This Business of Writing

Posts Tagged ‘reading read’

“To be? Or not to be?”

In The Craft of Writing on November 23, 2009 at 9:29 am

The Great Bard did have a way with words, didn’t he?

I’ve been studying writing for some time now and have learned a few things of note. One of those things is the existence of The Rules of Writing. Chief among them is,

“Thou Shalt Remove All Forms of the word, ‘To be.’”

During my years of study with the craft of writing, I’ve learned many such rules and I have developed my favorites. My personal selection for MVP of The Rules of Writing is that all these many rules are really no more than gentle guidelines. However, that’s another post altogether.

For years, I yearned to remove all the forms of “to be,” but, if truth be told, I was only certain of a single form of the verb. And that, of course, was, “to be” itself. And would you like to know why I didn’t know the forms of, “to be?” It’s because of its definition which reads, “A form of the verb “To be” is combined with a past participle to form the passive.”

You may understand more than I, but I do not recall, nor currently understand how to combine whatever with a past participle to form anything, let alone “the possessive.”So, vainly I sought all forms of the word, “to be” but never quite had the handle on them until recently.

Searching the Internet, I found that thing for which I’d longed these many years. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I found all forms of the word, “to be.”

Therefore, in hopes I have not been the only person on the planet with this particular issue, I would like to share them with you today. They are:

Am

Is

Are

Was

Were

Being

Been

Be

Were

Not all the sinister after all, are they? The secret, of course, is checking to see if by eliminating the verb, your writing improves. Let’s first look at the rationale for this rule, shall we? I looked the explanation as to why this rule exists and found it at http://englishplus.com/grammar/00000040.htm. Are you ready for this? “It, [to be], is normally a linking verb showing existence or the condition of the subject.”

Let me see if I have the right. We can’t use it because it states that something exists? (Is that the gist of how you read this?) If so, that doesn’t help me at all. Regardless its definition or justification, let’s take a look at the rule in use to see if it does improve one’s writing. I used the “find” feature within my word processor and copied the first sentence with the word “been” in my current manuscript.

Ketty, the woman charged with raising Jak, had been best of friends with the lad from the day he first arrived at Waters View.

I’ll try to rewrite the sentence without using the word, “been.”

Ketty, the woman charged with raising Jak, had bonded with the lad from the day he first arrived at Waters View.

Which sentence is the better of the two? When reading it aloud, the second does improve the statement to my ear. I see a much stronger action verb in, “bonded” than I do with “had been.” (By the way, using stronger verbs is another of those rules to which we are subjugated.)

Let’s try it again, shall we? This time I’ll “find” the word, “were.” The sentence that showed up first in my manuscript was,

The walls, as in the foyer, were decorated with paintings of long-departed ancestors.

Rewritten it becomes,

The walls, as in the foyer, seemed only to serve as backdrop for paintings of long-departed ancestors.

I don’t know what you think, but I think it reads better. In both cases, I deleted the form of the word, “to be” and have produced a higher quality of writing each time.

I challenge you to try the same technique, and let me know what you find. As to me, I guess I’ll rework my manuscript one more time.

Until my next post, I wish you all best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

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Authors’ Positioning in the Emerging Publishing Paradigm

In Marketing Your Book on November 1, 2009 at 8:26 am

A a number of aspiring authors have spoken to me relative to their fears concerning the current price wars in the marketplace, and their concerns authors will be the ones to absorb the price reductions spreading over the publishing landscape. If you are fortunate enough to already have an established position in the industry, you’re fine for now, but you still should look to the future and how best to put it to your advantage.

My advice to aspiring authors? Fear not.

Yes, the authors’ landscape is changing in an unprecedented manor, fueled by price wars and technology for the most part. It is these price wars that seem to have everyone in the greatest state of furor.

First, let’s consider the changing publishing topography. In the past, publishers have had domain over three major aspects of the writer’s life. They controlled distribution, payouts and production. Their powers are under dramatic assault by authors with business sense, the Internet and POD. Technology is changing everything in its path.

Let’s focus on authors getting paid. How is that going to happen in the future?

In one word, “eBooks.”

Here’s what I see happening.

Wally World and others are now selling first run, major names well below the wholesale price. For now they are absorbing the financial disparity and using books as a loss leader. So far, so good. But mark my word on this, Wally will soon knock on a publisher’s door and demand, not request, deep discounting at the wholesale level. How is the publisher going to make money? He cuts his expenses or increases his sales. He has already relinquished his hold over marketing to individual authors and so does not control sales. Therefore, the publisher’s only avenue is to cuts expenses. What part of the P&L is going to take that bite? Since he’s already cut marketing expenses, he’ll slash payout to authors. He has little choice but to do so.

What do authors do to protect their paycheck? They sell their books elsewhere. It’s all fundamental action vs. reaction. Everybody in this chain protects their paycheck.

At some point, the publisher starts to lose his best authors and faces the peril of going out of business. In response, he’ll move toward selling via the web where his costs more rationally match his pricing structure. What is it the publisher will sell on the web? EBooks.

In the mean time, the author has had his payouts cut to the bone, so he either stops writing or moves somewhere else. Where does he go to make the most money? EBooks and the Internet.

Why do I say this? Let’s look at two comparatives. Let’s say a publishing house pays you three dollars for each of your books it sells. He soon cuts this to $.50 per book to cover his discounts to Wally. You’re already a self-marketer, and as self-publisher, you might make $2.50 per book sold. Would you rather sell a book for $.50 and do your own marketing or $2.50 and do your own marketing and production? To each his own, of course, but many of the best and brightest among writers will go for the bucks.

So, with the changing paradigm and price wars, an author under contract to a publishing house moves toward eBooks where the publisher can reduce his costs and payout more to attract first rate writers. If he’s self-published, he moves toward eBooks, for cost, marketing and distribution reasons.

Fear not, kind readers, embrace the future and you’ll be fine.

May all your books be best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

Ten Tips to Remain Unpublished

In Editing Your Manuscript on October 22, 2009 at 9:13 am

by C. Patrick Schulze

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We all wish to see our books and novels on the shelves while throngs of people race to the store to grab a copy for themselves. Few of us will ever realize this dream if we lack those skills necessary to master the craft of writing. So, I’m offering a short list of novice errors the accomplished writer has learned not to make.

Your manuscript is full of synonyms for the word, “said.”

“Save me!” she pleaded.

“I’ll save you!” the hero responded.

The villain cried out, “I won’t let you save her!”

“Never mind, I’ve saved myself,” she complained.

If you feel you must use a tag line, put it in sentence form.

She pleaded for someone to help.  “Save me!”

Her hero called out to her. ‘”‘ll save you!”

The villain yelled to her hero. “I won’t let you save her!”

After freeing herself, she stood behind them with a scowl. “Can’t you two do anything right?”

(If your dialogue sounds like this, you’ll remain unpublished, but this works as an example.)

You Use Too Many “ly” Words.

Adverbs are badly overused by writers today. Oops, I mean, Adverbs are overused by writers today.

Adverbs are the lazy author’s method of working. This writer has the tendency to use the first thought that comes to mind and put it on  his paper. This is no problem in your first draft, but by your fourth or fifth, they should mostly be gone, uh, they should generally be gone, oh, jeez, I mean there should be few, if any, of them left in your manuscript. There are two traditional ways to overcome this error. The first is to use your Find Feature within your word processor and locate those evil “ly” words. Replace them with stronger verbs or reword them. The classic example is to replace “softly crying” with “whimpering.” You can also drop the “ly” word entirely, or rather in its entirety,  if it doesn’t make a difference to the meaning. Consider the phrase, “utterly alone.” If you’re alone, you’re by yourself and if you are “utterly alone” you are still by yourself.

You Have a Tendency to Overuse Adjectives.

Our classic example in this case is, “the dark night.” We all know night is dark and by adding the word, you’ve not embellished the concept of night at all. James Thurber explains with this sentence. “The building is pretty ugly and a little big for its surroundings.” “Pretty ugly” is still ugly and “a little big” is still big. There is a place for adverbs in writing, but use them sparingly and only if you’ve attempted to replace them with verbs and nouns.

You Use Wimpy Words.

Wimpy words tend to cheapen your writing. They include such things as almost, probably, seems, appears, about and “ish-words”, among others. Did your character almost yell out or did they fume? Did the boss seem upset or were his eyes flaming with anger? Use your words with boldness and confidence.

Clichés are a Dime a Dozen.

Now and then your readers feel it in their bones that your writing has feet of clay. (Hey, Cut me some slack. I’m improvising on the fly here.) Cliché’s bore your readers and an author’s worst sin is to writing boringly, uh, without feeling.

Your Writing Contains Dialect.

It be too diff’cult t’ red dose dam woids. Ya cotton t’ ma meanin’? With some characters, you must show a distinction between their dialect and that of others, but aim for the flow of their speech patterns rather than their actual words.

You Repeat Your Best Words Over and Over and Over and Over Again.

If you truly use the same words too often, your writing will truly be, uh, truly bad. Keep your eyes open for those words that repeat themselves too often. It bores your readers to repeat the same word or words repetitively. Look for those words that are similar in wording, too. Reword them.

Miscellaneous Errors.

“He looked over the escarpment between childhood and manhood.” If your writing sounds like poetry, reword it. Just use expressive, interesting words and put them on the paper.

You use altogether too much alienating alliteration.

Sure, it can be effective if used with correct comportment, but its effectiveness is fast fleeting if you employ it as a tentative tool too many memorable times. Alliteration can work, but its strategic use makes for more effective writing.

Your Writing is Coy or Uses Gimmicks.

Starting too many sentences with, “and” or “but.”

You pull lines from movies or television shows.

Your exciting sentences end with multiply punctuation marks!!!!

You use CAPITAL LETTERS instead of italics to indicate emphasis . (“DO WHAT I SAY!” vs. “Do what I say!”)

Perform a triple-check of your manuscript and see if it can be improved. It may well make the difference between a form rejection and an offer.

(And you thought you were done with your editing.)

I hope you know by now I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”