So You Think You Don’t Need an Editor–Part One

© Can Stock Photo/novelo

One comment I often hear from first time authors is, “I don’t need an editor because I do my own editing.”

Really?

Okay, I admit that I resemble that remark. When I wrote my very first book, Anna’s Kitchen, I too thought I didn’t need an editor. In fact, I was such a smart aleck at the time that I thought I knew everything. Never mind the fact that I had never written a book before in my life. As far as I was concerned, the spell checker in my word processing software was all I needed. So how did I do?  Well, you may want to refer to my post titled, Just Add Two Tablespoons of Fate. Sure, I can laugh about it now, but it’s a splendid example of why all authors, especially new authors, must have an editor.

Why every author needs an editor.

An editor is a fresh pair of eyes to go over your manuscript. They give it the added polish it needs to turn it into a great book. They’re not as much concerned about the content of your work as they are the structure. They look for things such as misspelled words, typos, and comma spliced sentences. They also look for dangling participles, incorrect homonyms, redundancy, and the dreaded passive voice. In other words, they fix all the gaffes that you, as a writer, may have overlooked. The reason why you’re not seeing them is because you’re too involved with your own work to see it objectively. This is normal. As human beings, we can’t be objective about ourselves. This is why it’s difficult for us to see our mistakes. It’s the same reason why doctors don’t treat themselves or members of their own families.

Some of you reading this may still be skeptical. Or you may even think your writing skills are so superior that you simply don’t need an editor. If that’s the case, then all I can tell you is writing can be a very humbling experience. There is nothing quite like having your readers point out all your errors for you, and then posting them on an Amazon review for the entire world to see. Once that happens, your credibility as an author is pretty much done, and you can kiss your writing career goodbye.

What do Danielle Steel, James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Dean Koontz all have in common? They all have editors. And if these famous authors all have editors, then what makes you think that you don’t need one?

GM

Let’s Stop Putting Labels on People

© Can Stock Photo / Medclips

I’ll always recall a time when I attended a business networking event. Someone asked me what I do. I told her I wrote novels. But her response was appalling. She looked me in the eye and said, “Oh, so that means you have ADD.” (Attention Deficit Disorder — a mental illness.)

I was completely flabbergasted. How could a so-called business professional would make such a hurtful, hateful, and stupid remark? So, I looked her in the eye and said, “Well, in my line of work, that would actually be considered a job requirement.” It shut her up. And she walked away with egg on her face. 

Few things make me bristle like people who insist on putting stigmatizing labels on other people. Why must they do this? Is there is some narrow definition of normal out there? Do creative, imaginative people not fit into this so-called norm? Is this why creative people are stigmatized? Or do they like to make other people look so they make themselves look good?

I suspect the answer is all the above. There are people who simply don’t like creative people. Period. I recall reading an article telling parents how to “reprogram” their children if they showed any sign of being, “right-brained creative.” Is there something wrong with a creative child? Apparently so.

Well, guess what? I’m a right-brained creative, and I’m damn proud of it! I’m who God made me to be. And, in spite of what people may think, I’m actually able to perform my job. Not only do I write novels, I also I run my own book publishing business. 

So, Miss Smart-Alec, who the hell are you to pin your scarlet letter on me and label me with “ADD?” Yes, my job involves using my God-given creative skills. I’m sorry if you’re jealous because you don’t have them. And here’s another thought. Why don’t you worry more about your own damn life and stay bloody hell out of mine!


GM

Outline or Treatment?

© Can Stock Photo / katielittle25

It can be a perplexing question for authors, particularly newbies. Do you write an outline, or a treatment, before you begin your book? Or do you just sit down and start writing?

Outlines are recommended for nonfiction books. They can be more precise. However, this blog is for fiction writers, so I’m going to talk about what is the best approach for us. And that is to write a treatment.

A treatment is a short summary of what your story will be about. The amount of detail you wish to include is entirely up to you. Some fiction authors may choose to write treatments summarizing each chapter. Others simply write a brief one or two paragraph description. It’s all a matter of personal preference. We’re creative writers, not technical writers, and the keyword is creative. For us, writing is an art, not a science.


My treatments tend to be short; no more than one to one and a half pages. My objective is how I will begin my story, and how I will end it. I used to fret over what to include in the middle. However, experience has taught me to keep it brief. The details will come after I begin writing. In other words, my treatment is my launching point.


Some fiction writers write bios for their characters, and that’s certainly okay. However, I don’t do it myself. My characters come to life rather quickly, and once that happens they have minds of their own. (This may sound freaky to non writers, but every fiction writer experiences this.)

Some authors like to refer back to their treatments as they write. And that’s perfectly okay. I prefer to put my treatment aside once I begin my story. As your characters come to life you may want to go in a different direction than you originally planned. Other ideas may come to you as you delve deeper into your story. Again that’s okay. We’re creative writers. This is how creativity works. 

Once my manuscript is complete I like to go back and look at my treatment. My books never end up as described in the original treatment. They always turn out better. That’s because I let my creativity flow as I write, and many new ideas will pop into my head as I go. My favorite example would be my first Marina Martindale novel, The Reunion.

One of my supporting characters, a young man named, Jeremy, was intended to be a rogue character. He would do his dirty deed and quickly disappear from the story. However, Jeremy was also leading man Ian’s son. And as I got into the story, I soon realized that Ian would never have a son like that. So, Jeremy went from rogue villain to a rival, competing with his father to win leading lady Gillian’s affections. This made for a completely unexpected twist in the story that resonated with me, and my readers. 


As I’ve evolved as a writer, my treatments have also evolved. They’ve become less detailed and more generalized. But, as I’ve stated before, how you choose to write your treatment is entirely up to you. As far as I’m concerned, there is no right or wrong way to go about it. 


GM

One of the Pitfalls of Social Media

© CanStockPhoto/ShutterM

As writers we’ve all been told that social media is an essential marketing tool, and it truly is. I’ve made fans and sold books on social media. However, social media can be a double-edged sword. It must be treated with respect. Let me give you an example of something that happened to me a few years ago.


After commenting on a friend’s Facebook post, I started engaging with another of her friends on the same thread. We were talking about jazz music, something we both enjoyed. During our online conversation she mentioned that she was a book editor. At the time I was publishing books for other authors, so I told her I was a publisher. I then asked her to please send me a friendship request so I could include her on my referral list. She was more than happy to oblige. 


She posted frequently Facebook. However, I found her content troubling. She often ranted about her hatred of children, her dislike of men, and her belief that interpersonal relationships were a complete waste of time. She also posted about her hatred of churches and of people of faith. Anyone who disagreed was told to “go f— themselves.” No matter how respectful they were, they got the same hateful, vulgar, response.


I soon realized that I could NEVER refer this woman to any of my authors. If she was that mean spirited and disrespectful on Facebook, I could only imagine how badly she would have treated them. So, instead of sending her referrals, I blocked her.


Use caution when posting on social media. It really can come back and bite you. In this instance, it cost someone potential business.


GM

I’m Done with Facebook

Photo and meme by Gayle Martin.

Once upon a time Facebook was a lot of fun. I could catch up with friends, reconnect with family members, share blog posts and even promote my books. However, nothing good lasts forever. Facebook has become mean and hostile, and I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Many of the friends I once engaged with on Facebook have stopped posting. Some have even closed out their accounts. 


I think the reason this is happening is obvious. Everytime you turn around, here’s another scandal involving Facebook. Oftentimes it has to do with breaching people’s privacy and sharing their personal information without their knowledge and consent. That’s a big deal for most of us. Then there’s the other problem. Censorship.

At one time Facebook was all about free speech, but not anymore. Facebook has become Big Brother. Nearly everyone has landed in “Facebook jail” for such “crimes” as sharing too many blog posts about crocheting. Or they they posted about their belief in the Bible. Fact of the matter is that Libertarians, Christians, and Americans who believe in freedom of speech, as guaranteed by our Constitution, are no longer welcome on Facebook. Facebook has not only targeted these people for censorship, they’re even shutting down their accounts. Facebook destests anyone who isn’t a leftist progressive. They even deleted a post I started about a flour sifter. Silly me. I had no idea that talking about baking is now considered hate speech on Facebook.

I used to think that I had to put up Facebook’s abuse with because I advertised my books there. However, my Facebook ads no longer have the reach they once had, due to the reasons listed above. So why should I continue placing ads that fewer and fewer people are seeing.? And why would I do business with people who hate and despise me because I don’t share their political beliefs? I’m Libertarian. I believe that freedom of speech is for everyone. Not just those who agree with you. Facebook, however, believes that saying free speech is for everyone is hate speech.


So, instead of posting on Facebook, I’ve gone back to posting on my own blogs. My blogs belong to me and me alone. They’re where the First Amendment actually means something and where I can speak my mind without Facebook telling me what I can and cannot say. As a writer, my life is all about freedom of speech.

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GM

Print Books or eBooks?

The Amazon Kindle has certainly changed the way people read. For a time ebooks were all the rage. My sales reflected it. The vast majority of my books were sold as Kindle editions. However, it now appears that I’m selling more print books again.


Ebooks have their advantages. They can be instantly downloaded. You can store hundreds of books on your smartphone or tablet. And at one time, books were more affordable. When ebook first became available, they typically cost a few dollars. However, I’m now seeing skyrocketing prices. And I’m simply not going to pay ten dollars, or more, for an ebook. If I have to spend that much money I may as well get the print edition. That way I’ll have something tangible.


Along with rising prices, there are other disadvantages to ebooks. Those who have vision issues may find ebooks too difficult to read. And who hasn’t been disappointed upon finding their device has a dead battery. Ugh! I have so been there and done that.


I’m now offer a newsletter for my Marina Martindale fans. In my latest issue I included a poll. Did my readers prefer ebooks, print books, or no preference? The results were surprising. While not a scientific poll, most of my newsletter subscribers preferred print books. No preference came in a close second, but only a few preferred ebooks.


Is the ebook fad finally coming to an end? Who knows. I’ll continue publishing both Kindle and print versions of my books. And in case you’re wondering, I personally prefer print books. They’re low tech, so you never have to worry about a dead battery.

GM

P.S. Please click the link if you would like sign up for my Marina Martindale’s Musings Newsletter.

How to Write a Spicy Love Scene

As I enjoyed my morning coffee I came across something hilarious on Facebook. A BuzzFeed article featuring snippets of so-called love scenes from male romance authors. Some men write romance and do it well. Then there are others who, frankly, have no business picking up a pen. Their work was nothing but poor syntax and descriptions that went way beyond any sense of believability. It resulted in some of the funniest stuff I’ve read in years. Unfortunately, I don’t think writing comedy was their intention. 


So, how you do write a spicy scene that won’t make your readers burst out laughing? Just like with any other writing, it’s all about the proper technique. In one of my other blogs, Marina Martindale’s Musings, I wrote an article called, Sweet, Sensual or Erotic Romance?  It discusses the different romance subgenres. I write sensual romance, which is probably the most common. However, the advice I’m giving would also apply to writing erotica.

Have a basic understanding of anatomy and physiology.


Human beings come in two body types with two distinct sets of equipment. This equipment only functions in certain ways. When in doubt there are plenty of medical websites out there where you can get more information.

Handle euphemisms with care.


While you can call body parts by name in erotica, they may be too graphic or harsh for sensual romance. Euphemisms can be substituted, but be careful. Certain words, such as manhood, tend to be overused. Others, such as butterfly, can be downright corny. If you’re new to this kind of writing I would recommend reading some erotica from established authors, such as Anais Nin. 

Use proper grammar, syntax and punctuation


Nothing screams amatuer louder than poor writing. No matter the genre, if your story is poorly written it won’t be read. This is why even the most well known authors use editors and proofreaders. 


So, if you’re ready for a good belly laugh, I’ve posted a link to the article below. Be sure to put your coffee down first as an unexpected burst of laughter while you’re swallowing may result in the coffee coming out of your nose and splattering your computer screen. 


GM

And here’s the article. 
I’m So Sorry, But Here’s How Some Male Authors For Really Real Described Women In Books

Pondering the Meaning of Life

© 2019 Gayle Martin. All Rights Reserved.

The other day I learned that an old family friend had passed away. She and her husband were close friends with my parents, and she was the last one standing. 


I’ll call her Jane. I saw quite a bit of her when I was young. But once I left home I only saw her at special events; weddings, anniversary parties, and funerals. The last time I saw her was over twenty years ago. As soon as I heard she had passed away, I looked up her obituary. It included a photo, probably taken a good fifty years ago. And while Jane wasn’t overly pretty, she was an attractive woman and surprisingly photogenic. 


Her obituary began the usual way. When and where she was born. It mentioned her parents, grandparents, and siblings. It mentioned her marriage and a business her husband once owned. There was also a mention of her being a cub scout den mother. And that’s when her story took an odd twist. Instead of saying she was a full time mom and homemaker, it listed all the country clubs she’d belonged to. It concluded with saying that she had spent her entire adult life playing bridge at the country club. 

Wow.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always had a great deal of admiration for full time moms. I think they have one of the most important, and overlooked, roles in society. I also think we should make time to do the things we enjoy doing. It brings balance in our lives. And if playing cards is what you enjoy doing so be it. However, there’s a whole lot more to life than just playing cards. Life is about what we do for others, and doing what we can to make the world a better place. It’s also about the legacy we leave behind. My job as a novel writer is to bring a little joy into people’s lives, even if it’s only for a few minutes out of their busy day. And even if I only make a difference for one person, to me, it’s a life well spent.

GM

Storytelling 101

Fundamental Plot Development

Graphic by Gayle Martin

All stories, whether it’s a short story or Anna Karenina, revolve around conflict and basic plot structure. I call it, The Four “Cs” of Writing. Other writers may call it something different. It’s the formula I use with every story I write, and it works each and every time.

The four C’s of writing

  • Characters
  • Conflict 
  • Climax
  • Conclusion

Characters

Who is your story about? Without characters there is no story to tell. I begin my stories with my lead protagonist(s). However, I don’t consider this a hard and fast rule. Depending on your genre, you may wish to begin your story with a minor character or even your antagonist. Whichever way you go, the plot revolves around the characters and what they do.

Conflict


The meat and bones of the story. It’s all about the conflict because conflict creates the drama. Imagine a story about a happy couple who never argue or disagree. Nothing bad ever happens to them. They live a long, happy, charmed life where nothing ever goes wrong. The end. Now let’s take that same couple. He tells her he has to work late that night, but he arrives home in the wee hours of the morning. She can smell another woman’s perfume on his clothing. She sees lipstick on his collar. Guess what’s coming next?So, which story would make the most compelling reading? Plotlines revolve around conflict, and how the characters react to it.

Climax


The high point of the story. The punch line. They argue. She grabs a lamp off the nightstand and coldcocks him over the head. He falls to the floor, unconscious and bleeding. Meanwhile the neighbors heard them fighting and called the cops. The cops soon arrive and bust down the door. He’s lying dead on the floor while his blood, and her fingerprints, are all over the lamp. 

Conclusion


The loose ends are tied up and you end the story. She’s hauled off to jail, goes on trial, and is convicted. Since I write stand alone novels I resolve the entire conflict and leave my readers with a definitive, satisfying ending. Once again, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Some authors prefer a more ambiguous ending. They may leave the readers with a hung jury. And if you’re writing a series you’ll certainly want to leave something unresolved to continue in the next book.


And there you have it. The four basic components of plot development and storytelling. 

GM

Welcome to From the Writer’s Desk

a blog for novel writers

There are a lot of writing blogs out there, and many offer great advice. However, most of the ones I’ve seen are geared toward nonfiction writers. As novel writers, we have different goals and needs. We’re storytellers. We write to entertain.

This blog is about helping you write a better novel as I pass along what I’ve learned about this crazy business. So please, pull up a chair and make yourselves comfortable. And if you see something you like, please be sure to post a comment.

Gayle Martin