Types of Editing for Your Work of Fiction

Your hard work as a writer of a work of fiction deserves proper attention before you take it to the next level – publication. In this age of self-publishing, though, you might consider skipping the services of a professional editor because of cost or worry over the process. The good news is that there is an absolute ton of information online about fiction editing. Even better news is that there are various levels, some less expensive than others. And the even better news is that this article sums them up for you.

First, there is a lot of discrepancy between how many levels of editing there are and between the terms used for each. This article presents the key levels and terms. Individual editors out there may vary a little. You will want to clarify with them what they mean and what to expect from each level.

The order here is not cast in cement. Some of these are done simultaneously, depending on the editor.

See the list of articles at the bottom of this post with more information.

1. Editorial Assessment

Also called: Manuscript evaluation — Manuscript critique — Editorial report — Big-picture editing


  • Optional starting point for an early version of your manuscript that might be a bit messy.
  • Editor gives you broad and hopefully useful feedback on strengths and weaknesses in your plot, characters, or structure in a written report (2-3 pages usually).
  • No rewrites, no corrections for grammar, spelling, etc.
  • Just to give you a basic idea of the readability of your work and anything you might want to fix before sending to a beta reader or literary agent.
  • Generally more affordable than a full developmental edit.

2: Beta Reading

Also called: Advance copy read


  • For new writers wanting general feedback.
  • A good beta reader (and someone who might charge you) will give you a 2-3 page report.
  • If your budget’s really tight, as most are these days, consider a writing critique group.

Caution: There are people on social media who routinely offer their services as a beta reader. They might charge, or they might not. Check them out thoroughly, though, before sending off your masterpiece or you could find yourself trying to sue for them publishing under their name.

3. Structural

Also called: Developmental editing — Evaluation editing — Manuscript critique


  • Some combine with Developmental edit.
  • Begins when larger conceptual issues have been addressed and a draft is complete.
  • Editor focused big picture issues like overall story structure, logical flow, style, tone, general quality of writing
  • Editor will usually provide a short memo summarizing key points, areas of concern, and mark up manuscript at a high level, may shift paragraph or chapter order as well as make suggestions for new material or deletion of existing material.

If all goes well, you’re ready for copyediting and proofreading.

Otherwise, you might need a developmental editor for organization and structure issues or a line edit or content edit to address writing issues.

4. Developmental Editing

Also called: Content editing — Substantive editing — Conceptual editing — Manuscript appraisal


  • Most valuable to new and inexperienced authors.
  • Often the first step of editing a manuscript and the broadest level of editing.
  • Editor includes an editorial report as well as in-text comments.
  • Might be major changes – additions, deletions, items moved or completely rewritten – so this step should be done before any further editing.
  • Focus on: Starting point, First scene, Plot structure, Point of view, Pacing, Setting, Character development, Tension and intrigue, Images and metaphors, Narrative techniques, Themes
  • Goal is a more vibrant, engaging, and believable story.

5. Editing


  • Sharper focus than copyediting, looking at sentences (does each deal with one idea?) and paragraphs (does each discuss one topic?).
  • Editor checks for consistent and correct usage of terms and ideas; repetitive or redundant words, phrases, or sections; wordy phrases; excessive use of passive voice; shorter words that can be substituted for longer ones; page and word limit fit; and awkward phrases that disrupt the flow of your writing.

If all is well, your document will be ready for copyediting.

6. Substantive

Also called: Developmental editing — Line editing — Content editing — Full editing


  • Some lump with Developmental Editing, others with Copyediting.
  • Takes place at the beginning of the publishing process.
  • Not as detailed as a line edit. In-between high-level developmental/evaluation edit and ground-level a line editor takes.
  • Editor will look at the big picture and address paragraph and sentence clarity, coherence, and flow, ensuring that your content is compelling and suitable for your intended audience, medium, and purpose.
  • Editor will note directly in your file, using the change tracking and comments features, things for you to consider, recommend changes, delete sections, and/or suggest additions.
  • Sometimes, editor rewrites sections. You could see substantial changes, including new content. Be very clear when requesting this service if you want such rewriting to be done.
  • Editor will not rewrite stories but only change what is necessary while maintaining the author’s personal voice and style.

7. Copyediting

Also called: Line editing — Stylistic editing — Light Copyediting


  • Happens midway through publishing.
  • Making corrections to spelling and punctuation.
  • Editor generally focuses more on grammar, word choice, enhancing overall writing quality (active vs. passive voice, overly long or awkward phrasing), basic factual correctness, and ensures that the tone and style of a piece are consistent and appropriate for the target audience.
  • Experienced editors ensure your original tone remains intact and use a revision-tracking system so you can see changes and quickly accept or reject them with the click of a button. They may create a style sheet documenting hyphenation style, capitalization style, and other items. Keep it handy for the proofreader and feel free to add to it.
  • Expect noticeable changes to your original document and review them carefully. Never feel obligated to accept those changes, though. It’s your book.
  • A good copy editor collaborates with you and will put your vision first.

8. Fact-checking


  • Particularly crucial for nonfiction but helpful for works of historical fiction and hard sci-fi, too, or even fiction books that deal with a lot of current events.
  • Can be part of copyediting, substantive editing, or developmental editing.

9. Line editing

Also called: Copyediting — Stylistic editing — Medium copyediting — Comprehensive editing


  • For manuscripts and scripts that are in final draft.
  • Editor goes through your writing “line by line,” focuses on the words you use to communicate with your reader, things like clarity, examining word choice and impact, making sure your writing is clear and eloquent, pointing out clichéd phrasing and jargon, suggesting fixes for run-on sentences.

Some editors will do both copyediting and line editing together if you specify it up front.

10. Proofreading

Also called: Light copyediting — Mechanical editing — Baseline editing


  • Final, most technical edit to seek and correct remaining errors, often done just before book is published.
  • Hire someone who did not do the copyedit, so he/she sees your text with fresh eyes.
  • Traditional publishing: a proofreader edits after the book has been designed and formatted, and works on page proofs.
  • Indie publishing: a proofreader often edits after the editor and work on a Word document. He/she serves as a second pair of eyes on the manuscript. The proofreader also does his/her job before the book is designed and formatted for publication to save the cost of inputting changes into the program used for generating the book (InDesign, etc.)
  • Proofreader will check grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, verb-tense consistency, pronouns, spacing, editorial style, and formatting consistency.
  • Don’t expect radical changes to your sentences or words.
  • Furnish that style sheet mentioned earlier.
  • Proofreader will return a marked-up document for your review.
  • After you make changes, you should be ready to send your manuscript into production.

Bottom Line

Again, I stress that this is a general guide. And I also stress the need for some level of editing for your work, even if it’s a check for typos, which are rampant in both traditional and indie publishing.

Personally as the author, I do a “deep read,” combining most of the above, of manuscripts that have sat and cooled awhile. The changes I saw needed in my first three manuscripts were significant – chapters realigned or combined, parts moved to other chapters, heavy copyediting, tons of line editing.

Communication between you and the editor is vital. Be sure you’re both speaking the same language! Go to the editor’s site to see how they divide the different editing levels and what they charge for each.

A few articles presented as a starting point:

Hope you found this helpful and have been inspired to start and/or continue writing!

Please check out my WIPs. And thanks for reading.

Disclaimer: I get no compensation for links in this post or on my site to other sites and/or products.


Some Thoughts on Dialogue

Whether you’re writing a novel, novella, short story, or screenplay, dialogue is an important feature. In fact, it can make or break you. Stiff dialogue is a killer. Scintillating dialogue can make up for plot flaws. So paying close attention to your dialogue is critical.

It’s also a great chance to show your characters’ well, uh, character.

Do the Hard Work

Human conversation has a natural cadence of language and reflexive dynamic. If you can get that right, you’re halfway there. But don’t make the mistake of avoiding dialogue or putting in a lot of useless exchanges. Dialogue must be used to enhance your storytelling. Don’t worry. It’s very doable.

The Goals of Dialogue

  • Develops your characters (gives the reader insight into how the character feels and what motivates him or her to act, reveals the relationship between the characters)
  • Moves your plot forward (gets the reader a step closer to either the climax or the conclusion of your story)
  • Helps you establish the back-story
  • Reveals important plot details that the reader may not know yet
  • Ratchets up tension between characters (there is tension in what is spoken, and especially in what is not spoken)
  • Establishes the mood
  • Sets an atmosphere for each scene

Tips for Good Dialogue

Remember, these are tips. Your own writing style may justify variations.

  • Keep it natural. People rarely speak in whole sentences and tend to use contractions a lot (we’re vs. we are).
  • Be brief. Avoid a dialogue that goes on for pages (yes, even in screenplays). Don’t wear out the reader. You can accomplish the above goals in short exchanges.
  • Stay on point. That means avoiding chitchat that doesn’t achieve the above goals. “Great weather.” “Yeah, really good.” Doesn’t achieve a thing overall unless you make it seem to fit in. “Well, I asked you here on this lovely day to…” Small talk has its place, filling in awkward silences, for example, but in your writing, another tactic is needed unless you’re revealing something necessary to the reader about your character or the plot.
  • Make your exchanges capture the essence of the moment. “You? I thought I’d seen the last of your ugly face.” “Ha! Fat chance.”
  • Save the info dump for paragraphs. Putting long diatribes in dialogue can be very tedious. This is a general observation, though. Sometimes it’s necessary, but be judicious. You can get away with one or two in your novel (80k words or more), but keep them to a page or two. Some articles on writing suggest that you spread out this information across your fictional work.
  • Use speech mannerisms and keep them consistent. This is a way to subtly support and reinforce characterization. Forceful, passive, direct, indirect, simple words, more complex verbiage, accents, regionalisms, and word choices are some areas where you can achieve this. One person might reply to a question with “Yep” and another with “Absolutely.” Both reveal very different characters or a different context. (The same character could use both in different situations.)
  • Avoid telling. Don’t use your dialogue as a way to tell how a character is feeling. If he/she is angry, tell how they look (eyes narrowed, breathing deeply, tightened lips). If happy, he/she will be smiling, eyes shining, bouncing around, etc.

Dialogue as Part of the Plot

Rather than just having a ping-pong game with characters volleying back and forth, use your dialogue as part of the plot.

Here’s a suspenseful example from Hammil Valley Rising, the first book of my Freelan series:

“Here’s the one you want,” said Sid, chuckling, his generous girth shaking with glee.

“I thought when I moved up here almost thirteen years ago I was done dealing with slime like you,” Jim said in a voice filled with loathing, still looking out at the rain.

Sid chuckled. “Now, Jim, must we lose all sense of civility in this matter?”

Jim snorted with disgust and turned to him. “I’m not going to help you pretend that any of this is civil.”

“However you want it,” said Sid, “just as long as you sign. Then you get this.” He showed it to Jim and then folded it and put it in the inside breast pocket of his suit jacket.

Achieve suspense with these:

  • Show one character having the upper hand in the scene
  • Show the other character seething just under the surface
  • Reveal something important to the reader

Remember the context. Jim is speaking to someone he detests. Jim would never speak that way to the woman he loves, the people who work for him, his friends, and others in general. Your dialogue must hold this sacred. Don’t have a character speaking to his mother in a way that is not in line with their relationship. If he hates her, he speaks one way. If he reveres her, he speaks another. Your characters will be more real and have more depth as a consequence. The best way to do this is to get into their heads, know who they are as people, and keep it in mind as you type.

A Few More Tips

  • Watch the “saids.” See my article here. There are 100k+ words in the English language. Plenty of alternatives. And they will help reveal the mood.
  • Minimize hellos and goodbyes. Manners are one thing in life, but in fiction, hellos and goodbyes can bog down things for your reader. If you need them as part of the character, fine. Otherwise, leave them out and show a character entering or leaving.
  • Use interruptions. Rarely do people get to speak without interruptions. Use them to show something about your characters or to break up a long speech. But be sure you are not making your hero look rude.

Final Thought

When in doubt, read aloud. If you can get someone to read with you, all the better. It will make flaws stand out or, even better, assure that your dialogue is realistic and flows.

Hope you found this helpful and have been inspired to start and/or continue writing!

Please check out my WIPs. And thanks for reading.

Disclaimer: I get no compensation for links in this post or on my site to other sites and/or products.

Killing Your Characters

There is a hierarchy among your characters – main, secondary, occasional, and cameos. Some are killable, and others aren’t, or so many literary “experts” say. They claim that main characters are in the “not killable” category. But it’s open season on the others. In reality, killing your characters is totally at your discretion as the author. However, you have some things to consider before you bump off any of them, especially the main characters.

1. Method

You can go traditional (sickness, shooting, stabbing, choking, poison, accident, etc.) or offbeat (complex situations that often mean the victim has to be in just the right spot at the right time). The genre in which you are writing will help determine this as well as how you do the deed.

  • Romantic fiction – less detail and more traditional. (Rodney put his hands around her throat and squeezed until he knew she was dead.)
  • Horror – the gorier and more offbeat, the better. (Rodney slashed her throat with his long-bladed knife and laughed as the blood spurted from her carotid artery, lapping up the drops that splashed on his face.)
  • SciFi – high tech and unusual. (Rodney injected the nanobots into her throat and watched as they multiplied into a bulge in the side of her neck, slowly suffocating her.)
  • Murder mystery – a bit of gore, realistic, and possibly a bit offbeat or startling. (The woman’s body was lying on the floor, showing clear signs of strangulation. Rodney just shrugged as the Police Detective studied first the body and then him, saying, “The person who finds the body is often the killer.”)
  • Action/Adventure – same as murder mystery but a bit more “active.” (Rodney stepped back as the Police Detective entered the room to examine the woman’s body, seeing clearly the marks of two strong hands on the throat. Rodney took a step to run away, and the detective grabbed him. A knockdown, drag out fight ensued.)

The British murder mystery series Midsomer Murders is full of situations that rely on improbabilities – that victim being in exactly the right spot at the right time, etc. It works for them. The series is intended to be a somewhat lighthearted approach to characters biting the big one. If you don’t intend humor, think through your character’s death very carefully. Make it believable. (The more I work out my own death scenarios, the more I see these improbabilities in TV and literature.)

2. Approach

You can dive right in and kill off a character in your book’s opening – a popular technique in an age when writers have to have a “grab the reader” opening in order for a publisher to take interest in their opus. Or you can build up to it, being careful not to give too much away. Sometimes you might be rolling along and see the perfect opportunity to whack a character. Just be sure you’ve done the right setup. Going back and rewriting earlier scenes (or even an earlier manuscript that’s part of the same series) might be necessary.

Thinking ahead is definitely key, but you can always go barreling along with your writing and then back track and add in necessary set up items later. For example, an important scene in the first chapter of Beyond Hammil Valley (book 3 of The Freelan Novels series) has a main character killing an occasional character who first appears in The Hammil Valley Effect (book 2 of series). The entire scenario was given careful thought. I had to have everything work logistically as well as fitting the characters. What I found is that book 2 hadn’t really set the stage for this event (my character had to have the right skills to carry out the killing), so I had to go back to that manuscript and do some additions and editing, an advantage of not having the series in publication yet. I also killed off a main character (protagonist) in book 3. Again, the scenario had to be given a lot of thought, with the stage being set in advance. Not to give away too much, he pissed off the wrong person (also a protagonist) who had friends “in all the wrong places.” Another example spans several manuscripts (as of the writing of this post, but things could change). In Year 8 of The Freelan Journals series a secondary character dies of a health condition that is diagnosed in book 3 of the series. (I’m a non-discriminatory character whacker! No level in the hierarchy is safe.)

3. Risks

Your biggest risk in killing off a main character is that your fans may not be the least bit happy about it. In fact, they may revolt.

A couple examples:

  • Agatha Christie killed off Hercule Poirot, had to bring him back.
  • Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes, had to bring him back.

Sometimes, though, you have to do what you have to do. A main character’s death might be needed to make a point, such as when bestselling author Ayn Rand killed off a heroine in one of her novels (I don’t want to specify, it would be a spoiler). You may have to kill off a main character to move your story along. The death of that main character may spur another character to revenge, for example.

Final Word

Killing off characters willy-nilly is not the best answer. Nor is killing one off because you’re bored with him. I would have loved to have kept that protagonist going, but frankly his time had come, plot wise, and I had his replacement lined up and ready to go – someone far more insidious. Know when your characters’ time has come, keep it believable, and make sure it fits your genre.

Hope you found this helpful and have been inspired to start and/or continue writing!

Please check out my WIPs. And thanks for reading.

See also: More on Characters and Crafting Your Characters

Disclaimer: I get no compensation for links in this post or on my site to other sites and/or products.

More on Characters

What’s a work of fiction without at least one character? Nothing. Bupkis. Nada. Zip. Zilch. So, let’s dive into what a character is. Seems obvious, but …

Some Character Basics

Your character is going to have an occupation of some kind. And by that I mean something he or she does as a regular thing, even though it may not pay. Long-term student even qualifies.

Some common (to the point of being totally overdone) occupations:

  • Doctor, nurse, or medical examiner
  • Lawyer (both defense and prosecutorial)
  • Detective (as part of a police force or private)
  • Actor or otherwise involved in entertainment
  • Advertising / marketing agent
  • Realtor or construction worker

And then there are wizards, fairies, witches, warlocks, and other fantasy character types.

Try for something a bit different, like accountant, economist, art dealer, or even a salesperson at a large retail store. Some articles think that the profession indicates personality type, but that’s a bit cliché. I’ve known all sorts of people in each of those professions. Not all accountants are dull. Not all economists talk in totally esoteric terms. Not all art dealers are scheming wheeler dealers, and not all salespeople at those large retail stores are out to push you to buy something you don’t want. Give the reader something fresher than that. And make it memorable.

Do it with details. Make that art dealer an expert on Vermeer or that salesperson a philatelist who in his or her spare time is chasing down rare stamps. Just be sure to make it believable, which will involve some research on your part.

The character also has to fit the type of fiction you’re writing. If it’s fantasy, the sky’s the limit, including such common mythical creatures as giants, goblins, trolls, and unicorns. Science fiction gives you a lot of flexibility, too, depending on how true to real life or how “far out” you want to be. Otherwise, stay with professions that are in the real world.

Of course, you can always twist things up by making that accountant be someone terrible at math but who went into accounting to try to fix that. Or your economist could be someone who has filed for bankruptcy several times only to become rich again. And really twist things up by having that economist leave his profession, buy an island, and start up his own nation there.

Character Naming – What a Pain!

What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, or so Shakespeare declares in Romeo and Juliet. A famous line that has a lot of truth in it. In fact, the names Romeo and Juliet have come to symbolize passionate, doomed love. Sigh.

You might be tempted to slap any old name on your characters when you start writing, but don’t. Start right with the right name. For one thing, you might miss replacing that starter name with the new name here and there, causing reader confusion. For another, the name, if it fits the character, helps you write about that character. Who knows how long Charles Dickens pondered before coming up with Uriah Heep and Mr. Murdstone. They sound as nasty as they are. But David Copperfield is a name that sounds innocent and hopeful (and ultimately successful). Huckleberry Finn embodies the spirit of that boy who rafts down river with the runaway slave. Captain Ahab is a name befitting a madman after a white whale.

I plucked the names of my hero Jim O’Connell and heroine Rose Wilson in Hammil Valley Rising out of thin air, wanting ones that were easy to remember and very down-to-earth, like my characters were. The name Rose was a play on words, having to do with a special rose cultivar whose development Jim funds. Other names were chosen with more care, especially Peter Thorn. Easy, memorable, but allowing for a great bit of wordplay. He starts out as a thorn in everyone’s side, plus the idea of a thorn relates to the rose cultivar. And then there’s Henry Baum, whose name means “wood” and fits the fact that he makes things from wood, including musical instruments and kitchen cabinets.

One article I’ve seen on naming characters talks about the sound of certain letters. The author claims that a hard k sound is supposed to suggest strength and courage, whereas h and r and vowels suggest weakness, hypocrisy, and even evil, and l and n could sound sexy or convey feminine weakness. I remain doubtful of this, though. Rose is far from weak, hypocritical, or evil. Nor is Henry. Not all “expert” advice is realistic.

But one tip is definitely true: start out with the right name for your characters. Yes, it can be a pain, but it will pay off.

Tagging Your Characters

No, this isn’t about a kids’ game on the playground. It’s about repeated verbal descriptors that identify a character and help him stick in the reader’s mind. These descriptors can be certain habitual gestures such as an eye twitch or clearing the throat before speaking or certain words that character uses such as saying, “Gee, I don’t mean to intrude” when he or she is clearly meaning to intrude. They can also be related to the character’s appearance or behavior. A classic example that I’ve seen used in various articles is Uriah Heep describing himself and his mother as “humble” while he rubs his clammy hands. Another often-cited example is Sherlock Holmes with his violin and declaring, “The game is afoot.”

Various options for these tags include:

  • Voice quality (hoarse, whiny, gravelly, raspy, lilting, singsong, etc.)
  • Gestures and body language (twirling a strand of hair, hand wringing, throat clearing, shifting from foot to foot, shoving hands in pants pockets, not being able to look someone in the eye, etc.)
  • Dialect and speech mannerisms
  • Physical descriptions such as hair (color, style) and clothing (jeans, Goth, Steampunk, ultra conservative, patched, dirty, etc.)

You can sway the readers by describing red hair as either “carrot red” or “blood red.” Rose has dark auburn, a rich color often seen as sensuous. A minor male character has silver gray hair tied back in a ponytail with a black silk ribbon. This hair helps someone pick him out from a crowd but also gives the character a somewhat foppish aura. Of course, my American Indian characters have black hair. There are also bleach blonds, honey blonds, dark browns, and light browns in curly, straight, and wavy styles.

Bottom Line

Think your characters through. The more you write about them, the more you’ll know them, and the details will start to come naturally. You may find yourself doubling back to add in some of those details in the earlier mentions of those characters. Worth your time.

Hope you found this helpful and have been inspired to start and/or continue writing!

Please check out my WIPs. And thanks for reading.

Disclaimer: I get no compensation for links in this post or on my site to other sites and/or products.

See also: Crafting Your Characters

When Life Interferes with Your Writing

Not everyone has the luxury of being able to write full time. Even full-time writers can’t write full time. Life interferes. The key for you, as a writer, is to make sure you don’t let those interferences keep you from writing. I have a couple tips to help you do just that.

1. Prioritize Your Writing

Yes, you need to eat, sleep, take care of your children and your house, and even work at a job. This prioritizing is a matter of mental focus. Keep something handy for jotting down your bits of dialogue, character descriptions, plot ideas, etc. You could use a little notepad and pen, or you could go high-tech and use an app on your smart phone. There are also little hand-held recorders into which you can speak your ideas and type them up later when you have time.

Making your writing a high priority in your life can help you decide whether to go out on the town with friends, take that vacation to Spain, etc., or stay home writing. Once you have decided that writing is more important to you than that other activity, you will be staying home typing up those ideas and coming up with more. Writing can be a lonely business sometimes.

2. Deal with Life’s “Issues” as Quickly as Possible

You have to take care of certain things at certain times, such as filing your taxes before the April deadline, making that annual visit to the eye doctor, or seeing your children through their sports activities. And other things pop up unexpectedly, such as getting a notice that your private information was part of a data breach and you now have to scramble to notify your credit card companies and bank, or you and your family coming down with seasonal illnesses (colds, flu, etc.). That’s life. But it doesn’t have to keep you from writing. It might even be something you can work into your fiction.

Planning helps speed those non-writing things up (and helps with accuracy, too). You can use tax software to simplify preparing your tax return or go to one of those tax return firms. You can plan for that trip to the eye doctor, staying up a bit later the night before and the night after to get in that extra writing time. As for the kids’ sports activities, see the first tip.

Bottom Line

If you want to be a writer, you have to make writing the first priority in your life. Even when life interferes, minimize that impact by getting back to writing as soon as you can. Jot notes, record ideas wherever you can, and keep writing, writing, writing!

Hope you found this helpful and have been inspired to start and/or continue writing!

Please check out my WIPs. And thanks for reading.

Disclaimer: I get no compensation for links in this post or on my site to other sites and/or products.

Do You Need Social Media?

We authors need to be seen “out there,” i.e., on the internet, particularly on social media, or do we? What seemed to be a no-brainer a month or so ago is now, at least to me, appearing to be a bit of a puzzle. Frustrated at the very low and staid response I’m currently getting from my social media postings, I decided to see if there was somewhere to be that would generate more interest. Sadly, every article touted the same list of “usual suspects”:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram (owned by Facebook)
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Goodreads (owned by Amazon)

Frankly, I avoid most of these, so I moved on in my research and came across a couple of interesting articles that seemed to be two sides of a coin but in reality said the same thing: stop wasting time on social media tweeting and posting for hours a day and instead have a presence.

Article 1: Why Authors Should Not Use Social Media – TCK Publishing

This article is from a publisher’s point of view and admittedly is therefore a bit skewed. The publisher’s vested interest is in keeping you writing. Nevertheless, I found the reasoning sound.

The three reasons the author gives are (and my thoughts on each):

  1. Organic reach falling. Facebook puts the squeeze on your group, page, and even timeline posts. As few as one person in 100 fans will see your posts, and many don’t see it then unless they make an effort. At the same time, competition on the site is fierce, so your chances of being seen by all but the most devoted is even less. Other social media is little better.
  2. Spend your time writing. Makes sense, and considering that the average user spends almost 2.5 hours on social media every day, that’s time lost from writing, unless, of course, you draw inspiration from the inanities often posted there (especially on Twitter).
  3. Social Media creates anxiety. We’re in anxious times. Why add to it? Bullying online is common as is getting nasty responses from people who think they can “let it all out” with no regard for common courtesy.

In light of the above, you probably are thinking of closing your social media accounts, and hunkering down in your writer’s space, with your cup of hot coffee, tea, or cocoa, and never emerging until it’s time to query publishers. Don’t, as the author of the next article points out.

Article 2: Don’t quit social media, just quit using it

The answer is simple. Use your social media accounts as signposts to your author site that details your work (no matter if you’re self-published or traditionally published). Create a friendly post that links to your site and pin it to the account. If that link ever changes, be sure to update all your social media accounts. Nothing more frustrating than broken links!

My experience shows, though, that what you post is more important than posting a lot. For example, posting a casual thought with links to my site generates hits, whereas just posting some casual thought does not. Makes perfect sense. So I have to advise this:

  • Log in 2 or 3 times a week and post something relevant to your writing and a link to your site.
  • Also, comment on other posts and reply to their comments to you.

The key, it seems, is to keep it relevant to your writing and not get into side issues.

Additional Uses

Also use your social media for special postings, such as:

  • Cover design reveals
  • Launch dates
  • Public appearances (readings, book signings)
  • Awards

And if you’ve been published, use it to engage a bit with your readers.

A Platform for Authors

During my research, I came across this article:

This Founder Created A Social Media Platform For Authors – Forbes

I’ll save you a bit of hassle and tell you that the platform is called Copper. The site appears to be in the Beta stage still, but you can sign up in advance to be ready to go for when they are.

Final Thoughts

Sharing a blog post or two with you during the month gives me a bit of a break and in a way refreshes me for my writing. Also, I already have the discipline to limit my time on social media, but now the lack of hits back to my site isn’t so frustrating. I just need to do this social media thing right. You’ll need to examine your own writing habits and see if you’re spending too much time on social media posting the wrong things and not enough on the writing. Life has enough interruptions in that process. No need to add more.

By the way, where I spend a bit of time:

  • MeWe — My page (actually a group since it’s free) where I post updates on my writing and interact with other writers.
  • Twitter — My poignant author observations and wisecracks, and some actually useful tips.
  • LinkedIn — I occasionally post articles about writing here as well as other places.
  • Parler — Just an account. Not really posting there.

Hope you found this helpful and have been inspired to start and/or continue writing!

Please check out my WIPs. And thanks for reading.

Disclaimer: I get no compensation for links in this post or on my site to other sites and/or products.

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

The New Year 2022 is here. It’s a time when people make resolutions to lose weight, be nicer, or some other personal improvement. But resolutions are really goals to set and to achieve. We writers need goals that are very specific. They give us something to strive for every day. The important thing, though, is to be realistic. In that vein, I propose a few resolutions, i.e., goals, just for all of us writers out there.

5. Stop focusing on word count

Yes, you need to pay attention to it, but focusing on word count for writers is like focusing on calorie counts for dieters. Both writers and dieters need to go for quality and worry about the counts later. As a former dieter, I also know that focusing on calories also made me focus too much on food. Now I focus on getting a certain amount of protein, a certain amount of roughage, a certain amount of energy-producing carbs while cutting down on excess fat and salt. It has become second nature, not a focus. For writers, that focus needs to be on plot and characters. You need both for a successful work of fiction.

4. Make your writing a priority

Not everyone has the luxury of writing full time. Most of you are squeezing in an hour or two here and there in your day (or week) to do some writing. Time to make writing the priority. Examine what you are now spending time on and list them. Assign them priorities. Eating and sleeping are #1, of course, but lunch with friends might have to drop down the list. Taking care of your children is high, but so should your writing be. Tough choices here that only you can make.

3. Avoid writing courses

Frankly, they are wastes of money. If you know spelling and grammar, have a fairly good vocabulary, and read a lot, you have the basics to sit and write. And only by doing will you succeed. Write and write and write. You will probably write a bunch of trash at first, but the more you write, the better you will get.

2. Avoid writing groups

Most writing groups in which I have participated are dominated by one or two good writers who want a captive audience to give them feedback on their work. I have seen fist fights break out between members when one person reads his work out loud and another criticizes it negatively, not constructively. How in the world can that be helpful to you as a writer? Develop friendships with people, such as someone who teaches a literature course or who works in your local public library, whom you would trust to read your work and give you honest feedback. You’ll get a lot more out of it.

1. Develop your own voice

The most important thing of all. Sure you can write for a particular market, such as steamy romance or horror, but do it in your own voice. The more you write (see #3 above), the more your voice will develop. That means, of course, that #4 should probably be here as #1, but you get the idea, I’m sure.

Final Thoughts

Set your own resolution(s) that fits your situation. This list should give you an idea or two of where to start.

My New Year’s Resolution is to be better in the editorial process. I find rereading my work to be tedious, albeit very necessary.

Hope you found this helpful and have been inspired to start and/or continue writing!

Please check out my WIPs. And thanks for reading.

Disclaimer: I get no compensation for links in this post or on my site to other sites and/or products.

Fitting Holidays in Fiction

On this Winter Solstice, the thought of fitting holidays into fiction comes to mind. If you’re writing a story about a particular holiday, the whole issue is fairly straightforward. But what if you’re writing a romance that happens to take place during, well, this time of year, for example? Suddenly, Christmas becomes a part of that story and maybe New Year’s Eve and Day, too. It can totally change your story, adding in elements that are part of those holidays, such as the issue of dealing with family or having no family to deal with and feeling all alone. Those elements make some writers hesitate to include any holidays in their work.

Another factor is your fiction genre. Horror at Halloween is one thing. I’m not sure about horror at Independence Day or Mother’s Day, but then, a good writer can probably work it all out. Horror at Valentine’s Day is a no-brainer, though. As for science fiction, there could be holidays, but different ones. Grgolh Day, for example, where the founding of the planet Grgolh (“Home” in the language of the original inhabitants) could be one – a time of massive celebration around the planet and the perfect time for a planned murder or two.

The main goal is to make the holiday work for you, not the other way around. Your readers will certainly expect certain things from that holiday, but you have plenty of ways to add your own touches. A great example is the movie Die Hard, which many people forget takes place at Christmas. Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman certainly don’t share any holiday cheer between them. Your characters needn’t either. As usual, you, the writer, are in control. Have fun with it!

And wishing you a happy holiday season!

An Extra for You

For ten years I wrote articles about tea, researching information far and wide and putting it together into an organized fashion for readers of the two company blogs I ran as well as my own site. Part of those efforts was this fun little read called the 12 Days of Christmas (with a tea slant). Enjoy!

12 Days of Christmas

Hope you found this helpful and have been inspired to start and/or continue writing!

Please check out my WIPs. And thanks for reading.

Disclaimer: I get no compensation for links in this post or on my site to other sites and/or products.

Getting the “Saids” Right

A challenge for fiction writers when dealing with conversations is something I call the “saids.” All those “he said” and “she said” after every line of dialogue can be tiresome for both writers and readers, slowing down the reading flow. They’re also a bit of a pain to type.

Why and Why Not Use:

While “Saids” (and their alternatives, a few of which are listed below) are needed for clarity in some instances, they can get in the way of dialogue pacing. An exchange between two characters that’s supposed to be rapid-fire will instead be more horse-and-buggy speed.

Example 1 (before editing):

The young man backed away slightly and said, “I’m better than you. I care about these creatures. You just want profit.”

Jim said, “So do the people who made that T-shirt you’re wearing and the Jeep that you drive and the cell phone in your pocket and all the other things you enjoy. They all want profit. It tells them they are doing something worthwhile, and then they can do more and even better things.”

“Well,” said the young man, “those companies might want profit, but they’re making useful things.”

“That’s your standard?” asked Jim. “Profit on making something useful is okay? And my agricultural endeavors that feed people and provide jobs are not useful? And how did you become the judge of what is useful? Why aren’t you driving an electric car instead of that gas-guzzling Jeep? Or better yet, why aren’t you riding a bicycle? Or walking everywhere? Why aren’t you wearing clothing made of leaves woven together? Your hair looks like it was cut with an electric razor by a barber. Why not just singe it off with a hot coal?”

“Coal pollutes!” said the young man.

Jim sighed and said, “You certainly have all the rhetoric memorized well. I need to get to work now. Leave and never come on my land again or …”

“Or what? Are you threatening me?” asked the young man as he stuck out his chin in a manner that reminded Jim of a stubborn and ignorant child.

“Or I’ll have you arrested,” said Jim and then walked back into the kitchen and sat down at the table to eat his breakfast, not looking back.

Example 2 (after editing):

The young man backed away slightly. “I’m better than you. I care about these creatures. You just want profit.”

“So do the people who made that T-shirt you’re wearing and the Jeep that you drive and the cell phone in your pocket and all the other things you enjoy. They all want profit. It tells them they are doing something worthwhile, and then they can do more and even better things.”

“Well, those companies might want profit, but they’re making useful things.”

“That’s your standard? Profit on making something useful is okay? And my agricultural endeavors that feed people and provide jobs are not useful? And how did you become the judge of what is useful? Why aren’t you driving an electric car instead of that gas-guzzling Jeep? Or better yet, why aren’t you riding a bicycle? Or walking everywhere? Why aren’t you wearing clothing made of leaves woven together? Your hair looks like it was cut with an electric razor by a barber. Why not just singe it off with a hot coal?”

“Coal pollutes!”

Jim sighed. “You certainly have all the rhetoric memorized well. I need to get to work now. Leave and never come on my land again or …”

“Or what? Are you threatening me?” The young man stuck out his chin in a manner that reminded Jim of a stubborn and ignorant child.

“Or I’ll have you arrested.” Jim turned, walked back into the kitchen, and sat down at the table to eat his breakfast, not looking back.

Taking out extraneous “saids” makes the dialogue read more quickly in this rapid-fire exchange of philosophy between my novel’s hero Jim O’Connell and a young man from an environmental organization.

However, when you have more than two characters participating in the conversation, “saids” are essential.


“Quite a few folks here already,” observed Henry.

“Yes,” said Rose. “He seemed to have a lot of friends.”

“There’s friends, and then there’s friends,” mused Henry as he got out of the SUV and held the door for her.

“Oh, Henry, there you go being philosophical. What does that mean?” asked Katherine, getting out the other side and walked around to them.

A third person commenting here made the “saids” (or an alternative) necessary.

Some Alternatives for “Said”

Here are some words I have used extensively instead of “said”:

  • Stated
  • Averred
  • Observed
  • Avowed
  • Mused
  • Cried
  • Yelled
  • Growled
  • Cooed
  • Explained
  • Insisted
  • Required
  • Stipulated
  • Claimed
  • Ordered
  • Commanded

Of course, if your character is asking a question, you’ll want to indicate this if it’s in a spot of dialogue where “saids” need to be included:

  • Asked
  • Demanded
  • Replied
  • Answered
  • Responded

Your thesaurus (printed or online version) will list many more. Picking the right one can not only mix things up a bit and make them more interesting for your reader, but can help convey mood and character of the speaker.

A Note on Word Order

Some authors put “said” or its equivalent after the speaker’s name or pronoun.


“I’m a volunteer fireman,” said Chuck hurriedly, “and I’m headed out to help put out the fire.”

Others reverse that when using the speaker’s name.


“I’m a volunteer fireman,” Chuck said hurriedly, “and I’m headed out to help put out the fire.”

Which you choose seems arbitrary as long as you are consistent throughout your novel or short story and your meaning is clear to the reader.

Bottom Line

Err on the side of clarity. If it will be clear to the reader who is saying what, omit the “said.” Otherwise, include it. And a long conversations of simple back and forth will be more clear if now and then you mention which character is saying what.

Hope you found this helpful and have been inspired to start and/or continue writing! Examples are from Hammil Valley Rising, book one of my WIPs.

Thanks for reading.

Disclaimer: I get no compensation for links in this post or on my site to other sites and/or products.

When Inspiration Hits

Inspiration can hit anytime, anywhere, and it usually comes at some of the most inopportune moments. These include when you’re lying back trying to sleep, when you’re fixing breakfast or dinner or lunch, when you’re brushing your teeth or washing your hair or taking a shower, when you are driving to work or the store or the doctor’s office, and a multitude of other times. In most of these instances you are unable to do much about it except to jot down a few notes that you hope will make sense when you read them later. In a few of these occasions, you can’t even do that.

The worst time, though, for such an inspiration to hit is when you are smack dab in the middle of your latest WIP (work in progress) – a novel, poem, or story on which you have been working for some time. If you are nearing the end, that inspirational interruption can be even more annoying. What to do? Option One: Stop writing that WIP and starting working on developing that inspiration. Option Two: Make detailed notes and hope you can pick it up later when you have finished that first project.

When a recent inspiration hit me, I chose Option One. In a week I had 27,000+ words done toward a goal of 75,000 for what is basically a light-hearted Christmas romance story. It seemed to come flowing out. Then, the writing came to a screeching halt as I seemed to be in need of some better direction for how to get to my goal (in these stories, the guy and gal always have to end up together). A day spent reviewing what I had written got me back on track, and the next day was spent doing some rewriting and editing to get rid of various inconsistencies and repetitiveness. Now, I am at 32,000+ words and humming along toward my goal again.

My posts about this on my Writing Group and other writing groups on MeWe elicited some interesting responses:

“That’s outstanding! Hat’s off to you and your hubby. I am editing the fourth book in my series and doing a side project for NaNoWriMo. Both are going nice and steady. Good things! … Sometimes you have to do some planning. I plan all the time. Sometimes I plan too much. But I can’t just wing it forever either. I have to have direction.” — Parker McCoy (two comments posted separately but joined together here)

“Never stop writing. Bursts are rare for me, so I run with it.” — Scott Slotterbeck

“I keep another writing project going in addition to my main WIP so I have somewhere to go when inspiration fades. It keeps me writing and sometimes I problem-solve in one that transfers to the other.” — Paul Piatt

“I do the same thing. It’s helped me stay productive during those slow moments in the other WIP.” — Ruth Nordin (replying to Paul’s comment above)

“I have a MS 70,000 word strong and stared a new one for NaNoWriMo, now almost 17,000. I totally get this! … I waffled on starting something else. Write often, write well, write on!” — Kaci Rigney

The big question for me, and for you if you have similarly gotten veered onto a side project by a thunderbolt idea that seized your brain, is “Can I return to my WIP and pick up where I left off?”

My brain never left that first WIP. Memories of what I have written on it so far as well as new ideas keep rattling around inside even as I work out the pathway to my heroine and hero getting together at the end without too much interference from the sub-characters, including old boyfriends, a female housemate who has overstayed her welcome, a mother who thinks she is being helpful, and a best friend trying to steal the hero away for herself.

Bottom Line

Don’t be afraid to pursue that new inspiration while keeping your WIP fresh in mind. Lots of writers seem to do it.

Hope you found this helpful and have been inspired to start and/or continue writing!

Please check out my WIPs. And thanks for reading.

Disclaimer: I get no compensation for links in this post or on my site to other sites and/or products.