Friday, May 29, 2020

Writing: Suggestions

I started to title this one "rules," but decided that really there are no hard and fast rules for writers, at least none that will guarantee publication. There are suggestions that I've covered previously, suggestions that every writer has pounded into them from the start. Avoid passive voice. Don't "head-hop" (eg, keep point of view the same from scene to scene). Show, don't tell.

Well, these are suggestions that I've run across in my journey to becoming a writer. They don't guarantee publication--that takes constant learning, constant practice, and persistence. (Another way to put it is BICFOK--ask any writer what that means).

Meanwhile, try these for size.

"Don't use dollar words when dime ones will do." Sending your reader to a dictionary may make you look like you know a lot, but it won't get you readers. And may lose the person holding your book right now.

"Avoid using long, run-on sentences." If your reader has to go back to the start of the sentence to remember what it's about, it's too long. Write in short declarative sentences.

"Don't use excessive dialogue tags." "Said" is perfectly fine. It's almost invisible. When we talk , we don't snort our words, or chuckle them. We say them, or we snort or chuckle. But not all at once.

"Avoid cliches, platitudes, qualifiers, jargon, and overdone words and phrases." If you can't say it n plain English, start over and rewrite until you can.

What's your favorite suggestion to a writer? Let me know.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Cynthia Ann Surovik Mabry

May 28, 1937 - September 28, 1999

Your influence lives on.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day: 2020

Today is Memorial Day, an American holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. It started out as Decoration Day, and originated in the years following the Civil War. It became an official federal holiday in 1971.

It is not a day for honoring those who previously served or are actively serving in our armed forces--there are other holidays for that, most typically Veterans' Day (formerly Armistice Day). And, although mattress and tire sales have seemed to come around on this three-day holiday, that's not what we celebrate. It's for honoring the gift given to all of us by those who didn't come home.

This is a bit different from previous Memorial Days--we're in various stages of recovering from a pandemic infection that was terrible (but could have been worse). But true to the spirit that made America great, we will arise from those ashes, stronger than ever. In the meantime, though, please join me in honoring those who sacrificed for our freedom. Freedom isn't free. All gave some. Some gave all. 

Friday, May 22, 2020

Writing: Getting Out The Word

Every publisher (and every author who indie-publishes) have their list of things to do to get the word out when they publish a new book. But in these days of social distancing and stay-at-home, some of these won't work--but others will.

Should you do a blog tour? Go in person to all the surrounding areas and pitch your book? Author tours used to be a big thing, but even before the pandemic, they sort of fizzled out. My impression (and admittedly I never was a big enough "star" with the publishers that signed me to warrant an author tour) is that they never resulted in much. Under the present circumstances, they're pretty much gone by the wayside. So I'd suggest you scratch that idea.

How about appearing in various sites, associated with a giveaway? I've always tried to do guest blogs or interviews at a number of sites along with a giveaway to a randomly selected winner. Having done these now for a number of years, I have a pretty good idea of which sites get the largest number of "hits" and I try to concentrate on those. As for giving away a copy of the book, it always attracts a number of people, and I've not seen anyone not wanting the book. Whether it is responsible for more people learning about the book or even--gasp--buying it is an unanswered question.

When travel is allowed, giving a copy of your book to various libraries--church or municipal--remains a valuable tool. I like to give copies to my barber, my druggist, my physicians and their staff (and as I get older, that number increases). Some of these will be affected by the amount of travel you're allowed or with which you feel comfortable. The same goes for book clubs and schools (a Zoom meeting is definitely not the same as appearing in person).

What about street teams? Friend and colleague DiAnn Mills covers this quite well here, and I'll only add a word or two. My "influencers" (she gives all the names its called) are very helpful, but this list will undergo some changes as you continue to write. Don't think it's not a changing thing--it is.

No matter how you slice it, the best advertising remains word-of-mouth. Write the best book possible, and never rest on your laurels--always be writing the next one, and work to make it even better than the last.

What are your suggestions? I'd like to hear.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Correcting Others

When I began posting on Facebook, it was mainly to get the word out about my writing. Along the way, I accepted "friend" invitations, not only from people I knew, but also from potential readers. Since I had no way of knowing who fell into the latter group, I tended to accept virtually all of them.

Lately, I have had occasion to do a couple of things. First, I've had to "unfollow," and occasionally "unfriend" people because they have made comments on my posts and those of others that I felt were over the line. Second, I've begun looking through my friends list--and, honestly, I don't recognize many of them and don't know why I accepted them in the first place.

For a while I attempted to correct misapprehensions among some of the people who posted--what masks are supposed to do, my understanding about vaccines, and so on. It's not so much that I disagreed as that I felt, as a physician, I should correct any errors that were obvious. But it's gotten to be too much. It has been pointed out to me that it's not up to me to correct or change the minds of every person with whose comments I disagreed.

In the future, I'll confine myself to what I post on my own blog--"stuff" on Tuesdays and "the writing life" on Fridays. If I have something that I think needs to be said, I'll post it on social media, but not daily. The same goes for my posts on

So, unless I have something important to say, I plan to be mainly silent. Agree? Disagree? Here's your chance (and venue) to chime in.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Writing: Common Misconceptions

I've covered lots of these, but it's been awhile since I addressed all of them in a single place. So, here goes.

Age: I was retirement age when my first novel was published. My non-fiction book, The Tender Scar, written after the death of my first wife, is still in print, and I've published lots of novels and novellas since. No, you're never too old--or too young. If you think you have a book in you, write it. If it's finished, pitch it to an agent or publish it yourself. Don't let age deter you.

Income: Writers aren't rich. Sorry about that. A handful can support themselves by writing full-time, but most of us can't. "Don't give up your day job" is excellent advice, not just the punch line of a joke. Writing, especially Christian writing, is done because you have to do it, not as a means of income.

Fame: When I became a published author, I expected everyone to recognize me. Sorry. When the news finally got out, I got questions like the one that starts, "My friend has written a book..." or "Explain where you get your ideas"...or--well, you get it. The lift comes from messages from someone who has read one of your books and got something from it. Not from fame and fortune.

Platform: Authors are advised to have a platform, even before they have anything published. All authors should maintain a social media presence, we're told. That may have been true at one time, but if you're going to try to keep up with what the latest way to maintain a platform, good luck. You can't do it. Cultivate a few aficionados who'll help get the word out, and don't neglect to do your best to keep your readers happy (mainly with good writing, as well as answering their questions), but other than that, I don't have any sure-fire advice.

Ideas and manuscripts: What sets a good author apart is not an idea--they're everywhere, if you just look for them--but rather what they do with it. It sounds easy to write a book, but it requires more than just an idea. It requires effort to string words enough words together to make a novel, or even a novella (which, incidentally, is harder to write than a long novel).

Learning: Never stop learning. Never. Never. Never. Keep at it.

And that's my advice. What's your reaction?

Tuesday, May 12, 2020


We never think about getting a haircut (except that it's time we have to take out of our day)--until we've gone several weeks without one. My last haircut, if memory serves me correctly, was a bit more than 2 months ago. When I was in practice, I used to go every 2 weeks. After retirement, I sometimes let it slide to 3. But I've never gone this long without a haircut...until now.  A few more days, and my wife would be forced to wield the clippers upon me. Then, the Governor said it was safe, and I was one of the first ones to sign up at my regular barber.

Yes, today I get a haircut again. Or, at least, I'm scheduled for one. We'll see how that goes.

Women, especially those who depend on their stylist to do a bit more than cut their hair, have an even worse problem. We'll leave it at that--in this case, the less said the better. But feel free to chime in with your special problems.

In the meantime, we'll see how this step back toward a more normal life goes. True, I'll wear a mask, and so will the barber. There will be adjustments all around. But at least I'll go forth from the barber shop feeling a bit more normal. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, May 08, 2020

Writing: Effect Of Being At Home (Readers and Writers)

We're beginning to open things up (except for those who live in some of the states kept at home indefinitely--and you know who you [and your governors] are). Since we're in the group that's a bit more at risk, my wife and I will continue our routine for a while. Actually, it hasn't made much difference.  However, if you're leaving the house now, I have a question for you. Has this enforced time at home altered your reading habits? Has the time at home made you appreciate your family more (or less)? Has your tv-watching increased or decreased?

For the writers among us, have you--like I--found it difficult to concentrate long enough to do a lot of writing? I've already posted that this is a problem among some of the writers of my acquaintance. How about you?

Just asking. I'd really like to know.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

What To Post (redux)

It seems that everyone wants to ride to COVID-19 horse, and everyone has an opinion. I've spent a little time recently looking over old posts. This one seems to still be pertinent, and I thought I'd recycle it. If you have any other ideas, let me know.

I've been on Facebook for quite a while. We're encouraged, as authors, to have a social media presence, and I've tried. I've even developed two Facebook pages--my "regular" one, for friends, family, acquaintances, and some of the people who ask; and my "author" page, where I post links that might be of interest to writers. But the former presents a problem for me.

As I looked through FB today, preparing this post, I decided that there were certain things I wasn't going to do. I don't like posts that have a political flavor. (Although I have my own viewpoint, and will gladly tell you about them, I've never seen anyone convinced by a FB post). I enjoy, for a while, seeing recipes, but eventually they make me hungry. I'm a retired physician, and I keep up with medicine via journals and the Internet, so it especially angers me when people post material--especially that copied from sites--that espouses certain things as sure-fire bad or good things, or for that matter, when they ask medical questions on the Internet. For that matter, when people seek or give professional advice on their FB page, my initial thought is that they might or might not get something useful.

A post that is safe? I've gone on and on, considering and rejecting various things I could write about. And, finally, I've come up with a post that anyone can find fault with. Enjoy.

Friday, May 01, 2020

Writing: What Goes Into A Book?

There are many things the indie-publisher has to learn, and many occasions when they say, "But my publisher usually handles all that." Well, you're doing it now, and although you can get advice (as I did) from many trusted sources, some of this will be learned by trial and error (as was my case).

If your book is non-fiction (and in a few cases for fiction), it has a note at the front. A particular pet peeve of mine is someone who calls it a "Forward." It's a "Foreword." A word that is at the front. I colleague and friend of mine with whom I wrote or edited several technical books continued to call it be the wrong word. I hope you won't make the same mistake.

You'll want to put in a copyright notice--sometime like "Copyright 2020, Richard L. Mabry." Nothing fancy. No need to mail something to yourself and let the postmark show you copyrighted it on such-and-such a date. You wrote it, so you hold the copyright. But it never hurts to put that at the front of the book. If you need a medical or legal disclaimer, that goes here, also.

If you have blurbs for your past books or nice reviews for this one, they can go in front or at the end, whichever you prefer. If you're going to write another book, a "tease" of a short segment of it after your current book is nice. I didn't even think of this in my first few indie-published books. But we live and learn (and take advice from others).

Authors usually put "acknowledgements" or "author's notes" at the front, as well as a dedication if they want to add one. If, by now, you're thinking this is too much, realize there are people who help you, as well as books on the subject. My favorite (and the last time I looked on Amazon, it was free in e-book form) is Salvette's Frontmatter, Backmatter, and Metadata. It has more than I needed, but better too much than too little.

There's more, but--like me--you'll probably learn it by experience, and a little at a time. Good luck.