Sunday, June 21, 2015

Creating Variety in Sentence Structure

Monotony is a writer's enemy. One great way to provide variety for your reader is through some techniques that can change up sentence structure. 

1. End with a punch. Sometimes we have a great sentence, but we begin with what could be a powerful ending. Switch it around and see if you add a surprise that your reader will appreciate.

2. Use an occasional short sentence for emphasis. Too many short sentences, just like too many long sentences can turn your readers off, but using a short sentence every once in a while can draw your reader's attention.

3. Use parallels. Often we work to make sure that our word choices vary, but sometimes using parallel ideas can create a more powerful sentence. 

Other ideas:
1. Invert sentences. Consistently following the norm: subject, verb, then object structure can become boring for readers. Inverting doesn't always sound natural, so be sure to read it out loud, but when it works it creates exactly what may keep your reader interested.

2. Vary sentences. Long and short, simple and compound. Mix it up for your reader.

3. Watch what you begin with. Often habits form and sentences begin to sound repetitive. Also look at the beginnings of paragraphs for the same monotony. 

Mixing things up and spending time reworking your sentences is all part of the editing process that can make your work stand out. 

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

You can also follower her at or on Facebook. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

26 Reasons a Writer Should Blog - Part 3

Is it possible that writing a blog can improve your health?

By the time you have read all 26 reasons why writers need to blog, you will know the answer to this question is another


According to the experts, blogging can help you 

  • emotionally, 
  • mentally, and 
  • physically.

Let's take a closer look at that statement as we move on to our next four letters in the series.

8.       H is for Healthy Habits

  • Regular journaling is good for your health. Many psychologists and other health professionals tell how journaling helps you process traumatic and stressful events. It is a means of dealing with emotions and thoughts without having to work through another person.
  • Blogging works the same way. After all, that’s what blogging is—a Web log. It requires a commitment of time, devotion, and discipline, all healthy habits to develop in this crazy lifestyle many of us seem to follow today. 
  • Blogging keep your mind working, and many believe when we write about emotional topics, it increases the effectiveness of our immune systems*. A well-working immune system will keep you physically healthier.
  • We can also write about health topics. These would make an excellent theme for a month of posts. Following a month’s dieting habits might encourage us to be more disciplined ourselves as well as encourage others to follow our examples.
* Pennebaker, J.W. (1997). Writing about emotional experiences as a therapeutic process.
 [Electronic version]. Psychological Science, 8 (3), pp. 162-166.

9.       I is for Inspiration
  • We need to be inspired so we can create a post that will benefit others. As we write, we need to give thought to those who will read our words. Will this encourage them? Will they be inspired to read more on the topic? Will what we write improve their day? 
  • There are many ways to find inspiration for your next blog post or series, however, one that really makes sense is to look at your blog comments. Remember to ask relevant questions at the end of each post and then see what your readers come up with. If you don’t get enough helpful comments, try going to another blog that is following a similar theme. Read their questions, and then use them as a kicking-off point for your next blog or series. (Don’t copy their answers though!) 
  • A blog post should not attempt to cover a subject. After all, how could I possibly have told everything there is to know about the Serengeti National Park in one post? People have written books on that topic alone. All I wanted to achieve for that post is an article to titillate the senses of my readers. Maybe they will want to read more. Maybe they’ll get a book out of the library or spend their morning on Google. Or maybe one person somewhere in the world will be inspired to add the Serengeti to their bucket list! If you want to cover a topic, then you definitely need to turn it into a series of posts.

10.     J is for Journal

  • Your blog could become a personal journal. Until recently, I thought this was the most common purpose for a blog. But doing the A-Z challenge I became impressed with the creativity people show in choosing themes they can follow for a month, one alphabet letter at a time. 
  • A Travelblog can cover a journey. One writer was traveling across the States with her husband. She wrote a daily blog on a new place she’d seen, following the letters of the alphabet. What if there wasn’t a suitable town for that letter? She would come up with a creative title. e.g. H is for Horse Statue in City Centre. (My own suggestion as we have one in Port Elizabeth where I live.) Even as I write this, my brother and sister-in-law are preparing for an overland trip to East Africa which will take them four months. They have built a blog for the family and their friends to follow their adventures.
  • Blog a life’s journal. This could be public, or you may choose to make it a Family and Friends Only blog, where people join by invitation only. This could be done chronologically, but if you’re anywhere near my age that could take an awfully long time to write! If I were to do this, I would probably go for an A to Z theme, and choose places or events or people to write about for each letter. 
    • Imagine the surprise I had one day when I learned my 30-year-old son believed he was born in the city where his brother had been born. He had gone through his life believing that was his birthplace. His true place of birth only came out by accident! 
    • Ask yourself, how much do your children know about your life? Do they know your place of birth? Were there unusual circumstances to your birth? In today’s global society more than ever before, families are fragmented, and a Life’s Blog could be a great way to bridge the gap between the generations. 

11.     K is for Kindle or other e-books

  • Blog a Book: Nina Amir has written a book and has a website devoted to this topic. Once a year during November, at the same time as NaNoWriMo, she encourages other writers to join her in a commitment to write a complete book on their blog. I did this one year, but I didn’t prepare adequately in advance. I plan to do this again, but next time I will spend some time before kick-off choosing 26 (perhaps) chapter headings on the proposed theme. 
    • Each day I will write one chapter of the book and post it on my blog. At the end of the month, provided I have kept to schedule, I will have the draft copy of an e-book
    • The technique to convert the writing into an e-book, or even a pdf book, is straightforward. Numerous books are available to help. Just Google the topic. I did a course with Val Waldeck a couple of years ago, and I felt a real sense of achievement when the book opened beautifully on my Kindle. 
    • I have considered turning Out of Africa into an e-book, but I will have to do it in pdf format as I have used many pictures in this theme. Something to consider for future ideas. 
  • Collect books and information on blogging. Go to Amazon and you will be amazed at the e-Books available on the topic. There is just no reason for us to remain in the cyber-darkness, wishing we could build a blog.
  • Get yourself a Kindle today! If you don't have a Kindle or other e-reader, go to Amazon and download a Kindle app for free. There is one available for your PC, your laptop, most smart-phones and your tablet. 
    • Early in the days of Kindle a friend suggested to me that, although neither of us could afford to buy Kindles especially as we both live in South Africa, we should nevertheless download the app to our computers and start to collect books that came up on special or even free. I followed her advice, and when I eventually received and registered my Kindle, it immediately had all the books I had collected during the preceding year.  

Have you learned anything new today? Or is there something you would like me to cover in this series? Can you think of ways you can use your blog material in other ways? Share your ideas in a comment below. 


26 Reasons to blog - part 1: A - C
26 Reasons to blog - part 2: D - G

    SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. 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 through where she encourages writers, 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. 

    Wednesday, June 17, 2015

    The Value of Finishing Your Writing Projects

    by Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer's Coach

    If you’re struggling to become a published writer, there’s probably one thing separating you from your goal – a finished manuscript.

    I was reading through the current edition of the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market the other day when I came across an interview with Laura Resau, the award-winning author of seven YA (Young Adult) and middle grade books. When asked what has been the biggest key to her success, Resau said, “A lot of it has to do with actually finishing stuff. I know many extremely talented writers who, for whatever reason, don’t take that step of fully realizing their creative vision.” She went on to explain that often perfectionism, self-doubt, and external criticism hold these writers back.

    The Real Reason Writers Don’t Finish Things

    While I agree that perfectionism, self-doubt, and external criticism are often contributing factors to the abandonment of a particular writing project, I think there is one more important factor – writing to the finish line is just plain hard work. It usually involves sitting at a computer, or with a pad of paper, for hours, days, weeks, or even months. Many times it involves several false starts. It may also take several writing sessions before the work on any particular project starts to flow. Many writers just aren’t willing to suffer through this part of the process. If the writing doesn’t flow from the start, they move on to something else. But they usually don’t finish that project either (for the same reasons as before) and end up with a mound of unfinished manuscripts. What’s worse, these writers never improve their writing skills very much.

    The Value of Finishing What You Start

    If you’re one of those writers who very rarely finish a project, you need to get out of this habit. Besides publication, here some additional benefits to finishing what you start:

    1. You’ll learn the complete process of writing the type of piece you’re working on.

    Anyone can start writing a novel. It takes knowledge and skill to finish writing one. The same goes for a magazine article or any other type of writing.

    2. You’ll have something you can polish to perfection so it will be ready for publication.

    Without a complete first draft, you can’t move forward to the next stage of writing, which is the revision process.

    3. You’ll feel a deep sense of completion and satisfaction you’ll never feel with an unfinished manuscript.

    This feeling of completion also builds confidence. When you’ve finished a particular piece of writing – a novel or a magazine article, for example – you will now know you can write this type of thing from start to finish. You did it once, so you can do it again. what does all this mean?

    It seems pretty obvious.

    Don't just START writing something, FINISH writing it!

    Try it!

    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. Subscribe to her free newsletter for writers at

    Wednesday, June 10, 2015

    June Blogging Prompts

    Don't let June gloom get you down. Do something to lift your spirits. For example, do some blogging. 

    Summer is rapidly approaching and it won't be long til those beautiful summer days start calling your name. If you want extra summer fun time, plan ahead and stockpile some blog posts. 

    Here are some topics to write about in June.

    Father's Day (third Sunday): Dads like toys and gadgets. What are some great gifts for Dad that are related to your niche. See what you can come up with that's out of the ordinary. You can also so an advice post.

    Summer Camp: Kids heading off to camp mean a few things. Parents may have a little extra downtime. Give them advice of how they can spend it. Also, kids at overnight camp will require some fun letters from the parents. Do you have a crazy letter writing idea that adds spark and sizzle to an ordinary letter? Share that with your readers too.


    June Holidays: In addition to Father's Day, June is Aquarium Month, Gay Pride Month, National Accordion Awareness Month, National Adopt a Cat Month, and Rose Month. June 14 is Flag Day, June 15 is Smile Power Day, and June 18 is International Panic Day (it's also International Picnic Day). Summer solstice is June 21, Forgiveness Day is June 26, and Camera Day is June 29.

    June Food Holidays: June is National Candy Month, National Dairy Month, National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, National Iced Tea Month, National Papaya Month, National Seafood Month, National Steakhouse Month, National Turkey Lover. (Covered all the bases, didn't they?) Also June 13 is Kitchen Klutzes of America Day, June 17 is Eat All Your Veggies Day, and June 22 is National Onion Rings Day.

    Bonus: Fiction writers, it's time for a beach party. What do your characters do when they let loose on the beach? What do they eat? What games do they play? Do they tell stories around a bonfire? Give your characters space to have some fun. They may give you some fun adventures to include in your prose or they could be involved in something that they must keep secret. Either way, it'll sure be fun to see what happens. And then use that as inspiration for your writing.


    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.

    Saturday, June 6, 2015

    Author-Reader Engagement

    How to Serve Your Niche Audience

     by Debra Toor

    STEP 1 Research your niche readers and create their profiles.

    Readers' Profiles

    1. Professions:
    2. Education:
    3. Lifestyles:
    4. What do your readers care about?
    5. What motivates them?
    6. What information, tools and resources do they need, but can't find?
    7. Do they need to do more with less time?
    8. Where do readers go to network, collaborate, find info, and get assistance?
         Examples of online sites
         - professional association blogs
         - trade e-zines
         - Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, Yahoo groups, Google+
         - Twitter Chats, etc.

         Examples of offline sites: 

         - conferences
         - meetings
         - trade shows
         - professional trade print magazines

    STEP 2  Research your niche competitors and create their profiles.

    Competitors' Profiles

    1. How do your competitors fill readers' needs?  

    2. Do they provide solutions to obstacles?
    3. What service do they fail to provide readers?  How can you fill this void?  Can you provide specific professional expertise?

    STEP 3  Combine profile details.  Create a plan and a reader survey.

     1. Design your survey to be brief and easy to complete. 

     2. Ask a select few to provide feedback on your plan.
     3. Focus on tools, resources, and information that they would like to see:

     Some ideas:

     - downloadable worksheets
     - tip sheets
     - checklists
     - handy resource lists 
     - networking venues and resources
     - expertise on specific subjects
     - informative slideshows, infographics, fact sheets, charts, videos, podcasts

    Offer an incentive, such as a free copy of your book or a free downloadable resource.

    Remember, your blog is your primary forum to engage your readers:

    - Make it welcoming, accessible, informative, and entertaining.
    - Offer posts that have value and are sharable.
    Encourage readers to share their suggestions, opinions and stories.  
    - Offer contests with prizes that are on your niche audience's wish list.

    How do you connect with your readers?  Inspire other writers by sharing your story in the comments section.

    Helpful Links

    "Crawling Inside your Customer's Head" by Copyblogger:

    "Author Platforms: How to Use a Time Machine to Create Your Author Platform," by Katie Davis, Huff Post: 

    Debra Toor is the author of Survival Secrets of Turkey Vultures, an adventure story for grades 4 to 6 that's based on peer-reviewed science. She's also a ghostwriter for a health blog.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2015

    Preventing Distractions the Low-Tech Way

    Distraction can be the number one enemy of a writer.  And when you sit down on the computer to write, distractions are plenty.  Check Facebook.  Check e-mail.  Do some marketing.  Surf.  Play a game.  Organize photos.  Defrag your hard drive.  Do research for your piece.  The list goes on.  All these have their place, but when you’re really trying to write—just write—they can cause problems.

    My solution, when this happens?  Paper.  Remember paper?  And pens?  And pencils?  Yes, that old technology really helps when I’m having trouble concentrating.  There are programs to black out all the but your writing screen or prevent you from accessing the internet for a certain time.  But paper is a low-tech solution. 

    It’s also ultra portable.  Paper works in a park, in bright sunshine, on a bus, all with no worries about electricity or battery life.  It works on a beach with no worries of sand or water damaging it.  It’s permitted during airplane take-off.  And it’s very user-friendly.

    The downside of paper is that you later have to transfer all your scribbling to computer.  You can’t click and drag, cut and paste.  It takes time.  But if can easily make up for that in pure, distraction-free writing time to begin with.  

    Try it.  You may like it.  

    Melinda Brasher's short fantasy story, "Chaos Rises" is now FREE on Amazon (and everywhere else).  Her microfiction (38 words) recently won honorable mention in On the Premises' Mini Contest #25.  Read "Dusk" for free here.  Or visit her online at

    Monday, June 1, 2015

    SEO and Website Ranking - Inside Website Traffic ‘Visit Lengths’

    Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a key element in driving website traffic to your site and ranking in the search engines. But, simply getting traffic isn’t enough. Along with getting that traffic, there are other factors that search engines look at when ranking your site. One of those elements is ‘visit lengths.’

    According to, visit lengths are considered “the time between when a visitor accesses your first webpage of their visit, and when they access the last.” While this particular measure isn’t 100 percent accurate, it’s pretty close and provides important information about your visitors and what they’re doing.

    This information allows you to see “just how much ‘pull’ and ‘interest’ your website is generating for your visitors.”

    So, why is this SEO information important?

    Put simply, the longer a visitor stays, the better standing you’ll have with the search engines.

    If you were to check your statistics, chances are the majority of your site’s traffic stays for less than five seconds. Google and the other search engines take note of this. It can be considered that your website or its content isn’t valuable enough to hold visitors. Your lower rated ‘pull’ and ‘interest,’ will cause a lower website ranking.

    As a measuring stick, Statcounter measures ‘visit lengths’ in increments of:

    • Less than 5 seconds
    • From 5 seconds to 30 seconds
    • From 30 seconds to 5 minutes
    • From 5 minutes to 20 minutes
    • From 20 minutes to an hours
    • Longer than an hour

    If you can hold a visitor for over 30 seconds you’re doing pretty good. Each increment beyond that demonstrates a rise is your website’s ‘pull’ and ‘interest’ capabilities.

    At this point, you may be wondering how you can get traffic to stay on your site beyond 5 minutes, which will give your rankings a boost.

    Well, how long does it take you to read one article?

    If that article is informative, a visitor will want to know what else of value you have on your site. This leads the visitor further and deeper into your site. She’ll look at older titles and read more articles of interest. I’ve been on sites where I’ve read three or four articles, causing me to go deeper and deeper into those sites.

    This is how ‘pull’ and ‘interest’ work. A visitor is pulled in by the informative and interesting content. The easier it is to find additional relevant quality content, the longer you’ll hold that visitor’s attention  . .  and viewing time.

    There are two basic and easy ways to hold a visitor’s attention and increase your website ranking:

    1. Create embedded links within your content. For example: if you have the word ‘marketing’ in your article, link that word to another article on marketing within your site.

    2. At the end of your article include three or four additional article titles and link them directly to the articles.

    So, the next time you’re posting an article to your site, take the extra few minutes to include links to other articles within your site. This is a proven method of engaging and holding your visitors, thereby increasing your site’s ranking.

    Originally published at:

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