Category Archives: Editing

Blog Maintenance for Beginners

blog maintenance and broken links

A good blog maintenance regime can save a lot of trouble

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Like most things, your blog needs a little tender, loving care once in a while. Most of us are so focused on adding valuable content that we often don’t pay much attention to what is already there.

Here’s the news: You need some blog maintenance. We all do. Blogs aren’t static things, you see. Stuff changes. Example: I recently checked my site for bad links. There were 23. So for all of you who think blog maintenance is not for them, think again. Here are a few tips to get you going:

Is your site mobile friendly?

This is one of my bugbears at the moment. You see an interesting link on Twitter, click it and it goes onto a site that has not been set up for smartphone. I use my Samsung mobile to access the web quite a lot, so I know – a large number of you haven’t set this up yet.

It makes sites difficult to navigate on mobile, especially if you add in one of those floating social media panels (which if you have one – stop it, please, they are annoying). There are plenty of plug-ins available that can convert your site to something more user friendly when people view it on smartphone. All you have to do is install it, the rest is done for you.

Want another reason? Smartphone usage has exploded in the last few years. According to the Business Insider, 1 in 5 of us own one and it’s fast becoming the tool of use for online shoppers and browsers. It can be viewed on the move, see, and people love it. You’re losing out on valuable readers if your content is not mobile friendly and too difficult to read.

Blog maintenance – broken links

blog maintenance typos

Typos can often be embarrassing

Checking your old pages for broken links is a must do piece of blog maintenance. Not only is it annoying for the reader when a link goes straight to a 404 page, but it’s also bad for your search ranking.

There are a couple of programs that can seek out bad links such as brokenlinkcheck.com which is free, or you could do it for yourself manually, though for large sites this could take a while.

But do it, you must.

Similarly, check that none of your images have disappeared. This, more often than not, happens when you have transferred a site to another url, as I found to my dismay recently. Replace when you find it, don’t leave that blank image-not-found space.

Update outdated content

Things change. Yes they do. Read through your content and check that it’s still accurate. Is that book you were promoting still for sale? Are those top tips posted two years ago still valid? Or do they need updating? It’s also a great way to spot any typos you may have missed first time around.

Delete posts that have no purpose

When I transferred from Blogger to WordPress a couple of months ago, I kept 100 of the 147 posts I had written. The rest just weren’t relevant or useful anymore.
If you have stuff that serves no purpose, be brave and delete it. At the very least, update it.

Don’t forget the sidebars

Many bloggers have a blog roll, a list of sites they have as favourite links. Sometimes people choose to give up and delete their beloved site or haven’t updated it in a long while. When you do your blog maintenance, remember to check your sidebar links.

Schedule time for blog maintenance

Ideally, spend a couple of hours a month checking out your blog. Have a list and work through it diligently. If you find broken links, change or update. The same goes for everything else.

It might seem laborious, but blog maintenance is a necessary process. Remember, it’s your window to the world and it needs to be as good as it can be. Your first run through may take a while but if you keep a regular date for blog maintenance after that it should be an easy, pain free process.

Have I missed anything out? Let me know in the comments section below.

If you found this article on blog maintenance useful, please take some time to share it with your friends. Thank you for spreading the fun.

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Should indie writers hire an editor?

hire an editor

A big subject in the indie/self-publishing world, the general consensus is that you should hire an editor to look at your work much the same as if you had been taken on by a “proper” publishing house.

Before thinking whether to hire an editor or not, every indie writer and self-publisher should ask some searching questions:

  • Is my work of art good enough?
  • Am I prepared to listen to what the editor says?
  • Can I find an editor enthusiastic enough to look at my book and work on it with me?
  • Can I afford this editor?
  • Then, once again, just in case you lied to yourself the first time round: Is my itty-bitty book worth the effort and the financial outlay?

Be honest before you hire an editor

You have been working on this remarkable novel for the last two years. You’ve poured your heart and soul into it, not to mention a good few litres of cheap vino to get your creative juices flowing. You’ve finished. You think it’s the bee’s knees. Your sister thinks it’s the greatest thing that’s ever been written. Your mother has called from beyond the grave to say it’s marvellllllouuuussssoooou…

But ask yourself this question:

Is it going to set the world on fire?

In all probability, the answer to this is going to be no. Ouch! Did that hurt? I apologise.

Face the facts

90% of the self-published stuff out there is crap. Yours may or may not be amongst that pile of shit-drivel, or it may be. You might be honest enough with yourself to admit that. But you have to accept the fact that, in all probability, your beautiful novel is not going to be in the top 10% of Kindle all time greats.

Accept this and be free: Your novel is not going to cause a major sensation, people are not going to be talking about it at bus stops and in cafes, you’re not going to be invited to posh soirees, drinking champagne and discussing literary shit with the glitterati, and no one but your immediate friends and family is ever going to know you as a serious writer.

It doesn’t matter! Let it go.

So, once more with feeling, should you fork out on a professional editor?

If you’re a decent writer and you’ve written something good, and you have the money to burn/waste/invest, then it’s worth the effort.

First off, make sure you find a good editor. A good editor will tell you before she’s even asked you for money that your book is:

  1. Worth some effort, or
  2. A pile of KACK

HEALTH WARNING: A good editor will charge you a fair whack but she/he won’t take you on without you being sure your book is worth it.

If your book is a pile of KACK and the EDITOR takes it on, they’re not an EDITOR they’re just a piss-taking-fuck-wit-troll who knows a sorry ass when they see one.

Research your editor. Don’t accept them at face value. Find out who they’ve worked with. Contact those people to see if they’re happy.

If you’re one of the five zillion or so writers with hope in their hearts but not quite enough talent to make the big splash, then stop looking for an editor. The work you have created is your own. It belongs to you and it may even sell a few copies and you may get some rave reviews from your friends and a couple of negative ones from people you’ve never met.

As Humphrey Bogart once said: “It don’t amount to a hill of beans.”

But do me a favour…

If you are going to self-publish. DOOOOOOOO get yourself a proof-reader. Your story may be shite but at least the grammar and the typos should be ironed out. Have a little respect for your dear reader.

By the way, proof-readers cost a lot less than an editor.

Leave your comments down below as usual, you rat-arsed scribes of the dark and twisted tale…

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Invaluable editing tips by Marti McKenna

Marti McKenna is a writer/editor living and working in Seattle, Washington. Her short fiction has appeared in Tomorrow magazine and More Amazing Stories anthology. A 22-year computer game industry vet, she’s currently busy managing the Writing Team at En Masse Entertainment and writing an urban fantasy YA novel.

I tend to be a fairly seat-of-the-pants editor. I can tell you how to improve a sentence, but I don’t often have a ready technical explanation as to why my way is better than yours. For this reason, I rely heavily on my reference library. But although dense writing style books are useful when it comes to explaining editing choices to non-writers, the single most useful book I ever read on editing is so concise it gets lost amongst those scholarly tomes.

I keep a copy of The 10% Solution: Self-Editing for the Modern Writer by the late Ken Rand (Fairwood Press) at home, and one at work. I give a copy to every writer and editor who works for me. I keep extra copies on hand to give away as gifts. So when the Feckless Goblin asked me for a blog post with editing tips for writers, I knew right away that Ken was going to be my go-to man (and that wherever he is, he’s thrilled to help).

Rand perfected his method over 25 years, but the seeds were planted in the late ‘60s when he was tasked with writing 30-second radio ads and the idea grew as he moved on to writing humor columns. The basic theory is this: your writing will improve greatly if you make it a goal to cut 10% by employing a few ridiculously simple tips. Late author Jack Cady said of the slim 68 page paperback “[it’s] proof positive that effective books on writing need not be long or tedious. This is the best tool for writers that I’ve seen in many, many years.”

Suck Proudly

10% is bursting with useful bits of wisdom…. but perhaps the most important one for writers to remember is the one I chose for the title of this post: Let the Writer Write.

“If I had a hat that said “writer” on it, I’d make sure I had another that said “editor” on it. If you try this, remember: Never wear the two at the same time.”

The writer, to paraphrase author Wil Wheaton, should not be afraid to suck. I’ve been calling myself a writer for almost 25 years and this one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn, but it’s finally sinking in. “Just write,” Rand says. “Write fast.” Ignore grammar and spelling, if you can. (Turn off grammar/spellchecking until it’s time to edit.) When you hit a speed bump, such as a term you can’t remember or a name you haven’t invented yet, leave a note for your editor self and move on. (Rand suggests the reporter shorthand “tk,” meaning “to come.” I use [tbd] or [name] or whatever works. The point is, don’t let it stop the writer.)

Yes, it’s hard, Rand admits, to banish the Editor from the room during the writing process, but do it anyway. Then get up, take off that Writer hat, walk around, drink a glass of water, and when you’re ready, put on your Editor hat and get ready to meet The List.

Magic Syllables

If you’re anything like me, the first time you employ The List, you’ll experience pure, unadulterated editor bliss. These syllables and words, taken one at a time, act as a magical map to the potential weak spots in your manuscript. Rand asks editors to type each word or syllable into the search box and examine the instance for possible revision.

Take “that,” for instance.

“Here’s another indication that there may be problems in a sentence. Or: ‘Here’s another indication there may be problems in a sentence.’ Even better: Here’s another problem indicator.’ Or informal… ‘Another problem indicator.” Or, if I decide the modifier ‘problem’ has been established well enough… ‘Another indicator.’ That was easy.”

Or “Said.”

“Phrases like ‘She pontificated,’ ‘He articulated,’…and similar ilk are called “said-bookisms.” Avoid them. Said is intended to be invisible. Like articles: “a,” “an,” and “the.” Don’t fear to use it.”

On the other hand, Rand points out, you don’t have to use it to excess:

“If Bill and Monica are in a room talking, how often must you say “Bill said” and “Monica said”? Establish attribution early (for accuracy and clarity), but you don’t have to do it each time Bill and Monica speak. We got it.”

Then there are the “wishy-washy” words, like “very,” “many,” and “several.” Rand provides guidelines to help you determine whether you need the word, or might do without it.

“Consider: is “very good” good enough? Is “very, very good” twice as good? Then how much better is “very, very, very good?”

Everything Else

Rand goes on to provide a dozen or so additional gems of editing wisdom, including one writers often neglect: reading the manuscript aloud. In bold caps, he writes: “If you take nothing else away from this book, take this…”

I’m pretty sure most writers discover this trick the first time they attempt to perform a live reading in front of an audience. Much as reading a printed copy reveals errors you’ll miss on screen, reading your work aloud can reveal problems at every level–factual, logical, structural, grammatical, and aesthetic–that you might not have otherwise noticed.

Personally, I say if you take one thing away from this book, and from this post, it’s that writing and editing are two completely separate processes. The Writer is the artist and the Editor is the critic. When it’s time for the Writer to write, send the Editor out for a gallon of milk and lock the front door.

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Writers need an editor

need an editor
So you’ve written a novel, have you? Really?

Have you?

And there it sits: you’ve printed it out, 400 or so pages of “finished” manuscript. It’s a beautiful thing isn’t it?

You’ve poured your heart and soul into writing this latter day Dickens classic; stayed up late, consumed generous quantities of coffee and wine in equal measures; torn at your hair with increasing frustration; ignored the pain between your shoulder blades as the muse takes you into a state of near euphoria; left it to brew and rewritten; cried and laughed hysterically as you put a line through huge swathes of the epic that didn’t work.

You’re all finished now.

Everything possible has been done and that’s all that can be said. You sit on floor, staring at that mound of paper and you wonder what to do next…

Publish and be damned, you think, and out it goes, off to Smashwords and Lulu, bursting onto Kindle and iBook, flooding into every self-publishing outlet you can find. You get details up on your website, you twitter its arrival to the world. You take the plunge and sign up to Facebook.

At last, you are a writer!

Well, hey now, Dostoevsky, slow down a minute there…haven’t you forgotten something? Haven’t you missed out an important step?

Rule 1 of Write Club: You don’t talk about…no…no that’s not it.

Rule 1 of Write Club is that you are not the best judge of your final draft. First of all you’ve been over the damn manuscript a zillion times and that just isn’t a good recipe for judging it – your mind will fill in blanks that are obvious to an outsider because you have lived and breathed these characters, you’ll miss all the typos because your brain skips over the text (you’ve read it before, you see, you know how it ends!).

Rule 2 of Write Club: If you’re serious about your work, you’ll need an editor. You’ll need to find one you trust, one who believes in you and one who will help you polish your epic novel to damn near perfection. Why? Why? I refer my learned friend to the “serious” word. Okay, if you just write for fun and are not too bothered, then publish and be damned. If you take it SERIOUSLY, then you’re novel ain’t finished yet…there’s work to do…it needs to be done…take a deep, shaky breath and get on with it.

Rule 3 of Write Club: Like writers, there are a zillion editors out there, most are rubbish, some are pretty good, the select few are brilliant. Obviously your mission dear writer, if you choose to accept it, is to avoid the rubbish editors – you know the ones who will speed read in a day and tell you it’s fine but miss the big typo in the first paragraph (or the fact that your main character changes sex halfway through) and then charge you a sixty quid reading fee. Let’s face it, you’re not going to be able to afford the best of the best, so your job is to find someone who is good and who likes your work enough to put the effort in, and, of course, who won’t charge you too much.

Ideally you want someone who is going to edit for content and copy. Content editing is about how your book flows, whether it makes sense, are there any continuity errors and so on. Copy editing is about the accuracy of your written work – the grammar, the choice of words etc. Find someone who can do this well and who is willing to take you on is your final mission. If they’re good, they’ll take your novel and cut away all the rough edges. What should be left, if you’ve both done your jobs well, is something worth reading.

So now, as always, it’s your turn. Have you a good experience of an editor you want to share? Do you offer an editing service? Let The Feckless Goblin know in the comments section below.

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Good copy: Trimming your prose

good copyThe other day, I found myself writing “new innovations” without thinking. I’ll be saying stuff like “very unique” next.

Seems to me, I’m beginning to lose my touch. I wonder if my drink-induced brain damage is beginning to take effect. Or maybe I’m writing too much. I nearly wrote “just writing” then. I have a tendency to stick “just” in front of statements. There is no “real” need for it.

Or there is no need for it.

The point I’m trying to make is that you should avoid adding words to other words that add nothing “really” to the meaning.

I do it all the time in a first draft. It’s not a crime. You won’t be sent to prison for it. But your prose will be a lot tighter if you get rid of such things altogether.

Cooling adjective and adverb fever for good copy

  • Don’t overdo the descriptive words.
  • Take a look at the noun or verb you’re adding it to and ask yourself: Does this word need anymore emphasis. The answer, if you’re honest, will probably be no.
  • A loud bang: Really? Is there a quiet one?
  • A sudden bang: As opposed to what? A gradual one?
  • A distant bang: Okay. You can have that one. It adds more information and is fine with me.

Top tips for copy writing: Trim all the fat. Develop a ruthless streak with your prose and it will be better for it.

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