The author S.A. Joo's Writing & Editing Advice & Tips

A YA writer, represented by Black Hawk Literary Agency. The book is titled BODY JUMPING. Soon to be released.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Twitter Writetip and EditTip #3

Thanks for visiting my blog to read all the writing and editing tips. I can't believe this is the 3rd edition. I guess I do give a lot of advice on Twitter. Or vent :-P Anyway, enjoy~

Found 23 "finally" & "immediately" in 2 chapters alone. In the same book. Telling and overused "ly" adverbs get me. In a bad way. #writetip
Another common mistake. Staring means to stare. Starring means to star in a performance. Not that hard. It's English. #writetip #dictionary
Does anyone really growl, hiss, spit, bellow, shriek, or roar? SAID would suffice. Dialogue tag fail. #stabby #deleting #writetip
Writers! Run a Word-check on your MS. Try to limit the usage of the words "that" and "just." REPETITION is not good #writetip #pubwrite
Another dialogue tag fail. Agreed, commented, instructed, remarked, explained, lectured, reported, repeated... USE SAID #writetip #telling
Thanks for a disclaimer telling me your book is fictional. For a moment there, I thought I was pulled into a new world. An unbelievable one.
It's not right to promote a book purely out of reciprocation or friendship. Especially if it's crap. It gives indiepub a bad name #StrokeJob
#writetip There is no room for factual inaccuracies even in fiction. It's a fantasy world, not a crazy one. Enough #amediting this morning.
Fragmented sentences are like opening another door without closing the first one. And there are no closure for either. #writetip #pubwrite
IMPACT SENTENCES(1-word or fragmented sentences) Excellent when done right, but too much makes it choppy. Stab. #writetip #pubwrite #writers
I'm still seeing too many "just" "that" "very" "as" in manuscripts. Use word-find function to avoid repetition of any words. #writetip
Avoid head-hopping. If not, keep to a minimum by having one character's thoughts confined in one separate paragraph. #writetip #cheating

Professional Edit isn't luxury. It maybe a necessity and what separates a polished, salable manuscript from a trunked one. #writetip #editor
Don't ever do a flashback within a flashback. That's just crazy. Well, unless you want to drive your readers mad... #writetip #writing

I think as we learn and grow as writers as we write. It's good to try new things but old wisdom never fails. (Re: flashbacks within a flashback.)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fundamental Advice For Writers

Much too often, writers begin their journey in the hopes of the ever elusive outcome. FAME. To be the next Stephen King or the next J.K. Rowling. We’ve all seen that one scene in a movie or something. A writer sits down in front of a typewriter, types effortlessly without a single typo, then wrap the perfectly stacked manuscript to ship it off to a publisher. It's high fantasy. Fact. The reality resembles more horror than fantasy.

I’m going to lay out the fundamental, the most candid yet simple advice that applies to all writers, regardless of what you write and how much you've written. Please, stay with me.

1-- Write. That word alone encompasses so much. You could be writing a personal blog post, a report for work, an essay for your class, or a book. They equally require one thing from a writer. Passion. Some may even call it the need to tell a story. This passion for writing is the driving force that a writer needs to write. You know, that hellish feeling you get when you’ve been up writing for 34 hours but can’t stop and don’t want to stop? Then it hits you. You’ve begun the journey on what we call the writer’s road. A life of solitude.

2-- Research. If you claim to be a serious writer, the first thing you must do is research. Here’s a clue. Attack your library. Troll the internet. Take up a course in your local college. Be proactive. There’s a wealth of information out there if you’re willing to take the time to research. Learning is crucial. It might be as basic as brushing up on your grammar skills or studying creative writing as a whole. Whatever your weakness is, it can be remedied by studying and learning it. And most of them are free, so why not take advantage?

3-- Read. Obviously, you can read. This is different. You need reprogram your brain and read with the eyes of a writer. It could be anything from newspapers to current NYT best seller. Get busy reading, especially if they’re books in your genre. See what those authors have done right to get an agent and make their books salable. You don’t need to abandon your own writing style for the sake of commercializing your book. Originality is priceless. But it doesn’t hurt to know who your target audience is and to familiarize yourself with the commonly used writing style for your genre.

4-- Critique groups. Find them. Online or in your area, the writing communities seem to be everywhere. Meet fellow writers and share your work and information. Having a group of qualified alpha or beta readers is invaluable for any writers. They’re the ones who will read your unpublished work and give you objective feedback, unlike your relatives. You should even offer to critique their work in return. Believe it or not, you will end up learning a lot by critiquing others’ works. Remember to be non-douchey even if you don’t agree with their comments. Sometimes, even a bad advice can be beneficial in a strange way.

5-- Publishing. Finally! Your MS has gone through scrutiny of several betas and 229 revisions. You might have gone the extra step to give it a final polish by using a professional editor. You’re now ready to seek representation from a literary agency. Again, you must get back to the research mode in search of the agent who will fall in love with your book. There are several factors in finding a right agent. Go through their client list, check their twitter/blogs to see if their personal or professional approach fits you, and make sure they’re reputable. (Oh, don’t forget that you need an excellent query letter to hook one first.)

6-- Now what? Well, although you're with an agent, the journey isn’t over yet. Not even close. Your agent now has to pitch and sell your book to a publisher. Even after your book’s been sold to a publishing house, the actual release of your book could take another year or so. Hopefully, you’re doing this to fulfill your dream, not to chase sudden fame and fortune. Because let me tell you, the majority of published authors still keep their day jobs. That’s just the way it is.

On top of that, it's quite difficult for a writer to ignore the hype of the self-publishing (indie pub) these days. They make the process appear so fast and easy compared to the traditional route, especially when there's no one stopping you from publishing anything, anytime you want. However, that is one of the downfalls. There are no quality control or standards except for the one you set yourself. Majority of us are not the most objective critics when it comes to our own work, so we run out and publish substandard books, only to fail and ruin our reputation.

There's pros and cons to both; I'm not here to debate traditional publishing vs. self publishing. Ultimately, you have to choose the best route for yourself. Before you make that decision, remember why you became a writer. Was it because you wanted to create something that is worthy of being published and shared with the world?

For some, writing is viewed as a money-making trade without the need for skills and books as something easily produced like a piece of a plastic toy. It's disheartening to see this current trend. But if you are one of those willing to make sacrifices to become the best writers you can be, listen. You mustn't give up. Keep writing. It will pay off, someday. You’ll see. You’re almost there.

If you're interested in my editing service, sample my work with the free 3-page edit here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How Not To React To Negative Reviews

Grow thicker skin. It’s such a cliche, but it's such a wise statement. We hear it often in the world of writers, but it also applies to the general public, especially those in the performing arts whose work is evaluated and judged rather publicly. The critiques come from objective sources, but the contents themselves can be subjective. It's very easy for someone to take them personally. 
When writers receive a negative feedback or review from their alpha/beta readers, agents, or book reviewers, they first need to take a step back to breathe. I have a good example of what happens when you don’t. A few months ago on Twitter, a mob scene and RT frenzy wall-papered everyone’s twitterfeed. It was a link to a blog where a nasty argument between a particular indie author and a famous book blogger was taking place. When I went over to the blog, I noticed hundreds of comments from people chiming in, including several from the author herself. 
The book reviewer, who shall remain nameless like the author, gave a short and honest review to this author’s latest book. I’ve read it, and so did the others. He gave it 2 or 3 stars out of 5, sighting that he had a difficult time trudging through all the grammar errors, missing punctuations, poor vocabulary, and awkward sentences. But he also said the premise and the plot was interesting. It was a perfectly reasonable review in everyone's opinion. And it was his right to rate it however he saw fit as a book blogger. I mean, we can agree that censorship is a bad thing, right? So why the fuss? 
The author came back and posted, yes, posted, her nasty remark on his blog claiming that he didn’t know what he was doing. She called him names using....not so nice language. Her petty comments were incoherent filled with numerous typos and grammatical errors just like the writing in her book. If her rants were any indication of her writing skills, it’s easy to see why she didn’t receive a rave review. But I digress. On that day, her reputation was ruined beyond repair, and no one will ever review or read her book.
That got me thinking. What makes a writer lose her sanity in a public forum? Was she so delusional that she believed the whole world would fall in love with her book? Who knows? I understand how one can feel about her own creation. I love my own writing, too. But some writers love their books so much that they start to think of them as their babies. How precious. You know what? Babies grow up. Then they will enter the real world, as adults, where they will be accepted or rejected just like everyone else. That’s life. Get my analogy here?
Let's go back to why I began to write this post. The proper etiquette toward alpha/beta readers. That's the title of a guest post I did for a friend and writer/musician Derek Flynn. In it, I included a short definition of alpha/beta readers those who are not familiar with the terms as well as how writers should behave when they receive critiques from anyone. Hop on over to his blog and read it. Follow him on Twitter too! 
Well, my conclusion in both posts. Suck it up. Do what grownups do. Thank the readers for their time and feedback. Remember. There’s no need to burn bridges or ruin your reputation over your hurt pride.

Don't forget to check out my Editor Website for the editing services I offer. Thank you~

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Revision by Lee Prewett The Editor (Guest Post)

Lee Prewett is a wonderful tweep and an excellent editor. If you need his help or service, look below for his info. Enjoy his post on revision.
Dear Editor, please make my story perfect!
Novice writers often assume revision and editing are synonymous when in fact they represent two discrete functions. Revision deals with storyline, accuracy, fact checking, and word choice, while editing addresses grammar, mechanics, and formatting. Without the former, the latter is a complete waste of time. 
Though editors differ, I never read for storyline and mechanics at the same time. Until the storyline is final, what would be the purpose of locating mechanics glitches and dealing with formatting? Moreover, kind authors attempt to rid their pieces of mechanical errors before the file hits the editor’s screen.
Seasoned authors know revision is not a cursory activity, but rather one usually taking longer than writing the story in the first place. Writing a novel is easy and anyone can do it. Making it something worth reading means careful and painstaking revision. No one produces perfection with the first draft.
After writers have done their own exhaustive revision and rewriting, they typically use beta readers to test the piece’s readiness. Beta readers may very well be editors, but more importantly they must be honest enough to tell authors the truth about their pieces. Quality authors want Simon Cowell, not Paula Abdul. Remember a written piece is a product and not one’s baby.
A good beta reader can assess a piece written in any genre because the genre is immaterial to a quality story. If authors have to explain anything about your story before, during, or after a beta reading, they have reworking to do because their pieces are not ready for the editor. 
In revision, the first consideration should be whether the plot makes sense and whether it is well paced. Characters and characterization come next, followed by the setting. These essential parts of the story’s architecture must be solid and consistent. From there, my laundry list as a reader/editor is exhaustive. 
Passive narration (was walking) plummets interest, kills voice, and spikes the boredom factor. Use action verbs (walked) wherever possible to carry the story. Telling writing (She looked beautiful.) causes tune out. Use imagery to show elements to your reader with one caveat: do not fall into the trap of becoming a sensory detail junkie because that can obliterate the plot. Imprecise or general adjectives also deaden the senses. 
Precision and correctness matter. Can an author write about the hustle and bustle of New York without having experienced it directly? If the Mustang a character drives is blood red, why not look up the paint codes for that year and get the real name? If a character’s name has a common spelling USE IT! Creative spellings of established names (e.g. Dillon, Dillan, Dillian for Dylan) make it seem the author does not know the correct spelling and therefore that the piece is flawed.
Finally, use Flesch-Kincaid readability tests (Google) to determine the grade level and ease of your writing. If an author is a YA author and the grade level of the piece is 12 and F-K reading ease is 40, the author has problem.
No matter what, keep writing and working your writing!
Lee Prewett is a career educator, author, editor, and photographer. He lives in Bakersfield, California. He is currently readying the novel The Salton Sea Chronicles: Avenger for publication and is revising/editing The Salton Sea Chronicles: Violator.

"Oh father of the four winds, fill my
sails to cross the sea of years with no provision but an open face along
the straits of fear." Robert Plant

Thanks for visiting my blog. Please check out my editing services here. Happy writing~

Friday, July 8, 2011

Twitter Writetip and EditTip #2

Here's another collection of my short write tips on Twitter in case you missed it. For professional editing services, click here. Thanks, and happy writing~

Refrain from using your MC’s name in every dialogue. By pg 53, we know his name, he knows, and so do the other characters. #writetip
High fantasy world-building doesn’t mean you should write a geographical essay including a map. It’s been done. And some were unnecessary. #writetip
There’s a disconnect between realism and fantasy. And crazy. Don’t want to see the softer side of homicidal beasts in Urban Fantasy. It’s wussy. #writetip
Appreciate refined & vivid descriptions. But not long-winded ones. Like in life, I like to get there. While I'm still in the mood. #writetip
Looong death scene. This character is like Paranormal Godfather. Stabbed & mutilated for 2 pages. Still talking. Just die already.#writetip
It’s important to SHOW not tell. But don’t write a 50-word sentence w/ 4 commas. Saw too much and got lost. #amediting #amconfused #writetip
PASSIVE VOICE. Don't slow down the scene by using words like "began" "tried" and "started." #JustDoIt #amediting #writers #writetip
PASSIVE "His seemingly sexy appearance may have felt very pleasing to my eyes & made me feel something nice" ACTIVE "He was hot."#writetip
Hate 2nd POV in Present Tense. It’s like reading a stalker’s diary. (Your heart pounds as you see me watching you...) See? Creepy. #writetip
Dialogues. Writers! Fight the urge to do this !!! Not only is it jarring to the eyes, I lost my voice reading it aloud. #writetip #UseWords 
All writers must acquire the basic etiquette of giving/receiving critiques. Don't get stabby when you receive criticism. #writetip #writers
I feel the need to balance my tweets with a normal one. Here's a simple #writetip Read MS aloud for fluidity. Makes a world of difference.
There's a fine line between realistic & stupid dialogues. Don't use awesome or fab when the world is at stake. They cheapen it. #writetip
Have an ENDING to your novel. Delay only if it's a part of a series. "There is no there" applies only in yoga! #stabby #writetip #amediting

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"No Writing Track" A Guest Post by a Writer/Musician Derek Flynn

Derek is an intriguing writer in that he doesn't use any writing track while he writes. Neither do I. I NEED to be in the mood of the characters or the story, and some songs are wrong for that. Well...except for his wonderful music on his blog, which is quiet helpful if you're writing a dystopian. My point is, we both play music; he plays contemporary and I play classics. Yet we don't have writing tracks. This post will explain a little about why that is. Enjoy!
Writers get asked the same questions by non-writers all the time: “Where do you get your ideas from?” or “How do you just make stuff up out of your head?” Or, “Why are you talking to yourself?” (Oh, that last one might just be me). However, we don’t get asked these questions by other writers. Naturally, really, because we already know the answers. But there’s more to it than that. Writers don’t ask each other these questions because they’re not the questions other writers are interested in. As a writer, I don’t care where you get your ideas from; what I do want to know is how you go about writing. Do you do it at a desk? (Or standing up, like Hemingway) (Or lying down, like Truman Capote) Do you write in the morning, evening, or all night?
Writer’s writing habits – that’s what writers want to know about.
So, when Su asked me to do a guest blog – knowing that I’m a writer AND a musician – one of the first things she said to me was, “Most writers have writing tracks to help them write. It would be fascinating to know what a musician/writer does.” See? Writing habits. 
But, of course, it is interesting because the fact is I don’t have tracks that I write to. And it’s not just that I don’t have music that I write to, it’s that I can’t write while listening to music. But I’m a musician. Yeah, go figure. Now, when I say music, I actually mean music with lyrics. I find it impossible to write while I’m hearing someone else’s words in my head. I could listen to instrumentals while writing. (Indeed, on days when my neighbour decides to pump his stereo up, I have been known to strap on a set of headphones and listen to Brian Eno’s Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, or some such album). But for some reason, I don’t. Of course, I listen to music all the time when I’m not writing. And I play music all the time when I’m not writing. But when I’m writing, my space is a music-free zone.
Another thing that often interests people is the fact that I have to keep the two activities separate. That is, I can’t finish writing a chapter and pick up the guitar and start writing a song, or vice versa. It requires – for me, at least – a whole different mindset. It’s not surprising really, I don’t think. After all, most musicians focus solely on their music and their lyrics and most authors focus solely on their prose. They don’t need to turn their attention to another discipline. When you do have to, you need to divorce yourself completely from the other discipline.
All in all, there are as many similarities as there are differences between writing music and writing prose, and that’s one of the things that I hope to examine on my new blog, ‘Rant, with Occasional Music’(You can also hear some of my original music over there). Hope you can all join me!
Derek Flynn is an Irish writer and musician. He has an Honours Degree in English Literature and Philosophy. He’s been published in a number of publications, including The Irish Times, and was First Runner-Up in the 2011 J. G. Farrell Award for Best Novel-In-Progress. His writing/music blog – ‘Rant, with Occasional Music’ – can be found here: and on Twitter, he can be found here:!/derekf03

Thanks you for visiting my blog. Please check out my editor website for your editing needs. Happy writing~