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885 Posts tagged with the writing tag
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When I got my latest novel back from my longtime developmental editor, as usual, she offered helpful suggestions for how to improve plot, pacing, character development, etc. This time, however, she also mentioned that my main character smiled--"a lot."


Curious as to what my editor meant by "a lot," I used the search function in Word to count just how many times the words "she smiled" or "Daphne smiled" appeared in my first draft. Let's just say it was way too many. I smiled (no pun intended) at my oversight and immediately got rid of a bunch of them. Thank you, Christina!


It seems like no matter how hard I try, my first drafts are always overloaded with crutch words or phrases such as "she smiled." Other favorites I've found myself overusing include "she nodded," "she raised her eyebrows," and "she walked home slowly/she slowly walked home." Usually I catch them myself when I read over the manuscript, but not always, as this recent experience demonstrated. (If you're not familiar with the search function in Microsoft Word, it's usually a box at the top right corner of any open document that says, "Search in Document" or "Find." Type in the word(s) of interest and hit the Enter key, and viola!)


Do you also suffer from this affliction? I think most writers probably do, but the key is to identify them before your book goes to print. Otherwise you risk irritating your readers, who might wind up focusing on the repetition and not the story. This is especially true if your crutch words or phrases are unusual or dramatic. Imagine seeing "He was flabbergasted" or "She screamed at the top of her lungs" more than once in the same book. I think I would immediately notice and might be a little annoyed. Would you?


-Maria


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Avoid Word Repetition

Watch Out for Repetition in Your Writing

996 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, crutch_words, dialogue_tags
1

What do you smell?

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Feb 6, 2017

 

When we write, we use various methods to try and get the reader to connect with a passage. Visuals play a huge role in making that connection. For example, the color of someone's eyes is a common visual trigger, or the physical build of a character is often used to help readers make a visual connection. Not to mention there's the illustrative writing used to describe setting.


We use sound too. The sound of a character's voice for example. There are the constant, steady beats used to heighten suspense in thrillers--a heartbeat, the sound of footsteps, etc. It's not as common as using a visual descriptive, but it is still fairly prominent in storytelling.


Perhaps the most underutilized descriptive tool is the sense of smell, and in my opinion that's a shame because I believe odors to be the most powerful of the senses when it comes to making a connection with a reader. If you describe it correctly, the thought of a smell can elicit a subconscious link between the story and a hidden memory in a reader. That will make it likely that the reader will have an emotional bond with the book that he or she wouldn't have otherwise had.


How about you? Do you use odors in your descriptive passages? Can you think of an example in any of your favorite books, and could that explain why they are indeed your favorites?


Remember, writing a descriptive story isn't always about what you see or hear. It's also about what you smell.


-Richard


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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WordPlay: Wine Tasting

Beyond the visuals

675 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, sense_of_smell
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If you're not familiar with the "show vs. tell" rule, the gist of it is that you want to show your readers events or feelings instead of telling them.


I frequently see this rule broken in dialogue by authors who choose overly descriptive verbs that force-feed us the character's sentiment. When I encounter too much of this I find myself pulled out of the story--and kind of irritated because I feel the author is treating me like a child instead of allowing me to use my brain.


For example, here are some sentences that tell instead of show:


  • "Get ready for a bumpy ride," she warned.
  • "Sounds like you're really climbing that corporate ladder," she noted.
  • "I can't believe how huge this airport is," he remarked.
  • "You wish I would join your team," she retorted.


I think sentences like the above happen because some authors believe they should use any word other than "said" in their dialogue, when in reality "said" is exactly what they should be using, if anything at all.


The solution


To improve your writing, get rid of (most of) the substitutions for "said" and sprinkle in some beats. Beats are physical movements that show us what the characters are doing as they speak.

 

 

For example:

  • "Get ready for a bumpy ride," she said as she fastened her seatbelt.
  • She arched an eyebrow. "Sounds like you're really climbing that corporate ladder."
  • He swiveled his head in all directions. "I can't believe how huge this airport is."
  • She scoffed. "You wish I would join your team."


Do you see the difference? The first sentences tell us, while the second ones show us. Readers will enjoy your story more if they can visualize what is happening, so work on allowing that to happen! Don't go overboard with beats, though. As with most things, moderation is best.


-Maria


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Show vs tell: do you know the difference?

Just say it!


926 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, writing_dialogue, show_vs._tell
1

I've created some pretty morally reprehensible people as a writer. Killers, swindlers, drug dealers, you name it, I've given some of my bad guys the worst traits. If they were real, I'd never want to have a thing to do with them. I'd do all I could to avoid even hearing their names.


But, here's my weird, totally illogical confession: I like the bad guys I create. I enjoy spending time with them during the process of writing a book. I love hammering out their character and exploring their pasts, trying to figure out why they are the way they are. When or if they die in one of my books, I feel genuinely sad. He or she wasn't just a good foil for my protagonist, we connected on an ethereal, totally fictional level.


I may be trying to justify my feelings, but I think my affinity for the bad guys I create is healthy. I think it's natural. As a writer, it's not my job to judge the actions of my characters. It's my job to observe and report. If I put myself in the position of making judgments of my characters' behavior, I will most likely start censoring myself and instinctively try to fix them. A fictional life isn't in service to anyone or anything but the story. The bad they do, they do for the good of the narrative.


If you haven't already, I encourage you to find a way to connect with your villains. Love them. Don't judge them.


-Richard


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Defend your antagonist

Write an obituary for your characters

1,216 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writers, writing, villain, characterization, antagonist
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There was a time when getting T-shirts printed was a costly and time-consuming endeavor, but thanks to the Internet, that's no longer the case. So why not make some T-shirts to promote your book? I did this for my Waverly Bryson series, creating shirts in blue and pink with the following quotes from my protagonist:


"Is it worse to be fake or bitchy?" --Waverly Bryson


"I know nothing, but at least I know that." --Waverly Bryson


"Beer goggles are the lonely girl's Cupid." --Waverly Bryson


"Do not post what you ate for breakfast on Facebook." --Waverly Bryson


Almost every time I wear one of the shirts, someone stops me and asks where I got it. I explain that it's a quote from one of my novels, then smile and hand them a business card with a link to my website. Boom--a potential reader! I even wore one of the T-shirts to a Northwestern University alumni networking event in New York City, and I got a lot of attention not just for the books, but for my marketing ingenuity.


I've given away countless T-shirts at book signings and events, and I've even sold some on my website. I've also included them as a bonus gift when fans contact me to order signed copies of my books. People love free stuff, so it's a win-win. And the more people who laugh at what Waverly Bryson has to say, the better chance I have of selling more books.


If you're scratching your head right now wondering what you could put on your own T-shirts, that depends on the subject matter of your work, but I'm sure you can come up with something. It's a matter of creativity, and if you wrote a book, you are creative. Remember that.


-Maria


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Marketing Idea: Set Up a Card Table on the Sidewalk

Marketing Idea: Encourage Your Fans to Spread the Word

1,576 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, promotions, t-shirts, marketing_ideas
2

I read my novels out loud as I write them. I am normally a very reserved person, but when I'm reading dialogue or particularly emotional prose, I let loose and zero in on the moment. It's actually quite liberating. It's kind of like a mental massage. Beyond that, here are three reasons you should be reading your work out loud:

 

  1. Consistent tone: Reading your book out loud as you write can help you establish a consistent tone throughout the book. Unintentionally switching tones can take a reader out of the story and cause them to eventually give up on your book. Hearing yourself give voice to the story keeps you on track.
  2. Connection to characters: Alone, in the privacy of our writing space, we are all actors at heart. We hear the voices of our characters clearly in our heads. When we are far from the shackles of inhibition, we read their dialogue out loud, and we feel the emotions our characters are feeling on a much deeper level. We connect with the story like never before. In a sense, we are living the story out loud. I find it very powerful.
  3. Effective editing: Reading your book out loud is a great self-editing tool. Editing your own work is hard because you know the story. There is a tendency to unintentionally gloss over mistakes because, in your mind, you've been there before. You know how the story goes. You just zone out. That’s okay. It's human nature. Reading a story out loud helps you zone in on those mistakes because they will very likely trip you up.


-Richard


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Keeping a Consistent Tone

Reading Out Loud

991 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, editing, writing, tone, characterization
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I receive a lot of emails from first-time authors, and 99 percent of them are looking for marketing ideas they can implement for zero cost. If you fall into that category, here are two ideas you can do that will cost nothing more than your time and energy:


     1.    Create a list of local alumni groups from your college, then reach out to each one individually*


*This is critical. No one likes bulk email, so personalize your message enough to show whoever receives it that you respect his or her time.


Even if you went to a small school, you'll be surprised at how many alumni groups are probably scattered across the country. Contact information for each club is usually available on the college's website, and many clubs even have their own websites. Local clubs often have electronic newsletters they need to fill with news about alumni just like you, so if you offer to send them a cover photo of your book, plus your headshot, there's a good chance they will write a little blurb about you. (This is why it's important to have both a one-line description of your book as well as something a little longer. You can use the one-liner in your initial email, then send the meatier piece later.)


Remember that the people running these groups are volunteers so they may take some time in getting back to you. That also means you may need to follow up more than once to get the ball rolling.


     2.    Repeat the above with local alumni groups from your fraternity/sorority


If you weren't a member of the Greek system, what organizations were you involved in? Everyone has a network, so put on your thinking cap. The Internet makes the world small, so find your community and see how it can help you.


A new year is here, along with countless potential readers for you to dazzle with your writing. So start marketing!


-Maria


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Marketing Tip: Tap Your Network for Contacts

Book Marketing: Have You Tapped Your Network?

1,483 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, promotion, writing, marketing_ideas
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Every day?

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jan 16, 2017

 

I'm about to give you advice that will blow your mind. I guarantee I will make some writing gurus and experts mad with what I'm about to suggest. This is about as controversial as you can get when handing out advice on writing. When this blog is posted, I'll make a concerted effort to stay off Twitter to avoid the barbs and figurative arrows.

 

Are you ready for this? OK, here we go. Don't write every day. What? Am I crazy? Have I sold my soul to the bad-writing cabal? How can I say such a thing?

 

I should add, "if you don't want to." Let me be clear, I don't think writing every day is a bad thing. I think it's great for those writers who flourish under that kind of strategy. I simply want to point out that it's not the only strategy. Some authors take breaks between writing sessions. Some of those breaks can last for weeks or longer.

 

My point is if writing every day isn't your style, don't force yourself to do it. There' nothing less productive than trying to write when you're just not feeling it. It has the potential to do more harm than good. It can ding your confidence each time you sit at a computer unable to find the inspiration to write. It's okay to wait for the inspiration to hit you before you write.

 

We are individuals. We have different approaches to writing. Don't feel obligated to adapt to anyone else's writing schedule. Find what works for you, and leave the guilt behind.

 

-Richard

 

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Should You Write Daily to Write Well?

 

My Writing Rules, Which You are Free to Ignore

422 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, writing_strategies
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Recently I received an email from an indie author asking a question about securing reviews from bloggers. Then, in the same email, the author sent me a link to his book's Amazon page and told me I was more than welcome to read it. And review it.


I didn't read his book, but I'll tell you what I did read--his email, with my mouth agape.


For one, I don't review books, which I've said many times in this space. But, if I were a book reviewer, it would take more than a link to get me on board. Book reviewers are well aware that they can buy and review any book in the world. So if you want them to review yours, offer to send a copy.


When I was self-published, I spent countless hours contacting book reviewers asking them to review my novel, Perfect on Paper. I also spent countless hours at the post office sending out review copies. It was an investment of both time and money, but I did it because I wanted people to review my book, and I knew they weren't going to do that if all I did was send them a link to Amazon.


Here's the thing: Book reviewers and bloggers expect you to send them a book. These people are voracious readers, and while they might not come out and say it, many of them review books just to get free copies and save money. You can always offer to send an electronic version, but in my experience reviewers are purists and prefer to read print books.


A good rule of thumb for book marketing of any kind is to put yourself in the recipient's shoes. How would you feel if someone asked you to review their homemade cookies but expected you to buy a dozen first?


-Maria


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Why you should give away (some) books for free

Get reviews for your indie book

1,546 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, marketing, writing, promotions, book_reviews
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Have you ever wondered about the best time of day to write? Can something like that even be determined? After all, everyone is different. Some of us are more productive in the morning. While some of us are more productive in the evening. Still, can a scientific study reveal the best time to write? The answer is, sort of.


According to researchers Mareike B. Wieth and Rose T. Zacks, there are times of day when an individual is better at problem solving. Problem solving requires creativity. Creativity is the engine behind storytelling. Here's what they found:


Morning people are better at solving problems in the evening and night owls are better at solving problems in the morning. Yes, that does sound counterintuitive. What gives? It turns out, we come up with our best creative solutions when we are tired and unable to focus on any one aspect of a problem. In essence, we are freed up to see a problem from a broader perspective, and we are able to find solutions we would have overlooked had we been in our most focused state.


So, while your focus will help you commit to the task of writing, it can interfere with your creativity. The answer to what time of the day is the best time to write may be that there are two times of day. There is a time to allow distractions and tiredness to guide your creativity, and there is a time to craft a story based on the ideas you acquired during these periods of creativity.


-Richard


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Write o'clock

Is the early bird more creative?

1,128 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, best_time_to_write
2

 

I have advocated for indie authors supporting indie authors many times before on this blog. The general idea is to reserve a day of the week to promote the work of a fellow indie author. The question is what day of the week works best for this type of activity.


The vehicle to promote an indie author is clear. You will be using social media. Which social media outlet is up to you. There are a lot to choose from, and many of you probably use several social media sites to make connections with readers.


There is data out there that lets you know when the most active times are for all the social media sites. Because there are so many of them and because some of them service very specific demographics, it's hard to find a consistent day of the week and time of day that will be best to promote your selection for indie author of the week. Rather than try to force a square peg into a round hole by finding a time that caters to all of them, here are the best times to post to get the most views for some of the more popular social media sites. Choose the one that best fits your social media strategy.


  • Facebook: Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
  • Twitter: Wednesdays at noon and between 5:00-6:00 p.m.
  • Instagram: Mondays and Thursday are the best days of the week, and the best time is between 8:00-9:00 p.m. Specifically, folks say to avoid posting between 3:00-4:00 p.m.
  • LinkedIn: Tuesday through Thursday from 7:00-8:00 a.m., at noon, and from 5:00-6:00 p.m.


Remember: creating buzz for other indie authors can build credibility for all indie authors. Get out there and share the indie author love.


-Richard


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Supporting Indie Authors

Living the Indie Author Dream

865 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writing, promotions, social_media
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I'm on the distribution lists of many indie authors who occasionally send out promotional emails about their books. Marketing is a lot of work, so I respect the efforts of these individuals to boost their sales. Unfortunately, however, many of the emails I receive are peppered with errors, and that doesn't instill much faith that the books being promoted are going to be good. The books might in fact be excellent, but if people don't want to read them because of errors in the marketing emails, that shows the power of a negative impression.

 

We all make mistakes, which is why it's important to proofread your messages several times before sending them out. My brain plays tricks on me when I write, especially after I've been cutting and pasting and moving things around. Sometimes I simply don't see mistakes because my brain sees what it thinks should be there. To help counter that, I have my mom read my newsletters before I send them out. If you don't have someone like that to help you, try reading your content out loud to catch errors.

 

If you were promoting yourself as a dentist or a mechanic, errors wouldn't be so detrimental. But, you're a writer, and you're promoting your writing! So think of your messages as a way to showcase your talent, to give the recipients a taste of what you can do. If your content is engaging, well written, and free of errors, it is more likely to encourage potential readers to pick up a copy of your book.

 

Note: I prefer to use a newsletter program instead of email. Mailchimp is free if you have fewer than 2,500 subscribers, and it's easy to use. If your distribution list is smaller still, bulk emails can also work fine. Just be sure to use the blind copy feature for the recipients.

 

-Maria

 

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.

 

 

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Watch for Errors in Marketing Materials

Book Marketing Is a Numbers Game

530 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: books, marketing, self-publishing, writing, promotions, writing_tips, grammar_advice
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Book events aren't the draw they used to be. There is too much in the way of entertainment out there: movies, concerts, musicals, plays, comedy shows, etc. You have a lot of competition. The best way to generate interest for your book event is to spice things up a little. Here are three ideas to make your next book event an actual event.


  1. Treats: Doing a book signing? Would you like people to stop by your table? Put out a bowl or tray of treats: candy, brownies, chips, etc. If it's sweet and/or savory, it will draw people to your table. People rarely grab a free treat and run. Once they're standing in front of you, they are more than likely going to inquire about your book. Make your pitch. Snag a reader.
  2. Entertainment: Have you scheduled a public reading? Do you play a musical instrument or do you know someone who does? Why not come up with a set list for the reading? A little acoustic guitar or even a small jazz ensemble could be a great draw and turn a reading into a bona fide event.
  3. Actors: Got some killer dialogue? Then don't do a reading. Do a series of short plays featuring your best dialogue. You will find actors in practically every community across this country of ours. They are eager to perform. Make a connection at a local theater, and you can combine a fundraiser for them with a night of short one-acts featuring themes and characters from your book.


The key is to make your "event" as eventful and inviting as possible. Do whatever your budget will allow to build excitement for your next book event.


-Richard


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Participation required

 

Do you need swag?

446 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, marketing, promotion, writing, book_events
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To lie vs. to lay

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Dec 29, 2016

 

When I was in high school people used to say "laying out" when referring to catching rays at the pool or the beach. At the time I remember thinking they should have worn sunscreen, but it didn't occur to me that they also should have said "lying out." But now I know better!


I still hear this mistake frequently, so I thought it was worth a blog post about the difference between lay and lie.


To lay requires a direct object (you lay something down/out):


  • Every morning I lay the envelope on the desk so he can see it.
  • I always lay a towel on the floor to prevent water from getting all over the bathroom.
  • It's smart to lay out a plan of action before every game.


The past tense of to lay is laid:


  • Every morning I laid the envelope on the desk so he could see it.
  • I always laid a towel on the floor to prevent water from getting all over the bathroom.
  • She laid out a plan of action before every game.


To lie doesn't have a direct object:


Every evening I lie on my bed and think about grammar.

Even though it's bad for her skin, she lies out in the sun.

She needs a game plan to keep her team from lying down and losing.


Now here's where it gets confusing--the past tense of to lie is lay:


  • Every evening last summer I lay on my bed and thought about grammar.
  • Even though she knew it was bad for her skin, she lay out in the sun for hours every day.
  • Despite the game plan, her team lay down and lost.


To summarize:


  • Today you lie on your bed.
  • Today you lay your head on your pillow.
  • Yesterday you lay on your bed.
  • Yesterday you laid your head on your pillow.


I realize what a head-scratcher this can be, so if after reading this post you want to go lie down and lay your head on a pillow, I won't blame you!


-Maria


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Grammar tip: how to use gerunds correctly

Grammar tip: have gone, not have went

442 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, grammar_tip, lie_vs._lay
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I recently finished a book that was much more difficult to write than I had anticipated. I had done a lot of preliminary work before I started writing. I selected a target number of chapters I wanted in the book. I did this by examining other books in the genre, and I found that a fairly consistent number kept popping up. No, it's neither a scientific nor a particularly artistic approach, but it gave me an idea of what other authors were doing, which was all I wanted. Next, I wrote a one-sentence description of each chapter, and in most cases, they weren't even complete sentences. I just wanted to build a ladder, of sorts, that defined the action of the book. Following that, I wrote a 50-word description for each chapter. This is where I started fleshing out character and plot. Finally, I increased the description to 250 words per chapter, providing more detail and even some key dialogue.

 

I essentially wrote a mini-version of the completed book before I wrote the first draft. I thought I'd have an easy time of it once I started writing the actual book. I was wrong. What I did was box myself in. As I wrote and explored the story and characters with my writer's hat on, this detailed outline confined me instead of liberating me.

 

About a quarter of the way through writing the first draft, I decided to allow myself to break away from the outline--but not completely. I used it as a guideline. The flow of the outline and the first draft were compatible, but the details differed, in some cases, greatly.

 

Outlines are great, and I will use them in the future. I will avoid overly-detailed outlines, though. They are too restrictive for the writer in me.

 

-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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When writing, don't outsmart yourself

The post-draft outline

814 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, drafts, revision, writing_advice, writing_practice
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