Remember to back up your computer files and photos. Use an online cloud service, flash drives or external drives; email yourself copies; and consider Dropbox (or other such services) if you have more than one device. Make sure you store some of these in another location, and swap this out with a newer backup at least every six months. You cannot be safe enough where your important files and photos are concerned.

Writing Tips and Tricks

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Character Chart

Character Chart


This can be so useful to any and all writers. Found at the following site –


colored character chart

colored character chart

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Troublesome Words – ACCEPT or EXCEPT – Which one is correct?

by M.A. Anderson 5/02/2014


Anyone who writes will understand the heading of this blog. How often do you type or write down a word and then wonder if it is the correct one (in the right context) for that particular sentence? I’m sure most of you will say ‘regularly’. There are quite a number of words with similar spelling that can have a totally different meaning and create this type of conundrum. Take the words compliment and complement, for example. Do you know the correct usage for these words without checking the dictionary?


Below, is a list of the most commonly misused words and their meaning. I hope it will assist you with the dilemma of which one is which. REMEMBER: Always check spelling and definition if unsure. DO NOT rely solely on your computer’s spellcheck.


accept – to receive                                        except – to exclude

aid – to help                                                     aide – assistant

ascent – to rise                                               assent – consent

bazaar – marketplace                                   bizarre – strange

blond – male                                                   blonde – female

cereal – breakfast food, edible grain         serial – published in installments

cite – to quote an example site – a place  sight – vision

coarse – rough texture                                  course – unit of study, part of                                                                                                                                         meal, during the course of the day

complement – to complete                           compliment – to praise

councilor – local council member                counselor – person who gives                                                                                                                                       advice

debutant – male                                               debutante – female

dependant – noun                                           dependent – adjective

desert – areas of sand, abandon                 dessert – sweet dish after meal

desperate – careless from despair              disparate – unrelated

discreet – wise, judicious                              discrete – separate, distinct

dual – double                                                    duel – sword or pistol fight

effect – noun                                                    affect – verb

fiancé – male                                                    fiancée – female

illicit – illegal                                                     elicit – to draw out facts/ information

immanent – inherent   imminent – will happen soon      eminent – distinguished

insure – to sign contract for possible loss or damage      ensure – to make certain or safe

its – possessive form of it                                it’s – contraction of it is

mooted – suggested, proposed                     muted – muffled

past – {noun or adjective} the man walked past…    passed – {verb} time passed quickly

principal – head of school                              principle – moral guideline

prostate – male gland                                     prostrate – lying face down

stationary – motionless                                  stationery – writing materials

their – possessive form of they   there – showing location   they’re – contraction of they are

whose – possessive                                        who’s – contraction of who is

your – possessive form of you                       you’re – contraction of you are

Happy Writing!


Copyright © 2014 M.A. Anderson
Brisbane, Australia


[Please Note – I have removed any words from the original list that are not used in U.S. English. Also: I have corrected the spelling of “your’re” to read ‘you’re’ and “councilor” & ‘counsellor’ to read ‘counselor’ for U. S. English.  –  – {Lea Ellen}]

The Unnecessary Shame Writers Feel When Getting Feedback

by Jody Hedlund  03/05/2013

I used to get embarrassed every time I allowed someone to edit one of my manuscripts. I’d feel so stupid when they’d mark obvious things. I think to myself, “Wow, I can’t believe I missed THAT. They must wonder if my seven year old daughter wrote it.”

I felt even worse when I’d get macro-edits back from my publisher, the pages of big-picture notes that delineate all the many flaws in plot and character development. In fact, every time I’d get those notes from my editor, I’d say something like, “I’m a terrible writer. I can’t believe my publisher ever signed me since I obviously can’t write a decent story.”

The truth is most of us feel a lot of shame when we get feedback on our manuscripts. The negative messages start playing through our minds at top speed. We begin to second-guess our abilities, wonder why readers and publishers would be willing to take a chance on us, and may even feel like giving up all together.

Slowly, I’m learning that such shame is unwarranted. No matter our skill level, no matter how many years we’ve been writing, no matter how many books we have under our belts, all writers need help with editing and usually lots of it.

Let me say it again. ALL writers need help with editing. No one is exempt. Not even experienced, bestselling authors.

Every writer needs outside assistance in making a book worthy for readers. There’s no shame in admitting we make mistakes. It’s natural and normal for our books to have flaws, sometimes many. Here are a few truths I’ve come to accept:

1. No writer can get a story perfect the first time.

No matter how slowly and carefully I write, no matter how much research I do before I start, I still cannot put out a perfect story.

Just this past weekend I finished writing my thirteenth full length novel. And even though I think the first draft of this latest novel is fairly clean, I know I’ll have plenty of editing to do once I get outside feedback on it. I already have notes in the margin for all the changes I need to make, but objective eyes will always find more ways to make the story better.

My point is, that even after completing twelve previous novels, I still haven’t written a book that’s worthy of publication in first draft format. It’s unrealistic to think that all the words of a full length novel (usually somewhere between 60,000 to 100,000) will fit together in absolute union, that dozens of characters, themes, and plot threads will weave together without any bumps or loose threads.

2. Writers can’t see their story the way the audience does.

Lately as I write, I’ve been comparing myself to a puppet-master directing a play behind the scenes. I’m dangling all my characters on the stage, trying to keep them acting as they should without getting tangled. I’m paying attention to the background, the transitions, and the one-thousand-and-one other details that need to happen in the story.

The fact is, from my position, I just can’t view the story with the same kind of objectivity and perspective that those sitting in the audience can. I’m too enmeshed in every nuance to be able to let go and see it with the freshness that can give me the critical feedback on whether everything’s working together from start to finish as it should.

3. Writers need to love the vision they have for their stories and not the words.

I saw the below image on Pinterest and it really resonated. When I got my rewrites on my first published book, and I realized just how many changes my publisher wanted me to make, I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t keep from wondering why they’d given me a contract when there were so many things wrong with my story.

Since then, I’ve realized that agents, editors, and other writing professionals, aren’t signing writers who have perfect stories. Far from it. Of course they’re able to spot writers who have honed the craft, know how to tell a good story, and can put it all together.

But in addition to that, they can see the vision of the story’s potential. And a good editor will help impart that vision to the author. An author must hold the heart of the story in her hand, but be willing to let the words slip through her fingers.

My Summary: If I ever reach a point where an editor tells me I’ve produced a perfect first draft, then I know I need to solicit further feedback (or a new editor!). Because there’s no such thing as a book not needing editing.

Apply Polish Before You Publish, Please!

by Shelley Lieber  2/01/2013

Finding mistakes in our published work is the plague of an author’s existence. As many times I read The Prince Charming Hoax in the various stages of proof (hundreds) and had other readers (a dozen +), I found two errors in the proof copy from the printer—a missing word and a brand name that needed a capital letter. Resubmitting a new corrected file was an unwelcome expense and delayed the launch, but I knew I’d regret it if I let it go.

I was fortunate to find out about the trademark error from someone who was reading the ebook just in time to make the correction in the print proof. But what about errors you don’t see because you don’t know they’re wrong?

I’ve been reading and enjoying a good number of self-published novels lately, in both digital and print formats. Most of them are very well written, yet too many of them contain mistakes that are rarely found in traditionally published books. Rather than the usual complaint of typos or sloppy errors, I noticed poor formatting, incorrect grammar, and wrong word/spelling errors—which lead me to believe these authors did proofread, but missed what they didn’t know.

Some of the OMG! errors I came across in my recent reading included physic for physiqueand birth-rite for birthright. Less gasp-producing—but nonetheless very noticeable to me—was poor formatting, probably due to the authors’ lack of publishing experience. True, I’ve been an editor for almost 40 years and these types of mistakes jump off the page at me, but anyone who has grown up reading books by traditional publishers is aware of what a book should look like, and can tell if it doesn’t.

 How to correct typical formatting errors found in self-published books:

  • Incorrect usage of hyphens (-), en dashes (–), and em dashes (—). Use hyphens in compound words (blue-green algae). Use en dashes to separate spans such as March 2–March 15, and em dashes to set off appositives mid-sentence (as I did in the previous paragraph) or to indicate a break or interruption in conversation (“Are you—”). Using a double hyphen (–) to stand for an em dash is not acceptable in print. To create a en dash (on a Mac) use option + hyphen; use option, shift + hyphen to create an em dash. PC users should google or check your Help sections for instructions.
  • Page numbers, headers, or footers on blank pages. Blank pages should be blank and don’t need identifying copy such as page numbers, headers, or footers.
  • Front matter copy preparation. Front matter is the section of the book that contains your title page, copyright page, and any other pre-book sections such as dedication, acknowledgements, preface, introduction, etc. What goes on each of these pages is specific, and the best way to prepare your copy is to refer to The Chicago Manual of Style. Buy the book, or purchase an online subscription…it’s one of the best investments you can make in your publishing career. At the very least, check traditionally published books in your genre as samples for guidance on how to structure your book.
  • Incorrect titling and order of book sections. The preface, prologue, introduction, and foreword each have different functions—and in the case of the foreword, a different author. Some sections (like Acknowledgments) can go in the front or back, depending on the author’s preference, but most have specific placement and specific order within the sections.
  • Incorrect pagination. For print books, begin page 1 on a right-hand page. You can use roman numerals in your front matter, but usually it’s not necessary to place page numbers on most front matter pages. You may want to use page numbers in front matter sections that run several pages or if you need to refer to a page number in later copy. Do not place page numbers on front matter single-page sections such as your title page, copyright page, dedication, etc.
I’ve seen a number of other gaffes, but these are the most obvious and frequent bloopers.
To avoid these and other errors of the newbie author, become familiar with the general guidelines for formatting a book. You can do it yourself if you take the time to learn the rules, but your best choice would be to send your book or ebook to a professional book editor for a final look-see before you prepare your files for the digital or print publisher. Remember, an English teacher is not an editor, and I highly recommend using an editor with book publishing experience. (This final proofing is in addition to, and does not replace, copyediting or developmental editing while in the manuscript stage.)
You wouldn’t go out in formal attire with unpolished shoes or uncombed hair. Your book deserves the same attention to detail. Include this final round of pre-publication polish and be sure your book will be judged for its great writing quality only.

How to Optimize Your Amazon Book Page to Actually Sell More Books

by Gary Smailes  1/23/2013

When you first upload your book to Amazon it can be pretty scary. They ask for a stack load of information without ANY indication of which bits will help with sales and which are just there because they need to be.


As part of our Uploading to Amazon online course we teach writers that they should be seeing their Amazon page as ‘real estate’ that they own. Your Amazon book page is one of the ONLY places on the Internet that potential readers will go to with the understanding that they might buy your book. This is huge. To have a visitor to your Amazon page that is ready to buy is an opportunity you can’t miss.


Below is a list of six ‘areas’ of your Amazon book page you should consider altering when trying to capture the maximum number of book sales:


1. Title: Does your title match other books in your genre? For example, if you are a crime thriller, which is part of a series, you may want to consider putting the name of the investigator in your title. Such as A Study In Scarlet [A Sherlock Holmes Case]. The point here is to consider what extra information can you include in your title that will give the reader a hint at the book’s genre.


2. Contributors: Amazon gives you the option to ‘name check’ people who have helped you create your book. If you have used a cover designer, illustrator, editor or proofreader then they should be included. In fact, if anyone has provided significant help then you should try to squeeze their name onto the contributor list. The reason is that it provides social proof. In short people will see that someone else is prepared to attach their name to your book and it must, therefore, be OK.


3. Book Cover: A good book cover will help sell books but there are two key aspects you should consider. The first is to ensure your book’s cover matches the covers of other books in your genre. Readers will associate certain cover designs (styles) with certain genres. Does your book fit? The second is extra information. You can add anything to the cover in addition to the book’s title and your name. Consider including tag lines and other information. A good example is to include a phrase such as ‘…if you liked Game of Thrones you will LOVE this book!’


4. Product Description: Your book’s description should be packed with as much information as you can manage. Below is a list of the things I suggest you include:


·        One paragraph blurb.

·        Outline of chapter content for non-fiction.

·        One paragraph about you.

·        A link to any social media or blogs.

·        Reviews from places other than Amazon.

·        Testimonials.


5. Category: Your book should be added to two categories. I suggest one broad category (e.g. Books > Fiction) and one narrow category (e.g. Books › Crime, Thrillers & Mystery › Legal). The reason for this is that you will hopefully attract readers from the broad category, whilst having a chance of moving up the charts in the narrow category.


6. Reviews: Reviews sell books. Your first goal is to get reviews. The best way to do this is to simply ask. Consider giving your book away and asking people to leave reviews. You are aiming at getting into double figures before easing up. Don’t be too worried about 1 and 5 star reviews, most readers will ignore these, it is the overall score that really counts. In the early days of your book, getting reviews is more important than sales.


— I would urge you to think of your Amazon book page as something you are looking to control. Readers will be coming to the page thinking they might buy. In this situation your job is twofold. The first part is to make your book as attractive as possible for the potential reader. By this, I mean having a good title, nice cover, etc., but there are also factors you can’t influence (for example the reader may be looking for a book that is not the same genre as your book).


If the potential reader is on your page and your book is a good fit then you have a second job and that is to reduce the perceived risk to the buyer. The potential reader will be worried they will be making a mistake, and you need to do what you can to ease this worry. Lowering the price will do this to an extent but that is a blunt instrument. Testimonials, reviews and social proof will do a far more subtle and far better job at reducing the risk in the buyer’s mind.