Category Archives: Writing / Authors

The Art of Wordsmithing, Part 1

Editing_SymbolsI have a friend who recently published his first novel on Amazon.com. He had a really a great story.

Unfortunately however, his book did not sell very well. It also did not get many reviews. Writers certainly know that there are no guarantees when you publish a book. There is always a very good chance that it will simply not catch on.

However, there are many steps a serious writer can take to better their chances. Here is one …

I had ordered a copy of my friend’s book from Amazon, planning to do a book review on my blog. Unfortunately, when I tried to read it … I found a lot problems.  Those problems included grammar, phrasing, poor word choice, awkward sentence structure, passive voice, etc. I could not get past the second chapter. One thing my friend could have done to  increase his chances of success was to have somebody edit his book.

passive-vs-active-voice2

As good as his story line was, the novel was very painful to read because of some of the issues mentioned above. How can you get positive reviews on Amazon if your readers cannot even finish your book?

I have been through this process myself. An editor would have caught those problems and helped him correct them.  That would have made his book a lot more readable.

What you have to try to understand is that there are very good reasons for these “archaic” rules of grammar. After all, we are not Tweeting here!

Good word choice, proper sentence structure, proper punctuation, an active voice … all help to build the excitement or tension in the your story.  The tension builds, there is a climax. The writer then creates  a calm period where the reader recovers … and then it all starts again.  Good writing techniques are much more than just old-fashioned grammar rules they taught in school once upon a time. They actually make writing readable and are vital keys for getting and keeping your reader’s attention,. They also help build the tension and create the periods of calm. Write a great action scene in a passive voice and the reader yawns!  Not good!

It is very hard to be objective and edit your own work. Believe me, I know!  I have been there and done that.  While it can be scary to let somebody else critique your work, a good editor can really help put the polishing touches on a writer’s work. And, that may be the difference between someone reading your work and enjoying it, maybe even reviewing it online and recommending it to a friend  … or simply putting it down.

I decided not to review my friend’s novel.

More to follow!

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North Carolina Writers Network 2017 Spring Convention

Saturday, April 22, I attended the North Carolina Writer Network’s 2017 Spring Convention on the campus at UNC Greensboro. It was a great experience.  I picked up a lot of good actionable information and even made a few new friends.  The atmosphere was very friendly and informal.

There were a good many smaller publishers and editors with tables set up in the main hall. All were friendly, helpful and willing to share information and advice. One that really stuck out for me was Bull City Press in Durham. They are still small, but growing. I got on their mailinglist and talked a good deal with Ross White, the Executive Director. Who knows, maybe we will do business in the future.

Russell_HatlerFor the morning session, I attended a great workshop called Social Media for Self Published Authors.  This seemed to have me written all over it. The presenter was Russell Hatler who, it turns out, also lives in Cary.

Russ has written and published several novels most of which are mysteries set in Las Vegas. His session was lively and entertaining, and full of very helpful information.  It was also apparent how much he really enjoys doing the research for his novels in Las Vegas. Several of his novels are available on Amazon.com.  I was intrigued by one in particular titled Caught Red Handed. Perhaps I will procure a copy and do a book review here on my blog.

A nice feature of the conference was having lunch with an author of your choice.  Not really knowing who to choose, I did the old eany, meany, miny, moe thing and chose Edmund Schubert, which it turns out was a great choice. Edmund R. Schubert is an author and editor best known for his work in the fields of science fiction and fantasy. While not really two of my favorite genres (I am more the historical fiction, spy thriller type), the conversation proved to be very interesting. We touched on many topics such as integrity in writing and the trouble with separating artists and their work from their human failings. For example, Bill Cosby came up in the conversation.

magical-wordsWhile Edmund Schubert writes mostly short stories, he does have a published novel out there along with several collections of shot stories. Since 2006, he has also been the editor of an online science fiction magazine called Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show.

Edmund Schubert was nominated for several awards including the Edgar Award in 2006 and the Hugo Award in 2015. While I did not pick up any of the books books he has authored, I did pick up two books he has edited.  This was actually not by design, but just the way it worked out.  I picked up How to write Magical Words and tales from the asylum, an anthology of poetry and fiction, year 3.

I think the first book will be a big help to me in developing my skills as a writer. The second just really sounded intriguing! I mean, poetry and fiction from an asylum?  Who would not be intrigued?

After lunch, I attended a workshop given by James Tate Hill on The Mystery of Plot in Fiction.  It was really good! We covered useful tricks and rules to stay “on plot” and how not to get lost in the weeds. We also touched on avoiding writer’s block, managing multiple storylines and multiple points-of-view.

The workshop was enhanced by his great sense of humor. He kept thing light and several of us were chuckling quite frequently.  academy-gothicMr. Hill, it turns out, is visually impaired, which he joked … was helpful in away, because he was not constantly interrupted by people wanting to ask questions … since he could not see them raise their hands!

James Tate Hill is the author of Academy Gothic and if his writing as half as good as his presentation, it should be well-worth a read. Mr Hill is the Winner of the 2014 Nilson Literary Prize for a First Novel.  I am going to have to read this book!  I did check and saw that it gets great reviews for both deadpan humor and its scathing satire of academia.

Last but not least, towards the end of the convention I spoke for a time with a great lady, Karen Newman.  She was present at the  “Lunch with an Author” session I was in. It was apparent from her comments in the conversation that she is an editor. We later crossed paths again in the vendor area and talked about my book for a few minutes and what services she provides. Her company is Newmanuscripts . I will probably be talking to her again in the future when it comes time for the final edit of my novel.

This convention was a great experience and I would certainly recommend it to anyone thinking about writing as a hobby or a career.  I had a great time and really learned a great deal.  I will definitely be back next time!