How To Write An Epilogue

In my last post, I wrote about writing prologues. I thought I’d follow that up by writing about epilogues. I would like to begin this article by stating that prologues and epilogues, while at opposite ends of the book, each require different needs to be fulfilled in order to be written effectively. Let’s explore that, shall we?

First, what purpose does the epilogue serve? In a way, it serves as an enhanced last chapter. If the prologue serves to set the tone of the story and usher in whatever journey that the main character or characters are about to go on, then the epilogue serves to let the reader know, usually on a very happy note, that all is well and that the characters have moved on from the journey. This is why JK Rowling only used an epilogue in the final book of Harry Potter: during the previous six books, Harry was still very much in conflict with Voldemort, even if he wasn’t always aware of it. The epilogue in Book 7, when the next generation is sent off to Hogwarts in a more peaceful era, lets us know that the conflict between Harry and Voldemort is over, and that “all is well”.

Does an epilogue have to be one chapter? Depends on the writer. Some writers prefer to have only a chapter-long epilogue, while others have written epilogues that have taken up to two to four chapters. Snake, if I remember correctly, has around five chapters in its epilogue. Like I said, depends on the writer and what they want to do with their story.

How much wrapping up do you do in an epilogue? Preferably you want to wrap up all your loose ends at the end of the book, and especially if you’re doing an epilogue. Most authors, unless they’re writing a series, will try to get rid of loose ends as they can before they get to the final chapter, so that they’ll be able to wrap things up in a neat little bow at the end. Figuring out how much wrapping up needs to be done should usually be done in the plotting stages of writing your novel, though. This helps reduce stress and any unexpected problems or questions from cropping up at the end of the book.

Of course, some authors will have an epilogue that will have a happy little scene, and then tie up their loose ends or open questions in supplemental materials after the last book, but the authors who do that usually are big-name authors with traditional publishing houses like Charlaine Harris or JK Rowling. If you would like to do the same thing though, ask yourself one question: do you have a big enough fanbase that would be interested in a lot of supplemental material released after your book? It’s an important question to answer before you start writing.

What should the tone of the epilogue be? Most epilogues I’ve read tend to end on a happy or hopeful note. “We’ve gone to hell and back, but we survived, we conquered, and we’re stronger. Things may not always be great, but they’re not always terrible either.” Of course, there are probably epilogues that let the reader know that things aren’t as nice as they could be. I sort of wrote the ending to Snake to be that way. Once again, it depends on the writer, what sort of story you are writing, and how you want to go about writing it.

What’s the best way to write an epilogue? No two writers are alike (thank God for that), so it depends greatly on the writer. The best way to write an epilogue is to practice it each time you include one in a novel, and also see what works and doesn’t work for you when you read an epilogue in someone else’s book. This will allow you to figure out how best you can write an epilogue and include them in as many novels as you desire.

Now, not every novel has to have an epilogue, just like not every novel has to have a prologue. But if you decide to put an epilogue in your novel, I hope you’ll find this article and the advice it gives rather helpful. And please let us know in the comments section if you have any more advice on creating epilogues that resonate with audiences. We would love to hear from you.

How to (Potentially) Notify Customers of Book Changes UPDATED

You’ve edited your book and reuploaded it. Maybe there were a lot of typos, maybe you had some bad reviews, maybe it just needed a touch up. No matter the reason, the new version is sitting on Amazon’s servers, all shiny and new, and you wish you could let the people who’ve bought it know. After all, if they bought the old version and haven’t read it yet, when they finally get to it and leave their review, their criticisms may not even apply. Or it could be a nice “hey remember you downloaded me? You might want to read me now,” reminder to people who got your book in a flurry of free day promotions.

If Amazon judges the changes to be significant enough they may actually notify all your customers for you. But first you have to send them an email and let them know you want it done.

I used the “Contact Us” link at the bottom of my KDP dashboard page, and choose the “topic” of “Making Corrections”. Is this necessary?  I have no idea. Then I wrote something like this:

Please fill in the following information:
ASIN or name of book: Shades of Gray / B002RHP5D6

I recently uploaded a second edition of Shades of Gray. Changes include rewriting multiple scenes, correcting information, changing conversations, for instance to better explain character’s motives, to explain how Katelina was able to recover after the fight at Claudius’ etc., and removing roughly 2,000 words (after all the additions). I would appreciate if you could make the new version available to past customers if possible.

Thanks

As I mentioned, the changes must be considered “significant” for them to notify customers, so you want to list them out. Obviously you don’t want to  lie just to make it seem like a huge change so that people will get the notice, but you do want it to seem like they should be notified.

In a day or so you’ll get a reply like this:

Hello,

We received your request to provide updated content to customers who purchased your book. Thanks for providing specific details about the changes made. We’ll perform a review of the changes to determine the most appropriate way to describe the updates to your customers. This review will complete within four weeks, and the possible results of our review are listed below.

1. If the changes made to your content are considered critical, we’ll send an email to all customers who own the book to notify them of the update and improvements made. These customers will be able to choose to opt in to receive the update through the Manage Your Kindle page on Amazon.com. www.amazon.com/gp/digital/fiona/manage

2. If the changes made to your content are considered minor, we won’t be able to notify all customers by email, but we will activate their ability to update the content through the Manage Your Kindle page on Amazon.com.

3. If the changes made to your content have caused unexpected critical issues with the book content, we’ll temporarily remove your book from sale. We’ll notify you of any issues found so you can fix them. Once the improvements are made, just let us know and we’ll then email customers as in case 1.

I hope this helps. Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

And then you wait.  I honestly don’t know how significant your changes need to be for an email notice; I’ve never received one for any of the books on my kindle, however, I do know what it looks like to customers when there is simply an update available (aka the minor changes)

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Have you ever requested that Amazon notify your customers of a new edition? What were the results? Do you know of a way to do this on Barnes and Noble or other retailers? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

UPDATE:

Thanks to a one-click buy mishap a year or two ago, I actually own a copy of my own book, and so since posting this I got the “Updated content” letter from Amazon.

Hello Joleene Naylor,

An updated version of your past Kindle purchase of Shades of Gray (Amaranthine) by Joleene Naylor is now available.

The updated version contains the following changes:

  • Significant editorial changes have been made.

You can receive the improved versions of all your books by opting in to receive book updates automatically. You can do this by going to Manage Your Kindle and clicking on the Manage Your Devices section. You will find the option labeled Automatic Book Update.

Alternatively, you can get the updated version of this book by going to Manage Your Kindle. Find the book in your Kindle Library, click on the “Update Available” link next to the book’s title, and then follow the update prompts. All your devices that have the eBook currently downloaded will be updated automatically the next time they connect to wireless.

We thank you for your business with Amazon.
Sincerely,
Customer Service Department
Amazon.com

 

Now we know.

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How to Do a Flashback

Flashbacks appear in many novels, comic books, television shows, and movies, yet they are some of the most difficult sequences to write in all of fiction. After all, how does one take a reader from the present point in the story to a former point in the story and then back again without a visual dissolve and a strange tint or border to the scene followed by another dissolve like they do on TV? It’s not easy, and it requires some practice to get any good at it. And even with practice it can still be a lot of work writing a flashback sequence. I’ve done some flashback scenes myself, sometimes several in a single novel, and I always wonder how to go about doing it.

I’m not sure if these tips will work for everyone, but here are some I’ve picked up over the years, and I’ve found each and every one of them helpful in writing flashback scenes. Some I’ve learned from other authors, others I’ve learned on my own, and a few I cannot remember where I picked up, but wherever they came from I’m grateful for them. And if you have any tips for doing flashbacks, please leave us a comment. I’ll add it in at a later date.

1. Is a flashback necessary? I know it seems silly to add this one in, but it’s one I learned the hard way. In the first draft of my novel Reborn City, I had a character flashback to a romantic encounter she had six months prior to the events of the novel. I nixed it from the second draft though for two reasons: one was that I already had enough flashbacks in that novel, so it seemed like I was spending too much time in the past, and the second was that this one scene really didn’t add anything to the characters or to the story. So asking if a flashback is necessary isn’t always a bad idea. It can actually save you some time.

2. What does the flashback do? You may be thinking at home, “It tells us a past event in the story or in the character’s life”. That is correct. So my next question is, if the flashback is the event in the past that needs to be told, why does it need to be told? Does it explain something vital about the character? Does it explain why the world of the character is the way it is? These are important questions, and every time I do a flashback, I always consider this question so that I know one-hundred percent whether or not I should use the flashback.

And now for actually implementing the flashback after deciding it’s necessary. Here’s some ways to start and end one:

3. Start a new chapter. This is the method that usually works for me. In the previous chapter I say that the character has just realized something that relates to a past event or that they’ve been knocked out and are dreaming of the past, or their thoughts have wandered and they found themselves looking to the past. Then I’ll start the flashback in the next chapter. By the next chapter I’ve gotten them back to the current events to connect the flashback to what’s happening now, or they’ve woken up with a terrible headache, or they’ve come out of their thoughts and they’re wondering how they got into the hospital’s ICU and no idea where the exit is (I’ve actually written that last scenario).

4. Use a transition mid-scene. I’ve seen this method in a few novels, but the one that always sticks in my mind is the many flashbacks in Stephen King’s IT. His flashbacks usually went something like this:

“…Beverly bent down next to Eddie. She couldn’t believe this was happening. Eddie was one of them, he was their navigator, he was the first one…

…he was the first one to come to her. He was shorter than her, nervous, but he was ready.”

The important thing with these sort of transitions is not to jar the reader too much. It takes a real expert at flashbacks to do a flashback mid-scene that goes “Bob was running while bullets flew around him and it reminded him of his time working for the CIA when he became embedded in a terrorist cell” without making the reader go “What the heck just happened here?”

If you do decide to do a mid-scene flashback, a change in font or using italics to differentiate between the present and flashback, or a series of identical symbol before and after the flashback (popular symbols include *** or ~~~) can help readers transition more easily into the flashback and help the story flow more easily.

5. Have your character tell the event to someone. This isn’t always considered a form of flashback, but I consider it one. It’s useful for books where the idea is a fictional person writing down his/her memoirs or telling someone their life story, like in a psychologist’s office. And in my opinion, it’s a method for those memories that a character is uncomfortable with. For example, in my novel Snake, the titular character relates his first kill to another character this way because he’s not proud of the way that event went down and tries not to think about it. Telling it this way offers a unique chance for a character to tell the events in his/her own voice, rather than the voice of a third-person narrator. The only difficult part is, if you’re not using this method for the whole book, then for the brief time you’re using it, keeping the flashback in the voice of the character rather than in the voice of the third-person narrator.

6. Use a video or a diary or something along those lines. I didn’t think much of the novel Catching Fire, but I did find it ingenious that the way Katniss and Peeta found out about their mentor Haymitch’s Hunger Games and the traumatic experiences he suffered was through a video. It was very well written, and it explained a number of things about Haymitch that had been left up to the imagination at that point. Using a recorded medium like a video, diary, poetry, or other means is a great way to do a flashback without directly involving the character the flashback may be about, such as the case with Haymitch.

7. What tense and POV? My final point is on questions some writers have on tense and point of view. People often worry about tenses in flashbacks, if it should be changed or different just for that particular scene. Sometimes they’ll even change the point of view for a flashback. I think the best way to do it is not to worry about the tense too much while writing the flashback and just use the same tense you’ve been using the whole novel. If you have been using past tense third-person omniscient narrator, continue in past tense third-person omniscient narrator. If you use present tense, second-person point of view, continue with second-person point of view. If you really have to change the tense though, then do so, but consult with another writer, an editor, or a beta reader on what tense would be best before doing so.

 

I hope you enjoyed these tips and found some of them useful. Flashbacks are great ways to tell back-story, develop characters or plot, and use exposition in a novel. Some flashbacks can even become the most memorable scenes in a novel, if well written and executed correctly. They’re difficult to do, but with enough practice, an author can incorporate them into most novels and enhance the story greatly through their presence.

Guest Post: Editing tips to improve your writing

You have probably heard many magazine owners, business people, teachers, and just about everyone else complaining about how people have lost the ability to write. However, I have a problem with that point of view because I strongly believe that there are many talented modern writers; the only factor that separates them from great writers is that they don’t know how to edit their own work. Editing doesn’t kill the work! In fact, it can make it much better, easily readable and more captivating.

The most famous pieces of literature didn’t exactly fly under the pens of their writers. Some of the most renowned writers in the history have literally destroyed parts of their work when they weren’t happy with it. A writer can become better only when he learns how to judge the worth of his own writing, without feeling too attached to it and without being afraid to cut down the unnecessary parts.

Many people can write, but the editing process is what makes the real difference between good writers and amateurs. Implement our simple editing tricks and bring your writing a step closer to the readers.

1. Avoid passive sentences

Passive language is used by unconvincing writers who make weak, unsecure arguments. This type of writing only suggests the effect instead of conveying the action, which doesn’t make the readers too happy. The conclusion is to avoid using passive language as much as possible!

2. Let go of the ill-favored adverbs

It is completely fine to use adverbs in your writing, only when they don’t serve the sole purpose of padding a statement that doesn’t need that. Your readers will appreciate you more if you don’t give them an entire page stuffed with unnecessary words only to make a simple statement that can be written in one or two sentences.

3. Don’t repeat your statements

The high school habit of repeating things all over again just to fill out more pages of the papers may have left you with some remaining damage. This rule applies in the work as a whole, as well in sentences: do not waste your readers’ time by repeating obvious things and insulting their intelligence! If you already told them something, there is no need in repeating it all over again.

4. Don’t be pretentious!

There is one thing that readers hate more than repetitive writing: the use of pretentious language. Don’t try to impress your reader by using fancy words that would require a dictionary to be understood. This is a problem for many inexperienced writers who are stuck to the language that sounds ‘academic’ to them. Present your thoughts in a manner that will be easy to read and understand, but will inspire deeper thoughts in the reader’s mind. The most exquisite pieces of literature that are able to cause a revolution in the reader’s soul are usually written in a simple language that hits the point.

5. Justify your writing

Every single word you write, every joke, statement and question has to be justified with a real reason to be present in your writing. If you can’t find a reason for a certain phrase, sentence, word or an entire chapter to be part of the piece – get rid of them! Don’t be afraid to be harsh on yourself, because if you can’t justify your work, how can you justify the time your readers spend on it?

6. Cut instead of adding

Many writers get too attached to their work and they aren’t able to cut down the pieces that don’t belong there. Instead of making their own writing cleaner with the editing process, they end up adding more and more until they completely dilute the main idea. What you need to do is make your writing more concise through the editing process, which means that you will need to leave out some parts in order to make the entire work more powerful.

7. Take a break from your work

Writers usually need to work under strict deadlines, but it is recommended for them to ‘sleep on the work’ at least for a couple of nights before they start editing it. Here is a quote by Stephen King, who managed to capture the essence of this rule: “When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”

There is no better way of ‘looking at the forest’ than by reading your piece pretending that someone else wrote it. The only way to be able to do that is if you forget about it for few days and then approach it from a different point of view.

8. Read your writing in reverse

Reading backwards is a simple editing trick used by many professional writers. If you read your writing word by word in reverse, you will be able to spot mistakes that went unnoticed by your careful eye before. This is a nice way to proofread and correct minor spelling errors, but you shouldn’t rely on the ‘read in reverse’ trick when it comes to correcting the meaning of your content. A better way to focus on the meaning is to read paragraph by paragraph or sentence by sentence from back to front. This will make sense and enable you to focus on the content.

9. Read out loud

When you make some corrections and improvements within your work, it is good to read out loud and listen to the way they sound. If you are having second thoughts on which version of a sentence or passage to use, then you will decide more easily if you read them out loud.

Conclusion: there is no good writing without good editing

Good editing is an art, and there is no exaggeration in that statement. Developing a real editing talent takes a lot of time and practice, but if you devote yourself to it, you will definitely become more appreciated by your readers.

The result from your editing effort is worth struggling for: your writing will become more powerful, effective and alive. Ultimately, it will bring you more satisfied readers who understand and appreciate your work, which what writers are always striving for.

______________________

Sandra Miller is a freelance writer, lives in New York. Two times a year watches Friends sitcom, loves salsa. Uses editing service to write great material. Her passion is Latin American culture.

The Components For Successful Sequels

So much more common these days!

It’s no understatement to say that Western art and culture is obsessed with sequels these days. Every blockbuster must have at least one or two continuations of their stories, artists of all stripes are naming their albums with the suffix “2.0” or “Part III”, and even literature’s greats are producing series of at least three or more books with more energy than in previous years.

Plenty of cynics would say that this sequel mania is fueled by a drive for profits, and they wouldn’t be wrong, though there are still several writers, artists, and filmmakers out there that produce sequels not out of greed, but out of a love for what they do and whom they share it with. Unfortunately, those same cynics who doubt the existence of these artists, writers and filmmakers also note that there aren’t enough good sequels out there, and sadly there’s a lot of truth in that.

Since I am about to embark on writing Video Rage, the sequel to my science fiction novel Reborn City, I thought I’d share some of my tips for writing sequels. These tips, though not essential when writing a sequel (or writing any work, for that matter), have been taken from some of the better sequels I’ve seen out there and are categorized into four distinct groups: barest essentials, setting and history, characters, and most important. The right combination of any of these components could help elevate a story from good to great, especially with a sequel.

Barest essentials. If one is to do a sequel, one has to think hard about these components when creating the story. Plenty of sequels have been rocked or bombed depending on their creator’s use of these factors.

1. Is the sequel connected or unconnected to the previous book? This may not seem like a big question, but it actually is. Plenty of series depend on an overarching tale that connects all the books together, and deciding whether or not a sequel connects to the previous book is important to think about. Most writers do answer this question before they even start the first book, but it is still important to think about before you start your sequel.

2. Don’t recycle old material. When we pay for a book on Amazon or a ticket to the latest blockbuster, we hope that it’s worth it, that there’s something new in the story and in the characters, that we won’t be bored in the first five minutes. Of course, we get really annoyed when what we’ve paid for is like Taken 2 or A Good Day To Die Hard, which basically took all that rocked from the previous film or films but not much else. As it turns out, people like something more than what worked in the first film. Yes, it seems like a good idea to use what worked for the last installment for the newest, but in reality there’s much more that is needed to make the story much better, and knowing that is a great start in writing your sequel and utilizing what worked in the last installment correctly, rather than just reusing it.

3. Avoid retcons. If you are unfamiliar with this term, a retroactive continuity, or retcon for short, is the alteration of a previously established fact or facts in the continuity of a fictional work (definition courtesy of Wikipedia). Retcons are popular in long-running comic book or TV shows to help new writers continue the story they want to or to accommodate new information. However fans are easily annoyed by retcons and often are able to point them out upon running across them. They will especially cry foul if they feel the retcon was done because of laziness or forgetfulness. For example, in the vampire novels by Charlaine Harris, one character was introduced as a certain shape-shifter, but in the next book that shape-shifter’s type was changed. Many fans wrote letters pointing this out, causing Mrs. Harris some embarrassment.

So in the interest of avoiding embarrassment, retcons are best avoided if possible.

Setting and history. I wrote in a previous article some ways to set up a great world, especially in science fiction and fantasy. For sequels, taking certain approaches to the world you’ve already built up can make the setting seem more real to readers and help them to fall in love even more with the established world.

4. Expand on the world. So in Book 1 you showed us a fantastical world full of magic and wonder. What do you do? Why not show more of it, in terms of places, history and culture? For example, in the Earth’s Children’s series first book, Clan of the Cave Bear, we see the world strictly through the eyes of a small tribe of Neanderthals and the little Cro-Magnon girl who grows up with them and in their culture. In the second book, The Valley of Horses, author Jean Auel expands on the peoples in Stone Age Europe, including different tribes of Cro-Magnon tribes across the continent and their way of life. This gives the readers more of a look into the fictional world of the characters and makes them want to learn more, at the same time causing them to invest more in the story.

5. Go darker. The first Harry Potter book introduced us to a fantastical world full of mystery and wonder and danger. Readers who read the first book tended to see the Wizarding world as somewhat idyllic, full of literal and metaphorical charm and made them want to go there. However in the second book, Chamber of Secrets, we discover that there’s a dark side to the magical world Harry inhabits, particularly in terms of the importance placed in blood purity and how it is wrapped up in Hogwarts’s history.

Showing the dark side of your world, if you haven’t delved too deeply into that yet, can give the readers a sense that this world could exist. Remember, the readers have to be able to identify with the setting, to believe it could exist. And if the darker parts of a setting can make a world seem all the more real to the reader, why not go there?

6. Shake things up with something new. At some point in her Southern Vampire series, Charlaine Harris added the fairy species, supposedly, because she was bored and wanted to shake things up. Similarly, shaking things up can be a great boon to your sequel. By adding something that has never been seen before in the universe of the story, you add all sorts of potential plot elements and ways to change up the story. And the ways to shake up the story are vast and endless: perhaps you could reveal that a character is related to another character in an unexpected way. Or maybe a new technology is available now that changes the entire world of the characters. Perhaps there’s even a new location whose visit will have new implications for the way your characters live their life.

Like I said, anything’s possible if you wish to shake things up a bit.

Characters. Ultimately, any story relies on its characters and how those characters react to the circumstances around them. In a sequel there are chances to expose characters to new circumstances, not just in terms of the world they live in, but also in terms of the people around them.

7. Introduce or retire a new main/supporting character. We are constantly meeting new people and losing old friendships in life. Why not do the same to our characters? Introducing a new character is a great way to explore the changing dynamics of the relationships between the characters, and if you want to get rid of a character or find reason to put them away for a while, a sequel is a great place to do so. In fact, if you retire a character for one book, you can bring them back in spectacular fashion for another book. Either way, it’s a chance to try something new by writing a story with a new character or without a familiar character.

8. Shift the focus onto another character. In the sequel to the 1991 Addams Family movie, Addams Family Values, the movie focused on Uncle Fester. Just one problem: so did the first film, and a sub-story about Wednesday’s first love couldn’t resurrect AFV from the Fester-centric plot that critics ultimately had the biggest issue with.

If you have a story that focuses on a tightly-knit group of characters and no one character is considered the main character or the most important character, it helps to shift the focus from the growth and development of one character to another. After all, no one member of an ensemble cast is more important than the other (or should be, anyway). So juggle the focus every now and then. Every character has a story behind them, and seeing where that story takes them can make for a great story.

9. Change the nature of a relationship. When James Marsters first played the character Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 1997, Spike was a formidable villain throughout most of the season. However in subsequent seasons Spike’s role, becoming a reluctant ally over time and then an essential part of the main cast. Eventually Spike became attracted to Buffy, and later a hero and her lover.

Changing one character’s relationship to another and vice versa can be an excellent way to explore new territory. If you could think of two characters that might warrant having their relationship changed, go ahead and try it. You never know what might arise from such a story.

10. Conflict in a group is always interesting. This is basically the equivalent to Component #5. In the first book, the group usually learns to gel together and work with each other. What would happen if there was friction with the group in the second book? What if two characters were a couple but their friend was attracted to one of them? Or perhaps one of the characters was forced to spy on the group for the enemy, and nobody knew who that character doing the spying was. Sowing the seeds of conflict between two characters, while painful to read and possibly more painful to write (or very fun, depending on what sort of person you are), keeps readers interested and wondering how it will be resolved. I’m planning on trying it in my own sequel. Should be a fun experiment.

The Most Important Of All. There’s only one component in this category, but it’s probably the one you should keep in mind whether or not you decide to use any of the other components.

11. What would you like to see or read in a sequel? One of the best parts of self-publishing is that the author decides what they want to write and can put it out there, rather than having to put out what the publisher feels will sell. It’s the same with sequels. What would you like to see in the sequel you want to write?  New enemies? A torrid love affair? Your favorite character moving from the big city to a small town in Idaho? A new species of magical creature? It’s all up to you, and you can do whatever you want.

It’ll probably be better than whatever they’re cooking up in Hollywood right about now.

Those Pesky Commas

When and where do you put them?

The answer, of course, is it all depends. However, never forget the old adage:  When in doubt, leave out.

But there are some hard and fast rules, you need to keep in mind. One is the use of connecting conjunctions, such as and, but, or, nor, for and yet, with independent and dependent clauses.

Independent clauses stand alone and include subjects and verbs. We are visiting Washington. We also plan a side trip to Williamsburg. If put together, they need a comma. We are visiting Washington, and we also plan a side trip to Williamsburg.

Though, a comma is not required if the independent clauses are short and joined by one of the conjunctions. I’ll go this way and you go that way.

However, when an independent clause is joined with a dependent clause, such as a clause with an understood subject (we as in this sentence), no comma is necessary. We are visiting Washington and plan to see the White House.

Non-essential clauses (not essential to the meaning of the sentence according to the author’s intent) are set off by commas. Example: Reporters, who do not read the stylebook, should not criticize their editors.

Long introductory clauses or phrases, need commas. (Remember a phrase is a group of words without a subject or verb.) Above the sidewalk and around the bend, there sits a thicket of trees.

Introductory words – yes and no – require commas. Yes, I will be there. In addition, use commas after a direct address like Mother, I …

Commas in a simple series are disputed. Some grammar books suggest a comma before the last conjunction. My Associated Press Stylebook requires none. The flag is red, white and blue.

A comma is needed after an introductory direct quote. Wallace said, “She spent …” But a direct quote of more than one sentence, a colon is required. And, place a comma after dialogue tags. “Say,” she added, “wouldn’t you like to have your picture taken?” Note: Commas always go inside quotation marks, according to my stylebook.

Place commas after an individual’s age. Maude Findlay, 48, … Use commas also after hometowns and states. Omaha, Nebraska. AP guidelines use abbreviations for states in journalist writing and require a comma after them. Example:  Maude Findlay, 48, Omaha, Neb., arrived today.

Well, one more thing. Two adjectives before a noun of equal weight require a comma. Thoughtful, precise person … Otherwise, hyphen the adjectives before the noun, such as an easy-remembered rule, except these really are not easily remembered. My suggestion is have several grammar books at your workplace and always have someone versed in grammar proofread your manuscript.

Also, don’t forget to place commas in numbers. When you make your first 200,000 sales, thank the Lord for your success and as always God bless.

Simple tips on how to better proofread your own work by Brian Carey

Have you ever imagined whether or not you are good at proofreading your own work? Research has shown that people are not so good at proofreading their own work. In fact, some of the best writers we know never proof their own work. Their best works are proofed by other people. For a few people however, they prefer doing these themselves. This article gives you basic tips that will enable you brush up on your proofreading tips to be able to do this task all by yourself.

Using grammar and spell checkers

Every word processor comes with its own spelling and grammar checker tools or extensions that allow you to check mistakes easily. You don’t have to be a genius to figure how this works. As such, you shouldn’t ignore the small green underlining on typed work. You should also look out for the different spelling suggestions and recommendations. Alternatively, you can use spell checkers and grammar checkers. Although these don’t give 100% results, they should be enough to give away enough mistakes.

Read out loud

Reading out loud is one of the most valuable proofing techniques.  It’s the best technique you can use against awkward and omitted words. Hence, it’s the easiest way to detect the mistakes you missed when you were writing. The other advantage of reading out loud lies in the ability to detect sentence and phrasing mistakes that may arise.

Look up for ambiguous words

There are words you probably use to write that are ambiguous. They either distort meaning or mean something different. The best way to deal with such words is to look them up in the dictionary. Homophones are the most commonly mistaken words. Make sure you look them up to ensure they have been used correctly in context.

Refine the grammar

Not everyone is strong grammatically or with spelling. To be a good writer, this is something you have to deal with. Find a way to brush up on these skills. This means, if you have to go back to school or pick up the grammar handbook, then just do it. Having a handbook for instance, enables you to correct yourself when mistakes arise. This is a critical step when you want to become better and proofing your work.

Revisit your work later

In one sitting, it’s quite difficult for one to catch all the mistakes they make in their writing. Could be it’s the initial celebration that comes with completing work. According to experts, the best approach is stopping when you are done writing, then coming back to it later. The essence of this is to feel fresh. Doing this promotes your ability to detect the omissions you didn’t get the first time. It also makes the revision much easier.

Print it out

It’s quite difficult to proofread soft copy. This is because work that is printed is formatted in a way that is hard to detect errors. However, when the work is printed out on paper, real mistakes are easier to tell. You can avoid or correct them this way.

Let another read it

Other people can see mistakes we missed. Naturally, it’s because that’s not their work. In the end, you will be able to detect the mistakes you missed as a person and hence, deliver top notch work.

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Author bio: Brian works as a paper proofreader at editing service Papersconsulting.com

The Difference between Editing, Proofreading, or Revising

A few years ago, I would have thought that editing, proofreading, and revising were the same thing. i would have have used the terms interchangeably, and I would have been wrong.

Editing, proofreading, and revising are each a separate process that contributes to the finished product in its own way. If you plan to uses the services of an editor, then the definitions below will help you tell said editor what you really want done with you manuscript.

Revising is the reading of your manuscript to organize your thoughts on paper to match the thoughts in your mind. Revising takes place at the level of the sentence, paragraph or higher.

Editing tests each word and phrase to see that it is accurate, appropriate, or necessary, changing the language more than the ideas. Editing is more stylized and mechanical work, taking place at the level of the sentence or word.

Proofreading is checking the manuscript for accuracy and correctness. The last phase of the editing process, proofreading should be completed after the conceptual and stylistic concerns have been addressed. You review spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and usage to make sure no careless mistakes.

As an Author, I find it good practice to revise before you edit. First, in revising you may cut out whole sections of the draft because they no longer suit your manuscript. If you have already edited those now-deleted sections, all that careful work goes to naught. Two, once you have invested time in carefully editing sentences, you become reluctant to cut them, even though these sections may no longer suit your purpose.

Guest Post: Editing for Self-Publishers by John C. Goodman

If you are a self-publisher and have read any of the advice available online, you will know that most commentators recommend having your book professionally edited and proofread. There is good reason for this as it is extremely difficult to see the flaws in one’s own work. Proofreading is especially hard as we will often read what we intended to write instead of what is actually written. If you wrote, “She took the ring form her finger,” you will tend to read it as “from her finger” in spite of the typo because it is in your head that way.

You can be your own editor, but many people don’t seem to know exactly what an editor does. Editing is a different skill from writing, just as fixing a car is a different skill from driving a car. An editor is a kind of manuscript mechanic – although perhaps a better analogy would be a manuscript organic gardener, helping a book to grow and bloom. Editing requires a different mindset than writing. If you are going to edit your own book, you have to look at your work from the outside. It’s usually a good idea to put the manuscript away for a month or two, then reread it with fresh eyes.

So what does an editor do? Manuscript editing is traditionally done in four stages: the Developmental Edit, the Line Edit, the Copyedit and the Proofread. Each of these elements breaks down into a number of sub-tasks.

The Developmental Edit takes an overview of the entire book, reviewing the plot, characterisation, setting and writing style. First an editor will consider the book as a whole, looking for a captivating opening; for originality and credibility; for an engaging premise, interesting settings and fascinating characters; and finally for appeal, a sense if there is an audience for the book.

Next, the editor will study the plot looking for good plot development, which involves consistency, compelling flow and good pacing, as well as effective structure, narrative arc and the building of tension to a satisfying denouement and resolution. The editor will also pick out predictable or clichéd situations and plot developments, unconvincing situations, convoluted scenes, continuity mistakes, inconsistencies, contradictions, time sequence discrepancies, and unnecessary back story.

The editor will also study the characters, with an eye to character development and to unnecessary characters that can be cut without harming the story, as well as to spot flaws in characterisation such as stereotypes, characters not believable, lack of character motivation, and inconsistencies in character description.

Setting is another element reviewed in the Developmental Edit. The editor looks for flaws in setting description, inconsistencies, vagueness, too much or too little descriptive detail, and atmosphere.

Finally, the editor examines the writing itself looking for dull writing style, trite similes, vapid images, varied sentence structure, consistency of voice and point of view, consistency of writing style, wordiness, repetition, stilted dialogue, exposition or lecturing, intrusive narration, overwriting, rambling, lack of focus and padding with unnecessary chapters or paragraphs.

Once the basic story is finished, the next stage is the Line Edit. This is the most exacting and time consuming part of the whole editorial process. The Line Edit has to do with the actual language of the book to make sure it is in correct English. The manuscript is checked line by line, hence the name Line Edit. In the line edit, the first thing checked is the language for correct grammar – word agreements, verb tenses, etc., for correct syntax or sentence structure, and for incorrect word usage and punctuation. Then the book is read for good writing practice, looking for awkward or convoluted sentences, clumsy constructions, overused words, overuse of adverbs and adjectives, mixed metaphors, wordiness, overuse of passive voice, and varied sentence structure. And finally, for consistency of usage (dashes, quotation marks, capitalization, hyphenated words, special terms, etc.).

When the language is smoothed out, the next stage is the Copyedit. Copyediting is to make sure all the facts in the book are right. This is important for fiction as well as non-fiction. Imagine a scene in a romance novel set in a spring garden with the gladiolus in bloom – but gladiolus is a summer blooming plant. Readers pick up on simple errors like this and the author loses credibility.

After the Copyedit comes the Proofread. You would think that after a Developmental Edit, a Line Edit and a Copyedit all the spelling errors, typos and punctuation mistakes would be caught. Well, they’re not. Every book needs a final proofread.

As you can see, editing is a long and involved process. If you are editing your own work, you need to review the book with each of the elements listed above in mind. And don’t rush it – take your time and do it right. It is better to delay the release of the book for a couple of weeks in order to give it a proper edit than to rush an unpolished manuscript into print. When the reviews come in for your book without any mention of the common errors that plague self-published books, “confusing, lacks clarity, inconsistent, lacks flow, many grammar and punctuation mistakes,” etc., you’ll be glad you made the effort to effectively edit the manuscript.

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Bio: John C. Goodman has published two books of poetry, a novel and a poetry writing handbook entitled, “Poetry: Tools & Techniques”. He is the editor of Gneiss Press and editor of ditch, (www.ditchpoetry.com), an online poetry magazine.

Revising or redoing–taking old stories and making them new by Alix Storm

I know that most of you aren’t erotica or romance writers, and while this article was posted at a blog for erotica writers, the content of Alix Storm’s article can be applied to every genre.

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I recently had a chance to discuss revising old stories with an author friend of mine. She was at a crossroads, trying to decide if it was worthwhile to take one of her old works and structure it for the erotica market. She’d assumed, as had I once upon a time, that it would be a process of tweaking the material and much less creative than starting anew.

For me, that wasn’t the case at all.

A couple of months ago, I discovered a cache of old stories—some good, some perfectly awful. I sent a few off to my editor to have her look at them and decide if she thought they had any merit. We both loved one particular story and thought it would be a great candidate for tweaking, editing, and releasing. The story was almost five-thousand words, the characters were interesting, why not?

Finish reading the rest of the article at One-Handed Writers