Editing programs—are they any good?

editing programs, are they any good?I love reading. I love reading poignant, gripping stories. However, typos and banal grammar mistakes can spoil even the most well-devised story. Indeed, for me reading a book riddled with typos and grammar mistakes is like watching a movie peppered with an endless series of ads. It just spoils my experience.

It’s not a matter of snobbishness on my part, or of being a grammar Nazi. Quite simply, when I read a book with a great story, I end up expecting that every other part of the book will be just as satisfying.

Once upon a time, with traditional books, the publishing houses made sure that each book was adequately edited and proofread. Nowadays this should still be the case, at least for the big names. In any case, often books ended up, and still end up, hitting the marked loaded with an embarrassing barrage of typos and grammar mistakes.

With the rise of self-publishing this problem has only gotten worse. In fact, although many new indie authors would be more than glad of having their works edited by professional editors, the sad truth is that often they cannot afford the costly  services of such professionals. As a result, they often try to find some other way to comb all the typos and mistakes out of their works.

That’s when they turn to the Internet. And, soon enough, they land on a page of one of those editing programs claiming to be able to spot every typo and mistake in a text. There are many of them. But are they any good? Can they really help writers to write and edit better and faster? Continue reading

Power words–don’t feast on them

volcano - power wordsNowadays it’s enough to surf the Internet to come across a staggering number of websites devoted to creative writing.

In most cases a brief search of any of these websites will produce a post about how we all should use power words if we want to instantly improve our writing.

This is just one of the innumerable tips about how to bring our prose to the next level. And, in general, it’s a sound piece of advice. After all, why to use walk over and over again when we can resort to amble, careenflounder and so on?

For sure, the  size of the English vocabulary is mind-blowing, and it really seems a pity not to exploit it adequately–at times, all those words waiting for someone to come by and use them are really too tempting.

However, like any suggestion based on a rule of thumb, also this one about power words should be adopted with a grain of salt. Continue reading

The Blade Itself – a review

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie - Peter ReyOver the weekend I finished reading the The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. This is the first book of  The First Law trilogy and, as it is often the case for Fantasy trilogies, it doesn’t have a conclusion–not even a minor one.

As a matter of fact, The Blade Itself sets up the setting and introduces the main characters of the trilogy. But in it there’s almost no mention about what mission our heroes are supposed to embark on, or why. There are only vague hints, and suppositions.

Considering what I’ve just said, this book doesn’t sound so interesting. Yet it managed to grab my attention and to keep it from beginning to end. And it did so for a series of reasons. Continue reading

Books and Movies — Three Reasons Why I Prefer Books

transformation - horror booksI read The Hobbit for the first time when I was a child. Tolkien‘s book immediately captured me, and made me fall in love with the fantasy genre. Some years ago I decided to reread it and gladly discovered that I still enjoyed it as thoroughly as I did on my first read. Indeed, great books and great wines are the same, they both age with grace.

Of lately I’ve watched the third episode of Peter Jackson’s adaptation–The Battle of the Five Armies. Even though Jackson’s work is quite different from the novel, I enjoyed it as well. In particular, I found the special effects simply terrific. For sure the first scene, in which Smaug is playing havoc over Lake-town, is a treat from the visual and aural point of view.

Indeed, over the last few years computer graphic has made possible the creation of settings and special effects that were unthinkable even only a handful of years ago. This notwithstanding, I believe that movies aren’t at all the most immersive fictional experience one can enjoy. As a matter of fact, I believe that books can be much more immersive than movies. And I think this is the case at least for three reasons. Continue reading

Creative Writing — Story, Plot, and Vocabulary

stained glass - creative writingWhen it comes to creative writing any theory is, to say the least, tricky. In fact, as soon as someone comes up with a definition, whatever that may be, we can be sure that a writer is bound to come along and write a story that proves that theory wrong.

From story to plot

However, this doesn’t mean we cannot draw any interesting conclusions about storytelling. For example, paraphrasing E.M. Forster, while a story is a narrative of events exclusively arranged in their time-sequence, a plot is also a narrative of events, but one in which the emphasis is falling on causality instead.

The king died and then the queen died  is a story.  The king died, and then the queen died of grief is a plot. The time sequence is preserved, but the sense of causality overshadows it.

This might seem a subtle distinction, yet it is essential to storytelling.

In a certain way, it’s like looking at the picture below on the left.  We can present it, without any comment or explication. Or we can present it as A new day, The dying of the light, Contrasts, and so on.

As a matter of fact, each title gives the readers a different reference frame and so, to a certain extent, can drive their reactions. Can lead them to think about why the writer has chosen certain words and not others. And this even without having to recur to any external time sequence. Continue reading