Let’s Write That Book! — Prologue

If you are lucky enough to say to yourself, “I’ve always wanted to write a book,” then this is the blog series for you.

The website Worldometers says there are 2,336,295 books published so far this year worldwide (as of November 16), and their meter is ticking upwards as we speak/read. And the site Bowker stated  that more than one million books were self-published in 2017.

That’s a lot of books.

Don’t let the numbers discourage you, though. There is plenty of room out in the universe for your book. Trust me.

Not everyone writes books to get published and make money, although that’s the most popular scenario. Some people write to preserve the past, to tell a story, to make a point, or to share advice. Some want to put their series of short stories into an anthology, and others want to write a how-to book to help others.

No matter what your reason is, there should be only one reason to write your book. You write a book because you enjoy writing.

I love writing. I love bringing ideas to life. That is why I blog. I truly believe that we all have stories to tell. Lessons to learn. Adventures to share. And if we feel the urge to write, that we should do so.

I am a writer, proofreader, and occasionally an editor, but like many writers, I have been writing for years. Diaries. Journals. Contest entries. Blogs. There is not a day or month or year that goes by that I don’t think about some part of writing.

This series of blogs referred to as Let’s Write That Book! are reflections of what I’ve learned through years of writing. Things I look for as a proofreader or an editor. What I tell people when they ask me how to start writing. What I’ve read and heard from other writers and things that just make sense.

These blogs will be running longer than my regular blogs. There’s a lot of information out there, and I’ll try to jam it all in under 1,000 words every day. But you know me – I’m quite windy at times. But this is the place for all that wind.

Your first decision is to come up with a story line.

I’ve been asked where I get my ideas. My friends, ideas are everywhere.

One story line of mine came from my role playing days years ago. One idea came from going to writer conferences. One story was a thinly disguised revenge homage to a sales manager who drove me crazy. One story was based on wondering how a modern-day woman would survive in a parallel alien world.

That’s just me.

Most likely you already have an idea. Let’s develop it. Work on it. You can make up worlds, streets, and encounters, or it can be based on real people, real events, and real history.

Whatever you have decided to write, you will need to make it sound real. Have it make sense from the beginning to the end. Sounds simple. But you’d be surprised how hard that can be.

Preplanning is the easy part. Working through the mechanics is the tough part. But it is so worth it.

So before we start, I’d like to make something clear.

I am just one of many who has ideas and suggestions on how to get started. There are hundreds of books and websites and blogs out there that will give you pointers on how to start writing your book. All have good information; all are full of practical ideas and ways to open the mind and get something done. Some people charge you for the info, others give it to you for free. It’s all part of the big circle of writing.

I suggest you start the simple way. The Free Way. It doesn’t matter if your final goal is to get published or to Xerox copies and hand them out to friends and family. The basics should be free and available to everyone.

And that’s what I hope to share with you. My ideas and suggestions are nothing you haven’t heard before. No magic pill, no secret instructions. Just have a good story line, good grammar, and a good time writing it.

Writing is good for the soul. So let’s get going.

 

 

Next:  Pre-Writing Considerations Part One.

 

 

 

 

 

Proofreed Everything!

I got soooo ticked off the other day.

I want to finish proofing/editing my first book so I can:

  • make it into an e-book
  • try a publisher
  • sell it through my website
  • throw it in the garbage

So I’m going through it ONE LAST TIME, and I keep coming across all these  ; ‘s  and and and overusing first names in conversation.

And THIS is one reason why you shouldn’t be the only editor of your publication.

I will cover this in my series “How To Write That Book”, but being as ticked off as I am I need to share this life lesson NOW.

You can be as meticulous as you can be; you can read and reread and spell check and go through each sentence 10,000 times and you will still miss something that an outsider would see.

This has happened to me throughout my writing career. That’s why I don’t hit “send” or “publish” right away.

You never know what will pop up.

Most of us cannot afford an editor to look over our book/magazine article/term paper. If you CAN spend a few bucks on any part of your writing, this is where to spend it.

If you just can’t, and still want/need/should look professional, have someone else read your paper for grammar, punctuation, and repetitiveness. They don’t have to get into the “flow” of the story (although that helps, too).

But an outside eye can catch things your mind cannot.

To prove my point, this came through on my Facebook feed yesterday:

Now. What did you just read?

Maybe you read it right the first time. Most likely you did not.

Neither will your readers.

If you edit your own pages, no matter what they are, either read them out loud, take note of punctuation, sentence structure, think of how people speak. We write faster than we think — we also read faster than we think.

Hope you got a chuckle out of my post.

Thank goodness it was proofread first.

Grammar Is Your Friend

We all have our pet peeves, don’t we?

In an irritating society there are plenty of irritating habits that make your skin crawl and your patience disappear. People chewing with their mouth open, snorting, sniffing, coughing, talking, squeaking…I can go on and on. It just depends upon your tolerance level.

But there is something lately that grinds me even more than all those body noises.

Bad Grammar.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a writer/proofreader/editor it grinds me a bit more than you.  But I can’t help but wonder what ever happened to teaching correct grammar — spelling and speaking.

With auto-correct and word anticipation on every computer on the planet, you would think the correct words would just appear. But even auto-correct can’t help with the wrong choice of words. Auto-correct can’t help those who guess at the wrong word or the wrong version of a word.

Grammar isn’t rocket science.  It’s common sense. Something that many people lack.

It’s one thing if you type the wrong word. In my haste to get something written, at work and at home, I have picked the wrong form/spelling/tense. Almost always I catch my mistakes in proofreading. But I’ve come across some people — professional people — who consistently misspell, misrepresent, and actually mangle the English language. And often these are higher-ups — vice presidents, executives — people who should know better.

Today a “sponsored” post on my FB account called Grammarly said, “Sick of making grammatical and spelling mistakes? Perfect writing is a click away!” So now there’s another automatic corrector out to help make sense of your nonsense.

I know I sound like an old lady, but at least I am a grammatically correct old lady. They aren’t teaching cursive in schools these days — but have they given up on grammar too? I hear a lot of lazy English these days — hip language, slurred consonants, half words. I suppose most of that is on purpose. Whether that will get the speaker far in today’s working world only time will tell.

But lazy writing will be the death knell.

I know English is one of the most confusing languages around. I mean, how many ways can you spell where? Wear? Ware? But in today’s world that’s not an excuse. When I see a professional letter start out “Goof Morning,” I have issues. It’s one thing to text “you are my breast friend” instead of “you are my best friend,” but not in an letter to the president.

Not everybody is a writing scholar. I know I’m not. But I’ve practiced. I’ve learned. You owe it to yourself to take your time and reread what you write.

After all, not everyone is Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy. Not everyone is cute and furry and can get away with saying, “Well he don’t know talkin’ good like me and you, so his vocabulistics is limited to ‘I’ and ‘am’ and ‘Groot,’ exclusively in that order.”

 

Flowery Language is Okay — Repetition Is Not

il_570xN.152936819All writers are pillars of perfection. Aren’t we?

We love what we write, we hate what we write. We perfect what we write. We skip over what we don’t like. It’s the nature of the beast, then, to notice certain eccentricities in other writers, yet rarely our own.

When you write, you also read. And when you work with words, you have a habit of finding misspelled or inappropriate words. Or just junky words.

So with our cards out on the table, fellow creative sprites, are there writing faux paxs that you often make? What bothers you the most about other unpolished writers?

My own stumbles are uncomfortable. When in my writing furry, I tend to find colorful language, but more of the descriptive kind, not the direct quote kind. So I tend to use the words like “as if” to explain the unexplainable.

It seemed as if my psychic ability…

It did seem as if I were a victim…

Other times deep and drawn out, as if they were coming up from the bottom of the well…

As if it were yesterday…

As if it were the most natural gesture in the world…

And that was only the first 7 pages.

I honestly didn’t realize I was over-using that phrase until sometime later. Once I caught onto my fav “as ifs”, I ran the find across my document and found that I used that phrase ad nausum. So I cleansed my soul — and my manuscript — of almost all repetitive phrases.

Then came catch number 2. My second favorite overdone phrase. Or rather word.

Like.

One doesn’t think one uses that word nearly as much as they do. But if you use your handy “find” button, you will be amazed at how many times that monochromatic word pops up.

Like something from Lord of the Rings…

As much as I would like to say I have had a life just like everyone else….

I suppose it is like asking why you fell in love…

The likes of which…

It was like trying to tune in a far away radio station…

And that was only by page 5.

The creative flow got in the way of grammar.  In my own defense, the character who utters these words has her own take on the English language. Her vocabulary is a bit more flowery and eccentric than others. So it was easy to take her style to the limit. I needed to sprinkle those words throughout the manuscript, not shovel them in.

I have cleaned everything up, and I love the way the story flows. But the scary thing is that it would have been a repetitive nightmare if I hadn’t caught my mistakes.

That’s why good writers make mistakes — and fix them. It’s good to have someone else read your writing. Or read it out loud. Or run spell check. Or search for words that are easy to repeat.

I used to be naïve enough to think that the first draft is the final draft. But having recently read A Moveable Feast by Hemmingway, seeing his hand-written manuscripts in the middle of the book, and how long it took him to hone each sentence, I can see why you never go with your first.

It’s like love. At first it’s all butterflies and sparklers, and it’s the most alive you will ever feel. As it matures, it mellows, deepens, and refines and redefines iself. And in order to keep it going, you have to polish, hone, and clip out the dead stuff.

And the likes. And the as ifs….

 

 

 

Oops — There’s that “;” Again….

th (5)As I get older (there’s that cliche again), I find myself developing more and more ticks. You know — odd behaviors that can often drive one mad. I try and be cognizant of these oddities, for many can be eliminated by just paying attention.

I have restless leg syndrome, so I drive myself crazy by constantly swishing one leg back and forth once I get in bed. I also have some A.D.D., so I often call myself the fidget queen.

Oddities aside, I also find myself victim to writing glitches too — ticks that can only be caught by conscientiously rereading what I’ve written.  These errors shine a glaring light when I read others’ pieces, but I often don’t catch my own fingers in the grammatical pie until too late.

Check yourself to see if you have any of these unconscious writing ticks:

  •  Semi-colon king or queen.  Every time someone speaks, and adds something to their sentence, I find the need to semi-colon it. The forever pause, it seems. I reread a story the other day and deleted or changed more than half of my dramatic pauses.
  • Added words.  Like that (She remembered that she once went to school there…) or and then (She washed her face, and then walked to the kitchen, and then took a cup out of the cabinet). Almost like a stutter.
  • Fragmented sentences. I am the queen of these. It IS my writing style, and I know professional writers caution against it, so I try and make more of my fragments into full sentences. Which is hard. Because that is the way I write. Like this.
  • Keep your dialogue consistent.  My murder mystery was a test for me: I wanted to see if I could write a story from 4 different points of view, along with a narrator. As the story went on, I found the 4 different dialogues blending a bit into each other. Keep your characters separate. Make a list of their quirks and writing styles right off the bat, and uphold those standards throughout the book. Wear a hat or draw a moustache on yourself if it helps keep you in character.
  • Pay attention to words. Like my funny, good friend Carrie Rubin (http://carrierubin.com/) said on Twitter: “Oops. Found a “pooped” instead of “popped” in my manuscript. Big, big difference there.” I replied that I once wrote “breasts” instead of “beasts”. You can imagine. Read outloud if you must. But double check.

I know you all know all of this. know all of this. But yet my fingers and brain always move faster than my abilities. When you’re excited about what you’re writing, it will happen to you, too.

Just think of what would happen if you didn’t spell p.u.t.t. or p.u.c.k. quite right…

Use Your Words

 

th (1)What comes to mind when someone describes something as “Mediterranean”? Or  “savory”? When someone is described as a “godfather”, do visions of Marlon Brando come to mind? Or your Uncle Hal?

Descriptive words are as varied as the world is wide.

Having given credit to a very general cliché, let’s think about the concept.   We are conditioned to react to words based on our own experiences. Images flash into our minds before we even can think about them. That is why your choice of words in your writing is so important.

For example, at NLP Language Patters for Advertising  http://blog.nlp-techniques.com/2012/07/mmmmm-write-persuasive-advertising-food/, the author writes: “The menu psychology research found the use of these five descriptor categories in the labels, food descriptions (or both) help increase sales dramatically…Visual (handcrafted, slow-cooked, fork tender); Gustatory (crispy, creamy, spicy, melt-in-your-mouth); Health & Diet Words (low calorie, all natural, organic); Memories/Nostalgia (Ye Olde, Homestyle, Made from Scratch); Geographic (Cajun, Sicilian Style, Southwestern); and Brand Names (Jack Daniels Sauce, Oreo Cookie Ice Cream).

“They also say to avoid what are now considered menu description cliches: zesty, sumptuous, mouth-watering, indulgent, unforgettable, world-famous, smothered, hearty, flavorful, pan-fried, special, and using apostrophes (“”).”

So even when you think you are using creative words you might not be using the right creative words. Describing food is no different than describing thoughts, motions, locations, and ideas. From blogs to novels, descriptive words are the bridge between the mundane and the magical. And as writers we have to be able to dance on that bridge.

I used to be the queen of descriptive words. Every look, every thought, was punctuated with adjectives, as if the reader couldn’t figure out for themselves if the hero was aggressive or merely forward. These were good times, for in them I developed the art of language, and each over-used description eventually was either changed or deleted.

But how do you spice up your writing so others will get your meaning yet interpret things for themselves?

I have a hard time describing my blog as “spectacular” or my art finds as “fantastic” because the words are so generic and over used. But I still want to grab the reader’s attention. I want to tickle a nerve that’s been hidden for quite a while so the reader comes back for more. So in my quest to sell myself and my wares I need to find words that describe me and my craft and hone in on those words. Make them mine.

Developing a writing style of your own is important.  Read others’ writings. The Classics. Descriptive passages from Lord of the Rings or Farewell to Arms might be miles apart in style, but both are endless rivers of creativity. Take a look at free verse or rhymed or sestina  poetry and see how each word is stretched to its full extent.

Then find your own style and stick to it. Now, Stick To It is different than Never Change It. If you have a fancy for words, by all means use them. Then re-read your work and see if you needed all those words to describe your point. If you are a writer of few words, make those count. There are some words that can replace a paragraph. Learn them.

Words are music. They sing, they explain. They carress. They express. And they all are yours for the taking.

Use your words.