Monday, May 20, 2019

So You Think You Don't Need an Editor--Part One

© Can Stock Photo/novelo
One comment I often hear from first time authors is, "I don't need an editor because I do my own editing."


Okay, before I go off on my tangent, I'll admit I resemble that remark. When I wrote my very first book, Anna's Kitchen, I too naively thought I didn't need an editor. In fact, I was such a smart aleck at the time that I thought I knew everything, never mind the fact that I had never written a book before in my life. As far as I was concerned, the spell checker in my word processing software was all I needed. So how did I do?  Well, you may want to refer to my post titled, Just Add Two Tablespoons of Fate. Sure, I can laugh about it now, but it's a splendid example of why all authors, especially new authors, must have an editor.

An editor is a fresh pair of eyes to go over your manuscript and give it the added polish it needs to turn it into a great book. They're not as much concerned about the content of your work as they are the structure. They look for things such as misspelled words, typos, comma spliced sentences, dangling participles, incorrect homonyms, redundancy, the dreaded passive voice, and all the other gaffes that you, as a writer, may have overlooked. The reason why you're not seeing them is because you're too involved with your own work to see it objectively. This is normal. As human beings we can't be objective about ourselves, which is why it's difficult for us to see our mistakes. It's the same reason why doctors don't treat themselves or members of their own families.

Some of you reading this may still be skeptical, or you may even think your writing skills are so superior that you simply don't need an editor. If that's the case, then all I can tell you is writing can be a very humbling experience. There is nothing quite like having your readers point out all your errors for you and then post them on an Amazon review for the entire world to see. Once that happens your credibility as an author is pretty much done, and you can kiss your writing career goodbye.

What do Danielle Steel, James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Dean Koontz all have in common? They all have editors. And if these authors all have editors, then what makes you think that you don't need one?


Monday, May 13, 2019

Let's Stop Putting Labels on People

© Can Stock Photo / Medclips
Not long ago I was at a business networking event and struck up a conversation about what I do with someone I didn't know. (Which, by the way, was the whole purpose of the event.) She of course asked me what I do, and when I told her I wrote novels she honest to goodness looked at me and said, "Oh, so that means you have ADD." (Attention Deficient Disorder -- a mental illness.)

Needless to say I was flabbergasted that someone would actually make such a hurtful, hateful, not to mention stupid, remark. I looked her in the eye and said, "Well, in my line of work, that would actually be considered a job requirement." It immediately shut her up and she walked away with egg on her face, which is exactly the reaction I wanted. 

Few things make me bristle like people who insist on putting stigmatizing labels on other people and branding them with scarlet letters. Why must they do that?  Is it because there is some narrow definition of "normal," out there, and creative, imaginative people simply don't fit that so-called norm? Is that why creative people must be stigmatized for being creative?  Or is it because making other people look bad is how they make themselves look good? I suspect the answer is both. What I do know for certain is there are people out there who simply do not like creative people. Period. A few years ago I read an article instructing parents on how to "reprogram" their children if they showed any sign of being, "right-brained creative" so they could be made into, "left-brained analytical." Apparently a child being creative is something parents now have to fear.

Newsflash for all of you left-brained, self-obsessed psychiatrists and psychologists out there. (Yes, I'm talking to you, with the MD or the PhD after your name.) I'm a right-brained creative, and I'm damn proud of it! I'm who God made me to be. And guess what? Even though I'm a, "wacko," by your so-called, "standards," I still manage to get myself out of bed every morning. I practice proper hygiene. I wear the same clothes that "normal" people wear. My house may not be June Cleaver clean, but you won't find uncategorized life forms growing in it either. I'm also able to perform my job. Not only do I write novels, I also I run my own book publishing business. 

So, Miss Smart-Alec, who the hell are you to think that it's okay pin your scarlet letter on me by labeling me with "ADD" just because my job involves using my God-given creative skills?  Here's a thought. Why don't you worry more about your own damn life and stay bloody hell out of mine!


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Breaking the Facebook Habit

© Can Stock Photo / SergeyNivens
As I mentioned in a prior post, I'm pretty much done with Facebook. And as much as I'd like to close out my account completely, I can't because as an author, I get traffic on my professional pages. I also get a significant amount of blog traffic from Facebook. So, like it or not, I'm stuck there. However, I'm no longer creating content or engaging with other users like I was before. 

Facebook really did take up too much of my time. I'd log on to see if I was getting any responses on my posts, and the next thing I knew I was getting sucked in sharing memes and commenting on other people's posts. A half hour, or more, would go by without my even knowing it. That's a lot of wasted time, particularly when you're self employed. Nowadays I hardly log into Facebook as I do most of my Facebook posting via the social share links from my blog, and most of them go to my professional pages, not my personal newsfeed.

On a personal level, I'm amazed at how much less anxious and depressed I feel. Feeling happy truly is liberating. There is so much negative energy on Facebook that I now consider it toxic. It's become a cesspool of trolls, haters, name callers and misinformation that most days left me feeling upset and angry. I don't tolerate uncivil behavior in real life, so why was I putting up with it on Facebook? The trolls and haters are like cockroaches. I'd block one, and then it seemed like five more appeared out of nowhere. 

So, how am I spending my time without Facebook? In a word, productively. I have several blogs, (they're all listed in my sidebar), and I'm spending more time blogging. In fact, I now blog nearly every day. I was wasting so much time on Facebook, thinking that sharing funny memes about being a writer was helping me promote my books, that my blogs were collecting dust. As authors, our blogs are a vital part of our marketing platform. I'm also spending more time doing the things I really enjoy doing, like photography. And I'm getting more writing done. Nothing sucks the creativity out of you quite like being attacked by Facebook trolls because you think the sky is blue.

Meantime the Facebook controversies rage on, and it seems everyday there's another news article about Facebook and all its troubles. And while I don't think Facebook will vanish completely, it's most certainly imploding on itself. It will never again be the powerhouse it once was, and we'll all be much better off because of it. 


Thursday, May 2, 2019

Blogger or WordPress?

© Can Stock Photo / gunnar3000
It's something you'll have to decide before jumping into the world of blogging.

I've been blogging for so long that I can't remember exactly when I started my first blog. It was sometime around 2003; about the time I published my first book, and I used a host called, Blogspot, which has since become Blogger. I like Blogger for many reasons.

  • Blogger is user friendly! You don't need to know HTML code or have other technical skills to use Blogger.
  • It's easy to build a custom template with Blogger. Even the advanced template design tools are user friendly.
  • The Blogger platform is secure. Your blog is less likely to be hacked.
  • Blogger comes with an easy to use "stats" feature that includes the number of hits, traffic sources, operating systems and so forth.
  • Blogger is free and comes with it's own hosting. 

The downside.
  • Blogger has no technical support. If you're having an issue you have to rely on forums, which may or may not resolve your issue.
  • There are no third party plugins for Blogger, making your selection of "gadgets" to add to your blog somewhat limited.

As much as I like Blogger, all of my friends were saying, "WordPress! WordPress! WordPress!" So I finally gave it a try. WordPress does have indeed have some advantages over Blogger.

  • WordPress has dozens upon dozens of third party themes and plugins, giving you infinite possibilities for designing and customizing your blog.  
  • I was able to get tech support through GoDaddy, my WordPress host, although it was somewhat limited.

The downside
  • While may technically be "free," it requires a hosting service, which isn't free. I used GoDaddy, but there are others out there. 
  • WordPress is definitely NOT for people who are unfamiliar with HTML coding or lack other technical skills. It is NOT user friendly! Those who are not technically skilled will most likely end up extremely frustrated. 
  • Designing my template was both stressful and difficult, and it was very plain jane. I could never figure out how to do more than the most basics of basics, and I was never satisfied with the way the way my blogs looked.
  • WordPress is open code. And while open coding allows third parties to create all those wonderful themes and plugins, it also makes WordPress more susceptible to hacking. One of my WordPress blogs got hacked, which is why I came back to Blogger.

If you have the technical skills, or if your budget allows you to hire a webmaster to do the technical work for you, then yes, I would recommend WordPress. You can create a customized blog with all kinds of bells and whistles. But for those of us who don't speak geek, WordPress is simply too difficult and too frustrating to use. So if you're like me, and Internet codes and technical jargon are all foreign languages that you will never understand, then you can't go wrong with Blogger. 


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Outline or Treatment?

© Can Stock Photo / katielittle25
It can be a perplexing question for authors, particularly newbies. Do you write an outline, or a treatment, before you begin your book? Or do you just sit down and start writing?

Outlines are recommended for nonfiction books as they can be more precise, but because this blog is for fiction writers, I'm going to talk about what is the best approach for us, and that is to write a treatment.

A treatment isn't an outline. It's a short summary of what your story will be about. And while I highly recommend writing a treatment before you begin your novel, the amount of detail you wish to include is entirely up to you. Some fiction authors may choose to write treatments summarizing each chapter, while others simply write a brief one or two paragraph description. It's really a matter of personal preference. Remember, we're creative writers, not technical writers, and the keyword here is creative. For us, writing is an art, not a science.

My treatments tend to be short; no more than one to one and a half pages, and my main objective is how I will begin my story, and how I will end it. I used to fret a lot over what to include in the middle, but experience has taught me to keep it brief, because the details will come to me after I begin writing. In other words, my treatment is my launching point.

Some fiction writers may choose to write bios for their characters, and that's certainly okay. I don't do it myself as my characters come to life rather quickly, and once that happens they have minds of their own. (I know this may sound freaky to non writers, but trust me, every fiction writer experiences this.) Again, my personal approach is to include the names and general descriptions of my lead characters, but I leave the details out. Their individual personalities will evolve on their own once I begin writing.

Some authors like to refer back to their treatments as they write, and there's certainly nothing wrong with doing that. However, my approach is to put my treatment aside once I begin my story. As I've already mentioned, once your characters come to life they may want to go in a different direction than originally planned, and other ideas may come to you as you delve deeper into your story. Again that's okay. We're creative writers, and this is how creativity works. 

Once my book is complete I like to go back and look at my treatment. My books never end up as described in the original treatment. They always turn out better. That's because I let my creativity flow as I write, and many new ideas will pop into my head as I go. My favorite example would be my first Marina Martindale novel, The Reunion. One of my supporting characters, a young man named, Jeremy, was originally intended to be a rogue character. He would do his dirty deed and then quickly disappear from the story. However, Jeremy was also leading man Ian's son, and as I got into the story I soon realized that Ian would never have a son like that, so Jeremy went from rogue villain to a rival, competing with his father to win leading lady Gillian's affections. This made for a completely unexpected twist in the story that resonated with me, and my readers. 

As I've evolved as a writer, my treatments have also evolved. They've become less detailed and more generalized, but as I've stated before, how you choose to write your treatment is entirely up to you. As far as I'm concerned, there is no right or wrong way to go about it. 


Friday, April 26, 2019

One of the Pitfalls of Social Media

© CanStockPhoto/ShutterM
As writers we've all been told that social media is an essential marketing tool, and it truly is. I've made fans and sold books on social media. However, social media can also be a double-edged sword, so it must be treated with respect. Let me give you an example.

After commenting on a friend's Facebook post, I started engaging with another of her friends on the same thread. We were talking about jazz music, something we both enjoyed, and during our online conversation she mentioned that she was a book editor. This was back when I was publishing books for other authors, so I told her I was a publisher and I asked her to please send me a friendship request so I could include her on my referral list. She was more than happy to oblige. 

As it turned out, she posted frequently Facebook. However, virtually all of her content was either extreme left wing political posts, rants about her hatred of children, her dislike of men, her belief that interpersonal relationships were a complete waste of time, her hatred of churches and of people of faith, and so forth. She had no tolerance whatsoever for anyone with an opposing point of view, and she wasn't beyond telling anyone to "go f--- themselves," for simply disagreeing with her, no matter how respectful they were.

It didn't take long for me to realize there was no way that I could EVER refer this woman to any of my authors, and I soon blocked her on Facebook. My issue wasn't that I disagreed with her opinion. Let's face it. The world would be a pretty boring place if we all thought alike. My issue was her open contempt and hatred of others. If she could tell people she disagreed with to go "f--- themselves" on a public forum, I could only imagine how badly she would have treated one of my authors.

The point I'm making is to be careful about what you post on social media. It really can come back and bite you. In this instance, it cost someone potential business.