for the Writers

In Defense of Ghostwriters

Awhile ago Olivia J. guest-posted on my blog about concerns with the idea of ghostwriters, while I posted my defense of ghostwriters on her blog.

Check out Olivia’s reservations about ghostwriting, and then see why I think ghostwriting has an important place in the literary universe:

 

What makes ghostwriters the bomb-diggety:

Ghostwriters aren’t quite ghosts, sadly. But they’re still more or less supernatural in their capabilities! They’re the undercover secret agents of the writing world. The trained, the elite, the you-never-saw-it-coming – the ghostwriters 🙂

  • Us regular writers take years of writing to find our own voice
  • Ghostwriters are shapeshifters, finding the unique voice of each person they are writing for

 

  • Us regular writers mostly write something we’re passionate about
  • Ghostwriters use a magical spell to transfer your passion into their words. Your passion is infectious and as it seeps into them, topics or stories the ghostwriter may have never been passionate about are suddenly passionately written! Teamwork 🙂

 

  • Us regular writers might be considered semi-narcissistic – speaking of myself here mostly 😉 They devote their life to making their own dreams come true
  • Ghostwriters are fairygodmothers, passionate about devoting their lives to making others dreams come true. How cool is that!

 

  • Us regular writers are clumsy and walk into doors and walls and lampposts
  • Ghostwriters are also clumsy, but at least they float right through the objects. Or wait, is that just ghosts?

 

Why readers should care about ghostwriting:

Readers should be ecstatic to support the existence of ghostwriters. Not only do ghosts make for great stories, but *ghostwriters* make for great stories. More quality stories will exist for readers when non-writers choose one of these three options:

1)      share their story in a medium they’re skilled and passionate in

2)      have the passion and take time to gain the skill of writing before putting the story out there

3)      hire a ghostwriter to marry their passion and knowledge of the content with the ghostwriter’s passion and skill for writing

 

The problem with ghostwriting:

Now here’s the horrid part about ghostwriters – as awesome as they are, they don’t get the credit. Hit the NYT bestsellers list, win the Pulitzer prize, get a movie deal – everyone applauds the author (the person who hired the ghostwriter.) The ghostwriter is, well, ghosted. They generally can’t even say they wrote it, because they *officially* didn’t.

 

 

So why does the person who hired the ghostwriter get to be the author? Why do they get credit?

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Scratch that. Ideas don’t cost a thing, in fact, us writers can’t turn them off. So no, a ghostwriter isn’t needing the idea from the author. But what we call the author, the person who hired the ghostwriter, they contribute much more than the idea.

The person called the “author” is in fact the author because it’s their brainchild, their knowledge, their story, their platform, their audience, their marketing, their voice, and their passion.

The ghostwriter alone generally won’t have all those things to get the book into the world as the book actually is. If the ghostwriter alone wrote the book, it may miss the knowledge of the topic or the direct experience with the story. Maybe if the ghostwriter alone wrote the book, it wouldn’t reach as large an audience. Maybe if the ghostwriter alone wrote the book, it wouldn’t have that unique voice, style, or tone. Maybe it would just lack passion.

So on that note, mad props to the author for making all this happen!

 

How to fix the discrepancy:

I get it. The author deserves a lot of credit for making this book happen. And also, the ghostwriter deserves a lot of credit for making this book happen. It takes two. It most definitely takes great skill for a ghostwriter to take all the author has to offer and turn it into a quality book. And it most definitely takes the author to make the book happen in the first place.

Here’s my proposal, the main thing I’d change about the concept of ghostwriting to give proper credit:

On any ghostwritten book, have the front cover say “Written by [name of supernatural ghostwriter person], Directed by [name of person who had the vision to make the book happen]”. We already do this for movies: listing actors, directors, producers, and all myriad of workers in the credits. Just do that for books with ghostwriters too – give them some credit for their kickbutt magical powers 🙂

 

What do you think?

What say you? Do you think ghostwriters as an entity should just be called “authors”? Or do you think ghostwriters have their place in the literary universe hidden behind the scenes? Share your thoughts in the comments, check out Olivia’s counter-argument, and join the convo 🙂

 

for the Writers

A not-so-merry blogmas

Okay, it can be merry for you if you want. But for me, it will be eerie and creepy and sinister. Muahaha.

Want to tell a holiday story (of any genre)? Step out into the wild unknown of someone else’s blogspace? Reach a whole new audience with your wondrous words?

Join the December blogmas event on my friend’s page. Tell a creepy story, a silly story, an inspiring story, a dystopian story (Hey btw sidenote: I told a dystopian Christmas story a couple years ago), a fairytale, or a tragedy… Squeal! This’ll be fun 🙂

What will I be writing about? I’m collabing with my friend to tell a story about a Christmas present gone awry. I’d tell you more, but we still have to plan it all out exactly. But trust me, it will be eerily enchanting.

But the real question is, what will YOU write about? Go over to the Blogmas page to sign up now, but comment below and tell me what you’ll be writing 🙂

for the Writers

How I made my book look like a book

In a timeline of things to be done in the journey of self-publishing, on one end is the writing and editing. And on the other end is the selling and marketing.

But there’s a whole lot of in between that doesn’t really get talked about.

If you type a jumble of words into a Word document, that doesn’t look like a book. And so once I finished my 6 steps of editing, I moved on to researching how to make my book look like a book.

You can of course hire a book designer. And you probably should. But I wanted it to look book-ish for my beta readers, and I wasn’t about to pay for that. Plus I thought it’d be fun to figure out what all goes into it.

Disclaimer: I probably don’t have it all right, and I certainly don’t have it all here. This is just the steps I took after alot of research but without knowing everything professionally. Heck, I could even be completely wrong on something. This is more to give you an idea of what goes into it, what to think about, and what to research. This is certainly not a complete how-to.

 

Turning a manuscript into something that looks more book-ish

1) Fonts

There’s only certain fonts that work for books. Visually pleasing and easy for long reads. Plus you have to make sure the fonts you choose actually work well together, not just alone.

Serif is recommended for body text, and sans serif is recommended for other content. Also, Times New Roman is bad! Baaaad! Like it’s designed for newspapers to squish words together to fit on the page and it’s not great for long reads. That’s the main points I got out of my research.

Beyond that, you need to actually research which fonts play well on a page together. It’s kind of a toss-up if you’re not a graphic designer or at least more experienced with typography.

After some research, I chose to go with Corbel for the chapter titles, Palatino Linotype for the non-story content (page numbers, table of contents, etc.), and I went with Bookman Old Style for the story.

2) Spacing and Indents

I went with font 11pt with a 15 pt spacing. I indented at 12 pt.

From what I found, fonts are usually 11 or 12pt. Spacing is debated; some recommend single, and some slightly more than single. Indenting should be less than the amount of spacing.

Also, with Bookman Old Style I found the spacing between letters to be a tad close. I adjusted the font spacing to .5″.

3) Justify the text

Once you do this, you got to watch out for weird formatting. A huge space in a certain line. You may need to adjust spacing, indents, or minor edits to make that work well. The font spacing also helped with this.

4) Make mirror margins

Each page of a book has a side that goes into the center of the book where its bound, and a side that is on the edge. The bound side needs more space, but which side (left or right) that’s on depends on what page number you’re on (odd or even.) So you have to go into settings and select “Mirror Margins” for it to know you’re switching sides for each page number.

I found it was recommended to do .5″ outer margin with .8″ inner margin, and the top and bottom are 1″.

5) Page and section breaks

I inserted a page break before each chapter. Then I entered a section break (odd page).

The “odd page” option means that the next chapter always starts on the right side page, not a left side page. So there’s a blank page if needed there. Some books do that, some don’t, and I couldn’t find a particular reason of one over the other, so I just chose what I liked best for this book.

Psst! The section break helps with page numbering. Don’t skip that part. 

6) Header & Footer content

Here was the tricky part. I actually had to do this 3 times to figure out, because you have to watch the “Link to Previous” button. You don’t want it linked to previous for the stuff before the story or the stuff after the story, because you usually don’t put page numbers there.

Next you make sure you have “Different first page” and “Different odd & even pages” checked also.

You can of course copy whatever book you like with what you want style-wise.

For the first page, I put just the page number in the center of the footer. No header, which detracts from the Chapter title.

Then for the other pages, I had no footer, only the header. Odd pages had the page number and my name on the right side (the edge of the book), and even pages had the page number and the book title on the left side (the other edge of the book).

7) Make chapter names style the Header style

Those Style options in Word aren’t just handy dandy ideas for you to use. You can actually change them to be whatever style you want. So change the Header style to be whatever your Chapter titles formatting will be. Then make all your chapters that Header style. That will allow for the chapter titles to automatically be pulled into the Table of Contents page.

8) Make proper spacing between chapter title and story content

It’s not like the chapter title is actually at the tippy-top of the page and the story content right underneath. There’s a whole chunk of space to make the title stand out and give the reader some breathing room. Once again, look at some books and see what seems right to you. I just played around with it until it looked right.

Psst! This is another item you can play around with to get rid of lonesome words or lines on the last page of a chapter.

9) Insert Table of Contents

This should be more or less as simple as choosing Insert Table of Contents and deciding what that formatting will be. The chapters should automatically drop in from the above steps. And then make sure you choose the option to update page numbers if you make any changes to the document after inserting the Table of Contents, because it won’t automatically update. It won’t do anything until you click the button for it to update.

 

I think that covers all or at least most of how I designed the book.

  • Anything I missed or did wrong?
  • Anything you’re doing differently?
  • What are you currently researching for your book design?

Let me know in the comments below.

for the Writers

My 6 step process to editing a book

 

I passed the writing phase for “I Know You Like a Murder” and was on to the editing phase. When asking writers further along in the writing journey, I found that most don’t have a step-by-step system for their editing, they just read through and edit whatever they see needs fixed.

I collected a list of editing resources for everyone who might need it, and then I set out on figuring out my editing system. This isn’t necessarily the best system and it’s not necessarily the one that will work for you, but this is a first step for me – and maybe for you – to finding the system that works for us as individuals.

Note: The items I link to in this post are free online resources. Though some have paid options, I used the free version and it was very helpful. 

1) Edit what I already know needs fixing

When we’re writing, we’re supposed to just keep writing. Not stop and edit as we go. And inevitably as I go I realize there’s something that doesn’t work for the story that I need to change a couple chapters back or whatever. So while I write, I make note of it on my Trello board (a great free task manager system, check it out). So my first step in the editing process is going to that Trello board and seeing what needs done, then doing it. Easy peasy.

2) Edit what’s boring

It’s more than just what’s boring, but that’s what I’ve found is easiest to track what I’m wanting to change. I read through the story and think – where am I bored? Where does the plot fall flat, or the characters get annoying, or the wording just not interest me? Those parts I change, or even remove. Then I re-read through the story again with this new draft and ask again – where am I bored?

3) Get rid of blehh words

Then I look at my list of most frequently used words. I do this right in my Scrivener software (this costs money, but you can do this step for free with this online text analyzer).

You’ll see “the” “and” and “a” used alot of course. But look for other boring words, words that suggest lazy writing. For me, “was”, “get”, and “here”, were much overused and I found myself changing those sentences alot. But I spent an entire day going through the list of boring words to see which ones were actually problematic. Besides that, look for words you overuse that maybe you don’t want to – maybe you describe everything as “glorious” and you should switch it up to “magnificent” or “stunning.” Or maybe you just need to find some way to show it’s glorious without telling the reader 😉

Another thing to look for is something your narrator or protagonist wouldn’t use personality-wise. For instance, my narrator used “maybe” alot in her sentences. Only, that’s not the narrator’s character at all. My narrator is actually very forceful, hyperbole, over-the-top, absolute. Not wishy-washy “maybe”ing around the statements. So I took out alot of “maybe” too.

4) Hemingway Editor time

This may have been my favorite tool I found. I check the readability grade isn’t ridiculously high for some obscure word. And I see all these potential sentence-level problems color-coded that I can look through and change as needed.

5) Use that program spell-checker

Hey, I might miss something. In fact, I say “alot” alot instead of “a lot.” You probably noticed 😉 That’s where Scrivener or Microsoft Word’s spell-checker comes in handy. I quickly run through it and make sure I didn’t miss anything grammar or spelling related.

6) Hear someone else read it

Maybe you don’t have a person to read it, and that’s fine, because you can have a robot read it. It’s like Siri but for your book 🙂 Maybe this step should have come earlier, but I wanted to save this as my final fail-safe type step. I think it’s perfect, now let’s see if it is. Let’s hear someone else read it. Let’s see where it sounds awkward or jumbled, and let’s see what I wouldn’t want to hear someone else reading. Then of course I changed whatever felt weird there.


 

And that’s it. After that, I got ready to send the book to beta readers. I’ll do a post about that “got ready” part, because that wasn’t particularly simple.

What’s your steps for editing or resources you use? Would love to hear in the comments below.

for the Writers, Showcasing other Creatives, Stories to Read Right Now

Stories on why we create

Creativity isn’t finite. The more you give, the more you have. That’s a philosophy I want to live by, and Ksenia does too.

Ksenia Anske sends cards with personalized stories to her readers. So when she sent one for my writers’ group, I volunteered to facilitate our writers prompt and had everyone write her a story back.

Ksenia

Because stories are meant to be shared, and a writer can only hide their stories for so long before some need to spill out, even if it’s in short form 🙂

And now we’re going to share those stories with you, stories to encourage you to create.

Jenn

“With this final bit of paper and fragment of graphite I beg of you to continue on what I can do no longer. I brought their gruesome reign into the world and now with these last meager strokes I must pass the mantle onto another. They came from my mind you see, in murderous retribution. The misshapen wolf-child led the way howling in agony that I had abandoned him. My mind had pulled the sparks of his essence together but I had trapped him there. But he escaped, and he brought the millions of forgotten characters with him. The creatures control my mind, and have managed to get a link to every human brain. If I stop writing (I haven’t much longer now) without another to take my place the world ends. Pick up your pen. Go.” – by Jenn Wieland

Kim

“There once was a woman who decided to try writing. At first she was thrilled and excited, but then she met the rejection monster who gnawed at her amazing manuscript.

The brave writer stabbed the dreaded monster with her mighty pen. The monster shrieked and died at her feet. The amazing writer skinned the beast and made a cloak that she wore in the frigid winter.

The amazing writer walked proudly down the published road with her rejection coat wrapped around her shoulders.” – by Kim Kouski

Andy

“Once upon a time a young girl named Ksenia yearned to be an author, a writer. Over the years she succeeded but oh, she grew so weary and discouraged. Then one night she had a dream. She seemed transported into fairyland, with castles and dragons, knights – and a blight – a blasted desert where nothing lived. She asked a handsome knight, ‘Why? Why is fairyland blighted?’ He said sadly, ‘Those are the regions of fairyland where our goddess Ksenia has never written about.’ The end.” – by Andy Zach

Yasmeen

“Once upon a time, there lived a sixteen-year-old girl who found a book buried beneath a pile of ruins… The girl had never seen a real book before, let alone written words and paper. This book had a red toy train on the cover.

Books were only something people have heard about – a distant memory for few. And here it is… the last book in existence wedged between her fingers. ‘Our race can be saved!’ the girl thought. ‘Finally our world will not be mute and the curse will be broken.'” – by Yasmeen

Amy

“As the dancer danced, flowers popped up around her toes and danced with her. They danced the words – the flowers and her – until a flower castle appeared. The dancer danced the word “wing”, and up sprouted the wings and lifted the word dancer to the tippy top. ‘I will make my home here,’ she danced.” – by Amy L Sauder – uhh, me 🙂

KseniaStoriesPhoto.jpg

So that’s the stories. Now go out and make your own creations! And then share it with the world, give it away in some form somewhere 🙂 Pass on Ksenia’s enchantment ❤

(Psst! If you want to know more about Ksenia who started this story card thing for me, you can see her website, social media, and read about all the ways I want to be like her when I writerly grow up.) 

 

for the Writers

10 writing experiments to avoid

My friend was going to do a writing experiment, but was worried I as her writing coach wouldn’t approve. So I sent her a comprehensive list of all the experiments I disapprove of. If you’re thinking of experimenting with your writing, here’s a cautionary look at what experiments to avoid.

  •  Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you refuse to write until 5 years have passed.
  • Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you only write when inspired.
  • Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you never write again.
  • Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you only research your novel but never write.
  • Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you talk about your idea but never write.
  • Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you always say you’ll write “someday.”
  • Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you’ll write when you retire.
  • Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you open up Facebook instead of write.
  • Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you binge on movies and books and then talk about how you could write better, but you don’t actually ever write it to write better.
  • Oh no, you’re doing a writing experiment that somehow keeps you from writing entirely.

If you get any idea from this list, know that if you have a writing experiment in mind, I probably wholeheartedly embrace it! In fact, I think the best stories come from being innovative, playing with words, and experimenting.

curtis-mac-newton-19378

 

If you’re looking for permission to think outside the box, the building, the rules of story, the world of writing, consider this your invitation. Dabble all you want. Just keep writing 🙂

for the Bookworms, for the Creatives, for the Writers, Showcasing other Creatives

Why I wanna be like Ksenia Anske when I writerly grow up

Although, let’s be real: Ksenia and I don’t plan on actually growing up in our writerly lives. It’s more like staying daydreaming children forever, but then pretending to be grown-up long enough to do the business stuff.

I don’t remember how I discovered Ksenia. But I do remember what stuck in my mind about her:

  • She said, “Reader, you are my publisher. Share my books.”
  • She gave away her books for free, as in all of her older drafts of her story were publicly available to read (maybe still are) and you can even still download her stories for free.

Why did that grab my attention? She saw the value of her readers. That readers are what make or break a story. That’s what I want my philosophy to stay forever.

And she has a mindset of abundance, not scarcity. Those are artistic buzzwords right now, but they ring true. Artists can tend to want to hoard their ideas, their best work for themselves, as if there’s a finite capacity. But we need a mindset of abundance, that we can throw it all out there and celebrate others successes too, because creativity is infinite.

Why else do I want to be like Ksenia Anske “when I grow up”?

  • Curly haired people goals!
  • Quirky personality
  • You are getting to know the person through every online engagement.
  • She is authentic – what she’s learning, what she’s done wrong, it’s all out there. You’re following the journey, the person, not just book sales promos.
  • She’s always learning and sharing what she learns. I’m sure paying attention.
  • She’s not afraid to work out of the box, experiment.
  • It all comes back to her READERS! They support her because she supports them. She listens to their feedback and engages with them.
  • Need proof? Anyone who read her last email newsletter, she requested their address and she sent them a card with a personalized short story.
IMG_20170614_185157212
the story Ksenia sent me
  • Note the above bullet point also goes back to the concept of abundance rather than scarcity. She didn’t freak that she wouldn’t have enough stories in her for each person or that she wouldn’t be able to send cards to her readers because of the expense. She just said she’d do it, then she did it.
  • okay, I’m losing track of what these bullet points are for and when to use bullet points and when to not….
  • Switch gears!

I’ve read two books of hers:

  1. Rosehead. Magical realism at its finest. If you want a quirky read about a girl and her talking dog and a carnivorous garden, this is it! Everyone’s been looking for a book about a carnivorous garden, right? 🙂

    13516193_1727065877581664_6043272339776339847_n

  2. Blue Sparrow. A collection of tweets on writing, reading, and the creative life. Motivational, inspirational, even instructional (mostly “KEEP WRITING!”). My favorite detail would be that it’s 140 pages long, with 140 tweets. Like an inside joke for us Twitter users 🙂 And to whet your appetite, check out a couple of the tweets:

 

So now you know what I’m working towards. Quirky writing. Lovable hair. Personable interaction. Perspective of abundance. And reader centered. Check out Ksenia’s work for yourself….you won’t regret it!