Before You Submit: Who or That

Do you have a draft of your novel or short story and are thinking of submitting to an agent, publisher or writing contest? My series called Before You Submit might help. This series contains hints and tips I’ve received from professionals in the publishing industry. Each week I’ll share a new tip.

This week I’ll write about the use of who.

I’m loving going through my old notes from an editor. I mean, if can’t laugh at myself and the silly mistakes I made in the early days of writing, what’s the point. Writing should be fun, at least some of the time, maybe even most of the time. Even the hard work of editing can be fun.

Now, to the topic of Who or That, and what I needed to know. Here’s the sentence I wrote:

“I’ll need a list of everyone that had the combination to the safe.”

Yikes. Did you catch the error? The sentence should read:

“I’ll need a list of everyone who had the combination to the safe.”

Funny enough, who is used when referring to people. Every little correction makes the novel a better read. Thank you to the editor who pointed this out to me.

I hope this helps improve your writing.

See Before You Submit:Likeable Characters for the first blog in this series and an introduction the benefits of submitting even if you get a rejection letter.

Thanks for reading…

Advertisements

How To Avoid Errors In E-Books

Have you ever noticed typos in an e-book?

Maybe it’s not a big deal, but I’ve been reading reviews on Amazon lately and have found reviews where readers enjoyed the story but won’t buy another book by the author because of typos, grammatical errors, or bad formatting. That can’t be good.

If you’ve published electronically, you don’t want this to happen to you. But how do you avoid it?

After you’ve proofread, and proofread and proofread again, then had your novel proofread by someone other than yourself, there is another task you can perform to ensure high quality work.

I use Scrivener to write and recently found the feature that exports a manuscript into e-book formatting. I tried this and then sent my novel to my Kindle. I used to just send a word document to my Kindle and read my novel that way, but how could I know if the formatting was off?

Now with this feature, my novel is formatted as a reader would see it on their electronic device. Scrivener will export to epub (.epub), Kindle ebook (.mobi) or iBooks Author Chapters (.docx). I’m sure there are other writing programs that have the same function.

It’s interesting reading my novel for the first time in this format. I caught several errors in formatting; such as, no space after one scene and before the next. This might seem like an inconsequential error, but what if I’d confused a reader by not indicating when one scene ended and a new scene started?

As an added bonus, reading on the kindle makes my novel seem real.

Do you have ways to check your novel for formatting errors or typos?

See Proofreading/Copyediting  if you’re interested in my in-depth process.

Thanks for reading . . .

Do you want to improve your grammar?

Here’s one method on how to become more confident with your grammar skills.

Scientific America Mind (October 2013) has an article called What Works, What Doesn’t that discusses techniques that work or don’t work for learning. The second item in the article discusses the importance of self testing. The article makes the point that before reading a chapter the student should take a test to see how much they know on the subject. The theory is we learn by our mistakes.

Each year I read a different book on grammar in an effort to keep my skills strong. As a writer, I consider grammar knowledge an important tool for creating a novel.

Thinking I should test the theory put forward by Scientific America Mind, I set out on the search for a grammar book laid out with an introductory test, study information and an end of chapter test.

I found Sharp Grammar: Build Better Grammar Skills by Kaplan  follows this process.

I’m now working my way though the book, surprising myself by what I know and don’t know. If I only learn one new thing, I think it’s worth the effort. I also believe that continual practice will keep me at the top of my game in the sport of grammar. Can you ever practice too much?

What do you do to keep improving  your grammar and punctuation skills?

Top Ten Reasons to Blog . . .

If you are an Author, published or unpublished, here are 10 reasons to create a blog and stick with it.

  1. Build an audience for when you’re ready to sell your novel (or continue to sell an already published one).
  2. Practice writing.
  3. Practice proofreading.
  4. Develop your voice.
  5. Learn about social media.
  6. Share your knowledge with others.
  7. Connect with others world wide who have similar interests to you.
  8. Promote the work of authors whose work you admire.
  9. Get motivated to write: any kind of positive feedback encourages me to keep trying.
  10. Prove to a publisher that you can build and maintain a platform.

Why to you blog?

What motivates you to comment on other blogs?

Thanks for reading . . .

Scrivener and Scene Summaries

Do you keep track of your scenes? Do you summarize what’s in a scene. I used to use a spreadsheet exclusively to do this until I discovered I can use Scrivener. (I still use a spreadsheet for a more complete list that I can sort.)

In Scrivener, for each scene I note:

  • Chapter Number
  • Name of Scene
  • Point of View
  • Point of Scene
  • Tension
  • Revelation
  • Hook – ask yourself: why would a reader keep reading?
  • Character introduction and description
  • Date and Time of Day
  • Scene Description
  • Scene Dependency
  • Other – anything I want to remember. This could be a scene I want to add later. A description that needs updating. Just little reminders I still have word to do.

How does this relate to Scrivener, you ask?

I created a template in Scrivener by copying the relevant cells from and Excel spreadsheet and pasting them into a newly created template in Scrivener.

Then for each scene I insert the template underneath and to the right of the scene so I have the template linked to each scene. As I review each scene, I fill out the template. If I can’t fill out a line then I know I have work to do.

You can choose to compile the scene template with your novel or leave it out. If I’m printing a draft version, I might print the scene template so I can work on paper for a while. If I’m compiling and I only want the novel, I unclick the Include-In-Compile button.

It’s fun to discover new techniques to work with. Always, always learning . . .

Do you have information you keep track of for each scene that helps you make the scene better?

Thanks for reading . . .

I wrote a blog with my review of the Scrivener software that might help…

Writing a Series

Keeping track of details in one novel can be an overwhelming task. My handy-dandy spreadsheet does the job for me.

But what happens when one novel becomes two and then two become three? And then you make a change in one . . . and it has to be updated in two and then three.

This is enough to drive a person crazy or at least keep them entertained or maybe keep them from sleeping. Who knows?

My solution. As always my spreadsheet. I have now added a new spreadsheet to my collection. I keep one spreadsheet per novel and have found an extra one for details that need to be remembered from one book to the next helps.

I can remember the big details, but what about the ones like an address, a description of a room, a character’s sibling.

Without a spreadsheet I am lost.

Any tips that might help me?

Thanks for reading . . .

Novels: Point of a Scene – Is there one or should you cut it?

Is There One or Should You Cut It?

I’ve often read the advice that a novelist should be able to summarize their novel in one to two sentences. This made me start thinking about scenes and chapters.

I asked myself if I knew the point of a scene, and if I didn’t should I cut – yes the dreaded word cut – the scene from the novel? It’s easy to get attached to a scene for many reasons but if there is no point, then I ask you what is the point? J

I challenged myself to go through my latest novel and write one sentence describing the point of the scene.

Taking this one level deeper, and adding a new column to my spreadsheet, I tried to reduce the sentence to one word that described the scene.

This did a couple of things for me.

  1. It showed me what to cut. Ouch.
  2. I helped me organize my chapters into a theme.

The second item was a surprise and created a new way for me to look at organizing chapters.

How do you decide it a scene is needed or not?

Thanks for reading . . .