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Monday, April 30, 2012

Truth and Accuracy

I received positive feedback on my Revising, revising, revising post and requests for detail. Rewriting is the key to polishing your work. You need to take a step away from your writing and become a reader of your own work; not an easy task.

The first type of revision I focus on when editing my own work or the work of others is "truth and accuracy".

This stage is more than just checking to see if quotations are correct but also whether quotations are given the correct context. Quotations without proper context can bias the reader by offering them a half truth. It is also an opportunity to check facts, dates, and people's names. It is so easy to transpose numbers or mispell a name.

I find it also a good time to check assumptions. We all enter into writing with our biases so we have to make sure that they have not had an impact on the final product. Did we only look for information to support our point of view?

Checking assumptions is important for both fiction and non-fiction writers. We make assumptins about base knowledge of the reader. I might know, after having been immersed in the research, that "Christmas cheer" in the 1920s meant visiting people and spreading joy and happiness but my readers might think of the more modern definition and assume that my characters are sharing alcoholic beverages. In non-fiction writing you can often clarify things in your footnotes but that can be annoying for the reader. The trick is finding the middle ground so that you are not insulting your more knowledgable readers but also not leaving readers new to the genre confused and frustrated. Candace Robb, one of my favourite fiction authors puts a glossary of terms at the beginning of her books. It is a nice non-intrusive way of providing additional information for readers.

What are your tips for revising for truth and accuracy?

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