Con or Truth: A Halo of Mushrooms at MarsCon—guest post by Andrew Hiller

Have you ever attended a science fiction convention? Andrew Hiller, whose urban fantasy novel A Halo of Mushrooms is getting rave reviews, shares his recent experience at Marscon.

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Williamsburg, Yorktown, and neighboring Jamestown hold a place in our history. Everywhere you look, you see preserved buildings, artifacts, reenactments, period costumes, and an 18th century sense of being. You come here to churn butter, put your head in the stocks, and learn. Wide roads and narrow bridges take you there. The grass in winter leans and the trees are spare. The color is more gray than green, but that too fits with the narrative of colonial and revolutionary struggle. It’s a great setting. It’s just not the place you expect to find aliens traipsing around.

MarsCon ButtonI was invited to MarsCon to share my latest book, A Halo of Mushrooms, and host a couple of panels. It was my first time attending this Con, and to tell the truth, my first time at a Con as an author.

I found my table. It was the first one in Artist’s Alley, right next to the sign-up for the costume contest. As such, I got to witness super heroes, Jedis, wizards, and a hoard of favorites parade by. Continue reading “Con or Truth: A Halo of Mushrooms at MarsCon—guest post by Andrew Hiller”

Writing Fiction: #AmEditing Tips From @ChangeItUpEdit

Thanks to paranormal romance author Shonda Brock for sharing a Q&A about editing tips on her website. Please join us there to learn more about editing … and about me!


Please welcome Candace Johnson from Change It Up Editing and Writing Services.

Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, and ghostwriter who works with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book publishers in both fiction and nonfiction.

We asked Candace to help us demystify the editing process for new authors. She also shares tips on how to find the right professional editor for your book.

Continue reading “Writing Fiction: #AmEditing Tips From @ChangeItUpEdit”

"All About Editing" or How an Indie Author Made My Day

What Authors Should Expect from Professional EditingLast spring, I received an email from a writer who was looking for an editor for his novel. He’d read my blog post, How to (Almost) Instantly Improve Your Writing, and wrote,

I have to agree with what you said about how writers can’t afford to NOT use a professional editor. Which is why I’d like to know about your services, procedures and prices for editing a full-length novel. . . . My book, The Man of Nightstone, clocks in at over 110,000 words. I really want to make my novel the best that it can be . . . hopefully at a reasonable price.”

After a few email exchanges, we decided to have a telephone conversation. Like most first-time authors who seek professional editing, Devon had many questions about what an editor can and cannot do as well as what an author should and should not expect. Devon had many concerns because he’d previously hired an “editor” and had been burned by broken promises, poor results, and money out the window.

Continue reading “"All About Editing" or How an Indie Author Made My Day”

Labor of Love

Thank you, Tricia Drammeh, for this moving tribute to writers.

Most writers start with an idea that won’t let go, imaginary friends who insist on having their stories told, a wish that maybe–just maybe–the fruits of our labor might bring joy to others. In most cases, the new writer might harbor a tentative hope that they might achieve the ultimate dream–the big-time agent, the major publisher, the movie deal, and enough money to live comfortably. But there are no guarantees. Though we might hope for the best, we realize our books might never see a book shelf. But, yet we persevere. (Read more at Labor of Love.)

Keep Your Readers Reading: 4 Easy Ways to Improve Sentence Structure

improve sentence structureConstructing a variety of sentences to keep your reader interested is a challenge every writer faces. If you are like most writers, your “personal style” includes some overused sentence structure.

In Self Editing: Put Your Book on a Diet, I discussed the importance of deleting unnecessary words; another important part of the revision/self-editing process is making sure your sentence structures are varied . . . but sometimes writers create new problems for themselves in the quest to vary sentences.

Let me explain.

As a freelance editor, I work with writers who have varying levels of experience. In the course of a month, I usually do some coaching, evaluate manuscripts, proofread a novel, and copyedit a proposal. In almost every case, I find that the writers have specific tendencies to overuse words and phrases or to construct most (or at least too many) sentences in a similar fashion.

Now, look at those last three sentences. Can you identify the common sentence structure I used? (Cue “Final Jeopardy” theme.)

Time’s up!

If you identified “overuse of introductory dependent clauses,” you win! (Sorry, no valuable prize, but you DO have the satisfaction of knowing grammar geeks will welcome you into the club.) I know that particular sentence structure is one I tend to overuse, so when I revise my writing, I’m always on the lookout for ways to restructure those sentences. A few sprinkled in every so often are great, but when the majority of my sentences have the same format: Zzzzzzzzzzzz . . .

(By the way, one of the best ways to learn to spot your own writing gaffes is by editing other writers’ writing. I wrote about that here. Try it—you’ll be amazed how much your own writing improves!)

Sentence construction should almost never be the same throughout a paragraph. That’s boring for the reader, and it’s a sure sign that you need to do some revising.

Here are some other common writing faux pas:

  • Overused words: All writers have their favorite words, even if they aren’t aware of them. I recently edited a manuscript with a great deal of clever dialogue, but more than half of them begin with “Well . . .” Every main character and most of the minor characters begin at least half their sentences that way: Zzzzzzzzz.

Lynn Serafin at Spirit Authors wrote about this in her excellent series on self-publishing:

This part of the process can be a real emotional journey for an author, especially if they have never worked with a good editor before. You might wonder why the editor didn’t do this herself. I’m glad she asked me to do it because a) it gave me the chance to decide which instances of these words should stay or go and b) it helped me improve as a writer. I notice that I am much more mindful of my ‘filler’ words since being challenged by my editor to address this issue.”

  • Dangling Modifiers: These are especially fun to include if you want to give your editor a good laugh. What is a dangling modifier? It’s a descriptive word or phrase (a modifier) that is separated from the noun or noun phrase it is supposed to be modifying. This often happens when the modifier is tacked onto the beginning or end of a sentence.

    Dangling Modifiers Lead To Slippery Pedestrians
    Dangling Modifiers Can Lead To Slippery Pedestrians (Photo credit: jaydoubleyougee)

Here are some examples:

  • Almost two feet tall, he hurled himself over the coffee table. (He’s awfully short, isn’t he?)
  • Returning home, the fire was still burning out of control. (Did the fire run out for a quart of milk?)
  • Knocking on the door, the package sat where the delivery man dropped it. (What a clever package—it can announce its own arrival.)

 

  • Comma Splices: Our dear friend the comma is often asked to do more work that it was designed to do. Connecting two independent clauses with a comma but no coordinating conjunction or punctuation is one form of a comma splice. Here’s an example:
  • I can’t believe you brought me here, I have postponed it for so long, this is an awe-inspiring place, my sister would have loved it here.

There are a number of ways to fix this type of sentence. You can add coordinating or subordinating conjunctions, make dependent clauses out of one or more of the independent clauses, use different punctuation, or revise the sentences to add some variety to the structure. And, of course, you could use almost any combination of the above.

  • I can’t believe you brought me here. I have postponed it for so long, but this is an awe-inspiring place; my sister would have loved it here.

OR

  • I postponed coming here for so long. This is an awe-inspiring place, and my sister would have loved it. I can’t believe you brought me here.

OR

  • I have postponed coming here for so long that I can’t believe you brought me. This is an awe-inspiring place, and my sister would have loved it here.

You’ll keep your readers reading if you use a variety of the four basic sentence constructions:

  • Simple sentences
  • Compound sentences
  • Complex sentences
  • Compound/complex sentences

Mixing up the order of the clauses, adding coordinating or subordinating clauses, removing dangling modifiers, and eliminating extraneous words are important parts of the revision process. When you utilize different approaches to address the subject of each sentence, your writing will guide your reader to share your vision through your mastery of sentence construction.

What is YOUR biggest challenge when revising on a sentence level? I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments!

Happy Writing,

—Candace

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. 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.

If you enjoyed reading this, please subscribe to my blog and never miss a post! It’s easy: Just enter your email address on the right side of this page. And please know that I’ll never sell, share, or rent your contact information—that’s a promise!

And if you want more great writing and publishing information, check out my Facebook page at Change It Up Editing and Writing Services, where I share all kinds of interesting articles and links.

Reminder: 3 Days Left—Enter to Win Free Editing

Just a quick reminder that through Saturday, December 1, 2012, everyone who comments on one of my blog posts or website pages or refers to one of them in his or her own blog post will receive one entry for a random drawing to win some free editing for his or her project.. If you sign up to follow me, you’ll receive two additional entries. (Current followers: you automatically start out with two entries.) The prize? I’ll copyedit (line edit) up to 1,500 words* of your projects for free.
Continue reading “Reminder: 3 Days Left—Enter to Win Free Editing”

Giving Thanks for Writers with Free Editing

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday . . . they are all days to celebrate writers. In fact, every day is an occasion to celebrate writers, and I thought of a way to show my appreciation for them and offer one lucky writer the opportunity to win some free editing for his or her project.

Beginning today, November 24, and continuing through Saturday, December 1, 2012, everyone who comments on one of my blog posts or website pages or refers to one of them in his or her own blog post will receive one entry for a random drawing. If you sign up to follow me, you’ll receive two additional entries. (Current followers: you automatically start out with two entries.) The prize? I’ll copyedit (line edit) up to 1,500 words* of your projects for free. Continue reading “Giving Thanks for Writers with Free Editing”

The Fear of Making a Mistake

Writer's Block 1
Writer’s Block 1 (Photo credit: OkayCityNate)

“Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.”

Writer, actor, and tall person John Cleese is my inspiration for today’s blog. (And thanks to Jon Winokur at Advice to Writers.com for the tweets that got me to thinking about this.)

When I began this blog, I set a goal for myself to blog twice a week about something that is relevant to writers. That sounded easy . . . except “blogging day” keeps coming around. (“Didn’t I just post a blog yesterday?”)

How difficult can it be to write something that is interesting and helpful for writers and then polish it up every Wednesday and Sunday?

How difficult? That depends on the week, as every blogger who reads this post can attest. My hat is off to those bloggers I follow who manage two, three, or even four posts a week—you are a true inspiration! But as John Cleese said, the fear of making a mistake can keep even the most prolific writer from actually putting words on paper.

My personal crucible is the desire to write something that is practical, informative, interesting, and so good that everyone who reads it wants to follow my blog and share the post. Because I’m hoping to appeal to writers who might someday need editing services, I feel the need to be extremely careful—to not make mistakes—and that really can stifle the creative process.

So my advice today to every writer who reads this, and most especially to myself, is

 Just Do It

If you’re one of the thousands of writers participating in NaNoWriMo this month, and you find yourself spending too much time coming up with the perfect word or a character name that feels right, make a pledge to yourself: no matter how much editing you might need to do later, get the words out now, because you can always come back and polish. Don’t wait for the right time or the right mood; if you have something to say, write it down—just do it!

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes had this to say:

“If you’re afraid you can’t write, the answer is to write. Every sentence you construct adds weight to the balance pan. If you’re afraid of what other people will think of your efforts, don’t show them until you write your way beyond your fear. If writing a book is impossible, write a chapter. If writing a chapter is impossible, write a page. If writing a page is impossible, write a paragraph. If writing a paragraph is impossible, write a sentence. If writing even a sentence is impossible, write a word and teach yourself everything there is to know about that word and then write another, connected word and see where their connection leads. A page a day is a book a year.”

So yay for me—this is ready to post tomorrow, and it’s only Saturday night! Heck, I’m going to go completely crazy and post it early. Not that anyone else will notice, but I’m just happy to be writing. What about you?

Happy Writing!

—Candace

 

Related links:

http://www.kmweiland.com/images/Manifesto.jpg

http://meghanward.com/blog/2012/11/02/nanowrimo-a-different-call-to-action/

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2009/01/09/time-to-write/

http://catherineryanhoward.com/2012/10/22/nanowrimo-im-only-going-to-say-this-once-okay/

http://www.copyblogger.com/become-a-better-writer/

http://chillersandthrillers.com/2012/11/17/nano-day-16-procrastination-station/

 

 

10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

I saw this poster today and thought it was some of the BEST advice I’ve read–let me know if you agree! Get the link for a downloadable poster and read the article at http://www.copyblogger.com/10-steps-to-better-writing/

 

How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Copyediting

Image courtesy of acclaimclipart.com

This is the second installment of an occasional series about freelance editing services. I wrote previously about developmental editing; this time I’ll share some thoughts on copyediting (sometimes spelled copy editing), the second of three vital steps in the editing process.

So what is a copyeditor, and why do you need one? An article on About.com puts it succinctly: “Copy editors are the grammatical gatekeepers, so to speak, of the media world. They read over stories—or, as the content is called in industry terms, ‘copy’—and check for everything from typos to errant commas.”

Copyediting is more than just checking to be sure a writer follows grammar rules. The copyeditor’s task is to finesse a writer’s prose so that it observes all the conventions of good writing, and also verifies proper syntax, word choice, spelling, punctuation, adherence to the publisher’s style guide or outside guides such as The Chicago Manual of Style or the Associated Press Stylebook. In addition, the copyeditor checks to be sure the text flows and is accurate and clear, checks basic facts, flags potential legal issues, and as another blogger writes, “copyediting is like pulling out your magnifying glass to look at the small details of the writing. Copyeditors look at each paragraph, each sentence in that paragraph and further still, each word in the sentence.”

(For those of you paying attention, the quote above has an error that should have been caught by the copyeditor—if you see it, please leave the answer in “Comments”—and no peeking at other people’s answers! I’ll post the correct answer in my next blog.)

As the book packaging professionals at The Book Couple (http://www.thebookcouple.com) put it, “A good copyeditor brings a renewed sense of objectivity to the project, which is important for pinpointing any remaining issues that the author and [project] editor are too close to see.” In the first step of the editing process, the developmental editor looked at “big picture” issues, but the copyeditor is more concerned with line-by-line details. Here are a few examples of issues a copyeditor will flag:

“His belligerence would express itself if the child hesitated or resisted in any way.”

(The problem: belligerence doesn’t express itself, belligerence is something that is expressed by someone. This is an example of passive writing, and is a common error a copyeditor will note and correct.)

“I had a lady who was a teacher and she was profoundly ill.”

(First problem: “I had a lady” is nonsensical. This should be rephrased as “I had a female patient.” Second problem: there are two independent clauses in this sentence that should be separated by a comma: “I had a lady who was a teacher” comma “and she was profoundly ill.” Or better yet, “I had a female patient who was profoundly ill,” which is a more sophisticated way of stating these facts and more in line with the overall professional tone of this manuscript.)

Please subscribe to this blog for weekly examples of common errors and how to correct them. You’ll learn a lot, I promise!

There are numerous ways a writer can and should self-edit; when an article, manuscript, or web content is submitted for publication, the writer should always try to have it as free from error as possible. But none of us can be experts are everything, and no matter how well written a manuscript is, it often needs more help than what another writer or a friend can offer. Writers are often amazed at the amount of help a good editor offers; published authors who have already been through the process understand how valuable an editor is to the success of their work.

If you have a great idea but don’t know how to organize it into a book or article, or if you’ve written a draft and want to be sure it is well-ordered and doesn’t drift off somewhere it shouldn’t, or you have a web post due and you’re a little rusty about all those grammar rules, consider hiring a professional freelance editor. A professional editor has an objective viewpoint and will be honest with you about the many ways you can improve your manuscript—yes, even when you think it’s perfect, you’ll be surprised at the things an editor will suggest that never occurred to you.

And the best advice of all: find an editor who will work as your partner to help you say it the way you mean it.

—Candace