Microsoft Word for Writers: Introduction

Hi Folks,

This post and the next seven are excerpted and expanded from a seminar I put together awhile back titled “Microsoft Word for Writers.” I also posted this series before, a couple years ago, on this blog. However, I have updated the information where necessary.

I encourage you to comment and share new information, but please question, comment or expand only on the topic of the current post. Today’s post briefly introduces Microsoft Word and offers other valuable resources, including alternatives to Microsoft Word and where to purchase it if you don’t already have it.

The remaining posts in this series, which will appear every ten days, are nuts and bolts stuff, and they will include screenshots for your convenience. If you have two computer screens, you will be able to read the blog post on one screen while practicing in Microsoft Word on the other. Of course you can also simply print out or otherwise save the blog post and practice later. The screenshots are sequentially numbered throughout the series:

  • Setting Up the Menu
  • Setting Up the Quick Access Toolbar
  • Setting Word Options
  • Find & Replace (The Most Valuable Tool in Word)
  • The Paragraph Formatting Tool (includes an overall example of the Find & Replace function used in conjunction with the font- and paragraph-formatting tools)
  • Odds & Ends
  • Styles

Introduction

Microsoft Word comes as part of the Microsoft Office package. Different versions of Word have different features, or the same features in different places. This series is based on Microsoft Word 2010. If you’re using an earlier version, your dialogue boxes might look slightly different from the screenshots in these blog posts. Any techniques I mention here will be essentially the same, although you might have to think a bit and alter the instruction to suit your version of Word.

To see which version you have, click Help and then About Microsoft Word. (In some versions, Help is a separate tab in the menu. In others, it’s located under the File tab in the menu or in the upper right corner of the Word screen as a white question mark in a blue circle.)

I work with a PC, but from what my Apple-oriented friends tell me, Microsoft Word for Mac is comparable. Thanks to Alison Holt, a dear friend and excellent author, for providing me with the location of this PC to Mac and Mac to PC Converter. It’s an excellent resource.

Where Can I Get MS Word Without Breaking the Bank?

Of course, it’s always better if you can go to Staples or your store of choice and purchase the full version of Microsoft Office outright, and that’s what I recommend if you can afford it. You can also purchase the military and student version on military bases at the base or post exchange if you have privileges (saves sales tax). However, in the real world, you can also visit eBay or Amazon. Key in “Microsoft Word 2010” or “Microsoft Office 2010” and see what pops up. Even if it’s used, if you receive the OEM (original) program on CD and the Product Key, you’ll be fine. Of course, I do not endorse piracy or purchasing or using products illegally.

If you want to purchase the newer Microsoft Office or Word, it’s available either as a subscription (Office 365) or as a dedicated program (Office 2013). I personally prefer Office (and Word) 2010 because it does everything I need it to do and it’s a dedicated program, meaning once I buy it, it’s installed on my computer (the license I bought is for up to 3 computers) and it doesn’t keep costing me in the future. With the subscription version (it’s called Office 365) the subscription is for one year (about $99) and for up to five computers.

Alternatives to Microsoft Word (Microsoft Office)

LibreOffice—This is a good alternative for Microsoft Word. Not quite as many bells and whistles, not quite as customizable as Word, but it’s free and it’s very intuitive. I used this one for a long time on the small laptop that is dedicated only to my writing. Like Microsoft Office, this is a suite of tools. Get it at http://www.libreoffice.org/download/libreoffice-fresh/.

WPS Office— This is another good alternative for Microsoft Word, and again it’s free. Between this one and LibreOffice, I liked Libre more, but your results might vary. (grin) Again, like Microsoft Office, this is a suite of tools. You can get WPS Office at http://www.wps.com/windows/.

Apache OpenOffice—This suite reportedly does everything Word can do, and it supposedly does it even more easily or more intuitively. You can get Apache OpenOffice 4.0 at http://www.openoffice.org/. According to the OpenOffice site, it’s easy to use, and best of all it’s both free and fully compatible with all versions of Microsoft Office. Similar to Microsoft Office, OpenOffice contains a word processor (called Writer instead of Word), a spreadsheet (Calc instead of Excel), a multimedia presentation program (Impress instead of PowerPoint), a drawing program (Draw—here it seems to me they’re taking a page from Corel), plus a database program (Base) and an equation editor (Math). I have not personally used OpenOffice, but I’ve heard nothing bad about it.

Jarte—This is basically a souped-up version of Microsoft’s WordPad. It has all the basic editing and formatting (both font and paragraph) functions, but it does not have the more advance features like Track Changes. Jarte is available at http://www.jarte.com/. I do have this program and I use it when I want to “just write” without being distracted with all the bells and whistles. Jarte is a free word processor, although you can pay a small fee to get the few extra bells and whistles of Jarte Plus. If you try and enjoy Jarte, I do recommend you upgrade to Jarte Plus just to help support the developers.

Writing Software

I do not recommend or endorse any so-called writing software, but some people swear by it. In case it’s something you would like to try, here are a couple:

yWriter5, for Windows PCs—This is billed at SpaceJock.com/yWriter5.html?yWriter5 as “novel writing software.” It’s a word processor that “breaks your novel into chapters and scenes, helping you keep track of your work while leaving your mind free to create. It will not write your novel for you, suggest plot ideas or perform creative tasks of any kind. yWriter was designed by an author…. yWriter5 is free to download and use, but you’re encouraged to register your copy if you find it useful.”

Scrivener—This program used to be available only for Mac, but it’s now available for Windows PCs as well as Mac OSX. Visit the website at LiteratureAndLatte.com/scrivener.php. You can get a free trial (I don’t know what’s included in the free trial), and the cost for the full version is $40. The site includes video tutorials. Among other features, Scrivener enables you to edit multiple documents, store virtual index cards on a “corkboard,” outline your project, and create collections to help you keep track of notes, etc. If this is something that appeals to you, I encourage you to visit the site to see what Scrivener has to offer.

You can find these and many more helpful links—including dictionaries and translators, various conversion engines, and a lot more—on my website at HarveyStanbrough.com/resources.

Next time, Setting Up the Menu. Until then 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!

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.

Notes on Being a Professional Writer

Hi Folks,

Yeah that's me. The guy with the beard.
Yeah that’s me. The guy with the beard.

When I was first learning to play the guitar at the age of 14, I was frustrated. Even after I learned to chord cleanly, nothing ever sounded quite the way it had when I’d heard it on the radio or when my uncle or others had played it. I checked and double-checked my chording, the progressions and timing between chords, and even how I was holding the guitar. Nothing seemed to make a difference. When I played for others, if anything it actually sounded worse than when I played alone.

I finally I asked my uncle (the guy I’m looking at in the pic), “When will I be able to play like you do?”

He just grinned and pointed at my guitar. “When you stop thinking of that thing as just another toy.”

He was right. When I began to respect my guitar and the discipline, I learned quickly. Like any other craft, it took respect, diligence and practice. Talent doesn’t hurt anything either, as evidenced by the existence of folks like Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Duane Allman, Jimmy Page, Chet Atkins, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Eric Clapton and many more. But there are a lot of great guitarists who make money at their craft but have never gotten famous.

Writing is no different. Although some writers are profound enough or prolific enough to achieve fame, many make a living with their craft without ever becoming household names. But “craft” is the key word. Writing is a craft, and to master it, the writer must study and practice, always striving for perfection. The fact is, great writers never stop learning.

The others, those who will never become great writers, fall into two general categories. The first group consists of those who believe the ability to use two long lines and a short one to create a capital letter A renders them able to write. Their motto is The reader will know what I mean, which in my experience as an editor equates to I can’t be bothered to do the actual work. The second group consists of those whose work has been published (self-published or otherwise) and they’ve taken that as a signal that they can learn nothing more. Ten minutes browsing in a bookstore or reading excerpts online will tell you that simply isn’t so.

If you want to be a successful fictionist—by which I mean a writer of short stories, novellas, novels, memoir and creative nonfiction—you need a driving desire to Get It Right. That’s what separates professional writers from those who just “kind’a sort’a think it might be neat to knock out” a few short stories or a novel.

For a professional writer, the first draft is for himself; everything else is for the reader.

Believe me, I understand the frustrations of trying to get a sentence or paragraph or passage Just Right, but the difficulty inherent in creating something brand new is the joy that enables the writer to keep breathing. There’s a great deal more to it than simply putting in the time. As Hemingway wrote, “Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done.” Most days he wrote only 400 to 600 words, but those words comprised a finished, polished passage. Some writers “just write” then go back and polish later in a second or third draft. But regardless of the individual writer’s ritual or technique, I’ve never known a successful professional writer who would risk anything short of making his or her writing as perfect as possible.

But won’t a really strong story carry weak writing? Generally, no. Consider, even though your overall story might well be wonderful, if any part of it confuses a reader or makes the reader wonder about inconsistencies or stops the reader cold, that story is not ready for publication. The writer should polish endlessly to get those glitches out, not because he can actually achieve perfection but because he should be embarrassed to present such work to the public. In the publishing world more than anywhere else, you truly do get only one chance to make a first impression. “Good enough” simply isn’t.

The point is, it isn’t the reader’s job to decipher your writing. The first time or two that most readers encounter confusing passages or egregious errors, they will simply toss the work aside and vow never to buy anything else by that author. So even though the writing might well improve later, fewer readers will take a chance on it. And why would they buy that author’s work again? The fictionist’s job is to entertain the reader. The reader’s job is to be entertained.

By the way, if you’re interested in becoming a professional writer, I’m offering a free introductory seminar on February 15 entitled “Taking Your Writing to the Next Level.” I’ll conduct the seminar in south Tucson. If you want to earn a regular income from your writing, if you strive for perfection in your craft and want your work to outshine all the other submissions in the publisher’s in box, these seminars are must-have. For information, email me at h_stanbrough@yahoo.com.

‘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