Commas, Believability, Book Promotion, and Testimonials

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: Do I need a comma in dialogue after “Oh” here:

“Oh no, I can’t do that.”

“Oh my, that’s a good question.”

A: No comma is required after “Oh” in your examples; the commas after “no” and “my” are sufficient.

Q: My protagonist, who had his eye shot out by his abusive father, later discovers he is a proficient shot himself. He earns the nickname Deadeye, not only because of his natural marksmanship but also because of his lost eye. The double meaning seems too awkward and obvious, so do you have any other suggestions for a cool nickname for him? Continue reading

Word Counts, Dialect, and Overusing Conjunctions

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: How many words are in a young adult novel?

A: Young adult books for ages twelve and up should come in at 40,000 to 50,000 words. Yes, I know that the Harry Potter series pushes that envelope until it pops, but J. K. Rowling’s first book in the series was not disproportionately long. The success of the first book allowed her more freedom with the lengths of the remaining books in the series. Continue reading

Capitalizing Titles, Italicizing Titles, and Recognizing and Avoiding Weak Verbs

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: When a character is addressed by a title, would it require capitalization?

For example, which is correct:

A. “Keep looking,” said Captain Carlyle.

B. “There is no one here, Captain,” said Smith.

A. “Keep looking,” said Captain Carlyle.

C. “There is no one here, captain,” said Smith. Continue reading

Spacing, “Its” words, E-zines vs. Newsletters, and How to Get a Book Out

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I don’t think I’ll ever stop spacing twice after a period. Any suggestions?

A: You can quickly repair all those extra spaces, assuming you are using Microsoft Word, which has become the standard in the publishing industry. Press Ctrl + H, and you’ll get a Find and Replace dialogue box. Put the cursor in the Find What box and press the spacebar twice. In the Replace With box, press the spacebar once. Next, press the button that says Replace All. The computer will find and change every double space to a single space. You may have to tell it to do the same thing more than once, to catch all the extra spaces, but just continue the process until the computer reports that it has made 0 replacements. Continue reading

About Commas

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: Commas drive me crazy. I see them one way in one publication and another way in other publications. What are the rules? How am I to know where to put a comma?

A: You are not alone in your confusion. The problem is that the use of commas is a style issue, rather than a strict rule. Each publication has a specific style. Newspapers often use Associated Press style, for example, which does not use the Oxford, or serial, comma. AP style would handle commas this way, in a list: The American flag is red, white and blue. Chicago style, however, which most book publishers follow, does call for a comma before the conjunction in a series. Chicago would write the same sentence this way: the American flag is red, white, and blue. See the added comma? No wonder writers are confused. Chicago style, set forth in The Chicago Manual of Style, has a long list of when to use commas, and I won’t go into the list here. My best advice is to use an editor familiar with the style of the publication for which you write. If you are writing fiction or nonfiction books, be sure to hire an editor who follows Chicago style. Continue reading

Details of Self-Publishing

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: My writing organization is preparing an anthology. Would standard manuscript format apply? We are unsure of individual submission formats at this point. Please advise.

A: Standard manuscript format applies when submitting a manuscript to an agent or a publisher. Because you are going to self-publish the anthology, you may set the format any way you would like, but if an editor is going to edit the submissions, which I strongly advise, you would do well to ask for submissions in standard manuscript format, which does several things. It gets writers in the habit of using standard manuscript format; it is easy to read; and it gives editors room to work, if they edit the printed copy. Folks who are unfamiliar with standard manuscript format can go to and click on Tools for Writers. There they will find many free reports, including one that explains standard manuscript format. Continue reading

Publishers’ Guidelines and Preferences

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I am writing a collection of humorous personal experiences. I need advice on how to submit the collection to a publisher. Do I submit one or two chapters or more?

A: The answer depends on the publisher’s guidelines. Some want a proposal and one to three sample chapters. Some want only some sample chapters and a query letter. Publishers vary widely in their guidelines, and you must learn each one’s guidelines for submission and follow those guidelines to the letter. Continue reading