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Searching for "never too late"

A few proofreading tips to improve your manuscript

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courtesy of flickr.com

After last week’s post, I had many comments giving me advice on how to reduce the costs associated with self-publishing. One suggestion was that in time, I might be able to miss out the final professional edit but that I should never miss out the final professional proofread. I have pondered this over the past week and concluded that for the time being, I’m going to have to pay for all the professional help I can afford because as a new writer, I just don’t know enough yet to be sure of my writing.

However, I did recently start a course of training with the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Admittedly, it is only the beginners’ course in Proofreading that I’ve been doing but what I know for sure as a result of doing this course, is that I would make a very good proofreader (if you will allow me to blow my own trumpet just this once 😉 ) As a teacher in my day job, I already feel like I spend a lot of my time proofreading anyway when I’m marking children’s books and I have always been good at SPAG (that’s Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar to the uninitiated!) My husband’s advice has been that maybe in time, I might feel confident enough to do the proofreading myself, although I know there will be loads of you out there saying ‘No! You can’t do your own proofreading!’ I hear you and I understand.

Anyway, it got me thinking about some of the grammatical things I still find hard after all these years and I thought they would make a good blog post for today. These are a few things that you can do to improve your own manuscript before you send it off to the proofreader, making their job easier and maybe saving you a few pennies along the way.

1. When to use a colon
According to the Oxford Dictionary, there are three main uses of a colon:

  • Between two main clauses, where the second explains or follows on from the first.

By running the marathon, he achieved his goal: to raise £500 for Cancer Research.

  • To introduce a list:

You will need the following ingredients to make your cake: butter, flour, sugar and eggs.

  • Before a quotation and sometimes before direct speech.

The poster stated: ‘Your country needs you!’

2. When to use a semi-colon
The main job of a semi-colon is to show a break that is stronger than a comma but not as strong as a full-stop. It is used between two main clauses that are too closely related to be made into separate sentences but would still make sense on their own:

France is my favourite holiday destination; the weather is reliable and the food is delicious.

You can also use a semi-colon instead of commas in a more complex list:

Our holiday itinerary is as follows: three days in Memphis, including a visit to Graceland; three days in Nashville, seeing all the sights, especially The Country Music Hall of Fame; three days in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and a final day in Gatlinburg.

3. Punctuating Direct Speech
In the UK, we usually teach children to use double inverted commas around speech. However, many style guides recommend using single inverted commas for direct speech. Either is acceptable but you must choose one style or the other and stick to it:

‘I find all these punctuation rules so confusing,’ she said.

‘Me too!’ he cried.

“I find all these punctuation rules so confusing,” she said.

“Me too!” he cried.

You must always start a new line for each new speaker and the final piece of punctuation at the end of the speech, for example, a comma, full stop, question or exclamation mark, must come inside the inverted commas.

4. The Oxford or serial comma
Before I started writing, I had never come across this and I’m not sure whether I should feel ashamed about that or not! I’ve probably seen it in lots of writing over the years but just not noticed it. Anyway, if you’ve never come across it either, let me explain. The Oxford comma is an optional comma used for clarification before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list:

I went to the shops and I bought apples for my apple crumble, pears for the tart I want to make tomorrow, and raspberries.

One of the things a proofreader will want to know when they start working with you is what your style preferences are and they may ask you if you have a style sheet for them to work with. If you don’t, most will create one for you and check your preferences before they get started. This will allow them to maintain consistency throughout your document.

I have only touched on a few points today and of course, there are many other things a proofreader will look at for you but I hope you find these useful in your writing. I find the Oxford Dictionaries website very easy to understand for grammar issues if there is anything else you want to check up on. Happy writing and please do leave me a message in the comments about your grammar concerns. Thanks for reading as always 🙂

The 7 Stages of Editing I have used from First to Final Draft

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Picture courtesy of Wikimedia

I started writing ‘From Here to Nashville’, my debut romance novel in April 2013. By the end of October that year, I had a first draft which was over 100,000 words. As this is my first novel, I really had no idea how to go about the next stage so I turned to the internet to help me. Naturally, there was a whole ton of information and advice out there so I had to sift through it and work out what was right for me. I thought then that it might be useful, as much for myself as anyone else, to summarise the stages that I have gone through with this first novel in the hope that I will be better at it next time round!

1. Reading aloud
It is generally accepted that this is a good first step to take after writing that messy first draft without having stopped to edit along the way. This was the approach I had taken with this first novel and it’s also what I did with my second which was written during NaNoWriMo 2013 when I discovered that there is simply no time to stop and edit. For this process, I printed the story out. When I came to reading my story out loud, I realised that this is not something you can do quickly and the very act of slowing down meant that I found lots of little mistakes and was easily able to highlight them for editing later. This included the repetitive use of some words and I also found, for example, that I repeated characters’ names too much so I deleted quite a few of these. I noticed that I hadn’t been consistent with my writing of numbers, dates and times so I decided on a style and then I stuck to it. I found some obvious plot-holes that would need correcting later and I was able to ponder the structure of the story and think about whether it needed tweaking.

2. Replacing Passive sentences with Active sentences – E-Prime
I first wrote about this on my blog in May this year and you can read the full post here. In summary, this involves finding and replacing the verb ‘to be’ with a more active verb in your writing. The example I gave in the article still holds good, I think but here’s another one for you:
Before – ‘We were strolling along the promenade…’
After – ‘We strolled along the promenade…’
You won’t be able to do this for every instance but when you can do it, you will notice that it definitely improves your writing.

3. Over-used words
As I use Scrivener, it was really easy for me to see which words I was over-using using the ‘Text Statistics’ function which is an option under the tab ‘Project.’ I have taken a screenshot today of the most used words in my manuscript and I can still see that ‘I’ is at the top, as it was in May! I have managed to reduce the number of times I use it though 🙂
Screenshot 2014-09-08 09.47.08
As you can see, these are all every day words and I feel pretty happy that I have managed to eradicate over-use of most of them. Words like ‘that’ are often put in unnecessarily and can bump up your word count no end. There are lots of articles about these over-used or filler words and you really should have a look at eliminating these during the editing process. Here are just a few things to look out for:

  • over-use of adverbs.
  • using clichés. Work out what you’re trying to say and then write it differently.
  • using ‘began to’ or ‘started to’ or ‘decided to.’
  • using ‘seemed to.’
  • using ‘very’, ‘really’ or ‘just.’

4. Showing not Telling
Once my manuscript came back from the RNA, this was the first big thing I had to tackle. This was to be expected as it was my first novel so I didn’t beat myself up about it too much. Half the battle is in working out when you should show and when telling will be alright. Once again, I wrote a blog post about it here and there are also lots of articles written about it which you may or may not find helpful! The best one I found is listed in my blog post and remains the one I found the most useful.

5. Cutting Scenes that are not relevant to the story
This speaks for itself and has been painstaking because I have found it difficult to be sure whether every one is relevant or not. Sometimes it was very clear and I was able to delete without any worries but at other times, it was hard. I suspect that this comes with practice. If you write a good outline for your story and keep to it pretty much through the first draft, then hopefully, the redundant scenes will be fewer at the end. I’ll have to let you know on that one next time 😉 For now though, only you can know what you think is relevant or otherwise to your story but the general advice is that a scene is not relevant if it doesn’t move the story forward.

6. Killing your Darlings!
We’ve all heard this phrase, I’m sure but I hadn’t really absorbed it until I was advised that I had too many minor characters in my story. When I thought about it, I had to agree and I realised that this would mean quite a change to the plot of the story. Once again, it has been hard to make these changes at this stage but I know it has helped my story to improve and that’s what all this editing is about. We’re trying to make our story tighter and to make it a great read. To be honest, most of my secondary characters weren’t all that ‘darling’ to me and I was kind of relieved to release them off into the sunset. Who knows, maybe they’ll find another home in one of the books I have yet to write?

7. Adding Emotion to your Romance
The final piece of advice I have been given so far is that there needs to be more emotion on the page whenever my two main characters, Rachel and Jackson, are together. This advice came as a result of the partial edit I had done on my first three chapters and was really useful. The reader knows that your main characters are going to fall in love but you have to keep ramping up the tension every time they meet and although I knew this and it’s what I want as a reader, I could see that I hadn’t really written it into my story as much as I could have done.

And there you have it. This is only a brief summary of what I’ve done so far. I hope to send it off for its final edit next week and only then will I really know if I’ve done everything I can. It has been a steep learning curve for me as a new writer and I couldn’t have got this far without the help of a lot of other people, including the early readers of my novel. In the beginning, I allowed a fair few friends and family members to read parts of the novel and to tell me what they thought. This was only partly helpful because they all said it was great, of course and only picked up on typos. Some did want Rachel to go with a different love interest and that was certainly useful for helping me to develop the plot. Next time, I won’t ask so many people to read it in the early stages though. I will stick with my beta reader and writing friend, Cat, if she’ll still have me (!) and I have another writing friend who has offered to read my final draft this time (she knows who she is but she may have changed her mind since making that offer!) It is a big time commitment to beta read and you need writers to do it for you because they can be impartial, unlike your family and friends.

Good luck with your editing if that’s where you’re at and if you have any questions for me, do ask in the comments below or tell me of something you’ve done which has been really helpful for you. Thanks for reading and see you next week 🙂

Some Thoughts on How to Make Your Dreams a Reality

Dreams
Photo courtesy of flickr.com

This past week I have been doing a lot of reflecting as the time for me to go back to work was approaching after the long summer holiday and so, this post is the result of some of those reflections, if you don’t mind indulging me, just this once 😉

Like a lot of writing people I know, it would be a dream come true for me to be able to give up my day job so that I could spend all my time writing. The trouble is that the writing would have to provide me with the income that the day job does and as I haven’t yet published anything, this leaves me with a bit of a problem for the time being 😉 I’m sure that there are other people out there reading this blog who would also like to give up their day job so that they could spend all their time doing something they really love and getting paid for it too. Unfortunately, life takes over and the reality is that for most of us, this isn’t an easy option.

So how do you make your dreams a reality? Can you even do that? Well, this time last year, I took what I now realise was the first step on that path. After a lot of discussion with my husband, we decided that we could afford for me to switch to part-time working in my job. This was partly a financial decision for obvious reasons but it was also about our own children who we felt were suffering because we were both out working full-time. I had been lucky enough to stay at home with them when they were young and had only gone back to working full-time in 2009. Soon though, I was strung out, feeling like I was doing everything badly because I just didn’t have enough time to do anything well. Going part-time has definitely improved my stress levels and to a much greater extent than I had thought possible.

However, in the last week or so, I have felt very low about what the next year might bring for me, which undoubtedly has a lot to do with the fact that I’m going to be turning 50. It’s a time in your life when you start to wonder whether this is it, whether you’re just going to be slogging away until retirement (whenever that is these days) and whether you will have nothing to show for your life’s achievements. It’s also because I’ve been visiting universities with my daughter and helping her find the path to her dreams. We’ve always taught our children that you can reinvent yourself as many times as you like in life, that your path is not cast in stone because of decisions you make when you’re 18 so you should choose the path that you believe will make you happy at that time but if you change your mind later, it’s okay. Your dreams don’t have an expiry date and they can, and will, change as you go through your life.

I know that I have so much to be thankful for in my life and also that I will have plenty to show for it at the end in personal terms. But there is also your own personal desire to make a success of what you choose to do for your living and to enjoy doing it. So now it’s time for me to take the next step on my path, I think. I am going to do what I have always done when I reach these points in my life: I’m going to train to do something else, something I can do from home that will be a good back-up as a business to do along side the writing. I had planned to do this training last year but for some reason, I talked myself out of it so this time, I’m going to get on with it and take that next step. I believe that the more options you have, the better able you will be to make your dream a reality and for me, that has always started with learning. By taking that decision, I feel so much better because now I have a plan. I know I want to publish my first book next year and everything is on target for that, I hope, so I can turn my attention to learning something else for a while and see what that leads me to. This is a small step perhaps but that’s how you bring about change in my view: one small step at a time.

If I can share only one piece of advice from my self-indulgent reflections, it is simply that every major change in life has to start with a small step and eventually, all those steps add up until you find that you’ve actually made a great big leap one day. This is only what I have experienced of course, your view may be different to mine and if it is, I’d love you to leave me a comment below. In the meantime, I wish you luck with your chosen path and encourage you to take whatever small step you need to towards making your dream come true.

My blog has received a ‘One Lovely Blog’ award!

7fd5e-onelovelyblogawardIt’s always nice to receive awards but this one has a particularly nice ring to it and I am very grateful to Terry Tyler for nominating my blog this time round. If you’ve not seen Terry’s blog before, you can take a look here and read her post about receiving the award at the same time. Thanks again, Terry for being such a great supporter of my blog 🙂

The rules for this award are similar to those for others I’ve received. Firstly, I have to tell you another 7 interesting things about myself. I know that you’re probably getting a bit fed up with me by now but I promise I am going to try and come up with something even more interesting than I’ve told you before! Then I have to link to 15 other blogs that I think you will find entertaining.
So here goes with my 7 interesting things about myself. I’ve decided to give this list a bookish theme. This week, I was tagged by one of my Facebook friends to list 10 books that have stayed with me since reading them and I duly complied, enjoying the activity enormously. However, there were lots of other books I could have included but didn’t have space for so here are some of those and the reasons why, which should also reveal a little more about me.

SalemslothardcoverAlthough I love reading romance stories, my first great love in book terms when I was young, came through Stephen King. One of our close friends bought every book as it came out and then passed it on to me to read next. I devoured these books as a teenager, even though some were truly frightening but I loved that. My favourite book of his is…Well, that’s the problem! I can’t pick a favourite because I loved them all but I can still remember reading amongst others, ‘Salem’s Lot,’ ‘The Shining,’ ‘Christine,’ ‘Pet Sematary’ and ‘It.’

dustinI couldn’t include Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ on my list but it’s definitely my second favourite after ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ I studied it at school and so knew it very well. If you’ve read my previous lists about myself, you’ll know that I like the actor Dustin Hoffman very much so when I saw that he was to play Shylock in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ in London, when I was studying at University, I knew I had to go. I still have very fond memories of that experience to this day 🙂

marklesterOne of my other Charles Dickens favourites is ‘Oliver Twist,’ probably because I loved the musical first! I did go on and read the story though and loved it. I think the musical does a very good job in sticking to the story and of course, there are the songs. I actually performed in this play at school, although I only had a tiny part, despite being a good singer, because the music teacher had her favourites and I wasn’t one of those 🙁

 

Alex-Haley-RootsI did include ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ on my list because it had a profound effect on me and my life. I hate injustice but particularly when it’s related to race and I find stories about that very powerful. As a young person, I remember watching ‘Roots’ on the television with my mum and being shocked to my core by the events contained within the story. I only read the book a few years ago though, when one of my children was studying it at school. It’s a massive book, as you’ll know if you’ve ever read it but I flew through it because the story is so wonderfully written.

book-thefirm-lgTalking about justice, I love legal thrillers too and so when John Grisham’s books first came on the scene, I was captivated at once. I loved ‘The Firm’ because I’d never read anything like it and I still love it to this day. I have all the hardback copies of his books sitting on the top shelf of my bookcase even now but I have to admit to not having reread any of them for years.

 

200px-TheIceHouseAnother author I used to enjoy reading was Minette Walters. She wrote contemporary crime fiction and her book, ‘The Ice House’ was one of the best I’d ever read. I went on to read lots of the others over the next few years. However, once I had my first child, I knew I could not read any of this kind of book for a while because it upset me too much when I tried. I do now read crime fiction again but I still find anything to do with children difficult to stomach.

harry-potter-booksMy last one that I have to include here because I didn’t have space on the first list is every single one of the Harry Potter books. I love them all and have read and reread them many times. Over the last few years, I have been able to read The Philosopher’s Stone at school with some of my classes and I am always amazed at the number of children who have never read it. Why not?! I want to cry. I remember many happy hours spent reading the early books with my children, until they were ready to go off and read the rest on their own. We all love the books and the films and we’ve been on the tour as well and these are some of our happiest memories together, all thanks to J. K. Rowling 🙂

Here’s my original list for your perusal:
1. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.
2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.
4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
5 . To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
6. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
7. Wait for You by J. Lynn
8. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
9. The Island by Victoria Hislop
10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

And here are the 15 blogs that I recommend to you this time. Do go and take a look if you don’t know them already, you will be well rewarded!
1. Jane Isaac, Crime Writer – Caffeine’s Not a Crime
2. Paula Reed Nancarrow, Writer and Poet – On Writing, Creative Practice and Performance
3. Wendy Janes, Proofreading for the Independent Author – Proofreading by Wendy
4. The Romaniacs – Kindred Spirits with a love for Writing
5. WriteMindsWritePlace – Women Chatting about their Writing World
6. Dylan Hearn, Writer – Suffolk Scribblings
7. Bill Cunningham – W. C. Cunningham Writes
8. The Write Romantics – Love, Life and Writing
9. Jane Lovering, Author – From Behind the Keyboard
10. Debi V. Smith, Writer – Chocolate Wasteland
11. Debbie Young, Author – Debbie Young’s Writing Life
12. Jessica Redland, Writer – Jessica Redland, Writer
13. Robyn Koshel, Book Reviewer and Writer – Elder Park Book Reviews
14.Katie Oliver, Author – If you like a bit of comedy with your romance…
15. Clare Chase, Writer – Writer of Fast-Paced Romantic Mysteries

Choosing and working with a Book Cover Designer

Nashville Book CoverAlmost as soon as I started writing my debut novel ‘From Here to Nashville’ last year, I had a strong idea in mind of what I wanted the cover to look like. As it’s a contemporary romance with a country music theme, I knew it had to have a guitar in there and something to suggest it was a love story but at that point, that was really all I had come up with. I found a photo on one of the stock photo sites that I liked, paid for it and downloaded it. My daughter helped me insert some writing on to it and lo, my provisional cover was born. Regular readers will be familiar with it and I have also asked friends and followers on Facebook for their view of the cover. I didn’t get many replies but those that did reply said they liked it.

However, one of the pieces of advice I picked up early on is that your cover has to be brilliant, especially if you’re going to self-publish and as much as I still like my own cover, I have known for a long time that it wouldn’t compare to a professional cover design. So, I started building a list of potential cover designers very early on. ‘Where from?’ I hear you cry! Well, one place I began to find the same names appearing was on Joel Friedlander’s ‘The Book Designer’ website, where every month, he holds an ebook Cover Design Awards ceremony. Here’s the link to last month’s:   I watch out for this every month because I love looking at all the covers and reading his comments about them. It is a very rare thing for a self-published cover to receive praise but they do sometimes and you can see what things he thinks they have done particularly well. I noticed over the months though that the same design companies came in for regular praise and I started bookmarking these companies for the time when I might need them.

In addition to this, whenever I noticed a book with a good cover, I would check the first few pages to see if the cover designer was mentioned and if they were, I would bookmark their company. I looked out for recommendations from others and read articles with interest about people’s experiences. So when the time came for me to choose a cover designer, I already had a good list of about 6 companies to choose from.
The next stage was finding out how much they would charge. Unfortunately, I am finding that self-publishing can come at quite a high cost and therefore, getting value for money is really important. I am obviously happy to pay for professional work but there is a limit for everyone and if, like me, you don’t really even have a budget (!), every penny is going to be important. What I found is that the larger companies wanted me to sign up to a package, typically priced at around £250 for just an ebook cover. This seemed like a lot of money to me for a service that didn’t look very personal. I wanted to work with someone that I could build a relationship with, as I thought that would be very important if they were to stand any chance of understanding what I want from my cover. This was why I didn’t choose the company 99designs.co.uk in the end, even though they are priced very competitively. I came across the site via a recommendation from Jericho Writers because one of their writers was holding a contest for the design of their book cover. It is a clever idea in that you submit your brief, choose how much you’ll pay and then designers submit their designs to your contest and you choose the one you like the most after 7 days. I just didn’t feel that this was personal enough for me but it might work for you so you should take a look if you like the sound of it.

After a fair bit of research then and keeping my ear close to the ground for over a year, I came back to a design company that I had bookmarked right at the very beginning. We exchanged emails a few times to clarify what I was looking for in the broadest sense and to finalise the price and I started working with them last week! Since then, I have filled out a very detailed questionnaire, which asked me very searching questions about my story, things like genre, setting, themes, tone, point of view, key words and target market. I have also been able to upload a file of images I have put together containing ideas and inspiration about my cover, as well as my synopsis. The hardest bit was specifying what I think is good design and what I think is bad design, with examples from Amazon. That took me absolutely ages! It was also hard to explain which sort of reader I feel would read my book in answer to the question, ‘Perfect for readers of….’ It probably took the best part of last week for me to answer the questions and upload my files. Now it’s on to the design process which will allow three rounds of revisions and be final by 17th September. The cost for the ebook cover is £149 and I have the option to go back for a print cover later if I need it. I know you want to know who the company is but I’m going to hold on to that information until the design is ready. When it is, you can tell me what you think and I’ll tell you who they are so do keep checking back and in the meantime, keep looking at other people’s covers for inspiration 🙂

Thanks, as always, for reading and let me know in the comments below, if you have any questions you’d like to ask.

5 Tips for exporting your manuscript from Scrivener to Word

This week, I finally finished editing my manuscript of my debut novel, ‘From Here to Nashville,’ ready to send off to the Romantic Novelists’ Association to be assessed as part of their New Writers’ Scheme. As some of you will know, I originally started writing it in MS Word but when I ‘won’ Camp NaNoWriMo last July, I decided to buy Scrivener and I’ve been using it ever since. I love Scrivener and find it very flexible but there is so much to learn all the time. I recently managed to successfully export my second novel to my Kindle from Scrivener (see blog post here) but this week, I had to work out how to export my manuscript from Scrivener to Word. As it took me quite a few goes, I thought I would share some of the lessons I learned whilst doing it.

1. Read the notes about the Scrivener Template you have chosen
It may sound obvious but the first thing I would recommend is to print out the notes about your template and read them. For example, I had chosen ‘Novel with Parts’ which generates a standard manuscript format for novels when compiled (File > Compile). I don’t usually read instructions, preferring to just dive in and learn whilst doing but how I wish I had read these instructions before I started labelling all the different parts of my novel. I had worked out that I would need a new folder for each chapter of my novel and I had set these up as direct subdocuments of the manuscript folder. As I don’t have chapter names, I then labelled them Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and so on. I also labelled many of them with a date as this is important to my story and I wrote the date within the relevant scene as well. What I didn’t realise was that the ‘Compile’ process automatically labels all the chapters too so on my first compile, I found that all my chapters were labelled twice and some had the date showing twice as well! With forty-four chapters, I did not want to have to go through and delete all that information. However, the notes do tell you that you can choose not to include these titles during the compile process. All I needed to do was to work out how.

2. How to omit the titles during the compile process
When you choose File > Compile, select ‘All Options’ at the top of the dialogue box and not ‘Summary.’ This will bring up a long list of options for you on the left-hand side. Choose ‘Formatting’ here and then select ‘Level 2+’ and make sure that ‘Text’ is selected for all the levels showing. You do not need to select ‘Title’. This means that the chapters will only be labelled once and any other labels you’ve included will only show up once. I would imagine that most people will have labelled their folders in a similar way to me in the Binder because otherwise, how do you know which chapter you’re on when you’re writing? If your chapters have a name, not a number, you might be OK but otherwise, it makes sense to label them with numbers. This is what mine looks like.
Screenshot 2014-05-26 11.36.00

3. Title Page
Your title page is included in a folder right towards the bottom of your binder called ‘Front Matter.’ There are three options to choose from here. If you’re exporting to Word, then you need to choose ‘Manuscript Format’ and you will see that ‘Title Page’ comes up within that. Here, you can edit your title page to look exactly as you want it to. I had to make a few changes to mine to accommodate the RNA’s requirements and I don’t have an agent so I deleted those details too. This bit was all quite easy, thank goodness.

4. What to include in your export
The first few times I exported my manuscript, I didn’t realise that I was also including some folders of edits that I didn’t want to send. It took me a while to work out how to sort this out. When you have clicked on the ‘All Options’ tab, after choosing File > Compile, you will see that the first heading on the left is called ‘Contents.’ This is where you check the folders you want to include and uncheck the ones you don’t want to include.

5. Headers and Footers
My other major problem was that the header was not what I wanted it to be at all. It had my surname in capitals, the title of my book and the page number. I wanted my full name, not in capitals and I wanted the page number to be at the bottom of the page instead. I left the title in the header as it was. To change the rest, click on ‘Page Settings’ in the selection of options on the left-hand side. It looks like this.
Screenshot 2014-05-26 11.50.45In the third box along, under Header, I changed <$surname> to say <$fullname>, leaving all the other symbols as they were and I changed the case to lower case. I cut the page number information <$p> and pasted it into the middle box under Footer so that the page number would come up at the bottom of every page. I also changed the Header and Footer fonts here from Courier which I didn’t want.
Finally, you will notice that just underneath where it says ‘All Options,’ in the File > Compile dialogue box, there is a drop-down menu which says ‘Format As’. When you first open up File > Compile, this is chosen for you but you should change it to ‘Custom’ if you make any changes to any of the options at the side. That way, whenever you go to do this process again, your settings will remain the same.

I could tell you about so many more things I encountered whilst trying to do this but this is probably enough for you to take in for now! If you have any questions of suggestions for further tips, please let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading once again and good luck with your writing week to come 🙂

Why it’s a good idea to keep a writing journal

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Photo courtesy of flickr.com

A few weeks ago, I embarked on a free Open University writing course called ‘Start Writing Fiction.’ I have found everything I’ve learnt so far very useful but the most helpful thing I’ve learnt is that as a writer, I should be keeping a journal. I had heard this before I started the course but I’d been a bit half-hearted about the idea of taking a journal with me everywhere I go. It seemed a bit pretentious, I thought, and anyway, what would I have to write in it?

So when the course started, I decided that I should give it a proper try. They suggested using it to make notes about everything from story ideas, to character portraits, to everyday details and thoughts you might have that you could come back to later. I have found myself writing in it most days now and as a result, I have a long list of story ideas that I could use in the future. One of the things that really works for me, is music lyrics. For example, I wrote down a couple of lines from a Taylor Swift song that I’ve always loved, which also happen to tie in with my favourite Shakespeare play (you know the one I mean, right?) and as romance is my genre, this got me thinking about the idea of love at first sight. Next thing I knew, I’d written a whole page of story ideas.

I also like to use the phrase ‘What if?’ as a story idea prompt and have found that just letting my mind run free with these words often leads to ideas for stories. The important thing is to write them down whenever you have them because then you can use them later, at a time when you might find yourself fresh out of ideas otherwise. Now, whenever I go out to visit places, I try to take my notebook with me because you never know when an idea might strike you. I do have Evernote on my ‘phone though and that can also work well for note-taking if you get caught without your journal. Personally, I like to rewrite any electronic notes into my journal by hand because there’s just something so nice about writing longhand into a proper notebook 🙂

One of the other suggestions I found helpful was to write down ideas for characters: names, descriptions, observations about personality types, clothes, hair, behaviour etc because you won’t remember these details later on. These everyday details about people that you absorb without even noticing are the very essence of your writing and it’s only by making a note of them that your characters can start to come to life. I find that these are the kind of details that you relate back to other members of your family at the end of the day as a natural part of your routine but once told, you tend to forget them. If you write them down though, they become rich material to be used later. Even if you don’t use them, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to write them down, just in case.

I have now taken to writing down all kinds of details. I took a group of children to the cinema the other day and as soon as I got out of the car at the Leisure Park, my nose was assaulted by the smell of fried food. This is something that has happened to me many times before but I’ve never made a note of it until then. This time I did because the sounds, smells, sights of everyday life will add depth to your description of settings and your reader will be familiar with them too. These everyday things may also prompt other memories for you as the writer, taking you back to something you might well have forgotten until the moment that you made a note of the new memory. Our minds are full of memories of course but they might be buried deep within and our minds work in very unusual ways. It’s a bit unnerving for example, the way that my husband remembers some events we’ve shared over the last nearly thirty years we’ve been together and I have no memory of those things at all, and vice versa. Other things will be crystal clear for both of us. So if you write it down, it will be there forever.
I am now using my journal for all kinds of different things and I find it great fun. I note down words I like and why. I write down the context I’ve heard them in as well, especially if it’s an exotic context because I may use both the word and the context one day; I write down words, phrases, speech patterns I hear people use in conversation; I make notes about the way people behave; I make notes about what I hear on the radio or what I read in the newspaper or magazines. If you’re finding it hard to get writing, using your journal for a short while can often be a good way to get you going as well.

Do you keep a journal yourself? Let me know in the comments how it works for you and I’d love to hear any tips you might have about how to expand my use of my journal. Thanks for reading and have a good writing week 🙂

Three Ways Evernote can help you as a writer

EvernoteMy husband has been telling me how good the app Evernote is for a while now and how he thinks it could help me. This week, I finally started to pay attention to what he was saying when I read this article on Lifehacker, called ‘How to use Evernote for writing fiction.’

I had a quick read through the article and immediately picked up three ways that I thought Evernote could help me as a writer which I want to share with you today.

1. Evernote’s Web Clipper Even in the short space of time in which I’ve been writing, I have started to gather lots of bits and pieces of information to help me in my writing process. I have been bookmarking interesting websites, following other WordPress sites which then pop up in my reader and subscribing to some via email. This gives me a lot of reading material and I try and keep up with it all as best I can but never quite manage to finish reading.

As a result, I have a whole reading list of ‘How To’ articles to re-read later and when I have something specific I need to do, like writing a synopsis, for example, I find all the articles I bookmarked about that, sift out the least helpful ones and then find myself left with about half a dozen really useful articles to help me do the task in question. Now, I know that I will have to write a synopsis again at some point (unfortunately!) so what I’d like to be able to do is to keep all these articles together somewhere, other than just holding them on my reading list on Safari for ever or printing them out and storing them in a file to gather dust. This is where Evernote comes in 🙂 This facility allows you to ‘clip’ an article you want to keep and to store it for good without it cluttering up your desktop or your house. You simply clip the article from the internet using Evernote and it saves as a note. I can then create a notebook called ‘How to write a synopsis’ for example and then clip all the relevant articles into that notebook for future reference. This took very little time and now I have them all stored in one place.

2. Synching to all devices Evernote syncs on all your devices so you can access everything you’ve stored in it wherever you are, allowing you to read, write, take notes, look at images, listen to sound files and so on. I downloaded Evernote on to my Mac and on to my ‘phone and have already made good use of the synching facility. It’s a free application too which is even better for the impoverished author 😉

3. Capturing Images and storing them for research When you’re out and about, you can use Evernote to snap photos of anything you see that inspires you for your writing project. When you get home, you can then sync your devices and these images will be on your computer for you to use as you will. I will then copy images into Scrivener which is where I do my writing and may use these for characters or setting to give me ideas.
There are other ways of doing these things of course but what I like about Evernote is that it allows you to keep related things in one place and from an organisational point of view, I think that is very helpful indeed.

Do you use Evernote already? If so, what’s your favourite aspect? I’m looking to pick up tips! Or maybe you use another app which you think is just as good. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading 🙂

How to stay sane while rewriting

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Image credit – Flickr – Becca Peterson

Fear seems to be the theme for a lot of my posts so far this year 🙁
I have been steadily rewriting my first draft for a while now, in fact for the first part of my story, this is more like rewrite number four and every time I think I’ve got it in the bag, I realise that there are still far too many aspects of the story that aren’t quite right yet. Admittedly, I have sought external feedback and now I’m having to take that feedback on the chin, which is proving to be very hard. It feels like I will never be done with the rewrites and that fills me with gloom and fear. I am normally a very optimistic person, a great feat considering I have been married for nearly twenty-five years to someone whose favourite band of all time is The Smiths and favourite singer, Morrissey, by extension 😉 I have spent my life being a glass half-full kind of person but since I started my first novel, I have found myself feeling daunted by the uphill struggle that writing involves. Naturally, I have spent some time wondering why this is and here is my conclusion.

Although there is a wealth of advice out there, there is no single tried and tested method for writing a novel and you wouldn’t want there to be. It’s just that there are so many choices. Should you outline or fly by the seat of your pants? Should you just write until you finish then edit or should you edit as you go? Should you aim for a beginning, middle and end or should you have five plot points, maybe even seven? I could go on but I can see you nodding and don’t even get me started on punctuation! I’m just reading Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ at the moment and whilst I’m enjoying this book by one of my writing heroes, even he would agree that he doesn’t practise what he preaches (see what he has to say about the use of adverbs, for example). As a result, the whole writing process is very confusing for a new writer. It will all be such a relief when we’re writing book number two and we know what to expect!

I read an interesting article by an author called Ryan Casey about five steps you can take to make rewriting less painful. You can read it here. Three of his points really stood out to me, as follows:

  • I found his suggestion about creating a rewriting outline very helpful. He talks of the ‘beat sheet’ idea put forward by Roz Morris in her book ‘Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish with Confidence’. Interestingly, I had been trying to do this very thing in an Excel spreadsheet myself, having seen a synopsis tackled this way by a writing friend. I say trying because I was copying and pasting my scene descriptions from my Scrivener document and it was taking so long, I had become bored and given up! I have decided that I will try and finish this to help me get my head round what I have put into each scene so that when, I said, WHEN, I need to go back and change things, it might be a bit easier.
  • Interestingly, he suggests setting a target of rewriting two scenes a day, in an effort to be realistic about your targets and goals. I have been doing much more than this, steaming ahead on my days off from work which is my precious writing time. The result of this approach for me has been that I now have so much more to put right following the feedback I’ve received. I am under some pressure in that I have joined the RNA’s (Romantic Novelists’ Association) New Writers’ Scheme and this means I have to submit my manuscript for assessment by the end of August at the latest, although I would prefer to do it sooner. However, I think I have to slow down and be patient if I want the end result to be as good as possible.
  • Finally, he suggests that we should work on a new project to boost our creative energy. I have left my Nano 2013 novel untouched, pretty much since the end of last November and this point made me realise that I miss it 🙂

I now have some new goals to help me and hope that I will be able to get back to it with renewed enthusiasm. I know this is new advice and we’re all feeling overwhelmed with it but the trouble is, when you don’t know the answers, what else are you going to do? Of course, we will all do what feels right for us individually and only in doing so, will we know whether it was right or not. Writing this first book to completion will be trial and error and we will either make it to book two or we will give up between now and then. I sincerely hope that what I have learned so far will help me get there and if I have helped you too, then so much the better.

If you’re stuck in the middle of rewriting, let me know how you’re getting on in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

At last, I am editing and rewriting!

Wow, I have finally broken the back of this in the past couple of days after a lot of procrastination. I started by importing my manuscript into Scrivener and then I split it up into parts, chapters and scenes. This took a bit of time but it also allowed me to move bits around much more easily and I knew I wanted to do this. I have also written a synopsis for each scene I have edited and/or rewritten and I have kept all the bits I have moved in a separate ‘scene’ to fit back in later.

Perhaps I should explain that I had received a comment from an Authonomy friend that my two main characters fall in love a bit too quickly and after some thought, I agreed that this was probably true. I also felt that this might be part of the reason why I didn’t know how to finish the story.

So once I had everything set, the editing part seemed much easier. I have also been rereading my first draft, making notes on a hard copy about the edits I needed to make, as well as looking at comments I have received from Authonomy reviews. It has therefore been hard but nevertheless, rewarding work and I feel like I have made tons of progress today. This wasn’t what I had planned to do today actually but on a rainy day, it seemed like a good plan and now that I have almost finished the first five chapters, the sun has come out 😉

If you are putting off editing, using a software package like Scrivener can really take away that daunting feeling. I would recommend it and it’s such good value. The lesson I have learned from this though, is that I need to write my next book (!), including an outline, in Scrivener first to save myself an awful lot of time.