Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Edit Like an Editor

         As a publisher and editor, I see many manuscripts that have not been thoroughly edited, are not ready for publication. So, where do writers begin to edit their own work? How can they do a credible job? I am so glad you asked.

Edit Like an Editor

         If you want to ever transition from writing to publishing, you will have to “bite the bullet” and force yourself to edit and revise multiple times before turning your “baby” over to a professional editor, or, perish the thought, you submit your work without doing a thorough editing job.

         However, editing doesn’t have to be a chore. Even if you plan to hire a pro to fine tune the editing, you must do some review and revision yourself. And if you plan to do all the work yourself, you’ll really need to focus and do your best to ensure the editing serves the book and achieves your goals for the manuscript.

         Leading us to the question; how do authors effectively edit their own work?

         Whether self-publishing or dreaming of being published by a traditional publishing house, learning to think like an editor will help you move your writing forward. Let’s examine some tips to help you edit your own work like an editor.


         First, take a break from even looking at your writing. Give your work time to become “new” again before you do a thorough edit. Stephen King advises waiting many weeks (for example, in his book On Writing,, he advises a wait of six weeks). However, I personally give myself a break of anywhere from a week to six months.

         But, you can be working on exercises you can do while waiting to help you better understand your own story:

1. Write down the plot(s)

         What you’re doing here is defining for yourself what the main plot line entails. Who is your protagonist? What drives them? What challenges them? Why? Think about all this and try to write a sentence or two that sums up the main drive of your story.

2. Identify the purpose of each scene

         What you’re looking for with this is a phrase or sentence that describes why each scene is in your story. These should be simple, and if you spend too long thinking about a scene’s purpose, there is a good chance it doesn’t belong in your final copy.

         Once you complete the exercises and have waited to allow your manuscript to “ripen,” you are ready to begin the editing and revision process. Perhaps, the following tips will help your editing skills:

Trim the Fat

         The most important lesson in the writing trade is that any manuscript is improved if you cut away the fat. – Robert Heinlein

         One of the most important pieces of editing advice you could receive is to trim the fat. After reading a scene or even a single paragraph, stop and ask yourself, “does this advance the plot?” and “does this scene add anything to the story?” If the answer is no to either of these questions, then what you just read is fat. Trim it away.

         Trimming away the excesses in your manuscript is not simple. Here’s an example from author George Saunders, rephrased for our purposes.

         Imagine I’ve written the line “Jack came into the room in a huff and sat heavily upon the old green recliner.” What are we trying to say with this line? The only information relevant to the plot is that Jack is now in the room, and possibly that he is sitting (unless of course the recliner is somehow important). So, we can’t trim the entire sentence because Jack’s arrival might be important. But do we care how he came into the room? Or how he sat on the chair? Or the details surrounding the chair? We don’t need that information unless necessary for the story.

         How much better is this sentence: “Jack entered the room.” Clean and simple. Saunders refers to his hypothetical as “Hemingwayesque” in its brevity and simplicity. If we must bring Jack into the scene, we should do so with only the details we need. Is it important to know that he’s entered “in a huff”? If it is, an adjective is probably in order. “Jack stormed into the room” has the gravity we might want, if Jack is about to yell at our other characters.

         The point being to use your words economically. First drafts are notoriously overwritten. That’s fine, if we return to the manuscript and trim the fat later. The challenge is in finding the lines and paragraphs that really do have valuable content, and trimming them down until they are lean and powerful.

Read aloud

         If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King

         Mr. King refers to reading other writers (he claims to read upwards of 80 books a year), but to re-purpose his comment and turn it on the author, reading what you have written is a tough exercise for some. Actually, reading what you have written can be a chore.

         All authors can benefit from hearing how their words sound. Spoken aloud, your dialog might sound stiff or doesn’t fit the character as well as you thought it did. Or, that the snappy phrasing you’ve used is actually confusing. So much can come to the surface when you change the way you interact with your text.

         In the context of editing, I suggest giving the manuscript a look for grammar and spelling before reading it aloud.

Spelling & Grammar

         The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. – Mark Twain

         You should aim to correct 99% of all grammar and spelling errors. I won’t say 100%, because that would mean the book never gets released while you go over it again and again looking for that one typo or misused word. Catching almost all of the mistakes is enough so long as you are diligent about spelling on the pages that matter the most. Those pages being the cover, the blurb, and the front matter. Any piece of the book a customer will see while looking online at your work.

         The first look for is obvious spelling errors. Word’s spell checker is good for this, but it is not always 100% correct. Another problem to watch for is the similar word issues. Things like affect/effect, their/there/they’re, and the like. Be sure each word is used correctly.

         Watch for overuse of words. Any word or words used to frequently distract the reader. Using the “find” option on MS Word, you can discover how often a word is used or overused.

         One way to check grammar and voice (passive/active) is to use Grammarly –a web-based tool that offers free and paid services. Basically, it adds a grammar and spellchecking tool to your browser. It also has the option to upload a file, run the Grammarly check, and download it back into the original format. Using MS Word, you get a file not only with the Grammarly correction, but those corrections are treated as Tracked Changes so they can easily be differentiated from other edits. One problem with Grammarly is that is isn’t always correct about grammar and punctuation, but it does highlight where passive voice is used. This problem is definitely true with the free program.

         Another way to check for grammar (including sentence structure) is to obtain an 8th grade English text book. I recommend a McDuggal-Littel book.

Think Like an Editor

         The artist, in this model, is like the optometrist, always asking: Is it better like this? Or like this? – George Saunders

         Thinking like an editor is a must to be able to do a good edit. You need to detach yourself from you work and look at it critically. You, as the editor, should look for the ways you can make the manuscript as clear and concise as possible.

         As an editor, you must be willing to ruthlessly cut and alter your manuscript in service of the story. No line is safe. If you ever come to a line or even a single word you think “I can’t change that,” then you’re not doing a fair job of editing. You might find in the long run that your awesome line doesn’t need to be cut, but you have to be willing to look at it with the red pen in hand and not be afraid to strike that line down.

         Getting yourself out of the writing frame of mind and into the editing one can be tough. This is another good reason to leave some space between finishing the manuscript and starting the editing process.

Befriend your Characters

         When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature. – Ernest Hemingway

         This tip focuses heavily on fiction writers, but non-fiction writers may find it useful too. Basically, if the character dialog or tone is too mechanical or distant, the reader will not be held in the story. If characters converse in a way that does not ring true for them as a character or the way people actually converse, you risk losing a reader’s attention.

         To befriend your characters get to know them. I create a large file card for each of my characters and write the following information on the card:

• Full Name
• Date and Place of Birth
• Family
• Work
• Lifestyle
• Appearance
• Hobbies

         I also jot notes about the character I may use in my manuscript. I may not use any of or little of the information on the card in the story, but I “know” that character better and can write about him or her more realistically and believably.

Final Thoughts

         Editing can be a chore, but a necessary one. The purpose of editing is always to make the story better, to make it easier for readers to relate to, and to help you improve as a writer.

         I will share more editing tips later, but these should help you begin to be a better editor of your own work. However, do not depend on yourself alone; let your editing be the beginning before finding yourself a professional editor or a person who knows and understands literary editing.

Sources: Personal knowledge, experience, and expertise

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Willard the Dragon Goes to a renaissance faire

Suzanne Cordatos with one of her books

     The Connecticut Renaissance Faire is a fantasy book reader’s dream come true as they host a different author each day of their fall show. The Connecticut Faire is an annual event held over several weekends in early fall. The Faire organizers invited 4RV author Suzanne Cordatos to present Willard the Dragon Sunday, September 3 from 1-3pm at the fairgounds in Lebanon, CT.

     The Norwich Bulletin reported:  Scheduled authors include Connecticut residents Amber Boccetti, Suzanne Cordatos, Liz Delton, A.L. Davroe and Ashley York; Massachusetts residents J.M. Aucoin and Michael Bailey; and Virginia resident Kim Headlee.

a "street" at the faire

      Suzanne states, "Having fun, just sold the set to a nice pregnant couple building a children's library for their first baby. A rainy day, so it is slow, but the organizer invited me to come back over Columbus weekend."

        The Willard the Dragon books, Willard the Dragon: Sneeze-Fire and Willard the Dragon: Camp Dragon-Fire, can be found on Suzanne's page at the 4RV Bookstore online.

        Learn more about Suzanne Cordatos' books: visit her blog: http://suzannecordatos.blogspot.com/

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Writing Success with Focus, Determination, and Perseverance

By Karen Cioffi

Focus, determination, and perseverance are essential to just about every aspect of your life. Each characteristic is unique and together create a synergy. This applicable to your writing for children career also.

So, what are these three elements that lead to success?

Focus is one’s ability to concentrate exclusively on a particular thing through effort or attention.

Determination is an unchanging intention to achieve a goal or desired end.

Perseverance takes determination a step beyond by using steady and ongoing actions over a long period of time to ensure its intention is accomplished. It continues on through ups and downs.

These elements combined with positive thinking and projection can be an unstoppable force.

I’m a huge fan of positive thinking and projection. I believe our mind has a great influence over our wellbeing and the direction our life can take. Granted, it’s not always easy to harness that influence, but there is enough content out there, including The Secret, to at least strive to think positive and project.

For example, Jack Canfield and co-creator Mark Victor Hansen, of Chicken Soup for the Soul, were rejected 144 times from publishers. Finally, in 1993, their book was accepted. Since they were in debt and couldn’t afford a publicist, they did their own promotion. In 1995, they won the Abby Award and the Southern California Publicist Award.

In a teleconference I attended with Jack Canfield as the speaker, he said he and his co-author created vision boards of what they wanted. They even took a copy of the New York Times Best Selling Page, whited out the #1 spot, and replaced it with Chicken Soup for the Soul. They put copies of it everywhere, even in the toilet. They had focus, determination, perseverance, and they envisioned and projected success. The rest is history.

On a much smaller scale, my daughter Robyn, practices the philosophy of The Secret. For ten years she had dreamed of being in the audience of the Oprah show. She actually got tickets twice, but for one reason or another she was unable to attend. It didn’t stop her though; she persevered and kept trying. She knew one day she’d accomplish her goal and she did. She attended O’s 10 Anniversary celebration in New York City.

She even got her picture taken. You can check it out at (she’s on the right):

So, what has this to do with you as a children’s writer? Plenty.

The elements for obtaining your goals are the same whether for business, marketing, life, or writing. Just about every writer has heard the adage: it’s not necessarily the best writers who succeed, it’s the writers who persevere.

Be focused and determined on your writing goals. Have a ‘success’ mindset. This means to project success, along with taking all the necessary steps to becoming a successful and effective children’s writer. And, don’t let rejection stop you – persevere.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning author, children’s ghostwriter, and online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For must-know writing and marketing tips, get free access to The Writing World.

You can connect with Karen at:
Twitter: http://twitter.com/KarenCV
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/writingforchildrenwithkarencioffi/

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A New Member for 4RV Books: Turning Mountains into Molehills

     Yvonne M. Morgan's memoir, Turning Mountains into Molehills, has  made its  appearance. Yvonne's story follows a path from personal devastation to personal triumph through God's call to mission and serving others through ministry. Her fears, disappointments, and heartaches are all detailed in this adventure about how God's calling beckons her to continue on her mission no matter what troubles arise. Ultimately, God shows her how to turn her mountains into molehills.

         Pre-publication reviews found in the book are copied below:

There is a universal truth in Yvonne Morgan’s unique story that reminds all of us that we don’t really create our lives, but that we are called by life. The discovery of purpose is not found inside us, but serving in the world around us. This story will cause anyone who feels lost in their lives to trust God and look for the direction He is leading to living beyond one’s self. -- Dr. Robyn Goggs, Associate Minister, Women and Mission, Church of the Servant

Every pastor should read this book. It will encourage and inspire you to deeper trust in the work God is doing in your leaders. Yvonne's journey is a tremendous example of how God honors obedience and transforms fear into confidence. As her pastor for a season, it was a true joy to watch God at work and an honor to join her and Bill in their ministry. -- The Rev. Dr. Tom Herrick, Executive Director, Titus Institute for Church Planting

Turning Mountains to Molehills is an honest and beautifully written account of obedience in answering Gods call, then moving out of the way in faith as He takes care of the details. -- Lynn Bouterse, Short-Term Ministries, Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders

     Copies of Turning Mountains into Molehills can be purchased from the 4RV Online Book Store as well as Amazon.com, B&N. com, and through brick and mortar stores.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Promote Your Book, No, Promote Yourself


Promote Your Book Yourself

         Before authors promote a book, they should promote themselves. Of course, if a writer hasn't promoted herself yet, doing so can occur after the book, but promotion should first be about the author. Before writers have books to promote, they need to build an interest in themselves. Allow me to share some of the tips the sources, listed below the article, mixed with a few ideas and thoughts of my own.
         Often writers wait too late to promote themselves. Joan Steward says authors should become "experts" and build a personal base before promoting a book. Nonfiction writers have a built-in topic about which to write articles or present workshops: the theme or sub-themes of the future nonfiction book. However, fiction writers can also be experts, if they have researched information for their books correctly. For example, research for a book dealing with kidnapped children can create an author who is an expert on the aftereffects of being kidnapped on the children and families; what steps to take to find kidnapped children; or how to survive being kidnapped or having a child kidnapped.

         Authors who have studied and developed their own writing expertise can share their knowledge of writing and become an expert on writing. But, that expert level should probably come after proving through being published that they know the subject. To gain more knowledge about writing, a person can attend classes, workshops, and conferences about writing. He/she can read articles and books about writing, keeping the knowledge that usable and deleting the rest.

         Another way authors can promote themselves and create themselves as experts is to create cheat sheets and checklists. Joan Stewart, the Publicity Hound, states the following: "Readers love chunks of information they can digest easily in just a minute or two. That's why they're wild about cheat sheets and checklists. These powerful one-page PDFs are like digital crow bars that can pry an email address out of a website visitor faster than any other lead magnet you might offer." She goes on to say:

                   Checklist/cheat sheets can be released before the book for promotion or used in a the appendix of a book or both. These lists don’t have to be about serious topics. Be helpful and have fun.

Five examples:
                   1. Create a checklist of advice from your main character on how to overcome a challenge or solve a problem mentioned in the book.
                   2. Offer a cheat sheet for tourists who want to visit the city, state, region or country where your novel takes place. If your book is about Venice, your cheat sheet could be titled, “Favorite Foodie Hideaways to Explore in Venice.”
                   3. Do your sci-fi characters have their own language? Create a cheat sheet of words and their definitions.
                   4. Create a checklist of “7 Most Romantic Places to Propose” that ties into your romance novel.
                   5. Does your children’s book include a fairy as one of the main characters? Create a cheat sheet of “What the 5 Most Famous Fairies Can Teach Your Child.” (The Tooth Fairy, Tinkerbell, etc.)

         Include a short blurb about your book at the end, with a link to the sales page.

         Writers need to become familiar names on social media, familiar in a good way. They can post encouraging comments on other people's blogs, social media posts, etc. They can post reviews of other authors' books on their blogs and the other authors' blogs. Posting bits of information on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and other media helps to build interest in the writer and in his/her topic. The more readers are interested in a writer as a person, the more they will be interested in reading the writer's book.

         Every writer needs a blog and a website and have an account on Facebook and Twitter. Some like to have accounts on other social media, also. However, accounts, websites, and blogs should be started before a book is released. If an author hasn't become active in social media, he/she should immediately begin.

         I hope to share more tips about promoting and marketing in the future.

Sources: Joan Steward, The Publicity Hound [blog and various email Tips of the Week]; Brian Feinblum [The Writer, September 2017, page 16-19,
“Promotional Pitfalls”]; 

Kirkus Reviews [kirkusreviews.com]; Author Unlimited [authorunlimited.com];
Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Writing – What Areas are You Strong In? Weak In?

By Karen Cioffi

Writing is such a unique journey for each and every writer.

Some find it easy to meld their chapters, one into another. Others find it easy to get just the right ending, with some kind of twist or surprise that gives it a great edge.

There are also other authors who find it easy to jump right into a story, writing a grabbing beginning.

No matter what aspect of the story, there will be some writers who can breeze though it effortlessly while others may struggle. That’s the nature of writing.

I find it relatively easy to start a story. I can create a beginning that jumps into the action, which is what most stories, especially children’s stories need.

But…yep, there’s a BUT… I often found it difficult to end my stories. I have no idea why. I can start it, bring it along toward an ending, but, then I fizzled out. My endings were initially weak and definitely lacking.

I first noticed my weak spot when I submitted a chapter book to 4RV Publishing. I pitched the story to the publisher during an online writers’ conference. The publisher allowed me to submit a synopsis and the first three chapters, which was also a bit lacking, but that’s another story.

The editor who read the chapters and synopsis liked the storyline, but was confused about my ending in the synopsis. As I mentioned above I have trouble with my endings. Aside from that, the editor recommended the publisher request the manuscript so they could look it over. They did advise I edit it first and work on the ending. I created an entirely new ending and sent it to a professional editor to be reviewed . . . and edited.

It’s funny, but I think there are at times some form of inspiration that can take us where we don’t usually tread...that helps us overcome our obstacles or mountains and take us beyond what we think we’re capable of.

In the case of my story, Walking Through Walls, I came up with a pretty good ending that tied everything together and afforded a surprise. I worked on this story for around two years and finally when it counted, I found the right path for the story to take.

We writers must pay attention to our writing weak spots and work on them. I was fortunate that an editor and publisher looked beyond my weak points and gave me the opportunity to improve my story. This is not always the case.

So, what’s a writer to do?

Well, the very basics are simple:

1. Make sure you’re a part of a critique group with new and experienced writers. The critique members may be able to help you over the hurdles. At the very least, they’ll catch a number of mistakes in everything from structure to grammar that you missed.

2. If you have to, write a few different scenarios in the section you’re having trouble with, to help you open up. And, if you’re still having trouble with your story, put it away for at least a week, preferably more, and then go back to it. It’s almost like magic; you’ll see it differently, with a newness and awareness. And, listen when inspiration comes knocking!

3. Read a lot of quality books in the genre you’re writing and even copy sections of them word-by-word. Make sure to include recently published books by top publishers. This is a trick to get your brain to think and write ‘good writing.’ Just be sure to only do this for practice purposes. Never, ever use someone’s work as your own – that’s plagiarism.

4. Practice your writing – hone your craft. I’ve gotten better at my endings through working and practice. This is why there’s a saying, “practice makes perfect.” Well, if not perfect, at least much better!

5. If nothing else works, hire a developmental editor or ghostwriter to help rewrite the sections you’re having difficulty with.

So, the tips of the day: Pay attention to where your writing weak spots are and work on them. You have options to help you get your story right.

And, listen when inspiration comes knocking!

So, back to the title of the post: What's your writing forte?

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning author, children’s ghostwriter, and online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For must-know writing and marketing tips, get free access to The Writing World.

You can connect with Karen at:

Monday, July 31, 2017

4RV Author Events Successful

vehoae and Jodi

     July 29, 2017, four 4RV authors meet the public at Serendipity during Krazy Days and signed books purchased. Taking the 2 PM - 5 PM shift were vehoae and Jodi Heaton Hrust, pictured to the left. 

     The 10 AM - 2 PM shift was manned by Kathleen Gibbs and Wayne Harris-Wyrick, pictured below.

     According to the authors, most customers mentioned reading about 4RV in the Edmond paper. All were interested in our books and the fact that we were located in Edmond, .

      A few books were sold, but considering our shopletts are just now becoming known in the area, we were pleased with the outcome. 

Kathleen and Wayne

     Another author, Kena Sosa, was part of an author event in Carrollton, Texas, the same day. I haven't any photos to share, but the bookstore informed me that the event went well.

     July 15, Jodi, Wayne, and vehoae signed books and visited with customers at The Market at Quail Springs.

        The two shopletts are the two places where 4RV books can be found. We try to rotate some of our titles, giving new releases a chance to be found locally.

NOTE:        The 4RV website is being updated with a new template. Everything can still be found, but we need to do some tweaking to make everything neat and tidy. After Aidana WillowRaven and I finish, we will begin updating the 4RV Online Bookstore site.