Don't Give Up!

Just a reminder to everyone—publishing takes a while. Selling a story or novel can take a very long time. I’ve sold some short stories in under a week, while others took years. Don’t get discouraged. Sometimes the wait actually makes your work better. You have time to reflect on it and make it stronger. It’s an ongoing process.

Editing Tips to Increase Your Chances of Getting Published

If you regularly submit to magazines, agents, or publishers, you know that an error-free manuscript has a much better chance of getting accepted. In addition, if you plan on self-publishing a book, it helps if you clean up those grammar mistakes that can make it look unprofessional. Below are some of the most common mistakes that rough drafts can have; it helps to clear them up in the rough draft stage and will make you a better writer.

  1. Dialogue. If your character says something, it should be enclosed between quotation marks.

    • CORRECT: “See this? It’s my dialogue,” said Cindy . (Notice that the exact words Cindy said are within the quotes. There is a comma after her last sentence, THEN the end quotes and THEN the speaker.

    • WRONG: “See this? It’s my dialogue.” Said Cindy. (Often, writers mistakenly put a period after the last sentence of dialogue and THEN add the speaker. This makes ‘Said Cindy’ appear to be a complete, stand-alone sentence. However, it can’t stand alone as a sentence because we need to know what it is that she said.

    • CORRECT: “See this? It’s my dialogue.” Cindy pointed to the words in quotes. In this instance, I’ve left out tagging the speaker for my dialogue. It’s implied that Cindy is speaking because she is referring back to what was said.

    • COMMON MISTAKE: If you accidentally put a period at the end of your dialogue, the word processor thinks your sentence is finished. That often leads to the mistake above, and the word processor will automatically capitalize your next sentence.

  2. Addressing people. This is an extremely common mistake. If a character speaks to another person by name, it should be set apart by a comma. I’m going to use a common example that I’ve seen on humor sites to show how it can change the meaning by not using a comma.

    • CORRECT: “Let’s eat, Grandma,” Billy said. Billy is talking to Grandma. She gets a comma in front of her name because she is being addressed.

    • WRONG: “Let’s eat Grandma,” Billy said. We’ve now turned Billy into a cannibal wanting to eat his own grandmother.

    • CORRECT: “Hey, guys! Let’s drive to town!” shouted Amanda. Amanda is talking to lots of people, aka addressing lots of people. They get a comma.

    • WRONG: “Hey guys! Let’s drive to town!” shouted Amanda. No, she’s not a cannibal in this instance, but there should still be a comma.

  3. Titles. The following words have a period after their abbreviations: Mr. Mrs. Ms. Dr. The exception is Miss. Miss has no period after it unless it is at the end of a sentence.

    • CORRECT: Mr. Pibb and Dr. Pepper stepped out of the elevator. They immediately saw Mrs. Dew, Ms. Lightning, and Miss Crawford. No period after ‘Miss.’

    • WRONG: Miss. Crawford immediately fainted. This turns ‘Miss’ into its own stand-alone sentence…which is not a complete sentence. The reader immediately is told to pause afterward, which interrupts the flow of the narrative.

  4. Its vs. it’s. It’s really very simple. If you can replace the words in your manuscript with “it is,” then you should use the one with the apostrophe. The apostrophe symbolizes leaving out the extra i in “is.”

    • CORRECT: It’s not fair! We use the one with the apostrophe because if we substitute in the words “it is,” the sentence still makes sense. “It is not fair” is the same thing as “It’s not fair.”

    • WRONG: I grabbed the book by it’s cover. If I substitute “it is,” the sentence makes no sense: I grabbed the book by it is cover. Therefore, we need NO apostrophe.

    • You may be thinking, “But what about the apostrophe showing possession?” Yes, it does…but only with nouns and proper names, i.e. John’s book, Alicia’s car, the baby’s rattle.

These are just a few of the mistakes that end up spelling rejection for aspiring writers. It’s good to correct them before submitting. Most agents and editors won’t keep reading submissions that are riddled with errors such as these.

That being said, is your manuscript going to be perfect? Probably not, but at least you can polish it up to the best of your ability and increase your chances of acceptance!

Turn Your Papercut into a Novel

Sometimes life is frustrating. If you’re a writer, this can be a good thing and a bad thing. Obviously, frustrations are…well, frustrating. On the positive side, they are a great thing to write about. Your main character has to have something standing in his way, and you may as well get some use out of your own frustrations to deepen the struggles of your hero or heroine.

“But my main character has to go fight a dragon, and I can’t even find time to write?” you may be shouting.

In that case, save up your frustration about not having time and pour it into your mental character development for your character. Let’s say he’s a knight and has to kill a dragon, as in the above example. From now on, your frustration about lack of time IS the dragon to be slain.

Frustration = dragon.

If you find 5 minutes to write, it equals your hero finding something little to help him on his quest, such as a tip about the dragon or maybe a little confidence to go on. Use symbolism with your own struggles to make his seem more real. Yeah, I know it seems cheesy, but it works. The weird part about it is that you’re using all that English class symbolism you learned in high school literature; each piece of your story becomes a symbol for something in your life.

Here are a few more examples.

Time to write = dragon

evil sorcerer guy = job you don’t like

stitch in side = annoying person at work/school

paper cut = scar from dragon battle

Literally everything in your life can be used to write an epic novel or story. It’s all in the symbolism.

Warum soll ich eine Fremdsprache lernen? (Sorry, I'm not allowed to English for a while...)

Ja, warum sollst du eine Fremdsprache lernen?  Kann es dir irgendwie helfen, besser zu schreiben? 


Mit einer Fremdsprache verstehst du die Welt mit ganz anderen Augen.  Du lernst, wie man sich besser ausdrückt.  Du kannst eine besondere Szene besser beschreiben.  Du verstehst auch andere Kulturen.  Es kann sein, dass die Hauptfiguren im Buch dann besser entwickelt werden.  Und ja, das hilft auch, wenn du auf Englisch schreibst.  Du wirst deine eigene Sprache dann viel besser verstehen. macht Spaß!

But I Want to Write Books! Why Should I Write For Magazines?

Yes, why should you write for magazines?  Here are a few reasons.

1.  It hones your writing skills.  You have to be precise when writing for magazines and get to the point of your story.

2.  It looks good on a writing resume.  Agents and editors who see success with magazines know that you have experience.  It can help your query letter stand out from the crowd.

3.  It helps give you a boost when you're feeling depressed about writing.  Turnaround time on queries is much faster.  Magazines sometimes (but not always) give feedback on your writing.

4.  It's good practice.   Short stories are like a practice run.

5.  It's  fun.  After I got my first acceptance from a magazine, I felt like I could do anything and ended up getting a dozen more before the year was out. 

6.  Some magazines pay extremely well.  Not all magazines pay, but either way, you'll have a writing credit.

7.  It looks good on your website.  Imagine having a whole page full of writing credits for prospective agents and editors to see. 

Now, where do you find these magazines?  Here are a few helpful sites.

1.  Children's Magazines:

2.  Speculative Fiction

3.  Literary Magazines:

4.  All Categories

5.  Classified/Calls for Submissions:

These are just a few of the hundreds of links I've found.  In the future, I'll be highlighting a specific magazine and talking about what they like and my experience publishing with them. 

Make Your Own Book Trailer

I like making videos.  No, they're not going to win any awards, but it's fun regardless.  Sometimes I like to make them for other people's books.  Here's one I made for a YA book by Kerstin Gier called Ruby Red.  One-line summary: Gwendolyn's cousin was supposed to inherit a time-travel gene, but (surprise!) Gwendolyn inherits it instead.

Here it is in German.  (Sometimes I like to dabble in German because I speak it and also because Ruby Red was originally written in German.  (Rubinrot)

I made both trailers using a free program called Animoto.  It lets you create free videos up to 30 seconds.  Anything longer, and you have to pay.  They come with music, graphics, etc.  In a nutshell, you fill in your info, and Animoto creates the video.  The good thing is that most people will watch a 30-second video.  Anything longer, and their attention span starts wandering. we create our own videos!  I made this one about a local author's romance/mystery novel.



A Soundtrack For Your Book?! Why not?

Movies always have soundtracks, but why not for books?  If you're a writer, you probably listen to certain music when you write.  That's cool.  Depending on what I'm writing, I listen to no music when writing pen to paper and then listen to music while typing it.  (Yes, I write the first draft the old fashioned way.)  However, sometimes you find that one song that describes one of your characters to a T. 

Make a playlist of songs for that character.  If it helps you develop the personality and to visualize what's going on, make a whole soundtrack.  Sometimes songs remind me of a critical scene in my books.  It helps me to visualize the scene as if it were a movie.  Then I replay it in my mind with my soundtrack going, and it helps to write. 

Take it one step further.  Make a whole soundtrack and then BURN THEM TO A CD--just like an old-fashioned hard copy CD, complete with a cover.  Find some clipart online if you're not an artist.  Put it on your writing desk so that you can see it.  I know it sounds cheesy, but it works.  Post them on your website so your fans can read and listen at the same time.  

...and now you can "write" those scenes in your head when you're driving, all with lovely background music from your book's soundtrack.