A Writer's Essential Reference

It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences

Subtitle: a writer’s guide to crafting killer sentences
By June Casagrande
Ten Speed Press (2010)
ISBN: 9781580087407
Nonfiction/How-To (Writing)
Buy Link: http://budurl.com/GrammarSnobs
Publisher's Site: http://www.tenspeed.com/

New Book May (Should!) Replace Your Stunk and White!

Grammar Guru Offers Advice
Like None You’ve Ever Seen—All in One Place!


Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of This Is the Place and Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered, Tracings, a chapbook of poetry and the How To Do It Frugally Series of book for authors

Rules. Rules. Rules. I didn’t realize how tired I was of the same old writing advice until this little black book landed in my mailbox. I promised to review it fast, but this It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences book by June Casagrande isn’t a book a serious writer wants to flip through fast.

I could see from the subhead in the first chapter that this book would include something better than most. It read, “Thy Reader, Thy God.” What a concept that is! The Reader and not The Rule Book! Ahem! And it got better and better as Casagrande explored all the subjects I knew everything about. Or thought I did. She uses examples so a writer can see the differences between OK writing and acrylic-clear writing.

By the time I got to “Are Your Relatives Essential?” I was really sold. This is a Wow- Chapter, even for accomplished editors. The writing tips she gives in Chapter Twelve for using tenses effectively are just what I need to convince my students that I’m not the only editor/teacher in the world who believes that tenses needn’t match all the way through a story (or even a paragraph, for that matter!). That chapter is called “You Will Have Been Conjugating.”

I could go on and on, chapter by chapter. What isn’t new to a writer or what doesn’t elucidate will remind and amuse Casagrande’s God, The Reader. For those who know Casagrande’s work, this book isn’t as funny as her first one, Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies

Nevertheless, the reader will still occasionally get a good laugh. For chuckles read Chapter Nine, “Antique Desk Suitable for Lady with Thick Legs and Large Drawers.”

For Casagrande, the lesson is always that grammar needn’t be dreary. Why should it be when we love writing? How could it be when grammar is the nails and tacks, the color and structure of what we love? Writing.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s first novel, This is the Place, has won eight awards.
Her book of creative nonfiction Harkening, won three. A UCLA Writers' Program instructor, she also is the author of another book essential for writers,USA Book News' Best Professional Book of 2004, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't.The second in the HowToDoItFrugally series, The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success covers writing successful query letters and includes helpful hints from twenty of the nation's top agents.  Learn more about Howard-Johnson at her new site http://howtodoitfrugally.com/ .

How to Create and eBook – 5 Simple Steps

E-books are an amazing product that has multiple uses. And, it can be created for FREE, or for a very minimal amount. What else can you create that costs only your time and effort, and sells for whatever the market is willing to pay?

1. Create content

The first step is to create your content; this can be done as a simple word document. The content can be anything you think your readers or target market will want or need. In addition, it can be any length you decide upon. You can create a simple 10 page e-book, or a 100+ page e-book.

You can also create a compilation of articles you’ve already written on a particular topic and organize them into an easy to read product that includes a content page.

Note: It’s wise to include a disclaimer explaining that you, the author, strived for accuracy, but cannot guarantee it due to the ever-changing nature of the internet. And, it’s advisable to include an “All Rights Reserved” with a copyright reference.

TIP: If you’re offering the e-book as a freebie on your site you can allow others to pay-it-forward, emphasizing that all information must remain intact. This will help increase your visibility and lead readers back to your site/s.

2. Organize Your Content

Whether your product is a few pages or 100 pages, having it organized is important. The e-book needs to offer easy reading and clarity, along with value. If you are creating a longer product, divide the content or articles into sections or parts, and provide a Content Page.

Be sure to use a large and bold font for section headings and it’s advisable to include page breaks for each section.

Finally, be sure to add a brief bio including promotional material on an About the Author page.

TIP:  have plenty of white space. If you notice, this article has very short paragraphs, making it easy to read.

3. Include Images and Tweak Your Content

Once you have the content in place, add images. You can add an image at the beginning of each section, or where ever you see fit. This is another trick to make the e-book more interesting to read.


The images will help break up the monotony of straight content.

TIP: You will also want to include your own head shot on your About the Author page. Readers connect more with a face, rather than just a name.

TIP2: Be sure you are using royalty free images. You don't want to get caught infringing on someone's copyright.

4. Create a Cover

Every book needs a cover, so you will need to create one. Again, you can use clipart, or other source of free images. You can also use the Word Draw Toolbar. I’m not sure if all versions are the same, but mine is located at the bottom of my document.

TIP: After you create a cover, be sure to click on Page Break.

5. Turning Your Word Doc into a PDF

Okay, you’ve created a great word document, now it’s time to magically turn it into an e-book. There are a number of free PDF creator software applications to do this.

For those wondering, PDF is an acronym for Portable Document Format. A PDF creator is an application that converts documents into PDFs by creating a virtual printer that prints to PDF files.
If you don’t already have a PDF converter, it’s time to do an online search for “free pdf creator.” Just be sure the one you choose is Adobe compatible.

My experience is with PDF995. You can check it out at: http://www.pdf995.com/

But you can just do a Google search for one you like.

The new versions of Microsoft Word has a PDF printer build in.

It’s that simple.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter/ rewriter. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move and author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

If you need help with your author platform, check out the e-classes she offers through WOW:
http://www.articlewritingdoctor.com/content-marketing-tools/

MORE ON WRITING AND BOOK MARKETING

Why Purchase Your Own ISBN?
Writing, Submissions, and Working with Editors
4 Realities New Writers Need to Face

Editing—It Makes All the Difference

By Cheryl C. Malandrinos

As a reviewer, I’ve had the opportunity to read hundreds of books in a variety of genres. While not every book has been my favorite, what leaves me feeling most disappointed is when I think to myself, “This could have been a great book…if only it had been edited more thoroughly.”

I once read a series of children’s books. I enjoyed the message and loved the characters, but the sheer number of typographical errors took away from the reading experience and became distracting. 

There was a mystery novel written by a famous author. It was an excellent read, but do you know what I remember most about it? In one chapter, the bad guys had kidnapped the hero and taken his belt. In the following chapter, the hero used the belt—the one he no longer had—as a tool to assist in his escape.

In another book, the main character’s mother’s name changed several times and one of the character’s cars was green early in the book but silver later on.
Now, I’ll admit, I’m not as good at editing my own work as I am at spotting errors in the work of others, but the editing phase of completing a manuscript can’t be rushed. In addition, a critique group, and a third party editor are going to catch errors and inconsistencies you’re going to miss.

After sending a manuscript to my critique group, I review the feedback and make the changes I feel are necessary. Then I let the manuscript sit for at least a week. I go back and perform three rounds of edits: one to pick up typos, one to focus on grammar, and the last to check for inconsistencies. Then it goes back to my critique group. 

I didn’t hire a third party editor for my first children’s picture book, Little Shepherd. The publisher and I went through it, and it had been looked over by my critique group numerous times. When I complete Amelia’s Mission, however, which is a middle grade historical, I will definitely send it off to an objective set of eyes to help me polish it before I submit it to a publisher. 

I once spoke with a woman who had been in the entertainment industry for decades. She had written a book about her father, an award-winning composer.  She had a difficult time finding a publisher. She said that breaking into the publishing world was more of a challenge than catching a break in entertainment. 

In such a market, taking the time to edit your book thoroughly will make a huge difference. Proper editing can turn a good book into a great one.


About the author: Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. A founding member of Musing Our Children, Ms. Malandrinos is also Editor in Chief of the group’s quarterly newsletter, Pages & Pens.   


Write for Your Audience Vs. Write for Yourself

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, multi award-winning novelist, poet and author of how-to books for writers

I recently read an article/editorial from Jeff Rivers, the founder of  How to Write a Query Letter.com in Dan Poynter’s newsletter. It was titled “What I Learned from Janet Evanovich: Write for your Audience.”

It is hard to argue with experts like Jeff and Janet. But I do disagree-or at least mostly disagree. Certainly authors like Evanovich and James Patterson have done very well for themselves and for their readers by “Writing for Your Audience.” I do a bit of acting and learned that new actors should learn to give to the director not what they he or she wants, but to give of themselves—to give what they feel is best to give. But life has thrown me mixed messages. When I was a retailer, I certainly learned that one couldn’t “buy for oneself” when it came to selecting merchandise for my store. When I did, I very often brought whatever I bought home because my customers wouldn’t buy it.

But back to writing!

That same balanced note is a good one for writers to follow, too. Certainly, they must keep their audience in mind. As an example, they must trust their audience to be readers. They, after all, have been reading their whole lives. So we authors don’t want to insult them.

And certainly authors of nonfiction books should do some research before writing the same book someone else has written. There are probably many other aspects of “Write for your Audience” that I haven’t covered here.

Still, there is another side of the coin and here it is:

When you write for yourself, your audience will follow. Do not mistake this for advice that writers go off willy-nilly with no training in craft, no awareness of rules (which we may then choose to break). But we must love what we do to be successful. Find your voice and your passion. Keep at it. Market it. And your audience will find you.

I’m an eternal optimist. I believe we can balance the two philosophies. But I also see some real danger for the author who denies his or her dream and considers only what he figures someone else wants of him.

~Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a multi award-winning writer of fiction and poetry as well as the author of the much-applauded HowToDoItFrugally series of books—one series for writers and one for retailers. Learn more at www.howtodoitfrugally.com.  And learn her secrets for marketing what you love to write in the second edtion of The Frugal Book Promoter.