Tag Archives: novels

The Race Where You Can’t Afford A Burn-out by Kim Dorothy

I average writing 70k-words per week. One of the guys in the head office invited me to post tips about avoiding burnout in a high-volume production mode. Keep in mind that I do this full-time and live alone, so it’s more or less my perfect world. Burnout is the flip side of efficiency; less of the former when there’s more of the latter. Most of the following relates to what I’ve learned about efficiency. There might be a kernel of something helpful here for you.

1. Buy the best you can afford.
a. A slow computer drags down spontaneity, preventing you from tapping into that special part of the brain where the writer in you lives – in the word vault. I have several computers; some for heavy-duty video processing and Photoshop work and others, portable and light including one that will fit in my purse.

b. A keyboard has to be properly responsive. You don’t want to need to “punch” the keys, nor do you want a flat plastic pretend board that gives you no sense of keystrike fulfillment. You may prefer an external keyboard paired with a laptop as some laptop designs that include a touchpad are awkwardly designed so that you have to arch your wrists to avoid touching the pad as you type.

c. The monitor should be the highest resolution you can afford. Our eyestrain is greater than that of an air traffic controller and you can seriously damage your eyes as well as sit for long periods in an unnatural position to accommodate the screen’s poor resolution. I also find it easier on my eyes if I swap monitors. I use dual 27” UHD for design work and my 13” UHD laptop screen for simply writing. Less environmental input to process.

d. Get the right chair. This isn’t necessarily the most expensive as some companies produce office furniture that revolves more around design aesthetic than support and functionality. My favorite chair at the moment is an $89 upholstered dining room chair from the mark-down room at Value City Furniture. It holds my back straight, my lap is parallel to the floor, it cushions my tush and slides easily on a plastic chair mat.

e. Get the right desk. This is about height so you can have the ideal posture while typing. It also needs to accommodate your monitor at eye height so your neck isn’t strained. I use an added-on adjustable keyboard tray that slides in and out, tilts and allows you to switch the side where your mouse sits. It’s securely screwed into the underside of the desk’s top. I have a short footstool under my desk that keeps my feet from swelling or my knees from creating blood clots or poor circulation.

f. Make it a dedicated work computer. No gaming, no social media, no emails. No kids or spouse who changes the background and trashes your files. Plenty of disk space, but have a back-up.

2. Dropbox, iCloud, etc.
Since I use multiple computers, I keep all my writing files in the cloud. They sync and I can sit down at any one of my units and pick up where I left off. I also use Evernote because I can capture browser screenshots, articles, audio, photos; all the things I use to build my outline. Again, it syncs across all my devices, including my phone while I’m driving and think of something. I don’t have to chase ideas down.

3. Move around.
My computer is a tool and I have several. My house happens to have four floors and there is a computer on three of them, including one on a rolling laptop table I can take outdoors by the pool in summer. If you have one working area, stand up every half hour and stretch out a few yoga moves, throw in some laundry, chop onions for dinner, go rinse your face or brush your teeth. Just move and then get back to it. Avoid movement that can be a diversion, such as watching tv or getting on the phone to visit with your friend.

4. Eat well.
A brain on normal standby burns 20% of your caloric intake. A “thinking” brain uses even more. Your brain needs healthy fats and protein for top working order. Do not eat sugary carbs as these slow you down and trigger cravings and produce erratic blood sugar levels. Try it – eat a doughnut or a bowl of cereal and you’ll feel yourself fading. Avoid foods with tryptophan. I recommend never eating at the computer. It gums up your keyboard and your tush and belly will widen. Eat small but healthy snacks during your half-hour stretches. While on this topic, dress in layers and work in fresh air whenever possible.

5. Train your brain.
The human body is a wonderfully adaptable machine and you can use that to your advantage. If you write for five hours in the morning on Monday and two hours in the afternoon on Tuesday, the body is spending energy and awareness on adapting. Set a writing time and stick to it. If you wake up at 3 a.m. and can’t sleep, don’t go and write. You’re confusing your body’s internal clock and you’ll pay for it. Then, just like that magic cup of coffee keeps you regular, your brain will allocate resources more smoothly because it knows what to expect. This also reduces your anxiety and if you know your writing pace, you can predict to the day when your book will be complete. I recommend a nap at about 3 pm. Even a short one is restorative. When you’re not writing, don’t be at the computer playing games. Give your body plenty of exercise.

6. Mute your phone.
Message alerts and phone calls break your concentration. It’s okay to return calls to people later on.

7. Open all Programs.
You may have your favorites, but when writing I have the following open: Grammarly / Word / Thesaurus, Evernote and Chrome. I use Evernote like you may use Scrivener. I fit them all on one screen when possible, or in layers when not. The fewer times my hands leave the keyboard to feel for the mouse, and to return, the more productive I am.

8. Dictation for dialogue.
I use Dragon and a PC for the best results. I think there’s a post in the All-Star files where I take you through all the combinations of computer / software / microphones I experimented with. Mary Crawford also has published an excellent book on the topic.

a. I tend to always dictate dialogue. I close my eyes, sit back in the recliner and become the voice of my character(s). It feels natural and more authentic; like you’re in a play on stage but starring in all the roles. It’s fun. Note on this: It takes some time to get used to saying, “New line, open quote,” etc. and then “close quote.” I’ve experimented with just saying “dash” or “x” and then go back and let the search and replace swap them into quotes and new lines. Still working on this. If you’ve mastered it, please mention it below. The software knows whether it’s an open or closed quote.

b. Sometimes, I dictate portions, such as describing a house or the decoration in a room, etc. I picture it and it seems to flow more easily. I always keyboard type my surprises and plot twists. Here again, it comes from the word vault. Just add an “insert so-and-so here” to the manuscript and come back to it.

c. Use dictation sparingly according to how comfortable you’ve become and how accurate your computer and software set-up is. If you don’t do it well, you’ll just aggravate yourself.

9. I prefer rough outlines.
Detailed outlines reduce spontaneity of thought but it’s nice to come back to your work and pick up where you left off without re-reading the book to regain your train of thought. If I break at the end of the chapter, I always leave a note for myself in the beginning of the next. Something like, “Mary and Sally theorize why John Doe has a criminal record.” Avoid re-reading and editing as you go. These waste time because there will always be an ultimate edit where you can fix things.

10. Be Visual.
I fill my Evernote notebook for the current work with screen capture photos of my primary characters, settings, the car they drive, maps of locations, etc. This way I can look at them visually and not confuse the color of their eyes or have them drive south when their destination is north in reality. I also give them a character workup such as, “Mary was shy, almost reclusive due to her parents’ old age and that she thought herself unattractive. She loves anything chocolate and crochets while in the bathroom for escapism. She dreams of finding the right guy.” I am an empath and have many times, created a character definition and then gone for a drive and actually see someone who resembles them. I can pull over, make notes about their posture, how quickly they walk, whether their house windows are dirty, etc. into Evernote on her particular note. Go to the mall or an airport and watch people. Decide whether couples are business, siblings or lovers and what tells you that. This goes a long way to helping you show not tell.

11. Have a goal.
70k words in a week may sound impossible, but when broken down into 10k words per day, it’s a reasonable goal. Prepping before writing should be given a good amount of time because it prevents interruption when you’re in the word vault.

12. What’s in a name?
When you’re writing multiple books at the same time, as I do, it’s easy to get confused with names. I will substitute “boy”, “girl”, “father”, “boss” and so forth and then search and replace later with the character’s name. This should be done PRE-edit. If you’re chasing a word count, one of your characters names can become two, such as “boy” becomes “John Boy.”

13. Writing can be tedious.
To help with this, I incorporate people I know and release my pent-up emotions. I may use a former lover as romantic inspiration, or as the victim who dies a painful death if he’s moved on in real life. You are omnipotent here – take advantage of that.

14. Use Meta-data.
I write in Word and open the column that shows reviewing comments. I insert as a note a visual icon for the season, the time of day, etc. This way my timeline is valid. I also keep the navigation pane open and use character styling. This tells me which chapter I’m in and whose POV I’m writing, when applicable.

15. Do your research thoroughly and in advance.
Don’t wait until you come to the scene where the FMC is going on vacation to research the airport, what it looks like, how busy it typically is, the destination, the accommodations, how people dress, where they’re from, etc. Knowing all this in advance enriches your character. She can shop for clothes, pack, arrange for animal care, take a leave of absence, dread the eight-hour flight, bring sea-sickness wristbands, etc. in the chapters leading up to departure. You don’t have to break stride or go back to add these details.

16. Ban the clock.
The only clock in my house that works is on my computer. I live in a timeless space so I can step into my books without being tethered to the real one.

17. Keep things nearby to prevent interruption.
This includes Kleenex, a nail file, Visine, something to drink, pen and paper, etc. I use Alexa on a regular basis to calculate numbers, give me dates in history, weather averages in distant locations on a certain date, calculate the mileage between locations to estimate driving or flying time, get area codes for phony phone numbers, ingredients for a recipe—you get the drift.

18. Just Write.
Your job at this point is to write. Whether you design your own cover or source it elsewhere, it can wait. You’re not the editor, the marketer, the designer or the social media superstar. Stick to the plan. This is not to say that you can’t change your game plan for your book mid-stream. It’s better to call a bad attempt off than to slug through it and let it suck you down like quicksand.

19. About music.
Resist the temptation to play music while you write. The body will try to align the rhythms, just as you do while walking a treadmill. If the scene is slow and romantic, but the music is a Sousa march…well you get the drift.

Burnout comes predictably. You write longer than you should or at different times of the day. You feel physically rung out and your body aches, particularly your eyes. You may have set unrealistic deadlines or not allowed adequate time to get the flu or stock up on groceries. Keep balance in all things, especially family, relaxation, business/job, exercise along with your writing. Even more fatally, burnout leads to dread and that kills your muse. I can honestly say I’ve never known what “writer’s block” feels like, but I can certainly tell you what burnout feels like. I don’t think they’re the same, but they can definitely play tag team. Last of all, we all have days when nothing goes right – so acutely that you think the end times have begun. Stop, back away and don’t contaminate your work with that negativity. You won’t accomplish anything but increase your stress and ruin yourself for the next day.

Kim Dorothy is a full-time ghostwriter and lives near the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan. Passionate about violent weather and romantic music, she lives alone and travels to inspirational locations in her mobile office. She is an ebook pioneer, having written and published the first ebook for bookselling distribution. You may contact her at kim @ mboox.com or visit her website, www.mboox.com.

So You Wrote a Novel! Now What? by Katz

So You Wrote A Novel!  Now What?

typewriter

Yes, you really did write a novel, but let’s face it, what you have is a rough, first draft. The creative conception of your novel is a done deal, but your book is far from ready to publish.

songbird

Now it’s time to let your inner editor back out of its cage and put it back to work. Now is when you get down to the nitty-gritty of rewrites, proofreading, and editing, all of which must be accomplished before you can even think about getting your masterpiece ready to submit to a publisher for consideration.

Let’s talk about some of the tools you’ll need to begin taking your novel to the next stage.

Your Next Stepsrainbow

Your first draft is the block of marble from which your final product will be carved. Michelangelo is said to have been asked how it was possible to find something as grand as “The Madonna” in a raw block of granite. His reply was, “Simple. You just carve away everything that does not look like The Madonna.”1

We urge you to remember these words, carve them on your heart and in your mind. Then learn to see your writing with the eyes of a master artist. The early draft of your work is the rough, chopped lump of marble. When you finish your first draft, you’ve done nothing more than create the rough lump of granite from which your final masterpiece will emerge. Now, you must chip at it, and sand it, and polish it, until it shines like the brilliant star you imagined in the beginning.

Every good writer learns and understands that there are many steps in the process of writing a novel before one achieves a Masterpiece.

If you haven’t already discovered your own style and method for proofreading and editing now is the best time to get started doing so.

Proofreading Your Worksunglasses

Can you read this? Take a few minutes and try. I think you’ll be surprised. It really isn’t all that hard.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!2

It is amazing how the human brain works. Unfortunately, the very capacity that enables you to read the above piece of mish-mash is your enemy when it comes to proofreading, especially so when proofreading your own work.

You know what you’ve written, and your mind has a tendency to skip over many basic spelling and punctuation errors.

The first thing you should always do is run your computer’s spell check and grammar check programs. They will target many of your errors. But, your computer program does not know every accepted spelling, nor all accepted meanings for every word in the English language, so you can’t stop there. Grab a good dictionary and double check every word you thought was spelled and/or used right that your computer flagged.

Next go through your piece, chapter by chapter, and really look at each and every individual word to make sure you have the correct spelling for the meaning you are using in that context. One of the easier ways to do this, without allowing your brain to skip ahead, and miss things is to start at the end and go through each chapter backward, from ending to beginning. Because the sentences don’t make sense backward your brain and your eye will be less likely to slip ahead. You will be more likely to spot sneaky little spelling boo-boos waiting to ambush you and embarrass you in front of your editor or publisher.

This step covers your spelling and most punctuation errors.

Next, you need to go back and read each of your chapters for grammatical errors and plot inconsistencies. Don’t just sit and read them to yourself. As in spelling, here too your brain will have a tendency to skip forward and fill in the things you know you meant to put in there—even when they are missing!

Go somewhere where you won’t bother anyone or be interrupted. Take the time to read each chapter out loud. Again go slow and read your piece word for word as it is on paper—not how you intended it to be—but exactly as it is written down. You will be surprised at how many things you missed when you checked for spelling or sat and read the piece silently to yourself.

Now ask someone else to read your chapters out loud to you. Don’t interrupt them, but as they read make notes on any errors you hear.

Repeat the above steps as many times as needed, until you are sure you found all of the problem areas.

Just proofreading isn’t enough to bring your work to that final point of perfection. Once the proofreading is done you must go back and correct the errors, remove the inconsistencies, reweave the weak areas, and trim away all un-needed extraneous material that does not move your story forward.

Avoiding Wordinessman

Wordiness is a common problem for prose writers. It’s important not to “clog up” your prose with extra words, phrases, or paragraphs that aren’t necessary to move your story forward. Following is a list of methods you can use to eliminate wordiness in your writing.

♥ Convert word groups or phrases to single words whenever possible.

♥ Convert modifying clauses into phrases or single words whenever possible.

♥ Use expletives sparingly, if at all.

♥ Use active instead of passive verbs.

♥ Avoid using too many noun forms of verbs.

♥ Write infinitive phrases as finite verbs or brief noun phrases

♥ Eliminate circumlocutions with direct phrases. For example: change At this point in time to Now.

♥ Omit words which state the obvious or provide excessive detail. Remember: If a second grader can understand it, you have explained it.

♥ Omit repetitive wording.

Making your writing crisp, precise, and concise will move your story forward at a steady pace and help keep your reader engaged.

Rewriting and Editingnotebook

There are a number of different ways to go about the rewriting and editing process. Let me warn you here—none of them are easy. Rewriting and editing is time intensive, hard work. It doesn’t really matter which method you use as long as you buckle down and do the work.

Take the notes you made during the times the piece was read out loud. Then go through the entire novel line by line, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter. Rewrite every single poorly formed sentence, every paragraph that isn’t clear, and every action that does not move your plot forward. Eliminate anything that is not absolutely necessary to tell the story in a clear and concise manner.

Do this over and over until you feel you have each chapter as close to perfect as you can get it.

There are numerous writing resource books on the market that explore proofreading as well as editing and polishing. You should have at least two different resource books in your personal writing reference library in addition to your dictionary and thesaurus: one on writing style and basic grammar, and one on rewriting and editing. There is a list of my favorites in the Printed Resources section at the end of this article. Check them out and then go find those that suit you the best.

One last thought . . .lightbulb

As writers, we all have a tendency to become attached to our precious written words. For proper editing and rewriting you cannot cling to them. I had an instructor once who said, “Until you are ready to ‘murder your darlings’ you will never be a good writer.” So I repeat here if you want to do a good rewrite and reach perfection you must “Murder your darlings!” But never worry! Even better words and phrases will rise up and live to take their place – if you work hard!

Now pull out those reference books. Get out that red pen. Warm up your DELETE key. It’s time to go to work – line by line, page by page, and chapter by chapter!

Resources Online

♥ The Owl at Perdue – Free Writing Help and Teaching Resources
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/

♥ Fiction Factor – Honing Skills
http://www.fictionfactor.com/honing.html

♥ Painful Prose: How to Edit Your Paragraphs to Make Them Great
http://www.stepbystep.com/Painful-Prose-How-to-Edit-Your-Paragraphs-to-Make-Them-Great-152111/

Resources In Print

♥ Write Right – A Desktop Digest of Punctuation, Grammar and Style by Jan Venolia Publisher: Ten Speed Press Berkeley ♦ Toronto Date: 2001
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/write-right-jan-venolia/1111609915

♥ The Elements of Expression by Arthur Plotnik Publisher: Henry Holt and Company New York, New York Date: 1996 http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-elements-of-expression-arthur-plotnik/1110796062

♥ ReWrite Right – Your Guide to Perfectly Polished Prose by Jan Venolia Publisher: Ten Speed Press Berkeley ♦ Toronto Date: 2000 http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rewrite-right-jan-venolia/1004089614

♥ Getting the Words Right How to Rewrite, Edit & Revise by Theodore A. Rees Cheney Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books Cincinnati, Ohio Date: 1990
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/getting-the-words-right-theodore-a-rees-cheney/1012529512

New and used copies of all the above books listed in this Resource Guide are available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and/or Alibris.com.

Author’s Note: I learned many of the ideas and methods shared in this article through the years in college classes I took, from online reading and classes, and from participation in several different writers’ and critique groups. I’m sorry I can’t give full credit to the originators of some of the techniques and ideas I shared here. Unfortunately, I don’t remember exactly who you are, but I know you share my passion for helping others improve their writing and I hope you don’t mind that I’m passing on what you so generously shared with me.

Footnotes
1 I believe this quote came from the book. Vasari on Technique by Georgio Vasari, Published by J.M. Dent & Company, London 1907
2 Can You Read This? by Green Chair Marketing Group
© Copyright 2016 Katzendragonz (katzendragonz at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Katzendragonz has granted Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.

sarah-in-redSarah Elizabeth is also known as “Katz” around the online writing world.

As a young child she made up stories for her friends and told them like an old time story teller. She first started writing her tales down in grade school. In Junior High School she won an award for and published her first fantasy story.

Several of her stories and poems have been published in fantasy fan publications over the years. She’s written three novels, one science fiction and two that are a cross between classic fantasy and alternative history. She also has four additional fantasy novels currently in progress.

She spent two years tutoring all types of writing while taking courses at Southern California ‘s Fullerton College in the late 1990’s.

Sarah now teaches fiction writing online with New Horizons Academy. She’s developed and instructed courses in Grammar, Short Story Writing, Novel Writing, basic Fiction Concepts, and Character Creation and Development.

Every year in November she participates in National Novel Writing Month and has been working with the organization for ten years guiding and mentoring harried, exhausted novelists through the process of writing an entire novel (at least 50,000 words) in thirty days.

Author Interview: Elizabeth Crowens

I met Author Elizabeth Crowens at World Con in Kansas City.  We are both members of Broad Universe.  Her Time Traveler Professor series is an alternate history/spooky steampunk published out of London.  Please welcome her here on No Wasted Ink.

author-elizabeth-crowensHi, I’m Elizabeth Crowens. Why do I use a pen name? Because back in the 80’s I wrote for Ninja Magazine and a bunch of other unusual publications. This was when Hollywood and Hong Kong were churning out a lot of over the top films on the tail end of the Bruce Lee craze. I actually had a blackbelt in ninjutsu that I received from the top masters in Japan, but I knew the reality behind the façade and felt I needed a bit of anonymity from my professional life working at a publishing company at the time. The last headache I needed was to have someone plan a surprise attack to see if I could really do a triple backflip and throw ninja stars in my defense. I didn’t need the hassle. So I just came up with a pen name.

When and why did you begin writing?

In the 70’s when I was in college I thought my career path was going to be screenwriting. Back then I didn’t have a very realistic view of how the film industry worked. My head was in the clouds with wildly creative ideas, and my teachers weren’t the best influences because they came from the avant-garde and Andy Warhol schools of artsy indie filmmaking. However, my goals were commercially oriented. New York film schools were like that back then. Unfortunately, I was young, naïve and didn’t know any better and flying by the seat of my pants until I finally moved out to Hollywood in 1990.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Back in the 80’s when I was writing articles for magazines and working on the first draft of this manuscript. However, I wasn’t making enough money to make a living out of it. My degree was in Photography and Film studies, but I found out the hard way that in journalism people were paid more for writing articles in magazines than they were for the photography that accompanied them. So I thought to myself, “Hey, I was always good at English in school. I’ll write the article, as well, especially since I’d get paid more for it.”

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Silent Meridian is a 19th century X-Files meets H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine featuring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his paranormal enthusiast partner, John Patrick Scott, the Time Traveler Professor. It’s a delightful mash-up blending those elements with hints of Doctor Who, Tim Powers, and Nicholas Meyer. Contrary to people’s first impression it is not a Sherlock Holmes story.

What inspired you to write this book?

That’s a stranger than fiction story. I’ve always had a passion of collecting antiques and antiquarian books. Very similar situations that occur in the book, sometimes finding a strange book or an unusual item can inspire a whole flood of ideas.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I try to mimic a Victorian first-person point of view although I tone it down for modern readers. Authors such as Henry James and Arthur Machen can get incredibly wordy. Editors today are always hopping on our backs about word count.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

In the book, I refer to two similar metaphors, i.e. the sfumato effect and the Verdaccio technique of underpainting. These are both art terms from the Italian Renaissance referring to the methods used by Leonardo da Vinci as to how he depicts seamless and invisible edges in paintings such as the Mona Lisa. However, it alludes to the often-indistinguishable transition from dreams to reality to jumping back and forth in time.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

“The key to the future lies in clues from the past.” That’s from a quote in the novel. It’s very much tied into resolving karma and moving forward and any conflicts you experience now most likely can have their roots traced back in history—therefore the justification of traveling through time.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Shush! That’s a secret.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I’d rephrase that by asking the question, “What books or media have been the most influence?” I’ve gone through spurts with reading, but I’ve always been a film buff. My answer? Stanley Kubrick, Harry Potter and Star Wars. Kubrick and Lucas were the reasons why I got involved in the film industry. I remember being blown away by A Clockwork Orange, especially in its art direction and cinematography, when I was in high school and Star Wars just at the time I was graduating college and about to spring out in the job market working in film production. Harry Potter didn’t come around until many years later.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

If I can resurrect someone from the dead it would be Arthur Conan Doyle, because his Sherlock Holmes stories are so damned clever. One that is living now? Tim Powers. I’m amazed as to how he puts everything together in his plotting.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

This was an unusual situation where I, as the author, had a significant amount of input in the cover design. After I signed my contract with my publisher, he hooked me up with the graphic designer that handles most of his covers. The graphic designer asked me if I had any ideas since this was basically a steampunk novel and not the typical Sherlock Holmes pastiche that comprises most of my publishing company’s catalogue.

“Do I have any ideas?” I thought to myself. “Boy, am I going to surprise everyone!”

Little did they know that I’ve been professionally trained as both a graphic designer and photographer and have had over 20 years experience with Photoshop. Previously in my career, I used to art direct and shoot movie posters in Hollywood. Since I had full intentions of pitching the Time Traveler Professor series (Silent Meridian is the first of approximately seven books) as either a film series or a cable television series, I had already composited a one-sheet or sell sheet mini-poster as a leave behind. The background photo on the cover is one that I took at the University of Edinburgh Medical School where Conan Doyle received his medical degree.

Brian Berlanger, MX Publishing’s graphic designer, and I worked together refining some of the images. I took a back seat and allowed him to get all the credit just because I was so thrilled to have as much input as I did.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

To quote Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, “Never give up. Never surrender.”
silent-meridian-book-coverElizabeth Crowens
New York, NY

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Silent Meridian

Art Director: Elizabeth Crowens
Cover artist: Brian Berlanger.
Publisher: MX Publishing

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More iPad Writing Apps That Authors Love

Hands Holding iPadI tend to not use tablets to do my writing. I am more comfortable using my Alphasmart Neo as a digital typewriter, keeping my iPod Touch nearby for research, serve as a dictionary, or to provide music if I don’t like what is playing at the coffeehouse. However, I am discovering that more writers are turning to their Apple iPads as full flung writing devices, forgoing even their laptops in favor of the lighter weight, smaller tablets.

The following is a personal review of iPad apps that family and friends have recommended to me. These apps are all focused on creative writing: some favor markdown language, others are great PDF annotative apps or additions to your favorite note taking apps and one is a great companion to blog writing. I have not been asked to review the app by the developer nor do I have any financial stake in their product.

If you love iOS apps, please also click over to an earlier post: iPad Writing Apps that Authors Love.

Penultimate
iOS 5.01 and later, iPad only
Free

Many writers are used to jotting research notes in a Moleskine notebook with a favorite pen, but with the advent of the iPad, many are turning their offices paperless. The Penultimate app for iPad has been purchased by Evernote and now seamlessly integrates with their note based system. Handwrite notes in the classroom, on the go, or in your office and your sketches will automatically be saved in Evernote. If you have Evernote premium, your handwritten notes will be searchable. Penultimate imitates different paper and pen options to make your writing experience on the iPad more comfortable. If you already use Evernote, this is a no-brainer addition to your already robust note taking system.

iAnnotate PDF
iOS 7.0 and later, iPad only
$9.99

Save your manuscript to PDF and use this app to read and annotate it in your iPad. You can choose different types of text to write with from pens, highlighters, stamps, straight-line, typewriter, underlines, strikeouts and more. Copy and paste your annotations from one document to another. You can connect iAnnotate with Dropbox, Google Drive, Skydrive, iTunes, or open PDFs from emails and the Internet. The PDF reader aids in the editing and revising process by taking your manuscript from one source and allowing you to view it as if it was a printed work, giving you the ability to see your words in a new light. If you are looking for a way to removing printing your novel and using a red pen to mark it up, this might be the solution you are looking for.

Notebinder
iOS 6.0 or later, iPad only
$6.99

I found this PDF note taking app to be interesting because it integrated audio and video capabilities along with your note writing. It reminds me a little of the Livescribe pens that were very popular a few years ago. It allows a little more customization of the screen, is compatible with Pogo Connect and iPen Styli, one touch access to your notes, the ability to easily timestamp notes, and it can switch the touch screen to make it more left hand compatible. However, I find that the import/export is not as robust as the previous reviewed iAnnotate.

Goodreader
iOS 5.0 or later, iPad only
$4.99

This PDF reader has won many favorable reviews for its robust features and integration with many online systems. You can read pretty much anything on it: books, maps, text, and photos. You can even view movies with it. Goodreader can be used for manuscript annotation since you can write on the PDF as if they were printed pages and can even handwrite in the margins. It has all the annotation goodies that you would expect in an app. Exporting is a breeze due to the numerous methods you can utilize. You can import/export via USB cable or a wifi connection, from email attachments and set the app so that it auto syncs with your favorite cloud server. Goodreader connects with Dropbox, Skydrive, Google Drive, SugarSync and many other online servers. Of all the PDF readers I’m reviewing in this article, I feel that this one is my personal favorite.

Editorial
iOS 6.0 or later, iPad only
$4.99

If you love to write with Markdown, this is a minimal app to do that comfortably with on your iPad. With a simple swipe to the left, you can switch from an in-line markdown preview to full HTML preview of your document. The smart keyboard is designed for writing markdown and includes all the special characters you will need. The app comes with 50 pre-configured actions, but you can add to them with your own python scripts to make it even more customized. Your documents sync with DropBox.

Blogsy
iOS 5.0 or later, iPad only
$4.99

While I would not use this app to work on a novel or short story, it is helpful when writing blog posts, something I do almost every day for my writing platform! One of the reasons people buy iPads is so that they can get work done on the go. You can maintain several different blogs at the same time with Blogsy on the following platforms: WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, MoveableType, Drupal, Joomla, Tumblr, Squarespace and MetaWeblog. Use the built-in web browser to drag and drop videos from YouTube, photos from Flicker, Picasa, Facebook, Instagram and Google image search at the touch of a button. Style your blog posts with bold, italics, text alignment and more. Easily change the image and video properties and alignment via menus, write and edit in HTML, toggle comments on and off, and much more. You can also schedule your posts, create online drafts and pending-review posts right inside the app. It also has markdown support. It is no wonder that this app has received so many rave reviews all over the internet.

CloudOn
iOS 6.0 or later, iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad
Free

As a writer, many of us are used to working in the Microsoft Office environment. CloudOn allows you to use your iOS device to access your Word, Powerpoint, Excel files easy to access and use on the go. You can edit documents, spreadsheet and your presentations from anywhere you travel, be it an editor’s office or the local coffeehouse. Transport or store your MS Office files via Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive. The app version of Office is minimalist and streamlined, but it is fully compatible with your computer Office programs.

Cymbol
iOS 5.1 or later, iPad only
$1.99

Cymbol gives a unique functionality to your iPad’s keyboard. This is an app designed by writers for writers and provides a fast access to those special characters not available on the iPad’s onscreen keyboard. On Cymbol’s ready scratch pad, you can save a variety of enhanced character sequences, symbols and other snippets to then be cut and pasted into your written document. Cymbol provides common symbols such as the pilcrow (¶) and section symbol (§), copyright (©), trademark (™), text glyphs such as the number abbreviation (№) and other typography. The application includes full sets of subscript and superscript numbers used in math, chemistry, and physics documentation.

Writing a Hook Line for Your Novel

Its All In the HookI was seated at my local Starbucks coffee house the other day and fell into conversation with an artist. I was asked, as our conversation went on, “So what is your novel about?” I started to think about all the threads that run through my current novel and was at loss for words. This is a common enough question that I will face as an author and it is one that should be addressed even before a novel is finished. What I needed was a one or two sentence summary of what my story is about, one that is designed to capture the interest of a reader or listener. It is known as a “hook line” and beyond its use in conversation, it also serves as a pairing with the book cover in online catalogs to entice readers to buy your book.

What are the Elements of a Hook Line?

    Characters – Who is the main character of your story? What does that main character want? What is his/her main goal?
    Conflict – Who is the antagonist of the story? How does this villain stand in the way of the main character obtaining their goal?
    Originality – What makes your book different from others? What is the unique element of your story that makes it stand out?
    Setting – State the location, the time period or perhaps the genre if it is not obvious.
    Action – Your hook line needs to have an action that catches the reader’s attention. A little detail can go a long way.

Examples of Good Hook lines from movies, also known as Loglines:

BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (Clint Eastwood, 1995) – An Iowa housewife, stuck in her routine, must choose between true romance and the needs of her family.

FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (Sergio Leone, 1965) – A man with no name and a man with a mission hunt a Mexican bandit for different reasons.

MIDNIGHT COWBOY (John Schlesinger, 1969) – Naïve Joe Buck arrives in New York City to make his fortune as a hustler, but soon strikes up an unlikely friendship with the first scoundrel he falls prey to.

LONE STAR (John Sayles, 1996) – A small town Texas sheriff, despite warnings not to, investigates a convoluted case, when a brutal predecessors’ remains turn up 40 years after he was supposedly run out of town.

What are some common elements in these compelling loglines from famous movies? First, they mention the main character in some way. The main character is the star of the movie or the novel and needs to be someone that the reader can be interested in or they will not read the book. You do not always need to mention this character by name, but rather find a way to describe them to make them stand out as unique in the reader’s mind. Next, notice that in the examples, the location of the story is mentioned: Iowa, Mexico, Texas, or New York City. This helps to give the reader an idea of where or when this story takes place. Observe that the conflict that the main character will face is hinted at. A housewife must choose, a man hunts a bandit, an innocent man becomes a friend of a scoundrel, or a sheriff investigates a murder. This is exciting action. Hopefully enough of a conflict to interest a potential reader. Finally, an element of originality should be offered. This helps to off-set your hook line in the book catalog from all hundreds of other offerings in the book store.

The next time I am at the coffeehouse and someone asks me what my novel is about, I might answer this:

Alice dreams of romance, and when her handsome prince arrives, she follows him through the looking glass into a world of Victorian steam-powered engines, a mad queen, an assassin, and a charming rogue. Will she have the courage to be the heroine that Wonderland needs and find her heart’s desire?

What will be your answer?