Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Why Writers Must Read!

This fabulous fantasy photo was posted to Facebook by my long-time friend, Sue-Ellen Welfonder, with the attribution "Timeline." I loved it and thought it well worth sharing.

Outside church last Sunday, costumed for Beauty & the Beast
Space Station, as seen from air show in Lakeland, FL (photo by Susie)


As most of you know, I often choose blog topics from what I'm doing in any given week. This week's post is inspired by a bit of editing I just finished. To which I am going to add a variety of other reasons why Writers must never get so busy they forget to read other people's books. And, of course, my old bugaboo—why you have to read your own work. Over and over and over ad infinitium!

Here are a few of the many reasons a writer needs to read:

1.  Read other authors' books to support the industry!  Whether paper or electronic, books contain the fabric of the world, from history to great leaps of imagination and creation of sentences that rival the most beautiful music or the most glorious sunset.

2.  Read other authors' books to support them personally in their quest to add to our enjoyment and/or enlightenment.

3.  Read other authors' books for sheer enjoyment. I sneak in reading sessions during the day but truly look forward to each night when I settle down with a good book and simply enjoy the flow of the story, be it historical, mystery, suspense/adventure, scifi, steampunk, or romance.

4.  Read for research. And yes, we all need to do that, not just authors of historical novels! But be very careful—you can absorb a fiction genre's style from reading, but do not trust "facts" you see only in fiction. Do your research from the source, or from non-fiction authors who have read and digested all those sources and written reliable books about the subject you're researching.

5.  While you're enjoying yourself, read for technical reasons: grammar, punctuation, sentence structure. How did that particular author or publisher handle that full-sentence tag in the middle of a bit of dialogue? Do I see any dash besides an M-dash?  Why was an ellipsis used there but a dash here? Which words get initial caps? Which don't? How do you write a stutter? - Is it okay to use a hyphen, or should you use an M-dash? 

It's all there, laid out for you in each book you read: how to punctuate complex sentences, how to punctuate dialogue, how to present letters, how to present Date & Location lines, etc., etc. Provided, that is, you're reading a book that has had proper editing! Some indie authors—I like to include myself among them!—get it right most of the time, but as rule, if you're reading to reinforce proper punctuation, stick to books put out by big-time New York publishers and the best e-book publishers.

Warning:  Each publisher has a Style Sheet, telling editors how "flexible" situations should be handled. Therefore, not all publishers will approach a problem in the same way. If you are an indie author, you have to decide which way works for you. And then be consistent! Do not leap from one style to another in the same book!
Hopefully, if you train yourself to really look and absorb what you're reading, you will avoid the problems in the manuscript I edited over the last three weeks. This was a book with a marvelous voice for its genre, great characters, clever plot, good dialogue, but there were at least ten Track Changes corrections on every page. One third due to the author not knowing how to write a dash. Another ten percent because the author did not know when to use an ellipsis, or how to write it.* Maybe twenty-five percent because the author used a period instead of a comma before a tag and used an initial cap in a dialogue tag that should have been lower case. The remainder of the corrections were such things as italics in the wrong place and incorrect punctuation of direct address and full-sentence tags. 
This is an author who should shoot to the top of her genre, but not until she learns how to present her work in a professional manner. (Which I told her in no uncertain terms. Hers is too good a talent to waste!)

*Since I originally wrote this post, I have heard from the author who tells me her initial editor changed all her ellipses to dashes! (Besides missing a slew of punctuation errors.) Not surprisingly, I have suggested she find another copy editor.

Which brings up the fact that some authors simply cannot "see" the errors on a page, making them them almost totally dependent on an editor who can handle both content editing and copy editing. (Such editors are treasures not always easy to find, but a "must" if you are "error-blind.") 

Here are your choices:

1.  Do it all yourself—writing, content editing and copy editing.This is what I do, and it seems to work. But many people do not have the skill or the desire to "final edit" their own work. 
So . . .

2. Edit your work to the best of your ability—Spell Check, read carefully for both content and copy edit errors, preferably two or three times through the entire manuscript. Then send it to someone who can advise on content revisions and make all necessary copy edits.  Or . . .

3.  NOT RECOMMENDED!  Run Spell Check, read the manuscript once over before sending it out to be edited.

4.  NEVER RECOMMENDED! Throw your words onto the page helter-skelter, don't even run Spell Check, and then send it off to some poor editor to "fix" it for you. Aargh!

But what if that editor is not as competent as he/she should be? When that happens—as mentioned in a previous post—all you can do is find someone to do it right and upload a new version. (Assuming, that is, your manuscript is an indie effort.) One possible way around this problem is to have volunteer readers skilled in English go over your book before it is uploaded. (But the author mentioned above tells me she had pre-pub readers. Sigh.)

One way or another, indie authors, this is a problem which must be solved, because in the end,YOU, the writer, are responsible for turning out a professionally presented manuscript.

To repeat what I've said in so many different ways before:
Even if you plan to hire an editor, you must read over your work several times beforehand. Run Spell Check, find the missing words, the duplicate words, the awkward sentences, the ones that make no sense. Punctuate carefully, consistently. Make an effort to get it right. Do not toss your words at the page and just let them lie there, untended. None of us is omnipotent. None of our work is perfect the first time around. Do not disrespect your readers by offering them nothing better than a carelessly presented first draft!

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I will be presenting a workshop on Editing 
at the Winter Park Library, 
460 E. New England Avenue, Winter Park, FL
Saturday, April 28, 2018
11:00 a.m. on the Third Floor 

~ * ~ 

NEXT NEW BLOG: May 6, 2018 

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page - NEW on April 14, 2018, click here.

To request a brochure from Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, please use the link to Blair's website above.  

Thanks for stopping by, Grace

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Problems of Wrapping Up a Series

The Citrus Singers performing at an Immigration swearing-in in Orlando

For a video of the girls singing, "America the Beautiful," click here.

This is the fourth year in a row the girls have been asked to perform at an Immigration ceremony - c. 80 new citizens, I understand.

~ * ~


Not long ago, I was discussing (by phone) with my son, who lives in Connecticut, why George R. R. Martin has not yet put out the last volume of A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones). My personal theory is that it was done long ago and HBO is paying him - and likely his publisher as well - to keep the book on ice until the television series completes its final season. Then again, I am currently fighting the complexities of winding up a series that is only four books with perhaps a hundred characters, while Martin must juggle six books with what must be thousands of characters, the places they live, their friends, their enemies (which change according to which way the wind blows), the whims of monarchs, would-be monarchs, and some twists and turns that have shocked readers to the core. Including the final moments of Season 5. Sigh. So maybe he is still working on Book 6. (Though I doubt it.)

What I'm attempting to illustrate this week is that if your series features a loosely connected set of characters (for example, friends from school days), with each book telling one character's personal story, then your challenge is not so great. You only have to find a way to incorporate all the series' main characters into the denouement of the final book. BUT . . .

If you're writing a series in which the a single primary plot extends over the entire length of the series . . . 

Where each book adds more characters, more names & places, more sub-plots, more disasters, more triumphs, more loves, more hates, more suspicions . . .

Then you have to find a way to keep track of it all, so you don't end up with egg on your face: changing the color of a main character's eyes; wrongly naming the capital city of a certain country—or in the case of my Blue Moon Rising series—a planet. Another example: In my SciFi saga, there are something like a dozen romances, two of them a threesome; one, gay. They do not get equal time, but keeping the pairs straight isn't always easy. (No pun intended.)

There are a myriad names, for both people, places, and things, plus vocabulary created just for the series. There are different kinds of spaceships, new kinds of armaments. And a variety of governments in sixteen star systems (though only three get prominent positions in the story).

So unless you are gifted with a photographic memory, how do you manage?

In my case—in a 4" ring notebook, which is easily portable from my computer room to my bedroom (the bastion of my editing). Here is a list of that notebook's contents—all in plastic sleeves, which I mess up with post-it notes of what needs to be added:

1.  Character lists from the first three books - the list for Royal Rebellion is still under construction, as I add minor characters here and there.

2.  Character descriptions - several pages, though not as comprehensive as I would like.

3.  World Building - 12 pages, including Religion & Tradition, Government, Paranormal Talents, Transportation, War Craft, Armaments, Starships, Planets/Cities/Palaces, Places & Other Peoples, Jumpgates, Food, Drinks, Birds & Animals, Plants, Epithets/Profanity/Expressions, General Vocabulary

4.  Names - Before beginning Book 1, I made a list of First & Last Names for the citizens of the two major star systems in the series. It runs to ten pages, and was of constant help through the c. five years it's taken to complete the series.

There are also four pages of names from Astronomy and Greek mythology, plus an extensive printout of Greek Gods & Goddesses. (Since my characters are all descended from Old Earth, I felt justified in using the ancient names that are still known and used in our time. (Such as naming a spaceship Astarte or Andromeda.)

But even with all these aids, I found myself having to go back and search for bits and pieces I failed to record. Occasionally, I couldn't even recall which book the elusive fact was in, and I had to run a search on all three. Sigh. 

So, believe me, I feel for George R. R. Martin, whose "wrap up" has to be exponentially more difficult than mine. If you've only seen the TV series, you may not realize the vast wealth of names and places Martin wrote about in Books 1-5. It's positively astonishing. And explains so much of what simply happens without explanation on television. As for me, I'm struggling to wrap up all the loose ends in the Blue Moon Rising series—not because it's absolutely necessary to dot every "i" and cross every "t," but because it gives me satisfaction to allow a host of secondary characters to find their own Happily Ever After. (Or not, as the case may be.) Although I'm grinding my teeth and writing myself notes as I find discrepancies during my third edit, I am also enjoying all the explanations and motivations I managed to include, the peeks into the lives of the next generation, the ones who, hopefully, will be tasked with keeping the rebels' reforms alive.

Providing the rebels win, that is. Like Martin, I'm not about to give away the ending. Even though any reader of my books knows I'm an advocate of Happily Ever After.

If you are writing a series with a different plot and different major characters in each book, the challenge of keeping your facts straight is relatively simple.

If you are writing a series with a single plot, numerous sub-plots, and characters who appear and reappear in each succeeding book, then you are going to have to find a way to keep track of your facts. Unless you have a photographic memory, you will need either hardcopy in a notebook or a special file on your computer, where you meticulously record what your imagination created, but which it is unlikely you are going to remember over a period of half a decade or more. Don't shirk! I wish I'd recorded even more facts than I did while I wrote Rebel Princess, Sorcerer's Bride, and The Bastard Prince

By Royal Rebellion I finally got to the point where there wasn't a lot more to add beyond the names of the new generation, but I still had to refer constantly to my Character List for which baby belonged to whom. 

Grace Note:  The challenge of keeping it all straight definitely keeps me on my toes. My advice: if you don't want to exercise your brain too hard, don't write a series with a long-term plot and hundreds/thousands of characters! But if you welcome the challenge, go for it!

~ * ~

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page - NEW on April 14, 2018, click here.

To request a brochure from Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, please use the link to Blair's website above.  

Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Synopsitis & Airboats!

After Riley's Band Concert - the miracle of 3 girls & Mom smiling at the same time - March 2018

The video The Citrus Singers made last August hit a milestone this week: over 100,000 views on YouTube. If you haven't seen it or would like to see it again - complete with three of the four pictured above (directed & edited by "Daddy Mike") - here is the link:

For the Citrus Singers' parody, "All About That Badge,"
click here.


I made up the word "Synopsitis" some years ago in order to describe a phenomenon common to many contests I was judging for chapters of Romance Writers of America. Over and over and over again, I saw the same problem. And again this week: four contest entries, all of them examples of Synopsitis. Three of them, glaring examples!

So naturally, Synopsitis is the Writing topic for this week's Mosaic Moments. And after you've plowed your way through my explanation of what I mean, you get to enjoy my recent airboat ride on Lake Jessup, less than ten miles from my home here in Longwood, Florida.

A synopsis—anywhere from one page to twenty—has long been a requirement for authors submitting books to conventional publishing houses, whether print or e. Personally, as an "out of the mist" author, I could never write a synopsis before the book was done. Fortunately, after selling to Signet's Trad Regency line, my editor settled for maybe three vague sentences in advance. But for that first book, alas, if you're submitting to an editor or agent, you'll need a synopsis. So naturally, most authors really work at polishing their synopses, getting all that information in there . . .

And then—oops!—a startling number of them forget that the only people who see that synopsis are an editor or an agent. The authors wrote synopses that made perfect sense—characters identified, plot laid out, step by step. Then came disaster. The accomplished synopsis writers begin their Chapter One with the assumption that readers have read their synopses and now know all about their plots, the identity and background of their characters, and off they go, leaving readers in a swamp of confusion.Their opening chapters lack all that information they so carefully put in their synopses. No identification of characters. Not so much as hint of enough background to let readers know what is going on. Leaving frustrated readers with nothing but questions.

    Who are these people?
    How did they get where they are?
    What's that problem they keep referring to? 
         What scandal? What murder? What financial disaster?
    What country (city, town, village) are we in?
    What year is it?  Modern day, the Regency, Victorian times . . .?

NEVER FORGET: Everything you want the reader to know must on the pages of the manuscript! Do not put essential information in your synopsis and assume readers will see it. They won't! And do not leave essential information in your head! That too happens from time to time.

I will be marking down all four manuscripts I am currently judging, simply because they did not make sense; in three cases, the lack of information was severe, turning the opening chapters of their books into unintentional mysteries. All four will need to rewrite their opening chapter(s).

Do not be a "mystery" author unless that's the genre you intend to write. And even then, your readers will want to know about your sleuth right up front. Tell them what they need to know! Not in an information dump but in well-worded inserts into Narration, Dialogue, and Introspection that bring readers into your story and allow them to understand what is going on.

REPEAT:  Readers, whether in a book store or surfing the Net, see nothing more than a short blurb about your book. They do NOT see a synopsis. They will NEVER see a synopsis. They do not know what you know unless you tell them in the pages of your manuscript!
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Photo Gallery

Below are some photos from an airboat trip on Lake Jessup (Friday, March 23, 2018). It was a chilly day, the wind when the airboat was at full speed cutting through my fleece jacket as if it were gauze. But airboats are always fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. By random fortune I was assigned one of the "high" seats next to the captain, giving me a particularly good view. (For my foreign readers, an airboat is a flat-bottomed boat powered by an airplane engine. They are noisy. Hence, the earmuffs.)



Gator Sightings

Gator - just left of center

Since the day was cool, the gators were stretched out on the bank, getting some "rays"

Post airboat ride. I couldn't believe the gator was so soft!

~ * ~

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here.

To request a brochure from Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, please use the link to Blair's website above.  

Thanks for stopping by,