Posts Tagged ‘on the Web’

the-write-time“If you want to be a writer, the sole requirement is that you write.”

On the surface, we all know this to be true. In reality, however? It’s not as easy to actually write. Life gets in the way. We run out of time. We get distracted. We put off writing till everything else is done, then realize our energy is also “done.”

Sound familiar?

Robbie Blair thinks so too. His article, The Write Time: 6 Strategies To Make Your Writing Schedule Sacred, features some great ideas for doing the one thing that makes you a writer. Which strategy might work for you?

7335643838_40c3d8841a_zChuck Wendig, author of the writing blog terribleminds, is the snarkiest blogger I know, but he also has some profound things to say about this business we all share a love-hate relationship with. Recently he blogged about how to sharpen your writing instincts. One of the things that struck me most was this little tidbit, an explanation of what “writing instinct” is:

You see the author operating at a high level and you wonder: why am I not doing that?

The reality is:

You’re only seeing the island, not the heap of volcanic material that pushed it out of the sea.

Put differently?

A house needs a strong foundation.

And the foundation of that house hides forever in the darkness of the dirt.

You’re not seeing all the time it took to craft the instinct necessary to do this thing.

Instinct is valuable because it’ll tell you which way to jump. It’ll give you the sense in the middle of a story that something is off, it’ll tell you if your character will have broken her contract with the reader, it’ll tickle the back of your mind and say that the plot is untenable or this description is too much or hey what’s the deal with you writing all these stories about orangutans that’s really weird, man. Instinct can even help you on the business side of writing, too.

Check out Chuck’s post in its entirety here: Polling Your Intestinal Flora: How a Writer Cultivates Instinct. It’ll make you laugh AND think.

– Lea

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lea schafer, freelance romance editingIf you’ve been around the romance world for very long, names like Bella Andre and Courtney Milan shouldn’t be unfamiliar. They are the stars of self-publishing, and they are in rapidly growing company. Romance is the number-one selling genre in self-publishing, and indie romance authors are, more and more, making a living off their work as they publish book after book under their own steam. This article hits a lot of buzz with its “making millions” headline, as well as spreading a bit of untruth (Andre states plainly in the article that she was released from her contract; she didn’t leave), but the true fascination here — and what should catch romance authors’ attention — is the work these women put into self-publishing their stories. It’s definitely worth a read.

These Romance Writers Ditched Their Publishers for Ebooks — And Made Millions

528253e1dc3ee590a8b1dbdd33719095If you haven’t connected with Kristen Lamb’s blog yet, go over there right now! She is a major source of information, not just on writing techniques, but on social media for writers (her specialty) and on how to effectively live this crazy writing life we all struggle with. Here’s a recent article she wrote on “to prologue or not to prologue.”

The Seven Deadly Sins of Prologues

Don’t be fooled by the title; she gives you seven reason to forgo that prologue, but also two reasons to include one. Basically, if you’re just including a prologue to info dump, nix it. But if your prologue contains information or events critical to the story that would be less effective if shared another way, you might want to keep it. Check out what Kristen has to say. Do you agree or disagree?

– Lea

lea schafer, editor, editing, freelance editing, dictionary, spelling, line editing, line editorThe worst? Well, in my opinion, anyway. There are some things no one is going to get a hundred percent right because, contrary to what they want to think, even the “experts” don’t necessarily know and can’t agree on what is “right” (*glaring at commas here*). But there is one thing you can do right all the time (with a little bit of help) and at least one thing you should do wrong occasionally. Want to know what they are?

First, the one thing you should always do right: spelling. Let’s face it, a misspelled word looks bad; it just does. Mixing up those homophones? Bad. Using the wrong verb tense (yes, I consider this a spelling issue, and I’ll tell you why)? Bad. Why is it bad? Because it is the most easily fixable editing problem around, and some writers are just too lazy to do anything about it.

I would say up to twenty percent of my time on an edit (occasionally more) is spent checking spelling. But we learned how to spell in school, right? Doesn’t spell check fix most of that? Um, no. Too often spell check misses words used out of context but spelled correctly, or underlines words that are spelled correctly but aren’t recognized in spell check’s dictionary. And though many of us learned to spell in school, not everyone has an affinity for spelling (just as everyone — me! — doesn’t have an affinity for math, and that’s okay). Not to mention, whether we like it or not, spelling and what’s acceptable language change over time. Twenty years ago none of the tech-savvy words we take for granted now even existed. You have to do your research, and trust me, nothing shows an editor that you care about the quality of your work better than using correct spelling.

Why? Because if you’ve taken the time to check spelling throughout your ms, you’ve more than likely taken the same amount of care with other areas of your craft.

lea schafer, editing, line editing, editor, line editor, freelance editor, spelling, dictionary, Merriam-WebsterSo what’s the easiest way to get spelling right? First, don’t just rely on spell check, and don’t rely on your memory. Use a dictionary. My preference is for Merriam-Webster (M-W), whose latest edition is available both for free online (www.merriam-webster.com) and as a free app for your phone. I use American Heritage Dictionary as a backup (www.education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary). There’s also an interesting site called OneLook Dictionary that links to multiple dictionaries, so that if you can’t find a word in one, you might find it in another (www.onelook.com).

A word of caution: sites like Wikipedia and Wordnik and Free Dictionary and such are not official sources. Stick with a well-known, reputable dictionary for your work. And yes, I know different dictionaries spell words differently. The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, emphasizes British spellings, while M-W shows the British spellings as variants, not the primary listing. So if you are British, stick with the Oxford. If you are American, stick with a dictionary that uses primarily American spellings, or marks British spellings clearly (M-W does both of the latter). Personally, as an editor, I would prefer you choose one professional, established dictionary and stick to it. A line editor (like me) can conform your spelling to the house style of your publisher if it differs. It’s also better to work with an online version where possible, since those are typically the latest update, whereas paper copies quickly become outdated and must be replaced at least yearly.

Dictionaries are the best place to figure out which homophone you need, which tense of a verb is considered correct now (leapt versus leaped, etcetera), and even which words are usually hyphenated and which are not. If you are looking for a compound noun and it isn’t listed in the dictionary, it is spelled with a space. This is why “bar stool” (which is not listed in M-W) is spelled with a space. If you use American Heritage, it is listed as “barstool.” Does it count against you if you use the wrong version? Not in my opinion. Again, some words differ from dictionary to dictionary, but using a dictionary consistently will vastly improve your spelling. In M-W, you can even see which prefixes are typically hyphenated by looking up the prefix followed by a hyphen (such as “pre-“). The entry will often be followed by a list of words using that prefix, and even if your word isn’t on it, you can get a sense of whether that prefix is typically hyphenated or not. The prefix “over-” does not have every word listed, but you can check what is listed and see that none of them include hyphens. That’s your clue that this prefix typically isn’t hyphenated. (Note: You can find rules for using prefixes and other such spelling issues in the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), which also has an online website but is a paid service. See www.chicagomanualofstyle.org.)

Now, for that “thing” you should do wrong occasionally.

The English language is all about following an established, convoluted set of rules, getting those things “right.” And let’s face it, not all the experts can agree on those rules. Even CMOS contains gray areas that are open to interpretation or outright say “if preferred.” There is some leeway. Not to mention, in everyday life most people don’t talk according to the rules. Which is why I don’t think you should always follow the rules when it comes to writing dialogue for your characters. Yes, this is where I think “doing it wrong” can give your writing the authenticity and feeling it needs to be great.

lea schafer, editor, editing, line editor, line editing, freelance editor, dialogueTake contractions, for instance. Yes, there are rules for contractions, but in formal writing, contractions are frowned upon. That’s why speaking without contractions sounds like you are British royalty (not to mention the use of the pronoun “we” instead of “I”). But normal people talk normally, casually, and use many contractions. They also slur their words together. “Gonna” isn’t in the dictionary, but how many kids do you know that say, “I’m gonna do it anyway”? They don’t typically say, “I am going to do it anyway.” In fact, they might even tack on an “s” to that “anyway” to sound even more authentic. Which one do you think a reader wants to hear? Well, that depends on your character, right? If he’s a six-year-old Southerner, he’s “gonna do it anyways,” but if he’s a royal prince, he might go with the formal version. You have to write dialogue that’s authentic to the character, not to the rules of language. Write like someone would speak, given their background and education level and immediate situation, not how the perfect rules of language demand things be.

“But…!”

I know; I know. There are a ton of protests in your mind, exceptions, ambiguities, and even the occasional downright “I don’t wanna!” That’s okay. I still think, for the majority of your writing, these two concepts are a must:

Use a dictionary for the best spelling you can get.

Don’t always conform to grammar rules if you want authentic dialogue.

We’ll get into more specific topics, cover thoroughly issues like punctuating dialogue and word choice and a mountain of other things as the months go on. There’s no end to the issues being debated in the English language. But for now, know that these are, in my opinion (and we all know about having those 🙂 ), good “rules” to follow. How about you? Anything you see as a major mistake when you read a book? Any rules you feel hindered your writing as you grew your skills? Anything you think is more important than the two ideas I’ve listed here? Tell me about it. You never know — I might just agree with you.

– Lea

 

*Final photo courtesy of Håkan Dahlström.