Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It's Leave A Tip on the Blood-Red Pencil Day!

It's Leave a Tip Day again at the Blood-Red Pencil. Today, as every second Tuesday of the month, we invite you to be a good neighbor and share a writing tip.

We're all at different levels - beginner, intermediate, advanced. No matter where you are in the writing spectrum, you're welcome to contribute. Pick a tip that helped you, no matter how obvious or how convoluted it may seem.

Your tips can pertain to writing, publishing, or editing, and can be about any format or venue, traditional, indie, self-publishing. To share, you need only leave the tip in the comment section. You may also leave one website or blogspot URL, in case a reader would like to know more about you. When you comment, if you wish, you may tell us where you've heard about this blog.

My tip for today is: If you want others to read your book when it's done, somewhere along the line you'll have to figure out your target audience. For more on this topic, you may wish to see http://acmeauthorslink.blogspot.com/2011/07/who-do-you-write-for-by-morgan-mandel.html

What's your tip? Tell us below.

Morgan Mandel writes mysteries,
romances, and thrillers. She's a
past president of Chicago-North
RWA, was the Library Liaison
for Midwest MWA, and is an
active blogger and networker.
Her personal blog is at:
and website is
See her new senior blog at
Her romantic suspense,
Killer Career, is 99 cents on Kindle and Smashwords. Her paranormal thriller, Forever Young - Blessing or Curse is targeted for release first this summer on Kindle and at Smashwords.

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  1. My tip is to read a craft book while reading outside your genre. Case in point: years ago I read Jack Bickham's "Scene and Structure" while reading Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" and learned a lot about structure. Reading outside your genre helps you focus on craft elements without getting sucked into the story as much.

  2. My tip is to not take rejection personally and don't give up. If the editor/publisher is kind enough to tell you why they rejected your manuscript, take it to heart and make the proper changes and then resubmit it. I've found if an editor makes comments, there was something about the story she/he liked. Revise with the suggestions and try again.

  3. Don't use a word when a look will do. A tip I learned from Joe Camp when taking a screenwriting workshop with him. Translates to novel writing, too, and helps us show rather than tell.

  4. Have your book proposal professionally edited before emailing it to an agent.

  5. I've been reading manuscripts by aspiring writers recently and in several cases, the first chapter has been way too slow and dull. My tip then is to start with action. Throw your characters, and therefore your readers, straight in. Once you've hooked your reader, then you can feed in information from the past.

  6. Building on Kathryn's excellent tip, I suggest reading all books with a critical eye. What about a particular novel grabs you? What doesn't set well? Are there inconsistencies or even conflicts? Does the realism or emotion of a scene touch you in an unexpected way? Jot down a brief reminder of each in a notebook that you will keep wherever you write; this is important because we tend to forget specifics. Then do the same with nonfiction pieces. Every book you read should offer a lesson in writing.

    Using the information you glean from such discerning reading will help you to avoid making similar mistakes in your own work. You may also find the things that appeal to you about a book can help you to broaden your thinking and create your own great scenes or present vital information from a fresh and innovative perspective.

  7. When you hit the wall and your characters are not telling you where to go... stop and take a moment to move them into a different place and time, just for a page or so. It gives you the opportunity to see them as younger,older, or vastly different than you have been using them. New life brings new words and you can go back to your original piece with a restored vigor and interest.

  8. Oh how fun...my tip of the day is this...begin preparations to promote your book at least 6 months ahead. Have everything in place before you're swallowed up in the promotion process because it's going to take every single day of doing at least one thing for your book in order for the masses to see it.

    Dorothy vacationing in the Outer Banks of North Carolina with a heat index of 105 and climbing...

  9. Be sure to have your book critiqued by your peers in a critique group. Use judgment, however, on which comments to accept. Thank everyone for their comments, but remember that the novel is yours. Incorporate what makes sense and ignore the rest.

  10. My tip is to go back to your basic process before you begin a new writing or visual communication project. Figure out (if you don't already know) what percentage of you feels like a pantser and what percent is lock down classic creative for your new effort. Only then move forward.

  11. Nothing stops a reader cold like "misteaks" in the first paragraph of a manuscript. The mistake can be grammatical, spelling, punctuation or worst of all, a factual error.

    The only issue I find more likely to get me to put down a book is where the protagonist is named "he" or "she" and "it" refers to heaven only knows what. How to remember to fix this kind of error is to remember that the reader can read your book but not your mind.

  12. If only the reader could read my mind. Yes, that would make it a whole lot easier.

    Morgan Mandel

  13. Really great tips given by people who know their stuff! I don't have much to add except to write what you love, not what you think will sell. It's 24/7 inside our heads and we'd better like what's going on in there. So if you want to write about the loneliness of a near-sighted tarantula, then you do it, baby.

  14. Read what you have written aloud, or even better, have someone else do that while you listen. I write poetry and children's books, where that is especially important, but can be useful for any writing. You catch things you hear that your eye tends to pass over.

  15. Don't get discouraged by how difficult it is to get your books noticed by the 18% of readers who buy 90% of eBooks. Keep promoting, paying for what you can, and doing other stuff for free. Hopefully, your readers will find you, if you make yourself visible where they are searching for a good book.


  16. I always read a craft book, too, Kathryn. Usually a knitting pattern book, because I knit when I moodle. LOL.

  17. What Dorothy said - when I teach my blog book tour classes, I always encourage students to get their blogs in shape at least a year ahead! Then start cyber-schmoozing and vetting blogs six months ahead at least. The month before a blog book tour, you should be writing your guest posts, not picking blogs to host you. And you want to find blogs that have a Google 3-4 ranking. You can check any URL at prchecker.info and if they have no rating, skip them.

    The resident Blog Book Tour Queen. ;)

  18. Milt, those kinds of mistakes happen to even the most famous. I recently started a novel by a very well-known writer (who also wrote a perennial fave writing book) and in the first chapter, the names of a mother/daughter duo were switched. Oops! It was very confusing to figure out what was happening, until I realized what the author had done... and what her editors missed.

  19. All excellent advice! Mine? Keep writing.

  20. If you find yourself getting bogged down or blocked on a section of your book it's often because the plot is not moving forward at that point. You'll probably find you've been info-dumping, writing backstory, or character or place description and you've temporarily forgotten where you're going with it. (I've only just recently figured out that this is my biggest problem when I get stuck!)

    Whenever it feels hard I say out loud: "Move the story forward. What comes next in the plot?" and that seems to be the kickstart I need.

    HearWriteNow & Blood-Red Pencil

  21. My tip is to imagine your reader, the person to whom you're telling the story. Ideally, when we tell a story to someone there should be an imaginary thread connecting it, and the more interested the reader is, the more taut that thread should feel. I try to visualize my reader, and when that thread goes slack, I know I need to look at the way I'm telling the story.

  22. These are all great tips!! I second all of them and also encourage writers to have fun with it. Otherwise, what's the point?

  23. It may sound silly, but I find it helpful to assemble a character photo album. I started using this prop before I had the luxury of being able to write full time. In the early years, the writing was done over protracted periods of time and ran in fits and starts. The result was predictable – I lost continuity not so much with the storyline but with the characters.

    Now once a character is fully formed in my mind, I go looking for a photo of that individual. I use images of recognizable people rarely. Usually my characters are found among stock photos of regular folks. If I need a beefy Irishman, a country doctor, or a high-octane stockbroker the Internet is loaded with images.

    At first, I thought this was just a clever little trick to keep me on track. Over time, however, I’ve found myself returning to my album with regularity. It is my way of anchoring my characters. To be sure, it keeps them from morphing, but it also allows me to stay connected to each character in ways I never expected.

    I find myself looking at the physical representation and literally asking, “What would you do if…” or “How would you feel about…” It gave me a perspective with a lot more physicality. “When she looks at him, what does she see?” became far easier to ask and answer when looking at the two characters.

    Doubtless, this is a sign of some grave mental illness, but it works for me.

  24. All of the tips are wonderful and since I only have a prayer book published so far, I would have to add that for me praying for direction,followed by reading, and sitting my bottom down and actually putting pen to paper are the tips I follow.

  25. Kevin: Loved your tip about the surprising effects of collecting character photos, and your post about it!

  26. Ah the target audience. Since I'm into sf I know it is a niche market. However I have my mind's eye on the general reader as well. So in that sense I don't go into hyper-mode in getting into techno-babble. Rather just a few words to flesh out the whizz bang stuff. I mean let's say you're from 200 years ago writing sf and get into a car. You don't detail how the key works [pre techno blips] how the key is made, how the clutch works or the steering wheel. Thus the character just drives away. Maybe some slight description as in spinning the wheels, or 'flooring it' will suffice. This I apply to my techno-heads world.
    there: my two bobs worth.
    happy writing everyone

  27. I am judging a writing contest at the moment, and am annoyed with all the many grammatical errors. My tip is, if you want to write in a language, learn it first! For example, English has something called a past participle. A past tense narrative refers to a particular time. Any time before this needs to be grammatically signaled with the past participle. When you don't do this, there is a strange flat feeling to the prose, as if there was no time.

  28. My tip is, and as I write historicals, it is for that genre.
    Make sure your historical detial is correct. And don't rely only on the internet. Nothing turns a reader off quicker than finding an historical mistake.

  29. Wow, great tips from all. My tip is for self-editing: When you think you've nailed it switch the font and proof it again. You can also print the ms out - something about reading a hard copy allows for a different reading.

    I think the most important thing is to make sure it's as good as possible before submitting it - this often means getting it edited by a 'good' editor.

    Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing

    By Jane Toombs
    Who: The things you need to know about your major characters—name, physical description, background, education, career choice. All these affect the way they speak and act. Also their personality type.
    In other words what made these characters the people they are as the story begins.

    What: Their goals in life are as well as their goal in each scene. Remember that goals can change as a character changes.
    In other words, what they believe they want from life as the story begins may alter as the story goes on.

    Where: The place or places the characters are when the story begins, which may change to various other places as it goes on.

    When: What era in time it is when the story begins, which may jump ahead or behind depending on the genre you’re writing.

    Why: The reason they want to achieve their goal. Also included here should be the obstacles to them achieving their goals. Their inner conflicts and the outer conflicts they face. (The outer conflict is often the obstacle or obstacles in their path.)
    Remember that if goals change, the reason can change also.

    How: The story itself. In other words, how these characters go about getting what they want from life, which well may change if their goals do. Outer events can also alter their direction.

  31. Create a terrific first page and repeat until story is completed.
    Place your protagonist into the scene immediately so readers know who your narrator is.
    State what your protagonist wants – the problem he/she must solve.
    Make sure every scene has a problem to solve.
    Do not put in information now that should come in later.
    Make sure the page starts and the inevitable unfolding of the story. Tell nothing before you need to.
    Repeat on page 2 and so on…

  32. I have tried many different editors trying to find one which let me easily keep track of all aspects of my story. The one I finally settled on is yWriter 5 since not only is it the easiest to use it is also completely free.


  33. Read everything you can, even if it's not your genre. You might find you enjoy something you'd never before considered.

  34. My tip is to be clear about what you want to accomplish in writing a book and how you’re going to go about doing that. Once you’ve done that and committed to it, about 80% of the writing advice you come across you’ll realize doesn’t apply to your book. After that proofreading is paramount to be sure your sentences are saying what you think they are saying.


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