Proofreading is a msut

PWelcome back to the blog today. For the A to Z Challenge I’ve got Joanne Guidoccio talking about proofreading.

Here’s Joanne.

Mark Twain said it best: “You think you are reading proof, whereas you are merely reading your own mind; your statement of the thing is full of holes and vacancies but you don’t know it, because you are filling them from your mind as you go along.”

It is so tempting to skim that manuscript and send it off to agents and editors. Especially if you have devoted months—maybe even years—to its completion. Instead, pause and consider the following tips:

• Set the manuscript aside for several days. If possible, wait until you fall out of love with your work. Only then can you be objective and approach it with fresh eyes.

• Perform a spelling and grammar check using the appropriate feature on your word processing program. Be aware that your spell checker can tell you only if a word exists, not if it’s the right word. If you are uncertain, refer to a dictionary.

• Use the Search and Replace function to find and eliminate repetitive words and extra spaces. To cut back on the number of adverbs, search for “ly” and replace with “LY.” As you approach each highlighted section, decide whether to keep the adverb, eliminate it, or replace it with an appropriate action tag.

• Double-check all facts, figures and proper names. This is important if you write nonfiction or historical fiction.

• Print out your text and review it line by line. Use a ruler or a blank sheet of paper to keep your focus on one line at a time.

• Read your text aloud. This will help catch missing prepositions, repetition, run on sentences, and awkward phrasing.

• Read your text backward, from right to left, starting with the last word. While I have never used this particular tip, several English teachers recommend this method for anyone struggling with spelling.

• Ask a friend or fellow author to proofread your text. And offer to return the favor.

Any other tips to share…

About Joanne

Guidoccio 001In high school, Joanne dabbled in poetry, but it would be over three decades before she entertained the idea of writing as a career. She listened to her practical Italian side and earned degrees in mathematics and education. She experienced many fulfilling moments as she watched her students develop an appreciation (and sometimes, love) of mathematics. Later, she obtained a post-graduate diploma as a career development practitioner and put that skill set to use in the co-operative education classroom. She welcomed this opportunity to help her students experience personal growth and acquire career direction through their placements.

In 2008, she took advantage of early retirement and decided to launch a second career that would tap into her creative side and utilize her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes paranormal romance, cozy mysteries, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.









Cindy here again.

Thanks for the great post, Joanne. Loved the tips. Proofreading is very important and I get as many people to read my stuff as possible. I always miss stuff.

Keep writing.

O for the love of writing

OWelcome back to the blog! Today we’ve got Ella Reece talking about the outline.

Here’s Ella.

Writing for me is full of “O”s.  Through the span of time I’ve been writing I have taken every OPPORTUNITY to learn and grow as a writer.  I’ve had some times when the outlook was not bright but with the indie revolution I am full of OPTIMISM, and continue to write my prose to feel OPPULENT – princes and billionaires – the joys of genre fiction.  Today however, I bring you ORGANIZATION with my favourite tool, the OUTLINE.

For everything I write I have to have an outline, no matter how brief or rough, so I make sure I hit all the key points.  For my fiction I have started to refer to this outline as beats, as it is the pulse of the work.  I have never been a plotter, when I pants it is only a scene or two, to find a story.  When I try and pants the whole thing, I invariably get lost.   This costs me in wasted time as I meander through a rosy world with nothing going on; more importantly it costs me words.  I abhor cutting words, but I like rabbit holes even less, having the signposts along the way stops most of that.  When I have an outline I know what I am doing at that writing session and where the work is heading, this optimizes my writing time allowing me to maximize my word count and get to a finished product more efficiently.

I also have a habit of telling my stories out of sequence if I am missing details or a particular character is begging for attention, I can move through my outline to that segment and work on that without having to go back and retrofit a whole new story line after the work is complete.  That is not to say I don’t learn things along the way, but the things I discover as I go through the actual writing, I simply jot it into my outline.   This allows me to carry the forward momentum that you need to actually finish a manuscript.   Further benefits to working with an outline include ensuring my scenes and chapters hit all the requirements to satisfy a reader and the story with hooks and red herrings, depending on the story.

I use an outline as part of my revision as well, so I know where the holes and gaps are.  Ideally my edits start with the most problematic and down to the smallest issues instead of trying to go from start to finish.  This way I am not going through and fixing the fixes repeatedly and getting bogged down.  Fixing the big stuff first will cause ripples through the entire manuscript and you can then go through the outline noting where those ripples are in concentric and lessening degrees.  You still need to do the edit, re-read and re-evaluate to make sure the story has the continuity and crispness required before going to your editor, but using the trusty outline certainly makes that process easier.

This is a recurring theme in many blog posts and podcasts relating to the craft and business of writing over the last few years.  You can read titles like from 2K to 10K by Rachel Aaron, or Write. Publish. Repeat. and Fiction Unboxed by Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant and David Wright, and those guys write between 1.5 and 2 million words each year.  Let’s face it, to earn a living with writing it is a numbers game, you must produce a large volume of quality work.  That isn’t going to happen if you sit down each day not being sure where you are going and how you are going to get there.

I leave you there my friend as I go and discover the new map of my next world.

Blessed be,



Ella Reece is the author of historical and paranormal romance stories. She lives in a small haunted town almost a half an hour past nowhere, where her imagination allows her to roam history and other planes. A strong belief in happily ever after, she shares her life with Darling her hero and their 2 pixies. During the week she handles corporate escalations for a computer manufacturer allowing her to explore the psyche of a wide range of individuals which help to give depth to the people in he landscape of her mind.

Follow her on Twitter:

Like her on Facebook:

Blurb for Masquerade:

MasqueradeV4finalMysteries abound at the Vatican. Marcello Di Amante has been summoned to uncover who has been stealing relics from the Vatican. His reputation as a sleuth is put to the test when two murders are discovered on the day of his meeting with Pope Pius III. Marcello vows to bring the culprits to justice. His investigation brings him to England where he meets Sandrina.

Death haunts Sandrina MacPhearson, who believes her relationships are built on a foundation of fear and dishonesty. Duncan Langstaff, her betrothed, disappeared on the day of her wedding. Every night her dreams are haunted by images of a dead woman, in a pool of blood, with Duncan towering over her. Sandrina becomes entangled with Marcello’s investigation and finds herself in danger in Italy.

Intrigue is afoot at the masquerade at the Doge’s Palace in Venice, a city of secrets. What should lead to the unmasking of a murderer, instead sees the headstrong Sandrina kidnapped and Marcello must find her before any harm befalls her.

Buy on Amazon:

Cindy here again.

Good points on using an outline. I’ve started doing that more and find the writing goes much faster.

Keep writing.


No – say it and mean it

NWelcome back to the blog! Today for the A to Z Blogging Challenge I’ve got Beth Barany sharing about the word No and how it relates to getting your writing done.

Here’s Beth Barany!

Hello everyone! Thank you so much, Cindy, for allowing me to be blogging about the letter N.

I want to talk about Saying No and Protecting Your Creative Self.

No is a magical word as a novelist, though a difficult one.

On the one hand, we want to be open to the muses to write. So we say yes to our stories, and yes to our characters talking to us, and yes to the writing flow.

But to do this, I don’t know about you, I have to say, “No” to everything else that isn’t working on my story.

Right now I’m working on preparing the next three paranormal romance novellas in my Touchstone series: another Christmas Elf story; and two more Fairytale romances.

As I sit down to work each day, or nearly every day, I open to the muse and open to the meanderings of my spirit to prepare these stories.

But I have to say no to everything else. I say no to the day job, no to checking email, no talking to strangers (since I often work at cafes), no to the internal doubt, no to the worry about the story, and especially no to concerns of it being good or perfect, especially at the planning and drafting stages.

Some tools I use to help me say yes to the writing and no to everything else:

  • A spreadsheet to track my writing
  • A timer to keep me honest
  • A clear focus of the day’s writing focus
  • A clear deadline for the overall project, for the current stage
  • Trust in my ability to put words to page
  • Scrivener


What can you say No to so you can sit down and write? What tools do you use to stay on task? I’m curious to hear!

Brought to you by the letter N…

(BTW, I use my own curriculum to prepare my novels and novellas. I offer a home-study self-paced version of my course, “30-Day Writing Challenge to Prepare Your Novel” here:

Beth.Barany_MG_6971_500x500ABOUT BETH BARANY

Award-winning author, Beth Barany has been making up fantasy and adventure stories all her life. She writes in two genres: young adult fantasy and sweet paranormal romance. She loves creating magical tales of romance and adventure to transport readers to new worlds where anything is possible.

Also a Creativity Coach, teacher & speaker and NLP Practitioner, Beth is passionate about helping authors get their message out into the world, gain confidence in their self-expression, and discover how they can get noticed and sell novels to their readers.

In her off hours, Beth enjoys capoeira, reading and watching movies, and traveling, with her husband, author and singer/song writer Ezra Barany.

Beth Barany lives in Oakland, California with her husband, two cats, and over 1,000 books.

You can connect with Beth at her site: or on Twitter and Facebook

ABOUT HER LATEST BOOK: Touchstone Series: Romance Novella Books 1-4, plus a bonus short story

Travel to worlds where anything is possible—time travel to Medieval France; a cute Santa’s elf hiding in plain sight in San Francisco; a mystery under the city of Paris that only love can unlock; and, love, destiny, and a labyrinth.

Four romance novellas and bonus short story in the TOUCHSTONE series, by award-winning novelist, Beth Barany.

A time-travel romance. When a thunderstorm transports software expert Rose Waldman to thirteenth century France, she meets hunky stonemason Julien, who is secretly creating a gargoyle in defiance of his master mason. Can independent gadget loving Rose trust her life and heart to Julien, and can she really never go home again?

 – A Christmas Elf romance. What if falling in love put the life you cherished in jeopardy?

Dahlia, a Santa’s Elf, has 21 days left before Christmas to create the best toy in the world without using magic or revealing her true identity. Stuck on how to complete the prototype, and working as a temp in San Francisco’s financial district with no time for love, will her Christmas fling get her unstuck, or will she turn her back on her beloved career for her heart?

Liam, an up-and-coming financial analyst, swore off women after getting dumped by the love of his life. He just found out his ex is going to the company Christmas party with his rival Michael Hendricks. Up for promotion against Hendricks, Liam has to win the favor of his boss. His best bet is to invite the vivacious secretary Dahlia to the party. Will Dahlia be a welcome distraction, or will she turn his life upside down?

A Fairy Tale romance. Sarah Redman, a bank project manager, wants adventure in her life. Trainer extraordinaire, Josh Kleine, needs to pull off a successful presentation at a Paris conference to land more clients and save his company. Together they may hold the key to the strange disasters striking the City of Lights. Can Sarah unravel the secrets of the city and of her heart in time to save them all?

 – A Fairy Tale romance. What if what you wanted got in the way of your destiny? French MBA grad Lili Grenault needs to succeed at her last pitch meeting to fund her international green tech business. But her grandmother tells her to drop everything, find her one true love, and embrace her magical legacy by Beltane, in one week, or chaos and failure in her life will ensue.

San Francisco investor Brett Barnaby wants to find his great-grandfather’s gravesite in Amiens, France, one of the primary battle sites of World War I. Family legend says that purpose, greater mission, and perhaps even untold riches, will be unlocked when he finds that grave. But his search in Amiens brings up fear, anger, and dire warnings about some wild Green Man. He turns to local Lily Grenault for help.

Can these two independent freethinkers work together to prevent chaos from triumphing and find love in time in the labyrinth of roses?

 – A time-travel-esque romance. Sexy Medieval stonemason Julien has to rely on his fiancé. Rose to adapt to a 21st century life, to learn English, and find his place in a modern world. Software expert Rose has no time to spare with two jobs to support her and her fiancé Julien in expensive San Francisco. Will a weekend getaway rekindle the spark so these two time-crossed lovers can fall in love again?



Cindy here again.

Great reminder about learning to say no. I need to do that more often.

Keep writing.

Men: Beyond Alpha and Beta

MWelcome back to the blog! For M on the A to Z Blogging Challenge I’ve got Jessica Cale talking about writing men.

Here’s Jessica.

The term “alpha male” gets thrown around a lot when talking about romance. Even writing guides tend to divide men into two categories: alpha males are strong and have few qualms about going after what they want (see trembling heroine), while the beta males are their more emotionally clued-in counterparts. Alpha males are the more traditional romantic heroes, and you still hear people raving about how much they prefer this kind of character.

But why does he have to be either?

Real men rarely fall into either camp. Most men are strong in one way or another, and have redeeming features other than borderline sociopathic confidence and a rockin’ six pack. They might not be pack leaders, but we love them anyway. In fact, if most people met some of these alphas on the street in real life, they’d probably run away.

When writing your male characters, try to take a step back from the Fabios of yesteryear, and challenge yourself to write a real man. Put yourself in his shoes/moccasins/riding boots: he’s going to have a real past, a family, embarrassments, traumas, and ambitions of his own. Add depth to your character by asking yourself questions about him: what does he like to do on the weekends? What’s important to him? What are his views on politics/poverty/religion/the world in general? He should have real weaknesses more significant than “he’s too punctual”.

Don’t be afraid to make him real. He doesn’t have to be an ideal to be loved; some of our best-loved heroes from literature weren’t perfect, but we still see them that way. Mr. Darcy was a bit chilly and awkward, but that doesn’t stop us using his name as a by-word for the perfect man. He wasn’t a traditional alpha, but he was absolutely devastating.

The next time you write a hero, don’t try to write someone you think your readers will love; write a real man and try to show your readers why they should love him.

virtuesladyMark, the hero of my new release, Virtue’s Lady, is very imperfect, but when he appeared in Tyburn for the first time, he stole the show. Sure, he’s strong in more than one sense – he’s a carpenter, so he’s buff as all get out, and he takes care of his community. But he’s not perfect: he’s been to prison a few times, he makes light of everything, he has a pathological hatred of rich girls, and he has some serious past traumas that affect his judgment. He’s not even classically handsome, but like all really attractive men, it’s not his face so much as his presence that makes an impression. He’s not lovable because he’s perfect; Jane loves him because he’s not.

I fell hard for Mark, and I hope you will, too. Thanks for reading!

Jessica Cale


Virtue’s Lady

Author: Jessica Cale

Publisher: Liquid Silver

Release Date: April 13th


From toiling for pennies to bare-knuckle boxing, a lady is prepared for every eventuality.


Lady Jane Ramsey is young, beautiful, and ruined.

After being rescued from her kidnapping by a handsome highwayman, she returns home only to find her marriage prospects drastically reduced. Her father expects her to marry the repulsive Lord Lewes, but Jane has other plans. All she can think about is her highwayman, and she is determined to find him again.

Mark Virtue is trying to go straight. After years of robbing coaches and surviving on his wits, he knows it’s time to hang up his pistol and become the carpenter he was trained to be. He busies himself with finding work for his neighbors and improving his corner of Southwark as he tries to forget the girl who haunts his dreams. As a carpenter struggling to stay in work in the aftermath of The Fire, he knows Jane is unfathomably far beyond his reach, and there’s no use wishing for the impossible.

When Jane turns up in Southwark, Mark is furious. She has no way of understanding just how much danger she has put them in by running away. In spite of his growing feelings for her, he knows that Southwark is no place for a lady. Jane must set aside her lessons to learn a new set of rules if she is to make a life for herself in the crime-ridden slum. She will fight for her freedom and her life if that’s what it takes to prove to Mark—and to herself—that there’s more to her than meets the eye.


Buy Links: 


Author Bio

Jessica Cale is a historical romance author and journalist based in North Carolina. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in a place where no one understands his accent. You can visit her at

Social Media Links







Amazon Author Page:

Goodreads Author Page:

Cindy here again.

Great tips for creating real men. I’ll have to go back to my story and make sure my male characters ring true.

Keep writing.

Lakota, Logistics, and Learning

LWelcome back to the blog! Today for the A to Z Blogging Challenge I’ve got E. Ayers talking about what she learned while writing her book.

Here’s E. Ayers!

Waving hello to everyone. Thank you so much for allowing me to be blogging about the letter L.

I’ve been working on the Diary of Clare Coleman, one of the first settlers in Wyoming. Except Clare isn’t real nor is Creed’s Crossing. This fictional character is really a culmination of people and events. In my story, Clare and Jessie Coleman settled in Wyoming in the 1840’s. They are homesteaders. Seems simple enough but it’s not.

The truth is I’m busting myths of our Wild West. Women weren’t running around in fancy dresses and swooning over hunky cowboys. Let’s start with cowboys. As the name implies, they were boys! From what I can tell most of these boys were barely ten and some weren’t as old as eighteen.

Take a quick look at the Pony Express. Again, they were young boys. Pony should have been a big clue! They weren’t big enough to ride a horse!

Right now, I’m dealing with the Battle of Little Big Horn (aka Custer’s Last Stand) as I write Clare’s diary. I can’t regurgitate history or everyone would be bored, so I absorb the history and see how it might apply to the Coleman ranch and write it. As I plow into this battle information, I’m learning about the Lakota Indians, and the logistics of troop movements. And why am I doing this?

The Coleman land would have been near or rather in the path of the troops moving into the area. And the Crow Indians supported our U.S. military. Okay, I’ll be honest. This sort of thing bored the heck out of me in school. We learned history based on battles and not on people. So here I am digging to discover facts about a battle because I’m writing a fictional story? It doesn’t seem to make sense, but I do it because I need to accurately portray their lives.

Did the troops bring their own food? Did they hunt along the way? Would they have removed sections of fence as they crossed property lines? Would they have put those sections back together once they passed through? Where might I find the answers to my questions?

And how do I know what is right and what is wrong? Well the alliance with the Sioux and Lakota tribe is well documented, as is the battle itself. It’s been the most studied battle because we lost! We don’t like losing! Actually no one does. But this is one time in history when we didn’t win.

How do I know what is fact and what is fiction when I’m writing something historical? Of course Wikipedia is my friend, but I don’t count on it as being the perfect source, because it’s not. People, average people, not historians, have built Wikipedia. I need to look beyond to other sources.

So how do I know when we first started using fountain pens? I like going to several resources. I might look up the history of fountain pens. That will yield almost two million search results. Fountain pens are actually a collectors dream and there are all sorts of people who are well versed on them. There are also plenty of brand name pen companies who have their history on the web. So I browse the collectors, check out Wikipedia, and hit a few pen companies with their historical pages. I like to check at least three different sites to make certain they agree.

And just because something was invented doesn’t mean everyone had one. Go visit your local library and you’ll get an idea of how many people don’t have Internet in their home. Most of us do, but not everyone. I have Internet but not a fancy TV. If there is something important in the news, I do have my computer. It’s been that way throughout history. The washing machine was invented and then they had to create a need for women to want one and make it affordable!

My cell phone isn’t very smart. I’m not even certain what makes it smart. I’ve never bothered to even try to get my email on my phone, but I’m sure I could. So obviously it takes time for things to filter through the population and in places like Wyoming, which were not, and still aren’t highly populated, things took longer.

So shipping something in the late 1890’s in corrugated cardboard, instead of a wooden box, might be a novelty to the recipient. Yet cardboard boxes had been around for a few years and many companies embraced them because it was cheaper than shipping in wooden boxes. It also weighed less.

By using various sources for information and looking at each thing from different angles, allows us, as authors, to accurately portray history. This makes our stories believable and adds depth.

It’s a learning process. I’m not a historian or even a real history buff. But I’m discovering bits about history that I didn’t know, and it’s all very interesting.

The constant warring between American Indian tribes often wasn’t much more than a sporting event. A chance to prove bravery or a way of saying this is our hunting ground. One week they might have had one of these events and the next week they had joined forces for something else.

For me, the Lakota Alliance and the Battle of Little Big Horn really isn’t about military history, but how it might have affected the Coleman ranch and the Crow Indians who were helping our military. Because aren’t people and their lives more exciting than the actual military battle?

When writing, it’s important to get the facts straight and then figure out how to utilize the information. It doesn’t matter if you write about ladybugs, Lakota, Latinos, lemurs, laws, Liberia, loons, or lynxes. It’s essential to understand facts. How the information is applied is up to each author.

I’ve enjoyed showing life as it really was for the men and women who settled our western territories. And the romantic notions that are perpetuated in novels need to be replaced with the stories of men and women, who fought the elements and worked hard to survive. From the beginning of time, people have always wanted to have someone to love, to be loved, and to live a better life.

ARW E AYERS e version 800x500E. Ayers writes both contemporary and historical novels. Visit her blog for more information on her books.

A Rancher’s Woman set in 1896 is available now

A Rancher’s Dream set at the end of the 1800’s will be available by May 1, 2015 in ebook and paperback.

A Rancher’s Woman

Coddled and protected from the harsh realities of life, Malene runs away from a bad marriage by posing as a chaperone to her younger sister. A series of events soon prove she’s capable of standing on her own two feet. However, she’s not prepared to follow her heart and accept marriage from the one man who truly loves her.
Many Feathers chance encounter with a blue-eyed blonde woman sets him on a path that lands him between the white man’s ways and the traditions of his people. Determined to protect his people and prove his worthiness as a suitable husband to a white woman, he stakes claim to land and establishes a ranch. But there’s one outlaw focused on destroying Many Feathers and everything he’s trying to accomplish.

Amazon International Buy Links.

Available as a Kindle Unlimited

Soon to be available at a local bookstore near you in paperback.

Cindy here again.

Thanks for stopping by the blog. I love learning new things and I have been known to let the research bog me down. I need to find a good balance.

Keep writing.


Kindle Direct Publishing

KWelcome to the blog! I struggled with what to write about for K for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I didn’t think I could write a long enough post about what a kill fee is. Then my husband suggested Kindle. Which led me to Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP for short.

KDP is actually a big topic that could take up a lot more than 500 words so I’m just going to give an overview. Running a writing group I get a lot of questions from new writers when I tell them I’m self published and one of the most common is how much does it cost to self publish your book. A lot of writers are under the impression that it costs a lot of money to self publish. And it can cost a lot if you go through a “service” that charges you for a bunch of things you don’t need. Or you can do it for free, or almost free by publishing directly to Amazon with Kindle Direct Publishing. They don’t charge a fee to upload your books. They get paid when you sell your books. Royalties are based on price. They get a cut and you get a cut. Costs come into play when you hire an editor, hire a cover artist. You can also hire a formatter. For my short stories I do the covers myself and I get a friend to do the edits.

First things first – if you have an Amazon account you already have a KDP account. You just need to log into it to start uploading books. If you go to https:/// it will prompt you to log in.


From there you can easily add titles. Once you click on add new title the process of adding your title, uploading your content and cover is pretty easy. You’ll select keywords and add a description. On the next screen after you’ve saved and previewed your book you’ll select the rights you have. In the case of my books, since I self published I had world rights so I left that clicked. Then I set the price, royalty level and clicked publish.


Then you can obsess every day and check your sales every five minutes. 🙂 I’ve tried to limit my time checking my sales but it’s nice to see those numbers go up.


All that in mind, self publishing isn’t for everyone. While a lot of authors like the control they have when they self publish, a lot of other authors would rather give that control to someone else so they can focus on what they love the most. The writing. Self publishing is easy to do but it isn’t easy. It’s a business and you the author must wear a lot of hats. While it’s true that no matter which way you go – self publishing or traditional publishing – you still have to market your book on your own, a traditional publisher will do a lot of other jobs (cover, editing) that let you focus on writing the next book.

So, if you’re so inclined, jump into the self publishing world and let me know how it goes.

Keep writing!

Jumping in

JWelcome back to the blog! Today’s J post is brought to you by Bess Carnan. She’s talking about jumping into the writing. Here’s Bess!

So you’ve realized that your life’s ambition isn’t to be a ballerina, alligator wrestler, or doctor. Instead you want to join the hallowed lists of those whose calling is the written word. Congratulations! Now what? Here are a few basics I’ve learned since dipping my toe into the writerly world last year:

  1. Writers Write: There are thousands of books, blogs, and articles on how to write. (This works out well- if you don’t like my advice it’ll be easy to find someone whose suggestions you like better.) They tell you to write in the morning, in the evening, when you’re most productive, write for fifteen minutes every day NO MATTER WHAT. Regardless of how it’s dressed up, this is the one fundamental you can’t escape. Writers write. Talking about ‘this great idea’ you have isn’t writing. Endless research isn’t writing. Putting pen to paper, fingers to keys, quill to parchment, that is writing. And it’s the only thing that ever single writer in the world has in common.
  2. Do Your Research: I know, I just said research isn’t writing. But it is an essential part of the process. If you’ve ever watched or read something and said, “Oh my god- how can they say that? The human brain doesn’t work like that AT ALL” (the movie Lucy drove me up a wall) then you know why. That moment of incredible wrongness pulls you out of the story faster than anything else. For readers, it turns them off not only to the book, but to the author. If you start off your reader-writer relationship getting science, laws, or cultures wrong, what does that say to the reader about the rest of your writing? At best, you risk alienating your potential readers. At worst, you write something horrifically offensive and become the target of an internet campaign.
  3. Seek Out Criticism: This doesn’t have to be right away, but it does have to be before you start sending out queries to agents and editors. Because those folks get so many offerings, they go through them quickly and if your grammar is atrocious or there’s a giant hole in your world’s logic they’ll toss it out. As everyone in the writing world is fond of saying, you only get one shot with an agent; make it your best. There are hundreds of critique groups in the world where you can swap writing with other aspiring authors. If that’s not your style, you can ask people in your life to be beta readers or hire an editor. It can hurt to hear that your labor of love isn’t perfect, but that pain leads only to better writing. Don’t let your ego fool you into thinking your writing is perfect just the way it is- you’re not the one you’re trying to convince to buy your manuscript.
  4. Find Your Professional Association: In the United States we have Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and any number of other groups for genre-based writing. These associations not only have members who are at all different points in their careers, they also put together conferences for networking and resources for their members. They usually cost to join, but you can get a lot out of your membership. This is where you’ll get the best advice about how to get your writing out there and make the most important contacts. Working in a void can only get you so far; at some point you’re going to need other people- to critique or help you on your journey- and professional associations are your best pool of candidates.
  5. Read: Read in your genre. Read out of your genre. Read advice. Read critiques. Read critically. Just make sure you never stop reading.

Welcome to the confusing, nerve-wrecking, wonderful world of writing! You’re going to love it here.

Cindy here again!

Great advice here. I just want to add that those organizations are also open to international members. I belong to Sisters in Crime and I used to belong to Romance Writers of America.

Keep writing!


Inspiration is everywhere

ITime for I on the A to Z Blogging challenge. Pressed for time so today I’m talking about inspiration for writing mostly in the form of pictures. 🙂

Some writers find it hard to come up with ideas but I’ve always found ideas everywhere. For the writing group we’ve often used pictures to inspire us to write a scene, start a story, come up with a character.

Take a look at the pictures below.  Can you write a scene based on any of them? Do any of them give you ideas about what might be going on? Who was killed in that crime scene? Whose bed is that? Some I took myself, some I found on a stock site. Feel free to brainstorm in the comments section.




Futuristic Cityscape from DepositPhoto

Futuristic Cityscape from DepositPhotos


CindyCarrollECindy is a member of Sisters in Crime and a graduate of Hal Croasmun’s screenwriting ProSeries. Her interviews with writers of CSI and Flashpoint appeared in The Rewrit, the Scriptscene newsletter, the screenwriting Chapter of RWA. She writes screenplays, thrillers, and paranormals, occasionally exploring an erotic twist. A background in banking and IT doesn’t allow much in the way of excitement so she turns to writing stories that are a little dark and usually have a dead body. She lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband and two cats. When she’s not writing you can usually find her painting landscapes in oil or trying space paintings with spray paint.

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Keep writing.

High concept – not just a marketing gimmick

HToday we’ve got me on the blog! I’m talking about high concept, taken from lesson three of the loglines class I teach.

Ever heard an agent or editor say they want something fresh?  Have you heard them say they want something unique?  How about they want the same but different?  Any of these ringing a bell?  What I think they mean, but aren’t saying, is they want high concept.  A lot of movies have been based on high concept books.  I Am Legend for example.  Great high concept.  Lousy movie.  Jaws.  High concept book, high concept movie.  The Silence of the Lambs.  Jurassic Park.

What is high concept?  Is it just a marketing gimmick?  People tend to think if they can boil their concept down to that twenty-five word logline they have high concept.  That’s not what makes it high concept.  I can do that with a lot of my stories but only a handful are actually high concept.  So then what is it?  And how do you get it if you don’t have it?

I’ve seen “rules” that say there are three components to a high concept.  Others that say there are five. And one even that says there are six.  No matter which one you listen to they have three in common:

The concept must be unique

The concept must appeal to a wide audience

The concept can be told in a single sentence and you see the whole movie (or book).

High concept is not Star Wars meets The African Queen. This is a framing technique mostly used in Hollywood. It should be used sparingly and only if asked. It’s also not the blurb or the synopsis. It’s not big budget, blockbuster movies either. You can have high concept without the big budget.

Star Wars was high concept. Star Wars fits all the criteria for being high concept in spades.  The Blair Witch Project, by no means a big budget film, was high concept. I didn’t care for the movie myself but millions of people did. It had a unique twist. The protagonists were likeable.  The stakes were high enough for them. Even Peggy Sue Got Married was high concept.

Not high concept – Little Miss Sunshine.  She’s All That.  Head Over Heels.  Twilight.  Brokeback Mountain.  American Beauty.

High concept is a powerful tool to have as a writer.  High concept pitches can make it easier to communicate up through the chain of command.  If your idea is too complicated, by the time it reaches the top, it may sound like a totally different idea.  Anyone ever play telephone as a child?  It also forces you to determine what the story is really about.  What the core of the story is.

Now some of you may be thinking, but my story is too complex for this logline business.  Or this high concept business.  But the God Father was high concept.  Boil that complex plot, with complex characters and great subplots and what is the core?

When a powerful gangster is gunned down, his reluctant son must seek revenge and take over the family business.

Everything in the movie relies on that core.

How do you improve a concept to make it higher concept?

First, I suggest you find the essence of the concept or logline.  Figure out what it’s about and then what it’s REALLY about.

Here’s where we have fun.  Take your concept or logline and change it.  Make it better.  How?  Is it unique?  No?  Can you make it more unique?  Change the setting to be unique?  How about the characters?  Change the gender, race, species of your characters.  Change their traits.  Throw some opposites in there.  You’ve all heard the make the heroine an arsonist and the hero a fire fighter suggestion.  Raise the stakes.  Play what if?  Give it a twist.  Have something unique about it.

So go ahead and try it on one of your concepts. But only ones you haven’t done a lot of work on. Authors tend to get married to their ideas and find it hard to make changes to the concept even though a change could make the concept stronger. Feel free to share your loglines if you like.


CindyCarrollECindy is a member of Sisters in Crime and a graduate of Hal Croasmun’s screenwriting ProSeries. Her interviews with writers of CSI and Flashpoint appeared in The Rewrit, the Scriptscene newsletter, the screenwriting Chapter of RWA. She writes screenplays, thrillers, and paranormals, occasionally exploring an erotic twist. A background in banking and IT doesn’t allow much in the way of excitement so she turns to writing stories that are a little dark and usually have a dead body. She lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband and two cats. When she’s not writing you can usually find her painting landscapes in oil or trying space paintings with spray paint.

Join Cindy’s exclusive club to get new release pricing, the inside scoop, free reads:

To be a reviewer and get books before they’re released in exchange for an honest review on release day sign up here:

Follow her on Twitter:

Like her on Facebook:

Amazon Page:

Thanks for stopping by the blog today!

Keep writing.

Gothic Fiction

GTime for G in the A to Z Blogging Challenge! Today I’ve got Bonnie Dodge talking about Gothic fiction. Here’s Bonnie.

Most writers come to writing through a love of reading. Myself, I have always loved to read. Some of the first novels I read remain favorites: Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, anything by Shirley Jackson, and everything by Edgar Allan Poe. What is it about these stories that have me rereading them again and again? I like them because they are well-written Gothic fiction.

Gothic fiction is a genre of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance. Think terror (both psychological and physical), mystery, supernatural, ghosts, and haunted houses. Add Gothic castles, darkness, death, decay, madness, secrets, and curses.

Besides being eerie, Gothic fiction has interesting characters. Think powerful tyrants, madwomen, magicians, monsters, demons, and ghosts. Maybe even the Devil himself.

Gothic stories are filled with high drama. Will the “Devil” win? Will the woman escape the evil presence haunting her house? Will the protagonist go mad? There is always another door to open, another question, “What’s next?”

A good setting with interesting characters and life or death conflict. That’s what makes a book a classic, and keeps readers coming back for more.

166_0.488896001409264164_waiting_cv_hrSet in a small town in Idaho, my novel Waiting isn’t Gothic fiction, but it does have interesting characters and lots of conflict. You can read more about it here. 

Bio: Bonnie Dodge lives and writes from her home in southern Idaho. Her award-winning fiction, poetry, and non-fiction have appeared in several newspapers, magazines, and anthologies in the Pacific Northwest. For more information visit her web page at and follow her on Twitter @BJDodge.

Cindy here again!

Thanks for stopping by the blog today. I love the chills of Gothic fiction. I think I need to add some books to my reading list.

Keep writing!

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