Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Make the Most Of Your Spring With Ask the Editor Free-For-All

Spring is a wonderful season. Everything seems possible when the air grows warmer, the grass turns green and tulips, hyacinths and daffodils begin to bloom.

In the dead of winter, it's easy to get down, doubt our talent, and wonder if we have what it takes to write a first book or the next; yet in the Spring, when the birds chirp and the sky is blue, all things seem possible.

With the change of seasons, along with the promise of new life, also comes showers and storms. Questions plague us. Is our manuscript as good as it can be? Some parts don't look right. Maybe the whole thing should be pitched and we should start over.

Don't give up. You may only need a little fertilizer to get your manuscript ready to bloom in all its richness and beauty.

That's where our monthly Ask the Editor Free-For-All comes in. Today, and every first Tuesday of the month, The Blood-Red Pencil sponsors our Ask the Editor Free-For-All. I send e-mails to e-groups, Facebook, other social networks, blogs, and everywhere else I can think of, inviting members to come and ask questions.The feature's goal is to offer valuable tips about writing basics, manuscript submission to publishers or agents, and self-publishing, be it by print on demand, Kindle or other formats.

Don't be afraid to ask a question. Nothing you ask is silly or dumb. We're all here to grow and learn as writers. Also, if one of our Editors can't supply an answer, we'll be happy to recommend someone who does.

To Submit A Question, Follow These Simple Steps:

Leave a comment in the comment section below. Include your name and blog url or website, not only because it's great for promo, but also to distinguish you as a real person. (One link only, please!) It also helps to come back and check to make sure your comment goes through. At times, Blogger loves to test people to make certain they're not robots, in which case you may need to repeat keystrokes to get a comment to stick.

Our Editors will drop by today and answer questions in the comment section. If your question could use a detailed explanation, one of our Editors may decide to devote an entire blog post on that topic. When that happens, you'll receive extra promotion, along with the possibility of forwarding jpegs of your profile photo and cover, along with a buy link.

It's not required, but always welcome if you leave an e-mail address along with your comment. Also, if you wish, please let us know where you've heard about our Ask the Editor Free-For-All.

Since others will be asking questions, you might want to come back later to read what else shows up. Some of our participants use e-group Digests, so questions and answers might carry over through Wednesday or Thursday.

Here's hoping all our manuscripts achieve their potential and bloom into bestsellers!
------------------------------------------

Morgan Mandel


http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
Killer Career is 99 cents on
Kindle and Smashwords.

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39 comments :

  1. I have two questions: 1. What's the correct way to handle ellipses, especially with e-books, which can wreak havoc with formatting depending on the e-reader. Should there be spaces on either side of the ellipses?

    2. When setting off dialogue beats with dashes, where do the quotation marks go?

    Terry
    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

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  3. Terry, for digital publishing the ellipses should not have spaces before or after them.

    By the dashes, I'm guessing you mean when someone interrupts the previous speaker? The quotation mark always abuts the dash. In fact, in digital publishing they want an em dash, which you can do by pressing ctrl, alt and the minus sign on your number pad.

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  4. Maryann - thanks, but (isn't there always a 'but') If your ellipses in digital format abut the words on either side, then the formatting program considers it one big word, and that can result in those horrible looking lines with only one or two words in them on e-readers that automatically justify the text.

    And it wasn't another speaker interrupting. It's when the speaker performs an action, and you don't want to end the sentence, so you put dashes around the beat.

    Example: Shore leave—” he clawed his fingers through his hair—“was good."

    Or: Shore leave" —he clawed his fingers through his hair "—was good."

    Or something else?

    Terry
    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

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  5. Terry, according to the Chicago Manual of Style, 6.90, "If the break belongs to the surrounding sentence rather than to the quoted material, the em dashes must appear outside the quotation marks." And here's the example they give: "Someday he's going to hit one of those long shots and"--his voice turned huffy--"I won't be here to see it."

    - And of course, replace the two hyphens above with an em dash, which is, as Maryann said, Ctrl+Alt+- (minus, top right of numbers keyboard)

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  6. I really enjoy long sentences in literature, those from Virginia Woolf and George Eliot and others that are 75 to over 100 words long and are grammatically correct. They just sound so nice, but is the long sentence today a dying art? What genre today If any, would these sentences fit best?

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  7. So Terry, it's neither of the two examples you gave. It would be: Shore leave" — he clawed his fingers through his hair — "was good."

    Since those dashes seem a bit short, like en dashes, I put a space on either side of them. If you use the longer em dash, no spaces on either side.

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  8. Rebecca, today's popular contemporary fiction doesn't suit long, involved sentences, but I think they'd still work fine with historical fiction.

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  9. Jodie's right on with the reference to the Chicago Manual of Style for grammar issues. It's a pricey book, but it's worth far more than the dollars spent in the value it brings to the writer who uses it. (And it's more reasonably priced on Amazon.)

    She's also correct on the long sentences and historical fiction. Literary fiction is another place where long sentences work well.

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  10. When publishing in ebooks and formatting the manuscript, which is used today? One space after the period or two?

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  11. Velda, one space after the period is pretty standard now.

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  12. I've been trying to remember to do only one space after periods, but I forget sometimes. I always have to check later to make sure one space is used throughout.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://facebook.com/foreveryoungbook
    http://facebook.com/morgan.mandel

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  13. It's quick and easy to change two spaces between sentences to one, by using "Find and Replace." Just hit the space bar twice for Find, and once for Replace.

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  14. Rebecca: For a contemporary literary author who loves the long convoluted sentence, check out Claire Messud. I don't think the style is dead. At present I am editing a manuscript for an author whose twisty sentences--which often contain passive language, a number of clauses, and as often as not are studded with a considerable number of "-ly" adverbs--never fail to exude considerable charm.

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  15. I've published one mystery in hard cover, and it did reasonably well. My first (small) publisher has since gone out of business, though, and I can't find a publisher for the second in the series. I'm considering publishing that second mystery as an e-book, and since I have the rights back to the first mystery, publishing that one as an e-book as well. If I do that, will I jeopardize my chances at finding a publisher for other work? My third book is unrelated to the first two--it's women's fiction rather than a mystery/thriller.

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  16. Hello, my question is about action scenes. When doing action scenes is it alright to make it personal by adding in character's thoughts using 3rd person personal or will it break the flow?

    http://lmpreston.blogspot.com

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  17. I have 2 questions. First question. My new book will be out in June and I want to have a release "party." When my 1st book came out it did just that, came out. This one I want to make a really big deal of so how do I go about creating a release party?

    Second question. I have a site called A Book and A Dish where I post my reviews and the author's favorite recipe. I would like to publish a book under this name but not through my publisher. I've never self-published before and have no idea how it's done. I want to make this a donation book with the proceeds going to Animal Shelters. Can anyone out there help me? My email address is marthacheves@bellsouth.net
    Thanks
    Martha

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  18. What is the proper way to delineate internal dialogue from external events that take place in the same paragraph?

    For example:

    I hate the color blue, James thought. He moved to the windows and opened the curtains revealing a sky filled with clouds. He smiled. I love cloudy days.

    Okay, horrible writing sample, but is that the right way to handle it? Should the internal thoughts be set off with quotes or as italics? It seems to be handled differently from author to author. Is there a standard and correct way to do this?

    John
    https://twitter.com/#!/jlwardx

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  19. John, direct thoughts, in first-person present tense, like "What the hell is she thinking?" or your "I hate the color blue," should be in italics. (I can't seem to put them in italics in this comment box, so I put quotation marks around them, which of course wouldn't be there, since they're thoughts and not spoken words.) "he thought" is not necessary, since the italics indicates direct thoughts.

    Indirect thoughts, like, "He wondered what the heck she was thinking," and "He hated the color blue," would not be in italics, or in quotation marks.

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  20. Oops! Thought I'd changed that first one to "heck". ;-)

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  21. I'll have to remember those find and replace shortcuts.
    Thanks, Jodie.
    Morgan Mandel

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  22. <>

    LM. you can include thoughts in action scenes but I would keep the thoughts to a minimum, especially if it is a male character in the middle of some action. Men seem to focus on the action and think later, while women would be more apt to do some processing along the way.

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  23. Anonymous, publishing your books yourself as e-books will not hurt your chances of eventually finding a publisher for a subsequent book. A lot of authors, including myself, are doing e-books and getting published by traditional publishers. And if your e-books do real well on Amazon, you can make as much money, or more, than you do with a traditional publisher.

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  24. Mac, I will offer a suggestion regarding your first question as to how to plan a release party. Are you wanting to do that virtually or in a real setting? For a real setting, I just did a launch party at a local B&B. I sent out special invitations to family and friends and acquaintances. We had an assortment of refreshments and I did a little talk about how the book came to be.
    As for a virtual launch, there are sites that specialize in that, and you can find them by doing a Google search for Book Launch Parties. Good luck.

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  25. Anonymous: I agree with Maryann. I just heard this addressed at an agent panel I moderated. The agents know the biz is tough right now, and that people need to make decisions on how long they'll put off having a book out. The stigma attached to self-publishing--if done well--is no longer the same. As a matter of fact, if you put out e-books, you might be considered "cutting edge"!

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  26. Jodie, thank you for taking time to respond to my question regarding internal dialogue. I also appreciate that you took time to break out the difference between Direct Thoughts and Indirect Thoughts.

    Your response has really helped me. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    All the best,

    John

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  27. Martha: I'm a little hazy on your book concept. I'd urge you to think like a publisher, since that's what you'll be. "A Book and a Dish" = great concept for a blog, but are you planning a compilation here, of reviews already posted online, and you now hope that someone will buy them? Why would they--are you taking the blog down? Also keep in mind that book reviews have a fairly short shelf life.

    When becoming your own publisher, you are suddenly forced to protect your own bottom line. It's sobering.

    That said, if you 're convinced there's a market for this book, you might arrange to meet with a book packager to see what services they could offer in its design.

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  28. John: Unlike Jodie, I'm not a fan of interjected thoughts that are italicized. (See--it's a subjective business!) On rare occasions, for emphasis, fine. But it's a lazy writer's technique, in my opinion. Third person POV gives you all the leeway you need to telescope in and out of someone's head--you just have to group the inner thoughts so you aren't making the reader nauseous with all that pulling back and zooming in.

    James moved to the window and opened the curtains. The sky was filled with clouds. He smiled. He hated the color blue, but cloudy days suited him just fine.

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  29. Jodie - thanks for your answer about the dashes and quotes in beats. I admire anyone who can actually find and understand anything in CMS.

    Terry

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  30. Thanks, John and Terry. Glad to be of help. Kathryn, I agree with your example, but I think often a direct thought in italics is much more immediate and compelling than an indirect thought, especially at a stressful time. Kind of like direct quotes are more immediate and compelling than indirect quotes or paraphrasing what someone has said. Direct thoughts I would put in italics are generally of the shorter, more emotional variety, and include swear words.

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  31. John, Jodie is correct in saying that thoughts should be italicised, but when submitting to a traditional publisher italics should be indicated by underlining the words in question (just to confuse matters further).

    So, your example would go to the publisher like this (minus the blue bolding):

    I hate the color blue, James thought. He moved to the windows and opened the curtains revealing a sky filled with clouds. He smiled. I love cloudy days.

    And come out printed like this:

    I hate the color blue, James thought. He moved to the windows and opened the curtains revealing a sky filled with clouds. He smiled. I love cloudy days.

    Of course, if you're self-publishing then just use italics.

    Elle
    HearWriteNow & Blood-Red Pencil

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  32. Elle, I'm going to have to find out how you kept the italics here! I even tried copying italics from a Word doc and then pasting them here, and the italics changed to normal font here! LOL

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  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  34. Please explain when to use "that" and when to use "which."

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  35. Kathryn, thanks for your thoughts about using third person to communicate thoughts. It's certainly an interesting approach.

    It's such a balancing act between all the different ways to do the same thing. I suppose that's what makes it art.

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  36. Elle, thanks for pointing out how to format for a traditional publisher.

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  37. Virginia - re: when to use "that" and when to use "which" - a quick way to think of it is that "which" is always preceded by a comma, and "that" is never preceded by a comma (unless used in a different context, of course).

    Here's an example: "The hotel that I stayed in was in Times Square." vs. "The hotel, which was really expensive, was in Times Square."

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  38. Are there any set rules as to how long a paragrapgh should be when writing a fictional short story. A reader wrote the following about my excerpts: Your writing is clear and engaging - although I think you can split your long paragraphs into shorter, more easily ingested nuggets."

    Would appreciate any feedback. Thank you.

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  39. I have a question about e-books, kindle and kobo.
    Are there various places that short stories can be submitted?

    dellabarrett@hotmail.com

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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