Saturday, September 4, 2010

Make rules to control your own writing

For better or for worse, a self-publishing writer can write and publish almost anything which is not obscene or libelous; and, out of ignorance, ego or economic necessity, some self-pubbers don't have professional editing.

Unlike writers with contracts from traditional ("trade") publishers, a self-pubber who is smart enough to hire an editor can decide to ignore her. She probably won't quit in protest, and the self-pubber can't lose the book deal.

All writers have quirks that need to be controlled by their editors or by themselves. Sometimes an editor who is paid by a writer will be inclined not to make a correction ("heck, it's his personal style") that an editor paid by a publisher would correct.

That's why it's important for a self-pubber to recognize personal quirks and foibles and try hard to keep the undesirable, unnecessary or weird off the printed page.

Just as you should have a "style sheet" that specifies the type font for breaker heads and whether you capitalize the "W" in "web," it's good to have a list--at least in your head--of screw-ups to avoid.

One of my perpetual problems is giving too many examples. It's partly pedantry, which I inherited from my father. It may also be a bit of egomania, to show off how much I know.

My natural impulse is to write something like, "British automobile manufacturers--such as Jaguar, Rover, MG, Triumph, Vauxhall, Austin and Morris--had reputations for unreliable electrical systems."

Under my self-imposed limit, I am allowed ONLY THREE EXAMPLES," so I'd probably ditch Triumph, Vauxhall, Austin and Morris. I'd still make my point, and save some paper and trees.

In my first book about self-publishing, I wrote, "Certain words and phrases have become “buzzwords”— terms which ignite passions and pull dollars out of wallets, even if they are misused, mispronounced, or misunderstood. Some of the more successful buzzwords include “instant,” “digital,” “solid-state,” “organic,” “natural,” “personal,” “green,” “Dot-com,” “online,” “e-something,” “indie,” “virtual,” “i-something,” and “broadband.” Self-publishing has become a powerful, popular, and often misleading buzzword. Self-publishing is buzzing and booming for several reasons."

In my newest book about self-publishing (and in a coming revision of the first book), I slashed that section to be, "Self-publishing has become a powerful, popular and often misleading buzzword. Self-publishing is buzzing and booming for several reasons."

Do some self-therapy and see which aspects of your writing personality need to be controlled.

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