It’s now the new year and this is the first blog I’ve written. Shame on me, but I am full of very good excuses. Happy New Year, my friends. I have just the cliche also, “Better Late than Never,” The nice thing is my well wishes comes straight from the heart.
Now on to the main point of this blog. You were asked if you enjoyed the revision of the books that you wrote or are writing. I can’t say I enjoy it much. I would never make a good editor in my mind. When I’m writing I depend heavily on my writing group at FanStory.com. I can read over a page and I do not see any of the mistakes they find for me. My mind put it down on the paper and it doesn’t let me see everything it should.
There is a article in this months The Writer magazine on Revision. The author, Bernard Malamud believes “Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing”. He also pointed out specific steps to take to help you get through the revision process. Here are his tips, but if you get the chance do read the entire article. It gives you lots of information.
Wait until the first draft is complete before you edit. If you try to edit as you go it could cause problems with your imagination, momentum or maybe your creativity. This is controversial as other writers feel you aren’t writing if you don’t edit as you go. I split it I guess. I revise my chapters as I finish them. It seems to me there are always changes that can be made at anytime. You have to be careful not to get in a long long editing cycle. For some it is hard to be satisfied with their work.
Revise all at once or element by element. That is a decision the writer must make. The way I revise I tend to do element by element. I have to admit that sometimes it can feel as if the job is to big to handle. At those times I get me a cup of tea and sit back from the computer. I have to admit I talk to myself in my head, (Isn’t it called thinking?) about anything other than my book. I might even get up and play with my dogs for a few minutes. Anything to get my mind away from the book.
Revise the whole novel, or section by section. I know this sounds a lot like #2 but in this one he is considering sections as chapter by chapter or dividing the novel into sections. If you edit by this method you have a big opportunity to make a mistake in my view. What if you change an outcome in Chapter 2 that affects the character throughout the book. If the changes aren’t make in every section then confusion can rule.
Fine-tuning versus revising. “Revision is generally distinguished from fine tuning with revision dealing with fiction elements such as character, plot and structure, and even style, and fine tuning dealing with rather minor mechanical issues.
Each of us have our little rules to follow that sometimes can cause problems. When I went to school over 50 years ago we were taught very specific rules on how to write, sentence structure, correct word placement, and on and on. That can lead to rounds and rounds of revision. This is where you need that writing group or a brutally honest friend who can read your work and tell you what you need to do to make it better.
I think Bernard wrapped it up very nicely. “Put simply you write with your heart, and you edit with your head.” Happy editing. Shirley
I love reading young adult stories even though I’m almost 68 years old. I can’t tell you why I like it, but I do. In fact, the last book I wrote, “Princess Adele’s Dragon,” was a young adult fantasy. The one thing I found out when trying to tell my story about Princess Adele was I had to get and keep my audience attention. How does a geriatric woman get their attention? I can’t dance because I’m to stiff. I don’t know where to start when it comes to doing a rap. I can certainly read the story with a little acting taking place, at least using my arms. Then I have the problem of the kids thinking I’m going to throw the book at them with my arm gyrations.
I read where Henry Winkler (The Fonz) and his co-writer Lin Oliver do a kid-friendly presentation of Hank Zipzer. It’s dynamic, with lots of visuals on the screen. The trick is to get the audience involved. Besides haveing visuals you can come up with a hands-on activity. I think I might bring play dough and let them make me a dragon just to see what their minds come up with.
Young readers are perceptive and the middle school grades are trying to put their world together along with their identity. If they can really get into a book they identify with the characters. Book clubs is a safe place for that type of exploration to go on. Henry and Lin actually go to the Young Adult Book Clubs to give their presentation. Some are at school and others are after school or on Saturdays.
If you have a middle school age child you might think about getting them involved with a book club. That might solve a problem with keeping them occupied.
Here is a link to the Kindle e-book, Princess Adele’s Dragon. Has some violence but is otherwise appropriate. Have a blessed day. Shirley
Hello, everyone. I hope all of you experienced a great week. Today I’m giving you a blog that discusses how you can broaden your story and your readership from an article by Bharti Kirchner. This was originally published in the Writer magazine.
Why venture into unaccustomed territory when it comes to characters? In a globalized world, re regularly meet people.e very different from us in race, class, ethnicity, religion, politics or ideology. Modern novels and memoirs, as mirrors of a society, increasingly depict this heterogeneity.
In addition to expanding our readership, a diverse character, whether the protagonist or a secondary character brings a broader voice to a story. In the case of the novel Tulip Season, protagonist Mitra meets a mysterious German man, and the contrast between the two adds an element of tension. With dissimilar actions, attitudes and world views, backgrounds and upbringings, their interactions spark a great exploration of Mitra’s world.
Creating Authenticity: How do you get started writing about a person foreign to you? By immersing yourself in that particular culture of community through direct contact and by building relationships. Armchair travel can also help, as can books, videos, movies, art, and the Web. Remember, in the end, it’s your story and it’s fiction. You’re facing challenges no matter what. “If you’re going to write fiction, you’re going to write about people who aren’t you,” says David Guterson, author of 10 books, including Snow Falling on Cedars. “You should feel some healthy trepidation about that.”
Respect, openness, and empathy are keys to depicting an unfamiliar culture or perspective. Here are additional tips and techniques.
First Impressions: What a reader first notices is how the character looks, dresses, sounds and behaves. Bring the character alive with physical descriptions, but not too much and not all at once. Allow readers to use their imagination to fill in the blanks. Pay special attention to the rhythm of the spoken language. A foreign born person might speak with an accent and fall back on native words as necessary.
A Character from Inside Out: You’re writing about individuals, and the methods you usually employ to develop a character of any kind still applies. Remember that all cultures have hopes, fears, and dreams, and it’s your job to portray that.
Does a diverse character have to be sympathetic? Peter Mountford, the author of two novels, including A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism, says no. “Actually, I’m not sure he is very sympathetic because of the choices he makes,” Mountford says of Gabriel do Boys, the 26-year-old, biracial protagonist in his novel. “He builds a lucrative career instead of abandoning it for love. I feel for him, definitely, but a lot of readers struggle with him, and I suppose that is the key to writing “the other,” for me.”
Beliefs and Conflicts: Every culture or community holds common beliefs about marriage, family, money, status and friendship. A character is likely to suffer moth internal and external conflicts when going against these beliefs and sometimes even when conforming to them.
Showing Universality: By wrestling with choices and obstacles, a diverse character, like any other, grows and changes. In the process, he or she displays common human characteristics as fear, anger, joy and love. Although I’m different, I’d feel much the same in the same situation, the reader realizes, and perhaps gets more involved in the book.
You can make a character accessible in other ways. Show how he or she relates to friends. Let him or her grapple with everyday issues like traffic. An element of humor can also help. We gravitate toward people who lighten our days with a joke or a funny situation. It is in those moments that we let go of our differences and embrace our common humanity.
I hope this article helps to make your writing this week easier. The more knowledge we have the better writers we are. Blessings to all.
Hello everyone, I have been away from my blog for what seems like forever and I have missed it and my online friends. Today I want to share with you an article I read by Pete Croatto, on how to get noticed by the editors. If you want an editor it will take some work to get noticed.
Take Initiative: In an ideal world, our talent would be a siren song for editors far and wide. In a world of tight budgets and staff meetings, editors need story ideas and good ones. That means writing a pitch letter that shows you know the publication and what it wants. “What gets me to notice someone is I can notice immediately if they have a familiarity with the magazine,” says Mark Rotella, senior editor at Publishers Weekly. “They might have mentioned an article they had read or a review that they read. Usually, people are pretty specific about what section of the magazine they want to write for. Basically, if they’re pitching me about the magazine, I want to see that they’ve read it.”
Make the job Easier: Sara Benincasa, author of Real Artists Have Day Jobs ( And Other Awesome Things They Don’t Teach You in School), says it’s key to do as much work for the editor as possible without overstepping. “Don’t expect that your editor has a comprehensive knowledge of the television show or trend or book or political issue that you would like to discuss in your writing,” she says. “Provide links, easy explanations. Provide assistance without the legwork to show your editor that your pitch is for a story that will bring in views, and readers attention in a positive way.”
Follow Up: This isn’t tennis. The ball keeps moving only if you keep hitting it. If you haven’t heard back after a week or two, politely inquire so you can either start writing or send your idea elsewhere. Rotella, who has written for the New York Times and American Heritage, says the delay worked or the pitch came at the wrong time.
Try, Try Again: An editor’s disinterest or silence should not be taken as an affront. That even applies to repeat clients. “I follow up and pitch more stuff without being annoying and contacting the editor too much,” Benincasa says. “If they liked my work the first time, they will respond. If they did not like my work they will not respond. I do a pitch, I follow up once and if I don’t hear anything, I move on.” In other words, our confidence in your idea should drive you.
Look Beyond Big Names: Chances are you’re not going to make it into The New Yorker and not every profile will land in GQ. (But don’t be afraid to try.) Get published, get paid and use the clips as a down payment for more desirable venues. Write Always. That’s the only way you get better and pay your bills.
Proofread A Lot: Once you get an assignment, it’s easy to get noticed for the wrong reasons. Rotella has an aversion to writers who can’t meet deadlines or follow directions, but says, “Nothing is worse, for me than if I have to spend too much time editing because of sloppiness. That is a real discouragement.” Be professional. Proofread, fact-check and make yourself available to address any concerns your editor has.
Play Nice with Others: Veteran freelance journalist Jen A. Miller got a big assignment from a new publication when a fact-checker there remembered Miller’s work at another publication. “Sometimes that can be an incredibly tedious process,” she says. “You’re already done with a story, you don’t want to deal with it anymore, you don’t want to deal with the fact-checker, but you don’t know where that fact-checker is going to end up.”
Finally, Be Easy to Find: That comes courtesy Miller, author of Running: A Love Story and a regular contributor to The New York times and Runner’s World. She believes every writer must have a website. “It sets you up as a professional,” she says.
I do hope this article was helpful and it gave you some incite on what you need to do to snag that elusive editor. Have a blessed week.
I’ve been told you must know your characters. Your main characters desires should be known. If you want your character to gather the sympathy from your readers, then give the character a strong desire. What is being strived for, a new job, romance, riches, and knowledge? If your character doesn’t have a need, do you think your readers will find excitement in your book? How do you say “boring?”You have to make your character multidimensional, and not leave him flat. What creates the most vivid picture, 3D or regular television? It is a matter of contrast in your characters. As humans, we are very complicated, and you have to show that complication in your characters also. That way your reader can get interested in your character.
Your contrasts should be worked into your story, so they do not become roadblocks for the reader. You want your story to keep moving forward. You can have your character step out from the usual character portrayed as long as the tendency has been shown before. That way it is not a stopping point.
Gotham’s “Writing Fiction” states,” your characters should have the ability to change, and the reader should know it. Change is particularly important for a story’s main character. Just as the desire of the main character drives the story, the character’s change is often the story’s culmination.”
This doesn’t mean your main character has to change, but the reader should always know change is possible. Predictability is created if you do not give the character the potential to change.
I have covered a few ways to help you create a character that your reader can get to know. The video today on creating characters.
PS this video gives lots of good information, but there is cafe noise in the background.
Since Princess Adele’s Dragon has now been published I have to write a synopsis of the story. I decided to look for some help and found this blog by Marissa Meyer. It broke the synopsis down into easy to handle pieces. I hope you find it helpful. Shirley http://amzn.to/25lUOYM
Confession: I enjoy writing query letters. I know that most writers loathe them, but I always thought the query letter was a fun challenge. The challenge of trying to distil your novel down to its essence, giving just enough information to draw the agent or editor into the story, but without giving away so much that the manuscript loses all sense of mystery.
However, I feel quite differently about the second-most dreaded item of many submission packages: the Synopsis.
The book synopsis is that three- or four-page snapshot of the book, that essentially tells your story from beginning to end while seemingly stripping it of any intrigue, humor, or emotional resonance. To me, writing a synopsis that could leave a reader still wanting to read the actual manuscript always seemed like a much bigger challenge than the query letter.
Unfortunately, it turns out that getting published does not necessarily mean we don’t ever have to write a synopsis again.
Last January, when it came time to my agent and me to start talking with my publisher about My Next Book (which was the Super Secret Project I wrote during NaNoWriMo last November), the submission package we pulled together was remarkably similar to the package we’d used to sell the Lunar Chronicles:
– A pitch letter (similar to a query), illustrating the concept and major conflict of the book.
– The first 50 pages, edited and polished to a glowy sheen.
– The synopsis of the book (although some plot points are subject to change).
So rather than whine and complain about how much I hate writing synopses, I decided to take the opportunity to embrace the synopsis writing challenge, and figure out a process for writing the synopsis that didn’t seem quite so painful and intimidating and, in the end, left me with something I was pleased to show my editor.
I’m not allowed to really talk about my new project,* so I’m going to use examples from the synopsis I wrote for CINDER way back when.
Step 0: Write the book!
If the book isn’t written yet, I feel like you’re writing an outline, not a synopsis, and I’ve talked about outline writing at length in previous blog posts. For the purpose of this synopsis-specific guide, let’s assume you have the book drafted out, or even completed.
Step 1: Skim through the manuscript, noting the important events of each chapter.
Try to boil every chapter down to just one or two sentences. What is the point of this chapter? What is the most important thing that happens?
Some chapters will be significantly longer than a sentence or two, particularly the opening chapters (as they tend to introduce a lot of information about the world and the main characters) and the climax (which could revolve around lots of complicated reveals and twists).
And yes, include the ending! From who wins the final battle to whether or not the protagonist hooks up with the love interest in the end. One of the main purposes of a synopsis is to show the full arcs of your plot and subplots, so don’t leave out those all-important resolutions.
Step 2. Embellish the beginning.
Just because you can’t use pages and pages to set up the world and protagonist’s character in the synopsis doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give the reader a little bit of foundation to stand on. The first paragraph of the synopsis should give the same basic information you convey through the book’s first chapter: where and when does this story take place, who is the protagonist, and what problem are they facing right off the bat?
xample:LINH CINDER is a cyborg, considered little more than a technological mistake by most of the society and a burden by her stepmother, ADRI. But her brain-machine interface has given her a unique skill with mechanics, making her, at sixteen, the best mechanic in New Beijing.
Step 3: String your short chapter summaries together, using standard synopsis formatting.
Here, it will begin to look like a story, but an incredibly sparse and drab one. Don’t worry about that. Just focus on getting all the technical formatting stuff figured out, so you don’t have to re-write it all at the end.
Standard Synopsis Formatting
– Written in third person, present tense, regardless of what POV or tense the book is written in.
– The first mention of each character’s name is put in all-caps (so that they can be easily spotted).
Example: When she arrives home, she discovers her two stepsisters—arrogant PEARL and vivacious PEONY—being fitted in ball gowns.
Step 4: Read through, with a focus on plot.
Distilling each chapter down into just a sentence or two can lead to lots of apparent plot holes and lost information. Read through what you’ve written and check that every event in the story naturally leads into the next. Imagine beginning each sentence with a Because / Then structure, and insert further explanation or character motivations as necessary.
Example: Cinder is worried that if she doesn’t fix the hover, Adri will sell off IKO to pay for the repairs herself. That night, Cinder goes to the junkyard to find replacement parts…
(Could be read as: Because Cinder is worried . . . then she goes to the junkyard…)
Step 5. Read through, with a focus on character arc.
Now that the plot makes sense from beginning to end check that you’re adequately showing how your protagonist evolves as a result of the events in the story. Do readers get a sense of who they are at the beginning and how they’ve changed by the end? Look for those Big Moments in the story that change your protagonist’s attitudes and goals. Indicate how those moments effect the protagonist emotionally, and show how their goals and motivations change as a result.
Example: Without Iko and Peony keeping her tied to Adri, Cinder vows to fix up the abandoned car she saw in the junkyard and run away.
Step 6. Trim and edit.
Now that you have all the necessary information read through a few more times and trim it up as much as you can. Be ruthless when it comes to removing excess words and phrases that don’t help you tell the story. Choose your descriptive words carefully, ensuring that you’re using words that carry a lot of weight. My book synopses for CINDER and New Secret Project both came in around the 1,500-2,000 word range, and that’s not a lot of room to work with! So edit, edit, edit.
I am in the final stages before I launch my new ebook on Amazon. It is a Young Adult Fantasy called Princess Adele’s Dragon. Based in Medieval times with Kings, Knights, Castles, Witches and a myriad of other things to make this a fun and intriguing book.
I’ve worked on this book since March of 2015. It’s hard to believe next month will be a year. Most hours of my day were spent thinking about some aspect of my book. How was Adele going to deal with the day, Prince Anthony or even the bad guys?
Book writing is fun for me. I like getting wrapped up in the stories. I do the same when I’m reading a book if I like it. Since I’m an eclectic reader and writer, I never know what world I’m going to be spending my time.
I’m learning new things every day which is a wonderful thing for me. It keeps my mind active. If I didn’t keep my mind active, I would be useless to myself. My learning has added to my guilt when I write. I see the passive voice in my sleep or that voice that says you can write that line better. So many rules but at the same time, nothing is written in stone. A lot of standards change with the wind or who’s writing.
When you write, the bottom line is “does it fit you, the author?” Everyone has an opinion and most of the time they are different. That in itself can be confusing, but if you hang on and keep trudging forward you will end up with work that is yours alone. Notwithstanding the help, you received from reading, researching a topic or any other avenue you use.
I must be needing to share my introspection today on the almost completion of my book. It’s a fantastic feeling knowing I only have a few little things left to do before my work can be published. The beautiful thing is that it has nothing to do with selling. It has to do with completing the task I set out to do, the best way I know how.
Pacing is a crucial component of fiction writing. After all, it’s important to keep your readers “hooked” throughout your story. Whether you are just getting started in writing or looking to break into fiction writing, you’ll need to know the basics of how to pace a novel. Read today’s tip of the day from Crafting Novels & Short Stories. In this excerpt written by Jessica Page Morrell, she explains what pacing is and seven ways to keep your story moving at the right pace.
What is Pacing in Fiction?
Pacing is a tool that controls the speed and rhythm at which a story is told, and the readers are pulled through the events. It refers to how fast or slow events in a piece unfold and how much time elapses in a scene or story. Pacing can also be used to show characters aging and the effects of time on story events.
Pacing differs with the specific needs of a story. A far-reaching epic will often be told at a leisurely pace though it will speed up from time to time during the most intense events. A short story or adventure novel might quickly jump into action and deliver drama.
Pacing is part structural choices and part word choices and uses a variety of devices to control how fast the story unfolds. When driving a manual transmission car, you choose the most effective gear needed for driving uphill, maneuvering city streets, or cruising down a freeway. Similarly, when pacing your story, you need to choose the devices that move each scene along at the right speed.
Seven Literary Devices for Pacing Your Story
You need speed in the opening, middle, and climax of your story. Sure, you’ll slowdown from time to time, especially to pause for significance and to express characters’ emotions, but those times will usually appear just before or after a joyride of skin-tightening speed.
There are lots of tools to hasten your story. Some are better suited for micropacing—that is, line by line—and some are better suited for macropacing—pacing the story as a whole. Let’s take a closer look at each device.
ACTION. Action scenes are where you “show” what happens in a story, and, when written in short- and medium-length sentences, they move the story along. Action scenes contain few distractions, little description, and limited transitions. Omit or limit character thoughts, especially in the midst of danger or crisis, since during a crisis people focus solely on survival. To create poignancy, forgo long, descriptive passages and choose a few details that serve as emotionally charged props instead.
CLIFF HANGERS. When the outcome of a scene or chapter is left hanging, the pace naturally picks up because the reader will turn the page to find out what happens next. Readers both love and hate uncertainty, and your job is to deliver plenty of unfinished actions, unfilled needs, and interruptions. Remember, cliffhangers don’t necessarily mean that you’re literally dangling your character from a rooftop as the scene ends. If your characters are in the midst of a conversation, end the scene with a revelation, threat, or challenge.
DIALOGUE. Rapid-fire dialogue with little or no extraneous information is swift and captivating, and will invigorate any scene. The best dialogue for velocity is pared down, an abbreviated copy of a real-life conversation that snaps and crackles with tension. It is more like the volleying of Ping-Pong or tennis than a long-winded discussion. Reactions, descriptions, and attributions are minimal. Don’t create dialogue exchanges where your characters discuss or ponder. Instead, allow them to argue, confront, or engage in a power struggle.
PROLONGED OUTCOMES. Suspense and, by extension, forward movement are created when you prolong outcomes. While it may seem that prolonging an event would slow down a story, this technique actually increases the speed, because the reader wants to know if your character is rescued from the mountainside, if the vaccine will arrive before the outbreak decimates the village, or if the detective will solve the case before the killer strikes again.
SCENE CUTS. Also called a jump cut, a scene cut moves the story to a new location and assumes the reader can follow without an explanation of the location change. The purpose is to accelerate the story, and the characters in the new scene don’t necessarily need to be the characters in the previous scene.
A SERIES OF INCIDENTS IN RAPID SUCCESSION. Another means of speeding up your story is to create events that happen immediately one after another. Such events are presented with minimal or no transitions, leaping via scene cuts from scene to scene and place to place.
SHORT CHAPTERS AND SCENES. Short segments are easily digested and end quickly. Since they portray a complete action, the reader passes through them quickly, as opposed to being bogged down by complex actions and descriptions.
SUMMARY. Instead of a play-by-play approach, tell readers what has already happened. Because scenes are immediate and sensory, they require many words to depict. Summary is a way of trimming your word count and reserving scenes for the major events. You can also summarize whole eras, descriptions, and backstory. Summaries work well when time passes, but there is little to report, when an action is repeated or when a significant amount of time has passed.
WORD CHOICE AND SENTENCE STRUCTURE. The language itself is the subtlest means of pacing. Think concrete words (like Prodigy and iceberg), active voice (with potent verbs like zigzag and plunder), and sensory information that’s artfully embedded. If you write long, involved paragraphs, try breaking them up.
Fragments, spare sentences, and short paragraphs quicken the pace. Crisp, punchy verbs, especially those with onomatopoeia (crash, lunge, sweep, scatter, ram, scavenge) also add to a quick pace. Invest in suggestive verbs to enliven descriptions, build action scenes and milk suspense.
Harsh consonant sounds such as those in words like claws, crash, kill, quake, and nag can push the reader ahead. Words with unpleasant associations can also ratchet up the speed: hiss, grunt, slither, smarmy, venomous, slaver, and wince. Energetic, active language is especially appropriate for building action scenes and suspense, and for setting up drama and conflict.
A fast pace means trimming every sentence of unnecessary words. Eliminate prepositional phrases where you don’t need them: For example, “the walls of the cathedral” can be written as “the cathedral’s walls.” Finally, search your story for passive linking verbs and trade them in for active ones.
The following blog is from BubbleCow which I received this morning. Because of my editing on Princess Adele’s Dragon, I seem to be paying a lot more attention when I see these helpful tips. I wanted to share it. Have a blessed day. Shirley
I’m talking about that dirty word: grammar.
But more than that, I’m also talking about formatting, which is kind of like grammar for the computer-age. Bold statements aside, if you want to be taken seriously by publishers, editors, and readers, then you’ve got to get your head around formatting conventions on word processors. I often joke that you wouldn’t start playing a sport without first reading the rules. It is the same for writing. You need to be getting the basics correct; there’s no excuse. As a writer, you simply need to know this stuff.
I’m a big fan of writing software in general and favour a whole host of different word processors. However, Microsoft Word is still the industry standard, so I’ll be using that as a reference point. These rules will still apply whether you’re using Scrivener, OpenOffice, LibreOffice, or whatever your software of choice is.
OK, so with all that said, here’s the six grammar/formatting issues that drive us mad:
Ellipses – yep. They showed up last week and they’re back again. A few of you seemed unclear as to the nature of an ellipsis. Well, an ellipsis is the three dots writers use to denote an omission or to show a pause in speech. Here at BubbleCow, we often receive manuscripts where the writer has thrown in a few ellipses but with variable numbers of dots. In fact, some writers seem to think that the more dots they add, the more mysterious and tantalising their cliff-hanger becomes. “I was never there…………………… OR WAS I?” Oh dear. Ellipses only ever have three dots. No more, no fewer.
Two other things to say about ellipses. The correct way to write an ellipsis is . . . – that’s dot space dot space dot. The problem is that this plays havoc with some eBook conversion tools. Therefore, our house style is to alter them to … (three dots with no spaces). This will be picked up in the conversion process and handled correctly.
What about when an ellipsis is used at the end of the sentence? What happens to that extra full stop? Should it be three dots (…) or three and a full stop (… .). The answer is a little confusing. There’s no set rule on this, with different style guides opting for different options. At BubbleCow, our house style ignores that last full stop. Just the three dots for us, please.
Writing numbers – this, confusingly, is not another case of consistency. Now, we get hundreds of manuscripts where the writers rather sensibly choose to either use either purely numeric or purely written numbers for the entirety of their manuscripts. Then we get those who arbitrarily use a mixture of the two. Strangely, both parties are wrong in this case. Our house style (based on the Chicago Manual of Style) is as follows: numbers up to 100 must be written in words – so: one, seventeen, ninety-four. After that this becomes a little time consuming, so we allow these larger numbers to be written in digits: 1003, 784, 100,000. All you have to remember is that 100 is the magic number.
Spaces – now I know what you’re thinking. How can anyone mess up a space? Do we receive manuscripts that are just spaceless walls of interlinked words? The answer is no.
I’m talking about making sure that you’re only using one space between words. Now I know how it is – you’re writing passages, deleting them later on, shuffling around paragraphs – things get messy. But I recently ran a find-and-replace on a manuscript and it found 384 instances where two spaces had snuck in instead of one.
We’ve talked about single and double spacing before and it kicked up a bit of a storm. You see back in the olden days of typewriters and typesetting, double-spacing was standard. Those days are over! Double spaces are a nightmare for those unlucky publishers who’re in charge of creating eBooks. They mess up the formatting, resulting in unattractive, oddly-spaced electronic books that inevitably have to scrapped and redone. Our advice? Stick to one space.
Page breaks – this one is easy. The reason I’ve listed it here is because eBook conversions rely on page breaks between chapters. They will see the page break and understand that they need to do something special. If you’ve just pressed Enter a load of time to move the text to the next page you are in trouble. Not only will the conversion process potentially miss the chapter break but you’ll also lose the positioning if you then add or remove text in the chapter.
The bottom line is that you should always use a page break to go to the next page before starting a new chapter. This makes for a clean and presentable eBook, and will also help the printers if you’re going to print copies.
Paragraph breaks versus line breaks – these two phenomena might need explaining as they’re both pretty similar. Indeed, Microsoft Word didn’t start distinguishing between them until about 2003 (don’t quote me on this), but in modern word processing, the difference is very important.
OK, if you open up Word, type “BubbleCow is great,” and then press Enter, you’ll notice that the cursor jumps down to the line below, leaving some space between the previous line and the new one. This is a paragraph break. This is the one you want.
If, however, you were to hold Shift and then press Enter, the resulting new line would be right up beneath “BubbleCow is great,” with no space between them.
A great way of checking this is to use the Show/Hide Nonprinting Characters button, found on the Home tab in Word (it’s the odd black backwards P symbol). A paragraph break will show up as one of these backward-Ps, whereas a line break will be a cornering arrow. You want the P.
Line breaks are a nightmare for those in charge of formatting your masterwork – it groups all the text together, which means that text becomes harder to arrange on the page and stubborn in its disobedience. Using line breaks to create space (at the end of a chapter, for example, so you can get that page break in) can create nightmares for eBook conversions. Paragraph breaks all the way. One of the first things I do with a new manuscript is to find and replace all line breaks with paragraph breaks.
Indentation – those pesky line breaks also have a habit of messing up any system of indentation you might (should) have going. Indents only trigger on paragraph breaks, so there’s an extra reason always to paragraph break! But indents are important in their right.
Here at BubbleCow, we want the first paragraph of each chapter to be a straight flush, with the first sentence in line with the following sentences. After that, though, every paragraph needs its first line to be indented using the Tab key (not spaces! These tend to be messier and can disappear during the eBook conversion process). Again, this is one of the first things we add when we receive a new manuscript, as it helps your manuscript appear clean, streamlined, and readable. It also makes eBook versions far more attractive and is necessary for the conversion process.
This is a piece previously posted by Robbie Blair that contains useful information that I want to share with you. Since I’m in the process of doing my final edit on Princess Adele’s Dragon I found this article helped me. Maybe it can help you also. Have a blessed week. Shirley
Creating powerful prose requires killing off the words, phrases, and sentences that gum up your text. While a critical eye and good judgment are key in this process, some terms almost always get in the way. Here are eight words or phrases that should be hunted down in your story and deleted with extreme prejudice.
“Sudden” means quickly and without warning, but using the word “suddenly” both slows down the action and warns your reader. Do you know what’s more effective for creating the sense of the sudden? Just saying what happens.
I pay attention to every motion, every movement, my eyes locked on them. Suddenly, The gun goes off.
When using “suddenly,” you communicate through the narrator that the action seemed sudden. By jumping directly into the action, you allow the reader to experience that suddenness first hand. “Suddenly” also suffers from being nondescript, failing to communicate the nature of the action itself; providing no sensory experience or concrete fact to hold on to. Just … suddenly.
Feel free to employ “suddenly” in situations where the suddenness is not apparent in the action itself. For example, in “Suddenly, I don’t hate you anymore,” the “suddenly” substantially changes the way we think about the shift in emotional calibration.
“Then” points vaguely to the existing timeline and says, “It was after that last thing I talked about.” But the new action taking place in a subsequent sentence or sentence part implies that much already. You can almost always eliminate your thens without disrupting meaning or flow.
I woke up. Then I, brushed my teeth. Then I, combed my hair. Then I , and went to work.
“Then” should be used as a clarifying agent, to communicate that two seemingly concurrent actions are happening in sequence. For example, “I drove to the supermarket. Then I realized I didn’t need to buy anything.” Without the “then,” it would be easy to mistake this as pre-existing knowledge or as a realization that happened during the drive itself. “Then” can occasionally be useful for sentence flow, but keep the use of the word to a minimum.
“In order to”
You almost never need the phrase “in order to” to express a point. The only situation where it’s appropriate to use this phrase is when using “to” alone would create ambiguity or confusion.
I’m giving you the antidote in order to save you.
And after ten minutes of brainstorming for an example of a proper time to use “in order to,” I haven’t been able to come up with anything. Legitimate uses of “in order to” are just that few and far between.
“Very” and “Really”
Words are self-contained descriptors, and saying, “Think of tasty. Now think of more tasty” doesn’t help readers develop a better sense of the meal or person you’re describing.
Her breath was very coldchill as ice against my neck .
Mark Twain suggested that writers could “substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” Another strategy is to find a more powerful version of the same idea or give concrete details. To say “It was very/really/damn hot” does little, but saying “It was scorching” helps. Even better?: “The air rippled like desert sky as my body crisped into a reddened, dried-out husk.”
Is, am, are, was, or were—whatever form your “is” takes, it’s likely useless. When’s the last time you and your friends just “was’d” for a while? Have you ever said, “Hey, guys, I can’t—I’m busy am-ing”?
The “is” verbs are connecting terms that stand between your readers and the actual description. This is especially true when it comes to the “is” + “ing” verb pair. Any time you use “is,” you’re telling the reader that the subject is in a state of being. Using an “ing” verb tells the audience the verb is in process. By using “is verbing,” you’re telling your audience that the subject is in the state of being of being in the process of doing something.
Take this example:
I was sprintingsprinted toward the doorway.
If the description is actually about a state of being—”they are angry,” “are evil,” or “are dead”—then is it up. But don’t gunk up your verbs with unnecessary is, am, or was-ing.
Any action a person takes is started, continued, and finished. All three of these can be expressed by the root form of the verb. For example, “I jumped.” The reader who stops in frustration, saying, “But when did the jump start? When did it finish?” has problems well beyond the scope of the content they’re reading.
If you’ve been doing yoga for six years, you could reasonably say, “I started doing yoga six years ago.” For you, yoga is an ongoing action with a concrete starting point. But when describing action in a story, there are few circumstances where “start” is effective.
Let’s take this case and look at the potential fixes:
He started screaming.
Is it a single scream? Use “He screamed.” Are you telling us his screams will be background noise for a while? Rather than clueing us in unnecessarily, show us the series of screams first-hand. Do you want to introduce a changed state, such as escalating from loud speaking into screaming? Show us the decibels, the gruffness of voice, the way the air feels to the person he’s screaming at, and the hot dryness in the screamer’s throat as his volume crescendos.
“That” is a useful word for adding clarity, but like Bibles on the bedstands of seedy motel rooms, the word’s presence is often out of place.
When “that” is employed to add a description, you can almost always move the description to before the term and make a more powerful image.
Ireland was nothing but flowing green hills that flowed green.
In many other cases, “that” can simply be dropped or replaced with a more descriptive term.
I was drunk the night that your father and I met.
Many other uses of “that,” such as “I wish I wasn’t that ugly”, can be enhanced with more descriptive language.
I’m not just saying that, like, you shouldn’t, like, talk like a valley girl (though that too). Here’s the problem: “Like” is used to show uncertainty. And you. Should. Not. Be. Uncertain.
Be bold. When making a comparison, use force. Use metaphor over simile. Don’t let yourself cop out by coming up with a halfway description.
My eyes rested on the gun for a sliver of a moment. I snapped forward, grabbed it, and it was like the chill metal flowed from the gun into my veins.
One of the 36 articles by the infamously fantastic Chuck Palahniuk dives into the issue of like in great detail. It’s well worth checking out.
As always, Orwell’s final rule applies: “Break any of these rules before saying anything barbarous.” There are instances where each of these words fills a valuable role. However, especially among inexperienced writers, these words are frequently molested and almost always gum up the works.
Apply these lessons immediately and consistently to empower your words. Then, with practice, you will suddenly realize that you are starting to naturally trim the text in order to create prose that is very powerful.