Monday, July 18, 2011

Spelling errors, typos and other odds and ends

If you're on a quest for the world's worst speller, look no further. I can identify him. (But I won't). That this person can't write an entire sentence without spelling errors is an understatement. I have to say his instant massages messages and emails to me are quite creative, and they do make me smile.

I know there's no hope for people like my friend. To him and his peers, English classes in school were just another hour's worth of agony that had to be suffered.

Now, for writers, spelling errors should never happen. To help eliminate them we have dictionaries, spell check, and for the lucky (make that "smart,") proofreaders and editors.

A manuscript should be clear of mispellings misspellings and typos from the get go. That doesn't always happen. The odd mistake often creeps into your work and misses the eagle eye of a reader -- and very often gets skipped over by the spell check.

Here are a few of the misspellings from Desert of Deceit that my spell check missed, some caused by typing too fast, others, well, who knows. They are kind of finny funny, though:
  1. Perhaps she’d been a marked woman from the day she was barn, or at the very least from the day a stepfather came into her life at the age of twelve. 
  2. Now, inside with the coffin brewing, he removed his jacket before he spread the pictures of Marta Borgen on the table in front of the sofa. 
  3. That included the man with for or five or six layers of clothing who was turning the corner from South Casino Center Boulevard and heading in his direction.
And here are a few my proofreader found:
  1. Not as bad as you might think. What are you, the local weathermen?
  2. Skipping his intended destination, Atkins ran the red light at North Hollywood Boulevard and continued on the Lake Mead route, through the mountain, winding around the narrow two-lanes at unsafe speeds until he came to the stop sing.
  3.  Kelly could feel the man’s gripe making indentations in his arm. 
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I'm sure I corrected all the errors I found and the ones pointed out to me before I formatted the manuscript for kindle ... Didn't I?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What's your novel about?

One of the toughest tasks for a writer comes after the last period on the last page.

It's summarizing all that hard work, all those words, all those characters and plot developments into a comprehensive summary for submission to an agent or a publisher or to use as detail information on their ebook sales page.

I found this very interesting and helpful blog post from another author's site. Mike Wells has done a good job of identifying the points to include by using The Wizard of Oz as his example.

If you have a kindle, you can download this and the entire related archive for free.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Why I'm not blogging every day

I took the advice and now I'm not so sure I should have.

I read the books and articles about blogging and learned that everyone placed as one of the top ten "must-do" rules for bloggers is writing every day. Some gurus say it in bold face, upper case, extra-large type with one or more exclamation points.


Maybe that works for people who are using their blogs as a source of revenue, or groups that are writing about current events; or folks who are using their blog as a journal; it doesn't necessarily work for the rest of us.

I don't run out of topics for this blog; I don't run out of time to write.

I just think that unless a blogger has a very large number of followers that read posts daily, the better approach is to write good, solid, focused content that's available for more than a day.

Good, solid, focused content can get buried quickly. I just think it's a better idea to let a good post attract attention before speeding off to something new.

I know. I'm flying in the face of the blogger's box but I'm going to take a stand by choosing to wait a day or two or three between postings. Meanwhile, I'll be reading other blogs, working on my next novel, writing my regular poker column, checking in with my facebook friends, visiting friends and relatives, reading email, and enjoying the summer.

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Search engine optimazation and the writer

In my last post I ranted and raved a bit about my disappointment with the way websites required writers to write to a certain formula – specifically one that used target words that would draw searchers to the article.

Shortly after, while checking out my twitter page, I noticed a reference to some software that writers can use to turn one article into a half dozen different versions of itself. I guess it could be considered cloning? I guess I could be old fashioned but the very thought of this takes me back to high school and using the Cliff Notes or Classic Comics to avoid the real work of reading,

The idea behind the software is that it will save the writer tons of time in the originality seeking department while providing different ways to extract saleable material from a single article. The purpose is kind of wonky, if you ask me, because instead of requiring that a person write solid, well-researched, informative content, the software agrees that the real reason to have articles published on the web – beyond the monetary reimbursement – is to provide a website with search engine optimized verbiage.

All this certainly flies in the face of the rules George Orwell wrote should be followed by every writer.
    Picture of George Orwell which appears in an o...(Image via Wikipedia)They are:
  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
To read Orwell’s entire essay, check out Politics and the English Language.
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Friday, July 1, 2011

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and the real writer

a chart to describe the search engine marketImage via WikipediaIn the early days of the internet, research was, if a bit sparse, so convenient. With no library open at two in the morning and needing some vital statistics, my articles sometimes had to wait until sunrise to see completion. Then came the internet and the handy search engines – at that time one provided by AOL, another from Yahoo, and a third really spiffy one called Infoseek – which made life so much easier.

As time passed, however, savvy businessmen discovered how valuable the internet could be to their businesses. They started taking out banner ads, setting up their own retail outlets, and began using the net as a marketing tool.

It seems as if overnight the web became one big shopping center!

I’m not condemning the direction the web took; I’m totally sold on going to the big web stores to find bargains. I love being able to window shop other outlets in search of an item I’m interested in owning.

I’m also disappointed with several aspects of the web. The one that really irritates me is the focus on search engine optimization. It seems that if a company wants to rank high in the search engines, it has to use the right words in every version of its print appearance. The purpose? To catch the searcher who is looking for that particular item or word, usually so they can sell something.

Overall, I understand. It’s business. However, as a writer, I find it both annoying and insulting to be requested to use specific words when writing an article. Where’s the creativity in that? Where’s the originality? Where’s the integrity?

A quick look at the freelance market for web articles gave me additional insight in that web site owners and managers blatantly advertise for writers who are SEO savvy. Never mind talent; after all, anyone can write. Just use a word processor that will catch your spelling and grammar errors,a

I supposed I shouldn’t be bothered by all this because for the most part, these companies looking for writers usually offer such a minute stipend for each word that it boggles the mind. Maybe that’s why so many real writers don’t mind recycling their content to meet one or more web site needs.

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