Monday, December 21, 2009

Writing Peeves

So, you're reading a book...or a paper or a fanfic or a story or an essay or an article or a website, or any of the thousands of ways people put words together to communicate something. With all that reading, what is it that bugs you when you come across it?

I do a lot of reading. For one thing, I love to read. For another, I'm a college professor, and I assign speeches and papers...and I then I have to read them (which is often why I get to the end of a semester and ask myself, "What were you thinking when you assigned this?"). I'm also a professional and volunteer beta, so I read for a living.

Here are a few of my pet peeves and irritations in my various reading roles.

  • As a reader. Typos. This is a published book, for heaven's sake. How many people have had their hands on these galleys? How do typos that are obvious to me get by that many professional book producers? There is at least one in the Twilight series, but I can't remember where it is right now.
  • As a beta. Punctuation around quotations. Actually, there could be dozens of items on this list, but this is something I'll correct once, and if it's fanfic, I'll send it back after that. If it's original, I'll explain the rule and ask the author to fix all the errors. This is an extremely common error.
  • As a teacher. Plagiarism. I failed 4 students for plagiarism this semester, even after I explained to them what it was, what would happen if I caught them, and how I always caught them. In addition to plagiarism, which I oppose on principle, I am offended by bad plagiarism. At least try, people! This semester, I had students copy first-person stories told by though they were telling the story! And I had students copy from websites and include all the typos (not to mention all the erroneous information out there). Look, if you're going to cheat, at least do it well!
  • Bonus...because I can't let it go unsaid. Using apostrophes for plurals. "There were two soda's in the fridge." That means, "There were two soda is in the fridge." Makes no sense.
I could go on for a long time, but I want to hear yours. What really bugs you as a reader?


Friday, December 18, 2009

New Writing Exercise on the Website!

Check it out here!

We'll publish the three best ones we get here and on the website!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Common Errors and How to AvoidThem

We're all about helping you fix errors, so here's an article from this month's Fiction Factor Newsletter, written by Dr. Vicki Hinze. In this article, Dr. Hinze gives concrete examples of easy-to-make mistakes and how they might be improved or corrected.

I'm going to reprint the article here, but I really encourage all of you to look into getting Fiction Factor. It's free, and it's always full of helpful articles for writers.

Common Mechanical Pitfalls
by Dr. Vicki Hinze

When asked, a group of editors from top publishing houses, responded that the following are the most often seen mechanical errors in works submitted by authors.

By removing these errors from our works, we greatly enhance our potential for publication—and strengthen our writing skills.

Author Intrusion, Filtering, Passive Voice.

Use the active voice in writing. Avoid weak verbs: "to be" and its variants: was, are, is. This puts the reader on-scene, makes what’s happening, happen now. Author intrusion reminds the reader she’s reading, hence you lose immediacy, empathy between reader/character.

Show, don’t tell applies. Watchwords: thought, wondered, considered, realized, and the like.

Filtered: She realized she’d breached the point of no return.
She had to kill him.

Unfiltered, no intrusion: The point of no return. She had to kill him.

Autonomous Body Parts.

Parts of a character’s body cannot act alone. The character must lift her hands, dart her gaze, tiptoe. Otherwise, the visual images created in the reader’s mind are horror. Disconnected body parts shouldn’t move without the character’s body being attached.

Example: Her eyes roamed around the room.

Corrected: She let her gaze roam around the room.

(Eyes shouldn’t roam. Use gaze. Note that she caused this roaming. In this corrected version, her eyes didn’t act autonomously or independent of her.)

Cause before Effect, Reaction before Action, Syntax Error.

Whatever the reader reads first on the page, happens first in the readers mind. This error occurs when the reaction to something, say fear, is written down before the action causing the fear, say a hissing snake. Or when the effect is shown before the cause prompting that effect.

Watchwords are: when, as, before, during, while, until, after, and since.

To correct this error, simply flip-flop the phrases to be sure you list cause then effect, action then reaction.

Use of names in dialogue.

When conversing, people don’t often use names. To be clear about who’s speaking, give the character a distinct voice, an outstanding feature, and use action tags. Have character do something with an object and use it to make it clear to the reader who’s talking. This writer’s tool does double duty: tags the speaker and creates an illusion of action. Body language is an extremely effective method.

Avoid: Figure, Frame, and Presence.

This editorial Pet Peeve doesn’t show up as often now as it once did.

Don’t write: He leaned his massive frame against the door.

Do write: He leaned against the door.

A point: When is the last time you saw a hunk and thought: Wow, what a nice frame?

Separate Actions.

Keep actions separate, otherwise you risk having the character do the physically impossible. "And" can be a wicked abuser of this mechanical infraction.

Example: She called 911 and drove to the hospital.

Can she really do these two things simultaneously? Without a cell phone? More likely, she called 911 and then drove to the hospital. The actions were separate. One followed the other. They didn’t occur simultaneously.

Keep Items in a Series Parallel.

Make sure your subjects/verbs/syntax are in agreement.

Do: Walk and chew gum.

Don’t: walk and be chewing gum.

Ellipsis (Series of dots)

Use the ellipsis sparingly. Otherwise, when you need it, it lacks impact. Punctuate it like . . . this. Or at the end of a sentence, like this. . . .

Unheroic Character Behavior.

Protagonists aren’t like us, they’re people we want to be like: admirable, honorable, considerate, strong, and aspiring—in their thoughts, actions, and deeds. They’re not perfect, but they are admirable. Respect your characters—even your villains. Give everyone a redeeming quality, and make them strong. Anchoring Scenes.

Show the readers where the scene is taking place, where the characters are and what they’re doing. Specific, concrete details immerse the reader. Without them, reader can’t visualize. Use the senses, and use details that are indicative of the characters’ mood at the moment. Write cinematically: using words that form distinct and vivid pictures in the reader’s mind that convey his/her emotional mood at that time. Intensity.

When in intense situations, characters don’t think deeply. They think in short spurts. In fragments. Readers read faster, which imparts a sense of urgency, hence intensity. Point of View.

Today’s trend is third person, multiple viewpoint. That is, a single viewpoint which at specific intervals transitions to a different character. Some experts recommend one viewpoint per scene to avoid losing intensity.

Hint: use the character with the most to lose as your viewpoint character.

Eliminating these mechanical pitfalls from your work greatly enhances your writing skills and gives the editor fewer distractions during the reading. That translates to fewer reasons to reject your work.

© Copyright Vicki Hinze. All Rights Reserved


Dr. Vicki Hinze is an award-winning, best-selling author who routinely shares her expertise at national writers' conferences, online, and through her writing guides. Her latest non-fiction book is ALL ABOUT WRITING TO SELL, from Spilled Candy Books for Writers. This 589-page ebook covers everything you need to know about the craft of writing, the publishing business, and the secrets to getting published. ALL ABOUT WRITING TO SELL is available at as a download or disk.

Or you can visit Vicki's author site at

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Holiday Special

From now until the end of 2009, get 1/3 off your beta services. That's 3 pages for the price of 2, or 15 pages for the price of 10, or 300 or the price of 200...

And guess what? You can stock up! If you pay for 66 pages now, you can have 99 beta'd at your leisure, whenever you're ready to send them!

Know an aspiring author? No Disclaimers Beta Services makes a great holiday gift--especially at 1/3 of the cost! Contact us at to ask about gift certificates.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Copyediting Shakespeare

This article was posted on It's great, it's about what it might look like if Shakespeare's prose was looked over by a contemporary editor.

Thomas Christensen

Recently I was working on an anthology of literary texts that included some classic texts from the mid-twentieth century, works that have been often reprinted and much discussed. To my surprise, the publisher had the pieces copyedited. It was strange to see these familiar texts subject to the editor’s sometimes questionable scrutiny. It made me wonder what might have happened if the selection of works had gone back even further, to Shakespeare.

To be, or not to be: {COMMENT: Weak, confusing opening. Is something missing here? The thought seems unfinished.} that is the question: {COMMENT: Indirect. Why not get right to your main point?} Should I exist?

Is it Whether 'tis nobler in the mind {COMMENT: Where else would it be noble?} to suffer endure The slings pellets and arrows {COMMENT: Not parallel. A sling is a throwing device whereas an arrow is something thrown}of outrageous {Right word? Did you mean “raging”? or just “bad”?}fortune, Or to take arms against a sea troop of troubles {This metaphor is just silly. How can one “take arms” against a “sea”??},

And by opposing end them defeat them? To die: to sleep; No more and die; and by a sleep in this way {COMMENT: I’m completely lost. First we were dead and now we’re sleeping. Were you hurrying to make your deadline? Please review!} to say we to put an end toThe inevitable shocks and heartacheheart-ache and the thousand natural shocks {COMMENT: Aren’t the heartaches caused by the shocks, so shouldn’t the shocks come first? Also, I assume by “natural” you meant “inevitable.”}

That fleshthe body {COMMENT: I suppose the heart is “flesh” in some sense, but we don’t usually use the word that way} is heir subject to may be viewed as a desirable alternative,, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, tTo sleep, to die: {COMMENT: Again, the order seems wrong. Is the repetition intentional – I don’t think it adds anything. You tend to be wordy and indirect and to use obscure vocabulary. Please try to simplify. You might want to look at Strunk and White’s Elements of Style};

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may comeBut what if dreaming occurs not just in sleep but also in death? {Though a bit far-fetched, this is an interesting idea. Could you develop it further? (BTW, I’m just curious, have you been reading Japanese literature? I sense an affinity)}When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, {COMMENT: I’m sorry, but this does not work for me at all!} died, what might we dream about? That is something that must be considered.

Must give us pause: there's the respect {COMMENT: It took me a long time to figure out the confusing passage after the semicolon. Have I got the sense right? Also, I think this is a new thought, and it should be a new sentence.} We should also give some thought to the difficulties that are associated with senior status. That makes calamity of so long life;

Do we want to experience For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, {COMMENT: This is a bit of a purple patch but I think we can keep it (although it does sound a little kinky — is that what you intended?). I think what follows is a bit long and convoluted, however, and I’ve tried to streamline.}

The snubs and condescension, oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The lack of a viable social network and the slowness of the legal system, pangs of despised love, the law's delay, Ineffective political representation and the tendency of seniors to be victimized by others, The insolence of office and the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes, When we could take our own life with a dagger? When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear, {COMMENT: It’s wonderful that you are trying to be poetic, but do you really expect readers to continue after encountering lines that contain terms like “bodkin” and “fardel”?}

Do we want to To grunt and sweat under a weary life’s heavy loads, Or is it But that the dread of something what comes after death — Theat undiscover'ed country from whose bourn which No traveller returns, — that troubles the will us And makes us rather prefer to bear those ills we have our current problems Rather Tthan flyprecipitate others that we know not of remain unknown?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; In effect, such reasoning is a form of cowardice {COMMENT: Is this what you meant?} And thus the native hue of resolution our natural impulse Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, constrained by overthinking the issue {COMMENT: I think you are overreaching here. I’ve tried to make your point clearer and more direct.} And enterprises of great pitch and moment With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action. so that important matters get forgotten in our busy daily lives {COMMENT: This seafaring conceit comes out of nowhere. It’s very distracting, so I’ve taken it out.}— Soft you now! Shhh! {COMMENT: Is Hamlet addressing himself here? If so, this could potentially be a dramatic moment. Can you make this more obvious?}

The fair Here is lovely Ophelia! {COMMENT: I take it she just walked in? This was not at all clear.} Nymph Angel, in thy orisons Be all my sins remember'd. remember me {COMMENT: I like the notion of opposing the steadying effect of religious faith with the rudderless bleakness of nihilism. Have you discussed this with Marketing?

To highlight this a little, I’ve changed “Nymph” (this pagan reference just confuses the issue) to “Angel,” and I’ve tried to wrap things up on a stronger, more hopeful note for this target audience.} in your prayers.

{COMMENT: Will, it was a pleasure to work on this. I hope you will see the point of these edits—I definitely feel the text is much clearer and stronger now! If you have any questions, let’s discuss. BTW, I know this is fiction, so please don’t take this the wrong way, but I can’t help being a little concerned about the strong suicide theme in this passage. Well, I hope I’ve done my small part. Please give me a call if you need my help. — ED.}

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What's in a Page?

I had a potential client ask that question recently, so I thought I should share the information with everyone. She asked, "What exactly do you consider a page?"

It's a good question. For professional editors, a page is 250 words. They also charge anywhere from $3 to $6 a page to edit it.

But for professional betas, like us...a page is, well, a page. So, if you send us a Word doc, and the word doc says that it's 10 pages long, your doc is 10 pages. Two world-class betas will beta that for $20.

Now, we will ask you to make your pages at least 1.5 spaces between lines, but that's really so that we can read it and beta it effectively, not so that we get more pages out of you.

Also, we betas care about you, your story, and your development as an author. We'll be your cheerleaders, hand holders, and old-school English teachers. You can't buy that kind of commitment.

Beta work on a page of text? $2. Beta love for your writing? Priceless.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Are You Blue?

This looks like a fun writing opportunity from the Indiana Review:

Call for Submissions: Blue

Indiana Review is looking for art, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for a special feature on Blue in our Summer 2010 issue.

What do we mean by blue? We mean the color, the mood, the music. We’re looking for work that honors, laments, declares war on, reinterprets, reinvents, and redefines “blue.” Our door is wide open and the possibilities are endless.

We’re thinking the color blue; the blues; narrators named Blue; Holden Caulfield; Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue;” William Gass’s “On Being Blue;” a melancholy mode; blue ghazals; blue sonnets; blue sestinas; blue short shorts; blue memoirs; blue suede shoes; the blue lagoon; Paula Abdul leaving American Idol; Ellen judging American Idol; tragedy; blue roses; familiar blue tropes (see clouds, sky, moon, dolphins) turned on their ears.

As always, we want work that is well crafted and original. Don’t go for the obvious—surprise us! We won’t know it until you send it. Deadline: December 1st. Online submissions only. Regular submissions still open.

Nemeses and Enemies

This is from the Daily Writing Tips newsletter. It's an interesting insight; I think most of use these words interchangeably. I highly recommend Daily Writing Tips; they're both informative and fun.

Nemesis is a stronger word than enemy.

Enemy is an unfriendly or hostile person. Nemesis is an avenging force.

In classical mythology Nemesis was the goddess of retribution. She punished both hubris (false pride) and wrongdoing. The goddess represents the idea that one cannot escape divine retribution.

Lowercase nemesis came into the language in 1597 with the meaning “retributive justice.”

One of my favorite Agatha Christie mysteries has the title Nemesis. In it Miss Marple is portrayed as Nemesis, tracking down a murderer many years after the crime was committed.

Conan Doyle called Professor Moriarty “the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes.” If it hadn’t been for the insistence of outraged readers, “The Final Problem” would have been the final Holmes story. It ends with Holmes and Moriarty plunging to their (presumed) deaths from the top of the Reichenbach Falls. Each was the other’s nemesis.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wisdom About How We Use Language

This is from an 18th century Kabbalah scholar, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.

Those who abuse language fall into forgetfulness, which is the death of the heart.

This is what I've been saying forever! Words mean something! They have to be used right, and well, or we lose the very meaning they are trying to convey.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

10 Rules for Writing Numbers

We got into a discussion on a beta group recently about the rules for writing numbers. I see writers very often trying to take short-cuts by using numerals instead of writing them out. I usually correct that when I'm betaing.

Here's an article that can help with that question. It's called 10 Rules for Writing Numbers and Numerals and is found on

Here are some of the rules:

  1. Numbers versus numerals. The number is the quantity, the numeral is the symbol.
  2. Spell out smaller numbers. Some sources say anything under 10, some day anything under 100.
  3. There aren't any other rules. All the "official" sources disagree. However, I definitely lean toward writing out.
  4. Use the comma and the decimal. but know how to use them right. The US and Europe use them in opposite ways; know which one you need.
  5. Never start a sentence with a numeral. First words are always spelled out.
  6. Spell out centuries and decades. It's the eighties, not the 80's.
  7. Spell out related words. Use 5 percent, instead of 5%.
  8. Spell out estimations. About four thousand, not about 4000.
  9. Two numbers next to each other. I had a party with eight 12-year-olds
  10. Spell out ordinal numbers. That was the tenth rule.

I hope y'all find this helpful; I did.

Monday, September 28, 2009

October Special!

If you sign up for No Disclaimers Beta Services between now and the end of October, you can lock in special introductory rates for a year! Write us at for details...don't forget to put "October" in the subject line so we know you're not a spambot!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A New Service for Writers

The original No Disclaimers is a group of writers who once honed our skills by writing fanfiction in various fandoms. But fanfiction requires a disclaimer, a statement that reminds the reader that this is basically someone else's world, and someone else's work. We want to write with No Disclaimers.

And we bet you do, too.

The fanfiction world is filled with betas--writing guides who proofread and offer guidance on an author's fanfiction or "fic." But we at No Disclaimers understand that sometimes those of us writing original fiction or nonfiction need a beta, as well.

This beta service is for those writers who need a practiced, skilled, insightful, and kind-but-firm read over their stories, chapters, or articles. You're past the "my mom read this and thought it was great" stage, but you're not quite to the "I'm sending it to an agent/publisher/professional editor" stage.

That's where we come in. And we charge far less than a professional editor does.

Every submission you send our way will have at least two pairs of eyes looking it over. You can request more if you want. You can stick with the same two betas, or you ask for new sets of eyes the next time you submit.

No Disclaimers Beta Services makes some firm promises to our clients. We will never pull our punches--if something needs to be said about your submission, you can bet we'll say it. But we're writers, too, and since we know what it's like to give your creation into the hands of strangers, we'll always seek to help you improve your craft in an encouraging way. And who couldn't use a little encouragement?

Just email your submission to, and we'll help you get that story ready for the next stage. Thank you, and keep writing!