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Monday, December 10, 2012

Comma 101: Everything Writers Should Know About Commas


Misusing a comma is the number one cause of punctuation error. Even the seasoned writers misplace it once in a while. So, are the correct placement and usage of commas really that important? Hell yes. Let me show you a short-and-sweet example (some of you may have seen a similar example before).

1.    Don’t kill, Mom.
2.    Don’t kill Mom.

See the difference? In number 1, you’re telling Mom not to kill. In number 2, you’re telling another person not to kill Mom. Get it? That single comma changed the entire meaning of the sentence. Here is a comprehensive guide to help you learn all about commas. Study it. Especially if you want to call yourself a writer.

1.    Before coordinating conjunctions (and/or/but/yet…) to join independent clauses.
Ex: I went home, but you went to school.

2.    After the clause with subordinating conjunctions (after/when/because…).
Ex: Because I went home, you went to school.

3.    After conjunctive adverbs (however, hence, instead…). Don’t forget to place semicolons before them. Exceptions are when they’re used as interrupters; then, you will wrap them with commas instead of a semicolon and a comma. The example is shown in number 4.
Ex: I went home; however, you went to school.

4.    Around interrupters-adjective/appositives/parenthetical clauses, etc.
Ex: The book, which was covered in dust, appeared old.

5.    Series of three or more items. The red comma is called a serial comma or Oxford comma. (Omission in newspaper articles is one of the few exceptions.) 
Ex: I want to eat cookies, candies, and pancakes.

6.    Between coordinate adjectives (more than one adjective).
Ex: I love cold, hard cash.

7.    After introductory clauses (prepositional/participial/adverbial, etc.)
Ex: Kicking, I ran after the ball. As the door closed, I screamed.

8.    Expression of contrast.
Ex: I want you, not him.

9.    Before confirmatory questions.
Ex: You want me, don’t you?

10.  In between dates, addresses, etc.
Ex: My date of birth is August 21, 1981, and my address is 25 Lalaland Street, Fantasy Island.

11.  Names and titles.
Ex: Tom Park, Ph.D., (Tom Park, PhD) is my mentor. 
In academic papers, refer to the style being used such as APA, MLA, Chicago Style, etc. 

12.  To clarify misreadable word groups and miscellaneous.
Ex: A few weeks before, I saw her. I’ll do it, just to be sure.

Whew. I think I’ve got all of them. I hope. Well, since you’re here, check out my other writing/editing tip posts. If you need an editor, please visit my editing website and try my free, sample edits. Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy writing~

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Twitter #writetip and #EditTip #12


Hello~ Due to my crazy schedule, I haven't been blogging much lately. While I work on my next big blog post, here's the 12th collection of my writing and editing tips from Twitter. As we all know, it's difficult to convey a message when you're on Twitter, which has a limited space. But I do try to be succinct and make the tips easy to understand. They're not grammatical, complete sentences, but I hope they are useful to the writers. But these short tips aren't the only thing I do on this blog!

I've covered the basics of creative writing by doing posts on subjects like POV, prologue, dialogue tags, etc ( long writing and editing tips). There are special posts where indie writers can promote their book, a post with links to over 200 literary agencies, or a post with a collection of commonly misused and confused words. Also, you can read all the guest posts by other writers and editors or read my guest posts on other blogs. So, take a tour of this blog to learn about creative writing and editing. If there's any topic, big or small, that you don't see here and would like me to cover, just let me know. If you need my editing service, please visit my editor website for fees and services. Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy writing~

Newbie #writers' 1st book is a series. Stretching a simple plot to death with unnecessary filler words & scenes

Your eyes miss errors in your MS b/c your brain reads them as how you meant to write them. Read your MS aloud

Be careful taking writing/editing advice from fellow writers. They may mean well, but most had no formal education or training.

Adverbs modify verbs. Hence, they're called adverbs, not adjectives.
"I yelled loudly"--Yes
"I yelled loud"--No!

If writers insist on replacing rich, vivid descriptions with adverbs? I, the editor, insist on deleting those adverbs.

Writers. Lately, I'm seeing MS with all short, impact fragments or comma-filled run-ons. Variety in sentence structure is a must.

Consider editors/betas' advice in MS length. You're writing for readers, not yourself. And they don't want to read an unending book

Writers. Are you writing for yourself or the readers? If you're unwilling to learn/change/adapt, your only audience will be YOU.

If your book is in a genre that has been written to death/saturated the market (ex: para romance), the plot & protagonist MUST stand out.

#Writers! You revise/rewrite. #Editors edit. Leave the editing to the pros, and your MS will be corrected & polished, i.e. publishable.

The effort writers put in to writing something does not automatically entitle them to readers. So keep learning.

Breaking all the rules doesn't make you a "rebel" or "unique." It makes you a "yet another idiot who can't learn the rules."

A basic sentence has a subject, a verb, and an object. When adding a modifier, make it clear which one of those you're modifying.

Building platforms & networking are all good. But first and foremost, a writer must write good books. Or learn how. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Twitter Writetip and EditTip #11


Here's another collection of my latest Twitter write tips and edit tips. Thanks for visiting my blog~

In multi POV, each character must have a distinctive voice. Consistently. It's incredibly hard to do! #writetip #stabbylove Stick with one.
When you're watching a movie, you never know what they're thinking. Yet we can relate and feel for them. That's pure showing.
#stabbylove There are other ways to join phrases/sentences together besides using conjunctions (and, but, or...). Don’t use them 2000 times! #EditTip
Having a wide vocabulary doesn't mean use every word in the dictionary. Use only the ones that fit your genre & voice. #writetip #stabbylove
Writers. Slow pacing due to repetition and redundancy is a guaranteed rejection. Use active, showing prose. #writetip #stabbylove
American writers. Know your spelling. Drop the "e"; you're not British. Salable, likable, movable, etc. #EditTip #writetip #stabbylove
A substantive edit is like a course with a writing coach. Often, writers' skills improve more than the books. #writetip #EditTip #stabbylove
4 am #writetip Don't use bland verbs with adverbs. Instead, use a single, evocative verb. Ex: jump=good; get up quickly=bad #stabbylove
In a good book, an antagonist must have layered, complex characteristics. You can't just make him "villainy" for no good reason. #writetip
Don't overuse hyphenated/compound words. Single adjective would suffice. Especially if those words are wrong. #writetip #stabbylove #edittip
Writers! Invest time/money & produce quality books. Writing IS a business. 99¢ doesn't justify poor quality. Readers won't fall for it twice

Writing is personal; publishing isn't. It's a profit-earning business that requires time/$ investment. Grow thick skin & be professional #stabbylove
Writers take advice from writers/random bloggers but not literary pros(editor/agent/teacher) Where's the logic in that? #edittip #stabbylove
Why can't you get DUNNO ALRIGHT AIN'T don't belong in professional writing except in dialogue? Use them in text messages like any dumb 13 y/o
Quotation marks don't make DIALOGUE. They're spoken words that help narrate the story and exhibit each character's distinct VOICE. #writetip

For my editing services, please visit www.sirraedits.com

Monday, May 7, 2012

What's In A Word?


Words. I’m an editor who make a living deleting, adding, correcting, and manipulating words. For writers. Writers make a living, or try to, by writing words. But what’s in the words they use? What makes an arrangement of certain words the “award-winning prose” and another something that makes people cringe? 
If writers are serious about their craft, they should be extremely particular about the words they use. The choice of words can change the entire feel of the book. It’s so sad to see some just butchering English. While there are newbies who’ve yet to master the skills, there are stubborn writers who refuse to change, even when they know they’re wrong. Those people are inexcusable, and they are a lost cause for me, so I’m not going to waste a blog post on them. Also, I’m getting tired of arguing with them on Twitter. This post is for the newbies or those willing to learn and change.
This year alone, I’ve worked with 17 writers or authors, and 8 were writers I met through Twitter. Regardless of where I met them, there is a common theme among the newbie writers. Their word usage. Too often, writers feel the need to make their books sophisticated and intelligent by using overtly technical and rarely used words. That is fine if the subject of a book calls for such language and the words are used correctly. But when they’re wrong, their attempts to appear as experienced writers actually backfire and make them look amateurish. 
Think I’m being harsh? Maybe. I’m trying to be helpful. It really bothers me when words that don’t belong in a book just pop up out of nowhere. Those words don’t add anything to the story and change the flow of the writing all together. The words used in a book must fit the genre, time, setting, and the voice of the characters. You wouldn’t have an “average” 8-year-old character thinking to himself “I can’t quite articulate today’s impetuous shift in the climate, but my body will acclimate,” would you? Or would you use popular vocabulary from the last century in a futuristic science fiction? Also, the writers often end up using a wrong word because they assumed the word meant one thing, but, in fact, the word meant something quite opposite. 
And the trend is getting uglier. Blame the lack of quality education in this century. The use of slangs, abbreviations, and non standard words in literature is growing. No, I will not get into another argument over all right vs. alright, but as told in this excellent blog post, writers should know better. As stated in that post and in my tweet, just because the word is in the dictionary and is commonly used, it doesn't mean it belongs in a book. Come on, writers. Your books are not emails to your friends or a casual blog post. They’re professional products and should be treated as such. Remember the advice below.
Know the definition of every, single word you use in your book. 
Ensure the words are standard and acceptable for professional writing.
Ensure they fit the voice of your characters or the narrator. 
Ensure they are readable and can be easily understood by your target audience.
Use every word with intent and give it purpose.


Here are 6 rules on clear writing taken from George Orwell's famous essay, Politics and English Language. I strongly recommend it to every writer.

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

You’re a writer. You have to mean and be responsible for every word you write. Have pride in your craft. Lastly, I want to leave you with this quote because it has always been my favorite. And it also fits this topic.
“You don’t need a dictionary to read Hemingway.”

My editor website is www.sirraedits.com


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Twitter Writetip and EditTip #10

I can't believe that it's the 10th collection of my Twitter writing and editing tips. It's hard to put everything in 140 spaces, but I try. And I'll keep tweeting the tips for writers as long as someone is reading them. Check out my edit services www.sirraedits.com Happy writing~ 


Limited dialogue and actions equate to one-dimensional characters. Give them more. They're humans, not bots. #stabbylove #writetip #EditTip
Conditional sentence: use WERE not WAS in the IF clauses. Ex: If I were rich, I'd stab with a diamond-blade sword. #writetip #stabbylove ^.^
Readers don't need to read minds to understand. If writers can give imaginative & vivid writing, there's no need for multi POV #writetip
Self-indulgence will kill a book. Invoke feelings in your readers, not get lost in your characters' emotions. #stabbylove #writetip #EditTip
Dictionary/thesaurus are writers’ best friends. When in doubt, look it up. Especially the correct definition! #stabbylove #writetip #EditTip
Dialogues must be indicative of characters' age, personality, & language style. All characters must have distinct voices. #writetip #EditTip
The subject & content decide if a book is YA or adult. Not the level of writing. Kids’ books don’t mean elementary writing #stabbylove
Still catching tons of "as if" or "like" comparisons in writing. It's like the writer got lazy and stopped describing. #stabbylove #EditTip
There's a universal theme in novice #writers.They always rely on pretentious words to make their book "sophisticated." #stabbylove #writetip 
1) #writers Don't look for new, fancy words to describe same thing. Use your imagination. Find new things to describe #writetip #stabbylove GRRR
2) Don't use hard, technical words to dress up your MS. Especially if you don't know the definition or the correct usage! #writetip #stabbylove
3) Know the definition of every word you use. And mean every word. Or you create factual inaccuracies & inconsistencies. #writetip #stabbylove
#Writers. How many words in your MS are filler words? You know, the words that don't add anything to the story? Delete. #stabbylove #EditTip
Writers who think they can edit their books objectively are either delusional or narcissistic. Or both. Even editors need editors. #writetip
Present tense gives immediacy.But mixed w/ short/choppy sentence/fragments, it's like a crack-addict on speed wrote it #writetip #stabbylove

#writers DON'T ASSUME definitions. Use the dictionary. Every word in your book should be written with intention!!! #writetip #EditTip
#writers Don't limit yourself to 1 genre, target age group, or POV style. Then your writing and creativity will suffer. #writetip #amwriting
Slanting sideways. Blending together. Scream loudly. Whispered quietly. Stand on feet. Reading with eyes. REDUNDANT! #EditTip #stabbylove
Purple prose. It has to be relevant and relate to the story. Don't use it in your book just because they sound pretty. #writetip #stabbylove
2 or even multi POV, I can tolerate. Barely. But what if they're in the same scene? Abandon the MC's POV? Head-hop? Just not right. #writetip
#writers Use ITALICS to emphasize and QUOTATION MARKS for direct quotes. Make the distinction. #writetip #stabbylove

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What It's Like To Be An Editor-what all editors really think

People often ask me what it takes to be an editor or what it’s like to be one. I usually don't complain about my work in detail because I love what I do. And the last thing I want to do is appear angry and bitter about my work. I'm usually just stabby about bad writing. With that said, I think it’s time that I say what all the editors want to say. They hold their tongues because they don't want to sound like a judgmental know-it-all or turn off potential clients. That's completely understandable. After all, it’s a job, their livelihood. But that's not going to stop me. I am very fortunate to have a well-paying dayjob. So I will rant. I have to. For my sanity..

1. There are prerequisites. It takes more than reading a few books or having perfect command of "the"(<---trying to add impact here) English Grammar. Editing in creative writing involves knowledge of the trend of the literary market. Then there’s the required reading. Lots of reading. We need to have a broad view, so we can’t afford to read  only our favorite genre for pleasure. Years of education and/or hard-work go into producing a good editor. As writers know, a good, professional editor that one can connect with is a rare find. But do writers know what editors actually do or what it's like to be one?
Having this title means investing time, sweat, and money. There are times that I spend an hour on editing just one page. I pull my hair out to come up with alternatives and examples to show my clients. And at $3 a page? It’s not that motivating. But I do it because I love my job. There are no powertrips here. We constantly deal with criticism and backlashes. We’re expected to do the impossible at times. And to do it for free. While we do our best to turn your work into something publishable, we can’t be your mentor or life coach. We simply don’t have the time or can’t afford to. Our time is money. Me? I will cut you off after the 20th followup email of the week. 
2. No, I don’t have to love your book to edit it. This is my personal experience, but I’m sure other editors share similar experiences. During an edit, I edit and turn in 30 pages at a time instead of waiting to finish the whole book. It's to save them from feeling bombarded. Whenever I turn in my edit, I get the same reaction almost every time. They say, “You don’t have to edit my book if you hate it so much.”

Um...what? 
Here’s my answer to all of them. I am a professional editor. My personal preferences do not dictate how I do my job. And if I thought it was perfect and loved it to death, what is there for me to edit? Writer, please. This is personal to you, but it’s not personal to me. Let us all be professional about it. It is a business. Unless you plan to give your books away for free, then it’s a hobby. Otherwise, grow thicker skin and let me do my job. I promise that I will do my best to improve your book, not change it.
3. But my book is special. Yes, everyone feels that their books are special, unique, and should be published. So do I. I think my book should be the next number 1 on NY Bestseller list. But I’ve learned to distinguish fantasy from reality. Some writers haven’t. They go into a fit when they receive their first negative feedback, even after hiring an editor. I’d assume that people hire editors because they acknowledge their shortcomings and lack of the ability to self-edit. Why would you pay good money to hire an editor who won't fix anything? And if you don't agree with the suggestions, you don't have to keep them. It's your book. You have the last say on how it will be written. The end.
So grow thicker skin. I’ve said it millions of times before. Honestly, the process is a simple one. Learn as much as possible and write it the best you can. Then send your books off to alpha/beta readers to get feedback, revise like crazy, and hire an editor for the final polish. Don't go into a tirade because an editor pointed out your love of run-on sentences or comma splices. Expect contructive criticism. Expect your MS to come back with markups. Expect an editor to show you how things can be changed. If you’re expecting fabulous praises and kisses and hugs, you shouldn’t hire an editor. 
I refuse to lie or stroke anyone’s ego to save feelings. Not even for money. Well...maybe for a million dollar check. Never mind. Anyway, this is how I roll. This is my life as an editor. My usually day is spent buried in manuscripts and hundreds of client emails. Not as fancy as you thought, right? Still, it's so wonderful when I make that special connection with a writer. From the moment we begin brainstorming and exchanging ideas to reading their final revision after my input was applied, it's an exciting journey. I believe that every book can be revised, rewritten, and edited to near perfection. When that stage is reached, both my client and I feel the satisfaction that no one but other editors and writers can comprehend. And that's what motivates me to go on editing.

If you want to see what I can do as an editor, get a free, 3-page sample edit from me. I’ll let my work speak for itself, not my ability kiss asses. Visit my editor website for more information on my editing service. Thanks for reading~ 


Disclaimer: Because of my job, I'm constantly attacked by the Grammar Nazis. This is my personal blog, which I choose to share with the public, not a text book. I regularly start my sentences with conjunctions, end with prepositions, and even use contractions. I even use sentence fragments for impact. Like this. Someone mentioned my tense issues and unnecessary article use. So I had to reiterate the fact that this is a casual post. Conversational and easy to read. And like tweets and emails, I don't think it's required to be perfect. So...that's it. Just needed to say it to save those people time from pointing out the obvious. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Twitter Writetip & EditTip Collection #9

Here's the 9th collection of my Twitter writing and editing tips. As always, I had to make them short due to the space limit. If you have any question, just leave it in the comment section or tweet me. And if you're interested in my editing service, please visit my editor website. Thanks for visiting~

If your book has an ordinary/simple plot, don't stretch it into a series just for the sake of it. Not every book has a rich, epic plot.
A rule of thumb. Don't use 25 words to say something that can be said with 5. Learn to be succinct. Delete. #stabbylove #writetip
Disguise them with commas and dashes all you want. They're still run-on sentences. You're not fooling me. -_- #stabbylove
Comma splices are the most common problem for writers. When in doubt, just break up the sentence. Don't stick commas everywhere! #writetip
Creative writing is much more than spelling/grammar. Hence, an English teacher doesn't mean an editor. Look up substantive editing. #EditTip
I can always tell a newbie writer from the amount of purple prose they use. I don't care how sunlight shone through the window! #stabbylove
Can you imagine if LOTR was written with a bunch of flowery, purple prose? Save for literary fiction where it may fit. #writetip #EditTip
Writers afraid of getting beta readers in fear of story being stolen. Um...nothing is original. It's all been written. It's how you execute.
Back to #amediting. I'm constantly amazed at a writer's inability to use Search/Find function to check some words for over usage. #writetip
Visualize what your characters are doing before you write. Clearly. Don't just write random words that come to mind. #stabbylove
I want to know what the protagonist looks like within first few pages. No info. dumping, just the physical characteristics. Is it just me?
Age appropriate theme & language may seem elusive regarding YA and YA crossover. But remember that children are your audience. #stabbylove
So far, my morning bathroom read was full of "I'm sad," he said sadly, in a sad voice. Lemme guess. He's sad? Ptooie. I need a shower.
Honestly, writers, READ YOUR MS OUT LOUD. It's important to check the fluidity of your words! Well-written words SOUND good, too. #writetip
Assign dialogue tags and action tags to the right speaker/do-er. Those by a different character needs to be in another line. #writetip
Don't rely on comparisons, metaphors, or cliches. You're a writer. Write clear, vivid descriptions in your own words. #stabbylove #writetip
Distinguish between FARTHER & FURTHER. Farther has "far" it it, so it's physical distance. The other is the metaphorical distance. #writetip
1)Writers. Don't ever use superlative in absolutes like "dead." You're either alive or dead. Never most dead or deadest. #writetip #stabbylove
2)Yeah. Especially when you can't use "most" and "iest" together. It's either or. They just won't learn... #stabbylove
1)Once I read a MS that went on and on about the room with unnecessary descriptions. Thought I was reading Architectural Digest. #stabbylove
2)Why should I care if an old, faded curtain in 3 shades of reds hung 5 inches, neatly over a 3x3 wood-framed window? Move on! #stabbylove
Don't let your prejudices or stereotyping bleed into your books unless your character is a bigot. Ignorance and bad grammar make bad books.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Get An Editor by @vizprod (Andy Christofferson)


Here's another great guest post by an indie author Andy Christofferson (@vizprod). Check out his blog and his book The Peace Corpse. He explains the importance of having an editor in this post, which I firmly believe as an editor and writer. Enjoy~
I wrote a book. I thought my book was pretty good. Like so many naive writers, I assumed that it was 'done' just because it didn't have any major typos or grammatical errors. I even had my parents and sister go through it just to be sure. A lot of people have gone out of their way to tell me that they’ve enjoyed it, and I’m still proud of that. But there was a few complaints about the pacing and some of the description. The thing is: those are the kinds of things a good editor would catch.
What most self-published people don't seem to realize is that editing isn't just about fixing typos. It encompasses pacing, characterization, voice, description, and all major and minor issues that can turn a merely good story into a GREAT one.
Yes, I've sold a few books. That is nice, but maybe I could've had a breakout hit if I'd just made that one-time, initial investment of hiring an editor. Well, that, and actually having a decent cover. But that’s beside the point.
For my next book, a high fantasy novella, I was determined to do things right. So I wrote and revised and had my family go through and look for typos, and then I looked for an editor. I found someone on Twitter who was offering a free two-page edit/critique, and I liked the job he did so much I asked him to edit the entire manuscript. He even gave me a discount.
When I got my manuscript back, there were red marks on every single page. Wordiness, excessive use of adverbs, inconsistent point of view, too much exposition, melodrama, lack of description, overly detailed backstories, and so on. He said he enjoyed the story itself and even complimented me on my writing (in terms of grammar and sentence structure, at least), but I know I would be doing a gross injustice to readers if I put my story up for sale without fixing the aforementioned items.
I am a professional technical writer and freelance editor—of scientific publications. I’m pretty confident in my ability to write grammatically correct sentences with few typos. That does not mean, however, that I can write perfect fiction without help. It isn’t easy to be objective with my own writing, especially when I’m too emotionally attached. After all, if I didn’t think every single sentence was perfect exactly the way I wrote it, I wouldn’t have written it that way.
This is why writers need editors. It’s critical that the work go through the scrutiny of someone who is not emotionally vested and who can provide an honest, objective feedback. Having an editor is an indispensable part of creating a book because writers are often extremely subjective in their opinion, even if they don’t want to admit it.
With the rise of self-publishing, many Indie writers seem to think that editing is merely fixing typos. That is the job of proofreaders, not editors. I think this trend is really a shame. There is a significant number of Indie books out there that would’ve been exceptionally good if the author had just bothered with the one-time investment of hiring an editor. In the end, that could’ve made all the difference.