#21 Tips For Working With Ghost Writing Services
by Tom Gnagey
Ghost writing transforms your ideas or initial efforts to produce a manuscript, into a full length piece, which is well written and ready for marketing. Here are some tips that will make your experience with a ghost writing service productive and pleasant.
If there is one consistent problem with ghost writing it is that the manuscript typically takes on the tone and philosophy of the person doing the writing. It is important, therefore, to lay out those things up front. Is it to be upbeat, serious, dark, humorous, fanciful? Is it to project a positive or negative philosophy? Is it to promote some general or specific philosophic or religious point of view or is it to be a piece that contrasts several? Is it to answer questions or raise questions? Once the ghost writing service understands these things they can work to make it 'feel' like your piece.
In order to make the characters yours, you will need to let the ghost writing service know how they are to appear. Provide at least one central personality trait or motivation for each one. Give a physical description. Go beyond pretty, plain, beautiful, and the like. Add age, hair and eye color, complexion, and build at the minimum. If a character is to dress in a certain fashion tell the ghost writing person at the outset – never later on.
There may be a setting in which you want the story to unfold – urban, rural, north, south, east, west, near a creek or lake or ocean, on the plains, in the desert, perhaps in France or Brazil, and so on. Where do you want it to be set in the flow of history – the present, the roaring 20s, the future. Give your ghost writing person that kind of detailed information.
Once the ghost writing folks understand exactly what you envision for all these basic aspects of the story, they can either agree to do the ghost writing and get started, or tell you is is not the kind of piece they are interested in developing.
It may go without saying but make certain you have a solid agreement as to the fee or at least the fee structure (so much a page, per hour, etc.). You can always set a maximum limit. Emails are about as good as a contract if they are clear and to the point. Typically half the projected fee will be due before the project is begun and the remainder before the manuscript is delivered to you. Never expect to see the work prior to paying for it.
The major step that will make this proceed smoothly and build a pleasant relationship is to always make certain your writer has all the information before he begins ghost writing your manuscript. Changing course in mid-stream (if the writer will even consider doing it) will be costly and difficult. Most ghostwriters consider their services complete once they deliver the manuscript to you. Any changes after that are usually on your shoulders.
Take care of these essentials up front and you should have a good experience.
#20 Writing the Short Story: Quick Characterization
by Tom Gnagey
Most short stories are about a main character doing or feeling something. When writing the short story it is important to establish the character's relevant personality traits and underlying motivation in a quick, precise, manner and then let the lion's share of the story be about the doing. Here are some suggestions.
The longer the story, the more space you can allot to characterization when writing a short story. As a rule of thumb, unless it is strictly a character study, expend no more than 1/16 of the space establishing the character's description.
In novels, a character's personality can be demonstrated as he or she is shown interacting with others or with aspects of the setting (kicks dogs, hugs old women, gives to a charity, drives carelessly, crosses the street with exaggerated caution, and so on). The reader comes to infer the nature of the character by interpreting its actions even if never actually described. In a novel, an evil monster of a person may never be referred to in those terms. In a short story you can bet it will be! When writing the short story, crisp, definitive, adjectives and adverbs placed early in the piece are essential. Get the character established quickly and then keep him true to it as the story progresses.
I once had a creative writing teacher who hated adjectives and adverbs, contending they were a lazy author's way of doing what the larger context of the story should establish. I never fully agreed with that but she was a very successful author (of novels!). I especially disagree when writing the short story in which space for expository description is so severely limited.
Let's examine some examples of quick characterization as might be used in writing the short story.
In a novel one might begin with: “The man sat alone on the porch in the rocking chair.” It might imply a reclusive old man who was relatively inactive or tired, but the reader wouldn’t know those things for sure until the author expanded the concepts. When writing a short story that sentence might become: “The gaunt, gray haired, old man sat alone on the porch, motionless in his rocker, the mere thought of making it move exhausting him.”
Another example from a novel: “Mary went for a walk.” It will take much elaboration for that information to become relevant to the story. When writing the short story that might be used as a grand opportunity for some crisp characterization. “Mary, who had long since seen 80, pulled the red kerchief tightly around her gray hair, securing it against the morning breeze as she entered the familiar park in which she had played as a child.”
One more as it might appear in a novel: “Jasper was an unattractive man.” When writing the short story that might become: “The old man hated his name – Jasper – the same way he hated his high, wrinkled brow, narrow, sunken face, large nose, pointed chin, and over sized ears.” By turning those original five words into 27 you have provided the reader with the equivalent of perhaps several pages of useful information as it would evolve in a novel.
Sometimes a single modifier can make the character. Transform the phrase, “Her approach to life was consistent,” into, “Her upbeat approach to life was consistent.” That one word addition changes the characterization from perhaps a rather bland person who may have been in some intransigent rut, to that of a perky person most us would like to meet and be around.
When writing the short story it is important to bring your character(s) into vivid focus in one or two precisely crafted sentences. The more character's there are the less space you have to allot for each.
#19 Writing the Short Story: Description
by Tom Gnagey
Unlike in a book or even a long story, when writing the short story there isn't much room for flowery, descriptive, prose. Here are some satisfying and effective ways to handle that.
Think essence rather than complete. I love to write long, flowery, beautiful descriptive sequences in the novels I write. When writing the short story that has to change. In some ways it helps make an author a better (more precise, at least) writer. In writing the short story one must determine what facets will quickly set the proper stage and offer all the important (necessary) features. Here is an example.
“The astonishing beauty of the budding trees, the assortment of colorful flowers, and the still, blue, lake just down the hill from his rustic cabin, quickly dispatched the feelings of melancholy that had led Jerry to seek the solitude offered by the Briar Hill Retreat Center.” That sentence replaces about six pages of description from one of my early novels. From that sentence the reader learns many, story-setting, aspects: time of year, a snapshot of the setting, available sources of beauty, a bit about the character's background, and the effect the setting seemed to be having on him. Actually, all that might be worth a full chapter in a long novel. All of that was accomplished by packing a sentence with information – actual and inferred. 'Packing' must occur with great care not to make a sentence or set of sentences too heavy or complex or rambling. (That one is close to being over-packed, perhaps.) One would probably never pack a sentence that way in a novel – the reader would feel cheated.
When writing the short story, however, the reader will appreciate such a compact laying out of useful but not critical information. It doesn’t mean you have to give up wonderful words and phrases. If anything, they become more precious for the precision they provide (astonishing, beauty, colorful, quickly dispatched, melancholy, rustic, solitude).
There is one danger that must be avoided. When writing the short story make sure you don't overuse those wonderful words. Take the word 'remarkable', for example. In a short story consider it a one-time-use word. Used a second time it will not only lose its punch but it will sound amateurish. Sometimes that holds true in novels as well. Certain great words stand out and make their point once, but more frequently than that they make the piece amateurishly redundant. (See how that just happened when I reused a form of 'amateurish'.)
So, here are three pieces of advice about descriptive passages when writing the short story,. Master the art of packing - and not over-packing - descriptive sentences. Think essence first and completeness second (with care and practice both can often be achieved). Avoid the repetition of extraordinary words as they quickly feel wrong and become awkward distractions.
#18 How To Write a Short Story: Seven Hints
by Tom Gnagey
There is no one formula for how to write a short story but there are several guidelines that will provide a solid structure to support your creative juices. Here are seven.
HINT ONE: Begin by 'writing' your story in one sentence of fewer than 30 words. The subject will usually suggest the main character(s). The predicate will give rise to the action – what will be going on. The object will dictate the story line. When you go back and add a few crucial adjectives and adverbs you see the story blossom before your eyes. Writing the short story is then mostly just a matter of expanding on what you have there.
HINT TWO: When asking any successful author how to write a short story he will very likely suggest that the number of characters be kept to a minimum. If a character isn't absolutely necessary to the telling of the story, omit it.
HINT THREE: When writing the short story the author has little room for character development. One way to minimize the problem is to select a series of definitive adjectives. Example: “Although for decades Mildred had been a well known old lady in the small hill town of Jasper, she presented herself as an energetic, kind, and ever helpful, smiling presence when she moved into the retirement home.” Not much else will need to be said. In a book, the reader would learn those things by wading through many pages (or even chapters) of examples from which those traits would be extrapolated.
HINT FOUR: In writing the short story there is little room for building a character's background. In the example above a suggestion about Mildred's background was presented in the phrase, “Although for decades Mildred had been a well known old lady in the small hill town of Jasper...” Never provide more information than is needed to establish and move the story toward its conclusion.
HINT FIVE: Although not a hard and fast rule in writing the short story, it is generally best to use mostly short, simple sentences. They provide the illusion of more content and a faster pace. Sprinkling the piece with a few long or complex sentences adds variety and 'texture'. Readers appreciate a bit of variety.
HINT SIX: When writing the short story develop a single point – move toward a single event or outcome. Limiting the number of characters helps accomplish this. There is no room for subplots (which may be considered necessary for providing flavor and maintaining interest in books).
HINT SEVEN: Most books about how to write the short story will suggest that the story should be tied up (the outcome revealed) within the last few sentences. So, when writing the short story don't linger after the point of the story has been made and never repeat it in a different way thinking that will assure clarity. Make it clear the first time.
#17 Book Revision: Some Options
by Tom Gnagey
Are you long on great story ideas but a bit short on the technical skills necessary to produce an acceptable, well written, story or book? You are not alone. It is why so many rewriting and book revision services are able to continue offering their services. What can you expect when you engage that kind of help?
When all you have is an idea – a plot, some characters, and a setting, perhaps, you will need the services of a ghostwriter. He will have you submit to him everything you can about the story idea. From there, he will write it for you. You will be given full credit in the end. Ghostwriting is the most extensive form of rewriting or book revision and is therefore the most expensive.
When your manuscript is complete but you understand it needs lots of polishing, you need to engage a rewriting service. This level of book revision involves a sentence by sentence evaluation and rewrite to correct grammar, sentence structure, paragraphing, vocabulary selection, and other fundamentals. It typically shortens the manuscript since non-professional writers tend to say too much too often. The cost can vary widely depending both on the amount of work that must be done and the basic fee structure of the person doing the rewriting. Shop around and read samples of their work.
Copy editing may be all you need if you have mastered most of the basic writing skills. This level of rewriting is sometimes called 'finishing' or 'polishing'. It catches those kinds of errors that it is so easy to overlook in your own piece (spelling, homonym substitution, run-on sentences and the like). One of the best pieces of advice I received about writing was never to try doing the final proofing of my own material. Why? As the author you know what it is 'supposed' to say so when you reread it you tend to read it as you intended it to have written it – missing the errors. Final proofing of a short story is difficult; doing it for ones own book length manuscript can become an excruciating, hair pulling, throwing the computer out the window, experience. (I jest – well, sort of!)
Some people believe it is a personal put down to need book revision or rewriting services. That's foolishness. If you enjoy writing and creating story lines then write and create. Let somebody else sweat out the details for you. With training most anyone can learn the essentials of writing (if that becomes their goal), but no amount of training can produce a creative mind. If you have one, treasure it and find ways to make it work for you.
#16 Using Free and Inexpensive Books and Stories for Teenagers
by Tom Gnagey
The web is a remarkable resource for readers, including children and teens. It is a comfortable medium for teens and a good place to start when encouraging them to read. Many books and stories are available free of charge. There are, however, several important thing to keep in mind before setting young people free to surf and read.
Surfing for kid-friendly sites can be frustrating and time consuming. Many young people will give up before they find a satisfactory site with good, inexpensive, easy to access, books and stories for teenagers. Too often sites offering free and inexpensive books for teens, are merely presenting a marginally honest come on. Some offer a free chapter or two and then, once hooked, they offer the rest for a price. Weeding out such sites before the young readers take up the search to find good books for teens, will prevent some of the frustration that can turn them off.
Books and stories on the web come in two main varieties: Hard copies to order and have sent to to you (like from Amazon) and digital or e-books which can be downloaded on the spot. More and more it is the second kind that you will find. Many books for teens are now available on the several 'book reader' devices. Many individual titles are available on a variety of such 'players'.
Electronic books and stories for teenagers are presented in one of two formats: Read on the website, or download and read from your computer or digital device. The second approach often allows you to download and print stories for teenagers which you can hand to them or send them if you are an absentee grandparent, for example.) Some sites have copyright and sharing restrictions to which you need to adhere.
If you are trying to encourage reading, try to find an author with numerous stories for teenagers or who has written a series of books for teens. When they find an author or series they like they are likely to go back and find the rest on their own.
Most book and story websites are understandably set up to make a profit – sell their wares. Many will often offer the first book or story for teenagers free of charge as a come on to purchase the others. If a teen who is a reluctant reader finds such an offer, it may well be worth the money to buy a few (or see if they are available at the local library).
Use the web wisely when searching for stories for teenagers. It can be a good source for inexpensive and quality reading material.
#15 Reading For Fun: Mystery Books
by Tom Gnagey
If, as an adult, you are reading fiction, you are probably reading for fun. Of the several genre available, mystery books remain high on the preferred list. Here are several ways to find the kinds of mystery books you enjoy the most.
Mystery stories are built on several different kinds of story lines.
The Erle Stanley Gardner's (Perry Mason) approach is to keep the reader engaged with well written side-tracks which, in the end, have little or nothing to do with the solution of the mystery. These mystery books depend on the strong central character and dialog and lead up to a final court room scene composed primarily of a Perry Mason monologue. At the last minute, one of Perry's assistants arrives with a brand new piece of information that turns the case around and proves his client innocent. If, when you are reading for fun, you like excellent writing and suspense, this style should suit your needs well. If, however, you like to try to solve the case yourself when you are reading for fun, you need to look for for the kind of mystery book writing that sprinkles genuine clues along the way.
If your taste in reading for fun runs to character studies, the Columbo approach may suit you best. It was aired as a successful TV series and its creators refer to its style as "howdhecatchem" rather than 'whodoneit'. In this approach to writing a mystery book the reader knows from the opening scene 'who done it'. It is then the task of the story to demonstrate how the wily detective finds and uses the clues. The reader is kept engaged in the story by the fascinating personality and unique skills and guile of the detective. These are read more out of love for the main character than the mystery.
If you fancy yourself a detective or enjoy assembling the clues, look to the mystery books by
Garrison Flint – most notably the series built around the old Detective Raymond Masters. The unique structure of these mystery books allows the reader to know every clue the detective knows from the moment he first finds or suspects it. Although they are written in the third person, every scene is presented through the eyes of Detective Masters. There are no 'off camera' goings on to run in at the last minute. If, when you are reading for fun, you like mystery books in which you can match wits with the detective, you will like these stories.
If you prefer a mixture of mystery and ghostly goings on, try the Marc Miller, ghost writer, series. The stories are set in the isolated back country of northwest Arkansas (an area ghost watchers say is rampant with ghosts). These mystery books are written in the first person. Miller – in the stories - is a writer who investigates and writes about apparent supernatural occurrences, so, as you read you are experiencing exactly what he is experiencing and what he is thinking.
Understanding some things about the sub-genre of mystery books can enhance your reading for fun experiences.
#14 The Several Essential Faces of Rewriting
by Tom Gnagey
Any serious writer knows that great writing is largely superb rewriting. It serves several necessary functions and can take place in several ways. Master it and you will master writing.
At the outset, most experienced writers just write and leave the polishing of a manuscript for later (and later and later and later …). Rewriting is an ongoing process. Perhaps the most common error of a beginning writer is to believe his piece is ever really finished. Stories are never really finished: there just comes a time when the author stops.
Successful writers are meticulous perfectionists. Over the course of a dozen or more rewriting sessions, each word and phrase is considered critically – is it the very best for that spot in the story? How could the form of each sentence be improved either for clarity of meaning or to promote the easy flow of the words for the reader?
The original draft sets in the story – its sequence, the tale it tells, the general length of the piece, the characters and their basic interaction. One of my teachers said that any halfway bright six year old could do all that. (I was never sure about that!) He said the real writing comes in the rewriting. (That I do agree with.) Good rewriting considers the length, complexity and transitional value of each sentence in the manuscript. The expert at rewriting always asks, “What function must that word (phrase, sentence, paragraph) play at that point in the story? Those are not things an experienced writer dwells on when attacking the first draft.
One of the latter rewriting excursions for a manuscript is to assess the ease of flow – from word to word, phrase to phrase, sentence to sentence, and paragraph to paragraph. Sometimes great words may get in the way of flow – pose an impediment due to its sound or length or difficulty of pronunciation. (Yes, most readers really do pronounce the words in their mind as they read.)
The purpose of the next to the last rewrite is to remove everything that isn't necessary. It is typically the most painful part of rewriting because it often requires the writer to give up some of his or her favorite phrases or words. Pieces that retain unneeded material feel 'heavy' to the reader. Those things get in the way of the reader's progress and comprehension. Remember, the story is for the reader, not the writer.
Writing is, you see, mostly rewriting. Good writers come to enjoy it. Rewriting is where the writer demonstrates that he truly understands the craft of writing at its deepest level.
Many good writers employ a professional re-writer or copy editor to 'put a second set of eyes' on the piece and polish it for publication. That represents another form and purpose of rewriting. The final draft of many successful writers' pieces are actually done by a re-writer who specializes in all the things touched on above. Those authors enjoy the creative side of writing and are happy to leave the sweat to somebody else!
# 13 Books for Teens
by Tom Gnagey
In this day of the information explosion it is essential that teenagers come to appreciate the value of reading on their own or they will be left behind by those who do. Fortunately the internet has become a wonderful resource. Here are some hints to help encourage and guide teens along their way to life long learning.
Teens who read independently were typically readers of print books as children. The nature of the publishing business has changed dramatically in the past few years. There are now more books for teens published as e-books than as paper books. These digital books for teens are a natural fit to the younger generation's life experience. Teens (and children) are comfortable using the web and are quite savvy about where to look on the web for various kinds of information – games, sports, shopping, music downloads, and so on. Often, not so much when it comes to reading material.
Books for teens on the web are available in several forms. Some web sites offer free books either to read on the site or to download and read on one of the ever increasing kinds of electronic devices. There are books for teens formatted especially for the book reading devices. Those vary in price but virtually all of them cost something.
Most towns have a library and a few bookstores so where to go to find or to purchase a print book is a relatively simple matter. The web, however, boasts millions of sites presenting books for teens. How do you sift through all those possibilities and find the quality, safe, sites that you want? Begin by formulating some 'long string' keywords to search on Google, Bing, and the like. The term 'long string' means key phrases with 3 to 6 words (compared with one or two). In general, the more words, the more specific the search becomes and therefore the fewer sites there will be look at – filter out.
For example, rather than searching 'books', a search for 'books for teens' or 'mystery books for teens', or 'Marc Miller mystery books for teens (or any other known author of quality books for teens) will all dramatically reduce the number sites and sift out those with irrelevant titles and ulterior motives.
An even more precise search uses the specific titles of books for teens when they are known (Hardy Boys Mysteries, Nancy Drew Mysteries, Kevin Kress - teen detective, etc.). Not only will this find a variety of sites offering the books in various formats and prices, but it will typically discover sites that have other books for teens similar to the one being searched.
Mature teens will enjoy and benefit from many of the same books as adults. Many of the books teens are required to read in high school English classes are adult fare – Poe, Hemingway, Shakespeare, etc.
Teens are typically impatient so any help we can provide that will make their search for reading material easier and faster will usually be accepted if not welcomed. By doing a little spade work ourselves we can feel more comfortable about the reading material they encounter on the web.
#12 Preparing Your Manuscript for Copy Editing
by Tom Gnagey
When you submit your manuscript for copy editing make it is the best piece you can write. Why go to all that work if it's going to be 'fixed' anyway?
Each writer has, or should cultivate, his or her own 'feel' or style. The more complete the manuscript is that you pass on for copy editing the more likely it will retain your style rather than taking on that of the editor.
Make sure the vocabulary and sentence structure reflect your style. If you target the educated reader use words that acknowledge that level of understanding. If you write for the less educated modify the set of words you use accordingly. Some writers are known for the complexity of the sentence structure they use. Others prefer to set their ideas with simple sentences. A mix probably makes the piece more appealing to the general reader. Longer sentences often facilitate the feeling of easy flow within a piece. Short sentences provide a staccato, point by point, feel. Whichever you want to have characterize your style, make sure the manuscript you turn over for copy editing reflects it.
Always perform the spell check function so the copy editing doesn't have to involve such menial aspects of the piece. The better spell checkers will locate inappropriate homonyms (sound alike, spelled differently – there/their). In terms of the 'sentence fragment' warning, remember that all incomplete sentences need not be fixed. In dialog, for example, some speakers may typically talk in phrases and incomplete sentences. That adds realism if it is true to the character. Even in the non-dialog areas of a piece fragments may (judicially) be allowed if they are used for emphasis ('He was sad. Somewhat melancholy. Depressed, even.'). The same message could be delivered in full sentences but the emphasis might be lost both by context and 'look'.
In terms of format, submit it for copy editing according to the requirements of the editor. These days most will want the manuscript to be digital in an easy to read font. Although it is simple to change a digital file in dozens of ways, make it as easy as possible for the guy at the other end. Some editors still prefer hard copy. If no specifications are given for hard copy format, use these: one inch margins all around, double spaced. Helvetica or Times New Roman font. Print on a non-shiny, white, 20 pound, paper. Package well for mailing. Damaged copy may be impossible to edit.
Since many writers who do copy editing charge by the hour, it is only in the author's best interest to present his very best, self-edited, work.
#11 Is Ghostwriting a Good Option for Your Idea or Manuscript?
by Tom Gnagey
For some folks, the very idea of ghostwriting is offensive. Here are a number of reasons that ghostwriting may, in fact, be both a good and reasonable alternative.
Many wonderful inventions have come about because a creative mind had an idea, which he handed over to engineers or chemists to perfect. Should that product not have been created because the one with the great idea didn't have the scientific skill to complete the product by himself? Think about writing in the same way. Lots of people have very creative minds when it comes to developing stories but don't happen to have the necessary level of writing skill to turn their ideas into well written products.
Enter ghostwriting. Think of ghostwriting like the chemist and engineer applying their special skills to developing the new product. At one end of he ghostwriting continuum comes the more or less complete story in manuscript form but lacking the organization, structure, and grammar necessary to bring it up to accepted standards for publication. At the other end come what might be merely a collection of notes that capture the essence of the story, characters, and message.
Ghostwriting retells the original story as faithfully as possible. If additions (such as necessary characters or sub plots) or deletions (something the idea is just too complex or there are aspects, which are unnecessary to the story-line,) the ghostwriter discusses the change with the author before proceeding. Ghostwriting recasts the story in mainstream English and sets it into an appropriate foundation so readers can easily and enjoyably navigate it.
Manuscripts from untrained authors typically vacillate between supplying too much information and not enough. They also tend to use important words in an bothersome, repetitive, fashion. (A really great word should, perhaps, only appear once in the entire piece.) In general, when a manuscript is rewritten it shrinks – sometimes considerably.
When hiring an author to do ghostwriting for you consider several things. Make sure he is a published author in his own right. That is perhaps your best guarantee that he knows what he is doing. Always read something he has written to get the flavor and style of how 'your' story will be treated. Agree on an approximate finished length so the writer will know what to shoot for and you will have control over the final cost (most charge by the finished page). Finally, obtain a sample – even a few pages – of the story as it will be written so you can evaluate it in terms of your desires.
Don't sign a contract until you have satisfied yourself about those several things. There is, of course, the matter of the fee. You have to determine what you can afford and what seems reasonable. Visit a number of sites that advertise ghostwriting services to get a feel for going rates. (The wide range may astound you. The most expensive does not necessarily equate to best – it may just mean it is the most expensive!)
The original author gets all credits and the ghostwriter's name is never referenced. The author can, of course, make any changes in the 'finished' manuscript he wants to make. It is, after all, his property.
# 10 Polishing Your Manuscript
by Tom Gnagey
Manuscript editing is often called polishing when it involves more than simple proof reading but less than full rewriting. Most manuscripts need polishing. Why?
We've all heard the old saw that two heads are better than one. In writing, two sets of eyes are much better than one. Few things are more difficult for writers than proof reading our own work. A student once asked me about a note he had received from an editor. It read: 'Manuscript not yet ready for book editing.' That meant, of course, that there were still some major work to be done on the mechanical side of the piece. In other words, it needed polishing. The student still didn't understand. I 'polished' the first six pages for him. Then he understood.
Polishing involves aspects of both proof reading (spelling, punctuation, tense agreement, etc.) and minor rewriting (restructuring sentences and paragraphs, making vocabulary substations, reorganization materiel within a chapter . . .).
As the writer, you know what you intend and it is no small task to view your own work through the eyes of your potential readers – folks who don't know what you intend until they read it. The writer doing polishing must maintain that perspective and modify the piece accordingly. Writers are typically verbal rather than visual people so it is easy for us to make inappropriate substitutions of homonyms (hear, here; there, their; its, it's, and the like.) Those are big no nos to editors at publishing houses, however.
A manuscript that has been well polished retains the tone and style of the original. One that has undergone rewriting may look and feel quite differently. Remember, a piece that needs rewriting doesn’t look and feel right to begin with, hence the rewrite. A piece only needing polishing or proof reading generally looks and feels fine but aspects of the minor mechanics need fixing.
A closely guarded secret of may successful authors is that they regularly have expert polishers 'touch up' their final drafts. Some authors would rather spend their time on the creative side of writing and leave things such as proof reading and polishing to those who specialize in such services.
Although I do proof reading and polishing of dozens of manuscripts each year for others, I always have someone else do proof reading of my own original work.
So, having proof reading done on your pieces is never a put down; it just demonstrates your keen savvy about building a great manuscript. I recently completed rewriting a celebrities autobiographical manuscript. I then had proof reading and polishing done for me by a colleague.
Why have your manuscripts polished? To move them up from great but rejected to great and accepted.
# 9 Hints For Writing Very Short Stories
by Tom Gnagey
Crafting very short stories presents several special challenges. The new demand for these pieces to be used on the web makes it a useful form of writing to master. Here are six hints to keep in mind.
With this renewed interest in the very short story, as a unique form of short story writing, a special set of guidelines is necessary.
Needless to say, an economy of words is essential. Never use a dozen when you can find one or two that will convey the same general concept or intent. For example in short story writing an author might have space to write: 'Everybody hated Henry Haddock. He kicked dogs, scared children with his cane, and cursed at old women.' In very short stories that might need to be reduced to: 'Henry was the Devil incarnate!' (Note that in a long story or a novel the description of his character might take several paragraphs or pages and may be developed with entries at several places in the story.)
The same number of words when written as dialog uses considerably more page space than descriptive prose. When possible, incorporate 'dialog' into 'regular' sentences. 'Marjorie said,”Nice day.” Harold responded, “Not for me,” and flashed an angry look.' The best suggestion is to just omit dialog in very short stories.
Keep to a single point or train of thought. Very short stories must let the reader know what they are all about right from the first sentence and the remainder of the piece must develop that idea or concept. 'Sargent Lester was determined not to be killed even though pinned down in the dimly lit alley by the ruthless mobster who had recently sent his partner to intensive care.' (Notice how that sentence also gets away with being somewhat telegraphic, omitting the words 'he was' between 'through' and 'pinned'. It keeps the meaning and cuts two words.)
In short story writing a certain amount of 'fluff' is permitted – 'prettying up' descriptions, etc. In very short stories there is no room for fluff (unless it is the name of the old lady's cat!). Each sentence must act as a simple, essential, step between the the one before it and the one that follows.
Where short story writing is pretty much just a more concise version of writing longer stories, think about very short stories in a different way – as quick snapshots that cut away all but the essential element. Practice writing your life history in 400 words or less. I often ask students to write there life history in 50 words and then later have them 'expand' it to 400. That exercise provides the necessary perspective for writing very short stories. (It is fascinating that many students struggle to find enough words to fill up the entire 400 word goal.)
Minimize the number of paragraphs in very short stories. Try to design the story within three. Set the story up in the first. Provide the 'meat' in the second (usually the longest). Tie it all together or administer the 'twist' in the final paragraph – which is often a single, well constructed, sentence.
Although writing very short stories is quite a different process from typical short story writing, it provides an intriguing set of challenges. Practice makes perfect – well, at least it moves us in that direction!
# 8 Writing Short Stories With A Twist
by Tom Gnagey
It is reported that Alfred Hitchcock loved the short story as a literary medium because it lends itself so well to creating unforeseen twists. Here are six hints for creating short stories with a twist.
Writing Stories With A Twist: Hint ONE:
There is something I call 'reader investment' that applies when considering the ideal length for stories with a twist. In book length pieces, readers become firmly attached to character and the trend of the story. To disrupt or violate all that at the end with a twist, which denies all that, can be disappointing and even distressful for many readers. (The Sting, is a masterful and notable exception.) In shorter pieces the reader investment doesn't get a chance to configure itself, so the twist doesn’t disrupt the reader and, in fact, will typically be enjoyed as an unforeseen delight.
Writing Stories With A Twist: Hint TWO:
In, perhaps, a clumsy way of stating it, the final twist must not be illogically born from the early plot, character traits, and motivation, but neither must it be in any way telegraphed ahead of its presentation. I enjoy writing 'Hitchcockian' stories. My goal is always to introduce the twist at the last possible moment – in the final sentence and even better, in the final few words of the final sentence. I typically spend more time creating the presentation of the twist than I do writing the rest of the piece. The author must have the twist clearly in mid from the outset. It is the target toward which he writes.
Writing Stories With A Twist: Hint THREE:
Most of the story must be a subtle diversion away from the final twist. It does not dare be obvious. It does not dare raise a red flag (or even a pale pink one) in the reader's mind. There must be nothing to suggest that the story is not proceeding to what seems like its logical or legitimate conclusion – even if that will not specifically be fully understood. (Why read any story if you know how it will end?)
Writing Stories With A Twist: Hint FOUR:
It is more acceptable to make a bad guy into a good guy as the twist, than a good guy into a bad guy. It can be done with care and planning but it takes great skill. It is human nature to not want good things to turn sour. This is extremely important when planning short stories with a twist.
Writing Stories With A Twist: Hint FIVE:
Always make certain your story delivers the twist without making the reader feel betrayed. I have shelved a number of stories because in the end I couldn't find a way to overcome that obvious betrayal factor.
Writing Stories With A Twist: Hint SIX:
Spend lots of time reading and analyzing the all important structure of 'Hitchcockian' type short stories. You'll find a large number by merely Googling 'short stories with at twist'.
A great short story, which delivers an acceptable and unexpected twist is perhaps the most difficult from of story to pull off successfully. Happy writing!
#6 Seven Hints for Writing Short Stories
By Tom Gnagey
When asked how long it would take for him to prepare a speech, a great orator once responded, “If I have two hours to speak, I'm ready now. If I only have only 15 minutes, give me a week.” Writing is like that. The shorter the piece, the more precisely it must be planned and rendered. Here are several hints that should help when writing the short story.
When I begin a book, I often have only three things in mind: how it will end, the setting, and a main character. I then just go at it and watch it develop. When advising about how to write short stories, however, that would be terrible counsel – at least the 'just go at it' part.
Writing the Short Story: Hint # 1
In a short story each word and phrase is necessarily packed with appropriate and important meaning. There is more latitude in longer pieces. Subtle shades of meaning reign supreme when writing the short story. There is only room for the very best word and sentence structure at each point in the story.
Writing the Short Story: Hint # 2
Stick to one plot-line – at least at the beginning of your 'career'. This is particularly essential in the short, short story (under 800 or so words). As you gain skill, try more complicated plotting. It is a great exercise because it requires even greater economy of words.
Writing the Short Story: Hint # 3
Utilize as few characters as necessary. Focus on the story line and on developing one main character – perhaps two if it is an adversarial piece. Describe only the personal traits or characteristics that are relevant to the story.
Writing the Short Story: Hint # 4
Keep the setting incredibly simple. For example, “At the end of the isolated, overgrown, dirt, lane sat a white clapboard house that had clearly seen better days,' might replace the several pages of description that could meaningfully occupy a longer piece. State it simply and get on with the story (unless some special facet of all that is important to the story.)
Writing the Short Story: Hint #5
From the first sentence, the story must move logically and believably toward its conclusion. Just because it is short, doesn’t give the author license to omit elements that answer questions the reader may (should) have. When writing the short story, I find it essential to make a step-by-step sequence list ahead of time. It becomes the outline or topic guide. Make sure each step is firmly supported at its particular place in the short story. If you are familiar with 'flow charting', you may find that technology helpful.
Writing the Short Story: Hint #6
Guard the conclusion with your 'life'. It must follow believably from what is presented earlier but the end must not be a foregone conclusion. Readers need to be engaged right up to the final word to receive the full experience you are offering.
Writing the Short Story: Hint # 7
Read and analyze lots of short stories before you begin writing. Take time to recreate the topic sequence list and think about how the author earlier paved they way for each step and then used each step as a springboard into what follows. Consider why he chose the words he used instead of other possible words. Nothing helps develop a short story writer's skill better than the thoughtful dissection and analysis of great short stories.
#6 How To Find the Best Person for Rewriting Your Manuscript
by Tom Gnagey
Writing help is available in a variety of types and wide range of qualities. Here are some tips to help you determine what level of writing help you need and how to find a quality rewriting expert.
Writing Help Tip # ONE: Sometimes an author is well aware of his limitations. Sometimes he is not. If not, have several random readers (not experts) give your piece a read and share their reactions with you. Even if they don't actually criticize it – often friend won't - you will get a sense for what has worked and what hasn't. (Ask that, even.) An alternative is to send the manuscript to a professional ”Reader”. They charge either by the hour or the page and offer a short written critique. It will explain what kinds of writing help or rewriting services are required.
Writing Help Tip # TWO: Always read writing samples of a potential rewriting colleague. It will give you a sense of the tone and style he or she prefers. If that kind of rewriting fits your own style, fine. If not, look further for your writing help. Beware of those who have, themselves, not published.
Writing Help Tip # THREE: Get three commitments from the one who will be doing your rewriting.
(1) Establish the total fee. Even if it is figured on a per finished page basis, you should still be able to get a very close estimate. (Rewrites are usually somewhat shorter than the original.) Professionals usually require half up front and the other half before the finished manuscript is released to you.
(2) If you have a necessary time-line, make sure to get a solid commitment about when it will be finished. Count on it taking a longer rather than a shorter time.
(3) Arrive at an understanding about revisions subsequent to your receiving the original revision. Some rewriting services provide one set of minimal revisions according to your directions. Other will charge a per word or hourly fee for revisions. It is typical for rewriting professionals to do a one shot rewrite and leave further modification to you. Actually, that usually works quite well as it gives you the final control over the piece.
Writing Help Tip # FOUR: Before you commit yourself to an arrangement, have the rewriting service actually rewrite a page or two for you the way they plan to do it. This is a small sample of the rewriting and its quality, but it will tell you a great deal about the level of writing help you can expect.
Writing Help Tip # FIVE: You must understand ahead of time that no rewriting service can (or should) guarantee the revised manuscript will be published. A quality, accurately written piece has the best chance of being published but there are other things to consider such as the appeal of the topic and characters, and the nature of the message sent by the piece.
Writing Help Tip # SIX: Even before you receive your revised manuscript, begin searching out potential publishers (Writer's Market). Submit only to those who say they are looking for your kind of piece and prepare each submission exactly according to each individual publisher's guidelines. Finally, be prepared to submit it over and over again. The author of the hit novel, The Help, reports she received 60 rejection letter before she sold her book to a publisher. So, be patient! Successful searching. Good luck!
#5 How You Can Market Your Short Stories Online
by Tom Gnagey
The web provides a remarkable medium for marketing short stories. The basic formula is this: Give away a few advertised, high quality, free, short stories and offer other short stories online for sale. Here are some of the specific procedures.
There are several options for offering short stories online. You can provide your advertised free short stories as 'to be read online' or 'copy and paste' presentations. Msword or one of its compatible cousins (Open Office) may work better than PDF files on your website. The freebees can be presented as a group - “My Free Short Stories' or they can be sprinkled in among the total list of stories. That is perhaps the best marketing ploy. While folks search for the free short stories they find others that may catch their fancy enough to purchase.
The short stories online that you have for sale will need to be formatted for downloading from a 'pay you' site such as payloadz (Typically pdf). You upload your short stories to be stored on their server and link each story to it. You set prices and so forth. There are special low fees (a nickle or so apiece) for items selling for under $2.00. Patrons order from your website (it can be quite simple), pay through the download site (payloads, etc.) and your earnings - less the transaction fee - is direct deposited into your bank account. How simple!
Make sure some of your best stories are offered as your free short stories. When patrons find the free short stories enjoyable they are more likely to purchase your other short stories online. For several reasons it is best to make your free short stories your short, short, stories. They require less space and they can be read quickly. Web surfers are often impatient so to maintain their attention, make those free short stories really short, easily read and understood, and ones that leave the readers with a real emotional reaction.
Many folks who look for short stories online are senior citizens. They typically need inexpensive items and a straight forward, simple method for acquiring them. Give your site the appearance of absolute simplicity. Use font sizes of 12 and above. Make it clear that although some of your short stories online cost a small fee, there are also many free short stories available. Explain how to easily tell them apart.
Visit several websites that offer short stories online and examine the systems and presentations they use.
# 4 If You Want To Write, Just Write!
By Tom Gnagey
The surest way for a beginning writer to become overwhelmed by a sense of personal failure is to believe every sentence must be perfect when it is first set down. Successful writers don't dwell on that – they just write, understanding that the inevitable task of rewriting will follow.
It is said, and rightly so, that writing is mostly rewriting. Writing can be conceived of as two processes - creativity and technique. Creativity builds wonderful stories and it emerges from some innate spot deep inside gifted minds. One either has it or he doesn't. Technique is a learned craft. It involves vocabulary, organization, grammar, sentence structure, paragraphing, and so on. Think of that first draft as the process of transferring wonderful ideas from your creative mind to the page. Think of technique as that which you apply during the rewriting process. Rewriting can become both a challenging and rewarding part of the process. I have grown to love everything about the rewriting process.
Many beginners love to create and hate to polish (the rewriting). Unless you are willing to master the techniques of writing and rewriting you have to make a choice. Either stop expecting that what you write will ever sell, or engage professional help to take the wonderful story you have laid down and apply their rewriting skills to it for you. More well known authors than you might expect use the latter approach. They spend their time on the creative side of writing and let an expert in technique polish what they have written.
During the process of rewriting, mental flexibility becomes the byword. Each rewrite becomes an analysis of whether or not each word, each phrase, each sentence and paragraph, is the very best it can be at that particular place in the story. This often means that words and phrased the author 'loves' may well need to be replaced in the service of improving the piece. When those come up for me (and they do) I soothe my wounded feelings by adding the phrase to a list I keep of 'use sometime' phrases. That way it isn't lost forever at that excruciatingly difficult pressing of the delete key.
So, my advice to beginning writers is just write. Enjoy the process of creating a wonderful story. Then, learn to enjoy the rewriting process – that is where the beauty and easy flow of a piece will come to life.
#3 Book Editing, Ghost Writing, or Rewriting Services: Which Do You Need?
by Tom Gnagey
When you need a writer to assist with your manuscript, you enter a world of often confusing terms – book editing, rewriting, ghostwriting, proofreading, and more. Exactly what does each offer?
Proofreading is the least invasive and least expensive. When you have a great piece but need to make sure it is free from errors in grammar, word confusion (it's/its) and sentence structure, a proofreading service is what you need. Few things are more difficult for a writer than proofreading his or her own manuscript. We tend to read what we intend to write rather than what we wrote.
Rewriting involves a major do-over of a manuscript. Many beginning writers can lay in a great story or non-fiction piece, but lack the skill needed to put it all together in a way that is grammatically and structurally acceptable to exacting publishers. As few as two errors on the first six pages means an automatic 'return to sender' without further reading. Rewriting involves a major change in the way a piece looks – words, sentences, paragraphs, even chapters, sometimes. Rewriting leaves the story-line or basic concepts alone – it just wraps it in a different grammatically and structurally corrected look. Rewriting is a major undertaking and doesn't come cheap - $10.00 to $25.00 per finished page.
Ghostwriting presents a very different service. The ghostwriter does all the writing. He can take your general or specific ideas and then write a book around them. In nonfiction, ghostwriting may include researching the topic as well as writing (The Best Bass Fishing Sites in North America). Before committing your project for ghostwriting, be sure to read several things the writer has written so you can get the feel for his or her tone and style. Ghostwriting is typically the most expensive of the rewriting services. Expect to from $15.00 a page to over $10.000 per book.
Book editing is a more nebulous term that may mean anything from simple proofreading to full fledged rewriting. Therefore, the fees for book editing vary greatly depending on the level of service. Book editing used to be the domain of publishers who were willing to edit manuscripts they received that contained a great story line. Publisher almost never do that anymore. They expect to receive only perfect copy. An author needs to be quite specific when investigating book editing services. Always get a firm price up front. For some reason (in this author's experience), writers who advertise 'Book Editing' services generally believe what they do should command larger fees for the same services offered by others.
So, determine your needs and then search for someone who can deliver that for your. Always read something they have written and always get a page or two sample of the revision as they will do it for you.
#2 Do You Need a Writer
by Tom Gnagey
Writing is mostly rewriting and revising. Many writers do a fine job of laying in the story in the first draft but prefer to have a professional put on the finishing touches. That's when you need a writer who has proven his rewriting and polishing abilities.
Truth be known, many well known authors learned early on that although they were brilliantly creative, they need a writer to take care of the laborious housekeeping tasks of rewriting and polishing.
Rewriting is available at several levels form mild to heavy – once-over proofreading to a major do over so it conforms to editor's expectations and requirements. Beginners can often learn as much from studying and analyzing a great rewriting of their piece as they can from a class in creative writing.
How can you know if you need a writer to rework your piece? If you didn't earn an 'A' or “B” in your last English chances are you need a writer to give your work at least a minimal manicuring. Another approach is to have a high school English teacher take a red pencil to your first chapter. Many first drafts, which may tell marvelous stories, are written in the everyday language of conversation. This leads to incomplete and run-on sentences, noun/verb incompatibility, and errors in punctuation. Rewriting by an expert can fix such things in short order. If the piece is overly repetitive or poorly organized and wanders in and out among its topics, a more major rewriting will be necessary.
Once you decide that you need a writer to work on your piece, where do you find a proven, reputable, re-writer? Google key words such as rewriting, ghost writing, editing, proof reading and writing help. Always read things written by those you are considering using. If they won't show you their work one wonders what they may have to hide. They should also send you a one or two page rewrite of a sample you provide from your manuscript so you can judge whether or not they will provide the kind of rewriting you want.
In the 'old days' of publishing a beginning writer with wonderful ideas could count on the editors at the publishing house to actually 'edit' the piece – proofreading and such. Those days are basically gone. Editors now expect perfectly written pieces and typically won't read past the first page if structural or grammatical errors are present.
So, do you need a writer to smooth out your piece before you begin submitting it? Chances are some rewriting by a professional will greatly enhance it's chance to be sold and published.
#1 Writing Help
By Tom Gnagey
Before you begin searching for writing help make sure you understand what you need. Such services range from simple proofreading to complete rewriting and ghostwriting.
Proofreading involves checking things such as spelling, punctuation, blatant sentence structure errors, inappropriate word choice (their/there), subject/verb agreement and capitalization. Proofreading is the least expensive and it tends to leave the piece basically as it was written.
Rewriting may provide several levels of writing help. Of course it involves complete proofreading. If the piece is generally well written the rewriting may be minimal. If there are organizational problems, major grammatical problems, inconsistent use of tense, overly repetitive vocabulary or story line inconsistencies the writing help may require a whole new set of words.
At the outset you may not really know what level of writing help your piece needs. In that case, send a chapter or less to several different professional 're-writers' and get their specific suggestions about service level. It is reasonable to ask to see a page or so of the proposed 'rewrite' before you hire someone so you can examine the style and feel the piece will assume. If you believe your book length piece is basically sound, request two samples: First, a page or so of a complete rewrite and second, just basic proofreading. If the professional is not willing to show you what kind of writing help he can provide, think twice about using him or her.
Proofreading and rewriting are not to be confused with ghostwriting which is a very different level of writing help. Ghostwriting involves turning an idea over to a professional writer who then creates the entire piece in his words. In ghostwriting, the finished piece has been written by someone else but you put your name on it, retain the copyright, and in all ways proceed as if it were your work.
Often, autobiographies and business related pieces – manuals, company histories, success stories and so on – are ghostwritten. In some cases ghostwriters will reduce their fee if the piece is published with some 'author acknowledgment' – by John Smith with or as told to Bill Brown. When extensive interviewing or listening to tapes in involved expect the fee to be much higher.
Finally, make sure you are able to read several original things written by the professional you are considering using. Those who have published their own work are generally more accomplished.
So, carefully consider what level of writing help you need and then search out professional writers who can provide it for you. Simple proofreading is the least expensive. Ghostwriting is typically the most expensive. Rewriting falls in between and depends on the amount of work involved. Proofreading a generally good piece may cost as little and $1.00 a page. Rewriting may cost as little as $5.00 a page for a sound piece to over $10.00 a page for 'needy' pieces. Ghostwriting varies greatly with the professional. Expect to pay between $15.00 and $30.00 a finished page (or more if done by a highly successful writer with a recognized name.). Typically you will be requires to pay half upfront before the project is begun and half before their finished manuscript is released to you. Usually they do not communicate with the author during the time they are working on the manuscript. Revisions are usually the responsibility of the original author.
Only trust your writing help to somebody you have checked out thoroughly.