Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2009

Do Some Writers Deserve to Starve - Finale

TRUTH: WRITERS RARELY HELP OTHER WRITERS While I have found contrary stories to this truth, I have - unfortunately - seen this to be true at times. There are writers who are not open to sharing information, to providing advice, to helping other writers up the rings to PublishDom. Niles talks about how interesting it is that as a writer moves up the ranks to having an established name, in gaining professional credits, and on earning money for his/her creative endeavors, the lack of help diminishes. She finds two reasons behind this: 1) The established writer fears losing his/her reputation. Example: established writer helps a newbie and recommends her to an agent or editor. The agent/editor thinks the work isn’t that great (which is subjective thinking anyway), and now the established writer fears his/her taste will be questioned and his/her reputation may be sullied. 2) The established writer fears losing his/her attention. Example: established writer helps a newbie get connected with

Do Some Writers Deserve to Starve - Part Two

TRUTH: GETTING PUBLISHED DOESN’T EQUAL END OF RAINBOW It’s extraordinarily hard to get published. It’s just as difficult to STAY PUBLISHED. Most writers do not live a Stephen King life. They hold other jobs or find other avenues to make money. Aspiring-to-be-published authors often burn the candle at both ends. They work hard to continue to EXIST in the world, and they make the time to write and submit and pray and hope that their literary dreams will come to fruition. Once they reach the pinnacle of their success, GETTING A DEAL, some – as Niles states – find their writing careers killed as quickly as they began. The reasons? Burnout and what Niles calls “The Vacuum”. Many published authors have careers outside of writing; once they get that initial deal, they now have TWO careers. It’s easy to get tired. To avoid that, Niles suggests that writers remember to HAVE A LIFE, which to her means “read, talk with friends, go places (near and far), do things, feel things, and sometimes…just…

Do Some Writers Deserve to Starve - Part One

According to conference coordinator and writer, Elaura Niles, yes. First thing I have to tell you: go out and buy Elaura Niles’ book: Some Writers Deserve to Starve: 31 Brutal Truths about the Publishing Industry . I was in a Books-A-Million over a year ago, taking a break from writing. I began perusing the shelves, and the spine of this small book jumped out at me. I quickly snatched up the book and began devouring it. The purpose behind the book is not to discourage, but to enlighten. As the back cover states, “Even the most talented writers chance failure if they don’t know how the publishing industry works.” The goal of the book is to state the brutal truths about the publishing industry and to offer advice on how one can overcome those truths. TRUTH: IF YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR BOOK, NO ONE EVER WILL No one will ever know more about your novel than you. You’re the creator, the person who received that first initial spark to write the book. Many times, writers have a hard time figuring

Meet the Editor: Helen Ginger

The late  Helen Ginger  (1952-2021) was an author, blogger, and the Coordinator of Story Circle Network's Editorial Services and writing coach.  She was also a former mermaid.  She taught public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. Helen was the author of  Angel Sometimes ,  Dismembering the Past , and three books in TSTC Publishing’s TechCareers series. Helen Ginger is a freelance editor and book consultant, with an informational and interactive blog for writers and a free weekly e-newsletter that has gone out to subscribers around the globe for ten years. She coaches writers on the publishing industry, finding an agent, and polishing their work for publication. You can also follow her on Twitter . Let’s see what kind of advice Coach Ginger has for us as she answers my questions. Afterward, you can ask some of your own in the Comments section. When did you first notice you were hung-up on typos? Actually, I don’t consider myself hung-up on typos. Everybody

Meet L.J. Sellers

L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and editor and is the author of the Detective Jackson mysteries, The Sex Club and Secrets to Die For. She also loves to edit fiction and works with authors to keep her rates affordable. Contact her at: L.J. Sellers Write First, Clean Later 1. When did you first notice you were hung-up on typos? After I became an editor! I was a journalist first, but most jobs in publishing require you to write and edit, as well as plan publications, read/screen submissions, layout pages, and more. So I learned editing on the job from senior editors. Once you train yourself to look for errors at work, you can’t turn it off. 2. What advice would you give someone interested in becoming an editor? Find a starting position as an editorial assistant and learn everything you can from seasoned editors around you. Buy and read Strunk and White Elements of Style, The Careful Writer, and APA Style Manual (Chicago lite). 3. What's the best advice you have ever rec

Meet the Editor - Marvin D Wilson

Meet the Editor, Marvin D Wilson Marvin is the author of three books, I Romanced the Stone , Owen Fiddler , and the just-released Between the Storm and the Rainbow . He is a prolific blogger, with an internationally popular and award-winning blog at Free Spirit ( Marvin is a full time writer, is on staff at All Things That Matter Press as an editor, and also does freelance editing. When did you first notice you were hung-up on typos? In college, in an English composition class. My instructor had a hissy fit if we students handed in anything with a typo in it. And back then, they were “type”-ohs – we were still using typewriters, remember those? It was so tempting to leave a “little” mistake in the last paragraph on a page rather than try and go through the pain of fixing it, or even worse re-type the entire doggone page. She would mark us down a whole grade for each and every typo. And nowadays, with the word processor and all the marvelous Word

Meet the Editor: Shelley Thrasher

You know her as: Shelley Thrasher is a consulting style editor for an up-and-coming book company. She teaches an online fine-arts course at the college where she retired and posts a poem weekly on her blog. Shelley has just completed a memoir/historical novel set during World War One and looks forward to publishing it. When did you first notice you were hung up on typos? After I became an editor, I could no longer read a book for pleasure because the typos began to leap out at me, and still do. What advice would you give someone interested in becoming an editor? Know the basic rules of composition and grammar, and know when to break them. Before I became an editor I earned a BA, MA, and PhD in English, taught English on the college level for many years, and attended many writers’ workshops. After picking up my editor’s pen, I still had to rely on the more experienced editors at our company for tips about how to edit fiction. Be prepared to realize you don’t know everything a

Shorten Your Synopsis Using Word

You know what it’s like: you’ve taken 400 pages to write your novel and it’s bad enough that you had to summarise that into a 10-page synopsis. But now your agent wants a single page synopsis from you! Believe it or not, good old Word can help you with this dreadful task. Automatically summarising a document MS Word’s AutoSummarise tool picks out the keywords, or most frequently used words, in your text and ranks sentences according to how many of the keywords they contain. Word then uses the higher ranked sentences to create a summary. Unfortunately this means that a summary of fiction will be mainly “he said”, “he said” and the main character’s name repeated several times, but AutoSummarise is ideal for shortening non-fiction, articles, or a synopsis. Click on Tools , AutoSummarise … You will note that there are four options for the summary: 1. Highlight key points 2. Executive summary or abstract 3. Summary in a new document 4. Summary only in original document Of

Perils of the Writing Life

A friend of mine recently commented that every reader should have the opportunity to talk to a writer personally. It could help dent the misconception that writing a book is a simple matter of sitting down at the keyboard and emerging at a designated time with novel in hand. For instance, as a reader, my friend had never heard of Character Domination. That's where a character suddenly takes off on his own and the poor writer is left wondering just when it was that she lost control of the situation. Note: There is a similar problem in parenting which is called Power Struggles. I used to think my experience as a mother would give me an edge in handling my characters, but my track record of late has narrowed the advantage considerably. Then there's the Boggy Middle Blues. That happens to a writer just as he's rounding the bend toward home, and he starts to ask questions. Did I really flesh out that character in chapter three? Does that scene in chapter five come across with ev

Paragraph Rules in Fiction

I recently joined a critique group for the first time ever and must admit, I am enjoying every bit of it. I wish I'd gotten up the nerve many years ago. I'm learning quite a bit from my fellow writers - and not just when I'm in the hot seat. At each meeting, we critique seven to eight documents. For each document, one person reads the pages out loud. This if followed by a round table discussion during which critiquers share first impressions - what got their attention, where they were lost, etc. We don't discuss grammar and spelling. We make those comments on printed copies and return those to the authors. These written comments raised several questions in my mind. I'm going to limit this post to one of them: What are the rules about paragraph structure in fiction? This question came up when I noticed that seven out of seven critquers did not like my paragraphs - especially any paragraph deemed to be long. If all seven had agreed on how the long passages should be c

Meet the Editor: Shon Bacon

Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING . You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website , and you can get information about her editorial services at The World According to ChickLitGurrl . See what Shon dishes out about editing with our Meet the Editor column. When did you first notice you were hung-up on typos? I think I've always been hung-up on typos; however, it became an obsession about eight years ago when I pursued my MFA/MA in creative writing and English. As a graduate teacher, I had to instruct students on how to write effective essays, and grammar, mechanics, sentence structure, and cohesion became paramount components in those instructions, not only for the students but also for me. What advice would you give someone interest

Meet the Editor: Maryann Miller

You know her as: Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest books are One Small Victory and Play it Again, Sam. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. When she is not working, she loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas. Let's find out more about Maryann in our second Meet the Editor interview. When did you first notice you were hung-up on typos? I started editing for a slick, quarterly magazine about ten years after I started writing freelance articles. I was hired to work with other writers to get new stories assigned, written, and edited. But I didn't do copy editing or proofing at that point. There was another editor for that. Which is good, because copy editing has never been my strong suit. I am better at working with an author to get a story right, or improve a piece of fiction. Later, I discovered that

Meet the Editor: Dani Greer

You know her as: Dani Greer runs the Blog Book Tours group at Yahoo! , is a founding member of The Blood-Red Pencil. Most days you'll find her in the virtual realms or buried under manuscript submissions, blood red pencil in hand. Now see what we got Dani to spill with our Meet the Editor column. When did you first notice you were hung-up on typos?

 4th grade. This is in part because English is my second language and I had a real need to learn it as best I could. Plus, Mrs. London would have failed me because she didn't like foreigners. It was a matter of grade school survival. What advice would you give someone interested in becoming an editor?
 Read many of the classics including punctuation and grammar books, plus all the new language books being published. Know what the style books are and look at them. Practice for free with your author pals. If you can stand to do it for nothing, you can probably do it for a living. But know your stuff. Don't just hang o

Meet the Editor - A New Feature

We’ve had such great responses to our “Ask the Editor” feature that we’ve created “Meet the Editor.” Now you can learn more about the editors and contributors who are sharing their tips and helping you sharpen your writing. We also have a spin-off (already!) called “Meet the Specialist” to learn more about our contributors who specialize in particular areas, like publishing and marketing. More will be revealed about this at a later date, so stay tuned. Be on the look out for subject lines with “Meet the Editor.” That’s your signal that you have an opportunity to discover the person behind the pencil. ------------------------------------- A full-time freelance editor-writer and owner of a.k.a writer in Denver, Jesaka Long works her word magic for small publishing houses and authors, especially non-fiction writers and memoirists. For more information email her at jesaka (at) or visit .

Lay, Lie, Laid

This post was first published here on February 14, 2009. ~~~~~~~~~~ I am a full time published writer and yet there are still loads of grammar rules that I just do not understand. Living in Botswana is worse still, since sometimes I need to know American grammar rules and sometimes British grammar rules and also which of the other countries I write for falls under which grammar system. I thought, as a way to sort out my grammatically challenged mind, I would do a bit of research and teach you folks hoping that along the way I would solve my own problem. At the very least, my publisher is going to appreciate this. So today I looked at one of my worst grammar dilemmas - lay, lie, laid . I’ve pulled out my trusty Good English Handbook by Godfrey Howard and ducked over to Grammar Girl’s site and this is what I’ve got. Let’s start with present tense. The most important question to ask here is - is the word followed by an object? If there is an object following the verb, then yo

Little Things Mean A Lot

I'm easily distracted, I must admit. Last Sunday, during the church service, my mind wandered. I happened to notice a cute child, maybe two or three years old, about ten pews ahead of me. I watched one of the regulars a few pews down from her smile at the child. The child shyly put her head down. At times, when I walk down the street with my dog, Rascal, sometimes a passerby will smile at her. Rascal picks up the friendly vibes and wags her tail. Other times, when I'm walking to the train station in the morning, a driver, instead of stopping at the stop sign, will roll through to prevent me from crossing. What do these little things have to do with writing? Simple. Instead of telling the reader your character is nice or impatient, show it by using such small actions. Or, mix the character up a little, so that person is not all mean or all nice. Readers like to think back to little clues, so don't forget to offer them. Can you think of other ways to show a person's chara

Rejection Acceptance

Early on, I realised if I was to be a success at this writing game I needed to find a way to deal with rejection. The easiest is a rant. I read the rejection and shout back at it. Then I throw it away and move on. It works for me; I suggest you find a similar method. I’ve never trusted this collecting of them; the growing pile can’t bode well for future self confidence, but then again that may be my own psychosis. All writers get rejections. I like reminding myself of the list of rejections Stephen King’s Carrie received or the bitter rejection of Rudyard Kipling’s writing by the The San Francisco Examiner who advised Mr Kipling he was clueless regarding the English language. Sylvia Plath, George Orwell, Mary Higgins Clark, Jack Kerouac, Ayn Rand- all rejected at one time or another, some quite bitterly. If nothing else, when that rejection arrives know that you are in excellent company. Rejections are sent for many reasons. Here are a few. 1. You’re a crappy writer Most writers jump

Developing Your Writing Style, Part Two

Last post from me, I wrote about developing your writing style and offered a few tips to help you on your writing journey. Here are more tips to consider when you get before the page with the idea of revising your work to heighten the STYLE of your work. 1. Check your VERBS. Do this for two things: to have active voice in your writing and to create strong verbs. Readers expect to see ACTION in your story. They want the characters to perform, to act – not necessarily be acted upon. When characters perform the action, we have active voice. When the characters are acted upon, we have passive voice – which is seen with the use of “to be” verbs. Let’s say Stella is the main character of a story. If we write, “Stella was killed by the angry mob,” are we doing passive or active voice? If you thought “passive,” you’re right. We could make this a stronger statement by writing, “The angry mob killed Stella.” Look for “to be” verbs and “have” verbs in your writing; if you can find strong, more me

The Big Edits, Part 3

We’re talking big things you need to look at in your manuscript. So far, we’ve covered point of view, beginnings, and back story in Part 1 of this Edit series. We looked at pacing in individual scenes and in the book as a whole, and balancing dialogue and narrative in Part 2 . Now let’s talk about plot. Is it clichéd? Has it been told before? Is an agent going to read the book or your synopsis and say, “I’ve read this before; it’s nothing new.” Of course, realizing this and working on the plot would be better to do before you write the manuscript, but even after you’re finished, it’s not necessarily too late to salvage the book. Try sitting down with a trusted reader or your editor and brainstorming ways to rev up the plot, to add spice or a twist to it, bring in a relevant, different, character, even do a major change to the entire plot. Yeah, agents and editors like what’s familiar, but you always hear them say, “Give me what so-and-so wrote, only different.” That “different” is wh

Developing Your Writing Style, Part One

If I told you to develop your writing style, would you know what I meant? If your answer is “No,” then this article is for you. Here’s a quick definition of style: the way you put together a sentence or group of sentences . The problem with figuring out style is there is no one sure way. It’s subjective. Depending on different forms of writing (essays, articles, stories, etc.) and different disciplines (science, art, humanities, etc.), style may differ. To develop your writing style: 1. First, focus on YOUR STORY. What’s your story about? What themes are present in your story? Who are your characters? What is the tone of the work? Before you can even focus on the nuances of style, you have to understand your work as fully as possible. You are the creator of this work – no one else. Everything we are to know and believe of the work must be derived from you. Once you have a firm sense of your work, focusing on the other tips can be an easier journey. Now, this doesn’t mean your story is

The Big Edits, Part 2

By big edits, I mean those things that are not as easy to fix as typos, grammar, punctuation, and sparse or overwritten descriptions. We’ve already talked about some common big edits that may need to be done to the beginning of your book. Let’s talk about the rest of the book now. Don’t rush your scenes. As the writer, you know where the book is going and you want to get to the “good” parts. If you race to get there, though, you’ll give your readers whiplash. Scenes can be snappy and they can also be informative and luxurious. Just don’t write fast scenes one right after the other until your reader is lost in time and space without an anchor. (Or lots of long, slow scenes that drag down the pace of the book.) Speaking of pace, analyze the pacing in your work. Are there ups and downs? Not just the big ups and downs like on a huge roller coaster, but the smaller hills and valleys. Think symphony rather than roller coaster. It can seem to start slowly, but quickly a trumpet blast hooks

The Big Edits, Part 1

There are small edits that have to be done on your manuscript, such as punctuation, grammar, dialogue, descriptions, typos, formatting, missing words, setting, overuse of adverbs, too few or too many commas, etc. Then there are the big edits that sometimes have to be done. Big edits are not as straight-forward or easy to correct. You still have to do them, though. Let’s start with those that most affect the beginning of your novel. Think about your Point of View. Should it be first person or third? Sometimes you start your manuscript and you know it has to be told from the 1st person POV (or the 3rd person POV), then half way in, you feel it’s not working so well, but you’ve already written so many pages that you soldier through. If it’s not working for you, the writer who loves the manuscript, it’s not going to work for the reader. Do the work and change it. If you or a trusted reader has trouble with the POV, seriously think about making the change. Let’s talk about slow beginn