6 Ways to Get Those First Words Typed

There before you glows that blank word processor screen. It’s staring back at you, mocking you. It’s daring you to type something, but you don’t know how to begin. It’s so intimidating.

You’ve been thinking about your story a long time, plotting it, developing the characters, working on the setting. You have notes, outlines, plot diagrams, and character descriptions up to here. Now it’s time to write, but no words are coming out.

Friend, you’ve surfed to the right blog post. I’ll get you through this. Most likely, you’re suffering from one of six conditions making it difficult to start. For each condition, I’ll suggest a remedy.

Condition 1: You’re so comfortable with planning your story that the idea of actually writing it paralyzes you. Remedy: Start writing an email to your Mom, or someone else with whom you correspond informally. Write: “Dear Mom, An odd thing happened today.” Then start writing your story. After all, it’s just an email to your Mom…or is it?

Condition 2: You’re looking for excuses to avoid writing. Remedy: Turn off, shut out, and eliminate all distractions. Then take five minutes to immerse yourself in your story notes again…regain the enthusiasm you had when this story was just a glorious notion in your mind. Then let words flow.

Condition 3: You’re afraid your writing will stink, that your first words will be so awful they’ll confirm your suspicions that you’re no writer. Remedy: You may have a misconception about first drafts. Trust me: your final story will look nothing like the first draft you’re about to write.

Condition 4: You believe, if the first words are this tough to write, the rest of the story will take forever. Remedy: Actually, the first ones are the most difficult. Beginning any task is the hard part. Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Accept this, and take that first step.

Condition 5: You’re afraid the hook (the beginning of the story) won’t seize the reader’s attention. You’re so worried about this that you can’t start. Remedy: Start writing a different section of the story. Come back to the hook later. You might even find that the “later” place you started is the real hook.

Condition 6: You believe you must write the hook first, and can’t imagine a way to entice the reader. Remedy: Okay, if you really must start with the hook, start by writing a bad one. Then write twenty alternate versions, trying diverse ideas and different ways to grab the reader’s attention. If none of those are any good, keep writing hook variants until you have one you like; you’ll know the one when you write it.

I’m confident one or more of these remedies will help you. When you successfully begin typing, take a moment to laugh in triumph at the once-blank screen that stymied you moments ago. You can tell it you won; you conquered it, with a little help from—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Is Your First Draft Terrible Enough?

That’s not a typo; I’m questioning whether the first draft of your story is horrible, trashy, and amateurish enough to qualify as a first draft.  I’m not talking about cacography here, I’m talking about tripe, drivel, bunkum.

Yes, I know all writers are different and for some, their first draft is their publishable, final draft.  Isaac Asimov said he didn’t re-write his stories.  But I’m guessing that doesn’t work for most writers, especially beginning writers.

For most of you, here’s my advice:  set out to write a bad first draft.  Why?  I’ll explain.

The first draft is unlike all later ones in that it has no predecessor, just a blank screen (or page) and a writer’s mind buzzing with ideas.  That moment before you write the first word is a daunting one; the task seems mountainous.  Often that story idea in your head seems so perfect, you just know readers will love it.

But when you try writing down that idea, it looks so awful it’s embarrassing.  The text falls far short of the shining, crystalline structure in your mind.  You can get so frustrated you’ll be tempted to abandon the whole stupid idea.  “What was I thinking?  I’m no writer!”

I’m suggesting it’s best to admit up front your first draft will be garbage.  That way you’re establishing reasonable expectations and lessening the frustration.  Trust in your ability to improve the first draft later.  Accept that those later revisions will be easier than writing the first draft; you will get closer to the ideal story in your mind.

How do you write a first draft that qualifies as pure dreck?  Think of your writing mind as having at least four component parts, four people with distinct attributes.  These are your muse, your playful inner child, your squint-eyed editor, and your glad-handing marketer.

I’ve described the muse before.  By the time you’re writing your first draft, her job is done and she’s left town.  Think of your squinty-eyed editor as a scowling old man with an eyeshade and a huge supply of blue pencils.  Send this editor on vacation now.  Trust me, he’ll come back well-rested to help you with your second draft.  As to that ever-smiling, extroverted marketer with the plaid suit, he’s on vacation most of the time and that’s okay for now.

215px-Big_PosterLet’s focus on the one I left out, the playful inner child.  I suggest you picture the character Josh Baskin, played by Tom Hanks in the 1988 movie “Big.”  He was pure drive, energy, and enthusiasm.  He had no inhibitions, no taboos, and no fear of failure.

Channel that character as you write your first draft.  Strive to get in the zone, in the flow.  If you find yourself momentarily stuck, write down what you will need later to get past the sticky part, put that in brackets (or different font or color, whatever), and move on.  For example, knowing how important the opening hook is, let’s say you can’t think of one.  Just write “[come up with hook]” and write on.  Chances are the words you write next might serve as a hook, or a hook will occur to you later.  Don’t stop to do research now, just bracket it, “[Do whales really get hiccups?],” and look it up later.

Even though your first draft is a stinking pile of compost, you’ll feel better about having something written down, something you can now work with.  Further, by writing in burst mode, you can maintain a consistent, integrated work that maintains the same tone and voice throughout.

More great first draft advice is available here, here, and here.  By the way, do you think this blog post is poorly written?  Ha!  You should have seen the first draft typed up by—

                                                     Poseidon’s Scribe

Giving and Receiving…Critiques

‘Tis the season for giving and receiving, so I thought I’d discuss critiques of fiction manuscripts.  Last time I did so, I said I’d let you know how to give and receive critiques.  My critique group meeting 2experience is based solely on twenty years of being in small, amateur, face-to-face critique groups; not writing workshops, classes, or online critique groups; so the following advice is tuned to that sort of critique.

First of all, to give the critique, keep the following points in mind:

  • Read the submitted manuscript straight through once, and just note where you were “thrown out of the story” for some reason.  Jot down why and come back to those points later.
  • Re-read the manuscript again. You could mark some of the grammar or spelling problems, but don’t concentrate on those.  The author wants you to find the bigger stuff.
  • Where there are stand-out positives (“Eyeball kicks” in TCL parlance) note those and praise the author.  The word critique should not have solely negative connotations.  A positive comment from you could keep the author from later deleting a really good description, metaphor, or turn of phrase.
  • Be clear and specific in the comments you write; avoid ambiguity.
  • Look for the following story elements and comment if they’re not present or they’re weak:

1.  Strong opening or hook

2.  Compelling, multi-dimensional, non-stereotypical protagonist with human flaws

3.  A problem or conflict for the protagonist to resolve

4.  Worthy secondary characters, different from the protagonist, who do not steal the show

5.  Vivid settings, not overly described

6.  Consistent and appropriate point of view

7.  Appropriate dialogue that moves the plot and breaks up narration

8.  Narration that shows and doesn’t tell.

9.  A plot that builds in a logical way, events stemming from actions that stem from understandable motivations

10.  A story structure complete with Aristotle’s Prostasis, Epitasis, and Catastrophe (beginning, middle, and end)

11.  Appeals to all five senses

12.  Active sentence structure, using passive only when appropriate

13.  Appropriate symbolism, metaphors, similes

14.  A building of tension as the protagonist’s situation worsens, followed by brief relaxing of tension before building again

15.  An appropriate resolution of the conflict, without deus ex machina, resulting from the striving of the protagonist, and indicative of a change in the protagonist

  • If your group shares comments verbally, do so in a helpful, humble way.

You think all that sounds pretty difficult?  Ha!  It’s much harder to receive a critique.  When doing so, here are the considerations:

  • Submit your work early enough to allow sufficient time for thorough critiques.  Be considerate of your group members’ time.
  • While being critiqued, sit there and take it.  No comments.  No defensiveness.  Just listen to the honest comments of a person who not only represents many potential readers, but who wants you to get published.

So, when it comes to critiques, is it better to give than to receive?  In contrast to most gifts, it’s harder to receive them, but it’s still a toss-up which is better overall.  But perhaps both are just a bit easier for you to deal with now, thanks to this post by—

                                                      Poseidon’s Scribe

December 30, 2012Permalink

Sorry, New Rule. You Can’t Do That!

In the original Star Trek TV series, there’s an episode where Captain Kirk invents a card game called Fizzbin in which he makes up the rules as he goes along.  The comic strip Calvin and Hobbes featured a game called Calvinball which may never be played by the same rules twice.

If you’re a writer of fiction, you might consider yourself to be playing such a game, too.  According to W. Somerset Maugham, “There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”  With apologies to the famous novelist, I’d say the game has too many rules to memorize and they change with time, according to the tastes of readers.  Only by playing the game well can you can make money selling books.

You might try to emulate great writers of the past and imitate their writing styles, in an effort to achieve success.  Bad idea.  The rules were different in their time.  Let’s cover some of those former rules.

1.  Take all the time you need to create a vivid description, to ‘paint’  with words.  Writers of the 19th Century and earlier used extensive portrayals to convey the appearance of a scene or character, multi-paragraph descriptions abounding in adjectives.  That worked well in an era without movies or TV, but readers won’t wade through such long-winded descriptions today.

2.  Adverbs exist for a reason; use them.  Authors once used adverbs with abandon. Adverbs modify adjectives or verbs and often end in ‘ly’ like ‘crazily.’  These days it’s considered lazy to use too many adverbs, a sign you didn’t take time to select a powerful enough verb.

3.  Demonstrate your skill as an author in your narrative paragraphs; dialogue only interferes with that.  At one time, fiction was mostly narration, with occasional dialogue.  We’re now in an age of character-driven stories, and readers want characters to talk more.  No long, boring narrative paragraphs, and less narration overall.

4.  Incorporate a rather dull character who needs everything explained to him (even things he already knows); that’s a clever way to explain things to the reader. There was an era when authors could use this technique even if it strained the conversation a bit.  These days, that’s no longer tolerated and there’s even a term for it–As You Know, Bob or AYKB.  AYKB’s are tempting, an easy trap to fall into even if you make every effort to avoid them.

5.  Bring the narrator in as an entity the reader can trust, as one who helps foreshadow future events.  In a bygone past, writers could have the narrator speak directly to the reader.  And now, Gentle Reader, let us discover what Annabel must be thinking about this latest development.  That voice could be used to foreshadow future events in an ominous tone.  Little did Frank know, but his secure life would soon be altered forever.  Understand, it’s still okay to use foreshadowing, but do it with subtlety, and not with the narrator speaking to the reader.  Today that’s referred to as narrative intrusion.

6.  Find clever new ways to express your ideas.  As centuries of writers did this, many of the word combinations they used were so good the first time, they got used again, and re-used many times over.  And became clichés.  Now you don’t get to use those clichés, unless you add some twist on them.  Go think of your own clever word combo that might become a future cliché.  This rule didn’t change, but sorry, you can’t use the same tired clichés.

7.  Ease into your story by introducing the reader to the setting, time period, and major characters before any action occurs.  Readers in those times had nothing to compete with books for entertainment, and had the time to curl up near the fire and read a cozy story by its light.  Times are different.  You must grab your reader by the throat with a first sentence or paragraph that demands attention.  It’s called a hook, and stories without a good one stay un-bought.

So, are you up for a game like Fizzbin or Calvinball?  May the best writer win!  Unfortunately, the game’s rules aren’t known by you or—

                                                                    Poseidon’s Scribe

 

November 25, 2012Permalink

Why You’ll Love the Snowflake, Too

The snowflake I’m blogging about today doesn’t have much to do with winter weather, but instead a writing method developed by author Dr. Randy Ingermanson.  I won’t go through his method here, since he does a much better job describing it on his site than I could, but I’ll just discuss why I like it and why I think you will, too.

First, a snowflake is a good metaphor for a story (no two alike, many quite intricate and beautiful), but that’s not how Dr. Ingermanson means it.  He’s referring to the mathematical fractal construction that starts with a simple shape, adds to the shape according to certain rules, and beautiful complexity emerges, with the final shape looking like a snowflake.

In the same way, he’s suggesting you start with very basic ideas about your story, then add to those ideas in a logical manner, building more detail with each step.  Near the end of his ten-step process, you’ve got a thorough plan for your story.  The tenth step is to write the story, which is much easier when you have your plan in front of you.  You’ll find you don’t get stuck as often, or frustrated at boxing yourself into a plot situation your characters can’t get out of, at least without major changes.

I’ve discussed earlier how plot, characters, and setting have to fit together such that the story couldn’t really take place with any other characters, and the plot actions seem both inevitable and surprising, and the setting is the necessary one for the story.  Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method makes this happen for you, by incrementally developing plot, characters, and setting, starting with sketchy concepts and adding more detail to each in turn until you end up with a comprehensive plan for your story and everything seems to fit.

How do I use the Snowflake Method?  First, I’ve been writing short stories, and the Snowflake is intended for novels, so I abbreviate it a bit, sometimes using mind maps for some of the steps instead of writing them out fully.  Second, I add a step concentrating just on the story’s hook, the opening sentence and paragraph.  Third, I sometimes add a step to construct a motivation chart using a modified Root Cause Analysis chart to make sure my characters take believable actions in accordance with their personalities.

One downside to the Snowflake is the fact that it requires so much time for planning the story, and actually writing it must wait until the last step.  Meantime, your muse may be screaming at you to cease all this planning stuff and get on with things.  A screaming muse is actually good, much better than what comes next.  If your muse starts feeling ignored, she will get bored and go away, or start looking for other story ideas to intrigue her.  So keep thinking of the Snowflake as a method for getting to know your story better and better, not as a dreary planning exercise.  Focus on the emerging details; promise your muse that you’ll be doing actual writing soon.

Dr. Ingermanson has come up with software to make the Snowflake Method easy and fun.  Cheapskate that I am, I have not yet purchased it, but that package might be right for you, especially if you are struggling to accomplish the steps using word processors and spreadsheet programs.

Consider giving the Snowflake Method a try.  Visit Dr. Ingermanson’s site.  Whether it works for you or not, I’m sure he’d like to hear about your experiences with it.  And of course, if you’d click on the “leave a comment” link below, so would—

                                                            Poseidon’s Scribe

October 28, 2012Permalink

Hook ‘em, So You Can Reel ‘em In

How will you begin your next story?  The beginning, called the ‘hook,’ is important.  These days readers don’t have much time.  Other things like TV, video games, and the Internet compete with your story for their attention.  If your first sentence or paragraph doesn’t grab them, they’re on to doing something else.

Here are some examples of great hooks used in novels as chosen by the editors of American Book Review:

  • Call me Ishmael.  Moby-Dick, Herman Melville 
  • Marley was dead, to begin with.  A Christmas Carol,  Charles Dickens
  • It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.  1984, George Orwell
  • You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.  Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  • Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.  The Trial, Franz Kafka
  • Mother died today.  The Stranger, Albert Camus
  • There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis
  • He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.  The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
  • It was a pleasure to burn.  Fahrenheit 451,  Ray Bradbury
  • The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting.  The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane

These beginnings work well for several reasons.  They give us an early idea what the story will be about.  They establish the tone of the story, and something about the attitude of the narrator’s voice.

But most of all they seize our attention and compel us to want to read more.  What gives them this quality?  It’s hard to find a common attribute just by looking at them.  They seem to appeal for different reasons.

Writer Darcy Pattison has grouped the different beginnings into categories.  This is helpful since one category might work better for the start of your story than another.  Knowing the category can give you a starting point for developing your hook.

Many of the beginnings in the list start with a sense of the ordinary, and then give the reader something that clashes or is jarring somehow.  We’re left with a puzzle, an oddity, a question that can only be resolved by reading further.  So read on we must.

Those without that twist added to the ordinary seem to possess a different quality.  They settle us in, set a mood, fluff up our pillow, put on some appropriate music.  We’re now comfortably in the story, transported to the author’s world right from the start, and now that we’re there we might as well read on to see what the place is like.

Each of these beginnings without exception is easy to read.  None have rare or difficult words to stumble over.  All have rhythm, and almost poetic brevity.  Not a word is wasted.

How do you write an opening like these?  Heck if I know; these are some of the best ever written.  Ask one of the world’s greatest authors.

With that task added to your to-do list, perhaps we could set our sights a bit lower for now.  How do you write an effective story beginning?  For one thing, it takes time and many trials.  The beginning is the hardest part to write, usually takes the longest, and usually involves the most revisions.  You might decide to skip the hook and come back to it later as the story evolves.  You might like to write a first version of the hook knowing you’ll revisit it over and over.  In any case, be prepared to spend the time and thought to craft it right.

To learn much more about how to write story hooks, read Hooked by Les Edgerton.  What an invaluable resource!

With regard to beginnings, we’ve reached the end.  Remember to check back at this site next week for further ramblings about writing by–

                                                                 Poseidon’s Scribe

That’s a Great Story!

What makes a story great, or even good?  For this discussion I’ll concentrate on short stories, my main medium, but the principles apply to all fiction.  Fair warning:  I’ll explore the topic to the best of my ability, but if I was an expert on writing great short stories, I would be better known.

Philosophers since at least the ancient Greeks have puzzled about what makes one thing better or of greater value than another.  Is it really all subjective, in the mind of each individual reader, or are there some objective aspects on which we can all agree?  Further, what is meant by ‘great?’  Do we measure great stories by sales, by the number of favorable reviews, or by how the story stands the test of time?

For an interesting romp through the fields of quality, goodness, and value (in general, not specifically as related to stories) read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig.

Of course, people differ in the stories they like, and a given reader may change her own tastes over time.  So there must be a subjective component to any definition of a good story.  I touched on this in a previous blog entry.

Still, perhaps we can agree on a few elements that should be present in a good story.  Not every element need be present, and excellence in some of them can make up for mediocrity in others.  Further, as you’ll see, these aren’t exactly objective elements, so people could disagree about whether they are present or absent in any given story.  Here are my ten elements, expressed in one long sentence:

  • A good story deals with one or more aspects of the human condition and starts with
  • an attention-grabbing hook that introduces
  • a compelling protagonist, with whom the reader can identify, who is
  • dealing with a difficult problem, a problem
  • with some relevance to the reader’s own life
  • in a vivid setting that puts the reader right there while the protagonist
  • encounters more difficult obstacles along the way
  • with enough tension and suspense to keep readers reading
  • and with the protagonist resolving the problem in the end in a satisfying, logical way, with bonus points if the protagonist learns something, and more bonus points if the reader can’t guess the ending early
  • with the whole story told in strong, clear language that produces an emotional reaction in the reader.

As it turns out, it’s easier to write down that list than it is to write a story that hits most of those marks.  Thinking back over the best short stories you’ve read, are there common elements they share?  Have I left out any elements in my list?  As writers, we ought to be striving for greatness as we tell our tales, so it helps to know what separates good or great stories from the rest.  I welcome your thoughts, which you can provide by clicking “leave a comment” below, whether or not you agree with–

                                                                     Poseidon’s Scribe 

November 13, 2011Permalink

Reading Your Way to Better Writing

What book should you read that will make you a published author?  Surely someone has written down all the little secrets in a handy volume, right?  I mean, that’s how I learned to do some household plumbing.

In earlier blog posts I’ve stated that the how-to books about writing do have some value.  You can read them to learn or re-learn a few tidbits, but do not expect that reading a book will make you a great writer.  I’ve stated that I put more stock in critique groups.

Even so, I have read a few books intended to help writers.  The following list of books I’ve read is in no particular order.  I recommend them all, but read them for the occasional “golden nugget,” not because they will make you famous.

  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • How I Write:  Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich
  • Writing the Novel by Lawrence Block
  • The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them) by Jack M. Bickham
  • Your Mythic Journey:  Finding Meaning in Your Life Through Writing and Storytelling by Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox
  • Manuscript Submission by Scott Edelstein
  • The No-Experience Necessary Writer’s Course by Scott Edelstein
  • Story Starters by Lou Willett Stanek
  • The Elements of Storytelling:  How to Write Compelling Fiction by Peter Rubie
  • Creative Writing: Forms and Techniques by Lavonne Mueller and Jerry D. Reynolds
  • The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells by Ben Bova
  • Cosmic Critiques: How and Why Ten Science Fiction Stories Work by Isaac Asimov and Martin Greenberg

I will single out three more for special mention.  Zen in the Art of Writing:  Releasing the Creative Genius Within You by Ray Bradbury is one I read many years ago, but the essence of it still rings in my mind.  Bradbury conveys the passion for writing, how it grabs you and carries you along on a crazy ride.  You can enjoy your writing pastime, but you can’t control it.  A good book.

Consider reading Hooked:  Grab Readers at Page One by Les Edgerton.  That book will help you begin your stories the right way.  Edgerton’s book is new, with fresh insights about what works in modern stories and what the editors of today are looking for.

 

Lastly, and best of all, you must, must, must have The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White.  That’s the formal book title, but everyone knows it as “Strunk and White.”  First published in 1918, this very short book will remind you to keep your writing succinct and to always make things easy for your reader.  You’ll want to re-read this one every few years.

If you’ve read a book on writing that you recommend, let me know.  For all I know, maybe someone has written a book with no-fail, sure-fire advice for making its readers into great writers.  Such a book, if it exists, has not yet been read by–

Poseidon’s Scribe

Short Story Editing

Before I get to today’s topic, I should mention that I’ve shifted my website software and given the website a new layout.  Still a work in progress!

Sadly, writing isn’t just writing—it’s also re-writing.  Perhaps you have a mental image of yourself typing frantically long into the night, then at last typing ‘THE END,’ and attaching your short story to an e-mail and sending it to a short-story market.  That happens sometimes, but I suspect such stories are the easy rejects.

You don’t want to be rejected, so you’re not going to do that.  You’re going to look over your story in detail before you send it in.  You’re going to do some editing.

Ideally, you’ll take time to let the story sit for a time while you work on something else.  How long?  Best to give it a few weeks or even a couple of months.  The idea here is to give your ego some distance, to enable you to look at the story fresh, as your readers will, as if someone else wrote it.  You’ll view it with a more critical eye and find yourself reacting negatively to certain aspects, maybe asking “Huh?” or “So what?”

Take that first sentence, that first paragraph.  Will your readers be hooked, I mean really hooked?  As you read further, look for plot problems.  Does the action proceed in a logical manner, making the conflict more and more difficult for your main character?  Do you have tense scenes followed by more relaxing, reflective scenes?  Does every paragraph, every sentence, every word really support your plot?  Delete until that is true.  This is a short story; you don’t have the leisure to go off on tangents.

Consider the setting descriptions for each scene.  In each new scene, the reader likes to be oriented in that setting.  The reader wants to feel he or she is there, with the characters.  You’re looking to provide just enough detail, facts that trigger as many of the five senses as possible.  You can add an occasional new detail as the scene progresses, to remind the reader where the characters are, but the bulk of the description should be early in the scene.

Think about all of your characters, paying particular attention to the protagonist and other major characters.  Are they too stereotyped?  Give the stock character an interesting twist, but one that ties in to your plot or theme.  Do your characters behave and speak in a consistent manner throughout?  It’s okay to have a major character change behavior at the end (recommended, in fact) but the change must be explained by the story.  Look for “data dumps” in the story, where things are explained in narrative, or characters are just talking in dialogue to each other.  Fix that by giving the reader the point-of-view character’s reaction to new developments or significant statements by other characters.  Look for points in the story where you have significant actions without any reactions.

Next, look at your grammar.  Target weak verbs, passive sentences, adverbs, and clichés.  Check to see if your sentences vary in length.  Note I said “target” and “check.”  There are good reasons to keep some of these in your story, especially in dialogue, or in first person point of view narration.  However, you must be consistent, don’t over-use them, and ensure they enhance the story.  One trick with clichés is to give them a twist—take an old phrase and give it a new spin.  As for sentence length, try shorter sentences in fast-moving action scenes and longer sentences in the tension-releasing scenes.

One way to find grammar problems as well as plot, scene, and character problems is to read your story aloud.  I have no idea why this works but you will find yourself stumbling as you speak some words.  That’s a signal something’s amiss.  Your reader will stumble there too.

The last thing to do before sending in your story is to ensure you’ve followed the format specified by the market for which you’re aiming.  Someday we’ll live in a perfect word with a single standard for manuscript format, but we’re not there yet.  Editors will reject you for not following their instructions regarding mailing or e-mailing, attachments or text in e-mail, single or double line spacing, font sizes and types, one or two spaces between sentences, where and how to indicate page numbers, how to indicate italicized words, etc.  You want them to publish your story?  Follow their rules.

Once you’ve done all that, then you can hit send.  This all sounds difficult, but it gets to be a habit and becomes a little easier with time.  Here’s wishing you happy editing, from…

Poseidon’s Scribe