Today’s Writing Tip

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Missing words are difficult for the author and sometimes even editors to catch, but not an alert reader. When reading over your manuscript, do so slowly enough to note each word is indeed written as opposed to assumed. Reading it aloud may help, but not necessarily.

I suspect that most authors think much faster than they type, making it easy to skip over words. When you’re on a creative roll this is especially true, when you can hardly get the thoughts down fast enough, before you lose them. Nonetheless, like invisible typos, missing words will throw readers out of the story, something you want to avoid. In some cases, a good grammar checker may catch them, but test it to make sure. If you use beta readers, make sure they keep an eye out for such things, too.

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Today’s Writing Tip

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Know the different types of editing, especially if you hire an editor. Otherwise, you may be disappointed or not get your money’s worth. I’m always amazed when I find a multitude of goofs in a book that has supposedly been edited. Just because a person can read, doesn’t mean s/he can edit! Furthermore, if they’re a specific type of editor, they may do a great job in that category, yet leave others flapping in the breeze, waiting for some discriminating reader of jump on them like a duck on a June bug.

Rather than reiterate what has already been said very well by another blogger regarding the different types of editors and what their duties are, check out this outstanding blog.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Scrutinize all prepositional phrases to determine if they’re needed or whether the sentence can be reworded to avoid them. If they’re redundant in any way, zap those suckers out of there! For example, saying “He put his hat on his head” could easily be shortened to “He put on his hat.” Where else would he put it? Economy of words for maximum impact should be your goal.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Understand there are several types of editors. Just because you hire one, doesn’t mean they’ll do the job you expect, especially if you don’t understand there are different types.  They may do a great job within their realm, yet miss other problems. I can’t tell you how many problems I’ve found in books where the author supposedly hired an “editor.”

Here’s the basic run-down: Proofreaders look for typos. Copy editors look at punctuation and grammar. Line editors look at everything. Content editors look at plot & characterizations. If this is news to you, then I suggest you read this great article that gives more detail.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Read your work out loud as part of your editing process. If you find yourself saying something different than what’s written, consider rewording it accordingly. If it’s awkward when read aloud, it’s not the most natural wording. Even better, read it aloud into a recorder and then listen, especially if you’re an audio-type. This is very effective for catching redundancies.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Editing is essential, but it’s extremely difficult to edit your own work. Letting your work rest as long as possible before revising and/or editing helps view it more objectively. If you absolutely can’t afford an editor, arrange a beta exchange with another author, preferably one who’s seasoned, not just someone who will praise your work. Make sure both of you are skilled enough to do the job and clarify your expectations.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Read a variety of books and genres, including those written by writers more skilled than yourself as well as those less skilled. This allows you to see how far you’ve progressed. You can learn from both. To paraphrase a favorite quote, “No book is ever wasted. You can always serve as a bad example.” Often someone else’s glaring faux pas is something you do as well.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Feed your inner editor by reading others’ work with a critical eye. Often what jumps out as a glaring faux pas is something you’re guilty of as well. Authors tend to be blind to their own weaknesses or justify them. To continually improve as a writer should be your ongoing goal.

The Devil’s in the Details

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Berncastel, Germany

Embellishing your story with the right details can make the difference between being vivid and memorable versus slipping away like a boring stretch of highway in the rearview mirror. Finding the correct balance is not always easy, however, since there’s no perfect level; it’s not only genre-dependent, but subjective. Some readers expect more while other’s complain about their eyes glazing over. I tried to read a novel a while back that was so loaded with specifics that I felt as if I were there and could map out the entire area.  However, the plot moved so slowly, if at all, I was never able to finish it. Other readers felt differently, however, as it enjoyed several favorable reviews. Nothing is ever simple about writing. Like they say, you can’t please all the people, all the time.

A skilled writer, however, knows when to get down to the nitty gritty details, such as what color blouse the heroine is wearing or what’s on the menu for that romantic dinner at The 21 Club. There’s no greater way to build mood and imagery, but bogging down an action scene, whether physical or emotional, is a definite no-no. Get your reader familiar with the territory beforehand, then fire away.

A sense of place is another important element that can greatly enhance your story. Street names, specific restaurants (whether real or not), historical landmarks and even the weather can take your reader on an excursion to somewhere they’ve never been, adding depth and character to your story. Cities have personalities, too, which can add to the mood if exploited properly.

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New York City

If your story takes place somewhere you’ve never been, there are various online resources that can provide the information you need. If you can’t afford to hop in your car or on an airplane to see for yourself, you can still obtain vital details. Wikipedia provides historical and demographic information for most cities and localities around the globe. Whether your hero or heroine has lived there his or her entire life or is visiting for the first time, a sprinkling of details will bring it alive for your readers, giving them the bonus of vicariously visiting someplace they may never get to in person. If, perchance, they have been there, you want them to recognize it, which will give you increased credibility.

Writing a chase scene? Google Earth is a fantastic way to roam the streets yourself! If you’re a visual type like I am, you’ll thrive on this blast of input. Research doesn’t have to be dry, boring or expensive. It can be fun as well as informative while providing inspiration and plot twists along the way. Give it a try and see if it takes your scenes to an entirely new level.

(Pictures by the author)

The Importance of Formatting

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Typos, grammar and such are an amazingly common complaint in reviews, something which many indy authors encounter at some point. However, there’s another issue that can get you a bad rapp (or rep, as the case may be) that you may not even be aware of–formatting.

The guidelines for a printed book with an interior that looks professionally done are substantially different than those for an ebook. Considering how there’s a good chance most of your readers are going to opt for the electronic version, it’s in your best interest to make sure that it looks professional as well, not like an afterthought.

I suspect that numerous indy authors, after getting their book set up on Create Space, simply hit that button on the last screen to publish their book in Kindle format. This is all well and good, but don’t trust that automated process to produce an electronic version that looks anything like the printed one. At the very least, check it yourself, especially if your printed version has dropped caps at the beginning of each chapter.

The first thing you need to do is save a second copy of your book to use for the electronic version prior to formatting it for print. Then you can add headers, footers, chapter headings, dropped caps and so forth to the printed version without introducing potential corruption into the electronic version. If you’ve already done the formatting, then obviously when you save that second copy it will be to remove such things. typewriterEither way, it’s a lot easier than the old days, when authors wrote on a device like the one shown to the right. Those of you who haven’t had that experience don’t even want to know what it was like handling simple revisions that changed the pagination. Gives me a panic attack just thinking about it.

If you want to produce a professionally formatted ebook, the best guide for doing so is the Smashwords Style Guide, which you can download for free from their website here.

Even if you don’t use Smashwords’ service (perhaps because you’ve opted into Kindle Unlimited, which requires giving Amazon exclusive rights to sell your work), the instructions will enable you to format a clean version that won’t aggravate readers enough to blast you with a bad review. It takes a little extra work, but it’s worth it.

Writing a book entails a lot of hard work, but that’s just the beginning. If you want it to be well-received by readers, it also needs to provide a comfortable reading experience. It’s not difficult to do and will be worth it. If it’s not something you care to tackle, then check into some of the services that will do so for a reasonable price, such as Fiverr.com.

Showing respect and appreciation to your audience starts with clean copy. Getting yanked out of a story by errors of any type, whether they’re typos, incorrect spelling, punctuation problems or formatting in nature, is not only distracting, but annoying. Some readers are more forgiving than others in overlooking such things, but sure as death and taxes, sooner or later, a reviewer will say so.

After all the time, sweat and blood you’ve put into your story, don’t let its message be diluted or even lost due to careless formatting. Take care of your readers and they’ll take care of you.