Lessons Learned

Lessons2015 FEB |
2013 JAN |

2012 JAN | FEB | APR | MAY | JUN | JUL | AUG | SEP | OCT | NOV

2011 JAN | FEB | MAR | APR | AUG | SEP | OCT | NOV

2010 APR | MAY | JUN | JUL | AUG | SEP | NOV

2009 APR | JUL | OCT

2008 APR | MAY | JUL | SEP | OCT | NOV


Passive Voice
| T-Time | Clauses | Web Citation Style


Artis HendersonFebruary 2015 Speaker: Marty Ambrose

Topic: The Politics of Publishing

Slideshow: The New Publishing Paradigm




February 21, 2015, 10 am

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Artis HendersonNovember 2014 Speaker: Artis Henderson

Topic: 10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Writing a Memoir

Artis gave an informative and entertaining walk through her process of creating a memoir.

Her ten points:

1. We must build a structure with our truth so that other people can shelter there.

2. You create a memoir scene by quiet scene.

3. The only way to solve structural problems is by writing.

4. When you're stuck, seek life experiences.

5. This will not be fun.

6. Join a writing group.

7. There is no perfect writing spot.

8. Free writing will change your life.

9. Buy this book: The Writer's Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long.

10. Reach out to other writers.


November 15, 2014, 10 am
Unitarian Universalist Church--Hobart Hall [location]

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October 2014: Mini-Workshop on Critique Groups

Our October program was a workshop on Critique Groups.


Critique Group Guidlines (fiction and nonfiction)
Critique Group Guidlines (poetry)
Proofreading Marks from the Chicago Manual of Style
Critique Group Slide Show by Richard Georgian and Denise Holbrook

See Formatting Tips Here

October 15, 2014, 10 am
Zion Lutheran Church

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September 2014

PDFs on how to format for the GCWA Writing Contest and for critique groups.

Formatting Tips (Complete Set)

Formatting for MS Word 2007/2010/2013
Formatting for MS Word 200/2003
Formatting for Pages for MAC
Formatting for WordPerfect



April 2014 Speakers:

Slideshow from meeting [pdf]

Poetry Panel


Poetry Month Topic: The Four Temperaments

No matter your preferred genre, you won’t want to miss the April meeting of Gulf Coast Writers Association as we celebrate Poetry Month. The Four Temperaments, presented by a panel of our most talented poets, will focus on four distinct temperaments that can determine the essential qualities of your writing, be you poet, fiction, or non-fiction writer.

This valuable insight can help all writers evaluate their own work and examining the process through which their words are selected to form specific ideas. The four temperaments will be illustrated through the poetry panel of GCWA members Carol Drummond, Jim Gustafson, Gary McLouth, Joe Pacheco, and Larry Stiles.

April 19, 2014, 10 am

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Sid SimonNovember Speaker: Sid Simon

Handouts from meeting.

Dr. Sidney B. Simon, award winner of the LEE COUNTY LITERARY ARTIST OF THE YEAR. 2011, was the guest speaker at Gulf Coast Writers in November. He says he will make us laugh again, and he will make us interact with the topic. Simon doesn’t just lecture.
[PDF bio] website

More about Sid Simon from his previous visit to GCWA.


November 16, 2013, 10 am
Covenant Presbyterian Church, 2439 McGregor Blvd, Fort Myers, FL

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Richard GeorgianSeptember Speaker: Richard Georgian

Handout Includes many good links!

Richard is a dedicated marketer of his book and had many good tips about how to sell our books. He emphasized the hard work involved in accomplishing this goal.

Mr. Georgian was the president of Gulf Coast Writers Association for three years and is the current corporate chairman. His book Cossacks, Indians and Buffalo Bill won the Stuart Thayer Prize from the Circus Historical Society in 2012.

Visit Mr. Georgian's website: www.RichardGeorgian.com for more information.

Topic: The Road to Publication

Award Winning author, Richard Georgian, took us on a journey leading to the eventual publication of our work, answering the questions: “Where does the road start? How do you get to your destination? What preparations do you need to make?” To find the elusive publisher we will tour non-paid publishing houses, semi-paid publishing, self publishing, and paid-publishing.

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Jan TourteAugust Speaker: Jan Tourte

Explaining the Keyboard and Other Stuff - Right-Click and Windows Key

What About Cyber Crime?

The Windows 8 Key

"During my thirty-plus years of holding positions in the business arena, I became interested in the world of computers (1980). First in Massachusetts and now in Florida, my personal style of teaching and instructing has led to a career which now has me living in and out of my car, on the road, on the computer, or digging into or setting up computers." [more]

Topic: Shortcuts that writers should know when using a computer

Jan gave an informative and entertaining talk about how to use your computer and security issues when doing so. See Pdf from Jan for more.

August 17, 2013

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Liz Coursen

July Speaker: Rik Feeney

Rik's Biography[pdf]

Handout from July 2013 meeting[pdf]

Book Review Contacts List[pdf]

Publishing Success Online Flyer[pdf]

Rik Feeney is the author of the book Writing Books for Fun, Fame & Fortune!, and his latest book Editing Basics for Authors and Self-Publishers! and the soon to be released Book Marketing Success for Authors on a Budget!, as well as the upcoming memoir “What Are Little Boys Made of…?” Rik is a Book Coach, Book Cover Designer, and Publishing Consultant. He talks at writer’s conferences and seminars and is the leader of the Orlando Florida Writer’s Association group.

Contact Rik at Rik@PublishingSuccessOnline.com or

Author of Writing Books for Fun, Fame & Fortune!
New Blog! www.BookPublishingResource.com

Topic: Sell Your Book in 30 Seconds: Elevator speech basics and marketing description mechanics that sell books!

July 20, 2013, 10 AM

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Read the Group Poem Creative Inspiration read at April's meeting - By Joan Winokur, Dan England, Lorraine Walker Williams, and Larry Stiles.

Pat WashingtonApril Speaker: Pat Washington

Pat's notes [pdf] from her Poetry Month Presentation

Pat's notes [doc] (The Word doc has working links which don't work in the PDF)

See Individual Poems by members on our Poetry Page. (They are also included in Pat's notes.)

Dr. Patricia A. Washington, Professor Emeritus - Florida Gulf Coast University.
Dr. Washington began writing poetry and articles as an undergraduate student in Chicago. During this time she became a member of the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) Writers’ Workshop under the auspices of the late Mr. Hoyt Fuller, Editor of (Negro Digest) Black World. As a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh she was a member of the Africana Studies Writers Workshop under the auspices of the late August Wilson and Professor Rob Penny. In 1997 her short story “The Face” was selected for publication in NOMMO an OBAC writer’s retrospective published by OBA House & the Illinois Arts Council. Since moving to Southwest Florida she has been a member of the Southwest Florida Writers; Gulf Coast Writers Association and Art Poems; a participant in the Sanibel Island Writers Conference [Poetry Workshops]; poem “Our Children” read at the opening session of the Florida Coalition for Children by Nadereh Salim CEO Children’s Network of South Florida; recipient of a 2nd place award for poetry by the Gulf Coast Writers Association; and founder / host of the SouthWest Florida Poetry Workshop in Fort Myers, Florida.

Poetry: Dancing Across the Page Without Falling Off the Edge

A Poet is one who compacts words (although some may say compresses words) to paint a picture, tell a story or  convey emotion(s).

In my opinion, poetry provides the Poet with the opportunity to use rhythm, free verse, prose, blank verse, etc., to write/talk about just about any subject that interests them or their audience. 

Many poets use the written word as well as the spoken word to share their art with audiences. 

Good poets have the vision of an artist, the ear of a musician/singer and the ability to make words dance across the page without falling off the edge. 

I will bring a few recorded poets and live poets.  After the readings we will discuss crafting and reading poems that dance across the page.


April 20, 2013, 10 am - Zion Lutheran Church

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Ben BovaFebruary Speaker: Ben Bova

For lessons learned see Ben's website at Writing Tips.

For more than a decade Ben Bova has been creating novels about the human race's expansion through the solar system. From the Moon to Mars, Venus, Jupiter and the Asteroid Belt, his novels show the adventure and excitement of our advance across the space frontier. 
The author of more than 100 futuristic novels and nonfiction books, Dr. Ben Bova has been involved in science and high technology since the very beginnings of the space age. President Emeritus of the National Space Society and a past president of Science Fiction Writers of America, Dr. Bova received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation in 2005, “for fueling mankind’s imagination regarding the wonders of outer space.” 

Dr. Bova is a frequent commentator on radio and television and a widely-popular lecturer. Earlier, he was an award-winning editor and an executive in the aerospace industry. Ben Bova’s novel, TITAN, has won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the best science fiction novel of the year 2006." 

Topic: 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Writing

Ben Bova says "The question, 'Am I writer?' is irrelevant. The real question is, do you want to write? Writers write. You get up every morning and hit that keyboard. You get the words down and build stories."

Dr. Bova's presentation was entertaining and educational. The 10 "things" are: (more detail on his website)

  1. Write Every Day
  2. Read Widely
  3. Write about WHO you know.
  4. Character + Problem = Story.
  5. No Villians.
  6. Start in the Middle.
  7. The Chain of Promises.
  8. Use All Five Senses.
  9. Point of View.
  10. Make Your Manuscript Readable.

See his website at benbova.net

February 16, 2013, 10 am - Zion Lutheran Church

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Chris Angermann

January Speaker: Chris Angermann

Journalist, ghostwriter, professional director of theater, opera and musicals, teacher, carpenter and cabbie for the Terminal Taxi Company in New Haven, Connecticut (a six-month’s gig in a former time warp), Chris Angermann has lived numerous lives.

He is now editor-in-chief for New Chapter Publisher, a small, independent press in Sarasota, Florida, and also helps authors self-publish under the imprint Bardolf & Company. He is currently serving as President of the Florida Publishers Association (FPA). He has had his hands in producing more than 30 titles, a number of which have won national awards. Last year, he became an author himself with How to Mess With Others For Their Own Good.

Topic:  What Every Writer Should Know About Publishing

Quick Summary of presentation:
Chris gave a very informative ad entertaining presentation about the world of publishing today. He talked about the major changes over the last few years:

  • Amazon Books sold more books last year than all other publishers combined.
  • The days of agents and traditional publishers are gone - "You have a better chance of being struck by lightning than getting an agent that will do something for you."
  • Individual books as we know them have only been around for the last 150 years. Before that authors wrote short stories and serials for magazines.
  • Today it is Kindle and Nook - you can use them for serial stories, "chunk writing," which can be very rewarding. A book sold in pieces will add up to much more than if sold in one volume.

How to Publish:

  • Selling a literary novel today is difficult to impossible. Write genre fiction. Write a lot.
  • Read the genre you want to write.
  • Fiction writers - try non-fiction. It doesn't have to be long.
  • Non-fiction books are like business cards. It gets your name on the book and you can claim expertise.
  • Break the book up into eBook chapters.
  • Sell your book in places other than book stores. Find a store that relates to your subject.
  • Keep your book in hand.

What's in it for you? You don't have to sell a lot of books to make an impact. Copernicus only printed 200 copies of his book and it changed the world. Writing is a noble and worthy profession. If you can make money at it, so much the better.

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Ann DaltonNovember Speaker: Ann Dalton

Attorney At Law and Mediator. The Law Firm of Anne Dalton provides professional legal services to individuals and businesses for contract negotiation and drafting; laws of creative arts, including music, fine arts and writing; for-profit and nonprofit business and partnership formation, modification and dissolution; and estate planning. The standards upon which the firm was founded in 1994 guide it today: competent and compassionate dedication to clients and community, attention to clients’ priorities, and adherence to small-town values.

Anne Dalton is also certified in family, civil, county & dependency mediation and qualified as an arbitrator and federal mediator. She provides a wide range of conflict resolution services for individuals, families, extended families, and businesses.


Topic: Copyright Traps and Pitfalls

Anne gave a very inforative presentation enjoyed by all. There were lots of questions showing lots of interest in the subject and more. We may have her back to discuss privacy and defamaton concerns.

see outline of presentation here.

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Richard GeorgianOctober Speakers: Richard Georgian & Kyle Miller

Kyle L. Miller — Award winning author, publisher, and wildlife educator, Kyle Miller retired from teaching and coaching in the northeast to relocate to Sanibel Island, FL in 1999. She founded Jungle House Publications in 2005 and wrote and published her first wildlife storybook for children. [more]

Richard Georgian's book Cossacks, Indians and Buffalo Bill was published in May, 2010. The author is a member of the Circus Historical Society. Richard spent three years as president of the Gulf Coast Writers Association in Southwest Florida and is active in the community of Lehigh Acres, Florida, his latest port of call. [more]



Marketing: Pre to Post Publishing, What an Author should do.

Ms. Miller and Mr. Georgian gave a detailed and interesting presentation on what an author and/or publisher should do before and after the publication of their work. They covered preparations before publishing, creating a unique selling position, press releases and press kits in detail, post publication tasks, promotional items, speaking, book signings, events, and much more. See the handout here.

October 27, 2012

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Felixx Gerwitz

August Speaker: Felice Gerwitz

Felice Gerwitz and her husband Jeff Gerwitz own Media Angels® Inc., a publishing company and home of quality non-fiction and fiction books for the Christian market. Felice Gerwitz is the President of Media Angels, and an experienced author, consultant, publisher and conference speaker. For more information about Mrs. Gerwitz and her work, please visit:

o   mediaangels.com  (her website)

o   informationinanutshell.com (blog)

o   writingandpublishingblog.com (blog)

o   writingandpublishingradio.com (blog)



Topic: What's different in marketing 2012?

What's different in marketing in 2012? Felice Gerwitz, an author, publisher and radio host provided us with an exceptional presentation by sharing an enormous wealth of information regarding what works and what doesn't in book marketing. She expounded on the latest in local technology as well as a number of creative ways to get our books noticed. The new normal is not what you think! Move over internet, there is hot competition out there!
 Copy of slideshow presentation: "What's Hot in 2012?" (.pdf format)


August 18, 2012, 10 am

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Patricia George June Speaker: Patricia George

Copy of slide show "How to work with an Editor" [pdf]

Seven Steps to Publishing Your Book [pdf]

Patricia George is a Co-Owner of Splash Wrench Design/Web/Print/Marketing; former Editor in Chief of Gulf & Main Magazine; and editor of H. E. Heitman: An Early Entrepreneur of Fort Myers, Florida by T. M. Jacobs. 


Topic: Establishing a Relationship with an Editor

Establishing a Relationship with an Editor? That's easy – we like presents!

What are presents for Media Pros?

  • Pre-written interviews
  • Hi-resolution photographs
  • Quotes and book reviews
  • Executive book summaries
  • Bundled together in a digital format

Together these are the elements of your media kit.


June 16, 2012, 10am

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Dorothy BrooksApril GCWA Meeting (Poetry Month)
Speaker: Dorothy Brooks
Topic: The Importance of Sound in Poetry and Prose

Dorothy gave an excellent and very informative talk about the sound of words in writing, whether poetry or prose. She tells us words have meaning, connotation, and sound. Words can be euphonious (pleasant sounding) or cacophonous (jarring, discordant). She also talked about the rythm of writing, (lines in poetry and sentences in prose) and how you set the mood and speed of your writing. She read from examples to demonstrate. She tells us to read our work aloud and listen closely to how it sounds.

Read Dorothy's poem Driving the Visiting Potter to Town.



Copy of PowerPoint Presentation (converted to pdf)
Copy of writing examples - handout [pdf]

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Pat NeaseJanuary Workshop: Pat Nease
Topic: What's So Funny?

Pat Nease entertained us with humorous stories and educated us on the art of writing and story telling with humor. She talked about the "Rule of Three." Tell things in threes, the last thing is a surprise - the twist. She gave us many ways to exercise our "humor muscle." She kept us laughing, a delight to hear.

Handout from workshop.

Pat Nease's website


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Suzanne Barr

October GCWA Meeting - Speaker: Suzanne Barr
Topic: Ghost Writing

Suzanne told an intriguing story about how she became a Ghost Writer for a NY Times best selling author. She told about writing for romance magazines from home as a young mother, becoming a book reviewer, how the first book she published for "her author" was rejected by her critique group. She said writers should submit work everywhere, even work for free, to build up a resume.

A copy of her presentation (pdf).




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Marty AmbroseAugust Speaker: Marty Ambrose

Topic: Writing the Traditional Mystery

Professor Marty Ambrose, a mystery writer with 4 mystery books published, teaches at Edison State College. Professor Ambrose has always liked to read cozy mysteries from the first time she bought one of Agatha Christie’s classic Miss Marple books. Now she writes her own cozy series for Avalon Books. The Mango Bay Mystery Series is set on a fictional island in Southwest Florida.

She recommends:  Mystery Writers of America and their Sleuth Fest in March; attending conferences and talking to editors; not overlooking small presses; and having an idea for a series.

See her handout, Writing the Whodunnit. (PDF)



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presentersMarch Presentation
YouTube Tips from the Pros


Organized by Susan Brown and Julia Smith
Presenters - Doug MacGregor, Connie Botinelli, and Jennifer Marquis-Muradaz
Thanks to Barnes & Noble for hosting the event.

compiled by Jennifer Marquis

Slideshow - Photographer, Denise Holbrook

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January 2011


A panel of seven published members - Richard Georgian, Kyle Miller, Ken Feeley, Tom Nelson, Jan Nienam, Mary Beth Lundgren,
and Lori Ruhl - gave a presentation on "The Financial Side of Being an Author". See slide show and Spreadsheet

Setting Up a Business – Richard Georgian

Limited Liability Company
State Tax ID
Local Licenses
Federal EIN
Tax Exemption Certificate
Annual Resale Certificate
Bank Account
Finding A Publisher

A Publishing House – Mary Beth Lundgren

Write Well
Get  Edited by an Honest Critique Group
Write For A Market
Publishers Will Provide Bookmarks, Posters, etc.
Publishers Will Send Catalogs to Librarians, Booksellers, Copies of Books to Reviewers
Find Editors (i.e. in Writers Market) who Publish in Your Genre
Typical Publishing House

Self-Publishing – Kyle Miller

What To Expect
Start With a Business and Marketing Plan3
Interesting Sites

Ken Feeley – Self Publishing A-Z

What You Need To Know
Avoid Book Brokers
Do Not Under Price Your Book
Know Your Market and Your Marketing Plan
Costs of Self-Publishing

Jan Neiman – Small Press

Contract or Agreement
Intellectual Property Attorney
Publisher Responsibilities
Author Responsibilities

Tom Nelson - Publish on Demand

Did own editing
Six weeks for publisher preparation
First book free - 300 pg book approx. $10/ea

Lori Ruhl – Children and Graphic Art Books

Different Parameters of Authors and Illustrators

Other Considerations – Richard

Book Purchases
Vendor Fees
Vendor Equipment
Travel Expenses
Sales Taxes

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September 2010

Richard Georgian gave a Punctuation Quiz at our September meeting. See links below for copies of the quiz and the answer.
Quiz [doc]      Quiz [pdf]      Answer [doc]      Answer [pdf]


September 2010 Speaker - Dr. Brad Busbee
Topic: The beginnings of English Poetry

Brad BusbeeDr. Brad Busbee, Assistant Professor of English at FGCU, teaches the history of the English language and early medieval languages and literatures, particularly Old and Middle English, and Old Norse literature. Dr. Busbee distributed handouts containing excerpts from Caedmon’s Hymn, Beowulf, and The Canterbury Tales. He recited/sang the first two poems in Old English, and the last one in Middle English. Handout from the meeting. If you missed Dr. Busbee, you lost an opportunity to hear something different and refreshing.

Three of his major points were:
The earliest English poetry was oral. The introduction of writing made it increasingly a visual art form. 
English poetry has always relied upon alliteration, at first as a memory aid and organizational device.
As English poetry became visual and physical, it became the property of individuals instead of the community.

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July 2010 Speaker - Robert Macomber
Topic: Self-editing and critical reading of your manuscript:
Making it Perfect, or at least Better

Robert MacomberRobert Macomber [www.robertmacomber.com] gave a fascinating presentation at our July meeting, sharing with us his tools for research, and editing his books. He is an internationally recognized maritime writer who writes nineteenth century naval war novels. He grew up in Fort Myers when there were only 35,000 people in all of Lee County. He taught history in Tampa and has been giving historical lectures for 35 years. He wrote for newspapers and magazines and says he learned from newspaper writers how to tell the whole story in a tiny space.

His first book won the Patrick Smith award for historical novels. Number 9 in his Honor series is due out this year and he has plans for a total of 22 books in the series. He publishes one book a year, but since it takes 3 to 4 years to finish the research and writing, he is usually working on 4 books, all at different stages in the process.

Robert says you must be persistent and smart about the business of writing. He has a network of researchers all over the world who work for him in return for acknowledgements in his novels. He travels all over the world to visit the places he is writing about.

A storyboard, his "low-tech" tool for tracking his work, was passed around for members to see. On his storyboard he tracks timeline, (note: Old calendars can be found at timeanddate.com), historical story line, location, word count, geography, and category of people. There is a folder for every item on his storyboard. He uses graphics for reminders. Robert also passed around maps that he used in writing his books. He collects maps from the time of the novel, plus current maps of the same area. He works on his storyboard for about a year, then starts writing, then does "eyeball recon," (travel to sites in book).

Editing and Critiquing: "You can edit yourself to death." Let the editors do their job. Don't use over editing as a crutch to not finish the job. You can edit and edit and edit and still have mistakes. In one of Robert's books he had a women who was pregnant for 14 months and no one caught it until it was almost ready to be published.

Set aside a time to write. Tell your family you're doing paperwork. Go over yesterday's work before you start writing each day, to edit and for continuity. Keep your manuscript short, under 98,000 words. Some write long and cut, but Robert writes short and adds - vivid descriptions based on research and "eyeball recon." Gives flavor - sight, taste, sound, etc. He wants his readers to feel what they read.

When you get sick of the book let it sit. Give it to a critical reader. (He doesn't believe in big group critiquing.) Readers should be a writer (in a different genre), know grammar (A's in English), keep their mouths shut. There can be 10 months of editing, back from publisher, executive editor, line editor. You can get really sick of it. Work on other projects to take your mind off of it. Don't lose your edge.

Notes from Q&A:

  • Robert reads 30 to 40 books for every book he writes.
  • Always gather too much information then prioritize.
  • 40% of his readers are women, not historians.
  • Pick someone unlike you for critiquing.
  • For researchers - ask for help - people don't say no.
  • No one wants to work with a Prima Donna.
  • Have fun.
  • Introduce yourself as a writer.
  • Honor in each title of the series gives central theme. People remember and it sells.

Robert doesn't put anything in his books that he would be embarrassed about in church. He uses language from the 19th century with a modern flow and no 4 letter words. There is sex and war, but he lets the readers use their imagination.

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May 2010 Speakers: Gwyn Ramsey and Ginny Crane
Pounding the Pavement

Gwyn RamseyGwyn and Ginny gave a very entertaining presentation about what it takes toGinny Crane sell your book. They talked about publishing and marketing. Submit your book again and again. Keep sending it out to agents and publishers. Follow up after three months. Go to conferences - request materials.

After the book is published hit the road. They work as a team. They described their annual trips around the country (book signings, visiting libraries, lunches and presentations, etc.) and all the details of selling and marketing their books from printed materials to internet websites and blogs.

Detailed Outline of their Presentation [pdf]
Websites to find and verify agents and publishers [pdf]
Small Press Publishers [pdf]

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Idea Generation: From Concept to Query

October 2009

Speaker notes from Lucienne Diver, Literary Agent

Part I: The Concept

We’re going to start off here talking about idea generation.  First, every author is different.  There are things which will come naturally and things you have to work at.  For some, voice is a piece of cake.  The characters start talking in a writer’s head and the author needs to find things for these people to do.  For others, the plot comes first and peopling it with realistic characters or creating a fully-developed world is the difficult part.  Whatever you need to work at, it’s important to realize that for those things that are a struggle, it can be easy to default to a trope or a stereotype to get the less-than-fun part out of the way.  Understanding your strengths and weaknesses as a writer is vitally important to moving toward your ultimate goal: publication.
Let’s take character.  If you’re writing a mystery you might default to a divorced, alcoholic or recovering alcoholic, world-weary detective.  It’s been done and done.  Can you add your own unique twist?  Perhaps.  But it’s necessary to realize that the more something has been done the harder you have to work to make it your own.  It’s very important to avoid stereotypes and cardboard characters.  Your point of view characters are the lenses through which readers experience your story.  If the characters don’t live and breathe for us, neither will your tale, and you’ll have a difficult time engaging the reader. 
In fact, voice is often what takes a manuscript from something an agent or editor likes to something he or she loves and can champion.  Rapid-fire pacing, clever plotting, a unique and intriguing world are all important elements as well, but if I don’t care about the characters, the suspense is lost.

So, what makes a memorable character?

Your characters should live and breathe for you. Part of what defines a person is his or her quirks. No one is without them. My hard-biting-est, snarkiest friend has a soft spot for Barbies and Hello Kitty. Some hard science fiction writers are technophobes. You get the idea. Real people are not stock characters whose every interest goes to define their type. We’re sometimes inconsistent, indecisive, cranky, human.

As mentioned, your viewpoint character is the lens though which the reader sees the world. A lens can warp images, color them, magnify or diminish them. Voice should do the same. Descriptions will be filtered through a character’s unique perceptions and way of expressing him or herself. A character is truly unique if no one else in the world would put the same thing in quite that way. Not sure what I mean? Pick up a Kinky Friedman novel.  A narrator can be snarky, snide, perky, unreliable, matter-of-fact…there are as many adjectives as there are people.  The important thing is that just like real people, everyone has an agenda, a history and a particular way of speaking that should inform the narrative.

Emotional connection:
It’s not enough for your character to be real or cool. There are some real people I’m not all that fond of and some cool folks with whom I have no common ground. While it’s true that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, your best bet is to give us characters we can identify with and make the stakes personal enough so that we can’t stop turning the pages to find out what happens to them.

Remember that a person is shaped by his or her background and build your characters accordingly. A fully developed character won’t just be smarmy, wise-cracking, suspicious or timid without some history there. The reader doesn’t necessarily need to know all of it, but if you as a writer don’t, chances are you need to dig deeper.

Your characters should become so real that they surprise you, but you still have to wrest back the story from them if they get carried away. Becoming too enamored of dialogue or character bits can slow the forward momentum of the plot if you’re not careful, so it is important to maintain a balance.
Of course, the most important thing is to entertain. Grip the reader so that he or she absolutely has to come along for the ride. If that means your characters reach out from the page, grab us by the collar and sweep us along, so much the better.

It’s probably true that there’s nothing absolutely new under the sun.  What makes a concept or book seem original to us is the way that the ideas are combined and voiced.  For example, a demon hunter might not be anything new, but a demon huntress covered in living tattoos that protect her by day and peel off to become separate demonic entities by night, each with their own agendas potentially at odds with their host’s is a unique idea and the high concept behind Marjorie M. Liu’s Hunter Kiss series.
We're looking for new and oooh.  We want something we haven't seen a million times before and something that will intrigue not only us, but marketing departments and book buyers.  Acquisitions are about more than a single agent or editor loving and championing your material.  Editors require second and often third reads to get others behind your work.  They need to run P&Ls (Profit and Loss statements) and present the work at meetings where it's decided whether offers can be made and for how much.  Work on tag lines – brief single phrase or sentence descriptions of your work that pack a wallop for query letters and pitches.  If your work can't be described in a juicy sound bite – not that we don't all know it’s more complex than that – it may not have a high concept or a clear enough hook for the market.


Plotting is what happens over the course of a book and pacing is how it happens exactly and at what speed.  You need a great story, of course, but telling it to us is completely different than catching us up in the action, which is what a well-paced novel will do.  We want to forget that we’re external to the story.  Our guts need to clench, our hearts need to race and we need to stay up way too late in the evening reading because we can’t stand not to know what happens next.  Remember that novels should have both internal and external conflict.  Even in a mystery, where the storyline might revolve around whodunit, there should be some reason that the resolution is personal to the protagonists.  Maybe they’re clearing their own names or those of loved ones.  Maybe the murderer is hitting too close to home.  Whatever it is, the story should be personal.  In a romance the main internal conflict will be whether the characters you’re rooting for will get together.  Beyond that, there are a legion of issues, internal and external, that might keep them apart.  This can be seen in the number of subgenres within romance – romantic suspense, paranormal, historical and erotic romance, etc.  External conflicts in any genre are also unlimited – there may be political plots, historical, societal or natural forces, investigations, magical mayhem….  Both external conflicts and internal conflicts should be strong and should escalate as the story goes on until it reaches a cataclysmic conclusion.  We should feel like things could go awry at any time and the idea should devastate us because we’ve come to care so much about the characters.  We should both anticipate the end because we’ll finally know how it all works out and dread it because the story will be over…at least until the next installment.

So now I’m going to get down the practicality of playing with ideas and concepts, tossing out the old and hopefully coming up with the new.

A few years ago one of my authors talked about comedy being a combination of disparate elements with the idea that it’s the surprise of their combination that makes us laugh.  I realized that it’s true not only for comedy, but for unique fiction as well.  Think of all the mash-ups you’re currently seeing – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Little Women and Werewolves, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.  These seem original because they’re such surprising combinations and we want to see how the authors can possibly pull them off.

So, we’re going to play around a little here with idea generation by dividing into groups of three.  I’ll come around with some bags from which you’ll draw three disparate elements that I want you to combine into a story.  The trick is, of course, threefold:

  1. I’ve tried to choose words with more than one possible meaning, and I want you to think outside the box.  For example, if you choose the word “Boot” you might think the kind you wear on your feet, but if you work a little harder, you might think of Italy or the truck of a car in the UK.  I want you to go as far afield as you can.  Think outside the box.  If any of you have ever played I, Spy you’ll know that “pin” can mean the kind you wear on a lapel, a hair pin, straight pin, safety pin….  Many possible meanings.
  1. Combine those elements in a unique way: If you come up with boot and murder, for example, your first thought might be that a boot washes ashore with the leg still inside.  Yes, I watch way too much CSI.  I want you to throw out your first three impulses.  These will be your defaults, the things your mind initially falls on because they’re common, comfortable, natural.  If you can call them instantly to mind, so can everyone else.  We’re going for original.


  1. Have fun!  Let your imaginations run wild.

[Here we pause for selecting words and brainstorming ideas.]

Part II: The Query

Query: What we’re looking for: an idea that intrigues us in a genre we represent by a writer we think we can work with.

1st paragraph: Something like “I’ve written a fantasy novel of 100,000 words entitled LUCK IN THE SHADOWS.”

2nd Paragraph: summary – hit the high points, main characters, internal and external conflict.  Think of it like back cover copy.

3rd paragraphs: credits or other relevant information.  For example, do you have a platform?  Maybe you write for a magazine or have some other claim to fame or connections that can be used to promote your work.  Let us know.  Our decision will be based primarily on how much we love the work, but you've first got to get us to request it.  Then we'll have to consider not only whether we like it and think it can sell, but whether we think it will stand out in the marketplace and that we can really build your career.  Knowing that you've got a leg up on building an audience can be very helpful.

Or maybe you have contest wins and previous credits.  We have to fall in love with the work itself, of course, but knowing that you've placed first or second in a contest we really respect can get your foot in the door, maybe even get your work requested by the contest judge(s).  It appeals to agents because a) it indicates that this is a quality work that's worth considering and has received a level of editorial feedback already and b) it gives us fodder for our own pitches to editors down the line should we decide to represent you.  Likewise with credits.  Already we know that you're writing publishable work, so the question will be, "Is it for us?"

4th paragraph: I look forward to hearing from you.

Sign and done

Query dos and don’ts:
-The query letter is basically an introduction to the writer; the synopsis is the introduction to the story.
-The query should tell the agent/editor something about you, perhaps by what authority you write about the things you do. For example, if you’re writing medical suspense, perhaps you or someone close to you is a doctor or nurse.  This would be important to note because it goes to your credibility. 
-It should be written by the writer (not your secretary, mother, best friend, fictional protagonist, etc.).
-This is an agent/editor’s first introduction to your work.  Do not rush it through the door without careful proofreading.  Standard mistakes often seen: typos, mistaking the agent/editor’s name or sex (a Mr. instead of a Ms.), mixing up letters and envelopes so that one agent/editor receives a letter meant for another.  Do what research you can to target the right person at each agency or publishing house.
-For hardcopy submissions, always include a self-addressed stamped envelope (stamped, no meter strips) for the response even if you don’t want the material returned.  In case the SASE gets separated from the query, your address and manuscript title should be included in your cover letter.  Your name and the title should appear on each page of a manuscript or synopsis. 
-This may seem obvious, but make sure you've put enough postage on your submission that it actually gets to its destination.  When I took hardcopy submissions, I received at least four a week with postage due.  The agency won't pay your postage.  Also, if you want delivery confirmation, pay for it.  Don't call or e-mail the agent to ask whether your query is among the 200-300 they received that month.
-Arrogance is a turn off.  Do not suppose that your first novel will break all sales records and become a blockbuster movie.  While this does happen on occasion, it is rare and an agent/editor does not want to take on someone they suspect will have unrealistic expectations and thus be difficult to work with.
-Do not use an unreadable font because you think it is interesting and different.  Everyone in the field has troublesome eyesight due to squinting at so much small type.  The more work the professional has to do, the greater the chance that your work will be put aside.
-Synopses may be single-spaced, but manuscripts should be unbound, double-spaced, 12 point type and printed on only one side of a page.  The manuscript title and author’s last name should appear at the top of each page.  All pages should be numbered.  (Note: be sure that the length of your manuscript is appropriate for the genre in which you’re writing.)
-Allow humor to show through, but don’t try to get too cutesy with your queries.  [You may laugh, but I know editors who have received plastic fish (plural) and other oddities from aspiring writers who thought that this would be a unique way to approach editors.]
-Do not put down other writers of your genre.  Remember that the agents you’re approaching should love the genre in which you write and will only be offended by disparaging comments about your peers.  By the same token, you should not put down other professionals who have declined your work or include previous rejection letters, no matter how complimentary they were.
-It’s not a good idea to query on many books at one time.  While you may want to let an agent/editor know that you’ve got more than one novel in you, it’s best to choose one book on which to focus.  While many successful writers were first published several manuscripts down the line, it will not give the best impression. 
-Do not send a letter encouraging an agent or editor to go visit a website to read your submission.  We have too many queries awaiting our attention to go looking for work.
-Don’t try to rush the agent/editor along with a line like “I look forward to your speedy response.”  Rejection takes much less time than a careful read.

Query Etiquette:
-Do mention if it's a simultaneous submission.   At the query letter stage this is expected, but at the partial or full manuscript stage, the status should definitely be disclosed.  It's good manners and can hurt your chances with an agent if we find out later what we should have known up front.  In addition, if you sign with an agent, do the other agents looking at your work the courtesy of letting them know right away so they don't spend their limited time reading something that's no longer available.
-If an agent or editor spends significant time commenting on your work, give him or her the courtesy of a first look at the revision should you decide to revise. 
In Closing:
-All this aside, remember that an agent is looking for good material.  One of the most exciting things about our job is finding new talent.  The above aren't meant to be discouraging but simply to give you the best chance of standing out in the right way.
Our submission address: submissions@knightagency.net
Links mentioned at the end of the talk:
SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) Author Beware site: http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/

Predators and Editors: http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/

Association of Author’s Representatives: http://www.aaronline.org/

Publishers Marketplace: http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/

Media Bistro: http://www.mediabistro.com/ (There are specific blogs within Media Bistro I find especially interesting, like GalleyCat, but you can sign up for a summary of the industry blogs, which will arrive daily.)

Shelf Awareness: http://www.shelf-awareness.com/

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April Lessons

Summary by Mari Hopp of Chris Angermann’s presentation Red Pencil Tales.

The speaker discussed the qualities of a good book: A great manuscript that keeps the editor turning pages, specific audience, and an author willing to work like crazy to promote the book.

The three most common ties with successful writers: 1) talent, 2) persistence, and 3) luck.

Most common three forms of editing. 1) Copy-editing; which includes punctuation and grammar 2) Rewrite-editing; He suggested reading Stephen King’s book on writing. 3) Story-editing; this is the most difficult and unusual. Look at the big picture of the story. After the author has completed the manuscript and before the re-write consider the following steps (not necessarily in this order).

1. The hero is introduced in his ordinary world-To create a special world you need to compare the normal world to it.

2. Call to adventure-World has a problem that needs to be fixed.

3. Hero is reluctant at first. The Hero fears facing the unknown.

4. Hero is encouraged by a wise old man or woman. Hero needs special knowledge to learn to succeed in task from older man/woman.

5. Hero passed the first threshold

6. Hero encounters tests and helpers. Hero grows and is more ready to take on the big task in this stage.

7. Hero reaches innermost cave-It can be a real cave or a magic potion. 20th Century novels more common interior look at the human phyche

8. Hero endures the supreme ordeal- Hero revives his perspective. He gets a new view of the world.

9. Hero seizes the sword.-i.e. Arthur in Excalibur.

10. The road back. Evil is not happy. Most chase, action scenes are in this stage.

11. Resurrection-i.e. Neo in Matrix comes back to life. He sees the matrix. He learns to manipulate it.

12. Final return. A celebration in most cases.

Find a good editor by word of mouth. Especially hard to find is a good copy editor. The kind of questions a good editor asks an author are; who is the audience? How long is it? What is it about? Communication very important. Editors look for flexible, open, authors. The average cost of an editor is $3-$10 per page. No length is given for a novel limit. Ask for the editor's name when sending it to the publisher. Have the manuscript double spaced with plenty of white space for easy reading.

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November Lessons

Linnea Sinclair said, "It was my pleasure! I had a blast."

Her four handouts are attached as PDF sheets. Character Goals, Using Dialogue Tags and Prune your prose.


October Lessons

Character Development - Summary

By Mariteres Huber Mike Hopp

Michelle Weston an enthusiastic author spoke on Saturday, October 19.

She spoke of how to develop characters for writing. She spoke of flat characters-with no real substance, and round characters with personality, and drive. For the audience to relate to the main character; they need bones, muscles, and skin.  Bones are developed by personality types. Four basic types include:

First type is the dominant-leader oriented, driven to achieve outgoing and extraverted. The drive and strength of the dominant is control, success, and goal-orientation. Weaknesses include: not seeing other persons needs, strong willed, not flexible, cannot see details, and doesn't listen. Type of job this character may have: CEO, or vice president.

The second type is perfectionist. This type of character is creative, musical, artistic, strength from being alone. The drive is excellence, being right, moral, intense, organized and rule-oriented.  The weakness is critical of self and others, reliance on rules, not flexible, thinks only one way, impatient.  Possible careers for perfectionist may be accountants, stockbrokers, musicians and writers.

Third type of personality is life of the party. The drive of this person is people-oriented, high extraverted, people pleasers, fun, friendly, and observant of others. The weakness of this personality is bending to fit in, chameleon, fun over work, introverted. 

The fourth personality is diplomatic. The drive of the diplomat include: peace, security, team work, consistency and patience. Weakness is a tendency toward laziness, lack of drive, passive, hates conflict, and a weak will. Possible careers: senators, lawyers and politicians.  Michelle suggested that dominate verses diplomat, and perfectionist verses life of the party. "A great story has a great conflict." said Michelle.

For each character in her books, Michelle develops their personalities first then uses Dog Tests for more depth in each.  Alpha-leader, Gamma-loner, Beta-followers and Omegas-the runt are the four types of dogs in a pack. 

The next consideration is muscle for the character. Muscle includes, past, their reaction to it, accomplishments, set backs, passion, pet peeves, habits, temperament, emotional expressions of joy, anger, and the amount of control of emotions, dialect, and rhythms and types of speech.

The skin is what the reader sees on the outside of the character. This includes: appearance-hair and eye color, beautiful, ugly, clothing type (tidy or unkempt), walk, weight, hair length, and type of shoes.  The second part of skin is the character's action. The action can include reaction to being angry, intensity, self controlled or not. A rule of thumb is audience limitations. How the author displays the character thoughts is very important. Good verses evil, judgmental or not, objective, or battle driven. It is best to let the action of the character reveal his thoughts, unless the character like a woman is better developed through sharing her thoughts. Interplay between characters is also important.  Words define the character. "How they speak, think, talk, slur, form an opinion adds to the skin." said Michelle. Prejudice of the character how they think of themselves and others, reasons for this are essential as well. The fifth is other people's perception in the book of the main character. "Who likes him/her, hates him/her. Enemies verses heroes." said Michelle.  Cliche's must be avoided. For example have a female, wheel-chaired, nuclear scientist in the plot.

Lastly have the main character sympathetic to the reader. Develop high and low counterpoints of the relationships and plots for interesting reading.

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1. FORGET REAL LIFE: Characters cannot do the things that we do, such as eat, drink, sleep or take a bath.
Agatha Christie: Evil Under the Sun

2. FLOW CAN TURN GOOD INTO GREAT: Jaws, The Mummy, The Usual Suspects, White Oleander by Janet Fitch, PD James. None of these aspired to be the Great American story, but I think they are truly great for one reason: there is not one moment that your attention wanders.
PD James: Shroud for a Nightingale

3. SETTING THE PACE BEGINS WITH THE FIRST WORD. Backstory belongs later, as stated by Donald Maas. Beginnings are hard.
Donald Mass: Writing the Breakout Novel
Jeffrey Deaver: The Bone Collector

4. ANYTHING THAT APPLIES TO FICTION APPLIES TO NONFICTION. You will have to pay even more attention to your pace when you can’t make up a dramatic event when the narrative calls for it. You will have to open each chapter with a surprising statement or line of dialogue, and ending each chapter with a bang, a cliffhanger or some other stunning remark.
Ann Rule: And Never Let Her Go

5. LESS IS MORE: How much description do you really need?
Lawrence Block: Telling Lies for Fun and Profit

6. IT’S ABOUT TIME: Use flashbacks sparingly, and no gaps of weeks or months unless absolutely necessary. Every time time lags in the book, it’s going to lag in the reader’s mind.
What not to do: James Patterson: Along Came A Spider
What to do if you want to span generations: Stuart Woods: Chiefs

7. NEVER REPEAT YOURSELF. Just because one character has to recap recent events for another character does not mean you make your readers listen to it again. Do not tell them things they already know.
What not to do: James Patterson: Cat and Mouse
Jeffrey Deaver: The Stone Monkey

8. ACTION DOESN’T HAVE TO COME WITH LIGHTS, CAMERAS, CAR CRASHES AND EXPLOSIONS. Keeping the book moving doesn’t mean a constant barrage of noise and chaos.
Peter Abrahams: The Tutor
Elizabeth George: Write Away

9. THE DIE HARD RULE: Just keep going. Otherwise known as pacing is like paint—it can cover a multitude of sins.
Robert Ludlum: The Matarese Circle

10. ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL: You have to do what’s right for you.
Takes place in one night: David Morell: Creepers
Takes place in one week: Scott Smith: The Ruins
Takes place in one generation: Dan Simmons: The Terror


Elizabeth Becka/ Lisa Black                                                   www.elizabethbecka.com
PO Box 151090
Cape Coral, FL 33993                                                                        www.lisa-black.com

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Using the Blogosphere to Maximize Online Marketing


By Sandy Lender:  To contact Sandy email at:  sandy_lender@yahoo.com


I. Here are a couple of Sandy's current blogs you can look at for examples:

www.todaythedragonwins.blogspot.com (run by Sandy)

http://sandylender.blogspot.com (run by Nigel Taiman)

www.fromthestart.wordpress.com (run by Sandy; you can submit first chapters and author bios to Sandy for this site)

http://friendsofdragons.ning.com (run by Sandy)


II. Here are blog servers with established communities:

http://wordpress.com/ (has a built-in sitemeter/counter)

http://www.typepad.com/ (incredible support features)

http://360.yahoo.com/login.html?.done=http%3A%2F%2F360.yahoo.com%2F&.src=360 (extremely user-friendly for set-up, but not exciting)

https://www.blogger.com/start (easy for new users; no customer support)


www.xanga.com/ (looks like it's run by some guy in a basement)


III. Some good site-building resources


www.sparklit.com (has a free counter; has surveys you can conduct, web polls, mail forums that let you collect information on the people visiting your site)

www.weblogtoolscollection.com/ (contains tools such as "track visitors to your blog" and "Link Love", which is a plug in that turns off no follow for all commenters who have posted at least 10 comments)

http://bloggerfordummies.blogspot.com/ (check the archives for "how-do-I-track-visitors-to-my-blog)


IV. Pinging





Your html code to use for metatags:

<a href="http://technorati.com/Choices%20Meant%20for%20Gods" rel="tag">Choices Meant for Gods</a>


or visit http://technorati.com/tools/tag-generator/index.html to input your search words and have the tag created for you to cut and paste in the HTML mode of your post



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The Three R’s of writing:  Rejection, Revision and Rejoicing


By Bonnie Vanak, author of THE SCORPION AND THE SEDUCER, www.bonnievanak.com


Rejection reminders


☺        Don't take rejection personally. You aren't being rejected; your work is.


☺        Give yourself time to recover and be gentle with yourself. You're a writer and most of us are sensitive; it's what makes us creative! Take a day or two to get over it. Then get back to writing!


☺        Many famous authors have been rejected time and again. Stephen King used to keep his rejection letters nailed to the wall with a spike because he accumulated so many. John Grisham accumulated more than 28 rejections. You're in good company!


☺        Use rejection letters as a means to see if there is anything you can improve. If an editor or agent gives you suggestions, carefully consider them and rewrite.


Revision reminders


☺        Take a hard look at the rejected project. Ask yourself, "Can this be saved?" If the rejection letter from an editor or agent came with any solid reasons why it was rejected, use these nuggets as a basis to starting to revise.


☺        Ask yourself if it's worth the time to save the project or if you are better off setting it aside to work on another project.


☺        Once you decide it's worth saving set the book aside for at least a week. This will enable you to turn on your internal editor and gain some distance from the project.


☺        When you're reading to revise, start by asking yourself and be brutally honest. What is the biggest problem with this book? Use this as the springboard to start revisions.


☺        Use any agent or editor or contest comments to start editing and changing. If an editor rejected the book because she said, "There's not enough conflict," then examine the conflict in the book. Can it be made stronger?


☺        Ask a friend or critique partner to read your work for evaluation, and answer these five questions, or you can ask yourself the questions:


1. Does this book capture your interest and make you want to read more?

2. Is it clear or confusing?

3. Did you like the characters?

4. Was the conflict and romance clearly understood?

5. Is the plot plausible?


☺        Look at your work with an impartial eye and turn ON your internal editor. NOW is not the time to be creative. Be as critical as you can be and forget about creating. Your goal is to revise, not create.


☺        Cut the fat! Cut out unnecessary scenes that can slow pacing.


☺        Save yourself the trouble in the beginning of a project. Write a synopsis just for yourself!  A synopsis is a short document that outlines key events, characters and conflict. I call it a road map for a book. Even if you deviate from the main road, you still keep in mind where the final destination is. You can also write a synopsis when you are revising a book. This will help you outline key problems. And you'll need a synopsis when you begin to sell books on proposal (first three chapters and a synopsis).


Inspiring quotes


“Believe in yourself and in your own voice, because there will be times in this business when you will be the only one who does. Take heart from the knowledge that an author with a strong voice will often have trouble at the start of his or her career because strong, distinctive voices sometimes make editors nervous. But in the end, only the strong survive." - Jayne Ann Krentz


"You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist. "- Isaac Asimov


"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." - Eleanor Roosevelt


Editing services


There are professionals you can hire to help you edit your book before you submit it for publication. A friend of mine does this so-called book doctoring. Alice Duncan has written over 40 books under various names for Jove, Dorchester and Kensington and is now a freelance editor. She does book doctoring for a fee of $2.25 per 250 words. A typical manuscript costs about $400-$500, depending on how long the book is. One of her clients recently had his young adult book accepted for publication by a small press.


Her email is aduncan@zianet.com and her website  http://www.zianet.com/aduncan/


Useful web links


Preditors and Editors: Website listing agents and editors and giving warnings about those who are unscrupulous. http://anotherealm.com/prededitors/


Agent query: Website database of literary agents.  http://www.agentquery.com/


Publisher's Marketplace: Sale news, publishing news, place where you can subscribe to Publisher's Lunch, which lists the latest book deals and gives you insight into what is selling.



Writing a synopsis: Web page with many links. http://writingcorner.com/fiction/synopsis/index.htm


Sabrina Jeffries article: Good article with detailed information about how much money you can make in mass market paperback fiction.




About the author: Bonnie Vanak is a multi-published author of 7 romance novels, with her eighth book, ENEMY LOVER, out November 2008 from Silhouette Nocturne. Her May 2008 Egyptian historical romance, THE SCORPION & THE SEDUCER, is available at Borders. Barnes and Noble. Books-a-Million and Walmart.

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Carol Mahler
P.O. Box 1644, Nocatee, FL 34268
863-491-0286 -- Carolm@strato.net

“The Devil’s in the Details”
A Talk for the Gulf Coast Writers Association
10:20 a.m., September 20, 2008, Zion Luther Church, Fort Myers

Cather, Willa. "On the Art of Fiction." Willa Cather: Stories, Poems, and Other Writings. NY: Library of America, 1992, 939-40.

The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary: Complete Text, Reproduced
Micrographically. 2 volumes. London: Oxford University Press, 1971

Douglas, Marjory Stoneman. "To a Buzzard Swinging in Silence." Florida in Poetry. Edited by Jane Anderson Jones and Maurice O'Sullivan. Sarasota: Pineapple Press, 1995, 230.

Fussell, Paul. Poetic Meter and Poetic Form. Rev. ed. NY: Random House, 1979.

Hugo, Richard. The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing. NY: Norton,1979.

Meinke, Peter. "The Cranes." Unheard Music: Stories. TN: Jefferson Press, 2007, 213-16.

Melville, Herman. Moby Dick: or, the Whale. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952.

Nelson, Gil. The Trees of Florida: A Reference and Field Guide. Sarasota: Pineapple Press, 1994.

Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan. "A Plumb Clare Conscience" and "Jessamine Springs." Short Stories by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Edited by Rodger L. Tarr. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1994, 124-30; 320-25.

Robson, Lucia St. Clair. Light a Distant Fire. NY: Ballantine Books, 1988.

Williams, Tennessee. Tennessee Williams: Four Plays. NY: Penguin Group, 1976.

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Let's look at a few words that begin with the letter "T." The secret to getting it right every time is memory. Read
the following rules a few times; let them sink into your brain.


NOT t-shirt, but T-shirt. Some references allow tee shirt (no hyphen), but the Associated Press requires T-shirt.
Twelve Apostles Not twelve apostles or 12 apostles. When referring to the disciples of Jesus, both words require capital letters.
Ten Commandments Similar to above. Not ten commandments; not 10 commandments.
Tommy gun Not tommy gun. It is an alternative name for Thompson submachine gun, from John T. Thompson, its co-inventor.
Teflon A trademark for a type of nonstick coating, Teflon requires a capital letter.
Taser This trademark for an electronic control device or stun gun is an acronym for Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle. Always use a capital letter.
tear gas/Mace Note that tear gas is two words, each beginning with a small letter. Chemical Mace, usually shortened to Mace, is a trademark for a brand of tear gas packaged in an aerosol canister. Chemical Mace/Mace requires a capital letter.
thermos Formerly a trademark, thermos is now a generic term for any vacuum bottle, although one manufacturer still uses the word as a brand name. Use lowercase thermos when it is used to mean any vacuum bottle; use Thermos when referring to the specific brand.


The Associated Press Stylebook, 2007

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Grammar Minute

Restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses

A restrictive clause limits or restricts the number of the word (noun) it is modifying.  A sentence usually becomes untrue or absurd when you omit a restrictive clause.  Because a restrictive clause is essential to the meaning of a sentence, DO NOT set it off with commas.


People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
The girl sitting in the front row is a secretary.
The books that I own are all paperbacks.
Visitors who stay too long are not welcome.

A nonrestrictive clause merely adds a fact that is not essential to the meaning of the sentence. Because a nonrestrictive clause is an “extra” that may be omitted set IT off with commas.


My birthday, which is on Christmas, receives very little attention.
Uncle Joe, who lives in Bedford, knows everyone in town.
The audience, which had at first been indifferent, became more and more interested.
James Greene, our foreman, was a kindly man.


Test yourself by correctly inserting or not inserting commas where required.  Note: one of these is a trick question and could be either restrictive or nonrestrictive (which one).


1.         The Dover which is in England is quite unlike the Dover which is in Delaware.

2.         The suit a blue one laying there on my bed has had long wear.                                

3.         The woman sitting on my left was my younger sister’s mother-in-law.                    

4.         Mr. Wetherby who pretends to be poor is really very rich.                                       

5.         Rich people who pretend to be poor disgust me.                                                      

6.         Mr. Crump sold his land which was unprofitable.                                                     

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