Thursday 22 August 2013

Effective Editing Techniques: A Guest Post by Sandra Miller

Today we have a guest, writer Sandra Miller, who offers her tips on self-editing...

The most effective editing techniques for your writer’s toolbox

If you want to grow as a writer, you have to learn how to do thorough editing of your own work. This process includes cutting the fluff and elements that are out of focus, checking for the flow and organization of your writing, as well as proofreading and editing of the content.
Many writers hate the process of editing because they tend to express themselves on creative personal level and they don’t like technicalities. However, as Hemingway said, you should “Write drunk. Edit sober.” If you fail to edit your piece of writing properly, you will miss achieving its best potential. In the worst case, you will end up delivering chicken scratches that no one would like to read.
This article will provide you with the most effective editing tips that will instantly improve your work. You don’t have to be a beginner in order to use them, because they can turn anyone into a better writer.

1. Learn what editing is
Editing includes not only rewriting sections of the blog post, article or manuscript, but making structural changes of the big picture as well. The editing process focuses on all levels of the writing piece, including the sentences, sections, chapters, logic, style, organization and content, as well as punctuation, spelling and grammar. Everything needs to be brought near perfection if you want to achieve success with the piece.

2. Learn what proofreading is
Proofreading is all about the small changes that are difficult to be noticed during the editing process, such as spelling mistakes or typos, stylistic matters (such as underlining and italics), numbering, formatting, spacing and minor errors in punctuation that don’t need textual changes.

3. Plan your time and maintain your focus
Making a schedule and sticking to it will allow you to maintain the focus and do the work properly. It is recommended to allow yourself some time to rest after you finish writing and before you start editing. It would be great if you had few days, but allow yourself at least few hours if your schedule is too tight.
Although editing and proofreading overlap at some points, you should focus on the editing process before you start proofreading. It is recommended to finish all the rewording and rewriting before you start proofreading the small mistakes. Otherwise, you would lose your focus and make new mistakes.

4. Even if you hate outlines, the ‘five-point essay’ rule still applies
You don’t have to use an outline, but it is still very important to write an introduction that contains your main point, support it with three points and end with a summary or conclusion. Although writing styles vary a lot between different pieces and writers, almost all types of writing follow these basic rules of structure.

5. Add additional structural elements if necessary
If you consider it necessary, you can expand the five-point outline structure with additional elements and include variations such as opposing opinions, comparison with other ideas and supporting your statement with relevant background information.
Most short stories and novels include similar points to this type of essay structure. Before the rising action, an exposition has to be made. The climax, falling action and denouement follow the rising action.

6. Maintain the logical flow within the writing
It is very important to remain focused, so make sure that all your supporting points are in clear correlation with the main objective. Going off topic is a trap many writers fall into, and the reason is simple: they love writing and their minds are full of ideas. Observe your writing with a clear head and remove every part that is out of focus.

7. Check the accuracy and relevancy of the supporting points
You have to know everything about your topic, so make sure to do a thorough research and check every single fact. Urban legends, stereotypes and cultural myths are often being presented as facts, and you have to make a difference between them. If you want the writing to be convincing, it has to be accurate, clear and convincing.

8. Make clean transitions between ideas and sections
The transition between ideas and sections has to be made smoothly and logically. You can use groups of words or single words that have the aim of taking the reader smoothly from one point to the other. Some of them are: finally, even though, furthermore, however, as in the previous example, in this case, on the other hand or on top of that.

9. Cut the fuzz
Minimize the usage of unnecessary modifiers in the form of adjectives and adverbs. Your style has to be clean and influential, so you need to use precise nouns and strong verbs in order to create a more focused, sharper writing that won’t bother the reader with lengthy descriptions.

10. Get rid of all off-topics
During the process of editing, you should make sure to get rid of all parts that aren't associated to the big picture. This doesn't only include unnecessary statements and words, but entire ill-fitting parts as well. Don’t get too attached with what you have written; you will make your work much better if you get rid of everything that needs to be removed.

Sandra Miller is a writer from New York. Writes her first book and learns the art of self publishing. Uses editing services to improve her book and make it perfect. She has a PhD in English literature, NYU graduate. 

Monday 19 August 2013

Don't Let the Wind Catch You: A Guest Post by Aaron Paul Lazar

Today, I'm pleased to be able to host talented and award winning mystery author, Aaron Paul Lazar as he makes the virtual rounds on the blog tour for his new book, Don’t Let the Wind Catch You (a sequel to the multi-award winning book, Tremolo: cry of the loon).
As always, he has an insightful post, plus an excerpt from his new book and a giveaway. So read on and enjoy...

The Blue Heron

Recently I was able to resume my lunch-walks at work. Aside from getting drenched on one particular excursion—and I mean wringing, dripping, soaking wet—I was able to get away from the office for an hour or even an occasional two hours each time. This is the time during which I plan the next chapter in whatever book I’m working on, and it’s exactly how I wrote my newest release, Don’t Let the Wind Catch You, which features most characters outdoors on horseback, cantering over farmer’s alfalfa fields or in the deep woods. Mind you, I am also fully immersed in nature when I walk, and each of the details that surround me end up in one scene or another in my mysteries.

It’s not planned…it just happens. Sort of a process of osmosis, I guess.

You might wonder how I slipped away from work so easily. I know, it sounds terribly irresponsible and unlikely. But chalk it up to me finally making up for numerous skipped lunches. I was due. Overdue. So I took advantage of the late June days that hovered in the low eighties to change into my shorts and tee shirt and get with nature.
One day, I ran into a blue heron. Almost literally. Quite opposite to any bird behavior I'd ever seen, he stood just ten feet from me on the trail—simply staring with round yellow eyes.
I walked closer, scuffing my feet.
Why doesn't he fly away? Can't he hear me?  
I scraped my sneakers against the gravel again. He slowly turned his feathered head and looked directly at me.
"What are you doing here?" I asked. (Please don’t judge me, I always talk to animals.)
He continued to stare, his eyes the color of Black-eyed Susan petals. I stepped a little closer and took a dozen photos with my camera phone. Oh, the quality is terrible, but I captured at least a faint image of him. I meant to bring my good camera that day, but in the haste of that oh-so-urgent need to escape the world of technology and feel the sun on my face, I left it on my desk.
He stood regal and aloof. His gray blue plumage seemed healthy, full. He stepped with confidence, swinging his head slowly from side to side.
I spoke to him, again.  "Aren't you afraid of me? Why don't you fly away?"
I moved closer, but he only walked a step or two along the path, as if keeping pace with me.
"Are you ill? Do you have a nest around here?"
I didn't dare close the gap further, since his beak looked long and sharp. Instead, I took a path into a pumpkin field and marched along until I hit the woods. On the return trip, I looked for him, but the bird had vanished.  Relief whooshed through me.
He must be okay.
My mind started to spiral.
Was it a sign? Was this rare and close encounter perhaps my father's spirit, come to visit?  
It's been sixteen years, but I still long for my father's company. I imagine conversations with him. Okay, I’ll admit it. I hold conversations with him. I know he listens, and I often sense his presence. At risk of embarrassing myself, I will admit that I love letting my mind wander in these preposterous ways, even though I know deep down it's farfetched. But walks alone in nature tend to foster such thoughts in me, and I enjoy the fantasies. Not that I'd admit that out loud to anyone. (Except you, of course.)
I returned to the trail, camera in hand, hoping to see my friend.
I found him, but not as I had hoped. The poor bird lay on the trail, curled and still.
It saddened me. I considered taking his picture, walked past him, covered another hour of dirt roads, and returned.
Should I? Could I? Wouldn't it be disgusting? Gross? Crass?
But I did take his photo, and it was almost a reverent thing. Because even in death, his form held beauty and elegance.
In a very strange way, it was almost like closure.
In my usual self-comforting ritual, I started to imagine that perhaps this was a wise old bird whose time had simply come. Perhaps he'd led a full and resplendent life, soaring over lakes and swooping down to skim the water with his feet. Perhaps he'd caught a thousand silvery fish, balancing on long spindly legs while catching his handsome reflection in the mirror surface of the creek.
How fortunate was I, to have been graced with his startling presence in his last days on earth? I was blessed to have met this feathered friend, in spite of his untimely demise.
I imagine he’ll show up in one of my books these days. But I think I’ll let him live. Maybe he’ll find a mate. And maybe they’ll have babies. Okay, the wheels are turning. I’d best get back to writing that next chapter.
Remember, try to get outside as often as you can. Soak in the beauty that surrounds you. Every aspect of nature is a gift from God, and as I often suggest to my readers and friends: when life gets tough, take pleasure in the little things.

Don’t Let the Wind Catch You by Aaron Paul Lazar

When young Gus LeGarde befriends a cranky old hermit in the woods who speaks to an Indian spirit, he wonders if the man is nuts. But when the ghostly Penni rattles tin cups, draws on dusty mirrors, and flips book pages, pestering him to find evidence to avenge her past, things change.
What Gus doesn’t understand is why his mother hates Tully, until his relentless investigation uncovers a hint of scandal about Tully and Gus’s grandfather, Marlowe Wright.
On horseback, Gus and his friends ride through woods overlooking Conesus Lake to Tully’s abandoned house, reportedly still infected with the Genesee Valley Fever from the 1700s. Unafraid, they enter and find shocking evidence that could rewrite history. 
Can Gus convince his mother to forgive Tully? And will the proof he found free Penni’s spirit?
Gus summons courage beyond his years in this poignant and powerful telling of the summer of 1965.

An Excerpt:

Chapter One

We crept toward the old shack on our bellies, crab-crawling over moss and oak leaves. Elsbeth breathed softly to my left, just out of sight. Siegfried took the lead, several feet ahead of me. Behind us, the horses stood tethered to maple saplings; they munched steadily on the sweet leaves with a rhythmic crunching sound, their tails swishing against the sting of deerflies.
"Gus?" Elsbeth's whisper glanced off the air. "Do you think anyone lives here?"
I pressed a finger to my lips. "Shh. I think I heard something." I was glad I'd left Shadow at home. That little beagle would've betrayed us, running all over the woods baying at every new scent he found.
Siegfried raised a hand, signaling us to stop. He'd heard it, too. It was a keening sound, a high-pitched wail that was speech but not speech, closer to song, but with no melody I recognized.
Ice crawled down my spine and tingled in my toes. My heart pounded against the soft earth beneath me. I chanced a look at Elsbeth, whose eyes had gone wide with what some people might think was fear. But I knew better. Excitement lurked behind those big brown eyes. She didn't scare easily now that she was eleven.
Wood smoke escaped the chimney in a lazy tendril, spreading into gray softness that filled the air with the aroma of campfires on cold winter mornings. Whoever lived inside this remote, ramshackle cabin must have just started a cooking fire, for the scent of wood smoke was soon followed by the clanging of a cast iron pan and the distinctive scent of bacon.
Siegfried glanced back at us, motioning toward a tumbled-down stone wall. He hopped to his feet and scrambled toward the cabin, chest tucked tightly to his knees. Although I was a full year older than the twins, I often let Siegfried lead. He was the one with the compass and the navigational skills, and took us on excursions into the forests behind the Ambuscade.
While we lay on our bellies watching the cabin, I couldn't help but remember snatches of Mrs. Wilson's history lessons last year. Even though we'd often played around the Ambuscade Monument, which was back in the field we'd just crossed, I really hadn't appreciated the importance of the area until she started telling us the story.
She said Washington sent John Sullivan and his men to fight for the settlers in 1779. They'd attacked the Indians, and had burned villages, cut down apple orchards, and destroyed families. It had been a real slaughter.
But it was hard to know who to root for, because some of Sullivan's men had been later ambushed by British troops and some Iroquois Indians. Fifteen men were massacred very close to where we lay. Two of the officers, Boyd and Parker, were captured and tortured in Little Beard's village in a town we now know as Cuylerville.
A plaque stands there today, marking the spot where they were tortured. Now, in 1965–a hundred and eighty-six years later–I stared at it in fascination whenever my father drove us past it on the way to Letchworth State Park.
Siegfried poked my side and pointed to the house, where a shadow crossed the window. I nodded and watched.
Elsbeth lay snug against me behind the stone wall. She nudged me in the ribs and whispered so close to my ear it tickled. "Someone's in there!"
A one-sided conversation had started up inside the cabin. I strained to hear, trying to calm the heartbeat in my ears that pounded over the words I couldn't make out.
I listened to the deep male voice. Gruff and playful, he seemed to be discussing plans for the day. But no one answered him.
I scanned the area. Siegfried noticed and followed my gaze. No telephone poles or wires. No electricity. Unless he had one of those walkie-talkies like they used in the war, he must be talking to a mute person or to a very soft-spoken person.
I noticed several cracked windows and wondered why the man inside hadn't fixed them. The front door looked solid, made from rough planks, but the roof dipped and waved near the chimney. I imagined when it rained it probably dripped from the ceiling into buckets. Globs of tar and different colored shingles plastered the roof in various spots. A beat-up Ford pickup was parked under the trees in the back.
Siegfried crawled around the edge of the wall. We followed him, creeping closer to the side of the shack until we were right under the window with two cracked panes.
Now we could hear better. The man's rumbling voice gave me chills.
"Why don't you want me to go?"
"Okay. So come with me. What's the big deal?"
More silence.
The man groaned. "Nobody will see you. You can wait outside."
The twins and I exchanged puzzled looks and moved closer to the window.
 The deep voice spoke again. "What? Who's outside?"
Siegfried's eyes grew round as fireballs. I tensed. Elsbeth grabbed my arm and squeezed. Heavy footfalls thundered across the floor and the window above us flew open. The blast of his voice came milliseconds before his head poked out.
"What in tarnation are you kids doing?"
Frozen in place, we stared at the man, whose grizzled face twisted in fury. A tangled white beard hung six inches beneath his chin, resting on a red-and-white checkered flannel shirt. Black suspenders looped over his shoulders, and his gnarled hands batted the air in front of his face. He yelled louder this time. Three crows cawed and abandoned their perch in the giant cottonwood overhead.
"Well, speak up! What the hell's going on here?"
Elsbeth spoke first, shocked into her native language. "Es tut mir leid."
When the man squinted his eyes in confusion, she recovered.
"Um. Sorry, sir. We didn't think anyone lived here."
We scuttled backwards on our hands and feet, our backsides scraping the earth like bouncing bulldozers. Siegfried jumped up and pulled his sister to her feet.
I stumbled back against the wall, ramming my spine against the stones. I winced, scrambled to my feet and stared at the ground. "We're sorry, Mister. We were looking for a fort."
The sound of a rifle cocking made me look up again. A long barrel poked out the window, aimed at my chest.
"If you kids aren't gone by the time I count to five, you're dead meat. Now scat!"
I don't know if he actually counted or not. The blood rushed in my ears and drowned out all sounds. We raced to our horses, swung onto their backs, and galloped down the woodland trail to safety.

You can find the book on Goodreads and Amazon


Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. The author of three award-winning mystery series and more, Lazar enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at and watch for his upcoming release from Twilight Times Books, SANCTUARY (2013).


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