Editing and Revision, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Welcome to a Joyful Latin Learning “first” – our first story that was actually contributed by a community member! We also want to celebrate our first Free Trial subscriber, Claire S, who will probably be introducing herself on the website in a bit. If you’ve been following developments at the website (www.TresColumnae.com/wiki), you know that our faithful readers Laura G and Ann M have made internal blogs at the site, and you also probably know that several of those blog posts have been in Latin. For example, here are Ann’s posts, and here is a great fable adapted by Laura. But David H, who is not a professional Classicist, is our first subscriber to submit a full-scale story; in fact, he’s submitted two to date and has graciously agreed to allow us to use them to show you a model of the Tres Columnae editing and revision process.

We think that editing and revision are very important for several reasons.

  • First (as you know if you’ve ever read any writing by young people), it’s a much-needed and seldom-practiced skill, whether in your own language or in a language you’re learning.
  • Second, it can help to build Ownership of your writing (and of the thoughts in your writing) … especially if the editor engages in a dialogue with you rather than simply “fixing it for you.”
  • Third, and perhaps most important, the possibility of editing and revising (which makes it clear that the current version doesn’t have to be the final, perfect version) makes it safe and acceptable to take risks, to make mistakes, and to learn and grow from those mistakes. Too often, in the “school world,” mistakes are seen as the enemy rather than a critical part of learning!

In any case, David H’s stories are quite good, but (like any early draft) they’re not perfect yet. So, in the mature Tres Columnae project, they would not yet be linked to the “major” or “existing” stories – not until one of our editors had the chance to look at them, engage in a dialogue with him, and ultimately approve them. Eventually, we hope that a lot of participants will become interested in editing … and proficient enough with reading and writing Latin to become good editors. Of course, they’ll receive a discount on their subscriptions if they do! At the moment, though, there’s only one available editor, also serving as Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. 🙂

Today we’ll preview David H’s two stories, and tomorrow we’ll begin to look at the editing and revision process. With thanks again to our faithful reader, here is the story exactly as David H submitted it. You should be able to see it at this link as well if you’re interested.

Casa mea pura est, nec sordida nec mucida. In una situla scopae et peniculus sunt. Cotidie pavimentum lavo. Itaque neque muscas neque formicas in casa mea vivunt. Vespas et arenas non amo, et eas quoque in casa mea non vivunt.

Ego quoque matellam habeo. Non barbarus sum! Hahahae! Iocum facio.

And here is David H’s second story, available at this link:

Quid agis? Si vales, deinde valeō sum. Quid nomen tibi est? Ortellium mē vocant. Unde venitis? Ubi habitas? Quam patriam habēs? Hibernicus sum. In Hiberniā habitō. Hibernia insula parva ac pulchra est, prope Britanniam. Dē vitā meā tibi narrare volō.

Rusticus summissus sum, atque senex macilentus et stomachosus. Nec fratres nec sorores habeō. Uxorem quoque nōn habeō. Baccalaureus sum. Quamquam multos amicos et multas amicas habeō, solitarius homo sum, et vītam quiētam ac simplicem vīvō. Hoc mihi placet.

Senex invenustus sum, nōn pulcher. Barbam longam et horridam habeō, sed caput meus calvus est. Ego quoque caecus in unō oculō sum. Genūs meae nōn bonae, sed malae sunt. Genūs meae semper tumident ac dolent. Praeterea claudus sum, ergō agilis non sum. Multis abhinc annis in lutō lapsavi et ad terram cēcidi, atque coxam meam frēgī. Paulisper ambulare nōn poteram. Iampridem iuvenis validus eram, atque currere celeriter poteram. Hodiē currere nōn possum. Difficilis est mihi ambulare, ergō baculō lentē ambulō. Claudicare mihi nōn placet.

Ō mē miserum! Tempus fugit atque senescere mihi quoque nōn placet. Quam molestus est! Interdum melancholicus et morosus sum. Quamquam senex sum et sine dubiō vita dura et onerosa est, nihilominus nōn desperō. Magnam pecuniam et dives nōn habeō, sed pauper non sum. Ut dixi, ego multos amicos et multas amicas habeō.

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re an editor for the Tres Columnae project. Your goals are

  • to make sure that finalized versions of stories are “high quality” (I think that means they have good grammar, idiomatic vocabulary, and inherent interest that makes you, the reader, want to keep reading … and what other criteria would you employ?);
  • to help contributors improve their stories – and their command of the language;
  • to guide them to improve their stories, but not “do it for them” (especially in terms of grammatical or lexical problems); and
  • to avoid getting bogged down in endless “red pen” type comments, especially as the project grows and the number of submissions increases.

You may recall this post from early February, in which I shared a draft of the rather simple rubric we’re planning to use when editing stories. If you don’t, I’ll repeat the essence of the rubric here:

Acceptable Not Yet Acceptable
Morphology and Syntax Errors, if any, are typographical and require minimal editing. Constructions are familiar to the learner. No new / unfamiliar forms are used or, if they are, they’re clear from context. Errors of morphology and syntax are present. More than typographical correction is needed. New/unfamiliar forms are used without clarification, or forms are used incorrectly.
Vocabulary All important words are previously learned (on the master vocabulary list) or clear from context/derivatives. Words are used correctly and idiomatically, or there are only minor errors, easily corrected. New words are included without attention to vocabulary development. There may be evidence of “random dictionary diving.” Some words are used incorrectly or in unidiomatic ways; errors require more than minimal editing to correct.
Storyline Characters’ behavior and motivation is consistent with previous stories. Setting, tone, and other features “make sense” with what has gone before. Characters’ behavior and motivation is inconsistent with previous stories, or with “what a Roman would do” (for Roman characters). Setting, tone, and/or other features “don’t make sense” with what has gone before.

So how would you rate David H’s stories in regard to each of these elements? And what advice would you give him (keeping in mind that he’s an adult re-learner of Latin, not a professional Latinist) to improve any elements of either story?

Tune in next time, when we’ll begin with the first story; then, on Friday, we’ll look at the second. Next week we’ll return to our theme of infinitives, with some more stories about the destruction of Herculaneum and its sister cities. And then we’ll look at some stories with participles. In the meantime, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus! 🙂