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October 2012
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December 2012

Eschew cliches like a toxic waste dump

A quick Keyboard-597007_640way to strengthen your writing is to replace (or just avoid altogether) overused expressions and phrases. Such expressions and phrases are known as clichés. They include terms such as “avoid like the plague”, “beat around the bush” or “kiss of death”.

Such expressions are so overused that they’ve lost their force. While most readers understand the point being made by a cliché, few understand the origin of and meaning behind the expression. In addition, because of their overuse, clichés sound trite.

Rather than rely on clichés, writers who’ve mastered their craft develop more clever ways of expressing an idea or feeling. These clever expressions delight readers. After all, part of the fun of reading is seeing how writers play with words. Putting them together in unique, evocative ways isn’t just fun for the reader – it’s part of the joy of writing.

You can rewrite sentences using clichés by thinking of an analogy for the cliché. For example, instead of “airing dirty laundry,” you might say, “He dumped a trash can full of his problems over me.”

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Colorado Springs, Colorado, or a small town like Big Chimney, West Virginia, I can provide that second eye.


Organ music won't create suspense in your story

Sometimes Organ-239382_1920when attempting to create tension and suspense in a story, writers can undercut their own efforts by adding “organ music.” A term coined at the Cambridge Science Fiction Workshop, organ music us providing “details that countersink an emotional response before anything happens.” An example is crackling lightning before a character is murdered. Avoid this non-subtle way of foreshadowing as a way of creating suspense, however; non-subtle foreshadowing actually gives away what is about to happen. It’s akin to the villain telling the hero, “And now I will shoot you.” Just have the villain fire his atom blaster.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Charleston, West Virginia, or a small town like Frog Eye, Alabama, I can provide that second eye.


Editor’s book featured in Wis. holiday catalog

My Volume One catalog book Hikes with Tykes: A Practical Guide to Day Hiking with Kids is featured in Volume One’s holiday catalog, “Giftworthy Goods”. The catalog for the Eau Claire, Wis., store offers apparel, books, music, art and a variety of other items that are Wisconsin- and particularly Eau Claire-oriented. Hikes with Tykes is listed in the kids’ book section (It’s a guidebook for parents, grandparents, teachers and child caregivers). The catalog is included in the current edition of the Volume One newspaper, available across the Chippewa Valley – or for those farther flung, is online. Two of my other two books, Hikes with Tykes: Games and Activities and Love Letters to Sophie’s Mom, also can be ordered online through the Volume One store.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Charleston, West Virginia, or a small town like Falls Village, Connecticut, I can provide that second eye.


Volume One hosts successful book reading/signing

Thanks DCFC0001to Volume One in Eau Claire for hosting a book reading/signing of my poetry collection Love Letters to Sophie’s Mom on Thursday evening. I read a dozen poems from the collection, and we had a great time discussing poetry, bipolar illness imagery in writing. My next book reading will be of my new novel Windmill on Thursday, Dec. 6, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. also at the Volume One Gallery.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Little Rock, Arkansas, or a small town like No Name, Colorado, I can provide that second eye.


Target specific audiences to sell your book

Not Media-2082641_1280everyone will be interested in your book. Some people simply will not read westerns, others will not read mysteries. Some people have no interest in your detailed guidebook to elegant napkin folding or a first-person account of the Grenada invasion. But there ARE people who will be interested in any of these books. Your marketing challenge is to find them – and then get your book out in front of them.

Begin by asking yourself who those people are. A quick list of groups might come to mind. For example, a book about how to hike with kids obviously is of interest to hikers, so sending it to magazines and bloggers who write about hiking is a good idea.

Even then, some hikers and some hiking bloggers won’t be interested in the book. A magazine focusing on long-distance backcountry hiking won’t care much because kids typically are limited you to short day hikes. A blogger who writes about the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs a couple of thousand miles from Canada to Mexico probably isn’t interested either.

Like a marketing specialist, you’ll want to identify the demographic and psychographic attributes of your potential readers. For example, with the hiking book, I might think about:
• Age – Probably people in their 20s and early 30s who have children, but it also could be people in their 50s or 60s who have grandchildren.
• Gender – Either one will read the book, though mothers more than fathers tend to look for daily activities they might do with their children.
• Occupation – Parents and grandparents are the obvious answer, but what other people take children on day hikes? Teachers and youth group leaders are potential readers.
• Household income or home value – Day hiking is a low-cost activity. Still, parents must have some money to drive to trails, so one might speculate that middle to upper-middle class readers are more likely to buy this book.
• Marital status – Marriage probably doesn’t make a difference, but single parents with multiple children may be too harried to read the book.
• Presence of children in household – This is a definite in this case. Parents with grown children almost certainly won’t be interested in the book.
• Geographic region – Hiking tends to be more popular in the West, Upper Midwest and New England states than those on the Great Plains.
• Interests – Ask what kind of people hike. Answer: Those who like to be outdoors and those who like physical activities.

Your next objective is to target your audience. For example, seek publications and blogs that appeal to each of these groups. Given the age, gender and presence of children in the household findings, I might aim my marketing effort at magazines and blogs that deal with parenting not just hiking. Given the interests (a psychographic) attribute, I might target my marketing at publications and online sites advocating outdoor activities – including parks and playgrounds – or activities in nature. Given the geographic region finding, I might send my marketing materials to locations in Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin and Maine but skip Nebraska and Kansas (or at least save them for later in my effort).

Once you’ve decided who may be your target audience, next figure out what these people read and clubs they’re members of. Using a search engine, sift through various magazines, newsletters, blogs or clubs to identify places that might review your book, welcome book readings by you, be interested in having you as a guest speaker, and so on. This will take a concerted effort on your part, but the payoff potentially can be great, especially once you write a second or third or fourth book on the same topic, as you’ll develop a name for yourself as an expert in this niche.

Final step: Watch your book sales rise!

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Greensboro, North Carolina, or a small town like Weed, California, I can provide that second eye.


Selecting paper quality when self-publishing

Ever read 20a paperback novel and find the paper tearing as you turned the page a little too roughly? Or maybe while reading you wrote a note in the margins only to find you’ve left indentations on the next page? Fortunately, as going through the self-publishing process you can save readers of your book from such annoyances because you get the select the quality of the paper.

Paper quality generally improves with its thickness. So does its price. Paper quality, though, is vital to ensuring your book doesn’t look amateurish. Select too low of a quality, and the ink will bleed through to the other side or form an image on the opposite page because it didn’t have enough time to dry. These problems often occur in newspapers, which use about the lowest quality paper around due to its low price.

When deciding on the quality of paper, two factors come into play. First is if you will be printing solely in black and white or if there will be color. If there is color, you’ll want a higher quality paper than would be necessary for black and white. The second factor is the color of the paper; generally for books you can choose between white or cream. Black and white and some darker inks look fine on cream, but other colors will look odd. For the most professional look, stick with white, especially if printing color photos.

The “good” news is that most self-publishing copies don’t give you too many options where paper quality is concerned. As they want their product to look good when it lands in your hands, they tend to simply have you tell them if you will print anything in color or not and then preselect a paper for you.

If you do have some selection options, be careful – once you decide your paper quality, typically you cannot go back and change it after you print the book. Instead, you’ll need to purchase a new ISBN for it.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Columbia, South Carolina, or a small town like Caulksvile, Arkansas, I can provide that second eye.


Get rid of those red proofreading marks in Word

When 14225483_10153648776295216_2144512806889938704_nediting your manuscript in Microsoft Word 2007, one of the more useful features is the Track Changes mode. This handy tool will allow you to see what changes were made (typically by showing red proofreading marks), view a final copy of the manuscript without all of those red marks, and to even see the original version of the manuscript before any editing at all was done.

Unfortunately, every time you open up a Word file edited in the Track Changes mode, the program has this annoying habit of showing all of those red proofreading marks – even if the last time you viewed the document it was set to be seen in its final form without the editing symbols.

How do you get rid of those annoying proofreading marks? Try this:
• At the top middle of the open Word file, click “Review.”
• A new ribbon should appear across the top of your page. Near the center of this ribbon is the “Track Changes” button. To the right of that is a pull-down menu. If there are red proofreading marks all over your page, this menu probably says “Final Showing Markup”. To get rid of the red proofreading marks on your page, change this pull-down menu to “Final.”
• Conversely, if you want to see the red proofreading marks, the pull-down menu probably is on “Final” and should be changed to “Final Showing Markup”.
• If you want to see your manuscript before any editing changes were made, click on “Original” in this pull-down menu.

If uploading the Microsoft Word file to a self-publishing company's website so you can have the book printed, sometimes the red proofreading marks will be uploaded, too. To resolve this issue, in the ribbon at the top of the Word file, click "Review." Look for the "Track Changes" command in the middle of the ribbon. To its right is a drop-down menu named "Show Markup." On that drop-down menu, uncheck each of the items so that are NO checks. You now have the final, clean copy that should upload fine.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Dayton, Ohio, or a small town like Why, Arizona, I can provide that second eye.


Watch for verb tense shifts in your writing

A common Pen-543858_640 mistake among novice writers is shifting within their story so that events occurred in the now but then in the next paragraph happen in the past. This is a sign that the writer is changing verb tenses.

There are two common verb tenses in which you could write. Most typically used is past tense. In this case, the story’s events are told as if they’ve happened in the past (never mind that your story may be set in the future – the reader actually is hearing about the events from a future beyond which the story is told):

Col. Noel turned away from the reflection of his wrinkled face in the starcraft’s portal. Nothing to see but dust and gas anyway, he muttered to himself. His baggy eyes glanced at the gamma ray radiation sensors; soon the ship would enter the glowing cloud’s open center, where immortality awaited him. He moved toward the helm but cringed as the arthritis in his knee spiked. There was nanomedicine for the infirmity, but taking the capsules only reminded him of his body’s inevitable slow destruction. He sighed, resorted to giving the computer a voice command to slow speed, noticed a rasp in his words that had never been there before.

The other verb tense used in stories is present tense. In this case, the story’s events unfold exactly at the same time that the reader reads them. Notice how the above example of past tense writing changes when rewritten in present tense:

Col. Noel turns away from the reflection of his wrinkled face in the starcraft’s portal. Nothing to see but dust and gas anyway, he mutters to himself. His baggy eyes glance at the gamma ray radiation sensors; soon the ship will enter the glowing cloud’s open center, where immortality awaits him. He moves toward the helm but cringes as the arthritis in his knee spikes. There was nanomedicine for the infirmity, but taking the capsules only reminds him of his body’s inevitable slow destruction. He sighs, resorts to giving the computer a voice command to slow speed, notices a rasp in his words that had never been there before.

Writers should stick to one tense when writing. Shifting between tenses jars the reader.

In addition, writers rarely should use present tense. In the hands of a master, such as Margaret Atwood in her novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” it can be used to great effect by creating a sense of immediacy and making the narrators’ voice unique. But present tense largely is an unnatural way of telling a story. After all, which of the two versions of Col. Noel’s tale do you prefer?

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Los Angeles, California, or a small town like Hell, Michigan, I can provide that second eye.


When do you need a manuscript editor?

You’ve Plot 01finished your novel or short story but are beginning to think that maybe someone else should look it over before you send it off. You do an Internet search and find Web sites for manuscript editors – also known as book doctors - who will proofread and critique your manuscript for a fee.

So is a manuscript editor necessary?

First, some full disclosure: I offer my own manuscript editing service.

Having said that, for many writers having someone else look at your novel or short story is a necessary step to getting it in shape before sending it to a literary agent or editor. For beginning writers, an outside editor is a useful step in helping develop your craftsmanship. After all, no apprentice becomes a master without a mentor. Unfortunately, many editors and publishers just don’t have the time to serve in that role. A manuscript editor can help fill that need.

Many writers simply don’t need manuscript editors. They’re understand punctuation, grammar, mechanics and the art of storytelling well enough that a book doctor at best simply will point out what they already know or would have caught on their next draft. Many writers simply could turn to a friend or colleague who could provide an excellent read, or they might attend a writing workshop.

So, which kind of writer are you? You need to make an honest self-assessment of your skills and talent.

Often the reason a writer seeks out a manuscript editor is because a literary agent or publisher recommends it. The agent can’t sell the book in its current condition or a publisher wants to print a book can’t in its current form (many publishing houses don’t retain editors, or if they do, the editors are overloaded with work). If agents and publishers do make such a recommendation, by all means follow up on it – it means you’re very close to getting in print.

What keeps most writers from using a manuscript editor is the cost. Most charge by word or page. For a 75,000-word novel, be prepared to pay a few hundred dollars for the close edit and critique. That’s beyond the reach of most single moms, college students and many others who hope to turn writing from a hobby to a profession. So you have a decision to make: Do you tighten your belt now with hope of book sales later, or do you wait it out and see if someone else will pick up the book (or your next one)?

When selecting a manuscript editor, keep this in mind:
• Be careful of those book doctors who also are literary agents or publishers (or both) - That represents a significant conflict of interest. It’s also a great money-making racket for some.
• Don’t pay fees to a literary agent or a publisher for a referral – Or vice-versa. When the manuscript editor receives money for referring you to an agent or publisher. That’s called a kickback, and it’s not giving you an honest appraisal of where to send your manuscript so it can be published.
• No manuscript editor ever should guarantee publication - That’s a decision only a publisher can make.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Baton Rouge, Louisiana, or a small town like Slap-Out, Alabama, I can provide that second eye.


Editing client’s second book with me published

The Cautious Man second book by a long-time editing client of mine was released last week. Oliver Frances’ “Cautious Man” tells the story of “Elegábalo…a cautious man. He walked looking over his shoulder and never let his cautiousness slip away until he got what he always wished. Elegábalo was an honest man who always struggled for his dream, working hard to achieve it and never giving up to city lure. In the palm of his right hand was traced his fate, which was unknown to him. He fulfilled his dream when he built his hand with his own hands and married the rose of the town. But, like the country in which he lived, Elegábalo never thought of the unexpected, and this changed dramatically his fate and then fortune.” Frances’ first novel, “Through Existences”, which I also edited, was released last summer. “Cautious Man” is available for sale at Amazon.com.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Allentown, Pennsylvania, or a small town like Chugwater, Wyoming, I can provide that second eye.