Attention, Authors & Readers!

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If there’s a story in you that’s not coming out, then you need to register NOW for RRBC’s 2017 Writers’ Conference and Book Expo!

Whether you’re an author or an avid reader, don’t miss out on this exciting event sponsored by Rave Reviews Book Club. The general public is invited, so whether or not you’re a member, right now, before you forget, mark your calendar for October 22-28.

THIS EVENT WILL HELP YOU:
*Get inspired and get to writing
*Market your work to avid readers
*Strengthen your craft of writing
*Network with like-minded individuals

It doesn’t matter if you’re a stark beginner or seasoned professional, there’s something for you! Get inspired, learn new writing skills, how to manage your time or social media, create a press kit, or dozens of other juicy topics. Enjoy browsing the Author Booths for books written by RRBC members as well as the many services available through the Vendor Booths. I’ll be attending several conference sessions, presenting one of my own explaining how you can use astrology to bring your characters to life, and also have an Author Booth to showcase my Star Trails Tetralogy and my latest release, “The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51.”

If you want a booth to showcase your own book(s), you need to be a member. So, if that’s what’s in it for you, now’s the time to join. (If you do sign up, be sure to mention my name  since we get brownie points for recruiting new members!)  Club services are vast, everything from a radio show and online magazine to a means to support fellow members through social media, reading, and reviewing. You can join here.

General Conference Info

Registration Info

Registration Packages & Pricing

Registration Page

Check it out! I’ll see you there!

#RRBC #RWISA #RaveReviewsBookclub #writers #amwriting

The Best of Times and the Worst of Times

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Forgive me for borrowing the title from Dickens. As you may have guessed, the context, however, is entirely different. I’m talking about publishing.

Truly it’s the best of times for those of us who burned out trying to find a commercial publisher. I remember how excited I was when I found out you could publish your book on Kindle and even more excited when Create Space came along so you could actually hold your book in your hands. Long ago I discovered that, like so many other parts of life, finding an agent, much less a publisher, was quite political. I’m sure you’ve encountered books that were commercially published that sucked worse than a day-old calf. Just the memory of a few I remember is enough to make me shudder. So bringing the DIY world to self-publishing without the thousands of dollars required for a vanity press was like a gift from Heaven.

However, there was definitely a downside. First of all, there’s the competition. In the days when books were only available in, well, bookstores, there was limited shelf space. Thus, most books had a shelf life of about six weeks with a print run of a few thousand copies. Then they were remaindered, i.e. sent back to the publisher, sold to the highest bidder or perhaps the covers ripped off and tossed. Bookstores could only hold so many books and your chance at fame were thus limited.

Now, thanks to e-books as well as print on demand (POD) publishing, books are available ad infinitum, both in time and number. This is a good thing because it gives you all the time in the world to hawk your book. It’s a bad thing, because now there are literally millions of books competing with yours.

Of course when a market is saturated, that also drives down the price. It’s never been easy to make a living as an author and it’s even more difficult now. Readers have come to expect their books to be free, maybe 99c for an author they love. Even if they pay more, especially if it’s someone who prefers print books, selling a print book via Create Space’s “expanded distribution” usually earns you something in the neighborhood of $0.18.

Yeah.

And if the book is used, the author won’t even get that. Bear that in mind the next time you buy one.

As if that’s not bad enough, it costs money to be an author. Having a computer and word processor software is assumed in today’s world. But unless you can do everything yourself, there’s a matter of line editors, content editors, copy editors, book interior designers, and cover designers, perhaps even voice actors. Then there’s the expense of maintaining a website and a presence on social media, which seem to be spawning new platforms like mushrooms after a spring rain. There are book promoters, book fairs, and marketing classes, plus, to maintain your sanity, you may need to hire a personal assistant to keep up with it all. The bad news is that everyone makes money but you. The good news is that it’s a good tax deduction. Just don’t ever make the mistake by referring to it as a hobby with the IRS.

blackboard_writer2So why on Earth do we write? Because we have to. It’s something inside us that needs to come out. It’s that creative spark of self-expression that makes us feel alive. If we can share it with others, all the better. But the fact is, it’s something we’re born with and can’t deny.

Yes, it’s the best of times and the worst of times.There’s a whole lot to bitch about. But when all is said and done, being able to hold your book in your hand is priceless. The only thing better is finding a five-star review.

6 More Tips for Serial Writers

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Most of the tips in my previous post for serial writers were picked up from reading and beta reading the works of others. Afterwards, I realized that I’d learned quite a few things that were also worth passing along from writing my own tetralogy. These comprise either things I did that helped the process or I wish I’d known as opposed to figuring out the hard way. So, without further ado, here are a few more tips for those of you working on a story that refuses to end.

1. Read any previous volume(s) to assure consistency. Some details such as the color of a minor character’s hair or eyes can easily be missed, yet picked up by an astute reader. Trying to explain that Edith’s eyes are blue in certain light and green in others is somewhat lame, so it’s best to avoid it by being accurate. If you keep a file on your characters that includes such details it will simplify things later. Quite frankly, I don’t, but believe me, I will next time because it can be time-consuming and a real pain to hunt down later. Of course, while you’re reading, you can note these things, too, which is part of the point.

The best part of rereading the stories that precede you current work is you can usually find some seemingly small details that you can tie in. This is especially true when you’re wrapping everything up at the end. Fans in particular love this sort of thing and it may even drive them to go back and reread the earlier stories as well. Some of them may actually function like an inside joke. If you know anything about fandom you know how dedicated fans thrive on such things.

Assuming you have print copies of your book(s), using sticky notes or page markers works best. If you want to get fancy, you can even color-code them for different types of information. I was amazed and delighted at how some of the seemingly simple details in previous episodes related to the grand finale.

Also note how your style may have changed as your story unfolded, especially if the first one was your debut novel. (See the section in my first “Tips for Serial Writers” blog entitled “First the Worst, Second the Same…” for more on that.)

2. Use flashbacks, albeit brief, to tie in past events from previous books. Important events that ripple over into subsequent volumes should be recapped to refresh the memory of those who read previous works but did so long enough in the past to need reminders. It also puts things in context for new readers who may be reading the episodes out of sequence. These don’t have to be long and drawn out, which will bore your fans, but enough to get them back on track. Prologues can sometimes be used in this way as well.

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Flashbacks add depth as well as context.

In some cases, if your serial is complete, readers may start with volume one and blow straight through, especially if it’s a box set, but there’s a good chance that other books may have intervened or perhaps time, dimming their memory. If it’s not yet complete, it’s even more important. If a reader feels lost, it pulls them out of the story and they’re likely to be frustrated, which is one of the last things you want to do. If they wind up scratching their head or digging through previous books to find the event in question, unless they’re madly in love with your story they may toss it aside and pick up something else. Once they stop reading there’s always the chance they won’t be back. Confuse ’em, you lose ’em. Not good.

3. Timing is Everything. Serials are usually sufficiently complex to involve numerous characters who grab the spotlight from time to time and thus the point of view (POV). Keeping the timing correct can be a challenge, especially if coincident scenes are not written in sequence and have to be integrated later. I tend to write a scene when the idea arrives so I have all sorts of things to pull together as I attempt to wrap up a single volume, much less the entire serial. If you maintain a detailed outline, it helps, since you can insert POV excursions accordingly.

Mapping out key events visually is helpful, using project management software the ideal, but often unfamiliar or unavailable. The last thing any author needs is a stiff learning curve on a software package when they’re writing a novel. Using Excel is the next best option, the timeline broken down to suitable increments, whether hours, days, months or years. These go across the top with each column representing a unit of time. Events are listed in the rows below with the proper time element highlighted. You can do this by hand if you prefer; graph paper makes it a little easier.

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My first two novels were written on a typewriter that looked a lot like this one.

This can be done out of sequence if that’s how you write, either by inserting a row if everything is in order or organized later based on event timing, which is shown where time marks overlap. Including a column that contains the chapter number right after the first one with the scene description can be used to sort them as well, which also reveals any that need to be adjusted.

I remember seeing a comment from an author one time regarding how difficult it was to keep track of plot action occurring in different time zones. I laughed. My tetralogy involved coordinating events on different planets, spacecraft affected by Einstein’s theory of special and general relativity, and even time travel itself as my story shifted amongst the various characters. Keeping everything in the proper sequence to maintain story continuity was definitely a challenge. Again, Confuse ’em, you lose ’em. Remember that. Not all readers have the patience to read on with literally millions of other books begging to join their TBR list.

4. Insights regarding how your characters have evolved. How a character changes in a story is important, a key element, in fact, to good fiction. In a serial this may be a gradual process, perhaps so much so that the reader doesn’t notice. It doesn’t hurt to remind them using internal dialog on the part of the character(s), as an observation by another character in thought or dialog, or even in the narrative. For example, something as simple as “Before arriving in New York, Patsy was afraid of crowds, but now she navigated 5th Avenue with confidence” does the job.

5. Include the fate of all characters, not just your protagonist. You never know who’ll be a reader’s favorite character. I was surprised how many of my readers favored Thryon, my telepathic walking plant. Thus, you need to make sure everyone’s exit, whenever or however it occurs, provides closure. Don’t simply leave them behind. Characters who ride off into the sunset can also provide fodder for spinoffs.

6. Expect to miss your characters, who by now have become old friends. You may want to consider leaving things open enough at the conclusion to allow for spin-offs. Fully developed characters are just begging for another appearance. You know them as well, maybe even better than your own children or best friend, so if they’ve earned fans along the way, consider using them again. On the other hand, if you’re bored with them, readers may be, too, so this is not something that’s required or should be forced. Back stories are often at least partially written and can be put together for a quick short story that you can use as a giveaway enticement in your marketing efforts. Back stories are also great for holding readers’ interest until the next episode is released if it’s taking you a while to get the next one together.

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It was fun writing this back story to my tetralogy which kept fans engaged and also served as a hook for new ones.

I’ve found that my short stories evolve into novels and my novels apparently evolve into a serial. Go figure. I simply get bombarded by ideas too good to leave out, especially once my characters come to life and take over the story. Other writers can crank out a single novel or novella in a few weeks or less whereas mine, for various life-related reasons, took years.

Fortunately, readers have a variety of preferences as well, whether it’s a quick “beach read” or something they can get their teeth into. Note that back stories can provide fans with both! My next one will be a spin-off from one of my Star Trails characters, which will hopefully prevent it from likewise expanding. But only time will tell.

Tips for Indie Writers: How to Create Your Own Book Trailer with Power Point

booksinboxBook trailers have become a popular means to draw attention to your book. The main advantage they have over other types of promotional material is their ability to include sound, specifically music. As I’m sure you’re aware, music can set a mood quicker than anything else and reaching a person at the emotional level helps prepare them to receive and accept your message. You can hire a professional to create a trailer for you or you can put one together yourself. If you have Microsoft Office then you should have Power Point which is the only software you need to create a simple but effective video trailer. Besides that you only need three things:

  1. Background picture
  2. Music
  3. Catchy phrase, quote or other hook

Yes, it really is that simple to get started. Don’t worry, I’m going to take you through the process, step by step.

Background Picture

This should be something that relates to your book. It shouldn’t be too busy, though, because that might distract from your written message. I would in most cases avoid people unless the focus is on that character alone. For your first one, keep it simple. If you try to get too fancy on your first try you’ll probably get frustrated and perhaps give up.

Using the background from your book cover is one option or even a generic photograph that relates to it in some way. For example, if your book is set in a specific city like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis, Paris or some other easily recognizable skyline that will work. If it’s set in the country, a nice country landscape; near a beach, a nice oceanscape, etc. This is your first step toward creating a mood that fits the setting of your story. It should be a bit muted, however, so there is adequate contrast between it and your writing. Don’t worry if it’s not, however, because Power Point can help tone it down.

Music

For me this is the fun part. You’re probably thinking this would be a difficult, lengthy, daunting and potentially expensive task. WRONG! There is a website out there that is so perfect for this you’ll probably be as amazed as I was. Go to http://incompetech.com/music/ and click on the tab that says “Royalty Free Music.” Yes, it’s free! And it gets better. Click on the option “Full Search.“ What you find will blow your mind. On this page you can tell it exactly what you’re looking for by genre or even by “feel.” Make your choices, click “search” and it brings up a variety of choices which you can listen to there and download with a single click. If you like it, even if it doesn’t exactly fit the project you have in mind, save it for future use. I found so many I liked that it was actually difficult to choose which one to use.

If you love music like I do you may find yourself spending a whole lot of time on this page. Bear in mind the mood you want to set for your book and stick to that so you don’t get too overwhelmed. I would choose no more than a half dozen pieces to start with.

After you’ve downloaded your selections take the time to listen to them, start to finish. Take some notes on the timing of the song’s dynamics such as when it’s slow and quiet or loud and booming. More than likely the song is longer than your video is going to be so you’ll want to select the portion that drives your message home. Don’t worry about transitions, Power Point gives you options to fade in and out which I’ll get to later.

If you don’t feel like listening to it and taking notes that’s okay because there’s another option. When you get the song into Power Point you get a visual that gives you an idea what the music is doing. This little strip that looks like a graph gives you an idea where the quiet and loud places are so it can be used, too. And Power Point will also allow you to select a specific portion. You probably want to keep your video to around a minute long, not only due to people’s short attention spans but also to keep the file size under control.

Catchy Phrase, Quote or Other Hook

This could be the easiest or most difficult part. Some authors can spew out titles that have no story behind them while others can’t figure one out for their thousand page manuscript. As an author I have the most trouble with book blurbs. You know, those two or three paragraph descriptions you put out on Amazon describing your book. Some people are better at writing them than their novel, which may not meet the expectations set up in their blurb. Others are the opposite and can write a great book but a lousy blurb. Coming up with these zingers will thus be easier for some than others.

One place to start is the basic theme of your book. If you Tweet about your book many of those catch phrases are perfect! If you’re lost go to the Goodreads website which contains various little ads and trailers for ideas. If you’re an author then you’re creative by nature and these should provide enough fodder to get your creative juices flowing. Don’t worry if what you come up with sounds a little boring. When you combine it with the right music it will work!

Another thought to bear in mind is that, like poetry, you can leave words out for effect. Your message will be presented slowly with the help of all those other marvelous effects which allow the viewer to fill in the blanks. You don’t want it to be wordy. This is another case where less is more.

Putting it All Together

Okay, now you’re ready to roll and get to the fun part. I’m going to talk you through the process step by step so you don’t experience a learning curve akin to climbing Mount Everest.

1.  Open Power Point and select the first option, “Blank Presentation.”

2.  Go to the “Layout” drop arrow in the second box from the left and select “Blank.” I find it is easier to add a text box than mess with their standard layouts but you can use them if you like. Note that in that same little box with the “Layout” arrow is an option called “New Slide.” Remember that because that is how you add pages.

3.  Now click on the “Design” tab and go all the way to the right where it says “Format Background.” From the options that come up choose “Picture or Texture Fill.” You’ll see an option to choose a file. Go and find your background picture and add it. If it needs to be muted you can use the “Transparency” option on that same screen to tone it down. When you’re happy with it click the “Apply to All” button at the bottom, assuming you want the same background for the entire video. If not you will simply go through this same process to add the background to each slide.

4.  Click on the “Insert” tab in the menu bar and then the “Text Box” over toward the right. This is a click and drag feature to create a box where you will put, you guessed it, your text.

5.  Select your font next. Fonts are important and part of the “feel” of your video! Take some time to try out several until one simply grabs you. Avoid the fancy ones that distract from the message. This is another dimension of your message. If it’s bold and forceful, then choose an appropriate font. If it’s a soft and sweet message then use an appropriate font, perhaps one of the scripts. If it’s a horror or mystery story, see which one fits. Seriously, the font is important. It adds punch to your message. All of these elements combine to give the viewer more than information; you want it to be an experience! Choose the color just as carefully. Colors send messages as well with red forceful and aggressive, green a more relaxed impression, yellow demands attention and so forth. With a slightly dark background even white can be effective.

6.  Add your text. Don’t put too many words on each page. You want the words to sink in while the font and music further emphasize it. Make sure the font is big enough to read easily. In most cases the video is probably going to be viewed on Facebook or Goodreads which is not full screen so you need the letters to be big enough to still be readable when the video is shrunk down to a size not much bigger than a post-it note. There is probably some way to set a default font but I have not been able to find it. Thus, unless you can solve this mystery you’ll have to choose the font and size with each slide. If you figure this out I would love to hear back how to do it!

7.  A general guide for what to include is to say your piece, flash a picture of your book up there with the title, add another zinger, then conclude with where your book is available. If they remember your title they’ll be able to find it if you just mention Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, CreateSpace or wherever. Links won’t work in a trailer.

8.  Now it’s time for the fun part, adding your music! To do that go back to your first slide, bring up the “Insert” box, then find where it says “Audio” all the way over to the right. Choose “Audio from my PC” in the dropdown and select your music file.

9.  Go to the top menu bar and select “Play in Background.” If you don’t you won’t be able to hear it.

10.  Select the “Fade Duration” menu box and add some time for the music to fade in and out. Start with around 5 seconds; you can always adjust it later.

11.  Estimate around 4 or 5 seconds for each slide to start, multiply that times your number of slides and figure out about how long your music clip needs to be. It’s good to start slowly and then speed it up as you get a better feel for the process.

12.  Now hit the “Trim Audio” button and that graph I mentioned earlier that represents the song’s dynamics will appear. You can now select where you want the music to begin and end. This is where your notes can come in handy but you can also adjust it by simply listening to it. If you like particular section that you want to loop and repeat it will do that. In fact, if your clip isn’t long enough for the timing to setup then the music will loop back to the beginning. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of practice to end the slideshow exactly when the music ends.

13.  Select “Slide Show” and then “Rehearse Timing.” Your slideshow will come up on the screen and you advance the slides with a click of the mouse. Try to click with the meter of the music. The stronger beat it has, the easier this is to accomplish. When you get to the end it will tell you how long the slideshow lasted and ask if you want to save it. If you do you can play it back with the button on the far left that says “From Beginning.” This will give you a feel for where you are so far. If you know you didn’t like it you can just go back to “Rehearse Timing” and do it again. You can start out slow as you get the hang of it but don’t want it to be so slow in the final version that it allows the viewer’s mind to wander. Right around a minute usually works.

14.  To go back and adjust the music, find the “Audio Tools” box highlighted along the top of the screen toward the right. “Playback” brings back the screen where you can adjust your fade in and out time as well as the clip itself with the “Trim” option. You want to time the crescendos with the statements you want to emphasize. The words need to bear some resemblance to the rhythm of the music. If the timbre of the music fits the words as if they are lyrics all the better. Don’t be surprised if this takes a substantial amount of tweaking until you’re satisfied. You may want to start out with a slow piece until you get the hang of things.  If the “Audio Tools” box at the top ever disappears you can bring it back by going to the first slide and clicking on the speaker icon.

15.  If you don’t like the audio and want to try another clip you need to delete the first one by highlighting and deleting the speaker icon with the “delete” key. Bear in mind you can add multiple soundtracks on top of each other if you want but that is once you become an expert. My point is if you don’t delete this one then both of them will play and it will sound weird to say the least. When you add another track you need to select “Play in Background” again. If you don’t hear anything, you forgot. During this stage you may come up with some editing ideas for your text as well. Note that after a heavy soundtrack silence is powerful as well for your ending. I suggest playing it back with a few different soundtracks and note how it changes the impact. Music with a good mixture of quiet and loud passages works well when you time them to add emphasis to key parts of the presentation. For example, when you show your book cover a big crescendo gives it extra punch.

16.  By this point you should have a very basic slide show. Now you get to have even more fun by adding special effects such as fading in the words and various other fun things. You can add multiple ones but they can also get confusing and mess up your timing when you rehearse since each effect will require a click of the mouse. Go to the first slide, highlight the words, and click “Animations.” Ignore all those symbols that pop up and go instead to the little box toward the right that says “Add Animation.” A big box will come up that shows all those cute symbols but now you can choose how the words come in, present, and leave. Toward the right on the menu bar you can decide how long each one should last. The one coming in will show in green and the exit effect will show in red. While you’re in editing mode the effects you add will show on the slides numbered in the order they occur. If you click on those little boxes it takes you to the screen where you can adjust the timing or change the effect.

17.  After you’ve added the effects you want for each statement, go back to “Slideshow” and rehearse your timing again. Note that you must click the mouse for each effect! For example, you will click to fade in, fade out and advance to the next slide, then click to initiate the first effect, etc. Be sure to allow each effect to finish before clicking. You may need to adjust the timing accordingly.

18.  During the slideshow rehearsal phase note the timer in the upper left-hand corner of the screen which tells you how long that slide has been up as well as the total time. Once you are happy with the timing you can use the total time to fine tune your music clip.

19.  I hope you’re familiar enough with working on a computer to realize you should have been saving along the way. Once it’s finished to your satisfaction you will not only save the final slideshow but you will also do a “Save As” which will convert it to a video. You can save it in either mp4 or wmv format. I do both since some applications prefer one or the other. It will ask you about embedding the music when you save it as a video. Be sure to do this or your sound won’t be there.

20.  Posting to Facebook is as simple as posting the YouTube link. To include your masterpiece on your Goodreads author site you first need to post it to YouTube. After you’ve accomplished that, you will click the “share” button, then the “Embed” option (check the box for the old code) and use that on Goodreads. YouTube will also give you a URL link to your video which you can use wherever you like. For your website you can either link directly to the file you created so it can be viewed there or link to YouTube. Browsers differ in their ability to display them so it’s a good idea to do both. YouTube allows you to choose which slide to show as the thumbnail. If you’re good at html programming or have a professional webmaster they can probably spiff it up.

Here are links to some of the ones I’ve created. I’m still learning as well and look forward to checking out the various other effects Power Point offers. As I get more experienced I’ll probably redo these but these will give you the idea.  I find this creative outlet a lot of fun as a break from writing and another wonderful way to showcase your work to the world. Since most of the authors I know are on a budget it can also save you a few promotional bucks to use somewhere else.

(These links were updated March 2017)

Beyond the Hidden Sky: https://youtu.be/zt7qgTWZFW4

A Dark of Endless Days: https://youtu.be/2xcJrWrJ_nU

A Psilent Place Below: https://youtu.be/-t4NYVBe6FM

Refractions of Frozen Time: https://youtu.be/DMuT0JZu7Os

Entire Tetralogy: https://youtu.be/MsTrKf_66ak

(Coming Spring 2017) The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51: https://youtu.be/Ti4l88V7Y58

5 MORE TIPS FOR INDIE WRITERS: Perfecting Your Craft

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  1. Avoid adverbs and adjectives whenever possible. For example, rather than saying, He walked slowly say, He strolled or He dragged his feet. Using exactly the right word brings clarity and moves the story along more quickly. Verbs are powerful; use them properly and they strengthen your writing. This contributes to the Show, don’t tell admonition which allows the reader to experience the story as opposed to simply observing it. For example, which of the following is more effective?
    1. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me that before,” Sally said sadly.
    2. Sally’s eyes filled with tears and her chin quivered with emotion. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me that before,” she whispered.
  2. Use active voice and subjective case. In other words, say, He threw the ball as opposed to the ball was thrown by him.
  3. Avoid using the same word more than once in a paragraph. This is something my senior lit teacher told us in high school. Of course there are exceptions, but often when you need to repeat a word it’s a signal that you could reword the sentence in a more concise way. For example:
    1. Sharon saw the pantry was empty so she went to the store to get some groceries. When she got to the store she bought bread, eggs, milk and sauerkraut.
    2. Seeing the pantry was empty, Sharon went to the store to buy bread, eggs, milk and sauerkraut.
  4. Flashbacks are often a source of confusion for the writer as well as the reader. The convention is to begin a flashback with past perfect tense, e. We had started that day with the usual cup of coffee. If you want you can use it for the next sentence as well, particularly if it’s going to be a fairly long sequence. Then when the flashback ends, you close it again with past perfect, i.e. I had thought at the time that it was a good idea, but time had shown otherwise. You can also include a simple statement such as He returned to the present….
  5. There are numerous words out there that sound the same but have different meanings and are spelled differently which are called homonyms. Examples include here and hear; whole and hole; where and wear; your and you’re; you’ll and yule; there, they’re, and their and a host of others.

In the past few weeks I have seen the word shudder used incorrectly in two different books. The meaning of this word is to shake or vibrate; it is not the word for those planks designed to cover or sometimes decorate windows; that word is shutter like in shut. Another one I’ve seen misused in an otherwise excellent book is the word reign. This word relates to authority, such as “the queen’s reign.” To restrain or limit is the word rein, like the straps used with a bit to control a horse. The most common seem to be your (possessive) and you’re (contraction for you are) and they’re (contraction for they are), there (a place) and their (plural possessive.)

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Conclusion

Nothing shows your ignorance as a writer faster than getting these different words mixed up. Many readers won’t know the different, I’m sure, but it’s really our responsibility as writers to provide correct usage and set the example for what appears to be an increasingly semi-literate world.

Of course now that we have autocorrect messing with our best intentions sometimes it’s not entirely your fault if they show up. Furthermore, if your keyboarding skills are advanced your fingers may tend to spell incorrectly from time to time. I have that problem where I know (not no) better but when I really get on a roll (not role) they often turn up (not turnip). That said, you’re (not your) going to have to pay attention and do your (not you’re) best to at least know (not no) the difference between them so you can correct them when you see (not sea) them. If you tend to read over your own mistakes then please, by all means, hire a good editor. Readers who know the difference will appreciate it.

6 MORE TIPS FOR INDIE WRITERS: Handling Thoughts and Dialog

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Even though you’ve read dozens or even hundreds of novels, when you sit down to start writing one yourself you’ll occasionally hit a wall and wonder how it’s done. Here are a few common areas related to capturing thoughts and dialog that writers may not find intuitively obvious:

  1. When a character speaks long enough for it to occupy more than one paragraph without any sort of interruption, including he said, the beginning of the statement has a quotation mark but it doesn’t end with one until the speech ends. This shows the reader that it’s the same person continuing to speak. When he’s done, then you close it out with a quotation mark.
  2. A spoken sentence contained within quotes ends with a comma, not a period, provided you’re going to add he or she said at the end; otherwise use a period. If it’s a question you obviously use a question mark but there is no need to capitalize the he or she when you designate who asked. It’s possible that some word processors in their infinite wisdom may capitalize it for you but this is incorrect.
  3. When a character is thinking something it is usually italicized. However, don’t go on and on with pages of italicized text. This is where viewpoint comes into play in the narrative. For example:
    1. Steve can be such an idiot, Jack thought.
    2. Jack shook his head and rolled his eyes, thinking Steve should shut up and quit acting like such an idiot.
  4. Speaking of italics, they also come in handy for emphasis, such as exclamations you want to give a little extra punch. Don’t use them too often, however, or they lose their effect. Same goes for exclamation points! Use them sparingly, please! Even if a conversation is clearly intense you don’t need to end every sentence with one! It really gets annoying to the reader! See what I mean? It’s better to use narrative and detail so the reader is well aware of the mood in the given scene and therefore knows the tone and emphasis the characters would employ in such a conversation. It’s also seldom justifiable to use more than one!!!!!! Capische?
  5. It is a good idea to remind the reader who’s speaking occasionally, even if it’s a soliloquy by the main character unless there is absolutely no one else in the story. If it’s a dialog it applies, also, unless it’s obvious from the context. This can also be done by inserting names into the dialog itself, such as, “Come on, Jerry, it’s time to go.” Conversely, don’t insult the reader’s intelligence by including it too often. Strive for balance.
  6. Don’t over-use the various synonyms for said; use them sparingly and with deliberate intent to help convey the emotional content and avoid adverbs. For example saying “he shouted” is much more effective than “he said loudly.”  The worst thing you can do is distract from the story by trying too hard to be clever and impress the reader, a practice known as overwriting. If it contributes to the mood such as yelled, whispered, grumbled, explained, muttered, etc. then it is probably okay but go easy on the others. Said, stated, replied, commented, acknowledged, agreed, argued, asserted, opined, and numerous others all have a place but don’t feel you have to use them all within a given conversation. Set the mood then let the characters do the rest with what they actually say.

5 Quick Tips for Indie Writers: Formatting

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One complaint I’ve heard about Indie novels is lack of proper formatting. While this is usually one of the services provided by a publisher, when you’re an Indie you’re on your own unless you want to hire someone to do it for you.  Otherwise such oversights, ignorance or perhaps laziness contribute to a poor reputation which hurts everyone. Here are a few simple formatting tips which will help your work shine:

  1. The first paragraph of a new chapter typically begins with a letter that is larger than the others and called a “dropped cap.” This gives it a more professional appearance. This does not necessarily work for some formats, however, where this larger letter will increase the leading (e. spacing) between the lines. For print format, however, this is the convention.
  2. The first paragraph of a chapter is flush with the left margin; it is NOT indented. This is also true for each new section and provides a stronger visual clue than doubled spacing, which is sometimes inadvertently introduced into ebooks by a page break in the original file that doesn’t necessarily indicate a new scene or viewpoint has begun.
  3. Along these same lines, it’s easier on the reader if you demarcate the end of a section with some sort of indicator whether it’s a few asterisks or some other design.
  4. Speaking of section breaks, when you change viewpoint from one character to another or start a new scene you should start a new section unless the entire book is written in omniscient point of view that switches from one person to the next continually. Remember, however, that you don’t necessarily have to get into everyone’s head to know what they’re thinking. Describing a character’s expression or body language can convey what they’re thinking or feeling just like it does in real life. Clearly is you’re writing in first person you can’t read another person’s thoughts directly and would use visual clues.
  5. Book design refers to the fonts used for chapter headings and text, your paragraph indentation style, line spacing, page number and heading placement, and so forth. Paying attention to these details gives your book a more professional appearance. For ebooks these details don’t show up but if you’re publishing in a print copy they make a tremendous difference as far as presenting your work as that of a professional.