Monday, June 26, 2017

Editing and Coaching in the Internet Age

Image by Sean MacEntee, via Flickr

I’ve gradually shifted from enjoying the safety of expressing myself in writing (i.e., being able to edit and polish my critique reports and editing comments until they were perfect, and perfectly tactful), to preferring face-to-face conversations where I can gauge my client’s response and offer further explanations as needed. I think being time-poor has impacted on my frustration – I can no longer afford to spend a whole day crafting an email.

With local editing clients, the solution has been simple. We meet up for a coffee and pore over the edits to a few chapters. But since I became active on the Internet, most of my clients have been longer-distance than is practical or possible for a meet-up. When I discovered Google Hangouts-on-Air, I realised it would be ideal for a virtual editing meeting – only to find that, when I finally had a chance to use it, Google had killed the “on-Air” part of Hangouts (it has, instead, been incorporated into YouTube Live).

So we went with a plain Google Hangout (without the ability to record the call – but there are options for add-ons, plug-ins, or downloadable programs that can record either a Skype or Hangout video call, if this is something you need.) I prepared a Powerpoint Presentation with some screen shots of edits I wanted to talk through, and used the Share Screen option to run that presentation over the call. I also saved the presentation as a PDF and emailed that to my client after the call.

It was a very successful and productive conversation. I was able to gain instant feedback that allowed me to tailor information and explanations that would otherwise have taken many hours of careful wording. Written communication can seem very formal and intimidating, so it was great to be able to keep the tone light by sharing a few humorous anecdotes.

If you can’t meet a client face-to-face (or your editor, if you’re the author in the partnership), then an online video call can help you check that you’re both on the same page. So to speak.

Elle Carter Neal is the author of the picture book I Own All the Blue and teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. Find her at or

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Writers: Famous, Infamous, and Just Plain Nobodies

Who knew that being an author could be so difficult? As if it’s not hard enough to write a book—and kudos to all those who have or will in the future—being taken seriously as a writer is sometimes beyond your control, even if you write a good book.

Exactly what does that mean? Certainly, the best way for people to want to read your books is if they already know who you are. If you have a platform and you’re famous, even locally, you grab the attention of an agent who knows part of her work is already accomplished. A writer with built-in name recognition can parlay that into bookstore signings, panels at conferences, interviews, and reviews by the big review sites. Many TV personalities have developed a major revenue stream from their books, using their programs as prime advertisements. They’re lucky, because most of us plug away in the silence of our offices, knowing that writing the book is just the beginning.

Networking is an important part of name recognition. That means going to multiple conferences, getting to know other writers, giving them support in exchange for the support they give you. The problem is conferences cost money. Lots of money. There’s the price of the conference, travel expenses, hotel, and if you have a job, which many writers need in order to survive, time off from work. Maybe you can juggle vacation time to offset the loss. Good for you.

Are you famous yet? Probably not, but if you can manage the cost of all I just mentioned, you have one step up, no, a whole flight of stairs up on those of us who can’t.

So what’s a Nobody to do, especially one who self-publishes? Years back, that would be the kiss of death. It meant you weren’t good enough to get an agent and a publisher. Not so much now, though there’s still a question of legitimacy. Many writers prefer to self-publish. A writer has control of his/her work, reaps more of the financial rewards (if there are any), and can’t blame anyone else for her lack of success. Many make more money than traditionally published authors, though the latter have garnered that elusive legitimacy by being published traditionally in the first place.

Internet social media, Facebook and Twitter, are of major importance to those of us who can’t swing the expense of a publicist or conferences after we’ve paid for editing and cover design. We post information about reduced pricing, good reviews, make friends, and realize a million others are doing the same thing. It’s also tricky. If all you do is self-promote, it turns people off, so we have author pages on Facebook and intersperse book information on our personal pages, hoping it’s not overkill. We tweet, which I’ve stopped doing because I felt I was preaching to the choir, though a friend who has over 60k Twitter followers, swears by its success in promoting her books.

We blog, blog hop, spend a lot on how-to books, advertise, have sales, promote, write and write some more, and sometimes we wonder why we’re doing all this to remain anonymous. Yet we keep doing it because most of us will say we can’t NOT write. It’s a conundrum, but it also makes us writers.

Polly Iyer is the author of eight novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Photo by Dru Kelly, via Flickr
A spirited conversation occurred a few years ago between me, my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter, when my grandson, age 2½, came running into the room, sporting a diaper full of poop. “PU!” exclaimed everyone. (Except my grandson, who was too young to care.)

And that started us off on the question of where did the exclamation PU come from? It’s an interesting question, but it turns out that no one really knows. (Linguists actually spend their professional time arguing about this question.)

First off, no one knows how it’s even spelled. Is it pew? or P.U.? And if it’s P.U., what do the P and U stand for? Or is it an abbreviation of a longer word?

Oh, how useful is the magic Google! What did we do before the Internet and we had to simply wonder about these fascinating questions?

Unfortunately the internet wasn’t that helpful on this one. We found out that some linguists think PU is a shortened term for puteo, Latin for “to stink or smell bad.” Other linguists think its root is the Indo-European word “pu” meaning to rot or decay.

And that’s as much as we could find out. So far. Perhaps someday I will discover the definitive answer to this earth-shaking question. Writers actually spend valuable time thinking about these things. Usually when they’re experiencing a case of Writer’s Block.

Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 12 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 45 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Proofreading Part 2 of 2

Recently, I had to take a long road trip. I decided to proofread while my husband drove. By sending the document to my iPhone, I realized that seeing it on the smaller screen highlighted certain errors. It also gave me a feel for how the e-book version would look on a mobile device.

1. Save your document as a PDF from Word. If you do not have this option with your word processing program, you may be able to upload the word document itself or convert the word document through another source, such as Nuance PDF or Adobe online.

2. Email it to yourself.

3. Open the email on your phone.

4. Upload the PDF to iBooks or other PDF reader.

Note: iBooks allows you to annotate.

4. Read and take notes.
5. Update your draft.

Keep proofreading until you can't find any mistakes. It helps to have other people read the final draft as well. They catch things you cannot because you have read it so many times.

Especially if you self-publish, I recommend having a professional editor look over your manuscript, even if you aced grammar in high school or college. If you don't have access to one or can't afford one, then thorough proofreading is your best weapon.

I would not waste time with endless proofreading passes until you are certain your story is complete and ready to be spit-shined. That said, proofreading may uncover problems you didn't realize you had. Consider picking up a copy of Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers. It will guide you through multiple proofreading and revision passes before you reach the final proofreading stage.

If you have enough time, put the final draft away for a week or even a month. Go back and look at it again with fresh eyes. Bribe friends, family, or critique partners into giving it a once over if possible.

When you self-publish, it is critical to eliminate 99% of errors. I would say 100%, but even traditionally published books have a few typos nowadays. A book full of typos earns negative reviews and costs you fans.

Presenting a clean manuscript to an agent or editor can lift you to the top of the slush pile. If you present your manuscript for a professional critique or pitch at a conference, the agent will look favorably upon you. It is a relief to find a smooth submission as opposed to one riddled with typos and gross abuse of language.

Editors have been thinned out even at the large publishing houses. Clean manuscripts make an editor's job easier, which makes your project more desirable.

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Proofreading Tips Part 1 of 2

I recommend proofreading your manuscript in multiple ways. Each method changes the way the document appears. Your eye catches different errors with each pass. After my final editing passes are done, I proofread my manuscripts at least twenty times before publishing them. You can:

1. Read it on Word or other word processing programs in several fonts.

The Four Layers of Conflict

The Four Layers of Conflict

The Four Layers of Conflict

2. Read it on Word with ¶ "reveal codes" on to catch spacing and formatting errors.

3.Read it on Word with two page view.

4. Read it as a PDF document as a single page + page width. The print will be larger.

5. Read the PDF version again as "two pages up continuous" to see the flow between pages and how the paragraphs, images, etc. line up. Remember the side on the left is actually the odd pages that will appear on the right hand side of the printed book. A chapter should always start on the printed right hand side, even if that means leaving a blank page on the left.

6. When self-publishing, I recommend using the virtual proof option if available. Create Space has virtual proof option. It gives you the feel of turning pages and you can make sure you have the Chapters starting on the right page and it will reveal accidental blank pages. If your service does not provide a virtual proof, I recommend investing in Flip PDF. It will turn your manuscript into a "flip book." (This is also a fun program for making virtual scrapbooks, children's stories, family stories, cookbooks, poetry, etc., which make nice gifts.)

7. When self-publishing, I recommend buying the printed proof as a final pass. You find things in print you didn't find on the screen, no matter how many times you read the digital version. If you can't purchase a printed proof, then print it at home or consider having it printed at Kinkos/FedEx, Staples Office Supply, or other print company in your area. It is worth the investment.

I format the print version first then the e-book version after all the other proofreading passes. You catch more errors as you remove the formatting for the e-book.

On Wednesday, we will learn about proofreading your book on your mobile phone.

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

We here at the Blood-Red Pencil want to take a moment to remember all who died to give us   the freedom to even write this blog. There are so many countries that restrict, or limit, any kind of exchange of ideas, and sometimes we forget. This freedom did not come without a high price-tag.

I come from a long line of military men on my father's side. In a little cemetery in Fairmont, West Virginia there are headstones for a number of Van Gilder men who served in the U.S. military, going back to the Revolutionary War. I had the opportunity to go that cemetery a few years ago for a family reunion and it was awe-inspiring to walk the lines of gravestones and think about what it must have been like for them.

Before taking that trip, I had not known that there was a member of our family serving in every war and conflict throughout the history of our country.

It was also interesting to note that not one of those men died in combat. They all served their time in the military and were able to come home. It was the same for my brother in the Vietnam era and my son in Desert Storm. But other families have not been so lucky.

So it is those families that I think about today with special care. They have sacrificed much to protect our country and the freedoms we espouse.

Thank you!

What about you? What does the holiday mean to you?

Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. She has written a number of mysteries, including the critically-acclaimed Season Mystery Series that debuted with Open Season. Information about her books and her editing rates is available on her website. When not writing, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

#FridayReads Story Building Blocks

After several years away from writing anything but blog posts, I am thrilled to announce my fifteen new book babies and the completion of my Story Building Blocks series as envisioned ten years (yes a decade!) ago. Where has the time gone? They are proof that neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor a mortal battle for one's life can keep a determined writer down forever.

In 2007 I wrote Story Building Blocks I: The Four Layers of Conflict, introducing a method I developed for crafting sound story architecture. A revised and updated version is now available in print and e-book. It can take you from story seed to a bare bones draft.

Then I added SBB II: Crafting Believable Conflict which twists, warps, and tortures sixteen character mannequins based on personality types. The SBB Build A Cast Workbook helps you cast your novel with all sixteen characters.

I also wrote SBB III: The Revision Layers to help writers present a revised draft for submission or to help with self-editing for self-publishing.

This year, I finalized my dream with fourteen genre-specific Build A World Workbooks for Comedy, Con Heist & Prison Break, Fantasy, Gothic, Historical, Horror, Literary, Mystery, Road Trip, Romance, Science Fiction, Team Victory, Thriller, and the Western in print and e-bok.

And finally the SBB: Build A World Workbook helps you develop a three-dimensional story world whether you choose a point in history, a fantasy kingdom, or a science fiction galaxy.

The books are available in both print and E-book versions through my Amazon page and other online venues.

I hope these tools help in some small way to make your story dreams come true. I learned so much along the way and enjoyed sharing my musings with others.

For more information about the series and for free forms visit my website. 

I would love to hear from you if you found my tips useful. If not, connect with me on social media anyway. I adore cute kittens and am always in need of book recommendations to feed my addiction.

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


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