Sunday, August 5, 2012

We've Moved

Effective August 6, I have moved my blog to on WordPress. You can certainly read through previous posts here, but I will no longer post to this site.

Please jump on over to my new site and follow me there.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chicken Soup for the Soul Workshop

If you're interested in breaking into this market, here is a workshop to help. I'm attending and know it will give me what I need to complete a story I am working on for submission in August. 

Join us online in one week for Stirring the Pot: Writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Tracy and Marylane, authors of more than a dozen Chicken Soup for the Soul stories, want to show you how to write for this popular series.

Stirring the Pot webinar will share valuable tips and strategies including:

  • What Chicken Soup looks for in a story
  • How to submit through the Chicken Soup online form
  • How to brainstorm story ideas
  • How to write stories that appeal to readers
  • How to use the writing process to your advantage
  • What to expect after submission
  • And much more . . .

This live webinar gives you the advantage of asking questions and immediately getting the answers you need to stir up a winning Chicken Soup story.
Go to the Write Life Workshops event page to learn more and to register for the Stirring the Pot July 31 webinar.

Take this opportunity to increase your chances of joining the thousands of writers who can say, “I have a story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul!”

Friday, July 20, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 11

Intercultural Differences Summary
In our diverse society, adding ethnicity to your story is natural. But by all means, AVOID STEREOTYPES. You can’t willy-nilly throw in characteristics about your story people because readers from that culture will spot your errors. If you have a Portuguese character that interacts with your bad guy, know whether Portugal is an individualistic or collectivist society. Is their communication direct or indirect, low-context or high-context?

Search on these words to discover the cultural differences of other countries: “intercultural communication [country of interest].” Or start with this site to learn more about the concepts I have discussed here, plus more:

Do the research and know the culture you are targeting.
Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 10

Space Invasion

An aspect of culture of which most people are aware is personal space. In America, our space bubble is big in comparison to cultures like India where there are so many people. To give you a visual, the population density of the US is 84 people per square mile. In India, it is 954 people per square mile. How might population density affect one’s personal space bubble?

Depending on the situation, a person who invades our space can make us feel uncomfortable in the least and terrified at worst. Even if there is no cultural difference between your protagonist and antagonist, you can use the concept of personal space to your advantage.

For a fun, 1:40 minute video that illustrates personal space, visit here: Be sure to watch all the way to the end to see how one man resolved having his personal space invaded. It may just give you the idea for which you’ve been looking for that scene that’s giving you fits.  

Personal space invasion. Use it to your advantage.
Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Monday, July 9, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 9

The writer's challenge was fun, and I've been busy writing--everything but this blog. It's time to get back to the creating memorable characters series. As a reminder, we're discussing intercultural communication differences. 

Body Language and Slang
If you close your eyes during a meeting, what message are you sending your colleagues? Is that message universal? For a fun 8-question, eye-opening quiz visit

I hope you took a look at the quiz because it makes my point: body language meanings vary from country to country. Misinterpreted body language opens the door to miscommunication. For the fiction writer, this means the opportunity to advance the conflict between your protagonist and antagonist.

Slang suffers the same difficulties. I’m a big fan of British TV. Their slang for many activities is different from the slang in the US, as Harry Potter fans discovered. Slang also changes with the times. For example, in my younger days, the word “pimp” meant a prostitute’s boss. Nowadays pimp means to take something that’s plain and make it stylish and customized, as in "Pimp My Ride." When my son uses slang, I ask for clarification.

So why are body language and slang important?

Communication is sending messages, and there is more to the message than just words. If we misinterpret body language or slang we misunderstand the message.

Add spice to your story and new avenues of conflict by including characters from other cultures. But be sure to give your dialogue and characters authenticity by knowing cultural communication differences. 

Step outside your culture and have some fun.
Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

It's Over

Today is the last day of Jeff Goins'15 Habits of Great Writers Challenge, and I'm a bit bummed. Besides being extremely helpful, this was fun! Will I be able to stick with these productive writing habits? There will be days I fall short, no doubt. But I am committed to moving forward and sticking with it.

The most helpful habit for me was establishing a set time to write. Getting up at 5 a.m. was hard. After an hour of writing, my head was just getting clear. After two hours, my brain was creating faster than my fingers could produce. Many times I kept writing when time allowed. When quitting did time arrive, I didn't want to stop. Now comes the time to follow through. To continue writing, to prioritize and finish what I started and move on to the next project.

What part of the challenge resonated with you? If you didn't participate, what part of writing is easiest or hardest for you? Share in the comments.

I am a writer.

You are a writer.

Let's encourage each other along the way.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lip-Reading Mom

Shanna Bartlett Groves

Shanna Bartlett Groves is on mission. A mission to bring words into the world of the hearing impaired.

Shanna is deaf. She began to lose her hearing after the birth of her first child. She now has three children, and just as her family has grown, her hearing loss has also progressed. She wears aids, but not the typical kind. Even with those aids, Shanna read lips or uses closed captioning when possible.

Much of our society is oblivious to the struggles of the hearing impaired. Why? I think it is because the disability is invisible. We see when someone is missing a limb or in a wheelchair. We visibly recognize that person has limitations. However, we can't see hearing loss. I may eventually notice someone wears hearing aids, but I've made the erroneous assumption that aids negate the disability. That's just not true.

Yes, hearing aids help people hear better. In other words, even with the use of aids, hearing isn't perfect, and there are still challenges. My father wore hearings aids in both ears. He hated going to restaurants—all the background noise made it nearly impossible to understand the conversation taking place at his own table. My mother complains of the same thing. She also says her own voice sounds like she's at the bottom of a well. Yes, all of today's technology makes life better for those who struggle with hearing loss, but it does not remove the challenges.

Through her blog and speaking ministry, Shanna is ministering to those with hearing loss, bringing greater awareness of the challenges, and campaigning for change in arenas that have not been responsive to the needs of those with hearing loss. Thank you, Shanna, for your tireless work.

Read Shanna's blog:
Find out more about her novel Lip Reader:
Read about and join her campaign to bring closed captioning to the Internet:

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Day 8 of the Challenge

I've stalled. Waking up at 4 a.m. three mornings in a row with a headache tends to dampen my creative thoughts. Writing today's blog post is a step in the right direction to establishing a daily habit of writing every day.

Day 8 of the You Are a Writer Challenge is about "The Difference Between Starting and Building." I started an online magazine, Glory and in March 2009. Given what Jeff has to say about starting and building, I've done my share of both over the past 3 years as I've worked to grow the magazine. Each year as December rolled around, I've questioned myself about whether or not to continue the magazine--people weren't subscribing, few were reading, writers weren't submitting. My budget didn't allow advertising the magazine, which meant no one was really learning about its existence except through friends. A vicious circle that has kept Glory and Strength in relative oblivion.

But each December as I considered whether to continue, God always brought an encouraging word or two from those who were reading. And that's what it really is all about--reaching people with our message and making their lives better. Granted we'd like to reach millions rather than just a few, but as the Bible encourages us in Zechariah 4:10, we should not despise small beginnings.

I've been learning the magazine business through trial and error, and doing a lot of reading. It's been through this Great Writers series by Goins that I've realized my own thoughts, fears, and lack of writing discipline have kept Glory and Strength's outreach small. Today, all that changes.

Monday, June 11, 2012

You Are a Writer Update

Last week I started a 15-day challenge by writer Jeff Goins in conjunction with his e-book You Are a Writer. I wanted to post a quick update on how that's going and to encourage you with my journey.

I normally start my day at 6 a.m. Day 2 of the challenge was to get up two hours earlier than normal and spend those hours writing--not reading email, or checking Facebook posts, but writing. That meant getting up at 4. Okay, that was just a tad early even for this morning person.

That next morning I failed miserably. Admittedly feeling a bit intimidated about forcing myself to write, I stayed up late watching TV. I got up at 4 all right--with a migraine. So much for writing that day. The next was better. I had a guest blog to get written and the deadline was nearing. I set the alarm for 5 and determined I would write until at least 7.

I started my favorite playlist of music (soundtracks from the Chronicles of Narnia movies) and started writing. Three hours later I was still pounding the keys. I felt so invigorated. Today was my second day at writing. I finished the guest blog post I started last Friday and sent it to a friend for her critique. (Yes, I take the weekends off, otherwise I find myself working 14/7 and dreading everyday.) I can hardly wait for tomorrow so I can tweak that post, and get started on another.

Having a specific time each day and designated number of hours I plan to write gives me focus and energy. I am excited about writing and submitting again. I've been talking about revising my book for a year now. I've made a few attempts, but keep getting stalled. Now I'm certain I'll actually get it done

Give it a try. Get up two hours early or stay up two hours longer, whatever works for you, but set aside a specific time of the day and focus on nothing else but writing.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 8

Who's Got the Power?
When you sit down across the table from an editor to pitch your story, who in the relationship has the greater degree of power? Who has power in a parent-child relationship? In America when a man and a woman interact, even for the very first time, whom do you think holds greater power? The concept I've just illustrated is called power distance (social hierarchy), and can serve to add conflict, humor, confusion, and much more to your story.

Power distance varies among countries, and that's why I've chosen to put this under our discussion on culture. For a quick understanding of power distance think about the accessibility between an employee and boss in the US and those in China.

Power distance varies according to three things: relationship ( as in parent/child), position (boss/worker), and situation (attacker/victim). You want to show your characters, especially your protagonist and antagonist, in varying power distance circumstances. Never let your protagonist ACT in a way that will put him/her in a lesser position of power with the antagonist.

Here's an illustration. The antagonist broke into the home of your protagonist and seized Pro in a chokehold. If Pro whimpers and cowers, Pro has lost power and will lose respect in your reader’s eye. However, if Pro resists and makes eye contact that speaks defiance, Pro maintains power over Ant and your reader can continue to cheer for Pro. Take note of the words “whimper, cower, resist, defiance.” They communicate degrees of power. Work to find the best words to communicate your intent.

Do your research and employ power distance with your characters.
Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 7

Elements of Culture
Many writers often overlook culture in their fiction or only give an obligatory mention of color. The ways culture affects communication could take up an entire series. (If there is interest enough, I will consider doing it.) Today, I am simply going to mention a number of those affects to get you thinking and expand on several of these as the week progresses.

What do you think of when you think of culture? Do you consider:
  • power distance
  • body language
  • indirect communication
  • direct communication
  • high context
  • low context
  • slang
  • individualistic society
  • collectivist society
  • history

Cultural dynamics are ripe with opportunities for comedic episodes, confusion, misunderstandings, and conflict between your characters that can move your story forward. Use them to your advantage.

Give your story characters cultural flavor.
Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 6

Special note: Christian Writers Guild is offering a webinar on June 28 presented by Liz Curtis Higgs on creating characters for your novel. Find out more here:

A Name Is Not a Name
Did you know the name Dobby, a character from the Harry Potter series, was a real word? I discovered quite by accident one day playing Scrabble that the word is a British dialect meaning fool. No doubt J.K. Rowling’s British readers knew the importance of the word. To me it was just a strange name to match a strange little creature, until I learned its meaning.

Like a computer organizes files, a person's brain begins to classify people by certain qualities the instant one meets, and that includes a person's name. Let me offer an example: "I just met Sean O'Malley." If you know nothing else about this person, what possible clues have I given you about the character?

You want to be as particular about the name you give your character as you are about his or her physical build and personality. Names carry meaning and speak of the culture of origin. If your character is from Ireland wouldn't it seem rather odd if she had a Chinese name? Of course it would, but when we learn she has one parent who visited China as a child and fell in love with the country, then it makes sense.  

Every reader may not catch the importance of a character’s name, as I did with Dobby, but the point I want to make is that in writing you need to make every word work for its space on the page.

Visit here to discover more about the meaning of names:

Make your characters' names work for you.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 5

Go Beyond the Obvious
The obvious physical features we all use to immediately qualify a person when we meet him or her are eye and hair color, height and weight. You may think this is easy to decide, but you can use these obvious features to make your characters more memorable while also advancing your story line. In Sandra Balzo's Maggy Thorsen series, character Jake Pavlik has eyes that change color according to his mood. Once Maggy discovers this, she uses it to her advantage.

When creating the features of your characters, consider the less obvious qualities such as voice (think Fran Drescher) and bone structure (Hulk like). Does he/she have a striking feature? A nose that rivals the black diamond downhill at Aspen? Hands the size of cantaloupe? Of course, if you’re going to create such a feature, don't mention it once and forget about it. Allow it play a role--those cantaloupe hands are your antagonist's weapons.

Use appearance to accent personality.

Sanguine personalities tend to like the glittery and colorful, so maybe your protagonist always wears Hawaiian shirts or carries a glitzy purse the size of a great Dane. A melancholy more often will wear subdued colors like black and navy blue. Is your character quirky? Maybe she wears reflector vest orange lipstick. Is he phlegmatic? Have him wear clothes that always look like he slept in them. In fact, maybe that’s exactly what he does. You get the point. Use these things to create features your reader will remember. For example: Harry Potter and his round eyeglasses, Columbo and his rumpled overcoat, Snow White and her snow white complexion.

Utilize appearance to grow your character'sith,e allow it to play are part in moving your plot along its way.  personality.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 4

A Winning Personality

We've all met them: Miss Sunshine, Mr. Easy Going, Mrs. Bossy, and Ms. Perfectionist. We often chalk it up to "that's just who they are," but the above titles describe specific personality/temperament types. The Merriam-Webster Unabridged Collegiate Dictionary defines temperament as "characteristic or habitual inclination or mode of emotional response."

I use the following four personality types the most: sanguine (cheerful), melancholy (perfectionist), choleric (bossy), phlegmatic (easy going). Visit here for a detailed overview:
There are other ways experts classify personality/temperament.

Each temperament has its own strengths and weaknesses, mode of communication, and specific qualities that affect the way we think and act. Like many things in life, the boundaries blend. In other words, no one is purely just one temperament. Having even a rudimentary understanding of personalities opens the door to variety in your characters and adds potential points of conflict. The more you know, the more you can develop and manipulate your characters' thoughts and actions.

Give your characters personality.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 3

Part 3: Passions and Goals

What is your character passionate about? She must care about something to be interesting. Her passions also serve as connection points for your reader (see my post Passion, Pizzazz and Power). For example, is your protagonist passionate about:
·         unborn babies
·         the environment
·         nature
Her passion has a direct impact on her goals.

What are your character’s goals? Using the above passions your character may want to:
·         Open up a pregnancy resource center in town
·         Expose the local chemical factory’s illegal dumping of waste into the city’s river
·         Create a local wildlife refuge

Your character's passions and goals will directly and indirectly affect her beliefs, thoughts, actions, and reactions. The reader will recognize when your character acts/thinks in a way that contradicts her ruling passions/goals.

Of course, your antagonist has her own passions and goals. Pro and Ant may both may be passionate about unborn babies, but have different goals in serving that passion--e.g. your protagonist opens a PRC, but your antagonist bombs abortion clinics.

The choices are as wide open as your imagination.

Give your characters passions with goals that match.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 2

Character Profile
Earlier we discussed knowing your characters—how they look, feel, and think; their flaws; their goals and more. That’s a lot to remember about your major and supporting characters. If you can remember all that from day to day and week to week you have an amazing memory. But if you're like me, from one day to the next I can't remember whether it’s my protagonist or antagonist that has curly long brown hair and green eyes. 

In order to keep track of these details I use a tool from The Writer's Little Helper by James V. Smith, Jr. I expanded on what Smith had to offer and call it a character profile. Smith keeps his on a 5x8 index card. I keep mine on the computer, though sometimes print it out for quick reference. If you are planning a series, this profile page is particularly useful. After all, your fans will notice when your protagonist visits her mother in book two, when in book one you briefly mentioned she was an orphan. This profile will also keep you on track if your character begins to take over and lead you down the wrong path.

I’m all about making life simple. If you’d like to use my character profile rather than create one of your own, email me at deb [at] debralbutterfield [dot] com.

Keep track of your characters.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012

Creating Memorable Characters, Part 1

Passion, Pizzazz and Power

Whether consciously or unconsciously, when we read a book we want to connect with the story characters. We want to find something about them we share--their life goals, ethnicity, age, life experience, etc. These shared aspects (connection) draw us into the story and help us care about what happens to the characters.

Humans are three dimensional beings—body, soul, and spirit. But we often fail to show all three dimensions in our story. Let’s start by analyzing the protagonist and antagonist from your present work in progress (WIP). What do you know about your characters? Do you know how do they look (body), think (soul), and feel (spirit)? Do you know their personality type, their goals, their motivations? What are their flaws or vulnerabilities? Why do they get angry, sad, or excited? About what are they passionate and why? What in their life history has made them the way they are today? Why are they in conflict and how do all these characteristics play into that conflict? These character features and more influence how they act and react as you throw obstacles at them on their way to obtaining their goals. 
Give your story characters the passion, pizzazz and power they need to capture your reader.

Create memorable characters by giving them depth and dimension.

Recommended reading: Unleash the Writer Within by Cecil Murphey and The Writer’s Little Helper by James v. Smith, Jr.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012

New Series Begins Next Week

Starting next week, I'll begin a series on creating memorable characters. I hope you'll join us. In the meantime, be sure to take advantage of this month's special offer, valued at $50, to get a free copyedit of an article of up to 2000 words.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Know What You Want Series—Part 11

Do You Have What It Takes?

Editing is a process all writers utilize in their own writing. We call it revision (or rewriting). When we critique others’ writing, we are employing the tasks of editing to help others improve.

Perhaps you’re wondering if you have the skills to freelance edit. The answer may come readily if your weakness lies in grammar, punctuation, or spelling. Don’t let this stop you—your strength may lie in content editing. My suggestion to you would be to evaluate your skills and your aptitude (do you enjoy working with the details?). You may want to peruse The Copyeditor’s Handbook, The Chicago Manual of Style, and The Associated Press Stylebook at your local library (there’s an exception to every rule!). Know your strengths and weaknesses to find your niche in freelance editing.

I hope you have found this series helpful both in knowing what to look for and how to communicate your needs to a freelance editor, but also in editing your own work.

To conclude this series, I’m offering a special good now till May 31, 2012: a free copyedit of one article up to 2000 words. Contact me via email at Deb [at] DebraLButterfield [dot] com.

Until next time…

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Know What You Want, Part 10

Do You Want Full, Queen, or King?

Sending your manuscript to an editor with the instructions of “I need this edited” is like going to the mattress store and saying “I need a mattress.” You are very likely to get what you don't want.

When last I posted, we were discussing Goldilocks, freelance editor. Let’s take a brief look at her results:

This bed is too little: Goldilocks barely made any changes.
This bed is too big: Goldi made so many changes your manuscript is unrecognizable. 
This bed is just right: Goldi corrected your poor punctuation and spelling, made the story flow more smoothly, and retained the integrity of your voice and the story. “Wow! This is amazing. She’s made me sound so much better.”

There are three edit levels in the editing world. What I have dubbed full, queen and king size equates to a light, medium and heavy edit. The level of editing required to make your manuscript “just right” and ready for book shelves depends on the quality of your writing. It may need only a light edit or it may require a heavy edit. But a good content editor will not do what Goldi did—return to you an unrecognizable manuscript.

The major difference between these levels of editing is rewriting. According to Amy Einsohn, author of The Copyeditor’s Handbook, a light edit will “point out paragraphs that seem egregiously wordy or convoluted,” but will not revise or suggest revisions, and will “ignore minor patches of wordiness.” Let’s take one step up to medium, and now those patches of wordiness will get “suggested revisions.” A heavy edit will actually rewrite those passages in addition to all the other things a standard copyedit entails.

Understand the details and levels of editing, communicate your needs and expectations clearly, and you will have a better chance of achieving “just right” the first time around.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Goldilocks, Freelance Editor--Part 9

You’ve sent your manuscript off for editing. Congratulations! You’re one step closer to publication. Now, let’s look at what might happen when you get your manuscript back.

This bed is too little: Goldilocks barely made any changes. “Wow, I knew I was a good writer, but I honestly expected more input than this” you say.
This bed is too big: Goldi made so many changes your manuscript is unrecognizable. “She’s stripped my voice out of the story and demolished my theme and motifs.”  
This bed is just right: Goldi corrected your poor punctuation and spelling, made the story flow more smoothly, and retained the integrity of your voice and the story. “Wow! This is amazing. She’s made me sound so much better.”

Did you simply tell Goldi “I need this edited” and leave it at that? If so, Goldi should have been asking lots of questions, one of which should have been “Do you want a full, queen, or king size?” (In editor-ese that’s a light, medium or heavy edit.) Next week, we’ll dive deeper into levels of editing so surprises like “too little” and “too big” don’t happen.  

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Content Editing—Part 8

This is probably the one area of editing you've been chomping at the bit to learn. After all, this is where rewriting occurs. If you decide to send your work to a freelance content editor before submitting it to an agent or editor, here’s what you want to ask yourself: Do I want the editor to do the rewriting or just point out my errors so I can fix them myself? Your answer will guide your communication with the potential editor.

Below is a short list of the items a content editor will look for:
Confusing passages
Smooth flow of the content
POV—does it shift when it shouldn’t?
Consistency of character traits and plot details
Incorrectly used analogies, similes and metaphors
Factual accuracy
Accuracy of tables and graphs with reference material
Correct placement of graphic material (graphs, tables, pictures)

When you edit yourself, complete a content edit with only content in mind. Complete an edit for mechanics examining only the mechanical details. This may help you from missing critical errors.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012 

We have a winner

Congratulations to Sarah for correctly finding my mistake in last week's post. She receives my workshop "Creating Memorable Characters."

Check back this evening for my post on content editing.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Orange County Christian Writers Conference

Dear Writers, 

We are pleased to announce that the 2012 writers conference is now open for registration. Once again, the list of speakers is outstanding, designed to teach, motivate, and help launch writers at every stage in their careers, from beginners to the accomplished. Please take a look at our faculty and schedule of classes. We have so many new features this year, you won't want to miss out. 

John DeSimone 
Conference Director 

Conference Schedule: May 18-20, 2012 Newport Beach, CA 
  • Friday 8:30 to 4:30 Pre-Conference Workshops
  • Writers Conference: Friday 4:30 to Sunday at 11 am

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Know What You Want Part 7

Language Editing

As writers, we all understand the importance of correct grammar. In editing for language, a copyeditor also looks for correct syntax, usage and diction. Is the sentence structure confusing? Does the manuscript use foreign words? Are those foreign words treated consistently throughout? Is the noun you are using plural or single? Do subject and verb agree? Are you using a dialect? Are you being consistent in how you use it?

Language editing is much more subjective than editing the mechanics. So it is vital the manuscript is consistent in how it handles language. A grammar manual is a good investment, especially if you are weak on grammar.

With each of the steps of editing I have already covered, you want to read through your manuscript for only that issue. Read and edit for mechanics. Then on another day, read and edit for language. If you are editing someone else’s work, do not impose your style on his/her writing. Simply ask “Is the sentence acceptable as written?” If not, fix it, otherwise, move on.

When does the word “couple” take a plural verb?

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012 

Monday, March 12, 2012

There’s Still Time

Thank you, Julie Parton and Dot Charest, for your comments last week on Mechanics—The Details. They found mistakes, but not the one I made intentionally. If you tried to leave a comment last week and couldn't, I apologize. The glitch has been worked out (I hope). Because of that glitch, I’m taking today to encourage you to try again! I really do want to give someone my “Creating Memorable Characters.”

Next, we’ll look at grammar. Until then, here is a link to The Writing Center at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that you may find helpful:
demos/citation/editing-and-proofreading#section-1. It's geared toward college papers, but the information on proofreading applies to all writing. They’ve challenged you by inserting seven errors on their page. Gee…I’m only asking you to find one. Happy hunting.

Debra L. Butterfield 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mechanics—The Details Part 6

The mechanics of copyediting go far beyond the obvious items of spelling, capitalization and punctuation. According to Amy Einsohn in The Copyeditor’s Handbook, the mechanics also encompasses the following:

treatment of numbers and numerals
treatment of quotations
use of abbreviations and acronyms
use of italics and bold type
treatment of special elements (headings, lists, tables, charts, and graphs)
format of footnotes or endnotes and other documentation.

An editor must ensure consistency in all these elements. Perhaps now my analogy as to how a good copyeditor is like a good mechanic becomes clearer. Let’s look at a few brief example.

I counted twenty chirping cardinals in my backyard this morning. (per the Chicago Manual)
I counted 20 chirping cardinals in my backyard this morning. (per AP)

Chicago’s general rule is to spell out numbers between zero and one hundred. I say “general” because there are specific rules for specific uses (remember, nothing is ever easy). The AP Stylebook’s general rule is to spell out the numbers between zero and ten, and 10 and above get a number.

The first person who catches my deliberate error in today’s post will receive my article “Crafting Memorable Characters” (pdf format). Post your answer in Comments. Happy editing!

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mechanics—The Standards Part 5

The opening scene of the movie “IQ” with Tim Robbins and Meg Ryan has Robbins and his fellow mechanics tuned to the sounds of an approaching car. Each mechanic is attempting to determine the kind of car it is and what’s wrong with it by what they hear. They know and understand all things car. That’s the kind of mechanic you want fixing your car!

Just as a good mechanic has a great ear, an excellent copyeditor has a finely tuned eye and a solid knowledge of writing standards. The standards to which I am referring are style manuals. Every publishing house establishes a house style. It consists of using one specific style manual and dictionary.

Style manuals are numerous (is anything ever easy?), which is why it is necessary to create a house style. Here are a few of the choices:

The Chicago Manual of Style (often the choice in book publishing)
The Associated Press Stylebook (often the choice in newspapers and magazines)
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
Words into Type
MLA Style Manual

Many businesses also develop an in-house style guide that addresses issues that either aren’t covered in the style manuals or go against convention, e.g. capitalization of pronouns when referring to deities. The Chicago Manual, 16th Edition states “Pronouns referring to God or Jesus are not capitalized” (pg. 427), but many Christian organizations go against this convention and capitalize these pronouns. This becomes a part of the in-house style guide their copyeditors must know as well as they know the standard manual.

When hiring a freelance copyeditor, ask what style manual they use. If you want a specific style, find out whether the editor knows that style and can edit accordingly. If you work in one realm more than any other, it behooves you to learn the style most widely used by those publishers and use it yourself.

Next, we’ll look at Mechanics—The Details. Until then…

Debra L. Butterfield © 2012 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Know What You Want, Part 4

Tasks of Copyediting

My purposes in writing this series are to assist you in editing your own work and to help you understand the tasks of editing. Armed with this knowledge you can invest your hard-earned dollars wisely as you prepare your manuscript for submission to an agent or publisher. So let’s dive in to the realities of copyediting. What does a copyeditor do and not do?

The editor’s tasks include:
--Mechanics—spelling, punctuation and such
--Correlation of parts—verifying accuracy and placement of footnotes, tables, and more
--Content—inconsistencies, discrepancies

The editor’s tasks don’t include:
--Reorganizing your manuscript
--Formatting your manuscript 

In the coming weeks, we’ll unpack all these tasks, exam them, and learn how you can help yourself each item we take out of the suitcase. See you next week!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Know What You Want Part 3

What Do You Expect? 

Writers, chime in. This series is a conversation. That means I'm not the only one doing the talking. I want to hear from you along the way, whether it is a question, disagreement or your experience with the topic at hand.

I'd like to start this dialog by asking. "If you were to send your completed manuscript to a freelance copyeditor today, what would you expect him or her to do?" Please leave your comments below.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Know What You Want Part 2

There was a day when typesetters assembled print plates letter by letter in order to print a book. Today is a digital world. If a spelling error exists in the electronic file, it will exist on the printed page. Who is responsible for finding that kind of error?

Many people think editing and proofreading are one and the same, but they are not. In the scenario described above, it is the work of the proofreader to find those pesky mistakes. Yes, some of the tasks of editing and proofreading can overlap, but in the process of publication, proofreading comes after editing.

A proofreader identifies surface errors of a manuscript such as misspelled words, incorrect punctuation, mistakes in grammar and errors in fact. It is not the proofreader’s job to tell you “use stronger verbs,” “this passage is confusing,” “there’s no take-away value for the reader.” A proofreader does not revise content.

The skills required for proofreading are different than those required to edit. Do not make the assumption that proofreaders are also good editors or that editors are equally adept at proofreading. These differences are why the expense of hiring a proofreader is less than that of a copyeditor. If you’re weak in these areas, invest in a proofreader.  

Later this week, we’ll dive in to the complexities of editing. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Know What You Want - Part 1

As a writer it is tempting to believe as I revise my work that I can spot any errors I've made. But let me tell you, I'm so close to the words I can only see the letters! There is so much more to a well written manuscript than the mechanics of spelling, grammar, and syntax. Does your story flow smoothly, are there inconsistencies in fact or tone, are you shifting POV in mid-paragraph, is your message clear?

More than once in books on writing I've read that I should have an editor edit my manuscript before I send it to a publisher or agent. Yikes! That means investing money in my book along with all those midnight hours I spent writing it. But that investment could mean the difference between my novel getting accepted or rejected.

Before I make an investment like that, I want to know what I am going to get for my money. (I don't buy a book without first looking at the Table of Contents.) The Know What You Want Series is designed to give you a deeper look at what an editor can do for you. In the coming weeks, we're going to look at what copy editing is and isn't, mechanics, content, levels of editing, and more. My goal is to give you a better understanding of the work of editing so when you send your WIP for correction you'll know exactly what you want from the editor. And you'll feel more comfortable about those hard-earned dollars you are spending for it.

Until next week...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Change is Coming

Okay, friends and fans, I admit it's been way too long since I posted anything here. My apologies.

2012 has brought a new outlook and new opportunities, and I'm excited. Though I haven't been posting, I have been ruminating on topics and improvements. The ideas are flowing and in the coming days I'll begin a series on editing called "Know What You Want." Also ahead are workshop downloads and webinars, some free, some for a minimal fee.

So pull out your WIP and be prepared to whip it into shape for publication.

Until then...