Monday, September 30, 2013

PFA Professionalism

The Internet is filled with many abbreviations. People connecting with others through keyboards designed their own acronym shorthand, and most people today use it. Even back in the day when the BBS was better than the Internet (I know I am dating myself) there were abbreviations and lingo. However, I have never been up on them. I have used two in my lifetime: Thanx! (and only if I am very, very thankful because I feel it shows my eagerness to forego spelling in an effort to thank you) and of course my handles or usernames.

So, I am employing people and currently looking for editors. Note to all the potential editors out there - proofread your bid/application and do not include acronyms. Most of the editors who applied with acronyms were immediately deleted as were those with glaring spelling/grammar errors. But I opened the attachment on this one and saw it was a so-so editor before reading the message.
If someone types FYI, yeah, I know what it means. Or perhaps LOL (although I only know that this one means something about laughter). I am familiar with BTW and have considered using it in my text messages. But most acronyms I have no desire to use. This one contained " PFA :) " .

Professional footballers association?
Protection from abuse?
People for animals?
Physical fitness assessment?
Plucked from air?
Pop forwarding agent?
Public fishing access?
Printer font ASCII?

Acronyms and abbreviations are way to ambiguous when it is important you make your point and when the person you are sending the message to does not know you well enough to reply: "What in the world does PFA mean?" Or you may not be aware you could be saying "Your problem" or "yes please" since many abbreviations have multiple meanings (as you see from the list above).

Yes, I finally figured out that it was probably "Please see attached" but as far as I am concerned it was a Predictive Failure Analysis that the bidder did not pass.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Powerfully Fragile by Briohne Skyes

As a freelance ghostwriter/ author/ editor, one of the downsides is that you do not always get to follow your work. What happens to it after it leaves you? You don't always know. However, I helped edit this play with Briohne, and I was shocked to see that it played in five different theatres in Australia:

Briohne actually has her own website and fan club as part of her therapy, and she is an awesome person to work with. (Sometimes it feels good to end a sentence with a preposition.)

In the end, I may be a ghostwriter now, but I am not happy to remain in the shadows forever. I am an author, using my skills to pay the bills now, but I want my story published with my name on it some day. However, if I should become famous tomorrow, I would not want to stop helping others achieve their fame.

I didn't write Briohne's work. The story was all hers, but I would like to think that I helped her on her way. I enjoy helping others achieve their goals- whether it be writing your love story to win back your girl, editing a play that tells the story of how you survived cancer, or trying to promote the story of your brother's unjust death. I have done all these things and more since I began freelancing and I wouldn't trade the experience for the world.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Doomsday Code by Nigel Ross

This was one of the more interesting jobs I have done. Nigel did not want me to help with editing or writing, he just wanted me to create a contest puzzle for him based on his book. He wanted a puzzle, which actually became a series of puzzles that people who bought his book could figure out and solve (for a prize).

This was tricky, but I feel I did a good job with it. The problem is, since I know the answer I can't solve it. Sigh. Oh well, I guess getting paid to do it was my prize.

I make it a point not to review any books on Goodreads (or Amazon) that I was paid to work on in some way or the other. I do not feel it would be fair. My only exception is those books that I work on for an author review service. When I write these reviews I get paid a minimal amount for my time and I get a free copy of the book I am reviewing. Sometimes, I review these to give the author advice (where I do not actually write a publishable review). however, if I am writing a publishable review, I signed a contract stating that I can repost it as long as I tell people that I reviewed it for the service. Since I am disclosing that I reviewed it for a service, I do post these reviews.

Monday, September 23, 2013

You are Invited to a Project!

The first time someone invited me to a project, I was ecstatic. I thought, wow! they invited me. Then I realized they also invited 100 other people. This was after I had already bid on the job thinking I would get it. It was also before I realized I needed to click the envelope instead of the use my profile so I do not waste a bid.

Now that I have been invited to marketing projects, software development projects, and website design projects (I am neither knowledgeable nor excited about performing any of these), it has lost some of its glamour.

I do state on my profile that if someone is interested in my skills beyond writing and translation, they can invite me to their project. However, the specific skill I was talking about is my videoediting (which is listed on my profile as well). So far I have only had one job and it would have been way more in-depth than what I could do right now. (It was a huge job and I already have too many big jobs going.) I also would have probably not done it as low cost as some of the other people who were invited to it, because I would have hired actual actors.

Anyway, today I got another project invitation and started to write this post to grump about it (it is my fourth invitation this week). However, it turned out to be from a guy who actually wants to hire me, who has only invited me, and who has been communicating with me about it all week long. Now I feel both special and ecstatic. Well, at least until the next marketing invitation comes along...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Dangers of Working on Two Jobs at Once

August was slow. I have many big projects I am working on, but they do not pay my weekly bills. They just pay for me to edit, illustrate, market, etc. my own work. They have bigger payouts that I cannot access quickly enough.

Therefore, I need small jobs to keep my family fed. And there were not many people hiring in August I am noting it as another slow time on my calendar to help me budget better. So, I did what I always do when I am slow - beginning bidding on new (short) jobs... a lot.

Well, now those jobs must be at the end of their posting because I have gotten two new jobs every day this week. I am not complaining. These jobs are short and easy, but combined with my other work they can be a little overwhelming. Today, I decided I could work faster if I work on two jobs at the same time. One is a job with a list of software tools the other is a job writing a few simple children's books on emotions. I soon discovered this was a bad idea after typing Max is sad. His Aunt came home. on the list of software tools.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tracking Changes and Comments

I understand that a lot of people know how to use this feature. However, when I first started I did not know how to do this and it is very important for any author to be able to do this.
To track changes in your own work, you click on tools "track changes" and then make sure that "Highlight changes" is selected in the box. If you have .docx I think it is located under editing - but if you have the "starter" version of the latest MS Word you will not be able to access the feature. I prefer the old MS Word, so I only have the .docx starter. (I am thinking about upgrading but I hate 2013, so I want an older version than that.) Everything you do to change the document will be visible (if you delete a line will go through it; if you add it will appear in the color your chose).

If you receive a document with changes tracked and you want to accept or reject them: Under the "tools" menu in Word, you should see a "track changes" icon. Under that you need to select "accept or reject changes" and make sure "highlighted changes" is selected. Then you can just click "find" and it will find the next change I made in the document, and you can click "accept" or "reject" for each one. You also need to uncheck the "highlight changes" box if you are going to keep working on the document.

Alternatively, you can right click on each change in the document and "accept" or "reject" should appear as one of your options. This is sometimes hard to do if the editor has only changed one letter or added punctuation.
Comments are found under the "insert" menu. (Also not available in Starter.) These are actual information about your story. A person can leave you a note directly in text. The text they are talking about becomes highlighted and when you pass your cursor over it you can see the note. Again you can right click to get rid of it. You can also use these to make notes to yourself.
Similarly, you can add comments to PDF files. If you pay big bucks for the upgrade, there are additional options for editing.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Editing, Content Editing, Proofreading, Copyediting, Beta readers

Many people do not know what these terms mean, so I am going to make them the topic of today's blog.

Generally, a novel (or any written work) goes through at least one edit, it is formatted,  and then a proofread is done. There are, however, two different types of editing: traditional editing, which covers spelling, grammar, and punctuation; and content editing, which actually changes words and sentence structure to make the novel flow better. In addition, a content editor may tell the writer that certain parts of the novel do not make sense and need more explanation or why some parts need to be removed. A proofreader does traditional editing and makes sure that the novel is formatted the same throughout (for example, they will fix it if you accidentally used "body text" style with size 24 font on the chapter 6 heading instead of "Heading 1" with 14 point font that you used for the rest of your book.

Sometimes newer authors have a content edit done and then a regular edit afterward especially if they are uncertain about their writing style. Other new authors do not want to lose their "voice," and so they only want a traditional edit. Sometimes authors want to have two or three traditional edits done on their work by different people.

All editors should be familiar with "track changes" in MS Word and the "comments" feature. However, if you want the same editor to do multiple types of editing and/or proofreading, they should submit it to you at the end of each process. This is because it can get kind of messy and becomes very difficult to do a good job unless the changes done are accepted and notes are cleared. I will talk about this in my next post. Some of my employers want me to submit a document with the feature on and a second one with all the changes accepted, but I recommend writers go through and check each change themselves unless it is a content edit (sometimes employers do not even want me to use the track changes feature for this).
Beta readers are people who will voluntarily go through your work and give you tips about the story. They are good for picking out inconsistencies. They will fix grammar and spelling as well. In exchange, you need to list them in your acknowledgement section of your book. I will have more on beta readers in a while.

Copywriting is basically writing advertising, but copyediting is just another word for editing. A copyeditor and an editor are the same.

In general, non-fiction costs more to edit because of the references. Content editing and proofreading are more expensive than just editing for grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


For the most part projects are very straightforward. However, occasionally I come across one that leaves me shaking my head.

For example, today someone posted a job looking for an editor, but he just wanted the editor to highlight the areas where he was overly wordy and make changes but tell him first or not make changes. He also had no clue who his audience was but he thought it might be good to identify one and then he had no clue how to write toward his target audience unless they were really young or really old.

The topic of his book: Writing for Clarity.

What? Um, excuse me, but if you, yourself cannot write clearly nor can you even post a project in such a way that makes it easy for those reading it to understand what exactly it is you want - perhaps you should consider writing on something that you are more expert in: Writing for Ambiguity.

A long time ago before e-publishing, author's had to be experts in their field in order to publish books. Now they do not. In fact, they do not have to know anything about their topic. It makes me very leery of using any modern book for research, since there are several self-publishing companies that are masquerading as real publishing companies.

If you are planning on writing a non-fiction book, my advice to you is to identify your audience first. If you write a book and then afterward decide that your audience is going to be biochemists, it will be a bear to go back in and add biochemist language to the book, remove references to things a standard biochemist would know (but Joe next door would not know unless he, too, was a biochemist), and finally explain things that biochemists would not know, such as how to bake a cake in an oven instead of in beaker on a hotplate. Identifying your audience is one of many keys to publishing any book successfully.

Needless to say, I did not apply for this project. However, several other people did. Personally, even if I was rewriting his book or him so that it truly did speak of clarity in clear language, would I really want other people thinking that he wrote it and coming to him for information on the topic? Nope. Sorry, my drive for money is not quite that strong.

Friday, September 13, 2013

What's the difference between an acceptable sex scene and erotica?

I have found that many authors have trouble drawing a line between what is expected of their genre and erotica.

The key is the answer to the question: how much sex is contributing to the story? People who sell books have to classify your work, somehow. When they look at it, they are going to want to put it into a certain section of their book store (unless you self-publish but more about that in a minute). When you include a bunch of sex for the shock value alone, you have made it difficult to classify your book. Chances are good, a traditional publisher or agent is going to ask you to get rid of some of it.

You may think if you self-publish you can avoid someone chopping apart your art-form. However, you are not thinking about the people who will be buying your book. If you say, "this is a science fiction" and then you fill it with numerous sex scenes that do not contribute to the plot, you are only going to attract those who enjoy both science fiction and erotica. You have reduced your audience. Sometimes you can combine genres and it works out okay, but erotica is one of those genres that is still very taboo. If you combine anything with erotica, it is still erotica.

One final note. If you want to publish to a Christian audience, you need to get rid of all the sex in your novel. I have actually read a book that was published trying to attract a Christian audience and it contained a hot and heavy scene. Even if this occurs between non-Christians or married people, no Christian organization will promote it. Its a dog-eat-dog world when it comes to publishing. Why cut out any of your options just to make a point?

Monday, September 9, 2013

The week of indescision

Another person contacted me and said she really wanted to work with me but she wasn't sure if I would work with her since my profile states "I have the right to refuse a job that I deem ethically wrong even after accepting the award for it."

When I applied for her job, it stated there was sex and graphic violence in the book that need to be edited. Okay - I can handle graphic violence and sex. However, in her message she described the book as if it were erotica. Which I do not do. I also would not write a book like this. I have the full ability to write something filled with graphic details, but I choose not to. Editing, well, I have read some pretty bad trash in my time, so nothing much can phase me reading wise.

However, there is a fine line between erotica and a novel with sex in it. In her initial post, she did not say "graphic sex," just "sex". But perhaps she meant to combine the two? A novel written as erotica is written specifically to ...hmmm ... how shall I put this - excite people... or perhaps make them throw up. I vaguely remember reading a bit of Anne Rice's In the Claiming of Sleeping Beauty years ago - or at lest an excerpt from it. That book seemed to only have the goal of, uh, exciting people and I obviously did not continue reading it. However, I have also read Dangerous Liasons, and that is what this book seemed along the lines of. Similarly, most romance novels also have some pretty spicy parts interwoven in among other parts. The key is - what is the goal of this book. Is is solely to get people going? Then you can have as much sex in it as you want - just call it erotica. If it is to depict a crime and sex is an integral part of it, such as Basic Instinct, sorry, its not really erotica. If your goal is to show how a man and woman end up living happily ever after - its a romance and although you can put spicy sex in it, most romances still have a limited amount of sex and there are certain things you do not usually describe even in spicy romances.

This woman must have thought hers was more on the erotica side because she stopped corresponding. That' is fine with me. I really hate taking a job and then ending up having to turn it down.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I've awarded you this job... Wait no I changed my mind.

Friday, a potential employer sent me an email alerting me that she had awarded me a job at 3:00PM. Now, some days, I keep my email open all day long, but I am running short on my online allotment (actually I am way over right now, but who is counting?).

I got on my account at 4:45 PM, only to see her email announcement, see that she had in fact awarded me the job, and then see that she had rescinded that award. (Rescinded is my spelling word of the week since she did this to me.)

What provokes someone to award a job and then cancel it an hour and forty five minutes later?  I don't know. Although there is a place for the employer to leave a message, she chose not to tell me why she made her rather flighty decision.

However, in some aspects I am relieved. I really do not work for someone who can't decide what she wants...