Confused

Confused

“Confused.” The state that you do not want your readers to be in.

One of the most important reasons I have my work reviewed is so others can let me know if it’s confusing or not. After my first draft of BiaAtlas, there were a few points where conversation became muddled or the action was hard to follow. Once pointed out, they were errors that were easy to fix with some revision and editing.

I just finished reading a published book by a well-known author. In this book, two characters were mid-conversation. I had to re-read to figure out what the characters were talking about because I was confused. The subject didn’t fit the flow of the scenario. It’s not something that causes me to stop and say aloud, “Good gravy I’m confused!” It just happens and the annoyance slips in as I scrunch my brow and go back.

I don’t like being confused when I’m reading a book, I prefer to be lost in the story and not pulled out to hit paragraph-rewind and lose the flow. So, it’s important to me to make sure my story isn’t confusing but not flat out in your face boringly over explained either.

My advice about confused writing.
Simplify or add clarity. If its jumbled toss out the junk. If it’s hard to follow the dialogue, add some actions to clarify the speaker. Most importantly have someone you trust to be honest read and let you know if they got stuck, lost or just plain confused.

-Sheryl

via Daily Prompt: Confused

Read, revise and repeat. The shampoo process of editing.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

That sounds complicated

A simple thing can be complicated until you understand it.

For me the entire writing through to publication process was a complicated and daunting process to approach. There is a lot to do, consider and understand. When I first started researching  the different ways to publish and what was needed I thought ‘That sounds complicated.’ and it is. After time, more research and asking others questions (A lot of questions) it became clearer.

There were times when I felt overwhelmed with what needed to be done or how to even approach publishing. So much that I would question the worth of my choice. It was in those moments that I would take a second and remind myself that giving up is not an option. That something worth having is worth the effort. I wanted to write a book. I did that. Now I want to see it published. That is where I am now. Getting ready to take the next step. That step is having my first 50 pages, synopsis and Query letter reviewed by a professional as well as some friends. I’m looking forward to their feedback. Good or bad doesn’t matter as long as it’s honest.

I suppose my blog is about making something complicated less so for others. A few blurbs about my experience as a novice writer, and about what found out along the way. I am curious and excited about what’s to come. Will I glide or stumble through the process? I can’t wait to find out.

My advice about complicated things.
Find out why they are complicated and what you can do to un-complicate them. If you’re curious about what I’m up to (enter shameless plug) visit and read my other blogs and follow along with me. Don’t worry I don’t often gripe or complain. I will make fun of myself and be honest about my mistakes as well as accomplishments.

-Sheryl

 

via Daily Prompt: Complicated

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The first 50 pages.

“Drop and give me fifty!”
“Yes sir!”
“The first 50 Pages of your manuscript that is.”

Guess what? They are the most important. Who knew? I didn’t. Well I did but not in the context that they will make or break the deal. That’s why my first sentence ever written isn’t the first sentence you will read, it’s not even the second.

When they say put your best foot forward they mean it. To apply to literary agents I need to submit a Synopsis, Query letter and the first 50 pages of the manuscript. There are of course books written about how to make your first 50 stand out or to rise above the slush pile.

As odd as this is, it’s nerve wracking. To know I’m so close to putting it out there to be judged and hopefully loved. The trick is not to freak out about it despite the mini drill sergeant that lives in my brain yelling for me to check it again, and again. I like it so someone else is bound to.

I have revised the first 50 pages more than any other part of my book. Not only for the Literary Agents but also for the readers. If it’s not interesting, exciting or fun nobody is going to read further. For the past couple weeks my mind has strayed to chapter 2 and 3. They were originally chapter 1 and 2 until I added a much needed more exciting chapter 1. My problem was this. They were written first my first ever two chapters and quickly after that, my style changed. Sure they fit in fine but there was something about 2 and 3 that seemed slow. They were almost the same scenario from two perspectives.

Two days ago, I had the brilliant idea to meld them together. Pull out the repetitive crap and make one solid chapter. It came out longer than I liked, but still within a reasonable length for a single chapter. Once I put the two together, it made more sense. I knew something was wrong and now I’m glad I paid attention to my gut nagging to change them.

I will read it over again today and probably once more tomorrow. I have a few people reviewing it for me for constructive opinions. Then I will start the process of working with a consultant.

My advice about the first 50 pages.
Make sure they are clean, edited, well written and interesting. It is a fine line between writing to please someone else and writing to please yourself. I have set down a book because I can’t get past the first few chapters so I don’t want to be that writer, and yet I know others that rave it’s the best book they’ve ever read. You can’t please everyone so make sure it pleases yourself. It’s your book after all.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Query letter “creativity drought”.

What is a Query letter? To put it simply it’s the resume for your book, what you submit to a literary agent to get their attention. Single spaced and one page.

Everyone has a different opinion on this. There are bunches of websites dedicated to this and even one that maybe-might-possibly review it on their blog and tell you what works and what’s junk. Like the synopsis, there are even books written about how to write a query letter. It’s that important. I took my time and read samples, how to articles and found one format that I liked.

The basic gist is that a query letter is 4-5 paragraphs. You have 8 seconds worth of reading to catch the literary agent’s attention and have them read on. 8 seconds is not much.

The first is the introduction paragraph. The shortest of them. It has to be personal to the literary agent you are querying. Including their name and why they’re a fit for your work or why you like them or think you would work together. It varies as long as it’s personal.

The second is the quick catch paragraph. This part that must be interesting, well. This paragraph is where you set up the book to say “Hey read on, it’s awesome I promise.” It’s a mini-synopsis, but only the nitty gritty of the story without the spoiler. This paragraph can be two if need be as long as the whole thing is one page.

The third is to be about the author, me. My accomplishments in literature, prizes, awards, certificates and qualifications or relevant education. I don’t have any of those things per say. So I wrote about my experiences with writing.

The fourth is the how will I promote the book etc. etc. This one was tough too. The more exposure I have the more likely a literary agent will take me seriously. Thus I started this blog, registered domain names for an upcoming website and whatever else I could find that others have done to promote a book. I kept this short and sweet.

After my first few attempts at a query letter, my brain dried up. All my creative ideas evaporated under the hot pressure of the disapproving sun of self-criticism. I could not make it sound interesting. I realized I was being too hard on myself so I took a break, wrote and revised a few chapters. I waited for the rains on inspiration and tried again when they came.
I’m not going to beat around the bush, I’m getting help for this just as I am for the Synopsis. For me it’s like writing my resume, it’s so hard to sell myself to others looking to hire me. The same goes for this. I know what to say, but I want to make sure it’s perfect. I have a Query that I think is decent ready to submit to the consultant. I wonder if he will agree or not? I’ll let you know.

My advice about Query letters.

Do research. Lots of it. Find the style that appeals to you and go with it. Don’t be afraid to get help or opinions on this, after all its part of what you will be using to sell you and your manuscript to a Literary agent or publisher if you are contacting them directly yourself.
If you find your query parched and dull, try a different approach or style. This is the face of your book. The first thing a potential literary agent will see. But hey, no pressure. 

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Spell check doesn’t catch them all.

Blog Spell checkIf the wonk is actually correct, Spell Check doesn’t catch your misty.

When it comes to checking spelling I had to read it myself. I also had someone else read it too. This is where a copyeditor can come in handy if you can, want or are able to go that route.

I’m not saying that spell check is not helpful, it does point out the obvious errors. However, spell checking is more than looking for the red squiggly lines, its making sure that the words are appropriately used.

For example: And and an.
Yes, I typed that right. Even though spell check hates the heck out of it. 😉 Back on track.
Pepperoni an olive.
Pepperoni and olive.

Spell check didn’t have an issue with either option. Neither did grammar check (Blue squiggles). I am cautious when using spell check to correct my work, there can be words that look similar to what I want but are not even close.

One misspell or typo: Wunder gives me a choice of; Wonder, Winder, Wander, Under, and Wonders.  If I choose wrong, it will be “correct”.

My writing was littered with words like this. They are mostly typo’s that got away with existing because they are actually words. Not the right one, but a word none the less.

Spell check wont catch them all, they are not Pokémon. (Although spell check will correct the spelling of Pokémon.) I found reading out loud helps. Yes, I sound like a crazy loon reading to myself, but it totally worked for me. I had to learn to read slow and clearly otherwise I’d just skip over the errors.

One would think admitting to errors, many errors, is cause for embarrassment. I don’t think that way. I’m only human and I make mistakes. It doesn’t matter if I make one mistake or a thousand, because I have the time, patience and will to fix them. I found it easier to write what I need to say and stop worrying about the little things along the way. I did catch many as I worked but I didn’t sweat the every single one.

My advice about spell check.

I think of my self as competent at spelling and catching typos. I still found many mistakes even after the fifth or sixth revision. If you are not a confident speller, don’t rely on the spell check to catch them all, get outside help. That help can be a friend, relative or someone you hire such as a Copyeditor.

-Sheryl

 

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Featured Image -- 9308Who knew some simple and overused words can cause a sentence to flop. I didn’t until I found out that I was plagued by them. Filter words are words that are useless and often change the tone of the sentence or even put it in the wrong perspective. They filter the sentence through the point of view of the character and it makes for awkward reading.  It’s a lot like parallel parking. You have a beautiful street with perfectly parked cars. Then along comes a couple rusty lemons that cram on in there, crooked and parked to close to the bumpers of other cars. It’s annoying, unsightly and can cause problems.

Example: Phillip saw the motorbike go by way too fast and thought it was so loud, he felt it in his teeth.
Filter words:  saw, way, thought, and felt.
Correction: The sound of the engine vibrated Phillips teeth as the motorbike sped by.
From 21 words to 13. It may not be how you would rewrite it, but that’s okay.

Clearly, they can be a pain. So what did I do about them?

First, I searched for lists of Filter words, super easy to do.
Second, I used the search feature and one by one went through finding all of them. I evaluated the sentence and either removed, replaced or rewrote the sentence. This took weeks to do.

After a while, I would come across a sentence like the example above. I learned to recognize the poorly parked words, and pull them all out all at once. There were times when I would revisit a sentence a few times because of different words and I would laugh at myself, fix it properly, and keep going.

This filter word removal was incredibly useful. It allowed me to see and familiarize myself with the useless words and learn not to use them. (That’s the theory, I’ll probably still use them.) I was able to take my word count down to a reasonable level by removing and replacing these words.

Here are some of the ones I overused.

Saw – 139
Thought – 212
Know – 414 (knowing, Know, and knows)
See – 244 (Seen, seeing, sees)
Had – 653

I discovered the trick with filter words is to go right to the root. Instead of searching all the variables as with Know, knowing, known, knows, I only searched “Know” and got them all. So for, looked, looks and looking I searched “look”. You get the idea. Tedious yes, but man, it was fun to shape and reshape my sentences.

Did I have to get rid of all of them? No of course not, just the ones that snuck in and didn’t belong. I still have a few to go through, however, they are minor and seem to be within a conversation. As long as it’s how that character speaks I’m fine leaving them.

My advice about filter words.

I found it easier to use the “find” feature, and search and repair one by one. Don’t sweat them as you write I didn’t. This is part of what I call the “shampoo process of editing”. I can’t speak for other writers, but by the end, you might just find a bunch of unwanted words parked in your sentences. Don’t worry about it, they will help you write better as you pull them out. At least they did for me.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved