10 Editorial Steps From the Agent “Call” to Published Book

I am ever so excited to hand the reins over to the fabulous Martina Boone, author of Compulsion, book 1 in the Heirs of Watson Island trilogy. There’s a few reasons for this. First, if you don’t know Martina, well, she’s brilliant. Not only is she an uber talented author with a head full of writerly advice which she dispenses at her blog, she is also a very compassionate and supportive friend who is always thinking about how to help other succeed. I love that.

Second, having her here gives me a chance to gush about her YA debut, Compulsion. You might remember how Becca recently blogged about her favorite reads of 2014. Well, GUESS what book tops my own 2014 list?  You bet your bananas it’s Martina’s Compulsion. There is SO MUCH I want to say about this book, but I really should zip it for now so Martina can give us a rare window into what happens between signing with an agent and holding the beloved book in your hands.

martina booneThe Ten Editorial Steps From the Agent “Call” to Published Book

Like most writers, I’ve dreamed of “being a writer” most of my life, but it wasn’t until 2010 that I decided to throw everything I had at learning to write and getting an agent and getting published. At that point, I read all the books and blog posts that might help me get “there,” and I found so much material that a friend and I started AdventuresInYAPublishing.com to collate all that information and share it with other writers.

Once I signed with an agent, though, I felt like I’d suddenly plunged into an information void. Even with COMPULSION out in the world and PERSUASION well on its way, I still constantly feel like an idiot pestering busy people with questions, or keeping the questions to myself because I’m too embarrassed to ask them.

When we’re starting out as writers, we rarely look beyond the process of getting an agent. That hurdle on its own seems so huge, but truly, it’s just the beginning of the editorial journey our books will take. No, wait. Don’t groan. That’s a GOOD thing, because once your book is out in the world, readers and reviewers are going to pick apart every choice you made. They’ll love them or they’ll hate them, but in your mind, you’ll need to be able to defend those choices knowing exactly why you made them.

After the agent call, here are ten more editorial steps your book will take:

Revising with Your Agent: Even after you’ve polished your manuscript enough to snag an agent, that agent will probably do a round or two of revision with you before sending your book out to editors on submission.

On Sub: While you’re revising, your agent is making lists of editors and putting together a submission packet that will contain the pitch as well as any supporting information that will help “sell” your book to an editor and acquisition panel. The pitch has its genesis in your query letter, and you may find that big chunks of your query eventually end up on your book jacket. You and your agent will probably work on the pitch together before submitting to the editors most likely to love your book.

The Offer: Before you get an offer, your editor may speak to you and share any editorial vision he or she has for your book or query you about follow-on ideas. Both the dollar amount and the supporting information the editor provides will tell you whether they see the book as a mid-list or lead title and how important it will be for their “list.”

EditorialLetter The Editorial Letter: Usually even before your agent and the publisher’s legal department have finalized the contract and the check for the first third of your advance is in the mail, your editor is busy reading your book and preparing the overview what’s needed to bring it to full potential. An editorial letter can range from a couple pages to many pages addressing the manuscript’s strengths and areas for improvement. You may go through one or several rounds of developmental edits.

edits The Line Edit: Once the structure is in place, your editor will go through the manuscript line by line, looking for ways to strengthen the writing, clarify meaning, make images more specific, eliminate cliches and writing ticks, eliminate wordiness, etc.

The Pass for Press: Your editor will review the line edits once you turn them in and she or he will “accept” the manuscript. That’s the trigger for releasing the second third of your advance payment. At this stage, if not before, the book goes to the production department, which schedules out the production process. The book designer starts developing how the interior pages will look, and the cover designer has probably already been working on the exterior jacket in the meantime.

The Copy Edit: The managing editor will turn the book over to a copyeditor. This may be someone in house, or an outside freelancer. It may occur in track changes in Word, or as physical marks on paper. The copyeditor will correct any grammar issues, check for continuity, clarity, and consistency, and pose any queries on facts, timeline, etc. for you in the margins. When you get the Copy Edited Manuscript (CEM) back to review, it’s usually due to your editor very quickly. As I’ve learned the hard way, you need to make sure that this isn’t the first time you see your manuscript printed out on paper, because it will read very differently than it does on your computer screen. CEMs are not the place to make a ton of changes, but they’re a better place to make changes than any point further in the process.

Galleys/ARCs: Once your manuscript is copyedited, it will be changed from an electronic Word file into a typeset file within the publisher’s design program, where it is printed out into page proofs for further editorial scrutiny and distribution to reviewers, booksellers, and power readers—people who can help spread the word about and build excitement for your book. Depending on the publisher and the timeline, you may get to review the proofs before Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) are printed and bound, or you may see the ARCs first and get a few copies for yourself at the same time that they are prepared to go out for review. Don’t fret either way, ARCs are expected to contain errors.

1st Pass Pages: When you get the proofs of the typeset pages, it’s your first chance to see what your book will really look like, how the fonts look, how the paragraphs flow on the page, and how the pages and chapters lay out. You’ll also review for remaining typos and any inadvertent errors introduced when the file and edits were keyed in. Making changes at this stage is expensive, especially if they change pagination. If you make too many changes, your publisher could charge you for the expense, so you’re looking only for things that *must* be changed or corrected.

2nd Pass Pages: Whatever changes were made in the first pass will be reflected in the second pass, but your publisher may not send 2nd PPs to you. At this stage, your job on the manuscript is essentially done, and it’s a surreal feeling to know that there’s nothing more that you can do.

At this point, all of you—your agent, editor, production team, art department, marketing, sales, and publicity team, everyone at your publisher—have done their best, and it’s time to to turn the book over to your readers.

Getting a book to print is truly a gargantuan effort, and it’s a leap of faith and love on everyone’s part. The process is not for the faint-hearted, and there are times when I wanted to crawl in a hole and weep with the pressure and the stress and the sense that I couldn’t possibly make the book good enough. The first letter I received from a reader reminded me of why we do this though—because it was a letter very much like one I would have liked to have written to my favorite author about a beloved book. And hearing that my characters, world, and words have meant that much to someone is an amazing and energizing feeling.

(We often think that hardest part is writing the book, but this post shows how much more still needs to be done after the yes. And then there’s marketing, promoting…as Martina says, not for the faint-hearted. But the product of ALL that hard work? Right here. Trust me, you NEED this book! ~ A)

CompulsionThree plantations. Two gifts. One ancient curse.

All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lives with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead–a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who somehow seems to know what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family’s twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Walmart | Target | Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

The truth? I devoured this book. You ever wish a fictional world was a real place, and its characters living, breathing people that you could sit with and talk to? That’s the effect this book had on me. I loved Barrie and Eight, the push and pull of their personalities, and most of all, the love and loyalty they have for family. Watson Island felt as real and authentic to me as my own backyard. Reading this book was an experience in the truest sense. I loved discovering how magic compulsions, curses and feuds played out between the three families, and the secrets and danger that ties them all together.


I feel utterly COMPELLED to make sure others experience this book, so Becca and I will be giving an ebook copy away to one commenter!

Please, do check this book out, and add it to your Goodreads listI can’t recommend it enough. You can find Martina all over the place, so reach out and say hello:

Martina’s Website | Blog | Tumblr | Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram | Twitter

Questions about the Publishing Journey? Fan of Compulsion like me? Tell us all about it in the comments!


Posted in Agents, Book Review, Guest Post, Publishing and Self Publishing, Reading | 21 Comments

Critiques 4 U, January Edition




Happy 2015, everyone! I hope you’re getting your January groove on, making goals or resolutions or whatever it is that gets you going in the New Year. I’m sure that some of you are wanting to rework that opening page or fine-tune those editing skillz. And if that’s the case, you’re in luck. ‘Cause it’s time for Critiques 4 U!

If you’re agonizing over that first page and you wouldn’t mind me chainsawing taking a gander at it, leave a comment that includes: 

1) your email address

2) the working title of your WIP

3) its genre (no erotica, please)

4) the intended audience


3 commenters’ names will be drawn and posted tomorrow. If you win, you can email me your first page and I’ll offer my feedback. Best of luck!

Posted in Uncategorized | 75 Comments

Talents and Skills Thesaurus Entry: Lipreading

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 



Courtney Rhodes @ Creative Commons

Description: The ability to read other peoples’ lips in order to understand what’s being said

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: good vision

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: focused, persistent, determined, observant, discerning

Required Resources and Training: Lipreading is a skill that many hearing impaired individuals are able to do with accuracy. Their ability comes from a lifetime spent practicing. As with any other skill, once must practice reading others’ lips in order to become proficient at it. 

Associated Stereotypes: those with impaired hearing

Associated Perceptions: When portrayed in fiction, lipreading is often 100% accurate. But there are many factors that can make lipreading difficult: the position of the person being read, the person moving around and making it difficult to see their lips, an obstruction that blocks the lips (a raised hand, food being brought to the mouth, someone with a cold who is always covering a cough or blowing their nose, etc.), a speech impediment that causes a person to form words in an unconventional way, a person speaking with a strong accent or dialect, etc.. These are things that can make lipreading difficult; keep them in mind for ways to frustrate your hero and make it more difficult for him to attain his goal.

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful: For most story purposes, the lipreader would want to be able to use his skill without being noticed, so it would be necessary for him to be able to do so from a distance. To meet this need, he might have excellent vision or utilize binoculars or a scope.

  • When a spy needs to gain information while remaining unnoticed
  • When someone wants to know what a peer or love interest thinks about her
  • When a coach wants to know what plays an opposing team will be running
  • When two people need to communicate without being seen or overheard
  • When a detective or police officer is watching a suspect and wants know what is being said

Resources for Further Information:

Lipreading Training Course and Games

Beginner’s Guide to Lip Reading

You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Show, Don’t Tell: Revealing True Emotion In Dialogue

Very few things pull people in like conversation. After all, when someone speaks, they are making themselves vulnerable to others. How? Because words are steeped in thoughts, beliefs and emotions. They have meaning. Power.

When we talk to someone, what we’re really doing is sharing a piece of ourselves with them. And they in turn listen, weigh our words, and then judge us on some level by what we say. It’s a bit intimidating when you break it down like that, which is why most people think carefully about what to share, and what to hold back. Protecting ourselves from feeling exposed is an immediate response because it ties into our survival instincts.

This creates a big problem for writers trying to form realistic dialogue scenes. Our goal is for readers to pick up on the thought process and emotions of a character so they can better understand their motives and gain insight into who they are. But if dialogue is too honest, and characters share too much about what they feel, the conversation will ring false. Add this to the complication of Point of View (where the reader is not always privy to a character’s direct thoughts) and suddenly showing emotion becomes extra challenging!

So how do we show readers what a character is really feeling when they don’t say it in dialogue?

The answer of course, is body language.

talkingUnlike this picture, conversation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. People move, gesture, shift and pose. In fact, over 93% of communication is nonverbal. Think about that for a second–those conversations you have with friends, the heart-to-hearts with loved ones. All the things you have told to your spouse, the emotions you have verbally shared. This is but a tiny fraction of actual communication.

Our bodies are speaking for us constantly, even though we don’t realize it. When we are trying to hide how we feel, our body language provides ‘cues’ that others will pick up on. We might become less animate. Our voices may lower or tighten. Our posture may shift, our attention might stray or maybe we’ll start fiddling with a button or loose string. Each of these is a clue that something is amiss.

Adding body language to your dialogue scenes will help you get across a character’s emotions even when they are determined to hide what they feel.

Here are 5 ways to reveal a character’s true emotions during dialogue:

Opposites Attract. When a character is speaking without conviction, agreeing for the sake of it or even passing off a lie, show how what he says does not mesh with what his body does. For example, if he’s agreeing with another person’s suggestion, show his affirmative response: “Sure, sounds good,” but his tone is flat, or his shoulders are bowed or his arm movements and hand gestures lack strength.

Facial Expressions.  Normally, the face does not offer a lot of options as far as emotional expression goes, but I believe the exception to that is in dialogue. A well placed grimace, eyes that go wide or a tugging of the ear can go a long way.  Facial expressions are often the body’s first reaction to another person’s dialogue. They can reveal how characters feel about what they are hearing or seeing. Just remember, less is more. Facial expressions cannot support the emotional weight of an exchange alone, and should be used with care.

Personal Distance. Everyone has an amount of personal space that feels comfortable to them. When we feel at ease, the space shrinks, but when we grow tense, the need to create more space is strong. Show this need, and what a character does to increase or erase space as they take part in a conversation.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000046_00058]Bearing, Posture and Movement. How a character stands, sits, their posture, bearing and how their body moves within their environment is an important indicator as to how they feel. Confidence is a stiff back, exposed neck and eye contact. Doubt is a bent neck, hesitating movements, a slow stride and dropped glances. What a body does is a mirror to how a person feels, so describe your character’s actions as they engage in the conversation.

Voice! Sometimes what is said is not as revealing as how a character says it. Does their voice rise or lower in pitch? Do they rush through their words, or offer them only a few at a time? Do they employ sarcasm to mask a deeper emotion? Is there a hesitation or warble present? Most of us do not have as much control over our voices as we would like, so it is an effective and realistic way to reveal shifting emotions with our characters.

Additional links to explore:

Hidden Emotions: How to Tell Readers What Characters Don’t Want to Show

Talk Amongst Yourselves: Writing Realistic Dialogue

How about you? What techniques do you use to show your characters’ emotions during dialogue scenes? Let us know in the comments!

~ Angela

Image by Efraimstochter via Pixabay

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Becca’s Favorite Reads of 2014

For some unfathomable reason, my library keeps no list of the books I’ve checked out—which is really annoying when I want to reference a book in a blog post or refer a good read to someone else and I CANNOT REMEMBER THE TITLE. So I have to keep my own records. Goodreads is my preferred site for this, since my READ (past tense) list not only keeps track of the books I’ve finished, it also includes the date and my rating.

I love Goodreads. If I was Oprah, I’d give it away as one of My Favorite Things. *cue shrieking*

So now that another year has passed, I’d like to share my favorite books of 2014— ’cause when I find an excellent story, I want to give it some love. Maybe some of these will tickle your fancy. Here they are, in no particular order:

Title and Author: The Real Boy, Anne Ursu
Genre: Fantasy
On an island on the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy. The city is called Asteri, a perfect city that was saved by the magic woven into its walls from a devastating plague that swept through the world over a hundred years before. The forest is called the Barrow, a vast wood of ancient trees that encircles the city and feeds the earth with magic. And the boy is called Oscar, a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the Barrow. Oscar spends his days in a small room in the dark cellar of his master’s shop, grinding herbs and dreaming of the wizards who once lived on the island generations ago. Oscar’s world is small, but he likes it that way. The real world is vast, strange, and unpredictable. And Oscar does not quite fit in it.

But it’s been a long time since anyone who could call himself a wizard walked the world, and now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill, and something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has long been content to stay in his small room in the cellar, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the trees will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it.

Why I Loved It: Anne Ursu is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors due to her impressive world building and her ability to turn a unique phrase. I also had no idea that this story was a fairy tale retelling until I was halfway through the book. The story is complex and engaging enough to stand on its own.


Title and Author: Clariel, Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy
Award-winning author Garth Nix returns to the Old Kingdom with a thrilling prequel complete with dark magic, royalty, dangerous action, a strong heroine, and flawless world-building. This epic fantasy adventure is destined to be a classic, and is perfect for fans of Game of Thrones.

Clariel is the daughter of one of the most notable families in the Old Kingdom, with blood relations to the Abhorsen and, most important, to the King. She dreams of living a simple life but discovers this is hard to achieve when a dangerous Free Magic creature is loose in the city, her parents want to marry her off to a killer, and there is a plot brewing against the old and withdrawn King Orrikan. When Clariel is drawn into the efforts to find and capture the creature, she finds hidden sorcery within herself, yet it is magic that carries great dangers. Can she rise above the temptation of power, escape the unwanted marriage, and save the King?

Why I Loved It: I’m a huge Garth Nix fan. HUGE. His Abhorsen trilogy is one that I look back on as forming my early ideas as an author. His world building is second to none. So when I heard that he’d written a prequel for this series, I was super excited and also more than a little nervous, believing it couldn’t live up to the rest of the series. Thank goodness I was wrong.


Title and Author: Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Laini Taylor
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Synopsis of the First Book in the Series (Daughter of Smoke and Bone):
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Why I Loved It: Angels and demons, a celestial war, an urban fantasy partially set in the fascinating Prague…what’s not to love?


Title and Author: If You Find Me, Emily Murdoch
Genre: Contemporary
A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother has disappeared for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go . . . a dark past that hides many secrets, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

Why I Loved It: This one grabbed me with the premise: an isolated teenager raised in the woods who’s forced to assimilate into modern-day society. What kept me reading was the achingly real and empathetic main character.


Title and Author: The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy
In this Newbery Medal-winning novel, Bod is an unusual boy who inhabits an unusual place—he’s the only living resident of a graveyard. Raised from infancy by the ghosts, werewolves, and other cemetery denizens, Bod has learned the antiquated customs of his guardians’ time as well as their ghostly teachings—such as the ability to Fade so mere mortals cannot see him.

Can a boy raised by ghosts face the wonders and terrors of the worlds of both the living and the dead? And then there are being such as ghouls that aren’t really one thing or the other.

Why I Loved It: Um, it’s Neil Gaiman?


Title and Author: The Sea of Tranquility, Katja Millay
Genre: Contemporary
I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk. 

Two and a half years after an unspeakable tragedy left her a shadow of the girl she once was, Nastya Kashnikov moves to a new town determined to keep her dark past hidden and hold everyone at a distance. But her plans only last so long before she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the one person as isolated as herself: Josh Bennett.

Josh’s story is no secret. Every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. When your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space. Everyone except Nastya who won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But as the undeniable pull between them intensifies, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the mira­cle of second chances.

Why I Loved It: The main character was utterly unique and intensely flawed. And what started as a possible love triangle turned into something unpredictable, which was a refreshing change. Also, it has possibly the BEST ENDING LINE OF A NOVEL EVER.

So those are my top picks for 2014. What about you? Care to share which books you loved and why?

Posted in Book Review, Reading, Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Talents and Skills Entry: Farming

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 



Description: The planting and nurturing of seeds to maturity for consumption and profit. There are many steps to farming, including preparation of the land using tools and machinery, understanding the needs of one’s crops as far as irrigation, nutrients and optimal sunlight conditions, and being able to harvest at the correct time, using methods that are economical as well as efficient. The result is the careful collection and storage of a crop that avoids as much product waste as possible. Crops might be for human or animal consumption, and are specific to the climate and growing zone. Most farmers also cultivate different types of crops (or raise livestock) to lower the risk if a particular crop does not do well in any given year.

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: being physically strong and steady, having a deep interest in (and respect for) the land and farm lifestyle, the ability to manage one’s resources well, a keen eye for early signs of problems (such as pest and drought indicators, or an imbalance in the soil’s nutrients), being mechanically minded to fix and maintain one’s own machinery, having a gift for repurposing so nothing is wasted, carpentry skills (to build sheds, fences, etc.), an affinity for animals, handiness with a rifle for protection if wildlife is a factor, a proactive nature, contentment with a quieter way of life, etc. Many people who farm also try to provide their own food, so gardening skills and being able to raise and care for animals properly are also good skills to have.

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: self-sufficient, hard working, patient, perseverance, helpfulness, calm, intelligence, deep thinking, clever, curiosity

Required Resources and Training: Often people who grow crops or plants are those who have been raised on farms, and so exposure to the growth cycle and the routine of planting and harvesting over the years leads to rich experience on all aspects of farming. Understanding the climate is key, as not all crops are suited for all areas, and have different challenges to overcome. Farmers run and maintain their own equipment and structures, so mechanical and building knowledge is part of the package. Budget and resource management is necessary as yields are not always uniform, and paychecks are not consistent. Equipment breakdowns are expensive, so planning for emergencies is also a way of life for farmers.

Associated Stereotypes and Perceptions:

  • Farming is dull and boring, and so the people who farm must be too
  • It is difficult to make money farming as crops are dependent on climate
  • Farming is a quiet life with little human interaction outside of family

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • understanding the cultivation of seeds is important to survival if goods are not readily available (or are expensive)
  • farming skills would be highly valued in situations where communities are starting anew with fewer resources (after a war, a forced relocation, etc.)
  • providing for oneself and one’s family during a time where income is not readily available decreases dependency on other people

You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.

Image via Catkin @ Pixabay

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Workspace Pictures & Our 2015 Charity Selection

Boy, we had are some great pictures come in from our 100,000 Book Milestone Giveaway. It is so neat to peer at your work spaces, meet your pets and see your smiling faces in all of these pictures. Too, the stories are great — so many of you have shared tidbits about how your use our books, what you have accomplished with them and how they are constant writing companions. This is just so gratifying for us to hear, so thank you for this gift!

Here are a few of the pictures that rolled in:

Harry OlsenHere we have Harry Olsen working on his latest project of awesomeness.

50 Points to Gryffindor for managing to take a selfie that gets him, his books, his laptop and his printed work in process ALL IN ONE SHOT!

Leslie ZampettiNext is the talented Leslie Zampetti and her strange electronic device that is actually a portal to another realm. On it, she types magical words that will transport readers into the story world.

Holy zombie cows, I NEED one of these mystical novel-making devices. (And I wish my writing space was as neat as hers too!)

Jan MarkleyAnd here’s Sprite, Jan Markley‘s cat, drinking a mug of whiskey (er, I mean tea OF COURSE!) and likely plotting mayhem that will bring about a fiery apocalypse.

Who killed the Dead Bird Through The Cat Door (Jan’s MG novel on screen?) If it wasn’t Colonel Mustard with a wrench in the library, then my vote goes Sprite, after a drinking and catnip binge.

Lisanne CooperUp next is a picture sent in by Lisanne Cooper, who is obviously a huge fan of the Negative Trait Thesaurus in particular. Why you ask? Because she painted her wall the same shade!



Sabrina RamothAnd sweet lord of chocolate goodness…are those BROWNIES?

Oh, you delicious tease. I wish I was at Sabrina Ramoth‘s house RIGHT NOW.

(Looks like she’s cued up Scrivener and is knee deep in creativity!)

Angie AkerFACT: Angie Aker not only has a fabulous name, she also has a well-loved Emotion Thesaurus.

Bring on the folded corners, the highlights and pen notations! This is what we like to see because it means she is getting serious miles from her book as she uses it.

Janet BoyerBudding writer Noah is taking after his mom Janet Boyer. This means serious lessons in “sharing” as they swap all three books back and forth.

There is a dark side of having a child take on the family business, as illustrated here by the pictures below.

Heather O’Connor sent in these pictures she snapped of a LIVE book theft in action when her daughter Alison got too close to the bookshelf…

(WARNING: Graphic images…writers with weak stomachs may want to look away)

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I’m not going to lie…it was a grueling battle. Outside, lightning forked across the sky and booms of thunder shook the house. An orchestra showed up and began to play epic battle music as the tug of war raged on. Alison finally prevailed by throwing a handful of colorful M & M’s into the air. Her mother, as you might imagine, was helpless against their chocolatey power (No one can resist M & M’s).

Heather might not see her books for awhile, but we appreciate the book love, no matter how you slice it.

(And please, keep those pictures rolling in!)

Paying It Forward

Each year, Becca and I choose a charity to sponsor here at Writers Helping Writers. So far we have donated $2500 to organizations such as Heifer International (mission: to End Poverty) and the Polaris Project (mission: to stop Human Trafficking). So know that when you purchase a book of ours, you are also sending along some much needed help to someone else!

farm sactuaryThis year, Becca and I will be donating to Farm Sanctuary. This charity focuses on rescuing animals from cruelty, re-educating people and advocating for humane treatment.

We are able to do this because of your kind support, so thank you so much!

Happy writing!

Angela & Becca

Posted in About Us, Contests, Emotion Thesaurus Guide, Positive & Negative Thesaurus Guides, Reading, Uncategorized | 19 Comments

100K Book Milestone: Celebrate With Us & Win

Well, it happened. Our small, unusual trio of writing books have officially sold 100,000 copies, which is so freaking incredible. When we launched The Emotion Thesaurus in May of 2012, and then followed up with The Positive and Negative Trait books in October of 2013, we never expected this to happen. (In fact, I remember telling Becca when we wrote the Emotion Thesaurus, I would be happy if it sold 50,000 copies in our lifetime!)

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But it did happen, and all because of you. So thank you so, so, SO much–for your support, for recommending our books and website to other writers, agents and editors, and for of course buying our resources yourselves. We hope they are helping you write deep, compelling characters and stories that readers will love!

Becca and I have a very exciting year ahead, and more content planned to help strengthen your writing. We have two Setting Thesaurus books on the go which should be ready later in the year, and one exciting new project that we hope will knock your socks off. We are still finalizing everything as we head in an uncharted new direction, but as soon as we can share, we will.

Now…let’s talk Celebration!

Becca and I are giving away 10 print copies of our books, winner’s choice. This is a great time for you to snag one of our books if you don’t yet have it, refresh a well-used copy that is worn around the edges, or win a book for a critique partner as a gift. The choice is yours!


Contest is now closed…thank you so much for entering!

Emotion Amplifiers High ResONE LAST THING…

This might also be a good time to remind everyone that there is now a FREE EBOOK Companion for The Emotion Thesaurus. If you haven’t yet grabbed Emotion Amplifiers, JUST GO HERE to download your copy.

Social Sharing is always appreciated. Good luck to all!


Posted in Contests, Past Events, Uncategorized | 103 Comments

Talents and Skills Thesaurus Entry: Haggling

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 



Claire Rowland @ Creative Commons

Description: Negotiating with someone in order to agree upon a price

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: being able to read people, knowing the true value of a given product, not being easily intimidated

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: bold, uninhibited, confident, focused, persistent, persuasive, resourceful, thrifty, greedy, stingy

Required Resources and Training: Anyone can haggle, but as with any skill, the more you do it, the better you get at it. This art can be perfected in places where haggling is common: flea markets, street kiosks, pawn shops, etc. It is also an expected practice in certain countries. To work on this skill, it could be beneficial to frequent these locales and see how the pros do it.

Associated Stereotypes and Perceptions: It’s assumed that good hagglers are often cheap or stingy because they refuse to give a penny more than they think an item is worth. Those who haggle well and often can be viewed as unethical, because they care only about what they can get for an item rather than what it’s really worth.

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • When visiting a country or culture where haggling is common practice
  • When money is scarce and every penny needs to be saved
  • To keep from being hoodwinked by a cutthroat vendor or business person
  • When negotiating a big business deal
  • When trying to negate or reduce the severity of a consequence
  • When a specific item must be procured and there is only a certain amount of money available

Resources for Further Information:

Haggling While Traveling

How to Haggle for Practically Anything

Related Talents and Skills: Reading people, the midas touch

You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Personality Traits: Building a Balanced Character

Thesaurus PairIf writing the Positive Trait & Negative Trait Thesaurus books have taught me anything, it is that compelling characters are neither good nor bad, perfect or fundamentally flawed.

Instead, they are all of these things. Each has a set of good, admirable qualities, even while displaying frustrating or off-putting flaws. They have strengths and weaknesses in different areas, making them both skilled and inept at the same time. But that’s the point, isn’t it? The best characters are realistic and believable because they are just like real people. Like you or I. They have a balance of positive and negatives that give them a wholly unique viewpoint, attitude, belief system and personality.

Some writers want to create characters that ONLY have the best qualities, ones that prove they are good human beings that readers will admire and root for. They find it easy to create a blend of traits like loyalty, helpfulness, intelligence and determination, forming a true hero that can handle anything. But when it comes to choosing flaws, they pull their punches, worried that if they add a trait like selfishness, perfectionism, or impulsiveness, readers will view them as unlikeable.

Other writers EMBRACE the flawed character. They pile up flaws, forged by a hard past filled with emotional wounds that refuse to heal. They add layers of negative traits like suspicious, mistrustful and erratic, all carefully planned around an elaborate backstory that supports the necessity of emotional armor (flaws) that make them who they are.

But when it comes to admirable traits, they struggle. What positive traits would logically survive such a painful past? If say, the character was a victim of horrible abuse and to cope, they became a mistrustful, anti social liar, how can they also be friendly or kind? How can they logically be generous or carefree while harboring such deep flaws?

These are not simple questions to answer. Character creation, when done well, is not an easy process. Too many flaws (or even choosing the wrong type of flaw), and a character becomes unlikeable. Too many positive attributes, and they come across as altruistic, unrealistic or even (yawn) boring. So how can we achieve balance?

balanceUnderstand Who and What Shaped Your Character

Just like every one of us, your character has a past. And while yes, backstory turmoil and pain should be exploited to create conflict and tension in the present, there is always good mixed with bad. In real life, the good experiences (and people) are what keep us going no matter how bad it gets. So think about your character’s positive experiences and past influences along with negative ones as you dig around in their backstory. Understand what the character learned from both past trials and successes, and how each lesson will help to shape his personality.

Uncover Your Character’s Moral Center

Every character has a set of moral beliefs, even the villain. Think deeply about the moral code your character lives by, and what lines he will not cross. (HINT: the “why” of moral choices will be embedded in his backstory, and who/what helped shaped his view of the world.) Morals are the pulsing heart of motivation and action, so determine your character’s sense of right and wrong. (Read more about determining your characters morality HERE.)

Prod His Wound to See What Hurts

Nothing modifies behavior like pain, so understanding what deep emotional wounds your character carries is key to knowing what he also yearns for more than anything (Acceptance? Love? Safety? Freedom?) This wound and the fear that it can happen again is what causes deep flaws to form. They act as “false protection” to keep the hurt from reoccurring, and usually hold people at a distance. Here’s a helpful list of Common Wound Themes.

For example, a character who experienced rejection might close himself off from potential lovers because of his fear of being rejected again. How would flaws “help” him by pushing women away? Is he arrogant? Promiscuous? Uncommunicative? Dishonest?

And what attribute, if nourished, might grow strong enough to vanquish these flaws that hold him back from connection? Respectfulness? Honor? Loyalty? Empathy? Finding a major flaw’s opposite is the pathway to balance & resolving Character Arc through personal growth.

Give All Characters The Chance for Redemption

Some characters are intentionally unbalanced. If you have a character who leans one way more than the other (such as a villain or anti hero) by story necessity, then make sure you also build in something that suggests no matter how flawed or terrible, there is a chance they can change or be redeemed.

Every negative has a positive, and no matter how dark or skewed a character’s view is, or what he feels he’s better without, there will always be a flicker of light that can help him find his way back to becoming whole and complete. Show this to readers, be it a motive that is pure, a relationship with someone that is on some level healthy and good, or a positive quality that is admirable.

Balancing your character’s positive and negative sides means some deep brainstorming! If it helps, here are some more ideas on how to plan a character before you start writing.

How do you create balanced characters?

Image: Bykst @ Pixabay

Posted in Balance, Character Flaws, Character Traits, Character Wound, Characters, Emotion, Empathy, Fear, Positive & Negative Thesaurus Guides, Show Don't Tell, Uncategorized, Villains, Writing Craft | 13 Comments