Other Cool Blogs: James Maxey January 7, 2011

Quote from James Maxey

Image courtesy of Unsplash photographer Jilbert Ebrahimi; quote from James Maxey. Combined by Erin Penn 2016.

 Somethings just hit home too perfectly. When I read this quote in James Maxey’s blog Five Writing Mantras That Bear Repeating, I had to make a picture of it to remind me the importance of writing. Because it is worth repeating. Writing requires one to write.
Go to his blog to find out his unique spin on this topic.

WRITING EXERCISE: Write 500 words today. Blog post, book review, flash, diary entry … just write something.

Other Cool Blogs: Magical Words Feb 24, 2016

The only place a writer signs a check is on the backImage acquired from www.cafepress.com
“store” owner is James Macdonald, originator of Yog’s Law
If interested in the T-shirt of like products go here:

Yog’s Law – Money flows towards the author.

A mantra I have heard long and often as I have dipped my toes in the publishing industry, ran away, came back, researched the industry, had life, came back, attended cons, moved, came back … Well, nigh on twenty or more years now.

It made sense, back before Amazon and eBooks, when the publishers ruled. At that time they paid for the marketing, covers, editing, everything. If a writer was paying an agent to “proofread” or a publisher “for marketing costs”, a scam was occurring. James Macdonald became “radicalized” (his word) after talking to one poor new writer who fell for the scammers and likely lost everything. The story is here: https://www.sff.net/people/yog/. At the time Mr. Macdonald Message-board (yes, it is that old – when only message boards were the primary communication) name was Yog. Thus Yog’s Law was born.

But publishing has changed in the last twenty, last ten, heck … it changed from yesterday. A writer is often self-published until an agent or publisher gets interested. During this time the author is writer, marketing, and publisher. And while the writer should never pay, when the publisher’s hat goes on money flows out for the cover art, editing, and marketing just like in the old days under big presses. An author may be able to cut corners if they know art, or website production, or any of a number of skills. But each time the author is working under a hat other than writing, they are not writing.

Having a press take 35-70% of the income from writing isn’t bad when adding up the actual expenses of wearing the publisher’s hat. In fact after the first successful publish, if an author continues to self-publish,  I would recommend putting 75% aside from each royalty check until the next book and then use that portion as the “publisher expenses”. That should cover all the overt expenses; there are still a lot of passive expenses, such as time not spent writing.

Excellent blogs to better understand the law can be found below:
Gail Z MartinMagical Words – “Yog’s Law—It’s More of a Guideline” – 2/24/2016
John G. Hartness – Magical Words – “Making Money Mondays – Yog’s Law” – 5/2/2016

Editing Rant: Naming Things

Quote: The one thing I want to leave my children is an honorable name.

Quote from the Internet Hive Mind (verified for accuracy)

Naming Things
So you are a writer and you have things to name – people, places, countries, animals, monsters, wars, machines, magic spells, conspiracies, historical events, future prophecies. The list goes on and on.

1) Avoid the name “Will” because it will constantly come up in grammar check as a verb showing up where a noun should be. Just make life easier and avoid this common name. “Bill” works just as well and doesn’t have the issues. (I’ve edited two books with this name so far. Ugh!)

2) Don’t have main character with the same first and last letter in their names. When reading, Ray and Rey ending up looking the same – in addition, this becomes very hard to edit especially when the two characters are talking to each other. Unless you want the characters to blend in your readers mind, try to have everyone start with a different first letter.

3) Make things pronounceable in the language you are writing. Do not just randomly put together letters to create a word – for example “Xchotlogz”. Break out the dictionary and play with real words. This makes the grammar and spell checks easier, and also gives your audiobook voice actor some chance of pronouncing things.

4) You don’t need to be really unique for all the things you name. Remember we have things named “fireplace” and six towns in the state of New Jersey are named “Washington”.  Things are often named after people and enter the language as a word – Sandwich for example – others can be found here – http://mentalfloss.com/article/56282/12-things-you-didnt-know-were-named-after-people). Have fun, but don’t sweat it if you name something “Looking Glass” or “Unihorn.”

THINGS NOT TO DO … be overly cute with naming characters.

REASON FOR THE RANT (this time) – Names for men in the menage a trois erotica: Mr. Hardwood and Mr. Woodsman. The woman is Ms. Amor.

Some winking at the reader is allowed … but there is a line.

WRITING EXERCISE: Write down five words or names and research their origins. Example – Wendy (name), Fireplace (item), South Fork River (location), Unicorn (monster/animal), elevator/lift (machine – and why is it different in America vs. UK). This will help give you some ideas of how things have been named in the real world.

READING EXERCISE: Go through the five most recent books you read and choose the three strongest characters of each. How are the names different within the book (spelling and pronunciation and syllables); are the name easy to pronounce based on the spelling; and how well do you remember each character uniquely? Compare the five books – did the names of the three strongest characters impact you ability to read and REMEMBER the story?

Editing Rant: Beginnings

Determining the proper place to start the story...

Image acquired without permission from Castlegate Press 2014 posting

The image above is from a post by Suzanne Hartmann, one of the co-founders of Castlegate Press, for a July 6, 2014 posting entitiled “Where Does the Story Start?”.

Starting a Story

One of the toughest parts of writing is figuring where your story starts. When initially writing, just write it out because often you don’t know where the story will start until you know where it ends and what happens inbetween.

Then come back to the beginning. The common agreement in 2016 is the story should start when the main character’s life begins to change. That rarely is when they are waking up or walking through a door – usually it is something like “The front door no longer had a doornob.” …

Some famous opening lines include:

Lord of the Rings “When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.”

Pride and Prejudice “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

The Stranger ” Mother died today.”

Metamorphosis “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”


So a romance book I was editing started with three pages of exposition, describing the hero of the romance (the Point-of-View (POV)/narrator) leaving home, finding an apartment, finding a roomie, job hunting, and interviewing. Eventually we reach the point of the hero meeting his two possible love interests on a bus.

While his life was undergoing massive changes from the moment he left home until he got on the bus and met the love interests, none of that had anything to do with the plot. It was background. The job hunting, which took an entire page, ended with “I sat down, and he hired me.” (Actually it was “I sat down, and hired me” … but that is a different editing rant entirely.) The job is never mentioned again. The roomie is mentioned once, as a ride to the party and could have easily been included at the time of getting the ride. In fact two pages are dedicated to it when the ride is given because the roomie took his time getting ready. The parents are never mentioned except to leave home.

Half of the first chapter, close to 2,000 words, needed to be chopped. Nothing in those pages had ANY impact on the plot, romance, or character development. Maybe the job interview could have shown something about the hero’s character, but it was only “I sat down, and he hired me.” after the page of dead-end job hunting. At only 20,000 words this chop was a huge hit to the manuscript. (The first 10% of the length – this percentage is important so keep it in mind as we continue.)

And the manuscript should have never gotten to me in that form. One of content editing’s job is to define where the story starts, not line editing. All of that should have been decided long before it hit my desk. I should note this book was PREVIOUSLY self-published and I was reading it in relation to a reprint. So this story was already out there in the sales world and the author was wondering why he was getting no sales when he contacted me.

The reason? The romance story did not start with the romance, but a long backstory reading like a coming-of-age story – readers reviewing the 10% sample on Amazon received a false impression. Chuck the first part of the manuscript and have the beginning of the romance at the beginning of the story and suddenly readers know they have an interesting story with two possible love interests. Who is our hero going to end up with and is the romance going to break the friendship between the women? Much more interesting than a dead-end apartment with a dead-end job after leaving home and taking a couple of classes at the community college to get ahead.

Remember the start of the story is what most readers are seeing when trying to decide to put out their hard-earned money. Start the story when life gets interesting for the character.

A couple genre examples: For quest fantasy, start with why the character is willing to go on a quest. For military sci-fi, why the character is going to join the military. What had made the character’s life go off the rails so they are open to change?

Well, that is the editing rant about beginnings.

WRITING EXERCISE: For your work in-progress (WIP), review and see if the book would feel different if you add another chapter in front adding the day before to your story – then see what would happen if you just eliminate the first chapter. How would these changes impact your story?

READING EXERCISE: Have you ever read a book which seemed to start in the wrong place and you felt the first chapter or two were fillers? How about a book where you struggled through the first chapter not sure what is happening because not enough information was given i.e. the story started too late and you didn’t get time to be introduced to the changes?