Guest Post – 14 Manuscript-Formatting Tips for Writers and Poets – Kathy Steinemann

14 Manuscript-Formatting Tips for Writers and Poets

Don’t press the Publish button until you read this post.

Whether you self-publish or work with a traditional publisher, you should perform a thorough check for hidden codes that might hinder your book’s conversion.

Even if you’re not at the publishing stage, a professional-looking document will impress agents and slush readers. A haphazard mess will have them reaching for antacids.

Save yourself the embarrassment.

This article discusses a few common formatting blunders and how to fix them in Microsoft Word. If you prefer a different word processor, you can still use the information here to isolate the same problems in your software.

Before we begin, open your WIP in Word.

You’ll need to activate the function that allows you to see paragraph marks and other invisible symbols:

Navigate to the Home tab of Word and press the ¶ icon.

Tip #1: Never copy and paste from a website.

If you’ve already done this, you might be in for a bumpy ride.

And I’m not talking about legal issues if you’ve hijacked information from internet pages. You’d never do that, right?

No matter what you copy online, you could pick up weird spacing, tables, headings, undesired page breaks, non-standard colors and font sizes, tabs, highlighting, special characters, et al. These unexpected anomalies could prevent conversion to eBook format.

Tip #2: Select a standard font such as Times New Roman or Cambria.

Comic Sans MS won’t impress an agent or an editor. But if you’re self-publishing a printed children’s book, go for it.

Tip #3: Avoid tables.

Some eBook aggregators or programs won’t accept tables, or they do a sloppy conversion job. If you need a table, one option is to produce a graphic instead. It’s beyond the scope of a short article to explain the mechanics, but for guidance, you can search online for how to take a screenshot.

Tip #4: Remove non-breaking spaces.

These spaces, which require a Ctrl-Shift-Space key sequence in Word, mysteriously appear in some documents and will make them fail EPUBCheck validation.

Non-breaking spaces create sentences that look like this:


instead of this:


To replace them:

Search for [space]
Replace with [space]

Word is smart enough to replace all spaces, including non-breaking spaces, with regular ones.

Tip #5: Eliminate double returns after paragraphs.

Do you see something like the following in your manuscript?

The quick red fox.¶

Tsk, tsk. That’s what styles are for.

Search for ^p^p
Replace with ^p

If you want extra room after each paragraph, access the style you need to change and modify its spacing:

Modify -> Format -> Paragraph -> Spacing: After

Not sure how to use Word styles?

Microsoft provides how-tos for several versions of Word at the following link:

Tip #6: Delete linefeeds, and replace them with paragraph returns.

Linefeeds eliminate extra spacing between paragraphs. They’re produced with Shift-Enter, and are helpful when writing articles for blogs. This post contains a few, because they work well in WordPress. However, they don’t belong in manuscripts.

Word expects all text joined by linefeeds to be part of the same style. An added annoyance: They hinder edits to hyperlinks and bookmarks.

Search for ^l
Replace with ^p

[That’s ^ell, not ^one.]

Tip #7: Replace double spaces with single spaces.

Double spaces between words were the norm when everyone created manuscripts on typewriters. Nowadays they’re unnecessary, and they can cause spacing anomalies.

For instance, if a line break occurs in the middle of a double space, you’ll end up with a single space at the end of the first line and another single space at the beginning of the next. Given the number of double spaces that would occur in a typical manuscript, the probability of several such anomalies is close to 100%.

Search for [space][space]
Replace with [space]

Tip #8: Remove extraneous spaces at the end and beginning of paragraphs.

No matter how careful you are, these spaces appear as you write and revise. They’re easy to replace.

Search for [space]^p
Replace with ^p

and then

Search for ^p[space]
Replace with ^p

Tip #9: Edit apostrophes that face the wrong way.

Consider this sentence:

“But I don’t trust ‘im,” he said.

Note the punctuation that replaces the missing h at the beginning of ‘im. It looks like a quotation mark.

Here’s how you would fix it. Type:

[h][i][m][cursor left x 2][‘][cursor left][backspace][cursor right x 3]

This is an excellent reason to avoid words that drop initial letters.

Instead of: ’E’s doing it again.

Try: He’s doin’ it again.

Instead of: He’s going with ’em.

Try: He’s goin’ with them.

Instead of: I’m not against ’t, honest.

Try: I’m not agin it, honest.

Plan your dialect before you write your story, and keep a file with the quirks for each person. Characters should have unique speech characteristics that enable readers to differentiate them, but the dialogue should be easy to read.

Tip #10: Replace tabs.

Search for ^t
Replace with [nothing]

Tabs don’t belong in a manuscript. Neither do multiple spaces. If you want to indent the beginning of each paragraph, set up a style for that.

Indented paragraphs function well for novels.

Block-formatted paragraphs work better for books such as cookbooks and instructional manuals, where special formatting like bulleted lists, block indents, and hanging indents often appear.

Tip #11: If you’re preparing your document for eBook conversion, find and replace these codes with [nothing]:

^b (section break)

^m (manual page break)

Tip #12: Never do this.

Do you remember the tip about double returns after paragraphs?

Here’s a practice that’s even worse: multiple presses of the Enter key to reach the top of a new page, to insert a blank page, or to set up for a section break.

In eBooks, free-flowing text, font changes by readers, and varying screen sizes will transform extra lines into a mess. You might get away with it in a paperback or hardcover edition, but a minor edit before you print could alter your paging and introduce other glitches.

Instead, on the Insert tab, select:

Pages -> Blank Page


Pages -> Page Break

Tip #13: Search and replace cautiously.


Consider the following, for example. Sometimes authors want to replace all ‘s (straight quotes) with ‘s (curly quotes). This is how they do it:

Search for ‘
Replace with ‘

However, when they do this, all words such as ’e’s, ’em, and ’t end up with apostrophes that face the wrong way.

Can you imagine the time-consuming mess you’ll have to clean up afterward?

Always, and I repeat, always double check your entire document after performing blanket search-and-replace operations. Yes, it takes time, but quality is worth the effort.

Tip #14: When all else fails …

Are you receiving obscure errors from EPUBCheck or your book aggregator’s conversion process?

If you can’t locate the problems via Word’s Find function, you might have to:

  1. Copy the text from your manuscript into a text file.
  2. Begin a new manuscript.
  3. Select the contents of the text file, copy, and then paste into the new manuscript. This removes all formatting.
  4. Start at the beginning and reformat the @#$%&! thing.

Imagine how long that will take. The painless approach would be to avoid the errors in the first place.

A program like Jutoh, which contains EPUBCheck and works well in tandem with Calibre, provides meaningful errors. Jutoh also allows direct edits, saves your project, and converts to multiple file formats.

Don’t give up if you experience formatting difficulties.

And remember: Today’s words are tomorrow’s legacy. Keep writing.

© Kathy Steinemann

Kathy Steinemann, Grandma Birdie to her grandkids, is a parrot-loving grandma involved in a passionate affair with words, especially when the words are frightening or futuristic or funny.

As a child, she scribbled prose and poetry, and won public-speaking and writing awards. As an adult, she worked as a small-town paper editor, and taught a couple of college courses. She has won or placed in multiple short fiction contests.

If you were to follow her around for a day, you might see her wince when a character on TV says “lay” instead of “lie” or when a social media post confuses “your” with “you’re.” And please don’t get her started on gratuitous apostrophes in pluralized words.

Her popular books in The Writer’s Lexicon series are touted by writers as “phenomenal,” a “secret weapon,” and “better than a thesaurus.”

You’ll find her at, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.



Reblog – Writing during the holidays

Originally posted on Shannon A Thompson: Most writers aren’t able to write full time. That means we tend to work full time and write full time. Between writing, querying, editing, and marketing, our schedules can quickly feel crushing, especially if you’re working toward a very specific goal, such as a revision deadline. Taking breaks can…

via Balancing Writing During the Holidays — Legends of Windemere

Guest Post – Now What?

Today I welcome Dylan Callens to the Library of Erana where he chats about some of the challenges facing the new author.

What to Do Next

I’ve finished my first book.  I have one month to prepare before its release while my editor diligently works away at what I hope are my last few grammatical and punctuation errors.  That leaves me one month to navigate through the insane world of social media, to build some kind of audience before its launch date.  Where do I even start?

I have several ideas; I’m not green when it comes to web design or working on social media platforms.  I’ve promoting things online before with varying degrees of success.  I even purchased a book to help me with online marketing.  Alas, I am only one person trying to build a website, tweet interesting tweets, post amusing Facebook content, network on Goodreads, and create articles for other blogs.

Shit, I think to myself.  Should I create a book trailer?  Should it be shot using live action?  I know how to shoot and edit good video, so maybe I should.  Then I calculate the amount of time it will take me before I would be happy with such a project.  Ten hours, minimum, for a one minute trailer, I figure.  That is ten hours where I am not actively networking.  With only four weeks until launch, how will I fit that into my already congested schedule?

My attention turns to setting up accounts for distribution.  The usual suspects: Amazon, Kobo, and iBooks.  I’m leery about iBooks but I’m not sure why.  Then I notice Amazon’s button for KDP Select.  Some research is required.  On the surface, if sounds like a great plan, except for the part where I can’t sell my ebooks on any other platform.  More reading.  Some have success, some do not.  I can’t decide.  I shelf the idea for the time being.  I still have a few weeks, I’ll figure it out later.

And then there’s advertising.  Where do I advertise?  What is my budget?  I have a little money squirreled away for that but I’m not convinced that it’ll be enough.  I figure that I will be throwing money into a pit.  Yet, I need to get my name out there.  I read a great post about advertising on Amazon that suggests it is a profitable endeavor.  Does that mean I have to enroll in KDP Select to use it?  And what about Goodreads?  That seems like an ideal place.  But those ads look so cheap.

My head is swirling with ideas.  There is no clear path.  I sit up, take a deep breath and try to clear my head.  There is only one thing I can do, I figure.  Put my fingers to the keyboard and start on something.  Anything.  I will keep writing.  Timelines aren’t that important right now anyway.  As long as I keep pushing forward, I will be fine.  As long as I can contain the fear of failure, I will persevere.  When I’m overwhelmed by the magnitude of work that is ahead of me, I will have to re-center myself on the idea that as long as I am working, I am doing the right thing.  Making mistakes will only delay success, not stop it.

Dylan Callens is a high school teacher in Sudbury, Ontario. He is the author of, Operation Cosmic Teapot, which will be available on Amazon on December 11, 2015
Twitter: @TheNitzsch

Crossing Categories in Writing – Guest Post Jacquelynn Luben

In 2015 I am welcoming a number of guests to my blog, where they discuss all manner of topics. I am sure my regular followers have seen the Fantasy and Literary Heroes in Society posts, which will be a continuing feature but today I am pleased to welcome Jacquelynn Luben who talks about the challenges of writing in multiple genres, her work in a small publishing house, research and the challenges faced by many authors. Over to you Jacquelynn…

Crossing Categories in Writing

Jacquelynn Luben

Over the years, I’ve written both fiction and non-fiction, short and long.  That is to say, I’ve written two non-fiction books and two novels (and am in the process of writing the third) and I’ve also written many short stories and published quite a few articles.

In terms of success, one of my non-fiction books was commissioned and published by a mainstream publisher, while the other was self-published, and of course, my articles were published in print magazines.

My novels, on the other hand, are published by a small publishing house, in which I am a director, with two others – so quite a small concern – which makes it more difficult to achieve the same sort of success as with a mainstream publisher.  However, on-line sales through Amazon have provided me with a very satisfactory income during the last three years, and this specifically applies to my fiction work.

I have never been a professional writer, and have never had to rely on writing for an income.  So from this point of view, I am happy with the way my writing has progressed.  It means I write what I feel like writing and when I feel like it, and am not normally boxed into a corner where I have to produce something to a deadline.

In the past, my non-fiction writing has been praised for its clarity, and perhaps I should have concentrated on that.  However, the truth of the matter is that I do not really like researching a subject.  My first non-fiction book (The Fruit of the Tree) was written from the heart, as it dealt with the death of my baby daughter through cot death.  Having written articles on the subject, I wanted to put the event into context, and so described a period of five years of my married life, including the births of my other children.  No research was needed.  At the time when I wrote it, it was all there in my memory.

I have spoken to writers who say that they love the research more than the writing.  This does not apply to me.  The writing is the part which is enjoyable;  I like using words – as any writer should – and I like editing what I have written, moving words, sentences and paragraphs around.  (Computers have made that aspect of writing so much easier.)  My articles therefore, have, on the whole, been based on my personal experience, the most recent having been published in a ‘nostalgia’ magazine, and have therefore not required much in the way of research.

It was as a result of writing my first book – which in the end, I published myself – that I was commissioned to write a self-help book on the subject of cot death, and for this I had to use my head and try to be somewhat more objective about the subject.  I did, of course, have to research the topic, and I interviewed a number of people, taking notes and using, at that time, a tape recorder, before going to the computer to transcribe the interviews.  I tried to make them wide ranging, including as my interviewees, bereaved parents, doctors and a midwife, a funeral director, and representatives of the charity which gave support to bereaved parents.  The parents, too, were diverse and included, for example, those who had had more children and those who chose not to, and religious and non-religious people.

My motivation for writing fiction is really quite different, the common factors being my enjoyment of writing, and my interest in the structure of any piece of work.  I am a sucker for stories.  If I turn on the radio or TV, half way through a play, I will probably get hooked and want to know what happened.  So constructing a story and living in the world of that story is a different kind of escapism.  Fiction comes in for criticism from my engineer husband, because it’s ‘not true’, but I believe that there is sometimes more truth in fiction than in factual stuff.  In my opinion, whenever fiction writers describe events, they are remembering something that occurred in their own lives, or that they have heard about.  The truth is in the emotion that was experienced, even if the fictional characters do not exist.  So a piece of fiction is a tapestry of true or half remembered events or events that could happen.  Even in fantasy and science fiction, (which I generally don’t write) good writers usually represent their characters with normal human emotions.

I think that writers have to recognise today that it is very difficult to make a living from writing unless you produce a best-seller.  But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities to get work read and even paid for, particularly in the field of ebooks.  My novel, Tainted Tree, is the piece of work that has provided me with an income recently and is the most read of my current work.  Initially on the Amazon discussion pages, I promoted it a great deal, though this can bring Amazon’s wrath upon your head, so after a reprimand,  I made sure that I was more cautious in this respect.

I made sure that I made good use of the categories on the book’s Kindle page, and was fortunate in that another writer who had created a ‘Listomania’ of genealogical novels, added it to his list.  If you are the writer of ‘literary fiction’, your book may not be too specific, but as I don’t come into that category, and prefer plot based books, it is probably easier to categorise them.  Having said that, I don’t believe that any book fits into one category.  Tainted Tree is a genealogical romance with a bit of mystery and history in the package.  My current novel in progress is a crime thriller, which also has a romantic thread.

My books have in common one thing.  I have read and reread them over and over again and made changes to numerous drafts.  Even if I break the rules, I regard grammar and spelling as of great importance, and, with the help of my fellow directors at our shared publishing house and other writers at my writing circle, I try, to the best of my ability, to sift out all errors.  I also try my hardest to make sure that loose ends are tied up and that there are no errors of continuity.  I am not a professional writer, but I try to be professional.

Author Interview Fifty-Seven Doug Dandridge Sci-fi/Fantasy Bellator

Welcome to Doug Dandridge

Where are you from and where do you live now?  I am originally from Venice, Florida.  My father was also a Florida native, born in Panama City in 1915.  My mom was from Long Island, New York.  But I consider myself 100% Southern.  Now I live in Tallahassee, in the northern part of the state, what is still considered the South, even as the southern part really isn’t.

 Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc.  I write in the genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy, with some past and hopefully future forays into Alternate History.  In Science Fiction and Fantasy my most popular work is the Military subgenre.  Currently I have 21 books out, six in the Exodus: Empires at War series (Military Scifi), four in the Refuge series (Fantasy), and three in the Deep Dark Well series (also scifi).  I also have one Steampunk Fantasy, one High Fantasy, one Urban Fantasy, and five other assorted science fiction, from near future (2020) to eight centuries in the future.  I also have some fantasy and science fiction completed to the first draft novel stage, a total of four, I believe.  Not sure when I will release them, since everyone seems to be clambering for more Exodus, and most of my time is caught up in producing more work in that Universe.

Where do you find inspiration?  Everywhere.  I read a lot growing up, both science fiction, fantasy, and military history.  Also real science, and geography, etc.  I served in the US Army, and learned a lot about what it means to be a soldier, though I never had to face combat myself.  And I followed the Space Program closely while growing up, back in the day when it went from the first orbital flights up to landing on the Moon.  And of course movies and TV shows, from the day when the special effects were pretty hokey, to our modern, almost complete realism versions.  The early scifi I read actually had some science in it, unlike much of what we see today.  So I try to use some of the real Universe in my scifi, though I don’t get tied to it so much that I lose out on a good story.  But things like instant acceleration and deceleration, ships banking in vacuum?  I try to avoid that like the plague.  And dreams.  I have outlined chapters, and once, a whole book during a night of sleep.  I guess I have just accumulated so many terabytes of info from all those sources in my mind, when I see, hear or read something that sparks a memory, the ideas just start flowing and connecting.

Do you have a favourite character? If so why?  My favorite character from my work is Pandora Latham, also known as Pandi.  She starts out as a Kuiper Belt miner, helping to feed the hunger for comets to use in the terraforming of planets.  She escaped her native Alabama, and the father she hated, by undergoing space training.  She really wants to go to the stars, but mining is the best that is available in her sublight culture.  Until the day she has to jump through a wormhole forty thousand years into the future.  What I like about the character is she is a resilient fighter who never gives up.  In situations where most people would curl up in a ball on the ground in shock, she rolls with the punches, learning the whole time how to survive, and even thrive, in her environment. One of my fans called her Bloody Mary, because she is not adverse to killing something to solve a problem. But at heart, she is a good person, one who believes that all sentient life should be free, and judged for their minds, not their outer appearances.

Do you have a character you dislike? If so why?  Heck, I have a lot of characters I dislike.  I put them in the story for others to dislike them as well.  While they may not be totally bad, they all possess some reprehensible traits.  What’s a story without someone to hate.

Are your characters based on real people?   I have done that in the past, but now they are just more composites of people I have known.  I worked in mental health for years, and then for Department of Children and Families in Florida.  I have met a lot of unique personalities, with a lot of unique, not always exemplary, behaviour.  I have had some people tell me one or more characters I wrote were not believable, when they were patterned from some of the people I have really met, that most don’t really see in their day to day lives.

Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources?   I love world-building.  I have all kinds of books in my library, the Atlas of World History, books on Mythology, Star Atlases, just about anything you can think of to help me develop science fiction or fantasy world.  Of course now the internet is a favorite resource, with all of the sites that can give you all the information you need.  I especially like the sites that provide calculators for things I used to have to do by hand, orbits, gravity, luminosity of a certain kind of star on a planet in a certain orbit.  Calculators for the energy derived from amounts of antimatter.  NASA’s interactive map of Mars. Nuke Map.  The list is just too extensive to cover it all.  And computer programs I run on my personal system, like Orbit Xplorer and others.

I try to cover all aspects of the world I am building, and in fact overdo it.  That works out really well when I’m working on a series, as eventually most of that stuff will come in handy.

Is there a message conveyed within your writing?  Do you feel this is important in a book?  I like to have a message of hope, no matter what.  The characters may find themselves in a horrible situation.  In fact, many of them might not come out the other side. But there is always a chance.  I think some message is important in writing, but not the beat the over the head every paragraph till they either get it, or start bleeding from the ears, kind.

Sort these into order of importance: Great characters; great world-building; solid plot; technically perfect. Can you explain why you chose this order? (Yes I know they all are important…)  Great World Building, Solid Plot, Great Characters, Technically Perfect.  The way I see it, the thing that really separates speculative fiction from what I term Mundane fiction is the setting.  It has to be some fantastic world, from the past or future, or today gone horribly wrong.  After that a plot that keeps the action moving.  I write action packed novels, and without plot, it’s easy to get lost.  Characters to me are mostly important so people can identify with them, and slip into the world and the plot.  Nothing is Technically Perfect, so I don’t even care about that one.  I try to make my work as good as I possibly can. But perfection is for people who will never publish.

In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio). Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason?  I sell ebooks and print on demand paperbacks.  I just released my first audiobook, Exodus: Empires at War: Book 1, my best seller of all time.  I’m hoping to do all the books in that series eventually, but it will depend on how well that first book sells.

Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited?  I do self-edit, and yes, a book can suffer, though it can also suffer from an editor that doesn’t get it.  Would my books be better if they were professionally edited?  Maybe, but over a thousand reviews across all the books with a 4.45 average says I must be doing something right.

Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be?  I think there is still some prejudice against self-published authors.   If you are traditionally published, people tend to think you passed the standards of the gate keepers, and so of course have produced something of quality.  I find that the view is slowly changing, but it all depends on sales.  When I tell some of my professionally published writer friends that one of my books has sold almost nineteen thousand copies, with two more selling over ten, their jaws drop.  Tell the same to a professional editor and the business cards come out.  One of my friends, who has sold millions of books, seems to be very impressed by my ebook sales.  And then you have Hugh Howie, with over a million sales, and not many traditionally published authors in his range.

Do you read work by self-published authors?  Some.  I used to read a lot, but now I only read those recommended by my own fans, or well-reviewed.  I have just read so many that were so poor I couldn’t finish them, and I used to pride myself on finishing everything I started.  Then again, there were some books that were excellent.

What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews?  I think reviews are important, though I really couldn’t tell you how much so. I have one book with 8 five star reviews in the US, and almost that many in the UK, which has only sold about three hundred copies.  By the ‘that reviews are very important’ rule, it should be selling thousands by now.  As far as commenting, I refrain from getting involved in that battle.  The only time I will reply is when someone says something about my science that is just wrong.  Then I’ll comment, with a link to the science.  One time it was a comment about relativity and mass, another about nukes.

What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot?  An in-depth look at a world seen through your own imagination. Movies and games show you what everything looks like, and the actions of the characters, without providing an in-depth look inside.   A book allows one to see things through their own interpretation.  They make you think.

What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers?  Be persistent and don’t give up.  When you finish one project, start on another, without delay.  And write what you love, not what you think is going to be the next big thing, because it probably won’t be.

What are your best marketing/networking tips? What are your worst?  Go to Cons and to the author tracks, and workshop.  You meet people who have already made it, and you never know what will come of that.  I have met some people in the last year who are really helping me out in my career.  The worst. Watch out for the lure of advertising.  I spent $500 last year to advertise a vampire book on a site and saw no increase in sales.  Advertising might look good, but often amounts to no gain.

Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it?  I recently read the first three books of Larry Correa’s Monster Hunter International series and really enjoyed them.  I can see how he became a best seller.  Am currently reading Trial By Fire by Chuck Gannon, also a great book.  After that I will track down the next R A Salvatore or Jim Butcher book and get into them.

What are your views on authors offering free books?  It worked for me, so I’m all for it.  As of this interview, I have sold 92,000 books, and given away 16,000.  A giveaway of The Deep Dark Well, over 4,000 books, kick-started the Exodus series.

Do you have a favourite movie?  Too many to count.  I love Avatar and the Star Wars/Star Trek films.  Not because of plot or character, but because of the visuals.  For a boy that wanted to grow up to visit other worlds and see other forms of life, they are as close as I’m ever going to get.

Do you have any pets?  Four cats.  Bobbie, Angelina, Espresso and Molly.  All different, all wonderful, and all little pains in the butt at times.

Can you name your worst job? Do you think you learned anything from the position that you now use in your writing?  Working for Florida DCF had to be the worst job among many bad ones.  Too many contradictory standards, too many politically motivated changes that really helped no one.  It taught me I better keep producing as a writer, since I do not want to return to that life.

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself?  I love women’s college sports.  In Tallahassee we have a lot of college sports.  Our football team won the Division I National Championship, which was great.  Our women’s Soccer Team lost the National Championship last year in overtime, which disappointed me more than the men winning theirs excited me.  I go to every soccer match I can attend.  And that made the World Cup really fun this summer, because I actually knew what was going on.

Book links, website/blog and author links:



Twitter: @BrotherofCats

Amazon Page:

Exodus: Empires at War: Book 1:

The Deep Dark Well:

Refuge: The Arrival: book 1:



Synopsis of Bellator.

Private Benito Benny Suarez was a slacker, the kind of Marine that did as little as possible, whatever he could get by with.  The Lodz was the perfect ship for such as he, an old battle cruiser delegated to diplomatic transport duty.  On the run from the Empire to Margrav, she was out of the way, in what was considered a safe sector.  Until the Ca’cadasan battleship found her.  The huge aliens boarded, and Benny found himself in combat.  He woke in agony, floating in zero g, his legs gone, only his battle armor keeping him alive.  His course was clear.  Hide, get off the ship, survive at all costs.  Until he discovered that the youngest passenger aboard the ship, the daughter of the Ambassador, was still alive, and in the hands of the Cacas.  Then the decision was no longer so easy, not if he wanted to live with himself.  Be what he had always been?  Or be the hero, and risk his life to save that of a child.

Editor Interview Number Three – Jessie Hale

Hi, welcome to the Library of Erana and thank you for talking to us today. Thanks very much for having me!

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your editing experience. My name is Jessie Hale and I’ve been editing, in some capacity, for about four years. I currently freelance and work as a project manager with a media publications company, where I edit and proofread a large variety of materials. I was also a non-fiction editor with The Editing Company in Toronto, Canada, until October 2013, and I copy edit and proofread a feminist magazine for young women and trans youth on a volunteer basis. I’ve worked on YA fantasy novels, academic textbooks, magazines, self-help books, website copy, memoirs, some erotic fiction, and many dissertations and theses.

How did you get into this line of work?  I completed a publishing certificate in 2010, which included courses in copy editing and substantive editing, and then began working in the marketing department of an academic publishing company. I took on some freelance editorial projects over the years, but began editing more seriously at the beginning of 2013, when I started working as a non-fiction editor with The Editing Company.

Are there genres you refuse, if so why is that? I don’t edit anything in the STEM field, simply because I don’t have the knowledge base that would qualify me to do so. For the same reason, I don’t edit high-level legal writing. Other than that, I’m open to pretty much everything!

Are you also a writer?  If so do you self-edit or do you use the services of another editor?  I am not a writer, except for the occasional blog entry!

What are your opinions of self-edited work by authors? I think that every piece of writing, no matter how short or long, could use another set of eyes. I wrote The Editing Company’s newsletter, for example, and even though I’m a trained editor, I never sent it out without having at least one of my colleagues look it over. So, while I think that self-editing is a very important and necessary step, I would not advise an author to rely on it alone. When you’re that close to the material, it’s very easy to miss plot holes and typos and all kinds of other errors.

Please could you tell us about the process involved with editing for, say, a 100k word manuscript. That’s a hard question to answer because it depends so much on what kind of edit you’re doing and what kind of manuscript it is. When I’m doing a substantive (or content) edit, I usually start by reading the manuscript once through, not trying to take notes or think too deeply about my reactions, just reading it as I would read any novel. Then I read it again more carefully, this time taking notes about the content and characters and so on. Then it becomes a back-and-forth process with the author, allowing him or her to take my feedback into consideration and revise. The manuscript will usually go back and forth at least twice, sometimes much more. The whole process takes at least three months, and sometimes a year or more.

With a copy edit, usually I start by looking over the style sheet (if there is one) and making note of what the author or publisher prefers. Then I start reading the manuscript very carefully, correcting any spelling and grammatical errors and occasionally reworking sentences to make them clearer. For a 100,000-word manuscript, that will usually take about 80 hours. I like to give the manuscript two passes, if there’s time, but of course there isn’t always.

What is the difference between proofreading and editing?  Proofreading means different things to different people, but generally it happens much later in the process than editing. When you’re proofreading, you’re looking for very small, last-minute mistakes; typos, dropped letters, that kind of thing. It’s often done after the book has already been laid out and typeset. Editing, again, can mean many different things, but it starts much earlier in the process and focuses on a much bigger picture — does the plot make sense? Do the characters behave naturally? Is the language clear and readable? Copy editing falls somewhere in between; you’re looking for bigger errors than in a proofread and applying a consistent style, and so on, and you also might be changing sentences to make them clearer and checking that facts are consistent (e.g., that a character with blonde hair in chapter 2 doesn’t have red hair in chapter 5!).

Do you have part of the process you really enjoy? Is there a part you don’t?Whenever I get to proofread on paper, that’s a big pleasure. Most editing is done onscreen nowadays but there’s something that feels very precise and elegant about working on paper. I don’t think there’s anything about editing that I actively dislike, but probably my least favourite task is editing a bibliography, especially when it’s big and complicated. It can be quite headache inducing.

Outside of your work as an editor do you read for pleasure? Absolutely!

If so do you find yourself editing the work as you go or are you able to “switch off?”  I definitely notice mistakes more often now than I did before I started working as an editor. Mostly what I notice is decisions that other editors have made; I might think, “Oh, that’s interesting, I probably would have taken out that comma,” and that kind of thing. It’s interesting because when you work as an editor you become better able to “see” the editorial work that someone else has done.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as an editor? I think taking some kind of editorial course is really invaluable. Copy editing, especially, involves much more than most people realize, and it’s important to be familiar with the different types of editing and what they entail. The other piece of advice I would give is to read as widely as possible in as many different genres and styles as possible, so that you can familiarize yourself with different writing conventions. Also, every written document could use an editor. Offer to edit documents for your current company or look over your friends’ cover letters, or perhaps volunteer as an editor for a non-profit. The best way to learn editing is to edit, so you should get as much practice as you can.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to self edit? Give yourself space from the material. Don’t edit the day after you’ve finished writing. Take some time off and return with a fresh perspective. Try not to edit as you write — better to get your words out on paper first and refine them later. Even if you don’t want to get your manuscript professionally edited, it might still be worthwhile to pay to have one or two chapters looked at by a professional. At the very least, you’ll be able to see what a trained editor would pick up on, and that might help you as you edit the rest of the text.

What are the necessary writing guides you would recommend? I’m not a writer, so I rely mainly on the Chicago Manual of Style and the dictionary! But there is a great book called The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner that is very informative and readable. It offers a great perspective on what editors and agents are looking for and provides insight into their thought processes, which will help writers learn how to pique their interest.

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Indie Block Party Post 7 – Writing Tips and Advice

Indie block party small

This week focuses more on sharing advice and resources than actively promoting our own books. Hopefully we can all learn from these tips and find useful links and suggestions. Most of the authors I meet are a supportive and helpful lot, which is just as well as writing itself can be quite lonely and frustrating. I have learned a great deal, and made new friends within the writing community. Shared information is valuable, knowledge is power.

Share your most helpful writing tips and advice. What do you know now that you wished you had known when you started writing?

New writers are given an awful lot of information, much of it contradictory and it is very difficult to know the good advice from the bad. Experience is a great teacher!

Here are my top 6 tips:

1)    Keep writing. This is seems to be consistent advice from all the sources I have seen. A single book is great but it is hard to build a fan base with just one title and if readers like your work they may well look out for other articles and stories. I do as a reader. As your writing experience grows you will learn what works and what doesn’t. Write for anthologies, write for your blog or someone else’s or write for research. Yahoo Voices have many interesting blog-type articles and it is a way to build a fan base. Researching for your novel? Great, use that research to help others. There are lots of anthologies looking for submissions (see links below) and some pay, although some don’t. Even the free ones are useful in getting your name out there and are writing practice.

2)    Have a thick skin, you will need it. There will ALWAYS be someone who doesn’t like your book, will be offended by it, hate the characters or simply not get it. We do not all like the same things, if we did the world would be boring indeed.  Bad reviews hurt, but most books have at least one and unless the reviewer has a personal issue with the author (which occasionally happens) then it is one opinion. Reviews are just that – opinions, which can be as varied as the books they discuss.

No writer likes to be told their book sucks and it can be hard to deal with. One of the best pieces of advice is don’t comment, or if you feel you must then be polite, thank the reviewer for their comments and move on. Commenting, especially negatively will do far more harm, go and rant to your best friend, yell at the wall, go for a walk and release that is one person’s opinion only. The next reviewer may love the book. Even negative reviews, except the spiteful ones, have useful advice.

It is hard to work out how much store readers put on reviews, many do look and most simply filter out those which either say nothing or the obviously spiteful or overly gushing ones, but in a couple of studies I have done reviews are surprisingly low on the scale. A good cover, a synopsis which pulls in the reader and recommendations from friends seem more important. If the book is selling don’t worry too much.

3)    Write the book you want to write. Now I am sure other writers might disagree with this tip but not all. Forcing a story to work, editing out important plot ideas or making characters do something they wouldn’t do may well make the story weaker. Write the book YOU want to read. Would you enjoy it? If the answer is yes then go with it. A forced plot will show itself to be just that.  It may depend on whether you are intending to self-publish or whether you are intending to submit to a publishing house of course and whether you intend to get an editor.

4)    Write the best book you can. No book is perfect. Even best sellers have typos which slip through, weak plots or naff characters. However if you are an indie the threshold seems to be higher…there are plenty of posts and threads berating indie self-published books as being substandard. In some cases this is true, we have all seen them but there are very many books which are great, yes some may be a little rough around the edges but the good stories and talent are out there. There are plenty of traditionally published books which are awful. That said releasing a book full of typos, terrible grammar and weak plot/characters is not advisable. Spellcheckers are useful, but invest in a dictionary, a thesaurus and a writing guide. If you can find beta readers or critique groups then do so.

If you decide to self-edit then put the manuscript aside for a while and write (or read) something new. You will see the work with fresher eyes. I know from experience I see what I think is there not what IS there. If you can afford an editor then it is advisable to consider it, but there are great books which have been self-edited. If you choose this route be thorough, it may take several passes through. Although earlier I said write the book YOU want you do need to be strict when editing. It is easy to get carried away and go off on a tangent. Does the scene add to the story/characterisation/world-building? No – then lose it.

5)    Research and plausibility. This is rather dependent on genre of course but willing suspension of disbelief only goes so far. Fantasy gives a lot of scope, especially magic but it still needs to be consistent. Research gives the writer credibility, if you say something works which we KNOW doesn’t work in that way then at the least back it up in the story with some plausibility, or better still find something which people know does work that way. Gravity is gravity. Research medieval battle, weapons and armour, field medicine, herb-lore and such like if you are planning a fight. Movie fight scenes look great visually but aren’t really that accurate. What damage DOES a long sword do? What IS the range of a long bow. You needn’t go into too much detail in the book, but knowing if your archer can hit that bad-guy lurking in the Dark-lord’s tower is helpful. Books can educate, and encourage people to research for themselves, especially if set in a certain time period but accuracy is the key. Of course many readers won’t go on to research or have any interest in the origins of the long bow, the war horse but some might. Besides research is great, it is amazing what you can discover!

6)    READ THE DAMN MANUAL! Really I mean it. Spend a bit of time not only reading writing guides but the FAQ of KDP, Smashwords, Lulu or wherever it is you choose to publish. It will make life a lot easier. There are several free books available – ‘Publish your work on Kindle’, ‘How to Publish on Smashwords’ for example. Most of the sites have extensive guidelines and forums. That is another thing most people have struggled with whatever it is you are struggling with so search the forums for answers. You are now a business person as well as a writer and it helps to know what to do.

What do I wish I had known at the beginning? Marketing is HARD. Where is the line between being a spammy needy author and promoting in such a way that people will check out your books and not be annoyed? Well that depends on who you ask…some people hate any mention of the product, some don’t mind a small amount and some say as much as you can do is the way to go. If I find the right level I will let you know.

World Building:

Writing generally:

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