Being Mindful of Auto Correct and Formatting

There are a lot of books and other published content hitting the market and internet with errors that could easily be fixed with a second look over. I’m all for self-publishing, so I’m not complaining or condemning, just noting a fact. And I must admit, we’re all imperfect. Even the best editor and proofreader is going to miss something. And with the new technology that writers have now to use, such as tablets with touch screens and even smartphones, that can have the auto correct feature turned on, it’s even more important to make sure that you’re giving your writing a good and thorough look over before hitting “Publish”.

So my writing tip today is simple—proofread and proofread again. Keep in mind also, that some publishing software can change the way content looks once it is published in the software. So it’s a good idea to give your manuscript a thorough look over once your content is loaded into the software to make sure everything is still correct.

For example, I recently uploaded a manuscript onto Draft2Digital. When looking at the manuscript the heading Chapter 3 appeared to be properly centered and formatted. However, when I looked at how it uploaded into the e-format the heading for Chapter 3 was left aligned instead of centered. The problem lay in the manuscript itself. For some reason, the formatting on the manuscript was saying that the heading was left aligned, even though it was sitting in the center of the page. If I hadn’t taken the time to scroll through each page I would have missed that, as well as two spacing issues.

When loading manuscripts into an electronic format spacing is something you want to be very mindful of. Chapter headings and /or titles should be centered and bold, 14 font size is preferred. There should be no more than two lines between chapter heading and start of the text. When making scene breaks do not use more than three line spaces, two are sufficient. Four of more spaces on an e-pub will create a page break, so use this to divide chapters. Line spacing for e-formatting should never be more than 1.5.

When indenting, make sure you use the paragraph formatting tab in your word processing program to set indents, and do NOT use tab or the space bar.  Tab causes AutoVetter errors, as does using the space bar. When this error occurs it causes the software to remove the spaces, thereby removing the indents. When setting your indents in the paragraph formatting tab you want them to be no less than .25 and no more than .5, with .3 to .4 being ideal. Make sure there are only zeros in the “Before” and “After” tabs under the heading Spacing. You’ll want to click First Line under the “Special” tab under the heading Indention, then enter your desired indent under the “By” tab.

I’ll discuss more about formatting in an upcoming post. But for now, use these tips to help make your manuscript look clean and professional. And always take a few extra minutes to proofread and look over your writing. And if you don’t have time, or feel you’re not up to the task, then DK Editorial is here to help. These few simple steps will make a much more pleasant reading experience for your readers.

 

Writing Prompt

John had been Amanda’s 75-year-old health care client for over a year. He was obviously still virile for he had made several small passes at her that she politely overlooked. He knew she was desperate for money and he had plenty to give. But would her high moral standards allow her to accept his proposition for easy money?

Proper Proofreading Leads To Indie Publishing Success

Indie authors often catch a bad rap. There are too many critics who want to assume that just because a book was published independently that it’s crap. It’s true that there are many books out there on the market that could definitely use a good editor and proofreader. But to assume that all self-published books are horrible is unfair and untrue. But what’s going to set a book apart from others that have been self-published? For one thing, proper editing and proofreading.

As I was publishing Moscow Express in the Kindle Direct Publishing platform, I ran across a question on pricing. I went to a forum on KDP and found an interesting comment. The individual wrote “Most of what indie authors write is crap. I download and delete most indie work with the first 10-20 pages.” (unobtr)

I take offense at that comment. There are a lot of indie authors who are very talented and do an excellent job on their books. These authors have put their best foot forward by taking the time to do adequate research on their topic, writing a coherent manuscript, and getting it professionally edited and proofread, or took the time to do it themselves properly. However, there are also a lot of indie authors who are not taking enough time to properly proofread or edit their books or they are not sending their manuscripts to a professional editor and proofreader. The result is a book full of mistakes that distract from the reading experience. These errors could have easily been avoided by a good proofreader and/or editor.

I’m currently reading a self-published book now that I’ve already noted over a dozen errors in only 8% of the book. Some these have been spelling errors, some punctuation errors, and one a story line error where it would read better if the paragraphs were rearranged. I know this author, and I know she is one that rushes to publish work quickly to keep up with the Amazon expectation of quick and successive. I offered to do the proofreading, but this author thought it was better to do it herself and publish quickly. To each her own. I’ve noted reviews on her books, as well as some other authors, and these errors are being noted in their reviews.

When a reader who is well versed in a genre and grammar and runs across an error in a book that could have easily been fixed by proper proofreading and editing, it interrupts the reading experience and causes the reader to disconnect from the story and characters. When enough of these mistakes permeate a book the reader will stop the book and toss it for one better written. And errors in the story line, such as placing a character in two places at once or not getting facts or dialogue of the time period correct, can be especially irritating to a reader.

I understand that many authors feel pressured to get a new book published every thirty to ninety days. However, sacrificing quality for quantity is not always the best option. A manuscript that is properly edited and proofread will attract more positive attention, and therefore will lead to more sales than a bunch of rushed and poorly written books. Even if your status on Amazon or another platform says Best Seller, if your reviews are mostly negative, or you’re having to pay people to write positive ones for your book (a huge Amazon no-no, by the way), then you may want to reconsider if speed and quantity over quality is really that important to you.

DK Editorial is committed to helping authors put their best work out there for their readers. Quality editing and proofreading services are offered for all lengths of manuscripts and a full list of prices is posted on the Services Page. Sizes up to 20,000-word novellas can usually be completed within 48 hours.

Don’t risk your success as an indie author. Proofread and edit your manuscript carefully. Or even better, hire a professional service or good freelancer to edit and proofread it for you, such as DK Editorial.

 

Grammar Lesson – Using Your and You’re

There is a common mistake that most English-speaking people make almost daily in their writing. This mistake is my biggest pet peeve of grammar mistakes. Many people mistake the words your and you’re when writing. I’ve seen this mistake all over social media, the web, and even in a few published books. 

Usually people write “your” when “you’re” should have been written. So in this installment of Grammar Lessons I’ll discuss the difference between the words your and you’re and when to use each one. 

“Your” is a pronoun.  It is used to show ownership by one or more people. Since the pronoun “you” can be used as singular or plural, so can the possessive pronoun “your”. Examples: “Timmy, your book is on the table.” (Singular) “Timmy and Johnny, go to your room.” (Plural).

“You’re” is a contraction. It is a combination of the words you and are. Examples: “You are a very nice person.” ie, “You’re a very nice person.” It would be incorrect to say “Your a nice person.” Since your is a possessive pronoun the preceding sentence would somehow imply you have a nice person. 

I also very often see the expression “You’re welcome” written “Your welcome.” Again, writing the latter implies that you own the welcome. This is not possible. The expression written out actually reads as, “You are welcome,” hence “You’re welcome” would be the correct way to write it as a contraction.

In conclusion, your is used to show ownership and you’re is the two words you and are combined.

Proofreading – A Crucial Step Not To Be Overlooked

Let me begin by saying that the invention of the e-reader is one of the best inventions since the electric light bulb. Not only is it a handy little device for reading just about anything in print but it also makes a great little game console and video/music player.  To top it off it’s small and easy to carry around wherever you go. And the e-reader is amazingly good at keeping antsy little children happily occupied when you need them occupied the most.

Now for authors the e-reader is absolutely the greatest, most revolutionary literary achievement. It’s no secret that getting published is one of the most daunting tasks a new writer has to face, even above writing the story. Let’s face it, it has a lot to do with who you know and who you can afford to know, such as literary agents.

The invention of the e-reader flung the already cracked door of self-publishing wide open. Suddenly authors all over the world, published and unpublished, could self publish their writings and make money from them to boot without the need for a middle man to cinch the publishing deal. Also, these new literary creations could be distributed to a worldwide audience and even translated into multiple languages for a minimal cost for both author and reader.

As always, there are cons for almost every pro, such as needing a WI-FI connection to purchase the books and having your reading and playing time limited by the length of the battery life. However, in my opinion, the biggest draw back to self-publishing is that some of the reading material is published hastily and has not gone through the proofreading and editing phases properly as a traditionally published book would have gone through.

I’ve been reading e-books for several years now, and I’ve noticed what seems to be a trend in self-published e-books, especially from newer authors. There are a lot of books that have spelling errors, errors in word usage, punctuation, and unclear phrases that are distracting to the reader and takes away from the story. If a book has too many errors throughout it makes the book very unenjoyable to the reader and makes the author appear unprofessional. In the old days of publishing, a book had to go through a serious routine of proofreading, editing, and re-writes before it could go to print. Now the trend seems to be write it and publish it quickly. But at what cost?

This trend may have a lot to do with the publishing platform. I use Amazon Kindle for all of my e-books, so I can’t speak for or about other platforms. I recently became aware that Amazon “rewards” authors for fast, consistent publishing. If you can publish something, be it a short story, novella, or by some chance a full length novel, every thirty to ninety days you are more likely to get on Amazon’s Best Seller’s list and keep your other titles high up in the ranking. So here we answer the question “At what cost?”

When a writing project is rushed it lowers the quality of the writing. There may be authors out there who can churn out a book every thirty days. But I’m willing to bet that they aren’t doing their own proofreading and editing. Most likely, they pass the work along to an editor and/or proofreader. Then the author most likely moves on to the next project or takes a needed rest for a few days. When the editor sends back the manuscript the author either accepts or rejects the changes and publishes the book, confident that the book looks polished and professional, not rushed and sloppy.

In general, we all tend to rely too heavily on the electronic world. We expect our unintelligent computers to catch every mistake we make, failing to recognize that a computer can only catch what it is programmed to catch. For instance we may want to say that “Jim went to the store with Kate”, but we may accidentally type, “Jim went too the store with Kate”. Spell check will not catch this error and usually grammar check doesn’t catch it either. This is where proofreading by a human comes in handy. A human can differentiate between the meaning in the two words and which one needs to be used and where it should be placed.

I’ve always been good with English grammar and spelling, but even I make mistakes. We’re all imperfect, and that’s why I’ve made it a habit to read and re-read my writings at least three times and then still have someone else read what I’ve written to catch any mistakes I may have missed. If you’re going to self edit, it’s extremely beneficial to take a few days, or weeks if you can spare the time, to set your manuscript aside and then look at it with fresh eyes. You will be better able to see the mistakes with fresh eyes, and the time away from your manuscript baby will give you a little emotional distance from it to look at it more objectively.

My first read through is to find any mistakes in spelling, punctuation, grammar, and word usage that jump out readily. I also check for proper syntax (word structure of my sentences). My second read through is to see how it reads with the changes. Almost inevitably I will find more mistakes on the second read that I missed on the first. My third read through is again to see how it reads with any additional corrections and to make sure the story flows well, that the characters are properly developed, and any facts are correct. Then I will have someone else read it for me to see how it reads for them and to see if they spot any mistakes I may have missed. This series of steps is what is called proofreading and editing. These are very necessary steps for a solid writing of any genre.

The proofreading process gives the author an opportunity to look at the writing with a critical eye that will find hanging modifiers, misspelled or misused words, poor punctuation, run on sentences, overly used words or phrases, sentences that are unclear, misplaced dialogue, and many other errors that can distract the reader from the plot. The editing process gives the writer the opportunity to make the needed changes before printing or publishing.

There are occasions when some above mentioned mistakes may be made intentionally, such as in the case of dialogue. After all, most of us don’t speak correctly, and authors like for dialogue to sound natural and exhibit the character of the speaker. So in such cases “errors” are expected and actually welcomed. On the other hand, errors are not so welcomed in the narration of the story. Now when it comes to non-fiction and technical writing it is absolutely critical that the author proofread because errors in these writings can destroy the credibility of the author, thus damaging the success of future writings.

In a future post I will offer some examples of the errors I have come across and discuss the impact on the reader and the story line. Until then happy reading and careful writing.

Using En Dash, Em Dash, and Ellipsis Correctly

Lately I’ve been coming across a lot of em dashes, and even a couple of en dashes, in the books I’ve been reading. Some have been used correctly, while others leave me scratching my head as to why the author used an em dash as opposed to ellipsis, commas, or just ending the sentence. Ultimately, what type of punctuation a writer decides to use is up to their own discretion and writing style. However, if you’re going to use one of these forms of punctuation it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different purposes for each of them.

First, let’s go over the differences in forms of dashes and how they are used. A hyphen is a small dash used to join two things that are closely related. The two words connected form a single concept, such as twenty-two, part-time, and one-fourth.

The en dash is slightly longer than the hyphen and is shorter than the em dash. An en dash is used to join things that are related to each other by distance. Examples would be: March–June, or pages 55–60. An en dash can also be used to join a prefix to a proper open compound. An example would be: pre–World War I.

The em dash is the longest of all the dashes, and has many uses. If you’re writing a bibliography and need to write the author’s name several times in the list you can use three consecutive em dashes in place of the author’s name. Em dashes can also be used to set off items in a list, such as                —write a blog post                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            —pick up milk

In general though, the em dash is used to offset information or show an interruption or pause in dialogue. You could use this in dialogue if your character pauses while speaking in order to do some. An example would be:”Timmy, I told you not to throw the ball in the house,”—his mother swept up the broken glass off the floor—”but you never listen.”

An example of using an em dash to offset information would be: He knew he had to tell her goodbye—he felt his heart shatter within him at the very thought—and he knew he would never forget her. In this instance an em dash functions much a like parenthesis.

If your character is in the process of speaking and something cuts him or her off for some reason, put the em dash where the speaker’s words stop, which can be mid-word or at the end of the word, and inside the quotation marks. Example: “I told you she was j—” or “It’s over with her. I—”

If the interruption in speech was due to another character interrupting the speaker, then place an em dash where the interrupted speaker’s dialogue resumes. Make sure you place it inside the quotation marks. Example: “—I promise I’m not lying.”

Ellipsis is used when a character’s speech trails off for some reason. Example: ‘It was great while it lasted, but now…”

Notice that in none of the examples was a space placed around the dashes or ellipsis. When using hyphens, en dashes, em dashes, and ellipsis there is no preceding space and no space afterwards. Spaces around these forms of punctuation is another thing I’ve noted in recent books I’ve read.

If you would like additional explanation on these topics you can go to the Chicago manual of Style’s website at www.chicagomanualofstyle.org or you can visit www.theeditorsblog.net.

If you are not sure how to create the en dash and em dash in your document, here’s how. Make sure your number lock is turned on and use your keyboard’s number pad, not the numbers across the top. Press the alt key, then enter 0150 for en dash and 0151 for em dash.

Writing Prompt – Creating Character Emotion

A site for writers just wouldn’t be complete without some writing prompts. I hope you will find them helpful. If any of you have one that you would like listed, please don’t hesitate to send it to me. You can use the Contact page to send it via email. Make sure to include your name in the email if you would like credit for the prompt.

This prompt will not only get you writing, but will also help you create  believable character emotion. Good character emotion helps your writing to be more believable and makes your characters more three dimensional. It also helps your readers make a connection with your characters.

Today’s writing prompt requires you to do a little deep thinking. Think of an experience in your life that caused an intense emotion. It may be an event that changed or shaped your personality or inner person. Now create a character and an event that causes that emotion for him or her. You can create one or more supporting characters to round out the scene that causes your emotion to happen. Make sure that your supporting characters respond correctly to the emotional expression of your main character. Write as many paragraphs as you need to make the scene feel real and believable. 

Use this exercise anytime you need to create a believable emotional response in a character. Think of things that have happened in your own life and the emotions that were brought up when they happened. Then put those emotions in your characters.

 

Grammar Lesson – Homophones : To, Two, & Too

Since good grammar is such an important aspect of writing, I’ve decide to make small grammar lesson installments for quick, easy reference.

In today’s grammar lesson I will cover the homophones “to“, “two“, and “too“. Most of us do not usually get confused over when to use the word “two“, but “to” and “too” are often confused and misused.

As most of us should remember from school, the word two is the spelled out version of the number 2. The word “to” is a preposition, however, the word “too” is an adverb. 

A preposition usually precedes a noun and indicates a relationship between words in the clause. Examples of how this relationship works would be: over the fence, in the garden,  under the bed, and to the store. Some prepositions are locational or directional, while others indicate time or duration. The words over, in, under, and to are all directional and locational prepositions. Some correct uses of the preposition to would be: “I am going to the movies.” “I baby wants to eat.”

 As stated earlier, the word too is an adverb. The  first definition of too is – an excessive degree of, or a higher degree than what is desired. Example: “That helping of peas is way too much.”

The second definition of too is – also, in addition to. Example of proper use: “We are going to the park, and the dog is going too.” 

Hopefully this installment of Grammar Lessons has been useful to you. If you have any comments or questions please leave them in the comments box or use the contact page to send an email.

Writing Compelling Openings

All writers know how crucial it is to a story’s success to have a compelling opening. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing non-fiction or fiction, if your opening doesn’t grab the reader they won’t finish the rest of your story. As writers, we work hard to develop our characters and the story they have to tell. We may spend countless hours forming each character into a believable and likeable person, or loathsome person if he/she is a villain, and we want our readers to get to know them as we do. For that to happen the story’s opening must draw in the reader.

So how do you write a compelling opening? For starters, have your plot and opening scene well in mind before you start writing. Answer these questions to get started: What is your story about? What problem does your hero/heroine have to solve? What obstacles obstruct the pathway for your hero or heroine to solve it? Where does your story take place? What time frame does your story happen in?

You need to make sure that the beginning of your story has a hook that will captivate the reader. Most all stories are centered around a problem that has to be solved by the end of the story. Your opening should present this problem and why it can’t be solved instantly. Present one or two obstacles at the beginning of your story and let these build toward the climax and final resolution. Introduce your protagonist (lead character) in your opening scene. This can be accomplished by either putting your protagonist in a frightening situation, in an action scene, or by giving the reader some information about the protagonist and the problem he or she is dealing with that will give some details to your story’s plot.

Your first scene doesn’t necessarily have to be at the beginning of your story. You could write a scene that takes place in the middle or end of the story, then give details on how your protagonist got there as your story progresses. Don’t be surprised if you have to rewrite your beginning several times before your story is finished.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the opening page of your story should answer the questions who, where, when, what, and why? Providing the answer to these questions will give your readers enough information to help them get into your story and the world you have created. The ‘why’ question will involve the problem and will be your most difficult to tackle. This question does not have to be fully answered right off, but it should be completely answered by the story’s end. Provide a brief and quick answer to the other questions at the start of your story and build on the answers to those questions as your story moves along.

Also, keep in mind that beginnings have no set length. Some are very short while others are quite long. You should be able to accomplish your hook in the first page or two, though.

For examples read Flight of Eagles by Jack Higgins and The Unlikely Spy by Daniel Silva