Publication Mania

I wrote a post about this about six years ago, but felt it was time for a re-posting, as I see an ever-increasing number of poorly edited books on the market.

One of the saddest things I see among beginning writers is their burning need to publish before their work is ready. For many writers in the early days of their career, publication at this stage often comes at the expense of their reputation as a good author.

Writers’ groups, for all their many good deeds, are sometimes gathering places for pompous snobs. I want to be clear that I am not down on writing groups. Far from it. The writing group I belonged to for several years involved a wonderful collection of writers who brought a variety of skills and experience, and who wrote in many different genres. The majority of the members were down-to-earth and extremely helpful to new writers.  However, my writing group also happened to have several authors whose agenda included basking in the prestige of “being published” rather than first concentrating on producing their best work or helping their colleagues.

Many new writers are particularly desperate to get their work out there for the public. They hear published authors going on and on about sales and book signings and reviews they’ve received, flaunting their “published” status as if they were royalty. Speaking of which, their “royalties” are often a mere pittance. Beginning writers can’t always see the truth beyond the veneer of big talk, and they become infected with the desire to publish at all costs — all costs except one; that of hiring a good copy-editor.

copy-editing

Why Should I Care?

Besides being a writer myself, I do a lot of freelance copy-editing and so, as I read, I often see work that is prematurely published. I believe that if you publish your writing (that is, put it out there for the world to see and read), it should be as good as you can make it with as few errors as possible.

One writer told me, “I don’t care if it has a few mistakes. I just want to get it published.” I cringed. She wanted the free copy-editing I offered her just to help her out, but she didn’t feel that she needed to make any changes or corrections. She was convinced that her writing was excellent. In fact, it was quite poor and needed a fair bit of work. This woman was an extreme case, displaying slovenly writing habits and a poor attitude. Most writers care a lot more about the quality of their work.

I understand that the cost of having work copy-edited can be onerous for some, especially when they have not yet made their millions on that bestselling novel, but an investment in a good copy-editing job will be worthwhile in the long run (and I do try to keep my prices low). The copy-editor spends many, many hours reading, correcting, and making suggestions for improvements to the author’s work. Unlike reading for pleasure, copy-editing involves careful scrutiny to find grammar, punctuation, and word usage problems. The job comes with a lot of responsibility.

In order to be  good copy-editors, we have to be a bit pedantic. I try not to overlook even the smallest of errors. For me, it is precisely because I care about writing so much, that I can do a good job of copy-editing.

What Does the Reader Look for?

When I am choosing a novel to read for pleasure, like most readers, I go to the first few pages of the paperback or the e-book sample to look for certain indicators of the writing quality.

  1. I want to be “hooked” on the first page. I do not want to read about scenery as the character drives by in a car. Nor do I want him to wake up to an alarm clock, or look out a window at the view with the description following. I don’t want to read about the character’s dream either.
  2. I look for the first instances of dialogue to give me an idea of the author’s skill in writing it. If a large variety of dialogue tags are used (responded, replied, answered, retorted, inquired) rather than “said” and “asked,” I lose interest, as this indicates either a very dated writing style or an inexperienced writer.
  3. If I see a pattern developing where, after each bit of dialogue, the speaker is doing something (for example, “Wait for me,” John said, turning around to grab his suitcase), especially if it uses an “ing” word, for me that is often the book’s death knell.
  4. Incorrect usage of words makes me shudder. I cringe when I see “lay” and “lie” misused. I’m sure many readers feel the same when they see the wrong word used.

Just because your Aunt Mary has read your manuscript and told you it is perfect, doesn’t mean that it really is. It just means that she loves you. So DON’T publish that book yet! A good copy-editor can save you from yourself. Get it copy-edited properly and then you don’t have to worry about mistakes in your book, and tarnish your reputation as an author forever.

Anneli[7]

If you are in the market for a good copy-editor, please contact me. I will do three pages of copy-editing for you for free and you can decide whether this is what you need for your novel, or article, or whatever form your writing takes.

P.S. I am older (and wiser) now, than I was when this picture was taken. Just wanted to be honest.

 To find out more about me, please visit my website at:   http://anneli-purchase.com

Filtering

Using filter words is a weakness of many beginning writers. Don’t feel bad. It is not unusual to see it in people who have been writing for a longer time but who have never come across a discussion about it. Probably we all had to shake off this habit at one time or another.

Some expressions have a diluting effect. If you are “filtering” action through the character’s senses—smell, touch, taste, hearing, or sight, you are most likely guilty of “telling” the reader what is happening. In most cases, there is no need to filter the experiences through the character’s eyes, ears, or other sensory receptors. It only weakens your writing.

Filtered: She saw the car go by. (The action passes through her eyes first before the reader knows about it.)

Unfiltered: The car whizzed by.

Filtered: She felt upset.(The action passes through her emotions.)

Unfiltered: She sobbed.

Filtered: The curry tasted zippy and spicy, too hot for her liking.

Unfiltered: The zip and spice of the curry burned her throat.

Filtered: She heard the sound of a train. (The action passes through her ears.)

Unfiltered: A train whistle broke the silence.

***

I’m sure you get the idea. Some of the following key words may alert us to filtering.

This is only a partial list of filter words. There are many, many more.

  • decide
  • felt
  • heard
  • look
  • notice
  • realize
  • recall
  • remember
  • saw
  • seem
  • sense
  • smell
  • taste
  • watch
  • wonder

If you see one of these words in your writing, take a second look and decide whether you really need to convey the filtering action to the reader. Is it vital to the story to tell the reader that the information passed through one of the character’s senses? If not, and it is self-evident that the character is experiencing what you say, why not get rid of the filter and rewrite the sentence in a stronger, more direct way?

To find out more about Anneli Purchase, check out www.anneli-purchase.com

What Turns Readers Off

A couple of weeks ago I read a review of a book on someone’s blog and I was intrigued by the plot of the featured book. Thankfully I have forgotten the name of that book so I don’t need to worry about accidentally giving away the name or shaming the author, which I would never purposely do.

But as I read the synopsis of the book, I was seriously going to download the book and went to the link on amazon to do just that. I did what I usually do before downloading an e-book and clicked on the book cover’s “Look Inside” feature.

I read two pages and knew that I would not be able to stomach reading this book, no matter how good the plot was or how wonderful the story might be.

What turned me off in those first two pages?

It was the “ing” words. I can’t give specific examples from the book, and to be honest, I don’t really want to do that, but you’ll get the picture if I give you some generic examples. (To be fair, the dialogue was more interesting than what I will give here, but my examples are merely to make the point about the tiresome overuse of “ing” words.)

“What do you think?” she asked, twirling a lock of her hair in between her fingers.

“Oh, I don’t know,” he said, grinning at her. “Why don’t you tell me what you think first?” he asked, looking at her slyly.

Getting up and walking around the room, she pondered her response. “It was good, don’t you think?” she asked, giving him a hopeful smile.

Jumping up to hug her, he said, “You’ve guessed right.”

*****

I just couldn’t handle a whole book of that, so I didn’t download that novel that was probably a great story, but written with a major weakness in writing style.

A good copy-editor could have saved the author from him/herself.

www.anneli-purchase.com

A Lousy Story

A very long time ago, Eleanor, a friend who worked in the Hudson’s Bay store in Vancouver, was going to get her hair done in the Bay (they used to have a hair salon right in the store), but she didn’t have an appointment.

“If you come back in about 45 minutes I can do your hair,” the salon receptionist said.

“No problem,” said Eleanor, “I’ll just browse around the store while I’m waiting.”

Eleanor wandered around the hat department and tried on different hats. She looked in the mirror and laughed as the hats seemed to change her personality with each different hat style.

At last the time was up and, still smiling, she entered the salon to get her hair done.

The salon girl lifted some of the tresses of Eleanor’s hair. “So what are we doing today? A shampoo and cut?Suddenly she dropped her hands and said, “I can’t do your hair.”

“Why not?”

“You have lice.”

“WHAT?” Eleanor’s jaw dropped. She shook her head. “You’re kidding. I don’t have lice. I’ve never had lice.”

“Yes, I’m sorry, but you do have lice and I can’t do your hair,” the hairdresser repeated.

“Well!” Eleanor harrumphed. “If I have lice, I got them in this store.”

“Where did you go in the store?”

“I wandered around looking at some dresses and then I went to the hat section and tried on some hats….” Eleanor’s eyes grew bigger. “You don’t think….”

“Let’s go see,” the hairdresser said.

They went from one hat to the other, all the ones that Eleanor had tried on. The hairdresser picked up a tam that Eleanor said she’d tried on, and said, “Oh … my … here is the culprit.”

The inside of the hat was crawling with the tiny critters.

“I’ll do the treatment on your hair for free,” the hairdresser told her.

*****

I haven’t tried on a hat in a shop ever since I heard this story.

Emotion in Writing

When I read a book, I often base my opinion of whether it’s a good story or not, by the emotion it brought out in me. If a book made me laugh or cry it was usually a good one. Of course there are many other emotions besides happiness or sadness. Fear, paranoia, depression, sympathy, worry; they are all part of our emotions. It is the writer’s job to draw the reader into the story by making him care about the characters. As a reader, if I feel that I am emotionally drawn in, that usually means I’m enjoying the book.

I would like to share with you an excerpt from my novel, Julia’s Violinist. I hope you’ll feel some kind of emotion as you read it.

Excerpt from Julia’s Violinist

Three days later the POWs gathered their few possessions and lined up at the Stalag gates to have their passbooks stamped on their way to freedom. The last distribution of mail was done as the soldiers passed through the gates. Only a handful of POWs had mail. Karl thought he must have heard wrong when his name was called. The Russian guard tossed a tatty bundle of letters to him and read the next name. Karl was stunned. Not a single letter for over a year and now, on the last day, a bundle of … thirty-one, he counted. All from Julia.

He was frantic with wanting to open them, but nothing, not even these special letters, could make him lag behind in the POW camp. Out! Out! Just get out first, and then I can look at them.

As soon as he was out of sight of the prison camp, he sank down on the ground beside the road. His hands trembled as he opened the first letter. Through tears he saw her lovely handwriting, so perfect and neat; words that spoke of loneliness and longing. Each letter contained a small anecdote of Julia’s home life and ended with the hope that they would see each other again. Around the edges of the pages his name was written over and over in a border design, “KarlKarlKarlKarl. I miss you, Karl.”

He wasn’t sure how long he sat there. Other recently released POWs walked by. No one stopped. They had seen it all and there was nothing unusual about a man sitting in the dirt crying his eyes out as he read his mail.

Front Cover  jpg (1)(2)

Julia’s Violinist is available at all amazon sites in paperback or Kindle and at smashwords.com in paperback and all e-reader formats. You can find out more about my books on my webpage:  http://www.anneli-purchase.com

Relationship Security

Have you ever had someone say to you, “Why are you like that?” Or maybe you’ve asked yourself that question about others. There are reasons for our behaviour. Some of them we don’t understand; some we are not even aware of, and never will be.

In her book, Relationship Security, author Kathleen Price shows us that, along with some other factors, our experiences, even those we have as young children, shape us into the adults we become. They influence our responses to nearly every situation we deal with as we go through life.

Most of us seek a loving, caring relationship in which there is mutual trust. As young adults, we are optimistic about finding the right person who will fulfill that expectation. If we haven’t witnessed an example of a secure bond in our parents’ relationship, marriage may bring disillusionment when we perpetually need to protect ourselves because we don’t feel secure. At the same time, we may discover that we are blaming our partner for faults we don’t want to see in ourselves.

Using her own experiences Ms. Price analyzes how events in her life have affected her relationships. She uses an engaging method of bringing the reader in, alternating the narratives of parts of her life with passages from psychologists and other professionals.

Each chapter features an “insight” section containing the reliable concepts and theories, which she applies not only to her past, but her present challenges. With this understanding, she is better able to let down her defenses and embrace her relationships more fully in a calm, trusting, and optimistic way.

In reading Ms. Price’s book, we can see why some of her early experiences have caused her to react in certain ways as she encounters situations in her adult life. We may be able to identify with many of the conclusions of professionals, and possibly find them helpful in our own daily living.

          In Relationship Security Kathleen Price records her experience growing up in a family in which two committed parents were not able to establish a trusting relationship. The same problem repeats itself in her first marriage as she and her husband grapple with the challenges of parenthood without a secure bond. A divorce and remarriage follow, but this time she and her new husband, who is also disillusioned by a first marriage, are determined not to make the same mistakes again. Both acknowledge they shared the responsibility for the failure of their first marriages, but they don’t yet understand how or why.

          Her book reveals a progression of awareness as the author strives for security and nurturing, not only with her spouse, but her children, siblings, in-laws, and close friends. Each chapter features an “insight” section containing the reliable concepts and theories, which she applies not only to her past, but her present challenges. With this understanding, she is better able to let down her defenses and embrace her relationships more fully in a calm, trusting, and optimistic way.

I was deeply moved by Ms. Price’s autobiographical writings. Her story is bravely told. She faces her shortcomings honestly with a view to discovering why she has made some of the decisions that have shaped her life. Relationship Security is very readable and will give you a lot to think about after you close the book.

You can find this great book at amazon.com

Kathleen Price

Kathleen Price began her professional career as a family life educator and marriage and family therapist. Since her retirement she has published two books, both based on her personal experience. She lives with her husband in Las Cruces, New Mexico and can be reached via her website: www.kathleenprice.org.

Redundancies

Did you know that redundant comes from the Latin verb “redundare,” to overflow? Sometimes we use superfluous words without realizing it. Some writers do it on purpose, mistakenly thinking that more words will make a good impression. Instead, wordiness can be a boring turn off.

Words beginning with the prefix “re,” which means “again,” or “back,” can be particularly troublesome. If you see the prefix, “re,” in a word, chances are that it means to do something again.

Restart – start again

Remake – make again

Redo – do again

Revert – go back

(You get the picture.)

When “re” does the job of “again,” it is redundant (superfluous) to repeat “again.”

Be careful not to use this needless repetition.

“He restarted the car again.”

“Let’s return back home again.”

“She reverted back to her childhood.”

“The teacher insisted I redo the homework again.”

Again” and “back” are redundant.

*****

Here are some more cases of redundant word usage. You can remove the words marked in red and not lose the meaning.

He is a man who says what he believes.

There is no doubt but that he will be late.

She spoke in a rough manner (roughly).

As to whether he will be there, I don’t know.

The fact that … (Completely unnecessary)

Owing to the fact that … (Replace with “since”)

In spite of the fact that … (Replace with “although”)

Politicians like to use repeated (redundant) words for emphasis.

Here is a man who is honourable.

Here is a man who is hard working.

Here is a man who is reliable.

And here is a man who is trustworthy.

This could all be said in one sentence.

This man is honourable, hard working, reliable, and trustworthy.

Unless you are trying for emphasis, it is best to stay away from redundant words and phrases. Even so, there are better ways to make an emphatic point.

Overused Words and Expressions

We all have words and phrases that we tend to overuse. In our writing, we need to watch for repeated words. If possible, avoid using the same word twice in one sentence and check for repetition within a paragraph.

Often they are words we overuse in our speech as well. Some of mine were “maybe,” “just,” and “so.” But more than being annoying to the reader, what starts out to be only a bad habit can damage our writing in more serious ways. By using our favourite expressions, we add a chattiness to our writing that may or may not be called for. It also prevents us from searching for a more specific, suitable word.

If you know what some of your pet repeated words are, you could use Find in your Word program and it will take you to each instance of the repeated word. You then have the option to change it to something more interesting or to delete it. You’ll be shocked at the repetitions you’ll find.

Another method that is surprisingly simple but works well is to read your work out loud. You’ll be amazed at what you notice. You’ll make corrections automatically because what you wrote doesn’t “sound right” when read aloud.

Why not give it a try and read a page of your writing out loud?

You may find that some of your repeated words and expressions are clustered in a small section of your work. Almost in the same way that we get a song on the brain, so we have a word or expression that comes out in our writing almost without our bidding. Perhaps by the time you write another page, you have had a break, or a night’s sleep, and that word is no longer “on your brain,” so it won’t reappear until later on, if at all.

Many of the repeated or overused words are not even necessary to the writing. Try it out and see if you really need that pet word.

Some commonly overused words:

then, now, maybe, even, anyway, so, like, pretty, very, really, little, kind of, bit of, big, you know, would, nice, said, finally, at last.

There are many more, but we each have our own special expressions. We need to become aware of what they are. Then we must ask ourselves, “Is this exactly what I want to say, or is it filler?”

Warning Signs: A Story about Obsession

Horror and gruesome killing upset me and I don’t like to read about these details. But author, Carol Balawyder, handles the murder scenes in her novel about a serial killer so deftly that I just wanted to keep turning pages – never having the urge to hide my eyes – only wanting to know more.

Once I was hooked (on the first page), she introduced the characters gradually, allowing me to get to know them as they each struggled with various dilemmas. Ms. Balawyder expertly slipped in details that would be needed later to make the culmination of the plot flow easily. Nothing happens that seems contrived, because the groundwork was laid earlier in the book.

Each of the characters had major flaws but they also had redeeming traits. Even Eugene, the serial killer, was not all bad. Imagine empathizing with a serial killer!

The tension regarding the murderer escalates, and we expect this, but when he befriends Angie, their internal conflicts come into play as well. We already understand why Angie would fall for someone like Eugene, because, by now, we know her personality. But will Eugene hurt Angie? What will Angie do once she suspects that Eugene may be the killer?

What about Darren, the policeman who finds Angie attractive? Will his feelings toward her interfere with his murder investigation?

I was impressed by the way this novel’s plot flowed so smoothly, pulling me in as the characters I came to know so well became entangled in it.

After being drawn into the story on page one, I didn’t want to put the book down until I read, “THE END,” and even then I was thinking about it after I closed the book.

Carol Balawyder

Visit Carol Balawyder’s page on amazon to see all of her novels.

Long Sentences

Do you know what is both the shortest and the longest sentence in the world? Some say it is  — “I do.”

But this post is not about marriage counseling; it is about sentence length.

I know that when I’m reading, I don’t like overly long sentences. I was traveling in Germany many years ago and needed a new book to read. The local bookstore had no books in English, but I was desperate. I picked up one of the few German titles that looked familiar to me and decided to try reading it (in German) as a challenge. It was Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy. I had learned German as a child and I looked on this book as a way to improve my command of the German language.

I was able to read and understand the words, but two things made my job extremely difficult. First, many of the sentences were very long. Second, the verb was usually at the end, as it often is in German. These two challenges nearly finished me. Luckily it was a good book and I wanted to know what would happen next. That helped me through it.

I came to the conclusion that I do not like to read long sentences. If I don’t like reading long sentences, why would I write them and inflict them on others?

Readers lose interest if they have to struggle to get the point of the sentence. Who wants to work that hard?  It takes the pleasure out of reading.

So! As a writer, I am offering some tips about writing sentences.

  • Vary the length of sentences.
  • Vary the type of sentences. (Don’t use the same structure for each one – Noun, verb, object. Noun, verb, object. Boring!)
  • Use short sentences for emphasis. Occasionally, it might even be just a fragment (not a complete sentence).
  • Use short emphatic sentences sparingly or you will lose the effect.

Generally, shorter is better. As a rule of thumb, more than 17 words is too long. Don’t think of that as a hard and fast rule, but rather as a guideline. Many writers string ideas together with connecting words such as but, and, while, since, which, so, and then. Often, these sentences would be much more effective if the connectors were taken out. The long boring sentence can then be reshaped into two good ones.

After you write a paragraph, check it for strong vocabulary and strong verbs. Add modifiers where warranted. If your writing is about a character, think about how he feels and add details to support this. Use rich language without being pretentious or unnatural.

Change it up. Mix it up. Pace yourself. Keep it interesting.