Saturday, February 28, 2009

Do Some Writers Deserve to Starve - Finale

TRUTH: WRITERS RARELY HELP OTHER WRITERS

While I have found contrary stories to this truth, I have - unfortunately - seen this to be true at times. There are writers who are not open to sharing information, to providing advice, to helping other writers up the rings to PublishDom. Niles talks about how interesting it is that as a writer moves up the ranks to having an established name, in gaining professional credits, and on earning money for his/her creative endeavors, the lack of help diminishes. She finds two reasons behind this:

1) The established writer fears losing his/her reputation. Example: established writer helps a newbie and recommends her to an agent or editor. The agent/editor thinks the work isn’t that great (which is subjective thinking anyway), and now the established writer fears his/her taste will be questioned and his/her reputation may be sullied.

2) The established writer fears losing his/her attention. Example: established writer helps a newbie get connected with his/her agent or editor. Agent/editor loves the newbie’s work and the newbie is lauded. Now, the established writer finds him/herself receiving less attention.

The two reasons above are not necessarily TRUTHS but perceptions that writers can take on. It’s HARD to get published. It’s even harder to STAY published. Because of this, there is always the fear that you may lose your spot in the publishing world to another. Do you want to be the reason behind losing your spot? Of course not. So instead of helping, some writers will hoard what they know.

Any form of negativity can interfere with a writer doing what he/she needs to do: WRITE. To be so protective of your coveted spot in the publishing world that you would not help others is a negative. To combat these feelings, Niles suggests that writers do three things: adjust their actions, defeat their ingratitude (learn to say thank you), and monitor their egos.

In adjusting actions, don’t think of just yourself. Doing things for others often bears positive fruit down the road. Learn to give…and receive. Don’t be underhanded. If you need help, ask, don’t try to find sneaky ways to get help, and don’t try to undermine someone else’s success.

In defeating ingratitude, learn to say thank, learn to send letters and cards to those who have helped you, learn to keep those who helped you in the loop on your progress, share your contacts and information, let those who helped you know that you were inspired by them.

In adjusting egos, give credit to those who have helped you, help those who are below you on the publishing chain, help SOMEONE (no one’s asking you to be the mentor for a million writers), forget about how no one helped you (this isn’t a pity party).


Check out Elaura Niles' book today!


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Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at The World According to ChickLitGurrl.




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Friday, February 27, 2009

Do Some Writers Deserve to Starve - Part Two

TRUTH: GETTING PUBLISHED DOESN’T EQUAL END OF RAINBOW

It’s extraordinarily hard to get published. It’s just as difficult to STAY PUBLISHED. Most writers do not live a Stephen King life. They hold other jobs or find other avenues to make money.

Aspiring-to-be-published authors often burn the candle at both ends. They work hard to continue to EXIST in the world, and they make the time to write and submit and pray and hope that their literary dreams will come to fruition. Once they reach the pinnacle of their success, GETTING A DEAL, some – as Niles states – find their writing careers killed as quickly as they began. The reasons? Burnout and what Niles calls “The Vacuum”.

Many published authors have careers outside of writing; once they get that initial deal, they now have TWO careers. It’s easy to get tired. To avoid that, Niles suggests that writers remember to HAVE A LIFE, which to her means “read, talk with friends, go places (near and far), do things, feel things, and sometimes…just…put the writing away for awhile.” Don’t forget that writing is not your WHOLE life; it’s merely a facet. If you lose yourself, you will lose the inspiration to write.

In regards to “The Vacuum,” Niles states that “In vacuum-afflicted writers, this is the emptiness that follows a first sale. Some call it the curse of the three-book deal. Many writers focus on their project exclusively for so many years that once it is out, there is nothing left.”

Unfortunately, most of us can think of that one debut novel we loved and then the emptiness that followed when the author didn’t have any more books come out. It’s important to KEEP WRITING, even while trying to publish the current “love of your life.” Focusing on that one Great American Novel will deflect from your creativity and keep you from writing. Niles suggests that writers should always keep creative files full of story ideas, interesting characters, and snippets of dialogue. If necessary, consider a co-writer. But first and foremost, keep writing…start on the next project while wishing and praying for publication of the one before it.


Check out Elaura Niles' book today!


More TRUTH to come...

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Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at The World According to ChickLitGurrl.




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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Do Some Writers Deserve to Starve - Part One

According to conference coordinator and writer, Elaura Niles, yes.

First thing I have to tell you: go out and buy Elaura Niles’ book: Some Writers Deserve to Starve: 31 Brutal Truths about the Publishing Industry.




I was in a Books-A-Million over a year ago, taking a break from writing. I began perusing the shelves, and the spine of this small book jumped out at me.

I quickly snatched up the book and began devouring it.

The purpose behind the book is not to discourage, but to enlighten. As the back cover states, “Even the most talented writers chance failure if they don’t know how the publishing industry works.” The goal of the book is to state the brutal truths about the publishing industry and to offer advice on how one can overcome those truths.

TRUTH: IF YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR BOOK, NO ONE EVER WILL

No one will ever know more about your novel than you. You’re the creator, the person who received that first initial spark to write the book. Many times, writers have a hard time figuring out which genre their book falls into. These days, it’s easy to see why. Yes, there are mysteries and sci-fi and romance, and the list goes on. However, many of these genres are broken in sub-genres. In fact, you’ll notice once you’ve written a book, it contains several genres. This is a slight blessing for writers. Unlike category romance and maybe one or two other genres, there are no hard, set rules to which the writer must adhere to. Some writers are so set in trying to make their novel “fit” one particular genre that they lose sight of the story, of the characters. Your first and foremost goal is to WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL. Tell the story that must get told. After that, using Niles’ book, you can identify the many genres that your book may fall into and ultimately discover the sub-genres that it falls under, too. Her book also helps with non-fiction and screenplays. The point of this truth? If you can’t tell an agent or editor WHAT your book is about and what genre(s) it fits into to, he/she will not do that job for you. Agents and editors go through several ‘scripts and queries a day; they don’t have time to figure out what you should know as the writer.



Check out Elaura Niles' book today!


More TRUTH to come...

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Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at The World According to ChickLitGurrl.




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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Meet the Editor: Helen Ginger

Helen Ginger is a freelance editor and book consultant, with an informational and interactive blog for writers and a free weekly e-newsletter that has gone out to subscribers around the globe for ten years. She coaches writers on the publishing industry, finding an agent, and polishing their work for publication. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Let’s see what kind of advice Coach Ginger has for us as she answers my questions. Afterward, you can ask some of your own in the Comments section.

When did you first notice you were hung-up on typos?

Actually, I don’t consider myself hung-up on typos. Everybody makes typos. I do it constantly. Sometimes, my fingers seem to type whatever they want. Typos are no big deal. Word will catch some, but not all, of your typos. The others you have to catch yourself. If a word looks odd, stop and look it up in the dictionary. Another technique is to read what you’ve written, slowly, word by word. You’ll catch common mistakes like writing your when you meant you’re. Word won’t mark those for you. Correct typos and go on. Don’t get hung up on them.

What advice would you give someone interested in becoming an editor?
Most editors seem to come from a background of English. I have a Bachelor’s in English and helped to pay my undergraduate tuition by grading papers for Dr. Stedman, one of my college English professors. If you don’t have that background or if you're wanting to keep up-to-date, you’ll need to study up on the editing manuals. Choose ones written in the last decade, not ones from the last century. Styles and grammar rules change. They’re in flux. Not all, mind you, but some. A newer grammar/editing manual will have all the hard-and-fast rules, plus the new usage. Other than that, read, especially in the genre you’ll be editing.

What's the best advice you have ever received from a writer?
On writing: Create an outline or plot points, but don’t be married to it.
On editing: Get a good dictionary. Don’t rely on the limited one on your computer.

What's the best advice you've given a writer?
Listen to yourself and those you trust. Some writers will get in a critique group and try to do everything anyone in the group suggests. They end up with a jumbled manuscript with no voice. The book you’re writing is yours; it’s not a group project. That doesn’t mean you should ignore all advice. Listen to what your critique partners have to say. Take home the pages they edited and made notes on. Read their comments. Then let it sit overnight or even longer before you begin making changes (if any) to your work.

In your opinion, what makes an editor great?
An editor not only makes your manuscript better, she teaches. If an editor rewrites every cliché, for example, in your work, you learn nothing. It might make it easier for you, but you’ll keep taking the easy way out by throwing in clichés instead of working on more creative ways to say things. A great editor notes repetitive mistakes, offers one or two suggestions, then, after that, marks the mistakes so you can change them yourself. An editor works with you more than for you.

What's the one misperception about editors you want to clear up? Some people believe that the job of an editor is to correct mistakes. I believe the editor’s job is to help the writer make her work better.

Why should a writer choose to work with you?
I work hard on each manuscript. I can be really fast if your agent wants a final run-through before the manuscript goes to the publisher. Normally, though, I spend a lot of time on each book. I read each manuscript three times, marking edits and leaving comments. I read for an hour or so, then set it aside and take a break. If after getting your manuscript back, you do a rewrite of a section, I’ll look at it again. After getting back my edits, if you have questions, you can email or call. I can’t think of anyone I’ve edited that I don’t end up considering a friend.

What genres do you focus on? Why?
I do romance, young adult, and non-fiction. Primarily, however, I edit mystery or suspense. It’s what I read the most. It’s what I most often get asked to edit.

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Jesaka Long is helping you get to know the pencils behind the blog. Got a burning question for your favorite contributor? Send it my way: jesaka [at] jesakalong.com.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Meet L.J. Sellers

L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and editor and is the author of the Detective Jackson mysteries, The Sex Club and Secrets to Die For. She also loves to edit fiction and works with authors to keep her rates affordable. Contact her at:
L.J. Sellers
Write First, Clean Later


1. When did you first notice you were hung-up on typos?

After I became an editor! I was a journalist first, but most jobs in publishing require you to write and edit, as well as plan publications, read/screen submissions, layout pages, and more. So I learned editing on the job from senior editors. Once you train yourself to look for errors at work, you can’t turn it off.

2. What advice would you give someone interested in becoming an editor?
Find a starting position as an editorial assistant and learn everything you can from seasoned editors around you. Buy and read Strunk and White Elements of Style, The Careful Writer, and APA Style Manual (Chicago lite).

3. What's the best advice you have ever received from a writer?
A new writer/editor to our magazine staff asked me to be gentle with her copy at first, so I made an effort to use suggestions rather than absolute comments. I’ve stayed with that style. All edits are optional anyway. Writers can and do ignore their editors, so I work from that perspective.

4. What's the best advice you've given a writer?
Pay attention to and proof everything you write, every e-mail, every blog, every comment you post. Sloppy practice makes for a sloppy game.

5. In your opinion, what makes an editor great?
The ability to not only make a writer sound better, but also to develop such a feel for the writer’s voice that the changes serve to enhance the writer’s style.

6. What's the one misperception about editors you want to clear up?
Most editors don’t get any joy out of finding errors. We’re in a rather no-win situation. No one really likes to see his/her mistakes pointed out, yet if we miss anything, we look bad. So we either point out everything and make the writer look bad, or look incompetent ourselves.

7. Why should a writer choose to work with you?
See #5. I quickly pick up a writer’s personal voice and make syntax edits that are consistent with the writer’s style. I also have great sense of story structure and pacing. And I inevitably do more work for less money than I contracted. It’s a compulsion.

8. What genres do you focus on? Why?
My favorite genre to read, write, and edit is mystery/crime/suspense. But I’ve also worked on a few sci-fi novels lately and have come to really enjoy that genre as well. I also edit and ghost write scientific books/articles and corporate reports. Truthfully, I’ll edit anything.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Meet the Editor - Marvin D Wilson

Meet the Editor, Marvin D Wilson

Marvin is the author of three books, I Romanced the Stone, Owen Fiddler, and the just-released Between the Storm and the Rainbow. He is a prolific blogger, with an internationally popular and award-winning blog at Free Spirit (http://inspiritandtruths.blogspot.com/) Marvin is a full time writer, is on staff at All Things That Matter Press as an editor, and also does freelance editing.


When did you first notice you were hung-up on typos?
In college, in an English composition class. My instructor had a hissy fit if we students handed in anything with a typo in it. And back then, they were “type”-ohs – we were still using typewriters, remember those? It was so tempting to leave a “little” mistake in the last paragraph on a page rather than try and go through the pain of fixing it, or even worse re-type the entire doggone page. She would mark us down a whole grade for each and every typo. And nowadays, with the word processor and all the marvelous Word editing tools, a typo (we should really start calling it a “keyo”) is even more inexcusable.

What advice would you give someone interested in becoming an editor?
You have to love it. If you don’t have the patience to re-read a manuscript carefully and critically three (or more) times over and the driving urge to craft it into the best it can be, it can be a laborious, time-consuming job. You need the patience and love for the art of a sculptor. Beyond the necessary passion, you also have to be a student, a scholar of the art. Study the tutorials and textbooks on all aspects of grammar, punctuation and composition, and be constantly updating your knowledge. While certain fundamentals remain constant, trends do change based on current popular interpretations of the fundamentals.

What's the best advice you have ever received from a writer?
Write what you know, write honestly, and when you write, just write. Try not to think too much. When the inspiration hits, go with it and let it flow. Do your self-editing later – it’s an entire different state of mind and set of skills. Other than fixing the obvious glaring blunders as you go, take your editor’s cap off when you write because it can inhibit your creativity.

What's the best advice you've given a writer?
Do not over-write. Oftentimes novice writers (and I have been guilty of this) tend to use way too many exclamation points, far too many adjectives and adverbs, and they want to show off their vocabulary. Less is more. Stick to the meat of the story. Understatement is powerful.

Think of it like a mother who is constantly yelling at her kids. After a while they get numb to the decibel level and intense emotional ranting all the time and she has to practically hit them over the head with a wok to get their undivided attention. But the parent who speaks softly most of the time only has to raise her voice a little bit and the kids are like, “Woa – what’d we do now? Mom never uses that tone of voice unless something is serious.”

In your opinion, what makes an editor great?
Two things. Well there are more, but two very important things. One, a precise, exacting attention to detail; and two, a circumspect capacity to see the whole picture. A great editor has both of these functions operating simultaneously.

What's the one misconception about editors you want to clear up?
Sometimes editors are considered rude and unfeeling by the authors whom they are slashing and cutting and hacking away at the manuscripts of. And it is incumbent upon an editor to have some tact and diplomacy about the whole process. Good editors want just as badly as the author for the book to wind up as the best it can possibly be. Sometimes the process is painful if an author is thin-skinned or overly in love with his or her “babies.” Don’t take it personally. We’re people too.

This is really more an answer to the previous question, but an editor has to be like a good athletic coach. A skilled coach learns the team members and their personalities. Some kids need a good kick in the arse when they screw up. Others need a pat on the back to get motivated to do better. So after the first “back-and-forth” between the editor and the author over the manuscript, a seasoned editor will know what kind of psychological makeup the author has and adjusts the coaching accordingly. Doesn’t mean you let them get away with any bad or less-than-their best play, it just means you use skillful means to bring the finest out of them, knowing what kind of person you are dealing with.

Why should a writer choose to work with you?
I’m passionate about the skill of crafting good prose. I’m good at what I do, and you’d better grab me now while I’m still relatively inexpensive.

What genres do you focus on? Why?
Most fiction genres are fine with me. Historical fiction is not my favorite bag to edit, because I’m not a learned historian and one extremely important key to a well written historical fiction is how accurate the facts of the times, places, events and characters involved are. I will edit historical fiction if the author is previously published and I can read the reviews and be assured he or she knows their stuff.

As for non-fiction, I like autobiographies and memoirs, and I also like theological (of any religion or spiritual path, even agnosticism and atheism), social science, and psychological book-length dissertations as well as self-help books, especially books on the Law of Attraction.
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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Meet the Editor: Shelley Thrasher

You know her as:

Shelley Thrasher is a consulting style editor for an up-and-coming book company. She teaches an online fine-arts course at the college where she retired and posts a poem weekly on her blog. Shelley has just completed a memoir/historical novel set during World War One and looks forward to publishing it.
When did you first notice you were hung up on typos?
After I became an editor, I could no longer read a book for pleasure because the typos began to leap out at me, and still do.

What advice would you give someone interested in becoming an editor?
Know the basic rules of composition and grammar, and know when to break them. Before I became an editor I earned a BA, MA, and PhD in English, taught English on the college level for many years, and attended many writers’ workshops. After picking up my editor’s pen, I still had to rely on the more experienced editors at our company for tips about how to edit fiction.

Be prepared to realize you don’t know everything about writing and never will.

Enjoy learning something new every day.

What's the best advice you have ever received from a writer?
“Don’t correct my writing. Point out what I’m doing and explain why it isn’t effective, then let me change it myself.”

What's the best advice you've given a writer?
Give yourself plenty of time to complete your book. Take breaks between drafts so you can view them objectively each time you revise them.

In your opinion, what makes an editor great?
The ability to become excited about an author’s story but not yield to the temptation to take it over. The ability to help a writer fulfill her potential to the fullest.

What's the one misperception about editors you want to clear up? We don’t know everything about writing, and we sometimes forget a character’s eye or hair color, even if we read it only five pages earlier.

Why should a writer choose to work with you?
Because I’m very patient, I’m kind most of the time, I’ve had a lot of experience, and I always meet my deadlines.

What genres do you focus on? Why?
I focus on romance and literary novels. The romances make money for our company, so I am assigned many of them. The literary novels don’t make as much money, but I prefer them because I have studied and taught literature most of my life. The literary novels are not formulaic like the romances, and their authors use more metaphorical language and create more in-depth characters.
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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Shorten Your Synopsis Using Word

You know what it’s like: you’ve taken 400 pages to write your novel and it’s bad enough that you had to summarise that into a 10-page synopsis. But now your agent wants a single page synopsis from you!

Believe it or not, good old Word can help you with this dreadful task.

Automatically summarising a document

MS Word’s AutoSummarise tool picks out the keywords, or most frequently used words, in your text and ranks sentences according to how many of the keywords they contain. Word then uses the higher ranked sentences to create a summary. Unfortunately this means that a summary of fiction will be mainly “he said”, “he said” and the main character’s name repeated several times, but AutoSummarise is ideal for shortening non-fiction, articles, or a synopsis.

Click on Tools, AutoSummarise

You will note that there are four options for the summary:

1. Highlight key points
2. Executive summary or abstract
3. Summary in a new document
4. Summary only in original document

Of these options, I use the first one (highlighting key points) in two stages if I need to cut a ten-page synopsis down to one page. I first set the AutoSummarise to highlight 50% of the text and study the text that Word has NOT highlighted to check whether I can delete, reword, or edit it in some way. Then, I look at the text that has been highlighted to check whether I’ve repeated myself (as this text has been selected and highlighted based on recurring keywords). Usually I can reword or combine some of the phrases to incorporate points I’ve expanded on later, and cut out entire sentences.

Once I have the text down to five pages and have saved it under a different filename (just in case I need a five-page summary later), I go through the process again, setting it to summarise 25% of the remaining text. I do this in two stages because ten per cent of ten pages doesn’t give you much text to work with and it can be almost as overwhelming as editing without any assistance.

When you’re finished, click Close on the AutoSummarise Toolbar to remove the highlighting. Save your single page synopsis under a different filename for easy reference.

---------------------------------------------Elsa Neal
Is Word driving you crazy? Then Word 4 Writers is for you. Learn to tame the monster and save your time in front of the screen for writing not fighting. Elsa Neal has been strong-arming Word for 14 years and teaching others to do the same. She is based in Melbourne, Australia.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Perils of the Writing Life

A friend of mine recently commented that every reader should have the opportunity to talk to a writer personally. It could help dent the misconception that writing a book is a simple matter of sitting down at the keyboard and emerging at a designated time with novel in hand.

For instance, as a reader, my friend had never heard of Character Domination. That's where a character suddenly takes off on his own and the poor writer is left wondering just when it was that she lost control of the situation.

Note: There is a similar problem in parenting which is called Power Struggles. I used to think my experience as a mother would give me an edge in handling my characters, but my track record of late has narrowed the advantage considerably.

Then there's the Boggy Middle Blues. That happens to a writer just as he's rounding the bend toward home, and he starts to ask questions. Did I really flesh out that character in chapter three? Does that scene in chapter five come across with even a scrap of credibility? Is it time to write the dedication yet? What if the whole thing stinks, and I've just thrown away six months of my life writing what may amount to the biggest joke to hit New York?

Another problem is the Climax Clutch. Suddenly the writer is there, ready to write the end of the book and she can't. The thought of facing the typewriter makes her knees weak and she grabs any excuse she can not to write.

I water my plants. Clean toilets. Make phone calls. Talk to my children. Cook dinner. Anything, to avoid the challenge of that blank computer screen.

I'll admit that I'm afraid to end the book. My life has been totally obsessed with this story, these people, and suddenly it's going to be wrenched from me and put in the hands of a cold-hearted editor. My characters are like my family and I feel a little twinge of sadness as they go off on their own to the big city where that editor might stomp all over them. She might even want to do away with one of my babies, "Kill off Nancy, she slows the story down."

Not that I would ever do that to a writer.

All of these problems occur while stumbling through the first draft. As soon as the book is finished, it's time to rewrite ... rewrite ... and rewrite ...

Come to think of it, maybe that's the real reason I'm having such a hard time saying "the end."

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Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest books are One Small Victory and Play it Again, Sam. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. When she is not working, she loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas.


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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Paragraph Rules in Fiction

I recently joined a critique group for the first time ever and must admit, I am enjoying every bit of it. I wish I'd gotten up the nerve many years ago. I'm learning quite a bit from my fellow writers - and not just when I'm in the hot seat. At each meeting, we critique seven to eight documents. For each document, one person reads the pages out loud. This if followed by a round table discussion during which critiquers share first impressions - what got their attention, where they were lost, etc.

We don't discuss grammar and spelling. We make those comments on printed copies and return those to the authors. These written comments raised several questions in my mind. I'm going to limit this post to one of them: What are the rules about paragraph structure in fiction?

This question came up when I noticed that seven out of seven critquers did not like my paragraphs - especially any paragraph deemed to be long. If all seven had agreed on how the long passages should be chunked, the question may not have reared its ugly head. However, seven critiquers generally provided seven different approaches to paragraphing.

Here is one example from an original draft:

It would have been ever so gracious of her to at least cross the threshold before she started in on me. But then, she wouldn’t be our Ms. Ruth, now, would she? She greeted me with, “It’s about time, girlee. Don’t you know any better than to keep Mrs. Weaver’s guests waiting on the sidewalk like commoners?” She always called Ms. Weaver “Mrs.” I guess she knew Ms. Weaver was never married and hated to be called “Mrs.” Anyway, Ms. Ruth took a breath and stepped in before ordering me to the kitchen. “I’m parched from having to breathe all that dust. You should know by now not to leave your betters standing around on the street while you do God knows what. You hustle on into that kitchen and fetch me a large iced tea. Make it sweet and don’t even think about charging me for it. It’s your fault I’m so thirsty.”
I obviously thought one paragraph would do here. One critiquer agreed with me and made no marks.

Four critiquers thought this should be broken into two paragraphs, but offered four different break points. Three of those focused on the dialogue and one suggested the second paragraph begins with "Anyway, Ms. Ruth took a breath...."

One person thought I needed three paragraphs and one thought I needed four.

This example is not an exception, it is typical of the paragraphing comments I'm receiving. So, I researched. I checked my trusted Chicago Manual of Style - which disappointed me for the first time in a very long time. Chicago was silent on paragraph rules (or I simply wasn't smart enough to locate the information). I Googled. I even cracked open several of the writing and grammar books parked on the corner of my desk. Did I find anything definitive? No.

So, I have some questions for you.

1) Are there rules for paragraph structure in fiction? If yes, where can I read them?

2) If you were editing (or writing) the above example, how many paragraphs would you create? Why?
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Charlotte Phillips is the co-author of the Eva Baum Detective Series, 2009 President for The Final Twist Writers Group and contributor to multiple blogs. Learn more about Charlotte and her books at:

MarkandCharlottePhillips.com

News, Views and Reviews Blog

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Meet the Editor: Shon Bacon

Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at The World According to ChickLitGurrl.
See what Shon dishes out about editing with our Meet the Editor column.
When did you first notice you were hung-up on typos?
I think I've always been hung-up on typos; however, it became an obsession about eight years ago when I pursued my MFA/MA in creative writing and English. As a graduate teacher, I had to instruct students on how to write effective essays, and grammar, mechanics, sentence structure, and cohesion became paramount components in those instructions, not only for the students but also for me.

What advice would you give someone interested in becoming an editor?
Have a love for the WORD - meaning all words, what they look like, what they sound like, what they mean.

Have a love for the STORY - meaning all facets of the story, character, plot, conflict, setting, dialogue, etc.

Have a love for the TECHNICAL - meaning all that fun stuff, grammar, mechanics, etc.

What's the best advice you have ever received from a writer?
Keep doing what you're doing and charge more - you're worth it.

What's the best advice you've given a writer?
If you don't love what you write, most readers won't love it either.

In your opinion, what makes an editor great?
Great editors give care and attention to the story, first and foremost.
Great editors make sure the story stays true to the writer's intention and not the editor's intention for the story.

What's the one misperception about editors you want to clear up? Two things - not everyone can be an editor and editing is easy.
Just because a person loves to read does not make him/her the perfect choice for an editor. And no, one doesn't have to have several degrees to be an editor either - though it can help. Editors need to love to read, and they also need to know when what's written is not good and know how to fix it or offer suggestions so that the writer can learn, grow, and fix his/her issues within the story.

Though, it might appear that editing is easy to do, it isn't. Some might say, "Well, you're just reading, right?" No, not just reading - that's called LEISURE. What we do is work - hours of reading a single manuscript and analyzing it for its technical issues as well as story prowess. We evaluate said manuscript in a way that we can communicate to our client so that he/she can not only understand today but can apply it tomorrow on the next manuscript.

Why should a writer choose to work with you?
I love stories.
I love words.
I love grammar and mechanics - yes, I AM a geek and proud of it.
I love the light bulb moment that occurs when a writer "gets it."
Even more, I love when I edit the writer's next manuscript and can see the growth in his/her writing because he/she has LEARNED.

What genres do you focus on? Why?
I actually edit in a wide range of genres. In the past, I've edited romance, horror, fantasy, vampiric, urban/street, mystery, erotica, women's fiction, and memoirs. For me, it's all about helping to develop a good story - no matter the genre. In addition, I love to learn. Sometimes, I'm doing as much research on a subject as I am editing so that I can make sure the client is factual in his/her work. What I learn carries over into future projects I edit--and even into those projects I write.

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Jesaka Long is helping you get to know the pencils behind the blog. Got a burning question for your favorite contributor? Send it my way: jesaka [at] jesakalong.com.


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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Meet the Editor: Maryann Miller

You know her as:

Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest books are One Small Victory and Play it Again, Sam. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. When she is not working, she loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas.

Let's find out more about Maryann in our second Meet the Editor interview.

When did you first notice you were hung-up on typos?
I started editing for a slick, quarterly magazine about ten years after I started writing freelance articles. I was hired to work with other writers to get new stories assigned, written, and edited. But I didn't do copy editing or proofing at that point. There was another editor for that. Which is good, because copy editing has never been my strong suit. I am better at working with an author to get a story right, or improve a piece of fiction. Later, I discovered that I had a knack for script editing and script doctoring, so I did that for several years for a company in New York.

What advice would you give someone interested in becoming an editor?
Learn how it is done, either by working with a really good editor, or reading and re-reading books such as The Chicago Manual of Style, The Elements of Grammar, The Elements of Editing, and Strunk and White. Owning these reference books is especially helpful if someone wants to be a proof reader or copy editor. That is not something that can be done just because a person was good in high school English.

What's the best advice you have ever received from a writer?
I can't recall any advice from a writer pertaining to editing, but I have received some good advice about writing. Years ago a writer friend suggested that I should try to focus more on just one book at a time, as I tended to be all over the place with every new idea that popped into my head. I learned to jot those ideas down, and then get back to the work at hand.

What's the best advice you've given a writer?
Don't be afraid to let a story just come. Worry about craft and technique and editing after the first draft. Sometimes we are so worried about getting something "right" that we stifle the creativity. Anne Lamott did not call them "shitty first drafts" for nothing.

In your opinion, what makes an editor great?
The best editor I worked with, who was pretty great in my book, gave excellent suggestions for things to change to strengthen the story. She was also willing to allow a dialogue between us about things I did not want to change that were story elements and not craft problems. In the end, I was free to accept or reject her suggestions as long as they weren't mistakes. It is also important for an editor to respect an author's story enough not to want to change it just because the editor would have written it differently. There is a distinction between improving the craft and changing the story or the style of the writing.

What's the one misperception about editors you want to clear up? That all we want to do is slash someone's work to pieces, or that we somehow delight in making red marks all over a page. Despite the name of this blog, there is nothing I like better than to read an entire page of someone's manuscript and not find one thing that needs fixing. That is especially true in the second-go-round with a client. Because I work as much as a coach as an editor, I often do more than one edit of a new authors work, and I am thrilled when I see that the author learned a bit of self-editing in the first effort.

Why should a writer choose to work with you?
Because I am good at what I do. I have worked with a number of writers on their first books and helped them prepare the manuscripts for publication. They have all been more than pleased with my work and most of the books went on to be published. I am gentle in my approach -- writers do have egos, you know. And my rates are very reasonable.

What genres do you focus on? Why?
I don't focus on a particular genre. Some of the books I have edited include memoirs, a humorous novel, self-help, adventure, romance, and mysteries. I have not worked much with fantasy or science fiction, as I don't read in that genre and don't feel qualified to judge whether a story is working or not. There are story structure elements, characterizations, and plotting expectations in those genres that I am not familiar with, and I would only be comfortable doing a copy edit of books in those genres.

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Jesaka Long is helping you get to know the pencils behind the blog. Got a burning question for your favorite contributor? Send it my way: jesaka [at] jesakalong.com.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Meet the Editor: Dani Greer

You know her as:

Dani Greer runs the Blog Book Tours group at Yahoo!, is a founding member of The Blood-Red Pencil. Most days you'll find her in the virtual realms or buried under manuscript submissions, blood red pencil in hand.

Now see what we got Dani to spill with our Meet the Editor column.

When did you first notice you were hung-up on typos?

4th grade. This is in part because English is my second language and I had a real need to learn it as best I could. Plus, Mrs. London would have failed me because she didn't like foreigners. It was a matter of grade school survival.

What advice would you give someone interested in becoming an editor?
Read many of the classics including punctuation and grammar books, plus all the new language books being published. Know what the style books are and look at them. Practice for free with your author pals. If you can stand to do it for nothing, you can probably do it for a living. But know your stuff. Don't just hang out a shingle, because your written word, wherever you may strew it, tells the true story. Anyone can call themselves a president, but it doesn't mean they can run the country. The same concept holds true for editors.



What's the best advice you have ever received from a writer?
You need to learn to use MS Word to revise and edit manuscripts. 



What's the best advice you've given a writer? 

Correct the grammar, punctuation, and typos in your blogs. That writing makes an impression, too. Make sure it's a good one.

In your opinion, what makes an editor great? 

Patience and with it, more than a fair share of kindness to buffer the
 truth about someone's writing. You're not just editing a manuscript. You're editing the writer, so be gentle but firm. Beyond that, you still have to be able to recognize good writing - or bad - and fast.

What's the one misperception about editors you want to clear up? That they are perfick. :o Editors make mistakes all the time. Bad editors make more mistakes than good editors.



Why should a writer choose to work with you? 

Because I'm cheap and good.



What genres do you focus on? Why?I charge $1 a page for cozy mysteries because they're my favorite read. 
$2 a page for historical mysteries because I love them, too, but they take more research to verify everything from dates to word usage. Erotica is $10 a page. Corporate reports without numbers run $20 a page. Financial reports get billed at a whopping $50 a page, and I don't get any of those latter clients for obvious reasons. Hooray for that! My goal in editing is to get paid a nominal fee for reading what I love to read as a hobby. It seems like a nice win/win situation, don't you think?

As an added benefit on the cozy mysteries, I mindmap the plot to
make sure it holds together. I also create reading group questions as I go for authors who want to buy those in addition to the manuscript
edit. This is a nice bonus for fans and libraries and a great way to market your book.


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Jesaka Long is helping you get to know the pencils behind the blog. Got a burning question for your favorite contributor? Send it my way: jesaka [at] jesakalong.com.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Meet the Editor - A New Feature

We’ve had such great responses to our “Ask the Editor” feature that we’ve created “Meet the Editor.” Now you can learn more about the editors and contributors who are sharing their tips and helping you sharpen your writing.

We also have a spin-off (already!) called “Meet the Specialist” to learn more about our contributors who specialize in particular areas, like publishing and marketing. More will be revealed about this at a later date, so stay tuned.

Be on the look out for subject lines with “Meet the Editor.” That’s your signal that you have an opportunity to discover the person behind the pencil.

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A full-time freelance editor-writer and owner of a.k.a writer in Denver, Jesaka Long works her word magic for small publishing houses and authors, especially non-fiction writers and memoirists. For more information email her at jesaka (at) jesakalong.com or visit www.jesakalong.com.



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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Lay, Lie, Laid

This post was first published here on February 14, 2009.

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I am a full time published writer and yet there are still loads of grammar rules that I just do not understand. Living in Botswana is worse still, since sometimes I need to know American grammar rules and sometimes British grammar rules and also which of the other countries I write for falls under which grammar system. I thought, as a way to sort out my grammatically challenged mind, I would do a bit of research and teach you folks hoping that along the way I would solve my own problem. At the very least, my publisher is going to appreciate this.

So today I looked at one of my worst grammar dilemmas - lay, lie, laid. I’ve pulled out my trusty Good English Handbook by Godfrey Howard and ducked over to Grammar Girl’s site and this is what I’ve got.

Let’s start with present tense. The most important question to ask here is - is the word followed by an object? If there is an object following the verb, then you use lay, if not, then it's lie.

Look at the two sentences below and decide which to use - lie or lay:

Stella, _____ that koala bear on the sofa!
Koala bears __________ on the sofa all day.

(We’re going to have an Australian animal theme today as I’m feeling sad about all the furry critters that perished in the bush fires there)

In the first one, we would use lay: Stella, lay that koala bear on the sofa! This is because Stella is laying something, in this case the koala bear. Whereas in the second one, we would use lie: Koala bears lie on the sofa all day. This is because there is no object.

The whole problem stems from the people who made English and their complete lack of sense which can be vividly demonstrated by the past tense of these two words.
The past tense of lay is laid, okay good enough- BUT the past tense of lie is lay! Do they really expect us to remember this? In any case, here are the same sentences put in the past tense:

Stella, you laid those koalas on the sofa yesterday!
Koala bears lay on the sofa yesterday.


And to complete the topic we have the past participle (past tense using had/have).
Let’s have those sentences again!

Stella, you have laid the koalas on the sofa!
Koala bears have lain on the sofa since yesterday.

(Eish! Those koala bears are some lazy fellows! Or maybe they’re tired from escaping those terrible fires, so we should give them a break.)

Hope that helps you. I think I almost have it… maybe.

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Lauri Kubuitsile is an award-winning writer living in Botswana. Most recently she’s been writing at her blog, Thoughts from Botswana, about cobras (in the sitting room-yikes!) and Coetzee (who will soon be judging her short story), though she does post on topics beyond the letter C. Her eclectic blog stems from her eclectic writing career which includes short stories, children’s books, science textbooks, detective novellas, television series, radio lessons, and most any other writing job that comes her way.


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Friday, February 13, 2009

Little Things Mean A Lot


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I'm easily distracted, I must admit. Last Sunday, during the church service, my mind wandered. I happened to notice a cute child, maybe two or three years old, about ten pews ahead of me. I watched one of the regulars a few pews down from her smile at the child. The child shyly put her head down.

At times, when I walk down the street with my dog, Rascal, sometimes a passerby will smile at her. Rascal picks up the friendly vibes and wags her tail.

Other times, when I'm walking to the train station in the morning, a driver, instead of stopping at the stop sign, will roll through to prevent me from crossing.

What do these little things have to do with writing?

Simple. Instead of telling the reader your character is nice or impatient, show it by using such small actions. Or, mix the character up a little, so that person is not all mean or all nice. Readers like to think back to little clues, so don't forget to offer them.

Can you think of other ways to show a person's character without beating a reader over the head with it? Please share.
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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ask the Editor: Internal Monologue

QUESTION: What is your take on internal monologue? How frequently should it be used and how should it be formatted? Contrast its usage as opposed to indirect thought exposure where summaries of what goes through a characters head are exposed but not the exact wording.

Donald James Parker
http://www.donaldjamesparker.com/
Angels of Interstate 29

ANSWER: Internal monologues -- sometimes thought of as stream of consciousness or internal dialogue -- is different for different types of novels. A literary novel may have pages and pages of stream of consciousness. James Joyce, anyone? But it takes a deft hand to pull that off and not lose the reader in a jumbled mass of disconnected thoughts.

In most contemporary commercial fiction – which encompasses a wide variety of genres – internal monologues should be used sparingly. Readers come to mysteries and romances and westerns and science fiction more for the stories and the actions, not so much for the kind of character development that calls for a lot of internal dialogue.

One thing to keep in mind is whether a particular character would be prone to talking to himself or herself. Don’t just do it because it appeals to you as the author. And does everyone in the story do it, or just the central character?

Also keep in mind that internal dialogue is not the same as having a character think something, although sometimes the lines between the two have been blurred.

For example:

This is really creepy, she thought, stumbling in the darkness through the brambles. There was an old barn here somewhere. She’d be okay if she could just find it. Suddenly the barn doors burst open and a tractor bore down on her. Oh, my God, I’m going to die.

The first part of that example contains her thoughts. She’s not really talking to herself until, Oh my God, I’m going to die. Current formatting guidelines from most publishers say put internal dialogue in italics and in first person, present tense.

When writing a character’s thoughts, I have not been able to find a hard and fast rule on whether a writer should include “she thought”, but I personally don’t like using it, so I would prefer the example to start: This is really creepy. Sarah stumbled in the darkness through the brambles….etc. It’s still clear that the thought belongs to her, and the reader gets it, I’m sure.

Whatever you decide on your usage of internal monologues, remember that less can be better than more. Internal dialogue often reflects what a character is unable to say aloud, and sometimes will even contradict what he or she just said. If that technique is over-used it loses effectiveness.


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Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest books are One Small Victory and Play it Again, Sam. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. When she is not working, she loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rejection Acceptance

Early on, I realised if I was to be a success at this writing game I needed to find a way to deal with rejection. The easiest is a rant. I read the rejection and shout back at it. Then I throw it away and move on. It works for me; I suggest you find a similar method. I’ve never trusted this collecting of them; the growing pile can’t bode well for future self confidence, but then again that may be my own psychosis.

All writers get rejections. I like reminding myself of the list of rejections Stephen King’s Carrie received or the bitter rejection of Rudyard Kipling’s writing by the The San Francisco Examiner who advised Mr Kipling he was clueless regarding the English language. Sylvia Plath, George Orwell, Mary Higgins Clark, Jack Kerouac, Ayn Rand- all rejected at one time or another, some quite bitterly. If nothing else, when that rejection arrives know that you are in excellent company.

Rejections are sent for many reasons. Here are a few.

1. You’re a crappy writer
Most writers jump to this one straight away. If you’ve had any success in the past, this is likely NOT the reason.

2. That particular publisher can’t market your book
Your book may be good, but the publisher can’t see the angle. You need to do a bit more research and move on to a different publisher.

3. The publisher has similar books in the pipeline
Again move on to another publisher.

4. Your book may have some editing problems
No matter how many times you look at your work, no matter how excellent an eye you might have, you will need an editor eventually. Where to find one? Blood Red Pencil, of course.

5. There are no similar books in the market
This was what Dr Seuss was told about And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street. Publishers are in business and they are dead conservative. They want what is selling NOW. Of course, what is selling now is already old news, a conflict that can have you, as a writer, banging your head against the wall. Stop. Instead, bang on those publishers’ doors, someone is bound to see your brilliance.

Sometimes publishers give advice in their rejection letters. It’s lovely of them to take the time to help you along as they give you a boot out the door; they’re busy people like all of us. Go through their points, take what is useful and then move on.

Sitting in a pool of misery over a rejection will get you nowhere. Instead, go out determined to prove that rejection writer wrong.
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Lauri Kubuitsile is an award-winning writer living in Botswana. Most recently she’s been writing at her blog,
Thoughts from Botswana, about cobras (in the sitting room-yikes!) and Coetzee (who will soon be judging her short story), though she does post on topics beyond the letter C. Her eclectic blog stems from her eclectic writing career which includes short stories, children’s books, science textbooks, detective novellas, television series, radio lessons, and most any other writing job that comes her way.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Developing Your Writing Style, Part Two

Last post from me, I wrote about developing your writing style and offered a few tips to help you on your writing journey.

Here are more tips to consider when you get before the page with the idea of revising your work to heighten the STYLE of your work.


1. Check your VERBS. Do this for two things: to have active voice in your writing and to create strong verbs. Readers expect to see ACTION in your story. They want the characters to perform, to act – not necessarily be acted upon. When characters perform the action, we have active voice. When the characters are acted upon, we have passive voice – which is seen with the use of “to be” verbs. Let’s say Stella is the main character of a story. If we write, “Stella was killed by the angry mob,” are we doing passive or active voice? If you thought “passive,” you’re right. We could make this a stronger statement by writing, “The angry mob killed Stella.” Look for “to be” verbs and “have” verbs in your writing; if you can find strong, more meaningful verbs to replace them, you can help develop your style and the strength of your prose.

2. Pay attention to WORD CHOICE. Listen to your work with your narrator’s ears; the words you use must illustrate the natural reflection of your narrator. Your words must illustrate the natural reflections of your characters, too. For example, most people talk in contractions. When I read prose that is full of “cannot” and “is not” and “do not” and “should not,” I hear elevation in the voice of the character, I feel a coldness, a stiffness to the character; it doesn’t sound real to me. At the end of the day, you want your characters and your narrator(s) to be as real as you are. Make sure their words reflect that.

3. Avoid STEREOTYPES. It’s easy to fall into the “stock character” trap. People in the hood act “this” way; whereas, people in metropolitan areas act “that” way. Black characters must be X, and white characters must be Y. Though some (and I’m part of that some) would argue that for every stereotype there is a drop of truth, using stereotypes shows that you are not using your creativity, you are not making your characters, your storylines intrinsically yours.

The last two tips seem silly, but you’d be amazed at how many writers DON’T follow them.

4. READ voraciously. Read, and read everything. Don’t just read the genres you write in. Don’t just read the genres you love to read. Read a myriad of things. We often develop our style – in the early stages of our writing – by emulating those before us. I adore Toni Morrison for her poetic style, and once in a blue moon, someone might find a line of mine that’s full of poetic verve. By reading, you can learn what you like and don’t like, and knowing that can help you focus your writing to where you want it to be.

5. WRITE. Write whenever you can. You can’t work out the bad things in your writing if you don’t write. Simply reading about how to be a better writer won’t do. You need to practice your craft, to have an eye for what to fix in your work, and then practice some more. Someone said “Practice makes perfect” for a reason.


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Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at The World According to ChickLitGurrl.




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Monday, February 9, 2009

The Big Edits, Part 3

We’re talking big things you need to look at in your manuscript. So far, we’ve covered point of view, beginnings, and back story in Part 1 of this Edit series. We looked at pacing in individual scenes and in the book as a whole, and balancing dialogue and narrative in Part 2.

Now let’s talk about plot. Is it clichéd? Has it been told before? Is an agent going to read the book or your synopsis and say, “I’ve read this before; it’s nothing new.” Of course, realizing this and working on the plot would be better to do before you write the manuscript, but even after you’re finished, it’s not necessarily too late to salvage the book. Try sitting down with a trusted reader or your editor and brainstorming ways to rev up the plot, to add spice or a twist to it, bring in a relevant, different, character, even do a major change to the entire plot. Yeah, agents and editors like what’s familiar, but you always hear them say, “Give me what so-and-so wrote, only different.” That “different” is what will set you apart instead of send you to the reject pile.

Is there conflict in the book? Not just conflict between the protagonist and antagonist (or main and counter character), but also between ideals and perceptions of the characters. Does the setting and atmosphere always match the mood of a character? Can there be juxtaposition? What about the plot itself? Is there only one disagreement in the plot? Why not a couple of other conflicts to go along with the big one? Doesn’t your main character, your hero, need more than one obstacle to overcome?

Take a look at the entire book. You don’t have to do it in one pass-through. Break it down. Examine it from all angles.

You can work on these edits yourself. If you feel, however, that doing this kind of an in-depth look at your work will kill your creativity or change your voice, then turn to others to help you. No one, certainly me, wants you to think of this process as drudgery or a soul-killing process.

If you analyze your manuscript and feel it needs work, but can’t tackle the edits yourself, work with a critique partner or group, or work with your freelance editor.

Everyone wants to type “the end” and write the query letter…

But to get to the “happy” letter from an agent or editor, you have to do the edits in-between “the end” and “Dear Fabulous Agent/Editor.”
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Helen Ginger is a freelance editor and book consultant, with an informational and interactive blog for writers and a free weekly e-newsletter that goes out to subscribers around the globe. She coaches writers on the publishing industry, finding an agent, and polishing their work for publication. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Developing Your Writing Style, Part One

If I told you to develop your writing style, would you know what I meant?

If your answer is “No,” then this article is for you.

Here’s a quick definition of style: the way you put together a sentence or group of sentences.

The problem with figuring out style is there is no one sure way. It’s subjective. Depending on different forms of writing (essays, articles, stories, etc.) and different disciplines (science, art, humanities, etc.), style may differ.

To develop your writing style:

1. First, focus on YOUR STORY. What’s your story about? What themes are present in your story? Who are your characters? What is the tone of the work? Before you can even focus on the nuances of style, you have to understand your work as fully as possible. You are the creator of this work – no one else. Everything we are to know and believe of the work must be derived from you.

Once you have a firm sense of your work, focusing on the other tips can be an easier journey. Now, this doesn’t mean your story is PERFECT; it just means that you understand what you are trying to do with your creation.

2. Avoid WORDINESS. If you have a clear understanding of what your story is about, you can read your work to erase wordiness and leave your work with strong, concise prose. Wordiness includes clichés, qualifiers, and stock phrases. If you spot a cliché, ask yourself, “What am I really trying to say here?” By doing this, you’ll more than likely find a stronger way to write the line. Qualifiers are words like (very, often, hopefully, practically, basically, really, mostly) – they take a strong statement and muddy it with vagueness. By eliminating most of these, your writing will only improve. Stock phrases are groups of words that replace one or two words. Here are a few examples (the shortened version of each is in parentheses): Due to the fact that (because), Despite the fact that (although), In the event that (if), Concerning the matter of (about), It is important that (must). By continuously asking your, “What am I really trying to say here,” you can help eliminate many of these wordiness issues.

More tips to developing your writing style coming soon!

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Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at The World According to ChickLitGurrl.




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Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Big Edits, Part 2

By big edits, I mean those things that are not as easy to fix as typos, grammar, punctuation, and sparse or overwritten descriptions. We’ve already talked about some common big edits that may need to be done to the beginning of your book. Let’s talk about the rest of the book now.

Don’t rush your scenes. As the writer, you know where the book is going and you want to get to the “good” parts. If you race to get there, though, you’ll give your readers whiplash. Scenes can be snappy and they can also be informative and luxurious. Just don’t write fast scenes one right after the other until your reader is lost in time and space without an anchor. (Or lots of long, slow scenes that drag down the pace of the book.)

Speaking of pace, analyze the pacing in your work. Are there ups and downs? Not just the big ups and downs like on a huge roller coaster, but the smaller hills and valleys. Think symphony rather than roller coaster. It can seem to start slowly, but quickly a trumpet blast hooks you, makes you sit up straight. Then a lull followed by the rising of violins. Your heart rate picks up. Just when you catch your breath, the tempo quickens and you close your eyes, listening to the clarinets…until cymbals clash. The pace grows faster, faster, the tubas pound ominously, then sudden silence for three seconds, and an oboe cries until it blends in with a flute and piano duet. Whatever symphony you’re playing with your plot, listen to the sound. If you can’t hear the pace, then plot it out on paper and see what you’ve done.

Avoid wallowing in your words. Let us hear your characters. To do that, give us more fascinating dialogue and less narrative. Dialogue tells us a great deal about the characters. It shows their inner thoughts, their personalities, their backgrounds, their interaction with others, their ethics, their beliefs…it shows them. There has to be narrative, but too much begins to tell more about the writer than about the plot or characters. Do you need 150 words to describe Sally’s favorite childhood tree? Challenge yourself to do it in twenty. Do you need a full page to set up the awkward meeting between John and Lucia? Can you get that across in their conversation, their words, their physical reactions to each other? Can you convert narrative to dialogue or action to increase its immediacy and to involve the reader directly in the story?

In Part 3, we talk more about the plot.
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Helen Ginger is a freelance editor and book consultant, with an informational and interactive blog for writers and a free weekly e-newsletter that goes out to subscribers around the globe. She coaches writers on the publishing industry, finding an agent, and polishing their work for publication. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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