That’s What it Sounds Like

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I’m in editing mode this week. Specifically, I am unsure about the use of italics.

Yes, I understand that they are used to denote titles, and foreign words. They are also used for book titles, poems, plays, television shows, musical compositions, newspapers, radio podcasts, names of ships, and airplanes.

The list goes on and on (See the 7th edition of the MLA handbook for more of the above.)

However, here, I want to share about the three most common uses of italics by authors.

The first is to show emphasis for readers. For example, “She dated five men at the same time.” If you italicize the word “five,” it helps to emphasize the fact that you feel this is extraordinary and you don’t want your reader to miss it. Thus, the sentence would read, “She dated five men at the same time.”

The second is to set apart a character’s inner thoughts and/or  dreams. This avoids confusion for readers by signaling that those words were not spoken out loud. Longer italicized portions of text show the reader that the character is dreaming. This is important because otherwise they may think that those actions are taking place in the here and now.

Finally, I come to the rule that has been confusing me as I give my own manuscript a final pass. That is, should sounds be italicized? 

I did some research and I found the answer to be very simple:

The name of a sound does not get italicized, but the sound itself does. 

Here is an example:  The dog growled. (I named the sound, so no italics.) vs. “Grrr” (this is the actual sound, so it should be italicized).

Simple?

That’s what it sounds like to me.

 

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Are You a Dream Chaser?

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I remember a few years back there were a handful of movies about storm chasers. They are guys who want to experience, write about, and take pictures of major storms around the world.

It is about the thrill of the hunt…the flow of adrenalin…the brush with danger.

There are a lot of chasers in life. And they don’t all realize their dreams.

Are you a dream chaser?

You’d be surprised how many people want to write a book. They often go to conferences and classes, but never seem to commit anything to paper.

Others actually do get their books written, but spend endless hours writing query letters and pursuing agents and publishers. Only a handful of these ever get “accepted.”

We authors and “would be” authors live in such an exciting time. We don’t have to succumb to being dream chasers.

In the era of self-publishing, we don’t have to wait to be discovered or be awarded a publishing contract. 

We can take control of our dreams and get our words—our message- out there in ways that weren’t possible even a decade ago.

Self-publishing isn’t easy. It isn’t cheap. I’m not suggesting that it is.

However, if you are persistent, you can learn the ropes. You can surround yourself with Beta Readers, editors, cover artists, and so on. You can learn to market your book (bearing in mind the limitations of your pocket book).

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, intend to write that one stand alone book or a series, there’s no time like the present to achieve your goal and turn your big dream into reality.

I know it is popular to say, “It’s the journey that’s important; not so much the destination.” But, I believe both have value.

The whole writing process can be invigorating and give writers the opportunity to learn a lot about themselves and the writing craft. It can be enjoyable and even addictive.

But in the end, the quality of the finished product is also important. So doing a professional job is essential.

Self- publishing gives writers the opportunity to reach their target audience with their message. The written word gives writers the the opportunity to change opinions, present ideas, entertain, encourage, and influence the lives of readers.

As characters evolve, face life’s situations, and reach their potential,  writers themselves share in their joy and triumphs and are forever changed, too.

Dream chaser, or dream maker?

Unlike any other time in history, the choice is yours.

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A Rebuttal

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Last month I wrote on the subject of getting in the habit of writing every day. 

That was then. This is now.

Consider today’s post as a rebuttal to my own words.

That’s right. Even though writing every day is a great habit, “life” usually intrudes and I just cannot seem to get a minute to myself.

With doctors’ appointments, food to prepare, houses to clean, grandchildren to babysit and so on, it’s hard for writers to find enough productive time.

Even if I am able to chisel out an hour of writing time per day, it takes me a good forty-five minutes to review the timeline and then I find myself with only fifteen minutes of productiveness.

That’s hardly long enough to get back in my character’s head and tap into the emotions that prevailed on my previous writing day.

Major frustration.

Now I know why so many old movies about writers showed them leaving family and responsibilities behind and checking into a hotel or an isolated cabin.

So, if your life is filled with “stuff” and you are not able to find enough time to write every day, I suggest finding a way to carve out at least a long weekend several times a year, when you can leave the things of this life behind and simply

WRITE!!!!

 

To Join or Not to Join

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Why join professional organizations? Isn’t it just a big waste of money?

It’s not money thrown away if you take advantage of all that memberships offer, such as:

Specialized training/education in the form of webinars, podcasts, tutorials, etc.

Conferences.

Networking opportunities, encouragement, relationship-building, friendships.

Discounts on products and materials

Leadership opportunities; Chances to “give back” to your profession.

Professionalism (just another way to show that you are serious about your profession).

Ways to showcase your abilities, achievements. Awards, recognition.

**Since this is tax season, let me include that the cost of association dues are often tax deductible. However, the membership must be ordinary and necessary and actually help you in your trade. If your reason for joining is only for pleasure or social purposes, the dues are not deductible.

Domain Names

 

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I’m always one to pass along what I’ve learned, so here is a little tidbit from a guest speaker (Liz Johnson) I heard, yesterday. It is one I am going to try out this week.

Liz stressed the importance of having a website domain name that ends with author, writer, books, or something else that is related to writing.

I had thought about doing this before, but I wasn’t wanting to go through the hassle of having to notify everyone of the change, reprinting my business cards, etc.

However, she said you buy the “new” domain name and then it is linked to your previous domain name so that no matter which one is clicked on, it gets to the right place.

So, my website address is: www.brendapoulos.org. When I purchase  www.brendapoulosbooks.org, or www.brendapoulosauthor.org,  none of my followers will notice the difference. New friends, however, will have an easier time finding me. 

So, if your website address doesn’t end this way, or if you don’t have a domain name, yet, consider a simple addition to make yourself more accessible.

A Bouquet of Ideas

 

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I have a long list of book titles on my computer—ones I have created and dream of writing. I have a folder chocked full of appealing pictures… ideas for future book covers. I have—well, you get the picture.

I have alphabetized them, categorized them—even ranked them. I have also written a beginning paragraph to go with many of them so I won’t forget the meaning behind each title/and or cover.

It may be just another useless exercise, or they may end up serving a future purpose. It’s something I enjoy doing and, it might turn out to be of even more value to me than watching old sitcoms. 

Whether you are looking online for cover ideas, intriguing fonts, or interesting trivia, do some planning up front. Find a few jewels—pearls, my mother would say—and store them away for future reference.

That’s why I made several folders for just this purpose. I keep them on my desk top where I have easy access. Then, when something fascinating pops up, I simply have to drag and drop it into the appropriate folder. There it is, preserved for just that perfect occasion when I need it.

No more scrambling around at the last minute. No more anxiousness when things aren’t coming together as I’d hoped.

I have lists of ideas from as long as ten years ago. I keep all of them because there just may be a few that I find useful someday in the future. They are little seeds. Some of them may never poke their heads above the soil. Others may grow into beautiful flowers.

I think a bouquet would be lovely.

 

Just What You’ve Been Looking For!

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Last fall, I wrote about two editing programs I was considering purchasing.

I ended up with Pro Writing Aid.

Now that I have completed my current book, I am using this program to clean everything up before my Beta Readers receive a copy AND before any further revisions are made PRIOR to sending it to my editor.  (That’s right. It shouldn’t take the place of a real, live editor).

All of this is done BEFORE publishing, but you needn’t wait until all of your chapters are written, as I did. Instead, you can use one of the APPS while you are creating, one chapter at a time.

Pro Writing Aid can do a lot for a writer who wants their work to be the best possible. However, to use every feature is laborious and very time consuming.

I suggest you look at this program online and see what features you might want—based on your weaknesses and/or your pet-peeves.

Here’s what I am doing: I copy one chapter at a time into the program. Then, I hit the STYLE button. In a few seconds, a report with suggestions for improvement is generated. It is then my job to read and accept or reject each one. (Do this very carefully, as not every one will make sense for you to use. I find I agree with about 80%)

After STYLE (which includes adverbs, passive verbs, ing starts, etc.), I use GRAMMAR and REPEATED WORDS. (You’ll be surprised at how many you have unknowingly repeated. It blew my mind. This will require a lot of rewriting to get rid of them. However, it is worth it.) 

At the end, I use ECHOES, which shows phrases that are repeated. (For example, I used “Valley of the Sun” a few times. You might not want to repeat a phrase like, “the clouds drifted across the moon”, and so on.) I don’t want to describe things using the same words, over and over again, so I use my thesaurus and tackle each one, separately.

There are several more buttons on the program. I have not used, yet.

I  used my pet peeves (repetitious words and passive verbs) to guide my choices. Just the four reports that I ran—and the time it took to make the changes—took me two hours per every ten double-spaced pages.

You can use as much, or as little, help from this self-editing program as you want. 

You can be as precise as you’d like.

You can spend as much time as you feel you need to.

And, of course, you don’t have to use one of these programs (there are several other good ones) at all. However, I think you owe it to yourself to get the free trial offer and play around with it a bit.

You may find it’s just what you have been looking for!