What indie writers need to edit other than their stories

An occupational hazard of writers is not being able to see the forest through the trees, though when you think about it how could you see the forest if you are stuck among trees. If you are standing on a plateau you can see both and that brings me to my point.

It is not about editing your story or novel. Writers spend a lot of time revising, proofreading, and fixing up. But there is one thing e-writers like myself sometimes forget. In my case my brain is slow, as I said in my headline, slower than a slug on salt. It is if I am standing among the trees, tall evergreens reaching high into the sky, but can not see the obvious.

The obvious is that no matter what app you use, Amazon for instance, a writer needs to periodically check his book descriptions. Your book description is your advertisement, your hook to lure the reader to your wonderful, colorful, engaging book. I have revised mine a number of times. I do not know how many times I have changed them. In the beginning the logline was descriptive, but from the plateau looking at the forest, not very interesting. It is more fun to be among the trees, unless there are snakes of course.

I have condensed, clarified, and tried to make the descriptions, which can be seen above, more attractive, more enticing. I don’t know if I am done or not. I thought I was done before, a few times. But every time I review them I see where I can make them better. It goes back to what many writers say, that before revising and proofreading story, let in sit for six months-too long for me-I ignore my story for three months-before looking at the story with fresh eyes.

But the same is true for a writers loglines, descriptions, and any type of wordage used to promote and advertise. They are a work in progress. If sales are not going well, then revise your ‘what is this book about’ loglines, descriptions, and so forth. Take another approach another angle. Nothing is written in stone except the Ten Commandments and no revisions need be done there, though many people pay no attention to them. Maybe they need a better logline.

Three books you should read and why

The following three books are non-fiction and are about three historical people, all of whom were adventurous. It is not that you should read these books to learn about these people, but you should read them because each writer transports you to another place and time; in fact, you could say, each writer takes you to another world. Just like fiction, just like fantasy, except these stories are real. History does not have to be dry. These writers make history come alive.

Take for Example “Black Count” by Tom Reiss. If you have read “The Three Musketeers” you are familiar with Alexandre Dumas. No, this book is not about him, it is about his father General Alex Dumas, a black slave who rose to a generalship in France, unheard of in his day. At one time he outranked Napoleon, but we know being outranked never stopped Bonaparte. When reading about General Dumas’ adventurous life, the battles, the campaigns, and getting imprisoned, you can see where his son got the role model for some of his fictional characters. Not only did General Dumas have a swashbuckling life, but he was a great leader and soldier. All I can do is tell you about him, but Reiss, in his book, makes General Dumas come alive, just as he makes the time in which Dumas lived come alive. And by the way Reiss won the Pulitzer Prize.

Another Pulitzer winner was Stacy Schiff who won for her book on the wife of the great writer Vladimir Nabokov called “Vera.” The book of hers I read which could have won the Pulitzer had I been voting is “Cleopatra.” The first femme fatale may have been Eve, who hung out with serpents, ate forbidden fruit, and deceived her husband in the process, but she had nothing on Cleopatra. Cleo must have had charisma, cunning, ambition, and smarts to seduce world leaders like Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony, and though we know little of how she looked, she did have a big nose-check out her profile on ancient coins, she had to have had a captivating personality. But all of that takes second place to the time and place in which Schiff takes you. I read this book over a year ago and I can still see the main street in Alexandria in which Schiff describes animals, like elephants, being paraded down the wide avenue where vendors on both sides sold everything you need or want, one giant farmer’s market, and the description of Alexandria and the people who lived there, including a Jewish section, and you can see why the city was the New York of the ancient world.

The third book is “Rebel Yell,” by S.C. Gwynne. It is about Confederate general Stonewall Jackson. Talk about a complex man. He was considered, when teaching at VMI, a bit of a loser, both by students and faculty. Students made fun of him, the faculty ignored him. He was a private person, walked funny, his cap down to his eyes, prayed everyday, near fanatical about religion, talked little, and definitely not a people person. So how do you explain his brilliant tactics during the Civil War, who became a hero to the Confederacy for his beating Union generals. Of course it is true many of the Union generals like McClellan were timid, but Jackson was still brilliant. And can you imagine this. A group of Union prisoners being marched down a southern street and when seeing Jackson riding towards them on horseback, broke away from their march and went up to Jackson and cheered him. It is one thing to be a hero to those who support you, but when does the enemy cheer a general on the other side. It was not an isolated incident. There is so much to learn in this book about the Civil War, things I never knew before and once again the theme is carried out in that you are transported to another time and place.

What I saw in these books were the snow in the alps as Dumas marched into battle; I saw the sand in the Egyptian desert through the eyes of both Dumas and Cleopatra; I saw battles, the horrors of the Civil War; I saw Cleopatra and Anthony plotting on a ship after a great feast; I saw conflicted people. These books appear to be biographies, but they are books of adventure that fiction writers could only hope to write.

Three reasons why you need to write for your health

You do not have to write a novel or short story. I am talking about just writing.

Reason one. When I was in college I read-and I can’t remember who it was that said it-“How do I know what I think until I write it down?” But before you laugh and say “I know what I think” you might be surprised. For example I wrote film reviews for ten years. Once I thought I liked a certain movie,  but as I started to write the review I realized I was writing a bad review. It really was not as good as I thought. My brain, through writing my thoughts more coherently took the opposite course. And it surprised me. It happened on more than one occasion. There is something magical about putting words to work. It clarifies your thinking in surprising ways. So now I know what that writer meant.

Reason two.  Try a journal and keep track of your progress towards goals. I keep track of what I eat so as not to overdo the sugar intake, which is worse than calories. Keep sugar down, unless it comes with maple bars, ice cream, cakes, pies, or cookies. So you see writing a journal is important to your well being. Then years later looking back at your journal you can see how far you’ve come and can congratulate your self and celebrate with a maple bar.

Reason three. This is important as you get older, but writing keeps your brain active and by being active, it prevents atrophy. Getting back to reason one, writing forces you to think and in using Word.doc it forces your eyes to look at the keyboard, to see quickly hitting the right keys. I do not mean to make light of this. I truly believe it is good eye to finger coordination, and of course you are thinking of that you ware trying to say while doing this. It is a good exercise.

So those are my three reasons. An active brain is a healthy brain and a healthy brain is a healthier you.

Who wins, Amazon Rain Forest or Amazon.com

The Amazon Rain Forest was created about 55 million years ago. This is an estimate, as Amazon.com, founded in 1994 and will be only 22 this year, was not selling calendars that many years ago, and as Einstein said, “Time is relative.” But clearly the Rain Forest is older. But older is not necessarily better.

The Rain Forest covers 2,700,000 square miles, or about the size of an Amzon.com warehouse. Humans began inhabiting the Rain Forest approximately 11,200 years ago-but again, there are no calendars to date this. Humans do not inhabit Amazon.com, it is a digital search engine inhabited by algorithms, pixels, and Reptilians from the home planet of Jeff Bezos. 

The Rain Forest has predators, many deadly, like the black caiman, jaguar (not the car), cougars, poison dart frogs (not all frogs kissed turn into princes), vampire bats (belavladisto lagosium), piranha and electric eels for swimmers, and of course the anaconda. Amazon.com also has predators. They are called trolls and these creatures with willful and malice fore thought and intention, write bad reviews, primarily of authors. These trolls are mean spirited bullies with poor self image, suffering from penis envy (they have none), and are jealous of anyone who can write a sentence, which these trolls-if you come across one of their reviews, clearly can not. Some have lizard-like skin and sit in a dank, dark room with cranked up music from artists nobody has heard of, a plate of stale maple bars sitting by the laptop as they attack anyone and everyone on any Internet venue.

But enough about my friends and relatives. The point is which is better, the Rain Forest or the Dot Com. Or perhaps, which is more important to the well being of humanity. The Rain Forest is needed for the vast amount of oxygen (or whatever it is that is good for us) the forest releases into the air. Plants, in case you have not heard, provide a livable atmosphere in which humans-that would be you and me-or you and I-live. If the Rain Forest, which has lost thousands of square miles due to deforestation, goes the way of the Dodo bird, then so will we because global warming will increase dramatically.

On the other hand Amazon.com provides everything you need or want in the entire global economy, and do so at low prices, better than Walmart, better than anything anywhere.

For instance if you click on “Loonies in the Dugout” above you will see this wonderful e-book for only 99 cents on Amazon. The Rain Forest will not sell this book, only Dot Com.

Okay, the Rain Forest wins, but don’t let that stop you from going to Amazon.com

Thanks for reading.

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How I was seduced into Amazon’s supernatural invisible algorithms

It started innocently enough. I was at the local library and picked up a complimentary copy of Book Page. They also have a website bookpage.com for those who have never heard of libraries. On pages 22-23 in the non-fiction book reviews were two titles of interest to me. And now we get to the synchronicity part.

After attending a film at the local cinema, I headed home and went to Amazon ‘s website to learn more about the books and see how many reviews they garnered. I typed in “Andy Warhol was a Hoarder,” a book by Claudia Kalb in which she covers 12 different people of fame, who, shall we say, had some idiosyncrasies, and whether there is some correlation between madness and genius. I have not read the book, but I think there might be. But not full blown madness you understand. But I will read the book at some time.

But what caught my eye is that the next two books listed on Amazon under the Andy Warhol book were two more titles, totally unrelated to Warhol , hoarding, genius or any sort of mental aberration. But both of those books were listed on the same pages in Book Page as the Warhol book.

We on the outside world, the world of nerds and geeks, we who know nothing of algorithms (let alone the ability to spell it) at least have a basic understanding of what it means. So are we now in some supernatural Amazon algorithmic universe where book titles in a thin, little, complimentary, eclectic magazine magically appear on the same Amazon page? Does Amazon, like a computer that I have heard is in existence, reads a persons brain waves? No longer do you have to say anything to Siri, or to Cortana. You just have to think what you want and the computer will react and do what you wish. Beware what you think. If your wife is standing behind you, don’t think porn.

The other two books were David Denby’s “Lit Up” about his  year of observing a high school literature class for one year to see if today’s students actually have an interest in serious literature, and the other was “On My Own,” by NPR talk show host Diane Rehm. It is about the loss of her husband and non-compassionate choices of health care. These were the three books on pages 22-23 that showed up on the same Amazon page when I typed in the Andy Warhol title. Will it happen again? I am to afraid to try.

But I know in telling you about this synchronicity that I have been pixilated into Amazon’s algorithmic math. Otherwise how could I have written this blog and mentioned these books on Amazon. Somehow Amazon drew me in against my will and left me feeling like an alien abductee. We are doomed. The algorithms are after all of us. Forget Reptilians, forget the grays, forget the walking dead. Beware the algorithms.  

Cornell Woolrich twists a readers mind into a pretzel in “Fright.”

Cornell Woolrich, 1903-1968, wrote great crime stories including, “It had to be Murder,” made into the classic Hitchcock film “Rear Window.” In fact over thirty movies have been made from his stories, including two by French director Francois Truffaut, “The Bride Wore Black,” and “Mississippi Mermaid.”

But one that escaped the moves is one he wrote under the name George Hopley. The title is “Fright” and it is about a man who kills a woman on the day of his wedding because she is blackmailing him and he wants nothing to upset his plans. The story goes into how he tries to evade the private detective he believes is after him. He and his wife move to another city and he believes a new man in the office is the detective that is after him. The killer murders him and another person. He clearly has that paranoia/guilt that you find in the killer of Poe’s tale, “The Tell Tale Heart.”

The story winds down to an what seems an appropriate ending, a type of justice, because after what he has just done, there is no way out. But the problem is that while you are reading this ending you are aware there is one more chapter.

I won’t tell what is revealed in the final chapter, but I will say my jaw literally dropped open. It is the  “You got to be kidding” type of ending. The phrase “I never saw this coming,” is accurate to the nth degree. It is the type of ending that makes you reflect on the entire story, makes you reevaluate, makes you ponder something more than justice, takes you on an entire new journey of thought. I read the book about a year ago and the ending still haunts me.

As a writer you can not help but admire what Woolrich did. The book is not a mere crime story. It is more than a story about guilt, worry, paranoia. It goes far beyond that. Woolrich leads you down an expected path with wonderful writing, then twists your mind into a pretzel.

Does Woolrich play a trick on the reader? I will never tell. But it is a perfect book for writers to study, to figure out for themselves how to construct a great ending.

At the top of this site is info on who I am and  what my novels and short stories are about. My Seattle Mariner blog  is here. Thanks for reading.


Confusing pronouns confuse readers, okay maddens readers

I won’t mention the novel, nor will I mention the author, as it is not my intent to embarrass a fellow writer. I enjoyed his story even though I got perturbed, mad, and upset with confusing pronouns. 

What I mean about confusing pronouns is when there are two characters in a scene and then a pronoun, such as ‘he’ is used, but the way the sentence or paragraph is written, you do not know which character the author is referring to. Confusion means the reader stops. Damn it, the flow is gone, who is talking, who is doing what, who is ‘he.’

It is an easy mistake for a writer because the writer knows who ‘he’ is. That ‘he’ is in the writers mind, but it is not in the reader’s mind and that is the problem. This problem surfaced a few times in the novel and was frustrating.

All writers know writing is fun and proofreading is torture. I hate proofreading, but finding and correcting, commas, misspellings, inserting missing quotation marks is the least of it. They are more noticeable, though it can-and has-taken me dozens of times to find them all. At least I think I have found those bugaboos. But a proofreader must read word by word seeking clarity in each sentence and to do this the author must have a clear mind. And that is why it is recommended a writer wait six months-at least by some-before proofreading. That way your mind is clear, you have forgotten much, and you are more likely to see mistakes. I tried waiting, but I could go only three months as the itch to publish was itching so badly I felt I needed a cream, but the only alternative was to proofread. I found things I would not have seen before. What I thought was clear in a paragraph became three months later a mess.  I tried to blame it on Word.doc and some sort of self correcting flaw in the software. But I knew better, though I liked to blame the computer. It made me feel better.

The easy thing for a writer to do in correcting confusing pronouns is to simply place the character’s name where he should be. It works better for the reader who wants a good flow, no confusion, so keep the readers  reading.

Though this is my first post on this site, I have had two  blogs for some time. I have one on writing called “The quill, the e-word, and the looniness.” Near the end of 2015 I closed my long time website, terrynelson.net, to create this site for my blogs and my e-Books. So I will have the quill blog up for a while, but if you have followed me on that blog, I hope you will follow, not stalk, me here. At the top of this site is info on who I am and  what my novels and short stories are about. My Seattle Mariner blog  is here. Thanks for reading.