Friday, December 23, 2011

Literary Terms You Should Know

Fin de siecle: Put away the Ramones album and pick up some Oscar Wilde for a fin de siecle fix. Meaning "end of the century," this phrase refers to creative works completed towards the end of the 1800s, reflecting Europe’s social and political mores.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

10 Steps for Editing Your Own Writing

You’ve done it. You’ve finally, triumphantly, typed out “The End.” Congratulations! Now comes the hard part: revision.

Revising is often more laborious than the writing process itself, but it’s essential — assuming, that is, that you want your writing to get published. Whether you write nonfiction, fiction, or poetry, you must evaluate your own writing and transform it from something that is complete but nothing more to something that is completely compelling. The process will involve multiple task-specific passes (not necessarily in the order presented) intended to achieve various goals. Let’s get you started:

1. Wait
Oops — hold on. Not yet. You deserve a break. Step away from the computer. Give yourself a few days to let your win sink in. Pursue another writing project, perhaps, or catch up on the rest of your life, before circling back and manipulating your manuscript.

One exception: If you have not written a synopsis or an abstract, do it now, before you revise your work. If, after reading the manuscript, you realize that you didn’t write out what you set out to write, decide whether the precis is precisely what you wanted, or whether the finished product is the real deal.

2. Hands Off
Read the entire manuscript without changing anything — or, at the most, make notes about major fixes or other key corrections for later attention. Shift from your writer mode to your reader setting. Remember, you tackled this writing project because nobody else would (or you thought you could do it better, or at least differently), so now it’s time to read it from cover page to conclusion.

Some people recommend printing your piece out in hard copy because they claim that you notice the details more when you read your work in print, but that’s impractical for a 100,000-word novel, and some people are more comfortable with on-screen reading than others, so take or leave that advice.

3. Parts of Speech
Focus, one type at a time, on the parts of speech: Notice nouns, and choose more precise terms and employ elegant variation. Is one of your characters a pirate? Refer to them as a corsair, a buccaneer, or an adventurer now and then. Use a dictionary with synonyms listed, or a thesaurus or a synonym finder.

Veer from your verbs, finding opportunities to use more vivid, compelling action words. Resist the urge to go overboard, especially with variations of “he said” (which you should minimize in dialogue as much as possible anyway by using narrative to identify the speaker), but don’t let your characters get away with walking — have them stroll, strut, stalk, amble, caper, or mince instead. Search for forms of “to be” (is, are, was, were) and strive for more active sentence construction: “She looked in and saw that he was idly handling the device” becomes “She peered in to find him fiddling with the gadget.”

Attack adjectives and adverbs. Don’t omit them without justification, but do make sure they’re not a crutch for your unwillingness to enhance descriptive language in other ways. Instead of referring to a hazy sky, describe how it reminds the character of when she used to play around the house as a child wearing a veil. Rather than mentioning a slowly flowing river as such, tell the reader about how it doesn’t seem in a particular hurry to get anywhere.

Are you sure you know the precise meaning of every word you use? As you read, be alert for terms — whether newly acquired or long since adopted — that may not express what you think they do, and look them up to confirm or deny your suspicion.

4. Sentence Structure

Are your sentences particularly complicated and convoluted, or notably short and stubby? Don’t strive for a strictly limited word range, but minimize outliers: Sentences with a word count you can tabulate on the fingers of one hand should have a punctuating purpose. Sentences that last an entire paragraph need to be snipped into palatable pieces.

Are your sentences generally active? Passive sentences are used by great writers, but you and they both know that too many sentences structured that way produce an enervating effect. Also, parenthetical phrases are better inserted mid-sentence than tacked on at the end; save the last position for the impact. The same goes for paragraphs — which, by the way, should be cloven in two if they’re more than ten or twelve lines in a Word document — half of that for Web-bound words.

And unless you’re consciously incorporating iambic pentameter, beware of sentence rhythms that may subconsciously sap readers’ energy. Too much alliteration (guilty) or assonance can weary the most dedicated reader. You’re writing prose or poetry, not constructing an obstacle or dog-agility course.

5. Deemphasize Emphasis

Do you use “scare quotes”? Frighten them away. Italics? Too many are an eyesore — and weaken the cumulative impact. Exclamation points? Omit unless OMGs are also part of the package — an exclamation point can be a crutch that takes the place of high-impact prose.

6. Tone and Voice

Eloquent literature has been laden with slang, and serious nonfiction writing can be laced with humor. But honestly appraise your writing for its personality. If you’re writing a how-to, you can be conversational, but don’t throw away your authority with your austerity. If you’re writing period fiction, be alert for anachronisms.

Do a word check. Are you concerned that perhaps you use a particular word too often? Do a search, and if you find it liberally sprinkled throughout your manuscript, cull it so that it appears with reasonable frequency.

7. Reconstruction

You may find as you read for some other purpose that a major structural flaw exists: In fiction, you may decide to add an adventure or subtract a subplot or alter the sequence of plot elements — or at least the order in which they appear if you shift from one plot thread to one or more others. Your nonfiction piece may cry out for a major reorganization. You might decide to insert instructions or develop details, or discard a digression.

Don’t hesitate to undertake significant revisions like these. Yes, you’ve spent a lot of time getting your manuscript to where it is now, but that doesn’t mean it’s where it should be. Go with your instincts.

8. Keywords

Now is the time you really search inside yourself about whether your hero’s name really fits them, or whether they kick back with one too many sidekicks or could really use a new nemesis. Or maybe a place name seems out of place, or the term for a talisman is too tortuous. Are your chapter titles or subheadings really working for you, or are you trying too hard to line them up with some grammatical gimmick?

9. Recite Makes Right

Just when you think you’ve finally nailed it, read it one more time — aloud. A recitation lets you listen to the rhythm of your writing and catch any clunky or laboriously long sentences you missed or words you omitted.

10. Editor’s Notes

Now, it’s time to send your manuscript out into the world, but unless you’re self-publishing in print or online, an editor is in its future — and, likely, so is a revision on your part based on the editor’s comments. But you’re also likely to get focused requests for rewrites, so though you may feel by now that you never want to read it again, take heart that you have some direction.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Writing The Blockbuster Book Proposal: How To Sell Your Non-Fiction Book By Britt Gillette

Writing The Blockbuster Book Proposal: How To Sell Your Non-Fiction Book By Britt Gillette

You did it. You crafted the perfect query letter for your non-fiction book, and as a result, an editor at a large publishing house has requested a full book proposal. At this point, you have a 50/50 chance of seeing your work on a bookstore shelf. The difference maker will be a strong book proposal that exhibits knowledge of your audience, what that audience needs and wants, and how that audience can be reached on a cost-effective basis.

When an editor makes a request to see your book proposal, he/she will most likely send along a brief overview of the publisher's book proposal guidelines. You might want to make some subtle adjustments to your proposal in order to meet those guidelines. But under no circumstances should you wait for a book proposal to be requested before actually writing one. A well-written, professional book proposal takes several days, oftentimes several weeks, to compose. It should be the first thing you write – before both the query letter and the manuscript itself. Despite the guidelines, each proposal is unique, and the quality of yours will be THE difference maker in determining whether or not the publisher takes a financial risk with your book. So put your best effort into crafting a blockbuster book proposal. Below, you'll find a list of the basic elements of a book proposal that, if mastered, will all but guarantee the offer of a book contract.

Element #1: The Title Page/Table of Contents: The first page of a book proposal is the title page. The title page states the working title for the book you are proposing along with your contact information (and that of your agent if you have one). Make sure to center the text. Generally, it isn't wise to use fancy borders or cutesy graphics. You're writing a business proposal. Make sure it looks like one. On the second page of your proposal, provide a short table of contents for the book proposal itself. List each of the following sections along with their corresponding page numbers: Summary, About The Author, Audience, Competition, Publicity & Promotional Opportunities, Outline, and Sample Chapters. Some will say the Outline and Sample Chapter sections are optional, but remember, you’re trying to sell a book. Providing the publisher with a sample of your writing, especially if you're a first-time author, might well mean the difference between acceptance and rejection.

Element #2: Summary: In the Summary section of your proposal, provide a brief overview of the proposed book. Try to envision the blurb that will appear on the back cover of your final product. Make that blurb the opening paragraph. Show the editor you can hook him/her on your proposal from the very first sentence, and you'll convince them of your ability to hook a potential reader as well. Elaborate on the contents of your query letter by addressing the following subjects: the content, the audience, and the author. What is the premise of your book? What does it promise its reader? Who is the market for the book? How large is that market? And, finally, why are you the best person to write this book at this time?

Element #3: About The Author: In the About The Author section of your proposal, go into greater detail about yourself. In general, it's best to use third person. But it's okay to use first person if you feel more comfortable doing so. Why are you the best qualified person to write this book? What are your credentials? Are you an expert in the field? Has your previous work been published (not just in books, but newspapers, magazines, ezines, etc.)? Are you a prolific public speaker? If so, how many speeches do you give each year? To what types of audiences do you speak? Do you have media experience or media contacts? If so, let the editor know. If you have limited experience in any or all of these fields, say so. Be honest and direct. Experience helps, but lack of experience itself will not lead to rejection. Misrepresenting yourself will. Never include information about your personal life unless it is essential to your ability to sell the book.

Element #4: Audience: In the Audience section of your proposal, clearly define the market for your book. First, identify the demographic segment you hope to target. Examples of demographic characteristics are gender, age, political ideology, religion, nationality, education level, economic status, etc. Be specific. Research the size of the audience and back up your claims with real numbers. Avoid broad claims such as "everyone will love this book," and instead use such statements as "4.5 million college-educated Christian men between the ages of 21 and 29 will be drawn to this book because of its unique..." At this point, define the psychographics of your audience. What is the motivation of this demographic to buy your book? What unmet needs and wants do they harbor that your book is sure to satisfy? In short, make certain your Audience section clearly indicates 1) who will buy your book, and 2) why they will buy it.

Element #5: Competition: In the Competition section of your proposal, provide examples of well-known published books similar to yours (or, if your book covers a new niche in a popular subject, list those books that target a similar audience). It’s always best to cite bestsellers. If you can track down the sales figures for these books, provide the number of copies each title sold. The larger the sales figures, the more you strengthen your case that a large market exists for your subject matter. Once you've established that a large market exists, explain why your book will be different. In what way will you position your book in order to differentiate it from its peers? Do any demographic trends aid your case for continued demand in this market? State explicitly why your book is unique and why the market is ripe for its release. However, be wary of a bold statement such as "nothing like my book has ever been written before". You may have uncovered a unique angle for your subject, but in all likelihood, you haven’t invented a new genre or field of study.

Element #6: Publicity and Promotional Opportunities: In this section of your proposal, outline the promotional avenues open to your book. If you've already established that a market exists, this section will be the make it or break it section of your proposal. The publisher must know how you intend to reach the audience you've identified. Do specific groups exist with a high likelihood of being receptive to your book? Good examples are the audience members of a specific radio or television show, readers of specific magazines or newsletters, book clubs, non-profit organizations, or trade groups. Identify the groups relevant to your book and point out the vehicles a publisher can use to reach those groups in a cost-effective manner. Do you have media connections or experience? Potential exposure on nationally syndicated radio and television shows is the best way to capture a publisher’s attention. Booking the author on such shows is free, and the resulting sales can be astronomical. So publishers are always looking for authors with a media platform. Do you have one? What angle or hook can you provide a producer or editor that will land you a coveted interview or feature story? If you develop a strong enough hook, you might land a book contract based on this aspect of your proposal alone.

Element #7: Outline: For this section of your proposal, provide a list of the proposed chapter titles, along with a brief overview of the contents therein.

Element #8: Sample Chapters: In this section of your proposal, simply attach the first two or three chapters of your proposed manuscript. Providing sample chapters is essential for a first-time author. If your chapters are of high quality, they give the publisher confidence you can produce a publishable manuscript in a timely manner.

Element #9: Presentation: The presentation of your book proposal is as instrumental to its success as the content. Make sure to proofread zealously. If you think you've finished, proofread it again. Read, correct, and rewrite your proposal at least twenty times so as to be confident that it's the best it can possibly be. When it comes time to print the final draft, the body of the proposal should be double-spaced and printed in black ink on clean white paper using a LaserJet printer. Finally, just as with any business document, send your book proposal via FedEx. This will create the immediate impression you are a professional who will be businesslike in his day-to-day dealings with the publisher.

Once you've incorporated these nine elements into your book proposal, you will be left with a finished product worthy of commanding the respect of any editor. But in order to create a true blockbuster book proposal, make sure to… Define the book’s concept. Identify the book’s audience. And outline exactly how to reach that audience. Do these three things well, and you’re certain to obtain a book contract. So don't waste any time. Get to work on your blockbuster book proposal today!

Britt Gillette is the author of The Dittohead's Guide To Adult Beverages (Regnery 2005). He also runs The DVD Report (, a site showcasing his personal reviews of movies and TV shows currently released on DVD.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How to Respond to a Request for a Writing Critique

How to Respond to a Request for a Writing Critique

You’ve been asked to critique another person’s writing. Perhaps you’re in a writing group. Maybe a colleague has a novel, or a short story, or a collection of their poems, they want to share with you. Or it may be a friend, or a family member, who requests your help. Easy, right?

Not at all.

Your response will be based on a variety of factors. First, who, exactly, is this person making this perfectly reasonable but deceptively simple-sounding request? How well do you know them, and how comfortable are you with critiquing their writing and they with receiving the criticism? And when they asked you for your assistance, how, precisely, did they pose their request?

When someone asks you, in a context outside a professional working relationship, to look over something they wrote, your first response should be, “What, precisely, would you like me to do?” Their answer will depend, of course, on both their familiarity with the critiquing process and their self-awareness.

If they respond that they just want assurance that their work is readable, that they’re headed in the right direction, that the concept and the narrative are potentially appealing to a wide readership, you have it relatively easy. You’ll simply be reading the piece of writing and spending a matter of minutes sharing, in writing or in conversation, your general impressions. But you’re still confronted with the possibility that your honest answer to their question “Is it any good?” will be no. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

If they ask for a more substantial review, one involving notes and/or revisions, because they know you have writing and/or editing experience and can give them guidance, make sure you mention two things: One, they must know the distinction between substantive and mechanical editing. Two, they need to understand what they’ve asked of you.

Substantive editing involves reviewing a piece of writing holistically, examining its structure, pacing, and overall impact, and determining whether it is well organized or would be improved with shuffling of sentences, paragraphs, or sections. (Rare is the early draft of a piece of writing that is not improved with at least some reorganization.) A substantive editor will also make occasional notes about phrasing or word choice. Mechanical editing, by contrast, is attention to grammar, syntax, style, spelling, punctuation, and other minutiae — though a limited holistic appraisal is part of the process.

Once you’re confident that the difference is understood, let the supplicant know that it’s best to manage these distinct tasks in two stages, and that at this point, during the draft stage, only the substantive review will be productive.

I suggested earlier that you bring up two issues. The other thing you must do is manage expectations about your commitment of time and energy. Many beginning writers haven’t acquired a perspective about how long editing takes. Make it clear that for you to do anything more than read for general impressions, in order to give the piece of writing the attention it deserves, you would expect to be able to get through only a few pages per hour. For that reason, you would like them to select a chapter from the novel or a section of the short story or a reasonably small fraction of the collected poems for you to review, and to be patient about a response.

Remember that part above about me getting back to you about something? That something is honest appraisal. I’ll go into detail in another post about how to appraise, but here is a brief caution: In agreeing to critique someone’s writing, whether superficially or in depth, you are agreeing to respond truthfully about someone’s success in communicating heartfelt expression about something that means a lot to them. As obvious as that may seem to you, I suggest that your response include something like this:

“Understand that no matter how good a writer you are, there will be areas for improvement, and I want to be honest with you about them so that you can become even better. I’d expect no less from you if you looked over something I’ve written. So, unless you’ve done multiple drafts and had someone do substantive editing and someone else do mechanical editing, be prepared for the fact I’m going to find things in your writing that need work. Also, it’s possible that what you’ve written may appeal to others but not to me, but if that’s the case, I’ll still try to advise you about what you can do to make it even more appealing to others.”

This statement may seem unduly frank and intimidating, but I think it’s important that you say it. By stating something like this up front, you’re not implying that the writer is a fragile narcissist who will crumble at the slightest hint of criticism; you’re preparing them to get what they asked for: a candid, productive evaluation of something they’ve put a lot of time and effort into but must be prepared to work on even more before it is ready for publication, if that is their goal.

And if you must forthrightly state your opinion that the writer should abandon the idea (but not their desire to share other ideas), or that the presentation is awkward or ineffective (but has potential for success if they’re willing to put a lot more work into it), you’ve done your duty, and it is the other person’s responsibility to accept your conclusions with good grace.

But be sure to preface the medicine with a spoonful of sugar: Find something positive to begin your report. I’ll go into more detail about that and other appraisal techniques in a later post.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Practical Tips on Writing

1.       Don’t hold back on that fantasy site visit / phone call / interview / query / meeting that you have always wanted to do, lest it become too late to include the results in your book. Do it now! This book is your golden ticket.

2.      Don’t lose track of your notes and/or future ideas for inclusion by writing things down in multiple notebooks or on scattered pages of the same notebook; concentrate, aggregate, cohere, reread, and compress. Keep it all in one place (with back-ups). Obsessive-compulsive organizational habits are your bestfriend; telling insane and vaguely embarrassing stories later on, about how you used eight different colored markers, four highlighter types, and multiple versions of extra pages stapled into a vast mega-notebook that you re-read every night before bed – and that you also took digital photos of lest you lose the whole thing in a house fire – will be a lot more fun than explaining how you forgot to include certain things and your book sucked because you never got your shit together.

3.      Quick, tossed off, last minute additions, typed right before you submit the final manuscript, probably aren’t a good idea, no matter how funny or emotionally powerful you might feel they are at the time of impulsively writing them. Always allow time to come back and read something from a distance.

4.      And run all quirky one-liners that you hope to include in your author’s bio (do you “always enjoy a good latté”?) past a close friend; they don’t age well.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Literary Terms You Should Know

Epistolary: Frankenstein, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Color Purple may have little in common on the surface, but they all share epistolary structure. Most or all of the narrative comes to readers through letters or other correspondence rather than a more traditional storytelling manner.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Literary Words You Should Know

Epigraph: Many writers like to include quotes or passages at the beginning of their works to reflect the overarching theme or message. Mark Twain and his warning about shooting anyone wanting to critically analyze Huckleberry Finn (oops) famously parodied this trope. Iron Chef’s use of a George Bernard Shaw quote before each episode is a notable non-literary example. Allez cuisine!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tips for Creating Effective Timelines

Create Weekly Timelines

  • Start by looking at the next week of business. Create a blank page on your computer and start filling in all the tasks you have to do until you can’t fill it up any more.
  • Then take a look at the items and move them around in order – the most important rising to the top of the page, the least important to the bottom.
  • Put work or completion dates to each task. Then reorganize them again in order of work or completion dates.
  • Every morning when you start work, view the timeline and start with the most important items of the day. Don’t skip any – try to stick to the prioritized items. Sometimes you can bold or highlight the most important items to give them an even more visual sense of importance.
  • During the day when you accomplish each tasks, erase them from your list.
  • As your day progresses, you might have to add new tasks onto the list that come from completing the original items. That’s okay – it’s part of work and part of staying organized.
  • At the end of every work day, review your timeline, move around priority items, add new ones, and have it ready for the next morning.

Create Project, Client or Event Timelines

For medium to large projects, it is wise to create individual timelines to keep you on track. Start by “dumping” as much information as you can that needs to be done for the project, event, or client onto a blank page on your computer. Then organize the tasks into days, weeks or month blocks. You can transfer individual project or client timelines onto your master timeline periodically to keep you organized.

As you work on the project, cross off timeline items and add new ones. Update the task dates and completion dates as time progresses.

Consider sharing copies of timelines with clients or staff if you think it would help them manage their side of a project

Create Event or Project Folders or Binders

Create individual event/project folders or binders for each client or major projects so you can keep important communication, contracts, timelines, and other items on file and easily accessible. You can also create a phone and email directory listing with client contact information, important vendors, or other client associates on a page at the front of the folder or binder for easy access.

The folders or binders will make staying organized much easier for you especially when you have multiple projects occurring.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Prologue, Dedication, Introduction, Prelude, Preface, Forward and Acknowledgements - How to Choose

Prologue, Dedication, Introduction, Prelude, Preface, Forward and Acknowledgements - How to Choose by L. Winslow

When writing a book whether it is a book of fiction or non-fiction, novel or petite eBook the author must choose which general information to include in the beginning. Often the publisher will have something to say as well. Some authors go all out and have many different intro-style pieces, but one should be forewarned that if you go overboard on the beginning, often readers will get confused. Yet, it is widely known that if you jump right in you may indeed confuse the reader even more.

So, how does one choose what to call the beginning information and what should these pre-chapter writings be labeled? Perhaps you have seen many of these typical pre-chapter pages in books that you have read?


 The choices as you can see are vast and therefore it really makes sense to carefully consider your options. I have only seen one book which had all these in it and it was a non-fiction book on the winery industry and the authors wanted to thank everyone and each co-author made a contribution to the pre-chapter information and each pre-chapter was written by a different person although the dedication was packed with paragraphs of names.

This strategy worked for this particular work although it is not advised, picking 2 or 3 makes sense and if you feel there is something very important to say perhaps 4. If the work is a second or third in a series for instance a fiction novel "trilogy" then you need to bring the reader up to speed or if it is a 5th or later addition of a non-fiction work that too might be a reason to go past 4 pre-chapter pieces.

You must of course be weary of over loading the reader or sounding like a verbose writer, as this will take away from your work. For many authors "introduction" or "preface" sounds too plain and therefore they prefer to use other words. A dedication page is always a smart move, as it shows that the author is in full faculty, with friends and family and is duly grounded in society.

Acknowledgements can be used in place of a dedication page or combined, although it certainly does not take away to have both. Perhaps one to thank your mom, dad, wife and kids or someone who is the sole inspiration of such a work, while the acknowledgements can include all those who contributed or are worthy colleagues that you discuss such information with regularly. It is okay to fully load up on the acknowledgements, but a dedication page is more about good use of white space and a 2-3 lines exhibiting emotional intelligence and sincere-ness, even straight out empathy.

For shortened eBooks (under 150 pages) more than four pre-chapter components is over doing it. It is not proper, similar to calling someone out for a first date before the two-day period. There are instances where 5 or more pre-chapter components are appropriate, but not many and four is generally considered okay. If you are going to have more than that, make sure there is a good reason and make them count.

L. Winslow is an Economic Advisor to the Online Think Tank, a Futurist and retired entrepreneur . Currently he is planning a bicycle ride across the US to raise money for charity and is sponsored by and all the proceeds will go to various charities who sign up.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Writing Tips

The first tip is that readers expect books to be exhaustive on their subjects. That doesn’t mean they want the books to be long — it means that they expect that you will cover all the basic ground that needs to be covered to understand the subject, even if they know some of it already. This piece of advice may or may not be relevant to your subject. In the book world, people want to see you mention the stuff they already know, at least in passing (or to knock it down)– otherwise, how can it claim to be a book on the subject? It’s worth taking that point of view seriously.

This is a basic piece of advice, but it can’t be overstated when you’re trying to go from magazine-length to book-length writing: hone your outline and then cling to it as a lifeline. You can adjust it in mid-stream, but don’t try to just write your way into a better structure: think about the right structure and then write to it. Your outline will get you through those periods when you can’t possibly imagining ever finishing the damn thing — at those times, your outline will let you see it as a sequence of manageable 1,000 word sections.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Literary Terms You Should Know

Didactic: Everyone knows didactic literature, even if they don’t know the fancy term. It takes on an academic tone meant to educate, carrying with it connotations of heavy-handedness.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

5 Ways to Evaluate Your Writing Group

5 Ways to Evaluate Your Writing Group
by Mark Nichol

The writing group you started three or six months ago is still going, but there’s something not quite right about it. It’s time to step back and evaluate it:

1. Attendance

Are the charter members all still attending? Or, if one or more people have dropped out, was it mutually beneficial for them to do so, or do you wish they had continued to participate? If the latter is true, and you haven’t already done so, send them a note asking for their frank appraisal, assuring them that you want the truth so that you can apply their response to improving the group. They might have simply found they lacked the time or the motivation, or they might have had a personality clash with someone else in the group or a problem with the meeting format.

If one or more people is regularly tardy or absent, ask them why. You won’t know whether you can help them if you don’t know the reason they aren’t on time or present all the time. It might be as simple as needing more time at home after work before heading to the meeting, or they might just be hesitating about quitting.

2. Skill

Are the skill levels of the members basically on par? Not everyone needs at exactly the same place in terms of facility with writing, but it helps to have an only slightly divergent range. An especially skilled group member might make others feel inadequate, and someone who is noticeably deficient in talent may be dragging the group down.

You will likely feel uncomfortable about approaching either type of outlier, but the more skilled writer will probably take it as a compliment if you suggest that they seek a writing group with higher collective abilities and may be glad to have “permission” to do so. For the person not quite up to the group’s level, it may take no-punches-pulled criticism — respectful but candid — to prompt them to look for a group more suited to their level of development.

3. Workload

Are group members keeping up with the workload? If members routinely come to group meetings unprepared — lacking either a writing sample for others to critique or completed evaluations of others’ passages — perhaps the amount of preparation required is excessive.

Consider reducing the frequency of meetings or the length of submissions, or mix up the way submissions are presented: If group members usually email their pieces for others to review and critique before the next meeting, alternate this approach with cold critiques (responses to writing samples that have just been distributed at that meeting).

Alternatively, have members submit samples at every other meeting rather than each time, or skip critique meetings in place of tutorials (everybody presents a fifteen-minute lesson about character, plot, narrative structure, or some other element).

4. Development

Do group members feel that the writing group is helping them develop as writers? Set aside part or all of a meeting to discuss how everyone feels about their progress. Are other members too timid about providing feedback, so that one or more people feel that they aren’t getting anything out of the critiquing sessions?

Is criticism writer centered rather than writing centered? Critiques that focus on the author rather than on the writing samples not only hinder development but may also make members feel uncomfortable, which may also be the cause of absentees or dropouts. If you haven’t yet done so, model constructive comments that are specific and that respond to the piece, not the person.

5. Feedback

External feedback, that is. At three months after the group’s launch, this step will likely be premature, but for a group that’s met for six months or more, it might be time to step up to the plate. Talk everyone in the group to committing to submitting: With a given period, everyone must send an article or poem or short story to a certain number of publications or writing competitions for consideration.

That’s certainly one way to evaluate a writing group. If one or more people get a prize or get published, also-rans might feel resentment, but try to forestall any bad feelings by suggesting ahead of time that if anyone hits the jackpot, it means everybody has the potential to do so.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What’s your secret?

What’s your secret?

Maybe you have some uncommon way of dealing with an everyday problem, or you’ve developed a faster or cheaper way of doing something. Either way, you know something most other people don’t know. In fact, as an expert in your niche, you probably have quite a few secrets, but you may not think of them like that.

Strangely, in the case of article writing, the “secrets” you share are the ones that define you the most.

Your secrets are the unique concepts and facts that you have about your niche. You share some of your best secrets every once in a while in articles. Of course, you save some of those secrets to be shared elsewhere, but article writing is a great avenue to share your expertise.

This article template is a great way to share those secrets in a succinct, guided way.

Just follow these steps:

·         Choose a Secret – Whatever you choose needs to be something that the general population doesn’t know already. It could be a startling fact or little-known process that you’re ready and willing to uncover.

·         Write a Captivating Title – Don’t give away your secret in the title. Use this part of the article to build interest in the topic, but don’t over-hype the secret. If you exaggerate the secret in the title and under-deliver, readers will notice.

·         Share the Secret – In the introductory paragraphs, share the secret and explain it as well as you can. If you’re outlining a secret recipe or step-by-step process, use an ordered list to organize the steps. If your secret is better told in paragraphs, take that route.

·         Explain Why It’s Not Widely-Known – Up until this point, your secret has been just that – a secret. Think about why it’s such a special piece of information or why it hasn’t become common knowledge and share your thoughts.

·         Tell Why You’re Sharing It – Whether you’re just in the mood to help people out or you want to announce a better/faster/cheaper solution to everyday problems, explain to your readers why you’ve decided to share the secret.

·         Recap the Secret – Now that the secret is out, recap what it is, what it means and why you’re sharing it in the conclusion of the article. Highlight the main points and summarize to conclude the article.

This secret-sharing article template is a great way to connect with your readers on a new, more personal level. Feel free to play with less formal writing when working with this template. Some authors pretend that they’re actually “whispering” the secret in their writing. That can be a different way of showing your lighter side as a writer.

Use this article template today to boost your credibility and reputation as an author with one-of-a-kind secrets about your niche.

Have you ever written an article based on one of your secrets? Leave a comment to share your experiences.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Literary Terms You Should Know

Denouement: The denouement occurs shortly after a story’s climax, but before its end. This serves to wrap up any dangly bits the author wishes to resolve.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Learn Why Using a Pen Name May Be a Better Option for Your eBook by David A HorneLearn Why Using a Pen Name May Be a Better Option for Your eBook by David A Horne

Many authors use pen names. There are a number of benefits for using a pen name as outlined below. There are also some negatives associated with pen names, primarily when it comes to non-fiction authors and building their personal brand.

What is a Pen Name?
A pen name is a pseudonym adopted by an author. It is a fictitious name used by an author in place of their actual name. A pen name may be used to make the author's name more distinctive, to disguise his or her gender, to distance an author from some or all of his or her works.

Just as movie stars use fictitious names for their "acting name," so do authors for writing. Musicians also often use alternative names to their birth name.

Why Would an Author Use a Pen Name?

They Don't Like Their Birth Name
Unfortunately we cannot choose our names when we are born. However, we can change them later on as adults if we do not like our name. For some authors, they may have a name that also belongs to a well known actor, fellow author, criminal or politician that people will associate their name with.

They Believe That Their Birth Name is Not Representative of Their eBook
Some authors wish to choose a name that draws attention to their eBook. How would you like to have a surname that is "money" and write an eBook about finance?

They Were Born With a Name That Contains Certain Unfortunate "Inappropriate" Words
Unfortunately some surnames are also used for medical products, pharmaceutical products or are also used as "inappropriate" or "swear" words.

They Wish to Hide Their Identity
Some authors do not want a public life. They do not wish to conduct signings, speak or be interviewed in public. They don't want fans to be able to track them down.

They Wish to Maintain a High Level of Privacy
Becoming a well known author will intrude on your privacy. For some, this is something that they do not wish to give up.

Their Birth Name is Too Long
Some names just contain too many letters or are hyphenated.

People Are Unable to Spell Their Birth Name
Some names are difficult to spell. This will only cause issues for interviews, your author platform and branding purposes.

People Are Unable to Pronounce Their Birth Name
Many international names are difficult to pronounce.

Their Birth Name is Not Memorable
A memorable name can help promote an eBook. Some authors want to create a more powerful or attention grabbing name.

Some Authors Believe Using a Pen Name Just Adds to Their Creativity
Why not be creative and choose your own name. Many fiction authors like to do this.

You Can Remain Anonymous to Your Friends, Family and Those Who Know You
Sometimes the topic of your eBook may not be well received by those who know you. Many authors of erotica eBooks change their names for this reason.

In Case You Re-marry You Can Still Continue to Use Your Pen Name for Writing
What if you are a well known author who gets married and is faced with changing your name? A pen name won't be affected if you do get married.

Some authors write eBooks for completely different genres and don't want to use the same name for both. If you write a fiction book as well as a non-fiction eBook you may want different names so that you can build your brand specifically for each niche market and that there is no cross-over.

For example; being an author of a romance novel may not go down too well with your fans of a martial arts training eBook you have also produced.

Avoid Retribution
Take Salmon Rushdie for example. After he wrote his famous "satanic versus" in he had to go into hiding for many years as a "fatwah" was put out against him.

If you are considering using a pen name then please give it a lot of though before taking this step. It is very difficult to change you name down the track, especially if your open name has become well know as your fans will buy your eBooks or products based purely on you brand (your name) .

Pen names are often more associated with fiction authors. Non-fiction authors who are trying to build their brand and establish themselves as an expert within their niche field are often required to use their birth names.

"eBooks International" is a global media company that is focused on empowering writers and authors to write, promote, publish, sell and profit from their eBooks. eBooks International owns and operates which has been helping writers become successfully published authors since 2004.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tips on Writing a Book

1.       Write every day. Anything you do every day gets easier. If you’re insanely busy, make the amount that you write every day small (100 words? 250 words?) but do it every day.
2.      Write even when the mood isn’t right. You can’t tell if what you’re writing is good or bad while you’re writing it.
3.      Write when the book sucks and it isn’t going anywhere. Just keep writing. It doesn’t suck. Your conscious is having a panic attack because it doesn’t believe your subconscious knows what it’s doing.
4.      Stop in the middle of a sentence, leaving a rough edge for you to start from the next day — that way, you can write three or five words without being “creative” and before you know it, you’re writing.
5.       Write even when the world is chaotic. You don’t need a cigarette, silence, music, a comfortable chair, or inner peace to write. You just need ten minutes and a writing implement.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Top Seven Reasons Publishers Reject Nonfiction Book Proposals

Publishers and acquisitions editors weigh in to explain why some book proposals and manuscripts are simply do not make it into serious consideration. Avoid these and your manuscript has a real chance of acceptance.

1. Proposal is weak – The proposal doesn’t make a strong case for why this topic and this author is likely to make a profitable book.

2. Nothing new – The approach to this topic doesn’t differentiate itself enough to rise above the other books already available.

3. Author/audience connection not made – Author’s platform is not developed enough to show the author would be a viable salesperson – the database is too small or there is no direct reach such as a speaking schedule or a well-read blog or newsletter.

4. Writing not polished or compelling – The sample chapters weren’t ready for prime time – extensive use of passive voice, excessive use of exclamation points or all caps, no statistics, stories or examples.

5. Not right for the publisher – Either this is not a market the publisher is currently in or the editor/publisher isn’t convinced that he or she wants to jump into this market with this book.

6. Author wrote a journal – The book was written for and about the author, not an identified audience. Personal life stories, in general, are not commercially viable unless you are a famous person or have done or lived through something extraordinary or of significance (made it to the top of Mt. Everest, survived a shipwreck, not just making it through a rough childhood).

7. Unsolicited manuscript – There is no personal connection between the editor/publisher and the author that would make the editor give the proposal more than a quick once over.

Get help with your book proposal. Have a number of people who have been through the process read it and help you make sure it meets all the criteria. Polish it and polish it until you make the best case you can for the publisher to seriously consider making an investment of time and money in you and your book.

For any additional questions please visit

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Putting Semicolons and Colons in Their Place

By: Penny, EzineArticles Managing Editor

Ever get that feeling when you’re writing that a sentence needs just a little something extra to make it cohesive and complete? You know it needs some kind of punctuation to bring home the point, but you can’t decide between a comma, a semicolon, a colon or some other punctuation mark to get the job done.

Well, if you have, you’re not alone. It happens all the time.

To clear the air of mystery around these punctuation marks and decide how and where they fit, we put together this quick guide to putting semicolons and colons in their place.

Interestingly enough, colons and semicolons were originally introduced as a way to represent spots to add pauses in speech that were a little longer than a comma and a little shorter than a period. Now they’ve each taken on their own meaning.

·         Basics of Semicolons

Semicolons are commonly used in two ways. They either separate items in a list or they separate two independent clauses in the same sentence.

First, let’s look at how they appear as part of a list:

o    When individual elements of a list have commas, separate the items in the list with semicolons instead of commas. This will commonly appear when you’re listing dates or cities.

Incorrect: Over the past 30 years, the three cities that have received the most rainfall in the United States are Mobile, Alabama, Pensacola, Florida and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Correct: Over the past 30 years, the three cities that have received the most rainfall in the United States are Mobile, Alabama; Pensacola, Florida and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Also, use semicolons to separate independent clauses in these three circumstances:

2.    When there’s no conjunction (ex. and, but, or) separating the clauses. If you use a conjunction, a comma will do the job. If not, use a semicolon.

Incorrect: Coffee and tea are stimulants, they’re both options to wake us up when we’re tired.

Correct: Coffee and tea are stimulants; they’re both options to wake us up when we’re tired.

3.    When the clauses themselves have commas, like as part of a list. Adding an additional comma into a compound sentence that has a series of commas can get confusing. Separate the clauses with a semicolon instead to make the compound sentence clear.

Incorrect: You should watch the weather so you can dress appropriately while camping, and make sure you bring a sleeping bag, lantern and bug spray with you.

Correct: You should watch the weather so you can dress appropriately while camping; and make sure you bring a sleeping bag, lantern and bug spray with you.

4.    When the clauses are separated by a parenthetical expression, like a conjunctive adverb (ex. however, meanwhile, consequently, etc.).

Incorrect: Alexander was a Trojan, Achilles, on the other hand, was an Achaean.

Correct: Alexander was a Trojan; Achilles, on the other hand, was an Achaean.

·         Basics of Colons

Colons also have a variety of uses. They include starting lists, starting quotations and a variety of special cases.

0.    Colons Starting Lists

Use a colon before a list when the list is preceded by a complete independent clause. Don’t use a colon to separate a preposition from its objects or a verb from its compliments. This is a relatively common mistake.

Incorrect: For the recipe, you will need: flour, baking soda, baking powder, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. (The colon separates the verb need from its components.)

Correct: First, go to the grocery store to acquire all the ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract.

1.    Colons Starting Quotations

Use colons to introduce formal or lengthy quotations. They can also be used when a quotation isn’t preceded by a “he said/she said” clause.

Correct: Dickens wrote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Correct: Derek flipped the switch on the loudspeaker: “I have a few announcements to make.”

2.    Colons in Special Cases

There are numerous ways that colons are used with special meanings. Think about:

§  Measurements of time (ex. 4:15pm, 7:45am, etc.)

§  Subtitles (ex. One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw, 2 Minute Approval Tips: Deliver On The Article Title, etc.)

§  Salutations In Business Letters (ex. Dear Sir: or Dear Ms Smith:)

§  Labels On Important Ideas (ex. Notice: or Important:)

These are just the basics. We have plenty more advanced punctuation tips to cover, but we’ll save that for a future post or the comments section below. Any questions?

Posted by Penny, Managing Editor on June 8, 2011