Another invaluable tool in the writer’s toolbox is the use of Beta Readers. They are sometimes your best shot at getting real reader responses before you actually publish. They do not replace the use of professional editors or proofreaders, but they can be extremely helpful.
I find this video by “Weird Al” Yankovic absolutely hilarious and right on point. I hope you do too!
Google and Vocativ recently paired up to investigate which words people have trouble spelling. They released a list of the most problematic terms by state based on search data, and the word grey appeared a staggering twelve times. So is grey incorrect?
Grey and gray are both accepted in the English language. They refer to a color of a neutral tone between black and white, and can also be used metaphorically to convey gloom and dullness. However, gray is the more popular spelling in the US, while grey reigns supreme in the UK. For centuries, the one letter difference between gray and grey has left people wondering if the two have different meanings.
Both spellings evolved from the Old English termgrǣg and have retained their primary definition as a color, but many people have sought to assign grayand grey to slightly different shades. For instance, in his work Chromatography; or, a Treatise on Colours and Pigments, and of their Powers in Painting published in 1835, the chemist George Field wrote that gray “denotes a class of cool cinereous colours in which blue predominates,” while Field reserves grew to describe a more neutral shade. However, such nuanced distinctions are not observed in popular usage today.
EL James’s best-selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey, along with the blockbuster film of the same name released earlier this year, may have contributed to increased uncertainty about how to spell the term in recent years.
Rest assured that when it comes to the tones between black and white, both grey and gray are acceptable spellings in the English language. If you do find yourself trying to remember which side of the pond uses which spelling more often, keep in mind this mnemonic trick: England begins with an e, while America begins with an a.
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I had a long, unfruitful discussion with a potential client about a touchy subject—backstory. This person likes to write books in the old style where the author writes chapter after chapter setting the story up, building your characters and their world and then beginning the story. I tried to explain that is not really what readers want now, but they could not be dissuaded. While people like Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey got away with it, they did so because that was what the style was when they were writing. It does not work now. If you are going to write, you have to decide whether you prefer writing books to selling them.
Why do I say that? Let me explain. When you open a book, you are interested in what the story is about, who the characters are and the setting. But, you don’t necessarily want to meander through three chapters of taking a tour, hearing the local history and having coffee with the characters before the story begins. You want to get into the story straightaway. You want to meet, briefly, the chief characters and get introduced to their world and their struggle right away. If not, I can imagine you sitting, fidgeting and tapping your toe saying “get on with it!” When I writer takes that long setting the story up, I think they started their book at the wrong point. All the peaceful stuff that went on before the start of the story is fine as background. But, it is only that, background. I don’t really need to know all that stuff to begin with the story. Leave it for later. Tell me only when and if I need to know it to understand the story or the stakes for the characters.
Prologues are much the same thing. They, usually, take the reader back to a time before the story begins for some cogent piece of information. If the story does not rely on the reader knowing this information to get the plot or understand the world of the story, then the prologue is only delaying the start of the story. Leave it out.
Almost a year ago, I was privileged to attend the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. One of the sessions I attended was taught by Diana Savage. Her topic was Self-Editing Tips and Tricks. Here are my impressions from that session.
Diana Savage taught about Self-Editing Tips and Tricks. She has spent years as a writer and in the editing business, and I could tell that she was teaching from the heart of that experience. Some topics included:
- Types of Editing.
- Info on Copyright law
- Style Manuals
- Books on Grammar and Editing
- Finding an editor
She emphasized the importance of using strong action verbs and avoiding the use of adverbs that end in -ly. Good advice. She also stressed the importance of using active rather than passive voice and careful proofreading. She also pointed out that the gold standard for dictionaries is the Merriam-Webster as is the Chicago Manual of Style for other things.
Both the Merriam-Webster and the Chicago Manual of Style are available in print and have online subscriptions as well.
My takeaway from this session was a reinforcement of the need for excellent editing. You can avoid a lot of editing issues by taking care while you write.
This year’s conference will be May 15-16, 2015. There is still time to register and attend. Here is a link.
Hi, my name is Steve Mathisen. I am a writer, copy editor and proofreader. I look for the odd socks. Those things that were missed, are out of place, or just don’t belong. I want to help you produce the highest quality book possible. I want to help you find and eliminate those pesky errors that can destroy the flow of your story and your reader’s enjoyment of your work. I want to be that essential set of eyes that critically examines your book after you (the writer) have done your own iterations of review, correction, and revision. As a proofreader, I will be that discriminating set of eyes, that reads with the reader in mind, and can catch things that the author or initial editor might have missed. Hopefully, the writer and editor will have missed nothing at all, but isn’t it better to have that extra step of checking in there prior to releasing it to readers? Here are some of the things I look for as a proofreader:
- Typographical errors (including direction of curly quotation marks and apostrophes)
- Misspelled words (including incorrect word usage)
- Grammatical problems (including verb tenses and syntax)
- Punctuation mistakes (including proper abbreviations and capitalization)
- Inconsistent format (in font size/style for text/chapter headings/subheadings, lists, tables, page numbers, margins, spacing, indentations/paragraphs, quotes, references, citations, footnotes/endnotes, etc.)
As a copy editor, I will dig in to ferret out and fix any mistakes that will distract the reader from your story without changing your voice and in the most constructive way possible. I want to work with you to present your best work to the reading public. Here are some of the things I look for as a copy editor (Note: proofreading checks are included in copy editing):
- Making sure material is logical and understandable
- Correcting continuity problems
- Making sure sources are cited for all statistics and quotations.
- Flagging inaccuracies
- Sentence clarity
- Word choice
- Maintenance of tone/voice
Please note that my preference is to work in Microsoft Word using Track Changes, but I have also worked from PDF documents making notes in a separate file noting page numbers and line numbers of the suggested corrections. A reader that runs into preventable errors in your book will result in bad reviews and lost sales. Let me help you avoid that.
From Author Julia Robb: “I’m so glad I hired Steve to proofread my books. He has a sharp and discerning eye.”
Here are the covers of Julia’s books that I worked on.
From Author Liberty Speidel: “Steve’s knowledge of story and grammar make him an excellent resource as a last set of eyes. Not only is he willing to correct my errors, but he also takes my direction on things I want standard which may be a bit different than the norm for my series. He and I may disagree on whether the Oxford comma should or shouldn’t be used, but he’s willing to put that aside and let me have all the Oxford commas I want in my books. You couldn’t ask for a more professional and respectful individual as a proofreader!”
Here is the cover of Liberty’s book that I worked on:
From Author Corey Popp: ” I sent my manuscript to Steve Mathisen for an unbiased, third-party proofreading. I found out about Steve from one of K.M. Weiland’s Facebook posts. For a very reasonable price, Steve provided me with a proofreading that caught some pretty critical mistakes in my manuscript.”
I have a degree in geography from the University of Washington but have spent most of the last twenty-five years testing software. In that role, I was often the last set of eyes on a program before it was released to the users it was developed for. I took that job very seriously and I take this job seriously too.
My own writing appears in three published books. I know how important it is to have your best work out there. Let me help you be your very best.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, leave a message here or see me on Facebook, and let’s get you on the schedule.
My rates are as follows: (Note: All rates include a free double-check against my recommendations once the corrections have been made.)
- $1.25 per page for Fiction Proofreading and $1.50 per page for Nonfiction Proofreading.
- $2.00 per page for Fiction Copyediting and $2.25 per page for Nonfiction Copyediting.
Half payment is due in advance of the scheduled start date with the balance due upon completion. I can accept payment via PayPal (preferred), check or money order. Ask me about a free first chapter sample copyedit or proofread. Many of my clients hired me after their free sample chapter.