Midwest Review: "Highly Recommended" Book for Writers

Title: The Frugal Editor: From Your Query Letter to Final Manuscript to the Marketing of Your New Bestseller
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
First Edition Published by Red Engine Press, Branson, MO 2007
A multi award-winning book including USA Book News best professional book
Second Edition Published by HowToDoItFrugally, 2015
ISBN, Second Edition: 978-1505713117

Available The e-book, available from Kindle, was given a nod by Dan Poynter’s Global E-Book Award.
Also available as a paperback, published spring of 2015


Reviewed by Christy Tillery French for Christy’s Bookshelf at Midwest Book Review and featured in Jim Cox’s Midwest Newsletter

As the literary market continues to tighten its proverbial belt, today's writer must assume more of the responsibilities surrounding book publishing than ever before. No longer can a writer depend on a publisher or agent to accept a manuscript in need of editing, and submitting a manuscript that isn't as near perfect as possible will, in all probability, result in rejection. To the rescue comes acclaimed author Carolyn Howard-Johnson with The Frugal Editor, the latest in her How to Do It Frugally series.

This little gem is a must-have for any writer, published or not, bestselling or unknown. Filled with valuable tips, The Frugal Editor touches on all aspects of self-editing, such as how to spot common grammatical errors, from superfluous adverbs to confusing dangling participles, as well as how to organize the workspace, format the manuscript, and use Word's tools to the fullest. Also included are sample query and cover letters, and pointers on correcting intrusive taglines, when to use an ellipsis, and correct spacing, to name a few. The book takes the reader step-by-step through the editing process, from rough draft to galley. No questions are left unanswered, no topics left uncovered. This generous writer goes so far as to recommend resources through other books and websites, with plenty of advice from agents and editors.

The Frugal Editor is one of those reference books every writer should have by their computer for constant use and study. Highly recommended.

Christy Tillery French


Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s 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 classes she has taught for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program.

The first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter was named USA Book News’ “Best Professional Book” and won the coveted Irwin Award. Now in its second edition, it’s also a USA Book News award winner and received a nod from Dan Poynter’s Global Ebook Awards. Her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success was also honored by USA Book News and won Readers’ Views Literary Award. Her marketing campaign for that book won the marketing award from New Generation Indie Book Awards. The second edition e-book was honored by Next Generation Indie Awards in the e-book category and by Dan Poynter's Global Ebook Awards. The second edition paperback will be released in spring of 2015.  


Strengthen Your Theme, Revision, Part 3

Copyright © 2009 Michelle Henninger
You don't come right out and say it, but it's the most important part of your story: the theme. Lee Wyndham, in Writing for Children and Teenagers, defines theme as "your melody, the motive, the dominant idea you develop through your story. This is what your story is about." Jessica Flory in her article, "Theme" defines theme as the overall message of your writing.

Why is Theme Important?
Your theme is what gives your story meaning. Your entire story revolves around your theme. It is the message your reader will carry away and remember long after the events of your story are forgotten. Theme is the glue that binds your story together. However, theme is never stated. The meaning is hidden yet at its best, theme is subtly crafted into every event in your character's experience.

How is Theme Incorporated into a Story?
Begin with deciding what is important to you. Honesty. Making friends. Thinking of others. Being sincere. Having courage. Being goal oriented. Decide what you want to say. That becomes your message. Craft your story around one theme for young children, multiple themes for older "kids" (that means you) and run with it.

The Skull of Truth by Bruce Coville
Charlie Eggleston has a problem.You wouldn't want to come right out and call him a liar. But he did have a habit of stretching the truth to fit his purposes. We first find this out on page two during a visit to Tucker's Swamp. He's held a frog, loved the smell of the swamp, loved everything about it; well, maybe not the mosquitoes. So he told a little white fib about Mark Evans's dad and how he planned to drain the swamp. Charlie told the fib to protect the swamp from development. A little later (p. 21) after Charlie forgot Gramma Ethel would be visiting for dinner (he'd already missed dinner and had to eat cold stew), Charlie very proudly told his uncle that he'd like to learn to tell stories. Gramma Ethel scolded, "You don't do anything but tell stories." Two pages earlier Charlie even wondered if his little sister, Mimi, who was in kindergarten, was fibbing when she said Andy Simmons ate a bug today. "He still hadn't figured out how to tell when Mimi was fibbing." Four chapters have the word "truth" in them. Charlie even meets Truth at the end and follows Truth "home;" and at the end, the reader finds out if Charlie was really a liar or not. Perhaps not so subtle, but by the time you are finished with the book Coville's message is loud and clear: it's always better to tell the truth. (Note: the word truth even appears in the title. More about that later. Please also note how much (and how far-fetched, I might add) Coville played around with (or in educational jargon, explored), truth, which can't help but start the reader's wheels turning about the meaning of his story.)

"Tall Boots"
In the case of my short story, " Tall Boots," which appeared in the September 2009 issue of Stories for Children magazine for ages 7-9, my theme was: the importance of having a goal. I wanted to show that goals can get you places.

On the day of the 4-H horse show, Ashley aimed to win in her category, but she hated her old rubber riding boots. They were ankle high, bright red and downright embarrassing. Ashley wanted real riding boots. When it came time for the show, Ashley's trainer lined up her horse, Lacy, with the wrong group at the wrong start time. This class would be showing their skills at jumping; Ashley hadn't yet reached that part of her training. She shouted, "This isn't my class! There's been a mistake!" but her voice blew away in the wind. Lacy knew what to do. Up, up, over the poles Lacy soared in a perfect arc. At the end, Ashley won the highest honor any 4-H rider can earn. And when she rode toward the gate, her mother was holding up a fine pair of black leather riding boots. Ahsley knew what she had known all along--that Lacy was the best, and that she had grown out of baby boots for good.

Revise to Strengthen your Story's Theme
It would be difficult to make your theme come out clearly in early drafts. That's where a revision that focuses on your story's theme comes in. Make a list of events that take place in your story and adjust the action and dialogue to fit your theme. In the case of one of my WIPs, my list contained twelve events that needed strengthening. The events were in place but the focus needed to be cleared up through my character's actions and conversations with other characters.

Tips to Keep in Mind
  • Theme is subtle. It is never stated. Yet theme is the reason for your character's motivation and actions.
  • Theme is not plot. Theme is not a lesson or moral. Theme is the key to growth and change both for your character and your reader.
  • In her article, "Theme," Jessica Flory described a great way to make theme the center of your story: work with your character's flaws. Give them a flaw they must overcome before the conclusion can be reached.
  • Make theme your main message and have it come out at the climax.
  • Chris Eboch, author of many children's books, including The Eyes of Pharoah and her latest book, Bandit's Peak, says that theme ties into character and conflict. The conflict needs to be strong and the character real and complex.
  • Use symbols. Remember how the word "truth" appears in the title of Bruce Coville's book, The Skull of Truth? Jane McBride Choate makes the suggestion to use symbols, and having the word for your symbol appear in the title is an extra-added bonus. In Choate's article, "Theme," she writes, "In one of my books, I used a necklace with a rainbow pendant as a symbol for the heroine's independence and integrity. The publisher liked the idea so much that a drawing of the pendant was included on the spine of the book and a . . . rainbow [appeared] on the cover.
  • Wyndham suggests your theme can be the synopsis of your story. In one of her stories she used the theme: understanding and helpfulness overcome suspicion and distrust and lead to friendship. Here's how she broke the theme down to capsulize her story: understanding and helpfulness suggests the characters; suspicion and distrust suggests the problem; overcome, the conflict and outcome; and lead to friendship, the resolution and happy ending.
Remember: Revise to strengthen your theme and your story will send the thought-provoking message you intended.

For the first parts of this series, please visit: Revision, Part 1: An Early Fiction Checklist and  Revision, Part 2: Editing after a Long Break.

Sources: Illustration by Michelle Henninger for "Tall Boots," used with permission. Included in Michelle's credits are Bradford Street Buddies series by Jerdine Nolen coming out in the fall, and Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow, by Nancy K. Wallace. Treat yourself to a look at Michelle's website, it's terrific; http://www.michellehenninger.com/books.html; and notes from classes and conferences;  http://writeforlifejessicaflory.blogspot.com/; check out Jane McBride Choate's many books at http://www.amazon.com/Jane-McBride-Choate/e/B001JS19WU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1429825077&sr=1-2-ent.
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate recently completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction and picture book courses. Linda has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children and is currently working on several works for children. Follow her on Facebook.


More Help For New Writers - Handling Rejection

We all have routines, patterns, and habits.  As a new writer, you will be challenged to make some changes in order to be successful.  

It won’t be easy. It will go against the grain at times and may even hurt.  

But just like pruning will make a healthier plant and produce more flowers, allowing ourselves to be pruned will make us better and productive writers.

Whatever your challenges are, you have to work through them. If you avoid them, they won't go away and you will slow down to a crawl until you give up entirely.

During the last 4 years of committing myself to a freelance writing career, I discovered 3 areas I needed change in order to continue pursuing a successful writing career.

This month I'll talk about rejection. To have our work rejected can be shattering. 

My first submissions were contests. I won Honorable Mention in a Christian Writing Contest and placed 34th in Writers’ Digest. What a great way to begin a writing career!

With a whole lot of confidence under my belt, I submitted an article to a publication. It was nicely rejected and it hit me hard. It went something like this: "We wanted it to work. But after much review ... "


So we're told not to give up. But how? If you want to learn and grow, get ready to be honest with yourself.

Identify why it hurts

Depending on your niche, writing can be personal. Your story, although implicit, may have made you vulnerable.

Maybe you think you are better than you are. Perhaps you skimmed through the writers' guidelines and missed the word count or submitted a day late. Or maybe your cover letter was poor. The internet makes it easy to find ways to improve.

You're not writing what your passionate about. Sometimes it takes someone else asking you specific questions to narrow down what you're good at writing.

Keep going. 

The worst thing you can do is give up. Keep writing. Someone, somewhere wants what you write. Resubmit your work somewhere else. Write new articles and stories. Eventually, you will be a successful writer. Remember, your chances are greater when you keep submitting.
Because I didn't let the rejection stop me, it doesn't affect me now. I've learned just because one person (or even two or three) are not interested in what I write, there is someone who is very interested.

If you really need to be convinced, visit Literary Rejections and you will be

Believe in yourself. I know. You started out believing in yourself and after the rejection, you weren't so sure.
When you work through the rejection, you learn some things about yourself. If you're passionate about what you write, you will be compelled to write.

Next month, I'll look at patience – essential for success!

After raising and homeschooling her 8 children and teaching art classes for 10 years, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. She enjoys writing magazine articles and more recently had her story, "One of a Kind", published in The Kids' ArkYou can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts http://kathleenmoulton.com


Creative Marketing

Visiting a few of the millions of blogs online this month has confirmed my belief that marketing, as once we knew it, has changed. Banging the buy-buy-buy drum nowadays is boring. And buyers shy away from the hard sell.

public domain photo from pickupimage.com
farmers' market
After all, trying to market writing and/or writing services is not like selling a vital commodity like food or health--or is it?

For so many of us writing is as necessary for our health as breathing. If we can afford to devote our life to it, we are lucky indeed. But for many of us, it may be the only option for earning a living. And although we're always being told about the global market, in the end we're lucky to find enough readers to fill a tiny village.

And how do you sell goods in a village? Word of mouth, sales to friends, arrange small house parties to sell selected items, sell door to door by appointment, display posters everywhere you can, chat,chat, chat to everyone--not primarily about what you're selling but about what the people you're talking to want and/or need. Natural networking--ask what you can do for everyone not what everyone can do for you.  Make friends, help friends, share your expertise freely and you'll find friends eager to help you back.

Readers as Neighbors

Chat through your social media sites, through your blog comments--ask for opinions, ask for ideas, ask what readers want to know. Give small reports from your niche, short stories featuring characters from your novels, give a helping hand when asked. Be neighborly.

People love quizes. especially the type which claim to predict "What kind of person are you?" Offer a giveaway or two as prizes.

Extend your blogging network by offering guest posts, finding blogs relating to your characters' hobbies and commenting on posts. Join as many forums as you can, just to chat and ask questions, offer solutions.

Yes it will mean lots of extra work but no-one  ever said it was easy to make a living writing except for those marketers who promise untold wealth in a week.

Look and Learn

  • Make a point of visiting a new blog every day and commenting even if only to say how pleased you are to have found it.  
  • Note the things you like--maybe the color scheme--and what you dislike. Maybe the columns are too cluttered. Too much to take in.
  • Keep revising your own blog layout and articles in the light of everything you learn. 

Best of all, whatever you're writing, just relax. You're with friends. Let your soul shine through.

What have you found the best marketing methods for you? Please share some ideas in the comments below. We love to chat. :-)

Anne Duguid
Anne Duguid Knol

A local and national journalist in the U.K., Anne is now a fiction editor for award-winning American and Canadian publishers. As a new author, she shares writing tips and insights at her very new Author Support blog: http://www.authorsupport.net
Her novella, ShriekWeek is published by The Wild Rose Press.

26 Reasons a Writer Should Blog - Part 1

Last month, I read Annie Duguid’s post on the A to Z Blogging Challenge, and I fell for it. I love challenges!

Every day for the month of April, with the exception of Sundays, I have blogged on the theme, Out of Africa. However, I also hate wasting time, and so I needed a purpose in this challenge, so I wouldn't just spend a lot of time writing posts that a few people would read and enjoy.

So I looked for ways to maximize the content and utilize it in other ways. I've decided to share some of these ideas with you over the next few months. True to the theme of the A to Z Challenge, I’m going to list them in alphabetical order. So here are the first three of 26 reasons to blog. More to follow next month!

1.  A is for Awareness. 
  •  As writers, we’re always hearing of the importance of branding. Blogging gets you out there, sharing your brand, without consciously having to think about it. 
  • As soon as I started the challenge, I became aware that I needed to let others know about my posts. So I advertised them on Social Media. 
  • I write ahead, so that if anything happens one day to make blogging impossible, I won’t fall behind. However, that made me more aware of the need to schedule in advance. Each time I complete a post, I schedule a promotion on Face book, on Twitter (using HootSuite) and on iContact (for those who want to be notified of a new post).
  • So the regular blogging makes others aware of me, as well as making me more aware of them. 

2.  B is for Better Writing. 
  • It is a well-known fact that the road to becoming a writer is to write. Committing to a regular blog disciplines me to keep writing. 
  • Because I have a specific topic, Out of Africa, my search for topics is narrowed. 
  • The idea of choosing titles alphabetically is a great one, as it narrows my search down even more. At the same time, the theme is wide enough to allow for a range of ideas: B could have been the country of Benin, the Bushmen of the Kalahari, or the Baboon, a member of the monkey family.
  • Once I select the topic, I need to write, and get the post finished. Because my goal for this particular series is to share the continent of Africa with those who may never be able to visit, the posts are a little longer than they would normally be—something which I will consider when the month is over. In order to keep up the momentum long term, the posts need to be shorter. 

3.  C is for Challenge. And oh yes, it’s a challenge. 
  • Some letters are easy. Sometimes, the problem is deciding which one of several I could use. I've noticed some writers do in fact list several options, like “L is or Lollipop, Lazy and Luxury.” That may suit the theme of their blogs, but it doesn’t work for mine. 
  • I learned fairly soon that if I wanted to use good images, I needed to chose a topic that had plenty free-for-use images available, or one where I had plenty of my own photographs. 
  • So in choosing the topic to write, I now consider: do I want to use images? If so, how available are they? Some days I have spent as long, if not longer, hunting for photographs as I have done writing the post. Not clever.
How about you? Do you blog regularly? Can you see how any of these points would help you? Do you have any other suggestions that would fall under these three headings? Please leave a comment below. Oh, and here's my A to Z Blog, Out of Africa, if you're interested.

SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer, which evolved from her Jottings Journal has brought encouragement and inspiration to a multitude of friends and contacts across the world.

Please visit Shirley through ShirleyCorder.com where she encourages writers, or at RiseAndSoar.com where she encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Sign up to receive a short devotional message from Shirley in your inbox once a week. 

Generating Writing Ideas

Spring is a great time to clean out your idea files but sometimes ideas seem to elude even the best writers. They hide beneath the surface like flower bulbs planted in the fall seeming to be forgotten. How is it then a writer can cultivate that which has been forgotten and come up with new and fresh ideas when it is time to sit down and write. Like a well groomed garden it takes some planning. Here is my take on that process.
  • It has been said by writing masters wiser than I that it is imperative to jot down ideas as they come to you.  To do that takes nothing more than a pen and notepad though I wager to say most writers depend on technology to record their snippets. Pick your device and heed to the advice. Write it down as it comes to you, least you forget.
  • Keep a file drawer. Alphabetically, organized by topic, on neon 3 x 5 cards or on plain 3 x 5 cards, or on those pretend sticky notes on your cell phone.... keep an idea file. I like to put similar ideas together for informative E-Book possibilities or serial blog post topics. I also keep a file of character names, another for cool places that might make a great setting for a story or novel, and a file for my bucket list of " I want to write this" before I die. Read the newspaper or watch the news for current political topics but also for ideas on fashion, weather, or community and make a file. When my ideas seem to have disappeared into thin air, I can review a file and usually the creative juices start flowing again.
  • Decide what you want to write and where you wish to be published. This is important if you are not well known yet and don't have a huge author platform. Concentrate on gathering all important information on these few publishers, magazines, or websites initially so your writing ideas and submissions can be targeted specifically. Target audiences, target markets, and targeting your ideas to a specific topic will increase your chances of getting an acceptance and will help to guide your writing. Hopefully as you write, submit, and publish more frequently the ideas will flow easier and but the process will be the same. Gathering info, honing your idea, and submitting to the most likely publisher will become second nature.
  • Rest. Giving your mind a break by doing something other than writing can also help you to generate ideas. A walk in the woods, a nap, listening to music, painting, sewing, or just sitting quietly listening to nature can give your mind the pause it needs to rejuvenate.
  • Keep your body healthy. Eat well, drink plenty of water, and nurture your spiritual side will also help you to keep the writing ideas flowing. Poor health, pain, suffering, and feeling tired will make generating ideas seem more difficult.
Last but not least and what happens to me more often than not is this:  I loose my pencil, can't find a piece of paper in my purse to save my soul, I am driving in traffic or taking a shower and that's  when  my best ideas come to me. Then I must resort to repeating the idea to myself, calling my cell phone and leaving a voice mail, or ( and oh how I hate to put this in writing) I resort to using an eye liner or lip stick on the bathroom mirror to jot down that key word or two so I surely won't forget.

Ideas really are all around us. And like those bulbs hidden in the dirt last season, come spring when we most need to refresh, our ideas can be cultivated and reworked, organized and nurtured into full blown sprouting gardens of words and sentences that will entertain, educate, and touch our readers.
How do you get your ideas? Share a secret or two from your writing experiences won't you?

Terri Forehand writes from the hills of Brown County Indiana where she lives with her husband and several rescue dogs and cats. She is the author of The ABC's of Cancer According to Lilly Isabella Lane and The Cancer Prayer Book for adults. She is currently working on 61 Tips for Parents of Kids with Cancer.

The 7 Best Books for Novelists & Writers

The best books for writers, well we all probably have our own lists and I'd love to hear your favorite books - the ones that have helped you navigate your way through this writing life. These are a few of mine:


Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott:
This book was mandatory reading for a college course I took called, How to Write a Novel. Anne became a favorite author after that. Her words leaving me feeling hope even at the worst of times with my writing.


On Writing by Stephen King:
This book is part autobiography and part helpful lessons about the writing life.


The Right to Write by Julia Cameron:
Essays and exercises help me find the joy in writing. I pick this one up when I'm feeling stuck.


The Elements of Style by Strunk and White:
Nothing more needs to be said. You've all heard it before. It's a must for every writer.


Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King:
I consider this one of my great finds and I've loaned it out a number of times. Find it! Use it! Love it!


Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forester:
I had heard a lot about this book, which is a compilation of lectures Forester had delivered. I found the information on character building a wonderful lesson in how to create rounded characters.


The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray:
This book was a great find as well. As I look at my copy I see where I've underlined and made numerous notations. This book, while I didn't use it to only write on the weekends, gave me an excellent overview of how to create structure.

The Business:

Literary Law Guide for Authors by Tonya Marie Evans:
On a number of occasions I've found myself looking up information here for myself and my writer friends. Love it!

So what are the books you can't do without?


D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, House of Glass, Book 2 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.                                                           D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole, and Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.                                                                                              She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at www.djeanquarles.com                                                                         You can also follower her at www.djeanquarles.blogspot.com or on Facebook.

Getting Freelance Writing Credits

by Suzanne Lieurance

If you’re worried that you can’t possibly juggle all the assignments it takes to start earning at least $100 a day as a writer, here’s some writing advice. Try these tips to balance all the various projects you’ll enjoy once you get your writing career going:

1. Try to acquire both long term and short term assignments. You may get bored if you’re only working on long term assignments like book length manuscripts. Also accept shorter assignments with shorter deadlines. This will give you a more constant stream of income, plus you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment each time you finish a shorter project – and that will help keep you motivated to finish those long term assignments.

2. Plan to do something every day to move each of your writing projects/assignments forward. If you keep up with each assignment on a daily basis, you won’t be scrambling to meet the deadline for any of them at the last minute.

3. Use spread sheets or charts to keep track of all your assignments. Whenever you get a new assignment, add it to your spreadsheet. That way you won’t overlook deadlines, or forget about long term assignments, when you get really, really busy working on short term projects.

These tips should help you balance your writing assignments and actually enjoy your writing career more as you continue to increase your weekly, monthly, and yearly income as a freelance writer.

Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, certified professional life coach and writing coach, speaker and workshop presenter. She has written over two dozen published books and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and other publications.

For more short writing tips, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge at www.morningnudge.com.

April Blogging Prompts

April showers bring May flowers. They also bring lots of blog posts. 

Here are some things you can blog about this month:

April is National Poetry Month: Write a poem, share your favorite poem and why, give your readers an assignment to write a poem, or all of the above. The celebration lasts all month long. However, Great Poetry Reading Day is April 28.

The last week in April is National Karaoke Week! Share your proudest or most embarrassing karaoke moment, or create a new one to share with your readers.


April Holidays: April is International Guitar Month (great for songwriters), Lawn and Garden Month (grow your stories, grow your business), and Stress Awareness Month (share ways for your readers to de-stress). April 14 is International Moment of Laughter Day, April 16 is National Librarian Day, April 18 is Newspaper Columnists Day, April 23 is Take a Chance Day, April 27 is Tell a Story Day, and April 30 is National Honesty Day

April Food Holidays: April is National Garlic Month, National Grilled Cheese Month (Greilled Cheese Sandwich Day is April 12), and National Soft Pretzel Month. Perhaps my favorite April food holiday is National Picnic Day on April 23. Come up with literary themed picnics to share with your readers or take yourself on a picnic and then do some writing outside.

Bonus: April is also National Humor Month. This leads to a variety of possibilities for both fiction and non-fiction writers. Write funny, even if you think you're not. Or, if you are a humorous writer, write in another genre ... just for fun! You never know where words might lead. You just have to play with them!


Debra Eckerling is the author of Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages. She's a writer, editor and project manager/goal coach, as well as founder of Guided Goals and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. She is an editor at Social Media Examiner. Debra is also a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting and social media.

3 Apps to Help Writers



Gravatar, a WordPress Platform feature, is a globally recognized Avatar.  Just upload your image and create your profile. When a blog user leaves a comment, his/her Gravatar is exhibited with the comment. (The blog's software scans for the gravatar that matches the e-mail the blogger has entered.)

Your online presence will be facilitated by your  unique Gravatar. Don't waste time typing your name and contact info every time you comment on a blog. Just use your professional Gravatar with your blog comments.


An ideal time-tracking App for freelancers who need to monitor the time spent on client projects and bill accordingly.

You can monitor your daily, weekly and monthly writing tasks in real time using the pie chart. You can also retrieve your daily activities. Timeneye learns your habits and tracks time for you.

Note: Timenye helped me to identify the extra time I spent to satisfy a client's growing expectations for a blog. This made it easy for me to estimate additional fees and to streamline tasks.


EVERNOTE is a cloud-based App that lets you store and organize your research notes, urls, images, etc,

This app is a fantastic catch all for all your writing tasks:
- Take screen shots to capture ideas for inspiration, and add tags and notes.
- Find your notes, photos, etc., with the handy indexed, searchable, tagging feature.
- Use your phone to take screen shots of off-line research, receipts, etc., and upload to EVERNOTE.

Note: I have created notebooks for each of my writing projects, related marketing tasks, and monthly income reports. Before EVERNOTE, I wasted a lot of time bookmarking sites and creating files with urls and research notes in google docs. It was hard to keep track of all my research. EVERNOTE has made this process efficient and viable for me. But there is a lot more to EVERNOTE. I am looking forward to learning how to use it to its full potential.

More resources to help writers maximize their output

5 Steps to Preventing Scope Creep (and Still Keeping Your Clients Happy):
Advice for freelancers: What to do when client projects become bigger than what was agreed upon.

How to create an accurate estimate for your projects: Tools and strategies to reduce stress and efficiently manage your workload.

How to manage your time: Apply time management skills for a successful writing career.


Deb Toor is a nonfiction writer and freelance blogger. She is the author of Survival Secrets of Turkey Vultures, a suspense-adventure story for grades 4 to 6 that is based on peer-reviewed science. She is also a ghostwriter for a health blog.

The Frugal Book Promoter Shares Back-of-Book Partnership Idea

I just couldn't resist sharing this--my fave new idea--for working with fellow authors to cross-promote!   

Publishing/Marketing Partnership Tip
How can you sell more books—any book, fiction or nonfiction—without doing all the heavy lifting yourself? Partner with an author who writes in your genre or on your topic. Here’s how: Include the first one to three chapters of their book in the back of your book and they do the same for you. You’ve automatically reached your target audience, gotten what amounts to an endorsement from a fellow author. After you’ve done the original planning (finding a reliable partner and adding one another’s material to your self-published book), the rewards keep coming in effortlessly!

Here are suggestions for making this cross-promotion work well:
1. Choose an author who writes in your genre or on a similar nonfiction topic, though the topic could be broad like politics.
2. Choose an author whose work you admire and who admires your work as well.
3. Plan well ahead and agree on the parameters of the agreement. Will you include an introduction (a kind of recommendation) before the chapters? How will you do it? With just a title like “Recommended Reading for Those Who Love Horror,” or with a personal introduction about your partner and why you like his or her work. How many words or pages of your partner’s work will you include in your book? (Be careful not to let the number of your author’s pages push you into another level where your book will cost more to print!)
4. If the number of pages is problematic, do it only in the e-book version of your book.
5. As an alternative, partner on a promotional e-book that you promote and give away free. You could use many more than two authors for this idea and agree on how many e-books and how much marketing each author must contribute to be included. Call it a “Free Sampler for Future Reading on the State of American Politics” or something else that matches your needs. I did something like this years ago. It was a cookbook and that cookbook was not only a smashing success, but the authors continued to use it for holidays years after we published it. I did give readers of The Frugal Book Promoter a case study of the entire project--MBA style.   

If you choose to do this, let me know about it. Send me an e-copy at HoJoNews@aol.com. I’ll use your note and links to the free book in the Letters-to-the-Editor section of my SharingwithWriters newsletter. (You can subscribe to the newsletter at http://HowToDoItFrugally.com).

Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s 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 classes she has taught for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter was named USA Book News’ “Best Professional Book” and won the coveted Irwin Award. Now in its second edition, it’s also a USA Book News award winner and received a nod from Dan Poynter’s Global Ebook Awards. Her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success was also honored by USA Book News and won Readers’ Views Literary Award. Her marketing campaign for that book won the marketing award from New Generation Indie Book Awards. The second edition e-book was honored by Next Generation Indie Awards in the e-book category.


How to Avoid Exposition in Dialogue

Good dialogue can stick the reader right in the middle of the action.  It can reveal a lot about the characters and help pacing.  But writing dialogue can be tricky.

Today's pitfall is what I call "exposition in dialogue" or "dialogue for the benefit of the reader."  This is when two characters tell each other things they both already know and have no reason to talk about, just to give the reader important information.  It's unnatural and awkward and should generally be avoided.

Example of Exposition in Dialogue:

I'm going to exaggerate a little here to illustrate the point.

Scene:  Lila and Tom are brother and sister, both young adults.  They're together when Tom gets a phone call.  He hardly says anything, and when he hangs up, he turns to Lila.

"John Abernathy's dead."

"No," Lila said, sinking into a chair.  "John Abernathy is our grandfather.  He owned two canneries in Alaska, and I remember how bad they smelled.  Our mother fell out with him and we haven't seen him for ten years, but still, I can't believe it.  We didn't even know he was sick."  

Okay, so most of the examples in our writing aren't this bad, but I see less glaring cases all the time, and it's something we need to watch for.  These two people already know this information.  There's no reason they'd say it like this.


1)  Narrate.

"Grandpa John is dead."

"No," Lila said, sinking into a chair.  John Abernathy was their grandfather, but they hadn't seen him in years, not since he and their mother had fallen out.  They'd visited him once in Alaska, where he owned two canneries.  Lila could still smell the fish if she closed her eyes.  How could he be dead?  She hadn't even known he was sick.

2)  Argue.  Twist the conversation into an argument to give them a reason to discuss it.  Maybe your characters remember things differently.  Maybe they have different ideas about the consequences or the importance or the truth of the background information.

"Grandpa John is dead."

"No," Lila said, sinking into a chair.  "Mom's gonna be sorry now."

"It wasn't her fault they argued.  Grandpa--"

"That's just her side of the story.  We don't know what happened.  And she didn't have to cut him out of our lives completely.  Now we've lost all these years, and we'll never get them back."

"It wasn't exactly as if he was the best grandpa before, hiding himself away in Alaska.  He cared more about his canneries than he ever cared about us."

3)  Reminisce.  Have the characters take a walk down memory lane.  Be careful with this, however, as it can sound forced.

"Grandpa John is dead."

"No," said Lila, sinking into a chair.  "Dead?  He was strong as a bull."

"Ten years ago he was.  But things change."

"Remember the tour he gave us of his canneries in Alaska?"

"He let me chop the heads off the fish.  I thought it was the coolest thing."

"It was disgusting.  And the smell...but he was so proud of everything. I wish he and Mom hadn't fought.  Now it's too late.."

4)  Tell a character who doesn't know.  Bring a third character into the conversation, one who really doesn't know the information.  Use this sparingly, as it can also come across as too convenient and lazy on the author's part.

"John Abernathy's dead."

"No," Lila said, sinking into a chair.

"Who's John Abernathy?" Tom's girlfriend asked. 

"Our grandpa.  Mom's dad."

"I didn't know he was still around.  You never talk about him."

"We haven't seen him for years," Tom said.  "He does fish canning up in Alaska.  Mom had an argument with him a long time ago and wouldn't let us have anything to do with him."

"I'm so sorry."

More examples:

"Captain, if we get a whole in the hull, we'll sink!"

Uh...he's a pretty bad captain if he doesn't know this.

Solution:  be more specific:  "Captain, a whole that big will sink us in less than fifteen minutes." 

"As you know, Jake got married six months ago.  Now I can't talk to him without his wife hanging on his arm."

Solution:  rephrase to build on what the listener knows:  "Ever since Jake got married, I can't talk to him without his wife hanging on his arm."

Final Test:

When you think your dialogue is good, read it aloud.  That's often the best way to hear if something sounds unnatural.

Melinda Brasher currently teaches English as a second language in the beautiful Czech Republic.  She loves the sound of glaciers calving and the smell of old books.  Her travel articles and short fiction appear in Go Nomad, International Living, Electric Spec, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and others.  For an e-book collection of some of her favorite pieces, check out Leaving Home.  Visit her online at http://www.melindabrasher.com.

Researching Historical Fiction, From Beginning to End

By Karen Mann

Researching to write historical fiction is interesting and even exciting. The first thing to consider is going to the location of the novel and walking the streets your characters walked. Interview people. Go to the library there. Take time to find out how that place sounds, feels, tastes, looks, and smells.

However, when writing my novel The Woman of La Mancha, I was unable to go to Spain or even more specifically, I was unable to go to sixteenth-century Spain, yet my readers tell me I have made that time period vividly alive. How was I able to do that? Through extensive library and online research.

To begin, get a general overview of the time period. I started by reading one book about the time period. From that beginning, I understood the kinds of things I needed to research. My next stop was a weekend at university library. I made a lot of copies (2 bankers’ boxes full). Then went home and read and read.

Today, online research may be the first thing to do. Organize your bookmarks so you can easily find the pages where you find information. Be discerning about your online research to be sure you feel it’s accurate. Often you can find books or chapters of books online. Through libraries, you can access databases which may have even more accurate and detailed information than webpages. Remember the stacks at the library when you went to college? Nearly all those books and magazine are available online now. Consult your local library to find out how to access them.

Organize your notes by category: costumes, food, religion, government, farming, education, healing, illnesses, family life, architecture, household furnishings, hunting, music, art, literature, and more. Don’t leave any stone unturned; you need to have the entire picture of that society so you can write specifically about it.

You don’t have to write down everything you read. You are going to begin to get an overall picture of what that time period was like. You’ll be able to imagine yourself there and you’ll be able to imagine your characters there.

But there are details you will want to keep handy for reference. To keep that information handy, find a system that works for you to find the information you need when you need it. It might be something as simple as a spreadsheet. Type or paste information in worksheets with appropriate titles so you can find what you are looking for. Or your system might be a more elaborate software program or actual pieces of paper in a file cabinet. 
The more you research, the more you’ll have an idea of what you know (you know how they dressed in the eighteenth century) and what you don’t know (you don’t know how they prepared their food), so you can focus research on those topics to fill in the blanks.

Over time I assimilated everything. Nothing went to waste. It was as if I were sitting there while I wrote.

What is the key to incorporating the information in your writing? Find the most interesting tidbits. Don’t repeat facts by rote; adapt what you’ve read to your writing. Sometimes it’s only a word from that period, or the name of a particular cloth, a particular kind of chair or weapon. Maybe it’s how you make a porridge or ale or how you bake bread. Maybe it’s the flowers that bloom in the spring or how a harpsichord sounds. Bring each tidbit alive through evoking the senses or recreating specific and vivid scenes. Research informs your writing. Use it wisely and bring your writing to life.

Karen Mann is the author of The Woman of La Mancha and The Saved Man. She is the co-founder and Administrative Director of the low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program at Spalding University and managing editor of The Louisville Review, a national literary magazine since 1976. Having lived in Indiana most of her life, she now lives in San Jose, California. See more about her books at www.karenmannwrites.com.

About The Woman of La Mancha:

The Woman of La Mancha, a companion book to Don Quixote, tells the woman’s story of Don Quixote by recounting the story of the girl he called Dulcinea, the woman he loved from afar.

It’s 1583. An eleven-year-old girl wakes in the back of a cart. She has lost her memory and is taken in by a kindly farm family in La Mancha. She adopts the name Aldonza. She doesn’t speak for quite some time. Once she speaks, there is a family member who is jealous of her and causes a good deal of trouble, even causing her to be forced to leave La Mancha in tragic circumstances. Having to create a new life in a new location and still unaware of her birth family, she adopts the name Dulcinea and moves in the circles of nobility. While seeking her identity, she becomes the consort of wealthy men, finds reason to disguise herself as a man, and learns herbal healing to help others.

There is a parallel story of a young man, Don Christopher, a knight of King Philip and the betrothed of the girl, who sets off on with a young squire, Sancho, to find the girl. Christopher’s adventures take them across Spain and force him to grow up. Does he continue the quest to find his betrothed or marry another and break the contract with the king?

Both young people have many experiences and grow up before the readers’ eyes. Floating in and out of each other’s paths as they travel around Spain, will they eventually find each other and be together?


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As a writer, your voice is one of your most powerful assets. Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, novels, screenplays, marketing copy, y...