Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Freelance Writing Rights Part 2

Yesterday, we explained several kinds of legal rights authors might encounter in their writing careers. Today we continue that discussion with more possible scenarios.


Rights you give up:

• Syndication means selling one article (or a series of articles) to multiple sources at the same time. Typically publications will not want you to sell the same piece to a competing market.
• Because you are selling to multiple markets, the price garnered per publication is less than with first or sole rights.

Rights you keep:

• Authorship (byline)
• Rights to resell or reprint in another format.
• Right to limit or prohibit editing or revising of your piece.

Why a writer would choose syndication:

For many writers, getting paid multiple times for the same article is an appealing concept. Having an article printed in numerous publications means a greater number of readers. Increased readership is another appealing concept. Finally, syndicated writers often have their articles printed regularly in the same publications. This eliminates time spent querying or looking for other writing jobs.


Rights you give up:

• Public authorship – when you ghostwrite a piece, the byline goes to someone else.
• Resale rights – because, for all practical purposes, someone else wrote the piece.

Rights you keep:

• Typically ghostwriters oversee the editing and revision process, so you can be assured of the quality of the finished product.
• Private authorship. Usually, a person hiring a ghostwriter will allow the ghostwriter to use the piece as an example to other potential ghostwriting clients.
• The byline for your piece is typically restricted to one person – the client hiring you.

Why writers choose this option:

Ghostwriting often pays well. The assignments can be extensive and a writer is well compensated for his or her time. The writing maintains its integrity and the ghostwriter knows how and where it will be published.

Private Label Rights (PLR)

Rights you give up:

• Rights to authorship and a byline.
• Rights to oversee editing or any changes made to the piece.
• Rights to keep the piece intact as written. With PLR, content can be split, combined with other content, and changed in any number of ways to meet the needs of the person buying the piece.
• Right to determine whom the piece is sold to, where it is published and what format it is published in.
• Right to resell or reuse the piece.
• Right to limit authorship. PLR pieces can be resold to an unlimited number of sources. Each can claim a byline.

Rights you keep:

• None. When you sell a piece PLR, you give up all rights.

Why writers choose this option:

Some writers may not realize what they are doing when they sign on with a PLR company. The company may not use the term PLR. Some writing distributors promise to “optimize” your distribution if you sign away certain (usually all) rights. PLR often promises a paycheck, but usually not a very big one. Businesses purchasing PLR rights from writers may make the practice sound too good to be true. Remember, things that sound too good to be true sometimes are.

Freelance writers make a living from their words (or they try to). The rights you give up to your work can differ greatly from one publication (and contract) to another. Bottom line? Read the fine print before signing on the bottom line. If you sign away specific rights, do so because the benefits to your writing career outweigh the costs of giving up those rights.

Jill Pertler is a self-syndicated columnist and author of The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication, which gives a practical, hands-on, step-by-step approach to self-syndication. You can get it online (paperback and e-book) at and through or Barnes &

Jill’s Slices of Life columns have been touching peoples’ hearts and tickling their funny bones since 2002. They are currently published in over 75 newspapers in the upper Midwest. You can read them here.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Freelance Writing Rights

As a freelance writer, your words are your bread and butter. So, it’s important to have them work for you. The rights you keep – or give up – vary, depending on the type of contract you enter into. Because there are numerous variables, this can be confusing – even for the seasoned writer.

Here’s a listing of common ways that contracts describe rights to written pieces. As a freelancer, I’ve entered into contracts for just about every listing here. I tell you this to let you know that there are no magic answers when it comes to keeping or giving up rights. It depends on your specific situation and the writing in question.

All rights, or sole rights

Rights you give up:
• When a publication asks for all rights to your work, you are, in essence, signing it over to them. They then have the ability to publish it wherever and whenever they choose.
• You cannot publish the article with another print or online publication. You cannot post it on your website or use it publicly in any way.

Rights you keep:
• You maintain a byline.
• Your article maintains its integrity. The publication purchasing your work cannot edit or change it – unless this is specified in your contract.

Why a writer would choose to give up sole rights:

When a publication asks for all rights, chances are it is willing to pay a higher price. This monetary benefit may entice writers. Depending on subject matter, a writer may not want or need to publish the piece again; in this circumstance, giving up all rights doesn’t affect the future of the article.

First rights

Rights you give up:

• Here, you are giving a publication the opportunity to be the first to publish your work. Typically, you give those rights for a specified amount of time – say three months. After that, all rights revert back to you and you are free to resell and republish the piece.

Rights you keep:

• You keep the right to republish the article.
• You maintain authorship (byline).
• You maintain the right to oversee editing or any changes made to the article (unless you contractually agree to give up editing rights).

Why a writer would choose this option:

Much like giving up sole rights, first rights typically bring in a higher level of pay. A writer maintains control over the work, and maintains resale rights.


Rights you give up:

• The publication purchasing the article may not want you to simultaneously publish it in a competing market.
• Resale articles don’t bring in as high a paycheck as first rights or sole rights articles, so you are giving up the right to charge as much as you would for those other types of articles.

Rights you keep:

• Authorship.
• Rights to resell or reprint in another format.
• The purchasing publication can’t change your words, unless you give them specific permission to do so.

Why a writer would choose this option:

Resale is a no-brainer. If you’ve already published a piece and have the chance to re-publish and get a second paycheck, why not?

Next, we'll cover rights related to self-syndication, ghostwriting, and PLR.
Jill Pertler is a self-syndicated columnist and author of The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication, which gives a practical, hands-on, step-by-step approach to self-syndication. You can get it online (paperback and e-book) at and through or Barnes &

Jill’s Slices of Life columns have been touching peoples’ hearts and tickling their funny bones since 2002. They are currently published in over 75 newspapers in the upper Midwest. You can read them here.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Self-syndication Options and Benefits

Many writers think of syndication as a specialized niche meant for just a few Erma or Abby-type writers. I’d like to change that line of thinking. Self-syndication is a flexible means to sell your work to multiple sources and cash multiple paychecks. If you let yourself get creative, there are lots of different paths syndication can lead you on.

Often, syndicated work in done in the form of a column. The column might be written daily or weekly. This is only one example of syndication. Think outside the column and I’m sure you can come up with more. Group like articles together to make a self-syndicated series. Offer your services to a glossy magazine not as a freelancer, but as a self-syndicated columnist. Are you a blogger? With a little work, it’s likely that your blog could become a self-syndicated column. Offer to ghostwrite self-syndicated articles for someone who would benefit from a column, but doesn’t have the time or skills to do the work herself.

Self-syndication brings numerous benefits to you as a writer. When you print your articles in multiple places, more readers have the opportunity to see your words, note your byline and follow your work. You gain faithful readers – every writer’s good luck charm.

The best news is that with self-syndication, you can bill more than once for the same column or article. The very word “syndication” denotes resale, so there’s no talk of first rights or all rights to your piece. If you are self-syndicated, editors and publishers know and understand that the work will be available elsewhere.

With self-syndication, you keep all rights to your work. A byline (and often a photo) accompanies your article. Typically, a short bio is included at the end of the piece. In other words, self-syndication promotes your writing by putting your name, photo and bio information with each article printed.

Is the business portion of self-syndication difficult or a lot of work? Not more than regular freelancing. With self-syndication, you do the writing as well as handle the business end of things. For most freelancers, this isn’t any different from everyday life. If you are a freelancer, chances are you know all about record keeping and invoicing.

Is self-syndication for you? If you are a freelancer, I think there’s a good chance self-syndication can benefit your career in some way, at some point. Like a good dictionary, self-syndication is a tool for every writer to keep on his or her bookshelf, ready to be taken out and used when needed.
Jill Pertler is a self-syndicated columnist and author of The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication, which gives a practical, hands-on, step-by-step approach to self-syndication. You can get it online (paperback and e-book) at and through or Barnes &

Jill’s Slices of Life columns have been touching peoples’ hearts and tickling their funny bones since 2002. They are currently published in over 75 newspapers in the upper Midwest. You can read them here.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Don't Tell Me- Show Me

Most writers seem to get the broad concept of show don't tell. They know about creating scenes and keeping the reader grounded  in the scene. But some writers still do not get the difference between telling a reader what is going on in a scene and showing them.

The party was in full swing
Heavy metal music bounced from wall to wall. People strained to talk above the pounding noise, or simply gave up and joined those dancing……

Some writers also don't seem to get the little "tells" in a manuscript that can weaken an otherwise decent book.

The pizza smelled so good I felt my mouth water.
The sweet aroma of tomato and basil riding the steam from the top of the pizza made me touch the side of my face to make sure the drool was not running out of my mouth.

Okay, I'll admit, that example could use some professional help, but I think you get what I am suggesting.

I felt myself blush
The heat of a blush crawled up my neck.

He looked alarmed
A niggle of fear made him dart quick glances over his shoulder as he walked the darkened street.

As a little exercise today, if you all are up for it, I welcome any rewrites of my examples to improve on them.

One of the things I know for sure as a writer and an editor, is that the first attempt at putting something on paper - or a computer screen - can always be improved on.

Posted by Maryann Miller, who has been on both sides of the editing table and appreciates a good editor. Visit Maryann's Web site for information about her editing services and her books. When she is not working, Maryann loves to play farmer on her little ranch in East Texas.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Catharsis of Writing

Why do we writers write? For as many of us as there are, there could be an equal number of reasons. However, we would likely find some interesting “overlaps” that, while tinged with a degree of uniqueness, bind us together. What might those be? Personal experiences, of course, and, by extension, experiences of others around us.

It has been said that we should write about the things we know. Why? Our works will then come across as credible, authoritative. In other words, our readers will believe that what we say is probable . . . or at least possible. This is as true in fiction as it is in nonfiction. As an editor, I’ve worked with writers to “fix” impossible situations such as fight scenes, escapes, time frames, and a host of others that couldn’t happen unless at least one of the characters is a clone of Superman.

How can we translate “what we know” into a great storyline? And what will make our experiences interesting, believable, and perhaps even helpful to others? Honesty. Emotions. Heart. Many of our experiences may have been stressful—even painful—and more than a few of them may still be lurking deep within us. Feelings Buried Alive Never Die, a book by Karol K. Truman, addresses the effects that repressed feelings can have on our physical health and our general well-being. Well, guess what! We writers have a built-in relief valve for our feelings—good, bad, or indifferent—if only we will open it up and let them flow.

Journaling has been recommended for people who need to vent their feelings. But for those with a penchant for book writing, that flow can take a circuitous route through the characters in our stories. Have we experienced the death of a loved one? a marriage turned sour? estrangement from parents, children, or siblings? loss of a dear friend? financial reversal? termination of employment? a forced change in lifestyle? an unwanted move? miscarriage of a longed-for baby? a lost love? These are the threads that weave the fabric of our lives. They are also the threads that weave the lives of others—our readers.

When we first tap into these feelings hidden inside us and begin to write, our anger may erupt like a long-dormant volcano that spews molten lava from deep within its churning bowels. But as we self-edit, rewrite, and rewrite again, we shape and tweak our anger, our pain, our anguish to fit our stories and our characters. With what result? Our readers are often affected by the intensity of our writing, the authenticity of our emotions, our ability to reach out and touch their hearts. Our stories ring true because—no matter how we’ve changed them—they essentially are true. And as a bonus, something special happens for us. The festering wound that ruptured and burst forth from our innards begins to heal. We can stand back and look at our pain through the eyes of our character(s), and as they find resolution, we can also.

Have you ever dealt with a difficult or painful issue through your characters? If you have, and if you are comfortable doing so, will you share some aspect of that experience with us?

Linda Lane is a writer/editor/publisher. You can visit her Web site at

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Writing in 140: Up Close & Personal with POV

Many of my clients use first-person POV. When asked why they decide to use it, most claim the POV makes them feel closer to the main character, like they are inside of the MC's head. I often counter that a close third-person POV can be just as intimate as first person. The problem that often arises in many of these first-person stories is writers want to write in first person, but they want a story told in third-person omniscient, meaning they still want to tell what all the other characters are thinking and doing when that's pretty hard to do when stuck in one person’s mind—unless MC is clairvoyant. If you're going to use first-person POV, be mindful of the limitations that can arise in writing the story.

What say you?

Writing in 140 is my attempt to say something somewhat relevant about writing in 140 words or less.

Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator. She has published both creatively and academically, and her debut solo novel, Death at the Double Inkwell is now available for purchase. Shon also 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 CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy editing, promoting her debut project, writing screenplays, and pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Character Bible

Before beginning the writing of your novel, you can save time and frustration by creating a Character Bible for your lead characters. Since you create these characters, you may feel you know them so well that they are alive in your head. Often, though, by the time you’re halfway through the book, you’re wondering if Jackie likes coffee or tea in the mornings. Then you have to thumb back through the pages or do a search-and-find to get the answer.

If you have to do this with your leads, you’ll for sure end up doing it with your incidental or supporting characters. That’s a time suck. Avoid wasting your time. Create a Character Bible for your main characters and a shorter listing for your lesser characters.

You can find lists of character questions on the Internet. I suggest you create your own. Some standard things you’ll want to include are:
Full Name
Hair Color
Body Type
Eye Color
Family Background
General Personality
Events that Changed or Cemented the Course of the Character’s Life

After that, you can pick and choose things to note on the particular character, like:

Pets - you don’t want to give Jackie a poodle to subtly let the reader know she’s likeable despite what her cubicle mates at work say, then send Jackie off on a business trip to Luckenbach, Texas, for two weeks and never mention the dog trapped in the tiny apartment because you’ve forgotten little Puff Ball….’cause the reader won’t forget or forgive the starving dog.

Hobbies - Jackie doodles a lot. She’s not an artist, but is good enough that she sends handmade cards to friends at Christmas. This will come in handy later when she sees a robbery and is able to do a sketch of the guy.

Etc. - whatever fits or is important to remember for that particular character

The list can go on and on, depending on how much you know and learn about each character.

The Character Bible will be shorter for your minor and secondary characters, but they, too, are essential to do in order to save you time. Note names, relationships, work, hobbies, looks, and anything you feel you’ll need to know.

Some things you will know before you ever put fingers to keyboard. Some things you’ll learn as you write. Take a moment, open the Character document and note them.

Trust me, by book three in the series, you’ll need to know this stuff. If you forget and you don’t have your Bible to refer to, you’ll either spend hours or days going back to gather it or boocoodles of money to get someone like me to create it for you.
Helen Ginger is an author, blogger, freelance editor and writing coach. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. In addition, her free e-zine, Doing It Write, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its eleventh year of publication. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

EPIC, the Electronic Publishing Organization

I recently was given the honor of winning an EPIC award for my novel, Cowgirl Dreams. The first question I usually get is, “What is EPIC?”

EPIC, the Electronic Publishing Internet Connection, is a professional organization for published and contracted e-book and print authors. It was established in 1997 to provide a strong voice for electronic publishing.

Even though E-Publishing is a relatively new venue, many readers, writers, and traditionally published authors believe this is one of the major marketplaces of the future. EPIC was designed to help professional writers learn more about the best publishing opportunities on the Internet and to provide networking opportunities for information about promotion and market growth.

The award contest (formerly known as the EPPIE) was established in 2000, the year of the first national conference, and now includes 30 categories, from poetry, non-fiction and anthologies to fiction, which includes children’s and YA, fantasy & sci-fi, and erotica. It also promotes a book-cover design contest, the Ariana Awards, which my publisher, Lee Emory of Treble Heart Books, won in 2009.

The organization of more than 700 members distributes 5,000 brochures at 21 separate book fairs, conferences, and writers' workshops, and promotes the Award finalists through an ad in PW Daily and press releases for the winners in their hometowns.

EPIC’s website includes blogs, columns and articles such as the Author’s Role, Effective Websites, Publicity Ideas, Resources and Links, and How-to Guides.


A native Montanan, Heidi Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. She has had her first novel published, Cowgirl Dreams, based on her grandmother. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.
A native Montanan, Heidi Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. She has had her first novel published, Cowgirl Dreams, based on her grandmother. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Book Review: A Bad Day for Pretty

A Bad Day for Pretty
by Sophie Littlefield
Minotaur Books, An Imprint of St. Martin’s Publishing Group
ISBN 978-0-312-55975-5
292 pages,
$24.99 US

Reviewed by Patricia Stoltey

When Stella Hardesty had taken all the abuse she could handle from her no-good husband, she took him out with a wrench. It was self defense, plain and simple, and Stella was acquitted. Nowadays she owns Hardesty Sewing Machine Repair & Sales and runs a little vigilante attitude adjustment service on the side. Word gets around, whispered from woman to woman. When a wife or girlfriend needs protection from the jerk she hooked up with in a moment of stupidity, she’s likely to hire badass Stella to pay the jerk a not-so-friendly visit.

Since her marriage was abruptly terminated, Stella has kept a tight rein on her emotions and a lock on her heart. But wouldn’t you know it? She’s gone all mushy-kneed over Sheriff Goat Jones. He cooks, cleans, would never hurt a woman, and he has helped Stella clean up her not-so-law-abiding messes a time or two.

In A Bad Day for Pretty, the second Stella Hardesty mystery, bad weather is whipping through the Missouri countryside where big city living happens way off in Kansas City and tornadoes bring an assortment of unpleasant surprises, the first being Goat’s not-quite-ex-wife, Brandy Truax, who shows up when Stella and Goat are having their first romantic dinner at Goat’s home.

Stella beats a fast retreat, convinced that she’s been fooled by a man once again when she should have known better. The next morning, an old client calls concerning her formerly pain-killer-addicted and religious-cult-following husband Neb, who’s now in trouble. That tornado blew over the snack shack at the demolition derby track at the fairgrounds, and a section of the foundation was destroyed, revealing a body. Neb, who has been on a straight and narrow path for some time, is the main suspect.

With the help of her assorted, somewhat quirky friends and her grown daughter, Noelle, Stella sets out to prove Neb’s innocence. Life is complicated by Goat and Brandy’s marital mess, and a growing suspicion that Stella would have to find the real killer before she could convince anyone that Neb wasn’t a murderer.

One of the things I like most about Littlefield’s novels is main character Stella’s unique and distinctive voice. We frequently read that good writing uses a minimum of adjectives and adverbs, but if we were to edit out the frequent hyphenated strings of descriptive prose, Stella wouldn’t be Stella, and these books wouldn’t be as much fun. This character describes her world and the people in it as she sees them. Goat’s almost-ex-wife has “bloodred-tipped fingers” and a “complicated platinum-blonde updo.” Some marriages are “never-quite-split” ones. Stella’s clients have husbands or boyfriends who are “no-good, wife-smacking, covenant-breaking mates.” And her friend’s little boy, Tucker, is a “towheaded sideways-grinning new-tooth-drooling brat” that Stella loves with all her heart.

The plot of A Bad Day for Pretty is solid, with enough twists and turns to keep a mystery reader interested. The logic is good, the resolution satisfying, and the characters interesting and likable. For an extra dose of good reading, I recommend starting this series with the first book, A Bad Day for Sorry.

The Blood-Red Pencil has two copies of A Bad Day for Pretty to give away. To enter your name in our drawing, please leave a comment on today's post.


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) disclaimer: Copies of A Bad Day for Pretty were provided free to The Blood-Red Pencil for the purpose of reviewing the novel. No monetary payment was involved.


Patricia Stoltey is a mystery author, blogger, and critique group facilitator. Active in promoting Colorado authors, she also helps local unpublished writers learn the critical skills of manuscript revision and self-editing. For information about Patricia’s Sylvia and Willie mystery series, visit her website and her blog. You can also find her on Facebook (Patricia Stoltey) and Twitter (@PStoltey).

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Too Cliché or Not Too Cliché? - That is the Question

One of the problems of writing in any genre is that editors, publishers, and long-term readers have seen it all before. Experienced writers worry about keeping their ideas fresh and vaguely unique, while newbies often fall into the dreaded cliché trap.

But is the cliché really such a dire fictional faux pas? Parody writers make a lot of money out of clichés and stereotypes, but we wouldn’t find their work nearly as funny without the existence of clichéd material in the first place.

It was while I was reading the excellently tongue-in-cheek Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones that I really began to think about the positive side of clichés in fiction, and in fantasy in particular.

Orson Scott Card summed up a fundamental tenet of magic use in fantasy: that magic should always have a price or consequence. It’s a cliché, yes, but I don’t think many writers would ditch such a valuable principle if it will prove detrimental to the story. If you’re going to drop an established convention of your genre do it because of your plot, not because you’re trying to guess what an agent/publisher/reader will find old hat.

Moving too far from accepted standards of a genre in your quest for uniqueness could have two consequences: you could invent an entirely new (sub)genre and be famous forever as the pioneer of your brand, or you may face rejection simply because publishers don’t know what to do with you and can’t be bothered to figure it out.

A cliché can still work well if it’s properly thought out and used for a real purpose rather than being added for embellishment because every book the writer reads uses the same concept. If you know what you’re doing, do it with pride.

Have you used a cliché to good effect in your work? Or have you read a book with an old idea that’s been done really well?

---------------------------------------------Elsa Neal
Read the rest of Elsa Neal's review of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland at Visit her website for more articles to improve your writing craft. Read her writing insights at her Fictional Life Blog. Elle is based in Melbourne, Australia.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Deep POV: Three mistakes and how to fix them, Part II

Story can be defined many ways, but one of my favorites is “internal conflict made external.” This definition informs the fixes to two additional problems writers might face while trying to adopt a deep point of view. (Click here for Part I of this topic).

2. The mistake: Point of view breach. A POV breach occurs when a character knows something he or she shouldn’t reasonably know given the limitations of the POV choice. Moving forward in our example from the last post to the confrontation between our POV character and the husband she suspects of having an affair—and switching POV to show the technique works equally as well in third person limited—such a mistake would manifest itself like this:
How long had this been going on? She skewered him with a hate that only years of mistaken adoration could produce. She couldn’t speak. Didn’t have to—he read it all over her face.
The reader is left wondering—um, how does she know he read it all over her face?

The fix: Translate internal feelings into external actions. By doing so, you as author will allow a reaction that will make your character’s feelings all too clear to this man. When he reaches out for her and she smacks her 2-carat diamond into the bony back of his hand, he’ll know her feelings—and so will your readers.

3. The mistake: Hanging out too long in the character’s head. Remember that POV colors your story by creating a lens. Let's recall our high school physics for a moment. In order to define the work of a lens, you need a light source (backstory), which shines through the lens (thoughts and opinions and prejudices and feelings) onto the situation being viewed (character actions). This movement—from remembered motivations through internal thoughts expressed as external actions—keeps your story moving by creating plot. Writers can complicate point of view problems by stalling inside the character’s head, where even the author can get confused as to what’s going on.

The fix: Let something happen. If you notice that your character is unusually silent, or else constantly trembling while refraining from taking physical actions, try taking the lid off the pressure cooker of her emotions and letting it rip. A verbal or physical tirade unwound from deep within a character’s point of view can be downright satisfying.

Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Formerly a dance critic and arts journalist for 19 years, she now writes literary women's fiction.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Deep POV: Three mistakes and how to fix them, Part I

If established in the opening pages of your book, readers will adopt a convincingly developed point of view (POV) without reservation. If your world is lavender, we readers will become lavender rather than see it everywhere. If your character is bigoted, we will taste the bitterness of his words on our own tongues. If your character is nervous, we will sense it in the very way he speaks.

In a previous post I offered up examples of literary artists who have made brilliant use of deep point of view, and taken the results all the way to the bank. The perspective of an interesting, well-motivated character gives a work of fiction depth, humor, layers of meaning, and points you in the direction of plot. Deep POV delivers what readers seek: exemption from the limitations of their own perspectives so they can see the world anew.

As you attempt to wrestle down this technique, here are a few of the writing missteps that can reduce its effectiveness.

1. The mistake: Creating annoying filters. Let’s say you’ve traveled halfway across the country to see your only son’s wedding, but when you get there, his bride’s mother plants you behind a tripod in the back of the church. Now you must experience what would have been an emotional event from behind the lens of a video camera. Similarly, POV missteps that keep the reader at a remove from the world of story can seem like a physical object the reader wants to move out of the way.

The fix: Consider words like realized, thought, saw, noticed, and glanced yellow flags that you may have created an annoying filter. These words draw attention to your POV “camera.” If you establish point of view deeply enough from the outset, your character should never have to tell us she is “realizing” anything.

I saw a silk nightgown discarded on the floor of our bedroom. It wasn’t mine. I realized then that Steve was having an affair.

A silk nightgown lay discarded on the floor of our bedroom. It wasn’t mine.

Because you would have established the wife as the point of view character in preceding paragraphs, we readers can follow her leap of thought. We’re right there with her. The things she sees we also see; her realization is our realization. In fact, the loss of the extra words creates a starkness that adds to the impact of her discovery. The implication resonates across the space cleared by removing unnecessary words.

By sinking even deeper into the character’s consciousness, you will get rid of the “camera” altogether. Point of view will now be more like a pair of contact lenses, coloring everything while still allowing the reader to experience it.

Two more common mistakes and their fixes in my next post.

Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Formerly a dance critic and arts journalist for 19 years, she now writes literary women's fiction.
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Monday, June 14, 2010

Writing in 140: Finding Desire to Write

What do you do when it seems as if you've lost the desire to write?

Every writer, at some point of the writing journey, will ask this question. The writing seems to flow like water from a faucet and then one day, it doesn't. Then days later, there's still no mojo.

What to do?
  1. Read. A really good book makes me remember why I love to write and often makes me want to write.
  2. Live life. You have to spend time living life in order to write about lives.
  3. Study self. Go back and read some of your writing. Perhaps doing so will ignite the urge to write.
  4. Don't worry. This is normal. Use the time to recharge yourself in other ways.
What do YOU do?

Writing in 140 is my attempt to say something somewhat relevant about writing in 140 words or less.

Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator. She has published both creatively and academically, and her debut solo novel, Death at the Double Inkwell is now available for purchase. Shon also 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 CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy editing, promoting her debut project, writing screenplays, and pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Genre - Magical Realism

Recently, my fourteen year old daughter was, as usual, sitting in the back seat of the car texting to a friend. “Hey, Mom, how do you spell genre?”

My husband and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows. What fourteen year old uses the word “genre” in a text to a friend? I’m not sure I’d even heard the word until I was a librarian. Readers today are much more aware of the genres of books they read. They are much more likely to stick with one genre and not read others. Go into most modern bookstores and you’ll find the books organized, not by author, size, or color, but by genre.

We at the Blood Red Pencil are going to use a few posts over the next weeks to define and discuss genres. The market may be better for some genres than others. There may be different marketing approaches for different genres. You may find that some agents specialize in handling one genre over others. We’ll discuss those all these points in upcoming posts.

I’m going to begin the discussion with a relatively newly recognized genre, Magical Realism. Magical Realism weaves magic or supernatural events into a plot, assuming the events are perfectly natural and realistic. They often draw on the native folklore and myths of the area in which they are set. Magical Realism writers often use ghosts or reincarnations of ancestors into animals or objects in very matter-of-fact ways. The other characters accept these spirits as perfectly natural and predictable. The genre is often used to make political commentary on imperialistic or dictatorial governments.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is considered by many to be the seminal work of the genre. Because the genre came into the public consciousness first through the work of Marquez and his contemporaries, we often think of it as a Latin American genre. Pieces using Magical Realism are usually set in exotic places or cultures, most often Latin America, but can be set anyplace.

Isabel Allende, Laura Esquivel, Toni Morrison, and Salman Rushdie also write in the genre. All these authors’ works draw on native folklore, political unrest, and supernatural occurrences but are placed all over the world.

If you choose to write in this genre, you will be joining an auspicious group of authors. Give it a go!
Jo Klemm has worked as a librarian since 1985, with the exception of the eight years she raised her three girls. She has worked in public, medical school, university, and community college libraries and is currently working at Tarrant County College in Arlington, Texas as a Public Services Librarian. In her spare time, she is a professional storyteller, focusing on western and Texas stories and Arthurian legends. The written and spoken word has always fascinated her and, though she embraces technology, she worry that it is moving us away from appreciation of the power of the written word. In her teaching, storytelling, and writing, she tries to inspire and empower students to learn from great authors, old and new, and to find their own voice on the page.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Writing as an Art —Words That Dance

Last month, we discussed “words that sing,” and a number of you transformed a mundane paragraph into a powerful dissonant melody. How did you do this? You awakened the lackluster scene and infused it with chords of pain and despair and negativity. Well done, all who participated in this writing exercise.

Now let’s venture a bit farther into the musical element of writing. Without question, well-chosen words bring melodic harmony, agonizing discord, and dramatic crescendos and decrescendos to the printed page. Interestingly, the medium that delivers this compelling symphony is . . . dance. Dance? Think about it.

What is dance? Action. Expression. Power. Whether the smooth flow of a waltz, the seething emotions of a tango, the gymnastics of break dancing, the happy conclusion of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty, or the poignant sadness of his Swan Lake, action creates the dynamic of the scene. Without action, without expression, without power, there can be no dance. Without action, without expression, without power—without strong verbs—the most eloquent words fall flat.

Imagine that you are sitting in the front row of a large theatre. Spotlights draw your attention to the beautiful velvet curtains. You wait. The orchestra assembles in the pit, and its members fine tune their instruments. Then the conductor appears. Whining violins and the hum of human chatter cease as though an invisible operator had flipped an “off” switch. The maestro taps his baton on the score stand. House lights and curtain warmers dim. Spots high above encapsulate him in a white ray; he raises his arms. The music swells, and the curtains open. You sit forward in your seat when the stage lights begin to glow. In a moment, their brilliance illuminates a magnificent backdrop. Your heart yearns to walk into the scene, but the way is obscured. Then the dancers appear. Life fills the empty stage. The passions, the hopes, the dreams, and the heartbreak grip you. You “walk” into the scene.

What pulled you into the heart of the above scenario? Was it not the action? The dance?

Write a scene that dances. (It need not be about dancing.) Use verbs that give it power, warmth, emotion, verbs that invite your reader to come in, stay for a while, become part of the story. If you have questions, please ask. We’ll do our best to answer them.

Linda Lane works as a writer, editor, and publisher. She particularly enjoys helping new writers to hone their craft.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Help! Word is Spacey!

On May 13th, I posted a How To. In that case, it was a How To: Remove Section Breaks. We ended up with a great discussion in the Comments Section on deleting those sometimes pesky breaks, as well as quite a few other How To questions and answers.

Today, I thought I’d follow up on one of those questions. This one was from Karen Walker:
Okay, here's my issue. I have Windows Vista and use Word for my writing. If I manually hit enter to go to the next line, it automatically skips a space as if it's a new paragraph. I have not been able to figure out how to change this. Help!!!
Karen Walker
Elizabeth Spann Craig, aka Riley Adams, answered Karen’s question with:
Karen, what I do with the Word line-spacing issue is to hold down the control key and press enter at the same time. Then it'll just single space that one line.
This, of course, is a great answer. Thank you Elizabeth.

On the off chance that Karen’s question about Word skipping a space was referring to Word automatically indenting as if it’s a new paragraph, I’ll add this:

Karen, most likely you have “told” Word to indent each new paragraph (usually 0.5”). When you do that, Word automatically indents each time you manually hit enter because it thinks you’re starting a new paragraph. When I say you “told” Word to do it, I mean either you manually went in to Format and set how far you wanted the indent to be, or Word did it for you when it saw you were indenting each time you hit enter (Word tends to try to read your thoughts and do things for you to make it easier.)

If you don’t want it to auto-indent, then you can go to “Format” then click “Paragraph” and look at “Indentation” and you’ll see where it’s set (by you or automatically by Word) to indent. Then delete it.

If you want it to auto-indent, just not this particular time, just hit backspace. Word will take you back flush with the left margin.

Thank you Karen and Elizabeth. You can find out more about Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams at Mystery Writing is Murder and about Karen Walker at author karen walker…following the whispers.

And thanks to everyone who participated in this month’s How To. There were a lot of questions. If you left one in the Comments Section that didn’t get answered, let me know.
Helen Ginger is a freelance editor, blogger, and writer. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. In addition, her free ezine, Doing It Write, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its eleventh year of publication. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Exploring: Web Resources for Writers

Surfing the web is like hunting for buried treasure. There is so much information, but much of it goes unused and undiscovered because the site is not actively promoted, or because we simply don’t know where to look.

This time I began my search with broad terms such as “writing” and “grammar.” There was buried treasure, lots of it. I hope you find something of value in this list.

Sol Stein (author, editor, publisher, lecturer, software creator, and more)

I was pleased to discover Sol Stein has a new book due out in November, 2010 from St. Martin’s Griffin. The book is available for pre-order now: Sol Stein's A-Z Guide to Writing Success and Publishing Know-How: Quick Solutions, Smart Techniques for Fiction and Nonfiction Professionals and Beginners.

Stein is the author of two books on the craft of writing, books I frequently recommend:

Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies
How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them

Steven Barnes’ UCLA Writing Course (author, screenwriter, and instructor)

Barnes has a complete 9-Week Introduction to Screenwriting Course online. No registration needed. Absolutely free. It’s all there, just waiting for you to take advantage of the opportunity.

Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)

If you need a little help refreshing your memory on rules of grammar and punctuation, want advice on how to go about proofreading your manuscript, or want to check out the posts at the Grammar Gang blog, this site might be helpful.

And three more gems to help you hone your writing skills.

50 Best Blogs for Grammar Geeks -- Although this page from Online University Reviews is not dated, I tried several of the links and they were current and active.

Five Easy Steps to Editing Your Own Work by Anna Goldsmith at Copyblogger

Writing Exercises from Brian Kiteley, professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Denver.


Patricia Stoltey is a mystery author, blogger, and critique group facilitator. Active in promoting Colorado authors, she also helps local unpublished writers learn the critical skills of manuscript revision and self-editing. For information about Patricia’s Sylvia and Willie mystery series, visit her website and her blog. You can also find her on Facebook (Patricia Stoltey) and Twitter (@PStoltey).

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Word Play Tuesday

Word Play Tuesday - The Second Tuesday of Each Month

For the uninitiated, Here's How Word Play works -

Today, and every second Tuesday of the month, we play with a chosen word or string of words. I make a choice, offer some uses, then invite you to comment below with a sentence using the word(s) we’re playing with. You can use one of my phrases and expand on it or make up a fresh sentence or paragraph from scratch, but the only rule is to use the monthly word(s).

When you comment, if you have a website or blogspot, be sure to include it along with your name, in case someone really likes what you've written and wants to visit you.

For June, let's play with triplets. I have two sets in mind. See if you can use some or all of them.

Here they are:

Do - action verb - Do what you want.
Dew - wet stuff on the grass - The dew made the grass slippery.
Due - adjective denoting owing - My library book is due.

To - preposition - I went to the gym.
Two - the number after one - Two heads are better than one.
Too - meaning also - I love ice cream too. 

Now it's your turn. Use the triplets however way you wish. It's okay to tie them in with one of your own books or something you've read, but not necessary.

Morgan Mandel

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Dog's Ghost

As a ghostwriter, I write books for other people who don’t have time to write, or think they don’t have the talent to write, or just plain hate to write – some people would rather clean the bathroom than write. Nevertheless, they have a story, or an idea, or a cause – and they want the world to know about it. So they hire me to write their books. So far I’ve written over thirty books for other people, and life is good.

One big challenge about ghostwriting is that you must become someone else. I am invited into another person’s head, and allowed to poke around. I mine the data and the passion I find there, and bring it to the surface so I can play with it. This isn’t easy. Another person’s brain doesn’t work just like mine. In order to find the information and the emotion that I need to write like them, first I have to think like them. Actually, this is impossible.

So have I figured out how to do the impossible? No, I’ve just learned to pretend really, really well. I pretend to think like you. If I pretend hard enough, something weird happens to my brain and I do think like you – at least while I’m writing your book.

Actors do this when they portray a real-life person. Think of Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles. He was more like Ray Charles than Ray Charles was. Through the mysterious alchemy of art, for the duration of making that movie, Jamie Foxx probably thought like Ray Charles. That’s what ghostwriters do too. They’re just not in front of a camera when they do it.

Ghostwriters are even luckier than actors. When I ghostwrite, I am not constrained by my gender, my age, my ethnicity or my race. Maybe not even by my species.

I truly understood the dynamic of pretending when I wrote a book for a dog. In a dog’s voice. It was about the dog’s visits to the dog park, and the experiences she had there. It’s called Dog Park Diary: the social round of Goody Beagle –

All my interpersonal skills were no use in writing this book. I had to pretend to be a dog, and not just any dog, this particular dog. Dogs are as individual as people. There are dogs who have phobias about vacuum cleaners, and dogs who like to sleep under the covers, and dogs who believe that squirrels should be wiped off the face of the earth. There are dogs who turn up their noses at expensive kibble in favor of three-day-old garbage, and dogs who will learn how to roll over or shake hands. To some dogs, Frisbees are the reason for living. For other dogs, the most fun in the world is to force others to go somewhere, and nip their heels if they don’t. For still others, any day they don’t go swimming is an evil day indeed.

However, there are some things about being a dog that are common to all dogs. For one thing, being alone is the worst fate that can befall them. But the biggest thing that matters to a dog’s ghostwriter is that dogs don’t think in pictures or words, like we do. They think in smells.

How to think in smells is impossible to explain fully in an article made out of words. But thinking in smells is how I was able to write in a dog’s voice. I pretended that smell was everything to me. I went around sniffing the ordinary things in my house and my yard – the dishwasher has a smell, the dandelions have a smell, the mailbox has a smell. Even if I couldn’t actually smell them, I pretended that I could. Guess what? When I wrote the story, the correct doggy words drifted up to my brain from my pitiful olfactory bulb (pitiful in comparison with a dog), and I got close to what mattered to that dog. I know this is true, because she told me so.

And now writing for people is a piece of cake.


Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 6 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 30 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Busted: Authors caught using deep point of view effectively

Point of view is arguably one of the most important aspects of craft in the writer’s tool kit. Memoirs and essays would be pointless without it. Point of view pervades a journalist’s best quotes, energizes speeches, builds character and conflict in fiction, and makes history worth reading about. If I didn’t have a point of view worth considering, you wouldn’t bother reading this post.

Unlike the musician, choreographer, painter, or cinematographer, the author has the tools to allow the reader full access to the inside of his character’s experience: the wounds to his soul, the yearnings of his heart, the quaking of his muscles, the contents of his stomach. All of this contributes to the way the world of your story looks through his eyes.

Perspective sunk deep into the experience of a colorful or unusual individual can create the difference between an average reading experience and one that is pure delight. Best-sellers in very modern genre make good use of it.

Consider Jennifer Weiner’s chick lit novel, Good in Bed, written from the perspective of a fat woman who discovers her ex is writing about their love life in a nationally distributed sex column.

Or Marc Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a mystery about a dog’s murder told from the perspective of a boy with autism who must parse out truth while having no natural nose for deception.

In seeking out a few excerpts to share from authors caught doing this right, I chose two examples that take “deep point of view” to the extremes—to brilliant results.

The first is from Lori Lansen’s The Girls, a novel told in the alternating points of view of conjoined twins. It begins:
I have never looked into my sister’s eyes. I have never bathed alone. I have never stood in the grass at night and raised my arms to a beguiling moon. I’ve never used an airplane bathroom. Or worn a hat. Or been kissed like that. I’ve never driven a car. Or slept through the night. Never a private talk. Or solo walk. I’ve never climbed a tree. Or faded into a crowd. So many things I’ve never done, but oh, how I’ve been loved. And, if such things were to be, I’d live a thousand lives as me, to be loved so exponentially.

The second is from Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain, a tale told convincingly from a dog’s point of view. It begins:
Gestures are all that I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature. And while I occasionally step over the line and into the world of the melodramatic, it is what I must do in order to communicate clearly and effectively. In order to make my point understood without question. I have no words I can rely on because, much to my dismay, my tongue was designed long and flat and loose, and therefore, is a horribly ineffective tool for pushing food around in my mouth while chewing, and an even less effective tool for making clever and complicated polysyllabic sounds that can be linked together to form sentences. And that’s why I’m here now waiting for Denny to come home—he should be here soon—lying on the cool tiles of the kitchen floor in a puddle of my own urine.

The craft isn’t new. Point of view is as old as the written word, and has been used to great effect throughout history. I still get chills reading the opening line of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” written in 1843: “True!—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?” In each of the above cases, the depth of the point of view alone was enough to make the book un-put-downable.

Point of view informs the style of writing and the voice of the character. It will determine the plot points that make sense for your story. It will determine the relevance of your description, since setting details and character traits noted will only deepen the point of view.

And a carefully orchestrated journey that allows your character to see the world through new eyes by book’s end—an evolution in point of view—is the very definition of a satisfying read.

Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at, an independent manuscript evaluation and editing service. What she believes: 1. Editing forever changed the way she reads. 2. Well-crafted moments of brilliance help her forgive many other problems in a manuscript. 3. All writers have strengths and weaknesses—but why settle for weakness? 4. We can learn as much from what other authors do right as we can from what we do wrong. This is her series, "Busted!—An author caught doing something right."

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Time Out For a Laugh or Two

How to Tell Your Writing is not C-R-A-P
by Tracy Farr

Let's be honest -- you are not Ernest Hemingway, I am not Charles Dickens, and your next door neighbor is not Stephen King (unless your next door neighbor IS Stephen King, then good for you!). Of course, we all dream that our names will one day be mentioned in the same breath as these masters, but it won't happen unless we do the one thing they all did (or doing -- sorry Mr. King):

Revise, Revise, Revise.

Everything you first write down is C-R-A-P! Nothing comes out great the first time. That's why you edit, revise, copy, paste, destroy, give mouth to mouth, slap, jab, throw down, pick up, edit again, realize it's still C-R-A-P and start all over again. And you keep doing that until it's NOT C-R-A-P!

Do you think the great writers of our time just sit down at their computers and type heavenly-blessed stories without revising the crap out of them? Heavens no! And if you think you can, then someone needs to knock the crap out of YOU until you get it through your thick skull that you can't.

As writers, we revise, revise, revise; edit, edit and then re-edit. We change this, we rearrange that, we try the third paragraph in a different spot or delete it all together. And if we're lucky, some editor will accept our story and only ask us to revise just a LITTLE bit more crap out of it.

Revision is the name of the game, and if you're not willing to do that, your game will end long before the opening kickoff.

And how will you know when your story's not C-R-A-P?

I don't know. I'm still working on that part.


Posted by Maryann Miller with Tracy's permission. He likes to share his humor here with a few more people than read his blog, which by the way is pretty darn funny. Trust me. He isn't paying me a penny to say that.
Maryann's Web site

Tracy's Blog
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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ask the Editor Free-For-All Tuesday

Last month reaped a whopping 101 comments here at the Ask the Editor Free-For-All. That record will be hard to beat, but let's give it a try, gang. Our Editors, as always, are standing by to answer your questions.
For those new to the game, today is when you get to ask whatever writing question you want. No question is too basic or silly.

How it works:

Today, and Every First Tuesday of the Month, The Blood-Red Pencil sponsors what we call the Ask the Editor Free-For-All. I send out e-mail blasts to my e-groups, post on Facebook and other hot spots putting out a call for brave people to step up to the plate and try to stump our Editors. Even if you don't belong to any of the groups I contact, you're still invited to participate.

Confess that you don't know everything. Get your answer now before you send in your submission. That way you'll shine, instead of coming off as an amateur.

Or, maybe you haven't reached the submission stage. You still may have a question blocking you from doing your best writing. Find out what to do about it here.
The Blood-Red Pencil is at your service. Ask, and our Editors will answer.

To Submit A Question, Follow These Easy Steps:

Leave a comment in the comment section below. Make sure you include your name and blog url or website not only for promo, but so we know you’re legit. (One link only for each person, please!)

One or more of our editors will hop over during the day and answer your question in the comment section. If an editor feels your question needs a more lengthy explanation, you'll get a comment to the effect that an entire post will be devoted to the subject at a later date. If that's the case, you'll receive even more promotion. You may even be told where to send a jpeg of your book cover and/or yourself and a buy link.

It's not required, but you can leave your e-mail address with your comment. Because your question may require a follow-up, it wouldn't hurt if you mention somewhere in your comment where you heard about our Ask the Editor Free-For-All. That way we can contact you so you don't miss the answer.

Remember to check back here not only for your answer, but also the answers to other people's questions. You never know what may prove helpful down the line. Since some of you are on a Digest setting for your e-groups, questions and answers may carry on through Wednesday, and possibly Thursday.

Once again, remember that no question is too silly. Everyone starts somewhere, and this is a good place to begin.

Okay, start your questions!

Morgan Mandel