NaNoWriMo (yawn, stretch)

Hey Folks,

A friend sent me some information re the upcoming NaNoWriMo annual “challenge.”

In case you’re interested, the link is Tips for Surviving the Agony and Ecstasy of NaNoWriMo. There, I’ve done my civic duty. Now I can play a bit.

Okay, first, how about that title, eh? I mean, seriously, “The Agony and Ecstasy”? Does that evoke a picture of a poor, beleagured, suffering-for-his-art writer with one forearm flung dramatically across his forehead or what? (grin)

I’m joking. Really. I don’t knock anyone who does NaNoWriMo. I know a few writers I respect a great deal who take part every year. (One is Sam, one is Ann and one is Dawn. There are probably others, and that’s fine.)

My friend also mentioned that NaNoWriMo is very similar to WITD (Writing Into the Dark).

Well, sorry, but it isn’t. The only way it even approximates WITD is that there are words involved.

WITD practicitoners strive to write clean copy the first time through (including cycling while in creative mind). I’m not even saying WITD is “better,” but it is definitely different. These things aren’t even cousins, unless they’re very distant cousins.

NaNoWriMo participants aren’t called upon to create anything of value. They’re called upon to put down 50,000 consecutive words in a month (about 1667 words per day) with the premeditated intention of going back to “fix” it sometime in the future.

I suspect that’s because it’s loosely tied to (and therefore encourages) the harmful notion that it takes much longer than a month to write a quality 50,000 word novel. (And where’d they come up with that arbitrary 50,000 words?)

For that reason alone, I personally don’t see NaNo as a valid challenge. It’s designed to get the participants started, and then they have eleven months to “clean up” what they wrote before the next NaNo begins.

To me, that’s a lot of silly extra work. And chances are the cleanup will do more harm to the novel than good.

Still, that NaNoWriMo “gets people started” might be the one good thing about it.

Then again, what’s wrong with simply not writing if you don’t have the driving desire to write?

The answer is, Nothing.

And how much is the world harmed if people don’t write because they don’t have that driving desire?

The answer is, About as much as it’s harmed (or helped) when an actual writer finishes a novel and moves on to the next one. Not at all.

Now I DO like the goal aspect of NaNo.

But again, there’s a downside. Realistically, anyone could do the same thing in any given month.

Yeah, I know November is National Novel Writing Month (hence NaNoWriMo), but so what? It could as easily have been any of the other months. Or all of them.

I mean, what’s to keep NaNo participants from setting a goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in ANY month? Or, for that matter, EVERY month?

For example, my goal for this calendar year remains 12 finished, published novels. The difference is that I’ll write each novel cleanly the first time through, then let it go (WITD).

So why not do it in conjunction with NaNoWriMo, report my numbers, etc?

Because when I do it on my own (again, just my preference), I don’t have to hear other voices spouting nonsense about writing rough first drafts, etc. (Some — not all, but some — even advocate “free writing” during NaNo: intentionally not giving a thought to capitalization, punctuation, etc. in favor of speed.)

What would really impress me is to see someone other than Dean Wesley Smith (even me) make it through JaNoWriMo, FebNoWriMo, MarNoWriMo, ApNoWriMo, MarNoWriMo, JuNoWriMo, JulNoWriMo, AugNoWriMo, SepNoWriMo, OcNoWriMo, NovNoWriMo, and DecNoWriMo with a published novel to show for each session. 🙂

Anyway, I’ve already blown my chance at that one with no novels finished in February, March and September of this year. But my goal for next year is already set: at least one completed novel per month and fifteen on the year. (grin)

And if anyone cares to join me in any given month, just holler.

‘Til next time, happy writing!
Harvey

If you’d like to see my own unfolding numbers, short stories, novels and process plus tons of writing tips, check out my Daily Journal.

And when you’re finished with NaNoWriMo (or any other time), if you need a good copyeditor, check out my Copyediting Service.

S-stuttering an’ St-stammering an’ St-stuff

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 9/10/2013. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. I’ve revised the original post so it’s up to date.

As I write this, I just had an excellent question from an acquaintance in Tucson who wrote that she had bought my Punctuation for Writers a few years ago at a Society of Southwestern Authors (SSA) meeting and had found it useful. However, it had not mentioned how to write a character’s stuttering, stammering speech.

I thought her question laid a great foundation for a blog post. She wrote,

“I am now doing a “down and dirty” edit/proofreading of a work for a friend. The main character stutters, and the way the dialogue is presented is very distracting. … I have been on-line looking for guidance in writing stuttering, but I need a source that I know is legitimate (for lack of a better word) and is one that I can say to the author, ‘Harvey Stanbrough says do it THIS way. He knows what he’s talking about!'”

She’s such a nice lady, isn’t she? 🙂 So anyway, here’s my response, expanded just a bit to provide a little more extensive example:

I r-r-recom-m-mend you wr-write st-st-stuttering like th-this. Just remember to s-spell the entire first sound of the st-stutter before the h-hyphen. (And be careful not to overspell it, by which I mean, don’t spell what you don’t want pronounced.)

After all, s-stutter is not quite the same as st-stutter or stu-stutter, and p-pronounced is not the same as pr-pronounced or pro-pronounced. Read them aloud and you’ll see what I m-mean.

M-most often you’ll w-want to repeat only the f-first letter of a word, or a single conson-n-nant later in the w-word. B-be careful of repeating the f-first l-letter of a w-word like l-letter though because the lower-case L l-looks like a one (1) and c-can be distracting all b-by itself.

However, you’ll w-want to use the first t-two letters of a word like th-though b-because the TH forms a single sound, almost as if TH is a letter b-by itself.

And as with all phonetic and other d-dialect spellings, d-don’t o-o-overd-do it. The g-good p-part about spelling s-stammering is that it’s n-not quite as labor intensive as other t-types of phonetic spelling. Th-those who s-stammer often d-don’t s-stammer on the s-same word or syllable all the t-t-time.

Okay, enough of th-that. When you spell stammering speech, be sure to use the hyphen to indicate the “break.” It isn’t really a break, and it definitely is not a pause (as that created by a comma or em dash, for example).

As I mention in Punctuation for Writers (get it at Smashwords or Amazon) the hyphen is the only mark of punctuation that actually speeds the reader up, making him read two words as if they were one, as in “It was a dark-green Cadillac.”

So we use that speeding-up property of the hyphen to indicate the stutter or stammer by rushing the reader through two individual but repeated sounds as if they were one.

Next time you get m-mega b-bored, write some s-stammering speech for a little while. It b-becomes ad-d-d-dictive.

‘Til next time, happy w-writing!

Ha-ha-ha-harvey

I am a professional fiction writer as well as a copyeditor. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting.

If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

Prepping to Epublish

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 8/30/2013. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. I have NOT revised the original post other than reparagraphing some of it.

This post goes hand in hand with my previous post on Busting the Myths of Digital Publishing.

I often hear from folks who say they want to “publish like you, on Amazon” but they don’t mention any other venues. If you self-publish, you will be both an author and a publisher. The one big secret to building a presence as a publisher is to sell your ebooks in several different venues.

Dean Wesley Smith, to whom I cannot give enough praise for his “Think Like a Publisher” series (now available as a recommended book), even suggests you don’t try to sell 1,000 books per month at one venue. Instead, try to sell 10 books per month at 100 venues. But how do you get into 100 ebook selling venues?

If you publish with Amazon’s Kindle store, that’s around 20 markets already. Of course, through Smashwords your book will also be available worldwide through markets established by Apple (that’s another fifty markets), Barnes & Noble, Diesel, Kobo, Sony and others. That’s a pretty good start.

You can set up a Scribd account and offer your books for sale in the Scribd store. That’s one more venue, and it’s worldwide.

You can set up accounts with Google +, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and others to let your contacts know what you’re up to and to announce book releases, sales, special offers, etc.

(Note: Your primary effort on these social venues must be social, not business, so the better you are at chitchat, the better these will work for you.)

You also can set up a blog through which you give people something of value (if you have something of value to give them), then advertise your books at the bottom of each post. Set up a website and a PayPal account and you can sell books directly from your own website as well. PayPal has a free shopping cart, no problem.

Okay, so what about the prep work?

If you’re going to submit your Word file .doc to Amazon, B&N, Smashwords and Scribd (for starters, for example), surely you don’t want to completely reinvent the wheel each time, right? Right. So here’s what you do:

1. Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble PubIt do not require (or even want) an ISBN, so first, decide who you want to be as a publisher, then create a name. If you’re name’s Jack Smith, I suggest something like JSmith Publishing. It’s just that easy. That’s the publisher you’ll list (or you can list nothing at all in the Publisher block) with Amazon and B&N.

2. Smashwords will provide a free ISBN if you allow them to list themselves as the official publisher. (This entails you putting in the front matter “the Smashwords edition of / a JSmith publication” where the forward slash is a line break.) Otherwise they provide an ISBN but it costs you $9.95. So let Smashwords be the publisher for what you submit to them. Trust me for a few minutes and you’ll understand.

But how do you publish under JSmith Publishing with Amazon and B&N (and Scribd and any other venues you find on your own, like Xin Xii) and yet list Smashwords as the publisher for Kobo, Sony, Diesel, et al? Here’s what you do, and again, most of this is from Dean Wesley Smith:

Then set up a file folder with the name of your book. For example, my latest file folder is named Maldito & Tomas. In that file folder, I keep the standard cover for my ebook (mine are all 2000 x 3000 pixels), the thumbnail-sized cover (mine is 200 x 300 pixels). You will also keep the following:

1. Your original Word document set up with your own publishing info and your own license notes in the front matter. For example, my latest file (.doc) is titled Maldito & Tomas.doc. The first page will be your title page, which also contains the publishing and copyright info and license notes, then the table of contents (if necessary), then the story/novel/memoir, and then the back matter, which for me consists solely of a brief About the Author section. Here’s the front matter for the first document (Maldito & Tomas.doc):

Maldito & Tomás
a StoneThread Publication
Copyright © 2011 by Harvey Stanbrough

StoneThread License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment. Please don’t resell it or give it away.
If you want to share this book, please purchase an additional copy as a gift.
Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

2. A second Word document set up with Smashwords’ info in the front matter. In my example, that file is titled Maldito & Tomas Smash.doc and it’s set up with front matter that reads “the Smashwords edition / of a StoneThread publication.” Making it the Smashwords edition is all that’s required. Here’s the front matter for the first document (Maldito & Tomas Smash.doc):

Maldito & Tomás
the Smashwords Edition
of a StoneThread Publication
Copyright © 2011 by Harvey Stanbrough

StoneThread License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment. Please don’t resell it or give it away.
If you want to share this book, please purchase an additional copy as a gift.
Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

3. A third Word document with promotion information. In my example the file is Maldito & Tomas Promo.doc. This file contains the title of the book, a “teaser” for the cover, a good, strong book description, the author bio, the categories or genres into which the book fits (the shelving sections where you would like it to be displayed if it were in a brick and mortar store) and any Internet search keywords.

When you publish your work to Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Scribd, and pretty much anywhere else, they will ask you for all of this info.

I open the Internet window over 2/3 of my screen and I open the appropriate “promo” file in the other 1/3. Then it’s an easy matter to copy/paste the required info from the promo.doc into whichever form (Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, etc.) you’re using at the time.

To extend the example, here’s what’s written in Maldito & Tomas Promo.doc:

Title: Maldito & Tomás

Cover tease:
Tomás comes to help,
but not everyone in a robe
is a priest….

Description: When Maldito finally escapes his horrible home, he flees to an ancient stone house high in the jungled mountains overlooking the sea where he soon encounters both his future and his past. He makes a new home, finds a vantage point from which he can see the whole world, both past and future, encounters Tomás, whom he takes to be a priest, and begins to become aware of his destiny. If you’ve enjoyed the works of Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende, you’ll enjoy these Stories from the Cantina.

Author: Harvey Stanbrough was born in New Mexico, seasoned in Texas, and baked in Arizona. He spent most of his early life in the home of his heart, the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona. After graduating from a 21-year civilian-appreciation course in the U.S. Marine Corps, he attended Eastern New Mexico University where he managed to sneak up on a bachelors degree. He writes and works as a freelance editor and writing instructor from his home in southeast Arizona.

Categories/Genres: Fiction > Fantasy > General / Fiction > Fantasy > Paranormal

Keywords: magic realism, fantasy, short story, stories from the cantina, surrealism, paranormal, stanbrough

As you can see, this appears to be a time-consuming effort, but it really isn’t.

For one thing, you can keep a stock folder on hand with a Word document titled MyFiction.doc and another with Smashwords.doc. In those files, respectively, you can keep your standard front matter and Smashwords’ standard front matter.

Then it’s a simple matter to copy/paste from that document to the front page of your story/novel/memoir etc. Given a finished, formatted manuscript and the promo doc above, I can publish it to Amazon, B&N, Smashwords and Scribd in about a half-hour. With just a little practice, you can too.

Happy writing!
Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer as well as a copyeditor. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting.

If you’d like to get writing tips several times each week, pop over to my Daily Journal and sign up. In the alternative, you can also click the Pro Writer’s Journal tab on the main website at HarveyStanbrough.com.

Busting the Myths of Digital Publishing, Redux

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 8/20/2013. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. I’ve revised the original post so it’s up to date.

First, a brief announcement. I’ve reopened my copyediting and eformatting service. I’ve kept my prices LOW. Former editing clients are preferred, but new clients are welcome too. For details, please click http://harveystanbrough.com/copyediting/.

Okay, back in August, 2012 I updated and republished a post titled “Busting the Myths of Digital Publishing.” According to some of the questions I’ve been fielding lately, it bears repeating. Enjoy.

There are many myths and false perceptions about digital publishing.

Some are being perpetuated by so-called Big Publishing, but many also are being passed around by what we Marines used to call barracks lawyers. Folks who purport to know what they’re talking about when in fact they know just enough to get themselves (and you, if you listen to them) in trouble.

As a writer, publisher, editor and writing instructor (back when I wrote this), it frustrates me to know that so many writers have been fed—and have actually believed—what is nothing more than pure, unadulterated bull cookies.

In this post I will endeavor to bust those myths and discount those false perceptions.

I tell my writing students often, Any time any instructor (or other alleged expert) says something he or she can’t explain to your satisfaction, run. The same goes for me. I can back up everything I tell you with real-world examples and facts.

If you don’t understand something in what follows, feel free to email me at harveystanbrough@gmail.com.

Here are the more prevalent myths about digital publishing.

1. I have to format my work as a .mobi or .epub file before I can send it to Amazon or Barnes & Noble (or Smashwords).

Wrong. You can send your properly formatted Word .doc to Smashwords and Amazon. (I recommend allowing Smashwords to distribute to Barnes & Noble.) Amazon converts your Word .doc into a Kindle (.mobi) file, and Smashwords converts your Word .doc into several eformats and then distributes it to Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and Baker & Taylor and about 20 other stores around the world.

If you need help with this, click http://harveystanbrough.com/ebook-conversion/ and check my rates.

To learn to do it yourself, you can download my FREE ebook, The Essentials of Digital Publishing. I also recommend the Quick Guide to Self-Publishing and FAQs, also free. If you check out the Free Stuff tab on my website, you’ll find a lot of other things too.

2. Amazon is the best place to sell ebooks.

Not necessarily. Amazon is only one place to sell ebooks. Rather than hoping for a lot of sales in one venue, work for a few sales in a lot of venues.

If your ebook is for sale only at Amazon, that’s about 20 venues—Amazon US & Canada, Amazon UK, Amazon DE, Amazon FR and Amazon Italy—and your work is available only on devices that read .mobi or .prc files.

If you publish it through Amazon and Smashwords, it automatically sells through over 200 venues worldwide (Apple has 50 by iteslf) and is available on literally every reading device and in every electronic format.

In the case of book sales, more really is better.

3. My electronic book has to have an ISBN.

Wrong. Amazon assigns an Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN), and Barnes & Noble assigns a similar stock number to books they sell.

Because some of Smashwords’ partners require an ISBN, if you add “the Smashwords Edition of” to the front matter of your ebook and include Smashwords’ License Notes, Smashwords will assign a completely free ISBN for you.

4. Ebooks are a passing fad.

El Wrongo de Mucho. Today (this was in 2013) over 40% of American households have at least one dedicated ereader.

Dedicated ereaders are actual Kindle or Nook readers, iPads, and the various tablets. That doesn’t include Kindle- or Nook- or Apple-enabled telephones or computers that can read PDF files through Adobe Acrobat Reader, and it doesn’t include the free ereaders you can download to your PC or Mac.

See Reader Resources in the left sidebar on my website, then scroll down to Free Kindle and on down.

Additionally, in 2011 Amazon announced that ebook sales had surpassed paper book sales for the first time in its history. My own work has been published in three ways: traditionally, through POD, and now in ebooks. I have sold more copies and made a lot more money since January 2011 (the ebook era) than I made on all of my paper book sales since the mid-’90s.

5. I have to wait for my publisher to publish my book first, or my publisher doesn’t publish ebooks.

Wrong. Simply retain all ebook rights (all electronic rights) and publish the ebook version yourself.

Even if you’re self-publishing, which can take a month or longer from signing the contract to having the books in your hand, you can have your ebook published within only a few hours. If you do allow your publisher to publish the digital version as well, I recommend you negotiate for at least 50% of the royalties on ebook sales, and be sure it’s in your contract.

6. I’ll have to do all the marketing myself.

Okay, yes. This is true, but you have to do all the marketing yourself even with a traditional publisher unless you’re Stephen King. And you aren’t.

7. I can’t get my ebooks into brick & mortar bookstores, and I can’t sign my ebooks or sell them at book fairs.

Wrong. I recommend you purchase and read Dean Wesley Smith’s Think Like a Publisher.

8. Ebook selling prices are low compared with paper books.

Not necessarily, and the royalty rate on ebooks is much higher.

Even if you get a whopping 10% royalty on your print book, for every $14.95 sale you’ll make only $1.49. On the other hand, for every $5.99 ebook sale, you’ll make $4.67 (78%) royalty.

Those are the actual prices and royalty rates of my book, Writing Realistic Dialogue & Flash Fiction, in paper and in eformat.

When I’ve sold 100 paper copies, I’ve earned $149. Then I have to deduct the cost of gas and the hours of standing around at book fairs, etc. trying to sell them.

When I’ve sold 100 ebook copies, I’ve earned $467. Then I have to deduct the cost of about two hours per week online in the comfort of my own desk chair. Get the point?

9. You have to have a dedicated ereader to read ebooks from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Wrong. You can download a free ereader for your PC or Mac so you can read .mobi (Amazon Kindle) files and .epub (Apple and B&N Nook) files right on your computer.

Again, see Reader Resources in the left sidebar on my website, then scroll down to Free Kindle and on down.

Oh, and if you shop at Smashwords, you can download your purchases as Kindle, Nook or even PDF files.

10. But I like “real” books. I like the feel of the paper, the smell of the ink.

Yes, I know. So do I. But I’m not talking to you right now as a reader. I’m talking to you as a writer and publisher.

As a Reader, if you want to read only “real” paper books, pay more for them and lug them around, that’s fine. I have books out there in paper. I hope you’ll buy them and enjoy them.

But as a Writer, if you want to reach a much larger audience and provide your books in the format those readers are looking for, you need to get with the digital publishing revolution.

I personally love the smell and feel of a paper book in my hands, but I probably won’t ever buy another paper or hardback book. I’ve become addicted to my ereader, and I’ve become especially addicted to having literally thousands of books in my hand. I can open and read any of them at any time, yet the whole device weighs less than a standard paperback novel.

and the biggest myth of all is an outright lie perpetrated by Big Publishing…

11. Ebooks are not nearly as good quality as print books.

Wrong. This is an outright lie. In truth, the large traditional publishers also are producing ebooks today to keep up with all the independent publishers and with a reading public that is increasingly demanding ebooks.

And in truth, thus far when big publishers produce ebooks, they actually are lower quality than books that are produced originally as ebooks. Instead of actually laying out the book for use in an eformat, the big publishers simply scan the pages into a document, then publish it. Because scanners don’t read and translate actual letters, the results are often horrible.

As is most often the case, the truth is simple: Poor writing leads to a bad book, whether it’s traditionally or independently published. Quality writing plus quality layout and design leads to a quality book, whether it’s traditionally or independently published.

‘Til next time, happy writing and publishing!

Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer as well as a copyeditor. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting.