Lane Diamond

Author, Editor, Publisher, Coach

Category: Editor’s Desk (page 2 of 5)

Are You A Writer Looking for Helpful Writing Tips?

If so, I may have a few articles that you’ll find helpful. Just scroll down a bit and look to the middle column of this page, where it says “CATEGORIES” and has a dropdown box.

In the dropdown, select “Editor’s Desk.” Then just scroll down the list to find articles of interest to you.

As an alternative, you can simply drop a little farther down the center column, where it says “2) WRITE BETTER (ALSO SEARCH “EDITOR’S DESK” CATEGORY).” The titles of the articles there will speak for themselves.

I hope you find plenty of helpful material here. Write on!

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A High Commandment of Effective Writing: Show; Don’t Tell

From the Editor’s Desk:

I’ve been posting articles about how to write better for some time now. Many of them go back to my old freelance editing days, and many of them, I’m afraid, have been lost in the shuffle.

Well, I think it’s time to blow the dust off a few of them, and to make it simple for you to visit (or perhaps re-visit) what I hope you’ll find to be helpful articles.

Let us start with one of the primary commandments of effective writing: Show; Don’t Tell. I’ll link here 3 posts from long ago that might help you grab readers, to provide a more satisfying visual experience.

Remember: Stronger writing makes for stronger reading.

Under the Heading of SHOW, DON’T TELL: Readers Can’t See What Something Is “Not,” They Can Only See What Something “Is”

Under the Heading of SHOW, DON’T TELL: Make Your Characters Blind, Deaf and Dumb

Under the Heading of SHOW, DON’T TELL: With Words as Paint and the Page as Canvas, Paint Us a Picture

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Characters Must Live and Breathe on the Page

From the Editor’s Desk:

I’ve said on many occasions that what brings me to an author time and again is his ability to create characters I just can’t wait to see again. Indeed, I’ll revisit a great book every few years precisely for that reason — because I miss my peeps.

So what is it that makes a certain character, or cast of characters, special? Well, that’s a tough one, and a huge part of the reason we call writing an art and not a science.

The shortest answer, I suppose, is that the character must be “real.” I know… impossible for a fictional character. So let me rephrase: the character must be so well drawn as to appear to be real. We readers have to be able to easily imagine the character jumping off the page and joining us here on planet reality.

Yet that is not such a simple thing. What makes us “real?” Is it our eye color? Our hair color? Our height? Nah. I must say that, as a reader, I rarely care about those kinds of details. Indeed, I often (almost always) prefer to paint my own visual image of what a great character looks like. There are exceptions, of course. For example, imagine A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving, without an explanation of Owen’s physical characteristics. Impossible. Would we appreciate The Hobbit if J.R.R. Tolkien hadn’t bothered to describe them in exquisite detail? Of course not.

Yet those are the exceptions. In most modern-day stories, whether it be YA or Mystery or Horror or Thrillers or Literary, the characters’ physical descriptions will not carry that much weight. What’s even worse is when authors think that by providing those details, they’re meeting their obligation to provide full, rich, real characters. Not so.

Characters come alive on the page when we get to know them intimately, when we can see inside their hearts, their minds. When we know their souls.

Furthermore, the way they interact with one another always tells us a lot about characters, just as such activities tell us a lot about people in real life. We hear often of actors, when a particular film or show works well, that they have that certain something we call “chemistry.” As an author, you want your key interactive characters to have chemistry.

The final key is that you gradually build out your characters, giving us glimpes inside them, via their actions and words as the story unfolds. Don’t just slip in a little narrative telling us a character is intelligent, for example. Blah. Show us through that character’s actions; lead us to the obvious conclusion about her intelligence.

Is another character shy? Show him cowering in a corner at a party, examining a painting on the wall, determined not to face the crowded room. Is another character witty? Don’t just tell us that. Dull. Put some of her wit on display, cracking wise at a social gathering, evoking laughter from those around her.

If your characters live, we will relate to them as readers. We will love them, or hate them, or fear for them, or be happy for them. If your characters are flat and uninspiring, you’re in big trouble.

Allow me to put on my grumpy editor’s snarl: If all you can tell us about a character is that she has red hair and green eyes, then please dig a little deeper into yourself, and then deeper into your character. If all your character’s dialogue is an endless string of cliches we’ve heard a bazillion times, then please pick up a book about how to write great dialogue. If, every mind-numbing time your characters interact, they begin with, “Hey, how you doing?”, then please focus all your energy on your day job. You’re going to need it.

I know. This writing thing is hard. Damn it!

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The Future of Publishing: How to Survive and Prosper as an Author outside the Big 6

Another guy with an opinion about this crazy industry. Yeesh!

[Revised/Reposted from original May 2, 2012 post at www.EvolvedPub.com]

As Publisher and Executive Editor at Evolved Publishing (linked above), I’m regularly asked by folks to weigh in on the state of our industry, so here goes. (Fair warning: you might want take that BRB and freshen up that cup of coffee before you continue.)

I spend a lot of time gazing into my crystal ball, opaque though it may be, to figure out what the future holds for us small fries trying to find our way in the mighty, mighty world of publishing. I’ve been doing that since long before my partner D.T. Conklin and I decided to open up shop as Evolved Publishing. Now, I must keep my finger on the pulse not just for myself, but for the fine and talented authors, editors, and artists who’ve joined our team – 15 authors, 7 editors, 7 artists, and more coming soon in every category. It’s early in our collective effort, but the train is gathering steam.

We offer an alternative to both traditional publishing, often referred to as The Big 6, and the self-publishing option – we offer a hybrid small press model. Since getting picked up by The Big 6 (assuming you would even want to given the current market dynamics) is akin to winning the lottery, I’m going to skip right past them and talk about the “indie” options: self-publishing, or a small press like us.

Self-publishing enjoyed a boost in credibility after the eBook revolution made it easier, even financially attractive, to self-publish rather than pursue traditional methods. Some reputable authors chose the self-pub route with fair success, and soon everyone followed suit. No… really… I mean everyone. Based on the 8.2 trillion blogs to which I subscribe, the comments left there, the social media buzz, and the latest gossip from my neighbor’s poodle, there are now approximately 4.3 billion self-published authors. Okay, maybe it only seems that way.

This David versus Goliath picture does not, as you might expect, represent us (upstart small press publisher) versus them (The Big 6). In fact, I intended it to represent them (self-pubbers) versus them (self-pubbers). Yep, individually, a self-pubber is the underdog, David. Collectively, they are the brute, Goliath.

As thousands upon thousands of self-pubbers flood the book markets with a tsunami of new material, authors and readers alike are shaking their heads and wondering, “What the devil is going on here?”

I’ll confess to something of a love/hate relationship with self-pubbers. I love their entrepreneurial spirit (for those who actually treat it like a business, which it is), their willingness to say, “Go spit!” to the train wreck that is traditional publishing (Hey, this is just me editorializing.), their daring attempt to walk the tightrope from which 99% plummet to their deaths. Yet I hate that such a high percentage of self-pubbers give short shrift to their profession, and publish substandard work.

I particularly love the self-pubbers who do it right: professional editing, professional covers, professional websites, professional self-promotion and marketing. Are you noticing a theme here? Unfortunately, even the professionals, given their self-publishing label, must suffer under the reputation driven mainly by the non-professionals. The early pioneers, and the traditional mid-listers who made the jump, have been able to defeat that reputation to some extent. The John Q. Nobodys lost in the sea of fellow John Q. Nobodys, however, have had less than stellar luck at combating the label.

Indeed, one of the reasons we formed Evolved Publishing in the first place, with an unwavering insistence that Job One = Quality, was that we didn’t want to be lumped in with people taking shortcuts. And let’s face it: a significant percentage of self-pubbers take shortcuts, and the people they probably hurt the most – aside from their selves, of course – are the self-pubbers doing it the right way… professionally.

Well, technically savvy book consumers are starting to figure all this out. They’re getting burned too often by $2.99 offerings, $0.99 offerings, even FREE offerings, and they’re getting frustrated. Yet what is an indie author to do?

The Fads

Well, we’ve learned a bunch in the past year, not the least of which is that last quarter’s brilliant idea is this quarter’s old news – and next quarter’s Dodo Bird.

It has always struck me as ironic that in an industry driven by highly creative individuals, the business aspect of the industry is one giant exercise in, “Hey, let’s do what that guy did.” Someone finds something that works, and then thousands – nay, tens of thousands – of people rush in to do the exact same thing.

We saw it with social media: Want to be a successful author? No worries. Just build a strong social platform and you’ll sell thousands of books.

We saw it with $0.99 pricing: Want to establish yourself as a mover and shaker in this marketplace? No worries. Just price your books at $0.99 and watch your career soar.

We saw it with Amazon’s KDP Select Free Days: Want to develop momentum for your book, and then sell thousands of copies afterward? No worries. Just put your book up for free for a day or two or five, and then watch your paid sales go through the roof. This is the newest fad, of course, and it started fading just four months in.

All of those tools remain viable components in our toolbox, but they no longer provide the “instant sure thing” they once did for some. Indeed, we’re now seeing that today’s big idea fizzles within a few months, overwhelmed by the rush of thousands of people chasing the same pot of gold, only to find that when they finally pursue the end of that rainbow, the sun has set.

Today’s ingenious marketing idea becomes little more than a fad. And fast.

Back to the Basics

Some things become increasingly clear every day:

  1. Quality Catalog: that simple concept drives the train. Without it, indie authors are sunk.
  2. Fads come and go, offering only short-term opportunities, but business fundamentals are forever.
  3. No one strikes it big with one book. Few do it with two books. It’s a long road. This business we call writing is a slow grind – always has been – and it requires hard work, determination, and more than a little perseverance.
  4. Quality Matters: this should be first, second and third on everyone’s list. Staying power requires an absolute commitment to quality.

We all got caught-up in the excitement of the eBook Revolution. We saw numbers by the early pioneers and thought, “Man, I want a piece of that!” Now, that excitement is winding down, people are coming back to reality, and the marketplace is reasserting itself.

Are there sufficient consumers to support 50,000 new authors? No. At least, not if we mean by “support” that authors earn a comfortable living as authors, or even a reasonable part-time income sufficient to the work that goes into it. Already, self-pubbers are seeing their sales numbers dwindle, and are increasingly complaining that they’re losing money, falling back into the old “Vanity Publishing” mode. Even some of the “stars” are experiencing declines of 40-50% during the most recent few months. Yes, summer is a bad season for books sales, but it’s more than that.

Indeed, even long-established pros have suffered the effects, dragged down by the entire market dynamic. The difference for them, of course, is their reputation, ready-made audience, and a staying power self-pubbers don’t have. As more consumers run away from self-pubbers, those old pros will be the first to benefit.

What does it all mean, and how do we counter it?

Frankly, we counter it by doing what we do, and by grinding it out for the long haul. We counter it by becoming those old pros.

Surviving the Mad Rush

The eBook Revolution encouraged a mad rush into the marketplace by newcomers. Hey, now it was easy and cheap – really cheap for those willing to compromise on quality, meaning the majority. The result? Writers first dumped hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands of substandard books into the marketplace, competing for a far-too-finite number of customers, selling for $2.99, then $0.99, and ultimately free, all in a desperate attempt to be that which they always dreamed of becoming: an author.

Yet those who succeed as authors have always been few – the true professionals producing high quality work – and despite the initial excitement of the eBook revolution, this will be true again.

If we are to be successful authors, we must continue to separate ourselves by providing books that aspire to and reach high professional standards. We must continue to write, each producing at least one book per year (two should be your goal, if you plan to do this for a living). We must continue to hone our craft, to learn, to keep our finger on the pulse of the industry we hope will support us. We must be professionals.

Reasonable Expectations

Part of that mad rush, of course, was the expectation that we were all immediately going to start selling thousands of books, making a mint, living the good life as authors. Well, now that we’ve all been dealt a dose of reality, we have an opportunity to take a deep breath, re-examine what we’re doing, and plan for the next positive steps.

Authors who make (net) even $5,000 their first year as authors are rarer than you might like to believe; nonetheless, it’s true even in the traditional publishing industry.

Most authors kick into second gear starting in year two, and then build speed through year three and beyond. This assumes, of course, that said author continues to produce good work. This is nothing new; it’s always been that way. The problem, if we may call it a problem, is that so many thought the eBook Revolution would change that, and bring us our riches more quickly.

Not so. It remains a “process.”

That’s one of the toughest things for writers to settle on: to stop worrying about what book one is doing, and get about the business of writing book two. Then, stop worrying about what book two is doing, and get about the business of writing book three. And so on.

In this age of instant gratification, and where most of us are accustomed to punching a clock or working on a regular salary, knowing precisely what’s coming in the next paycheck, it’s a hard thing to say, “Never mind that. Just get back to work.”

Yet history tells us that until you get book three to market, with each of the three a quality product, you’re probably not going to make a living as a writer. Even then, if you must fight to establish your reputation because of who’s publishing (or not publishing) your books, the odds are against you. It also tells us that when you hit that stride, achieving your “overnight” success, the whole of your catalog will rise at once. In other words, if book three or four is your magic bullet, books one and two will also sell better from that point on. The rising tide carries all boats.

So don’t obsess over the fact that you’re only selling a copy or two a day (or less) of your first book. Obsess over completing your second book, and then your third book, and so on. And those numbers will rise. It’s not magic. It’s just the business.

Investing in Your Field

I tread into this section with a warning: it may sound a bit preachy. Please bear with me.

As authors, we are all businesspeople. There’s no escaping that fact, so we must embrace it. That doesn’t mean you need to invest many thousands of dollars to get your career rolling. Indeed, I have my doubts about the potential payback of huge investments, if they don’t get you to your ultimate goal: quality catalog. No business survives for long that invests $2 in order to gross $1.

However, there are things we can all do that will make a difference in the end, and we should do some of those things sooner rather than later – a quality website, for example, with a blog that offers interesting, funny, poignant, or informative content (all of the above is a dream come true). Do you need a bunch of bells and whistles? Well, that would be nice, but so long as it’s functional, clean and professional, it’ll do. If you can do more, you should.

Learn your craft. This is a profession, like so many others, that requires a continuing education. The moment you stop growing as an author, you start dying as an author. I’ve been studying this crazy craft for 35 years, and every time I learn something new, I realize I have much more to learn. Read about writing; not only for the instruction, but for the motivation. I’ve read some 90 books on the subject, and untold thousands of articles, and any time I feel I’m slipping into a rut, I search for another piece to help pull me out of it. I love these books for the way they re-energize me and kick me in the keester.

My only advice here is that you choose your sources carefully. Just because someone has published a book (let’s face it; anyone can do that nowadays), doesn’t mean they’re an expert. Follow recommendations and trusted sources. Of the thousands of blogs out there, for example, many are valuable, many are confused, and many are just plain wrong. You would do well to start at a place like Writer’s Digest Books. I could also make any number of recommendations, as I do right here at this website (lower right margin of Home page).

Read your genre, of course, but reach beyond that. Stretch your wings and fly through some other genres. Don’t skip the classics. You’ll learn a lot.

There! That wasn’t too preachy, was it? I just wanted to emphasize here that part of being a professional businessperson is keeping your finger on the pulse of your industry, and being an expert in your field. Doctors do it. Lawyers do it. Accountants do it. Well… you’re an Author, so just do it.

The Long Road

The market is undergoing some rather severe adjustments. Frankly, many self-published authors are feeling the terrible squeeze. How do I know? Well, lots of them are blogging and commenting about it, of course, but more than that, several of them have recently inquired about joining Evolved Publishing.

Indeed, we’ve temporarily closed to submissions because we’re growing so fast that we need time to catch up, organizationally. (NOTE: We’ll likely start accepting submissions again in mid-October.) Will all those authors be great fits for us? No, but a few will, and new authors are inquiring with far greater frequency nowadays – most of them the aforementioned previously self-published. Indeed, three of our four most recent author additions fit into that category, and it’s likely that a high percentage of our next several additions will, too.

It’s not surprising, really; after all, we formed Evolved Publishing precisely because we dreaded going down that self-publishing road, fearing where it would lead.

We must all be realistic about the hard work, dedication, and patience required to succeed in this business. Historically, 94% of “published” authors fail and drop out (or resume their day job), and 99.8% of “self-published” authors fail. Even in the face of that, and although it’s impossible to provide guarantees in this business, I remain guardedly optimistic. The marketplace is trying to sort itself out right now, suffering the shock of that tsunami of new authors and books. Over the next year or two, it will find its equilibrium, and authors who’ve developed a strong reputation for quality work, and built their catalog, will be poised to prosper where others fail.

More self-publishers will be dying off over the next couple years, as they fail to make any money, and decide that being a Vanity Publisher isn’t worth the time, energy, money, or heartbreak. I say that not with glee, for I wish sad tidings for no one. I say it merely to indicate what’s happening in the marketplace.

The technological bubble that is the eBook Revolution is about to burst, because, like all economic bubbles before it, it grew too fast, too big, too out of control, and with no regard for natural market forces. It’s already starting. That’s not to say there won’t continue to be excellent opportunities for those who survive. Indeed, I think there will be fantastic opportunities.

First, however, the market must shake off the rapid excesses that have formed. Then consumers will do what they’ve always done: they’ll find the true values, “value” being a variable ratio of quality-to-price (Value = Quality:Price).

Want to survive and prosper on this long road? Then give book buyers the value they demand for their hard-earned entertainment dollars.

We at Evolved Publishing happen to believe that a well-coordinated team is likely to give us a better chance at success than trying to go it on our own. However, even if you choose to be that bold, daring entrepreneur blazing your own trail, just keep your eye on the prize, and remember that you must be the one thing too many in this business fail to be: professional. Then… write! And write some more. And never, NEVER compromise on quality.

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The Problem with First-Person Narratives – Beware the I-Bombs!

As both a reader and an editor, I see more and more first-person narratives these days. It likely has something to do with the old guard – the “gatekeepers” – not influencing as many books, as the indie publishing revolution continues.

Once upon a time, while shopping my manuscript for Forgive Me, Alex around to agents, I encountered a number of agent websites on which they stated flat-out, “No first-person narratives accepted.” Such blanket “rules” frustrated the dickens out of me – right up there with “No prologues” and “No present tense narratives.” Still, in order to satisfy the gods of literature, I set about making my novel a third-person, past tense narrative, as instructed by the literati.

Then, about 100 pages into my manuscript, it occurred to me that much of it was flat, without emotional depth—lacking the impact, the punch in the gut I’d hoped to create. The answer? Simple: Change it to a first-person narrative, and just don’t submit to those agents who posted their dismissive warnings.

However, that decision spawned quite the learning experience, and it has particularly jumped out at me as I’ve been editing more first-person narratives. Indeed, the literary agents’ frustration over such pieces, the thing that clearly caused them to throw their hands up and surrender, and to apply those blanket rules, grew clear as air to me.

Let us call them “I-Bombs.”

Almost every first-person narrative to cross my desk has languished beneath a series of I-bombs: I did this. I went there. I thought this. I felt that. I heard another thing, and I did that other thing. I, I, I, I, I, I, I….

Yikes. Medic!

“I wanted to tell you this story in which I was the star, but…. Enough about me. What do you think about me?”

Yeah, that’s how those stories read: narcissism on parade. When I encounter 45 “I” on the first page, it goes right to the REJECT pile – whether I’m wearing my editor’s hat or my reader’s hat.

You may be asking at this point, “How do I write a first-person narrative and not use ‘I’?” The answer is simple enough: you don’t. The issue is the frequency with which you use “I.” Just as third-person narratives contain a bunch of “he” and “she,” first-person narratives necessarily contain a bunch of “I.” Precisely because of this, you must be vigilant to justify every single “I,” and to seek viable alternatives whenever possible.

Perhaps because we’re more likely to become the character-narrator in a first-person narrative, our minds get stuck in “I”-mode, and we revert to telling how everything affects “I,” rather than showing the story, allowing it to unfold in a series of scenes focused not on “I,” but on the people, places and events surrounding “I.” When you write, “I remember when John said he wanted to kill me,” you’re telling the reader of the character’s experience, rather than allowing the reader to experience it right along with the character-narrator. That shared experience between character and reader is the essence of a great read.

Most first-person narratives, laden with I-bomb after I-bomb, devolve into a telling, boring, look-at-me-world bit of torture that causes many readers to scramble.

My advice? Make your default approach a third-person narrative, and change it only if you decide it just doesn’t work, that it must be a first-person narrative.

Then, remember the primary commandment of effective writing: Show, Don’t Tell. And please, beware the I-bombs.

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Added May 2014: The Problem with First-Person Narratives – Beware the I-Bombs! (Part 2 – Practical Examples).

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The Power of Monologue in Fiction, or “Hey, I Like Talking to My Self”

In a fiction narrative, monologue (often referred to as silent dialogue) can be a great way to get inside a character’s head, and without sharing his thoughts with the other characters in the scene. That’s the key difference between monologue and dialogue: the former is a secret for the readers only, kept from the other characters, whereas the latter is a regular part of the obvious character interactions.

Monologue, like its first cousin dialogue, provides an intimacy for readers that straight narrative simply can’t achieve. I think many writers fail to take full advantage of this tool. I also believe some writers use this tool as if they’re attempting to remove a tangled wire from a kitten’s paw with a sledgehammer.

Like all tools in the Writer’s Toolbox, we must use monologue sparingly, and only where it perfectly suits the task at hand.

As a simple example, a character is in a crowded room, full of old ladies and wee children, where polite discourse is not just expected, but demanded. Then he… oh… drops that sledgehammer (don’t ask; I’m trying to make a point here) on his toe. He wants to curse up a storm at that point, but he grunts and swallows his words, because he has a responsibility to those old ladies and toddlers. Shit! Yep, that simple one-word bit of monologue works quite well, thank you.

Some scenes lend themselves to monologue better than others. In my novel, Forgive Me, Alex, as an example, I have three or four scenes that beg for monologue, those oh-crap-what-do-I-do-now moments where the character must remain silent. I use monologue several times within those scenes. During the rest of the book, monologue appears only occasionally, and only in small clusters, often a single word or sentence.

Allow me to provide an example from my novel of where a single short line of monologue works perfectly:

Oh, that grin. For seventeen years it has taunted me, punished me for my indecision, my incompetence. I missed my chance to kill him in 1978, to remove his damned head—simple, as if cutting a sheet of paper. It would have been a fitting end for a monster.

Why did I let him live?

Like whispers in a storm, those memories only tease at me now, here at this obscene and maddening event. I’m trying not to relive every moment of 1978. Every time I do, I feel as if swimming in quicksand, anchored by my constant companions—sorrow and guilt. I’m too damned tired; can’t shake the confusion, the dread. I fear surrendering to fear.

If you examine that line of monologue above, and how I proceeded into the next paragraph, you’ll see that had I made it simple narrative (a couple different ways to do so), I’d have lost some of the power of that moment.

So take advantage of this great writer’s tool… but take it easy. If you overdo it, you’ll sap the mechanism of its power.

Three things to remember about monologue in your manuscript:

1) Italicize the text, including related punctuation, and don’t use quotation marks to signify monologue.

2) Set up the mechanism early in the book (just once or twice), alerting the reader to the fact that italicized segments represent monologue, and then let it do its own heavy lifting. E.g. Holy crap, I thought, she can’t be serious. I realize this is redundant structure, but again, it’s only to set up the mechanism the first time; at least, that’s my preference.

3) Monologue, like dialogue, occurs in the moment. People talk to their selves in Present Tense, so don’t fall into the trap of writing monologue as if it were straight narrative. Use Past Tense only if the character would do so when talking to his self.

Gosh, I sure hope writers find this article helpful.

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The Proper Use of the Word “Like”

The word “like” is quite possibly the most misused and abused word in the English language. Who amongst us hasn’t heard a teenager toss out a gem like this when speaking?

“Like, have you guys like seen that like totally like amazing movie about like gladiators?”

So what, right? Teenagers have always done their own thing. Where’s the harm?

It’s the old slippery slope argument. When people have heard it used improperly 50 times, 130 times, 42,649 times, they lose track of what’s proper and what’s improper. In the stories that I read online, writers use the word “like” improperly in half or more of the instances. Indeed, I’ve been told by a couple of authors that the like the way “like” sounds better than the proper alternative. Oh boy.

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The following example is not an aberration; it has become the norm: “I stood over him like I was eight feet tall.”

The author uses the word “like” improperly here. The sentence should read: “I stood over him as if I were eight feet tall.”

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Another recent example: “It’s not like I had any choice in the matter.”

The proper version: “It’s not as though I had any choice in the matter.”

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The simple rule is this: “Like” governs nouns and pronouns. When modifying verbs, adverbs, adjectives, etc, replace “like” with “as,” “as if,” or “as though.” If you can’t replace the word “like” in your text with “such as” or “similar to,” you’ve probably used it improperly.

I’ve read more than one article in which the author (specifically an editor or agent) said that the improper use of “like” is one of the first tip-offs that she’s dealing with an amateur, and therefore less likely to be interested.

Two Exceptions:

A)     Narrative dialect or colloquialisms

  1. If you’re using a first-person narrative, for example, you may ascribe to the character-narrator certain colloquialisms and speech mannerisms.
  2. Caution: Be consistent. If the character uses “like” instead of “as if,” he must do so always.

B)     Dialogue

  1. Your character’s speech may not be terribly concise and proper. For example, a teenage character may well blurt out the kind of sentence I highlighted at the start of this blog entry. Once again, if you choose to ascribe such mannerisms to a character, be consistent throughout your piece.

So, like search your document for like every instance of that like nasty word, and like make sure you have it right before like submitting your piece for like publication, like it’s your job or something.

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Every Author Struggles to Find His Voice in the Beginning, and To Keep It Fresh Throughout His Career

John Anthony Allen, an Editor at Evolved Publishing, has offered an interesting article on the development of “voice.”

As authors, we tackle this difficult discovery early in our careers, and we work to keep it fresh and dynamic as our careers progress. In fact, a good editor will help your voice grow as an author. Just be careful to keep it YOUR voice, comfortable and natural to you.

As readers, we seek out authors whose voices we find appealing, and our tastes might well change over time. Mine sure did. What I enjoyed reading 30 years ago doesn’t always appeal to me now, and much of what I read now, and LOVE, I would have scoffed at 30 years ago.

Stop over and check it out: God Bless You, Mr. Prokofiev — and join the conversation there. How has your voice changed over the years?

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From the Editor’s Desk – Mix Up Your Sentence Structure

Most writers suffer from some level of I’m-stuck-in-a-rut-itis, a debilitating disease unique to writers. It’s particularly hideous because it passes from the writer to the reader, but in a different form: oh-my-God-I’m-so-bored-itis. This, in turn, passes back to the writer in a vicious double loop, and the writer then requires emergency surgery—a please-stop-the-bad-reviews-ectomy.

The root cause of this catastrophic cycle is the tendency of writers to settle on one approach to creating a sentence, and employing that approach over and over and over, ad infinitum:

He did this. He did that. Then he did this again. Right after that, he did this other thing. Then he did that again.

Some call this the “Lullaby Effect,” because it goes a little like this:

Rock-a-bye, reader, with the glazed-over look,

When the page turns, on this most boring book.

Her eyes get all droopy, and soon she does snore,

To heck with that writer, she reads him no more.

I often have wicked flashbacks to my military basic training when I encounter books like this:

Hup, two, three, four! Hup, two, three, four!

We writers must mix up the cadence, the rhythm and flow, the basic structure of our sentences. Additionally, we must stretch our vocabulary a bit, as repetitive words compound the problem. However, when we address this issue, we mustn’t replace one problem with another problem. Sadly, many writers do precisely this.

The Wrong Way to Fix It – #1

Most writers approach this problem in the simplest possible way: they trade one bad string of sentences with a different bad string of sentences.

If the sentences that begin with a simple pronoun/verb combination start piling up one after the other, you don’t fix it by simply changing the pronouns to proper nouns.

He went to the store to pick up some milk. He could not imagine starting a day without his customary bowl of cereal. He thought it might be his only good source of fiber; given the rest of his diet. Yes, he was a typical bachelor.

John went to the store to pick up some milk. John could not imagine starting a day without his customary bowl of cereal. John thought it might be his only good source of fiber; given the rest of John’s diet. Yes, John was a typical bachelor.

You just end up with an equally dull, but even heavier, prose. All you’ve done here is trade one problem for another problem.

The Wrong Way to Fix It – #2

You also don’t fix the problem by converting the past participles (typically an “-ed” verb) to present participles (typically an “-ing” verb), and then creating an infinite verb phrase.

Going to the store to pick up some milk, he could not imagine starting a day without his customary bowl of cereal. Thinking it might be his only good source of fiber, given the rest of his diet, he was a typical bachelor.

(For more on why that’s a problem, see THIS article.)

Right Way to Fix It – #1

Mix up your sentences the right way by focusing on the object of a sentence, and treating it as the subject of your sentence, structurally speaking. In other words, in our sample above, focus on the store, or the milk, or the cereal or fiber or…. You get the idea.

The store sat at the corner of Third and Main. He went there to pick up some milk, because even the thought of starting a day without the customary bowl of cereal—his only good source of fiber—made his colon loosen. The rest of John’s diet sucked. Yes, he was a typical bachelor.

We have plenty of other opportunities here, and were we to play around for a while, we could probably come up with twenty good alternatives. The point is simple: stretch yourself. As a writer, you must challenge yourself to keep it fresh and interesting for the reader. Don’t take the easy way out. Don’t fix one problem for the reader by giving her a whole new problem. Don’t fall into the trap of: if I do “x,” I fix it by doing “y.” It’s not that simple.

However, it’s not that hard, either; just requires a little consideration.

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Lane Diamond is once again hanging his “Freelance Editor” shingle.

Yep, because I love working 24 hours per day, I’m once again making room for a select few clients for my freelance editing service. Now that our initial blast of releases is complete for Evolved Publishing, my shingle, which has been down for several months, will hang once again.

My primary interest is in authors still needing some developmental assistance to bring their books to a level at which they are marketable. Frankly, I find this the most rewarding process – good for my heart and soul. There’s just no better feeling than helping writers get to that point where they can legitimately pursue their dreams of becoming published authors.

For more, just click on my EDITING SERVICE page.

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