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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.


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.


"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

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Just uploaded my latest ebook on October 14, 2016. I write these books as much for myself as to share with others. Enjoy! For the Amazon link, click here: http://amzn.to/2eehrh0. And now for the cover reveal:

I think we all need more self love to counteract our internal critic. Here's some preventative medicine.

"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

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My Copyediting Process Explained for Prospective Clients

When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.
Enrique Jardiel Poncela
When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing and subsequent copyediting.
Enrique Jardiel Poncela (as added to by Denise Barker, freelance copy editor)

This post will answer the usual questions I get when an author is searching for a copy editor (the spelling and grammar police), which post I hope streamlines the usual flurry of e-mail exchanges between me and my prospective client at the beginning of our relationship.

Thank you all for considering me.

1. My Copyediting Duties: NOTE: These are my duties I've determined to carry out as a copy editor. I cannot confirm what other copy editors do. In other words, I go above and beyond the usual grammar and spelling edits. I follow my own creed, applied to each and every book I copyedit (as I do for those I create myself), called the Nine Cs of Effective Writing, as follows:
See my previous blog post (original version since amended) on this subject for further details here: http://livingthedreampublishing.blogspot.com/2015/12/the-eight-cs-of-effective-writing.html.

2. My Background: I've been a professional freelance copy editor for 8.5 years as of this writing, my first 5.5 years with Harlequin, overlapping my current work strictly with Indie authors. In my initial career, I was a legal assistant for decades to defense/trial attorneys and also some trademark/copyright/patent attorneys. So my former career needed the same skills that I utilize in my current career: my particular legal knowledge gained from reading the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure (and related Intellectual Property rules), my attention to detail, my innate spelling and grammar expertise, my firsthand knowledge of the 16CMS rules as to fiction works (from my reading of said 16CMS fiction rules) and where to find the needed nonfiction rules (regarding bibliography entries as versus endnotes and such) as well. I double-check myself against the 16CMS and Web11 regularly during a copyedit, especially 16CMS when coming up against some unique sentence construction created by an author. I've worked on more than four hundred copyediting projects to date, all timely returned.

3. My Request for Author's Pertinent Background Info: Should you send me an e-mail to inquire about my current availability or other copyediting-related matters, please attach a five-page writing sample from the book you wish to have copyedited, which sample must have some dialogue therein so I can adequately determine how "clean" your writing is (how well you know both grammar and spelling rules). Please also inform me as to whether this is your first book or your tenth or whatever, and include a short book description so I know the subject matter and genre. I appreciate those who follow these instructions, which streamlines the prospective client process.

4. My 2016 Copyediting Rate: My current rate for this year is $0.011/word count (based on the submission's actual WC as confirmed by Microsoft Word's own tally), which general 2016 fee is subject to some caveats that may raise my usual rate or will have me not taking on the project no matter how much you paid me. If the sample provided by the potential client shows every line of dialogue has multiple punctuation errors, I will bow out of copyediting that project, as I find it triples my time spent on such a book and generally makes me one grouchy woman. If the sample work shows massive grammar and spelling errors, I may undertake the copyediting job but will charge more than my usual going rate to pay me for the extended time involved. I also reserve the right to refuse to work on some projects that involve descriptive physical and verbal abuse of women and/or children and other such subject matters (yet murder is fine, as long as the bad guy gets caught. Go figure).

5. Microsoft Word (MSWord) Documents Only: I don't work on Mac docs.

6. My Preferred Author: I love working with prolific authors of various genres, all with a wonderful gift for storytelling and a better-than-average grasp of the US English grammar and spelling rules. While I will take on new or "newbie"-like authors at times, the vast majority of my clients are multipublished authors with a grand command of the US English language, who love my work and respect my abilities as a copy editor, and I love and enjoy their work and respect their abilities as great storytellers. We have formed a mutual admiration society of a sort. And I'd love to keep it that way as I bring in new clients.

In that vein, any professional author knows to spell-check his/her book before passing it along to anyone, be it beta readers, CP groups, much less an agent, a traditional-publishing acquisitions editor, a freelance developmental editor or a freelance copy editor or the like. Right? Right.

And any professional author knows not to watermark every page of his document with the words Copyright Protected or some other obvious restatement as to their Intellectual Property rights. If you know anything about copyright protection, you know you are covered (up to $5,000 I believe) the minute you type the document. Don't tell me about mailing a copy of said document to yourself. I'm so exhausted from refuting that nonsense. The Properties info on your MSWord doc predates any mailing to you of said doc. You could lose a court case just by going with the later date and the opposing side having an earlier one! Duh! Ask your IP attorney if you don't believe me.

Also, but please check with your copyright lawyer to be sure, you don't have to file a copyright application with the USP&TO to retain some (the up to $5,000 noted above) coverage. However, from my understanding, if you do file a copyright application, you can sue for more than the basic $5,000. The last time I checked, the USP&TO was charging $35 per application online. Visit uspto.gov for updated information. Just FYI.

On a final note, don't do what a newbie author did recently. Don't tell professional Indie authors or your professional copy editor that your rights are your own, like we don't already know that. OMG! That's one of the main selling points of being Indie, of going Indie over trad-pubbed. Not to mention such a statement shows the newbie has no knowledge of copyright law, plus just insulted the professional Indie authors, like any would stoop to steal the uninformed newbie's work to pass it off as their own. Sigh.

The newbie obviously doesn't know what Indie publishing means or entails, plus distrusts all-too-easily the very Indie authors whose group the newbie wishes to belong to. A newbie putting people on an instant defensive footing like that is a newbie with a very judgmental and highly biased mind-set, which is not the way to make friends or to endear the very writing professionals who could otherwise have greatly mentored said newbie to become a professional Indie author one day too. Rant over.

7. Getting Started: Once I discern the author's writing level from the sample submitted and learn the actual WC length of the doc to be copyedited by me, I can then give the author my proposed deadline for return of a Track Changes version of their original submission (based on any prepaid documents already in my queue, which will be worked before any additional projects come my way). Said deadline is contingent upon (1) full prepayment of my copyediting fees via PayPal being made immediately to hold the book's spot in my line, (2) that I actually received said funds in my special PayPal account (to be divulged later), said receipt confirmed via my subsequent issuance of my prepaid statement which notes the deadline date therein, (3) that the most recent author-approved version of the intended manuscript to be copyedited has a WC that matches the WC used to figure my full prepayment amount and (4) said author-approved latest version of the doc to be copyedited by me is sent on that same date as prepayment is made but to me via LivingTheDreamPublishing@gmail.com.

Should a payment not show up in my PayPal account at some point, I'll notify the author. Once that happens, the related deadline given is automatically rescinded. My business is very fluid. I can press Send on an e-mail to a prospective client and come back to my in-box to see my new e-mails include three 100K WC projects. All prepaid. So my prepayment-in-full rule holds a spot in my line, based on the time of arrival on that day, if need be. If you pay later, you may get a deadline one month later, which is usually the outer limits of any of my deadlines.

Only three times in the last 8.5 years did I have so much work that I didn't think I could return all in thirty days. So, when I get a 300K WC project (or know one is coming down the pike), I block off a four-week period to accommodate such a huge undertaking, and I'll adjust my new deadlines accordingly, with an explanation as to why I've exceeded my generic "within a month" turnaround time. I've actually returned some TC docs to their authors in as few as five days' time. It just matters how backed up my queue is and the length of said docs.

I do build in some buffer time within all my deadlines to accommodate for electrical outages or me getting sick or other such "surprise" events. Also, with each project I turn in, I notify the remaining authors in my queue at that time of such movement in my queue and if it allowed for their deadline to be moved earlier. That way all authors awaiting a TC doc from me are updated as to any new and improved deadline related to his/her manuscript.

NOTE: This freelance copyediting business seems to have a lull at the end of each year, whether October through December fully or just one of those months (I can't forecast which unfortunately). So keep that in mind.

8. FULL Prepayment Required (nonnegotiable): Since I charge by the WC, the author can easily multiply $0.011/WC x the actual WC of their submission (confirmed by MSWord's own tally) to arrive at my total copyediting fee due, and the author can then pay me in full ASAP via my particular PayPal account. If there is any payment discrepancy (based on MSWord's actual tally of WC on the original doc I receive from the client), I'll either return the overage paid or ask for the balance due before any work can commence on that related project. If the balance due arrives after I've gotten full prepayment of other projects, then the late-paying client's deadline is pushed back to a later date, and I will notify said author of same.

I work on a first-come, first-served basis based on full prepayment made to AND RECEIVED BY my PayPal account (as to time and date, if need be to distinguish a pecking order). I have a specific PayPal business account (not tied to any of my current e-mail addresses) that I will share with any prospective client who wishes to prepay and reserve their slot and related deadline.

9. My US Guidelines: The accepted US guidelines for fiction and layman's nonfiction alike are The Chicago Manual of Style, Sixteenth Edition (16CMS), for grammar rules, and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition (Web11), for spelling rules (when not overridden by 16CMS 7.85), both sources being the latest editions of each guide and released in this century. These are the only guidelines that US authors of both fiction and nonfiction should go by (unless a medical white paper, that should follow the AMA guidelines, etc.). Beware of any (grammatically challenged and misinformed) persons who state "but everybody knows the rule is ..." if not reciting the specific 16CMS rule or the Web11 preferred spelling or when citing some obscure reference from a book published in another century (or valid for another country, like whatever grammar style guide is used in New Zealand, for instance).

See my previous blog post where I rant about false grammar rules bandied about. Click here: http://livingthedreampublishing.blogspot.com/2016/08/dont-propagate-false-grammar-rules-and_24.html.

Granted, there are other US manuals for newspaper/magazine articles (AP guidelines), for medical articles aka white papers (AMA guidelines), another for Christian writings, etc. Also there are other manuals per each country of a foreign author's residence and for publication therein. But for US authors of both fiction and nonfiction overall (with exceptions for certain "publish or perish" academic "white papers"), the 16CMS and Web11 are the rules to go by. Don't let anybody tell you differently.

10. Microsoft Word Track Changes: I use MSWord's Track Changes (TC) software to electronically mark digital copies of each manuscript I copyedit. If you are not familiar with the ins and outs of Track Changes, visit this site https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUf-IxzXyVk and others like it.

When I return a TC doc to a client, they will see many comments citing 16CMS 7.85 or 16CMS 9.2 and other various and sundry grammar rules, plus some notations of Web11 and Web11 pref. sp. (Web11 preferred spelling) comments where needed. For the author with an average knowledge of the US grammar and spelling rules, I usually find errors totaling 10 percent of the original document's word count. In other words, in average projects, for each 50K WC, I easily find 5K errors, as noted within TC's Reviewing Pane.

I have three stellar authors (out of the more than three hundred different authors I have had the pleasure to work with) who are so knowledgeable as to US grammar and spelling rules that their books fall below this usual 10 percent error ratio. Impressive. And that's from a copy editor's viewpoint, so I mean this is highly impressive and rarely found. Kudos to you three, who I have already shared this awesome finding with.

11. My Process: My heart is all for the Indie author, as I am one too. And I want to show readers, traditional publishers and trad-pubbed authors alike that Indie authors can publish a well-edited book, just like the trad-pubbed authors supposedly do better. However, I'm always finding numerous typos (like twenty or more) in trad-pubbed books I read in my downtime, and each time I send a list of same to the respective publishing houses to hopefully fix them on the next reprint.

For my Indie-author clients, I do two complete read-throughs of each copyediting document to catch as many errors as humanly possible. On my first pass, I'm clearing out all the grammar and spelling issues to make way for a more "whole picture" pass the second time, wherein I find plot holes that some developmental editors have missed, where I find legal issues that could burn the author and where I give them my pat suggestion to "see your lawyer" (as I am not a lawyer. I just used to work for them). I also give writing advice about myriad things, such as utilizing more white space to keep the reader moving forward by cutting down your long paragraphs into smaller ones, especially when thinking of a reader using his/her cell phone screen as an e-reader.

I may also give layman's marketing advice to the extent I know of any, as I am not a marketing guru by any measure. Hire your own publicist for those matters. I may also do some layman's formatting, but I tell my authors to consult their professional formatter, who does all the HTML coding and whatnot that I do not do. Note that Amazon requires a table of contents even for fiction books. So your professional formatter may set that up for you if you haven't already done so in your novel.

I explain certain edits made within the manuscript in a TC Comment as to the rule applied at the first change, not every time the same rule is violated thereafter. Some edits require no explanation, like changing "there" to "their." If I notice an author has a particular "blind spot," I'll point it out as a learning tip in another TC Comment, so the author can apply this new knowledge to future books created. So I teach grammar rules and weird spelling issues, and hope some authors take it to heart and use it toward clearer communication next time around. I make every effort to spell out any issues in the Comments section of TC. However, if the author still does not understand a point or two, I'm willing to answer a couple e-mails of questions after the work is turned in. But this rarely happens.

12. On or Before My Stated Deadline: I will return the TC doc to the respective author usually before the deadline date I gave when I was first hired to work on said project. In fact I return 99 percent of my projects early (before the stated due date) and only the rare 1 percent of my projects are turned in on the actual due date. I have never missed a copyediting deadline in all 8.5 years I've been doing this. I have never missed an attorney-related/trial deadline in all the decades I worked for them either.

The TC doc will, of course, contain thousands of detailed edits and comments for the author to review and Accept/Reject. For my new clients, I provide a cover letter, which basically sets forth the info found here, along with a very general overview of the work I did for said author, noting where most of my time was spent (those "blind spots" I mentioned earlier) and other general issues. I will also remind the author in my e-mail sending these documents how I already sent my prepaid statement for services to said author on a particular date, at the time the PayPal funds reached my specified PayPal account.

13. What I Don't Do: I don't work in person with anybody, anywhere. My workplace must be distraction-free for me to do my best job. As noted earlier above, I don't do professional formatting, but see my layman's formatting post here: http://livingthedreampublishing.blogspot.com/2016/08/a-laymans-basic-microsoft-word.html. I don't do professional publicity work; hire your own publicist. I'm no lawyer; contact one of your choosing. I'm not a marketing guru either, nor will I design your cover nor create your online book description (but will happily copyedit same, if you provide me with one).

I'm also not your virtual assistant. Meaning, if I tell you that I have an opening to squeeze you in on October 21, 2016, don't ask me three more times to tell you what date it was again. Hire a personal assistant or a virtual assistant or the teenager down the street to keep track of that stuff, or simply buy yourself a physical calendar and handwrite in the reserved date the first time I tell you this via e-mail. We're adults, folks. We each have our own responsibilities. And this one is not mine.

I don't give out my prepaid phone number for obvious reasons. I may charge for extraneous e-mails to capture my time in the form of a hourly wage (currently $35/hour). I don't do contracts, especially one-sided abominations. And the two people who asked me to sign a contract had trust issues based upon someone's actions earlier in their life, but for which I seemed to be the one to pay for such indiscretions. That insults me to no end as I refuse to be lumped in with the untrustworthy thieving cads in this universe. I also refuse (but with much less venom) to be lumped in with the generic label of "all women love to shop at the mall." I'm an individual and should be respected for who I am. So don't even ask me to review a contract, much less create one. I'll mark your e-mail as Sp*m in a nanosecond. I've wasted days in that fruitless and maddening endeavor and have exhausted my patience for dealing with it. Forever. I hope those two found copy editors better suited for them.

14. The Freelancing Entrepreneur versus the Indie Author Who Copyedits: When I'm wearing my businesswoman's hat, I am endeavoring to run a successful business (without burning the clients, but also without any client with an excessive e-mail habit cutting into my time for which I've been prepaid to work on other authors' manuscripts with the ticking time bomb of corresponding deadlines). So, as I get more clients, I do need to reduce wasted time and capture some otherwise unpaid time of mine and turn it into revenue-producing time. The bigger the tribe, the more need for rules, right? Plus, I am a copy editor. I'm all about concise and efficient communication (on both the receiving and sending ends).

Now, as the freelance copy editor who has a real heart for the Indie author, I'm frank but tactful when needed; I share my knowledge of various matters to help each author understand the underlying tenets applied, if only to make sense of our sometimes confusing US English language. As an author myself, I know how criticism can sting, so I'm very careful how I broach any suggestion to my clients. I never want to discourage any author at any time. Therefore, as an entrepreneur, I may seem impatient at times, yet I am extrapatient when handling copyediting changes with clients. I hope you can appreciate the difference.

Thanks again for considering me as your future copy editor. Regardless of your decision, I hope you find the best copy editor for you. db

"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

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Two Great Quotes to Live Your Life By

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. Alice Walker
 Complaining isn’t a strategy. Jeff Bezos

"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

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Quick Tip re Obamacare

DISCLAIMER: I'm no expert on Obamacare. However, I do my own taxes and have read the related IRS literature (which was confusing to me that first year), but I figured out the right forms to use the next year. Further, I'd prefer a more preventative-based plan (eating organic foods, etc.) than only a fix-it-now-that-it's-broke mentality, plus I lean toward holistic and homeopathic treatments rather than what is currently offered by traditional medical practices. Also I find it offensive that age is the factor which determines the Obamacare premium amount. I'm healthier than most twentysomethings and thirtysomethings, yet I get charged more than twice as much. There are always exceptions to these pat generalizations. And I should get some added benefit for being healthy to begin with, with no pre-existing conditions and taking no medication whatsoever (not even aspirin or other over-the-counter meds).

That said, here's my tip as Obamacare currently stands and per my understanding of the plan:

My two-person household (both freelancers) can earn up to $75,000 total a year and still qualify for the free Obamacare.

Yep. It amazed me too how high the earnings threshold is. But, when you offset the earnings with the insurance premiums the government is paying monthly for my particular household ($483 and $217 per this year's coverage through Molina), then the combined $75,000 earnings for two people don't seem so high when $8,400 a year ($700 a month) is the cost for medical insurance to cover the said two people. Yikes! Glad I'm not paying for that. Would rather have half of that paid to me for buying organic food instead. The government would save half, and I could eat healthier. Just saying ...

Of course this may be a moot observation if Obamacare is rescinded.

Denise Barker
Author, Blogger and Freelance Copy Editor

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Quick Tip for Those of You Who Create Your Own Beauty Products with Essential Oils

I ran across this great idea in my readings of various blogs which I subscribe to. If you are making lip balm (without citrus essential oils or other EOs that shouldn't be in plastic containers but should strictly be in glass ones), consider storing your creations in old contact lens cases. Pretty ingenius way to recycle, right?

Denise Barker
Freelance Copy Editor

Thursday, September 1, 2016

One Beautiful Quotation to Explain the Copyediting Process

When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.
Enrique Jardiel Poncela

"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

Periods for Clarity

This is another copyediting/grammar issue that has come up of late. Periods.

If you are familiar with the 16CMS, you know that this US reference manual puts an emphasis on adding clarity, whether through commas (particularly via the "clarity comma" portion of the 16CMS 6.18 rule, which I've discussed recently in prior posts) or periods (see 16CMS 10.20).

Here's one example alone that should convince you of the importance of periods: "LA" versus "L.A."

Of course "LA" stands for the US postal code for the state of Louisiana.

And also equally apparent is how "L.A." stands for the city of Los Angeles in California.

However, like any misused homonyms, it doesn't hurt to make sure you have noted the proper term.

Need more? Well, how about "DJ" standing for "disc jockey" (see Web11) versus "D.J." as a person's given name, whether Danielle Josephine [Smith] or Daniel Joseph [Smith] (per 16CMS 10.12).

Another example is "AC" which initials stand in for "air-conditioning" (see Web11). Yet again it could be someone's initials, when used with periods, like how the given name Asher Clay [Smith] becomes "A.C."

Surely usage helps clarify these elements as well as the presence or absence of periods. But you'd be surprised how many people (readers and authors alike) scan sentences instead of paying adequate attention. So, to make doubly sure that your reader gets your intended message with his/her first read-through of your line of text, I'd suggest checking (1) your context as well as (2) your clarity.

Signing off for now and sending up prayers today for the people of Florida plus possibly another seven states in the projected path of Tropical Storm Hermine (which may be upgraded to hurricane status at landfall). Take care, everyone.

"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

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Layman's Basic Microsoft Word Formatting for Ebooks to be Uploaded to Amazon

As my blog title states, I'm a layman formatter. Not a professional ebook formatter with all the HTML codes and other bells and whistles. But this way suits me fine and my previews pass muster, allowing me to upload nicely presented books to Amazon's KDP program, to the B&N online site, to Kobo and even to Smashwords for addition in their premium catalog. I must admit, getting by the meat grinder in Smashwords can be tricky, and I don't have all the answers there. If your text is not fancy (no tables, no bullet points, no numbered listings, etc.), it's much easier to assimilate your ebook into Smashwords.

So this post is written mainly for ebooks to be uploaded to Amazon KDP.

NOTE: You can find all this self-publishing info online too. Take special note that each online marketing forum has different requirements (like as to page breaks, dimensions for covers, etc.). I just hope my recap here is more relevant and concise, with all the basics you need, and easier to follow.


As a copy editor, I do a few clean-up formatting steps for my authors (removing all stray spaces, returns and any manual tabs). Of course I remind them to have their professional formatter fix things as needed in proper fashion and carry on with all his/her additional steps. As an Indie author, I don't always use Styles for some of the more basic formatting issues. From MSWord's Home tab,  I use Bold (mostly for nonfiction), Italics (for both fiction and nonfiction), plus bullet points and Arabic numerals for listings (mostly in nonfiction), but the Multilevel List (outlining, in other words) works great for when I create my bibles for my stories/series. Excel is nice for that too.

FYI: I'll keep individual keystrokes on separate lines (for easier visuals) and put my instructions as needed within brackets. I’m going to avoid typing “click” or “select” or “choose” herein wherever possible, so take that for granted within my instructions, which follow.

So here's how to do basic formatting:


Ctrl + F
Down arrow for drop-down menu
Paragraph Mark
[Put the Paragraph Mark symbol in both the Find box and the Replace box.]
[Now add a space before the Paragraph Mark symbol in the Find box only. Leave the Replace box as is (with just the Paragraph Mark itself). This will delete those single spaces at the end of your paragraphs.]
Replace All
[You may need to hit Replace All again, maybe even a third time, to get all the stray spaces at the ends of paragraphs. Keep hitting Replace All until the program finds 0 left.]


[Now repeat the same procedure as set forth above except take out the space before the Paragraph Mark in the Find box and put the space after the Paragraph Mark there. Leave the Replace box alone.]
Replace All.
[Repeat hitting Replace All as needed until you find 0 left. This gets rid of the stray spaces at the beginning of paragraphs.]


Ctrl + F
Down arrow for drop-down menu
Tab Character
[Put the Tab Character symbol in only the Find box. Leave the Replace box empty.]
Replace All
[This will delete those manual tabs throughout your doc. But now you'll probably have everything flush left in your doc. So you need to add in audoindents.]


Ctrl + A
Down arrow for drop-down menu
Indents and Spacing
Drop-down menu arrow
First-Line Indent
0.5” [OR your special indent choice of 0.3" or whatever]
[This makes each paragraph autoindent 0.5” on the first line. The only problem with this is that it’ll do the same on your title page and front/back matter. For those special lines (including centered chapter headings), you’ll have to manually remove the autoindent by positioning your cursor on the first character of those lines and hitting Backspace. You can also position your cursor anywhere on those lines and hit Ctrl + L (for left-hand align). Then center your lines as needed (Ctrl + E).]


Stray returns are found usually on the title, copyright, dedication, etc., pages in the front matter of ebooks. These are pages of little text and normally spread out artfully on the page or centered alone. Instead of having twenty returns (or however many) to get your dedication language positioned where you want on its page, just add in an estimated 6 pt for each return (or 120 pt for our twenty-return example here) within the Paragraph menu.

Down arrow for drop-down menu
Indents and Spacing
[You may be doing a mix of Before and After on your title page. For your stand-alone copyright/dedication pages, just make Before the 120 pt and follow your text with a single return and a page break. If you want your copyright info lower on the page, try 240 pt. If you want it higher, try 60 pt.]


[At the last line of text within each chapter, make sure one Paragraph Mark follows. Then hit:]
Page Break
[I find the return separating the last line of text from the page break avoids those fully justified words I’m sure everyone’s seen at least once in some ebook.]


See 16CMS 1.4 for an expanded list of what makes up front matter, but, for our purposes, I’m just mentioning the more well-known items for fiction ebooks (novels) as follows:

Title page
Copyright page
Epigraph (opening quotation, true usage, although you'll find other quotes at the start of each chapter sometimes)


Within 16CMS 1.4 is also the back matter list, which I have abbreviated here for what is normally found in novels:

Abbreviations (as needed for sci-fi novels)
Glossary (as needed for sci-fi novels)
Bibliography (or the author’s oeuvre)
[Some authors like to add a Cast or List of Characters too.]

So let's learn how to make an autogenerating TOC.


Amazon KDP requires a TOC, even for novels, and I believe they want the TOC in the front matter (check the KDP site for current requirements). So here’s how to do one within MSWord:

On the Home tab, you’ll see Styles on the rightmost side—a section of AaBbCcDd versions, labeled Normal, No Spacing, Heading 1, Heading 2, Title, Subtitle, etc. I have used all but the No Spacing and the Subtle Em… of those styles which show up without opening up Styles further.

[Now just select text within your doc as you want to see in the TOC. For the title on the title page, highlight your whole title and then hit Title among Styles. You may see a little black box to the left of your chosen text. That’s a reference mark.]
Select chosen text [place cursor where needed, Ctrl + Shift + right arrow key to end of selected text]

[Now search for “Chapter” throughout your MS. Don't forget the Prologue and Epilogue, if you used them. Everywhere you find these chapter headings, highlight the whole of it and the number designation that follows (whether Arabic or spelled-out).]
Select chosen text
Heading 1

[If you have your chapters also titled (like some authors do), but on a separate line, either you’ll have to mark both lines as Heading 1 in one single selection (and do some manual editing later) or you can simply highlight your subheads separately and designate them as Heading 2.]


The TOC is found in the front matter of ebooks. I believe that Amazon requires it there as well, but search the latest KDP info at Amazon. Check the source.

After your title, copyright and dedication pages, make a separate page for the TOC (meaning it should have a page break before and after). You must mark it as the spot for your ordered TOC to appear. Here's how:

Table of Contents
Down arrow for drop-down menu
Automatic Table 2 [my preference, choose one of your liking]
[This marks the spot where your marked levels will be added, chronologically.]


[Click inside your TOC box. The Update Table tab should appear above the box now. Click it.]
Update Entire Table
[BEWARE: Every time you make edits to your text, you may be altering marked data for the TOC. So remember to Update Table as needed but especially right before formatting/uploading.]


Yeah, that's "all." I know, at first, it can be too much info at once. And it feels clumsy going through it the first time. And, if you only upload one book every year, it'll feel like you are going through the learning curve each time. Keep at it. It'll get rote soon enough.


I tried to include all steps herein, but I may have failed to note a drop-down menu or whatever somewhere along the line. This is a multistep process. So, if you find something that doesn't work, let me know. I'll update that info as needed.

Many happy uploads to you.

"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