Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Celebrate National Punctuation Day

Wilma Acree
(Grammar Guru)

National Punctuation Day (NPD) was founded by journalist Jeff Rubin in 2004 to draw attention to the importance of the correct use of punctuation. Its mission: to change the world, one apostrophe at a time. The celebration occurs each September 24 in the United States.
NPD maintains a web site ( and a Facebook page. Rubin welcomes submissions of photos of incorrectly punctuated signs, plaques, ads, newspaper headlines, menus, or business cards ( The organization sponsors a contest for students and adults each year. suggests several ways to honor the day.

Why should writers care about correct punctuation? First, it helps readers understand your intended meaning. There is a world of difference in this classic example: (A) Let’s go eat Grandma. (B) Let’s go eat, Grandma. (A) Dines on Grandma while (B) dines with Grandma. Your errors won’t be that extreme, but they will distract and mislead your reader. Secondly, you want your reader to believe you are intelligent and industrious—not too stupid or lazy to learn a few rules.

I recently finished reading a novel with an intriguing plot and compelling characters. It told a good story and could have been a great book, but it was rife with errors, mostly punctuation. The author ignored common comma rules and made up some of his own. If I were rating this book 1-5, I would give it a 3 instead of the 5 it could have earned. If I pay $19.95 for a book, I deserve an edited story, not one that looks like a first draft.

Choose AP or MLA style and review the rules. Show respect for your reader by having someone knowledgeable proofread or edit your manuscript. Celebrate correct punctuation every day!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Professional Edit Costs How Much?

Rhonda Browning White

You received your free sample edit back from a talented editor at Inspiration For Writers, Inc., and your editor pointed out issues in your manuscript that you didn’t even realize were there. Sure, you expected her to correct a couple of typos you may have missed, but you surely didn’t think your story contained passive voice, or inconsistent tenses, or lack of tension in the first paragraph. And you certainly weren’t expecting to learn that something that felt so clear when you wrote it is unclear to your readers (but upon re-reading, you now can see where it might be confusing). Perhaps you were surprised to agree with her when she pointed out that your main character is too flat or cliché. Upon reading—and rereading—your sample edit letter, and reviewing—over and over again—the changes in the sample edit, you understand that a professional edit is exactly what you need to take your writing to the next level.

But maybe you can’t afford it. (Why on earth do proofreads, edits, and ghost-edits cost so much, anyway?) First, let’s determine why the best editors charge fees that people new to writing may consider high. Did you know that the best editors hold writing degrees, are well-published, as well as teach at and attend conferences and workshops where they continually network with agents and publishers in order to stay on top of the ever-changing market? Did you know the best, most careful editors proofread an average of forty pages per day, edit an average of twenty, and ghost-edit an average of six? It takes a long time to do a good job. What kind of salary do you make in an hour? What kind of salary do you think a well-educated, professionally trained and skilled editor should make in that same hour? 

Okay, you say, the best editors work hard and deserve their pay, but I still can’t afford to have my 100,000-word manuscript ghost-edited! What are you to do? Will you give up? Will you let this tumbling block keep you from reaching your dream of becoming a published author?

Surely not! You deserve success!

So what options are available to a dedicated beginning writer who wants to reach publication level? First, you may want to consider having only a portion of your manuscript professionally edited. Make sure you submit the first chapters for professional editing, as these are the pages an agent or publisher will read initially. Purchase the highest level of service your editor recommends for your work, and send as many pages as you can afford. When your editor returns those pages to you, don’t just read them—study them. Study them hard! Print out your customized manuscript analysis, and read it multiple times, committing the lessons to memory. Carefully read the marked-up copy of your edit, and try to determine why your editor made the changes she made. If your editor suggested specific articles, books or websites on the craft of writing, read them. You can then apply those things you’ve learned to the rest of your manuscript, thereby improving both your story and your writing skill for your next project.

 It’s important to consider a professional edit as the investment it truly is—an investment in your writing career, and thus, your future. Can you forgo that extra-whip, double-shot, caramel-flavored latte a couple of times each week, and put that money toward an edit? Can you cook dinner every other weekend, instead of eating out, and put that extra expense toward your lifelong goal of becoming a published author?

Not only do you consider your edit as an investment in your writing career—the IRS does as well. Every penny you pay for a professional edit is tax deductible. (That is, as long as you hire a legitimate editing company that pays taxes, not someone who works on the side and takes money under the table.) This can greatly reduce your net expense. Also, Inspiration for Writers, Inc., accepts all major credit cards, as well as PayPal revolving credit. Know, too, that Inspiration For Writers, Inc. offers a variety of payment options that may help you acquire the level of service your manuscript needs.

It’s your story, it’s your dream, it’s your future. It’s up to you to invest in yourself and your future as a writer. When you are ready to get serious about your career as a writer, we are here to help you reach your goals.

If not now, when?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Charlotte Firbank-King


(Bet that had you running to the dictionary.)

This is how we "concoctastory." Open a file called Story Outline.

First thing:

In the actual manuscript:

Under “Chapter 1,” I put in the era or year and location of the story in italics. It just grounds the reader, lets them know where they are. But that’s me and it isn’t imperative.

In the Story Outline file:

Put in the date you start the story, for your own interest. 

Give a brief outline of the story for your own benefit, but this will probably change dramatically. 

Next headings:

1) Names and details:

In the View tool, I tick the Navigation Pane, then go to the Paragraph tool under General, find Outline Level, and click on the down arrow—it will open up options. I always use Level 1 for chapter heading in the manuscript and various headings in the Story Outline for easy access. The first heading would be Brief Synopsis. Be sure to change it back to Body Text in the paragraph tool before going to the next line, or you’ll have a million headings.

Name of hero and heroine—hair and eye color, height, build, defining features, age marks, scars, deformities, habits, twitches, tastes, occupation, likes, dislikes, traits—good and bad—ambitions, goals, obsessions, status in society, domicile, marital status, siblings, parents, etc.

In fact, anything you may need to remember as the story unfolds. Many of these details will change as time goes on, but the physical traits will probably remain the same. 

If you name specific details about buildings, furniture, or other setting items, list them here.  If they are mentioned again, you don’t want a purple building or chair to be pink later in the story.

As you write, add each character’s name and physical appearance. One may start off with a cast of characters, but the story may need a new character. It’s all too easy to forget that Joe had cerulean blue eyes. One often errs and gives characters brown or green eyes later in the book.

Minor characters, like a barmaid or footman, don’t need a name if they only make one or two appearances. In fact, it’s better to keep names to a minimum. Only add a description if you gave them a specific thing like eye or hair color, a squint or limp favoring the left leg—you don’t want them favoring the right leg at another point.

The names of ships, streets, buildings and places must also go into this file as they crop up in the story.

Make a note of things like Elvis borrowed $50,000 from Danny the hobo. Or he gave Leonardo da Vinci a $1 tip for opening his chariot door.

Be careful to keep names varied—don’t have Joe in love, working with or related to Jasmine, or worse, Josephine.

2) List of possible names:

Make a list of cool names for male and female people, dogs, cats, horses or any animal names. I make a habit of putting the list in alphabetical order and use only one letter per memorable character—lesser characters aren't important, unless their relationship is too close to the character they interact with.

3) Publishing details:

The author bio, query, synopsis, letters for agents/publishers, plus back cover blurb and tagline. Or you can put them in a new file, then make a folder with the book title.

4) Background info:

Almost all stories need research. Put the books used or where you found it on the Internet or the person who gave you the info. You may need to go back and check something. I have a separate file with all research relating to that story, then put it in the folder mentioned above if I copy and paste from the Internet. 

You would be amazed at how many ideas come to you as you research.

Writing needs preparation like anything in life. There is only one problem: a story can take on a life of its own and change direction—just go with the flow, be sure to change things in the Story Outline if you alter something. 

Above all, let the creative juices flow and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Finding an Editor in Today's Market

Sandy Tritt
When Inspiration for Writers, Inc. went online in 1998, there were only three other companies on the Internet. Now, there are literally thousands of editors there. Thousands. Anyone can claim to be an editor. There are no tests, no licenses, no applications. And, unfortunately, nothing will destroy your writing career faster than a bad editor. It’s so disheartening to see so many unqualified editors taking money from unsuspecting writers—and then making an absolute mess of that writer’s work, often not only ruining the manuscript, but also the writer’s confidence. 
Some editing firms have only one editor—which could leave you in a rough spot if that editor were to suddenly take ill or have an accident. Or, even worse, simply decided that editing was hard work and took off with your money. Some editing firms have zillions of editors who bid on projects, with your manuscript going to the one with the lowest bid—regardless of his or her qualifications as an editor or in your genre. Some editing firms feature a list of hundreds of editors available for clients to select from, with preference given to the "fastest" editors—those who edit the most words per day with no weight for quality. One company promises that any manuscript under 65,000 words would be delivered in five days. That’s 13,000 words a day. (Our full-time editors average 5000 words in an 8-hour work day). 
As far as I can figure, IFW is now the oldest continuously-in-business editing company on the Internet today. We have grown from a one-person editor to a company with twelve editors, a web guy, a grammar guru, and an intern. 
So, why have we survived when so many others have come and gone? 
  1.  Our editors are professionals. Most have a minimum of a master’s degree in English, are well-published, have won many awards, and are active in the writing community. Editing is not something we do on the side after working all day at a day job. Editing IS our day job. 
  2. We have integrity. We are honest in all our dealings. We let you know up front what a job will cost, and we do not have any hidden costs that pop up later. 
  3. We provide excellent value for the work we perform. While many editing companies appear to be less expensive, when you add in the “hidden” costs (fees for more than a pre-determined number of corrections, hourly fees for responding to questions, fees for quick turn-around, fees for telephone consultations, etc.) and the high quality of our service, others cannot compare. 
  4. We treat our clients the way we would want to be treated. We treat our clients with respect and with kindness. We are honest with them, even when what we have to say is bad news. When we edit, we evaluate the manuscript, not the client. 
  5. We provide ongoing service long after we’ve edited your manuscript. We’re here—and will continue to be here for you—for as long as you need us. We can advise you on your writing questions and be your sounding board. It’s what we do. 
At Inspiration for Writers, Inc., we believe writers deserve the best editor for their individual needs. Therefore, our editors never bid or otherwise compete against one another for projects. Instead, each manuscript is evaluated, and the editor who is best suited for the particular genre and writing level is given the job. All our editors are published authors with extensive editing experience and excellent grammatical skills. Each editor has gone through a rigorous training program that includes an apprenticeship before being certified by Inspiration for Writers, Inc. Additionally, Inspiration for Writers, Inc., employs only editors with high ethics and excellent people skills.
Before hiring an editor, do your homework. Google both the company and the individual editor. What do other people (not their own website) say about them? Are the editors published by traditional publishers (not self-published)? Are the editors active in the writing community? Do they give workshops? Speak at writing conventions? Teach at the university level?
To make sure we have the best match between writer and editor, Inspiration for Writers, Inc., provides a free sample edit for manuscripts over 20,000 words. We want our writers to be comfortable with the personality, style and expertise of our editors. For truly, the writer/editor relationship is a close one, and the writer must feel comfortable asking questions and receiving feedback. If your editor isn’t your trusted friend—the person who is there to guide you and protect you while never leading you astray—you need a new editor.