Indie Writers: Make MS Word Work for You Instead of Against You

Tips, hints and dark secrets of Word revealed in this excellent post. What a great post! A big thank you to JM Manus! I’m keeping this one close by so I can use it next time I’m trying to format my document.

And here‘s another great post by the same author on Clean Source Files. It’s a how-to for formatting any manuscript into something that can become an ebook.

QA Productions

A Quick Primer for Fiction Writers in using Microsoft Word in the Digital Age

It always saddens me a little when a writer sends me an overly formatted Word doc to turn into an ebook or print-on-demand. It’s not that I have to clean it up–I can strip and flip the messiest files in less than an hour. What bugs me is how much thought and effort the writer wasted on utterly useless manuscript styling.

Example of a Word doc that has been overstyled. Example of a Word doc that has been overstyled.

The majority of writers I work with use Word. The vast majority have no idea how to use Word for their own benefit. I understand. I was a fiction writer for over two decades and even though I have been using computers and a variety of word processing programs since the late ’80s, it wasn’t until I started learning book production that I figured out how…

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Ignore your novel

I’ve heard it said that an author should walk away from their novel and let it rest.  The advice goes something like this: ‘Did you just finish your draft? Good. Walk away and don’t touch it.’

Ahem. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t do that. I go from first draft into second immediately. No rest for this gal.

Is it a mistake?

Catharine Bramkamp claims it is in this great post. “…growing and nurturing the space between the first draft and the second draft is the most important thing you can do for your work.”

Linda S. Clare recommends the exact same thing in this post. “ I recommend letting it rest a month or more.”

They’re not alone. Here are a few others: CG Blake; Kay Kenyon. The idea is that, after a break, you’ll hit your work with fresh eyes.

That manuscript, you’ve just slaved over for months, is compared to bread dough.images-18

Apparently, it needs time to rise to its potential.

FD_1It’s certainly food for thought. 🙂

 

Psychology and characters

It’s a fact of life that if you marry a therapist, you get to hear about all sorts of psychological issues, theories and concepts. That’s how I heard about the Karpman Triangle.

Basically, Stephen Karpman (creator of the Karpman Triangle) explained that human beings go into one of the three unhealthy positions of the Triangle when conflict occurs. You either rescue, perpetrate or become the victim. He argued that none of them are healthy, rather they are all co-dependent…but, the point to us writers (yeah, sorry, I took a while to get to it), is that our characters should also go into these positions–at least, if they’re realistic.

Now, the neat thing is this post by Shawn Coyne on just this issue. He’s come up with this great exercise on how to use the Karpman Triangle to develop great characters.

“…focus on the imaginary people you’ve invented. Think about how each one of them would play one of these three roles when faced with a direct conflict.

How would he play the victim of someone else or a power out of his personal control?

How would he become the perpetrator, the character that loses his composure and unloads a bucket of bile on another character?

How would he play the rescuer, the character that steps in between these two combative forces and sides with the victim?”

Then he follows with an excellent example of just how to do that. Love it. What a fantastic idea, using psychology to get to know our characters better.

Thanks for the awesome post, Shawn!

 

The need for self-care

I see burnout every day at my DayJob. We work with the public and they can always use more of your time, your services or simply you. It’s really hard to put a boundary and say no but the alternative is burnout.

Writers experience burnout too. Driven by the thirst to find that elusive dream, I push myself and then push even more. Some times, I push too hard. I lose perspective. That’s why self-care is so important.

Jennifer Gresham wrote a fantastic post on burnout in her blog Everyday Bright. She warns about the danger of overachieving. “In my experience, dreams multiply over time. The more you accomplish, the more you will want and expect to accomplish.”

I don’t think she’s telling us to settle and not dream. I think she’s telling us not to burn out and to not miss out on what we already have accomplished. “The real tragedy is that my dreams often take away from the richness and joy I have in my life right now. …My #1 dream is to enjoy the life I have, not the life I think I should have.”

This is a topic that I don’t want to talk about. I don’t want to hear that my dream is taking away from my life. I’d like to hear how to keep writing and become more successful. But that’s denial and that won’t get me very far.

I loved Jennifer’s message and I want to thank her for having the courage to be honest instead of just pretending everything is fine.

She’s not alone. Here’s Barbara O’Neal’s post on writer burnout from Writer Unboxed and Shawn Coyne’s very positive post on the same subject from Steven Pressfield‘s awesome blog. And, one more for the road, this resourceful post on coping mechanisms for writers by Laekan Zea Kemp.

A big thank you to these writers for great, inspiring posts!

27 ways you may be (unknowingly!) misusing words

Okay, some of these I knew…some totally stumped me. What a great post by Stephanie Huesler and Timothy Pike! Thank you so much for the post, guys!

Ten Commandents of the Happy Writer–Nathan Bransford

I loved this post. The Ten Commandments of the Happy Writer. I needed to hear each and every one of these. Nathan Bransford, thank you so much.

1. Enjoy the present. I’m seriously working on this one because not so long ago, I was obsessed with the old, dark catch: I’ll be happy when…. For me, it went like this: I’ll be happy when I’m successful and published. Until then, I’ll be miserable. It sucked. Especially because I have no control over my success as a writer. I could be good but I might suck royally. Who knows? I need to enjoy the now.

2. Maintain your integrity. I’ve been caught by this one too. I’ve tried to ‘sound’ like someone else (not for long, thankfully) and it sucked! It’s better to be me. If I’m no good. I’m no good. That’s not why I’m doing this. I love to write. Period.

3. Recognize the forces that are outside your control. Yeap. I have to remind myself all the time.

4. Don’t neglect your friends and family. This one is huge for me. It’s not worth it. As Nathan Bransford so eloquently says: ‘it’s not worth losing a husband or a friend’. No book is worth that. I believe it. Family comes first.

5. Don’t quit your day job. Can’t. I have bills. A scary mortgage…and did I mention my Jeep? Must keep day job.

6. Keep up with publishing industry news. Hm. Not so good with this one. Rats. Area of growth for me.

7. Reach out to fellow writers. I do. But I think this is another definite area of growth for me. I can do more.

8. Park your jealousy at the door. I think I manage this one. I believe there’s enough to go around.

9. Be thankful for what you have. I really like this one. I have my health, a wonderful, supportive hubby, one crazy akita we adore. A lovely home. Things are good. Really good. Writing is the icing on the cake.

10. Keep writing. I wrote about this on a previous post because I had forgotten. I started promoting and forgot what it’s about. For me, it’s about writing.

I would add one more: be positive. In comments, in posts, in reviews, highlight the good stuff and let go of the bad. Being positive helps me stay positive and think happy thoughts. Thoughts are powerful things. My belief is that what I think, I become. I’d rather be a positive person.

What about you? Would you add any other commandments to the list?

One more link: Nathan Bransford’s site: http://blog.nathanbransford.com

Tips for authors: the active voice

Don’t use the passive voice. I’ve heard that advice over and over when I looked up editing tips. Avoid the passive voice, it will suck the life out of your sentence. Use the active voice.

I remember the first time I read this particular bit of advice. I literally scratched my little mathematical head and thought: what’s the passive voice? I had heard the word passive used by my husband the therapist but he used it as: passive-agressive. I doubted that was what they meant.

The passive voice is when the receiver of the action is placed in the position of subject. Huh? Yeap. That’s what I thought.

Example: (active voice) The boy threw a stick.

(passive voice) The stick was thrown by the boy.

It’s all fine and dandy to see it on a clear example. It’s much, MUCH harder to spot it in a novel. Especially if you’re writing it. I, for one, could never see it in my own sentences.

Solution: if you use Word, you can set your preferences in editing so that the program looks for the passive voice and underlines your passive sentences for you. It’s awesome! You don’t have to spot them, the computer does it. (yeey!)

Now, this post so far might not make any sense to you at all…so here are some links with other helpful sites that explain the passive voice issue and, hopefully, bring understanding.

Nathan Bransford is an amazing resource and an author to boot. I would highly recommend this article:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2008/01/passive-voice-is-found-in-your-query.html

This next one is a GREAT post because it’s actually a handout from a class. It’s got myths about the passive voice, what it is (with an actual definition not like my made up mess), examples when to use it and other helpful parts. I wouldn’t miss this one.

http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/passive-voice/

Five tips on how to avoid the dreaded passive-voice.

http://www.wikihow.com/Avoid-Using-the-Passive-Voice

A post by Kelly Leiter with other links and tips on differentiating between the active and passive voice.

http://www.thebeginningwriter.com/2012/03/active-voice-vs-passive-voice.html

Finally, Stephen King rants on why he hates the passive voice.

http://www.westga.edu/~jloicano/Stephen_King_Passive.pdf

Hope this helps someone out!