Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Summer Reprise Series #9: Not Quite Random Thoughts on Revising What You’ve Written

Summer Reprise Series #9: Not Quite Random Thoughts on Revising What You’ve Written
First published August 25, 2015

I have been writing a long time, certainly since 1st-grade in 1956. I consider myself to be a good writer. Three publishers agree with that assessment enough to publish books I authored or co-authored. Two of those asked if my manuscripts had been professionally edited before I submitted them.

I was in a quandary. What answer were they looking for?
I answered truthfully, “no.”
They seemed to be impressed.
I took their response to mean I’d done all the editing I need to do.


I recently pulled two of my CreateSpace books down while I re-edited. I found HUNDREDS of typos, etc… in each. I was embarrassed. And, I vowed it will not happen again.

Since that humbling experience, I have been much more conscientious with what I think is finally edited. Recently, I have included one of my good friends who enjoys “finding glitches” when she reads in my acknowledgements. She now reads all my manuscripts before I do my final edit.

Just last week, Laura Vavz, an outstanding blogger who did a review for The Observers, posted a blog: 5-Writing Apps I can’t live without. I read the article. I downloaded one of the Apps she recommended: Hemingway.

I tried it immediately. I will use it on all my manuscripts before considering them finally edited.

This software does NOT edit for you. It does provide color-coded segments of your text with issues: passive voice, adverbs, difficult reading, very hard to read. It also provides a Grade Level approximation for your text.

The spelling checker works better in "Write" mode than in "Edit" mode. When you edit in the APP, then copy/paste back to your manuscript, you have to reformat the text because it’s HTML. While each of those characteristics are a bit of a bummer, the benefits far outweigh the negatives in this APP.

The screen shot here is of the first half of a novella I'm working on. The file uploaded for this screen shot is 10,000 words long.

I also use the free version of Grammarly with regularity. It works from your browser. It also has a download version. It catches things I often miss. Here's a screenshot of my grammarly use. 

Each icon is a specific piece of text that was run through Grammarly. Red numbers indicate the number of issues I've chosen to ignore..

What using these two programs has done for me is to SLOW ME DOWN. I have evidence of manuscript issues that are clearly marked. Not changing them—or at least considering changing them—is very bad authorship on my part.

I have learned since the first posting of this blog that I can’t blindly make all the changes marked by Hemmingway. I want some of those “issues” because they are in dialog, or I just prefer what I’ve written to their option.

I am a finisher. While that trait has served me well in life, it’s not the best trait for an author. Editor is the trait I’m now striving for. Followed of course, by finisher.

The last Summer Reprise is next week. It, too, focuses on editing.

Next blog: Story Telling VS. Writing A Story

Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor

My website is: www.crdowning.com

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Science Guy’s Almanac: Four Priuses (Preii?)

Four Priuses (Preii?)

Some of you were expecting the 2nd half of my Coaching Freshmen Football series. Think of what's happening as the Super Bowl half-time show--longer than normal.

Next week--Labor Day--I'm doing a special tribute blog post about my long-time friend and colleague, Owen Miller. It's a salute to all teachers.

Coaching Freshmen Football - The 2nd Half will be posted on September 12. I promise.

This is a tale of two tragedies that ended much less tragically than they might have. It might also include other musings, but I’m not sure about that part. You see, I haven’t written this post yet.

I first saw a Prius at a Science Teachers Convention. It was on display on a rotating stand. There was a Toyota rep walking along just fast enough to maintain her spot in relation with the audience. A video screen highlighted the hybrid technology.

I bought my first Prius in 2001. It was blue.

We ordered it and had to wait. We also paid a premium over the sticker price. I thought it was wonderful. About the size of an Echo, this car was “cute,” as my wife said. Try as I might, AND I TRIED HARD, I never managed 50 mpg for a tank of gas.

I saw the first revision of the Prius in a medical clinic parking lot. Whoa! That was cool looking. I sold my blue Prius to my son. It had around 90K miles on it. He drove it until the hybrid battery died.

My second Prius was a Salsa Red 2004 model. It was much bigger than the first Prius. The a/c ran off electricity, so the gas engine didn’t have to kick in at a stop sign to keep the car cool. I drove that car 600 miles/week for 38 weeks of the years 2005-2012. I finally traded it in when the cost of the catalytic converter replacement was more than the BlueBook.

When I traded in the car, it had the original brakes and hybrid battery. It also had 270,000 miles on the odometer.

Prius number 3 was a Red 2007 Touring model. It had GPS, bigger tires, a smoother ride, and an upgraded JBL sound system. I enjoyed driving it for about a year and a half. The last day I drove that car wasn’t enjoyable at all.

After 15 months of ownership and about 15,000 miles, I was driving home from my son’s house. It was HOT inland that day in San Diego. As I neared the off ramp to my house near Mission Beach and Sea World, traffic was backed up . . . to a standstill.

I braked and stopped before hitting the sedan in front of me. The car behind me was not as successful. It stopped only after crunching into my Prius and shoving my front bumper up over the back bumper of the car in front of me.

No one was hurt. The driver of the car in front of me was 15 days from clearing her last accident of her insurance, so she wanted nothing to do with reporting the accident. I did get her license and phone numbers. The car behind me had a smooshed-in front end. I doubt if she ever got the hood open without taking the car to a body shop—but it was driveable.

Because we all drove off the freeway, I figured my car just looked bad. I was wrong.

When I tried to drive away, a scraping sound and the smell of burning rubber was my clue that things were bad. The entire right rear wheel well was rubbing my right rear tire.

I called AAA. After I gave my version of the accident and provided the driver information for the chocolate Oreo cookie drivers that sandwiched my creamy white filling Prius, she said to wait for a call from an adjuster: Fred Rogers.

My immediate thought was, “Great. I get to report my accident to Mr. Rogers. I hope it’s been a wonderful day in his neighborhood.”

When he called, I repeated my story. He said he needed to ask me some questions the answers to which would determine if they were totaling my car. My car was declared totaled without an insurance eyeball gazing upon it. How cool is that?

Ultimately, we got a very fair settlement from AAA. Plus we had gap coverage through our credit union, and Carmax refunded all but 15 months payments of our extended warranty cost.

I’m now driving a Brilliant Blue 2016 Prius and looks way cooler than my other Priuses/Preii. It’s one model up from the base model.

This car is much different than any other Prius I’ve owned. The ride is smooth. Acceleration is quiet. It gets REALLY GREAT mileage. I’ve got 1100 miles on the car and I’m averaging 57.9 mpg. Check the photo below.

I hear that the future of the Prius is shaky due to "low" gas prices and cars that get 40 MPG on the highway. If the Prius line is on its way out, I'm glad I got one of the last ones.

That’s it. I hope you enjoyed the ride.

Next Almanac: In Memory of Owen Miller - A tribute to teachers

Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor
My website is: www.crdowning.com

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Summer Reprise Series #8: Proofreading Epiphanies Revealed

Summer Reprise Series #8: Proofreading Epiphanies Revealed
First published April 21, 2015

If you don’t dread the final technical edit of your manuscript before submission for publication, perhaps you should. 
More on this thought next week.

If you work with a proofreader or copy editor, your level of concern about “your/you, a/as,” etc., the now extra words you missed deleting when you revised that lame sentence into a wordsmithed gem, and other gaffs that lower the level of professionalism in your manuscript may be significantly lower than mine is.

If, however, you are the final technical editor—along with being the author, the content editor, etc.—for your books, you probably feel my pain.

I described a trick I stumbled upon that helped me find several of those issues earlier in my booklet, Book Creation – Volume 2 – A Science Guy’s Exploration of Publishing Resources. Today’s blog is a short and hopefully sweet description of another serendipitous proofreading tip.

When I write, I have paragraph marks, section and page breaks, and spaces between words all visible. In MSWord, you can find this icon (¶) in the top menu bar. That’s a toggle switch between showing/hiding those markings. I usually hide those marks when I’m doing the technical edit.

You can see paragraph marks and a page break as I see them when I'm composing.

What I’ve found over time is that, even if I wait a week or more between my last revision and the technical edit, I’m still so close to the text, that my brain often sees what’s supposed to be in the text—not what actually is.

Try this.

Switch the page magnification about every ten pages or so while looking for technical fixes.

I’ve found that periodically changing the size of the page between 150% and 250% causes my brain to re-adjust enough that typos and extra words are much more quickly spotted. It's amazing how obvious awful most of those errors look when they pretty much fill your computer monitor!

This is a screenshot at 250% of the actual size font.
Notice that paragraph marks, etc., are not visible.

Above is a screenshot of part of a page of the technical edit I was working on when writing this blog. I've highlighted an offending extra word in red.

One new idea for this reprise.
Change the background color of your manuscript on your monitor while you edit.

In Word, changing the background color is one of the options in the Layout tab. Black is NOT your only choice.

Highlighted menu bar for Word-MAC 2011

You will be pleasantly surprised how that novelty view improves your ability to see “wrong” things.

Unless I have a L-O-N-G manuscript, I switch between magnification levels when editing, but I keep the same background color during a session. I like black and this color, or blue. Change your font color to white for best contrast. White. White. White.

Next blog: Not Quite Random Thoughts on Revising What You’ve Written

Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor 

My website is: www.crdowning.com

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Summer Reprise Series #7: It doesn’t matter what you write… My Position

Summer Reprise Series #7: It doesn’t matter what you write… My Position
First published March 24, 2015

This is the third of three blogs on what you should be writing. What follows the ellipsis in the title is “…as long as you’re writing something.” PRO and CON arguments in support of that statement were presented in previous blogs. This week I’ll present the “what I believe” position.

Keep in mind as you read this that the purpose of a blog for a writer is to extend your brand, communicate with your readers, and offer insight into the writer of the blog as a person. Hopefully, each of my blog entries does a bit of each.

Since writing is a process that spans genres in both fiction and non-fiction, writing something, then editing it, and revising it, and editing it, and having the writing critiqued, and editing, and revising it, is valuable practice.

If you are writing something to avoid writing something else . . . well, that could be a problem. I am not advocating writing as an avoidance strategy in any sense. Sometimes, you just get stuck—perhaps your protagonist has landed in a situation from which there seems to be no escape. Sending your mind on a trip down another pathway—by spending time writing on another project—might be just the trick to unleash the idea that’s holding your character prisoner.

However, intentionally avoiding one project for a prolonged period of time just because you don’t want to work on it might indicate that the project you’re avoiding should be removed from your radar screen entirely.

I just scanned the area around my computer and I see no dead horses. But, I suspect an equine corpse is lurking close by, so let me cut to the chase.

If you are a writer, you should be writing.

Writing isn’t just pounding keys and watching words appear on the screen in front of you. The process varies a bit by author, but the a good overview is provided in my booklet, “Idea Farming – Volume #1 – A Science Guy’s Read on Writing.”

This blog was written while I was working on production of a new book, editing an existing manuscript, and finalizing the formatting of Book Creation – Volume #2A Science Guy’s Exploration of Publishing Resources; and adding ideas to the outlines of two other book ideas.

Once again,
if you are a writer, you should be writing.

Next blog: Proofreading Epiphany Revealed

Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor

My website is: www.crdowning.com

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