1. There is a direct correlation between success as a writer and time spent editing. Editing here means rewrites, cuts and copyediting. This mammoth job takes on a life of its own and requires more time than drafting the outline and writing the first draft.
2. When in doubt, cut.
3. When in doubt, look it up.
4. Give yourself space between each go-through. You need to clear you mind and come at the material with a fresh look.
5. Use a speech-to-text application to give yourself a different view on your work. Kindle. Final Draft (A script writing program).
6. The same can be said for changing the font and font size of your material. Typically we stick to the same font. By changing it drastically, it tricks the mind and you’ll see your work in a different way.
7. Create an e-book file of your work and read it with your e-reader.
8. Know your trouble words and search them out. I know in writing a first draft I’ll write, “I here the kettle boiling…” and many other examples.
9. Finally, even when you think you can’t possibly read it anymore, read it one more time because you can never have enough editing.
’ve never formally studied the Italian language, but from my music studies I know piano means quiet or soft and forte means loud. Put them together to create pianoforte, the original word for piano. Somewhere in a forest the forte ran away. It shouldn’t be confused with fortepiano. A forerunner to the modern piano. It also ran away.
From music to film we pick up certain words. I can still hear Roberto Benigni saying, “Principessa” in Life is Beautiful (La vita è bella). When Dean Martin sings in Italian I learnt, no, scratch that, there’s just the hangovers.
While we learn any language by listening, we gain insights by reading. This week it was a lesson in Italian. Graffiti is an Italian word and is plural. Whereas, graffito is the singular form. Anyone who knows Italian understands this distinction.
To write, “The graffiti was…” or “There was graffiti on” sounds right, but to someone who speaks Italian, knows that language, they might object.
I think if I wrote, “Kofi’s graffito was covered over,” readers would scramble for a dictionary. If I wrote, “My graffiti were covered over,” readers would feel unsettled.
... sometimes google gets it right and then they go south...
ecently I was editing a novel and came across, “It’s been a while.” I stopped and wondered: should it be two words or one? Satisfied it was correct, I continued my edits, but sometimes I have to stop and check with some authority.
But how to check? Pull out a book, right?
Now I’ve read any number of books on language, grammar, and style. Each day I’ll read a chunk and store it away in my head, somewhere, I hope, in the non-corrupted sectors. Over time, my polluted mind is either certain on a particular issue or completely fuzzy. Fuzzy seems more prevalent. I love these books, but they don’t work as reference material for me. Even if I remembered what book dealt with a certain issue, I’d have to find the book, then search the pages to find the entry at which point I’d discover it wasn’t quite how I remembered it.
Time for the internet.
If your not familiar with this site: Common Errors in English Usage check it out, but after your finish reading my blog.
The next step is a standard google search, but I’ve discovered something I hate about google. They want to correct spelling. They never did before. It makes searching on usage less effective.
The trick is using quotes, not on phrases but on individual words.
When I searched: brenson raine, I got lots of results with Benson and Rain. Not what I was looking for, but Google assumes I made mistakes in my typing. Where’s my shotgun?
Searching with “Brenson” “raine” gets me closer.
Give it a try.
Posted 2011/09/20 at 20h56ET in Editing, Google, Language, Words.
f you’re not familiar with Good Reads, click here. It will take you a while to get a handle on all the features, but you may find it useful.
I use the web site because it’s an easy way to build a database of the books from my life—owned, borrowed, swiped and stolen, read, want to read, or, will never read, but pretend I did. In the past I tried creating a database with Excel, but it’s too damn time consuming to collect and enter the data. The web site does all that. A few pecks and clicks and you can add a book to your bookshelf.
Categorize them to your fancy and rate and review. I tend to keep my reviews short and reviewing books is a whole separate topic. But how to rate a book? That’s what I want to know and want to hear from others on.
The site provides a 1 to 5 star rating option, similar to amazon.com, but while you can choose 1 to 5 stars, you can also not rate the book and have no stars. Does that equate to a zero rating or no rating? For me, it means no rating. Comments on that please.
That’s point one. No rating, no stars for books in my shelf means I haven’t read it or I’ve read it but it’s been so long I can’t remember enough to accurately judge it.
1 Star: I probably never finished the book because I hated it that much and if I were Stalin and this were Russia circa 1940s, the author would be on a unheated train heading east until the train reached Port Arthur where he’d be dumped into the sea.
2 Stars: A boring read. The author was over indulgent with excess descriptions or continual narrative summary. A lack of tension and suspense. Silted prose. Faulty logic. Factually wrong.
3 Stars: A worthwhile read. Interesting but with moments of sloppy writing. Room for improvement.
4 Stars: Excellent read. Information or entertaining or both. Great use of language.
5 Stars: All of 4 stars and must read, will read again.
A lot of the books I read will get 3 or 4 stars. Few will get 1 or 5.
For me, a book may deserve a 5 star rating but won’t get it because I have no intention to read again. That’s the key difference between 4 and 5.
... where is the rhyme and rhythm with spelling...
struggle to spell any number of words in the English language and all of the ones in Greek, Spanish and Russian. I think it has something to do with the funny alphabets. But that aside, let’s face it, English is not easy on the mind or spirit when it comes to spelling and pronunciation. It doesn’t help that certain folks took it on themselves to fix the discrepancies, but only made it worse.
Two of my trouble words are: Rhyme and Rhythm.
It’s troubling because I am a student of the Theory of Music, I write songs and most songs have rhyme and rhythm. Fortunately you don’t have to be able to spell these words to be a songwriter or musician. At least, so I thought, when I signed up for Music Theory 101 in university.
I think I have rhyme down because if I can spell thyme without any problem I should be able to spell rhyme. Just switch T with R. Bingo. Until a moment of self-doubt kicks in. Such an odd looking word.
Rhythm is even worse. I’m still working on a fix. If I start with rhyme and drop the E I have rhym. That’s close, but I need a TH in there. So, rhym becomes rhythm, but I always seem to forget where to insert it and have to look it up. Pass me a dictionary.
I prefer these spellings: Rime and Rethem. Those ones I don’t have to look up.
ou don’t need to write about guns to create an effective thriller, but it’s clear many thrillers include them for all the obvious reasons. What’s also clear, is if you write about guns and firearms in a way that is not consistent with experts in the field, you’ll hear about it. For example, don’t ever write a revolver has a silencer. It won’t work. Reviews on amazon.com frequently point out factual errors. So, unless you can strip and reassemble a pistol blindfold in ten seconds like those movie scenes, unless you can name all the parts of a handgun, know the terminology, you should avoid writing about them or, in my case, do some research.
My background with firearms is limited as in non-existent. No job or training ever exposed me to them. Sure I’ve seen them in movies and on TV, but they never run out of “bullets” and reading about weapons is different than watching them.
1. Courses, Clubs & Firing Ranges.
If I wanted to, I could have signed up for the courses one has to take to get a licence. Write the exams. Possibly pass. Join a gun club and eventually stand at some shooting range with a gun and hope I don’t lose a finger. I didn’t go that route. It’s not me. I have no desire to fire a gun, own a gun or even hold one. I’ll leave that to others.
An aside. Spare me the babble on protecting myself, blah-blah-blah. I’ve never been in a situation where a weapon would have made a difference and I’m still here. In one instance, in Africa, a soldier tried to intimidate me. He carried an assault rifle. The magazine probably held 30 rounds. One round would have been enough. I frozen like a rabbit. Paralyzed. Freezing was probably the best course of action. No shots were fired. Besides, it’s one thing to have a gun in a moment, it’s another thing to be trained to use it effectively. In most stressed situations, training is the difference because you go into action as if on autopilot. Thinking leads to mistakes.
2. Ask People.
Even in Canada, believe it or not, there are folks with guns. I asked police officers. They carry pistols in a holster on their right hip. They’d talked. I talked with a correctional officer, but surprisingly he had no training with firearms. I talked with a soldier in the Canadian Reserve Army (The Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada, Cambridge). Lots of valuable details on assault rifles and the like. I talked with various hunters who use rifles and shotguns. I even had a taxi driver volunteer answers when he overhead me talking.
I never once said I was a writer doing research. I simply asked questions and more questions until I ran out of questions. It helps if you’re both side-by-side on treadmills at the gym.
I love the show Mythbusters. I think it’s invaluable as a source for facts and ideas. I can think of several episodes that dealt with firearms. Myth busted.
I’ve read a number of books on firearms. The history and development. The gun manufacturers. The history of an iconic weapon: the AK-47. There’s no shortage of books on the topic. After about six or seven books, they all seem the same.
There’s also the fiction you read. Take note of what’s being written and not written. I find authors with military backgrounds write pages of details on this mortar or that rifle when a sentence or two would suffice, but that’s me.
An aside. For many reasons the AK-47 is an engineering marvel, but it is also one of the most lethal devices ever created.
5. The Internet.
Wikipedia has numerous entries on almost every possible type of weapon out there. The entries usually include detailed specs. For military weapons, you can even find out what countries use a particular weapon and their variants. Manufacturers, retailers and distributors all have detailed web sites. The NRA types have any number of web sites, podcasts and videos. Not sure how to strip and clean a pistol, watch a Youtube video.
6. The Irony.
After all that research, I keep my eyes open for anything new or interesting. What used to fly in and out now takes on new meaning. “Pass me a mag!”
Now, here’s the irony. While I have this pistol and those cartridges with that magazine in my first novel, it’s all rather generic and low key. I could have done thirty minutes of research and known everything I needed to write my story but as with most research, it sits somewhere in your brain or your notebook, not in your finished novel.
Posted 2011/09/17 at 14h35ET in Research, Writing.
ost novels do not include a list of characters, although I have read some with them. Tolstoy readers would likely appreciate it. Plays do. Scripts don’t. Not sure what the thinking is, but I didn’t include it with my novel. I had a feeling I’d be shot if I had suggested it, but with the internet, I can provide such a list and here is the list of the major players in my first novel The Protectors (A Thriller).
Black Carr Security Consultants Limited
Baird Carr, Former CIA Officer, Co-founder, Owner
Emerson Black, Former Secret Service Agent, Co-founder, Owner
Sarah Bishop, Former FBI Agent, Senior Consultant
Debra Paeytonne, Office Administrator
Stephen Tedeschi, Former Secret Service Agent, Consultant
Nigel, Independent Consultant
U.S. Secret Service
Ken Milton, Director
Richard Heyward, Retired Agent
Julian Constance, Agent, Killed in Assassination Attempt
Trisha Evrington, Agent
Terry Flannon, Agent
O. Payne, Agent
J. McIntyre, President, 2 Terms (1997-2004)
Neil Walters, Vice Present & Presidential Candidate
Ackland, Attorney General
Martin Comrie, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence
Jessica, Briefing Co-ordinator
Detective Mendez, Fairfax County, Virginia
Detective Brooks, D.C. Metro
Detective Sabien, D.C. Metro
Patrol Officer, Maryland State Police
Orbitz & Henderson, Chartered Accountants,
Nassau, The Bahamas
Herman Orbitz, CA, Partner
Edward Henderson, CA, Partner
Arthur Cowlings, Vietnam veteran, Convicted in assassination attempt
Stewart Dent, Defence Lawyer for Cowlings
Ben Greenberg, Reporter, Washington Post
Jane Carr, Ex-wife
Helen Black, Wife
Camilla Calera, Housekeeper for the Blacks
George Miglio, Manager for Corporate Accounts, D.C. Bank
Martha Broadhead, Corporate Accounts, NYC, United Financial
Peter Seegard, Relationship Manager, Private Wealth Management, Orange Ocean & Trust, British Virgin Islands
Dorothy Maringer, Mother, Berkley, California
Erin Maringer, Daughter
Esther Appier, Mother, San Francisco, California
Holly Appier, Daughter
Black Carr Security Consultants Limited, Washington, D.C.
Posted 2011/09/16 at 17h57ET in The Protectors (A Thriller).
... writing an e-book is just one part of the publishing business...
ere’s a summary of some of the things I’ve learnt about e-publishing. Depending on where you are on the curve, some things will be old hat, others completely new.
1. Creating the E-book.
If you have a manuscript ready for publication, creating the e-book file is straightforward. In fact, it’s the easiest part of the process. There are oodles of how-to articles on formatting and several free software programs available for converting a document file into an e-book file. I use MS Word 2003 and Calibre to create MOBI and EPUB files. It works for me.
2. Cover Art.
Every book needs a cover, even an e-book, except for e-books is an image file like a JPEG file. Some argue the cover art for an e-book is critical because often that’s all a reader sees when browsing titles. That’s probably true. It’s not difficult to spot the difference between cover art made by professionals and those made by indie writers. If you are not a whiz with a program like Photoshop, pay the money to hirer a freelance designer to create a cover. It’s part of the process.
The covers for brand-name authors have the author’s name in the biggest font and at the top because that’s what sells the book. For unknown authors, the catchy title should dominate.
3. E-book Reading Devices.
There’s more than one way to read an e-book: software installed on your computer, dedicated e-readers, tablets and smartphones. There will be other ways in the future. While computers and cell phones are ubiquitous, they have never provided a reading experience like a print book or the more recent readers and tablets.
At the gym, I see more and more readers. Adaptation has crossed a critical point. They are here to stay. Troglodytes, “I won’t give up my books,” won’t go away. All technology and knowledge experiences it. I can drive 10 minutes north of Waterloo, Ontario and, as I pass a horse and buggy, farm after farm has no wires running from the road for telephone or electricity.
For the rest of us, there’s room for growth. The penetration rate for e-readers and tablets must be less than 25% (a guess). There will be more tablets and readers bought in the future, and with it, more demand for e-books.
4. E-book Sales.
The growth of e-book sales in the U.S. is double digits. Sales in 2011 are significantly higher than those of 2010. It’s likely this growth will continue, but will, at some point, flatten because e-book sales are, for the most part, cannibalizing sales from the print market. In other words, there is a fixed amount of money spent on books. In the past, it all went to various categories: Fiction (30%) versus Non-fiction (70%); Hardcover versus trade paper versus paperbacks versus other. E-books have a growing piece of the pie. The biggest loser appears to be mass paperbacks. Hardcover fiction is also taking a hit.
While e-book readers and web sites make it easy to get an e-book, there are still two limiting factors. First, people have only so much disposable income to spend on discretionary items. They must choose between the myriad entertainment options available and there have never been more available to consumers. The stagnation of the world’s economy impacts negatively on disposable income. Second, it takes time to read a book and that time is finite. Free e-books get downloaded and stored away, but often aren’t read.
5. E-book Market.
Most of the textbooks I used in university (economics, finance, math) would make for terrible e-books. Graphs, tables, equation after equation. They don’t translate well into an e-book. Not at the moment. Besides, I always scribbled notes all over and lugging around 10 kilograms of books was my daily exercise. I wish my e-readers were more efficient at highlighting and note taking, but they aren’t there yet.
The point is: certain books will be more desirable as a print version than as an e-book. Think of those coffee table books with photo after photo.
But what does appear to work for e-books are certain categories of fiction and non-fiction. Romance readers are gobbling up romance e-books (think Harlequin Romance). Then there’s the airplane novel (suspense, mystery, thriller) a businessman reads as he travels from the west coast to the east. Those two categories have done well as e-books. (There are others, but I’m not aware of them.)
The e-book market has revitalized the moribund careers of many print authors and given them control and success they never experienced before. But these are seasoned, professional writers. For the neophytes, for the ones who may have landed an agent but no publishing deal, only a handful can point to sales and success. Most writers of e-books are not selling--as in--well over ninety percent are not selling and never will.
Out of print books and backlists will suddenly be available as e-books. The supply of books to readers will mushroom. Print authors, estates and publishers will see to it.
6. E-book Pricing.
A lot has been written about pricing an e-book. Any price under $5 won’t be the difference in a writer’s career. You may get a sale with a low price, but you won’t necessarily get a reader. You have to write a good book and follow it up with several more. That’s the only way you can make a living, a career, as a writer. Yes. There are exceptions, Harper Lee, but those exceptions represent an off-the-chart divergence from the norm and you can’t expect it.
If you think, all I have to do is price my book low enough, I’ll get some traction and I’ll have it made, well guess again. The books people want to read have higher prices, not lower. The price of books by Stephen King, James Patterson and the like are higher because the demand is there. The demand curve is steep. People want it. They want it now and they will pay more, not less. Charging less would mean everyone involved leaves money on the table.
Your price point is not the issue. Even free is not the issue.
The product development cycle at a traditional publisher is typically 12 to 24 months. The route is straightforward: Writer, Agent, Publisher (Legal, Editing, Marketing, Sales, Promotion), Printers, Distributors, Retailers.
E-books shortens that cycle. Web sites have made it so simple to create and upload an e-book that you can have a product up in days. That’s good and bad.
Every year agents and publishers fight over the current hot name in the public eye. From Oliver North to Paris Hilton. They do so because they know if they get the right book on the market, they can use the name recognition to generate sales. It works. But unless you have some claim to fame, promotion of you and your books will be the hardest part of developing a career as a writer. There will be days where you’ll wish you were Sisyphus.
9. The Independent Stigma.
Prior to e-books, many unpublished writers found a vanity press and had a thousand copies of their book made up. They sold a few and the rest, in boxes, collected dust in the attic. There was a certain stigma attached to such books. They were considered inferior like some member of the lowest caste in India.
The e-book has changed that, but not completely. Whether I read my novel or a Grisham novel with my Kobo, they look the same. There’s no texture difference from the paper, no difference in the binding. It’s black letters on a white background. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t differences. There are: the quality of the writing and the name recognition of an author.
Without quality writing, e-books won’t create name recognition for a writer.
10. The Earth Is Shaking.
In the last month, a major indie writer signed a print-only deal with a major publisher. He created a writing career by being his own e-book publisher. The publishing world is changing. People have written about the weakening powers of agents and publishers, and it will be interesting to watch as it changes. It will. For them, the boulder is rolling back down the hill.
Update: 2011.09.16 Fri.
Thanks to Michael Haynes (twitter @mohio73) for providing link on the most recent sales stats from PW (Link). Interesting.
Posted 2011/09/15 at 08h14ET in E-books, Publishing.