Preparing for NaNoWriMo: Organizing and Outlining Your Novel

While we’re talking to our featured guest, Karen Wiesner, this week about writing novels and planning fiction series, it seemed an appropriate time to talk about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). With NaNo just over a week away, thousands of authors and aspiring authors are getting ready to write a novel during November. Before jumping into a first draft, many writers opt to outline their

Interview With Author Karen Wiesner on Writing a Series

Karen Wiesner isn’t just our first featured guest here at All Freelance Writing. She is also the author of some of my favorite writing reference books. I was a huge fan of her First Draft in 30 Days in particular — a book that helped me map out my own customized book planning, outlining, and organization process. So I was thrilled when she contacted me about

My First NaNoWriMo

I’ve never made it a secret that I’m not a big fan of NaNoWriMo. The idea of pushing myself to write on someone else’s schedule doesn’t sit well with me. And I find the whole community aspect to be possibly more distracting than helpful. Don’t get me wrong. I get why people take part every year, and if it works for them, I think that’s

4 Types of Editing & How To Choose Which Your Book Needs

Note: Melissa no longer offers these services. This post remains as archived content for your reference. One of the most common questions I get as an editor is about what different types of editing there are and what each one entails. New clients aren’t always sure what level of editing they need and don’t know how to make that decision. Before you can decide between the

The Rules of the Sneaky Serial Comma

If there was ever a piece of punctuation to give us all fits, it’s the comma. When do you use it? When are you using it too much? Do I need a comma there? Correct comma usage causes endless questions simply because there are so many rules. Let’s worry about one comma in particular – the serial, or Oxford, comma. It’s the most controversial of

From Struggling Writer to Solid Writer and Beyond

As an English teacher, I have a strategy that usually works for struggling and reluctant writers. If they claim to not be able to write something, I ask them to tell me the story or response to address the prompt. Then, after they tell me a sentence or two, I repeat it back to a student and tell him to write it down. Kid says,

A Proofreading Checklist: What to look for before calling it done

Before hitting “send” when sending out a new piece or before hitting “publish” on a new blog post, it pays to proofread your piece. Here are some quick things to check when proofreading your own copy. Homophones Perhaps one of the most common mistakes when when writing is misusing homophones–words that sound alike but are spelled differently. Spell check won’t catch a misused word; it

Show Don’t Tell — An Example Done Right

You may have had college professors preach to you to “show, don’t tell.” The ironic thing about that statement is that it contradicts itself. Take the video I’ve embedded below, for instance. In the video, a blind homeless man is begging for change. A young woman comes by and changes what he has written on his sign–and in response, many more people begin to give

3 Action Steps to Help You Beat Writer’s Block for Good

I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I have writer’s block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don’t. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done. –Barbara Kingsolver Some people call it writer’s block. Others refer to it as a lack of inspiration. Then there are those that say

How Does Your Environment Affect Your Writing?

This morning I woke up to a beautiful sight. I live in a wooded community, and we had snow last night. This morning the snow was still sticking to the trees. That’s rare. It gets windy up here, so snow usually blows off the trees right away. The view made me think about how this environment sometimes impacts my writing. The view this morning outside

Planning a Mini Writer’s Retreat

Sometimes everyday life gets in the way of writing (and sometimes writing is that everyday life). But in the former case, one of my favorite things to do is go somewhere else — plan a mini writer’s retreat of sorts. I’m doing that with my husband this weekend. We’re heading to a B&B called Sayre Mansion, about an hour from where we live. We stay in a

Changing Your Book’s Target Reader (After You’ve Written It)

My nonfiction book, The Query-Free Freelancer, has been moving along in an extraordinarily slow fashion. That’s due to a variety  of things (from several months of illness where I focused my limited work time on clients to simply shelving the project for a while for a fresher perspective). Now that I’m moving forward with that first draft again (my own edits to the manuscript before sending it

Why Authors Shouldn’t Try to Think Outside the Box

Creativity is defined as the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc. We often hear this concept expressed as “thinking outside the box.” Authors, perhaps even more than other creative groups, feel the stress to be “truly creative.” To avoid cliches. To add stunning plot twists. To do what has never

Creating Characters from Scratch

This year I’m participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time. For those of you not familiar with the acronym, it stands for National Novel Writing Month and it’s organized by the Office of Letters and Light. Participants begin writing on November 1st, and the goal is to write a 50,000-word  novel by midnight on November 30th. As I said, this is my first year participating, but I’ve

The Secret of Storytelling — From One of Pixar’s’ Masters

I don’t normally write posts this long—but this time I couldn’t resist. Andrew Stanton’s TED talk was something every author—every storyteller—should listen to.  Andrew Stanton starts off his TED Talk with a joke. “A tourist is backpacking through the highlands of Scotland and he stops at a pub for a drink. The only people in there are the bartender and an old man nursing a

Breaking All the Writing Rules

Pop quiz, hot shot! How many of the old, conventional writing rules do you break on a daily basis? You probably know the ones I’m talking about. These are rules like: Never start a paper with a question. Never start a sentence with “and” or “but.” Never end a sentence with a preposition. Paragraphs must be a minimum of five sentences. There are countless more

The Role of an Editor — And Why You Should Have One

Ever wonder what an editor does? Chances are it’s a lot more than you think. It’s an editor’s job to make sure your readers can see the forest despite the trees—that they don’t get caught up on typos and mistakes that will cause them to focus on the words instead of the story. And, in the process, a good editor will look for things you

Do You Drive Through Stop Signs When Writing?

Last month Tim Berry wrote about learning that a stop sign requires a full stop—one where the car rolls backward slightly—and how that reminded him of decision making. That sometimes we all need a full stop now and again to think things through and prepare ourselves to head off again in the right direction. I couldn’t help but think of how the same concept applies

I Write Like…Me?

I recently came across a fun writing toy and I’ve just spent the last hour playing around on it. It’s not earth-shattering, nor is it going to change the world, but it does illustrate a point rather nicely. Your voice is a secret writing weapon, so use it. Here’s the toy: “I Write Like” is a website where you essentially paste a chunk of

Compacting Your Whole Plot into Paragraphs

[This post is part of a series on writing sales copy for your book—see the first piece in the series here: The Truth About the Back of your Book.] We’re always told not to judge a book by its cover… but most people are referring to the front of the book. It’s flip side is a different matter. Without well written sales copy to convince

Messy Subjects and Verbs

This morning, as I worked with my kids at school, I realized just how often subjects and verbs get complicated and mismatched. This happens most frequently when you have more than one noun in the subject in the sentence. Consider the following: One of the boys jump over the fence. One of the boys jumps over the fence. Which one is correct? Let’s dissect them

Turn Your Blog Into a Book

It’s happening all over the web: bloggers are becoming authors. And you can too. Publishers see bloggers as a safe bet—these are people who already have a loyal audience and a solid working platform. But you don’t have to work with a traditional publisher to get your book out there; self publishing offers some serious advantages especially for the blogger-turned-author. Whichever publishing path you go

The Secret to Using Commas Correctly

Grammar, in so many ways, is like the seasoning in a soup. A dash of salt and a pinch of pepper and the soup tastes amazing—too much though, and you get an uneatable mess. Too little and you get a bland broth. In order to be a good cook, you need to know your herbs and spices. Well in order to be a good writer,

Idiotic Idioms

While we all love a good colloquialism, there is most certainly too much of a good thing at times. Idioms, or those charming expressions that don’t make any sense to anyone outside of your area, can be overused. We’ve done a bit on the more offensive and odd slang in the (American) English language, but there are plenty of more polite, if occasionally idiotic, expressions

Yay! It’s Yeah and Yea!

This is driving me crazy. I just got an email with the subject, “Yeah a Birthday Baby is Born”. I’m not sure the sender (who is not known for her grammatical prowess) meant to sound as sarcastic as the teenagers we teach, but to someone who knows the difference between “yeah”, “yea” and “yay”, she did. And just what is the difference? If you don’t

What Your Writing Says about You

Nobody’s perfect, but most of try to get as close as possible, at least in our writing. Over the years, I’ve developed a laidback approach to the grammar and spellings of others, probably because I’m bombarded with bad spelling mistakes and grammar choices on any given day. Unlike many other writers, I also feel there are markets for all sorts of writing – including the

Should You Turn Your Blog Into a Book?

Are you interested in publishing a nonfiction book? Do you already have a blog in that niche? If you answered “yes” to both of those questions, you might be a prime candidate for turning your blog into a book. This is largely what I’m doing with my own nonfiction book, The Query-Free Freelancer. I used my freelance writing blog to help me organize the book

Writing Mistakes I See Too Often

Typos are a way of life and even reviewing your own work can be tricky since you tend to read what you meant to say rather than what you actually said. Then, there is an entirely different kind of writing goofs – these aren’t accidents from your finger slipping on the keyboard. These are blatant errors and if you’re making them, you’re getting on my

Indie Publishing Teams: Who to Include

We’ve talked about the fact that indie publishing is a business. And you know that if you’re serious about selling a top notch book you can’t go it alone. That’s where your indie publishing team comes into play. As a true indie publisher (rather than just a small publishing company with in-house staff), you’ll most likely work with independent contractors. There are benefits to this:

Tricky Words: Past, Passed, Except and Accept

In the last week, two tricky word patterns have made it to my attention. This is particularly interesting since I’m not in the classroom over the summer, where I usually am assaulted by word problems. Here are my most recent scenarios: Scenario 1: The Email for Past and Passed I was asked via email about the words “past” and “passed.” The writer wanted to know