Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Leave The Tip on The Blood-Red Pencil

New Feature
The first Tuesday of the month here is devoted to our Ask the Editors Free-For-All, when our Editors answer your questions.

Now, on the second Tuesday of each month, we're inviting you to Leave The Tip on The Blood-Red Pencil by showing us what you know.

You can do this by using our comment section to share a writing related tip. It could be about formatting manuscripts, marketing a book, a great e-group, a website or blog, self-publishing, using a publisher, getting an agent, or any other writing tip you consider useful.
Your tip might come from experience, something you’ve picked up from a writing group, or maybe something another writer has mentioned that sticks in your mind.

If you're not a writer, but you've noticed something a favorite author does that you like, please share that with us.

If it so happens that someone else mentions the same tip you wanted to mention, it’s okay to agree and say something like, Yes, doing such-and-such works for me too, and offer an example of how it works for you. After this feature has gone for on a while, don't worry about keeping track of whether or not a tip has been given in a previous blog. The fact  it works for you is an added vote for the tip and a reminder not to forget it.

Please leave only one tip and keep it as short as possible so people don’t get bored reading a lengthy list. Tell us its origin if you remember; and if you want, add how it works or might work for you or others, or maybe how you've noticed its use by someone else.

Be sure to include your name, one website or blogspot, and where you heard about Leave The Tip.

My Tip
Read your manuscript out loud to catch stilted writing. If it doesn't sound right, there's a good chance it's wrong. I learned this through my writing group, Chicago-North RWA.

What's Your Tip?

Morgan Mandel
Killer Career now
99 cents on Kindle
and Smashwords.

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  1. Determining your book's genre is done most easily by browsing your local book store. Go to the section that contains similar works, there you can classify your book before you send it to an agent or publisher. This also works when determining sub-genres.

  2. When doing a final proof read for your manuscript you can also read it from back to front, so you don't get caught up in the story and read what you think you wrote instead of what is really on the page.

    Liana Laverentz

  3. If you are stuck at a thorny place in your manuscript, don't go round and round for too long--you'll get bogged down. Instead, insert brackets and a bunch of nonsense words in capitals to use as a "place holder"--and go on to the next place that feels clearer. Writing that next section often sheds light on the thorny one, and sometimes the nonsense words don't turn out to be total nonsense. They hold a clue to the direction that was hidden inside you all along.

  4. I agree with Liana's tip and haven't heard that in a long time. When I first started editing for a magazine, the senior editor showed me how to cover the ms page with a blank sheet of paper so I read one line at a time when proofing. She also gave me the tip about reading the line backwards. That really works, but not that we do so much on computers, it's a challenge to hold that paper on the screen. LOL

  5. It's nano month so I thought I'd leave a nano tip. I 'won' nano last year and the thing that helped me most was to build a buffer zone by writing ahead of the daily wordcount every time I found myself on a roll with the story. Even just a hundred words or so builds up into a nice buffer for those days when the creative energy just isn't there.

  6. Great tips so far!

    I revise by reading the scene I'm working on aloud -- it helps me to catch awkward phrases or parts of the story that don't flow as they should.

  7. When you're done with your manuscript, reset the margins so that an entire paragraph is on one line. You can see at a glance if you're being too repetitive with how you begin your paragraphs.

    This is especially useful from scene to scene or within a chapter. It's doubly useful during long passages of description (not too long, I hope). :)

  8. Reward yourself for each goal met during writing and revision. It's not just about the completed product, it's about enjoying the journey along the way.

  9. Here's a formatting tip for when you're combining text of different fonts into one document.
    Once you've imported the new paragraphs, in a different font from the rest, highlight a few words of text in the font you want it all to be in, then click on "Format Painter" and then highlight the text you have just pasted in. It will now be in the same font as the rest of the page.
    Double-click the Format Painter button to apply the same format changes to multiple places in the same document.
    If you don't have Format Painter, just use your cursor to highlight a few words that are in the font you want, click on Control + Shift + C, highlight the text you want to reformat, then click on Control + Shift + V. Your new text will be in the same format as the rest.

    Jodie Renner

  10. Take a page, a scene, a chapter you have written in 1st Person and rewrite it to 3rd Person -- a great exercise in control of verb tense, and it definitely rings another bell and embellishes the story in ways you could not have predicted. When done, take a page, a scene, a chapter you did in 3rd Peerson and rewrite it to 1st Person...rings a whole different bell in the mind of the reader as well as your own. This is what I call a finger exercise; I conduct many such exercises in my classes. You can dip into all of them via my how-to entitled DEAD ON WRITING via kindle or POD at www.wordclay.com

    You probably know a lot of the MS Word shortcuts, like Ctrl + I for italics, Ctrl + B for bold, Ctrl + A to highlight (select) the whole document, etc. Here are a few more. If you want to double-space your whole doc or ms, click Ctrl + A to select it all, then Ctrl + 2. (The "+" means you click them together.) For the acute accent over the "e" in cafe, Ctrl + ' (apostrophe), then type the e. For the degree symbol, Ctrl + Shift + 2 then the space bar.
    For an extensive list of Microsoft Word shortcuts, visit my blog at http://JodieRennerEditing.blogspot.com.

  12. I use the Control C and Control V shortcuts, but I'm going to have to try and remember some of the others as well.

  13. Wow, excellent tips. I really like the exercise Rob suggested.

    Another tip I would like to pass along is try cutting a short story of 1500 words down to 1000. I had to do that once and learned a lot about concise writing. Now I apply what I learned when writing longer works.

  14. Yes, Morgan, I couldn't live without Control C and Control V! Also, Control X (cut). Two others I use constantly are Control End to get to the very end of the document, no matter how many pages it is, and Control Home, to get back to the beginning of it.

    - Jodie :-)

  15. A better place to browse genres is the library. Bookstores lose money to well-worn copies. ;)

  16. Being a good writer isn't good enough. There are too many good writers and too few slots to fill. To rise above the crowd, you have to always work to improve your skill.

    Here's the key: Make sure the next thing you write is better than the last thing you wrote.

  17. When I'm editing someone else's work, I turn on Comments. When I'm editing for myself, I keep a pad handy and make notes to myself, including the page number. I like being able to mark things off as done.

  18. Another tip for you BRP bloggers - take the best tips from the readers and do a front-page blog post to share them. These are great!

  19. This is a bit old school, but I generally print out my pages when I edit my work. I first edit with a red ink pen, then a blue one the second time before I put all rewrites of my WIP in the computer. It's my way of knowing I've looked it over twice before moving on to the next section. For me, it's easier to catch missed words, check the length and diversity of paragrpahs, etc. and especially over-used words as I flip from page to page.

  20. I'll often read a sentence or passage aloud to catch any awkward phrases or choppy flow. At times I also act out a character's motions and speech, searching for realism. A word of warning though, it has caught the attention of the odd neighbor if I'm near a window.

  21. I haven't received a reply to this question in another blog here at the BRP, so here it is again.

    I often see advice being given about showing versus telling, and some of it conflicting. My question is what is a good split between the two? 8:20, 70:30, 60:40, etc..

    Some authors explain that well known works (some classics) have very little dialogue, and some none at all.

    And I know that classics were written in a different time, and that writing style has changed over the years. So, what is an acceptable usage of the two—showing versus telling? If we show everything, a book becomes longer and longer and voice is lost. If we do a lot of telling, we go against what some consider to be 'good writing' today, despite what can be a great usage of voice.

    I know that agents look for voice in a novel, so how much of it should be in the book, in your opinion? And what considerations would you say needs to be considered in that? Genre, pace, character depth, etc., ...


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