Monday, September 29, 2014

THE CLICHÉ’S DAY IN COURT

By Andrea Merrell

Today's post is a little different ... and just for fun. Hope you enjoy it.

Poor little cliché—old as dirt and worth his weight in gold, yet he gets no respect and we avoid him like the plague.

Without him, we can’t keep up with the Joneses, shop ‘til we drop, or bring home the bacon. That’s how the cookie crumbles if you put two and two together.

No need to fly off the handle. Go the whole nine yards and see if the grass is really greener on the other side. Don’t jump from the frying pan into the fire; just wake up and smell the coffee.

I know what you’re thinking—I’m barking up the wrong tree with a bee in my bonnet and ants in my pants. You might want me to bite my tongue and stop rocking the boat. No way, José!  You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him stop using clichés.

The critics say it’s easy as pie—don’t touch a cliché with a ten-foot pole. I say, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Sometimes there’s just no better way to say it, so why reinvent the wheel?  Clichés are comfortable old shoes and if the shoe fits, wear it. After all, there are thousands of these little guys. They don’t grow on trees, but they’re more fun than a barrel of monkeys. They’ve mastered the school of hard knocks and have come out smelling like a rose, yet in the publishing world they fall flatter than a pancake.

Certainly, the cliché is overused. Agents, editors, publishers—they all say the same thing, but here’s the rub. Some of these proponents of “ban the cliché” cannot finish a complete thought without throwing in at least one or two, especially at writers’ conferences where clichés tumble hand over fist. Go figure.

So where does the buck stop?  The powers that be, tell us if we don’t play by the rules, we’ll pay through the nose. After all, the pen is mightier than the cliché. We must think outside the box and put our best foot forward. Otherwise, we’ll be up the creek without a paddle—or a publisher.

This could be a piece of cake and one for the books, but I won’t hold my breath until pigs fly. Maybe clichés are not your cup of tea, but they stand out like a sore thumb. After all, nice clichés always finish last. Can I get an amen?

If we stick to our guns, we can kill two clichés with one stone. I won’t count my chickens before they hatch or judge a book by its cover. It’s like pulling teeth to have a meeting of the minds, but better late than never. Is that clear as mud?  If not, I’ll eat my hat.

Maybe you think I can’t see the forest for the trees. No sweat. It might cost me an arm and a leg, but it’s no skin off my nose. The bottom line seems to be: it’s okay to talk in clichés, but not write with them. Have I hit the nail on the head?

When the dust settles, we can sweep clichés under the rug, but we’ll still be stuck between a rock and a hard place. I don’t want to keep shooting myself in the foot, so let’s throw caution to the wind and get back to square one. All clichés are asking is to be given their day in court, especially since one cliché is worth a thousand words.

But let’s cut to the chase, mind our p’s and q’s, and stop putting all our clichés in one basket. We can’t bury our head in the sand and ignore the rules. So here it is in a nutshell: the early bird gets the worm and a cliché a day keeps the publisher away.

Do you have a difficult time writing without using clichés?  We would love for you to add to the list. What’s your favorite—or most hated—cliché?

(Photos courtesy of dailyfigfigment.com, 68church.com, and zazzle.com.)
TWEETABLES



Monday, September 22, 2014

Another Week in the Life of an Editor 2

by Alycia Morales

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be an editor? Do you need a Bachelor's Degree in English? A Master's Degree in Storytelling? Superpowers?

Sometimes I find myself wondering what it's like to work in various careers. Forensics sounds intriguing to me. But keep me away from the hospital surgery units. Police work could be exciting. I enjoy shooting, just not at people. I love music and do a decent job of promoting others and their work. Sometimes I wonder what I would have done if I'd finished my Music Business degree. My professor said I had a knack for figuring artist royalties. I hope that gift translates into figuring author royalties. You know, for that day I publish my novels.

"But what does it look like to be an editor?" you ask.

I ask you this: Do you self-edit? If so, that's a big part of the job.

As an editor, I spend many days putting aside what I'd like to be doing with my own writing to assist others in making their writing shine. At the heart of my business is my desire to perfect my authors' pages. What does that mean?

Training them to show, not tell. Oftentimes new writers will tell their story with inactive verbs, allow outside objects to act on their characters rather than have their characters affect the world around them, and explain every single detail down to the color of the nail polish on the character's fingernails, leaving no room for readers' imaginations to kick in.

Searching for things that will jolt the reader out of their fictional dream, such as information dumps (again, too many details or supplying a history lesson on a particular aspect of their story), preaching (no one likes to be told how they should think - save it for your soapbox), and repetition (boring - I'll go to sleep now).

Combing the manuscript for spelling errors, misuses of homonyms (those words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings - you know, like there, their, and they're), incorrect punctuation (especially ellipses, commas, and quotation marks), and other miniscule details that most readers will notice.

Formatting the manuscript. Has the author correctly formatted their scripture references? How about the margins on the pages, the indents, the titles and subtitles, the font (a lot of manuscripts come to me with multiple fonts instead of one), and even the format of the apostrophes throughout the book. Formatting can take a huge chunk of editing time...

Crafting their story. Is there a complete character arc? Is the dialogue natural and believable? Is the story believable? Are all five senses represented? Does the story flow well? Are there hooks? Do I want to keep turning the page, or have I lost interest in the character's plight? Is there enough conflict and are all conflicts resolved by the end of the book? Does the middle sag? Does the ending satisfy the reader? There is so much to learn sometimes...

These are a few things I am looking to cover when I'm editing a novel or non-fiction book. When I sit down at my computer and pull up a client's manuscript, I am paying close, detailed attention to every jot and tittle on every page. I want them to have the best manuscript possible before they approach an agent or acquisitions editor in hopes of a sale. And if I'm working for a publishing house, I'm making every best effort to be certain my client's manuscript is in tip-top shape before it sits on a digital shelf at Amazon or a tangible shelf at Barnes and Noble.

Tweetables:
What does an editor do when they sit with your manuscript? A peek at a week in the life... @AlyciaMorales http://tinyurl.com/pnmvcav {Tweet This}

What an editor does for work. A look at the editing life with @AlyciaMorales  http://tinyurl.com/pnmvcav {Tweet This}

Is this all there is to the life of an editor? Not even close. This is just one facet. To learn more, join me October 6 for another behind-the-scenes look at a week in the life of an editor.

Monday, September 15, 2014

ARE YOU ERGONOMICALLY CORRECT?

By Andrea Merrell

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time and money on chiropractors, physical therapy, massage therapists, and cortisone shots because of poor habits at the computer. What I learned was that once you injure yourself, it takes a lot more than ibuprofen, ice packs, and heating pads to get rid of the pain.

Another thing I learned—unfortunately not soon enough—was that my work station should be ergonomically correct. For far too long, I ignored lower back issues, intense shoulder pain, and headaches. These things could have been avoided if I had learned early-on how to deal with a job that put me at the computer for hours on end, without having to suffer.

What does Ergonomics mean?
According to Merriam Webster’s, “Ergonomics is an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely.” Other sources say it is “the ability to optimize human well-being by designing comfortable, functional, and user-friendly systems.”

In other words, it is using equipment and devices that fit the human body and cause it to function properly and without pain.

I’ve always worked in an office but when I started writing about sixteen years ago, my first desk was anything but ergonomically correct, and my office chair did not fit my short torso and legs. The position of the keyboard and mouse did not support my arms and wrists, and I would sit for hours at a time without getting up and moving around. When I learned that my workstation was the cause of my physical problems, I made the decision to invest in equipment that would work for my body type and work habits. It also became important to break my work into blocks of time and remind myself to get up and take a short break every hour or so.

If you are having trouble with pain and discomfort as you write, here are some helpful suggestions.

Start with a comfortable chair:
  • Don’t just make do with whatever you have. Invest in a good secretarial or office chair. Go to an office supply or furniture store and sit in every chair they have until you find the one that’s perfect for you. You will be glad you did.
  • Sit all the way back in your chair and not perched on the edge (like I tend to do).
  • Invest in a lumbar support that fits your back.
  • Put a short stool or footrest under your desk and prop your feet. This takes a lot of pressure off of your back. If you have long legs, sit with your feet flat on the floor.
A proper desk or work space is important:
  • Adjust your chair to your body and the height of your desk or work space. Most office chairs have levers for this. Make sure your arm rests comfortably on the desk and that your wrists are supported by the keyboard or a wrist support.
  • Your computer, keyboard, mouse, lamp, and reference material should be arranged conveniently. Arrange other things on your desk and put them within easy reach. 
  • Be careful about bending awkwardly to get to a book, file, or whatever else you might need.
  • Don’t sit with your hand extended and resting on your mouse for long periods of time. This puts pressure on your arm and can create tremendous pain in your shoulder blades.
Using a laptop:
  • Working on a laptop wherever you happen to be does not exempt you from guidelines that will help keep your body in good working condition.
  • Whether you’re in a recliner, sitting on the floor, or propped up in bed with your laptop, be careful not to keep your head bent for long periods of time. This puts stress on your neck and leads to headaches.
  • Watch your posture and give your hands, wrists, and arms regular breaks. 
Other helpful tips:
  • Don’t sit for hours at a time without taking a break. Get a glass of water, go to the restroom, or simply take a walk around the house or yard for a few minutes. Do some stretches.
  • Don’t try to work while holding the telephone between your ear and shoulder. If it’s necessary to talk while working, put the phone on speaker.
  • Do something nice for yourself. Occasionally indulge in a piece of chocolate or your favorite treat.

What about you? Do you have other tips to add to the list? I would love to hear them.

TWEETABLES




(Photos courtesy of fruitguys.com and ergonomicsnow.com.)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Top Tips for Dealing with Inappropriate Edits

By Marti Pieper

I often say that I sit on both sides of the editor’s desk. Last week, I began a huge editing project. But I’ve also finished writing two nonfiction books this year. The role switch either drives me crazy or keeps me balanced. I haven’t figured out which.

As the first edits came back for my most recent book, I experienced the angst my editing clients must feel when I return their work. Thanks to Track Changes, they see red (the color of the edits). As I opened my manuscript, I saw some red too. The editor made some great catches. But she also changed key wording, introduced a grammatical error, and combined sentences in ways I disliked.

If you write for publication, rest assured: This will happen to you. (Or to your words, anyway.) So what’s a poor, innocent writer to do?

The unprofessional answers are obvious: Complain. Send angry emails. Enter a negative dialogue with your editor, orworse yet the publisher. Blow up. And while you’re at it, blow your reputation in the industry.

But who wants to live—or write—that way? No one. To that end, I now present my 
Top Tips for Dealing with Inappropriate Edits:

  • Take a deep breath. Better yet, back away from the keyboard and take a walk. Don’t call. Don’t pound out angry comments. Put some time between yourself and the edits before you examine them again.
  • Pray and revisit the work. You may not consider yourself a spiritual person. But if you do, you’ll find this an essential step. Connecting with God throughout the editing process yields a more balanced response.
  • (Cue music) Let it go. Sometimes. Once you’ve completed steps one and two, step three may seem easier. For my recent manuscript, I pushed back on two edits that changed essential meaning. I double-checked the grammatical error and then presented my case. But the combined sentences? I left those alone. I prefer short sentences for impact, but the editor may not. I chose my battles.
We all make mistakes, and no editor is perfect. But remember: editors exist to help improve your manuscript which, in turn, enhances its readability. When you view your editor as a partner rather than an opponent, those edits may not seem so inappropriate after all. You might even say (with apologies to Queen Elsa), “The edits never bothered me anyway.” 


TWEETABLES
What to do when edits make you see red via @martipieper. (Click to Tweet.)
@Martipieper gives tips for dealing with inappropriate edits. (Click to Tweet.)

(Photos courtesy of riyria.blogspot.com and pinterest.com.)


Marti Pieper’s passion to read, write, and pray makes her life an adventure. A worship pastor’s wife and mother of five young adults, she serves as author, collaborative writer, editor, and popular conference speaker. Her newest release is Escape the Lie: Journey to Freedom from the Orphan Heart (Randall House, 2014) a collaborative project with Dr. Walker Moore. Connect with Marti on Facebook, Twitter, and at www.martipieper.com.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Another Week in the Life of an Editor

by Alycia Morales

You may have noticed my post is two days past due. This is why I have titled my post "Another Week in the Life of an Editor." Does everything always happen on time? Life experience should hold your answer. No. Not always. Is this a problem? Often times, I would have to say the answer to that question is also no.

There are several factors that come into play here.

The first is God's timing. I don't use this as an excuse for being late. But there have been times when God has put obstacles in my path in order to either slow me down, help me avoid an accident or an error, or to get me to be still and recognize that He is still Lord over every part of my life, including my time. Have you ever noticed that God has been working in your favor when a project has been delayed? Maybe you've gotten your dream agent after a waiting period while everyone else around you got their second choice. Maybe you've discovered your book will release at just the right time and may sell well because your initial release date was pushed back a year. God's timing remains perfect.

Second is life. Yes, work is important. But is it the most important? Not in my book. First comes God. Then comes my family. Then comes work. And there are things that happen in life that we just can't control. Like when the stomach bug hits (3 weeks ago now) or a child comes home from a sleepover with head lice (2 weeks ago) that refuse to die (1 week ago, still treating and picking through hair) and a holiday weekend (translate: 3 days off) hits, like Labor Day. Then there's the fact that my husband is training for a new job, so our weekends are spent as a family doing family things, which means I'm not working on the weekends. Work is important, but God and family must always come first. You'll find life more enjoyable and abundant when it's balanced properly.

Releases September 22 - On Deadline
Third is deadlines. These force an editor to prioritize what is accomplished that week and what is set aside. Not because any author client is more important than another, but because one has a book coming out in two weeks that must be line edited while another has a first draft and no contract. Both stories are equally important, but each has a time and a season. One's time and season is immediate; the other is pending.

Fourth is perfection. Say what? Ask yourself. Would you rather submit an okay book or a book that finds its way out of the slush pile and into an editor's hands? It's better to delay your personal gratification of having a published manuscript and do your best work (with the help of your editor) than to submit or self-publish a manuscript that's "meh" and never see the sales you dreamed of. Give your "late" editor time, if necessary. Chances are, it'll pay off in the end. (PS - Most editors will let you know if it's going to take them longer than they originally thought. If they're good at what they do, it'll be worth the wait.)

Welcome to another week in the life of an editor. This is exactly what I've been dealing with in my editing and my personal life in the past month. I confess, I'm a little behind. But not so far behind I can't do my best work or catch up. The best thing for a writer to do when their editor is swamped? Be patient. Have understanding and consideration. And keep the lines of communication open with your editor. Remember, we're all human. And life happens.

TWEETABLE:
Is your editor falling behind schedule? Have mercy. A week in the life... @AlyciaMorales http://tinyurl.com/mv688p6      {Click to Tweet}
The Important Things in the Life of an Editor via @AlyciaMorales #thewriteediting http://tinyurl.com/mv688p6      {Click to Tweet}

Join me again on September 22 for another glimpse into the life of an editor. 

Do you have any additional thoughts on timing? We'd love to hear them in the comments below!