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

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

TO PROOFREAD OR NOT

Someone asked me the other day if it's true that he should never proofread his own work. Of course, I had an apoplectic response for him. Here it is.

*     *     *

Are you kidding? Where on earth did you get that notion? If you don't proofread your own work, who will? And how will anyone catch those errors in logic and even in syntax of which only you as the author are aware? If you don't proofread your own work, how will you ever know if it's ready for Prime Time … or the wastebasket? If you don't proofread your own work, how will you ever advance in skills as a writer? Or even know if you're making headway?

 

Now, if your question is simply a matter of being poorly crafted and what you really meant to ask was, "Why shouldn't you be the only one to proofread your own work?" my response is simple. I can't begin to tell you if you haven't already figured that out on your own. I return to my opening statement: Are you kidding? Read More 

Be the first to comment

WHERE TO BREAK FOR CHAPTERS

Someone asked online the other day how to know when to break a fantasy novel into "parts" and how long those parts should be. As usual, the advice from other respondents was sketchy at best. One gal was really off base. Here's what I advised.

*     *     *

Okay, listen up. Let's get one thing straight. As a teenage writer, you have my empathy. I was fifteen when I wrote my first "novel." Maybe fourteen. Who cares. What matters is that the Queen of Wrong misfired again. In her response to you, she assumed by "parts" you meant "chapters." That may be right, of course. But I doubt it, or you would have referred to them as "chapters." I'm assuming instead that by "parts" you mean "parts." As in "Part One, Part Two, Part Three" of a book, etc. And that your chapters will fall into those parts. (Forgive those who jump to conclusions and shoot from the lip, for they know not what they do.)

 

If this is true, your question can't be answered here. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

 

The number of "parts" you have in a fantasy novel is dependent upon one thing ONLY. How many do you want? How many do you need? How many do you end up with? You're the writer, after all. That means that you're the one who has the story rattling around in his head, waiting to be freed. And that means that you get to call the shots. No one else. Only you.

 

Now here comes the gut punch. The creator doesn't solicit advice; he creates. If you want to write a cookie-cutter junk fantasy novel filled with 5,000-word chapters (in general), go ahead. If you want to create your story in your words, go ahead. The difference? One will be the same old garbage that other writers always produce—formulaic, poorly crafted, unbelievably naive tales of fantastic proportion. The other will be yours. For good or bad, better or worse, it will be yours.

 

Now, you may be thinking, "Gee, that's really nifty. (Forgive me. My generation, you understand.) But he still hasn't answered my question as to whether or not I should divide my novel into parts. And if so, how many? Read More 

Be the first to comment

FORMATTING FOR PUBLICATION

People often ask me for tips on how to format a work they're preparing to submit to a publisher. The answer, once you understand the rationale behind it, is quite simple. The time-tested most optimal formatting for submitting anything other than poetry to a print publication is this:

  • Use 1-inch margins all the way around (top, bottom, left, and right)
  • Use Times New Roman type face only (never Arial, which is far more difficult and tiring for the human eye to read)
  • Use 12-point type size
  • Use double-spaced lines throughout for the main body of your work
  • Use .5-inch (one-half inch) paragraph indentations

As for pagination, put the page numbers in the Running Head always (never in the Running Foot) and include the BOOK TITLE and author's name on all pages except the first, or cover, page. A typical running head would look something like this: "THE OX BOW INCIDENT/Herda, Page 12." Set the numbering of pages to automatically paginate beginning on the second page so you don't have to change each page number manually and run the risk of getting something wrong. Read More 

Be the first to comment

WHY NOVELS AND FILMS VARY

A guy named Mike with a really cool pair of shades asked on the Internet the other day why stories in magazines differ from the same stories when they're published in books. Since no one else seemed able to cover this one, I dove right in.

*     *     *

Hey, Mike, I can answer this one for you. As a former book, magazine, and newspaper editor, I have the response down pat. Besides, it's my pleasure to help out anyone with such cool shades!

 

There are a couple of reasons magazine versions of a story differ from what may eventually appear in books. The first and most obvious reason is that different editors working for different publishers in different media exert their influences on the work in different ways. One editor might concentrate on focusing the story more sharply while the other might be more concerned with cleaning up grammar and sharpening the rhetoric. As for the author's input, unless he's a world-famous proven moneymaking scribe, his or her material is going to undergo editing. Period. That's a standard clause in every  magazine, newspaper, and book publisher's contract, even if it's only understood rather than written in stone.

 

That's one reason. The second reason stories may differ is for the sake of brevity. While books can publish stories that are tens of thousands of words long or more, magazines can't. To understand why, think of the magazine's goals in life: To increase readership; to make money, and to entertain the readers. Let's examine the three. Read More 

Be the first to comment

SWITCHING POVS

When a newbie writer asked online the other day about changing points of view from third person omniscient, he received several reasonably accurate responses and one horrendous resply from our good friend, Queenie. Knowing that even a notoriously incorrect responder such as she can due severe damage to a writer's development, I set about correcting the misinformation.

*     *     *

Wow. I know the Queen of Wrong mucks up nearly everything to which she responds, but this one is a Lulu. Instead of buying into the fallacy that third person omniscient is like a camera viewing a scene objectively without any possibility of understanding what your characters are thinking, realize that just the opposite is true. In third person omniscient, the narrator has access to every piece of information in the book, including what's going on in all of his or her characters' minds. This is what sets third person POV apart from first and second or limited POV. Not only that, but also, if you like multiple choices when you visit your favorite ice-cream shop, you'll love third person POV because it comes in two flavors. Voila:

 

In third person omniscient POV, the narrator knows all the thoughts and feelings of every character—the exact opposite of what Queenie advised. Knowing the narrator (that is, you) can reveal everything about the story and the characters at any given time he (again, you) chooses gives the narrator unlimited power. How you use it is up to you. This is where the flexibility of an author writing in omniscient POV comes into play. How much will you reveal, and when? How much will you hold back, and why? Read More 

Be the first to comment

PROBLEMS WITH ENDINGS

Here's the scenario. You work your butt off, creating an outline for your novel. Then, as you sit down to begin writing, everything goes smoothly. Until you get to the ending. Then you freeze up. Nothing you write seems to work. You're at a standstill. Now, you want to know why. Here's the answer:

 

You're not trying hard enough. Seriously. Oh, I know you think you are, but you're leaving too many "holes" in your outline so that, once you get to writing that part of your story (the ending), you find yourself wallowing in doubt. And despair. And anger. Have you tried taking an Oreo-cookie break?

 

Better yet, if you want a drop-dead gorgeous ending that works, think it through. And I don't mean at the writing stage. By that time, you've missed the bus. I mean at the outlining stage. Keep going over the outline's beginning, middle, and end, and keep refining the ending. Dig deeper. Ask yourself questions such as, "If this, then what?" And if the answers you receive don't appeal to you, ask different questions such as, "What if this happens instead?" or "What happens if someone shows up and throws a monkey wrench into the works?" or "What's the least logical thing my main character can do that later turns out to make sense?" Read More 

Be the first to comment

NOVEL, NOVELLA, OR WHAT THE HECK?

When someone recently asked what he should do with his 47,000-word "novel," first into the fray once again was a remarkably misinformed and misinforming would-be author with a ton of garbage novels in print. They, of course, make her the quintessential diseminator of authoritative information. Don't they? Here's what I told the writer-in-making.

*     *     *

Well, the Queen of Wrong missed the mark yet again. Does anyone actually pay attention to her responses anymore? I hope not, because they can be damaging to a young writer's future. If not deadly. Here's how.

 

First, she says your novella (it's not long enough to be considered a novel) needs to go through "at least five edits." She can say this with all impunity because she's clairvoyant. No one else could know what skills you possess, the amount of determination you have, and the editing abilities you enjoy. Nor could anyone else understand just how much editing your opus will require—if any! Does it sing like a wren with every word that's read, or does it drop with a thud like a hollowed-out Wiffle Ball? Without her clairvoyant qualities, Queenie couldn't possibly know. Thank you, Uri Geller. Read More 

Be the first to comment

WHEN TO HIRE A BOOK EDITOR

A self-confessed newbie author with his first book under his belt asked online the other day if he should spend hundreds of dollars hiring an editor or simply take his lumps when the book is published and chock it up to experience. I couldn't resist responding.

*     *     *

There are two unknown factors here that no one else answering your question has picked up on. Which type of publishing venture are you pursuing—conventional or self? If you're talking about a conventional publisher, you need a perfectly crafted manuscript simply to get the book in the front door for a read. Or, more likely, you need a perfectly presented package to present to a literary agent who, if you're one of a very fortunate few, will sign you on as a new client and submit the book to conventional publishers for you.

 

If you're talking about publishing the book yourself, on the other hand, you can crank out any garbage you want, and Kindle, Ingram, or any other POD printer you choose to go with will publish it. However, don't expect to make any sales unless you're a fantastic marketer and self-promoter, and do expect to receive some harsh, negative reviews. Readers, like most other people in life, don't like wasting their time reviewing sub-standard material, including books. Read More 

Be the first to comment