Thursday, September 30, 2010


This is the view we woke to this morning. Predawn a low cloud of fog slowly skims the lake and drifts toward us. It dissipates by seven.

Do you remember the first hypothesis you were faced with in Philosophy 101? If a tree falls in the forest and you're not there to hear it, does it make a sound? I've been seeing this same view for over 18 years, but does that mean the view behind the fog is the same?

As the sun rises the view clears. I'm left with an overwhelming urge to turn my computer off and go outside. The garden needs winterizing. And like everyone else, there's never enough time to get everything ready. Especially since my writing also draws me. In the last week, I've felt a bound between myself and my protagonist RCMP Corporal Danny Killian.

 So, the question remains: Should I surrender to the urge to garden or the spell Danny has me under?

 *  *  *

The future of publishing:

Monday, September 27, 2010

PLOT DEVELOPMENT: Things Must Get Worse

When I first read Donald Maass' workbook Writing The Breakout Novel, I knew I needed to reiterate that reading his book is a necessary step for all fiction writers. Even as an author there's no guarantee I'll continue to have my books bought by publishers. I'm in the same boat as everyone. I need to write stories that standout. And if doing the exercises from Mr. Maass' book help, then I'll continue.

While I'm on the subject: Never assume that because you acknowledge an author in your post that you have permission to duplicate anything they've copyrighted. Obtaining their written permission will save you possible future lawsuits. It takes little effort on the part of the author to discover if his work is being aired where it's not suppose to be.

Now for today's exercise: public stakes. To break that down, "public stakes" are problems imposed on your characters by outside forces that leave the reader identifying with the characters. Few people escape trouble. Bad things happen to good people. And that is even more essential in novels. The worse things get, the better the story. Sounds ridiculous, but conflict creates excitement and removes the yawn factor.

i.e., Let's say I write a book about Eve who loves the son of her father's boss, a man who her father despises. Tanner's father owns the business that keeps their town alive. He's rich and powerful and inclined to do whatever it takes to keep what's his. Eve and Tanner fall in love, but keep their relationship secret because of their fathers. As their love deepens, they become careless and get caught. Tanner's father sends him off to the Army. Tanner, powerless to do much, finishes basic training and deploys to Iraq and then Afghanistan with the hope that once things settle down, he can return for Eve. His second problem: all his letters come back unopened.

Can the situation get worse? Oh yes.

Unaware that Tanner is in the Army, Eve finds herself pregnant and unwanted. Her father, furious over her predicament, sends her to a distant maternal aunt clear across the country. Eve has no way of contacting Tanner, nor does she know for certain if he still cares about her. 

Can things get worse? You bet.

Eve gives birth to a baby girl with heart problems. She never hears from Tanner, and no one back home seems to know where he is. After a year, Tanner returns to find Eve gone, and no one will tell him where she is either. His father expects him to now take over the family business. Tanner says no and reenlists. He's immediately shipped off to war-torn Kandahar. Meanwhile Eve's baby girl has two  heart operations. The doctors tell her the baby will require many more. Eve is penniless. To save her daughter, she thinks of putting her up for adoption. A sympathetic lawyer tells her that nobody wants a sick child. Eve is desperate and takes a job at a strip club.

A year later, the small community where Eve and Tanner grew up is hit by the worst hurricane in seventy five years. The town is almost flattened. Tanner's family business is close to ruin. His father begs him to come home and fix things. Tanner says he will if they'll tell him where Eve is. Tanner's father makes an attempt by approaching Eve's family, but her father refuses to cooperate. His hatred for the other man runs too deep.

Not only are both families ruined, but the town suffers. People are forced to uproot. Tanner's father blames Eve. He hires thugs to beat the information out of Eve's father. When he learns where she is, he sends someone to kill her. He wants revenge for losing his empire. Tanner finds out what his father is up to, and knows he hasn't got much time. Can he reach Eve before the hired gun does? Will Eve's father survive the beating? What will happen to her mother and her siblings if her father dies? Can Tanner save the business and in return their town?

Raising public stakes adds universal appeal to your story. But it needs to be a public that your reader recognizes. Yes, it's terrible to hear of the atrocities of racial cleansing in South Africa, but it's not a life that most North American's can relate to. Bad stuff from outside forces must happen to good people that we connect to on a daily level. These characters could be our neighbours, relatives or friends. Their lives could mirror our own. Eve and Tanner's problems are problems that neither one of them brought on themselves. Because although your reader may not have served in Iraq or given birth to a baby girl with a heart defect, they will very much relate to Eve and Tanner's dilemmas because of the law of six degrees. Someone knows someone who knows someone.

High conflict, emotional turmoil happen to real people every single moment of every single day. How these endearing characters cope and grow and survive will become the heart of your story and the hook for your readers.

You're fed up with all those rejection letters, correct? Or tired of getting no response at all? Or maybe your last book didn't blow them away on Amazon. Then the question remains: How can you make the problems in your next story worse?

Does your hero love his job? Then he needs to lose it. Does your character depend on the encouragement of family and friends to cope with life's problems? Then she needs to find herself suddenly very alone. Does Tanner need to find Eve so that together they can save their daughter's life? Then Eve needs to marry the rich doctor whom she thinks will be a good father and provider. After they're married and she realizes she made a mistake, Tanner needs to show up so Eve can now redirect her rage upon him. I'm not actually going to write their story, but ... you get the idea.

Things must and can get worse.

--Happy Editing.

Friday, September 24, 2010


The first is Mac Troubleshooting. My PC friends can skip down to the bottom, but anyone having problems with their Mac may want to consider my words: Never panic. The solution is a calm breath away.


About a month ago, Mac flashed two errors every time I opened Word warning me that my custom dictionaries were no longer available. I'm a writer. Having no dictionaries is like taking away my pen. I searched online, met a lot of frustrated Mac users, but found no solution. Not good. I reinstalled Office:mac, nada.

Then two weeks ago, I noticed my desktop wallpaper no longer worked and I was left with the Mac default desktop. That was disturbing because I have so many important family and location pics destined to be wallpaper. Beautiful sunsets, upside down kitty cats, snoring family members, hockey outside our front window, a 29 crib hand. Important stuff.

I took a close look at iPhoto and decided it was time to clean house. I moved my 3000+ photos to Dropbox. Took 3 days. Then I ran Repair Disk Permissions. That worked for about a minute. Then I opened Terminal and typed killall Dock. A pic appeared on my second monitor. Yay! The next morning it was gone.

I scanned all the Mac forums for answers. I tried Onyx, App-cleaner, reinstalling the start up disc, and finally creating a new account. Of course, nobody told me I had to change all the permission options for each individual folder. I did this by right-clicking on the folder, scrolling down to Get Info. At the bottom of the new window, there's a Sharing and Permission:. That's where I added the new account name and changed the privilege from No Access or Read Only to Read and Write.

That all sounds so pro-techie that you'd think it worked, eh?


While all I was able to share all my folders, many of them had nothing inside. It was a hodgepodge of chaotic chaos. And I could feel my blood pressure rising. I deleted the new account and went back to no wallpaper rotation. Only to discover that I was now unable to change anything in Mail. Every time I tried to fix it so I had Yahoo coming in along with Hotmail and Gmail, I would receive an error showing that nothing was saved because I didn't have permission. I'm the only one using this machine. But I did the ole "Repair Disk Permission" and it worked until I logged off at night. I had to repeat the process every morning.

That's when I noticed that my Dock was acting strange. Nothing stayed put. The settings were gone and I couldn't return to factory default. And I had three ? marks where icons should have been.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I woke up one morning and, despite a terrible head cold, realized the answer was among all this muck. All my important emails were still online at their prospective sites. My photos were already safe and sound in Dropbox. All I had to do was upload the rest: my important docs, files, and mss. I then created a new account called Spare User. I reinstalled Office:mac, did one more Repair Disk Permission. When I was sure everything was back to normal, all my bookmarks, docs, and downloads, I renamed it, deleted my own account, and voila: everything is as it should be. (Saving the old account is also an option)

I had a corrupt account, and now it's gone.

So, if things aren't quite the way they should be, don't despair. Or kick your Mac. Just create a new persona.

Now the other thing:

So many good blogs -- so little time. Lucky for me though, I belong to several great lists where alerts are sent out when something is too important to pass up. That's the case with Barbara Baig's guest blog on Writer Beware titled: How Deliberate Practice Can Make You an Excellent Writer. Barbara's post definitely got my creative juices flowing. I'll leave you to check it out.

I'm off to practice vivid and musical settings.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Naming Your Story by Katherine Swarts

A Half Dozen Hints for Creating Titles

 Your story is populated with unforgettable characters, your plot flows smoothly from beginning to end, and you’ve edited the manuscript thoroughly. Now it’s ready for a publisher….
…or does it still need a cherry on the sundae? What about your title?
An intriguing “working title” can be the first step in impressing editors with your creativity. So never settle for the vague or prosaic.
A good title must be:
1. Concise. Titles such as The Strange Events Surrounding the Catastrophe of Mr. Thomas Pettigrew’s Financial Ruin belong only in melodrama, if there. One to five words is the best length.
2. Genre-appropriate. The Most Dangerous Game” hints at suspense and threat, which is what readers find in Richard Connell’s short story by that name. The title would fizzle in a humorous romance where the greatest danger is squirting ketchup on a boyfriend. Few readers appreciate being misled into expecting an entirely different kind of story.
So choose title words that fit what you’re writing:
For a mystery: burglar, shot, puzzle
For a romance: kiss, love, roses
For a Western: prairie, outlaw, cattle drive
For general literature, use words descriptive of mood: “heavy” words (gloom, pressing) for grim stories, lighthearted words (sunshine, pastel) for humorous ones.
3. Relevant. If your story is called “A Bouquet of Red Carnations,” you’d better have those flowers, or their analogy, not only in your plot but prominent in your plot. Readers feel cheated if they can’t see a title’s relevance—and no one buys a second product from a cheat.
This doesn’t mean the relevance always has to be obvious from the beginning. You can hold off bringing the carnations onstage until the climax, if they have an obvious reason for being there and a significant role in the resolution. But never take a passing detail and stick it in the title for show.
4. Intriguing. Don’t emphasize a prominent-but-prosaic motif, either. If you call your story “Painting the Porch,” editors may wonder whether this is a short story or a how-to article. “On the Porch” is better, making people wonder what or who is on the porch. “Breakup on the Porch” is more intriguing yet: who or what broke up, and how?
Will the title you’re considering make readers ask questions, questions you answer in your story?
5. Tantalizing. And are the title words inherently sensual, humorous, or mysterious? Ann sounds dull, even if it is the protagonist’s name. Destiny or Charity is more intriguing, just as Tortoiseshell Cat is more interesting than The Cat. Would The Falcon have drawn half the interest The Maltese Falcon did?
If none of your characters or objects have inherently tantalizing names, try writing a brief synopsis or putting your story’s theme into words, then scanning the results for interesting keywords.
6. Memorable. Finally, titles should be easy to remember. Suppose someone says, “You should read this great book; it’s called… it’s called… I forget what it’s called.” Would you bother doing extensive research to find the title? Neither will most of your potential readers.
Besides using the points above, you can make titles memorable by alluding to a well-known saying or story (Stitch in Time, Cross My Heart, Romeo’s Secret), or through alliteration (“Jason’s Blue Brand”) or rhyme (Give Me a Hand, Man). Be careful, though; if you get too cute, not even picture book publishers will be favorably impressed.
When you finally have the perfect title, your story or book will be ready for a publisher—but how to find one? That's a question for another day.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Challenge of Inner Change

A good writer's manual is worth every penny if it actually helps you become a better writer. I've featured several of them here on my blog, one of which is: Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maas. If you don't own a copy, let me add that Mr. Maass isn't a top North American agent for nothing.

Choosing a random chapter this week I opened the book to Inner Change. Good choice. I'm nearing the end of the second draft of my WIP: Omatiwak: Woman Who Cries, the sequel to Broken But Not Dead. Mr. Maass writes that if I show my two main protagonists Sally Warner, wife of the murder victim, and Corporal Danny Killian, widower and investigator in charge of the case, grow and change, I increase the odds of producing the breakout novel. Good point. So, how do I do that? More importantly how do you?

Here's a snippet of what Donald Maass thinks will work:

1. Find an early scene when your protagonist is talking to a main character.
2. Write a paragraph on how s/he sees that particular character.
3. Move forward in the story and show how s/he see this same character (or place) differently.

Mr. Maass goes on to say that inner change weaved through the plot strengthens the structure and appeal of the story. He says to ask yourself these questions: How does your protagonist see himself change through the story? How do other characters see him? What changes occur?

As in life, everyone changes.

Remember the 1967 blockbuster To Sir With Love? If you were asked today why you think that movie is a classic, what would you say? That its appeal is due to idealistic teacher Mark Thackeray's (Sidney Poitier) experience and affect on a bunch of rambunctious white students from the slums of London's East End? The changes in how his students see him and how Thackeray sees himself  are what drives the story.

What about the growth and change of Tom Hank's character in Cast Away?
Or Nick Carraway's vision of Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby? Can you write a paragraph on how these characters changed?

I'd like to recommend another classic. Rent a copy of On The Waterfront to see how Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) starts off as a washed out fighter and envolves into one of cinema's most endearing heroes.

Great writing is about recognizing what makes great storytelling.

--happy editing

Friday, September 10, 2010

TYPO Is Just a Euphemism!

The “grammar lady” is back! Actually, I would prefer to be called the “word wench,” if you don’t mind!

Anyhow…..I may not be as funny as last time I blogged here, but what I am writing today is crucial information for anyone who cares about grammar – and that’s you (isn’t it?)……

I have two new heroes. Their names are Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson. I worship them so much that I have “friended” them on Facebook. In case you don’t know who these two bold gentlemen are, they recently returned from The Great Typo Hunt, a car drive from coast to coast of the United States in which they located and corrected typos! The journey has now been made into a book and a blog. I will give you the link later. Mr. Deck, a former spelling bee champion, and his friend Benjamin Herson found over 400 typos on their trip….and they corrected about 55 percent of them -- sometimes getting into a little hot water!

They did have some ground rules:
1. The typos needed to be in the public domain – things that everyone could see, like menus and signs.
2. They would not be unkind to those whose native language is not English.
3. They corrected only text, not any speech.
4. They learned not to correct a menu item until after the food was served!

Now, you and I both know that these really were not all typos….a typo is when your fingers inadvertently hit the wrong key, right? Those silly headlines that Jay Leno shows us are not really typos. For the most part, these are MISTAKES!!!!!

Well, as a former editor, current teacher, and author of The Best Little Grammar Book Ever, I know a mistake when I see one. Or hear one! What do you think are some of the most common mistakes in grammar (“grammar” meaning spelling, punctuation, and usage)? Well, I have a book full of mistakes, but when I really think about it, there are a very few mistakes that appear over and over and over again. I was hoping to give you a Top Ten List, but alas, I think it is going to be a mere Top Four!

In no real particular order, here are the Top Four Grammar Mistakes of the Current Time:

4. What is with that apostrophe in a plain, old plural noun?

Here are my vacation photo’s! What?? Oh, you mean photos!!

NO apostrophe in a plural noun unless it is a number, letter, or symbol (a’s, 5’s, &’s)

3. Doesn’t anyone know the difference between your and you’re anymore, or are they just too lazy to use the apostrophe? (Hint: Take the apostrophe from the plural it doesn’t belong in!)

I hope your coming with us. Huh??? Oh, you mean you’re!

2. Just because you say “Harry and I are going to the movies,” you don’t have to use I all the time. Sometimes it really is ME!

He gave the tickets to my friend and I. Well, if he didn’t give the tickets to I,
then he didn’t give the tickets to my friend and I either!

YOU CANNOT SEPARATE TWO SENTENCES WITH A COMMA!!!!! (Oh, I am sorry….am I shouting?) You just can’t. It is called a comma splice.

I hope you can attend the meeting, it will be very productive. Sorry, no way.
(Oh, is that a comma splice?) There are several ways to fix this:

I hope you can attend the meeting. It will be very productive.
I hope you can attend the meeting; it will be very productive.
I hope you can attend the meeting because it will be very productive.

If you would like more information about The Great Typo Hunt:">

If you would like to visit my website:">
(blog coming!)

If you would like to see my book trailer: (scroll down to see the video)"

-- Arlene Miller (The Word Wench)

Arlene Miller was a writer and editor for many years (newspapers, books, technical manuals) before becoming an English teacher several years ago.  She has a degree in Journalism, a graduate degree (it look seven years!) in Humanities, and a teaching credential. Originally from Boston (Bahston), she has two young adult children, no Boston accent, and lives just a bit north of the Golden Gate Bridge in California. In her former life (until about 8 years ago), she was also a tap dancer

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Interview with author Harriet Tramer

I'm pleased to have as my guest today, author, reporter, freelance writer and professor, Harriet Tramer. Harriet has written a wonderful little book about caring for an elder. Please give her a warm welcome.

Rounding the Circle of Love
Quality paperback, 100 pages
Price: $10.00, plus S&H
ISBN 9781889409504

1. Many other books that focus on caring for the elderly - particularly those who have memory loss - are currently being marketed. Alzheimer’s disease seems to be the topic of the day. Why is this book unique?

This text presents information garnered from experts in many different fields – medicine, law, nursing, exercise therapy, etc. And that fact grants it a different dynamic than a more traditional “how to book” might offer; it is “thought-provoking, or at least represents an attempt to be. Yet, it is both approachable and concise, allowing readers to take good advantage of the time they spend perusing it.

2. What is the major message care givers should gain from reading this book?

When you act as a caregiver for an elder, you must also care for yourself. And that fact often translates into being realistic as regards what you can and cannot accomplish. If you can only devote a limited number of hours a week to care giving, you should be honest about that point. You must avoid over committing yourself, something that could prove disastrous for all involved.

Acting as a caregiver, grants you the opportunity to develop talents you never imagined you had. You might, for example, have always figured that you cannot even boil water. Yet, in time, you might find yourself preparing very appetizing meals for your elder.

3. What message could this book deliver to people who are not presently and might never be family caregivers?

You can accomplish almost anything you set out to accomplish. But often in the process of reaching your goals, you must accept help. And that is something you might, at least initially, be uncomfortable acknowledging.

4. Why did you write this book?

I was a caregiver for my mother (now deceased) for many years. And during that period of time, I came to realize handling these responsibilities can prove very stressful. And I wanted to write a text that would help persons who are facing these challenges.

5. What did you gain from writing this book?

I came to understand that many people with extensive expertise can be called upon to assist caregivers. And the help which is available to them is expanding every day; home health care aides represent the “fastest” growing profession” in our economy. However, I just as quickly began to realize a “harsh” reality. Finances often stand in the way of care givers receiving the support they need. The imperative to close that gap remains powerful.

6. Your book talks about people serving as family caregivers. Increasingly more people, particularly baby boomers are assuming this role. How has this fact changed our world?

It has “transformed” our workplace. Workers who serve as caregivers are under considerable stress. What happens, for example, when their elder needs special attention at the same time they have a work project due? How can employers handle these conflicts with sensitivity? How much is it their responsibility to attempt being “sensitive” in this regard?

On a broader level, gender roles have been tweaked. Once women were the caregivers, no questions asked. But with more women entering the work force some of these responsibilities have fallen to men.

7. How does some of the information in your book break with orthodoxies?

The book presents the possibility that a slower and more literally hands on approach might best serve the elderly. And it also indicates that money spent on high tech medicine at the end of patients’ life might not be a judicious use of valuable resources.

And this quote expresses the opinion – voiced by an expert in the field - that efforts to “label” somebody as having Alzheimer’s at the earliest possible moment are imperative.

Dr. Peter Whitehouse author of The Myth of Alzheimer’s: What You Aren’t Told About Today’s Most Dreaded Diagnosis,

“People with so-called Alzheimer’s can be as much a victim of labeling as they are of their disease,” Dr. Whitehouse said. “We should work from the assumption that everybody is experiencing brain aging and we are all in this together. Because once you start labeling people as having Alzheimer’s you get two groups of people - people who have Alzheimer’s and those who are terrified of getting it.”

8. How does the book suggest people deal with the stress of being a family caregiver?

The answer to that one is a mixed message. They must rely upon their own inner strength, developing talents they never figured they had, as they serve as a nurse, financial record keeper, etc. However, they must come to understand their limits and seek help when they need it. They walk a tight rope, but learning to maintain that precarious balance can greatly reduce their stress.

9. When you wrote this book, did you come away with the impression that being a family caregiver now is different than it might have been even 5 years ago?

The resources that are open to family caregivers now are much more extensive than were the resources available to them only a few years back.

Our economy is responding to the needs of an aging population by offering a wide array of products/ services. The number of home health care agencies is, for example, booming. Which brings up an important issue: quantity does not always translate into quality; you have to be discerning.

10. How can you tell if you are positioned to bring an elder home and provide for their care?

You have to complete a careful appraisal of your financial and other resources. The book has a survey instrument which can help you to do that. Unfortunately, even architectural barriers can make keeping an elder in their home difficult. These are all things which must be considered.

I came to understand that many people with extensive expertise can be called upon to assist caregivers. And the help which is available to them is expanding every day; home health care aides represent the “fastest” growing profession” in our economy. However, I just as quickly began to realize a “harsh” reality. Finances often stand in the way of care givers receiving the support they need. The imperative to close that gap remains powerful.

It's been a honour speaking with you today, Harriet. Thanks for all you do.

Harriet with her mother Frances. Harriet Tramer has worked as a journalist and teacher for more than 30 years.
She drew upon this experience as she interviewed experts in a wide range of fields – law, medicine, social work – while writing this book.
Yet, her connection to care giving is also more personal. She long served as  a caregiver for her mother, Frances

Harriet Tramer has a Bachelor of Arts Major in Political Science from Chatham College, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has a Masters of Science, Applied Communication Research & Methodology from Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio. Harriet also has a Masters of Science, Urban Studies, Specialization in Economic Development, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio. She is the Adjunct Professor at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland and New School University in New York. Harriet's biography was accepted into Who's Who in America, 2011 edition.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ask PZM - September 2010

Q: Are there sites besides having my own blog where I can showcase information related to my book topics?

One of the first online activities to consider is writing guest posts. And you don’t have to spend hours scouring the web to find blogs that might be interested in your guests posts.

My personal favorite source for guest post opportunities is – you sign up for free and get email notifications of people who want guest posts on specific topics. And, on the flip side, you can post requests if you are looking for guest bloggers for your own blog.

Another online opportunity is creating content at as well as creating content at

Read the specific requirements carefully as to whether your material has to be original for that site or whether you can use your own previously published material.

Q: I know you have written how important it is to start a book marketing campaign way before a book is published, but I was so busy writing my book that I didn’t have time to start my campaign. What should I do now that my book is about to come out?

First, I want to make it clear that I don’t necessarily believe you should start your book marketing campaign before your book is published. What I do believe is that you should start actively participating on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn way before your book is published.

If you happened to already be participating on these sites, you want to review all your profiles, links, etc. to ensure that you now have information and links that support the promotion of your book.

If you are not already participating on these sites, you should immediately do so.  But don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to do everything at once.  Start on one site and then add the other sites.

Here is a free report that can help you set up an effective Twitter profile –

Q: What should I do about a negative book review?

There is usually not much you can do about a negative book review – and complaining about it just brings more negative attention.

But if, for example, a reviewer gets an important historical fact wrong, you might want to correct this. It’s probably not a good idea to say: “You got that historical fact wrong.”

A better way would probably be to say: “Thank you for reviewing my book, and I just wanted to mention that the correct day for the [reference] is actually 1697 and not 1497."

After all, there is no need to make an enemy.  If you handle these types of situations with grace, you may be pleasantly surprised when this same reviewer gives your next book a good review.

© 2010 Miller Mosaic LLC

Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) is the co-founder of the social media marketing company Miller Mosaic Power Marketing. The company is committed to taking the mystery out of social media so that individuals and companies can utilize the power of social media marketing. Check out the company program Quick Start Social Media Track at

Friday, September 3, 2010

Guaranteed Cure For Writer's Block


Want to beat writer's block? Write 1000 words about the situation above.

If that's too hard, try photo #2:

No? How about photo #3:

Photo #4

Okay, one more, but that's the absolute absolute. Photo #5

Write one thousand words as fast as you can on any of these photographs and I guarantee your writer's block is cured.

--happy editing
ps. Don't hand them in.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Jim Magwood: So You've Written A Book

So You’ve Written a Book.
Now What?

I believe most of us have stories to tell: from our own lives and experiences; from things we've seen and heard; from dreams and ideas that just pop in on dark nights and lazy afternoons. Writing takes the courage to put ourselves down on paper where others can criticize and poke fun. It also takes the desire to reach and inspire others with word pictures; pictures that will enable them to see beyond the moment, to go beyond their own space, and to dream. Sometimes, the only thing that keeps us going on the project is that this story, this work of art, is coming from our heart and it simply has to come out and be laid gently, lovingly, even tearfully, on paper where at least we can see it. But, we’ve kept at it and it’s now sitting there, and the question becomes, Now what?

You will have all kinds of questions as you move along but there are ways and places to find answers. The main thing is to get your questions discovered and answered before you get crushed in the writing industry.

To quickly summarize the beginning of the process, write the very best book you possibly can. Keep that obvious, yet often overlooked thought in mind as you work. Don’t skimp on self-editing and proofing your work. Spell-checking (over and over); proof-reading (with the nasty red pencil); reading your own manuscript out loud to catch errors your eyes don’t see; checking punctuation and grammar; analyzing the story flow; and on and on. Here are some quick questions to keep in mind.

1. Is there something in the immediate, opening sentences and paragraphs that reaches out and grabs the reader? If your agent or reader is saying, “Where is this going?” in a bored voice rather than an excited one, you’ve lost them before they can even get started.

2. Is the spelling and grammar correct? Are the sentence structures appealing? Is the entire manuscript well laid out? Again, in the very first words and sentences, a publisher is going to be making their decision as to the worth of the manuscript.

3. Who are your characters and how are they developed? Do your main characters quickly take their place in the story? Are they interesting? Do they sound like real people (even if it’s science fiction)? Do they work together like real people would?

4. Do you tell about the characters and the action, or do you make it happen? Action scenes can be exciting; talking or thinking about the action can be just words.

5. How many times have you read something where you said, “Okay. Same old ending.” Or, the last couple of chapters, or the last “surprise” pages, just kind of die out. Consider an ending that doesn’t work out just right for the heroes. The hero kisses his sweetie goodbye and steps outside—onto a land mine. End of story with that sentence. Shocking. Leave your reader crying, and screaming, “Nooooo!!!”

Many of these thoughts sound so simplistic. Of course we do all this. But how many books have you read where they just didn’t make it? Will yours?

There are people out there who say very bluntly that writing a book is simply not fun. That it’s a lot of work and authors often wish they had never started the process. In fact, writing a book is a lot of work, most authors lose money on their effort, and most books don’t even get into stores. You’re going to have people you don’t even know telling you how bad your work is or how much you need to change it. Are you going to be ready to accept the tension, disappointment and cost that will likely come? And the possible lack of acceptance when you finally present it to the reading public?

Yes? Then here’s a thought that I hope you will absorb into your very soul: Don’t let ANYONE take away the challenge, the excitement, the dream and the hope you have as you sit and contemplate your story. DO IT!!! Count the cost, gather your courage, pay the price and DO IT. Bring your dream, your “baby,” to life. WRITE IT!

There are dozens more things you will need to know as you work through the process of writing, publishing and marketing your work. What kind of publishers are there? How do agents look at manuscripts? How do you market your book? This has just been a touch on that process. You can get more help, or “the rest of the story,” by going to my Website and taking a look at the mini-book, “So You’ve Written A Book. Now What?” (

I wish you the very bast as you go along the writing path, and keep these words in mind: DO IT! WRITE IT!

Here is the exciting new novel about a world in chaos with terrorism exploding everywhere. A plan for total domination of the world takes place as the people of the world idly watch. Can the world leaders resist this powerful force as the power struggle comes to an ultimate climax?
As the war of good versus evil rages, SANCTION intensely narrates the lives of the powerful men on both sides of the battle. Computer hacking, missile attacks, cold-blooded murder and pure evil haunt the world as The Plan progresses. Civilians and government officials lock arms in defense of the world as it is seemingly being unhinged. The fate of the world rests in their hands…or does it?
SANCTION is available now through your local bookstores everywhere.

Born in Vancouver, now living in Twin Oaks, California, Jim Magwood is the author of the international mystery novel, SANCTION. You can visit him at his site, He is also the webmaster of a site dedicated to showcasing authors and their works to readers everywhere at a cost any author can afford. Visit The Author’s Inn at