Strategies to copy edit

I’ve been following the blog Writer Dissection, and I’m finding the advice fairly well-thought out and useful. The author, Alissa Berger, has a lot to say on topics such as characterization and editing, and she provides many useful resources.

Here’s a nice post from her about some of the tricks used in cleaning up your writing work for submission:

writerdissection

If I were a pathological liar, I would tell you that copy editing is when you clone yourself, manipulate your genetics, then step back and see the effect it has on your double. But, I’m not. And we’re not even up to that point yet (i.e. cloning humans). But, you should still know how to copy edit.

Strategy #1 CUPS!

CUPS is an acronym that goes like this:

C – capitalization

U – usage

P – punctuation

S – spelling

This method encourages a series of passes rather than edits by the reader, and usually works by writing CUPS vertically in the top right hand side of your first page. Once you completed one step, you write your initials as to not forget you checked that. This works good in elementary classrooms, but this will work just as good for you.

As extra resources, I always recommend the Purdue OWL. They have a lot…

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eFiction July 2015 Review #4 – Best Before by Katrina Johnston

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This brings us to the final review from July’s issue of eFicition magazine.

This week, I take a look at Best Before by Katrina Johnston

The fourth story in this issue is one by a writer whose works are very easy to find around the internet. Katrina Johnston is from Victoria in my home and native land, and was the winner of the CBC Canada Writes True Winter Tales Challenge.

The good:

As a slice-of-life, inner monologue piece, Best Before quickly sets up a believable, everyday situation. Sardonic humour wipes away any eye-rolling that the phrase slice-of-life might induce – it’s a fun read, and it’s clear that the author is having fun with it.

The protagonist, working in a Subway-like sandwich place ‘tells it like it is’ in the foodservice industry. She details her various customers and the freshness policies of her duties as a “sandwich architect” (a not-very-subtle jab at Subway). I have no trouble believing that the author worked in such an environment at some point – or at least talked with many people who have.

Her infatuation with a Prince Charming (a regular customer named David) is funny and a little sad. She clearly has it bad for the guy, and the narrative paints a crisp picture of unhealthy infatuation. It becomes clear early on that a) this is one lonely girl and b) it’s extremely unlikely that she’s going to get this guy.

The could-use-improvement:

My first thought when I finished this piece was ‘That’s it?’ The ending fell a little flat – once I got there, I realized that the story really was all in this girl’s mind. Her anger, loneliness, and frustration are all clear, but what does she actually do? She never clearly acts on her infatuation, and holds in her reaction when he walks in with his girlfriend.

I didn’t feel the story had a strong enough twist – I wanted to see her say or do something to David or his girlfriend. Shout? Loudly profess her love? ‘Accidentally’ spill sandwich fixings over the girlfriend’s dress?  Anything, really!

My takeaway:

Slice-of-life is a story type that is hard to make interesting. Most attempts are trite, uninspired, or just plain boring. Best Before, however, avoids tedium through humorous, sardonic commentary. I can learn more about how to use humour in my stories, and how to give my narrators voices that can carry readers’ interest to the final word.

 


Katrina Johnston can be found on Twitter – @Momtrina.

Best Before appears in eFiction Vol. 6, No. 4 (July 2015).

Buy the magazine at Amazon.

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eFiction July 2015 Review #3 – Unaccomplished by Alissa Berger

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Yup, I’m still reviewing July’s issue of eFicition magazine.

This week, I take a look at Unaccomplished by Alissa Berger

A richly detailed dystopia, Unaccomplished could just as easily have been in Nebula Rift, the science fiction imprint by the same folks as eFiction. It shows a world where worth of humans is decided by talent and accomplishment, and those who fall short are harvested. Their limbs or organs are collected, or they get ground up for food. Yeah, pleasant stuff.

The good:

The narrative takes its time in this piece, building a horrific concentration camp in a world obsessed only with the results people produce. The supremely talented, the prodigies, and olympic superstars are granted free passes, while everyone else must prove themselves or get chopped up.

Grim, gritty, yet believable – by mining a common worry (“Can anyone see how good I am?”), the story gives a world similar to other dark dystopias, yet different in focus. Its a deep, immersive narrative that quickly suspends disbelief.

The could-use-improvement:

It’s a little long in some places. While I appreciate the way the narrative takes time to set up the inevitable ending, there were some missed chances to chop down the word count.

The main character, Wrander, facing death by dismemberment, never seems too broken up about it. There’s a serious lack of emotion – the tone of voice is a bit flat. Now, I realize this might be intentional as a mood for the piece, but I felt that Wrander didn’t fight, didn’t try to take a stand. I wanted to feel sorry for him, or to root for him, but as soon as he’s taken in to the concentration camp, he seems to just … accept it. I wanted stronger reactions from him, or some last-ditch attempt to show everybody that he is indeed talented, that he is accomplished.

My takeaway:

In a word, Worldbuilding. The big strength of this story is in building its world – the environment and reality are established quickly and expertly. The dystopia takes common fears and the modern obsession with celebrity and talent-searching to a horrifying yet believable extreme. The characters accept this reality fully, allowing the reader to accept it.

This story can help me learn how to craft a stronger world that readers will accept and appreciate.


Alissa Berger can be found on the web at writerdissection.wordpress.com.

Unaccomplished appears in eFiction Vol. 6, No. 4 (July 2015).

Buy the magazine at Amazon.

Buy the magazine at Barnes & Noble.

eFiction July 2015 Review #2 – Garbage Collector by George Garnet

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I’m reviewing each of the stories featured in July’s issue of eFicition magazine (which also happens to have a story by me).

This week, I take a look at Garbage Collector by George Garnet.

The second piece in the issue follows a night in the life of a garbage collector in a dangerous city. Told from the first-person, the story moves briskly as the collector witnesses a woman terrorized by thug, and decides to intervene.

The good:

This is an easy and quick read, its narrative quickly painting a gritty environment and a character who just wants to make it a little cleaner.

The story shows a restless protagonist, seeking solace in a repetitive, easy job of cleaning the world. I like that while the protagonist is conflicted, he is brooding or overly cynical, like one might expect from a garbage collector. He sees the good in his job, and has found ways to take pride in it.

When he helps the woman in trouble, it’s clear that this is just another kind of cleaning. He rises to the occasion not just to help out, but as part of his self-assigned mission. I have no trouble understanding and sympathizing with him.

The could-use-improvement:

The voice seems a bit sophisticated for a garbage collector. There are a few choices that mark him as more educated – which is fine, if it’s clear why he’s a garbage collector instead of something else. There’s a hint that he’s there because his wife left him, but it’s not enough. I would have liked either a hint of a previous job that ‘fits’ his language, or to see him narrate with more slang and less sophisticated word choices.

My takeaway:

The prose moves quickly, painting the dark world of this lowly garbage collector. I appreciate stories with a lowly underdog, someone overlooked by society. My own protagonists tend to be in more ‘respectable’ positions – this story made me think that I should have more variety in my characters’ social and economic backgrounds.


Garbage Collector by George Garnet appears in eFiction Vol. 6, No. 4 (July 2015).

Buy the magazine at Amazon.

Buy the magazine at Barnes & Noble.

eFiction July 2015 Review #1 – Seven Seconds by BJ Neblett

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I bring you reviews! I’m reviewing each of the stories featured in this month’s issue of eFicition magazine (which also happens to have a story by me).

This week, I take a look at Seven Seconds by BJ Neblett.

This work opens the issue, and I think it works well as an opener. From the first lines, the dark mood of the work is established as the reader meets a man before a mirror, holding a gun to his head. There is a lot of detailed scene-setting and description – I appreciate how deeply the reader is taken into this man’s reality. As the man readies to pull the trigger, he remembers dark days from his past. Each of these flashbacks takes place in one second, each triggered by a sound, taste, or feeling in the present.

The good:

The writer avoids too much detail in the flashbacks, quickly describing only the senses and feelings needed as each narrative moves along at a brisk pace. Usually when I reach a flashback in a work, my eyes roll up, but I appreciated the memories in this work. Each memory works to build up this character and how he came to the current suicidal situation.

The could-use-improvement:

I hope I don’t spoil anything here. I’ll just say that the final punch fell a little flat for me. Even though I read it slowly, it took me a second and third read to see how the ending worked for this piece. I was looking for a structure that said “Our protagonist has done this, this, and this, so here’s the unexpected result”. The end is somewhat unexpected, but I didn’t feel it was strong enough compared to the disturbing flashbacks used to reach it.

My takeaway:

Without using too many adjectives, the author managed to paint meaningful, yet quick-moving flashback sequences. My writing could benefit if I adapt some of the descriptive narrative used in Seven Seconds.


BJ Neblett can be found on the web at bjneblett.com and bjneblett.blogspot.com.

Seven Seconds appears in eFiction Vol. 6, No. 4 (July 2015).

Buy the magazine at Amazon.

Buy the magazine at Barnes & Noble.

Hey, somebody published me. How do I get the word out?

SOCIAL MEDIA

It’s an odd thing, tooting my own horn.

I’ve been reaching out to the other authors in eFiction’s July issue. Coming this Friday, I’ll be posting reviews of the works in that issue.

It’s got me thinking about how to spread the word about the publication so that more people see the work by the other authors and myself. I also want to stay modest – I know eFiction is pretty small potatoes in the vast online writing arena.

It is good, though. eFiction and it’s companion magazines seem to sell rather well, and feature authors both seasoned and new. Most stories read quickly, and are nice easy reads – and it’s this aspect which really propels an online-only publication to success.

I’ve already bugged all my real-world friends about it. Most of them won’t touch ebooks. I think some people don’t consider me actually ‘published’. I’ve focused on self-publishing and online works – some won’t consider me a true author until I have a crisp Random House or HarperCollins trade paperback with my name on it.

How to convince them to buy this magazine? How to get more people to give it a look?

I’ve been looking over Twitter, trying to find some hashtags I can use or groups where I can announce my publication. I’ve also signed up for Absolute Write so that I can let folks there know. I’m always looking out for more places.

How about you, readers? How do you get the word out? Any tips for newbies to shameless self-promotion?

Hope you’ll leave a comment or two.

Happy writing!

#IWSG July 1 – My story is now in eFiction Magazine!

In my last post, I talked about how surprised I was to get a story in eFiction magazine.

I expected to be asked for some edits, or to confirm my bio info. Imagine my surprise today when I found out that my story, Painted Blue Eyes, is already out!

Okay. I’m with this. A little odd that no changes at all were asked of me – makes me wonder. I truly do hope the story is satisfying to all who read it!

My job now is to get the word out. See, that’s the thing about getting published in online magazines – you can get a much greater readership than you could in print, but only if you brag about it, constantly, on every channel you can find!

Ah, you’ve caught me at my game, IWSG – yes I am using my July post to plug my story. Can you really blame me?

All right, let’s get more into the community Q&A spirit of IWSG. My take on eFiction and online magazines in general is that they offer great chances to get your name out there, and they can attract a huge base of readers (providing you do the social media work). What’s your take?

Do you ever read online magazines like eFiction? Do you think they are great places to get some attention?

Have you been published in both online and paper magazines? How do you compare the experiences?

Hope to hear some answers, and hey, go check out my story, along with the four others in the book. I’m sure you’ll love them!

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Painted Blue Eyes by TCC Edwards

Part of eFiction Vol. 6, No. 4, published July 1, 2015.

This magazine is also available on Amazon!