Self-Editing: Will it Ever Get Done?

Meet Abi Wunder. She is the star of the
Abi Wunder mystery trilogy. Book 1, Secret in the Stars,
is available on Amazon. Book 2, Secret in the Mist,
will be available soon. The outline for Book 3,
 Secrets of the Heart, is done.
Writing will begin soon.

By Linda Wilson     @LinWilsonauthor

Since publication of my last two articles about self-editing on  the Writers On the Move blog—please refer to the links at the end of this article—I continue to read and re-read my current work in progress, Secret in the Mist: An Abi Wunder Mystery. As has been said, you want to be absolutely sure that your manuscript is ready before you send it to your beta readers and professional editors, then on to publication. After all the editing work I’ve done on this book, it’s still not ready. How do I know? My re-thinking is still going on. 

During one of the passes I made through the manuscript, I found a surprising edit I hadn’t yet caught. In some cases, I wrote in generalities rather than being more specific. I’d been aware of this “rule” for as long as I’ve been writing; have heard it stated by many editors and fellow writers. 

Advice from “The Discovering Ideas Handbook”, written by John Tagg, 2003, from Palomar College, San Marcos, California, states this rule clearly:

Use Concrete, Specific Language 

Whenever possible, use concrete, specific language. The best way to do this is to write about individuals wherever possible, and concrete things rather than abstract concepts. Write about teachers, students, and schools rather than education and learning. Or say what you want to get across about education or learning by showing us what teachers and students do in schools or what apprentices do in learning plumbing. Specifics are almost always clearer than generalizations--it's easier to tell exactly what you are saying. And the concrete is almost always easier to follow that the abstract. It may not be easier to write specifically and concretely, but it produces writing that is easier to read.  

Use Examples

The easiest, and usually the best, way to keep your writing specific and concrete, as illustrated in the previous paragraph, is to use specific examples whenever possible. An example, of course, is simply a case or instance of something. A specific example is a particular instance. So to give a specific example of technology would be to write about particular people using a particular machine. To give a specific example of any human activity would require that you write about individual people. To give a specific example of teaching history, as in the example above, would be to describe what a particular teacher or students do. An easy rule of thumb to test the specificity of your writing is to ask whether you write about individual people in each paragraph. If you don't, you are generalizing too much. Give examples of every point you make, in most if not all of your paragraphs, and make your examples clear and forceful by making them specific. Write about people and what people actually do, not just about ideas or concepts.

Specific Language in Fiction

So, imagine my surprise when I found these glitches in my book and strove to improve them:

Original sentence: 

The marsh went back to normal, and the marsh sounds—insect buzzes and clicks and frog croaks—started up again.

Edited version:

“The marsh has a life of its own. Can you tell?” Jess said.

Cattails and tall grasses shot out of the water. Leafy green plants grew wild around the edge. Dragonflies skimmed the surface. Cicadas and crickets buzzed and clicked, and every now and then a bull frog croaked.


Jess tried the door. Locked. “Let’s look around. Maybe she [the ghost] went outside."

They shined their lights around the front of the building, but found nothing.

They headed out back, past the barn. The moon shone bright over the open field, but there was no ghost in sight.


Jess moved to the door and jiggled the doorknob. “Of course. The door is locked.” 

“Hurry. Let's look around back.” Abi got to her feet. “She couldn’t have gone far.” 

They raced along the path, overgrown with weeds and grass, shining their lights at the bushes and trees, past the barn. Knee-high weeds scraped against Abi’s legs, leaving scratches that stung, but she kept going. The path gave way to an open field about the size of a football field, surrounded by a split-rail fence that had seen better days. 

Quickly, Abi scanned the field, lit by the moon, full and high in the sky by now, forgetting all about her stinging legs. But the field was empty. There was no ghost. 

What Will You Find in Your Search?

These are a few examples of how I’ve added texture, immediacy, and a picture for my readers’ minds, in place of generalities.

A search for specifics in place of generalities I think deserves a pass through your manuscript. As you can see, I’m happy I discovered these what I consider lackluster passages and worked to improve them before it was too late.

For more self-editing tips, please visit:


One day soon, Secret in the Mist,
An Abi Wunder Mystery

will be published!
Linda Wilson is the author of the Abi Wunder Mystery series and other books for children. Her two new releases are Waddles the Duck: Hey, Wait for Me! (2022) and Cradle in the Wild: A Book for Nature Lovers Everywhere (2023). You’ll find Linda on her Amazon author page, on her website at, and on Facebook.

10 Common Challenges Many New Novelists Face

by Suzanne Lieurance

New novelists often encounter a range of challenges as they begin writing their book. 

Here are 10 of the most common problems you may face if you’re a new novelist, PLUS what to do about each one:

Challenge #1. Writer's Block. 


This is perhaps one of the most notorious obstacles. 


It's when a writer finds themselves unable to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown.


Try these strategies if you experience writer’s block:


°        Take breaks and engage in activities that inspire creativity, such as reading, going for walks or listening to music.


°        Try freewriting or brainstorming to generate new ideas without judgment.


 °       Set realistic writing goals and deadlines to maintain momentum.


Challenge #2. Lack of Direction.


Many new novelists struggle with not having a clear outline or plan for their story, leading to confusion and a lack of coherence in the plot.


If you lack direction in your novel, try these actions:


°        Create a detailed outline or story structure before diving into writing.


°        Develop character profiles and plot summaries to guide your writing process.


 °       Consider using writing prompts or exercises to explore different narrative   



Challenge #3. Character Development.


Creating compelling and believable characters can be difficult. 


Writers may find it challenging to flesh out characters with depth, motivations, and unique personalities.


To develop your characters, try these strategies:


°        Conduct character interviews to delve into their backgrounds, motivations, and goals.


°        Allow characters to evolve naturally as you write, paying attention to how they respond to events and challenges.


°        Give characters distinct voices, mannerisms, and flaws to make them memorable and relatable.


Challenge #4. Plot Holes and Inconsistencies.


Keeping track of plot details, timelines, and ensuring consistency throughout the narrative can be challenging for new writers.


Try these methods for avoiding plot holes and inconsistencies:


°        Keep a story bible or timeline to track important plot details, character arcs, and world-building elements.


°        Conduct regular revisions and edits to address inconsistencies and tighten the narrative.


°        Seek feedback from beta readers or critique partners to identify areas where the plot may be unclear or inconsistent.


Challenge #5. Overwriting or Underwriting. 


Finding the right balance between providing enough detail to engage readers without overwhelming them or leaving the story underdeveloped can be tricky.


To avoid overwriting or underwriting:


°        Practice self-editing techniques to identify areas where you can trim unnecessary details or expand on important scenes.


°        Strive for balance by focusing on essential descriptions and dialogue that move the story forward.


°        Experiment with different writing styles and techniques to find your unique voice and rhythm.


Challenge #6. Fear of Criticism or Failure. 


New writers may struggle with self-doubt and fear of judgment from others, which can hinder their creativity and confidence in their work.


When you fear criticism or failure:


°        Remind yourself that all writers face rejection and criticism, and it's a natural part of the creative process.


°        Surround yourself with supportive peers or mentors who can provide constructive feedback and encouragement.


°        Focus on improving your craft and telling the story you want to tell, rather than worrying about others' opinions.


Challenge #7. Procrastination. 


It's easy to put off writing tasks, especially when faced with challenges or uncertainties. 


Overcoming procrastination is a common hurdle for many writers.


When you notice you are starting to procrastinate:


°        Break down writing tasks into smaller, manageable steps to make them less daunting.


°        Establish a consistent writing routine and set aside dedicated time for your creative work.


°        Use productivity tools or techniques, such as the Pomodoro Technique, to stay focused and motivated.


Challenge #8. Revision and Editing Difficulties. 


Knowing how to revise and edit effectively is a skill that takes time to develop. 


New writers may struggle with self-editing or knowing when to seek external feedback.


Try these revising and editing strategies:


°        Take a break between writing and revising to gain fresh perspective on your work.


°        Utilize self-editing checklists or techniques, such as reading your work aloud or changing the font, to catch errors and improve clarity.


°        Consider hiring a professional editor for a comprehensive critique and feedback.


Challenge #9. Finding Time to Write.


Balancing writing with other responsibilities and commitments can be tough. 


Many new writers struggle to carve out dedicated time for their craft with their busy schedules.


These tips should help when you’re having trouble finding time to write:


°        Prioritize writing by scheduling it into your daily or weekly routine.


°        Identify and eliminate time-wasting activities or distractions that prevent you from writing.


°        Set specific goals and deadlines to hold yourself accountable and track your progress.


Challenge #10. Finishing the Manuscript. 


Starting a novel is one thing, but completing it is another challenge altogether. 


Many new writers struggle to see their projects through to the end.


Try these tips to make sure you complete your novel:


°        Break the writing process into smaller milestones and celebrate each accomplishment.


°        Stay motivated by focusing on the sense of achievement and satisfaction you'll feel upon completing your manuscript.


°        Consider participating in writing challenges or accountability groups to stay on track and connect with other writers who share similar goals.


Navigating these challenges often requires perseverance, patience, and a willingness to learn from mistakes. 


Joining writing groups, seeking feedback from peers or mentors, and studying the craft of writing can all help you overcome these obstacles and grow as a novelist.

And, for more writing tips and helpful resources, be sure to get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge and join our Law of Attraction for Writers Facebook group

Suzanne Lieurance is an award-winning author, with over 40 published books, and a Law of Attraction coach for writers at

Why First Impressions Matter

By Terry Whalin 

As an editor, it is no exaggeration to say I’ve reviewed thousands of submissions during my years in publishing. As a writer, you have one opportunity to make a good first impression. While it may sound simplistic to say it, your impression is made in a matter of seconds. A key piece of advice is to lead with your strongest material and work hard on the subject line of your email, the first sentence and paragraph of your submission and all of the overall details.

Several years ago, I interviewed another acquisitions editor and asked him how he knows if he’s found a good submission. He said, “Terry, I read the title and if it is a good title, I read the first sentence. If it is a good sentence, I read the first paragraph. If it is a good paragraph, I read the first page. If it is a good page, I read the next page…” I hope this helps you see why you have seconds in this important process. The typical editor or agent reviews many pitches and can easily tell a good one. Don’t bury your good information on page five or six because they may not reach it.

How To Make A Good Impression

While these guidelines may be common sense, you’d be surprised how often writers make poor impressions when they neglect the basics. Make sure your pitch is well-crafted and appropriate to that person or editor. Use the right name. Personalize the pitch and don’t write “Dear Sir” or “Editor/Agent” which looks like it went to thousands of people at the same time—whether it did or not.

Check and double check to make sure all of the details are there. For example, at Morgan James Publishing, we acknowledge every submission with a letter in the mail. We receive over 5,000 submissions a year and only publish about 200 books so that is a lot of physical correspondence. If your address is not on your pitch, then I have to ask for it in order to get your submission into our internal system. If you include your address from the beginning, then you eliminate one extra time-consuming email I have to send to you.

Take a few minutes and make one final check of their publishing guidelines before you send your submission. Re-read the pitch and make any final adjustments.

Insights for Writers

Producing an excellent book proposal or query letter is an acquired skill—something you have to learn. Yet every writer knows these tools are a critical part of the publishing industry. I understand excellent book proposals require a great deal of energy. I’ve written two proposals which received six-figure advances from traditional publishers. My Book Proposals That Sell has over 150 Five Star reviews. I have a free book proposal checklist to give you some ideas. (Follow the link). Also, I have a free teleseminar at: Finally, I created an online course with detailed information at:

Remember Your Audience: Editors and Agents

While the process takes some work and planning, I’ve been inside some of the top literary agencies and publishers’ offices in New York City. Each of these professionals is actively looking for the next bestseller—even if they don’t respond or send you a form rejection. Every writer (whether brand new or much published) has to pitch to get a book deal. Learn the process and pitch with excellence which is spotted in seconds.


How do you seize your one opportunity? This prolific writer and editor provides the details here.  (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in California. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. Get Terry’s recent book, 10 Publishing Myths for only $10, free shipping and bonuses worth over $200. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. Check out his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: Connect with Terry on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

Audio Books – Make Your Own or Hire It Out


  Contributed by Margot Conor

The fast-growing industry of books on audio has become a compelling reason to go that extra distance as an author and take advantage of this burgeoning market. In 2022 1.82 billion was generated through audio book sales in the United States. This was almost a 4% increase from the previous year. Over five years, sales increased by 50%. In 2023 there were around sixty-five million sales in the United States alone.

It is encouraging to see that people who may not have time to sit down and read a book are still interested in the stories we write and happy to engage on a different platform.

So, if you have published a book and want to make an audio version, how do you get started?

First, you need to decide if you want to make it yourself or not. Let's explore the options…

Audiobook Production Company:

All technical aspects and quality control remains in the hands of industry professionals.  Check out platforms like Fiver and Upwork to find an audiobook producer. There you will find audio engineers, editors, and producers who can record, mix, and master your audiobook.

For a production company to do this for you, plan on spending $2,500 and $3,750 for a five-hour book. That breaks down to about $500 to $750 per finished hour of audiobook content.

If you are asking yourself now if you can recoup those costs? The answer is most likely you can do so with an audiobook better than with any other format.

How To Course: By Derek Doepker $497

I happened to watch a presentation by Derek Doepker during the Get Published Summit and it WOW’d me. In his Audiobooks Made Easy course, he gives detailed advice which convinced me he knew how to save us all a lot of money. His course is designed for people who are total technophobes.

For less than it would cost to hire a narrator, you can learn how to make all your own audiobooks. Derek will remove any worries or concerns you might have with this simple step-by-step guide, so you proceed with confidence.

If you’d like to learn more, his sales page is (this is not an affiliate link)


Making the product and narrating the story are two different things. Choosing to save money by setting up a space and getting equipment is only part of the process. You may choose to read it in your voice, or you might want to get someone to read it for you.

The person who reads should be enthusiastic and express the proper mood for your story. They should be able to read out loud in an engaging voice, switch between tones, use different accents, and represent unique character voices. They need to pause in the right places to give breadth to the story or to add dramatic effect.

Some authors hire several voices to represent different characters. But, if you can do all of that yourself, then you will save a lot of money.

A pro will cost you around $200 an hour. Some narrators are willing to split royalties with you in payment.


This is an auditory experience. Do not include descriptions of visual illustrations. Remove any call-to-action sentences like Click Here in your front or back matter.

Recording and Editing Software: Audio recording software is a user interface that records sounds, manipulates what you record, and mixes the audio input. It will also generate audio files. It acts as a digital workstation.

Cost considerations: Equipment, hiring a narrator (if you choose to), and promotion.

Time: Recording an hour of your story will take up to three hours to record. Especially when you’re first getting comfortable with the process. Plan to record in stages, so you can start fresh and fully attentive during each session.

If you hire a professional, they will most often record it on their own, and send it to you.

Computer: You will need a computer that has enough RAM. At least 16 GB. The operating system needs to support your recording software and the plugins for editing and mastering your audio recordings.

Make sure it runs silent, no fan noise!

Microphone: You will need either a USB or XLR type.

USB is your plug-in and play option. It is better than a built-in Mic on your computer, but the sound quality is not as good as the XLR.

XLR mics are the professional recording standard. You will get a clearer sound and you can also use them for a podcast if you choose to do that at some point.

Headphones: You will need to use headphones when you edit and master your audiobook, it will cost you at least $100 for a good set. Get studio quality closed-back headphones.


This is a free, open-source program.

(Please copy and paste the rest of the links in this article.)

This is subscription based.

This is licensed based and suitable for most Authors’ needs.

A basic version costs $99.95, the pro version is $399.95.

Twisted Wave:  
Licensed based.


The normal price is $97, but they often run sales as low as $37.

You buy the software at a one-time cost that you can use for all your projects. It will transform any text into a human-sounding voiceover.

These voices have gotten very sophisticated, but they still don’t always get the inflections right. They have multiple English-speaking voices both male and female and also many other languages.

One time cost of $135, sometimes reduced to $67.

It’s downloadable software and advertises to be the first AI generation voiceover to add emotion and it gives you eleven different options for the mood that you want the voices to display.

They also can clone your voice, so you can use it to narrate your books. That is pretty impressive.

To be honest I was shocked at the quality of this option when I listened to the sample voices on their website. With a 15-second sample of your voice, they can produce a clone in one minute and it is considered your intellectual property.


Cover Art:
The cover art for audiobooks needs to meet specific formatting requirements. These include a JPG file no larger than 5 MB, with a pixel resolution of 2400 x 2400.

It is very important to have your book covers professionally done. If you are on a tight budget, try using a company like 100 Covers. Or look on Fiver for a designer.

There is a misconception that is popular among authors that as soon as you write something you own undisputable rights to your intellectual property. That was once the case, but no longer. We live in a litigious country, and recent court cases made that claim invalid.

It doesn’t take that long, and it isn’t too costly to protect yourself by filing for a legal copyright.

Choosing the company that works best for you is a matter of deciding which platform will serve your interests best. See some of the options listed below.
You can also choose to sell your audiobook on your website and bypass a distribution company.

If you choose a large audiobook distributor, they will automatically monetize your work. In most cases, they will take their cut for that service and pay you a percentage of the royalties.
Some suggestions include: Offer memberships, sell adverts, or solicit sponsorships, sell merchandise, make a paid online course, use third-party platforms in addition to your website, and offer affiliate links. All of these options work best if you have a fan base established.

The same is true about self-promotion. It is a big topic with a lot of options. If you plan to self-publish your books, you need to spend at least 50% of your time marketing them. There are some great marketing summits available for authors. Take the time to educate yourself on the options, it will make a big difference in your success.


Always read the Terms of Service

Findaway Voices by Spotify is one of the world's largest audiobook distributors. Open an account, upload your audiobook, and distribute it, all for free. You keep 100% of your royalties on Spotify and 80% everywhere else.

Authors Republic:
This is a global network for new and well-known authors that is not owned by a retailer, so you are not limited to select channels.

This independence, and their established global distribution network gives you the ability to earn more than would be possible under an exclusive agreement. There are no administration fees or sneaky percentage cuts.

You earn 70% of royalties earned by your audiobook across over 50 channels, including major distributors—such as Amazon, Audible, Apple,, Spotify, and Google—plus library channels, streaming services, and niche startups.

This is a site to start your own channel. They have a Drag and Drop editor, (coding knowledge is unnecessary). You can publish all content types, audiobooks, videos, blogs, and podcasts. You can also customize your brand domain by adding your logo, changing the colors and fonts.

You can create courses too. It has free and per month packages.

This is one of Apple Books' preferred providers. If you publish your ebooks with them, you can easily convert them into audiobooks using Apple Digital Narration.

They have the widest worldwide distribution network. One-Click distribution to all stores. Built-in analytics and sales reports. Royalty management. Marketing and promotional tools. Bulk import.

This Amazon owned audiobooks platform distributes audiobooks to North America, Europe, Asia & Pacific Countries.

The subscription model and à la carte purchases on Audible offer revenue streams that can complement traditional book sales.

ACX, is the acronym for Amazon’s Audiobooks Creation Exchange. This is the hub for the creation of audio books that will appear on Audible, the Amazon owned audiobooks platform. Audiobooks uploaded to ACX will be sold on Audible, Amazon and Apple iTunes.


If you’re thinking about turning your book into an audiobook, the information in this article should help on your journey.


Margot Conor has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn't until the COVID lock-down that she had enough time to dedicate to the craft and bring something to completion. Having finished her first novel, she went through the grueling two-year process of editing. Now she has jumped into the author's world with both feet. She's preparing to debut her first novel, which means learning how to promote it. The last year has been spent attending many writing retreats, seminars, and writers' events. She also listened to presentations specifically on the topic of publishing and book marketing. She will be sharing what she learns with the reader.
Learn more about Margot at

Writing & Publishing Goals

Do you have writing and publishing goals? If you landed on this blog, I am guessing the answer is "Yes."

On today's GoalChat, I spoke with authors/educators Amy Friedman, Marita Golden, and Susan Shapiro about the topic. Amy Friedman is author of Desperado's Wife and publisher at Out of the Woods Press, Marita's fiction and non-fiction titles include The Strong Black Woman and A Woman's Place, and Susan's books include The Book Bible and The Byline Bible.

If You Want to Get Published

  • Susan: Research potential publications first. Read what they publish, before you pitch
  • Amy: Decide what you want, writing-wise, and then figure out what that means
  • Marita: You need to know how hard it is and how good you have to be

Watch Our Conversation:

Writing Goals

  • Susan: Write three pages about your most humiliating secret ... that you can put your name on 
  • Amy: Write three pages in a style or genre you haven't tried 
  • Marita: Write three pages from a point of view of doing something out of character
  • Marita's Bonus Goal: Write a letter to yourself, congratulating yourself for being a badass
Whether you write long form or articles - whether your specialty is fiction, non-fiction, or memoir - being a writer starts with a decision to write. It continues with education, research, revision ... and putting yourself out there. 

Go for it! We know you can do it! 

* * * 

For more inspiration and motivation, follow @TheDEBMethod on Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin! 

* * *

What is your best writing tip? Please share in the comments. 

* * *
Debra Eckerling is the award-winning author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals and founder of the D*E*B METHOD, which is her system for goal-setting simplified. A goal-strategist, corporate consultant, and project catalyst, Debra offers personal and professional planning, event strategy, and team building for individuals, businesses, and teams. She is also the author of Write On Blogging and Purple Pencil Adventures; founder of Write On Online; host of  #GoalChatLive aka The DEB Show podcast and Taste Buds with Deb. She speaks on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Choose Hyphens for Those Terrible, Awful, Tech Words


So What About Choosing Hyphens for Those Terrible, Awful, Tech Words? 

My Editing Story About When to Choose a Hyphen

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Author of The Frugal Editor, Third Edition

You know that rule we authors are told to follow assiduously? The one that is supposed to make things easy for formatting or editing a document or book when dictionaries can’t decide which spelling is preferred and the trusted The Chicago Manual of Style doesn’t seem to take a strong stand either? The one that goes something like, “Be sure the choice you make stays the same throughout the book?”

Before I even start, you my reader, should probably know I usually welcome that kind of advice. As the author of multi award-winning The Frugal Editor (now in its 3rd edition!), I like giving advice that costs authors as little out-of-pocket expense and is also frugal with time. After all, it is said, “Time is money.” Thus the general impetus of that book is how-do-the-editing-yourself when you absolutely can’t afford an editor for your work-in-progress or—more often—when it is highly unlikely an author would consider an editor for all the promotional material they must write like media releases, query letters, website copy, etc. Mind you, I don’t suggest they shouldn’t get another pair of eyes on those documents. I’m just saying we all know we probably won’t.

So, this is the story of how my publisher and I (whom I dearly love), didn’t…er, agree. You see he is not only a publisher, he’s a tech guy. And when these doubtful choices come up, he usually just finds out which choice is most often used in recent times. It frugal of time, right? It required just one search. One go-to rule works all the time—make that most of the time. And it seemed like a good enough approach to me when we came up against what to do with ebook/Ebook/eBook/e-book/E-book/e-books. It wasn’t as easy as the Shakespearian idea that might be rephrased as “Ahhhh, to hyphenate, or not to hyphenate!” And the web’s “eBook” preference didn’t cut it. Here’s why:

The felt fine to me. It is short. It clarifies. It looks good. If the tech world likes it, I can learn to like it. So, I’m using my find function to edit all the places I had typed “e-books” so I replace it with our new agreed-upon choice, “eBook.” That’s when I run across a subtitle in my manuscript where the first letter in nouns must be capitalized. Horrors! “EBook?” Really? Two caps? It even looks like a typo to me. I considered changing the title so I didn’t have to use the word, but that didn’t work out too well, either. Nor did breaking the guidelines for caps in titles. 

That was when I started looking for some reasons why just a simple “e-book” would be the best choice simply because it is easy enough to capitalize. And doesn’t it make sense to keep it within the same family as general choices for words like “e-mail” and “e-publishing” already seem to be decided to say nothing of how well English has already adapted pretty well to its capitalization rules. 

And just so you know, Word’s autocorrect gives words like “epublishing” and “ebook” a very angry red squiggle!

And then I received a newsletter from the renowned Jim Cox, chief editor at Midwest Book Review who appeared to be following the same “rule” as my publisher. So, I wrote a note to him and he—also being tolerant of time, money and ease in general—wrote back with: 


“Dear Carolyn:


“I've been giving the matter further thought and the only conclusion I could come to is that digital publishing is still so new that a consensus as to how our digital books should be referred to (E-Book, Ebook, eBook, ebook, etc.) simply has not been achieved so that any and all of these forms can be used without embarrassment.


“Just my two cents worth—"

That seems reasonable to me, so naturally as long as I am the one that bears the title of “editor,” and no one with greater or lesser titles than that in the arena of linguistics or grammar has come up with a better way to honor the much-respected rules for capital letters, I stuck with e-book, ebooks, E-book, and E-books. And I decided to always let my publisher a-la-digital genius have the last word on anything else that has to do with tech! Ahem.

So, where do you stand? Leave a comment. Weigh in. Read my book and see how well it works. Nobody has written any hate-mail to me yet telling me I am wrong. Ha!

About Today’s Writers on the Move Contributor

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including USA Book News’ winner for The Frugal Book Promoter. An instructor for UCLA Extension's renowned Writers Program for nearly a decade, she believes in entering (and winning!) contests and anthologies as an excellent way to separate our writing from the hundreds of thousands of books that get published each year. Two of her favorite awards are Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment given by members of the California Legislature and “Women Who Make Life Happen,” given by the Pasadena Weekly newspaper. She is also an award-winning poet and novelist, and she loves passing along the tricks of the trade she learned from marketing those so-called hard-to-promote genres. Learn more on her website at Let Amazon notify you when she publishes new books (or new editions!) by following her Amazon profile page at Her The Frugal Editor is now in its third edition from Modern History Press and sorrowfully ending its official release year. Let it help you edit your 2024 work-in-process and let this be the best year ever for your writing career.


Making Scenes Work


Contributed by Karen Cioffi, Children's Freelance Writer

One of the best descriptions I’ve read on what a scene is comes from James Scott Bell’s blog, Kill Zone. In an article on strengthening scenes, Bell explains that “scenes are the bricks that build the fiction house. The better the bricks, the better the house.” (1)

This gives a visual of how scenes work. Building one on top of the other to create a strong story.

Masterclass describes a scene as “a section of a story that has its own unique combination of setting, character, dialogue, and sphere of activity.” (2)

This description gives more details, but I like Bell’s visual better.

The Masterclass article also explains that scenes are one of the “most valuable writing skills an author can possess.”

This makes scenes even clearer. They’re essential to a ‘good’ book. Going back to the brick house, the better (stronger) the brick, the stronger the house.

A scene has a beginning, middle, and end, just like the story.

When the location changes, another character enters the scene, or something else significant changes within the scene, that’s usually an indication that it’s the end of that scene and the beginning of the next.

An example of this is from my middle grade book, Walking Through Walls.

The protagonist, Wang is trying to walk through a wall but just can’t do it. He’s fearful of getting hurt. It takes him ten tries.

Finally, he passes through it. That’s the end of that scene.

The next scene has Wang ecstatic. He’s thrilled. He can’t contain himself.

So, how do you make scenes work?

1. The first thing a scene needs to do is achieve something.

Think of the brick. It’s solid. It’s its own entity.

Each scene has a story to tell.

The scene may be a chase scene, a fight scene, the inciting incident, a romantic scene, or a scene establishing the setting.

Using Walking Through Walls again, at the beginning of the story, Wang is seen sweating and complaining while working in the wheat fields. This scene establishes the type of work Wang is doing and also establishes his attitude toward it.

2. A scene should be the foundation for the next scene.

Scenes are like building blocks. They provide information the reader should know to move forward in the story.

Going back to Wang and his attitude toward hard work, it allows the reader to understand why he desperately wants a way out of his life.

The scene can also provide more information, such as backstory, or a look into the character’s family life, friendships, strengths, weaknesses, and so on.

It can be anything of value that helps move the story and characters forward.

3. Every scene should have a point of view.

As a children’s ghostwriter, most of the stories I write have one point of view.

But I also work on upper middle-grade where there can be two points of view and young adult where there can be multiple points of view.

When working with more than one point of view, each scene should be specific to only one; otherwise, it can get confusing and weaken the strength of that brick.

4. Each scene should contribute to the world you’re creating.

The period of Walking Through Walls is 16th century China. This meant a lot of research.

I incorporated tools of the time period, clothing, and even food within the scenes to build the world the characters lived in.

I also used dialogue to build the world. I eliminated contractions and flavored the dialogue and actions with respect, especially toward elders.

5. As your story should be shown and not told, so should your scenes.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a new writer of an experienced writer, it’s easy to fall into the ‘telling’ mode when writing.

Showing a scene means using dialogue, action, sensory details, and internal thoughts.

Using showing enables the reader to be absorbed in the story. It connects the reader to the character and brings the reader into the story.

Telling keeps the reader at arms-length. The reader won’t be able to make as strong a connection to the character or the story.  

Hope these five tips on writing a good scene help you strengthen your story’s scenes.





Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. If you need help with your story, visit Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

Karen also offers authors:

A guided self-study course and mentoring program.

A DIY book to help you write your own children’s book.

Self-publishing help for children’s authors.

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