#AmEditing | How #CopyEditing Boosts #Book Sales

Keep Calm and Let the Copy Editor Handle It
Source Pinterest

In the last two posts, I’ve discussed beta reading and proofreading and how these processes will enhance the writing in your books and ultimately boost book sales. The more professional and easier to read the content in your book is, the more likely people will buy it, tell others about it, and leave you shiny 5-star reviews—no matter what genre you’re writing in. But in the vast world of fiction, genres like horror, erotica, paranormal, and sometimes sci-fi, can be seen comparatively as “less than” their literary and more “slice of life” type counterparts. If your work falls under any of those (or any combination of those) styles, investing in any one of these three services will do a great service to your book or novel and its subsequent sales.

Going a step beyond beta reading and proofreading, copy editing is far more invasive as a process. It is looking at the construction of the writing, each sentence, to make sure the words within that sentence work well together and to make sure each sentence builds to the next one without being redundant, overly complex, or laden with passive and unbalanced language. Unlike its more simplistic counterparts, copy editing will take on issues with layout, formatting, and developmental continuity (at every level, from running headers to table of contents to lists of figures and images to the color of your protagonist’s hair and the name of their one and only cousin).

Because this process is much more invasive and, in my opinion, more strict, I chose the definition provided by the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Yes, it is a British source, and it’s an articulate and detail-oriented definition that leaves little to doubt. That’s precisely what I like about it.

Here is how they define a copy editor –

A professional copy-editor begins by checking that the copy is complete. Do the chapter titles and other elements match the list of contents? Are all the illustrations to hand? Is there a list of captions? What system of referencing is required? Are there footnotes or endnotes? Then the editor cleans up a copy of the document, fixes page set-up, spacing and fonts, cuts unwanted formatting, creates a stylesheet and starts to identify problems.

Working through the material, the copy-editor corrects errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar, style and usage, but also very long sentences and overuse of italic, bold, capitals, exclamation marks and the passive voice. They correct or query doubtful facts, weak arguments, plot holes and gaps in numbering. In fiction, they also check that characters haven’t changed their name or hair colour, look for sudden changes from first to third person and monitor the timeline, among other things.

And, here is how they define copy editing –

Copy-editing takes the raw material (the ‘copy’: anything from a novel to a web page) and makes it ready for publication as a book, article, website, broadcast, menu, flyer, game or even a tee-shirt.

The aim of copy-editing is to ensure that whatever appears in public is accurate, easy to follow, fit for purpose and free of error, omission, inconsistency and repetition. This process picks up embarrassing mistakes, ambiguities and anomalies, alerts the client to possible legal problems and analyses the document structure for the typesetter/designer.

One of the things that beta reading, proofreading, and copy editing seem to have in common is that they all look at the “larger” and “smaller” elements of the document simultaneously. It then becomes a matter of who fixes what and when. If you are pursuing the craft and services of a copy editor, it is most likely you have not published your book yet and it has not been under a proofreader’s loving gaze. You may copy edit before you select a beta reader, but you don’t necessarily have to. Especially, if you can find a beta reader who copy edits. (Or, a professional reader who does all three…)

Having a clear understanding of what a beta reader, proofreader, and copy editor bring to your document will help you select the right services for your document—no matter which stage of the game you are in. The great thing, in this quick-pub age, is that you can now, technically, perform these services at any stage of the game. However, knowing how hard it is to delete stuff off of the Internet, it may be a good idea to be more proactive, take some time, and get your manuscript edited before you publish.

Advertisements

#NaNoWriMo Day 24 | The Dry Spell and Big Finish! #AmWriting

Source: NaNoWriMo.org
Source: NaNoWriMo.org

 

Holy Crap Bag! Talk about an extended, involuntary hiatus. I got some editing gigs (Yay!); they were bumpier rides than I expected (Yay for ‘lessons learned’!); and I have less than a week left to the month and for my goal (Yay for working under pressure!).

Good thing I have motivation:

Marc Bolan (pictured here in 1977), of T.Rex fame, has been my rock ‘n’ roll muse for the last month or so. And at his beckon call, in the last couple of days, I have been able to complete my rough draft of Survival Instinct! I was worried there for a bit, but it’s in the trunk and growing some flavor as we speak. It’s strange with the shortcut missing from my desktop now, but Midnight Ladies is keeping its spot warm. Making a beckoning call of its own.

I know I’ve been an absent parent the last week or so. I hope that you’re all staying on better track than I did. But, being able to blast out a couple scenes whenever I could take a moment or two to write was a great feeling! I haven’t written in bursts like that for years. At least not since graduate school. And, it felt really, really good!

It was also kind of nice to “know” which scene was coming up next; though, not necessarily what would happen in that scene. Because, as usual, my characters surprised me. And those things may get redacted in the beta-reading and editing phases, but for right now, I’m pleased with how my characters reacted or acted out in certain scenes, and then held back in others.

While I considered one track of evidence to hook my antagonist, it was a surprise character–that I’d felt lurking in the background, but wasn’t certain of his existence–who ended up turning the tables. The homeless squatter was not completely on his own, though, because some outlying character connections among the supporting cast also came to the surface that really brought the plot to a head. Again, while those “logical” connections seem so now, it’s going to be some distance, a round of editing, and then some beta reading that will really test how those connections support or detract from the story.

Overall, coming back to this story after considering the option of letting it go unfinished–not all of them are home runs, kids–has added fuel to the fire. I’m excited to get back into Midnight Ladies, even if I don’t meet the end of the month goal. I got halfway there, finishing this rough draft, and I’m willing to take that for a win!

How are you all doing going into the final week? Are you close to making the 50K goal? Are you struggling? Did life get in the way for you, too? Don’t let it stop you. Keep on keeping on, Authors!

 

Writer’s Digest | #Write Better #Characters

I’ve mentioned in other posts how much I rely on email alerts to keep me “in the loop” of what’s going on, not only in my chosen industry, but in the world as well. While I was at a stopping point in the middle of a project, I saw a pattern emerge across my Writer’s Digest email alerts. Between December 2014 and January 2015, the concept of creating and writing better characters must have been circulating the editorial offices pretty heavily. Brian A. Klems gave us two articles (both guest posts by Les Edgerton and Anne Leigh Parrish) on the topic, and Rachel Scheller provided an excerpt from the revised edition of Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan as a third.

The writing-tip count comes in at 17, Rebecca providing an 11-point list all by herself, leaving Anne and Les a 3-point list a piece. However, each tackles the element of a story’s character from a different angle.

Les Edgerton — This article gives a writer 3 of the best ways to introduce the main character; early on, reminding us that introducing the protagonist efficiently and immediately is a great way to hook the reader. Edgerton suggests keeping physical descriptions to a minimum, characterizing with action, and instilling individuality and depth.

Even though the readers may not need “10 pages of describing hair and eye color, height, weight and all of that kind of mundane detail” the writer may want to explore exactly how their character looks, and they can use and have that information without breaking it down into an RPG character bio right there in the manuscript. I find, in writing that I enjoy, that being able to work this information in creatively is an art and one that leads to fuller, easier-to-visualize prose.

Anne Leigh Parrish — This article gives a writer 3 steps to writing a plausible character, protagonist or supporting. Because there are plenty of things to consider when creating a fictional world, like “setting, plot, pacing, voice, imagery and so on”, it is important to remember that characters are an important part of the plot, too, and if they are weak your story could fall flat.

Keep in mind, a character doesn’t have to be nice, or moral, or a pillar of the community. Decent people with no flaws or vices don’t usually make for the most interesting reading. But nor can a character be all bad, with no redeeming traits. In other words, a character has to possess one essential element: complexity.

Parrish elaborates by stating that you should know what makes your character tick and don’t hide it under a bushel . . . essentially. The reader needs to be able to discern what drives your character, otherwise he or she won’t really be able to connect. Parrish suggests highlighting your character’s motivation, physical description (she agrees with Edgerton, that minimal is best except to highlight what stands out and makes the character unique), and personal idiosyncrasies will make them readable and memorable.

Rebecca McClanahan — In the 11-point list, Rebecca shares with writers the secrets to writing an effective character description. This would probably tie in to that RPG character bio template I linked to above, but, again, not as detailed. Six of the 11 secrets focus on how detailed (or not!) to be when presenting your characters to your readers. The other secrets focus on putting your characters in action, using active language to provide descriptions, and giving them props to show the reader who your character is.

Descriptions and walking the perfect tightrope when writing them seems to be the overarching theme here. You want your readers to connect with your characters and if you stick to the “all-points-bulletin” approach you run the risk of losing your readers to mere boredom.

This is where the axiom, “show; don’t tell” would definitely come into play. Don’t just tell us your character is using a cell phone and communicating. Think about who the character is talking to and how; why is that person trying to contact your character; is your character hiding out and about to be found? Providing context, which is what I think each of these writers is trying to say, is the best way to take your character from two dimensions to three.

Writer.ly | #Publishing a Paperback with #IngramSpark

Abigail Carter at the Writer.ly Community has been gracious enough to share her publishing woes with the world in a generous attempt to make it easier on the rest of us. Though Amazon.com, Kindle, and CreateSpace are pretty ubiquitous to the self-publishing realm, IngramSpark is coming up behind rather quickly. I’ve heard the name tossed around a bit, but this is the first eye-witness experience I’ve seen detailed by an actual author using their system.

From the sounds, it isn’t a slick and smooth process–but, is anything in this business slick and smooth besides the final product? Unlikely. Abigail discusses the design, uploading, and final cost issues of working with IngramSpark and if it was ultimately worth it.

Read the entire article by following the link and enjoy a brief excerpt below.

Publishing a Paperback with IngramSpark – Writer.ly Community.

I decided to publish the paperback version of my book, Remember the Moon with IngramSpark because I felt they had a better ability to distribute my book across a wider range of venues (actual bookstores) than Amazon’s CreateSpace.

At first glance, it seemed like it would be an easy process. Post a pdf of the cover and the interior, upload and voila! Get a proof and you’re off and selling! Of course reality is always more painful.

Narrative Magazine Winter 2015 #Story #Contest

Winter 2015 Story Contest Promo
Source: Narrative Magazine

Narrative Magazine has released the information for their Winter 2015 Story Contest. Grand prize is $2500, and your $22 entry fee will grant you three months of access to Narrative Backstage.

We’re looking for short shorts, short stories, essays, memoirs, photo essays, graphic stories, all forms of literary nonfiction, and excerpts from longer works of both fiction and nonfiction.

The contest is open to previously unpublished fiction and non-fiction pieces no longer than 15,000 words, and with the March 31, 2015 deadline, there’s plenty of time to write or spruce up a substantial work to meet the established submission guidelines.

As always, we are looking for works with a strong narrative drive, with characters we can respond to as human beings, and with effects of language, situation, and insight that are intense and total. We look for works that have the ambition of enlarging our view of ourselves and the world.

Any of the stories submitted are also contenders for the $4000 Narrative Prize and Story of the Week. The story will be judged by the magazine’s editors, and winners will be announced April 30, 2015.

Narrative winners and finalists have gone on to win the Pushcart Prize, the Whiting Writers’ Award, and the Atlantic prize, and have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and others. View all the recent awards won by Narrative authors.

Find their submission link here:
Winter 2015 Story Contest | Narrative Magazine.

Writer’s Digest | 50 Articles to Help Your #Writing in 2015

Whoa! That’s right, fifty, 5-0, articles that will boost your writing mojo for the new year. Who needs to lose weight, get mindful, or eat healthy? Psh, not me. Not when I can increase my word might and flex those writing muscles.

As if I needed another reason . . . as if you did, am I right?

And that’s what I’m hoping for. Anything to keep your cursors flying across the great white expanse of digital-page landscape. Just when I thought I couldn’t find a decent collection of writing articles to share with my readers *gasp* I thought my brain might just give out.

But, Brian A. Klems, this guy, is always on point for me–even if I don’t get to his sage advice (or wise friends) as soon as he posts them. He waits, patiently, smiling from his “Writer’s Dig” and hopes I’ll just ask the right question.

Sift through the collection with the link and enjoy an introductory excerpt from the article below.

50 Articles on Writing to Help You in 2015 | WritersDigest.com.

Over the past year I posted articles on this blog that covered everything—from grammar to writing better characters to getting published and more. Here’s a cheat sheet linking to what I consider the 50 best articles that can help you reach your writing goals. My goal is to help you move your writing career forward, and, by making this easy-to-reference guide, you’ll have a chance to bookmark it and have a one-stop place to help you have a successful year of writing.

Here’s to your best year of writing! ~Brian

Kurt Vonnegut and #Writing With Style

Back in 1980 (at least according to the PDF I found via Google), Kurt Vonnegut published, with International Paper Company, an 8-point list of how to write with style. Given its age, it’s probably been passed around more times than an Nintendo DS at a 10-year-old’s birthday party, but like that DS — regardless of age, given battery power — this list still has some game left.

In his own words, Kurt explains why examining your writing style is important:

Why should you examine your writing style with the idea of improving it? Do so as a mark of respect for your readers, whatever you’re writing. If you scribble your thoughts any which way, your readers will surely feel that you care nothing about them. They will mark you down as an egomaniac or a chowderhead — or, worse, they will stop reading you.

1) Find a subject you care about.

Find a subject you care about and which in your heart you feel others should care about.

Kurt explains that genuine caring will be the most seductive element of your writing, that the readers will be able to discern it. Though he goes on to clarify that is he isn’t trying to get the reader to write a novel — however as long as you genuinely care about the topic, he “would not be sorry” — I believe there is no better way to write a novel. Especially if the subject you’re writing about is symbolic of a whole other topic; without genuine care or passion, your symbolism and narrative will fall flat.

2) Do not ramble, though.

I won’t ramble on about that.

Being concise is important, even when working with longer works of writing — novel, memoir, autobiography, or instruction manual. Kurt has another quote from the article that might have worked under this heading, as well:

Be merciless on yourself. If a sentence does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.

3) Keep it simple.

Simplicity of language is not only reputable, but perhaps even sacred. The Bible opens with a sentence well within the writing skills of a lively fourteen-year-old: “In the beginning God created the heaven [sic] and the earth.”

Although Kurt also pulls examples from Shakespeare (“To be or not to be?”) and Joyce (“She was tired.” [From short story “Eveline”]), I thought his concluding thought under this heading was more powerful. The very book that forms the basis for a major world religion opens up with the creative writing strength of a child, which goes on to prove the point that keeping language simple keeps it accessible.

4) Have the guts to cut.

…[Y]our eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head.

Under this heading is where Kurt’s second quote at the second point up there originally appeared — have the brass ones to get rid of what isn’t working. If it’s good writing but just isn’t working in the story you’re editing, clip and save it like a coupon for Ramen [quite the rarity]. Have a scrap file/folder for snippets that have potential but just don’t belong anywhere yet. There are plenty of note-keeping devices, apps, and software to keep every kind of writer organized and primed for cutting the unraveling bits of thread.

5) Sound like yourself.

All these varieties of speech are beautiful, just as the varieties of butterflies are beautiful. No matter what your first language, you should treasure it all your life. If it happens not to be standard English, the result is usually delightful, like a very pretty girl with one eye that is green and one that is blue.

Even if you’re just an Indianapolis man whose “common speech” reminds some of “a band saw cutting galvanized tin” if only because its vocabulary is “as unornamental as a monkey wrench”, you must be true to yourself. Use the language you know, the language you’re familiar with — and I don’t just mean your mother tongue. Even if you’re trying to establish a voice, you ultimately only have the words, phrases, and concepts that you already know or that you’ve already established. Readers will trust you more when you sound genuine.

6) Say what you mean to say.

My teachers wished me to write accurately, always selecting the most effective words, and relating the words to one another unambiguously, rigidly, like parts of a machine. The teachers did not want to turn me into an Englishman after all. They hoped that I would become understandable — and therefore understood.

No, Kurt didn’t have John Mayer on his playlist — but Mayer may have taken a cue from Vonnegut:

You better know that in the end / It’s better to say too much / Than never say what you need to say again

Though there might have been some argument over just how much to say, both Mayer and Vonnegut have the same message — if you’ve got something to say, have great thought and intention behind it and just say it!

7) Pity the readers. 

They have to read, an art so difficult that most people don’t really master it even after having studied it all through grade school and high school — twelve long years.

Mismatched pen scratches on a page; lines, dots, and spaces creating words, creating thoughts. The reader, who is an “imperfect artist”, must be given sympathy and clarity at every collection of scratches, lines, and dots. Kurt calls this “the bad news”, but that’s in comparison to the American freedom of being able to write whatever we want. However, this is where I would divert the “Good Time Vonnegut Advice Train” and bring up the concept of respect in opposition to thinly implied condescension.

Though, I praise his view on the difficulty of the art of reading, I would suggest here to respect your readers by really knowing your audience. This is all part of building your authorial platform now, but in a lot of instances avid readers become writers of the genre/style they enjoyed reading to begin with — not writing for yourself, but writing the things you want to read and hoping others want to read it, too!

8) For really detailed advice.

You should realize, too, that no one would care how well or badly Mr. White expressed himself, if he did not have perfectly enchanting things to say.

Here, Kurt commends to our attention The Elements of Style written, of course, by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White. Kurt references 1979 MacMillan version, but here’s the Fourth Edition from 1999. There are some “bogus” newer versions on Amazon.com, but they are the “free” versions of the 1918 edition that Strunk wrote alone. If there is a newer Strunk & White, please let me know in the comments!

Which authors do you seek out for writing advice?

Just 3 Things Before You Start That #Story

I have been reading a lot of indie fiction lately, between work I’m editing and blogs I follow here at WordPress. Among that fiction has been some real highlights and some very, very low lights. I would never try to dissuade someone from writing fiction–as the craft can be honed, I believe, with more reading and writing–but there are a few basics that every writer should have in mind before they begin their story. If only to serve as guidelines that will give your writing structure and a baseline for every reader to follow along. By lining up these three simple milestones, you can use creativity and defamiliarization in the content of your fiction to render your readers speechless and clamoring for more!

1) Perspective: Or, who is your narrator?

Narrators guide your reader through the story. Sometimes plots are mysteries, dangerous, or too traumatic for the reader to experience “firsthand”–so a guide is installed to cushion the blow or help the reader discover the mystery. The narrator can be one of your side characters, a protagonist, or an omniscient separate entity who speaks directly to the reader. These are called perspectives and are used in the first-person (narrator refers to self [me, myself, I]), second-person (narrator refers to ‘you’), and third-person (narrator refers to he, she, they) varieties.

Perspective orients your reader to your story and can be used as a way to protect your reader from the horrors ahead or make them live it simultaneously with your protagonist. Once a perspective is chosen it’s important to maintain that perspective throughout your story, otherwise the reader can become confused about what action is happening to who and how that information was collected to be shared before, after, or during the fact.

Which takes me to number 2…

2) Direction: Or, when is this story taking place?

The direction of your story is more fluid than the perspective, because stories can be told non-linearly (or not in the chronological order in which events actually occurred). Since the human memory works by association, it is common for things happening now to trigger memories of the past or cravings for things yet to come. And, plot lines do not always land straight; what would be the fun in that?

However, to give your readers an anchor or a thin line to follow in the dark, it pays to have an idea at the beginning whether or not your narrator/protagonist is reflecting on past events, hoping for/moving toward future events, or just living in the moment. Propulsion from that point in any direction is possible and viable, but just make sure it’s clear to your reader when a character is experiencing a flashback or daydreaming about the future. To not be able to tell the difference means your readers will feel short-changed at the end of the story or with the end of the conflict.

Which takes me to number 3…

3) Plot: Or, what is the essence of the conflict?

Conflict drives plot. Facing conflicts shows off the personality of your characters and can work toward defining the parameters of your story. Even with our current obsession with “human” bad guys, having a bad guy to face off against the good guy establishes a frame for your story to occur within. A conflict also provides a beginning, a middle, and an end for your story to discover, overcome, and, then, reach.

Conflict can occur on three different levels: character versus the world, character versus self, and character versus antagonistic character (often with a larger sense of power than the other), or the “David & Goliath” type of story. Being clear about the kind of conflict–not that these can’t overlap or even occur within the same story–your character(s) face makes the story more enjoyable and easier to follow for your readers. It also provides a satisfying conclusion; often bringing your reader right back to the beginning of the book to relive the intrigue again!

Again, these are three very basic and very easy milestones to achieve with some practice and just a little bit of forethought or planning. Outlining a story can help establish these from the beginning, but if you aren’t into outlining, just keeping detailed notes near where you write or edit can help you reign in any loose ends or other unraveling bits.

Good luck and get writing!

15th Annual Short Short #StoryCompetition from Writer’s Digest

Writer’s Digest is holding a Short Short Fiction Competition, without listing their genre or non-genre requirements, for pieces under 1,500 words. Winners up to the 25th place will be compensated financially, but first place can take home $3,000, national exposure from Writer’s Digest magazine, and paid travel for the Writer’s Digest Conference. All entrants will be given the opportunity to attend a webinar hosted by award-winning author Jacob Appel.

The deadline is December 15, and authors can register and pay online or offline. Entry fee is $25 per manuscript. Winning manuscripts are scheduled to publish in May 2015, with early orders being shipped in June. Stories will appear in the July/August edition of the magazine. All winners up to 10th place will be published in the magazine and receive copies of the 15th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Story Competition Collection, 2015 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, and the 2015 Guide to Literary Agents.

Follow the link below to enter and see winners’ spoils in detail. Good luck!

Short Short Story Competition | WritersDigest.com.

Just one contest not enough for you? Check out more writing contests from Writer’s Digest!

Writer’s Digest | Qualities of #HighConcept Stories

The criterion some publishers call for is a “high-concept” story idea or plot line. Well, Brian A. Klems and “The Writer’s Dig” bring in story editor and story structure consultant Jeff Lyons to discuss the 7 Qualities of High-Concept Stories.

I’ve often wondered myself just what high-concept means, and I think Jeff does a fine job of outlining how an author can reach that concept. Especially since most publishers won’t tell you what high-concept means, just that they want it.

Read the entire article by clicking the link below, and enjoy an introductory excerpt about the panic you might be feeling now that you know your wishlist publishers only want one kind of story…

Write Better: The 7 Qualities of High-Concept Stories | WritersDigest.com.

Stumped by submission guidelines calling for “high-concept” romance, suspense, young adult or other popular fiction? These 7 qualifiers will help you gauge how (and where) your work fits in.

You’re ready to begin the process of pitching your book to prospective literary agents or publishers. You begin combing through market listings, thinking it will be a simple matter of finding those who accept work in your genre—but time and again, you discover submission guidelines expressing a preference for “high-concept” stories. Your brow furrows. High concept? What the heck does that mean? Your confusion turns to frustration, and maybe even panic, because no one on your wish list defines this popular term d’art. They simply declare that it is what they want a story to be, it is what they prefer, indeed, it is the Holy Grail for submission success. But how are you to succeed when you don’t even understand what they’re asking for?