clear to the reader. Good, experienced writers know that following a defined and widely accepted set of stages creates an efficient and stress-reducing framework, which is the key to successful writing.

Revising, editing and proofreading
After the initial stages of brainstorming, planning, outlining and drafting which mostly concern content, writers must always revise drafts for editing purposes, which deal with both content and language issues. These stages of the writing are essential for making sure that the intended ideas and plan have actually been fully realised on paper; and as any good writer knows, this is often far from being the case. Some people regard revising and editing as one unified stage, while others separate the two.

Revising consists of re-reading the text globally and controlling the logical flow of arguments and supporting details. This is the time to either add in or cut out information and to consider re-arranging material to make the text more cohesive. Conjunctions ("and", "or", "but", "so", "because", "although") and transitions ("however", "in addition", "consequently", for example) must be used for logical and thematic connections within the text. On the sentence level, it is advisable to vary sentence length and type (simple, compound and complex sentences); and to avoid common mistakes such as run-ons, fragments and comma splices.

Editing refers to controlling more technical language aspects which are no less important than content issues for polishing your writing. Even advanced writers sometimes miss out on such grammatical pitfalls as subject-verb agreement and appropriate verb tense choices. Spelling and punctuation are sometimes infamously known as annoying language nitty-gritty that require time-consuming confirmation of proper comma or hyphen usage, capitalisation or abbreviation. The very last stage of proofreading is the writer’s final chance to closely re-examine those hard to find language or typography mistakes that blemish the desired perfection of the writing.

Writing in English with English writing software programs
There are several software programs that assist writers in overcoming some of the writing challenges by offering highly advanced editing and proofreading services. They save you time and editing costs. The advanced artificial intelligence and grammar engine of these programs enable the detection and correction of language errors that may damage the image you want to project. The proofreading abilities of the integrated spell checker and smart punctuation check will prevent you from getting embarrassed in case you are not sure about the particularities of the English language.

One such program is the WhiteSmoke’s English Writing Software, in which text correction features are coupled with its text enrichment services. The software algorithms constantly scan an endless number of texts, adding to the large variety of enrichment suggestions for synonyms and descriptive adjectives and adverbs that bring English text enhancement to a whole new level. This also builds on a remarkable online English dictionary and thesaurus, which includes translation to 18 languages, making the software really adaptable for international English users.

Further Tips for Revising, Editing and Proofreading
1. Take some time off between drafting and revising / editing.
2. Read your draft aloud slowly and carefully.
3. Make sure you stay on topic and delete irrelevant information.
4. Make sure your paragraphs contain topic sentences and sufficient supporting sentences.
5. Be aware of your audience’s needs and language level.
6. Vary language structures and use parallelism, emphasis and pronoun reference.
7. Use appropriate register and avoid sexist language.
8. Organise your writing to allow a logic development of your argument.
9. Work on an inviting introduction, an elaborate discussion and a conclusive closing.
10. Vary word choices and rephrase repetitive key ideas in different ways.

firstwriter.com would like to thank WhiteSmoke for providing the above article on proofreading and editing. For more details about WhiteSmoke proofreading Software please click here.

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Interview with an Orange Prize winner
An interview with Orange Prize winner Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, conducted by Sumaila Isah Umaisha

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian writer based in the US, is fast becoming a house-hold name not only in Nigeria but globally. Her works, especially the novel Purple Hibiscus, has won many awards including the 2005 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book. It was also short-listed for the prestigious Orange Fiction Prize award in 2004. Her latest novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, based on the Biafran war, has just been published and is already making waves. She speaks to me about these works and other related issues. (The interview was conducted a year before she won the Orange Prize).

SIU: Let us into a brief biography of yourself.

CNA: I was born in Anambra State in 1977. I grew up in the university town of Nsukka where I attended primary and secondary schools. I started off studying medicine at the University of Nigeria and then decided, after a year, that medicine was not for me and left for the US where I studied communication and political science and, later, got a Masters Degree in creative writing. I spent a fellowship year at Princeton University where I taught creative writing to undergraduates. I am presently 
in the graduate program in African studies at Yale University. My father is a retired university professor and my mother is a retired registrar. I am the fifth of six children.

SIU: How did your interest in writing begin?

CNA: I fell in love with books as a child. I have been writing since I was old enough to spell. I don't have major inspirations. I am inspired by everything and anything.

SIU: What informs the choice of your themes?

CNA: My themes are informed by interest. I write about what I care about; gender, class, religion, family, history, race.

SIU: Your first novel, Purple Hibiscus, has won many prestigious awards and short-listed for others. What is the secret behind this phenomenal success?

CNA: There is no secret. I don't quite see it as a phenomenal success either and hope to improve my craft as I go along. Purple Hibiscus is the result of many years of rejections from earlier publishers and hard work and a refusal to give up. I read as much as I can because I am convinced that reading is the only way to nurture writing. And most of all, I am deeply committed to writing. I put in a lot of time into writing and re-writing. My relative success is a result of a number of things: my hard work; my determination; my refusal to back down in the face of the many rejections I received at first.

SIU: You are engaged in many fields of study: medicine; communication and politics; and creative writing. In what way has each of these contributed to your success as a writer?

CNA: I studied medicine for just one year and so don't think it had any influence. I was, however, a science student in secondary school and I am not sure whether or not physics (which I disliked) and chemistry (which I liked) contributed to my writing. Studying communication and political science meant that I had the opportunity to read widely across disciplines: philosophy; history; politics. It has very much helped my writing by expanding my knowledge. To write fiction is to try to make sense of the world and knowledge of the facts of the world can only aid that.

SIU: Your second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, is based on the Biafran war. To what extent is the story a personal experience, and what lesson are you trying to impart?

CNA: I never try to impart lessons with my fiction. The beauty of literature, I think, is that different people will come away with different interpretations. Half of a Yellow Sun is a story of love and loyalty and betrayal and change (for more on the book go to www.halfofayellowsun.com). My grandfathers both died in Biafra and so the novel is also my way of paying tribute to them and to so many others. It is also my hope that this book will start a conversation among Nigerians of my generation about a history that we have tended to ignore.

SIU: Some critics have tried to emphasise the difference between women's writings and those of men. Is there really any difference?

CNA: I don't think so. What I would emphasise as a means of differentiation would be technique rather than gender; the quality of the prose; the sentence construction, etc. I think that gender probably plays a bigger role in how critics read than in how writers write.

SIU: Would you have gone this far in your writing career if you were not living abroad?

CNA: I was first published in Nigeria. A poetry collection and a play were both published before I left Nigeria. That said, it is obvious that publishing is an established industry in the US in a way that it's not in Nigeria. I may not have been published internationally if I had stayed back in Nigeria, but I would certainly have been writing.

SIU: Finally, should readers expect works from you soon?

CNA: Half of a Yellow Sun has just been published in the US and will be out in Nigeria in November.

About the interviewer
Sumaila Isah Umaisha is the Literary Editor of New Nigerian Newspapers, Kaduna, Nigeria. He has written two collections of short stories:
The Last Hiding Place and Burning Dreams, and a collection of poems: hell@heavensgate. He is a co-editor of After The Curfew, an anthology of poems and short stories by members of the Kaduna State chapter of Association of Nigerian Authors. His poems and short stories are published in seven anthologies. He is currently working on a collection of interviews with Nigerian writers: Nigerian Writers Talking. His blog can be accessed at: http://www.EverythinLiterature.blogspot.com 

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In this issue:

Spelling conventions

fwn uses English spelling conventions. Spellings such as "realise" "colour", "theatre", "cancelled", etc. differ from other spelling conventions but are nonetheless correct. 

News:

Martin Literary expands again
Following last month's announcement of the launch of the New York branch of Martin Literary Management, it has now been revealed that another new branch is to be launched on January 1, 2008.

While the Californian office will continue to handle nonfiction exclusively, and the New York office will continue to focus on fiction, children's books, and true crime, the new division is intended to handle mind, body, and spirit titles only.

For contact details, click here.

For over 750 other agents, click here

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WriteSafe contest winners announced
WriteSafe has announced the winners of its Present-A-Thon contest for the third quarter of 2007.

John Adcox wins prizes for his novels and short story collection, while Andrew Fisk and Mike Addiego receive prizes for their screenplays.

For more details go to www.writesafe.com.

For over 100 other contests, click here

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Diana Montgomery Agency closes
Diana Montgomery notified firstwriter.com at the end of November, 2007, that the Agency of Diana Montgomery Productions was ceasing to operate as a literary agency.

When asked for the reasons for the closure Diana Montgomery offered no comment, but did suggest that new information might be provided during the course of 2008.

For over 750 active agents, click here

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