To Oxford Comma or Not?

Before one can make the decision about whether they should use an Oxford comma or not, one must first understand what the Oxford comma is.

Consider a list with at least three different items: apples, oranges and bananas. If one was to use an Oxford comma, then the list would look like apples, oranges, and bananas. Notice the use of the comma before the and. However, you won’t always find a comma before the and. If the list has only two items, that list of apples and oranges wouldn’t use a comma.

Confusing, right?Read More

Finding value in a critique…

Every writer who puts their work out there will have to face critiques of all flavors: the good, the bad, and the outright mean. For the new writer, one just starting down the journey, sending that baby out for review can actually be a terrifying experience. “What if they don’t like it? What if I’m doing it all wrong? What if they tell me my writing is shit?”

Well… Not everyone is going to like what you write. Writing is like art — filled with subjective opinions. If you’re determined to have everyone in the world like your writing, then you might as well give up now. It’s never going to happen. The best you can ever hope for is that the fans of books you like to read, the stories that influenced your writing, also like your book.

In terms of doing it wrong… I’m sorry, but this is your writing. You are the only one who can judge if you are doing it wrong or not. What others can do is tell you why something didn’t work for them, potentially providing suggestions to make your writing stronger. Whether you take on board those suggestions is entirely up to you.Read More

Editing Reality Check

When writers have spent such a long time at writing, crafting their stories, many will happily turn their attention to editing. However, it saddens me to realize that many writers don’t fully understand what editing actually entails.

In a post earlier this year, I spoke about The Who, What and When of Editing. In that article, I mentioned that editing falls into four main categories: critique, developmental, line and copy-edit. Each stage is important for a manuscript’s development but for different reasons. Unfortunately, the number of writers that seem to miss the critique and developmental editing phases, going straight to line editing, is surprising.Read More

The Value of a Synopsis

Many of my followers on Twitter will know that I have recently completed my manuscript and am now on the path of querying for agents and publishers. It’s a hard road, one that many turn away from.

Writing the manuscript was hard. Editing it into something worth reading was harder. Writing a query letter was harder still. And the synopsis was a nightmare. Let’s face it: compressing a full-length novel into one page is a frightening task. Not all agents want a synopsis, but most publishers do. So if you are fortunate enough to snag an agent without needing to write a synopsis, you will eventually need to write one.

During my preparation of my submission materials of my own manuscript, I struggled to bring my synopsis to under one page, like so many other writers, but I did it. Everything is now ready to go, it’s just a matter of working out where.Read More

Give me the Em-Dash

Many writers encounter special characters within writing and either don’t know how to use them or how to get their word processor system to render them properly. Yes, you can go “insert character”, however, for characters such as an ellipse and em-dashes, most word processors auto-replace.Read More

Billy said… Diana said…

When I critique and edit writing, there is one common flaw that comes through time and time again. Sometimes, it’s subtle and easily overlooked. But then there are times when it hits you in the face.

I’m talking about he said — she said.Read More

To UK English or US English? Or to some other flavour of the beast?

Those who live outside of the USA are very familiar with the concept that there are multiple different dictionaries used for English, all depending on what version of English you are using. You heard that right, folks. There is another way to spell those favourite words.

And that was one right there: favourite. That’s how those using UK English spell it. Yanks spell it without the ‘u’: favorite.Read More

Editing: The Who, What and When

When I tell people that I’m a freelance editor, it’s quite common for people to assume that I spend day in and day out just looking at spelling, grammar and punctuation. I don’t get this reaction from just the general public either. Many writers, especially new writers, also make this assumption. However, editing is so much more.

Editing falls into four main categories: critique, developmental, line and copy-edit. Each stage is necessary to the development of a manuscript. While the initial drafting of a story is a solitary practice, it’s vital for every writer to seek out those extra sets of eyes to provide objective input. The who and the when will depend entirely on what stage your manuscript is at. The stages of editing (depicted in the figure below) are the same for both traditional and self-publication, it’s just the players that may change.Read More

By all means, rush the process.

Writing a manuscript takes time; editing it takes even longer. However, rushing the process is the biggest mistake that any new writer can make. One spends months, if not years, pouring everything, including their heart and soul, into this body of work. It’s only natural to want to see it published — they have dreams. But dreams that are worthwhile require time and effort.

Editing a manuscript into something worth reading is not something that happens overnight. There are steps that every manuscript must go through before it finds itself as a book on the selves of your local bookstore. Rushing the process will produce shoddy work that will result in very bad reviews, and not just from those that hate your story.

There are several different flavours to this Rush-The-Process dish.Read More

Make Goals Public and Real

Every year, some of my writing buddies get all depressed because they had set themselves some goals for last year that they failed to achieve. The Little Miss Optimist in me is forced to come in and reminded them of all the things they have achieve instead. It’s that silver-lining view, but so many forget to use it.

Sometimes it’s a knock back to see that massive goal that you had set yourself come crumbling down around your ears. However, that goal was set for a reason. Without it, you wouldn’t spend the time necessary to turn that goal into a reality. And sometimes, you might have actually achieved your goal, but just not in the way you had expected.Read More