Category Archives: Writing Craft

Writing Versus Editing or Creative Versus Critic

Guest post by Deborah Hawkins, Author of Ride Your Heart ’til it Breaks

Author Deborah HawkinsMany years ago I had the great pleasure of teaching writing to college freshmen. Many of them dreaded Composition 101 because their high school English teachers had never explained to them that the process of writing something and the process of editing it are two entirely different functions. Many of my students would write a sentence and then immediately analyze it for errors and become too paralyzed by doubt and indecision about “mistakes” to go on writing.

At the opposite end of the spectrum was a free-spirit who simply wrote any and every thought that came into her head without analysis, without punctuation, and often without paragraphing. Unlike my paralyzed souls who would present me with two little sentences in place of a whole composition, Miss Free-Spirit would give me page after page of formless free association. None of these students understood the difference between writing and editing.

Writing is the creative side of expressing an idea. To write, you have to turn off your inner critic and focus on what you want to say. I do a lot of planning when I am writing fiction, and much of that planning consists of character biographies and story time lines that I jot down without much thought to the fine points of grammar and punctuation. These bits of writing are for my eyes only, so I am the only one who has to understand them. Similarly, as I write a chapter, I give little thought to mistakes. I am more like Miss Free-Spirit.

But after I have finished a chapter of a novel, I turn on my critical side and become my own editor. Now I look for errors in punctuation, in spelling, and paragraphing, and above all, in communication. The writing function is expressing the idea. The editorial function answers the question, how well did I communicate it.

I have never had any difficulty editing myself. I worked as a technical editor for a year or so between my teaching job and entry into law school. I have always been able to look at my own work as if someone else had written it. In fact, I am more ruthless when I edit myself because when I edit someone else I want to be careful to preserve the writer’s unique voice. A really good editor makes a piece of writing better but does not take it over and make it the editor’s own work. The best editors always respect the writer’s individual style.

Award PhotoWhen I write a novel, I like to do my first edits chapter by chapter, so that I can catch any major problems before I get too far along in the book. On the days when I sit down to write and nothing comes, I find it helpful to read the last chapter I wrote. After that, the next bit of the story seems to flow easily through my fingers.

My absolute favorite moments comes when a draft of the entire manuscript is finished. I am always relieved that I now have a complete version of my idea in writing, and I am ready to edit it. It is much easier to turn on the editor-critic function and improve a piece of writing than it is to write in the first place. In other words, the creative side of communication is more demanding than the critical function. But both are essential to excellent writing and storytelling, and I enjoy them both. Creating any piece of writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, is much easier to do when you realize writing and editing are different tasks that need to be performed at different times in the overall process of composition.

Enter the contest below and follow the tour for excerpts from the book

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Writing Together – How does it work?

By Joyce and Jim Lavene, Authors of Dead Girl Blues

Author Photo- Joyce & JimJoyce – Actually we get asked this question a lot.

Jim – Like almost every time we walk out of the house. Even the mail carrier asked last week when he was delivering new books


Joyce – How do we write together? The question is usually asked with a wry face and a shake of the head.

Jim – And why would you want to? Don’t forget that.

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How to Reveal a Character’s Emotions

James Mascia, Author of The Leviathan Chronicles: The Last Stand at Aeprion shares a guest post with Lilac Reviews.  After reading this great craft post, see the book review and tour information below.

Enter the contest below and follow the tour for excerpts from the book

He felt angry. She felt sad. They were excited.

Yes, you are telling the emotions of the characters in the story, but this really doesn’t show us anything important, and frankly, unless you are writing for a preschool audience, leads to some boring writing.

Look at your favorite novel, and read a scene in it that is emotionally charged (it can be a heated argument, or a romantic love scene. It doesn’t
matter.) Look at how the author shows the sentiments of characters within that scene. They don’t simply say how the character is feeling, or if they do, they go beyond that to show the reader exactly how angry, sad, happy, etc. they are. In your writing, you need to do that as well. This is one of those cases, where you have to show the characters emotions instead of telling about them. Continue reading


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Review: Don’t Fear the Reaper: Why Every Author Needs an Editor

Author Blake Atwood / Reviewed by Felita Daniels / 153 Pages

Book Cover Don't Fear the ReaperThis is a helpful book. It is especially important for that first-time, self-publishing writer that needs an editor. Someone new to the industry may not know what the different types of editing are, which they need, and what are reasonable prices for these services. These questions are answered.

I didn’t like that the author advertises his own editing services in multiple places in the work.  There were also places where he reiterated the same pieces of information and concepts. This made me doubt his editorial skills.

I did like that he tried to help the writer to understand the proper mindset and prepare the writer emotionally for being edited.

“In a later chapter, we’ll discuss much more about that first reaction to being edited, but for now, know that being open to becoming a better writer- and being open to even the most heinous of edits- is a character trait of all serious writers.”

Helpful, but a great deal of this information could have been found on line with some targeted search queries.

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Interview with Liz Mugavero

You participate in a Facebook page and blog Wicked Cozy Authors.  I know lots of authors are struggling with time for writing vs marketing vs their lives.  What has been your experience with this group? 

Liz Mugavero PhotoI am very, very blessed to have the Wickeds in my life. We’re a very unique group of bloggers because we’re much more than that. We are friends, we are each other’s support system, we are sisters. We had been in the same New England writer circles for years, with varying degrees of knowing each other. And then most of us signed on with agent John Talbot in 2011/2012, and the blog was born. All six of us are now represented by John, and we all have one (some of us have two!) series under contract.

At that time most of us, with the exception of Jessie Crockett and Barbara Ross, hadn’t published any novels yet. We were all feeling out way, and it was so great to have friends along that crazy path!

The blog launched in May 2013, coinciding with the launch of my first book, and we’ve been going strong ever since. We were pretty much winging it when we first started out, but it’s been awesome. Now we’re in a groove with our schedules and planning, we have Wicked Accomplices who join us on a monthly basis, and best of all we have a brand. It’s so great going to conferences and having people say, “Hey! You’re a Wicked Cozy.” But again, the best part is that we are all friends, and I love these ladies.

Whats been the most surprising thing about being an author?

As a cozy writer whose books include recipes, I was quite surprised to find out how much people look forward to that part of the book. I don’t have a lot of time to cook (and I’d much rather read than cook in my spare time) so I never paid much attention to the recipes in books I’ve read. But I’ve had people email me about the recipes to tell me they’ve tried them and how much their pets enjoyed them, which has been really cool!

Author Links

Website | Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Facebook

Purchase Links
Amazon Indie Bound B&N Book Depository

Whats the most recent book youve read?

My reading time has been severely diminished because of my upcoming deadlines. However, I did manage to sneak away long enough to read my fellow Wicked Cozy friend Sherry Harris’ debut, Tagged for Death, which was a fabulous read.

What was the first mystery book you remember reading (not necessarily a cozy- but a mystery)? What impression did it leave?

I don’t remember which one, but definitely a Nancy Drew book. I thought it was fabulous. What stood out the most was what a tough sleuth Nancy was. As a young girl, she used her intellect and her courage to solve puzzles and face down bad guys—and mostly did it on her own. I remember wanting to be Nancy as a kid. Later, I knew I wanted to write a female sleuth who was brave, smart and sassy too.

Icing on the Corpse CoverAre you a write every day, or a lock yourself up for a weekend type writer? Did you know you were a plotter or a pantser?  If you didnt have a sense of your work style right off the bat, how did you discover your best working method?

With my looming deadlines, I’m a write-as-many-days-as-possible writer. I do tend to lock myself away for the weekend too, just because it’s when I have the most time, as I work a day job during the week. As far as plotting vs. pantsing, I’ve always been a pantser, no matter how much I’ve tried to remedy that situation! I’ve always known that’s how I write, and I’m pretty okay with it. I do try to do more plotting these days just to save time, but things often end up taking their own turn anyway.

Are the animals in your books based on any of your own pets?

Nutty, the Maine coon cat who was the series inspiration, is based on my cat Tuffy, who was a stray in my neighborhood. Nutty has some health challenges in the books, which prompted Stan’s organic cooking and baking, but Tuffy is healthy. He’s also a star in his own right—he has a story in the anthology Rescued, released in January. Check it out: Here

Also in the books—a schnoodle named Scruffy. She is totally based on my schnoodle Shaggy. If you’re not familiar, schnoodles are a cross between a Schnauzer and a poodle, and they are the cutest dogs ever!

Whats your next book about?

The Icing on the Corpse, coming out later this month, is the third installment in the series. Here’s the blurb:

Kristan “Stan” Connor is thrilled to be invited to the Groundhog Day festivities in quirky Frog Ledge, Connecticut. Her organic, home-baked pet treats are a big hit at the annual celebration, though an important guest is curiously absent . . .

When Helga Oliver, the town’s elderly historian, is found crumpled in the basement of the Historical Museum, the close-knit town is devastated. But after some tenacious digging, Stan discovers Helga was pushed down the stairs—and that this picture-perfect New England town may hide some dark secrets . . .

Stan’s dogged determination reveals Helga’s ties to an unsolved death in 1948. But how does that connect to Adrian Fox, who’s just arrived in town to shoot an episode of Celebrity Ghost Hunters? Stan is going to have to be very careful in chasing down the killer—if she wants to live to see another winter . . .

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Writer’s Toolbox – Research

Guest Post by Matthew Peters, Author of The Brothers’ Keepers

Matthew Peters PictureI’ve been asked how I researched The Brothers’ Keepers, and how I decided how much to include without it sounding too much like a lecture.

It took me a long time to realize that writing effective fiction involves as much, if not more, research than writing credible non-fiction. Realizing this is truly half the battle.

Developing/researching the story took as much time as writing the book.
I began with a very general idea, involving a possible religious document found in the aftermath of a murder. Next, I thought about the kind of people that would populate my story world. I wanted the protagonist to be smart, and I knew the Jesuits were among the best educated orders in the Church. But that was about all I knew. So I researched the Jesuits and eventually became fascinated by them. One book led to another and before long I had settled on the idea that the murder case should be linked to a treasure.

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Tips for Writing a Series

A themed tour with Prism Book Tours.

 Guest Post by Alethea Kontis

How do you keep track and store info and facts on the series? Character worksheets? World bible?
Back when I wrote The Dark-Hunter Companion for Sherrilyn Kenyon, I asked Sherri something very similar, though far less polite. I had a notebook full of handwritten notes, made several calls to several sources, and had a friend tour New Orleans on my behalf. I had a word document with thousands upon thousands of words compiled into a physical encyclopedia of the world of Sherri’s Dark-Hunters, and there were STILL SO MANY BOOKS LEFT TO WRITE. “How in the world do you keep all this crap in your head?” I asked. Sherri just laughed.Now, I get it.I know what it’s like, having an entire universe full of fully-formed people in your head, knowing where certain characters came from and where they’re going as if you had lived their lives yourself. I have some things written down for reference–every time I listen to Enchanted on audio I make notes–but so much of it is in my head. This world grows inside me more enormous every single day, creating more and more stories for me to write.

Things I use as reference:

The Excel Spreadsheet of Ages: During one of the copyedits of Enchanted–not the revision edits, but the copyedit, which comes after–the publisher decided that Prince Rumbold was too old to be the main character, especially is Sunday Woodcutter was “not quite 16” (the same age as Lydia Bennet). I called upon friend and fellow author Eric James Stone, who is much smarter about Excel spreadsheets than I am. He helped me set something up that would let me input various birth dates and calculate all the Woodcutter siblings’ ages at certain key events in history. I used this to massage the ages of my protagonists closer together without making certain scenes completely unbelievable. It was the toughest revision I had to do, but I’m glad it was set in stone before any of the other books were written.

The Woodcutter Siblings Scrivener File: Thanks to a great workshop led by Gwen Hernandez, I learned how to use Scrivener before writing Dearest. I certainly wouldn’t say I know everything about it, but I know enough to enjoy using it to write my books. I used this program to create a place where I could collect a basic profile page on each of the Woodcutters–things like: Age in Book, Hair and Eye Color, Character Inspired By, and the “base note” fairy tale for each of their books, as well as other fairy tales to pull upon for influence. I expect this file will eventually grow to include other characters in the world of Arilland as well.

The Arilland Easter Egg Page: I’ve always been a big fan of DVD extras, so I created a page on my website where I list handy links to essays, videos, stories, articles and the like that are some how connected to the series. You can find it here:

Pinterest Boards: During the Enchanted blog tour, a blogger asked me if I had a “dream cast” for the novel. I only had a couple of characters in mind (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Jolicoeur; Kenneth Branagh as the Evil King), but it lit the spark of inspiration. I began to make Pinterest boards for all of the Woodcutter novels. And then, as I was preparing to write Dearest, I actually cast the Swan brothers BEFORE I wrote them. I’m not sure I have ever fallen in love with characters so hard. It was one of the most amazing writing experiences I have ever had.

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5 Resolutions for Self-Pubbing Writers

Guest Post by Rich Leder

By now, indie authors, you’re well on your way to a new, you-er you. Dropping 10 pounds. Being nicer to the jerk at work. Going to bed earlier. Calling your mother once a week. Helping out with the laundry. Fixing things around the house. Waking up earlier. Planning more date nights. Paying down some debt. Doing a little vacuuming. Spending more time in the gym. Taking a trip to the coast. Working in the garden, planting roses, and then stopping to smell them.

Author of McCall & Company Mysteries

Novelist & Screenwriter

Wonderful New Year’s resolutions one and all, no doubt, but where are the 2015 Resolutions for Self-Pubbing Writers?

Ah, here they are, five of them:


If you’re writing for money, you’re writing for the wrong reason. Statistics are clear on this: most indie writers make small amounts of money or less than small amounts of money. Each year, it gets harder to get noticed by the global community of readers because each year more and more writers self-publish their own books.

Yes, the front end of that last sentence means more marketing is in your future, but the back end is Historically Awesome and means you actually have a future. Self-publishing is the most profound thing to happen to books and readers and writers since the invention of the printing press. Indie writers should rejoice in the freedom and control and privilege and honor of presenting their written work to the world. Nobody can tell you your book is not worthy of public presentation. That is entirely up to you. And that is Historically Awesome. Future, here you come!

Now, that doesn’t mean readers will buy your book. They’ve got to find it first and there’s some mystical marketing metaphysics going on in the global digital bookstore—if you haven’t noticed.

Would it be nice to make money? Absolutely. I’m not giving back my checks; that’s for sure. But I’m not writing to make money. I’m writing because I’m a writer, because I love to make people laugh out loud, because I’ve got funny stories to tell, and now I can share them with everyone on the planet whenever I am ready to do so.

Most writers, me included, can and should make this resolution because we are full-life writers, meaning we have jobs and businesses and concurrent careers we’ve worked hard to build and are proud of. We make money doing those things. We’ve set up our lives so we don’t need to make money self-pubbing our books. That would be sweet, no doubt, but we’re not selling our businesses or quitting our jobs or abandoning our careers because we love those parts of our lives too.

Our businesses, jobs, and careers make it possible for us to support our families, to coach Little League, to go to Girl Scouts, to volunteer at the hospital, to take care of our parents, to live full and meaningful lives…and to write and self-publish our own books.

Money is the icing. Don’t write for the money. Continue reading

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Interview with Denise Montcrief

Author Denise MoncriefWhat is a funny or embarrassing publishing story that you have?

Many, many years ago, I self-published a non-fiction book through a print on demand distributor. (No, I’m not going to tell the pen name or the book title. Some things just need to stay in the past. J ) This book was published back when print on demand was just taking off. The book had been available for months, I’m not sure how many, and sold quite a few copies before I realized the title was misspelled on the spine. Now, I always check the spine for typos.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

The toughest criticism? I don’t know. I’ve had my share of negative comments just like any other author who has been around awhile. It comes with putting my work out in the public for commentary. Probably the hardest to take are the reviews that don’t really tell me why the reader disliked the book. The best compliment came from a reviewer of Deceptions of the Heart. The reviewer said the book was “unputdownable.” I love that, and that’s what I try to do, make my books unputdownable. Continue reading


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Interview with Lucinda Sue Crosby

Author of The Cancer Club shares with Lilac Reviews

You state that inspiration for this book is the life of Eren Ozker.  Did you meet her in person? 

Yes, I did. In fact, I can say she was one of the best friends I have ever encountered. She was of Turkish/American background and had 5 sisters, all of whom she was close to. She had been a stage and film actress in both NY and Los Angeles and was the first woman Muppeeteer Jim Henson ever hired. Later, she was also involved in getting puppeteers recognized by Screen Actor’s Guild and AFTRA.

Eren always reminded me of the Biblical Eve: full bodied, intelligent, dramatic, raven haired. She had an artistic/Bohemian nature and a wicked sense of humor. And she was the first cultured and well- read person who was a real fan of my writing. I admired her, respected her and loved her dearly. I still think of her often.

How did you come to know her (if it wasn’t specifically interview for this work).

I met Eren through the man I was living with at the time, Michael Norrell, who broke into show biz as a stage and TV actor. After morphing into a writer of teleplavs and screen plays, he created “The Love Boat” and won many awards for TV movies wrote like “Bingo Long and the Travelling All-Stars” starring Dermot Mulroney and “Barnum” starring Burt Lancaster.” One of Michael’s best friends was well-known character actor William “Bill” Bogert – and Eren was married to Bill.

How did you come to find out about the Next Best Fiction Author Contest?

A friend of mine sent me the link to check out. I am so glad I did!

How did you find your cover artist? Did you already have an idea for the cover?  Did the artist read the book to make suggestions?

I came up with the idea of the cover myself. It had to reference cancer, celebrating and tropical vacation climes. Plus it HAD to include a wig. I put together some clip art images and sent them to my business partner, Laura Dobbins, who is an ex newspaper reporter and managing editor with tons of writing and design experience. (She has won over 23 journalism awards, some for page design.) She was the one who put all the elements together. GREAT JOB.

Many new authors are struggling with juggling their writing time with marketing and PR tasks.  If you could only pass on 1 tip to get the best mileage for your time and money, what one thing should be at the top of their marketing approach?

After deciding to go with Amazon, too few authors take advantage of all the free advertising that book selling behemoth makes available. For example, there are several places during the account set up and manuscript uploading process where Amazon asks you for “key words” – words and phrases to describe your book’s category and sub categories. Amazon uses these words and phrases to help people who are searching for a product like yours FIND YOUR PRODUCT! Most newbies don’t bother to take advantage of this … big mistake.

Tell us a little about your next project?

I currently contribute regularly to two magazines in the Palm Springs/Palm Desert area: “Prime Time” and Desert Entertainer.” Laura and I just released a book marketing book on Amazon called “Advanced Kindle Book Marketing.” And I am on the first rewrite of what will be my 3rd novel: “The Scroll of the Son of Heaven” which takes place in China in the 1600s and centers around a war lord named Li Tze-Cheng (who actually existed) who took on and defeated the armies of China’s Emperor.

Felita, Thanks for this opportunity!

The Cancer Club:: a crazy, sexy, inspirational novel of survival Continue reading

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