icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

About Writing Right: The Blog

HOW OFTEN TO EDIT

A writer-type fella posted a question online the other day on how many edits an author should give his book before considering it finished. Here's what I replied.

*     *     *

Congratulations. You received not only two previous answers to your question but also two horrible previous answers. That's batting a thousand. It might be a new online record.

 

For the respondent who said, "For newer writers, it's prob beat to only do do after you've finished your piece," forget him. Anyone incapable of editing the first fifteen words of his own response about editing so that it's understandable is incapable of offering a cogent and meaningful response.

 

For the other respondent who advised you to "Try to get it right the first time around!" when you're on a tight deadline, well, really? Isn't that what writing is all about? Trying to get it right the first time around? And isn't the purpose of editing to go back and revise those things you failed to get right the first time around? Am I missing something here? Read More 

Be the first to comment

LIVE IT TO WRITE IT?

I ran across a question the other day that went something like this: Must an author only write a novel about something he has personally experienced? Well, I like shooting ducks in a barrel, so here's how I responded.

*     *     *

First, is this a serious question, or did you lose a bet? If you read the other two responses you've received as of this writing, you know what I mean.

 

Second, if you read those responses, you should also know enough to take both of them with a big grain of salt. The respondent peddling a book telling how long it takes to write a novel, what you should do "about your first draft" (whatever that means!), and how to revise is ridiculous. Making blanket statements designed to fit every personality, work ethic, and talent level is a waste of time and energy. There is no blueprint for writing a novel—only suggestions on various ways to do it.  Read More 

Be the first to comment

BOOKS WITH TOO MANY EDITS?

Someone asked me the other day if a book can have "too many" edits for its own good. Here's my response.

*     *     *

There is no such thing as "too many" edits for a book. Every time you go through editing, you're changing your book, edging it closer toward perfection (an impossible destination, by the way, but still a mandatory pursuit!). That means you're doing your job as a writer. That may include putting your book through three edits. Four. Ten. Twenty. It really doesn't matter. If the book hasn't yet been published, every time you think about it is an opportunity for another edit and more improvements. PROVIDING …

  1. You know what the hell you're doing as an editor and not simply mucking around aimlessly, which could result in making your book worse.
  2. Your book is still far from being as close to "perfect" as you'd like.
  3. You have ample time and opportunity to dig into it once again—not a simple or a quick task. Read More 
Be the first to comment

DO NOT READ THIS BOOK!

Someone wanted to know how a reader could tell if a book wasn't his cup of tea. I thought about that for a second or two, and here's what I said in response.

*     *     *

That's an easy one. You know a book is not for you if …

  1. You hate the subject matter
  2. You hate the genre
  3. You hate the author's literary style
  4. You hate the author
  5. You have the author's family

Seriously, speaking from experience, I know a book isn't for me if it takes me longer than a few pages to get into it. Read More 

Be the first to comment

THE WARREN REPORT

While this question is a little off the beaten path, when someone wrote online asking if anyone disagreed with the findings of the Warren Report following the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1963, I couldn't help but respond. You'll find out why in a couple of minutes. Here's what I said.

*     *     *

Let me ask you an even more pertinent question: Who didn't?

 

When I was sixteen and the Warren Committee Report was published, I was a conspiracy theorist right along with some of the others who took great pains to respond to your question, fueling the conspiracy controversy that has survived now for decades. And why wouldn't it survive? It's glamorous; it's mysterious, it's titillating, and it's exciting. Unfortunately, it's also untrue.

 

Yes, I was bitterly disappointed with the report and immediately suspected Earl Warren, President Lyndon B. Johnson's personal choice to head the committee into the investigation of JFK, of political chicanery. He was slick, and he was evil. He had a hidden agenda and, like Johnson, didn't want the truth known about who really planned for, ordered, and executed the assassination. And like all those other theorists espousing online here, I was calling for blood. And truth. And justice. Read More 

Be the first to comment

YOUR BOOK RIGHTS

Someone asked a question online recently that stumped even me ... for a while at least. He wanted to know what happens to an author's book rights if the book isn't selling. Here's how I finally decided to respond.

*     *     *

This is an easy one. If your book is not selling, the Copyright Cops show up at your front door, usually around 3 a.m. although sometimes right in the middle of your favorite television show, and serve you a court order and an injunction forbidding you to receive any future royalties from book sales and ordering you to sign over all rights to your book to the federal government.

 

Surprised? You shouldn't be. Uncle Sam is trying to grab everything else you own, why not your creative endeavors, too? Read More 

Be the first to comment

BUILDING A FANTASY SETTING

A novice writer asked me the other day what makes a fantasy novel setting bad. My response? I said it's simple. The same thing that makes any setting bad: unbelievability. If the reader can't envision a setting clearly in his mind, he's not going to buy into the the overall concept—and might even be turned off the book altogether. Everything boils down to using creative imagery effectively. And, doing that can be reduced to two elements:

  1. Visualization. Can you, as the writer, see the image clearly in your mind? Can you envision the setting, hear the sounds of everyday life, smell the scent on the breeze, taste the dew in the air, feel the emotions of the people around you, sense the magic of it all?

  2. Description. Can you describe all those things in such a way that the reader can also get a clear sensory image in his mind?

If you answered "no" to either of those questions, your setting is in trouble.

 

You see, readers don't experience writing by reading words. They experience writing by reading rich, indelible, memorable imagery, words that paint a picture of what the author intends to convey. If the writer can't see that imagery in his mind, he can't possibly convey it to others. Until the writer sees a clear mental picture of a setting, it doesn't exist. And, if it doesn't exist, his readers can't see it. Read More 

Be the first to comment

ROMAN NUMERAL CHAPTER HEADINGS

People have asked me this question a few times now in the last few months, and it deserves an answer. Namely, can you use chapters numbered with Roman numerals in your novel? My answer: Yes!

 

Next question: Should you use chapters numbered with Roman numerals in your novel? Next answer: No! For reasons that may not be obvious. So, let me add a little something more from an "insider's" point-of-view to clarify.


As a former book, magazine, and newspaper editor, I soon learned that nothing set my ears upright and the hairs on the back of my neck skyrocketing for the stars faster than some quirky, unconventionally formatted manuscript submission. It told me about the writer, "I'm a weirdo trying to stand out visually because my material isn't strong enough to stand out on its own contextually." And, do you want to know something else? That was (and is) exactly right. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred. And, for that one time that it didn't hold true, well, let me just say that, as an editor swamped with manuscripts, running the risk of wading through all the hog slop in search of the pork chop just wasn't worth it. Read More 

Be the first to comment

PLOTTING PROBLEMS

When someone posed the question on line as to why he is able to create good characters but can't create a decent story to save his soul, the Internet lit up with do-gooders, not the least of whom was one of my favorite spreaders of online misinformation. Here's what I told him.

*     *     *

First, assuming the Queen of Wrong can read (which may be a stretch), I'm not sure why she feels you are only interested in the characters "as they are, not how they got to where they are now." You stated in your question that you're good at characterization, so what's Queenie's beef?

 

And, as for her implication that you need a course on "plotting," let me say that plotting isn't the be-all and end-all she apparently thinks it is. Plotting is storytelling, plain and simple. If you can tell a good story from beginning to end without losing your listener's interest, a plotting course will only slow you down in your development. Ask Herman Melville or Uncle Remus or even Beatrix Potter if they'd taken many courses on "plotting" throughout their lives. Uh-uh? That's what I thought.

 Read More 

Be the first to comment

FINDING THE RIGHT WRITER

An inexperienced writer asked online the other day how he can find a writer to hire to write a book he'd enjoy reading. It sounded like an interesting question, so I thought I'd give answering him a shot.

*     *     *

The first thing you need to do is find a writer with lots of book-writing experience, as well as one with both ghostwriting (ghosting) and editing savvy. Stay clear of beginning, wanna-be authors and people who can't string a sentence together without leaving a few typos behind to save their souls. Also, a writer experienced in all genres of books will be more flexible in approaching your project without messing it up. Teaching and reporting experience come in handy here, as well.

 

In short, if you want to hire someone to write a book even you would enjoy reading, hire the best. You'll pay for that privilege, but the experience and results will be worth it in the long run. Believe me!

 

Where can you find qualified candidates to consider for the job? You can look no further than right here on this Website. Find authors with all the qualifications you need, and contact them about what you're looking for them to do. You should have at least a rough storyline in mind (and on paper!) so you can share that right up front.  Read More 

Be the first to comment