Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Videos on Writing

It’s fun to peruse videos on writing and listen to what authors say about themselves and their craft. Here are some interesting short videos that help us understand how authors find their voice and who their muse is. It's best if you click on the URL to get the series that is posted.

From Reading Rockets (Children’s authors)

Susan Cooper

Katherine Paterson

Isaac Asimov (My most favorite science fiction author – this was done in 1971)

Stephen King (He's the greatest inventor of story today)

There are great sites out there that will help you to better understand your craft.

Here are two:

More later . . . .

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Editing – The Devil’s Bane Revisited

This post is a reprise of a blog from last year written while I was going through the editing of my novel Elk River. Currently, as you loyal readers know, I’m editing 12th Man for Death. I hope to release this latest Sharon O'Mara Chronicle by November 1. But something has changed! Note in the title I’ve dropped the 4 for for (this is not a baseball phrase). While cute and I have liked it on the covers, the use of the number 4 produced quite a few questions from readers, they were confused. And the covers, well, they just didn’t read well. So I changed them and now use the preposition for. Look for updates on the other Chronicles as well – if comments, let me know.

Now back to our thrilling blogs of yesteryear.

A published book must be well edited, period. No buts or excuses. Remarks such as: “No one will notice.” “It’s just a comma for Pete’s sake.” “It’s my book, I can do what I want -  it’s my way if being independent.” are not acceptable (and I’m sure the punctuation is wrong, somewhere, for the previous phrasing). Baloney, you worked hard on the story, it must be presented in its best English, spelling and punctuation.

I am saying this after having my novel (insert here any current manuscript) professionally edited. But still, while going through the editor’s galley proof, the errors I continue to find just make me shake my head. Not to blame the editor, but I, as the author, must review the book at every stage, checking for spelling, spell-check is great but it is dumber than a box of rocks, i.e. canvas and canvass are both correct, except when they are reversed in the story. Punctuation has rules, but it’s the typos that get lost, little things like the comma after a quote that is followed by an attribution, i.e. “She melted,” Dorothy said. If you place a period after melted the punctuation review in you MS Word won’t pick it up. Do a search and replace. And on and on and on. The axiom, “The devil’s in the details,” is truth.

A copy editor is critical; they are someone with the experience and single-minded purpose to eliminate errors and confusions. With Track Changes in Word, the author can follow the changes proposed, approve or reject them and then produce the final manuscript. But at the same time the author must not blithely okay them, look at the suggestions and understand the corrections before approving the final.

This has nothing to do with style or content. In this particular area of editing or more specifically copy-editing, it is form over substance. For some books both a content editor and a copy-editor are needed, and in fact demanded. And, even beyond that for non-fiction, a fact-checking and even data checking editor might be employed. The wrong address in a travel book can be messy, the wrong phone number is there until the next edition (and if for an inn you will never be comp’ed a room). The responsibility is yours as the author.

I have started a list of phrases and misspellings that I commonly make, I do a search for each in a methodical way to find and change as needed (there are a few software programs that help such as SmartEdit). I do the same for punctuation. Keep a list; in fact start a manual to use for each edit. Do your reviews and checks before you send the manuscript on to your underpaid editor. If they work hourly, you will save some time and money.

Get a good book or guide (or six or seven) on writing that focuses on grammar, spelling (difficult words), style and punctuation. The rules (and they are rules) are simple and direct. One of the best guides is Lynne Truss’s book Eats, Shoots & Leaves. It’s humorous and stays with you. Also Grammar Girl is very good, but you can get lost or lose hours reading thru her subjects – but it’s worth it.

We all try hard to present the best story. We fold time, kill off evil doers, invent fantastic machines, discover unknown countries, and tell simple stories of boy meets girl or boy meets alien mind-sucking zombies. Don’t mess it up with a poor presentation.

More later. . . .

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

O'Mara Update

The O'Mara Chronicles App - (Coming soon, I hope)

Short update today. 12th Man 4 Death is at the editor, hope to have back by the end of the month. Cover design is underway. Goal Mid-October:  Post some covers ideas for thumbs up or down. There will be a contest in November for free copies of all the Sharon O’Mara books, still working on that. 

Within the publishing world of Windsor Hill Publishing (WHP) lots of cool things are in the works. This will take a few months to pull together but look for something exciting and dramatic by spring. We originally formed WHP to offer our books under our complete control, from soup to nuts. Writing, composition, pbooks and ebooks, and marketing – all with their own unique challenges. Distribution through Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks, Barnes and Noble and others, they are all there, check them out. But as with everything in sales it comes down to marketing and word of mouth - so pass the word.

Our goal over the next six months is to explore additional avenues in marketing and access. One interesting and growing phenomenon within the tech and publishing world is the ubiquitous APP. A number of children’s books are being offered as apps (they are often and continually updated by the authors). The initial idea seems interesting, but what it may become is another story. I will keep you updated on this whole concept. Sharon O’Mara is not a techno-phobe and she disdains Luddites, so she has told me “Go techno if it helps to get my stories out there.” I can’t argue with a redhead.

So the next six months will be interesting. With the return of the America’s Cup to the Bay Area next year (finally the real races will begin), the new book should be a marketer’s dream. Tease your friends, have them pick up a copy, better yet send copies to all your friends. Pass the word.

More later . . . .

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Momentum and Alan Furst

It is imperative for a writer to learn the subtle art of momentum. As the writer unfolds their story, the reader must be taken for a ride. A ride that, as the story proceeds, picks up speed and pulls the reader forward. Then at some point, the well-crafted story switches from pulling to pushing and the reader now holds on for dear life. Great stories have started slow then raced ahead, leaving you breathless. Others have slammed your head into a wall on the first pages. Then, as you start to recover, they throw you in the back of the truck forcing you to ride the rest of the way – and they’re driving. All kinds of tricks are used by the writer to coerce the reader to stay on board: bribe them with sex, make them sniffle, tease them with clues and red herrings, but don’t let them catch their breath. And don’t let them out. Make them cry for momma.

Momentum is that last sentence of each chapter that makes the reader think, “Maybe one more,” before setting down the book. Momentum is when the airline attendant threatens you personally about your Kindle, as the plane is about to land. Momentum is thinking about when you can get back to the book. And momentum is when, with a big book, you decide to buy both the paperback and the ebook so the story is always there.

Having just finished Mr. Alan Furst’s Mission to Paris, I was impressed with his ability to tease you, the reader, forward. Slowly at first as the characters are introduced and then, as the story unfolds, it races to the end. I was also surprised how many characters were introduced then left in the damp alleys of Paris. Not everything or everyone has to be answered. Mr.Furts's story is the vehicle for one man, an American actor (with roots in Vienna), as he tries to shoot a movie in Paris and is dragged into the world of spies during the months before Germany declares total war on the world,.

This is a thin book by today’s standards, 255 pages – maybe 70,000 words. Just my size. Each early chapter pulls you along until you can’t get off. It is well crafted, interesting, historically accurate as far as the story goes, it doesn’t bog down as some historical fiction can. He places the reader into the paranoid and fearsome time of pre-war Paris and Europe. The utter sense of foreboding and acquiescence is palpable.

This is not meant to be a book review, all right maybe it is, but Mr. Furst has done a simple masterpiece of the John le Carre school. I can honestly see Hitchcock make this into a movie – staring Cary Grant. It has the texture of North by Northwest, but more scary. In this story there is a real monster and he lives in Berlin.

Momentum is one of many gears the writer can use, and as they shift into higher and higher gears, the story has to speed up. The reader has to be afraid of crashing, fearing for their very souls, and also hoping that the ride never ends.

More later . . . .