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Don’t Let Editing Software Kill Your Writing

The scuttlebutt among some writing circles is that you must hire an editor before sending your work out to agents or publishers. A good freelance editor has a history of editing your type of book, has excellent editing skills, and costs buckets of money.  Many people do not have the money for a good freelance editor, so  they hire someone cheaper who may not have the necessary skills to do a good job.

Other groups of writers say that we must edit our own work. Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King is the often recommended reference guide.  I bought this book years ago, have read it from beginning to end, and it is still part of my writing library.  Browne and King teach writers to polish their work to a high level of professionalism.

Finally, a new group has emerged; those who swear by editing programs.  The process here is to copy your text into a box and run software that checks for numerous grammatical issues. The problem is that some of the software cannot discern a dialogue tag from an action included with dialogue, or it marks was as passive (when it is not), and suggests cutting out every adverb in your document.    

At this juncture in my writing writing adventure, I do whatever it takes to produce the best product I can. Other than just having someone else write your manuscript, I suggest one or a combination of the following:

  • Hire an editor, but work with him or her so that you learn to recognize errors in your own work.  
  • Use a self edit using a written guide.  Make sure you read and highlight the important points and practice the editing exercises so that you are clear on common grammar errors. 
  • Use editing software, but make sure you use one that offers explanations for grammatical errors.  Do not use software that highlights words and phrases but does not give clear explanations.  

If you hire an editor or use editing software, make sure you are well-versed in grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. A self-editing guide is your reference for when your get stumped on grammatical errors. The bottom line is that you must never rely on someone or something else to edit your work for you and just take the result at face value. Editors are human too and computer programs are automated.  You make the final decision as to the editorial changes in your work.

Happy writing all!

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Query Time Again

It’s query time again for my novel.  I have rewritten, edited and re-edited my work, searched for agents who represent my genre at Query Tracker and Agent Query, completed due diligence via Preditors and Editors and Writers Beware, and honed my query letter and synopsis. Now, I am hopeful that an agent may become excited about the story I have written.

After sending queries out two weeks, ago, I have received one standard rejection out of ten. In my book, that’s nine more chances to land one of many fabulous agents.  The glass is always half full, never half empty.

If you are a writer and submit to magazines, agents, and/or publishers, you will get rejected. I doubt any writer has had a one hundred percent acceptance rate.  If you have never gotten rejected, please share how you did it.

At the writing forums I frequent, many writers want to know while they have their work on submission. The best advice I have seen, which I also follow, is to work on something else.

My something else is my second novel.  I started this one about six or seven years ago, but never got past the first chapter until last year.  I now have written twelve chapters and between 20 and 30 thousand words. I keep a running synopsis so I don’t forget an important plot point or a thread that needs follow through.

I am also writing some short stories and editing the newsletter for the Redwood Writers Club. This year, I would like to submit some of my short stories as well as look into other areas of writing.

I could be stressing over the what ifs while waiting for agent responses, or beating myself when I receive a rejection, but I am choosing to stay neutral and to work on those other projects. Besides writing, my job is to put my best work out there without expectation of the outcome.

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2013: New Beginnings

What does a new year mean to you? For me, it means taking stock of last year’s accomplishments and unfinished goals and deciding whether I want to discard any projects or move forward with them, and perhaps even take on some new project.

We are eight days into 2013 and I have completed my updated query letter and emailed it to two top-notch agents.  When querying, sages advise to start with the best and work your way down the list.  Once you have exhausted agents, start querying publishers.  I am not even close to the end of my query process.  My goal is to continue to submit until I have exhausted all reputable literary agents who accept my genre (psychological thriller).

I have been working on my synopsis, but feel that I need to hone it.  It’s choppy and does not adequately represent my writing style.  It’s not that I don’t know what my story is about, because I do, but that I am trying to emulate winning synopses.  Not a bad idea, but I need to apply my unique writing style to create a synopsis that will sell my book.

As for my writing, I working on my second novel.  I am almost 20,000 words into the story and want it to be submission ready by the completion of my first draft.  This means editing as I go along and making sure that each page is honed to perfection before going to the next page. I have heard of writers who do this well, but I am sure it takes practice.

I have also been working on some short stories. My goal is to submit to magazines this year.  Just as a reminder to myself to write, finish what I start, refrain from rewriting except to editorial order, get it out on the market and keep it there until it is sold, and start working on something else.

Happy new year to all, and happy writing!
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The Olive Picking Party

Recently, Don and I attended an olive picking party on Olive Hill in Lake County, California.  People came from as far as Washington state, as wide as Marin County, and as close as Clearlake, to participate in this wondrous event. This is the third year we have participated in this event, where anyone’s payment is a bottle of olive oil pressed from the olives.  

If you ever plan on going to an olive picking party, you need to know there are two main methods to pick olives. The first is to position a large tarp below an olive tree, rake the olives from the trees so that they fall onto the tarp, roll the tarp, and then pour the large tube of olives into a bucket.  The second way is to pick the olives by hand and put them in a bucket with straps similar to a baby pouch so that your back is not compromised as the bucket fills with olives.  

Raking olives from the trees was faster, perhaps more efficient, but the sound of the rake against branches was abrasive and distracting.  Hand picking the olives and dropping them into the bucket was contemplative and easy on both the tree branches and human arms.  Hand picking invited conversation, raking required solitude.  Neither method of olive picking was better or worse, and which one you chose was a matter of personal taste. 

Don and I chose to hand pick the olives.  The conversation was good, our hands softened from the natural oil of the olives, and after a few hours we were pleasantly exhausted from the activity.  Later in the day, as we shared lunch with other olive pickers, I was reminded of the importance of community and the strength of helping out without expecting anything in return.  

On the writing front, I completed draft six of my novel and am now working on my synopsis.  Once I have my synopsis polished, I will work on my query letter.  Finally, I will start the query process again.  

I am also working on a short story or two, which I would like to submit to magazines.  Maybe I’ll even write a spooky story about what really happens at an olive picking party.  

Happy writing all! 

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The Family Search Continues

After finding my grandfather’s mother with an incorrect last name, and then finding her father, I was sure I could find any ancestor.  However, when it comes to my grandmother Hazel’s father’s ancestral line, I have come upon a dead end. Grandma’s father was Charles E. Williams born 1892 in Gessie, Indiana.  When he was four years old, he was adopted out to William Spicer and his wife.  Census records show my great-grandfather was classified as a boarder and a roomer, yet his obituary reads that the Spicers treated him as one of their own. 

The story Grandma grew up with is that her grandparents were killed, which is why her own father was adopted out, but his adoption agreement tells a different story.  Charles’ father signed the adoption papers, which said that he had the right to visit Charles and to remove him from the Spicer residence if he was mistreated. The adoption papers are signed by Samuel Williams and guardian Thomas J. (or I.)Hines before a Justice of the Peace, but nowhere in the document is Charles’ mother mentioned, which means one of two things: (1) his mother had died or, (2) his mother was alive but not in the picture.  If it is the latter, then I can’t help but to think a scandal might be involved. 
 
While I have Charles’ life well documented from the time he was born in 1892 to when he died in 1924, I have been unable to find information on his parents, other than their names on Charles’ marriage and death certificates.  Their names were Samuel Williams and Sarah (Hinds or Hines) Williams; census records show he was born in Indiana, she in Illinois.

I continue to search for my second great-grandparents, to find out what life for them in the mid 1800’s might have been like prior to when Charles was born.  I figure if I can find my grandfather’s mother and her parents, I can find anybody. I have found out researching family history is a lot of work, but it can also bring many surprises. 

As for my writing, I am still revising my novel and working on a few short stories, as well as editing the newsletter for my writing club, Redwood Writers.  My novel comes first, but I would like to write some short stories about the lives of my ancestors. I’ve considered calling these stories creative memoir, because the stories are based on fact but with some era spices added in.  

Keep writing and reading, because both are essential to The Write Life.