Monthly Archives: April 2009

Editing gone too far

In the previous post, Kristin itemized ten key things to tell your editor.  A good editor is important to your success.  You want to make sure your words, tone and method of rolling out the story are consistent.  You want the action to feel real.  You want the characters to feel real.  And you want to remove unnecessary words that far too many people put into their writing. 

However, please don’t take this to government-secrecy extremes…

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Ten Critical Things to Tell Your Editor

“Black eyes” have been around forever. EEI Communications’ Editorial Eye newsletters feature reader-submitted black eyes, or mistakes in print. Imagine those mistakes on your cake, and you have the inspiration for 10 Unfortunate Cakes, which in turn inspired this blog post.

A birthday cake with a misspelled name or worse can be eaten without too much fuss (it is a cake, after all), but a manuscript filled with errors and contradictions is quite embarrassing. When you’re working with an editor, such as the ones here at The Happy Guy Marketing, or with a book editor, here are ten crucial ingredients to ensure that your book turns out in a way that does you and your subject credit.

Always tell your editor:

  1. The exact spelling of your name, or any important name in the book – especially in nonfiction. Just ask Geri in the article.
    Many ways to spell Geri

    Many ways to spell Geri

    The spelling of the name should be consistent throughout. The exception might be if you’re tracing a family name or noting errors in the recording of a name over time, in which case the editor should be alerted.

  2. Any important dates that need to be kept consistent.
  3. Precise place names. Angola, Indiana is different than the African nation.
  4. Foreign-language words, which can be embarrassing if misused. For example, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used the wrong Russian word with her gift of the “Reset” button. (As an aside, Opechatka is Russian for ‘typo’).
  5. Any obscure term thrown in, such as a German beer law in a food article.
  6. Correct quote attributes. For example, a writer could write, “John Wayne said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’” Actually, the famous quote by Patrick Henry reads: “It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
  7. Any information from the Internet that is not yet verified.
  8. Whether or not your controversial scientific book has been peer-reviewed (vetted for accuracy). Medical terms always need to be checked.
  9. Photo captions that need to be checked. RegretTheError.com has some fine ones.
  10. Any copyrighted material that you need permission to use. You can slip in a poetic quote, but the editor might not realize that you’re copying Ella Fitzgerald’s lyrics. No joke. “Fair use” is misunderstood.

I can’t guarantee that writing and editing your book will be a piece of cake. However, communicating with your editor (and proofreader) will ensure that when you’re showing off your book to agents and publishers, you can feel proud of your book. A publishing contract will be…the icing on the cake!

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Social Bookmarking – the indispensable tool for writers

Whether you write novels or blog posts, marketing materials or business books, articles or self-help books, the Internet provides a wonderful resource for writers, and no aspect of the Internet provides such a versatile writer’s toolset as social bookmarking websites like Digg and Propeller and Zoomit. Some of the uses of social bookmarking website might be obvious to you; others I am sure you have never thought of. Without further ado, here are the ways a writer can harness the tremendous power of social bookmarking.

Understand how people think – headlines

You don’t have to spend very long on a website like Digg to see that there are certain headlines that attract more attention than others. There are a number of variables in the Digg algorithm, but obviously the headline plays a big role in a site where users vote on the popularity of the content. Take a look at the stories that make it “popular” (on the home page of Digg or on the main page of any of its major categories) to see what really works. 

Study the chapter headings of the posts with the most votes, and you will understand how to pique people’s interest. A few of my own observations:

  • First ever items attract interest
  • Precision attracts interest (“Seven ways to…” works better than “How to…”
  • Sex sells
  • Shock sells
  • Titles that appeal to topics of interest, even if the topic of the item is a little off
  • See what other patterns you can discern

These lessons will be most useful to marketing writers and blog writers, but really they are important for anyone writing a book or article on pretty much any subject. Headlines always have been critical to drawing the reader into the article or chapter.

Understand how people think – comments

It’s one thing to understand how people react to headlines, it’s another to see how they react to the content. For that, it’s worth reading the comments they leave at websites like Digg, because members often feel safe in their anonymity to say what’s really on their mind. Sometimes this leads to great thoughts; other times to pure rudeness.

If you want full-fledged, raw rudeness (say that ten times fast) try Reddit. There is more anonymity there (no avatars, less internal communication and relationship-building) and you’ll find sharper comments. I was going to post an image here, but let’s just say that if you are sensitive about language, you’ll thank me for not doing so.

For more polite option, try Propeller. But don’t get caught up in judgments; understanding the full range of reactions to various types of topics is a great way to understand your audience or even to develop characters (in the case of fiction). Uncensored feedback is gold.

If you are a blog writer, you’ll probably have encountered some reactions to your writing. Studying the comments on websites like Digg, Reddit and Propeller gives you insight into a wider range of reactions to a wider range of writing. It’s worth spending the time.

Research topics

Want to know what topics are of interest to a certain audience? Study the topics that make it popular within various categories at Digg and Reddit, or at specialty social bookmarking websites, such as Tipd for financial topics.

Research details

I won’t tell you that everything you find on social bookmarking websites is the most accurate; writer beware. But I will tell you that the most exciting and most popular sources are all there, and you might as well use information that the people have said they like – the stuff that really engages the reader – when you do your research.

Research reactions

Not to get too repetitive, but just as reading comments can give you an understanding of how people react to various kinds of information, studying comments on specific topics can give you an idea of how people will react to specific things you might write. Yes, you may now take out the eraser and rewrite that paragraph that might draw ridicule.

Seek feedback

I know writers who have built up a bit of a feedback circle. They post their poetry and prose, usually to Digg, and people let them know what they think. This extra feedback from people beyond their real-life circle helps them improve their writing and know when they have a winner. Here’s an example of feedback that MyscticDave received for one of his works (Click the image for the complete submission).

Promote your writing

And social bookmarking websites are the ideal place to promote your writing. This is obvious for blog writers, but you can also promote your book, chapters of your book, poetry and articles. Here is an example of an article that EnglishChick was able to share with social bookmarking (Click the image for the complete submission).

There are a number of other great social bookmarking websites, like Zoomit for Canadians and Mixx and Plime. For research, you don’t need to even join any of these websites. However, to really promote or get a decent amount of feedback for your writings, you need to get involved by voting for and commenting on the submissions of others and marking people as friends.

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