Hire A Professional Editor?

Are You Ready To Hire A Professional Editor?

Maybe – but you might consider beta readers as a good first step.

Delivering your manuscript into the hands of a professional editor can be an intimidating step for any writer. It does not, however, need to be the first and only step in improving your first draft manuscript.

You may have heard of “beta readers”. If by some chance you have not, pay close attention. A beta reader is anyone that a writer brings in to give that first manuscript draft a test drive. With the same air of trepidation, a writer makes a dozen copies of their pages and hands them out to a few close friends.

Sounds great right? It’s a great way to kick off the re-write process without hiring a professional editor just yet. Where do I find these beta readers though?

A lot of writers I know work in writer’s groups. They’re great for accountability and networking. Writer’s groups meet weekly (or less often) to discuss new pages, characters and story lines. To many a new scribe, their writer’s group sounds like a pretty good place to test the waters. I would like to offer up a contrary opinion though: I don’t believe writer’s groups are the best place to find beta readers.

While it is true that most writers are voracious readers, I find other writers have skewed views of manuscripts and especially those still in development. All too often, I find that other writers look at your manuscript through a much different lens. They can offer great advice (usually closer to publication) but in those early phases, it may behoove you to cast a wider net and look elsewhere. And here is why.

On the road to publishing success, your book is going to have to impress readers. Lots of them. Thousands of them, in fact. Why not get your book into as many of those genuine book readers as you can? The people who curl on on the couch with a paperback. The passengers who pull out the latest thriller novel as they board an airplane. The person at the library who talks a blue streak about your work.

This is, after all, your target market.

When an inventor comes up with a brand new kitchen gadget, they don’t necessarily test market to the select few chefs who run Michilen star kitchens. However exclusive or skilled, it’s a limited marketplace. To become the new “must have” item, they need to get out to foodies and house wives and the millions of people across the world who prepare meals on a daily basis.

Your set of beta readers needs to amount to a few things. They need to be reliable. They need to be well read and opinionated about books and literature. Whether or not you include your Mom and her glowing praise for everything you do is up to you (I say yes, you’ll need that boost to your confidence).

More than anything though, before hiring a professional editor consider submitting your work to a diverse group that represents your entire market.

Of course, there are some of you I’m sure who are ready for a professional editor. If you’ve done a thorough job in the rewrite process already, then a professional editor can help you bring that final polish to your work and navigate the treacherous industry waters that lay ahead. If this sounds like you or if you’re stuck in any phase of the writing process, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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Manuscript Editing – Ghostwriter Advice

Manuscript Editing

Why Manuscript Editing Is As Important A Picking Up The Pen In The First Place

The temptation is there. Every new author mulls this over and frankly, it is hard to blame them. After months and even years writing their novel, they believe that “THE END” should mean just that.

“I’m done,” they say as they press save. “It’s time to put this book out there.”

Whether an author has chosen the traditional publication route through an agent or publisher, or they are going independent via Amazon (or another outlet) putting a freshly completed writing out into the world does not magically transform it into a proper book without proper manuscript editing. Unfortunately for some there are clear consequences to this assumption. Fortunately for anyone reading this, however, those consequences are avoidable.

A writer must first understand the difference between a manuscript and a book.

Amazon can be a wonderful place. The on-line retailer is a boundless market place where up-and-coming authors connect with prospective readers. The platform allows them an opportunity to publish material on their terms, offering exciting new stories for eager readers who are only a few clicks away.

But even eager readers are not easy to please. Even at a couple of measly bucks a pop for an eBook, competition is fierce and there are expectations. One of the first harsh realities that many new authors learn is that a bargain basement price point does not equate to favorable reader response.

Unfortunately for some authors, Amazon slams as many doors closed as it opens. Whether that story is a carefully plotted multi-kingdom epic fantasy, or a gritty noir thriller, books are open to immediate ridicule. More often than not when a book is sloppy, readers will write an extensive review that completely omits character and plot. Instead, the reviewer chooses to dwell on a few comma splices and misspellings.

Sounds harsh? Maybe. The truth is though, this happens all too often. Sadly, this is among the most easily avoidable pitfalls in the publication process. Self-published novels that once had a great chance at building a strong base of readers for an author gets buried by negativity.

Why? The book was still a manuscript. Understanding the difference is critical.

The lesson here? Edit. Your. Manuscript. Make it a book. Although manuscript editing costs money and can be among the more challenging steps in the publication process, if it’s done right, it can lead to the greatest reward.

Sometimes it’s extremely beneficial to have a second set of eyes on your work to maximize the benefits of the editing process. If you feel like you’ve reached “THE END” and are ready to put your work out in the world, get in touch before you do. I can help you properly convert your manuscript into the book it deserves to be!

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Use Of Setting – Ghostwriter Pro Tips

The use of setting can have a powerful emotional impact in your story. But mastering the use of setting to enhance certain elements of the plot can be a difficult process. As a professional ghostwriter, I regularly work with writers whose use of setting falls short of delivering the impact that renders critical moments unforgettable. So let’s take a look at same particularly good writing to expose a few secrets of how to achieve this.

An examination of the use of setting in the Netflix series “Master Of None” eventually leads to a look at Season 2’s penultimate episode. In “Amarsi Un Po” the season’s lone hour-long installments, Ansari and his writing team essentially flip the use of setting from previous episodes.

For the better part of Season 2, “Master of None” thrived using a series of mostly intimate settings. Restaurants. Night clubs and taxi cabs. Apartments. Streets. The show is in large part about a young man’s private interior moments and Ansari found creative ways to bring that to life in Dev’s everyday.

Season 2 tells the story of Dev’s growing love for Francesca and of her ever dwindling ability to believe she can continue on with her boyfriend. That love thing between them is growing out of control and in “Amarsi Un Po” Ansari and his writing team finally use some of the grand settings New York has to offer.

The first act culminates in one of Manhattan’s most recognizable locations, Washington Square Park. After a nice dinner, Dev and Francesca walk and talk, seemingly carefree. This is a seemingly ordinary scene we have seen before, only now it is taking place by the night time glow of the white stone Arch which stands at the park’s northern gateway. Although the conversation between Dev and Francesca is familiar, we get our first sense that something much bigger is in store.

At the episode’s middle point, Dev rescues Francesca from a day alone and escorts her to the Storm King Art Center in upstate New York. Again, the two lovers are simply walking and talking, but now they find themselves amid wide open fields, weaving their way through massive abstract sculptures. Although no one has said as much, setting tells the story that things are quickly getting complicated between them.

Finally, Dev can take no more. He has to say something to Francesca and we get a sense that she is finally ready to listen. When her boyfriend ditches her (again) Dev comes to the rescue (again). This time they take a night time helicopter ride around Manhattan. They circle over the city, taking in a bird’s eye view of one of the grandest cityscapes on planet earth.

And of course, it’s in that helicopter that Dev confesses his feelings for her.

The lesson we take from “Amarsi Un Po” is that sometimes a writer simply must think big. While using grand settings such as these too often can weigh the story down, setting critical moments of large emotional impact in iconic places can enhance their impact.

Ansari could have set these conversations in similar places and still been successful. The writing in “Master of None” is that good. These three scenes are the most pivotal in the series though, and setting them in iconic locations with sweeping views takes those critical moments and makes them unforgettable.

CALL TO ACTION:

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Elements Of Setting In Writing

The Elements Of Setting In In Your Writing

Tips from a pro to help you incorporate appropriate elements of setting to make your story come alive.

Looking at how Aziz Ansari uses elements of setting in his clever Netflix series Master Of None shows why it matters where your scenes and stories take place. In fact, the buzz around the little show that everyone is talking about may be as much the product of setting as it is chemistry between characters.

Master Of None is a program with many predecessors. The protagonist is young. He is a dreamer. He is desperately trying to figure things out as he lives life. As charming as he is, he is unlucky in love.

While the subject matter is nothing unique, Ansari utilizes a fresh approach to tell this familiar story. Take “The Dinner Party” the fifth or middle episode from season two.

It is no spoiler to reveal that Dev (Ansari’s character) has recently returned to his native New York from a cooking internship in a small Italian village. At the end of season one, he left his NYC problems behind to learn the art of making pasta by hand amid romantic locations steeped in ancient history.

And, as all love lost protagonists do, Dev also befriends Francesca while overseas and they hit it off.

But Dev and Francesca can only be friends because she has a boyfriend. In “The Dinner Party” Dev invites Francesca, who is visiting the states, to a Manhattan soiree put on by one of his new buddies, a producer for the cooking network where Dev works as a host. This is the place to be. Everyone is going to be there and the party is so posh that John Legend gets up and plays piano at the behest of his host.

Writers Ansari and Alan Yang expertly utilize what amounts to a simple apartment setting. One of Dev’s oblivious actor friends happens to be at the party too and he’s constantly interrupting their banter. When they do get to talk, Dev helps Francesca overcome her stilted use of English with loving charm. Of course, it’s a foodie party, so passionate opinions about the myriad plates of food crop up between them. No one can simply like or dislike a dish. They have to argue about it. As the evening wears on, Dev opens the debate on flavor notes in a glass of wine (which Francesca charmingly describes as tasting like shoes). When the moment is right, the flamboyant host butts in and upstages Dev’s humor.

Five obstacles to Dev’s goal of Francesca. All of them arising naturally out of the elements of setting in the episode.

“The Dinner Party” is about how two people can be so close yet remain far away from one another. In order to accomplish that goal, Ansari and Yang had to create an organic setting that provided ample interruption. What better than a dinner party? How about a dinner party put on by professional foodies?

The episode culminates in the two characters sharing a cab after the long evening. This is the episode’s (and maybe the series’) golden moment. Dev is charming as always. Francesca listens to him and laughs at his little quips but… they just cannot execute the kiss they both so plainly want from the other. There is a genuine love between them but after an evening of missing they cannot get where they need to go.

Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl proves elusive. The formula is stock. Ansari is not content to write out a cliche he knows will work. Instead, he freshens the bittersweet story line using setting.

Give me a call or email me if you want to talk about how you can leverage my skills and experience to make your story come to life. It can make all the difference in the world!

 

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Writing A Good Scene

On Writing A Good Scene

Writing a good scene (whether that scene be for screen or fiction or memoir) requires keeping audience attention fixed on key information. The challenge in writing a great scene is keeping the audience glued.

There is nothing more stale than a fiction scene that features two characters sitting in a room and talking. Heard this before from one of your beta readers or your feedback group?

Remedy this with the tried and true, “Pope In The Pool” method.

The term “Pope In The Pool” comes from a script called (somehow fittingly) The Plot To Kill The Pope. Screenwriter George Englund understood that he could not afford a dull scene in his hot, breakneck thriller. Setting his characters in a room drinking tea would have been downright boring.

What did Englund do to remedy his drab original idea? He devised a scene that conveyed the exact same dialog and information except he placed the Pope, his central character, in a swimming pool.

Now rather than watch the same stuffy old men sit around a dark room talking dark room topics Englund presented his audience with an interesting set of images and ideas to reconcile.

Who knew they had a pool at the Vatican?

Even you somehow knew this, does anyone really think of the Pope out taking an afternoon swim?

By putting his central character in an interesting and unexpected place, Englund made a memorable scene out of what may have been dismissed as simple exposition. While this kind of thinking won’t necessarily remedy problems with pacing, it does allow those droll necessities an opportunity to live and breath.

Much like fiction, life is a lot of walking into a room and talking to someone. You’ve done it today. I’m about to do it right now. That reality doesn’t make the ordinary moments in life cinematic or memorable though. We can, however, look at necessary scenes in new ways if we shake up what the focus character is doing.

Can your love addled heroine be out walking an enormous dog while talking on the phone?

Would it work if your edgy hitman was trying desperately to figure out how to work a juicer in the safe house kitchen while sharing his menacing backstory?

The trouble with slow scenes doesn’t necessarily come from limited locations. The trouble comes from looking at your locations in a limited way.

 

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How To Expand Setting – Screenwriting Tips

How To Expand Setting

A current trend in screenwriting speaks directly to the need for writers to expand their thoughts on setting, specifically, how to expand setting itself. I’m talking about the appetite for “single location” scripts.

Anyone who has seen Ryan Reynolds in 2010’s “Buried” knows you don’t need an elaborate series of locations to tell a tough, heart racing thriller story. In the film (which famously cost $7,000 to produce, pointing to the reason why single location scripts are popular) Reynolds plays a civilian contractor in Iraq who has been buried alive and the entire 90-minute movie takes place inside of his coffin.

Claustrophobic? Then try Tom Hardy in 2014’s “Locke” where for a strong majority of the film we are stuck in the car with a man whose life is literally falling apart around him.

Maybe the most important factor in these films is that Reynolds and Hardy are terrific actors. They are the type of performers that can make this type of bare bones concept work.

There is something else at play though and that is a masterfully clever union of action and setting.

On the surface a coffin and a car are difficult locations to try and set an entire movie in. But, when considering how to expand setting, a closer look and careful planning expands that setting so that, while limited, it’s not going to choke off a good story.

Take Locke’s car for example. As a writer, setting an entire story in the car is a tough task. But look at the possible locations within the car to get the most out of it.

Front seat.

Floor.

Back seat.

Trunk.

If the car is parked in your script then you can make use of under the car, the hood and the roof, all while ostensibly limiting your script to the car.

The same thing can be said for that coffin.

In “Buried” the script, in the context of how to expand setting, confronts confinement head on with the obvious horrors. The story plays right into the viewer’s expectations. The writers move the character around inside of the confined space. They reveal new light and new darkness. If there are obvious phobias then go head on and show the audience or reader the desperation that the confined character feels.

Fear is, after all, one of the great motivators of action.

The success of “Buried” and “Locke” is in the bravura performances given by their actors but those performances are only possible in how deftly the writers (and directors) manipulated the space. Even if you’re not writing a single location project, look at all the ways to expand your locations to fit your needs.

The only truly limiting setting is one that isn’t adequately utilized by the writer.

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Should I Write My Story? Advice From A Pro

Should I Write My Story?

Should I write my story? Why should I even bother telling my story?

This is the one question that a prospective client is bound to ask during an initial interview. Why should I go through the time and expense of crafting a book version my story?

I call it the “drop in the ocean” conundrum.

Story has a recuperative property. Not just for the reader but for the storyteller. I like to respond to clients with “why not tell your story?” Saying no is turning your back on a bigger opportunity than you can know.

Here are three reasons to say yes when faced with the “drop in the ocean” conundrum.

Should I write my story #1 – Your Story Is Unique:

It can be easy to dismiss story. After all, something like it has likely been told before. Love lost and love found, betrayal and redemption are universally held story concepts and odds are, your story has something like that at core.

What is unique is your unique relationship to that broader, archetypal story concept. The story of your lost love, for example, has something to add to the universal phenomenon. Why not add it?

Should I write my story #2 – Readers Go Back For More:

Here is something that is not a well known fact but should be. Readers go back to what works, over and over again. If someone likes to read, for example, stories about Vietnam then odds are they’ll read another.

If we know that readers are loyal, what does that tell us about the book market? That tells us this: if a book is well-written and authentic, the audience for it should be well established.

Choosing not to tell your story is tantamount to cheating your audience.

Should I write my story #3 – Story Is Recuperative:

This is more for the teller than anything else. Telling an intensely personal story is a form of therapy. Often my clients step back from the process with new insights into the experience we’re writing about.

Choosing not to tell your story is also tantamount to cheating yourself out of a unique opportunity to grow and sometimes heal with your past experience.

The answer to the “drop in the ocean” conundrum is not easy. And the task of writing a high quality book that is sellable in a competitive market isn’t as simple as it might sound. But it is an important task.

 

 

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How to develop setting in your story

How to develop setting in your story

In this post I want to give you some writing tips to develop setting in your writing. To get started, let’s take a look at one of the most popular television shows of all time – Star Trek.

“To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Star Trek offers an exciting premise, maybe the most exciting in television history. A universe of boundless possibility exists within that brief description. And for more than half a century the science-fiction property has delivered good on that promise over and over again.

How is that enduring quality possible? Setting.

Star Trek has benefited from a cast of memorable characters. Captain James T. Kirk. Spock. Data. Khan. Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Even science-fiction deniers will recognize those names.

The dynamics are rich too. Kirk and Spock work off of each other in fascinating ways. Their dynamic provides an endless pool of conflict from which the writers can draw. With Kirk passionately built on swashbuckling instincts and Spock grounded in that Vulcan logic, those two could do anything on-screen.

Without an inter-stellar setting however, even memorable characters like these would soon fall flat. Dynamics between Kirk and Spock could only carry the series so far into television lore.

But by setting these engaging heroes on board a moving spacecraft and giving them the mission of exploring whatever they find out there beyond the stars, the writers of Star Trek created a deep well of opportunity to present problems and broaden relationships.

Setting should open a door for your characters. Wait. That’s wrong. If you develop setting and execute it correctly, it should open many doors. In an episodic medium such as television, setting needs to open enough to develop character over many seasons.

What accounts for the success of hospital dramas like ER and Gray’s Anatomy? Like outer space, almost anything can happen in a hospital setting. Writers all too often merely scratch the surface in crafting a wide world and stop short of utilizing that world for all of its many promises.

If you’d like more help or ideas to develop setting in your manuscript, get in touch! Working with a ghostwriter is easier than you think and it could make the difference that turns your story into a masterpiece.

 

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Writing good dialogue – Ghostwriting Tips

Tips For Writing Good Dialogue

Advice from a pro

Writing good dialogue, authentic dialog is tough. People talk in nuanced ways that aren’t always easy to capture on the page. They say you need an ear for it.

How does someone hone that ear though?

Playwright David Mamet’s advice on the subject is famously simple and abrupt. The great Mamet once advised a room full of eager creative writing graduates to eschew graduate school. Instead, he said, find a bar, preferably a pool hall without a television where they could sit down and listen.

Seems simple. Replace tuition with bar tab.

I have taken David Mamet’s advice to heart. I do not play pool (at least not well) but I do take frequent trips to a comfy stool at the quiet bar down the street and simply listen to what people say. It has proven to be the best means of achieving dialog that sounds like real people.

Writing good dialog comes from refinement.

Here are five truths and tips to refining your character dialog to achieve that authentic tone.

Read It Out Loud:

This may sound simplistic but a lot of writers that I know are afraid to do it. And why?

Because their dialog sounds hammy and on the nose.

If you want that real voice, read it out loud and avoid adding your inflection at all costs. This is a critical step, especially if you’re writing a screenplay, which is in large part a performance of your dialog.

Think In Negotiations:

All dialog is a negotiation. Think of what you say on a day to day basis at work or at home. Verbal communication is an expression of desire or purpose, all with the intent of affecting someone else.

This applies even when a character is talking to themselves. Self-talk is grooming for future interactions.

There is a very simple exercise to sharpen this sense. Put two characters in a room. One wants something that the other has but they cannot name or ask for it.

Write it and see all the ways allusion and suggestion enrich the conversation.

Negative Space:

Allow for negative space in your dialog. People don’t always say everything they are thinking. Omissions are as important as inclusions. If your character conversations begin with a hearty hello and end with their chosen means of good-bye, your dialog is probably overwritten.

A way to get this down is follow a simple rule: arrive late and leave early.

Conversations Are Rhythmic:

Straight line conversations simply do not exist. I cannot express this more emphatically. No one walks into a room, announces their purpose, gets what they want and walks out.

One of the ways I work on this is recording conversations. Get permission then record a normal conversation and you’ll see that it’s a rhythmic construct of all the above elements.

Introductions. Negotiations. Negative Space. Repeat.

Mamet Is Correct:

The core truth in Mamet’s statement applies. You cannot learn to hear real dialog a from TV or movie. Writers must find their story subjects in the world and listen to how they talk, interact, negotiate and feel.

An easy tip for writing good dialogue: Go out. Find that barstool. Sit. Listen.

If you’re having trouble writing good dialogue, or with any other area of your work, it may be beneficial to consider working with a professional ghostwriter. A ghostwriter works with you behind the scenes to take your writing to the next level. Considering it? Get in touch!

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Three ways to develop characters – Advice from a pro

Three Ways To Develop Characters

Advice from a professional writer

As a ghostwriter, I get asked a lot by other writers for advice on different ways to develop characters. Human beings are dynamic creatures by nature. We get restless when things are the same for too long. Why then do most writers shy away from infusing their creations with an element of change?

When I read a manuscript or work on developing a story, I am frequently shocked at how writers refuse to shake their characters up. They stubbornly adhere to that first description. A character that looks the same at the end of the story as they did in the beginning probably did not endure much of transformation. They act the same and do the same things regardless of how much chaos the writer has crafted around them.

Here are three very simple ways to shake up your characters out of stasis and give them life.

APPEARANCE:

Perhaps the simplest of ways to develop characters that transform through the story is a change is in their appearance. Take a look at Walter White. Throughout the course of Breaking Bad, the writers alter his look in subtle ways and each one signals a massive shift in his character.

Goatee.

A rumpled fedora.

The shaved head goes from the result of chemotherapy to gangland persona.

After six seasons, White is physically different than the man who first got that awful diagnosis. Each subtle change effectively builds anticipation in the viewer, leaving them wondering what might come next.

All too often, writers put their character in an imaginary costume and leave them in one place. In some ways I can see how this tendency makes sense. A character takes time and energy to design. A dynamic and interesting character isn’t the promise of stasis though. They are the promise of change.

Signal that change to your reader. Show what’s happening on the inside with a change on the outside. Foreshadow. Does your character cut their hair an episode or chapter before their big announcement?

Little things like this keep readers reading and viewers viewing.

ROUTINE:

Routine is nice. We all have them. Get up at a certain hour. Eat lunch at a certain place. Most people I know break their routines in a routine way too. When they go out for a beer they hit the same bar.

Stories are not about the status quo. They are about people that challenge the assumption of same. “American Beauty” tells a story of little more than this, a man whose day to day strangled him.

Not every story about routine change features a Lester Burnham character. Your character can choose to walk instead of drive to work. They can steal a bike. A simple flat tire can put your character on the bus to work and the melting pot of a city bus can offer up new obstacles and opportunities.

Challenge their routine or your begging for their dismissal.

RESPONSE:

The last of the three ways to develop characters is a little more subtle but can be an equally effective of demonstrating character change. Say your downtrodden hero goes out to coffee every morning and the barista always seems to screw up the order, and every morning your character sucks it up, takes the wrong cup and walks away.

Maybe your story isn’t about the coffee, but showing your character standing up for themselves signals a bigger change to come. I like to use the little interactions in a story as a gateway. Maybe standing their ground and asking for the right cup of coffee sets in motion the main action that is asking out a cute boy.

These are three ways to develop characters that will keep your writing fresh and bring your characters to life. If you’ve got a good story, but just need little help to push it over the hump, let me help. As a professional ghostwriter, I solve these issues all the time and I know I can do the same for you.

 

 

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