Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"Lonely Life" of Writing-get over that idea!

Jean Purcell

"I did it alone!" Hearty kudos and "thank you!" to you, visitor and reader of Author Support! I invite you to sign up for e-mail delivery for new posts or join this blog, if you have not already done that!

As I type this, the visit counter for Author Support moves ahead toward a speed of 10,000 visitors! Opinari Writers, another member of this blog family, moves at 20,000 VPB (Visitors Per Blog). Both are aiming to register higher VPB's in the future.

Clearly, "I did it alone!" cannot be true. I thank all of you who visit here! My love of writing and my love of giving tips to other writers, including pointing to resourcesrevs up my work! Whether you land on this site deliberately or stumble here and linger, read, or investigate...however you get here, my job is to share and build on my years of writing and print and digital publishing experience.

I tweak my blogs now and then, aiming for more attractive and attracting blogs. I started this in earnest a few months ago, and decided to focus specifically and more regularly on (1) writing new articles, (2) blog design (adding/ changing gadgets/widgets; colors, fonts, column sizes, and related factors), (3) writing craft: style and substance focus, (4) digital networking (Twitter-1 and Twitter-2, Facebook-FB, for example), and (5) paying regular, daily attention.

I do the same thing, in my own way, that you do or want to do, and I share my years of experience and attention to how and what to write and communicate. I love it! Have a blog you want to improve? You can do it by refocusing on these five elements:
  • Better writing - improved knowledge and use of the craft of writing  
  • Sharper blog design - examine blog designs you like and can adapt
  • Tighter writing focus - edit, edit, edit
  • Frequent digital networking - for friendly ideas, re-tweeting work by others, posting your links 
  • Regular new writing - draft/edit/save, draft/edit/save, draft/edit/save...and publish. 
What writers do, they often do "alone," as "in solitude," and yet...we are connecting with others all the time! We have support from many people we may never see or meet face to face. We learn from people we know and don't know who have good ideas, technical help (including creative solutions), and motivational cues.

Thinking the writing life is a lonely life? Get over it, and may your writing move forward with even tighter and more disciplined goals. Keep learning from others! I know I learn from you...what Stat Counter tells me, post by post, that you read and come back to! I am adding spiritual growth books to my  hand-picked books online store. It's growing, too. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I Help Authors: Here's How

Jean Purcell

I help writers shape their books. Some call what I do "book content development."   

I am working with the author of a nonfiction book manuscript for a highly specialized topic. The author wants his book to appeal to experienced agents, a reliable publisher, and a wide reading audience interested in his area of expertise.  

Complicated subjects with historical timelines imply different interacting components. I think of it as like a plot with many sub-plots, twists and turns, as with a novel. This manuscript requires care when forming chapter-by-chapter evaluation and overall treatment, including detailed advice for specific change recommendations. The author and I will likely communicate several times about this project. 

The book manuscript came to me in two forms: a word-processing digital file on a computer memory stick and  a printed copy (400-plus double-spaced pages) held together in a sturdy notebook. I noted right away that the table of contents (TOC) should help provide good guidance. 

After reading a few first chapters on the digital document, I realized I would work faster using the printed text pages. The number of comments I have inserted so far suggest to me that the digital process for this Work will be too time-consuming for my likes. 

I finished reading six chapters and gave the author a brief run-down, including that he was correct to tell me this Work invited repetition. Repetition is a natural ditch, easy to fall into, for any Work. He can send me, if done in time, revisions of chapters I've not yet read in the version he sent to me.  

I will finish reading through the full manuscript over the next two days, and editing or proofing will  not come into play. I am noting in memory that editing is needed, which is the norm. I'll return to that later, if the author chooses me for the next stages. 

I am watching for 
(1) clarity, 
(2) flow, 
(3) tone (writer's "voice"), 
(4) general appeal of style,  
(5) efficiency of language and structure. 

I may question facts, to clarify presentation, but am not responsible for the technical or professional areas being covered. I make marginal notes in pencil. 

Here is an overview of major parts of the process I'll use for this project:  

1. Read the full manuscript straight through, making brief marginal notes if needed (e.g., too much repetition and detected or suspected incomplete areas) and set a proposed schedule;   

2.  Focus on one chapter at a time, without comparing chapter segues, which I'll do later; 

3. Ask of every chapter, "Does this chapter fit the summary as written by the author? If not is missing or needs to change?"

4.  Make comment notes in margins with sharpened pencil with a good eraser; 

5.  Pin-point portions that need special remedy regarding content handling (e.g., too many or too few descriptions; information presentation;is there not enough information; too many examples or interest-generating examples); 

6.  Prescribe remedies with specific recommendations for the author;

7.  Stay with each chapter or section I'm focusing on, as  needed;

8.  Continue reflection/analysis/penciled marginal notes; 

9.  Pay special attention to connections/flow between each chapter and the one(s) before and after (segue); 

10. Compare chapter text with the book mission and chapter summary stated by the author;

11. Keep in mind the reading audience for the book; 

12. After all chapters have been covered, re-read entire manuscript and notes; retain,  restate, or remove margin notes, as needed;

13. Prepare a final findings-and-recommendations report for the author, to include proofreading requirements and, most important, comment on grammar or need for remedial work.  

While I assess the manuscript, I communicate about the book with the author, as needed; the author continues to rework sections or chapters and can use any interim recommendations (recommended) I may have provided; I will look at revisions and comment.    

Any author that wants to try this process, keeping objectivity in play as much as possible,  will need the proverbial skin as tough as a crocodile. That skin is also needed during later editing and proofing, to get out anything that does not move the Work forward. Cut parts can be saved for later on a blog, an article, or another book.  

If you are thinking of working with a content developer, I recommend that you interview a short list of professionals, ask about process, experience, and finished examples. 

Note: I am reading THE RACKETEER by John Grisham (fiction, 2012).
Writers read every day. I am reading, also, the last two chapters of The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Fourth of July

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.  

Since the last July the Fourth holiday, hundreds if not thousands of new laws and declarations have appeared, along with new wars and rumors of wars.    

When Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, Independence Day, we glimpse again the story of that hot summer day in 1776 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA. We say of ourselves, "We remain a democracy" and "the strongest democracy on earth. ..."    

C. S. Lewis wrote in Screwtape Letters, in the epistle called "Screwtape Proposes a Toast," about Democracy and them--those who value the word Democracy, those among Screwtape's list of intended converts to his devilish philosophy. He is teaching one of his new disciples to use the word Democracy to "lead them by the nose": 

"It will never occur to them that Democracy is properly the name 
of a political system, even a system of voting, and that 
this has only the most remote and tenuous connection with what 
you are trying to sell them. ... You are to use the word 
purely as an incantation...for its selling power. 
... it is connected with the political ideal 
that men should be equally treated." 

Screwtape, chief among hell's fictional angels in Lewis' work, further advised on the work of converting "them":  

"As a result you can use the word Democracy to sanction in his thought 
the most degrading...of all 
human feelings*. You can get him to practise, not only 
without shame but with a positive glow of self-approval, 
conduct which, if undefended by the magic word, 
would be universally derided."

The feelings* that Lewis said that he meant were "... that which prompts a man to say I'm as good as you." 

You can read the full Screwtape Proposes a Toast in the Screwtape Letters excerpt "Lead Them by the Nose" in A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works reading for July 1.