A Unique Editing Encounter

Fandango’s One-Word Challenge for today is REPLACE
The Daily Spur word prompt yesterday was EDITOR
The Ragtag Daily Prompt today was WOODSY

Fandango had an interesting story as his response to these prompts, the furious reaction of a writer who’s sent his manuscript off to an editor and it comes back thoroughly red-penned. He calls the editor, irate about all the marking and even replacing of sections. So I’ll credit Fandango for my tale. His story got me thinking down this line. I do feel a bit of sympathy for that editor, though he overstepped his role.

One day, after reading a story by a multi-published author, I asked my eight-year-old grandson, “How can a person fall off a train and land in front of the train? And furthermore, land far enough in front of the train that the train can stop in time to not run over the person’s body?”
He thought for a moment and said, “It would work if the train’s going backwards and the person fell off the engine.”
A certain writer should engage my grandson as technical advisor.

A Unique Editorial Encounter

I was wandering my way through an Ontario woodland path one morning, taking in the sound of birds, the woodsy smell of the trees and earth, listening to the wind fluttering the leaves, when I came upon a penguin weaving its (its – not it’s) way among the trees.

“What on earth! Oh, I’m losing it,” I exclaimed. “Penguin! What are you doing in these woods?”

“I don’t usually do woods,” the creature replied. “I seem to have gotten lost.”

“Big time. You’re over half a planet from home.”

“Can you tell me the way to Puddleville?”

“Puddleville? I can, but what do you want to do there?”

“A writer who lives in Puddleville wants a penguin for her story; she ordered me from e-Bay. She’s writing something about Hudson Bay and she wants me to do a guest appearance in her story.”

“But there are no penguins in Hudson Bay. Ever,” I protested. “Never have been.”

“You’ll have to take that up with the writer. I’m just one of the cast. I’ve supposedly stowed away on a fishing boat going into Hudson Bay. Now I’m to fall off the boat and flail around in the bay so her brave main character can save me from drowning in the frigid water.”

“Save you from drowning? But you’re a penguin – you can swim. And as far as frigid waters go, the water in Hudson Bay is a lot warmer than the Antarctic.”

“Say, you really like to find fault! What are you, an editor? What have you got against an exciting sea rescue? She’s writing it in a very dramatic style readers will love.”

“I like my drama to be realistic, even in fiction. A lot of readers do, you know. She should have at least hired a seal.”

“But I’m way more interesting than a seal any day.” He took a moment to preen a bit. “Anyway, I’m just going to do what I’m told, then grab the bucket of fish she’s offering as payment, and head south.”

“I think this whole story is going to head south. What’s the name of her book so I don’t spend good money on it.”

“She’s calling it Igor’s Alaskan Adventure. I’m Igor. “

I shook my head. “Why am I not surprised? Anyway, how be you follow me home, then I’ll drive you to Puddleville in my car. You’re never going to get there hobbling through the woods like this. I might even have a word with this writer about geography. Alaskan Adventure indeed!”

“You’d better watch out. Writers don’t always react well to some ‘slash and burn’ editor type finding holes in their plots.”

“You’re probably right.” I sighed. “Well, come on, Igor. Your adventure awaits.”

Forest Image:
F Richter & S Hermann at Pixabay

Blogs That Invite Visitors to Stay

Sue’s Jibber-Jabber daily word for today is ENCOURAGE.

Offering Readers the Easy Chair

We all have our friends, right? The folks we like to hang out with. Goths look for other goths; artsy people seek other artsy types; deep thinkers and conservative types try to find other bloggers whose posts give them another look at the serious side of life.

Those of us who blog have set them up to appeal mainly to the type of readers and followers we hope to attract. In this post I’ll make some suggestions on how we can encourage our first-time visitors to settle down and stay awhile.

Right Off the Bat

The things that will draw new readers initially are our post titles, categories and tags. In this post I want to offer a few thoughts on appearance: the “scene” that hits a reader’s eye the minute they land.

Terse Titles

It’s great if you can do catchy titles, but if not, at least keep your titles short and to the point.

The title you choose for your post, with hyphens, becomes your post’s address (slug) on the internet. Be it “florida-trip-white-out” or “we-were-headed-for-disney-world-but-got-caught-in-a-snowstorm-in-kentucky-and-spent-three-nights-in-a-school-gym-before-heading-home.

I could have titled this post “Some of the Things a Blogger Can Do to Present and Attractive Appearance to Other Bloggers Coming to Visit.” And that’s way too long!
I could have titled it “Inviting Blogs.” Too brief and unclear.
“Attracting Visitors to Your Blog” would have worked, but this post isn’t so much about attracting. It’s more about offering guests an easy chair and a cup of coffee, then conversing easily with no pressure.

Appearance

The Header you choose gives an instant picture of your style. Definitely something to keep in mind when you’re choosing headers. Consider these two examples:

Dark.SnapShot
Image by SnapShot. at Pixabay

Dark.not.sirridho
Image by sirridho at Pixabay

If you like the dark one, that’s your taste and may suit your subject matter. Your friends may “love it.” Other bloggers are apt to find the dark, colorless heading depressing and rather see the whimsical second one. (I actually like the frog so much I may use him someday myself. 🙂 )

Olla Podrida

Olla podrida is a Spanish word that literally means “rotting pot.” Similar to “pot pourri” in French. Nowadays, both these expressions carry the figurative meaning of “mixture.” Like a hash, stew, or mishmash.

Checking out an interesting title, I’ve clicked onto some blogs that were an instant assault to the eyes. A hodge-podge of sidebars and footers full of colorful ads, badges, and whatnot, with a narrow strip of writing in the middle where the actual post appears. My brain couldn’t handle that confusion. Goodbye.

You may like all that color – but you’ll scare away a lot of first-time visitors because they can’t figure out where to put their eyes. And some people detest blog ADS.

Recent Posts Widget

I always encourage bloggers to install a Recent Posts widget. If you have a Home page, your readers will see smaller boxes with the most recent first six or eight posts you’ve published. But once a reader clicks on one and reads that, then what? They likely have to go back to the Home page to find other posts. A Recent Posts widget appears in the sidebar with a list (up to ten, I’d say) of your latest posts, so they can quickly click and read on.

Publishers Say…

…and it pays to listen
Some of the following ideas on blogging etiquette are my own preferences, while some come from the guidelines of book publishers. I feel these are valid for blog posts as well.

Torpedoed by Typos

Let’s say you write a best seller with an amazing plot and bold and dashing protagonists. You’ve sprinkled it with thrilling plot twists and sympathetic supporting characters galore. You fire the manuscript off to Double Delight, Inc.
And your cover letter starts out, “Dear Aquisitions Editer,”
Your novel is sunk. It will be stuffed back in the envelope and marked “Return to Sender.”

Bloggers are more forgiving and will usually keep reading, but spelling errors grate. Which is not so great. Good spelling and proper grammar are a courtesy to your fellow bloggers.
(I beg of you, please) NOTE:
It’s (it is) likely that a dog will wag its (possessive) tail when it’s (it is) happy.

On the cute side:
One day I was asked to beta read a novel. Though I specifically stated that I never read HORROR or THRILLERS, his was a “thriller” where some teen girls encounter a horror in some castle. He concludes with, “I hope this story will pick your interest.”

It struck me as very fitting that a horror story should “pick” my interest, instead of “pique” it. But I do wonder if his novel is a horror for spelling mistakes. 😉

White Space is IN

So do not…

not…

not…

write long paragraphs…

and be sure to put a space between each.

I’m told that when your manuscript lands on an acquisitions editor’s desk, if they pull it out and see 12 to 15-line paragraphs, they won’t even start. Back into the envelope it goes. “Return to Sender.”

Take a look at any book published in the past twenty years. Attention spans are short. Long descriptions are OUT. Then take a look at the bloggers whose posts you enjoy. How do they write?

I know this is my personal opinion. I’m a feed it to me in small bites type plus I have a problem in long, chunky paragraphs: I lose my way tracking from the end of one line to the beginning of the next. In a book, if I must read it at all, I’ll often use a ruler.

You may be okay with long paragraphs. When I click on a blog post and see paragraphs longer than eight lines I don’t even start – or I skim. For me, six is okay, but eight is max. So my advice will always be:
If you want people to read what you write, keep paragraphs short and posts fairly short. Or break it up into sections. Depending on subject matter, two posts with six to eight paragraphs is better than one with sixteen that no one reads.

Font Size and Style

1001fonts.com has some great fonts you can access. However…

Scriptina Regular
Scriptina made by Apostrohic Labs

AND DON’T CAPITALIZE EVERYTHING YOU WRITE. THE SUREST WAY TO NOT BE READ IS TO DO YOUR POST IN ALL CAPS.

This is getting too long so I’d best quit. 🙂

CalliGravity
Calligravity font made by vin

Living Blues

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is CERULEAN BAY

Since we lack oceans here on the prairies, we pretty much lack bays, too. We make do quite nicely with our lakes and rivers, though, and a larger lake may have a small dip in the shoreline one might call a bay. And you’ll find some small crescent (in England a “close”) in the city dubbed Xxx Bay.

We don’t lack shades of blue, though. Saskatchewan bills itself as “the land of living skies” because we have a whole palette of blues and grays with white added in streaks, layers and mounds.

At times I’ve read books that involve an ocean voyage, where the writer talks of a water spout. Narrow tubes of water going up from the sea into the heavens — I’d love to see one of those!

We have a similar phenomenon on the prairie: we call them dust devils. Mini tornadoes, sometimes only a metre wide, sometimes two. They skip over the ground in an erratic path, picking up and swirling dust and leaves. You may be looking at a field of grain and see heads start to swirl in a random path that zips through the grain — and you know a dust devil has touched down.

I like colour descriptions as a rule. However, when novel writers describe the hero or heroine as having cerulean blue eyes, to me this sounds poetic. We just don’t think or talk that way. After all, when was the last time your friend told you so-and-so’s eyes are “cerulean blue”? We may say bright blue, dark blue, gray-blue, maybe even denim blue. But when writers get into really creative shades of eye colour like mocha espresso, cottonseed brown, or tea leaf green, this is unnecessary exaggeration, in my opinion.

I googled CERULEAN and find it’s a cross between aqua and turquoise. There’s some variety. I borrowed these paint chips from the SICO website; neither are named Cerulean, but are about the right colour.

Limpid Lagoon 6151-63
Limpid Lagoon

Cayman Blue 6151-52
Cayman Blue

The Love of Poetry

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is CURFEW

Seeing this prompt, one might launch into the latest news in the US, but my thinking goes to that old poem, “Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight,” written by an imaginative sixteen-year-old girl from Michigan in 1867, Rose Hartwick Thorpe.

This story supposedly took place during the English War of the Roses. A young woman’s sweetheart is imprisoned for some fault and sentenced to be shot that night at the ringing of the curfew bell. Our young heroine, trusting General Cromwell will pardon him — but Cromwell may come too late — rushes to the church sexton and begs him not to ring the curfew bell.

The sexton insists on doing his duty and turns her away, so she sneaks into the bell tower and when the sexton pulls the rope to ring the bell, she declares that, “Curfew must not ring tonight,” and grasps the bell clapper. Bashed back and forth, she bravely holds on until the sexton gives up. When Cromwell arrives, hears her story and sees her injuries, his heart is touched and he pardons the young man.

This poem was one of Queen Victoria’s favorites, according to Wiki.

It may seem odd that this old poem instantly comes to me, but the penchant is genetic. I love poetry, my Mom F (nee Vance) loved poetry; apparently her mother and father enjoyed reciting long epic poems; and her Grandmother Smith likewise. My Vance uncles were keen storytellers and cousin Linda is working on her own tales, having written down most of her Dad’s stories. I don’t know if there’s actually such a thing as a poetic gene, but evidence would lean that way.

It used to be that school children were given long poems to memorize; this task was supposed to sharpen young minds. Often the verse came with a dash of humor, like this one by Anon., to sweeten the effort:

“The little boys were awfully strong
when Father was a boy.
They’d weed the cornfields all day long
when Father was a boy.
And when the day at last was o’er
they’d go and do up every chore,
Then come and beg to work some more
when Father was a boy.”

I believe young minds were improved by this exercise. Moreover, the concept in a good poem can ripple for centuries. Writers and speakers still echo the sympathetic wisdom of Bobby Burns in his poem, Ode to a Mouse:

“The best-laid plans of mice and man go oft astray
and leave us not but grief and pain for promised joy.”

Books, Mystery + History

I see that Sue at JibberJabber has posted this writing prompt for today: BOOKS

Oh, yes. Ask me about books! 🙂

And this afternoon some author sent an e-mail notice that there’s going to be a SALE of MYSTERY BOOKS this weekend Here’s the scoop.

Just lately I read an article about the “rules” for writing mystery books. I wish I could remember them all, but a few were:
— The victim was someone not well liked. (Which definitely makes sense. There has to be some motive.)
— The one who solves the crime, or sleuth, must be an amateur, not a regular law officer assigned to the case. (Otherwise the story falls into the category of police procedural.)
— There may be animals, but they never get hurt. And you almost never see children in a mystery story.
It doesn’t say there should be a handsome single detective handling the case, or a grouchy middle-aged not–interested-in-silly-details type, but those seem to be the police options you find in mysteries.

Another important rule I could mention is: DO THE RESEARCH!

I know, this is one of my favorite beefs. But I just read two mysteries set in England, written by American authors. Do you know where I’m going with this?

Reading the reviews on Amazon for the one book gave hubby and me a chuckle, especially the reviewer who said, “We do not put cream in our tea and a Scotsman does not have an Irish accent!” This was from a review of the first book in the Helen Lightholder  mystery series. Setting your book in 1942 rural England means a lot of research. Please don’t skimp on this.

During the war years, a young, seemingly able-bodied man in England (who could hop over a fence easily) would never have said, “Especially with this war going on, I haven’t been able to find work.” He supposedly had a heart defect that kept him out of the army, but there was employment for all. And he’d have been questioned constantly about why he wasn’t in uniform. The writer just hasn’t gotten the atmosphere in England during those years.

I got a kick out of how the detective shows Helen her aunt’s obit, then says, “I’ll get you a copy.” And he comes back a few minutes later with the copy. Ha! These young squirts who write books nowadays! (This led Hubby and me into a discussion of mimeograph machines and Gestetner copiers. Remember those?)

Another reviewer, this time of the first book in the Lacey Doyle series: “The author’s knowledge of the world and how it works is abysmal. Her knowledge of England and the English is even worse.” I have to agree.

These writers are both good at their craft, but must have thought they could wing it re: situation. Sadly, most reviewers said they weren’t going to read the next book in the series, mainly for this reason.

One story I read, set in the late 1800s was loaded with anachronisms both in behavior and in language. In one place a male character asks our single heroine, “So what do you do for work?” (What’s the chances, in that era? Women’s employment options were very limited.) And she answers, “I’m into relationships.” In 1890? Groan!

Any genre, any era. If you don’t want one- and two-star reviews, writers, please do the research. Understand the era. Or have someone read over your manuscript who does know that history or place and/or setting.