Thursday, February 3, 2011

JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU'RE SAFE

My writing career, if I may call it that, began in 2004 on an impulse brought about by severe boredom. Soon, I had a novel-length story written. Smugly, I said, “It’s a wrap!” Well, no, it wasn’t at all. I knew nothing about the intricacies of writing fiction. The knowledge I had would fit into a thimble, and even that, I based it on my experience with writing scientific research papers.

The first big shock was something called Point of View. Since I’d only been a reader of fiction, rather than a writer, POV puzzled me. I talked with two would-be-authors and asked about this term. Each of them explained…and explained…and showed…and finally told me one day it would just click, like a light bulb turned on. Actually, this happened, but alas, I dealt with only two POVs—the hero’s and the heroine’s in third person.

Since I’ve always been a self-learner, I began to rely on "How to Write Fiction" books for enlightenment. One neat little book was totally devoted to “mastering point of view.” Just what I needed. Do you know how many Points of View exist? At least six: Unlimited POV, First-Person POV, Inner Limited POV, Second-person POV, Outer Limited POV, and Combo POV. Then the writer may combine any of the six with “Multiple POVs and Challenging Perspectives.”

How did I deal with this conundrum? I pretended only two categories existed. Since I wrote romance, I felt fairly confident. So far, not one editor has asked me why I mixed Inner Limited POV with Unlimited POV.

My second learning experience was Passive Writing. Although I didn’t know the term, I did learn that all of us had probably studied it in high school, and knew it as Voice--with action verbs or without. Well, I took care of that right away by going to the Spell Check Options in Word, opening Check Grammar, and making certain every little box contained a little blue check, especially the one titled “Passive Writing.” From my first editor, I discovered the Find button, typed in the insignificant word “was,” indicating a passive sentence. In my first editing experience with this real editor, she located 972 times I’d used “was.” That’s a close approximation. Why did the publisher ever take such a messy manuscript?

The third, and last, learning episode for now is Formatting. A new phenomenon is sweeping through the e-presses community. Earlier, the guidelines stated only a few requirements: a particular font, double-spaced, one-inch margins, and page numbers. Now that I’m working with several publishers, I’m wondering why e-presses don’t standardize their formatting requirements? Each one has a long, detailed list of tasks the author must accomplish. (I do appreciate the publisher stating “do the best you can—we don’t expect you to be an electronic genius.) I admit I spent two entire days trying to change my “curly quotes” to “straight quotes.” When I learned how, I shoved my desk chair back, stood, punched my fists into the air, and yelled, “Yeeesss!” My husband came running to make certain I had not lost my mind. No, I had not lost anything. I’d found a valuable tool.
Celia
TEXAS PROMISE: The Cameron Sisters-Book I
*Love Romances Café-Best Historical Romance 2010-Honorable Mention
*The Romance Studio-Five Hearts
*Love Western Romance-Four Spurs
*Sherry Gloag, Reader-Five Hearts
*Steph Burkhart, Reviewer-Five Hearts


Celia

29 comments:

  1. Absolutely understand what you're saying. It's frustrating, isn't it? When I tell my hubby how I'm going over my work with an eagle eye to make sure that I don't repeat my words on the same page, he rolls his eyes. Who knew writing could be so hard? I was always a reader and that was so EASY! Passive/active, show/tell -- who cared??? Well, publishers and editors do. So, authors gotta care too.

    Great article, Celia. I have SO "been there, done that". :)

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  2. Wow, neat tips you gave us. I think I'll go through my newest manuscript looking for was. Thank you Celia for such a great blog.

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  3. Well said, Celia. I'm going to make a list one of these days of just how many different ways I've been asked to space, indent, quote, use italics, and how to indicate chapter headings. I've also been asked to show time lapses with *** and **** and ~*~ and blank. It's enough to to make one say to blankety-blank-blank with the whole thing, isn't it? Now don't try to figure out what words I've left out because I didn't have any in mind!

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  4. Celia, I can empathize with POV, passive sentences, and formatting. Been there, done that.
    But what are curly quotes and straight quotes? Hmmm.

    And why can't editors agree on things? In my debut novel, the first editor deleted all "and"s to add a comma after the word before "then." The final editor added the "and"s back in. Arggghhh! What's a girl to do? LOL

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  5. MISS MAE--I guess we've all been there, and you'd think this editing business would get easier. It's still a chore. I'm glad I know as much as I do, even though it's not even close to everything.
    When I get edits from an editor, I always tell my husband so he'll know why I have my nose stuck in the computer for long periods of time. Otherwise, I don't tell him what I'm doing--he's not interested as long as I can drop everything and do something or talk. But with edits--I need uninterrupted time. He now understands, bless him. Celia

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  6. SKYSTNE--that one little word "was", when conquered, makes all the difference in the world in how good your ms is. Good luck! Celia

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  7. LINDA--rant away, my dear. That's what I'm here for. And those words--I KNOW what they are, so don't try to play innocent! I do understand your frustration--it's not easy. Celia

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  8. Enjoyed reading this. It's very intersting, and as a new ACFW member, I quickly learned about the POV through my critique group :)
    Blessings,
    B. J. Robinson

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  9. LAUREAN--well, I just recently learned about curly vs straight quotes when formatting for one of my publishers. When you use quotation marks for sentences, you probably see them with a little tail curved one way or another. But in formatting, I guess for some publishers, the quotations work best if "straight." Like those you see around "straight." They're up and down with now tail.
    And, oh, I understadn your second statement. One publisher wants practically no use of "that"--so I learned to leave those out when you can. Another publisher will put every one of them back in.
    See? No consistent standards. I don't understand. Celia

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  10. B.J.--I'm glad you had a good critique group to teach about POV. Once you have it down, you can spot other books written without it.
    Best wishes for your continued success--Celia

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  11. Aw, yes, the formatting. What fun :-). Laurean, I hear you. I once heard no two editors are alike. I believe it! Great post, Celia.

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  12. ANNE-thanks. You're so right--no two editors are alike. How are we supposed to ever learn the ropes. We can't--we can only learn what the current publisher wants. And believe me...not one publisher would listen to another. Celia

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  13. Enjoyable read...we must REALLY want to be published, to go through all of this, eh?

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  14. Hi Celia,
    Great blog. I understand exactly where you are coming from, particularly about "passive."

    regards

    Margaret

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  15. I hear you on the passive reading and POV snafus. I think we each have this painful journey of self-discovery. Worst for me are the repeated phrases I can't see until someone else points them out to me. Apparentely a favorite catch phrase of mine is "Anger curled around his heart (gut, thoughts, fist, etc)" and other similiar statements. Stamping them out ruthlessly as I write this.

    Great post!

    Maggie

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  16. FIONA--isn't that the truth?? Seems like we'll do just about anything to see our stories in print. Probably we all have our limit though--some things I do refuse to do, but it has nothing to do with formatting. Thanks for stopping by. Celia

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  17. Hi, Margaret--I hope the cyclone missed you down there! Passive vs active writing should have been a easy thing to remember. Now that I do, I find it a useful took to make my writing read better. That little word "was" really does making the writing weak. Celia

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  18. MAGGIE--oh, I understand. I have a tendency to begin a dialogue sentence with "Well,..." just like I talk. In my novel Making the Turn (contemporary)--a reader/editor thought using the word 159 times was a bit excessive! It embarrased me. Now, I'm very careful to use the word only when it seems necessary. But we Southerners have certain quirky speech habits.....Celia

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  19. Celia, Yep. I've right there along with you for the ride! And straight/curly quotes - I've had the same aggravations. Thanks for sharing the journey with us, Sweetie. It's an inspiration for those aspiring writers who are still learning the ropes.

    Smiles
    Steph

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  20. STEPH--I'm sure you do know what I'm talking about! Just so we're all supporting each other as much as we can, and staying on a constant learning curve. Thanks--Celia

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  21. i'm having trouble with word 2010 - i knew how to switch from curly to straight in word 2003. agree about diff. formatting rules - makes life too complicated. fell on ice - hurt wrist so typing this with 1 hand

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  22. Oh, Diane--bless your heart! Typing with one hand? My goodness. I still have Word 2003, but really, 2010 should work the same way.
    Celia

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  23. Great post. When I started writing, I found I book I loved and studied it then joined a writing group. Both helped me. Love your pictures, can't wait for the spring and a trip to Ennis to see the bluebonnets. I agree with you about formatting, each e-reader "publisher" has different requirements and some don't give you much help at all. Smashwords.Com was the most helpful.
    Ann

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  24. ANN--hi--I know about Smashwords through a group of authors who basically self-publish--although a few of us don't. It's just a nice group and I've learned all about Indie publishing.
    I checked out your blog and "Followed." I live in San Marcos, was born in Mineral Wells, have family and authors friends up in that area. Thanks for dropping by--I like meeting other Texans, even if one did detour through the UK! Celia

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  25. What an interesting article!! Thanks Celia.

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  26. Oh, you're "the" Laurie. I'm happy to meet you--of course I read many Coffeetime Romances reviews, including mine. Your site is popular and well-thought of. It's also nice to meet another Texas. Thanks for stoppiing by--Celia

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  27. For all you 'was' hunters, you might want to check out the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. It finds them for you AND it lets you know when you've got too many. It also checks for LY-adverbs and a whole bunch of other potential problems.

    It's awesomely helpful.

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  28. Great posting. And some very good tips. Thank you for inviting me to come and read.

    Sharon

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