Do You Ever Get Finished?
Welcome to Katzenhaus Books, where we tell - the stories behind the history.
RSS Follow Become a Fan

Delivered by FeedBurner


Recent Posts

My December
One More Before the Excitement Fades
Trumpets! Confetti! Funny Hats! Screaming Crowds!
Getting On with the Writing
Turning an Idea into a Business

Categories

A new contest
Abolition
absurdity
academic myopia
Almost Free
Amazon
ancestors
Announcement
apocalypse
Applications and software
Appomattox
Arnulf of Lisieux
art of speaking
attracting readers
audience
audio books
Author Central
Author Gifts
author's Plea
awards
baseball
basketball
Battle of Port Royal
Battles
biographical
blind artists
blockade
blog chain
Book Club Guides
Book Design
Book Launch
book stores
book trailer
bookstores
Boxed Set
bright ideas
Building a platform
business
Business plan
Busy-ness
butterflies
Career choices
cats
celebrations
cemetery research
Census
challenges
characterization
Characters
Charleston
children
children's books
choosing a publisher
Choosing a Title
Christmas
Christmas Past
Civil War
commercials
Computer Hacks
Confederates
Conferences
Connections
constitutional amendments
construction
Contract labor
cotton
Countdown Sale
Countdown to Launch
Cover Designs
Cover images
cutting and pasting
Cyber Monday
daily drama
daily events
Dead Mules
Deal of the Day
decisions
depression
diversions
dogs
Do-Overs
DRM
earthquake
e-book pricing
e-books
editing
elevator speech
elmore leonard
Elves and Holidays
Emancipation
England
English class
evidence
Excerpt
exclusivity
Exercise
Expertise
Facebook
fact and fiction
failures
fame and fortune
family affairs
Favorites
Fear of Failure
Fish
flood waters
flowers
food delights
Formatting
Fort Pulaski
free chapter
Free Days
freebies
Friendship
Frogmore
garden
gardens
genealogy
Getting organized
ghost stories
Giveaway
Goals
good business
good news
grammar cops
gratitude
gray horses
gripes
grocery shopping
guest blogs
Gullah
handicaps
Harriet Tubman
Hiatus
Historical background
Historical Fiction
historical puzzlers
historical thinking
history lessons
Holidays
home office
hope and kindness
horse races
horses
hurricanes
identifying your audience
illustrations
imagination
indie authors
Inspiration
inspirations
internet
internet history
intruders
ISBN
Kalamazoo
karma
Kindle
Kindle links
Kindle rankings
Kindle Serials
kings
Klout
Ku Klux Klan
Lack of co-ordination
landmarks
language
Laughs
launch dates
Laura Towne
Layouts
legal matters
lending library
Lessons learned
lessons unlearned
libraries
literary genres
local news
love story
making choices
Marketing
Matchbooks
medicine
medieval-isms
Meet the Characters
Memorial Day
memories
Milestones
military matters
mind-mapping
Misfis
Monthly Musings
name recognition
NaNoWriMo
Nellie Chase
New Blog
New Book
New England
New Research
New Year
newsletters
nonfiction
non-profits
nostalgia
Nurses
oddities
odds and ends
olympics
omens
opening lines
outrage
Oxford
Papacy
parties
Penn Center
photographs
picture book
Pinterest
Pinterest and copyrights
Pirates
planning ahead
plot
point of view
polite society
politics
portraits
powerful women
Predictions
pre-orders
press release
previews
pricing
Principles
procrastination
productivity
Profiles
Progress Report
Promotions
proofs
pros and cons
publishing
publishing companies
publishing ploys
publishing rights
pure sentimentality
puzzlements
quiz
rain
random thoughts
RBOC
read an ebook
readership
recipes
Reconstruction
Relaxation
research
Resolutions
reviews
road trip
rough draft
Roundhead Reports
royalties
rules
SALE
Sales
scams
schedules
Scoop It
ScoopIt
seasons
Secessionville
second edition
Second Mouse
self-publishing
settings
Shiloh
Short Stories
Silliness
slander
Slavery
small world
Smile of the Day
snow, living in the south
social media
software
software disasters
South Carolina
Speechless!
sports
Spring
story arc
Substitutes
Success
summer
Synopsis
Taking a Break
Taxes
Thank You
the difficulties of blogging
The Gideonites
Theme
Tongue-in-cheek
Traditions
trailer
Travelog
trilogies
trolls
Tweet
Twitter
Upcoming Events
using commas
Vacation
vacation photos
Valentine
video
Visitor
vocabulary
Volunteering
voting
warnings
weather
weather trauma
website
word counts
Word-of-Mouth
Words
Words of Warning
Writer Beware!
Writer's Block
Writing Advice
Writing as Career
writing process

Archives

December 2017
November 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010

powered by

"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Do You Ever Get Finished?


We've talked about awkward wording, misused words, bland adjectives, misplaced commas, and boring verbs.  What else could possibly be wrong?  Before you decide your book is perfect, let's try one final round of tweaking.

1. Eliminate all instances of passive voice.  A sentence will usually be much stronger if the subject is the one doing the action, not the object of someone else’s action.  “I was spanked by my father” is whiny. “My father spanked me” is angry and accusatory.  

How do you find passives? The various forms of the verb  “to be” (am, is, are, was, were, being, been) do not necessarily make a sentence passive, but it is hard to imagine a passive  sentence without one.  Every time you find one of these words,  ask yourself if the subject is acting or being acted upon. If the subject is not the actor, re-write the sentence.

Examples: “The child was being beaten by a bully.” (Passive — the subject is having something done to him.)
      “The child was beating the drum.”  (Active — the subject did the action.)

2. Check your dialogue. Does it sound like real people talking?  Try eavesdropping on real conversations while riding a bus or waiting in a checkout line.  You’ll see that people don’t often use complete sentences, and speakers don’t politely wait their turn.  They jump in whenever they feel like it.

Have  you used too much description in identifying the speakers?  Is it really necessary to identify the speaker? If your characters are strong, they will have distinctive speech patterns that will automatically identify them. You can usually get rid of “Tom said,” before every pronouncement.

 The only exception to that rule may be when you are handling a conversation in which more than three people are involved. And even in that circumstance, you probably don’t want to use any tags beyond “said” or “asked” or “answered.” Consider this example: “I don’t want to leave,” she sniffled.  Now, she may have said that, and she may have been sniffling at the same time, but she can’t sniffle (which involves breathing in) and speak (which involves breathing out) at the same time. If you are determined to keep every word, then punctuate it as two sentences: “I don’t want to leave.” She sniffled.

Don’t be too descriptive.  Let the speaker’s words tell the reader how the words were said. Consider this horrible example: “Help!” she shouted helplessly.  It conveys the same information  four times in four words: the word itself; the exclamation point; the descriptive tag, ‘she shouted”;and that ridiculous adverb at the end. “Help!” tells the reader everything necessary.

3. Vary your sentence structure and length. Don’t start every sentence by giving subject — verb — object. But don’t start every sentence with a conjunction, either. Personally, I really have to watch my habit of starting with an adverb or prepositional phrase. All grammatical sentences are acceptable. You just need variety to keep your reader awake.

4. Keep each page visually attractive.   Try staring at the page from across the room. Do you have enough white space to make the page look interesting? Make sure you don’t have lengthy segments of narrative. Dialog helps to keep up the pacing. Perhaps you give more description than is needed.  Does the page look like a solid block of print? Perhaps you need to break it into several shorter paragraphs, or add some dialogue in the middle.

At the other extreme, you don’t want a whole page full of dialog in which each person speaks only one or two words. If the page has a narrow band of print at the left margin, and gaping areas of white space on the right, you’ll need to break up the conversation with paragraphs of description.

5. Be sure your facts are consistent from one section of the book to another. If a character has blue eyes in chapter one, they probably won’t turn brown in chapter four.  If you speak of summer heat, don’t send your characters out sledding in the next few days. Check dates extra carefully. Don’t let a character die and then come back  to life, unless you are into zombies and vampires.

6. Check your transitions. Chapters should wrap up some loose ends but leave enough questions unanswered to make your reader want to keep reading. A new chapter may switch point of view, or location, or jump from one period of time to another. But if such changes take place, be sure to make them clear at the start. The first words of a new chapter may need to be some variety of these:
    •    “Meanwhile, back at the police station . . . .”
    •    “The next day, Tom traveled to . . . .”
    •    “After school, the children . . . .”
    •    “When the plane landed in Paris, . . . .”

Editing your work using these questions will produce a more readable book. Will it then be perfect? Of course not. You still must be on the alert for omitted articles and prepositions.  Look for spots where you may have done some cutting and pasting, leaving a few extraneous words behind. Other proof-reading tricks may help. Some people swear by reading the book backwards, which may draw your attention to misspelled words.  Enlist the help of willing friends, who may spot details your own eyes keep overlooking.

And then, once you’ve exhausted your own editing ability, pay for a professional editor.