Blood from Your Own Pen: A Practical Guide on Self-Editing and Common Mistakes: For Beginning Authors Who Intend to Survive to Publication
Sometimes there are little things you didn't know about that can change everything, and that's why I decided to write this guide. It is a compilation of things that have taken me sixteen years to learn, and I am going to give you the chance to learn it all in sixty minutes! Yay! Talk about a return in time investment!
The insights collected throughout this book are all things I wish I could have had in a book, in my hand, the day I decided I was finally going to put my butt in the chair and write a novel. Having this would have moved my learning curve up by years. Literally. So many of these were mistakes I made over and over again until some kind soul finally pointed it out, or until I had seen it (and hated it) in enough other authors' stories to finally recognize it in my own.
Before you pay an editor to bleed red all over your manuscript with their pen, grab hold of as many of these rules as you can and squeeze them until the metaphorical blood drips from your imaginary fist. Use it to fill your own red pen and then go bleed red on your story first. You will get more benefit, and learn more, from an editor who doesn't have to correct these kinds of mistakes for you.
And it will cost you less in the long run. You will never find anyone else in the writing world whose blood is less precious or expensive than your own.
"As an editor of slush piles, I wish I could make reading this book a required prerequisite. As an author, this book has been invaluable in helping me submit professional manuscripts. The chapters are short and get straight to the point, packing this book full of advice. It is a must have for beginning authors, and a great reference and reminder for the seasoned author. If you plan on submitting your story somewhere, definitely get this book."– J.L. Zenor, author and CEO of The Midnight Writers
"There are a lot of guides for writers, and this one fills a particular niche aimed at the beginning fiction writer. It covers a lot of ground, from cover letters and formatting, to punctuation and word choice. Because it covers so much ground, the four-page table of contents is a godsend.
Beginners will get a lot out of it, and even advanced/professional writers may find it useful.
There is a lot of solid, practical advice here, so this guide has earned a spot on my reference shelf."– Steve Ruskin, author of America's First Great Eclipse
"If you think you know what you're doing, or you think you don't know, or you think you do but don't, then don't think twice about buying this book. It's got a little something for everybody, and everybody needs a little something, sometimes. Take it from somebody who learned more about what he doesn't know than what he thought he knew he didn't know. And because of this book, now he does."– Rick Duffy, author of “Ari’s Song”, Adventures in Zookeeping
"A great resource of information and helpful reminders for writing and editing. Very easy to follow, fun examples, and help with those everyday stumpers that seem to plague us all here and there."– Jessica Lauren Gabarron, author of “Ether and Chrome”, Sidekicks
"Learn something new about writing, and remember what you forgot. This simple sentence is the perfect description of Blood From Your Own Pen by Sam Knight... This book will jolt the memory toolbox and put the panache back in pen. So, do yourself a favor and buy a copy of this book. Your readers will thank you for it."– Rod Spurgeon, author of the Starcruiser Galaxy stories
New writers tend to have one of two problems with descriptions: too much, or not enough.
The seemingly unlimited choices of how to describe things, and the problems they can cause, manifest in so many ways that I considered making this a section all its own. Instead, I decided to include them all under the same heading of Common Problems With Writing. Many writers don't recognize a problem as being part of the use of description, and I worried that someone thumbing through would miss what they were looking for because it was under the Descriptions heading. As you read other examples of Common Problems with Writing, please keep in mind how many of them are actually a problem with description, and realize that, really, all a story is, is a bunch of descriptions.
Writing teachers like to tell us "show don't tell," and there is some truth to what they are saying, but really, everything in a story boils down to tell. The trick is to make a reader think about what you are telling them, so that they infer things that you have not directly told. That is what show means.
Remember, a reader's imagination is better than anything you can write. What you want to do is give fertile soil with a great topiary frame for their imagination to grow in. After you give them the shape, let them fill in all the little details.
An occasional problem with descriptions is sounding literal when we mean them to be figurative. (See literally for more on this.) As writers, we love to be artistic and use our metaphors and similes, but sometimes, especially when writing science fiction or fantasy, it can be difficult to tell if something is actually that way in the story or if the writer is being poetic.
If a space traveler sets foot on a planet for the first time, and the author says the ground was ashen, I really don't know if I am being told it is gray or if it is really covered in ash. If a wizard opens a magical doorway to a gilded land, I really don't know if the land is literally covered in gold or just bathed in golden sunlight.
Remember to try to interpret what you write as someone else may. They might not see it the way you did. This is a good reason to have editors and beta readers. (A beta reader is someone, usually not a professional, who reads your early manuscript and helps you find problems and mistakes. You know. Like your mom. Or my wife.)