Self-Editing 101

  1. Spelling – Even the best spellers make mistakes. Use a software program like Grammarly or WordWeb (both of which have free versions.) Both may catch other errors in word usage – like affect vs. effect – and both do offer a thesaurus so you can find a better word or correct one that’s overused.
  2. One of the first things they may or may not tell you in writing classes or seminars is that in a novel it’s all about action. It’s about doing things. Show don’t tell. People don’t ‘begin’ to do things, they don’t ‘start’ to do things, they DO them. For example – ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to begin nibbling at her hair again’ vs. ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to nibble at her hair again.’ Which sounds better? (Smoke is a horse, by the way…) Don’t have your characters begin or start to do anything unless it’s the first in a series of actions. Do a search for begin and start.
  3. Ditto feel and felt. Which sounds better – When he kissed her it felt like she tingled all over -or- When he kissed her she tingled all over? For #2 and #3, a professional editor will often scribble “SDT”. This is not a disease, it means “Show Don’t Tell”. “The best “show don’t tell advice” came from Anton Chekov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
  4. Very or Really. They’re not very happy or really happy, they’re ecstatic or delighted. Use a better, more descriptive word. If nothing comes to mind get a thesaurus.
  5. Search for contractions. For some reason, many writers don’t write in contractions. Especially with ‘had’. He had, she had, rather than he’d or she’d. Be very careful not to do a universal search and replace to correct this or you’ll hate yourself in the morning because once it’s saved you have no other choice but to search the entire document for the awkward mess you made of things. (Always start a new copy when editing, just in case. It’s a lot easier to start over that way.) For example, a universal search and replace for ‘had not’ to ‘hadn’t’ will also change ‘had noticed’ to ‘hadn’ticed’. (This is a personal choice, in a more casual voice like dialogue in fiction, it works, but in more formal writing, it may not.)
  6. ‘There was’. Sometimes it’s justified. Look at each sentence to see if you can rephrase it to make the sentence clearer.
  7. Speaking of there – their (possessive), there (in that direction), and they’re (they are).
  8. *aargh* The dreaded ‘that’. That she, that he, that they… In most cases, the use of the word ‘that’ is completely unnecessary, but we use it in speech so it can sound correct when you write it.
  9. Try not to use that when you mean who. “The man that…” should be “the man who… “
  10. Just and only. Always make sure you really need to use them and that they’re next to the word you want to modify. For example – only costs vs. costs only or it just costs or costs just… Do you really need either?
  11. Was. Jim was shaking his head. Jim shook his head. Always watch for those ‘ing’ words. If you see a lot of them in your writing in conjunction with was, you need to change that sentence to a more active voice. Active voice describes a sentence where the subject performs the action stated by the verb. In passive voice sentences, the subject is acted upon by the verb.
  12. As if/like. Make sure you know which of them you really mean. Do a search for like, and in each place see if ‘as if’ doesn’t sound better.
  13. Watch for split infinitives. Not all of them are bad – to boldly go where no man has gone before, where boldly splits to and go – is generally accepted. “I decided to not go” sounds awkward.
  14. Of…. is another sneaky little beggar. ‘Inside’ works as well as ‘inside of it’ in most cases.
  15. ‘Then’ and ‘and then’ are telling words, don’t use them. For instance: Then he went to sit down. Just say: He sat down. Or…. And then she set a bowl on the table. Just say: She set a bowl on the table. Using then or and then is like a narrator in your book telling us a story, it slows it down. Show, don’t tell.
  16. Do not use really, very, or like. He’s either hot or he’s not. He’s not really hot, or very hot, he’s roasting, burning up, or he’s gorgeous, sexy, etc. She’s not ‘like’ that, she IS that.
  17. Commas. If you have more than two it might be a good idea to look at the sentence and decide if it would work better as two separate sentences. This is DEFINITELY true if you have more than three. For more information on commas and their proper use –
  18. Singular and plural pronouns. When speaking about an individual, the pronoun should be singular, when speaking about a group, it’s plural. Ex. It brought him to their feet. Wrong.
  19. (Although this is primarily a grammar document, it is about writing and this has been seen too often to go unremarked.) Don’t ‘Slug a Nun’, as a well-known writer once said. In other words, when opening a chapter, any chapter, get to the point. Don’t say “Mikey slugged a nun” and then take ten pages, eight of which explain the history of the Catholic Church before you explain WHY Mikey slugged the nun.
  20. Another very common mistake – Her eyes wandered. Please put them back in her head, that’s disgusting. Her gaze might wander, but not her eyes. She might glance at him, their gazes may meet, or lock, etc., or they might stare at each other, but his eyes will never wander over her breasts unless it’s a zombie movie and they’ve gained legs. Some editors might let this go, but you should be able to find a better way to say it.
  21. Watch for sentences that start with the same word or the same type of beginning. He did this, he did that. Change it up so the reader doesn’t get bored.
  22. Too much use of “it” as a subject can make writing weak. Delete the vague pronoun and identify ‘it’ with a solid noun. Not – It felt good to dress up. Try – She enjoyed dressing up.
  23. Do not mix dialogue of one character in the same paragraph as another. Ever. Even if, or especially if, you’re using omniscient point of view. And always identify the person speaking or thinking.
  24. Action and reaction. Sentences need to relay information about the cause before the effect or result. Not – She jumped as the door slammed shut. Try – The door slammed, making her jump.
  25. Eliminate unnecessary words. In the above example – few doors slam open, so it must have slammed shut or closed. So, the door slammed.
  26. Try to avoid prepositional phrases (to her, at him, for her, etc.) that can be implied. Not – Seeing him proved what a distraction he was to her. Try – Seeing him proved what a distraction he was.
  27. Stephen King said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Try to evaluate each adverb (words that end in -ly), especially in conjunction with speaking tags. Replace with stronger words. Not – He leaned close and spoke softly. Try – He leaned close and whispered.
  28. Repeated words: There’s a function in Word that shows words you overuse, but a beta reader or editor can be a better choice. Sometimes it’s justified – a character tic.
  29. How often do you use ‘look’? Try variations like glanced, gazed, stared, their eyes met, saw.
  30. Said, but don’t get too caught up it. Studies have shown that said is a word that readers eyes pass over, registering only who is speaking.
  31. Starting a sentence with But when you could use However.
  32. Starting a sentence with And. Can you rework it? It’s acceptable, but too much or too often is a bad thing.
  33. Redundant actions: stood up. How else would you stand? Sat down – try sat. Nodded his head – just use nodded, if he’s nodding anything else it’s just weird.
Also, consider picking up The Elements of Style. It’s a small, thin book, perfect to keep beside your laptop or desktop computer. It answers some of those pesky grammar questions.
For style suggestions, try Hemingway Editor, a software program that highlights lengthy, complex sentences, common errors, and passive voice. Always be careful taking the advice it or other programs offer – you don’t want to sound too mechanical or lose your authors ‘voice’.
One last little hint. By not doing a read-through sentence by sentence but using search instead, it forces you to look at each sentence individually, in isolation. It makes it much easier to spot errors you might otherwise have missed or to question the wording of the sentence. Try reading it aloud, or use text to voice to read it back, that may help you pick up errors in flow.


My experience with Twitter Ads

twitterAt the end of 2015 I had the idea to experiment with Twitter’s advertisement machine. It’s easy to find: You sign in with your twitter account and there’s where you start.

You can set up all kinds of campaigns. I wanted one that got more traffic to my website so I went for that. (You can go into the ads site and look around without spending a penny if you’re curious.)

I set up a campaign from Dec. 30th 2015 until 9th of Jan. 2016, spending €3 per day (currently about $3.50 I think). You can also spend more, or set up a fixed amount for the total run of the campaign. Up to you.

focussed on the world, English speaking, mainly geared towards Science Fiction, Fantasy and Steampunk. The ads site will show you the probable reach per keyword like this:


You probably shouldn’t bother with keywords that bring nothing unless these are important to you.

After this it gets interesting: you either compose a number of tweets to be used for the campaign (I made 4 different ones). You add an image (good to do, images draw attention) and you enter your website address with each tweet so people go to your site when they click the link or the image. You can of course do this for a specific book too, up to you.

Then you get your campaign going. If you want to have it run, you need to set up a credit card so Twitter can actually get your money. They’re clever like that.

After the campaign I ended up with this:


Click for larger image

147.000 impressions. This means that in total my tweets were served to this many people over the days the campaign ran. The more you spend per day, the more impressions are served up. You can hit millions but that will cost you appropriately of course. Note that the first day made the biggest bang. After that it’s dropping.

Next to see:


Click for larger image

2.54K engagements. Of the 147.000 tweets sent out, 2.540 people engaged. They either liked the tweet or retweeted it. That looks like not very much, does it?

Onwards, to the final results that I see on the campaign site:


Click if you want. There is no larger image.

Of the almost 147.000 tweets sent out, 1.110 people actually clicked the link to my website. This means that 0.76% of all tweets were actually clicked. This also shows that each click I ‘bought’ this way cost 3 cents. This of course shows in the number of visits to my site:

Site visits

Click if you want. There is no larger image.

As you see that’s a dramatic increase in visits. The interesting detail you don’t see but I do, is that I have not seen an impressive increase in sales. Not in any way. Looking at that I think that this campaign sold 1 book.

So much for my foray into the wonderful world of advertising through Twitter. If you have questions or so, you can find me on Twitter.

Reality Check for Indie Authors

scribdn all honesty I suspect that Scribd found the path of least resistance in their romance/erotica decision. (Witness the petitions to Jeff Bezos/Amazon asking him to change the review policy.) The truth of the matter is likely to be a more harsh reality – a lot of romance/erotica readers were downloading books, finding them to be dreck and so they didn’t finish them, they just deleted them off their e-readers and went onto the next. Scribd, however, still had to pay the writer for the unread book. So, rather than try to evaluate hundreds of thousands of e-books, they just decided not to carry the vast majority of romance/erotica.

Here is the truth. Amazon/Jeff Bezos owes us nothing. If you want tea and sympathy, go to Smashwords. Mark CoAmazon logoker is a genuinely nice person and will offer you a great deal of encouragement. However, Smashwords also pays quarterly, not monthly, so be prepared to wait for the check. Also post to B&N, Kobo and D2D for the most bang for your post. You’ll make a fraction of what you make with Amazon, but there you go. Understand that Amazon is a business – a business that provides a venue for Indie authors to post their books and – possibly – make money at it. Indie authors are a drop in the vast bucket of products Amazon offers. The vast majority of their profits come from the Big Five publishers and all the other products Amazon offers. Be ungrateful for the opportunity, become enough of a pain in the butt and they’ll drop the program like the annoying hot potato it’s become.

Sadly, a large number of Indie authors came into the game thinking ‘oh, yeah, I can write my novel at long last’, it’s easy and I can make money at it. As many of you have now noticed, the easy bit is harder than most thought. Writing a book isn’t necessarily easy, and writing a good book is even harder still. Even worse, some folks are still looking for the magic wand that will write the book for them. Some also turned to Indie writing because they suspected that the Big Five wouldn’t take them (not to mention the fact that the author gets a pittance of what the publisher gets. We need a Taylor Swift for that.) And that’s before you get to the marketing. Then there’s the cover art, the editing, formatting and deciding where to upload it. Too many are taking shortcuts, unfortunately, skipping over the most important, the most expensive, and the hardest parts of the process – editing and cover art. Just take a look at many of the Indie books being offered. (Especially the erotica since the explosion of 50 Shades.)

Think this is harsh? Take a look at Scribd, a subscription service much like Kindle Unlimited. They’re removing a vast number of romance/erotica novels – even good ones. Why? They say that too many readers are downloading so many books they’re putting them out of business.

Regarding reviews… Remember the comment about Scribd and the crappy books? It might be overly simplistic, but there is some degree of truth there. Most of those awful books didn’t get reviews saying they were awful. They were just deleted. For all we complain about the mean people out there, most people really aren’t and it takes time to write a review. Rather than take the time, they just deleted and moved on. Want to get reviews? Understand that unless you write something people want to write a review about – and even if they do – most won’t. It takes time. Try to write something good enough they’ll want to review.

Want to get your reviews removed or to devalue reviews? Forget to ask those people who received ARCs or free copies to add ‘I received this book in exchange for an honest review’ to their review so Amazon won’t pull it. Participate in easily trackable review exchanges or give positive reviews to books you haven’t purchase or read. That’ll do it.

If you think Indie publishing is hard, try traditional. Write query letters to agents/publishers, gather rejections, hope for the moment they ask for a revise and resubmit, or a request for a partial or a full, get your hopes up, get them squashed when they decide not to take your novel because it’s not a reiteration of King or Roberts or Sparks or James, or whoever is the flavor of the moment. (For perspective, where is the writer of Twilight right now?) Then, TADA, you find a publisher who will take you. HURRAY. And then you discover you’ll still have to do the editing as well as a large part of the marketing, just to be a mid-list writer – unless you’re one of the rare few who make it big. Or you can follow the Hugh Howey model and write a unique novel, self-publish it, and let the publishers find you. (By the way, he can now afford a boat. A biggish boat.)

The best things in life aren’t free – they take work. Do you want reviews for your book? Do the work. Make people want to review it, but also understand they they don’t have to.

***NEW*** Join us for some cool classes!

This year, the Indie Author Group is launching some classes to support writers.  We’re doing two trial ones in February, which you can read about below, and then if all goes well, we’ll run other classes as needed.  We’re charging under $10 for each class to ensure that people actually take part in the classes, and there will be resources and lessons, chats and a forum.  Everything runs on Moodle.

The nitty gritty of the trial classes

Author Branding – this is a basic, brass tacks class which discusses all of the different choices that authors can use to promote themselves.  The cost is $5, which you can be invoiced for and starts February 1st.  Your payment covers one month of access, one on one support via the lessons area, downloads and more.
Sign up for our Author Branding class here.

We’re also running a Facebook branding extravaganza, explaining how I raised my interactivity percentage from 9% to 59% in only a month.  Make your Facebook page useful again, and get your audience back in easy to access tips and tricks.  We don’t garuantee that you’ll get the same results, but we do give you the tools we used and they WILL increase your interaction from sub 10% to something a bit healthier.
This class is $7.50, and starts 15th February.
Sign up for our Facebook branding class here

Save and do both!

If you sign up and take part in both classes (which is easy – both classes only need a few hours a week of commitment and will not cut into your writing time too far) you can save $1.50, and book both at $11.

If these classes work out, we’ll run them several times a year and add more for people interested in joining in.  We’ve been running amazing day drop in tutorials on Facebook for the last year and have decided to give people the chance to join in on more structured classes, designed to make people think about their interactions on social media and supported tutorials to give them the chance to evaluate and redesign your social media, and gain more traffic from all areas that you use, or boost your Facebook interactions.

Last chance to book the social media overview class is 27th, to give us a chance to ask some questions and personalise the classes.

If you’d like to sign up for news on other classes, and other projects we offer people, please head on over to our mailing list and sign up.



Five tips to increase your reach on Facebook

Facebook recently announced an update to the Facebook algorithm, which triggered lots of complaints in various places.
One of the most interesting articles (and one of the pieces with the most discussion on this in various places ) was “New Facebook Rules will Sting Entrepreneurs“. What was interesting though was that not everyone actually saw the change as a negative thing – lots of people see their feed being cleaned up and having less spam as a mostly positively thing.   What’s most interesting of all is how various people have reacted to the news – some are very unhappy, some don’t care,  while most seem to think it’s a positive thing.

If you’re looking for ways to fix this, I’ve got five tips for you.

  1. Ensure that as much of the information Facebook allows you to provide is completely filled in. There are various areas you can fill in, but at a minimum, fill in your name, the URL for the item your page is about (you, your book, your business).
  2. Make sure you’re updating regularly, and vary it a bit – posted about your new book? Consider sharing the articles we’re posting here so readers are more informed about what’s going on, share viral images (I’ll explain that in a minute) or other stuff from other authors.  Sharing pre-made covers is a great way to build 
  3. DO NOT COMPLAIN about anything on your page that relates to Amazon/Social media/reviews. Readers run from that sort of thing at best – at worst, you’re opening yourself up to a world of hurt if it goes viral. That’s BAD viral.
  4.  Create viral images via Pinstamatic or other quote generators. They’re really good and they are evergreen for the most part – that is, if someone sees it a day or a year after posting, they might share it.
  5. Keep abreast of Facebook changes and follow their and other’s advice.
  6. *BONUS* Remember first and foremost that social media is *social* not selling. If you make connections with people, they invest in you. If they invest in you, they trust you. And from trust comes sales.

If you follow some or all of these suggestions, you’ll find that your reach slowly increases.  Your aim is to get it up over 15% of your likes – that’s about the median pages can expect at the most – but if you’re not using the page at all, you’ll find it could be only a few people, so anything that improves that is a good thing.

Finally, be realistic. Things change. People ruin things. Other things will update for the better. Don’t turn it into something massively personal, because no one will take you seriously.

What do you think?  Do you have tips to share that people can use to improve their Facebook page reach?


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