The ABC+ of Beta Reading

A few months ago, I discussed how there are four essential edits that every author should perform on their manuscript. While the author can do half of these edits by themselves, two edits need the input of other people: editors and beta readers. Authors shouldn’t expect editors to ask what to look for during their review, but most beta readers might not know the types of useful feedback the author is seeking with their review. It doesn’t hurt to provide beta readers with a little guidance on what to be looking for when they read the author’s manuscript. The benefits of beta readers are due to the fact that they aren’t necessarily professionals reading your work. They won’t have the background to tell you if you’re using too many dangling participles (like your editor should). Instead, they have the “layman” view of someone who would pick up your book and read it for entertainment purposes. Consequently, the beta readers should be able...
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3 unexpected programs to help you publish a book [PART 3/3]

Over the last few months, I’ve hopefully opened your eyes to some of the neat tricks you can use to help publish your book using the Microsoft Office suite. Microsoft Word is an obvious choice for writing, and Microsoft Excel can also be useful to manage lists and other planning information, but did you know there’s one more program that can help you publish your book as well? Up until now, the programs I’ve suggested are ones that you’d likely use anyway if you were trying to organize your work or polish your manuscript. The key was merely using the lesser-known tools within these programs to make your life as a writer easier. This month, I’d like to suggest something that might shock you and will require you to use a program in a slightly different manner than it’s usually used. That program is: MICROSOFT POWERPOINT Most people associate PowerPoint with corporations, presentations, and goofy animations. While these are the typical uses for the...
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3 unexpected programs to help you publish a book [PART 2/3]

Last month, I told you how the Microsoft Office suite can help you with your writing. I covered Microsoft Word, and how it’s more powerful than just a standard word processor. By getting to know some of the more obscure features of these (usually) easily obtainable and available programs, writers can take control of their writing without having to purchase expensive computer programs. With Microsoft Word, I covered how Section Breaks, Styles, and Formatting can help a writer create a professional-looking book with less effort. Even though our next program isn’t used directly for the actual writing of a book, it is incredibly valuable for planning and prepping. It can also be used during the polishing phase of a manuscript as well. I refer, of course, to: MICROSOFT EXCEL As an engineer, I love to use spreadsheets, and Excel is the king of the spreadsheet programs. Any time I need to write a list or do some calculations, I open up a new...
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3 unexpected programs to help you publish a book [PART 1/3]

Many months ago, I described the amount of work a writer would need to do by themselves to publish a book. Not only is there research, formatting, and graphic design involved, the writer also has to write said book. This whole process can be daunting, especially in the digital age. We have so many different programs at our fingertips to help us plan, write, and publish. A lot of these programs can cost a significant amount of money. Sure, programs like Aeon Timeline, Evernote, and Scrivener might be worth the money in the long run, but you’ll inevitably have to learn how to use these programs, which can eat into your writing time. What if I were to tell you that there’s a suite of programs you probably already have installed on your computer that can accomplish many of the same functions as the programs that cost a lot more? Many of you probably already use these programs on a regular...
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Why “spell check” is not enough

English is hard. Certain words may be spelled the same but have completely different meanings. Other words may sound the same, but have different spellings (and thus, different meanings). There are even words that may change meaning with the addition or subtraction of a single letter. This is why context is a huge part of the English language. Depending on the words around it, the correct word can be implied, but an incorrect word will still jar the reader enough to pull them from the story. They’ll likely re-read the sentence, trying to make sure they understood the author correctly. When they realize the writer made a mistake, they’ll continue reading, but they’ll have a seed of mistrust planted in their minds. From that point onward, they’ll question every word the writer uses, just to make sure they aren’t mistaken again. This increases scrutiny on the part of the reader, and can often distract from the author’s intent: conveying a...
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The 4 types of edits, and why you need to do them all.

It is a rare feat to be able to write a perfect story. It’s even rarer to do so with the first draft. Hubris blinds the writer who considers the first draft of their writing to be perfect. Some writers might fall into the trap of crafting every single word of their first draft, thereby almost ensuring that the first draft will never be complete. On the other end of the spectrum from the “perfect first draft,” we have writers who will continue to polish a story forever, never settling for “good enough.” While no story can be “perfect,” editing will help to get it close enough for publication. In my experience, editing takes up the majority of the writing process, and for good reason. While some authors may continually iterate the editing process, I have found that there are four types of edits every writer should use when revising their work. These four types range from simple spot checks to...
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What it takes to do it all

There are days I see the benefits of going with the traditional publishing route. When you are signed on with a publisher, they provide some of the hard work it takes to make a manuscript into a polished and publishable product. From editors to formatters to cover artists to distribution, these publishers have the resources to help an author be successful. But what about the self-published author? One of the common misconceptions about being an author (especially a self-published one) is that we only have to write. In reality, a self-published author needs to perform the entirety of the publishing process by themselves. Now, you may be asking yourself, “OK, you have to do it all, but what does that even mean?” Let’s start at the beginning of the process, and I’ll walk you through it. If you want to self-publish, you have many jobs to do. Many of the most famous authors have a research department (or person). These are the people...
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When a short story is no longer a short story

Over the years, I've usually planned out my writing pretty well. I always felt that each element of the plot had a purpose and a place that added to the cohesive whole of the story. Consequently, I've really struggled with the concept of "killing your darlings." For those of you who haven't heard about this writing tactic, it essentially boils down to being able to let go of certain aspects of your story, especially when they don't add anything to the plot. Part of the reason I've been unable to remove some of these sections from my writing is because I find they're usually quite intertwined with the rest of the story and to remove them would require massive restructuring of the whole plot. To kill your darlings, you must be able to recognize them for what they are. In writing my short story for the next Midnight Writers' Anthology, I suddenly found the story I wanted to tell was much longer...
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Which Hunter

Being concise is one of the standards of superior writing. Unfortunately, when you're writing the first draft of your novel in a month, your mind might insert a lot of "filler" words. I've had this problem for years, but recently have come across a simple solution to help my manuscripts "cut the fluff" during the editing phase. For some background, one of my beta readers for [book:The Third Degree|18141169] noticed the word "that" popping up more often than it should. My solution at the time was to replace most of the "that" with "which". I had always heard the advice "don't use that", so instead of eliminating the word from my writing, I merely shifted it to a different word. Now that I've received notes back on The Constellation Tournament it appears I've been found out. A completely different beta reader was distracted by the enormous amount of times I used "which". Recognizing the problem, I set about trying to find a...
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