Posted in Self-publishing, Writing

1 Simple Tip to Boost Your Writing Productivity: Learn to Touch-Type

A post in praise of touch-typing

This post originally appeared on the Alliance of Independent Authors’ Self-publishing Advice blog here, where it was obviously aimed at indie authors and aspiring writers, a startling number of whom don’t touch-type. I’m reproducing it here because I believe the content is equally relevant and helpful to anyone who uses a computer keyboard for any purpose, business or pleasure.

Why the old-fashioned skill of touch typing can be a real boon to twenty-first century indie authors, and why you should add this accomplishment to your repertoire to help you increase your output as a writer.

Blog posts and books abound about how indie authors can increase their self-publishing productivity by various means, primarily by focusing on increasing daily word counts. Different methods exist for boosting your writing output, such as getting into a daily habit of writing a fixed number of words per session or day, or by writing in sprints, against the clock, or using popular schemes such as NaNoWriMo to squeeze out a fixed word count in a set time frame.

Image of keyboard with most of letters rubbed off

True touch typing means it doesn’t matter if you’ve written so much, you’ve worn the letters off your keyboard

Missing a Trick

But most of these schemes fail to mention one of the most straightforward practical tips there is: to learn to touch-type.  In an informal survey I’ve just conducted of over 100 indie authors, around 40% of them admitted they didn’t touch type. This included writers of multiple books. I wondered how much more prolific they might be if they mastered this important art.

What is Touch-typing?

Touch typing means typing accurately without looking at the keyboard. Thanks to an ALLi member in Russia, Alexander Kirko, I can tell you that in three other languages, touch typing is known as “blind typing”, which I think is a more graphic description.

When you can touch type efficiently, you can set down many more words per minute than you can when you have to look at the keyboard. This frees you to concentrate on picking the right words, rather than hunting for the right letters.

There’s no such thing as a “sort of” touch typist. It’s like being “a bit pregnant”. You either are or you aren’t.

Many Ways to Learn

Many of the respondents to my informal poll reported that they’d learned to touch type early in their careers, either at school or at college or on first entering the world of work, and plenty went on to say it was the most useful skill they’d ever learned.

But the good news is, it’s never too late to learn, and by throwing a little time at the task each day, you can quickly acquire the skill. It’s simply a question of putting in a certain number of hours to program your brain.

How you do it is up to you, and there’s plenty of choice.

  • I learned fresh out of university, using a tried-and-trusted traditional approach: a typing manual with a cardboard chart that taught you to match the right fingers to the right keys, building up your skill one row and one new finger at a time till you’d mastered the alphabet.
  • These days there are plenty of automated programs available online to make the process more fun.

Whichever route you choose, make sure you pick one that serves the layout for whatever language you write in. When I went to work in Switzerland in my twenties, I had to reprogramme myself to use a German keyboard, in which the Y and the Z trade places.

If you’ve learned to drive a car, you can learn to touch type. And you won’t even have to master hill starts or parallel parking.

So if you haven’t mastered the art of touch typing yet, and are seeking to increase your writing output, don’t dismiss this simple technique. Once you’re hammering out 80 words a minute (my current rate – I just checked on this fun online gadget), you’ll be glad that you persevered.

http://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/?affid=?885
All for one and one for all – the Alliance of Independent Authors’ cute pen logo

If you’re an author or an aspiring author, you’ll find more posts like this, with a new one published every day, on the Alliance of Independent AuthorsSelf-publishing Advice blog, of which I’m Commissioning Editor. 

Posted in Self-publishing, Writing

Writing: In Praise of Editors & Proofreaders

http://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/?affid=?885
All for one and one for all – the Alliance of Independent Authors’ cute pen logo

I originally wrote this post for the Alliance of Independent Authors‘ blog, but I hope readers of my own blog will also find it entertaining. I certainly enjoyed writing it!

(This is an abridged version of the original post, but you can read it in full on the Alliance of Independent Authors‘ website here.) 

Editors: Unsung Superheroes Who Save Authors from Themselves

No matter how well authors polish a manuscript before submitting them for professional editing, and regardless of how dazzling their prose, a good editor will always polish it further. In true superhero style, editors and proofreaders daily avert disaster, and I’m glad I’ve secured the services of two brilliant professionals to help me with my books, Alison Jack and Helen Baggott.

image of heavily edited manuscript
Just one of many rounds of self-editing that I do before passing my final, final, final manuscript into the hands of my trusty editor, Alison Jack

Classic Errors Spotted by Editors

Here are some typical errors recently shared by authors and editors on ALLi’s private member forum, spotted either in their own books or in books by other writers.

Continuity errors are too easy for an author to miss:

  • two unrelated characters sharing the same surname
  • eyes or hair spontaneously changing colour from one page to the next
  • a character’s medication changing from one chapter to the next
  • someone at the theatre sitting in mid-air (in the front row of the circle, they leaned forward to tap the person in front on the shoulder)
  • a character entering a flat twice without leaving in between times
  • a person landing at JFK before the flight has taken off from Heathrow (and in a different model of plane from the one in which the journey began)

Global search-and-replace can trigger disasters:

  • changing Carol’s name to Barbara was fine until the carol singing scene
  • swapping “ass” for “butt” resulted in a case of embarrbuttment

There are also comical typos that a spellchecker will let through because the words are correctly typed, but the meaning is wrong in the context:

  • a bowel full of sauerkraut left on the balcony to ferment
  • a female character becoming enraptured by the scent of a man’s colon
  • a trip on an udderless boat
  • the stoking of cats
  • an acute angel
  • the Suntan of Brunei

Serious Consequences (Bad Reviews) Averted by Editors

Author Geoffrey Ashe, in The Art of Writing Made Simple, classifies readers into three different groups:

  • the critical reader
  • the lazy reader who won’t make an effort
  • the one who has the eye for the comic or incongruous

If you’re an author, it’s worth keeping all three in mind while you’re writing and self-editing.

While an indulgent reader of the third kind might simply smile and move on, it’s also very easy these days for dissastisfied readers to post scathing reviews online, deterring others from buying your books in future.

So although this is a light-hearted post, the message is a serious one on the importance of the editor’s role in helping you publish your books to professional standards – or indeed anything else that you happen to be writing for public consumption, including blogs of business reports for work.

In Praise of MY Editor and Proofreader

While ALLi policy precluded me from giving a shout-out in the original post to the professional editorial people that I employ for my own books, I would like to take the opportunity to thank Alison Jack (www.alisonjack-editor.co.uk) and Helen Baggott (www.helenbaggott.co.uk) for regularly saving me from myself when editing and proofreading books for me.

I should add that this post has been edited only by me, so any errors it contains are entirely my responsibility – and proof of how dependent I am on the likes of Alison and Helen!

ALLi logoMORE INFORMATION FOR AUTHORS

To learn more about the benefits of joining the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), visit their membership website:
www.allianceindependentauthors.org.

To read more posts on ALLi’s Author Advice Centre blog (of which I’m commissioning editor, visit their blog site: 
www.selfpublishingadvice.org 

Posted in Reading, Self-publishing, Writing

12 Free Books For You – including “Marry in Haste” (24th-28th February)

An invitation to help yourself to 12 free ebooks between now and the end of February, including one of mine!

Graphic showing Free Reads for Smart Women banner
We thought a dozen would be a nice round number…

If you like reading ebooks, read on to find out how to take advantage of a special offer that includes a free download of one of my collections of short stories, Marry in Haste.

If you don’t like reading ebooks, or haven’t tried them yet, here’s a chance to convince yourself, without it costing you a penny! In case you didn’t know, these days you don’t have to own an ereader to read an ebook – you can download to your phone, tablet or computer a free reading app such as Kindle or Kobo, and away you go!

A couple of days ago, I was very pleased to be invited to join a group of eleven sparky women authors in a joint promotion of free books called “Free Reads for Smart Women“. Always a sucker for flattery, I was very happy to add my name under this banner, which, in classic Freudian slip mode, I had misread as Free Reads BY Smart Women”.

Of course, both interpretations apply – because what smart woman could resist the offer of twelve ebooks for free, when they look as intriguing and beautiful as this?

array of books

There’s a bit of everything here to appeal to smart women of all kinds, from crime thrillers to romance, from historical novels to contemporary humour.

What’s the Catch?

The closest thing you’ll find to a catch is that to get your free books, you have to submit your email address. Obviously, that’s so that InstaFreebie, the service that’s hosting this promotion, can email the ebooks to you.

Also the authors would like to send you information about more of their books – but don’t worry, you can unsubscribe from their mailing lists at any time, no questions asked.

InstaFreebie would also like to send you more free book offers, if you’d like them – but again, just unsubscribe if you prefer.

And There’s More…

Interestingly, when you download each free book, InstaFreebie immediately shows you three other free ebooks it thinks you might like. Our team of twelve was bemused to find bare-chested men on the covers of many of these books. But so far we’ve had no complaints…

Men Also Welcome!

cover of Marry in Haste
“A book for women that every man should read” – reviewer

By the way, you don’t have to be a woman to enjoy any of these books. In fact, one of my favourite reviews of Marry in Haste is by a gentleman who described it as “A book for women that all men should read”!

Men are of course very welcome to help themselves to our freebies too. (I’ll be very interested to hear whether Instafreebie offers you same books featuring bare-chested men!)

How to Download Your Free Books

Hoping I’ve whetted your appetite to download one, some or all twelve, here is the link to claim your free ebooks:

www.helenahalme.com/instafreebie/

It’s a landing page hosted on Helena Halme’s website, and you just click on the book cover of your choice to claim your free download. You can revisit the page and keep clicking for more as often as you like – and if you’d like to share the page or this post with your friends to help them do the same, please do.

***Please note that this promotion is running 24th-28th February only – so get in quick before the end of the month!***

Why Are the Books Free?

Cover of Best Murder in Show by Debbie Young
Due to launch in April

By the way, if you’re wondering why the twelve authors involved are not only smart but so generous – all the books being offered are still on sale commercially elsewhere – it’s because it’s every author’s wish to build up a mailing list of people who are interested in their books, so that we can email readers directly whenever we’ve got a new book about to launch or a special offer coming up.

This campaign is coming at the perfect time for me, as I prepare to launch my first Sophie Sayers Village Mystery in April, and I’ll be sending to my mailing list details of a special launch price offer in March. Exciting times!

~~~~~~~~~~~

Cover image for The Alchemy of Chocolate showing chocolate coins falling out of a purse

If you’d like receive news of that offer without getting involved in the InstaFreebie promotion, that’s fine too – you can sign up here. It won’t get you a free book, but you will have the option to receive a free short story, The Alchemy of Chocolate, as a thank-you.

Happy weekend reading. folks!

Posted in Self-publishing, Writing

Multitasking Gone Mad – The Agony Aunt Under Anaesthesia

Screenshot of article on magazine websiteA news flash about my new role at Self-publishing Magazine

People often say to me “how do you manage to do so much?” Of course, they are seeing only my output rather than the massive to-do list on the overcrowded desk in my study. Normally a glass-half-full person, my inner optimist daily quails at my sins of omission – all the things I should have done by now but haven’t. But even I had to be impressed at my apparent ability to post an advice piece in Self-Publishing Magazine while under general anaesthetic…

What is Self-Publishing Magazine?

Self-Publishing Magazine is an online publication produced by Matador, which helps authors self-publish their books through its Troubador imprint. I know quite a few authors who have used its service, and I was pleased last year to be invited as a guest speaker at their annual Self-publishing Conference. I was sad to have to turn down the opportunity to appear at their 2017 event because it’s on 22nd April – the same day as the local litfest that I run in my village, the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival.

My Role as Agony Aunt

Alliance of Independent Authors / However, I was pleased to accept an invitation to be an occasional agony aunt for the publication, answering questions put by their readers, drawing on my knowledge as an indie author and commissioning editor of the Author Advice Centre blog for the Alliance of Independent Authors.

My first column for Self-Publishing Magazine, answering the question “How do I keep writing every day even if I get writers’ block?”, was due for publication on the same day as my recent operation, giving the impression that not even a general anaesthetic was enough to stop me multi-tasking.

Of course, it was actually written some in advance and scheduled to go live that day. Though the tweeting taking place on the day of my operation wasn’t. (Hurrah for free hospital wifi!) Not even a general anaesthetic can keep me offline for long.

If you’d like to read the article online, just hop over to its website here.

In the meantime, I’m off to tidy my desk…

 

 

Posted in Events, Reading, Self-publishing, Writing

Coming Soon: Two Talks in Three Days (22 & 24 October)

Hello folks, just a quickie to give you advance notice of two events that I’m involved in over the next few days.

1. Indie Author Fringe Conference Talk: “The Best Day Jobs for Authors” (Saturday 22nd October)

logo for 2016 Frankfurt Indie Author FringeOn Saturday 22nd October at 6pm, my talk in the autumn Indie Author Fringe Conference will be broadcast online by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), which hosts this fab series of free online conferences that you can join in wherever you are in the world.

ALLi runs three conferences each year, to coincide with the world’s biggest book trade events – the London Book Fair, Book Expo America and the Frankfurt Book Fair.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is currently in full swing, and the IAF Conference will run for 24 hours from Saturday through to Sunday, starting at 10am Frankfurt time. My talk will be at 6pm on Saturday 22nd October on the topic of “The Best Day Jobs for Authors”. and I’m including advice from lots of fellow ALLi authors as well as drawing on my own experience. Click here to find out about the full programme and how to join the Fringe live online as it happens, visit this page.

All the talks will also be available online for evermore afterwards too, so don’t worry, you don’t have to forego sleep for 24 hours to join the fun. If you’d like to enjoy my contributions to the two previous 2016 IAFs, here they are:

2. BBC Radio Gloucestershire: Reading “The Alchemy of Chocolate” live on air

Picture of Debbie reading from Quick Change
Reading “The Alchemy of Chocolate” at Stroud Short Stories, April 2015

I’m delighted to have been invited to give my first ever live reading on BBC radio of one of my short stories, The Alchemy of Chocolate. I’ve been invited to read this particular one as part of a piece promoting Stroud Short Stories,because it was the same story that I read at the April 2015 SSS event and also at SSS’s Cheltenham Festival of Literature event last Monday. (I’ll be posting separately about that once I have photos . Event organiser John Holland will be in the studio with me on Monday 24th October on the lunchtime show at 12noon, and he’ll be reading some of his stories too, which are always compelling and often very funny.) Tune in here.

the-alchemy-of-chocolate-kindle-cover

“The Alchemy of Chocolate” is one of the stories in my flash fiction collection Quick Change, and it’s also available as a free download for anyone joining my Readers’ Club, which means I’ll send you news of new books, events and special offers, plus a free short story with every enewsletter. Just click here to sign up. 

Photo of Debbie Young, Dominic Cotter and Caroline Sanderson
Having fun at the October Book Club at BBC Radio Gloucetershire yesterday

In the meantime, if you’d like to catch the October BBC Radio Gloucestershire Book Club broadcast, featuring Caroline Sanderson, Associate Editor of The Bookseller, and me, talking books with presenter Dominic Cotter, you can do so here – it starts an hour into the show. No prizes for guessing what this month’s read was – as you can see from the photo, we got into the spirit of it, raiding our wardrobes for purple. Caroline even managed to rustle up a raspberry beret! We like to think Prince would have approved.