The Seven Deadly Sins of Writing

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					P.O. Box 1957 Westville 3630 South Africa E-mail: info@osborne-porter.com +27 (0) 866001141 Helen Osborne – E-mail: info@third-rock.co.za Ginny Porter +27 (0)827309384 www.osborne-porter.com

This is our first newsletter – in which we hope to keep you apprised of what’s going on in the world of writing and publishing. Send your questions to us and we will endeavour to answer them in our Q&A column so that they may benefit others. One of our aims is to encourage people to write, to get their stories ‘out there’ and get them published. Novels, life experiences, poetry, family history, self-help – they all have a market. Sometimes this market can be small, but we suggest that you don’t measure success by the number of books sold, but rather by the response you get from your readers. If they enjoy it, or are touched by your story – you’ve done a good job and you are successful. Also in this newsletter we will give some tips on how to write and, for new writers (or maybe some old ones too), pitfalls to avoid. We see many manuscripts from people who have a good story to tell, but who have not taken the time to learn how to write. Writing is a craft like any other and it needs to be learned, honed and practiced. Taken from our book Getting Published – Art, Science or Luck? We give you…

The Seven Deadly Sins of Writing
Greed: Sloth: Envy: Sex sells! Not always – especially if it’s gratuitous – don’t just stick in a sex scene for the heck of it. No writer knows everything – not even the most successful. Everyone can learn and improve. Pride: Not letting go of all the research and writing that you’ve acquired. You have Gluttony: to relinquish some of it (information dumping). Anger – if you have an axe to grind, don’t try to do it in your writing – it will show and readers don’t like to be preached at. Wrath: Lust: 1 Writing for the cash prize – caring more about the money you may earn than crafting a worthwhile story / book / article. Having a ‘that’ll do’ attitude - not doing the very best you can. Take time to rewrite, revise, edit. Don’t try to emulate other writers – be yourself.

The End is often the Beginning
Helen Suzman left this world at the ripe old age of 91, having made an enormous impact in this country through her role in public life. Many will remember her for her courage in facing the all-male bullies in parliament. Her influence amongst the black people in particular, will always be remembered. She ‘stuck her neck out’ on many occasions, advising the government of their lack of adherence to basic human rights. I always admired her courage and sometimes feared for her safety. Her passing marks the end of an era in this country. Her legacy lives on, as she was part of the groundswell of change. A number of my colleagues at the University of KwaZulu Natal have reached the end of their personal eras, as far as their academic roles are concerned. Many students will miss them for their dedication, as will I. The retirement age is 60 and this heralds the end of a long era for some academics who may have held tenure for 40 years or more. One professor I have worked with is certainly not going home to watch television or go fishing. His lifestyle will take him all round the world, lecturing on his topic, building construction. Retirement for some signifies not the end, but rather the beginning. Osborne Porter Literary Services is experiencing major change. At first, I was concerned when Helen advised of her plans to relocate, after some 34 years, to the country of her birth, in the UK. Our relationship has spanned a decade. We have held leadership roles on the committee of the South African Writers’ Circle. We did not take the decision to start a business lightly. But, as we knew we worked well together, we both feel it has been the right decision. Technology shrinks the world, as with Internet chat features, we can still have our editorial meetings, and it won’t feel as if we are thousands of kilometres apart. The move promises to present excellent opportunities for our clients, as Helen will make contact with major UK publishing houses. The books we publish can also be distributed in the United Kingdom. Change signifies opportunity. We should embrace it!

Economic Woes…don’t lose heart
It seems that there is always an excuse for things not going according to plan, or according to expectations, and many things have been blamed in the past – apartheid, the petrol price, strikes, the weather… and now it seems that the fault of most things being less than successful is ‘the economic situation’. Ginny and I held our second Book Fair in November and the turn-out was disappointing. Much discussion was held about the reason for this, and again many things were blamed – the venue, the time of year, etc. But it does seem that economic strain is definitely hitting the man in the street. Since November we have heard that: o o o o o The usual shopping centre crowds were depleted The roads were quiet Restaurants in Cape Town are closing daily A large Exhibition due to be held at the ICC, Durban, has been postponed for a year Shops are closing down because of increased rents 2

o People are being retrenched in alarming numbers And worst news of all for writers: Publishing houses are accepting fewer manuscripts and many of their existing back orders are being held over till the New Year. One of our clients has been waiting 18 months to see her (accepted) book appear on the shelves. With all this doom and gloom it would be easy to lose heart and maybe leave your pen in the inkwell, break your pencil lead, throw the computer out of the window… but we still feel there is a need for books. More than that, we know there is a need for people to write books – they may not end up as block busters, but there will be others who want to read your stories and enjoy them – no matter how small that number may be, it is still worth writing and … damn it – publishing! Helen

Fine Tuning the Masterpiece
If one is fortunate enough to be welcomed into the stable of a major publisher in the UK, you as an author should be assured of many sales of your ‘pride and joy’. Recently I came across one of their books, published in 1999, containing errors. How off-putting to read a book produced by this auspicious company with numerous errors! Some ‘editor’ who also took the book out the library, wrote in the margins, “no punctuation at all and shocking grammar”. A company with a professional looking website offer potential clients either a co-publishing deal or outright self-publishing. One of our clients recently submitted a manuscript for editing. The book was previously published at great personal expense by this company. We found numerous errors. Not all companies do a bad edit job. We obtained a co-publishing deal with a UK company and they have been extremely diligent about the editing process. Our only complaint about them is that they prefer the ‘snail mail’ method of correspondence. Osborne Porter Literary Services offers assessments of manuscripts where we consider aspects such as structure, dialogue, flow, etc., and editing. For the latter task we use the ‘track changes’ option of Microsoft Word. This useful feature enables a change to be either accepted or declined by the author. After all, the author is ultimately responsible for the text, and we don’t interfere with the style. David Lowe, recently commented, “I accepted about 95% of your suggestions and thank you for helping me improve my writing.” Before we publish books, we do proofread. However, has it ever happened to you that you have read the same sentence repeatedly, but still miss an incorrectly inserted word? New clients will be required to agree to a formal edit before their books are published. It is distressing for the author, and embarrassing for the publisher, when mistakes occur. No doubt gremlins will still hide the odd error from us, but we will work with the author to ensure a professional end product. Ginny

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The following is a contribution from Chris, one of our proofreaders.
Imagine what a great time you could have if you were paid to read all kinds of genre of books, from the romance, spy or sci-fi you so enjoy, to historical novels or fascinating autobiographies. Just imagine that for every word you read, you were paid in hard cash. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know that instead of having to call “time out” in order to enjoy a few more pages of that fascinating novel, you could say “not now darling, I’m working.” Welcome to my world! I’m your reader! It’s a bit like being an explorer of new undiscovered lands, blazing a trail through virgin territory, where no soul has yet cast an eye. I am first to gaze with awe, excitement, and fascination, at never-before-imagined vistas. I race along with the book’s creator, hot on the heels of the unfolding plot. I lament with the loser. I love with the passion of the enraptured lover. I read at a fast pace, which allows me to devour your manuscript in one or two sittings. Of course, if you have written a tome, the task may take a day or two longer. But I generally complete a first reading within a day. Contrary to what you may have been told, “speedreading” is the perfect method for retention and understanding. Do not confuse speed-reading with skimming. The latter technique is used to gain an overview of the subject, and does not impart the depth of appreciation that fast reading does. Once your precious manuscript has been thus devoured, I generally read it for a second time, at a more sedate pace. This is in order to prepare my rough appraisal for the scrutiny and evaluation by Ginny, who will analyse your work within a framework which comprises such considerations as structure, dialogue, flow, plot, and many others. As well as my and Ginny’s assessment, Helen also skims the ms and gives general review of characterisation, plot, style, dialogue etc. A formal edit requires a further careful read. This process can be likened to a makeover, or even sometimes, cosmetic surgery. Editing is indicated when a manuscript is to be submitted for a publisher’s evaluation. It is an absolutely necessary procedure, and like surgery, should not be undertaken lightly. Your manuscript will require less editing, at least as far as grammar and punctuation are concerned, if you are mindful of the basics, while the muse has you bashing and frothing at the keyboard. There is a valid school of thought that maintains you should get those ideas down and massage the language at a later more sedate time. Your reader appreciates not having to suspend the storyline, in order to figure out just what is meant when grammar is not quite correct. Some examples may clarify: Two people may love each other but not one another. 4

The rule states that each other refers to two elements, while one another refer to more than two. Correct use prevents confusion. You cannot say:“We duelled, killing each other.” It just does not make sense. Unless you are now writing as the ghost of one of the duellists! “The teams played against each other.” This tells the reader that the writer is referring to two teams only. “The family loved one another.” This refers to more than two members within the family. Reader’s Digest “How to Write and Speak Better” explains that “one another” has a vagueness and flexibility when compared to the specific and focused “each other”. So, dear readers, do we understand each other? Or should that be ‘one another’? Definitely ‘each other’ since I am referring to myself as one element and you my dear readers as the other. So there you have it! Chris

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