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Posts Tagged ‘Editors’

COPYEDIT–SEPARATION OF FAITH

My review of the copyedit is complete, and I’ve been communicating with the editorial board at the publisher regarding a few questions (blond versus blonde being one). Now I have a few little things to clean up, and then I’ll submit the final copyedited manuscript back to the publisher, at which point the book will enter the production phase. The plan is for that to happen today! Yay!

I’ll keep you posted on each of the production steps as they unfold. The development of the book’s cover will be one of the most important tasks to happen first, I imagine. But I’ll let you know.

BLOND VS BLONDE (WHILE I’M THINKING ABOUT IT)

This issue has been driving me nuts, frankly. So here’s what the publisher’s editorial board said to me:

Regarding “blond” versus “blonde,” Merriam-Webster lists the two terms as variants of both the noun and adjective forms; however, “blond” generally refers to a male and “blonde” to a female. An excerpt from Merriam-Webster is below.
 
 
Main Entry: 1blond
Variant(s): or blonde \ˈbländ\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Anglo-French blunt, blound, masculine, blounde, feminine
Date: 15th century
1 : of a flaxen, golden, light auburn, or pale yellowish-brown color <blond hair>; also : having blond hair <a blond man> —spelled blond when used of a boy or man and often blonde when used of a girl or woman
2 a : of a light color b : of the color blond c : made light-colored by bleaching <blond wood table>
 
Main Entry: 2blond
Variant(s): or blonde
Function: noun
Date: 1822
1 : a person having blond hair —spelled blond when used of a boy or man and usually blonde when used of a girl or woman
2 : a light yellowish brown to dark grayish yellow
 
We recommend following the editor’s changes in all of the items you have listed in your e-mail.

So guess what? Because that Editor’s Choice designation is so critical to what I’m trying to accomplish here, I’ve complied with all but a small handful of the copyeditor’s recommendations. (See my original blog posting on November 4, 2009 for my initial outline of “The Journey” and the inspiration for the path I’ve decided to take.)

And I must tell you that, as I was going through the copyedit, I could actually see the transformation of my manuscript from something I had entered in my computer into a quality edited product typical of what we see coming out of traditional publishing houses. Believe me, this has not only been an immensely educational exercise but one that I’m very grateful I pursued!

TRANSITIONING FROM A FOCUS ON WRITING TO A FOCUS ON PROMOTION

If you’ve been to any/many writers’ conferences, you’ve probably heard some publishing professional (usually an author) say that writing the book is the easy part. And, of course, who would ever believe such a ridiculous comment? Well, I do.

In addition to planning the launch of Separation of Faith through all the social media outlets (and I haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to do that yet), here are some of the other things on my “Book Promotion” to do list:

  • Primary Web site updates (including book store)
  • Create new Web site for Separation of Faith that links to my primary site and my book store
  • Keep this blog current and full of things for you to follow and learn along with me
  • Press Release(es)
  • Business cards, posters, flyers, newspaper ads
  • Book Launch Party (which will be at a hotel)
  • Finding willing and credible book reviewers (I already have one committed. Need at least five or six or more.)
  • Creating my video book trailer (I have a great fellow who will be helping me with this. The trailer will be uploaded to virtually every site where I have a presence plus YouTube, etc.)
  • Visiting every chain and independent bookseller in my area to garner interest
  • Schedule bookselling events wherever I can find a willing host.
  • Add information about my public speaking offering to every book promo element.
  • Seek/secure interviews on talk radio, local TV channel, local newspapers

In addition to all of this (and more that keeps popping into my head), I will still need to be involved with elements of the book’s production process–and oh, by the way, I also have to squeeze in my surgery on May 4. So “writing the book is the easy part” doesn’t seem so far-fetched now. Whoo boy. Where’s my nap?

A NOTE ABOUT DOMAIN NAMES 

If you are seriously pursuing this Journey of becoming a published author, securing domain names long before you have a finished book is critical. The first and most important domain name to secure is your own name. I registered for “cherilaser.com” after the pivotal conference last September, amazed that I hadn’t already done so when a speaker mentioned the issue in one of the conference sessions. I was really worried that someone else might have already taken that one (because we’re not the only ones in the world with our same names), but I was lucky.

Domain names are very inexpensive (like somewhere around $10 a year), and you don’t have to create Web sites to go with them until/unless you’re ready. But if you don’t secure the domains, creating the most effective Web sites down the road will become a challenge. In addition to “cherilaser.com,” I have also secured:

  • SeparationOfFaith.com
  • TheTruthAboutCinnamon.com (I have a Web site for this one that links into my primary Web site and book store.)
  • BeauBetweenTheLines.com (title for a potential book)
  • WhoMovedTheMeridian.com (title for a potential book)
  • ReinventingYourPossibilities.com
  • MakingYourWordsWork.com
  • ReinventingYourselfAtAnyAge.com

The last three of those relate to my editing business and to my speaking engagement plans (referenced in other posts on this blog). And when I come up with a title for my third novel, the first thing I’ll do is reserve that name.

There are lots of sites where you can secure domain names, but I’m using GoDaddy (www.godaddy.com).

AND SPEAKING OF MY 3RD NOVEL …

For the past month or so, I’ve been worrying about the next book. Why, you ask, when I’m still so wrapped up in the second one?

Well, what if someone who pops up as a result of all that promotional work asks me what my next project is? Being stuck for an answer would not be very comfortable.

There is one project I’m considering–a memoir that I started a few years ago that I’m thinking about fictionalizing. And then there’s the possibility of a sequel to Separation of Faith. But whatever I’m going to do needs to take shape pretty quickly. I can’t dilly dally around and take any more six-year segments of time to write a book. I need to get this process down to a book every year (or maybe between one and two years, she said, trying to imagine the improbable 🙂 ).

A couple of things need to happen in order for me to finish book #3 in somewhere around a year:

  • The story needs to arrive in my head already in outline form, for the most part.
  • The setting needs to be here in the New York City area so I don’t need to travel beyond a normal commute distance to accomplish my research.

The two ideas I mentioned earlier didn’t meet either one of these criterion. So every trip I’ve made into Manhattan recently for this health/surgery situation has found me studying every person and situation crossing my path for a potential storyline. (I keep waiting for someone on the subway to say to me, “So what are you staring at?”) And I guess my subconscious must have been working on this more than I realized because last night I had a dream where I met my new protagonist (a man). He was so real and vivid that I remember everything about him, and I’m rarely able to remember details about my dreams. Then this morning the “outline form” of the story started showing up in my mind.

So I just finished taking an unscheduled hour to capture everything I was thinking into a new file on my computer. I had decided that I was ready to try a novel that included some sort of crime, but I didn’t want to do a murder. So this story has an interesting twist that feels comfortable to me. And I think this one could come together pretty quickly. I’ll post the story’s tag line as soon as I figure out what that is  … 🙂

That’s all for now. Have a fun and productive day! I hope I’ll run into you while tag surfing (planned for tomorrow morning).

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Checking In

Hi! Although I’ve been commenting on other blogs and doing a little tag surfing, I haven’t published a new post since a week ago yesterday. But I have been doing a huge amount of reading, and there are a number of things I want to share with you today. First, though …

Copyedit Update–Separation of Faith

On Monday (the 12th), I received the copyedited manuscript (returned to me electronically, with the edit done using Word’s edit tracking) and a letter from the editor. This edit is a lot easier to manage since the issues highlighted are no longer addressing structural issues in the novel, or point of view, or any other storytelling elements. Instead, the editor went line by line to ensure the manuscript’s adherence to publishing standards printed in key references such as The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), the primary source of correctness for publishing professionals.

My own (and seemingly endless) editing of the manuscript had produced a fairly clean copy. But my specialty is developmental editing rather than copyediting. I wouldn’t even pretend to have anywhere near the level of knowledge and recall as this copyeditor with respect to what’s inside the nearly 1000 pages of the CMS. So I’m finding the review of her edit to be extremely valuable in terms of this novel’s quality. My future writing will also benefit from the new information I’m picking up.

In addition to CMS issues, the copyeditor rearranged my words in a few places to either meet a standard or provide clarity. And in her letter to me, she pointed out a small but important plot “hole” that can easily be filled by my adding a few sentences.

She’s the first one who’s noticed that little plot blip, and I’m very grateful that she did. Some voracious fiction reader (or perhaps a lot of them) would certainly have noticed the issue as well, but that would have been after the book was printed, and nothing could have been done at that point to fix the problem. Just one more reason why we need to submit our work to an experienced, professional editor before we start sending things out through queries or moving into the final production stage of a self-publishing process.

Here are several examples of the comments she made in the manuscript margins using Word’s edit-tracking:

  • CMS 8.21: Civil, military, religious, and professional titles are capitalized when they immediately precede a personal name and are thus used as part of the name (usually replacing the title holder’s first name). Titles are normally lowercased when following a name or used in place of a name.
  • Switched [these words] around to avoid passive construction.
  • A word, abbreviation, phrase, or clause that is in apposition to a noun is set off by commas if it is nonrestrictive—that is, omittable, containing supplementary rather than essential information. If it is restrictive—essential to the noun it belongs to—no commas should appear. CMS 6.43 My older sister, Betty, taught me the alphabet. but My sister Enid lets me hold her doll. (I have two sisters.)
  • CMS 7.63: Individual letters and combinations of letters of the Latin alphabet are usually italicized. I need a word with two e’s and three s’s. He signed the document with an X.

Traditional publishers (who will be taking a look at this book if this Journey is successful) put every single one of their titles through this sort of meticulous copyediting. Consequently, they not only understand the importance, but they recognize the quality level of the editing the moment they see it.  So we need to do everything in our power to make sure that our manuscripts (if we’re trying to pursue the traditional route) or our printed books (if we’re taking an alternate path) measure up to the standards expected in the traditional publishing arena.

Once Separation of Faith is in the final stage of production, I realize now that I will also need to use a professional proofreader prior to signing off on the end product. Traditional publishers put their titles through several rounds of proofreading before the book is printed–and as we all know through our own reading, there are still typos and other mistakes that manage to show up in books by even the most prolific and highly paid authors.

As I’ve been saying since I began blogging about the steps of this Journey last November 4, the first priority for all of us is to create the highest quality book possible, regardless of what that takes.

Writing Competition

Entering our work in competitions is a great way to collect feedback, grow in our writing craft, get noticed, and add to our following. And there are boatloads of competitions out there. But Writer’s Digest sponsors several that have a high level of legitimacy. They have one that includes a wide variety of writing categories, and the deadline for that competition is May 14. Here’s the link that will also show you WD‘s other contest:  http://www.writersdigest.com/competitions. Hope you find something that inspires you. (See later in this post for more on Inspiration.)

Building a Following/Web Presence before You Have a Book

There is so much more being written on this subject every day that keeping up with everything is tough. But here are a couple of links to articles/blogs that I found of particular interest while reading the past week:

  • http://robinmizell.wordpress.com/2010/04/10/awp-panel-discussions-and-lesprit-descalier/ I found this comment by Ms. Mizell to be especially interesting: “In considering whether to work with authors, I prefer to see they’re already capable of handling themselves in what can be contentious online conversations. Without an existing Web presence to examine, I can’t rapidly assess how a writer will behave publicly, online, or in an interview, particularly in the heat of the moment. My clients need to be better at it than I am!”
  • http://www.calebjross.com/awpblog/2010/04/08/320/ At the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Annual Convention earlier this week, a panel of agents and editors answered questions about the importance of an author platform. This link takes you to a summary of that panel.

A Few Other Highlights

These are links to articles that touch on other issues we’ve discussed through this blog:

Journey Update

Separation of Faith: As soon as I go through the copyedit and accept/reject each of the changes/notations, the manuscript will finally enter the production phase. I’ll let you know when that long-awaited moment arrives. (You’ll probably be able to hear the cork pop!)

The Truth About Cinnamon: News flash! I’m still working on the reduction edit. Target for completion now: late May. 

Stats: This blog–1947 (last posting 1796)

Diagnosis Update

My surgery will be on May 4, and I’ll be in the hospital overnight. I sense a new use for my mini coming on … 🙂

Seriously, this has been found very early, and even though the next couple of months will be a bit bumpy, the prognosis is extremely positive, taking me way out into my 80’s. Hopefully, I will have found my way out of publishing obscurity by then …

Have a great weekend! I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

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Editing Our Work–And Getting Carried Away

Good morning! Late yesterday afternoon I finished editing a manuscript for the 12-year-old girl I mentioned in an earlier post this week. (I think it was this week. Maybe last week.) Anyway, her father has hired me as his editor on five of his books (four of which are published and one in-process). So when his precocious daughter wrote her first lengthy piece of fiction, I was honored to be called last August for that edit as well.

A full developmental edit was conducted on her “novel” at that time. Her word count is 13,000, which isn’t really a novel. (Needs to be 40,000-50,000 words at a minimum to officially be a novel.) But I’m sure for a 12-year-old, her book feels like Gone with the Wind to her. And rightly so. I cannot believe the tenacity of this kid–and her writing is unbelievably well-developed.

Following the edit last fall, she went back to work and began her revision/self-editing process, and then I received the updated manuscript a short while ago. What I discovered during the editing process was something I wanted to share with you.

As she began looking at her words and the input from her edit, she started to second-guess herself. And suddenly, a whole bunch of terrific writing, character development, and fabulous dialogue from the original manuscript was eliminated. As I was reading along, I found myself saying, “Hey, I remember a lot of other stuff being in here that was really good.” And every time that happened, I went back to my copy of the original edit and found passages that were brilliant (and had been labeled as such in the edit) that had, for some reason, been taken out of the new version. And the holes left in the story were dramatic as a result.

So I pulled a lot of those passages back into the manuscript, creating the necessary linkage between her new writing and the original section(s). The combination of the new things she’d written and the old parts pulled back in resulted in a balanced and enjoyable kids’ spy story (the first of three in a series … 🙂 …)

After a few of those sequences, I began thinking about the edit of Separation of Faith that followed my beta readers’ input. I had been so concerned about word count, that I was taking shortcuts to my storytelling instead of letting the strengths of my writing flow. Those dipping points in the novel were so noticeable that there was almost a “what were you thinking?” tone to the beta input (and to my own thoughts once those issues were brought to my attention). And I found myself saying the same thing as I was editing the manuscript of my young, blossoming client.

The message to be shared here is: Go with your initial gut instinct, and don’t get too scissor-happy. Sort of like that old advice we’ve all received with respect to test-taking: Always stick with your first answer, and don’t start erasing things.

Naturally, editing and cutting are essential skills that we need to hone. But there needs to also be another instinct at work–knowing the difference between what’s really amazing about what we’ve written and what’s not so great. Second-guessing ourselves to the point where brilliant sections are replaced by sub-standard revisions only sets us back.

So, whenever you receive input from anyone–a friend, a professional editor, a beta reader, etc.–where something has been marked as really terrific, have some faith in yourself, believe that input, and don’t change those parts!

Hope your day is beautiful and productive!

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Reading Update

Last night I did a lot of catch-up reading on all sorts of writing information I’ve come across over the last week. Not only did I find a bunch of stuff that I think will be of use or interest to you, but my to-do list has expanded considerably. So, thank you very much to me for all the extra work I’ve added to myself … 🙂 Hopefully those new tasks will help you as well as I chronicle them in this blog, learning as I go.

Giving Stuff Away for Free

Because I spent ten weeks posting a free chapter per week from my first novel, The Truth About Cinnamon (http://www.filedby.com/author/cheri_laser/2721580/documents/24081497/), an article titled “Giving it away for free: Obscurity vs. Making Money as a Writer” caught my attention immediately.

Pros and cons are listed in both the post and the comments. Let me know what you think: http://www.bradsreader.com/2010/03/giving-it-away-for-free-obscurity-vs-making-money-as-a-writer/.

If You Love a Little Controversy … 🙂

Since the whole experiment of this blog is to see if a high quality, meticulously edited, self-published novel can get the attention of traditional publishers, the article “Self-Publishing Pro and Con(temptuous)” jumped right off the page into my lap. And since I’ve already had a number of conversations with some of you on the subject, here’s another perspective. And the blog by Alan Rinzler (referenced in my post #30 on March 19) is also addressed again in the article.

If you check this one out, please read all of the comments as well to get the full picture being presented: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/03/self-publishing-pro-and-contemptuous/.

Using Video as Part of the Book’s Promo

I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject because I will soon need some sort of trailer for Separation of Faithand I have absolutely no clue how to do one. I also have a video of a television interview done with me at a small, regional Connecticut TV station after The Truth About Cinnamon was released. There’s undoubtedly a way to fit that interview video into my plan as well, to help people find out who I am.

So the article titled “7 Reasons Why Writers Need To Start Using Video For Book Promotion” could not have been more timely. Not only did I pick up some great ideas, but I began considering which of my tech guru friends I can tap for assistance (in return for a case of beer or something … 🙂 …)

I might start experimenting soon with the interview video that I already have, maybe posting it here in my blog or on my FiledBy site (where I have the free chapters of Cinnamon). I also have a slick webcam on my mini, and the article said that YouTube has a recording site where you can create your own videos using your webcam.

This is where some of that extra work I mentioned at the beginning of my post is coming from. But I’m getting sort of excited about this video thing–especially if I can find yet another use for my mini.

Take a look at the article if you have a minute:  http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2010/03/08/7-reasons-why-writers-need-to-start-using-video-for-book-promotion/. And I’d love to hear about any of your own rookie experiences with the video element of this dream journey.

Your Own Writing Retreat

Here’s one I almost forgot to include. Several of you have commented on the difficulty of finding time for our writing as we juggle families, jobs, and life in general. So this article, “Create Your Own Mini-Writing Retreat,” might inspire some ideas: http://writersdigest.com/article/Do-It-Yourself-Writing-Retreats/?print=1.

I also discovered several other links on the subject by Googling “Create Your Own Writing Retreat.” I guess lots of us are in search of solutions to this dilemma.

Editing Update

Separation of Faith is still undergoing the copyedit at the publisher. I probably won’t see those results for another two or three weeks, so I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I have a client who’s asked me to edit two more books for him. Actually, one of the books is by his daughter, who is twelve and has already written a novel! I know! How can that be possible? I did a development edit on her book last August, and she is so tenacious that she’s now coming back for more. I’m so impressed with her! Not only impressed with her writing skill, which is quite amazing for one so young, but also with her drive, her courage about seeking input, and her willingness to write beyond her own personal experiences. When I was twelve, I was writing short stories but never even considered writing a whole book! The idea of doing research to fill in the blanks for things I hadn’t yet experienced hadn’t crossed my mind at that point.

I’ll let you know when this young lady becomes famous.

After I finish the edit for her, I need to get busy again with the reduction edit on The Truth About Cinnamon. Every time I turn around, something else seems to be getting in the way of that. So the moment has come to get firm and stay focused. (Of course, I also have to do my taxes and my dad’s before the 15th. Oh brother.)

Health Update

My appointment with the surgeon is on the 14th in Manhattan. I will, of course, be taking my mini. Not sure if I’ll be working on my book, my client’s book, or my taxes–but with the mini on hand at that sort of appointment, I’m surely going to be working on something.

Meanwhile, I’m too busy to worry about the details of the diagnosis. After receiving a copy of the pathology report, I took a half day to do research on the various facts and options. But I won’t really know the whole story until I see that surgeon. So I’m not allowing myself to fret too much until then.

Stats

Hits on this blog: 1796 (1625 at last report). Definitely moving in the right direction!

Take care. Hope to see you while I’m tag surfing over the next few days.

Cheri

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A Writer’s Conference Changed My Direction

Hi! Since a conference last September (2009) changed everything about the approach I was taking with my second novel, I wanted to pop in here and post information I just received this morning on upcoming conferences.

Writer’s Digest sponsored the September conference, and that particular publication seems to always go the extra mile to actually help authors find, refine, and/or change their direction and/or their writing. Even though the publication is a business looking to earn a profit, I do appreciate the honesty and ethics of Jane Friedman, the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief.

Also, since I’ve had conversations with several of you about attending these conferences, I wanted you to know about a few that are upcoming. There is expense involved, but that expense can often be written off on your taxes. (Check with your accountant.) And if you’ve never been to a conference, your view of the publishing world might be a little too unexposed, inhibiting you from being able to balance reality with your writing dreams and goals.

So I highly recommend that you attend something. I put attendance at one conference per year on my New Year’s Resolutions every January 1 now.

The conferences in this link are held at various points around the country, so there’s a good chance that one might be close to you.

If you explore this link, go into each conference detail and look at the agenda as well as the list of agents, editors, authors, and publishing professionals on the program. You’ll see that all the conferences are similar in some ways, but each one has a different slant that might fit in with what you’re trying to do and where you are in that process.

Hope you find something helpful in here: http://links.mkt230.com/servlet/MailView?ms=NDM5NTIzNwS2&r=OTc1NTAyMzA0S0&j=MTU1MDczMjE3S0&mt=1&rt=0.

Cheri

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Discovery: Disasters Feel a Lot Worse When They’re Yours

Hi! This is not my normal blog (although I’ll add a quick Plan update in a minute). On the heels of our record-breaking snow storm earlier this month, we were hit with an unofficial hurricane over the weekend. Apparently, the storm turned out to be a whole lot worse than the weather forecasters had envisioned, so no one was prepared (mentally or otherwise) for what happened to us Friday and Saturday (especially Saturday).

I’m including an album of pictures, which speak far more effectively than I can at the moment. We are among thousands still without power, and the hotel we’re in is full to capacity with folks in the same predicament. Fortunately, we got into the hotel early enough yesterday to avoid the sold-out catastrophe that has been greeting people in hotels all around here. We’re also lucky that our hotel is very close to where we live so we can check regularly throughout the day and night on all of our animals.

I will keep you posted on the repair progress, the scope of which will be abundantly apparent to you when you look at the pictures.

Plan Update

Needless to say, I’ve been a little preoccupied today and haven’t been doing my normal work. But I’m all set up with technology in my temporary quarters, and will begin focusing again when I finish this post. Until this situation is resolved, though, there won’t be anything normal about my schedule.

The final editing plan with the publisher for Separation of Faith has now been clarified. I will go through the manuscript one more time and then submit that result to the publisher (by early next week, I hope) for the professional copyedit. That will take another few weeks, so I’ll proceed with the reduction edit of The Truth About Cinnamon while I’m waiting. When I get past all of these edits, I’m going to be very grateful.

Stats

There’s been a lot of traffic on this blog during the last week, and that’s very exciting for me. There are about 1520 hits now (1405 six days ago). Since I tend to wake up extra early when I’m in a strange place, I’ll try to do a lot of tag surfing in those wee hours over the next few days. I miss talking with everyone when I go for a few days without doing so.

Meanwhile, I hope you have a good week. Enjoy the photos … 🙂

Cheri

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Cinnamon Serialization Update

Sorry I didn’t post yesterday. Here’s one of the reasons for the delay:

Now that I’ve published 10 free chapters of The Truth About Cinnamon (when the original plan was to only publish 7), I’m going to take a break from that process for a little while. The 1-2 hours of time required to prepare each chapter every week is time I want to start devoting to my blog instead, at least for the moment. This is especially true since I’m not sure how many readers are actually reading the free serialized issues.

If anyone is out there, however, who’s been getting into the story, has finished all 10 chapters, and is clamoring for more, please do let me know. At that point, I’ll publish #11.

Paid Speaking Gig

My first paid speaking engagement was very well-received last Friday, and I had a fabulous time while meeting another room full of terrific people. The experience would have been fulfilling enough if that was the end of the story, but I also sold five copies of The Truth About Cinnamon while I was there. In addition, the majority of people in the audience said that they want to receive the press release for Separation of Faith when the time comes later this spring.

The day was a good one!

Making “a Living” from Our Writing

A few of you have been commenting this week on the difficult prospects for making even a marginal living from our writing. And I’ve been saying that there’s some truth to that concern for most of us who aren’t yet prolific celebrity authors.

But when you expand your thinking about “making a living” to include things like speaking engagements, advertisements on our websites and blogs, interviews for which we might be paid, and other avenues that are limited only by our imaginations, the money starts to add up.

The key, of course, as I’ve said so many times in this blog, is to first make sure we’re creating something of the highest quality possible. We need to be well-educated in all the basics and nuances of our craft, and we need to seek a lot of input, turning our work over to beta readers and professional editors for their critiques. Then we have to be open to the issues presented in those critiques, open and willing to invest the necessary time to make changes.

Once we have a product of the highest quality, a world of possibilities for making a living–with that product as a base–will open up to us. And making a living from our writing only begins with the royalties, if we’re inventive and creative enough to take some chances.

I’ll be on the lookout for articles that I can share with you on this subject.

Conquering “It”

Speaking of producing a quality product and mastering the elements of our craft, I’d like to spend a moment on an issue that surfaces with great frequency when I’m wearing my editor’s hat. That issue is the word “it.” If I had a dollar for every “it” I’ve seen in manuscripts, I wouldn’t need to worry about making a living.

Here are the two main problems with “it”:

  1. “It” doesn’t actually say anything or paint any pictures for the reader.
  2. A whole bunch of us, through sheer habit and an absence of awareness, overuse the word “it” to the point where what we’re trying to say/explain, or the imagery we’re trying to create, becomes completely diluted.

As an experiment, go to the beginning of whatever project you’re currently writing and do a Find function on the word “it” (making sure you specify that you’re looking for the whole word). Each time you click on Find Next, highlight the word “it” that pops up, excluding any “it” that shows up in a direct quote or in dialogue. Direct quotes can’t be changed, of course, and “it” in dialogue is okay because that’s the way people actually talk. The target should be “it” in any narrative.

You can do this experiement for as many pages/chapters as you like, and I promise you that you will be absolutely astonished at what you discover. You’ll have highlights all over the place!

The next task is to go back to the beginning and challenge yourself to rewrite every sentence containing “it” so that the sentence no longer contains “it.” What you will experience is the transformation of your writing from something that’s flat and uni-dimensional into something that’s three-dimensional and that creates vivid, living imagery.

For example (and I’m just making these up as I go):

  • He was riding the horse, and it was extremely uncomfortable.

What was uncomfortable? The horse? The saddle? The bumpy leather on the saddle? The fact that there wasn’t any saddle but just the horse’s back? Can you see how “it” doesn’t say anything at all to the reader?

  • It was a winter night.

Where’s the picture? The imagery? How about something like: By eight o’clock that night, the temperature had dropped into the teens, and the icy white streets had become treacherous. You don’t even need to say the word “winter,” because the words used paint the picture for the reader.

And that’s what our words are supposed to do. As the paint and brush are to the artist’s canvas, so are a writer’s words to the page. “It” is empty and colorless. Leave the word (and I use that term loosely here) out of your narrative writing. 

Again, I just made up these examples, but you’ll find plenty of your own if you do the Find exercise. Believe me, I did many years ago–and the shock from what I discovered in my writing led to this issue being one of my biggest hot buttons as an editor.

If you have a minute, let me know what your experiments produce.

A Few Other Relevant Links

In my reading of late, I’ve run across a number of topics that are relevant to comments you’ve made, or to topics in my posts. Here are a couple of those that I thought might be helpful to you:

I’ll include references for you more in my next post.

Plan Update and Stats

The post-editorial review revised manuscript for Separation of Faith is currently with the publisher, undergoing the second editorial review. Stay tuned for the news on those results …

As soon as I finish this posting, I’m going to work on the reduction edit for The Truth About Cinnamon. Finally reaching the point where I can focus on that part of the plan is a great relief!

Regarding the Stats, this last week has been very interesting, particularly with respect to this blog:

  • Hits on this blog: 1405 (1255 on March 2). This is a jump of 150, fueled by the 80 hits on Thursday, March 4. I’m trying to figure out what I did on that day so I can do the same thing again … 🙂 … Let me know if you have any ideas on that front.
  • Hits on my website: 35,922 (35,795 on March 2). The jump of 127 is good but not as good as the 137 the previous week. Of course, until I get my next royalty statement, I won’t know how the increase in website traffic correlates to any increase increase in Cinnamon sales. You’ll be the first to know.
  • As I mentioned last week, I’m not going to stress myself out with the Amazon ranking until the 2nd Edition of Cinnamon comes out (although I might take a peek periodically …)

Moving Forward–And I’m Beginning to Actually Feel the Movement

This blog was launched four months ago last Thursday. (Oh! Maybe that was one of the reasons behind the 80 hits …?)

Since then, my goals have become further clarified as I give voice to them through this medium. And tangible progress has been made now that Separation of Faith is with the publisher and will (hopefully) be moving into the production process soon with the Editor’s Choice designation. Plus, I’m now in dialogue with so many of you, who never cease to amaze me with your drive and creativity.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the Journey thus far, and I hope you are too.

Cheri

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