We Write Creative Writing Workshop: Self-edit Your Way to Publication

WE WRITE! Creative Writing University to Hold Writing Workshop at Monroeville Public Library

WHO: Pittsburgh writers:
     Lee Allen Howard
     Sharon Lippincott
     Monroeville Public Library reference staff
WHAT: WE WRITE! Creative Writing Workshop
WHEN: September 21, 2013 – 9:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
WHERE: Monroeville Public Library
WHY: Writers of all levels learn from experiences of published Pittsburgh Writers and experts
HOW: Registration at library

WE WRITE! Creative Writing University @ Monroeville Public Library will conduct the second in a series of an ongoing series of workshops for writers of all genres and skill levels on Saturday, September 21, at the Monroeville Public Library. This event will feature two Pittsburgh authors: Lee Allen Howard, professional editor and author; and Sharon Lippincott, author of five published books, teacher and layout consultant; and Mark Hudson and Marlene Dean, professional reference librarians at Monroeville Public Library.

In session 1, Self-Editing for Publication, Lee Allen Howard will explain the importance and demonstrate basics of effective self-editing. Structured exercises will reinforce his points.

In session 2, Research Tools for Writers, Mark Hudson and Marlene Dean will demonstrate library and other resources to help writers track down crucial details that breathe life and authenticity into stories of all genres and eras.

In session 3, Make Your Pages Picture Perfect, Sharon Lippincott will demonstrate the basics of page layout, demystifying styles, as well as page setup tools, selecting readable fonts and more.

The event runs from 9:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at Monroeville Public Library, located at 4000 Gateway Campus Blvd. in Monroeville, PA. The cost is $30, which includes lunch. Registration is required, and seating is limited. Register early to ensure your place. Please visit or call the library at 412-372-0500 for further information and to register.

WE WRITE, Sept. 21, 2013


Wordsmithereens: Undangling Your Participles

This post has moved to http://wordsmithereens.net/2013/05/11/undangling-your-participles/.

Wordsmithereens: Cut Unnecessary Details

Wordsmithereens: To Have or Have Not

Treat Your Digital Fiction Like Software

How You Can Constantly Improve Your Indie-Published Work

When traditional publishing ruled, once a book was printed, it was set in stone. That’s why they employed editors and copy editors to improve the story and ferret out all the mistakes: once the book was typeset and thousands of copies printed, it couldn’t be corrected. But we’re in the digital age now.

If you’re an indie author, you’re responsible for everything: the writing, the formatting, the editing, the publishing, and the marketing. It’s hard to guarantee perfection at every step. The good thing is, nothing’s set in stone. In today’s publishing world your books are tantamount to software. If you didn’t get it right the first time, there’s always version 2.0.

At one point I debated whether this was ethical. After my initial release of a book, should I change it? I was still recovering from the bircks-and-mortar bookstore/paper tome/traditional publishing paradigm. Now I think, If you know it needs to be corrected or can be improved, can you ethically not give your readers the best product you’re capable of providing?

If you discover you need to make corrections to a work already published, you can do so and simply upload a new version to your favorite sales portal. Along with the power of having your own digital Gutenberg comes great responsibility.
Digital book 2.0
As a technical writer 25+ years in the software industry, I adhered to this principle in the millions of pages of documentation I wrote and published: If it needs fixed, whatever the reason, fix it and republish ASAP.

Going the extra mile is in your favor. If you get a less than spectacular review and the reader complains about something you can change, do so as quickly as possible to prevent others from jumping on the bandwagon. For instance, if a number of reviewers (precious few nowadays) bitch about how much they hated the ending, REWRITE IT.

Like the in-house Quality Assurance department, your beta readers don’t always catch everything before you publish. Once your work is in the hands of the public, you become Helpdesk and Support Services, fielding complaints and logging issues for product improvement. Your product.

I’m not advocating changing your fiction at the whims of your readership. If you made a decision that you know is right for your story, stick with it. Yet if it concerns some other issue you can rectify, do so. Reminder: it pays to take your time and ensure you’re putting your best out there the first time.

Sure, some readers will always own 1.0. These are the breaks. But some of your readers getting an improved pub is better than all of them getting version 1.0 with all its bugs. It’s just not necessary with digital texts.

Amazon lets you notify readers that a new version is available. I did this once for a classic I had republished because an OCR scanning error turned into a factual error that I didn’t catch. I don’t recommend you do this unless absolutely necessary. Especially with fiction, once it’s read, it’s read.

But if you get a chance to improve your published work—whether it’s to correct typos, smooth out a scene, fill in a plot hole, or post a new cover—by all means, do it. Constant improvement is the professional stepstool to greater sales.

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E-pubber Advice: Review on Your E-reader

When you’re an independent author or self-publisher, you get to wear all the hats and do all the work, so any advantage is a plus. Here’s a terrific tip to help polish your work for e-readers.

You’re in Charge

I’m a big believer in self-editing. Even if you submit your work to a traditional publisher, you can’t count on a quality in-house edit. So it’s up to you.

Reformat for a Fresh Perspective

I write my manuscripts using Microsoft Word with a template I’ve devised especially for fiction, but I do most of my editing on paper. When I get to the point where I’m ready to publish my work (or submit it to an editor), I import my manuscript to Adobe FrameMaker to format it like an actual book. Then I print it again and do another edit.

It’s amazing how changing the format will help you spot improvements to make that you didn’t catch previously.

You don’t need to import your work to another program to take advantage of this trick. Simply make a copy of your manuscript file and either attach another template with different formats, or select all the text and change the font.

E-format for a Fresher Perspective

Now that I’m publishing for e-readers, in addition to reformatting my printouts for editing, I now send my final manuscripts to my Kindle for a last edit. I urge you to do this if you want to give your work the ultimate spit-polish.
Kindle E-reader

You can send a Word file to your Kindle email account, but the file converted and sent to your device may still look like a manuscript, and you don’t want that. I recommend converting your manuscript to a MOBI file (or EPUB for Nook) using a conversion program such as Calibre.

I save my Word manuscript as Filtered HTML, drop the HTML file into Calibre, and then convert it to MOBI. I send the MOBI file to my Kindle email address and then sync my device to download it.

E-dit on Your Device

On my Kindle, I review the manuscript one final time. I’m always surprised at what I find. Things I’ve read a dozen times on paper suddenly stick out like a sore prehensile digit. The need for shorter paragraphs becomes evident.

I use the notes feature to make comments and corrections. When I’m finished, I copy the MyClippings.txt file from my device to my PC and then consult the entries there to search my Word manuscript file, where I make the final corrections.

As I said previously, I urge you to try this out and see what a difference it makes in your published e-books. It’s a step you won’t regret.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with others. And if you have any questions or tips of your own along this line, please leave a comment. Happy e-diting!


The Resurrection of DEATH PERCEPTION

About two weeks ago, I got the idea to revise my Seton Hill University thesis novel, DEATH PERCEPTION. But that created a dilemma for me: revise an old project, or work on a new one? Here’s how I came to my final decision.
Vasnetsov's "Gravedigger"
Since graduating from the Writing Popular Fiction masters program in 2006, I had made several rounds of revisions on the book, a supernatural crime story. I would go through it and make a lot of changes, then I’d bury it again. I never felt it was complete. Certainly not good enough to be published. And frankly I was so sick of it I couldn’t gain any perspective. Am I improving it, or am I making it worse? I could never tell. After its mouldering in the grave for a good three years, I unearthed the manuscript once more, scraped off the decay, and decided to take another look.

I was suprised. Sure, there were a couple chapters that were clinkers, churned out under the pressure of a term deadline nearly a decade ago. But most of it was good. Really good. At one point, I thought, I can’t believe I wrote this

Perhaps my skills and judgment have matured. More so, I think I’ve gained confidence in my abilities. Somewhere during my continuing studies and coming out process, I gained that perspective I needed to be able to judge my own work with a more objective eye.

And I discovered something uncanny. Those frustrating holes in my manuscript that I didn’t know how to fill in past revisions were suddenly waiting like placeholders for knowledge I now possessed. Someday I plan to blog about the prescient and prophetic aspects of fiction writing, but for now I’ll say that not only with THE SIXTH SEED, but also with DEATH PERCEPTION, plot situations that I wrote about years ago have come to pass in my personal life. Let me explain.

DEATH PERCEPTION is about a young man who operates the crematory at the local funeral home. He discovers he has a gift for discerning the cause of death of those he cremates. Not a big deal since they’re already dead. However, when what he discerns differs from what’s on the death certificate, he finds himself in the midst of murderers.

Have I started to cremate the deceased in my spare time? No. (But the onsite research was fascinating!) Yet the abilities my protagonist Kennet Singleton develops—powers I wrote about from pure imagination a decade ago—I am now experiencing in my own life.

My study of spiritualism, mediumship, and healing through the Morris Pratt Institute is providing me with the knowledge I need to fill those holes in my manuscript. And having since experienced psychic phenomena for myself, I’m able to add realism to Kennet’s otherwordly perceptions. (For more about this, see “Visitation from the Summerland” at my other blog, Building the Bridge.)

So how did this create a dilemma for me?

I’ve been planning a new novel, DEAD CEMETERY, working on setting, plot, and characterization in my spare moments the past few months. I’m itching to spend more time on it, but am constrained by my spiritualism schoolwork. When I received the idea (actually, an intuitive prompting) to revise DEATH PERCEPTION, I felt it would only further postpone my work on the new book (which, of course, it is). But once I got into DEATH PERCEPTION, I realized that I might be able to finalize revisions and actually get it published.

RevisionsSo that’s what I decided to do: revise and publish DEATH PERCEPTION so that I will have something to market while I work on DEAD CEMETERY.

With the help of Spirit, I’m learning to spin plates like a real writer. I’ll let you know how it goes.