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Q&A

General Q&A about the craft of professional writing, editing, and publishing. Questions about all types of writing are welcome -- fiction, technical documentation, scholarly articles, poetry, scriptwriting, blogs, and more.

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Help! Editing Tips? [closed]

Hey, I'm having trouble editing my book. I have a crime novella but I can't edit that well. Does anyone have any tips to help? Thanks! ~Rosewood

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Rosewood‭  ·  closed 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Syntax summaries use brackets for optional elements; how do I represent literal brackets in a way readers will understand?

In our documentation of SQL functions and statements, we include a BNF-style syntax summary. As is conventional, we indicate optional elements in square brackets, like this: CREATE [IF NOT EXISTS]...

4 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Derek Elkins‭

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How to make the reader think that the *character's* logic is flawed instead of the author's?

Following up on my previous question, "How to make the villain's motives understandable if his logic is flawed?", how can I let the reader know that the lack of logic is on the character's side, in...

9 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Yuuza‭  ·  edited 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Time measures in fantasy worlds

I wonder, what could be a good way to provide time measures in a fantasy universe. I don't mean the calendar which is covered in the question: Out of this world... Giving it time?, but measures lik...

5 answers  ·  posted 9y ago by Darek Wędrychowski‭  ·  edited 2y ago by Canina‭

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Adding tags to documentation built in Flare?

Our software documentation set (for a SQL analytics database platform) is large, because SQL and databases have many pieces. Often a single statement, function, or feature will be highly related to...

0 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  edited 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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How can we make images with (necessary) text more translatable mechanically?

Our documentation set includes some diagrams, such as entity relationship diagrams and flowcharts, where text is integral and cannot reasonably be handled in callouts. Our documentation is translat...

1 answer  ·  posted 3y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  edited 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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How can I highlight changes in HTML output from Flare, based on branch diff?

We use Madcap Flare for a large documentation set, with HTML output. (Flare source is a very HTML-y XML with some Flare-specific additions.) We use git for source control and new work is done on ...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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How do you avoid the problem of a collaborative work having separate voices?

I've not done collaborative writing before, but I've read several works, and sometimes the text strikes me as having a split personality: some parts were clearly written by one author, while others...

3 answers  ·  posted 11y ago by Craig Sefton‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Is there any benefit when writing out instructions to split it up into lots of little paragraphs, or is it better to leave it in one paragraph?

I was putting together an instruction page (for setting up a game that my business created), which included a whole lot of various pointers, most of which were only a sentence or two long. These ex...

3 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Mithical‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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How to determine relative success of different, similar books published by different means?

This answer discusses how to choose between traditional print publishing, ebook publishing, self publishing, etc., and concludes by stating that You should publish your book using the channel wher...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Canina‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by msh210‭

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What is the main publishing format authors should be using today?

I've recently begun investigating the publishing process, and what I as an author need to do to get my book read. I'm aware of the self-publishing option, but as I have not studied any options exte...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Thomas Myron‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Which parts of a character's plan should be revealed beforehand?

Two characters (one is a PoV character) come up with a plan to break a third out of prison. They succeed, with only minor complications. If I describe too many details of their plan beforehand, it ...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Evil Sparrow‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Razetime‭

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Getting details of a past century right

I have been gathering ideas for a novel. The basic idea is in place; the story combines two different eras but the same place. How do I get the little details about the place, the people, their lif...

4 answers  ·  posted 9y ago by Kuchiki Byakuya‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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How to ask for permission to use readers' endorsements?

I have a blog with long, analytic articles. Because of their nature, they don't really attract much clicks. However, once people distill it thoroughly, many of them express that the articles are in...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Ooker‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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At what point does a POV character noting their surroundings go from showing/telling to an infodump?

In a story I'm working on, at one point one of the main characters (also the POV character in this case) arrives at a new location which he has never been in before. This is the first mention of th...

7 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by Canina‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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How to keep track of worthwhile snippets from discovery writing, which don't work where they were first written?

Sometimes, when I write, I find myself writing down a path that ends up not leading at all where I wanted to go with what I was writing. That's to be expected when discovery-writing. Depending on t...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Canina‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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How can we format code examples so that they work on a range of devices?

We use Madcap Flare to produce a large documentation set that contains many code examples (primarily SQL, but also C++, Java, and Python) and command-line operations. When the doc set was first pl...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by manassehkatz‭

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How to structure a sentence containing long code examples?

In the context of a technical manual, I need to write instructions guiding users through several standard manipulations. When providing examples of these manipulations, I have written a short sente...

4 answers  ·  posted 7y ago by Dave Jones‭  ·  edited 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Best practices for maintaining documented code examples?

A good SDK (software development kit) includes plenty of well-documented examples. It also includes good tutorials and developer guides, which introduce concepts in logical progressions, typically ...

4 answers  ·  posted 10y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  edited 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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How to train readers in Argot or Slang

I have a character which is typical street thug, criminal and did his time in jail. He is using a lot of underground Argot and thug slang. Example below At the end we got the ice, gravy train if y...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Prahara‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Canina‭

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Is writing policy pages in a lighthearted manner harmful in any way?

Recently, I threw together a draft of a policy page about promotional content, with some guidelines on what to keep in mind to avoid spamming. (Incidentally, this is for Codidact itself.) I decided...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Mithical‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Everyone's a woman: how do you show that through gender-neutral language?

In my latest short story I'm playing around with common gender misconceptions. It's set in a near future society were men have disappeared, and all roles are taken up by women. The theme is played ...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Liquid‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Prahara‭

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Dealing with Audience's expectations

Over the years I gained small audience and I love them. My last work quite disappoint them in regard of one character and I feel bad about it. I felt like character's struggle she went through woul...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Prahara‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Liquid‭

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Writing "light hearted" lead characters

For some reason, when I find myself writing a male protagonist, I seem to default to the brooding, gritty kind of man that could easily find his place into a noir novel. Those characters are often ...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Liquid‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Prahara‭

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Action scene pacing and clarity

I am using, for action scenes, this three act format which allows me to control pacing and create order in hectic environment: Action - analysis - reaction Johann fired (action) his pistol and mi...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Prahara‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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In a young adult, what would cause development of a high sense of duty?

This is a question related to my previous question about child's morality, but different criteria are applied. Criteria and Question: My desired kid would be born commoner but from merchant class, ...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Prahara‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by gymbrall‭

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Could a 13-year-old have morality to disagree with their family's unethical business practices, while those are the norm in their society?

I am very bad at writing children characters in my stories, I always make them either too "dumb" or too developed. Currently I am in need of believable child +- 13, boy or girl. Requirements: My de...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Prahara‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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How can I pinpoint a story's moral dilemma?

In this answer, Mark Baker makes a statement about story: All story ideas are basically a variation on one thing. A man (or woman, or child, or small furry animal) has two desires, both of which h...

4 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by icanfathom‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by DPT‭

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"The tale how" vs. "The tale of how"

My SO and I were discussing the following sentence in his writing: This is the tale how once the Septemi helped King Nicodemus subdue walking firestorms, how we hunted cultists and mongrelfolk i...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Sigma‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by xtal‭

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Telephone Conversations

The Situation: I am writing a short story. My POV character is listening to another person having a telephone conversation. The POV character only hears the one person speaking and not the response...

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Walter Sanville‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Prahara‭

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How do I approach rewriting an entire user guide in an agile environment?

I'm tasked with rewriting an entire user guide that hasn't been updated for years at a company and I am the only technical writer on the team. Only release notes were sent out all these years. The ...

2 answers  ·  posted 8y ago by john_doe‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Secespitus‭

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Is page range inclusive or exclusive?

When writing a bibliography entry, if I want to cite pages 1 up to 10, including both 1 and 10 (i.e., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10) should I write 1-10 or 1-11?

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Terry Price‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by manassehkatz‭

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Chapter 1 Problems

I've written for a year now(ish) and I've come along some great ideas I'd like to form into existence. But I always, always, ALWAYS have one problem. I can't seem to get past the first chapter or...

6 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by A.N.M‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Prahara‭

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How to show powerful emotion in a character trying to hide it?

This question deals with showing the emotions of characters when those characters are actively trying to hide their emotions. If the emotion is something subtle, like apprehension or annoyance, you...

3 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Thomas Myron‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Prahara‭

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How can I make a character sound condescending?

In one chapter, the PoV character meets up with her sister. Her sister is supposed to be fairly stuck-up and thinks she's a complete lowlife, so she talks down to her the whole time. I have the Po...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Evil Sparrow‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Canina‭

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The problem with beginning

I don't mean "sitting down to write", I mean the literal beginning. The story itself starts with my protagonist running. I need to get him to run, then I'll have the rest of it sorted. But won't st...

5 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Irysik‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Canina‭

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In a dialogue, how can I hint that the characters aren't telling the whole truth?

In one scene, I have a conversation between three characters: A, B and C. A's son and B are involved in something illegal. C isn't aware, and since A and B aren't entirely sure she can be trusted, ...

4 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Evil Sparrow‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Tau‭

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Are speaker tags always necessary when multiple people are in the conversation?

I understand that if you’ve got two people speaking, you often don’t need speaker tags because it’s assumed that both people take it in turns unless otherwise specified. This keeps the conversation...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Mousentrude‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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What to do with cliched metaphors?

Example from my own writing: "Please take care of yourself," she replied. "Health is the most important thing in life, remember that." "I know, Mom." I had already lost count of the numb...

5 answers  ·  posted 7y ago by Alexandro Chen‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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How can I make a transition from third person omniscient to first person less jarring for the reader?

I'm working on a longish short story (I expect to hit somewhere around 5,000 - 6,000 words by the time I'm through) that starts out in third person omniscient POV, mostly because that allows me to ...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Canina‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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In end user documentation, should screenshots come before or after the text that references them?

The end user documentation I'm writing makes use of screenshots (and partial screenshots) to show the user what I'm referring to in procedural instructions or conceptual explanations of the softwar...

2 answers  ·  posted 9y ago by Matthew Rodatus‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Maintaining distance

I am working on a novel inspired by the Shahnameh - a Persian epic poem by Abul-Qâsem Ferdowsi. The Shahnameh (the title means "The Book of Kings") is structured as a series of interconnected tales...

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Galastel‭  ·  edited 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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What topics can be used when meeting my readers?

I understand that I need not to be anxiety about any meetup - just come there and the conversation will flow to itself. However, after two meetups with two of my readers, I realize that I was quite...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Ooker‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by levininja‭

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Where's the balance between realism and story? [closed]

Mark mentioned in his answer that plotholes aren't usually the end of the world, and that I shouldn't sacrifice too much of the story and the characters for the sake of logic. But there's a breaki...

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Mephistopheles‭  ·  edited 2y ago by Canina‭

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How do I deliver a historical plot reveal?

This question was asked elsewhere by geneaux and is copied here in accordance with the CC BY-SA 4.0 license there. Right before the climax of my SciFi novel, there's a big reveal about who the b...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Are there any websites that show you the popularity and regional use of words?

There are some words and phrases in my manuscript that I think are used in America. However, a beta reader tells me my character sounds British. Are there any online sources I can use to check the ...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by writersam‭  ·  edited 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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How can I shorten a piece of writing without losing its original essence?

I need to know how to make my writing more brief without maring its original meaning and message. I have been struggling with that for a while, and still cannot do that. It simply seems to me that ...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Stacy‭  ·  edited 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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How can I shorten a piece of writing effectively? [duplicate]

I always face the problem of word limit. How can I shorten a piece of writing without causing its original essence to mar? How can I be effective in doing that? Are there any general rules? For ex...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Stacy‭  ·  closed as duplicate 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Would I be able to have my characters play "Dungeons and Dragons" in my book?

A big part of my book is that the characters play the tabletop RPG "Dungeons and Dragons". There is no content actually showing them playing it, but they do mention it. Would that be allowed?

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by unikai‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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How to write an introverted main character with accidental charisma

I’m planning a medieval-style fantasy epic in which a young protagonist is plucked from his humble life, acquires great powers, and ultimately saves his civilisation from the Big Baddie (a politica...

4 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by xtal‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by What?‭

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