Someone asked the question on our writer’s Facebook page if anyone has tried donating their book to one of the neighborhood “Free Libraries”?
I hadn’t, but I have gone to several of those little libraries and put my bookmarks in the books already there. I also put my bookmark in every book I check out at the public library—I don’t know if they just throw them away, but it’s worth a try.
And I have donated my book to two of the public libraries and also to two high school libraries. Has any of this done any good? I don’t know.
So, today when I went on my daily walk, I brought along one of my books. I put a note on the inside cover stating I was a local author and would appreciate it if my book could be circulated around the neighborhood. I mentioned this book and the others I have written are set in northeast Wisconsin. And, of course, the plea for a review if they read it.
As I approached my targeted neighborhood free library, I saw a man shoveling the driveway right near the box. As I went to add my book to the collection, he said, “It’s getting so full I’m going to have to sort through and throw some out.”
“Oh, please don’t throw this one out,” I pleaded, “I wrote it!” He came right over and took it from me.
“My wife and I are always looking for something to read, I’ll bring it right in!” We chatted a little more and I left feeling really good. Who knows, maybe I will get a review out of it yet!
Jean Baxter Author of: Salvageable Unfathomable That Forgiveness Thing
“The horse raced past the barn fell.” Sound familiar? This is a classic example of what’s known as a garden path sentence, in which the initial interpretation of the sentence’s meaning is wrong because it contains syntactic ambiguity in the first half of the sentence, creating syntactic inconsistency with the rest of the sentence. Thus, multiple possible interpretations. “The horse that raced past the barn fell.” Better?
Garden path sentences often pop up in our first drafts. Not very many writers can coordinate the right brain’s creativity with the left brain’s editing tasks at the same time. Wouldn’t that be sweet – your first draft would come out completely edited, putting thousands of professional editors out of work!
In the real world, our goal as writers is to get the story from inside our head to inside the reader’s head. Being able to recognize your own garden path sentences is an excellent editing tool when you’re down into the weeds of line editing.
Here are some more examples from Effectiviology, which is actually a website about psychology and philosophy:
The old man the boat.
The girl told the story cried.
The complex houses married and single soldiers and their families.
We painted the wall with cracks.
Happy Writing from the Frog!
Check out my latest short story “Trace” in the October issue of The Mantelpiece Magazine at themantelpiece.org.
Remember the saying, “Those who can write, write; those who can’t, edit.”? As an English teacher and long time wielder of the dreaded red editing pen, I have found both with characteristic challenges. I would hope, however, that whoever is critiquing my work knows a little something about what makes a good story.
Why, then, does editing one’s work seem so daunting? I believe it is because the creative aspect that we enjoy so much with our first drafts is missing when we start to edit, and we are faced with the application of a plethora of rules, directions, best practices, and….worst of all….the impending death of passages of some of our best work. These are the unkindest cuts of all.
To ease the task, I am finding critiques and feedback from writer friends an immense aid. To have objective eyes of a beta reader or colleague or even a supportive family member reading your final draft creates objective responses your first draft eye often misses.
Keep in mind the three kinds of editing: developmental (story structure); line editing (I call this wordsmything, finding the right word for the right job); and the final proofreading edit even your spell checker misses. They are all different tasks with different goals.
The most important consideration I have found is to develop a system you can adhere to. Read editing blogs. Find out how the pros edit. Use checklists. And take those feedback notes seriously, clicking off what you the author agree with, and what you don’t. There is no greater feeling than having a polished piece all your own ready to submit to the world eagerly awaiting your prose!
Happy Writing from the Frog!
Check out my latest short story “Trace” in the October issue of The Mantelpiece Magazine at themantelpiece.org.
Seeking submissions to literary magazines is an endless chore of searching databases for current submission listings. Your first task is to read what the magazine publishes to understand if your story fits with its genre, theme, tone and word count. Additionally, the document to be submitted has to be in a specific format, resulting in a number of copies of your story with different tags, such as doc., docx., and pdf., as well as different line spacing – double, one and a half, or single. With two stories published and a third coming out in January, I’m happy to say the effort is well worth it.
In addition to links to current submissions, these various websites, newsletters and blogs also offer craft talks, videos, workshops and articles on all aspects of writing. Much of the info is free, in-depth workshops are offered for a fee. It’s the best of both worlds.
I have discovered no one season is better than the other for submitting. However, because most magazines take three to six months to respond, it’s best to submit one or two seasons ahead, such as winter for spring and summer, etc.
Below are three links to regular posts of literary magazines seeking submissions.
If you are writing a memoir, whether it is your personal history or that of a family member, a great resource can be found in correspondence from that individual.
I always wondered where my father was stationed in the U.S. Navy during World War II. I remember hearing him say something about Norfolk and Brooklyn but never knew when he was there. When one of my daughters told me to look through some recycling, I was shocked to find letters my dad had written to my mom during the war years.
They were rather mundane but provided insight to his military service as an Electrician’s Mate, 2nd Class. What I also found in that box of letters were letters from my uncle who was also in the U.S. Navy but saw combat in the Pacific theater. He was assigned to a minesweeper and provided a snapshot of his service in letters home.
In a letter dated February 13, 1945, my uncle wrote: “Censorship rules have been made more lax and we can tell anything that’s happened up to the last 30 days. The biggest event was the invasion of Saipan. I’ve been to Guam, Tinian, Makin, Eniwetok, and most of the Hawaiian Islands.” Earlier in that same letter he opened with: “I’m in the sick bay under observation for acute appendicitis. They don’t know whether they’re going to operate or not. I sure hope they do because I’d hate to have it act up while on patrol.”
His letter was not postmarked until February 16th. It was received by one of his older sisters in Chicago on February 22nd, 1945. I share this because it is precious information for my uncle’s five daughters who never heard about his war exploits until I have been able to share these letters with them.
Correspondence can be valuable in preserving history and sharing life’s lessons.
Considering participating in the effort to write a novel in the month of November?
It is a monumental task if you think of a 90,000 word novel. That’s 3,000 words a day during the 30 days of November!
The first step, in my opinion, is to get an early start during October. Sit at your keyboard and time how long it takes you to craft 1,000 words. If that takes 1/2 hour, you need to dedicate an hour and a half each day to crank out 3,000 words. Allowing for creative thinking time, if 1,000 words takes an hour to generate, now you are up to three hours a day.
When is the best time of day for you to write? Early morning after that 1st cup of coffee and before the day kicks into high gear? Later in the evening as you start winding down?
Think about when you will have the time to best dedicate to get the words out. Set the goal and stick to it, allowing some down time to refresh and renew the commitment.
Generating 1,000 words a day is a good objective for us as writers. It can be done!
This blog was recommended by Lawrence Wilson and can be found by following this link to the original source.
Welcome aboard! This is your editor speaking. On this trip through your recently completed draft, we’re going to run through a few easy steps to take while you re-read. These steps will teach you to recognize common mistakes and eliminate a lot of red ink along the way. My fellow editors will thank you, and manufacturers of red pens everywhere will curse you. Remember, in the event of a grammar emergency, a Google search will point you toward your nearest online dictionary or style guide. Now, let’s take a quick look at the procedures that will help you navigate any turbulence, and take that prose from rough to smooth.
1. Read Your Work Out Loud
This is probably not the first time you’ve heard this tip—it’s a venerable old chestnut of writing advice. Nonetheless, a huge percentage of writers see this advice and think, “Okay, good idea. Here we go, I’m reading my draft out loud… in my head.”
It may come as a surprise that reading your work out loud in your head and reading it out loud with your voice are not the same thing. One is a purely mental exercise; the other is a physical action. Reading out loud forces you to listen to your own words in the same way that your audience would hear them for the first time. It also helps you understand that words are meant to be spoken, and that writing does not only exist on a page. You can’t get those results from reading in your head, no matter how much your internal narrator sounds like Morgan Freeman.
Get a glass of water, clear your throat, and start talking. It might feel embarrassing to read aloud to an empty room, but your empty room will forgive you. Incidentally, your pets or house plants may be the perfect audience.
If your sentences are too convoluted, you’ll catch that. If you stumble over awkward phrasing, you’ll catch that too. If you have to take a deep breath halfway through every sentence, you’ll learn to break up those long clauses. Similarly, if you find yourself stopping constantly, you may realize your sentences are short and choppy. Reading aloud will give you a sense of the rhythm and flow of your writing.
Most importantly, you will find obvious mistakes. Your grammar app may not alert you if you used the word “corpse” instead of “course,” and your spell check may not realize that you used the word “realize” six times on one page. But you’ll notice those things if you read out loud, and when you do, you’ll vow never to edit in silence again.
Also, your editor can tell if you didn’t read your piece out loud. Just saying.
2. Take Action… Verbs!
Now that you’ve caught your most glaring errors, let’s dive into a style tip that can wake up your writing like a strong cup of coffee.
There are some sentences that are boring. They are just dull. They are perfectly functional, but they do not bring any life to your writing.
Check out those two paragraphs above. In that first paragraph, I used action verbs: “caught,” “dive,” “wake up.” In the second, I chose stative verbs and statements: “there are,” “they are.” I nearly fell asleep writing that second paragraph.
Take a glance at your verb choices. Are you starting every paragraph with “there is” or “they are?” It’s fine to do that once in a while, but if you’re hoping to captivate your audience, consider switching up your verbs every so often. Almost any sentence can be rewritten to feel more active and dynamic—this is especially important to remember when writing opening lines. Even if you’re writing about abstract concepts or a stationery setting, you can recruit a few action verbs for a stylistic shot of espresso.
3. Watch Your Purple Prose
Word choice is one of those key elements that determines a writer’s voice, so as an editor, I tread lightly when giving feedback in this area. However, when editing your own work, it’s a good idea to examine your word choices carefully. Words have great power, and as a radioactive teenager once said, with great power comes great responsibility.
If you re-read a sentence and a particular word stands out to you, remember that a reader could have the same experience. Ask yourself if you want to deliberately draw attention to that word. If so, great! You’ve made a powerful word choice. If not, find a thesaurus and try again. Remember that an eye-catching word can pull a reader out of a narrative. If you throw a word like “obsequious” or “crepuscular” into a fast-paced action sequence, you may send readers scrambling for a dictionary instead of turning the page. But that same word could be the perfect choice in a different context.
Also, remember that you don’t need to choose “writerly” words to be a writer. You don’t need to adorn every sentence with an opulent metaphor, or describe every sunrise like a beacon of hope that unfurls its majestic brilliance across the verdant blanket of a lush meadow. Editors call this kind of language “purple prose.” Just like the accidental application of too much perfume, a draft dripping with purple prose can overwhelm and distract a reader.
While examining your word choices, confirm that the words and phrases you’ve chosen have the meaning you intend. Make sure your editor has no reason to quote Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Your editor can tell if you didn’t read your piece out loud. Just saying.
4. Stop Repeating Yourself
Words are a huge part of a writer’s life, so it makes sense that we’re particularly attached to some of them. Sometimes we may not even realize we’re repeating our favorite turns of phrase every time we’re at the keyboard. We’re particularly attached to words. Wait, hang on, that sounds familiar…
When reviewing your own work, keep an eye out for repetition. It could be a word, a phrase, or even a punctuation mark. If you find a phrase in your draft that gives you déjà vu, use the “Find” function and search for it. With “Find,” you can discover if you’ve already written the phrase “beam me up” four times, or if you’re a little too fond of the em dash.
Years ago, one of my beta readers pointed out that I had a semicolon addiction so severe that I was using one in every other sentence. He pulled out a highlighter and began marking them in my document. When he got to 15 in a single page, he asked nicely if I wanted him to continue. I’ve since recovered from my semicolon addiction, but that day I learned the wonders of the Find tool.
A word of caution about the Find tool, however: Be careful about using the “Replace” feature — especially the “Replace All” feature. If you use “Replace All” to change every instance of “ten” to “10”, you’ll end up changing words like “tense” into “10se.” But for hunting down your repetition habits, “Find” can’t be beat.
5. Curb Your Time Traveling
You may be a time traveler without even knowing it, but this type of time-hopping doesn’t involve a TARDIS or Doc Brown’s DeLorean. Take a look at your verb tenses: are you switching back and forth between past and present tense? There’s a simple remedy. Pick a single tense and stay with it unless you have a deliberate, time-based reason to change.
For example, if you are writing a story in the present tense, you should use the past tense when referring to past events: “Wayne shuffles the cards like a Vegas dealer. His dad taught him to deal cards when he was only 8.” But as long as you’re with Wayne in the present, make sure your verbs stay with him.
It’s not always easy to notice all the places you’ve slipped back and forth. For example, try this sentence: It seems grammar was tricky to learn. Sounds sort of okay, but take a closer look. “Seems” is in present tense, while “was” is past tense. Unless you’re set in the present and referring to the past, this could be a mistake. Once this type of error is on your radar, it becomes easier to spot.
If you read your draft with verb tenses in mind, you’ll realize your choice of verb tense is an essential decision. Past tense is a simple and clean default when writing fiction; present tense is often used for nonfiction, but can create an entirely different mood in fiction. Make a note of your choice, and then make sure that you switch only when the narrative calls for it. It’s the accidental switches that cause problems, especially if you’re Marty McFly.
6. Eschew Prolixity
Take one last scan of your draft with an eye toward overabundance. Make a game of it: how many unnecessary words can you trim? Can you say something in five words that you’re currently saying in 10? Cut out wordy phrases until they’re no longer strangling your sentences. Phrases like “The fact that” and “for the purpose of” are red flags. Hopefully, you caught any stray instances of the passive voice in your verb tense scan, but if you didn’t, the wordiness of passive phrasing should set off alarm bells. “An excellent first draft was written by a Shut Up and Write member” becomes “A Shut Up and Write member wrote an excellent first draft.” Because you just did! Congratulations.
This concludes our demonstration of the self-editing procedures that should prepare your draft for another set of eyes. Remember, it’s always important to edit your own work before sending it out into the world. Thanks for helping out your editor, and come back soon — your next draft awaits.
Published by Alison King
Shut Up & Write’s Business & Content Strategist, Alison King, is also the team’s in-house editor. Alison is a writer and lifelong music geek, and can be found in Berkeley, CA, or at @alison_king on Twitter. View more posts
Deadlines are not an issue for most writers. If you write for newspapers, magazines, or other media outlets that set publication times, then you have to deal with deadlines – glorious deadlines!
Consider deadlines as your motivation!
Deadlines can be motivating for procrastinators. I am one of those…which is why I establish and embrace my own deadlines. Contests have deadlines, so if you want to submit your work to the competition, meeting the deadline is your goal.
Self-imposed deadlines hold you accountable…to yourself! If you have several projects in the works, setting deadlines for each of them gets you to prioritize where you spend your time. Which one is closest to being finished? If you are committed to finishing it and getting it published–and really like what you have written–set a close deadline.
Remember, if you have to do editing, you will need to incorporate that time into finishing your work.
Be realistic when setting those glorious deadlines. If you have yet to start a project and want to have it completed in a month you might be stretching it and adding stress to your world. You may still be able to achieve it, but better to set a realistic goal and meet it than set an artificial one and be disappointed in failure.
Last, reward yourself when you meet the deadlines. Have a glass of wine. Get away from the keyboard for a few days. Go for a walk. And set new deadlines–glorious deadlines.
When is your best opportunity for writing time? Do you need peace and quiet to think and write? Can you squeeze in a few minutes during your lunch break? Do the kids all have to be in bed before you can sit down at the keyboard?
Knowing your best writing time is an essential element of becoming a professional writer. Let’s consider options. An important aspect of these options is determining how many words you intend to craft in one sitting and how long it takes you to generate that many words. When I gave myself the challenge of writing 1,000 words per day, I learned I could achieve that goal in 40 to 45 minutes…depending on whether my brain was functioning at 25 words per minute.
Pouring and sipping that first cup of coffee in the early morning hours gets some writers started. If you work at 9:00 a.m. and need an hour and one half for feeding and grooming yourself before getting dressed and commuting, you should consider how much you are willing to forego sleep to get in writing time. Could you write 500 words in half an hour? If you can and want to rise with the sun to do that, go for it.
Finding time during the day to write can be a challenge if you are working full-time or in an office environment. More than likely you already spend time in front of the computer screen, but could you sneak in 15 minutes to crank out 400 words? The challenge here is to avoid using the company cloud to save your work…unless you own the company and then it does not matter. Suggestion: Use a flash drive to store your work.
After work, dinner time with the family, and relaxation time can be productive writing time. Many writers work late into the evening or early morning crafting their novel or writing their memoirs because that is when they are inspired to write. Just remember there are also times when your brain is fried by then and what you write may look like rubbish when you read it the next day.
In short, the best time to write is when you are motivated, inspired, and can concentrate on your project. Writing time may also be best devoted to research and making notes. Writing time is your time!
Finding promotional outlets enables you to market your novel or other writing to specific markets at little to no cost. What is required is taking the time to think things through. What organizations do you belong to, or have a relationship with?
Clubs such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Zonta, Lions, and others are often looking for speakers. If you get invited, have a copy of your book as a door prize and bring more copies along to sell after the meeting and your presentation. It is a promotional outlet requiring some of your time in return for potential sales and for visibility with potential buyers.
One member of the Guild, H.G. Watts, wrote about a character related to another religious figure. She was interviewed about the story on WFRV-TV in Green Bay and recently appeared in a feature article about the book in The Compass which is a publication of the DIocese of Green Bay.
Alumni associations–either high school or college–offer publications which may afford a promotional outlet to tout your work. Craft a media release (so it looks official) and forward it to the editor for consideration. Fraternities and sororities offer another avenue for free publicity. If you have books at a book store or cafe, offer them a book signing to help bring customers in and promote sales of your book…and others.
Also, think about your favorite magazines and read about what news they consider. Again, the media release is an excellent way to make your plea look professional. Every chance to gain promotional credibility also builds your reputation as an author.
On Media Releases
Think teaser when you put together a media release. It contains enough information to tell the editor that your submission is news worthy…and teases them to want more details. At the least, it can be printed verbatim in the newspaper, magazine, newsletter, or journal.
Create a catchy headline, centered near the top of the page and in bold. Releases should be one page. At top left goes date, when it can be released, and contact information (name and phone number).
The first paragraph gives the who, what, where, why, and when with a variant being a teaser comment from a respected individual or someone who has read your book and gave you a good quote (perhaps one you wrote for them). Get the rest of the information out there in double-spaced format and end with -30- at the bottom.
These tips make your media release look professional, and gain credibility.