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How to Be a Better Writer #5: Master Your Phrases

More recently than I'd like to admit, I'd hear "The Joker" by The Steve Miller Band and sing along at the top of my lungs: "Some people call me Maurice (woo woo!) / 'cause I speak to the prophetess of love." That is, until a friend gently pointed out that the line is "'cause I speak of the pompitous of love." Whatever that means... Belt out whatever lyrics you want on karaoke night, but when it comes to your writing, you've gotta get your phrases right. Today, I'm sharing 15 of the top misconstrued phrases, plus the correct ones you should slate in their place. 1) Instead of: Flush outIt's actually: Flesh outTrick: Think of giving an idea more body, fattening it up, making it fleshier. 2) Instead of: Hone inIt's actually: Home inTrick: Picture a homing pigeon returning to its place of origin -- getting to the point. This one's contentious, actually, but linguists generally agree that "home in" came first. If you can't stand that idea, try using another phrase altogether: "zero in." 3) Instead of: For all intensive purposesIt's actually: For all intents and purposesTrick: Just remember you're including all your reasons -- intents and purposes. 4)…

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How to Be a Better Writer #4: Revise!

                                            Good on you! You've published your novel and it's on digital bookshelves everywhere. Then you get a note from your outspoken cousin Tom. He loves the book...but he found a typo in chapter two. Ugh! Back when all books were ink on paper, you would've been out of luck. Thank goodness it's the Digital Age. Fixing errors is no big deal -- at least in your e-edition. Notice how I said "errors" there? It's entirely possible that Cousin Tom's discovery is the only typo you and your editor didn't catch, but just in case there are others, save your future self some work and proof your published book once more, noting necessary updates as you go. That way, you'll need just one revision. The process takes a little time, and you want your readers (current and future ones alike) to have that flawless copy ASAP. Both Kindle Direct Publishing [link: http://kdp.amazon.com/] and NOOK Press [link: http://www.nookpress.com/] give you the option to make corrections to a published manuscript. Not surprisingly, their services are a little bit different. Here's how each one works. Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)Updating your Kindle ebook is pretty darn simple. You fix…

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Beta Readers- What are they!

A beta reader is a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting. Beta reading is typically done before the story is released for public consumption. Beta readers are not explicitly proofreaders or editors, but can serve in that context. Elements highlighted by beta readers encompass things such as plot holes, problems with continuity, characterisation or believability; in fiction and non-fiction, the beta might also assist the author with fact-checking. Wikipedia ALL writers need outside critique of their work. It is a fact that a writer can seldom edit and proofread his own work. A writer often falls in love with his or her words and plots and is unable to let them go. Beta readers differ from Critique groups in that they usually read on their own and evaluate a book according to their individual experience. Unlike using an editor, those who choose to use Beta readers, usually find them due to their interest in a specific genre and they usually use more than one. One of…

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How To Use Real People in Your Writing (Or as Truman Capote said “

Scarlett Johansson won a defamation suit against a French writer for creating a promiscuous character who happened to look like the movie star. A Georgia jury awarded $100,000 to a woman who claimed a character in The Red Hat Club falsely portrayed her as an "alcoholic S***." Writers face three big risks when using real people in their writing: defamation, invasion of privacy, and misappropriation of the right of publicity. Yet every fiction writer bases characters on real people. Memoirists and nonfiction writers identify people by name. How can writers use real people in their work without risking a lawsuit? It's not that hard. Common sense and a cool head are key. First, let's start with a quick summary of United States law. (The laws of other countries are more favorable to the targets. In today's Internet environment, you could get sued in France for a blog written in California.) DefamationTo prove defamation, whether libel for written statements or slander for spoken ones, a plaintiff (target) must prove all of the following: False Statement of Fact.   If a statement is true, then it is not defamatory no matter how offensive or embarrassing. Opinions are also protected because they are…

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Is Reciprocal Reviewing OK?

In our July Newsletter we encouraged our B.R.A.G.Medallion Honoree authors to support, read and review each other's books. We were by no means encouraging our authors to collude to do something improper. One of our Honoree authors Jane Steen brought to our attention that she felt we were sending the wrong message, which was clearly not our intent.  However, we thought you might like to read her blog - Keep Going You Fool!She has given us permission to share it with you. I hope you will take the time to read it: Reciprocal reviewing is not OK, authors. Here's why. The above is an invitation from a self-published author on Goodreads. Nice of him, huh? I've received many such invitations from this guy, whom I'm not going to finger specifically because he's not the only author who uses back-scratching to make his book more visible, not by a long chalk. If you're thinking that maybe he's just being nice to other people, here's one of his latest asks: He sends these invitations to over 7,000 people, and I still get them even though I've unfriended AND blocked him. Is this kind of thing wrong? I say yes. OK, he's not…

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How to Be a Better Writer #3: Get an Editor

Yup, it's true that your writing will improve if you proofread it, but guess what: You can take it leaps further. When I was interviewing renowned indie author Helen Hollick for last month's Post she had nothing but praise for her editor, and with good reason. A fresh set of eyes makes a world of difference. "A good editor is a must for indie writers—not only to ensure the final proof has as few typo errors as possible, and for the obvious grammar, punctuation and spelling bloopers, but also to assist with the writing process as an overall experience," Helen says.Editors vary greatly when it comes to their services, editing styles, pricing structures and so on. I got in touch with editor Dulcie Shoener, so we could offer a big-picture look at what you can expect from the experience. Why consider professional editing?Simply enough, hiring a pro has major benefits. First, editing is his or her job. He or she knows how to hone your language, plot flow, character development and all the other components that will keep readers engaged from the very first page. "Every sentence should be a good sentence," says Dulcie, who's been editing newspapers, magazines and books for…

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One Photo is Worth a Thousand Dollars

  Everyone else does it--downloads an image from the internet, pastes it on their website or blog, and moves on, ignoring or forgetting they are using someone's property without permission. You tell yourself no will know and no will care.But perhaps a little voice in your head is warning you that someday you'll get a nasty lawyer letter demanding a thousand-dollar payment for one casually-posted photo.The little voice is right.Thanks to improving technology, your chances of getting that lawyer letter are going up. Reverse image search engines have made images as easy to search as words. Photographers, artists, and stock image companies use TinEye to scan the internet for infringing users.But it's fair use, you argue. You are using the image for non-commercial, educational, critical, or commentary uses only. Maybe yes, but do you want to fight that fight with Getty Images or Reuters News or Rupert Murdoch?If your website or blog has images plucked off the internet without permission, then take an hour to clean it up before you get the lawyer letter. The process is easier than you think.Delete the Images. This is the simplest way. Remove unauthorized images with a few clicks.However, if you want to continue…

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Continuing Jane Austen’s world

  Continuing the love! Jane Austen remains one of the most popular authors ever! The romance of her novels and the strength of her woman characters endear her to woman around the world. 60 films have been made or have been inspired by her works including the very popular "Clueless".Jane's life has been analyzed by so many. How much of her writing was influenced by her life? Well, isn't that usually the case? Jane Austen wrote about class and love – both things she knew well. Her one and only love was taken from her because her family had little to offer. She was also strong enough to forgo a marriage that would have brought her a very comfortable life but not love. The strength and closeness of her family comes to light in much of her writing. Even during an illness that eventually took her life, Jane continued to write leaving one unfinished work. Her loving family was able to get both Northanger Abbey and Persuasion published after her death. Her beloved brother, Henry, was able to his sister buried at the Winchester Cathedral.Jane Austen's' writing features love of family and Karen Aminadra has created 2 wonderful books continuing…

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How to Be a Better Writer #2: Proofread, Proofread, Proofread!

  Greetings, authors! I'm back with another dose of writing wisdom. This time, it's about what happens after the creative work is done: proofreading. When I told Geri Clouston, indieBRAG's founder and president, about the topic for this month's blog, she hooked me up with Helen Hollick, a British author who's received a lot of praise for her brilliant manuscripts. Helen's big on proofreading and editing. It might be one reason three of her books are B.R.A.G. Medallion honorees. "Keep this in mind," she tells me. "Anyone can write a book. Not everyone can write a readable book." It might be a bit hard to admit, but she's absolutely right. The two of us agree, a thorough proofread (and, if you can swing it, a professional edit) is an excellent way to bump your work into the latter category. "It is essential to ensure that your final proof, before going to print, is as error free as possible (although I am convinced that the gremlins creep in as soon as the printing press starts running...)," Helen says. "It doesn't matter how good your plot and characterisation are, if the final printed version is littered with silly errors, the reading experience…

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IS QUALITY IN THE EYE OF THE READER?

We are all familiar with the expression, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." It is generally interpreted to mean that different people have different ideas about what is beautiful. And as a dog lover, I must admit there are some AKC breeds only an owner can love. (To avoid upsetting anyone I hereby plead the 5th with regard to which breeds – and, of course, my purebred Alaskan Malamute really IS beautiful!). Having said that, I suspect that many of the general public who visit our website and view our list of B.R.A.G. Medallion honorees may wonder how these books can be fairly judged when, by its very nature, such judgment is qualitative rather than quantitative. Well, let me say right up front that we make no pretense that editors at the top traditional publishing houses, or professors at the leading schools of journalism, such as Northwestern's (I picked that one because my eldest daughter has her Master's from Medill), would give our honorees their stamp of approval. But I respectfully submit that those same editors and professors are NOT the people who buy fiction books or read them. Our readers ARE those people. Not professional editors. Not…

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