Friday, December 17, 2010

Five Steps Toward Finding the Right Title

As you know, the title you choose for your book will greatly impact the success of your publication and/or marketing. Maybe that’s why it’s so difficult to settle on a name for the story. I’ve wrestled with this decision for months now, but the need to begin designing a website and producing marketing materials has forced me to make a final decision.

In my next post, I'll describe how I worked through this process and came to a final decision about my own book title. In this post, I'll give you the basic outline of the process, in case you’re in this stage of your writing and might find the ideas helpful.

So here’s a summary of the process.

1. Do research. Go to a local bookstore, or, and check out titles of books that jump out at you. Since they grab your attention, these will likely be ones that sell well. Libraries are also useful for this purpose, but less so because their books include ones that aren’t current. If you go to the library, browse the "new acquisitions" shelf or the “suggested reading” section. Look at these titles deliberately, asking yourself why you notice them, and thinking about what questions they raise or what associations you connect with in them. Just going through this process will subconsciously affect your thinking as you go back to the task of naming your own story.

2. Brainstorm. Make a list of every theme, keyword, visual image, significant object, or key geographical location in your story. Images and objects will usually make more powerful title words than themes or keywords, but this is a brianstorm list so don’t limit yourself at this point. (A powerful object or image would be one that is linked to the plot, or important to the protagonist, or something that recurs throughout the book.)

3. Choose words from this brainstorm list and try to connect them. If you can connect one word with another word on the list, that's great. But you could also simply create a phrase around your chosen word; connect your word with other words that might be associated in the mind of a reader; or, best of all, connect your word with one that will suggest a conflict or a paradox. When you've come up with some possible ideas. . .

4. Investigate potential titles on the internet. You’ll want to know if there are other books already out there by that name. You’ll also want to check cultural associations with those words, to see if they fit with your story. When you do this, you’ll discover where the internet would take potential readers if they were to google your title in the future. This is important. You don’t want to lead readers into an uncomfortably strange neighbourhood! (More on this next post.)

5. Finally, get other opinions. Try out your top choices on friends, especially those who have read your manuscript. Read their body language when you make your suggestions. Watch their faces. And when they tell you what title they prefer, ask them why. Then weigh the validity of their reasons when you decide what advice to take and what to ignore.

So this is what I did. It helped. If you’ve gone through this process already and have ideas to add, please do so. I love comments. I’ll put them into a future blog post if you don’t mind.

Meanwhile, may this Christmas season bring you Freedom, Unbroken by pain or loss. May you find Room in your heart for the one who longs to be the Light Lifting your spirit as you walk into the coming year.

(Check out these four titles above. They're on Amazon's list of Top 100 Editor's Choices for 2010.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ten Words You Should Kill Before They Murder Your Writing

I’m going to take a detour around the self-publishing topic to provide a list I promised a fellow volunteer at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference last week. Julian, this post is for you!

I first learned about this kind of word list from Angela Hunt in a workshop at Mt. Hermon Writers’ Conference. She told us we should avoid “weasel” words, and pointed out that they pepper our writing if we don’t deliberately work to avoid them.

In the world of non-fiction, words are termed “weasel” when they blur the truth—when they are used either to deceive the reader, or to protect the writer from having to defend his or her statements. In fiction writing, I think they should be called weasel words because when we use them we weasel out of the writer’s responsibility to choose words carefully.

We do have a responsibility, as writers, to choose our words carefully, but there’s a more practical reason to concern ourselves with weasel words. David Michael Kaplan says: “Any words that aren’t working for you, are working against you.” Eliminating weasel words instantly makes the writing more effective. It’s well worth the time it takes to use that trusty “find” tool to ferret out every one of these pesky critters (Why does that phrase make me think of Randy Ingermanson?)

Words I work hard at avoiding fall mainly into four categories: they are either unnecessary, vague, overused or weak. My actual list of weasels is 40 words long, but I’ll start here with my ten favourites:

1. Very: Absolutely (;-)the worst offender. Very overused (;-), and unnecessary 99.9% of the time.

2. Many: In the category of non-specific words showing (or not showing) amount. Others are several, most, few, etc.

3. There: When used to begin a sentence. See my May 12 blog post, In the Doghouse.

4. Was/were: Because they usually denote passive voice.

5. Thought/realized: Indicate telling, not showing. If you’re in your POV properly you won’t need to mention that your character is thinking or realizing. See post Deep Point of View, October 6, 2008.

6. Felt/seemed: Same problem. They’re words that show state of being, rather than action. Show the feelings and impressions whenever possible.

7. Quite: A vague qualifier, in the category with almost, kind of, and my personal favorite: a bit.

8. Thing: Why not say what the thing is? It’s more specific, and therefore more vivid. Something, anything are also in this family of words.

9. Vast: An example of any word that indicates hyperbole. Unnecessary exaggeration. Extremely, hugely, minutely, absolutely are other examples.

10. Actually: One of the words David Kaplan lists as equivalent to the “uhs” and “wells” and “you knows” in conversation. Actually, this might be the worst one!

I’ve been checking out Kaplan’s book as I write, and have rediscovered "Chapter Nine: Revising Your Prose for Power and Punch." I’m going to re-study that chapter and go back to my manuscript one more time. He’s got a better list of words and says all I’ve been trying to say much better.

Get his book: Revision: A Creative Approach to Writing and Rewriting Fiction.

P.S. Interesting note on weasel words from

"Though the imagery of the term suggests that it implies the concept of a weasel as being sneaky and able to wiggle out of a tight spot, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language says that the term actually comes from the weasel's ability to suck the contents out of an egg without breaking the shell; thus, weasel words suck the meaning out of a statement while seeming to keep the idea intact."

Monday, October 25, 2010


I just figured out, by experience, how to rate a boutique press. You research the publisher enough to get a look inside some of the books he's published.

If you feel the slightest twinge of embarrassment for even one of the authors, because of the content, or the quality of the writing in his book, it's a vanity press and you don't want to go there.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Great Resources for Self Publishing

I'm on a guilt trip. It's been way too long since I've posted something useful on this site. So here's my penance. Short and sweet.

Today I got two great books in the mail. I could have gone to the library for them, but I decided these will be keepers--an important permanent addition to my writer's library.

A friend had told me how valuable Dan Poynter's advice was for her. She met him at a conference, and highly recommended his book, Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book. This book is credited with starting the current self-publishing revolution--the one I'm caught up in.

When I ordered Dan Poynter's book, Amazon recommended another one (surprise, surprise) and it's a keeper too. The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living, by Peter Bowerman, is an insightful, readable, relaxed introduction to the frantic world of self-publishing, with a dash of humor to keep you entertained as you learn.

Both these books are geared to non-fiction manuscripts, but I have already found helpful information for my situation. And I remain undaunted by Bowerman's warning that self-pubbed fiction is harder to sell than non-fiction. This bulldog has got her mouth around a bone and she's not going to let go until someone else takes a nibble or her teeth fall out.

Today my professional editor received my completed manuscript, as perfect as I can make it. Until he writes back and tells me all the things I still need to fix.

Onward and upward, my writing friends.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Self-Publishing To Do List

Publishing your own book is not as confusing or difficult as I thought it would be. So far, at least. One big asset, and I highly recommend you get one of these, is a professional consultant who is on your side--someone who knows the business, will give good advice and encouragement, and will answer your e-mails quickly.

My guy, Jeff Gerke, has all of these qualifications and more. I'm bugging him lots right now with questions and he's lightening quick with his replies. He is going to be worth all the consulting fees he charges me when it's over.

So here's my list of things to do, in chronological order:

1. Final Revisions. I want to make sure the writing is in top form. This will be the most expensive, the most time-consuming, and the most difficult item on the list. It will also be the most important one, by far. My guy, Jeff, will give me a "Comprehensive Critique" for around $3000, and a "Full Edit" afterward, if I want it, for another $3000. (It's extra expensive because it's such a long book.) Then I'll have to make the revisions. This might be a very long process!

2. Typesetting. Has to be done before the printing company can print the book. Some people do this job themselves, but I don't trust myself. I'm paying Jeff to do this too.

3. Book Cover Design. I have a strong idea of what I want the book cover to look like, so I am taking the iniative with this task. I will hire Jeff to do the final product, but I'll be sending him pictures to incorporate into the design. I had thought I would need to hire an artist to create the image I wanted. This would have been quite expensive. But when I read the great book, Doesn't She Look Natural?, by Angie Hunt, I noticed the cover image was a photograph. Using a photograph will be much cheaper, and I'm having lots of fun getting one. I've found three models who look enough like my three main characters to be related to them. How amazing is that? I'm hiring my creative son-in-law to do a photo shoot with the models posing exactly as I've pictured them on the front of my book. I have no idea if this will work or not, and if Jeff recommends some other design instead I'll listen to him. He knows what sells. But for now, I'm having fun playing around with the idea.

4. Printing. Finding the right printing company is important and takes a bit of research. There are many good services out there, but I think I've found the right one for this project--a young, energetic group of people, with state-of-the-art equipment--and I'm so happy with what they do I'm considering investing in the company. They will print one book at a time, for one penny a page, and mail it directly to the people who order it from my website. Some printing companies require you to buy hundreds of copies of the book up front, which have to be shipped to you and stored in your garage until you can get rid of them, if you can get rid of them! If you're in the market for a printing service, check out Snowfall Press.

5. Marketing. Because I want my books to be affordable to the average reader, I want to sell them myself. Selling through a retailer, or even on, would make my 500-page book way too expensive. Those middlemen are greedy souls. That's why authors publishing the traditional way only make a dollar or less on each sale. If I sell my trade paperback for $12, my profit on each book will be from five to seven dollars, and my readers will feel like they're getting a fair deal. Of course, the downside is I have to do my own marketing. The focus will be the internet. I'll look for sites related to the topic of my book and advertise on those sites. Because my book has an apocolyptic element, I am going to advertise on the December 21, 2012 website, which receives millions of hits a month from people around the world who are interested in "the end of the world as we know it."

6. Website. Because I'm selling the book myself, I'll need a proper website with all the bells and whistles (PayPal and Visa). This is another task I'm going to trust to a professional. The website will be my only interface with potential customers, so it's important that it looks good and works well. I'm looking for the right person for this job. I have lots of ideas for promoting the book on the web, so I'll pay someone to set up the site, then learn how to service it myself, so I can keep it current without spending an arm and a leg.

So that's it. Six things to do. Simple. And I'm pertty sure not#$hing kan go rong.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gulp and Whee

I've taken the plunge and decided to publish Zinovy's Journey myself. The title of this post expresses my emotions as I make this grave decision, but Jeff Gerke, who has agreed to do a comprehensive critique for me as a first step, has promised me it will be a fun experience.

It's going to be a steep learning curve, but I'm convinced self-publishing is the way to go.

Here's what pushed me over the edge. Some dear writer-friend out there in bloggerland put me onto this article. I'm sorry I can't remember who, but thank you. It's by Dean Wesley Smith on the advantages of self-publishing in today's world. He so convinced me this is the way to go that if a traditional publisher approached me now wanting to publish my manuscript I think I'd say "No thank you."

Self publishing certainly isn't for everyone. There are drawbacks in terms of steep learning curves for the author, higher costs, and limits to market exposure. But in the right situation, I'm convinced it's the right way to go, and I think I'm in the right situation.

Because. . .

I want more control of the process and the product than I'd get with a traditional publisher.

I am not expecting to become a millionaire, or even to recoup my expenditures. I want to keep the cost down for my readers so everyone who wants to can buy the book. And, very importantly, my husband has agreed to back me financially.

As for market exposure, that's going to be up to the Powers that Be, just like every other uncontrollable aspect of this writing project has been. I do have a unique and interesting advertising idea that I'll share later on, but going this route will at least allow me to get the book into the hands of the friends who keep asking, "When can I read it?", and I'm hoping they will do some advertising for me if they like it.

Going this route is a lot faster as well. If all goes as planned (and when does it ever?), the book could be in print by late spring or early summer next year. That's about a quarter of the time it would take to jump through all the hoops with a traditional publisher.

From time to time I'll post about my procedures and progress. Sign up on Feedblitz if you're interested, because I still haven't developed the discipline I need to post regularly. Feedblitz will alert you whenever I get around to doing it.

Thanks for your interest, and your prayers.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In the Doghouse


I love words; I love grammar; ergo, I love diagramming sentences.

A diagram is a framework for a sentence, with a space for each word that shows its relationship to other words in the sentence. It's useful for understanding how sentences are structured, and also for studying how they can be re-structured better. That's why diagramming is such a great tool for writers. If the tool is new to you, check it out online. The description and explanation given in is clear and comprehensive, but there are many other sites on the topic as well. Do a search for "sentence diagramming" and a plethora of possibilities will magically appear before your eyes.

I like to think of the diagram as a house for a word family. I'm embarrassed to admit that I go kind of crazy with this analogy, and even more embarrassed to reveal how antiquated my view of parental roles is, but I'll do it anyway. I make the subject of the sentence the father in the family (he sits in the living room and watches TV); the predicate (verb) is the mother (she does all the work); the adjectives are the sons and the adverbs are the daughters. All other parts of speech in the sentence become cousins or grandparents or in-laws or servants, depending on what makes sense to me at the moment.


So what does all this have to do with passive voice? And what's up with the title of this blog post?

Well, there is one word in a sentence that doesn't have a place in the family home. When it's used to begin a statement, it's always placed on a separate line just above and to the left of the sentence framework in the diagram. I call that line the doghouse, and the word that belongs there is the word, "there." In fact, that little doggie is sitting right in the first sentence of this paragraph, wagging its tail happily. Can you find it? In this case, I think it's okay, but the decision to use a passive construction should always be a deliberate one.

The word there does not always belong in the doghouse. When it's used as a demonstrative pronoun--a word that indicates a specific geographical position--it's legit. "Put the chair there." is an example of an appropriate use of the there as a demonstrative pronoun. It's used this way in the last sentence of the paragraph above to indicate the place where "that word belongs."

But when the word there begins a sentence, or a clause in a sentence, it's usually not a pronoun, and if it's not, it always makes its subject passive. In a clause that begins with there, the subject will not just sit on the couch and watch TV. He will be in bed sound asleep. So, in our mission to search and destroy unnecessary use of the passive voice, looking for the word, there, is a good place to start. And it's a good way to begin our discussion of the use of the Find Tool as well.


The "Find" tool is located in the upper left-hand corner of the screen in the drop-down menu under the "Edit" command. Start your search activity by placing your cursor at the beginning of your document, then go to the "Edit" command, then down to "Find." A box will open, asking you what you want to find. Type the word, "there" in the box.

If you want to focus only on the word when it creates a passive construction, you might want to refine your search. Just make sure the word is capitalized, then hit the "More" button to open another drop-down box, and put a tick in the "Match case" box. If you don't refine your search, the exercise will take you to every instance in the text, including demonstrative pronouns. Refining your search in this way will not lead you to every passive construction using there, because some of them are found in clauses within the sentence, but it will take you to the most obvious ones--the ones that begin sentences.

Once you've defined your search parameters, you're set to go. Click "Find next" and your amazing computer will take you to every place you've used the word to begin a sentence. You can then study the example to determine if it's the best way to phrase the sentence, and change the text if you feel you need an active verb instead. As you continue hitting the "Find next" button, the tool will lead you through your document, pointing out each instance where you have put your subject to sleep in this way.


If this sounds like a lot of trouble, you're in trouble. Of course it's a lot of trouble. Revisions are a lot of trouble. But this particular revision process is worth it. Remember, when you do this exercise you're not just cleaning up a particular manuscript. You're also training your brain to be more aware of use of the passive voice. Your next manuscript will be much sharper from the beginning if you do a good job of cleaning out this particular doghouse.

Of course, the word there isn't the only culprit when it comes to use of the passive voice. All forms of the verb "to be" can be used to keep your subject on the couch in front of the TV. Did you notice the passive structure of that sentence? Would this rewording of the sentence be more effective? The verb "to be" can plunk any otherwise healthy subject down on that couch. Well, maybe not, but you get my drift. Eliminating passive voice forces you to choose stronger verbs, and that's usually a really good thing.

Looking for "to be" with the find tool is even more tedious, and will require a little more finesse in defining your search (see "More" for other search options), but if you have a tendency to overuse passive constructions, going through the exercise of finding this verb, at least a few times, will also be well worth the effort.

My next post will talk about another interesting way this tool can help you streamline your revision process. If you've found this post helpful, please comment, and if you have discovered new and unusual ways to use the Find Tool, let me know. I'm constantly on the lookout for helpful ideas.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"To Be" or Not "To Be?"

Okay, so we have to talk about one more thing before we can look at the use of the Find Tool to revise for Passive Voice. I promise we'll go into that next post. But first we need to consider some basic grammar usage. Please bear with me, especially those of you who think you hate grammar.

"To Be" is the most important verb in the English language, or in any language, for that matter. It's important because "being" is the essence of everything, at least from the viewpoint of sentient beings, i.e. humans. Being is all that really counts for us, bottom line.

But enough of philosophy. We're writers. We don't care about philosophy, we care about words (;-). So let's talk about the verb, "to be."

We all know that verbs are words that indicate either "action" or "state-of-being," and we understand, as writers, that action verbs usually have more impact on readers than state-of-being ones. Verbs of being are essential, and, in some cases, they will carry more impact than an action verb would. Therefore, we want to become aware of their use, not so we can eliminate them, but so we can use them only in ways that will give greater impact to our writing. So our goal will be to use verbs that show action every time, unless statement of being is necessary for clarity or impact.

So let's talk about "state-of-being" for a bit.

"To be" is not the only "state of being" verb, but it's the basic one, and the most common. And because it's so common, it's also apt to be repetitive. And because it's repetitive, it can easily become that absolute worst kind of word, in the minds of authors and readers, a "boring" one. This paragraph is a great example. Some form of the verb "to be" has been used ten times in the previous four lines.


Compare with this paragraph:

She whipped out her pen and scribbled a mass of words in her blog that screamed, "Read me" to writers eager to learn how to grab, and hold, their reader's attention. They sat, spellbound, devouring the scintillating ideas that flowed from her clever mind, through her flying fingers, into the Ethernet, certain they'd find the key to fascinating writing, if not to publication, fame and fortune.

Same length of paragraph. No "to be" verbs. Much more gripping, right? (I said gripping, not accurate.) So, in order to avoid using this verb unnecessarily, we need to understand what it does in a sentence, and why it is sometimes necessary.

The verb "to be" is used to accomplish four things in sentences:
1. To describe a noun in the sentence, as in: The woman was beautiful. Or, I'm sorry.
2. To re-name a noun: The boy is my brother. Or, Mr. James is the principal.
3. To "help" another verb, in conjugation: She is going to be late for class, or He has been sitting there all day.
4. To create a passive situation, in which the subject of a sentence is acted upon, instead of doing the action: The results were reported in early May, but did not become well known until late December.

Again, all four uses of the verb are legitimate, but all four can also create dull writing if not used carefully. For this reason, it's good to become aware of when you use them, and why. If you will take just a bit of time to study your writing for the way you use them, you'll benefit for the rest of your writing career. You will streamline the revision process, because you'll be training your mind to revise unnecessary uses of state-of-being verbs out of your very early drafts before they even hit the paper.

Convinced? I hope so. Next post we'll get right into it, starting with use number 4 above: How to find passive constructions in your text, using the Find Tool.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sneaking In the Back Door to Publishing

Yes, I will talk about finding passive voice using the "find" tool, as I said I would. But today I want to take a detour and give you information on some good resources I've run into during my recent efforts to "find" a publisher.

As you know, books get published in a variety of ways these days. No longer are the large, mainstream publishing houses the only route to fame and fortune. Remember The Shack? The author self-published that book. Only after he'd done that did a mainstream publisher pick it up.

Now William Young didn't look for a mainstream publisher in the first place. He wrote the book for his children, made fifteen copies, gave them as Christmas presents, and then forgot about it. But if he had approached a mainstream publisher he probably wouldn't have gotten his foot in the door.

Why wouldn't The Shack attract a big-league publisher?

Mainstream publishers look for books that fit a particular market niche. They're smart. They know what sells, and all publishers want to sell books, so they usually only publish books like the ones that have sold well in the past. So if you really want to sell books to mainstream publishers, you need to write stories that fit into the genres they are specifically looking for.

But if your book is already written, and it doesn't fit into any proven "marketable" niche, you'll probably need to look toward self-publishing of some kind. There are many options. Some are more "self" than others. You can do the whole thing yourself, even forming your own publishing company, or you can use what are called "boutique" publishing companies that give you support at various levels in the process, up to actually promoting and distributing your books in bookstores.

Businesses that support self-publishing, or boutique publishing houses that actually publish and help you market books, offer a wealth of information, much of it free, and research into the possibility of this kind of publishing is worthwhile. Here are a couple of reputable options for publishing Christian material that I'm considering:

So if you're looking for a publisher, and you don't have the platform or experience to attract Zondervan or Thomas Nelson, don't despair. Consider the more humble possibilities. They're good, and they're helping authors publish books that otherwise would never be in print.

Next post on the exhilarating topic of passive voice. I promise.

P.S. Check out more detailed discussion of genre and publishing in the March, 2009 posts below.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More About Adverbs

If you search for adverbs ending in "ly", you'll run into a few specific kinds of words that need particular editorial attention. (Can you count the unnecessary adjectives in that sentence?)

Adverbs that indicate when an action happens are problematic, especially in fiction. I still haven't learned how to use them in a way that pleases me. They seem necessary, yet they sound sophomoric in the writing. Words like: eventually, finally (Most overused word in my manuscript, I'm sure.), suddenly (Sheesh. Sounds like a Dick and Jane reader when I use it.) often come at the beginning of a sentence, and can become repetitious so easily. If anyone has any idea how to deal properly with these "time" descriptors, will you let me know?

Probably and usually are examples of what are called "hedge" words, and should be used deliberately or not at all. It's better simply to leave them off and make a strong statement without the qualifier, unless you have a strong reason to put them in. I use them only when I'm writing from inside the mind of a character who is going through the process of thinking something through. If my character is thinking "probably" or "usually" I'll let it pass. But the author shouldn't be that hedgy.

Supposedly, hurriedly, and all other adverbs where "ed" comes before the "ly" are awkward and archaic. They'll bog your writing down and date you, and most of us don't want to be dated, at least not in that sense.

And here are some sneaky ones: obviously, apparently, and evidently are usually unnecessary. If it's obvious, apparent or evident, why do you have to tell your reader it is? Again, these words are okay if they're in the mind of a character. Your main character might say to himself, "This was obviously going to be a one-sided conversation." Or, "Apparently, he was supposed to read her mind." But when you slip out of a character's mind into narrative, you insult your reader by telling her the obvious.

One strong clue that an adverb is bad, bad, bad is when it's linked with some form of the verb "to be." "It was obviously a wrong number." She was apparently going to refuse." "He was finally getting there." These are all passive constructions, and we all know how bad, bad, bad the passive voice is.

Speaking of passive voice, did you know that clever "find" tool can help you find it? We'll talk about that in the next post. Meanwhile, blessings on your delete button as you search and destroy those unnecessary adverbs.

Who was it who said, "If a word doesn't work for you, it works against you?" Renni Browne? Dave King?

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Find Tool: A Writer's Best Friend

Does your editor say you have a problem with wordiness? Are you addicted to adverbs, the passive voice, ambiguous pronouns, unnecessary demonstrative pronouns?

If so, you're not alone. These problems hound every writer. But cheer up. Help is at hand. In fact, it's right there under your hand. It's called a mouse, and when it clicks on the "Edit" thinggummy in the top left-hand corner of your screen, then moves down to the "Binocs" icon and clicks there, you've found the solution to all your problems.

Well, okay. That's a bit strong. But at least you've found a great helper when it comes to the problems mentioned above, and many more.

You've probably already discovered this great friend, but you might not have thought of all the ways it can work for you. I'm going to write a series of posts on how I'm using it. If you discover some helpful ones here, that's great. If you've found some I haven't discovered yet, please comment so we can add your discoveries to the list.

Finding Adverbs

This first post is going to be about finding adverbs.

We've all heard the latest news: adverbs are clutter that keep us from choosing stronger verbs. But we were taught to use adverbs in school and it's a hard lesson to un-learn. They slip into our writing automatically. Hence, the need for revisions that ferret them out. This is where the find tool can help.

Many adverbs end in "ly". If you can eliminate those, you've gotten rid of much of your adverb problem. So the trick is to find all the "ly" words in your manuscript and kill the ones you don't need. The find tool can lead you to those pesky critters.

I hear you saying, "Oh groan. That's so much trouble. So nit-picky."

Yes, it is, but the nit-picking is worth the trouble, because going through this process will accomplish much more than the clean-up of the particular manuscript you are trying to sell to a nit-picky editor. As you do it, you're also developing great editorial skills. You're learning to recognize the problem, and you're practicing how to fix it.

And, great bonus here, you're also ensuring the problem does not happen so often in the future. Your internal editor will make sure of that. She'll be nattering in your ear: "See. This is bad. And if you'd learned to do it right in the first place, you wouldn't have to go through this tedious process." If you trudge through the process once, your next rough draft will need a lot less attention, because your mind will be re-trained to avoid adverbs.

So here's the procedure:

1) Set your cursor at the beginning of your manuscript.
2) Then do the mouse thing to find the binocs and click on it. A box will appear over your text, and your cursor will be blinking, ready and waiting, in the box.
3) Type "ly" and one space in the box.
4) Click on the "Find Next" box. The program will take you, one instance at a time, to every word that ends in ly (with two exceptions explained below). Make sure you put a space after the "ly" in the box. If you don't, the tool will highlight every word where the two letters appear together, and you are only interested in finding words that end that way.
5) You must then deal with every instance individually. Some "ly" adverbs you may decide to leave in, but many of them you'll want to delete and choose a more specific verb instead.

About those exceptions: when you type "ly" plus a space in the find box, the program will not take you to any "ly" words that have a comma or a period after them. If you want to do a thorough job you'll also need to search for "ly." and "ly,".

Adverbs that don't end in "ly" are not detectable with the Find tool. You'll have to look for them another way. But the process is invaluable for alerting you to the need to limit adverb use.

Stay tuned. Next post will talk about another editorial use of the tool. Don't know when it will appear. If you want to be alerted, put your e-mail address in the Feedblitz gadget at the top, left-hand side of the blog page. Feedblitz will then send you an e-mail notice when the next post is available.

Happy nit-picking! And please do comment if you have advice to add to this topic.

P.S. I checked this post for "ly" adverbs. Found three. Deleted two of them. Both were the word, "really." I didn't really need either of them. Don't need it here either, do I?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Three Great Websites!

So today I'm doing research and sending off queries. Cold calling. Yes, I know it's not supposed to work, but I don't know what else to do to get this baby out there. I'm hoping once I do this assignment I will feel less agitated about not going anywhere with it.

In the process I've found what look to be some great resources.

First, Terry Whalin's Right Writing. If you sign up for his e-zine you get free copies of three of his books on using the web. He's written over 60 non-fiction books, was acquisitions editor for Howard Books for five years, and now is with Intermedia Publishing Group, a self-publishing press that looks quite professional.

Then there's a great resource with a wealth of information on Christian publishers at Lyn Cote's website. Lyn Cote sounds like an amazing woman. She's multi-published, very polished, and willing to share her wisdom with up-coming writers. Check out her hints on publishing at:

I'm also looking at a Christian Publishing Service "for authors wanting to present their own book proposals to the leading Christian publishers in the industry." For $98 I can put my manuscript in the electronic slush piles of many of the major publishing houses. Another long-shot, but may be worth a try.

Check them out! If nothing else, this will serve as a legitimate writing procrastination tool.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lies That Keep Me From Writing

You can’t do it.
You have nothing to say.
It’s all been said before, better.
There’s too much to read in the world already.
No one will want to read it.
It’s too hard to get right.
It won’t matter.