SOFFing is a system that I use to complete my goals. SOFF is an acronym for Starting, Organizing, Focusing, and Finishing a project of any size whether it is a tiny series of tasks to be completed within an hour or as we saw last week, it can be used to complete a huge project spanning a long period. SOFFing can be used on the individual project level, the daily level, and on a weekly level. It can also be done on by the month as well.

Planning the Month Begins With Where I am now 

“To discover how to get where you’re going, you have to first know where you are.”

I start my month by assessing how I did in the previous month. In May I:

*Planted the garden. and so next month I know I will be maintaining, harvesting, and canning. I will be talking more about what I plan to do gardening in my next article on my other blog: The Perpetual Homesteader.

*Research is Done on Two Rivers-in June I want to get the word count of the book up to 80 thousand words. (I currently have written 60 thousand words If I add more dialogue and more scene descriptions, I’l have the 80 thousand).

*I have made Some Progress on Organizing my House-I want to continue with a single project in which my husband and I put two sets of shelves in the master bedroom.

*Made it to the farmer’s market every Saturday in May.

*Did some marketing online with a little luck in views and book sales this is my biggest challenge for June.

“It matters less whether I meet my goals than it is that I made progress toward those goals and that I will make more progress in the immediate future.”

Cygnet Brown

My Biggest Win and My Biggest Fail (or in other words, next month’s challenge)

Biggest Win-The Garden is growing well and producing some crops.

Biggest Challenge: Online book marketing and sales.

June’s Challenge

Since my biggest challenge in May was in the area of online book marketing, I plan to make June the month where this is my primary focus. Marketing is my biggest bottleneck. If I can break through and get consistent high-dollar book sales of the books that I have already written, I will also be able to get more sales from future books as they come out.

 I have learned that some of the comments that I made on other people’s content where people asked me specific questions and I posted a link have received some hits, especially in articles that I wrote online, but not much more than that. I also found that if I used hashtags related to the subject, I get views from Twitter as well. I am thinking that perhaps I need to do more in that area. I found a system that someone else has used and will try it this month. I’ll let you know how it goes at the end of the month. Beginning later today, I am going to use it for all fourteen of my books this month.

I will post one Blog Post Per book (permanent) (every other day) be sure to include a link to the sales page on Amazon. Check out the first ten pages! Also, I will include within each post a link to the related books Locket Saga, Gardening, and Career Enhancement.

I will post two Pinterest Posts per book this month (every other day) I’ll be sure to include a link

I will post four Tweets EACH DAY for a duration of a week to THOUSANDS of followers (focusing on the book focus of that day. (28 total per book) be sure to include a link and related hashtags!

I will post four Tweets promoting each blog twice through the month-(books other than the most recent book blog created). The tweets for the first three blogs will be at the end of the month.be sure to include a link and related hashtags!

I will post to four Facebook READER GROUP Posts each day of June (one per each of the four most recent book blog posts. (Other than my own.) I will be sure to include a link to either the book or to the blog related to the book.

I will post four Facebook page posts sprinkled throughout the month for each book on my own Facebook pages (I have several). I will post on the pages on which the book is related. I will be sure to include a link.

I will save these social media posts in a Word Document so that I can easily access them for future use.

I will use Social Oomph to schedule as many of my posts as possible that way I don’t have to spend all day, every day working on this project, after all, I also have a garden, a home, a husband, a farmers market, and a house to run.

There you have it, my “S” and “O” of my SOFF of June., “the Start and Organization” for June’s goals. What are your plans for the month of June? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

At the end of the month, I’ll show you how it all played out by focusing on the challenge and how much of what I was able to finish.


I continue to think about life. Perhaps it’s because I can see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel of this life. I see that I have a limited number of these days left before I follow the light to its ultimate destination. However, I am not morbid with the idea of my final reckoning, I am, however, more interested in how I make the best use of what time I have left. I am seizing each day and making the most of every hour of each day.

Not that anyone’s day is likely to make that much difference. Each day simply is a pixel in my life. Each light of each day that shines is not bright alone, but when I stand back, it provides a picture of the life I have lived. I am determined to seize each day. Carpe Diem!

How do I seize each day? I seize it by using a system called SOFF. Start Organize, Focus, and Finish.

Start

The first important thing to do each day is to show up. I get up at a reasonable hour and start with my morning routine which gets me ready to begin the first of my daily projects.

I try to plan each day the night before so that I don’t waste that precious time that I have. Will there be distractions? Sure, there will be, but once I deal with the distractions or any emergency that comes up, I know what I will do next. I go back to my plan and do what’s next on that agenda. That’s why I need to plan only one or two or at the most three major things that I must complete each day to move ahead on my projects.

Get Organized

I know that there is only so much that I can do in one day, so I choose to do what is most important to reach my goals. The next most important thing that I need to do is organize my time and my space toward reaching each daily goal simply and easily. This means that I need to look over what I must do today to reach my monthly, weekly, and annual goals.

My current annual goals that I am working on involve growing my own food, writing my two blogs each week, and writing the second draft of my next book in The Locket Saga. I also have other ideas that I want to write There’s The Perpetual Homesteader book series, I also want to write a gardening book for the Ozarks, and there are other books in The Locket Saga that I want to get to, but I am putting those on hold for now. I organize those projects that I am working on by designating certain times of the day to work on them. I have organized the materials that I use for these projects so that I don’t have to spend a lot of time deciding where what I need is located. If I need a tool or a piece of research, I can find it easily and quickly because I am organized.

Focus

I designate specific times during the day to work on the big projects. I got this idea from Stephen Covey who told a story about filling a jar. He said that if there was a pile of rocks (representing big important projects), pebbles (smaller urgent, but less important projects), gravel (unimportant urgent projects), and sand (unimportant not urgent projects).  if you start by filling the jar with sand, there will be no room for anything else. If you put pebbles in your jar, there’s room for gravel and sand, but not for the big important things. Therefore, it’s important to start with the big rocks or in other words, the big important projects, and fill in the time with those other less important but often urgent tasks that we face each day.

The time provided for the big important projects needs to be focused on. If I know exactly what I need to finish each day, even a little time can be enough time especially if done on a consistent daily basis.

Finish

Finishing involves completing the designated project that we assign to a specific day. I complete the aspect of the project that I have assigned for that day. If I plan to plant a row of beans in the garden, I do that. If I intend to write a blog post, I write it and it isn’t done until it is posted and scheduled.

It also determines what it is that I want to do the next day. If on the next day, I intend to research one of my books, I set things up to make that happen as efficiently as possible. If I intend to do the laundry, I put it on my to-do list for the next day.

Once I’ve finished this day and set up for the next day, I’ve makes the strategy of SOFF an ever-rising spiral. I have already set up to start for the next day. I made a step forward and am prepared to take the next step.

Want to Seize Your Day

For more on how to make the most of each day, check out my book: The Ultimate Keystone Habit


apple blossoms
Things change. A few weeks ago the apple tree only had a promise of blossoms, now there’s the potential for the fruit.

Years ago, when I was working as a neuropsychiatric technician, I had a roommate who was in Al-Anon and she invited me to an Al-Anon meeting where they recited The Serenity Prayer which states “God, grant me the serenity to change the things I can and to accept the things I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.”

A quote by Maya Angelou

Now years later, I am reminded of this when I read a quote by Maya Angelou who had said something quite similar, “If you don’t like something, change It. If you can’t change it, change your attitude about it.

This fits my philosophy of life. I often choose to write about what I don’t like and rather than just complaining about it on paper, I would try to determine a solution for whatever it was that I didn’t like.

What are those things that I can change? What are those things that I cannot change?

The things that I can change are things that I have control of right now. I can change what I am doing right now. I can change how I feel about a situation.

I can’t change anything I have done in the past, nor can I change anything in the future, but I can change how I react to any situation I face today.

One Day at a Time

I can determine how I will spend my time today, but when I think about it, I can never actually do anything tomorrow. Tomorrow will never come. Think about it. When tomorrow comes, tomorrow will no longer be tomorrow, it will become today. The question I need to ask then is “What can I do today so that when tomorrow becomes today?”

Nothing can happen in just one day, but string several todays together, and by doing the right thing, I am in a better place today and every day after today if I stay on the same path. So, how do I better use the time I am given?

Writing Career Betterment

If I write every day and work to get better at writing every day, even with just one percent of changes made every day, I will become a better writer. If I work to improve my marketing skills every day, I will sell more books.

Financial Betterment

 I cannot change the fact that I have debt, not today anyway. Debt reduction is a marathon, not a sprint. I know better than to think that I am going to win the lottery. The only way to become financially independent is to develop better financial habits. What I can control is what I am spending my money on today. I can also determine if I am going to work today so that I can pay my debts. I can decide whether to save money or invest it. I can focus on changing my spending habits, my income, and my investments over the next series of days, months, or years, and I will be considerably better off than I am today. I just must do it one day at a time.

Relationship Betterment

I cannot change any of the mistakes that I made in the past with my parents, my siblings, my spouse, or my children, but I can determine to forgive myself. I can also determine to forgive anything that my children or my spouse have done. Until I discovered forgiveness, I didn’t realize how powerful forgiveness was until I learned to forgive. Forgiveness puts me at peace. It gives me serenity. It’s not for the other person that I forgive. It is for me. No one understands its power until they learn to forgive. Becoming a forgiving person both of myself and others is something that I can change.

Social Betterment

I cannot change the fact I will someday no longer be in this world, but I can determine how I will make the most of this time that I am given.

I can stop being a taker and become a giver. I can change how I relate to the earth I can give back to the earth that has supported me all these years. I can plant a fruit tree today and someday that tree will bloom and grow fruit, but today all I can do is support that tree in whatever way it needs right now and that is the same with anything I want to change for the better.

If you liked this article, you’ll love my book:

Living Today, The Power of Now

Available on Kindle


Waiting doesn’t have to get in the way of the rest of what you need and want to do today.

As an author, I find time to do the things I like to do by becoming creative with the time that I would otherwise be doing nothing. Today I’m sharing how I constructively use the time in which I am waiting.

We all have a busy life, and it seems like those times when we must wait that we find ourselves wishing we could do all those things that we can’t do because we are waiting. Whether it is waiting for a service person at our home, waiting for our turn at the doctor’s office, waiting for our children to get out of class, or even being stuck in traffic for an extended period, if we plan to do things during this time, we’ll find we could get things done that we wouldn’t have been able to do if we had not had to wait.

Be Prepared to Wait

At one time, I had a briefcase that I carried with me in the car that I kept available with all kinds of things for me to do during those long waits. I kept pens, paper, books, and other items available for me to use to accomplish some of my goals for the day.

Planning your day with appointments in mind will help you know what you should have with you. If you are writing a book, have tools like paper and pens available so that you can jot down ideas or notes as they come to you while you’re waiting. Perhaps you have a book that you what to read. Be sure that you have it available no matter where you are. Before we get to what you can do while away from home, let’s go over what you can do while you’re waiting at home for a service person.

Waiting for a Service Person

Waiting for someone to install or install something in my home used to be a frustrating experience. Sometimes I’m told that the service person will be in my home before noon or afternoon and then I would wait all day and would find that I had nothing done because I had spent the day wasting my time waiting for the service person to arrive and almost every time, the person arrived at the end of that period or would call to say that they weren’t able to make it that day and had to reschedule. I know that I cannot change the situation, but as a wise woman once said:

“If you don’t like something change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Maya Angelou

So, I have come to the decision that if I can’t change someone else, I can change my approach to waiting for someone to arrive. I can determine that no matter what that other person does, I will make the most of my day by getting as much done as possible.

While I am at home, I start doing those things that I need to do at home. I begin by making a list of all those things that I need to do at home. I then separate the tasks from the projects. A simple definition between tasks and projects is that tasks are things that I can do within a few minutes say in 15 minutes to an hour. Projects are things that take more than an hour. Next, I look over the projects that I have to do and break them down into tasks that we have already defined as things to do that take between 15 minutes to an hour. Once that’s done, I determine what tasks need to be done next in these projects. Now I am ready to prioritize all the tasks that I have to do that I can do while at home that day. If I must pick up an item at the store to continue a project, I don’t worry about that project while at home that day. I let it go for now. It’s not on the list of tasks during that time.

Before starting my list of tasks, however, my first task is to be sure that I have done everything that I can do to make the time of the service person easiest. If the plumber is there to repair or replace the garbage disposal, I want to be sure that everything is out from under the sink before that person arrives. I might even wipe out and disinfect under there so that everything is clean so that when I put everything away, the area is clean as well. If I need to move my car to give the service person access, I may want to do that as well. If the service person is coming to deliver living room furniture, I want to have little things cleared out of the way so that the person has easy access to the room.  If they are coming with a new appliance, I make sure that they have easy access to where I want that new appliance. Once I have done all that I can do for the service person, it’s time to start my list. I like to do as much as possible at a time. For instance, I like to start laundry, change bed linens, start cooking in the crockpot and clean the kitchen appliances all at once. Keep in mind that you don’t do things that will get into the service person’s way.

Waiting for a service person could also mean that you are doing work from home rather than going to work that day. In this case, plan your tasks as related to the job and do projects involved in your day job. Plan your breaks to do things around the house if you’d like to be able to get even more done during your work hours. If you do that, however, plan some relaxation time at the end of the day. All work and no fun is not what life is all about.

No matter how long before the service person comes, I want to be sure to have done as much as possible so that by end of the day I feel justified about the way that I have spent my time.

Waiting for an Appointment in a Waiting Room

The opposite of waiting at home is waiting for an appointment in a waiting room. In a waiting room, I don’t want to get stuck with a lot of different things so usually, I do one of two things when I am waiting here. First, I might read a book that I want to read, and second, I write out lists or write down a few ideas that I am able to think of for one of the books or articles that I am writing or want to write. It’s much easier to use a notebook to write than it is to use loose-leaf paper. One thing, if I had one, that I could use would be a tablet. I could do a lot of work on the table and then when I get home, I could transfer it to my computer using either Microsoft Word or Google documents.  I don’t have one, so I use paper and a pen.

I do much the same when I am substitute teaching. I have been known to write out many ideas for articles or books and then later transfer them to my computer. I also do a lot of my reading when teaching. It’s just a matter of writing down ideas and organizing them. If I need to do research for the work, I write down in the notebook what items I need to research.

I wrote the idea for this article and several more the other day while substitute teaching.

Waiting in My Car

Waiting in the car is a cross between working at home and waiting in a waiting room. Perhaps you wait every day at your children’s school to pick them up. This is a good time to plan to make phone calls or answer emails. It is also a good time to listen to podcasts or watch specific YouTube videos.

Even time stuck in traffic can be used constructively if you develop a plan to utilize that time.

You could even plan to clean out your purse or pick up the trash inside your vehicle and use a wipe to clean off the dash and the door. Stop on the way home and wash and vacuum the car and you’ll have gotten a lot done because you structured your waiting time.

Now it’s your turn!

How would you prefer to spend your time waiting? Perhaps getting things done isn’t what you do, perhaps you consider this downtime. Share your opinion in the comment section below.


Fuel-efficient cars are nice, but there are things you can do to save on fuel even without buying a new car.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the problems with the electric cars and at the end, I suggested that there are ways that we can conserve fuel without everyone driving electric cars.

One of the reasons that energy conservation related to driving is so important has to do with what is currently happening in Europe and in other parts of the world. Some countries’ economies are being held hostage by other countries simply because most of the petroleum products that they use come from countries that could soon be at war especially if they were to follow their own convictions.

Because the United States produces more petroleum than any other country in the world, but also because of our consumption of oil products we also import a lot of it as well, we could do a lot here to conserve energy produced by petroleum products and share more of that oil with other countries than what we do.

So many ways exist for us to conserve our use of petroleum products especially here in the States, and one of the ways that we can do it is in how we travel around. Conservative ways of getting from place to place will not only assist Europe but by doing so will save you money in the long run.

If you doubt that conservation would make a difference in petroleum product usage, look back on what happened at the beginning of the pandemic when we all stopped traveling and stayed home. The price of fuel dropped to rock bottom prices because we weren’t using oil like we had been. The reason the price of oil went up at first was that we were using it again. Now with that war in Eurasia, the prices are at an all-time high. Supply and demand. If we cut our demand, supply will be less of a problem than it had been.

This doesn’t mean that we all need to stay home and never go anywhere, however. What it does mean is that we need to get smart about how we travel. Let’s start with getting smart with how we travel to work.

Traveling for Work

This is a lesson that we learned during the pandemic. We don’t always have to go to a job to get a paycheck. We might be able to work from home at least part of the time. Hybrid work situations can work for many people and now is the perfect time to do this especially since there is a worker shortage.

In some situations, skype or other conference calling situations could be used for meetings with associates, colleagues, or potential customers. Customers can also be found just as easily and possibly even more quickly by email, phone, or webinar than by visiting them in person.  

Not every job is set up for every person in the country to work from home, of course, nor do we necessarily want to. However, what we may want to do is try to get together with others that we work with and carpool when possible.

You might also be able to take mass transit like the bus, train, or subway to work. Biking is also an option as well.

With so many people renting rather than buying homes, it might be in your best interest to live closer to your job and perhaps walk to work rather than driving or taking mass transit or riding a bike.

When You Have to Drive

There are times when not driving is not an option and there’s no one to carpool with. For those of us who live in rural areas, it is often not possible. Therefore, learning how to drive more economically is most beneficial.

First, if possible, consider getting a more fuel-efficient model of vehicle.

Second, if that isn’t possible, make sure that the vehicle you do have is properly maintained. Be sure that your car’s tires are inflated to the right tire pressure for your car. Check your tires when they are cold. Also be sure that your car has routine oil changes, and the air filter is changed when needed. In addition, be sure that your fuel firing system is properly functioning. Replacing a fuel filter, cleaning injectors, and changing plugs and points will offer improved gas mileage. Check with a trusted mechanic to see what options might benefit your vehicle at this time.

Next, change some of your driving practices. Accelerate gradually and smoothly, especially from a stop.  Use a light touch on the gas pedal until you’re going about 25 miles per hour. Then continue to accelerate until you reach the speed limit. Don’t exceed the speed limit. When driving on a level highway, use your cruise control, but avoid using cruise control on hilly parts of the highway because you’ll use more gasoline rather than less.

Anticipate traffic and traffic lights. Try to maintain speed. As much as possible synchronize with the traffic lights so that you don’t have to stop and wait for red lights. Pass only as necessary and don’t slam on the brakes any more than necessary. If traffic is stopped for more than thirty seconds, turn off your vehicle and restart when traffic resumes. Take the route with the fewest stops and lefthand turns. Turn off the car whenever you are stopped and waiting for someone or something.

Remove excess items from the car that weigh the car down.

When using the air conditioner less is better. When starting out and driving at lower speeds, drive with the window open then close and use only as much air conditioning as you need to feel comfortable.

Plan Your Trips

Batch errands that need to be done at the same time in the same part of town. Go shopping when you have an appointment. Pick up the dry cleaning when you pick up the kids at school.

When Traveling on a Vacation or Get-Away

Plan activities that don’t require driving at all! Consider hiking, canoeing, kayaking, or camping near your home.

Plan other destinations where you don’t have to drive much.

Consider how you can incorporate walking into your vacation plans.

Eat meals at locations within walking distance of your hotel or wherever you are going. Eat at home more often rather than going out to eat.

Take mass transit at your destination location whenever possible during vacations. My daughter and I went to Pennsylvania from Missouri by Amtrak several years ago and another time my family visited St. Louis and took the train from downtown where our hotel was to the zoo on the other side of the city.

Make it Fun!

Whatever you do, plan every trip you take as much as possible. Give yourself enough time to go where you want to go without rushing. This includes to work, running errands, or while on vacation. Challenge yourself to reduce the amount of gasoline you’re using every day. Make a game of it. It doesn’t have to be a drag. Imagine the pleasure you’ll get by not supporting the oil industry.

Now it’s your turn. How do you save on fuel when driving?


Two hundred and forty-seven years ago this week on April 19, 1775, was the shot heard around the world. No one knows who shot the musket that started the American Revolution, but that shot was discharged on Lexington Green, Massachusetts. It was just the first shot of many that lead to the birth of The United States in a war that would continue until its formal end in 1783.

Several years ago, I started researching for my books in The Locket Saga series and several of the books in this series including Soldiers Don’t’ Cry, A Coward’s Solace, and Sailing Under the Black Flag are all based during the American Revolution.

Here’s a blog post about The Locket Saga

Although the events in this book occurred prior to the American Revolution, I would be remiss if I failed to mention When God Turned His Head. I posted about the first book of this book series which started from an idea that I got the idea of Soldiers Don’t Cry even though When God Turned His Head was the first book in the series.

Over the past several years, I have done a lot of research and written several articles and blog posts about this time in American history. Here are a few.

The Boston Massacre-Powder Keg of the American Revolution

https://hubpages.com/education/The-Boston-Massacre-Powder-Keg-of-the-American-Revolution

The Unsung Hero: Lucy Flucker Knox

This is the story of the wife of Henry Knox. She is a patriot in her own right.

https://discover.hubpages.com/education/An-Unsung-Heroine-Lucy-Flucker-Knox

The Hidden Cause for the American Revolution: The Thirst for More Land

This article explains how the French and Indian War brought about limitations on land attainment and forced the British to limit forts on the American frontier.

https://hubpages.com/education/The-Thirst-for-Land-The-Unseen-Reason-for-the-American-Revolution

How Changes in English Farm Practices Influenced the Colonization of the Americas

See how the change in weather patterns brought changes in the British agricultural system and caused migration to the Americas.

https://hubpages.com/education/Changes-in-English-Agriculture-Brough-About-American-Colonialization

Songs of the American Revolution

Music has always been an important thread in the American fabric. So exactly what tunes did Americans sing during the American Revolution?

https://hubpages.com/education/Songs-of-the-American-Revolution

The French Intervention

How the French intervened to win the American Revolution-We Americans talk about our independent spirits, but we couldn’t have pulled off the revolution without our friends the French.

https://medium.com/lessons-from-history/the-french-intervention-cf6a5c8f0da

Even though I went to dusty old books for information, I loved it when I discovered actual members of the Eighth Pennsylvania when I was in Waterford, Pennsylvania. Here’s an article I wrote about the event where I meant the Eighth Pennsylvania regiment of the American Revolution.

When Historical Writer’s Research and Re-Enactors meet

I hope you enjoy these articles, and they help you appreciate the value of the freedoms that we have in this country that started with that shot on Lexington Green on April 19, 1775. If you have any questions about my articles and blog posts or if you have any comments, please do so in the comment section below.

Also, be sure to check out The Locket Saga series all books are available in paperback and on Kindle!


Electric vehicles have been around since 1830, and were overtaken in use by the gasoline combustion engine, but are now seeing a resurgence.

On August 5, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order mandating that half of all vehicles be electric by 2030 as a challenge to the executives from Ford and GM joined Biden at the White House as well as leaders from the United Auto Workers. In addition to setting this 50 percent-by-2030 goal, the executive order reversed former President Donald Trump’s more relaxed emissions standards with stricter ones.

This goal of having new electric vehicles to provide zero emissions would include battery electric vehicles, and plug-in Hybrid cars that fall back on gasoline only after the electric powered battery has run out. In addition, this includes fuel cell electric vehicles that burn hydrogen and emit no carbon dioxide.

But are electric cars really the solution? There are a number of reasons I think that they might not be.

They’re Not Very Reliable

Newer electric cars aren’t always the most reliable and when they do break down, it’s difficult to find someone who can fix them. The traditional mechanic doesn’t necessarily have the equipment or expertise to repair them. As they become more common, however, this will be less of an issue.

You Pay More For What You Get

Electric cars depreciate faster than their gas-powered counterparts. That means that if you purchase an electric car, the car won’t be worth as much when you go to trade it in for a newer model. In addition, the parts are expensive to replace. Three to eighteen thousand dollars. An electric car is not for the penny pincher.  

Challenges in Charging Your Vehicle

Charging an electric car can be a challenge. To put in a charging station in your home, a home EV charging station costs $350 to $900 alone, and labor costs $400 to $1,700 to install, and then there’s the increase in your electric bill.

On average, it costs around $0.30 to $0.60 kWh to charge your electric vehicle; therefore, a smaller vehicle could cost around $11 to $25 to charge fully. For larger vehicles, it can cost between $22 to $45.

If you’re traveling across the country in your electric car, you’d better be sure that you know where your next charge will occur before you ever need it. According to statistics, as of January 2022, there are 113,600 charging stations in the US. Almost half of those are in California and many of those are in the hands of private individuals. That means that the rest of the charging stations are spread out over the entire country and most of those are around big cities so if you live in small-town, USA, you might be out of luck when it comes to charging your vehicle when you’re away from home.

In addition, it will take you longer to go across the country in your electric car. Public chargers are split into the standard wall-box type which takes one to six hours to charge your car and rapid or quick chargers. Rapid/quick chargers can recharge the latest electric cars in less than an hour, perfect for a lunch stop on a motorway journey.

Most cars charges last between 10-12 hours but some last only about 4 hours. That means that at the optimal value of the charge, the cost of a charge is comparable to the cost of a fill-up at a gas station. If driving across the country, a charge of your electric car would cost about as much as the cost of a tank of gas in the same time period.

Of course, this problem should be better resolved as electric vehicles become more commonplace.

Does Having an Electric Car Really Help the Environment?

I think, however, the idea that electric cars are good for the environment might be a little premature. I have my doubts about the idea that electric cars will help protect the environment first because we heard this same song and dance when we were told that biofuel would help protect the environment. The fact is, growing grains used in the production of biofuel and the conversion of those grains into biofuel costs more than ten times the energy that the biofuel produced. That, of course, is not what the US government documentation says, they say that the fuel produced requires less energy. But that documentation only considers the cost of producing the fuel AFTER the grains are produced. It doesn’t consider the fact the fuel that is used in the fields are plowed, the grain planted, and the grain harvested and delivered to the grain silos at the biofuel production locations.

The same type of scenario can be said about using electric cars. Electricity is the least efficient form of energy because it is a secondary source of it. The electricity must come from somewhere and if that electricity is something like coal or nuclear power or even natural gas, it relies on a non-green energy source. Solar and wind farms may be produced directly from the sun, but they require expensive metal components that must be mined and in the process of mining, those items are highly destructive to the environment as well.  Hydroelectric power is limited use in that hydroelectric plants require creating reservoirs that disrupt animal habitats.

Conservation Is Always A Better Solution

Sometimes the best solutions are the low-tech solutions. Perhaps a better solution would be in figuring out how we can avoid driving so much and learn to be content with staying closer to home more often. We can save by avoiding getting into our cars at all. There are, of course, many ways to be more conservative getting from place to place, and this sounds like content for another post.

If you have any questions or comments or would like me to write about a specific topic, please let me know in the comments below.


Eating fresh vegetables from the garden can save energy in so many ways.

Last week we discussed how we could save energy in the home. This week we are going to talk about saving energy in food production. I bring this up because how we get our food is one of the ways that decrease the increased cost of energy that we are facing.

My thoughts are that if everyone could have a garden, grow it, and utilize their gardens in the most thoughtful manner, we could save an amazing amount of energy in the process.

Your Food Travels Farther Than You Do

The average meal in the United States travels about 1500 miles before it hits our dinner plate. This long-distance, large-scale transportation consumes large quantities of fossil fuels. We currently put almost 10 kcal of fossil fuel energy into our food system for every 1 kcal of energy we get as food.

Long-distance transportation requires huge quantities of diesel fuel Some forms of transport require more than others. Airfreight requires more energy than sea shipping per pound. But sea shipping is slow, and in our increasing demand for fresh food, food is increasingly being shipped by faster and is more energy-consuming.

In order to transport food long distances, much of your food is picked while still unripe and then gassed to “ripen” it after transport, or it is highly processed in factories using preservatives, irradiation, and other means to keep it stable for transport and sale. Scientists are experimenting with genetic modification to produce longer-lasting, less perishable produce.

Cutting the Energy Consumption of the Food We Eat

To cut down the number of miles that the meals that my husband and I eat, we purchase many of the things we cannot grow ourselves in bulk when possible. We purchase sugar, different types of flour, oatmeal, coffee, tea, dried beans, spices, salt, vinegar, canning supplies, and herbs that we can’t grow. By purchasing them in bulk I not only save money, I am also saving the energy needed to process the food before it gets to my home.

I then have started making more of my food from scratch. The bread that I make is the freshest bread I have eaten in a long time, and it doesn’t have any preservatives. I also make things like pies, cookies (that for six months out of the year I sell at Farmer’s Market allowing those who live locally to cut down on their energy usage as well), and granola.

I also produce and use my own garden produce to decrease even more fossil fuel energy. That fresh produce is not traveling all those miles because I am growing as much as possible in my own backyard. I am also eating as much of it as possible from the fresh state as well. The less processing that I do, the less fossil fuel I am consuming. I’m not canning, freezing, or dehydrating any more than I must. I eat my fruits and vegetables in season as much as I can.

The energy savings I have from gardening isn’t just in growing what we eat either. We save energy in the gardening process. Instead of using a gas-hog of a tiller, I use a broad fork to work the soil. I am keeping down weeds by using recycled cardboard and sawdust from a local sawmill. (a broad fork doesn’t expose weed seeds that would sprout if brought up by tiller either.) I sell excess produce directly to the local population. I do have one gardening tool that is gas-powered. I  use a grass-catching self-propelled push-lawnmower so that saves some of my own personal energy. It uses far less than a riding lawnmower and saves me quite a bit of time in the process.

Harvesting of garden produce is done by hand. We eat fresh seasonal foods as much as possible. I tell about how we can produce vegetables all season long in my book The Four Seasons Vegetable Garden.

What we don’t eat fresh or sell, we store as fresh food whenever possible. I tell about the vegetables that you can store over the winter without processing in my book The Survival Garden. Available in Kindle Edition or in Paperback

Preserve or Not Preserve?

Contrary to what these two latest books might suggest, however, I do not believe that preserving food has no place in our home garden setup. We do utilize canning, freezing, and dehydrating, but we first try to eat our foods fresh as much as possible. The less we process food ahead of time, the less energy we will be using in the end.

I hope this post has given you something to think about. If you have a garden, make it a little bigger this year and eat produce as it ripens. Don’t have room for a garden? Grow a few herbs under lights. Can’t grow herbs? Visit your local farmer’s market and get your produce there. At least your food won’t be going more than a few miles to get to you.

For more on gardening, check out my other blog The Perpetual Homesteader.


We may not be able to produce more oil on a dime, but we can easily cut back on what we are using!

As the price of gasoline at the pump rises, we are told that there really is nothing that we can do to alleviate the problem other than extracting more petroleum than we have and according to the oil producers, because they can’t just turn on the spigot to get more, we either have to pay what they say and have increased prices at an alarming rate.

However, what they are telling us doesn’t make sense. Why should the prices be going up so much? According to statistics, the United States only used four percent of Russian oil. The question becomes why is it that if the United States is the biggest producer of the world’s oil that we need to import any oil in the first place and what can we do to fight back to avoid paying those prices.

This increase in price has little to do with the manufacturing sector because our country’s manufacturing sector has been decreasing over the past several decades. Yes, we use plastics and other petroleum products, but much of it is made in China, so we can’t blame manufactured petroleum products for that. Much of what we use is based on personal energy consumption. If we want to fight back on the price of energy, let’s start in our own homes where we have at least some control.

What we can do is something that we learned two years ago. At the beginning of the pandemic, we learned a very important lesson concerning our use of petroleum products that we learned that we can utilize now. Stay home or at least close to home and decrease the demand for oil and price will come down.

But most people are tired of staying home. Are there other alternatives to not being able to travel?

Over the next several weeks, I will be addressing these issues in some very practical ways that if more people in the US does them, the demand for crude oil will go down and we’ll pay less at the pump.

There are numerous ways we can save money on energy, and they are not necessarily as painful as the American oligarchy would suggest. All we need to do is develop a few habits that decrease our need for petroleum through the decrease in energy use to make it so that we wouldn’t need to ever use that source of foreign oil.  This week we’ll be discussing how you can save on home energy costs.

The Use of Energy in Our Homes

Many areas to save energy exist within our homes and this is a good place to start decreasing our dependence on petroleum. First, we must learn how we actually use energy. Here’s the breakdown of the average usage of energy in the home. Here in the United States, we use 47% of our home energy for cooling and heating, 14 percent for water heating, 13 percent for clothes washing and drying, 12% for lighting, 4 percent for running the refrigerator. The other 10 percent is used in cooking and entertainment.

Decreasing Energy Use at Home

Heating and Cooling-We can decrease our energy use at home very easily if we just start changing a few small habits. We can turn down the thermostat by a few degrees in the winter and raise it a few degrees. If you were to adjust your temperatures when you’re not there and at night, you’ll cut energy costs by one percent for every eight hours for every degree you adjust the temperature up or down.

If you have some money to invest, and you own your own home, insulation will also improve the efficiency of the energy used as will getting a high-efficiency furnace.

Living in a smaller home that has good insulation and a high-efficiency furnace is a better investment than a large home of equal efficiency.

Water heating can be improved by finding ways to use less hot water. This can be done by timing your showers to make them as short as possible, not running hot water any longer than possible. If you have some money to invest in your energy, consider insulating your pipes, getting a more energy-efficient water heater, or better yet, getting an on-demand water heater where you’re not dragging hot water down yards of pipe.

Washing and Drying Clothes-The cost of washing and drying clothes can be decreased by using cold water to wash only full loads of clothes and using a clothesline to dry your clothes.

Lighting can be decreased by turning off lights that we’re not using and using the most energy-efficient light bulbs that we can. Use a flashlight instead of a nightlight. Turn off the porchlight when you’re not expecting anyone to need it. Use solar lighting instead of on-grid power for outdoor lighting. Use motion sensing light instead of constant lighting.

The Refrigerator-though the refrigerator only uses a small 4 percent of our home energy bill, there are ways to decrease the cost of refrigeration. First, purchase an energy-efficient refrigerator and only have as big of a refrigerator as you need. Second, don’t open the refrigerator any more than you have to, and don’t keep it open longer than necessary.

The Final Ten Percent-Numerous things can be done to decrease that last ten percent of energy usage. First, decrease fantom energy usage. Unplug appliances that you’re not using. Use smaller appliances rather than using the cooking range when possible. Smaller appliances often use less than half what the range uses because the range runs on 220 current (if electric) whereas the appliances use 110 current. Use the cooktop instead of the oven, when possible, as well. If you are using the oven, do all the baking all at once.

What Suggestions Do You Have for Saving on Home Energy Costs?

I’m sure that this one article has not been all-inclusive regarding how I can save energy used in my home. What have you done to decrease the energy usage in your home?

Next week, I’ll be talking about how we can decrease energy usage regarding how we get our food. Be sure to like and follow this blog to explore how we can save energy on an individual level.


Here’s a sample of my most recent creation, my super-simple version of the peanut butter cream pie.

Can a Writer Find Time to Make Dessert When She’s Facing a Deadline?

I have those days when I spend the entire day just writing. Like right now. I have a self-imposed (I am an indie-author, after all) deadline for the end of this week for my book The Four Seasons Vegetable Garden. My plans are to spend as much of this week as possible so that I can get the Kindle edition published this weekend. I am also redoing research on my next novel in Book VII of the Locket Saga–Two Rivers. I wrote the first draft of this novel several years ago for NaNoWriMo, but since the demise of my old computer, I no longer have that draft, so I have decided to start over. The good news about this book is that the research is mostly straightforward, but it is taking time. Plus, spring is upon us and there are gardening chores that are coming front and center.

Therefore, over the next several weeks, my life is going to be very busy. Therefore, something must give and some of that will be time with my husband, cooking, and cleaning. However, I do want to please my husband, so I like to give him something from time to time to remind him that my writing and gardening aren’t more important to me than he is.

Despite my busy schedule, I like to give my husband something from time to time to remind him that my writing and gardening aren’t more important to me than he is.

Cygnet Brown

One of the ways that I like to show him that I still love him is by making something special from time to time and nothing says special as much as dessert. A crockpot meal or a pasta or rice casserole always seems more special when there’s a decadent homemade dessert to follow. The problem with this kind of dessert is that most of them take a lot of time to prepare and I don’t have the time for that. Therefore, I have created a simple but decadent cream pie that is to live for! And the best part is that it only takes about fifteen minutes to make including clean up!

The Original Experiment

I created this dessert based on a product put out by the Tastefully Simple Company. They had (maybe they still have, I don’t know) a key lime pie mix that you add certain ingredients, and the result is a key lime type cream pie. I discovered that I could make a similar product using lime gelatin instead of their mix.

Key Lime Cream Pie

Ingredients:

1 graham cracker pie crust

1 package cream cheese

1 4 oz package of lime gelatin (dry powder)

2 small containers of whipped topping (like Cool Whip)

Jellied lime candy slices or slices of fresh limes

Mix the cream cheese and lime gelatin and add the contents of one of the containers of whipped topping. Spoon mixture into graham cracker crust. Top with whipped topping and decorate with lime candy or fresh limes. Cool in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Store any uneaten pie in the refrigerator.

Once I knew that I produced a winning product, that led me to create other similar desserts using similar desserts. Here are a few of my successes.

Strawberry or Strawberry-banana Cream Pie

Ingredients:

1 graham cracker crust

1 package cream cheese

1 4 oz. package of strawberry or strawberry banana gelatin (dry powder)

2 small containers of whipped topping

Fresh strawberries or fresh strawberries and fresh bananas

Make like the key lime cream pie but instead of lime gelatin, use strawberry or strawberry banana gelatin. Also, I put just half of the gelatin mixture into the graham cracker crust then add fresh strawberries or fresh strawberries and bananas, add the rest of the gelatin mixture, top with the whipped topping, and then decorate with sliced strawberries or sliced strawberries and bananas.

Raspberry Chocolate Cream Pie

Ingredients:

1 Oreo pie crust

1 package cream cheese

1 4 oz. package of raspberry gelatin (dry powder)

2 small containers of whipped topping

1 teaspoon cocoa powder

Fresh raspberries

Chocolate syrup

Make mixture like the strawberry pie, but instead of strawberry gelatin, use raspberry gelatin. Place half of the gelatin mixture into an Oreo rather than graham cracker crust, then add a layer of fresh raspberries then add the rest of the gelatin mixture onto the raspberries. Now, take the remaining container of whipped topping and mix into it a teaspoon of dry cocoa powder and top your pie with this. Next, drizzle chocolate syrup onto the chocolate whipped topping and decorate with fresh raspberries.

Peanut butter Chocolate Cream Pie

This is my most recent concoction and has somewhat similar ingredients but doesn’t have any gelatin at all.

Ingredients include:

One package cream cheese

¼ cup of peanut butter

½ cup vanilla yogurt (Greek or regular vanilla yogurt)

1 container whipped topping.

¼ cup of powdered cocoa

1 graham cracker crust.

Chocolate syrup

Mix the cream cheese, peanut butter, yogurt, cocoa, and 3/4s of the container of whipped topping. Spoon into the graham cracker crust and then spoon the remaining whipped topping. Decorate by drizzling chocolate syrup onto the top of the pie. Like all these cream pies, cool in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Now It’s Your Turn

How about you? Are you an author? Do you have a fantastic easy quick dessert or meal recipe that makes your family feel special but still allows you the time you need to write? I would love to interview you here on my blog! Let me know in the comments below or message me on my Facebook Page and I will get back to you.


Over half a million people crossed the plains and the mountains toward the west coast in the mid-1800s.

Back in November, I was writing the first draft of my latest NaNoWriMo project. My working title is Little Africa. (for more about Little Africa, check out my article about this place) I know that there will be a better name for it, but in the process of writing that story, I decided at the end that my characters would go west with a wagon train.

Even though I know I will be ending the book with them going to the west coast by wagon train, I decided that I wasn’t going to write any book about the topic, but I am putting this information in the footnotes at the back of the book as some of the added material that I include. The reason I am not writing that story is that the story of people crossing the prairie to the west coast has already been done many times. However, that doesn’t stop me from writing about it at all.

The wagon train experience began In 1834 when a merchant from New England named Nathaniel Wyeth and an Episcopalian missionary named Jason Lee led the first eighty people to take the 2170 mile trip from Missouri to Oregon on what became the Oregon Trail.

By the end of the 1860s, half a million pioneers had traveled overland to the far West in search of new land, gold, and a new life. These pioneers gave up almost everything they possessed and left behind families that they might never see again. These people walked across half a continent through prairies, high deserts, and snow-covered mountains. They passed through territories that would later become Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon.

Approximately ten percent of the travelers died along the trail usually, not from Indian attacks but, from disease or accidents. The wagon train routes across the country were considered by many to be the longest cemetery in the world.

Why?

Why did they take this journey? Some were escaping frequent outbreaks of diseases like malaria and dysentery in the crowded Eastern states. Many were the children of pioneers who had homesteaded in Indiana, Illinois, and the Michigan territories. This younger generation was forced to move further west because all the best river-bottom land for farming had already been claimed, and the competition for even the less-desirable farmland was fierce due to immigration.

Seventy percent of the travelers were farmers. They knew that in order to get the best land, they had to get there first. In 1850 the U.S. Congress ceded land in the Western territories to settlers by granting a square mile of land to each married couple and their children would inherit it.

Gold discoveries in California also drew people to the West Coast. Congress gave actual settlers 640 acres in California. In 1849, many folks began the journey as “49ers,” heading for the newly discovered goldfields of the Sierra foothills of California.

Later in the 1860s, some went west to escape the looming Civil War. But no matter the reason, there was one underlying sentiment shared by nearly every pioneer. Manifest Destiny was a deep-seated belief that the growth of the United States was divinely preordained.

The Trail

With a few exceptions, all the major Western trails started near the frontier town of Independence, Missouri. From Independence or at various branches further to the west, the traveler could head southwest on the Santa Fe Trail, west to Sacramento on the California Trail, or continue northwest to Oregon. The Mormon Trail, which lead to Salt Lake City, began in the town of Nauvoo, Illinois, and crossed the Missouri River north of Independence at Council Bluff, eventually joining up with the Oregon Trail near Fort Laramie, Wyoming.

They needed to leave late enough in the spring to provide grass for the livestock, so they did not leave any earlier than mid-April. However, they also didn’t want to leave in June because of the possibility of facing early snows in the mountains. They had to leave sometime between mid-April and during May. However, this meant facing swollen rivers, violent thunderstorms, and blistering mid-summer heat while crossing the deserts of southern Wyoming, Idaho, and eastern Oregon.

Preparing for the Trip

Before leaving, these pioneers acquired travel guidebooks like The Emigrant’s Guide to Oregon and California, written by Lansford Hastings. All the travel guides provided commonly known details about travel distances, river crossings, the cost of food and equipment, and what dangerous situations they might face.

Oxen were much preferred over horses or mules by experienced travelers. These animals were more easily managed, were not likely to run away or die because of the hardships, cost less than horses or mules, and were worth more in Oregon. In addition, if the situation because necessary, they could always eat the oxen. Wagons with three yoke of oxen (two oxen per yoke) were required to make a successful journey.

Most of the wagons we see in movies are not the wagons that they used. Those wagons are Conestoga wagons, but these large freight-moving vessels were far too heavy to navigate open prairie, muddy river crossings, and mountain passes.

The wagon used by most pioneers was the “prairie schooner.”  This wagon was four feet wide and ten feet long. These light but strong wagons had vertical or slightly canted sides with waterproofed canvas covers supported by bent-wood ribbing. This wagon carried a maximum of 2,500 pounds of supplies. This made it necessary to walk rather than ride in a wagon.

Because of the weight limit, family members walked and guided the oxen. The only people to ride in the wagons were those too ill to walk. Some people set up their wagons so that they could sleep in them, but usually, these pioneers slept in tents or under the stars. They needed as much space as possible for storing their needed goods.

A complete wagon, three yokes of oxen, and the food needed for a five-member family cost a minimum of Six hundred dollars or equal to fifteen thousand dollars in today’s money. Poor farmers weren’t always able to come up with cash for these journeys so they did what they could like selling their land to a neighbor for what they could get or getting someone else to sponsor their trip cross country with the understanding that they would be paid back after they started making money from their new farm. Single young men and women were often hired on as “trail helpers” to wealthier individuals who were making the trip.

The food that was recommended for the trip for each adult was two hundred pounds of flour, thirty pounds of pilot bread, seventy-five pounds of bacon, ten pounds of rice, five pounds of coffee, two pounds of tea, twenty-five pounds of sugar, half a bushel of dried beans, one bushel of dried fruit, two pounds of saleratus, ten pounds of salt, half a bushel of corn meal; and a half-bushel of parched ground corn, as well as a small keg of vinegar.

Flour in the mid-1800s was not the bleached and enriched flour available today. Then, the pioneer had to choose between three types of flour: shorts, middlings, and superfine.

“Shorts” was a coarse-ground flour somewhere between wheat bran and whole wheat. It was poorly sifted and retained a high degree of impurities. Shorts flour was often the least-expensive option.“ Middlings”  was a remainder product formed during the separation of bran from white flour. High in gluten, “middlings” became a waste product for many mills and were often sold as an inexpensive flour without further refinement. “Superfine” flour was as close to modern white flour but was more like unbleached flour than what we have today.

They baked bread on the trail every day. They used small sheet-iron ovens, or dutch ovens, or they fried biscuits in a skillet.

Building fires on the trip was problematic because firewood was in short supply. Instead, on the prairies, they used small piles of “dried buffalo chips” or dried buffalo manure. These chips burned steadily and had little odor. When chips were in short supply, sagebrush was used.

Commercial yeast was not available at the time. Any yeast used had a short shelf life and was delivered from breweries as a by-product of beer making therefore could not be used on these cross-country endeavors. Sourdough starters were also problematic because it required a long time to make bread rise and rising bread or pastries required a place that wasn’t moving.

The answer to the problem was saleratus, a precursor to our modern baking soda. This was discovered by chemists in the late 1700s. It was a form of bicarbonate of soda that, when added to the dough, released carbon dioxide upon heating, causing the bread to rise. A natural source was found along the Oregon Trail near Independence Rock, Wyoming.

The other staple of trail life was bacon. Bacon then was any pig meat from the sides, hams, or shoulders that received a salt cure. This bacon rarely survived the entire journey and often became rancid or suffered insect infestation because of its fat content.

This was sometimes remedied by purchasing bacon at various forts along the way but at much higher prices.

Unlike salt pork or beef (which was kept barreled in a brine solution), bacon was stored dry in bug-proof bags or boxes. In hot climates, bacon was buried in bran,  supposedly this kept the fat from absorbing it.

Parched corn (corn whose kernels had been sun-dried or roasted in an oven) was very popular with the pioneers, if for no other reason than because it did not spoil easily. It was usually ground into rough flour and cooked as mush, which was served with milk from the traveler’s cows.

Dried fruits were a staple, not only amongst the pioneers but for practically everyone in 19th century America. Dried vegetables were less common with pioneers. This changed in 1859 with the publication of Randolph Marcy’s The Prairie Traveler: A Handbook for Overland Expeditions in 1859. Where he suggested each traveler have desiccated vegetables, or dried vegetables,  a product used extensively in the Crimean War.

Coffee was not just a staple on the trail, it was often the only thing left near the end of the journey. Trail coffee was green (unroasted) beans because roasted or ground coffee traveled poorly and quickly lost flavor. They roasted the beans in a skillet over a fire, then ground them in a coffee grinder.

Medicinal Supplies

Disease was the big killer on the trail. In the mid-1800s, effective medical supplies were limited. A medical kit included “a little blue mass” which was mercury-based and used for many different diseases from constipation to tuberculosis. Opium and quinine were used for pain.

Weapons

They also carried a five-gallon drum of “medicinal spirits” a benign name for whiskey, brandy, or rum.

Everyone carried weapons for protection and to provide meat along the trail. Most travelers had a muzzle-loading long gun musket or rifle. Pistols were rare and expensive. Every wagon was equipped with gunpowder, shot molds, and lead for casting rifle balls.

Other Items

They also took clothing, camping supplies, day-to-day tools, livestock supplies, and a few keepsakes many of the family heirlooms were discarded along the route. Seed and plow blades were brought by farmers. Skilled craftsmen often brought additional wagons with the tools of their trades. Many family Bibles made the trip across the country along as did family cows.

The Trail’s End

While on the trail, couples married, gave birth, or broke up.  They suffered wagon mishaps. They developed a kinship with fellow travelers.

Many of the emigrants who arrived in Oregon or California were starving, with no provisions left. Others had some preserved food but had become sick and worn out from the journey. Many had also spent their last dollar.

The pioneers who had already made the journey were there to help the new arrivals. They helped stragglers in need.  Most of the new settlers arrived in the late fall or early winter, too late to put in a crop or do more than hastily construct winter quarters. Neighbors, churches, and civic committees worked together to keep the new arrivals alive, at least long enough to help them to get in a crop and “prove-up” their homesteads. Many of them considered that having thousands of new neighbors both armed and starving was a disaster waiting to happen. Anyone who wanted to work was offered employment even if their labors were rewarded in food rather than gold.

The Locket Saga

The research above was done for a future book in the Locket Saga series. In this series, a locket is passed from generation to generation of ordinary Americans who are a part of extraordinary events as family members are born, live, marry, and as they pass the torch and the locket to the next generation.


I am improving daily. I am amazed at the progress I am making every day!

There are three principles that I use every day to make the most of my time including Parkinson’s law, the 80/20 principle, and One Percent Improvement. My goal daily is to complete no more than three priority items per day and to improve my life by one percent every day.

Parkinson’s Law

The first one is Parkinson’s law. That principle says that a task will fill up the time you allot for it. Because of this, I have determined that I do certain things only at certain times of the day. I give myself a schedule and I try to stick to it. By sticking to it, I find that I can be more productive because I’m allotting only a certain amount of time to finish that task that day.

I’ve divided my day into Home and Personal Care Time and Work Time

I do personal care and housework until 8 a.m. Then from 8 a.m. to 12 noon I work.

I have lunch between 12 noon and 1 p.m. If I am not running errands during this time, I do housework during this time as well.

I then work from 1 p.m. to 5 p. m. and I am off work and doing housework or personal care or relaxing for the rest of the day. I go to bed at 9 p.m.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been organizing my schedule. Here’s how my mornings have been going lately.

The first thing that I do in the morning is my morning routine. I get up, brush my teeth, do a quick clean of the sink, mirror, and toilet and then go into the living room where I have my office. There I put in a few minutes on Duolingo where I am learning Spanish and Swedish (was doing French and Russian too, but that got rather confusing) while the coffee is brewing. I then have breakfast and do the breakfast dishes.

At 8 a.m. is when I plan to start my business day. At present, I am working on my book The Seasonal Garden. (You can read about that on my other blog The Perpetual Homesteader {Resource}. After forty-five minutes or so I take a break. During that break, I get up and do a few tasks on my to-do list. After that, I work on preparing blog posts or writing online articles, and then at about 11 am I take an hour lunch break where I do a few more household chores

In the afternoon I either work on the garden, or I work on improving my book and article marketing. (That depends upon the weather.) It is during the afternoon that I also read and answer emails which I consider part of my marketing process.

At the end of the workday somewhere between 4 and 5 pm. I look back on my day and celebrate my accomplishments of the day, (no matter how small). Next, I determine what didn’t go well and what I need to do to fix it. Finally, I determine the most important work that I want to do the following day and then I quit writing for the day. I close-up shop and that’s the end of my workday.

Evenings are often spent catching up on housework and perhaps enjoying a movie with my husband.

My goal is not to do much work on the weekends but to spend more time relaxing and enjoying the weekend rather than using it to catch up on the week. It is also on the weekends that I will likely have events that I will attend.

The 80/20 rule

Next, there’s the 80/20 Rule. in the late 1800s, Vilfredo Pareto discovered that a small number of peas produced most of the peas.  He found that 20 percent of the peas produced 80 percent of the peas. Because he had an analytical mind, he decided to see if this principle holds for other things. It did although sometimes the percentages were closer to 70/30 and other times, they were closer to 90/10 but always a large discrepancy when comparisons were made. This became known as the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule.

It isn’t in everything that we do every day that helps us grow, but it is in a few select things that contribute to great improvement. It is in those things that we do that become steppingstones to our greatest goals. We, of course, need to first know what that goal is before we can know what that 20 percent is that will help us obtain our highest goals.  That is where the one percent comes into play.

The One Percent Improvement Rule

The last principle that I am utilizing is the one percent improvement rule. this rule is closely related to the 80/20 rule. I make it a point to improve something in my life by one percent every day and work toward doing more of the 20 percent that makes me 80 percent of the gains I am looking to make.

Every day I am moving forward in my goals at least one percent. Recently my daily one percent per day has been involved in organizing my living space and my time. This will save me time in that I don’t have to hunt for things. Everything has a place and everything is in its place. More recently I have been writing my book and marketing as well as getting ready for the gardening season all by making one percent improvements every day in those areas. The more I do now, the less I will have to do later. This may not seem like much, but one percent improvement equals more than one hundred percent in one hundred days. The compound effects make the efforts even more valuable than that!

I see this working out in real-time. At first, I couldn’t believe that one percent would matter, but once I began improving one percent per day, I began to see more and more ways to improve one percent per day. It hasn’t been very long since I started making these one percent improvements and I am already seeing great improvement in these areas.

How about you? Have you used any of these three principles in your life? I would love to hear how you’ve applied them. Let me know down in the comments.

Also if you want to know more about my gardening experiences, check out my other blog The Perpetual Homesteader!


No, it hasn’t been this bad, but it has been interesting!

As you can see, I am back!

We’ve Been Experiencing Technical Difficulties

It has been a while since I wrote here is because I have been technically at a disadvantage. The problems began when my laptop malfunctioned back last June. I wore out my laptop’s keyboard, but it didn’t end there.

I have had it for five years so I really can’t complain. The laptop I had before that one lasted me three years and when I bought that second one, the guy at Best Buy was impressed that the original laptop had lasted as long as it did and he said that he didn’t think the one I was purchasing would last me as long.  Well, that was five years ago, so I think it lasted me very well. As my husband always says, the computer owes me nothing.

Then in November, the gussets that held the screen to the rest of the laptop broke and that broke the screen too! It happened in the middle of NaNoWriMo. I got the laptop fixed just in time to finish the first draft of the manuscript I was writing.

On the first of December, I started working on my newest nonfiction gardening book which I call The Seasonal Garden.  I made some definite progress when again, in the middle of December, the gussets gave out. Back to the repair shop went the laptop. Weeks passed. My repairman became sick with the virus. Then he said the gussets were lost in transit. Finally, at the end of January when I still hadn’t gotten it back, I broke down and purchase a new laptop. Because I have always had good luck with Lenovo products, I ordered another one.

You’d think that would be the end of the trouble, but of course, it wasn’t. No, not a pandemic or a supply chain issue it was something else.

The Weather Turned Against Me

I was supposed to get the new laptop on February fourth. I anxiously watched as the package came across the country. The package made it to Kansas City, Missouri by Wednesday. Under normal circumstances, the laptop would have come early, but it wasn’t the case a major winter storm came through that affected the country for several days. The weather was so bad that the laptop stayed in KC from Wednesday morning until Saturday. The laptop finally arrived on Monday, February seventh.

For two days I worked to catch up with the emails that I was behind and at the same time, I have been working on the next draft of my most recent book The Seasonal Garden. This book is supposed to be out by the first of April, and it would have been easy to do it if it hadn’t been for all the problems that I’ve had to get a working laptop.

Now Everything Is Happening All at Once

It would have been great if I could have been working on my book when the winter was at its height. The weather already feels like it is about to change and my cat is starting to shed her fur which means that the worst part of the winter is over. Gardening season is upon us.

In addition to that, the sawdust that I have been waiting on all winter has also just arrived so I am having to really hustle to get everything done this winter that I have wanted to complete during the slower season.

Making the Best Use of My Time

Not that I am complaining though really. The truth is, I have been completing other projects that I have also needed to get done. I have my spring cleaning done. I have the gardens dug for the spring garden. I have focused more on organizing my time which I will discuss in a later blog post.

Anyway, it is good to be back to writing on the laptop. As I am finishing the first draft of this blog post, I have six first drafts written for this blog and my other blog (The Perpetual Homesteader) this week, and a big chunk of the book was reworked. I won’t be able to catch up with the lost time, but I am intent on making the most of the time that I do have.

How about you? Have you had challenges lately that you’ve had no control over? What have you had to do to reprioritize things when you have had to wait on someone or something else?


Where will the journey of the 2020s take you?

Welcome to 2020, a new year and new decade! Here on this blog I am taking a turn in my life’s journey and devoting How my Spirit Sings down a slightly different path! This new path can be summed up in one word “LEGACY”.

This brings up the question of what does legacy means to me and how will I present that legacy in this blog—How My Spirit Sings?

Back in January 2019, I started immersing myself into prepper, gardening, and permaculture YouTube videos. I realized quite early on that prepping could only take an individual so far. It’s fine for short term, limited area disasters, but if a major event crippled the entire country’s systems, we would need to involve our entire local community if we were going to survive and that community included the natural community. That’s where permaculture came into play.  

For the past three months I have been working on a 22 Lesson course called “The Advanced Permaculture Student” hosted by Matt Powers. I watched all the videos and am now reading through the book and participating in the meetups whenever possible.

Permaculture involves working with the forces of nature rather than against them and it isn’t just some throwback hippy idea either.  During the past couple of decades, many modern farms have abandoned the green revolution of chemical agriculture and turned to cover crops, compost, and regenerative grazing practices. Some, like Greg Judy of Central Missouri, Gabe Brown of Bismarck, North Dakota, and Joel Salatin of Virginia  have created highly profitable farming systems that in many ways exceed the production of neighboring agribusiness farms, at a lower cost, with greater profitability, and without government subsidies at the same time building their soils often by inches per year!

Others like Curtis Stone have taken permaculture principles and brought them into urban settings to produce salad greens and microgreens in front and back yards to sell locally and make a reasonable living.

If you’re thinking that permaculture has to do with permanent farming practices, you’d only be partially right. It is that and much more. It involves recycling and conservation as well.  It involves creating a healthy emotional, mental, physical, creative, and economical environment for the individual, family, community, nation, and even the entire world! It is about creating a legacy for not just for my future posterity, but potentially for all future generations.

My PDC project will be a design of my own land. My advanced permaculture project will be starting to create my legacy of building a permaculture homestead and The Jerjoboch Permaculture Learning Center on my place in Oregon County, Missouri. I’ll be moving there this spring. (I’ll share more about this in the coming months.) On my place, I’ll demonstrate the rudiments of the practices mentioned, but other concepts as they relate to living in harmony with nature and other people with an eye on the future. I see it as a springboard for helping raise Oregon County from being one of the poorest counties in the state and we’ll do it by building soil.

This little sweet potato plant, like my plan for the future, might not look like much yet, but wait a few months and see what develops!

Over the past year, not only did I absorb copious amounts of information regarding permaculture, but I also started doing what I could on my patio here in Springfield. I grew tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, herbs, and potatoes. Just after Thanksgiving I started a sweet potato plant in an ice cream container that will be part of my bigger garden next year. I have regular potatoes wrapped in paper in the refrigerator and seeds in a container waiting to be planted in the ground. I have twelve flowering trees and a dozen strawberry plants waiting to be planted. I am talking with my son Jeremy and his wife about getting farm animals onto the land and I am thinking about getting an LGD (livestock guardian dog) to raise. Everything waiting for the weather to break in a couple months.

In the future, I plan to get into help others locally design their own permaculture homestead and holding workshops and other events and of course writing about my adventure. This past week, I started a new website: Jerjoboch Learning Center check it out! You can check it out here. In addition, here’s The Jerjoboch Learning Center Facebook page where you can follow my progress as well.

What are you planning to do this year regarding your legacy for 2020 and beyond?


Tell a Story, Any Story

One of my favorite teachers in school was our POD teacher—Mr. Schwab. I did because he used to tell us stories about his military experience during WWII. He had been a prisoner of war in Italy and had escaped and spent a night in a haystack on an Italian farm as he made his way back to Allied lines. 

We have several ways that we can hook a reader into our stories. You could write a quote from someone you know or from a famous person. You could write a joke or a riddle or pose a question. You could set a scene. You could use an interesting fact or definition. My favorite way is to tell a story.

Stories in one form or another make what’s being written or what’s being said more interesting. All civilizations since the beginning of time have loved hearing stories. Aesop’s Fables wouldn’t have been as interesting if they had been written like the Ten Commandments.

The story of the tortoise and the hare wouldn’t have been as interesting if he had simply said: “Listen kids, you need to take your time and do your best to take one step at a time if you want to complete your tasks in a timely fashion.”

The same goes for writing nonfiction. People love stories. They want to hear your story and they want to hear your struggle. They don’t want to think that you were able to do everything perfectly the first time. They want to know that you are human, not super-human.

They want to hear stories from your experience that demonstrate what you are telling them.

When you tell a story, they remember what you said better than if you just give them the information.

Where to Find Great Story Ideas

One place you can find great story ideas could be from your own experience. Take some time to think about events that have occurred during your life. Is there a story that you can make relate to this part of your book?

Think about great stories that you have heard others tell. When I was a kid, I used to listen to what everyone was saying. One of my aunts used to say that I was the one to watch because I was always quiet and always listening.

Think about story lines that you have heard on television, seen in a movie, read in a book, or read in social media. Is there a way you can create a fictionalized story that you can make relate to your book?

Think about story lines that you have incorporated into fiction. There are also the story lines that you have already incorporated into your fiction. No one says that your stories have to be true stories. They just have to be interesting stories.  

When you determine that you have a noteworthy story, but don’t have a place to put it in your writing, write these story ideas down in a document or notebook. Keep track of as many stories as you can think of. When you hear new stories, write them down in this same notebook. If it’s interesting to you, write down as many words as you can so that you will remember what the story was about.

Find a way to organize the stories so that you can retrieve a specific story at will. Perhaps you can organize them in order as it relates to the subject matter, but whatever way you use, make sure that it works for you. There’s nothing worse than knowing that you have the answer, but don’t know where to find it.

Start your notebook of stories today. Incorporate what you can into your nonfiction as well as your fiction.


When I started writing this blog at the beginning of the year, I also started writing my nonfiction book Beyond the First Draft—Editing Your Novel. I first decided that I was going to write a book and the blog about editing a novel. I knew that the book would include everything from the time I finished the first draft on to the finished product. I started the process with an outline.

I refined the topic down from editing any type of book down to refining a novel. I decided that with the material that I would use, I could edit any type of novel, not just historical fiction like I write.

Every nonfiction book benefits from the creation of an outline. By outlining your ideas before you start the writing process, a nonfiction book can have its facts laid out in a logical way before the narrative ever begins. The outline will make the work go faster because you won’t meander from one topic to another. Later, as you’re writing,  If you have an idea for a certain part of your book, but you’re not to that part of the book yet, you can plug in that information exactly where it will go in the book thereby avoiding wasting time in a part of the book your mind has not processed yet.

Determine Your Book’s Specific Theme

In order for a nonfiction book outline to make sense, you must determine one central theme for the entire book. This theme must be developed into a refined thesis that can be stated in one sentence.  Instead of looking at general topics (building a house), look for specific topics that can be covered (Plumbing for the average Joe).  By having a specific thesis, you’ll be able to gather the necessary facts to make the key points you’ll want to make in your book.

Setup a Logical Content Progression

Some writers prefer to staple their pants to a chair and just write whatever comes to mind. I believe that those writers are heading for burnout and writer’s block. Not every writer can do that and I personally think doing so makes the work far more difficult than it needs to be, so a nonfiction outline should also involve a content plan. This will let you know where you intend to take your book before you begin the narrative. I think it helps to create a Table of Contents which will contain the various structures you wish to include in your book.

Imagine that you are looking at the finished book and you are looking at the table of contents. Think about what you will put in each chapter and in what order. Arrange it in the most logical order, if you realize something needs to be earlier or later in the book, rearrange the table of contents to reflect that change.

Using the Table of Contents as your basic outline, determine some of the information you will want to write about. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be much more prepared to begin writing.

Under each chapter heading, include topics that fit within that heading. Again rearrange subjects as necessary.

Jot Down Any Research

Once you have your Table of Contents in place, you’re ready to determine what kind of research you’ll need for your nonfiction book. You can write down this research next to each outline item. You may even wish to note where you want to do this specific research:  online, at the library, or wherever.

If you need to do personal interviews for certain topics, write down some experts on this subject as well. You also may want to color code your research types onto your calendar using different colors for each type of research so that you can visually reference it quickly.  

Create Writing Plan into Your Schedule

At this point, you’ll have a general sense of what needs to be done to complete your nonfiction book, so you can now plug this plan into your schedule. How many words per day are you going to need to write to reach your goals? How much time will you need to gather information for your book?

If you need to interview others, block out specific time during the week so you don’t have to rearrange your schedule. If you have no interviews during that time, use that as extra research or writing time.

Complete Your Outline

The writing process is much smoother when the nonfiction book outline and schedule include plans to research. Instead of hunting down the various documents, media, and recordings that you need for your book, you’ll have it all together in one specific place. Arrange your research materials into folders that are in the same order as the headlines in your table of contents.

This helps to improve your writing speed. The average writer types about 750 words per hour. With materials gathered, if you know how to touch type, you should able to reach 1,500-2,000 words per hour. If you’re forced to hunt down materials as you write, then you might be lucky to type 500 words per hour.

Staying Committed to the Process

Once you know how much you can write every day, you’ll have a ballpark idea about how long it will take you to write it.  Schedule your day in such a way so that you can write your word count habitually. Make writing a habit. Sit down and write your book instead of watching television or chatting with your friends on Facebook.

If you write 1,500-2,000 words per day, using nonfiction book outline as your guide, you could have the first draft of your narrative completed in just 30 days. That’s why knowing how to write a nonfiction book outline is such a valuable skill.

Write Using the Outline

Creating an outline, but not using it is definitely a waste of time, but using it will save tons of it.

Use headings and subheadings for each chapter when formatting. Assign names to each chapter and be clear in the names of each subheading. Be sure to save the document.

Within each chapter and subheading, include several sentences to summarize that chapter or subheading. Include the main points of the chapter and each subheading. Be as detailed as possible in as few sentences as possible. Don’t worry that it changes as you create your outlines. You’ll find it easier to edit this outline now rather than having to edit out huge sections of material later if you realize that what you’re planning to write doesn’t fit.

Now that you know that you’ve got your summaries organized within each chapter, write a heading for introduction at the beginning of each chapter and then write main point 1, 2 and so on. If your nonfiction book is a how-to book, consider adding a call-to-action at the end of each chapter.

Use research material focused on the topic being written about as guidance through the outlining process. Let your outline act as a guide throughout the entire project to keep you from going down research rabbit holes.

If you think of a story that relates to your book, plug in a few words to remind you the story’s content. These often makes a good introduction to chapters and keeps the reader interested and more importantly reading.


At the beginning of this year, I started writing these blog posts about book editing. My plan was and still is to take much of the content of this blog and turn it into a book called: Beyond the First Draft, The Editing Process.

Much of the information that I have written during the past year is going to be in this new book. I have added other information as well.

So far, this experiment seems to be doing well. I have been able to write almost an entire year about the editing process. With the information in the blog, I have been able to get the basics of the book written.

Writing a nonfiction book where your blog focuses on doing something or solving a problem (like this one) it works well.

A nonfiction book isn’t the end of the road, but it is just another way to expand your audience for your services.  

When Turning a Blog into a Book Isn’t a Good Idea

Books and Blog posts are different. Blog posts should be optimized for online reading with                keywords/SEO, current events/discussions, and whatever is popular with online bloggers in your genre. In addition, you need visual, interactive content and links to make the blog come alive.

You’re not likely to get a book deal just because you have written a series of blog posts about the idea. Don’t think that you can use a book to simply repeat that has already been written online. Amazon, for one won’t accept material that can be readily found online even when that material was something that you wrote yourself.  When writing a book based on material that you wrote on online, always remember that you will need to develop it further and then do a complete edit of your material.

Planning a blog that you will later make into a book requires that you plan the blog with the book in mind and with an idea of how you are going to expand the blog material when you create the book. That is what I did in order to write this new book of mine: Beyond the First Draft, The Editing Process

As a novelist or memoirist, the blog-to-book phenomenon is difficult to score. However, Information-driven categories like the blog series that I have just finished is easier to accomplish.


Many authors are now hybrids, using both traditional and indie forms of publishing for different projects. Whether you go with traditional publishing or indie publishing or a combination of the two, you have more options than ever when it comes to publishing your novel.

Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing is the established system of getting a book deal. This system requires that the writer submit their manuscripts through their agent to publishers and receive numerous rejections and then if they are lucky, are eventually accepted and a contract is signed. The book will then go through more edits and is eventually be published.

Why Traditionally Publish?

Almost every author I ever met (including me!)  suffer from self-doubt and wonder if their work is any good. By making it through the process of getting an agent and then a publisher, the approval of these gatekeepers validates your work as good enough for publication. Even if the book doesn’t sell well, somebody thought it had value. If your definition of success requires a traditional deal, Indie publishing is not for you!

Print distribution in bookstores is easier. Traditional publishing excels at this and  their model is primarily designed to facilitate print distribution to bookstores and even libraries. Salespeople go around the stores and make it very easy for book buyers to choose books and the publisher minus any returns. Books are usually in the store for a month and only remain if they are perennial sellers. (Few books reach this perennial status.)

Authors expect traditional publishing to include editors, cover designers, formatters and marketing to help provide as part of the contract. Marketing effort is usually related to how much is invested in the project, and marketing for publishing companies is usually to booksellers rather than to individual consumers. You should receive a sales team to take books to bookstores. If you’re one of those authors who say you “only want to write,” and let the publisher handle the rest, traditional publishing would be your best option.

If you are asked for money, then it is NOT a traditional publishing deal. It’s likely to be a vanity publisher and you should be very careful. With traditional publishing, you have no upfront financial costs, and you’ll usually get some kind of advance against royalties. The typical advance for a first novel is $5000. The typical advance for later novels, after a typical number of 5-7 years and 5-7 books is $12,500. Having an agent at any point increases your advance. If you get an advance of $5,000, you then have to earn more than $5,000 out of your royalty rate on book sales before you get any more money.

Literary prizes and critical acclaim are more likely through traditional publishing, and many literary prizes aren’t even open to indie authors

You’re more likely to become a brand-name author if you go with traditional publishing.

The Downside of Traditional Publishing

Writing and editing will be the same regardless of how you want to publish. After that, you will need about a year or two to find your agent. After that, it might take you another year or two to get a publishing deal. Once you have a publishing deal it might take another two years or more to get your book launched. (If you self-publish, once your book is edited, your book will be up on Amazon within a few hours and you can get your first check 60 days later.)

Once you sign a contract with your publisher, you’ll loss of creative control. I have heard horror stories about authors whose books have titles, covers and marketing angles that aren’t to their liking. You may disagree with an editor, and not be able to do anything about those changes that you dislike.

You’ll find that you have low royalty rates. Royalty rates are a percentage of the sale of the book. They’re likely to be net, so all the discounts, returns, marketing costs and overheads are taken off the total before your percentage can calculated. Royalty rates for traditional publishing will usually range between 7% and 25%, with the latter on the unusually generous end. The rates will also differ per format (e-book, hardcover, paperback, audio). Royalty reports may come every six months for a specific period of sales and many authors say those reports are difficult to understand. What you get in your bank account may not agree with those reports, so you won’t know until you see the money in your account what you’re actually getting.  

More often than not, authors have to do their own marketing and agents will often seek out authors who have a ‘platform’ or at least an email list of readers. If you do want a traditional publishing deal, make sure you ask them what is included for marketing and that your book is not just a part of their bookstore catalog.

Potentially prohibitive contract clauses are also a problem. You might find an agent who is willing to represent you, but their contract might insist that they get a percentage of everything you write even if they didn’t negotiate the contract (including self-published work). If you come across that keep looking until you find an agency who really will help you build your brand and not just skim off the top of your earnings.

Don’t agree to ever allow the publisher to take World English rights in all formats.  Your agent’s job is to keep as many rights as possible when you’re doing a deal so you can exploit them in other ways. For example, you could just sell the US and Canada rights and then self-publish in the rest of the world. Be careful with formats as well, especially audio books. Many publishers take audio rights as part of a contract and then they don’t actually end up recording it. You don’t want that to happen. Either keep audio rights or specify a length of time the publisher can keep rights before they revert back to you.

Look at the term of the contract and the rights reversion clause. It used to be that there was an out of print clause. However, because of print on demand and e-books, a book never goes out of print. You have to consider when you want to get your rights back.

Once you sign a contract for your book, the book may legally belong to the publisher for the life of copyright which is the life of the author plus 70 years after you die. You should also look at the do not compete clause, because this may stop you publishing during the term of the contract under the same name, in the same world, or with the same characters.

You have to really consider whether the money for the contract is worth it. This is where many authors think, “Perhaps this will be the only contract I’ll ever be offered and might just lose out.” These authors will sign deals because they’re grateful to be offered anything. They don’t value their own work. They don’t realize that publishers are there to make a profit. They are not doing you a favor by publishing your book. They are businesses and they want to make money. What they are offering you is simply that an offer. You have to determine for yourself what you’re worth. Don’t under-value yourself. If they don’t offer you a better contract, take your manuscript to someone who will or go out on your own.  Your publishing choice is more a question of the outcome that you want to achieve and your definition of success. Don’t let the publisher think they have the upper hand. You have more control over the situation than you realize.

The difference Between a Self-publisher and an Indie Author

Some people like to differentiate between a self-publisher and an Indie Author. They believe that self-publishing implies that you do everything yourself and you do it as a hobby. On the other hand, they believe that being an indie author or Independent author is a person who has decided that he or she was in charge of the process and that the indie author is a freelance professional who creates a quality product for their business.

I personally don’t create a distinction between self-publishing and being an indie author. I see myself as a publisher who determines how my book is published. I determine who edits, who designs the cover, I determine my bio and my book description, I even determine how my book will be formatted. However, that doesn’t mean that I do all of the work myself.

I didn’t become an Indie author or self-publisher as a last resort because I couldn’t find a publisher either. I chose to be an Indie author because I like the control that I have over my own creative process and the end product.

Pros and Cons of Being an Indie Author

As I mentioned before, I personally am an Indie author because I have complete creative control over content and design of my book. Many authors who were in traditional publishing and are now in self-publishing talk about how painful it was to have a cover or title they hated, or to have editorial choices imposed on them whether they liked them or not. As an indie, you can work with freelancers of your choice and you can choose the ultimate look and feel of your product. If you don’t like a freelancer’s work, you can choose to go with someone else. If you title a book or get a cover design that you decide you don’t like, you can retitle or redesign the cover. Just upload another file. The start-up mentality that mistakes are how we learn. Failure is just a step along the way makes this easier for us indies. Print on demand and e-books make it so we don’t even have to have a warehouse of books lying around.

Being an Indie Author gives us a sense of power that traditionally published authors don’t have.  Many traditionally published authors feel insecure and downtrodden by the publishing process. They feel they can’t make a decision alone or take action to improve their situation. It doesn’t matter that they are the creative individuals who created the stories in the first place.

After signing a contract, traditionally published authors have no control over anything about their books from the creative process to how the book is marketed. Indies, on the other hand, have a locus of control making them happier and empowered. The Indie Author can learn new skills, work with other professionals, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. You don’t have to ask for permission, you’re the one in charge.

As an Indie author you are able to get your book to market much more quickly.  Once the writing time and editing are finished, you are ready to publish your novel to Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Draft2Digital, Smashwords and any other stores. Your e-book is usually for sale within 4-72 hours. You’re paid 60 days after the end of the month of sale. If you’re doing print on demand, you can get that up within 24 hours if you approve the formatting online. Next you get a copy of it and look it over to be sure that the book is as perfect as you think it is and then you can order books to sell or give away to reviewers

Indie authors get higher royalties. If you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99 (on Amazon), you can get a 70% royalty. Traditional royalty rates usually fit in the 7-25% bracket, averaging 10%. It’s clear that you need to sell far fewer books in order to make the same amount of money with self-publishing. However, don’t think that you’ll get rich overnight.  You can’t guarantee that you’re going to make as many sales as you would’ve done with a traditional publisher, or indeed, any sales. That is more to do with genre, investment in marketing and sometimes pure luck. An author doesn’t build a business on luck. You have to learn about marketing. However, you have to learn that anyway no matter if you do it independently or if you’re working with a traditional publisher.

You can sell in any format, in any global market because you own the rights. You could even sell movie rights. Many traditionally published authors have sold World English rights for all formats and yet have barely sold outside the usual country markets because their books aren’t even available in most places in the world. Many have also sold audiobook rights. but the books have not been produced. If you’re in this situation, revisit your contract. What do you have the rights for? You can self-publish in countries where you haven’t sold the rights.

Indie authors can reach significant audiences with their niche books that traditional companies will never take. Publishing houses expect a certain number of sales so if you’re writing a niche book on a particular style of business, for example, then you might find the market is too small for a major publisher. However, the market size may well be enough for you to satisfy your own definition of success with smaller sales and lower income. You can also price as you like because your book will appeal to a very particular reader who might pay higher prices for this rare information.

You can use indie publishing to get you into publishing in general. If you self-publish and do well, agents and publishers will come to you. You don’t have to beg and plead for attention. The power balance is reversed, and as an empowered indie you’ll get much better deals than a first-time author with no book sales history.

Those the Positives, but What are the Negatives?

One problem is that you need to do it all yourself or find suitable professionals to help. As with any new skill, it’s a steep learning curve. You still obviously have to do the writing and marketing, but you also have to do the publishing. You have to find an editor (or two would be better! One for content and the other for proofreading) and a cover designer. Then you need to work with them, determine the title, get your work formatted into e-book, print and any other format you want. It does pay to find suitable professionals to help. If being in control is your definition of success and you need to run all aspects of the business isn’t something that you want to do, then going the indie route might not be your best route. You have to love all aspects of the writing business. You have to love everything from idea generation to creating words on the page, to the technical side of things and everything in between.

You’ll get no prestige, kudos or validation by the industry. Though the stigma lessens every day, success is still connected with traditional publishing. If it hurts your feelings to be considered inferior, then maybe you should not consider going indie.  

For professional results, you’ll need to pay for supporting services upfront. If you’re any kind of writer, you’ll need to spend some money on professional money anyway before submitting to an agent and spend money on writing books and courses.  So even if you intend to go with a traditional company, you will need a budget upfront.

It’s difficult for a self-published book to get print distribution in bookstores. It’s certainly not impossible and if you care about print distribution then take a look at Ingram Spark. However, you’re much more likely to get bookstore distribution with a traditional publisher, as that’s essentially their business model, has been, and probably will be for a long time. They are the experts for printing and distributing physical products. My personal choice is to use Print on Demand through Lulu.com so my print books are available on most online bookstores.

Most literary prizes don’t accept indie books and most literary critics for mainstream media won’t review them. If your definition of success is literary acclaim, the traditional route is your best option.


Now that your story is ready to put out there, if you are still planning to get your book into a traditional publishing company, the only way you are going to get your book in front of one is through your query letter.

What is the Difference Between a Query Letter and a Book Proposal?

A query letter is a request for a publisher to read your proposal for reading your fiction book and a book proposal is a proposal for reading your nonfiction book. A query letter is usually written after a fiction book is written and a book proposal is often written before the book is written.

The Novel Query

According to the NY Book Editors Website, This one page document of about three hundred words is most important, and in some ways even more important to than the actual book This letter is sent to literary agents (and some publishers directly) to woo them into checking out your book.

Don’t put your query on pastel paper with stamped roses, it won’t get you further than the trash can. Instead, follow this tried and trusted formula.

Format with your address at the top of the page, right justified. Next, type the agent’s address, this time left justified.

Use a personalized greeting where you acknowledge the agent by name.

Keep the body of your query letter from three to five paragraphs.

In paragraph one, you hook the literary agent. Share any connection you have with the agent. Did you meet this person at a conference or know someone in common? At least be able to mention that you’re a fan of specific authors that this person represents. The job of this first paragraph is to get the agent reading.

After you hook the agent, share the title and genre of your book and your book’s word count.

Now that you’ve hooked the agent, summarize your story in paragraph two. Discuss your main characters, what happens, and what choice they must make now. But don’t give away the entire plot. Leave the agent wanting more by structuring this paragraph in a cliffhanger.

In the next paragraph, add your bio, but make sure it’s relevant to writing. Impress your agent with writing awards and credibility or related writing experience. Limit your bio to no more than two sentences.

Use short paragraphs and short sentences, when possible. Imagine this: your letter is one of hundreds that your potential agent must read through this week. (It probably is). Make it as easy as possible for them to skim through your letter.

Write in a tone similar to your novel’s narrative. Your query letter should evoke the same tone as your novel. If your book is funny, make your query letter funny. Is it ornate? Use elegant but not remember not to be wordy.

Always Follow Submission Guidelines

Before sending any letter, be sure to follow any submission guidelines. Not every agent wants the same information, so don’t think one form of query fits all. Some may only accept email submissions while others accept both.

Address each agent specifically. Never use “to whom it may concern” if you want anyone to actually request your novel.

If possible, let the agent know why you are pitching your book to him/her. Again, if you love a specific author that this agent represents in a related genre yours, let the agent know that you would love to have the same agent as THAT author.  

Give Credit Where Credit is Due 

Mention that your book has been edited by a professional editor. Agents love a polished manuscript. They notice writers who’ve taken the extra step of getting their manuscript edited by a professional. By doing this, you as the writer appear more professional and serious. This will add more weight to your query letter.

Remember that querying agents is a hit or miss proposition even when you have done your homework on the agent. To find the right agent at the right time, you often need to send out numerous query letters. If you follow these recommendations, you still may not be picked up by a specific agent. There are many reasons why an agent doesn’t pick you up and it probably doesn’t have anything to do with you personally so don’t take it personally. Just keep sending out either written or emailed queries and soon someone will ask to see your novel.


One of the biggest roadblocks new writers face, especially if they are writing about something personal and important to them, is the fear of writing their own book biography or bio. Putting yourself on paper, and exposing your story to the world, can certainly be intimidating because it takes a lot of courage to bring your experiences and narrative to a broad audience.

Don’t worry. Every writer goes through this, and you can too! Just keep the following in mind when these apprehensions arise, so you can continue to move forward, and add your own unique voice to the literary world.

It’s Your Story

When your story is in print, it will linger well after you have sent your final draft to your partner publisher. Your story is something you can share with friends, family members, loved ones, and the world as a whole), and is a piece of you that will truly last a lifetime. So lay your fears to rest, and leave your mark on this world, by getting your words in print so they can resonate for years to come!

It’s Therapeutic

Many people don’t know this, but just before I determined that I was going to focus on writing my novels, I was going through severe depression. Over the course of a year I lost my job. My Husband lost his job. We lost our car, and we lost our home. I went to two psychologists who suggested that I journal my anxieties.

For me, writing isn’t just a relaxing activity. It was a healing exercise that brought me peace. Writing helped me work through my own issues and allowed me to explore the ideas that I had for writing my novels and nonfiction stories.

By writing down my experiences and thoughts and putting into words any coinciding emotions that popped into my mind, I was able to solidify those thoughts into print both into fiction and into nonfiction.

The Power to Connect with Others

Once I had my first book done, I realized that I had to create a bio for that book. Because I had to deal with depression and anxiety, I was hesitant of putting who I thought that I really was out there to my readers. I had what I realize now is what is called “the imposter syndrome.”

What I hadn’t realized was that countless people have had similar experiences to my own. They don’t see themselves as worthy of calling themselves an author. This is especially true with authors who are writing their first novels. What do you write? How do you write anything that will impress the readers? Who cares if you have three kids, a cat and two dogs? Who cares which part of the country you reside? Who cares that you graduated from a now defunct college?

Who cares? Well, if your potential reader has children, pets, or lives in your part of the country, that reader might just identify with you. If the same person identifies because he or she went to the same college, this person might also identify with you because they see you as human.   

Remember that you have the ability to bring comfort, camaraderie, and joy to a large audience. Your audience identifies with you. If your audience has any inkling of wanting to purchase your book, your bio just might be what convinces they should read this book.

What Should Be Included in Your Bio?

Be prepared to write three different versions of your bio. Write about yourself in the third person. Write a lengthy bio for your website, proposals, interview sheets and media kits. Write a medium length bio for your queries (more about this in next week’s blog post!), guest spots on other websites and shorter marketing material. Finally write a short bio to include in your signature line and limited character social media sites.

The easiest place to begin writing your bio is with a draft of your longest bio. Start with your longest writing accomplishments. Write down everything you can think of that you have ever written especially if this is your first book. Include that poem that you wrote for the third grade and the writing prize you won as a young author in middle school. Include the inspiration of how and why you started writing fiction. If you have written previous books and you are including them in your bio, be sure to put the titles in italics rather than in quotes. If you get any writing awards (or awards related to your subject matter), be sure to include them as well. Put your demographics at the end of your bio after you’ve established yourself as a writer. If you have a degree, be sure to include your level of education. With each subsequent book or editions, be sure to update your bio to include that information.

How Should You Write Your Bio?

Before editing your long bio, be sure to look over the bios of other authors and emulate the ones you like. In addition, in writing your shorter bios, look at those written by others for creative ideas especially in your genre of ways they write their bios.

When you have finished your bio, read it out loud and if possible, have another author in your genre read over your bio to look for ways you can improve your bio.

Now we are ready for the next part step in the marketing process if you’re writing to an agent or publisher. We’ll cover that next week.


The Difference Between a Query Letter and a Book Proposal

Before you write to either a publisher or to an agent, it is important to know the difference between a query letter and a book proposal.

A query letter is a request for a publisher to read your proposal for a request for reading your fiction book and a book proposal is a proposal for a request for reading your nonfiction book. A query letter is usually written after a fiction book is written and a book proposal is often written before the book is written. Since you have written a book of fiction, if you are going the traditional publishing route, you will be writing a query letter.

Of course, you no longer have to go the traditional publishing route. Many people are self-publishing or going through small press publishers or even doing what is called hybrid publishing which is a cross between traditional publishing or self-publishing. This post, however, is about how to contact a publisher or agent.

What is the difference between a publisher, an editor, and an agent?

A publisher can refer to an organization or the individual in charge of an organization which releases books. However, an editor is an individual who works with authors directly. In cases where the publisher refers to an organization, it simply means the publishing company as a whole which employs many editors. Editors are the people who work to adapt your book to the publisher’s audiences.

A literary agent (also known as book agents or publishing agents) act as authors’ representatives for the sale and/or licensing of their books with large domestic publishers. As well as smaller domestic publishers. These individuals work to connect you with the publisher and then help negotiate the contract between you and the publisher.

To secure either the services of a publisher or an agent, you can’t just call them up and ask them if you if they will accept you and your book. You have to write a query and send it to them.

It used to be that in order to send a query letter, you had to mail it in and wait weeks for a reply. Now days, contacting literary agents and publishers are usually done via e-mail. You send the query letter and then they let you know whether they want you to submit your manuscript. They may also want to do it some other way. The best way to find out how they want you to submit your manuscript would be by reading their submission guidelines.

Look at a publisher or agent’s website before submitting a query letter or your manuscript.

Study the publisher or agent’s website and learn everything you can about what this person accepts and doesn’t accept. If this agent focuses on selling science fiction, don’t try to get this agent to represent you if you write historical romances. If a publisher doesn’t publish horror, don’t think that that publisher is going to change for you!

The better you’re known by the publisher or agent, the more likely they are to represent you. However, even if they do represent your genre, don’t think that harassing them is going to make them represent you. Calling them on the phone and asking to speak to someone in charge could be a nail in your authorship coffin.

So how do you meet a publisher or an agent? You might go to an event where publishers or agents are present and get to know them at a writer’s conference.

It is also possible that you could get to know them through someone you already know. If you know another author who has published through a specific publisher or has been represented by a specific agent, that person might just be the connection you need.

Whether you’re contacting a publisher or an agent, your query letter should be perfectly written, but that will be a message for another blog post.  First, before writing the query letter, you’ll need to work on dressing up your bio. That will be the topic of next week’s post.


“You’re not done with a book until you pass it to another reader.” Donalyn Miller

We spend so much time on our own manuscripts that we can’t see them objectively — no matter how diligently we self-edit. We create anticipation or an expectation early in the book but forget to deliver on it. We describe events in a way that is clear to us. However, they are not necessarily clear to a reader who can’t see the pictures in our head. We leave out vital steps in an explanation and don’t realize it, because we know what we mean. The characters in our books are not convincing, because we know them so well. We simply don’t always realize we haven’t developed them as thoroughly as we thought when we committed them to paper.

Why Do We Need a Beta Reader (or ten)?

This is why we need a beta reader. A beta reader is someone who gives you feedback on your finished manuscript. This person lets you know how you can adjust your manuscript before you set it loose on the world.

The beta reader’s report cuts through this noise. A beta reader will read your entire manuscript and respond personally to it. They are uninfluenced by the opinions of others. The thing I particularly like about this is that reading is generally a solitary pursuit, and books ‘happen’ in the mind of the reader. So, it’s an authentic way to encounter your book.

A beta reader will tell you if your story seems plausible or if your work has numerous obvious proofreading errors. Sometimes your beta reader might even see content errors. This happened to me. One of my beta readers was reading A Coward’s Solace when she discovered that I had written that George Washington was riding a “white roan”. She said that there was no such horse. I therefore had to research further and learned there actually is such a thing as a “white roan, but that George Washington’s horse was not a white roan, just an ordinary white horse. A white roan is a horse that is born white and is always white whereas an ordinary white horse is born gray and turns white as he ages.

The best beta reports are not always the ones you pay for. In fact, most people get beta reads by an exchange of favors with other writers.

The best beta readers will give you a written report on their responses (which could be several pages long), and they often also will make notes in the text, to show their reaction to specific sections of the book. A beta reader can tell you if a sub-plot is too involved and it overwhelms the main story. You can trust a good beta reader to tell you more was expected from your secondary story line and that it didn’t do much for the story. If they wonder why it was even there, your sub-plot needs work.

Beta readers might have trouble explaining a problem with a secondary plot that’s too detailed or that overshadows the main plot. Yet if several readers tell you they like a secondary character more than your protagonist or that a second bad guy makes a better antagonist, you’ve probably invested your sub-plot with more compelling events or dialogue than your main plot.

Seeking a beta reader is a professional move, not an amateur one. Although they weren’t called that by publishers, publishers have used beta readers for years. The concept of getting another opinion about a manuscript is almost as old as a Gutenberg printing press.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


You’re Ready for One Last Go Over of Your Novel

You’ve finished the writing, the rewriting, the editing and the polishing. What’s next?

You’ve been through your manuscript front to back and back to front and weeded out and added in.

You’ve straightened out your characters and tightened the plot and you’ve proofed for every conceivable error you’ve ever read about.

Both protagonist and antagonist get what they deserve and what they’ve earned and what your readers will love.

You’ve got conflict and chapter-ending hooks and emotion-evoking phrases.

You’ve got an opening that delights, a middle without sag, and an ending that satisfies.

You’ve got ups and downs and breathing space and breathless action. You’ve included emotional responses for characters that are guaranteed to touch the reader as well.

The number of modifiers—both adverbs and adjectives—doesn’t overwhelm.

Dialogue is strong. Setting is clear and works for the story. Characters are unique. Style is consistent.

Your favorite unusual sentence construction. The unusual gets noticed. Don’t overplay those touches that stand out.

Your favorite words. We all have them, and they sneak in despite our desire to keep them out. Can you cut one or two more instances of each?

The overuse of character names, especially in dialogue. People just don’t call each other by name when they talk to them.

The opening line and opening page. Do they accomplish all that they can? Does the opening set up the story arc, get the plot rolling, introduce your protagonist, introduce tone and/or setting?

The ending. Does it address the story opening and the character’s problem? Does it finish the several hundred pages that come before it? Is the last line a memorable one?

Do you find any words that don’t fit?

If you’ve changed a character’s name, make sure you’ve not left any instances of the former name.

Space holders. If you use space holders for unsure elements—asterisks, blank lines, hash tags—be sure you’ve filled in the blanks and be sure to remove them.

Words used too often. They might not even be favorite words, but their use and overuse can weaken your scenes. However, remember not to include so many synonyms that it aggravates the reader.

That one scene that niggles at you, the one that still doesn’t seem quite perfect.  Yes, make the time for one more try to fix it. If it bothers you, it’s going to bother the reader.

Chapter breaks. Make sure chapters begin on new pages. Make sure chapter numbers are sequential.

Manuscript format. Before submitting, format your manuscript in the proper format. Don’t forget page numbers and the correct info for the headers. Check for consistency with scene breaks—have you used asterisks or hash marks or simple line spacing?

Spelling. Remember you can’t depend on spell checker, but run your story through spellchecker one last time, especially. If you make any changes during this go round.as a final step in your cleanup. And repeat as many times as necessary if you continue to make changes.

This is not an editing checklist, but a helpful last step before you submit your manuscript whoever you choose for your next step.

When Is It Time to Let Your Story Go?

These suggestions are not meant as a tool for procrastination: please don’t hesitate to submit when your story is ready. Do what’s necessary for making both story and manuscript error-free and then let the story go. Start your next project or complete another story you’ve begun. Put an end to this one.

Trust me as someone who has been through it many times. A few errors are likely to slip through even with your best proofreading. However, as a writing aficionado, you want to do your best with this final draft. A few simple errors will not be what keeps your story from being accepted or if you are a self-publisher, may keep readers from reading your next book. Submit your manuscripts when you get to the point where you just can’t edit any longer.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


Most writers know about when to use a period, a question mark, and exclamation point. Be sure that every sentence has one of those three at the end.  Back on April 29ths post, we went over how to punctuate dialogue. I am not going to go over that again here, but you should probably review that now as well. In addition, go through and make sure you didn’t miss any of your quotation marks. Like the previous forms of punctuation, commas, semi-colons, colons, apostrophes, and dashes indicate added emphasis, an interruption, or an abrupt change of thought. Experienced writers know that these marks are not interchangeable.

Once you’re sure that every sentence ends properly and every piece of dialogue is properly punctuated, let’s move onto commas.

Commas

Use a comma after an expression

Of course, you may use my pen.

Add a comma when a participle phrase is used

Carefully watching what she was doing, she poured the liquid into the cylinder.

Include a comma when an adverb clause is used

After we go to town, we need to put away the groceries.

Use a comma to separate parts of a date

Her birthday was Thursday, June 27, 2002.

Use a comma when two complete sentences are combined. (Remember to use a conjunction so you don’t end up with a run-on sentence.

He went to see his mother, and she waited in the car.

Use a comma when setting off quoted words

“She seemed embarrassed,” he said.

Semi-Colons

In most modern fiction, semi-colons should be edited out.

Colons

Use a colon to introduce an item or a series of items. Do not capitalize the first item after the colon (unless it’s a proper noun)

A capital letter generally does not introduce a word, phrase, or incomplete sentence following a colon.

Avoid using a colon before a list if it directly follows a verb or preposition that would ordinarily need no punctuation in that sentence.

When listing items one by one, one per line, following a colon, capitalization and ending punctuation are optional when using single words or phrases preceded by letters, numbers, or bullet points. If each point is a complete sentence, capitalize the first word and end the sentence with appropriate ending punctuation. Otherwise, there are no hard and fast rules, except be consistent.

A colon instead of a semicolon may be used between independent clauses when the second sentence explains, illustrates, paraphrases, or expands on the first sentence. (Not recommended in modern fiction either. Instead, separate the sentences with a period or a comma and a conjunction)

Capitalize the first word of a complete or full-sentence quotation that follows a colon.

Capitalize the first word after a colon if the information following the colon requires two or more complete sentences.

If a quotation contains two or more sentences, many writers and editors introduce it with a colon rather than a comma.

For extended quotations introduced by a colon, some style manuals say to indent one-half inch on both the left and right margins; others say to indent only on the left margin. Quotation marks are not used.

Apostrophes

The apostrophe has two main jobs in English: to mark contractions and to indicate possession.

Never use an apostrophe to designate plurals.

Use apostrophes to form contractions, where two or more words are combined to form one, with letters omitted. Words most frequently affected by contractions are verbs and pronouns. For example, in the contractions “I’m” the apostrophe replaced the a in I am. The same goes for the word doesn’t where the apostrophe replaces the o in not like don’t in place of do not. The apostrophe is placed where the letters are removed.

Use an apostrophe plus -s to show the possessive form of a singular noun, even if that singular noun already ends in -s.

Some style guides (including the “Associated Press Stylebook” but not “The Chicago Manual of Style”) recommend using only an apostrophe after singular proper names ending in -s

To form the possessive of a plural noun that already ends in -s, simply add an apostrophe.

When two or more nouns possess the same thing, add an apostrophe plus -s to the last noun listed.

Don’t Use an Apostrophe With Possessive Pronouns including its, yours, hers his, ours, and theirs.

Add an apostrophe plus -s to form the possessive of some indefinite pronouns including anyone’s, somebody’s and one’s.

Dashes

Words and phrases between dashes are not generally part of the subject.

Dashes replace otherwise mandatory punctuation, such as the commas after Iowa and 2013 in the following examples:

Without dash: The man from Ames, Iowa, arrived.

With dash: The man—he was from Ames, Iowa—arrived.

Without dash: The May 1, 2013, edition of the Ames Sentinel arrived in June.

With dash: The Ames Sentinel—dated May 1, 2013—arrived in June.

Some writers and publishers prefer spaces around dashes.

Example: Joe — and his trusty mutt — was always welcome.

Be sure to include how you handle these forms of punctuation in your own personal style guide and be sure to be consistent in how you apply them in your novel.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


This week we are identifying and replacing spelling errors. Now is a good time to run a spell check to see find words that are spelled wrong or you have written using British spellings rather than American spellings (or visa versa if you’re aiming to sell to British audiences). You wouldn’t want to insult your reader (or publisher!) with the wrong gray or grey. Now’s a good time to run your spellcheck over your manuscript before going onto the next steps.

Check for the Consistent Name Spellings

A common error that pops up in the proofreading stage is the incorrect spelling of names. Be sure you’re not the author who spells the person’s name at the beginning one way and another way in the middle. Go back and review names to make sure they are correct and consistent across the whole document.

No one wants to be that person who spells the name of a place or famous person incorrectly. When in doubt, do a google search on how the name is actually spelled. If you find such an error, use find and replace feature on your word processing program to replace your spelling with the correct one.

Be consistent with contractions

Check with your style guide on whether to use contractions. In academic writing, words like “it’s” or “can’t” are spelled out fully as “it is” or “cannot.” Some people feel the contracted style is too informal for some kinds of writing. This is usually not a problem with a novel, but you might want to go back and look at your dialogue again and have your characters who are more formal not using contractions and those who are using them.

Words that Sound the Same But are Spelled Differently

Homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently. These words include principal/principle, right/write, and currant/current. When we’re writing, it’s easy for our fingers to spit out one when we mean the other. This is often such a major issue with many people that I have devoted the entire next blog post to this subject.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series.  

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


Here we will practice applying one of the most basic and yet also most troublesome rules of grammar: in the present tense, a verb must agree in number with its subject. Put simply, this means that we have to remember to add an -s to the verb if its subject is singular and not to add an -s if the subject is plural. It’s really not a hard principle to follow as long as we can identify the subject and verb in a sentence. Let’s have a look at how this basic rule works.

Compare the verbs (in bold) in the two sentences below:

Sadie washes and Mary dries the dishes.

My sisters wash the dishes.  

Both verbs describe a present or ongoing action (in other words, they are in the present tense), but the first verb ends in -es and the second one doesn’t.  In the first sentence, we need to add an -es to the verbs (washes and dries) because the subjects (Sadie and Mary)) are singular. We omit the final -es from the verb (wash) in the second sentence because there the subject (sisters) is plural. Remember, though, that this rule applies only to verbs in the present tense.

Here are four tips to help you apply the principle that a verb must agree in number with its subject:

  1. Add an -s to the verb if the subject is a singular noun: a word that names one person, place, or thing.
  2. Add an -s to the verb if the subject is any one of the third-person singular pronouns: he, she, it, this, that.
  3. Do not add an -s to the verb if the subject is the pronoun I, you, we, or they.
  4. Do not add an -s to the verb if two subjects are joined by and.

So, is it really that simple to make subjects and verbs agree? Well, not always. For one thing, our speech habits sometimes interfere with our ability to apply the principle of agreement. If we have a habit of dropping the final -s from words when we talk, we need to be particularly careful not to leave off the -s when we write. However, if we are writing dialogue where the character drops that “s”, (to indicate his lack of education), it would be appropriate.

Tips for Adding that S

We have to keep a certain spelling rule in mind when adding -s to a verb that ends in the letter -y: in most cases, we need to change the y to ie before adding the s. For example, the verb carry becomes carries, try becomes tries, and hurry becomes hurries. Are there exceptions? Of course. If the letter before the final -y is a vowel (that is, the letters  a, e, i, o, or u), we simply keep the y and add -s. Say becomes says, and enjoy becomes enjoys.

Now have at it. Make sure that every subject and verb are in agreement. Next week we will handle spelling issues.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


Now we are in the heart of proofreading. You’ve found missing words.  You’ve found double words, now its time to improve your sentences by eliminating overused words.

You probably have a number of words that you personally overuse, so you should probably add this to your personal style guide. Until you develop your own list, here is a list of words to use cautiously.

List of Overused Words

While it would be awkward to avoid these words all the time, you should take care to substitute more interesting words whenever appropriate.

Adverbs

Adverbs can often be substituted with more accurate verbs.

 Awfully

Really

Very

Almost any word that ends in “ly”

Adjectives

Just as adverbs can be replaced by more appropriate verbs, boring adjectives can be replaced with adjectives that are more descriptive or you can describe your subject using better “show not tell” description. Here are a few adjectives to consider replacing.

amazing

awesome

bad

beautiful

big

fine

good

great

happy

interesting

look

nice

quite

said

so

well

Other- This word appeared over five million times in a day across Grammarly.

Try these alternatives: alternative times, further suggestions, different opinions.

More

New

Good- using good as an adjective is just good enough. Next time you qualify something as “good,” think about how good it is. You could be referring to something that’s slightly better than something else, something that’s suitable, or something that’s really good. Chances are, there’s a word to suit each situation.

Try these alternatives: excellent solution, decent option, worthy substitute.

Best- Similar to “good,” “best” isn’t the only way to provide a superlative.

Many-“Many” may seem like a go-to option when referring to an indeterminate group of things. However, if you have an idea of the volume, try to be as exact as possible. Try one of these alternatives to express a vague number: a multitude of ideas, a handful of times, numerous occasions, thousands of data points

Great-although “great” is a stronger word than “good,” it still doesn’t describe anything. Allow your characters to use grea but not by much. If you’re already expressing enthusiasm for something, set it apart.

Try these alternatives: awesome ideas, fantastic opportunity, wonderful work.

Able

You may not think of “able” as an oft-used adjective, but this word appears whenever someone  “is able” to complete a task. Next time you, use another phrase.

look, looked, looking (one of the most common verbs used for sight)

there (stood there, sat there)

over (walked over, ran over)

felt, heard, saw, watched, thought (you don’t always need to report that a character is doing these things)

Words/phrases that add nothing and might in fact dilute a scene.

at this time

at [in] this moment

in my opinion

any three-word phrase at the end of a sentence (search for prepositional phrases you use often)

try and [verb] (use try to rather than try and)

for example

suddenly

hopefully

already

just

there is, there are, there were (especially to start sentences and open paragraphs)

oh, well, and oh well (especially in dialogue)

Substitute With Synonyms

Using the same word too many times can seem somewhat redundant to the reader. Here are synonyms for the 96 most commonly used words in English

Amazing — incredible, unbelievable, improbable, fabulous, wonderful, fantastic, astonishing, astounding, extraordinary

Anger — enrage, infuriate, arouse, nettle, exasperate, inflame, madden

Angry — mad, furious, enraged, excited, wrathful, indignant, exasperated, aroused, inflamed

Answer — reply, respond, retort, acknowledge

Ask– — question, inquire of, seek information from, put a question to, demand, request, expect, inquire, query, interrogate, examine, quiz

Awful — dreadful, terrible, abominable, bad, poor, unpleasant

Bad — evil, immoral, wicked, corrupt, sinful, depraved, rotten, contaminated, spoiled, tainted, harmful, injurious, unfavorable, defective, inferior, imperfect, substandard, faulty, improper, inappropriate, unsuitable, disagreeable, unpleasant, cross, nasty, unfriendly, irascible, horrible, atrocious, outrageous, scandalous, infamous, wrong, noxious, sinister, putrid, snide, deplorable, dismal, gross, heinous, nefarious, base, obnoxious, detestable, despicable, contemptible, foul, rank, ghastly, execrable

Beautiful — pretty, lovely, handsome, attractive, gorgeous, dazzling, splendid, magnificent, comely, fair, ravishing, graceful, elegant, fine, exquisite, aesthetic, pleasing, shapely, delicate, stunning, glorious, heavenly, resplendent, radiant, glowing, blooming, sparkling

Begin — start, open, launch, initiate, commence, inaugurate, originate

Big — enormous, huge, immense, gigantic, vast, colossal, gargantuan, large, sizable, grand, great, tall, substantial, mammoth, astronomical, ample, broad, expansive, spacious, stout, tremendous, titanic, mountainous

Brave — courageous, fearless, dauntless, intrepid, plucky, daring, heroic, valorous, audacious, bold, gallant, valiant, doughty, mettlesome

Break — fracture, rupture, shatter, smash, wreck, crash, demolish, atomize

Bright — shining, shiny, gleaming, brilliant, sparkling, shimmering, radiant, vivid, colorful, lustrous, luminous, incandescent, intelligent, knowing, quick-witted, smart, intellectual

Calm — quiet, peaceful, still, tranquil, mild, serene, smooth, composed, collected, unruffled, level-headed, unexcited, detached, aloof

Come — approach, advance, near, arrive, reach

Cool — chilly, cold, frosty, wintry, icy, frigid

Crooked — bent, twisted, curved, hooked, zigzag

Cry — shout, yell, yowl, scream, roar, bellow, weep, wail, sob, bawl

Cut — gash, slash, prick, nick, sever, slice, carve, cleave, slit, chop, crop, lop, reduce

Dangerous — perilous, hazardous, risky, uncertain, unsafe

Dark — shadowy, unlit, murky, gloomy, dim, dusky, shaded, sunless, black, dismal, sad

Decide — determine, settle, choose, resolve

Definite — certain, sure, positive, determined, clear, distinct, obvious

Delicious — savory, delectable, appetizing, luscious, scrumptious, palatable, delightful, enjoyable, toothsome, exquisite

Describe — portray, characterize, picture, narrate, relate, recount, represent, report, record

Destroy — ruin, demolish, raze, waste, kill, slay, end, extinguish

Difference — disagreement, inequity, contrast, dissimilarity, incompatibility

Do — execute, enact, carry out, finish, conclude, effect, accomplish, achieve, attain

Dull — boring, tiring„ tiresome, uninteresting, slow, dumb, stupid, unimaginative, lifeless, dead, insensible, tedious, wearisome, listless, expressionless, plain, monotonous, humdrum, dreary

Eager — keen, fervent, enthusiastic, involved, interested, alive to

End — stop, finish, terminate, conclude, close, halt, cessation, discontinuance

Enjoy — appreciate, delight in, be pleased, indulge in, luxuriate in, bask in, relish, devour, savor, like

Explain — elaborate, clarify, define, interpret, justify, account for

Fair — just, impartial, unbiased, objective, unprejudiced, honest

Fall — drop, descend, plunge, topple, tumble

False — fake, fraudulent, counterfeit, spurious, untrue, unfounded, erroneous, deceptive, groundless, fallacious

Famous — well-known, renowned, celebrated, famed, eminent, illustrious, distinguished, noted, notorious

Fast — quick, rapid, speedy, fleet, hasty, snappy, mercurial, swiftly, rapidly, quickly, snappily, speedily, lickety-split, posthaste, hastily, expeditiously, like a flash

Fat — stout, corpulent, fleshy, beefy, paunchy, plump, full, rotund, tubby, pudgy, chubby, chunky, burly, bulky, elephantine

Fear — fright, dread, terror, alarm, dismay, anxiety, scare, awe, horror, panic, apprehension

Fly — soar, hover, flit, wing, flee, waft, glide, coast, skim, sail, cruise

Funny — humorous, amusing, droll, comic, comical, laughable, silly

Get — acquire, obtain, secure, procure, gain, fetch, find, score, accumulate, win, earn, rep, catch, net, bag, derive, collect, gather, glean, pick up, accept, come by, regain, salvage

Go — recede, depart, fade, disappear, move, travel, proceed

Good — excellent, fine, superior, wonderful, marvelous, qualified, suited, suitable, apt, proper, capable, generous, kindly, friendly, gracious, obliging, pleasant, agreeable, pleasurable, satisfactory, well-behaved, obedient, honorable, reliable, trustworthy, safe, favorable, profitable, advantageous, righteous, expedient, helpful, valid, genuine, ample, salubrious, estimable, beneficial, splendid, great, noble, worthy, first-rate, top-notch, grand, sterling, superb, respectable, edifying

Great — noteworthy, worthy, distinguished, remarkable, grand, considerable, powerful, much, mighty

Gross — improper, rude, coarse, indecent, crude, vulgar, outrageous, extreme, grievous, shameful, uncouth, obscene, low

Happy — pleased, contented, satisfied, delighted, elated, joyful, cheerful, ecstatic, jubilant, gay, tickled, gratified, glad, blissful, overjoyed

Hate — despise, loathe, detest, abhor, disfavor, dislike, disapprove, abominate

Have — hold, possess, own, contain, acquire, gain, maintain, believe, bear, beget, occupy, absorb, fill, enjoy

Help — aid, assist, support, encourage, back, wait on, attend, serve, relieve, succor, benefit, befriend, abet

Hide — conceal, cover, mask, cloak, camouflage, screen, shroud, veil

Hurry — rush, run, speed, race, hasten, urge, accelerate, bustle

Hurt — damage, harm, injure, wound, distress, afflict, pain

Idea — thought, concept, conception, notion, understanding, opinion, plan, view, belief

Important — necessary, vital, critical, indispensable, valuable, essential, significant, primary, principal, considerable, famous, distinguished, notable, well-known

Interesting — fascinating, engaging, sharp, keen, bright, intelligent, animated, spirited, attractive, inviting, intriguing, provocative, though-provoking, challenging, inspiring, involving, moving, titillating, tantalizing, exciting, entertaining, piquant, lively, racy, spicy, engrossing, absorbing, consuming, gripping, arresting, enthralling, spellbinding, curious, captivating, enchanting, bewitching, appealing

Keep — hold, retain, withhold, preserve, maintain, sustain, support

Kill — slay, execute, assassinate, murder, destroy, cancel, abolish

Lazy — indolent, slothful, idle, inactive, sluggish

Little — tiny, small, diminutive, shrimp, runt, miniature, puny, exiguous, dinky, cramped, limited, itsy-bitsy, microscopic, slight, petite, minute

Look — gaze, see, glance, watch, survey, study, seek, search for, peek, peep, glimpse, stare, contemplate, examine, gape, ogle, scrutinize, inspect, leer, behold, observe, view, witness, perceive, spy, sight, discover, notice, recognize, peer, eye, gawk, peruse, explore

Love — like, admire, esteem, fancy, care for, cherish, adore, treasure, worship, appreciate, savor

Make — create, originate, invent, beget, form, construct, design, fabricate, manufacture, produce, build, develop, do, effect, execute, compose, perform, accomplish, earn, gain, obtain, acquire, get

Mark — label, tag, price, ticket, impress, effect, trace, imprint, stamp, brand, sign, note, heed, notice, designate

Mischievous — prankish, playful, naughty, roguish, waggish, impish, sportive

Move — plod, go, creep, crawl, inch, poke, drag, toddle, shuffle, trot, dawdle, walk, traipse, mosey, jog, plug, trudge, slump, lumber, trail, lag, run, sprint, trip, bound, hotfoot, high-tail, streak, stride, tear, breeze, whisk, rush, dash, dart, bolt, fling, scamper, scurry, skedaddle, scoot, scuttle, scramble, race, chase, hasten, hurry, hump, gallop, lope, accelerate, stir, budge, travel, wander, roam, journey, trek, ride, spin, slip, glide, slide, slither, coast, flow, sail, saunter, hobble, amble, stagger, paddle, slouch, prance, straggle, meander, perambulate, waddle, wobble, pace, swagger, promenade, lunge

Moody — temperamental, changeable, short-tempered, glum, morose, sullen, mopish, irritable, testy, peevish, fretful, spiteful, sulky, touchy

Neat — clean, orderly, tidy, trim, dapper, natty, smart, elegant, well-organized, super, desirable, spruce, shipshape, well-kept, shapely

New — fresh, unique, original, unusual, novel, modern, current, recent

Old — feeble, frail, ancient, weak, aged, used, worn, dilapidated, ragged, faded, broken-down, former, old-fashioned, outmoded, passe, veteran, mature, venerable, primitive, traditional, archaic, conventional, customary, stale, musty, obsolete, extinct

Part — portion, share, piece, allotment, section, fraction, fragment

Place — space, area, spot, plot, region, location, situation, position, residence, dwelling, set, site, station, status, state

Plan — plot, scheme, design, draw, map, diagram, procedure, arrangement, intention, device, contrivance, method, way, blueprint

Popular — well-liked, approved, accepted, favorite, celebrated, common, current

Predicament — quandary, dilemma, pickle, problem, plight, spot, scrape, jam

Put — place, set, attach, establish, assign, keep, save, set aside, effect, achieve, do, build

Quiet — silent, still, soundless, mute, tranquil, peaceful, calm, restful

Right — correct, accurate, factual, true, good, just, honest, upright, lawful, moral, proper, suitable, apt, legal, fair

Run — race, speed, hurry, hasten, sprint, dash, rush, escape, elope, flee

Say/Tell — inform, notify, advise, relate, recount, narrate, explain, reveal, disclose, divulge, declare, command, order, bid, enlighten, instruct, insist, teach, train, direct, issue, remark, converse, speak, affirm, suppose, utter, negate, express, verbalize, voice, articulate, pronounce, deliver, convey, impart, assert, state, allege, mutter, mumble, whisper, sigh, exclaim, yell, sing, yelp, snarl, hiss, grunt, snort, roar, bellow, thunder, boom, scream, shriek, screech, squawk, whine, philosophize, stammer, stutter, lisp, drawl, jabber, protest, announce, swear, vow, content, assure, deny, dispute

Scared — afraid, frightened, alarmed, terrified, panicked, fearful, unnerved, insecure, timid, shy, skittish, jumpy, disquieted, worried, vexed, troubled, disturbed, horrified, terrorized, shocked, petrified, haunted, timorous, shrinking, tremulous, stupefied, paralyzed, stunned, apprehensive

Show — display, exhibit, present, note, point to, indicate, explain, reveal, prove, demonstrate, expose

Slow — unhurried, gradual, leisurely, late, behind, tedious, slack

Stop — cease, halt, stay, pause, discontinue, conclude, end, finish, quit

Story — tale, myth, legend, fable, yarn, account, narrative, chronicle, epic, sage, anecdote, record, memoir

Strange — odd, peculiar, unusual, unfamiliar, uncommon, queer, weird, outlandish, curious, unique, exclusive, irregular

Take — hold, catch, seize, grasp, win, capture, acquire, pick, choose, select, prefer, remove, steal, lift, rob, engage, bewitch, purchase, buy, retract, recall, assume, occupy, consume

Tell — disclose, reveal, show, expose, uncover, relate, narrate, inform, advise, explain, divulge, declare, command, order, bid, recount, repeat

Think — judge, deem, assume, believe, consider, contemplate, reflect, mediate

Trouble — distress, anguish, anxiety, worry, wretchedness, pain, danger, peril, disaster, grief, misfortune, difficulty, concern, pains, inconvenience, exertion, effort

True — accurate, right, proper, precise, exact, valid, genuine, real, actual, trusty, steady, loyal, dependable, sincere, staunch

Ugly — hideous, frightful, frightening, shocking, horrible, unpleasant, monstrous, terrifying, gross, grisly, ghastly, horrid, unsightly, plain, homely, evil, repulsive, repugnant, gruesome

Unhappy — miserable, uncomfortable, wretched, heart-broken, unfortunate, poor, downhearted, sorrowful, depressed, dejected, melancholy, glum, gloomy, dismal, discouraged, sad

Use — employ, utilize, exhaust, spend, expend, consume, exercise

Wrong — incorrect, inaccurate, mistaken, erroneous, improper, unsuitable

Don’t Overdo the Synonyms

The objective for using synonyms is to keep your reader from thinking about how you’re writing rather than what you’re writing. Just as using the same word over and over again can seem like a redundancy, Using substituting synonyms can draw your reader to the fact that you as the author are using synonyms of the same word. There are cases when you will want to use synonyms, but not always. For instance, instead of using a synonym for the word “said”, a better technique than “substituting with a synonym? would be using Deep POV which we delve into in a previous blog post.

What other techniques can you identify that would help you with editing out overused words?

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

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One of the things that I often have had difficulty with when editing a novel has been that I have forgotten to include small but critical words or, just as bad, I write a word twice. This often happened when I was in a hurry to write what was in my head and then later when I was editing that same passage, I missed that I had forgotten to write the word. Instead, I read the passage as though the word was actually there. Most of the time, I would totally miss the word even after numerous drafts. However, my editor caught them right away. (This is one reason that every writer should have an editor edit the book before publication).

For instance, I might write a sentence like this:

Melissa road bare on her horse through the woods.

What I meant to say:

Melissa rode bareback on her horse through the woods.

I hate leaving editing to my editor, so I have determined to find way fix this kind of error before my editor ever sees it.

Ways to find those Missing Words When Proofreading

  1. Read your book starting with the last paragraph and read each subsequent paragraph until you have read your book back to the front.
  2. Read each paragraph of your book out loud.
  3. Take frequent breaks. You miss more when your eyes are fatigued.
  4. Focus on what you’re doing. Don’t allow distractions to get in the way of proper editing.
  5. The more you edit, the better you become.

Eliminating Double Words

I know why it happens. You’re writing along and you get distracted. When you come back to writing, you start where you left off and you don’t know it, but you’ve doubled up on your words.

The easiest way to find double words is by using grammar checker software. You shouldn’t depend on a grammar checker for every grammar error any more than you should trust a spellchecker for fixing every spelling error, but for finding double words, using a grammar checker is very affective.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

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Last week we discussed how to write great paragraphs, now let’s fix the problem of run-on sentences. What exactly is a run-on sentence?

A run-on sentence is a sentence in which two or more independent clauses are joined together without an appropriate punctuation or connecting word. In other words, trying to join two complete sentences with just a comma. A definite amateur mistake. The good news is, fixing run-on sentences is among the easiest proofreading skills to master.

How to Fix Run-On Sentences

There are five different ways to fix run-on sentences.

  1. Separate the run-on into two or more sentences.
  2. Add a semi-colon between the clauses.
  3. Add a comma, then a conjunction after the first independent clause.
  4. Add a subordinating conjunction to one of the clauses.
  5. Change the second clause to a phrase starting with an __ing word.

Now that you know what a run-on sentence is and know how to fix it, it’s time to search out and destroy those run-on sentences!

If you have a novel that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

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During the past two weeks we discussed overall aspects of proofreading, this week we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. We’re editing paragraphs. We all know that a paragraph is not just a random group of sentences but is a group of sentences organized around a central topic. Paragraph writing focuses on a single idea. A well-written paragraph takes its readers on a clear path.

A basic paragraph structure usually consists of five sentences: the topic sentence, three supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence. Of course, not all of your paragraphs will be basic paragraphs, but knowing how to expertly edit a basic paragraph will help you edit every paragraph in your novel.   

Determine Your Paragraph’s Why

Before you can begin writing, you need to know what you are writing about. First look at the purpose of your paragraph. Is it description? Does it describe action? Is it a transitional paragraph?

Next, develop your topic sentence or in other words, determine your one main controlling idea.  

Now, after stating your topic sentence, provide information to prove illustrate, clarify your point. What are some examples you can use to support your point? What information can you provide to clarify your thoughts? What specific data, experiences, factual or descriptive information do you need to include in the paragraph. Equally important is what to leave out.

Writing a Great Paragraph

The four elemental essentials for writing a great paragraph are: unity, order, coherence, and completeness.

Unity

 Unity in a paragraph begins with the topic sentence. Every paragraph has one single, controlling idea that is expressed in its topic sentence, which is typically the first sentence of the paragraph. A paragraph is unified around this main idea, with the supporting sentences providing detail and discussion. In order to write a good topic sentence, think about your theme and all the points you want to make. Decide which point drives the rest, and then write it as your topic sentence.

Sometimes, you’ll need to add transitional or introductory phrases like: for example, for instance, first, second, or last can help guide the reader from the previous paragraph into this one.

Order

Order refers to the way you organize your supporting sentences. Whether you choose chronological order, order of importance, or another logical presentation of detail, a solid paragraph always has a definite organization. In a well-ordered paragraph, the reader follows along easily, aided by the pattern you’ve established. Order helps the reader grasp your meaning and avoid confusion.

Coherence

Coherence is the quality that makes your writing understandable. Sentences within a paragraph need to connect to each other and work together as a whole. One of the best ways to achieve coherency is to use transition words. These words create bridges from one sentence to the next. You can use transition words that show order (first, second, third); spatial relationships (above, below) or logic (furthermore, in addition, in fact). Also, in writing a paragraph, using a consistent verb tense and point of view are important ingredients for coherency.

Does your paragraph add meaning to your novel? Have you given the reader enough information to see and understand your characters’ point of view? Is the information in this paragraph relevant, meaningful, or interesting? 

Completeness

Completeness means a paragraph is well-developed. If all sentences clearly and sufficiently support the main idea, then your paragraph is complete. If there are not enough sentences or enough information to prove your thesis, then the paragraph is incomplete. Usually three supporting sentences, in addition to a topic sentence and concluding sentence, are needed for a paragraph to be complete. The concluding sentence or last sentence of the paragraph should summarize your main idea by reinforcing your topic sentence.

The last step in good paragraph writing is proofreading and revision. Look over your work at least one more time. Read your paragraph out loud to make sure it makes sense. Also, ask yourself these questions:  • Does my paragraph answer the prompt and support what I am trying to say in this chapter and this scene? • Does it make sense?

Now that you have edited one paragraph, go to the next and then the next until your paragraphs flow into one beautiful story.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

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As you proofread your manuscript, there are several things you can do to make your process easier. Here are a few commonly recommended tips:

Print a copy of the novel and mark it up.

Having a hard copy in front of you allows you to work with your draft on something other than your laptop or desktop screen. You’ll want your printout to be double-spaced so you have plenty of room to make edits.

Be consistent in your marks.

A question mark might indeed convey the appropriate emotion when you find passages that don’t make sense, or where the pacing drags, or where there’s a glaring plot hole or a character who seems to act out of character. But a question mark doesn’t really help you recognize one problem from the next when looking back over your notes. Be specific and consistent in your marginalia, coming up with a clear method for identifying and distinguishing types of problems you encounter. You’ll of course want to keep a legend of some sort to help you keep the marks straight. Or, you might want to include these in the master document you make below.

Make a style guide.

Create your own proofreading checklist on Microsoft word or google docs or some other word processing program and follow these guidelines every time you proofread your writing. Keep a list of the types of mistakes you commonly make and then refer to that list each time you proofread.

Publishers always create a style guide in which they make clear the stylistic, structural, and occasionally substantive needs for the project. You might want to make a master guide of your own, divided into different word spellings (like there their and they’re) that many people have difficulty distinguishing between.

If you don’t feel confident creating your own style guide, there are lots of great style handbooks that can help clear up questions, such as whether a certain word is capitalized, or if you need to hyphenate a specific phrase or adjective.

Developing your own stylebook can enhance your database of writing knowledge!

Keep track of problems as they occur to you.

If you realize some problem or inconsistency in the novel, though it’s not part of the proofreading process,  you’re currently working on, don’t file it away in your head and promise to come back later; find an appropriate place on your style guide to note the problem immediately, while you still recognize and understand what the problem is.

Keep a sharp mind during this proofing stages and keep a good attitude. Revision shouldn’t be considered drudge work or punishment for writing a novel. It is an opportunity to see your work in a new way. Remember that by now you have rewritten this draft several times and that your vision of the story has been sharpened and is getting closer to the perfect volume you wanted to create from the beginning.

Give it a rest.

If time allows, set your text aside for a few hours (or days) after you’ve finished composing, and then proofread it with fresh eyes. Rather than remember the perfect paper you meant to write, you’re more likely to see what you’ve actually written.

  • Look for one type of problem at a time.

Read through your text several times, concentrating first on sentence structures, then word choice, then spelling, and finally punctuation.

  • Read your text aloud.

Or better yet, ask a friend or colleague to read it aloud. You may hear a problem (a faulty verb ending, for example, or a missing word) that you haven’t been able to see.

  • Use a spellchecker.

The spellchecker can help you catch repeated words, reversed letters, and many other common slip ups–but it’s certainly not goof-proof.

  • Trust your dictionary.

Your spellchecker can tell you only if a word is a word, not if it’s the right word. For instance, if you’re not sure whether sand is in a desert or a dessert, visit the dictionary (or our Glossary of Commonly Confused Words).

  • Read your text backward. Another way to catch spelling errors is to read backward, from right to left, starting with the last word in your text. Doing this will help you focus on individual words rather than sentences.
  • Watch for punctuation!
  •  Look for repetition

A common mistake that new authors make is repetition with a certain word or phrase. So watch for repeated word use, and utilize a thesaurus to find other means to relate what you have to say as needed.

Keep an eye on the big picture

When it comes to editing, be consistent!

Watch for errors that can pop up throughout the book, such as a different tense or style that may seem jarring and out of place if it contradicts with the rest of your writing style. Add this to your personal style book!Above all else, ask for help!

You don’t have to go it alone! Ask a teacher, utilize high level and strategic coaching, or enlist the help of a partner publisher.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


Here it is, August, and together we have gone a long way down the editing process. If you have come this far with me, you have worked through the major aspects of content editing. You have looked at the macro-editing stage. You have looked at the story as a complete project. We have looked at the story scene by scene. Today, we turn a corner into the micro-proofreading stage. In this stage, we break things down into individual paragraphs and sentences and word choices. In this stage you will begin to do the following:

  1. Cut down on long sentences.
  2. Check your commas with that and which When used as a descriptor, the word “which” takes a comma. But the word “that” doesn’t. For example: “We went to the house that collapsed yesterday” or “We went to the house, which collapsed yesterday.” Confused about when to use “that” vs. “which?
  3. Avoid using “ing” words like I was starting to. . . .
  4. Don’t be too formal, use contractions
  5. Eliminate there is and there are at the beginning of sentence.
  6. Refer to people with who not that
  7. Use stronger verbs “Make” is sometimes used in the same way as “start to,” in place of what could be a stronger verb.
  8. Eliminate very and really and other ly adverbs. Replace with stronger verbs.
  9. Replace “thing” with a better word
  10. Avoid using “that”
  11. Don’t use “start to”
  12. Cut “in order to”
  13. Reduce prepositions
  14. Remove redundancies
  15. Replace ornate words with simple ones
  16. Remove extra punctuation

Now, before you continue, pat yourself on your back. You’re just a few weeks away from having a completed manuscript!

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


Kelp for Gardening

A number of years ago I was reading about gardening and I learned about using kelp in the garden. The article that I read said that kelp offered all the nutrients available in seawater and all of the nutrients needed for life and in a form that is readily available.  

I started sprinkling kelp around the garden. One thing I discovered right away was that when I sprinkled the kelp at the bottom of my tomato planting holes, I had no problems with blossom end rot that year. In the years that I didn’t use the kelp, my tomatoes did suffer from the ailment.

Kelp for Livestock

I decided to do some research about kelp and learned that kelp wasn’t just good for my garden, but also for my animals. I learned that a number of farmers are free choice feeding their livestock and chickens dried kelp with good results.

Here in southern Missouri much of the health of the soil is locked and unavailable to animals. When kelp is offered to the animals, it contributes to animal health.

Kelp for Me

 I learned that taking kelp myself helped me get those same nutrients. Kelp is one of the main ingredients in sushi. Even if I didn’t like the taste of kelp or suchi, I could still use kelp as a supplement. I just put some into a gel capsule and washed the capsule down with water. Then I learned I could buy kelp in tablet form or add the kelp to some water, swallow the mixture then chase it with the apple or orange juice that I am having for breakfast.

I noticed that when I used kelp, I had fewer aches and pains. Arthritis diminished. I had more strength and energy.

Disclaimer

Now I am not a doctor nor am I a veterinarian. I am telling you what I have learned from my personal experience. Kelp improves my life and the life around me.

Help from Kelp

For more information about how using kelp improves health, read my book: Help from Kelp. Get Your Copy Today


How does your garden grow?

I think that I would grow vegetables even if there weren’t good reasons for growing them. I love gardening.

The only thing that I like better than writing about vegetable gardening is the act of gardening itself. I absolutely love gardening! I love the faith that I have that when I put the seeds in the ground. I love the excitement of seeing those green first leaves as they push through the soil. I love watching that first flush of growth as the little plants sprint to see which one will grow the fastest. I love watching blossoms appear and am even more excited when the first fruits start to form. Those first fruits seem to take the longest to ripen, but then every ounce of energy goes into the fruits and what seemed to take weeks for the first fruit takes a matter of hours for fruit that comes on later. Finally the day comes when I can pick what’s ripened. I love it when I can use what I pick for that evening’s meal, or I can put it up in freezer or with the canner.

However, not only do I love the process of gardening, but I love the fact that there are some very practical reasons for growing a garden. Here’s a few reasons you might consider.

Food Security

By learning to do food gardening, you become less dependent on the grocery store. The next economic downturn could mean a loss of your job. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that your food system is more secure because you have a garden that you can fresh vegetables? A long-term crisis could take 10 years or more to recover. You need to eat during this time. When you grow your own food with your health in mind, use water catchment, recycle home and yard wastes by composting, and save your own seed, you develop a sustainable food source that can get you through that rough patch.

Aquaponics systems are interesting, but not always practical and can be quite expensive and require special skills to set up. Starting a traditional vegetable garden just requires a few hand tools. A shovel, a rake, a hoe, a watering can and a place to start a compost pile is all you need to convert a small spot in your yard into food production.

In addition, aquaponics systems need electricity in order to function. In case of an EMP or even a short-term blackout caused from grid overload or ice damage to the electrical system, all your plants and fish will die. Unless you have a home electrical plant such as solar or a gas generator, this system is not sustainable.  

 A food stockpile can be expensive and hard to rotate and maintain as it grows. It isn’t a bad idea to have some food storage stockpiled, but space is limited and once it is gone, it’s gone. You never store as much as you think you have. What seems like a lot of food during times of plenty ends up being far less when you need to use it.

Food Safety

By raising your own garden, you know more about where your food came from and how it was handled. There have been numerous recalls on fruits, vegetables, meats, and processed foods where salmonella and e-coli have been blamed for illnesses and deaths from consuming those foods. Most of the time, these illnesses are caused either by animal waste from CAFOs (a potential subject for another future article) or from workers who didn’t properly keep their hands washed. When you raise your own garden, you have control over the sanitary conditions upon which they are raised.

In addition, many crops are grown using GMOs in which the primary reason for creating the GMO is for allowing the use of the herbicide glyphosate (brand name-Roundup) in the fields where the crops are grown. Recently 2 billion dollars has been set aside for individuals who have contracted Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma because there is a strong probability that glyphosate causes this type of cancer. In addition, this chemical kills earthworms, and other healthful flora and fauna in fields. These organisms help create the symbiosis required for the plants to absorb the nutrients into the plants that we eat.

Food Quality

The nutrient density of food has decreased anywhere from 15 to 65 percent in the past 65 years. The reasons for this have a lot to do with the way that our food is grown. In many cases the same crop has been grown on the same land for years. The farmers add nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus to the soil and the plants will grow and produce a crop, but since the farmers are not adding micronutrients, the plants lack the nutritional value. When you grow your own food using homemade compost created from household and yard wastes and adding other organic amendments, you’re not just feeding the plants, but you’re feeding the soil as well.

Even plowing itself has been linked to the decrease in food quality. When a field is plowed and it rains, nutrients are washed downstream. Exposed soil is also subject to other aspects of weather. Exposed soil is subject to rapid change in the weather. Plants planted in exposed soil are more likely to succumb to frost and heat alike. When growing your own garden, you can avoid these pitfalls when you mulch your garden or even use gardening methods like the Ruth Stout method, Lasagna Gardening, and Back to Eden Gardening to name a few of the most common.  

Food for Thought

When you grow your own food organically, you can become part of the ecosystem rather than an enemy of it. You start recycling yard wastes and household food wastes back into your garden through composting. You learn that it’s not about feeding plants, but about feeding the soil.

The more you learn about growing your own food in a responsible way, the more you’ll learn about how what you do affects the world around you. You’ll lower your carbon footprint because tankers and trucks won’t need to haul food from where it’s grown to where you live. You’ll feel a connection to nature. You’ll see yourself as doing something positive for the environment.

Food Connoisseur

You’ll learn that home grown food really does taste better. When was the last time you ate a fresh ripe tomato right off the vine or sweet corn picked at the peak of sweetness and cooked within minutes of picking? It is an experience no human being should miss.

Where Do You Start?

Start where you are right now, doing what you know how to do and then research what you know you don’t know. I am writing this in the middle of the summer, but It doesn’t matter what time of year you are reading this. You can start your garden at any time and in any place. Matter of fact, right now I have the seeds that I will use for my fall garden that I am currently growing on my patio. I have had gardens all my life and I have learned that even if I don’t have a yard, I can start growing plants in an apartment or on a balcony.

Make a list of what you know about growing your own food and then start researching what you still need to know. One resource I suggest is my book Simply Vegetable Gardening. To learn more about this book, Click Here.


The other day I was writing and wrote Thursday, June 27, 2002. As I looked at it, I wondered what day of the week that date actually was, so I googled it. Sure enough, it was actually a Thursday.

There are numerous factors I have to consider when writing and using facts, especially historical fiction like I do in The Locket Saga. When I was writing A Coward’s Solace, I had access to information concerning what the weather was on a specific day. Several times, I needed to know if a certain machine had been invented yet. If I were writing about a specific place, I need to be able to see that place in my mind’s eye and see it in a way that someone who actually been there would see it. In addition, if I were a native of that place, I would need to see it like a local sees it. If I am a native of Paris, I would see The Arch De Triumph differently than a tourist would.

The research you do in the third draft phase of your book is this kind of subtle research that you ignored or missed during earlier editing phases.

 Don’t think that you can just get by with a little general research. Even if you are giving a fictionalized version of a personal memoir, you’ll need to do a little research even a little at this stage.

Relying on Your Own Experience

Research can be a simple as going over your own notes or reviewing your own memories. Some of your own readers might have had a similar experience to one that your character had in the book. If you’re off the slightest bit, your reader could lose interest in your story. This one last micro-bit of research might be exactly what it takes to keep your story authentic to the discriminating reader.

Call a Friend

Make a phone call. Do a quick Google search. Go to the library and look over that reference book one more time. Go to a museum. Look for the smallest detail that supports your story’s authenticity.

Did you mention a movie or play in your story? Include part of a scene in your novel. Don’t remember specifics? Watch it on YouTube. Need to describe a specific skill? Watch YouTube videos where the subjects are performing that that skill. What several people doing the same thing and write what you see.

Add levels of texture to your scenes. Picture that skill by using all of your senses. What does it taste like, smell like, feel like? The other day a friend of mine was wondering what burning peat smelled like so he bought peat incense and determined that it smelled like burning leaves.

How Much To Include

Just because you do the research, doesn’t mean that you have to include all the material. Just as you don’t include everything from your character sketches, don’t bore your readers with all of your research. Include only what makes the scene appear real, no more.

Your made-up world, even if it is fantasy, must seem real. Science fiction and fantasy must be identifiable as being like real life. Even though our invented tales didn’t really happen, we must utilize a framework of real-life facts.

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Use these techniques to speed up or slow down time.

Pacing

Pacing is a tool that controls the speed and rhythm at which a story is told and the readers are pulled through the events. It refers to how fast or slow events in a piece unfold and how much time elapses in a scene or story. Pacing can also be used to show characters aging and the effects of time on story events.

Pacing differs with the specific needs of a story. A far-reaching epic will often be told at a leisurely pace, though it will speed up from time to time during the most intense events. A short story or adventure novel might quickly jump into action and deliver drama.

Pacing is part structural choices and part word choices and uses a variety of devices to control how fast the story unfolds. When driving a manual transmission car, you choose the most effective gear needed for driving uphill, maneuvering city streets, or cruising down a freeway. Similarly, when pacing your story, you need to choose the devices that move each scene along at the right speed.

Seven Literary Devices for Pacing Your Story

You need speed in the opening, middle, and climax of your story. Sure, you’ll take a breather from time to time, especially to pause for significance and to express characters’ emotions, but those times will usually appear just before or after a joyride at lightning speed.

There are lots of tools to hasten your story. Some are better suited for micro-pacing—that is, line by line—and some are better suited for macro-pacing—pacing the story as a whole. Let’s take a closer look at each device.

ACTION

 Action scenes are where you “show” what happens in a story, and, when written in short- and medium-length sentences, they move the story along. Action scenes contain few distractions, little description, and limited transitions. Omit or limit character thoughts, especially in the midst of danger or crisis, since during a crisis people focus solely on survival. To create poignancy, forgo long, descriptive passages and choose a few details that serve as emotionally charged props instead.

CLIFF HANGERS

When a scene or chapter is left hanging, the pace picks up because the reader be anxious to discover what happens next. Readers both love and hate uncertainty, and you are responsible to deliver plenty of unfinished actions, unfilled needs, and interruptions. At the end of a scene or chapter, you want your characters in the middle of a conversation, prepared to end the scene with a revelation, facing a threat, or discovering some other challenge.

DIALOGUE

Rapid-fire dialogue with little or no extraneous information is swift and captivating and invigorates any scene. This type of dialogue is pared down and abbreviated. It volleys back and forth with tension. Reactions, descriptions, and attributions are kept to a minimum. With these conversations, your characters never discuss or ponder. Instead, they argue, confront, or engage in a struggle.

PROLONGING OUTCOMES

Suspense and tension are created when you prolong outcomes. It may seem counterintuitive to prolong an event. You would think that it would slow down the story, however,  this technique actually increases the speed. The reader wants to know, has to discover is your character get rescued from the blizzard. Will the train will arrive before the village resorts to cannibalism?  Will the FBI will solve the case before the terrorist follows through on his destruction?  

SCENE CUTS

Also called a jump cut, this is probably the most common ways to pass time quickly in a story. In this technique, a scene cut moves the story to a new location and assumes the reader can follow without an explanation of the location change. The purpose is to accelerate the story, and the characters in the new scene don’t necessarily need to be the characters in the previous scene.

A SERIES OF EVENTS IN RAPID SUCCESSION

Another means of speeding up your story is to create events that happen one right after another. Such events are presented with minimal or no transitions, and definitely no interspection by the characters. The narrative rapidly leaps from scene to scene and place to place.

SHORT SCENES AND CHAPTERS

Short segments are easily digested and end quickly. Since they portray a complete action, the reader passes through them quickly, as opposed to being bogged down by complex actions and descriptions.

SUMMARY

Instead of a play-by-play approach, another technique is to tell readers what has already happened. Because scenes are immediate and sensory, they require many words to depict. Summary is a way of trimming your word count and reserving scenes for the major events. You can also summarize whole eras, descriptions, and backstories. Summaries work well when time passes but there is little to report, when an action is repeated or when a significant amount of time has passed.

WORD CHOICE AND SENTENCE STRUCTURE

Words you use are the subtlest tools of pacing. Embed concrete words (like prodigy and iceberg), active voice (with potent verbs like zigzag and plunder), and sensory information into your text. Break up any long, involved paragraphs.

Fragmented, short sentences, and paragraphs quicken the pace. Crisp, punchy verbs, especially those with onomatopoeia (crash, lunge, sweep, scatter, slurp, rattle) also add to a quick pace. Invest in verbs that enliven descriptions, build action scenes and prolong suspense.

Harsh consonant sounds such as those in words like claws, crash, kill, quake, and nag can push the reader ahead. Words with unpleasant associations can also ratchet up the speed: hiss, grunt, slither, smarmy, venomous, slaver, and wince. Energetic, active language is especially appropriate for building action scenes and suspense, and for setting up drama and conflict.

A fast pace means trimming unnecessary words from every sentence. Eliminate prepositional phrases that you don’t need: Trade passive verbs for active one.

If you’re looking to improve how fast or slow your novel moves, learn to utilize all of these literary devices to help you manipulate time

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The Locket Saga is currently the only fiction series by Cygnet Brown.

I can’t remember when I first started writing my historical fiction series The Locket Saga. I think I was living in Pennsylvania when I first started writing Soldiers Don’t Cry. It wasn’t that I first started writing back then because I had been writing fiction since I was about 12 years old.

You might ask, “But isn’t When God Turned His Head the first book in the series?”

I am glad you asked. Yes, When God Turned His Head is the first book in the series, but Soldiers was the first book that I started in the series. The book started as a dream. I dreamed that a young woman and young man were sitting on a puncheon log bench in front of a log wall. She was sitting on one end and he was sitting on the other. He said to her that they had met each other when they were children. Then I awoke and knew that there was a story there.

When God Turned His Head came about while I was writing Soldiers. There’s a scene where Elizabeth and Rachel are talking about their parents and that they had been indentured servants. That made me wonder what happened to their parents? It was around that time when I learned of the John Codman murder.  I decided to make the story part of The Locket Saga. Once I had written the story, I wrote the prologue to Soldiers.

At the same time, I started the first chapter of Book 3 of the Locket Saga: A Coward’s Solace where I brought back a character from When God Turned His Head who was supposedly dead.

(If you look back at the prologue of Soldiers, you’ll know who actually survived although it is not obvious at the time.

Sailing under the Black Flag also came out of Soldiers Don’t Cry, The Locket Saga Continues when I decided that I wanted to know what happened withthe impetuous Jonathan Mayford who sails the seven seas for an American privateer. The story ends just after the end of the American Revolution.

At the end of Book 3 of The Locket Saga: A Coward’s Solace, the characters go to the then frontier town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Book 5 of The Locket Saga: In the Shadow of the Mill Pond picks up a decade and a half after the end of Sailing Under the Black Flag. In this book, the Thorton, McCray, and Mayford families are in the middle of a feud between the United States government and the frontier corn farmers on the western frontier. In addition, a man is murdered leading Lacey Mayford into a search for the truth that will free Matthew Thorton from being hung by vigilantes.

Book 6 of the Locket Saga: The Anvil picks up with Robert McCray in love with a young aristocrat and the Thorton and McCray families going up the Allegheny River and French Creek to build their homes in what would be Concord Township in Erie County, Pennsylvania.

This last book actually represents what the McCray family faced when they came to Northwestern Pennsylvania around 1800. I have particular interest in this family as they were my own ancestors. I am a descendent of Robert the Younger who told the family story. I, of course, have taken a lot of literary license in the events of the novel, but I believe I have written a book that captures the character of the people who settled there.

Is This the End of the Series?

Will this be the last book in the series? I doubt it. I still have first drafts and subsequent drafts of the series that I want to share, but I have recently been drawn in other directions. (More on that as plans get more structured.)

So, tell me. Have you read any of The Locket Saga? Which book was your favorite? Who’s your favorite character?


Kill a line, kill a scene, kill a character. Whatever it takes to improve your novel.

As writers, you have may already heard of the phrase ‘kill your darlings,’ and you may even already be well-versed with its meaning.

However, some writers may not have come across this piece of advice, and it is one that has been handed out to writers for many, many generations so I’ll catch up those who don’t know. William Faulkner, an American writer and Nobel Prize laureate from Oxford, Mississippi,  originated the phrase ‘in writing you must kill all your darlings.’

What does “Kill Your Darlings” Mean? 

In writing, to killing one’s darlings means getting rid of the things you love the most. That line in your book that you think makes it seem unique and powerful and strange, that scene that you feel really expresses the essence of what your work is about, the accent that you have given your main character that you believe really helps your readers see into their soul…

Yes, those are your darlings.

So why do we have to get rid of them?

Don’t go too overboard with “killing your darlings”. Do it wisely and sparingly.  If you were to hit ‘delete’ on all the best bits of your book, the chances are you’ll end up with gaping holes in your story and, actually, some of the best bits should almost certainly stay.

However, you do need to let go of aspects your writing you are holding onto selfishly. In other words, those aspects of your work that are more about you and less about the story. Those words, side plots, characters or turns of phrase that you personally love but, actually, if you are being truthful, don’t really advance your story in any way.

You might, for example, have thought of a killer line that just perfectly sums up an emotion or scene, it might have come to you in the middle of the night and you might have written it down with such excitement you couldn’t wait to get it into your story the next day.

However, when you tried there just wasn’t a place for it, you wanted to make it fit, but it didn’t. It couldn’t work.

Don’t force something no matter how much you love it. If it is not meant to be in your current story simply save it for the next one, and then let it go.  It takes real maturity for you as an author to let them go.

Kill off Loveable Characters

The same goes for characters who are not going anywhere, ones who don’t belong, or ones who you love fiercely and are so proud of creating. However, these have no part to play in your story.

You find yourself giving them too much attention and neglecting your other characters or bending the plot to fit their way of thinking and point of view.

Killing off characters that you know your reader will love can be a dramatic and useful strategy too. This device is used by Agatha Christie, who often kills off well-liked characters in her novels, because the reader doesn’t expect it. It is surprising and heart-breaking, it makes us invest even more in the story. I did this in the beginning of Soldiers Don’t Cry with characters that the readers loved from When God Turned His Head. They didn’t belong in Soldiers, and their demise furthered the plots of later books in the series as well. It was a win-win for everyone in The Locket Saga except, of course, those characters.

Place Story before Ego

Can you do it? Of course, you can. It creates personal growth for you as a writer. It takes effort and self-discipline to kill your darlings. But remember, you are not writing your book for you. In fact, it has very little to do with you at all.

Anything that distracts or takes away from your story needs to be shut down. Your aim is to keep your readers immersed and engaged in the world you have created, so don’t let anything divert you or them from this goal.

The sooner you become a ruthless writer and identify and kill your darlings, the easier and more painless it will become.

You don’t have to get rid of them completely. Just take them out and put them somewhere else, in a notebook or a file of ideas – then you never know when one of them might just flourish back to life. Pat yourself on the back for unselfishly putting the story before your ego.

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I don’t know if a writer exists who hasn’t heard the phrase “show it, don’t tell it!” Just in case one exists, I will tell you that it means that it is important to let the characters do the doing rather than allowing the narrator to tell what happens. One of the principle ways that we can show rather than tell is to write our scenes using active rather than passive voice.

The difference between Active Voice and Passive Voice

In English grammar, verbs have five properties: voice, mood, tense, person, and number; here, we are concerned with voice. The two grammatical voices are active and passive.

Active voice basically refers to a sentence that has a subject that acts upon its verb. We’ll explain this in a minute.

Passive voice, on the other hand, means that a subject is a recipient of a verb’s action. You may have learned that the passive voice is weak and incorrect, but it isn’t that simple as we will see later in this article. When used correctly and in moderation, the passive voice is fine. However, you’ll do well to eliminate most of the passive voice in your novel.  

Identifying Active Voice

When the subject of a sentence performs the verb’s action, we say that the sentence is in the active voice. Sentences in the active voice have a strong, direct, and clear tone. Here is an example:

The cat ate her food.

This sentence has a basic active voice construction: subject, verb, and (sometimes) an object. The subject “cat” performs the action described by at. The subject performs the action described by closed. The subjects are always doing. They take action.

What is Passive Voice?

A sentence is in the passive voice, on the other hand, when the subject is acted on by the verb. The passive voice is always constructed with a conjugated form of to be plus the verb’s past participle. Doing this usually generates a preposition as well. That sounds much more complicated than it is, because passivity is actually quite easy to detect. For these next examples of passive voice, we will transform the three active sentences above to illustrate the difference.

“The cat played with the yarn.” is active voice, but “The food was eaten by the cat.” is passive voice.

The active sentence consists of the subject, the verb and the object. The passive sentence consists of the object plus a form of to be plus the past participle of the verb and a preposition in each of these cases “by” Making the sentence passive flipped the structure and necessitated the preposition “by”.

Which Is Better? Active Voice or Passive Voice?

There is no question that using the active voice conveys the stronger, clearer tone. Here’s some good advice: don’t use the passive voice just because you think it sounds more sophisticated than the active voice.

However, times do exist when the passive voice is preferred. For instance, Their car was hit by a train. That sentence construction is helpful because their car is the focus of the writing, not the train.

A good rule of thumb is to try to put the majority of your sentences in the active voice. This is especially true action-packed novels.

Tips to Recognize the Passive Voice

Sometimes a sentence in passive voice doesn’t necessarily sound “wrong” or wordy. Sometimes passive voice is the best choice. However, consider writing in active voice whenever possible.

Recognizing Passive Voice

To recognize that a sentence is in passive voice, watch out for these keywords:

A

Are

Be

Being

By

Has been

Have been

Is

Was

Were

Will be

How to Change Voice from Passive to Active

To change passive voice to active voice, you need to recognize the sentence’s subject and then rewrite the sentence, so the subject is performing the action.

Let’s use the following example to understand how to change passive voice to active voice:

The repairs were made by the best carpenter in town.

We can recognize that this sentence is in passive voice because the passive keyword “was” is used. Also, it’s not initially clear who or what the sentence is about.

To change the sentence from passive to active:

Step 1: Identify the subject of the sentence – who is doing an action? The payment is not doing the action, so it can’t be the subject. The only person or thing doing an action here is everyone. Everyone paid. So, everyone is the subject of the sentence.

Step 2- Rewrite the sentence so the subject is performing the action. This sentence could be rewritten to active voice as follows:

The best carpenter in town made the repairs.

This rewrite makes it immediately clear to the reader who is doing what. The subject is doing the action.

When Using Passive Voice May Be the Better Choice

In most cases, writing sentences in passive voice is discouraged, because it can obscure the subject of the sentence and confuse the reader. It also creates a wordy and awkward sentence structure.

As suggested above, use passive voice when a paragraph actually flows better using passive voice rather than active voice. However, if you can express the same idea using an active verb, you should do so. In the same token, don’t mix active and passive structures in the same sentence. If one clause is in the passive voice, the other, too, should also be in the passive voice. Once you learn how to change passive voice to active voice, it’s one less thing you’ll have to edit. However, there are cases when passive voice is preferred.

The passive voice is used when we want to draw attention to the person or thing that was affected by the action of the subject.

For instance, if someone were to ask, “Who killed that bear?” The answer would be “That bear was killed by Robert.”

Here the focus is on a specific bear.

In addition, the passive voice is also preferred in cases where the doer is not important.

The log homes were built around 1800.

Here the focus is on the log homes and not on the person(s) who built them, and therefore we prefer the passive voice.

Practice Changing Passive to Active Voice

Although passive voice is occasionally useful and sometimes preferred because it offers a deflection from knowing the subject of the sentence, passive-voice verbs put the emphasis on the recipient of the action, not the doer of the action. This kind of deflection can sometimes be useful, but strong sentences require active constructions. Passive-voice sentences are also wordier than more concise active voice versions. Therefore, unless you have a specific reason for using passive voice, always convert such verb constructions into active ones.

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At this point, you have written and rewritten your novel at least three times. You should be able to read your novel should readable and without any obvious glitches, but it would still behoove you to read your manuscript at this time to see how well the entire story reads.

You should find that you have scenes showing realistic locations with well-developed characters who show great action have relevant dialogue. However, a read through at this point will allow you to find some areas within the story line that doesn’t exactly fit.

These sorts of errors might not be found when you’re working scene by scene, but I wanted to mention that various problems can be found simply by reading the book through. These errors are not technical in nature, but rather come from other content problems that you may have, so far, missed in the editing process.

Is Your Timing Right?

You may be juggling POV characters in different locations. If these characters need to get to the same location, have you allowed for the time for this to occur. Checking timing is important. When your characters are dealing movement, between scenes, timing has to be possible.

Can things happen the way you claim they happened for your characters?

Is your Factual Information Accurate?

If you’re writing historical fiction, or including technical information as part of your story line, is your factual information correct? Often a google search is all you need to verify that your historical or technical information is correct.

Are there any details that your reader is unlikely to understand you can better define? For instance, in Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, Elizabeth used a peel. In the book I showed through Elizabeth’s actions that this tool was used to slide under bread and used it pull the bread out of the oven.

Are your characters and Settings Consistent?

Examine the interactions between the characters. Is there any place where one of the characters seem out of character? Are each of the character’s attributes consistent (or changes readily explained) throughout the story?  

Are character attributes consistent throughout your story? Are location details consistent? You don’t want to say that in chapter two a character has blue eyes and then in chapter eight, that same character has green eyes. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to say that a given location was treeless and then later say that same location was covered with trees. In the same token, you wouldn’t want to say that a house has two bedrooms early in the story and then later say that three characters each had a separate room in the same house.

POV Revisited

Look for scenes that you may have missed earlier that are out of character’s POV and fix them. Look for areas of magical thinking where a character seems to know exactly what another character is thinking. Use body language or some other sensory form gives the character’s thoughts more credibility.

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What is Line Editing?

Line editing is a stage in the editing process in which a manuscript is edited for tone, style, and consistency. This stage of editing is extremely important for documents of all types and lengths, and a good line editing is a crucial in the manuscript editing process. Here are a few dos and don’ts to line editing.

DO Take another read through. If you find any minor (hopefully not major) discrepancies in your manuscript fix these before moving on in line editing.

DO before looking at lines, review and analyze your key scenes. Does each scene carry the aspect of the story that it is supposed to carry? If not, what does it still need?

DO, if you find discrepancies during line editing, fix those before continuing the line editing.

DO Look through other that may appear wooden but are necessary to the story. Is this scene really necessary?  Use the same treatment as you used for the key scenes. Have we seen aspects of this scene before?  Is this entire scene redundant or is it just certain elements of the scene? Unless we are doing a reprise technique where we purposely use certain elements for impact, eliminate redundant scenes, passages, and aspects of conversations that you may have missed previously.

DO evaluate transitions between scenes. Are they adequate? Are they too wordy?

DO read each paragraph out loud. Does the paragraph flow naturally?

DO insure that each character remains in character throughout the book.

DO eliminate words or sentences that are extraneous or overused

DO edit scenes where the action is confusing or the author’s meaning is unclear due to bad transitions

DO eliminate redundancies of  information repeated in different ways

DO unify tonal shifts and rewrite unnatural phrasing

DO eliminate or rewrite passages that don’t read well due to bland language use

DO create changes that can be made to improve the pacing of a passage

DO evaluate words or phrases to determine if they are the best words to use. Reassess and clarify if a better word can enhance your meaning.

DO take frequent breaks when doing line editing. If you have a deadline, work for 25 minutes and then take a five-minute break. For better efficiency, every two hours take a thirty-minute break. I personally get so much more done when I take frequent breaks by using the breaks for personal care and housework.

DO try to work on line editing at least a little every day rather than trying to block out large periods.

DO editing from front of manuscript to the back and do it in order to avoid missing any parts of the manuscript.

DON’T let run-on sentences remain in the manuscript, edit them.

DON’T give a pass to dialogue or paragraphs that can be tightened

DON’T leave in confusing narrative digressions

DON’T line edit too early in the writing process, you’ll just be wasting your time.

DON’T skip this part of the process and leave it for an editor to do. You’ll have a much better book (and your next one will be better as well) if do your own line editing.  

DON’T try to do too much at one sitting. You’ll produce better copy if you are rested.

DON’T procrastinate this step, the end of the tunnel is in sight! Don’t stop now!

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By the time you get to writing your third draft, your attention is drawn to writing individual scenes
When it comes to writing the third draft, focus comes to working on individual scenes.

You have read through your manuscript and scrutinized your dialogue, so what’s next. It’s time to edit the most important building block in the story. What is the most important building block of the story?

No, its not descriptions nor is it the reporting of events that these building blocks.

You could argue that it was characters, or the plot that are the basic building blocks, but it is not. Yes, they are important, but I think of those are more like the clay and mortar of the novel.

Scenes are the building block of the story. They are the energy of the story. They are about events that occur in a specific place.

Scenes are a Moment in Time

Scenes are where your characters are in a specific time, a specific locale and where they are doing things that move the story forward toward the next scene and the next act. 

In this edit, you’re making sure that each scene does exactly what the previous statement says. Nothing more, nothing less. Anything that doesn’t fit that description must be eliminated as fluff. Does the description of the paintings on the wall add to the tone of the scene or is it just filler? Does describing the weather foretell of what’s to come in the scene. (Like describing a small cloud on the horizon eventually becoming a storm). Get to the point, show up what is happening to our characters. Paint us a picture of what is happening to them. Can you picture your scene like a scene from a movie? If not, try it. Write what you see in action terms. Look at your next scene. Analyze and correct that scene and connect it to the previous one with narrative.

Yes, thinking can be a scene and so can dialogue, and remember you don’t want your characters just to be talking heads. They have to be doing things too, like a woman kissing a man, cleaning the house, and fighting a storm.

Give your readers scenes they can see, touch, hear and wonder over. Write for the senses and emotions and to mull over. Make those locations come alive. Remember that people see, move, smell, taste, and touch  their surroundings.

Break Up Monologues  

If you’re going to use a scene with a lot of thought or dialogue where either one person is thinking without interaction with someone else or multiple characters speaking back and forth, make sure the reader knows the who, where, and when of the scene. Don’t write from the aspect of a talking or thinking head for two pages. Interrupt that thought with reminders that put us in a place. Remind us why you are showing us why the character is having these thoughts, and then go back to those thoughts.

 Don’t give us only talking heads, existing independently of all else (I know, this has been discussed before, but, at this point, be sure that every one of these have been handled.)

 If you choose to throw in back story, first show us where the character is, and what brought about these deep thoughts of the past. Does the character walk around randomly thinking of the past? Does he pick up something that relates to what he’s saying? Unless your character is naturally crazy, go for something that sets him off. And don’t forget to let us know what’s happening while the character is off remembering. Ground the character—and the reader—in a place and then do your thing with deep thoughts. Include reminders of place, passage of time, and events happening while the characters talk. For instance, you could show someone smoking and the cigarette getting shorter and the speaker taking a puff.

Show Characters Interacting with Their Environment

Use description in scenes, but don’t just create descriptions. Your characters need to be interacting with their location, with other characters, and their own demons.

 Rewrite narrated scenes. Make the story events real. Force the reader to live those events with the characters, to feel their emotions, their pain and their shock!

Be sure that each scene is written from a single POV character who is experiencing this scene. If you’re using deep POV, make sure that your character’s thoughts are not betraying him.

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working on the third draft

When Michelangelo was asked how he was able to create such a beautiful statue when he created his Statue of David, he told him that David was already there in the rock. All he did was cut away what wasn’t part of the statue. If you have worked hard to get your second draft to the best place that you could, your book is now the point where it too is like the statue. Everything is there. All you have to do is cut away what isn’t part of your story.

In your second draft, your novel should have expanded it beyond the anticipated word count. In your third draft, it is time to start cutting out what doesn’t belong in your book and tightening your prose.

Before beginning the third draft, read through your manuscript, focusing in on what needs to be eliminated.

Cut the Chitchat

I believe that the easiest place to start editing what doesn’t belong is in your manuscript’s dialogue. It is also one of the elements that demand ruthless scrutiny. I know we have gone through this before when we were working on the second draft, but going through your dialogue again now will  

The importance of editing dialogue cannot be overstated. It is the primary interaction methods between characters. Dialogue drives attitude, enables and motivates conflict, mirrors personal development, and so much more. If you tend to be heavy on the dialogue like most people, you’ll need to ruthlessly edit your dialogue.

Remember that every piece of dialogue needs to serve the story. Every conversation must move the story forward. Look for stretches of dialogue that don’t serve the story and delete them. For instance, a conversation of a family eating dinner and setting up the sense of normality before your inciting incident occurs might seem a good idea, but does it really?

If your characters are just making chitchat that is not relevant to your story, you’d do better to remove the conversation all together or at least review it. Is it possible to re-work this dialogue so it also speaks to deeper issues? Perhaps you could use the scene to foreshadow future events or help develop a better understanding of either the protagonist or the antagonist. 

Characters Shouldn’t Always Say What They Are Thinking

Another common problem with dialogue is that when we talk in real life, we rarely say what we are really thinking. What we say rarely connects directly with our thoughts. Instead, we allude, suggest, try to persuade and negotiate, often to clumsy effect, when talking. There’s a difference there between negotiation and deceit, but we don’t tend to spill all the fine details of our thoughts or intentions.

Imagine a scene where three characters are being chased by a bear. They run across a creek and toward a large oak.

As they go, one character grabs a limb. She quickly formulates a plan in her mind.

Does she:

1. Yell. “Quick, grab my arm.”

or

2. does she shout “Here! Take my arm! I’ll pull you up after me and we can get away from that bear.”

The first option feels more natural. There’s no time for explanation. It also doesn’t give the reader further information about what the plan is once our trio reaches the alley. This character may indeed know exactly what she plans to do next, but the reader shouldn’t have this information. It’s better keep the actions in the moment and out of the character’s head.

Introducing body language is an ideal way to avoid the trap of overusing adverbs in your dialogue tags – telling the reader that someone says something “angrily” or “despondently.”

People aren’t just talking heads, so make sure to address their body language along with the words they say, and you’ll paint a much more vivid and involving picture for your reader. Body language is also useful if you find yourself editing stretches of dialogue that feel too long. The interactions and information within the dialogue may be essential to the story – and perfectly well written in terms of the inter-character chatter – but it just runs on for too long in one big block. However, as stated in an earlier post, don’t overdo the body language. Knowing when you are using enough is part of the reason that writing fiction is considered an art.

But beyond the mouth, remember to tap into the thoughts of the character.  Avoid giving too much exposition, in other words, telling, not showing.

Now is a good time to read your dialogue aloud to see if it flows natually. If you stumble over words, or everything feels too robotic—rewrite. It also helps to get into character when you’re reading your dialogue – taking on the affectations and attitude of each character to see if it too is natural. This way, you can also easily tell if your characters clearly have their own voices and aren’t blending together – or, worse, failing to differentiate themselves from your narrative voice.

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In fiction, pacing refers to how quickly or how slowly the action of the story unfolds. Pacing is important because it helps to keep the reader interested and maintains a desired atmosphere and tone of your story. A suspense thriller shouldn’t move at a crawl, just as a romance move too quickly. In an earlier post, I discussed some of the aspects of pacing as it relates to dialogue, this time we are discussing other techniques used to speed up or slow down pace.

As you write your novel, you will need to plan the rise and fall of your novel’s plot and action. Taking time to outline your novel can help with pacing because you can see at a glance where there is concentrated actions or events and where movement should be slower. Sometimes your action might be too slow, and you need to speed it up at other times, you might need to spread out the face-paced moments of peril and adventure and include a few pages where the reader and characters can catch their breath (and possibly add a little humor).

The Act You’re in Determines Your Scene’s Pace

Your novel pacing should be determined by the type of Scene you’ve constructed. In addition, certain things will be happening in your novel at specific times or acts. For instance, if you are using the three-act structure, there is an opening, middle and end to the story. In first act, you’ll introduce readers to the main conflict and main characters. The second act is where you develop that conflict and help the reader understand why it came about and how it is affecting your characters. The Third act brings the conflict to a head and brings resolution.

Each of these sections of your novel will have different pacing. The first act usually doesn’t dawdle and take its time hooking the reader into the story. In the second act you can push and pull pacing more. If in the first act your protagonist (main character) is struggling with a desire to fall in love, the middle act can show him slowly giving in to (or overcoming) this urge. There can be moments of calm and moments of high tension.

In the third act, though, the pace usually increases as tension builds. The cracks have started to show in your main character’s personal life – he can no longer keep her love for the other person a secret. The stakes increase and the reader wants to know how it will all end.

To make the pace move at the correct speed in each of these larger structural units, think about the purpose of each act. If you want to grip the reader, use conflicts and move your characters from scene to scene creating a sense of momentum. However, if you want to give the reader some respite before the major climax, you can slow your story pacing and lessen the conflict and tension for a while.

Hone Your Pacing Skills

Hone your book’s pacing by reading the thrillers and spy novels. Even if they aren’t your preferred genre, read bestsellers who have mastered pacing. This will help you to understand how to make your plot ebb and flow engrossingly.

Make notes as you read on pace. Note elements such as:

  • Any time reference in the book
  • The number of pages in each chapter
  • Why you think short chapters are short and what effect they have on momentum.

Sentence Structure—A Simple Strategy to Speed up and Slow Down Pace

Use sentence structure to manipulate your novel’s pacing. Pacing in writing is affected by sentence length. Think about it. You’re reading this faster. There are fewer words. The sentences are simpler. When you want the reader to feel events are coming to an important climax, shorter sentences can be effective.

Shorter sentences keep the pace moving by not losing action in lengthy sentences and detailed descriptions. Of course, you could also keep your writing descriptive until the conversation starts and then alter the pace, to create sudden tension. These are the choices you will need to make regarding sentence structure: Where will the story start to move? Where will characters sit back and admire the scenery? How will you bring it all together into one cohesive story?

Slow your story’s pace with focus shifts and put detail into longer chapters.

Vary Pace

Seldom does a novel hurtle along without the occasional strategic pause that allows your characters and your readers to gather their wits. There are several ways to slow down your story in strategic places. You can reduce the pace of a story by shifting focus to a secondary subplot for a while to take the heat off your main story line. One way to do this is by writing longer chapters and by being more generous with extra descriptive details. Also, you might want to have fewer things happen per location or scene.

A great novel has some scenes that hurtle along while others dawdle and meander. It has balance. Some genres have more of the hurtling (such as thrillers) while others more of the dawdling (many character-driven dramas and romances). Whatever type of novel you’re working on, getting pacing in writing right will keep readers entertained and committed to finishing your book.

Pacing Techniques

Pacing manipulates time. The elements of time delineated in your story or screenplay include the time of day or period; scene versus summary; flashback; and foreshadowing. The novel’s elements of time tell us when the story is being told as compared to when the events of the story took place. What is that distance? When does the story begin? When does it end? What narrative strategies do you convey to convey that sense of time?

As we’ve said in previous posts, scenes are the building blocks of all fiction. In order to have a crisis moment, scenes indicate a moment in time and are not summarized. A summary covers a longer period of time in a shorter passage. A scene covers a short period of time in a longer passage. What could take only a few seconds in real time might be covered in paragraphs, even pages, depending upon the writer and the event.

Instead of summarizing a scene, try to picture them in your head as though they were happening on a movie screen. Sometimes, when you are writing a first draft, you might summarize an event, but the scene is how you dramatize the action. You must learn to balance the scenes and use the exposition gracefully.

As I have said in other posts, every scene should have some form of conflict, even if it is just in the mind of the POV character. Just as in a story you have conflict, crisis and resolution, each scene should have a similar shape. Move your story forward using scenes that specific important behavior of your characters. Transitions of time or location that is secondary to the plot can be expressed in a narrative bridge that summarizes otherwise boring events. (If your character is taking a train trip across the country, but no significant events occur in that train trip, simply go to the next event by saying something like, ‘Nancy took a train to her destination and met her friends at a local café.”

Summarize secondary Dialogue

Dialogue that is secondary can similarly be summarized. So, if you find dialogue that expresses information that is fairly routine or not too interesting, you should summarize it. For instance if your character is sharing information that was shared before, but want the receiving character’s reaction (and it is significant to the story) you can write something like, ‘Joe told Julie about his pay raise. Julie could now start planning their wedding.’

 For example, to avoid boring dialogue when exchanging greetings. Simply say they exchanged greetings.

Challenging Pacing Techniques

If there is a scene that you are having trouble with, especially one that provides a turning point in the story, focus in on that scene. Could it use action, not necessarily physical action, but movement, change? Expand that scene and explore the interpersonal dynamics of the characters. Dramatize and see how the balance of power in the scene changes.

Setting incorporates place, but you also have to consider the time of the year, the time of day and how you reveal this information without being too obvious. This information is not always essential but depends upon your story. Basically, you’re ‘establishing shot’.  Just remember to be consistent and to make the timing logical. It might be boring to mention ‘in the morning,’ but you could use other words to show time of day. However, don’t skip this time element altogether since it adds facts about the characters and their surroundings. If a family is having supper, then we know the time of day. If a character is wearing shorts, this establishes the time of year.

Handling Flashbacks

Flashbacks provide emphasis and balance within a novel. It’s possible they may be used to enrich the narrative, and you might want to rearrange the chronology of your story during your editing process using this technique.

A flashback is a narrative passage that takes us back into the past of when the story is set.  I personally usually write the first draft in chronological order, including everything in order that they occurred for the character, but often, I cut out earlier scenes put them in flashback to create a better flow of events in the story.

A flashback slows down the pace of the story. The flashback reveals something about the character that we didn’t know before that explains things by showing not telling. You should use it when the character is going into a situation that varies from the behavior that we have come to expect from him or her. However, you need to be sure that the flashback you have selected tells us something relevant to the story. There’s nothing worse than slowing down the action with a flashback that doesn’t contribute to the story.

You might use a flashback if, in the present of the story, the character has an unexpected reaction to an event (like Indiana Jones’ fear of snakes) , and you want to provide an explanation for their behavior.

Beware of using flashbacks as a way to avoid conflict you want to emphasize tension and anxiety in your novel, not limit it.   

A question that is always asked is about how to construct a flashback. The mechanics of the flashback technique can be difficult to manipulate and may create cumbersome verb constructions. To prevent this, keep the transition into the flashback as simple as possible. If you are writing the story in the past tense, you can begin the flashback in past perfect. You can use ‘had’ plus the verb a couple of times. Then you can switch to the simple past.

You don’t always have to use a flashback to include past events in your story. Instead of flashback, you might use dialogue, narration or some detail to give the required information. Also, remember the power of inference. There may be more going on in the background of a character than you reveal in the actual prose. Be economical with your words. Imply what you can about the character or situation without being obvious. Flashback reveals information at the right time, but it may not be part of the central action. Flashback is an effective technique to show the reader more about character and theme.

Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is another technique that plays with narrative time and slow down the forward movement of the action. It is not actual conflict, but the promise of conflict. The technique of foreshadowing promises that things go from bad to worse. One way to foreshadow is to place something early in the book that makes a conflict or resolution seem realistic at the end. A question comes up later in the story that can be answered later. Foreshadowing can be used to get the reader through a section of a narrative. For example, you could create suspense by something that will happen:

For instance, what happened in the massacre at the beginning of Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, not only impacts the end of Soldiers, but it also creates a foreshadowing the entire premise of A Coward’s Solace. Because of this event, those other two events make sense to the reader.  If the story questions are strong, then your reader will stay interested in the narrative.

Of course, you need to use this technique judiciously. You can employ the minor characters to foreshadow the actions of the major characters, for example. If you make a promise by foreshadowing, then make sure to fulfill the promise; otherwise, the reader will tell you about it in their reviews!

With foreshadowing, it might be better to err on the obvious side because if your attempts are too subtle, there will be no shadows to see.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

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What is Deep POV?

Deep Point of View (Deep POV) is a style of writing that encourages readers to experience the story through a single character’s perspective at a time, making the events of the story more personal and compelling. This technique is a popular one in modern genre fiction, as it mimics the experience viewers have when watching many of their favorite films.

It cuts the narrative tags of “said” and other words that replace “said” that jerk a reader out of the character’s head. By using deep POV, the reader steps right into the character’s shoes. For strong, emotional writing, Deep POV is a skill that every novelist should learn and conquer. Although it can be difficult at first, it is so important, that I have written an entire post just on this skill.

Deep POV eliminates narrative tags that remind the reader that they are not the hero or heroine of the story. Deep POV adds depth of emotion while stuff is happening, rather than apart from it in patches. This makes the passage more interesting and weaves emotion through the scene right through the action and dialogue. It draws the reader in by  providing that emotional punch that takes your story from a manuscript to a riveting tale by drawing the character into the story’s emotions.  Deep POV, with all its jam-packed emotion, grabs your reader with hard-hitting emotional punch! In this way, our writing takes on a life of its own.

With Deep POV you can utilize any tense and grammatical person (e.g. first-person, third-person, etc.), making this technique fairly adaptable to your style and your story’s needs. What defines a certain type of storytelling as being written in Deep POV is its subjective nature, distinct character voice, and limited marks of authorship.

Deep POV gives a third person POV a first person POV feel.  With Deep POV, you weave in sights, scents and sounds while the characters dialogue. You get inside the POV character’s head.  You show action and dialogue while at the same time you learn the POV character’s emotional response to what is going on.

How to Master Deep POV

To do deep POV right, we have to leave narrative tags behind. Tags like “he said, she screamed/whispered/wondered/thought/cried” which without Deep POV are necessary evils and drag the reader out of the story reminding them that it is just a story. Sometimes they must be used for clarity, but rarely in deep POV. This works equally for comedy as suspense or straight romance or any genre. It automatically cuts down on adverbs. Deep POV involves using signature actions to identify characters, using only one person’s thought, but never saying “he thought”. Weaving emotion right through dialogue and action is the key to this emotional punch.

In order to get your reader to be able to identify with your character, you have to first identify with the your characters. I have found a fun way to do this. I interview my Interview my characters not only to separate myself from the character, but also so that I can identify with that character.  

Become Your POV Character

As time goes on, I become my POV character! Role-playing is a fantastic method to give real, true emotional depth to my characters. I do this all the time. Sometimes I’ll take a scene and look at it from inside every character’s head. I create soundtracks and signature of smells for my book, so that I feel I am in their world. I close my eyes and put myself right into the world where they are. I try lines for specific scenes and feel the emotion. I’ll then back up and look at the scene from just the viewpoint of POV character and have that character look at each of the other characters and notice how each of the other characters is reacting to the scene unfolding. Everything then is only what the POV character sees and feels during that scene in relation to what the other characters are saying and doing.

I have a new novel coming out later this year called The Tower of Babel. It is a departure from the Locket Saga because it is a contemporary suspense mystery. To set this scene up, our POV character is at a party where she learns that the man she is working with is friends with the family whose child she surrogated. She doesn’t want the man she works with to know about it.

Have you ever read a book in which you felt one with the point-of-view character? That’s what can easily happen when you are reading a book written in Deep POV.

From the very first page, the author drops you in the protagonist’s shoes, encouraging you to see their world and experience their journey through their eyes. It’s novels like these that are often so easy to consume, and deep POV makes many of them tick.

Parameters of Deep POV

Once you’ve taken the time to develop your characters, it is time to go even deeper into POV. Here are a few key parameters to keep in mind.

  1. Limit your character’s knowledge
  2. Cut filter words
  3. Limit dialogue and thought tags
  4. Show Don’t Tell
  5. Become your POV character
  6. Avoid passive voice
  7. Avoid character thought explanations
  8. Handle hide your POV character’s thoughts carefully
  9. Avoid having the POV character asking questions in his internal dialogue.
  10. Avoid having POV characters filling the reader in on story facts.

In most contemporary fiction, characters don’t speak to readers. They don’t acknowledge that they’re even there. If you want readers lost in your fictional world, you don’t want to do anything that reminds them they’re reading fiction. Once characters acknowledge readers, readers become distracted by story structure. The reader is no longer a participant but revert to being an audience. The reader sees more than the events of the story, he sees the framework and the individual pieces and loses the fictional flow.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

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Time to Edit Your Novel

During the past several weeks in my blogs about editing novels, I have been about dialogue and this week I am continuing on this theme. This week we’re going over an important aspect of dialogue that actually relates to every aspect of the novel and that is, it must be interesting enough to keep the reader engaged. I know I have mentioned this before, but this is so important, I have designated an entire post to this subject.

Why Are We Having This Conversation?

When writing a conversation between characters, it is important that these conversations draw your readers along through the story and move the story forward. Every conversation in your novel must have a point that draws the story forward or that conversation should be eliminated from the story. When editing your dialogue, be conscious of what you want to achieve. What information o you want to pass to the reader. Do you want to get the reader get to know one or more of your character better? Knowing dialogue’s purpose beforehand allows you to direct your conversation.

Be sure that your dialogue sounds like real people talking. Ask yourself as you edit, “Does it sound like a real conversation or does it sound contrived.

Determine the correct topic for the conversation. What goals do you want the conversation to accomplish? Determine if this is the right place in the story to have this conversation or would it be better to have it earlier or later in the book.

If two people are just getting to know one another in the story, try to find things that they have in common interest that the reader would also find interesting. Discovering common likes and dislikes opens up a bond between two people. It harnesses the human touch to one’s relationship.

Maintaining Reader Interest During Monologues

Keep the theme of the conversation interesting to the reader. If you find that a conversation between characters is getting boring, cut. If you find that your reader is likely to skip over a portion of dialogue, delete it. (that goes for any portion of your novel. If it isn’t moving the story forward or keeping the reader engaged, cut it.)

Create Empathy in Your Reader for your characters, especially the POV character. Create a conversation where the reader will put him or herself in the shoes of the people in the conversation.

To help avoid what appears to be a monopoly, have your characters listening to and validating the other person thereby creating a dialogue. Rather than leaving one long passage, break it up with another character’s reaction to what the other character is saying.

Clarity, Please!

Allow your characters to show action and use their senses between sections of dialogue. If the one character misunderstands the other, allow the character to be misunderstood and make the conversation seem real. In addition, you can have characters ask for clarification to show the character’s interest in the topic. This also shows if the character is paying attention. If not, show it in the dialogue.

By creating dialogue that is realistic, your reader will better identify with what is being said and will create a better reading experience.

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As writers, we should be ever evolving in our craft. This is why it is helpful to hear what others have to say about the editing process because it helps us develop better writing skills. Sometimes we hear advice that seems logical, but then we realize that maybe we need to take that advice with a grain of salt. Here are some strategies that defy some of the rules we’ve been told about writing dialogue.

Should Our Characters Always Stay on Topic?

We have been told that “dialogue should stay on topic”. However, in real life we talk in spurts and in incoherent mumbles, grunts, and murmurs while we try to form our thoughts. We stumble on our words and correct ourselves. We pause and reflect. We backtrack. We circle around in tangents. If our character is to seem realistic, our character’s dialogue needs to do the same.

These reveal character traits and priorities. If dialogue is too focused and direct, it’ll sound predictable and flat. Readers want to see the motivations, the quirks, the uniqueness our characters. These add texture when our characters speak.

When one character asks another character a question that the other character doesn’t want to answer, a great technique for showing that the character doesn’t want to answer the question is by having the character interrupt, change the subject and attempt to stay on their own course even though the conversation has taken a different course. Conversations overlap to reveal the characters’ attitudes.

At times you’ll want your dialogue to be layered with meaning to show character goals of, social context of the conversation and the scene’s subtext. Subtext and innuendo bring depth to triviality so sometimes it is important to include trivial things to the conversation. What the reader is witnessing is not what lies at the heart of the scene.

Scenes with romantic tension will often have dialogue in which the characters banter or engage in small talk. But in those instances, it’s what’s going on beneath the surface that matters most. Identify the core tension of the scene, then plumb subtext and use apparent triviality to your advantage in dialogue. Of course, not every scene will need subtext, but when you want to emphasize the emotional, subtext is necessary.

Dialogue digressions can also be useful. You can use them to insert red herrings, foreshadow important events, reveal clues about what motivates your characters, or add new dramatic elements to the story line.

Use Dialogue in the Context of What Each Character Trying to Accomplish in this Scene?

Another Mistake often made in dialogue comes from the advice to “dialogue as you would actually speak.

Although in real life people speak primarily to give information, in fiction a conversation is not simply a way for something to be expressed. In writing, rather than asking yourself, “What does this character need to say?” ask, “What does this character need to accomplish in this scene?”

Create mutually exclusive goals for each character in the scene to create tension which affects how the conversation will play out. When determining your character’s response to stimuli, remember that his agenda toward the other person will trump the topic of conversation.

Give each character an agenda. The speaker might be trying to impress the other person, entertain her, seduce her or punish her. Whatever it is, the goal—whether stated explicitly or not—shapes everything that’s said.

Often you can move the story forward more effectively by having the characters respond in a way that implies an answer, showing that they’re reading between the lines of what was said or have questions of their own.

“SAID” and other Dialogue Tags

It’s true that you’ll want to avoid cluttering your story with obtrusive speaker attributions. They can and will become a distraction. Readers will stop being present in the story and will start looking for your next synonym for “said”.  They will realize that you own a thesaurus and know how to use it, but they don’t want to learn new words, they just want to hear your story.

On the other hand, “said” can become tiresome when it appears repeatedly on the same page. And, when used improperly, it can be proof that you are a novice writer.

“Kayla said” does not equal “said Kayla.”

To hear how your dialogue reads, try inserting the pronoun instead of the character’s name. For example:

“That’s an awesome boat,” Mark said.

“That’s an awesome boat,” he said.

Both of those statements make sense. But look at what happens when you write it the other way:

“That’s an awesome boat,” said Mark.

“That’s an awesome car,” said he.

If you wouldn’t write “said he” then don’t write “said Bob.” Stick with placing the speaker’s name before the verb unless there’s an overwhelming contextual reason not to.

Don’t use attributions simply to indicate who’s speaking. Use them to create pauses reflected in actual speech, to characterize, and even to orchestrate the pace and movement of the scene.

Additionally, speaker attributions can be used to maintain or diminish status. Compare the two following sentences.

“Come here,” he said. “Now.”

“Come here now,” he said.

The placement of the speaker attribution in the first example creates a pause that emphasizes the last word and raises the dominance of the speaker.

You Don’t Always Have to Avoid Long Speeches

Sometimes allowing a character to have her say reveals more about her than forcing her to speak in sound bites ever could.

When deciding whether to let a character launch into a diatribe, consider if she’s trying to get her say in before anyone else can interrupt. Also, take into account the buildup of tension that precedes the speech. Like a garden hose, the more pressure, the more dramatic the release.

Must Your Dialogue to be Grammatically Correct?

Always be willing to break conventions when it’s in the service of the story and the reader. Getting the story right is more important than being grammatically correct.

In dialogue, sentence fragments sound more realistic to readers than complete sentences do. Cut semicolons from dialogue. Cut semicolons from any fiction. If you find them, it’s usually because you’re trying to include complex sentences that wouldn’t sound natural. Choose commas and periods instead.

Are Talking Heads Always a Bad Thing?

Just as dialogue should reveal the intention of the characters, so should the actions that they take while they’re speaking. When we read that a character folded his arms, we’ll naturally wonder why he’s doing that. What is it meant to convey about his attitude or emotional response to what’s happening? Don’t confuse your readers by inserting needless movement. Rather, include action only as long as it adds to the scene or enriches it. If the action doesn’t convey anything essential, drop it.

It is sometimes okay that the reader doesn’t see what the character is doing when speaking. If you find your character brushing his nose or repositioning his chair or crossing his legs and so forth for no other reason than to provide a respite from the dialogue, recast the scene.

Keep Characters’ Speech Consistent?

When I am at work, I talk differently to other teachers than do with students. When I am talking with elementary children, I speak with them differently than I speak with high school students. In addition, I treat my daughter differently than I treat my husband or sons. A character should not respond the same to every other character exactly the same.

Dialogue needs to be honest for each character in that situation. Don’t try to make your characters consistent in the sense of always sounding the same, but rather allow them to remain in character within each unique social context.

If one of my characters responses exactly the same to every other character, I need to consider rewriting. Each character’s history with  other characters affect the character’s tone, word choice, grammar, sentence structure, use of idioms, everything. Even his posture is likely to have changed.

So, if a character is highly educated and every time she speaks she’s using impressive words, it gets old. The character will seem one-dimensional. In addition, if she’s from the south and says “You’all all the time, she will become cllched.

Few people are always blunt, always angry, always helpful. We speak differently in different situations. Mood, goals, state of mind fluctuate. This ties in with character believability. Remember: status, context, intention.

Yes, we’ve gone over all of this before, but it really does improve your novel when you give characters a goal, a history and an attitude toward the other people in the conversation. And always strive for honest, believable responses rather than scripted ones. Don’t be afraid to play with your conversations within your scenes. The more human you can make your characters, the more your reader will identify with them.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


When Your dialogue starts to look like a monologue, it is probably time to edit!

Dialogue is not only a useful tool, it’s an important component of effective storytelling. The time that you invest in editing and polishing will pay generous dividends.

Dialogue lets you reveal character, advance the plot, establish the setting, and deliver a theme, all at the same time. Well-written dialogue is a fast and easy read. Make sure you fix these problems in your dialogue.

Beware of Wooden dialogue

It’s important to read dialogue aloud while editing it, because the words you put into your character’s mouths need to sound natural and spontaneous coming back out. At the same time, unlike real people who often stammer and repeat themselves when conversing, fictional characters are expected to “talk edited.” Avoid these mistakes that make the dialogue sound stiff and rehearsed.

First, avoid Radio talk. In old radio dramas, scriptwriters peppered the actors’ dialogue with narrative details to help the listeners picture each scene more clearly.

“Marshall, why are you have that gun pointed at me?”

Therefore, as you go through your manuscript, remove or revise speeches where a character is doubling as narrator.

Second, avoid unnecessary naming. Unless there is a good reason for doing so, including the name of the person being addressed can also make dialogue sound wooden.

“Way to go, Andrew.”

As you read through scenes of dialogue, be alert to excessive or unnecessary naming and trim it out.

Eliminate Insignificant dialogue

Real life conversations often begin with exchanges such as: “How have you been? Nice weather we’re having.” We use small talk as a way to dispel initial discomfort, or to ‘sound out’ the other person before raising more sensitive or important topics.

As you edit your manuscript, consider whether there is any true dramatic purpose for your characters to engage in small talk (to betray nervousness, for example). If the line is insignificant, remove it and let the speakers get right to the point.

Also, look for speeches that recap things already known to every character as well as the reader in the scene. If the speaker has nothing new to say (or ask, or reveal) about the past event being recalled, then the reference as it stands is insignificant to the story. Either put it to work moving things forward or delete it.

Delete Repetitive dialogue

Speeches of dialogue need to be edited as rigorously as any other part of a story, especially when it comes to ‘trimming the fat’ by getting rid of unnecessary repetition. Read each speech aloud; repeated words and idea echoes will pop out at you. For example: “He was elected unanimously. Everybody voted for him.” (The second sentence is an echo and can be deleted.)

Sometimes entire scenes are repeated in dialogue, by a character who has experienced an event in an earlier part of the story and proceeds to describe it in detail to another character later on. If the scene has already been shown to the reader and this revisiting of it reveals nothing new about either the speaker or the listener, then the narrator can sum it up in a sentence: “He told Rachel what had happened at the party.”

Dress-up Naked dialogue

In every real-life conversation, there is an underlying subtext communicated by unspoken clues. Each speaker’s state of mind and trustworthiness are revealed by such things as the speaker’s posture, physical actions, facial expressions, and tone of voice. In order to bring a written scene of dialogue to life, you need to envision and communicate a subtext for it that the reader can picture in his or her mind.

While some spoken lines contain their own subtext, others do not. So, as you edit your manuscript, look for ‘naked’ speeches in need of one or more:

Descriptive tags (she said, he insisted, they chorused), to help the reader keep track of who is talking and reveal a character’s manner of speaking when the words alone don’t imply it. (“I’m not going in there,” Jerry muttered.)

A speaker’s actions, when they contradict or reinforce the spoken words, or when they help the reader to picture the scene more easily.

A speaker’s thoughts, when the speaker is the point of view character and the information helps to deepen the reader’s understanding of the character or the scene. (This wasn’t an ice cream parlor – it was a dental office! “I’m not going in there,” Jerry muttered.)

 Undressing Overdressed Dialogue

Tags or speaking verbs describe a character’s voice, and because they tend to chop up a scene of dialogue, they should be used sparingly, primarily when there is likely to be confusion about which speaker is saying what, or how the words sound coming out. When editing your manuscript, look for tags that can be removed without diminishing the effectiveness of the scene. Look also for tags that describe actions rather than voices. Compare the following examples:

“But why do I feel so miserable?” she scowled unhappily.

Jenny scowled. “But why do I feel so miserable?” she demanded.

Three Rules for Editing Dialogue Punctuation

Although we will be discussing other aspects of punctuation later in the series, we’ll deal with dialogue punctuation here. There is a right and a wrong way to punctuate dialogue. Here are three important things to remember about dialogue punctuation.

1. Insert double quote marks around the beginning and ending of the spoken portions within your story.

“That television program is the worst I have seen in years.”

There are double quote marks at the beginning of this dialogue and at the end of this dialogue. If your font has straight quote marks, be sure to keep them consistent. Nothing like inconsistency on something so small as quotation marks that sadly ruin a great reading experience!

2. Place the comma on the inside of the quote mark, before the dialogue tag. This error is very common in manuscripts.

“She’s a good time girl, all right,” Dad said and looked up from his daughter’s grade card.

3. Watch for inconsistent structure in dialogue. You might have beautiful dialogue, but the structure is messed up. When you have action beats and dialogue beats around a segment of dialogue, it can be tricky to know how to organize it.

“I think you’re crazy.” Susan shook her head. “You’ll never get away with that.”

But what if you want to include a dialogue tag instead of an action beat? Try this:

Maddie wasn’t sure how long she had been unconscious, but Deke’s tone made it sound as though it had been a long time. “How long was I out?” she called.

The question mark goes inside the quote mark, followed by a lowercased pronoun and a comma after the dialogue tag and the exposition of how the character’s voice sounded. Please do not capitalize the pronoun after the character speaks. You want to keep good form.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

Click here for your  FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


A scene is more than just the background of your novel. A scene is everything that happens in the reader’s mind as it relates to your novel.

Two Basic Scene Types

Scene writing is the most integral, and obvious part of any story, but it is also overlooked and the least understood part of storytelling. First, type of scene is the scene proper. The second type is called the sequel.

Scene Building Blocks

Each scene follows a specific structure. At its heart, the arc of the scene is the same as that of the larger story structure exhibited over the course of the book: 1. Beginning which is the Hook. 2. The middle which is where the scene develops and finally there is the end or the climax of the scene.

What is the Scene’s goal?

Possible scene goals are endless, but very specific to your story. Your character can want anything in any given scene, but within that universe of options, you must narrow down the desires expressed within your scene to those that will drive the plot. Everything else needs to be cut and either discarded or put elsewhere in the novel where it becomes an integral part of that scene. What information do you want passed on in this scene? How can you best pass that information on? As we learned last week, that information is given in the form of narrative (or internal dialogue, action, or dialogue).

Scene Conflict Options

In the scene proper, conflict keeps your story moving forward. “No conflict, no story” because without conflict, the story comes to an end. When the character’s initial goal is stymied by conflict, it causes the character to react with a new goal, which is stymied by further conflict, which causes that person to again modify his or her goal until the goal is reached and the story ends.

Options for Disasters in a Scene

The disaster is the payoff at the end of the scene. This is what readers have been waiting for—often, with a delicious sense of dread. It answers that question: ‘What’s the worst that can happen? Or later in the story in might be to answer the question “How was he going to get out of that one?”

Scene Variations

You’ve already probably seen some successful scenes, in your own stories and in popular books and movies, that don’t seem to quite fit the proposed structure. How exactly does that work? Your scene might be something as simple as a transition scene where narrative is used to describe that time or location changed. Your scenes might not be action or dialogue, but rather it is internal dialogue which is our second main form of scene which is the sequel.

Sequel Building Blocks

The sequel—the second half of the Scene—sometimes gets shortchanged. But it is every bit as important, since it allows characters to process the events of the scene and figure out their next move.

In a sequel, a character or characters ponder what has just happened and to plan how to deal with this new information.

Options for Sequel Reactions

At the heart of every sequel is the narrating character’s reaction to the preceding scene’s disaster. This is where the author gets the opportunity to dig around inside his character’s emotional and mental processes and find out what he’s really made of.

Sometimes the sequel reaction is not just the reaction of the protagonist, but the reaction of everyone involved and their decision on how to move forward as a group.

Sequel Dilemmas Options

Once your character’s first emotional response to the previous scene’s disaster has passed, he will have to get down to the all-important business of thinking about what he’s going to do next. The previous disaster has left him in quite a pickle. It was a catastrophic declaration. The character or characters now respond with, “What do I (we) do now?”

Sequel Decisions Options

The most instinctive of all the sequel’s building blocks is the decision. This third and final piece of the sequel grows out of the character’s dilemma and leads right into the next scene’s goal. The decision is the little cattle prod on your story’s backside that keeps it moving.

Variations on the Sequel

Sequels, even more than scenes, offer all kinds of flexibility. To help you realize the possibilities of the sequel, let’s take a look at some of the common variations.

The key to getting a sequel is in the emotions that are portrayed in the sequel. In the sequel, you’re expressing how what happened in the scene affected the POV character. You can do this in several different ways. You can do it through description and narration. For instance, you could tell the reader that the POV character was elated by the event. You can do it through an internal monologue with the POV character telling you that he feels sad and hopeless, or you could do through dramatization like the POV character showing anger by punching a wall. Finally, you can show how the person is feeling by giving away the tone of how he’s feeling by using elements of the setting and weather. For instance, a strong sequel might be shown after a fire that burns down the POV character’s home, as the fire trucks are pulling away, it begins to rain and the POV character is soaked to the skin with someone else coming up to him and putting a blanket around his shoulders and leading him out of the rain.

At first, scene development can be a subject that takes a while to fully grasp and, as a result, can spawn all kinds of questions. However, once authors grasp scene structure, the whole approach to storytelling becomes clearer and more refined and easier to navigate.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

Click here for your  FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


What did I do this month? Well, first, I did do the writing for all the books throughout the month, but I didn’t do many of the other social media that I had planned to do because I was busy with the garden this month. Early in the month, I was planting and later started harvesting a lot of the earlier crops. We weeded and have been watering because we are currently in a drought and excessive wave.

In addition, I processed the garlic for storage, and canned green beans as well as having prepped for and attended the farmer’s market.

Book Sales, Mixed Results

Book sales haven’t yet been what I have been looking for online yet, but in-person book sales at the farmer’s market have been doing well. If I could sell as many books online as I do in person, it would be great. I guess the issue is that I don’t have the online presence that I need to make the sales. I haven’t yet been able to connect with the right readers. I think perhaps what I need to do is to focus each month on the readership of the different genres I am writing rather than trying to do them all at the same time. I think that the best genre to work on right now during the summer would be my historical fiction series, The Locket Saga. In addition, I need to focus more time on the latest of that series Two Rivers. Probably the best idea right now is to connect with other writers in the genre too. I really do think that where I am having the most difficulty is in the aspect of connecting with individuals online. Connecting with other writers and supporting one another would be a great place to put my focus for the next several months or even the next year.

What sales I have made online have been mostly by chance, not by design. One way that I think I received purchases was when I commented on a YouTube page and left a link to my relevant book, and another was from a bookmark that I gave away at Farmer’s market and the person purchased The Locket Saga on Kindle.

There are several other things that I need to do to make my books more accessible too, but that is going to require some work that I have been putting off. Perhaps that will also need to be the focus of my work in the next month as well. I will discuss this more during the next few weeks.

Writing Two Rivers

This month I have done some work on Two Rivers, Book VII of The Locket Saga, Of course, I still have a lot of editing to complete. I currently have written 75520 which is 4480 words less than I planned to get written. However it is still progress.

Looking ahead to July

Now that I have had a successful June, I have a new month to plan for. It already looks to be a very busy month. Farmers Market and blog post writing for both this blog and my other blog The Perpetual Homesteader are given, but here are other priorities I have for July.

My writing and book marketing projects for July will be to (1) Update several books to put them into more distribution. (2) Do a complete second draft of Two Rivers by working on one chapter per day. (3) Developing contacts with other authors. (I plan to share more about how I am developing these contacts throughout the month).

In gardening, my plans are to (1) plant fall beans and late corn. As well as plant cabbage and broccoli indoors. (2) harvest beans, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, and zucchini. (3) eat fresh, can, or sell beans, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, and zucchini.

How about you? What are your plans for July? Feel free to share in the comments below.

If you haven’t checked out my Author Page on Amazon and check out the look inside feature on every book of interest.


Not the end of The Locket Saga series, just the most recent.

For the entire month of June, I am sharing my books in the first annual Cygnet Brown Book Club Month! All throughout the month, I will be featuring not one, but all the books that I have written to date. I am continuing book club with my most recent published book in the Locket Saga Series: The Anvil

Book Six of the Locket Saga finally takes us full circle in 1800, not back to Boston, but to the wilds of Northwestern Pennsylvania. Robert McCray, the eldest son of Phillip and Elizabeth McCray is a young blacksmith who is missing one of the most important tools of his trade after his employer cheated him. At the same time, the girl of his affection shuns him for another man. He builds a house on his mother’s land and hopes to get his own property only to discover that the land that he desires was purchased by the Campbells.

Robert McCray makes the best of a bad situation and allows the Campbell family to live in the cabin that he built on his mother’s land next to the land that he had wanted and where the Campbell’s land was.

Though he thinks that he has lost everything, over the upcoming months he learns that everything he needs and wants is right in front of him.

Writing The Anvil had been on my mind from the day that I wrote the first line of Soldiers Don’t Cry. I had wanted to bring the family back to northwestern Pennsylvania because that was where the story began between Elizabeth and Phillip. It was also where I grew up and where most of my ancestors live. The Anvil does that. It brings them back to the land where, well, if you haven’t read any of the series, I won’t give a spoiler here. You’ll have to read the book.

I hope you take this opportunity to read the free sample of The Anvil on Amazon and the rest of the Locket Saga. Remember also to follow Cygnet Brown on my Amazon Author Page so you don’t miss the next book in the series: Two Rivers and other subsequent books when they come out.  

When you love it, you can purchase a kindle copy or get it (at no extra charge) on KindleUnlimited

If you prefer paperback, you can purchase your copy on Lulu.com

When God Turned His Head

Soldiers Don’t Cry, The Locket Saga Continues

A Coward’s Solace

Sailing Under the Black Flag

In the Shadow of the Mill Pond

The Anvil


Living Today, The Power of Now Get Your Copy Today!

So many of us feel guilt and shame about our past or we are worried about the future. My book Living Today, The Power of Now reminds us that we don’t live in the past, nor do we live in the future. All we really have is now. Think about it. Now IS…. We’ll never have the past again except as a memory. We’ll never have the future, except as a dream. We can only live now.

How can we let go of the past and not try to live in the future? Living Today, The Power of Now explores how to make this a possibility.

As I am thinking about this book I am reminded of the movie “Click” where the protagonist of the story gets a remote that takes him from one major event to the next and never allows himself to enjoy the journey that takes him from each event. The next thing he knows is that he is no longer in control of what happens because he has programmed the remote to skip over those things that seem trivial or painful. His whole life passes him by and he regrets not having experienced his life because he was too obsessed with reaching his goals. It is quite the metaphor for those of us who keep our nose to the grindstone in hopes that we get what we want in the future, but never quite being satisfied with what we get.

I am reminded of those people who are always living in the past either pining for something they had but lost. Whether it’s a relationship, a memory, or a situation that no longer is. These people feel that they can never be happy again.

 I am also reminded of those who live in the past of guilt. These people made a mistake in the past that they can’t let go off. Something that brings them shame even after others have long forgotten the events.

There are those who live in the past because they can’t forgive someone else or themselves. They can’t let it go, and events occur often that trigger them to relive the pain of that time. They can’t enjoy today because they can’t get beyond the past.

Living today frees us from worry, shame, guilt, and unforgiveness all those negative emotions of inaction. It faces fear straight in the face by saying. What can I do right now? What is my next step? What direction should I turn right now? It allows us to move. What we face may not always be pleasant, but if it isn’t, we are simply moving through it, not dwelling in it because we are taking each step as it comes.

Living today gives us the ability to look at and appreciate life around us. It gives us permission to get off the hamster wheel to stop and walk barefoot in the grass. It gives us the power to stop and smell the flowers, to ride bikes with our children while they are still children. It allows us the privilege of watching the sun rise or set. It gives us permission to stop and just enjoy the fact that we are alive!

Every day is a gift and that was my inspiration for writing the book Living Today, The Power of Now. I believe that it will inspire you as well as you read it.

Follow this link for your free preview of Living Today, The Power of Now.


Do you like good American History and a good who-dun-it, you’ll love In the Shadow of the Mill pond!

For the entire month of June, I am sharing my books in the first annual Cygnet Brown Book Club Month! All throughout the month, I will be featuring not one, but all the books that I have written to date. my next published book in the Locket Saga Series: In the Shadow of the Mill Pond

Book five of the Locket Saga takes us several years after the end of the American Revolution in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during the time known as The Whiskey Rebellion. Under this backdrop of history, Lacey Mayford has fallen for Matthew Thorton, but Matthew is accused of murdering another member of the community. Lacey, though just a young teen, believes it is up to her to discover who the real culprit is and in so doing finds danger herself.

It still wasn’t time yet for our family to move to the wilds of Northwestern Pennsylvania, so I decided to explore an event that occurred in that part of the country in the 1790s which was termed The Whiskey Rebellion. What most people don’t know is how this could have been our first civil war, not between north and south but between east and west.

Back before the Federal Income Tax Amendment was put into effect, they had to get taxes in another way, and it was decided that they would tax whiskey. What many people did not know was that this tax on whiskey was more of a problem with the pioneers west of the Appalachian Mountains because making whiskey and selling it was the most profitable way to transport corn across the mountains was in whiskey jugs.

These people west of the mountains were livid because they believed that the tax wasn’t fair, they just weren’t going to pay it. The tax collectors that the US government sent were met by armed vigilantes who refused to share their profits when the population east of the mountains didn’t have to.

Add to this the murder and the fact that Matthew,  a half-breed Native American is accused of the murder, and you have an action-packed adventure.

I hope you take this opportunity to read the free sample of In the Shadow of the Mill Pond on Amazon:

When you love it, you can purchase a kindle copy or get it at no extra charge on KindleUnlimited

Look here on lulu.com if you prefer getting a paperback

The Locket Saga Series Includes

When God Turned His Head

Soldiers Don’t Cry, The Locket Saga Continues

A Coward’s Solace

Sailing Under the Black Flag

In the Shadow of the Mill Pond

The Anvil


These microscopic diatoms are the descendants of the animals that created the fossils that become diatomaceous earth.

Have you ever heard of diatomaceous earth? If you haven’t heard of it, I’m about to share with you some amazing facts about this substance that can help you avoid the use of pesticides around your house and yard.

Several years ago, I was working at Shearers, a potato chip factory. Some of the varieties of chips that they made were considered organic which meant that they couldn’t be made using pesticides even inside the factory. Therefore, the management kept everything as clean as possible. We not only had to wear shoe covers and hair nets, but as we entered the factory, we walked onto the floor by walking over a mat containing diatomaceous earth because it used a physical rather than chemical means of controlling insect infestation.

Diatomaceous Earth, also referred to as “DE”, a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that can be crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder formed from the fossil remains of diatoms. This dried sediment is also very high in silica and its deposits are found all around the world.

Can Use as An Insecticide

Diatomaceous earth is thought to kill insects by dehydrating them or drying them out. If applied carefully, it can be used as an insecticide for fleas and ticks on pets without harmful chemicals. It can be used for the same purpose in the garden or orchard.

Though it isn’t a chemical poisoning that causes diatomaceous earth to control insects, you need to take precautions when using this substance.

First, use only use food-grade diatomaceous earth if using this substance internally or externally on humans and pets. (Nonfood grade DE is used for other applications that do not involve direct use with humans and animals.)

Also, avoid breathing in diatomaceous earth because it is composed of small silica (glass!) particles and though it doesn’t cause skin problems, it can harm the delicate tissues within the lungs.

This is explained more in-depth in my book Using Diatomaceous Earth Around the House and Yard.

It Can Be Taken Internally

In addition to being used as an insecticide, it can also be used for other purposes including taking internally.

When taken by mouth, diatomaceous earth is for treating high cholesterol, and constipation. It is also thought to remove heavy metals from the body through the digestive tract. Ingesting DE improves skin, nails, teeth, bones, and hair health.

Can be Used Externally

When applied to the skin or teeth, diatomaceous earth is used to brush teeth or remove unwanted dead skin cells. And more!

My book Using Diatomaceous Earth Around the House and Yard gives much more details on how DE can be used to reduce the number of toxic chemicals you use around the house.

Now it’s your turn? Do you use DE? How do you use it?


Book IV of the Locket Saga

For the entire month of June, I am sharing my books in the first annual Cygnet Brown Book Club Month! All throughout the month, I will be featuring not one, but all the books that I have written to date. I am continuing the book club with my next published book in the Locket Saga Series: Sailing Under the Black Flag

This is the story of the impetuous and tenacious Jonathan Mayford who during Soldiers Don’t Cry was a starry-eyed patriot who wanted to bring King George to his knees. At the beginning of the story, he tries to join the Continental troops, but instead, his father, Peter Mayford convinces him to crew on one of his own ships. Through his time on the ship, the boy becomes a man as he endures hardships and falls in love with the raven-haired beauty Lowry Howells whose father keeps them separate.

A Privateer Was Legal, but Pirating Was Not

I wanted to see a side of the American Revolution that most people don’t know. For instance, before my research, I thought that pirates and privateers were the same, but they are not. A privateer is someone who had legal rights under the rules of military law to confiscate a ship, its cargo, crew and passengers and hold it for ransom during an official war. They were legally entitled to the spoils of war and if they were captured, they were considered prisoners of war. Pirates didn’t have that distinction. They were considered thieves and murderers and were hung or worse for their “crimes”. During much of the American Revolution, however, the British did not consider most American privateers as privateers but as pirates which meant that if caught, they would most likely lose their lives for their conduct.

John Forten-African American Revolutionary War Hero

As I was doing my research, I learned about James Forten and how on ships African Americans were treated like any other member of the crew. I also learned that being on a ship wasn’t like we see in the movies where a crazy pirate captain rules with an iron fist. Most ships during that time were democratic and the crew voted on a lot of what went on when they weren’t in battle. However, when they were, they had better listen to the captain or face a severe penalty.

The story of James Forten (a real person, not just one of my character creations) told of what it was like on prison ships and how he generously. . . well, you’ll have to read for yourself.

I hope you take this opportunity to read the free sample of Sailing Under the Black Flag on Amazon:

When you love it, you can purchase a kindle copy or get it at no extra charge on KindleUnlimited

If you prefer paperback, you can purchase your copy of Sailing Under the Black Flag on Lulu.com

The Locket Saga Series

Sailing Under the Black Flag is Part of The Locket Saga Series

When God Turned His Head

Soldiers Don’t Cry

A Coward’s Solace

Sailing Under the Black Flag

In the Shadow of the Mill Pond

The Anvil


Write a book about what you know best.

As much as I love writing and I love gardening, another of my passions is in teaching others to do the things that I do. That’s why I write two blogs (see my other blog here) and why I wrote the book Write a Book and Ignite Your Business

How can you demonstrate best how much you know about your business? Write a book. How can you add a new income source to your business that augments what you are already doing? Write a book. How can you demonstrate to another person that you know your business better than the next guy? Write a book.  I believe that writing a book is a great way to show the world what you know.

Why should you write a book? Writing a book will help you demonstrate your expertise and create a new income stream for your business. Today more than ever, you have no excuse for not getting that book out that will demonstrate that you are knowledgeable in your business.

What should you write about you ask? You can write about how to do an aspect of your business. Here are a few ideas. If you’re a mechanic, a plumber, or a carpenter, write about how to do simple repairs that the average person can do. If you’re an electrician or a mechanic write a book about what the average person can do if they are having problems and know whether you’re being cheated or not. If you’re a real estate agent, share why the average home buyer needs an agent and how to avoid shady real estate deals. If you started your business, write about what you faced in starting your business, the problems you had, and how you avoided them. You might even tell what you wish you had known before you started your business that would have saved you time and money in the long run. If you’re a writer, of course, you can write about your process, how you avoid writer’s block, how you found your agent, publisher or how you self-publish, or just about your publishing journey. There’s more about choosing a topic in Write a Book and Ignite Your Business.

Write a book to leave a legacy. I personally decided to write this book because I wanted it as part of the legacy that I am leaving my children. I wanted to encourage them to share what they are doing with others as I have shared what I am doing by writing this book.

I wanted to help others make the most of their livelihoods. Life is short and it should all be about making money. Life shouldn’t be all work and no play. It should be about enjoying the life that you create for yourself, and I believe that writing a book is one way to help you do that.

Read a free sample of the book Write a Book and Ignite Your Business today on Amazon.

For more about my other books and writing, here’s my Amazon Author Page!


Book III of the Locket Saga

For the entire month of June, I am sharing my books in the first annual Cygnet Brown Book Club Month! All throughout the month, I will be featuring not one, but all the books that I have written to date. I am continuing the book club with my next published book in the Locket Saga Series: A Coward’s Solace.

The idea for Book III of the Locket Saga: A Coward’s Solace came into being while I was editing Soldiers Don’t Cry.  I wondered what would happen if one of the characters who was supposedly dead at the beginning of Soldiers Don’t Cry wasn’t dead after all.  I went back to Soldiers Don’t Cry and didn’t kill off one of the characters who was supposedly killed during Soldiers and this person returns from the supposed death. Since you know this now, you may be able to figure out who wasn’t dead by reading the sample pages from Soldiers Don’t Cry

One of my goals in this book was to start moving the family from Massachusetts back to the wilds of Pennsylvania, but with the Revolutionary War going on, I couldn’t get them there just yet so I decided to get them at least as far as Valley Forge and at the end of the book it got them as far as the frontier town of Pittsburgh in Western Pennsylvania.

Until I did the research, I didn’t see how close the Americans had been to losing the war in 1777. If it weren’t for the surrender of Burgoyne’s Army to Horatio Gates at Saratoga that fall, the year would have been a total disaster. This victory was the only reason that France agreed to assist the Americans in their fight to shake off the shackles of British rule. Not that Horatio Gates had much to do with it. It was his quick-witted subordinates Benedict Arnold (yes, that Benedict Arnold), Enoch Poor, Benjamin Lincoln, and Daniel Morgan who gained the victory that day.

So, who did I consider the coward in A Coward’s Solace? Well, I think some of the Americans could have seen George Washington as the coward.  I didn’t realize how close George Washington came to losing his place in leadership with the American forces either. If it weren’t for the fact that many of his troops and leadership including Lafayette loved him, he might have been replaced. The way he handled and encouraged his troops at Valley Forge was amazing, and I hope I reflected that in A Coward’s Solace.

Head of Stone (not his real name, but you’ll discover that on your own) considered himself a coward in this story as well, as he even tells Martha in the story.

I don’t see either of them as cowards, but both found peace or solace after all was said and done.

I hope you take this opportunity to read the free sample of A Coward’s Solace on Amazon:

When you love it, you can purchase a kindle copy or get it at no extra charge on KindleUnlimited

If you prefer paperback You can purchase your copy on Lulu.com

Check out the Entire Locket Saga Series

When God Turned His Head

Soldiers Don’t Cry

A Coward’s Solace

Sailing Under the Black Flag

In the Shadow of the Mill Pond

The Anvil


I didn’t start writing The Locket Saga with the first book. Soldiers Don’t Cry was the first book I started writing in The Locket Saga.

For the entire month of June, I am sharing my books in the first annual Cygnet Brown Book Club Month! All throughout the month, I will be featuring not one, but all of the books that I have written to date. Today the featured book club is: Soldiers Don’t Cry.

It Probably Started When I Ate Pizza Just Before Going to Bed

The idea for Soldiers Don’t Cry, The Locket Saga Continues started with a dream that I had one night. I dreamed that there was a young woman and a young man sitting on two ends of a puncheon log bench that was along a log cabin wall. The bench was about twelve feet long and she sat at one end of the bench and he sat at the other end. I KNEW that what I was seeing was a scene from before 1800.

He said, “Don’t I know you from somewhere.” And she said, “Yes, we knew each other as children.”

It was from this dream that I got the idea of a girl who had grown up in Western Pennsylvania before the American Revolution. I determined that however she grew up in Boston with her sister and the boy grew up in England and that something brought them back together. That something I determined was the American Revolutionary War and he came back as a British Officer. She was an American spy and smuggler. Getting them together in the same place was easy. Before the war, Boston and other parts of New England were to quarter soldiers in their homes. This infuriated patriots so much that they included “no quartering of soldiers during peacetime” as the third amendment to the Constitution. It did, however, set it up so that Phillip Randolph, the hero of the story was quartered in Elizabeth’s (the heroine) in the same home. Add to that and you have the makings of quite the twisted adventure story.

Even though it is the second book published, Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues was the first book that I started writing in the Locket Saga, but as I was writing it, I wondered what happened to the parents of Elizabeth and Rachel. This led me to write When God Turned His Head the first book which I wrote about earlier in the week. (See post)

The Original Manuscript Was Deleted!

One thing about this book that many people don’t know is that I had to write the book twice. Years ago, just after When God Turned His Head was published, I had the completed manuscript of Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues on my computer and the computer didn’t have enough memory left on it, so a friend suggested that we “wipe the data and clean out unwanted files”. He said we could save what we wanted to keep but anything that we didn’t put behind a wall would be erased forever. A agreed to let my husband and my friend wipe the files from the computer, but asked that he save all of the document files. He saved only a single file that had the Word document in it and all the books that I had on the computer were gone forever.

Rather than whining about my loss, (Okay, so I did whine a little, Okay, a lot. I am human, after all) I decided to recreate the book and I think that in a lot of ways I came up with a better book than the original. The book was rewritten in less than a year. I learned a valuable lesson. When something bad happens, don’t let it get you down, let it fire you up!

So how about you? Have you ever finished a project that you spent years on that you had to re-do because of a technical error? I would love to hear about it. Share your experience in the comment section below.

Did you know that you can read a free sample of Soldiers Don’t Cry right on Amazon? LOOK INSIDE

The Locket Saga Series

When God Turned His Head

Soldiers Don’t Cry, The Locket Saga Continues

A Coward’s Solace

Sailing Under the Black Flag

In the Shadow of the Mill Pond

The Anvil


For the entire month of June, I am sharing my books in the first annual Cygnet Brown Book Club Month! All throughout the month, I will be featuring not one, but all of the books that I have written to date. I am beginning the book club with my first published book: When God Turned His Head.

The First Book in the Locket Saga

The Story Behind the Book

When God Turned His Head is the first book of the Locket Saga, but it was not the first book of the series that I started writing. I started with the second book Soldiers Don’t Cry, The Locket Saga Continues and rather than making When God Turned His Head a prequel to Soldiers Don’t Cry, I made it the premiere book.

The idea for this book started when I was writing about when Rachel and Elizabeth are entertaining their uninvited guests when the question came up about their parentage and the girls told them that they had the same mother, but not the same father. They also said that their parents had been indentured servants.

That was when I wondered what happened to them. About that same time, I read the story about the murder of John Codman in the middle of the 1700s and thought the details would be fantastic to fashion into a historical murder mystery. Many of the facts were exactly how they happened. I just added Drusilla as his wife and Rachel as his daughter.

I wrote this book at a very difficult time in my life. I had been working as a nurse and hated it. Every day I had been afraid that I would kill someone by some mistake that I made. I won’t go into the details, but the fear of making a mistake and harming a patient caused me to sabotage my nursing career. Then I was afraid to tell my husband that I had lost my job. It didn’t do much for my marriage, I’ll tell you that.

After I lost my job, my husband also lost his because of something that was not his fault, but because he quit that trucking company, they reported him to DAK for an accident that was an equipment error that he had no way of knowing would happen. He had no recourse in the issue. He was shunned from truck-driving for the next three years.

Before losing our jobs, we had been doing everything right. We put sweat equity into the house we were building. In 2007, just before all this went down, we had fifty percent equity in our home. We had two vehicles. One was completely paid for. Regarding our other car, we had easily been making the payments. We had been paying extra on our mortgage and making extra payments on our credit cards. Life was good. However, in a short time, everything fell apart.

At about the same time, we lost our jobs, the housing bubble burst and the recession hit. The equity in our home disappeared overnight. We couldn’t make our payments because we didn’t have a job. A boy stole our truck that we had paid off and he wrecked it. The other car was repossessed while I was selling muffins in the town 9 miles from our house. I had to call my husband to get the neighbor to come pick me up.

Because my husband lost his job, he also couldn’t pay the child support that he owed to his ex-wife, and he ended up in jail for nonpayment.

If it weren’t for our pastor providing us with a car to drive and paying enough to get him out of jail, I don’t know what we would have done. He got a job driving a school bus for a local school which was enough to pay the child support, but not enough to save our house. He was talking about the possibility of having to live under a bridge.  

I was depressed. I was depressed enough to seek professional help, but I refused to take medications to mask what I was feeling. The psychologist who I was seeing suggested that I try journaling, and journaling led me to get back to writing which I had done since I was twelve years old. I wrote When God Turned His Head while all this was going on. Journaling and writing the book took me out of my state of depression.

While writing the book, we did lose our house, but we didn’t have to live under a bridge because my brother let us move into his house with him. During this time, I incorporated my emotional state into Drusilla’s situation. It was highly therapeutic.

Bad things happen to good people and sometimes it seems as though God does turn his head and the winters of life blow their snows of life, but eventually, the flowers of life do return. Like me and like Drusilla, you must push through the hard times, and eventually, you’ll pass through. As it says in Psalm 23:

“Yea, though I pass through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”

Psalm 23:4 KJV

Let me know in the comments below if you have already read the book, and any thoughts you have regarding it. I love hearing from my readers!

Did you know that you can read a free sample of When God Turned His Head right on Amazon? LOOK INSIDE

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