Every Author Needs an Editor…not just independents

Starstone_Front_Cover_Only - 1I see so many posts admonishing independent authors to make sure they get their manuscripts edited. And while, I agree that editing is very important (probably as important as the story writing itself), I take offense at the implication that it is only independent authors who are lax about this step.

I just read the first two books in a 22-book series by a well-known author who is published by a well-known house (Harper Collins), and I have encountered approximately one misspelling or misused word per every ten to twelve pages. Now, I didn’t go into these books expecting errors, nor did I start reading them with the intention of keeping track of every little mistake I came across. But, I have to admit that after the first mistake interrupted the story rhythm, it sort of primed my instincts to be wary of others. (For instance, the character was fighting the urge to vomit, which was described as “…keeping her gore from rising…” when the term is gorge.)

As I continued with the story (which is really quite excellent and I do thank my friend for recommending the series), I found myself stumbling over other such instances of misplaced, misused, or misspelled words. With every stumble, I couldn’t help but wonder what the editors at this publishing house were thinking. These errors were obvious and easy to spot, so why didn’t they? While I can’t answer the question as to why the professionals didn’t catch the errors in this particular series , I can commiserate with them.

My bread-and-butter job is as a technical writer/editor and, trust me, when deadlines loom, and you’re working 50 or 60 hours, dead tired, and going at top speed, things can get overlooked…even obvious things (like gore for gorge). Is it right? No. Is it easy to fix…sometimes. Is it inevitable? Maybe…unless you’re Super Editor:  Able to scan 1000 pages a minute, edit 20,000 pages with a single blue pencil, and juggle ten manuscripts in a single night. However, since I don’t know any super heroes called Super Editor, I’m going with the assumption that most authors, writers, and editors are human beings, and human beings (unfortunately) make mistakes.

So, while I have no intention of publishing any of my books with mistakes, and I (and my editors) go over them several times for spelling, grammar, context, and content, I would still be surprised if someone reading through them didn’t find some flaw; some misspelled, misused, or just plain missing word. I’m human. My editors are human. And my readers are human (or at least most of them are).

Therefore, whether you’re an independent author or an author from a well-known publishing house, you need to understand that flaws happen. The key to getting and keeping readers despite the flaws is to ensure that 1) flaws don’t happen very often, and 2) the story is so good that your readers are willing to forgive the rare flaw.

(Coming soon:  “The Globe of Souls”  Book 2 of the Darkwind of Danaria series.)GOS Front Cover - 6x9 - 150 PPI

 

 

 

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Today is the day…

The paperback is ready and available. (Just follow the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1481090569) The Kindle book will be available in a day or two (just waiting on Amazon to get it posted.)

So, hurra hurra hurra. Grab and copy and start reading. 😉

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The true meaning of the word writer

They say to follow your dreams, and my dream is writing. However, the world’s perception of writing or authors is much different than the reality. You would think that with a title such as writer or author that your primary function is to write or author material…or put another way, to work with words.

Let me dispel that notion right now. A writer’s or author’s job is not to create the written material, it’s to sell that material. Whether you’re a self-published author or an author that is a member of that exclusive publishing house group, your job is salesperson not writer. (Trust me, junior authors to senior authors of publishing houses still have to sell their material…senior members just don’t have to work so hard at it.)

We need to formulate a marketing plan, and “hoping people will like my book and buy it” doesn’t constitute a marketing plan (I know, ’cause I tried). Even the “maybe word of mouth will be enough…” plan isn’t enough. Nope. You have to actually figure out what avenues for marketing books are available, who the contacts are for those different venues, create something that would make these contacts want to publish or use your material, and then hope that people will watch your video, read your marketing blurb, your ad, or find your web page, and then buy your book.

It’s getting out and giving talks to small or large groups, it’s getting your name noticed, and it’s definitely not what I wanted to do when I decided to become a writer. Why? Because I don’t want to be in the spotlight. I became a writer because I like being in the background. If I wanted to be in the foreground I would have chosen a career as an actor or something, not a writer.

Sure, I could hire someone to do all of this marketing hoo-ha for me, but it’s hard to convince yourself to pay $$ someone when you’re not making any money. Yes, I’ve heard the old adage, you gotta spend money to make money, but in this economy, maybe you just gotta dig in and do it yourself.

So, I’ve pegged a couple of book marketing sites, gotten some books from the library, and am assiduously trying to follow the advice I’m finding. Of course, since none of my sources agree on a specific approach, and I’ve never successfully marketed any of my books (or blogs) before, this is all trial and error.

Maybe, if any of this works, I can spend more time writing and less time selling…because trust me, I do not want to be a salesperson. Definitely not my thing.

Living in a land of make believe

We live in a false world, a land of make believe. It’s a world where pretense is the norm and truth is suppressed (supposedly for the betterment of everyone). But is it really better?

In my world, I must say only nice things, only pleasant things. I’m not supposed to say what I truly believe, feel, or think because it may offend or hurt someone else. But doesn’t lying hurt, too?

For example, at my job we cannot say anything that might hurt or offend someone else or in any way upset them. So, I must monitor every word I utter in an effort to be absolutely neutral in what I say. I also cannot reach out and physically touch someone—not a hug, not a light touch on the shoulder, or a comradely hand to the back—without taking the risk of being accused of sexual harassment.

And these same restrictions spill over to my life away from work, too. If those at work were to read my blog and found it somehow threatening, non-professional, or in any way hurtful, then I could be reprimanded. If I e-mail someone (on a personal e-mail account), or make comments on Facebook or Twitter, I can be accused of being a cyberbully.

So, what happened to the world of freedom of speech, to a world where truth of perception, belief, and feelings were welcomed instead of this half-baked Disney World where only banalities and neutral non-speak are acceptable?

Am I advocating bullying (in person or on the computer)? No, but then again, one man’s bullying is another man’s truth. How are we to learn if we cannot speak? How can a child learn sensitivity if they never experience pain—the pain of hurting someone else, or the pain of being hurt themselves?

Just because you tell a child that certain words are hurtful does not guarantee that they will understand. You probably grew up being called names or being excluded from activities, I think most of us have. So each of us has our own set of “hurtful”, “not nice” words or actions that we try to teach to others. But if a child never sees the result of using hurtful language or taking hurtful actions, or if they are never the recipient of those hurtful words or actions, they have only your word that those terms, phrases, or actions are “bad”.

Eventually, that won’t be enough. Eventually, all they will see is that their parents are afraid of certain actions or words. They will become curious and may simply try using those words or performing those actions, or they may become manipulative, using your fears to their advantage.

I understand wanting to spare others what we each went through—we all try to do that—but if we don’t allow others to make mistakes, if we don’t stop creating and enforcing rules that make us live in a false world based on pretense and insincerity, then we all suffer. I find it infinitely more stressful to be constantly watching and gauging everything I say and do for fear I may offend or hurt someone, than simply allowing myself to be who I am—someone who would not intentionally hurt someone, but may (occasionally) put my foot in my mouth. My life, then, becomes like a war zone, where each step I take can put me in the middle of a mine field, and each word I utter or each action I take can destroy my world.

I can no more stay silent (as stated in the old adage of saying nothing if you can’t speak nicely), than I can not write. Yet, how I am to gauge which words I write will annoy or hurt? I believe rather than police each other, we need to police ourselves—turn off those programs that you find offensive, do not read stories or writings that upset you, and by all means, walk away from someone whose ramblings you disagree with.

The eyes have it

It’s just a small difference really, but in that small difference can lie day and night, life and death, or the whole world. The small difference I’m referring to is in the words that people use and the way in which they put those words together. Change a word here or there, and it changes the whole intention of the message. Or simply move a word from the start of the sentence to the end of it, and you’ve now said something completely different.

I work with words every day; I’m a wordsmith, so I should know all about the tricks and manipulations that can be done with words. Yet, when you’re on the receiving end of manipulated messages, it’s not so easy to see where the words have been substituted or how exactly the intention of the message has been subtly shifted. Also, sometimes the deliverer of the message doesn’t realize that the message has been shifted or changed; they are honestly repeating what they heard or were told. Other times, the deliverer may honestly believe what they are saying is true, so again, the keenness of the words isn’t completely understood by them, but is doubly felt by you.

Word manipulation…it’s the difference between a doctor saying “Do this and you won’t die…” and “Do this and you won’t die as fast…”. The first statement is a very positive message. It says “you’ll be fine…trust me.” While the second message says, “You’re dying, but we might be able to slow it down…”. That second message, if heard and truly understood, can be pretty shocking if you had no idea that you were that ill.

The words used to deliver the messages are very similar, but the underlying meanings are completely different. Many of us don’t hear the underlying meanings, so we don’t even notice their differences. In fact, many of us are lucky to pay attention to the primary message and notice the subtle differences there. I think it’s because we don’t really listen. We hear, sure, but we don’t listen. We take in the words, but then we translate them into a message that we find acceptable. It may not be the same message that is actually being stated, but it’s one that we want to hear.

But then that’s the power of words. We can twist, shift, and manipulate them to say almost anything, and we do. Whether we are crafting the initial message or receiving that message, we shift the words to suit ourselves. And if we don’t like the underlying message, we ignore it; we pretend that it wasn’t there.

And while images may be worth a 1000 words, even they (nowadays) can be manipulated so that the original 1000 words they represented say something else.

Yes, with all this manipulating and reworking of the words going on, it can sometimes be hard to know just exactly what it is someone is trying to tell you. So how to tell what the true message is? How do you figure out what someone is really trying to tell you? While listening closely is always a good idea, the best way is to read their eyes. The true message that a person wishes to convey comes from their soul. So, to know what they want to really tell you, read their eyes, because the soul never lies.

Listen…

If more people would actually listen to themselves, the world would be a lot quieter.

“Huh?!”  That’s the response I hear after making that statement. Yet, all it really means is that most people are so afraid of just being still, that they surround themselves with noise. To sit quietly and just listen to their own soul—that tiny internal voice that knows so much and can help make our lives so much easier if we’d only pay attention—is  a concept that most people just can’t grasp.

Most of the time these subtleties are lost in today’s rush to know everything all the time. People are so busy texting, phoning, cruising the internet, playing computer games, watching TV, listening to their music, or even reading books that they can’t possibly focus on or “hear” anything else.

Yet, there is more information to be gained by simply listening to yourself than you could ever glean from any of these other sources. Still, most people fear the “silence of their inner being”, because they don’t want to hear that little voice of their soul. So, they keep themselves hooked up, plugged in, and tuned into that extraneous noise and they let it fill their minds, ears, and hearts. They let it block their soul’s voice from being heard.

They claim they’re too uncomfortable just sitting around doing “nothing”, or they’ll say that listening for some small inner voice makes them feel too cut off, too out of touch. Truthfully, they’re simply too afraid of what that voice might be trying to tell them. So they tell themselves that they don’t need or want to know what their soul is saying to them; that they’re fine without it. In fact, some people are so afraid of hearing what their soul has to say that they even block their dreams from their minds.

It seems surprising to me that so many people can harbor so much fear of such a simple, little voice. After all, the soul is you, so why wouldn’t you want to hear from yourself? And it’s not as if the soul is a chatty little thing always yapping and gossiping. Mostly it talks to you when you need guidance, when you need warnings, and when you need praise—and who doesn’t want to hear praise, really? The soul’s voice isn’t frightening, it’s actually quite loving.

Just take a moment to put down the iPod, the iPhone, or the book; turn off the TV, radio, or computer, and just listen. Really listen. Do you hear it? That tiny little voice struggling to be heard? Yes, that’s right, that’s your soul, the essence of who you really are. Can you hear what it’s saying? Isn’t it beautiful?

As you focus on that voice, you’ll hear all kinds of wondrous and wonderful things, and you’ll begin to see what a wondrous and wonderful person you really are. Admit it now, isn’t it more compelling, and more beautiful than any story on your Kindle or any song on your MP3 player?

Pendulum swings…

It seems that the acceptance and understanding of those with psychic talents is like a pendulum. It swings from acceptance to fear and back again.

In “ancient” times the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians all had their prophets, oracles, and “speakers” (the folks who spoke with the gods or with the spirits). [pendulum forward]

Then organized religion took hold in Europe and North America, and anything smacking of witchcraft got you a death sentence. [pendulum backward]

In the mid-1800’s occultism gripped Europe and the US, and suddenly those with the POWER, or thought to have the POWER, were back in favor. [pendulum forward]

With the advent of World War I, occultism and spiritualism again fell out of favor. However, this time the threat of death was not so prevalent. It just became unacceptable by society to be “different”. [pendulum back]

In the turbulent 1960’s, it all collided – the pendulum became tangled. Those born in the 1940’s and 1950’s wanted to embrace enlightenment and all that it entailed, including psychic talents. However, their parents and grandparents (mostly) wanted to continue ignoring the possibility of all that frightening stuff. Half the world embraced the concepts and pushed forward toward enlightenment, while the other half fought madly to stay in the dark as they had been. It was safe there, it was easy there. [pendulum stuck]

Come the mid-1980’s, the pendulum untangled, and initially it swung backward. People took refuge in religion and science. They hid away from anything smacking of paranormal, and drew away from fringe sciences and marginal belief systems. However, it is now moving forward again. Slowly; ever so slowly; but it is moving.

Scientists, neurologists, cosmologists, and psychologists, along with some of the leaders in the world of faith and belief are all now pushing the pendulum forward again. They push quietly but steadily, so the pendulum continues to move inexorably toward that point where science and faith combine.

It used to be called metaphysics—or quite literally, beyond physics—but now the terms being used are those that are less controversial, which is probably helping this steady swing forward. Terms like unconscious knowing or extraordinary knowing, which is the practice or skill of knowing things that are beyond the 5 senses ability to know, are some of the terms being used today.

Papers have been published in well-known (and respected) scientific journals showing that prayer and meditation actually work. Scientists have conducted studies on those suffering from a type of inoperable cancer. One group received focused thoughts (prayers), and one group did not. They found that those in the group receiving focused thought (prayers) had a greater recovery rate than normal, whereas those in the group who didn’t receive the focused thoughts, maintained the same recovery rate as any other group with that particular disease.

There have also been papers showing how different sections of the brain are used when different psychic skills are being used—remote viewing, clairvoyance, telekinesis, and ESP. Another paper actually showed the changes in the physiometry of people who were being healed by a psychic healer.

So, although it may seem at times, that our society is as backward as in the days when witch hunts were considered a sport, we really are moving forward. [pendulum forward]