Review: Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Heart of Darkness is an excellent book and one that I cannot recommend enough. Conrad is a brilliant author, and it shows in this work.

A word of warning to the socially conscious – this book will make you uncomfortable. It includes some racist imagery, and it presents a very unkind picture of the Ivory trade, even as the central characters are participants in what takes place. I won’t go into much else. Some very brilliant dissertations and rebuttals have already been made about the racism in the Heart of Darkness and they are worth reading to understand how different people receive the work.

What makes this book brilliant is how Darkness and Fear are built up and played with. Reading this book will leave you haunted, not just by the mistreatment of Africans in the ivory trade, but in how all of the elements come together to affect our narrator, his companions, and Kurtz himself.

This is a must read for any aspiring writer. I highly recommend it for those who write in the paranormal genre. Though paranormal elements in this book are more with superstition than presentation, it does show you how those elements, real or imagined, can shape the minds of those they affect. That lesson is excellent if you want to add realism and darkness to your paranormal work.

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The Elipses – When to Use Them and When Not to Use Them

You know what the ellipses is, the [ … ].

Do you know what it is used for?

Often in blogs (including here sometimes) it is used to indicate a trailing off of thought or a pause, in a way that a comma or semi-colon might be used. This is an informal usage of the ellipses and is fine for informal settings, like many blogs.

When you are writing a book – whether fiction or non fiction – such informal use of the ellipses is a bad mistake, and one that I see many authors make.

How do authors often use the ellipses?

Authors often use the ellipses to indicate a pause, an insecurity, or to indicate that the thought or prose has trailed off or a character has been interrupted.

Examples:

A Pause.

She was entrancing … beautiful … sultry … and everything he wanted in a woman.

An Insecurity

Amanda did not know what to think. She was … confused. Why was this happening now? She knew she did not deserve this … did she?

Trailing off or interrupted.

He was on his way to the store. He needed chips, beer, and some kind of dip. He entered the store when she appeared, drawing his attention from his shopping list …

Each of these are examples of ways that I see [ … ] used a lot in fiction writing, and every single one of them is wrong.

How should the ellipses be used?

The ellipses in formal writing (this includes fiction writing) should only be used to indicate omitted text.

Example:

Full text.

John went to the store today to buy fruits and vegetables when he was struck by a car.

With omission.

John went to the store today … when he was struck by a car.

What is important to note is that the meaning is not changed. If you are relaying information you were told about John going to the store and being struck by a car, it is not important to know that he was going to buy fruits and vegetables. When relaying it in print, we indicate the [ … ] to tell our reader that some information is missing, but it is not important to what we are talking about. You never omit key details with the [ … ] as this is dishonest writing.

But in the examples above, the author could have been omitting thoughts when using the [ … ].

This is true. This is also a very bad thing to do in writing. The [ … ] is not a time for you to be lazy as a writer. If you are struggling with what your character is thinking as he talks about his ideal woman or she wrestles with her insecurities, then step back and think. You are probably struggling with it because your character is struggling with it. Think about what that struggle looks like and feels like. The way it feels to you is probably the way it feels you your character. Give detail instead of [ … ]. Why? Because you are omitting important details and crippling your storytelling.

In the case of ending an interrupted or trailed off thought/scene – well. In the case of an interruption, simply use a [ – ]. You will notice that programs like Word like to elongate the [ – ], but if you are interrupting dialogue, this can become messy. What I do is this:

He said, “I am so angry – a”

WordPress does not do this, but if you were in Word, when you space after the [ – ] and type the “a” you see the [ – ] elongate. End the quotation after the “a” as normal. Then simply back space to remove the “a” and the extra space so that your statement looks like this:

He said, “I am so angry -” (with Word leaving the [ – ] all elongated and pretty.)

In the case of a thought or scene trailing off. Sometimes it is fine to simply end the sentence with a [ – ] and no period. Other times, it is best to actually show the character’s thoughts and attention shifting away from what he or she was doing and onto something else. It depends on context. Generally, if a sudden thought, action, or dialogue is to follow the trailing off, then a [ – ] is fine. If you are going to move on to new descriptions with no sudden action, then you should describe the shift in words.

Now you know why you are probably using the [ … ] wrong.

Stop doing it. Write what you mean to write, use proper punctuation, and happy writing everyone.

 

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From the Editor

I’m starting a new category on the blog: From the Editor.

This will cover things that I discover as an editor while I am working. These are mistakes that I see frequently in writing that authors simply should not do.

It isn’t that I don’t want to do my job as an editor.

It is that you should, if you are going to be a writer, learn the craft of writing. That means learning basic rules of grammar and punctuation. It also means learning when to use adverbs and adjectives, and understanding why they should and should not be used in certain situations.

That being said, first post coming up soon about ellipses.

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On Editing w/pro-tips – Quotations

So I’m editing now.

Stuff other than my own work!

As I have been working, I have noticed a few habits writers sometimes have.

I’ve lived in my own little bubble of my own writing for a long time, so I’m really only able to talk about this now.

First, understand that as you write, you will have spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. That is acceptable as no one is perfect. Amazingly enough, some of those errors will remain even after a professional editor gone over your work.

Again, no one is perfect. My child loves taking time out of her work to point out typos in her workbook. This is her school work, the thing that is supposed to help her learn, and it is full of typos.

So, you get the idea. Your work will probably never be completely free of errors. That is just how it goes.

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My Thought on Key Words

As a freelance writer, I do a lot of work for blogs and websites, helping to add or update content. One of the key things that clients need, and rightfully so, are key words. Key words are an organic way to help ensure your site is found by search engines when users look for things. The idea is to incorporate the search terms that people most commonly use when searching for your product, service, or cause.

For example, if you are an author of paranormal romance books and have a blog about writing, you would want to include in your blog key words based on search terms readers would normally look for. I will admit to being bad about key word usage on my own site. I have plans to get them done. Really, I do.

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Today, You Get to See Me Work

Here it comes, the dreaded Lorem Ipsum. My apologies to you, gentle reader. I am currently working on a Fiverr project and testing just how well things copy and paste over from Word to WordPress. Specifically, I am testing the column and table functions. So you’re going to be subjected now to some LI because I don’t feel like writing up other stuff.

Enjoy.

Does this table translate over? (Added in WordPress, yes, yes it did.)

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse vehicula quam at fringilla hendrerit. In bibendum tincidunt nulla iaculis rhoncus. Curabitur ultrices orci in tortor laoreet hendrerit. Nam interdum sapien ut nulla porta porta. Praesent magna urna, aliquet ac euismod sit amet, gravida in turpis. Praesent rutrum et mauris vel egestas. Ut tincidunt ex nec eros consectetur, id blandit leo egestas. Pellentesque egestas dapibus iaculis.
Suspendisse at rhoncus erat. Praesent sit amet rutrum lorem. Etiam mollis, lorem ac rhoncus scelerisque, nunc erat cursus est, vitae pulvinar odio ligula vitae leo. Sed in sagittis est, in mattis libero. Vestibulum vestibulum et mauris sed facilisis. Pellentesque ornare luctus neque ac porta. In congue, nisi et facilisis placerat, nibh mauris euismod eros, vitae venenatis enim enim at eros. Sed quis sapien id neque consectetur eleifend. Etiam porta dolor ac ante eleifend imperdiet. Praesent eget nisl auctor, cursus velit at, luctus elit. Integer lacus massa, bibendum aliquet erat ut, imperdiet imperdiet dolor. Etiam felis diam, ultrices in iaculis et, imperdiet a libero. Morbi fringilla volutpat convallis.
Vivamus vel lacus elit. Nullam quis mi orci. Donec mollis condimentum ipsum nec semper. Vivamus luctus tellus eu nisi tincidunt lacinia. Curabitur consectetur consequat sapien. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Morbi vestibulum viverra felis, in volutpat nulla iaculis vel. Morbi vestibulum viverra felis, in volutpat nulla iaculis vel. Aliquam erat volutpat. Morbi lobortis aliquam augue sed porttitor.

 

Look ma! I’m poor editing in a major Hollywood Movie!

If you’re still reading this, I’m kind of amazed, actually. So I suppose I will keep entertaining you with LI fun. I’ll try to remember to include something witty at the end.

Did the Columns translate over? (Added in WordPress, no, no they did not. Dang it.)

Edit in WordPress: I’m not going to bore you with non-columned Lorem Ipsum.

Welcome to the life of a writer!

That, gentle reader, is my LI fun for today.

I know I said I would do something clever, but if you actually read this post and did not just skip down to the next, I’m too busy giggling.

Have fun, and good writing everyone!

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Proofreading

The final type of edit is the Proofread.

Often times this gets confused with a Mechanical Edit and as both an author and an editor, this aggravates me to no end. Most people, however, are not to blame for this mistake. You can blame your high school English teacher and often times your college professors (who should have known better).

By the time your story is ready for Proofreading, it is done. All of the other edits are complete. You are now proofreading your final copy, the Proof that has come back to you from your publisher of choice, be that an indie platform or a publishing house.

Proofreading involves making sure that the proof looks the way you intend for it to look. Are sentences broken up in odd ways? Are margins correct? Are whole parts of the page missing? Is the cover smooth and visually appealing?

Yes, some mechanical things may be found in proofreading, but that is not actually the purpose of the proof read. It is simply making sure that the final has come together well. Is the story formatted properly on the page? Does it read well in an e-reader? Is the font style clear and comfortable on the eyes for print or electronic format? Is the font the proper size for the eyes of the intended audience? Is formatting correct for illustrations and are they captioned properly?

Headers and footers should be inserted properly. The copyright pages should be formatted correctly, as should any attributions and acknowledgements. Page numbers and author/title should also be correct as should the title page.

For electronic formats, links should work properly. This includes the table of contents as well as any external links to things like author websites and social networking.

And that, friends, is Editing 101.

I’m going to return to talking about editing again soon. I’ll be offering some tips for writers having to do the editing themselves and some survival tips for those working with an editor that I have learned along the way.

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Format Editing

This is one of the last stages of editing before a book or story is actually published. Who does this type of editing depends. Traditionally published books and magazines have their own editors to do this for the author. Independent authors and vanity presses often put this onto the author, who may do it themselves or hire editors.

In a publishing house or magazine, the Format Edit includes three types of editing. For our purposes, looking at this from the self-publishing, independent author perspective, I prefer to put them under one umbrella. To understand how to properly format your book and have it ready for print, however, it is important to look at what is involved in each sub-edit.

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The Mechanical Edit

Hello everyone. Many apologies for not being back in a little while to get up the next Five Types of Editing installment. I have been very busy with the release of The Shulim Cycle Book of Susan and lots and lots of editing work. Now that I have a moment, however, I wanted to pick up where we left off: The Mechanical Edit.

The Mechanical Edit is usually the edit that authors look at and say “I hate editing.” This is a line by line edit, however it is not looking at sentence structure, voice, and transition. Instead, the Mechanical edit is concerned with four primary aspects of the work:

  • Grammar – Noun/verb agreement, proper use of prepositions, etc. Did you use words correctly – Their/there/they’re, lie/lay, for example.
  • Punctuation – Are commas, semi-colons, and periods used correctly? Are quotations punctuated properly?
  • Spelling – Did you spell words correctly? This catches not only misspellings, but also words spelled correctly, just not in context. Examples include no and not, though and thought, etc.
  • Specific Mechanical Needs – Citations, captions, and text separations are also included in the mechanical edit.

The Mechanical or Copy Edit is just what it sounds like. It is the mechanical form of the written word, making sure everything is smooth and correct. It is often called Copy Editing because it is the editing step that leads from manuscript to copy – or print.

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Today is the BIG DAY!

 

Book of Susantitle SigMuch happiness. The Shulim Cycle Book of Susan is finished and released.

And I have to toot my own horn a little bit on this: I have used lie and lay correctly.

Seriously. I searched through the book very carefully for every iteration of lie and lay, poured through websites for references as needed, and made sure that I used it correctly each time.

I even got to use had lain.

But I digress. It was important to me to get something so small right because, well, it is a huge pet peeve of mine when people don’t. I even wrote about how to properly use the verbs some time ago. Remember? So … I thought it would be really foolish of me to use it incorrectly.

If you don’t believe me, click the link up above and buy the book.

And yes, this has been an elaborate “I just published my book, go buy it please” post. I hope that you enjoyed!

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