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Category Archives: Reading

Living with the Dreaditor

I came across Tammy Salyer via Twitter and was so intrigued by the fact that she’s both an editor and a creative writer that I asked her to write a guest post for me about how this works for her. Read on to find out how she uses her “editor’s brain” (the ‘dreaditor’) to help her fiction writing …

We all know that voice. The one in our head that says, “My Godiva, woman, did you really just string five adjectives in a row to describe your character’s appearance?” Or, “What-what-what!? You do know that dangling modifier makes you sound like a complete goon, right?” We’ll call that voice “The Dreaditor”—the evil, amorphous being that skulks within the crevasses of our brains and tries at every turn to squash our creative voice into so much jumble-y pulp.

For a lot of writers, the inner editor is worse than having Spock after he’s downed ten cups of coffee quoting bad lines from Star Trek directly into our ears in a bid to create order out of our creative chaos. “Are you sure it isn’t time for a colourful metaphor?” ~ Spock,”The Voyage Home” Or, “Nowhere am I so desperately needed as among a shipload of illogical humans.” ~ Spock, “I, Mudd”).

When starting out, many of us have to work very hard to ignore that voice, which can be exhausting and stifling to our creative brains. However, in contrast to the common notion that writers must completely turn off the Dreaditor, especially in their first draft, and just let fly with whatever mental ejecta our brainmeats conjure, I’ve found incalculable benefits in my eight years of serious writing to merging the personalities of Dreaditor and writer. By bringing these two personas together, I’ve learned how to stop the Dreaditor from yucking my yum and keep the writer within from being lost down the rabbit hole of endless possibility. Let me share these benefits with you.

First, the Dreaditor does a wonderful job of helping me figure out what I’m really trying to say. It is a master at clarifying ideas and making sentences get right to the point before they get out of hand.

We’ve all done it; a brilliant idea flashes through our creative brain and we start rapping at the keyboard as if the poor tool were Hungry, Hungry, Hippo. Finally, 300 words later, we type in a period. Then reality hits. We’ve just summarized our protagonist’s inner struggle with his addiction to chocolate milk in the most babbling run-on sentence known to humankind. Already we’re loath to think about what we’re going to have to go through in the second draft to figure out what we were trying to say in the first place, then to tighten up that sentence so our readers can figure out what the heck we’re talking about. But having a well-developed Dreaditor act as a kind of babelfish by automatically taking those potentially long and quirky sentences and distilling them into writing that is both concise and comprehensible the first go round barely slows your stream-of-consciousness writing a whit.

Secondly, no one is more innately compelled to pursue the elegance of structure as an editor, and thinking with your editor brain as you create helps you write toward a stronger overall story structure sooner. It’s one thing to be writing a fabulous scene that’s going to blow your villain into a new dimension—literally—but if your story is a romance set in the Old West, this may not be the most productive use of your time (no matter how fun it is). Having part of your brain always focused on how your writing links to your story arc and anchor scenes, how best to develop your characters in all situations, and what elements of the world you’ve built can be tied into your plot and conflict keeps your forward momentum more consistent in the long run. It also mitigates the pain later of having to cut wonderfully fabulous scenes, which you’ve sweat blood over, because they just don’t fit.

The third and most obvious benefit to having the Dreaditor always on duty is the vast amounts of time and mental energy you will save on your rewrites and subsequent drafts. An editor generally values efficiency in both language and movement toward an end goal. Being diligent about keeping your writing as streamlined and error-free as possible from the outset comes in immensely handy when deadlines loom. Additionally, it saves having to make endless passes at a particular page or scene if you’ve approached it with the precision-targeting focus of an editor from the beginning.

What works for me is certainly not a universally better process for all writers. However, I can honestly say that my writing began to improve in leaps after I’d taken a few self-editing classes. Becoming a successful creative writer is a subjective path with a variety of different objectives, depending on each person’s desires. Yet, becoming a writer with polished self-editing skills can only serve to propel every author closer to whatever their personal writing goals are. Plus, how many of us haven’t secretly wanted to be that person at parties that snootily points out to others that they’ve erroneously used “which” when “whose” is the correct word?

What do you think? Does every fiction writer have a dreaditor? Can you edit as you go along? Can a good fiction writer be a good editor and vice versa? (I know I’m not good at true creative writing, although I can write marketing copy with the best of them, and I know plenty of writers who say they couldn’t edit someone else’s work).

Author bio:
Tammy Salyer is a professional writer and editor who believes the imagination is humankind’s sixth sense. Contract of Defiance is the first book in her military science fiction Spectras Arise trilogy and was released to acclaim in Spring 2012. The followup, Contract of Betrayal, came out in February. Stop by Inspired Ink Editing, her blog, or follow her on Twitter and say hi.

I did a return guest post on Tammy’s blog with ten top tips for fiction writers. Read it here!

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2013 in Copyediting, Reading, Skillset, Writing

 

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A proper author – Victoria Eveleigh and her story

Victoria Everleigh I am delighted to publish this guest post by author, Victoria Eveleigh. I “met” Victoria via Twitter, through a discussion I was having about pony books with a bookseller (who I’m going to feature on the Saturday Small Business Chats soon). Victoria has an interesting story to tell, as she has become a somewhat unlikely author, and has now moved from self-publishing to being published!

You can read all about Victoria’s farm, horses and books on her website. Let’s hear her story …

How I became a Proper Author by Victoria Eveleigh

Nobody was more surprised than me (with the possible exception of my old English teacher) when I became an author.

I grew up in London, but spent as many holidays as possible on my grandmother’s farm on Exmoor. From an early age, my ambition was to marry a farmer and live on Exmoor. Remarkably, I’ve managed both: Chris and I have been farming for over twenty-five years now.

At 240 acres, our farm is fairly small, so we’ve had several other enterprises: a self-catering holiday cottage, horse-drawn tours over Exmoor with Shire horses, Land Rover tours of the farm, organic farming, cream teas, renewable energy and publishing.

Starting to write

The Foot and Mouth crisis of 2001 was partially responsible for my first book. We never got Foot and Mouth on our farm, but it came far too close for comfort. For nearly half a year we closed the self-catering cottage and horse-drawn tour businesses, and our children stayed at home for the whole of the spring term. It was a nerve-wracking year, and our cash flow became a trickle, but in some ways it was a holiday from all our usual commitments. For the first time since we were married, we had time to spare. Chris took up drawing and painting, while I sat down and wrote the book that had been forming in my head for several years: the story of a girl and an Exmoor pony growing up on an Exmoor hill farm together.

Full of optimism, I purchased a copy of The Writers’ And Artists’ Yearbook and started writing to agents. After several months, I’d received polite rejections from some and no communication from others. I felt utterly disheartened, and would have given up completely if a friend hadn’t suggested publishing the story myself. She’d published her own books in the past, and said all I needed to do was register myself as a publisher (I registered as Tortoise Publishing), get someone to design the layout of the book (I asked a good friend who’s a graphic designer), get a printer to print it (our local printer who printed our holiday cottage leaflets obliged) and some people to buy it (um…).

Learning from self-publishing

It was shocking how much space 6,000 books took up when they were delivered to our house by the printers. Too late, I realised I knew nothing about selling and, being typically British, I didn’t feel comfortable promoting myself. However, the prospect of never being able to use the sitting room again spurred me on. I loaded some books and leaflets in the back of the car and went for a drive around the Exmoor area. There weren’t many bookshops but there were gift shops, tourist attractions and tack shops, so I had more outlets than I’d realised. In fact, my best customers turned out to be places which normally didn’t stock books because there was no competition. (I’ve found that the easiest way to get depressed is to go into a large bookshop and see how many different books there are, all vying for attention!)

Probably because of Chris’ illustrations, the first book sold so well that I had to do another print run, and I was encouraged to write a sequel. Now I had stacks of boxes and a bit of money, so we converted Chris’ work shed into a farm office where I could store both the books and the ever-increasing quantity of farm records. At last I had a warm purpose-built room where I could write and deal with the paperwork for the farm and publishing businesses.

We made the Exmoor pony story into a trilogy, wrote and illustrated a colouring book about the farming year for the Exmoor Horn Sheep Breeders’ Society and then published a story set on the island of Lundy.
The amount of effort it took to promote, sell, distribute and account for the books meant I had an ever-decreasing amount of time for writing. Furthermore, while I was trying to build up my publishing business several things happened to the book industry: the economy slowed down, then went into recession; fuel and postage prices went up, squeezing margins because books are typically delivered for free; paper and printing costs increased, and large bookshops and online stores started a price war. Simultaneously, the whole book industry was going electronic, and I couldn’t really get my head around it all.

Never give up …

I’d more or less decided to quit while I was ahead when I received an email from Louise Weir, who runs a website called Lovereading4kids. She’d read my Lundy book and wanted to make it a book of the month on her website and, to cut a long story short, through her I was taken on by Orion Children’s Books just over a year ago.

Since then my life has changed quite a bit. I have to treat writing like a proper job now, and it’s a scary, serious business with deadlines to meet, schools to visit and talks to give. However, I wouldn’t turn back the clock for anything. I love writing and I’m so glad I’ve been given this fantastic opportunity to turn it from a hobby into a whole new career. I’ve re-written my existing stories (which have been published as Katy’s Wild Foal, Katy’s Champion Pony, Katy’s Pony Surprise and A Stallion Called Midnight) and I’m writing a new trilogy for publication in 2013. It will have horses and the countryside at its heart, but it will have a boy as the main character for a change. Chris is still doing the illustrations for my books – so I’m now a proper author and he’s a proper illustrator!

I wish Victoria all the best with her new trilogy, and I’m looking forward to reading the Katy books soon. I should mention that Victoria’s publisher will be sending me a copy of “A Stallion Called Midnight” to review, but I wanted to share her story to encourage my readers who are writers: never give up!

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Guest posts, New skills, Reading, Writing

 

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Using my Kindle

I wrote a post back in February about my Kindle and my initial thoughts on it. I’ve recently started using the Kindle more, and I thought people might be interested to see my further experiences with the device. This review is cross-posted from my LiveJournal book review blog.

ETHEL BRILLIANA ALEC-TWEEDIE – A Girl’s Ride in Iceland
E-book, read on Kindle. Downloaded Feb 2011 from manybooks.net (I think)

Usually, I have a “nice” book or two on the go at home and then a less special copy to pop in my handbag for reading on the bus. But I took a look at my TBR and realised that I’ve got up to the Christmas/Birthday acquisitions, which means lots of “nice” books and not many “handbag” books. So I thought I’d use my poor, dusty Kindle, so eagerly anticipated and so underused since I got it, for reading on the bus. After all, a) I have 44 books on it, and b), as Matthew pointed out, I happily wave my Blackberry around on the bus, which cost twice as much.

So – the reading experience was good. I felt hyper-vigilant at first, taking it into town and back including coming back on the No 50 bus after 8 pm. But it was fine; as far as I could see, noboldy turned a hair, or even looked at it. My commutes to work are quite quiet as I go in early and come back before rush hour, and again, I was fine. I have the Kindle in a case, so I just popped it out of my bag, propped it on my bag on my lap, and there I was. It’s comfortable to hold with the case folded back (I have one shaped like a traditional book) although I don’t yet use it one-handed like the people in the ads. The screen was easy to read in sunlight and duller conditions, the pages are easy to turn, and the procedure for putting it away – flicking the switch and closing the case – take the same amount of time as inserting the bookmark and shutting the book. I am careful of my handbag with it in, and make sure it’s stored vertically between my purse and a notebook, and I’m more careful not to slam my bag down or kick it out of the way (and I keep the Kindle out of the bag at home) and all seems fine.

As to this particular book. Well, it was a charming read, which I would not have been able to read without digging out a second hand copy in Hay on Wye or a similar place, but easily available through Project Gutenberg and other sites like manybooks. My only problem with the text was that a) illustrations were not included (I have read a book with illustrations on M’s e-reader, so assume this is an issue with the text and not the Kindle), and b) some of the accented letters came out oddly – and of course Icelandic has a lot of these. I presume that’s a glitch in the coding, and it was OK, if a little annoying. The narrative itself is the 2nd edition of the book, originally published in 1889 and again in 1894 with a ‘Preface to the Second Edition’ which I didn’t notice until I was checking the publication date. But I’m glad I read it after the main narrative. The book deals with a trip to and around Iceland, undertaken by the author, her brother, her female friend and two of her brother’s male friends. Intrepid as an Isabella Bird, she quickly takes to riding the Icelandic ponies in the “man’s” style, i.e. sitting astride the pony rather than side-saddle, finding it more comfortable and easier on both her and the pony. The consternation with which this report was received was the subject of her Preface, in which she admits that she hasn’t been able to make people change over to the new style. Apart from this controversial issue, it’s a lovely description of Iceland, its people and places, giving a vivid snapshot of the island at the beginning of its tourist age, when it took 5 days to get there by boat from Scotland. Many of the sights and sites are the same, which made it a good companion to my Rough Guide, read recently, and in fact I’m now on to another book about travelling in the country.

A good experiment with the Kindle, and a great book I wouldn’t have found without the device. I will definitely be continuing with both the Kindle and the collection of slightly obscure travel narratives I have loaded onto it.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Ebooks, Reading

 

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On E-Book Readers

Since I put a review of a book I read on my new Kindle up on my book reviews blog, a few people have asked me what I think of e-book readers; whether they herald The End Of The Book, how I’m finding mine, etc. I did mull over whether to write about it on here or the reviews blog, but a couple of the points I want to make are pertinent to my craft and the way I work, so I thought it fitted here.

I’ve settled down to using the Kindle in a particular way, for a particular kind of book. Firstly, I’ve downloaded a number of books from free e-book sites such as manybooks, which offers Project Gutenberg and other texts in a format suitable for the Kindle. They are all free, all legally so, and, as I have a particular fondness for 19th century travel narratives, these are, on the main, what I’ve downloaded. These are books I hardly ever find in bookshops. If I do, they are often very expensive. So this is a new book to have, not a replacement for one I’d buy in print. And I’m fairly sure that I’ll still buy copies in print, if I find them. Secondly, in this category still, though, are e-only books, and those published recently but with Creative Commons licenses to allow them to be downloaded in this way. Just a couple of these at the moment, but I know that LibraryThing Early Reviewers give away e-only books, because I read one before I had the Kindle. Thirdly, I’m picking up free or cheap copies of classics. Classics I already own – but this is for that situation when I’m on holiday, and run out of books. It’s happened twice in the last couple of years, necessitating the purchase of very expensive British magazines or the borrowing of terrible books from the hotel library. So having complete sets of Hardy and Austen on there is very reassuring!

So that’s how I’m using it. No replacement of paper books, no loss of sales. Quite a few people I know are using their e-book readers to access books they just wouldn’t find in print – do I just know people who like obscure texts, or is that common?

A couple of other thoughts …

- It’s very comfortable to use, light and easy to hold (now I have it in a book-shaped leather case!)
– I could just use the Kindle app on the PC, but at the end of a hard day’s proof-reading, I just don’t want to gaze at a PC monitor!
– I think it makes the proper and full proof-reading and copy-editing of books and texts even more important. I’m going to return to the topic, “why bother proof-reading” in another post. But for now – the amount of text you see on the screen is smaller than that on a standard book page. So you don’t see as much context. Context is often how we make sense of what we’re reading, and how we establish what the author meant if there is any doubt. If there’s an error in spelling, grammar or punctuation, I think it’s easier for it to derail the reader, the smaller the amount of text they can use as context.

So – the Kindle. A good thing, in my case. It isn’t stopping me buying print books. It’s convenient, easy and gives me a few things to think about along the way!

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2011 in Reading, Why bother

 

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