Proofreading = Checking = Correcting . . . or Bloopers & Blunders Begone

Let’s continue with the topic of editing, but shift a wee bit.  What about proofreading (or proofing)?  Or copy-editing and line-editing?  There are actually quite a few, but for all intents and purposes, let’s stick to proofing and editing.

Although they’re often used interchangeably, yes my friends, there is a difference.

Proofing basically entails reviewing a completed document to locate and fix typos, grammar and style mistakes—what I jokingly call bloopers and blunders.  The emphasis is on correcting superficial errors in spelling, grammar, composition, punctuation, and formatting.  Think of it as a “quality check”.

Editing includes proofing, but it’s more intensive.  In addition to the above, you’re taking into account how facts and details, and ideas are organized.  Editing isn’t a one-time action, by the way; you really need to edit several times.

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Whether proofing or editing, set aside your work for a while after writing (a half hour, a day, week, or longer if you’re not in a rush).  This allows for “fresh eyes”.  You don’t always see the mistakes when you’re proofing or editing as you’re composing.

Between you and me, I find it best to proof and edit from a printed page.  But that’s l’il ol’ me (I’m still kinda old-school).  Some peeps do fine eyeballing documents on screen.  Whatever works.

I’ve heard it said you should read your work out loud to “hear” the off bits.  I’ve never done that once in my life.  But if you’re new to proofing and editing, it might prove a worthwhile endeavor.

Feel free to use a spell checker, but bear in mind it won’t catch correctly spelled words that have been erroneously utilized.  A simple example: “its” versus “it’s”.

There are also some fantastic on-line proofreaders.  I hear Grammarly is one of the best and you can use certain components for free.  If you plan to use one, do your due diligence and determine which is best for you.

Happy proofing!

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Here a Script, There a Script

Continuing with the theme of scriptwriting, set by a previous post, let’s touch upon a few “must know” / “must do” notes.  The dry yawny stuff.  But totally relevant and required.

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Here are some quick [painless] facts:

Fact:  Scripts/screenplays are typed on 8 ½” X 11” white paper.  Who knew it’s supposed to be 3-holed (obviously not me, LOL).  As I’m assuming you’re simplifying your life by using software like Final Draft, I’ll refrain from margin dimensions and page numbering (zzzzzzz).

Fact:  Courier 12 is the font of choice in the great U.S. of A.  Why?  Interesting enough, it’s all about timing. One script page with this font = 1 minute of on-screen time.

Fact:  The average feature film script is between 95 and 125 pages long, (with an average of 114).  Dramas are generally longer than comedies.

Fact:  Scripts are written in three acts.  (If you’re really curious, go on-line to check the actual number of pages per act in relation to a given genre.)  The first introduces characters and situation(s) and sets up the plot.  The second provides challenges and obstacles, and character development.  The third presents resolution.

Fact:  Action is written in present tense, active voice.  (Tom watches furtively from behind a curtain as Cecilia takes aim.)

This circles back to editing (something I thoroughly enjoy, though there can be some agonizing this-really-needs-to-go moments).  Check for dull dialog, nonsensical actions or reactions, flat characters.  Watch the number of scenes—is each one moving the story/plot forward?  If not, delete it.  You want a clean, crisp script . . . just as you want clean, crisp writing (be it a novel, article, or post).

All the dos and don’ts truly comprise a [big, fat] book.  But if you use scriptwriting software, you’re halfway on your exciting quest.  The rest comes from doing due diligence and practice.  Get feedback, too; don’t be scared to show your work to friends and colleagues.

Happy scriptwriting.

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So You Wanna be a Scriptwriter?

I do.  I sort of am . . . or, rather, I used to be.  (Did a few for an existing company that has yet to make sales.  One day, perhaps.)

I’m actually writing one for a San-Fran based acquaintance.  Hence the post about scriptwriting, a deviation from the intended [continued] one about editing.  And yet, scriptwriting is all about editing, because you must use a limited number of pages to communicate to [effectually] detail action, mood, and dialog.

If you’re thinking of writing a script/screenplay, but are intimidated, don’t be.  There are some great programs out there to help.  I use Final Draft and have dabbled with Celtx.  Both are good and will enable you to conform to required criteria, including rules re physical format.  You can develop a professional-looking script—without breaking into a sweat or tirade.

Assuming we all know what a script entails, the first question will likely be: where to start?  Have a book, idea, story outline ready.  Or, if you’re feeling confident, do it from scratch (something already summarized or sketched makes it a trifle easier, but to each his/her own).

You’re not narrating a tale, but showing it.  A script involves visuals—you are documenting what the viewer is seeing and hearing.

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You want your audience to emphasize with your main character, to be drawn into the plot, to feel as if they are part of the action.  You also want conflict, which is integral to any story, on screen or off.  There should be some sort of struggle, be it physical or mental/emotional.

This is where I’m currently at: creating a logical struggle the protagonist must undergo before evolving into a true hero.  Writing a script is great fun.  It’s challenging, sure, because you do need to write your tale within a set number of pages, but descriptions and details abound.  The sky’s the limit.  You just need to utilize your creative noodle.  How fun is that?!

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Clarity & Verbosity – Friend & Foe

The former’s what you want to achieve and the latter’s what you want to crush—through editing.  Clarity is our friend; we like simplicity and clearness.  Verbosity is our foe; no one cares for longwindedness or wordiness (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz).

The previous post touched upon word usage, so let’s stay on point (to a point).

Editing is a great way to develop as a writer; it sharpens talent.  No matter what you’re writing books, yes, you’ll have to do a few edits.  Or not.  It’s entirely up to you.  An aside: I know someone who refuses to do even one edit.  Sadly, it shows.  “X” wonders why he’s never been able to attract an agent or traditional publisher, given X totally believes he’s an awesome writer.  (Kudos to confidence: reproach to arrogance.)

You’re a committed writer; as such, you’ll edit.  So write, write, write.  Put the finished product away for a while.  A few days at the very least.  Return to it with fresh eyes.  Then edit, edit, edit.

The process truly isn’t as daunting as you may imagine.  Sure, there might be some initial trepidation.  You may even think (with tremulous breath) what if:

  • my writing sucks
  • I can’t do a proper edit
  • I get overwhelmed, and/or
  • find 100 things wrong?

You know what?  You’ll do fine.  Just take your time; rushing is never good unless your aim is to be a contest winner.  If it’s a novel, do it in stages (not all at once).  Cut out unnecessary narrative and superfluous words.  Remove useless [“no value add”] information and passages.

But editing isn’t all about cutting, either.  It’s about adding—providing supplementary descriptions and depictions, or enhancing plot and augmenting information.  Think of yourself as an artist painting a picture (also known as masterpiece).  Which brings us back to . . . yup, clarity.

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Read your work like its creator, not a reader wanting to be entertained or enlightened.  Focus that critical eye—analytically and decisively.

Remember: you’re merely improving what you’ve done, which is already pretty darn good!

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What’s in a Word?

A lot.  Which takes us into a new post about editing, the first of several.

Too many words and you may lose your reader/viewer.  Too few words and writing may seem “static” (dull, stagnant, boring).  How you present ideas through written communication will be based on what you’re offering (fiction or nonfiction) and your audience (who you’re writing for).

Let’s begin with word usage.  Every word has its own nuance and merit.  Here’s a simple example:

  • Bradley said he’d start work on the project next week.
  • Bradley divulged he’d start work on the project next week.
  • Bradley declared he’d start work on the project next week.

The bolded words relate to a form of verbal communication, yet each offers a different spin.  The first one tells us Bradley spoke; the tone isn’t conveyed so maybe he’s sad, angry, or bored out of his mind.  (If we add an adverb—dully, excitedly, sleepily—we have a better idea of what good ol’ Bradley is thinking or feeling.)  The second one suggests something secretive had been going on and our buddy has finally revealed this.  In the third example, Bradley Boy is stating something emphatically—i.e. making an official announcement.

Maybe you’re just starting out as a writer/blogger and you’re still getting a feel for your “voice”.  That’s fine.  It takes time to hone skills, just as it takes time to refine writing.

I love a good thesaurus, but years as a writer and editor have taught me to use it judiciously.  Feel free to utilize one and give thought to the following: 

Tip #1: Don’t throw in synonyms willy-nilly just to “jazz up” your post or writing (you may inadvertently “jam up”).   Tip #2:  Make certain that the synonym is appropriate; check the definition, even if the word is familiar.  Tip #3:  Ensure the synonym is recognizable and applicable to your audience.

Use the right words to correctly convey the message.  Write and edit (polish) accordingly.  Sure, it takes extra time: consider it an investment.  Clear and concise writing sells [much] better than that which is garbled and long-winded.  Trust me on this one—been there, done that (many a time).  Lesson [happily] learned.

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Avoiding the Blog Snooze Factor

Snoozey blogs are a bore.  But keeping them interesting or appealing can prove difficult, regardless of your blog’s focus: to sell, advise/inform, promote, or entertain.

Nobody wants an eye-glazingly boring/bad blog, so let’s give some thought on how to maintain one that’s attention-grabbing.  (And, yes, even if your blog is about the Luna Moth, it could be super fascinating . . . with the right approach.)

When you’d first thought about starting a blog, what [should have] popped into your mind?  Ri-ight.  Your intended audience.  And?  Are you writing for—and attracting—that audience?  If not, consider using tools like Google Analytics to determine whether you’re succeeding.  If you’re not, you may want to rethink your approach.

The first thing I did when setting up a blog was create an “About Me” page.  It’s not a requirement, but if you decide to have one, make it interesting and/or funny, classy and/or silly, and ensure it reflects you.  In fact, why not write one as a tale—about you?

Blogs generally tend to be personal, so you may want to write in first-person.  I love first-person (can’t imagine writing any other way).  It’s an ideal way for readers to get into your head and understand the real you.  If you’re shy, suck it up—sell yourself.  You can do it.

Ensure your writing is clear and crisp.  Going off on tangents, rambling incessantly, adding too many descriptive words (those things called “adjectives”) probably won’t engage your readers much.  You want to embrace—uh, what’s the right word?  Yes!  Simplicity.

Simple = straightforward = uncomplicated = clear-cut.

On that note, also ensure your writing is to the point and not overly long (avoid run-on, mind-fogging sentences).  You want to engage readers, not bore the hell out of them.

Feel free to break up posts, too.  Visuals “pretty up” posts, make them appealing and easier to follow.  Use [judiciously] different fonts, colors, spacing, and bullets.  Too many words chockablock in one post can resemble a giant square or sticky note, and may prompt readers to move on.  Draw attention, pull them in, but don’t go overboard; too many visuals can be as detrimental as none at all.

Never be negative.  I have a tendency to express regret—like that damn mailing list I often mention, the one I just can’t find the time to do (or wrap my head around, if I’m totally honest).  See?  Did it again.  <LOL>  Don’t you do it.  Freely share ideas and feelings and thoughts (in context with your blog).  It’s fine to communicate opinions and emotions; simply take care as to how you sound (and what image you convey).

On the “never be negative” note, make certain not to insult or condemn people, gossip or berate.  Stay factual and objective.  Mind what you share and say.

Be original.  Don’t plagiarize or steal.  You have your focus: stay on point.

Being typo-free is good.  (I’ll readily admit that I’ve caught a few in mine, so slap on hand to me.)

Enough tips for now.  I don’t want to run on and un-interest you.  Next post: editing tips (which lend themselves to keeping our posts all of the above).

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Mystery Writing 101 . . . or . . . What the do I Know about Writing a Mystery?

As a writer of mysteries (The Triple Threat Investigation Agency series), it’s no secret that I’m also a lover of the genre.  Which would go without saying, of course.  But I just did.  <ROTFL>

Nancy Drew, as often stated, was [still is] my heroine.  I first read her when I was eight and was hooked, big-time.  Solving mysteries with her and George and Bess was fun.

It’s still fun, although these days I keep company with more heavyweights.  Having that challenge—just who is the killer?—sends a shiver of anticipation along the spine with every novel cracked open (I like the feel of a real book, sorry Kindle).

So, you’re considering writing one?  That’s good, very good indeed.  But you’re uncertain where to start.  Well, acquainting yourself with the genre should come first, but I’m assuming you’ve got an idea of what the world of whodunits entails.

Let’s consider a few “musts”.

You must introduce your main character(s), the sleuth(s), as soon as possible.  The villain should be presented fairly early on, as well; readers must have an opportunity to pull the baddie(s) into their musings (as they endeavor to solve the mystery).

Make the major crime evident within a reasonable period, such as the first three or four chapters, as you want to create—and prolong—tension and suspense/excitement.  With mysteries, what’s that major crime?  Yup, you got it: murder.

Give the murder careful thought and plausibility.  Maybe there’s only one body, maybe a few.  If there are numerous ones, have the “surge” sound logical.  Sure, there could be a serial killer, a whacko, maybe even more than one killer.  Who doesn’t enjoy the roller-coaster ride of a thrilling serial killer case?  If you intend to write one, ensure that it’s compelling and believable, given the characters and circumstances.

Keep your story twisting and turning, but don’t drag it on forever.  And don’t make the killer(s) obvious.  You want readers to keep solving your challenging mystery, not yawning and heading off to do something more exciting, like garbage disposal or counter cleaning.

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As I always say, do your due diligence.  When you’re writing—creating—make sure to include facts.  This could include details about the murder (perhaps from a forensic or law enforcement angle), description about the state of the body (if you’re writing a cozy, you may want to sugar-coat it and keep intense details/facts to a minimum), states of mind, and so forth.  Present a sense of realism.

Consider writing a mystery like a paint-by-number kit.  You’re completing it in a painstaking manner: every little piece should uniformly connect (“bind”).

Now that you have some food for thought, I’ll let you digest.

We’ll look at how to develop your detective next post.  In the meanwhile, slap on that sleuthing cap and pursue that ever-winding writing/solving trail.

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The Continuity Conundrum

Continuity = Continuousness = Coherency

One of the more difficult things when writing a novel—especially the first time out—is ensuring that everything is consistent and correct.

There’s nothing more funny (and really kinda embarrassing) than having a female protagonist with raven-black eyes in the opening and then sparrow-brown a few chapters later.  Contacts?  Iris transplant?  Methinks not.  We-ell, maybe, if you’re writing sci-fi / fantasy.

It’s fine to write off the cuff.  Not so fine not to do a final edit or two, or three.  Editing helps find flaws and mistakes.  But you know that.  So kudos to you.

And yes (been there!), it’s tough recalling what happened to Susie Creamcheese on page 18, or what she wore.  It may not be even matter.  But if good ol’ Susie spoke with an Arkansan accent, replete with local expressions, and lost it later on, your integrity as a writer could come into question.  Errors happen, sure.  Small ones are usually forgivable.  Glaring ones, not so much.

So, what areas should you be consistent with?

  • characters’ appearances & traits
  • characters’ names (I confess I, too, have mixed them up and/or changed them halfway through, slap on hand to me)
  • facts
  • locations, settings & places
  • seasons & time/timing
  • plot & action, and
  • things (if Susie’s riding a bike in Chapter 5 due to a fear of driving, why is she steering a convertible down the I-90 in Chapter 19?).

If you’re not going to do an outline before you start, that’s fine (some do, some don’t, including yours truly).  What you should do, as advice from one fellow writer to another: keep a scene breakdown and a character rundownNeither need be lengthy.

As I write the Triple Threat Investigation Agency series, I tend to have quite the extensive character rundown.  I’m always adding/updating.  Having both really does help with continuity (trust me on that).  Here’s how you might want to approach them.

Scene breakdown:

  • list chapters and each scene within
  • record major events (Susie and Lee went sailing; Lee fell off the sailboat; a strange surfer rescued Lee)
  • note day, time, and weather
  • have a “to do (later)” box so you remember something needs fixing/adding.

Character rundown:

  • list names, ages, characteristics, traits, likes and dislikes
  • note people and events important in a character’s life that play a part in the plot
  • do up a family history (this doesn’t have to be long, but anything that influences or shapes your characters’ lives should be documented).

Yes, both take extra time, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

Remember:

Continuity = Continuousness = Coherency

= Credibility.

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The Beginnings of E-book Nirvana

Maybe first and foremost let’s decide how to spell that?  Ebook, e-book, or E-Book?  Methinks e-book (coz it works for l’il ol’ me.)

The two main types of publishing—e-book versus traditional—have been touched upon in previous posts.  Now, how about actually writing one?

It’s something you’ve thought and dreamed about, but haven’t yet done.  Check a reason:

  • lassoing time (it’s proven as difficult to snare as a rampaging bull)
  • picking a genre from a cornucopia of possibilities (mystery? romance? western? steampunk?!)
  • deciding between fiction or nonfiction (do I create exploits for crazy characters or advise others on how to construct cuckoo clocks?)
  • settling on a story, plot, and/or focus (huh? uh?)
  • getting <bleeping> started when you’re <bleeping> unsure what to do, and/or
  • other: ____________ (you fill in the blank).

Now that you’ve recognized why you haven’t written one, you can kiss off the reason(s) and move forward, and actually start writing.

Awesome. You’ve got an idea—a tale (or teachings) screaming to be shared!  Go for it.  Put the pedal to the metal, or fingers to the keyboard.  Pen to paper [still] works, too.

Before beginning your chef-d’œuvre, it might be best to determine:

  • where you’re going to write: distractions (pets, kids, partners, coworkers, outdoor views) should be at a minimum, unless you possess superhero skill at blocking out all
  • when you’re going to write; sticking to set schedules is about as easy leaping tall buildings, but figure out the best time of day/night to sit down and then do it.

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If the plan is to write fiction, check out authors writing in your genre.  If it’s nonfiction, research websites and blogs, and authors, centering on the same or similar topic.

Read some e-books in your given genre.  See what’s out there and what’s popular.

Do research before or while you write, or after the first draft (whatever works best for you).  Check facts and stats, settings and locales.  There’s nothing worse than glaring errors (like a famous institution located in the wrong part of town, or a misspelled product or place).

When working on your first draft, try not to worry too much about grammar or typos, logistics or continuity.  Just go with the flow.  Get it all down, then clean up (e-d-i-t).

You may want to do an outline before you start writing.  Some writers do, some (like me) don’t so, again, do what works for you.  You’ll figure it out.

Now, if you’ve got a blog going, consider engaging your viewers and visitors.  Let them know what you’re up to.  Maybe you’d like to request their input?

When that final edit is complete, take a deep breath, and pat yourself [profusely] on the back.  Find an e-publisher and show [off] your baby to the world!

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Landing a Landing Page

Recently, we touched upon setting up a blog.  Now, what about a landing page?  (To be honest, I’d not much considered it until a few articles and “chats” fell into my lap last week.)

What’s a landing page, you may wonder.  It’s a single [unique] web page on your website.  Sometimes called a destination page or lead-capture page, that’s exactly what it does: it leads a visitor or viewer to you, it “captures” his/her attention.  It’s either aimed at the intended promotion of a company, product or service, or to inform a viewer of something.

There are actually two types: Click Through and Lead Generation (the aforementioned lead-capture page).

  • The former encourages a visitor to click through to another page . . . motivating him/her [hopefully] to make a decision about buying something, and then filling that shopping cart.
  • The latter is used to obtain user info, like names and email addresses. Usually, the signer-upper will get something in return—such as regular blog posts, vouchers, discounts, free trials, demos, and gifts (among many other things).

Is a landing page really necessary, you may also wonder.  Yeah, it is . . . if you want to increase your visitor-to-lead conversion rates.  Because, yeah, you want to capture leads!

Leads = data.  Data = insight.  Insight = progress.  Progress = success.

Apparently, they’re fun and easy to use.  I li-ike that, because those familiar with me know I can suck when it comes to anything technical—just ask me about that elusive [much dreamed of] mailing list.  <LMAO>

When you decide to design a landing page, write and create it with one business objective in mind.  What is it you’re trying to “market”?

As I always say, ad nauseam I know, do your due diligence.  There’s tons of information out there on landing pages.  And there are some awesome sites that offer great ideas.

Now, I’m not endorsing these, but if you’re interested in learning about landing pages, here are three sites you may want to visit.

Instapage has reviewed 100 landing pages, and offers pros and cons of why they work (or don’t).  Worth checking out!

https://instapage.com/blog/landing-page-examples

Unbounce has “The Landing Page Conversion Course”.  Find it at:

http://do.thelandingpagecourse.com.

One Page Love (“the ultimate showcase of One Page websites”) has some interesting deals and free templates.  For a nominal fee, you can also get a critique of your “one-pager”.  (I have to confess, I really like the comfy, easy-going feel of this site and may just—once I get my own landing page created—have them take a gander.)

https://onepagelove.com/gallery/landing-page

Happy landings!

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