Tag Archives: Writer

What makes a book unremarkable? One author/reader’s views – very well stated!

This link came to me from one of the writer’s in the local writer’s group I used to attend, who I believe follows this blog. The author who wrote this article came up with a way to review other author’s books, and what about them makes him lose interest. He has evaluated those reasons for losing interest in this blog post in a very effective manner, which could give any author an opportunity to look at their own work with an eye to seeing if those flaws are present. Not surprising to me, poor editing is in the top three. Show, don’t tell is another – also not a surprise. The lion’s share of the top issue concerns goes to story building, which is also not a surprise. Here is something that should not surprise us either – good beta or alpha readers can help resolve the first two, a good copy editor or developmental editor can also help with the first two, but no one can help you produce a good book if you don’t have a good underlying plot, strong characters, and consistently believable material to begin with!

http://creativityhacker.ca/2014/08/26/the-5-most-common-writing-mistakes-that-break-reader-immersion/

Now – being a scientist, I am aware that you can make statistics tell you just about anything you want it to tell you. Also, being aware of the nature of statistics, I am aware that this fellow is working with a very small data pool and using highly subjective analysis. However, given those limitations I believe that he has been forthright in his presentation and representation of what data he has accumulated thus far, and has limited the subjective nature of his research with multiple checks to the point that the material is extremely valuable. 

It will be interesting to see future results with more data available, or to see if the process could be replicated. Anyone else out there interested in trying this? Or know someone using a review process similar to this so the results can be compared?

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What exactly do they mean when they say “show, don’t tell”?

As a copy editor who does a lot of developmental editing with indie authors, Show Don’t Tell is one of the things that I find myself mentioning a lot. Problem is, a catchphrase like that is so easy to say and so hard to explain in only a few words without using examples and re-writing material so the author can see the difference – and I find that authors can sometimes be extremely touchy about someone rewriting their pages for them (they are, after all, that author’s creation – and therefore offspring of a sort – and parents have been known to go to battle over something derogatory said about their child).

When authors ask me how to go about showing instead of telling this is the advice I give them:

Use more dialogue to get the material moving along if you want things to move quickly, rather than using short sentences and paragraphs that tell us what you want us to know.

Don’t be afraid of adding lots of volume to your manuscript by adding descriptions (and remember that descriptive passages should engage all our senses, not just the eyes and ears), but do maintain a balance.

Letting the reader figure out what you want them to know on their own engages the reader more fully – don’t be afraid to add information later on instead of loading it on the front end of the story. Making the reader wonder about what is going on increases tension and therefore is likely to make them want to read more to discover the answers. This does not mean adding lots and lots of flashbacks – it means providing back story in small doses as you write the material, rather than all at once in the first chapter.

Along with the notion of adding tension, self-reflection on personal issues adds tension and allows a writer to tell rather than show when writing in first person, specifically because of that aspect. If an author has a very difficult time with the ‘show, don’t tell’ dilemma, changing writing style to a first person point of view can alleviate that somewhat.

Anything that is passive is usually ‘tell,’ so avoid passive writing – more about that in another post, but basically anything that uses forms of the verb is (was, be, has been, etc.) is usually passive in nature rather than active. Writers who have written a lot of non-fiction tend to use passive voice frequently since that is what is properly used in reports, or textbooks. It is sometimes harder for a technical writer to write fiction than it is for someone who has never written anything at all to do so.

I also usually direct people to a couple of websites for examples and information, so here are a couple of those.

Grammar Girl is always great at giving good examples and clear explanations: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/show-dont-tell?page=all

This site is for grade school teachers, teaching writing to young students, but it is very clear and concise because of that: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/show-dont-tell-whiteboard-writing-lesson

I also like the Purdue OWL, but was disappointed on this subject – the links were not opening for me or were imbedded in general advice:

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/sitemap/

And here are a couple of other links:

http://www.dailywritingtips.com/show-dont-tell/

http://www.sfwriter.com/ow04.htm

http://users.wirefire.com/tritt/tip1.html

In fact, if you search “show don’t tell” you get a lot of links – even a very nice explanation from Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Show,_don’t_tell

Perhaps it is not surprising to find that having references for the information I am providing is probably reassuring to authors. It may surprise you to know that I find a great deal of comfort in being able to point to a reference and say: “See, they said it too.” After all, knowing I am right about something doesn’t PROVE I am right about it, it is just my opinion in the end – but pointing at others whose work is respected and being able to say they said it too (or sometimes, they said it first) gives information more credence. Something for non-fiction writers to remember, even if what you are writing is a blog.

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Editing oopsy to share

So, I got in a msp to edit with the directions to “just accept all the corrections” which makes me nervous as a hen faced with a hungry fox – I don’t like the author skipping the approval stage, but I can live with it. I queried anything that was too iffy or major, but was fine with accepting corrections in punctuation and any errors introduced from integrating old material and new (duplicate words, grammar or tense mismatches, etc.).

I got to the last page of the msp, and there were the acknowledgements from the previous edition…

Right in the middle of the paragraph, there was my name, thanking me for catching a lot of typos – in a paragraph that had a typo in it! Oh my! First, to feel good that I had been signaled out for mention in the acknowledgement at all, but simultaneously to feel embarrassed that a there was a typographical error glaring out at me in text that I had supposedly edited.

I know it had been added after my edit had been turned in or how would they have gotten my name? After all, the only way to get my name associated with anything in any of the textbooks I sub-contract with is to see it in the corrections in the Word document when they are looking the correction suggestions over, and I don’t usually see msp after it has been turned back in to the author unless it needs an editorial read after the fact – which doesn’t happen that often.

But just because I know that doesn’t mean anyone else would know – so anyone who bought that book and was paying attention when they read the acknowledgements, knows that there was an error right there that I must have apparently missed! They didn’t even have to buy it – if they just leafed through the first few pages, and skimmed into that page, there it was!

So, an ah well for it – at least my name is out there.

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Heartland Book Design, HBD

This company is VERY good at book design and I really enjoy working with them. If you are considering self-publishing, you may want to contact them. The website focuses on textbooks, especially mathematics, as they are set up to develop formulaic material better than most design companies – but they really are versatile and can work with most topics as well as with indie authors of novels.

 

http://www.heartlandbookdesign.com/

 

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let’s get started!

Well – my first blog here, hope it won’t be my last!

I am here trying to get my face out there into the world and had a hard time finding a photo in which I wasn’t sticking my tongue out at the photographer (usually one of my kids) or where an animal wasn’t more the subject than me (meaning I was filthy dirty from giving a horse a bath or worse, LOL).

I just might have to let someone take some real pictures of me and try for a more professional (and better dressed) me for the images!

I am a copy editor.

I thought I might be a writer, but I found that when I joined a writers group all I wanted to do was check the work everyone one else was writing.

So, bowing to the inevitable I have accepted that I am a reader not a writer, and since I am happier reading than any other time that is fine with me. Heck, I read for work all day, and when I knock off I pick up a book to read, Drives the hubby a little nuts but he knows that is what I do.

Wish me luck – I want to get some more business in the world of fiction since most of my copy editing has been college textbooks and free edits for new writers of fantasy and sci-fi novels, one of whom insisted on paying me for my work and that got me started thinking…

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