Weekly Writer’s Roundup Volume V

For your reading pleasure, here are several articles about writing, publishing and promoting I’ve read this week and found useful, thought-provoking, and otherwise helpful.  In this edition, I’ve focused primarily on the topic of writing, because I ran into several articles on writing that gave me food for thought and tools for improvement. Enjoy!

Writing

11 Writing Tips for Improving Readability and Communicating Better – TCKPublishing.com

Good writing requires communicating your ideas so well to your readers that they can quickly and easily understand what you mean. Great writing should feel effortless to read.

That’s your goal. You want your readers to effortlessly follow along as your writing guides them through your stories and ideas.

Source: 11 Writing Tips for Improving Readability and Communicating Better | TCKPublishing.com

The starting point is the readability score as calculated by the Readability Score website. From there, he has 11 tips for improving readability. The ones that particularly resonate for me are defining complex words as you go and write short, simple sentences.  As a science fiction/fantasy writer, I often either create words or repurpose words with nuances that are specific to my story.  I like to define the nuance or meaning in the same sentence or paragraph where I introduce it.

I submitted the chapter I’m currently editing to the readability score website TCKPublishing recommends, and had the following results:

readability-scoreThe overall grade level looks good via most of the indices, though the Coleman-Liau index is a little high.  This index weighs multisyllabic words more heavily than the other indices do, and may be pointing up a problem with the chapter.

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The proofreading and editing tool I’ve used for this chapter is the Hemmingway App, a browser-based editor that lets you paste your text.  As you edit, the app automatically updates your statistics.  You can paste the text back into your manuscript when you are finished.  Hemmingway also gives my chapter a Grade 7 reading level but has pointed up several sentences that are long and complex.  I’ve whittled them down, but obviously still have some work to do.  Hemmingway also flags “hard” words and suggests alternatives, as well as adverb checks, grammar checks, and other useful information in the editing process.

I haven’t found an automated tool that does everything I’d like, but the Hemmingway tool is pretty close.  The browser version is free.

The readability score is only the start of the process outlined in this article, though. The tips he outlines will help you make your article more readable if you’re not happy with what the readability measuring tools tell you about your work. And if you’d like some automated help with it, check out the Hemmingway tool.

How to Create Ridiculously Compelling Content in 5 Easy Steps – Rose Scott, guest author

Have you ever wondered what makes for a great blog? What’s the secret? What makes you visit them over and over again?

Let me guess: It’s in the content!

Fun, helpful, striking content always attracts visitors and gets shared. And now you want to create your own blog, a  great one just like all the ones you’ve seen.

Source: How to Create Ridiculously Compelling Content in 5 Easy Steps | Jeff Bullas

This article is aimed at bloggers. Many of the tips are useful for novelists as well. Identifying your ideal audience and writing for them is something I could put a little more thought into as a blogger. It’s almost a given for my novel-writing, though. I try to write the kinds of science fiction I like to read. As a blogger, I’m all over the place. Right now, I don’t see reason to be otherwise. At some point I may focus this blog more tightly and spin off other content to another blog(s). Or not! Stay tuned.

What to Avoid in Your First Chapter – Cecilia Lewis

Your first chapter is the most important chapter of your novel. It’s the first thing your reader will see when they open the book, and it forms their first impression. The first pages absolutely must hook the reader, or they won’t continue reading. As both a freelance editor and an editor for a publishing company, I read a lot of first pages. By the end of the first chapter, I’ve probably formed my opinion on the manuscript. The more I evaluate first chapters, the more I notice issues that are fairly common in the manuscripts I read.

Source: Lewis Editorial: What to Avoid in Your First Chapter | Cecelia Lewis

Her first two tips caught my attention because I’ve wondered if I’ve made both these mistakes — starting in the wrong place, and info-dumping too much — in my novel. I’ve asked my beta readers for feedback about these issues in particular. So far, it seems like my start, which is 30 or so years before the beginning of the main story, works well, and the characters are interesting and even compelling. This raises another spectre. As a reader, I’ve been dissatisfied with characters that grab my interest and look like they’ll be central as the story unfolds, only to disappear for most or all of the rest of the novel.

Three Steps To Help You Write Brilliant Descriptions

How do I know which description details to keep in my book and which I should remove? 

Description is an important part of any story, but often it is hard to decide when it is enough. Which details should you keep and which details should go?

Source: Writers Write: Three Steps To Help You Write Brilliant Descriptions | Mia Botha
Using a before and after example paragraph, Mia Botha walks you through her three steps: consider the purpose of the scene; watch the adverbs and adjectives; and write kick-ass sentences. The second two steps get quite a bit of help in the Hemmingway editing application!

Publishing

e-Formatting Gems for Novel Writers #2 ~ Ellipses

Once you have removed any bloat as in ARTICLE #1 the next step is to make the layout epub- and Kindle-friendly. Save the document under a new name before you begin, so if anything goes wrong you still have the original.

Firstly we should change any ellipses formed by 3 periods (…) into proper ellipses, which are formed by pressing the Ctrl, Alt, and Period keys together, thus: …

Source: WriteIntoPrint: e-Formatting Gems for Novel Writers #2 ~ Ellipses | Stef Mcdaid

This article breaks the down into basic steps. As you identify e-formatting issues you need to address before uploading your manuscript to Kindle and other eBook distributors, you’ll use the same steps over and over again. I was blindsided by this article. I had no idea there was a code for a one-character ellipsis. When I checked my manuscript, I discovered that Scrivener automatically changes three periods in a row to the one-character version, so I don’t have to make this specific change, but there are many other formatting changes I’ll need to make sure Scrivener also handles, or make the changes manually. In the next few weeks, I’ll spend a lot of time on this website learning what else I don’t know about preparing a document for e-publication.

Promoting

8 Tips to Simplify Your Social Media Marketing — Neil Patel

Are you struggling to keep up with your social media marketing tasks?

Looking for ways to increase productivity?

Incorporating a few changes into your social media marketing can help simplify processes, improve efficiency, and free up your time.

In this article you’ll discover eight tips to help busy social media marketers be more productive.

Source: SocialMedia Examiner: 8 Tips to Simplify Your Social Media Marketing | Neil Patel

Many of these tips are a little beyond me at the moment. The first – Focus on the Platform With the Highest ROI, for instance. I don’t have enough data yet to be sure which platform that will be. From my experience so far my Twitter audience is the easiest to grow, but it’s not clear yet how well twitter interactions translate to blog interactions. And with no published novel for people to find, yet, the data I am able to gather may not be relevant in a few months. However, this article did give me some food for thought, and it also gave me some tools for managing my social media time more effectively. I’m applying some rigor to the processes of finding interesting information for social media and making posts. To me this is key. I don’t want my sole message on any platform to be “READ MY BLAWG” or (in a few months) “READ MY BOOOOOOK”. My goal is for any tweet or wall post I make, whether original content or retweet/share, to the imprint of my personality on it. And that means not using automated processes for many of my Twitter and Facebook “work”. However, I am using automated processes to watch for who follows me, unfollows me, refollows me, etc. And as of the last week or so, I’m using some tools to sift through twitter for tweets and links of interest to me. It’s an internal viewpoint, but I see a difference in both the content I’m sharing, the reactions to it, and the amount of time I spend on these tasks. And I like the differences in all three areas.

A Little of This, a Little of That

10 Etiquette Tips for Writing Reviews– About:Style

Reviews have become standard for most products, services, and entertainment events. It’s one of the most valuable tools we have to help us determine where to spend our time and money.

If the product or service isn’t something you would ever use, don’t review it. As soon as I see, “I don’t like this genre,” when reading a book review, I move on to the next one. Someone who doesn’t appreciate the product or service won’t be able to do it justice when critiquing it. Always keep the target market reader in mind as you write the review.

Source: 10 Etiquette Tips for Writing Reviews| About:Style/Professional Etiquette

This article was updated in May, and I think that’s why it crossed my monitor. Although the etiquette is general to any sort of review, it’s applicable to book reviews. Since I’m writing more book reviews these days, I’ve found some of this information enlightening. Like any article I write, the title and first few sentences of a book review are key for metadata. If your intent is to help readers find books they would be interested in and avoid books they wouldn’t like, you can do it more effectively by paying attention to the metadata your article will generate.

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As always, if you run across an article you think would be of interest in this series (or if you have written one!), I’d love to hear about it. Contact me via comment here or via social media.

Until next week, happy writing, and happy reading!

photo credits:

Maquina d’escriure via photopin (license)

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