Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Writing With Style by Andy Scheer

Get ready for a new reference guide.

Besides a dictionary and various Bibles, I keep two reference books at fingertip distance: the current edition of The Christian Writer’s Market Guide (2015–2016) and The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style.

Whatever my current editing or writing project, I find myself checking Robert Hudson’s 400-page guide to everything from Abbreviations to Zion.

The dozen-page section that lists capitalization style for various religious terms is itself worth the book’s price. But there’s so much more: virtually a university-level course in writing, editing, and publishing.

If you don’t yet own a copy, you should. But you might want to wait a few months.

A fourth edition of the manual — the first major revision in more than 10 years — will be released this July. Zondervan says they have expanded and revised the guide to keep pace with a digital environment.

Considering that the current guide’s pages on “Computer- and Internet-Related Words” include spelling and capitalization guidance for dial up and floppy disk, that new edition is probably due.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Contrast: A Great Writing Tool by Diana Flegal

Light/ Dark



Every good story has the push/pull of contrast. A character we love to hate. A crisis that requires a hero or a problem that needs to be solved.

But how it is woven into the story line is the key to its success.

A few questions I always ask when doing a critique are: Are the characters believable? Is this a plausible situation or just random tension thrown into the plot line? Sequentially, is this doable?

In the book Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life, Charles Shultz and his Peanuts comic script often expressed the thrill and the agony of the writing life. Snoopy penned these lines in one comic strip: It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly a shot rang out. The maid screamed. A door slammed. Suddenly a pirate ship appeared on the horizon! “This twist in the plot will baffle my readers”, said Snoopy. (Might just be one reason Snoopy was always receiving those rejection slips).   

One does not want to baffle their readers.

Literary Devices shares here examples of the way contrast is employed in some well known writing.

I would imagine as you read this blog a particular story you enjoyed, or a movie you have recently seen, popped into your mind.

A few that came to my mind as I constructed the list above were: Fiddler on the Roof, War and Peace, The Agony and the Ecstasy, Les’ Miserables, You’ve Got Mail, Alice in Wonderland, and even Forrest Gump.

Take some time and think about each of the books you have recently read and list the ways their characters were in contrast, or ask yourself where and when in the story their situation changed, or love was won or lost. There is always contrast involved in the evolution of your characters.     
And definitely stop by and peruse these many Snoopy images on the writing life. Caution though, you might just get a stich in your side from laughing so hard.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What’s in the Front of Your Book? by Andy Scheer

Don’t leave out a section you need.

The nonfiction manuscript I just edited ran some 64,000 words. But as I first scanned the file, I saw the author had forgotten something important: a table of contents.

Don’t laugh. Of all the sections readers expect in the front of a book, it’s one that authors most often forget. (Perhaps they’re concerned they don’t know on which typeset page each section will begin. But it’s much easier for the typesetter to plug in those numbers if there’s already a Contents page in place with the names of the chapters.)

Some other sections to include in the front of your nonfiction manuscript: some expected, some optional:

● Half title page: with just the book’s title
● Title page: book title, subtitle, author name(s)
● Copyright page: indicating primary Bible translation and date, plus any secondary translations
● Contents page with chapter numbers and titles
● Dedication page (optional)
● Foreword page (optional)

At the end of your nonfiction manuscript, you might also want to include these:
● Acknowledgments
● Appendices
● Endnotes

Every manuscript is different, and you’ll always find published exceptions. But if you want the element included in the final product, remember to insert it in the initial manuscript.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Are You a Cold and Timid Soul? By Linda S. Glaz

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

My brother was an incredibly talented man and never knew it. He was an amazing writer. Wrote VERY much like Rod Serling. And, he was a prolific writer. An idea one minute, and a complete story the next.

One day, in a particularly courageous moment, he decided to send what was my favorite out to a publisher. In short time he received a rejection. When I asked him about it, he simply said, “They don’t like my writing.” End of story, end of writing career. Not one more word on paper.

He accepted only defeat and on the word of just one person. My heart broke for him, because he was a brilliant writer and had only to keep the courage, await the victory, stand firm in the knowledge that his was a worthy cause.

How many others give up with the first rejection and remain cold and timid souls instead of jumping into the arena and fighting to victory?

And how many will fight for their dreams? Continue on in the face of defeat to fight another day.

Most of us can tell who you are. You stand tall, your face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood of determination as you hold your first contract in your hand.

Based on an earlier post from 2012...Linda S. Glaz

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

One Word Difference by Diana Flegal

I am currently reading a book by Austin Kleon titled Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Noticed.

It is phenomenal. Profound and simplistic. I would give it 6 stars on Amazon if I was able.

Austin said: If you want to be more effective when sharing yourself and your work, you need to become a better storyteller. You need to know what a good story is and how to tell one.

He then shares this quote by John le Carre':

"'The cat sat on a mat' is not a story, 'The cat sat on the dog's mat' is a story."

I agree, do you?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

MS Formatting Fixes by Andy Scheer

Look like a pro ... and save your editor some work.

The manuscript screamed “Amateur!” It came from an independent publishing services provider, in my capacity as a freelance editor. Had I been reviewing it through an agent’s eyes, the formatting alone would have sent a strong initial message that this author wasn’t yet ready for prime time.

Fortunately, I could perform a formatting extreme makeover in just a couple hours. But its initial condition prompts me to offer yet another refresher in professional formatting, including a few areas not always covered.

Paper size. Unless you’re trying to self-publish on a starvation budget, select the 8½ x 11 size (it should be the default) not 6 x 9.

Margins. One inch left and right, top and bottom (also the default settings).

Font. Times New Roman, 12-point. Use only one space between sentences.

Indents and spacing. First-line indent of ½ inch. Double-spaced, with no extra spacing before or after lines.

Line and page breaks. Turn off “Widow/Orphan control” and all others except “Don’t hyphenate” and “Suppress line numbers.”

Alignment. Flush-left, ragged right, except for titles.

Block quotes. Indent ½ inch left and right. Use 11-point Times New Roman.

Nonfiction subheads. Insert an extra line space above.

Subhead levels. If a nonfiction manuscript uses more than one level of subheads, distinguish their typography. Here’s a common formula:
Level One subhead:
Roman, Cap & Small Caps, 14-point, centered, line space above and below

Level Two subhead:
Bold Roman, Cap & Lower Case, 12-point, Flush Left, Line Space Above
Use this style if there is only one level of subhead.

Level Three subhead:
roman, small caps, 12-point, left justified, space above

Level Four subhead:
Bold Roman sentence case, 12-point, followed by a period and run in to the text. No space above.

Endnotes. 10-pt Times New Roman.

Friday, January 22, 2016

LOL by jim hart

I read last week that sales of humor books fell by 5% from 2014 to 2015. Does this signal that humor is fading in our culture? It does seem to me society is slowly losing its sense of humor. Or maybe the political and hot-button topic books are more attractive to readers. Or perhaps it's just that no one is writing anything that's funny right now. It does bring up the question of why we read what we do. To be entertained? To be informed?  To be motivated? All of the above?

Here’s where I think balance is a good thing. If we’re reading such serious content on a regular basis, at the expense of some more light-hearted material, what does that do to us as a person?  How does this affect us as people of faith, and followers of Jesus Christ? Most of us are familiar with the scripture “A cheerful heart is good medicine” Proverbs 17:22  NLT.  The benefits of laughter have a positive impact on both our physical and mental well-being. I think we should want to laugh more.

So what do we, as Believers, find funny?  Paul wrote to the Ephesians “Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”   Ephesian 4:29 NLT “Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes--these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.”  Ephesians 5:4  NLT

Jeff Allen is a Christian comedian that my wife and I thoroughly enjoy. We drove half-way across the state of Pennsylvania just to see him in person.  He is probably the funniest comedian we have ever heard.  And my wife loves to laugh. I think our first date was to a Pink Panther movie.  I had to marry her because she was the only one who repeatedly laughed at my jokes!

Some humor, though not particularly offensive, gets its laughs at the expense of a particular grouping of people and at our individual actions and habits. I think the current wave of extreme political correctness has served to censor some humor.  And humor often pokes fun of a sacred cow, or two. And we all can define lines that we’d rather not see crossed when it comes to what is presented as humorous. There is humor that appeals to a more lowbrow audience, and there is humor that engages our intellect just a bit more.  It seems like our culture tolerates, and even prefers, humor that includes “obscene stories, foolish talk and coarse jokes.”  But we are told in the Bible to be salt and light to the world. Good (clean) humor can bring some much needed flavor and freshness to our culture.

Laughing disarms people. Getting people to laugh can be like knocking on their door, giving us the chance to move the dialogue to something more serious.  Jeff Allen, while very funny, also uses his platform to testify how the Lord saved his marriage and from his drug habit. He gets people laughing hard while still modeling Paul’s instruction to “let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” 

Sometimes humor is how we deal with difficult issues and circumstances. I never considered myself a cat person until a cat adopted us. Years later when her kidneys shut down it fell to me to have her put down. The timing was horrible – two days before Christmas. Several years after that, here’s the song that came out. 

So my point in all of this is how can we use our God-given sense of humor to bring Jesus’ light to others?  How can you, as a writer, bring more humor to your work and encourage those who read your words?  I know that writing humor is difficult for many people to write well, but there are those who God has gifted in this area. If that’s you, I encourage you dive in and write something that makes us all LOL. Maybe you’ll be the one to write a truly funny book that will lead to a rise of book sales in the humor category!

And I’ll leave you with this deep thought: if cows laugh, does milk come out of their nose?