I love epic music and think it’s the perfect theme for science fiction movies.
It’s been a while since I’ve been here, too long. I’ve been meaning to get back here and update everything but, well, you know how life gets in the way. Never mind, I’m back and everything is now updated with the new books, appropriate buy links etc. There’s a fifth volume of The Sinclair V-Logs and a paranormal novel for you to enjoy.
There’s also a new character interview to enjoy. Interview with Commander Byron – 6th March
It’s been a year since lockdown started and I have to admit that I don’t mind the isolation. I’m autistic so the ‘social thing’ is not something I feel comfortable with and I tend to avoid it anyway. Lockdown has been little different to my normal life really. I do hate the masks though as I simply cannot breathe in them. I do wear one, obviously, but I hate it and struggle to breathe all the time it’s on. Apart from the breathing difficulty, I like the idea of masks. They allow me to make silly faces at you without you knowing. I don’t have to put my teeth in if I don’t want to either!
I’ve spent the greater part of today applying for Universal Credit and it’s the most ball achingly awkward procedure ever. I’m pretty clued up with using the internet, so someone who is not used to it would have a terrible time. This is what the DWP want though; if enough people are put off by the hellish application procedure, fewer might end up having to be given any money. I think I finally got my aplication done, so now I wait to hear from them I guess.
I’m halfway through volume six of The Sinclair V-Logs and hope to be able to bring that to you in the summer.
Everything looks quite different here in WordPress, I wonder if we can now post youtube links. I’ll have to check that out.
I’ve finally got the website fully up to date and I’m sitting back and feeling very virtuous.
So, now The Sanctification Molecule is done, what’s next on the agenda? I have the fifth volume of The Sinclair V-Logs finished to first draft and a standalone paranormal novel half written. See, I haven’t wasted the time I spent getting this illness under control.
My next priority is getting the paranormal novel, 1438, finished to first draft. Once that is completed, I’ll set about editing the new Sinclair V-Log and getting that out. Then I’ll start writing another standalone that I have a basic story arc prepared for. Once that’s done, or when the creativity dries up as it did twice with 1438, I’ll get on with editing 1438.
That’s my normal process. I have one at first draft waiting for editing, one being written, and a story arc ready for a third.
Now that I’m back in my blog, I’ve been able to update my Inter-Galactic Guidebook and its now finished as far as the major locations are concerned. The two final locations are:
Guide to Regnor Prime
Guide to Sigma Prime
There is also an interview with Gabol Raimes, star of The Sanctification Molecule, here.
Hey there, did you think I was dead? Sunning myself on a caribbean island? I’ve been ill and it’s taken a while to get this illness settled into a manageable routine that I can cope with on a daily basis. It’s life shortening, but I’m trying to be as healthy as I can.
So I’m back and after doing battle for several hours, during which WordPress refused to let me back in here, I made it in and can now get back to blogging and keeping the website up to date.
I have a brand new novel just out too, a standalone this time, not part of the Sinclair V-Logs series.
Terraforming usually takes decades. What if it could be done in weeks, but at the cost of countless lives?
Gabol Raimes, the mysterious and enigmatic merchant trader with those unforgettable eyes, faces this question when the promise of the biggest single paycheck of his career comes his way.
When asked to supply the final ingredient for The Sanctification Project, he finds himself and his crew battling the ethics of what they’re doing, as powerful demons from his past emerge to taunt him.
Just who is the man at the head of the corporation, and why is he so familiar? How is he connected to the most painful time of Gabol’s life, and what is his plan for this secretive man with the haunted expression?
The Sanctification Molecule can be purchased in paperback and kindle formats, at Amazon
If you’re a science fiction fan and love all things space opera, you’ll be interested in free books, right?
All four of my Sinclair V-Logs ebook volumes are currently FREE until July 31st.
Details of how to claim your 100% discount are on the books’ Smashwords pages.
Here are the Smashwords links to all four of the Sinclair V-Logs.
Okay, so you’ve got everything into a single file and you’re now ready to put it into a format that will be acceptable to Amazon for upload into their Kindle publishing platform. This is not a difficult process, but one that must be done correctly, according to Amazon’s rules. So long as you take each step in turn, you shouldn’t have a problem. It might seem complicated at first, but once you’ve done it a few times, it will be easy. So let’s get started shall we?
The first step is to change the paragraph layout. First, do a global highlight by clicking ctrl + A to highlight the entire document. This will make sure that the changes you’re about to make will be made to the entire file. To do this, you will be making use of the Paragraph Layout box. In my version of Word, it is located along the top of the page, but yours could be different and you might have to look around to find it. It will be called, Paragraph.
Click on that and another box will open.
Enter the details into the various boxes as in my example above, then click OK. Your file will now have equal margins down either side, with the first line of each paragraph indented, and the lines spaced nicely apart from each other.
The next part only applies to those people who have put a blank line in between two paragraphs, to signify a change of character or scene etc. If you never do this, skip to the next bit. If, like me, you like the breathing space offered by such a line space, read on.
You will find that your original blank lines have now disappeared, thanks to the global justification you just did, so you will need to refer to your original file when placing the spaces back in again. What you will be doing is putting in a slightly bigger space between two paragraphs to represent the blank line you originally put in. You have two options:
Put the extra space below the paragraph before the space, or above the one after. The choice is yours but it pays to always do it the same way to avoid confusion. I do it below the paragraph before the space, so my screenshots will indicate this. The process is called, Hanging Paragraphs and is a much neater way of putting in the blank lines than simply by hitting enter again.
Highlight the paragraph immediately before where you want the blank space to be, then click on the Paragraph box again.
You will notice that a value of 12 has now been placed in the ‘After’ box, under Spacing. If you are working with the paragraph after the space, put the 12 in the ‘Before’ box. Click OK. You will notice that the two paragraphs move slightly further apart. It looks professional, far more so than simply entering another carriage return.
Now work through the entire file, doing the same thing wherever you want a blank line between two paragraphs. Only use the blank line to indicate a change of scene, a new character’s point of view, a jump in time etc. Less is more.
Now we move onto to your chapter headings. It is time to move them to the centre.
Highlight your chapter heading and click the Paragraph box. In the very first box, under ‘General,’ change ‘Justified’ to ‘Centred.’
Underneath that, under ‘Indentation, Special,’ change the setting to ‘None’ as in my example above. If you do not remove the ‘first line’ indent setting, your centring will be slightly off to the right.
Work through all your chapter headings the same way. If you end your book with The End, you can do the same there too. You can also do your front matter and end papers, if you want them centred. At least have your title page and dedication centred, if nothing else. What you don’t want centred, leave justified.
INSERT PAGE BREAKS
Go back to the beginning of your file. Remember I told you that a kindle book doesn’t have pages like a physical book does? Well now we have to tell it that our file has some parts that we wish to be treated as separate units, a bit like pages. What you will do is insert a page break at any appropriate point where you wish the Kindle device to treat it as a separate piece of work, aka a page.
Directly beneath your title page, on a new line, go to your Insert option. As in the first pic at the top, mine is along the top of my Word page, but yours may be part of a clickable menu list. When you find Insert, click Page Break. You will see a dotted line appear across the page, beneath your title page, in the centre of which, it should say, ‘page break.’
Do the same after each page of your front matter, your copyright page, dedication, acknowledgements etc. Then do the same at the end of each chapter, before the new chapter heading. Finally, do the same after each page of your end papers, if you have any. You don’t need to put one right at the very end of the file, as it’s the end anyway.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
This is not strictly necessary, but it does give a more professional look and feel to your Kindle book, and readers will like it. I feel it’s worth the effort of putting it in, but it’s up to you. If you don’t want to, skip this bit.
The Table of Contents, or TOC for short, is placed immediately before your first chapter, and is a list of every chapter and page of interest in your book. Here you will list your chapter headings, your About the Author, your Coming Soon, etc. It enables the reader to go anywhere within the Kindle book by way of a simple click, rather than by scrolling through. I have been led to believe that some E-readers put a version of a TOC in automatically, but as with everything connected with my writing, I like to be in control.
The TOC consists of two parts; the list of contents, and the ‘back to top,’ at the end of each separate section. It is relatively straightforward, but there is a lot of highlighting and clicking involved. Before you start, make sure you will not be disturbed for half an hour as to get something wrong here will infuriate your readers. If they want to go to chapter seven, they don’t want to find themselves at chapter ten because you weren’t paying attention.
Place your TOC immediately before your first chapter heading, your Chapter One, after the preceding page break. Title it, Table of Contents, or simply, Contents. Then list your chapters by name, Chapter One, Chapter Two etc. If you have named your chapters, keep them as Chapter One, Two, Three etc in the TOC. After your chapters, list your About the Author and Coming Soon, and any Acknowledgements etc you may have as end papers. Put another page break after it.
Now comes the tedious bit. What you have to do is make each of the entries within your TOC into a clickable link. Those links will then take the readers to the right places within your file. This is achieved by using Bookmarks and Hyperlinks. You start by highlighting your chapter heading. Then click ‘Insert’ and navigate to ‘Bookmark.’
A box will appear, like this:
Before you begin, click ‘Hidden Bookmarks’ and see if anything appears within the box. If so, highlight and delete everything. If not, great. Highlight your chapter heading, then enter the name of the bookmark, in this case, something along the lines of ‘chap1’ will do fine. There should be no spaces within the name. Click ‘Add.’
Navigate to Chapter Two and scroll back to just above the page break and enter, ‘back to top.’
Move to Chapter Two and highlight it. Enter a bookmark, ‘chap2’ or something similar.
Go through the whole file, making sure to enter your ‘back to top’ at the end of each chapter, just above the page breaks. Put them also at the bottom of each of your endpapers. Your endpapers can have bookmarks that tell you what they are, as in my example above. ‘Soon,’ About,’ etc.
At the very end of the file, put another ‘back to top.’
Go back to your TOC.
Highlight the title of your TOC and enter a bookmark ‘refTOC’ or simply ‘TOC’ will do.
Now you will link those bookmarks to your TOC, creating clickable links. Highlight the first entry of your TOC, Chapter One. Navigate to ‘Insert,’ then click ‘Link.’
Clicking Link will produce a further box.
You should see all of your carefully entered bookmarks listed. First, make sure to click ‘Place in this document’ down the left hand side. Scroll to your ‘chap1’ bookmark and click it. Then click OK. You should notice the first entry in your TOC has now turned blue, indicating that it is now a clickable link.
Now work through your TOC, highlighting each entry in turn and linking it with the correct bookmark. When you’ve finished, each entry in your TOC should be blue, indicating they’re all clickable links.
You now need to make the links that allow readers to go back to the beginning of the document. This is where you will make all of those ‘back to top’ entries into links.
Go the end of Chapter One and highlight ‘back to top.’ Open the ‘Link’ box and link it with the bookmark titled, ‘TOC’ or ‘refTOC’ or whatever you called it. When you click ‘OK’ you should see the ‘back to top’ go blue.
Work through the entire file, making all the ‘back to top’ entries into links in the same way.
All that’s left for you to do now is to check each TOC link works properly and takes you to the right place. Once you’re satisfied, you’re done.
Congratulations, you’ve just formatted your own Kindle book. Now go to Amazon, upload it, and crow to your friends about how clever you are.
I’ve noticed there are many authors out there who don’t know how to format their own manuscripts. This is a shame as it’s very straightforward as long as you follow the rules step by step and don’t try to ‘be clever’ with it. There are far too many authors paying good money for a service they really don’t need, so this post is for them.
First of all, let’s lay down a few ground rules to get us off on a footing of complete understanding.
1 This is for those wishing to format for Amazon Kindle.
2 This formatting is achieved using Word. I have no knowledge of other word processing systems, so those using anything else, you may find this system either doesn’t work or needs tweaking according to your own system.
3 This is the system for formatting text only books/stories. If you’re including pictures in your work, this is not for you.
There are a few steps you will be working through. They are, front matter, body text, end papers, and tables of contents. We will go through them one at a time and I will try to explain as simply as possible. Feel free to ask questions if I don’t make things clear.
A few notes about Amazon
Amazon has fairly strict rules pertaining to the formatting of its Kindle books and if you fail to adhere to them, it will spit it back at you and close down until you fix it. I have found struggling to correct a mistake in formatting frustrating in the extreme, so it is always preferable to take the time to do it right first time.
A Kindle book is very different from a physical book. It has no separate pages you need to turn and is simply one long document. The Kindle device arranges it into pages to fit its own perameters, you don’t need to do it yourself. For the same reason, you don’t have to add page numbers, headers, footers, or anything of that nature. Kindle devices allow the user to enlarge the print if they wish and the device will automatically rearrange the size of its ‘pages’ to fit as the user makes their own adjustments.
You can add clickable links within your text so that users can go back to the beginning, or go straight to a particular chapter or place within the book that they wish without having to scroll all the way through. This will be covered when we come to inserting a table of contents.
In regard to links, Amazon does not allow any clickable links that advertise non Amazon web pages or competitors websites. You can, if you wish, add a line saying, “Find me on Facebook” or words to that effect but a direct link might very well have Amazon spitting your work back at you with a frown of disgust.
So let’s get on with it shall we?
This is an umbrella term used to encompass all that stuff you tend to find right at the front of a book. The title page, copyright stuff, dedication, and sometimes, the acknowledgements. With the exception of the title page and copyright page, also known as the verso, the rest is not compulsory. You must have a title page and you should have the copyright stuff.
This is the actual chapters of your book, from chapter one through to ‘The End.’
End papers are the opposite to the front matter and consist of stuff you often find at the end of a book, and sometimes at the front of a physical book. With a Kindle book, some of the stuff that might usually make up part of the front matter is better as end papers. Readers don’t want to wade through pages of stuff to get to the story, so leave it to the end and give them the choice of continuing to read after ‘The End’ or not. If they enjoyed your story, they might very well explore the end papers with real interest.
I always put the ‘other works by,’ ‘about the author,’ and ‘coming soon’ as end papers. You could put acknowledgements here too, a list of resources perhaps if you wish to show how and where you did your research.
Table of Contents (TOC)
This is a list of chapters, either chapter one/two/three etc, or chapter names if you’ve used them. All your end papers will be on the table of contents too.
Each of the entries on your TOC will take the form of a clickable link which allows users to zip straight to the place of their choice without having to scroll all the way through. At the end of each chapter, and each page you’ve included in your TOC, you will insert another clickable link that takes the reader back to the beginning of the book.
A note on fonts and style
This is one of those areas where simplicity rules supreme. Avoid the temptation to go wild with crazy fonts, cutsie little glyphs between paragraphs, stylish (?) line breaks, or dropped capitals. A dropped capital is where each chapter begins with the first capital letter blown up huge with the lines of text wrapped around it. Leave that to physical books, and then only in the very highest class of literary work. Anywhere else it just looks naff. Readers will find it annoying and distracting and will think less of you because of this interruption to the flow of the story. Remember, you are trying to please readers so their wishes and desires take precedence over your own.
For the very same reason, keep your font simple and please, I beg of you on bended knee, do not use Comic Sans or Papyrus. I always use Garamond in both Kindle and paperback and not once have I had any complaints. Fancy fonts will make people wonder why you’re trying to distract your readers away from the story and may think it might be because the story is lacking somewhat. Let the story speak for itself, don’t try to entertain with silly fonts.
The same goes for those cutsie little swirls and whorls some folks stick between paragraphs and other illustrative naffiosity. Leave it out, it’s silly and lacks class.
Sometimes, when changing scenes, characters, or points of view, it helps to have a blank line between one paragraph and the next. It helps to let the reader know a subtle change is happening, a different character, a change of scene or time etc. With Kindle manuscripts, simply adding an extra blank line can cause problems with the digital stuff that converts the file into a Kindle book. To avoid this, you use paragraph spacing to add that extra space. It’s called Hanging Paragraphs and I’ll explain the process when we get there.
It is accepted that your chapter headings; Chapter one, two, three, etc, will be in a slightly larger font size than the body text. Resist the temptation to make them over large, a couple of sizes bigger is all that is necessary. I always bold them too. I usually do my body text in Garamond size 11 and the chapter headings in size 14.
Now we need to actually do all that. First, we put the various bits together into a single document, after which we do the actual formatting.
STEP 1 – WRITE FRONT MATTER
You will need the title page, copyright (verso), and dedication if using one. Unlike with a physical book, there is no need to worry about where on the page your text will go.
The first part of your file is the title page and consists of the book title, with author name beneath. Use the biggest font size for the title, I use size 16, and have the author name in the same size as your chapter headings.
Next comes the verso, in which you claim your rights over your work. This is the one I always use.
Published by (Name of publisher, yourself if you’re self publishing)
© Merita King (insert year) all rights reserved
Cover art by (insert name if applicable). Copyright (insert year)
This novel is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this e-book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this e-book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
If you’re in any doubt as to what to say in your verso page, take a look at several other ebooks and see what they say. You can use the above as a starting point and change it to suit as necessary.
The dedication page comes next, if you’re using one. The word Dedication goes on a line by itself, with the names and any explanations underneath.
STEP 2 – BODY TEXT
Next comes your chapters. You can do a global cut and paste by using ctrl + A to highlight the entire document, then paste it onto the end, after your dedication, or verso if you’re not using a dedication.
STEP 3 – END PAPERS
Now is the time to write your, ‘about the author’ bio, your list of ‘other works by’ and a blurb for your ‘coming soon’ if you have one planned.
Keep your bio short, just a few lines is all that is required. A little about yourself to let readers know you’re a real person will do. Tell them how you love making Yak hair quilts in your spare time, that you hold the work record for the longest nose hair in the western hemisphere, or that you’re a crazy cat lady with a penchant for strong cheese. Don’t bother to list all your writing credentials, but do start with a line or two explaining why you write in your chosen genre and end with the personal stuff. A small paragraph in total will suffice.
If you have written other works, list them as ‘Other works by (insert your name here). Just include those that you have written and published, not those that may have been published in magazines, e-zines, the parish magazine, or the Women’s Institute Quarterly.
If you have a follow up book planned, or have one already written and awaiting editing, this is where you can give it a plug. Under the title, Coming Soon, write a short blurb for this up coming work. If readers really enjoyed your story, they might look out for the next one if they know one is on the way.
Tack all of this onto the end of your body text and you now have your completed single document ready for formatting proper.
In part two – time to do the real formatting work.
So you’ve finally finished your novel? You’ve typed those immortal words, ‘The End’ and you feel on top of the world. After weeks, maybe months of toil, no social life, and too much coffee, you feel wonderful. You have created something unique, something unlike anything else in existence, and you know that you will be rich and famous within six months. Not to put too fine a point on it, you feel like a god.
Then you look around and notice your messy home, the thick layer of dust blanketing everything beneath, the rolags of pet hair that have collected along the edges of the room, the piles of mouldering dishes in the sink, and your hairy armpits. You and your home may have suffered writer’s neglect, but you don’t care, you’ve been doing something far more important than mere housework.
After the initial glow of completion settles, you get to thinking about publishing your creation. The problem is, you can’t just publish right away and wait for the royalties to flow in. There is much to do to your new baby before you can begin to think of publishing. What you have in front of you is not a novel but a first draft. It requires further work to turn it into a book worthy of publication.
You’ve done the easy bit, now the real work begins.
There are several further steps on the road to publication you must take. You may not need to take every step, but it is probably best that you assume for the moment that you will have to. That way, it won’t be a shock later. These further steps are as follows:
Re-write (if necessary)
The above two steps may be repeated several times, so be prepared!
Edit (either yourself or via an editor you’re paying)
The above two may also be repeated more than once.
Final proof read
It’s a lot of further work isn’t it? What? You didn’t realise all this was necessary? Welcome to your baptism of fire my child. This is the life of the writer.
You can do all of the above yourself if you wish or if finances make it necessary. You can also pay others to do every step of the above but unless you’re rich beyond the dreams of avarice, be prepared to do a lot of it yourself. The problem with hiring editors and other writers’ services providers is that you have no way of knowing just how qualified they are when you hand over what is going to be a large amount of money. Don’t assume they’re on the level just because they advertise their services with a slick looking website, or have a list of authors willing to endorse them. Take nothing for granted, the internet is a den of iniquity and being scammed is as easy as falling off a log.
Read books in your genre and while you’re reading, look for mistakes. Are there spelling errors, grammatical errors, plot holes, or timeline anomalies? Does it look and read like someone took care enough to make it as perfect as possible, or does it come across as amateurish? Get others you trust to do the same and ask them what they think. If all seems well, approach the authors on their social media and ask about their editors. You can then approach the editors concerned and ask about the process, their fees etc. The cost is usually along the lines of so much per thousand words, or per page etc, and remember, the cost will be high. This will be your biggest expense so it pays to take your time, do your research properly and not get scammed. Another thing to remember is that there are different types of editing service and you will have to pay separately for each one. Some editors can do some or all of the different types, others can’t and you will have to find other editors for the other types of editing.
Copy Editing – this is usually the least expensive type of editing and usually concentrates on spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
Line Editing – The editor goes through your manuscript line by line and analyses each sentence. They will consider your word choice, the power and meaning of the sentence, syntax, and any trimming or tightening that they feel needs to be done to improve it.
Mechanical Editing – This type of editing is where the editor applies a particular style to your work when editing, such as The Chicago Manual of Style or the Associated Press Style. The clue is in the name; they will concentrate on the mechanics of your writing, spelling, capitalisation, abbreviations, punctuation, and any other style rules.
Substantive Editing – This is concerned with how your work is presented, the big picture. It works at anything from sentence level to chapter level and involves any big restructuring that may be necessary to tighten your work.
Developmental Editing – This type of editing goes into every aspect of the work. It looks at the big picture, the pace, characters, timing, point of view, tense, plotline, subplots, and dialogue. The editor concentrates on making the book enjoyable. They want to know if the characters are likeable, if the story flows well, if there are any places where information is missing or wrong, if the chapters are in the right order, and many other aspects that will hopefully enhance the reading experience. This is the most extensive and costly form of editing.
Some editors lump several of the above together into one, others do not. As with everything in life, be sure to ask for details.
If you’re planning to pay for an editor, there is much to do to your manuscript before sending it to an editor. This will not only save you money but will show the editor that you have an eye for details and are someone worth giving their time to. That’s another thing, just because you’re willing to pay them, doesn’t mean they will agree to do the work. They can refuse you if they deem you unworthy. It’s a bit of a cliquey crowd so be aware.
If you write your novel using Word, then I cannot recommend highly enough that you download and install WordTalk. It is a text-to-speech add-on to your Word system and will ‘read’ your work back to you. I have no words to adequately convey my love and gratitude to whomever invented this wonderful thing; how I ever managed before I discovered it is beyond me. With a few clicks, you can sit back and listen to someone reading to you, and you will notice a gazillion more mistakes than you ever could by reading your work yourself. Believe me on this, I know. There is something about listening to someone else talking that allows your brain to ‘hear’ mistakes far more easily than it can ‘see’ them when you read the work yourself.
Using WorkTalk, go through your work and correct any spelling errors. Don’t trust the in-built spell checker by itself as it often gets things wrong. It is designed for American spelling and will flag British spellings as mistakes, so be aware all you British authors out there. One of your best friends is Thesaurus.com which you can use not only to check spelling, but for when you wish to find a different word that conveys the same meaning as the one you originally chose. Sometimes it’s worth finding a slightly more sophisticated way of saying what you want to say and this website will enable you to find such alternatives easily. I also use it to find the right words for my book titles.
Punctuation is very important and you must pay adequate attention to getting it right. It is through punctuation that the reader knows how to read each sentence, when to take a breath, and helps our brains to understand what it is reading. There are many books and websites giving in depth information on punctuation rules, so I won’t go into too much detail here. There are a couple of things I will mention though.
Use commas, they tell the reader to take a breath. Try reading a sentence without them, it’s jolly hard work.
Get your apostrophes right. This is worth taking the time to research properly, as getting them wrong makes you look like an idiot. There are few punctuation mistakes guaranteed to annoy more than this one.
When punctuating dialogue, speech quotes go outside commas or full stops, always. Each person speaking must be on a new line, (not punctuation I know but this has just occurred to me).
Avoid exclamation marks. Although they accurately display surprise and astonishment, for some inexplicable reason they are frowned upon at the moment.
A question mark takes the place of a full stop at the end of a sentence. You don’t need to use both. One or the other only.
At the end of a sentence, use one space between the full stop and the first word of the next sentence. This is the only area where I, as a British novelist, have given in to the demand to do things the American way. The British way is to use two blank spaces, but demand to use just one is so high that the vast majority of editors will flag this up as an error, not knowing that it is actually a difference in cultural style rather than a mistake. Ho hum.
The above points are just a few important things you should make an effort with before sending out your manuscript to an editor, if you’re using one. It is worth making the effort, for it will not only increase your own knowledge, but showing a willingness to make the effort will endear you to your editor. The subject of punctuation is so much wider than just the above, and if you’re doing the editing yourself, take plenty of time to research the accepted rules and plod through your work gradually. Some aspects of punctuation are a little archaic and can be safely ignored, others will be difficult to understand but work at it, it’s worth it. Many of the websites will give not only definitions of the rules but provide examples too and this is very helpful when trying to make sense of what the hell they’re talking about. If, like me, your childhood education was a little (or a lot) lacking, this will be a big learning curve.
Dialogue tags are the subject of much debate among inexperienced writers. These are the, ‘he said, she said, he replied, she nodded’ that you see at the end of pieces of dialogue. Whichever terminology you use is your own choice, but there are some things worth pointing out. You don’t need a dialogue tag for every single piece of dialogue in an extended conversation. This is a mistake many writers make and one I made myself until I took the time to learn and experiment. You need only such dialogue tags as are necessary to help the reader know who is talking at any one time. In a back and forth conversation, the details of the conversation will largely tell you who is talking and you can limit tags to every third or fourth line of speech. For instance.
“But what about Harry?” he said.
“He’s not coming,” she replied.
“Why not?” he asked.
“Because he’s visiting his sick mother,” she shrugged.
“That’s inconvenient,” he snapped.
“I know but he sends his apologies,” she said.
See what I mean? It’s clumsy isn’t it? Now try this.
“But what about Harry?” he said.
“He’s not coming,” she replied.
“Because he’s visiting his sick mother.”
“I know but he sends his apologies.”
Much better isn’t it? You know who is talking all the time but it flows nicely and allows you to concentrate on the story being told rather than how it’s being said. Try it with your own work and see what you think. You can copy and paste bits of dialogue into a blank Word document and play with it before changing your manuscript. Use your WordTalk app and listen to how it sounds. This can be life changing when you get it right.
When analysing your writing, you must learn that there will be much you can cut out. A lot of what you write is unnecessary and you will find that by cutting these things out, your writing will sound more sophisticated. One of the most important is the issue of adverbs. An adverb modifies a verb. If you remember from your school days, we were taught, (in my school anyway) that a verb is a ‘doing’ word. It is a word that tells of action. Run, walk, sit, talk, laugh, jump, smile, cry, skip, build, scratch, fall, talk, sleep, all these are things you do and are verbs.
Adverbs modify verbs such as those above. Run quickly, talk slowly, sleep deeply etc. Many adverbs can be identified by the ending ‘ly’ but not all. There are a few, such as, always, often, sometimes, seldom, and never, which do not, but the ‘ly’ trick is very helpful. The vast majority of adverbs can be cut out without the need for further modification of the sentence. Take the sentence below as an example.
He ran quickly to the end of the street.
If he is running, then he will be moving quickly. You therefore don’t need to point this out, we can work that out for ourselves. Go through your manuscript sentence by sentence, identify the adverbs and take them out if possible.
Avoid beginning every sentence with the same personal pronoun. A personal pronoun is I, he, she, it, they, etc. You will find as you read through your manuscript, that you have long passages where every sentence begins with I, he, she, etc one after the other. Changing this is important but slow work and will require you to think about how to re-word the sentence. It is worth the effort though, as you will find when listening to your work later.
I looked up at the sky. I noticed it was getting dark. I decided it was time to go home.
I looked up at the sky and noticed darkness approaching. The lengthening shadows told me it was time I was getting home.
The second example sounds more sophisticated, it rolls off the tongue in an easy flow, whereas the first is clunky and akin to driving a car with square wheels.
Make sure you use your words correctly. Do not use, ‘affect’ if you mean, ‘effect’ for instance. There are many examples of such word pairs and although many are spelled alike, they have distinct and important differences in meaning.
Some other examples of such confusing word pairs are as follows.
There are other pairs of words that people often get wrong. They are not interchangeable and to use the wrong one serves only to make you look bad. Do your research, google is your friend here. Go through your manuscript and find each example and make sure you have used it correctly.
One of the fundamentals of telling a good story is to make sure all of your facts are right. This is where lists are helpful. It matters not whether you are writing of real places or inventing another world in a science fiction epic, your facts must be consistent throughout your work. If you say Henry is twenty years old in chapter three, then in chapter ten you say he is twenty five, but only a few weeks of time have elapsed in the story between those two chapters, you look like a dick. People will notice. Believe me on this, there is always that one person who notices and points it out.
Your geography must be correct and consistent, whether you are using real places or imaginary ones. The timeline must flow properly throughout your work. If your hero says he will do something in three day’s time, you must make sure any action between that declaration and the action takes three days. This can be difficult to keep track of and I have spent many an hour reading and making notes to make sure it was indeed six days as my character had already said, rather than five as I thought. Keep a list of events and divide it into days/weeks or whatever is appropriate for your work. Enter points in the appropriate day/week and in this way you keep track of your timeline.
If your work is set in today’s time or the past, your science has to be one hundred percent correct. You cannot say your hero drove a Ford Escort if he lives before they were invented. If your work is set in the future or in another galaxy, you can invent most of your science, but again it must be consistent throughout the work. Make more lists and enter details of every gadget, gizmo, engine, and component you invent, their name, basic make up and functions. This will save you hours of time searching for wherever it was you mentioned it before.
Anything medical must be right and appropriate for the time and setting in which you’ve placed your work. If someone falls ill and is cured, make sure the cure was actually available at that time. Research, research, research. Then research some more.
I write science fiction space operas and what I do with anything science or medical based is simple. I begin with a foundation of today’s accepted knowledge and invent on top of that. I find this gives the work a subtle but important authenticity that helps the reader accept it without questioning it. Let’s face it, in real life our knowledge and skills build on what we knew previously and I do the same in my writing.
A large proportion of any novel is what is known as descriptive. This is scene setting stuff like details of the location, the weather, how the characters are feeling, what they’re thinking etc. Novels need descriptive so don’t avoid it. By the same token, don’t go overboard with it or you will bore your readers. We want to know about the rustling trees, the chill morning air, the way your character’s nightmare disturbed him, the architecture etc but we don’t want a thousand word essay on the shape of the clouds. Hitting the right balance of descriptive is something that comes with practice. This is where reading helps. The more books you read, the more you will get a feel for the right amount of descriptive.
Finally, avoid info dumps like the plague. Again, the clue is in the name. An info dump is where you give a truck load of back information about your character or some other aspect of your story, all at once. This will bore readers stupid and they will just forget it anyway, so don’t do it. We want to know your character’s back story, but give us little bits throughout the story. If we find out everything about him right at the start, there is nothing else for us to discover about him, he has no mystery to captivate us.
When you meet new people in real life, you don’t find out their life history within five minutes of meeting them. You learn about them over time, through conversation and by being with them consistently. Keep this in mind when introducing us to your characters. Let us get to know them in the same way we get to know our other friends, gradually. It’s the same for any other aspect of your story, whether it’s a space ship engine, a house that has been lived in by seven generations of one family, or a secret family recipe for haggis. Give us the details bit by bit and you’ll keep our interest.
This is in no way meant to be an in depth guide to every aspect of self editing and should not be taken as such. I mean this to be a few basic but important points on which you can build your own wealth of knowledge and experience. Whether you intend to self edit or pay someone else, the above will give you a starting point from which you can fine tune your raw draft into a sleek and beautiful work of art. It is your legacy, it is worth taking the time to make it as perfect as you are able.
It’s been a while since I blogged here. There’s no specific reason for that, other than the fact that I don’t get a lot of readers here. That’s probably my fault for not blogging often enough, not being interesting enough, not being famous or controversial etc. It’s a vicious circle; don’t blog because not many stop by and read, but folks don’t stop by because there’s no new blogs. Chicken and egg. I do often think, “oh I should really do a blog,” but then struggle to think what to blog about. It’s as if I’ve lost some enthusiasm for it over the past months. I’ve lost enthusiasm for quite a lot lately, not just blogging. Maybe it’s the time of year, or my age, or both.
I’ve had some minor but irritating health issues, which are still being a nuisance today and which have sapped my zest a bit. I have another cat who is very high maintenance in all sorts of ways and he takes a lot of my mental energy. I’ve had a period of writer’s block too, which has lasted quite a while and although I’ve made a conscious effort not to worry about it, it’s been niggling at the back of my mind. At least this last problem now seems to have passed, as I’m once again thundering away at the keys, writing volume five in my Sinclair V-Logs series. One bit of good news amongst the grey fog of daily drudge.
I had a conversation with someone earlier today, about the afterlife and what we think might happen ‘over there.’ I decided some time ago, as a firm believer in reincarnation, that I am fully committed to never coming back again to live another life. This past fifty five years has put me right off ever doing this again, so I shall be fighting tooth and nail to avoid the draft again. We cannot know of course, whether coming back is voluntary or compulsory, but I’m taking no chances on that. Then there is the ‘moving on’ thing people talk about. Those who believe in another form of existence after this physical one, and I admit to being one of those believers, refer to this ‘movin on’ a lot.
Scientifically speaking, consciousness is electrical and electro magnetic energy and is measurable in laboratories. Scanners can show thoughts being formed inside the brain and emotions being felt. If you know anything about the conservation of energy theory, you’ll know that energy can never be destroyed. Since our consciousness is energy it must continue in some form once released from the bonds of the physical vessel in which it currently resides. We can only assume that the energy of our consciousness continues in some other dimensional, non physical plane. The transition from this dense, physical existence, to whatever, purely energy based dimension our surviving energies go to, is what is being referred to when people talk about ‘moving on.’
My dilemma is that, as a believer in reincarnation, I cannot know whether agreeing to ‘move on’ to this other plane is taken as agreement to return to another physical life. The risk of letting myself in for something I can totally do without means the only safe option for me is not to ‘move on’ at all but to hang around the fringes of this physical world and find what positive employment for my time as I’m able. When you think about it, there must be a lot of fun to be had messing with the living. Scaring the shit out of people must be a huge laugh; I can just imagine myself stomping along landings, slamming doors, and blowing in folks’ ears.
I’m a fast learner when I’m enjoying what I do, so if I work hard, I could become a much feared poltergeist and have paranormal teams flocking to catch my image on film. I might finally become famous after all. Shame it’s not for my novels though.