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Monday, December 5, 2016

When to Use "LA" and When to Use "L.A."

LA = the two-letter postal code for the state of Louisiana (one word), per 16CMS 10.28.

L.A. = the abbreviated way to denote the city of Los Angeles (two words), just like we do with people's formal names. J. K. Rowland can be referred to as J.K., per 16CMS 7.62 and 8.4.

I find this error often in the manuscripts I copyedit.

Only twenty more days until Christmas!


"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)


Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Tip Using Microsoft Word Styles and Autogenerated Table of Contents to Help with Your Plot Review

I'm currently working on Book One of my first fiction series. And belatedly (I'm at 68,542 WC of an estimated 80K WC novel), I've added in subhead notations (for me only) at each chapter and time break (in other words, for each scene). A new scene or three had interrupted my previous order.

And, if you're like me, rereading my draft (word for word, starting at p. 1 onward) has me copyediting (dealing with grammar and spelling issues), not focusing on plot continuity.

So I'm using Header 1 of Word's Styles for my chapter headings (CHs) and Header 2 for my subheadings (Subs). Plus these Styles help in creating a Word-generated Table of Contents. Better to read four or five pages of my TOC (as a story overview) instead of the 275 pages currently making up my MS (as a detailed mechanics view).

I interrupted myself to do a sample cover, but I easily talked myself into starting my scan of those 275 double-spaced pages to come up with scene descriptions, knowing this will help me greatly and save me tons of time. Once scene labeling is done, I can read my TOC, locating what sections to move to where, plus seeing where my plot goes awry or where I've got too many things going on in one day or have forgotten another day or have too much emphasis on one major POV than the other one.

Hope this helps someone out there too. Have a good week, everyone.

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How to Get Rid of Those Pesky Bolded Section Breaks in Word 2010

I love Microsoft Word, except for the hidden commands feature, like where those pesky bolded moving section breaks are hidden within Word 2010 docs. Those unintended and unwanted breaks show up as a bad surprise in my own writing, plus I see them occasionally in my copyediting projects. Removing them is a time-consuming "try this and that" approach. Maybe it is something of a learning curve too as fighting these off is a rare occurrence.

Anyway, while you can find various ways to kill these on the Internet, I think I've got the easiest and surest fix: modify your Normal Style within Word to include the Keep with Next feature for paragraphs (and unclick the Widow/Orphan feature). You have to select your whole document first (Ctrl+A, held down together, then Enter). This technique does add in the requisite little black box before all your paragraphs (noting a Style was applied there but which symbol does not show up in print), yet it deletes the bolded margin-to-margin breaks in your document, which is the ultimate goal. Yippee!

Hope this helps y'all and saves you bunches of time and aggravation.

Enjoy Turkey Day!

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Penniless Publishing: How to Indie Publish for Free (or Almost Free)

I was leaving one of my author group meetings earlier this month when one of the guys mentioned that all my books were e-books. I told him how I was the queen of the budgeted Indie-pubbed authors. He thought I should share my tips with our group. He got me thinking. Maybe I should share my tips with y'all here. Even though I'm on a very restricted budget, I do the best I can with what I've got at the time. You can too.

Anyway these all seem fairly obvious to me, but who knows? Maybe they're not. Let's begin.

  1. E-Book Versions Only. I publish e-books now, with every intention later, once I'm a "rich and famous" author (which means, to me, able to pay all my monthly bills with my monthly royalty check), that I'll offer CreateSpace paperbacks (and have one for my home library too) and even Audible versions of my books as well.
  2. Covers. Out of my eighteen current online offerings, I've created twelve of my own covers from scratch, using various routes, with intentions later to have professional artwork done on some of them. My Good Ole Boys cover was done by a professional artist, whose great talents I enlisted via a good ole boy agreement between me and him, as he was my son's friend. I paid a pittance for his art. I hope to repay him somehow in the future for the true worth of his skills. The three-book and four-book collection offerings sporting 3-D covers were also designed by my son's artist friend. The cover for my stand-alone short story Down South was a royalty-free and payment-free option I found online as long as I gave the artist an online mention. Which I've done for all the artists I've used (including my son's kindergarten artwork replicated for my Checklist series, using differing colors for each book). For my short story collections #1 and #2, I used another royalty-free and payment-free photo. For my quotations series, I arranged the photograph myself. For my Catch Me novella, I drew a freehanded whimsical cover for that romance story. For my upcoming fiction series, I plan to freehand another cover, one that'll be used as the main background art for all the book covers in that series. For my latest upload, Stress Less: 365 Tips, I used bright colors for the text and one repeated keyboard symbol to style that cover. At the time of each book's publication, I selected my cover art, then added in the appropriate title, my name as the author (or as editor for the quote collections) and a tag line as needed, all via the free GIMP software. It comes with a lengthy downloadable instruction manual, but you may find it easier (and faster) to check out YouTube's various videos on certain GIMP functions instead.
  3. Storytelling. Obviously, as the sole author (no ghost writers involved), I've written the books (both fiction and nonfiction), which is the biggest time investment. Some involved research too. Plus Microsoft Word's spell-checker helps to catch most of the grammar issues and misspellings. But you still need the human touch of two kinds of editors.
  4. Two Kinds of Editing. Thankfully I'm both a developmental editor (the big-picture plot doctor aka the DEing) and a copy editor (the grammar and spelling police aka the CEing), so I currently do my own DEing and CEing of my work, along with some help by my two primary CPs. When I doctor my own books, it does work best if I let the book lay dormant for at least one week before I first do a DE, finding and fixing plot holes, etc., then I can follow that with a CE in a couple days.
  5. Formatting. I'm not a professional formatter, but my layman's formatting efforts serve me well when I preview via KDP. I may not (yet) be able to do drop caps, but I can present a clean and easily readable book. I give credit mostly to the use of Microsoft Word's Styles for chapter heads and subheads, and using autoindent functions under Paragraph for text. For those not familiar with Word, you'll find numerous videos on the subject by searching YouTube. Also I have a recent detailed formatting post here on this blog.
  6. Brainstorming. In the past, I brainstormed by myself, hoping for revelations to get me unstuck as I unloaded the dishwasher or worked in the yard. Now I have a few authors who help me brainstorm. Plus I like to think of my four (to date) quotation volumes as thousands of writing prompts, each volume containing over one thousand. So when I get mired in my plot, I visit one of my own e-books for inspiration (plus I have a manila folder with pictures and sayings and whatnot to spur me on too).
  7. Marketing. This is where I bow out. I only blog or enjoy pinning to Pinterest or the occasional tweet now and then. Otherwise I believe in basically four mantras: (a) that the opening of each book sells that book, while the ending of each book sells the next book by that author, (b) that the best marketing tip is to write your next book, (c) that series are a great boon to authors, and (d) that your intended readership finds you once word of mouth gets around, usually after the third to fifth book in your particular series. I hope so as I'm working on my Book 1 of my first fiction series. That may make a big difference in my royalty checks. If so, I'll let you know.
And that's it. I've spent close to zero dollars on my eighteen e-book releases (not counting my time involved). So it can be done even when the author is penniless. But the beauty of Indie publishing is that, when we Indie authors have more money, we can upgrade our covers, our text formatting, our various book options (hardcover, paperback, audio, e-book). If we really have some extra money to throw at our marketing, we can hire a publicist and a social media secretary.

So I hope I've proved that this writing gig can be done with little to no money to start out. Don't let a lack of funds stop you from writing if that is your big dream, your goal. Go for it!

And a happy and safe Thanksgiving to all you US residents!


"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)



Sunday, October 30, 2016

Susan May Warren's eBook The Story Equation

As serendipity would have it, I read yesterday (all in one sitting) the wonderful book by Susan May Warren entitled The Story Equation, which confirms my own thoughts in my previous post. Just like yesterday's blog revealed, I'm of the character-driven mind-set when it comes to stories, so I abhor those articles and books and such that say I must answer a one-hundred-question form as to each main character's (trivial) backstory, including high school attended and pet's name. Rubbish! And what a waste of time. [I read a Kaizen book two days ago, so I'm even more into efficiency, plus loving this main principle of Kaizen: DO NOT PRODUCE, TRANSMIT OR ACCEPT WASTE].

As Susan explains in her book, her process, dubbed the SEQ (shorthand for the book's title), is about emotions and values, more intrinsic descriptions that define our heroes and heroines.

Amen!

Plus, once we have the main plot points drafted (via her special brainstorming timeline), she teaches us about a unique concept: starting from the end and working backward as we consider our scenes needed. That way we know what to foreshadow, and we stay on track with our main plot, the character's growth, the theme of our story. She actually has a separate step where we focus on the conflict, making sure we escalate the three try/fail cycles and also give our hero(ine) enough motivation for his/her journey.

I highly recommend this book. Can be read in about two hours and fifteen minutes. Take notes!

Now I'm off to type up highlighted portions from Susan's book into an Excel spreadsheet as a brainstorming/plotting checklist template for my own use.

Enjoy!

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Tips on Creating Characters

I just read an article from Darcy Pattison on creating memorable characters. See it here: http://www.darcypattison.com/revision/why-people-forget-your-character/?utm_source=Fiction+Notes&utm_campaign=71f48904bb-RSS_EMAIL_WEEKLY_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6e22eab634-71f48904bb-394131281&mc_cid=71f48904bb&mc_eid=3bc089de7a.

Five main points were set forth:
  1. Darcy reminds us to mention our main characters (who don't have active parts in our current scenes) every forty pages or so (which Dave Farland also speaks of too), even if you only have one character note the absence of another.
  2. Use name generators to come up with the right name for your character. [Here I must add in not to name any of your characters with the same first letter. So don't have Mark, Mary, May, Matt and Mike all in the same story. It's too confusing for your readers. I'd even go so far as to suggest that you never have a character name that repeats the first letter of another character name within the same book. I know I'm guilty of skimming character names while reading, reducing them to that very first letter, so Clark becomes C, Dale becomes D, Amy becomes A. So don't give your reader a chance to get confused by naming two characters with the same first letter to their name. Just saying ... Also you will find plenty of name generators online, so you don't need to limit yourself to Scrivener's option. Plus you could search baby name books and gather your own "best of the best" list to choose from. Be sure to mark out each name you've used in a previous book. That way you can create a memorable Abigail in a book or series that remains the one source (your own monopoly) where your readers can find this particular character.]
  3. ID your character via a tag from the sense of sight, touch, hearing or smell. [I'd go further to include emotions (angry, depressed, manic) and even something related to their professions (artsy, aware, competitive).]
  4. Show, THEN tell. [LOVE THIS ONE. I always hate it when some author tries to tell me a basic writing strategy that doesn't work 100 percent of the time, like the infamous "show, don't tell." In general, yes. But there are plenty of times when a simple "telling" transition (Three weeks later ...) or a short emotional line (Jesus wept) is all that is needed. As authors, we are told to leave out the boring parts (always good advice). That is precisely what "telling" can do. So FINALLY someone has noted the importance of "telling" when needed. In fact, this new and improved adaptation even tells us creative types WHEN to apply the "telling" portion. Just plain genius.]
  5. Deepen the plot. Darcy's article reminds us that the more we authors relate the character to the plot, the more memorable the character becomes. "More at stake emotionally" as Darcy states.
Good advice. Good reminders of some things we knew. Good insights into others.

Like there are plotters and pantsters, I also believe we authors fall into two distinct camps as to plot versus character. I'm of the mind-set that the main character rules. Not that you should go the episodic route instead of utilizing a plot with its key plot points for the well-known genres, but that plot is the stage for your main character(s) to shine. To me the character arc is the learning lesson for the reader, with the story arc pinpointing the character's growth, even how we readers can duplicate his/her successful attack of a similar problem.

Had to share this with y'all because Darcy Pattison's words invigorated me as I'm writing Book 1 of my first-ever series. Hope you enjoy her article too.

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Do You Have the Mind-Set of a Freelancer?

I've been freelancing for almost nine years now, and I can see (back in my former legal assistant career) where I had a soul-deep yearning to be my own boss. Even before that. When I asked for a dictaphone for Christmas when I was barely thirteen (or younger). When I had this teenage affinity for (home) office supplies.

NOTE: I'm at an-home freelancer who gets my projects via email, as versus a freelancing handy(wo)man who needs reliable transportation to get to his/her gigs. Therefore, I'm writing from that viewpoint where I don't require a car to do my job. Now, I do need a vehicle to get to the grocery store for weekly purchases ... unless I go the more European route and walk/bike there daily. Which is always an option.

So, what are some of the telltale signs of an entrepreneurial bent?

  1. You can always think of another (better) way to do things.
  2. You have no problem sharing these ideas (whether solicited or not). Ha!
  3. You are never bored.
  4. You are self-driven.
  5. You have many interests.
  6. You are determined, persistent. Other people may call you stubborn. Embrace it!
  7. While having $0.83 as your bank balance for three weeks is not optimal, you have food enough to last you. Your mantra is: I have enough for today. I have a roof over my head. I have clean clothes to wear. I have hot water. I have a working stove and a full pantry. My favorite flip-flops haven't worn out yet.
  8. While having $0.83 as your bank balance for three weeks is not optimal, even though you tend to be a worrier, you are surprisingly calm and peaceful. You know another project is coming shortly. You just don't know exactly when. And you are okay with that.
  9. While having $0.83 as your bank balance for three weeks is not optimal, it doesn't stop you from seeking out new clients or starting another stream of income. Like me, I'm an Indie author who copyedits to help pay the bills. And, at the start of this my second career, I worked at a pizza place for nine months to tide me over.
  10. While having your car die in your garage is not optimal, you realize it's better than having to tow it home (as you can't tow it to the repair shop yet because you can't pay a mechanic to fix it, no matter the cost). You choose to pay your quarterly estimated tax to the IRS instead.
  11. If freelancing is your gig, it's best to have a roommate (with a working car).
  12. If freelancing is your gig, it's best to have a freelancing roommate whose "bad" months (short on money) are not the same "bad" months you encounter. Like for me, working in publishing, my slow months each year are October through December. Some years all three months are slow. Other years just one of those three months is slow. It's a surprise as to which month. Stock up on canned goods earlier in the year to compensate for this period, like canned meats (tuna, salmon, chipped beef), canned soups, canned fruits, canned veggies, rice, pasta, beans, grits, oatmeal and the like.
  13. Freelancers must be better at dealing with hopes that have not yet materialized in this physical world. And still hoping for these things years later if needed.
  14. You must be able to give up short-term wants and conveniences for the long-term needs that satisfy you, that keep you out of a job or an environment where you are not appreciated and where you would just stagnate and die a slow and painful death. For instance, in my legal assistant days, I would go to the movies weekly and pick up food on the way home (instead of buying movie theater snacks). As a freelancer, I can't remember the last time I went to a movie in an actual theater. I may have gone in 2015, but it's probably a safer bet to go with 2014. Or 2013. You decide what's more important to you.
  15. Some months you will have no money coming in. And yet you don't freak out.
  16. Some months you have one lone $35 deposit. And you forge ahead regardless.
  17. If you are a die-hard freelancer (you know your purpose in this life; you have a set of ethics you live by; you have a manifesto, a creed, that you won't violate), then you turn down projects that aren't a good fit for you, even when your car has been dead in the garage for more than two months now, even when you haven't enough money to pay your mortgage yet this month (and it's the twenty-fifth of whatever month), and you still rise to defend your choice to be a freelancer against the naysayers who are determined to change your mind (even after all the years I've done this). Ahem.
  18. On the flip side, at least with my hands-on business, you have two consecutive months where you earn more than enough to pay your monthly bills but had to work 230 hours or more each month to make all the deadlines. Phew! Those are hectic times. And I love 'em.
Granted, you could be a hybrid, having a freelancing line of work that follows your passion, supplemented by delivering pizzas part-time or even a full-time corporate job (if you are young and can still burn the candle at both ends).

Some people are just better suited to work for others in a 9-to-5 job (what I call a "corporate" job, as my catchall term for nonfreelancers). These employees need the stability of seeing a paycheck come twice a month and knowing it will always be the same $1,000 or whatever each time. You are needed in this world. Go find a place that appreciates you and give the company your best efforts.

Maybe the corporate workers want benefits too. Just be aware that, as a freelancer, I have free Obamacare. Not that I need it or use it. I'm healthy with no need for medications, not prescription and not even over-the-counter aspirin and the like.

And if you're looking for matching 401(k) plans, I'm afraid you won't run into those nearly as much as found even one decade ago. And the gold watch at the end when you retire from the one company you've worked at for forty (or more) years? Does any company do that in 2016?

Plus, even if you are the type of employee to stay with a company for forty years, do you have any guarantee that said company will be around four decades from now? I worked decades with law firms and went through four downsizings myself. Not fun. Look at the Big 5 publishers, who used to be the Big 6 publishers and, in another decade, may be the Big 2 publishers (with Amazon being #1).

So I've said all that to say this: Don't criticize my choice to be a freelancer (especially after I have done this for 8.5 years and counting). It's my choice. I'm the only one who gets to decide what's right for me.

Just as you corporate workers have every right to decide what's right for you, such as working 9-to-5 for other people.

Both kinds of people are needed. Just because someone drafted a blueprint for the next generation car doesn't mean s/he has to build every one of those vehicles himself/herself. Even a third option, the hybrid worker, has a place in this world. And I just wish everybody was more accepting of our individual needs and rights.

We should dispense with judgment-by-labels and simply observe if a person is empowered, is happy, is fulfilled in the job that he or she does. For, to me, that is the stick by which I measure. Plus, I'm still able to pay a mortgage based on my legal assistant earnings (which greatly exceed my freelance earnings to date). But that could change with the next ebook I publish. You just never know.

Here's to following the beat of our own drummer. No matter what the dream-stealers have to say.



"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)


What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra