Building a website

website

It Can Be Done!

Building a website is fun, and, believe it or not, relatively easy.

I had no experience building a website when I sat down to attempt to do so, NONE, and, yeah, I was nearly run down by a runaway freight train of emotions before I even started.

The locomotive pulling that freight train was lack of self confidence, followed by a long string of cars laden with varying degrees of fear, nervousness, doubt, inadequacy – pick a negative emotion, any negative emotion. The caboose took a long time arriving. A bunch of Yahoos were leaning out its windows and over the rear railing yelling at me that I was just too damn stupid to even try to accomplish such a lofty goal.

My ego, Mot (see “My massive ego website,” four blogs below this one) poked me in the ribs as the caboose disappeared around a nearby bend, reminding me that he was not going to give me any rest until the website was complete.

But where to begin?

I began where I usually begin – on Google. Once again that research drone raises its ugly head. If you intend to do most of heavy lifting yourself, including building your own website, get used to doing research, or be prepared to spend sack-fulls of sheckels.

I Googled “how to build a website” and all the rest fell into place. Well, it didn’t just fall into place. I had to follow instructions. I can do that and I did.

Please remember that the website to which I am referring is not this website. It is theriddleofriddles.com website that I created for my book. This website was created by professionals at a later date as a venue for me, the author. More on that in the next blog.

If you Google “how to build a website” right now, you will get pages and pages of instructions, YouTube videos, tutorials, book offerings, etc, some of which are free. There is a wealth of information there.

I noodled around, exploring various options, reading what was being offered, before I decided on a course of action.  Out of all the information I found I decided to buy an ebook that caught my attention. It is entitled “How to Build a Website with WordPress…Fast” by Kent Mauresmo. The Kindle edition costs $2.99 and Amazon’s “one click” purchasing tool made that easy. (This tool is so easy as to be dangerous.)

I see that Amazon is now offering other similar books that were not listed when I started my research so I cannot comment on them. I am, however, quite satisfied with Mr. Mauresmo’s book. He led me through the process step by step.

Step one is to log in to your webhost which will take you to the basic WordPress theme. WordPress offers hundreds of themes and there are thousands more on line, some free.

Do not be frightened by new words like “themes” or “widgets” or whatever. If you come across a word you do not understand Google it. Find out what it means and how it applies to your task. If you still don’t get it, move on. Sometimes frequent usage of a term can help make clear what it means and how it’s used.

Select a theme you like. I like themes that have moving slides on the home page because they seem more alive, and are able to display more information than a static homepage. I tried a number of different themes before selecting the Solidate Theme.

When you are on the homepage of your theme, at the very top, you will see either the name of the theme or your name. Click on that to display the website’s dashboard (also called the administration area). On the left margin you will see a list including: posts, pages, comments, appearance. Plugins, tools, etc. These are the tools that you can now use to customize your website. You can add pages or even change the look of the website by building your own menu. This is the fun part of creating your own website. You can do it your way.

On my website I set up three pages. The first page operates like a blog. I make periodic entries on this page which is my “Home” page. I also have an “About” page which describes my book and a “Contact” page which enables others to contact me by leaving me their names and email addresses (required) and a comment box.

Solidate came with only five slides but I added another bringing the total to six. I inserted pictures in each slide. I adjusted the speed at which the slides moved, the time between them. Then I changed the pictures again. I was having fun.

Another option is the use of “plugins.” These are extra goodies you can use to accomplish important tasks. There is a Meta Tag plugin that will help search engines find your site. Others include: All in One SEO Pack, XML Sitemaps, Jetpack, and many others. One is called Shareaholic. This is a plugin that inserts icons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other at the bottom of your blog so that you can share them. The book I was working from recommended the plugins listed above (and others.) I followed the directions and installed them. It was easy and I achieved a great sense of satisfaction when done.

Themes have widgets such as a search box, lists of past blogs, and email subscriptions among others that you drag and drop where you want to place them. When you look at your theme before you start altering it, you will see language that looks like some kind of pig-Latin, or foreign language. These are just place holders and will be changed as you move your widgets around or type in new text.

When I had completed most of the author’s suggestions and they seemed to be working properly, I Goggled my website name. Bingo! There it was, and, boy, did I feel proud the first time I saw my own handiwork on the World Wide Web. Considering my ignorance when I first began I did OK. No, I did better than OK. I did good.  I did that! Wow! And if I can do this so can you.

Selecting a Web Hosting Service

web host

Selecting a Web Host

Selecting a web hosting service is our next step on the long and winding road to that cloud-floating castle in the sky where “authors” abide.

If you Google “web hosting services” you will find a number of sites listing their assessments of the top 10 best web hosting companies. They generally list the same top companies, albeit in different orders. These sites contain reviews of what each web host offers as well as price comparisons. You can also Google “web hosting reviews” for further comparisons. Take your time to review them so you can winnow the top 10 down to your top 3, and then make your decision from there.

Here is another take on choosing a web hosting service that I just recently found on Google+. It is written by Helen Nunia who has also written numerous other useful articles. Here’s the link:  http://www.webmastersun.com/blog/how-to-choose-a-good-web-hosting-company/. You can weigh her ideas against mine to get an even broader view on the subject.

At the time (approx. 1 year ago) my research had me tinkering with the following three web hosting services:  Internet Options, Inmotion Hosting, and Web Hosting Hub. Internet Options was on my list because it was highly recommended by a knowledgeable friend. I included Inmotion Hosting and Web Hosting Hub as the other two in my top three because of their reviews. Their fees were all comparable.

I disregarded Go Daddy because it is such a large company and I was afraid I would get lost amidst the multitudes, but this was just my own personal idiosyncrasy. Likewise, iPage did not then have the status it does now or it would have been in the running. As we know, the internet and its offshoots rapidly evolve.

In the end I choose Web Hosting Hub because of the wide variety of services it offered, because it was responsive to my inquires, and because of its reviews.

An aside here;  I find reviews to be an invaluable resource for making decisions on any number of subjects; books, restaurants, hotels, tools, you name it. I usually only read a couple of 4 and 5 star reviews because I find I get more valuable information from the 1 and 2 star reviews.

My experiences with Web Hosting Hub have been excellent. Their support staff is great with a few exceptions here and there. When I called and requested information to which they did not have a ready answer, I was sent an email with suggested solutions. Unfortunately, the emails were occasionally outdated. I got the feeling that the particular individual with whom I had just been dealing did not want to be bothered finding an answer for me. Most of the time, however, they were fine.

Once you decide on a web host they will register your domain name for you if you have not already done so. Your web hosting service will act like a nanny for your website for a fee payable monthly, quarterly or yearly. It is pretty basic and they will lead you through the process step by step. Questions can be answered 24/7 on their support lines.

I decided that I was going to build my own web site because I did not have the money to hire a professional. I learned that hiring a professional cost thousands and thousands of dollars, thousands of dollars I do not have. I did not know what building a web site entailed, so I had to snuff it up, and do the best I could.

It became apparent pretty quickly that the best bet for creating my own website was to use WordPress. WordPress is a free software tool used to build custom websites and it is so commonplace that all the web hosting services that I visited utilize it. I have no experience in building a web site other than that I gained working with WordPress.

There is WordPress.org and WordPress.com, each offering slightly different features. Here is a link that compares the two so you can make up your own mind which one is best for you: http://diythemes.com/thesis/rtfm/differences-wordpress-com-org/. I choose to go the .com route because I wanted my website to be more on the professional side.

Before I wrap up this post I want to call to your attention to the fact that the title of this blog and the first sentence use exactly the same words. This is the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) factor that I mentioned in my last blog that enhances the placement of your website on the internet. I have, however, come upon another opinion that states that the most important characteristic for websites to get high SEO ratings is the quality of their content. Going for both can’t hurt.

Search Engine Optimization is a wide-ranging, ever-changing subject all its own that falls under the even wider topic of marketing. These subjects will be explored in future blogs

So, we have chosen our domain name(s), our web hosting service, and will be using WordPress to build our own website. The fun now begins, We will next be creating our own websites.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Domain names – the first step in building websites

Let's start building a website

Let’s start building a website

The selection of domain names is the first step when building websites. Your domain name is the title that will identify your website. This sounds simple enough and, in most cases, it is, but there are a couple of aspects of this process you should be aware of.

Please note the structure of the first sentence of this post. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) recommends that the title of a post and its first sentence use the same words, the same phraseology. This approach helps maximize the probability of search engines such as Google, Internet Explorer, Firefox, et al, of finding your post. I’m still new to learning about SEO, and will let you know what I learn as we progress. It all has to do with marketing. If you expect to sell any books, I hope you have already begun your own research into marketing. The Marquis de Sade could learn a lot about cruel and unusual punishment by studying marketing.

After I screwed up enough courage to attempt to build my own website, I needed all the information I could find on how to go about doing so. I needed a bare-bones, step by step outline to follow.

I keep harping on research for good reason. This is the only way I know of how to gather what I need to know. Daily, day (and night) long assignations with Google started making my wife jealous, until she saw how in despair I was with such a demanding mistress. But putting in the time is necessary. I know what you’re thinking here. You need every spare minute for your writing. Believe me, I feel the same way. So, unless you intend to hire outside help, which is entirely possible and, at times, necessary, you will have to spend (great word) time learning how to build a website. In fact, that’s why you are reading this now, in hopes that I can save you some time by telling you what I have learned. I hope I’m helping.

I Googled “how to build a website” and found pages of entries on how to accomplish this goal. Of these, the one with which I was most impressed, the one I used, was entitled, “How to Start/Create Your Own Website: The Beginner’s A-Z Guide” by Christopher Heng. He leads us by the hand through all the intricacies of creating a website. There are links throughout his presentation that enable you to further explore individual subjects about which you feel you may need more prompting. It’s a great source. Check it out. Here’s the link:

http://www.thesitewizard.com/gettingstarted/startwebsite.shtml

As I mentioned in the opening sentence of this post, step one is selecting and registering your domain name(s). Christopher Heng (above) warns about the unscrupulous vermin out there who hover online watching to see what domain names are being checked. If you do not immediately register that name they will scoop it up first, and hold it hostage, only to be released after paying a handsome ransom. Luckily, I have not had that experience.

Choosing the right domain name is critical for building an online presence. You want to be found as easily as possible, preferably on page one of each search engine. In my case I choose to use the name of my book, The Riddle of Riddles, because, I felt, it was catchy, and easy enough to remember.

So, select a name that is relatively short, sweet, and to the point, and make it the name of your website. I’ve read, somewhere, that only 5-7% of the millions of domain names that are out there resonate with the public. So, make your domain name count.

Once you’ve selected a name, you must find out if it is available. Google “domain names” and you will find a list of websites on which you will be able to search to see if your domain name is available. Enter the name you selected, with the suffix you desire (.com, .net, .org, etc) to find if it’s available. If it is, you must resister it to make it your own. You can sometimes register your domain right then and there depending on which site you selected. The fees range from about $2 or $3 up to about $10/yr. and must be renewed each year. Depending on how important your website name is to you, you also may consider  registering one or more of the other suffixes listed above, so that no one else can use them. If you do, you can “park” them on your web hosting site where they will be safe. You can also register your domain names directly through the web host that you select. That’s next..FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Blog and/or Website

blog

Your blog is on your website

Having been brow-beaten by my massive ego (see previous post) into building a blog and/or website, my next step was to determine whether or not I needed just a blog, or just a website, or both. It turns out that the correct answer, for me, was both, and, much to my happy surprise, I discovered that a website can also function as a blog. Eureka!

I was so green early on that I did not even know the difference between a blog and a website. This is what I learned.

The term blog is a portmanteau for web and log, combined to read blog. A blog consists of entries called “posts” written by the author of the blog. These posts appear with the latest on top, and previous posts beneath it (reverse chronological order.)

Blogs were usually the solitary efforts of individuals writing about whatever it was that interested them that day. Today, blogs are written by groups, institutions, corporations, whatever.

A website, on the other hand, is a group of pages usually organized around one central theme. The page titles are listed on a top banner, and indicate the major features of that website. For example, as a writer, I wanted to create a website dedicated to my book The Riddle of Riddles. So, I created three pages for that website: Home, About, and Contact.

My Home page contains regular postings (my blog) of assorted riddles. The About page contains a brief blurb about the book, and the Contact page enables readers to contact me by leaving their names, email addresses and whatever comments they have in mind.

I have referred many times to research in my previous blogs. The reason is that research is the only way I know to discover the information needed to move forward towards our common goal of becoming authors. Keep in mind, however, that what works for me may not necessarily refer to you.

While exploring various ideas to get my website noticed (MARKETING, MARKETING, MARKETING) I hit on the idea that two websites would be better than one. I would create one for my book, and a separate one for me as an author.

The reason for this is that I would place the emphasis on the book, The Riddle of Riddles, by periodically posting riddles on the book’s website, and posting the answers to those riddles on my author website. The idea is to generate cross-referencing, and, as a result, expose both the book and author.

This idea occurred to me after I had build the RofR website, and realized that, as an author with subsequent books in mind, I needed to also highlight the author, me, as well as my current book. If you Google major authors NONE of them do this. They have a page, or pages, listing their various titles. So, I could be wasting my efforts with this approach. As I mentioned before, what works for me (or doesn’t) may not work (or might) for you.

Upon completion of the website for my book, I hired professionals to create my author website. I did this because I am a coward. This was my first effort at creating a website, and I was so unsure of my abilities that I wanted to make sure that I got at least one site done correctly.

Guess what? I did a pretty good job on my own. I have to admit, though, that the reassurance I got comparing my work to that of the professionals, was sorely needed. Whew! I did OK.

There is much more to this and I will follow up in my next BLOG post here on my WEBSITE with the steps I took, and am continuing to take, to maintain my progress toward becoming an author.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

My massive ego website

My massive ego

My massive ego

My massive ego, being what he is, demanded that I satisfy his lust for fame by creating a website.  Being shy myself, and not knowing anything about websites, I was reluctant to give in to his unyielding demands.  In fact, I ignored his demands for years, but as time passed he became more and more insistent.  Finally, he would not let me sleep.  My eyes would pop open in the middle of the night, and there he would be, sitting on my chest, staring down at me until I got up.

I’ll call him Mot.  That’s French for word and it’s my nickname spelled backwards.

I tried to put Mot off by grabbing a cup of coffee, catching up on the late-night news, reading my emails, anything – except building a website I knew nothing about just to make him happy.  All the while he would follow me around like my shadow, trailing me, mere inches behind.  Every once in a while, if I was silly enough to believe that he had gone to sleep, I would glance over my shoulder but, sure enough, there was Mot staring blankly back at me.  His stare was not really blank at all. On the surface it did appear to be vacant, but glints of cunning peeked in from around its edges. It was embarrassing. He would not leave me alone.

Mot was never nasty, but he was uncompromising.  Occasionally he would try logical arguments, and those were actually the only times we really got along.  He did make some good points about how I had succeeded in other difficult endeavors in my life, and how those successes had satisfied me.  He often resorted to praising me, telling me how intelligent I am, and how easy this new project would be.  He knew all my weaknesses, and preyed on every one until, finally, he did get his way and I agreed to build him his website, um…our website.

It was only after I discovered the importance of marketing that I realized that he had been right all along. A website is crucial to successful marketing, but I couldn’t tell him that or I’d never hear the end of it. Come to think of it, he probably already knows all of this but is letting me slide for some diabolical purpose all his own.

I started out by researching everything and anything I could about creating websites.  Since I knew nothing,  I read a lot of useless information, went down too many dead-end paths.  However, little by little, I found my way.  In fact, some of the dead ends had value in what they taught me to avoid.

I was so green at this that I often had to stop my research just to look up the meanings of the terms being used.  Wikipedia became my best friend but Mot never got jealous.  He seemed to thrive in the ménage-a-trios of it all.

Still, he would not let me sleep until the website was 100% completed.  By this time we had become co-conspirators, although he never came up with any creative ideas except schemes to make himself look good.  He left all the heavy lifting to me.

Mot struts around now with a self-satisfied smile, even though he actually did none of the work.  He leaves me alone for the most part, so we’re getting along better, and I must admit that I am proud that I completed such an involved project, and that it came out reasonably well. So, he was right about that. You can check it out at www.thomasmcgann.com if you’d like.

I wish I was unable to let him know he was right, but he reads my mind so that satisfaction will forever evade me. Even now he is now probably laughing up his sleeve as I write this.

Good night, Mot!FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Research, research and more research

internet

The Internet is for research

Publishing a book? Get ready to immerse yourself in research, research and more research. Unless you are already in the industry, once you decide to become an indie-publisher, the learning curve gets steep, very steep.

Prior to the days of print-on-demand (POD), if a writer could not get read by a publishing house, he/she could not get published. And yeah, rejection sucks.

Sure, there were the Vanity publishers out there, vultures only too anxious to strip whatever cash we had from the bare bones of our bank accounts, leaving us with a garage or basement full of books that we had no idea what to do with.

That was not for me. While I knew the value of my work, my conceit did not blind me to the realities of the marketplace – or the greed of those willing to prey on those who were so blinded.

Then, one day, the sun came up on a new world. Scientific progress rewarded us with the internet, the advent of indie-publishing, and the ability to take charge of our own destinies.

Thank God for the internet. We are truly blessed to live with this incredible tool at hand. The answers to anything it seems (except a truthful accounting of how politicians spend our money), are only mouse-clicks away.

Becoming a published author is now a viable option. But who publishes indie-authors and what are their requirements? Those questions immersed me, like a post-grad student, in research, research and more research.

These are some of the major topics I found that needed addressing:

  • Create a website
  • Compare POD publishing companies such as CreateSpace, Virtual Bookworm, Lulu, etc.
  • Join social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, and YouTube
  • Find a copy editor, a proofreader, and a book formatter
  • Find a book cover expert
  • Create a book trailer
  • Crowd funding is available if needed
  • Marketing, marketing, and more marketing

There are other ancillary subjects (such as MailChimp, etc), too numerous to list, which came up in my research and needed investigation. Any that prove to be important will be discussed in future blogs.

There were lots of dead-ends and false leads, usually because of my own ignorance. I did contact some individuals who were very generous with their time and advice, but whose input, I later learned, did not apply to my specific needs. Everyone I have been in contact with has been very understanding and most helpful (OK, there were a few curmudgeons.)

Being unfamiliar with the industry jargon was, and continues to be, a major problem. While reading I often came on terminology with which I was unfamiliar. What was the difference between downloading and uploading? (That’s how green I was.) What is back-linking and how important is it really? And then there is the library of abbreviations: API, SGML, VeRO, XML, etc, etc, etc.

Each new concept, each new term, each new abbreviation, required defining. Then I had to find out what each of these items did and did not do. Some ideas mattered and some didn’t but I couldn’t tell which was which without the research. I’m sure I’ve missed some concepts that are important but I work alone, like most of us, and I can only do so much.

Early on, and throughout my research, MARKETING established itself as the PRIMARY concern. With some 3000 books being published daily how was one to get noticed in this blizzard of words? Marketing is a subject in and of itself. More on that later, much more.

My research continues. I am moving forward with the information I have while continuing to keep an eye open for new ideas I think may prove useful.

Writing a book, and actually getting it published, is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Soldier on!FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Rejection sucks

rejection

REJECTIONS SUCKS!

If you’re a writer you’ve been rejected. It comes with the territory. That does not mean that you have to like it, accept it or chalk it up as some kind of (choke) learning experience. Rejection sucks, whether it is your manuscript or a date to the senior prom. It sucks.

As writers we can “accept” rejection as a fact of life without “accepting” rejection as screwing down the lids of our coffins. We accept that some ivory-tower-snob, who has never written anything other than a rejection letter, just doesn’t get it, doesn’t understand the art of writing. We don’t hate them (grrr). We shake our heads and go on with our work.

But rejection is not an easy emotion to dismiss. It is an attack on our spirit. It is like an attack on our children. We get protective.

When I first started my journey of becoming an author I knew nothing about the industry other than how to write. I knew the odds of getting published by a major publishing firm were thin slim. I counseled myself against any expectation that I would be one of the lucky few, but it did not help when it came time for my first submission.

I hand-carried my manuscript to one of the major publishers in NYC. The company owned the whole building, maybe the whole block. There was a guard in the lobby to stop guys just like me from delivering their “over-the-transom” manuscripts. I ignored him and went straight to the building directory, found the floor I was looking for and went to the elevator. The guard must have thought I knew what I was doing because he smiled at me as I passed. I smiled back.

I found the office I was looking for and was surprised to be greeted by an exceptionally good-looking woman. I gave her my elevator spiel[1], trying not to be distracted by her looks. She accepted my manuscript with a “thank you,” a handshake and a quizzical look. I smiled and left, skipping down the sidewalk, believing in the power of fate.

Several long months later I was humiliated to find my rejected manuscript stuffed into my mailbox like an aborted fetus.  All my self-counseling about rejection was to no avail. As I pulled my rolled-up, mutilated manuscript from the mailbox, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I was instantly depressed, the kind of depression not easily shaken.

But then I got pissed. Defiance overcame me. I will be published!

But how?FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

 

[1] Picture this: You’re in an elevator. The lead editor gets on the same elevator. You have seconds to give him your elevator spiel before he/she gets off. You’d better make it good.

Copy editing is essential – Part II

Copy editing is essential

I had heard through the grape vine that copy editing was essential but I knew that my English skills were so good that I didn’t need no stinkin’ copy editor.

Well maybe…

After all those rewrites, I did recall some errors I had made but had not immediately corrected. I could do another rewrite (groan), or I could test my skills by sending my manuscript out to a copy editor, just to prove how good I really am.

I researched copy editing and, invariably, the advice was always the same. Do not think you can copy edit yourself. Do not let your girl/boy friend, husband/wife, significant other, do it for you. Do not allow that uncle, the one who “writes” for the local newspaper, edit it. Do not expect some college professor you know, to do the editing. Copy editing is essential. Hire a stranger. Hire a professional. Hire a strange professional.

I started a discussion on the Book Marketing Group on LinkedIn to which I belong, looking for copy editors. Of the ten, or so, replies I received, four asked me to send them 5–10 pages of my manuscript so they could see how much help I needed. They would correct what I sent them and tell me what their fee was depending on how much work was required to make it right.

I made the mistake of sending each of them a different segment of my work. In retrospect, it would have been wiser to send them all the same segment so I could compare their efforts.

After another week or so, I received all their replies. Even though I had only sent out a few pages they found many mistakes. It looked like I would need a copy editor after all.

Their fees varied from several hundred dollars up to well over $1000 dollars.

One of the editors, by the name of Jeni Chappelle, included a comment that my work reminded her of a writer by the name of Neil Gaiman. I am a fantasy writer but I had never heard of this guy. Please do not laugh

The book that she mentioned was called The Graveyard Book. I borrowed a copy from my local library and enjoyed it immensely even though our subject matters differed greatly. If you have never read Neil Gaiman, and enjoy fantasy, I recommend you give him a go.

The fact that Jeni had gone out of her way to recommend a book she thought I might enjoy sold me on her services.

She had my manuscript for about two weeks as I recall, and when I got it back I was happy that I had heeded all the advice I researched. My English skills were not as expert as I thought. It seems that I have the bad habit of starting sentences with clauses. I also have a bad habit of using the passive voice. I never even heard of em dashes, and my use of italics was pitiful. I will not mention how bad my punctuation is. Gulp…I am not the scholar I thought I was.

In addition to pointing out my mistakes Jeni also made some recommendations about my consistency, ideas that I had not considered. She actually improved my content.

Then it was time to fix my mistakes. I corrected most of Jeni’s suggestions but there were a few instances where I preferred my style to hers.

Another step completed.

A copy editor is essential. Do not make the mistake of neglecting this vital step.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

 

Copy editing is essential – Part I

red pencil

The Infamous “Red Pencil”

Oh, you are so proud of your completed manuscript!

You can’t help but sit back and admire all your hard work. Good for you. You deserve it. Enjoy the moment but, and you already know this, you are far from being done. You are somewhere in the middle of the process of becoming an author.

You haven’t lost interest in your project have you? I hope not because the next step is editing and it gets yawn-boring. This also means you must send out your baby to have it carved up by a total stranger.

Here is a brief summary of what I have gleaned about editing from numerous websites:

There are basically three steps to this process. The first is substantive editing which can include expanding the scope of your work, altering the placement of whole sections, and eliminating content for the purpose of increasing the readability. It is the most expensive of the three steps and can run to several thousand dollars.

The second step is called copyediting and is, in my view, the most important. Copyeditors correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. They correct awkward sentence structure, and check for consistency in content and style. My editor picked up on some omissions in my consistency, and actually offered some ideas all her own. More on that later.

The copy editor will return your manuscript to you with suggested changes. They usually use the MS Word track change function which will show corrections within the text as well as comments about the text off to the right side of the page.

Once you receive your manuscript you proceed with the third step which is proofreading. You can hire the same person to serve as both copy editor and proofreader or you can hire a new set of eyes. This is the cheapest of the three services and usually costs in the vicinity of a couple of hundred dollars or so.

I finished my novel with an intact, coherent story line, so substantive editing was unnecessary. A thorough copy editing would probably suffice but did I even need that?

I am, after all, the product of Irish Christian Brother schooling. This was back in the days when bouncing your head off the blackboard when you got an answer wrong was expected punishment, when “Brother Ball and Chain Eddie” would fire glass ink-wells at us if we dared to doze off, and when you didn’t complain to your parents either because they’d bounce your head off the dining room table. There was even a time when crazy Billy…but that’s a whole other story.

I was taught Latin and English in sync. It was a rewarding experience. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was being taught to love language. Consequently, I consider myself something of a scholar when it comes to the English language, and this includes punctuation.

So did I really need a copy editor? Won’t a real careful reading with a red pencil in hand do? Yeah, I don’t need no stinkin’ copy editor. 

Or so I thought. 

Stay tuned.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill 

Rewrite your manuscript and then rewrite it again

again

Again?

At last! You have finished your manuscript, maybe even celebrated with a glass or two of a fine wine. Not so fast. Your work is far from done. It’s time for the dread rewrites.

As good as your manuscript is it is far from perfect. But you know that. You remember the mistakes you made here and there as the ideas came pouring out faster than you could write. It is now time to go back and fix those mistakes along with others you never realized you made.

Step one is to pick up your manuscript and start reading. With the backspace key and/or a red pencil, go over your baby and start correcting. You will be startled by the number of mistakes you find. But do not get discouraged. It just needs some work to polish it up.

If you persevere you will finish your first rewrite, the simple one with the most obvious corrections. Because of this rewrite you now know you have to go back and make some serious alterations. This part needs to be transposed with that part. Some sentence structures are just plain awkward and need rewording. A few sections may need to be deleted completely. As Stephen King says, “Carve up your baby.” Be blood-thirsty.

You will begin to recognize that you have a style all your own and, gulp, it needs improving. You use the same words over and over again. You have started some sentences with dangling participles. Forget about punctuation. We won’t even start discussing punctuation yet.

So you rewrite again. Now it’s getting boring. You know parts so well you can almost recite them. OK, put the work down, and take a break. Once you reach the stage where sentences no longer make logical sense anymore, once you become word-blinded, you need to stop.

Leave it be. Depending on your personality it may only take a few hours for recovery. For others it may take a day, a few days or even longer. If you feel drawn back to your manuscript, go pick it up and start reading. You will know if you are refreshed enough to begin again. If you are still word-blinded put it back down.

Don’t worry about losing your place or forgetting ideas as they come along. Your mind will not let the project go. You will be thinking about it while you’re thinking about it. Whole new ideas will come to mind and you’ll get excited all over again.

That’s when it’s time for the next rewrite. That’s right. I said the next rewrite and the next. There might even be subsequent rewrites in store. Boring! You bet. Boring but necessary. The beauty is you are making yourself a better writer all the while. You are honing your skills. You are working your way towards being the author you want to be. Congratulations.

Here is a link to one of the best, if not the best, descriptions of what it takes to be a writer that I have ever read. It is a piece from a writer named Chuck Wendig. Thank you, Chuck. You can skip what I write and read Chuck. You will not be sorry but be forewarned that it contains some purple prose.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill