Wednesday, April 23, 2014

LET’S EAT GRANDMA - The Importance of Proofreading by Kathy Ide

The following post from Kathy Ide originally appeared on my blog in February, but I think its something we can all use since grammar, especially commas, can be the bane of a writer's life. -- Sandy

Kathy: Have you seen the plaques and T-shirts that say:
Let’s Eat Grandma.

Let’s Eat, Grandma.

 Commas Save Lives.

I love that! It shows how one tiny bit of punctuation can change the entire meaning and tone of a sentence.

You may think that as long as you’ve got life-changing content in your nonfiction manuscript, or an intriguing story with lots of conflict and interesting characters in your fiction manuscript, that should be enough. And yes, content and story are extremely important. But no matter how good those things are, you’ll be running some pretty big risks if you don’t bother proofreading your manuscript carefully for typos, inaccuracies, and inconsistencies … and learning the industry-standard rules regarding punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling.

OK, you won’t be putting your grandmother’s life on the line or joining a tribe of cannibals. But tiny mistakes in your writing can have disastrous consequences.

Here are my top ten: 
  1. Mechanical errors can decrease your chance of acceptance by a traditional publisher.
  2. Mechanical errors can cause miscommunication. 
  3. Mechanical errors can cause confusion. 
  4. Mechanical errors can give an unprofessional appearance to publishers and readers.
  5. Mechanical errors can be embarrassing.
  6. Mechanical errors may cause readers to take you and your message less seriously. 
  7. Mechanical errors can affect the sales of your book. 
  8. Mechanical errors could cost you money. 
  9. Mechanical errors can be distracting. 
  10. Mechanical errors can give you a poor reputation. 

Professionalism Is Key

If you’re writing just for family and friends, it may not matter so much whether every comma is in exactly the right place or if you have a few typos here and there. But if you want to get your book published in today’s highly competitive commercial market, you need every edge you can get. If you expect people to buy what you write, you need to take the time to do it right.

If you have a hard time finding typos, inconsistencies, and “PUGS” errors in your writing, consider hiring a professional proofreader. If you go to and fill out the form for Authors Seeking Editors, you’ll be connected with established, professional editors who can make your manuscript shine.

A comma may not save Grandma’s life. But a careful proofread might make a life-or-death difference for your manuscript.

If you haven't read Kathy's new book, I highly recommend it. What grammar problems do you find the most aggravating? 

Proofreading Secrets_FrontCover

Kathy Ide, author of Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, is a full-time freelance 
editor/mentor for new writers, established authors, and book publishers. She speaks at writers’ conferences across the country. She is the founder and director of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network and the Christian Editor Network. For more about Kathy, visit Or find Kathy Ide on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, ShoutLife, Goodreads, or Pinterest.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Writer's Block by Sandra Orchard

Sandra Orchard on the scene of her book, "Perilous Waters"
Angie invited me to talk about how to persevere through writer’s block, which I unhappily have TOO much experience in.

Oh, it didn’t used to be this way. In bygone days when I was blithely oblivious to such things as character arcs, pacing, romantic conflict, and a myriad of other editor expectations, stories flowed unhindered from my fingertips to the computer screen.

Now…my creativity is cursed by my analytical mind. And trust me, I’ve tried to turn it off, to write those “fast drafts” people like to talk about, and every two or three books, it almost works!

But typically I face a bout of writer’s block halfway through every book. I usually have the story well outlined before I start, but somewhere along the way, the characters lead me astray, and I merrily follow ... only to find I’ve written myself into a corner and don’t know how to get out.

Can you relate?

Have you stomped around the house, ranted about unruly characters and devoured chocolate—God’s most story-inspiring food group—without effect?

Then try these tips:

  1. Pray. Get into God’s Word and listen to what He’s telling you. He is our ultimate source of inspiration, the well that will never run dry. And honestly, sometimes we get stuck because God needs to deal with our character flaws before we can help our characters overcome theirs.

  2. After step one, by far the most useful exercise I’ve found to help me break through writer’s block is cluster mapping. The key to figuring out what happens next is asking good questions then letting the answers generate more questions and answers and see where they lead.

    So, for example, in the center of the page, I might start with the question, What happens next? From it, I’ll radiate off all sorts of possibilities from various characters’ points of view then ask, Why does that matter? Why would the reader care? This helps me eradicate the mundane and discover the extraordinary, and best of all, to surprise myself. Hopefully, if I’m surprising myself, my reader will be surprised, too! Here’s a pic to help you see what I mean.
    An Example of Cluster Mapping

    I did this one while writing Fatal Inheritance when that voice in my head told me the villain wasn’t who I thought he was. I mean that the villain was literally a different person than I had in my synopsis (which has turned out to be the case for every book I’ve written since!) I did this map to help me figure out who was really the villain. Oh, and did I mention that this voice in my head didn’t start hounding me until a month before the manuscript was due?!

    As you can see this is a messy process. Ideas come a mile a minute. But the exercise is an incredibly energizing creativity boost as it encourages me to think outside of the box.

  3. If clustering doesn’t boot you out of your block, get together with a couple of writing buddies (online if need be) and talk out your story, what’s working, what’s not. More often than not, one of my friends will spot what’s paralyzed me and we’re able to brainstorm fixes. Admittedly, the fixes are never as easy to write as they make it sound, because I first have to divorce myself from what I’ve already written. But it is precisely because my friends aren’t married to my writing that they gave a clearer perspective.

  4. Another strategy that’s worked for me is skipping ahead to a scene I know how to write. Oftentimes the bridging scenes will reveal themselves as I write this later scene.

  5. When all else fails, take a day off. Do something you enjoy, something that inspires you. The solutions to story problems often come when you give your mind time to work on them subconsciously, so be sure to keep a pen and notebook handy. But don’t stay away from your novel too long or you’ll never finish it!
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Writer's block? Pray. Get into God’s Word and listen to what He’s telling you.
The key to figuring out what happens next is asking good questions.
Skip ahead to a scene that you know how to write.
Solutions for Writer's Block? Share them with us!
      About the Author
      Sandra Orchard is the award-winning author of several inspirational romantic suspense/mysteries, including Deadly Devotion and Blind Trust. Her Love Inspired Suspense titles have garnered two Canadian Christian Writing Awards and a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award. Sandra has also received a Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. In addition to her busy writing schedule, Sandra enjoys speaking at events and teaching writing workshops. She lives in Ontario, Canada. Learn more about Sandra’s books and check out the special bonus features, such as deleted scenes and location pics, at

      Perilous Waters
      Perilous Waters
      by Sandra Orchard


      For FBI agent Sam Steele, there’s no room for error or emotions on his latest undercover assignment. Getting close to gallery owner Jennifer Robbins while on an Alaskan cruise is the only way to catch her dealing stolen art. Out on the icy seas, Jen suddenly goes from suspect to victim when she’s targeted by a deadly enemy. And Sam’s mission goes from investigating an art crime to protecting the woman who’s begun to melt his heart. As danger looms closer, he’ll do anything to save her life—even if it costs him his own.

      What others are saying about PW:

      “Levelheaded characters, beautiful description and strong action abound. Clinging to God as our “ship” is a nicely woven ideal for the inspirational arc.” 4 stars RT Book Reviews

      “Perilous Waters kept me on the edge of my loveseat as I followed twin sisters Jennifer and Cassandra in and out of danger and love on an Alaskan cruise. With enough plot twists to keep me guessing and enough romance to keep me smiling, I sailed through this lovely, nail-biting story in record time.” Jeanette Levellie

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      Buy Links For Perilous Waters ~

      Monday, April 21, 2014

      The Relationship Between Character and Setting by Meg Moseley

      Meg Moseley
      Hey writers, Annette here. Our guest today has some great tips on categorizing your characters and how that relates to setting. Enjoy!

      The Relationship Between Character and Setting
      Meg Moseley

      “Oh, no,” you say. “Blech! Not another checklist. Not another character chart, another formula for plotting.”

      No, I just want to throw some ideas around. They’ve sparked new life and fun in my brainstorming and my writing, and I hope they’ll do the same for you.

      It starts with deciding which of these three basic categories my protagonist falls into when I imagine him in the story’s setting:

      1. Newcomer. He’s a recent arrival. The new kid on the block, he might be welcome or unwelcome. He might want to be there or he might not.

      2. Resident. Whether or not he’s a native, he has been there a while. He’s on familiar turf, but it’s not necessarily a pleasant home. A prison can be a home, too.

      3. Returning. He’s back after an absence. He has elements of a newcomer, elements of a resident, and other elements related to the ways he and the setting have changed since last time he was there. A “reunion story” often includes someone who’s returning to a specific geographical setting.

      Now, how does he relate to his setting? What is his role there? The identities listed below aren’t necessarily tied to his personality, occupation, or social status, and they aren’t necessarily literal. He doesn’t have to be in jail to feel like a prisoner; he doesn’t have to be a soldier to invade a place.

      These identities won’t all work with all three of the basic categories above, as you’ll see if you play around with them. No doubt you’ll come up with other identities too, but this starter list might get your creative juices flowing. If you have a protagonist in mind, which of these words describes his role in the setting?

      a. Invader
      b. Defender
      c. Messiah
      d. Crusader
      e. Prisoner
      f. Refugee
      g. Peon
      h. Ruler

      But there’s a third element. Let’s say we have a Refugee who’s a Newcomer to a particular setting. Will he find a warm welcome, animosity, or mere tolerance? What is the setting’s attitude toward him? Is it…

      A. Hostile. A hostile setting seems to hold the most promise of good story conflicts. It doesn’t need to be a literal war zone to be a battleground for your characters.

      B. Neutral. It doesn’t have to be bland. It’s a setting that could go either way, and that can create tension. 

      C. Friendly. Sounds safe, doesn’t it? But a cozy setting can be a good breeding ground for conflict too. A character who thinks he’s in a safe place is a prime target for hidden dangers or betrayals.

      When you brainstorm with this concept, the categories are fluid and the possibilities are endless. Try 1-c-A or 3-d-B or some brilliant new combination that isn’t on my list. Have fun!


       Click for Amazon
      A May Bride

      A May Bride releases next week.

      Ellie has prepared for her wedding all her life . . . but she has forgotten the most important part? 

      Ellie Martin, a country girl living in Atlanta, has dreamed of a traditional wedding all her life—a wedding just like the one her younger sister is planning back home. Even though Ellie is realizing her dreams in the big city as an up-and-coming real-estate agent, she’s missing a key ingredient to her plans for the future: a groom.

      Then Ellie meets Gray Whitby—at a wedding of all places. Gray is handsome and fun, and he sweeps her away in a whirlwind romance. In a matter of months, Ellie knows Gray is “the one,” but her mother isn't so sure, judging Gray to be the freewheeling type, like Ellie's runaway father.

      When Ellie jeopardizes her own future for the sake of her sister, Gray feels like he'll always be second to Ellie's family. Can Ellie and Gray find their own way together amidst the demands and perceptions of others or will their romance end before it has truly begun?



      As a little girl in California, Meg Moseley used to pretend she was a novelist while she pounded the keys of her grandmother’s typewriter. The author of A Stillness of ChimesGone South and When Sparrows Fall, Meg lives with her husband near Atlanta and never stops dreaming up ideas for contemporary fiction. Her newest project is A May Bride, a novella coming from Zondervan on April 22, 2014.

      You can connect with Meg here:

      Friday, April 18, 2014

      Try, Try Again by Regina Scott

      Regina Scott

      Persistence is imperative in the publishing industry, and there’s never a guarantee that once we reach the mountain top we’ll remain there. A tumble may require us to get back on our feet and start the climb all over. Today, author Regina Scott shares her personal journey to publication and how she got back on the road to success. ~ Dawn

      Try, Try Again

      We all know the pattern. An author struggles for years to polish that first book for publication, collects her fair share of rejections, and then, voila, she sells and goes on to a fulfilling writing career using her God-given talent to enrich the lives of many. Helpful critique partners, doting family, perhaps even publishing partners like an agent assure us that this is the given path trod by countless authors before us and likely trod by countless others after us.

      But sometimes, it doesn’t work that way.

      My career started out like that story. With encouragement from my husband, I finished one of my many romance manuscripts that were gathering dust after two children and work outside the home had left writing a distant dream. I was stunned and delighted when the story was bought by a New York publisher, with an offer for a second book, sight unseen. More books followed in quick succession, and I was encouraged to write longer stories, meatier plots. I was someone. I was going places.

      Fifteen books later, my publisher cancelled my contract. Stories like mine weren’t selling well. I was devastated. I was certain God intended me to be a writer, to share my stories with readers. How could I do that if no reader ever saw them?

      Today, we have more choices in these situations, but at that time, e-books were rare, self-publication something only the desperate tried. My agent suggested writing for young adults. I threw myself into the process, reading the best examples and taking courses before penning a book I loved. Again I sent that precious manuscript out into the wild, and again heard those fateful words, “I want to buy your book.”

      And again, there was no subsequent contract offered. I was orphaned, a one-book wonder.

      But publishing, I have learned, is for the long haul. Publishers come and go. Editors change houses. You and your agent may part ways. What is popular today among the reading public will be unpopular tomorrow. In the end, it is all about you and the words God has given you to share. Be true to that, and never give up.

      April marks the publication of my twenty-seventh work of romantic fiction. I currently have an editor I adore and an agent who has been there for me through all the ups and downs. I have acquired the rights to my backlist from those early years and have brought most of them out as e-books. I’m working on an original story to self-publish as well. But if all that went away tomorrow, I would dust myself off and try, try again. Because as long as God wants me to write, the only person who can truly keep me from prospering is myself.


      Dust yourself off and try, try again. Click to tweet.

      In the end, it is all about you and the words God has given you to share. Click to tweet.

      As long as God wants you to write, the only person who can truly keep you from prospering is yourself. Click to tweet.

      The moment John, Lord Hascot, encounters a young woman sheltering in his abandoned stable, his future is sealed. To prevent scandal, and protect Lady Amelia Jacoby from her parents' ire, he must propose. John's ability to trust vanished when his former love married his twin brother. Yet he offers Amelia everything she could want, except affection.

      Amelia sees John's true nature shine through when he cares for his horses. But the brooding aristocrat seems determined to keep her at arm's length. Little by little Amelia will turn Hollyoak Farm into a home, but can she turn a marriage of convenience into a joyful union?

      Regina Scott has survived the publishing industry for more than 15 years, winning awards, penning more than two dozen stories, and seeing her work translated into many languages. She currently writes for Love Inspired Historical. Reviewers have been raving about her April release, The Husband Campaign, calling it “a stirring inspirational romance” and saying “Regina Scott’s writing style is as graceful as her heroine.”

      You can connect with Regina online at her website, the blog she shares with author Marissa Doyle at, and her Facebook page at