Review: 'Lion' Is A Powerful True Story Of Loss And Hope

VideoWe’re just days away from the start of Oscar nomination voting, and less than four weeks away from the announcement of the list of official 89th Academy Award nominees. While there are always surprise nominations and unexpected omissions, a few films seem to be locks for nods. And one of […]
Source: Forbes

By | 2016-12-30T11:45:34+00:00 December 30th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |

19 Websites and Magazines That Want to Publish Your Personal Essays

They’re all over your Facebook feed, and for good reason. Personal essays by popular authors and novices alike are relatable, engrossing reads.

Sometimes, their heart-wrenching reflections stay with you for days.

For reporters or academics, it can be hard to step back from research rituals and write from personal experience. But a personal essay can endear you to an audience, bring attention to an issue, or simply provide comfort to a reader who’s “been there.”

“Writing nonfiction is not about telling your story,” says Ashley C. Ford, an essayist who emphasized the importance of creating a clear connection between your personal experience and universal topics. “It’s about telling interesting and worthy stories about the human condition using examples from your life.”

But don’t worry if your life doesn’t seem exciting or heart-wrenching enough to expound upon; think of it as writing through yourself, instead of about yourself. “There are few heroes and even fewer villains in real life,” she said. “If you’re going to write about your human experience, write the truth. It’s worth it to write what’s real.”

Where to submit your personal essays

Once you’ve penned your essay, which publications should you contact? We’ve all heard of — and likely submitted to — The New York Times’ Modern Love column, but that’s not the only outlet that accepts personal narratives.

“Submit to the places you love that publish work like yours,” Ford advises, but don’t get caught up in the size of the publication. And “recognize that at small publications you’re way more likely to find someone with the time to really help you edit a piece.

To help you find the right fit, we’ve compiled a list of 20 publications that accept essay submissions, as well as tips on how to pitch the editor, who to contact and, whenever possible, how much the outlet pays.

We’d love to make this list even more useful, so if you have additional ideas or details for these publications or others, please leave them below in the comments!

1. Boston Globe

The Boston Globe Magazine Connections section seeks 650-word first-person essays on relationships of any kind. It pays, though how much is unclear. Submit to with “query” in the subject line.

Must-read personal essay:Duel of the Airplane-Boarding Dawdlers,” by Art Sesnovich

2. Extra Crispy

Send your pitches about breakfast, brunch, or the culture of mornings to or the editor of the section you’re pitching. Pay appears to be around 40 cents per word.

Must-read personal essay: Gina Vaynshteyn’s “When Dumplings Are Resistance

3. Dame Magazine

This publication is aimed at women over 30. “We aim to entertain, inform, and inspire,” the editors note, “But mostly entertain.” Send your pitch to Pay varies.

Must-read personal essay: “I Donated My Dead Body to Give My Life Purpose,” By Ann Votaw

4. Full Grown People

Essays — 4,000 words max — should have a “literary quality.” Include your work in the body of your email to make it easy for the editor to review, and send to No pay.

Must-read personal essay: “Call My Name” by Gina Easley.

5. Kveller

Want to write for this Jewish parenting site? To submit, email with “submission” somewhere in the subject line. Include a brief bio, contact information, and your complete original blog post of 700 words max. Suggested word count is 500-700 words. The site pays $25 per post.

Must-read personal essay: B.J. Epstein’s “How I’m Trying to Teach Charity to My Toddler

personal essays

6. Luna Luna

A progressive, feminist magazine that welcomes all genders to submit content. Email your pitch or full submission. There’s no pay, but it’s a supportive place for a first-time essayist.

Must-read personal essay:My Body Dysmorphia, Myself” by Joanna C. Valente

7. New Statesman

This U.K. magazine has a helpful contributor’s guide. Unsolicited submissions, while rarely accepted, are paid; if an editor likes your pitch, you’ll hear back in 24 hours.

Must-read personal essay: The Long Ride to Riyadh,” by Dave Eggers

8. The New York Times

The popular Modern Love feature accepts submissions of 1,700 words max at Include a Word attachment, but also paste the text into your message. Consult the Times’ page on pitching first, and like Modern Love on Facebook for even more insight. Rumor has it that a successful submission will earn you $250. (Correction added Oct. 9, 2014: Payment is $300, The New York Times writes on its Facebook page.)

Amy Sutherland’s column, “What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage,” which ran in 2006, landed her a book contract with Random House and a movie deal with Lionsgate, which is in preproduction. “I never saw either coming,” Sutherland said.

Another option is the Lives column in the New York Times Magazine. To submit, email

Must-read personal essay: When a Couch is More Than a Couch” by Nina Riggs

9. Salon

Salon accepts articles and story pitches to the appropriate section with “Editorial Submission” in the subject line and the query/submission in the body of the email. Include your writing background or qualifications, along with links to three or four clips.

“I was compensated $150 for my essay,” says Alexis Grant, founder of The Write Life, “but that was several years ago. All in all, working with the editor there was a great experience.” Who Pays Writers reports average pay of about 10 cents per word.

Must-read personal essay:I Fell in Love with a Megachurch,” by Alexis Grant

10. Slate

Indicate the section you’re pitching and “article submission” in your subject line, and send to Average reported pay is about 23 cents per word.

Must-read personal essay: Justin Peters’ “I Sold Bill Murray a Beer at Wrigley Field

11. Slice

Each print issue has a specific cultural theme and welcomes both fiction and nonfiction. Stories and essays of 5,000 words max earn up to $250. Review periods are limited, so check their submission guidelines to make sure your work will be read with the next issue in mind. Submit online.

Must-read personal essay: Fire Island,” by Christopher Locke

12. The Billfold

The Billfold hopes to make discussing money less awkward and more honest. Send your pitch to Who Pays Writers notes a  rate of about 3 cents per word, but this writer would consider the experience and exposure to be worth the low pay.

Must-read personal essay: The Story of a F*** Off Fund,” by Paulette Perhach

13. Motherwell

Motherwell seeks parenting-related personal essay submissions of up to 1200 words. Submit a full piece; all contributors are paid.

Must-read personal essay: “The Length of the Pause” by Tanya Mozias Slavin

14. The Bold Italic

This publication focuses on California’s Bay Area. Strong POV and a compelling personal writing style are key. Pay varies. Email

Must-read personal essay:The San Francisco Preschool Popularity Contest,” by Rhea St. Julien

15. Bustle

Submit essays of 800-2000 words to this lifestyle site geared toward women. Pay averages about 5 cents per word.

Must-read personal essay:Is Picky Eating An Eating Disorder?” by Kaleigh Roberts

16. The Rumpus

Focuses on essays that “intersect culture.” Submit finished essays online in the category that fits best. Wait three months before following up.

Must-read personal essay:Not a Widow” by Michelle Miller

17. The Penny Hoarder

This personal-finance website welcomes submissions that discuss ways to make or save money. Read the guidelines before emailing your submission. Pay varies.

Must-read personal essay: This Family’s Drastic Decision Will Help Them Pay Off $100K in Debt in 5 Years” by Maggie Moore

18. Tin House

Submit a story or essay of 10,000 words max in either September or March. Wait six days before emailing to check the status of your submission. Cover letters should include a word count and indicate whether the submission is fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.

Pay varies.

Must-read personal essay:More with Less,” by Rachel Yoder

19. Narratively

Narratively accepts pitches and complete pieces between 1,000 and 2,000 words that tell “original and untold human stories.” Pay averages 6 cents per word.

Must-read personal essay: What Does a Therapist Do When She Has Turmoil of Her Own?” by Sherry Amatenstein

Still looking for ideas? Meghan Ward’s blog post, “20 Great Places to Publish Personal Essays,” is worth perusing. MediaBistro also offers a section called How to Pitch as part of their AvantGuild subscription, which has an annual fee of $55.

This post originally ran in October 2014. We updated it in December 2016.

Have other ideas or details to add? Share with us in the comments!

The post 19 Websites and Magazines That Want to Publish Your Personal Essays appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:33+00:00 December 30th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |

'Rogue One' Set to Close Out 2016 With Third Straight Weekend at #1

The final weekend of 2016 features no new wide releases, but should feature plenty of tickets sold across the country with most everyone getting an extended weekend off work and school. Just as last weekend saw Christmas Day fall on Sunday for the first time since 2011, this weekend sees New Year’s Day fall on Sunday, which means we’ll be looking closely at the same weekends from 2011 and 2005 for some inkling as to how this weekend’s holdovers should perform. That said, look for Rogue One:…
Source: Box Office Mojo

By | 2017-01-02T12:44:36+00:00 December 29th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |

'Lion' Director Garth Davis Talks Oscar Chances For One Of 2016's Best Films

VideoThe Oscar race is intensifying, but a handful of films appear to have established themselves asfrontrunners for nominations. One ofthe pictures with the strongest odds of an Oscar nod for Best Picture is Lion. The true story ofSaroo Brierley’s search for the home he lost as a child in India,

[…] Source: Forbes

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:33+00:00 December 29th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |

Write a Short Story Every Week — It’ll Help Your Writing Career

I have worshipped Ray Bradbury ever since I first read Martian Chronicles in high school, which immediately become one of my favorite books.

As I started researching him more as a writer, I discovered that his philosophy for success is incredibly simple:

Read a ton. Write a ton. Submit a ton. Repeat.

It is, perhaps, not the most elegant approach—it’s the artist’s equivalent of slamming your head into a wall, over and over, until you finally break through to the other side (especially when you think about all the rejection letters you’ll collect along the way).

But it is also a remarkably democratic approach to art—anyone can do this, and anyone can find success, if they simply persist. As a writer trying to work my way up, I find this comforting.

Even better, it seems to be a very effective approach, based on my own anecdotal observations of the authors who “make it.”  A few get lucky, sure, but the vast majority simply persist.

So I take Bradbury’s advice pretty seriously.

One of his most specific tips for writers is to write one story a week.

Why short stories?

New writers typically set their sights on writing a novel.

There are good reasons for this—it is the most popular form of written fiction, and by no coincidence, it is the form most of us are familiar with.

But most writers who tackle novels have to write a few of them before they actually get published.

A few.

My first novel took five years to write. I’ve gotten a bit more efficient since then, but still. That’s a massive time investment to simply learn the craft.

But what if you took a fresh stab at the foundational elements of storytelling every week instead of once every few years?

You’ll hone your craft a lot of faster.

Writing Short stories is the perfect way to do this.

Playing the odds

Writing a story a week also allows you to create a large body of work, which increases your odds of creating something publishable.

Or, as Bradbury put it:

“It’s not possible to write 52 bad stories in a row.”

When you put it that way, writing a story a week is simply putting the odds in your favor—something very few writers feel they have, and would do almost anything to gain.

And you’re not only improving your odds by quantity. You’re also improving your odds by quality.

With every new story, you’re learning something new about writing well and building up those creative writing muscles.

Get published

What do you do with all of those stories, once you have them? Submit them for publication.

Getting your work out there is another key element of Bradbury’s recipe for success.

In fact, he felt persistence in submissions was so important, he recommended focusing on the process itself (submissions), rather than the results (publication).

Bradbury recommended picking a wall and setting a goal of covering it in rejection slips. And, he promised that before you can reach this goal, you’ll be published.

Commit to stick with it

Writing a story a week is not for the faint-hearted. I have done this before, and it was a lot harder to do than I anticipated.

But it also forced me to come up with completely new ideas, focus on my craft and prioritize my writing.

If you work full-time or have other major demands on your time, I don’t recommend doing this all the time. Consider it a creative exercise for a shorter time period, like a few months.

Expect it to be hard, and be prepared to stick with it. In the end, you will be a better writer and have some great work to share with the world.

How do you practice your craft?

The post Write a Short Story Every Week — It’ll Help Your Writing Career appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:33+00:00 December 29th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |

Writer/Director John Fallon Talks About His New Film, The Shelter

by Ashley Scott Meyers

In this week’s episode I talk with screenwriter and director John Fallon about his latest film, The Shelter, which stars Michael Pare. We also talk about how he broke into the business and got his first few gigs as a screenwriter.

You can listen to the audio portion of the podcast by clicking here or through iTunes by clicking here.

You can also read a transcript of this episode.

Source: LA-Screenwriter

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:34+00:00 December 28th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |

Where To Turn For Advice When You’re Self-Publishing a Book

When I decided to self-publish my first book, I set out to learn all that I could about publishing and book promotion.

My first resource was the internet. And I saw all kinds of wondrous claims there:

Publish a book without all the hard work

Blog your book in 60 days

Earn $1,000,000 from an ebook

Get an army of reviewers working for you…

Skeptical, I put the internet aside and started reading books.

Once again, I found a wide variety of advice and gurus promoting courses, books, schemes and methods. Some made sense and were grounded in good marketing practices. Others made me shudder.

There was an ancient Chinese torture called “death by a thousand cuts.” The modern equivalent for self-published authors is insanity by a thousand pundits.

There’s so much advice out there on self-publishing. Hordes of people are rushing in to advise the growing armies of writers who want to publish.

Who should you listen to, and which approach makes sense?

Gurus and advisors have a role to play, but filter their advice through your own objectives.

Decide which voices to listen to, and whom to trust for advice.

As an author, you are the captain of your own ship. Choose your crew with care.

Set your own course

Only when you know where you’re going can you decide on the crew to bring along. Start by determining your unique goals and objectives.

  • Why do you want to write and publish a book?
  • How will you define success?
  • What’s more important to you: money, fame, personal growth, career growth?
  • Who is your ideal audience?

You can find a goal-setting worksheet here.

For every tactic, offer or suggestion, compare it to your objectives. For example, if your most important objective is getting your message out in the world through a book, then don’t listen to get-rich-from-your-book schemes.

Your core purpose and audience will serve as essential guides.

Find the compass points

Early mariners navigated by the constellations. Try the same thing yourself. Create constellations of authors and advisors to guide you on your journey.

Identify one or more living writers working in your genre whom you admire. Watch what they do.

Even if they publish their works traditionally, look at how their books are laid out, what kinds of marketing and promotion they use, etc. Subscribe to their email lists and comment on their blogs to develop a relationship.

When you hear a piece of advice, use their practices and personalities as a filter. For example, ask yourself: “In my position, before being famous, would Malcolm Gladwell have used this marketing tactic?”

Do the same thing for other experts:

  • Publishing consultants or advisers
  • Book marketing advisors

Read the posts on The Write Life and other places, evaluate what people are saying, and find those advisors who resonate for your particular needs and audience.

Add them to a list of people you follow – your virtual crew. I’m gradually compiling my own list of people I listen to about publishing and book marketing, and it may look different than yours.

Schedule and budget learning time

The path you set out on today will change over time, as the world of publishing and book promotion is constantly shifting. A change to the Amazon book ranking policy can throw dozens of promotion plans off course.

So budget a specific amount of time each week or month to learning. You might allocate the budget across different types of learning:

  • Daily: Commit to 15 minutes a day reading the blog posts of your “compass point” authors
  • Weekly: Set aside an hour a week to watch a webinar, attend a Twitter chat, etc.
  • Monthly: Commit to a monthly deep dive into your writing and publishing goals: reading a book, taking a course, or learning a new piece of software.

When something interesting lands in your email inbox, you won’t be tempted to drop everything and run with it. Simply add it to your learning pile, and look at in in your budgeted time.

Set sail with your crew

Armed with a strong understanding of your goals, audience, and guiding authors, you’re ready to read and filter the great advice on publishing, book promotion and the million little tasks of being a self-published author.

When you encounter a piece of advice or a new advisor:

  • Filter the advice through your objectives. If your most important objective is getting your message out, then you don’t need to listen to the get-rich-from-your-book schemes. Keep your core audience and purpose in mind, and use that as a guide.
  • Check in with your compass points. Do the authors that you admire use these tactics? Do you think they would? What would your list of virtual advisors recommend?
  • Sense the wind. By now you should have a good sense of what makes sense for you, in your own career. If you’re not comfortable with tactics someone recommends, tune them out.

Eventually you find your sea legs as an author.

The many small decisions of self-publishing become easier as you have a stronger sense of your course – your unique audience, purpose and voice. You will become more confident as a publisher and promoter of your own books. If you continue writing and publishing books, the investment in learning pays back many times over.

Enjoy the journey.  

The post Where To Turn For Advice When You’re Self-Publishing a Book appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:34+00:00 December 28th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |

Need Writing Inspiration? Try This Cool Brainstorming Technique

Sometimes, it’s hard to find things to write about.

But, if you examine your day-to-day life closely, you can find dozens or even hundreds of story ideas in a single day.

People always say you should write what you know. What could be more familiar than your own daily life and routine? Make some time each day to soak in the world around you and examine what you see closely in order to come up with fresh topics and ideas.

Find inspiration in your daily routine

At first, it might seem like eating cereal and buying light bulbs are just part of the tedium of life, and things no one would ever want to read about. But many people share these daily experiences, and shifting your perception can help you come up with a constant stream of fascinating story ideas.

Of course, it’s all a matter of how you present things.

An article about being bored waiting in line at the grocery store might not draw in readers (unless it’s a humor piece), but you might be able to place a story about things to do while you’re bored and waiting in line.

Are there any simple exercises you can do without attracting a ton of attention? Ways to organize your day or reinvigorate yourself with a few idle minutes? Great games to play on your phone? Consider writing stories that can help people navigate their day with “hacks” or tips to help improve their routine.

Search each day for story ideas

Let’s look at a sample daily routine and mine the day for story ideas.

Early in the morning, your alarm clock goes off, or perhaps you wake up naturally. You could write about the best ways to wake up (naturally vs. different types of alarm clocks) for a health and wellness publication. You could examine alarm clocks and how they work, new models, or review an upcoming alarm clock launch for a tech publication. Are there alarm clock apps you could write about?

If you delve into a topic, you’ll find dozens of possibilities for story ideas.

Are your pets scratching at the door ready to go outside? Pet publications are always looking for insightful ideas. Consider writing about how to get a new pet into a daily routine, the best pet-related products, toy trends, healthy food options, popular breeds and more.

Next, you start getting ready for the morning. Do you hop in the shower right away? What types of products do you use? You could write about people’s hygiene habits or dermatologist recommendations on how often to shower and which products to use for healthy skin.

Take a look at your beauty and hygiene products. Could you write about them for a health and wellness magazine and help people select the best products for their needs? Could you examine how the products are made or perhaps the environmental impacts of various products? How about an article on how to perfect your eyeliner or new makeup trends?

Now, it’s breakfast time. You can carefully examine your eating habits to come up with a wide variety of ideas. Do doctors have specific recommendations about the best times to eat? What are the best foods to eat? Are there new breakfast trends? Is there a new breakfast restaurant nearby to write about (perhaps with a fascinating owner)? Do you have great breakfast recipes?

Where does your food come from? Do you get your eggs from a local farmer? Consider farming magazines focusing on a profile of the owner, best practices for your climate, or the challenges and rewards of being a small family farmer. Consider local publications, farming, food, health and wellness, natural living, parenting, and trade magazines.

Do you have kids to get ready? Parent-focused publications could use content on tips to get kids ready on time, motivate sleepy teenagers, master homework routines, not forget things when running out the door, the best bedtime habits for happy mornings and healthy breakfasts, just to name a few.

Do you exercise in the morning? Whether you jog, practice yoga or enjoy another fitness routine, you can find plenty of ideas to pitch to health and wellness publications. And be sure to think broadly. If you practice yoga, consider writing about a local yoga teacher, a controversy in the yoga community, a new type of mat, how to find the best style of practice, how to introduce kids to yoga or even a story on pet yoga.

How does your work day begin? Do you head into an office or work from home? Consider pitching stories on commuting, workplace fashion, business, entrepreneurship, working from home and freelancing. How do you get to work? Do you drive? If so, consider pitching automotive publications about new navigation technology or upcoming vehicle improvements. If you bike or walk, consider pitching health and wellness, sports, women’s or men’s interest publications. Use public transit? Write about some of your experiences or local characters you meet along the way for local publications.

If you try this technique throughout your whole day, you can find dozens of story ideas each hour — if you think broadly enough!

Look for ideas online

Your search for inspiration and story ideas isn’t limited to your own experiences each day. Look online for even more ideas.

Sign up for email listservs and newsletters to get the latest releases in whatever fields you write about most often. Read the newsletters and emails you receive and spend time on social media and news sites.

See what people are talking about, and use these trends to develop story ideas. Is there a news development you’d like to write an op-ed about? An issue you’d like to examine more closely?

Sign up for Google Alerts to receive notification of topics and keywords that you select. This is a great way to track developments in certain fields, keep an eye on companies, and even search for your own name or business.

With these ideas, you can turn even the most mundane day into dozens or even hundreds of ideas.

Can you draw writing inspiration from your day? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

The post Need Writing Inspiration? Try This Cool Brainstorming Technique appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:34+00:00 December 27th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |

Self-Editing Basics: 10 Simple Ways to Edit Your Own Book

Writers’ victories are short-lived indeed.

For a brief moment after completing a first draft, writers sit back, breathe a sigh of relief, post a self-congratulatory humblebrag about finishing our manuscript, and then immediately think about that one character whose arc we forgot to complete, or that we’re pretty sure we overused the word “that,” or that those squiggly red lines scattered throughout our manuscript are surely incorrect.

In other words, the joys of #amwriting give way to the trials of #amediting.

As a strong (and biased) believer that every author needs an editor, your first line of literary defense shouldn’t be a professional editor. Rather, you need to learn how to self-edit before sending your manuscript off to be edited.

As a full-time editor, I witness dozens of simple mistakes authors constantly make. If only they’d take the time to learn and incorporate better self-editing techniques, they would become better writers, endear themselves to their editors, and maybe even save money on a professional edit.

Furthermore, beta readers and early reviewers will be grateful for the creation of a readable early draft.

If you’re ready to self-edit your book, consider these ten tips:

1. Rest your manuscript

“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” — Henry David Thoreau

When you’ve finished typing the last word of your masterpiece, set it aside for a few days. If you can stand it, set it aside for a week or more. In On Writing, Stephen King relates that he places his finished drafts in a drawer for at least six weeks before looking at them again.

Why rest your draft for so long? You want to try to forget everything you’ve written so that when you do come back to self-edit, the book almost seems as if someone else wrote it. You want fresh eyes, and the best way to do that is to rid your mind of what’s been filling it for so long.

2. Listen to your manuscript

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” — Dr. Seuss

Hearing your words spoken makes mistakes glaringly obvious. You can enlist a (very patient) friend to read it to you, or you can go the friendship-saving route, which has the benefit of being free: use your computer’s built-in speech synthesis function.

If you’re a Mac user, click the Apple logo at the top left of your screen, select System Preferences, click Accessibility, then click Speech. Choose a System Voice and Speaking Rate you can tolerate, then select “Speak selected text when the key is pressed.” If you want to change the keyboard combination, click “Change Key” and follow the directions. I prefer Option+Esc.

Once you’ve enabled your preferred shortcut key, simply highlight any text (within any program) that you want to hear read aloud. Then hit your shortcut keys and follow your words on-screen as your computer reads them aloud.

For PC users, make use of Narrator, part of the system’s Ease of Access Center. Press “Windows+U” and click “Start Narrator.” Since the program is intended for blind users, it will automatically begin to read any text your mouse encounters. To turn this off, hit “Control.” To have Narrator read a paragraph, place your cursor at its beginning and type “Caps Lock + I.” To have Narrator read an entire page, press “Caps Lock + U.”

3. Search for troubling words

“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” — Mark Twain

All writers have specific words and phrases that (which?) always cause them to (too?) second-guess whether (weather?) they’re (their?) using them correctly. If you know what your (you’re?) troubling words are, use your word processor’s search function to locate every possible variant of that word or phrase.

To help you consider what your troubling words might be, here’s a good starting list, excerpted from the first chapter of Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing:

  • a lot/alot
  • affect/effect
  • can/may
  • further/farther
  • good/well
  • i.e./e.g.
  • into/in to
  • it’s/its
  • lay/lie
  • less/fewer
  • that/who
  • their/they’re/there
  • then/than
  • who/whom
  • your/you’re

If you’re unsure of how to properly use these words, there’s no shame in looking them up. Grammar Girl likely has the answer, or check The Write Life’s post on 25 Editing Tips for Tightening Your Copy for invaluable tips.

edit books

4. Remove or replace your crutch words

“I can’t write five words but that I change seven.” – Dorothy Parker

Do you know the top-10 words you use most frequently in your manuscript?

Outside of necessary articles and prepositions, you may be surprised at what words you tend to use over and over. One client of mine used “suddenly” too often, making every action seem unnecessarily rushed. Personally, my crutch words tend to fly in the face of the age-old encouragement for all writers to “eschew obfuscation.”

In other words, I tend to cash in ten-dollar words when five-cent words suffice.

Scrivener makes it simple to discover your crutch words and is available for Mac, iOS, and Windows users. In Scrivener’s top menu, go to “Project > Text Statistics,” then click on the arrow next to “Word frequency.” If necessary, click the “Frequency” header twice to sort your words by frequency. You’ll then be presented with what could be a jarring list of the words you might be overusing. (To include your entire manuscript in the frequency count, be sure to have your entire manuscript selected in Scrivener’s Binder.)

For Microsoft Word users, there’s a free Word Usage and Frequency add-in, but other, less technical online solutions may also help, like’s Online Word Counter or WriteWords’ Word Frequency Counter.

No matter how you determine your crutch words, go back through your manuscript and see where you can remove or replace them.

5. Remove all double spaces at the end of sentences

“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” — Elmore Leonard

If tapping two spaces following your sentences is an age-old habit ingrained into you since before the dawn of modern digital typography, may I suggest ingraining another practice?

Conduct a find-and-replace search after you’re done writing. In Word, type two spaces in “find” and one space in “replace” and hit enter. Voila! You just time-traveled your manuscript into the 21st entury. (If you’re interested in why you should only use one space, read Slate’s Space Invaders: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period.)

6. Search for problematic punctuation

“An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

Are you a comma chameleon, adapting that otherwise innocent punctuation mark to do work it was never meant to do? Or does your manuscript need a semicolonoscopy — a thorough check-up on proper semicolon and colon placement?

If you know you have trouble with certain punctuation marks, conduct a search for that mark and figure out whether you’re using it correctly. If you’re still unsure, let your editor fix it, but make a note to ask him why.

7. Run spell check or use an automated editing program

“Be careful about reading health books. Some fine day you’ll die of a misprint.” — Markus Herz

I think writers become too accustomed to the colorful squiggles under words and sentences on their digital pages; I know I do. In an effort to get ideas on the page, we might run rampant over grammar and usage.

Yet those squiggles mean something. At the very least, run spell check before sending your manuscript to an editor or beta reader. It’s a built-in editor that I’m not sure every writer uses to their advantage. You may not accept every recommendation, but at least you’ll save your editor some time correcting basic errors.

You might also consider trying out automated editing programs. The Write Life’s From Grammarly to WordRake: A Review of 6 Automatic Editing Tools provides a great overview of six top editing services. I have yet to try them all, but I’m a fan of Grammarly.

8. Subscribe to The Chicago Manual of Style

“To write is human, to edit is divine.” — Stephen King

When an editor returns your manuscript, they may cite particular sections of The Chicago Manual of Style. If you’re unfamiliar with this Bible of the publishing industry, you may not be aware of precisely why the editor made a certain change.

By subscribing to CMOS (it’s only $35 a year), you’ll be able to look up issues on your own before sending your manuscript off to an editor or beta reader. Sure, you shouldn’t get too hung up on some of the issues (editors have their jobs for a reason), but learning more about the mechanics of writing can only help you become a better writer.

You can also buy the hardcopy version of The Chicago Manual of Style, but I recommend the online version for its ease of use.

9. Format accordingly

“The Real-World was a sprawling mess of a book in need of a good editor.” — Jasper Fforde

While preferred styles may differ from one editor to the next, you can show your professionalism by formatting your manuscript to conform to industry standards.

Such formatting makes it easier for beta readers to consume, and editors prefer industry-standard formatting, which allows them more time to edit your actual words instead of tweaking your formatting. Here are some basic formatting tips:

  • Send your manuscript as a Word document (.doc or .docx).
  • Use double-spaced line spacing. If you’ve already written your book with different line spacing, select all of your text in Word, click Format > Paragraph, then select “Double” in the drop down box under “Line spacing.”
  • Use a single space following periods.
  • Use black, 12-point, Times New Roman as the font.
  • Don’t hit tab to indent paragraphs. In Word, select all of your text, then set indentation using Format > Paragraph. Under “Indentation” and by “Left,” type .5. Under “Special,” choose “First line” from the drop down menu.
    [Note: Nonfiction authors may opt for no indention, but if they do so they must use full paragraph breaks between every paragraph.]
  • The first paragraph of any chapter, after a subheader, or following a bulleted or numbered list shouldn’t be indented.
  • Use page breaks between chapters. In Word, place the cursor at the end of a chapter, then click “Insert > Break > Page Break” in Word’s menu.

10. Don’t over-edit

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage — as long as you edit brilliantly.” — C. J. Cherryh

Set aside an hour or two to go through this list with your manuscript, but be careful about over-editing. You may start seeing unnecessary trees within your forest of words, but you don’t want to raze to the ground what you’ve toiled so hard to grow.

A middle path exists between exhausting yourself in a vain attempt for perfection and being too lazy to run spell check. Do yourself and your book a favor and self-edit, but be careful not to go overboard.

If you’re creating a professional product, your self-edits shouldn’t be your last line of defense against grammatical errors. In other words, I don’t offer this post to write myself out of a job. Even in going through the self-editing steps above, you’ll still need an editor to ensure that your manuscript is as polished as possible.

Plus, going through the editing process with a professional editor will help you become a better self-editor the next time you write a book.

Do you self-edit? What tips and tricks work best for you?

Photo by Tammy Strobel under Creative Commons

The post Self-Editing Basics: 10 Simple Ways to Edit Your Own Book appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:34+00:00 December 26th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |
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