Conversation with Non-existent People

conversationThis quote is not entirely true: psychotic people talk to … voices in their heads, or their invisible friends, or the demons who pursue them, so having conversation with an empty room is not the exclusive domain of writers.  But we do it too. However, we do it with purpose not out of madness.  Well, not generally out of madness.  A little madness spurs creativity.

The only way to tell if dialogue between characters sounds natural is to read it aloud – preferably using the voice you hear in your mind for that character.  By acting out the conversation you can tell if it flows naturally — or if it comes off as stiff or cornball.  This is one reason many fiction writers do their editing when the family has gone on an outing – or in a soundproof room, in a sub-basement.

Cochise is my Helper
Cochise says, “Let’s get to work Doug.”

On a related note, my dogs have become accustomed to me talking aloud when no one (no other person) is there. Cochise “humphs” at me (as in a forceful sigh) if I’m disturbing his slumber, but he knows I will go on regardless of his commentary. It’s different if I’m having conversation with the dogs (I do that too) because they’re involved in that.  Being disturbed is okay then.  Of course, if he’s helping me, then he’s awake anyway and enjoys offering his opinions.

Most of the time I’m proofreading. It is not possible to properly proofread an article by reading it silently, especially if you just wrote it. Maybe if someone else wrote it, but not your own work because you know too intimately what it is SUPPOSED to say and your eyes will tell you that what is on the page is what was in your brain.  Small things will slip past you. Read it out loud and you catch those little goofs that will otherwise stand up and wave at you only after you click “Send” and fire it, irretrievably,  off to the publisher.

Writing for Profit or Pleasure: Where (and how) to Publish


Writing for Profit or Pleasure: Where to Sell Your Work - book imageWhy publish?

You have a desire to write; to make your thoughts and inspirations known to others. Perhaps you are knowledgeable and wish to share your expertise with others, passing what you know to another generation.  Maybe you are creative and enjoy entertaining others with stories of fiction.  Or perhaps you are insightful and like telling factual tales about places, people and events; helping others to understand.

Whatever your particular bend is, to share your work with others means acquiring a means of publication.  These days, publication comes in many forms, but some forms are better suited to different tastes, depending on your expectations.  Particularly the expectation of payment for your efforts. Continue reading “Writing for Profit or Pleasure: Where (and how) to Publish”

Breaking Into a Publishing House: Ground-work

publishing house contractGetting a book published by a traditional or mainstream publishing house is the gold medal of the writer Olympics. In an age where anyone can self-publish their work, regardless of the quality of that work, having your book accepted and printed by a “brand name” book publisher is the most authoritative stamp of approval that says “I am a talented author”. How do you get there?

Approaching a Publishing House

On a very rare occasion a major publishing house will invite new authors to submit manuscripts in a particular genre for their consideration but, generally speaking, the usual way to gain admittance to the hallowed halls of the big time publishing houses is through a literary agent.

A literary agent is to the writer what a talent agent is to the singer, dancer, or actor. Many times an agent will also act as your editor, helping to improve your work before it goes to a publisher. An agent is the “Inside Man” (or woman) who has the connections within the publishing industry to get a manuscript read, knows what each publishing house is looking for and which publisher would be best for your current book.

Developing a writer-agent relationship will be the most important step in building your business as an author. Select your agent carefully.

But First…

Before you go shopping for an agent there are some things you ought to do that will ease the task and help good agents take you seriously. Continue reading “Breaking Into a Publishing House: Ground-work”

Blogging as On-Line Publishing

bloggingPublishing via blogging is a very popular option for two reasons; it costs little or nothing and it offers you the most flexibility in what you publish and how.

Writers can start out using a free blogging platform like Google’s Blogger or WordPress. Using the free platforms are the easiest way for beginners to learn self publication as they require practically no set-up, just choose a template and enter your blog title and contact info, but they are also less flexible than a self-hosted blog in many ways and more difficult to publicize.

Using WordPress on a hosted account requires some technical knowledge; how much depends on your host. A good hosting service will offer an installation script, such as Fantastico, that will create your blog folders, MySQL database and install all the base files needed. From there you can use stock theme templates and plug-ins to customize the blog with little or no techie expertise. If you have the knowledge, you can customize almost all of the blog through modifications to the CSS and template files. Continue reading “Blogging as On-Line Publishing”

Changing Microsoft Word Default Format

Published Feb 17th, 2011 on

Writing for Profit or Pleasure: Where to Sell Your Work - book imageIf you use Microsoft Word to do your writing, will probably have noticed some annoying habits this program has as far as formatting your work into paragraphs. If you use the default template, to indent the first line of a paragraph you must hit the space bar several times. To get a blank line between paragraphs you must hit Enter twice. And when you copy and paste this text into blogging control panels or publishing processors, you end up with way too much white space.

Did you know that you can configure Word to automatically format paragraphs to eliminate these problems?

In Microsoft Word 2003 and XP, click Edit on your tool bar and select Select All from the menu. This highlights all of the text in your document. In Word 2007 look to the right end of your tool bar and find the Editing section. Click Select then Select All. Continue reading “Changing Microsoft Word Default Format”

Famous Author Trivia

famous author
Earnest Hemingway

Want to have a little fun with literature? Here are 6 bits of trivia about authors, see if you can guess who each famous author is. (Answers at the end, but don’t peek)

1) What name is this author better known by?

This author was born in 1904 in Springfield MA. He graduated from Dartmouth College and went to Oxford University in England to get a PhD in Literature. In 1954 his publisher read an article in Life magazine detailing reading troubles children were having in the US. He asked this author to write a book that would engage young children and encourage them to read. In 1960, this author was challenged to write an entire book using only 50 words. He successfully accomplished both of these tasks. This author was born Theodore Geisel. By what name is he better known? Continue reading “Famous Author Trivia”

Using Word to Compress Images

Originally published Feb. 24th, 2011 by ComputerSight

Writing for Profit or Pleasure: Where to Sell Your Work - book imageIf you are writing a manuscript for a lengthy book that will be submitted for publication as an eBook, the file size of your finished manuscript will be a concern for you. All eBook publishing services have file size limitations; if your manuscript is all text and shorter than War and Peace, you will be OK. However, if your book contains more than a few pictures or illustrations, the file size will grow rapidly and may become too large to be accepted.  The answer is to compress images used in your text.

One answer to this problem is to review your text and ask yourself if all those pictures are absolutely necessary. If you are doing a step-by-step guide that uses screen shots to clarify your explanations, are all of the screen shots required? Eliminating a few may get you under the limit.

But, before you start hacking out parts of your carefully prepared manuscript in order to meet size limitations, try compressing the photos. You can use a photo editing program to compress (or optimize) the photos to a resolution suitable for on-line viewing and insert the new versions, but there is a quicker, easier way built right into Microsoft Word that you may not be aware of. Continue reading “Using Word to Compress Images”

Marketing a Book – Where to Start

Originally published 03/27/2011 by WritingHood.

Below is an excerpt from my book “Writing for Profit or Pleasure: Where to Publish Your Work”. It is just a few paragraphs about marketing a book from Chapter 11, which is about publishing through a traditional book publisher. I’m posting this in response to a discussion I had earlier today with Jillian Peery who is finishing up a novel and asked, “what now?”

Before you go shopping for an agent there are some things you ought to do that will ease the task and help good agents take you seriously.

You need to have a completed and polished manuscript. Did you catch the “polished” part? If need be, hire an editor to go over your manuscript with you to be certain it is the best work you can do. You do not want an agent to read your manuscript and think, “This writer has potential; but needs a lot of work”. If you’re writing fiction, be sure your first 30 pages are especially compelling; an agent will need to know that you can set up a story to make it exciting to the reader.

Few agents are in the business as philanthropists; they’re trying to earn a living and will weigh the amount of effort they will have to put into an author against what they will make from their commissions. If you’re going to stick a foot in their door, make sure it’s your best looking foot. Continue reading “Marketing a Book – Where to Start”

Writing for Online Communal Publishers

If you’re just getting started as a writer and want to get your feet wet with minimal cost, communal publishing can be the answer.

This is the first in a series of detail articles which look more closely at the various means of publishing your work as a writer. The kick-off article gave a long list of these methods with a brief overview of each.  Starting with this article we take a peek at the chapter in Writing for Profit or Pleasure: Where to Publish Your Work that covers each topic in great detail.

What is a Communal On-Line Publisher?

post-it notes, communal

Most communal online publishers operate like enormous blogs with thousands of users.  Non-members can read the articles and search by topic or author.  Most offer writers a free account and encourage you to write often.  The best of these offer community support through discussion forums where writers share tips and review one anothers’ work.  Some also offer writing contests.  Some of these even offer cash prizes, though most are for bragging rights; but bragging rights are good too!  Continue reading “Writing for Online Communal Publishers”

Humor in the Newspaper

Newsboy, newspaperLong ago I worked for two publishing companies that printed, among other things, newspapers. This was before the age of desktop publishing. A reporter would write an article, and proof read it. An editor would proof it again and edit it if needed, a typist would type it into a Trendsetter machine which turned the article into columnar print – she also proof read and corrected punctuation and grammar if needed. By the time print went to the paste-up department to be put into pages, the text had been proof read at least three times. Errors were rare.

Today: well, today is very entertaining at least. These days you have to appreciate humor anywhere you can find it.

While looking over the weekend edition of the local newspaper, Marie burst out laughing.  She brought page 13A over to show me.  There, all on one page, were the following headlines and display ads:

Continue reading “Humor in the Newspaper”