Sunday, December 29, 2013

Getting Published

Minutes before I left the office on Friday a friend emailed that they had a client who had written a book... The rest is obvious.
How to get published? There are no shortcuts. I recently bought a book from Amazon. When I hastily checked "Look Inside" I should have spotted that it was homemade, and not very well done at that. The book was to be a gift, but when it arrived, one look and it went into the recycling bin.
For some reason people think that writing doesn't require more than a computer or iPad. Besides imagination and the ability to tell a good story, it requires skills of the craft. As I've said before, reading books doesn't teach writing. It exposes an aspiring writer to writing, but doesn't teach the skills. Let's face it, I drive a car, but that doesn't make me a mechanic. It makes me a driver.
With the ease of the Internet, there is no excuse for an aspiring writer not to learn the craft. Better yet, take writing classes at the local university. A writer should KNOW plot, character development, pacing, voice, tense, point of view, grammar rules (there are eight parts of speech and one of them is prepositions -- there are 48 prepositions), learn this stuff; the list is even longer.
In the digital age, an aspiring writer must know more than the basics of using a computer. Purchase MS Word. I'm not promoting Microsoft, but the free programs that convert text documents to Word are faulty. Word is the common language of the industry, invest in it. A mechanic isn't going to use a screwdriver when they need a wrench. Aspiring writers should invest in the craft and use the correct tools.
Learn the correct format for the document. A manuscript has double spaced lines. Use page breaks at the end of each chapter rather than the enter key a whole bunch of times. Use one space between sentences, not two. A synopsis is single spaced lines and no longer than two pages. It tells the whole story. Don't be coy and leave the end a mystery. Give an overview of the main character's progression from first paragraph to the last line in the manuscript. Practice writing a professional quality query letter. Practice some more.
Research literary agents and publishers. Know what genre you write. Avoid being uppity. You're only a writer asking someone to invest time and money into your project. Don't be pathetic either. Why would someone invest their money if you don't believe in the value of your manuscript?
There are alternatives to traditional publishing. Learn what they are if you aren't going the traditional route. Self-publishing is a whole new adventure and it requires due diligence to avoid disappointment.
Your best friend, family member, or Grammar geek is not the same as a certified proof reader. If you're serious about becoming a published author, print your manuscript and read it aloud. If you short cut this rule, then don't be disappointed with a lack of success in the industry.
Be patient. Unless you self-publish, expect the process to take up to two years to see your ms converted into a published book. Realize that effort and expertise is being added to the value of your ms. Be thankful that someone who knows a lot more about publishing than you do is investing in your manuscript. Success requires effort.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Movie Oops!

Ever viewed movie mistakes for a chuckle? When we were kids, we'd watch for the actor who forgot to take off their wrist watch in a period movie.

Basically, that is what a content editor does. They look for flaws in the timeline, people who teleport to another location, and it isn't SciFi or Fantasy. They look for name, eye color, and hair color changes. And, a million more things like would that word [a recently born word] be used at that time, or by that person. There is fact checking and the critical eye for oops moments that an astute reader would catch.

My husband was discussing the "it" book of the week with his great aunt. She had read it, or had started to read it. When the main character went for a walk at 2 AM and the moon was rising, she threw the book in the lit fireplace. The topic of conversation rapidly changed course. Later one of our boys asked why she had thrown the book in the fire. Little boys don't know that the moon doesn't rise at 2 AM, neither did that writer, or their editor.

Inexperienced writers who upload their book on one of many free publishing sites rarely seem to have had their manuscript in the hands of a content editor. Some seem to think their high school English teacher looking it over is sufficient. Well, it isn't.

I rely heavily on the Certified Proof Reader [line editor] at Cactus Rain. She knows grammar rules that I've never heard of, and probably wouldn't understand. But she is the first to tell her private clients that she does not do content editing.

What a writer should do, and usually won't, is print two copies of their manuscript, find a willing helper, and read the whole thing aloud. The helper should follow along and catch things that were read differently from the print. Also, if they are honest, they will say when something doesn't make sense, is repeated too often, or is simply flat out wrong.

So that's the tip for the day. Read your ms out loud from a printed copy. You'll be amazed. And, your manuscript will be greatly improved. Happy writing and editing.

Monday, February 11, 2013


First Draft has always had a bit of spam comments because the comment section was wide open. That was a decision made when we had the Blog Party.

In the beginning, the spam comments were few and far between. It became increasingly frustrating to remove the comments as they increased. By the time I was thinking of abandoning the blog all together, there were around 30 spams daily.

My web designer handled the situation more calmly than I did. However, I had been with it for a while before I said anything to her.

The point is, we seem to have it fixed. Nothing I did worked, so I won't really take any credit. However, at this point, I don't know if anyone can post comments.

My web designer suggested adding writing tips to my sites. You can find them here: and here: And always, this blog can be searched from the sidebar using the search function.

Happy writing. Have a good week.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The End

A story has to have a beginning, middle, and end. It needs to go from Point A to Point B in a believable way with entertaining characters.

The beginning is the introduction of the main character, the protagonist, a few friends, and the antagonist along with the setting (time and place). It needs to hook the reader with the first line and hold them long enough for the reader to care what happens to the protagonist so they will read to the end.

The beginning can be a slow start (boring) with lots of explaining (telling) which is the mark of an amateur. Personally, I don’t like prologs. My thoughts on prologs are simple: If the information is essential put it in the story.

Of course, something does happen to the protagonist and the bulk of the story is spent resolving the conflict. In life we spend a great deal of effort to return things to the way they were when we were comfortable, happy, and safe – or to improve our situation to be comfortable, happy, and safe. Sometimes our hero sets out to improve someone else’s situation, or even the state of a group of people.

On this journey, real or figurative, there are setbacks, failures, obstacles, and the occasional gain. There are also those who help and those who don’t. The protagonist is pursued by a person or situation (maybe a natural disaster or a pending manmade disaster) or they are running to something (maybe a race against time, which can be a fixed, unyielding foe).

To be interesting, the middle doesn’t go in a straight simple line. An experienced writer uses literary devices to move the story forward, and the middle is where this is most evident. Most people do fairly well with the middle. They get on a roll and the story "nearly writes itself" as they type.

The end seems to be the difficult piece for people to write. Once the writer figures out the ending, they rush to it and through it.

Most of the minor conflicts are resolved during the middle. The end is the final resolution of the primary conflict. However, it is not the place to add new characters or new information. Think of Apollo 13, the conflict can only be solved with the materials already onboard.

Keep the reader in mind while writing. Think about what will be a satisfying ending to a stranger who has spent time reading to the endpoint. It cannot disappoint in the end.

To learn more about literary devices, check this site: