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Masque, Masquerade, Mask

August 19, 2020 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen tagged as , ,

No! I’m not going to weigh in on the mask vs no mask debate. Really.

I am an inveterate people watcher. Sometimes I go overboard and get caught staring — awkward. Honestly, it’s not you I’m looking at, it’s the potential character the physical ‘you’ suggests to me. I’m pretty sure all writers do that to one degree or another. It can’t be helped. Some people just like a (too) kindly grandmother, or a shifty con man or a fairy princess or a sharkish accountant.

Faces reveal so much, from hidden agendas to unspoken feelings, spontaneous joy to suppressed fury. It’s fertile ground for the writer. Anne Perry uses the reading of facial expressions to heighten tension and create suspense. In her hands it’s a plot device and she’s brilliant at it. Add body language to that and a character comes fully to life. It’s also a great way to stomp down those unwanted dialog tags; showing the reader who’s speaking is miles better than telling.

Just watching the emotional beats revealed on the faces of two friends having coffee can jumpstart a story and the story can shift and morph if I switch genres in my head. (Yep, I start a lot of imaginary tales. It’s more fun than Sudoku.) Narrowed eyes and rigid lips mean one thing in a spy thriller and quite another in a romance. Add the tilt of the head and a clinching of fists and it could work for either the inciting incident or the denouement.

Now most of us are masked and I have to shift my game. We’re all consciously trying to keep a six-foot distance and it makes for some very stilted body language! A woman turned from the pasta aisle just as I was turning in, our carts nearly colliding. That’s a common enough occurrance at the grocery store and usually each party smiles and laughs and maneuvers on their way. I found myself braying an exaggerated laugh, shrugging my shoulders and my “oh sorry” came out a bit over bright. It was the mirror response of this woman. We couldn’t read each other’s faces. An apologetic smile doesn’t do it any longer.

They say we need to adjust to a new normal. I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but I can imagine all this maskedness and artful distancing will add some very intriguing elements to contemporary fiction. How will strangers meet and grow a romance? Is love at first sight a victim of the pandemic? How will antagonists make use of the fact that with a baseball cap, sunglasses and the compulsory mask one is virtually unidentifiable? Think of the wonderful mix-ups this could lead to. Great fodder for screw-ball comedy. Or great fodder for murder and mayhem.

It will be impossible to ignore Corvid in writing contemporary stories. At the very least it will have to serve as atmosphere, but there are elements of this awful reality that present nearly endless plot possibilities — as nearly endless as this shutdown feels. I can’t wait to read them.

Jenny Jensen

Editor

www.E-BookEditor.com

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PORTMANTEAUS*

July 19, 2020 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen, Writing tagged as , ,
Portmanteau | Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

We’re so lucky. The English language is like play dough.

Oh yes, we have strict rules of grammar, tense, POV, all the way to the minutia of intransitive verbs.  We can choose from a number of eminent grammar and style guides to ensure conformity. We have stalwart English teachers to drill those rules into our heads so that we are all on the same page. (And bless them all – there is nothing better than order over chaos).  But despite those rules a writer has so much freedom to shape our mother tongue into forms wry, brittle, silly, heartbreaking, snarky or just plain mad.

I don’t have much command of any other language; a smatter of German, a soupçon of French, about a third cup of Latin and a healthy plateful of Spanish. But I do know that the rules of those languages are not as forgiving as English — not as much room to roam before you run afoul of the language police.  English allows us to mangle all the rules of spelling, meaning, and sentence structure to reflect dialect, or character traits, add color, shift perceptions or mood and anyone with a good command of English can understand — and only pedants ever complain. Of course, you have to use the rules of punctuation.  Gotta have those traffic signs.

Anthony Burgess used bits and pieces of Russian mixed with Shakespearian English and other tongues to give us Nadsat, the terrifyingly unique argot of his dark characters in A Clockwork Orange. The reader may have had to work at it a bit, but it was intelligible and colored the story with an unforgettable feel. Fantasy and Sci Fi from J.K. Rowling to Ursula K. Le Guin play with all sorts of mixed up language that become magical words and when you’re reading in those worlds you understand.

Dialect and special vocabulary enrich a tale on many levels and I’m in awe of those writers who do them well, but my favorite form of play dough English is the portmanteau. Anybody can create one of these inventive combinations, and everybody does — usually with something faintly deprecating or ironically funny in mind.  And with just one word a portmanteau can ooze with meaning. Frenemy speaks volumes — we’ve all had one and it’s exhilarating to give ‘em a proper name. Craptacular very neatly wraps up the verdict on so much of our over-hyped media. And then there’s pompidity, my own invention from University days when I struggled to describe the quality of politicians.

All writers love words. Words are paint, chisel, fabric, and clay for our creativity. If you can’t find that one word that perfectly reflects your intent, try cobbling a new one together — no one will take points away.  Blog is a portmanteau (web log) so if you’re lucky enough to have your portmanteau go viral, you might wind up in the OED.

 

 

With a BA in Anthropology and English Jenny pursued a career in advertising and writing and segued into developmental editing. She has worked on nearly 400 books during her career. Her clients include both traditionally published and indie authors. She has worked in every genre from romance to horror and thrillers as well as edited  Air Force manuals, commercial communications and memoirs. She offers every service from copyediting to developmental coaching. 

 

 

*This blog is an oldie but goodie, originally published in March, 2018

 

 

 

 

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When a writer needs a hug… by Jina Bacarr

July 11, 2020 by in category Jina’s Book Chat, Writing tagged as , , , , ,

Writing never gets easier… if anything, it’s more difficult.

Why? Because we expect more of ourselves. Even more so when you’re doing edits from your fab editor who’s really an angel in disguise. We want to make our story as perfect as possible and not disappoint her. She believes in you. Your characters believe in you. After all, their lives are in your hands.

But like a chocolate soufflé, a lot can go wrong.

Your computer screen goes blue… computer updates send your heart pounding as you pray you get all your pretty icons back…. a character keeps you up at nights because you’re so worried about how you’re going to save her butt and yours.

There’s more:

You go over your word count.

You can’t find your timeline/fact sheet for your heroine (when you’re writing about Paris during WW 2 this is crucial).

You ‘re so tired, you push the wrong button on your keyboard and everything in Track Changes disappears

You realize a secondary relationship ain’t working because the hero is based on an old boyfriend with a big ego. You dump him. Get a new guy for the part. And he’s an absolute dream.

You work from dawn-to-dawn the week before edits are due and have no idea what day it is.

And worst of all, you run out of coffee.

But I did it!

I sent my editor the edited manuscript at 7:37 a.m. on a sunny morning… and I felt numb. No whistles went off. No bells. Just the quiet hum of my computer.

I needed a hug.

Someone telling me ‘I done good’.

Yes, I’m totally proud of what I accomplished, but writing can be a lonely business. And it’s hard work, especially writing historicals. (My story follows a dual timeline from 1926 to 1950 and present day. Silent films, Nazis in Paris, the film business in Hollywood and France.)

So I did what I swore I wouldn’t after I sent the m/s: I opened it back up and read some of my favorite passages. Laughed and cried again with my characters… sat amazed at how they accomplished their goals… fell in love with them all over again… and cheered when they beat the Nazis!

And I got that hug.

From my characters. Reminding me why I write. Because I so love them, the stories, the chance to give them life.

So, merci beaucoup, mes bons amis! Thank you, my friends.

Jina

PS — I’ll keep you posted on my Paris WW 2 historical. Cover ideas coming soon…

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As a Writer, Is Talking to Yourself a Bad Thing?

May 3, 2020 by in category Partners in Crime by Janet Elizabeth Lynn & Will Zeilinger, Writing tagged as , ,

Is Talking to Yourself a Bad Thing?

I’ve seen jokes and memes all over social media that describe how being self-isolated or “quarantined” during this COVID-19 pandemic has had one of two effects.


The first has been an overwhelming feeling of being trapped or imprisoned, with no opportunity for social interaction. If you have kids, and they are home, they have to be fed and watered, educated, entertained, and of course, experience some quality time with you. Even if you don’t have kids or parents in your home, there’s always laundry and dishes, all those things on your to-do list you’ve been putting off until you had “time.” Things like home repairs, organizing, binge watching all those programs and movies, you’ve recorded, and naps . . . yes, naps. The thing is, you aren’t trapped.

How are you using your self-isolation?


The second feeling has been one of great relief, as being shut up in one’s domicile provides the writer with the opportunity to get that story or book onto paper (or at least into the computer’s memory.) This second opportunity can also be seen as the chance to see ourselves in the mirror of truth.


Let me put it this way: Let’s assume you are a serious writer, whether it be a journalist, essayist, short-story author, non-fiction, or fiction novelist. What exactly has been keeping you from writing that thing you write? Is it your job? There’s that daily commute that can eat up a couple to several hours each day. Does the boss hover over your shoulder so you have no chance to put down a few paragraphs each day? Is it your chores, like taking the kids to school or daycare, picking them up, and taking them to their extra-curricular activities (soccer, dance, scouts, etc.?) Do you have a second job?


During the time we are all confined (at least, we should be) have we learned anything about ourselves and our writing process?


In that vein, there is another advantage to this situation—that is being able to read your WIP out loud to yourself or to those at home with you. Reading your work aloud helps you catch the rhythm of your writing, especially in early drafts. Though you may not be commuting, those hours can be spent refining dialog, grammar and even some holes in story or essay.
If you happen to live alone, you may have access to a recorder or use your computer to record and playback what you’ve read aloud. Even if you aren’t ready to read it to the world, your family and yourself are all great critique partners.

Go ahead and read—aloud. You’ll never go back to just reading over the page.

~Will

P.S. To those of you who are essential workers—thank you and stay well. We all want to read the stories that will come from all this.


Books by Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger

DESERT ICE

Buy now!
DESERT ICE

GAME TOWN

Buy now!
GAME TOWN

SLICK DEAL

Buy now!
SLICK DEAL

SLIVERS OF GLASS

Buy now!
SLIVERS OF GLASS

STRANGE MARKINGS

Buy now!
STRANGE MARKINGS
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Taking Notes on Your Kindle – and Finding Them Again by Kitty Bucholtz

March 9, 2020 by in category It's Worth It by Kitty Bucholtz tagged as , , , , ,

Note: Kitty is at a conference so we’re rerunning one of her columns from our archives. We hope Kitty has a great time, and we hope you enjoy her column.

In November 2017, I wrote about how you can send nearly any kind of text-based document to your Kindle. A couple weeks ago, a friend told me she’s taking an overseas trip and she was considering printing out her current work-in-progress so she can at least get some editing done on the plane. I suggested she send her Word doc to her Kindle instead. She wouldn’t have to worry about losing pages, and her luggage would be a little lighter.

When she asked me how she would do edits, I realized I haven’t actually written an article about that yet! Here are my thoughts.

First, I use my Kindle to read. I don’t plan to make it my next editing tool. That being said, if I’m reading a friend’s book and see a typo, I want to tell them about it so they can make the correction and re-upload. In the same manner, reading my final manuscript on my Kindle can help me to see errors I missed because now I am reading the book as a reader. Errors aside, I also like to highlight my favorite bits in a novel sometimes, and helpful passages in nonfiction books so I can come back to them later.

I own a Kindle Paperwhite, so I’ll explain how to do everything on that or on the Kindle app on my iPhone. You’ll have to check how to do things differently if you own a different Kindle or use the Kindle app elsewhere. (I’d think it would all be very similar.)

Highlighting

If I want to highlight a passage on a Paperwhite or using the Kindle app on my phone, I press and hold on the first word I want to highlight until it lights up then drag my finger to the last word I want to highlight. On my phone, it automatically highlights. On my Paperwhite, it highlights but brings up a menu asking me if I want to just highlight, or add a note, or sometimes you can look things up in Wikipedia if your Kindle is connected to the Internet, and other menu items may also be available. (If you highlight a single word, the Kindle assumes you want to look that word up in the onboard dictionary.)

To get rid of that highlighting using the phone app, tap on the highlighted portion again, then tap on the highlight color with the X in it. That will delete your highlighting. If you tap on a different color, it just turns your highlighted color (yellow by default) to the other color.

To get rid of the highlighting using the Paperwhite, tap on the highlighted portion again, then tap on “Delete” in the little menu that pops up.

Notes

Once you’ve highlighted something, you can add notes pertaining to the highlighted bit. On the phone, tap the highlighted portion, then when you see the little menu, tap on the square with the pencil (supposed to look like paper and pencil). A new screen opens that says “Create Note” at the top. Type in whatever you want, then hit Save. Now at the end of the highlighted portion is a tiny little page. That’s your reminder that you have a note there.

On the Paperwhite, it’s similar. You can add the note as soon as you add the highlighting by choosing “Note” from the menu after you press and drag to highlight. A “Note” screen pops up where you can type what you want. Tap Save, and you’ll see a little superscript number at the end of the highlighted portion kind of like what you see for footnotes in textbooks.

To read these notes, tap on the highlighted portion, tap on the Note in the menu, and you can read what you wrote. You can also delete or change the note at this time.

But Why?

If you send your manuscript to your Kindle in a .doc or other text file, highlighting and making notes about things you want to fix or change can be very helpful. As I mentioned, I also like to tell my friends about any typos they’ll want to fix. And when reading nonfiction, I highlight and make notes for the same reasons I would in a paper book – to remind myself of how to do something, or remember to come back to this passage later.

How Do I Get My Notes Back?

Obviously, hitting the page-forward button over and over through a 400-page book would be way too annoying to find all of your marks. But Kindle created a “My Clippings” text file for you and it saves everything you highlight or notate from any book on your Kindle. Yay!

For any ebook that the Kindle recognizes as such (I don’t know if you have to have purchased it from Amazon or not), your notes and highlights show up at https://read.amazon.com/notebook

Unfortunately, the manuscript you sent to your Kindle (possibly using the Send to Kindle app 😉 ) does not show up in your online notebook. (At least, I don’t see mine.) So you have to download your My Clippings file from your Kindle to your computer.

To do this, connect your Kindle power cord with the USB plug on the end to a USB port on your computer. Once it’s connected, your computer will see the Kindle like it would a flash drive. Click on Kindle, then Documents, then scroll down to My Clippings.txt and double-click to open. In that text file, you will find everything you’ve highlighted (probably since you purchased your Kindle). You can now save that file on your computer.

My Clippings.txt from my Kindle

Sending Your Notes to Your Friend

Using my friend Debra Mullins’ book Kerrigan’s Law as an example, this is what I do when I find any typos in a friend’s book. I open My Clippings, then cut and paste the notes that refer to that book into a new document.

Each highlight is listed in My Clippings by location number. If it also has a note, it is listed again at that location number with the note you typed. For instance, I highlighted a typo, then wrote “typo” in the note section. Here is what it looks like in My Clippings:

Kerrigan’s Law: Welcome to Burr: Book 3 (Debra Mullins)
– Your Highlight on Location 434-434 | Added on Sunday, December 3, 2017 10:33:42 PM

How to we make that happen?”
==========
Kerrigan’s Law: Welcome to Burr: Book 3 (Debra Mullins)
– Your Note on Location 434 | Added on Sunday, December 3, 2017 10:34:07 PM

Typo

Now I can cut and paste my highlights and notes into a new document or an email and send it to Deb. I try to highlight enough text so she can search for it and find it fairly easily. The location number will only give her a vague idea of where it is, but it helps. For instance, location 434 is very early on in the book.

Since I’d found a typo and knew I’d send it to Deb, I couldn’t help but highlight a portion that made me laugh out loud to send to her, too. 😉

Kerrigan’s Law: Welcome to Burr: Book 3 (Debra Mullins)
– Your Highlight on Location 1383-1384 | Added on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 1:18:20 PM

our old sheriff, Charlie Norris,
==========
Kerrigan’s Law: Welcome to Burr: Book 3 (Debra Mullins)
– Your Note on Location 1383 | Added on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 1:18:34 PM

LOL

(You get it – Chuck Norris? LOL! 😀 )

Using the Kindle Notebook Website

I only discovered the notes showing up on your own “notebook” page today when researching a question I had for this article. (Here’s the 2015 article I found mentioning it.) I couldn’t find Deb’s book in my “notebook,” so I played around with another book I had on my Kindle, Only a Hero Will Do by Alanna Lucas.

Example from my “Notebook”

You can see that I highlighted part of a sentence, then added a note, “Here is a note on that highlighted passage.”

I went through the books showing up in my My Clippings document and compared them to what showed up in my online “notebook.” I could be wrong, but it looks like Amazon only recognizes books I purchased from them. Anything I “side loaded” or used Send to Kindle to get onto my Kindle seems to not show up in the Notebook. Just a little FYI. So to get your notes for those books, you’ll have to download the file from your Kindle to your computer as I mentioned above.

Editing Your Own Books on Your Kindle

Bringing this around full circle, I told my friend Janice that she can load her current WIP onto her Kindle and take it with her on the plane. She won’t be able to make changes to the document, but she can highlight bits and write notes like, “Need more tension here” or “Potentially better ending could be…”

Loading your final manuscript to your Kindle and reading it through before you upload it to publish can also be one of your last proofreads. You can highlight a section and add the note “is should be it,” etc. One note on this – highlight enough, even a whole sentence, so that you can find it again in your document by doing a search.

I hope you found this information useful. I’ve really loved opening My Clippings occasionally to remind myself of all the cool stuff I wanted to remember from nonfiction ebooks I own. Learn from my mistake, though: when you trade in an old Kindle and get a new one, download the My Clippings file from the old Kindle first! Once you no longer have access to the Kindle, you no longer have access to the file. Darn!

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