Other sites like Fiction Bitch?
June 5, 2006 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Show me the way to other writing critique web sites, where there are red-lined drafts of writing samples, or even better, rewrites of less-than-stellar writing.

greb's thread reminded me of the dearly departed Fiction Bitch, whose site seems to be gone. She was a professional editor who spent time going over short stories submitted by her site visitors. She would comment on them, mark up gaffes, suggest improvements, etc. It was particularly nice because she didn't just savage the schlock but also pointed out the parts she really liked, even in otherwise awful stories.

I would love to see other sites like this. There are lots of sites with writing tips but not so many with fleshed out writing samples, particularly ones that weren't just cooked up to prove a point.

Bonus points if you can point out ones where full rewrites are demonstrated. Identifying problems is nice, but showing how to do it "right" is even better. And if the rewrites are substantially different, where they offer more than just incremental improvement, you'll make my day.

(I love the difference between "Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out." and "You must kill all your darlings.")
posted by Khalad to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Let me amend this: books I can find at the public library are fair game, too.
posted by Khalad at 9:19 AM on June 5, 2006

Fix everything you can first:

1. Strike out every adverb and adjective. Keep only those necessary to the meaning.

2. Change passive voice to active.

3. Remove intensifiers (sheer, clearly, very)

4. Read aloud. Change anything you wouldn't say.

5. Omit needless words. If taking out a word doesn't destroy the meaning, it's needless.

6. Remove abstract nouns. (Used for bait purposes --> Used for bait.)

7. 9 out of 10 words should have 1 syllable.

Then enroll in a college or free university writing course. Editing will improve one story. Learning how to edit will improve them all.
posted by KRS at 2:52 PM on June 5, 2006

KRS' comments might be applicable to essay writing or something, but I have my doubts about how well literary works would hold up under rules 4 & 5.
posted by juv3nal at 4:34 PM on June 5, 2006

afterdinner.com was a great redlining website... it also appears defunct. Damn.

You don't have to kill all adjectives. This whole athletic noun-verb-noun-verb! style gets tiresome in fiction. Nor do you have to always use the active voice in fiction. Non-fiction, yes. But beware these fatuous little "rules" as you'll find that following them does not necessarily make writing great, and almost all great writers break them constantly.

oh SNAP i used an ADVERB!
posted by scarabic at 4:43 PM on June 5, 2006

Response by poster: Yeah, I know plenty of rules and guidelines and suggestions and whatnot, but I really like seeing red-lining or before-and-after examples of editing, with real writing and not sentences manufactured for the purpose.

I'm not a big fan of rules. "Rules" are more like "rough guidelines", and applying them—or ignoring them—is where the real craft is. For instance, in ericb's thread lots of people offered rewrites. Almost everybody honed onto simplifying the language, but some people just stripped out words, some restructured sentences, grumblebee tried substituing some adjectives with a nice metaphor, and others tried changing the style and tone. I find all that fascinating.

Thank you if anybody knows of any resource like this. I fear my question is already about to disappear...
posted by Khalad at 11:10 PM on June 5, 2006

Incidentally, lots of lists along the lines of Writing Dos And Don'ts (like the list KRS gave) are lists that help crap writers be less crap. They are designed to stop people trying to write well by phrasing things like dey seen in dem book things. They are most definitely NOT the path to good writing.
posted by pollystark at 5:20 AM on June 6, 2006

How about looking at people's "sloppy" drafts? For example, Thomas Jefferson's early drafts of the Declaration of Independence contain lots of revisions and cross-outs and so forth. Pardon me for answering without really understanding your question.
posted by Aghast. at 11:40 AM on June 6, 2006

Best answer: Well, it's driving me nuts because I can't find the title, but 20 years or more ago James Michener published a large-format paperback that led the writer through the creation of a couple of chapters of one of his novels (Alaska, perhaps?) from first draft through markups to final, including facsmiles showing his scratchouts and additions, with commentary on why he made the revisions he did. Whether you like Michener or not (I couldn't stand anything he wrote after "Centennial), it's a fascinating look at artifacts of the creative process. I know I've seen it in the writing section of the library, but can't find it in the online catalog right now...
posted by lhauser at 10:16 PM on June 6, 2006

Best answer: Stephen King did the same thing that lhauser mentions with a draft of a short story. It's included in his book "On Writing," which I recommend in and of itself.
posted by anjamu at 2:42 PM on June 8, 2006

Really late - but Miss Snark.
posted by paduasoy at 2:07 PM on October 19, 2006

« Older Which online retailers will ship a bottle of...   |   Ouchy Feet Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.