Friday, August 18, 2017

From the Edit Desk: Before Sending Manuscript to Editor or Publisher

One of the steps writers take before sending a manuscript to an editor or publisher is the final read-through. Here's a quick list of things to check before you hit 'send':

Spacing - check for both line spacing and word spacing.

  • Word spacing: If you've used double spacing after sentences, get rid of those. In today's computer world, double spacing is a no-no. You can easily get rid of the double spacing using the Replace feature in Word: click on Replace, then put the cursor in the Find box and hit the space bar twice. (Don't type any letters, your just typing spaces.) Then, in the Replace box, just hit the space bar once. (If you've used the Replace button recently, you might need to erase anything that is there - make sure you erase everything, then put in the one space.) I recommend doing this two or three times, because sometimes writers use three or four (or more) spaces. Do it until there are no more double spaces between anything.

  • Line Spacing: Industry standards use double line spacing. Publishers will adjust that spacing to meet their particular publishing needs, but to submit, use double spacing. When you start a new chapter, use Page Breaks, not line spacing, to put the new chapter on a fresh page. 

Repetition - as you read through the manuscript, look for pet words or phrases that you use too much. Eliminate or rewrite as needed. Use the Find feature to locate all of them.

Punctuation - Read through the manuscript for missing or incorrect punctuation, especially at the end of sentences. Most writers tend to fret over commas, and while that is an issue, it's surprising to discover so many instances where a period is missing or a question mark has been used incorrectly. If you overuse exclamation points, get rid of them. Check for proper usage of single and double quotation marks.

Fonts - Industry standard font is Times New Roman. Most of the time, only one font is recommended, although there are instances where a publisher may want to change fonts in the final production of the book. (One example of this is when an author includes a text message in the story - the publisher may offset and change the font to designate it as a text message.) But leave it to the publisher to make the change.

But don't let the edits and fear of making a mistake hold you up. Give it your best then hit SEND.

Recent articles:

From the Edit Desk: Sense of Place
From the Edit Desk: What's the Takeaway?
Do You Dream?
Need an Illustrator?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

From the Edit Desk: What's the Takeaway?

When new writers approach me about publishing their nonfiction books, or hire me to coach them as they write their book, the first thing I want to know is how their book will benefit the reader. What's the takeaway?

Writing our stories so that others can learn from them, or be encouraged by, or inspired by, or challenged by is crucial. But just writing down the facts and figures isn't enough. You want to provide the reader with a story or information that stays with them after they've finished reading. Start with asking yourself questions.

What is your book's purpose? What do you want to accomplish with this book? Create a simple statement of one to three sentences to answer these questions - they will serve as your guide as you write each chapter. Hone your message by keeping these questions in mind.

How will your book connect with readers? Think of themes within your message, and then broaden those themes from a reader's perspective. Take your story, your message and make it relevant to your reader.

As you write, imagine one specific reader of your book. What do you want her to tell others about your book? What do you want him to remember most? How do you want your words,  your story, your message to change that person's life?

What's different about your message? Why are you the right one to tell this story, share this message? How can you tie your uniqueness together with the broad overall themes to give your reader the most takeaway?

Write your book with those questions in mind, and your message should resonate with readers.

Recent articles:

From the Edit Desk: Sense of Place
From the Edit Desk: Before Sending Manuscript to Editor or Publisher
Do You Dream?
Need an Illustrator?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

From the Edit Desk: Sense of Place

Today, we're starting a new series called From the Edit Desk. The short blog posts in this series will offer helpful tips on issues we see in manuscripts that cross our path or that we've encountered in the past. They're not meant to pick on any author - they're meant to serve as a guide to help writers improve their craft. As always, feel free to ask questions.

Today's topic: Sense of Place

Have you ever been so lost in thought you couldn't remember where you were or why you were there? Or wake up from a deep sleep and not know where you were or what day it was? Writers may do this more than anyone else, and sometimes this comes across in their manuscripts.

A sense of place is a common problem I see in books and scripts that I read. Writers may know their story world backward and forward, upside down and right side up, but if they do not convey this, the audience will be lost. Sense of place is important not only in fiction but in nonfiction as well - you want to plant the audience firmly in your world, whether it's real or not.

The best way to convey sense of place is in the details. Don't bog down the audience with an information dump, spelling out pages of backstory or descriptions. Instead, pay attention to details that could offer clues and layer them in through dialogue or narrative.

Answer unasked questions about time, place, season:

What year is it? What are one or two things relevant to that particular year/decade/century? For example, a character probably wouldn't be answering a cellphone in the 1850s.

Look around (in your story world, that is) and use sensory details. Find something unique that your character can see, smell, hear, taste, or touch that would convey information the audience needs and layer it into the story. For example, a lighthouse fog horn probably wouldn't be heard in Nebraska and a damp swamp smell probably couldn't be experienced in the desert.

Seasons are easier - just don't fall into the pitfall of cliches.

The easiest thing to remember about setting a sense of place for your audience - remember they haven't been in your head while you've created or experienced your story. You need to let them into that world.

Recent articles:

From the Edit Desk: What's the Takeaway?
From the Edit Desk: Before Sending Manuscript to Editor or Publisher
Do You Dream?
Need an Illustrator?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Do You Dream?

During the past couple of weeks, I made a very hasty decision - one that would help other
people and help us, too, but it took valuable time from another area and basically, created more problems than it solved. Last night, I made the difficult decision to change course, knowing that I would be letting a friend down, but the new decision was best for me and my family.

This morning, when my husband woke, he said he had a message for me. He said, "Woman, you need to follow your dreams and quit chasing after random things."

All day long, I've thought of his words and realized he's right (he usually is).

I have two primary professional goals:

1) to help other people, but in a different way than this other opportunity. I love helping other people make their dreams of publishing a book come true. I love serving as a conduit through which people can share their stories - their testimonies - their lives - through the written word and through picture books for children, and publish those books so that others might learn, be inspired, or be entertained. That is my goal and it is my dream.

2) to write screenplays. I'm in the final weeks of earning my MFA in screenwriting, and I can't wait until I'm able to spend quality time honing the ideas and scripts I started during school. My goals are to write them - my dreams are to have them produced into film or produce them myself. We'll see where the Lord leads on that one, won't we? It's been a fun journey, and I'm already working with a couple of authors on adapting their novels into screenplays. The best of both worlds!!

Yes, I am a dreamer.

Are you? What are your dreams?

Do you dream of publishing a book?

If so, I'd love to talk to you more about the whole process. Let me know if you have any questions. Feel free to send me an e-mail or Facebook message. I'd love to see if we could make your dreams a reality.

Monday, August 7, 2017

What's Your Story?

What story do you have to tell?

Is it nonfiction - perhaps a self-help book or maybe a memoir of your life?

Do you write poetry? Would you like to include your poems in one book to share with others?

Is it fiction? Are novels your storytelling outlet? Or do you write books for children, to stir their imagination or to help teach them lessons or values?

Now is the time to share your story. Send me an e-mail ( or a note on Facebook, and let's talk about the possibilities!

From the Edit Desk: Before Sending Manuscript to Editor or Publisher

One of the steps writers take before sending a manuscript to an editor or publisher is the final read-through. Here's a quick list of th...