“Courtesy” or “Can You Write with All the Colors of the Wind?”

I took a break from the joys of book formatting* to maximize on the inspiration that smacked me in the face in the middle of that chore.

(* Not being fully sarcastic, here. I do rather enjoy arranging my words so they look as pretty as I can make ‘em. …Though I admit it’s a bit tiresome having to go through the same novella a dozen times in a week…)

There’s no shortage of opinions among writers, readers, and other pertinent people in the biz about what professional writing ought to look like. You’ll hear a lot of rules, regulations, and guidelines about stuff like italics, bold print, underlines, ALL CAPS, exclamation points!!!… the list goes on.

In my personal opinion, I think a writer ought to be able to use whatever typographic tools they wish to get their story across – and that goes for poor, maligned adverbs, too. An over-reliance on any of the features mentioned above can grow wearying on the eye and serve as a crutch for a feeble narrative, but used with thoughtfulness and intent, I call them all valid. To say you’re not allowed to ever use them is like telling a painter she can’t ever use a certain shade of yellow. And I’m not even particularly fond of yellow, but I believe it has its place.

Like I said, that’s my opinion. But I am well aware that others will feel differently. A page swimming in exclamation points may be as much of a turnoff for Reader X as conspicuously overused words or a lack of half-decent punctuation are to me.

(While we’re on the subject, it’s: “Whatever he said,” he said.

Not: “Whatever he said.” He said.

If you’ve made a habit of the latter, break it. Please. I can’t stand it.)

In the process of line-editing, I may come across a phrase that I’m perfectly okay with, but which I think might be likely to offend a reader’s sensibilities. In such cases, I’ll try to think of ways that I can modify it to be more widely acceptable.

Yeah, I know my rights. “The Swan Prince” is my book, to be self-published my way, and the number-one person I want to please with it is me.

That said, publishing a book isn’t just about throwing my authorial weight around with an “It’s my art! Take it or leave it!” attitude. It’s for the readers, too.

The School House Rock song never mentioned such rampant hate in the writer community.
The School House Rock song never mentioned such rampant hate in the writer community.

And in order to increase the chances that readers will like my story, I choose to extend them the “polite gesture or remark” of making the book as non-annoying for them as I feel I can. And if that means toning down the italics, all caps, and exclamations points a bit, I can live with that. Yes, that goes for adverbs, too.

(Don’t be sad, adverbs. I like you more than yellow.)

So yeah, those were the thoughts that hit me in the midst of proofreading. Feel free to share yours in the comments.

Also, if you’d like to get the jump on reviewing “The Swan Prince” before its May 31st release and/or post an author interview with me on your blog, mention that in the comments, too – or message me via my new website contact page. (:

“Questions” or “Ask, and Ye Shall Hopefully Come Up With Some Answers”

As I start brainstorming new ideas for my next writing project, I’ve found myself wondering: Will anyone want to read this?

It’s a little odd, for me, since this is not a question I usually bother with. My more typical “interrogative sentences, phrases, or gestures” are:

– Who is this story about?

– What are they doing?

– Why are they doing that?

– Do I care about this, yet? Alright, then what’s next?

– How can I work XYZ in?

– Ooh, wait – what if…?!

– What goes horrifically wrong?

– How do they feel about that?

– How do they deal with it?

– Wait, does that make any sense? Okay, good, it’s explainable. So now what?

– How many miles between Vegas and Yellowstone, again?

– How in the world does this end?

Any thoughts about my future audience will run more along these lines:

– When and how do I plant this clue so they won’t see the surprise coming, but it won’t feel out of the blue?

– Are people going to be able to empathize with this character?

– Will they have any chance in heck of pronouncing this name correctly?

For the most part, though, I don’t think much about the readers while writing, other than to remind myself to keep the book readable. The first reader I’m aiming to please is me, since I’ll probably be spending more time with this book than anyone. The second is Tirzah, since she’s my writing buddy/beta tester/soul sister and practically has joint custody of some of my characters.

Beyond that, yeah, I’d love to have more satisfied readers than an audience of two. But I can’t predict what everyone will like. And even if I did, I don’t know that I’d let that dictate my writing.

If all I wanted was to sell books, it would be a different story. Then it would be mostly, or possibly all, about writing what a big chunk of the population would want to read. And there would be nothing wrong with that, if selling books were my first goal. But it isn’t.

My first goal is to write stories I love. My second goal is to have other people love them, too. Goal 2.2 involves making money off of that love, and Goal 3 involves Walt Disney Animation Studios and Broadway.

Goal 1 plus Goal 3 would look something like “Paperman”. Haven’t seen this short film yet? Totally have, but just feel like watching it again? Got 7 minutes? Click the pic and go for it.
Goal 1 plus Goal 3 would look something like “Paperman”. Haven’t seen this short film yet? Totally have, but just feel like watching it again? Got 7 minutes? Click the pic and go for it.

So maybe I’m asking myself the wrong question, at this brainstorming stage. Maybe what I need to be asking is:

– How can I thrill myself?

– Which characters will I want to hang out with forever?

– What book can I pull out of me that will make me so super proud that I wrote it?

Selfish-seeming questions, on the surface. But I believe that the best work comes forward when the artist’s heart is wholly behind it. In the end, my readers will be far better off for my thinking of them second.

Back to thinking of first things first, then: Who is this story about?