Monday, February 19, 2024

I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now


Previously posted on a different blog as a guest blogger.


 I began writing in prehistoric times, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and writers pecked on typewriters. I had no idea computers, software, hardware, printers and emails were waiting in the future.

One morning I woke to birds chirping and mammoths trumpeting and decided I wanted to be a writer. Except for a few well-received essays in high school and a handful of English courses in college, I had absolutely no background in writing. I didn't even know what a thesaurus was. I just knew I enjoyed creating stories.

The one thing I did have in my empty toolbox was a knowledge of books. I loved reading. I was a voracious reader. And while voracious may not work anymore to describe my reading, I still plow through several books a month. How can anyone not read? But I'm getting off topic. So armed with my ideas, I began to write. This was challenging on a couple of levels. Creating a story and getting it on paper. 

Today creativity is my major challenge. Then, getting words on paper.

Each typed page needed to be proofed before it left the typewriter and, unless you were a perfect typist which I wasn't, involved a lot of white paint--correction fluid--from a little bottled called Wite.Out. Wite.Out was a secretary's and writer's best friend. Yes, back in the dark ages, people were called secretaries instead of admin assists.

After typing  out the manuscript, which usually involved several hundred pages, came the rewrites. Say you did a serious change on page ten that involved adding a scene or scenes that ran into extra pages. If you were lucky, you only had to retype that chapter then go back and use your trusty Wite.Out to change the following page numbers of the rest of your manuscript. Yup, the good ole days.

Next step was finding a home for your story. Again, there was no computer to do a quick search of who wanted what. The Writer's Market Guide was, and probably still is for those who don't publish Indie, an invaluable tool. I spent hours combing through pages looking for the appropriate home for my genre.

After I drew up a list, I began to send out my stories. Remember this was still the ice age and typewriters and carbon paper still roamed the earth. There were no emails, no attaching three chapters and hitting the send button. Instead it was purchasing legal size envelopes, stuffing your letter and chapters inside and heading for the post office. Then waiting and waiting and waiting some more, for a response that sometimes never came. In that respect, things haven't changed have they? Oftentimes when you did get a response, it was a form rejection letter--something else that I imagine hasn't changed--and you started back at square one. Other times, the publishing company or agent wanted to see the entire manuscript. Then it was off to the supply store to buy a box to mail your manuscript in and have copies made. It was a fairly pricey and time-consuming process.

Researching was also more challenging than it is now. The information was there, but not at your fingertips. Instead or tapping a few keys and doing a search, you had to track down physical books, which usually meant hitting the library or a bookstore.

And there was no self-publishing unless you went vanity and paid for it.


Since those days I have added to my toolbox and am always on the lookout for new tools. I have a few that I'd like to share, which you may already know of and use.

For synonyms I use Power Thesaurus.

For covers: pixelstudio. I love this group They are so helpful and their prices are unbelievably reasonable

For those of you who make your own covers, trailers and or memes: Book Brush. or Canva. 


For general information and support for most aspects of writing and publishing, IWSG.

So, back to the beginning: If I'd known then what I know now, I would have probably waited a few years to start writing. 😀


Monday, February 12, 2024

Using Macros in Your Writing Process

 A more efficient way to write and edit - by Lynda Dietz

For every person who uses macros, there are probably at least two who have never heard of them or who think they’re too complicated—and therefore scary—to bother with. But have no fear! There are a good number of them out there, ready to install and use in Microsoft Word, that can help your writing.


What is a macro?

A macro is simply a string of computer commands that allows you to run a set of tasks easily and automatically. You can write your own, or you can install macros that have been written by someone who loves doing that kind of stuff.


As a fiction editor, I receive manuscripts that range from neatly formatted to mildly chaotic, and starting with a level playing field can make all the difference in the world. The distraction of having to stop reading every few minutes to change a random straight quote to a curly quote, or something equally tedious, can really slow down progress and break my train of thought.


Who can use macros?

Many book editors use macros to streamline the editing process, often as a “clean sweep” type of tidying before getting down to the nitty gritty of reading through a project. Others use them at the end of a writing session to clean up any lingering errors.


Writers can use macros too! They can be a helpful tool for writers of all types at any stage of writing.


If you’d like to start off with some simple macros you can get for free, Paul Beverley is the guy to go to. He has written hundreds of macros that are easy to use for writers in all fields, and not only does he make them all available for free—really free, not even a “sign up for my mailing list to get these”—he also provides tutorials on YouTube and in the macro downloads.


Wisely, Paul suggests starting slowly to get used to using the ones you need most. In his downloadable (and regularly updated) book, Macros for Editors, he breaks down the favorite macros based on user feedback, work type, and more. He also provides a “macro menu” that lists the macros by function, and also dates the newer macros, saying “the chances are that the more recent macros are (a) better programmed and (b) likely to be more useful.”


My most-used macros

As you’d expect, I have a handful of macros I’d rather not live without. As per Paul Beverley’s advice, I installed only one at a time, getting used to using each before installing another.


I’ve programmed most of my macros with the keys shift + alt + [letter] because I don’t tend to use the shift + alt combo for other things, and they’re often not assigned already on the keyboard.


My favorites are DocAlyse, ProperNounAlyse, MerriamFetch, SwapWord, CatchPhrase, and WordPairAlyse. I probably should say “my favorites so far,” since I plan to install more over time. If you’d like to find out more about what these six do and how I use them, visit my blog post “Using Macros in Your Writing Process” for the full explanation.


Benefits of using macros

If you’re a writer, one of the best benefits of using macros is that you’ll be able to clean up your document really well before hiring an editor. A cleaner manuscript can often mean a difference in editing costs.


Macros can ensure consistency when styling headers, spelling names, or formatting tables, to name a few applications. Macros don’t get fatigued when reading through a document, so you’re not as likely to miss anything.


Macros can help prevent repetitive use injuries by reducing the number of keystrokes needed for certain tasks. A few strokes may seem like no big deal, but they add up. Consider the macro EmDashUnspaced, which removes punctuation, adds an unspaced em dash and lowercases the next character. A two- or three-key combo to use the macro is far preferable to all that typing and removing.


Macros can help you speed through tedious tasks. There comes a point in every writer or editor’s life when the larger, hour-saving improvements have been made, and what remains are smaller improvements that may save seconds or minutes. But again, it all adds up.


Most of Paul Beverley’s macros provide a report in a separate document, so you don’t have to go through your entire doc to find highlighted items. You can examine only the ones you need to.


You can find the Macro Menu, which lists all the macros Paul Beverley has included in his macro book (so far), along with a description of what they do, right here. The menu is invaluable for when you’re starting out, listing macros by function and type.


Whether the macro takes care of something simple or complex, they’re well worth exploring. Find one you like, try it out, and I can almost guarantee you’ll go looking for another one that suits your needs.


Lynda has never lost her fascination with the written word, from her earliest years of reading the back of the cereal box at the breakfast table to reading manuscripts of up and coming authors. Book hangovers are a regular occurrence with no regrets. She copyedits in a variety of genres, both in fiction and creative nonfiction. She’s had a blog since 2013, where she encourages writers with advice and a healthy dose of silliness. She works with four assistants: her husband (The Bringer of Coffee), and three cats who are mostly worthless but very, very adorable.

ERE Blog






Wednesday, February 7, 2024

The Insecure Writer's Support Group Day and New #IWSGPit Date

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts for the February 7 posting of the IWSG are SE White, Janet Alcorn, Victoria Marie Lees, and Cathrina Constantine!

February 7 question: What turns you off when visiting an author's website/blog? Lack of information? A drone of negativity? Little mention of author's books? Constant mention of books?

#IWSGPit Twitter Party

The next #IWSGPit will be March 27, 2024.
10:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time.

Create a Twitter-length pitch for your completed and polished manuscript and leave room for genre, age, and the hashtag. On Wednesday, March 27, 2024, Tweet your pitch using #IWSGPit. If your pitch receives a favorite/heart from a publisher/agent check their submission guidelines and send your requested query.

Many writers have seen their books published from a Twitter pitch - it’s a quick and easy way to put your manuscript in front of publishers and agents.

For hashtags and guidelines, visit our #IWSGPit page.

Do authors really find agents and publishers through a Twitter pitch party? Yes they do! Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C. has found FIVE authors from this event, including one of our best sellers, Damien Larkin.

So, get your pitches ready for March!

What turns you off when visiting an author’s site? Will you be participating in #IWSGPit? Have you had success with a Twitter pitch party?

Monday, January 22, 2024

The Most Common Reasons a Book Gets Negative Reviews

We're pleased to welcome Andrea Moran, Book Reviewer & Blogger at Kirkus Reviews. Be sure to see the special offer by Kirkus for the IWSG audience at the end of this post. 

Bravely putting a book out into the world is difficult enough without fearing a slew of unfavorable reviews. While you can’t please everyone who picks up your book, there are reasons many readers may have a negative reaction—and the good news is that most of those reasons are avoidable. Here are a few of the most common ones to consider when you’re writing and editing a draft.

1. The book is categorized in the wrong genre.

Readers don’t like to feel as though they have been tricked. So when a particular book is marketed as one thing but in reality is something completely different, there is probably going to be backlash.

This is particularly useful to keep in mind when choosing your book cover and other promotional blurbs. After all, you want to ensure that a gut-wrenching character study doesn’t have the color palette of a romance, or that a book that is 99 percent science fiction doesn’t have back cover text emphasizing a hard-boiled detective. Despite the common wisdom to the contrary, many people do judge a book by its cover—and are more than willing to share a bad review based on that judgment.

2. The main characters are unlikable.

While you can develop a protagonist who possesses a few character traits that are less than stellar, sometimes characters can be too unlikable. Obviously no one is perfect, but readers will have a hard time relating to (never mind rooting for) someone who is so full of flaws and negative traits that their common humanity gets lost. So go ahead, make some people in your central cast of characters delightfully marred—just don’t forget to imbue them with an occasional redeeming quality.

3. The ending is too abrupt.

No one likes reading a book that’s cut off before a proper ending. You may alienate readers who don’t like investing time in a book that never really ends or frustrate them with an ending that answers only some of the questions they have.

Even if this is the first book in a series, leaving it on an all-out cliffhanger is a risky move, and readers may refuse to invest more time reading the next book. It’s perfectly fine to leave some ambiguity, but there should be enough resolution to the main storyline that readers don’t feel slighted—or else they’re likely to air their grievances via a bad review.

4. The book hasn’t been edited well (or at all).

Nothing can derail a good book faster than lots of errors. Typos, punctuation mistakes, inconsistent formatting—these can leave a bad taste in readers’ mouths. Errors tend to distract readers from the main message of the book. This means all your hard work developing characters and a plot will likely be overshadowed if readers are continually pulled out of the story by a set of missing quotation marks or a misspelled word. Luckily, this is one issue that is easily avoided by hiring a qualified editor.

5. The stylistic choices are off-putting.

Everyone’s taste is different, but going for a less popular choice can sometimes backfire. The use of second-person narration—“You walk down the hallway,” for example—is rarely used in novels, which means it’s a bold and perhaps not highly advisable option when choosing your book’s point of view.

Similarly, readers tend to find choices like the excessive use of ellipses more annoying than illuminating. And if you’re going to use creative line spacing or other alternative formatting, make sure there’s a good reason for doing so. (If you need an example of how to do it well, look no further than House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.) Readers are likely to leave a bad review if they feel the style is too out there or makes the book confusing—of course, whether that’s a fair assessment is another matter entirely.

6. The characters are inconsistent.

Readers become invested in a story’s characters, and that’s a good thing! But they can’t get invested when characteristics change from one chapter to the next. If someone’s whole personality revolves around a particular trait and that trait is forgotten about or betrayed simply for the sake of moving the plot in a different direction or throwing in a surprise twist, you are going to have some pretty annoyed readers. Characters are supposed to be complex, nuanced, and layered. They shouldn’t go against previously established trait markers that helped make them who they were to begin with.

7. The ending is unsatisfying.

Often, the hardest part of writing a story is nailing the ending. We’ve all read at least one book that was humming right along until the final act that, instead of sticking the landing, turned into one giant clunker. Readers who are left feeling unsatisfied with how the situation resolves (or doesn’t resolve) will likely feel motivated to leave a bad review that vents their frustration.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have an ending that is sad or unexpected or even a little ambiguous (but see number three!). It just means that the ending should fit the tone and lesson of the book as a whole. A romance novel pretty much requires a happy ending, for example, while a gritty character study should offer some semblance of personal growth at its conclusion—even if that conclusion isn’t necessarily a joyous one for all involved.

Andrea Moran lives outside of Nashville with her husband and two kids. She’s a professional copywriter and editor who loves all things books. Find her on LinkedIn.

Special Offer by Kirkus

$50-off-a-review discount links for your audience as well:

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Expanded Review:

Monday, January 15, 2024

Setting Writing Goals – Keeping it Simple

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The new year is a chance to start anew. It’s when people make resolutions. Many people set goals. So, today we are going to discuss writing goals.

You may have already set yours. That’s awesome. If not, it’s never too late (and certainly doesn’t have to be at the beginning of the year) to set some good goals for your writing. And I’ll keep it simple for you!

There are a lot of different types of goals that pertain to writing:

  • Improvement – honing your craft and research
  • Writing – what you want to achieve as a writer
  • Publication – when and how
  • Marketing – your strategy and plans

Now, when setting these goals, you have to consider these particulars:

  • How much time can you devote to writing and all it involves?
  • Are the goals specific? Don’t be vague—get into the details.
  • Are the goals realistic? If not they will only cause frustration.
  • Have you set little goals that lead up to a big goal?
  • Are the goals your own or are you trying to keep pace with someone else?
  • Have you given your goals deadlines? No deadline, no finish!
  • Are you really committed to these goals?

Once you’ve set goals and honed the specifics, there are a few other items you need to take into account:

  • Distractions – sometimes they are out of your control and sometimes you can set goals to eliminate them
  • Rewards – when a goal is achieved, celebrate and reward yourself
  • Disappointments – sometimes a goal is missed, but it’s not the end of the world—just reset the goal and don’t beat yourself up

As promised, simple! Setting writing goals isn’t brain surgery, but they have to come from both the heart and the brain. You need passion but you also need common sense.

So, set goals in those areas, consider those particulars, and take into account those final items. And believe you can achieve them.

After all, you’re the creator of worlds, wielder of the mighty pen—you can make anything happen!

What specific goals will you be setting this year?

Monday, January 8, 2024

Conquering Writer Doubt

We’re writers. We have an innate fear of criticism, a desire for validation, and we tend to compare ourselves and our work to others. It's a battle with the self, constantly measuring our worth against an ever-shifting standard.

Yet, within this turmoil, there's a strange kind of beauty. It's in the struggle, the vulnerability, and the relentless pursuit of improvement that the true essence of a writer's journey emerges—a quest to silence the inner critic, to discover one's unique voice, and to forge ahead, one word at a time.

Let's get one thing straight: those insecurities, that nagging self-doubt? They're not the adversaries we often perceive them to be. They’re there for a reason. They're the part of us that drives us to refine our craft, scrutinize our work, and aim for nothing short of excellence.

Conquering the relentless sense of doubt that plagues a writer's mind is a lifelong endeavor, but it's a journey worth embarking upon. You are not alone in this struggle. Every writer—from the greatest literary icons to those just starting—has faced moments of insecurity and imposter syndrome. It's an integral part of the creative process, a shadow that often accompanies the light of inspiration.

Remember, writing is a craft that can always be honed and improved. Write poorly—just keep writing. Embrace your failures as opportunities for growth. Set small, achievable goals and celebrate every step forward, no matter how incremental. Writing is a journey of self-discovery and self-expression, and with each sentence you craft, you become a better writer.

The world of book publishing has evolved, and the road to becoming a published author is no longer a one-size-fits-all journey. Traditional publishing, once the revered pinnacle of literary accomplishment, has become a fiercely competitive arena. Rejections and waiting periods can make us question our abilities (and sanity). Self-publishing offers creative freedom and the chance to present your work directly to the world, but it's not without challenges, and shadows of doubt are often cast on the perceived quality of self-published works. And then there's hybrid publishing, sitting in the middle ground, combining the best of both worlds. Hybrid publishers like Atmosphere Press provide structure and professional support while granting you almost total creative control.

Amidst this evolving landscape of publishing options, I want you to remember that neither your insecurities nor the nuances of the publishing world are roadblocks; they're motivators. They're the catalyst for countless revisions, sleepless nights, and the unyielding pursuit of perfection. The doubt that arises from navigating these choices can serve as a driving force, pushing you to refine your craft. Embrace this uncertainty as a source of inspiration, knowing that it's part of the journey toward becoming a resilient and confident writer. In the end, no matter the path you choose, your unique voice and dedication to your craft will shine through, proving that doubt can be the stepping stone to success.

Ultimately, conquering doubt as a writer requires self-compassion. Be kind to yourself and understand that the path to becoming a confident writer is paved with insecurity and uncertainty. It's a process, and the more you persist and persevere, the more you'll see your doubts gradually recede. In time, you'll find what once held you back will be overshadowed by the pride and satisfaction of creating something truly your own.

Your voice, your story, and your unique perspective deserve to be shared with the world. So keep writing, keep growing, and—above all—keep believing in yourself!


Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press

Erin K. Larson-Burnett, Production Manager at
Atmosphere Press, is a born-and-raised Southerner currently living in Katy, Texas, with her husband and their small domestic zoo. She is an avid ink drinker who lives and breathes books—during the day, she works remotely with authors around the world, honing and perfecting books published through Atmosphere Press. By night, she crafts her own stories...or at least tries to. The Bear & the Rose is her debut novel.