Unnecessary Words

How does a writer make their writing more dynamic? This is the question every writer wants an answer to…. at least if they want strong writing.

So let’s define the type of writing I’m talking about. I’m not talking about dialog – conversations have their own quirks and breaking the rules is acceptable if it’s purpWoseful. I’m also not talking about academic or formal writing. Fiction writing is different from all those other types of writing.

In fiction writing, we use words which aren’t needed. Are they added to pad the number of words? I think they’re added because it’s easier to write using them. Here are a few of them:

That

Often we use this in place of other words like who or which. The way to know which word to use is by looking at the clause (huh? what comes after it) it’s attached to. The bike, which is red, has a flat tire. Should which be that? It depends. If there are multiple bikes and the color defines the bike you refer to, you use ‘that’ and there would be no commas. If the color is just additional information, you use which and commas.

When it comes to who, who is used when people are involved. That can refer to people, animals, groups, or things. If people are involved you use who. Now this is English so it’s messed up – when it comes to groups you use either who or that.

There are times when you don’t need that but it’s put in because it “sounds” better. Most often the ‘that’ is not needed. Here’s two examples from Owl Purdue

Wordy: I received your inquiry that you wrote about tennis rackets yesterday, and read it thoroughly. Yes, we do have. . .

Concise: I received your inquiry about tennis rackets yesterday. Yes, we do have. . .

I’ve done a lot of editing and most authors overuse the word ‘that’. Part of the reason for it is because we use it speaking.

Passive voice vs Active voice

I know I’ve talked about this before but here’s a quick review of the topic. Passive voice slows down your pace and is an indirect way of describing something

Passive Voice

The boy was bitten by the dog

Active Voice

The dog bit the boy

In the passive voice sentence the verb includes a be verb (am is are was were are been – per Perdue Owl.

Now in an action scene passive voice slows down the action.

Passive – The boy was chased by the dog he teased.

Active – The dog chased the boy who teased him.

Overused words

Now you can google and see which words the powers that be say are overused. But slow down your reading of the book and analyze what you overuse. That is one for almost every author. But there are others.

In my early writing everything was done quickly. Apparently my characters did all their action fast. I’ve found other words and also stopped making my characters rush.

But I have a list of words I know I overuse.

How do I eradicate them? I search for each one and highlight them. When I do my read throughs, I look at each highlight and try to get rid of it – especially when there’s a paragraph full of them.

Now I never get rid of all these words – and I don’t want to. Sometimes passive voice is good, sometimes you need That or other words like it. The point is to look at these things and see if the alternate is stronger than what you have.

Morgan Worth, Editor, Beta Reader, Proofreader

Morgan and I bumped into each other on social media. Since she offers services for beta reading and proofreading I thought it would be wonderful to have a description of what these two things are and how they work if you hire someone.

Tell us a little about yourself

I get paid to read books! I am a freelance beta reader, proofreader, and editor.

What is your background for being a beta reader and proofreader?

I have a B.A. in English, and I minored in Printing and Publishing Arts. That minor heavily emphasized editing techniques. Just as importantly, I’ve been a devourer of books for as long as I can remember! I love words and stories and I’m fascinated with how they work. I have also been teaching for eighteen years, so I’ve read and curated books for kids and teens of all ages and I have lots of experience evaluating writing and giving constructive criticism.

Please explain what a beta reader does?  

A beta reader reads a manuscript before it’s published, and usually before it goes through any editing. Beta readers provide feedback from a reader’s perspective. Many authors exchange manuscripts with other authors or try to recruit readers to give them feedback. Sometimes this works out great, but often other writers are busy and have a hard time getting to critiquing someone else’s book right away. Readers are often busy, too, and they tend to have a hard time giving the kind of detailed, honest feedback that a writer can use to make her book better.

As a beta reader, I read unpublished manuscripts just as a reader would, but as I go, I make notes of my thoughts. What do I think is going to happen next? What made me laugh out loud? What grossed me out or confused me? Then, I look at the book as a professional, with a critical eye. I consider the intended audience and genre expectations, and I give constructive feedback on the book as a whole.

And a proofreader 

Proofreaders find errors after the copyediting process. Sometimes when the author makes changes called for by the copyeditor, she accidentally introduces mistakes such as duplicate words or misspellings. Suggesting changes to sentence structure, pointing out passages that lack clarity, addressing widespread punctuation and grammar issues, etc. are beyond the scope of proofreading. This is copyediting, a much more time-consuming task.

Do you have genres you prefer?  Or ones you won’t work in?

I’m always thrilled when I get my hands on a cozy mystery! I read a wide range of genres, and fantasy is another one of my favorites. I also enjoy sweet romance and historical romance. Those who write for kids and teens will be happy to know that I have experience with the unique characteristics of kidlit and YA and am also currently working with kids on a regular basis.

I’m not the right reader for erotica, erotic romance, steamy romance, or horror. I’ve just never gravitated toward them and I wouldn’t be able to give good feedback.

What’s the number one thing you hate to see in a manuscript?

Preaching! I’ve spent many hours with manuscripts that were all message and no plot. The author had something to say, and she was so focused on saying it that she forgot to tell a story. No matter what your philosophy is, the best way to convey it is through a great story. The story must come first!

What is something which has totally taken you by surprise when reading?

I’ve been surprised by many fun plot twists, but I won’t give those away here. I’ve also had a few experiences with books that suddenly changed in tone halfway through. That’s a much less pleasant surprise!

What can authors do to better prepare their manuscripts for a beta or proofreader?

Study your craft. Sure, you’re hiring a professional, but how will you know whether she did a good job if you don’t know how to use an apostrophe with a plural possessive or if you’re not a reader yourself?

When hiring a beta reader, it’s okay to leave spelling and punctuation errors unchecked, but the manuscript should be clean enough that a reader can make sense of it. If you’re hiring a proofreader, remember that her job is to catch mistakes that remain after copyediting has already taken place. In general, the better shape your manuscript is in, the more the pros can help you put a finer polish on it.

What format do you prefer?

I prefer using track changes in Microsoft Word, but I can work with PDF as well.

What advice do you have for authors?

Read! Read widely, and read in your genre. I believe that most writers absorb some of the elements that make up a strong plot and compelling characters as well as genre expectations if they read a lot. Your experience as a reader is what gives you that gut feeling that something is off with a certain part of your story. Sure, it often takes someone else (such as a beta reader) to reaffirm those suspicions, but the more your writerly senses are honed, the better your manuscript will be to begin with, and the better able you’ll be to consider that feedback and decide whether or not it’s on point.

Links to find Morgan Worth

Please visit my website for more details on my rates and how to hire me! http://www.mybetareader.com

I also have a Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/MyBetaReader

A Fresh Pair of Eyes

Barbara Ardinger is an editor I’ve used and trust. When I edit, she’s my go to person for questions because of her background and her extensive knowledge. I asked her to share some of her knowledge in a post. Here is one snippet of what she does.

Trying to finish your book or magazine article?

And you’re tired of staring at that blank screen?

Let Me Be Your Editor

When you ask me to be your editor, how can I help you? I’ve been working with smart people like you since the turn of the century. These are smart people who often have good ideas, but they are not (alas) very good writers. I’ve helped nearly all of them succeed.

I’ve edited more than 300 manuscripts. Most of these were for authors going to literary agents or to small, vanity, or on-demand presses. Nonfiction projects include memoirs and biographies, mind/body/spirit (mostly mainstream metaphysics and a lot of New Age), holistic health, science and technology, political tracts, business topics, Calvinist and Islamic theology and history, and ghost hunting. This is one reason I love my job! I learn something new with everything I edit. Fiction includes romance, action-adventure, science fiction, western, mystery, historical, speculative, noir, and horror novels. Other projects I’ve edited include screenplays (film and TV), children’s books, academic discourse (textbooks, doctoral and master’s theses in the U.S. and the UK), website text, and poetry. (Because poetry is so personal, I edit it very carefully.) I have also taught university classes in writing and public speaking and worked as a technical writer/editor in five different industries. And I earned my Ph.D. in English with straight A’s, which means I know what I’m talking about.

I can help you, too! As your editor, I’ll look at what you wrote with fresh eyes. I can improve your spelling, grammar, punctuation, English usage, sentence structure, and word choice. I know what “gooder English” is. I know how to punctuate dialogue. I know how to help you not write Tom Swifties or make other common errors like purple prose and just plain wrong words—like “a house built of troglodyte” (look it up)—that often lead to unintended humor and may inspire your reader to throw your book across the room. I know how to call out unsupported generalizations and lame exaggeration. I know about history and can correct cultural misconceptions. I also do a lot of fact-checking as I edit. What does this kind of work on my part add up to? You’re less likely to embarrass yourself in print. Together, we can also brainstorm for ideas and structure and then outline your chapters. I’ll help you prewrite, write, and rewrite. And I’ll hold your hand till the very end.

Why “fresh eyes” can help you. Because my fresh eyes have not seen the same sentences umpteen times, they read what is really there, not what is remembered or expected of what you thought you wrote. Fresh eyes catch simple, stupid mistakes that weary eyes swan right over. Fresh eyes see leaps of logic where weary eyes have blinked.

Yes, I’ll be your fresh eyes. That means I’ll see the details you miss simply because you wrote the sentences and paragraphs and think you already know what they say. In other words, I’m likely to catch things you and your spouse and your friends and your critique group missed and correct those often dumb mistakes for you. Especially if what you wrote is not quite what you intended. As I am forever telling my authors—most of whom become my friends—it’s important to remember that our readers don’t live in our heads with us. We have to show them stuff. We need to remember that clarity is everything.

That’s my goal: to help every author I work with write more clearly and more meaningfully.

Send me an email now or call me, and we’ll talk about your ideas and ways I can help you manifest your good ideas on paper……….or at least on your screen. Cheers!

Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D.

www.barbaraardinger.com

bawriting@earthlink.net

Barbara.ardinger@gmail.com

And you can find some of my books on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&index=blended&keywords=barbara%20ardinger

Unexpected Blessings

Normally I am really focused on writing, crocheting, and my day job.  I’ve not been soliciting for editing or freelance work.  This summer I’ve been working really hard to get my books noticed more and to draw in more readers. 

While the insanity of creating a new cover, updating my website, working on my blurbs and so on… new opportunities presented themselves.  I thought about turning down an editing job but bills… they exist and I’m not independently wealthy.  After the editing job, some freelance work came up. 

Digging in, juggling lots of different projects, I signed up for the freelance work too.  This means the last week or so has been stupidly busy and will probably be for the next week (roughly). 

The nice thing – the money and the work.  I love the editing I’m doing.  It reminds me of how important it is and keeps me on my toes for my own writing.  The freelance stuff I’m doing is complex and exhausting but at the same time I like the demand and the stretch it makes me do. 

Long story short, I’m hoping by the time I’m done with both, I’ll be able to pay for the new pantry we are having built and pay off a couple medical bills. 

The new pantry is a necessity for my sanity.  Our kitchen is small but my people like kitchen stuff.  My daughter loves to bake and cook.  Currently we have little storage which means our counters and table are constantly cluttered.  But with the bigger pantry (going from 6″ to 20″ shelves) we will have room for the gadgets to get off the counter and still be accessible without being shoved in the hall closet, living room cabinet, or basement. 

This last week I’ve felt stressed and overwhelmed but at the same time I’m working towards a goal.  The freelance is limited in time and will go so that will ease my work load.  Over the weekend I worked on freelance stuff, editing, and created two patterns which I submitted to the magazine for publication.  (Fingers crossed)

Part of the issue, I want to update covers, blurbs, and do another edit on some of my novels.  In reality it will probably be all of them but it will have to be over time as money is an issue.  I’m butting up against – I want to write and crochet but at the same time I want to take the time to improve the products I have out there.  It’s a lot of work.  It’s a lot of energy.  Of course I want it all done NOW so I need to remind myself it can’t all happen at once.  Prioritize and work on it bit by bit – right?  Yes but in my head my inner voice is saying – get it done NOW!  Apparently I have high expectations of myself. 

I’m grateful for the outside work.  It has come at the right time and in the right way.  I’m appreciative of the added funds so I can get bills paid and things better in my house. 

Back at the Grindstone

With nine days off, you would think I got a lot accomplished.  I did when it comes to spending time with my girls but off my to-do list?  Not so much.

I got 70 stars made but I need to get 30 more done.  I’d like to get them done sooner rather than later.  But it wasn’t this past weekend.  I guess I’ll take them to work with me so I can work on them during my lunch hour.

I still have a shawl to do and I have an idea on how I want to do it but I have to see how I think it will work out.  Part of me is itching to get these two projects off my list.  I know I have two more right on the heels of it which are both started.

The good thing is I got edits on the computer for the next Wayfarer book but I didn’t get the second Wild Magic book edited.  That stays in my bag to work on.

Oh and if that isn’t enough, the girls brought home this fun, addicting game called Ticket to Ride – which is about building trains on all sorts of maps.  We found out there’s a version of it I can have on my phone.  This is a mistake but it’s on my phone.  Oh my goodness – I can’t stop playing.  Saturday night I stayed up till 1 in the morning playing it and I didn’t notice time passing.  I’m going to have to be firm with myself because I have too many other things to do.

On Facebook I’ve been seeing snippets from JD Robb’s books.  It made me want to read them.  I got through the first three in no time.  I’ve got a Dragon book I’m reading too.  I like the premise of the dragon books (and who doesn’t love dragons?) but there is a touch too much repetition for me.  There are 64 chapters in the book I’m reading but they are short chapters.  I’m sort of interested but it doesn’t hold my attention.  I’ll get through it eventually and I’m hoping there’s a tipping point where I get enthralled in the story to the point where I can’t put it down but I’m not holding my breath.  On the JD Robb books, I’m not sure whether I’m going to reread the whole series (she has a new one coming put in September) or not but I thoroughly enjoyed the ones I’ve read so far.  I’m also reading a review book.  I need to struggle my way through the end of it and write the review.  Then I have two or three more to read for reviews.  I hope they are better than I expect.

On a Roll

The words flow from me and I’m working hard on a number of projects.  I finished and published Wayfarer Evolution.  I’ve got other manuscripts edited and I’m hoping to get them on the computer soon.  In the meanwhile, I’ve started – or restarted – this story I’ve had in my slush pile.  I’m 55K into the manuscript.  

Over the weekend, I wrote 21K words to pull the story along.  I can see later scenes and see how the story will unfold.  I’m not sure on the climactic scene yet or if this will be a series.  I am sure I like the story.
All week I’ve been adding to this story by leaps and bounds.  Tonight I crept along rather than leaping.  I stopped at one point because I wasn’t sure where the story was going.  I came home and normally I’m opening my computer and shooing the people away.  Tonight it was more – okay I can write.  
The problem – I still wasn’t sure how the scene was going to go.  Instead of leaping into it, I opted to go back and read through the story.  I updated my character list as I had missed some.  I corrected misspelling, grammar, typographical errors and so on.  
I got to the end and I still wasn’t sure but I started writing.  Every other night I could tell you I added 3K or 4K or whatever to the story.  Tonight I added about 1500.  I aim for a minimum of 50K and I’m past that.  Now I’m going to write till the end of the story.  If I’m any judge, I’ll probably end up with 15 – 20 K more.  If I write this weekend, it is probably the amount of work I can get done in the weekend.  However, I never know where the characters will take me.
This is the time I want three or four of me to be able to do all the tasks I need to do.  Some of my other tasks are creating patterns to submit to the magazine which pays for them; editing; publishing; marketing as I’ve been adding my books and patterns to Mogul, Ravelry (just patterns), and Pinterest.  I should be putting out review requests but I am struggling at this point because I feel like I’m not getting enough writing time.  
I keep reminding myself I can only do what I can do.  I’m hoping I’ll keep this juggling act going and get it all done.  It’s June and I have to think about the goody bags and the basket for the raffle.  I may have to edit tasks to get everything done.  
It’s my hope I can keep moving forward and not get stressed by the long to do list which is rattling through my head.  I keep reading the list and crossing things off.  One thing at a time – it’s the only way.  

Crossing Off

Last night I wrote until 2 am.  You would think I would be able to sleep in.  Nope, eyes popped open early and while I attempted to sleep some more, I only dozed.  I was still up by 7:30.  I was determined to get things done today.

I tackled my desk.  I organized paperwork by filing a bunch and stacking in a pile more.  This pile I have to figure out a solution for.  I’m handling all of my mother’s paperwork so I need to figure out where I’ll keep it.  I have it in my top drawer in the file cabinet next to me but the drawer is full.  It’s difficult to put more in there.  I’m going to have to figure out where to go with it so it remains convenient.

I paid her bills, ordered items she needs, and sent a text to my sisters to ask them to check her stock when they visit.  I’ve been a bad (ish?) daughter as I haven’t visited her.  It started six weeks ago with laryngitis, shifted to a kidney stone (not contagious but I was in too much pain), flu and now upper respiratory crud.  I’m toxic and am not visiting my mother.

I worked on my bills, sales info and facebook for writing discussions on this new group I’m on.  I wrote two book reviews and sent them to the person who requested them.  I wrote a blog posting for Witches & Pagans.  I updated my sales spreadsheet.

My daughter made lunch so I had lunch with Ken and Vicki.  It was nice to put my feet up and kick back for an hour though my eyes thought they should close and my brain thought it should sleep.  I made it stay awake.  I put the dirty clothes down the laundry chute so Vicki can do laundry.

Then I tackled posting eight crochet patterns on Ravelry.  I’m writing this blog and then I get to go back to the story I was working on last night until 2 am.  I’m hoping the flow continues as it was working nicely.

My list got handled!  I got a lot done and as I read this I think I deserve a nap… nap or writing… hmmm I’ll have to see if the writing goes well.

Now I still have a long list of crocheting, writing, editing, and other things to get done.  I’m trying to savor the moment.  I got to throw out two post its!

Tomorrow will be prep for breakfast and lunches and then back to my list – I hope.  I’m going to try to take it easy tomorrow and see what mischief I get up to.

Comedy of Errors

Last night I decided I was going to write.  Several people have been bugging me for the next installment in the Wayfarer series and I’ve been working on the novel but it isn’t flowing easily.  This  happens sometimes.  My normal response is to wait it out because when it isn’t flowing, I need to go with the flow.

I opened my laptop which I use in the living room.  It’s a lightweight both in programming and in physical being.  It took forever.  I figured it might as I hadn’t turned it on recently.  I played on my phone and did other things while I waited for it to grind through all the things it needed to do.  Updates, loading, opening, and all of that took at least half an hour.

My sister started a class and had a paper due yesterday.  She wanted me to edit it for her.  I told her to call me because I was writing.  If you don’t know a writer, let me explain.  When I’m writing, I don’t pay attention to anything.  I will forget to shower, eat, dress, answer my phone.  About the only thing which gets through to me (in a good writing session) is my phone ringing because it isn’t just a noise.  Fortunately, my sister gets this.

When she got her paper done, she called me.  I said no prob, I’ll switch over.  I did.  I opened my email and tried to download her paper.  My computer would not do it.  I’ve done a number of editing tasks on this computer including downloading papers from my email before.  Yet this time, I could not get the paper to open.

After a frustrating fifteen minutes, I shut everything down on that laptop and moved to my office.  Now I don’t like to sit at my desk at night because my legs hurt when I sit at the computer too long.  However, she needed this paper edited.

Fortunately, I was able to download and edit the paper for her and send it back.  I went back to my recliner and tried my computer again.  As long as I was only working in Word and Excel it seemed to be fine.

I kept scrolling through this section trying to figure out how to make the chapter shorter.  I couldn’t.  It frustrates me because I don’t like such long chapters.  After a frustrating time skimming through, I decided I’d work on writing.  I got a small amount of writing done but suddenly I was so tired, I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  Opting to be responsible, I shut down (I’m hoping the computer will be better tonight when I open it) and prep for bed.

By the time I got ready for bed, I was awake.  This happens to me a lot.  I try to do a lot of my prep stuff early so when I get tired, I can just go to bed.  Not last night.  I ended up playing on my phone for an hour before I got sleepy again.  It wasn’t a bad night but it wasn’t stellar either.

Projects – Done and To Do

This week I’ve finished the scarves and the afghan for my student workers’ graduation gifts.  I’ve given one gift which is why I’m posting the two pictures.  For the afghan, I need to take pictures.  I plan to publish four of the scarf patterns and the afghan pattern.  This adds to my list of crochet patterns to publish.  I have a bandanna, log cabin afghan, and set of headbands to publish.  

The collar or cowl scarf shown on the left turned out gorgeous.  I’m really proud of it because it was outside my normal and preferred type of project.  The smaller yarn and projects like this are hard on my hands but it was worth it to do and redo some of the stitching.  The other scarves turned out excellent and I’m excited to publish the four new ones.  The necklace type scarf I love making.  It uses up small bits of yarn but is stunning and versatile.  
Tonight I’ll be working on dish towels and dish cloths to make for someone who is helping me out this weekend.  After I get those done, I’ll be back on my other projects.  Currently I have bibs for a former co-worker of Vicki’s, a skirt, a couple of afghans, and a few smaller projects which aren’t designated for anyone yet.  
This weekend Ken goes off to Atlanta for twelve days.  I know he’s excited to visit the girls down there.  It will give him a nice break from work and our messy house.  
Vicki and I plan to play a bit on Saturday.  Sunday we will have help with getting things organized and settled.  Next weekend will be busy with working on the house as well.  
However, I’m taking off work on the 11th and hoping to get some writing stuff done – like publishing patterns.  I’ll have two days with no one in the house so I plan to get up and work on anything I have for writing – publishing, writing, marketing, editing.  I have a number of projects in the works so I want to make progress on them.  
Ken may be gone for twelve days but it will be a busy time for Vicki and I.  Hopefully by the time he comes home, the house is better organized.  I’m hoping this will lower everyone’s stress levels.

A Compliment

I know I’m a good writer and editor.  While my books aren’t perfect, I know I tell a good story.  However, there are days when I feel like I can’t do anything right.

Writing is a tough job which requires dedication, concentration, and perseverance.  One of the things I struggle with daily for writing is marketing my books.  Really I need reviews – lots and lots of reviews.  Preferably positive reviews but always HONEST reviews.

On a regular basis, I send out requests for people to read my books and provide a review.  I send a lot of these emails.  I feel lucky if I get one or two responses to the emails and thrilled if I actually get a review.

I won’t say who but I got an email from a reviewer recently.  I’m always apprehensive about these emails – did they like my stuff; did they hate it?  Will they write a review?  Are they going to say what was I thinking?

I read this email – well written, professional but not giving an indication of how the review was going to go.  Each word holds me enthralled as I hope for a good review.

I’ve written reviews.  I’ve worked with publishers who want you to be snarky, harsh, and even mean (though I draw the line there unless it’s a really bad book).  I get the requirements and expectations.

I read this email.  It may sound dramatic but my heart in my throat and at the end of it, the reviewer says, “you’re a great poet, but you already know that”.

I hope I am.  I dream of being one but …  to hear someone else, a complete stranger say that to me.  In the moment, it made my day.  It was a small sentence which carried big impact.  I still have no idea of what the review says – can’t wait to read it.  But that small compliment lifted me from my cranky self to a place which reminded me I was on the right track.  Thank you to the reviewer.