Friday, September 30, 2011

Be My Guest: Jane Yolen and Debby Harris

Jane Yolen and Debby Harris
Today, please welcome Debby Harris. She edits for the marvelous author, Jane Yolen, who has written over 300 books in various genres, but is perhaps most famous for her award-winning children's and YA books. I asked Debby to share with us what it's like to work for such a prolific and accomplished writer, and here is what she has to say:

1.  Debby, how did you meet Jane Yolen?

I first met Jane Yolen in person in London in 1989, at the 14th World Fantasy Convention. I had recently read her short story anthology, aptly named Tales of Wonder, and having been bowled over by the experience, was agog to meet the tale-spinner herself. I begged my friend and writing mentor Katherine Kurtz to introduce us, and she very kindly obliged.

Ironically, Jane and I might easily have crossed paths much sooner and much closer to home. Our geographical nexus was the ancient Scottish burrough of St. Andrews, home of golf and birthplace of Scotland’s oldest university.

I had come to St. Andrews as a student in 1981, had brazenly entrapped an unsuspecting Scottish lad into marriage, and had remained on location to complete what eventually became my first published novel, The Burning Stone. Jane, meanwhile, was making semi-regular academic pilgrimages to St. Andrews in the company of her husband David, a professor in Computer Sciences, who was doing joint research with Scottish colleagues at the University.

Whatever you choose to call it - coincidence, providence, serendipity - with this common ground to build on, our friendship blossomed quickly. Twenty-two years down the line, hanging out with Jane is one of the great delights of my life.

2.  How long have you worked together?

Jane began working with my husband Bob long before she started working with me. Their joint publications include a handful of short stories and eight young adult novels - four Scottish historical novels and four fantasy novels based on Greek mythology. When they first began writing as a team, I intended to keep my distance and leave them to their own devices, but as time went on, I found myself getting drawn into the creative process from an editorial perspective.

It began partly as a social obligation: when you put two or more writers together in a room, it’s only a matter of time before they end up talking shop. If Bob and Jane were grappling with a writing issue over dinner, my only choices were either to leave the room (which was rude) or get involved in the discussion. After a while, somewhat to my surprise, I discovered I seemed to have a flare for textual trouble-shooting. Not only that, but I enjoyed the role of text doctor.

Even so, the first time Jane asked me to edit one of her own solo works, I was taken aback. It was as if Whistler or Renoir had asked me to give him technical advice about a painting-in-progress. Jane waved my reluctance aside. “You’ve got good instincts,” she told me. “Just read this first draft and tell me what you see.”

The book in question was Dragon’s Heart, the long-awaited fourth novel in Jane’s Pit-Dragon series. The manuscript was full of gripping moments. Even so, I had to concede that it had its rough spots. Swallowing my qualms, I packed up my sheaf of notes and trotted across the Lade Braes (a strip of parkland which bridges a rippling burn between my neighborhood and Jane’s lovely St. Andrews home, Wayside) and braced myself to deliver my diffident verdict.

I need not have worried. Jane is nothing, if not the ultimate professional, when it comes to confronting her own work with an eye to perfection. For three and a half hours, we sat and discussed ways and means. At the end of our brain-storming session I went home floating on air. I’d actually been of editorial assistance to one of the best writers I’ve ever met.

Since then, whenever Jane comes back to St. Andrews, she’s given me a manuscript to read. Two summers ago, it was the first draft of Snow in Summer, a striking re-telling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in an American setting. This past summer, it was a novel-length expansion of Jane’s acclaimed short story “The Thirteenth Fey”. Jane’s positive response to my editorial in-put has boosted my confidence as an editorial reader. I’m looking forward eagerly to my next opportunity.

3.  How hard is it really to edit a writer like Jane Yolen [especially with her poetry]?

Without necessarily intending to, I see I’ve partially addressed this question in my previous response. But I’ll be happy to elaborate.

To begin with, my own talents, and consequently my critical instincts, are limited with reference to poetry. Although I’ve taught the craft of poetry to inexperienced creative writers, I don’t consider myself qualified to provide editorial recommendations to established poets like Jane - hence the fact that my editorial contributions to Jane’s work are limited to a consideration of her fiction.

Leaving aside questions of genre, however, I can repeat without reservation that Jane is the epitome of the professional writer. Her one over-riding priority at all times is to produce a work that fully lives up to its potential. Her responses to editorial feedback are invariably measured and thoughtful. She never rejects a suggestion without consideration, and her decisions as a writer are invariably sound.

What’s it like to edit a writer like Jane Yolen? Scary (from my own point of view), but ultimately encouraging and illuminating. Every time I read one of her manuscripts I improve as an editor. It really is a privilege and a joy.

~~~~~
Thank you for visiting us, Debby. We'd love to see you here every month, so please join us as a regular guest! Debby does edit for other authors, so please visit her website for more information. Readers, if you have questions for Debby, please leave them in the comments. If you'd like to buy any of Jane Yolen's books, she suggests shopping online or in person at the bookshop of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Be My Guest: Nash Black Part 2

Death, Publishers, Intellectual Property Rights, and the Probate Court

When the owner of a publishing firm dies, what happens to the intellectual property rights of the individual authors whose works were purchased and publish by the firm?

The simple answer is they become not the property of the author, but the assets of the owner’s estate, which is subject to settlement by the Probate Court.

A sole proprietorship is what anyone can have who files their income tax using the small business Schedule C form under their social security number. It requires no other official documentation. IF Publishing, owned by Irene Black, is such an entity and has existed for nearly twenty years.

E-books have made this form of publishing venture attractive in recent years. The only things an individual needs to start their business are a computer and a group of ISBN numbers (10 for $250) registered with Bowker. Plus a working knowledge of the various platforms formats used in the e-world. Then you can entice a few friends to sent you their manuscripts, draw up a simple contract, pay them an advance, and you are in business as a publisher.

Accident–owner is dead. The business entity ceases. Now what happens to those copyrights, which were paid for by No Such Publisher?

This is an example of a friend who has been publishing through small publishers (sole proprietorships) for over thirty years.

There is a book out there of which she is ashamed. Her publisher demanded it through a clause in her contract which specified a full length work. Her forte is short stories. Book was written and published. Owner died. The copyright to the book passed to the heirs and has remained in print to this day. The author ignores it and makes no effort the sell it during her frequent appearances as a story teller, but as long as it remains in print she cannot sue to regain her copyright or take it off the market. The title belongs to the heirs of the original publisher’s estate, not to the author of the book.

The Probate Court of whichever state the business entity resided does not consider intellectual property rights, but property rights. A copyright is property in the eyes of the court along with the computer, chair, desk, paperclips, etc. If the deceased had a will the settlement of an estate is much easier from the standpoint of the executor and if there is no will the court will appoint one. The copyrights owned by the publisher remain with the estate and do not revert to the author as intellectual property rights.

My suggestion for both the sole proprietor publisher and author is to consider a lease of copyright contract for a specific period of time with a null and void at death clause. But this agreement must be entered into at the point of sale, not after the death of either party.

This is the limit of my expertise. My experience is in cleaning up after a death, at times with a will, and others a nightmare of heirs going down to the fourth generation before anyone still alive could be located.

There was only one item of personal property my sister and I both wanted from our mother’s estate; our grandmother’s churn. We flipped a coin and she won. I told her if I ever wanted to use it, I’d borrow it. Her reply, “If you ever use it, I’ll give it to you.”
~~~~~~~
Nash Black is the pen name for Irene Black and Ford Nashett. They create ghost stories and mystery novels drawn from the culture and folklore of Kentucky’s Cumberland foothills. A non-fiction title describes the business side of writing.

Visitors is the first title published by Nash Black under IF Publishing where they retain the rights to all aspects of the publication. It is available as a trade paperback edition and on all electronic mediums. You can follow Nash Black on Twitter.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Be My Guest: Nash Black

Today, we welcome Irene Black, who is half of the Nash Black writing partnership. I first connected with her at Murder Must Advertise during a group discussion about the legalities surrounding the death of a publisher. I invited her to share her expertise here, so today and tomorrow, she'll discuss important issues every writer should consider... before they die.

The Business of Dying
Mystery authors analyze death, dissect it, examine it, and explore it. What we neglect to do is prepare for it as it relates to our own lives. Death also has ugly companions–disability and dementia. It is our unalienable right to take responsibility for our own lives, which includes our demise.

Make a complete inventory of personal obligations to other individuals/pets, possessions owned out-right or jointly, assets such as bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, insurance policies or pension rights with their location, business entities, and financial obligations.

Each individual is different, but so are the laws that govern inheritance for each state. Do a search to learn these laws as they apply to you. Americans are a mobile population and this may entail redoing your work each time you change residence to a different state.

Consider and list all the people who could serve as executors of your wishes, guardians for minor children, or caretakers for your pets. Contact them and ascertain if they are willing and are able to serve in this capacity.

You can write your final instructions. This is called a holographic document, but it must be done in long hand, witnessed, and notarized to be accepted by the probate court. Most libraries have blank copies of standard generic will forms, which you can obtain for a small fee plus dozens of how-to books.

Take your inventories and personal information to a reputable lawyer who specializes in estate law. That person will be able to advise you as to the little nuisances you may have forgotten and the function of probate law. It could be the best investment you will ever make.


Disability
An accident or a disease can render a person unable to communicate so the first order of planning is to consider the consequences if this should happen.

Consider your situation, your family, your friends, companions, etc. and do some hard thinking.

Who will be responsible for your care and rehabilitation?

Who can assume the costs when all of your insurance is exhausted?

Who must deal with the myriad of forms required for public assistance?

Generic forms can help, but read them carefully. Read and understand every item and clause before you ever sign anything. Discuss the provisions of any legal instrument mentioned with family or friends who will be affected by your decisions.


Durable Power of Attorney
Acquire a durable power of attorney; give the grantee a copy. Write your own, to suit your needs. Retain the original.

“Durable” does not mean it is viable after death. The grantee cannot take any new actions in your name, only clear up old ones executed prior to your death.

Investigate the powers this legal instrument conveys before you sign. Relationships do change, when they do, your legal arrangements must to be revised to cover the new situation and the old one destroyed.


Living Will
Do you want to be kept alive by machines while the courts fight over your remains?

Do you want to be an organ donor? Some states make provisions for this procedure on the back of your driver’s license. Kentucky is one.

Do you prefer cremation or a green burial?

A living will is a painless procedure and simple to execute. Consider it after a power of attorney.


Wills or Trusts
At this point you should consider your assets and how they will be distributed after your demise. Be careful how you structure your bequests.

If you have children who are underage, who will assume guardianship?

How will the proceeds from your assets benefit them to last long enough to pay for their rearing and education?

These are two examples of questions that need to be answered, but there are many others.

This is where you should sit down with an attorney and plan for a future when you are not around to manage for your loved ones. Under all circumstances, make sure all provisions are clearly spelled out.

Provide a specific numerical value for trust funds to be paid to the executor for their services. For many people a trust is a much wiser document than a simple will. Some forms of trusts avoid the probate court and avoid the draining of the estate by inheritance taxes, court fees, and administrator’s gratuities.

Whatever you choose remember the document is a living instrument and must be updated to reflect changes in all your personal and professional life.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nash Black’s award nominated book is Writing as a Small Business. Their current novel is Sandprints of Death and is available at amazon.com by clicking here. Both are available as Kindle editions.



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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pre-Writing Preparation

You'd rather be writing, but first you have to...

10. Reach into the freezer and get something out for dinner. WARNING: You may discover things in your freezer older than your youngest child. This has happened to me. This brings up all sorts of other issues that may further delay your writing.

9. Organize your desk - including all the drawers. This could take hours, if you're lucky. But don't think of it as luck, think of it as being thorough.

8. Vacuum the cat. Yes, scratches and a certain amount of blood loss with probably be involved. However, you can use the pain and suffering to enrich the detail in your current work.

7. Do more research. You're not wasting time, you're getting your details correct. Keep repeating this - it helps alleviate the guilt.

6. Have a snack. Go to the kitchen to discover you are out of snacky foods. Go to the grocery store. Don't forget you're out of milk. And cheese. And toilet paper.

5. Reread your previous few paragraphs to remind yourself where you are in the plot. Try to read them with no judgment. Try. Try harder. Now step away from the delete button.

4. Have a staring contest with your pet. NOTE: With a dog, you have a fair chance of winning. With a cat you have less chance. With a fish, you have no chance. No pet? Stare at a picture of one in a magazine. You're not wasting time, you're sharpening your concentration.

3. Close your eyes and imagine the blockbuster movie that will be made based on your current manuscript. Picture a scene and hear the dialogue. WARNING: This exercise may lead to actual writing.  Approach with caution.

2. Think about what your characters were like in high school as a means of exploring their histories.  Think about what you were like in high school. Think about what your friends were like in high school.  Do you remember some of the names? Hello, Facebook?

1. To pick up dialogue tips, watch a movie or television episode written by one of your favorite writers. WARNING: This may cause severe depression and self-loathing. More snacks may be necessary.

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~~~~~~~~~~~
Elspeth Antonelli is an author and playwright. Her twelve murder mystery games and two plays are available through host-party.comShe has also contributed articles to the European writers' magazine "Elias". Her blog, "It's A Mystery," explores the writing process with a touch of humor. She is on Twitter as @elspethwrites.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Be My Guest: Linda Yezak

Thank you, Linda, for guest posting today on the Blood Red Pencil.

The Laws of Physics–er, Writing
by Linda Yezak

He eyed her from head to toe.

She hit him.

He smirked.

She thought he called her a name.

Sounds like a scene from a novel, doesn't it? In truth, these lines are derived from different novels in which the author presented an unanswered action.

“Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”

This, the third of Sir Isaac Newton's laws of physics, should be the first law of writing. Whenever a character does something, there should be some sort of reaction.

The examples are from novels I've read where the author left me hanging after an action was portrayed. The first one, especially, yanked me out of the story: "He eyed her from head to toe." Since we were in her POV, we should've seen her reaction (even if we weren't in her POV). Believe me, a woman reacts to being scoped, and how this one reacted could've solidified her characterization. The author missed an opportunity, and the editor let him get away with it.

The next one, "She hit him," surprised me because she hit him hard in the legs with a metal object. At the very least, he should've said "ouch." He should've jumped up and down, holding one injured shin, then the other. He should've exclaimed something--anything--that would indicate pain. Should have, but didn't.

Authors should pay attention to what they're writing. They should visualize the scene and the natural reactions their characters should have to the stimulus presented–in a natural sequence. I emphasize the sequence, because I've also seen something similar to this:

She whacked him on the back with the board she toted. She didn't mean to, she just wasn't paying attention. When would she ever learn? She was so careless, such a klutz. Even her mother said so. What would her mother say if she saw her today? Nothing good, no doubt.

"Ouch," he said.

Oversimplified of course, but it happens when writers aren't paying attention to what they put on the page. That an author wouldn't realize what she's writing may seem odd, but if she's anxious about her next point or presenting a vital character quirk or whatever goal is on her mind, she's blinded to what she has written. And if the author is the type to deliver an unedited first draft to her editor, then it becomes the editor’s responsibility to bring these deficiencies to her attention.

Most writing rules can be broken by those who know how to artfully manipulate them, but this Law of Physics (writing) should be sacrosanct–every action has a reaction.
------------------------

Two-time ACFW Genesis finalist Linda Yezak lives with her husband and three cats in the great state of Texas, where tall tales out-number the cattle and exaggeration is an art form. Aside from being a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, she is also a member of Women Writing the West and The Christian PEN. A popular speaker in the ArkLaTexOK area, she is a freelance editor, a content editor for Port Yonder Press, and has served as a judge in several nationwide writing contests. Her novel, Give the Lady a Ride, a western romantic comedy and 2008 Genesis finalist, debuted in March of 2011.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Be My Guest: LJ Sellers

It’s great to be back on Blood-Red Pencil as a guest. For the last year as a full-time novelist, I’ve been focused on writing, publishing, and promoting. When my fiction readers started commenting about how much they enjoyed my blog and my nonfiction articles, I took notice and added a few ideas to my to-do list.

After mulling it around, I decided to combine the best of my nonfiction—including all the blogs I wrote about my journey to become a full-time novelist—into a book. I thought my readers would enjoy getting to know more about me, and authors would find the writing, editing, and promotion advice helpful and inspiring. Most of the blogs I wrote for this site while I was a member were included as well.

The title was easy. I named the book after my blog and personal motto, Write First, Clean Later. I adopted the slogan in early 2008 when I was laid off my editing job with an educational publisher. Since then, I’ve penned five novels and published eight, in addition to writing hundreds of blogs and newspaper articles.

In August—after the release of a futuristic thriller—I decided to take the non-fiction project off the back burner and make it happen. I sorted my best blogs and articles into chapters, pulled them into a Word document with a few photos, then updated and edited the 52,000 words. As with my novels, I sent the file to a formatter to create an e-book, and I contracted with a graphic designer to create a cover. I also uploaded a file to CreateSpace to make the book available in print.

I’m happy to report that this last year has been incredible for me, and I feel fortunate to be able to make a living from my fiction. I believe the rapid, transformational changes in the publishing industry will benefit many other writers as well. Publishing your own work is now easy, accessible, and inexpensive. The challenge is still in finding an audience, but social networking has made that attainable and fun too.

I may not be Amanda Hocking, but I have sold enough e-books in the last year to support my household, and I accumulated a mountain of information along the way. I share all of it in Write First, Clean Later, which sells for only $2.99 as an e-book, or $12.99 in print. The book is available from most retailers, and you can also buy it from my website in digital or print format.

The hardest thing about publishing this book was deciding which category to list it under. Self-help? Humor? Memoir? I considered all of those and settled on Literary Collections as the most accurate, but there’s plenty of humor and advice in the pages as well. The best part of self-publishing is that if the category doesn’t work, I can go in and change it anytime.

Thanks for having me back here. I wish you all the best in your writing and publishing endeavors. And remember the best advice of all: Write First, Clean Later.
~~~~~~

L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and the author of the bestselling Detective Jackson mystery/suspense series: The Sex Club, Secrets to Die For, Thrilled to Death, Passions of the Dead, and Dying for Justice. Her novels have been highly praised by Mystery Scene, Crimespree, and Spinetingler magazines, and the series has been on Amazon Kindle’s bestselling police procedural list. L.J. also has three standalone thrillers: The Baby Thief, The Suicide Effect, and The Arranger. When not plotting murders, she enjoys performing standup comedy, cycling, social networking, and attending mystery conferences. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes.
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Be My Guest: Jodie Renner

What’s in a Name? Naming Your Characters

Have you ever read a book where the name of the main character was jarring to you, seemed inappropriate, or just wrong? Or have you mixed up two characters because their names were similar? Or said “Who’s that?” because suddenly the author started using a character’s nickname or first name, when previously all you knew was their last name? What you choose to name your characters can be the difference between annoying/confusing your readers and having the story flow naturally, with all the little details falling into place to make a seamless, believable story world.

A few years ago, I did a critique of a novel in which the cruel, abusive father was named “Danny” and his eight-year-old abused son was named “John.” I definitely thought “Danny” sounded much more like a nice kid than a nasty adult, and why not give the young boy a more kid-like name, like “Johnny”? Switching the two would have worked fine, too.

Here are some tips for naming your characters:
  • Avoid too-common and too-forgettable names like “Bill Smith” or “Ed Jones.”
  • Avoid really weird, unusual names that draw attention to themselves — unless it’s for a really weird character!
  • Choose a name that fits the character’s personality and role. Don’t name your he-man hero “Harold” or “Wilfred,” or your despicable villain “David” or “Josh” or “Jordan” or “Jason” or “Matt” or any other very popular name. Don’t call your smart, sassy, attractive heroine “Gertrude” or “Henrietta” or “Josephine.”
  • Also, to reflect the actual makeup of North American society, be sure to use some characters and names from other ethnic backgrounds besides Anglo-Saxon.
  • Be flexible about the names you choose. As your story and characters develop, you may decide to rename some of them to suit new character traits they’ve taken on. Then you can just use your “Find and Replace” function to change the name throughout the whole manuscript in seconds.
  • If you’re writing historical fiction, research common names for that era and location. Don’t make the mistake of calling your 18th-century heroine, for example, “Taylor” (used only for males in that era).
  • Avoid archaic-sounding, old-fashioned names for contemporary characters, like “Ebenezer” or “Cuthbert.”
  • Help your readers remember who’s who by not naming characters similar names, like “Jason,” and “Jordan”; or “Eileen” and “Ellie.” In fact, it’s best to avoid using the same first letter for different characters’ names in the same book, or even similar internal sounds, like “Janice” and “Alice.”
  • You can help the readers out even more by varying the syllables in names, too, like “Chris,” “Molly,” “Jennifer,” and “Alexandra.”
  • Finally, what about characters who are called different names by different people? That can get confusing for readers who are barreling along trying to keep up with your fast-paced plot. Suppose you have a female police officer named Caroline Hunter. The other officers call her “Hunter” at work, her friends call her “Caroline” and her family calls her “Carrie.” It would be unrealistic to have her friends and family call her “Hunter” just to help the readers out. So, as a reminder, be sure to throw in her full name from time to time, like during introductions or whatever.
  • Also, if you start out a scene using “Hunter,” it’s best to avoid switching to “Caroline,” as the inattentive reader might suddenly wonder who this Caroline is who just walked in. Keep “Hunter” for that scene, with perhaps the occasional use of her full name. If she’s with her parents and sister, she’ll be “Carrie” but you could throw in the “Caroline” or “Hunter” somewhere, just as a reminder, like when she’s answering the phone, or when a neighbor kid addresses her mom as “Mrs. Hunter,” etc.

Stumped for a name? Look through the phone book or name books, or Google “popular names for boys” or “popular names for girls” or “popular names in the 18th century” or “popular Irish names” or whatever. As you’re searching, make lists of names and nicknames that appeal to you for future writing, under different categories, like “hero,” “heroine,” “male villain,” “female villain,” “best friend,” “minor tough guy,” etc.

What about you? Have you ever read a book where you thought the main character’s name was “off”? Or you got confused as to who was who?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Guest blogger Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction manuscript editor, specializing in thrillers, romantic suspense, mysteries, romance, YA, and historical fiction. Jodie’s services range from developmental and substantive editing to light final copy editing and proofreading, as well as manuscript critiques. Check out Jodie’s website at http://www.jodierennerediting.com/ and her blog, dedicated to advice and resources for fiction writers, at http://jodierennerediting.blogspot.com/.

Posted by Maryann Miller who always appreciates some tips for naming characters. Don't name every male character Mark for Pete's sake. Hmmm. Pete is a pretty good name.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Be My Guest : Susan Malone

Please welcome our guest blogger today, Susan Malone. She is a terrific editor and writing coach, and we are so happy to have her join us as a guest every month.

Writing's Worst Monster

By far the biggest pitfall I see with writers has nothing to do with style, technique, characterization, plotting, and pacing—i.e., the nuts and bolts of actual writing—although those bugaboos persist. Nor does this pervasive and killer problem have to do with talent. All of these must be present to fashion a decent book. But none comprise the dragon that guards the gate of truly good writing. Rest assured, however, this beast will slay you every time until you face it.

The number-one stumbling block I see with writers, especially new ones, is getting into too big of a hurry. Rushing. Wanting to see your work in print at all costs, and most importantly, wanting to see that happen NOW.

Most of the questions I get from folks just completing novels revolve around marketing and publishing, rather than in perfecting the craft, receiving professional critique, and digging back in to make the work actually salable in the first place. That the self-publishing market has burgeoned into a real sea of this mess attests to this woe. For a very small fee, you can now see your work in print. But 99 times out of 100, you’re presenting your show horse in its work clothes, with pine shavings and manure dangling from its feet, its mane and tail all tangled and ragged.

Is this really what you want the public to see?

Writing is tough. You go for months and sometimes years without anyone seeing what you’ve done. And this drives a lot of folks batty. Well, okay, it drives us all batty at some point. If your creativity expressed itself in other pursuits, at least people would know that you have, indeed, been producing something, even if those efforts were elementary. But with words on the page, no one can experience your creative genius until you foist a manuscript into their hands.

So writers do. Since time immemorial, way, way before a work is ready to been seen by another human, writers put their babies into the hands of friends and family, if just to let those folks know that they’re really up there writing, and not just finger painting on stone tablets, or these days, screwing around on the Net. And for most of the history of publishing, this was bad enough.

But now, we have e-books. Instant gratification. Toss that manuscript out into the world with the flick of a few keystrokes (okay, so it’s not that easy, but still, compared to what it once took to publish a book, it feels like it!). Shazaam! The McNovel is out!

And the sad truth is that perhaps a really good book is buried under the words, but no one can find it through all of the, well, dung.

What makes a good book, and a good writer, includes a host of elements. But the biggest help, and conversely the biggest hindrance, has to do with time. There is an enormous amount to learn about writing, whether one has the talent of Hemingway or not. But his first novels were lost as manuscripts, left on a train. And even he later said it was the best thing that ever happened to him.

I’ve seen a lot of first novels that were great starts. As I’ve worked with the writers, they’ve taken the time and put in the effort to truly learn the craft, and gone on to publish. Three of those became Traditionally published authors this year—even in this insanely shrinking market. What’s really tough is to see a writer fixate on a first effort, when I know there’s a bigger book—a better book—within him.

Yeah, this is a brutal business. But when self-publishing was expensive enough to be out of the realm of possibility for normal people, it forced writers to actually learn their craft. To find their footing through all of the rejections, learning to sift the wheat from the chaff of critique. To find the strength and fortitude to keep going deeper into the art and science of writing—or give up entirely.

Learning the skills of great writing takes time. If you persist, you’ll always discover more tools—putting into practice the new as you build upon the old, adding texture and layers and depth to your work.

Remember that the Sistine Chapel wasn’t finished in a day. As Michelangelo, who painted a somewhat well-known mural atop, said: “I am still learning.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Award-winning author and editor Susan Mary Malone has four traditionally published books to her credit (fiction and nonfiction) and many published short stories. A freelance editor, forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to Traditional publishers. You can see more about her, and what authors say about working with her, at: www.maloneeditorial.com

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Be My Guest: Terry Odell

Many thanks to Terry Odell for stopping by The Blood Red Pencil to share some tips for writers.

On The Cutting Edge

Our language evolves, but at glacial speeds. Also, usage varies depending on where we live. I think if you're pursuing a traditional writing path (by that I mean, not trying to break ALL the rules, like omitting all punctuation or capitalization), you should consider what you put on the page.

One pet peeve: The use of "alright" to mean "all right." I was taught that there's really no such word as "alright", at least in standard usage. And although I'm finding a few places that say it's becoming an "acceptable" alternative to all right, I'm not convinced it's smart to use it. Not until those glaciers show up in your neighborhood.

Perhaps the confusion arises because we're used to using already as well as all ready. However, these have totally different meanings. If we have a group of people and we're trying to gather everyone together to leave on a trip, we might say, "Are we all ready?" meaning, "Is everyone ready to go?"

On the other hand, "already" means previously. "I've already eaten dinner."

Or  maybe it's because we've seen "all together" and "altogether." However these words also have different meanings. "All together" means everyone at the same time. "We went to the movies all together."

"Altogether" means "entirely", as in:  "I'm altogether fed up with grading grammar papers."

But back to alright. According to The American Heritage Dictionary, and the Macmillan Dictionary, "alright" hasn't made it into acceptable usage yet. In other references, where it is listed as a 'real' word, the definition is always given as "all right." Unlike the above examples, we're not talking about words/phrases with two separate meanings. We're looking at two usages meaning the same thing. And that means we're actually looking at alternative spellings.

And another one that sets my teeth on edge: leaving off the "to be" infinitive. I first noticed this when I was transcribing reports for a temp job, and it seemed to be a regional thing. Where I would say, "The dishes need to be washed," some will say, "The dishes need washed." Yet I'm starting to see it in published fiction. I did read one book where the character called attention to the usage, joking about it, and explaining it was because of where she was from, but if it just sits there, it jumps off the page.

Should you use these sorts of things? I'd say avoid them. Wherever possible, the most common, more universal usage is the smarter one to use. As long as you have readers who think it's wrong, they're going to think less of you as a writer. Because, ultimately, it's going to pull a reader out of the story, and anything that pulls a reader out of the story is "wrong, wrong, wrong."

What are some of the words that you see used improperly?

If you liked this post, you might consider sharing it with others and clicking the the little +1 button.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists. To see all her books, visit her Web site. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

Posted by Maryann Miller who is so glad that Terry cleared up this business about alright.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Be My Guest: Lauri Kubuitsile in Botswana

Botswana’s Copyright Law and How it’s Killing Writers


I got a message from someone that a school had photocopied one of my books for their students. I called the Copyright Society of Botswana (COSBOTS) and the helpful lady there told me that they couldn’t do much for me even if they had started registering members (which they haven’t yet) because the law allows the photocopying of books for educational purposes.

The copyright law in Botswana is relatively new, passed in 2000, and COSBOTS only set up last year. The part of the new law on photocopying of books for educational purposes is shockingly vague. Basically it says they can, it does not include any parameters. This is the problem.

Botswana is a small country, 1.8 million people. In Botswana, there are no trade publishers. All of the publishers in Botswana are educational publishers. There are a handful of locally owned publishers who must fight it out with the big internationals. Before the establishment of the locally owned publishers, school books brought to Botswana to be sold were made for other markets. Our market was just too small to support the development of books specifically for Botswana educational objectives. Schools just had to make due with materials which were not always appropriate.

But then locally owned publishers started operating and they only had the Botswana market (unlike the multinationals) so they started making books for our country, for our students’ needs. This was wonderful. Now teachers could teach from books that were relevant to Botswana. But to produce such books is costly.

Now let’s look at the photocopying of those books. This will mean a school can purchase, in theory, a single book then photocopy it for all of their students. If this happens only a handful of books will be bought, publishers will soon be unable to make a profit in Botswana. For multinationals, they still have their markets outside of Botswana where copyright is taken seriously and infringements are prosecuted. They will survive.

But what about the locally owned publishers? Their market will be gone and they will have no option but to close shop. Since making books for Botswana will become no longer profitable, even the multinationals will stop doing it. Teachers will be back to using South African or British books in classrooms in Botswana. Students will lose out.

And what about writers? Our only market in the country is the schools. Once gone, our markets disappear completely. No markets, no writers.  Our literary legacy gone as well.
~~~~~~~~
Readers, please share with us copyright challenges you have experienced. Leave us a comment!

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Guest Post: NetGalley

Recently, I posted about NetGalley and today we feature Kristina Radke, Community Concierge, who sends frequent updates and information about all the latest book offerings from small and large publishers who have joined their service. I find this to be a wonderful way for book reviewers to get new titles via direct downloads and have used them myself. I asked NetGalley to answer a few questions in detail, and here are the responses:

What is NetGalley?
NetGalley is a service that delivers digital galleys to professional readers such as reviewers, bloggers, librarians, booksellers, media, and educators. If you read and recommend books, you can request digital galleys from over 100 publishers for free! If you’re a publisher, you can offer secure digital galleys to the NetGalley community (over 36,000 members as of today) and/or to your own list of contacts.

Who started it?
NetGalley was created by Rosetta Solutions, and was acquired by Firebrand Technologies (who offers various digital solutions for publishers such as Title Management and the Eloquence metadata distribution service) in 2008.

Where does it live?
NetGalley is a virtually virtual office! Our parent-company Firebrand Technologies is based in Newburyport, MA, but the small NetGalley team is spread across the U.S. We have members in the New York area (Manhattan, Brooklyn, New Jersey), in California, and in Seattle.

Why did you create it?
NetGalley was created to give publishers the ability to offer secure digital galleys, which allows publishers to reduce the costs of printing and shipping physical galleys and get more galleys in the hands of qualified professional readers. Not to mention reduce publishers’ impact on the environment. Digital books are about as green as they come!

How does it work?
Publishers upload their galleys, plus any promotional information like book trailers, tour schedules, etc., to the site. Once the file has been added, they can invite their own contacts to view their title on NetGalley. Plus, members can find new titles through the Public Catalog, where they can request galleys. The publisher will then approve or decline those requests based on their approval preferences.

Once approved, readers can download the galleys to a number of different devices, and even share feedback/reviews directly with the publisher.

Is there a cost to the publisher? I know it's free to the reviewer.
Yes, it’s true that this is a free service for professional readers! For publishers, the pricing is based on how many titles they have active at any given time. For publishers who would like more information, please email us. 

One more question: What if a reviewer is interested in a title, but it's not yet available on NG?
The list of available titles on NetGalley is completely up to each individual publisher. Some publishers put a wide variety of titles on NetGalley, including some back-list titles, while others only highlight their seasonal front-list titles and archive them from the site upon publication. My suggestion is to check back often! New titles are added every day.
Be sure to sign up at NetGalley.
Follow them on Twitter.
Like them on Facebook, too!
~~~~~~
Dani Greer is founding member of the Blood-Red Pencil, a book reviewer, editor, writer, blogger, artist, blog book tours teacher and chaperone, and special projects coordinator for Little Pickle Press. In her spare time... oh, never mind.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Only Seventeen Syllables

Some days I don’t feel like writing, and I start to wonder why I bother. I mean, what’s the point? In a couple of billion years we’ll all be space dust anyway, right?

When these thoughts grab me I try to remember that writing puts me in touch with my “Creator Spirit,” even though I can’t define what that is. Writing makes me whole, even when I write badly. (Even bad stuff needs a creator.) When I don’t write, I’m not whole or in touch. It’s a survival thing for me.

Yes, I know how grandiose this sounds. Who am I to think I am an artist whose work will last for centuries? I’m not Shakespeare or Michelangelo. I should pay attention to my little life and let all those high-falutin’ (my grandfather’s term) ideas go. I don’t have time to write, anyway. Some days there are pressing concerns in my life that get in my way. (You know, like laundry or tweezing my eyebrows.)

About twenty years ago, I read a book about writing. Unfortunately I can’t remember the book’s name or author. (I read a lot of books about writing.) I remember it had a blue cover, but that’s about it – except for one suggestion the author made. She (I think it was a woman) suggested writing one haiku poem every day. Haiku are short – only 3 lines and 17 syllables, and yet when you write one, you are creating a piece of art that was not there before, no matter how good or bad it is. If you write one every day, then every day you can claim, with perfect truth, “Today I created something – today I am an artist.”

I thought this sounded like an interesting experiment, so I thought, “I’ll try it.”

Every day since then (well, nearly every day – about 350 out of 365 days each year) I have written one 17-syllable haiku. Five syllables on the first line, seven on the second, five on the third. I write it in the morning, and even if I write nothing else the rest of the day, I have still written something that day.

By this time I have a lot of haiku. (I hasten to say that not all of them – perhaps not even most of them – are good haiku. But then, some are excellent.)

Today I am an artist. This is a mighty and powerful statement. If you ever question why you are a writer (and what writer doesn’t?) I suggest you try writing one haiku a day, and every day you will be able to say this too. Eventually you will find yourself believing that it is true.

~~~~~~~~
Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 6 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 30 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit http://www.primary-sources.com/.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Not Right For Us At This Time

The Blood-Red Pencil would like to welcome guest blogger Nancy Martin, the author of some fifty popular fiction novels. If you are currently submitting manuscripts to agents and editors, pay close attention as Nancy shares rejection letter translations skills she's gained over the course of her prolific career.

“Sorry, this manuscript isn’t right for us at this time.”

"We will pass on this one but please send us more submissions."

Have you received one of these emails after sending a manuscript or partial to an agent? This kind of rejection note generally means your writing is good, but your story idea is one that the agent can't sell. The real message? Put this manuscript in a drawer and write something fresh for us because your writing isn’t the problem.

Part of the frustration of the submission process—which always comes with a disheartening amount of rejection—is trying to interpret what secret message might be contained in a gentle refusal to represent your manuscript.

Years ago, I interviewed many agents and editors for a Sisters in Crime project and came up with a list of the many reasons why books "aren't right for us at this time." Contenders for the top spots on the list:

• Mechanical stuff such as wrong formatting, wrong word count, or sending to agents who simply don't represent your genre.

• Stories that aren't original. That have no surprises, no plot twists and turns.

• The "world" of your story isn't interesting or marketable enough.

• Stories that take too long to get started. (Most of us should throw away the first three chapters. And if nothing happens on the first page…that's a good indicator that the writer doesn't understand how to make action happen fast enough to satisfy a reader. If there's one thing e-books have taught us? It's that stories must start with a bang and keep—er—banging.)

• Protagonists that are inadvertently unpleasant or dull. (Who wants to spend 300 pages with a jerk? Or one with a boring voice? Or one who doesn't take action? Or one who has no emotional core that hooks the reader?)

• The writing isn't good enough. (Purple prose is always a turn-off, but sometimes writers don't see that our work is just plain dull. Or the drama isn't on the page. Or there's a total lack of emotion--both experienced by the characters and also triggered in the reader. An excellent goal for a critique group would be to pinpoint dramatic scenes or emotional subtext and help each other to enhance those techniques.)

Yes, these are hard to hear. But we're all guilty. After writing nearly 50 books, I'm still working hard to use sparkling prose, find intriguing ideas, make my characters engaging, and to create stories that are compelling. It never comes naturally. It's all hard work.

What to do? My gentle urge would be to take your time submitting. Before you send, hire a freelance editor and demand that editor take off the gloves and be ruthless with your work. Force your critique partners to read critically and seek out the weaknesses. It's so much easier to make changes on a manuscript than suffer so many rejections that you eventually have no options but to put the book in a drawer---or the current equivalent, putting it up on Amazon as an e-book.

As writers, we're all very focused on our words and our plots. But really, when it comes time to submit, we must think like businesspeople. Look at the big picture. Discuss with your critique partners. What's selling right now? What's popular in the marketplace? What are readers buying? What kinds of books are staying on the bestseller lists? It's important for us to think about concepts. Not just the writing. It's hard to put a manuscript into a drawer and start on something new. It's like throwing a baby in a drawer. But think of the pages as your practice manuscript. Maybe you can pull it out later and try again. Meanwhile, try writing something that's marketable. That people will clamor to buy. Not something like other writers are pounding out. Something fresh and fast-paced and well-written. New ideas will always sell faster than old ideas, no matter how well-written. Thinking about the big picture will take you to the next level.

Some current books I think are setting benchmarks:
Room by Emma Donoghue
The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah E. Harkness
Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
A Stolen Life: A memoir by Jaycee Lee Dugard
The Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
A Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

These are all writers worth talking about. Who would you add to the list?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nancy Martin is the author of nearly 50 popular fiction novels including The Blackbird Sisters Mystery Series and the Roxy Abruzzo series. Her most recent book is Sticky Fingers. She serves on the board of Sisters in Crime, is a founding member of Pennwriters, and blogs at The Lipstick Chronicles. Nancy teaches writing workshops around the country and online. Visit her website at www.nancymartinmysteries.com or on Facebook.

Posted by BRP contributor Kathryn Craft. Thanks, Nancy!


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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Leave a Tip Today on The Blood-Red Pencil - Share What You Know

As on every second Tuesday of the month, it's Leave a Tip Day today on The Blood-Red Pencil. I don't know about you, but in Illinois we've been experiencing great Fall-type weather, energizing me and making me want to finish what I put off during the hot Summer months.

Many of us are on different levels in our writing careers: beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Wherever we are, there's always room for improvement and ways to share what we know.

My tip: For authenticity, don't be afraid to use reference material, whether printed or online.

I, like many authors, hit roadblocks. I'm geography-challenged, and horrible at directions, yet while working on Forever Young-Blessing or Curse I needed to figure out what places my heroine traveled, beginning at Scottsdale, Arizona, in her efforts to flee her pursuers. I could have picked fictional towns, but decided to use real ones. Fortunately, I happened to own an Amtrak schedule from a visit to the area in April. That lent me valuable information to figure out which places she'd stopped at along the way.

When I decided on where she'd stop, I Googled the towns and read up about them, so I wouldn't include descriptions that didn't make sense. I found some surprising information, which can be included in the story to enrich it.

What tip can you share? Our comment section is open for your suggestions, whether they be about writing, publishing, or editing, and covering whichever format or venue you wish - traditional, indie, or self-publishing.

You're welcome to include one website or blogspot URL, for readers to get in touch with you. Also, it's not required, but if you'd like to tell us where you've heard of our blog, please do so.
-------------------------------------------
Morgan Mandel
Morgan Mandel writes mysteries,
romances, and thrillers. She's a
past president of Chicago-North
RWA, was the Library Liaison
for Midwest MWA, and is an
active blogger and networker.
Her personal blog is at:
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com/
and website is http://www/morganmandel.com.
See her senior blog at http://spunkyseniors.blogspot.com
Her romantic suspense, Killer Career, is 99 cents on Kindle and Smashwords. Her paranormal thriller, Forever Young - Blessing or Curse is targeted for release first this summer on Kindle and at Smashwords.
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Monday, September 12, 2011

Story Trumps Innovation

Lately, I have been talking to some writers about innovation. These are talented writers I've had the privilege to work with and for. They are constantly trying to up their game, develop their craft, and think about ways in which they can do something totally unique, totally different.

As a writer, I enjoy seeing that enthusiasm. It excites me and actually gets me motivated to do my own writing. As an editor and writing consultant, however, I always preface this discussion on innovation with the need to remember the story. Then after that big, broad statement, I offer three questions to consider:
  1. Are you really being innovative? A lot of the "innovation" writers work to develop in their stories has already been done. Usually, when a writer proposes some avant-garde structuring or development for their story, I point them toward authors that have done something similar...if not the exact same. Although others might see it differently, for me, writers looking to be "different" need to realize that it's not so much about being different as it is about writing the story that only YOU could write--that's the true innovative part.
  2. Is the story about your "brilliance" or the actual story? When I read your story, I should not see the innovation first and the story second. There have been times when I have read a story and could actually feel the author tapping my shoulder, shouting, "Did you see that? Look at me, I'm being poetic, deep, and complex here!" I often see something similar to this when writers have a major lesson for readers to learn from having read a story and they hit the reader over the head with overly dramatic scenes that SCREAM the lesson to the reader. In the end, for both cases, I remember more about the heavy-handedness of the author than I do about the characters and the actual story. Writers should work to check their egos at the beginning of an empty page and let the characters and story develop as they need to.
  3. What does your story need to be its best? This is the central question all writers should consider when writing their story. Readers care about well-developed characters that struggle and battle to obtain whatever it is they are trying to get in the story. They want to be entertained, they want to escape, they want to laugh, cry, think, feel. Now, this doesn't mean you can't be innovative or try new things, but it does mean those things have to be relevant to the story. It means you have to remember the story. Innovation is great. A great story is even better. When we look at the canvas of our story, we should be looking to discern how best to honor that story first. When a story is good, readers will see the effort put into its development without the need to be heavy with innovation.
~~~~~~~~~~

Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator. She has published both creatively and academically. Shon also 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 CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy editing, tinkering with the idea of self-publishing, and pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Cues from the Coach: Engage the Imagination

What if…?

These two little words are the most important words of all to a fiction writer. How so? They inspire story.

What if that crying toddler in the stroller you just passed is a kidnap victim?

What if the little old man sitting on the bench at the bus stop is the illegitimate son of a British king?

What if the lady limping along the path in the park is a former ballerina whose partner dropped her?

What if those two teenagers in Gothic makeup who just entered the bank are really robbers?

What if the man who just moved in next door is in the witness protection program?

What if the little girl who disappeared while walking home from your school years ago is the clerk who checks you out at Safeway?
Get the idea? Observation opens your eyes to potential stories all around you. Then engaging your imagination can turn an ordinary situation into an extraordinary book.

What about nonfiction? We have less latitude when we report, as Joe Friday said years ago on Dragnet, “just the facts, ma’am.” Or do we? Joe was a straightforward kind of guy who used as few words as possible to get his point across. Writers, on the other hand, are wordsmiths, connoisseurs of the finer points of language usage. Let’s check out the possibilities for engaging imagination in nonfiction writing by creating a (fictional) bio.

Joe Smith was born prematurely on December 31, 1959, at 12:59:43 p.m. He spent six weeks in an incubator before he gained enough weight to be placed in the regular nursery. Another two weeks were spent in the hospital while doctors assessed his condition. Baby Boy Smith had severe cerebral palsy.

Joe spent many of his school years in special education classes, where most students required extra help to learn even the most basic skills. His unusual abilities went unnoticed and un-nurtured until a high school physics teacher, who had objected to Joe taking his class, discovered his genius. Today, Joe holds two masters’ degrees and three doctorates.
That’s an adequately written bio. While it doesn’t quite jump off the page and grab the reader’s hand, it’s a succinct and easy read. But would it benefit from engaging the imagination when it comes to word choices, sentence structures, and inclusion of additional factual details? Let’s see.

Joe Smith entered the world on December 31, 1959, just 17 seconds short of becoming the first baby born at Memorial Hospital in the new decade. A nurse whisked the premature three-pounder into an incubator and off to the nursery before his anesthetized mother caught even a brief glimpse of him. For six weeks he lived in that sterile environment, untouched except for the necessities of changing, feeding, and examination. His doctor ordered an additional two weeks in the regular nursery after he had reached five pounds to further observe and assess his physical condition. His medical records contained a brief note about his surprising faculty for following the doctor’s movements with his eyes and his apparent interest in his surroundings despite his prematurity. The bulk of the report, however, dwelt on the infant’s diagnosis: Baby Boy Smith, who had suffered significant oxygen deprivation at birth, had severe cerebral palsy.

Joe spent his elementary school years in special education classes, where most students required extra help to learn even the most basic skills. Then he enrolled in a mainstream high school. His unusual abilities went unnoticed and un-nurtured until a physics teacher—who had unsuccessfully petitioned the school board to keep the disabled boy out of his class—discovered his genius. The student he didn’t want to teach became the star of his entire teaching career. Today, Joe Smith holds two masters’ degrees and three doctorates and works in medical research to find ways to prevent and treat cerebral palsy.
Does engaging the imagination work in nonfiction writing? What do you think?

~~~~~~~~~~~~


Linda Lane coaches writers and editors to raise the quality bar on independently published books. Visit her at http://www.denvereditor.com/




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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Editors Know Nothing

Editors know nothing – and that’s a good thing.

When I say, editors know nothing, I’m not talking about their ability to edit. I’m talking about your manuscript. When it comes time to turn to a professional to edit, mark up, offer suggestions, and work with you to fine tune and improve the work, you want someone with “fresh” eyes, someone who hasn’t read previous versions of your manuscript.

Your beta readers have been reading, offering ideas, marking up the pages. You’ve probably made changes based on their comments. You’ve made improvements. Now it’s time to turn to someone who knows nothing … about the changes or what the story looked like in the beginning.

You may end up paying multiple editors to look at your work. Most writers only pay one. That one needs to be someone with experience and knowledge in editing and coaching -- someone who will tell you the hard truth.

The good news is that person is a professional. They’re not going to be hurt when you disagree with them. They’re going to continue working with you. They’re not going to be jealous of things you’ve written that are pure gold. They’re going to tell you what a gem that phrase or character or chapter is. They’re not going to be afraid to point out weak areas or what they see as problems. You’re paying them to do just that.

Editors know a lot when it comes to editing and coaching writers. And, yet, they know nothing.

And that’s a good thing.

Have you worked with an editor who knew nothing and, as a result, helped you to make your writing better?

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Time Out For a Little Fun

Thanks to humorist and friend, Tracy Farr, for letting me share some of his humor here. It is always good to just stop all the work for a few minutes and de-stress with a little chuckle. Enjoy....

What was that again?

Putting together a newspaper, whether it be national or small-town, is a BIG JOB. Millions of words have to be spelled correctly, names have to be right, photos have to match stories, headlines have to entice the reader to read -- and all of these are subject to criticism by us, the reading public.

It's not right, but that's just how it is.

Speaking of headlines...I ran across a few headlines recently in my local daily that made me pause and ask, "What was that again?" They just hit me as funny, or confusing, and I thought I'd share:

American
orders 460
new airplanes

I thought to myself, "Holy cow, that must have been some wealthy American."

Preparedness net stretched taut across county

Shoot, how could I have missed THAT?

Hess remains
exhumed, then
cremated

Sounds to me like ole Hess escaped and didn't want to go back, but now he's cremated and that's that.

Bjorn roars in return to site of 2003 meltdown

Well, since I don't understand a WORD of that one, it must be sports related.

And finally, my favorite one of the week:

Orange man
gets prison time
for fatal crash

I thought as a society we were way beyond identifying people by race or color. It doesn't matter if the person is black, white, brown, yellow or orange. What matters is that the story tells us who, what, where, when and why, and in a manner that doesn't make us think, "Who is running this paper anyway -- third graders?"

(By the way, the man was from Orange, Texas, and wasn't really orange.)

Okay, I'll shut up now.
~~~~~~~

This piece first appeared on Tracy's blog, which is worth a visit any time you need a break.
~~~~~~~

Tracy Farr is a teacher living in East Texas who enjoys writing funny stuff and playing a banjo. You can get a  free copy of his e-book Never Trust a Goat HERE
Posted by Maryann Miller, who also has goats she does not trust. She also has books that she does trust. For information about her books and her editing services visit her website.

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