Great Stuff for Writers, June 10, 2013

From characters to research to finding an editor to doing your own editing (both necessary!), to more besides, we’re covering quite a waterfront today. Let’s dive right in.

CRAFT

An editorial style sheet isn’t something most writers pay attention to, do, or even know what it is. Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) makes a case for creating one in How to Create a Style Sheet for Your Manuscript. The bottom line for this thing is consistency—in spelling, grammar, punctuation, relationships, physical characteristics, basically anything that you could not keep straight over the course of writing a novel. And which, count on it, some reader will catch.

Donald Maass (@DonMaass) draws an analogy between your characters’ journey through a story and his own family’s hikes in and map study of the mountains of northern New Jersey in The Map and the Trail. In both cases, Don’s family and your characters get lost and have to find their way to their destination when their maps (or lack of maps) fails them.

One way to have characters, especially ones who are romantically connected, to get lost is to create conflict between them, says Katie Weiland (@KMWeiland) in The Secret Ingredient of Can’t-Look-Away Fictional Relationships. Of course, conflict is the engine of story anyway, but if there’s romance and conflict, well, that’s just more interesting, isn’t it?

In Honoring the Backstory, Kill Zone author Clare Langley-Hawthorne wrote about the need to do research to get the details right, particularly in genres where the readers are likely to be experts themselves. James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) replied with How Important is Research and Authenticity in Fiction? Interestingly, for a former lawyer, his answer was, “the appearance of authenticity is what we’re after. If a made-up detail can suffice for effect, why not?” (Emphasis his.) Some very successful authors (e.g. Tom Clancy) do (or did) intensive research, others (Lee Child, Lawrence Block) not so much. What do you think?

Katie Weiland (@KMWeiland) shares her entire editing process in How I Self-Edit My Novels: 15 Steps From First Draft to Publication in her latest post. FIFTEEN steps? Yes! And it’s a multi-year process. No shortcuts here. My biggest takeaways were her FOUR sets of different beta readers and her technique for final proofreading. Keep in mind, this is one writer’s technique. What works for her may not work for you, but the care and attention she pays to her work matter.

BUSINESS

Last week I posted an article by Stacy Ennis (@StacyEnnis) on selecting an editor. This week, Therese Walsh (@ThereseWalsh) continues that conversation in What Should You Expect from a Freelance Editor? (A Timely Debate), recapping the posts by various members of the Writer Unboxed Facebook group, then adding an extended comment by Ennis. Having recently had by own WIP professionally edited, I can vouch for the value of this conversation.

Is giving e-books away a good marketing strategy? Joel Friedlander found James Moushon’s (@jimhbs) Free eBook Promotions Can Be Pure Gold for Authors on Self-Publishing Review. The key phrase in the title is “can be,” not “pure gold.” Many of the almost two dozen authors who provide comments for the post note that book giveaways are not an unalloyed good—there are pluses and minuses to the concept—but nearly all agreed that giveaways are a net positive.

THE WRITING LIFE

In The Barrel Test, Michael Swanwick’s son likens the critiques his dad gives to “being put in a barrel of gravel and rolled downhill.” But as Swanwick pere says, the purpose of criticism and correction for a new writer is to give them the information that will help them make their fiction better. I’ve certainly seen that in my own writers’ group, and it’s a real pleasure to see a writer get better from draft to draft.

The lessons may not be new, but Lydia Sharp (@lydia_sharp) puts a new spin on them in Everything I Thneed to Know About Writing and Publishing I learned from THE LORAX. Her baker’s-dozen-plus-one lessons should bring a smile to your face, and maybe an “aha” to your lips.

FUN

Bonnie Trenga guest posts on Grammar Girl why the advice, Don’t Worry, Be Gruntled is actually good. And that it IS possible to be sheveled (use a comb) as well as disheveled. And yes, you can be “in whack”—“in fine whack” as a matter of fact, as well as out of whack. You’ll be well gusted with her explanations of how these terms, and others, came to be.

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