Monday, 25 June 2012

Music to write to?

In general, I like things nice and quiet. I’m one of those people that can’t help but be distracted by things going on around me, if there is a car alarm going off in the street, or a woman walking in heels, or a neighbour doing refurbishments I tend to focus on the sounds, I count the steps of the woman, or the pattern of the siren or the strikes of the hammer. I can’t help it, I zone in on external noises and it distracts my thinking. However, even worse, is silence. I like to have something on in the background. Normally, I can have the radio on or as I’m writing this, a film. It has to be a film I have already seen though, one I know well enough so I don’t have to watch, just a nice mumbling going on in my periphery. When it comes to writing short stories it’s a bit different. I can’t work in silence but I can’t work while words are either being spoken or sung. The answer for me to is to listen to jazz and classical music. I’ve never had anything against that type of music but I’ve never been an expert either, but over the last few years I’ve really appreciated it. I’m able to focus on writing, think of words and phrases, without having them being put into my head. If I go somewhere, like the library or the coffee shop, then I’ll take my headphones. Sometimes I like the general noise of people around me, as long as I can’t hear their conversations clearly, if there are people chatting away at the top of their voices, then on go the headphones, if there are young kids rapping their cups on the tables, on go the headphones and if there is terrible muzak playing, then on go the headphones. That’s quite important actually, if there is a certain type of music playing, then it tends to move my emotions into that type of music too. So, if as tends to happen in coffee shops, there is slow melancholic soft acoustic music on, then my mind tends to start drifting towards melancholic sad thoughts and that reflects on what I write. The opposite works too, sometimes if I want to get across a strong and energetic emotion then I’ll put some heavier music on, Metallica isn’t too far from my side, and even though I tend to start ‘listening’ because there are words being sung the short period I listen to it for gives me the right energy. I’m no expert in the relationship between writing and music but I can vouch for its importance. The sense of verse, rhythm, alliteration, phrasing, the way emotion is portrayed in the voice, it all helps and feels linked. It’s different to inspiration, although it can work for that, the way I’m talking about it, to me it becomes more of a tool, a method to use to help with writing.

By the way, I have decided to write my blog once a week, I've got several dozen topics I want to talk about but there is no rush to get them all out at once. I need to allocate my time and make sure I am working on the next short story! 


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Sunday, 17 June 2012

Professional Editing? (Part 2 of 2.)

Thank you to Karen Cole, Executive Director of Ghost Writing Inc. for writing this guest blog:

The Many Styles of Editing
By Karen Cole
Words: 800

Well, what can I say about copy editing, usually just called editing, as a field? I have been at the process of becoming an editor for well over the past 30 years, so I should have something worthwhile to say about it by now, I should think. But I won’t cover APA style or the use of the Chicago Manual or other such style manuals – I’ll just do a basic overview of the most common editing forms here.
Foundationally, editing is a much discredited but mostly honorable profession for writers and would-be writers who have a degree in English and enough experience generating copy to know what to look for in the spelling, grammar and syntax departments. That kind of editing is primarily called line editing, and it doesn’t entail much more than heavily proofreading and correcting copy so that it reads well, taking out redundancies and otherwise improving the “flow” while maintaining the original author’s “voice” throughout (vital to most ghost writing, which I will discuss later.)
Line editing is just one step down from color editing, which includes everything in line editing and then some – you want to now edit for how the content reads as a whole, but not in a generalized way as you would with content or developmental editing. You just need to “pep up” or otherwise alter the flavor, spicing (I use recipe references a lot), sophistication and overall tone of the piece you are color editing. The idea with this kind of editing is to enhance the reader’s enjoyment of the experience, as well as to make the copy read in a more professional or sophisticated (sometimes, depending on the desired “voice,” in a less sophisticated or more typically familiar) tone.
The next step up in editing is a big one, and is in fact more rewriting than editing – content editing. This also includes developmental editing, although some think of them as two separate editing styles. Me, I tend to blend all of my editing styles with writing and ghost writing styles, although I try hard to maintain the original author’s voice every time. Anyway, content editing means reworking or sometimes only adding some content to the piece, while making sure it “fits in” to the original or desired writing style.
Reworking may mean a thorough rewrite of everything, or it may only mean some rearrangement, such as shuffling chapters around in order to improve things. The idea behind both content and developmental editing is to enhance and improve the piece, so that its overall structure is more sound, making it read from beginning to end in a better and improved manner. But content editing may not be quite as thorough as its “big brother,” developmental editing, which is the most thorough style of editing. Content editing is to developmental editing what re-frosting an already baked cake is to actually making a new cake with similar batter and completely baking it all over again.
When you developmentally edit, you work over a manuscript, rewriting nearly everything or at least what the client or publisher has requested as needed. If it’s your own manuscript, you are in effect rewriting your whole book to suit you or a publisher’s desires. You add some fresh material, but in greater amounts than in content editing, sometimes putting in new characters, whole chapters, new plot devices and scenes, reformatting the manuscript or screenplay, etc.
When you developmentally edit a screenplay or script (which is probably the most common work done on other people’s scripts), you are taking the whole thing in hand and doing it all over again, maybe in a whole new voice or angle of view. The same thing applies to any book manuscript or short story that requires serious developmental editing – working it over in a whole new image – while the ideas of the client still need to be paramount as you go about the editing process.
All in all, these many different styles of editing can be rearranged or blended into writing and rewriting as needed. Just remember that editing always entails more than mere proofreading – which involves checking for grammatical and syntactic errors and correcting them. Line editing is the first step above proofreading; all editing inherently includes basic proofreading, although the latter can be performed separately by someone else, such as when professional proofreading is requested and a “second set of eyes” is needed to check over the final piece before publication.
The most important thing to remember when copy editing other people’s work is to keep to their voices as much as possible, or at least as much as desired by the client. Editing is a practical process that almost anyone can do, if they know spelling, grammar and syntax rules, but it takes a real professional to proficiently rework and manage an entire manuscript or screenplay expertly and with a touch of true style.

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Professional Editing? (Part 1 of 2.)

I had many concerns and anxieties when finishing my first short story and the looming prospect of actually submitting it to the world. It was what I wanted and I was really pleased I had taken the step to self publish but the thought of it becoming real and not just something I idly chatted about hit me in many ways. One of those slap-myself-in-the-face who-do-you-think-you-are moments I want to talk about here. Editing.
Okay, so I finished my story, I re-read and re-wrote it several times; I gave it to some friends to read and give me feedback, I left it for days and came back to it fresh and re-read it (several times); I printed it out in a few different fonts and sizes and re-read it again. Then it got to the point where I hated it and the thought of reading it one more time would make me convulse and doubt my sanity. The moment came where I either published the damn thing or forgot about writing forever. So I clicked the various buttons and went to bed. In the morning I tentatively went on to Amazon and with equal pride and happiness to horror and regret, saw that there it was, online and available to the world.  A couple of weeks went by and I was busy working on my next story when I started to get feedback from people, some of whom I knew and again to my equal pleasure and fear, from people I didn’t. It was very exciting, there were lots of questions about the story and theories on the character and elements of the story and I was happy discussing it.  I decided to get a few copies printed so that I could refer to it and as I was converting the file I flicked through it again to make sure the layout was okay when my eyes glanced over a paragraph and my brain stood to attention…a spelling mistake. I closed my eyes and swore to myself before opening them and swearing out loud. A spelling mistake! How many times did I read through it and check it! And now it has been online for a few weeks with a spelling mistake…and then I read the whole thing again and there were a couple more spelling mistakes. It wasn’t a disaster but I was annoyed.
            So here’s the thing. What is the balance between getting your story out and not delaying and taking the step to get professional help? I didn’t even consider paying for editing services when I started because I thought that I was capable of doing it myself, they were only short stories, how could I not deal with it? I didn’t want to pay (even though I hadn’t checked to see how much it would cost) and I didn’t like the idea of someone else reading it. I also thought that as a beginner I was somehow allowed to get away with it. Sure enough I continued to self publish the next two short stories without getting any professional help.  Now I am wondering if I did the right thing. I told myself I could always revise the early stories and get another edition out but do I really want to do that? Is that not a convenient excuse for overlooking issues that should be resolved before publishing? I convinced myself that I didn’t want to lose momentum by waiting longer than necessary. But is that a reason to allow something not perfect to go out under your name? I’m still undecided as I think it is a fair thing to say that time is precious. I work full time so have evenings and weekends to write and even though when you actually sit down and focus there is actually quite a lot of time and you can get a lot done, you don’t want to waste it, and there is something compelling about needing to write on your story with other things become secondary. That’s the issue I am writing about today. I am a novice writer and I have lots of short stories I want to finish and get out this year. I am struggling to finish my current one as I have spent a lot of time working on the promotional stuff, website, social media…this blog; which is great because it is something you need to do and it benefits in the long run. So shouldn’t I take that same attitude to the most important thing…the actual quality of my story!
I was in contact with a ghostwriter/editor this week and it reminded me of this subject. I can see now that I had fears about giving my story away and somehow losing control of the plot, the character, the voice and feel of the piece, as if somehow it wouldn’t be mine anymore. I think I need to reconsider this. I still feel like I want to learn more about editing and become good at it myself, as a tool, as a skill and as part of being a good writer but working with an editor is probably a skill in itself.
I’ll post part two of this blog straight away for another take on this subject. It is a guest blog by Karen Cole, Executive Director of Ghost Writing Inc. a professional editor and ghost writer.


Sunday, 10 June 2012

Laptop or Pen & Paper?


I would have said pen this time last year but things have changed.  Let’s not be too divisive, I’m not getting rid of my pens, in fact, I rely on them more than ever. I have a pen and paper at all times! Next to my bed, on the train, in the bath, in every pocket…there is no telling when that inspirational moment comes and you need to quickly jot something down (or remind yourself to buy milk). So before I upset anyone, I have always and will always use a pen!
            It is all about time. It has amazed me how much time I have saved by using a laptop.  So this is very much a practical blog topic. Ever since I can remember I have made notes in either A4 or A5 pads. It could be the start of a story, a simple one-line idea or a spider diagram…but regardless piles of papers and pads would build up. Then when it came to writing them up, which for the first time I decided to do two years ago, I found that the sheer amount of time it took to type up those notes was incredible (taking into account deciphering my terrible handwriting) and I would often go through it two or three times to rejig where I wanted certain paragraphs to go...once that is I finally found the energy to get off my scared lazy backside and face the dreaded lines that I had constantly been putting off…
            Now when I finally bought a laptop and started writing directly onto it, the difference has fully convinced me of its worth.  I felt very free to type away in unrestricted thought and I didn’t miss the pen at all. I find it quicker to save, delete, check spelling, go online to reference things (but wait…the temptation of Wi-Fi as an interruption is one thing that is a devil to get over…I highly recommend finding a library/coffee shop/etc. that doesn’t have Wi-Fi or go to a park!) and then chop and change sentences, paragraphs and the structure of the piece as it evolves. It doesn’t feel like re-writing at all. I have saved a lot of time over the last six months or so writing straight onto the laptop and for me, it works.
            I do realize there is something noble or traditional about the notebook, Roald Dahl and his Dixon Ticonderoga pencils comes to mind and as I said I often do write a bit here and there, but if I intend to sit down for a writing session then I now use a laptop. I feel more organized, professional and somehow in control of my output. I can monitor how much I have done compared to my targets and it makes me feel like I am taking it seriously. 
            Anyway, I like it! Wonder how it works for other people.

Didn’t need the hour for this one.


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