Archive for March, 2012

The Best Way to Self-Edit / Proofread Your Novel

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , on March 31, 2012 by Dawn Ross

Merriam-Webster's Concise Handbook for Writers

Okay, Indie authors. Don’t take this title to mean that you should solely self-edit / proofread your novel. Not only should you proofread a number of times, but you should also hire a professional. Proofreading beforehand gives you knowledge on what to look for so that writing future novels is easier and so that you aren’t overwhelmed with mistakes found by the professional editor.

Review a Book on Grammar and Punctuation
The first step with self-editing is to review a grammar and punctuation handbook such as the “Mirriam-Webster’s Concise Handbook for Writers“. It covers a lot of information from punctuation, capitalization, italics, compounds, abbreviations, numbers, quotations, etc. This book also has an informative section on copyediting and proofreading. Since all of the topics won’t apply to your novel, you can skim though much of it. Take notes and make sure you applied the proper rules in your novel.

Use the Find Tool on Word
Once you have found something where you know you might have made mistakes, use your find tool on Word or Works. For example, maybe I think I used the word week instead of weak in my novel. So I can search both terms to make sure they were each used properly. I can do this for to, two, and too; there and their; and so on. Another example, I think I capitalized the word king or lord ever time. However, it should not always be capitalized. So I refreshed myself on the rules, used the find tool to find every single instance (there were a lot), and made corrections where needed.

Read Through Your Novel
You should read through every page of your own novel at least twice before giving it to someone else to proofread. Read it and try to look specifically for punctuation, grammar, and capitalization issues. More information on our preveious post, “What to Look for when Editing Your Book“. If you find an error which you think you may have made elsewhere, use the find tool if you can. But be sure to go back where you left off and start reading again. And be sure to keep your grammar and punctuation book handy so you can verify anything questionable.

Have Others Read Your Book
As stated in the above mentioned post, have others read your novel.

Proofreading is not easy. It is tedious and time consuming. If you have managed the hurdle of researching and writing your novel, you might find yourself procrastinating on the editing. But editing is a must, especially for Indie authors. Readers hate reading something with a bunch of errors and they might give a bad review because of them. So please self-edit / proofread your own novel. And please be sure to have it professionally edited too.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , on March 24, 2012 by Dawn Ross

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation: An Easy-to-Use Guide with Clear Rules, Real-World Examples, and Reproducible Quizzes

People who can self-publish is great because it allows people like me to finally publish something I spent years working on. It also gives the public more books to read. I don’t know about you, but I have read almost every fantasy novel out there. Being able to read something that is self-published gives me more options. The self-published books may not always be as good, but they can be.

One drawback, however, is self-publishers don’t always have the education, knowledge, or skill to write a professional novel. This doesn’t mean that the story being told isn’t good. It just means there might be a lot of grammatical errors or the story may not be as intricately involved as Robert Jordan’s fantasy novels.

To make your fantasy novel better, it helps if you try to acquire the education to learn what you don’t know. What makes a story good? Is your story any good? Could it be better? Educate yourself. Read other novels and compare. Take creative writing courses. Read books on creative writing.

Don’t be afraid to ask others to read your fantasy novel and provide honest feedback. Honest feedback is not likely to come from family or friends. Share your story on writer’s forums such as Find people on Facebook who share your interests and might be willing to critique your fantasy novel for you. Join a writers group off-line. All these people might be able to provide you some insight which you never thought, find inconsistencies, and give some tips on how to make your fantasy novel characters more interesting.

Many self-publishers take the shortcut of not having their fantasy novel professionally edited. They edit it themselves. But how can you self-edit your book if you don’t know what you don’t know. You can’t find mistakes if you don’t know you are making them. Get a book on grammar and punctuation, such as “The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation“.

I have done most of the things I’ve talked about above. But even though I have already written and self-published my first book, I am constantly trying to improve my writing skills. I think my first fantasy novel, “The Third Dragon“, is good. But I want my future fantasy novels to be better. To make your fantasy novel the best it can be, do what you can to learn what you don’t know.

Movie Review – John Carter

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , , on March 17, 2012 by Dawn Ross


As always, I am looking for a good fantasy movie. A blockbuster movie generally means more action and more special effects, and sometimes even a good story line. As you may or may not know, John Carter the movie is based on a series of stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs first published in 1912. (By the way, Edgar Rice Burroughs is the same author who wrote the Tarzan series.) You can read more about the Barsoon series of John Carter on Wikipedia and purchase an inexpensive ebook on Amazon.

Before critiquing the movie, I must let you know that I have not yet read the Barsoom series books. So my observation of the movie is based solely on the story and characters portrayed in this Disney film. As with most movies based on books, the book is likely to be a little different and have a lot more complex storyline.

The movie John Carter starts out a little too slow for me. I find myself getting a little bored as John Carter learns his powers on Barsoom (Mars) and meets the aliens. The graphics are good but the action doesn’t really pick up until towards the end. In the movie, he teams up with a beautiful warrior princess named Dejah to fight her enemy, Sab Than. Sab Than is an evil warlord who wants to rule all of Barsoom. But his rulership could mean the end of Barsoom. Unknown to John Carter and Dejah, Sab Than is being helped by mysterious beings called Therns. These beings cannot be seen by anyone else unless they want to be seen.

Not surprisingly, the princess and John Carter find themselves falling in love with one another. However, the love interest is not believable. It is not felt. All I see on the screen are two pretty people flirting. It is not as believable of a love connection as with Will and Elizabeth in Pirates of the Caribbean or with Jake Sully and Neytiri in Avatar. Overall, I find this fake love interest between John Carter and the princess very distracting and annoying.

The purpose of the Therns remains a mystery to me. It is obvious he has something to do with John Carter ending up on Mars (Barsoom) and he is definitely supporting Sab Than in conquering Barsoom. One of the Therns explains his interference in the affairs of Barsoom, but the explanation is weak and a plausible motivation escapes me. I can’t wait to read the book to see if this alien has a more reasonable explanation or if he was a complete fabrication from Disney.

I will have to say that the Therns played a key purpose in closing the movie at the end. The twist was perfectly clever. In summary, the beginning of the movie was slow but okay, the middle to end was better. Although I am not fond of the love interest, I did like the movie and will probably add it to my movie collection when it comes out on video.

Research Book Review – Life in Medieval Times

Posted in Writing with tags , , on March 10, 2012 by Dawn Ross

Life in Medieval Times (Perigee)

Maybe you don’t want your fantasy novel to be exactly like medieval times. You probably want to romanticize it a bit, right? Medieval times were quite violent and no one suffered more than the poor, especially women and children. And almost everyone had problems with fleas and rats, even the nobility. But knowing what life was like in medieval times certainly helps build a scene for your fantasy novel. A great book which can help is “Life in Medieval Times” by Marjorie Rowling.

“Life in Medieval Times” covers all sorts of topics. Chapter titles are Charlemagne and Society, Lords and Vassals, Townsmen and Traders, Women and Wives, Pilgrims and Crusaders, Monks and Friars, Schools and Scholars, Church Builders and Artists, Doctors and Patients, and Scientists and Technologists. The first chapter covers the development of the feudal society and how the church slowly became a very influential part of society. Slaves weren’t common but serfdom was. Books were rare and expensive, and subject to thievery.

The second chapter goes more into the feudal estates and how lands were often held as fiefs by vassals. Allods were lands free of service but sometimes surrendered then received back as fiefs. The second chapter also goes a little into the development of castles and other fortifications, how ceremony was important to almost every official act whether by the lords or clergy, how children sometimes sent to be raised in a lord’s castle, the knighting ceremony, and more.

Learn about the marketplace, important workers in trade and the making of cloth, and the influence of the great international fairs of Europe in the third chapter. The fourth chapter covers the various roles of women which varied depending on the culture at the time and their class. You can’t study life in medieval times without covering the crusades in the fifth chapter. Lords and common folk alike make pilgrimages to the holy land. The life of monks and friars in the sixth chapter was also a big part in medieval times. While most people in medieval times weren’t educated, education through the church was common for many lords (chapter six).

The church had a huge influence over much of society in medieval times. Their influence in government grew over time. They were responsible for preserving the Greek and Roman culture by copying manuscripts, education of the nobility (chapter seven), establishing schools of architecture and art (chapter eight), and for establishing hospitals and promoting the healing arts (chapter nine). The church often came to odds with the scientific community (chapter ten). Science was sometimes seen as a form of witchcraft and strongly frowned upon by the church. Despite the huge influence of the church, there were still people in medieval times who studied alchemy, biology, astronomy, and other powers of nature.

Other interesting facts read in “Life in Medieval Times” are that while doctors were promoted by the church, surgeons were detested. It was often left to barbers to perform surgeries. There is also some interesting information regarding the development of guilds, the life and development of the knight, the educational curriculum of the noble men and women, and more.

Knowing about life in medieval times not only helps you in building the cultural society in your fantasy novel, it also helps to spark ideas. How influential are the religious groups in your fantasy novel? How about the guilds? Can anyone with skill be a knight or it is exclusive to nobles? Are your characters peasants or lords? How do they perceive others of a different class? Are their schools in your medieval world? If so, what do they study?

One thing I really love about fantasy is that anything is possible. Read “Life in Medieval Times” to get an insight on life without modern technologies and to inspire ideas in your fantasy novel, but don’t let it limit you. And have fun writing!

Using EyeWitness Books to Research for Your Fantasy Novel

Posted in Writing with tags , , , on March 3, 2012 by Dawn Ross

Arms & Armor (DK Eyewitness Books)

When you first start research for your fantasy novel, it helps to start simple. In some cases, you may not even know what you need to know. EyeWitness Books are a great place to start. Although the information they give is basic, the books cover a lot of information and have many great pictures to help you visualize.

I have two EyeWitness Books – “Knight” and “Castle“. When I first started writing my fantasy novel, I didn’t know much about either. For knights what are the various pieces of armor? What are the different styles? What type of men were knights? How did they live? How did they fight? All this information is basically covered in the EyeWitness Books, “Knight”. There are great pictures, information on horse armor, knightly weapons, siege weapons, and even a couple of pages dedicated to the squires step-by-step process of how to put on armor.

What did medieval castles look like? Were there different types? What were some of the basic structural aspects of a castle? Who lived in castles? What was the purpose of a castle? The EyeWitness Books, “Castle” touches upon all these things and has great pictures too.

Other great EyeWitness Books include “Medieval Life“, “Viking“, “Arms & Armor“, and more. You can even get EyeWitness Books on different periods in history so that you can get an idea of what life was like in Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece or Ancient China. This can be very helpful if the setting of your fantasy novel is a bit more exotic. There are also great EyeWitness Books on battle, knives & swords, and warriors.

EyeWitness Books are considered children’s books. But don’t be embarrassed. They are really very helpful, even for adults – especially if it is a subject you know nothing about. When researching for your fantasy novel, start out simple. Then if you need more detailed information, you can purchase books which are more thorough. At least by the time you read a more thorough book, you will have a good grasp on basic terminology. Check out these and other great reference books for writing at our Writing a Fantasy Novel Store powered by Amazon.