Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Copyright Act Termination Rights

As of 1 January 2013 the Copyright Act of 1978 Section 203 comes into play. This provides for “Termination Rights” where authors can reclaim their works from their publishers after thirty-five years. These old backlist titles are a cash cow for many publishers and litigation lawyers are expecting a flood of complaints from unhappy authors.

There are some big names whose books will be eligible for termination such as Stephen King, Judy Blume, M.M. Kaye, and John LeCarre. Digital publishing is a new innovation since 1978, and that gives these authors an extra impetus to reclaim their rights and self-publish, cutting out the middle man altogether.

Unfortunately the rules for reclamation of rights are messy and complicated and obviously publishers are not going to help authors leave them. Litigation lawyers are anticipating a train wreck as authors try to fulfill the conditions required. Then there’s the added complication of what happens to well-known authors who have sold movie rights etc.

It should be fascinating to see how this unfolds.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Why I threw that book against the wall (and broke my ereader!)

Plot holes you could drive a semi-trailer (18-wheeler) through.
They arrive at the party on foot thinking it’s a lovely evening for a walk. Then get into their SUV during the party to chase after the bad guys which includes climbing over fences and running like crazy. Hang on she was wearing high heels and a pretty dress. And she’s doing all this? And where did the car come from? Did they steal it?

Annoying characters.
He’s not Alpha, he’s pig-headed, arrogant, and is not protecting her, he’s using her as a doormat. Or, she’s so stunningly beautiful it makes the reader feel ill and she’s useless. Stands there wringing her hands and lets the villain catch her or the hero use her.

Bad grammar, head hopping that gives the reader whiplash, poor sentence construction, misplaced words, typos.
And so on. Solution—get an editor. Your best friend reading your book and telling you it’s wonderful is great. But you still need an editor.

Lack of world-building
This is most obvious in fantasy/futuristic worlds but is true for any book. If there are two green moons in chapter two, why is there a red moon in chapter ten? If the vampire in chapter six cannot go outside during the day why can the vampire in chapter ten attack the heroine in the middle of the day at the office? If the hero drove south for ten minutes to get to Grandma’s house on page forty why did it take an hour on page 120? As the author you can do anything you like, but you have explain to the reader how it is possible and why it is logical.

There’s lots of other details to get right, but fix these first and you’ll be well on the way to keeping your readers happy.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Watch out for bias in surveys

A while ago a company produced statistics that proved eating chocolate was good for your health. Before you rush out and buy that giant block of fruit and nut chocolate read on.
The survey was commissioned by a chocolate company and hidden in the tiny print near the bottom of the study were the real facts. Eating a small amount of plain dark chocolate is good for your health. Eating a lot of chocolate is not so good.

The lesson to be learned is to check the sources for bias. Who commissioned/organized the survey in the first place?

The same is true for surveys about who is reading books, what genres are being read and so on.
If the survey is based online, you need to expect a higher percentage of readers of digital books. If it is run by a print publisher then readers will be more print oriented and will be more likely to be big readers of whatever genre that publisher produces.

Surveys can be helpful and their information is valuable but check the sources. Watch for bias. And don’t rush to write in a genre you know nothing about on the information in a survey until you’ve checked the facts carefully.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Please sir, get my title right.

If you are inventing your own world, you can call anyone a duke, princess, or whatever you like, as long as you’re consistent within that world.

However, if you are writing a historical novel, or even a semi-historical one, it’s much smarter to follow the correct conventions for titles of nobility.

Back at the turn of the twentieth century in Russia, anyone marrying into or born into a royal family was automatically titled prince or princess. That’s why there were hundreds of Russian princes and princesses hiding out all over Europe when the Russian revolution took place.

British royalty, however, is very different.

You may have noticed that the Queen’s husband is not called the king. He is Prince Philip. He was already a prince before they married, having been born into the Greek royal family. Similarly Prince Charles’ wife, Camilla, is not a princess. She’s the Duchess of Cornwall, having been given one of Prince Charles’ secondary titles. Even Charles’ former wife was not actually Princess Diana, although she was popularly known by that name. Her real name was Diana, Princess of Wales. A tiny difference, but one very important to the British aristocracy.

Also, please never have the beautiful, impoverished, non-noble heroine sitting beside the charming Duke or Marquis for dinner. The seating at dinner followed absolutely unbreakable rules and was strictly by precedence. Hostesses spent hours checking volumes such as “Burke’s Peerage” to ascertain whether Lord Snob’s title was older than Lord Whosit’s. The older the title, the higher on the social scale, so therefore the higher up the table they sat.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Eulogy for a Library

I can see both sides of this story. I grew up with books, learned to read before I even started school and have always had a passion for books and reading.
Yet on the other hand I love the idea that I can have a hundred books on my flash drive and read them anywhere. No more storage problems. No more being stuck waiting for someone with nothing to read. No more having to carry a heavy bag of books on holidays (vacation).

An excellent article, worth reading and thinking about.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Awesome Words We Don’t Have In English

The Eskimos have one hundred different words for snow. The Germans have a word that means “a face in need of a fist”. There’s even a word for phoning once and hanging up, hoping the person will call you back, in Czech.

The 10 Coolest Foreign Words The English Language Needs
Some of these are the same as the previous list, but this list has some other good terms, including a couple of fascinating Japanese words for what you pretend to believe and what you actually believe.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy et al

Some years ago I was an amused onlooker as about twenty editors had a fierce and bloodthirsty battle over whether or not the Easter Bunny deserved a capital B for bunny.

I’d edited a book where the Easter Bunny (or possibly bunny) played a minor role. The author had given him two capital letters and that had seemed correct to me.
Little did I know.

The battle raged back and forth for three days with references from the Chicago Manual of Style (the bible for editors internationally) being tossed like bombs into the fray.

Santa Claus gets two capital letters because that is his name, Mr. Santa Claus, just as Ms. Jane Doe or Mr. John Doe would be capitalized. But the Easter Bunny (bunny) is different. Easter is a proper noun so it’s capitalized. But a bunny is just a bunny (lower case) unless his real name is Mr. Bunny.

Then someone mentioned the Tooth Fairy (or tooth fairy). Is she Ms. Tooth Fairy, or Ms. Fairy (lowercase tooth) or… That caused the argument to reignite and continue for another couple of days.

In the end the publisher declared it too difficult to decide a winner from CMOS rules alone and directed that henceforth House Style would be two capital letters for all such characters.

I noticed even Google is sitting on the fence for the Easter Bunny with Wikipedia giving it a capital but the search engine using a lowercase b.

Writing professionals take their job of being completely accurate very seriously. So should all authors/aspiring authors.

Helen Woodall
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The h-h-h-hesitant heroine

The late, great Barbara Cartland made famous the hesitant heroine. Usually very young, very sweet and very innocent, she was drawn to the older, wicked-but-delicious man (often a rake who’d decided to settle down). Her innocence was frequently portrayed by the use of many ellipses in her speech, and often also by a stutter or stammer. As a means of showing instead of telling, it worked just fine.

However, times change and authors today are urged to use other methods of showing than an endless series of stutters and ellipses.

Think of the movie, “The King’s Speech”. His stutter was world famous, yet in the movie often it was portrayed more by a close-up of his face as he drew on all his resources to speak without stammering, than by dialogue with lots of “T-t-t-today, I-I-I w-w-w-will…” etc.

The same with ellipses. Today’s heroine is much more likely to say “um” than to trail off altogether. “Oh yeah. I um, I’ll get right on it, sir,” is much more contemporary than, “Oh… Yes… I-I-I-I’ll get right on it… Sir.”

Also, remember only about one half of one percent of people worldwide stammer. And most of them are pre-school age children who either grow out of it, or learn to deal with it using therapy. In other words, it’s not a very common problem, unlike wearing glasses, or being partly deaf.

Helen Woodall
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.