Grammarly’s Free Download Helpful to Writers

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Recently, I took the plunge. I downloaded the free version of Grammarly. A software program that corrects grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure. The free version catches my often overlooked typos. My family moved a few weeks into my sophomore year and beginning typing. Therefore, my typing skills are less than stellar. Thanks to the invention of the personal computer I am now able to fix my typos quickly. However, there are still other things I can miss. Grammarly catches those. It underlines the word in question and shows me in a sidebar the problem. Or in some cases the assumed problem.

The program pinged on the word Wok—asking if I might mean walk. Because I was referring to the pan, I choose the ignore button. When it questioned the spelling of neighbor to be corrected as neighbour, I again hit ignore. I didn’t want the British spelling. Most of the time it catches not only misspelled words (my bad typing) but improperly used words, missing articles, etc. Pretty cool. When the software challenges a word, I have found myself coming up with an even better word than the one cited as a possible error. Great way to stretch your creative juices.

A downside, you have to get out of the program to save your corrections. I ran the spell check in Word as a double check. They disagree on a few things.  Words spell check doesn’t come close to catching what Grammarly does, and its limited vocabulary pings errors that aren’t.

Writers still need to do the work.

Grammarly doesn’t replace working hard at crafting good sentences. Nor should it be used as the lazy man’s final draft. My college son relies on it to proof his work. Yes, he admits it’s the lazy way. But as writers, we still need critique partners to help us craft better prose.  We need to practice honing the phrasing of our words until they shine.

As a novelist, the basic program doesn’t understand the need for sentence fragments for pacing or dialogue syntax. For example, woulda used to expression a character’s speech pattern is underlined as misspelled.

Overall it’s a great tool to keep your conscience mindful of your most common errors as you draft your copy. I’d recommend anyone who wants to improve the grammar areas of their writing to give the free download a try. I’ve installed it on FB as well. Everyone notices when a writer has a blaring typo. Haven’t decided if I want to purchase the advanced edition. That portion claims to catch errors on a deeper level. I would recommend checking out the free version.

Have you used Grammarly? What do you think of it?

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Abuse a Common Core Dilemma in Novels

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Photo from Morguefile.com

We have a challenge to create believable stories. Writers must draw from the world around them, transforming life experiences and lots of research into a story that moves the reader. Love stories that stir the romantic in all of us. Mysteries with twists and surprises which leave the reader satisfied at the solution. Historicals and Fantasies with a you-are-there feel. Whatever the genre, every story has to have a core dilemma. Something readers can relate to on some level.

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Photo from morguefile.com

Core Dilemma

The latest novels I’ve read focused on the heroine dealing with abuse. Often verbal but at times physical. The two novels I have penned also deal with abuse on different levels. This topic is a very popular core dilemma in fiction. The storyline usually has the same key elements. The hero or heroine struggles to put the abuse in their past. They wrestle with the lies in their heads. And past abuse weighs heavily in their reactions to their present.

In some stories the abuse is in the moment and continues until deliverance takes place near the end of the story. Leaving the audience wondering how their life after the The End will all play out.

photo from morguefile.com

photo from morguefile.com

Time periods

Historicals may have a different story resolution than contemporary fiction. Laws and attitudes were very different in say 1840 or even 1950 than they are today. Domestic abuse was view differently in past centuries. A modern story may have a bolder response with organizations and laws to protect victims giving various options for the endings of contemporary novels.

photo by morguefile.com

photo by morguefile.com

Abuse is ever present

Why is it such a popular plot twist? Domestic abuse is a dark, ugly subject that is often easier to deal with in the pages of a novel. As the hero overcomes and becomes stronger the abused reader is given hope. The characters in our stories address the heart issues hidden inside the abused. Other characters either dear friends or villains can be influential in bringing healing for the reader. The friend can encourage or protect while the villain pushes the protagonist to face the demons of abuse and defeat them. Perhaps a crack in the armor of denial. Relatable story characters gaining victory over abuse brings hope to the reader. If the author is fortunate, he might get a fan letter saying his story inspired the reader to get help. What an awesome thought.

photo from moguefile.com

photo from moguefile.com

Victims know if your story rings true

Don’t soft sell the truth. Victims know the depth of their pain, and a whitewashed story of easy healing won’t fly with them. Be careful not to be too graphic lest you turn away readers who can’t stomach the details.

Get the facts right. Do your research. Present realistic conclusions even if the conclusion is a sad one. Some writers choose to mingle a lot of facts and provide strong secondary characters to bring about the healing. While others leave the ending unresolved in hopes readers will become aware of the problem and seek help for themselves or others.

As a Christian writer, my goal is to bring hope to a lost world. Not preaching or condemning but open a door to consider God is the strength needed to get through difficult times. So when I write about abuse He is the final solution that brings healing. Even if it requires the character to cling to their faith over time as layers of ugly abuse fall away.

What is a core dilemma pattern you’ve discovered in the last few books you’ve read?

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An Interview with New YA Author Debra Coleman Jeter

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Today I want to welcome Debra Coleman Jeter to my blog. Debra’s debut novel The Ticket has been tagged as a # 1 release by Amazon. Its release date was June 9th and it continues to receive 5 star reviews. Not bad for a newbie, Debra. Take a seat on my slightly lumpy couch and help yourself to some chai tea. While you get settled let me share the book blurb on your book.

Cover-The TicketTray Dunaway longs to be part of the popular set at school, but she’s growing too fast and her clothes no longer fit. The only person who understands Tray’s need for acceptance is her grandmother, but when Tray wears Gram’s hand-sewn clothes to school, the kids make fun of her tall, boney appearance. Tray’s luck improves when Pee Wee Johnson, a down-and-out friend of her father’s, buys two lottery tickets and gives one to Mr. Dunaway as a thank-you for driving him to Hazard, Illinois. When her father’s ticket turns out to be the winner, Johnson demands his cut of the proceeds, but Tray’s dad refuses. What seems like a stroke of good fortune suddenly becomes a disturbing turn of events as Johnson threatens to cause problems for the family and Tray.

Check out the book trailer for The Ticket at: vimeo.com/50187275.

Debbie, what prompted you to write this novel?

That tea’s delicious! Cindy, first, I want to thank you for having me on your blog. As a newbie, I’ve just started one of my own, but I’m not sure anyone has found it yet. http://www.debracolemanjeter.com/blog.

I think the idea for this novel came to me in stages. First, I wanted to write something to show how little importance wealth really is, though we often spend way too much time thinking about money. Once I decided to write about a family with financial troubles winning the lottery, then I thought it might be interesting if someone else bought the ticket and gave it to them … which leads to a lot of the twists in my plot.

I’m admitting my age here but I was a teen in the early 70s. The setting resonated with me. Why the 1970s? Why not present day?

I wanted to pick a time when a fourteen year old was more naïve than today’s teens typically are. Also, I wanted a time before cell phones and social media. Finally, I chose a period when the states of Kentucky and Tennessee (the states where I’ve spent most of my life) did not yet have a lottery, and so the idea of winning a lottery was particularly novel. You had to cross into another state just to buy a ticket.

There are some edgy scenes in The Ticket. One in particular caught some flak from some readers. As a YA book many parents may read it before their teens. Tell me why you felt the scenes needed to be there.

First, it provides an opportunity to round out the character of Pee Wee, the man who buys the ticket. Up to this point in the novel, his behavior makes him seem ominous. This scene shows that he isn’t evil or beyond redemption. But, more importantly, The Ticket deals with some tough, realistic issues. The situation referred to in the controversial scene is one that arises all too often, and I think it’s important for young women or boys who might face something like this in their lives to know that it’s not their fault. They are not alone. They should not feel ashamed. Ideally, I’d like for my book to open a dialogue within families about how to handle such a situation should it arise.

How do you hope Tray’s story will impact your YA readers?

I hope they will be moved to cheer for Tray, to be alternately glad or sad with her, depending on what is going on. I hope they see the good that can come out of difficult or trying circumstances. No matter how bleak things get, there is always hope in the morrow. I want them to see a girl who, like so many of us, struggles with self-confidence and to see they too can emerge stronger and more confident in the end. Also, I hope they will figure out that Tray is making some mistakes and resolve not to make those same kinds of mistakes in their own lives.

Debbie, what’s next on your agenda? A sequel for Tray or a different direction?

A different direction. I have two adult novels almost ready to go; they are set in a small Southern beach town. I am also currently writing an ambitious saga about my grandmother’s life, which is based on the facts that I know, but fictionalized. I start when she is twelve and cover fifty years of her life.

Tell us a little about Debra Jeter. What are you up to when you are not writing?

I love to spend time with my family. My daughter has a three year old and a new baby, just a month and a half, and they are incredibly precious. I also teach and do academic research at Vanderbilt University. I find my way to water every chance I get—to the ocean or to Kentucky Lake, especially in these hot, humid days of summer. I start to dry out like a fish if I am away from water too long. There is nothing quite like the ocean to show us God’s power and to teach us we cannot rely on our own. I also love to collaborate with my son on film projects (when he will let me)!

One last question. The one I love to ask every writer I interview. What words of wisdom would you give new writers?

I have a colleague at Vanderbilt whose signature on his emails reads “Never, never, never give up.” I think this is what I would tell writers. That, and write what you care deeply about, rather than what you think the market is ripe for.

Before you go let’s do a give-away. Commenter’s names will be put in a drawing. The winner will receive a copy of The Ticket. I’ll give everyone until the end of the week to comment. The winner will be announced in the comment section on Saturday. If you have any questions about Debra’s book or her writing journey Debra would love to answer them. As an extra incentive each commenter will be sent a link for a chance to win a Kindle Fire. Include your email to receive the link.

 Click here to order The Ticket

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Conference Tip # 2 Prepare a One Sheet

A One Sheet is an important tool for pitching your manuscript. But to a newbie it is a mystery.

A One Sheet is an important tool for pitching your manuscript. But to a newbie it is a mystery.

When I attended my first conference, I didn’t have one of these. I had nothing to really pitch. No one told me about them, and I never saw one before that first conference. If you have a book to pitch, a one sheet helps showcase it and draw the attention of editors and agents.

A one sheet sometimes called a pitch sheet or a sell sheet is a page of information. The most important things about your book and you are available at a glance. It contains a blurb about your book and your bio. It can have artwork or be plain. If you aren’t good at creating flyers, I would definitely suggest keeping it simple. Use a one-sheet for both fiction and non-fiction.

Here are two links for examples. Fiction and Nonfiction.

The simplest one sheet has the book blurb, biography, and your business card stapled to the corner. (This is another important use for that business card.)

Parts of a sell sheet

Personal info: Name, address, phone, email and website and/or blog links. The most common place for this info is in the banner at the top. But it can be placed on the bottom or anywhere it is easy to see.

Hook:

A sentence or two capturing the books uniqueness. You want agents and editors to keep reading.

Blurb

Make sure the blurb is as concise and interesting as you can make it. Look at back covers on your favorite books for examples. It should be a brief description of your book. Like back cover it should draw the reader to your story, introduce main characters, and give a glimpse of the conflict. Don’t tell the whole story or ending. No questions. (You know: How will she manage to resist him?) Save those for the synopsis.

For non-fiction you want to capture the urgency of your subject matter. Again check out the back cover of books.

In both cases you don’t want the blurb to be more than a short paragraph or two. Short being the operative word.

Genre

List the genre, i.e. Mystery, Romance or Romance Mystery. For non-fiction, examples would be Contemporary Christian Living, Apologetics, or Women’s Issues.

Word Count

Fiction must be finished so the word count is specific. Whether it is 50,000 or 90,000 mention it. This lets the interested party see if your word count meets their needs.

Non-fiction may not be finished so write an estimate with a projected completion date.

Biography

A short bio listing any writing credits and a bit about yourself. Any qualifications for writing your non-fiction such as degrees, ministry, and personal experience goes here as well. Write it in third person. Again be concise and interesting. A few lines focusing on you as it relates to this manuscript.

Photo

This photo is optional. If you choose to use one, be sure your headshot is professional-looking. No selfies. Here is where you can staple your business card to your sheet instead. FYI: My one-sheet is of the simple variety.

Check and double check

If you are comfortable adding pictures or artwork, great. These can make your single sheet pop. But a plain white sheet neatly done with no grammar or punctuation errors can go further than a fancy one with poorly written content. Be sure to have at least two others check for errors. Nothing is more blaring than an obvious word misspelled or the use of their when you mean they’re. A well-done one-sheet should encourage agents, editors and publishers to ask further questions. Hopefully, one of those will be: can you send me your proposal.

But I have no book

Create a one-sheet describing your short stories, poems or articles you want to pitch. Or skip the one-sheet all together. There are other ways to pitch your work at a conference and I’ll talk about those in an upcoming post.

Here is a link further explaining a one sheet.

The Pitch-Sheet and One-Sheet http://kayedacus.com/2007/08/28/beyond-the-first-draft%E2%80%94the-pitch-sheet-and-one-sheet/

Those of you who have created one-sheets I would love to hear your tips.

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