Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book Promoting

After you write the story of your heart and go through the painful process of editing... wait it's not always painful...just sometimes...editors do try to be kind.

Anyway, the next step is publication, then after that begins another painful process- promotion. Wait... that's not always painful either...just sometimes...when you'd rather be writing.

Regardless, promoting is important and this year, actually starting last September, I have been trying virtual promoting over the traditional signing events, etc. I have done a number of those and enjoy them, but circumstances have limited my ability to be out on the road a lot, so I have been out on the Internet.

I have been doing tours, guest blogging and a lot of other networking on the Internet, as well as doing some Internet radio. And I found a great site: The Authors Show where I am going to be a guest on Friday, May 29.

This is not a plea for everyone to run over there to listen, although that would great, it is a plug for the show, which is a good place for authors to promote their work, fiction and nonfiction.

Online marketing via virtual book tours, blogging, Twittering, being on social sites, and guest spots on Internet radio shows is an effective way to reach readers all over the world. And the real beauty of it is that you don't have to travel any further than to your home computer.

I did a virtual book tour in September 08 and saw the hits to my Web site double for several weeks, so I know this is an effective way to reach people.

I should also mention that I have purchased a number of books after following someone for a while on a virtual book tour or meeting them via Twitter and similar sites. As Don McCauley of Free Publicity Group says, marketing it is all about building trust, and through a virtual book tour I have come to know authors well enough to become interested in their books.

Don McCauley is the host of The Author Show, and in addition to conducting a great interview, he offers writers a lot of free material to help them with their marketing efforts. It is a connection well worth making for any author who wants to promote for pennies.

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



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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In Plain Sight

An earlier post, Hiding Bones, from Morgan Mandel got me thinking about the different ways writers - especially mystery writers - introduce red herrings so they sound like significant clues and provide significant clues in ways that make them seem insignificant.

One great tool for both is the simple list.

Try this exercise. Set a timer for fifteen seconds, then study the list below. When the timer sounds, look away and write down everything you remember from the list.

red icicles
tricycle
broken wheel
blue sky
polka dots
gray beard
framed art
beach ball
Valentines Day
stack of books
blond hair
pill bottles

How'd you do? Most people will remember the first two and the last two or three. So where's the best place to hide good clue in plain sight? Where's the best place for red herring?

How many times have you read a mystery where a character or the narrator describes what is visible at the scene of the crime, on the first trip to a suspect's apartment, or even during a chance encounter with another character? When you first read the passage, nothing jumps out at you, but later, when you learn who did, or did not do the deed, you can plainly see the clue was available to you the whole time, it was just buried in the middle of a list. Sometimes the list will end with the protagonist focusing in on a detail at the beginning or the end of the list. This helps to detract the reader from the clue while directing the readers attention in another direction - often toward a red herring.

Here's an example from "Ink" by Mark Phillips, a short story in the anthology Sleeping With the Undead.

The one I wanted hung back from the others. She moved differently, every motion elegant, as if a prima ballerina were performing a ballet that imitated but perfected the motions of everyday life. I heard one of the others call her Lana, beckoning her closer to the picture of a scorpion they were trying to convince her to have etched into her butt. She would be the perfect canvas for my work. Couldn't be more than 18 or 19. Lovely green eyes. Nice body, curves where there were supposed to be curves. Dark hair, pale smooth translucent skin, deep cleavage revealed by a scoop front t-shirt. At the bottom of frayed jeans, even her feet in sandals were delicate, straight toes, nails painted lavender. her only jewelry, tiny silver quarter moons dangling from pierced ears.

There's a clue in that passage. Do you know what it is? I can't tell you - it would ruin the fun of figuring it out for yourself.

What other techniques do writers employ to hide clues in plain sight?

----------------------------------------
Charlotte Phillips is the co-author of the Eva Baum Detective Series, 2009 President for The Final Twist Writers Group and contributor to multiple blogs. Learn more about Charlotte and her books at:

MarkandCharlottePhillips.com

News, Views and Reviews Blog

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Author/Editor Discussion

The Blood-Red Pencil specializes in advice from editors. Today, we’re doing something a bit different. We’re having an author and editor discussion. All of you can join in by adding your comments or asking questions at the end.

Our author today is best-selling author, Sylvia Dickey Smith. She writes the Sidra Smart mystery series. Her series is set in Southeast Texas in the area where Sylvia herself grew up. That area of Texas is unique in its mix of people, from Cajuns to Dutch descendants to the Scots-Irish. As you might guess, her books are filled with lively characters and the area itself becomes something of a character.

She has three books out starring Sidra Smart. The first was called Dance on His Grave. The second is Deadly Sins Deadly Secrets. And her most current book is Dead Wreckoning. Sylvia says the focus of her writing is on “the strengths and weaknesses of middle-aged and older women finding their way and developing a strong identity of their own.”

Our editor is Helen Ginger. She edits for writers, blogs, tweets, and sends out her e-zine for writers (for ten years now!). Helen is currently writing in the TechCareer series for TSTC Publishing and will have three books coming out this year: Automotive Technology, Avionics, and Gaming.

Sylvia and Helen are here to talk about the editing process. Afterward, if you have questions for either one, ask away in the comments section.

Hello Sylvia! Welcome.

(Sylvia’s going to ask the first question, then Helen and Sylvia will alternate.)

Sylvia: When you first looked at DEAD WRECKONING, did you throw up your hands and say, what have I gotten myself into? :-)

Helen: It’s a good thing you put that little smiley face in your question, ‘cause that’s what I did. I smiled and said to myself, this is gonna be different and fun. Sidra gets pulled into situations she doesn’t necessarily want to be in, but once she’s involved, she goes all out. There’s mystery, a bit of humor and a touch of the paranormal, i.e. ghosts.

Helen: How about from your point of view, Sylvia -- When you decided to work with an editor on DEAD WRECKONING, what were you looking for or expecting from me?

Sylvia: When I approached you about editing DEAD WRECKONING I had a couple of things I really wanted you to address. I know no book is totally error free. However, I wanted as many eyes looking at this manuscript before it went to press as I could get. One grammatical mistake I consistently make is comma placement. When a sentence looks like it doesn't have enough commas, I sprinkle in a few. Then, on the flip side, if it looks like it has too many I take out a few. Seriously, I know that is not the proper way to make that decision--but at times it seems that's my best shot!

I will say right up front, I am not an English major. I accept my shortcomings in that area. So why not go to someone who is skilled at doing so! It was worth what it cost me.

Second, I wanted you to check my plot lines, my red herrings, my clues sprinkled throughout. I don't write simple plots. They tend to get rather involved. I wanted you to unravel my plots and insure that I left no loose ends.

Sylvia: What did you think about the novel overall? Did you feel like I was wise in choosing to have it edited?

Helen: Your novel didn’t need a lot of line editing. I work on some manuscripts that do. Once or twice, I’ve finished an edit and felt bad because I knew once I sent it back, the writer would be shocked by all the marks. But DEAD WRECKONING was pretty polished by the time you sent it to me.

Having said that, yes, I think you were right to send it to me. What we were able to work on were things like starting the book off strong, drawing your readers into the story right away; pacing so that the momentum doesn’t drag; and catching glitches in the plot or timeline. It helps to have someone say, this is where you should begin the book, or who is this character? or the reader is going to get lost in all this technical stuff.

Helen: Did you get what you expected and how did you feel when you first opened the edited manuscript?

Sylvia: Oh yes. You did an excellent job finding my errors and giving me feedback on plot lines. As far as what I felt when I opened the edited manuscript--actually pleased that you didn't find more errors than you did! DEAD WRECKONING ended up stronger and better.

Sylvia: What advice would you give an author such as myself regarding editing, and taking the advice and make the changes suggested?

Helen: When you get your manuscript back from your editor, do NOT click “accept all changes.” Above all, this is your book.

Read the edits, taking breaks if you need to. Mark the ones you’re going to have to think about. Maybe you aren’t sure how to address them. Maybe you’re not sure you need to make a change there. Maybe it requires a major change and you’re not sure you’re ready or willing to tackle it. Accept the edits you right-away agree with. Then work on the others.

Helen: How did you decide what advice, comments, or edits to accept and what to ignore?

Sylvia: The most difficult advice you gave me, that I ending up taking, was to cut the first four or five pages of the manuscript. That scene took place out in the swamp with an old woman named Boo Murphy climbing up on a resurrected pirate schooner. Her imagination carried her back to the 1700s, riding a sailing vessel with pirate Calico Jack Rackam and her ancestor, Anne Bonny. Truly 'my darling', and I killed it! Your suggested that the strong scene and Boo's character, overshadowed my protagonist, Sidra Smart. I knew you were correct and went with your advice.

Sylvia: What advice would you give authors regarding editing and proof reading?

Helen: Do as much as you can before sending it to an editor. And if you don’t send it to an editor, do your own work before sending it to an agent, a publisher, or publishing it yourself. If you can’t afford a professional editor, then join a critique group in your local area or online - you’ll get help, you’ll help others, and you’ll learn how to edit and critique. Agents are not taking on as many clients as before. Publishers are tightening their catalog lists and looking to celebrity authors or authors with a platform. You have to have a clean, as well as unique, manuscript.

Thank you, Sylvia, for sharing with us today!

You can check out Sylvia Dickey Smith’s events page to find out where you can catch her in person.

Now, the Comments section is open. Ask Sylvia questions about her books, writing, or working with an editor. You can also ask me, Helen Ginger, about working with writers or editing.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Proofreading and the Hilarity in the Lack Thereof

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Editors often cringe at hastily put together headlines. You know, those blaring boo-boos committed by harried "gotta rush and meet the deadline" news journalists. I collect them from time to time, and thought I'd share some of the more utterly ridiculous ones, along with my own quips, for your amusement today. Fun stuff. Here we go ... check these out.

Include Your Children when Baking Cookies
Certainly important in some recipes, "Northern Witch Missionary Lip Stew" comes to mind, but a rather expensive ingredient, no?

Child’s stool great for use in garden
Another reason to leave your kids out of your cookies. The fertilizer they produce is so valuable.

Drunk Gets Nine Months in Violin Case
Hmm - must be a little people?

Survivor of Siamese Twins Joins Parents
I sense a rather strong compulsion-to-bond personality disorder here. Seems hereditary, also.

Iraqi Head Seeks Arms
Oh my god - next he'll be wanting legs, too.

Prostitutes Appeal to Pope
Well, better than young boys, I suppose.

Clinton Wins on Budget, But More Lies Ahead
"I'm going to say this one more time. I did not have sex with that woman."

Enraged Cow Injures Farmer With Ax
Well I'd like to know what the farmer did to so enrage the beast.

Two Sisters Reunited After 18 Years in Check Out Counter
Kind of sad. People just don't talk to each other when standing in lines anymore.

Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
Again, there is no such thing as "trying." You either shoot the kid, or you don't.

Killer Sentenced to Die for Second Time in 10 Years
Must be a real bad cat with nine lives, eh?

Never Withhold Herpes Infection from Loved One
Absolutely not ... true love is to share everything!

New Vaccine May Contain Rabies
Ehm, I'll pass, take my chances - thank you anyway.

Deaf mute gets new hearing in killing
Really? I wonder if murder cures blindness, too.

Milk drinkers are turning to powder
Now that's an odd form of lactose intolerance.

Blind woman gets new kidney from dad she hasn’t seen in years
And will never see again, obviously.

Organ festival ends in smashing climax
Jolly good show! X-rated, though - leave the kiddies at home. Oh I forgot - we baked them already anyway.

~~~~~

Now, I don't know if all of these are actual headlines, gawd I certainly hope some of them are made up. To be honest, I do Gooogle searches for most of them. But just in case you are a disbeliever that goofs like these can ever make it to the press, here's a couple proofs in print for you.


Hmm - I would think after age 19 you'd see a bit of a drop?



A self-evident advertisement for the county's poor money management practices, wouldn't you say?

***

Posted by Marvin D Wilson, author of:
I Romanced the Stone, Owen Fiddler, and Between the Storm and the Rainbow.
Marvin blogs at Free Spirit and Tie Dyed Tirades.
He is an editor with All Things That Matter Press and does freelance editing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hiding Bones

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I often laugh at my dog, Rascal, because she does such silly things. One is to run around the house with a toy or bone, then drop it in a corner and scamper away. She acts like she hid it in a great spot, but I can see exactly where it is.

When you write a novel, you have a choice of toys and bones to hide. They're also known as clues. How obvious you make them to the reader is up to you and your storyline. For example, if you want to show the goodness of a character, an easy way is to give that person a dog, cat or some other pet to love. Normally, you'd think the nice person would take in a stray animal. That clue seems easy to pick up.

Since people are complex and many have good as well as bad points, such a clue might be hidden in plain sight. The villain could be really sweet to an animal, making him seem good to a reader's eyes, yet that same person could hate people and be really mean to them. Or, to stick true to form, it's said that killers and sadists start early by torturing animals. You could describe a childhood incident where the villain hurts an animal.

You can also plant obvious clues in your novel, like making villains frown or suffer from facial ticks. For heroes or heroines, you can casually mention special skills or hobbies which will come into play later in the novel. In my upcoming release, a romantic suspense called Killer Career, the villain almost trips over some hand weights in the heroine's home. Later in the story, the reference becomes more significant.

What about you? What toys or bones have you used in one of your novels? Or, maybe you remember an example in someone else's novel. Please share.


Experience the diversity & versatility of Morgan Mandel. Romantic Comedies: Her Handyman & its sequel, A Perfect Angel, or the standalone reality show romance: Girl of My DreamsThriller: Forever Young: Blessing or Curse. & its Collection Sequel: the Blessing or Curse CollectionRomantic suspense: Killer Career. Mystery: Two WrongsTwitter:@MorganMandel Websites: Morgan Mandel.Com Morgan Does Chick Lit.Com



Monday, May 18, 2009

Some Words of Wisdom

I was looking through some quotes by writers for a project I'm working on, and some of the quotes were so good I thought I'd share them here.


"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say." ~ Anaïs Nin

"Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia." ~ E.L. Doctorow

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~Toni Morrison

"What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers." ~Logan Pearsall Smith, "All Trivia," Afterthoughts, 1931

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~William Wordsworth

"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." ~ Vladimir Nabakov

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." ~Anton Chekhov

"Easy reading is damn hard writing." ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." ~Mark Twain

"Proofread carefully to see if you any words out." ~Author Unknown

"A writer is someone who can make a riddle out of an answer." ~Karl Kraus

"If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster." ~Isaac Asimov

"I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork." ~Peter De Vries

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



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Saturday, May 16, 2009

How to Write a Great First Draft


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Many writers think a first draft of a novel has to crappy. Anne Lamott in her nonfiction book about writing, Bird by Bird, has a chapter called Shitty First Drafts. A recent Murderati blog post was titled, “Your first draft is always going to suck.”

I respectfully disagree. Of course, no first draft is publishable as is, but it doesn’t have to suck either. There’s no reason a novelist can’t craft a readable first draft that needs only minor revisions in the second round. Every writer has his/her own style, but my personal belief is that if you start your journey with a good road map and a tangible destination, you won’t get lost.

In other words, I believe I write decent first drafts. Which saves me a lot of time and trouble. How do I do it? With a lot of advance planning. These ideas may only be workable for crime fiction, but here’s how I craft a great first draft without any gaping holes or illogical twists:

1. Create an outline. Once I have a basic story idea (comprised of an exciting incident, major plot developments, and overview ending), I start filling in the details. I structure my outline by days (Tuesday, Wed., etc.), then outline the basic events/scenes that happen on each day, noting which POV the section will be told from. For police procedurals (and most mysteries), in which everything happens in a very short period of time, this seems essential. Some people (like Stephen King) say it's better not to outline, that it ruins creativity. Again, I disagree. So I fill in as much detail as I can at this point, especially for the first ten chapters and/or plot developments.

2. Write out the story logic. In a mystery/suspense novel, much of what happens before and during the story timeline is off page — actions by the perpetrators that the detective and reader learn of after the fact. Many of these events and/or motives are not revealed until the end of the story. I worry that I won’t be able to convey to readers how and why it all happened. So I map it out—all the connections, events, and motivations that take place on and off the page. Bad guy Bob knows bad guy Ray from prison. Bob meets young girl at homeless shelter. Young girl tells Bob about the money she found . . .

3. Beef up the outline. As I write the first 50 pages or so, new ideas come to me and I fill in the rest of outline as I go along. I continue adding to the outline, and by about the middle of the story, I have it completed.

4. Create a timeline. A lot happens in my stories, which usually take place in about six to ten days. I keep the timeline filled in as I write the story. This way I can always look at my timeline and know exactly when an important event took place (Monday, 8 a.m.: Jackson interrogates Gorman in the jail). It’s much faster to check the timeline than scroll through a 350-page Word document. The timeline keeps also me from writing an impossible number of events into a 24-hour day.

5. Keep an idea/problem journal. I constantly get ideas for other parts of the story or realize things I need to change, so I enter these notes into a Word file as I think of them. (Ryan needs to see Lexa earlier in the story, where?). I keep this file open as I write. Some ideas never get used, but some prove to be crucial. Eventually, all the problems get resolved as well. I use the Notebook layout feature in Word for this so I can keep the outline, timeline, notes, problems, and evidence all in the same file, using different tabs. I love this feature.

6. Keep an evidence file. This idea won’t apply to romance novels, but for crime stories, it’s useful. I make note of every piece of evidence that I introduce and every idea I get for evidence that I want to introduce. I refer to this file regularly as I write, so that I’m sure to process and/or explain all the evidence before the story ends. In my first novel, The Sex Club, a pair of orange panties didn’t make it into the file or the wrap up, and sure enough, a book club discussion leader asked me who they belonged to.

7. Update my character database. It took me a few stories to finally put all my character information into one database, but it was a worthwhile effort. Now, as I write, I enter each character name (even throwaway people who never come up again) into the database, including their function, any physical description, or any other information such as phone number, address, type of car, or favorite music. Now, when I need to know what I named someone earlier in the story or in a previous novel, it’s right there in my Excel database (Zeke Palmers; morgue assistant; short, with gray ponytail). For information about how to set up a file like this, see How to Create a Character Database.

As a general rule, I like to get the whole story down on the page before I do much rewriting, but I’ve learned to stop at 50 pages for two reasons. One, I like to go back and polish the first chunk of the story in case an agent or editor asks to see it. Two, I usually give this first chunk to a few beta readers to see if I’m on the right track. So far, I have been.

Do your first drafts suck? What’s the worst problem you’ve encountered in a first draft?

_______________________________________
L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist, editor, novelist, and occasional standup comic based in Eugene, Oregon. She is the author of the highly praised mystery/suspense novel, The Sex Club, and has a second Detective Jackson story, Secrets to Die For, coming out in September. Her third Jackson story, Thrilled to Death, has just been completed, and she's writing a fourth. When not plotting murders, Sellers enjoys cycling, hanging out with her family, and editing fiction manuscripts. Contact her at: Write First, Clean Later.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lean and Mean Writing

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Elmore Leonard, one of my favorite writers, has the cleanest, leanest writing style on the market. Here are his simple rules, which I diligently follow.

1. Never open a book with weather.

2. Avoid prologues.

3. Never use a verb other than ''said'' to carry dialogue.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb ''said.''

5. Keep your exclamation points under control.

6. Never use the words ''suddenly'' or ''all hell broke loose.''

7. Use regional dialect sparingly.

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

11. If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.

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

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Touch of Humor

Once when I was helping my daughter with homework, I discovered that some things are beyond description.

Think about it. How do you explain parenthesis to someone who has never seen them before? You can’t really call them brackets. Besides, my daughter didn’t know what a bracket is either.

And how does one describe parenthesis? “Those funny little lines. One goes one way and the other goes the other way.”

It’s no wonder the poor girl started crying.

Then when I drew them, we got into another gray area. “That doesn’t look right,” she said. One of them is backwards.”

“No it’s not. They’re supposed to be that way.”

“But it looks backwards.”

“Take my word for it. It’s not.”

“Okay. But what do you call that one?”

“Uh, well, you don’t call it anything. There is no singular of parenthesis. They’re a pair. Just like a pair of shoes.”

“But you call one shoe a shoe.”

She had a point. One that stopped me cold for a second. Then I shuffled her papers together and said rather breezily, “Okay. What else did your teacher say you needed to work on tonight?”

“Italics.”

I ran screaming from the room.

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

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Vernacular

This famous speech is rewritten in sixties beat vernacular:

Four big hits and seven licks ago, our before-daddies swung forth upon this sweet groovey land a jumpin' wailin' stompin' swingin' new nation, hip to the cool sweet groove of liberty and solid sent upon the Ace lick dat all cats and kiddies, red, white, or blue, is created level in front.

We are now hung with a king size main-day Civil Drag, soundin' whether this nation or any up there nation, so hip and so solid sent can stay with it all the way .

We have stomped out here to the hassle site of some of the worst jazz blown in the entire issue...


Click here to read the rest.

I don't know about you, but I think the older version might have been a little easier to understand!

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Is E-Publishing For You?

Over the past ten or fifteen years e-book publishing has steadily grown as an industry, but the debate continues as to whether it is a legitimate outlet for quality books or just a repository for work not up to standard.

As the e-book reviewer for ForeWord magazine for several years, I would have to say that a lot of what has been published was not up to standard, but more and more e-publishers are taking a stricter stance on what they accept and doing a much better job with editing.

For a new writer, going with an e-publisher might be a good option. There are a number of e-publishers that have been in business for a long time, such as Hard Shell Word Factory, New Concepts Publishing, and new ones such as Uncial Press. In addition, there are there are a slew of new publishers for erotica. A directory of publishers can be found here

So, should you as a new writer consider going the electronic route? Before you decide, there are a number of things to consider:

Are there benefits to an electronic sale before a print sale? That is also highly debated on lists devoted to writers and writing, and it would be good to join one or two of them to see what has worked for authors who have gone that route.

Before signing a contract, you should also determine how the books will be distributed and how the market is controlled. If they are not going to be widely distributed in a variety of formats for different devices, that will seriously impact sales.

Royalties paid for e-books are higher than what is normally paid for print books, some going as high as 40 or 50 percent. That percentage is enticing, but keep in mind that, except for erotica and some well-established romance authors’ books, sales of e-books seldom go over 3 or 4 hundred copies over a three year period.

Will readers embrace electronic books the same way they do print? The jury will be out a long time on that one, too, but one thing is clear. The first generation of children who were comfortable in front of a computer screen is now in adulthood.

The idea of reading a novel on a hand-held electronic reader is not alien to them, and certainly not to their children. And some older folks even like the convenience of downloading 10 to 20 books on a e-book reader and taking it on a long vacation.

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Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest books are One Small Victory and Play it Again, Sam. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. When she is not working, Maryann loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas.
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Friday, May 8, 2009

One Editor’s Editing Process

I’m sometimes asked by writers, “What is your editing process?”

As I think about the question, it occurs to me that, I believe, editing someone else's work is easier than editing my own. And it's not because I don't have a stake in the other author's work. Actually, I do. I want to help the author make the manuscript the best book it can be. I want the writer to understand why I mark or change things so he’ll be able to catch his mistakes on his own next time. I want to hold the published book in my hand and be excited about its publication.

It's easier because, basically, I didn't write it. When I start reading, I have no idea what will happen as the story evolves. I have no clue what the finale will be. I don't know the characters or their backgrounds or their relationships. Therefore, lots of things that would slip by the author stand out to me. I catch them -- or hopefully I catch the majority of them.

I have to have quiet -- no music, no distractions. Around my house that means I often have to close the door to my office. I've even been known to wear headphones or earplugs.

I usually take a break about every hour - to stretch, get something to eat if I'm hungry, refill my water glass, or go outside to see the sun -- or all of the above.

I not only make comments on the document itself, I make notes for myself on a notepad.

Once I've read through the manuscript, I let it sit -- at least over night before I begin the second or third read-through.

For me, editing for others involves an almost clinical approach. I can't get caught up in the words or plot too much or I could read thirty pages before I realized I hadn't been paying "editorial" attention. By the third reading, I can let go and not read word for word, but read for the overall feeling of the book.

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

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

On Pace

Today I want to share with you another example of writing styles. It's all about pace - the speed of movement of your story. Here are two versions of the same scene. One is slow paced, the other fast paced.

***

Crack!

The ball went up. Up. Up. Out. Further. Higher. Further.

Thirty thousand fans held their collective breath as time stopped and held them transfixed. Glen clutched at his sinking heart. Still there was hope. Maybe. A mighty west wind had held center field yard unbeatable all afternoon. The ball rose higher. Glen's heart sank deeper.

Surreal, it seemed, as the slow motion play unfolded below. Like clay puppets struggling to scramble, but without actual muscles to propel them with any efficient motion. Fate seemed to mold their motions frame by frame in a stop/adjust/stop/adjust/stop/adjust impossible to believe lackadaisical series of jerky hiccups. Excruciating.

The pitcher's pained face was fixed on yonder far yard. The catcher's mask was off, his stance and body language one that said, "Dammit, I told you he'd hit your heat. He knew it was coming. Why don't you ever listen to me?"

The center fielder made his way back. Back. And the ball went up - and back. But wait - a sudden downward trajectory! Glen's heart pumped again with the glimmer of hope, with the scarcely believable but just-might-be-possible chance. He fixed his eyes westward, his mind taking a snapshot of the backdrop of azure skies spotted here and about with puffs of cumulus, his nose registering atmospheric conditions heavily dosed with scents of beer, popcorn and corn dogs. Then the play. The play that would decide everything. This was it. It all came down to now. With his back against the wall, the player leaped - glove wide, high above the fence.

Smack!

Horse-hide met cow-leather in an eye and ear popping catch that could be heard throughout the entire massive stadium. The fearsome reign of silence that had been lord of the arena began to slowly crumble. The very fabric of the air began to tear apart as thunderous peals of shouts and roars of victory pummeled the heinous dictator and banished it forever into exile.

Glen sighed, let go his grip on his jacket just outside of the heart, and turned to his wife. They hugged, jumped up and down, hooted and hollered together. The impossible had become a reality. The little guys had beat the big bad guys. Celebrations would ring the city's all-night hours alive with the joyous sparkle of a million happy-go-lucky and inebriated townsfolk tonight.

***

Thirty thousand held their breath as the pitcher let his heat fly. Smack! The ball flew up and away, streaking out into center field like a laser guided missile on a search-and-destroy-every-heart-in-the-arena mission. Glen grabbed his heart and choked, gasping for not only air but some glimmer of hope. Players scrambled about in a flurry. Center fielder was the last chance, the only possible one to stave off certain doom, an end to what had been the most improbable of journeys all season.

The ball went out and up. Just as it seemed all was lost, the center fielder leaped right at the moment when the ball fell just enough to ...

He caught it! The stadium erupted in waves of disbelief and torrential screams of victory. We won! We won! We're number one! The champions!

Glen and his wife grabbed each other and jumped for joy in a hopping happy dance. Hometown would be party town tonight.

***

Two different styles, different approaches to writing the same scene. And of course you can go anywhere in between. Which style do you like best, and why, and for which kinds of scenes do you think fast pace is better than slow pace and visa versa?

***

Posted by Marvin D Wilson, author of:
I Romanced the Stone, Owen Fiddler, and Between the Storm and the Rainbow.
Marvin blogs at Free Spirit and Tie Dyed Tirades.
He is an editor with All Things That Matter Press and does freelance editing.


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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cut It Out!

Ever wonder why you don't see characters paying their bills?
Because it's boring!

I know that because I do that. I pay the bills. And it's boring.

Unless paying the bills has something to do with the plot, it's probably best to leave it out. Don't put in boring, mundane tasks just to increase the word count. When you’re editing, stop and ask yourself if what the character is doing is interesting, moves the plot forward, establishes the character, or in some way greatly contributes to the manuscript.

If it doesn't meet one of those criteria, seriously think about cutting it. Or try to think of some way the character could pay the bills that would make it more interesting or show his/her character in a unique way.

If your goal is to demonstrate that the character is in reality boring, then come up with a way to show it so that while the task may be mundane, your way of telling it is not.

Part of your editing process should be to cut the boring stuff. If it's really not necessary for the reader to see it, then cut it. That includes a lot of walking from the house to the car. Or listing each step a character takes to get dressed in the morning, from what he puts on to the order in which he puts things on. Certainly includes the fifteen times in the book your character picks up the phone and says, "Hello." The reader will assume that she didn’t fly from her car to the living room; he didn’t leave the house naked; and he doesn’t pick up the phone and hold it to his ear without speaking. Cut out the introductions, get to the meat of the conversation or encounter. Your protagonist doesn't have to feed the cat every time he comes into the house in order for the reader to know he has a cat and he's responsible in the way he cares for it.

Cut the boring so you won't bore your readers. And so your editor won’t end up sniffling in a corner, drawing on the back of her hand with a red pen.
--------------------
Helen Ginger is a freelance editor and book consultant, with an informational and interactive blog for writers and a free weekly e-newsletter that has gone out to subscribers around the globe for ten years. She coaches writers on the publishing industry, finding an agent, and polishing their work for publication. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Discovering & Developing Your Voice, Part 2

You may spend lots of time discovering your voice. Or you may already know your voice and just want to make it stronger. You can do these in tandem, or as phased steps.

Part 2: Developing Your Voice

Blog. While many, many writers have debated the merits of blogging, a personal blog gives you an opportunity to practice your writing on a regular basis. And practicing is the best way to improve your writing, which will help you develop (or even discover) your voice. Of course, whether or not you blog, you should write – and write and write.

Let your voice dress up (or down). Susan Shapiro mentions her women’s magazine voice in her book Only As Good As Your Word: Writing Lessons from My Favorite Literary Gurus. Her women’s magazine voice has the same straightforwardness as her memoir, but there’s still a distinct difference from what you “hear” in the book. But both voice sound like the same person and are distinctively Susan. How do you sound when you’re hanging out with your best friends on a relaxed Saturday night? Probably quite different than when you’re dressed to impress your boss (or your boss’s boss) at work! Practice writing in these variations of your voice.

Find a writing group. If you can get your prose into the hands of people who aren’t shy about sharing your opinions, you have struck gold. Multiple sources of feedback provide a good sense of how others “hear” you. It can also help you identify your weak points. And ask lots of questions. If someone in your group claims, “This sounds like you!” ask them to tell you why – in detail.

Get an editor. Whether you’re trying to identify or develop your voice (or both), an editor can be your best resource. If you’re willing, an editor can help you push yourself to develop a strong, natural and unique voice.

An engaging, distinct voice is one of the best assets any writer can have. It’s what will get you noticed – and keep your readers hooked.

What’s worked for you in developing and strengthening your voice as writer?
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A full-time freelance editor-writer and owner of a.k.a writer in Denver, Jesaka Long works her word magic for small publishing houses and authors, especially non-fiction writers and memoirists. She is also a Drama Editor for Conclave Journal. For more information email her at jesaka (at) jesakalong.com or visit www.jesakalong.com.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Discovering & Developing Your Voice, Part 1

I have multiple personalities: writer and editor. The last few years, I’ve kept my rent paid and my cabinets stocked with corporate editing and writing gigs. It’s my editor self that landed me the first gig and that has kept me employed. Even when I take writing jobs, I bring my red pencil personality with me – it helps me adapt to in-house style guides and turn in squeaky-clean work.

But, with so much emphasis on my editing muscles, some days I worry about losing my own unique writing style and voice. When I switch from marketing copy to writing my personal essays, it can take me a while to clear my mind and focus on hearing my voice.

Here’s part one of a two-part piece on Discovering & Developing Your Voice.

Part 1: Discovering Your Voice

Read. Don’t try to write like someone else – unless you’re being paid to temporarily adopt that voice. Figure out what makes the author’s voice unique. Is it the sentence structures? Specific word choice? A certain approach to descriptions? Think about how you can adapt these same tools in your writing.

Record. I know, most people complain about the sound of their recorded voice. But this is a great way to hear yourself. It’s long been recommended as a way to edit your work for repetition and redundancy. It’s also a way to help you hear what’s unique about your use of words.

Ask. Your friends, family and colleagues can be excellent resources for helping you figure out what’s unique about your voice. You may also find it helpful to ask them about your writing as well as your verbal voice. Even if you disagree, it could spark a few discoveries.

Mimic your speaking voice. It may not be the voice that’s going to get your book published or get you into magazines, but it’s a great starting point. One of my favorite blogs is written by someone I’ve known all my life. She’s not a professional writer but she’s done such a great job of developing the whole blog around her voice that most of her posts sound just like she speaks.

Get an editor. When I was an in-house editor for a company, my role was editing a wide variety of content. Within six months, I could identify an author of a rough draft even if it was printed hardcopy and left (with no name) on my desk. Even people who aren’t professional authors or aspiring writers have voices that speak loudly in their writing. An editor can help you identify yours.

What have you done that’s helped you identify your unique writing voice?

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

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Show and Tell

An important element in effective writing in fiction is knowing when you are telling the readers your story and when you are showing it to them. There is a place in any good book for both methods, but the shown passages are always more illustrative, while the told passages are more narrative. They create two entirely different effects. Instead of telling you the difference, I will show you. Here is a short paragraph, an example of a story being told to the reader.

***
Bob walked over to the door. He turned the door knob, opened the door and started to walk outside. It was an icy cold winter day so he hurried back inside and put on his coat.

***
Now, if I’m the reader I haven’t missed anything, I know what’s happening, but the passage doesn’t draw me into Bob’s world. It doesn’t let me feel or sense much of anything. Now I’ll rewrite the same passage showing you the story.

***
Floor boards creaked underfoot. Step by step, across the room. The chill of cold brass felt smooth in his palm as the knob turned. A thunk nudged against the quiet as bolt released from its locked position. The squeak of old hinges cried “please oil me” to Bob as they pivoted. A final push, swing and a step. Whistling arctic wind whipped his face as shivers crept all over him.

Wow. Cold. Bob thought better of his choice of clothing. Slam!

Nippy fingers worked their way through the dark foyer closet, feeling for heavy suede.


***

In the second example, we see, hear and feel Bob’s world. It’s a much sexier read. In fairness, I did not try very hard to write a powerful narrative in the first passage, because I was trying to emphasize a point. There are cases, lots of them, when narrative prose is just the right thing. A fist, knife or gunfight, for instance, often demands a fast, even hectic pace and needs to be told in a hurry. It depends on the speed with which you want your story to move, but that will be the subject of another post.

***


Posted by Marvin D Wilson, author of: I Romanced the Stone, Owen Fiddler, and Between the Storm and the Rainbow. Marvin blogs at Free Spirit and Tie Dyed Tirades. He is an editor with All Things That Matter Press and does freelance editing.


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