Still need readers/reviewers. Contact me if you want a free bracelet. Approx $50 value.
I’m good at writing. (Should be a bit better at self-editing, but…) I have an BS in Secondary Education with a teaching minor in English (and one in Social Studies) from the University of Vermont College of Education and Social Services Class of 1983. I took courses in Creative Writing and Expository writing and got top grades. I’ve had pieces published in the Vermont Cynic (UVM student newspaper), Boca Raton News, on NPR (they read one of my letters on the air), the Miami Herald, and was supposed to have a short humorous essay published in the Boston Globe – on September 12, 2001. I’ve written comedy sketches that were performed, short pieces on Dog News Team and two filmed sketches on there, too.
(I just watched them again, and I still think they’re funny)
I’ve also rewritten resumes, edited term papers, edited letters (Yes. People who want to chew out someone else and get results. They come to me. I just sent a nastygram to the Florida Division of Corporations based on the actions of one of their lower level functionaries. And I freakin’ won. 12 years of customer service experience paired with 3 years of legal writing education – I get results).
Bottom line: I have credentials. I can walk the walk. Or write the writing, if you prefer.
I have a couple of tall stacks of books written by friends I’ve made in the indie author world. My intent is to read and review. The blurbs promise stories that should keep me turning pages. The concepts are great: these stories have good bones. (You’re saying to yourself, “I know there’s a ‘but’ in there somewhere” Well, here it comes) The execution…
…leaves a lot to be desired.
This is a 1960 Jaguar convertible. It’s a beautiful car, a sexy car. You can see yourself flying down the Pacific Coast Highway in it (Or cruising A1A out here).
The truism about the Jag back then was you didn’t buy one, you bought two: one to drive and one for parts. If you watched “Mad Men,” you saw Lane Pryce try to commit suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide from his Jag’s exhaust.
He failed. He failed because the car wouldn’t start. And it was a new car.
You can have a great concept for a story, okay? You can dream up a riveting plot with intriguing characters that your audience wants to cheer for. However, you may not know how to effectively execute it. And that’s where you’ll lose readers like me. Bad mechanics, like poor grammar (unless it’s in dialogue. That’s the only place to get a free pass), too many cliches, clumsy foreshadowing, not enough foreshadowing, continuity errors, anachronisms, or just plain being a rehash of someone else’s story that was a runaway bestseller but yours has enough details changed to avoid copyright lawsuits (Don’t get huffy. They exist).
“Well, what do you know?” You hardly sell any books and Gracie Twinkletoes just published her 25th Amazon #1 in Shapeshifter Science Fiction Military Romance! Why should I listen to you?” (Accompanied by a hair toss) It’s a fair cop. If I had to live on the proceeds of my book sales, I’d be dead before finishing this post. In fact, I would have been dead 4 years ago, but that’s beside the point.
Gracie Twinkletoes doesn’t know the difference among (and yes, that is correct because it’s more than two words) your, you’re, and yore. Or two, to, and too. Gracie talks about her characters “laying around” when it’s “lying around.” If you’re “laying around,” you’re putting down something, like pillows, candles, mousetraps, land mines, what have you.
This adage is applicable to writing as well. Okay, let’s go with the clothing analogy because it’s easy to visualize. Let’s imagine we’re all in an office where the dress code is business casual (no jeans, flip flops, or tank tops). What stands out more in this environment: a guy in khakis and a polo shirt or the guy who wears a pressed suit and tie?
Now, there’s nothing wrong with the casually-dressed guy, but in a world of casual dressers, the man who looks prepared to sit down with a CEO gets noticed. It’s why people study the works of Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, Herman Melville, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
I cringe when I read misspelled and ungrammatical Facebook posts by authors and writers (that includes lifestyle bloggers, too). I get angry backlash if I point out the errors, usually along the lines of “It’s only Facebook. So what?”
It’s taking concepts from your head and putting them into words. It’s writing. It’s your craft. It may not be a book, but it’s you practicing your craft. Too many misplaced “yours,” “tos,” “aparts,” or BTW, OMG, LOL become bad habits; bad habits that will creep into the works you want to offer in the market place. Practice is about honing your craft. Practice is about unlearning the bad habits. When you call yourself a writer or an author, ANYTHING you put to paper (or computer screen) is your craft.
I am mediating a panel on “Punctuation and Grammar and Why They Matter” at Indie Book Fest’s Industry Day on September 29th.
Okay, think of it this way: you get only one chance to make a first impression. Why not strive to present the best version of yourself even if it’s just a quick Facebook post about something crazy that happened at the grocery store? You never know who’s reading (like a top editor or literary agent that has entree into the major publishing houses. The ones that offer big advances).
As I’ve tried to read some of the stories in those two tall stacks of books, I’ve wanted to get a red pencil and edit the hell out of them. I’ve wanted to sit down with the writers (outside of a review) and say, “Look, this has the potential to be fantastic, but…,” or “instead of saying this here, say this instead,” or “don’t focus so much on the details unless they’re important later on.” Some of these folks are dear to me, and I don’t know if having a discussion like this will hurt their feelings. Some are selling more books than I am, and to a few, that’s all that matters. Fine.
If you are a writer, whether books, blogs, or essays (which is a blog post), I can help you become a better writer. If you listen to me, we can boost the quality of your work. I am offering my services as a copy editor and content editor. I don’t have a fee schedule yet, but if you submit a sample to me (there’s a contact form on this page. Use it), I will critique it for free. I know my stuff. You will learn something.
So, in conclusion, bring your Jag convertible (or newest manuscript) to me. I can get that baby roaring down the road in no time.