On Teaching Substantive Editing

correcting-1870721_1920I have a small writing team of three that I am responsible for. These three are all fairly fresh out of school, and while they learned all of the basics while they were there, they are now coming to grips with the fact that theory and practice are two very different things.

I spend a lot of my time editing their work. Three full-time writers producing content means about half my time is spent using Track Changes. This year, we made it a goal to cut down on my time spent editing by having them learn to edit each other’s work, both through copy and substantive editing.

They have copy editing under control. It’s straightforward. Look for misspelled words, incorrect grammar, do a little fact checking, etc. It’s the kind of copy editing that virtually every writer should practice and that virtually every writing program teaches.

It’s the substantive (or developmental) editing that’s giving me a challenge. While it is my preferred type of editing, and I do it well, teaching it is a whole different sack of potatoes.

When I sit down with a piece to evaluate it based on how well I think it was written for the intended audience, and whether the elements of it fit together smoothly, I do it through feeling. If you’ve done any substantive editing before, you probably understand that this type of editing isn’t based on rules or black and white dos and don’ts.

In all likelihood, you could give an unedited piece to three different professional substantive editors and have them all point out different things.

And that’s what has been so difficult. I need my writers to edit for the same types of things that I do so that the content we create is similar in style, tone, and quality when it goes live. If millions of people are going to be reading our work, I need it to be, at the very least, consistent.

But how do you teach three different people to apply developmental edits in the same way? I still have no idea, but I can tell you how we have started.

Although my job calls strictly for nonfiction content, I find substantive edits much easier to apply to fiction, at least when you are first getting started. Issues with plot, setting, vocabulary, transitions, and organization can be more apparent when you’re reading something that you haven’t written and that is outside of your normal content stream.

Therefore, I set to looking for a good piece for us to practice on. It couldn’t be too long, but it couldn’t be too short, either. It had to be appropriate for work, and it had to be in fairly desperate need of an edit.

Eventually, I happened upon Penny in the Dust by Ernest Buckler. At first glance, the story seemed relatively clean. Upon second glance, the issues started to make their way to the surface. Upon the third glance, I had about 30 comments in Track Changes suggesting rewrites, asking questions about vocabulary, and pointing out setting issues.

It was perfect. I gave it to my writers and told them to get to work. Each edited the story, as did I, and then we met to go over it. I was a little worried that we would all find different issues with it and that it was going to be hard to find common editing ground, but for the most part, we seemed to call out most of the same problems.

They, in their editing infancy, found fewer edits than I did, but they also pointed out some things that I had missed and helped to clarify some of the questions I’d had through their alternate impressions of the story.

I think they still have more to learn as editors, just as I still have to figure out how to be better at teaching subjective skills like substantive editing. But, through a good old fashioned workshop exercise, and a lot of discussion, we’re all starting to find common editing ground, and that’s what’s important.

If you are looking for a piece to practice your substantive editing skills on, I highly suggest Penny in the Dust. The main theme of the story is quite solid and works well as a strong premise, but the execution of the setting, plot, and dialogue is, well, you’ll see.

If you have questions about what edits we made, let me know and I may publish them in a separate post.

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Stop Publishing Typos

 

book-731199_1920If I had a nickel for every time I heard a self-published author excuse their typos due to being unable to afford a professional editor, I would have at least $5.00 by now.

While a manuscript with one or two errors is passable, there’s no reason to send something out into the world that a grade school English teacher would cringe at. Seriously, enough with the half-finished manuscripts, people.

Not being able to afford an editor is no excuse to send a hack-job of a manuscript out into the world—doing so can have even bigger repercussions than just firing up the self-proclaimed grammar Nazis of the online world. Publishing content with multiple errors and mistakes hurts your personal brand and will almost definitely affect your success as a writer.

How? Think of it this way—you, as a writer, are like a business. Your words are what you use to market yourself, from your back cover copy to your query emails. Just like a business, you need to be aware of how you present yourself to the public, whether it’s just a small group of other authors, or you are self-publishing through Amazon. If you present yourself as an author who publishes half-finished content, that is exactly how you will be seen. Just as if a business were to sell damaged products at a discount. Sure, people would buy them, but that business would

If you present yourself as an author who publishes half-finished content, that is exactly how you will be seen.

You need to think of your readers as your potential employers, because in a way, that’s exactly what they are. You’d probably never intentionally submit a resume with a mistake in it, so why on earth would you do so with your story?

I can hear you asking how you are supposed to send out error-free content when you can’t afford to pay $75/hour for an editor. Start by doing the following:

  • Once your story is written, turn off your spell check and read through it on your own.You will see more errors when you aren’t being distracted by irrelevant suggestions from Word.
  • Use Grammarly. The free version is good enough to get you through the basics, and it is much more intelligent than your average word processor’s editor. I use the premium version at work and the free version at home.
  • Find someone to trade drafts with. There are other writers out there just like you, I promise. Find one you like and ask them to review your draft.
  • Refuse to settle for “good enough”. If you want to be recognized for your work on a bigger scale than your local writing group, put in the extra time. Self-editing sucks. We all know it. But do it anyway. Do it once, then do it again.
  • Take your time. Stop trying to pump out books as fast as you can. Write. Edit. Rewrite. Edit. Keep going until it’s better than you thought it could be. Then start to think about publishing. Quality, not quantity.

There are too many e-books out there that, unfortunately, aren’t worth the money that they are being sold for. If you want a strong personal brand as an author, and you want to sell more than 25 copies, you’re going to have to start thinking bigger than just a good idea. Do your best to produce something worth putting out there, and then do even better. The tips discussed can help you to make your manuscript more than just a beginning and an end.

A story is much more than its telling.

What do you think, are typos OK in  published stories? Are you focused on quality or quantity?

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The Thousand Lives of a Reader

book-1276778_1920 (2)“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
—George R. R. Martin

When I was much smaller than I am now, my family would often “lose” me because I would hide behind a chair in the sitting room with a book and read until I fell asleep. And while I don’t remember every single book that I read, I do remember, vividly, what I loved so much about them.

In a world full of brown carpets and white lace curtains, the colors, textures, and creatures that Dr. Suess introduced me set my mind on fire. I yearned to roam beaches with Sneetches, whether star-bellied or not. I almost tasted the river of chocolate and the blades of candy grass with Willy Wonka. I felt the talons of Farley Mowat’s Owl, Wol, gently pressing into my shoulder as my eyes traced the words that described him. When I read Jacques Martin’s books, I could smell the cool, heavy rain as it pattered on the forest leaves.

When the world told me to sit on a bus as it bounced along the pot-holed roads to drop me off, I was wielding a heavy iron blade with Aragorn. I was sitting in Gryffindor tower next to a fire with a pile of spellbooks stacked around me.

In the quiet summer afternoons when the world wanted to close the blinds and rest, I slipped into 1920’s Japan and learned what it felt like to sleep like a Geisha, with my head on a small, hard wooden brace instead of a pillow.

When the world turned dark, and I felt like the loneliest person alive, I wandered with Merlin and learned that there is an important difference between being alone, and being lonely, and I felt my fingertips tingle with a spell.

In my relatively short life, I have floated over the shoulder of a young Jewish girl during WW2. I watched as a country vet pulled a newborn calf into the world. I have felt the heat of a dragon’s fire on my skin. I have felt the damp of rain in my cloak and the cold edge of a blade against my ribs.

I have travelled around the world a thousand times, backwards and forwards through time. I have been to Middle Earth, and Westeros, and a hundred other worlds outside of our own. I have been a woman, a man, a child, a spirit, a beast, and a shadow. And all without leaving Canada.

Books have taken me on countless journeys to places I wouldn’t have even imagined. They have taught me what it is like to really, truly live in another’s shoes. They have pushed my mind beyond its limits and opened my eyes to truths and to lies. Because of them, I have lived a thousand lives, and will live a thousand more before I am done.


*As a Canadian, who lives in Alberta, I feel obligated to mention that should you wish to donate to the Red Cross to help evacuees from Fort McMurray who are fleeing from the devastating forest fires that have laid waste to many, many homes, and displaced so many families, you can do so here.

What Exactly is Poor Writing?

What Exactly is Poor Writing?Any of you who have editing experience can back me up when I say that it is a very tiring process, especially when the piece you are reviewing is poorly written. And while the perceived quality of writing is subjective, there are a few key indicators that it isn’t just you, that the writing itself is the problem.

Poor writing doesn’t necessarily mean bad spelling and questionable grammar. It can refer to the structure and style as well. When reviewing your work, or that of others, be sure to pay attention to the following things to see if the piece just doesn’t mesh with your preferred style, or if it really does need to be reworked.

Beginnings. Whether it’s a blog post, a short story, or a paragraph of copy, every piece of writing needs to have an opening line at the very least, if not an entire paragraph or even page. How that beginning is crafted can tell you a lot about someone’s writing skills. Weak beginnings cause readers to lose interest immediately, and they act as one of the most important parts of content.

Transitions. Transitions are when you go from one thought to another. They are what leads the reader from the end of one idea to the beginning of another smoothly so that there is a consistent flow to the writing. Poorly written transitions are jarring and they throw the reader out of the content, causing confusion and backtracking.

Syntax. Syntax is a tricky little beast. It’s more of an ingrained skill than one that you can pick up from studying. It’s the proper structure of sentences and words within them, and while it can sometimes be difficult to tell if someone is using proper syntax, there’s no denying when it is being misused. Poor syntax is confusing, jarring, and hard to read. I relate it to trying to swim through molasses.

Vocabulary. Repetition, lack of variety, and a penchant for either over-complicated or under-complicated word choices are all indications that the content isn’t ready for publication. While every writer has a style (that’s how Rowling was found out when she wrote The Casual Vacancy“), refusing to add a little spice to your content by means of a new word once in awhile can give off a feeling of laziness and amateurism.

Reading level. Reading level doesn’t just mean whether your content should be rated R or not. It means what grade level would be able to read the piece without difficulty. If the content is for a YA audience, then the language should match that. Just as there would be a difference between a blog post and an article for a scholarly journal. If the reading level doesn’t suit the audience, they will either lose interest because the content is too simple, or they will become frustrated because it is too hard to understand.

Punctuation. Surprisingly, punctuation can have a slot all of its own. When you see content that is written like this: “the wind HOWLED!! they couldn’t decide whether: to run or to stay in the cave?”, you know it’s not ready. Poor use of punctuation is a good way to see that the writer doesn’t have a grasp on the basics and that they need to do some more learning before they send anything else to someone for review.

Conclusions. Just like beginnings, there are conclusions to everything. Emails, lines of copy, short stories, research papers, and books. They all have endings, and while endings are never the same, and can be crafted from many different styles, how they are written can leave a reader feeling like they wasted their time.


Any one of these on its own can be a small issue that just needs some polishing, but when you combine a few of them into a single writing sample, it’s fairly easy to see that whatever you are reviewing requires some heavy edits.

The good news is that all of these things can be fixed with healthy doses of reading and writing. Often, I find that the best advice to give when handing back poor writing is to tell the writer to read more. Read pieces similar to what you are trying to create and pay attention to how they handled problem areas.

If you have issues with transitions, look at how other writers navigate through them. Pick up tricks and tools from other content before you take to the keyboard again so that you will already know how to fix your bad habits when they rear their heads.

What’s one of your worst writing habits? How did you fix it? Do you find that reading helps to make better writers?

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How Math Makes Rejection Suck Less

paper-794329_1920Most writers submit something to a publisher at one point or another. Whether it’s flash fiction, a short story, or a fully-written book, we all split open our chests and bare our fragile, sensitive souls to complete strangers at some point during our journey.

And it sucks. No matter if your piece is accepted or not, the waiting, the wondering, and that moment you see an email in your inbox with the publisher’s name in it all make you want to puke when you think about it. The process of getting published is, if we’re being honest, pretty awful.

And that’s just on its own, leaving out the fact that everyone gets rejections, no matter how good their writing is. If you submit anything to anyone, there is a ridiculously high chance that you are going to receive, at one point or another, an email that inevitably starts with, “Unfortunately…”. And even for seasoned writers with hearts of stone, reading that word can make you doubt everything about yourself and your skill.

But it doesn’t end there. Often, even after you have waited months to hear whether or not your work was accepted, when they decline, they won’t offer any feedback as to why. How can you improve without knowing where you went wrong? How can you submit to them again if you don’t understand exactly why your story wasn’t a fit?

As you can see, it’s all one big awful experience that induces crippling anxiety, grows self-doubt, and chips away at your self-confidence.

But, in all its awful glory, there still lies a glimmer of hope. The faintest sparkle in the darkness when you finally get a letter that says your story was accepted. And that’s what makes it all worth it, right?

And who ever said finding the right publisher for your story was going to be easy? When you think about it, there are a limited number of quality publishers out there for your genre and type of story. Most of them accept international submissions. So you are competing with a very large pool of content from writers with varying degrees of experience. What are your chances of being published?

Let’s talk about that for a moment, and I’ll use a bit of simple (I promise) math to make my point.


 

In marketing, we determine the success or failure of an initiative by examining the conversion rate. For example, if we create a new landing page and the purpose is to get people to sign up for a newsletter, the conversion rate is determined by examining how many people come to the page versus how many sign up for the newsletter.

Say 100 people visit the page, and only 10 sign up (the other 90 visitors leave the page without taking any action). That would be a 10% conversion rate. Sounds pretty low, right? No! A 10% conversion rate is an indication of a highly successful landing page.

So, a 10% conversion rate is good in marketing, but what does that have to do with submitting stories? Everything.

If we scale it down, and apply it to a realistic submission process, we can say that to get a high conversion rate of 10% when sending in stories to publishers, we would have to get 1 acceptance for every 9 rejections. 9. NINE. Nine people saying, “Unfortunately, your story was not a fit…”. That’s a whole lot of rejections.

But that means it isn’t totally unrealistic to think that, even after getting 2 or 3 (or 8) rejections, you should keep going. Hell, even a 5% conversion rate is high, and that would mean that you would have to get rejected 19 times before getting published. And that’s only for one story.

So don’t stop. Don’t give up after you hear “No” once, twice, or even thrice. Make a list of publishers that you think are a fit for your piece before you even start sending out your work. Find at least 10, and work your way through it. Push for that 10%, because if you don’t, you might miss out on your chance.


 

One of the only things in the world that really has a 100% conversion rate is life to death, and it’s far to short to waste your time feeling bad because not all of your stories get accepted the first time, every time.

How many times would you submit a story before giving up? What rejection advice do you have for other writers?

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The Right Way to Write

diary-968592_1920There seems to be a “right” way to do just about everything. But the thing with writing is that there really isn’t one, except to write. Sure, there is a right way to spell words, and a right way to use punctuation, but even those have loose and malleable rules.

Though it makes absolutely no sense to impose writing rules on anyone, people like to do it anyway; don’t use adverbs, never use the word “very”, always write every day, and so on and so forth until you are ready to rip your hair out and become a mime instead.

The beauty, and also the art, of writing lie in its complete and utter individuality. Every famous writer (for the most part) has created a masterpiece because they forged their own path, and did what worked for them. They discovered their own unique process and stayed true to it.

Do you think every single one of them wrote every single day? No. Do you think that all of them wrote their books in a year or less? No. Do you think that none of them ever used an adverb? Doubtful. Yet we, as writers, hear these things all the time, and they are supposedly meant to be helpful.

Really, all they do is place us in a box and seal it with packing tape. If we all followed the same rules all of the time, our writing would be terribly similar. No one ever became a famous writer after writing the exact same manuscript as someone else. They did well because they broke free of the mold.

If you want to write well, you need to find your style. And in your style you need to find your voice and your tone. And of all of the difficulties that writing brings with it, I would say that this is the biggest obstacle that most writers face. It’s the difference between writing like everybody, and writing like yourself, which can go a lot deeper than just a story.

Your style is what draws people to your content. I didn’t enjoy GoT because it was just like Harry Potter. I liked it because it was different. I liked it because I didn’t need to ask whether it was by a different author.

As another example, I’m not a big fan of poetry, but sometimes the style of a poem will hook me and it won’t let go (Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas).

Writing rules, whether created by famous authors and editors, or by fellow bloggers, are, unfortunately, often useless. The only writing rules that you should follow are your own, and you should never avoid writing in your preferred style because someone else told you it was wrong.

Once you find your voice, which can take a lot of effort, mind you, embrace it. The best writing comes when you are inspired, and sometimes nothing can inspire you more than your own mind. If you don’t feel comfortable listening to it, then how can you ever expect to make something of quality?


 

Just as you are your own person, you should be your own writer. Let yourself show in your work and you’ll find it comes much more easily than trying to follow all of the contradictory and suffocating rules that are floating around.

Have you found your style yet, or are you still testing the waters? What writing advice would you give to other writers?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Editing Like A Boss

How to Edit Like a BossEditors are expensive. It’s a painful truth for writers who are trying to get their work to a publisher while working a less enjoyable job in the meantime to pay the bills. That’s why so many writers choose to exchange their work with others in similar situations. I mean, if you can write, you can edit, no? No. But you can provide a decent service if you make an effort.

So, as an editor, I want to share some tips about how to edit a piece of someone else’s fiction without coming off like a loathsome toad.

Tip One: Learn how to use Track Changes in Microsoft Word. This one little function will help your edits to look professional, and any suggestions or changes you make are much easier to implement this way. You’ll be doing a world of good for both yourself and the writer.

Another tip with Track Changes is to take advantage of both the inline editing feature as well as comments. Fix errors and so on inline, and leave suggestions or encouragement in the comments.

Tip Two: Red doesn’t have to mean “bad”. Not all of the red markup that an author sees needs to be negative. Make note of specifically strong passages or unexpected cliffhangers. Tell them where the dialogue is working and where they described something perfectly. This helps to show the writer that you paid attention to the whole story instead of only focusing on what wasn’t working.

Tip Three: Only provide helpful insight. If you don’t have a suggestion as to how something could be fixed, or you can’t quite figure out what is working, leave it. You are there to be helpful, not to provide useless feedback. If something is really rubbing you the wrong way, but you can’t figure out why, mark it and come back to it later. But don’t hand it over until you can explain what isn’t working and why. How is a writer supposed to fix an issue if the reader can’t tell them what is wrong?

Tip Four: Pick your battles. This is not your story, it belongs to someone else. Take your personal opinion out of the mix and substitute a good helping of understanding. If you prefer serial commas and the author doesn’t, don’t feel like you need to explain why they are superior or start putting them in every list of three or more items.

However, if you feel very strongly that a character would not react a certain way, that’s an example of when you can feel free to make a note of it.

Tip Five: Make a style sheet and ask the author style questions before you start. If you don’t know what a style sheet is, you should probably do a little research.

Essentially, it’s a document where you keep a list of proper spellings, grammar and punctuation choices, and writing rules specific to the manuscript you are reviewing. Before you make one, ask the author how to spell all of the character names correctly, if they prefer to spell out numbers, and so on.

Watching for these things will help you to edit not only the story and the bare minimum when it comes to errors, but more technical issues that would get picked out by editors and publishers.

Tip Six: Before handing over the manuscript with all of your edits, write a letter about your thoughts in general. Start with a paragraph or two that includes what you enjoyed the most about the manuscript. This could include things like: dialogue, descriptions, character interactions, setting, etc.

Use another paragraph to briefly list the most common high-level things that you picked out that could use work, like common misspellings, poor syntax, or poor transitions between chapters.

Tip Seven: Be open to scheduling a conversation about your edits. It can be hard to want to dedicate more of your time, for free, to going over edits, so limit it to a one or two hour conversation with the writer. This should be after they have had a chance to review your suggestions and write up a list of questions about any of your thoughts.

In this meeting (in-person, over the phone, online, wherever) reiterate what they did well and offer to look over any changes they have made based on your suggestions. Be kind and courteous, while still holding your ground about anything that you felt strongly about.


 

Never forget that the work isn’t your own, and that even though you have made suggestions, you shouldn’t assume that any or all of them will be incorporated into the final version.

The most important part of editing like a boss is knowing how to balance both criticism and encouragement in a way that is helpful, clear, and consistent. Take time to review your edits, to ensure that they make sense and provide value before sending anything away, and be open to discussing what you had to say. When in doubt, think about how you would feel if the tables were turned.

Do you exchange work with other writers? Have you come away satisfied, or feeling like it wasn’t worth it?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

The Reality of Writing

The Reality of WritingOne of the most overwhelming and intimidating aspects of writing a book is that you are generally expected to complete it before you even send it out for consideration. On your own, with no real guidance, you are expected to put in hours and hours of your being into something that may or may not make it out of the slush pile.

That’s frightening. It’s daunting. It’s discouraging. Isn’t it?

To me, that is the hardest part of writing. It’s not the technicality of it, it isn’t whether or not I think I have what it takes, it’s that I could end up pouring my heart and soul into something that never grows bigger than a dated manuscript left forgotten in a box in the spare room.

It isn’t enough to have talent even. Look at how many authors were rejected before their manuscripts were finally picked up. Some of them have been ridiculously successful, too. We can assume that those who rejected them now regret it, but what if that was the last place the manuscript had been submitted to? How many stories have we missed out on because they didn’t make it through acquisitions?

The act of writing is often romanticized into this starving artist dream. Real writers don’t write for money, they write because they are bursting with words. They write for the art itself, not for the reward. Right? But then they still need to live. They still need roofs over their heads and food in their bellies. So then, what are we left to do?

The forgotten reality of being a writer is that if you want to write professionally, chances are you are going to have to write things that you don’t want to about topics that you don’t care for. Writing requires that you separate your goals into segments if you want to succeed. The likelihood of you finding a job right out of high school writing fantasy stories that pays you enough to support yourself and your future is low.

And the chances of you having the money and time to write the perfect book before the age of 25 and having it become successful beyond your wildest dreams is also quite low.

What most writers and even authors won’t tell you is that writing requires sacrifice. In time, in money, and sometimes in self-confidence. It’s a hard path that breeds a lot more uncertainty than other professions. It is not for the faint of heart. It’s not like a painting where people can take one glance and decide if it is he next masterpiece. Writing requires significant investments from readers and critics before they can decide whether or not it is worthy.

But for all its hardships and all its uncertainty, writing attracts a certain breed. Us writers, the ones who continue to trudge through the muck and the mud, are like crusaders in search of the Holy Grail. Though, I’d like to think that we have a better chance of finding what we seek than those who sought the bejeweled chalice.

We are the ones who deflect assuming questions about being writers and sidestep the voice in our heads that tells us how terrible our writing is. We are the ones who, like Frodo and Sam, drag ourselves up that sweltering, steep path over jagged rocks, and with our last bit of strength, toss our manuscripts and stories and articles at publishers in the hopes that they will forge our work into something great instead of consuming it in flames.

So when writing gets you down, when you are ready to beg for mercy at its feet, remember that every other writer who is working towards something has been where you are now. Remember that we have all whimpered in acquiescence of its might. But we have also stood back up, time and time again, only to force it into a harness, if even only for a short while.

What was an unexpected reality of writing when you first started? What do you think is the hardest part? What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring writer?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

A Writer’s Notebook

 

A Writer's NotebookWhen I was younger, I would fill journals with poetry. Page after page, in different colors of ink, from well-formed letters to passionately scrawled lines. Then, I used writing as an outlet. It was personal, never meant for anyone else but me. It was the voice that had to stay silent, the one that spoke my truths.

Now, after passing through the teen angst and parting ways with my childhood demons, I write for others. It’s not about letting go of emotions or feelings anymore, it’s about creating something worth sharing with others. I used to be that person that would carry around a notebook and pen everywhere: to work, to school, at home, even to the bar. But that’s when it was for me.

And it isn’t just that I matured, or that I changed, it was also the type of writing that moved on. Poetry called to me less and less, and longer, more complex pieces started to pull at my thoughts and ingrain themselves into mind.

And as my writing matured along with me, pouring my soul into a notebook no longer seemed necessary. Instead of only having a voice on paper, I started to exercise my thoughts in speaking, which gradually changed how important I felt writing tools were to me.

I only use my notebook now to jot down things that I know will take me a long time to get to, or minute details that I want to remember for a future story. I save my laptop for when I am actively immersed in writing a story or a post.

I rely on my memory to keep all of the thoughts and ideas and possibilities stored in folders and files and bins, lightly covered in dust, in the corners of my mind. Of course, this is probably a highly irresponsible way to keep things, but when I have an idea, it has to reach a certain point before it deserves to go on paper, just having the thought isn’t enough for it to deserve a physical form.

What was once something that I couldn’t be parted with no matter the cause, is now something that I use on occasion to keep track of long pieces. The tools that I use are no longer as important to me compared to the value of the idea and the purpose of the content. Though I won’t say no to a nice moleskine, and I did receive a feather quill and ink pot as a gift once (though, as far as I can tell, their only use is in creating Shakespearean-style signatures that banks do not appreciate).

Do you go everywhere with a notebook? What kinds of things do you put in it?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

 

Welcome to my Bookshelf

Welcome to my BookshelfI find it fascinating to observe the bookshelves of others. When I visit friends or family, my eyes will inevitably wander to where the books are, whether stacked on an intimidating shelf in the sitting room, or piled in a small stack on an end table.

You can learn so many things about someone from what’s on their shelf, and I don’t mean just the books alone. Aside from books, I’ve got seashells, a few keepsakes, a beautiful picture of my grandmother on her wedding day, and some candles.

And whenever one of the various book-related Facebook pages that I follow asks their followers to post pictures of their shelves, I love to look at the colors, how the books are stacked, how many empty spaces there are, and what they have that I do too.

So today I want to share my bookshelf with you. And I’ll do more than just post the picture. Since 7 is my favourite number, I’ll give you some insight into the 7th book on each shelf, depending on how well my memory serves me. Let’s begin:

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, J.R.R. Tolkien. Much to my shame, I haven’t yet read this book. I bought it when it first came out, and then it kept getting put aside for lighter pieces. That’s one of my favourite things about my shelf; I haven’t read everything on it yet.

Lady of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley. This is part of Bradley’s Avalon series, which I love. It’s an adult, feminist take on the legend of Arthur, saturated with real Celtic traditions and history.

The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett. This was the first book that I read by Follett, and it was after I watched the mini-series. I would highly recommend both, since one won’t spoil the other. It’s a rich, standalone book that baffles in the way that it comes full-circle between the first chapter and the last.

The King’s Grace, Anne Easter Smith. My grandmother sent this book to me because of my passion for historical fiction. Though a steadfast fan of Philippa Gregory, I enjoyed reading about the Plantagenets from a different perspective.

The Road, Cormac McCarthy. I first watched the movie, and then read the book. Because it often happens that I watch a movie only to discover that it was based on a book in the end credits. Now, I loved this story. The relationship of a father and son is told with simple, honest writing, and the book is deeper because of it. However, McCarthy didn’t use contractions. Enough said.

Each one of the books on my shelf has a story outside of the one within it. Like the ones that my grandparents read and then send on to me; the pages turned by their hands, just as I turn them myself. Or the ones that I dropped in the snow or the tub or that were lost for a few years and then found again. Or the ones that are on one of my other shelves, the ones that hold places of prestige in my home, that I read over and over again.

To me, my shelf says that I’ll always believe in dragons. It says that I’m an adventurer, and even a little bit of a romantic. But mostly, it says “me”.

What does your shelf say? What is the 7th book on it?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.