Happiness is…


editing rambling

I’m NOT going to mention title or author because she’s indie (and probably very young or uneducated), but I stumbled upon a free read that deserved 1 star for grammar/style/formatting and 3 for story. So I’m not going to mention who suggested it either, but other reviews went from 1 to 5 stars – which probably means something.

What I felt is she uploaded her piece too soon, without even bothering a pass with the spellchecker. Punctuation was an optional, correct formatting of dialog and whatnot almost unknown and similar sounding words (you know, like their/they’re/there?) were constantly misused which made the story really hard to enjoy (and sometimes even to follow). That’s the 1star part.

I hated her crybaby protagonist, which reminded me of a friend’s story in the same genre some 15 years ago, where both her (male) protagonists were crybabies. Here it’s only one, but it’s still too much. But then, I also usually hate romance heroines, so I’m probably the sociopath here! 😉 And I couldn’t appreciate the high school setting, because I’m not American, so it didn’t remind me of anything (which was a good thing for the highest rated reviews).

Anyway, I’m certainly not going back to that author. A typo or two will always be in any manuscript or traditionally published book, but one or two on each page is way too much. Her English is worse than mine (she keeps using “then” instead of “than” by the way…), and I’m not a native speaker, so if I can’t improve MY English, why waste my time! 😉

So what I would like to recommend to ANY and ALL writers is: be aware of your limits. If grammar or punctuation are your weak spot and you don’t have the money to pay a pro editor (like I do with the novels, but not the shorter pieces), find a friend who is an English geek  and use him/her for proofreading. You live in English speaking countries, it can’t be too hard to find somebody! My friends mostly speak Italian (that’s why I rely a lot on my beta from my offline writers group), so it’s harder for me now that I switched languages. But when I did write in Italian, I knew what my weaknesses were and I had specific friends to catch my specific problems (like putting too much Roman dialect in dialog, so I had a Tuscan friend go over it – Tuscany is supposed to speak “real” Italian, so those are the best judges).

It’s hard to catch your own mistakes, so always have at least another set of eyes checking your work of fiction before putting it out there, either as submission to trad pub or uploaded as indie.

Maybe in a few years this author will be the next Amanda Hocking (who has been criticized for bad editing of her best sellers, in case you didn’t know), but at the moment she’s on my “forget her” list… don’t do that to yourself, or even giving away your stuff for free won’t bring in any new readers…

Happy writing!


True that I’m a fantasy writer, but the title of the post first came out as “elf-editing”. No, I don’t have elves editing my manuscripts, unfortunately. 😉

Anyhow, as I’m still working on the manuscript of BoI – Fire that I plan to upload this weekend on Smashwords and Kindle, I thought I’d share some updates on the whole thing. First of all: the printed version. Considering how expensive the “European” version is, from now on, I’ll have only “US editions” in digest format. Easier for me and easier for everybody. Cheaper for Americans, and probably for the rest of the world as well. We’ll see when I order my copy to check it.

Second: I changed editor for this one, but I have to keep my style consistent, so even if she deleted all the “s” at the end of “towards”, I’ll have to leave them in – consistency, they’re there in Air, they’ll be there in Fire. Same with other words with multiple spellings. My spellchecker underlined “toward” written without “s”, so I write it with an “s” when I use American spelling and without when I use the British spelling (i.e. in the historical novel – on the back burner again until I put Fire out there, haha). So busy self-editing for consistency of style (and cutting the boring parts, that bored me anyway, haha).

Third: I’m advised to put a characters chart on this one because it’s quite complicated (did I mention I love huge casts? ;-)). I don’t know how I could put some kind of link (bookmark?) in the e-book so the reader can click and get to the characters chart… with the printed version it’s easy to flip to the end of the book, but with an e-book? Advices?

When I ordered my printed copy of Air, I read it through and through and found a couple of formatting mistakes, like a paragraph with no right alignment (which might be the rule for manuscripts, but looks really ugly in a book) and a chapter not starting on the next page + some missing ” at the end of dialog lines. Easily fixed and re-uploaded (but the signed copy will be the “imperfect” one, sigh).

Then I took it again to find an example for a guest post (I’m still awed I got a request from THEM and won’t say who they are until my post is live there, which will be real soon) and while skimming I saw a couple of missing dots (or full stops, like I was taught to call them, having started learning English in England). Uh-oh. And the novel has been copy-edited and re-read before uploading. Sigh.

So from now on, I decided one pass of edits will simply be skimming through, checking punctuation (and capital letters when needed), especially around dialog. And formatting of new scenes and new chapters.

I know typos can come out months and years later (which happened to all my manuscripts, except now they’re published, sigh!) and I will put a special care on punctuation. I hate books with typos because English is not my mother tongue and I have to stop and wonder if it’s a new word or a typo, so I really want mine to be as good as humanly possible. Reading backwards doesn’t work if the word is spelled correctly but is the wrong one.

So what to do to get those little buggers? Even pros miss them. Any tips you could share (the skimming sounds like a good idea, but I still have to try it – and it’s only for punctuation anyway)?

Guest post – Melissa Wright

Ahem, well, today I should be guest posting over at Melissa‘s and she’s here… I might not be on over there yet (you know those time zones? If you’re in Australia and Europe it might be a little early to check) but if you’re in North America, hop there and check what I have to say. Like with Janna we decided on a post title and each of us gave her interpretation – with no images! 😉 So ladies and gents, please welcome young and talented Melissa Wright!

How I Find My Muse

I tend to get into a fight with my muse on a daily basis. Creativity and inspiration always seems to hit at the most inopportune times and never when I’m sitting at home in front of my computer waiting for it to strike. Then, I realized something. Maybe it’s when I want it to come that I’m trying way too hard.

My muse left me for awhile. Quite awhile actually. To be honest, it left for a good few months. Why? Because I let certain stress and frustration get the best of me and those things pushed it away.  It left me because I wasn’t nurturing it like I should.   I wasn’t giving it the attention it deserved and in spite, it abandoned me and left me helpless with a book to write.

It’s not that I didn’t care about my muse. It gave me the creativity I needed. It lived in my imagination and cheered me on when I sat down to write. I began to miss it when it left. So, how did I get it back? It’s been a long process but I’m getting there.

I’ve learned to relax. Relaxation is the key for me (since I suffer from an anxiety disorder so it’s best for me to write with a clear head.)  I don’t let stress overcome my writing time. That’s my special time and I refuse to let other problems interfere with that.  You have to make your muse be first during that time. They need that attention to give you the creativity you need.

I’ve also sat down and really got to know my muse. I imagined what it looked like, what it’s personality was.  It has become my friend even though it’s not really there. It’s my writing buddy and it deserves that title.

My writing time isn’t just my time, but also my muse’s time to show me the way. It keeps me going and makes sure the story is on track. Once it leaves, my story goes with it. It’s important to really know who your muse is.

Finding your muse isn’t always easy, but it’s always beneficial to. However you decide to find it, you will be lucky it is there.

Melissa Wright

Letter of intent

I’ve been wondering what is success as a writer for me. After a year of blogging, I probably changed my mind a hundred times about what I wanted from my writing! 😉 so I’ll try to write my letter of intent like Smander suggested and did.

Dear Reader

My name is Barbara (a.k.a. Barb) and I’m a writer. A compulsive writer. I have dozensa of stories to tell, mostly fantasy, but you know what? I’m loving my historical research so much I want to become an historical novelist as well. Because I think humans haven’t changed throughout the centuries – not yet. I might tackle some sci-fi and tell you how I see the world after 2012, but that’s for the future. Or sometime next year when I’m done with my historical masterpiece.

I am dedicated to my craft, my world(s) and my characters, so much that I decided to write in another language. But I know I still have to learn,  viewpoints and five-senses writing are my weak spot at the moment. I will work on it through blogging, writers forum(s) and other online venues – unless I manage to move to an English-spearking country (not in the near future, I’m afraid).

I know one day I will be a huge success, which for me means 5000 faithful readers who love the same stories that I do. It’s not to unrealistit to try to find 5000 like-minded people in a population of 6billions+, right?

In order to achieve this I will:

– write the best stories I can

– give them to a handful of beta-readers

– edit according to what was unclear to most, ignoring the single comments who might be that  specific reader’s perception

– look for a copy-editor for grammar and typos

– trust my instincts and remember I can’t please everybody

– not write for the market, but what I want to write/read

– put the story out there. Please remember that writers need cheerleaders too.

So, dear reader, if you’re an adult who still likes to dream, isn’t offended by “different” morals or religions and are interested in exploring relationships and human interactions, please check this author unboxed – I’m afraid I can’t fit in any box, sorry. Therefore I’ll probably have to self-publish, eventually.

Thank you for reading

Your Creative Author

Story Wednesday

Yes, it’s Story Wednesday, but before you hop off to Serial Central, please check Nathan Bransford’s post on dreams and expectations. I’ve been thinking about what I want from my writing myself, lately, suffering from slight writer burnout because of all these contrasting things on the internet that temporarily confused me. I believe there’s an overload of information on the internet, and it’s harder and harder to figure out what is best for each writer. I used to write on impulse. I’ve learned to control my writing a little better, but sometimes I feel I’m trying to please too many people and forgetting my vision. I should remember what indie author Ruth Ann Nodin says about readers. After all, it is one of the reasons why I quit screenwriting, too many voices and input that would end up changing my original vision and turn the screenplay in a movie I won’t recognize. I can keep more control on a novel, but I do need an editor for some basic stuff.

As soon as the editor and currently submitted agents say no, the manuscript goes to a copyeditor (yes, editors need editors), and then to publication. Ray Rhamey – Writer Unboxed

I’ll start my final rewrite on Air as soon as my beta-readers get back to me. I might even try to send the first 30 pages to a contest. And post it on David Farland’s writers forum – the group is still forming, but they all look nice.

I’ll also put out Jessamine on Smashwords – edited – when complete, so please feel free to leave your comments! Hop off to Serial Central for the next installment…

Happy reading!

writers & editors

Because I still have limited internet access, I’m “recycling” old posts of the first month of this blog – I’m guessing it will be something new for all of us. The first comments were on November 28, 2009 (thanks to the Australian ladies Cassandra & Prue + Sevvy – where are you?) and these are all from October… if you already read them, forgive me. I’ll be back to full posting next week!

I like to think (and used to say) that I’m the World’s Humblest Author. I’m not, I guess. I mean, I don’t mind rewriting, adjusting plots and adding a few things here and there – helps me to think more about a story anyway, so it’s not wasted time – but some comments still drive me mad.

I had a reader/friend (who can’t read me anymore because she doesn’t speak English) who was very tough with her comments and after a number of years I already knew what she would say at some points, but wrote it down anyway… going “tee-hee, I knew it!” when I read the expected comment! ;-)

Now another friend (who is supposed to be a writer, but prefers to be an editor) criticized my choice of a title. I know “The Gathering” isn’t the most original title in the world, but it had its purpose (the same as another work of mine very similar, who took this title in 1998 from Magic-The gathering cards – ok, unoriginal of me back then, but now it makes sense). Is he trying to sell his editing abilities? Of course not, he’s a friend, not a pro-editor, but still… why doesn’t he do his writing instead of bothering with mine? :-)

That’s what friends are for, I guess. Why am I looking for an editor who would only check the grammar and style and that stuff? I probably wouldn’t listen to anyone if I were trying to publish the Italian version…  But English is my second language – well, third if you want to go in chronological learning order. I’ve been writing for over thirty years (in Italian only for the first 25)  and I’m quite confident with my style and everything, but I’m writing in a foreign language, so I need some native speaker to check me. But no comments? Mmm… the megalomania again… :-D

originally posted October 15, 2009

Priority list

As July comes to an end, I decided to change my priority list. I’ve decided to “recycle” (read: total rewrite)  what I called the Moren Cycle, so I need to work on that before I continue revising the Books of the Immortals. I’ve done Fire and Water, but for Ether (which is the one that needs most fleshing out) and Earth I better know the “history” told in that cycle before I revise.

So I’ve been reading old stuff and cringing and laughing out loud on my own (glad I live alone, nobody sees me act crazy! ;-)) and pondering on what could be changed and saved and how. And how my prose has changed (regardless of the language switch from Italian to English) from a flourishing “the blond hero with blue eyes” (1978) to “Indira’s doe eyes” (2008). I was very epic, while now I’m very sparse, even with physical description. I read my first “official” fantasy (my first official story is fantasy, but this is the first sword&sorcery, Conanesque hero from Dec.1983) – gee, I have changed! So glad I’ve grown up as a writer! 😉

While I’m doing this, I’m also pondering on next year’s project, the Angelica de Winter trilogy, where I’ll have the same character at 15, 25 and 25 – thus, first series with ongoing character and almost single POV, certainly single protagonist, but I might use side POVs with the secondary characters in each book. Something totally new both in content and style, I guess, but I’m still trying to figure out how I changed through the years to write a decent arc for this character’s growth. I’ve barely jotted down notes on what should happen in each book, but haven’t done a real outline yet.

But again, it’s a project for next year, when I’ll hopefully have more time to research a couple of things. August and possibly September are for a basic rewrite of the Moren Cycle. October, revision of Ether. November revision of Earth and reading of all five – although I plan on starting querying agents in September (October in the case of one agent who reopens to submissions then) for Air which might well be on its way to publication by then. End of year a clear idea of Silvery Earth’s history. New year, new project.

And SKYBAND to draw, query letter to refine, agents to research and query… busy summer! 😀

Happy writing!

Ghost editors

Sometimes I wonder why I decided to write in English. I love the language, and the short or composite words, but maybe my culture is Italian after all, so I do sound weird to native speakers. I’m told I make less mistakes than some native speakers (which I noticed myself when I tried to co-write a screenplay with an American friend, his spelling was even worse than mine), I chose a genre that sounds better in English (sword&sorcery), but still…

I edited one of my Italian novel (that I will not translate because it’s too Italian anyway) that I wrote in the 80s, trying to leave the style as it was. I don’t write like this anymore, not even in Italian, but I wanted to keep the freshness of the original. I “recycled” part two of my very first story in Water, albeit translated, I tried to keep the first-time-writer style and punctuation.

Now I’m writing in English with my Italian voice. I’m not really translating anymore (which helps, translations are adaptations, i.e. a tricky matter), but I still use the patterns I figured out in my writing years. BUT it’s not my mother tongue, I write (and speak) by ear, and sometimes make grammar mistakes.

So, I’m looking for a ghost editor, possibly specializing in sword&sorcery or heroic fantasy. Have you tried anyone? Can you suggest me names? I know there are web pages like Matchwriters.com or eLance.com, but how can I find the perfect match without spending and arm and a leg in editing services?

If you have self-published or tried an editing service, pelase let me know how it went. I tried a couple (both friends who worked for free or for a fee), but wasn’t very satisfied with the outcome. As I plan to self-publish on Lulu, should I try their editing service? Feedback anyone?

editing & writing

There are times in my life when I feel everything I’ve written is rubbish. The editor sets in and starts poking (“why did you write this? This story sucks!”) and the writer/narrator only wants t0 run away and cry.

Ever felt that way? You finish your short story or novel and think it’s the  best thing you’ve ever written, your latest “baby” of whom you’re so proud of. You move on with your life to take some distance, and when you go back to it to edit and rewrite, you think it sucks. What do you do?

I usually put it away for a little longer, thinking maybe it’s not the right time to go back to that particular story. I try to focus on another project, maybe set in the same world, so I can come up with new ideas for my giant puzzle that will eventually make all the stories better.

But it’s hard. I don’t know you, but my ego and my moods go up and down like a yo-yo for every single story I have written. It’s great. No, it sucks. There’s something good in it. No way, there isn’t. It’s just another piece of the puzzle, let’s make the damn thing fit in. It fit’s perfectly, it’s great!

And so on, and so forth… until I succeed in moving on! Or set it right (or at least a semblance of the right way the story should be told).

%d bloggers like this: