Tips for Older Writers January 4, 2014Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
Tags: older writers, punctuation, writing tips
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While editing the work of several older writers lately, I noticed they used punctuation and formatting styles that are no longer current. I developed the below list of tips to help these writers update their manuscripts. I doubt any editor would reject a work solely on an item on this list, but editors are busy and writers who can save them time and effort hold an advantage. Magazines and paying publishers are looking for manuscripts that are fresh, but certain punctuation and formatting styles date writing.
- Dashes should be made with two hyphens with no spaces on either side of the hyphens. Most computer programs will convert the two hyphens into a long dash known as an em dash, which is what publishers want.
- Periods should go inside quotation marks. In the 1970s and before, U.S. students were taught to put the period inside the quotation marks when the whole sentence was a quotation but outside the marks when only the last part of the sentence was a quotation, like so:
“This sentence is a quotation.”
Only the last part of this sentence is “a quotation”.
England still uses that style, but the United States now uses this style:
“This sentence is a quotation.”
Only the last part of this sentence is “a quotation.”
- Periods should be followed by one space, not two. People who learned to type on a manual typewriter were instructed to put two spaces after the closing punctuation in a sentence, but with the advent of computers and proportional spacing, two spaces are no longer needed or desired.
- Computers can divide words at the end of a line when a break is needed, so dividing words by hand isn’t usually needed or desirable.
- Italics are now used instead of underlines. People used to underline words in titles and definitions to signal to typesetters to put the words in italics. Typewriters didn’t offer italics back then, but computers now do. A few publishers still prefer older formatting styles or no formatting, and they will usually state that in their writing guidelines.
- Telephone numbers no longer need parentheses around the area code. Parentheses suggest text is optional, but area codes are no longer optional. Telephone numbers should be written with hyphens only: 012-345-6789.
- Our language has become less formal and capitals are used less. For instance, general job titles like “mayor” don’t need to be capitalized when standing alone, and general references to a state or city don’t require the words “state” or “city” to be capitalized.
Changes in Journalism October 27, 2013Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
Tags: fundraising, journalism jobs, recruitment, University of Iowa, writing
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The field of journalism has changed dramatically in the past few decades, and jobs in print journalism, copy editing, and proofreading have dwindled. My alma mater, the University of Iowa, keeps me posted about new developments in the UI School of Journalism. I’ve been surprised to see the types of jobs journalism graduates are now anticipating getting with their degrees. Two newer degree tracks are fundraising and recruitment. Companies are hiring journalism graduates to write the letters used in fundraising and recruitment and to make phone calls to potential donors. This points up to me, once again, the importance of being flexible when attempting to make a living writing. Change is a constant in this business.
Visiting Publishers September 8, 2013Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
Tags: A Shadow in the Dark, book publishing, book tour, Living It Up to Live It Down, Ronica Stromberg, Royal Fireworks Press, The Glass Inheritance
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A writing friend told me that she once scored a book deal after touring a publishing house and being told by her tour guide what the publisher was looking for in children’s books. I doubt this happens much since most book publishers are in New York and not all of them give tours, but any opportunity a writer has to network with publishers can’t hurt.
I was fortunate to be able to visit one of my publishers, Royal Fireworks Press, in New York this summer. The press had purchased and published three of my books after discovering my work in the slush pile. (Submissions that come to a publisher without the aid of an agent or any special contact are said to “go through the slush pile.”) After I’d sold each book, I spoke with the staff over the telephone and through e-mails, but until this summer, I had never met any of the staff in person. Tom Kemnitz, the president of the company, spoke with me in his office for about an hour and gave me a tour of the plant, showing me the book publishing process.
I enjoyed seeing the inner workings of a small press and having the chance to speak about the market for my own books. And Tom did give me some good tips, one of which would be helpful to anyone considering submitting to this publisher: Royal Fireworks Press is no longer publishing much science fiction. The press primarily publishes nonfiction, but in the fiction line, the acquisitions team is mainly seeking historical fiction.
Art August 4, 2013Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
Tags: art, the importance of art
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I viewed a student art show this week, and one painting included a statement:
“Earth without art is Eh.”
Later, I thought about this statement and realized the play on words:
So true, I thought.
Then I thought about it more. All of earth is art. Flowers, waterfalls, creatures . . . It’s all God’s art. Earth without art wouldn’t be anything. Earth is art.
Conditional Clauses July 7, 2013Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
Tags: conditional clauses, grammar, if clauses
A writer in one of my critique groups asked me recently about conditional clauses. These clauses are found in sentences beginning with if. The other writer questioned why I had written a sentence beginning with “If I were you . . .” instead of “If I was you . . .”
Were is the correct form of the verb to use with I in if (conditional) sentences when the condition suggested is impossible or highly improbable. I could never be another person, so the conditional clause “If I was you . . . ” is wrong. I need to use were to communicate that I’m talking about a supposition or condition that can never be.
Many writers have lost this distinction in their writing or never realized there are times they should be using were instead of was in conditional clauses. I’ve written a few more sentences below to better show the distinction.
Right: “If I were dead, I wouldn’t care about my belongings.”
Wrong: “If I was dead, I wouldn’t care about my belongings.” (This conditional clause with was is not possible because the speaker is talking and obviously alive. Were is the correct word to use in clauses like this that are describing impossible situations.)
Example #2 (both sentences are correct and being spoken by a 70-year-old man):
Right: “At that time, if I was 16, I could have worked as a car hop.” (At the point in history the 70-year-old is referring to, it would have been possible for him to work as a car hop if he was 16. Was is the correct word to use in conditional clauses like this that are possible.)
Right: “If I were 16 now, I’d love to be a high school exchange student.” (The 70-year-old man isn’t 16 now, so this clause is impossible. Were is the correct word to use in conditional clauses like this that are impossible.)
Right: If I was certified (at that time), I could have done that work.
Right: If I were certified (but I’m not), I could do that work.
Proofreading May 20, 2013Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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I recently took a full-time position as a proofreader for an accounting firm. Proofreading financial reports differs from the type of proofreading I’ve done in the past, but I’m learning a lot and enjoying it.
Over my writing career, I’ve discovered the importance of remaining flexible to making a living from writing. The writer who has diversified talents is better able to weather changes in the economy and workforce than a one-skill wonder.
Some writers choose to work a full-time job outside the writing field for better financial security. They may find a nonwriting job drains their creativity less than a writing job does, giving them the energy and enthusiasm to write in their spare time.
Proofreading work is a good fit for me because it draws little from my creativity but keeps me current and my writing mechanics sharp.
New Market for Writers of Children’s Books April 19, 2013Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
Tags: children's stories, fairy tales, market, writing
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Last August I blogged about writing markets for child authors. After I’d compiled a list on my blog, the editor of the e-zine Knowonder! contacted me to let me know it also publishes children’s writing (as well as children’s stories written by adults). I was unfamiliar with the e-zine but saw it paid, so I submitted a few stories online. Knowonder! recently purchased a Christmas story from me.
The editor has since let me know that Knowonder! is now accepting chapter books for ages 7 to 9. If you’re interested, you can find guidelines and submit at knowonder.submittable.com/submit
From what I’ve submitted to this publisher, I gather the editors are seeking stories more like traditional fairy tales, with an element of magic or fantasy. They ask for “imaginative, exciting, action-filled” stories. They don’t appear to be seeking run-of-the-mill contemporary stories with everyday situations set in ordinary settings.
Writing Slowly March 4, 2013Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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While working with beginning writers over the past year, I’ve seen several make the same mistake. They rush to be published. Their efforts to hurry the process may actually lengthen the time it takes them to reach paid publication. If you’re a beginning writer, consider going slowly now to go fast later.
Read good books in the genre you’re interested in writing in. Books written in the past five years are better indicators of what editors are willing to purchase than books considered to be classics.
Bone up on grammar. Many editors refuse to spend time cleaning up messes of lazy writers.
Read books about the publishing process itself and how to get published. Again, the latest books will be the most helpful in this.
Attend writing conferences if you can. These can be expensive so you may want to hold off until you have a writing project near completion, but if you can afford to go before then, you can receive a lot of good instruction at conferences. Conferences can jumpstart a writing career. The experience is sort of like learning a foreign language through full immersion in another culture rather than through a textbook.
Consider taking a class. Even if you live in a remote area, you can find plenty of online classes.
Join a critique group. If you’re fortunate enough to have critique partners who have been paid for their writing and been successfully published, pay special attention to their comments. They’ve been where you’re at and they’ve found success.