Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

Tips to Avoid Typos

Editing

We’ve all been there. You spend time and effort to write an article you can be proud of, click publish, and then sit back and wait for the likes to roll in. Suddenly a comment pops up.

Oh crap, there’s a typo. And someone’s pointing it out.

How could that be? My guess is rushing. For me that’s par for the course because I rather fancy myself the queen of procrastination. The faster a deadline approaches the quicker my fingers fly across the keyboard at a fevered pace. Mr. Flynn, my eighth grade typing teacher, would be proud.

Yes, I know that dates me.

But that flurry to pound out an article, whether for self-publication or for profit, tends to sometimes cause us to skim over things instead of really proofing what we’ve written. What’s the solution? Well, it’s not foolproof, but these are my steps.

  • After you’re completely done writing and formatting, run the document through a review. Have it spell-checked and tested for grammar. I read an article yesterday on LinkedIn where there were several words missing from a paragraph. Puzzling.
  • If you have time, set it aside and come back to it. Even if it’s just a quick stroll down the hall for a drink of water, a few minutes away often provides fresh eyes.
  • If you’re copying and pasting to another site like LinkedIn or WordPress, read your article again in the preview format. Sometimes funny things happen, maybe you’ll catch an error you missed in the first reading.
  • Read it one more time—out loud. Yes, I know that’s a little repetitive, but you’ll be surprised how often you find errors when you read something out loud. Even if you’re mumbling it under your breath, if it doesn’t flow right, that is when you’ll catch it. And better then than after you’ve hit publish. This is where I typically find the their/there or your/you’re errors.

I’m not crazy enough to think all my writing has been error-free. But there’s a part of me that is extremely obsessive about typos. I cringe when I find them in past articles. And yes, sometimes I even go back and correct them, even though no one else will probably ever see them.

Reading and re-reading has made me a better writer. I don’t always agree with the grammar rules, but then I’ve always been a bit of a rebel. There’s a little bit of picking and choosing, but mostly I stick to the old school lessons and what is commonly accepted as the norm.

Before I step off my soapbox, if you’re going to take the time to write something, write it right. I’m not talking about posting a status update on social media or sending an informal email to a friend. But if you’re posting an article on a platform in which you would like to be seen as a professional, or someone capable of providing content, it’s worth the work.

If someone found a typo in your published work would you want to know? Just asking for my inner proofreader.

 

Roxanne Wilmes is a freelance writer, author, ghostwriter, and thirty year survivor of the restaurant and hospitality industry currently with AmericInn Hotel & Suites.

 

 

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Goodbye Summer, Hello Muse

A Lone Leaf

My muse took the summer off. She’s kind of a selfish B like that. She doesn’t care how long I stare at that blank page; she’s off having a good time.

I started to wonder why she left. Then I realized what the pace has been like the last few months. Since I’m back in a full-time corporate job, my writing time has taken a severe hit. It’s been catch-as-catch-can whenever a moment presents itself. And with an increased freelance load, it’s no wonder my muse ran away with my imagination.

But now that it’s the last full week of unofficial summer, I decided to take a few minutes for myself. I grabbed a beer and my trusty rocking lawn chair and planted myself down in the driveway. Wow, it’s hot. Good thing the beer’s cold.

Facing west into the last few hours of sunlight, I close my eyes and lay my head back. The hum of the sprinklers mixes nicely with the chorus of frogs and crickets. Occasionally the wind blows through the leaves, like an addition of a soft snare drum to the band.

In the distance I can hear a mother calling her children in for supper as the smell of fresh laundry wafts on  a breeze. I take a deep breath before opening my eyes—not wanting to lose that feeling. I take a drink of my beer and see the neighbors’ dog, panting in the heat. It almost seems like I can see the sun dropping in the cloudless sky. I take another gulp and close my eyes again. The sun feels good on my bones.

Secretly I long for fall and winter, the slower pace and cooler weather are much more my style. But here, in this moment, my thoughts run wild. The sun feels good, and the beer is cold. I guess I’ll kind of miss you, summer.

Not Giving Up the Ghost

Ghost TreeWhether or not we want to admit it, I think most writers enjoy the recognition from others for a piece well done. It’s nice to have someone tell you that they read your article, story, or book and that it meant something to them. It’s exhilarating and a bit humbling all at the same time.

So why wouldn’t you put your name on something you’ve written?

When I embarked on my write-a-book-in-a-month journey last year, I fully intended to write, edit, and publish the book myself. But when I got into the actual writing of it, I found some things that made me slightly uneasy. I worried that if certain people (read family and judgy neighbors) saw it, they would think differently of me.

No, I’m not writing anything bad, per se, but sometimes my mind wanders into a direction that may…frighten some people. (Luckily the Hub is a confident and trusting person. Not many guys could help you enact a murder scene in the living room to get the rights and lefts down just so.) And if I discuss some of these topics with people who don’t know me as well, they get a little quiet around me. So I’d rather that only those I’m really close to know my true identity and everyone else sees a pen name.

At other times I ghostwrite. It’s like being a secret weapon in some ways. It gives me the opportunity to write things that I may feel very deeply about, but don’t have to take the heat for the article. That is very freeing.

Especially when it’s a political piece. I’m lucky enough to write for a candidate with whom I share most political views. I’ve done a pretty good job at capturing his tone of voice for all the pieces I do for him. It’s like some kind of weird synergy that we have. And it makes my job quite easy when the articles practically write themselves after the research is done.

Maybe someday there’ll be a whole book with my name on it. But for now, I’ll stay a ghost and a secret.

Many of you will thank me.

A Garden of Writing

Seeds

As I looked down from my deck last night, it dawned on me that my writing is very much like our garden.  Before we planted it, I spent a lot of time thinking about it and doing research.  I came up with a design for two beds, each independent, but still lined up together.

One has sprawlers like cucumbers and squash grouped together.  That one is like my personal writing—it’s free and frequently all over the place!  The other plot is the tall and firm plants like tomatoes and peppers.  That would be my freelance (paid) writing.  It’s all together, but each plant is very full and independent, like each article.

Just as I outline my writing before I start, I planned out our garden.  I thought about the direction each vegetable would take.  I drew plans.  Seeds would be placed in rows, much like a chapter in a book.  I know what I hoped it would look like in full bloom, and planned out how I would wrap it up.  Because like the Hub always says, you have to have an exit plan.

Certain plants would ripen first.  They needed to be accessible to be picked without disturbing the others, so they are on the fringe.  The crawlers that needed the most time and space are on the outside of one end.  They are free to grow and roam the entire season, much like a storyline expanding throughout a book.  They will spill over and likely take on a life of their own, like a vegetative plot gone wild!

And then there are the pots that grow on their own, two cilantro and two basil.  Although they’ll play a key role in some post-harvest recipes and storage, they’re just bit parts in the garden (story) as a whole.  They sit off to the side doing their own thing, kind of like a red herring just waiting to be noticed and thought about.

And just like our garden, my writing needs to be tended to daily.  It needs to be nurtured and fed.  There is a lot of planning and a fair amount of weeding.  But in the right light, with a little TLC, both will feed you—mind and body.

Just Write it Down

So Many Notes

So there I am, driving along minding my own business, when all of a sudden a story pops into my head.  Boom.  Vivid plot, several characters, it’s like it’s writing itself.  And then reality sets in.

I don’t have time for this.

Isn’t that just how it goes?  Working a full time j-o-b takes up the majority of my day.  Add in the commute, cooking supper, and cleaning up after, and there’s not much left before it’s time for my head to hit the pillow.  Ugh, I live for the weekends.

But what about those ideas that pop up at the most inopportune times?  Surely I can’t be the only one who has random behind-the-wheel break-throughs or brilliant story outlines coming to me in the shower.  So what’s a girl to do?

Write them down, of course.

Even though there’s a 50,000-word document in my computer that beckons to me for revision, I can’t help myself.  I think of all the times I’ve struggled; plagued with writer’s block while staring at a computer screen.  And who knows, maybe that could be the starting point for a whole book or a sideline in a different story.  However, if I don’t write it down, it will become neither for sure.

It’s times like these that I’m grateful for the composition book that’s always with me.  Okay, almost always with me.  But if I didn’t have it, I’d make a note in my phone, on a napkin, on my hand, whatever.  The point is, it needs to find its way to being remembered.

You can’t trust your memory to keep track of stuff like this.  I mean, seriously, how many times do I have to walk into a room and wonder why I went in there?  No, I’m not that old.  Yes I always have a swirling tornado of ideas whirling about in my brain.

It’s a blessing and a curse.

I’m not going to tell you what my last story idea was.  It may make its way into a sequel of the aforementioned first draft, a good red herring maybe.  Or perhaps it will be a whole story idea on its own, running behind the main plot just to keep the readers entertained.  We’ll see.  But I know it’ll make its way into something.

Because I wrote it down.

My Writer’s Persona

Once Upon a TimeThere comes a time in every writer’s life when you really feel like a writer.  I know when it happened for me.  It was not so long ago.  Someone I had just met asked me what I did.  I took a deep breath, looked him in the eye, and with a great deal of trepidation I blurted it out.

“I’m a writer.”  And then I recoiled as if I was waiting for some gasp or physical repercussion.  I mean, you know, a lot of writers have rather, um…less-than-savory reputations.  There tends to be a lot of rambling around mumbling—mostly to ourselves—keeping odd hours, and let’s not forget a penchant for substances.   Hey, it happens.

Although I’m getting a little more comfortable in my writer’s skin, I still have a ways to go.  I’m nowhere near one of the great ones.  I hope I’m getting there, but I’m definitely not there yet.  So far I’m still in between the take-most-of-the-freelance-gigs-that-come-my-way and don’t-quit-your-day-job phase.  But it’ll happen.  It’s really a matter of time; my time and making better use of it to be specific.

Since I’m sitting on two unedited books and three more floating in my head, I know that at least I’m not out of ideas.  From what I read, that seems to be what troubles writers most.  There’s all kinds of information online about where to find inspiration.  My imagination must be quite creative and demented.  Or to paraphrase The Hub, creepy to the point of being scary.

Why yes, I do write some suspense.  (Insert diabolical laugh.)

Sometimes people become guarded around you when they know you’re a writer.  Many are convinced you’re writing about them; vain and paranoid is a comical combination.  That being said, I will admit I write my characters quite frequently based on real people.  But it’s usually just a mannerism or character trait that makes its way in, nothing too obvious.

When people find out you’re a writer they feel it’s necessary to give you story ideas or book titles.  You know, just in case you’re in a slump and can’t come up with your own.  Bless their little hearts.  I guess it’s better than being a doctor and people wanting to show you their weird mole.  Ew.

Yes, people are funny.

Oh well.  I love to write.  I love when people tell me about something I have written.  I admit it, I am definitely a writer.

Confessions of a Tired Writer

Write the BookI never thought it would happen to me; but here I am, struggling to find time to write.  I’ve always been the one championing making the calendar; block out the times for xyz, and then look at all the time you’ve got left over! 

Well guess what, there isn’t much left over.

Now that I’ve gone back to work full time, I find that everything else in my life is getting squeezed out.  Some things are getting dropped all together.  But I am still working as a freelancer, and I think that’s what keeps me sane.

I wrote a book last November.  After a half-hearted try a couple years ago, this one is actually pretty damn good.  However, it’s sitting untouched in my computer, just begging to be edited and published.  I know I could get it done, and I think it would actually sell a few copies.

But I am tired.

I know, I know, we’re all tired, right?  Maybe it’s that time of year—winter just won’t let spring take over.  Even as I write this snow is falling on the April lawns that are trying to turn green.  And my “j-o-b” has taken nearly all of my day.  Between the commute, the hours, and then coming home to cook and clean up, all that’s left is an hour or two before bed.  And at that point my brain is fried.  I cannot bear the thought of turning on a computer.

I’m in a writing funk.

But then the texts came a couple days ago.  Requests for one article, then three articles, and then two more.  Six pieces with deadlines.  Suddenly I’m awake.  I know what needs to be done, and by what date.  I’m working in the car as I ride shotgun, making calls and taking notes.  I have interviews set up for this weekend.  I will be writing.  I will be editing.  I will make the time.

Maybe that’s the secret.  I need to make my writing a priority again.  Blocking out the time, even if it’s only on weekends.  Writing little notes to myself on Post-its or napkins in the lunch room, ideas on the notepad in my phone, whatever it takes.  I need to snap out of it.

Because a writer writes.  Always.  It’s gotta be true; it was in a movie.