Sandra Gerth author of the Writer's Guides Series

Participle problems in fiction

You’ve probably heard of dangling participles, but participles can create other problems in fiction too. Before I dive more deeply into that, let me explain what a participle is. Present participles are forms of verbs that are formed by adding -ing. Example: Hoping for a happy ending, she read the last scene. Using participle phrases isn’t bad per se, but you should use them only for actions that happen at the same time as the action in the main clause. That’s called a simultaneous action. Example: Correct: Holding the tray steadily, she walked toward Drew. Since she can hold the …

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20 tips for proofreading your manuscript

Whether you’re self-publishing or submitting your manuscript to a traditional publisher, proofreading your work is important. A carefully proofread book makes you look professional and shows readers and publishers that you care about the quality of your work. Proofreading your own manuscript is not easy, though. After spending months or even years writing your book, you’re very familiar with the text. You see what you think you have written rather than what’s actually on the page. Here are 20 proofreading tips that can make the process easier: Put your manuscript aside for at least a week after you finish writing. …

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10 tips for winning NaNoWriMo

It’s November 1, and that means NaNoWriMo—NationalNovel Writing Month—is starting today. If you are participating, here are 10 tips on how to win NaNoWriMo and write 50,000 words in November. Set a daily writing goal. To complete 50,000 words on November 30, you’ll have to write an average of 1,667 words each day of November. If that daily goal looks too big and overwhelming, break it up into smaller goals. For example, you could do four 500-word writing sprints throughout the day. Celebrate the milestones along the way to your 50,000-word goal. Reward yourself for reaching each milestone. For example, …

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Fast-drafting or writing slowly?

Writers are often advised to write a first fast draft and get down the bones of the story as quickly as possible without stopping to revise, edit, or look up things, and then take their time revising. Other writers prefer to write slowly and edit as they go, polishing each paragraph before moving on. So I interviewed ten of my fellow Ylva Publishing writers to find out where they fall on the spectrum of “writing at warp speed” vs. “writing slowly and polishing as they go.” Read on for a variety of interesting answers. Caren Werlinger, author of Turning for …

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Writing progress spreadsheet

Fall has begun, and that means that NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – is approaching fast! I have participated several times and have made the 50,000-word goal every time. There’s just something about this mix of competition and support from half a million fellow writers that is a great motivator. Part of it is that NaNoWriMo allows you to track the progress in your novel’s word count. But not every month can be November, so writers have to come up with another way to track their word count for the rest of the year. It might be a bit …

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How to keep track of your writing progress and why you should

Most authors I know keep track of their word count in some way. If you don’t already, here are some reasons why you might want to start. Seeing your word count grow is a wonderful motivator that will keep you going. Often, you don’t realize how far you have already come while you’re in the middle of the process, so you need to look back every once in a while and see how much you have accomplished. Keeping score makes you more competitive—not just in sports, but when it comes to writing too. Tracking your progress provides you with knowledge …

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How and why to avoid autonomous body parts in your writing

You have probably all experienced it: you’re reading a book—maybe a romance or a mystery novel—and suddenly, you grind to a halt and wonder where all these zombies are coming from. I’m talking about sentences like these: Her eyes followed Kathryn around the room. Her fist knocked on the door. He dropped his eyes to the floor. His arms wrapped around her hips. The wording of these sentences makes it appear as if the body parts take on a life of their own and act independently of the character. It can cause comical images to flash through readers’ minds and …

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Avoid filter words in your writing

If you’re anything like I am, you probably read a lot of books or blog posts about writing. One thing I rarely see mentioned anywhere are so-called filters, so I thought I’d blog about it today. Filters have to do with point of view. What is point of view? Basically, point of view is the “camera angle” from which we see the action when we read a book. Most romance novels are written in third-person limited POV—we witness everything through the eyes of one single character per scene. It’s called “limited” because we are limited to the mind of one …

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How to set goals for your writing

Happy new year, everyone! The first few days of a new year are always exciting for me. Like most people, I use this time to make resolutions and set goals for the year ahead. Many writers I know set goals for 2015 too, and I think that’s important. Without goals that keep us moving forward, it’s too easy to procrastinate and put off starting that book or finally finishing it. With the right goals, you’ll keep moving forward and achieve your dreams, not just in your writing life, but in all other areas of your life too. So what does …

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Building habits without losing your marbles

The new year is quickly approaching and with it the time to make New Year’s resolutions. Most writers I know, myself included, set goals for the new year. Several want to get into the habit of writing every day or meet a certain word-count goal each day in 2015. So, basically, they want to form better, more productive writing habits. Habits can be a wonderful thing for writers. They are things we do automatically, without thinking, so they no longer require so much mental effort. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could sit down and write every day, producing page …

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