Well, not really.
I finished the first draft of Daughter of the Deepwood, and it's now in the editor's hands. She should complete editing within two weeks, at which time I'll revise, revise, revise. Following revision, I'll format the manuscript. Then the book will go up on Amazon.
I've worked with several clients new to the book writing process, one for whom I'm writing a sort of biography. Except it's not really a biography. Last week I completed the first chapter and sent it to him for review and feedback, because nothing's correct on the first try. In my message notifying him that the chapter was ready for review, I included the caution that writing a book is a messy process.
I think that surprised him a little. However, I wasn't joking. Writing really is a messy process. That coincides with the task of bringing new clients on board, which in January and the first half of February didn't go all that well.
Being a participant in an entrepreneurial mastermind group, I brought up the "onboarding" issues challenging me and received some advice along with some comments that some of these clients didn't understand the whole ghostwriting or editing process. I don't necessarily expect them to: I'm the seasoned expert and they're the newbies.
Acting upon the group's suggestions, I created some online questionnaires with qualifying questions. The answers should provide the information I need to calculate a fee. I also created two hiring guides, facetiously titled "Everything You Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask about Hiring..." an editor or ghostwriter. The guides offer a quick overview of the process, a range of fees, and what the service entails.
We'll see how that works out.
This week's MFRW Blog Challenge writing prompt is "the top 5 things on my bucket list." Finally, I get something that doesn't make me scratch my head and wonder how in the world I'm going to answer it.
We all have goals--some tangible, some ambitious, some professional, some personal--that we want to accomplish in our lives. These goals became popularized as a "bucket list" years ago. The top five on mine mix four personal goals with one professional goal.
#1 - Visit Italy (and Europe in general)
I dislike traveling and have never been out of the country; but, after far too many years of watching Rick Steves, Rudy Maxa, Joseph Rosendo, and Globe Trekker, I really, really, really want to experience those wonderful cultures across the pond in person. The ambition is to start with Italy.
When my husband retires, we plan to embark upon a food tour of Italy, eating our way up one coast and down the other. We'll consider the tour complete after we've each gained about 50 lbs.
I'd also like to take a horseback tour of Ireland. The rest of Europe is on the list, too.
#2 - Ride an Elephant
Call me kooky, I want to ride an elephant. This would be an amazing experience.
#3 - Hit the NY Times Bestseller List--and stay there for a few weeks
Well, duh! Author here.
#4 - Take a Windjammer Cruise
I don't just want to sail the seas, but I want to go on a ship with real sails and get my swash buckled.
#5 - See Swan Lake--without complaints from my family
Yes, folks, I actually do enjoy the ballet. I remember my mother arranging trips to see the ballet when I was little girl--some of my fondest memories of childhood. Like many things, though, excursions like this are best enjoyed with a companion who also enjoys such things.
I could add more to the list, but then you'd just get a depressing understanding of how limited my life experience really is. That explains why I live in my head. There's so much more excitement inside my mind.
Many of the freelance editing gigs advertised express requirements that indicate the hiring companies don't really understand what editing is. Or maybe I just take a narrow view of editing.
Editing concerns the improvement of content.
Editing differs from writing. Writers generate content. They conduct the research and write to convey the information and meaning. The editor makes sure that the content flows well, makes sense, and otherwise engages and informs the reader without undue confusion. Editing, therefore, employs a separate set of skills than writing. Editors are not fact checkers. Their knowledge is at once specialized and general: they understand the nuances of language and how best to exploit them. They need not possess the technical background relating to the topic under discussion.
That last part--the technical background--becomes more and more relevant to and required by hiring organizations. After all, someone could write absolute hogwash regarding crypto-currencies and I would know no differently. I could make sure that the hogwash employed a preponderance of active voice, minimized grammatical and syntactical errors, and generally made for interesting copy; however, I could not verify with any authority whatsoever that the information conveyed was factual and correct.
That said, too much of writing for business suffers from poor execution. Pick up a business report, any report, and count the number of passive verbs to active verbs. A preponderance of passive verbs leads to a deadly dull composition. A single, short declarative sentence surrounded by active voice makes a powerful statement. Declarative, state-of-being sentences strung together in succession have just the opposite effect.
Next, count the adverbs. Used sparingly, adverbs add illustrative detail. Overused, they make the narrative drag because they tell how something is done; they don't show it.
After that, look at the length of the paragraphs. Modern attention spans don't appreciate large blocks of text. People find them daunting and off-putting. Keep paragraphs short. That also ties into the longstanding advice regarding brevity. Mark Twain, Cicero, Alexander Pope, and others offered many pithy comments on the desirability of concise writing, all of which make very good sense. I particularly like this quotation from Hans Hoffman: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
Part of an editor's job is to cut out the unnecessary words and to determine the appropriate level of language for the intended audience. More than that, the editor looks to see whether each passage advances the narrative. Anything that does not has no place within the composition. Liken unnecessary words or extra scenes to the arbitrary addition of notes within music. Those notes don't enhance the tune, they detract from it.
Let your content sing. Hire an editor.
Last week I failed to answer the prompt of the book that influenced me the most. This week I'll fail again, because, really, I don't want to meet the authors I admire the most.
What would I say?
Truly, I'd be at a loss for words or, worse yet, come across as a blithering idiot or offensively critical.
Authors have their own distinct ways of going about their business. No two authors follow the exact same processes. For something so generic as "I wrote a book," the solitary endeavor of actual writing lends itself to the eccentricities and quirks of the individual writer.
For instance, I admire Mark Twain, although I've read precious little of his work. His wit and brevity raise the standard. I love Last of the Mohicans, although the book itself is a horrible example of storytelling. I doubt I have anything in common with Robin McKinley, C. L. Wilson, Dick Francis, or Robert B. Parker; so, with writing--like politics and religion--excluded from discussion, there would be precious little to talk about.
Let's not go there.
Should the occasion arise that a reader wanted to meet me, the situation would remain just as awkward. I could pontificate on the qualities of good writing--and, if you read my blog, then you know I do--but lecture doesn't make for dialogue. Conversation needs at least two people to speak and listen and respond. A reader could ask me about horses, alpacas, llamas, or my children. Of those topics, the one that will find the greatest commonality is that of children.
It doesn't escape me that an unwillingness to discuss writing may come across as arrogance, as though I implied I had nothing to learn from other authors. Nothing could be further from the truth. That incorrect perception arises from an old childhood accusation regarding the sacrament of reconciliation, better known as confession. I did not want to go and resented being forced to comply. I never denied having committed those small sins, but neither did I regret them. That attitude received accusations that I considered myself perfect, incapable of sin. No, I recognized my guilt, but I wasn't sorry for it. Regardless, I went to church, whipped up some false remorse, and then confessed my sins.
Yes, I'm aware the above confession likely indicates some strongly psychopathic tendencies. That, of course, brings me to that funny scene in the 1984 mobster spoof Johnny Dangerously in which Danny Vermin declares his handicap.
After writing professionally for decades, I feel I have a pretty good command of the craft. I know what I know and remain open to learning what I don't know. But as for meeting those authors whom I admire, no, I'd rather leave them on their pedestals. Let's respect the distance and allow that distance to uphold respect.
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While rolling beneath the overhang, the engine groaned again. It sputtered. It wheezed. It died with a sickly cough of black exhaust. Maggie muttered a curse beneath her breath and tried to open the driver's side door. Of course the road was narrow and the car's proximity to the rocky face of the cliff was far too close to allow her to open the door more than a couple of inches. With another oath, she unbuckled the seatbelt and twisted her body to crawl over the stick shift and out the passenger side of the car. The car shuddered. She dismissed it as the engine's death rattle and continued moving. She barked her shin against something hard. Her wrist threatened to give under her weight and she regretted the extra forty pounds she carried on her frame. The car shuddered again and that time she noticed that rocks and pebbles bounced off the car.
"Dear Lord, it's an earthquake," she muttered as the entire car shook again as though the mountain were trying to shrug the vehicle off its shoulder.
Then the earth gave way and the car plunged down. Maggie screamed. Like every silly heroine in every adventure movie, she screamed in terror even though she knew that screaming would help nothing. She slammed into cloth-covered metal when the car hit the cold, murky water.
From across Loch Saorach in the far northeast of Scotland, Connor Matasan watched in horror as the hillside crumbled beneath the car.
"Come help" he bellowed as he shot out of his chair to run, run as though his own life depended upon it.
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.
Looking for a place to swap blogs? Holly Bargo at Hen House Publishing is wanting to Blog Swaps in 2018. For more information: