Editing tips

  1. Don’t rely on self-editing.   Do it, do it again and again, and the tips below will help, but don’t rely on it.
  2. Use your software’s built-in Spelling and Grammar check. Often. It won’t be 100% but it will pick up a lot of errors.
  3. Make a list of your pet words and phrases, and keep it up to date.  Some you won’t even realise you over-use, the ones that will have to be pointed out by friends.  You may be amazed to find out how often you use the word amazed.  Never release a final document without using the search facility to check each and every pet word and phrase. My characters ‘grinned’ 29 times, ‘laughed’ 51 times, and ‘smiled’ 28 times before I got the thesaurus at work.  It’s a light-hearted book, but they shouldn’t sound like a pack of hyenas.
  4. Read your book aloud. That seems to activate a different part of the brain which won’t skip over gems like ‘she dog then bit the cat’.
  5. Don’t edit for too long at a time.  Take a break after half an hour, an hour at most.  You’ll get bored and start to skip things.
  6. Make an edit copy, change the font, and split the page into columns. The change of format also kick-starts the brain. If you have Jutoh, or similar software which provides a final version Kindle mock-up, you’ll see exactly how it will look on the different types of e-reader. I’m sure I’m not the only one to read the Kindle version and instantly spot an error that escaped every test already thrown at the original Word document.
  7. Older typists (like me) – don’t use a double space after a full stop. It isn’t done nowadays and eBook software doesn’t allow for it, so you could have an untidy left margin where hanging spaces jump in.
  8. Pay a copy-editor. Really. I’m not saying it to generate work, because I mainly do technical documents, but I did all the above and still got back an edited document with thirty or more changes in red. Most of which I accepted, blushing.
  9. Never automatically accept all changes. Check every one. Sometimes the copy-editor misunderstood the context, in which case you should probably clarify it for the eventual reader, too. Copy-editors, even the best, are human and won’t pick up everything but after all these checks, you should have something clean enough to leave the most critical of your readers with only a short list.

Learning curves

Experience may be cheap at any price but grab a bargain, learn from the mistakes of others instead.

I had set my heart on publishing for the first time on 1st January and publish I did. Some of the people who have bought my book have said really nice things (some were people I don’t even know). Some have pointed out errors quite tartly and, oh dear, most have said nothing at all. At ALL. That includes some friends and family.

Things I have learnt from this include, first and foremost, do not rely on self-editing.  I copy-edit for others and I genuinely believed I could do it for myself and I was wrong. The brain simply self-corrects familiar work. (There are some hard-learned editing tips in the next blog)

Do not get wildly excited by your first book cover and accept it if you have the single tiniest reservation. My artist was and is very good, and uncanny at picking things out of my mind, but we don’t agree on lettering.  First cover, I let her lettering stay. Now it has been corrected to what I like and even she thinks it looks better. (It so does)

Get the manuscript read by others.  The ideal is to get it read by a professional pre-edit reviewer, or critiquer, but it took me two months to find one whose style I liked, and in the meantime I had really useful feedback from the friends who, bless them, had bought the book. REALLY useful. Just one example, I’d referred in my book to ‘the old purple hat story’. I genuinely thought everyone in the world knew the old purple hat story. They don’t. They do now, because it is added in at the beginning. (Go read it in the sample on Amazon, it’s a good story.) (viewBook.at/B00AVQDKXC)

Don’t rely on Kindle’s own HTML version of your Word document when you upload. They tinker with their software as often we tinker with our books and two or three changes down the line, your book will become peculiar.  Formatting will change and puzzled readers will find oddities, split paragraphs, centred text thrown all to blazes, and will think you are the idiot. Or that eBooks are rubbish.  I recently bought Jutoh EBook Converter and it is phenomenal. One unexpected bonus is that it creates the book exactly as it will be, in a format I can copy to my kindle.

So, nearly three months after the book was first released, it has been updated, the cover has been changed, but there are existing buyers out there who will think I am still the rankest of amateurs. I asked Kindle how I get the changes out to the earlier buyers.  They are going to review them (it will take four weeks) with one of the following outcomes –

  1.  If they consider the changes critical, they’ll send an email to every buyer to receive the update through the Manage Your Kindle page www.amazon.com/gp/digital/fiona/manage
  2. If they consider them cosmetic, they will activate the buyers’ ability to update the content on the above but not email them.
  3. If they deem the changes to have caused critical issues, they’ll remove the book from sale, notify me of the changes which need to be made so I can fix them, and then go via route 1.

Doing things the right way round will save so much trouble.  Book number two comes out this week – fingers crossed.


A – Z Challenge

I love challenges.  Not ones like the Caledonian Challenge, where you have to walk 54 miles in 24 hours to raise money for charity – I’m hugely impressed by the people who do that, don’t get me wrong, but I doubt I could walk 24 miles in 54 hours.  I doubt I could walk 24 miles.   And to be absolutely honest I’m not sure I can write a blog a day from 1st April in alphabetical order but what a lovely challenge! 

If you haven’t already signed up, go to the A to Z Sign Up Page.  Stock the pantry.  Send the dog into kennels.   See you at the start line –  the experienced bloggers (and actually I’m doing all this because I spotted it on an experienced blogger’s blog)  (http://rosalindadam.blogspot.co.uk) are already writing ahead to be ready.   

26 blogs in alphabetical order, all taking a quite contrary view?  Nae worries.  Challenge ON.  



Waiting for ET

I don’t believe in aliens, because up to now I haven’t seen / met / experienced any (although there was one night years ago in Africa when I was driving through dark emptiness with a friend and we saw a circle of lights far above that seemed for a while to be tracking us, which was seriously exciting.  However the car, not being suggestible,  continued to rumble firmly on instead of dying in the best tradition, and we regretfully decided it couldn’t have been.  Damn.)  

However, I do believe in ghosts.   I’ve had one unmistakable encounter, and two others that I might have written off as odd moments of fancy, or cheese dreams,  if not for the first,  Our guru on most matters, Stephen Fry, said on QI there were no such things, which just proves he has never encountered one, because the whole thing is like throwing a switch.  You know something isn’t so, and then you know that it is.  In fact, saying I believe in ghosts is misleading, it implies an element of choice.  I know a fat and unwieldy cat can jump onto a counter from a sitting start.    Before I had a cat, I would have scoffed  at the very idea.


I am not about to regale you with the experience, because as Spock told Bones, it can’t be discussed except with someone who has shared a similar experience.     However, it does make it interesting reading about other people’s sightings.  You can read one and scoff, because they’re so obviously making it up.  And read another, and know it is true, because the detail (usually far less exciting than the made-up ones) is right. 

So Stephen Fry is wrong (tsk tsk) and I wait with both hope and trepidation to have a real alien encounter.   That would be something to blog about, eh? 

Loves to travel

“Love to travel” I wrote automatically, then had a double-take moment.  I used to love to travel.  Canada, Australia, Africa, America, Europe, been there (bits of) and done that (most of).    But still love to travel?  Short answer, No. 

Long answer, not until they invent an effective and comfortable teleporter which doesn’t need to be checked for flies or for that matter cockroaches or any other life form that a cheap and imperfect teleporter would incorporate into the unwary traveller’s DNA.  

I love to drive, for up to an hour.  After that the trucks and other cars and those bloody caravans, that isn’t as much fun as it was an hour ago. 

Trains – in my childhood we used to travel overnight to Durban in our own compartment, beds made up, choc on the pillow, I loved that.  Find me a train still doing that and I’ll rethink the travel thing. 

Sea travel?  Having been inevitably queasy on numerous ferries I’ve never felt the urge to go on a cruise.  Being trapped in a hotel which is bobbing up and down doesn’t immensely appeal. 

And flying, well, don’t get me started.  I’m claustrophobic and hate crowds, so being wedged in a cramped seat a mile above the ground in a metal tube with a few hundred people is about as close to my personal definition of hell as I hope I’ll ever get. 

I quite enjoy the actual holiday bit – exploring strange new places and enjoying different lifestyles – but there’s always the looming anxiety about the bloody awful trip back.  And whether I remembered to switch the oven off.  

After that little epiphany I examined the rest of my answers.   Hmmm.  Red hair?  Not so much.  As a Twitter friend said recently, I’m blonder every time he sees me.  Thanks DC but we both know the creeping blonde is in fact creeping pepper-and-salt.  Build?  Oh dear.  A few extra pounds does heavily rely on one’s personal definition of a few.  Changed that to Large.  They need an extra definition between those two – like, oh, 20% overweight.  

So, let’s re-examine the application.  Large greying anti-social smoker who won’t travel, doesn’t like walks in the rain, would rather poke herself in the eye with a mascara wand than watch sport on telly, is okay with animals as long as they don’t crap in the flowerbeds or need feeding early on a Sunday morning, and will never ever respond to any written approach from someone who spells as though Slade had taught them their English.

Yup, scrapped the application.  What’s the point?