Why It’s Important to Read Other Blogs

Due to couple of technical glitches on my end of things, this post apparently didn’t run on Monday as I’d intended. Enjoy!

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If you’re like me, you watch your fair share of crime dramas on TV. I love Bones, Castle, and NCIS immensely.

But, if I’m not careful, I can allow them to color what I interpret as correct where police procedure is concerned.

This is why it’s important that I–and you as a writer–read non-fiction, whether in blog form or in book form.

I love Lee Lofland’s book, Police Procedure and Investigation, and his blog, The Graveyard Shift. With Castle in particular, he blogs about what the writers/actors did wrong where police procedure is concerned, and praises them when they get it correct. By reading this blog, I learn a lot, and that colors my view of other shows when I watch them. TMOTH is probably getting a little tired of hearing me go “They wouldn’t really do that in real life” or Oh, boy, I can’t wait to see what Lee Lofland has to say about that tomorrow.”

The same holds true for reading blogs by writers and agents. Lately, with having a little one in and out of the hospital, and being a busy mom, I don’t have a lot of time to read lengthy books on the topic of writing. Truth be told, since I got my Kindle a couple months ago, I haven’t cracked open a real book other than review copies for Christian Children’s Book Review. So, for the writer in me, blogs are the best way to stay current with my craft.

I almost always try to stay up with three blogs a week: AuthorCulture, Wordplay, and Rants & Ramblings. If I have time, I usually like to check in with several others, but these are the ones I’ll read while eating breakfast or lunch, or if I have a quick ten minutes where the kids are being good.

Sure, the four I’ve mentioned today are probably not the most comprehensive, although I feel they’re pretty good. Heck, Rants & Ramblings has been on the Writer’s Digest list of best sites for writers several years in a row. But, the important thing for me is that I stay connected. If I were to say “Chuck it. I’ve got too many irons in the fire. I’ll pick my writing back up when the baby’s better,” I’d lose my grip on the market, on what’s good writing, on my passion for doing what I want to do.

By staying active on the blogs, I’m also keeping my name out there. I don’t comment on every post, but I comment frequently enough. And that, as a writer desiring to be published, is an important thing.

So, you tell me: What blogs do you make sure you read frequently? Maybe I’ll have to add a few more to my “must read” list.

Until next time,

Keep an Eye on the Stupid Things

Through the experience of submitting work to agents/editors and having work submitted to me as a free-lance and PYP editor (and from having a friend/crit partner/mentor who knows all), I’ve learned some interesting points. Most of them you can find on any good blog or website, but few folks write about the “stupid things” that can trip you up.

Linda Yezak

I’m not going to say that these things can keep your manuscript from being accepted, but by the time your masterpiece hits the submission trail it should be spit-shine perfect. It should reflect not just your writing abilities, but also your professionalism. Finding too many of these unprofessional “stupid things” in someone’s piece can tip the scales of whether I will accept the work or not–and I’m just a newbie with few submissions. Can you imagine what it’s like for a seasoned pro with hundreds of submissions a week?

So, after you’ve perfected all the major stuff that makes up a great novel and before you pray over your piece and send it out, check for some of the stupid things:

Chapter Headings–make sure they’re uniform all the way through. That includes having them on  same place on the page. If you type Chapter One on line sixteen, then all the chapters should be on line sixteen, too. If you type Chapter 1 on the first page, don’t have Chapter Thirty on page 385. If you have chapter titles, don’t have chapter one’s title Like This and chapter thirty’s title Like this. Uniform location, type, capitalization and font all the way through.

Numbers–in general, these should be spelled out. Of course, there are exceptions. No one expects you to type out seven hundred thirty-seven million, five hundred thousand fifty-three. I’m not even sure how to do it. Where do the commas go?

Generally, numbers under 101 should be spelled out. Different style manuals have different rules, so consult the manual preferred by the agent/publisher you’re submitting to. (Port Yonder Press prefers The Chicago Manual of Style, the heavy hitter of most publishing companies, while many Christian publishers prefer The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style. One or both of these should be on every writer’s desk–or at least a copy of Polishing the “PUGS” by Kathy Ide, which hits the high points of most major style manuals including Chicago and Christian Writer’s.)

Contemporary Jargon–until the powers that be recognize “alright,” it’s not all right to use. Spell it out in its two-word form. “Okay” is different. Sometimes it’s okay to use OK, but usually the preference is to spell it out. Again, check your style manual and the preference of the folks you’re submitting to.

Holy Pronouns–if you write Christian fiction and refer to our Savior and Lord, decide early whether you’re going to capitalize Him and stick with it. And not just “Him,” but You and His also. Jesus shouldn’t be the Messiah in one place and the messiah in another, Savior here and savior there. Check your manual; be consistent.

Only–this word can be an adverb, adjective or conjunction, but the placement can change a sentence’s meaning entirely. Watch how you’re using it; make sure you’re modifying the word you intend to modify.

Using the example I found on Dictionary.com (“I cook only on weekends”), I’ll show you the difference in meaning with different placements of  “only.”

    Only I cook on weekends (no one else cooks on weekends).
    I only cook on weekends (I don’t do anything else but cook).
    I cook only on weekends (I don’t cook during the week).

Punctuation–this is a biggie. I’m going to assume you know how to punctuate a sentence, so let’s get to some of the annoying things.

Overuse–ellipses and dashes can be overused so easily, and when they are, they lose their effectiveness. In dialogue, ellipses are used when a thought tapers off, and dashes are used to illustrate an interruption. In prose, dashes are used to set off a thought, idea or something that would otherwise be parenthetical. Exclamation points should rarely be used. They illustrate shouting, anger, excitement, but overuse dilutes their power.

Quotation Marks–unless you use italics, full quotes should be used around “things” you want to set apart in your sentence in prose. Not partial ‘quotes’ but the “real deal.” Also, periods and commas go inside the quote. Other punctuation has different rules depending on whether they’re part of the quote or speaker’s dialogue. While we’re at it, keep an eye out for open quotes: In dialogue or any time you use quotation marks, be sure you close the quotes.

Apostrophe Direction–this is the one few ever pay attention to. I never did, until I read about it in one publisher’s submission instructions. This is obviously somebody’s pet peeve, and can be one of the stupid things that’ll trip you up. But I seriously doubt it’ll prevent acceptance.

You use the apostrophe when you’re leaving out a letter in a word or making a contraction, and usually it’s faced in the right direction. But when you’re omitting the first letter, the apostrophe is faced in the wrong direction. It’s a pain, but it’s not too difficult to change ‘nough said to ’nough said. Just type ‘’ together and delete the first one. Okay, okay, I know. Petty, picky, peevish. But now that you’ve read this, I bet it’ll drive you nuts too.

This micro-proof reading should be the last thing you do before you pray over your work so all the corrections you’ve made will be checked, too.

Good luck!

Linda Yezak is a two-time finalist in ACFW’s Genesis Contest as well as a two-time judge in the contest and a judge for smaller competitions. She has been published in Christian Romance Magazine and her review of Riven by Jerry Jenkins was published on the Tyndale website for the book (under the “Reviews” tab). Linda writes blog posts for several sites including AuthorCulture, 777 Peppermint Place, PeevishPenman and VibrantNation. Her first novel, Give the Lady a Ride is currently being considered for publication. She is an editor for Port Yonder Press, a small, traditional publishing company, and a free-lance editor.

Thanks so much for sharing your pet peeves, Linda! Apostrophe direction drives me insane, too, so I shut off “curly quotes” in Word when I’m writing–it keeps the direction neutral!

And for you, my delightful reader, I hope you’ve enjoyed this respite with our guest bloggers. I’ll be back two weeks from now with a fun little post before I get back to the important business of harder-hitting posts. Thanks for your support and readership during these few months as my family and I have adjusted to having another child in the house!

Until next time,

Winner of "The Women in Jesus’ Life"

Hello, dear readers!

I want to thank Mindy again for being so gracious and agreeing to an interview, as well as the giveaway for her book. I apologize for the lateness of this winner announcement; I was on vacation last week, without easy access to the internet.

Anyway, my toddler did the honors this morning, and our winner is…

Tracy Krauss!

Tracy, please contact me through the “Contact Me” box on the right with your mailing address and we’ll get your book out to you.

Thanks to everyone!

We’ve got one more guest post coming up from Linda Yezak this coming Monday (please make her feel welcome), then we’ll resume whatever normalcy Word Wanderings has had in the past. I see a post reviewing the book “A Date You Can’t Refuse” by Harley Jane Kozak in our future, and my thoughts on conflict with it.

Until next time,

My Favorite Resources

I thought today I’d share with you some of my favorite places on the web that have really made me think about my writing and how to improve it. While this list is nowhere near comprehensive, I hope the sampling provides you with some new places to visit frequently.

Agent/Editor Blogs

The Rejectionist — This isn’t an agent/editor blog per se, however this person is an assistant to what I suspect is a major NY agent. His/her rants are quite comical at times, but usually right on the mark, especially if they share any quotes from queries they’ve received. This person does seem to be mildly obsessed with Gollum from The Lord of the Rings, and will occasionally go into spurts of talking like him. (One of the categories that they regularly post in is We hates it precioussss.)

Evil Editor — I haven’t quite cracked the nut on this one yet. It seems most of the time, the posts break down a persons plot and explains why it won’t work. Other times, it’s a query letter. A few comics are spread throughout. Regardless, I usually get some nugget from reading the posts.

Query Shark — In my opinion, this is one of the best teaching tools for wannabe published writers. As she receives worthy queries, Janet Reid critiques submitted queries and explains why they don’t work–or why they do and why she’d request additional chapters. If you want to put your query through the ringer, though, be sure to read EVERYTHING that’s been posted, or you’ll quickly be rejected! And, read the rules, too. It gets you into good practice for when you start submitting your work.

Miss Snark’s First Victim — If you’re not familiar with Miss Snark, and admittedly, I’m not, you may find the title of this blog a bit odd. However, when you get into the meat of this blog, you’ll find it very helpful–I have. Once a month, this blog hosts a ‘mystery guest’, which is a literary agent. You’re invited to submit the first 250 words +/- of your completed, polished novel if you fit the requirements. Then everyone can critique your work–including the mystery agent. At the end, the agent is revealed, and s/he selects a few works they want to see more of, so you have an opportunity if you’re one of the lucky few to pitch your book. If you don’t get picked, you still get some good advice. I put Homebody through the paces there in November.

Rachelle Gardner — Okay, I’ll admit it. At the moment, I think Rachelle Gardner is my dream agent. Of all the agent blogs I follow, and the agents I follow on Twitter, I think she’s probably one of the classiest. Reading her blog posts, you can really tell that she truly cares about the people she represents, and respects authors in general (not that other agents don’t). Her blog is always helpful and thought provoking. Now if I can just craft or edit a book that she may be interested in! Homebody and Cora’s Song are too rough around the edges, and I think Beyond Dead, once it’s edited, will contain too many sci-fi elements. *sigh*

Author Blogs

K.M. Weiland’s Wordplay — K.M. has become a good cyber-friend, so I may be a little biased, but I truly think her blog Wordplay is fabulous. Each Sunday, she posts on a topic pertinent to becoming a better writer. Regardless of the topic, she makes you think, even if you don’t think the topic is applicable to your particular style of writing. Her companion podcast is also superb, and you can find it (and subscribe!) on iTunes, or listen to it on her site. She’s also begun a new Wednesday feature with a video podcast.

AuthorCulture — Along with Linda Yezak and Lynnette Bonner, K.M. Weiland also writes for AuthorCulture. These three ladies always have something interesting to say, and frequently use examples from their own projects. At the end of the month, they share a roundup of resources they’ve uncovered over the month that may help you, and you sure don’t want to miss Fabulously Fun Fridays at AuthorCulture–it’s like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’ll get!

777 Peppermint Place — Linda Yezak, pre-published author, shares about personal goings-on, but most often about her writing life. Whether it’s regarding her adventures of rewriting her book, finding an agent, or mulling over her diet, her posts are always fun.

The Graveyard Shift — Non-fiction author and former cop Lee Lofland’s blog is always informative, especially if you’re writing crime fiction. He reviews episodes of ABC’s Castle, detailing why things wouldn’t work from a cop’s perspective, but also details topics pertinent to those writing crime fiction, or are even just curious about how things work. His book, Police Procedure & Investigation was published through Writer’s Digest Books, and is extremely helpful. He also is a member of a Yahoo! group on writing crime fiction, crimescenewriter.

Miscellaneous Blogs

The Character Therapist — Writer and Licensed Therapist Jeannie Campbell has one of the most unique blogs for writers out there. She posts twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Every Tuesday, she selects a character sketch or outline from her readers and puts the characters on the couch, so to speak. She takes your premise as a guide, then tells you from a psychological point of view why your characters would or wouldn’t work. She’ll also give you ideas to tweak your characters to bring them in line with what would be acceptable behavior if they’re way out of line. Thursdays, Jeannie tends to go through various psychological maladies and how you could use them in your writing. Like Query Shark, be sure to read the rules, though there aren’t as many and they aren’t as strict as The Shark.

Twitter

Some may say that Twitter isn’t worth the time, however I’ve found that I learn a lot from following agents and authors on Twitter. Some of the time it’s just a nodding, ‘I’m going to file that away’. Other times, it’s an aghast open mouth thinking ‘what where they thinking?’ (These are usually from seeing something marked #queryquotes — a very good search to save!)

Since time is running short, here’s just my top 10. You can find more by following me, @righter1 and either my list ‘Important Folks’ or ‘Agents’.

@RachelleGardner
@Agentgame
@WolfsonLiterary (she may not have started #queryquotes, but I think she’s the queen now!)
@WritersDigest
@BostonBookGirl
@LeeLofland
@KMWeiland
@pprmint777
@Brandilyn
@Bradfordlit

So, I’ve shared mine. How about you? What are some of the resources you couldn’t live without online?

Until next time,