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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Writers: Clean your manuscript with these enema tricks

There are mistakes in every book, but there are tricks to avoid some pesky problems. For instance, I’m in the midst of proofing This Plague of Days. In Scrivener, I do a quick and easy

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.

Society collapses around a strange autistic boy with a deep love of odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father The plague is coming. Buckle up.

search for odd mistakes that creep in. Here are a few things I plug into the search box to search and destroy:

1. Hit the space bar twice and eliminate those pesky double spaces that find their way into your ebook (and look like chasms on a kindle.)

2. Put “the the” in the search box. Take one out unless it shows up as “the theme…” It’s startling how easy it is for the human eye to skip over a brain stutter like the the.

3. Search “awhile”. Change it to “a while” when appropriate. Here’s when it’s right to do so.

4. “Exact same” = A redundant expression we use in spoken language and in the excited flurry of our first drafts. Excise from later drafts.

5. Search “..” Double periods appear occasionally, usually from an edit you did instead of a typo. 

The fewer mistakes you give your editors, beta readers and proofers to find, the fewer mistakes they will miss.

When you get all your revisions back and make your changes, do these searches again (and whatever common mistakes you discover you are prone to.) After the edit, the act of going back to make corrections often introduces mistakes. This is especially true if you’re working with extensive edits using Track Changes. It’s often helpful to bump up the text size so you can better understand where all the little red lines are pointing for edits. I prefer Scrivener and recommend it for writing, editing, compiling and publishing.

Also check the copy again once it’s published. I have had some file management issues in the past with Scrivener where I published an earlier draft, not the final draft. It was frustrating and embarrassing, but fortunately it was easy to fix quickly. Now that I’m aware of that potential, I’m extra paranoid so things keep getting better. Editing and proofing these little details can be arduous but, like a 10k run uphill, you’ll feel great about your work when it’s done.

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

How to deal with the stigma of self-publishing

In the last week, the self-publishing stigma has reared up for me twice. An e-newsletter publicized one of my books (hurray!), but there was something in the text I hadn’t expected. The guy behind the newsletter added “(self-published)” to the news that my book was out. As grateful as I am for any publicity, I stared at that for some time and I wondered what the term meant to him. I suspect  that either he, or his readers, will jump to conclusions about my books based on that little parenthetical. It struck me as odd that Newsletter Guy added that detail. Was that a conscious wink and a nod to his readers? A warning? Or am I being overly sensitive and paranoid? Possibly, but then I ran into someone at a party whose first question about my book—his only question, come to think of it—was whether I’d self-published. In that case, the guy was in front of me. I can read body language just fine so I know his estimation of my books went down with the news that my books are not traditionally published.

I didn’t get into all the great reasons to be a self-publisher. I just moved on. I’m not begging anyone to read my books, especially when I sense I’ve already been dismissed. That way madness lies. Always move on quickly to the people who get what you’re doing. The 80/20 rule is crucial to your sanity as well as your success in whatever you do.

But the term “self-publishing” makes it sound like I do it all on my own, without checks and balances. It’s not like I’m a fresh-faced noob at this. I’ve worked for several publishers in various positions. I trained in traditional publishing, worked in it and have written and edited profitably for years. I hired a graphic artist, a formatter and proofreaders. I have beta-readers. Yes, I’ve found two minor typos since the publication of one of my books. But I can probably find typos in most any traditionally published book you throw my way. If a couple of typos cranks you up that much, don’t read anything. I don’t begrudge traditional publishers a few mistakes. They can extend me the same grace (especially since their books are much more expensive) and I’ll put my ebooks’ quality up against anything similar sold in any bookstore. That’s not knocking the traditionally published, by the way. I read and love many authors, indie and non. I’m just saying traditional publishers don’t have a magic potion to achieve good books. Their special (and rapidly diminishing) value is in a legacy of distribution, not a monopoly on quality.

It irritates me when people make judgments about my books (my babies!) sight unseen. Publishers generally don’t have brands. One of my previous employers, Harlequin, is a noted exception. With them, you know what you get every time across all their lines. They are incredibly consistent in their offerings to a devoted fan base. However, most publishers’ lists, even within genres, are unique. People don’t buy books based on which publisher put out the books. No one goes into a bookstore and says, “I want a book by Harper Collins.” They do ask for specific authors.

But I’ve been here before. I know what to do. It’s time to gird my loins and get tough and ignore any jibes or perceived jibes. Occasional rudeness shouldn’t be tolerated but, if you live in this world, you can pretty much expect it occasionally. When I started in massage therapy, I heard a lot of inappropriate jokes that pissed me off. An uneducated public made assumptions about me and what I did as a therapist that offended  me. In my first year or so working as a massage therapist, I often thought about quitting because I pictured an entire career of defending my reputation against every idiotic stranger ready with a quick and uninformed opinion.

While naysayers and doubters questioned my work, I started reaching my public. I began to help people with serious injuries and diseases. I rehabilitated difficult health problems that had stymied other practitioners, sometimes with even miraculous results. With time, I found I rarely had to defend myself against remarks by ignorant people. I grew my fan base and those became the people with whom I spent my time. (There’s that useful 80/20 rule again.) I went on to work as a therapist for almost twenty years.

I’ve battled prejudice before.

I’ll do it again.

Just watch me.

I’m coming.

Self-publishers need confidence bordering on arrogance to do what we do. The decision to believe in our art will carry us through the work ahead. We don’t have time for negativity. We’re too busy making our dreams happen. Maybe one day we won’t call ourselves self-publishers at all. Maybe “independent publisher” is a better term (just as I and my fellow therapists once debated whether we should abandon the word “massage” because of its past negative connotations.) Self-publishing has a bad rep for a reason, but I’m not part of the problem. Eventually, the market, not gatekeepers in New York, will vindicate me. With time and patience, word about my words will spread. The people who like my work will share the good news with others.

If you’ve already helped me by buying my books, telling a friend, writing a review or retweeting my tiny presence on the literary scene, thank you very much!

I’m focussed on you, the believers.

Filed under: Books, getting it done, grammar, My fiction, Publicity & Promotion, What about Chazz?, writing tips

How to tell when criticism is unreasonable

"Do not feed the Trolls" sign. Photo...

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Recently I read a blog post that angered me and broke my heart a little. When we dare to express ourselves, there’s always going to be someone who disagrees, doesn’t like it and thinks you’re stupid. Some people aren’t shy about letting you know how they feel and are pretty blunt about it. Constructive criticism is helpful criticism, administered gently. Awhile back I got a nice note about an edit that needed to be done on my other blog. The guy pointed out the problem and couldn’t have been sweeter about it. As a result, I went out of my way to help him in turn. Then there are those other people.

How to tell when criticism is unreasonable:

1. They focus on you instead of the issue. People who start out by insulting you aren’t helping. They want to feel good about themselves by putting you down. Call them a name in turn: Troll!

2. They go on at length and overstate your grammatical sins. That’s someone who has too much time on their hands. (See #1)

3. They talk about their work and its relative superiority. Some people actually take this tac to ask for business. They want to sell their editing or consulting service and their approach is a frontal assault on why you suck.Don’t encourage bad behavior by rewarding it.

4. They treat finding fault as a moral victory. If they wanted to be helpful, they’d just point out the problem and move on.

5. They’re wrong. An english teacher once tried to convince me that the you effect the affect instead of the other way around. She wasn’t going to be convinced otherwise, either. After all, she was a teacher, not a learner.

6. If this is someone you know, instead if an acquaintance or an anonymous internet troll, have you noticed that person is hypercritical about everything? Consider the source.

7. They quibble over stylistic stuff that could go either way. When I worked at Harlequin, we often got letters from readers applying for jobs. A common tactic was to criticize books for perceived failings in proofing. The approach never worked for two reasons: It was insulting to the staff and the complainer/job applicant was annoyed with all the British spelling in lines that were meant for British markets. (See #5)

8. They tell you publicly what they could have told you privately. Instead of setting out to embarrass you publicly on Facebook, they could have just sent you a kind private message to let you know you screwed up. That tells you where they’re coming from. They’re out to show off how clever they are at your expense. Not a friend.

Writers produce. A lot.

(And yes, I know that’s a sentence fragment. Actually, I’m quite fond of sentence fragments, so there.)

We write so much that, inevitably, problems will emerge.

Typos and missing words and miscellaneous issues will appear. We’re writers, but also human, I’m afraid. Follow anyone around all day with a tape recorder and eventually, they’ll say something dumb. Stuff gets missed and mixed up in speech and in writing. Recently, President Obama got the number of states in the union wrong. Does anybody really believe Obama doesn’t know there are fifty states in the United States?*

Well…some people would believe that. That’s someone else you should ignore.

*There are 50, right? Gee, I hope I got that right! Otherwise, I’ll deserve hot pokers under my eyelids and a solid whipping and I’ll never, ever write anything again and I’ll be ever-so-grateful to the person who saved me from myself and my horrible, horrible mistakes! I’m not worthy! I am worm sweat and trolls are all oh-so-very-smart! How do these demigods bear breathing the same air as the rest of us mere mortals?

Okay. That might have been a bit over-the-top, unreasonable criticism in the form of unnecessary sarcasm.

Filed under: DIY, getting it done, grammar, publishing, Rejection, reviews, Writers, writing tips,

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

Massey Hall, Toronto

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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 ...

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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, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How much should fiction cost?

There’s quite a gap between what publishers charge for ebooks and how self-publishers are pricing their work. Many authors (and readers) have a visceral reaction to price. Of course people are sensitive to a price they perceive too high, but many believe that if it’s too cheap, it must be crap. (JA Konrath suggests self-publishers play with price, and experiment to find the right price point.)

However pricing affects you intuitively, there’s no direct correlation between price and quality. Many fine ebooks are often priced low because the author is not well-known. Lower prices encourage timid readers to take a chance on new fiction. When the price is lower, readers buy more. It is freeing to click, click, click and still pay less for fiction than you might for a latte and a croissant.  Self-publishers hope to make it up on volume.

If you are trying to figure out how to price your ebooks, or what a fair price might be, Dean Wesley Smith has a great and useful  summary.

His suggestions have influenced my thinking greatly. As a result, my first book (that will be available digitally) will be a short story collection. I still plan to roll out my big novel in November, but the collection, including some award winners, will come this summer!

It’s all happening very quickly. It has to. And most glorious of all, now it can happen.

Time and me?

We wait for no one.

Not anymore. 

Filed under: Books, DIY, ebooks, grammar, links, My fiction, publishing, self-publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , ,

Writers: “Amount of” versus “number of”

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There are a number of cheese pancakes in this picture: six.

The amount of cheese is in the recipe. You wouldn’t say the number of cheese or the amount of pancakes.

A number of mistakes in a book I read recently kind of bugged me. Overall, there weren’t that many mistakes in the book, but one kept coming up. The problem was that, while the author tried to quote statistics and make a compelling argument, she repeatedly undermined herself by misusing the phrase “an  amount of.”

“A  number of” things can be counted.

“An amount of” refers to a measure of volume.

For instance, there are a large number of armies on earth. The amount of their combined firepower is uncertain. There is a certain amount of apple sauce in this recipe. There are a number of apples in that recipe.

Is it a big deal? Not really, but it’s a distraction and your job, as a writer, is to eliminate distractions from your thesis or your story. As a reader, you’ll notice mistakes and that’s often what you’ll remember rather than the writer’s point.

Filed under: Editing, Editors, grammar, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , ,

Editing Part V: The Dead Grammar Rules Freedom Manifesto

William Shatner photographed by Jerry Avenaim

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Certain grammar guidelines have changed. The classic one everyone knows is the death of the split infinitive rule. When I was a kid, some teachers were still strict grammarians on this point. I call that generational inertia (wherein one espouses the rules of the previous generation even though old rules no longer apply. Generational inertia shows up everywhere but has been particularly egregious in the publishing industry on the subject of digital books. (Chazz now dismounts from the usual hobby-horse and goes on with dead grammar rules. Ahem.)

William Shatner singlehandedly killed the split infinitive rule in the late 60s. At the opening of the original Star Trek, it was he who spoke the immortal split infinitive: “To boldly go where no man has gone before!” Patrick Stewart updated the phrase over the opening credits of Star Trek: The Next Generation with “To boldly go where no one has gone before!” The captains of the Enterprise changed things up from the proper, traditional (and stiff): “To go boldly.” After Star Trek, everyone eased up and some grammarians will still tell you that was an early sign of the decline of civilization.

Heavy-handed grammarians amuse me. Sometimes it seems like they fetishize the rules without respecting the point: effective communication. Usually traditional rules serve us well. However, rules shouldn’t get in the way of creativity just as expression shouldn’t get in the way of communication.

When expression doesn’t respect the reader’s right to clarity, it better be doing so intentionally for a particular effect. For instance, Michael Ondaatje or Maya Angelou write in complex skeins that require double espresso and a very quiet room to appreciate. Chuck Palahniuk wrote Pygmy in a distinctly ungrammatical style so you see America through the odd mind of a tiny immigrant assassin who speaks English as a second language. (That worked great for me though, usually, if something isn’t clear it’s probably because it sucks.)

I once heard an ancient grammarian with a very plummy British accent (it was as if  Central Casting sent over The Stereotypical English Professor) complain about how fast and loose modern teenagers were with language. (He brought to mind Socrates whining about “these rotten kids today!”) Plummy Accent Guy spoke as if he wanted to freeze the language at about 1901. But languages are organic.  (Look! I just started a sentence with a conjunction! My eighth-grade teacher would rap my knuckles with a ruler right about now.) Conventions change and grow and a mid-eighteenth century grammarian would be appalled at Plummy Accent Guy’s use of language. (They’d also cringe at my overuse of the parenthetical in this paragraph but to make a stale subject even vaguely entertaining, I think it works. So there.)

Just last summer I watched an author wring his hands over texting. “Text abbreviations dumb kids down,” he said. Yeah? I don’t think there’s any real scientific support for that view and he came off sounding stuffy and quaint. Kids are reading more than they ever did, they’re just doing so on screens. It’s not that they are losing the English language. It’s that they are learning another text-based language.

True, our literacy rates are awful. But that doesn’t mean drumming old grammatical rules into kids is the cure. Things change. School programs used to spend a lot of time teaching beautiful handwriting. If you’ve ever seen letters from before mid-last century, much of the handwriting looks so precise in its swoops and curls you’d be forgiven for thinking it was produced by a machine. However, elegant calligraphy is out. I loved it and my calligraphic pens made note-taking on intolerable subjects more interesting but it’s gone with the art of letter writing. Even simple handwriting isn’t a high priority in the educational system, either. The way the world has gone, teachers want to move on quickly to teaching kids how to type and cursive writing is a low priority. Your kids will be able to write with a pen but they’ll probably write by hand in block letters.

Lots of old assumptions are out. In fact, studies show that, despite what your momma told you, spelling isn’t all that important. Try this: Can you raed tihs snetnce? You can probalbly raed tihs amlst as fsat as you wold nromally raed. Studeis sohw taht as lnog as teh fisrt letr and teh lsat letr are corect, yuo wll unerdstnd my maening prefctly.

And people mistype ‘teh’ for ‘the’ so often,

it’s been suggested ‘teh’ should be an accepted alternative to ‘the.’

Remember, for a very long time there was no universal standard for spelling so Old English spelling was all over the map. There were no dictionaries so our greatest philosophers spelled idiosyncratically and phonetically. I’m not proposing we spell poorly. I’m saying ease up on rules whose basis is somewhat arbitrary.

The key for grammar rules now is: Respect the writer’s voice and the reader’s mind. And time. That’s right. Time. Serial commas are out (unless you need to keep them in particular sentences for clarity.) Serial commas often introduce pauses and separation where none are needed. If I write “apples, oranges, and plums,” I’m not letting the conjunction ‘and’ do its work. The reader doesn’t need the comma before the ‘and’ because the reader gets it.

Same with the conjunction ‘but’: “He chose the oranges and apples, but not the plums,” contains a pause after apples that you don’t need. You can do it if you want, but that’s a different point I’ll slap down five paragraphs hence. (Also, unless you’re trying to strike a particularly arch tone, stop using hence, boon and behooves. Old words die and new ones are born every day. Stop keeping outmoded words on life support as if they’re a regular part of the lexicon. It annoys your reader if it’s apparent you’re using a thesaurus or if you expect them to run to a dictionary every few paragraphs.)

Stop throwing fits over verbed nouns. I’ve heard stick-up-the-butt English majors grouse about ‘Google’ as a verb (still! Really!) And some still haven’t gotten over impact as a verb. Let this impact you: Nouns become verbs because books shouldn’t use humans. It’s supposed to be the other way around as long as we’re at the top of the food chain and until our robot overlords rise to sentience.

Also, lose the double space after the period. That’s a holdover from typing class when people used typewriters. There are far fewer typing teachers now. Instead computer programs like Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing do that job. (And now they call it keyboarding class, by the way, presumably because it’s not just about the letter and number keys anymore. It’s about keyboarding shortcuts and formatting.) From a design perspective, the double space after the period leads to what are called rivers in the text, distracting routes of white space that  pull the eye down instead of across the text. (Okay, Elmore Leonard still uses a typewriter. If you’re Elmore Leonard, do what you want. If you’re Elmore Leonard, you can strangle a hobo on live TV and just about everyone would forgive you.)

Design questions sometimes factor into grammatical decisions. For instance, at Five Rivers — the publishing company for whom I’m Editor-at-large — we put spaces around em dashes (like I just did.) Lorina Stephens, the publisher, likes that look. It gives an airy look to the text on the page. For ’emphasis’ of a word, single quotes are used where I might otherwise switch to italic. As long as it’s consistent, makes sense and makes Lorina and her authors happy, it’s right. Internal consistency rules.

Have you read a book without quotation marks yet? I read Suckerpunch last year (a mostly excellent YA novel, nothing to do with the coming movie.) No quotation marks. I didn’t miss them a bit.

With the wave of more self-published books, you’re going to see more rules loosened. Grammar is supposed to be the servant, not the master. As the self-published author, you’ll set the rules you prefer for your book (hopefully with respect for the reader’s mind and time.) The Chicago Manual of Style is an excellent standard to fall back upon, as is AP Style. For language quirks and questions, you can’t go wrong with Eats, Shoots and Leaves and the Grammar Girl book and podcast.

Just remember that grammar rules are made by humans. They can and will change.

As long as your preferences are logical and consistent, you can get creative with your book in ways that would outrage strict grammarians.

BONUS:

Please don’t ask me to edit your book if all the dialogue is dialect. This is my personal preference and it has been done effectively, of course. However, it’s such a slow read, I have to say it just annoys the shit out of me and I am not up to that task!

Please do write a book in the second person. I loved Bright Lights, Big City and, with that notable exception (from the 80s!), traditional publishers have pretty much bricked ‘You’ away behind their arrogant Wall of Acceptability. If you’re indie, you can do it without asking for a gatekeeper’s permission.

Please do put your novellas and short stories up for sale. E-books are a perfect venue to do what paper can’t: bring back the power of short form fiction!

Take a risk. I recently edited a novel coming out from Five Rivers that combined a novel with a screenplay format. It works.

Suck on that, Mrs. Wilson!

And don’t be comin’ round heah wid no ruler or

Ah’ll rap y’knuckles so hard y’eyes’ll bleed.

Filed under: authors, Books, DIY, ebooks, Editing, Editors, getting it done, grammar, publishing, Rant, rules of writing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , ,

Editing Part III: The joy of editing

The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, 3rd...

I just received the gift of a book in the mail. I had already read this book but I was very pleased to receive it. In fact, I’d gone through this particular book in meticulous detail. The author signed the title page for me and graciously thanked me for my advice. The book in hand was a bonus for editing the work.

Editing is such picky work. I zip into and out of the on-line Chicago Manual of Style a lot. I tweak here and economize there. No matter the level of the edit, the key to good editing is asking the right questions.

Here’s a sample of the sorts of questions that run through my mind as I work:

Should that be 18th Century or Eighteenth century? Should I leave a quirky passage alone to keep the author’s voice or is the joke too much of a reach? Should I suggest new elements? Does the material make more sense if it is reorganized? Does this follow logically from that? Is that assertion a fact? Is that translation correct? What design elements could I suggest to make the book pop? What elements could I suggest that would convert a browser into a buyer? Is there an opportunity missed here? What marketing strategy could I suggest to make this a book with real long-tail potential? What’s missing? (That last one can take the work to a new level.)

In short, a good editor or proofreader will question everything.

An experienced editor will pick up on what’s on the page and what’s not there that’s hurting the book.

In the end, I let it go back to the author to decide which of my suggestions to act upon. When it’s done, the author’s name is on the front cover. I always say some variation of: “She’s still your baby. She’s healthy and you’ll recognize her. She wasn’t sick but she’s feeling even better now.” The reader will never know how much or how little I did. The job is to make the author look good. (And sell more books.)

And you know what? It’s fun. I’m not gleeful about it in the way I know some editors are. When I was in journalism school and when I worked for a daily newspaper, I ran into editors who were looking for stuff so they could catch you out. It was a game for them and they acted like it was the only way they could find to feel good about themselves. When they caught something—anything—writers got snarky remarks and not just a little passive aggressive indignation. Editors like that are sad and make me tired.

I find editing fun because it’s an intellectual challenge and the collaborative process makes the book better than it otherwise would have been. Higher quality editorial work translates to more authority to the author, more sales for the current book and more sales for the author’s next book. A helpful edit can morph an experiment that didn’t quite come together into a legacy book that will delight, distract, elevate, educate, provoke, redeem and earn for years to come.

A good edit will pay for itself.

And generally? No, an unedited book doesn’t stand a chance.

Filed under: authors, Books, ebooks, Editing, Editors, grammar, publishing, self-publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

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