Breaking All the Rules in Writing

Are you breaking rules in writing? I am delighted to introduce you to debut author Cheryl Fassett. Our editing work together ended months ago, but since then Cheryl has been hard at work preparing her middle-grade fantasy novel, Far Away and Ever After, for publication. Now that this enchanting book is available for everyone to enjoy (and I was enchanted by it), Cheryl agreed to share some thoughts about her journey and The Rules that surround being an writer.

Here’s Cheryl:

We are given rules in every area of our lives. From the time we are toddlers, we are guided by the don’ts, the dos, the nevers. Sometimes these rules are in our best interest: don’t touch a hot stove, never run with a sharp knife, always chew your food. But sometimes rules are constricting and limiting.

Many rules in writing are as arbitrary as being told not to wear white after Labor Day. One person’s helpful suggestion is the next young writer’s block.

I feel strongly that certain writing rules were just made to be broken. Continue reading “Breaking All the Rules in Writing”

Define "It" to Strengthen Your Writing

Have you ever been engrossed in a great story and suddenly stopped short to ask yourself what the writer is referring to when “it” appears? Here’s an example:

“Sue and Mary found six dresses to try. It fit and was in her price range.”

strengthen-your-writing
Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What is “it,” exactly? In the context of the sentence above, “it” is used as a pronoun, and illustrates a common (and avoidable) writer mistake:

Undefined pronouns

A quick grammar review: Pronouns are a useful part of speech that give writers greater flexibility in naming schemes. Instead of using and reusing a noun, the substitution of a pronoun allows for a type of shorthand. For example, instead of writing, “The moment John walk into the store, John realized John had forgotten John’s wallet at home” (pretty clunky, huh?), this sentence becomes, “The moment John walked into the store, he realized he had forgotten his wallet at home.”

Personal pronouns are fairly straightforward. Most of us use I, he, she, they, him, her, them, his, hers, and theirs properly . . . but “it” often present unique problems for writers.

The Problem with “It”

When I edit manuscripts, I usually see two different but related problems with the use of “it”: Continue reading “Define "It" to Strengthen Your Writing”

Readin' and Writin' and 'rithmetic: Thanks for Setting a Great Example, Dad

John F. Yardas, EdD and Candace (15 months old)
John F. Yardas, EdD, and Candace (15 months old)

 

This Father’s Day is a difficult one for me. My 88-year-old father passed away six weeks ago, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea.

Like all parents do, my dad influenced me in many ways, including some I couldn’t appreciate until later in my life. I wrote this letter to him two years ago (and sent him a printed version); he told me how much he enjoyed reading it.

Although my dad never embraced electronic books (see the end of my letter), he was a voracious reader his entire life and always had a book with him. I’ll always be grateful to my dad for the examples he set. Wherever he is, I hope he’s enjoying a great book.

*****

Dear Dad,

Because you’re a self-declared technophobe, you won’t read this today, but I’ll send you a printed copy via snail mail. I may be using all my techie toys (laptop, printer, and my WordPress blog) to write this, but the message is very old school: without you, I would never be following my dream today.

You see, I’m finally pursuing a passion I’ve had my whole life. Continue reading “Readin' and Writin' and 'rithmetic: Thanks for Setting a Great Example, Dad”

Lessons Learned from Writing the Second Novel: Guest Post by Kristen Otte

One of my favorite perks of working as a freelance editor is developing a relationship with an author. I recently had the good fortune of working with author Kristen Otte on her just-published second YA novel, The Evolution of Lillie Gable, the second in her contemporary young adult Eastbrook series. Each novel in the Eastbrook series stars a different main character, but secondary characters carry over in each story.

I asked Kristen to share some of her insights about writing a second novel, and she graciously agreed to share her thoughts about the challenges and lessons she learned. Take it away, Kristen!

*****

ForKristen Otte writing the second novel most of us, writing the first novel is an adventure. The process is long and arduous with moments of excitement, terror, and anxiety. But once the novel is out in the world, it’s time to start on the next project.

Writing my second novel was a much different experience. The process was fun, pleasant, and fast because I learned a few tricks from the first go-around. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you tackle your second novel.

  1. Outline. I didn’t outline my first novel, so writing the first draft was difficult. I often sat down to write without knowing the next plot point in the story. For book two, I planned the character arcs and created a chapter-by-chapter outline before I started writing. Did I veer from this outline? Absolutely. However, having the general framework plotted allowed me to write faster and better.
  2. Create a Distraction-Free Writing Environment. We all write better when we remove the distractions during our writing and revising time. I turn off the Wi-Fi and flip my phone over so I don’t see any notifications. Some days are easier than others to get the words down, but removing distractions goes a long way to being a consistent writer.
  3. Trust Your Beta Readers. With my first novel, I was terrified to let other people read it in the early stages. The second time around, I was happy to send a draft of my novel to my beta readers. They sent fabulous, honest feedback, and I didn’t hesitate to make changes to my story structure, even if it wasn’t what I originally had in mind. Did I make every change they suggested? No, but when a few readers mentioned similar issues, I knew they were right. Trust your beta readers. They make your work better.
  4. Pay Attention to Your Critics. Some authors don’t bother reading reviews. I am not one of those authors. Maybe some day down the road when I sell millions of books, I will ignore reviews. But for now, I read every single one. Even if a review stings, I can learn from a critical review. For example, many reviews of my first novel, The Photograph, commented that they loved the story but didn’t enjoy the amount of basketball play-by-play scenes in the novel. I kept that criticism in mind as I wrote The Evolution of Lillie Gable. Like The Photograph, the main character is a basketball player. The basketball aspect plays into the plot, but I cut back on the detailed basketball scenes to appeal to a broader audience. Listen to your readers and reviewers for any patterns that can help you write an even better book the second time around.
  5. Learn from Your Editor. I mentioned this tip before, but I think it’s worth saying again. Your editor is your creative partner, and he or she can help you become a better writer. When I began the revision process for my second novel, I pulled out the style sheet from my previous novel’s edit. I used the notes, comments, and feedback from my fabulous editor to aid my revision effort the second time around to create a better novel before my editor laid eyes on it. [ED note: Kristen’s a great student! If she continues at this rate, I’ll soon be out of a job!]
Your editor is your creative partner... #amediting #editingtip #writetip Click To Tweet

Writing my second novel was fun. I loved the process and the final product of The Evolution of Lillie Gable. But now, it’s on to the next project!

*****

The Evolution of Lillie Gable by Kristen OtteEvolution of Lillie Gable

Meet Lillie Gable—high school sophomore, outgoing, beautiful, athletic, and funny . . . She is the life of any party. Her boyfriend, Jake, is a smoking hot senior, and Lillie is on track to be a starter on the varsity girls’ basketball team this year.

But trouble looms behind the façade. Lillie’s home life is a wreck. Her father is hiding a secret, and Lillie is determined to find the truth, even if it tears apart her family.

While she searches for the truth about her father, the last thing Lillie needs is a feud with Angela Barrett, the brass, bleached blonde senior who is the queen of the rumor mill. Angela is determined to ruin Lillie’s reputation because she has set her sights on Lillie’s boyfriend, Jake.

Heartbroken and humiliated, Lillie can’t return to the life she once knew. Does she have the strength and resolve to forge a new path now that everything is changing?

*****

Kristen Otte is the author of The Adventures of Zelda series and two novels, The Photograph and The Evolution of Lillie Gable.  Visit her website to learn more about Kristen and her books.

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 Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here.

Kick Your Negative Self-Talk to the Curb with the 10-Day Girly Thoughts Detox Plan

GirlyThoughtsDetoxCover-2Generally speaking, we women aren’t very nice to ourselves. Almost from our first days, we begin to internalize messages that we aren’t good enough—we are too much of some things and not enough of others. Those messages become such a part of who we are that we don’t even realize how ridiculous some of them sound.

Do any of these statements sound familiar?

  • I just need to lose five more pounds.
  • Age might be just a number, but I’m giving myself Botox treatments for my birthday.
  • Isn’t my five-year-old daughter adorable when she pretends she’s sexy?
  • I don’t need to worry about saving for my future—I’ll be married by then.
  • It’s my fault my husband had that affair.
  • I can’t take that meeting; my hair looks awful today.
  • I hate going out with those people—they always make me feel bad about myself.

Today is publication day for The 10-Day Girly Thoughts Detox Plan: The Resilient Woman’s Guide to Saying NO to Negative Self-Talk and YES to Personal Power by Patricia O’Gorman, PhD, and it’s a day I’ve looked forward to for some time.

I worked with Dr. O’Gorman on two of her previous books, so when she asked me to edit her book about girly thoughts, I jumped at the chance. Her goal for the book, which was inspired by the phrase she developed and used in The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power, was to shine a light on the damage women do to ourselves by internalizing these negative messages and then provide a plan to detox from them. What woman wouldn’t embrace that concept?

Negative messages surround us, and they contribute to the toxic self-talk that reinforces our negative beliefs about ourselves and have helped us form our identities as women. Consider the advertising that reminds you:ID-100264893

  • your gray hair makes you look older,
  • those extra pounds might keep you from getting a promotion, or
  • being too assertive isn’t sexy.

Then, as Dr. O’Gorman writes, “We take it one step further: We believe these messages. We internalize them. We monitor ourselves to ensure our acceptability by letting our girly thoughts, our toxic self-talk, guide us. And we shut our powerful selves down. We try not to be offensive in any way. We certainly try not to be bossy.”

As the epigraph in The 10-Day Girly Thoughts Detox Plan reads:

“It’s hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.”

—Sally Kempton

Continue reading “Kick Your Negative Self-Talk to the Curb with the 10-Day Girly Thoughts Detox Plan”

3 Perks of Editing, Or What I’m Doing on My Summer Working-Vacation

Freelance editingMy editing life has been busy lately, and my apologies for the infrequent blogging in recent weeks. Hugs to everyone who has written to make sure I’m okay—and yes, I’m fantastic! Working as a freelance editor isn’t without its challenges, but it has some real perks, too.

Perk #1:

Freelance editing has its pros and cons, but the biggest pro for me is the ability to work wherever I choose. As many of you know, I live in South Florida, which is a paradise in the winter . . . but in the summer? Not so much. But lucky me—I am in the Pacific Northwest as I write this, and until the middle of August, I can pretend I don’t know anything about hurricanes! I guess the best label for my time away from home is “working vacation,” with an emphasis on the “working” part. And I’ve had a wonderful time editing many different projects in the last several months! Before I get to those, Continue reading “3 Perks of Editing, Or What I’m Doing on My Summer Working-Vacation”

Sentence clauses and where to put the comma. With gratuitous nudity.

“Should I or shouldn’t I?” That’s the question most writers ask themselves about commas, and Eric Baker wrote one of the best explanations I’ve read to help you decide. Wish I’d written one that was half this much fun!

Sentence clauses and where to put the comma. With gratuitous nudity.


Sentence clauses and where to put the comma. With gratuitous nudity. #writetip #punctuation… Click To Tweet

Do you have any idea how hard it is to think up an enticing blog post title when your topic is sentence clauses? That’s about as unsexy a thing as can be discussed. My other options were Full Frontal Commas and When Punctuation Marks Hook Up, but I ultimately decided “sentences clauses” and “comma” both belonged because the union of those two language elements is what we’re talking about today.

I’m willing to bet that when writers express worry about their punctuation skills, their chief grief is commas. Like, when to use one and where to put it (by the way, if you block out the rest of this post, you have to admit what I just wrote could be sexy). Today I shall discuss one aspect of comma use: when they are required to separate sentence clauses and when they are not.

The guidelines are pretty simple. If you have a dependent clause, you don’t need a comma, and if you have an independent clause, you do need a comma. Important note: Dependent and independent clauses are typically separated by “and” or “but.”

But sometimes, to even the most experienced writer, grammar talk sounds like bleeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhhh grldlugnk fzzznuh. Therefore, I shall provide examples.

Continue reading…

An Editor’s Skill Set, Part III: Feedback

editor feedback

Anyone who writes appreciates how much work it is—in fact, the better the writing, the more likely that writer has spent many hundreds—even thousands—of hours working to hone his or her skills. Yet, no matter how experienced the writer, one skill in particular that must be honed (but is often undervalued) is the ability to learn from constructive criticism. Unless your writing is hidden away under lock and key, you need a thick skin: as a writer, you need to learn how to deal with feedback.

In this final part of a three-part series on an editor’s skill set (If you missed them, here are Part I: Research, Observation, and Brevity and Part II: Accuracy and Honesty), I’ll share my thoughts about how your resilience as a writer relates to the editing work I do.

Continue reading “An Editor’s Skill Set, Part III: Feedback”

An Editor’s Skill Set, Part II: Accuracy and Honesty

Writing requires a set of skills that took you years to perfect. Many skills I use in my work as a freelance editor are skills I have honed over the years, too. In Part I of this series, I discussed Research, Observation, and Brevity as they relate to the editing work I do for authors. Today I’ll like to talk about Accuracy and Honesty, two personal attributes that I consider important skills when writing and editing.

Accuracy

Many people don’t realize how much background work is involved in bringing a manuscript to publication. Copyediting (sometimes called line editing) includes fact checking, which can be a time-consuming process, especially for nonfiction work. Even works of fiction require fact checking; for example, if one of your characters plays basketball, I’ll check the spelling of terminology—three pointer or three-pointer? Consistency matters, too: If that character was 6’1” in one chapter and 5’11’ in a later chapter, I’ll bring that to your attention. As a freelance editor, I work diligently to be sure my client doesn’t publish inaccurate or inconsistent information, and that includes everything from the spelling of a corporate name (Wal-Mart or Walmart?) to correct citations (Wikipedia is not considered a reliable source for citations, by the way).

Honestyeditors-honesty

Fitting hand-in-glove with accuracy is honesty. Sadly, sometimes writers don’t understand their obligation to cite an idea that came from somewhere else, and instead they write as though a concept is their own, original idea, or worse, they copy a phrase or paragraph and change a few words here and there to “make it their own.” If you don’t know how to properly present someone else’s words or ideas, I can help you do so.

Many nonfiction authors use chapter opening quotations in their books, so I verify the accuracy of those wordings—and the spelling of the contributor’s name—whenever possible. (If I had a dollar for every time I saw Mother Teresa’s name spelled Mother Theresa . . .) Continue reading “An Editor’s Skill Set, Part II: Accuracy and Honesty”

An Editor’s Skill Set, Part I: Research, Observation, and Brevity

Unless you have a young child who is learning to read, you probably don’t give much thought to your ability to read . . . but that skill took years of training and practice to develop. Writing requires another set of skills that took years to perfect—first printing, then learning cursive, and finally for most of us, learning to type.

I also find that many skill sets I use in my work as an editor are skills I have honed over many years of writing and working not just publishing, but in every career I’ve had. I’d like to talk about three of those skills in relation to the editing I do for authors, and I think you’ll agree they are basic skills for every writer, too.

Research

editor's skills
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Confession time: I still miss library card catalogs. (I know you’re laughing at me, but I really do!) There was something so satisfying about flipping through those cards, finding just the right connection to the information you were looking for, and zeroing in on the book or encyclopedia or microfiche that promised to hold the secret treasure.

Continue reading “An Editor’s Skill Set, Part I: Research, Observation, and Brevity”