Friday, February 26, 2016

MICRO WRITING THOUGHTS


I am one of those people who is constantly jotting down notes and ideas for articles and stories.  I have a little 4x6 file box with a divider for every type of project I write, and I organize all my little notes into it.  On the day of the week designated for a project, I go through its file and choose an idea to roll with. 

It would really be a stretch, however, to build a whole article out of some of the ideas, and so I have decided that every so often I will write a "Micro Writing Ideas" article like this, and lay all the little buggers on you. 

Here goes. 

  • Help your fellow writers out.  When you really like a book, instead of lending it to a friend, buy it for a friend.  It's a nice gift for a pal, and it helps out the writer, especially if they self-publish. 
  • If you write non-fiction and fiction as I do, get some extra mileage out of your ideas and research by writing your non-fiction article and fiction article as well from the same prompt/idea/inspiration.  It's fun, and a little challenge you can give yourself on a regular basis. 
  • Question – did anyone, in a typing course in school, learn that there is supposed to be a double space after a period, question mark, or exclamation point?  Just curious. 
  • I jotted this down after listening to a publisher friend bitching about writers who resented pitching in to publicize their own work:  "You have what many struggling authors consider a dream job.  Never mind how hard or tedious it is – if you're making money, NO WHINING. 
  • The "Editor" listing on Kindle Direct Publishing does not mean the editor/proofreader of the manuscript.  It is the title meant for a person(s) who pulls together a collection of stories by multiple authors for an anthology, or a collection of articles by multiple authors for a non-fiction book.  Only the author's name should be listed as a contributor on a novel, story, or novella Amazon.    
  • In my personal opinion, including each numbered chapter heading in a Table of Contents is a waste of time and space in a book, especially eBooks where the first ten pages are offered to readers for a sample.  If each chapter has a heading/title, that's one thing, but really, who needs three or four pages of numbers listed?  If you can offer a reasonable explanation for this, I'm listening. 
  • If you are participating in an online release party and win a free book or offered a free book, and you are not interested, please say so to the publisher or author.  He or she will mostly likely not be offended, but rather will take the book (which self-publishing authors must pay for) and give it to someone who genuinely wants to read it.  We get that colleagues attend press parties online to support us a friends, but might not necessarily enjoy our genre. 
  • For proofreaders and editors setting rates, consider setting sliding rates, and giving an estimate. Having an author email you his or her manuscript and finding out what kind of work load you're getting into is a good idea.  Car mechanics, plumbers, contractors, and other professional people offer estimates, why not editors.  Preparing a manuscript for publication is a long and tedious job and some authors don't know the difference between and editor and a co-writer.  The fees they pay should reflect that.  Also, giving an estimate allows you to accurately gauge how much time it will actually take you to do the project and relate that information to the author. 
  • The next time you're disappointed in a book or a movie, take the initial idea, the very basic concept, and write your own.  It's very satisfying.
  • If you're stuck for writing ideas, pull some of your published stories from last year, or before that, and do a "then and now" story, or rewrite the story from a different slant or perspective.  Also, if the story is non-fiction, write a fiction story, and vice versa. 
  • Back up your back ups – every day, every time you close out of a story, or a file, back it up onto a flash drive, and back the flash drive up onto an external hard drive.  You may think that's a pain in the ass, but believe me, it's nowhere near the pain in the ass of losing a story (or novel!).  Writing is hard enough work.  Don't have to do it all over again for a minute or two's worth of saving. 

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Okay.  I think I've cleared my little file of tidbits.  I know it's a hodgepodge, but hopefully some little snippet in here was helpful to you.  Feel free to leave comments!  I look forward to them! 


THESAURUS - DEVIL BOOK - YEA OR NAY?


As with chocolate brownies, moderation and discipline is the key when using a thesaurus.  I know there are writers giving tips everywhere saying that the thesaurus should never be cracked, but I disagree. 

First, you can learn a lot from a thesaurus on the expand-your-vocabulary horizon.  However, the thesaurus should be an editing tool more than a writing tool.  Write the story using words you absolutely know.  If there are words you use that you are not one hundred percent certain about, look up their synonyms in a thesaurus first, to give you context.  But then, look up the specific definitions for the word and its synonyms in a dictionary to be certain.  Even then, if you look up the synonym you plan to use, and the definition is the less common one, chances are it might not be correct in your story. 

For example, the matriarch in my fictitious town of Owl's Nest is a witch, and I wanted to find synonyms for the word witch because it comes up in my stories a lot. 

Witch synonyms include:  enchantress, sorceress, magician, necromancer, occultist. 

Okay, some of these apply some of the time, but not in the context I use them.  If I'm talking about a white witch casting a protection circle, sorceress might apply, but magician would be wrong.  And necromancer doesn't apply at all since it is associated with black art and not white witches. 

Writers need to be careful about that when using a thesaurus. 

My rules for the thesaurus are:

  • Never use the thesaurus to find bigger words to sound smarter.  Most of the time you just appear smug and give readers the opening to snort with derision when they find out you used the big, fancy words incorrectly after all. Even if the words are used correctly, nobody likes a show-off. 
  • Use the thesaurus to replace redundant or overused words – and know the precise meaning of every word you choose before placing it in your manuscript.  Preferably use the simplest synonyms listed because lesser known words are distractions for readers.  You're writing fiction, not primers. 
  • Use the thesaurus to find the exact word that's on the tip of your tongue.  You know the feeling.  You're writing away and come to a scene and there's a word – you can't think of it, dammit – you want to use because it would be just right.  Everything else is wrong.  Chances are if you look up the wrong word closest in meaning to the one you're trying to think of, the correct word will be shining in the list of synonyms there in your thesaurus. 

Through the years I've read many books of writing tips and how-tos from authors I respect and admire, and I'm always thrilled to know that I share their writing practices.  Thesaurus use is a divided issue – I hope you found my two-cents worth helpful. 






Monday, February 22, 2016

I WILL NO LONGER PURCHASE CRAP




Here's the deal.  I have an extremely limited, disability income, and I'm very choosy about what I buy from month to month.  As a writer, publisher, and editor I have become acquainted with many, many writer friends, most of whom self-publish their work as I do, or they publish via small presses. 

I congratulate them on their fortitude, and am excited for them whenever their books come out, because I know that every word is a dream realized for them. 

But I also know that some of their realized dreams came true because they took shortcuts and that their paper and ink, and electronic products are flawed.  Some of their dreams have become nightmares to read.

They depend on technology to edit their books, which comes up short because nothing replaces human eyes reading a book, word by word to eliminate errors and awkward sentences and paragraphs. 

This is not the first time I've written about editing one's manuscript.  In fact I've harped on it quite a lot in this blog.  Letting a sloppy-ass manuscript get into print, either electronic print or ink print is disrespectful to your readers.  If you expect them to spend their hard-earned money on your book, then you need to get off your lazy ass and make it clean. 

I have reached the point where I'm disgusted enough with what I've read in the past couple of months, to begin book shopping much, much more discriminately.  Here's what I mean: 

  • I will thoroughly read the cover, front and back, of the book.  If there is even one error there, I will not purchase it.  Any author that allows an error to show up on their cover can't possibly care about or respect the reader's investment of time or money. 
  • I will read the sample pages on Amazon or read the first twenty pages in the book store.  If there are errors in those first few pages, I will just assume that the book is poorly edited and the author is too lazy or inept to fix problems, and move on to a book where the author gives a damn. 

It's that simple.  You either care or you don't.  You either have a passion to tell stories and engage readers and give them a polished book worthy of their time and money, or you're pumping out crap as fast as you can that isn't worth the reader's effort to turn the pages. 

This reader is disgusted with the crap out there on the market.  I will no longer buy it.  I will, if I consider you a friend, tell you why I didn't buy your book.  Because friends tell friends, in a polite way, when they are screwing up.  But I won't buy crap.  Not anymore. 

TD – 2/22/2016