Monday, November 17, 2014

Worse Than Writer's Block!

I've recently become aware of something that could potentially damage myself as a writer, more than likely a side-effect of the chemotherapy I've recently endured. It's something that I'm not sure medical science can fix or repair, and I'm not sure if I myself can do anything about, except for just watching closely for it to occur and correcting it when it does.

I've discovered that I have some type of writing disorder. Oh, I've not been diagnosed with it by a medical doctor, but if it hadn't been for my new-found writing career, I may not have ever noticed it. I was just typing a post on one of my social media networks, and I typed the word many as "namy", which of course my computer's spell checker alerted me to. This was when I began to think back about numerous other times I've done something similar in the past few months. I thought about all the times I'd written the word with the correct letters, but oftentimes in the wrong order.

I guess this goes hand in hand with the times when I'm either speaking or writing where I have to stop and think for a good long time about the word I'd intended to use. Often, it's on the tip of my tongue (or my fingers), and I just can't pull it out of my brain as fast as my hands can type. Sometimes, I never can come up with the word and I'll have to go ask someone, "What do you call it when [fill in the blank]?". I remember recently I was trying to use the phrase, "Sometimes a spade is just a spade," and I just couldn't pull out that last word! I finally had to ask my family, "Sometimes a spade is just what? As in something that is exactly what it appears to be?" It was dad who finally came up with the end word of the phrase.

At first I thought this might be a type of dyslexia, but I've read a little about that and it seems that dyslexia is more of a reading and learning disorder. Whatever it is has made me curious enough to bring it up to my doctor the next time I see him. It may simply be that there's a misfiring of sorts going on between my brain (that says type the word many) and my fingers (which ends up typing the word "namy" instead). Today isn't really the first time I've noticed this, and it seems to occur more often when I'm typing on the laptop with both hands, as opposed to when I'm typing on my phone screen using only my thumbs.

As a writer, I've never relied completely on the technology of the spelling or grammar checker that comes with word processing software on a computer. Often, I ignore some of the grammar suggestions it makes because I actually intended to say what I typed. Sometimes, whether in novels or non-fiction, we tend to use poor grammar, for example, in a dialogue (using less formal language lets the dialogue seem more believable), and we don't need it to change. I've always been a stickler for proper spelling and grammar myself; I even have difficulty not capitalizing names, for instance, in web addresses, or using text or Twitter shorthand. So I've relied more on my own knowledge of proper grammar to get me where I am today.

With this kind of condition, I'm going to have to watch myself even more closely. Generally speaking, my computer alerts me to spelling errors even when I'm posting to Facebook, or writing a post here. And that's a good thing that it does; it has caught me several times transposing letters in a word. But I don't want to get into the habit of letting my computer do all the work for me. Sometimes the spell check won't alert you; in other words, if you had typed the word "if" but left off the letter "I", it would be nothing but a letter f. So you can see why it's important to have human eyes to help you edit and proofread your work. Often a fresh set of eyes will catch a typo like mentioned above, where your eyes (because you wrote it) may well just skip clean over it!

I'm by no means suggesting that you turn off your grammar and spell check on your computer software. Absolutely, use it in your writing. But just take what it tells you with a grain of salt, and if you can get someone else to proof your work, by all means, go for it! As indie authors, we often can't afford to hire the services of a professional editor, but there are other ways to get your work edited. If you know other authors, offer to exchange editing for editing. You send them a chapter or two for them to look over, and you do the same for them. Maybe you can even find readers in your area who would do it for you, and you could email them an excerpt that you'd like edited. Even if you don't change to their suggestions, it will make you stop and take a look at your writing from another perspective, and that will help to improve your writing.

Writing is a Work in Progress, and that process doesn't have to stop at the printing press. As indie authors using a print-on-demand service like CreateSpace, or digital services like Amazon's KDP or Smashwords, we have full control over our work and how it looks. I've already released 2nd editions of all my books, print and Kindle versions. The changes I made weren't to the book content (except for a couple spelling errors), but were purely cosmetic, such as page number styles and location, working table of content hyperlinks in the Kindle versions, and so on. I'm continually striving to make my writing be the best it can be.

Cover Art for Audiobook
And I'm going to use this post as a way to introduce the cover art for my audiobook version of Once Upon a Western Way, just started in production today! I'm using the same castle as I did on the 2nd edition print cover. Mind you, the requirements for the cover art on ACX is that the picture be square, unlike that of CreateSpace or KDP, where the art has to be rectangular, taller than it is wide. I've always loved the castle photo for this story, as it's told during a time of kings and queens and royalty. It's the same image I used when I originally published this book with Smashwords in 2012, and when I first worked up the cover for it at CreateSpace, I couldn't get the resolution quite good enough, so I chose the cover I used for the 1st edition. Now, I'm glad that my 2nd edition has the castle image again. It always was close to my heart!

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