The Value of a Good Editor

There is an Appropriate Hat for every Story
Photo by Linda Wilson
One of my writing pet peaves is that authors often get credit that their partnership with their editor(s) is due. Perhaps, if you wade through the "Acknowledgements," you might appreciate the number of people it takes for the author to arrive at the finished/polished product. I confess, I read the
"Acknowledgements," but really, how many readers can be relied on to do that?

Preaching to the choir a bit here, but, we writers know how valuable an editor's opinion is, from pros to critique groups, family and friends; and for children's stories, kids. Others' ideas and opinions open up worlds that may not have been considered. One of my instructors once told me one doesn't write a book, one re-writes a book.

Start by Changing Hats
It is crucial to keep your writer's hat on to revise as much as possible before asking someone else to read your work. If you're a beginner, you may need more advise than a more experienced writer. I know I did and still do. So, if what you offer is the best you can do, after running through your own checklist(s), then be satisfied with that. An editor once told me that I am going to "make it." You know why? No matter how much she finds that needs revision, I'm grateful for her insights and always work to improve by considering her advice. The writers who never give up, she says, are the ones who succeed. For it is well known (to quote the lovely phrase read often in Alexander McCall Smith's books), the best way to learn to write is to: Write!

When it's time to don your editor's hat, run through a checklist to make sure you've covered as many bases as possible. Start with a standard list and add to it as you become more experienced. My list has blossomed into a folder and encompasses the three types of writing I've focused on so far: articles, short stories and now, children's novels.

Basic checklist for a children's story
Make sure your story has:
  • an intriguing title
  • a beginning, middle and end
  • each paragraph that contains a beginning, middle and end
  • a beginning and end that compliment each other. A common way to view this is that your story has come full circle; your ending circles back to the beginning
  • a story arc: the action builds to a climax and ends quickly
  • an intriguing story problem
  • a main character who grows and changes by the end
  • REAL CONFLICT, which is the basis of a good story
  • action that is not predictable
  • age-appropriate names and content that is appropriate
  • everything explained clearly
  • "kid friendliness"--cut "adult" words and references
A Peek at Editor Know-How
Back in the day (in the '90s), I dipped a toe as a correspondent for our local newspaper. My very first published article, now framed and resting on my wall, suffered losing my beautiful, well-thought-out title to a drastic editor-knows-best change. After that, my poignant summaries and heartfelt endings in many articles suffered the last and sometimes multiple paragraph cuts at the end, for lack of space. Most painful, was the cut in pay (pay, you say? Yes, those were the days when newspaper correspondents got paid) I suffered at the lens of my husband, whose accompanying photograph made one-third more than my article. It's how I grew my first layer of skin. The bonus: I learned to enjoy editors' economy of words. I wouldn't call our exchanges conversations, exactly, but in the editors' rushed and few words, I understood what was expected of me; and learned to skip-the-chit-chat, easy with even a glimpse at the volume of paper on my editors' desks.

Today, it is doubtful that any local publication can pay its writers (hopefully some do), but writing for them for free still gives writers the benefit of working with an editor (and getting published). Just for fun, here is a short list of some of the ways editors have helped my pieces and stories see print
(albeit, not without some degree of pain):
  • For one of my short stories the editor cut off my ending and ended the story "early"--inwardly a move I didn't like; but I held my tongue and once published, I saw the wisdom. Lesson: it's best to be agreeable with your editor unless her change, in your opinion, compromises your story's intregity. In my case, her idea improved the story a great deal.
  • In another story, the same editor asked me to add an ending and suggested what she'd like to see. It took me about two minutes to add the ending she suggested. She emailed me right back and was delighted with what I had done, and amazed that the change came so quickly. I chalked the speed of my reaction up to a rapport we had established and her expertise at knowing how to take my story where it needed to go.
  • For an article I researched and interviewed over many months time, my editor loved the piece, but the competition at the magazine was so fierce that she had to fight to get my article published. The outcome is one of my proudest pieces, to date.
  • Saved the best for last: one prominent children's magazine bought three of my articles, paid me, and yet hasn't published one of them so far. It was great to get paid, but I'd really rather see the articles in print. Go figure!
Next month: Critique Group Do's and Don'ts

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has
published over 100 articles for adults and children and six short
stories for children. Recently, she completed Joyce Sweeney's
online fiction and picture book courses. She is currently
working on several projects for children. Follow
Linda on Facebook.

Deliberate Practice and the Writer

woodleywonderworks / Foter / CC BY
If you want to be the very best writer you can be, if you want to master your writing craft,  it is going to take practice and you will have to do it deliberately. 

If you have not heard of deliberate practice, it's a thing! 

John Hayes, a cognitive psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University, spent many years researching talented individuals like Mozart and Picasso to understand how they became masters of their craft. He discovered a common thread - it took them 10 years! Further research found this was true of other notable people, as well.

Time was not the only key, but "deliberate practice" - a theory identified through the research of Swedish psychologist, Dr. K. Anders Ericsson - involving
consistent and deliberate work to improve performance.  This concept believes innate talent isn't the indicator of success, but practicing methods for improved performance.

Some do not agree with this theory in its entirety, believing that talent does play a part, but I think we can glean some solid information.

Deliberate practice may be common with musicians, athletes, and painters. But how can it apply to writing?  Writer/Editor Chris Jones says this: 
The concept of deliberate practice demands that you acquire new writing skills or strengthen weaker ones while building on the existing foundation you've already established.
It is making time to consistently and deliberately practice, resulting in improvement and mastery.  Jones suggests identifying your top 2 or 3 areas of weakness  and setting aside 30 minutes a day on focusing to make those areas stronger.

Author and writing teacher Barbara Braig suggests writing down the skills you are good at. Next, list the areas which you know need improvement. If you need to write more complex sentences, learn about sentence structure and practice writing sentences with more than one clause. If your characters are not believable, read excerpts from your favorite author. List those things the author does to make the story good. Ask yourself how many of those things you can do and how many you need to learn.

My first published article had to be written in Chicago style. Do you know the difference between Chicago and AP? I didn't. If I'm going to continue to write articles, I need to practice writing in both of those styles until it becomes second nature. 

The key is to schedule time regularly for practice. It will be work. You will be stretched. You might even get bored. Yet, the results are in and it is enough to motivate and inspire - whether you are just starting out or you are a seasoned writer. 

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

Three Energizing Tips for Writers

Image courtesy of Aleksa D at
Summer holidays feel far away. The golden Autumn days and Thanksgiving serve as a reminder that Christmas is ahead and then the angst sets in. So much to do, so little time. You just have to think that and you can feel the energy draining from your body.

Boost Energy by Doing Something New

Forget all the past projects gathering dust in the far corners of your computer. What would you really like to do?
  • Try a new course. It doesn't have to cost. Sign up for Sarah Arrow's 30 Day Bogging Challenge  to increase your visibility and get daily emails with tips and advice on improving your blog. Or try Sue Fleckenstein's 30 Day PLR challenge which I found through downloading her free e-book on using your plr. 
  • Do something else entirely. Start a new website. Learn to dance the salsa. Think of something you enjoyed as a child. Do it again, Have fun.

Boost Energy by Writing Something New

  • Experiment. Have fun. Write short Christmas stories you can publish on Kindle. Choose a new genre. Turn writing time into play time. 
  • Look for new markets and new submission guidelines. Try for higher paying markets. What's the worst they can do? Say no. Just keep trying till you find out what works.
  • Writing for cash? Try ghostwriting e-books for local firms, memoirs for elderly grandparents to leave to their family, use up all that plr you always meant to do something with.

Boost Energy with Exercise

  • Bet you're tired of hearing that one. But it works. A quick walk works. Three ten minute walks equal one of thirty minutes. But if you've been deskbound for too long, even one small walk can be a struggle.
  • Start slowly. If you do too much at once, you can set yourself back by weeks. Have a look at these one minute videos. They worked for me--Sciatica gone--Hurrah. They are coming out weekly from now until the New Year on my new Energy blog.
  • Dance, sing, enjoy life. Have fun. Then write about it.

And once you're feeling brighter...

  • Prioritize your goals. Follow Debra Eckerling's advice on goal setting to achieve at least one completed project before the New Year.

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 Author Support : .

Energized Writer: is her new blog which aims to keep writers healthy of not wealthy although they spend hours seated behind computers.

Her Halloween novella, ShriekWeek is published by The Wild Rose Press and is also included in the Hauntings in the Garden anthology. (Volume Two)

Time she wrote something else...

26 Reasons a Writer Should Blog - Part 6

Have you ever noticed how some of the most difficult letters to write about come near the end of the alphabet? Well, perhaps apart from Q that is!

Each month we've taken the next few consecutive letters of the alphabet and selected one word representing each letter. We're now getting to some tough choices. What will the next four be? T, U, V and W.

If you've been with me since the beginning of this series, by now your writers' blog should be looking good. So as we approach the final seven letters, let's dig deep. The points from this post and next month's can put the final touch to your really great blogs.

 So here we go!

20. T is for Title. Brian Clark of Copy Blogger gives these startling statistics: 

On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. See what that looks like >>>

He adds, "Without a headline or post title that turns a browser into a reader, the rest of your words may as well not even exist."

Wow! We need to come up with some innovative titles. I have a confession. I have only recently realized how important blog titles are. I know how important titles are to my books or articles, but somehow I missed the point when it came to my blog titles. So we have thrilling titles like "26 Reasons a Writer Should Blog - Part 6!"

It's too late to change the titles for this series, but I'm going to put a lot of thought into future posts I promise you!

So how do you choose a good title? Here are two sites where you will get some brilliant ideas.

21. U is for Undivided Attention.
  • We often hear how important it is to separate our writer from our editor. We should allow our internal writer to get down on "paper" a.k.a. screen, what she wants to say. Only then should we allow our internal editor to come along with her red pen and make corrections.

    I don’t find that easy, do you? When I sit to write, my own personal editor perches on my shoulder and points out all the things I need to correct. I battle to concentrate on a first draft without doing repeated alterations along the way.
  • By blogging to a theme, I know where I want to go. Once I sit to write, it is much easier to concentrate and go flat out. Try this yourself. You can give your post your undivided attention. I know it will only take about half-an-hour max if I don’t allow myself to get distracted.

    Images can come later. Anecdotes can be added. I sometimes type in capitals ANECDOTE and keep going. Don't stop to look for the write illustration. You'll get distracted. Just write! Focus! Get down the main points. This is all good training for your longer pieces of writing. Once you've drafted the article, go through again and look for suitable images, anecdotes, or even links to other posts.

22. V is for Value.

If your reader doesn't get value out of your post, and by that I mean every post, she will not come back. Bottom line: every post must contain value. So how do you do that?
  • Picture your readers before you start. Have them in your mind, and write your post TO them. Think of the problems they may have with what you have to say and address those problems. Make your post applicable to every one of them. 
  • Write about issues of interest to you. Share your passion with your reader. Get excited. Let them see why. As you bubble over on the page, they will get caught up in your enthusiasm, and want to read on.
  • Be a perfectionist. Benjamin Franklin once said, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Don't do that! Have a plan and stick to it. To give you another quote, Norman Vincent Peele said, "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."

    So aim at 100% perfection every post, and you should turn out high quality posts that will keep your readers coming back for more. 

23 W is for Word Count 
A common myth is that the ideal length of a post should be 500-600 words, or it should all fit within a screen so the reader doesn't need to scroll. That no longer makes sense as many people read on tablets or smartphones. Take a look at some of the most popular blogs, like Copyblogger or Huffington Post, and you will see far longer posts. 

     Here are a few points to consider:
  • Readers have short attention spans and are short on time. So if your blog is longer, it must also be scannable. Plenty of headers, different colored fonts and images will help them leap through the article searching for the one treasure they want to stop and unpack.
  • Keep to short posts if you are posting daily. You're not likely to be able to keep up with longer posts on a daily basis, nor will your readers. 
  • Longer posts are better for SEO and Google prefers them.
  • Posts that are longer also increase your likelihood of valuable backlinks.
  • The longer posts are most likely to be shared. According to Forbes: "It has been found that posts which contain more than 1,500 words gained 68.1% more tweets and 22.6% more Facebook likes. In other words, the longer the post, the more it will get shared."
  • Bottom line? There is no right or wrong answer. Go with what works for you. Some posts may be longer than others. It's up to you. The important factor is the readability of your blog. Can you hold your readers' interest for the duration? Or is your longer post easy to zip through looking for the meatier bits?

Which point in this blog helps you the most? Share it in a comment below. 


26 Reason for a Writer to Blog - Part I: A - C
26 Reason for a Writer to Blog - Part II: D-G
26 Reason for a Writer to Blog - Part III: H-K
26 Reason for a Writer to Blog - Part IV: L-O
26 Reason for a Writer to Blog - Part V: P-S

SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast of South Africa with her husband and a lively Jack Russell. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer, has brought encouragement and inspiration to a multitude of friends and contacts across the world.

Visit Shirley at where she encourages writers and readers, or at 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. 

Top 10 Fears Freelance Writers Face That Keep Them from Moving Ahead

by Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer's Coach

Is fear keeping you from a career as a successful freelance writer? Here are some common fears that keep many people from the writing career of their dreams.

#1 Fear of Getting Started

Many people who say they want to become a freelance writer are so afraid to take the first step and commit to starting a writing career. It’s fun to talk about becoming a writer. But it’s just plain scary to actually start doing what it takes to build a freelance writing business, and many people are too afraid to take the first step.

#2 Fear of Not Being Qualified

Many writers, especially those who are just starting to freelance, are afraid to apply for well-paying jobs because they feel they aren’t qualified for them. Successful freelance writers know it’s good to have some training and experience in the types of writing they wish to do for pay, but they aren't afraid to apply for jobs or assignments that seem a little beyond their experience or training.

#3 Fear of What and How to Charge for Services

Many writers are afraid of getting clients because they won’t know what to charge for their writing services.

#4 Fear of Deadlines

It’s fun to think about living the freelancing life, where you have no bosses or office hours. But the thought of constant deadlines, scares some writers because they think they won’t be able to meet those deadlines.

#5 Fear of Going After Clients & Assignments

New writers are afraid to look for clients or assignments. They’d rather clients and assignments come to them, but this doesn’t happen (at least not at first).

#6 Fear of Working With Clients

Many writers are afraid to go after clients because they’re afraid they’ll actual get some clients and then they won’t know how to work with them.

#7 Fear of Success

Many writers actually fear what success will do to them. They think it will change them too much and either their friends and family won’t like them anymore or they will have to do things they don’t want to do.

#8 Fear of Writer’s Block

Many writers are afraid they’ll get an assignment then they’ll develop a case of writer’s block and they won’t be able to complete the assignment.

#9 Fear of Rejection

Rejection is just part of the writing life. Yet many writers are afraid of rejection so they put off sending out queries and letters of introduction.

#10 Fear of Judgment

Once a job has been completed, it’s out there for people to read. And readers can be critical of what they read. Sometimes writers dread the thought of anyone reading and judging their work (even though readers may actually like what they read) so they avoid sending it our or they avoid looking for clients and writing assignments.

If you’re struggling to build a successful freelance writing career, see if some of these common fears are keeping you from moving ahead. Once you recognize your fears, it will be easier to overcome them.

Suzanne Lieurance is a fulltime freelance writer, writing coach, certified life coach, and the author of over 30 published books. For more tips, resources, and other helpful information about writing and the business of writing, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge at

Achieving Goals by End of the Year

I think most writers would agree. Between writing, promoting and your personal life, there’s never enough time to do everything. Sometimes it feels like there’s never enough time to do anything. 

Even if most of your goals this year have fallen by the wayside, I want you to have a win by the end of the year. Here’s what you can do to make it happen. 

1. Pick a goal. Just one. It can be a goal you stated at the beginning of the year or a new goal you acquired during this year’s journey. The only requirement is it be actually do-able by the end of the year. 

Want to write a draft of a book? Revise a draft? Start a blog? Fine. However, the goal must be something that is in your power to achieve. If your goal is to find an agent by the end of the year, there are no guarantees, since you have no control over who reads your queries and proposals when. What you do have control over is the effort you make to find an agent. So the goal to send 10 or 20 queries out by the end of the year is doable. 

2. Write down what it takes. Make a list of everything you need to do to accomplish your goal. It could be a chronological list of actual things. For example, if you are starting a blog, write down everything you need to do to create it (url, logo, colors, design, about page, contact, blog posts, etc.). Yes, if the goal is to complete a draft of the book, perhaps your list will be chapter one, chapter two, chapter three, and so on. 

3. Get it done. Spend a dedicated amount of time each week to put toward your goal. Set appointments in your calendar for work time. As you accomplish the things on your list, check them off. Stay on schedule, work consistently, and don’t give up. You’ll achieve your goal by the end of the year! 

It's surprising what you can accomplish when you have a plan and decided to stick to it. The win will feel so good, you’ll have a mental running start toward achieving your next goal. 

Good luck. You can do it!

* * *
Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of Guided Goals and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. 

She is the host of the Guided Goals Podcast and author of Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages. 

She is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

It's World Teachers' Day

When asked me to share their infograph on celebrating the teachers of the world, I said, "Oh Yeah!"

My younger daughter has been a NYC public grammar school teacher for 12 years. She works diligently to help her students learn the work at hand and become better world citizens. 

Teachers help children become tomorrow's workforce, leaders, and heroes. They deserve our recognition and praise.

According to a Japanese proverb, “Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.” There’s truth in those words, as anyone who has ever had a great teacher will know!

October 5 is World Teachers’ Day, a day to celebrate educators around the world. Teaching is incredibly difficult (and often thankless) work, yet it might just be the world’s most important job. Teachers can and do change lives every day. They inspire generations of students to think, learn, create, and accomplish things they never believed they could do.

There are twenty-nine million primary school teachers around the world, but we still need more. Over three million more, in fact. So, in recognition of teachers and the indispensable work they do, we have created an infographic to highlight their importance around the world:

World Teacher Day

Thanks for letting us share this, Grammarly!

Be sure to check out Grammarly's Plagiarism Checker:


Shaun the Sheep and Marketing with Animation

Should Authors Profit from Advertising When it Benefits Their Audience

10 Bad Writing Habits to Break

What's Good for Saturday Night Live Author May Be Good For You, Too!

A Promote-Your-Own-Way Case Study

Saturday Night Live Writer Uses
Article/Essay Route for Marketing

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning
 HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

In the second edition of my The Frugal Book Promoter, I suggest writing articles and selling them (or giving them away free). It is an especially good way to get exposure for authors who are shy or think they’ll hate marketing but admit they love writing. So I was pleased to see an op-ed piece in the LA Times written by Patricia Marx, former Saturday Night Live writer and a staff writer for The New Yorker.

The little credit at the end of her piece said it was an essay excerpted from her new book Let’s Be Less Stupid: An attempt to Maintain My Mental Faculties. She let her Saturday Night Live voice shine throughout the piece and added a sidebar that was a quiz on “how to be brainier.” The essay included a nice byline for her, and the essay was illustrated with a brain-map of the worries we tend to have as our brain ages—in color no less. And it was huge attention getter!

This kind of marketing is pure genius because:

   The piece was a marketing time-saver. Marx didn’t have to write anything she hadn’t already written. She probably only tweaked the excerpt a bit to suit space requirements and maybe added the sidebar. She carefully slanted the article to related topics that are in the news right now. Think: Aging population. The fear of Alzheimer’s. Dementia. These are topics news outlets from CNN to the Wall Street Journal are covering these days.

    Her humorous voice immediately captures readers who then want to know more about her expertise and about her personally. Thus, a huge percentage of readers probably do what I did—that is they read through to that little bio/credit line to get that information. (It didn’t include a link, but that is probably because a URL or link goes against the LA Times’s stylebook.)

    Marx can repeat this particular marketing approach to every paper in the nation. I mean, she has a whole book of chapters and subheads to choose from so she could accommodate papers that require an exclusive.
   If her credentials had not been quite so stellar, she might well have done the same thing submitting guest posts to blogs that may not be quite as hard to impress as the major newspapers. She probably will do that in any case. Stephanie Meyers of Twilight fame used blogs effectively to propel her series to bestseller status.

   And Marx probably got paid and paid pretty well. That money could be put toward a great marketing budget for her book.

And guess what. You can do the same thing. Yes, you may have to adjust your technique or approach a tad to fit your title, your writing style, and whatever happens to be news in the moment (or you can wait until a topic that complements your book becomes an in-the-moment subject—and I promise if you keep your marketing hat on, you’ll recognize something related to some aspect of your book when it comes up!).

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. All her books for writers are multi award winners including the first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter. TheFrugal Editor, now in its second edition, 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.

Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. 

The author loves to travel. She has visited eighty-nine countries and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her Web site is

Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Part 6: Hyphens in Compound Adjectives

Compound Adjectives before Nouns

If punctuation is a guide to help your reader understand more quickly and easily, then hyphens can be very useful signposts.  One of the most important and overlooked functions of the hyphen is to warn the reader, "Hey, I'm a compound adjective!"  Unfamiliar with the terminology?  It doesn't matter.  Your readers' brains are familiar with the reality.

Take this classic example: 

Hyphens, just like commas, can decide who lives and who dies.

Hyphens in Compound Adjectives

A compound adjective is two words that function as one word to modify a noun.  In "man-eating alligator," man and eating work together as one unit.  It's not a man alligator and an eating alligator.  It's a man-eating alligator.

Rule:  If a compound adjective comes before a noun, you can (and often should) hyphenate it. 

A thin-bladed knife
A 30-mile race
A nervous-looking boy
A leather-bound book
Bird-like legs
A well-known politician

Exception : If the compound adjective uses an adverb ending in –ly, don't hyphenate. This is because the –ly already alerts the reader that this will be a compound adjective.

A badly cooked steak
A wildly painted car
A quickly written memo

Note:  Some people prefer to leave out the hyphen if the meaning is clear without, but that can be dangerous.  The meaning is obvious to you, since you wrote it.  The reader doesn't have the same advantage.  So be careful if you decide to omit these hyphens.  And always be on the lookout for situations where the lack of hyphen can completely change the meaning, as in the examples below.

Hyphens Clear up Ambiguity

From Grammar Monkeys:

Small-state senator (a senator from a small state)
Small state senator (a state senator who is short and thin)

A violent weather conference (a weather conference where people punch each other a lot)
A violent-weather conference (where meteorologists professionally discuss violent weather)

A hot yoga teacher (an attractive yoga teacher)
A hot-yoga teacher (one who teaches yoga in a purposely hot environment, as in the style of Bikram yoga)

From (a great resource)

I have a few more important things to do. (A few more tasks remain on my list of important things to do)
I have a few more-important things to do. (I can't do what you suggest because I have tasks that are more important.)

He returned the stolen vehicle report. (At first, most of us will think he returned the vehicle he stole.  Then we come to "report" and we're confused.)
He returned the stolen-vehicle report. (Here it's clear that what he's returning is a report about a stolen vehicle.  The vehicle is probably still missing.)


Students who live in two parent homes (students who split their time between two homes where parents also live)
Students who live in two-parent homes (students who live in a home with both parents)

From Wikipedia:

Zero-liability protection (you are not responsible in any way if something bad happens)
Zero liability protection (you have no zero protection if something bad happens)

Examples I've come across lately in reading:

Hard sell tactics (selling tactics which are difficult to perform)
Hard-sell tactics (aggressive selling tactics which perhaps play on the fears of the potential buyer)

A long deserted chamber (a long—perhaps narrow—chamber that happens to be deserted at the moment)
A long-deserted chamber (a chamber that has been deserted for a long time)

Hyphens Make Reading Smoother

Here are some other examples that aren't so ambiguous but that will still often trip up the reader for a moment if you leave out the hyphen.  Making your reader stop to think and re-read is something you should reserve for clever plot twists, elegant and thought-provoking lines, or intriguing ideas.  Don't make them stop and re-read because of lacking punctuation. 

Steel-plated boots
Custom-made device
Death-dealing steel
Decent-sized vessel
Grey-haired man
Sword-shaped hole
North-facing terrace
Cream-colored stones
Dirt-eating scum
Fire-lit faces

Remember that if you want to wrap your reader in your characters' world, you need to provide as few pointless distractions as possible.  And unclear punctuation is one of the biggest culprits in the world of pointless distraction.

For more in this series:
Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Pt 1:  Commas Save Lives; the Vocative Comma
Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Pt 2:  Commas and Periods in Dialogue
Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Pt 3:  Commas with Participial Phrases
Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Pt 4:  The Mysterious Case of the Missing Question Mark
Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Pt 5:  Adjectives with Commas

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 NomadInternational LivingElectric SpecIntergalactic Medicine Show, and others.  For an e-book collection of some of her favorite published pieces, check out Leaving Home.  For something a little more medieval, read her YA fantasy novel, Far-KnowingVisit her online at

Marketing Preps You Should Do While You Write Your Book

Guest post by Karina Fabian

It’s a fact of an author’s life that they will have to promote their book – book tours, extra materials for blogs and social media, and angles they or their publicists can exploit. Often, however, writers treat the writing and the marketing as two separate phases. I’ve done this myself, and the result is time lost going back over the book mining for pull quotes, reviewing endless emails and notes for the tidbits that make good interviews, or struggling to remember who helped with what scene.

I’ve learned the hard way, but after 11 books, I’ve found there are some things you can do while writing and editing the book to make the marketing of the book easier once published:

1.    Have one copy with all your commentary: Who gave you the idea? What links did you go to for research? Was there a scene you cut you can use as an extra? How did you come up with this scene?  This will help you immensely when doing your acknowledgements page and for interviews, etc. Use the Comments function of your word processor or stuff it into the appendix.

2.    When you’re in the final editing stage, copy and paste one-liners that might make good Tweets or Facebook posts.  Tweets need to be about 100 characters so you have room for the link of the book later. Put these in a file. I aim for 30 so I can post one a day for a month.

3.    Pick out three short scenes and three long scenes that will make good excerpts.  Pick a couple that will make good read-alouds.

4.    If you do an online book tour, people will want you to guest post, often about something to do with the writing of the book. When you have 15 blog posts to write in a couple of weeks, it can get hard to come up with ideas. Therefore, if something about what you’re writing at that moment strikes you, make a note, write a short paragraph, or do an outline and save it in a promotions file. Some examples: special research, a sudden insight that fed a scene – or insight about a scene that impacted you personally - something new you learned or tried while writing. Keep these in your annotated file or put them in a separate document.

5.    Jot down the answers to these questions because they will be asked during tours. Yes, do it now, because it may be a year or more before the book is published, and you will hopefully have written more books as well. Things get blurry and jumbled in the memory.

* What was the best part of writing this?
* What was the worst?
* Did you have any issues you had to research or rewrite?
* Did you learn anything new?
* Did anything/any character surprise you?
* Any funny stories associated with writing this book?
* Any lessons learned?

Marketing is never an easy thing, but it can be fun. We had a good time prepping for the I Left My Brains in San Francisco audiobook tour. It was easier because I already had a lot of materials prepared. I hope these tips can make your marketing experiences more enjoyable as well.

Be sure to check out Karina's Zombie series:

Zombie problem? Call Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator--but not this weekend.

On vacation at an exterminator’s convention, she's looking to relax, have fun, and enjoy a little romance. Too bad the zombies have a different idea. When they rise from their watery graves to take over the City by the Bay, it looks like it'll be a working vacation after all.

Enjoy the thrill of re-kill with Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator.


"Hi! Welcome to Zomblog!  It's ‘Time to Re-kill!’  This is Kelsey Gardenberger, and we are reporting to you live from Fisherman's Wharf, where zombie exterminators Rii and Hi Lee of Bay
Exterminations have been called in to take out a zombie."

Police held back spectators who had cell phones to film the event.  On the ground lay a man in a black-and-white striped shirt, black pants with suspenders and gold makeup on his rotting skin.  He pounded on the air with imaginary fists, and then felt along imaginary walls with his hands.  Where he should have had fingers, only mangled skin and bare bones showed. Rii and Hi, both in protective gear, watched the prone figure and spoke among themselves.  The zombie continued his act unconcerned, except to pause now and again and make drinking motions before pointing to the top hat waiting beside him.

"It looks like Rii Lee and Hi Lee have decided on their strategy.  Despite the fact that the zombie appears so docile, it could turn violent at the slightest provocation--and if you don't believe me, check out 'Don't wave that thing at me!' on the Zomblog archives.  They're starting!"

While Rii stood by with a power blaster of anti-zombie foam, Hi ambled up to the prone zombie, sword relaxed but ready in his left hand.  He watched the undead mime its struggle against the imaginary coffin, nodded appreciatively, and tossed a twenty into the hat.  The Wasted Mime started clawing with fervor, dug himself up, and brushed himself off.

Some of the crowd in the front stepped back.

It picked up the hat, checked the money.

The crowd took in a breath.

It faced Hi.

Hi bowed.

The crowd gasped.  Cameras flashed.

The zombie bowed back, deeply and theatrically.

Hi lashed out with his sword, its blade cutting deeply and theatrically into the zombie's neck.

The re-killed corpse folded over.

The crowd broke into wild cheers.

Kelsey smiled big for the camera.  "And there you have it!  Looks like a mime isn't such a terrible thing to waste after all.


Winner of the Global eBook Award for Best Horror (Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator), Karina Fabian’s writing takes quirky tales that keep her--and her fans--amused. Zombie exterminators to snarky dragons, things get a little silly in her brain. When she’s not pretending to be an insane psychic or a politically correct corpsicle for a story, she writes product reviews for and takes care of her husband, four kids and two dogs. Mrs. Fabian teaches writing and book marketing seminars online.

Find Karina at:



Find I Left My Brains in San Francisco at:

Damnation Books:

Amazon: (paper) (Kindle)

More about it at 

Video Link


CHECK OUT THE AUDIO OF "I Left My Brains in San Francisco!" You can find it here:

Want to write and publish your own book? Check out:

Shaun the Sheep and Marketing with Animation

By Karen Cioffi

I’ve watched silent movies before. And, a couple of the ‘oldie’ cartoons (e.g., Tom and Jerry) that had no talking. But, I would never have thought a full length movie for kids would work in today’s dwindling attention span society.

Well, I was wrong.

Shaun the Sheep has NO talking. No captions either.

The entire 1 hour and 25 minute cartoon movie conveyed the-grass-is-greener concept, conflict, obstacles, heroism, loyalty, and emotions. And, it did it all through actions, through animation.

I took my grandsons to the movie and the theater had lots of other grandparents with their grandchildren. Every child was captivated, the adults too. In fact, you forgot there were no words – no dialogue.

My 9 year old grandson who has ADD paid attention through the entire movie – and, he didn’t want to go in the first place, thinking it was a baby movie.

I was amazed, not only that it held his attention, but it help my attention. Me, who is always thinking of what I have to do next.

Quite an accomplishment.

This is the power of animation.

And, just imagine if an hour and a half animated movie can hold children’s attention, think how it will hold your readers’ and visitors’ attention on your website in short focused clips.

But, aside from my own viewpoints of Shaun the Sheep, there is research that backs up animation’s benefit in content marketing and inbound marketing.

Some Statistics

According to

  • People are 64% - 85% more likely to purchase your product or service after watching an animation/video – that’s a significant boost to your conversions.
  • Visit lengths are another factor that gets a boost. Visitors will stay on your site at least two minutes longer with animation/video.
  • And, there’s the power of YouTube. You're 53x more likely to get on Google's first-page for search results by embedding video on your site. (1)

Along with this, Shooting Business states that, “Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL are among the hundreds of Search Engines that give priority listings to websites that host video content.” (2) Taking advantage of tags, descriptions, and any other kind of SEO strategies allowed when publishing the video is another avenue of search visibility.

If this isn’t enough incentive to jump on the animation bandwagon, think about the social media marketing aspect. Sharing and clickthrough rates are increased significantly with video.

Animated videos can be humorous, serious, emotional, and educational.

Using animation in your marketing, specifically your content marketing, is a win-win strategy that you should be taking advantage of.

For the icing on the cake, according to Hubspot:

  • Ninety percent of the information the brain receives is visual.
  • The brain processes visual information 60,000 faster than text.
  • Videos in posts get 3X the inbound links than posts with only text.
  • Animation (visual content) increases engagement. (3)

If you’d like to try your hand at a free animation tool, go to and click on the FREE option. (I’m NOT an affiliate, I just think it’s a great marketing tool.)

If you’d like to get one done without the headache of creating it yourself, check out AWD’s Animation Service.




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This article was originally published at: #ContentMarketing

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