Organizing a Blog Tour by Charity Bradford

We all carry an idea of what our book release will look like inside our vivid imaginations. People will be cheering and falling over each other to get to the pile of books. Our names will be plastered on billboards and all over the internet.

We wish! Sometimes being a new writer is hard only because the reality is so different from that dream in our heads. People don’t automatically know we have a book for sale. Getting the word out can be a lot of work. However, there are some things we can do to make our book release amazing—for us and for our readers.

Blog tours are a great way to start spreading the word. As an added bonus, the more “stops” you have will drive you closer to the top of search engines. Blog tours don’t have to cost a lot of money. In fact, I didn’t spend a dime on mine (not including items for the giveaway on release day), and yet they can be inventive and fun for everyone involved.

Writers and book bloggers are often more than willing to help out with your tour if you give them enough notice. Why? Because it drives new traffic to their sites. Even though it’s a win/win situation, it’s important to remember that they are doing you a favor.

Here’s what I learned while planning my blog tour:

  • Start early. I started 4 months before my release date and managed to grab the last slot on the one blog I REALLY wanted to get on for my genre.
  • Be willing to help others regardless of whether or not they can help you. Remember how your mom used to tell you to be the kind of friend you wanted to find? Yeah, it’s sort of like that.
  • Use the resources that are out there. (See some helpful links below)
  • Be professional. Even though you are working through email instead of face to face, present yourself with confidence. Craft your correspondence with the same care you crafted your queries. Be honest with your expectations. Most importantly, when someone declines, say thank you and move on.
  • Be prepared with ideas for your tour such as guest post topics, games, giveaways, etc. I started with a list of 12 different pre-planned topics.
  • Don’t be afraid of trying something new. Just because you’ve never seen it done, doesn’t mean it won’t be perfect for you and your book.
  • Take some time to create good headers and buttons that draw the reader’s attention and give a feel for your book, or pay someone else to do so.
  • Keep good records of Who, What, When, and Where so you can deliver what you promised and answer questions when someone asks about “the plan.”
  • Work a little every day so you don’t feel overwhelmed. I ended up with 34 tour stops, which is WONDERFUL, but if I had to prepare all of those posts within a month I’d curl up and die. Because I started early, I was able to work on them over two months instead of weeks. Hopefully the posts were better because of that.
  • Be flexible. If someone wants to host you, but they don’t like any of the topics you pre-planned, be willing to write a post that fits their blog and readers. In the end, you’ll be glad you did.
  • Show your gratitude. These people have just become a part of your marketing team. Find a way to thank them sincerely. My favorite way to do this is to return the favor if they have a book coming out or offer a critique if they are still working on that first project. Marketing is as much about building friendships as it is selling books.

Perhaps the greatest thing I’ve learned from this experience is that I can do this. And if I can do it, so can you. Here are the links to sites that I found most helpful while planning my blog tour.

  • There’s a great new site called The Blog Tour Exchange. It pairs you with other writers in your genre so you have a few sites to swap tour dates with. Great jumping off point.
  • Pippa Jay has a huge list of Book Reviewers you can sift through.

Good luck and have fun!

Charity Bradford lives in Northwest Arkansas with her hubby and four children, and firmly believes a smile can solve most problems. The Magic Wakes(WiDo Publishing, 2013) is her first novel. You can read her blog at Charity’s Writing Journey.

Why Punctuation Matters by Annette Lyon

People joke that I’m the Grammar Nazi.

My critique group says that I know exactly how to use commas (and then they go comatose, and tweet about it, if I try to explain why a semicolon is correct on page 5).

For that matter, rumor has it that when they speak about our group and mention members’ strengths, they bring up punctuation as my strength.

While I do know my fair share of punctuation rules, I do like to hope that in the 12 years I’ve been there I’ve been worth more than fixing comma splices. 🙂

But yes, I do care about punctuation more than the average reader or writer. Why? Because it adds nuance and meaning that nothing else can. The same words can have a totally different meaning with a few different punctuation marks.

This is true with big issues like pacing, tone, and mood.

But to make my point, I’ll go a bit over the top.

First off, read Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots, and Leaves (the title of which is a punctuation joke). If you think punctuation is stale and boring, read that book. I read it on the treadmill and nearly fell off, I was laughing so hard.

Truss has several other titles, including picture books. I own one of them, and my kids love it. My third grader took it to school for show-and-tell. (And probably had to explain it to the class . . .)


To make my point about how punctuation can change meaning, here are three fun examples:

1) I’ve seen this one go around Facebook under the guise of, “Punctuation saves lives!”

Let’s eat Grandpa.
(I doubt he’s very tasty)


Let’s eat, Grandpa.
(Yo, Grandpa, dinner’s ready! I’ll race ya to the table!)


2) I saw this one in college during my nerd training (read: English major studies). The professor, a woman, wrote the following sentence on the board:

Woman, without her man, is nothing.

I was rather incensed. Until she changed the punctuation.

Woman: without her, man is nothing.

And then I laughed.

3) One of Lynne Truss’s books, Twenty-odd Ducks, includes a punctuation joke right on the cover with the title. With the hyphen, the title means, “roughly twenty ducks.” If you take the hyphen out, it means, “twenty weird ducks.” So the cover has twenty funky ducks: some that are striped, one ready to go snorkeling, and so on.

Even the subtitle has a play on punctuation: Why, Punctuation Matters

On each page spread, the book has the same sentence but with different punctuation (and therefore different meanings), plus illustrations to match.

You need to get your hands on a copy. Really. As proof, I present my kids’ favorite 2-page spread from the book. It’s gruesome, which may be why they love it.

The first page shows a king strolling near a group of girls bowing and throwing flowers at him as he says, “Ah, life is grand.” The caption reads as follows:

The king walked and talked. Half an hour later, his head was cut off.

The second page makes the whole thing read as one sentence, which changes the meaning drastically:

The king walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off.

Above the caption: three illustrations showing the king decapitated and his head talking (“Why can’t I feel my lips?”) as his body walks around.

Hysterical, if you ask me. At the end of the book, Truss manages (quite brilliantly) to write an entire letter to a school teacher on one page and then changes the meaning entirely using nothing but punctuation on the other.

Convinced that punctuation matters? I hope so. At the very least, remember point number one: punctuation saves lives.

Annette Lyon  is a Whitney Award winner, the recipient of Utah’s Best of State medal for fiction, and the author of eight novels, a cookbook, and a grammar guide, plus over a hundred magazine articles. She’s a senior editor at Precision Editing Group and a cum laude graduate from BYU with a degree in English. When she’s not writing, editing, knitting, or eating chocolate, she can be found mothering and avoiding the spots on the kitchen floor. Find her online at and on Twitter: @AnnetteLyon.

Need a little extra grammar help? Get Annette’s grammar book, There, Their, They’re: A No-Tears Guide to Grammar from the Word Nerd.

Writing a Great Book Review by Tristi Pinkston

It’s fun to write a book review. It’s fun to share opinions, to hear what others have to say, to find books that we otherwise might not know about, and it’s also a great way to bring traffic to your blog. No matter your reason for writing book reviews (it might even be for school, and not for the Internet at all), these tips should be helpful. (I say “should” because, really, I can hope that they are, but I can’t know for certain.)

I’ve been a media reviewer for about five years now, and I’ve developed a style that works for me. I’ll outline it below, and then you can tweak it to fit your own needs and parameters. It’s all right if you copy it step by step, too—whatever works best for you.

1. After I’ve read the book, I let it sit for a day or two and let it percolate in my brain. I think about the plot, the characters, the things I wondered as I was reading, the questions I felt were left unanswered.

2. When I sit down to write the review, I give a synopsis of the plot in my own words. Yes, you can use the text off the back of the book, but I personally prefer to write one of my own. It presents my interpretation of the book, rather than what someone else wants me to think about the book.

3. After I’ve written the synopsis, I will make a criticism sandwich. That is to say, I share something I liked about the book, something I felt could have been stronger, and then I close with another thing I liked. I rarely just praise without mentioning something I would have improved—I am a critical reader, and so I spot things. That’s just what happens when you work as an editor. You see stuff. I think it’s important that a potential buyer know for certain what they are buying. I also feel that the author can grow and strengthen their talents as they hear what they might have done better. But I also feel that writing in and of itself is a huge accomplishment, and I don’t ever want the author to feel slammed or harshly criticized. If I can’t be helpful, constructive, and edifying, then *I shouldn’t be critiquing. Simple as that.

4. And that moves us on to my fourth point. I try hard to keep my comments helpful and edifying. If I totally hate a book and can’t find anything good to say about it, I will contact the author or the publicist—whoever sent it to me—and I will explain to them that the book didn’t quite fit me, and that I’d like to pass it on to another reviewer. This is the most fair way for me to handle it—I don’t believe in ripping people up, but instead, I believe in allowing them to learn and grow from their experiences.

5. I always like to talk about how the book made me feel or the things it made me think about. That’s what makes the review unique to me. Anyone can post the text from the back of the book, but it’s hearing what the reviewer felt while they were reading that will sell the book.

6. I always, always include a purchase link to the book. The book review should tell about the book, it should tell how I feel about the book, and it should give my reader a way to buy the book when they are done reading my review.

In a nutshell, those are my tips for writing a great book review. Some reviewers like to include the author’s bio, or interview questions with the author, or book club-style questions. All of that is great. The main thing I can offer is this—be yourself and share how the book impacted you. When you do that, you will rarely go wrong.

*I do want to make one clarifying statement—there are some book reviewers who do like to mention all the negatives and things they didn’t like, and I’m not saying they shouldn’t do that. It’s their choice. I’m explaining what works for me, and every reviewer will have their own philosophy and their own take on what makes a review great.


Note from LDSP: Book reviews can make or break a book. Honesty is vital, and so is civility. I like Tristi’s take on this. Also, if you’re reviewing a book on your blog as part of a virtual book tour, or just for fun, it only takes a couple of extra minutes to post that same review on Amazon and GoodReads. Authors and publishers appreciate it!


Tristi Pinkston is the author of seventeen (and counting!) published books, including the Secret Sisters mystery series. In addition to being a prolific author, Tristi also provides a variety of author services, including editing and online writing instruction. You can visit her at or her website at

Don’t Give Up! by Rebecca Talley

As writers, it’s easy to get discouraged. Don’t.

With housework, full-time jobs, kids, appointments, volunteer opportunities, political involvement, grocery shopping, caring for aging parents, feeding animals, going to school, or a multitude of other commitments that eat away at writing time, sometimes it’s hard to not give up.

Add in rejection letters, time spent waiting to hear from an editor or agent, lack of support from family members or friends, and dismal news about the economy and you might wonder why you’d want to keep writing.

It’s simple: We don’t choose writing, it chooses us. For those of us who write, writing is an integral part of who we are. We think about characters and plotlines while we shower, drive our kids to appointments, or wait at the doctor’s office. We have voices in our heads. We turn on the light in the middle of the night to record a dream in our writer’s notebook. We research exotic locales, poisons, and ways to steal money all in an effort to make our stories realistic.

We have sticky notes on the computer, the walls, the bathroom mirror. We interview our characters and ponder on their deepest, darkest secrets.

We live to write and write to live.

And the good news is that publishers need our manuscripts to stay in business. Though some publishers may be scaling back, books are still being published. New authors break into the market every year and existing authors continue to publish books.

Yes, the writing world is difficult. Writing a novel is strenuous work and takes time and dedication. Marketing that book is arduous and not only takes time and dedication, it also takes a great deal of patience and persistence. But, if your dream is to be published, don’t give up. Keep at it.
Someone once said that the difference between an unpublished and a published author is persistence.

Never surrender. Believe in yourself and in your work. Keep honing your skills and someday, you will see your name in print.

When you feel like giving up, what do you do to keep yourself motivated and believing that you’ll make it?


Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. She now lives in rural CO on a small ranch with a dog, a spoiled horse, too many cats, and a herd of goats. She and her husband, Del, are the proud parents of ten multi-talented and wildly-creative children. Rebecca is the author of a children’s picture book “Grasshopper Pie” (WindRiver 2003), three novels, “Heaven Scent” (CFI 2008), “Altared Plans” (CFI 2009), and “The Upside of Down” (CFI 2011), and numerous magazine stories and articles. You can visit her blog at

Dealing With Negative Reviews by Whitney Boyd

As an LDS author, my purpose in writing was to create a clean, fun, flirty chick lit book that would appeal to both LDS and non-LDS audiences. I wanted my books to be realistic to life, but not to have excessive bad language, explicit sex scenes or  anything too crude or vulgar. At the same time, I knew it couldn’t be a book that was all butterflies and roses. Life, even an LDS life, does not have people walking around saying “darn” and smiling in every situation. So, I wrote my books. I made them as clean as I could, but still realistic. Words like “crap” and “freaking” are words that I occasionally use and do not find offensive. Basically I kept everything PG according to my temple-recommend-holding-returned-missionary-living-in-the-real-world moral code.

Then the reviews started coming. There are three types of reviews, for those who aren’t familiar with it. The majority were super positive (which I love!). There were a few super negative (which make me cry. Seriously), and then here and there a couple of the blah in between reviews where they say “It was a good book, but meh.”  Now, here’s where this gets interesting. The negative reviews I received were written by both LDS and non-LDS people. The LDS people expected the book to be more LDS and “Molly Mormon”. They didn’t like the border-line crude language in parts, nor the implication that one of the secondary characters in my Hollywood novel was gay.  They felt that I, as an LDS writer, should have made the main character 100% LDS in every word and thought. On the other hand, the non-LDS commentors wanted the book to be more “Fifty Shades of Grey”. They wanted the characters to do more than just kiss. They wanted a book like hundreds of other romance novels out there.

I read these reviews and felt conflicted. Was I right in my purpose?  I wrote a clean, fun, flirty book that a lot of members and non-members love. But why then were there a few people that strongly disliked it?

It took a little while, but finally I had an epiphany… I cannot please everyone. Simple. As much as I want to be the most beloved author in the world, that is impossible. Even authors who have sold millions of copies of their novels, like Stephenie Meyers, Sophie Kinsella or J.K Rowling, have received negative reviews. I know a lot of LDS people who refuse to read the “Twilight” books because they don’t adhere to church standards. Then there are even more LDS people who love the books and the movies and think they are great.

So what’s the moral of this story? Write your book. Figure out who you want your audience to be. And then be proud. You created something that nobody else could have created! As President Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Whitney Boyd, author of TANNED, TONED AND TOTALLY FAKING IT and soon to be released ICED ROMANCE. You can read her blog at

Most Common Misspelled Words by Annette Lyon put together a list of the 100 most misspelled words. (Check it: MISSPELLED is one of them. hah!) They even have explanations to help you remember the correct spellings.

Find the full list HERE.

A few of my favorites:

For some reason, I tend to spell the ending with the other, similar-sounding suffix: ible. Since it made the list, I must not be alone.

a lot
Okay, technically not A word. It’s two words. But therein lies the problem: people commonly spell it as alot. There is no such word. Unless you mean allot, “to assign as a share or portion” (see Merriam-Webster).

I know it doesn’t sound like it, but this word ends in AR, not ER. A, people. A.

A commonly confused word pair in addition to both words being commonly misspelled. Conscience is that cricket on your shoulder telling you what is right and wrong. Conscious means you’re awake or aware of something.

Major peeve of mine when the I in this word is replaced with an A. I don’t know why it’s so common–it’s not like we pronounce it with an A sound, even: defin-AT-ely? Um, no.

Commonly misspelled with the middle E replaced by an A: existance. See above.

Since fire has the E at the end, it’s easy to think the adjective version would too. It’s easy to think wrong.

I first learned about gauges when I read a book about knitting around 11 or 12 years old. Since no one was saying the word out loud to me, I assumed it was pronounced sort of French: GAH-zh. When I realize it rhymes with cage, I felt silly. But at least it’s a commonly misspelled word I have down.

WITH an apostrophe, you’re making a contraction, like don’t (do not) or can’t (can not). The contraction here means it is. If you’re referring to possession, then you use the plain pronoun, its. Remember: you wouldn’t add an apostrophe to his, right? Same word form.

We forget that jewelry comes from the word jewel, so we have to spell that word out first before we get to the suffix.

Don’t be tempted to slip in an E to complete the word judge. Same goes with acknowledgment.

I made this misspelling myself when I first got to know my favorite gourmet popcorn store, Colorado (and Utah) Kernels. Like many others do, I spelled it with an A: kernals, and they gently corrected me. I’ve never made the mistake since.

NOT spelled with an O: momento. Nope. Think of it this way: a memento is something you remember an event by. It sparks a MEMory. MEMento.

Sometimes I get this one right on my first try, other times, no. I used to get frustrated with it, because I kept wanting to add the extra syllable we often say the word with (mish-chee-vee-ous) even though it’s really a three-syllable word (MISH-che-vuhs).

I once spent about fifteen minutes coming up with ways to spell this that the spell checker could at least identify and take a stab at. Took me forever to get it down.

Another case of thinking of the root word and letting that impact the spelling. We pronounce things, but we do so with without the OU sound in this word.

HAD to end with this one, since it’s the title of my grammar book. (Hey, it was on their list!)

What are some of you favorite misspelled words?

Annette Lyon  is a Whitney Award winner, the recipient of Utah’s Best of State medal for fiction, and the author of eight novels, a cookbook, and a grammar guide, plus over a hundred magazine articles. She’s a senior editor at Precision Editing Group and a cum laude graduate from BYU with a degree in English. When she’s not writing, editing, knitting, or eating chocolate, she can be found mothering and avoiding the spots on the kitchen floor. Find her online at and on Twitter: @AnnetteLyon.

Need a little extra grammar help? Get Annette’s grammar book, There, Their, They’re: A No-Tears Guide to Grammar from the Word Nerd.

A Snowball’s Chance in Marketing by Michaelbrent Collings

I recently received an email from someone on my “official Michaelbrent Collings Facebook Fan Page” (which is still kinda weird to have, truth be known), asking in essence what he could do to sell his books to more than just his close personal friends and family… and promising me a kiss on the lips if I could help him out.

Now, first of all, please let me be clear: if you know a famous author, or a successful author, or even a semi-famous or semi-successful author, this is generally not the way to get help.  It is considered “solicitation” in a lot of cases and is illegal in many states.  However, because he and I have had a lot of previous interaction and he buys all my books and seems nice and has never (as yet) tried to make a lampshade out of my face-skin, I answered.  And I thought the answer might be germane to others who have gotten over that huge first hurdle of getting a book published, but now face the surprisingly bigger hurdle of actually trying to sell the durn-dang-darn thing!

Rest easy.  It never gets easy.  I’m one of Amazon’s bestselling horror writers, nearly every book I write hits one of their major bestsellers lists and most of them stay there… and I still have to spend about 40% of my time doing PR work and getting the word out.  So it’s always going to be a job, folks.  But… well… here’s what I told my fan:

If you ever want to dissuade someone from helping you, promise them a kiss on the lips.

Seriously, the thing of it is that there’s no easy answer. It’s like rolling a snowball down a mountain, I suppose. The bad news is that at first… you have a snowball and it’s tiny and it rolls really freakin’ slow and you’re going to be coaxing it along every step of the way. Telling people you know about your book at parties, random gatherings, funerals. Telling people you DON’T know about it at bus stops, waiting in line at the supermarket, funerals. Carrying around business cards with your website on it. A great tactic I like to use is engaging people in conversation and then saying slyly, “So what kind of books do you like to read?” after they say anything I can use to segue into that. Like a statement about their baby, or the weather, or the fact that they hate reading. You basically have to hear everything as an invitation to talk about your writing.

This does not get you invited to the cool parties.

The bad news is, at the end of the day you still have to push that freakin’ snowball along constantly. The GOOD news is… the bigger it gets, the more surface area it has. And that means that eventually it will start picking up snow at a faster rate. Hopefully.

Again, there’s no easy answer. Talk to people you don’t know. Google book review sites, looking for folks that might be interested in reviewing your novel and offer to send them a free e-copy. Google podcasts and internet radio stations that might want to talk to authors of books like yours and send them your SHORT (like, three sentence) bio and offer to chat with them at their convenience. Push that snowball.

Patience. Work. Tenacity.


Now, again, this is not the fistful of flowers and sunshine that most people want to get when they ask about selling their books.  But the reality is that the hardest work starts when you type “The End” and turn off the computer.  The difference between a great author and a successful one is that the successful one knows how to get out and sell, to work the system and network and make contacts.  Anyone can do it, I think, but precious few people really want to.

Be one of the ones that does.


Michaelbrent Collings has written numerous bestselling novels, including his latest YA fantasy Billy: Seeker of Powers.  His wife and mommy think he is a can that is chock-full of awesome sauce.  Check him out at or

Finding a Good Editor by Tristi Pinkston

Part 1: How to Work with an Editor

[LDSP note: So many of my clients have made a bad match with an editor. I once had a self-published author who approached me about traditionally publishing or distributing their book. After reading the first chapter, I told them they needed to have it edited. They told me they’d already spent $2000 on an edit. And it was horrid!!! Incomplete sentences, verb tense issues, punctuation… My heart just broke for them. Editing is very much a “buyer beware” situation. I am very glad Tristi wrote this post and I support every sentence 100%!]

Yesterday, I blogged about how to work with an editor. Today, I’m blogging about how to look for—and find—a good editor. Perhaps I went about that backwards.

As a note of explanation, yesterday’s post was applicable to every author, whether they are self-published or traditionally published. Today’s post will be most beneficial to authors who either self-publish or are looking for a freelance editor to help them prepare to submit traditionally—once you sign with a publishing company, they will assign an editor to you, so you will not need to search for one.

So, let us begin. You’ve finished your manuscript and you’ve sent it through some trusted readers. You’ve incorporated their feedback, and you are ready to send it to an editor. How should you go about this? What should you avoid?

There are some fantastic editors out there, some pretty good editors out there, and some (quite frankly) frightening editors out there. About ten of my clients were badly burned by their editors, came hunting for help in desperation, found me (makes it sound like they had to be desperate to end up choosing me …) and sent me the manuscript after their editor had worked it over. In each of these cases, I have been appalled at the kinds of mistakes left in the manuscript. No editor worthy of the title would ever have left a manuscript in that condition. So it is with that in mind that  I write this blog today—to help you avoid that kind of frustration.

How do you find an editor?

You can go on Google and do a search for freelance editors, but word of mouth always has been and always will be the best way to find a good or a service. People love to talk about their good experiences and their bad. Ask your author friends who they use and recommend. Ask them who they do not recommend. And after they have given you a name or two, ask them the following things:

1. Did the editor treat them well?

2. Did the editor charge them a fair price?

3. Did the editor turn the job around when promised?

4. Did they deliver the kind of edit they promised?

5. Did the editor make any mistakes in the edit, and if so, were they apologetic, or did they get defensive about it?

6. Did the editor explain things clearly? Were they open to questions, and did they answer them respectfully?

7.  If they could change one thing about their editor, what would they change?

After you’ve spoken with your friend and you feel good about the answers they gave, visit that editor’s website and find out the following things:

1. Have they posted a list of books they edited? Are you familiar with any of their previous work? Note: Some brand-new editors are awesome, so if they don’t have a huge list of titles. That’s not necessarily a bad sign.

2. Are their rates compatible with what you can afford, and are they reasonable? Reasonable: $1.00 a page is not unheard of for a new editor, while $3.00 is pretty typical for a seasoned editor. The amount of work that will go into the edit also comes into play—some editors charge a little more if the edit will be complex.

3. Do they offer a sample of their work? Many editors will do a few pages for free, or will do twenty pages for a reasonable fee. This gives you the chance to see if you like their style, but it also gives them the chance to see if they like working with you.

4. Do they work with your genre? This is key! Don’t waste your time querying an editor who doesn’t work with (or enjoy reading) the genre you write, or who doesn’t do the type of edit you need.

If you still like what you see, contact that editor and ask them any other questions that might have risen to the surface. These might include:

1. How long does an edit usually take?

2. Do you ask for money down?

3. How long do I have to pay my bill? What methods of payment do you accept?

4. What system do you have in place just in case one of us is unhappy with the arrangement? (The author should be happy with the editor, but the editor should also be happy with the author.)

5. When is your next available slot?

6. What format should I use when sending my manuscript?

Some of these questions might be answered on the editor’s website, but feel free to ask any others that might be important to you.

You may find the most awesome editor right off the bat and fall madly in love with them and never leave them, or you may find that search to be a little more tricky. To help weed out the editors who will not be as beneficial to you, I suggest:

1. Take them up on that free sample, if offered. If they don’t offer one, be gutsy and ask. Say, “My friend (insert friend’s name here) recommended you, and I’d like to see if our styles are compatible. Would you do a three-page free sample for me?” If they give you lip, they probably aren’t the editor for you anyway. If you don’t care for their style from those three pages, you can thank them for their time and be under no obligation to hire them.

2. If you get a sample back and it just doesn’t seem right to you, ask another editor for a sample, and send in the same segment. Then compare the two. Of course they’ll each point out different things when it comes to the subjective parts of editing, but they should both find the same typos, etc. If you find that the first sample doesn’t match the second and is missing several important corrections (or the second sample doesn’t match the first), that will tell you who is going to be the more thorough editor.

3. Google the name of the editor and see who might have posted positive or negative comments about them online.

4. Make sure you have an out if the editor didn’t come with enough recommendations to make you feel comfortable. Start with a fifty-page edit, and if you like what you see, finish it out. Any time you have doubt, start with a partial. You don’t want to get halfway through an edit, decide you can’t stand each other, still have money owing on one side or work owed on the other, and create a really awkward parting of the ways.

This needs to go two ways. If the author can’t work with the editor, or if the editor can’t work with the author, either one of them should have the option to pull out. But discuss this before you begin any work. Know what the parameters are for that type of situation.

Now, I’m probably making this all sound a lot more complicated than it really has to be. Most authors get referrals from their friends, they trust that editor, they work well together, and they don’t have any issues whatsoever. But we don’t all have author friends with great editors, or maybe that editor is booked and we need to find someone else. These tips will hopefully help you to narrow down what you need and aid in the search for that editor you will love to work with for years to come.

Tristi Pinkston is the author of nine published books, including the Secret Sisters mystery series. In addition to being a prolific author, Tristi also provides a variety of author services, including editing and online writing instruction. You can visit her at or her website at

How to Work with an Editor by Tristi Pinkston

Believe me, I know how you feel. You’ve written a book, it’s taken you months/years/decades, you have large chunks of it memorized because you’ve gone over it so many times, and when you look at it, you see a big pile of blood, sweat, and tears.

It represents all the nights you went without sleep, all the television shows you gave up, all the nights out with friends you missed, the stomachaches you got . . . you have given your all to this book, and now it’s time to turn it over to someone else. You’re tense. You’re nervous. You wonder what they’re going to say. You are, understandably, on pins and needles, and yes, you’ve got your barriers up a bit. You don’t want to get hurt, and so you go into the edit with caution. Again, believe me, I know. I’ve been there.

I’ve also been on the editor’s side of the table. Actually, quite a lot more than I have the author’s side—I have written 14 published books, but I’ve edited a couple hundred books, so the ratio is a little lopsided there.

I’d like to share with you some things I’ve learned about the editor/author relationship from both sides. It’s my hope to help you avoid some of the pitfalls that a lot of new authors (and myself) have encountered on their journeys.

1. The editor is not your enemy.

I have to tell you, I’ve had some clients approach me like they thought I was a lion, and that everything I said was geared specifically to hurt them. There was this one experience, a few years back …

The editor’s job is to take what you have created and help you make it better. That is the only thing on the editor’s mind. They don’t wake up in the morning, rub their hands together, and say, “How can I make my author miserable today?” You might feel wounded when they ask you to rewrite a sentence or to rework a character’s motivation, but in the end, they are doing their best to help you look your best.

2. The editor is usually right.

If you have chosen a good editor (and again, we’ll be discussing that tomorrow), he or she has done their research and they know what they’re talking about. You can put a level of trust in them that they have looked up the answer to your particular question and they are leading you in the right direction. Good editors double-check when they have a question. They ask questions of other editors as need be. They keep Google and Merriam-Webster and up on their computers so they can be sure that what they’re giving you is their very best effort.

3. The editor is sometimes wrong.

Editors are humans, and humans make mistakes. There are times when your editor may make a correction that you know isn’t right. The way to handle this is to talk to them respectfully and explain your point of view, including links to your source, if available. If you have a good working relationship with your editor, based on the respect you show each other, you will be able to discuss it professionally and come to an answer that works for both of you.

Whenever there’s a disagreement, it’s important for both sides to share their feelings. Again, this should be done professionally, with the understanding that neither side is trying to be hurtful.

If you know you’re right, don’t hesitate to make a stand. Most editors are professionals and they will listen to you without the need for an unpleasant “discussion.” If you are proven wrong, be willing to concede the point.

4. It’s personal to the author, but it’s a job to the editor.

Editors take their jobs very seriously. They think about their authors, they’ll fall asleep mulling over plots, they might be out grocery shopping and all of a sudden realize that they need to go back and tweak that one sentence. They care very much about what they do. However, at the end of the day, they don’t have the depth of emotional attachment to the project that the author has.

The author knows that book inside and out. Like I mentioned above, it represents so much more to them than just the story on the page. They can look it at and say, “I remember the day I wrote that scene.”

When an editor makes a cut in a scene that’s very important to the author, it can feel like the author’s throat has been cut instead. It’s painful, especially when the author worked really hard on it. But keep in mind, the editor is making the suggestion based on what works for your story, and what works in the current market. Don’t take it personally. Step back and think of it from a different perspective. Be willing to consider that maybe it does need to go.

5. Ask Questions If You Don’t Understand

Your editor is there to help you, and if they make a comment you don’t understand, ask them to clarify. If they aren’t being clear, they aren’t doing the best job for you. Don’t feel stupid if you don’t get what they mean—they might use specialized editing terms you don’t know, or perhaps they are just approaching it from a different angle. Any time you are unsure what they are saying, ask for clarification. You should understand their viewpoint on every aspect of the edit.

6. You Are the Steward of Your Story

At the end of the day, this is your story. It’s up to you to decide how it should go. The editor is there to help you make it even better, but it’s your task to implement those changes. The trick is to understand what changes are absolutely crucial to make (I have had clients reject some very basic grammar and spelling changes … um, don’t do that) and what are, perhaps, more a matter of personal opinion. I urge you not to disregard good advice just because it’s not what you were thinking. Weigh everything that is said to you carefully. Put ego to the side and be willing to see your book from a reader’s perspective and from the market’s perspective. At the same time, know what’s most important to you and what you’re willing to sacrifice and what you’re not.

There are times when you will need to make a certain change in order to conform to what your publisher has asked. They might say to cut an entire scene that means a lot to you, or to revamp a plot line that is important to you. In a case like that, be willing to talk with them and see if you can compromise. Why do they want you to make the change, and can you arrive at a solution that will please both of you? Sometimes it’s a matter of making the motivation more clear, or heightening the conflict, or making the scene less filler and more usable content. Talk it over.

The editor/author relationship is one of the most important you will form in the writing industry. Authors need editors. Editors need authors . . . kind of hard to be an editor without something to edit. When both parties approach their jobs with professionalism, with an attitude of teamwork, with the willingness to put ego aside to work toward the greater good (and what greater good is there but an awesome book for the world to read), it can be an unbeatable combination.

Come back tomorrow when I discuss how to find an editor and how to make sure they’ll be a good fit for you.


Tristi Pinkston is the author of nine published books, including the Secret Sisters mystery series. In addition to being a prolific author, Tristi also provides a variety of author services, including editing and online writing instruction. You can visit her at or her website at

What is Your Story Goal? by Rebecca Talley

The main character in a novel must have a goal. He must have something he works toward, something he desperately wants and if he does not obtain that something his life will not be the same.

Every novel should have a story goal and that goal should be clearly stated for the reader. In my novel, Heaven Scent, Liza is the main character. Her father has become obsessed with his career and has seemingly abandoned his family. Liza desperately wants her father back in her life. She wants her family to be as it once was. Throughout the book, she works toward the goal of trying to restore her family to its once happy state. In the first chapter, Liza clearly states this goal and she continues to restate it throughout the book.

Readers need to know what the goal is and what’s at stake if the goal is not obtained. Without a clear story goal, the reader gets lost and never fully engages with the story.

To determine the story goal you need to know what it is that your character wants. A new job? A husband? A child? A new house? Fame? Riches?

Once you know what your character wants, you need to know why. Why is this goal so important? What’s the underlying reason the character wants this goal? In Recovering Charles by Jason Wright the main character, Luke Millward, wants to reconcile with his father. His search to do so leads him to New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. Throughout the book, the reader wonders if Luke will be able to move beyond the past and repair his relationship with his father.

The story goal, or the desire to achieve it, propels the story forward. Without one, the story will flounder and finally fizzle. As a writer, you must be aware of the story goal and design smaller, scene goals that work toward the overall story goal.

Make sure your story has a clearly defined goal and you’ll not only have an easier time writing toward it, you’ll have readers anxious to read to the end to see if the character accomplished his goal.


Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. She now lives in rural CO on a small ranch with a dog, a spoiled horse, too many cats, and a herd of goats. She and her husband, Del, are the proud parents of ten multi-talented and wildly-creative children. Rebecca is the author of a children’s picture book “Grasshopper Pie” (WindRiver 2003), three novels, “Heaven Scent” (CFI 2008), “Altared Plans” (CFI 2009), and “The Upside of Down” (CFI 2011), and numerous magazine stories and articles. You can visit her blog at

Guidelines for Writing LDS Fiction by Karen Jones Gowen, WiDo Publishing

The LDS fiction genre encompasses everything from inspirational novels where characters accept the gospel and get baptized, to historical fiction about elements of Church history, and a whole lot in between.

The LDS fiction label can be a fairly clean novel written by an LDS author, with no Mormon characters or references, somewhat like the label “Christian fiction” might be given to one just like it. It can also be ascribed to a novel with some swearing or sexual scenes (not graphic however), but that contains Mormon characters and themes.

Surely there are books listed on Amazon under LDS Fiction that a reader might be offended by, and others that are so squeaky clean and spiritually uplifting as to be dull for those seeking the kind of conflict, tension and turmoil that a novel requires.

By now you may be thinking: But isn’t this a post on guidelines for writing LDS fiction? Then why is she essentially telling us there are no guidelines?

The fact is that ebooks have changed the guidelines. It used to be that LDS Fiction was what you found when you browsed an LDS bookstore.  The stores set the limits, sometimes restricting them so severely that shoppers got frustrated by the same formulaic genre.  Stores decide what they will or won’t carry. If it doesn’t suit them, they don’t order it.

For this reason, WiDo Publishing stopped accepting manuscripts that fit the strictest definition of LDS Fiction—Mormon characters and themes and squeaky clean. Reason being, there weren’t enough LDS bookstores around to sell them to, if you took Deseret Bookstores out of the picture. And other bookstores didn’t want “Mormon books.”

Hooray for the Kindle! We wish we could call up all those talented authors who submitted their LDS Fiction to us, because we can now sell it. In fact, it sells very well through the Kindle, which is how we distribute our ebooks.

Through the maze of inappropriateness that gluts their selections, LDS Kindle owners are desperately seeking clean fiction for themselves and their families. Even if it’s not “squeaky clean” or not strictly fiction, WiDo will label a book LDS Fiction if it fits three or more of the following criteria:

  1. It’s written by an LDS author.
  2. It contains Mormon characters.
  3. It deals with themes that are based on true principles.
  4. There’s restraint used in language and scenes, although we can’t always promise squeaky clean.
  5. We think LDS readers will enjoy it for all of the above reasons, and because they are seeking out the best books.

By these guidelines, Jewish author Mirka M.G. Breen would no doubt be surprised to see that her middle-grade novel, The Voice of Thunder, about two ten-year-old girls in Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, is categorized by WiDo as, among other things, LDS Fiction.

And those of you who sent us manuscripts we turned down back when “we can’t sell LDS Fiction,” please submit to us again. Because now we can.


About Karen Jones Gowen: Born and raised in central Illinois, the daughter of a Methodist minister from Indiana and a school teacher from Nebraska, Karen Jones Gowen has down-to-earth Midwestern roots. Karen and her husband Bruce have lived in Utah, Illinois, California and Washington, currently residing near Salt Lake City. They are the parents of ten children. Not surprisingly, family relationships are a recurring theme in Gowen’s writing. She is the managing editor for WiDo Publishing and the author of four books, all of which fit loosely into the category of LDS Fiction.

Karen’s website:

WiDo Publishing website:

When Passive Voice is OKAY by Annette Lyon

Don’t use passive voice; use active voice.

Ever heard that writing rule?

It’s a good guideline, for sure, but like any writing rule, exceptions abound.

First, what is passive voice?

Passive voice shows up when something or someone is being acted upon rather than doing the acting. It’s usually a weak way to construct a sentence or a scene because your characters are like chess pieces being moved around and having stuff thrown at them rather than actually doing anything themselves.

Often passive voice can be changed with a little tweaking, and doing so almost always results in a stronger sentence.


Tom was hit by a car.

This is passive because the car is the one actually doing the action. Tom is the recipient of the effect.

The car hit Tom.

That’s active, but it’s still a bit telly.

Since the first sentence (Tom was hit by a car) was rather non-specific (ie telly), let’s do better on both counts. Let’s show AND use active voice:

A red Jeep squealed around the corner, its headlights staring Tom in the face. He dove for the sidewalk, but too late; the grill smacked into his torso, and tires rolled over his legs. A pop and a crunch, and then silence, save for Tom’s heavy breathing and a sensation of shock eclipsing the pain in his broken legs.

Now the car (or, the Jeep, since we’re adding specificity) is acting. Tom’s still on the receiving end, but the action is much better.

Passive voice is one reason writers are cautioned to avoid WAS constructions. They aren’t all passive voice (contrary to what some writers teach or have been taught, haha—that was passive voice), but it’s a clue that you might be dealing with it.

So here’s a fun detail: sometimes you WANT passive voice.

1) Use passive voice when the common sentence construction demands it and changing the sentence to active would call attention to itself. Such as:

He got arrested.

Sure, that’s passive, but it’s also the way that term is generally used. Pointing out that police officers did the arresting is kinda silly, and it would detract.

(Note that here and in many cases, it’s GET/GOT that’s the key for noting passive voice, not WAS.)

2) When you’re deliberately trying to avoid pointing out the person/thing who acted.

Pay attention to commercials or company communications: they rarely accept responsibility for anything, and they do so by using passive voice:

“We regret that your washing machine was improperly installed” keeps it passive and the focus on the washer.

They’d never say, “We regret that our technician installed your washer improperly,” because then the spotlight is on their shortcomings and gives the customer ammunition for a refund.

You can do the same thing in your writing. Mysteries are rife with passive voice when we don’t know WHO done it: “The victim was stabbed five times.” Trying to avoid passive voice there would feel a bit acrobatic and awkward to the reader.

Another case to use passive voice: when you’re deliberately trying to hide the person who is acting.

“Mom, one of the car’s headlights got smashed,” a teen says, and then slinks to their room, hoping Mom assumes it was a hit-and-run in a parking lot or something, even though the teen is the one who busted the light by driving into a lamp post.

Or when a teacher walks in to see chaos and says, “What’s going on here?”and the class replies, “The same thing that happens every day.”

(Careful not to point out that THEY are the ones doing whatever they shouldn’t be.)

To sum up:

  • Passive voice is when the sentence shows what is happening to who/what but avoids using the subject of the action as the subject of the sentence.Most of the time, passive voice is weak and should be avoided.
  • WAS/GOT tend to signal passive voice.
  • But not all sentences with those words are passive voice.
  • Use passive voice when you (or a character) want to conceal who is doing the action.

Okay, so let’s try it: After Thanksgiving, I’m amazed at how much pie GOT EATEN.

Ahem. (See? With passive voice, I admit to nothing . . .)


Annette Lyon  is a Whitney Award winner, the recipient of Utah’s Best of State medal for fiction, and the author of eight novels, a cookbook, and a grammar guide, plus over a hundred magazine articles. She’s a senior editor at Precision Editing Group and a cum laude graduate from BYU with a degree in English. When she’s not writing, editing, knitting, or eating chocolate, she can be found mothering and avoiding the spots on the kitchen floor. Find her online at and on Twitter: @AnnetteLyon.

Need a little extra grammar help? Get Annette’s grammar book, There, Their, They’re: A No-Tears Guide to Grammar from the Word Nerd.

Writing Fear by Michaelbrent Collings

As a horror writer, I am often asked where I get my ideas. (I’m also asked about the voices in my head—sometimes by the other voices in my head, which is weird—but that’s a whole other therapy session.) And the sad answer is that there’s no one answer. The ideas I get can come from anywhere: a radio piece I found interesting, a disturbing dream I had after too much hot sauce on my tacos, or just me watching a movie and thinking “they did that wrong.”

That being said, all of the scary things I write about have one thing in common: they scare me.

An example: my most recent horror novel, Apparition, has been on Amazon’s list of best-selling supernatural horror for months now. It’s about a family in which the mother goes insane and tries to stab her children to death. The father stops her, and she turns the knife on herself. Months later, the father is trying to cope with the loss of his wife, the kids are trying to get over it, they’re trying to heal… and the father starts feeling urges to kill his children. Hijinks ensue.

Now a lot of people have asked how a devoted family man (which I am) could come up with something so messed up… something that revolves around the destruction of a family. And the answer is, of course, that that is the reason it’s so scary. It is a story about the destruction of something I hold most dear. So how could it fail to be terrifying? Horror critics all over seem to agree with me (I’ll avoid the temptation to spew quotes about how cool the book is; besides, I’m sure you’ve already bought it by now).

The thing with horror is that it is a universal element of life. We are born crying, terrified of a world which suddenly shows itself to be much larger, brighter, and more daunting than the womb we think of as our universe during our early months. Boo-boos and owies are the stitching in the tapestry of our childhood. Adolescence is as purely terrifying a time as any I can think of. And then we grow up, have children of our own… and suddenly we fear for more than just our own selves.

I don’t mean to paint a maleficent picture here. The fear we all experience is just that: an experience. And we can either use it to tear us down, or we can create stories about it that meld us together like warriors against a dark invading army. We tell stories of terror so that we may come to control our fear. We whisper ghost tales around the campfire so that, come the dawn (and assuming all the campers have survived), we can clap hands and celebrate and draw tighter together as a community.

Fear is uncomfortable. But it is a fact of life. It is a facet of growth.

Where do I get my scary ideas from? From life. From the loss of the things most important to me. And so I tell stories about those things, in the hopes that by doing so I can ward off the losses, or at least cope better when they inevitably come. My stories of terror come from my own fear. But like many, they are really stories of hope. Tales in which I pray to be greater than the fear that I know must come upon me.

Halloween season is upon us. A month long celebration of all things dark and gruesome, a night of terror. But it is also a night of treats. We brave the darkness, we step onto paths decorated with the incarnations of our deepest fears… and in so doing, we may (we hope) win the prize.

Happy Halloween, everyone!


Michaelbrent Collings has written numerous bestselling novels, including his latest YA fantasy Billy: Seeker of Powers.  His wife and mommy think he is a can that is chock-full of awesome sauce.  Check him out at or

3 Things Authors Should Know about Publicity by Josh Johnson from Cedar Fort

First-time authors often think the biggest part of their work is done when they put the finishing touches on their manuscript with their editor and send it off to the printer. However, they don’t always recognize that they, as the authors, can promote their book and interact with fans and readers—in person and online—after their book comes out.

Here are a few quick things that we wish all new authors would learn about publishing and promotion.

1) The future is online, and the future is now.

For the last decade, media and bloggers have been emphasizing the importance of digital promotion and talked about how the Internet would revolutionize the way that people consume news, information and content. But guess what?  The future they have been predicting for years has already arrived. Yahoo News already has a greater readership than the New York Times!

Authors that want to promote their work and realize their potential need to be engaged with their fans online. Whether that means a blog or website, or even just social media fan pages like Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, engagement online is key.

2) And I should care…why?

Author engagement in any shape or form is really essential to helping a book do well.  Establishing relationships with readers will keep them coming back for more and help spread the word to more readers. Authors really are the ones who will promote their book better than anyone else could.

There have been barrels of ink spilled about the importance of self promotion online, some worth reading and some not, but one thing authors need to know more than any other advice is how they’re going to present themselves as well as the what.

When doing interviews, guest posts on blogs, pitches to media, and even just talking to fans during a signing, authors need to keep in mind a single key message: “What am I telling my listeners, and why should they care?”

This key message should be their mantra. They know their audience more than anyone. What are they telling their readers that is unique about themselves and their work, and why should they, as readers, care?  It’s best to follow this message up with what fans should do about the message (buy their book), but that’s secondary.

3) Content rules all online.

When authors are promoting and engaging with fans, it’s important to be frequent in communication. That doesn’t mean there has to be a new masterwork post or update every five minutes, but they should be posting regularly enough, with enough original content, to keep their fans and audiences aware of their material online, and wanting to learn more about them. Authors can get creative with how they engage, but they should try to be original.

That’s it! Stick to these basics and authors will go a long way with online promotion. And just think, by being online at all, they are beating an awful lot of folks who still think that the digital future is tomorrow, when it’s actually today.


Josh Johnson works at Cedar Fort as a Marketing Publicist and Public Relations Author Representative. Cedar Fort, Inc. is a book publisher in Utah. We publish fiction, nonfiction, you name it. We love new authors. See our site for guidelines & new titles. You can also visit Cedar Fort at www.cedarfortbooks, Facebook, or Twitter.

Strong Query Letters by Anita Mumm

This past weekend I presented on writing strong query letters at Author Fest of the Rockies in Manitou Springs, CO. As an example I handed out NLA client Stefan Bachmann’s wonderful query for THE PECULIAR, which I first encountered in the slush pile a year ago. Last month THE PECULIAR debuted to much fanfare from GreenWillow/HarperCollins. With Stefan’s permission I’ll share the query, my comments, and the results of our discussion here.

Dear Ms. Megibow:

I would like you to consider my gothic steampunk fantasy for middle grade readers, The Peculiar. 69,000 words in length, it takes place in a Victorian England that has enslaved the population of Faerie, an England where magic and industry are at war, spells do half the chores, and clockwork birds carry secret messages across the sky. [Fabulous opening. We know three key elements from one succinct paragraph: genre, word count, and that this story takes place in a unique, fascinating, and well-built world.]

Bartholomew Kettle won’t live long. Changelings never do. [How’s that for a hook? Who could possibly stop reading? One workshop attendee asked if this could be used as the opening of the query. Absolutely. In that case, the information from the current opening would come after this paragraph.] The child of a human mother and a faery father, he is despised by both his races; if the Englishmen don’t hang him for witchcraft, the faerys will do something worse. So his mother keeps him locked away, keeps him hidden and cut off from the world in the faery slums of Bath. But one day Bartholomew witnesses a mysterious lady kidnap another changeling through a shadowy portal, and suddenly he finds himself at the center of a web of intrigue and danger that spans the entire country. Changelings are surfacing in the Thames hundreds of miles away, their bodies empty of blood and bone, and their skin covered in red markings. A powerful figure sits in the shadows, pushing the pieces in place for some terrible victory. When a sinister faery in a top-hat begins to stalk Bartholomew’s every step, he knows it’s his turn. Something is coming for him. Something needs him. But when you’re a changeling there’s no where to run. [There’s is a lot of meat to this paragraph, without an information overload. The book has undertones of horror, and this suspenseful ending to the pitch paragraph gives agents a nice taste of its dark tone.]

I am eighteen years old and a student of classical music at the Zürich Conservatory. My short stories have appeared in issues of Mirror Dance and Every Day Fiction. [Yes, naturally we did a double-take when we read he was eighteen. We generally advise authors not to mention their age in a query, but in this case, we were already so intrigued that it only increased our curiosity and eagerness to read his work.]

Thank you for your time.

Stefan Bachmann

Bravo, Stefan! This query got right to the heart of the story and left us begging for more—which is exactly what every writer should be going for. To see more examples of NLA client queries, visit Kristin’s blog and scroll down to her Query Pitch Workshop on the right side bar.

Ability vs Desire by Tristi Pinkston

My seven-year-old son is a total hoot. The other day he came up to me and said, “Mom, people are always asking the question, ‘How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?’ I think the real question is, ‘How much does he want to chuck?'”

Like any good mother, of course I immediately put that on my Facebook status, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Out of the mouths of babes, they say. His innocent little question got my brain spinning in a million different directions.

Let’s think about this woodchuck for a minute. Let’s say that he can chuck two trees’ worth of wood in one day. That is his capability. If he works consistently for eight hours, taking a half-hour lunch break, he can chuck two trees.

But how much does he want to chuck?

If he decides that one tree a day is just fine by him, he may only ever chuck one a day. That’s what all the other woodchucks (possessed of similar inclinations) are doing. If he decides to be like all the other woodchucks and produce one a day, no one will think any the less of him. A wood-chucking woodchuck is an awesome thing all by itself. He can get away with living below his potential.

But what if he decides he wants more?

If that woodchuck had enough desire, and he was committed and dedicated and focused, and maybe even skipped his lunch break because he was excited to be chucking wood, he might find himself exceeding his wildest dreams and chucking three or four trees a day. He might have believed his ability only extended to two trees, but when his desire was brought into the picture, suddenly his ability didn’t matter anymore. His desire took his ability and magnified it and expanded it until it was a non-issue.

When you want something badly enough, the facts don’t matter.

Of course I’m going to tie this in to writing. It’s very like me to do that.

As authors, when we think about our writing journey, we shouldn’t think in terms of what we’re “able” to do. We should think in terms of what we “want” to do. If I set a goal to write a book this summer because I want to, it shouldn’t matter in the slightest that I’ve never done it before. I have the desire, and so I can achieve it. If I say, “You know, it’s awesome that I’m an author to begin with. It’s okay if I don’t push myself,” my productivity might slacken and my quality might decline because I’m making excuses and resting on my laurels. I’m like the complacent woodchuck who doesn’t care that he could be chucking more trees.

And what if I don’t want to write a book this summer? That’s okay – if I forced myself to do it anyway, it would probably be a stupid book because my heart wouldn’t be in it. Only I can determine my desires.

In summary, your level of ability doesn’t matter. It’s all about your level of your desire. Desire will take you further than any other determining factor. It doesn’t matter how fast you type. It doesn’t matter how little time you have to write each day. Desire makes things possible. Are you ready to listen to yourself, to your hopes, dreams, and deepest desires, and follow them?

Tristi Pinkston is the author of nine published books, including the Secret Sisters mystery series. In addition to being a prolific author, Tristi also provides a variety of author services, including editing and online writing instruction. You can visit her at or her website at

Not Just Writing, but Creation by Michaelbrent Collings

Another apology—this time to Michaelbrent Collings for a delayed post this month. Totally my fault!

There are several reasons we write. For personal satisfaction, as a way of making sense of the world around us. We write to create emotions in others, to teach lessons that will (hopefully) make the world a better place.

We also write (perhaps most important) as a way of creating community.

Think about it: not only is our world defined by stories, but who we are as a people is defined by stories. We aren’t members of the USA because we live in a certain geographical area—there are plenty of people all over the world who define themselves that way. It’s not determined by laws, either—huge debates in the news give plenty of air time to people who are here “illegally” yet who stolidly insist they, too, are “Americans.”

So what is it?

The stories.

An “American” is someone who knows the story of the American Revolution. Of the Civil War.  Of Washington chopping down the cherry tree and Lincoln writing the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope. Neither of those last stories is true, but that doesn’t matter. Truth is less important than the binding capacity the stories have.

Another example: say you—like every other person in the known universe—went to see the final Harry Potter movie at midnight opening night. You got there six hours ahead of time so you could get a good seat. And while you’re sitting there, waiting for the movie to start, a middle-aged guy with a comb-over and a T-shirt that’s a bit too small for him whips around and says, “Do you think Harry will die in the movie?” And that’s the signal for a conversation to start. And it does.

Now, change venues. You’re in the local fast food place. Waiting in line for lunch. And suddenly the middle-aged guy in front of you whips around and says without preamble, “Do you like seasoned curly fries or the regular kind?”

This is the part where you very reasonably start edging toward an exit and perhaps put “911” on your cell phone’s speed dial.

Same guy. Same you. What was the difference? The difference was that in the first example you were sharing a story. You were, for the moment at least, members of the same community, of the same tribe. And we do not fear members of our community. We understand them. And it isn’t because they’re the same as us—there’s plenty of diversity and strangeness within every community. But the more stories people share in common, the closer their bond and the greater their trust. That’s what makes a “BFF”—just a bunch of shared stories.

So writers are in a place of sublime power and responsibility. Writers create the communities that others will cling to, they create the frameworks that the world at large will hang on as reference points for who they will treat as “friends” (i.e., fellow believers of their stories) and “enemies” (i.e., those who follow or believe other stories… or none at all). It stands to us, then, to create communities that are not merely joined in pursuit of “fun” or “escapism,” but in pursuit of those enobling properties that allow the human race to rise above itself and become more than it is.

Writers are the dreamers. And dreaming is and always has been the first step in the great act of creation. We create words. We create worlds. We create context, and in so doing we create community.

Without stories, every man is and always must be an island. But writers tie those islands together and create great continents—even empires—of meaning… and hope.


Michaelbrent Collings has written numerous bestselling novels, including his latest YA fantasy Billy: Seeker of Powers.  His wife and mommy think he is a can that is chock-full of awesome sauce.  Check him out at or

Pen Names Anyone? by Rebecca Talley

LDSP Note: I can’t believe I forgot to post Rebecca’s guest blog last week! Soooo sorry. And it’s a good one too. Enjoy!

There seems to be two camps on pen names. Those who think an author should use his/her real name no matter what he/she writes and the other camp that believes when an author switches genres, he/she should have a different name distinguishing each genre.

I’ve published three novels for the LDS market. My current book is a young adult urban fantasy targeted at the national market. It has no LDS content or characters so I’m wondering if I should publish it under a pen name.

I’ve spent years trying to develop an online presence with my blog and website. I’ve made a lot of Facebook friends and have Twitter followers. It boggles my mind to think about replicating that with a whole new persona. And then trying to keep up with both “people” with my social networks—makes me exhausted just thinking about it.

On the other hand, would a reader who expected an LDS novel from me be upset with a book that’s about a teenage girl who fights demons?

Other authors have used pen names. Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb, J.K. Rowling, Sierra St. James/C.J. Hill/Janette Rallison, Jeff Savage/J. Scott Savage, to name a few. They’ve all been successful with their pen names and it doesn’t seem to be an issue that people know these authors use pen names.

It makes sense to separate different genres under different author names. Readers would then know that even if this is the same author, books written under one name will be thrillers, while under a different name the books will be romantic comedies.

When I first started writing, the advice was to stick with one genre (thus removing the reason for needing a pen name) and build up a readership in that genre. (As an aside, I’ve noticed in my experience that while LDS fiction may be a genre, there are many sub-genres within it, and romance seems to be very popular). That advice is great, IF you want to keep writing in one genre. For me, I have to write the story that’s burning inside me. If all my stories were romance, that’d be one thing, but so far that hasn’t been true. Forcing myself to write another romance to build up my readership in that genre (since it’s very popular) would take the joy out of writing. Since I have the attention span of a three-year-old (which is why I teach the Sunbeams), I have to write what is inside my head trying to claw its way out.

So, what do you think? Should authors who write different genres use pen names for each genre?


Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. She now lives in rural CO on a small ranch with a dog, a spoiled horse, too many cats, and a herd of goats. She and her husband, Del, are the proud parents of ten multi-talented and wildly-creative children. Rebecca is the author of a children’s picture book “Grasshopper Pie” (WindRiver 2003), three novels, “Heaven Scent” (CFI 2008), “Altared Plans” (CFI 2009), and “The Upside of Down” (CFI 2011), and numerous magazine stories and articles. You can visit her blog at

Homophones by Annette Lyon

Homophone: a word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not, as heir  and air.

Homophones can really trip  a writer up. Here are a few common ones.

When a bolt of bright electricity shoots through the sky during a storm, that is lightning.
When dawn comes, the darkness is going away and the room may be lightening.

I see these two words used interchangeably, both as the past tense form of what a follower does with a leader. The confusion likely happens because the past tense of the verb lead is led, which happens to rhyme with the metal lead.

Present tense: I walk through the forest and lead the way for those behind me.
Past tense: I walked through the forest; I led the way for those behind me.

Anyway/Any Way
If something happens in spite of someone’s efforts, it takes place anyway.
If you wonder whether something is possible, you may ask if there is any way it could come about.

When Mark pitches a baseball, he throws it.
When Janet is dealing with emotional turmoil, she could be in the throes of depression. Someone else could be in the last throes of death, or in the throes of passion.

First word here is simply the past tense of the one above: Mark threw the ball.
Something or someone passes through something else, such as a train through a tunnel.
An old-fashioned version of through is thru.

The top of a gable roof has a peak.
If you’re peering around a corner, you may catch a peek at something secret.
The first page of a book may pique your interest.

All Together/Altogether
If something is very complicated, it could be altogether confusing. (In other words, completely.)
The family went to the store all together. (In a group.)

What are some that you’ve seen lately? List them in the comments section.


Annette Lyon  is a Whitney Award winner, the recipient of Utah’s Best of State medal for fiction, and the author of eight novels, a cookbook, and a grammar guide, plus over a hundred magazine articles. She’s a senior editor at Precision Editing Group and a cum laude graduate from BYU with a degree in English. When she’s not writing, editing, knitting, or eating chocolate, she can be found mothering and avoiding the spots on the kitchen floor. Find her online at and on Twitter: @AnnetteLyon.

Need a little extra grammar help? Get Annette’s grammar book, There, Their, They’re: A No-Tears Guide to Grammar from the Word Nerd.

Getting Your Writing Groove Back by Anita Mumm

Kristin recently blogged about the fact that summer may not be your best time to query an agent due to the fact that no one wants to spend gorgeous days cooped up in an office with submissions. But with fall almost upon us, agents are going to start hunting for that next big project—just in time to shop it before the publishing world closes down for the holidays.

Are you ready?

If the answer is no, don’t sweat it. The kids are back in school, summer vacations are past, and there’s no better time for you to get your writing goals on track. Here are a few ideas:

  • Join a critique group. Check with your local writers organization for a list of critique groups accepting new members. If the organization offers classes, signing up for one can be another good way to find a critique group. When the class ends, ask other like-minded students if they’d like to continue meeting to share work. If you can’t find a group in your area, try some online options instead. is a great site for getting feedback on your work, and practicing your critiquing skills for others.
  • Polish your query. Stop toying with how to pitch your book, and just write the darn thing! Then take it to your critique group for a trial run. Ideally, your group members have already read all or part of the manuscript you’re pitching, so they’ll be able to judge whether the query gets at the heart of your story and shows off your voice.
  • Sign up for a writers conference. Many writers groups host both fall and spring conferences, so now is the time to register if you’d like to catch one this season. Writing can be a lonely task; the infusion of energy you receive at conferences can help you power through writers’ block and combat feelings of too much solitude.
  • Start building a platform. No, you don’t have to have ten thousand followers on your blog by the time you start querying agents. But since you will need a strong author platform when your book sells, it’s a good idea to start getting in the habit of promoting yourself. Having an existing fan base can also drive sales if you decide to digitally self-publish. Take this advice with a healthy dose of common sense: if your book isn’t finished yet, don’t spend more time blogging/Facebooking/tweeting than you spend writing the novel.

Anita Mumm is a Literary Assistant at the Nelson Literary Agency. This post was taken from their monthly newsletter and posted here with permission. To get more great industry news, subscribe to their newsletter.

Change is Good! by Tristi Pinkston

*Tristi wrote this article in 2006. Those of you who know her realize that she decided to practice what she preached. In LDS Publisher’s opinion, Tristi is a great example of balancing humility and self-promotion.

As I was growing up, I would often overhear comments that went something like this:

“I knew her before she became famous. But then she changed.”

“You know, Gladys has really changed since she lost all that weight.”

The word “changed” was always said with the same vocal intonation you would use to say “foot fungus” or “halitosis.” Change was obviously bad and no one should ever do it. That was the message I received.

My first book was published in 2002, and at that time, I made a decision. I was not going to change. I would never give anyone reason to say, “I knew Tristi before she was published, but now she’s changed.” Consequently, I don’t often talk about my writing. I never bring it up at church activities and I hardly ever take the opportunity to share what I’m doing with others. Friends and family sometimes ask what my latest project is, and I’ll tell them, but for the most part I don’t volunteer the information. I don’t want people to think I’ve changed.

It’s different in the writing community. Everyone has the same goal, even though we’re approaching it different ways, and we get each other. I can talk more freely here than I can in my regular, every day life.

But tonight, I’ve been having some deep thoughts. I want to pass them on to you here, and I would love to hear some of your deep thoughts, as well.

1. Didn’t we come here to this earth for the purpose of learning and growing? And when we learn and grow, doesn’t that mean that we are changing from what we are now into what we can become? That would make change good, not bad. Why do people say “change” like they think it’s the worst thing that could ever happen to a person?

2. Since we are here to learn and grow, and our earth life is of a limited duration, wouldn’t that mean that we need to be working on ourselves right now, all the time? If you knew you only had five years to accomplish everything you ever wanted to accomplish, you’d get right to work. None of us knows how long we have. If we waste our time, putting off our goals and dreams for one reason or another, we may not have time to do it later.

3. And, since we’re here to learn and grow, and we have limited time, wouldn’t that mean that we should be selective about how we spend our time? I think we should carefully choose those things we do, so that we are learning and growing while we’re doing them. If you’re not going to grow from doing it, then why do it?

I think about all the chances to share what I love to do that I missed out on because I was afraid someone would accuse me of “changing.” Granted, I’m not going to get up and bear my testimony in church and plug my latest book. But how many times have I downplayed my accomplishments, or even criticized myself, all because I didn’t want someone to think I’d gotten a big head? How many times have I confused humility with self-doubt? How many times have I upset the balance between pride and genuinely deserved self esteem? And how often have I beaten myself up about it?

There is nothing wrong with taking satisfaction from what you do. When someone asks you what you do for a living, do you feel ashamed when you say “plumber” or “accountant” or “computer programmer?” You may not have the career you currently want, but you don’t generally hide what you do because you’re worried what people will think. (Unless you’re doing something illegal, which I seriously doubt you are.) Why hide your writing? Or if you dance, why hide your dancing? Why do we feel ashamed of our talents?

In all honesty, despite my efforts to “keep from changing,” there are those who have had difficulty accepting my published status. I took that far too much to heart at first. But with these deep thoughts, I’m realizing that it’s okay that I’ve changed. Why do it if it’s not going to change me? I don’t want to be the same person forever. I want to learn and grow and overcome and conquer, and I can’t do that if I am always exactly the same.

So as you write and become published, or achieve another goal you’ve had, don’t listen to those people who will criticize you for changing. If you have changed, you are on the natural path of life, achieving some of the things that God sent you down here to achieve. Just make sure that you’re changing for the better.

Tristi Pinkston is the author of nine published books, including the Secret Sisters mystery series. In addition to being a prolific author, Tristi also provides a variety of author services, including editing and online writing instruction. You can visit her at or her website at

What’s Hot by Sara Megibow

I brought home 18 books from the recent RWA National Conference in Anaheim. … I also have TONS of great submissions from the pitch sessions and author meetings.

Here are the notes I took over the course of the conference. Of course, Kristin and I are looking for good stories, well-told, but here are some additional behind-the-scenes requests from editors:

  • Small town, sweet, contemporary single title romance
  • OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon for the young adult reader (no, not a re-telling, but rather an epic romance for YA that tells the story of a love-that-will-know-no-bounds and perhaps have a paranormal or time travel element to it)
  • 20-45K word stories, preferably with tie-in capability or that can be linked together, to be made as ebook originals
  • More contemporary young adult with a strong romance (and yes, you heard me cheering from California – I adore contemp YA!)
  • Historical romance in time periods other than Regency (although I had several requests for Regency also)
  • No one specifically asked me for “more funny,” but when I said, “I’m personally looking for books with a good sense of humor,” everyone said, “Ooooo, YES!”
  • Smokin’ hot and unique paranormals – everyone was talking about FIRELIGHT by Kristen Callihan (Book 2 in her Darkest London Series, MOONGLOW, debuts this month)

We all agreed that authors who are members of RWA tend to present more publication-ready manuscripts. Personally, I find that RWA does a great job of educating writers, so I say join up!

Happy writing to all!


Sara Megibow is an Associate Literary Agent at the Nelson Literary Agency. This article was taken from their most recent newsletter and posted with permission. To get more great industry news, subscribe to their newsletter. Follow Sara on twitter at @SaraMegibow.

Editing Fiction by Rebecca Talley

“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” – James Michener

That’s editing in a nutshell.

Some writers prefer writing the rough draft and feeling the creativity as it flows through their fingers. Other writers enjoy the editing stage and believe that’s where the real magic lies. Which do you prefer?

Writing the first draft can be fast and furious. You may find it difficult for your fingers to keep up with your brain as your brilliance pours out on the computer screen. Unfortunately, for most writers, the first draft isn’t always brilliant. In fact, very few writers can produce a saleable first draft. That’s when editing becomes a writer’s best friend.

Once that story is down on paper, or on the computer screen, it’s time to edit it. How? There are as many ways to edit as there are to write. No one way is right for everyone and you must find what works best for you.

Here are some different ways to edit:

One Pass. Some writers get their first draft down as quickly as possible and then let it rest for a few weeks, or a month. After the rest period, they go back and edit every single word, phrase, and paragraph to make sure it says exactly what they want it to say. This pass through their manuscript is grueling, but it only takes the one time and then it’s ready for submission.

Several Passes to Add Layers. Other writers edit their manuscripts multiple times. In each pass, they specifically add a layer to the story. When they feel they’ve added enough layers, they’re finished and ready to submit the manuscript. Some writers may edit their manuscript dozens of times.

Edit While You Write. Another possibility is to edit while you’re writing. Some writers won’t go to the next scene until they feel the previous scene is in its final format. These writers want to get each sentence right before they move on to the next sentence. When they’ve completed their manuscript, it’s ready for submission because they’ve spent so much time editing while writing.

Which works best? It depends on your own unique writing style. The important aspect is to make sure that the final manuscript is the best that it can be before you submit it to a publisher. Whether that takes you one pass or many, or you edit as you go, it doesn’t matter which process you choose as long as you find the process that allows you to submit the very best manuscript you can.

Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. She now lives in rural CO on a small ranch with a dog, a spoiled horse, too many cats, and a herd of goats. She and her husband, Del, are the proud parents of ten multi-talented and wildly-creative children. Rebecca is the author of a children’s picture book “Grasshopper Pie” (WindRiver 2003), three novels, “Heaven Scent” (CFI 2008), “Altared Plans” (CFI 2009), and “The Upside of Down” (CFI 2011), and numerous magazine stories and articles. You can visit her blog at


Dangling Participles by Annette Lyon

Dangling participles!

They’re loads of fun . . . really! They’re easy to giggle over . . . at least when you find the mistake in someone else’s work (or before yours gets in front of an editor).

So what is a dangling participle?
It’s a modifier, usually noun, pronoun, or phrase—basically any descriptor—that’s in the wrong place for what it’s supposed to be describing. Often that means it’s too far away from it, or at least that something else is in the way.

Sounds confusing, so let’s just ignore the definition for a minute and show some examples. They’re the best way to learn anyway, right?

Try these sentences on for size:

Joe went on the ride with my sister called The Raging Flame of Death.
Hmm. That’s not a sister I’d like to hang out with. Oh, wait! The ride has that name. In that case:

He went on the The Raging Flame of Death ride [or the ride called The Raging Flame of Death] with my sister.

Other funny examples:

Two computers were reported stolen by the high school principal.

(That’s one unethical principal . . .)

The anchor reported a coming lightning storm on the television.

(Get AWAY from that television!)

Please look through the contents of the package with your wife.

(Must be one huge package if she fits in it.)

James hadn’t meant to let it slip that he wasn’t married, at least to his boss.

(Wait. His boss is Mrs. James?)

Quiet and patient, her dress was simple, yet stylish.

(Let’s hope her dress wasn’t loud and impatient.)

At the age of five, her mother remarried.

(Um . . . doubt that’s legal in any state. And she certainly wasn’t a mother then.)


These little nasties are painfully easy to drop into your work without you even knowing it. They happen when you’ve used an action and then the subject that belongs to the action is put into the wrong place.

The result is most definitely a meaning you didn’t intend.

One of the most common forms is relatively easy to spot: look for sentences that open with an “ing” phrase:

Turning the corner on a bike, a huge dog startled him.

(Apparently that’s a dog with serious coordination skills.)

Driving through town, the grocery store appeared on the right.

(Freaky store. And just how big is its car?!)

And here’s one of my favorite dangling participles (which I found in a New York Times bestseller that shall remain nameless, even though it was just too funny):

Being my father, I thought he’d be more upset.

(Now THAT is one amazing genetic trick . . .)

You get the idea.

Dangling participles can sound scary and intimidating, but in reality, they’re easy to fix. Just make sure the action in your sentence is really attached to the person or thing doing it.

For the writers reading this, it’s something you don’t need to worry too much about in the drafting stage. It is, however, one of those things you should try to catch in the revision stage.

One great way is to read your draft aloud. The stresses and pauses will make you recognize when something doesn’t quite sound right. Pick some trusted readers to ferret out these kinds of bloopers as well.

Your future lack of embarrassment is most definitely worth the effort.


Annette Lyon  is a Whitney Award winner, the recipient of Utah’s Best of State medal for fiction, and the author of eight novels, a cookbook, and a grammar guide, plus over a hundred magazine articles. She’s a senior editor at Precision Editing Group and a cum laude graduate from BYU with a degree in English. When she’s not writing, editing, knitting, or eating chocolate, she can be found mothering and avoiding the spots on the kitchen floor. Find her online at and on Twitter: @AnnetteLyon.

Need a little extra grammar help? Get Annette’s grammar book, There, Their, They’re: A No-Tears Guide to Grammar from the Word Nerd.