A Few Resources and Goal Setting

Hey Folks,

A few strong resources—

If you’re serious about your work as a writer, check these out:

http://deanwesleysmith.com—The resource-rich website of Dean Wesley Smith, my own unintentional mentor and one of the most prolific writers in America. While you’re there, check out the Think Like a Publisher and Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing tabs. I also recommend checking out his Online Workshops tab and his Lecture Series tab. Also while you’re there, remember that this guy has published hundreds of novels and several hundred short stories. His wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, has done likewise. Seriously, would you rather “learn” from the peers in your critique group, or would you rather learn from someone who’s highly successful. (Hands raised, palms out: I don’t mean me. I’m not teaching anymore.)

Chuck Wendig’s blogAnother resource-rich website. Chuck regularly offers his books in bundles. I recently bought a bundle of seven for only $20, and they’re full of actual TRUE information about writing. Not the lying, worthless, even harmful stuff that’s in most how-to books for writers. I could name names but, you know, I’m a good guy. Besides, frankly, if you believe that stuff, you deserve the ensuing wasted years. WARNING: Chuck Wendig uses strong language with remarkable regularity. If you’re offended by such language, you might want to avoid this website.

Harvey Stanbrough’s Audio Lecture SeriesThis is for those of you who always meant to get to my seminars when I was teaching them live but didn’t for whatever reason. Well, that extended period of insanity is over, and I’m getting better, thanks. Now I offer the same excellent instruction online so “them as want it can take it and them as don’t can leave ‘er be.” No more need for excuses. 🙂 If you want honest, nuts-and-bolts instruction that you can apply to your writing immediately, you want these lectures. (I recommend starting with Narrative. It’s chock full of good stuff.) There’s no fluff in these lectures. It’s all meat. Or if you’re a vegetarian, it’s all peas and carrots. Okay, unprocessed peas and carrots. Sheesh. Whatever. Even if you been to my seminars, I strongly recommend my Writing Into the Dark lecture. Same link, scroll down to Lecture 12. More coming soon on Employing the Persona, Smart Self-Publishing, and maybe even Writing the Character-Driven Short Story. Maybe. I’m REALLY enjoying writing fiction. 🙂

Finally, on My Main Website, browse the right sidebar under Writers’ Resources. Seriously, there’s a lot of great stuff there. Go. Browse.

Goal Setting

Last time I defined the different types of writers. Only you know where you fit among those definitions. If you’re actually a writer (a person who writes, who regularly puts new words on the page) or a serious aspirant (that’s almost an oxymoron), set a goal for yourself. Then announce it to your friends and family.

If you do this, it will drive you to your writing computer and you’ll actually put new words on the page. In other words, you will actually BE a writer.

Can you revise or adjust goals once they’re set? Of course. Remember, they’re only artificial boundaries. We set goals to help ourselves achieve what we want to achieve. When setting your goals, bear in mind the term “realistic.” Make your goals realistic.

For example, I want to write a novel. Is a novel just a story that doesn’t end really soon? I don’t know. I haven’t written one yet and I haven’t studied enough yet to know that. But I’m taking a six-week online workshop beginning November 5 that will help me know that, so I will set a novel-per goal soon. UPDATE: By the time I got around to publishing this blog, I’d finished my first novel. It’s the one I talked about in the previous post. So woohoo! 🙂

In the meantime, I still also have the recurring goal I set back on April 16: to write and publish at least one new short story per week for a year. So this is both a recurring goal (the goal re-sets every week) and a long-term goal (one story per week for a year). I haven’t missed yet.

But what happens if I do miss one week? Nothing.

The world won’t end. My friends won’t all send me Dear John letters. Deming NM won’t dry up and blow into Texas. Well, maybe, but that’ll be because of its position alongside the journada del muerte, not because I missed writing one stupid short story. And for the overall year, I still will have written FIFTY-ONE short stories. Not too shabby for an old guy learning new tricks. In fact, that’s a pretty good year, don’t you think?

Okay, so what’s stopping you? If you’re a writer, Get On With It.

Harvey

A very special blog post

Hi Folks,

If you live in southeast Arizona and you are an aspiring writer who

  • can’t seem to find time to write
  • has never heard of Heinlein’s Rules
  • HAS heard of Heinlein’s Rules but have amended them because you think they’re too good to be true
  • believe you have to “polish” your work before publication
  • believe you have to rewrite X number of times before publication
  • believe you have to write X number of drafts before publication

you REALLY need to take my one-day intensive on Writing Into the Dark. It covers all of that and a great deal more.

Believe me, I’m fully aware you can come up with any number of excuses why you can’t come, but if you can, this one day will probably be the best investment you’ve ever made in your writing.

Here’s what it would cost you

    • a trip to Benson next Saturday, October 25
    • a class from 9 – 4 with an hour for lunch
    • immersion in a small group of avid writers who care about the craft, and
    • eighty bucks (okay, dollars… eighty dollars… don’t be showing up with venison)

and I’m telling you, it’s worth at least three times that. Why am I selling my knowledge so cheaply? Because I want as many people to get it as possible, and frankly, after this one, I’m done.

If you live in southeast Arizona, and if you’d like to attend, email me at harveystanbrough@gmail.com and let me know. I’ll send you directions and everything else you need.

This probably is the last live seminar I will ever teach. From here on out, I’m writing at least 3 hours per day, at least 5 days per week. I can do that because I know this technique. I write about 1,000 words per hour. In a day, that’s 3000 words. In a week, it’s 15,000 words. In a year that’s 780,000 words (65,000 words per month). That’s working a “job” five days a week only three hours per day.

But calm my numbers down. Say you can write only 1000 words per day, 5 days per week. That’s still 5,000 words in a week, and in a year that’s still 260,000 words. At 60,000 words a pop, that’s four and one-third novels. Just writing 1,000 words per day, 5 days per week.

Now, do you want to be a writer or do you just want to talk about being a writer?

I still have five seats available in this intensive. Let me know.

Best,

Harvey

A New Era Begins: Writing Intensives and More

Hi Folks,

Now that I’ve retired as a copyeditor and resigned my position as General Manager of the Universe, I have more time for my own writing. Fortunately, I can also focus on teaching writing to those who are serious about becoming professional writers.

Most of my mechanics and techniques seminars (the ones I’ve taught all these years in Tucson, Bisbee, Green Valley and Willcox) are available online in my Audio Lecture Series. If you want to learn in-depth how to write dialogue or dialect or how to create characters or tame your overreaching narrator, that’s where you need to start.

But if you want to go beyond the mechanics and learn to make or augment your living as a professional writer, read on.

I’m developing a series of interactive online workshops. Each workshop will be six weeks long, each will include six “meetings” and five assignments. Each workshop will be limited to 10 participants, and I will work individually with each participant through emails and by critiquing his or her assignments. (The assignments will not be not mandatory, of course, but recommended to get the full benefit of the workshop.) At the end of some of these workshops, you will have written five more chapters in your novel (Yes, in six weeks), or you will have a five-story collection of short fiction or memoir. But much more than that, you will have gained confidence in yourself as a writer.

Initially I expect the online seminar topics will include these:

  • Writing Into the Dark (a technique used by the most prolific professional writers)
  • Employing the Persona (a technique that enables you to give power to your voices… all of them)
  • Writing the Descriptive Short Story (learn to write a story that’s difficult to stop reading)
  • Using Fiction Techniques to Bring Your Memoir to Life (dialogue, dialect, descriptive narrative)
  • Writing the Poem (this is not theory, but writing)

I’ll add other topics as time goes by. Each writing workshop will include 5 or more assignments and critiques, enabling you to learn what you’re doing right, what you could improve, and specifically how to improve it.

But it will take time to create the online workshops.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to offer a series of one-day workshop intensives on some of the same topics. By “intensive” I mean during six hours of instruction from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (an hour for lunch) you’ll receive a LOT of information, and all of it will be essential to your knowledge as a writer. This will be a day chock full of “aha moments.”

I’ll offer these one-day intesives in Benson, Arizona. Each intensive includes at least one critiqued assignment and costs 1/2 as much as the online version. Plus you get all the information in one fast-paced day.

The first intensive is scheduled for Saturday, October 18: “Writing Into the Dark.”

“Writing Into the Dark” is an invaluable, Zen-like technique and possibly the best-kept secret in writing. I am not exaggerating. This knowledge actually changed my life as a writer. If you want to dramatically increase your productivity and actually enjoy the writing process, this is the course you want. This will move you a giant leap closer to being a professional writer. If you already know the mechanics (if you’ve attended my earlier seminars), this course will get you there.
 
This day-long intensive will cover retraining yourself regarding how you think about writing and how you practice writing, learning to trust yourself and your process, setting priorities, an in-depth explanation of the technique itself (what it is and what it is not). Also includes busting some myths that actually quash the desire to write, silencing your critical mind so you can Just Write the Story, being IN the story (not ABOVE the story), increasing your productivity, and the importance of Heinlein’s Rules.
 
The workshop includes at least one critiqued assignment (short story, chapter of a novel [WIP], or memoir, depending on the your interests). The students will complete the assignment within a few days and send it to me via email. I’ll critique it and send it back. (The assignment is not mandatory, but recommended to get the full benefit of the course.)
The cost for this intensive (including the assignment and critique) is $120, payable in cash on the day of the course or in advance via PayPal.
Class size is limited to 10 participants, and I expect it to fill up quickly.
 
Reservations are first-come, first-served. To reserve your seat or for more information, email me at harveystanbrough@yahoo.com.

Those of you who are too far away to attend, hang in there. The online version is coming probably early next year. But if you live anywhere from Phoenix south to Mexico or east to Las Cruces, this trip would be well worth your time.

Perhaps best of all, I’m not teaching these workshops to make money. I’m offering them for those who want to learn. If a workshop makes (it takes only two or three participants to make a workshop, maximum 10) that’s great. I love teaching, and I love watching those little lights of understanding flick on. But if a workshop doesn’t make, that’s okay too. I’ll stay at my desk and write. 🙂

Finally, I still have a few seats available in my next Pro-Level Writing Seminar Group, which will meet in Benson beginning in January. There will be ten meetings, during which I will teach you everything I know about writing as well as a good deal about self-editing and publishing. Again, I have only a few seats left and there is an application process, so if you’re interested, please email me at harveystanbrough@yahoo.com on or before September 30.

On September 30 my regular blog posts will return with how to Safeguard Your Credibility as a writer. ‘Til then, happy writing!

Harvey

7 More Tips for Emarketing

Hey Folks,

As I mentioned last time, visitors on the web have literally thousands of choices when it comes to which websites they will visit and whether they will subscribe or bookmark those sites. Remember that it’s always more important to you that the visitor remains on or subscribes to your site or newsletter or blog post. Making it worth their while is never a waist of your time.

A few days after I received the request I wrote about last time, I received another one. A fellow literary laborer who asked me to visit her site and subscribe to her blog posts. She explained, “The subscription form is at the bottom of the page in the center.”

Okay, one, kudos to her for telling me where I could find the subscription form. But two, if I had been a casual browser who happened across her site, there’s an excellent chance I wouldn’t have found her subscription form.

Remember that people generally won’t work in order to do you a favor. I mean, if you’re trapped under a log or other inanimate object in your front yard, the person casually strolling by probably will be willing to invest considerable time and effort in freeing you. (Inanimate objects only, though. If you’re trapped under, say, a bear or a tiger or a massive lizard in your front yard, not so much, although the truly caring individual might bother to dial 911 or Animal Control or something.) But if doing you a favor falls under the category of doing a lot of mental calisthenics, again, not so much.

To maybe help you with the marketing aspects of your website, hear are a few more tips for emarketing:

1. If you want prospective readers to sign up for your newsletter or your blog posts, make it easy for them. Put a subscription form at the top of the sidebar on your home page. (Newspaper folks call this “above the fold.” In modern computerese, anything important should appear on the screen without the reader having to scroll down.)

2. It doesn’t hurt to put a “conversion bar”(a subscription bar that converts browsers into subscribers) across the top of your site too. For an excellent example, see the gold bar across the top of HarveyStanbrough.com.

3. Provide at least one call to action (urge to subscribe) in the body of your Welcome or About page, and again, this should appear above the fold. You want the offer to be available whenever the reader is in the mood to take you up on it. (The key to all marketing is to make the product available at the moment that the buyer wants it.)

4. Put at least one call to action in the body of each blog post or immediately after each blog post you write or newsletter you send out. Again, making it easy for the reader to become a subscriber is the key.

5. Offer an incentive for subscribing. For example, if you subscribe to HarveyStanbrough.com you get a free copy of the humorous and informative ebook, The Seven Writerly Sins. I offer that particular incentive because most of my readers are writers or are interested in writing.

6. Offer another incentive for reading the posts. Perhpas offer a free short story if the reader finds the intentional error (spelling or wrong word) and are the first to comment on it. (By the way, if you find the intentional error (spelling or wrong word) in this post and are one of the first few to comment on it in a comment posted on this site you will receive a freshly minted short story from yours truly or one of my alter egos. 🙂

7. Litter your posts and pages with Share buttons. If you look at the bottom of this post or scroll to the bottom of any page on my websites, you will see one-click buttons where the reader can share my post or the information on my page via Email, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, and other venues. Go take a look; I’ll wait. I don’t have accounts with all those places, but why should I keep others from sharing where they have accounts?

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

A Bunch of New Stuff

Hi Folks,

Yeah, I know it isn’t the 10th or 20th or 30th, but then again this isn’t a normal blog post about writing. I mean, it’s about writing in a way, but first it’s about my website.

I’ve made a lot of changes to the site. The first is a general reorganization. I added a sidebar, made my new picture the subscription button, moved my Meet Harvey stuff (formerly Connect with Harvey) over under my picture, added some things I believe in and recent posts under that.

Over on the right side is an extremely important blogroll (especially the first link) if you are serious about Being A Writer. Below that are a series of links to writers’ resources. If you explore it, you won’t be disappointed. If you don’t… well, suffer. 🙂

The menu across the top of the page has changed too, with a couple of exciting additions. I changed the former Events tab to read Calendar. (By the way, my complete series of core seminars are scheduled now. Take a look so you don’t miss the ones you need.) On the far right end of the menu, you’ll see a Downloads tab. If you click that, you will find some valuable information, and it’s free. Click one or more of those links and you’ll see what I mean. I’ll be adding more information papers and documents and ebooks to the Downloads page as I think of new stuff to give away.

The next tab to the left is extremely exciting to me because it represents a new venture: if you click Lecture Series and read that page, you’ll see wheat I mean. In the coming weeks I’ll be recording video lectures on all of the topics and subtopics you see there. Once I get a few recorded and available, I’ll announce that through this blog. Then anyone who’s interested can sign up and begin viewing the ones they would like to view. If you prefer to simply revisit the page from time to time, as the lectures become available I’ll highlight the title in bold blue.

Finally, there will be other changes coming. I’ve decided to divest myself—albeit very slowly—of my publishing responsibilities at StoneThread. I won’t be entertaining any new submissions or extending any of the current contracts. If you know someone who would like to buy StoneThread, let me know. This change will enable me to return to my first love, Writing. Of course, I’ll still make my living as an editor, writing instructor, eformatter and ebook cover designer.

By the way, StoneThread is participating in Read an Ebook Week over at Smashwords. From now through March 8, all our ebooks are absolutely free. Just go to Smashwords Read an Ebook Week and enter coupon code RW100 during checkout to get your selections free of charge. Note: this is a Smashwords promotion, so it doesn’t work at Amazon or Apple or Barnes & Noble. If you poke around over there, you’ll find that a lot of my personal titles are free this week too. Same coupon code applies.

I think that’s it for this time. Oh, if you need the Microsoft Word Essentials for Writers seminar I’m teaching on March 15, you might want to check your calendar and sign up. It’s filling up fairly quickly.

‘Til next time, happy writing!
Harvey

 

6 Ways to Increase Book Sales (and Why They Work)

Hi Folks,

One of my StoneThread Publishing authors and I were discussing possibly giving away a “sampler” that contains, say, the first 20 pages or so of four different books. If I have 32 books, I’d create 8 samplers. The author originally was talking about creating printed samplers in POD. The discussion led from why I wouldn’t prepare printed samplers to what I could do and what the author could do. I decided it’s is an important enough topic that I wanted to share it in a blog post.

The thing is, if you give away free printed samples of you work, there is a relatively large overhead. (For example, even if you found someone who would do the print layout and cover free of charge, you’d have to buy the actual books to distribute). Secondly, of the printed sampers you purchase and give away, probably 99% of them will end up in the garbage, and probably a full two-thirds of those will end up in the garbage at the convention or conference or other venue where you handed them out. (And yes, the same thing happens with bookmarks and other printed items writers buy to use as giveaways.)

But the biggest problem with a printed sampler is this: even if the printed sampler does entice the reader to purchase the actual book, there is no way to insert a Buy Now link. The best you can do is add printed purchase links and hope the reader’s interest will not wane before he can get to a computer to order the book. And trust me, that’s a massive long shot. That’s why I won’t be creating printed samplers.

So how to entice more readers? Enter the ebook. If I do the same thing with an ebook sampler, I can add Buy Now at Amazon and Buy Now at Smashwords links in the middle and at the end of each book sample. So when the reader is most likely to be interested in buying, he’ll have a link right there. Desire meets opportunity, and a sale is made.

The writer also mentioned brainstorming new ways to sell books. I’m relatively new at publishing, but I’ve been writing and selling books, successfully, for a long time. I promise—one of the absolute best things you can do as an author to promote your books is TALK.

  • Schedule talks and/or presentations at local and regional writers’ groups and professional groups.
    • Consider, you’re a successful author, possibly an expert in your field, some of you are prolific, and a few are multi-genre authors. All of those things will recommend you to different audiences and venues.
    • At writers’ groups, address some aspect of how to write your particular genre.
    • At professional groups, address your field of expertise, of course tied in with your book(s).
  • Contact the Literature department of your alma mater and see whether they need speakers. (If they voted you Most Likely to Sack Seed, this would be a great opportunity to return as a published author.)
  • Contact local and regional high schools, junior colleges, colleges and universities. Offer to speak to campus writers’ groups, clubs, writing or literature classes, etc. They might even ask you to present a writing award to a deserving student. I was paid $1500 for 20 minutes doing exactly that one time, and my poetry collections are (or maybe were) in the literary canon of that university just outside of Dallas, Texas in Denton.
  • Schedule appearances on panels at specific and multi-genre conventions and conferences.
    • Okay, frankly, panels suck. They’re mostly boring for the participants and they’re only minimally informative for the attendees, but they get you face time in front of your fans (current and prospective) and they help establish you as an expert, which can lead to other appearances.
    • Mostly panels serve to allow attendees to see and hear their favorite authors speaking and otherwise acting as if they really are mere mortals.
    • Note: Unless you can legitimately teach some aspect of writing, always opt for conventions rather than writers’ conferences.
      • Fans and Readers attend conventions, and they want to buy your book.
      • Writers attend conferences; they want you to buy their book.
  • Attend (whether invited or paid) and be visible and available at conventions appropriate to what you write: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery, Horror, Romance, Multi-Genre, etc.
    • If you aren’t invited to present or sit on a panel, the attendance fee for most conventions is minimal anyway, often hovering around $25 for a three-day pass. The point is, you can’t be visible and available to attendees if you aren’t there at all.
    • The first time a fan walks up and says, “Hey, aren’t you…?” and you get to say something like “Yep, that’s me. I’m not presenting at this one because I applied late, but I thought I’d make time to come hang out anyway” you’ve just made a fan for life. And chances are, his or her friends and acquaintances will come along as well.
    • If you know far enough in advance about the convention, you might set up a book signing at the Barnes & Noble or whatever across the street.
  • Finally, when you’re at any of those events, be continually visible, friendly and available to pretty much anyone (most will be your fans or fans of the genre) who wants to talk with you about pretty much anything. Paste a smile on your mug and never let them see how tired you are. You can sleep when the convention or conference is over. Do this and you will sell more books than you thought possible.

At one time, while writing my own stuff and editing for others, I was making as many as 18 writers’ conferences per year. Had I limited myself to conventions (where you aren’t glued into giving several presentations over the whole three or four days), I could have made a lot more. I don’t expect you to do that, but this is something all of you can do to some degree. It’s all a matter of priorities.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

PS: If you’re reading this in an email and you’d like to comment (please do) just visit http://harveystanbrough.com/blog, scroll to the end of the current post and comment.

10 Lesser Mistakes Writers Make

Hi Folks,

First, a kind of news flash: We’ve extended the 50%-off sale on fiction over at StoneThread Publishing through Tuesday, January 14. To take advantage of this excellent sale,

  • Visit StoneThread Publishing to get the coupon codes for the titles you’re interested in, then
  • Click any cover to go to Smashwords.
  • Enter the coupon code for the book you want during checkout, and download your selected title in any ebook format (Kindle, Nook, Apple, Sony, etc.)

Thanks for your patience. 🙂 Now on to the blog post!

I called the mistakes I listed in my previous post, The Top 7 Mistakes Writers Make, labor intensive because there is no easy way for the writer or editor to resolve them. You just have to go through the manuscript bit by bit and repair or delete them as you find them. That’s more than a little difficult because, of course, you’re also looking for problems in sentence and paragraph structure, misspellings, errors or misleading use in punctuation, wrong word usages, inanities, bad simile and metaphor, etc.

With all of that going on, trying to remember to watch for a narrator overstepping his bounds by using sense verbs or using past tense when past-progressive is necessary or using gave, stood, or sat as throw-away verbs is a bit much even for a professional editor. That’s why it’s so important for you, the writer, to learn not to make those mistakes in the first place.

This time I’m listing a few “lesser” mistakes. These too are fairly common and they certainly can keep a manuscript from being accepted for publication. However, as a freelance editor I don’t mind these so much because they’re fairly easy to rectify. I (or you) can use Microsoft Word’s Find & Replace dialogue to repair or delete them quickly. (For an excellent tutorial on the invaluable Find & Replace feature, Click Here.)

He Said (or Thought) to Himself

No, he didn’t. He mumbled or muttered or whispered or said quietly or thought, but he didn’t say to himself. Don’t let the narrator write “to himself,” “to herself,” or “to themselves” in a tag line. It’s inane, redundant, and just plain silly. Allow your narrator to use “to himself,” “to herself,” or “to themselves” only if the narrator is talking about a character having a room “all to herself” or a character is “keeping to himself” etc.

Using “Took and” or “Reached and” or “Reached Out and” or “Reached Over and” or “Reached Across and” (You get the idea.)

Don’t allow your narrator to say a character “took and” something or “reached out and” or “reached over and.” In every case, you can lose the phrase and allow the reader to move to the meat of the action. For example,

If a character’s lying in bed reading and “He turned out the bedside lamp” the reader will see him reach. The narrator doesn’t have to say “He reached over (or out or across) and turned out the bedside lamp.”

She took her daughter’s hand and squeezed it. (Couldn’t she have squeezed it while it was still attached to her daughter? What you want here is She squeezed her daughter’s hand.)

She took a can of air freshener and sprayed the kitchen. (She sprayed the kitchen with air freshener.)

He reached out and picked up the TV remote. (He picked up the TV remote.)

She reached over and smacked him upside the head. (She smacked him upside the head or She did what came naturally.)

To easily and quickly find and correct these, key “took” or “reached” into the Find What block of your Find and Replace dialogue box.

Beginning a Sentence with “Suddenly” or “Instantly” or “Instantaneously”

Beginning a sentence with “instantly” or “suddenly” or anything similar is almost never a good idea. If something happens instantly, have your narrator get to it without delay so the reader can experience it. If you force the reader to read the word “instantly” or “suddenly,” it slows the reading and waters down the immediacy of the action.

Likewise, I advise against using such words even later in the sentence. Please don’t try to get around this one by changing “Suddenly a shot rang out” to “A shot suddenly rang out” or “Instantly her eyes welled with tears” to “Her eyes instantly welled with tears.”

Other Misuses That Are Easy to Fix

Despite its widespread misuse because it sounds cool, “likely” is an adjective, not an adverb, and it is synonymous with “probable,” not “probably.” I cringe every time a weather guy says “It likely will rain tonight.”

Despite its widespread misuse, it’s never “try and.” It’s always “try to.” If you want to correc this one with Find & Replace, be sure to put “ try and ” (with spaces on both sides) in the Find What block and “ try to ” in the Replace With block. Otherwise, chances are you’ll replace things you don’t want to replace.

Try not to let your narrator use the phrase “she (he) knew.” Instead, just omit it and see whether the sentence works just as well. Most of the time it will.

The narrator very seldom (if ever) needs to use the words “now” or “today.” Past tense is the natural voice of narrative, and both of those refer to the present.

Try to avoid phrases like “he admitted” or “she had to admit that” or “he couldn’t deny that.” Such phrases answer a question that hasn’t been asked. Writing “he couldn’t deny that he was jealous” implies that someone asked him whether he was jealous. Likewise, writing “she had to admit that blah blah blah” implies that someone was interrogating her and she finally gave in. This is another example of the narrator over reaching.

Don’t write that a character “nodded her head yes” or “shook his head no.” When a character nods, it always means yes. When he shakes his head, it always means no.

Although it’s often misused, “while” always indicates a simultaneous passage of time. The writer most often wants “although” or “even though.”

‘Til next time, happy writing, and may all of you enjoy a happy and prosperous and free New Year.

Harvey

A New Note in Punctuation

Hi Folks,

Interrobang1When I edit a manuscript, my sole purpose is to make the reading experience seamless for the reader, thereby enhancing the writer’s reputation for excellent writing. When I’m finished there should be no rough edges over which the reader can stumble, no ambiguity or lags in the flow of information that can momentarily confuse the reader, and no punctuation that fails to direct the reading of the work and help convey the mood of the moment.

We probably are all aware of the “new” punctuation mark that’s actually been around since 1962, the interrobang. It looks like an exclamation point imbedded in question mark. It’s intended to convey the exclamatory question. I was going to show you one in context, but most fonts don’t include it yet, so I’ve slipped in a couple of photos instead. The one above is a stylized photo from http://interrobang-mks.com/ and the one below is the way the interrobang appears in Microsoft Word’s Wingdings 2 collection. (To find it go to Format, choose Fonts, then Wingdings 2. To find the interrobang, on your keyboard select the ~ or the } or the ^ (the carat above the 6) or the _.)

Note that the interrobang would be used only in dialogue as the narrator never has a reason to display emotion of any kind, even when he’s also a character. As in real life, the narrator and character roles are different even when they’reInterrobang2 played by the same person. But back to reality for a moment. To keep the interrobang in the font you’re using through the rest of the manuscript, I advocate using a question mark followed by an exclamation point: “What the hell are you doing?!”

The question mark should come first because “What the hell are you doing?” is a question. The exclamation point simply indicates that the question was presented in a stressed voice. (Of course, the way the question is worded indicates a bit of stress even without the exclamation point.) Here’s the question presented differently to indicate increasing levels of stress:

“What the hell are you doing?”
What the hell are you doing?
“What the hell are you doing?!”
What the hell are you doing?!

And that isn’t all. In my current editing project, I ran across the situation that stirred this blog post in the first place: a terse statement (again, in dialogue) that had been interrupted by the other character. Here’s that snippet of conversation:

“You don’t give a damn about our race, you pompous son of a—!”
“I’ll tell you one thing, William, and listen to me closely.”

Of course, we know to use the em dash to indicate the abruptness of an interruption. To indicate an exclamation that’s been interrupted, as in the excerpt above I advocate using the em dash followed by the exclamation point: “What the—!” or “Oh man! Holy sh—!” or “But Manuel, I love—!” or “¡Pero Maria, te amo—!”

(Now, for those of you who still believe you should use an ellipsis to indicate an interruption, please don’t. Remember that the ellipsis creates a pause of indeterminate length; that is, whether the pause is medium or long or somewhere in between depends on the context. That’s why the ellipsis is appropriate to indicate halting speech or dialogue trailing away at the end of a sentence—there’s nothing abrupt about it—so to juxtapose the ellipsis with an exclamation point simply wouldn’t work. If I may personify the two marks for a moment, the lackadaisical attitude exhibited by the ellipsis would clash with the sense of urgency conveyed by the exclamation point.)

So there y’go. If you’re wondering about any other punctuation marks or if you believe you’ve discovered new, innovative uses for them or for combinations, please add a comment below.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

10 Mistakes Authors Make That Can Cost Them a Fortune (and how to avoid them)

Hi Folks,

The Microsoft Word for Writers series will return on October 30, but right now I wanted to share this very important reprint with you. I’ve trimmed away the non-essentials but kept the main points and the rationale. I’ve indicated omissions with an ellipsis. This series of excerpts is reprinted with permission from “The Book Marketing Expert newsletter,” a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com. Where I added anything, it’s inside brackets.

Enjoy,
Harvey

When it comes to books, promotion, and book production I know that it can sometimes feel like a minefield of choices. Although I can’t address each of these in detail, a number of areas are keenly tied to a book’s success (or lack thereof). Here are ten for you to consider:

1) Not Understanding the Importance of a Book Cover—Authors will sometimes spend years writing their books and then leave the cover design to someone who either isn’t a designer, or doesn’t have a working knowledge of book design or the publishing industry. Or worse, they create a design without having done the proper market research. … A survey of booksellers showed that 75% of them found the book cover to be the most important element of the book. Finally, please don’t attempt to design your own book cover. Much like cutting your own hair, this is never a good idea. {Recommendation: Professional EBook Cover Design}

2) You Get What You Pay For—There’s an old saying that goes You can find a cheap lawyer and a good lawyer, but you can’t find a good lawyer who is cheap. … If a deal [in marketing services] seems too good to be true, make sure you’re getting all the facts. Just because they aren’t charging you a lot doesn’t mean they shouldn’t put it in writing. And by in writing I mean you should get a detailed list of deliverables. Finding a deal isn’t a bad thing, but if you’re not careful it might just be a waste of money, so ask good questions before you buy. {Recommendation: Whether or not you do it yourself, treat marketing your book as if it’s a business, because it is. You have to work it constantly. See Angela & Richard Hoy’s 90 Days of Promoting Your Book Online}

3) Listening to People Who Aren’t Experts—When you ask someone’s opinion about your book, direction, or topic, make sure they are either working in your industry or know your consumer. If … you’ve written a book for teens, give it to teens to read. Same is true for self-help, diet, romance. Align yourself with your market. You want the book to be right for the reader. In the end that’s all that matters.

4) Hope is not a Marketing Plan—Hope is a wonderful thing, but it isn’t a marketing plan. Hoping that something will happen is one thing, but leaving your marketing to “fate” is quite another. … When it comes time to get your book out there, you need to have a solid plan in place or at the very least a set of actions you feel comfortable working on. … Once your book is past a certain “age” it gets harder to get it reviewed so don’t sit idly by and hope for something to happen. Make it happen. A book is not the field of dreams; just because you wrote it doesn’t mean readers will beat a path to your door.

5) Work it, or Not—Book promotion should be viewed as a long runway, meaning you should plan for the long term. Don’t spend all your marketing dollars in the first few months of a campaign. Make sure you have enough money or personal momentum to keep it going. Whether or not you hire a firm you must work … your marketing plan. Publishing is a business. You’d never open a store and then just sit around hoping people show up to buy your stuff. You advertise, you run specials, you pitch yourself to local media. You work it.  … Time will pass anyway. How will you use it?

{Folks, me again. For a limited time you can get a free, printable PDF copy of the ebook gleaned from my recent seminar, Emarketing & Social Media. Just Click Here. Okay, back to the blog post.}

6) Not Understanding Timing—Be prepared with your marketing early. … Timing can affect things like book events (especially if you’re trying to get into bookstores). Understand when you should pitch your book for review, start to get to know your market and the bloggers you plan to pitch. Create a list and keep close track of who to contact and when you need to get your review pitch out there. … A missed date is akin to a missed opportunity. {Recommendation: Keep in mind “major” dates for booksellers, like just before the holiday season, spring break, and summer reading.}

7) Hiring People Who Aren’t in the Book Industry—Hiring someone who has no book or publishing experience isn’t just a mistake, it could be a costly error. … Make sure you hire the right specialist for the right project. Also, you’ve probably spent years putting together this project, so make sure you make choices based on what’s right and not what’s cheapest. If you shop right you can often find vendors who are perfect for your project and who fit your budget. {Recommendation: While you’re here anyway, look around HarveyStanbrough.com for professional services from a successful writer, editor and publisher.}

8) Designing Your Own Website—You should never cut your own hair or design your own website. Period. … Let’s say you designed your own site which saved you [a few to several hundred or even] a few thousand dollars paying a web designer. Now you’re off promoting your book and suddenly you’re getting a gazillion hits to your site. The problem is, the site is not converting these visitors into a sale. How much money did you lose by punting the web designer and doing it yourself? Hard to know. Scary, isn’t it? {Recommendation: Don’t Do “Free” Sites. Pop-up ads and scrunched-up, out-of-the-box designs are not professional. Decide whether you want to put a professional face on yourself as a writer, and then choose accordingly.}

9) Becoming a Media Diva—Let’s face it, you need the media more than they need you, so here’s the thing: be grateful. Thank the interviewer, send a follow up thank-you note after the interview. Don’t expect the interviewer to read your book and don’t get upset if they get some facts wrong. Just gently, but professionally, correct them in such a way that they don’t look bad or stupid. Never ask for an interview to be redone. … The thing is, until you get a dressing room with specially designed purple M&M’s, don’t even think about becoming a diva. The best thing you can do is create relationships. Show up on time, show up prepared, and always, always, always be grateful.

10)  Take Advantage—There are a ton of resources out there for you. … The resources and free promotional tools that are out there now are almost mind-numbing, … things like social media. … Many authors rock out their campaign by just being on Facebook, or Wattpad or Goodreads. … Find out for yourself what works and what doesn’t. When it comes to marketing, the mistakes can cost you both time and money. Knowing what to do to market your book is important, but knowing what to avoid may be equally as significant.

A Couple of Endorsements

Hi Folks,

I work with computers a lot, for both my personal work as well as for editing and cover design and web design clients. I transitioned from my IBM Selectric to my first dedicated word processor—a Brother with a 1” tall by about 6” wide screen—in the early ‘90s, and from that word processor to my first computer in the mid-‘90s. I developed my first website in 1996. You can’t do that without learning pretty much all you need to know about the importance of backing up your files.

At first we practiced SESO—Save Early, Save Often—so that when the word processor or computer “crashed” we wouldn’t have to recreate quite as much work. The smarter ones among us (not I) saved our work not only on the hard drive of the computer, but on a 7 1/4” floppy disc that really was floppy. (During part of my time in the Marine Corps, I worked on punch cards, which were sort of the precursor to the floppy discs.) Later somebody came out with a 3 1/2” floppy disc that wasn’t actually floppy but that was a lot more durable and therefore more reliable. Still, it only helped with backup if you remembered to save your work on it.

Today, of course, we have “memory sticks” or “flash drives” as well as external hard drives. Those are wonderful, but the original problem remains: you have to remember to back up your files to the external storage device, and you have to leave your computer alone long enough for it to back up the files.

Enter Dropbox. I haven’t tested all the different cloud storage facilities, but I have tested this one thoroughly and I strongly recommend this service.

Today, I keep ALL of my files—both my personal files and my clients’ files—in my Dropbox folder on the desktop screen of my laptop. To edit a file or work on a book cover design, for example, I open my Dropbox folder, open the client’s folder, open the file and work on it. When I click Save, it’s not only saved on my computer, but it’s automatically saved in my Dropbox account in the cloud.

Granted, keeping all my files in my Dropbox folder on my desktop instead of simply keeping them on the desktop itself took a little getting used to, but now my files are automatically and immediately backed up every time I work on them. I can’t begin to tell you the relief that brings me. Best of all, a Dropbox account is absolutely free. I upgraded to a larger amount of storage because, again, I’m storing all of my files as well as all of my clients’ files, but it’s well worth it.

Perhaps best of all, I also back up all of my own websites—HarveyStanbrough.com, StoneThreadPublishing.com, StoneThread Publishing Reviews at HEStanbrough.org, CantinaTales.com and a few others—as well as all of my web design clients’ websites. I’ve already had to rebuild more than one website using the backed-up copy.

Back up your website with Updraft Plus.

If you have your own WordPress website (I can’t speak for Blogger or any of the others) and would like to back it up to your Dropbox account or anyplace else, I strongly recommend the Updraft Plus plug-in. If you have only the one website to worry about, the free account should be plenty.

Actually, I have tested several different plug-ins that allegedly work well to back up your files and database—some free and some paid—but none of them can hold a candle to Updraft Plus. Of all the backup plug-ins available through WordPress, I recommend only this one.

If you don’t have and don’t want a Dropbox account for whatever reason, you can have Updraft Plus send your backup files directly to you via email, or you can set it to back up your files to any of several other storage devices. It’s all up to you.

That’s it for this time. To hear more about these two products and a great deal more, consider attending my upcoming seminar on Emarketing & Social Media. For details, see http://HarveyStanbrough.com/events.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey