Compelling Stories: Do only some of us have them?

Compelling story dictionary

A compelling story according to Macmillan’s.

All writers consider writing about the episodes of their past. It’s not just the aspiring memoirist that wonders, “Is my story compelling enough?”

What started me down this path was reading Anne R. Allen’s How to Write a Publishable Memoir: 12 Do’s and Don’ts.

DON’T include every detail because “it’s what really happened.” Just because something is true doesn’t mean it’s interesting. Your happy memories of that idyllic Sunday school picnic in vanished small-town America will leave your reader comatose unless the church caught fire, you lost your virginity, and/or somebody stole the parson’s pants.”


Recognizing Your Writing Flaws Can Help You Edit

Recognizing writing flaws helpls with editing Over the last sixteen months, I’ve had the dubious pleasure of having my proposal and manuscript edited and proofread. Through working with multiple editors, I came to see patterns in their corrections and comments. Recognizing my writing flaws has helped me edit and proofread.

I get wordy.

I do it in life and on the page. Now, as I edit, I look for ways to state things more succinctly. I challenge myself to reduce my word counts, even on shorter posts.

My self-doubt results in over-editing.

In life, I tend to start my paragraphs in the middle. When I’m half-way through an anecdote, I’ll remember that I left out why the story matters or is relevant to the conversation. In trying to prevent this potential writing flaw, I go too far in the other direction. I over-edit.

In fact, editors had to edit-out what I had, in a fit of self-doubt, edited-in. In other words, the final version was close to the original. Now when I evaluate an introduction or explanation, I think to myself, “You can lead a horse to water, but you need to give him or her credit for having enough intelligence to drink.”

I use vague referents

My that’s and which’s don’t always refer back to a concrete word or phrase. Or, if they do, it’s not clear to those who don’t have direct access to my thoughts. This one is another result of my jumbled brain, but it’s more laborious to fix. Particularly if I try to write, edit, and proofread in setting, I miss those. Whenever possible, I try to let my writing simmer before I edit and proof.

I like to list things in threes.

I know; writing is not like flower arranging. Things aren’t always better with an odd number.

I like adverbs.

There, I said it. In the above paragraph, I’d prefer to state, “A disturbingly high number of edits…” Now when I edit and proof, I’ll evaluate whether using the adverb brings something other than a lack of grammar to the table. Sometimes I’ll leave them, but often I find another way to structure my sentence.

I don’t vary my sentence structure enough.

For me, proofreading and editing don’t mix. A by-product of reading each individual sentence for errors is failing to evaluate the flow of a page. The fix: one more pass through the piece.

Your Turn:

What are your most common writing flaws? How do they change the way you edit and proof your work?





Help Wanted: 3 post topics for authors to write

Post topics to end confusion

Perplexed about something? What post topics would help?

I’ve come to appreciate the online community of writers. Authors generously sharing advice, experience, and expertise has made me feel a whole lot less of a clueless newbie. In fact, I’ve gotten so used to it, that when I face a quandary, I simply search Google to see what other authors have to posted on the topic.

The Redwoods Society was conceived for just this purpose. We’re always looking for informative articles to share with other authors. If you have expertise or an experience to share, contact us about guest posting.

In the meantime, here’s three post topics that would be helpful—at least to me. (more…)

Have you hugged a book blogger today—at least metaphorically?

The Wonderful World of Blog Tours

I love book bloggers I used to think a blog tour was when an esteemed blogger, ahem, went on a virtual tour, imparting her “voice” to various blogs. That’s not it.

On a blog tour, a book goes on a virtual trip with just a note from its author, usually around the time a book releases. A publisher or author sets a up a time period for the “tour” and sends out pitches, asking various book bloggers to choose a day during that time to review or highlight the book.

How do you hug a book blogger? By visiting their site! (more…)

The 2014 Nonfiction Writers Conference: A Review

On cloud nineBefore I jump into my post with my mature author’s pen (or typewriter or metaphor of your choice), I’d like to share a huge WHOOPPEE and thank-you. Memories of Me: A Complete Guide to Telling and Sharing the Stories of Your Life is now available! Oddly, I don’t feel the great sense of accomplishment I expected to feel. Instead, I feel an overwhelming and humbling sense of gratitude for all my supporters and cheerleaders. (If you’re one of them, read my thank you post!) (more…)

Easy SEO Tricks that Won’t Change Your Style

As a follow up to Writing for SEO: Does it Ruin Good Writing?, I’d like to illustrate some painless tricks to elevate your Search Engine Optimization that will have minimal impact on your article content or writing style.

Give Search Engines Information about Your Image(s)

Easy SEO Tricks aren't magic

Easy SEO Tricks are simply ways of helping search engines understanding your content.

Two easy SEO tricks are setting your image file name and image description. When you place an image on your page, the source code of your post offers text for search engines to evaluate. If you upload an image with the filename of pic.jpg, Google finds no added value in that.

If your image is directly related to your content, help search engines out by giving your image a relevant file name. For instance, if your post is an interview with author Stephen King, your image file name should be something along the lines of Stephen-King-Author.jpg. (This is especially true of your own author photo. Always name your photos with your full name followed with the word “author.”)

When you upload and select an image to place in your post, you also have the option of setting a description for it. Most platforms call this an “alt text” or “alt title.” By including your key word phrase in your alt tag, you give Google reason to believe that your image is relevant to your content. (more…)

Writing for SEO and Writing Well: Not Mutually Exclusive

Writing for SEO gets google results

Writing for SEO: Can writers maximize search engine results and still put their best foot forward?

Writing for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can help our content reach a maximum number of readers. But, on the other hand, we’ve developed our craft so that when readers do find us, they’ll want to read more. Do we really want to alter our writing?

‘‘ search-engine optimization
the methods used to boost the ranking or frequency of a website in results returned by a search engine, in an effort to maximize user traffic to the site… (

Does writing without regard to SEO limit our audience? Will writing for SEO ruin our craft?

The answer to both is, “it depends.”


Proofreading Skills or Lack Thereof

Proofreading difficulties

Proofreading: this writer’s bane

Recently, a professional editor edited my manuscript. His work underscored a fact I’ve already faced. I suck at proofreading. (Before you gleefully start looking for errors, I have to confess that John and/or Justin look over my posts before I publish them.)

One repeated error arose from my ignorance of a grammar rule. You’re all probably aware that when I own up to being related to Aunt Nancy, she becomes my aunt Nancy. I wasn’t. (more…)