Archive for May, 2011

Words Can Be Confusing

Whether it’s because the English language incorporates so many words from other language origins or because we use words erroneously when we speak, there are many commonly confused words in English that you’ll want to be aware of in your writing.

Here are some examples.

  • Bring and Take–Use  bring when something moves toward the person. Use take when something is being moved away from the person.

Bring example: Bring me the remote control.

Take example: I don’t know what to take to the meeting (not bring to the meeting).

  • Can and May–Use can when you’re writing about something having ability. Use may when you’re writing about something being permitted.

Can example: With my new job, I can pay my bills on time.

May example: I’ll ask if I may go to the party.

  • Continually and Continuously–Use continually if your intention is to write about something having occasional interruption. Use continuously if your intention is to show no interruption.

Continually example: We hear loud music from that house continually.

Continuously: She listened to her favorite song continuously for two hours.

  • Data and Datum–Data is the plural of datum. Thus, if you are writing about one fact or statistic, datum is correct. If you are writing about more than one fact or statistic, use data.

Datum example: The datum suggests e-books currently sell better than print books.

Data example: The data for the past three months show e-books are outselling print books by a substantial number.

  • Disinterested and Uninterested–Use disinterested when you’re writing about something not influenced by self-interest. Use uninterested when you’re writing about someone simply not interested in something.

Disinterested example: I am a disinterested  party.

Uninterested example: I am uninterested in the topic.

  • Each other and One another–Use each other when you’re writing about two people.  Use one another when you’re writing about three or more people.

Each other example: The couple looked at each other with desire.

One another: The dinner guests greeted one another politely.

I’ve offered just a few examples of words I see writers commonly confuse. Books are in print a long time and your name is on your book as the author. Don’t undermine your credibility with sloppy writing. And don’t rely on your editor to save you. Frankly, many editors hang out their shingle but really aren’t very good. Some are fantastic and worth everything you pay them.  When you find a good book editor who understands your voice and understands grammar and punctuation and the Chicago Manual of Style (the book publishing industry standard), don’t let him/her go!

Happy writing!

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Who Do You Write For–Reader or Yourself?

I often ask the question in the title of this post in my presentations. After the deer-in-the-headlights look dissipates, I see smiles as audience members begin to think about their answers. One of our authors, Mark LeBlanc, says, “I believe in two right answers,” and in this case there are two right answers.

READER-BASED WRITING

You need to connect with your reader on some level. Here are the three best ways I know of to connect with readers.

  • Offer content that is satisfying and complete. By that, I mean content that doesn’t leave the reader scratching his or her head wondering what you’re writing about or trying to say.
  • Organize your writing so your reader can follow the flow. Use a structure that is appropriate. Genre fiction readers expect certain formulas, so give those formulas to them. Non-fiction readers expect to read about a concept, have the concept explained, then have it illustrated (typically with an example or story), and finally see the concept applied. So provide that structure.
  • Use effective expression in your writing. Expression deals with word choice, sentence structure, language use, etc.  Better to have readers comfortable reading you than to have them shocked or disgusted.

WRITER-BASED WRITING

You need to connect with yourself on some level as you write. If you’re not engaged in your writing, it will show and your reader will know. Here are the two ways I know of to write for yourself without excluding your reader.

  • Write about what interests you. When you care about your subject matter, you can’t help but put some energy into your writing because you’re excited about it. I’m not suggesting you go off a deep end or anything. I’m just saying to write about things that intrigue you or speak to you.
  • Consider writing as something that starts out physical and ends up as something  mental. By that I mean you, as writer, physically do your research, gather materials, then put pen to paper or hand to keyboard and begin the physical process of writing. You put words down in a physical form to share and you do that using the process that works for you. But when your reader reads your words, he or she absorbs them mentally and processes them that way too. You cannot control how your reader interprets your writing, but you can use your process to make it clear for the reader what your intention/meaning is in your writing.

So, who do you write for? I hope you live if a world of two right answers and say, “both reader and writer”!

Happy writing!

Book Signing Blues

Last week I participated in an “Authors Room” at a trade show. The event promotion folks did a great job creating signage that showed all the book covers, the book titles, and the authors’ names. They also did a great job with print media promotion before the event. Their website featured the event speakers and authors. And the four-color, multi-page program was very classy and well done.

But something went wrong in the event execution.

The Authors Room wasn’t set up on time. Authors stood in the hallway waiting with boxes of books. The hotel workmen scrambled to set up tables, but the room only held  six tables and there were eleven authors. Several authors brought along helpers to assist them, which made the room even more crowded and less inviting to anyone entering.

Crowded isn’t necessarily a negative thing–unless the crowd consists of authors selling and signing books rather than readers lining up to meet the authors and buy books.

As the workmen hurried, some of the more assertive authors raced into the room and grabbed the prime real estate of the first two tables near the door. Those authors were able to add their floor easels holding promotional material into the tiny space before the workmen finished setting up the rest of the room.

Some of the more polite authors ended up at the back of the room, stuffed in the corner and hardly visible.

The book signing was scheduled from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

One of our authors was there and she did everything right–her books were displayed well, she draped her table top with red satin (which made her spot stand out), she displayed an elevated prop for visual interest, and she mingled with the other authors in the room, which meant she wasn’t stuck behind a table looking bored.

By 7:00, the authors in the back of the room  packed up and left.  Within a half-hour, the remaining authors followed that lead.

Lessons? Despite the promoter doing everything right, the book signing was a bust from a sales perspective. The room was too small. It was located by the portable bar, so the people standing in line to get drinks blocked the entrance to the room. If a person did get inside the room, the set-up was uninviting–more reminiscent of dogs in an animal shelter looking  to be picked than an opportunity to meet authors and get books signed.

Perhaps it would have been better to schedule the signing for just an hour or two. Perhaps it would have been better to have a bigger room or fewer authors. Perhaps it would have been better to have some ambiance in the room other than authors staring at the door waiting for someone to come in.

I did sell books (one reader even wanted her photo taken with me). The author I shared my table with was a delight, and I wouldn’t have missed meeting her and sharing with her for anything. Sometimes the value in book signings is more than just selling books. I’m glad I was there.

Happy writing!