Are you a Part-Time Writer Looking for Inspiration for 2014? You’ve Come to the ‘Write’ Place!

I’m starting of the year with a guest post from Nikolas Baron, from Grammarly.com. Have you heard of them? It’s a great site for writer’s who need help proofreading their work. From blog posts to essays, they’ve got the tools you need! But first, get inspired to start 2014 off the ‘write’ way!

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The Part-Time Writer

part_time_writerBeing a writer is, for many, a lifelong dream. Writing for payment is a thrilling accomplishment, but it’s usually soon followed by the realization that most writers do not make a living from writing alone. In fact, many writers pursue a separate, unrelated career while writing part-time, whether as a hobby or as a secondary source of income. For the part-time writer facing deadlines, a quality online spelling, grammar, and plagiarism checker can be a valuable tool. Saving time is just one aspect of creating success as a writer, however. Writing takes dedication, patience, and a willingness to learn the craft.

Being a writer is an admirable goal, but it’s not a realistic one. How does one become “a writer”? There is no pill, no bottled potion to be ingested, that will magically bring about the transformation. Becoming a writer begins with picking up a pen; but, having taken that first crucial step, the aspiring writer will discover that the journey has just begun. First, the writer must decide what type of writing he or she wants to do. Fiction or nonfiction? Short stories?

Articles? Novels? Each type of writing requires a unique skill set, and there is a distinct path to follow to the individual definition of success for every writer. It’s important to study the craft and read within and outside the genre to become a well-rounded reader and a better writer. Wanting to be a writer isn’t enough. It’s important to decide upon a genre and a style that best suits the writer’s individual dream. Becoming a writer is a dream. Transforming an abstract desire into a concrete success takes deeper thought.

Once the budding writer has decided upon writing mystery novels, for example, the next step is to set some goals. Novices may want to keep the goals reasonable, setting themselves to the task of writing for a set amount of time per day or obtaining a certain word count, depending on the time that can be found in between other obligations. Some professionals suggest that writing every day is critical to success, while others claim that a certain amount of time must be invested. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Time and discipline are important, but the definition of success is an individual one that only the writers themselves can create. Goals create personal milestones, giving the writer a measuring stick against which to check progress. Setting the goals is entirely up to the writers themselves.

Time can be a precious commodity in our fast-paced world. Between work, family obligations, hobbies, volunteer work, and other commitments, the idea of finding time to write might seem out of reach. However, it can be done. It may be necessary to write out a simple schedule, noting work, family obligations, and other time constraints, and then consider the blocks of time that are not already committed to other pursuits. Television viewing might have to be sacrificed. Getting up a little earlier in the morning, for a morning person, or staying up a little later in the evening, for a night owl, might be an option as well. Moreover, a shorter lunch break might provide some time to indulge the muse.

Time, however, is not always the only consideration. Many writers need to “warm up” to the page, to shift gears from their day jobs into the mental work of writing. It is necessary not only to find time to scribble a few words on a page but also to find long enough blocks of uninterrupted time suitable for writing. Indeed, protecting the quality of one’s writing time is as important as finding time to write in the first place. If writing is not a priority and if the commitment is not as firm as the Saturday-morning golf game or the monthly martini lunch with the girls, it will never get off the ground.Marjorie Facklam, author of numerous children’s books, began writing while raising her five children, with several still in diapers. If a harried mother of five can find time to research and write rhyming science picture books like Bugs for Lunch while chasing toddlers and maintaining a household, any writer can find time in their schedule. Often, the question isn’t one of time, but of commitment.

Connect with  Nikolas Baron on Google+      Plagiarism Checker

nick-Grammerly Guest posterAbout the Author:

Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown childrens’ novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

MJ

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A Fun Way to Learn How to Write From the Male and Female POV and Perspective- Part 2

Pad of Paper & PenDid you miss yesterday’s video share and breakdown on writing POV? If so, visit this link before you continue!

A Fun Way to Learn How to Write From the Male and Female POV and Perspective- Part 1

Now to pick up where we left of….

PERSPECTIVE: the state of one’s ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship

(Definitions via dictionary.com)

Now that you have determined what character’s POV is will be used and when, it’s time to determine how much information will be shared by that character and when.

As the definition above says, perspective is the story according to what a character sees, hears, feels, and experiences. Character A can have a totally different view of the same events than Character B, as seen in the Date Night video.

Let’s revisit Couple A:

THE BREAK DOWN:

HER POV: The Date SUCKED!

Woman A was looking forward to a romantic interlude. She did her hair and make-up, took the time to prepare a meal, and set the table. She expected her date to arrive looking nice, probably bearing a vase of flowers, and taking the time to appreciate her appearance and the meal. Next would have come some small talk, flirting, and no doubt, some personal fun time.

What did she get?

A quick hug, no compliments on her appearance or the meal. Instead he made a beeline for the food, woofed it down without any conversation besides grunts that seemed to ruin her appetite. And when it came to fun time…well, let’s just say Mr. Happy was there and back again in less than 3 seconds, or as she said, before she could unhook the back her dress. And to top it all off, he finds his way to her bed and passes out from what has to be over eating and rapid blood loss to the brain.

His POV: IT was AMAZING!

Man A wanted exactly what he got: A good looking woman who cooked for him (free food), had nothing to say, and stood there long enough for him to get his rocks off. Oh yeah, let’s not forget the comfy bed. In his eyes, major score!! And he got to leave with his needs satisfied in time to watch the big game at home without interruption.

THE BREAKDOWN

The characters depicted in this portion of the video didn’t have a back story as Man B did, so there is no way to know how their previous experiences affected them. But what you do get is the perspectives of a man and woman who experience the same events.  She thought everything sucked, while he had the time of his life. All of this from the same scene.

How can you incorporate this type of storytelling in a scene in your novel?

This was a challenge I faced when writing my first novel, A Heart Not Easily Broken. My stories are told using First Person POV voice and feature the viewpoint of both the male and female protagonist. Each chapter is told from whomever’s POV tells the most important points throughout the story. There are a few times when a third persons POV is shared in order to present an outsiders perspective and introduce the back story of the heroine in the next novel, Jaded. There comes a point in the story when each of the characters previous experiences intersect into one scene. And in this scene what happens next comes from each person’s view point based on the information they have received and how they see things happening around them.

I hope this gives you a useful outlook on how you can incorporate Point of View and Perspective in your work!

Chapter 37

(Yasmine’s POV)

“Mmm, that feels good, don’t stop.”

Javan’s large hand moved slowly, massaging my back. Even though we’d made love twice, the feel of his hands on my body ignited me like the first time. “So what do you think about June?”

His fingers froze. “For what?”

I rolled over on my back. He looked delicious. His thick dreads hung loose and masked his face. My eyes tracked to parted lips that waited for action, his deep penetrating gaze heavy with desire. I bit my lip as my thigh brushed over his arousal.

I glided my fingers over a handful of locks as he leaned down and kissed me deeply. I loved the way our lips locked together. They felt like heaven and sin as his kiss moved down and worked my chin, my throat, and my breasts.

“Oh, no,” I giggled. “You’re not avoiding this conversation. What do you think about a June wedding?”

Javan regarded me with eyes so filled with desire he looked confused at the topic at hand. His head ­ both of them ­ were focused on one thing.

His eyebrows creased. “Yasmine, that soon?”

“Javan, that’s nine months away. There’s so much to do. I’ve got to find a place for the wedding and reception. We’ve got to come up with a guest list. I’ve got to find a dress for the girls and for me. And we’ve got to find someplace to live. Both of us have roommates so moving in together is not an option. And, oh, God, we haven’t met each other’s parents yet.”

The expression on his face was comical. “I didn’t think about that.”

“Yeah, baby, it’s work to get married. But once we are, the benefits are…” I grinned wickedly. “Let me show you.” I pushed him on his back and straddled him.

“I like this part.” His voice went deep as he grabbed hold of my hips.

Our tongues were fighting their private war when heavy banging on the door startled us.

“Didn’t you put the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door?” His annoyance mirrored my own.

“Yes.” My employees knew not to disturb me unless it was an emergency. Such as the hotel being on fire. “This better not be about the computers,” I mumbled and climbed off Javan to grab the guest robe from the bathroom.

Javan lay in bed smiling. His thick biceps were pronounced as he shifted his arms behind his head.

The banging continued.

“Go get ‘em, baby.” He chuckled.

I reached the door, twisted the lock, and yanked it open. “What the hell do you…Brian?” He had a murderous expression on his face. “What’s wrong? Is Ebony okay?” I pulled the lapels of my robe tightly across my chest.

“No, she isn’t.” His lips were drawn tight, his brows dropped low. “Where is he?”

I was really confused. Brian should have been with Ebony, but she didn’t seem to be around.

“Why do you─”

“Move.”

I stood firm. “No, not until you─” Brian shoved past me and headed for the bed where Javan lay.

“Your ass is mine,” he growled.

*  *  *  *

(Ebony’s POV)

“Do you want me to call the cops?” Kaitlyn asked. She held her cell phone in one hand and gripped the door handle with the other.

I drove wildly, trying my best to catch Brian at the hotel before someone got hurt. I struggled to keep from running red lights.

“Come on, come on…” My palm ached from pounding the steering wheel.

“Never mind. The way you’re drivin’ the police will just follow us in.”

“Kaity, I don’t know what to do. This is all my fault. I should have said something as soon as it happened.”

“Why didn’t you?” I saw her turn to face me in my peripheral.

I glanced at her, then burned rubber the moment the light turned green.

“Honestly, I didn’t think she’d stay with him this long. You know how Yasmine is, always with a new guy every few months. Brian didn’t need the distraction while he was on the road. He would have dropped everything and come home; it would have ruined his career. Plus, I was scared he wouldn’t want me anymore.”

“That’s just plain stupid,” she said. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Another quick glance revealed hurt feelings on her face. “We’re friends, Ebony. I could have helped you. You shouldn’t have dealt with this by yourself.”

Another wave of guilt hit me. “Honestly, Kaity, I didn’t want you to keep it from Yasmine. It wouldn’t have been fair to you. I’m sorry.”

She reached over and gripped my hand. “And you were pregnant?”

I sighed. “I don’t know, I could have been. Before Brian left we had a moment…and well, both of us were willing to accept the consequences. The next night Javan raped me and didn’t use protection. It scared me. I thought about what would happen if I ended up pregnant and the baby was his instead of Brian’s. I couldn’t live with that, so I did what I had to do. And I hate myself for it.”

Her grip tightened. “God, Ebony, I am so sorry. Whatever you need, I’m here for you.”

“What I need is to stop Brian from doing something stupid and destroying his career. I’ve got to get to him. I need him.”

“I’m gonna call the police.” She placed the call with her free hand.

The lights of the hotel loomed in the distance. I released her hand to grip the wheel and pushed the pedal to the floor.

*  *  *  *

(Brian’s POV)

“What the fuck, man!” Javan scrambled naked from the bed and reached for his pants. He hopped around on one leg to get them on. Only the king-sized bed separated us.

My mind went all over the place taking everything in. The fact Yasmine gripped my arm and shouted at me was insignificant to the hum of anger that buzzed in my ear.

I took one look at the bed and felt sick to my stomach.

This was the same room where Ebony and I spent the weekend. The room she cried in the moment I opened the door.

And then it hit me, a full shot to the chest.

She’d made love to me after she was been raped.

How was that even possible? How could she want to be with me after that violent act? After having her will of what happened to her body stripped from her?

The hatred for the man I considered my friend for the past ten years blazed out of control. The logical part of my brain clicked off and went primal.

I scrambled across the bed, grabbed him, and threw him against the wall with force I prayed felt twenty times worse than what he’d done to Ebony. I held him in place and with my free arm, reached back as far as I could and pounded his face.

“Brian! Oh, my God! Stop, you’re hurting him!” Yasmine grabbed my fisted arm and put her full weight on it, slowing me down.

“You son of a bitch! How could you do that to her? Why?” I got a few more licks in and a kick to his groin before Yasmine managed to knock me off balance.

Javan slipped out of my grasp and slid down the wall, groaning and holding his sack. It wouldn’t be long before his jaw, eye, and lips were black and blue. The sight of blood pouring out of his nose and cut lip gave me a small amount of satisfaction, but it wasn’t even close to what I wanted to do.

“Oh, no, Javan, baby…” Yasmine pushed past me, ripping the sheet from the bed to blot the blood running down his face. “Brian, what the hell is wrong with you?”

“Whatever she said, the bitch is lying,” he spat out along with blood.

“Call her bitch one more time and you’ll be picking teeth off the floor,” I growled while I paced the room. I wanted to push Yasmine out of the way and get to him again, but there was no way I’d put my hands on her.

“What the hell is going on?” she shouted.

“Brian’s woman is a liar.” Javan struggled to get up.

Yasmine looked at both of us in confusion. “Ebony? What are you talking about?” When Javan didn’t supply an answer, she turned to me.

“He raped her.”  Saying the words again shot a pain to my stomach and chest. Anger like I never felt before flared before my eyes. I wanted to do nothing more than grab Javan’s throat and keep him from breathing.

Yasmine’s eyes flashed in disbelief.

Javan moved to get up again.

“Sit your ass back down before I put it down for good,” I warned.

Yasmine turned to him, an expression of confusion on her face.

“Your girl is a ‘ho. She wanted me to─”

I stepped over to give him another helping of personal justice, but Yasmine beat me to it by giving him something akin to a bitch slap. His head spun around, dreads swinging through the air as his head hit the wall. I wanted to punch his teeth in, but her slap sufficed for now. “Don’t talk about her like that. Why would Brian burst in here and say that? Did you rape her?” she asked.

I could not see her face, but her voice sounded pained.

“Because the bitch─”

Yasmine’s hand shot out again, but this time he caught it and twisted her wrist. She yelled in pain.

“Don’t ever hit me again, bitch,” Javan growled.

I got in his face in two strides. “Let her go,” I said through gritted teeth.

My hands fisted in a handful of his dreads as I snatched him up off the ground, thankful for the excuse to exact my revenge. He released her, shoving her away; she stumbled to the floor. Javan swung at me, his fist connected with my face and doubled back for my gut. Adrenaline pumped through my veins; I didn’t feel a thing.

His next swing missed as I dodged, leaned down, and rammed my head into his chest. I wrapped my hands around his waist and slammed him back into the wall. He pounded my back while I retaliated, throwing punch after punch into his gut.

“Brian!”

In the midst of the yelling, grunting, and crashing of hotel furniture as we fought, Ebony’s voice rang crystal clear in the room. I managed to turn my head enough to see her standing horrified in the doorway with Kaitlyn on her heels.

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter by following this blog!

MJ

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MJ on Writing: Viewpoint Tips and Tricks

WritingOne of the first things I learned about writing was the correct way to write a scene. After years of reading I had become accustom to what is known as ‘head hopping’. For those who may not be aware of what that is, ‘head hopping’ is where two characters point of views are shared in the same scene. This is not to be confused with conversation. I am referring to the scene starting with the heroine’s POV and then in mid scene, it switches to the hero’s POV, and back again or to another character without a change in the scene or start of a new chapter. Sound confusing? Imagine how it feels to a reader!

That style of writing is no longer accepted in manuscripts today, unless of course your one of the old school authors who were allowed to do it years ago. Chances are they haven’t been forced to change. In fact, I know they haven’t. One of my favorite romance authors who have been around for years still does it in every new book. But for the new author, agents and publishers are looking for a more polished style of writing, starting with characters whose POV’s are the only one featured in a chapter. Even if you plan to self-publish, taking these extra steps to polish your writing will make your work stand apart from the rest!

So how do you make this happen? Here are a few tips and tricks to make sure you stay in one viewpoint from the beginning to end or your scene! (I write in 1st Person POV, so I will write these examples in both 1st and 3rd POV when needed.)

Make sure your reader knows who is speaking.

The easiest way to have this done is by having them addressed by name by another character in the scene. Doing this in the first few lines of the chapter will let your reader know who’s speaking:

Example:

(1st Person)

“Hey, Sara, how are you doing today?” my brother asked.

“Things could be better.” I grimaced while holding my stomach.

Or

(3rd Person)

“Hey, Sara, how are you doing today?” John asked.

“Things could be better,” she said while holding her stomach.

As mentioned above, NO HEAD HOPPING!

Doing so destroys the tension your building by staying in one character head. You know the saying, ‘the right hand can’t know what the left is doing?’ When sticking in one POV, it’s the same way. If Phil has a secret that he is trying to hide from Bob, his actions and what he says should say that to the reader, but the reader can’t know that Bob already knows that Phil is guilty.

Example:

Correct:

Phil’s eyes darted from side to side in an effort to keep from looking Bob in the eye. There was no way he would admit to eating the last slice of grandma’s apple pie. He tried his best to ignore Bob when he asked another question, and continued to stare out the kitchen window.

Incorrect:

Phil’s eyes darted from side to side in an effort to keep from looking Bob in the eye. There was no way he would admit to eating the last slice of grandma’s apple pie.

Bob knew Phil was guilty, because he refused to look at him. It didn’t matter if he answered his question or not. He was going to tell grandma.

Phil knows he’s guilty, but tries his best to hide it. If we are only in his POV, he can’t know what Bob is thinking, only assume, or in this case ignore Bob all together. What he thinks Bob knows or doesn’t know is not important. You only want to share Bob’s thoughts if/when his POV is addressed in another chapter.

Describing your character from their POV.

Every now and then it’s necessary for a character to tell the reader what they look like, what they are wearing, or describe their expressions. You have to be careful their voice does not slip into the voice of another character that may be looking at them. Try some of these tricks:

  • Have your character stand in front of a mirror and talk about what they see, but don’t be technical (and it should be relevant to the scene!)
  • Use feelings and descriptions to guide your reader into visualizing what the character is trying to say about themselves.
  • Quote another character’s thoughts about their appearance.

Example: Here’s how my character, Ebony Campbell, describe herself in the opening chapter of A Heart Not Easily Broken: (1st Person)

I smirked (facial expression) before sipping my margarita. Yasmine’s light-skinned complexion, slender ballet dancer body, long legs, and B-cup breasts suited her personality. There were times I wished my body was more like hers, though. It would make shopping for clothes a lot easier. As it was, I had been blessed with the shapely figure my Nana called ‘bootylicious’. According to her, and her photo albums, I looked just like her when she was my age, with caramel-colored skin, perfectly proportioned hips, a butt that drew major attention, and D-cup breasts, making it hard for a man to look me straight in the eye. (Opinion of others)

And last but not least, select ONE character to focus on in a scene!

In other words, don’t split up your chapter into two different points of view. Extend the scene, or shorten it, with chapter breaks instead of scene breaks. Doing so will keep the reader from missing the POV switch at the break point, because sometimes inserting *** just doesn’t do it. Doing so generally means there is a change in the scene itself, not POV.

I hope this helps! For more tips on writing, check out my page with links to previous articles on writing. Until next time, Happy Writing!

MJ

To Blog or Not to Blog?

blogThere was a time when I didn’t spend much time on the internet, much less read or follow a blog. Yet, in the last 3 years, I’ve become an avid blogger! Who knew? During this time my blog has undergone several revisions…from colors, to layouts, blogging platforms…and most importantly, what I blog about.

So, why did I start blogging? The answer is simple….to become a better writer.

Sounds crazy, right?

When I started blogging in 2009, I had no idea what I would write about. I mean really, at the time I was a stay at home mom who was attempting to write a book. What did I have to talk about? Hmm…kids, the community, my dogs. BORING!!! Who wanted to read that? LOL! In the beginning I had about 4 people who stopped by to read what I wrote. And that was only because I asked them to check it out. I had no idea how to format a blog post or how long it should be. Adding a picture was a hair pulling experience (did I mention I wasn’t THAT computer savvy?). Yep…suffice it to say I didn’t blog very often. Those blogs are still available if you’d like to read them:

 Four Miles and Counting….(my very first post!)

…Two Pit Bulls, One Paper Clip and a lap top to put it all in! (the next daring endevor!)

I know, I know, the big question is: did it actually help your writing?

The answer: YES!!!! (Seriously, take a look back then and now and you’ll see my writing technique has changed though my voice is pretty much the same.)

What are the benefits to writing a blog? As I stated above, writing a blog helped me find my writing voice, or rather, get comfortable with writing something, having people read it. Getting used to receiving comments and feedback about my blog post helped me get used to the idea of reading reviews as a published author. You can’t please everyone and of course everyone will not agree or like what you have to say. As writers, we have to get used to that idea. Why not do that with a blog?

And as they say about anything you strive to get better at: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE and you will improve. I strongly suggest that if you are an aspiring author looking to practice the craft of writing, start a blog! Find a topic or subject that is important to you (your writing platform or niche), and use it!

As time went on, I gave up on my blog for several months until I discovered my blog niche was writing about my experiences as an aspiring author. The more information I ran across, practiced, or new technique I found, I wrote about it. Sharing my story led me to other writers who were doing the same thing I was. Forming connections with other writers lead to networking, networking lead to learning new writing techniques from more experienced writers…and well, here I am today! It took a lot of work and continues to take a lot of work to keep this blog going, but I am proud to say that as of right now, I have over 900 blog followers.

I guess what I have to say and share means something! Thank you guys!!!

The question I am asked most by writers who would like to start a blog but fear they will never have a following is: “I have something to say, but who is going to read it? How do I promote my blog?” The answer is simple. If you’re tied into the major social networking sites: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, Stumbleupon, etc., your potential readers are right there waiting. Choose a snazzy topic, a witty title, develop your layout, and use those free social networking tools. Before you know it, you’ll have a blog following, too!

Good luck and happy blogging!

MJ

#WritingTips- Use Your Microsoft Word Doc Tools to Make Writing Easier!

When my Muse wakes me up in the middle of the night, or I have an epiphany of a new scene to add more life to my manuscript, the first thing I do is search for any means of recording my thoughts. Paper and pen, notes on my iPhone, voice recordings if I’m driving, or sometimes I just grab my laptop, open up a blank word doc, and let my fingers fly over the keys. Then I file it away until I’m ready to work on it again.

I am a plotter with a hint of panster. I take my time when I write, letting my stories marinate as I decide what trials to put my characters through. I spend even more time discovering who they are. When my research is complete, my outlines written, and I’m ready to add dialogue, the last thing I want to do after spending hours bringing my story to life, is have to go back and reformat the entire manuscript before editing it.

Let’s face it, authors, the mere thought of the words edits, editing, or editor are daunting, especially if you are new to writing!

I remember those days! But, have no fear! Since then, I have learned when you put in the work, the editing process can run so smooth, it’s nearly as fun as watching your story come to life from the blank page!

Okay, okay, stop laughing!  Let’s keep it positive people! 🙂 I’m about to share a tip that will have you grinning from ear to ear! (If you had no idea about it, that is!)

Did you know there are tools built into Microsoft Word that can cut down the amount of editing you or your editor need to do if used while you write?

I learned this while working on my first manuscript, (A Heart Not Easily Broken), and my dear friend and fellow author enlightened me to these amazing settings. I can’t lie; I am NOT a tech savvy person. What I’ve learned to do with my laptop, be it building my webpage, (the one you’re visiting now), or surfing the web, all of this has been because of being pointed in the right direction by people who discovered these shortcuts and shared them with me, or by taking the time to keep hitting buttons and trying over and over again until I figured it out. In other words, HOURS of frustration mixed with patience, coffee, and chocolate!

Now it’s my turn to reciprocate!  If any of this is new to you, I hope you find this information useful, and that it makes writing easier!

***NOTE: The following directions and screen shots are based on Microsoft Word 2010. Similar functions can be found for 2007, though they will not be as detailed. For more advice, I suggest searching Google or YouTube for instructional videos on how to use your editing/proofing features.***

Unknown tricks to Word 2007 and 2010 to avoid unnecessary editing issues (AKA – Quick Access Tool Bar). Let’s face it, we all didn’t sit down to read the manual…

IMG_0438[1]

Screen shot of the steps below. Daunting, but well worth the work!

Use of this function will allow you to set up Word to point out common editing issues as you type, allowing you to rethink your sentence before you continue, or make it easier to find some of the editing issues that make your writing passive. To customize this feature, follow these steps:

  • Open up a blank Word Document
  • Select the REVIEW tab at the top of your screen; Right Click and select CUSTOMIZE
  • Select PROOFING. (Here you can choose what kind of typing issues you want Word to ignore or point out to you).
  • Look lower in the box marked: WHEN CORRECTING SPELLING AND GRAMMAR IN WORD
  • Select WRITING STYLE, then click on the drop box, choose GRAMMAR & STYLE, then click SETTINGS. (From here you can have Word point out EVERYTHING!!! From punctuation issues, misused words, fragment and run-on sentences, to the use of cliches phrases, and so much more. Using this feature to help point out issues you need to correct before submitting your manuscript to an editor will make the editor quickly fall in love with you!)
  • Be sure to select OK before exiting to save your settings.

***By the way, once these settings are saved, they stay that way  for every document you create, until you go in and reset them.***

I touched on this a few posts ago when sharing tips for writing query letters, but again, putting this simple step into practice BEFORE you write one word will make the rest of  your writing experience pleasant.

The Universal Settings for your Manuscript (or Prepping you MS for Query Letters and you Editor)

IMG_0440[1]

Your screen should look like this when selecting your font type and size.

Set your Font:

  • Open a blank document.
  • Select the HOME tab.
  • Choose TIMES NEW ROMAN Font with a 12 Point  size.
  • Save and exit

***Check these settings for each new document created! They do not always stay the same!***

IMG_0441[1]

This is the easiest fix!

To Set Page Borders/Margins:

  • Select the PAGE LAYOUT tab.
  • Choose MARGINS.
  • Set to NORMAL. (1 inch border on both sides and top and bottom)

***This usually the normal setting, but it never hurts to make sure it’s set correctly. Technology is funny, and can revert back to the original settings  without warning!***

IMG_0439[1]

Set your page to automatic indent and line and paragraph spacing.

  • From the HOME tab, select PARAGRAPH.
  • In the INDENTION box, choose HANGING.
  • In the SPACING box, choose DOUBLE, and change the  AFTER PT to ZERO (O)
  • Check the box below to avoid  spaces between paragraphs
  • Select OK to save changes.

***Again, check this feature with the start of any new document. The default settings are not the same as what you need when writing. Any new document created will not have your new settings.***

 Other Advice:

Here are a few more things you can do to make your writing cleaner:

  • Make sure you have clean chapter breaks. In other words, when Chapter 1 ends halfway down the page, Chapter 2 should start on a fresh page. The final page of Chapter 1 should not have the first part of Chapter 2 .
  • Italicize words meant to stand out for emphasis, do not highlight or underline.
  •  When inserting a scene break in a chapter, use ### or *** to show the break in time, or the start of a new scene and/or location. Which ever one you use, stay consistent throughout the MS, do not flip-flop.
  • If you have already written you MS and have not used these settings, there’s no need to type it over again! Simply go to page one, hold down the CTRL + A buttons; it will highlight the entire manuscript, from page 1 to 1000+. Follow the steps to set PAGE MARGINS and FONT while highlighted, and it will fix all of your work. Be sure to scroll through in order to separate your chapter headings on fresh pages, or else, some of them may find their way into the previous chapter. Don’t forget to save and back it all up when you’re done!

I know, I know, if you are technically challenged, the whole idea of learning how to properly format your work is daunting. But believe me; editors appreciate working with authors who take the time to learn how to use their writing programs. It cuts down on the amount of tedious stuff they need to do to get your work up to par, and allows them more time to focus on the real work, the mind-numbing technical side. And who knows, less work may end up saving you money!

Happy Writing!

MJ

 

Finding Inspiration: Part Three- Characters Close to Home

Building Real Characters: How to Bring Them From the Page and Into Your HeartWriters find inspiration anywhere; at the grocery store, the bank, even the activities of driver sitting next to you at the red light, can get the muse flowing. Then of course there are my favorites: family and friends.

If you have a Facebook account, I’m sure you have seen the pictures posted by someone at least once a month that says: (in a nutshell): BEWARE, I’M A WRITER, ANYTHING YOU SAY CAN AND WILL BE USED IN MY NEXT BOOK.  I was at the bank the other day and had a lively conversation with my banker. Upon completion of my transaction, she asked me, ‘is this going to be in one of your stories?’ I laughed and said quite possibly.

It seems no matter how hard I try; my Muse is always working, always observing and cataloging the statements and actions of others, especially when it comes to my kids.

In the last few weeks, my children have shocked me with their ‘Remember when…’ tales. Being an only child, it never ceases to amaze me what  my four kids get into when they are unsupervised in their bedrooms. First, there was the ‘broken-glow-in-the-dark-stick incident’ that led to fluorescent yellow liquid being splashed over bedroom walls. (According to them, it wore off withing minutes, thus leading to doing it again in order to illuminate the room.  No evidence was left behind. Imagine my horror!!!) Of course a lot of sibling smacks upside the head, and then the sneaking to cut hair or trim their eyebrows disasters that ended with bad results. (Those I knew about, but it still makes me laugh to remember the results.) Funny stories that made my eyebrows shoot into the hemisphere and start to give the ‘you know better’ speech. But then I realized the issues happened months, even years ago. What’s the point?  All that’s left is ‘don’t do it again.’

Once the kids go about their evening activities, my Muse sorts through the information, while not inspiration for my adult characters’ lives, they make great character back story.

***Back Story: Insight into the protagonist nature or history through reflective flashbacks, scenes, or dialogue. This information is used to show how a character will react to certain situations.***

There are various ways to use back story.  Some authors like to use flashback during a scene or as a scene to show an incident that explains the reason for their character’s actions during the course of a story. (Think about the show LOST, whose episodes focused on the back story of a character’s life, decisions, made, and how they related to the present situation). In novels, the most common use is having a character allude to their past through dialogue, thought, or peppered in by the omnipotent voice. (Dialogue is the best way to share this information without slowing down your prose and boring a reader.)

How do you know what your characters back story will be?

By writing character outlines.

If you have  followed my blog, you know a large portion of my writing begins with focusing on deep character development. I love writing characters my readers can relate to either through their own personal experiences or someone they know. Creating well-developed back story can do that. Knowing where your characters have been, what experiences have affected them – good and bad – will give your characters a strong voice that makes them stand out.

Even if it starts from when they were kids.

In a nutshell, a well-developed back story lets you know your characters. Knowing and understanding your characters will explain their motivations. Motivations are what set up a plot. Reactions to plot twists/turns are what provide scenes. Scenes mixed with reactions are what create drama.

Whew!  Sounds like a lot of work, right? It is, but as with all things in life, you get what you put in. Taking the time to sit down and understand your characters will show in your writing. It will help you understand why they interrupt your writing, and no matter how much you want the story to go one way, they hijack your manuscript.

For more on writing character outlines and finding writing inspiration, visit my previous posts:

M.J.’s on Writing- Helpful Advice for Aspiring Authors

MJ

Character Descriptions – Creating a Picture With Words

Fat? Skinny? Tall or Short? What category does your character fit in?

Some of us have over-active imaginations which allow us to ‘see’ what a character looks like. Translating that picture in our heads to paper should be easy, right? Not always. What about when you have several characters floating in and out of scenes throughout the manuscript?

 How do you hammer out each description while ensuring none of them are alike? It takes planning, plain and simple.

One of my favorite things to do is have a working picture chart for each major and minor character for quick reference. I got this idea from a critique partner and I will never write without one again. My favorite place to look for character references are on the Internet, movies, and television. When developing a new character, I already have an idea of their physical attributes, the sound of their voice, and the way their body moves. Finding a picture I can study makes a world of difference when writing a full character description. If you only go by what you imagine, there will be things missing, such as, subtle quirks like the way a character stands, a twitch of the mouth, or that hidden mole. Your eye may not notice at first glance, but after studying a photo, you can add an extra layer of ‘life’ to the character.

Let me demonstrate.

In A Heart Not Easily Broken, there is a chapter where Ebony Campbell, the heroine, has the opportunity to study her future love interest, Brian Young, from a distance. He’s standing in her back yard trimming the grass along the fences edge with a weed whacker and not wearing a shirt.

Here’s the way that scene was written without having a visual reference to refer too (rough draft):

          Brian stood with his weed whacker, swinging it along side the fence. My eyes widened; the man was shirtless. The man had an incredibly strong looking back. His shorts hung off his hips and made his underwear visible, while a damp shirt hung from his belt buckle. Hmm, boxers or briefs? Sweat ran down his back to his shorts. 
          None of that compared to the way he looked when he turned around to one of the guys working with him. His body was free of body fat, with a little hair on his chest. Tight abs shown a ripple of muscles so tight I could barely see his belly button. 
          Brian’s tanned skin reminded me of a Greek statue, he must work outside a lot. His baseball cap was turned backward, hiding the blond curly hair I’d seen at the club. His damp hair hung below its edge, showing off his square facial structure and the angle of his nose. His blue eyes were bright.
          Brian was unbelievably sexy.

Could you visualize what Ebony sees? I’m sure you were able to get a decent idea. Brian’s working outside, he’s sweating, it’s hot, and Ebony’s attracted to him. But how about the version found in the book? (after a  picture reference, a thesaurus, a multitude of edits, rewrites, and an over active imagination!) This is what I finished with:

           Brian stood with his weed whacker, swinging it in a controlled arch along the fence. My eyes widened; the man was shirtless. The man had an incredibly strong looking back. His shorts hung loosely from his hips, exposing the top of his underwear from the weight of the sweat-stained shirt stuffed under his belt. Hmm, boxers or briefs? Sweat ran in heavy rivets down his shoulder blades, trickling to the already damp shorts. 
          None of that compared to the way he looked when he turned around to speak to one of the guys working with him. His long torso, free of unwanted body fat, sported a light sprinkling of blond hair between his pecks. A tight abdomen showed every cut of muscle I’d seen in high school biology textbooks. His abs were tight, his belly button nearly nonexistent. 
          Brian’s bronzed skin reminded me of a Greek statue, a testament of many hours spent working outside. His backward baseball cap hid the thick blond curls I’d seen at the club. The damp ringlets hung below its rim, accentuating his square facial structure and the shape of his nose. His blue eyes seemed to glow from deep within his skin. 
         Brian was unbelievably sexy.


Visual descriptive, right? Both had the same idea, but the second one took the time to describe every single detail Ebony saw. Because of this, the reader is guaranteed to feel one of two things, ‘wow, it’s hot, he’s sweaty, and could use a shower’, or since your deep in Ebony’s POV, your right a long with her thinking the sight of a hard working man tunes her on!

Perfect character descriptions do not usually appear while writing your rough draft. A Heart Not Easily Broken had so many rewrites and drafts I stopped counting at number eight, and believe me, there were still a few after that. But with each scene, I forced myself to take the time to write the descriptions of the characters in as much detail as possible. It didn’t matter who’s POV the description came from.

Since my books are written in first POV, one of the first things I had to learn was how to have a person describe themselves without it sounding clinical.

Here’s an example of Ebony describing herself physically when comparing herself to her best friend, Yasmine:

Not so creative writing (first draft):

          Yasmine’s light colored skin, skinny body, long legs and small breast suited her personality. There were times I wished my body was like hers. It would make shopping for clothes easier. I had a body like my Nana did when she was my age. If I looked at her photo albums, I looked just like her . We both had brown skin, shapely hips, big butts, and large breast. 

Oh man was THAT boring!

Now, here is the book version:

          Yasmine’s high-yellow complexion, slender ballet dancer body, long legs, and B-cups breasts suited her personality.  There were times I wished my body was more like hers, though. It would make shopping for clothes a lot easier. As it was, I had been blessed with the shapely figure my Nana called ‘bootylicious’.  According to her, and her photo albums, I looked just like her when she was my age, with caramel-colored skin, perfectly proportioned hips, a butt that drew major attention, and D-cup breasts, making it hard for a man to look me straight in the eye.

So much better, and (if you are a lady!) can probably visualize yourself as either character, right?

A word of advice: when writing a characters description (especially if being done from first person POV), it’s best to have them compare themselves to others, or stare into the mirror and describe what they do or don’t like, as a suggestion. Having them say, “I have long hair, brown eyes, and dark skin,” is not being creative. “My hair reached the top of my bra strap, my eyes were coals of molten like my mothers. I had her rich coco-colored skin, too,” sounds much better. Okay, I threw that one together, but hopefully you get the point.

So, with visual aid (come on guys and gals, searching for that perfect pic can be fun!), lots of imagination, and the ever handy thesaurus, you can write descriptive scenes, too!

Until next time, WRITE WELL!!!!

MJ

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Recycle Those Old Manuscripts, Don’t Trash Them!

I posted this status on Facebook last week:

New authors: Does you manuscript lack the ‘fire’ it needs to stand apart? Don’t give up! Never trash those original ideas! Set them to the side and try again. You’ll be surprised at how new ideas will begin to flow…you may even find yourself reaching for the original ms, pulling bits and pieces from it, and finding a way to make it shine! Old manuscripts are not necessarily bad ideas…just really well thought out musings!

Book 1-A Heart Not Easily Broken – completed: all notes and handwritten ms.

When I started writing three years ago, I thought my first manuscript was perfect. The characters were engaging, the dialogue witty and flowing… the story line engaging. Then I realized I didn’t know what platform I wanted to use, much less what genre I was really in. All I knew is I had a story to tell. I wanted it to be a coming of age story but still be a romance. The characters were 18-21, so the story was more Young Adult. Because of the subject matter of the book, sex scenes were necessary, but I didn’t want it to be labled as YA and didn’t want to remove the love scenes  because they were pertinent to the story.  After listening to advice from my ever helpful critique partners, I decided to step away from the story and try something new.

Book 2- Jaded-editing: Original notes, scenes, new outline, 1st manuscript draft.

The next writing attempt followed  characters who were in their mid- to late twenty’s, well established in their careers, and old enough to have as much sex as I felt comfortable writing about. The story line was completly different, and once again, I thought I had it nailed. Then I realized the characters were not real enough. I hadn’t put in enough effort to make them believable. I didn’t know their back story, didn’t have a history to pull from to make my characters three-dimentional instead of two-dimentional. After sharing the first chapter with close confidants and having them nearly bored to death, I forced myself to listen to their honest feedback. They said, it was missing description in the scenes, and didn’t grab their attention….I put that story aside as well.

Book 3 – Lonely Heart- wip:Notes from original ms and current rough outline.

After taking a writer’s class, I found my writing platform. As a result, I pulled out the original manuscript, (thank god I didn’t trash it like I started to!), focused on the heart of the story, and re-wrote it with older characters….after peeling back those ‘onion’ layers to discover who they were. As a result, I ended up with a much better story by ‘resurrecting’ bits and pieces of the original manuscript.

As I went through the previous manuscripts, I discovered various portions of the original stories can be recycled. I’ve enjoyed fitting the ‘pieces’ from the ‘old’ and and putting them together with the ‘new’. I’ve been able to do this without pulling out the original pages to refresh my memory of the tale being told.

Book 4- Nobody’s Business But My Own- planning:Notes, rough outline.

One thing I must point out: if you put down a manuscript and begin a complete re-write of the story, do it without reviewing your original work. Step away from the story for a few days, or weeks and let the old story line leave your thoughts. This is vital. Why? You don’t want to end up writing the same stuff over again. As an author, the concept or idea should be imbedded on your mind without having to read it word-for-word. Doing so will allow the story to emerge from a fresh prespective. Switch up scenes, events, and add in more conflict, goals, and motivations. Before you know it, the story comes forth, and you discover certain events, dialoge, or even partial scenes connect to your original manuscript. You’re original scenes can become back story to your current work.

Book #5-Untitled- planning: Outlines, notes, scenes. Book 6 is still buried deep in my head!

It’s amazing how your creative mind can work!

One thing you must remember: Don’t get impatient or discouraged! From what I’ve learned from my own writing journey, and all of the other authors I’ve had the opportunity to meet along the way, the average time it takes to write a good story is at least one year. It seems like a lot, but think about the steps it takes to write a story:

  • Create the basic plot. (goals, motivation, conflict)
  • Design the location, backdrop, or world for the story to take place.
  • Create the characters that will inhabit this world. (names, back story, goals, motivations)
  • Research jobs, topic for the story, etc., so the story can be as realistic as possible. 
  • Write a story outline. (rough draft/final draft)
  • Write first draft of manuscript.
  • Read first draft, then write second draft, and third, and fourth, as many as it takes to get it as good as possible.
  • Edit.
  • Read manuscript again.
  • Edit again.
  • Wait for your beta reader/critique partners to read and send back their thoughts.
  • Read/edit again.
  • Eventually get work professionally edited/proofread. 
  • And yep, edit again (I swear this step never seems to end!!!)
  • Eventually, when you look around, time has passed, and yep, a year has gone by! 
Now of course, everyone has their own way of doing things. Some are better, some are not. In the end, it’s all about the amount of work willing to put into your masterpiece. Sometimes its a matter of trial and error. One thing I can be sure of, and I’ve gotten this from self-published, indie authors, and New York Times Best Sellers, you never stop learning or growing as a writer. With every book you write, your storytelling improves. I know mine has. Writing and editing my second book has not been near as hard as it was the first time. Why? Because I’ve learned a lot and have implemented the techniques. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard work, but the rewards of seeing the evolution of my work are priceless!

Remember, with hard work, creativity, imagination, perseverance, and patience, a lot of patience…you’ll make that original story become great. Good luck!!

M.J.

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Crash and Burn…Are Your Manuscript Files Backed Up?

A computer crash is the biggest fear of any author. Months, even years, of hard work, creativity, and research are gone in a matter of seconds. It’s enough to make a grown man cry.

The latest laptop to fail.

Over the past year, I’ve gone through three laptops and now a computer. Okay, the laptops weren’t the newest on the market and two of them were free. I’m not complaining because they got the work done. The more I worked, the more it got used, and apparently, they couldn’t keep up with me or the newer programs I needed to keep my writing going.

Last week, I began having problems with my and newest laptop. My husband is a technical whiz and has rebuilt his computer several times. He’s been able to recover files from major crashes and do major overhauls on his machines to make them run faster. Simply put, he’s got the best computer in the house! He needs it since he produces, engineers, and records artist  on his machine. In short, he’s got money sitting in his hard drives.

He informed me that my computer needed to have the Windows uninstalled and reinstalled in order to make it work better. So far he’s had to save my butt and fix the thing about 5 times in the last three months. I backed up all of my files, anticipating my computer hard drive being completely wiped out, and happily handed it over. Needless to say, something went wrong. It wasn’t his fault, it’s the computers. It’s about four years old and had already been having some issues with the hard drive. Long story short, it accepted Windows 7, but refuses to accept Word. How is a writer supposed to write without WORD????

So, I sucked it up and got my son’s computer tower, brought it to my office, and promised him I would not take it over forever. Just long enough to keep my writing momentum going without getting behind while waiting for the laptop to be fixed.

That black spot is what caught on fire!

All went good for a few hours. I managed to start typing the first chapter of the second book in The Butterfly Memoirs series, Jaded. I had already printed out the MS and went line-by-line with my red pen doing edits. I typed of the first ten pages last night. As I was going through the words on my Passive Words checklist, I began to smell smoke. My first thought was the stove had been turned on accidentally and a pot or plastic cup was on it. (My office is right off the kitchen). I looked over at my 11-year-old son who was washing dishes and asked what was burning. It was then I noticed smoke coming from under my desk. I pushed back from the desk and realized the computer tower was on fire! I, of course, freaked and yelled for my husband. Everyone in the house came running. Fortunately, I was able to blow out the flames, but the computer was done.

I was sitting there on the verge of tears. After waiting, fretting, and struggling with the desire to sit down at a computer and get things moving along, I was once again computer-less, not to mention my son’s computer is now toast. But then I realized something that made me laugh. My family thought I was crazy. In the scene I was working on, the heroine, Yasmine Phillips, is stressing because her computer crashed and literally burned.  Don’t believe me? Here’s a brief glimpse at the WIP:

My paper work filed away, I turned back to my computer and pulled up the accounting program used to manage the hotel.

“No, no, no!” I pounded on my key board, but nothing worked.

“What’s wrong?” Brandon leaned forward to peer around my monitor.

The screen flashed a rolling script before it went completely black.

“Oh shit,” I groaned, flopped back in my chair, and put my hands on my face. I wanted to snatch my hair out. “Shit, shit, shit…”

Brandon whistled. “You, my sister, are seriously screwed.”

If looks could kill, he’d be dead right now. I sat up and even though knowing it was a waste of time, flipped the on switch of the computer tower. There was a spark of energy that flashed and burned out in the grounding wire of the extension cord. Brandon and I jumped up; he lunged for the cord in the wall while I ran for the fire extinguisher in the hall.

Fortunately I didn’t need it.

My brother fanned smoke as the smell of burnt electronics permeated the air.“I hope you had that information on a backup system.”

“No, I know I’m supposed to, but I never got around to it,” I grimaced.

            Brandon reached over and patted me on my shoulder. “So far, I’m not liking the idea of being manager at the new location”

Talk about irony! My office still smells of burnt plastic!

Several months ago, my husband asked me if I’d been backing up my writing files in case of a computer crash. At the time I felt that wasn’t necessary. I had my files saved to USB and that was enough. Then I began hearing horror stories of computers crashing, partial files missing, USB’s lost, and realized I needed to step it up.

I’m not the worlds most computer savvy person. Thankfully, my husband is. He walked me through the steps and showed me how to save entire files on to a CD. Not only have I backed up my manuscripts, I’ve backed up all research, articles on writing, photos, and e-books on writing. If anything ever happens, all I have to do is pull out the disk and download it to whatever computer I’m on and have a perfect snap shot of my work. Doing this every couple of months, weeks, or whenever major changes are made, can keep your work current. That way if you ever experience an issue with your computer, you can rest assured your time dedicated to your work was not in vain.

Other options for additional places to store your work are:

  • Online storage services (some are free, some you pay for.)
  • Emailing a copy of latest work to yourself and archiving it. 
  • Create a buddy system with another writer you trust. Exchange digital copies of you MS for each other to hold in case yours ever is lost or destroyed.
  • Even though this is the age of digital information, there’s nothing wrong with going old school and printing out a copy to have on hand.
  • Purchase an external hard drive to save your work on. That way if your main drive on your computer fails, the external hard drive will still have your work. Think of it as a giant USB. 

These are the few that I can recommend. If anyone has any other methods, please share! 

MJ

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To Hire an Editor or Not to Hire an Editor…That is the Question!

Editors. In the world of writing, we all need one. The question is when.

During my writing journey, I’ve heard various tales, feedback, and opinions.

No, don’t hire an editor to read your work before submitting. You’ll be wasting money. Let the publisher pay for it.

Yes, hire an editor; it could increase your quality of your product and give you an opportunity to actually find and agent and/or publisher.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

When it all comes down to it, the true question is: how much money do you want to invest?


Two years ago, the thought of an editor reviewing my work scared me. The idea of someone ripping it to shreds, and spitting it back at me, demanding that it be re-written because it wasn’t good enough, had me cursing the profession. I pushed that thought aside and focused on writing a story I wanted to tell. Next, I focused on learning as much as I could about sentence structure, setting up the paragraphs, scene breaks, chapter breaks, and POV changes. Then, I built the infamous repeated/passive word list to tighten up my prose. I’ve gone over my list so many times while doing my own edits, I rarely have to pull it up to know what words to avoid. In fact, when I write a scene, I now catch those words and change them before they hit the screen.

However, that doesn’t cover everything. There are still the annoying details of correct grammar usage, using the right word tense, and spelling. Unless you were a serious English major in high school, college, or took a class specifically for this type of detail, there’s no possible way you’ll ever be able to catch every errorl. To be honest, no one ever will, even if that’s what he or she does for a living. Why? Because we are all human. And humans make mistakes, whether we want to believe it or not.

A perfect example: how many times have we as readers picked up a novel by one of our favorite New York Times Bestselling authors who have the backing of a big name publishing house, only to discover a major editing error? Come on, we’ve all done that. Why? Human imperfection. No matter how many hands and eyes touch a manuscript is read, no matter how many attempts are made to dot all the ‘Is’ and cross all the ‘Ts’, humans make errors, especially if it is your own writing.

So, what does that mean for the aspiring author, or for an author who is self- published?

It means you have a decision to make. How much do you want to invest in yourself?

The investment is not only about money; it’s also about time.

If you decide to use an editor, how do you know you’ve found an editor you can work with and who is qualified? Of course, the first thing everyone looks for is reputation. Word of mouth from other authors in your writing network is great, too. Nevertheless, in the end, it comes down to one-on-one communication. Does the editor understand your type of writing ? Do they edit a lot of work in your genre? Will they be able to understand the rules of the genre you’re writing? What time-frame are you looking for? Will it take a few days or a few weeks before they return your work? What type of editing are you paying for?

Type of editing? If this is new to you, then it’s something you must know. There are several types of editing available. What’s the differences?

Copywriter or Copy-Editing:
Their job is to be sure your story is written well and logically structured. Correct grammar and spelling is checked, as well as ensuring the manuscript fits the publishers ‘style’. They ask questions of the author and check story facts.

Content Editor:
Their job is to ensure your work meets the standards for accuracy and style. They check for spelling, grammar, coherence, consistent style. They also proofread to be sure copy-editing work has been completed.

Proofreader:
In the publishing world, a proofreader is generally the last person to see your manuscript after it’s been through other editors’ hands and before it goes to print. Their job is to do a final read through to catch any mistakes the first editor may have missed. This is generally the most affordable.

If you are not shopping your manuscript around and have decided to self-publish, you should seriously consider having at least one of these editors review your work. Depending on what phase of your writing career you are in, it may not be in your budget. If you go the proofreading route, then know, you MUST review your work again after it is returned. If you don’t and there are issues that were pointed out and you don’t review them, it is on you, not the editor.

So, what route will you choose?

Here’s what I’ve learned. Today’s agents are meticulous. Not only does your story have to engage them and keep them interested for at least the first three chapters, the quality of your writing has to as well. Sending them an unedited copy – and by that I mean, work you haven’t spent time searching for errors yourself – makes a difference. The cleaner the read, the more focused on the story they will be, not the plethora of errors littering the pages. Taking that amount of time, or money, also lets them know that you, the author, are willing to put in the work it takes to make a better product. With the current economy, every business is looking for ways to cut down their expenses. If you walk in the door offering a product they can spend less money on before making it available for sale, you increase your chances of them choosing your manuscript.

Sell yourself.

Here’s another fact you must remember: if you decided to use an editor…don’t just pay them and expect what they send to you in return doesn’t need to be reviewed. Any editor, especially a professional, will tell you that after they do their magic, it’s up to you, the author, to review your manuscript. Just because they make changes or suggestions does not mean you have to accept it. It’s up to your discretion. But, you still have to re-read your work from beginning to end. It’s up to you to put that stamp of approval on it before sending it out into the world . That requires more work on your part. If you don’t do the work, then you will have to deal with the consequences of any un-corrected errors. The editor’s job is to work with you, which means you in turn must work with them.

I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a proofreader many of you may have seen on Facebook or Twitter, @TJProofs. She shared some helpful information on how to determine what type of editor you need, depending on the amount of work you’ve put into cleaning up your manuscript.

“A proofreader, which is my specialty, is generally the last person you see. They focus on clean manuscripts, after they’ve run their gamut (through a publisher), but many people try to skip the steps. The fact of the matter is, if you are horrible at punctuation, you choose a copy-editor. If you feel you’ve got punctuation licked, but your story needs a scouring for consistency, you may choose a content editor. If you have a great idea, but need someone to go through your MS with a fine-toothed-comb – rewriting sentences for clarity, passive statements, content, and punctuation – then you need a full-scale editor.” 


To learn more about TJ and the services she offers, visit her at www.ManuscriptProofing.com. Other places where she can be found are:

Facebook, Twitter
Blog: manuscriptproofing.blogspot.com
Email: TJProofs@gmail.com or TJ@ManuscriptProofing.com

I hope this information has been informative. Whether or not you choose to use the services of any of the above editors, I wish you the best on your writing journey!

MJ