Sunday, September 22, 2013

Social Media: Putting together an effective blog

By: Stephanie Burkhart 

Social media has brought the world closer and opened up markets along with promo opportunities not available before. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other media are excellent marketing tools. Today, I wanted to touch on blogging, discuss its benefits and how to be an effective blogger.

As I was researching this topic, two important points stuck out to me: #1 Blogging helps you build a network and #2 it allows you to help others.

A blog is a great way to reach out to others, especially since being on the web has a global reach. So how to you appeal to the global audience? Find those topics that are valuable and interesting to you. Don't just talk about your writing all the time. What draws readers to you are the valuable and interesting topics you present.

Helping Others
A hook to your blog should include a way to help others. After all, the power of the blog is to inspire, educate, and bring people together. People and readers are attracted to those posts that talk about the challenge of weight loss, raising kids, and how others face life's adversities.

As a writer, using blogging as a marking/networking/promo tool, you've got to find balance. I'm learning it's 80% being interesting/inspirational/helping others, and 20% promo.

Some items to consider:

Blogging is a great way to ask for feedback. Don't forget to end your post with a question that your readers will feel compelled to answer.

Share ideas – what I like about Pinterest is how easy and fun it is to share ideas – especially recipes.

Post regularly. This can be a challenge, but one worth mastering. You don't have to post every day. I would suggest 2-3 times a week. I know people who post once on Mondays, but their topics are so interesting, readers always visit.

Facebook and Twitter are blogging-like platforms, too. Ask questions. These platforms are great for feedback.

Blogging allows the blogger to expand their creativity and imagination. Go for it!

What you need:
A pound of passion, a gallon of purpose and a tablespoon of focus. Without these motivating factors your recipe for blogging will never reach its full potential.

Before you blog or if you're in a blogging rut, make a list of your outside interests. (apart from writing) some ideas include: dancing, reading, being outdoors, traveling, scouting, swimming, Olympics, everyday challenges, breast cancer, football, etiquette, or music. Pick a few you want to explore on your blog. Research them. Write from the heart. Remember you have 200-300 words to keep their attention. End with a question and, depending, a small promo about your writing projects. Smaller is effective. Trust me. Use a one line hook., one buy link., and one review quote. Don't bang people over the head with how good your book is. Get their interest and inspire them to investigate.

Blogging ultimately comes back to inspiring and the more passionate you are, the more you'll attract readers.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  What's your balance with blogging ? How much is promo and how much is other material that interests you? Do you have any tips/suggestions to share?

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. Her book, "The Giving Meadow" is published with 4RV Publishing.

About "The Giving Meadow:" Caterpillar learns the value of caring and sharing as he travels through a meadow.

"A heartwarming story." – 5 Stars, Midwest Book Reviews

Publishers Buy Link:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Kick Out Passive Voice

"Kick Out Passive Voice" by Joan Y. Edwards

"A style that consists of passive constructions will sap the reader's energy. The difference between an active-verb style and a passive-verb style--in clarity and vigor--is the difference between life and death for a writer."
-William Zinsser On Writing Well.

     The detective waited. He said to the police officer. "I saw it with my own eyes. This author used passive voice in his manuscript."
     The policeman took off his cap, scratched his head and said to the author, "Kick it out."
     The author put both hands out palms up. "But, Officer, I don't know what passive voice is."
     The detective and officer threw up their hands in disgust. They pointed at the author and said, "Learn about passive voice and kick it out of your manuscript in 24 hours or we'll book you."

I hope you enjoyed my humor. I certainly hope you don't get in a situation like that. However, if you do, I'm here to help you.

Active voice helps insure clarity of meaning. Every word in your manuscript should have a reason for being there. You want each word to carry a clear message in your manuscript. If your manuscript has too many words, eliminating sentences that use passive voice will trim your word count and add to your clarity at the same time. Rambling on and on in passive voice loses readers. Active voice ropes them in and keeps them reading your manuscript from beginning to the very end.

Here is an explanation with examples to help you understand about voice. There are two voices: Active Voice and Passive Voice.  

Active voice has the noun subject (doer) verb order.  The verb to be used as a linking verb shows the condition or existence of the subject.  

Passive Voice usually uses a form of the verb to be and a past participle of a verb: is, are, was, were, being, had been. The subject is not named before the verb in a sentence using passive voice.

In active voice, the subject does the action. The order is simple - subject followed by verb.

David threw the ball. Who threw the ball? David threw the ball.
Examples of sentences using active voice:
  1. Stephanie lost the money.
  2. Mother bought jewelry.
  3. James had sung the songs.
  4. Nellie was writing a letter.
  5. The beaver was building a dam.
  6. The hurricane had damaged seventy houses.

In passive voice, the subject (doer) isn't before the verb. The subject is absent or it may come in another part of the sentence.

The ball was thrown. The ball did what? Nothing. It was the receiver of the action. On its own, a ball can't do anything.

The sentences that follow are in the passive voice. No one knows who did the losing, the buying, or the building. It is not mentioned in the sentence before the verb. The subject is missing. The doer of the action is missing. In passive voice, the direct object of a sentence is written before the verb where the subject usually is.  #6 is still a passive voice sentence because hurricane is not before the verb damaged.

Examples of sentences using passive voice where the subject - the doer is missing.
  1. Money was lost.
  2. Jewelry was bought.
  3. The songs had been sung.
  4. The letter was being written.
  5. The dam was being built.
  6. Seventy houses had been damaged by the hurricane.
Think about it.  It's harder for people to read and figure out what's really going on when authors use the passive voice. Therefore, editors and readers prefer books written in the active voice. 

Search for the passive voice in your manuscript. If you use Microsoft Word, it has a review tool to check spelling and grammar. If a sentence is in the passive voice, it will tell you and suggest that you revise the sentence. 

If you use a blog, before you publish, it asks if you want it to show you errors. It flags sentences that are in passive voice. Remember when you change the passive voice to the active voice, put the subject (the doer) before the verb.

Active-Passive Voice Quiz for you.

Here are ten sentences: Decide if they are active or passive voice and why? The answers are below. Make all ten choices, then check the answers. If you are able to recognize the passive voice, you'll be able to kick it out of your manuscripts.

1. Jason taught the neighborhood kids how to play football.
2  At the garage sale, profits were made.
3. The firemen put the hoses down.
4. A severe weather prediction had been announced earlier.
5. A few actors whispered their words.
6. The weather man had announced a severe weather prediction earlier.
7. Words were whispered.
8. Cecilia made profits at the garage sale.
9. The hoses were put down.
10.Kids were taught how to play football.

1. Active voice. The subject is Jason.  Jason did the action. Jason taught.
2. Passive voice. No subject. No doer. It doesn't tell who made the profits.
3. Active voice. The subject is firemen. The firemen did the action. The firemen put the hose down.
4. Passive voice. No subject. No doer. It doesn't tell who made the severe weather predictions.
5. Active voice. Subject verb order. The subject is actors. Actors did the action. Actors whispered.
6. Active voice. Subject verb order. The subject is man. Man did the action. Man made.
7. Passive voice. No subject. No doer. It doesn't tell who whispered.
8. Active voice. Subject verb order. The subject is Cecilia. Cecilia did the action. Cecilia made profits.
9. Passive voice. No subject. No doer. It doesn't tell who put the hoses down.
10. Passive voice. No subject. No doer. It doesn't tell who taught the kids to play football.

Active voice clarifies meaning and makes your writing stronger. Use active voice in your sentences. Your editor and readers will thank you.

Thank you for reading this article. Please leave questions or comments. It's fun to hear from you. Good luck with your writing.

Celebrate your life.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Joan's Elder Care Guide, Release Date with 4RV Publishing, June 2014

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Writing Fiction for Children – Character Believability and Conflict

By Karen Cioffi

Writing in general is a tough craft, although many may not think so. The writer has to take individual words and craft them together to create: interest, suspense, romance, humor, grief, fantasy, other worlds . . . the list goes on and on. And, it must be done with clarity.

While there is an abundance of information about writing and writing for children, it can easily become overwhelming, and even confusing. But, getting down to the nitty-gritty, there are two basic elements or rules to writing fiction for children you need to be aware of: creating believable characters and having conflict.

Your Characters Need Believability

Your characters, especially your protagonist, need to create a bond or connection with the reader. In order to create that connection you will need to care about your characters. If you don’t, you’ll never get a reader to care. Make your characters believable and interesting.

In addition to this, you need to know your characters and remember their traits, physical characteristics, temperament, and so on. I’m sure there are instances, if you’re writing by the seat-of-your-pants rather than from an outline, where your character may do something you didn’t plan, but usually it’s a good idea to know what makes him tick.

Even the choices your protagonist makes will help define him, and create a deeper bond with the reader. Does he take the high road to reach his goals, or does he sneak in under the wire? Does he create options to choose from, or is he sweep along by the current of the story, grabbing at lifelines for survival? Are his choices a struggle? 

You can keep track of your characters’ quirky telltale marks, expressions, behavior patterns, and physical features by noting them on a character sheet as they become unveiled.

You can also create a character interview for each character. The answers to the questions will help unveil each character’s personality, traits, history, family, and so on.

Conflict is a Must

A story’s conflict is like a detour or obstacle in the road from point A to point B. The protagonist must figure out a way over, around, under, or through it.

Conflict will drive your story forward and give the reader a reason to stay involved. Conflict is basically an obstacle between your protagonist and her wants or needs. It may be a crisis, a desire, a relationship, a move, or other. It can be caused by internal or external factors. Does overcoming one obstacle/conflict lead to another? Does she have help, or are others thwarting her efforts?

Along with this, there should be more than one conflict. In writing fiction for children, there may be two or three conflicts; as one is overcome another takes its place. A good rule is to think in threes: three characters, three problems, and three solutions.

This is only the beginning and most basic of the tips that new writers of children’s fiction should be aware of. There are many more that I’ll touch on in other articles.

For more on writing and marketing, join Karen Cioffi and The Writing World for weekly tips and guidance, plus updates on free webinars. Sign-up today and get “How to Create an Optimized Website – 3 Essential Author Website Elements and 9 Must-Have Pages:”

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lessons from the Golf Course

                                    By Suzanne Y. Cordatos

For the third week in a row, a female executive in an expensive suit hops onto the driving range ten minutes late, balancing on a 4-inch stiletto heel while shoving her other foot into a stiff golf shoe. She nods at the instructor while speaking into the cell phone pressed between her ear and shoulder.
            The golf pro has lost patience, but not her sense of humor. She poses a question. “Are your clients expected to be on time for appointments? Early, right?”
            The executive nods and mutters ‘call you back’ into her phone.
            The pro holds out her hand and says, “Next week, you will arrive ten minutes early for my lesson. You will be dressed for a golf course. You will hand over your phone the minute you arrive, which will be how early?”
            “Ten minutes,” the exec replies, dropping her cell phone into the pro’s open palm.

My neighbor talked me into golf lessons this summer. When we figured out the key to a successful swing was to relax, I asked the pro, “How do CEO types relax enough to enjoy this game?” The story above was my instructor’s reply, hilarious when she acted out the details. That was the day I scored writing lessons along with my first par 3.

Writing Lesson from the Fairway

Keep true to your characters no matter what they are doing. 
People have different personalities and motivations. Characters should approach activities accordingly, whether they are skydiving, washing dishes or being treated in a hospital. How would your characters react to new situations? Brave and daring? Or timid and shy ?

If I put a team of characters together on the golf course, the individuals might:
            -Have brilliant beginner’s luck
            -Be riddled with self-negativity and despair with every swing
            -Sign up out of a golf widow’s desperate attempt to keep up with her missing husband
            -Be frustrated and curse every hole for its unfairness
            -Beat a hasty retreat to the clubhouse bar or befriend the beverage cart driver
            -Bask in the lovely scenery and quiet peacefulness of the course

Much more interesting writing fodder than a simple reporting, "Joe met his friends on the golf course every Saturday."   

More Writing Lessons     
Remember it is a game. Relax, have fun and your writer’s voice will emerge.
Each course, hole, and story is unique; approach each blank slate with confidence and the right tools.
Expect bad shots and rejections. Your best might be around the next corner!

Friday, September 6, 2013

You Have a Book Contract. Now, what?

What have I learned from getting my first book contract that I’d do better next time?


I was green as an alien. 4RV Publishing offered me my first contract in July, 2011. I'm grateful they took such a newbie under their wings.
Here’s my top ten tips:

1. Read your contract and clarify anything you don’t understand.

2. Have a professional picture and a short bio ready to go.

      3. Read any guidelines or information given by the publisher.
      4. Make friends in your local area with librarians, book store owners, and newspaper columnists before your book comes out, and you want a favor.
      5. Stay in town or with definite internet access during the last two months before release of the book.
      6. .Have an acknowledgement page ready to go when requested.
      7. Search out like books online and in book stores for what you desire in the cover art, so you’re ready with input when asked.
      8. Get reviewers and guest blogs lined up before your book releases.
      9. Consider arranging for a blog tour to announce the book
     10. Publishing is a team effort. You need the publisher, but they also need you, so don’t fear speaking up about something you don’t like or asking questions on anything you don’t understand
      11. Be ready to work as hard on the manuscript after the contract as you did before the contract.

Okay, I gave you 11. Sue me.

Does anyone else have words of wisdom to share?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Do You Really Need an Author Website?

By Karen Cioffi

There are hundreds of thousands of searches done every day and there are around 2,000 blog posts published every minute. In all that internet noise, how do you get noticed? How do you become someone's search results?

The idea of creating a website may seem overwhelming to many who are new to the writing arena. This may lead to a hesitation in regard to taking the website step.

But, don’t let fear or procrastination get in the way of your online presence. A website is a necessary online marketing element that is at the foundation of your author platform.

Here are a couple of statistics to demonstrate the need for a website if you have any intention of building an author platform:

According to, there are 694,445 Google search queries made and 1,500 blog posts published each minute.

The internet is the place for people to search globally for what they want or need. Having a website allows you to be in on that action.

If you want to create visibility for you and your book or product, a website is the initial spark that will ignite your internet presence. And, it will be the hub or central location where you will let people know who you are and what you have to offer.

To further cement the need for a website, it’s through your website that you will attract readers, get email subscribers, and sell your books and products.

There’s really no way around the fact that you need to create your author platform, and it should be before you are ready to submit your manuscript, according to Chuck Sambuchino, in his book “Create Your Writer Platform.” The reason for this is that now having an author online presence and platform is a factor in whether a publishing house will say YES to your manuscript. And, the first step in creating that author platform is to setup a website.

It’s easy to see that a website is positively, absolutely necessary, and it’s not as difficult as you may think to create one. The first step is planning.

Plan Your Way to a Website

As with any project you undertake, the first course of action should be to plan out your course of action. This is usually considered a business plan or writing plan.

Your website is your online calling card or business card. It needs to be as professional as you can get it and needs to have all the necessary elements of an effective site.

So, if you’re not familiar with websites, one of the first steps in your course of action should be to learn about all the elements needed to create an effective website.

As an example, one of the first elements that you’ll need to work on is the domain name. Choosing a domain name is serious business. It needs to be searchable, convey what the site is about, and relate to you. It should be part of your platform, your brand. And, if at all possible, it should have your keyword in it.

Other elements of an effective website include: optimization, specific pages, posting fresh content regularly, an opt-in, and a freebie.

While a website is an absolute necessity, it also needs to be effective. The saying, “if you build it they will come,” doesn’t cut it in the internet world. Your site needs to attract visitors, be engaging / informative, be reader friendly, and convert. It needs to be planned out and optimized.

Need to build or increase your author platform. Need to boost visibility and traffic to your website? Check out Karen Cioffi's: Create and Build Your Author Online Platform

And, for more writing and marketing tips visit