I Was Afraid to Be a Writer

Was there something you really, really wanted to do when you were younger, but you walked away from it because you didn’t think you could do it?

I wanted to be a writer. I loved to write. I mean, I LOVED it. I kept diaries; I had literally dozens of pen pals all over the world. I crafted short stories that I believed would someday win awards. Writing was in my blood.

I kept my dream of writing professionally to myself, but when I was in high school and exploring college programs, I floated the idea. “You can’t make a living that way,” advised my guidance counselor. “Why don’t you do that in your spare time?” suggested my parents. “Earn a degree in something that will pay the bills” was the message I received.

So I entered college with the intention of earning a business degree . . . and dropped out after almost two years and before attaining an Associate’s degree because I was tired of going to school. I wanted to get on with living my adult life. But I always regretted that decision, and twenty-five years later Continue reading “I Was Afraid to Be a Writer”

Four Years of Putting Myself Out There in Cyberspace: Happy Blogging Anniversary to Me!

If you’ve been blogging for a year or more, you’ve received this notification:

blogging anniversary

In my case, it’s been four years since I began sharing on WordPress. Like many bloggers, I had great intentions and planned to blog frequently … and those great intentions often went out the window when life got in the way. For some people, blogging slows down because they run out of things to write about. Anyone who has worked with me and has received one of my epistles will tell you that finding something to write about isn’t usually a problem for me. 😉 Continue reading “Four Years of Putting Myself Out There in Cyberspace: Happy Blogging Anniversary to Me!”

2 Guaranteed Ways to Know You Need a New Computer

Most writers and editors live on their computers, tablets, and smartphones. Even those who prefer to write or edit longhand often transfer their work to an electronic medium at some point in the process. When things go wrong with electronics, we writers and editors are not happy campers.

As a freelance editor, I probably do 95 percent of my work on screen. It’s faster than editing longhand, and it has the added bonus of saving a tree (printing out a full-length book requires 300–400 pieces of paper). There’s also the instant gratification of working via tracked changes, which allows both the writer and the editor to see suggested edits and then decide which to accept and which to reject. (For more about tracked changes, check out The Shock: How to Survive Your First Round of Editing.)

So with my dependence on computers firmly established, I’d like to share two surefire ways to know when it’s time to replace your current computer.  Continue reading “2 Guaranteed Ways to Know You Need a New Computer”

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”

And then this happened

Last year, I began working with author Julie Christine Johnson on her debut novel. I can’t begin to describe how wowed I was by this story, by her lyrical writing, by the fact that I literally dreamed about these characters. Read on to learn more about Julie’s journey to publication:

And then this happened

*****

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.

 

Readers for Writers: Beta Readers, the Superheroes of Your Writing Team

boy-superhero-flying-around-books-black-whiteIf adding “Published Author” after your name is one of your goals for 2014, you’re probably itching to polish the NaNoWriMo manuscript or a WIP that is marinating on your hard drive  and send it out into the world.

But don’t just run a final spellcheck and pronounce your work ready for publication.

If you are serious about publishing, your first readers should be beta readers.

And just what is a beta reader?

Think of beta readers as superhero partner/readers for your WIP. Correctly employed, your superheroes can save you time and money. How? I’m glad you asked! Continue reading “Readers for Writers: Beta Readers, the Superheroes of Your Writing Team”

3 Things You Should NOT Do with Your NaNoWriMo Novel

The end of November is fast approaching, and with it comes the end of NaNoWriMo. The blog posts I’ve read this month have been filled with frenzied accounts of growing word counts and even some samples of WIPs, and for anyone who isn’t participating, November can make you feel like the kid who nobody wants on their team.ID-100211589

I’m an outsider.

No, I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo this year. But I’ve been right there in spirit, and I hope my comments on some of your blogs have been helpful. (That Week 2 slump is a killer, isn’t it?)

But the end is in sight, and those of you who will “win” NaNo are already intoxicated by the sweet smell of success.

Those who won’t make it have nonetheless learned some valuable lessons about writing, yourself, and your approach to writing—so truly, there is no such thing as NOT winning NaNoWriMo because whether you make that 50,000 word count or not, you’re a better writer now than you were a month ago.

By the way, I agree with Chuck Wendig’s comments about the language of NaNoWriMo, specifically “winning” and “losing.”

This isn’t a game of Monopoly, after all. It’s not a race in which one competes.

It’s writing a book. If you finish your book on December 1st, or January 3rd or May 15th, you still won. Because HOLY SHIT YOU FINISHED A NOVEL.

The goal is to write a book whether it takes you one month or one year—failing to complete 50,000 words in a month that contains Thanksgiving and the ramp up to Christmas should never be regarded as a loser move.”

So whether you’ve already finished your first draft or you expect to do so sometime in 2015, here are three things you shouldn’t do when you cross the finish line:

1.   Don’t throw anything away.

Is your 50,000 word first draft ready for publication? Of course not—but neither should it be deleted from your hard drive. Yes, there are allegedly writers who do that, but please do NOT become one of them.

Even if you’re a writer who believes the act of putting your butt in a seat for 30 days and churning out the bones of a novel is enough of a reward without having to ever read what you wrote, please believe that you’ve written some gems.

Okay, maybe you’ll delete some—or most—of those 50,000 words, but save them in a separate folder. In a month or two you may reread a well-turned phrase you’d forgotten about and will have a brainstorm for an entirely new scene . . . or character . . . or novel!

2.    Don’t begin editing your manuscript.

You’ve spent plus or minus thirty days with this manuscript—and if you outlined in October, that number goes up. Believe me, now is NOT the time to begin editing. You’re too close to your story, and let’s face it—you’ve had an exhausting, emotional month.

Do a happy dance, pat yourself on the back, announce to the world (or at least your Facebook friends) that YOU DID IT, and then put your manuscript away for a while.

For how long? Opinions vary on this one, but long enough that when you open it up again, the story feels new and fresh in that “I can’t believe I wrote this” way. That might be a month or a year, but it shouldn’t be tomorrow. Give yourself some time away to gain a little perspective, and you’ll have more clarity once you being to edit and revise.

Taking a very rough first draft and molding it into a saleable novel will require some ruthless revising and self editing, so give yourself enough time away to gain perspective. As Chuck Wendig writes, “Repeat the mantra: Writing is when I make the words. Editing is when I make them not shitty.”

Award-winning indie author Jade Kerrion knows firsthand how valuable those revisions can be:

NaNo novels are rarely much good at the end of November (but then again, what first drafts are?) However, given enough editing, they can grow into gems. My 2010 NaNo novel became Perfection Unleashed and went on to win six awards. My 2011 NaNo novel, Earth-Sim, picked up 1st place in Young Adult Fiction at the 2013 Royal Palm Literary Awards, and my 2012 novel, When the Silence Ends, took 2nd place in Young Adult Fiction, 2013 Royal Palm Literary Awards.”

Impressive, huh? And notice the awards were won long after she finished NaNoWriMo each year.

3.    Don’t stop writing.

If you’re like most NaNoWriMo authors, you’re pretty excited about ending November with 50,000 words—maybe you have the first draft of a novel, maybe only a third of a longer manuscript, but nevertheless, you’ve written a bodacious number of words in thirty days, and you’ve accomplished something pretty spectacular.

So why quit now? You’ve proven to yourself that you can make the time to write every day, so wrap your mind around that new reality and keep writing.

Should you continue with the same manuscript? Begin a brand-new story? It doesn’t even matter, because you are a writer, and writers gotta write. I love the way author Abbie Plouff put it:

For me, this has been an invaluable month dedicated to writing and storytelling that put me back on the right track. It has shown me that yes, even when life is hectic and crazy, I can still carve out time to work on my writing. The habit of writing—finding time to work every single day, thinking about my novel when I have downtime, and other planning exercises has been invaluable.”

Writer Kathera has a different point of view:

50 K word goal accomplished but the story is not finished yet so I can’t stop now. I’m in the middle of a chase, and I want to find out how it ends. Theoretically I know the outcome, as I am following the outline, but something unexpected may happen, who knows?”

And Chuck Wendig offers:

It helps to look at your NaNoWriMo novel as the zero draft — it has a beginning, it has an ending, it has a whole lot of something in the middle. The puzzle pieces are all on the table and, at the very least, you’ve got an image starting to come together (“is that a dolphin riding side-saddle on a mechanical warhorse through a hail of lasers?”). But the zero draft isn’t done cooking. A proper first draft awaits. A first draft that will see more meat slapped onto those exposed bones, taking your word count into more realistic territory.”

In my book, every writer who even attempts NaNoWriMo should be congratulated. And although I know it will be a few months before those drafts are polished enough to make their way to an editor, I’m already looking forward to the day when that happens. For an editor, the thrill is in peeking under the hood, so to speak, and helping to polish a novel that was only an idea in your head a mere month ago. I can’t wait!

Happy Writing,

Candace

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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.

For more great writing and publishing information, check out  Change It Up Editing and Writing Services on Facebook, where I share interesting articles and links about writing and publishing.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Wrapping Up the Details: Step 10 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps

nonfiction book proposalI’ve been blogging tips for writing a nonfiction book proposal, and here we are at the last step. As we’ve been discussing, the purpose of a nonfiction proposal is to sell an agent or editor on the concept of your book. Writing a nonfiction book proposal is all about marketing yourself, your writing, and your idea. Each section of your proposal answers the questions, “Why will this book stand out in a sea of other books about this subject?” and “Why are you are the perfect author to write this book?”

Over the previous few weeks I’ve covered each part of a proposal and offered specific ideas for what should be included and why. Today I’ll focus on tying up some loose ends by giving you tips about details that can be the difference between a proposal that’s ignored and one that agents and editors can’t wait to read. Continue reading “Wrapping Up the Details: Step 10 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”

Overview: Step 9 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps

How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal

How do you learn what a book is about? If you’re like most readers, you read a synopsis—maybe the back cover, perhaps you read the description online. But how do agents and editors find out what a book is about when they receive a proposal? They begin by reading the Overview.

Your Overview is a synopsis of the book and why it should be published—its purpose is to give the editor as much information as possible while being as concise as possible—like an executive summary or a précis. A tall order? Yes, but think of it as advertising for your book: it grabs the reader’s attention and gives the basic information that highlights the most intriguing points. Continue reading “Overview: Step 9 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”

Sample Chapters: Step 7 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps

how to write nonfiction book proposal
Sample chapters need to grab the readers imagination.

You’re coming into the home stretch of writing a book proposal. If you’ve been following this series, you’ve already learned about writing your author bio, the information that should go into your chapter summaries, how to handle competitive titles, identifying your target audience and how you’ll market to them, and how to make agents and editors sit up and take notice of your platform. If you’ve missed any of those previous articles, scroll down to the bottom of this post for links to the first six installments.

If you’re like most writers, you’ve probably already drafted a sample chapter or two; when the idea for your book first strikes, it’s difficult not to begin writing it. Now it’s time to take out that draft and polish it up until it sings. As the Bradford Literary Agency writes, “Draft the chapter that ‘puts your best foot forward’ so to speak. Write the section that is the most interesting, the most compelling and the one that you feel most passionate about.”

Tip: If you’re a new author, I strongly suggest you write your entire book before you query agents. Although it’s perfectly acceptable to shop an idea with a proposal and a few sample chapters, you do not want to be in a position where you are asked for an additional sample chapter or two and you have to hurry to write them. In addition, publishers plan their seasonal lists many months in advance, and if there is any doubt about your ability to finish a manuscript in time, your proposal will most likely get a pass.

Remember that in the end, everything boils down to your writing. No matter how original your book idea is, how spectacular your platform and marketing plans are, or how creatively you’ve compared your book to the competition, it’s all a foundation for the real star of the show: your sample chapter(s). As the Strothman Literary Agency recommends, “If you have not published a book, a strong writing sample provides essential evidence to the editors that you have the ability to attract and engage readers.”

Use the minimum number of words to generate the maximum amount of excitement about your manuscript; choose a chapter (or two) that not only conveys the idea of your book but also leaves an agent or editor wanting more. Revise, proofread, and go over your sample with a fine-tooth comb to be sure it’s the best it can be—a misplaced comma won’t get you a rejection, but pages filled with grammar errors and spelling errors might. You’re a professional writer who is an expert in your field, so put your best work out there.

Here are some FAQs I get from writers about sample chapters: Continue reading “Sample Chapters: Step 7 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”