Scammers in Pretty Clothing

Note: This post was originally scheduled for early 2015. 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.

This post first appeared in slightly different form as an article in the November 2014 issue of  the Society of Southwestern Authors (SSA) newsletter, The Write Word.

Hey Folks,

I recently received an email from a place called Publish Wholesale. They were interested in “publishing my manuscript for less.” For just less than $1000, they offered all the same “features” offered by scammers who charge sometimes 4 or 5 times more.

But the specific name of the subsidy publisher doesn’t matter. A scam is a scam, and all subsidy publishers are scams. All of them. Period.

DON’T  CONFUSE  SUBSIDY  PUBLISHING  WITH  SELF-PUBLISHING.
THEY’RE  NOT  THE  SAME THING.

1. WHEN YOU USE A SUBSIDY PUBLISHER

  • You pay an up-front fee, usually hundreds or thousands of dollars, to publish your work. Most of them then continue to up-sell you on other services or products or offer as premiums things that you could easily get free by yourself (a website or a Facebook or Twitter account, for example).
  • The publishing company retains ownership of all files they create during the process (Read the Contract!) including the text and cover and the website if they create one for you. If you decide later you want to self-publish, you have to pay a stiff penalty to retrieve your own work, and often the company’s watermark will be imbedded on every page so you have to retype the whole thing anyway.
  • The publishing company insists on receiving a split of your royalties. (Seriously? Are you kidding me? You paid them to publish your work. That should be their total cut.)  In other words, they continue to charge you a fee for publishing your work. Again, read the contract.

2. WHEN YOU CHOOSE TO SELF-PUBLISH, you have two options: you either format your document for ebook and/or print yourself and design your own cover, or you pay someone to do those things for you. Whether you do it yourself or pay someone to prep the files for you

  • YOU retain ownership of your copyright and all of your files, including the cover(s).
  • YOU retain 100% of net royalties.

Formatting your Word document for epublication and/or POD publication is not difficult, but it is a tedious and exacting process. If you don’t want to take the time to learn to do this yourself, I recommend paying someone to do it for you. My recommendation is ArenaPublishing.org, a service provider, not a subsidy publisher.

The book cover is the first thing the potential reader sees. Creating an attractive, attention-grabbing cover is essential. Whatever you do, don’t just slap something together for a cover and declare it “good enough.” It isn’t, and it will cost you sales.

I’ve seen a LOT of amateur covers on what might be very well-written books. A bad cover will cost you a lot of sales. Don’t skimp in this area.

I recommend downloading the free version of Serif’s PagePlus desktop publishing software. It rivals Adobe’s program and even the full Serif PagePlus program is only a fraction of the cost of anything Adobe makes. I use Serif PageMaker (the full version) to create all my covers.

But again, if you don’t want to learn to do this yourself, let someone else do it for you. Again, I recommend ArenaPublishing.org. Even more strongly, I recommend Cover to Upload.

Copyediting too, is essential. 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. It costs less than you think.

WE’RE LIVING IN A BRAVE NEW WORLD OF PUBLISHING. As an example, in the 16 days between October 27 and November 12 of 2014, I compiled and published five 5-story collections of short fiction, three 10-story collections of short fiction, and a novel. All of those were available as ebooks in over 90 nations worldwide and as print books within a week or so of publication.

UPDATE: Between April 15, 2014 and September 14, 2016 (so 2 years and 5 months) I’ve written and published over 1,500,000 words of new original fiction. That includes over 150 short stories, nineteen novels and a novella. I’m also 4,000 words into my twentieth novel. That’s what’s possible in this wonderful new world of publishing.

These publications didn’t cost me a dime out-of-pocket because I did the formatting and covers myself. I retain ownership of all my files, and I retain 100% of net royalties.

Even if I had paid say $200 to get each of these titles out there, that would be my total expenditure, period. It’s an investment. I’ll never spend another dime on them, and the passive income from them will continue for 70 years after my death.

Because they’re all self-published, there are no royalty splits, no returns, no torn-off covers, no remainders. There is no “shelf life” as there is with traditional publishing. And like I said above, these stories—individually, in collections, and the novel—will continue to bring in passive income until 70 years after my death. Again, that’s passive income. If I work, it comes in. If I stop working, it still comes in. And when I kick off, it will still come in for my children and grandchildren.

So don’t be confused over self-publishing vs. subsidy publishing. Self-publishing is a very good thing. Subsidy publishing is a scam, period. A subsidy publisher can’t do ANYthing for you that you can’t do for yourself at either no cost or low cost.

For a lot more on self-publishing, visit http://harveystanbrough.com/downloads. It’s free. You won’t be sorry.

Next up in this series of posts, some tips on Starting and Restarting your writing.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

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. It costs less than you think.

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.

 

I Did It Myyyyyyy Way…..

Hey folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 3/21/2014. 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.

I don’t like misunderstandings. I like them even less when they’re based on skimming information and missing important facts that are Right There In Front Of You.

If you take exception to any concept I present in any of my posts, that’s fine, but please at least read the post first. If you just skim it and hit the high points (or what you believe to be the high points) and then choose to comment, you might miss some relevant information.

After one post, I received notes from two writers.

I corresponded with both of them and clarified my position in order to alleviate their concerns. That experience led me to the notion that this post was necessary.

Of course, I would never divulge my correspondents’ identities, and my purpose of conveying bits of those conversations here is only to illustrate.

One writer assumed the post was all about her because she and I had engaged in a peripherally similar exchange on the topic a few months ago. (She wanted me to provide something in an edit that I knew to be wrong and therefore refused to provide.)

Thing is, the post wasn’t about her.

The conflict on which I based the post was from a paid edit for which a writer initially hired me and later changed her mind.

I was actually glad she changed her mind (even though it cost me a hefty paycheck) because giving her edit less than my best effort would leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Thing is, I made it clear in the post that the bone of contention was about a paid edit. The person who assumed the post was about her never hired me to do anything.

Another person wrote to point out that a great author from the past had written “her way” and that her writing had “endured the test of time.” She drew from that the completely appropriate conclusion that “Sometimes rules can be broken.”

Actually, I couldn’t agree more.

Sometimes, to create a certain effect in the reader, it’s a very good idea to break the rules of punctuation and grammar and syntax. (See my book on Writing Realistic Dialogue at Smashwords or Amazon or my audio course of the same name, in which I advocate breaking the rules to create a particular effect in the reader.)

But my previous post wasn’t about rules or breaking them. It was about how the reader reacts every time he encounters certain marks of punctuation or the italic font attribute.

Please understand that how you choose to present your work to the world doesn’t matter to me. I would like to see you succeed as a writer, but you are free to attach whatever value you like to any advice or knowledge I pass along in these blog posts.

As more than one writer has mentioned to me over the years, everything in writing is a matter of personal preference.

That is true. Everything in writing and in life itself is a matter of personal preference. For example,

  • You may choose to omit all capitalization from your writing (e.e. cummings did it in his poetry; Don Marquis did it in his archy and mehitabel collection).
  • You may choose to write dialogue without benefit of quotation marks (Cormac McCarthy did it in one novel).
  • You may choose to replace all the periods in your work with commas or em dashes or nothing at all. That will give the reader the truly unique experience of interpreting your work however he chooses and creating the novel with you.

The point is, if you would rather concentrate on being “unique” instead of just writing your story, that’s completely up to you.

But I do hope you remember that the reader also has personal preferences.

By and large, readers choose to select works that they aren’t required to “figure out.” The reader’s job is to be entertained, not to decipher “cutting edge” writing.

Everything depends on what you deem important.

If you want readers to be standing around the water cooler on Monday morning talking about how there was no capitalization or punctuation or quotation marks or whatever in your book and “that must have taken great courage on the part of the writer, blah blah blah” that’s fine.

But frankly, if those same readers read some of my work, I’d rather they were talking about what a great story they just read. In fact, I’d rather they hadn’t noticed the punctuation or font attributes or other “writing preferences” at all.

Hope this clarifies things. 🙂

‘Til next time, happy (clear) 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.

Tools for Writers

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 1/10/2014. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now.

Instead of a regular blog post I thought I’d toss out this list of URLs this time. I’ve found all of these useful at one time or another, and I still refer to many of them regularly. However, the presence of these URLs on this list does not necessarily constitute my endorsement or recommendation except as noted below.

I chose not to make the links live. Many email programs will kick out an email that contains more than a few links. You’ll have to copy/paste these URLs into the address bar at the top of your browser. (Note that some of the URLs wrap to the next line. Be sure to copy/paste the whole thing.)

Once you’ve done that I suggest you bookmark those that interest you so you can refer back to them quickly. I hope you find this list of use.

First, 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. Here’s the rest of the list.

Dictionaries

Acronyms — http://www.allacronyms.com/
American Slang — http://onlineslangdictionary.com/
British Slang — http://www.peevish.co.uk/slang/
Dictionary — http://dictionary.reference.com/
Sex Dictionary — http://www.sex-lexis.com/Sex-Dictionary/
Semantic Reference — http://semanticreference.com/
Spanish Dictionary — http://spanish.dictionary.com/
Spanish Slang — http://www.languagerealm.com/spanish/spanishslang.php
Thesaurus — http://thesaurus.com/
Translator — http://translate.reference.com/
Urban Dictionary — http://www.urbandictionary.com/

Converters
Colors and Others — http://web.forret.com/
Future/Past Calendar — http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/
Keyboard Shortcuts PC to Mac or Mac to PC — http://myfirstmac.com/index.php/mac/articles/ultimate-switcher-guide-windows-pc-to-mac-keyboard-shortcuts
Length — http://www.exrx.net/Calculators/LengthConverter.html
Metric — http://www.worldwidemetric.com/measurements.html
Mileage — http://www.randmcnally.com/mileage-calculator.do
Temperature — http://fahrenheittocelsius.com/

Reference, Research or Interesting
Arizona Master Gardener Manual — http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/mg/
Arizona Sunrise/Sunset — http://www.sunrisesunset.com/usa/Arizona.asp
Cherokee FAQs — http://cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/FrequentlyAskedQuestions.aspx
Drive-In Theaters — http://www.drive-ins.com/
Extensive Collection of Quotations — http://www.drmardy.com/dmdmq/
McSweeney’s — http://www.mcsweeneys.net/
NOAA National Weather Service — http://www.weather.gov/climate/
Preditors & Editors — http://pred-ed.com/
Personality Types — http://www.humanmetrics.com/hr/JTypesResult.aspx
Shakespearean Insults — http://www.shakespeare-online.com/quotes/shakespeareinsults.html
Snopes — http://snopes.com/ (biased politically but can be useful)
Stupid Plot Tricks — http://www.sff.net/paradise/overlord.html
The Bible on One Page — http://www.jrsbible.info/bible.htm
The Gun Zone — http://www.thegunzone.com/clips-mags.html
Time Dilation — http://www.phy.olemiss.edu/HEP/QuarkNet/time.html
TV Tropes — http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HomePage
Vietnam Virtual Wall — http://www.virtualwall.org/
Warp Drive — http://io9.com/5963263/how-nasa-will-build-its-very-first-warp-drive
Worldwide Sunrise/Sunset — http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/sunrise.html
Writers Market — http://www.writersmarket.com/

Writers’ Resources and Tools
Book Trailer — http://kingdomelectlady.hubpages.com/hub/Create-Your-Own-Book-
Trailer-Free
CopyBlogger Media (Marketing) — http://my.copyblogger.com/
Free Word Processor — http://www.jarte.com/
Free Word Processor — http://www.openoffice.org/
Links to Delete Accounts — http://justdelete.me/
Microsoft Word Products — http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/products/
Newsletter — http://chopeclark.com/
Writer as Publisher — http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/ and Think Like a Publisher
Hashtags 1 — http://publicityhound.com/shop/how-to-use-hashtags-the-new-search-tool
Hashtags 2 — http://writersweekly.com/this_weeks_article/008264_11202013.html
Security for your PC or Mac — http://lojack.absolute.com/en/persistent
Stop Smoking Resource — http://www.whyquit.com/
Writing Software — http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter5.html?yWriter5

Professional & Regional Writing Organizations
Arizona Mystery Writers — http://www.arizonamysterywriters.com/
Horror Writers of America — http://horror.org/
International Thriller Writers — http://thrillerwriters.org/
Mystery Writers of America — http://mysterywriters.org/
Novelists Incorporated — http://www.ninc.com/
Pikes Peak Writers — http://www.pikespeakwriters.com/
Romance Writers of America— http://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=521
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America — http://www.sfwa.org/
Sisters in Crime — http://www.sistersincrime.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=2
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators — http://www.scbwi-az.org/
Society of Southwestern Authors — http://www.ssa-az.org/
St. Louis Writers’ Guild — http://www.stlwritersguild.org/
Western Writers of America — http://westernwriters.org/

Subsidy/POD Publishing

Compare Subsidy/POD Publishers — http://www.writersweekly.com/pod-price-comparison.php

Note: I vehemently disagree with Booklocker about CreateSpace. And especially in this wonderful new world of indie publishing, I also do NOT recommend you use ANY subsidy publisher. However, if you insist on not doing things yourself, I decided to leave this entry in this post.

If you know of any great writers’ resources you’d like to share, please share it in a comment below.

Finally, you can find numerous great writers’ resources in the left sidebar on my website under Writers’ Resources.

That’s it for now. Until next time, keep writing!
Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer. 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.

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.

Five Reasons to Hire a Ghostwriter

Hi Folks,

More and more often recently, I’m being asked about ghostwriters. Why to hire one, and why not to hire one. So I put together this handy list for you.

When folks ask me why I recommend hiring a ghostwriter, my first answer is always this:

First and foremost, a professional ghostwriter is a professional writer.

When we want something done right, we employ someone who’s already mastered the learning curve.

Hiring a professional always gets better results. Always.

The professional writer, like the professional carpenter, plumber, lawyer, mechanic or farmer, has studied his craft. He can readily apply skills, knowledge and even “tricks” to your project that would take you years to learn.

The professional writer also has a proven track record of his own work, often under his own name as well as several pen names.

In short, the professional writer loves to to write. It’s his day job. It’s all he does.

But why should you hire a professional ghostwriter?

Well, if any of the specific reasons below ring true for you, it’s something you should consider.

One: You have a great novel idea rattling around in your head.

You aren’t alone. Many, many really good novels are written in the mind but never committed to the page.

A professional ghostwriter will run with your idea. Your book, with your byline, will be written and ready for publication before you know it.

Two: You lack the time to write your novel.

This is a common problem most would-be authors face. In most cases, it’s the main reason the novel never makes it to the page.

Maybe you have a full-time job, family commitments and other interests. Nothing wrong with that. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

A professional ghostwriter gives the same passion and time to writing that you give—and rightly so—to the activities and interests and people you love.

Three: You lack the skills and knowledge to write your novel.

Most would-be writers don’t even realize all the things they don’t know.

Most genres (including literary) have certain ingredients and certain touchstones that occur at certain places. If you don’t include those ingredients or if you don’t hit those touchstones, readers in your target genre won’t buy your book.

Note that these ingredients and touchstones do not comprise some sort of cookie-cutter “formula.” They are merely what readers expect to see in a given genre.

A professional ghostwriter knows these conventions and many, many more. And because they are his stock in trade, he knows how to apply them.

Four: Even if you wrote your book, you lack the skills and knowledge to publish it.

The whole process seems overwhelmingly complex.

How do you avoid the scams and pitfalls that seem to litter the literary landscape? Do you even know what to watch for? Where and how do you even submit your work?

A professional ghostwriter knows because he’s been there.

Resumé

I have a long history of helping other writers. Hundreds of writers have learned from me in workshops, conference presentations, and even questions posed via email.

And now I’ve decided to offer my services as a ghostwriter.

• I’ve had years of success as a professional writer.

• My work has been widely published through traditional, subsidy and independent publishers. I can guide you, as I have guided dozens of others, in finding the right publishing route for you.

• To date, I’ve published 18 novels and a novella under four names. A few years ago, I also co-wrote a psychological suspense/horror novel with a nationally known writer.

• I’ve also written 15 non-fiction books, and well over 140 short stories in almost all genres and sub-genres.

Email me at HarveyStanbrough@gmail.com and see what I can do for you.

A few other points —

If you believe you lack the funds to hire a professional

it’s in both our interests to develop a workable solution. I will work with you in this regard, and everything will be spelled out up front in a clear and easily understood agreement.

If you’re afraid of being scammed or ripped off

it’s in both our interests that you aren’t. I make a living on my reputation as a writer. I’ll help you protect your intellectual property and your copyright. As my friend, ghostwriter Dan Baldwin, put it, professional ghostwriters are “fiercely protective of our name and […] of our clients and their works.”

If you want your book to be your book

No worries. I will write your book, not my version of your book. My fingers are on the keyboard, but you’re writing through them. For over two decades as a professional copyeditor, maintaining the author’s voice was always my number one concern.

If you’re ready to get that novel or novella out of your head and into print, contact me at HarveyStanbrough@gmail.com and let’s get started. If you’d rather talk by telephone, we can do that too, but please email me first.

Thanks!

Until next time, happy writing!

Harvey

Regarding “Freelance Editors” Who Do More Than Copyedit

Hi Folks,

If you are fortunate enough that a professional writer who is much farther down the road happens to offer a critique of your work (most won’t, and I don’t), consider carefully what he or she has to say. Then decide whether to apply it to your own work. Apply it or discard it. Up to you.

However, if you receive any free critique of your writing from anyone else, my advice is to nod, smile, say thank you and go back to writing the story you want to write.

The thing is, nobody else knows your story. Period. They know only their version of your story.

And that goes double for so-called freelance “developmental” editors who offer paid critiques.

The paid critique is nothing more than a tool they use to stroke your ego, then upsell you on other services.

Recently I studied a critique (meaning I read it twice) for a friend. The critique was written by a “freelance developmental editor” whose training consisted of being asked by visitors to her husband’s bookstore years ago to look over their manuscripts and see what she thought.

Turned out she enjoyed telling those writers her opinion and has turned that into a living.

She has never written a novel or short story that I can find. On her website, she wrote, “[A]lthough I have the know-how to write a book, my real passion is helping other writers bring their books out into the world.”

In other words, “I could easily write a novel. I’m sacrificing my art to help others. Umm, for cash.”

Uh huh. They have a term for that sort of thing in Texas, and the term refers directly to bovine excrement.

As I said, I read the critique. The first three-quarters of it was how she would have written the story.

And remember, folks, this woman doesn’t have the ear of any particular publisher. She doesn’t work for a major publisher in New York. She’s just another non-connected reader with an opinion. You might as well pay your neighbor to read your novel and give you an opinion.

Don’t get me wrong. All readers have opinions, and they should have opinions. But they should not foist those opinions on writers as to how the book should have been written. And they should definitely not charge people money for that disservice.

  • She talked about characterization and character arcs, but she has never developed a character or written an arc of any kind.
  • She talked about deepening scenes (she didn’t call it that) but thought the writer could do that through the characters. (Uh, no.)
  • She listed specifics, like wanting in one case to make a character work by herself when the character preferred to be teamed up with another character. (Again, no. The characters are IN the story. Let THEM decide.)
  • She talked about weaknesses in the plot, apparently never having heard Bradbury’s quote that “plot is the tracks characters leave as they run through the story.”

Sigh. This sort of stuff washes over me with waves of weariness.

Look, you’re the writer. You get to choose.

  • You can either be the Great Writer On High, directing everything the characters say and do (THIS is where writing becomes drudgery), OR
  • You can resign as General Manager of the Universe, toss off all that responsibility, get down in the trenches and run through the story with the characters. That’s where the fun is.

This “editor” probably is a very nice woman. But she charged my friend $300 for this “critique,” which was only a little over 4 pages long. And remember that upselling I mentioned earlier? In the last several paragraphs, she recommended three different “levels” of editing:

  • a “developmental edit,” during which she would go through the manuscript and note in the margins what the writer should do in each instance (um, developmental editors work in New York for big publishers, and I wouldn’t even let THEM touch my work);
  • a “line edit,” “to ensure everything is in the best place [what?] for the flow of the story, that all the character reactions are in good shape [huh?], and that all those plot issues have been addressed.” (She wouldn’t do that during the “developmental” edit?); and finally
  • a copy edit to “address all the wording and sentence structure concerns, as well as most of the grammar, punctuation, etc.” (Really? Just “most”?)

And yes, of course, she would charge a different fee for each level of edit.

Now, here’s some of that free advice that you can accept or just chunk on the junk pile. At least it won’t cost you anything.

As I told my friend,

  • Write your story.
  • Then have a good First Reader and/or copyeditor go over it to find wrong-word usages, typos, inconsistencies, and places where the story is confusing.
  • Then do your “second draft” to correct What You Agree With that the first reader or copyeditor finds.
  • Then publish it and write the next story. Don’t look back. Look forward.

Please. You’ll be a much better (and happier) writer.

I welcome comments on this post.

‘Til next time, happy writing.
Harvey

Note: This is one of very few remaining “instructional” blogs at this location. I write those, almost daily, over on my Daily Journal now. If you want to continue getting advice from this professional novelist and short story writer, visit http://hestanbrough.com and subscribe! It’s free.

Finding the Right Web Browser

Hi Folks,

Right up front, let me say if you have a browser you like, one that works for you, then you might want to just skip this post. I’m not putting this up here as a source of argument, but only to help those who might have found themselves in the same situation.

There are a lot of browsers out there that are NOT Internet Explorer (or the upcoming Edge) or Google Chrome or Firefox or Opera or Safari.

I’m just sayin’, just because those have the big corporations (and the big corporations’ dollars) behind them doesn’t mean they’re the best or even the only choices you have.

If this intrigues you, or if you currently use one of the Big 5 and are ready for a change, read on.

I’ve used Firefox for years. The problem is, I’m an utter two year old when it comes to putting up with things that annoy me and that probably have a solution. The keyword here is probably.

I’ll spend hours, even days, searching for a solution to an annoyance when I know the solution “probably” exists. Fingers crossed.

The problem was this: When I tried to view a video or even open a website that has photos or videos on it (for example, news feeds or weather radar) in Firefox, my computer would slow to a crawl and sound like a fighter jet warming up on the runway.

You know the sound. When the pilot is increasing the engine speed while keeping his foot firmly planted on the brake until the engines are spinning fast enough to punch him into the sky. Then, just as the sweat beads are breaking out on his forehead and his right leg is quivering, the engine hits the right speed and he jerks his foot away from the brake, allowing the jet to rocket down the runway.

Okay, that probably isn’t exactly how it happens, but you get the drift.

Anyway, when I was browsing a website with photos etc., Firefox invoked Adobe Flash, which ran as a separate process and ate up tons of memory. It (over)taxed the processor and slowed the computer to roughly the speed of an abacus in the hands of an untrained chimp.

(Wow, kind’a like overtaxing us citizens slows the economy to roughly that same speed. Fascinating. Oh chill. I’m kidding. You know, probably.)

ANYway, as ALL humans do in ALLl human endeavors in which conflict is trump, I finally sought change only when the pain of keeping my current browser finally outweighed the fear and inconvenience of finding a new browser, moving all my bookmarks, reinserting all my saved passwords, etc.

But that brought up another problem. Which browser?

Now fixing this problem should be as easy as looking at browser comparisons or reading reviews. But it isn’t. Not unless you look at several comparisons from various sources and look for common notes among them.

Ditto for reviews. You have to compare several reviews and study them to discern the kernels of unbiased truth hidden in the bought-and-paid-for-and-therefore-biased text.

And finally, you have to download the new browser, transfer all your stuff (or at least find out how difficult it is to transfer all your stuff) and then use it for awhile and wait to see what happens.

Relatively speaking, I got lucky. Eventually.

Yesterday (?) or the day before, I compared notes (per my griping above) and settled on Opera. I downloaded it, transferred everything (to Opera’s credit, the transfer was easy) and began using it.

I liked the user interface and enjoyed the ease with which I was able to get around on the browser. Everything was fine for a few hours.

Then it crashed.

The browser was still there. The tabs I usually have open (email, harveystanbrough.com and a couple others) were still there. But in each window, the content — all of the content — was replaced with black.

I closed Opera and restarted it, and everything was fine. My tabs all came back even. No problem. Probably just a glitch, so no worries.

Then it crashed again. Same thing, a half-hour later. Okay, so not just a glitch. Sigh.

So I started reading again, comparing notes.

Just in case you’re doing this search yourself, here are the two best comparison sites I found:

http://www.topattack.com/list/best-internet-browsers-review/4 and

http://internet-browser-review.toptenreviews.com/.

There I finally found a few that seemed like good candidates to become my next browser.

I downloaded and installed Internet Explorer 11 and was immediately sorry. Like the rest of Microsoft, it’s far too bossy for my tastes, and it isn’t NEARLY as fast as the two comparison sites above claim it is. Plus it uses a ton of memory, again, as opposed to what a lot of reviews say.

I quickly grew tired of the “big” browsers. I had tried IE twice and hated it both times. Firefox, of course, was out, Google Chrome seemed overly flippant in their lack of desire to allow the end user (me) to set things up for my convenience, and Opera… well, I liked Opera except that it apparently is a crash machine.

So I read in-depth reviews about three other browsers: Pale Moon (based on the Firefox engine but sleeker and faster), Torch (based on the Chromium engine, like Google Chrome, it allows for a LOT more personalization and is not as high-handed) and Sea Monkey (based on the Firefox engine but just as fast as Firefox while using a LOT less memory).

I finally installed Pale Moon, but the first time I visited a news site that had a few pictures on it and links to videos (not videos, just LINKS to videos), it acted like Firefox. Someone turned the ignition key in an F-16 cockpit and the computer slowed to a crawl. Now the crawl was considerably faster than the Firefox crawl, but a crawl is a crawl.

Thing is, I can’t abide a crawling browser. Let me explain. In my world, I don’t really notice 1/60th of a minute as it ticks past, but I can get a lot done in, say, 15 seconds. So in my world, a minute has four 15-second segments. In my world, an hour has 240 of them. Not just 60 minutes, but 240 quarter-minutes, during which I can be accomplishing things IF my browser isn’t crawling along, sapping my strength and my patience.

So the search continued. All of that was on Day 1 of my search.

On the morning of the second day, fresh out of bed at 3 a.m., I grabbed a cuppa coffee, turned on Pale Moon, opened a new tab and began comparing browsers.

I swear, I thought I heard my computer say in a soft, almost menacing voice, “What are you doing, Harvey?” (see 2001: A Space Odyssey)

And yes. Aloud I said, “Nothing. Nothing, ProBook 6460b. Everything’s fine.”

Then I downloaded the installation files for Sea Monkey (http://www.seamonkey-project.org/) and Torch (http://www.torchbrowser.com/).

Torch downloaded first, so I installed it and TADA! it’s working great.

If it continues to work well, that will be the end of my search. If it doesn’t, well, I still have the installation files for Sea Monkey set aside, so we’ll see.

If you have any questions about any of this, please ask in the comments section below.

UPDATE: Since I pre-posted this, I resolved most of my issues by changing my Internet Service Provider (ISP). Apparently I was using one that sent signals, primarily, via clay tablet. Once I converted to one that uses actual electrons, my service improved greatly. Still, the above seemed like a useful post so I decided to leave it here.

‘Til next time, keep writing!

Harvey

To sign up for my diary of a professional writer’s journey and learn by osmosis, click The Daily Journal.

To receive a free short story every week in your email, click Story of the Week.

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out or just click paypal.me/harveystanbrough. If you’ve already contributed, thanks so much. If you can’t make a monetary donation, please consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. (grin) Again, thank you.

 

A Public Service Announcement… sort of

Yeah, sort of. If you’re a writer, you need resources, and the fact is, I’m a good one. I’ve recently revamped the Writers’ Resources listing in the right sidebar of my page.

That sidebar contains a list of copyeditors as well as various useful tools: several dictionaries for everything from slang to sex; language translators and conversion resources for measurements, mileage, money and more; invaluable information for would-be independent publishers; character naming conventions; free apps; free or inexpensive alternatives to Microsoft Word; and a great deal more.

Among the great deal more there are also miscellaneous resources, such as the newly added Historical Maps site where you can get free digital maps, two resources concerning gardening, two or three quotation sites, notes on police procedures, and links to various writers’ groups. Seriously, take a look.

I also point directly to the websites of Dean Wesley Smith and Steven Pressfield. If you haven’t visited Dean’s website, you are missing out on a TON of great information for writers and indie publishers (and you are an indie publisher if you’re a writer and you’re smart). If you haven’t yet read Pressfield’s Do the Work and The War of Art, well, just stop complaining about not finding time to write ’cause really, seriously, you don’t have a leg to stand on.

Of course, there are also my very own instructional blog posts, which come out every ten days and which of course I hope you find useful. I don’t care for false modesty, so I’ll just say, without bragging, if you read my regular posts, you will learn a great deal about writing, and it will be good information, not the inane bullcookies you hear from people who hold themselves up as experts although they’ve never published anything. I mean, puh-lease.

One thing… Beginning with my next post, you’ll receive those on the 1st, 11th and 21st day of the month. Up until now they were going out on the 10th, 20th and 30th, but despite protracted, endlessly frustrating negotiations, my team thus far has been unable to get February to go along with the program re the posting on the 30th. So I’m making the switch.

Just in case you’re scratching your head and saying something like “Huh?” the problem is that February has only 28 days, except every four years when it begrudgingly adds a 29th day, apparently to tease us and show us it could get to 30 if only it wanted to, which of course it does not because, frankly, that’s just the way February is.

Okay, finally, I’ve also decided to take the plunge into donation land. I mean, I’m a professional writer. I make my living with my words, except the words in my instructional blog posts, which I give you because it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Okay, but warm, fuzzy feelings don’t put bacon on the table, and the fact is, I like bacon, despite the fact that (or maybe because) liking bacon isn’t politically correct because it isn’t made from soy.

So if you’re one of those folks who tells me now and then how much you learn from these posts or how valuable they are or how reading them doesn’t actually give you a migraine, hey, I hope you’ll consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar. You can click the preceding link or you’ll find a button in the upper right corner. And if you’re one of those folks who like to remain silent because, after all, that’s your right, but you also enjoy the posts, learn from them and so on, I hope you’ll consider tossing a tip my way as well.

I’m a full-time fiction writer now, which means I’m making my living with my words. In the past 9 months, since April 15, 2014, I’ve written over a quarter-million words of fiction (263,441 to be exact). That doesn’t include blog posts and other nonfiction. In those 263,441 words are 46 short stories and 3 novels. During that time also, I collected the stories in 12 short fiction collections and the novels into a trilogy. Finally, during that time I created 62 book covers and published those 62 works to over 100 nations around the world through various ebook and print venues. Not bad for an old man, eh? (grin)

I’m just sayin’, writing blogs posts and seminars and other nonfiction is no longer my main focus. When I write a blog post to help you out, it costs me time that I could otherwise use to tell a story. And frankly, telling stories—sitting at my keyboard making stuff up—is a great deal more fun. (grin)

Oh speaking of which, I also added a tip jar to my fiction showcase website over at HEStanbrough.com. If you sign up over there, you get a free, brand new, freshly minted short story every week. Anyway, that’s the same tip jar so don’t feel like you have to hit both of them, okay? But yeah, one would be nice. (grin) You know, if you can see your way clear.

Those tips will help me keep these blog posts going. Oh, and if you do decide to toss something into the kitty, as they say down in Texas, Bless yer hort.

Coming up, in addition to new blog posts, I’ll also be reposting a series on Microsoft Word for Writers and a revised series on Being a Professional Writer as well as a lot of other good stuff.

Until then, 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