Write. Edit. Share. Repeat.

About writing, editing, publishing & getting it out there

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Sides forming in the Amazon-Hachette dispute

Anti-Amazon ad

On Sunday, a full-page ad will appear in The New York Times, paid for by a group of best-selling authors and signed by 900 other authors, calling on Amazon “in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business.”

This ad is “the latest salvo in a battle over terms which has seen Amazon delay delivery and remove the possibility of pre-orders on a swathe of books by Hachette authors, including JK Rowling and James Patterson,” The Guardian reported on Friday, Aug. 8. “The online leviathan Amazon says it is attempting to ‘lower ebook prices’; publishing conglomerate Hachette argues that it is seeking ‘terms that value appropriately for the years ahead the author’s unique role in creating books, and the publisher’s role in editing, marketing, and distributing them.’ Read More

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“Reinvent Your Business”—2014 Communication Central Conference

Communication Central cropped logoFor experienced freelance editors (and those just starting their business)

The Communication Central “Build Your Business” conference is a small but very helpful conference for editorial freelancers, and I recommend it to anyone trying to build their business or improve the way they do business. The conference is Sept. 26-27 in Rochester, NY, and the theme is “Be a Better Freelancer! (Re)Invent Your Business.”

[See my interview with conference organizer Ruth E. Thaler-Carter here. Note: She’s extended early-bird prices for the conference to August 10 for readers of this blog!] Read More

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Aug. 1-3, NYC: Writer’s Digest Conference

The craft and business of being a writer

Writers Digest conference logoThe Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, taking place in New York City in a few weeks, is for literary writers of all experience levels, published, unpublished, or self-published. According to the event’s website, the conference program is “designed to give (writers) a balanced education in both the craft and the business of being a writer, in an encouraging and inspiring environment.” Read More

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Will a Writing Group Improve Your Writing?

Too much pressure?

writing group 3 by Adam Tinworth flickrI hemmed and hawed about joining a writing group for years. I wanted to, because I felt it would push me to write more and write better. But I had long periods where I couldn’t seem to write, at least not anything I thought was decent. I felt that the pressure of a writing group would be counterproductive and would result in my feeling worse about my writing than before.

Yet I saw other writers talking about how such groups helped them finish their novels.

If you have hesitated, like me, afraid of the pressure, then work on finding or starting a writing group that gives as much support as criticism. Read More

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Criticism: It only hurts for a little while (like a root canal)

manuscript 2Feedback, direct or indirect

At some point in the writing process, you’re going to have to accept some criticism, either direct or indirect. By direct I mean from your writing group or beta readers (if you have them), your editor (if you’ve hired one), your agent (if you’re good enough that one takes you on), or the editors at your publishing house (if you can get in the door).

You don’t have to go through that process at all, of course—after all, mainstream publishing is now represented by merely a handful of gatekeepers, and they’re not looking out for your best interests, right? Or so the self-publishing mavens say. So self-publish, get your book out there, and skip all these steps. Then wait for the sales and rave reviews to pour in. And wait. And wait. Read More

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No guarantee

NYPL books 3 020113I named my blog “Write.Edit.Share.Repeat” because I wanted to encourage everyone to write, to make their work as perfect as they could, to share it with others (self-publish, if you can’t get a deal with a mainstream publisher), and then to keep going. When I tell people, “If you want to write, just write,” I mean it.

But everyone has limitations. I struggle with writing, myself, and more than half of the time I don’t like what has emerged on the paper or screen. You have to write, edit, revise, edit, revise. No book you see on a shelf in a bookstore was a first draft. Read More

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Five solutions for avoiding distractions

This is important . . . read it now!

Hopefully others who work for themselves can identify with this. When I’m supposed to be working, or when I’m supposed to shut down and go to sleep, I sometimes find myself doing other things, all of which feel very important at the time. I’ll read a blog about economics or watch how-to YouTube videos about things I want to learn . . . and thirty minutes later find myself numbly watching yet another sappy video of a guy “creatively” proposing to his girlfriend.

The educational videos are more valuable than the proposal videos, but all of them are time suckers. When I finally go to bed, I sometimes carry guilt about all the things I could have or should have accomplished that day.

There is a happy medium between self-acceptance (there are just 24 hours in every day) and better discipline (it’s easy to waste a lot of those hours).  Read More

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NaNoWhyNo?

NoNoWriMo ButtonI just signed in to NaNoWriMo. I wasn’t going to do it. I still don’t know if I’m going to do it. It’s a heartwrenching, anxiety-inducing notion that I can write 50,000 words in one month, let alone an actual story. As one writer on the site declared, November brings “Th-angst-giving.”

Is there any writer out there who does not know what NaNoWriMo is? Read More

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There’s a story in here somewhere…

It’s my belief that if you think you can write, or you have the urge to write, you should never worry about whether you are good or not—you should simply pick up pen and paper or turn on your computer and start.

what are you waiting forOf course some writers are better than others, and some stories are better than others, but don’t worry about that right now. Writers often are self-deprecating, vastly underestimating their talent. But the pendulum of self-awareness swings the other way as well, judging by the mounds of awful books to be found on Kindle, B&N, Smashwords and elsewhere, simply because it’s so easy to self-publish these days, especially electronically. The main saving grace of some eBooks is that they at least haven’t killed any trees.

But back to the person who thinks he or she has a good story, such as a memoir: What are you waiting for? Just write the darn thing! Get a proofreader before you publish; that’s a given. But much earlier in the process, it’s just as important to have a copyeditor, or a developmental editor if you can swing it (the fee will be a little higher than for a copyeditor.)

A good editor does way more than catch typos. She can help point out a disjointed story line, or suggest from a neutral distance that certain scenes or characters don’t fit in. Your aunt may have been a fascinating person, full of crazy adventures, but unless you shared in those adventures or they affected your life, they probably don’t belong in your memoir.

Beyond the actual story, an editor can help a writer by spotting repetition or cliches or ill-fitting metaphors. The existence of any of these things does not make someone a bad writer. If you have a 300+ page manuscript and you’ve already read it multiple times, it can be easy to overlook something.

Most writers know they need someone else to check their spelling and grammar, but I think many assume that the editor will send the manuscript back with one or two misspelled words every ten pages. They seem a bit shell-shocked when there are a lot more corrections than they expected. On the one hand, it’s good to catch these things before presenting the book to the public, but on the other hand—”Jeez, I thought I had read this a lot more closely and caught everything!”

First of all, as I said, a misspelled word or a misplaced apostrophe does not equal bad writing. The story is what is most important. And I do try to remind writers that I am not the final decision-maker. A lot of my comments are simply suggestions or queries. I may say, “Do you think your audience will understand this?” or (in fiction) “Do you think this character would do that?” In a memoir it may be, “You might need to make your motivation more clear here.”

The writer may very well respond, “I think my audience will understand this” or, “Yes, I do think this character would do that.” And the writer knows this best. Even with grammar rules, it is up to the writer to decide to break them, or to decide that adherence to certain rules may take away from the voice of the book. I will be extra assertive only in cases where it’s probably going to make the writer look bad if I don’t. (Yes, you really do need an apostrophe there.)

I’ve read a couple memoirs lately that I felt were terrific stories. Some only needed minor tweaking, others more guidance. Several of these authors told me, “I’m not really a writer”—as I was staring at their finished manuscript.

So, what’s your story?

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Badly edited books

I’ve joked about poorly edited books on Twitter, but in reality, I don’t think it’s a joke. It’s something that bothers me quite a bit.

I’m an editor, so I realize I’m biased, but I’m a reader first. I can grit my teeth and overlook one or two typos in a book, not one or two per page. It makes me very frustrated when I try to be supportive of indie authors, and I feel bad for the ones who know how important it is to clean up a book before setting it loose in the world. I don’t understand it. Not everyone is a great writer, but it you want to be recognized for your writing (and I assume a writer wants to be recognized for his writing if he’s published a book) you are shooting yourself in the foot if you produce something riddled with mistakes.

At least part of the reason I’m on GoodReads is to discover new books and writers. If someone sends me an invitation to an “event,” ie, the publication of his new book, I’ll look at it and consider it. If it’s free, I’ll download it only if there are no mistakes in the promotional copy. If it’s not free, I’ll check out the cover and title first, then the description, and then the reviews. If it seems like something I might like, I’ll buy it. I’m not saying I do this every time someone sends me such an invitation (I’d never be able to keep up) but I’ll do it often enough. It’s fairly random.

Recently, I was burned by a particularly bad indie science fiction book. I won’t go into the fact that the plot line, the dialogue and the characters all needed a lot of work, probably more than a basic copyedit could fix. What an editor would have caught was, among other things, a constant ping-ponging between tenses:. “He says,” in one paragraph, “She said,” in the next one. And that was just one of the more obvious errors. The image below is a screen shot from a completely random page; the first page I landed on happened to have this nugget:

snip of bad writing

I think this kind of carelessness makes a book unreadable. Sure, if you have a fantastic story and great characters, maybe you could get away with more mistakes, but then again, if you’ve got that great of a book, you owe it to yourself to ask a professional or a few highly skilled friends to read it and edit it.