Category Archives: quora

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 to write a novel or series, 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 do you write a novel or series?

 

Addendum: I’ve been reading the writer’s journey and I’m curious as to how some of the authors on quora go about their writing projects – I’m not looking for their writing advice insomuch as I’m interested in looking at what they actually do.

 

Answer: I think about the story. I envision a scene, a character, his perspective, his goal, the problem, the solution. I mull it over. I obsess over it. It consumes me. I see it all. I hear it all. I smell it all. I am the character, or I am his friend, or I am the unseen sojourner beside him.

 

Then, one day, I have to commit it to paper. By the time I’m four pages in, everything changes. I stop. I reassess and re-obsess. Before long, I have to write again.

 

A chapter, two chapters in, I see a twist, or a character comes to life and takes itself in a new direction. I follow, wondering where it all goes.

 

I just write; I just get the story down. That’s all anyone should do. There is nothing else that can really be said until the story has been written to completion. Completion doesn’t mean perfection; it doesn’t mean the story is ready to be published. It just means the first draft is done, and all the basics are down.

 

Occasionally, while writing, I go back and re-read former chapters to make sure there are no inconsistencies, but mostly, I try to just keep going forwards. By the time I get to the end, it’s never what I had envisioned. Because of this, I never use writing software, I never use outlines; all that crap is a creativity killer.

 

It is my belief that stringent outlines, which don’t allow for deviation, destroy inspiration. You can’t plan a garden. You can just plant flowers, and watch them grow. You can’t predict or control how they grow. After they start to grow, you can guide them. Once they’re fully grown, you can maintain them, but you can’t possibly plan on how flowers will grow.

 

You can plan for life with a newborn, but until you’re married, and your child is born, and growing, and learning, and adapting, there is no way to know how to live your life. You can’t plan for every contingency. Maybe, your boy won’t like baseball. Maybe, your girl will be too shy for dancing. Until you’re married with children, there is no way to know what will happen. The same goes for stories; there is no way to accurately outline what will happen, when, and how; you just write, and once it’s down, you can edit.

 

The story should be alive within the writer, and should come to life during the writing process. The writer should be as surprised as the audience.

 

I can’t tell you guys and gals how many characters I thought were good guys suddenly planned, and plotted, and derailed the story, but that’s what readers love, and they think I planned it that way, but no. Sometimes, events simply occur. Other times, something new comes to mind during the re-reading/editing process.

 

This happens after I get the story down. I read it, you know, like I’m reading it for the first time as a reader, and I find nuances, which I explore.

 

Oh, look, John wants to be with Carol even though she’s with Mike. Maybe John can try to woo her, and maybe that’ll make for some cool character growth!

 

Thoughts like that jump out at me after I’ve written the first draft. I explore those thoughts. Sometimes they work out. Sometimes they don’t. The first draft of the story is not the end product and should never be taken as such. The story isn’t finished until there’s nothing else that can be added, and then it’s time to cut everything superfluous, even if I like it because I have to think about what the audience will want, and if I force them to read every single little tiny thought I have, they’ll feel as though the story is pulling every which way; it feels jumbled, disorganized, confusing.

 

I know different methods work for different people, but fierce structure and routine destroys imagination, and at the end of the story, there is an editing process during which all the mess gets cleaned up and tied into everything else, which keeps my work from becoming convoluted. An outline should be only a limited tool, a guide, a loose idea, which is there only to bloom, to be modified as the occasion arises.

 

For, say, a single novel, there should only be a single plot twist if any at all, but I mostly write series, so things can get messy, which is why I do keep a notepad handy, and in it, I jot down a sentence or two in the event that I want to add a certain event during the editing process.

 

For instance, in the newly released Dragon Slayer

The Dragon of Time Two, Dragon Slayer By Aaron Dennis
The Dragon of Time Two, Dragon Slayer
By Aaron Dennis

I had intended for Scar, the protagonist, to kill a support character, but by the time I reached that portion of the story, that action no longer made sense, so I adapted, and it will seem as though what does happen was planned that way from the beginning.

 

I promise, you’ll never who I wanted him to kill or why. You’ll never know where it was supposed to happen.

 

So, as the question was asked: How do I write a novel or series?

 

I begin with an idea, no matter how undeveloped. I think about the idea, and jot down little notes. Inevitably, more and more scenes, actions, thoughts, and emotions come to mind, and when I have enough, I begin to write.

 

Maybe, my beginning is under developed. No big deal. Maybe, my middle is shaky. That’s okay. Maybe, I planned for one ending, but it no longer makes sense. That’s fine.

 

I just write, and as I write, more and more comes to mind. Eventually, I find myself wrapping up all the events, and the story has ended. Sometimes, I have some ideas for an aftermath, in which case, I’ll hold on to it for the sequel.

 

If there’s no after math, it’s time to get away from the novel. I need to forget it because the people reading it won’t be in my head.

 

Once I’ve forgotten the tale, I read it as a reader. I correct little mistakes. I fluff out the portions, which are lacking in description, dialogue, action, whatever, and I go through it over and over, probably more than 20 times by the time I’m ready to publish.

 

While re-reading, I cut whatever’s superfluous. I make notes for the sequel. I scan for inconsistencies. I search for better ways to show versus tell. I make sure to keep from repetitious retelling. I make certain that the main characters, the support crew, they’re all different. No stock characters–they cannot all sound like me when I talk or think. I give them choice words, mannerisms; I make them living people.

 

It’s a daunting undertaking, but this is why there are whole institutions devoted to writing; publishers don’t just accept a written body of work, and print it. They normally only take a look at vetted stories.

 

A literary agent accepts a finished product. They hand it off to a publisher. The acquisitions editor reads the story. If it looks good, they send it to editors and people who function as test readers. If the story can be edited for a large audience, and it appears to be attractive enough to reach a broad audience, that story gets picked up, and then the actual editing process occurs, and I promise you that it takes a long time to rewrite the entire story from that stage.

 

There’s a lot of people out there, readers, new writers, aspiring novelists, who think that writers just sit down and write out a perfect manuscript from word one to the end. Far from it; it’s a long, arduous process fraught with editing and re-writing. Many eyes have to look over the manuscript before it can be safely published, and for independent writers, this can be a most intimidating task.

 

Fortunately, there are writing groups, reading groups, beta-readers, and freelance editors. There are also numerous writers out there who blog, who answer questions, who give advice, who show the process, and so anyone who takes the time to learn, can start their career off properly.

 

Thanks for reading. Share with your friends! Come back anytime, and make sure to check out my resources, and download my free stories.

Can you succeed even without a solid publicity plan?

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.

self aggrandizing aaron meme

Question: Would a great book succeed even without a solid publicity plan?

 

Answer: No, and I’m speaking from experience.

 

When I first began writing, I tried to tell everyone that my book was out, it was great, well written, edited, the whole shebang, but who did I tell?

 

Consider the question. With no publicity plan, who is there to tell that you have a book, and that it’s great, and that everyone should buy it?

 

With no publicity plan, you have no Twitter followers, no blog followers, no one subscribed to your website, no friends on FaceBook or Goodreads, no contacts on LinkedIn, etc. You must have a receptive audience. You must be able to tell receptive people, who are already interested in your kind of writing, that you have released a book, and how can you have people following your every move without a publicity plan?

 

The publicity plan builds exposure; by its nature, it calls people’s attention to you. Then, when people know you exist, you can let them know what you’re peddling, and how it’s different or better than what’s on the market now.

 

Exposure is absolutely necessary, and even books that are not so great tend to fly off the shelves when a publicist somewhere says, “these are great.” However, since such a thing was said to numerous individuals, who then told others, who then told others; the exposure led to readers, which led to conversations about those books regardless of how great those books were or weren’t; if they were terrible, they surely had great sells at first, because of a publicity plan, and then tanked when they failed to live up to the hype, but that’s a different discussion.

 

It’s tough to build a publicity plan, for sure. It’s even tougher to build a free publicity plan, but it is not impossible.

 

The simplest way to build fans is to engage with likeminded people. People are social creatures who enjoy discussing their likes and dislikes. They value their own opinions as well as the opinions of their peers, so it’s imperative that you, a writer, ask yourself some serious questions. What genre do you write? For whom are you writing? Like whom do you write? How are you different? Better?  More important? Be friends on FaceBook, Google+, Goodreads, and Twitter with those likeminded people. Discuss what they like. Discuss what you like. Start a book review blog or vlog—learn more about that here!!!

 

In the meantime, write your book, hire an editor, and engage beta-readers. Then, once you have loyal fans, show them that you’ve written a book, too.

 

There are other routes as well. If you have the money, you can sign on with netgalley and get your book in the hands of serious reviewers. Reviewers are important because those people discuss their likes and dislikes with likeminded people, so they are promoting for you; of course if your book sucks, you’ll never sell, or at least not for long. You can also purchase media release packages. Kirkus has some great packages, but you better have a fat wallet already. There are cheaper media packages, but even if you find them, they don’t guarantee great results.

 

I’ve personally spent as much as $100 on media packages, and saw virtually no increase in sales, so you get what you pay for, and no, Kirkus won’t guarantee you sales either, but their reach is far more extensive than any cheaper media package you’ll purchase. I still believe that spending money is the quickest and easiest way to inform potential readers that your book is available, but that exposure won’t guarantee sales. No exposure of any kind guarantees sales, but the more people you reach, the more likely you are to land a sale. It’s always a numbers game.

 

Free promotions, though slow moving due to the inherent difficulty in reaching people, by way of engaging likeminded audiences before releasing your debut novel, are far more efficient because what happens is that you build loyal fans who wish to discuss your book with others, and word of mouth is the best way to sell a product; you don’t buy Black and Decker because an ad told you to buy Black and Decker. The ad only informed you that Black and Decker exists, that it’s great, that it’s a deal. You buy Black and Decker because you asked your neighbor what brand of drill they use, and they informed you that they like Black and Decker; it’s the same with books.

 

Books are just a product. It doesn’t matter how great your book is. If no one knows it exists, no one can buy it. On the flip side, just because your book is great doesn’t mean that everyone will like it. There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like Harry Potter.

 

On top of everything, it’s important to know that you aren’t selling a book anyway; you’re selling an idea. The title, cover art, and blurb portray that idea, and then the book explains the idea, so with no publicity plan, there is no way to sell anything.

 

Once again, be sure to read this article from Journal. I explain how to earn money from reading, but the importance of the article is that by design, the plan reaches numerous readers, so that when you do release your own book, you already have hundreds and maybe thousands of receptive fans.

 

Even Stephen King, who I can’t stand, tells writers that to be good writers they have to read a lot. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about because reading a lot doesn’t make anyone a good writer, however, if you do read a lot then chances are that you discuss what you read, which means that if you have an audience for your book discussions, you have audience for your original material. Of course, King doesn’t explain that…. He should be telling aspiring writers to engage readers because they build exposure, and they learn what their peers enjoy reading.

 

Before anyone jumps me, I won’t to point out a few things about King. I don’t believe he reads much. I don’t believe that he read much before he started writing, and even if he did, and you do, the idea that reading a lot makes you a better writer is invalid. Think about the fact that the version of The Stand that you read is not the version that King wrote. The version you read is the one rewritten by his editors, and you’ll never write like an editor because editors change their voice based on their authors’ voices, their publishers’ voices, and their projected readers’ predilections.

 

On that note, be sure to follow my blog on Quora, where I often discuss editing tips as well as other topics revolving around reading, writing, and selling books.

 

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.

 

What are the signs of a bad publishing contract?

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: What are the signs of a bad publishing contract?

Answer: It depends on what the meaning of bad is….

 

If a writer is offered a contract from a traditional publisher—a major publishing company like Penguin, or even a smaller company like Baen—all contracts will be fairly standard; advances, 5 years service, 25% royalties from print copies, maybe 33% to 50% from e-book sales.

 

A writer will be offered a reasonable advance from a large company; the advance is based on the projected sales of the book over the course of 6 months, sometimes it’s longer, and even though the writer is generally contracted for 5 years, if the book does not sell, the publisher has a right to release the writer; that is the end of your career in the mainstream publishing industry, period.

 

A smaller company will offer a smaller advance, if they offer one at all, but they won’t usually cut a writer free for failure to sell, although they may choose to not renew the contract after 5 years.

 

There are other kinds of contracts, ones from presses who claim to be mainstream publishers or even indie presses, and they are not. Here are some things to scare a writer off.
If the publisher demands a fee, run.

If the publisher wants you to do anything more than write, run.

If the publisher wants you to crowdfund the money to publish your book, run.

If the publisher wants you to promote the books of their other authors, run.

 

Most “indie publishers” are little more than three people publishing through Amazon and CreateSpace anyway. You can do everything they do on your own and keep all your money.

 

I went through an indie press that seemed reasonable, but they then charged $7 for my ebooks; how in Hell was I supposed to sell with my prices that high?

 

They never got me any reviews, they failed to edit my work properly—the biggest no-no—and they even “lost” my contracts.

 

There are real indie publishers like Baen Books, Rocking Horse, and Edge, so if you’re unsure about the publisher you’ve approached, research the company; when were they established? How many employees do they have? Which books and authors have they published? Then, track down an author, through their website or Twitter, and talk to them. Ask them how they like working for that publisher.

 

The basic premise to stand by is the following: If you can’t land an agent, you won’t land a publishing contract with a real company. If you want to land a contract with a mainstream publisher, learn how to land an agent; they’ll do the rest for you.

Be sure to follow my Quora blog for more information

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

More questions and answers from Quora

will edit for food

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: Can you give me some good advice before I attempt to write my first novel?

Answer: Practice writing short stories to get a feel for the process. Write a fanfiction novel so you already have a great foundation while you find your voice. Then, write your novel.

Relax, just get all your thoughts down, and then hire an editor. Feel free to visit my blog posts for more in depth information regarding the processes through which a writer can improve the quality of their writing. You can also learn what it is that makes an editor competent.

Finally, the most important aspect of writing a novel is, well, to just write. Nothing can be said about a novel or writing a first draft. A first draft is just that, a draft, so just write it all down.

There is nothing to worry over because no one else is reading the draft, so a writer needs to just relax and focus on getting down all their thoughts. Only after the first draft has been written can a writer go back and search for discrepancies.

Question 2: How can you say this in a better way?

Addendum: “even a guy good looking like that… doesn’t look handsome anymore when he’s next to Tom Cruise”

Answer: As handsome as Bill is, he looks like a toad next to Tom Cruise. There are numerous variants, though. What’s important in such situations during the writing process is to suspend judgment. Just write the phrase, scene, paragraph, or whatever as it comes to mind.

Only after having completed the novel, or perhaps the chapter, should a writer go back and find better ways to say something. However, that better way must be pertinent to the scene, the writer’s voice, the intent behind the phrase.

A writer must ask: is this dialogue? If it is, how would this character speak? Is this character sarcastic? Stuffy? Old? Young?

If it isn’t dialogue, what genre is the story? If it’s scifi then a writer might write: All the scales and tentacles in the world didn’t make Bill any hotter than Tom Cruise.

In the end, there’s no right or wrong answer, and it becomes totally up to the writer, so long as the writer keeps in mind their audience.

Question 3: What are a writer’s and editor’s strengths?

Addendum: Another word might be personality types, but I don’t want to limit it to that.

Answer: Conviction. We believe in what we do. Passion. We love what we do. Determination. We will keep doing what we do. Fear. We are afraid that one day, we will no longer be able to do what we do, so we make what we do count.

Whether we are writers or editors, our goals are the same: to produce a product that our audience will enjoy. To this effect it becomes imperative that we exude conviction, passion, determination, and even fear.

If you’d like to learn more about writing and editing, visit my Editing Services tab.

Questions From Quora Regarding Editing part 2

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 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 can omit the comma after “today,” can I do the same in “Fortunetly I don’t have work tomorrow.”?
Addendum: I’m able to omit the comma after “today” in the sentence, “Today I went to school,” but am I able to omit the comma after “fortunety” in the sentence, “Fortunetly I don’t have work tomorrow.”

Answer: You do not need the comma after fortunately. In this case, using the comma is optional, but make sure that you are consistent in your writing and punctuation. Also, be sure to correct spelling mistakes.

To expound a bit, the reason a comma may be placed after today, yesterday, at this time, fortunately, etc., is due to the fact that those kinds of words at the beginning of a sentence set up a sort of restriction.

For example: Today, the heat was excruciating.

The reader knows right away that the frame of reference is “today”, but there is no need for the comma because the frame of reference still exists without the comma.

Remember, commas do NOT indicate a pause in speech; they are used to clarify information, and if they are not clarifying the information they do not need to be there, but if they are used in such a manner, they must be used consistently.

Read more about commas here.

Question 2: I do not come to school. It’s passive voice?

Answer: No. It is active.

You are the subject and not coming to school is what you are doing. However, I do not go to school, or I did not make it to school, or I have not been to school, are more appropriate ways of phrasing such an idea in the English language.

One does not generally come to a place; they go.

Now, an example of passive voice is the following: The milk was spilled by the cat.

There is nothing wrong the sentence. It makes perfect sense, but the main noun, the cat, the thing that actually did the verb, has taken a secondary role in the sentence, thus making it passive.

The active version of that sentence is the following: The cat spilled the milk.

There is a time and place to use either passive or active voice, but that is up to the writer/editor, and what they wish to provide the audience. Generally, an active voice in the narrative forces the audience to accept at face value to events of the story, whereas the passive voice is a bit more suggestive in nature, perhaps even surreptitious. Both have their roles.

Question 3: Why do shorter paragraphs in a novel create the feeling of a faster pace?

Answer: First, it is imperative to understand that each paragraph should contain a single idea. A short paragraph means the idea is explained in fewer sentences, so numerous paragraphs of fewer sentences provides a barrage of ideas, which gives the pace speed, so long as each paragraph and their supporting sentences are structured properly.

If they aren’t, instead of a quick pace, the reader feels a jumbled confusion. Long paragraphs are still a single idea, but due to more sentences of a more complex nature being presented, the pace is slowed because less information is thoroughly explained.

So that’s three, little questions from Quora, and as you can see, editing is really a great deal more than correcting misspelled words, bad grammar, and incorrect punctuation.

Please visit my editing services tab for more information.

Also be sure to read through all my posts if you intend to become a better writer. Thanks, everyone, and stay tuned for more info.