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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Guessing the First 200 Words

It's the end of NaNo. Tomorrow's December with holidays and parties and decorations and stress. Let's take a load off...

...with a random quiz. This one is going to take some time (15 minutes), but it's not as hard as you think.

First 200 Words: To Kill a Mockingbird

A few tips: 
  1. You'd be surprised how many "and" and "the" are going to show up. As well as the other usual words that we use to make sentences make sense. Start there.
  2. You don't have to go in order. Start with the obvious words. And all instances of the same word fill in at the same time.
  3. It reads down in columns, so the first word is in the first box, the second word is below the first word, etc. 
  4. Spelling counts. Capitalization doesn't matter. They fill in the punctuation. 
Good luck. Let me know how you did in the comments.
As for me...

(Full disclosure: I did cheat. A little. If I had the book, I would have cheated a lot.)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Books by Their Covers Quiz

Did everyone have a pleasant Thanksgiving? Since it's Cyber Monday and the end of November (for all you NaNoers out there), I thought I'd keep things easy. How about a little literature quiz?

(c) Scott McLeod

This quiz shows you a book cover, and you have to come up with the title. Some of them should be familiar. Some of them might not be.

Books by Their Covers Quiz

A couple tips: 
  1. You don't have to go in order. If you recognize a cover, just type the title into the typing bar. It'll fill in the correct box for you.
  2. You don't have to worry about "the" or "a". I skipped all sorts of articles, and it still found the correct box. 
  3. No one will know if you cheat... 
Please let me know how you did in the comments. If you want to know how I did, feel free to click on the "spoiler button":

(And no, I didn't cheat. If I cheat, I get 100%.)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Three Writerly Dohs!!

As a writer and blogger, I’ve stumbled down many an alleyway mostly due to naiveté. And chasing squirrels. Lots of squirrels.

I recognize how stooopid they were, those instances of Doh! and I cringe. Of the multitudes of *facepalm*, three big Don'ts stand out. And since most writers have little time to dink around with long posts, here is:

Monumental Advice Number One

Tell no one you are writing/have written a book. If you have a spouse who supports you, it’s okay to tell them (she said grudgingly) but use digression. If he's a talker, well...

By keeping your writing career mum, you will avoid these Questions.
“So where is your book? I keep checking the NYT bestseller list but *insert the snark here* haven’t seen your name." 
“I saw this ad about publishing your own book. They call it a vanity press. Why don’t you use them?” 
“It’s been three months since you finished the book and still not published? Wow. “*insert pitying expression*

Advice Number Two:

Do not disparage agents, agencies, or your fellow authors on your blog. Self-inflicted wounds, i.e. shooting yourself in the foot, lose their charm after the first direct hit. No good can come of offending your potential clients and backers.

Last of the Three For-Heaven’s-Sake-Don’t-Do-This Rules

Posting rejections, the number of queries sent, the extra pages requested might seem like a good idea. But do you really want your followers to see this? Anytime I consider posting my stats, I refer to the Number One and the inclination dies.

Do you have any deep regrets since starting this business? I’d love to hear more from writers who committed the First Mistake, their friends and family’s responses, and how they dealt with them.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Dear “I Hate Grammar!” Writer

Dear “I Hate Grammar!” Writer,

Many writers hate grammar. I used to be one of them. But to write well you have to understand grammar to some extent. In this post, I am providing quick rules, examples, and tips to help you understand some areas of grammar.

Image from Pixabay

1. You and I or You and me?

The quickest way to figure this out is to cut out “You and” from the sentence. Does “I” sound better or does “me?” Whichever one makes more sense is the correct pronoun.

Ex: Where would you like Mary and me to stand?

Sounds good. "Me” is correct.

Now let's look at it this way:

Ex: Where would you like Mary and I to stand?

Sounds bad. “I” is incorrect.

TIP: The POV we are in is always mentioned last. Ex: Mom and I went to the mall.

2. Italic letters or quotations for the names of songs/books/movies/TV shows?

The names of songs and other short works part of a bigger work (chapter titles, names of TV show episodes) are always in quotation marks.

EX: I listened to “Baby One More Time” on repeat.

The names of whole works such as books, movies, and TV shows are italic.

EX: I watched Gone with the Wind last night.

3. Who or whom?

Who – he/she/they

Whom – him/her/them

Ex: The woman who hit my car.

She hit me car. (Who is correct.)

Ex: To whom do I address this letter?

Do I address this letter to him/her/them? (Whom is correct.)

4. When to capitalize titles with names.

Always capitalize titles when they appear with a name.

Ex: President Obama, Queen Elizabeth, Dr. Cristina Yang, Chef Ramsey.

Capitalize titles used as a substitute for a name. When it’s like this, it’s like a nickname.

Ex: I looked at the Chief and knew the criminal got away.
("Chief" is referring to one person and is in place of a name.)

Lowercase the title when the term is used in a general way, not for a specific person.

Ex: The duties of a president are daunting. 

7 Fast Tips:

-       Seasons (summer, autumn, winter, spring) are lowercase.

-       Directions (north, east, south, west) are also lowercase.

-       Use em dashes at the end of dialogue when there’s an abrupt stop, such as when one character cuts off another character’s speech.

-       Use single quotation marks inside double quotations when a character is quoting someone.

-       No question mark for an indirect question.

-       There’s no such word as “alright.” Correct: All right

-       “Already” means it happened in the past. “All ready” means prepared. 

Author of Hurricane Crimes, Seismic Crimes, 30 Seconds Before, and 30 Seconds. Blogger. Reader. Auntie. Vegetarian. Cat Lover.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Dear “Editing is Crap!” Writer

Dear “Editing is Crap!” Writer,

Editing your book can be difficult, especially if you don’t know how to edit. I know writers who hate the task, and others who enjoy it. I actually enjoy it, so I’m going to share some tips and techniques to help you get the job done.

First, download my pdf The Ultimate Editing List. I’ll share a little of what you can find in it, but the full list will really help you make your writing stronger and tighter.

Whenever I edit, I start by using the Find tool in Microsoft to hunt down unnecessary, cluttering, filter words. I input them one at a time, take a look at every sentence with the no-no word, and cut as many of them as I can.

Some of these are: that, just, like, really, very, only.

Once I eliminate these “naughty” words, I do my first of several rounds of editing. I typically do three rounds before I give it to 2-3 beta readers. Then I implement changes based on my beta readers’ notes and go over it once more for good measure.

Image from Flickr

4 Editing Techniques:

1. Print out your manuscript.

Having a tangible form of your book that you can hold and edit by hand is always useful. Buy some red pens and highlighters, punch holes into your manuscript pages, and put them in a binder for accessibility. Read each page, each line. Cut out words, sentences, and whatever else needs to go. Add words and paragraphs of descriptions. Make notes on the side to fix scenes or add more emotion. When you’re done, transport the changes to your Word DOC.

TIP: Reading through the full story after these changes are made is wise.

2. Read backwards.

Start with the final paragraph, read it in its entirety, and work your way up, paragraph by
paragraph. This technique helps you to focus on the sentences rather than the plot. It’s
also a great way for you to focus on the flow of the sentences.

3. Change the font size and color.

Changing the way something looks gives your brain a rest and a way to spot new things. I like to make the font size 16 or 18 and change the color to dark blue, green, or purple.

4. Download your document to your Kindle device.

This can be easily done by emailing the document to yourself, accessing your email on your Kindle, and opening the document to be viewed in your library. This is usually my final form of editing when I feel I’ve edited as much as I could but still want to make sure it’s ready for someone else to view it. I like this technique because I get to see and read my story as a reader would. I can spot inconsistencies, typos, and where I may need to add more emotion.

2 Steps After You Edit Your Book:

1. Get at least two beta readers to take a look and point out any errors and plot holes. 

2. If you are self-publishing, the final and most important step is to hire an editor. Yes, really. Yes, even after you edited it yourself. Look around, research, and get recommendations from other writers. 

You don’t have to do all of these techniques, but picking at least two will really make a difference.

QUESTION: How do you edit your books?

Author of Hurricane Crimes, 30 Seconds, Ghost of Death, and Witch of Death. Blogger. Reader. Auntie. Vegetarian. Cat Lover.

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P.S. Today's post on my blog is 100 Marketing Tips.