Self-Publishing, Tips, Writer's Life, Writing

Oh, No… A Dangling Participle

DanglingA professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.
-Richard Bach

As a teenager, I was never the student who giggled when the sex-ed teacher talked about hoohoos and whatsits, nor when the music teacher said pianist. In fact, I looked my nose down at my fellow pupils who partook in such cheap kicks.

But dangling participle? That floored me every time. I don’t know why. But this isn’t a post about far-fetched double entendres, no. It’s a post about the editing process and having someone rifle through all your dangling participles and misplaced modifiers.

Yes. Another editing post. Good writing is, after all, a product of editing.

Just last night I came across a blog post by a dear, sweet friend of mine, the illustrious and talented Vania Rheault. (Her Twitter | Her Books | Her GoodReads) In this post, Vania talks about the highs and lows of enduring the process of a professional edit. Please, please, please check her post out here. She will inevitably do a much better job of articulating what it feels like than I will.

Not only is Vania a wonderful friend, she also happens to be my editor. (And I agree with Vania’s post—having an editor makes me feel like a professional writer.) She’s my first true editor, and every time I read one of her notes (her many, many notes) I realize just how blessed I am to have her.

Since her original blog post inspired this one, I needn’t shy away from saying that having a professional editor is a blessing and a curse. She knows. It hurts. It stings. It makes me want to cry in the shower. But good heavens, what an education she’s giving me.

This is my second full-length manuscript, and I do feel I’m a better writer now than when I completed the first. But holy cow did I make Vania work harder than I should have. I felt terrible that so many of the things she caught…I hadn’t. Of course, when she pointed them out to me I saw them clear as crystal.

Writers have a special kind of blindness, don’t we? I think we find ourselves so wrapped up in the excitement of our ideas, or that special bit of prose we hold in such high esteem, that we forget that even the most seasoned writers have literary crutches they shed during multiple rounds of edits.

My crutches are elementary. They’re embarrassing. And she catches all of them. The first pass she made through my manuscript, I was certain she’d lost all faith me because of the sheer number of errors. But she didn’t. She encouraged me.

So, since the sting of embarrassment is still fresh in my writer’s soul, I might as well air all my dirty laundry and let you in on my three most personally shameful mistakes in hopes you will catch them in your own work before your editor gets them.

1.| Got/Get

When we’re in the throes of passion with our first draft, we often find ourselves tapping away at the keyboard so fast that we shortchange our vocabulary for the sake of getting words down. Then we write gems like this:

Once we got there…
She didn’t get it…
We hadn’t gotten far…

Get and got are such lazy verbs. They’re first draft words.

Once we arrived
She failed to understand
We hadn’t traveled far…

These small improvements add up and make for far stronger work. Seek and destroy weak verbs!

2.| Was/Were

This particular crutch of mine grated at my nerves when I realized how many littered my manuscript. When I attended college, my English professor hammered into our minds that overusing was/were weakens our work, and if she’d gotten her hands on the first document I sent Vania…I’d have lost my 4.0.

On the way to the concert, we were singing along with the radio.
He was running in the marathon to impress his girlfriend.
She was hoping the cake she was planning to bake would meet her grandmother’s standards.

Was/Were = -ing = weak

On the way to the concert, we sang along with the radio.
He ran in the marathon to impress his girlfriend.
She hoped the cake she planned to bake would meet her grandmother’s standards.

3.| Adverbs

These are an easy crutch to have, and a hard one to overcome. Stephen King says the road to hell is paved with adverbs. If you are unaware of what one of these nasty buggers are, they’re the -ly words that exist to describe your verbs. They’re a bit lazy, and often times they communicate that the writer isn’t confident in their ability to convey an idea. I’m going to combine some of these three crutches to drive my point home:

She had gotten so angry, she loudly closed the window.
Happily, they were skipping back home.
I was crying quietly after reading the first round of editing notes.

I bet Vania is cringing. 😉

Her face burned white-hot as she slammed the window, rattling the panes.
Neighbors two blocks away heard laughter as the siblings skipped home.
Without a peep, tears welled in my eyes after I’d read the first round of editing notes.

 

Rewriting, revision, editing: These are the things we cannot take lightly. No matter how much it hurts, I’m grateful whenever Vania slashes away at my pages. I’m happy to mop up the mess. Should you have an editor take you on, you cannot take their notes as a personal affront. They endeavor to make your work better. In the end, they’re only making suggestions. It’s up to us, the authors, whether we take their advice. That said, it is our duty as authors to learn from our mistakes and hope that in the next manuscript, our editors find less to correct.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I must get back to the gut-wrenching reality that I am, in fact, not perfect.

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Announcement, Self-Publishing, Tips, Writing

Won’t You Be My Beta?

Thrice
Mistakes are proof that you are trying.

-Unknown

Ugh. It’s Monday. We must all drudge back to our places of work and cope with a certain amount of monotony until we get to fight traffic to get back home. But, it’s also the day I have penciled in to really get cracking on edits and revisions of Sex, Love, and Formalities. Now, this post is going to be in three parts: A little bit of editing advice. A character confession. And an invitation. Let’s dive right in, shall we? Continue reading “Won’t You Be My Beta?”

Self-Publishing, Tips, Writer's Life, Writing

Let Me Be Frank

Self-Pub Mistakes“A teachable spirit and a humbleness to admit your ignorance or your mistake
will save you a lot of pain. However, if you’re a person who knows it all, then you’ve
got a lot of heavy-hearted experiences coming your way.”
-Ron Carpenter, Jr.

So as I mentioned last week, my launch day wasn’t the thrill it was supposed to be. I didn’t tweet about my book–and haven’t once–since then.

I’m sure my husband would protest, (HA!) but alas: I am not perfect.

Instead of pouring my heart and soul out, let me just give you a little lesson in all that went wrong for me on that day and the days leading up to it. If I had a nickle for every red flag I overlooked, I could quit my day job. (If anyone wants to send me nickles to get that process started, my P.O. Box is… *wink*) In all seriousness, please learn from my mistakes.

Without further adieu:

1.| I should have recruited more help. The people helping me were FANTASTIC! But, I should have had people reading the eBook in multiple formats, because I wasn’t just putting it on Amazon. I was using IngramSpark and my book appeared on Amazon, iBooks, Nook, and obscure Japanese websites for whatever reason. So, while the formatting may have been decent on one platform, it wasn’t on all and this was something I didn’t consider. Mostly because…

2.| I purchased a layout for my novel. [This isn’t exactly a mistake, but there were definite lessons to be learned.] I’m not ashamed to admit it, I wasn’t getting results on my own that I was happy with, and I didn’t have time or patience for learning InDesign on the fly, so I purchased a Word-friendly book layout that was supposed to translate perfectly from print to eBook. I am 99% sure I even paid a little extra for the duality. I’m debating on whether to link to the company because I am quite frankly debating on whether I will use them again. Their information is listed in the front matter of the book because a.) it was a requirement of purchasing the layout and b.) because I’m thrilled with the way the paperbacks look.

However, what I did not, can not, and will not like or understand about this is what happened to the metadata of my eBook. This company automatically inserted itself in the metadata as both author and publisher of my book. And my eBook layout problems only seemed to occur whenever I corrected the metadata. For legal reasons, I will not say that they were definitely the cause of my eBook layout problems, but I will say that it is a matter I am still looking into.

3.| Every time I needed to fix an issue with the eBook, it cost me $25 to do so. This was my fault, 100%. I knew that when/if I needed to make changes to the print version that it would cost me $25. I did not know the same applied to the eBook. With the layout problems I was facing, this was staggering. I am singing IngramSpark’s praises because they did not give me any trouble whatsoever when I asked begged them to release me of my eBook contract. Within 48 hours every trace of my error-riddled eBook was off the market and it was mine again to obsess over and check for those blasted formatting errors.

cautionSide note: If you’re going the IngramSpark route, I will be doing a more thorough review of my experience with them, but I will say this much quickly: Unless you are absolutely certain your success hinges on your eBook being available in every possible market, having your eBook with them will be an expensive venture. eBooks are updated regularly, and $25 each and every time adds up. Research the absolute hell out of the pros and cons of using their digital distribution services before you decide.

Their print service is exceptional, though. Truly top notch.

4.| If you’re an aspiring author and you’re not on Goodreads, hear this: Get on Goodreads. It’s powerful. Oh, and while you’re there, follow me. I ignored this valuable asset for far too long. You can do a lot of things here to set your book apart, like add video trailers, create quizzes and trivia for fans of your work. Have discussions with your readers in a way that other social media outlets simply can’t compare.

5.| I am not sure why I didn’t do this step, because I fully intended to, but I wanted to send out 15 or so ARC (Advanced Release Copies) to hopefully get some reviews before launch day. (This also would’ve alerted me to those formatting errors, too.) This was a monumental mistake on my part. Don’t be like me. Send out ARCs.

At the end of the day, you know what? I have a book. Relatively few people can say that. Even if you make every single mistake I did (Don’t, because you’ve read about them now) and you have a completed book that you’re proud of, that is an amazing thing! Don’t let a few mistakes and bumps along the way cause you to lose sight of your accomplishment. Dig your heels in, do your best to make it right, and make a vow to do better next time.

Do not give up on your writing dreams!

Getting To Know Aila, Tips, Writer's Life

Ten Writerly Lessons

Ten
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
-Benjamin Franklin


There are only FIVE days until the release of Sex, Love, and Technicalities. That’s… terrifying. I thought I would take this time to share with you ten things I’ve learned over the course of this past year—the good, the awful, and the ghastly.

1. | HOLY CRAP BALLS – WRITING IS HARD. Okay, so not physically hard. Unless you think sitting in a chair for long stretches of time is a strain. (For the record, I know several people who actually do find this difficult.) But, a lot goes into writing a full-length novel, and sometimes I want to pull my hair out.

2.| There are more tools than MS Word. I can hear some of you snickering, but this isn’t something that had ever occurred to me before I got serious about writing. I’ve dabbled with several programs and Scrivener is just amazing. Even if you want to stick to Word, I highly suggest using ProWritingAid instead of relying on Word’s less than stellar grammar help.

3. | Patience is key. I am not a naturally patient person. I get that from my father. But take it from someone who is admitting to this embarrassment: Being impatient can be costly. I started buying promotional items before the second redraft. Yep. I did that. You know what happened shortly afterwards? I changed the name of the book. And pushed back my release date. Anyone want a useless, highly inaccurate bookmark?

4.| The writing community is a vast, packed, and lonely place. I had an idea of how large the writing community was, but it wasn’t until I dipped my quill inside the well that I realized just how massive. I’ve met some incredible people, forged some priceless friendships… but there are a lot of people to compare yourself to. And for me, a naturally negative person, sometimes the very beauty of this community can leave me breathlessly lonesome.

5.| Build your brand before you type “Once Upon A Time…” If you’re serious about becoming a published author, by any means necessary, it is essential for you to build your author brand. I claim no expertise on the subject, I just know it is something you have to start early.

6.| Ideas will pop up at the worst times. I sort of knew this before. But before I got serious about writing, I could let go of these story ideas without much of a second thought. After all, I assumed I’d never use them. Oh, but now! now these precious gems of ideas crop up and I’m finely tuned into them. It doesn’t matter if I’m just drifting to sleep or in the middle of a conversation. Not getting to jot these ideas down is almost blasphemous.

7.| Doing bad things to my characters actually hurts. I revealed this tidbit to a non-writer friend, and they just couldn’t understand. “You do know they’re fictional, right?” Yes. But they’re my creations and I have just turned their world upside down and dumped a bucket of shit on top. Doesn’t mean I don’t fully understand that I have to do this, but sometimes after writing some particularly heavy scenes, a girl just needs to watch Doctor Who.

8.| Browsing Barnes and Noble becomes difficult different. Don’t get me wrong, I still do this on the regular, but once you are knee deep in publication decisions, you start to analyze books for things other than just their content. Oh my God! I LOVE that font! Where can I get *that* font?! Others in the vicinity will notice that you’ve adopted Gollum’s stance and are stroking a particularly pretty book and… well, you get the idea.

9.| I get insanely excited for my writer friends’ successes. There is nothing I like more than to see my writer friends achieving their goals. I’m not necessarily talking about publication, either. I like seeing them blow past a word count record, tackling and defeating a difficult chapter, getting the guts to query agents. It’s all worth celebrating. I love when someone sends me something to read. It makes me giddy! Which brings me to…

10.| Writers are without a doubt some of the brightest, loveliest, and bravest people on the planet Earth. You offer pieces of yourself up on the page for people to scrutinize. You want to change the world with your ideas. You give encouragement and hope with your words. You create your own worlds and realities and shine light on important subjects. You are amazing.

That’s ten things, of many, I have learned over the past year. Thank you all so much for being the awesome, crazy, amazing, badass people you are.


If you’re interested in getting your own signed copy of Sex, Love, and Technicalities, I am hosting a sweepstakes giveaway on Viral Sweep, and I am SUPER excited! There is no purchase necessaryWIN, but unfortunately it is only open to US residents. There are multiple ways to earn extra entries! I do hope you will enter to win—and share with your friends! (Actually, that’s one way of earning extra entries!) For entry and the full details please see either the ViralSweep site or my website. Thanks in advance!

 

Getting To Know Aila, Tips, Uncategorized

Dream a Good Dream, My Darling

An excerpt from -What Do You Think-- (3)“Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and
safely insane every night of our lives.”
William C. Dement

Where do you get ideas for your stories or poems? Does it come from a snippet of conversation you overheard on the subway between quarreling lovers? The honest expressions of children on the playground? The heart-wrenching recounting of a friend who just found out they have mere months to live?

The truth is, if you look hard enough, you can find inspiration anywhere.

Dreams are but one, but possibly my favorite. I am one of the lucky dreamers who has incredibly vivid dreams. Not lucid. I don’t necessarily feel I have control over them, even when I am aware that I’m in the middle of a dream.

My dreams are also extensively detailed. Sometimes to the point I feel I’m more tired when I wake up than I was when I went to bed because it seems I’ve spent the whole night exploring entire worlds that don’t exist.

I also do not usually have a problem remembering my dreams days, weeks, sometimes even years after I’ve had them. I have recurring dreams and nightmares that have plagued me for decades – luckily I don’t spend many of my waking hours obsessing over them like I did when I was a child.

The basis for No More Champagne came from one of the most vivid dreams I have ever had. I was out of town, alone, and sleeping in the single most awful, terribly uncomfortable bed that any human being has had the extreme displeasure of paying to sleep on. It was my third or fourth night on that “bed,” and I think my subconscious took pity on me and decided if I was going to be physically miserable, I would be thoroughly entertained.

Around four o’clock in the morning, I woke with an idea. The idea grabbed hold of my throat and dug in its claws in the best way possible. I couldn’t shake it. All I really had available to me at the time was my iPhone, and I filled the virtual notepad up with ideas, plot points, characterization notes, potential lines of dialogue – it was crude, but it worked.

As soon as I had access to my laptop, my passion for the project was at a fever pitch and the long-stream-of-consciousness draft was out of my system in twelve days.

On average, it works out to roughly 7,090 words per day, though I know one day my fingers and my brain choreographed flawlessly together and I got just shy of 11,000 words down in a single day.

Dreams work for me.


Here are my tips for getting the most of your dreamy muse:

1.| If you aren’t blessed – or cursed – depending on how you look at it, with the ability to remember dreams in great detail for long periods of time, the tried and true advice of keeping a notebook and pen by your bed is excellent… at the very least make the notepad app on your phone the last app opened so it is automatically on the screen once you unlock your phone. Make sure your thumbs are nimble.

2.| This tip won’t apply to everyone, but, if you need an alarm in the mornings, and you can get away with it, don’t use a jarring beeping sound that sends a surge of adrenaline coursing through your body. If a gentler melody or song is enough to wake you, then it will be much easier for you to wake up and feel the remnants of whatever emotion(s) your dream caused you.

3.| Don’t get bogged down in the details. Jot down only the bare essentials, lest you forget it all. Prominent colors, specific guest appearances, did a smell leave an impression? Write single words down quickly, you can make sense of them later. Something like this:

– Summer
– Fireworks
– Cinnamon
– Fear

That short list could’ve belonged to the dream that inspired No More Champagne, easily. Those keywords can help you remember the minutia later.

4.| Talk about your dream. I am a morning person. I usually wake up in a great mood, ready for the day, excited… I’m that annoying person you hate. My husband is the opposite. The less he has to function in the mornings, the better for him. So, I imagine he isn’t exactly thrilled when I start out the morning with, “Holy crap, I have to tell you about my dream.” (In fact, I know he isn’t. It’s usually met with a grunt or groan signifying that he will not retain anything I say, but won’t tell me to shut up.)

Seriously, though, talk. Talk to your significant other, to your dog (who will listen intently), to your cat (who thinks you should listen to it), or to your own beautiful reflection in the mirror. You’ll go off on tangents, which is fine! Just talk.

5.| Lastly, do not go to bed obsessing over remembering your dream. Go to sleep with as open a mind as possible.


Neat things I’ve heard about dreams:

  • Anyone you see in a dream is someone you’ve met or seen before, no matter how fleeting. This theorizes that our brains cannot actually make up faces.
  • Vitamin B12 taken before bed (dosages vary) can cause crazy intense dreams. (Thanks to Thomas Jast, I wasted spent a couple of hours researching this phenomena.)
  • People who were born blind still dream, only their dreams are auditory.

 

Have you ever been deeply inspired by a dream? Nightmare? If so, care to share? Have you ever heard of certain foods, beverages, supplements enhancing the dream experience?

At any rate, sleep well my lovelies. And sweet dreams.