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March 2014
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Don’t get suspended: Principle vs. principal

On moral 6009grounds alone, writers ought to properly use principle and principal.

Principle means “a basic truth or belief”: Liberty is among the principles the United States was founded upon. It is always a noun.

Principal refers to “something of primary importance.” It could be the guy who heads the school (The principal gave the naughty student a detention.). It might be money in a loan (The principal on his car came to several thousand dollars.). It could describe why something was done (The principal reason he retired from his job was frustration with his boss.). Note that it can be both a noun and an adjective.

So don’t ever get this wrong again, dear writer – or we’re sending you to the principal’s office.

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 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or a small town like Boring, Oregon, I can provide that second eye.



How to establish your own writer's voice

Ever notice 58499153_e0c220ec61how you can identify some writers by the way they write? That’s because they have a distinct voice.

Each writer sounds unique because each of has our own world view. Someone who is cynical likely is to write in a cynical style. He accomplishes this by creating rhythm and diction, by shaping sentences. These stylistic techniques combine to create a certain pattern or texture to one’s writing.

For example, Arthur C. Clarke’s writing often has been described as prophetic, not just because of the predictions it makes but because of the voice he exudes in his writing. Consider this passage from his short story “The Possessed”: And now the sun ahead was so close that the hurricane of radiation was forcing the Swarm back into the dark night of space. Soon it would be able to come no closer; their gales of light on which it rode from star to star could not be faced so near their source. Unless it encountered a planet very soon, and could fall down into the peace and safety of its shadow, this sun must be abandoned as had so many before.

The voice is prophetic due to its soaring tone and the lofty, sweeping way the subject is handled. Many of Clarke’s stories contain such passages that make him unique from Asimov, Bradbury, Gibson and other science fiction writers.

Every writer has his own voice. But some writers – especially beginners – sound flat and all too similar. Some would say those writers haven’t found “their” voice yet, and there’s some truth to that. But more likely the problem is they haven’t fully mastered the craft of writing. They understand well the mechanics of writing and plotting but lack the self-confidence to let their own voice be heard. It is as if they are a apprentice painter, able to follow the rules of their Renaissance master but unable to add the brush strokes necessary to give the work a unique quality.

There are a few ways you can strengthen your voice:
Fine-tune sentences – Make sure they clearly convey what you want to say. Many writers have a distinct voice because their sentences carry a subtext. To accomplish that, every word must be selected for a specific purpose.
Use expressive words – The words you select ought to be to the point, should be evocative, should focus the reader toward a certain feeling or message.
Avoid imitating another author’s voice – You wouldn’t talk like someone else, so why write like someone else? Even if you “mastered” another writer’s voice, it wouldn’t be original.

A final note: Don’t confuse with “point of view” or “verb tense” with voice. Sometimes terms overlap. And while point of view and verb tense are important elements in your writing, “voice” in this discussion refers more to your word choice and how those words are arranged to create a certain impression.

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 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or a small town like Cluttsville, Alabama, I can provide that second eye.


Avoid deus ex machina ending in your story

Sometimes authors 12115807_10153305839075216_1039272689576033159_nwrite themselves into a corner – they’ve created an extremely suspenseful story but have failed to provide clues that would allow the main character to resolve the tale’s central problem. They then introduce a miraculous solution to an otherwise apparently insoluble problem.

This contrivance is called a deus ex machina. The term comes from ancient Greek tragedy in which a machine – usually a crane – brought a god (“deus” is Latin for “god”) to the stage at the play’s end to resolve the problem for the main character.

A good example of a deus ex machina in modern literature is the ending of William Golding’s novel “Lord of the Flies.” As the character Ralphie and the other children face death, a naval ship passing by spots them; an officer comes ashore and saves them. Ralphie and the children don’t solve their problem; instead, the naval officer removes their problem. Golding himself called the ending a “gimmick.”

You should avoid deus ex machina endings in your stories. In addition to diminishing the suspension of disbelief, most readers will feel cheated by it. An intriguing main character and the difficult decision he must make to resolve the problem is what hooked the reader, after all. Failing to allow the main character to make that decision really fails to adequately end the story.

Fixing a deus ex machine ending often requires that the author rewrite or add various elements to the story. Clues should appear in the story about how the main character might resolve the central problem. An evolution that character’s thinking that allows him to put together those clues and to make the difficult decision also should occur.

Of course, sometimes the deus ex machine is worth keeping in a story, especially if it’s a comedy. In such stories, the reader will accept that incredibly wacky and unlikely events occur, so long as they’re humorous. For example, in the movie “Monty Python’s Life of Brian,” the main character Brian is saved by a passing alien spaceship.

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 Minneapolis, Minnesota, a small town like Nothing, Arizona, I can provide that second eye.


Five Great Quotations about Writing Process

“People on 240_F_78988252_OTAHLfWu1A5KpXUIdYyLiO00TvHngJEv (1) the outside think there's something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn't like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that's all there is to it.” – Harlan Ellison

“Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.” – Gene Fowler

“I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.” – Gustave Flaubert

“The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.” – William Faulkner

“If you haven't got an idea, start a story anyway. You can always throw it away, and maybe by the time you get to the fourth page you will have an idea, and you'll only have to throw away the first three pages.” – William Campbell Gault

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 Dallas, Texas, or if you come from a small town Why, Arizona, I can provide that second eye.


How long is needed to write a professional book?

Often when Calendarnovice writers set out to pen a book, they ask, “How long should this take?” Since writing is their passion and a talent they express better than most others, when the book doesn’t come together in a matter of weeks, uncertainty creeps in.

Unfortunately, there is no right or wrong answer. Sometimes a book comes quite easily for a writer and is written in a matter of days – and then the next book written, though in the end as good as the last one, takes years to construct.

Still, a number of variables do play a role in determining how much time you’ll spend writing a book. Among them:
In the zone – Call it the muse’s blessing, call it a room of one’s own; maybe it’s the inspiring books the author is reading or the amount of angst in their lives. Simply put, the writer’s mood is vital to a how many words are committed to a story each day; if you’re in the mood, you’ll be productive.
Time dedicated per day – Especially with nonfiction, churning out words often means simply making the time commitment. A writer who dedicates eight hours a day to a book likely will show a larger word count than the writer who only gives the book an hour per day.
Skill level – The more you’ve written, generally the easier writing becomes. Skilled authors better grasp the craft of writing and understand how their fellow published writers have dealt with description, plotting, character and style issues that might be encountered when writing.
Research needed – Books that require a lot of research, such as biographies and histories, demand interviews and a lot of additional reading, so they’ll probably take a lot longer to write than a novel in a setting familiar to the author.
Planning – At least where nonfiction books are concerned, the more outlining the writer does, the easier the first draft will come. This typically is true of fiction as well, so long as the author remains flexible and considers the outline a guide rather than the only route to a completed work. Planning your book, after all, forces you to think about the story and to anticipate potential problems before you begin drafting.
Revising – The more revising and polishing that must be done, the longer the book will take to complete. Often increased planning and skill level diminishes the amount of revising needed, but most writers will say they spend far more time editing their manuscript than they did writing the first draft.

Of course, each of these variables comes with a big asterisk. For example, a writer who’s already published 20 books may find No. 21 difficult to write because she’s used up all of her ideas and finds herself being repetitive. A writer who’s “in the zone” but dedicating only an hour a day to it might complete a novel before the author who’s not in the mood but dedicates four hours a day to writing.

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 Chicago, Illinois, or a small town like Humptulips, Washington, I can provide that second eye.


Post PowerPoint presentations related to book

One great Presentation-41770_1280 way to inform people about your nonfiction book is SlideShare. This social media site allows you to upload PowerPoint presentations, Microsoft Word documents, and PDFs for free.

SlideShare is very visual-oriented, meaning few words (think bullet points or pithy sayings) and lots of infographics or illustrations to go with those words. If you’ve already converted a blog entry into a presentation that you’ve used at a conference, workshop or book reading, you’ve probably got something you already can upload to SlideShare. If not, you easily can write a 7-10 slide presentation by distilling a blog entry to a few words.

Always add the URL to the website for your books, usually at the end of the presentation. SlideShare readers want content first, and if they make it through your entire program, they likely will want to read more of what you have to say and even go more in depth. Your book provides them that opportunity, hopefully netting you a sale.

As LinkedIn runs SlideShare, you can post your presentations on your LinkedIn profile. Of course, you also can link to the presentation on your other social media sites, such as Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Posting links at each of these sites can help your SlideShare presentation go viral.

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.


Q&A with Inventing Reality Editor Rob Bignell

Today, I’d like 240_F_107715647_MQ8zqhMWjR9bogHBGLeZbWoGRTABCQ7O to share the answers to a few questions that I often receive from clients and readers of this blog. 

Q: Who do you self-publish with? 
A: I’d recommend publishing your paperback with CreateSpace and then publishing your ebook with two different companies – Kindle DP for your Kindle ebook and then Smashwords for your iBook, Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader ebooks. They’re inexpensive, easy to use, and result in high page rankings for your titles on search engines. All of the arguments anyone gives for using other companies rarely will ever translate to increased book sales that justify the added expense or trouble of using. 

Q: In what order should I publish my books? Paperback first? Ebook first?
A: Start with the Kindle ebook. If you format your Kindle ebook to Smashword’s specs, you can do the proverbial two birds with one stone thing; later, you can go back and jazz up the look of your Kindle ebook. Do the paperback last; the paperback is the most difficult to format, so you want to catch as many possible errors as possible before you start formatting it, and working on the ebooks first will help you identify the stray typos.

Q: Should I buy my own ISBN?
A: I recommend buying an ISBN so that you (or your company) are the publisher. But if you’re on a budget, you certainly can let CreateSpace assign one to you; I believe Smashwords sells them for $10 for their ebooks. Here’s an article on the pro’s and cons of it. If you do buy your own ISBN, buy it ONLY through Bowker; that’s the only company the U.S. government (and hence most retailers, distributors, etc.) recognize as a legal assigner of ISBNs.

Q: Did you find a great book/resource to help you navigate the options or did you learn along the way?
A: I learned it all on my own by referring to a number of different (and sometimes vague as well as contradictory) sources. Because of this, my first book took me a few months to ready for publication; now I can do one of my own books in a few hours for paperback and the major ebook formats (so long as it’s already been edited/proofread). I do have a guidebook available that will take you through the entire process, step by step.

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 live in a big city like Denver, Colorado, or a small town like Pumpkin, Montana, I can provide that second eye.


Word in transition: Co-worker vs. coworker

Language always Office-2585036_1920is in a slow transition where spelling, pronunciation, definitions, and – more glacially –the grammar itself, is concerned. The competing spellings of co-worker and coworker is among those words in our language now undergoing just such a change.

Traditionally, co-worker is considered correct. As the Associated Press Stylebook still notes, typically words that denote position or occupation require a hyphen. Such words include co-author, co-owner and co-star.

The Chicago Manual of Styles 16th edition, however, lists coworker as not requiring a hyphen, a change from its 15th edition which allowed for either spelling. From personal experience as an editor, I’ve increasingly noticed writers using coworker without a hyphen, suggesting the 16th edition’s influence on writing and publishing.

Bottom Line: Use the style that your publisher prefers – if writing a magazine or newspaper article, that likely means AP style; if writing a book, that likely means Chicago Manual – and be internally consistent by always using the same style throughout your manuscript.

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 New York, New York, or a small town like Bantam, Connecticut, I can provide that second eye.


Recent editing client releases debut novel

A recent Paul Tannen An Aysmal Sleepcation editing client of mine, Paul Tannen, has released his debut novel, “An Abysmal Sleepcation.” The book tells the story of Shannon Brewster, a lonely, young woman whose stressful job as a psychiatrist in the mental health unit of a hospital and her non-existent social life has taken a toll on her psyche. Then she meets Greg Mallet, a 28 year-old patient who was unexpectedly awakened after three years in an accident-related coma. Greg doesn't remember who he is, nor does he recall his life before the accident; all that he remembers are the abstract dreams he had while in the coma, which provided him with a very unusual alternate reality. Their meeting leads them on a thrilling, suspenseful, humorous and odd journey of self-discovery, in which they learn to cherish the more important things in life. The book is available for sale online.

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 Cleveland, Ohio, or a small town like Roachtown, Illinois, I can provide that second eye.


Zip two disparate stories into one tale

Rather than Zipper storyfollow a lone main character through every chapter of a short story or novel, your tale might follow the experiences of two main characters or of two groups of principal characters that alternate. This is called a zipper story.

The zipper story – a term coined by Cambridge Science Fiction Workshop’s David Smith – includes two (or more) strands, with one usually as a subplot, that occur in turn with one another. Sometimes the strands appear to have nothing in common, but with each new scene, their relationship becomes more apparent until they connect in some way at the story’s climax. A good example of this Fredrick Pohl’s novel “Gateway” or any of several fantasy epic novels in which the principal characters are split into two groups and solving different issues thematically connected to the story’s central problem.

Each strand follows a five-part story structure with their intersection at the climax. Because of this, suspense can be maximized in a story by having a series of cliffhangers that the author doesn’t return to for another chapter. For example, if a dragon corners one group of our heroes at the end of a chapter, the next chapter will pick up with the other group overcoming its last cliffhanger. The chapter after that will return to our first group of heroes and show how they escape the dragon.

A twist on this is that the subplot is an analogy for the main storyline with the intersection at the story’s conclusion. Many episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” aptly do this.

Typically a zipper story is told in third-person omniscient. This prevents the jarring switch in point of view that occurs if alternating between two first-person narrations, though good writers have aptly used both techniques.

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 Sacramento, California, or a small town like Intercourse, Pennsylvania, I can provide that second eye.