Common Writing Mistakes

Most books aren’t rejected because the stories are “bad. ” They’re rejected because they’re not “ready to read. ” In short, minor stuff like typos, grammar, spelling, etc.
I don’t mean places where we, as authors, deliberately break the rules. Those are fine. That’s part of our job. Language always changes with use, and we can help it on its way. No, I’m referring to places where someone just plain didn’t learn the rule or got confused or overlooked it during the self-edits.
I’ve been editing novels for over three years. Looking back at my experiences, I feel like sharing the most common mistakes I’ve seen. If you’ll go through your manuscript and fix these before you submit it to a publisher, your odds of publication will increase dramatically.
Once you’ve found a publisher who publishes what you write, you want to present yourself in the best way possible. Submitting an unedited manuscript is a bit like going to a job interview wearing a purple Mohawk, no shoes, torn jeans, and a dirty T-shirt. Your resume may be perfect, and your qualifications impeccable, but something tells me you won’t get the job.
The publisher is investing a lot in every book it accepts. E-publishers tend to invest loads of time, and print publishers tend to invest an advertising budget and the cost of carrying a large inventory. Why ask them to invest hours and days of editing time as well? If the publisher gets two or three or ten nearly identical books, you want yours to be the one requiring the least editing.
The first thing you need to do, and I hope you’ve already done it, is use the spelling and grammar checkers in your word processor. This will catch many of the “common mistakes” on my list. But I’ve been asked to edit many books where the author obviously didn’t do this, and I confess that I may well have been lazy and let a couple of mine get to my editors unchecked. Bad Michael!
There are some other valuable lists at the following websites:
Common Errors in English wsu. edu/~brians/errors
Words That Are Often Confused lbarker. orcon. net. nz/words. html
Here’s a list of the mistakes I see most often.
* Dialogue where everyone speaks in perfect English and never violates any of the bullet points below. Okay, I made that up. That’s not really a common problem at all. But I have seen it, and it’s a terrible thing.
* It’s is a contraction for “it is” and its is possessive.
* Who’s is a contraction for “who is” and whose is possessive.
* You’re is a contraction for “you are” and your is possessive.
* They’re is a contraction for “they are,” there is a place, their is possessive.
* There’s is a contraction for “there is” and theirs is possessive.
* If you’ve been paying attention to the above examples, you’ve noticed that possessive pronouns never use apostrophes. Its, whose, your, yours, their, theirs. . .
* Let’s is a contraction for “let us. “
* When making a word plural by adding an s, don’t use an apostrophe. (The cats are asleep. )
* When making a word possessive by adding an s, use an apostrophe. (The cat’s bowl is empty. )
* A bath is a noun, what you take. Bathe is a verb, the action you do when taking or giving a bath.
* A breath is a noun, what you take. Breathe is a verb, the action you do when taking a breath.
* You wear clothes. When you put them on, you clothe yourself. They are made of cloth.
* Whenever you read a sentence with the word “that,” ask yourself if you can delete that word and still achieve clarity. If so, kill it. The same can be said of all sentences. If you can delete a word without changing the meaning or sacrificing clarity, do it. “And then” is a phrase worth using your word processor’s search feature to look for.
* Keep an eye on verb tenses. “He pulled the pin and throws the grenade” is not a good sentence.
* Keep an eye on making everything agree regarding singular and plural. “My cat and my wife is sleeping,” “My cat sleep on the sofa,” and “My wife is a beautiful women” are not good sentences. (I exaggerate in these examples, but you know what I mean. )
* I and me, he and him, etc. I hope no editor is rejecting any novels for this one, because I suspect that most people get confused at times. In dialogue, do whatever the heck you want because it sounds more “natural. ” But for the sake of your narrative, I’ll try to explain the rule and the cheat. The rule involves knowing whether your pronoun is the subject or object. When Jim Morrison of The Doors sings, “til the stars fall from the sky for you and I,” he’s making a good rhyme but he’s using bad grammar. According to the rule, “you and I” is the object of the preposition “for,” thus it should be “for you and me. ” The cheat involves pretending “you and” isn’t there, and just instinctively knowing “for I” just doesn’t sound right. (I think only native English speakers can use my cheat. For the record, I have great admiration for authors writing in languages that aren’t their native tongues. )
* Should of, would of, could of. This one can make me throw things. It’s wrong! What you mean is should have, would have, could have. Or maybe you mean the contractions. Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve. And maybe ‘ve sounds a bit like of. But it’s not! Of is not a verb. Not now, not ever.
* More, shorter sentences are better. Always. Don’t ask a single sentence to do too much work or advance the action too much, because then you’ve got lots of words scattered about like “that” and “however” and “because” and “or” and “as” and “and” and “while,” much like this rather pathetic excuse for a sentence right here.
* On a similar (exaggerated) note: “He laughed a wicked laugh as he kicked Ralphie in the face while he aimed the gun at Lerod and pulled the trigger and then laughed maniacally as Lerod twisted in agony because of the bullet that burned through his face and splattered his brains against the wall and made the wall look like an overcooked lasagne or an abstract painting. ” Now tell me this sentence isn’t trying to do too much.
* Too means also, two is a number, to is a preposition.
* He said/she said. Use those only when necessary to establish who’s speaking. They distract the reader, pulling him out of the story and saying, “Hey look, you’re reading a book. ” Ideally, within the context of the dialogue, we know who’s talking just by the style or the ideas. When a new speaker arrives on the scene, identify him or her immediately. Beyond that, keep it to a minimum. Oh yeah, and give every speaker his/her own paragraph.
* Billy-Bob smiled his most winning smile and said, “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” I don’t like this. Use two shorter sentences in the same paragraph. Billy-Bob smiled his most winning smile. “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” Same effect, fewer words, no dialogue tag (he said).
* In the previous example, I don’t like “smiled his most winning smile,” because it’s redundant and also cliched. Please, if you find yourself writing something like that, try to find a better way to express it before you just give up and leave it like it is. During the self-edit, I mean, not during the initial writing.
* “The glow-in-the-dark poster of Jesus glowed in the dark. ” This editor won’t let that one go. Much too redundant, and it appeared in a published novel.
* Lie is what you do when you lie down on the bed, lay is what you do to another object that you lay on the table. Just to confuse matters, the past tense of lie is lay. Whenever I hit a lay/lie word in reading, I stop and think. Do that when you self-edit. (Note: Don’t fix this one in dialogue unless your character is quite well-educated, because most people say it wrong. I do. )
* Beware of the dangling modifier. “Rushing into the room, the exploding bombs dropped seven of the soldiers. ” Wait a minute! The bombs didn’t rush into the room. The soldiers did. To get all technical about it, the first part is the “dependent clause,” and it must have the same subject as the “independent clause” which follows. Otherwise it’s amateur, distracting, and a real pain for your poor overworked editor.
* If you are able (many readers are not), keep an eye out for missing periods, weird commas, closing quotes, opening quotes, etc. When I read a book, be it an ebook or a printed book, I can’t help but spot every single one that’s missing. They slap me upside the head, which makes me a great editor but a lousy reader. If you’re like me, use that to your advantage. If not, that’s what editors are for!

About Writing

In this free email course, I’ll tell you everything I know about improving your writing, publishing it electronically and in print, and promoting it after the sale.
Two questions you should ask:
(1) What will it cost me?
(2) What does this Michael LaRocca guy know about it?
Answer #1 — It won’t cost you a thing. The single most important bit of advice I can give you, and I say it often, is don’t pay for publication.
My successes have come from investing time. Some of it was well spent, but most of it was wasted. It costs me nothing to share what I’ve learned. It costs you nothing to read it except some of your time.
Answer #2 — “Michael LaRocca has been researching the publishing field for over ten years. “
This quote, from an ezine (electronic newsletter) called Authors Wordsmith, was a kind way of saying I’ve received a lot of rejections. Also, my “research” required 20 years.
But in my “breakout” year (2000), I finished writing four books and scheduled them all for publication in 2001. Then I spent almost a year as an editor and Author Development Specialist for one of my publishers.
After my first book was published, both my publishers closed. Two weeks and three publishers later, I was back on track. All four books were republished, and a fifth will be released in 2004. Written in 2003, no rejections.
See how much faster it was the second time around? That’s because I learned a lot.
2004 EPPIE Award finalist. 2002 EPPIE Award finalist. Listed by Writers Digest as one of The Best 101 Websites For Writers in 2001 and 2002. Sime-Gen Readers Choice Awards for Favorite Author (Nonfiction & Writing) and Favorite Book (Nonfiction & Writing). 1982 Who’s Who In American Writing.
Excuse me for bragging, but it beats having you think I’m unqualified.
Also, I found more editing jobs. That’s what I do when I’m not writing, doing legal transcription, or teaching English in China (my new home). But the thing is, if I’d become an editor before learning how to write, I’d have stunk.
I’ll tell you what’s missing from this course. What to write about, where I get my ideas from, stuff like that. Maybe I don’t answer this question because I think you should do it your way, not mine. Or maybe because I don’t know how I do it. Or maybe both.
Once you’ve done your writing bit, this course will help you with all the other stuff involved in being a writer. Writing involves wearing at least four different hats. Writer, editor, publication seeker, post-sale self-promoter.
Here’s what I can tell you about my writing.
Sometimes a story idea just comes to me out of nowhere and refuses to leave me alone until I write it. So, I do.
And, whenever I read a book that really fires me up, I find myself thinking, “I wish I could write like that. ” So, I just keep trying. I’ll never write the best, but I’ll always write my best. And get better every time. That’s the “secret” of the writing “business,” same as any other business. Always deliver the goods.
I read voraciously, a habit I recommend to any author who doesn’t already have it. You’ll subconsciously pick up on what does and doesn’t work. Characterization, dialogue, pacing, plot, story, setting, description, etc. But more importantly, someone who doesn’t enjoy reading will never write something that someone else will enjoy reading.
I don’t write “for the market. ” I know I can’t, so I just write for me and then try to find readers who like what I like. I’m not trying to whip up the next bestseller and get rich. Not that I’d complain. Nope, I have to write what’s in my heart, then go find a market later. It makes marketing a challenge at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When you write, be a dreamer. Go nuts. Know that you’re writing pure gold. That fire is why we write.
An author who I truly admire, Kurt Vonnegut, sweats out each individual sentence. He writes it, rewrites it, and doesn’t leave it alone until it’s perfect. Then when he’s done, he’s done.
I doubt most of write like that. I don’t. I let it fly as fast as my fingers can move across the paper or keyboard, rushing to capture my ideas before they get away. Later, I change and shuffle and slice.
James Michener claims that he writes the last sentence first, then has his goal before him as he writes his way to it.
Then there’s me. No outline whatsoever. I create characters and conflict, spending days and weeks on that task, until the first chapter really leaves me wondering “How will this end?” Then my characters take over, and I’m as surprised as the reader when I finish my story.
Some authors set aside a certain number of hours every day for writing, or a certain number of words. In short, a writing schedule.
Then there’s me. No writing for three or six months, then a flurry of activity where I forget to eat, sleep, bathe, change the cat’s litter. . . I’m a walking stereotype. To assuage the guilt, I tell myself that my unconscious is hard at work. As Hemingway would say, long periods of thinking and short periods of writing.
I’ve shown you the extremes in writing styles. I think most authors fall in the middle somewhere. But my point is, find out what works for you. You can read about how other writers do it, and if that works for you, great. But in the end, find your own way. That’s what writers do.
Just don’t do it halfway.
If you’re doing what I do, writing a story that entertains and moves you, then you will find readers who share your tastes. For some of us that means a niche market and for others it means regular appearances on the bestseller list.
Writing is a calling, but publishing is a business. Remember that AFTER you’ve written your manuscript. Not during.
I’ve told you how I write. For me.
The next step is self-editing. Fixing all the mistakes I made, that I can identify, in my rush to write it before my Muse took a holiday. Several rewrites. Running through it repeatedly with a fine-toothed comb.
Then what?
There are stories that get rejected because the potential publisher hates them, but far more are shot down for other reasons. Stilted dialogue. Boring descriptions. Weak characters. Underdeveloped story. Unbelievable or inconsistent plot. Sloppy writing.
That’s what you have to fix.
After my fifteen-year hiatus from writing, I started by using Free Online Creative Writing Workshops. What I needed most was input from strangers. After all, once you’re published, your readers will be strangers. Every publisher you submit to will be a stranger. What will they think? I was far too close to my writing to answer that.
Whenever I got some advice, I considered it. Some I just threw out as wrong, or because I couldn’t make the changes without abandoning part of what made the story special to me. Some I embraced. But the point is, I decided. It was my writing.
After a time, I didn’t feel the need for the workshops anymore. I’m fortunate enough to have a wife whose advice I will always treasure, and after a while that was all I needed. But early on, it would’ve been unfair to ask her to read my drivel. (Not that I didn’t anyway. )
I don’t know how far along you are in your writing, but if you’ve never used a workshop, I keep a list of them at freereads. topcities. com/creativewritingonline. html.
Your goal when you self-edit is to get your book as close to “ready to read” as you possibly can. You want your editor to find what you overlooked, not what you didn’t know about.
To that end, I offer two resources.
freereads. topcities. com/usefullinksforauthors. html contains links to online quotations, grammar and style guides, dictionaries, encyclopedias, thesauruses, scam warnings, writer groups, copyright stuff, etc.
freereads. topcities. com/commonwritingmistakes. html contains a list of the most common mistakes I’ve seen in my years as an editor. I still reread it from time to time just so I don’t forget.
Your story is your story. You write it from your heart, and when it looks like something you’d enjoy reading, you set out to find a publisher who shares your tastes. What you don’t want is for that first reader to lose sight of what makes your story special because you’ve bogged it down with silly mistakes.
Authors don’t pay to be published. They are paid for publication. Always. It’s just that simple. And later, I’ll tell you where to get some free editing.
But there’s a limit to how much editing you can get without paying for it. Do you need more than that? I don’t know because I’ve never seen your writing. But if you evaluate it honestly, I Think you’ll know the answer.
As an editor, I’ve worked with some authors who simply couldn’t self-edit. A non-native English speaker, a guy who slept through English class, whatever. To them, maybe paying for editing was an option. This isn’t paying for publication. This is paying for a service, training. Just like paying to take a Creative Writing class at the local community college.
By the way, I don’t believe creativity can be taught. Writing, certainly. I took my Creative Writing class in high school, free, and treasure it. But I already had the creativity, or else it would’ve been a waste of the teacher’s time and mine.
If you hire an editor worthy of the name, you should learn from that editor how to self-edit in the future. In my case it took two tries, because the first editor was a rip-off artist charging over ten times market value for incomplete advice.
That editor, incidentally, is named Edit Ink, and they’re listed on many of the “scam warning” sites mentioned at Useful Links For Authors. They took kickbacks from every fake agent who sent them a client. (I’ll talk about fake agents later. )
If you choose to hire an editor, check price and reputation. And consider that you might never make enough selling your books to get back what you pay that editor. Do you care? That’s your decision.
The first, most important step on the road to publication is to make your writing the best it can be.
My goal is to be published in both mediums, ebook and print. There are some readers who prefer ebooks, and some who prefer print books. The latter group is much larger, but those publishers are harder to sell your writing to. I want both, because I want all the readers I can get.
Thus, I advocate something of a stepping-stone approach. Publish electronically with a quality place, enjoy the benefits of free editing and almost instant gratification regarding publishing time.
Later, if you think you can sell your book to a traditional print publisher, you have a professionally edited manuscript to submit.
Before you epublish, check the contract to be sure you can publish the edited work in print later.
If you know your book just plain won’t ever make it into traditional print, print-on-demand (POD) is an option. Some of my books fall into this category. The best epublishers will simultaneously publish your work electronically and in POD format, at no cost to you.
A lot of authors swear by self-publication, but the prospect just plain scares me. All that promo, all that self-editing, maybe driving around the countryside with a back seat full of books. I’m a writer, not a salesman. But, maybe you’re different.
I self-published once, in the pre-POD days. Mom handled the sales. I had fun and broke even. With POD, at least it’s cheaper to self-publish than it was in 1989.
If you’re flying solo, POD can range anywhere from US$99 to over $1000. Don’t pay the higher price! Price shop. Also, remember that POD places publish any author who pays, and do no marketing.

Print Publishing vs Electronic Publishing
freereads. topcities. com/printpublishing_electronicpublishing. html
This site provides a comparison of the two mediums. Each has plusses and minuses. Even if you already know what epublishing is, take a look.
Electronic Publishers
freereads. topcities. com/onlinefictionbooks. html
A list of the ones I believe are reputable and my criteria for selecting them. Plus, a link to award-winning author Piers Anthony’s totally excellent in-depth analysis of many more epublishers than I’ll ever list.
How To Break Into Print Publishing
freereads. topcities. com/printpublishing. html
If you’re at the beginning of my stepping-stone approach, seeking an epublisher, you’ll probably just want to bookmark this one for a year or two. That’s fine, because it’s not going anywhere. I plan to use it myself in a year or two. If, on the other hand, you’re ready for traditional print, use it now and I wish you success!
Print-On-Demand Publishing
freereads. topcities. com/printondemand. html
What is it? Should you use it? If so, how? What to beware of if you do.
It doesn’t matter how you publish your book. Self-published, epublished, POD, or traditional print publishing from an absolute powerhouse. Marketing falls largely on you, and the same things always work. Book signings, interviews in the local newspapers and on radio.
Start with kidon. com/media-link/index. shtml. It will allow you to look up all the local media outlets in your area that have websites.
If you write to them all, you’re a spammer. Plus, it’ll take ages. Look for the ones with a legitimate interest and fire away.
If you find a stale URL, and I think you will, look for the name of that media outlet at some place like Google. Spend some time looking for the right press contacts, spend some time writing your press release, and do what you can.
Most of these sites list email, snail mail, and phone calls. Since I live in China, I’ve only used email.
Book reviews, author interviews, book listing sites, and book contests are something we can all do, regardless of where we live. Again, I’m going to give you some web pages to visit. Pages where I keep my resources, so I don’t lose them. Some of the sites I mention do ebooks, and some do not. The POD option can help e-authors here, but balance cost vs. likelihood of gaining enough readers to offset that.
Some are ezines and some are websites. Some are printed newsletters, some are printed magazines, and some are newspapers. This is just a starting point. If you visit them all, and you have time for more promotion, you can find many more.
Book Reviewers, Author Interviews, Book Listing Sites freereads. topcities. com/bookreview. html
Book Contests freereads. topcities. com/bookcontests. html
Okay, let’s get back to my overseas angle. Aside from two radio interviews and a seminar in Hong Kong, and some emailed press releases to the LOCAL media back in the US which may or may not have succeeded in anything, my marketing has come from the Internet.
I have a website. I have a newsletter. I’m giving away a free ebook, the essence of which you’re reading now. You found me somehow, right?
Here’s the type of message I receive often in email. To be more precise, in spam.
If a million people see your ad, and you get 1% of them, that’s 10,000 readers and therefore $15,000 profit and you only paid $1000 for those million addresses.
NO!! It doesn’t work that way. Need I use the words dot-com bust?
My website is free. My newsletter is free. I don’t buy mailing lists, I don’t harvest email addresses, and I don’t spam. I want interested traffic, not just sheer numbers.
Do you think the Phoenicians tried to sell sails to people a thousand miles from the water?
Internet marketing isn’t a replacement for the methods mentioned above, but a complement to them. And by using it, I got you here.
Your goal in marketing is this. There are certainly people in the world who like what you like. And since you like your book, they probably will too.
But you have to find those readers and make them interested, without spamming them and without just “playing the numbers game. “
If you’re an e-author, let me state the obvious. Nobody buys ebooks who doesn’t have Internet access. Do they? So you definitely need a website.
Traditional print authors need websites too. Even blockbuster authors like J. R. Rowling and Stephen King, who I doubt could garner any more name recognition, have websites. So does every long-established inescapable monstro-business like McDonalds and Coke.
Okay, those folks pay web designers. I’m not doing that. I can’t generate those kinds of sales figures. And yes, I’ve formerly been employed as an HTML programmer. But you can write your own website without even learning HTML if you want. It’s no harder than writing a manuscript with a word processor.
It won’t be super-flashy like the big boys, but it’ll communicate the information. Remember, you can communicate. You’re an author! And that’s what keeps people coming back to a website after the thrill of the flash wears off. Information. Content. Your specialty.
I consider my website and my newsletter to be successful, and I’ve created a free email course to analyze how they got that way. Yes, there are legitimate ways to bring traffic to your website and your newsletter. Not massive numbers overnight, but slow steady growth over the long term.
We’ve been talking about soft sell.
Now, at the end of my free workshop, I’ll tell you about 2 URLs that I think will help you and one that won’t. You can decide if any are worth a visit.
After that, I’ll get back to the lesson.
Books OnLine Directory
freereads. topcities. com/
You’ve been to parts of it already and seen that it delivers something you’re looking for. (I hope. ) Don’t forget to go back from time to time.
Mad About Books
freereads. topcities. com/archive. html
My free weekly email newsletter will keep you up-to-date on the latest info as I find it. Plus, it has a certain goofy charm that the website lacks.
Both URLs mention my books, but in the background. I hope you’ll look one day out of curiosity or because you really like my generous nature, but it’s not mandatory. Soft sell.
From Watha, NC, USA to Shaoxing, Zhejiang, China
michaeljan. topcities. com
This site doesn’t mention writing at all. I wrote it for my students. I teach English in China, and this is where I tell all about it. Along with a hefty helping of personal history and photos. How I got here, how I quit a job via email to marry a lovely Australian, dog and cat photos, stuff like that. Just for fun. It won’t help you a bit.
Now let’s get back to your writing. That’s why you’re here.
Here’s something you’ve heard before. When your manuscript is rejected — and it will be — remember that you aren’t being rejected. Your manuscript is.
One reader took me to task for that statement, claiming he’d never been rejected in his life. I’m very happy for him. But why, if I may be so bold as to ask, would he need advice on How To Get Published? I’d rather he write some advice so I can hang up my “helper guy” hat and learn from a master.
But I digress. You aren’t being rejected, I was saying. Your manuscript is.
Did you ever hang up the phone on a telemarketer, delete spam, or close the door in the face of a salesman? Of course, and yet that salesman just moves on to the next potential customer. He knows you’re rejecting his product, not him.
Okay, in my case I’m rejecting both, but I’d never do that to an author. Neither will a publisher or an agent. All authors tell other authors not to take rejection personally, and yet we all do. Consider it a target to shoot for, then. Just keep submitting, and just keep writing.
The best way to cope with waiting times is to “submit and forget,” writing or editing other stuff while the time passes.
And finally, feel free to send an e-mail to me anytime. michaellarocca@yawweb. org. I’ll gladly share what I know with you, and it won’t cost you a cent.
I would wish you luck in your publishing endeavors, but I know there’s no luck involved. It’s all skill and diligence.
Congratulations on completing the course! No ceremonies, no degrees, and no diplomas. But on the bright side, no student loan to repay.

Mainstream media has become a single-minded authority on how we should perceive life

Mainstream media has become a single-minded authority on how we should perceive life. Theirs is a negative perspective. Could there be a new way of hearing the stories we feel are relevant in our lives?

If you’re anything like me you are really getting tired of the mainstream media’s one-voice-to-many analysis of life on Earth. First of all, it’s just too negative! I read a survey recently that stated that fourteen out of fifteen newspaper and TV News stories had negative fear-based stories. I don’t know about you, but if I look at my everyday life, the amount of good and bad I experience seems to be much more balanced. Why does the big’ media think we all love hearing the dark side of things so much?
If you look at what news stories truly are in historical terms, it is a person sitting around the tribal campfire at night telling a tale to inform the people both in wisdom and knowledge. In any tribe there were many storytellers, so different perspectives were always available to the masses. Well, if you think today’s media sources are too monopolized in their power of authority over the stories we are told, there’s a new option for humanity. The answers and views we are seeking in our daily lives could lie in the Internet. This Internet thing really could be the key for humanity to evolving into a species that thinks independently, leaving this age of fear behind.
It’s time to bypass the main media sources. On the Web we can access non-profit news organizations, we can hear personal views of individuals in news forums and blogs, we can even express our own views on world issues as well as sharing our own personal experiences! With this newly accepted technology called RSS Readers we can start to get the type of information that we feel is most relevant to ourselves as individuals. It comes straight to us and then we can sort through it and decide which people and sources we want to hear from on a regular basis. This is awesome as it means we don’t have to search through a bunch of stories that have little interest to us. It also means if we want to hear more positivism, we can push the negative views out of our perceptions.
Although this idea is in its infancy, the repercussions once realized could have a mammoth impact on how individual humans see and live their lives on Earth. Imagine a society that stretches across the globe where a collective consciousness speaks to itself in an informative many-to-many communicative process. There are a lot of happy, positive, intelligent people in this world who are interested in similar things to you. Wouldn’t you like to hear their stories and share their knowledge as a way of constructing your view of reality?
Let’s leave behind this era of negative perspectives and singular authorities telling us how life on Earth should be viewed. It is interesting that some of the most over-wealthy, greedy individuals media moguls who tell us what is important. Don’t you want to have a say in how you look at your life while you are here? Positivism and wisdom surrounds us at all times. Would the Universe exist otherwise? Lets reconnect with that source of energy that makes us smile so many times each day. If life were meant to have so bleak an outlook, would there even be stars in the sky?

English Has Come A Long, Long Way

I often wonder what would happen if Shakespeare were to be transported in a time machine to our world today. What would he think? How would he react?
Yes, Willie would probably tell me “thou hast too much time on thy hands if thou spendeth it wondering about such flights of fancy. ” But only after he found his feet.
You see, Willie would be blown away by some of the comforts we take for granted. For instance, that box we walk into. The doors close all by themselves. . . just like magic. When they open, we are magically in a different place.
“What callest thou this contraption?” Willie would ask in utter amazement.
An elevator. You would think nothing would phase a man who just landed his time machine 400 years into the future.
“Ah, I see. It was not magic after all. It elevated us, because it is an elevator. “
This Willie guy is pretty handy with his English, isn’t he? But that won’t get him far these days. A hundred years ago, even fifty, he could have figured out just about every new word by tracing its roots (often to Greek or Latin). But not today.
“What are those. . . those. . . those, things?”
Why that’s a TV, with a VCR and a DVD player. Over there, it’s a CD player, an AM and FM radio and an amp. This is a PC, with CDRW and floppy drives, a powerful CPU, A and C drive, and more RAM than a MAC.
“What? Thy alphabet seems a bit confusing. “
Once upon a time, the meaning of a word could always be guessed by simply tracing the entomology of the word back to its lowest roots.
“Thou meanest ‘etymology’, dost thou not? Entomology is the study of insects and bugs. “
I knew that.
I took out a ‘Kleenex’ because my nose was running.
“But how dost thy nose run?”
I suppose the same way I drivest on a parkway and parkest in the driveway. Or how it doesn’t matter whether we fill in a form or fill out a form. . . either way, the taxman gets the last laugh.
I offered to take Willie for a ride.
“That is more like it. There is nothing quite like a horse under one’s bottom. ‘
No, no, no. We don’t ride horses anymore. That is a barbaric way to treat such majestic beasts. Now we drive cars. . . and kill the horses off with the exhaust.
“I have no idea what you are talking about. “
Just have a seat in the BMW, Willie, while I turn on the AC and rev up the RPMs on this old V6. Before you know it, we’ll be doing 100 mph down the 102.
“More letters and numbers. Have words become redundant in the future?”
Pretty much. As life got more and more complicated, words got more and more complicated. Pretty soon it was taking several minutes just to pronounce a single government department. So real word groups had to be replaced by acronyms the first letter of each word. Pass me a CANDY.
“What does CANDY stand for?”
Candy, actually. But maybe I should just leave old Willie guessing. After all, there is just so much to discover in this brave new world. Like why there are so few sundials around. And why some people sleep on the street, while other climb 34 stories to an office tower above to sleep at their desks. And just how do they shrink those liquor bottles for the airlines.
“What is an RSVP? And ASAP? And TLC?”
I had to find just the right way to explain to him that all these crazy letters actually made some kind of sense.
Internal Department of Income Overhaul Transfer Systems.
“Ah, IDIOTS. Now, that I understand!”

The Three Cs of Writing an Excellent all Purpose Headline

Since the headline is the first contact your readers have with your message, it must reach out to them. Promise them a benefit. Tell them how they will be better off if they read the rest of the ad. Use action verbs. Save ten dollars is a stronger heading than Savings of ten dollars because of the verb.
Headlines can be classified into the following five basic types; effective headlines frequently combine two or more of these kinds.
News Headlines
This form tells the reader something he or she did not know before. Using the word news does not make it a news headline. “Now – a copy machine that copies in color” is an example of this type headline.
Advice and Promise Headline
Here you are promising something if the reader follows the advice in your ad. “Switch to Amoco premium, no-lead gasoline, and your car will stop pinging. “
Selective Headline
This headline limits the audience to a specific group. For example: “To all gray-haired men over forty. ” Caution! Be absolutely sure you do not eliminate potential customers with this type of headline.
Curiosity Headline
The intent here is to arouse the reader’s interest enough to make him or her read the ad. The danger is that this headline often appears “cute” or “clever” and fails in its mission. An example: “Do you have trouble going to sleep at night?”
Command or Demand Headline
Watch out for this one as most people resist pushiness, especially in advertising. “Do it now!” or “Buy this today!” This headline generally can be improved by changing to less obtrusive wording such as: “Call for your key to success!”
One common misconception about headlines is that they must be short and easy to understand. This is not always true. Here is a headline that was used extensively in print ads by Ogilvy and Mather for one of their clients: At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.
There are three primary reasons for using illustrations in an advertisement.

To attract attention to the ad.
To illustrate the item being featured.
To create a mood in the mind of the reader.

Everyone has heard, A picture is worth a thousand words; in advertising, the illustration frequently helps the reader visualize the benefits promised. You can almost feel the warmth of the tropical sun when you see the photos in January travel ads. Cost and practicality may dictate whether your ad uses photographs, artists’ drawings or merely canned artwork. Any of these can make the ad more appealing to the reader’s eye.
If you follow the three principles of good copy, your ads will be effective:

Good copy should be clear.
Good copy should be crisp.
Good copy should be concise.

Clear, crisp and concise . . . the three Cs of copy writing suggest that the words in your advertising message merely do a good job of communicating. Do not use big words when small words can make your meaning clear. Use colorful, descriptive terms. Use the number of words necessary to make your meaning clear and no more-but also no less! Selecting the right words is critical to the success of the ads. Recent research conducted at Yale University found that the following 12 words are the most personal and persuasive words in our language.

You Discovery Safety
Money Proven Results
Love Guarantee Save
New Easy Health

Notice the overused word free is not on the list.

How Ghost Writing Articles And Booklets Can Earn You Big Money!

Do you want to make $5000, $10,000 or more every month as a freelancer? Does your current published materials earn you that much or are you still struggling looking for new jobs every month? Well, ghost writing articles and books for businesses could earn you a lot of money and end your painful quest for writing jobs.
Making money as a freelance writer can be tough especially for newbies with no samples or prior experience. Most editors want published writers with a proven track record. And the few acceptances you will receive may get you paid $50 or $100 an article. With these figures you can only imagine whether you can make a living freelancing.
Well, its not all doom and gloom as there are other better alternatives. One of these, is ghost writing of articles, books, manuals, e. t. c. for business for fees ranging from $500 to $5000 or even more for big work. A single how-to article could be ghost written for businesses for a fee of $1500 or $3000 depending on the work involved writing and the publications placed in. Surely this is much more than many magazine and newspaper editors pay for single articles from newbies. Sell four or five articles per month and you can consider going full time into freelancing.
To begin with, you need to identify a niche area of you expertise . It could be in medical writing, business writing or a narrow area which you are knowledgeable in or you can make easy inroads into. Not that this limits your market potential but having a niche area of specialization would make it easier to operate, as you will be constantly drawing ideas from a rich and ready knowledge base.
Next, you should research a few ideas and convert them into a few how-to articles in your market niche. Post the finished articles to article submission databases such as:

ideamarketers. com
marketing-seek. com
goarticles. com
ezinearticles. com
articlecity. com

Use the published articles as samples of your writing ability and work. At the same time the articles will be picked and published in hundreds of ezines and high traffic sites, thus gaining free publicity for you and your business.
To get business you will need to send letters or e-mails to your local businesses and even those beyond with proposals to write articles for them. Explain to them the benefits of your business such as boosting their business’s image and credibility as well as generate leads for later follow – up. Enclose a few samples, a tentative contract agreement and a cover letter.
You can also purchase or rent business names and addresses from direct mail list brokers, fish out names from your business and yellow pages directory.
Before writing to them, you could do some background check and find out the status and details of the business. If they have a website, you could check it out and get the name of their marketing executive. Address your letter to him/her and offer to call or visit for a detailed business presentation. For businesses which are far away, you could refer them to you website or offer to send them more information by post or e-mail.
Once you have secured the business’s acceptance and you have signed a contract, you should ask them to send to you brochures, press releases, manuals, e. t. c. Write down a list of questions and send to the marketing executive seeking answers about the business or industry.
You can also do further research at the local library, online libraries and databases and read trade and industry publications for further information to write an outline for a how to-article.
However, do not make a mistake to think that the article will be about your client or load it with so many facts that bore you reader. That could be suitable for a custom -made booklet, manual or newsletter for the client. For articles, it is a different matter. Offer tips, solutions to consumer or business problems or give a valuable insight into a common issue or problem. The article could be about self-improvement, making more money, improving health, planning finances, training e. t. c.
The article would contain the client’s by line and bio. The bio would explain briefly who the client is, the client’s websites URL and e-mail address. This is very useful and will be the centrepiece of the credibility and viral marketing campaign.
Once you have written the article, you need to send a draft to your client for suggestions and revisions. Adopt the suggestions, proofread it and prepare a final draft. Send the final draft to your client and post it to article databases, ezines and syndicates online and offline. In the course of time, the article will be distributed and circulated online and off generating wide publicity for you client.
How long should the articles be? For how-to articles 500-750 words is the standard but where the subject needs exhaustive treatment 1000 to 1500 words is good length. For a higher word count, you should advice your client to consider an ebook, booklet or book. Of course, the longer the article, the higher the fees.
There is no standard way of pricing your article writing services. You should set your fees based on the research work involved, the hours you spend on the work, and expenses involved in producing and publishing the article and a profit.
For a 300 to 500 words article $200 to $300 is fair but as the word count leaps into the hundreds, figures of $1500 to $5000 are reasonable. To convince your customers to cough such amounts, you will need to tell them the benefits of your service and business promotion through articles. You could also offer them various packages laden with bonuses and offers. For example, I offer a package, which includes paid placements to article databases and syndicates, ezines solo ads and press releases writing and posting. All this is done to assure the client cheap maximum and wide exposure no matter what. For booklets and ebooks of less than 50 pages, rates of $3000 to $10,000 are not uncommon. For books a ghostwriter may be paid anything from $20,000 to $100,000 depending on expertise, length and research involved.
At those rates obviously, you will not get everybody in, but for prospective clients who are used to paying hundreds of thousands in advertising dollars they would see it s reasonable and beneficial in the long term.
To ensure that you do not miss business from those who have small budgets to spend on promotion, you can structure your packages according to ability to pay. Those who pay less would get good exposure with no assurance of leads while those who pay more will get an almost guaranteed response.
Everyone wants to know how he/she will benefit from a product or service. For yourself as a freelancer, you will get booming business and enjoy making money as a freelance ghost writer. You will get more business by collecting and showing testimonials of your satisfied clients and establish a reputation as a prolific writer.
For the clients, you will need to explain to them the benefits of your service. Here are some benefits you can tell them:

Free publicity to millions of prospects online and offline.
The published articles may be used by the client to mail to existing and prospective customers as a free service, building credibility and a positive image of the business in the process.
Leads will be generated for future follow -up. Enquiries will be made about the business and some sales will be made.
The publication of the article online which contains relevant keywords with the clients website URL will increase its link popularity and improve its search engine ranking. This may bring in more targeted visitors to the website.
The client will be given progress reports for at least six months on the places where the articles has been published . You can inform him/her to also search for it on search engines using his/her by-line or article title.

The article could provide spin-offs for other article ideas, which you could slant for various businesses and markets. You could also write new articles every month, post them to article databases and send to prospective clients with a cover letter to market your services.
This ghost writing service could be very lucrative. You could earn tens of thousands of dollars every month from it. You could even get clients worldwide through your website and e-mails to direct response mailing lists.
Only the sky the limit!

How The First Earth Day Came About

Today, April 22, people across the world will be observing Earth Day registering their concern about deteriorating state of environment and pronouncing resolve to arrest the detrimental trend.
On April 22, 1970, Earth Day was first observed in the USA. It was, “one of the most remarkable happenings in the history of democracy. . . ” commented the American Heritage Magazine, in its October 1993 issue.
What is the purpose of Earth Day? How did it start? These are the questions most frequently asked. Actually, the idea for Earth Day evolved over a period of seven years starting in 1962. For several years, it had been troubling Senator Gaylord Nelson that the state of US environment was simply a non-issue in the politics of the country. Finally, in November 1962, an idea occurred to Nelson that was, he thought, a virtual cinch to put the environment into the political “limelight” once and for all. The idea was to persuade President Kennedy to give visibility to this issue by going on a national conservation tour. He flew to Washington to discuss the proposal with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who liked the idea. So did the President. The President began his five-day, eleven-state conservation tour in September 1963. For many reasons the tour did not succeed in putting the issue onto the national political agenda. However, it was the germ of the idea that ultimately flowered into Earth Day.
Nelson, continued to speak on environmental issues to a variety of audiences in some twenty-five states. All across US, evidence of environmental degradation was appearing everywhere, and everyone noticed except the political establishment. The environmental issue simply was not to be found on the nation’s political agenda. The people were concerned, but the politicians were not.
Six years had passed before the idea that became Earth Day occurred to Senator Nelson, while on a conservation speaking tour out West in the summer of 1969. At the time, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, called “teach-ins,” had spread to college campuses all across US. Nelson took this opportunity — why not organise a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment?
He was convinced that if he could tap in the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the students’ anti-war energy into the environmental cause, he could generate a demonstration that would force this issue onto the political agenda. It was a big gamble, but worth a try.
Then, at a conference in Seattle in September 1969, he announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment and invited everyone to participate. The wire services carried the story from coast to coast. The response was electrifying. It took off like gangbusters. Telegrams, letters, and telephone inquiries poured in from all across the country. The American people finally had a forum to express concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air — and they did so with spectacular exuberance. For the next four months, two members of his Senate staff, Linda Billings and John Heritage, managed Earth Day affairs out of his Senate office.
Five months before Earth Day, on Sunday, November 30, 1969, The New York Times carried a lengthy article by Gladwin Hill reporting on the astonishing proliferation of environmental events: “Rising concern about the environmental crisis.

A Newsletter Publisher’s Main Task: Packaging Value Content

The main task of a newsletter publisher is to select and package quality content of direct, practical relevance to its specific readership audience.
This might sound quick and easy, but it is not.
Publishing a quality newsletter is more than just cutting and pasting quality content into your newsletter. A quality newsletter is more than just the sum of its parts. The more the different sections in a newsletter support each other, the more benefits subscribers can get from it.
A quality newsletter makes sense out of the Internet chaos. A good newsletter editor understands the Internet big picture and is able to pick out relevant information which is packaged into one newsletter issue in a way that makes sense for its readers.
A poor quality newsletter is easily produced in less than 15 minutes of cutting and pasting quality content text. One issue of a good quality newsletter takes one day to produce – it might also select from the same content pool as the poor quality newsletter – but it takes more time in selecting the right combination of available free content for each issue.
Extremely high quality content, randomly aggregated into a newsletter makes a poor quality newsletter. Somewhat lower quality content, expertly packaged and organized make a high quality newsletter. Your editorial note (that introduces each newsletter issue), shows how much understanding and effort you put into this critically important step.
Publishing a quality newsletter is a creative process. It does not involve following three easy steps. Good editors will find this article packed with value, others will consider this article as utterly useless.
Quality newsletters gets edited by the most senior, experienced people in an organization, not on a rotational basis by anyone with some free time on their hands.
The following are some concepts that help a good newsletter editor in his or her task:
Integration: combine the value content of several experts in their fields into one newsletter issue. Each of these experts can only contribute expertise on their topics. However, when these standalone expert contributions are combined into one newsletter issue, all their contributions grow in value because it is part of a larger solution. Your newsletter subscribers can possibly get all your newsletter content easily elsewhere, but come to you because of the way you package and present it to them.
Position: by publishing a newsletter, you position yourself as the central point where they go to get quality Internet content, nicely packaged to address their exact needs.
Team: your newsletter will be more valuable if its content is produced by a team of people. This team of people consists of: guest article authors, contributors of tips, subscribers that provide questions and software products authors that ask you to review their software.
Benefits: your newsletter is only about providing benefits to its subscribers. The more value content you have the more benefits your subscribers get from you. Value content like: feature articles, guest articles, questions and answers, link to value resources, product reviews, your editorial comments, tips.
To summarize: you, as newsletter editor and publisher, use your newsletter to combine the content of your team of contributors into a logically-arranged, benefit-rich newsletter for your subscribers.
Your newsletter is benefit-rich when it is packed with useful, practical content that is directly relevant to the needs of your readers.
A newsletter is not benefit-rich only if it contains detailed, step-by-step articles.
A newsletter that helps its readers understand the bigger-picture meanings and implications of the Internet on a more philosophical level also has benefits. Such a newsletter should focus on educating its readership on how to apply their insight practically and on a daily basis to their business.
A newsletter that focus exclusively on step-by-step articles makes its readers work harder.
A newsletter that focus exclusively on philosophical, Internet bigger-picture visions make its readers think harder.
In my opinion, a combination of these approaches is best. Such a combination will make your readers work hard – smarter.
There are two main (opposite) approaches to packaging a quality content newsletter:
Your write all the content yourself . . . very time-consuming.
You select and package content created by others . . . the more practical and realistic approach.
Most editors choose a middle road where they contribute some original content and get the remainder of their content from other contributors.
If a good newsletter editor’s main task is packaging value content, a good newsletter subscriber’s task is to read, understand and ACT based on the insight the gain from this content. A good newsletter is your personalized to-do list for the week.

5 Reasons People Like Technology White Papers

A good white paper is a paper that makes you look good.
You look good when your white paper makes sense, when it’s readable, when it concentrates on benefits and examples, and when it’s easy to get. Here’s why:
Reason #1. Many people would rather die than talk to a sales representative right off the bat, but they will read a white paper. When people start researching a product, they are not prepared to talk to a salesperson. They have no idea if the product is for them, or if they even need the technology at all. They’ll also be resistant to new and innovative technologies. Well-written, benefit-laden white papers will qualify your product to the reader, and qualify the reader to you at the next stage in the sales cycle.
Reason #2. White papers build a bridge between the prospect and your organization’s salespeople. When the salesperson does call, it’s not out of the blue. If a user has downloaded a white paper, there is an established connection between user interest and your company. The call can even be welcome if the customer has more questions and is interested in moving forward.
Reason #3. White papers are simple to host on the Web, where people can easily download and read them. In addition to your own company Website, there are numerous sites that host white papers and make it easy for prospects to download the paper. Many companies take this opportunity to capture reader information, including if the reader wants to be contacted. If they do request contact, for heaven’s sake contact them! They are coming highly qualified.
Reason #4. You’re not just reaching prospective customers with white papers, you’re also reaching journalists. Or you should be. This is why you should always include a solid technical section in a white paper: journalists doesn’t want to download a white paper and find a brochure, it makes them cranky. But if you deliver a valuable white paper, the journalist is far more likely to speak well of you and your product. (This, of course, is the essence of media relations. )
Reason #5. And speaking of journalists, what do they do when they pick up or receive expensive press kits? They throw them away, but they do keep valuable information like booklets and white papers. As a senior editor and editor-in-chief for data storage magazines, I can’t tell you how many beautiful and pricey press kits I picked up, then threw away. What did I keep? White papers. Who did I think of when I was writing a story on that technology? The company that wrote the white paper.
The CLEAR Process
All white papers need to combine good writing, good structure, and clear technical explanations — high level or not, depending on purpose and audience — and case studies. The process is CLEAR:

Clarify the problem
List your technology’s features
Educate your customers on benefits
Add proof points
Restate your case

People like technology white papers if the paper is clear, useful, readable and available. Make sure your white papers fit the bill with the CLEAR process, or call a professional white paper writer for your next project.

Interviewing an Author: Don’t Be Left Speechless

Edited by Jenny Wilson
Joyce Carol Oates. Langston Hughes. Anne Sexton. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Nikki Giovanni. The names of authors (dead and alive) can go on and on. But I’ll let you have first pick!
You are in a room with some of your favorite authors. About ten of them. However, you are only allowed to invite one of them to Starbucks for a couple of chocolate mochas. Just you and your favorite author. It doesn’t matter if the writer is deceased use your imagination! After all, you’re a writer, right?
Oh dear, who shall it be? Should it be William Shakespeare with his purple pantaloons; Sylvia Plath who now vows to use an electric oven instead of gas; or should it be Maya Angelou and old playmates from her broken-hearted brothel?
Finally, you have selected an author.
You take him (or her) to Starbucks. You order the mochas. You sit down. As you open your mouth to ask the author questions nothing useful comes out.
What’s the problem?
Often times we’ll chance upon moments when we can interview an author. And, with technology nowadays, methods of research and brainstorming have changed slightly.
1. Research the Author
Ask yourself, “Is the author self-published or published in a traditional publishing house?”
Actually, does it really matter?! No. Why? Because you’re going to need to treat all authors the same with much respect. Be laid back, and in turn, the interviewee will become comfortable and open-up to you.
After all, whether published or not, we’re all human. Before the interview, however, use your investigative reporting skills and attempt to discover as much as you can about the author. Surf the Internet for any hidden agendas internet-published writings the writer may have. Not only do you want to know about the author’s book, but the personal life as well. Find out what makes the author tick.
2. Research their genre and subject matter
Does the author write poetry? Historical nonfiction? Dramatic nonfiction? Children’s literature? Discover how easy or difficult it is to publish in that particular area of writing. Before you meet up with the author, you must know their genre, as well as the basic themes. If the author writes only historical nonfiction what’s their subject matter? Pre-civil war? Early African Slave Trade? Cuban artwork? Compare and contrast authors in similar subject matters.
Learn as much as you can while you can. And, at the same time, be sure to formulate an opinion about the subject matter, whether it be pro or con. This will allow you to ask more in depth questions.
3. Don’t Interrupt
Remember to ask your question then shut up. This isn’t a time for you to reminisce of your (waning) writing skills. This is moment for the author to be in the spotlight. Listen to their responses, and make sure that you have a rebuttal question prepared in the back of your head.
After you are away from that particular topic, be sure to go to your next question. Though you may have your list of questions it’s okay to ask the questions out-of-order. Actually, I highly recommend to adlib the questions. This will make the questions seem a bit more unforced. In short, treat your interview as if it’s just a regular discussion amongst friends.
Above all, I highly recommend to record the interview. Before you display your trusty hand-held recorder, ask the interviewee for permission to record them. Keep and label all used tapes with the author’s name, date and location of the interview. You never know when that once self-published novelist will become the next Best Seller.