Category Archives: editing

How do I improve this sentence? A Quora question

Since Quora likes to collapse my answers in an effort to keep me quiet, I’m copying and pasting some of the Quora Q and A’s in which I’ve participated. Here’s a question from Quora.

Question: How can I improve the following sentence?

 

Addendum: They hence end up preferring better ways of ensuring that these issues never arise again in their counties.

 

Answer: Good question, a question worthy of an editor.

 

We certainly have an ugly, clunky sentence up there. What’s it saying? What will the paragraph explain? These are questions a writer, or an editor, must be able to answer.

 

As I’ve stated ad nauseam: When you’re writing your story, article, post, whatever, just write what you’re thinking, but when you’re done writing, you need to find the best possible way to make a point to a target audience. Write for you. Edit for an audience.

 

Let’s look at the sentence again:

 

They hence end up preferring better ways of ensuring that these issues never arise again in their counties.

 

Okay, it seems to me that they, their issues, and their countries are the points in question.

By focusing on the meaning behind the words, we learn that people have ended up ensuring that some issues never arise in their countries. The simplest expression, I believe, is this:

 

They discovered better ways to prevent the issues from ever again arising within their countries.

 

In order to make it more complex, I need to know how they came up with better ways to prevent issues from arising. If I assume it’s through education, I write a more complex sentence.

 

For instance: Due to an improved educational system, they devised better ways to prevent the issues from ever again arising within their countries.

 

Such a case can, and should, be extended within the paragraph. Obviously, this person from Quora wasn’t writing a single sentence, but an entire article or maybe even a book. In such an event, it may be necessary to simplify such a complex sentence, and write two or three simpler sentences, but that really depends on the target audience; will it be fifth graders or grad students?

 

Editing is not only about finding the most cogent way to present ideas; it is also about presenting the cogent ideas in terms best suited for a specific audience. Many ideas are too complicated for a single sentence. That’s precisely why we write in paragraphs.

 

A paragraph should contain only a single idea, and each of its sentences should only be present to support and expound upon that idea, which is why some sentences are more complex than others, and is why some paragraphs are longer than others.

 

Can your editing software handle all that? Hire an editor. Your readers deserve it.

 

BT dubz, don’t forget that June is my BOOM month. If you don’t know what that is, read about it here….

Thanks for reading. Like, share, and all that jazz.

Does sentence structure matter?

Since Quora likes to collapse my answers in an effort to keep me quiet, I’m copying and pasting some of the Quora Q and A’s in which I’ve participated. Here’s a question from Quora.

 

Question: Is the following sentence correctly structured?

 

“One has to draw our attention to the cultural differences thay may lead to miscommunication.” How can that sentence be improved?

 

Answer: First, thay is actually that. Second, you might want to replace that with which.

 

One has to draw our attention to the cultural differences, which may lead to miscommunication.

 

However, it’s still a bit confusing.

 

It sounds like the sentence is suggesting that an outside influence is required to point out to us that cultural differences can lead to miscommunication, or it might be saying that we should pay more attention to the miscommunications caused by the cultural differences, but then again, if these differences “may” lead to miscommunication, they also “may not” lead to miscommunication—it’s too open to interpretation. What do you want say?

 

Perhaps, a simpler version is the following:

 

Only an outside force can show us that cultural differences often lead to miscommunication.

 

That’s cut and dry.

 

The differences among cultures can lead to miscommunication. The differences among cultures do lead to miscommunication. Differences of culture are one cause of miscommunication. Differences of culture go unnoticed during miscommunication.

 

Unless someone points it out, no one might notice that differences of culture go unnoticed during miscommunication.

 

Again, what do you want to say to your audience? It is not all the same. Each sentence is very different and can have a huge impact on the overall idea present within a single paragraph.

 

Writing is all about getting the thoughts out of our heads and onto a physical or digital medium, but communication and storytelling are totally different worlds from just written thoughts.

 

Have any of you ever been speaking to friends, family, or a spouse, and someone asks you to repeat what you said, or asked you to clarify, or immediately started to berate you until you had to explain that what you were explaining wasn’t what they thought you were saying?

 

All the time, right? The way you think is the way you write, but your audience is not in your head, and since you can’t clarify to them specifically after having written whatever it is that you’re writing, you must be able to provide cogent arguments, ideas, and events to a broad range of recipients who cannot question you.

 

Writing the first draft of your book, story, blog post, etc is the easy part. After you’ve written it, you have to edit, and I don’t mean adding commas or correcting misspelled words; I mean it’s time to rewrite your thoughts for people who don’t live inside your head, so that no mistakes of interpretation can be made.

 

This is the power of words, punctuation, sentence structure, paragraph form, and all facets of editing. A writer provides a sequential account of events. An editor works as an interpreter; they are someone who relates those events to a specific audience, but you can edit your own work if you learn to read your work as a reader.

 

To read your work as a reader, the most important step is to get away from whatever you’ve written for a few weeks, maybe even a few months. Then, go back and read it, and you will surely come across instances wherein you won’t even know what you were trying to say. Those will be obvious fixes, but there will more subtle instances of miscommunication, where something makes sense to you, but probably won’t make sense to anyone else, or it may just be open to interpretation.

 

It’s crazy, but no author out there thinks that what they’ve written can possibly be misconstrued, and that anyone who might misconstrue must be a dunce, so, okay, imagine that everyone is a dunce, that way you won’t leave any room for misinterpretation.

 

Everything you write, must be absolutely on point, and should leave no room for interpretation, but that means that you have to read and reread your work dozens of times, and it means that you have to scrutinize each word, each sentence, and each paragraph. Then, you have to make sure that each scene is supported by the paragraphs, and that each chapter begins and ends properly, and that no one in the world can come up with a reason that your story doesn’t work—plot holes; they’re killers!

 

If this sounds like too much work, hire an editor. There’s no shame in it. Every single mainstream writer is paired with editors. It’s how the entire publishing industry works. Do you really think you don’t need an editor? Think again.

 

Learn more here.

What’s another way of saying…? a Quora question

Since Quora likes to collapse my answers in an effort to keep me quiet, I’m copying and pasting some of the Quora Q and A’s in which I’ve participated. Here’s a question from Quora.

 

Question: What’s another way of saying “in my opinion”?

 

Answer: That’s actually a great question.

 

First, it’s important to note that writers are thinkers. Writers are people who write down what they are thinking, but people, all people, have choice words and phrases, which is why, despite what Stephen King says, it’s important to use a thesaurus.

Stephen King, the greatest detriment to writers
Stephen King, the greatest detriment to writers

 

Here’s what I think: While you’re writing, writing your first draft of a novel, the first draft of a blog post, or the first draft of whatever, it’s important to just write your thoughts down as they come. After you have the entirety of your thoughts, scenario, chapter, book, you need to go back through and clean it up, right? That’s when you should actually bust out the thesaurus, and if that’s what King meant then that’s fine, but we all know that he has teams of editors who most assuredly use a thesaurus even if he doesn’t.

 

Why do we need to use thesaurus, though? Is it not okay to say “big” all the time?

 

Well that depends; are we writing a children’s book, a one page blog post, an e-mail?

 

Let me tell you, if you’re writing a full length 400 page novel for an adult audience, you’d better find another word for big, but is huge the right word? Maybe, a better word is enormous; it depends, but that’s not exactly what I want to touch on here because the question was about a phrase, specifically.

 

What’s another way of saying “in my opinion”?

 

What I think.

What I believe.

My thoughts are.

I have heard.

I have been taught.

In my experience.

It seems to me.

Considering what I’ve learned.

Judging by my evidence.

According to my views.

 

The list is practically endless, but the point is that there are numerous words, phrases, thoughts, that each of us, individually, gravitate towards; for instance, I use “for instance” a lot. I also use “a great deal” quite a bit, and it isn’t so much that the repetition is stagnant, rather there are times where a certain phrase or word will work more effectively; I’ve gone through this with a post called A Word, so rather than rehashing all of that here, I just want to add something.

 

Characters, especially the protagonist, antagonist, love interest, and support crew must sound different from one another, but how can that be accomplished without learning to think from a view that is not your own?

 

Well, the answer is not quite so complex. First of all, the view has to, per force, be your own, but not your normal view. Here’s what I mean: As I stated, I say “for instance” and “a great deal” a great deal…a joke, but a true joke.

 

Now, in order to make my characters sound different, I employ specific phrases, words, and mannerisms–just a handful for each character.

 

For instance (another joke), Martinez, while speaking to his mates, may end most sentences with “ya’ heard?” Martinez might rub his nose quite often. Martinez might employ tons of hand gestures.

 

This means that Flora and Jimmer can never say “ya’ heard?” unless mocking Martinez. This means Flora and Jimmer can’t do the things that Martinez does. Flora needs to take long pauses and stare people in the eye for an uncomfortable period before speaking. Jimmer needs to chew his mustache when he thinks. Feel me?

 

Looking for words you don’t normally use by utilizing your thesaurus is what makes your story better. Listening to people speak, and trying to find new ways of phrasing ideas, is what makes your story better.

 

This doesn’t just apply to stories though, this applies to all writing. Should an informal cooking blog sound the same as NYSE blog? Probably not, right?

 

If you like this post, make sure to share.

 

Enjoyed this slice of information? Tell your friends.

 

Be sure to let people know where they can find quality information.

 

All ways of saying the same thing, but the impact varies, right? Thanks!

How can I show readers that my stories are well written and edited? A Quora Question

Since Quora likes to collapse my answers in an effort to keep me quiet, I’m copying and pasting some of the Quora Q and A’s in which I’ve participated. Here’s a question from Quora.

writer editor

Question: With all the terrible self published books on the market, how can I show readers that mine are well written and edited?

 

Answer: The same way you sell your self published books…build a fan base. The question then is: How does one build fan base?

In the last post, I touched on the signs of a bad publishing contract, and I added that some of the smaller presses don’t really employ editors. Editing is a huge part of becoming a successful novelist, which is obviously why someone cared enough to post this question on Quora.

Since I’ve been through the ringer, let’s assume the writer in question is myself—it isn’t, but that’s not the point.

 

I did start off incorrectly with my career, so when my first books were released by Eternal Press, not only were they not properly edited (even though EP employed “editors”), but I had no fans to purchase my books!

First, I thought EP was going to market my books, and that’s a tale for another time, and no, these books weren’t truthfully “Self published books”, but they were treated as such. I’ll explain.

 

Here’s what I did after publishing through EP, and after hiring numerous editors and actually landing a good one who taught me what editing is: I rewrote everything I had ever written, which included my short stories. This way I also had the chance to really apply the principles of proper editing, and pit them against unedited, or improperly edited, books.

 

I showed pieces of those short stories in their original form on my blog, and then I showed the rewritten segments. I also re-released those short stories, for free, with new covers and blurbs to Smashwords.

 

Without even promoting those stories, since they were free, people downloaded them, and people learned that my work is edited.

 

I also published a fanfiction novel to fanfiction.net, a site where serious readers are looking for serious authors to write new material for an existing franchise. My Skyrim fanfiction, also free, did well on fanfiction.net, and I also published, for free, to Smashwords, and since it passed the premium catalog, it is also available through all online retailers (with the exception of Amazon, which I don’t use anyway), so people can download my fanfiction and learn that my writing is properly edited.

 

After building a fanbase through free short stories and fanfiction, I released new novels. Usually, when I release a new novel, I make it free for the first month so my current fans don’t have to spend money on my new work; this also gets me a few more new fans.

 

At this point, everyone knows my work is properly edited because numerous people have been able to download my work for free, and I now have a substantial fan base; the two went hand-in-hand.

 

It is imperative that an indie author hires an editor, a competent editor, but it is perhaps more important for an indie author to amass an extensive fan base before publishing their first novel.

 

A fan base can be built in numerous fashions, but I suggest building a fan base as a reader who dissects and reviews all kinds of books (mainstream and indie). Other readers will take your critiques seriously, and you will build a fan base of actual readers that way, (not just other writers) plus you can actually sell Smashwords books while doing this, thus learning how to sell books along the journey. Then, once you have a fan base, you can begin showing your fans that you, too, have written something.

 

Use your blog; release your entire novel one chapter at a time, and show people how you edit. This worked splendidly for Chris Paolini. You can build a huge fan base through fanfiction. That was how E. L. James rose to stardom, right?

 

The truth is that anyone with even a half assed idea for a story, even an uninspired idea, can rise to witness mega fandom; build a loyal fan base before writing a debut novel, hire a competent editor, engage avid beta-readers, release tons of short stories, and other free bodies of work, and just work hard everyday.

 

You can learn about selling books through Smashwords here

 

You can learn more about proper editing here:

Editing One Shot by Lee Child

Less is More

Structure

Don’t forget to follow my blog on Quora where I talk about all kinds of things reading, writing, and editing, as well as some other stuff, too.

 

How to use a semicolon

self aggrandizing aaron meme

 

The semicolon

This guy ;

I haven’t written anything regarding my experiences from Quora in a little while, but I came across a quote, which I simply brushed off for quite some time; it was a quote regarding the semicolon. Then, I remembered answering a question on Quora about the semicolon.

The quote—and I don’t recall who said it, or if anyone actually said it at all; sometimes, people just write their own thoughts and claim someone else said something in order to pass their quirks off as something with a far deeper meaning, but I digress—the quote was along the lines of the following: I don’t use semicolons in my writing. Semicolons are just used by people who want to let everyone know that they went to college.

Well, that’s a stupid outlook.

The question from Quora was in regards to the proper use of semicolons and had nothing to do with the quote, but as is often the case, a wild hair grows right up my anus, and I have to expound my own thoughts—love me or leave me….

Question: When does one use a semicolon?

Answer: A semicolon can be used to provide a list of items or ideas.

He went to the store and purchased the following items; beer, bread, milk, eggs, and toilet paper.

This is in lieu of the following statement: He went to the store and purchased beer, bread, milk, eggs, and toilet paper.

As you can plainly see, the information provided in both statements is exactly the same. There is no difference, pragmatically, whatsoever. In this instance, the structure of the statement depends on you, the writer, and how you wish to provide your information to an audience.

If you were to write children’s books, you’d probably use the simpler version, and refrain from the semicolon. If you were writing a term paper on the history of espionage, you’d probably like to sound more professorial, and go for the semicolon version.

There is another time to employ the semicolon, and it is used where most people comma splice. The semicolon is used to tie together two thoroughly related sentences; both sentences must be complete clauses. This is a case where a period can also be used.

He went to the store; the Best Buy on Main St. is always busy, but he needed a new laptop right away.

The idea can also be written as the following: He went to the store. The Best Buy on Main St. is always busy, but he needed a new laptop right away.

It cannot be written in the following manner: He went to the store, the Best Buy on Main St. is always busy, but he needed a new laptop right away.

Now, why would anyone want to use the semicolon in lieu of the period?

The same reason as was stated earlier; if you are writing a book for someone of grade school age, you’d certainly refrain from the semicolon, and use the period in order to create shorter, simpler sentences. If you were writing a term paper for grad school, it’d probably be best to create more complicated sentences. Why? Presumably, a grad school student needs to provide more complex information within a paragraph, yet this is all hypothetical, subjective, from the point of view of the writer/editor and intended audience, and combined with personal predilection given any number of circumstances.

Inspect the following paragraph:

The CIA as an organization buys and sells information; they often work for various governments and against various governments and often for the same employer. Moreover, the CIA is not a single faction; they are a plethora of organizations, and all of them work together under various names, so it should not come as a shock that ISIS is in fact a CIA faction. There is little doubt that such an idea will ever be presented by anyone else, and should someone provide such an insight, it will surely be disregarded immediately.

Here’s the same paragraph verbatim:

The CIA as an organization buys and sells information. They often work for various governments and against various governments and often for the same employer. Moreover, the CIA is not a single faction. They are a plethora of organizations, and all of them work together under various names, so it should not come as a shock that ISIS is in fact a CIA faction. There is little doubt that such an idea will ever be presented by anyone else, and should someone provide such an insight, it will surely be disregarded immediately.

In the second version, both semicolons were replaced by periods. Once again, the information provided is identical, but the first version “reads” smoothly, where as the second feels “choppy”.

(Choppy is not dialogue, so the period does not belong inside the quotation marks. Quotation marks are also punctuation, and the only time other items of punctuation belong within the quotation marks is during dialogue. I don’t care what anybody else tells you; just because an idea has been accepted as the common stance does not mean it is correct. There was a time when the common stance indicated the earth was the center of the solar system, and we all learned a lesson from that, right?)

What needs to be stressed is that, for the most part, a paragraph is comprised of three or more sentences. The provision of too many sentences can cause a paragraph to expound upon multiple ideas, which is incorrect; a paragraph must elucidate a single idea, no matter how complex it may be, but the more complex the idea, the more complex must be its supporting sentences, hence linking numerous sentences by way of the semicolon. You can think of this in terms of afterthoughts, which are thoroughly correlated to one another, yet may by themselves distract from the main idea.

Fortunately, the semicolon, like the Oxford comma, is one of those strange pieces of punctuation that yields to choice, to predilection. Do you want to employ a semicolon? You don’t have to. Do you want to employ the Oxford comma? You don’t have to. The choice is yours, and the choice must be predicated on two ideas: How would you like to be regarded, and who is your audience?

I dropped everything I was doing and wrote this because often I cannot stomach the hubris of writers; I have written copiously about that idiot Stephen King, and other morons like Lloyd, ad nauseam. They are so often out there, wielding their success, lording it over your heads, prattling on about the proper way of writing. I’m certainly glad they have achieved fame, success, and financial security, but more often than not, the information they present is really just their personal take, their predilection; they also always, always, forget that they have editors, and that their editors, if they’re worth a damn, change all their writers’ quirks in order to provide readers a better experience; writing is not only about stating facts. It is also about the best possibly way to convey meaning, and that’s where punctuation often comes into play; we don’t only read words, we read punctuation in order to understand what someone else wants us to think, feel, experience….

I know that it seems sensible to take their advice to heart since they achieved success with their quirks, but this is often not the actual case; editors have rewritten their clients’ books, and a lot of those quirks are omitted, yet the writers maintain their stance. Using a semicolon won’t keep you from being successful. Starting sentences with conjunctions won’t make you successful. Vomiting sentence fragment after sentence fragment won’t make you successful, so what good is their advice? The advice of writers is usually worth less than the paper on which it’s written.

Why listen to me, right? I am also an editor.

What writers should be doing instead of telling you to avoid phrases such as “for a long moment” (more idiot Stephen King nonsense) is telling you to avoid abusing words like would, could, and should. Have you ever dropped a book because you read that a character paused for a “long moment”? Of course not. In fact, look at these pictures.

this is a picture I took of one of my favorite novels, Tales of Power, by Carlos Castaneda
this is a picture I took of one of my favorite novels, Tales of Power, by Carlos Castaneda

In the eighth line, you can plainly see “for a long moment.”

(I’m quoting the author’s statement, so the period is placed correctly.)

This book, and all of his others, are all international best sellers, and Castaneda was an anthropologist from UCLA. For a long moment is not something you need to avoid, but here’s a phone screen shot of King from Twitter.

king tells you not to use for a long mement
king tells you not to use for a long moment

There’s a time and place to use the proper statements, and it if “he looked at her,” but not “for a long moment,” he then glanced at her, or peeked at her. Conversely, you may want to state: He scrutinized her, which does entail “a long moment”. Regardless, King is a self ingratiating putz who preaches avoiding thesauruses; I’ll bet his editors use them, though, putz!

I’ll bet you dropped a book because you felt the writer kept you at arm’s length, though, right? Writers should be telling you to avoid using editing software, and instead, hire an actual editor, but the truth is that they are frightened little rabbits—they are riddled with self-doubt and insecurities— and they know people like you and me are gunning for their spot as best writer in the world, and so they give you bullshit advice in the hopes of deterring you from success.

Use a semicolon if you’re writing for adults—use it correctly. Hire an editor who understands how to transform your dry account of sequential events into a story. Learn to build a fan base before publishing your first novel. Such is the advice that writers should be giving people.

If you think I’m full of it, that’s fine, but take a few minutes to read over the following few articles;

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

Editing One Shot by Lee Child

Structure

I guarantee you, your editing software is destroying your career before it even begins…so, too, is the fake advice of these “great” writers of our times. They’re a bunch of hacks, who joined a group of other hacks, and then started praising each other and keeping out anyone with a hint of talent. Fortunately for us, today is an indie age; we’re in an age of free information, an age where anyone can become successful if they employ all the time and effort at their disposal and all without having to cater to third-party, mainstream assholes. We’re living in an age where readers are clamoring for something new and fresh, and the old dinosaurs don’t know what new and fresh means. Readers are begging you to write what they want to read, so learn how to do it.

Be sure to also check out my editing services tab rather than relying on editing software.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So you want to be a writer part 7

 

writer editor

It’s important to consider the types of publishing platforms before releasing your novel. Rather than diving right into the different kinds, I’m going to tell you a story; the story of my writing career, or rather how it began.

I initially tried my hand at writing a novel many years ago. I was about 18, in college, and still playing Dungeons and Dragons on the weekends with a great group of guys. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to write a story based on some of our adventures.

I set about the task, and three pages in, I hit a wall. I wanted my story to be true to the game, and I didn’t have all the manuals, and I certainly didn’t own all the novels, and since I was 18, that meant that the year was 2001, which is before the internet really blew up; I mean, there were certainly millions of people on the internet even back then, but I don’t think Wikipedia (shouldn’t it be Wikipaedia?) existed at the time, and I have no clue if WoC or TSR or whoever ran DnD at the time had a website, but it didn’t matter; I didn’t even have a dial-up connection; there wasn’t a need for it (this was the golden age of e-mail subscriber lists, though).

I talked to my buddies about the idea, but the more we talked, the more it seemed it was a useless endeavor. I didn’t really care too much about it either; I just thought it was going to be cool to write a book, but the fact of the matter was that my passion didn’t outweigh the obstacles, so I just let it go.

Ten years later, I had such an idea for a story I decided I was just going to go ahead and write it, or try to. I sat down and simply described the series of events, which became my very first short story: Eudora.

At that time, I had no idea how to use punctuation. I knew grammar well enough, and I’ve always maintained an abundant repertoire of words, and have always been a decent raconteur, so in the end, all I tried to do was chronicle the events of the story, and it worked. I had no plans, though, but Hell, I knew that since I completed one story, I was certainly capable of completing another; publishing stories, however, was the farthest thing from my mind.

I wrote four stories over the course of two or three months just for fun, and then I showed some friends and family, but I claimed that I had found the stories online and just thought they were neat. No one really seemed to care, until I wrote one more story. I called it: Shadowman.

There was an older gentleman I knew by the name of Jarrett Slavin (sorry if I misspelled it, Coach), who upon learning of my newfound passion, he asked to read the stories, and he really enjoyed Eudora and Shadowman, and he suggested I find a way to get published. Had it not been for him, all of my other titles would not even exist…what might have been….

Nevertheless, I was then left the daunting task of achieving publication, so I got on the internets, Googled “publishing”, found the addresses of a few publishers, and sent out my stories, of course they were all short stories, and no publisher wants those, but I found other methods of publication. I found Xlibris, a print on demand (POD) company, and of course, no sooner had I e-mailed them that I received a call, and man, oh, man was I pumped. I really thought I had just made it big league. (Big league, not bigly.)

All POD companies want is your money. They’ll take anything, and you’re responsible for your content, for your quality, but they’ll certainly charge you for reviews, trailers, covers, promotional packages, you name it; they’ll charge you, and honestly, if you have the world’s greatest book, they may actually be helpful because they can certainly help you get your book in the right hands, but my book, my four, short stories called Shadowman, were far from good, far from quality writing.

Regardless, as I spent more and more money, and then ran out of money, I kept writing, and when I finished my first, full length novel, Lokians, I started my search for publication all over again, but I knew POD was not for me. I needed someone else to do all the legwork for me, but I didn’t think it was fair that I had to pay for the legwork. I just wanted to write, so I set about the task of mailing and e-mailing traditional publishers, and even smaller presses like Edge, and no one was interested, so I did more research on what was required to achieve publication, and learned about literary agents, but when I contacted them, they never replied.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your outlook on life, I found a press, which labeled itself an independent press, Eternal Press. For all intents and purposes, everything looked good. Their books were available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, so I figured that it was a good start. By then, I knew that mainstream publishers were purposefully keeping writers out until those writers made a name for themselves, so I knew I just needed to work hard and make a name for myself through a small, independent press.

Well, initially, I submitted my manuscript, and the acquisitions editor was kind enough to tell me that while my story seemed interesting, there was a great deal of information dumped onto the reader right at the very beginning, so I went through a round of what I thought was editing, and figured out that rather than telling the reader everything I thought they should know before the story started, it might be better to allow the world to unfold throughout the story. Then, I resubmitted, and they accepted it, and man, oh, man did I think I had hit it big. An actual publisher with editors, and marketers, and everything was going to polish my book and sell it, and all I had to do was sit back and write.

Well, when the contracts came, everything seemed legit. All they had asked was that I also made an effort to market and sell the book, and I thought that was only fair; it was my book after all, and I certainly wanted to talk about it, so I made social media accounts and started telling no one (because I had not built a fan base) that my book was coming out.

Next, I had to write a blurb, and I didn’t know what that was, nor had I comprehended its importance, so I just wrote about what the story was. No one made an effort to correct me, so I thought I had nailed it. Then, I had to come up with a cover, and I am not really an artist; I’m not even a visual person, so I came up with some weird concept with a bunch of aliens and space ships, and they told me to try again because it was too flashy, too busy. Later, I realized the truth was that they didn’t actually employ artists, and I’ll get back to that later.

We settled on a cover, which I didn’t really like, but I was just so excited and so ready to start selling, I accepted. Then, we moved on to editing. The “editor” made very few comments, adjustments, and suggestions, and so again, I thought I had nailed it. I mean, if an editor doesn’t have much to say or change then the story must be near perfect, right? Well…not so much.

Finally, the release date came, and the book was finalized. I was invited to join some Yahoo groups and even participate in a live chat where I was to discuss my book with potential readers. It turned out that there were no readers, only other authors writing for the same press. That was a little disappointing, but I didn’t think anything of it because I knew the publisher was certainly going to sell my book. Selling books is their job, and if they don’t sell, they can’t stay in business, right?

Wrong again; they made their money by enticing their writers to purchase copies of their own books, just like a POD company, and then it became my job to go out and find places to set up and sell to people, but no one let me do such a thing. Barnes and Noble didn’t allow it. Books-a-Million didn’t allow it. There are no local bookstores where I live, so my best bet was a friend’s comic book store, which felt really awkward because his customers where there to buy comic books, and out of the hundred copies of my terribly written book, I sold three on my first attempt, and none on my second attempt.

In the meantime, my e-books were priced at nearly seven dollars. Who is going to spend seven dollars on an unheard of book by an unknown author when they can spend nine or ten dollars on Harry Potter? The answer? No one. In the three years that I was published through Eternal Press, and with the four books that I released through them, I may have earned as much as forty dollars. That meant that Eternal Press also earned about forty dollars off my sales, and about five hundred dollars off my purchasing my own, print copies. That meant that if every writer, and there were hundreds of us, each bought five hundred dollars worth of books each year, Eternal Press made some decent money, but the writers only ever spent money.

Consider that if I had sold all of my print copies at twenty dollars that’s only $2,000, and that sounds great, but then you have to subtract the $500 spent on purchasing the copies, and I think it was more than that, but we’ll keep the numbers round. That leaves a $1,500 profit, which is still nice, but then you have to factor in time, travel, gas, food, the posters I had made up, the business cards, and in the end, had I sold all of my copies, all one hundred in one day, I may have cleared $800. That’s still not terrible, but without the fan base to be able to move all hundred copies over the course of a day, a week, or even a month, that $800 not only dwindles from continuously traveling and setting up, but it starts looking worse and worse. Had I sold all hundred copies over the course of a year, which I didn’t, that’s still $800, and probably less, over the course of a year, hardly a success story, and as I stated, I didn’t sell more than three copies.

I kicked, I cried, I screamed, I complained, I begged; I wanted my prices lowered, so that the e-books would sell. I wanted to submit updated versions of my books, too, versions that didn’t have common errors and formatting errors; yeah, formatting errors. How retarded was Eternal Press? They weren’t even capable enough to format their books properly, and in the end, there was nothing to be done. The product was what the product was, and I had the option of peddling my crap and disappointing readers, or sitting idly by until the contracts expired; I mean, Eternal Press wasn’t selling anything.

During that time, I wrote a great deal more for two reasons. For one, I just really enjoyed it, and two, I felt a need to vindicate myself, or perhaps apologize to readers for having released dreck. Then, of course, I had to figure out what kind of publication I was going to try next; I certainly wasn’t going to go through Eternal Press again.

I spoke to a few, other, smaller presses, but I didn’t like what they had to say; they wanted money up front, they didn’t want to make the books available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, or anywhere apart from their site, or they wanted to keep too much off the top, so I went back through my old, short stories, cleaned ‘em up, and published free to Smashwords, entered those stories into their premium catalog, and bang! Those stories made it onto Barnes and Noble…and iBooks…and Kobo…and Nook, and you name it.

I also wrote fanfiction and published it to FanFiction.net, and with my newly released short stories, which were free, I started to build a fan base, but my titles with Eternal Press just rotted away, and I could not, in good faith, promote those titles because they were not the best of me. Finally, I hired a few editors for my new, full-length titles.

One editor, after paying for services, told me to re-write my book, and then resubmit, for another fee, of course. I did not hire them again. The second editor just re-wrote my whole book from start to finish in their own voice with their own views. I mean, it was a totally different book with different characters and different interactions at that point. I did not keep any of those changes. Then, I hired a real editor, Chuck Sambuchino, and he taught me how to edit my story for readers.

That book was released under the title The Dragon of Time, Gods and Dragons, and it has gone on to do quite well. Through CreateSpace, I made print copies available, and they are much cheaper to sell, and purchase for my own uses, than the print copies released by Eternal Press or Xlibris. I also e-published, for free, to Amazon, which I then pulled for reasons that are not yet pertinent, and since I had hired my own cover artist for five dollars through Fiverr.com, I had a banging cover, a cover that blew the covers made by Eternal Press to dust.

I also uploaded the book to Smashwords, which meant it made it to all, online retailers, and get this, I got to keep almost all of the money earned from sales, and other people can also sell my book via an affiliate link, so we all make money. I must admit, though, that I did try to use Gods and Dragons to land an agent and achieve major publication, and while numerous agents replied, and with admiration, no one felt it was “marketable”, but that isn’t accurate; the truth is that they didn’t think I had enough fans, which meant the mainstream publishers wouldn’t touch it because, remember, they want your fans, not the other way around.

This is precisely why I want you to build a fan base before writing your debut novel. Then, you can prove to the agent that you’re the real deal!

At any rate, Eternal Press wound up being purchased by another company and became Caliburn Press. No one told me for the longest time, but then an old friend from Eternal Press happened to ask me how I liked the new owners, so I went and found out that my books weren’t even available on Caliburn’s website, but they were still available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, so I got in touch with Caliburn over the discrepancy to learn that my contracts had been “lost in transition”. After some arguing, I simply stated that if that was the case, and there were no copies of my contracts, then the rights were mine, and I demanded all my titles pulled.

At this stage, while writing this very post, I have gone back and recreated all four of those books. Three are part of the Lokians series, and the fourth book was Shadowman, which has been totally overhauled, and is now titled: Otherside. I mention this to show that it has been nothing short of a long and arduous journey, and I am discussing it because I am trying to show you all the possible pitfalls of publishing. The short of this: go big or go home.

What I mean is; either do not stop trying to achieve major publication, or just go the self published route. You might get lucky with an actual, independent press like Edge Publishing, Rocking Horse Publishing, or Baen, but you had better be careful. Do your research. Look at their books on their site, on Amazon, on Barnes and Noble, on iBooks. Look at their prices, if there’s an option, look inside and read some of the titles. Don’t be shy; go and track down the authors, too, and ask them how they like being published through that press.

Now, the nitty-gritty:

If you have a fan base, if you have a bangin’ title, cover, and blurb, and if your book is expertly polished, self publishing is a fantastic way to go. Not only do you have complete control—Hell, even King self publishes some titles—but you get to keep almost all of your money, except the money Amazon will steal from you. I’m not even kidding, they will steal from you ten and twelve cents at a time, and they will often not pay you for Kindle pages read through KOLL, or KULL, or KENP, or whatever the Hell it is now. That’s why I pulled my e-titles from Amazon, but Smashwords has been a paragon of self publishing.

If your book isn’t up to snuff, though, self publishing can kill your career before it begins. Basically, the thing to note is that your book must be near perfect to land a literary agent or be taken seriously by a real, indie press, and if your book is that good and well written, you can use it to just make a name for yourself by self publishing, but self publishing requires so much friggin’ work because all of the responsibility falls on you, but then if you’ve built your fan base by following the advice from these posts, and your book is stellar, and you do self publish, and you do sell, you will be approached by agents or even publishers. Of course, if you’re already successful, for what do you need them?

That’s up to you. You may need them to help you get movie options, or you may just want them to sell for you. It’s your call, but you need to consider everything before writing your novel.

Stay away from POD companies like Friesen Press or Xlibris; everything they do, you can do, or you can hire someone to do it for you, and for a much lower price than they charge. Yes, you will have to spend some money and do some serious legwork, but even if you decide to self publish you can hire someone to turn your book into a movie, you can hire artists to turn your book into a graphic novel, you might even find some indie, game developers and sweet talk them into turning your book into a game; the possibilities are there.

Avoid hybrid presses. Some of them are obvious; they charge you upfront, or they’re really just a crowdfunding platform that charges you to use their services in the hopes that enough people will pay to publish your book; utter nonsense. While I’m against crowdfunding to publish a book, you can do it on your own without using a hybrid press. There’s also a ton of information out there on how to crowdfund successfully.

It’s just my personal opinion that charging people to publish your book is wrong since you can publish for free. You’ll only need money for a cover ($6 now on Fiverr, so it should be Sixerr) and to hire an editor, but if you shop for editors, you can probably get away with spending less than $1,000, so…crowdfund if you want to; no one is putting a gun to peoples’ head and forcing them to donate, so if you’re comfortable crowdfunding, asking people to give you money so you can produce content for which you charge…go for it.

Then, there are other, hybrid presses, like Eternal Press, Caliburn, or whatever they call themselves now. They are a bit more surreptitious in their behavior. They act like a small, independent press, but their staff is crap; their artists can’t make decent covers short of Photoshopping, they know nothing of blurbs, marketing, or selling books, they won’t help you get reviews, they want you to buy your books, so they can profit, and they won’t even edit your book properly.

I even had an argument with the previous owner about how to sell books, and she told me she had a business management degree and didn’t need my opinion. Well, I’m not stupid or uneducated. I know what a business management degree is, and it has nothing to do with economics, marketing, branding, or selling, and is obviously why she ended up selling the failing business.

So, if you stay away from hybrid presses and PODs, that only leaves major publication, really. It’s just as hard to get picked up by the real, independent presses as the major houses, so you’re better off trying to land an agent, which means learning how to query, how to write a synopsis, and knowing that you need to already be successful in order to be taken seriously by an agent…so, again, you might as well go self published for your debut novel, but don’t feel pressured to, either.

It’s up to you; go big or go home. Mainstream presses will certainly do their utmost to sell your book. There is no doubt about that, but that doesn’t mean that your book will sell. It doesn’t mean that your book will be expertly polished, either; I have written extensively about how terrible mainstream editors are nowadays, but hey, even crap sells, am I right? Not to mention that you can still hire a freelance editor —and will probably have to in order to be taken seriously by an agent.

The thing to consider when going mainstream is their modus operandi. Yes, if you get picked up, they may give you a small advance; debut advances are generally $2,000, but you will not earn a dime in royalties until said press earns back their $2,000, and you generally have only six months to achieve this, and if you don’t, they’ll release your contract, and not only are you back at step one, but you’ll need a new cover, a new editor (the press will still own the cover and their rewritten version of your book), and you’ll never get another shot at mainstream publication.

On the other hand, you may sell quite well, and then they will tell you to go ahead and buy 5,000 copies of your own book in order to fake your way onto the New York Time’s Best Seller list. Yup, not even kidding, so forget that $2,000 you earned; you’re about spend ten-plus grand, and then, they’ll want you to go out gallivanting from store to store across the country, and sell your books on your dime, and you may sell…you may not sell, so it really boils down to what kind of life you want.

Perhaps, you have always dreamed of traveling the country, visiting book stores, selling and signing copies, performing readings in front of adoring fans. There’s nothing wrong with that. If that’s your dream, follow it, do absolutely everything required to achieve mainstream publication. Avoid absolutely everything that doesn’t lead you to mainstream publication. Do understand that it may take years, and years, and years after completing your novel for you to find an agent and actually get published, so again, there’s no reason not to self publish your first title, prove you can sell, and then reach for mainstream publication with your second title.

Here’s why. Assume you finish your novel today, and it’s perfect, and edited, and whatever else. You contact an agent, and since you are not supposed to contact multiple agents at once, you wait, and you wait, and you wait, but you never get a reply, so after three months, you figure you can query another agent…but they don’t reply, so you wait another three month, query another agent, and a month later, they are kind enough to tell they are not interested. It’s a hassle, so you figure you’ll send your manuscript to Baen Books, but you are not supposed to query more than one publisher at a time, so you wait, and you wait, and you wait, and a whole year goes by, and they don’t reply, so you figure it’s safe to query Rocking Horse, and after eight months, they are kind enough to let you know that they are not interested…. It’s a lot of wasted time, right? You can certainly keep writing in the meantime, and should keep writing, but if you released your debut novel on your own, during your two or three year wait period, you could be making some sales, enjoying your life as a writer, and making a name for yourself. Of course this means self publishing the first book, and writing the second book with the goal of achieving mainstream publication.

Now, do you remember the first few posts where it was stated that success means something different to different people? Do you remember where it was stated that being a successful writer is a lifestyle? Some people don’t want to parade across the country, selling books; some people just want to sit at home and write, and self publishing is great for that, but really, there is no reason to avoid trying one or the other.

If you can achieve major publication, that’s a surefire way to build a fan base, and then you can release whatever you want on your own, and keep all the money, but beware, there are some instances in some contracts where this is not allowed, so it may better to start off self publishing, and then trying the mainstream route.

Whatever you do; learn to write, build a fan base, hire an editor, and then do your research. For more information visit my Quora blogs, or check out my Editing Services Tab. You can also flip through numerous posts right here, which will help you outline a strategy for achieving long term success through the consistent release of quality content. Thanks, I’ve been great.

More Quora Q and A’s

writer editor

Since Quora likes to collapse my answers in an effort to keep me quiet, I’m copying and pasting some of the Quora Q and A’s in which I’ve participated. Here’s a question from Quora.

Question: What is the passive voice of this sentence?

Addendum: Nobody writes a letter.

Answer: A letter is written by nobody.

What is passive voice, though? Many people have no clue. They’ve certainly heard the term, but fail to recognize what it is and why it can damage a story. A new writer may want to hire a competent editor in order to check for passive writing.

You can read through this page of about.com in order to learn the complexities of passive writing, but here’s the simple answer.

In traditional grammar, the term passive voice refers to a type of sentence or clause in which the subject receives the action of the verb. For example: A good time was had by all.

Contrast with active voice;  an example is: Everyone had a good time.

In the above example, the subject actively participates in the verb.

Here’s another example: The milk was spilled by the dog.

That’s passive because the dog is the one spilling the milk, but the focus has been placed on the result rather than the action.

The active version is: The dog spilled the milk.

Style guides discourage use of passive writing because when prose is consistently written passively, the audience feels kept away from the characters, the actors, the world, and the story.

Think of it this way:

A new movie has come out. You’re dying to see it, but your kid has soccer practice. When you come home, you get a phone call. Your friend tells you they saw the movie, and you’re so envious, you demand your friend tells you the whole movie from start to finish.

Even if your friend breaks down every detail, you won’t see the lights or shadows, you won’t hear the music, or the sounds, or the tones of voice. No matter how great a raconteur your friend is, they can’t possibly provide you the same experience because they won’t tell you how Tom Cruise scrunched his face, or bit his lip, or looked off into the distance to provide the emotion, the turmoil, the joy, etc.

You are kept at arm’s length, and that’s certainly fine if you’re chatting with friends, but if you bought a book, don’t you want to be immersed in the story? If you’re a writer, and you’ve written and published a book, and are charging for its purchase, don’t you think the readers–who have spent their money on your book and paid you–want to be immersed in your story? Don’t keep them at arm’s length with weak writing.

Hire an editor.

You can learn more about proper writing by visiting this Quora blog.

You can also visit my Editing Services tab for more information.

So you want to be a writer part 6

Part 6 – Writing your novel

The long awaited post…dun, dun, duuun…!

You followed my advice. You thought about an idea and found one you liked so much you wrote it down. Then, you wrote a few short stories, and all the while, you engaged people on social media. You talked about the latest action flick. You talked about what a buzzkill the latest book was. You praised the newest video game, and you told people you’re writing.

People came and peaked at your short stories. Some downloaded them. A few commented, for better or worse. You blogged, you connected, you even wrote a whole fanfiction novel. Maybe, you hired an editor or found some beta-readers. Maybe, you didn’t, but some people know you now, and some like you. Others don’t, but hey, you haven’t written that novel yet, so it’s no big deal. You even went back, and edited your earlier work, and re-released it. Maybe, you even hired a good cover artist.

Of late, all that swims through your mind is that story, that novel. You’ve even tried to get away from it, writing other, short stories, just wondering if you’re ready. You’ve asked yourself, can I do it? What is it gonna’ take? What if I can’t figure it out? What if people don’t like it?

Take a big breath and relax. Now, you are ready to write your novel. You have a feel for the process. You know you can do it because you did write, and you did release short stories. You even wrote an entire fanfiction, so yeah, you know you can do it.

You have the idea. You’ve thought about your novel so much, you can see the characters, hear the pitch of their voices. You know their mannerisms, and how they act in the world, react to the world, and interact with one another. You know the plot. You know the problems. You know the solution. Take a big breath, and start writing.

Writing is the easy part after all. Writing is just the process of transferring thoughts to paper (screen?). At this point, you know that you don’t have to worry about the fact that your beginning is shaky. You don’t need to worry that there’s no middle. You don’t need to worry that you have two or three different ideas for the ending.

At this point, you know that the only thing that matters is transferring your thoughts to paper. Write what you have. Don’t stop. Don’t fret. If you need to, go back, and read what you wrote to make certain you’re still on the same train of thought, but if you run into a roadblock, take a detour.

You have your introduction, but your dialogue is sketchy. Maybe, your dialogue is great, but you have a tough time writing action scenes; whatever the troubles are…well, they aren’t really a problem. Just write what you have, and if you need to, skip ahead. Your book is not etched in stone. It is not a published novel out for sale. Just write. Just keep writing.

Treat every chapter like a mini short story, and maybe, by the time you get to the middle, you see a different ending, but the beginning has to be changed. No biggie; you’re just writing. This is just a draft, and no one has even seen it yet.

Maybe, you can tell there isn’t much to say about the actual writing process. Contrary to what so many people believe, writing a novel is the easiest thing in the world. Nothing really matters; it’s just a draft, so draft away.

There are no rules in writing. None. There are certainly some very important rules when it comes to editing a story, but there are no rules involved in writing that story down. Did you know that you don’t even need to break a novel down into chapters? Nope, at least not until the editing process. You can just write, and write, and write until you have everything you want.

It’s a draft. It isn’t etched in stone. It isn’t a published product released to the public.

Write down absolutely everything you want to write. It doesn’t make any difference if it’s senseless, useless, crazy, boring, or even out of sequence. Just get as much down as you can. This is your time. This is the process you should be enjoying the most. While you’re writing the story, you are writing for you. You are writing something you want to read. You are unburdening your creative mind grapes and writing down all the things about your story that you want to experience.

This is certainly going to be a long process, and you will change almost everything you write by the time you’re ready to publish, so just don’t stress. Don’t worry about a routine. Nothing kills creativity like routine. Don’t turn writing your story into a job or a chore; enjoy the process. You want to write? Write! You don’t feel like writing one day? Don’t write!

Don’t ever worry about hitting a certain word goal every day. Don’t waste your time with writing exercises; they only help you do better at the exercise. That’s why you practice exercises before you write your novel. When it’s time to write your story, you just write the damned story down!

Go back. Read it. Read it again and again. You’ll see plot holes. You’ll find inconsistencies. You’ll laugh, cry, cringe, and cheer. Add everything you want to the story. Cut everything you don’t like. If it comes up short, it comes up short. If it comes out long, and it drags ass, cut the fluff out.

I’m telling you, writing the novel is the easiest part of the whole successful writer thing. All you gotta’ do is jot down what you’re thinking.

There will be times wherein you’re going to come across sections where you feel stuck. You’ll have point A and point C, but won’t know what point B is. So? Who cares? Nobody but you knows this. Just write down what you have and move on.

This is like the whole can’t see the forest for the trees thing, or maybe I have it backwards. It doesn’t matter. The point is that you cannot possibly know everything about your story until you’ve written it down.

Maybe, that sounds crazy or backwards, but I’m telling you, if you go into this process believing that you must know every, single, little, tiny detail, you’re out of your mind. You’re fooling yourself. This is precisely why people fail, or they succumb to fear; they think they must know every word, sentence, action, event, scene, whatever before writing the story.

Wrong.

Just get as much of your story down as possible, and when you get stuck, read what you have, and spend some more time thinking about the world, the characters; let the story tell itself. What you think your story is going to be is not what your story will choose for itself. If nothing comes to mind, jump ahead! Write the end then go back and re-read from the very beginning. So, you get stuck for a day, a week, a month, no big deal; go busy yourself with something else. That worked for Einstein.

I know it sounds crazy, but I’m telling you; just write. It’s that easy. It really, truly, is that simple. Anyone who writes an entire novel from start to finish in a month, two months, three, four, and then releases it is releasing crap. Now, that crap might sell. There are certainly people out there who like crap, but writing, releasing, and selling crap won’t lead to long term success.

Anyone who becomes a peddler of crap may be successful, very successful, at the onset of their career, but if they don’t begin releasing quality content, they won’t get very far, and at this point, if you’ve followed the advice in these posts, you’ve already set yourself up to sell your book, so you don’t want to release crap, and that means taking the time to write a great novel, but writing a great novel doesn’t entail doing it perfectly on your first attempt.

Again, just write what you have, what you know. Skip ahead if you must then, when you see more of your story developing, you can go back, and fill in the blanks; you can restructure, or you can even re-write the whole thing. It’s what the guy who wrote Jaws had to do. All that matters at this stage is that you have fun.

When The Godfather was submitted to the production company, the screen editors and directors thought the book was atrocious. The reviews on the Rambo books, you know the Rambo movies are based on books, right? Those reviews are pretty bad, because the books are terrible, so crap does sell, but it usually only sells after it gets turned into an awesome movie, and if it doesn’t become an awesome movie, who will buy it? What saving grace will there be?

As usual, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. You aren’t staking your entire life on one novel, but it is important to make your first novel great, not because it’s the only way to become successful, but because you want to start off the right way and save yourself the torment. You also care about your fans because they are paying you, and they are selling for you, so give them something they can enjoy.

Now, editing your novel is a totally different story, but you can’t edit or get feedback until the whole book is written, right? So get it all down then take a break because the hard part is about come up and blindside you.

Yup, before you know it, you’ve actually written down your whole novel. Yes, some parts are shaky. Yes, some transitions aren’t that great. Some of your chapters feel short and rushed. Other chapters feel long, and they tend to get boring before reaching the end. No big deal. Now, you will do one of the most important things you will ever do for your novel. You will leave it alone.

Get away from your novel. Forget all about it. Dive into something else. Write another short story. Play a new video game. Go back to playing DnD with your friends. Whatever you do, do your best to forget as much of your novel as you can. Spend at least two months away from your novel.

This is a great time to get back to everything you were doing before you wrote your novel. Get back on Google+ and Goodreads, and discuss other topics with your reader groups. Download some more short stories from Smashwords, and give ‘em a read through. Give your fans, the ones who dropped by your blog to read reviews, something new to read; a new review of a game, book, or movie.

Here’s why; you’ve been thinking, eating, breathing, living your novel for months, maybe even years. You know everything about it, all its intricacies, and you’ve done the best job you can to lay it bare for an audience, but an audience is not in your head, and there may be some thoughts, actions, or correlations that seem self evident and truthful to you, but to an audience, to a reader who has never been in your head, all of those ideas which seem logical and self evident may very well seem muddled and confusing.

This is the perfect time to do one or all three of the following:

One, post your whole book to your blogs one or two thousand words at a time two or three times a week, thus giving your fan base a chance to read it without a great commitment. Naturally, they’ll also be able to comment and discuss it. (You will eventually delete these posts before releasing the book.)

Two, kindly let people know that you are looking for beta-readers, people who are interested in reading a draft for the specific purpose of helping you better connect with your intended audience. (Assuming you are not releasing the entirety of your book to your blog. You may also do this after having released your book to your blog, gotten some feedback, edited, and then deleted those old posts.) Beta-readers are usually readers, though some are also writers, but the great thing about beta-readers is that they love rough drafts. There’s just something so much more personal, more intimate, about a draft; it’s bare; it’s the soul of the writer, but no one wants to spend money on a first draft, so do not release an unedited book to the public!

Three, hire an editor.

The first two suggestions are great, simple, easy, and free. Do not pay anyone for beta-reading. At this point, I also do not suggest peer editing with other writers anymore. This isn’t a matter of fearing intellectual theft; this is a matter of building your own, distinct voice. Teaming up with other writers is great before you write your first novel. After you’ve written it, it becomes imperative to distance yourself from other writers, so you’re better off with beta-readers, some of which will be other authors, but some are just readers and bloggers who love raw, indie work.

A lot of writers fail at this point in their careers. They’re so excited they’ve finished writing a book, and they show it to all their author buddies, and of course, being nice, supportive people, the author buddies praise the book. After all, they know the difficulty in finishing a novel, so they say it’s great, and then, the debut author releases an unedited, debut novel, and it tanks. Perhaps even worse, the book sells extremely well for two months, and then the scathing reviews come in, all of which point out the horrible typographical, grammatical, and punctuation errors—the slogging pace, the redundant information, the info dumps, the stale characters, etc. etc. Hire an editor before you release that book.

Another occurrence at this stage of the game involves the excited, debut novelist who turns to their author, support groups. Then, they get stuck trading reviews of each others’ books. That’s all well and good, but none of them are reaching readers. They’re all only reaching one another, tweeting, retweeting, or auto-tweeting, to one another. They are only promoting their books to other writers.

There are no readers in those groups. No readers, people actually looking for a new book to buy and read, have ever heard of any of those groups like ASMSG or IAN. Hundreds of thousands of indie writers have banded together, and that’s a great concept before writing your first novel, but these naïve folks have done this in an effort to find readers, but they are only finding each other. Some actually think that they can each bring a few hundred new readers to those groups, believing that if each person brings in a hundred new readers, there will be millions of people all buying the books; this is precisely what the mainstream publishers count on, but the mainstream publishers each have specific presses with specific authors with specific voices for specific genres, so yes, Penguin Random House counts on the authors published by Bantam to entice Bantam fans into buying Bantam books by other Bantam authors, but the indie, support groups aren’t following this business model. The indie groups have all kinds of writers of all qualities, genres, and voices.

It doesn’t work, not the way they’re doing it. First of all, so many of the members have no fans because they are either aspiring writers with no published books, or they are debut writers with one or two books out, and no sells or fans; they have not begun their career correctly. Second, some members write romance, others paranormal, some steam punk, so none of the steam punk readers are going to go searching for a group like ASMSG in the hopes of finding an indie, romance writer. So what happens? The group members just trade books with one another for reviews in the hopes of selling books via Amazon by way of a review bombardment. Lastly, what happens is they try to sell books to each other.

Think about it, though: if one author buys one of each book written by each author, and even if every other author does the same, in the end no money trades hands, right? If I buy all of your books, and then you buy all of mine, no money has been earned. No new fans have been found, so what do these groups do? They say stuff like: give an indie author a good review. Reviews sell books, and authors gotta’ eat, too. Well, that’s a dishonest practice.

Give a good review if the book is good. Give a bad review if the book is bad. Why? Because the review is not for the author. The review is not there to trick a reader into a buying a book. The reviews should only be given by a reader for readers. As a matter of fact, once you become a published author, you may want to stop reviewing books completely. Why? Because at that point, you’ll find yourself reviewing as a writer rather than a reader.

You know what happens then? An indie author begins racking up numerous, glowing reviews, and then a reader will buy the book only to find faults with it, and the problem then is that the skewed reviews anger the reader. They feel tricked, and so they feel compelled to provide a scathing review in order to exact vengeance, and here’s the thing; if those good reviews sell books, and the readers end up feeling shilled because of the skewed reviews, they are going to tell everyone to stay away from that book, and a book that will have started off selling well, suddenly starts losing sales, and then the writer begins to build notoriety for releasing terrible content. They lose credibility. It’s why “writers” like Gary Lindberg go around making fun of readers for posting bad reviews.

Fortunately, these posts have been designed to help you prevent such a thing. As a matter of fact, these posts are here for two reasons.

One, I personally love reading and writing so much that I want everyone with even an inkling of an idea to feel comfortable writing their idea down, and subsequently release a great book.

Two, I love readers so much that I want them to know that there is an alternative to the dreck spewed by the mainstream presses, but to that effect, what the indie writers release must not be dreck, and so it becomes imperative to teach indie writers the importance of editing, of hiring an editor, a competent editor, but indie writers must take it a step farther and start their careers off properly in order to counter act the fluff released by the mainstream press, and the fluff released by other, indie writers.

I want indie writers, or even new writers who want to go the mainstream route, to be successful, and not just sell well, but sell quality content often. It’s what the readers deserve. Are we not writing for them? Perhaps, it is more appropriate to say that we are trying to release quality content for them.

Please, please, please, even if you decide not to distance yourself from other writers, you must hire a competent editor because you are not writing and selling your books for the other writers, you are publishing for readers, and if you reach even one reader, and you turn them into a fan, they will tell others about your book, so if you’re going to find an editor, and you really do need to find one, do some work and find a competent editor, one who willingly explains and shows the editing process on a regular basis.

They are few and far between, and you might get burned once or twice, but do not let that frighten you. You need an editor, someone who understands how to read a book as a reader, someone who will look for plot holes, suspension of belief, inconsistencies, discrepancies, lack of character development, pacing issues, all kinds of stuff, and will help you to understand what those issues are and how to resolve them.

In the end, you might end up hiring a crappy editor. It happens to all writers who take the time and make the effort to hire an editor, but even a crappy editor can be helpful. If nothing else, they are a fresh pair of eyes, and when they edit your manuscript, they will pass on to you their new perspective; use it. Take what you like, and discard the rest. Then, go back, and re-read your book, and I promise, you’ll find all kinds of stuff that requires more attention.

You’ll find normal mistakes that your mind missed because it was reading what it was expecting; the mind does that; it formulates that which it already expects. You’ll find some sentences which will make you wonder just what it was that you were meaning to convey. You’ll find redundancies you hadn’t noticed before. You’ll notice that some sentences work better in a different order within the paragraph. You’ll find all kinds of stuff.

It’s very important to get away from your novel. It’s almost like making your eyes the fresh pair of eyes, and you will have to get away from your novel over and over. There should be no rush, though. As proud and excited as you are, and you should be, you must keep yourself in check. Do not release a crummy product to your audience like I did (four crummy products) because it will really hold you back.

Everything I’m telling you, no matter how crazy, I’m telling you for a reason. I absolutely want you to release a perfect product to your audience, so that they will start off loving your work. It is important to me that you are successful for a number of reasons, and you will come to understand those reasons more deeply as we progress, so you may need to step away from your novel a number of times, and you may need numerous beta-readers, and you may need to hire two or three different editors, and you may need to get away from your writer buddies, and you may well spend an arm and a leg throughout the process, but it will pay off.

Try to keep your end goal in mind. If you are striving to achieve major publication then you need to land a literary agent. To do that, you need to write a perfect query letter, and synopsis, and you can’t rush through those either; they are as important as your title, cover, and blurb. Then, if your presentation is accepted, the agent will want a part of, or the whole, manuscript. Then, if it’s up to snuff, and they think it’s marketable, they’ll help you to land a publisher. Just keep in mind that not all agents are cut from the same cloth.

If you intend to go the indie route, and you want someone like Baen or Rocking Horse Publishing to publish your work, you do not need an agent, but you still have to present your book in a professional manner. Regardless, these two avenues require a great deal of sitting, waiting around, and just going bonkers. They do not want you to submit your book to multiple publishers or agents, and they may never reply, or they may take a year to reply, and just to say, “Nah, we’re good, bruh.”

If you intend to self publish, and there are numerous reasons to do so, it’s up to you and you alone to produce a product of the highest quality. This does not mean that you cannot work with others—cover artists, proof readers, beta-readers, and editors—it just means that you are in charge of everything. The reason self publishing gets such a bad rap is because most self published authors don’t hire editors, or they hire crummy editors, and the number one complaint by readers is that the book read like a first draft.

No one wants to pay for a first draft.

This says nothing of the creativity, beauty, or complexity of the story, but you must come to understand something that’s been pointed out numerous times: if the mainstream publishers employ teams of editors to clean the works of King, Martin, and Rowling, doesn’t it stand to reason that you should also hire an editor?

Thanks for reading. I had said this was going to be the last post of this series, but I’m actually going to release one more, so stay tuned, and don’t forget to check out my Editing Services Tab.

Quora Q and A’s

Since Quora likes to collapse my answers in an effort to keep me quiet, I’m copying and pasting some of the Quora Q and A’s in which I’ve participated. Here’s a question from Quora.

This time, I’ll be showing a few questions with some short answers. All of the questions revolve around some facet of reading, writing, or editing, but if you find that you have some questions about the editing process, please ask right here or leave a comment.

Question 1:If I’m coining a phrase, should I put it in quote signs?

Addendum: I read that the phrase “coining a phrase” is hardly used anymore, but should I use it since I’m the one who is doing the coining?

Answer: I suggest single quotations or italics. The truth is that standard quotations work as well because people will perceive the information just that same as if it were being “qouted” by someone, however, in an effort to keep editing practices true, it is best to either italicize, such as: he’s the cat’s meow or use single quotations such as, he’s the ‘cat’s meow’.

One doesn’t generally see: he’s the “cat’s meow” unless it is a part of dialogue. At this point, it is important to remind writers and editors that punctuation is used to clarify information for readers, so that they aren’t forced to guess at the meaning of the information presented.

Question 2: Is there much of a difference or any between “few had shown real promise” or “few had shown any real promise”?

Answer: No. The first version is perhaps better suited for a written sentence where as the second version sounds more conversational, but in the end, they’re the same. I also believe that anyone who either reads or hears either version of that phrase will draw exactly the same conclusion.

In the end, this particular Q and A comes down to personal style. A writer must often ask him or her self: “how do I want to write this?” and only after having written the entirety of the article, novel, story, whatever, should that writer go back through, and try to make changes. Changes should be for two reasons; to maintain consistency and to clarify information for the reader.

Question 3: Do I need a comma before the word ‘where’ in the sentence in the details?

Addendum: They later moved to Sedona, Arizona, where Ernst constructed a small cottage by hand.

Answer: Yes because you are listing the city and state.

They later moved to Sedona where Ernst constructed a small cottage by hand.

In the above sentence, a comma is not required, though one might still use one. Commas are utilized to “break up” information and to clarify meaning. There’s a whole post on comma usage here.

Also, be sure to check out my Editing Services tab.

Less is More

 

Less is more? How can less be more?

Last I checked, 4 oranges are less than 5, and that means….

Okay, hold on; let’s try it in a writing example.

He went to the store.

He went to the grocery store and bought milk, eggs, beer, and bread.

Nope; more is still more…or is it?

Let’s check out one more example.

Lucy told him that she didn’t like it when he fed the dog at seven because that was too early, and then the dog would be hungry again before four, which was when she got home. John looked at her, and his face contorted when he kind of squinted his eyes. His lips paled in color, and they grew tight; there was a mean flicker in his hard eyes and his jaw clenched.

That’s quite a bit. That must be great, right? It’s definitely more….

“Don’t feed Bella so early,” Lucy chastised. “She’ll get hungry before I get home at four.”

John returned her look, bearing an expression of indignation.

Uh-oh! That’s way less…but it shows way more, doesn’t it?

The whole less is more concept is intimately tied into showing versus telling, but it also engenders a great deal more. In the example above, both versions are providing the same story; one is a wordy way of telling a situation, and the other is a great way of providing an experience, but sometimes, it’s what a writer doesn’t say, show, or tell that makes or breaks a story.

Admittedly, when I first started writing, this was one of my greatest drawbacks; I used to state something in prose like just before it happened; a paragraph, a page, maybe two pages later, what I had alluded to occurred.

Foreshadowing is fine, but the following example explains it better.

John watched the cow as she gave birth to her little baby. A new life was dawning, but with life comes death; such is the way of the world. Things come and things go…and so do people, John thought.

And then, two paragraphs later, John was having to deal with the death of a loved one. That’s too close for foreshadowing; it’s foretelling, and needs to just be cut, so that as a whole, the story provided is less, but the experience is more. The easiest way to solve the above situation is to just cut the thought that John had. A more creative way is to have that scene as the story’s opener, that way, if John has to deal with death right away, it doesn’t affect the continuity, but that’s considered restructuring, and I’m not discussing that yet.

Let’s see another form of less is more.

The sun glistened off her sequins the way errant rays of gold illuminate stained glass during the brilliancy of early morning. Her radiant appeal was thwarted only by her grace and poise; the way she danced, like no one was watching; the way she laughed, like Beethoven’s sixth symphony, Pastoral. Simply watching her saunter down the stairs—a great banister of gold beheld only by the angels themselves—brought unto the heart the truest of emotions; the simplest; love, but true love, the kind of love only ever described by Greek Mythology, and never truly felt by a mere mortal human, until today…the day I saw her, my angel, Melody.

Boy…that’s right purdy’ writin’, and there’s certainly a place for it, but if the entirety of the story is written like this then…where is the story? What has happened in the example above? A man saw a woman come down the stairs and he fell in love with her, but what does she look like? Where are they? What are people doing? There’s nothing in the example except for pretty writing, flowery prose, and that isn’t good storytelling.

I’m gonna’ let you guys in on a little secret; creative writing courses are scams, and they are creativity killers.

Picture this: you see a cabin in the woods. It is old, a bit moldy, and you can see the crevices in the aged logs. The windows are obscured by grime. The door, which looks to have once been painted a vibrant green, is now a faded brown.

Certainly, the cabin can be beautified by placing a bed of red roses below the window. Now, imagine placing rows and rows of roses all around the cabin. Watch the roses surround the entirety of the structure; see them grow, and twist, and intertwine, until all that you can see is brambles and pretty, red flowers.

It’s just that—pretty, but now the substance is gone. The worn cabin is the story, and all that pretty writing just alienates your audience; it obscures the message, the reason for even telling the story. Writers, why are you telling your story? You have to be able to answer that.

Less is certainly more if the concept is employed correctly, which is why I’m explaining what it means.

Now, I’ll be the first to say; there are NO rules in writing, but there are numerous rules in editing, and it is imperative, paramount to good writing, to follow those rules, because no matter the story, the experience given is supposed to be for the reader, the audience, and they have been trained to glean information in a specific way, and all too often, writers and editors forget what it was like being just a reader without knowledge of crafting a book.

Less is certainly more especially when more entails repetition, and that’s the last thing I want to cover with this post.

Often times, a writer accidentally forgets that their audience isn’t comprised of a bunch on nincompoops. In other words, they relate the same information over and over again ad nauseam; yes, we get it; Jim loves his family, stop telling us. Yes, we get it, Ellie feels guilty for leaving her family behind. Yes, we get it; they fell in love from simply a look….

Writers; do try to avoid blatant repetition; what good is two pages worth of the same information written in a slightly different manner? Editors, when you see it, cut it! Cut the redundancies. Readers are bright people, and they may certainly need a reminder, a one liner, a piece of dialogue, or an internal thought to remind them of something important, but keep it concise.

What good is a one hundred thousand word book if only fifty thousand words are story and the rest is but pretty writing? A one hundred thousand page book must be at least eighty thousand words of actual story, and that doesn’t mean telling the reader what is happening. Conversations, character actions, reactions, interactions, world building, even descriptions are all part of the story IF THEY DRIVE THE PLOT ONWARDS. That’s why only what is absolutely pertinent must remain in the story, and everything else, no matter how much the writer likes it, must be cut.

There are few exceptions, and they deal with pacing, and I will cover pacing in the future.

Thanks for reading, and I appreciate that you have read what I wrote. On top of that, I’m grateful that many of you are looking over the information I provide, so I want you to know that it’s much obliged. Also, the fact that lot’s of people here are letting me know that they are being helped by my advice is just aces. Furthermore, it’s important for me to say thank you to all those who continue to share with others my helpful thoughts…I’m joking…did you get it?

Seriously, thanks, and if you have questions, comments, or concerns, you know where to find me. Also, check out my Editing Services tab.