Monday, August 10, 2020

Tips for a Better Zoom Experience

Tips for a Better Zoom Experience
To Zoom or not to Zoom? It's not even a question. 

These days, Zoom is the primary platform for connecting people and events. Whether you are attending a virtual conference, workshop, or networking event, it helps to be comfortable with the platform.

My friend Steve Dotto, Dotto Tech, created a series of Zoom videos, and here are two to give you a nice background without too much overwhelm:

Zoom Basics:


And Zoom FAQs:

Beyond Zoom basics, here are a few things you need to know for a better Zoom experience:

1. Download Zoom. Before you attend a Zoom-hosted event, download the software on your computer. It'll make it much easier to join in when the event-time comes, so you are not scrambling to connect. You do not have to sign up for a paid account - a free account will enable you to personalize your Zoom experience, so your name and image will show up when you attend an event. 

Yes, you can use the Zoom app on your phone, but I think the computer - or tablet - makes for a better experience. It's much easier to watch, chat, and listen when you are not concerned about the position of your phone.

2. Use a Headset/Mic. You don't need to invest in a fancy microphone to Zoom. However, plugging in your hands-free earbuds - like the one on your smartphone - will reduce background noice, while making it easier for others to hear you. Keep your phone on mute unless you are talking. I also recommend turning off your video when someone else is presenting a workshop or seminar. Frequently the host will turn off the video and audio for all until the Q&A at the end. 

3. Clear the Clutter. Set up your computer in a place where the background is clean. You don't want your messy kitchen or office distracting others from the conversation. Zoom also has background options you can use with a green screen or clear background. However, those can tend to be distracting. My office setup has my book and my logo framed behind me. Simple, clean branding done the old-fashioned way.

4. Write Out Your Deets. Have your contact details ready to cut and paste into the Zoom chat box (usually in the bottom right of the screen). Keep a notepad doc with your website, email, and LinkedIn link. Use the https:// so it shows up as clickable. That way you don't have to retype it ever time you have a call. Oh, and be sure to save the chat toward the end of each meeting, so you have the info of others too. 

5. Avoid Zoom Overload. As easy as it may be to schedule several video conferences in one day - you're dressed. why not? - it's much better to pace yourself. Video calls take a lot of extra energy. Try to limit them to just a one or two a day and, if you have more, schedule downtime in between sessions. 

Bonus: Follow up: Like in an IRL event, if you make a new friend or business connection, be sure to follow up. Connect on LinkedIn, set up a coffee meet, and/or invite them to another event. 

The same rules to real-life events apply to virtual ones. Be polite (not salesy). Make new friends. Be genuine. And have fun. That's key for any event, live or virtual. Enjoy yourself and you will attrack like minds in the process.

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What are your tips for Zoom? Please share in the comments.

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Debra Eckerling is the author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals. A writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of the D*E*B METHOD and Write On Online, Deb works with individuals and businesses to set goals and manage their projects through one-on-one coaching, workshops, and online support. She is also the author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat and #GoalChatLive on Facebook, and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Editing Skills Your High School Grammar Teacher Didn't Teach You

 Editing Skills for Do-It-Yourselfers or Those with Editors: Help Your Editor Avoid “Bad Breaks”

As a freelance editor of fiction, memoir, and poetry as well as the author of the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including the winningest book in the series The Frugal Editor, I know that I can give an author a better price on a per-page quotations if they have submitted a “clean” manuscript. As a writer who has published every which way I know that tricks like the one in this article will help authors produce much more professional hardcover or print copies no matter what platform an author chooses.

To put a fine point on it, authors benefit when they knows some of the things editors look for whether they work independently or with a big five publisher.  In fact, great editing (along with marketing skills) can help them convince an agent or publisher "this project" is the one they should invest in. MSNBC brands themselves with the quotation, “the more you know." It applies to authors, even when it comes to something they think they can turn over for someone else to do! 

One of those editing skills we weren't taught in our high school grammar class is what editors call bad breaks. Here is what they are talking about:
~Bad breaks can be widows (where the last line of a paragraph appears all by its little lonely self on the next page).

~ Bad breaks can be orphans (where a paragraph, title, subhead, title or section begins on one page and gets left dangling there with only one line until the reader gets to the next page).

~A bad break can be a hyphenated word at the end of line that appears as the very last thing a reader sees on any given page.

~A bad break can be a word that breaks incorrectly at the end of a line. Check your dictionary when you must break a word. Dictionaries tell you where syllable breaks are and we don’t break words anywhere but between syllables. Great publishers also don’t break a long word after the very first syllable or before the last one.

~We also don’t break a name (use a hyphen) after an initial in a name. So, we should leave a name like “J. R. Turner” on one line with no attempt to break it even if avoiding the break screws with the spacing a tad.

You’ll find many other tips on “Avoiding Humiliation and Ensuring Success” (which happens to be the second subtitle for my The Frugal Editor) in the paper or ebook edition on Amazon at

Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won multiple awards. That series includes  The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor which won awards from USA Book
News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically launched to rave reviews from Jim Cox, Editor-in-Chief of Midwest Book Reviews and others:

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Saturday, August 1, 2020

Become an Author - 5 Basic Rules

It may seem like becoming an author today is a no-brainer. You just write something, get it up on Kindle, and you’re an author.

Well, that’s true, but I wouldn’t consider you an author. And, neither would any other experienced author. And, chances are, if you get any readers, they wouldn’t call you an author either.

To be an author, you need to create a quality book.

You need to write a story that’s well written, that’s engaging, and that you can be proud to have your name on. Before this can happen, you need to have some knowledge of what you’re doing.

Below are five fundamental rules for ‘new to the arena’ authors.
1. Learn the craft of writing.

Even seasoned writers are always honing their skills.

You can take online courses or classes. You can enroll in college classes. You can read, read, read books on writing. And, just as important, you should read books in the genre you want to write.

Tip: Don’t read exclusively in that genre, read in a number of genres, but focus on the genre you want to write in.

In addition, there are many writing blogs that offer great tips on the craft of writing. Take advantage of them.

Tip2: Learning the craft of writing includes learning how to self-edit your work.

2. Join a critique group and writing groups with new and experienced writers.

Even seasoned writers have trouble finding the trouble spots in their own stories. For this reason, you must belong to a writing group and critique group.

Critique groups see what you don’t. They spot: holes in your story, areas where you’re lacking clarity, grammatical errors, and so much more.

It’s essential to have your story critiqued or edited before you submit it for publication. This includes self-publishing. Just because you’re by-passing the publishing house gatekeepers, doesn’t mean you can forego having a polished story.

3. If you can afford it, work with a writing coach.

This really does make a difference. You get answers to all your questions, along with guidance and advice. Just be sure the coach knows her business.

There are lots and lots of people claiming to have the ability to teach you the ropes. Check them out first, before paying them. A good way to find reputable writing coaches is to ask other experienced writers.

4 Learn about marketing and book promotion.

Yep, this is a requirement of being an author. Even if you’re traditionally published, you’ll need to know the book marketing ropes. Look at heavy-hitter James Patterson’s TV commercials. He knows he has to market his own books.

Obviously, most of us can’t afford TV commercials, but if do online searches, you'll find many free articles, webinars, online classes, and avenues for instruction on how to promote and market your books. Take advantage of them.

The internet is severely overcrowded. There are thousands, more likely millions, of authors trying to sell their books. This means you need an edge. You need knowledge. You need something that will bring you to the forefront, or at least close to it.

Tip: If you’re thinking of hiring a service to help with your book marketing, be sure they’re reputable and know what they’re doing. Ask questions, such as:

- What’s the total cost?
- What distribution outlets will they use?
- Are press releases included? If so, which ones will be used?
- How long will the campaign last?
- What type of social media promotion do they use?

In other words, find out exactly what you’re paying for. And, ask around if anyone knows of them and if they’re reputable.

5. Pay it forward.

Help other writers who are starting out. Okay, I know this isn't a prerequisite to becoming an author, but it should be.

Established authors have always taken the time to help other writers. I’ve benefited from this and now I do the same. I even created a blog with other experienced authors and we share writing and marketing tips. You can check it out at Writers on the Move,

Then, what you learn, pass along.

These are five of the basic elements of becoming an author. I hope they help you reach your writing goals.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and a working children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children. Check out the DIY Page!

And, check out my new picture book: The Case of the Plastic Rings – The Adventures of Planetman


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Sunday, July 26, 2020

Amazon: A Self-Published Author's Dream

Media Graphic created by 100 Covers
Your manuscript is complete, polished . . . fini . . . ready to hit the big time—and you’ve decided to self-publish your book. Getting ready for publication means your manuscript has been vetted over time with your critique partner(s), a professional editor, and has stood the test of time, meaning during revision you’ve let it sit a few days between revision sessions. Now what?

Publishing on Amazon is the Likely First Choice
Put your mind at ease. My book, a children’s book for 7-11-year-olds, was published on Amazon less than a month ago, and my experience uploading the manuscript and book covers for both the eBook and paperback, was a positive one. Here’s why:
  • Google the question,“Can I have my book formatted and cover created at Amazon?” and you will see several companies offering these services. Or you can go to your book, and see that your eBook manuscript can be formatted with Kindle Create, and cover designed by Cover Creator. Free tools are also available for your paperback.
  • Since I already had illustrations for the book’s cover and interior, I chose to go to professionals to format the book and create the cover, and I’m glad I did. I’ve received compliments on how professional my book looks. I purchased a combination deal with Formatted Books and 100 Covers to do the work. I sent both companies the documents for the manuscript, interior illustrations, and for the covers for the eBook, the paperback, and now a square cover for the audiobook, which is in the making. For formatting, I sent my manuscript in a Word file. All for one low, reasonable price.
Time to Start the Amazon Learning Curve
I went to Amazon KDP and looked over the material—lots and lots of material—and tried not to be overwhelmed. I decided to print the explanations and put them in a 3-ring binder so I could study them at my leisure. That cut down on screen fatigue and actually gave me reassurance, something to hold in my hand, I suppose.
  • First order of business: obtaining an ISBN number. Amazon offers ISBN numbers for free. “Amazon will auto-generate an ISBN number for your print book and an ASIN number for your digital book, register it with Bowker and and even generate the appropriate EAN barcode for the back of your printed book.” (Google, May 28, 2019) 
  • I chose to purchase my own ISBN numbers so that I own them, and went to the source: I purchased ten ISBN numbers for the rest of this series, including the audiobook, and for future books. Note: Ebooks don’t need ISBN numbers. Bowker offers other services which are worth checking out, including getting on their mailing list for self-published authors. Lots of helpful information there.
A few hiccups
  • You need to decide how much royalty you would like to receive, 35% or 70%. I couldn’t find an explanation to help me decide, so I went for it. I chose 70%!
  • Be careful how you price your book: I had the bar code made, also from Bowker, with a nice, low price on it. Then when it came time to price the book while filling out the Amazon questionnaire, my price was lower than the minimum Amazon requires. So, I had to ask 100 Covers to change the book price on the bar code located on the paperback back cover to a higher price.
  • Insert the correct imprint (trade name) for your book. My attempts weren’t accepted, so I called Bowker, a gentleman answered right away, and he told me to go to and plug in the ISBN number. VoilĂ ! There was my imprint!
What Next?
Once your information is accepted into the system, Amazon says your sales page will appear in 72 hours. Mine appeared in 24 hours. Then it’s time to take advantage of all Amazon has to offer.
  • Apply to Author Central to create your Author page.
  • Apply for “Look inside,” a feature that Amazon creates and displays in about five days.
  • Order author copies right away. I ordered ten, which took about two weeks to arrive as books are Print on Demand. I’ve used five of my copies to send to reviewers (with a gift, or swag, that I created as a thank you--more on swag in a future post), and have kept five to give away or sell. I included a note to the reviewers to ask them if they would pass the book on once they’re done with it, and have gotten a positive response on the desire to do that. I reminded them about leaving a review on Amazon (that’s the only place my book is sold right now). Also, I’m taking Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s advice in her terrific book, How to Get Great Book Reviews, and am sending thank you cards and thank you emails to my reviewers.
  • Karen Cioffi, award-winning author and creator and owner of Writers on the Move, posted her review of my book on Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s very helpful website, Check it out!
  • My first newsletter was emailed to my email list that I’ve been cultivating.
  • Swag (author gifts) was made, which I’ll cover in a future post. Hint: recipients have liked my swag because I have made it useful.
  • An audiobook is on the way from Findaway Voices. If you think you had fun writing your book, wait until you hear a professional narrator read it!
  • For my final hurrah, I have purchased Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ad School to take the next step in selling my book. And when I find time (uh huh!) I plan to register for the free program to distribute my paperback at IngramSpark. My eBook doesn’t qualify because I signed up with KDP Select, which I think authors need to consider. Try this terrific SPF Community on Facebook for help with deciding whether to go with KDP Select or go wide, meaning you can sell your book in any market. KDP Select is a 90-day commitment to sell only on Amazon (with lots of benefits), and is renewable.
  • A note about Amazon Prime: Having your book included in Amazon Prime is by invitation only.
  • A note about KDP and Author Central's Help Desk: It is great! My questions--and there were many--were answered politely and quickly. Knowing this gave me reassurance.
  • Check out my May post "Help for Self-Published Authors" for more tips on getting started on your self-publishing journey:
I’ve enjoyed every step of the way, from writing the book to arriving at this juncture. The next step is cutting out time each day, or on a schedule, to keep track of my ads on Amazon, continue to expand my email list, continue to look for reviewers, and so much more!

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter, and is working on several projects for children. Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, Linda's first book, is available on Amazon, The next book in the Abi Wunder series, Secret in the Mist, will be available soon. Follow Linda on

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Senses & POV Tips - Descriptive Writing


Senses & POV Tips for Descriptive Writing  By Deborah Lyn Stanley

We strengthen our writing by using descriptive details that develop the topic.
Today let’s talk more about using sense words and choosing the point-of-view.

Use description for fresh, active and believable prose. Write what you see, smell, taste, hear or touch, and include details:
•We write to help the reader see what we see.
•We augment sight with smell to build the vision. Smell has the longest memory of all the senses. English Leather cologne takes me back to dating years with my husband—home-baked bread and chocolate chip cookies too!
•Writers often describe smells in terms of other smells, either good or bad.
•We commonly describe taste relative to memorable occasions by naming the food.
Besides naming the taste or dish, writers often describe taste as sweet, sour, salty or bitter.

What if we use descriptive words for smell and taste that are outside common usage? What if color and shape are borrowed from sight descriptions to indicate a smell or a taste?  Ex.: “squat, plumpy, fluted” “Aroma of lemon blossom flavors my tea.”  “Cloves sting my blistered lips.” “I’m thirsty for sleep.”
Explore outside-the-box-descriptions—and share what you come up with.

•Touch is intimate because to touch something or someone, we must be close. It requires trust.
•Sound often plays a significant role in the writing process. It enhances mood: anywhere from tranquil to suspenseful. Prose can be musical in itself with rhythms, diction, and tone, or mechanical noise, all for the purpose of leading the reader deeper into the story.

The Basics of the three main Point-of-View Methods:
• In a first-person point-of-view, the story perspective is from “I or we”. The writing is filtered through the storyteller’s awareness, with a narrow field of vision from a single point. This can help unify your story by choosing which details to include in each scene. In addition, it helps you organize the details into the sequence the teller notices each detail. First-person POV requires the narrator to be present in every scene or rely on secondary information to relate the feelings or thinking of the character.

•Second-person point-of-view narration is usually you as the main character, placing you in the events of the story.

•Third-person point-of-view narration is an objective report of the story via outward signs and description. This point-of-view freely relates any external and visible information or events happening to anyone, anywhere. It uses multiple camera views, capturing unlimited pictures for the reader. The narrator is free to discuss the past, providing accounts of people, places, or things. But, cannot reveal what anyone in the story thinks or feels.

Enhance your writing—incorporate metaphors, similes, and comparisons.

Earlier Post links in this series—Descriptive Writing for Fiction and Non-Fiction:
Make it with Specificity:
Write it with Research I:

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts. 

Visit her writer’s website at:   

Visit her caregiver’s website and read the Mom & Me memoir at:

Facebook: Deborah Lyn Stanley, Writer


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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Take Action in the Midst of Your Writing Fears

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” 
― Eleanor Roosevelt

Ive read this quotation in a number of places and many different contexts.  It is a solid action step for every writer. 

Why? Because from my experience, fear can prevent us from taking action and moving forward with our writing. Will anyone want to read what I'm writing?  Will it sell? Can I find a publisher or literary agent? Is my writing good enough to publish in   a magazine or book? The questions in our minds can appear endless.

While I've published a great volume of material over the years, if I'm honest, I have a number of fears that I face each day. The key from my perspective is are you taking action with your writing in spite of those fears.  I have my ideas and pitches rejected and don't hit the mark—yet I continue pitching my ideas and looking for opportunities.

Years ago as a new writer, I was at a conference sitting around with several more experienced and published authors. It was late at night and I was learning a great deal from these new friends. One author who had published a number of books mentioned how every time he begins a new project he had huge doubts and fears in his mind. He wondered if he could do it and if the book would succeed. In the same breath where he mentioned these fears, he explained that he pushed ahead and beyond the fear to write the book. It's the key distinction between those who want to write and those who actually write: they push ahead and take action in spite of the negative thoughts and fears.

Possibly today your manuscript or book proposal is getting rejection letters from agents or editors. From my experience, you have not found the right place for your book when you get rejected. It means you have to keep looking for that right connection or champion. When the rejection arrives (even if that rejection is through no response), you face a critical choice.  You can either take action and seek another opportunity or you can quit and not respond.  Many authors will send out their material one or two times, get rejected and figure no one wants to work with them and publish their submission. Their writing fears have stalled them into no action.  

When you have writing fears, there are several things:

1. Everyone has these fears. Whether they admit them or not, you should understand it is part of the process.

2. The writers who get published, understand timing and the right connection are a critical part of the process. You have to be proactive to find the right connection with your material.

3. Rejection is a part of publishing. Everyone gets rejected—beginners and long-term professionals. The key is what do you do with the rejection. Do you quit or do you look for the next opportunity?

I believe the world is full of opportunity—yet as a writer you have to make the right connection and have to be facing your fears and continuing to move forward with your writing. One of the most published series of books in English is Chicken Soup for the Soul. What many people forget is Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen were rejected on their proposed series 144 times. Now that is a lot of rejection. I'm sure they had fears to face, yet they continued moving forward. You can get some of their story in the foreword for Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. Just follow this link to download the foreword and free sample chapter (no opt-in and you can download immediately).

For your encouragement and inspiration, remember this saying. If you need to do so, I would write it out and put it over your computer and read it often:

It will not fly, if you don't try.
Let me know what action steps you are taking to overcome your fears in the comments below. I look forward to reading your insights.

 W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  His latest book for writers is 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to SucceedOne of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has over 200,000 twitter followers

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Brandon Sanderson Teaches Writing

I recently discovered these writing lectures by Brandon Sanderson, famed fantasy author, filmed and posted (with permission) free on Youtube.  I've only begun, but they seem very interesting and useful.  Check out the first one here.  Others follow.

Melinda Brasher's fiction and travel writing appear most recently in Hippocampus, Deep Magic, and Twenty-Two Twenty-Eight.  Her fantasy novel, Far-Knowing, is available on Amazon.    

Visit her online at here

Tips for a Better Zoom Experience

To Zoom or not to Zoom? It's not even a question.  These days, Zoom is the primary platform for connecting people and events. Whether y...