Welcome to the GWN blog! Today I have Jim Cort talking about passive voice.

Here’s Jim.

There’s no question that the prime whipping boy of English grammar is the passive voice.  “Avoid the passive voice,” the writing manual says.  “Never use the passive where you can use the active,” says George Orwell.  Well, what’s the big problem?  What’s so bad about the passive voice, anyhow?

Let’s find out.

First of all, we need to understand how an English sentence is put together.  The normal word order for a sentence in English is: subject, verb, object.  We can put this another way: actor, action, and thing acted upon.  This is known as the active voice.  Here’s an example: I ate the pizza.

A sentence in the passive voice is arranged: object, verb, subject.  Or, again: thing acted upon, action, actor.  Like this: The pizza was eaten by me. So, here’s the first stumbling block: the passive voice takes the normal word order in a sentence and stands it on its head.  It’s cumbersome.

Next, let’s do a simple word count.  The active sentence has four words.  The passive sentence has six words.  So the passive sentence takes more words to say the same thing.  Two extra words may not seem like a lot, but look at as a percentage. The passive sentence is fifty percent longer but conveys the same information.

Now, consider the verbs.  In the passive sentence, the short, strong verb eat has been replaced by its weaker past participle eaten, and hobbled with the auxiliary verb was.  It’s a less forceful, less direct way of speaking.  And remember the paradox of helping verbs: The more you help your verb, the weaker it becomes.

When we graduate to complex sentences and more complicated ideas, we start to see how passive constructions can do some real mischief to the clarity and ease of reading we want:

This handbook should in no manner be construed as a fixed or binding contract between the Company and you, and its provisions can be considered as no more than general summaries of the benefits, work rules, and policies they address. No reliance should be placed on existing policies in making your determination to accept or continue employment with the Company.

This a lot to slog through.  The sentences are so long and so convoluted, that it’s hard to keep things straight in your head as you go along.  Also, it’s a real challenge figuring out who’s doing what.  Things that happen in the passive voice are like acts of God or forces of Nature—they just happen.

So, if the passive voice is so nasty, why do we keep it around?  Why hasn’t it become extinct long ago?  The plain truth is the passive voice does have its uses.  Here are a few instances where you might not want to resist the passive:

1. For variety.  A sentence in the passive every now and then adds variety to your writing.  It breaks up the monotony and keeps up the reader’s interest. Just think of it as a strong spice like cayenne or cumin—a little goes a long way.

2. For emphasis. As we mentioned, the passive voice describes an action as if it were an act of God, or a condition that has existed for all time.  Because of this, the passive is useful for setting policy or laying down the law: Neckties will be worn in this area.  That’s it.  It’s carved in stone.  No room for argument.

3. For evasive action. Since the passive can describe an action without identifying the actor, it’s useful for writing about something you don’t quite fully understand yourself.  (Not that this is a good practice, but we can’t walk the straight and narrow all the time.) It’s also handy for delivering bad news—you can admit that something bad happened without actually confessing to it: Mistakes were made.

Generally speaking, however, you’re better off steering clear of the passive.  Review what you’ve written and look for forms of the word be–is, are, was, were, has been, had been–coupled with a verb form.  This is a warning flag for the passive voice.  Consider if these sentences might read better in the active voice: subject, verb, object.  Most of the time, I think you’ll find they will

Jim Cort has been writing since dirt was invented. His novel The Lonely Impulse is available from Smashwords:

Cindy here again!

Great information, Jim! Thanks for being here today.

Happy writing!



A tip for writing paranormal and blurbs for Wicked Intentions

It’s Monday! Welcome to the GWN blog. Today we have JoAnne Myers with a tip for paranormals and some blurbs for her upcoming story collection.

Here’s JoAnne.

When it comes to fiction writing, almost anything goes. That is why I love writing paranormal and fantasy stories. The author can go completely over the edge and make something unbelievable seem believable. When it comes to ghost stories, I get a lot of my inspiration from real life experiences. Not necessarily my own either. I watch television programs that partake of the supernatural and paranormal flare. Programs from ordinary people who claim they experienced either an afterlife experience, or a haunting.

Some of my stories from my upcoming anthology “Wicked Intentions” are based on actual hauntings. Some stories I read about in the newspaper, and others I watched on true life experience programs. So the next time you get “writer’s block” try switching on the television. You might find something to jolt your inspiration.

Blurbs from “WICKED INTENTIONS” due September 1 through Melange Books and Amazon

WickedIntentionsJMBLOOD TIES- word count 15, 902

After the mysterious disappearance of twenty-six year old wife and mother Lisa Smalley, her twin, Attorney Audra Roper, begins having dark and disturbing visions of Lisa’s disappearance.

After taking on Lisa’s identity to flush out the person responsible for Lisa’s disappearance, Audra is thrown into a series of perils. Trying to survive while looking for Lisa, Audra’s life becomes a roller coaster of risks, heartbreak, and intrigue.


THE HAUNTING OF BARB MARIE- word count 9,845

Even as a child, Barb Marie saw dead people, which terrified her parents. With no one to talk to about her gift/curse, Barb kept her secret to herself. This took an unhealthy toil on her throughout her childhood and young adulthood.

SUMMER WIND-word count 13,039

When twenty-nine year old Ginger discovers the old mansion Summer Wind, she is mysteriously drawn to it. She and her second husband, thirty year old Mike purchase the home and the family moves in unbeknownst to them the place is haunted by evil spirits. Immediately, the haunting’s have a negative and profound effect on the family.

THE TRUTH BEHIND THE LIES-laying the Norfolk ghost to rest

Solving the brutal murder of American born Ruthie Geil becomes a gauntlet of attacks and more murders for Federal Police Inspector Ian Christian. Between the victims family, ex-lovers, and ghostly occurrences on Norfolk Island, the killer is closer than anyone realizes.

THE LEGEND OF LAKE MANOR-word count 8,297

For the young psychic Cassandra Lopez, coming to the infamous haunted mansion Lake Manor, was more like a mission. She knew the Manor and its employees needed her help to rid the home of specters, consisting of a young a slave boy, two wrongfully hanged men, a ballerina, a thieving bartender, and a pregnant woman.

THE APARTMENT-word count 5,188

When young newlyweds Bill and Gayle move into their new apartment, their lives are plagued with sightings of evil ghosts that threaten their marriage and lives. Not until they contact a psychic and rid the home of its murdered occupants does the couple find peace and happiness.

DARK VISIONS-word count 5,170

When Carrie Reynold’s starts having nightmares on her twenty-sixth birthday, she believes her “dark visions” can solve the twenty year disappearance of her father.

Author Bio:

my photo apr 2011I hail from the famous Hocking Hills region of southeastern Ohio. I have worked in the blue-collar industry most of my life. Besides having several novels under my belt, I also canvass paint.

When not busy with hobbies or working outside the home, I spend time with relatives, my dogs Jasmine and Scooter, and volunteer my time within the community. I am a member of the Hocking Hill’s Arts and Craftsmen Association, The Hocking County Historical Society and Museum, and the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center. I believe in family values and following your dreams.


My original canvass paintings, can be found at Books and Paintings by JoAnne!/joanne.myers.927


Cindy here again!

Sounds like some interesting stories in your collection. I love watching those paranormal shows. They do spark some ideas.

Happy writing!



Silence your inner editor

Welcome to Friday on the GWN blog! We’re international! Today we have German author Annemarie Nikolaus talking about that pesky inner editor.

Here’s Annemarie!

Years ago, my first try with NaNoWriMo was an enlightenment: to get those 50,000 words done (what I did) I had to stop massaging each sentence, till I believed it to be “right”. Just write, write, write – no matter what and no matter how. As they say: “You can always revise later, but you can’t revise an empty page.”

Okay, this we all know. But there is more to it. And it’s even more important: write “no matter what” turned out to be fun and adventurous. It let me discover connections between the characters and some twists I’d never thought of, because I did not know they existed.

Since then, I trust my characters to know what they are doing … Uhm … I try to trust them. There is one little green monster in my head who speaks up from time to time to tell me I don’t know what I’m doing.

Hell … But he is right.

What now?

Many writers at that point stop and begin to look how to fix things, maybe returning to plotting or even revising the whole thing. Me too. I sometimes still struggle not to begin brooding. Especially, when I have “too much time” – no deadline in sight.

But what else can you do, as you can’t deny it?

Instead of agonizing over the book, you might try another answer to your inner editor: Tell him you don’t need to know, because you have stuff at hand which will guide you through the novel. Your characters.

You don’t believe me? Then I have a story for you to illustrate.

During another NaNoWriMo I decided to write a historical, taking place in Naples during the revolt of 1647. At the beginning I had nothing more than my heroine, her brother and half a page about what might be the main conflict. I began to write, the story unfolded and the characters showed up. Everything was fine. But the most stunning thing happened after finishing the first draft: I discovered that the hero was one of the oldest noble families of France. And thus he had brought his own story with himself, based on the fact that in 1642 a Duke de Montmorency failed in a revolt against the French king and was executed. – The people in our stories know a lot more of themselves than we do.

In this case, being a historian, I obviously had found the name somewhere in my sub consciousness. All brooding and plotting would not have brought me there.

We can apply to our writing something psychoanalysis teaches: not to fight resistance, but to go along with it. When the inner editor shows up, let him growl, write on and have fun making stuff up.

With great success some friends have tested this same method to overcome writer’s block. Writer’s block means you dare not write, because nothing seems to be right or good enough. Now the trick is try to write as badly as you can. So you can happily tell your inner editor that you do it on purpose and he has to shut up.

By the way, you will be astonished how difficult it actually is to write really “bad”. I learned it working as a freelance journalist: Anything that I shipped was better than nothing. Whatever I sent, I had at least the chance to get paid. So I often began to write “last minute” without a clear idea in mind. Very rarely I had to revise.

Every writer is different, but maybe you are curious now: If you feel uncomfortable trying it with a “serious” project: November is not far away. You could free your calendar and subscribe to the next NaNoWriMo. You’ll have a lot of fun and perhaps kill that nasty inner editor forever.

© Annemarie Nikolaus

image002Annemarie Nikolaus is a German author and journalist. She writes in German. After twenty years in Italy she now lives in the heart of France.

So far, one of her short story collections has been published in English: ”Magical Stories”. She plans to publish the above mentioned Neapolitan historical in English, too.








Cindy here again!

Great post, Annemarie! I give myself permission to write crap the first time and go back and fix it later.

Happy writing!



Getting Dorothy in the house

Welcome to the GWN blog! Today we have Jim Cort talking about getting your characters to do what you want them to do.

Here’s Jim!

How can you get your characters to do what you want them to do? How can we get Dorothy in the farmhouse all alone, ready for the Cyclone Limited to whisk her away to Munchkin land?

This is an important question for any writer of fiction, and not always an easy one to answer. A common problem in novice’s stories is that characters behave in response to the needs of the story, instead of their own needs.  This rings false.  It hurts the story.  The characters seem less three-dimensional, and less deserving of our sympathy.

In the best fiction, motivation arises organically from the desires of the characters and the situations they find themselves in.  Character and plot unite seamlessly, and it never occurs to the reader to question why so-and-so did such-and-such.

How do you achieve this?

One way is to view your plot as a series of problems and solutions that form a chain of events.  Each of the characters has an overriding problem to solve or goal to accomplish, and the working out of these problems forms the structure of the story.  There are certain key scenes or events that figure prominently in this structure.  But there are also countless smaller events that lead up to and away from these key scenes.   As in real life, working out the big problems is a succession of smaller steps: small problems and small solutions.

But here’s the trick: In fiction (and in real life, too) the solutions are not perfect.  Inside each of the solutions lurks another problem that needs solving. Your characters are propelled through the plot by this rhythm of problem/solution/problem/solution. Their actions grow from their responses to the constant stream of problems.  Their motivations spring naturally from these cascading events in the story.

This idea is similar to the concept in law called the chain of causation.  Simply put, it says, “Event C would not have happened if Event B had not happened, and Event B would not have happened unless it was caused by Event A”.  It’s a clever method lawyers have devised to sue people for things they didn’t do. This chaining of cause and effect can provide a sturdy and dynamic framework for your story or novel.

The best way to explore this technique is to apply it to a book you’ve already read or a movie you’ve already seen.  Let’s get back to The Wizard of Oz.  We’ll use the movie instead of the book because it’s more widely known.

Let’s consider the first key event in the story: Dorothy’s house gets picked up by the cyclone with her inside, and dropped in the land of Oz on top of the Witch of the East. But the story doesn’t start there.  We first find out who Dorothy is, and where she lives, and what her situation is at home.  Ultimately, however, we have to get Dorothy in the house by herself so the cyclone can carry her off.  Here are the first few minutes of the movie, laid out in problem/solution format:

Problem:           Toto bites Miss Gulch

Solution:            Miss Gulch takes Toto away

Problem:           Toto escapes from Miss Gulch

Solution:            Dorothy runs away with Toto; meets Professor Marvel

Problem:           Professor Marvel tells Dorothy that Auntie Em is sick

Solution:            Dorothy heads back home

Problem:           There’s a cyclone

Solution:            Dorothy’s family goes in the storm cellar

Problem:           Dorothy arrives home; can’t find her family; can’t get in the storm cellar

Solution:            Dorothy seeks shelter in the house

Problem:           House flies away with Dorothy in it

Solution:            House lands in Oz on the witch


Granted, we can detect the heavy hand of coincidence in that cyclone that pops up just when it’s needed, but coincidence has its place, and a cyclone in Kansas is not all that unheard-of.  With that exception, the problem/solution structure works quite well.  Five links in the chain, and Dorothy is back in the house where we want her. We’re ready to set the stage for her main underlying motivation: her need to get home again. The characters react to the things and events around them, and not to the off-screen commands of some author-puppeteer.

It’s helpful to examine these events backwards, to better see the chain of causation:

7. Dorothy gets herself in a load of trouble by squishing the witch with her house, but she wouldn’t have been in the house when it flew away if she hadn’t sought shelter there.

6. She wouldn’t have gone in the house if she could have gotten into the storm cellar with the rest of her family, but she didn’t get back in time.

5. Dorothy was coming back because Professor Marvel told her Auntie Em was sick.

4. She would never have met Professor Marvel at all if she hadn’t run away.

3. Dorothy ran away to save Toto from Miss Gulch.

2. Toto needed saving because he had escaped from Miss Gulch.

1. Miss Gulch wouldn’t have taken Toto into custody if Toto hadn’t bit her.

And that’s where we came in.

Try this with a book or movie you know.  Try it with a story of your own.  Why does Blanche go back to the apartment, even though she knows Artie might be there? Why does Inspector Wainscoting ignore the obvious clue of the opera glasses in the punchbowl? Why would Marvin leave behind the golf clubs, but not the cribbage board? Let your characters find their own reasons for behaving as they do in what goes on around them.  Place them in a situation that will cause them to do what you want them to do. All it takes is a few problems and solutions.

And maybe a cyclone once in a while.


Jim Cort has been writing since God wore short pants. His novel The Lonely Impulse is available from Smashwords:

Cindy here again!

Thanks for a great post, Jim. I’m going to try this with my current WIP.

Happy writing.



Unleashing Your Muse (Free-Writing Act II- Part 1)

Welcome back to the GWN blog! We have Cyndi Faria back to talk about free-writing.

Here’s Cyndi!

Today, I’m talking about Unleashing Your Muse; Free-Writing Act II, Part 1. If you missed Unleashing Your Muse; Free-Writing Act I, you can read that Here. Like Act I, Act II, Part 1 makes up approximately 25% of the story. The object of free writing is to tease your muse into infusing each Act of the story with certain elements.

So let’s jump right back in where we left off:


Recall that Act I ended with the main character (MC) making a decision to leave the old world and enter into a new world. For this post, I’m going to use the romantic comedy 50 First Dates as an example. Our MC, Playboy Henry Roth, played by Adam Sandler, meets amnesiac Lucy Whitmore, played by Drew Barrymore. (Additional structure and theme blogs using this movie see Here and Here.):


From my last post, after reviewing Act I, go back to your free write and make sure to include elements that are character and story specific. As an example, below I’ve used 50 First Dates:


  • Character Arc (Enneagram Here): Shown in Act I: Henry is a playboy/biologist who’s sworn off committed relationships. By the end of Act II Part 1: Henry sees how his flaw is holding him back from obtaining his external goal. Act II, Part 2: Henry must let go of the belief that his value is dependent of the positive regard of others to discover his true identity and his own heart’s desire. Act III: Henry proves change in self during climax and becomes self-accepting, genuine, and benevolent.
  • The Thematic Statement (TS): In Act I and around the 5% mark, the reader must understand the story’s theme. In 50 First Dates, Henry believes: Commitment kills adventure, which kills happiness. Because of the MC’s backstory, the TS is the lie he’s told himself and uses to gauge his actions. It’s up to the author to either prove the TS true or false by the end of Act III. Since this specific story is a romance instead of a tragedy, the TS is proved False.
  • The Story Question (SQ): At the end of Act I, around 25% of the story, readers should be able to understand the story direction in the form of a question. In 50 First Dates—Will a playboy embrace commitment and find adventure and love?


Free-Write: What goes into Act II, Part 1?


(Note: If you can’t wrap your mind around this information now, that’s okay. Just commit the bulleted items to memory and unleash your muse.)


  • Meet New Players, Allies. Some Old Allies Remain: In 50 First Dates, we meet Lucy’s father and brother. Lucy’s father is the voice of reality and Lucy’s backstory narrator, while Lucy’s brother pretends to be what he is not—this is Henry’s mirror image (only a little goofier). Seeing the ridiculousness of pretending what Lucy’s brother is not, Henry slowly lets go of the playboy charade and learns to embrace who he is, what he wants, and his true feelings to get the girl and his external goal by the end of Act III. Henry’s old world friend adds humor and is the voice of truth and theme.
  • Both the hero and heroine share their external goals. Henry wants to study walruses in Alaska (adventure). Lucy wants to teach art.
  • Set up 3 attempts to reach the external goal, but have the MC fail due to their character flaw and sparse villain interaction (Because of Henry’s backstory—getting his heart broken in college—he’s sworn off committed relationships, even committing to repairing his yacht so he can go to Alaska. When he finds himself falling for Lucy—who cannot commit for longer than a single day—he uses his strength/flaw (sense of humor) to keep their relationship light and fun, an adventure, while keeping his distance—still not fully committing. Yet Henry’s humor in Lucy’s complicated world is exactly what she finds attractive and loveable. So she’s falling for him and he’s pushing back while unconsciously falling for her.
  • As we near the midpoint of the story, the villains—Lucy’s amnesia and women tourists—challenge Henry. In order to keep the girl he’s fallen in love with, he forgoes adventure with the other women and considers a life of quasi-happiness with Lucy.
  • Sexual/emotional connection to love interest, but can’t get together because of differences, or if they do get together more problems arise. In 50 First Dates, Henry begins each day by getting Lucy to fall in love with him all over again. At first, this is a fun adventure for Henry and a distraction to the harsh reality of sharing a life with her and her disability. However, he starts to see that, in a way, commitment can be adventurous and even fun. Henry decides that exchanging his carefree-playboy lifestyle for a committed and loving relationship with Lucy is worth giving up his dream of studying walruses in Alaska.
  • Midpoint ends in a Win or a Loss for the MC and is opposite of the all is lost moment near the end of Act II, Part II (Future post September 9, 2013). This is the POINT OF NO RETURN for the MC. Using 50 First Dates and ending in a win, Henry chooses to leave his flaw (fear of commitment) behind, asks Lucy to marry him, and is rewarded with sex.


 I hope you’ll use these bullet point items to unleash your muse on Act II, Part 1. This can be a combination of sentences, thoughts, dialogue, or whatever pops into your mind. There are no rules.


I usually write 3-5 pages, single-spaced. Sometimes information that belongs in Act I or other acts creeps in. That’s okay—just paste the information where it belongs or start a new section titled Other Acts.


Next Unleashing Your Muse post, I’ll list what belongs in Act II, Part 2. See you here September 9, 2013.


Happy Writing, Cyndi Faria

Visit Cyndi’s Website:

Visit Cyndi on Amazon: Cyndi’s Amazon Author Page

About the Author:

“Cyndi Faria writes with passion and her stories touch the heart.”

—Virna DePaul, Bestselling Author


Author Photo B-W

Cyndi Faria is an engineer turned romance writer whose craving for structure is satisfied by plotting emotional and cozy paranormal romance stories about Native American folklore, cursed spirits, lost souls, harbingers, and even a haunted coastal town. If you love a tale with courageous heroes and heroines, where their unconditional love for each other gives them strength to defeat their inner demons, Cyndi Faria invites you to enter the pages of her stories.






Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Cyndi. Great information as always!


Welcome to the start of another week at the GWN blog! Today we have Jim Cort talking about the subjunctive mood.

Here’s Jim!

Verbs, in addition to number and tense, also have mood. Mood is the trickiest aspect of verbs.  The mood our verbs are in nearly all the time is the indicative mood.  They indicate; they make a statement; they tell the truth about something.

But it’s also possible to say something that is not true.  We can wish that things were other than they are.  We can suggest that things be changed. We can hope they would be. This is the business of the subjunctive mood.

The subjunctive is kind of a stealth construction.  Most of the time it looks like the indicative. The present form is the same as the regular unadorned form of the verb.  This means you’ll notice it only in the third person singular (he, she, it), which has no final –s.  You’ll also see it in the verb be, which has the form be instead of am, is, and are. The past subjunctive is the same as the past tense except once again for be, which uses were for all persons.

So, how does this work?  Here are some examples: If I were ten years younger…  We propose the mayor remain in office. It’s essential that the Army do its part. If this boulder weren’t here, we could pass by.

All of these sentences express thoughts contrary to reality.  They are wishes; they are proposals; they are conditions or possibilities. The use of the subjunctive “defuses” the statements.  They are not as definite as indicative statements.

You’ll find the subjunctive used after verbs like:

  • to advise
  • to ask
  • to command
  • to demand
  • to desire
  • to insist
  • to propose
  • to recommend
  • to request
  • to suggest
  • to urge

or after phrases like:

  • It is best (that)
  • It is crucial (that)
  • It is desirable (that)
  • It is essential (that)
  • It is imperative (that)
  • It is important (that)
  • It is recommended (that)
  • It is urgent (that)
  • It is vital (that)
  • It is a good idea (that)
  • It is a bad idea (that)

Having said all this, there’s one more thing I need to say. Just about nobody uses the subjunctive in English any more.  Most grammar experts agree that it’s little used and hardly missed. H. W. Fowler, the Great Guru of Grammar, called it “moribund” in 1926, and it hasn’t gotten any livelier since.

Most English speakers aren’t even aware there is such a thing as the subjunctive until they study languages like German or French or Spanish, where it plays a more active role.  Interestingly enough, expressions in the subjunctive are commonly used today:

  • Be that as it may
  • God bless you
  • Long live the king
  • So be it
  • If it please the court…

Most people think of these expressions as old fashioned, not subjunctive.  And so, of course, they are.

What does all of this mean to you?  Nowadays, subjunctive constructions have largely been replaced with “should” or “would” constructions: Instead of We propose the mayor remain in office,the trend is We propose the mayor should remain in office.  Sometimes no helping verb is used.  If you write If I was ten years younger…, the Grammar Police won’t come knocking on your door. Chances are no one will notice at all

Of course there are still grammar sourpusses who insist on If I were…  These folks are in the minority.  The language belongs to the people, and the people have decided that subjunctive is no longer useful.  Don’t be thrown if you see it someplace, but don’t be bullied into using it yourself if you don’t want to.

The moral of the story is: if you use the subjunctive according to the guidelines here, you won’t be wrong.  And if you choose not to use the subjunctive, you won’t be wrong.

It’s a win-win situation.  How often do you find one of those?

Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Jim.  Thanks for the great information!

Happy writing!



But Mr. IRS-Man, I’m not American… or How to Get an ITIN

Welcome to the GWN blog! Today we have author Joan Leacott talking about something important to non U.S. authors. The ITIN.

Here’s Joan!

What is an ITIN or TIN?

An International Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN or TIN) is an identification number used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the administration of the US tax laws.

Why Should You Get an ITIN?

To avoid a 30% withholding tax on book sales made on through an American publisher (e.g. HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster) or distributor (e.g. Amazon, Smashwords). You will also need an ITIN to complete any W-8 BEN forms which may come your way.

When Should You Get an ITIN?

Preferably before you have any book sales. Then you won’t have to complete an American tax return, with accompanying ITIN application, to get a refund of the withheld amount. Life is so much simpler when the papers are in order.

Before We Begin, a Caveat

I am not a lawyer or an Acceptance Agent. These instructions are based on my personal experience and the procedures as I knew them in January 2013. Your experience may differ. Anything I say here is superseded by the information on the IRS website at

How Do You Get an ITIN?

The IRS revamped their process in January 2013. Three forms must be completed and sent to the IRS offices currently located in Texas.

  1. A completed W-7 Application Form accompanied by
  2. Documentation proving your identity, and
  3. A signed letter from the withholding agent (e.g. publisher or distributor), on official letterhead, showing that an ITIN is required to pay you.


You can use an Acceptance Agent, a person who’s had IRS training at a cost of $250 or so, but it’s not a requirement. If you follow instructions carefully, you shouldn’t need to.

1) Form W-7: Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

You can get a pdf version of the form at and complete instructions at

It’s fairly straightforward if you follow the instructions, except for one detail, the Tax Treaty number. The spot where you type this is tucked away under item H in the Reason you are submitting for W-7 section. Here’s a snippet of my W-7 form showing the Tax Treaty number for Canada highlighted in yellow.



If you’re reading this article from a country other than Canada, you can find your Tax Treaty number in Table 3, starting on the second last page, here:

If you’d rather read a printed booklet, there’s a pdf available at

Don’t forget to date and sign the W-7 after you’ve printed it.

2) Proving Your Identity

A list of acceptable forms of identification is provided in the instructions linked above. The easiest one to use is a valid passport, which is what I did. If you don’t have a passport, the instructions state which other documents, used in combination, are acceptable.

You can submit your actual passport (not the best idea), have your passport certified at a US Consulate or Embassy (if you don’t mind standing in line), or submit a certified copy of your passport.

A certified copy is NOT the same as a notarized copy. Notarized copies are no longer accepted by the IRS.

To get a certified copy of a Canadian passport, you need to two forms:

a)      A letter requesting a certified copy of your passport

b)      A completed PPTC 516 Request for Certified True Copy of Canadian Travel Document

Both are available here:

Take, or mail, both forms to your nearest Passport Canada Office. You can either pick up the copy and the original or have both mailed back to you. You will have to leave your passport with them, but you’ll get a receipt for it.

For the Passport Canada Office nearest you, go to

If you’re reading this article from another country, please refer to your passport office procedures to get a certified copy. The Passport Canada staff will also let you know when the copy will be ready for pickup or delivery.

3) A signed letter from the withholding agent

The withholding agent is the publisher (Penguin, Harlequin) or distributor (Amazon) of your book.

If you’re working through a publisher, get the letter from them.

If you’re working through Amazon, go to You can get it with only a partially completed author account. Fill out the form with the current date and the name exactly as completed on the W-7 form, print it, and you’re ready to go.

Sending Your Completed Forms to the IRS

You should now have your three pieces of paper ready to go.

1)      A completed and signed W-7 form with the correct Tax Treaty number,

2)      A certified copy of your passport, and

3)      A dated letter addressed to you from your publisher or Amazon Digital Services.

Only US embassies in Beijing, Frankfurt, London, and Paris can process a W-7 on site. So fold the three papers into an envelope, affix sufficient postage (two regular stamps in Canada) and send it to:

Internal Revenue Service

ITIN Operation

Mail Stop 6090-AUSC

3651 S. Interregional, Hwy 35

Austin, TX 78741-0000


The IRS will return the certified copy of your passport under separate cover from the ITIN certificate.

It took three months almost to the day to get my ITIN certificate in the mail. It’s expected to take less time out of tax season (January 15 through April 30).

Using your ITIN

Once you get your ITIN certificate, you can record the information at your various author accounts.

The number has the format 123-45-6789. Some websites want the hyphens, others don’t. If you fail with one format, just try the other.

The Legal Entity Name is the full name as shown on the ITIN certificate.

One last warning. You will be expected to report earnings and pay income taxes in Canada, or wherever else you live. Honesty is always the best policy.

Author Bio: Joan Leacott writes authentic multi-generational stories of people living and loving in today’s world. She is currently working on the second book of the Clarence Bay Chronicles set in a small town on the eastern shores of Georgian Bay, Canada. Read more about Joan and her books at http://joanleacott/ca.

Copyright © 2013 Woven Red Productions. Feel free to distribute this article, but please do so in its entirety including author credit.

Cindy here again!

Thanks so much for being here, Joan! I need to go through this process right now so this is perfect timing.

Happy writing!


Unleashing Your Muse (Free-Writing Act 1)

Welcome back to the GWN blog! Today we have our monthly columnist Cyndi Faria talking about unleashing your muse. Cyndi will be a regular guest on the blog and will be appearing monthly on the first Monday of the month. We’ve got her twice this month though so don’t forget to come back August 26 when she’ll be posting part two of unleashing your muse.

Here’s Cyndi!

In my opinion, free-writing is the act of unleashing your muse after a short talking to. Sure, you might think, isn’t that plotting? Well, it’s kind of a cross between pantsing (writing-by-the-seat-of-your-pants) and plotting.

Today, I want to show you how to successfully use free-writing to craft Act 1 of a romance novel (Act II and III will follow in future posts).

Let’s begin by looking at what goes into Act 1:

Note: If you can’t wrap your mind around this information now, that’s okay. Just commit the bulleted items to memory and unleash your muse.

  • Opening Image: This image will be the opposite of the final image in the story. Example: If in the beginning the hero is a playboy, at the end he’s shown in a committed relationship—maybe proposing or even married.
  • Meet the hero(H)/heroine (h).
    • -> What does your H/h fear, as a result of backstory (show don’t tell)? Think: Indiana Jones and snakes.
    • -> If you are familiar with the Enneagram (if not, visit my website here.), list the H/h’s personality type’s strength and weaknesses, fear and desire, and what they must learn about themselves by the end of Act II in order to defeat the villain (Character Arc).
  • External Goal: What does H/h want in life? Must be able to take a picture of external goal?
  • Internal Goal: What do they really want? Example: To be loved, needed, etc.
  • What is happening to your H/h right before something serious triggers a primal response that entices/forces them to leave their ordinary world? (See my blog post: Tipping Point) (Example: Die Hard—A policeman must save his wife who’s been taken hostage by terrorists.)
  • Cute Meet: How does the H/h meet and what is it about that person or situation that links the H/h together in a permanent-for-now way? (Example: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days—Advertising executives for competing agencies come together on a bet, he to get her to fall in love with him in 10 days and she to lose him in 10 days.)
  • What special skill or tool does the H/h possess? This will be important during the climax of the story when H/h uses his/her special skill to defeat the antagonist. (This Means War: The heroine played by Reese Witherspoon combines her knowledge as a Product Tester with hero Chris Pine’s weaponry skills to defeat the bad guy.)
  • Antagonist: May meet the antagonist and/or his associates at this time.
  • Secondary Characters: Introduce secondary characters that can rally during the climax and help the H/h defeat the antagonist’s associates.
  • Lastly, right before the H/h enters Act II—or accepts the challenge—there will be a debate section where he/she takes pause to consider the ramifications of leaving behind the old world. Firmly, he decides to step into Act II. In Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat, he discusses the debate in depth saying, “…it’s important to remember that the debate section must ask a question of some kind.” In the case of Die Hard: Will the hero save his wife?

Once you know the answers to these questions, you’re ready to unleash your muse and free-write Act 1.

This can be a combination of sentences, thoughts, dialogue, or whatever pops into your mind. There are no rules.

I usually write 3-5 pages, single-spaced. Sometimes information that belongs in other acts creeps in. That’s okay—just start a new section titled Other Acts.

Next Unleashing Your Muse post, I’ll list what belongs in Act II and Act III.

Happy Writing, Cyndi Faria

Visit Cyndi’s Website:

Visit Cyndi’s Amazon page: Amazon Author Page

About the Author:
“Cyndi Faria writes with passion and her stories touch the heart.”

—Virna DePaul, Bestselling Author

Author Photo B-WCyndi Faria is an engineer turned romance writer whose craving for structure is satisfied by plotting emotional and cozy paranormal romance stories about Native American folklore, cursed spirits, lost souls, harbingers, and even a haunted coastal town. If you love a tale with courageous heroes and heroines, where their unconditional love for each other gives them strength to defeat their inner demons, Cyndi Faria invites you to enter the pages of her stories.

On and off her sexy romance pages, this California country girl isn’t afraid to dirty her hands fighting for the underdog and caretaking rescued pets. Find her helping fellow writers and leading readers to happily-ever-after at


Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Cyndi! Great post. I loved This Means War! I knew her work as a product tester would come into play at some point. 🙂


How to do a Goodreads giveaway

Welcome to the GWN blog! Today I have Shelley Munro talking about doing a Goodreads giveaway.

Here’s Shelley!

A Goodreads giveaway is an excellent and cost-effective way of promoting a new print release. They’re simple and quick to set in motion and best of all, doing a giveaway is free—apart from the postage and cost of the book.

According to Goodreads stats the average giveaway attracts 825 entries and over 40,000 readers enter for the chance of winning a giveaway every day. Many of the entrants add your book to their to-read shelf, which means your cover will be seen by other readers who look at their Goodreads stream.

So how do you start a giveaway?

1. Your book must be set up on Goodreads in order to do a giveaway, so this is your first step. Make sure all the details are loaded plus the cover. You definitely want readers to see your cover.

2. Click to Goodreads’ giveaway page

3. First, decide on the dates of the giveaway. There is a lag time while the Goodreads people check your giveaway details, especially if you complete the form over a weekend or public holiday. Bear this in mind when you decide on a start date. e.g. if you want to start your giveaway on the 10th of the month then give a start date a couple of days earlier i.e. 8th.

4. Closing date – the length of your giveaway can be as long or short as you wish. I generally do my giveaways for around a month while other authors do week or day giveaways with equal success. I suggest you play around a little with the length of your giveaways and work out the premium length for your books. I like to start each giveaway in the middle or toward the end of the month, because I’ve found that many authors do giveaways for a calendar month. You don’t want your giveaway lost amongst all the others. It’s worth while checking to see how many other giveaways are on the same day as the one you’ve chosen.

5. The book release date and ISBN are self-explanatory.

6. The description for the giveaway is where you can use your writer talent. You can mention top reviews, contest wins for your book and of course, the blurb. Different writers have different approaches. Having said this, I tend to just go with the blurb and mention if the book is in a series. In this section you can tell readers that your book will be an autographed copy. I send my books directly from The Book Depository because this works out cheaper than postage for me, therefore my prizes are not signed copies.

7. Number of copies to give away. I’ve found that the number of entries doesn’t increase with the number of copies I give away, which is why I stick with one copy. However, most winners leave a review for the book they win. If you give away multiple copies you will likely receive more reviews.

8. Countries for giveaway. A lot of authors restrict their giveaways to the US and Canada. I live in New Zealand and do a worldwide giveaway, and I think the number of my entries is higher as a result. I do regular giveaways and have only had two non-US winners so far.

9. Comment section – I say I am the author of the book.

10. Once the giveaway ends, Goodreads will email you your winner’s details. It’s your responsibility to ship your book to your winner in a timely fashion. Don’t forget to hit the button on the right-hand side of your giveaway page to let Goodreads know you’ve sent your book to your winner.

11. I also send a quick message of congratulations to my winner, send them a friend request, and let them know their book is in the mail.

Conclusion: I’ve found Goodreads giveaways a good method of promoting both new and upcoming print releases. It’s also possible to promote older print titles too, so what are you waiting for?

TheBottomLine200x300And if you’re interested – here is the link to my current giveaway for The Bottom Line

Shelley Munro is tall and curvaceous with blue eyes and a smile that turns masculine heads everywhere she goes. She’s a university tutor and an explorer/treasure hunter during her vacations. Skilled with weapons and combat, she is currently in talks with a producer about a television series based on her world adventures.

Shelley is also a writer blessed with a VERY vivid imagination and lives with her own hero in New Zealand. She writes mainly erotic romance in the contemporary, paranormal and historical genres for publishers Carina Press, Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing. You can learn more about Shelley and her books at the following links.








Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Shelley. Great information about doing a giveaway. I will have to keep the points in mind for when I’m ready to do one.


Happy writing!




Is it Writer’s Block or just plain ol’ Procrastination?

Monday’s a great time to talk about procrastination! Today we have Catherine Chant talking about tips to help us write even if we tend to procrastinate.

Here’s Catherine!

Chalkboard drawing - Today or TomorrowWhen faced with something difficult, it seems the natural reaction is to avoid it. To procrastinate. To do anything but the difficult task until you can’t avoid it any longer.

Let’s face it, writing is difficult. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Writing is work. Sometimes it’s fun but other times it’s a challenge, one writers don’t always face enthusiastically.

So, are you really “blocked” or are you just avoiding a difficult task? If you suspect the latter, come clean. Honesty is the best policy and all that.

Admit to yourself that you are a procrastinator and accept there’s nothing wrong with this per se. It’s a natural reaction to hard work. It doesn’t mean you are lazy (unless you do nothing to change it, of course).

Once you accept that procrastination is going to happen, you can form a plan to work around it and still accomplish your goals. Here are few things to try to help re-motivate yourself to get back to writing.


  • Do something mindless like laundry where the only thought you have is whites or colors. This leaves your mind free to wander and if you subtly nudge it in the direction of your work-in-progress, you may be surprised to find some ideas sneaking up from your subconscious as you fold those towels.


  • Keep a notebook handy for when those moments of subconscious inspiration hit. You may not be able to get to the computer fast enough before the thought fades, so tiny notebooks can be very handy.


  • Have a goal and write it down. Then tape it somewhere you can see it every time you are at your computer. Give yourself a deadline for this goal as well. Deadlines create a pressure to succeed that often motivates us more than simple wishing to get something done.


  • Partner up with another writer to hold each other accountable for reaching these deadlines. When you feel the need to “hand in something” like the old days of homework to avoid letting your partner down, it can help keep you motivated to succeed.


  • Set reasonable goals. If the goals you list are monumental and unrealistic, you’re only setting yourself up to fail. Instead, set yourself up for success with smaller goals. Then if you exceed those goals by your deadlines, you’ll feel you’ve accomplished so much more.


  • Write on a regular schedule. The more you make it a habit, the more it trains your brain to realize when it’s time to work and when it’s time to play.


  • Turn off email. I know it’s hard, but the Internet is one of the worst distraction and procrastination tools out there. Unplug that cable or turn off that wireless and get offline. Try limiting your online usage to specific times of the day, or even use it as a reward for meeting your writing goal for that day.

Speaking of which…


  • Reward yourself. Find something you really love and dangle it as a carrot until you meet your goal.

And last of all…


  • Celebrate your successes. At the end of the week, look back and tally up the goals you met and revel in your accomplishments.

Brief blurb for the book:

cchant-WYWH-200x300Travel back in time to 1957 for a little drama, a few life or death moments, and a lot of rock ‘n’ roll romance in WISHING YOU WERE HERE by Catherine Chant. This young adult time travel romance is available now at






Catherine Chant is a PRO member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and a Golden Heart® finalist. Before becoming a full-time writer, Catherine worked as a computing & communication consultant at Boston College. In 2006, she put that tech knowledge to good use and began teaching online workshops for her fellow writers. She currently offers four classes through various RWA chapters and writing organizations. You can learn more about Catherine and her workshops at her website or visit her on Facebook and Twitter

Cindy here again!

Thanks so much for being here, Catherine. I tend to procrastinate so this is a great post for me.

Happy writing!



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