FREE Download: What You WILL Miss When You Edit!

Tricks for finding those pesky little slips your eyes skip when you read.An image for What You WILL Miss When You Proofread; clickable link to the download

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Five Reasons You Can’t Get Your Novel Published – And Why It’s Not Your Fault

I’ve read articles like this before; this one is clear and useful to remind us all why it’s important to keep doing what we love. As is so often the case these days, it’s an indirect plug for self-publishing. I hope you find it helpful.

A Writer's Path

by Larry Kahaner

             Dear Author:

            Thanks for sending us your manuscript. The plot is unique, the characters are compelling and the writing is top notch. It’s one of the best books we’ve ever read. Unfortunately, it’s not right for us.

            Best Regards, The Publisher

What the…?

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The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2021 – by Farrah Daniel…

Just a quick share this morning—I’m deep in editing (I really will publish again soon!). But this is a post everyone can use. Share it far and wide. Thanks again to Chris the Story Reading Ape for making this kind of information available to us all.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

on The Write Life:

Now that we’re a few weeks into 2021, let’s all breathe a deep sigh of relief together for overcoming what has to be one of the hardest years we’ve experienced in modern times.

And you made it through! That’s a victory worth celebrating, especially with the people who helped you navigate the chaos with websites filled with guides, tips and tricks, blog posts, podcasts and newsletters to help get better at the one thing you love the most: writing.

If you wrote a novel while under lockdown, good for you! And if you didn’t? Good. For. You.

When it comes to writing, output isn’t the only critical part of the process — it’s just as important to reset, refresh and reinvigorate your writing brain with new techniques that help you write better.

Wherever you’ve landed in your writing journey, we have just the websites that’ll help…

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The Key Book Publishing Paths: 2021–2022 – by Jane Friedman…

Here’s a very helpful post from that wizard, Jane Friedman, via Chris the Story Reading Ape (also a wizard). I am not a wizard, but to this comprehensive description of the ways you can publish, I must add this: If you really want to publish, don’t go on Facebook or Twitter and ask, “Can someone tell me how to publish a book?” Your respondents would have to spend the rest of their afternoon telling you what’s available on sites like Friedman’s—she’s an excellent portal. Check through my posts for links to many, many other terrific sites for directions and advice.

My point is, if you really want the answer, it’s out there. Do your research! You can jumpstart your process by following Chris and Jane.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Since 2013, I have been regularly updating this informational chart about the key book publishing paths. It is available as a PDF download (from Jane’s original blog post)—ideal for photocopying and distributing for workshops and classrooms—plus the full text is also below.

One of the biggest questions I hear from authors today: Should I traditionally publish or self-publish?

This is an increasingly complicated question to answer because:

Continue reading HERE

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Anne R. Allen on “The ‘Was’ Police”

Can the grammar policeman enforce the grammar rules?

There aren’t big enough capital letters to denote how much I LOVE Anne R. Allen. This is an older article, but it illustrates so well her basic common sense and clear explanatory power. She walks you though the past tenses in English, explaining how using “to be” affects meaning.

I especially like this article (among her many other wonderful pieces) because I’ve also written about the admonition to avoid “was” at all costs. I’ve seen writers turn sentences inside out, making a bloody hash of them, to avoid the verb “to be.” And I’ve noted many times in my own reading how successful, active-voice writers don’t hesitate to use simple “was” as in “The room was empty” when it gets them where they need to be in the shortest amount of time. I’ve just recently lamented posts that suggest that the past progressive tenses can be replaced blindly with the simple past.

I’ve also shared on this blog my own awareness that grammar “rules” are not created equal. The “rules” for forming possessives and using apostrophes are not negotiable. The “rules” that dictate style and voice depend on your choices as a writer and often aren’t so much rules as guidelines for achieving varied effects.

Anne’s post contains multiple links to other discussions of writers’ tools. As she says often, these are your basics if you want to call yourself a writer. Wonderful writers may seem to play havoc with these tools, but the chances are good that they don’t do so by accident but by choice.

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Mysterious Phishing Scam for Authors!

Big dialogue bubble in a blue sky with a red question mark inside.

Via today’s New York Times, there’s an extremely strange phishing epidemic that affects both established, big-name authors and newbies alike—basically anybody involved in a querying and/or publication cycle. Someone is impersonating editors and agents, requesting drafts of manuscripts in progress toward publication, then “disappearing” the manuscripts. No one thus far has an adequate theory as to what happens to the drafts that have been stolen. They’re not being published online; there’ve been no ransom demands, no threatening follow-ups. The perpetrator seems to be someone with extensive expertise and contacts in publishing.

Since I’m not querying at the moment, I’m out of the loop that might be affected by this weird business, but it looks as if those of you who are should be extra vigilant. Confirm with your agents and editors that the requests for your latest draft are legitimate. Inspect email addresses carefully. A tactic appears to be substituting “rn” for “m” in some names.

The article will fill you in with more detail. Let us know if you’ve experienced a version of this.

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Bad Publishing Contracts?

Big word "book" in "letterpress."
Make sure you own your rights!

Here’s an entry in a useful series from The Passive Voice, in this case that “out-of-print” clause that can prevent authors from ever recovering their rights to their own work. The discussion is complicated, but worth storing somewhere when the day arrives that you have this problem. I was able to get my rights back easily, but then, my books had been out of print for a fairly long time. Search this blog for “reversion of rights,” and you’ll find links to several related discussions of the kind of language any contract should contain.

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Firearms In Fiction: What Authors Need to Know – by Dave Chesson…

Here’s some useful nitty gritty via Chris the Story Reading Ape and Janice Hardy of Fiction University, from, in the end, Dave Chesson, of Kindlepreneur fame. All wonderful resources. This one serves those of us writing mystery/suspense who end up with those shootout scenes, maybe despite our better judgment. At least we don’t have to look totally dumb! Thanks to all on this team.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

on Fiction University:

Having characters use firearms in a book can be common practice. There are some genres that use them extensively like science fiction, thrillers, crime novels, and more. However, regardless of what genre you write in, there is a chance that at some point, a firearm will be a necessary plot point, component, or a part of your next scene.

Writing about guns can seem simple since we see them a lot on TV and movies. However, the movies usually get it wrong, and this has caused many misconceptions that bleed into a lot of stories.

So as to help authors understand weapons better, and thus create stronger stories, I’m going to start by discussing major concepts and principles. Then I’ll show you some resources you can look to, as well as some ideas on how to investigate or do field work if you choose.

Continue reading HERE

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Pet Peeve No. 2146: Bad Advice about the Progressive Tense

How I react to recurring pet peeves! Screaming writer!

No, I don’t really have that many pet peeves about the writing advice I find on so many excellent blogs. Maybe only 2145. Or maybe it’s just that I see this one so often that it feels like I’ve seen it 2145 times.

Here it is:

“Whenever you find that you’ve used an “-ing” form of a verb, get rid of it. It’s a writing sin!”

The idea behind this advice is that the sentence

She was eating her lunch when the phone rang.

Means the same thing as

She ate her lunch when the phone rang.

No.

I have a feeling that most native English-speakers’ ear for their language tells them that these two sentences don’t mean the same thing and can’t be substituted for each other. The “to be” + “ing” form is the “progressive tense,” denoting an ongoing event or action, often, in narratives, functioning as a setting for some other action, probably involving the relative times of events.

Rain was falling by the time we went outside.

I walked out while he was still talking.

The usual advice is to change the progressive form to the simple past as in the example above or the simple present if you’re writing in present tense.

I am watching my son play outside as the phone begins to ring.

I watch my son play outside as the phone begins to ring.

Substituting the simple forms in place of the progressive introduces a suggestion of causality: One action caused the other.

I ate my lunch because the phone rang.

The ringing phone causes me to begin watching my son.

Note that the second example of this construction places a subtle emphasis on the ringing phone that is not present in the progressive example, linking the ringing phone with the decision or need to watch the child. Something momentous, probably ominous, underlies that call! (The guy she broke up with is making one last, futile push!)

The advice to cut this form appears to be connected to our need to “tighten” our writing. It also may result from the fear of the verb “to be” that seems to haunt so many writing pundits (a misplaced fear in my view).

Obviously, we all need to make sure our writing is as crisp as possible, with excess words excised. Scrutinizing your “-ing” choices does no harm, especially if (okay, like me) you begin to see a lot of them in your prose. Trying out different sentence options is seldom a wasted effort. For example,

Or

I’d just smeared my first helping of foie gras on my eighty-grain artisanal flatbread when the phone rang.

I walked out right in the middle of his jibber-jabber.

So what I’m inveighing against here isn’t the need to eye all our favorite sentence patterns with suspicion. I get that. What I’m resisting is the idea that you can always substitute simple tenses for progressive versions and that you should do so at the sacred altar of cutting words.

Sometimes it’s okay to let words do what they want to do. They usually will, anyway.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

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Hyphen, Em Dash, En Dash (revisited) #amwritng

Following up on an earlier post on hyphens from Connie J. Jasperson, here’s a handy discussion of the different uses of dashes and hyphens.

I’d like to add that, if you’re writing on a Mac, you can create an em dash by typing Space/Option/Hyphen. My new wireless keyboard, a Microsoft product, allows for most Mac keystrokes, but not that one, and I miss it.

There are other key combinations that can produce an en dash, but I seldom use this symbol so I don’t know them. Oh, and there are all kinds of symbols and special characters you can produce with various key formulas, especially math symbols. One day I’ll get around to exploring them all.

Another point of interest: both PC and Mac keyboards make using an em dash for interrupted dialogue really annoying. If you type dialogue like

“I thought I told you”

you can use an em dash to show that the dialogue has been cut off by an event or another speaker:

“I thought I told you—”

What you can’t see here because WordPress made the correction, is that, using smart quotes as we usually must, in Word, the quote marks after the em dash will be backward!

You can make them come out correctly by typing a period, as in

“I thought I told you—.”

In my experience, this construction doesn’t take the period, though some style sheets may differ. If you don’t want the period, you have to reposition your cursor (use the arrow keys), delete the period, then move your cursor again before hitting return.

I’ve tried storing the corrected text in Autocorrect, but so far that hasn’t worked reliably. However, good news! If you are using smart quotes, Find and Replace, that ever-useful tool, will usually turn the errant quote marks around.

One last snark about Microsoft keyboards: if you do want to use an em dash as I’ve illustrated to show interrupted conversation, you have to type a letter after the two hyphens, then space so the hyphens will convert to a dash, then backspace to delete the letter. I guess I could use Find/Replace creatively again to correct this, but it’s one of those little annoyances. Anybody got a better fix for em dashes on a PC keyboard?

Thanks, Connie, for another useful post!

Life in the Realm of Fantasy

We’re halfway through week 2 of National Novel Writing Month. Today we’re continuing our review the rules for common punctuation. This essay first posted on Feb 6, 2019. As always, if you’re already up on these rules, thank you for stopping by and happy writing!


Over the years, I have seen many books written by wonderful authors who overuse em or en dashes.

I also tend to do that in blogging and in Facebook posts, and my first drafts can be peppered with them. Em dashes are a kind of author’s crutch because it is easy to rely on them.

Trust me, readers find it distracting to see an em dash in every paragraph. Some editors don’t want to see one on every page. Their point of view is that the em dash is like any other repetitive word in a manuscript. As a tool, it’s useful as a way…

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Hyphens and Compound Words #amwriting

Here’s some helpful enlightenment on one of the more annoying editing problems we all face. My own bête-noir is what Connie J. Jasperson tells me are “closed compounds”: combinations that are joined into a single word. I keep telling myself to try being consistent—is it “web site” or “website”? In some cases, if you’re writing for a particular publication, you can consult a style guide (I’m pretty sure that’s two words). If not, it’s off to a dictionary and then a round of “find/replace.” 🙂

Life in the Realm of Fantasy

National Novel Writing Month is in full swing. I am busy writing incomprehensible words that will require a great deal of revising and editing. But all that aside, this perfectly good post on hyphens and compound words was just lying around, so here you go! It was first posted on June 26, 2017, and since then, nothing has changed in the world of hyphenation. However, we can always use a little refresher when it comes to compound words and their usage.


Compound words are frequently a source of grief when I receive my manuscript back from my editor. Despite my best efforts, I habitually hyphenate words that should not be hyphenated.

Most people know that a compound word combines two or more words that function as a single unit of meaning.

Most people also know that there are two types of compounds:

  • those written as single words, with no hyphenation…

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