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Say What!?

September 19, 2017 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen tagged as , , ,

Say What!? | Jenny Jensen | A Slice of OrangeEvery writer has to be an editor to some degree. Reading and revising what you’ve written is the first line of attack; the skirmish before an editor gets unbiased hands on the work. What are you looking for when you edit your own work? Search and destroy all worm words, cut down on adverbs and adjectives, delete extraneous dialog tags, trim unneeded prose; there is a ton of excellent advise on the web to help with a self-edit. But can it help you catch the muddle?

 

When you are on that heady writing roll where the words just flow and the story unfolds in your mind like a film then you write what you’re seeing — it’s a grand feeling. Just be sure you wrote what you meant to convey. When you reread those words you’re fixed on the meaning you intended. When an editor reads those same words they… just might laugh. Ah the consequence of the unintended.

 

I’ve encountered this muddle most where eyes are involved. Probably because it’s said that the eyes are windows to the soul. We’ve imbued two innocent organs with a near paranormal ability to transmit intent. And I think they can. The face is expressive but the eyes really can appear shifty, or soulful or hurt. And if you’ve ever really pissed your mom off, then you know that eyes can harden in anger.  But there’s a thin line between expressive eyes and hilarious word play.

 

He lied. His eyes gave him away, gaze dropping fast to the floor and remaining there. Well, pick that gaze up for heavens sake. It’s dusty down there. But I get it and it works beautifully in the context of the scene, if it just didn’t conjure an image that makes me chuckle. We went with: He lied. The eyes gave him away. He couldn’t look at us. It was a great thriller and the book did well.

 

A different author; the scene is tense, the captive character needs to scope out the situation, there has to be a way out. Her eyeballs skittered across the room. Oh my! That hurts — eyeballs rolling away like errant marbles. It isn’t pretty. Please, let’s try: She scanned the room frantically…” It fit the moment and the book sold admirably.

 

OK, maybe the eyeball fix wasn’t the deciding sales factor — each of these authors is very, very good — but, in the end, neither provided unintended laughter. When you self-edit pay heed to what you’ve written. Do the words convey what you actually intended?  Be vigilant of the muddle. No one wants to step on a skittering eyeball.


Jenny Jensen | A Slice of OrangeWith a BA in Anthropology and English I pursued a career in advertising and writing and segued into developmental editing. It was a great choice for me. I love the process of creating and am privileged to be part of that process for so many great voices — voices both seasoned and new.

 

I’ve worked on nearly 400 books over 20 years, books by noted authors published by New York houses including Penguin, Kensington, Pentacle and Zebra as well as with Indie bestsellers and Amazon dynamos. From Air Force manuals and marketing materials to memoirs, thrillers, sci fi and romance, my services range from copyediting to developmental coaching.

 

Having worked in advertising and marketing, I am always cognizant of the marketplace in which the author’s work will be seen. I coach for content and style with that knowledge in mind in order to maximize sales and/or educational potential. My objective is to help the author’s material stand out from an ever more crowded and competitive field.

 

 

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Voice, Style, Tone

August 19, 2017 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen tagged as , , ,

Voice, Style and Tone | Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

 

As much advice exists about how to write as about how to vote. TMI? Sometimes it makes me long for a cabin near Walden Pond, a quill pen and a stack of foolscap. (Not really sure what that is but I love the word!) In my experience the best approach is to just write – and then go back and right your writing. Edit.

Voice, Style, and Tone Are All Critical

There’s so much to be aware of when you edit what you’ve written. From the macro view voice, style and tone are all critical. Explanations of those elements vary but we all know they each impact our writing. Some definition is required to make the concepts applicable; for me, style and voice are like fraternal twins – really close but not exactly the same.

Voice and Style

As an editor I’m dialed into the author’s voice after the first three paragraphs of a manuscript. As a reader I know within the first three pages if I like an author’s voice – just like we all know what music we like. Voice is a reflection of the author’s mind and personality and like minds and personality, it develops and matures with age. Depending on the writer’s level of skill and experience I can hear a strong voice, or a well-emulated voice or a developing voice. If I hear a voice that’s not distinct and consistent the writer and I work toward finding her natural rhythm for word choice, phrasing, even punctuation – her voice.

Voice shifts from 3rd person narrative to dialog and differs between characters. Look carefully at the voice of each character. Does the language suit the character? A pierced and tattooed good time girl speaks differently than a buttoned up college professor. An author’s style often changes from story to story, but the voice is always there. I think voice comes from the gut and it grows and develops and gets better with use. Style is more a conscious effort and is changeable from book to book depending on what the story needs.

Tone

Tone is less ephemeral. It’s the mood. Every plot has an overall tone and under that umbrella each scene has a tone appropriate to the action; dialog reflects tone. Tone is what moves the emotions of the story. When you read over your 1000 words per day listen to be sure the tone is always appropriate. A cozy mystery has a murder, of course, but the tone is off if it is described in the tone of a gritty noir.

The body lay crumpled at the foot of the staircase. Pepper drew a sharp breath. There was so much blood.
Versus
Sgt. Pepper stared critically at the broken and bloodied body. The fall down the staircase alone was fatal; the twenty or so bloody gashes were overkill.

Edit

If, at the end of the writing day, you listen with a critical ear you’ll hear your voice, feel the style, sense the moods and know if each is clear and appropriate. If not, then this is the time to right what you write.

Jenny Jensen
Editor
www.e-bookeditor.com


Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange
With a BA in Anthropology and English I pursued a career in advertising and writing and segued into developmental editing. It was a great choice for me. I love the process of creating and am privileged to be part of that process for so many great voices — voices both seasoned and new.

I’ve worked on nearly 400 books over 20 years, books by noted authors published by New York houses including Penguin, Kensington, Pentacle and Zebra as well as with Indie bestsellers and Amazon dynamos. From Air Force manuals and marketing materials to memoirs, thrillers, sci fi and romance, my services range from copyediting to developmental coaching.

Having worked in advertising and marketing, I am always cognizant of the marketplace in which the author’s work will be seen. I coach for content and style with that knowledge in mind in order to maximize sales and/or educational potential. My objective is to help the author’s material stand out from an ever more crowded and competitive field.

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Cut the Fluff

June 10, 2017 by in category Charmed Writer by Tari Lynn Jewett tagged as , ,

 

Write short!

While I consider myself the Queen of Run-On Sentences, because I tend to write the way I talk…in run on sentences, I also tend to write very lean. I know, that may seem contradictory, but it’s true. While author friends are trying to bring their word counts down, cut description and wordiness, I find myself short of my word count goals by as much as 20,000 words. Not a small number. And, fiction editors and critique readers tell me that sometimes I need MORE description.

I’m sure this comes from my non-fiction background. When I wrote magazine articles, I generally had a word count goal around 2,000 words. While each word should count in everything you write, when you’re this limited, each counts double. Every editor I knew had the same mantra, ‘Cut the Fluff’.

This works for me. I want to get to the point. Don’t dilly dally and draw the story out with unnecessary details, or you’ll lose me. TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED.

So, I find myself reading for details that matter. Why did an author put that description there? Was it necessary? Does it give the reader a better picture? Does it move the story forward? Is it something I would normally just skim over as too much detail when I’m reading? Does it make the reader turn the page?

You would think that because of my preference for clean sparse words that I’d read (and write) primarily short stories and novellas, but it’s not true. I read long, I read short, I read flash. I love a good story told in how ever many words it needs.

So back to my problem. Writing too short. I’ve decided it’s not a serious problem. The solution is of course to read, read, read…one of my favorite things to do. And write the words that matter, that of course is the hard part. I’ll keep working on it.

And what about you? Do you find that you write short or long? Sparse or fluffy? War and Peace? Or Flash Fiction?

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On writing…Getting Started

April 19, 2017 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen tagged as , , ,
John Atkinson cartoon, Wrong Hands

Thank you Mr. Atkinson www.wronghands1.com

E.B. White (co-author of Elements of Style) said, “An editor is a person who knows more about writing than writers do but has escaped the terrible desire to write.”

OK, I’m certainly not E. B. White but I am an editor and I’ve worked with writers of every genre for 20 challenging and enriching years. There is nothing more exciting than helping a writer move through the process of writing. With no skin in the game I can be objective about where a story has taken a wrong turn, hear a particular turn of phrase or a plot point that doesn’t ring true, see inconsistencies in characterization — and spot the typos and those pesky homophones that get overlooked to the great peril of publication. I ask the hard questions, I offer possible solutions. It’s a grand give and take.


You’re a writer. Your head is filled with bits of story: the perfect setting — a women watches in her rear view mirror as the wedding cake dumped on the highway recedes in the distance. A character — Mistress Renfrew is overly tall and awkward and harbors a secret passion for Lord Dumfrey’s collection of assassin’s knives. Odd events — the deadly rivalry for Miss Abundance at the Apple Valley fairground, a lake in summer, tidbits of history, the perfect love triangle ripe for explosion. But where to start? How to corral all those creative bits into a cohesive whole?

One method: start with a simple premise.

Can you express the premise of your book succinctly? If you can write the essence of your story in as few as fifteen words you are on the road to writing a novel. What happens next? The plot will come from the premise.

It’s the way you dress up that simple premise, populate it and move it forward in narrative form that makes the story emerge. Starting from a succinct premise gives you a foundation on which to build a great story. Whether it’s the characters that drive the action or action that drives the characters, the premise provides the blueprint to keep the work moving forward.

The premise should be carved in stone, but only as long as it supports the creative effort. Stone can be reshaped; Michelangelo did it all the time and look at those results.

Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned writer I look forward to sharing On Writing again here at A Slice of Orange to explore methods, tools and tricks of writing that can help your story shine.

Jenny Jensen
Editor
www.e-bookeditor.com

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How I Got Bit In The Butt And Survived!

February 20, 2017 by in category A Bit of Magic by Meriam Wilhelm, Writing, Writing: It's a Business tagged as , , ,

 

This past year I authored my first fiction series, The Witches Of New Moon Beach. Like all new authors, I was totally excited to share what I had written and couldn’t wait to see my books posted up on Amazon. I had such a blast writing the series and had fallen in love with both my characters and my newly created beach city. I felt confident that my book covers were strong and that I had a solid plan for marketing each of the three (now four) books in the series.

Unfortunately for me, I let my excitement to share override my common sense. Sure, I had checked and rechecked for spelling errors and I even had three different people read my first book. I knew that there were individuals out there that you could pay to edit your books, check for typos, misused words or grammatical errors. But since I hadn’t yet made a dime I was resistant to spend money on the above mentioned even though in the back of my mind, I had a pressing fear that I might just have missed something. Grammar is just not my thing!

And so I proudly posted my first book for all to see and was immediately bitten in the butt by reviewers. Yes, there were a few kind comments, but then the bite came as I read “the grammatical errors were sometimes humorous” and “the book is filled with typos that simple editing could rectify.” One reader said I wrote like a teenager. Ouch!

How had this happened? I had done more than simple editing. What had I missed? I immediately took the book down and got some help. I repeatedly read the book back to front searching for errors. I tried out several editing software packages before purchasing Ginger and I ran book one past a high school English grammar teacher who I respected. I agonized before putting it back up. But the cleaning apparently worked since 73% of my reviews from then on were 4’s and 5’s and I’ve not been hit with negative remarks on spelling or typos again.

Let me say this clearly, I deserved to be bitten in the butt for posting a book with internal errors. I own this and boy did that hurt! I’m sure that I lost more than a few readers who were disappointed by my poor editing skills and either didn’t finish reading book one or never ventured toward purchasing books 2, 3 or 4. I’m saddened that they never got a chance to get to know my characters or to experience the magic within the pages.

Skip forward to my 5th book which will be out in early February 2017. I have spell checked it repeatedly, used my Ginger software for grammatical screening and had two different people read it for possible errors. However, this time, I’m also going to spend a few bucks to have a professional edit my book. Why? Because I can still remember how badly I felt when reading those negative reviews; reviews that I had earned. There is nothing worse than being disappointed in yourself.

I also learned something very important. It’s hard to see your own errors after you have lived with a story from birth to finish. I guess that I read right past mistakes more than once. My brain read the word site when I had actually spelled it sight. And semicolons took the place of far too many commas. I even failed to capitalize a word or two clearly by reading too quickly through the story.

In the end, I survived. Painful though it was, I learned a great deal from this experience. My counsel to you? Protect your butt – take your time, do your homework and then consider getting some professional help.

My best wishes to you as you successfully share your future stories with the world!

The one thing I know, after all my years as an elementary school principal, is that there is magic everywhere and in everyone. When I retired after 35 years in education, I longed to share all that I had learned and created several parenting books on topics from bullying to homework strategies. While I miss those enchanting moments with children and their parents, I always wanted to let my imagination run wild as I sought out my own magic and wrote about it. In short, I was lured into the world of fiction writing where I soon created my first series, The Witches of New Moon Beach. The first book, Morning Magic is currently FREE.


Inspiration isn’t hard to find as I have lived in Redondo Beach, California all my life and New Moon Beach might have more than a passing resemblance to my hometown. Every day I walk on the path that runs along the beach, sometimes with my sisters, but most often with my thoughts as I plot out my next book. I am long married and mom to three great grown kids. When I’m not writing or walking on the beach, you’ll find me sewing, reading or traveling and taking pictures.
Feel free to check out my website: www.meriamwilhelm.com
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