C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

The publishing revolution already happened.

When editing, search for remnants

A cross-genre flurry about  society's collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy's love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

A cross-genre flurry about society’s collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy’s love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

Here’s a secret about the first draft of This Plague of Days:

I started writing it in first person. For dramatic reasons (and other reasons I can’t reveal for fear of spoilers), I switched to third person, limited omniscient.

At the hub of this apocalyptic adventure is a young man who is on the autistic spectrum. We often see the world flu pandemic and the rise of the zombie horde through his eyes. However, to write the whole book that way would be too hard on the reader. Jaimie’s mind is not grounded in our reality. He sees significance in everything and is obsessed with dictionaries, English words and Latin phrases. To give the story a context of verisimilitude, I had to change how I told the story.

The change made for a better story but added more challenges.

Whatever writing choices you make as you revise and polish, remnants show up. Remnants appear in manuscripts when you make changes or corrections. When I edited other people’s manuscripts, I suggested changes for authors, but I also requested back up by proofreaders after my edit.

Corrections introduce new errors.

The manuscript is not done when the edit is done. This is good advice you would think unnecessary. Nevertheless, I was occasionally ignored by some authors and even a small press on that score. We all need a stellar proofing team and/or beta team to help scour the book.

You can always depend on remnants appearing. For instance, in This Plague of Days, the character of the looter named Bentley changed to Bently. This Plague of Days is huge, so I found several examples of the earlier incarnation when I searched for “Bentley.” “The Bentley”  turned up a couple of times, too.

An old man named Douglas Oliver is a major character. I found several remnants from the previous draft that labeled him “The Oliver.” That’s probably a switch from “the old man” to the character’s name.

Look for more corrections after you think you’re done.

Always look for spelling variations even if you haven’t changed the character name. The autistic kid is Jaimie Spencer, but once or twice I lapsed into “Jamie” or “Jaime”.

Search “stood” and “rose”. Consider if you really want the word “up” to follow those words.

Always enter “the the” in the search box. Our brains are trained to skip over that error.

Always enter two spaces in the search box just before you hit “compile”. You’ll find spaces in your manuscript that look like huge gaps in the text when the manuscript is converted into an ebook.

When you correct a typo, reread what you just corrected to make sure you haven’t subtracted one typo and added another.

It will be okay. Don’t get frustrated. The process is worth it.

After your masterpiece is published, alert readers will email you with helpful notes about typos you missed so you can correct them in the next edition. You’ll take solace in the fact that, without all your preparation, the typo onslaught and readers’ annoyance could have been much worse.

 

 

Filed under: Books, Editing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A free and easy editing program that works

TPOD 0420 2As I revise my upcoming horror serial, This Plague of Days, I find some passages that I can’t wait to share. There are plenty of big reveals to come, but a few teasers along the way are fun (so click here to get a taste of horror and weirdness.) As I plod along, I’ve found a helpful way to polish the writing I want to share with you and improve my manuscript. The good news is there’s nothing to buy and you probably already have it but haven’t used the program in this way.

Before I tell you about this helpful editing program…

I have to tell you there are other editing programs that aren’t nearly so helpful. They aren’t as good as human eyes (so always keep some human eyes in your pocket.) You can subscribe to these programs at varying rates, from cheap to expensive. Some are better than others. I tested one and it told me there were 43 areas of concern in the first paragraph. Of course, even a terrible writer probably doesn’t have 43 areas of concern in one paragraph. It wasn’t even a very long one! I shuddered, cursed and looked closer.

The problem was the program threw up red flags (as in vomited red flags) everywhere. In an effort to be thorough, it overshot into ridiculously unhelpful. The grammar problems weren’t grammar problems. The spelling suggestions were all just alternative words. Stylistic choices were only that. Of the 43 problems, I found two things I might change. Might! I get that from rereading any paragraph!

The signal to noise ratio was clearly way off in the program. If I ever hate a writer with OCD, I’ll be sure to gift him or her a subscription. We’ll never hear from them again and they’ll never write another book.

So, to the “new” suggestion

It’s not new, but it is useful. I write in Scrivener (which I love). When I find quotes and snippets I want to reveal as appetizers at ThisPlagueOfDays.com, naturally I post it into WordPress. I’ve found the WordPress editor has helped me reconsider some things. It suggests neither too much nor too little. It’s elegant, free and easy to use for that little added polish to make you feel excited about getting to your last draft and publishing your book. 

Grab a chapter from your WIP, paste it into WordPress, test it and consider adding it to your editorial production process. I like it.

 

Filed under: Editing, getting it done, grammar, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The sorts of people a writer needs

"A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction."

“A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.”

I used to have this fantasy about being a writer: I’d take vengeance on all my enemies through a thin veil. (Did that and continue to do so. Ha! Take that, Norman!) I’d make serious money. (Not yet. Working on it. So far, it’s just cartoon money.) And finally, instead of an acknowledgments page I’d have a “Ha! Told you so! Page”. I wanted to say I did it all on my own. I believed what Hitchcock said about film: A writer needs a pen, a painter a brush and a director, an army.” He was wrong. We write in solitude, but it takes an army to get it produced, pretty and read. Here, in no particular order, are my four-star generals and uber-admirals:

1. Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. He’s a graphic artist who is really good for indie authors (and trad authors, too). His book covers are great, but it’s his patience and determination to get it right that compel me to promote him at every opportunity.

2. Mark Young of MondaysAreMeatless.blogspot.ca. Mark is the fellow writer who read a twist in Higher Than Jesus and said, “I don’t buy it. Try again.” He’s the one who told me I was being too coy about the major sex scene. He also tells me what’s working so his edits and suggestions aren’t a moving target. Mark’s input has helped me make better books.

3. Brian Wright is one of my beta readers. When he came back with comments on Bigger Than Jesus, we talked for three hours and he gave me an idea for the most clever murder ever in Higher Than. It’s fun to know weapons and explosives experts. It’s scary what he knows…stuff people aren’t supposed to know.

4. Eden Baylee. Eden is an erotica writer who got me involved in the campaign to help Joshua, a young man with leukaemia, early this year. By participating in the campaign, I met a lot more great people. We helped Joshua (his father is the great Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl) and Eden is very supportive of my work, encouraging likes and follows and even interviewing me on her blog. (Fun interview. I was too honest. It’s NSFW.) Check out Eden’s books here. 

5. I wanted a radio show to reach out to strangers worldwide. Dave Jackson at the School of Podcasting helped me with my author website and got my podcast, All That Chazz, up and running.

6. She Who Must Be Obeyed. She makes Me at My Desk possible. That’s especially good because Me in the Real World doesn’t work so well. Plus she’s hot and right about everything. Can’t complain. 

7. Jeff Bennington, author of Reunion. Jeff was an ally early on. He designed my first book, Self-help for Stoners, in print and has given me a couple of great cover blurbs. I always make sure to read his informative and encouraging updates on The Writing Bomb. A good guy to know.

8. Armand Rosamilia, zombie master and author of many, many booksArmand’s made it clear he’s a fan of this blog and he gave me a great cover blurb for Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. But there’s another reason I like Armand: He’s got a professional writer’s work and word count ethic to emulate. He doesn’t know it (until now) but he’s one to watch because he’s a pacer and regularly posts his progress on his blog. If you can keep up with Armand, you’re writing plenty.

9. Claude Bouchard, author of Vigilante. I’m pathologically shy about asking for cover blurbs. When I approached Claude, he couldn’t have been more friendly. He read, reviewed and ended up blurbing Bigger Than Jesus. He treats fellow writers as part of a community and he also took the time to teach me a few things about Amazon listings and building a following.

10. You. If you read this blog, buy my books, review my books or listen to my podcast, I appreciate it. You’re in the army now (for Art’s sake). Thank you for your service.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Free tech tools to help you edit and proofread

Proofing and revising can be fun, especially if you have sharper tools to help you do the job better. I now have a new tech tool in my editing arsenal that’s a huge help: free text to speech (tts) software.

I’m in the last stages of revising Higher Than Jesus, the next instalment in The Hit Man Series. I had plot problems to review and choices to make about how fast the action would evolve for my Cuban hit man. Then there are the typos to catch, Chicago street names and geographical logistics to marry up and more jokes to make.

Necessary aside: The tech tool I’m about to recommend is not Scrivener, it’s text to speech software. However, if you aren’t already using Scrivener, I recommend it, not least because Scrivener already has tts built in. (Click speech on the Edit menu.) Last night I needed to know if I’d revealed a name in an earlier chapter. With Scrivener, it was easy. With Word, it would have been a time-consuming pain. Writing Higher Than Jesus is like putting together a puzzle and using Scrivener helped me make sure I wasn’t screwing up. Scrivener is $45 USD and compiles your book for manuscript, print or any ebook platform. This concludes the Scrivener PSA.

As I podcast Bigger Than Jesus, chapter by chapter, I find things that I’d like to change (and do so as I record.) At the microphone, some edits are clearer, especially when you have to speak them. Yes, I know editing never ends, but still, I find things that bug me. Finding those niggles on the mic, I make a note to edit the print and ebook edition. (That’s the beauty of ebook and print-on-demand publishing. I can go back and make those minor adjustments quite easily.)

One way people edit is to go through a draft reading backwards. That’s very tiring and I don’t know anyone who has actually accomplished that for a work of any length. For short stories, that’s reasonable. Another way is to read your book aloud. I do that, but one chapter at a time, one podcast at a time. When I read too long aloud, my throat gives out. TTS helps me catch problems by getting the computer to read the book to me and saves my vocal cords. 

I catch much more than I thought I would. As I prepare to hand the book off to my editorial team, I’m saving them a lot of time by giving them a more polished draft. I really don’t want to waste the team’s time. Perfection is impossible, but excellence we can reach.

The Read4Me app is free software that can read you your story, for instance. With tts apps you can, of course, control the speed of the narration. For editing, let it read slow. I listen at 141 – 149 words per minute and follow along as the highlighted text lights up.

One problem is the available voices can sound a bit too much like Stephen Hawking (who still hasn’t updated his speech software! I’d love to hear him talk about black holes as gateways to other universes in a Texas drawl, wouldn’t you?) I tried “Alex’s” voice. Alex is familiar to all Mac users as the computer voice that cuts in and says, “Excuse me,” when a program you don’t want to deal with now requires your attention. I switched to one of the female voices because it punched me in the ears less over time. If you’ve got a long book to read, you want a pleasant voice in your head.

I found another option that’s available free to Microsoft users: NaturalReaders.com. The voices are pleasant and you can easily test out that assertion on the landing page. I’m very impressed with what NaturalReaders.com offers, but here’s a much more extensive list of tts products on Squidoo for your evaluation. And yes, they’re all free.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Author Blog Challenge 14: Eleven ways writers get surprised

Gremlins will push you 'round^ Look where you'...

Gremlins will push you ’round^ Look where you’re going^ Back up our battleskies^ – NARA – 535380 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some surprises you’re in for when you publish your book

Please note: This list of surprises for writers is not meant to be comprehensive. The worst surprises, like dying by flaming harpoon attack to the forehead (before you finish your novel) or a hard drive exploding and taking out two floors of your house are not included. Those circumstances just aren’t lighthearted enough for my intent here. Oops. Well, I guess you’re worried about that stuff now, too.

1. You thought your manuscript was clean and it was, it was! Gremlins went in and put those ugly typos in there! That’s the only reasonable explanation.

2. Publishing your book is a huge event in your life. Remember when you had a baby and you expected the world to pause to acknowledge your contribution to, and sacrifice for, the human race? Wars should stop and the earth’s rotation should cease for a moment, if only so we can all bow. Sadly, it’s not a huge event in everyone’s else’s life. Many people are indifferent and it’s just not efficient to go out and kill all of them with a rusty axe.

3. The people you thought would love your book? They don’t. My dad still hasn’t read anything I’ve written. He’s waiting for me to write about him. (What he doesn’t know is that he really doesn’t want that!)

4. Lots of people are readers but they do not write reviews. You’ll expect reviews. Eventually you probably beg for reviews. Worse? You still won’t get them, even from friends and family! I thought about it, but there is no joke I can tag on this item that will soothe the sting. It’s more tragic than a flaming harpoon to the crotch.

5. Someone will object to something you wrote. What will surprise you is what they object to. For example, some people get riled up about which font you chose for your cover. You’ll assume that joke your main character made about religion was, at most, funny. At worst? Somewhat innocuous. Some blogger, somewhere, will call you the Anti-Christ and call on Jesus to smite you because, apparently, Jesus loved capital punishment. Oh, wait… (At least outrage and threats of censorship increase sales, so there’s that.)

6. Some people will treat you better, briefly, because you’re an author. Then they’ll treat you worse when they find out you’re a self-published author. For some reason, you have to answer for every grammatical mistake and every (so-called) undeserved success of your breed. Corollary: If you become a very successful traditionally published author, some people will hate you because lots of people read your books. Or the haters will hate because they aren’t you. Suggestion: A dog is reliably faithful. Definitely buy a dog. They can’t read so they’re blameless.

7. Formatting will be tough the first time. The first time, you’re a dim-witted chimpanzee with a keyboard. The second time you do it, you’ll be surprised how easy it is. You will have evolved to a very intelligent Rhesus monkey.

8. By the time you’re through revisions and formatting, you and your editorial team will have gone through the manuscript so many times you’ll be sick of it. This is the story you loved so much. Now your cute baby has grown into an angry, gangly, acne-scarred teenager and you just want them out of the house they can go make money and so you can make room for a sweet new baby who loves to cuddle.

9. Actual publication won’t be quite as momentous as you anticipated. How could it equal all those dreams you’ve had since childhood? You pictured a limo and an elegant cocktail party. Instead, it’s you in sweats, late at night and a little drunk on weighty potential and rum and Coke, debating if you’ve done everything you can before pushing a button. It will feel more like pulling a trigger. You may be filled with more dread of bloody failure than anticipation of success. I’m about to push that button and I’ve had stress headaches all week. I just want to sleep instead of poking around Scrivener‘s bowels to prep the manuscript for Amazon and CreateSpace. You’re not alone in the struggle, but that’s of little solace because you are alone in the room.

10. Getting someone to read your book is harder than writing your book. You’ll spend more time marketing than you ever dreamed necessary, even if you figured it would take a lot of time. Triple your marketing expectations and get a treadmill desk so your ass won’t get as big and wide as your hopes and dreams for your writing career.

11. But here’s the biggest surprise: Though you will get luckier the harder you work, it’s still a lot about luck and timing and some happenstance. Nobody admits this variable. When you win, it’s all attributable your meteoric wisdom. When you succeed, you’ll figure it’s because you made all the right moves and you knew what you were doing with every step. Revising history and shining up the truth is natural. Everybody does that. It keeps us from running away screaming from that “Click to Publish” button.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing: The Rule of Three & the peril of semi-colons

Massey Hall, Toronto

Image via Wikipedia

Saturday night I saw Bill Maher at Massey Hall in Toronto. Good show, fun time. Bill is known for Real time with Bill Maher, his documentary Religulous, his comedy and his New Rules books. Watching him perform, I noticed he never breaks the Rule of Three. It is a good rule, an effective rule and a memorable rule that I just demonstrated with this very sentence.

Wikipedia puts it like this: The “Rule of Three” is a principle in writing that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.”

Of course, you will write longer lists, but when you use a colon, do so sparingly unless you’re composing a scientific paper. Semi-colons can be very useful in separating elements in a list after a colon. However, if you use the semi-colon to separate related clauses, please do so sparingly. Wikipedia says, “According to the British writer on grammar, Lynne Truss, many non writers avoid the colon and semicolon…”

I disagree. It’s not just non-writers who avoid the semi-colon to separate interdependent clauses. 

The semi-colon can be a useful device occasionally, but as a punctuation mark, it is often either misused or has fallen out of favor.

When Lynne Truss refers to “non-writers”, does she not also mean people who are readers? Shouldn’t it be the common reader who sets the standard for what’s easily read and understood? I invoke the common usage rule here. When something has fallen out of common use, it’s too rusty to use without a lot of irritating squeaking. For instance, if a writer uses the word “behooves,” he sounds like he’s trying to be Charles Dickens. You just aren’t old enough for that.

Similarly, the semi-colon has fallen so far out of common use that when a reader encounters one, it pulls them out of the narrative to think, “Hey, look! A semi-colon! Why did the author feel it was necessary to separate related thoughts with a semi-colon, instead of separating those ideas with a simple period? Anything that stops me from breezing along through a novel is a speed bump that I would prefer shaved down so I can speed along and focus on content instead of transmission static.

I have never read a sentence with a semi-colon that I did not reread at least twice.

I’m not saying  you shouldn’t use semi-colons, if they suit you; I am saying, I won’t use the semi-colon.

Anymore.

Filed under: Editing, Editors, grammar, , , , , , , , , , ,

Editing tools and typo tips

Book cover (Dust jacket) for the 15th edition ...

Image via Wikipedia

Write_your_book
EDIT YOUR BOOK!

When you’re checking your manuscript, use your word processor’s Spellcheck. Some editors turn up their snobby little noses at Spellcheck, but it can flag problems you might otherwise miss. Nobody’s perfect and problems will always appear once you’ve published your book (yes, in both traditional and self-published books). Don’t take every suggestion; Spellcheck isn’t always right. It’s a tool, not a panacea. You can also use Find and Replace to look for problems Spellcheck misses: its, it’s, there, their and so on. Spellcheck doesn’t replace editors and they don’t replace thinking. But you’ll catch more using it.

To the rude editor I met at the conference who said she never used Spellcheck: Yes, I’m saying that was arrogant and, just like the rest of us, you’re not nearly as smart as you think you are. Or funny. And you need to work on your social skills. (Now I’m worried that I’m projecting.)

I don’t edit blog posts obsessively, but when I’m working on a book, I have several websites up on my browser: Chicago Manual of Style, Wikipedia, and dictionary.com. I also use Autocrit for more input.

For me, yesterday was single quote day. I wrote parts of my books with Open Office, so I had to go through the manuscript and make all my single quotes curly…and curly in the right direction. I was cross-eyed and HULK ANGRY by 5 pm.

PentecostSelf-publishing guru and author of Pentecost, Joanna Penn, has a great suggestion to deal with typos: Publish your ebook first. Your readers will let you know (politely or not) about your book’s typos. Corrections to the ebook are easier than correcting your printed book. Corrections to print books are called “second editions.” Great tip! For more information from Joanna, check out this very useful interview. I loved this inspiring interview and it helped me calm down after Curly Quote Day. Well…much later, after the photo below.

Me after Curly Quote Day

Filed under: Books, DIY, Editing, Editors, getting it done, grammar, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Don’t listen to writers too much

The phrase that pays.

Image by pirateyjoe via Flickr

When I first graduated from massage school, I visited new massage therapists all the time. Too often, I didn’t enjoy the experience much. I was too evaluative of each therapist to just lay back and receive the treatment in the spirit in which it was given. I wasn’t concentrating on the feeling of the massage, but on the mechanics. It took me some time to get past that mindset.

You see the same thing with editors sometimes, too. A bad editor jumps straight to corrections too fast without reading for story first. Typos are the last thing you correct in the story construction process. You need to look at the big blocks in the structure first to see how it holds together. Developmental editing always happens before detailed copy editing.

You shouldn’t listen too much to other writers for similar reasons. They see your work through a prism that doesn’t necessarily match ordinary reader expectations.

Writers are great people, but they usually aren’t your market. We sometimes forget that there are a lot of people in the world who have no literary ambitions. They don’t want to write a book. They just want to read a good story.

Writers are readers, but they aren’t typical readers. Writers look at your work differently. Writers are not  the average reader.

Among writers, there is a higher percentage of people who will pick apart your mechanics. Any grammatical variation from what they expected (and there are variations) will provoke more irritation than may be warranted. They will be the readers who skip from irritation at your typos to outrage, indignation and threats to take away your writer’s license and livelihood. Some will want to burn down your house.

Writer friends and editors can help you develop your work, improve and self-publish. But because of the way we are wired, we might not enjoy your work as much as typical readers will.

BONUS: 

I’m networked with a lot of great writers who help me a lot. I like them, appreciate them and thank them.

However, you’ll run into some writers who are so competitive, they do not wish you well.

Either through jealousy or the misconception that your success takes something away from them, they want you to fail.

Watch out for the hypercritical, the rabid grammarians, the perfectionists, the haters and snipers. They mistake their subjective taste for law all the time.

By the way, I wish you every success.

Filed under: publishing, Rant, Rejection, writing tips, , , , , , ,

The Writer Rejection Scam

Stephen King signature.

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes I hear writers take pride in the number of rejections in their file cabinets. The idea is that they compete with writer friends to pile up the rejection slips. The person with the most number of rejections by a certain date…er…”wins.” Riiiight. I don’t know how this myth got started but it’s a popular one.

It’s not that this is a totally useless strategy (and I’ll review the advantages in a moment) but first, let’s burst the rejection scam bubble:

If you are writing fast without second drafts or third or umpteenth drafts in order to pump up your submission rate, you’re losing. More rejection slips? That’s no measure of how close you are to publication. If that were true, the worst writers in the world submitting the most illiterate crap across the planet are all just on the cusp of bestsellerdom.

If you get a lot of rejection slips that don’t actually include personal notes on how the writing didn’t work for the reviewer, you’re losing.

It’s also very hard to get any personal notes on your work, by the way. Many agents and editors don’t believe in detailing the reasons for rejection. There are so many variables to evaluate writing that are idiosyncratic and peculiar to the editor, it doesn’t profit you to hear they rejected you for subjective reasons.

Neither does it profit them to take the time to give you a heads up that you were a near miss. Many editors have so many submissions on their desk that they really don’t want to encourage more people to resubmit. The mailbox will be full tomorrow regardless and your persistence is expected without free coaching and hand holding. (And just because you submitted a manuscript, no editor owes you free manuscript evaluations, feedback or reasons for rejection.)

If you’re clearing an alley of bad guys, use the twelve gauge with the .00 load. With manuscript submission, however, scatter shot is less effective than picking and aiming at your targets.

Submit everywhere without careful thought on how to target your market? Then you’re losing. It’s time you’re losing primarily, though the loss of confidence and self-esteem can’t be glossed over. It takes a lot of ego to put yourself out there, so choose carefully how you put yourself out there. Artists need all the narcissistic hope and unreasonable aspirations of a lottery player.

If you’re submitting everywhere in the slim hope that an agent or editor will take the time to take you under their wing, build you a nest and show you where you went wrong with your flightless novel, you’re losing. When dealing with mass submissions, editors and agents get impatient with bad writing, or even writing that isn’t bad but doesn’t suit them. I’ve seen it personally. Behind closed doors there’s even a lot of laughter at published writers’ work that’s bound for publication. (Oh, yeah, that’s right! I said it! I’ve seen it and endured it!)

If it’s feedback you’re after, alpha readers, beta readers, hired editors, writing and critique groups will get you more feedback than can be fit on a tiny rejection slip. Plus, you’ll be getting much more careful evaluation.

People going through a slush pile aren’t there to help the writer. They are there to evaluate whether your manuscript is a good bet for a business deal that suits their purposes and interests.

Much is made of Stephen King‘s pile of rejection slips. I think too much has been made of the rejection slips impaled on that spike in King’s attic. It’s not that some magic kicks in once you hit a special number of slips. It is, instead, what the rejection slips symbolize: sweat equity and time invested in improving craft. I’m not suggesting you submit fewer manuscripts per se. I’m saying, offer your work wisely.

A higher number of rejection slips is not an achievement to be celebrated any more than failing to complete every race you enter makes you a better runner. It might make you a noble aspirant. Or maybe you’re too bull-headed to train properly and learn. Either possibility has validity.

It was all the writing and reading King did while the slips piled up that mattered

It was the feedback he got from a newspaper editor that mattered

That editor sat down with King and went over a story about a high school basketball game. He showed King how to tighten his writing. A little mark up, some rearranging and red pen work et voilà!: The magic of editing improved the writer’s craft. (If you haven’t read Stephen King’s On Writing yet…well, just go do that and thank me later.) 

What are the advantages of piling up rejection slips? If you need to compete with a friend to get you to write, I don’t see anything wrong with that. Everybody needs some gentle  motivation (or a kick in the bum) sometimes. (Okay, maybe you don’t ever need a writing crutch, but that makes you an inhuman freak, Trollope!)

If you get personal feedback and encouragement from editors and agents, that’s a good sign you’re on the right track. If you just get a note or two though, that doesn’t constitute a trend you should necessarily heed. Editors and agents have their own agendas that may reflect very little on your writing and you’ll never know what’s in their minds.

Don’t rush to produce writing at the expense of quality. As Truman Capote said of Jack Kerouac‘s On the Road, “That’s not writing. That’s typing!”  (Granted, Capote could be a bitch and lots of people like On the Road.)

Still, getting a big pile of rejection slips is not the end game. Writing extensively (and well), reading broadly (and well) and getting righteous feedback will get you where you want to go.

Yes, I know: Rejection is part of the process. But neither should rejection be fetishized and assumed useful. Some lucky few writers are a hit right out of the gate. Are they still bad writers because they haven’t “paid their dues” and “jumped through hoops”?

That thick skin some say you’re supposed to develop through rejection would be used more effectively if you  got a manuscript evaluation or joined a critique group. (And thick skin is another thing that’s overrated and fetishized. Thick skin helps you take writing advice, yes. But when the reviews come in and someone writes something nasty in a comment about your book —your baby!—on Amazon, veteran author or newbie, you’ll be just as pissed.

Now, how do you target your submissions to likely editors and agents? 

Well, that’s a post for another day. Another day that will come soon.

Stay tuned. 

Filed under: Books, manuscript evaluation, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to edit without reading

Lettrine A edtion 1570 Venise I quattro libri ...

Image via Wikipedia

You: Edit without reading? How is that even possible? 

Me: You can tell when a story has problems at a glance if the page is too dark.

You: Um. What?

Me: This page. Look at all that unbroken text.

(HOLDS OUT A MANUSCRIPT AT ARM’S LENGTH)

It’s an intimidating, heavy block. Unless you are Proust—wait. Are you Proust?

You: (SURLY) No.

Me: Okay. When there are big unbroken blocks of text, you’re demanding a lot of the reader.

You: So I should assume my reader is too stupid to handle a long paragraph?

Me: Yes.

You: What?!

Me: Attention spans are shorter. Big blocks of text do not skip along. It’s hard to get a sense of making progress when faced with all that text. You need to break it up.

You: Show me.

Me: The first thing is, have you used paragraphs correctly? Maybe the unified sentences are there but you’ve missed opportunities to paragraph appropriately. Think of each paragraph as  one logically unified thought. Look for the flow, either progression or back and forth, to identify where the next paragraph proceeds.

You: Uh-huh. I’m not an idiot, you know.

Me: I’m sure you’re not. I didn’t create you to be an idiot, but a dialogue foil so I could parry back and forth a bit. Break up the didactic drudgery.

You: Wha–wait. What?

Me: (SMOOTHLY) So the next usual suspect is long speeches. Soliloquies usually need to be broken up with action, interaction and conflict from other characters.

You: Or?

Me: Or you get big blocks of text. Readers like white space, but this isn’t just an aesthetic issue. It’s an editorial issue. Shorter paragraphing looks more appealing, true, but when dialogue flies back and forth, shorter paragraphs are an indication of dynamism on the page.

You: And you think you don’t have to actually read the story to know it’s not dynamic enough?

Me: I don’t have to actually read the story to know that unless you get more white space on the page, no one will read it. I’m trying to give your story a chance at daylight. I haven’t read a word, but I’ve seen enough holding it at arm’s length and glancing through a few pages to see the pattern. If you send it to an editor or agent, they will heave a great sigh and turn away quickly. If you try to sell it yourself, it will not sell.

You: Do you actually talk to writers like this when you edit them?

Me: Of course not. This is just a blog post between me and an imaginary writer…you know, for educational purposes.

You: Educa…. About what you…hey! You’re saying I’m not real?

Me: (PULLS A WOODEN STAKE FROM BENEATH A DARK CLOAK)

The problem is real. The editorial trick is real. You, I made up.

(PLUNGES STAKE INTO THE FICTION’S CHEST AND ROOTS AROUND FOR THE HEART IN QUICK, GRISLY CIRCLES)

You: Ouch. Hey, that was…surprisingly painless.

Me: It’s okay. Sh. I wrote your reality this way so it doesn’t hurt anyone.

You: Oh. Thanks.

Me: You’re welcome. You live in the Matrix. It’s a bitch, but I try to make it easy on everybody.

(PULLS OUT THE STAKE AND THE SOUND IS LIKE AIR FARTED OUT OF A PARTY BALLOON)

(THE FICTIONAL AUTHOR WHIZZES AWAY LIKE SAID PARTY BALLOON AND, AT FULL DEFLATION, DISAPPEARS INTO AN UNENDING GREEN SEA UNDER A CLOUDLESS NIGHT SKY AND A BLUE, TROPIC MOON.)

THE WARM BREEZE, SMELLING OF COLITAS AND CARRYING THE SOUNDS OF THE JUNGLE TO THE WEST WHISPERS STERNLY: “Stop now, Chazz! It’s overwritten already!

Me: FADE INTO DARKNESS. THEN GOES SHOPPING.

And that’s how you edit without reading. 

Filed under: Books, Editing, Editors, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , ,

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Write to live

Publish, conquer your fears, inspire others

Build your brand 6 seconds at a time

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

I interview the people you need to get to know.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6,513 other followers

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,513 other followers

%d bloggers like this: