Saturday, March 2, 2019

Hooked On a Book – How to Get Your Audience to Fall in Love With Your Book




by D.E. Partridge

When talking to friends, it grieves me to hear some of them say that they do not like to read. I thrive off of books, I love them.

So what makes some people have such differing opinions?

There are so many books being written these days – approximately 2.2 million are published per year. And so many of these books, although they have a good basic story, still fail to capture their audience. Why?

There are a multitude of reasons. Well-written books (particularly in fiction) should have a well-developed, well-thought-out plot. The lack of a good plot will cause the reader to become bored with a story before they near its end.

In addition to the plot, the author should take care in how their story is written. Sentences that all begin with the same part of speech and have the same general structure become redundant, and readers begin to feel as though they are reading the same thing over and over and are not getting anywhere. Using different sentence openers and conjunctions to vary your writing technique can help with this immensely.

The heart of a story is its characters, so the care taken in developing your characters is of utmost importance. The details of your characters' personalities must be decided upon before you begin writing so that they remain consistent throughout the book.

Nothing takes away from a book's credibility quite so much as the author's lack of research. If your book contains historical events, real people, or other things that could be encountered outside of your story, do your research!

Last but not least, a true classic is formed, not by the story itself, or by the characters, but by the passion laying behind them. If you truly love your story, others will, as well, and you can capture the hearts of bibliophiles for years to come!


D.E. Partridge is the 2018 winner of the Literary Classics Young Author Award for her first book, The CLAIMED. She has always loved both reading and writing, and she has now finished the trilogy which began with The CLAIMED, a trilogy titled The Dimension Chronicles. All three of her books are available on Amazon under her pen name, D.E. Partridge. Other than reading and writing, she enjoys crocheting and ballet. You can learn more about her and her books on her website, www.dimensionchronicles.com, or on her Facebook page, @departridge.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

What Does Grammar Have to Do with It?



          I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard or read, “Why should I care about using correct grammar in my writing? That’s why they have editors.”  Wrong! Most publishers won't even consider an error-filled manuscript.  Paying for an experienced, dependable literary editor is expensive, and the editors themselves will do only so much.

Some writers fight the idea that grammar (including sentence structure, punctuation, subject/verb agreement, pronoun usage, spelling, etc.) impacts the worthiness of writing, which is like saying failing to lay a solid foundation does not impact the stability of a building. Good grammar is extremely important. It shows the writer's professionalism and attention to detail. The writer will also be able to give an explanation that is understood.

Grammatical errors can cause confusion, and, in the worst-case scenarios, they can completely change the meaning of a sentence. A writer not knowing how to use good grammar will make writing difficult to read. Poor grammar (including all subtexts) breaks the flow of reading, annoys the reader, and reflects badly on the writer. No-one wants to be jarred from a really interesting read by poor punctuation or glaring grammatical errors.

Writer Melissa Donovan states, "Too many times I’ve heard aspiring writers shrug off good grammar, saying they’d rather focus on plot or character, they’d prefer to use a natural, unlearned approach to keep the writing raw, or they will simply hire an editor to do the dirty work. I have a hard time buying into those lines of reasoning. Refusing to bother with grammar is just plain lazy, especially for writers who yearn to be more than hobbyists."

Why should writers embrace grammar rather than make excuses for ignoring it? Here are ten reasons why good grammar should be a central pursuit in writing efforts:

1. Readability
If your work is peppered with grammatical mistakes and typos, your readers are going to have a hard time trudging through it. Nothing is more distracting than being yanked out of a good story because a word is misspelled or a punctuation mark is misplaced. You should always respect your readers enough to deliver a product that is enjoyable and easy to read.

2. Communication
Some musicians learn to play by ear and never bother to learn how to read music. Many of them don’t even know which notes and chords they’re playing, even though they can play a full repertoire of recognizable songs and probably a few of their own. But get them in a room with other musicians and they’ll quickly become isolated. You can’t engage with others in your profession if you don’t speak the language of your industry. Good luck talking shop with writers and editors if you don’t know the parts of speech, the names of punctuation marks, and all the other components of language and writing that are related to good grammar.

3. Getting Published
How will you get that short story, essay, or blog post published if you don’t know the basics of grammar, spelling, and punctuation? Sure, some managing editors will go over your work and clean it up for you, but most reputable publishers have enough submissions that they can toss grammatically weak work into the trash without thinking twice.

4. Working with an Editor
I love it when writers say they can just hire an editor. This goes back to communication. If you can’t talk shop with other writers, you certainly won’t be able to converse intelligently about your work and its flaws with a professional editor. How will you respond to feedback and revision suggestions or requests when you don’t know what the heck the editor is talking about? Remember, it’s your work. Ultimately, the final version is your call, and you won’t be able to approve it if you’re clueless about what’s wrong with it.

5. Saving Money
Speaking of hiring an editor, you should know that editors will only go so far when correcting a manuscript. It’s unseemly to return work to a writer that is solid red with markups. Most freelance editors and proofreaders have a limit to how much they will mark up any given text, so the more mistakes there are, the more surface work the editor will have to do. That means she won’t be able to get into the nitty-gritty and make significant changes that take your work from average to superior because she’s breaking a sweat just trying to make it readable.

6. Invest in Yourself
Learning grammar is a way to invest in yourself. You don’t need anything more than a couple of good writing resources and a willingness to take the time to hone your skills. In the beginning, it might be a drag, but eventually, all those grammar rules will become second nature, and you will have become a first-rate writer.

7. Respectability, Credibility, and Authority
As a first-rate writer who has mastered good grammar, you will gain respect, credibility, and authority among your peers. People will take you seriously and regard you as a person who is committed to the craft of writing, not just some hack trying to string words together in a haphazard manner.

8. Better Writing All Around
When you’ve taken the time to learn grammar, it becomes second nature. As you write, the words and punctuation marks come naturally because you know what you’re doing; you’ve studied the rules and put in plenty of practice. That means you can focus more of your attention on other aspects of your work, like structure, context, and imagery (to name a few). This leads to better writing all around.

9. Self-Awareness
Some people don’t have it. They charge through life completely unaware of themselves or the people around them. But, most of us possess some sense of self. What sense of self can you have as a writer who doesn’t know proper grammar? That’s like being a carpenter who doesn’t know what a hammer and nails are. It’s almost indecent.

10. There’s Only One Reason to Abstain from Good Grammar
There is really only one reason to avoid learning grammar: the writer is just plain lazy. Anything else is a silly excuse.

          No matter what trade, craft, or career one is pursuing, everyone starts with learning the basics. Actors learn how to read scripts. Scientists learn how to apply the scientific method. Politicians learn how to… well, never mind what politicians do. We are writers. We must learn how to write well, and writing well definitely requires using good grammar.

William B. Bradshaw, and author and writing expert says:
"Whenever I get on my soapbox about grammar, people often tell me I put too
much emphasis on the importance of grammar -- after all, they say, why does
it matter what kind of grammar people use; the important thing is whether or
not they understand what they are saying and writing to one another."  

However, grammar is the foundation for communication. IF a person wants to be taken seriously as a writer, he/she must use proper grammar. Therefore, if you don’t have a good grasp of grammar and all of its subtexts, learn. Find a good easy-to-understand book of grammar and read it, refer to it, and use the knowledge inside it. Find websites with grammar lessons and information.

Grammar has much to do with good writing.

As a teacher of English, composition, yearbook, newspaper, and magazine, Vivian not only taught how to write but worked to hone her own skills. She continued to attend workshops, classes, and clinics to improve her knowledge, while she also had poetry, articles, and short stories published. Finally she began writing full time. Now, she has three young adult books and a mystery / suspense / thriller out.

When Vivian saw a gap between self-publishing and the large publishing houses, she with two other women began their own small press, 4RV Publishing LLC. They work one on one with authors and artists, and the list of published books and clients is growing. 






Thursday, January 17, 2019

Writing: It's All in the Details



by Susan Day

Whether you enjoy jotting down your thoughts in a journal or you consider yourself to be an experienced writer, you should know by now that the key to creating powerful prose and narration is in the details.

But, is it easier said than done?
The way you describe a character or thing is crucial to the readers' enjoyment. Regardless of what you have planned to happen in the plot, the words you use to expand on details are what will capture the hearts of your readers.
The truth is that most plots and situations have been written about before. With thousands of books published a day, there is bound to be a story just like yours 'out there'.
The way you can make your story stand out is not what you write about, but how you write it.
Read the Classics
The reason some authors are still being read today is the quality of their work.
Let's look at Charles Dickens – he wrote stories about the people and the events which shaped the city of London in the mid-1800's.
Each morning he would walk the streets making a mental note of the people he saw and what they did. Then at home, he would use his notes to create wonderful characters, all of whom, carried the story and, at times, drove the plot for him.
When you read of a young man, whose desire to be rich is far from his present situation, described as being disproportionately unlike the distance between the soles of his feet and the cold pavement due to the holes in his shoes, you know you're reading a brilliant descriptive text.
Knowing when to stop adding adjectives
Describing the physical characteristics of the people in your book should go beyond simply telling how old, tall, fat or rich an individual might be.
Instead, we might read how someone struggles to stretch a worn leather belt around jeans fading at every edge.
We might be privy to small hands fidgeting like trapped butterflies under the table as the characters share their first lunchtime rendezvous.
Just listing adjectives or adverbs is not going to cut it. Rather, put your characters into situations and watch them squirm, relax or even shine.
Knowing when to reach for the thesaurus
If you've been writing all your life, like so many of you have, you should begin to recognize words you repeat over and over again.
Replace overused words by using your thesaurus. If you are writing in an MSWord doc, select the word and hit 'shift' +F7 and a list of words will appear to help and guide you. The more you do
this the better you'll get.
Read and take note of how other great authors create minute details which add so much more substance to the plot of their book.
Adding details which show rather than tell your reader what you are saying will make your writing powerful, compelling and, best of all, have your readers wanting more.
Susan Day is a passionate blogger, author, and educator. She has written over 100 guest posts for other bloggers this year alone and has just published her first non-fiction book 10 Things Happy Grandparents Never Regret Doing.  Susan lives in Australia with four dogs, three bossy cats, three rescue guinea pigs, and an errant kangaroo

Friday, June 1, 2018

Advice from a Teen Author!


- Katelynn Renteria

As a teen author, I would like to share some advice I have learned that has helped me keep the elusive calm in the constant chaos of publishing a book. I wrote my first novel at age 14, and was published at age 16. I am now a self-published author and often still think to myself, what have I learned throughout this process?

1. Fall off the bandwagon! Be yourself. Be bold, daring, and show your audience who you really are. From the pictures that you post on social media to the marketing and promotion of your book, make sure your audience sees what’s in your heart so they can read what’s on your mind.

2. Audience building is key. You could have written the best book on the shelf, but if you don’t build your audience, then you have missed your target. Use social media such as Facebook pages and Twitter to show your friends and people who follow you that you have a lot to say.

3. Make positive connections. Networking with other authors and meeting new people to add to your following is a must to have your social media thrive. By growing your presence and promote other authors as well as yourself, you are able to grow your audience and reach your target. Marketing and book promotion is easier when you connect with friends that already have a large audience halfway around the world.

4. Write your heart out. Critics exist because of the great works in this world. Do not be afraid to write what’s really on your mind instead of wondering if someone will like your story. It’s your story. Make it count.

5. Make sure you fall in love with your characters first. They are the reason people will buy your book. Talk about your characters as if they were in the room. After all, you want your audience to go home with them.


Katelynn Renteria is a teen author from South Texas. She is a 2017 Recipient of the Literary Classics Silver Book Award in the middle school division for her YA fiction novel, The Other Side of the Law. Katelynn advocates literacy in the Rio Grande Valley by visiting South Texas communities and promoting the importance of reading and writing to children and teens. The sequel to her award-winning novel is near completion.  Links: www.amazon.com/author/katelynnrenteria

Monday, December 11, 2017

Incorporating Literary Elements into Nonfiction


According to Barbara Lounsberry in The Art of Fact: Contemporary Artists of Nonfiction, all good creative nonfiction shares these four essential characteristics:  (1) documentable subject matter chosen from the real world as opposed to events imagined in the writer’s mind; (2) exhaustive research which permits authors to “establish the credibility of their narratives through verifiable references in their texts;” (3) vibrant, well-developed scenes that are the building blocks of the work; and (4) a pleasing literary style. Certainly, these were characteristics I had to keep in mind as I developed the three narrative biographies in Unbroken Spirits: Three Extraordinary Southern Colorado Women.
A couple years of perusing dozens of primary and secondary sources and extensive use of endnotes in the final product helped me meet the first two criteria. However, the last two proved far more challenging. I wanted each of the three biographies to feel like a short story unified by a suspenseful plot. Yet each also had to be historically accurate.
I began by listing in chronological order all the significant events in the main character’s life and using the list to develop a storyline. By this method, I could decide which events on the real person’s timeline to build into scenes within the story; which to place inside endnotes; and which to eliminate altogether. Then came the hard work—converting a simple event on a storyboard into an exciting, sensory-laden scene that would catch the reader’s interest. The three examples included in the rest of this essay illustrate straightforward techniques for developing a factually accurate but dramatic scene for creative nonfiction.
Example One—Hook the reader. Immediately grab the reader’s attention while liberally employing figurative language and juxtaposing short statements next to longer sentences in order to add structural variety. These aspects of good writing must be obvious within the first page of the work.
Here’s how I transformed a single event on Chipeta’s storyline into the opening sentences of her biography. Basic Fact: Chipeta, wife of the famous Uncompahgre Ute, Chief Ouray, was actually a Kiowa Apache orphaned at an early age. The Opening Sentences of the Narrative Biography: Sinister, bloody, and unnerving—that’s what the Ute hunters thought of the place they had just stumbled upon. They were staring at a village of teepees nestled into a grove of cottonwood where nothing seemed to be stirring. No dogs barked. No horses neighed. No humans called out to each other. These few lines provide a suspenseful beginning to the first scene while simultaneously leading into the first event on Chipeta’s timeline.
Example Two—Enhance character development through use of dialogue. Because I could not interview my characters, I had to turn to history books, legal proceedings, courthouse records, old newspapers, and other archives to discover useful quotations. In Marion Sloan Russell’s case, her own autobiography was not the best place to find material on her family’s twenty-year legal struggle against the Maxwell Land Grant Company. Luckily, other sources dedicated far more space to detailing this conflict, and I could employ quotations found in these other sources to develop dialogue for the rising action in my own story of Ms. Russell.
“Shoot him,” cried someone standing inside the picket fence who had probably overheard at least some of the conversation.
“They’re here to seize our property!” exclaimed another homesteader. “We can’t allow them to do it!”
“Kill ‘um,” screamed a third voice. “Kill ‘um all!”
By then Deputy Hunn had reached the hotel lobby and slammed the front door shut. Some of the settlers could see that his cronies had already barricaded bay windows with mattresses and were presently pointing Winchester rifles through broken glass panes…
“Keep your head down!” yelled Frenchy, who dived for cover behind a veranda column. Richard pressed his back up against a wall, his eyes on the front door.
“Surround the building!” screamed O.P. McMains, as he ran toward the crowd.
Ms. Russell’s husband played a key role in the gunfight at Stonewall, Colorado, and this shootout also happened to be a culminating event adding fuel to Ms. Russell’s legal proceedings. Therefore, I felt comfortable in using documentable details and quotations I’d gathered when researching this event as I built toward the climax of my own version of Ms. Russell’s story. Why make something up when historical events provide realistic conclusions at least as dramatic as any contrived in an author’s imagination?
Example Three—Show rather than tell. Authors of creative nonfiction must utilize sensory detail to show rather than tell important character traits. Within Pearl Jolly’s biography, I developed sympathy for the strike organizer Louis Tikas by showing that he was brave and willing to stand up to tyrants. The following scene also employs foreshadowing because the word “someday” will eventually resurface many pages later in the climax of the story.
The handsome Greek remained cool-headed but defiant, evidencing the fact that he too was a veteran of foreign wars. “Someday,” he whispered, glaring into the face of his bullying opponent. The rest of the sentence was left unsaid, but Linderfelt had heard it before, heard it from strikers walking the streets of Trinidad, heard it from the striker’s wives ridiculing him behind his back, heard it from the Greeks, including Louis Tikas, who had made a show of pointing imaginary guns at him with their index and middle fingers.
When he heard Louis Tikas’ implied threat, Linderfelt’s reddening face puffed up like a big toad's.” Hold him, boys,” he barked as he motioned to two of his subordinates. They pulled Louis outside the train depot, pinned him against the wall, and watched as Linderfelt drew his pistol and prepared to beat Louis over the head with it.
Critics tell us to render a true story more entertaining by creating a literary style that is enjoyable, enlightening, and freshly original. Thus, we are challenged to use strong imagery while remaining grounded in fact. In What is Creative Nonfiction? Lee Gutkind compares creative nonfiction to jazz because “it’s a rich mix of flavors, ideas, and techniques, some of which are newly invented and others as old as writing itself.” We are not allowed “to make stuff up,” but we are compelled to use literary techniques to connect our readers to our subject matter in a meaningful, poignant way.

Kay Beth Faris Avery is a southern Colorado writer specializing in Colorado history, southwestern historical fiction, and creative biographies. Avery’s second book, Tales from the Trappers’ Trail, was a finalist in the 2010 New Mexico Book Awards. Her short story, Homesteaders, from the book entitled Warriors, Widows, and Orphans, earned third place in Contest 13 of the Tom Howard International Short Story Contest. Her collection of narrative biographies, Unbroken Spirits: Three Extraordinary Southern Colorado Women, garnered a Silver Award in the High School Creative Nonfiction category of the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards. Before turning to writing as a full-time profession, Avery served as a teacher for more than thirty years in such diverse settings as a small rural high school in northwestern Kansas, a middle school on the island of Guam, and a technical education center in Kissimmee, Florida. 




Thursday, November 9, 2017

Writing For Children -Finding Your Child Voice

By Diane Mae Robinson

When writing children's literature, finding your own child voice is the only way to create realistic characters, believable dialogue, and succinct narrative that will grab your reader’s attention and keep them involved in your story.

My writing students often ask me: So how does a writer find their child voice?
My answer to students is this: Before you can find your child voice, you must think like a child. To think like a child, you must play like a child, even if it is only in your mind.
Seems like a relatively simple thing to do, right?  But as adults, we often let go of (or lose completely) our childlike attitudes and behaviors; tuck them away in a memory box.
So, open the box. Remember. Put on a costume and dance around the room, go to a park and cruise down the slide, visit a classroom, read children’s literature, or hang out with some kids and just observe. Soon enough, your own childhood memories will come flooding back about what it was like to be that age--what was important, what wasn’t important, how you acted and how you talked, what the world sounded like, felt like, and tasted like.  

Once your own inner child is awakened, you will be able to immerse yourself into your child character’s head with more freedom, and your writing will be filled with pizzazz.
Another exercise I have my students do to get into child-mode thinking is to look at things, people, situations, and emotions; write down all the different ways to express it with originality. Then, break the sentences down again and again until the emotions and situations are expressed simply, with the innocence of a child’s heart.

Here are some examples of my child voice that I’ve used in my own stories:

Excited:  He felt as if a herd of jumping bugs were doing cartwheels in his stomach.

Sad: My heart fell sideways and stayed lying down all day.

Descriptive dialogue: "I’m sure grandma can fly. See that flapping skin under her arms? Those are her after-dark wings."

Descriptive narrative: The wind pricked and jabbed him, becoming so mean with all its yelling and howling that Tom decided the wind wasn’t worth playing with any longer.

So, if find yourself dancing and twirling around the kitchen, doing cartwheels across the yard, or finger painting like a four-year-old, and somebody comes along to tell you that you are acting immature, take it as a compliment and start writing.

Diane Mae Robinson is the international multi-award-winning author of the children’s fantasy/adventure series, The Pen Pieyu Adventures.  The author is also an artist, art teacher, editor of children books, and a writing instructor.  Diane lives in central Alberta, Canada.
Author’s website: www.dragonsbook.com

Amazon author’s page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B007DKO8SK

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Past Mistakes of a New Author Trying to Get Noticed



When I started to write my first ever book, I admit I didn’t have a clue. Yes, I knew I had a good story in my head, and I had written much of it down on paper and had painted a lot of the illustrations.  Next was to let friends and family read it. Big mistake, of course, they all say it’s great, loved it, or it’s coming on well, as they don’t want to upset you! Proud as I was, I set off to look for an editor, I asked around a bit and soon came across someone that knew one nearby, so I printed my manuscript (manuscript was a new word for me at that time) and had it spiral bound with my draft cover and all images inside, I paid my near $1,000 and gave it to the editor I also sent a word file of the book, and I waited.

The manuscript was returned by e-mail from the Editor with something else new to me called Track Changes, it seemed to have ripped apart much of my book, and put it in the side column and removed almost all of the commas. Puzzled we arranged a meeting and were told, “These days readers don’t like commas, as it slows the reading, and readers these days are more intelligent, so I have removed most of them for you.” My poor manuscript was in now tatters. Rewrite one began.

That was a hard lesson learned with editors, they are worth their weight in gold, but you have to make sure you get the right one. The one I had used was trained in editing technical manuals! But I didn’t totally lose everything, it had been a valuable lesson, and I then knew how to use Track Changes and now couldn’t work without it.  I soon found a suitable company to edit and format my book professionally and was quite disappointed when it came back after the first round of editing with another half of my book shoved over to the side column.  So rewrite two took place. Following more edits, and months of work rewriting I now knew how writing books worked properly and had something that really was worth reading.  

Then I self-published. I remember thinking at the time, now all I have to do was put it on Amazon, pay for someone to design and build a website, and within a year they would be selling like hot-cakes. Duh! Wrong.  I didn’t know that there are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone, and if you are self-published you are on the bottom of the pile, as your ISBN book number can identify this to publishers. 

As I soon found out after sending out dozens of books to major publishers, there was never a single reply. I wondered, “Is my book that bad!” This simply seemed a waste of books and postage. I did manage to get to talk to one major company and they told me they get thousands of unsolicited submissions a week, and hundreds of books delivered a day.  So they simply dispose of them. That’s when it dawned on me that it was going to be a long hard road of reviews, competitions, free giveaways, bigger better websites, blogs, tweets, book clubs, paying for advertising, press releases, and more.

I suppose it works like a filter, only allowing the cream to float to the top. But none of this social media or computer stuff was really me. I’m the artistic one who writes and draws from all that rubbish floating around in his head.  But luckily I had a wife who was so much more of an academic than me, and by this time I had almost finished my second book, and my stupid head was already imagining the third.

We are not gamblers as we have both worked hard all our lives and have earned all we have. But now was the time to be brave, so we were. My wife left her job and started in earnest promoting my books; she built websites and learned how to make video trailers, blogs, Tweets etc. We entered competitions and sent for reviews and generally networked (another first for me). As a team, we gained strength and recognition in the literary world.  Mind you, it doesn’t come cheap, but if you want your books out there you have to be brave.

Seven years of hard work later and it has worked for us. We have some great reviews, have won International Book Awards and been interviewed by radio and newspapers. We are currently in negotiations with a recognized publisher, and a fourth book is on the way.  Yes, it’s a very long hard road, but keep going and don’t give up on yourself. When you win that first award, as we did with Literary Classics Book Awards, it really gives you that boost of energy to forge ahead. Sometimes all you need is for your book to be in the right place at the right time, and it all becomes worthwhile.

International award-winning author, Stephan von Clinkerhoffen, is a Peter Pan character. That’s why his sci-fi fantasy series “The Hidden city of Chelldrah-ham” suits younger readers and the “young at heart”.  Clinkerhoffen’s writing, conceived from his love of mechanics, nature, and art is tempered by humanity and fun.  An Engineering background allows him to develop new ideas, learning from success and failure. He enjoys tinkering with classic cars and motorbikes, and even built his own kit car.  Through his art, Clinkerhoffen embraces the challenge of painting intricately detailed fantasy lands which he depicts in his novels.  Clinkerhoffen spent several years volunteering with the New Zealand Red Cross after Christchurch’s earthquakes. Back in England, after 14 years living in New Zealand, he feels lucky to call the Cotswold countryside his home again.

See links below to find out more about Stephan von Clinkerhoffen and “The Hidden City of Chelldrah-ham” series.