What’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys?
See you in Colorado Springs May 2-5…
What’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys?
See you in Colorado Springs May 2-5…
I’m not opposed to self-publishing. I am, however, averse to self-publishing without professional editing (not to mention formatting, layout, and cover design). Improper grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization … well, the list goes on and on.
Now while some of the rules (of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and capitalization, etc.) can be difficult to remember, or confusing to follow (hence, the need for a pro), a few things can make a big difference in the very first pages and can be taken care of as easy as 1-2-3.
(1) Should you wish to spew thanks and accolades to those who supported your writing endeavor, do so in the Acknowledgments … not Acknowledgements. No third “e.”
(2) Words or thoughts at the beginning of the book (by someone else) are on a page labeled Foreword, not Forward. The words before the story. Get it?
(3) And what about a Prologue? Most, if not all, spell the word correctly, so that isn’t the issue. The real problem is the prologue itself. Generally agents, publishers, and readers don’t like ‘em. The prologue tends to become an easy way to dump information without finesse. Readers are impatient to get to the story … and figure they can go back if they need to, which I’m betting they don’t do often. If the information is that good and that important to the story, make it Chapter 1.
There’s nothing like spending time with others who love books as much as I do — writers, editors, publishers — and no place like high up in the mountains. At 8500’ elevation, the Georgetown Indie Conference was the perfect location to be inspired, motivated, and not surprising, a little light-headed.
I am grateful for having the opportunity to present, as well as to make new friends, both aspiring writers and other published authors. I hope sharing experiences, frustrations as well as successes, will help others in the writing community continue their journeys. Writing is difficult, but the rewards are worth it.
If you have a chance to attend a writers’ conference, go. Whether to hone your craft or just network with other like-minded folks, you can’t help but have your passion reignited. And I can’t wait to go back … well … after I recover from altitude sickness.
A shout-out to those who supported the conference: the Colorado Independent Publishers Association and the Georgetown Trust for Conservation and Preservation. They put on a great show!
As I prepare to participate in a panel discussion on writing non-fiction and memoirs for the Central Oregon Writers Guild (and shamelessly promote the event!) I thought I’d share these points:
Your best chance of writing a salable memoir is to read as many successful memoirs as you can. Here are a few examples (in alpha order by author, not necessarily by rank):
Each memoir is unique, but if your story can illustrate a theme that resonates so that others can identify with your experiences, you will have a more memorable (haha) book.
Tell the truth (be real, for better or worse, because that’s what gives you credibility).
But… don’t get hung up on accuracy.
Come up with a great opening line to get the reader into your story.
Print out your manuscript. It’s amazing what you’ll catch on a physical copy.
Read your manuscript aloud. If you stumble over phrases or sentences, it’s quite possible your readers will, too.
And finally, competition for readers’ attention is fierce. For greatest chance of success, your story must be in the best possible shape. Hint: get a professional editor!
For many of us, warmer weather inspires us to want to clean out closets, wash windows, declutter. And with the latest onslaught of “organizing” books and blogs telling us to let go of items we don’t use, don’t wear, or don’t really like, the message is clear: use it or lose it.
I realized that this also applies to writing and to my efforts in editing. The goal is the same: help writers organize their thoughts, declutter their stories, and clarify their meaning. To put in more tangible, spring-cleaning terms:
Good luck – and good riddance!
Now comes the real work. Making every word count. Getting rid of the words that don’t.
Case in point: “began.” They began arguing. He began acting suspicious. I began to get irritated.
(The truth is, when I get irritated, I don’t begin to get irritated. I just am.)
Another word to think about deleting is the word think! If you’re writing a memoir and write “I think I was about five-years-old,” I suggest instead, “I was about five-years-old.” A small difference, but cleaner.
And just for fun, how about that word just? It’s a word that just isn’t needed. Search your manuscript – you might be surprised how often you’ve used it. Try deleting just a few of them; you probably won’t even miss them.
Enough of that. I mean it. “I wish that we could … whatever.” How about “I wish we could …”?
If you don’t miss it – if your story reads (just) as well without it, you will (begin to) write a much tighter, better story.
As I try to wrap my head around the loss of my friend and mentor, former publisher Carolyn Hayes Uber, and attempt to describe her influence, her persona, her life, I am struck by a remark I heard just today that helps put everything in perspective. And the fact that this remark mentions a common editing term (the dash), is serendipitous. Carolyn would be tickled.
In the documentary Into the Abyss, director Werner Herzog interviews Fred Allen, who explains his role in executions as the former captain of the Death House team at the Polunsky prison unit in Livingston, Texas. Allen is clearly conflicted (eventually resigning his post), as he sees the lives of inmates reduced to numbers: 1954 – 2011, for example. He realizes and explains, quite eloquently, that our lives are not reflected in a birthdate or date of passing, but the dash in between. (Granted, it’s really a hyphen, but I’m not here to edit today.) Mr. Allen then asks, How are you going to live your dash?
Which brings me back to Carolyn, who lived her dash with courage and strength and humor and love. So for Carolyn and my father and my “adopted” mother Patricia and other dear friends who are no longer here, I will live my dash, really live it… bravely, respectfully, happily. I hope you will, too.
As I’ve mentioned before, writers have a tendency to rely on favorite words and phrases … often without even knowing it. Maybe it’s considered part of your style or personality, but from an editor’s standpoint (who advocates for the reader), these “catch phrases” can become annoying and distracting.
Because I’m being objective and looking at a manuscript with fresh eyes, I can easily see the repeated words (and can make suggestions or revisions). I can search for how often the word or words have been used. But you can’t do this, because you don’t know what you’re looking for! It’s like looking up the correct spelling of a word in the dictionary … when you don’t know how to spell it.
But now there’s help. Word clouds. Thanks to an attendee at my recent writing workshop, I learned of an amazing tool to self-regulate your pet prose. There are many Word Cloud programs available, which take your text and visualize your repeated words. I found one, TagCrowd, which not only creates a very cool image of the words you use most frequently, but it can also tell you how many times you’ve used them.
I worried for a minute that I was shooting myself in the foot by revealing this trick of the trade, but then I realized, if I can help one memoirist from repeating “I remember when,” one mystery writer from abusing “He couldn’t help but notice,” or any number of storytellers from plastering “In fact,” “Of course,” “That being said,” it will be worth it. I’m sure I’ll still have plenty of work to do.