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Dialogue Tags, Beats, and More. Are you using the right one?

As some of you know, I host a Fiction writing challenge on Fridays here on Ronovan Writes. It’s funny how I use Ronovan Writes as if it’s not me. Sometimes I shorten it to RW. That has nothing to do with this article, merely an aside.

Dialogue Tags and More by Ronovan Hester

One of the goals of the Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes is to improve the writing of those who participate. At the moment my goal with the challenge is to encourage the improvement of the basics of writing Fiction. Some problems I see, not just in a few challenge entries, but in books I review, are the use of Dialogue Tags, Action Beats, and Dialogue Punctuation. Also today I’ll introduce some of you to Grammarly.

This piece today is not just for those doing the challenge. This is for anyone who:

  • Writes.
  • Writes short stories
  • Writes novellas, or novels.

What I have here will help you. For some of you it will be a reminder.

Let’s begin with Dialogue Tags. A Dialogue Tag is when you have a speaker identified along with the dialogue and a word such as ‘said’.

Example: “The dog jumped the fence,” Bob said. OR Bob said, “The dog jumped the fence.”

Example: “Did the dog jump the fence?” Sally asked.

Notice there are words used to show what kind of speaking Bob and Sally are doing. Let’s change one to see what happens.

“The dog jumped the fence.” Bob pointed to Fido racing across the field after the sheep.

We know who is speaking here, Bob because he is the only one mentioned and he is doing an action associated with the act of seeing the dog jump the fence. Now let’s see what happens with Sally.

“Did the dog jump the fence?” Sally pointed to Fido racing across the field after the sheep.

You’ll run into some people who despise Dialogue Tags, regardless of the situation. They would like you to use something like an Action Beat instead. What are Action Beats? An Action Beat is the actions taking place between the dialogues. The two examples above with Bob and Sally pointing are Action Beats. Notice there was no mention of the people speaking. You assumed who was speaking.

My personal opinion is you need a combination of Beats and Tags and nothing at all. Sticking to one and one tool only, in my opinion, would be boring.

Let’s take a look at passage using all three tools.

Example with Dialogue Tags and Action Beats.

“This class is crazy.” Billy ducked the dark rectangular object on its way toward his head.
Larry picked up the weapon, marker dust covered his hand. He threw the eraser back at the offender. “We’re not playing! Find someone else!”
“Thanks, Larry.” Billy’s muffled voice came from the floor.
“You can get up now, Billy.”
“Do you think Ms. Willett will be mad when she sees what they did to her notes on the board?”
“If I were you, I’d be reading a book when she comes in. Act as innocence as possible.”
“Will that work?”
“Did last year. This is my second year in the class. I failed by a point last time. She’s tough. They don’t call her hard butt because she works out so much.”
Billy laughed, and said, “Either way she’s my favorite teacher.”

The above is not the best example, but it gives you an idea of what I’m talking about. I used one dialogue tag, and then only to keep the reader on track. I didn’t want to throw in lots of Action Beats. Action Beats work great, but can be overdone.
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Then you might have a passage with only Dialogue Tags.

All Dialogue Tags:

“This class is crazy,” Billy said and ducked the dark rectangular object on its way toward his head.
“We’re not playing! Find someone else!” Larry said.
“Thanks, Larry,” Billy said.
“You can get up now, Billy,” Larry said.
“Do you think Ms. Willett will be mad when she sees what they did to her notes on the board?” Billy asked.
“If I were you, I’d be reading a book when she comes in. Act as innocence as possible,” Larry said.
“Will that work?” Billy asked.
“Did last year. This is my second year in the class. I failed by a point last time. She’s tough. They don’t call her hard butt because she works out so much,” Larry said.
“Either way she’s my favorite teacher,” Billy said.
How boring is that? Annoying? Except for the exclamation marks for Larry there is no personality or life to the scene. Now you see why you use dialogue tags as little as possible. You also use Action Beats only when you need to. Of course you can pep up the dialogue itself and accomplish a lot.
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One thing you need to do when writing is, give each character a distinctive voice. I always try to do that in every story I write. One character might speak in short sentences, another in long. This guy doesn’t use contractions, this guy uses them even when they don’t exist.

By giving distinctive voices, you can have a conversation without a lot of tags or beats. Beats are good. You do need them. However, if you can get as much as possible across in your dialogue you are a long way to being a success.

No Dialogue Tags and No Action Beats.

“Billy, duck!”
“These people are insane. That could’ve hit me in the eye. Thanks Larry.”
“We’re not playing! Find someone else!”
“Ooo, you nailed him with that eraser.”
“He shouldn’t’ve thrown it in the first place. Uh, Billy?”
“Stop hiding.”
“Oh, yeah. Thanks. Do you think Ms. Willett will be mad when she sees what they did to her notes on the board?”
“Put it this way, if I were you, I’d be reading a book when she comes in. Act like an angel.”
“Will that work? This place is a disaster area. There is no way she will think we didn’t do some of this.”
“Worked last year.”
“Last year?”
“Uh, Billy, I’m a year older than you, remember? I failed by one point last time. But as bad as my grades were, I never got in trouble with Ms. Willett.”
“Larry, you’re always getting into trouble.”
“I know, but every time something happened, I stuck my nose in a book. She’s tough but fair. They don’t call her hard—”
“Okay, they don’t call her hard ‘butt’ because of how much she works out.”
“I don’t care why they call her that, she’s my favorite teacher.”
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Along with dialogue, one thing I notice in books I read and blogs I read is Dialogue Punctuation. I’ll only mention one form of punctuation at this time.

I’ll also make this as simple as I can. Where does the comma go?

Example: “The dog jumped the fence,” Bob said. OR Bob said, “The dog jumped the fence.”

In dialogue, we all know to use the quotation marks around the speech, the dialogue. Where does the comma go? Yes, there is a comma in most dialogue IF there is a normal expression of speech. Look at the example above. There is no exclamation nor a question mark, therefore you put a comma inside the quotation mark.

If you have an exclamation or question mark, then put the mark and close with the quotation, no comma is required.

Example: “The dog jumped the fence!” Bob said.

Example: “Did the dog jump the fence?” Sally asked.

No comma was required in the examples above.

You can do away with commas by not using Dialogue Tags and sticking with Action Beats. Yawn. Okay, not really yawn, if done correctly. When you have a scene with two people conversing, you can easily do away with Dialogue Tags and stick with Action Beats and no manner of denoting who is speaking at all based on the rhythm of the exchange.
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Grammar and Spelling

For those without Word to help catch spelling and grammar errors, I have a suggestion for you. However, first if you do have Word, I’m going to refer you to Using Proofing To Help Your Fiction Diction & More!, for how you can make the most of Word

Another TOOL to use, if you don’t have Word is It can be used inside of WordPress or any place you type, even comments on blogs. Also, they have a FREE version, which I use.
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If you found this helpful, you may also enjoy:

UNDERSTAND THE TOOLS OF YOUR TRADE by Jo Robinson of any of Jo’s articles on Self-Publishing by clicking HERE.


Ronovan Hester is an author, with his debut historical adventure novel Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling due out in February 14, 2016. He shares his life through his blog His love of poetry, authors and community through his online world has lead to the creation of a site dedicated to book reviews, interviews and author resources known as

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© Copyright-All rights reserved by 2016


Why are the first few chapters of your book great and then the yawn sets in as you continue reading through your first draft? Did two people write it?

The problem is common, happens to us all, and is something rarely if ever discussed. I believe it is because we know. We. Just. Know.

I call it Manuscript Mental Fatigue (MMF). We put so much into those first few chapters, editing as we go, and you know we do, then we make it past perhaps chapter ten and it’s over. We just write. It’s not that our ideas are but we just aren’t executing them the way we did earlier. A rule given at every turn about something not to do it, but we spent all of that time on those first few chapters. Instead of letting the words flow, we edited and tried to make those first chapters excellent when it was only a first draft. Why?

If you are like me, then you might say to yourself, “I know once I am finished writing this I am going to hate going back and just doing it all over again, so I am going to make it perfect the first time through.”

We hate going back through it because we put so much effort into the first draft in polishing as we wrote it the first time.


Every time we go through a draft of the book we keep getting tired a few chapters in, and once again, we have poorly executed chapters as the book goes on and in truth, they need executed properly in the burn barrel in the backyard.

Avoiding Manucript Mental Fatigue

How To Avoid MMF.

The First Draft

First, don’t write when you are brain tired. When you feel the brain beginning to tire—STOP. Go ahead and stop. Nothing good will come from forcing water out of a dry sponge.

While resting do nothing regarding your novel other than simply jotting down an idea that comes to mind and make sure to reference when you came up with the idea, why, and where it should go in the book. If you don’t reference and have written a three-word idea, you’ll be lost.

We have finished our first draft!

The Walk Away

Now we need to walk away and:

  • Begin our next novel.
  • Work on the second draft of a novel.
  • Beta Read for an author friend.
  • Do anything that will get our minds off that first draft. You need to give the brain and the story a rest, a time to refresh and see each other anew. I personally love doing research for books.

Time goes by; let’s say a couple of months. I know; I am being optimistic with saying two months, some people say three months to a year. (I also know I have used two semicolons together in as many sentences.) Then there is the optimism we will stay away from our work for even two months.

I have run across things I wrote years ago and had no idea it was I that wrote them. They just didn’t sound like me, but were! That’s what you want to achieve. Put your all in other things and put that book out of your mind.

  • Set some type of alarm, maybe on the computer or in the cell phone that goes off on the date to start the next draft.
  • Don’t have it marked on a calendar somewhere that will remind you of it.

The Return Part I

Now we are back to the second draft. We are reading it and making notes along the way, not corrections, just notes. If we make corrections now, we will become brain mush. Just read and take notes.


If we began corrections, we will begin to tire out during those first chapters, just as we would if we did editing as we wrote the first draft.

The Return Part II

Divide the book into three parts. Beginning, middle, and end. We will first work on the beginning, making updates/changes to the story according to notes.

Take a break of a few days to a week. Rest that brain.

Continue the same process through the middle and end parts of the book.

Walk away from the book and work on something else. No, we don’t have to be away forever, but we do want a bit of fresh eyes.

The Return Part III

Now it is time to read the book with the changes in place. We can do a few things at this time.

  • Take notes of problem areas.
  • Highlight problem areas.
  • Print the draft and mark problem areas.

The Third Draft

Work on the problem areas.

Use Word, or something like Grammarly to check grammar, spellings, word usage, and passive sentence structure, if passive sentences are something to be avoided which they normally are.

This is the time to become happy with the manuscript, happy enough for others to read it. We need to make a decision at this point to either have the manuscript edited or sent to beta-readers. There are different thoughts on which to do first, the editor or the beta-readers.

Some believe not to let beta-readers see the manuscript until it is as close to publishable as possible, with minor changes to take place at their suggestion.

I do see the merit of beta-reader last idea. If you have several beta-readers giving feedback then make the changes, send to the editor, and then publish, there may be changes made the beta-readers might like or dislike that would affect a review or recommendation.

The Book

Give it up to the reader fairies of the world.

Rinse and Repeat for the next project, that book you were working on while this one was at rest back up there after that first draft.

If you have ideas of how to avoid MMF, leave them in the comments below for others to learn from your wisdom. Appreciation in advance to anyone who comments below.


Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling by PS Bartlett and Ronovan HesterRonovan Hester is an author, with his debut historical adventure novel Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling due out in February 14, 2016. He shares his life through his blog His love of poetry, authors and community through his online world has lead to the creation of a site dedicated to book reviews, interviews and author resources known as

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© Copyright-All rights reserved by 2016

The Need for Farsightedness

When it comes to writing, don’t be too shortsighted.

A Diary of Writing Wisdom (and other nonsense)


The Need for Farsightedness

Human beings are naturally shortsighted. The current opinions are the ones we see in front of us, the ones that are discussed in current magazines and on social media. It is natural to concentrate on current trends and hot topics. But there are two disadvantages in doing so. One is that we fail to learn from the past; the other is that we fail to look to the future.

Interestingly, these two forms of shortsightedness are connected, for one of the clearest lessons we learn from the past is that the “normal” of one generation is out-of-date in the next. In theory this is not hard to accept. At one time or another we have all read books/excerpts from articles written many centuries ago and smiled at the quaintness of the ideas and the language contained therein; and we realize that our own generation would be unique were it not for the fact that it will appear equally quaint in years to come.

I wonder, for instance, what our descendants will think of the Zombie Apocalypse theory or of stem-cell research. It is difficult for us to see it as future generations are likely to see it. Robert Burns once prayed for the gift to see ourselves as others see us. It would be an even greater gift to see ourselves as people in the 23rd Century will see us.

When it comes to writing, don’t be too shortsighted. Learn from your past. Don’t just let it lay dormant. Incorporate what you’ve learned from the past into your script of today. Believe it or not, this looking-back approach can help writer’s generate even greater power to look ahead. It can help writer’s ignore the temptation to write only about current trends and hot topics. It can even help writers become less shortsighted and more farsighted—nearby distractions become blurry while the ability to see distant goals and objectives become more and more clear.

OC Maryland-001Ocean City, MD, 2014. 


It’s the end of the ‘work’ week and I thought before we hit the weekend and more easily accessible writing time, I would do a little bit of NaNoWriMo talk.

As of the writing of this post, I am over 25,000 words on my NaNoWriMo book, Honor Bound: Monsters. Crazy, right? The thing is I wrote 13,000 of that on Wednesday. How?

Actually it took me a while to find that groove. I was stuck in research limbo over wanting a fact to bridge one scene of the book to the next scene. Yes, I hear some of you now, “Dude, that is stoopid!”

And yes, it was not quite intelligent. I got caught in a trap. A trap I knew to look out for and to avoid during a first draft of a work of FICTION.

My advice has been “Just write the freaking story.”

And I was “Stalling on a freaking point.”

Now to the how to get in to your groove.

5 Ways To Move Ahead In Your Novel

  1. Don’t get stuck on the finer details at this point. It is just a first draft.
    • How did I move from stuck to the next scene. I just went to the next scene. I knew where I was going, and I knew all I wanted was a simple dialogue scene with a touch of information in it, but I was too brain tired to get that part done, so I went on to where the ground was fertile, while making a HUGE note there was a need for a scene addition. And the great thing is, by the time I get back to that scene, I will know the characters even better and very likely have the information that I need to use in that scene. Or maybe, I will find I don’t need the bridge at all.
  2. Take a break. If you write and push through exhaustion you end up burning out and for some they end up in pain.  I do this too often, pushing. I did it Wednesday and suffered for it most of Thursday. I finally kicked back into the groove late in the day and put in a good number of words. I think begin half way to the NaNo goal isn’t bad. And when you do take a break what should you do?
  3. Leave your writing in the middle of a sentence or scene. This way you know what to pick up with next time. Walking away at the end of a scene or chapter is one of the worst things you can do.
  4. A big thing that helped me get my word count moving was being part of the facebook group for my NaNoWriMo Region. A bunch of strangers, or some are friends of each other, joining in and doing sprints. Sprints are when you write for 15 minutes as focused as you can and then time is called. You share your word count and people encourage and the like. It seriously helped me late last night. It got to the point my hands were so tired my fingers didn’t want to lift off the keys and move.
  5. A challenge buddy is also pushing me. I have one particular friend that is as competitive if not more so than I am about this. I’m not overly competitive but I like to use competition to help encourage others to push onward, and you get caught up in it.

I find it odd that last year only about 17% of those who signed up for NaNoWriMo actually finished it.  I think most of those not finishing never started, at least that’s my opinion. And if you don’t finish, at least get a habit going of writing.

Writing around 2000 words a day, writing a story that isn’t supposed to be read yet, isn’t that difficult. You keep writing and get yourself out of whatever you got yourself into.

Author and LWI Team Member Jo Robinson has a great article about Writer’s Block called Dodge Around the Blocks. Make sure to check it out for some more advice. Also the other helpful tips in the NaNoWriMo Support section might give you an idea to get you to where you want to be.

Ronovan Hester is an author, with his debut historical adventure novel Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling due out in December of 2015. He shares his life as an amnesiac and Chronic Pain sufferer through his blog His love of poetry, authors and community through his online world has lead to a growing Weekly Haiku Challenge and the creation of a site dedicated to book reviews, interviews and author resources known as

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© Copyright-All rights reserved by 2015 The next step in our Commitment.

It has been over a year since I made a strange decision. I created a second blog.  A place to share my interests and love of books and authors and everything related to writing and literature.

With an ever growing team, now numbering TWELVE with the latest addition of Elizabeth Tyree of  Here there Be Dragons, a writer and reviewer I was led to by Colleen who was recently promoted to Editor here at LWI, we’re no longer a normal blog. We have schedules and committed professionals who have a love for this profession and give of their time to add to the joy of others and to the careers of fellow authors.

And a full post with details about Elizabeth will be coming soon.

Today I simply wanted to let you all know about our commitment to you, the author, and to you the reader. You all know that any time a writer shells out money for anything, it’s a big deal. No matter how little or how large.  It was determined a little could be put in the budget for something I love so much and I hope brings happiness to others.

Much Respect




Only around 17% of the people who signed up for NaNoWriMo actually finished NaNoWriMo. Why the low percentage?

  • A lot of likely signed up on impulse.
  • Some even just plain forgot about it.
  • Then there are those who wrote 45,000 words and didn’t want to find a way of putting in another 5,000 because they didn’t think the story needed it.
  • And you have those who thought they had a 50,000 word idea and it was more like 15,000.

A big reason for those who were successful can be found in their preparation.

NaNoWriMo Dome of Preparation



You need to know what your story is about before that first day. You may want to do a YA Paranormal Romance but once you get into it you realize that the genre just isn’t speaking to you, or maybe even the story isn’t. You can easily sit and think, if you want to take that route, about the plot and how it will go.


If you’re certain of your idea and it might need some research for parts, maybe some historical event or a technical aspect, go ahead and get that done and out of the way. But also remember this is a first draft and you can wing it for now and change it later if you need to. But if a big part of your book is based on those little details, research now. A second draft of complete rewriting is never fun.


Know roughly where you will go from one chapter to the next. It could be once sentence, just as long as you know. This doesn’t mean you must stick to it, but it will let you know if you have a full length story or not.


One of the most difficult things for a book is determining names. It sounds easy and it may be for some, but I tend to do research into names to fit regions and ancestry. I want the names to seem as authentic as possible. A boy named Bubba who was born and raised in Paris might take the reader out of the story, unless you have a very good reason for his name being Bubba. That’s a bit extreme and very unlikely a case but I think it shows you what I mean. The same goes for restaurants.

One of the best things to do is base your character names on people you know and perhaps even the setting where you live, if possible. You can’t write any more authentic than the place you know.


This is the most important thing. Begin now to write during the time you plan to write for NaNoWriMo. Begin writing roughly 2000 words on any subject, but write. And don’t stop writing and walk away until you have that 2000 words. You are not only training yourself but those around you as well. They’ll know that during this time is your time and not to disturb you. If you have the habit you’ll be surprised how quickly you can write 2000 words.

More tips, suggestions, and writing habits to come, stay tuned!

Check out the NaNoWriMo Pinterest Board I’ve started. As I find articles, mine or otherwise, I’ll be Pinning them, and I’ve allowed some others to do so as well that I know will find some great things to contribute. And here is a quote from a pep talk on NaNoWriMo from last year.

Jim Butcher Sarcastic Pep Talk about Writing

To be my NaNoWriMo Writing Buddy, click

Much Respect



About the Author and a Winner of NaNoWriMo 2014!

Ronovan Hester is an author, whose debut novel Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling is due to release in December of 2015. He’s also a blogger and former educator who shares his life as an amnesiac and Chronic Pain sufferer though his blog His love of poetry, authors and community through his online world has lead to a growing Weekly Haiku Challenge and the creation of, a site dedicated to book reviews, interviews and author resources.  For those serious about book reviewing and interested in reviewing for the LWI site, email Ronovan at ronovanwrites (at) gmail (dot) com to begin a dialogue. It may not work out but then again it might.

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 © Copyright-All rights reserved by 2015

30 Tips for NaNoWriMo from @JessicaStrawser & About LWI Support.

It’s that time of the year, or almost. November. Writing 50,000 words in one month. We cringe at the thought, but have you ever thought how many words you write on your blogs, social media, and just general messing around online? Think about it that way and you would be surprised how books you’ve written. Here’s a way to get focused, bear down, and get it done. WITH SUPPORT.

NaNoWriMo Image

Here on LWI we’re going to have a page dedicated to NaNoWriMo. There will be inspirational posts you can comment on and receive feedback and support. If you need a pep talk, we’re here for you. Whenever we find something great we’ll share it and it will show under that dedicated page. So you visit here and click the NaNoWriMo tab/page in the menu and there you are. Our resident guru of Indie Authorship suggested we do something. I might be taking it over the top but I shoot for the unknown galaxies and your bound to hit a star somewhere along the way.

To start us off, here is an article from Writer’s Digest by Jessica Strawser. The beginning blurb is below, then click the HERE to go to juicy parts.

“Sometimes it’s a lone writer who’s been putting off a story idea for too long, and decides it’s now or never. Sometimes it’s a pair or a group determined to find out what they can achieve by sharing self-imposed deadlines and strong pots of coffee. Sometimes it’s peer pressure or curiosity about National Novel Writing Month (, that challenge that rallies ever-increasing numbers of writers around the globe every November to band together in pursuit of a 50,000-word “win.”

Book-in-a-month challenges take all forms, fueled by all stripes of writers with all manner of motivations—make the most of that time alone in a borrowed cabin, hunker down for the winter, stop procrastinating, have something ready to pitch at that conference, prove to yourself you can do it, prove to someone else you can do it, get a fresh start—and in this hyperconnected age of 24-hour fingertip resources and networks, of tiny portable keyboards and glow-in-the-dark screens, they’re more popular than ever.”

For the rest of the article and the 30 Tips, click HERE.




Editor of Writer’s Digest magazine | debut novel, ALMOST MISSED YOU, coming from in 2017 | mother of two | book lover | repped by agent


About the Finder of the Article and a Winner of NaNoWriMo 2014!

Ron_LWIRonovan is an author, blogger and former educator who shares his life as an amnesiac and Chronic Pain sufferer though his blog His love of poetry, authors and community through his online world has lead to a growing Weekly Haiku Challenge and the creation of, a site dedicated to book reviews, interviews and author resources.  For those serious about book reviewing and interested in reviewing for the LWI site, email Ronovan at ronovanwrites (at) gmail (dot) com to begin a dialogue. It may not work out but then again it might.

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 © Copyright-All rights reserved by 2015

We are what we eat…

We are what we eat…

A Diary of Writing Wisdom (and other nonsense)


We are what we eat…


The Latin proverb simulac hoc, ergo propter hoc, which may be translated, “everything is the product of its environment,” is the basis for this writing theory.

According to this idea authors are like rivers. Rivers do not create water; they receive it from springs and streams. In the same way authors receive their ideas from the streams of thought that are flowing in the corner of the world in which they live. A middle-class Eastern author will receive middle-class Eastern ideas. A working-class Western author will receive working-class Western ideas.

To say it another way, authors “are what they eat.” This idea applies to minds as well as to bodies. It assumes that, just as my body is the product of red curry or pulled-pork BBQ (depending on my background), so also my mind is the product of French ideas or American ideas, liberal ideas or conservative ideas (depending on my background).

Growing authors, however, will realize this about themselves and seek out ways to “alternate” what they eat (every once in a while).

As a step toward becoming more aware of the kind of writer you now are. As a step toward becoming the kind of writer you someday wish to be—take time to consider not only how what you eat may be contributing to your writing, but how what you only eat may also be limiting your writing.

Variety adds spice . . . to writing life.

The Novel: Doing the Research by @DanMcNeil888

When I first got the notion to put a book idea that had germinated in my head for close to twenty years on paper, I had no idea what was in store for me. Literally…not a clue.

The-Judas-Apocalypse-cover-DMThe Judas Apocalypse was born out of an immense love for history and adventure. It gnawed at me for years. I always thought it was a really cool and original premise and it was my kind of book. I wanted to put in everything I loved about an adventure novel – an ancient secret, a long lost treasure, action and tons of twists. After vacillating for a few years, I finally decided I would give writing it a shot.

Penning a novel…how hard could it be, right? Although I had never done anything at all like it before, I did recall banging off a three page short story for a creative writing class I took when I was about 15. Got an A for it. So yeah, I figured I could do this. Piece of cake.

So I sat down at the computer and started to write the first chapter. It played out in my head like a movie. I could see the little girl, the crowd, the agonizing trek to the Hill of Skulls, the inevitable end that marked the beginning of the story. Not a problem – let’s do this!

I had the first chapter done in about an hour. Then I was faced with the next chapter and I realized to my horror, to continue this tale and hopefully turn it into a gripping and page turning historical voyage that would ultimately take place over a two thousand year span, I would have to do some research. Some real, serious historical and (yikes!) theological research.

Suddenly it was like I was back in high school. Any idea how I felt about high school? Does anyone ever really enjoy his or her experience there? I know some people do but I sure didn’t. And just like in high school, I knew the research was going to be a pretty massive undertaking. But I knew in order to make the story believable, I needed the historical accuracy. It was the only way to make the story really come alive.

Thank God things had changed somewhat since those days. No more scouring the library for four, five hundred page tomes that would have sunk me faster than Quintus Arrius’ trireme in Ben Hur (see – I had to research that.) I now had the power of the internet before me. Information was at the tips of my fingers.

A ton of information, that is…and a lot of garbage too. Man oh man, what to use? What to ignore? Wading through it all was going to take a while. Oh, and by “a while” I mean about four years. Honestly, if I knew beforehand it would take me four years to research this beast, I would have gone back to writing mildly pleasant pop songs again.

What I did to tame this beast was to work out the basic plot in my head, then on paper. Seems obvious, right? Originally, I thought I would just start writing and see where it would lead me. But it became very apparent early on it would be absolutely necessary to at least plot out the basics because I would need to limit my searches to what was germane to the story. It is soooo easy to get lost on the ‘net. One minute I’m looking up the interior of a German U Boat from 1944 (an important plot point in the middle of the book – I needed to describe it as precisely as possible) and the next minute I’m hitting a link taking me to an article about, of all things, the Montgolfier brothers and their hot air balloons. I’m not kidding – then that particular link lead me to a Monty Python sketch called “The Golden Age of Ballooning” and then before I realized it, I was on a Monty Python YouTube page that lost me a full day’s writing.

The internet is a valuable resource, no doubt, but there sure are a lot of historical inaccuracies on it as well. Because my novel was a work of fiction (with historical elements) however, the inaccuracies were not such a huge issue for me. In fact, many times, the inaccuracies would spark an idea that proved to be, for the most part, useful or at the very least, interesting. The trick was to recognize the areas where accuracy was mandatory. That was key. There were times when the publisher and I went back and forth over a particular historical point, if incorrect, could tumble the precarious house of historical cards I had set up. What it came down to in the end was, certain events, certain locations, and even some historically real characters (for example, Otto Rahn, the famous Holy Grail archeologist makes an appearance) needed to be as factually accurate as possible. That meant finding numerous sources that bore out the information. If I found at least three, I felt I was in the ballpark. The online world also provided links to encyclopedia topics and relevant magazine articles of immeasurable help. Again, as long as I could find at least three agreeable sources, I went for it.

But historical detail only goes so far. The Judas Apocalypse and my second book, Can’t Buy Me Love (a Cant-Buy-Me-Love-cover-DMlittle shameless self promotion and plug!) are historical fiction after all. The accuracy goes to fostering the believability of the plot, but you can’t get mired down in all the archival veracity. Too much detail and the adventure can fall flat; not enough and it’s not believable. It’s a carefully mixed cocktail of detail and drama I hope keeps readers turning the pages and drunk with excitement.

Although it took literally years to research The Judas Apocalypse (Can’t Buy Me Love, by the way, took much less time as it was a quite a different book and, by now, I had a better idea what I was doing ), I must say the experience did soften my view of the process. It’s a tough slog, but well worth it in the end.

Maybe, by the time I’m ready for book number three, I’ll get my nose to that historical grindstone. If, that is, I can stay away from the Monty Python videos…

Can't buy me love The Judas ApocalypseDan McNeil is a Canadian author with two novels so far to his fame; The Judas Apocalypse and Can’t Buy Me Love. Both available on Amazon by clicking here to go to his Amazon Author Page. To find out more of the man visit his website, and follow him on Twitter @DanMcNeil888. Also read his Author Interview here on LWI by clicking here.

Proofreading When the Writing’s Done by @JoRobinson176

One of the biggest things I learned on my Indie trip was that I couldn’t see my own mistakes. I must have proofread my first manuscript dozens and dozens of times, and I was very confident that it was pristine. Then I went on to editing and made some changes to paragraphs, swopped words around, and thought that that was that. I had put many hours into the polishing, and was feeling all warm and fuzzy that I’d done the work well when I hit that publish button. How very, very wrong I was. There were still typos and grammar gremlins in the book after all of that hard graft, primarily in the changes I’d made, and I came down to Earth with a bang in a blaze of shame, realising that that the editing was not at all complete when I thought it was.

I learned that if you write something and proofread it yourself, your brain knows what word is coming next, so it often sees a typo as it should be, even though a typo in another writer’s work will stop you in your tracks, seeing your own isn’t so easy. These days I’m much more careful, and I make sure that eyeballs other than my own go over my stories before they’re published. Typos still can slip through, but luckily with Indie publishing they can be very quickly fixed. There are some tried and tested ways to help yourself when you dive into your first round of proofing.

Firstly, take a break and put the manuscript away for a week or so, or at least a few days if you can’t wait. Do your run of the mill spell check, then choose how you’re going to read it. I generally print it out for the first go around, and mark it up with a gel pen, using a thick ruler under the sentence I’m reading so my eyes can’t be drawn to what comes next. After fixing the errors I’ve found so far I then convert it to a Mobi file using the free Calibre software, and read it through again on my Kindle for PC. I’m always amazed at how many errors I pick up this way. Then after another fix up session I’ll read the word document with the font size increased quite a bit, and then print it out again for another going over. I have heard some writers say that changing the font colour when reading on the computer is jarring enough for them to spot more errors, but I haven’t tried this one out myself yet.

It’s a slow process, and so it should be, as I discovered to my mortification, so now I do the work. For my semi-final going over, I separate the book into chapters and read them in random order. I read a page at a time, and from the bottom up, one sentence at a time. It took me some getting used to, but it really worked for me. I tried reading upside down as one fellow scribbler recommended but that just made me feel a little queasy. Finally I use the Find function in word to search for words I know I always overuse. I check my character’s name spellings the same way, and I then search a couple of commonly mixed up contractions and apostrophes.

Then the manuscript heads off to fresh eyeballs for a brand new going over, and when it comes back I read it again, out loud, before starting on the formatting for publishing. If you can’t afford to pay for a professional proofreader then you could maybe try and swop proofing with another writer. Or maybe exchange it for something else that you’re good at – like cover design if that’s what the other writer prefers, but you definitely need someone other than you to read your book before you publish it. It’s a learning enterprise this Indie journey, and we grow as we go, and help each other along the way. I’ve heard some wonderful things about Grammarly lately. It’s a free online tool that finds so much more than just typos – things like homonyms and other grammar gremlins that hide so well, so I’ll be giving that a try next time round. Hope you all have a wonderful long weekend fellow scribblers.

Grammar Gremlins

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How I learned to Kill My Darlings.

You’ve heard the expression in writing that you may come to a point where you must “kill your darlings.” Some will even say kill every last one of the son of a—oops. I was channeling someone else for a moment. Some darlings are okay to keep, but some should be killed. But how to know which and who came up with the idea of the da—yeah, channeling again.

There once was a man named Q, who didn’t know what to do, then one day, decided to say, all your darlings do slay.

In 1912 Arthur Quiller-Couch became a professor at Cambridge. In his first series of lectures he coined a phrase, or at least it is our earliest noted use of said phrase and in the portion of that lecture it went like this:

Arthur Quiller-Couch“[If] you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”~Arthur Quiller-Couch from On the Art of Writing Lectures delivered in the University of Cambridge 1913-1914.-Page 146


If this be much too much for some to grasp and too ancient I shall refer you to a more god like being in the eyes of us mere mortallaic scribes.Stephen King

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” ~Stephen King from his On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Perhaps even that is a little too old school for some. How about this?

Neil Gaiman“I absolutely believe in taking out things that make the story better if they aren’t there. Just as I believe in writing scenes you didn’t want to write, when you’re doing the second draft, because it makes the story work better if they are there.

Other than that, I think you’re God when you write, and you get to make the universe the way you want it. If you’ve written something really good, why would you get rid of it? Normally the bits that I really like are the bits that my readers really like too.”~Neil Gaiman , his Tumblr,com page March 18, 2012 (This link will open in this page.)

kill the darlingsIf you are still with me then you are wondering what my advice is on how to kill your darlings. What one piece of advice can I give that you may not have heard before?

Write and draft and draft until you loath, you despise, you literally wish to KILL your novel. The darlings will then leap from the page and sacrifice themselves. Until this point your darlings are in disguise.

I speak from experience. Recently I’ve been working on draft after draft of a book I began back in 2012 or earlier. 300 pages of words, non-stop for days on end have been my life. I know all of you reading can feel me on this one. I am now in stage 25 of writer draft coma and am hooked up to an IV of coffee—I only started drinking coffee a few weeks ago. I think there may be a correlation, and yes that’s how bad it’s been. No, not the story, but how dedicated I am to getting this one exactly how I want it.

In stage 25 it happened. I. Killed. A. Darling. Then. Another. I began to read and see the saccharine everywhere. Those cheesy bits of one-liners in the interior monologue of the narrator that is supposed to be cool because he represents ME! I had reached hatred level. The more I read, the more it became obvious that I, the narrator would NOT say these things. No one in their right mind would read these words and say, “Oh yes, I’ve thought those very same things myself.”

Some of you are saying at this time, “I will never loath my novel.” By loathing your novel I am in effect stating you are loathing the process of continuously laboring over the need to draft and draft. Your mind will eventually have mercy on you.

But how can you do this? I realized somethings.

One is as I said before there are things people just don’t say. They draw attention to the writing. They pull me out of the story, even my own story.

Then I determined things I had in the story were things people skipped. You know those passages in a book you will likely skip as you go along. You get to certain parts and you want to know this, not that. “That” is a darling. “This” is what you need. I found a way to get out of the way of the story. I want my stories read. Is my story the same story without “That”? If the answer is yes, then son long to “That”. Yes, I know I am using quotation marks too often but I am doing it for emphasis.

Going through my novel again I have made great cuts and slashes. Phrasing is improving left and right, pace has improved, the voices of the characters are becoming more distinct. It has taken a long time to get to this point and a lot of pain, in the literal sense. I would not change a moment of it. What I discovered is something that will help me for the remainder of my writing career.

Will this be the piece of advice that helps you get to that goal you have? I don’t know, but every tip is worth at least reading about. I’ve found I gain something each time, or I lose brain cells from the sheer duh duh duh of the person who thought they should be giving advice. Yes, go ahead and say it as you finish reading this about me. All together now. DUH DUH DUH.

But one last bit of advice. Make certain to save that previous draft. When it comes time for your Beta-Readers to read, you may find you need to Frankenstein some Darlings.



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State of the LWI Address.

Hello LWI Friends,

First of all I want to thank every single one of you for helping LWI get off to such a great start. I think if people saw the Numbers and heard the Buzz about our site they would be surprised. I know I am. That’s only because I was not expecting to have a team of such great people working on the site with me.

In order of their officially joining the team:
Author Jo Robinson
Author PS Bartlett
Florence Thum
Author Dr. Olga Núñez Miret
Colleen Chesebro
Hugh Roberts

Now I wanted tell all of those who have;

  • Provided me with books for reading and reviewing
  • Sent answers to interview questions
  • Have agreed to interviews

That I am happily working on all of them and have not forgotten. I know it may seem at times as though an interview or review is long in coming but it does come. Interview response has been tremendous. In fact there may be a week filled with Interviews coming up.

For those who haven’t taken advantage of our services here at LWI please check out our About page. If you need a book review, email me and I will connect you with the appropriate Reviewer. At least that’s the normal way we like it done.

If you want an interview, again email me and just know it may be time before an interview is published. I now like to receive a book, even if in PDF form to read and be able to give a true interview instead of a simple list of questions. That means Interviews take longer but will be better and serve you better. Not only do you receive an Interview but you receive a Review on the LWI site as well as Amazon, GoodReads and any other site you have the book available and I am aware of it. After my current round of interviews I have now there will be one interview per week so there can be a focus on promoting an author.

There may be times more than one Interview is published in a week if there is a special week going on such as Valentines and perhaps I want to have a week of Romance Writers.

Our goal here at LWI this year is to have Quality, not Quantity. We want to grow in a healthy way to serve the Literary Community without a focus on how many subscribers to the site we have, how many comments or how many Likes of an article. My purpose from the beginning when I created LitWorldInterviews was to give the author, Indie Author, Traditional Author, New Author, and Veteran Author alike a place to come to for a piece of promotion they could use for their career.

I want that piece of promotion to be the best it can be along with the top notch features that are put out to help learn about the publishing world.

Quality and Supporting Authors at Every Step.

That’s our mission.

Much Respect,






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Write what you LOVE.

Write what you know is perhaps the most over used and overrated piece of advice ever given to writers. I am sure Mary Shelly knew a great deal about creating a monster from body parts and electricity. She had heard various legends and histories and tales in her travels but when it came to creating what some refer to as the very first science fiction story, she didn’t know.

What then should be the advice? Write what you love. You may twist and turn it but at the base level it is what you love and if you write what you love you will finish what you love and do your best job while doing so.

I’m not the only one that has this idea. Or course I’m not. English author Anne Perry, of the Thomas Pitt and William Monk series, in the Forward to Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel wrote:

Sometimes I am asked, “Is it true you should write what you know about?” I say, “No, write what you care about. If you don’t care, you’ll find out. But if you don’t care, why should anyone else?”

Considering her success I think I will take her advice and feel comfortable that I believe the same thing.

I recently interviewed John W. Howell author of My Girl. His novel includes a great deal about boats, the terminology and the actual mechanical parts of a boat. This is what John had to say when I asked what he had learned about himself during the writing of the thriller My Girl:

“The first thing I learned was I could, in fact, finish a book that was readable. Up to this point my efforts were not what I would describe as stellar. The second was I could write about a subject that I knew little about. People who don’t know me think I have been around boats. I really had to research all aspects of the book since none of the hardware and software related items were in my experience profile.”

Considering the great reviews John has received, I think he did some great research. From my own personal writing I’ve written just about every genre you can think of and for every age. It’s taken me almost 20 years to realize what it is I want to write, what I love. As soon as I did, I also found my writer’s voice.

When you find what you love, you will also find that voice. The two go hand in hand it there is something natural about it. Yes, you will need to do a lot of polishing but your flow of storytelling will come to you as if it had been there your entire life just waiting for you to ask for it. One of my new found loves is Romance. Not the normal bodice ripper type that I believe one lady author friend of mine referred to them as, but more character driven. And now I am combing a love of history with adventure and romance in a new book I am co-authoring.

Once I found that love things started happening. I’m not saying that always happens but I will tell you this, it definitely makes writing more enjoyable. And I am a lot more willing and able to revise and edit and revise and edit something I love than something I just could barely complete the first draft of to begin with.

If what you are doing is writing in a genre just because that’s what sells, well that’s up to you. I go where the enjoyment takes me. One year it might be Middle Grades stories about little girls and talking bears and the next it might be about a doctor dragging himself across North Africa. You just never know and that’s part of what makes writing such a great life to be in.

What loves do you write about? And yes, I know what you love may be what you know about.

write what you love









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My First Writing Conference – Top 10 Things I Learned

Author Jenna Willet attended the Colorado Writing Workshop we mentioned here on Lit World Interviews. The presenter and instructor was Chuck Sambuchino that I’ve mentioned here numerous times. Jenna amazingly took the time to give the Top 10 Things She Learned at the conference. A MUST READ.

Jen's Pen Den

On November 15th, I attended the Colorado Writing Workshop in Denver with presenter and instructor Chuck Sambuchino. To say I learned a lot would be an understatement. In fact, I learned so much, there’s no possible way for me to tell you everything. So, I’m going to do a Top 10 list!


 Before I get started, here’s a list of the sessions I attended during the conference. I’ll admit, I got more out of some than others, but each one taught me something, and that’s what I’d hoped for.

  • “Your Publishing Options Today.”
  • “Everything You Need to Know About Agents, Queries & Pitching.”
  • “Writers’ Got Talent: A Chapter One Critique-Fest.”
  • “How to Market Yourself and Your Books: Author Platform & Social Media Explained.”
  • “How to Get Published: 10 Professional Writing Practices That You Need to Know NOW to Find Success as a Writer.”

So, without further ado, here we go!

1: Be…

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Are your characters in need of a psychiatrist? You’re in luck!

Hi all:

I’d been having a chat with Ronovan about the possibility of writing something regular for the blog, apart from the reviews that I do as often as I can, and we’d discussed some ideas. As I’m a psychiatrist and had until recently been working in forensic psychiatry, I thought about the possibility of offering a service to authors who are considering either writing about mental disorders in their books, or would like a psychiatrist’s point of view or opinion on some conundrum they find themselves in (well, they find their writing in).



The idea at the moment, if you think that could be of use, would be to create a form where you might have a bit more space than in the comments, to describe the issue (you could also share a short sample of the writing…) and then I would discuss it by way of a post. You can be as specific or as vague as you like, although I might ask for more details if I think it could help.

When discussing what to do to present the idea for the future posts we briefly had a discussion about character profiles. As a psychiatrist, I’m a medical doctor who went on to study psychiatry. Although we do study psychology as part of the degree, that’s not our specialty. I’ve attended courses on Personality Disorders and how to diagnose them (and they are a mine of information, believe me) but it was never part of my job to produce anything like a profile for the police. Although we had to give an opinion as to the mental state of the person, we did not get involved in the trial, other than recommending if they needed to be in hospital to treat their illness or condition.

Thinking about what to write about brought to mind some curiosities, not all psychiatric in origin, but that tend to come to the attention of psychiatrists. I found two superb slideshow that I leave you the links for, illustrating some of these syndromes that seem straight out from a fiction novel. Only, they do happen. Yes, I have met some people suffering some of them, although thanks to the DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) there are some new ones, like the Paris Syndrome, that I’d never heard about.

The culture-bound syndromes, that tend to affect people from certain areas exclusively, I have never experienced, but I have noticed in my practice that different cultures deal with mental health difficulties, and manifest mental illnesses in different ways.

Have a look at the links, although I leave you descriptions of some of the classic ones:

-Capgras delusion. The idea that somebody close to the sufferer has been replaced by a double. (Yes, I know you’ve watched the movie…but hey, it happens!). I’ve known patients that presented with this. (It can happen in a variety of conditions although the ones I’ve known were suffering from schizophrenia).

-Fregoli delusion. Here the patient believes that a single individual is disguising himself or herself as a variety of people (Fregoli was an Italian actor who could change clothing and take on many identities in his stage show very quickly, therefore the name). It is rarer than the previous one.

-De Clérambault’s Syndrome. A person (more common in females but not exclusive) believes they are loved by somebody very important, and this can cause all kind of problems (following that person, harassment, scenes…). If you’ve read Ian McEwan’s ‘Enduring Love’, I think it’s a pretty good example. Of course, who’s very important is a bit relative, but important in relation to the subject’s social standing or position.

-Othello Syndrome (‘morbid jealousy’). Here the classifiers borrow from literature. I think you can guess. This is not as uncommon as some of the others and sometimes is seen more in people with a history of alcoholism. It is irrelevant to the diagnosis if the partner might or not have been unfaithful; it is the way the patient reaches such conclusions and their reaction to it that causes the description.

-Ekbom’s Syndrome (delusion of infestation). Pretty self-explanatory too. This can occur in people with a history of substance misuse (cocaine is a big culprit), but also a variety of neurological and psychiatric conditions.

-Cotard’s Syndrome (delire de negation). The person believes that their body has disappeared or they have no entrails, etc.

-Induced delusional disorders. There are different types, but you’ll all have heard about folie à deux. Several people (or two in that case) seem to suffer a contagion of the delusions of somebody else, in many cases people with no diagnosis of mental health difficulties. Not very common unless in special circumstances (people who live in close proximity and very isolated). Yes, I remember a very peculiar case…

As a matter of clarification, these syndromes are descriptions of symptoms, not a diagnosis. The underlying diagnoses can be varied. (The same symptoms might correspond to very different illnesses).

I won’t go on, but do have a look at the links. And remember to let us know if you’d be interested in an ‘ask the psychiatrist’ weekly (or thereabouts) post.

Link to rare psychiatric syndromes slideshow:

Other 20 psychiatric syndromes you’ll find hard to believe:

Thanks so much for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, remember to like, share, comment and CLICK (and fill up the form if you have any queries)!

Olga Núñez Miret

@OlgaNM7 (

How to come up with a book idea.

You have a goal to write a novel. Perhaps you want to do so in one month’s time. You are pumped and ready to go. You sit down at your keyboard and




You got it, nothing happens. Blank. Headache. Pit level feeling of nausea. Despair.

I know of what I speak. I think I just proved that. What do do about it.

How to come up with a book idea.

Thousands of books are unleashed upon the world every day. Therefore there must be thousands of ideas floating around out there somewhere. But you want yours to be original and not a copy of someone else. I get that, I really do. I actually avoid reading at times because I want my story to be my story.

How do I come up with ideas?

I’ve written perhaps . . . well we’ll say in the double digit numbers of books, ranging from children’s fantasy to adult paranormal detective. A lot of weird ideas float around in this bruised brain of mine.

  • I wrote a little girl a bedtime story that turned into perhaps 5 fantasy books.
  • A book I am working on now I found the bases of from a literary agent who said what they would like to see. It clicked with me and I in turn knew exactly who to use as a model for the main character, at least visually. And the story has gone from there and into more stories.
  • I took a prompt challenge to write a scary story, which isn’t my style, but the short story came out pretty good. I am thinking of expanding it.
  • I have  a favorite video game that I spun off into a YA science fiction/action novel.
    • This is probably an easy one to let yourself loose on. You know what you like about the video game and you have thought about it being real in your mind. Put that on paper, but of course change it up so it’s not the video game but your own world with your own names and creations. You are the hero or heroine or whatever. I wonder how many novels Zelda has inspired.
  • If you must, look at an old story, a classic novel, or your favorite book, and put it into a different setting. Take Gone with the Wind as an example. Take that and put it in the future and have the war be over some type of whatever that might be valuable or maybe a piece of land that whoever controls it controls all of the lands around it and thus controls that realm. Just make sure you make it your own story, names and all.
  • Write about yourself. Who do you know better than you? Turn yourself into a character and write a book about you. Perhaps you are a hero or perhaps you are named President of the USA. Think about that. What would you really do and include humorous things as well as serious. Be sarcastic if you like or very matter of fact about things you would do that just make sense to you to solve world problems.
  • Just looking around you, your friends, events that happen in your area, world events, relationships you have with your family, all of these things can be turned into books. For some you just turn the things up a notch or three. You amplify or pump up what is real and turn it into the fantastic and overboard type things. Sure you can keep it real if you like, but if you just want to have fun, have fun.
  • Is there an unfairness that you see that you want to change? Write about it and how it affects you and what you would do to change it.
  • Is there a recent national event that happened in your area? Write a book based on that and use your emotions and your knowledge of it to tell your point of view. It can be a work of fiction just based on the events.

There are a lot of ways to come up with an idea for a book. These are just a few and perhaps not even a great few. But I know people are sitting and thinking about writing a book and are frozen in place. Here’s the best piece of advice I can give you about writing a book, about getting that idea going. You ready? Write. You see that advice all the time. Write. The reason you see it is because when you start writing the thoughts start flowing and your brain kicks into gear. And guess what? If you don’t like what you write, who will know? You don’t have to share it. Write.


I hope this gives you a way to jump start your own thoughts into how you can come up with an idea.







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