Category Archives: Uncategorized

Write to the point (never mind the word count!)

I have a beef with a lot of blog owners and other content websites, and you might want to blame Google.  You see, a lot of blog owners welcome guest posts – as long as they are 500 words or more.  And a lot of article directories welcome your words of wisdom – as long as it comes in doses of 500 or more.  And a lot of other websites welcome your content – as long as it is at least 500 words long.

What is so magical about 500 words?  Well, there is a common perception that if an article is 500 words or more, Google will like it more than if it is under 500 words and Google will rain darts and stink-bombs and itching powder upon your website.

The basis of this perception is that shorter articles are not as good quality as longer ones.  The number 500 is a very arbitrary choice, with no basis in fact (actually some websites insist on at least 300 or 400 words, and others on at least 600 or 700 words – in any case, an arbitrary number).

However, there is some reason to suspect that if your website has articles that are mostly 100 words long it might not be judged as having as good quality content as the site with articles that are mostly 700 words long.

Garbage, no matter how long

As a writer, you should write to the point – you should get right to the point.  Say what you want to say, and when you are finished, say no more. Sadly, a lot of people keep writing long after they have nothing more to say. I have read a lot of garbage on the Internet of 1000 words and of 700 words and especially of 500-520 words.

Why especially of 500-520 words?  Because a lot of people write 100 or 200 or 300 words of information, but take just over 500 words to say it. They are trying to please Google.  Or to conform to websites that are trying to please Google.

Quite aside from how ridiculous this charade is – like an endless Monty Python skit caught in a repeating loop – this makes for some pathetic writing.

Thomas Jefferson said, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” In order to please Google, many people will use two, three or four words where just one will do, and their writing quality suffers big time for it.

When you write to the point, you stop when you have said your piece.  That might be at 100 words.  Or it might be at 200.  In the case of this article, it is at 451.

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What makes a good book?

One of the questions we get frequently goes something like this: “Do you think I have a good enough story?  Do you think it’s a best seller?”

My answer always, goes something like this, “Most stories are fascinating.  Almost anybody who thinks they have an interesting story does; it just takes a good writer to bring it out, to make it come to life.”

Of course, there are a few people who come to us whose stories really are not interesting at all, but that is pretty rare.  But this does give us a moment to consider what makes a successful book, so I would like to share my thoughts on this with you.

It’s the idea – the story

Above all, it is the idea.  It is the story.  And it is how that idea or story is developed. It needs to be interesting.  But what makes an interesting idea, an interesting story? Here are a few elements:

Strong emotions.  A compelling story makes us feel the terror of the main character(s).  Or the deep hunger for power or to be loved or to escape or…or…for something!  Or the deep love or lust of two people.

Incredible challenges. Strong emotions need equally strong challenges.  The fears need to be set off against the imminent realization of what is feared.  The hunger against seemingly insurmountable barriers.  The romance against circumstances that keep the lovers apart.

Suspense.  If the reader knows in advance how things will turn out, it is hard to keep her interest.  Suspense means keeping the reader guessing.  It means twists in the story line.  It means holding information back.  It means surprises.  It means, sometimes, the hero has to lose a battle.

If all this sounds like rules for fiction, they are.  And for biography.  And for history.  And the more of these rules that you can apply to a business book or a self-help book or a scientific report or a spiritual book, the better.

It’s the writing

 Of course, the quality of the writing is important, too.  Many an amazing idea has crashed upon the rocks of mediocre writing.  The basics need to be accounted for:

  • Proper word usage
  • Proper punctuation
  • Proper spelling
  • Proper capitalization

But “proper” is just the base.  Word usage is more than just about using the proper words.  It is also about how to use the most effective words.  The amateur tries to color his manuscript by adding lots of extra adjectives and even some extra adverbs.  The professional writer tries to remove adjectives and adverbs as often as possible and replace them with strong, descriptive nouns and verbs.

Here are a few more techniques that boost the quality of writing:

  • Vary the length of sentences, sometimes just for variety (to keep the reader from getting bored of the tempo) and sometimes to set the pace of the story.
  • Vary the length of paragraphs.
  • Except when a longer word adds more meaning, use the simplest word available (“use” instead of “utilize”)
  • Use synonyms deftly. Avoid too much repletion of a single word, except when used specifically to build cadence.
  • Dialogue is good.  The more, the better – to a point.
  • Internal dialogue is good, especially if it gives insight into a character’s motivations or emotions.

This list could grow to a hundred points, but these are some of the basics.  And these are techniques, not “rules”.  Different writers will use different techniques to different degrees, but these are some that are fairly universal among good writers and ghostwriters. Feel free to add to it in the comments.

It’s the pitch

A good idea, well-developed and well written, is still just a manuscript sitting in a drawer.  You need a good pitch.  I don’t mean a business case that you will see recommended in so many places.

“Last year there were 1200 books of this genre published and only 17 that were directly targeting this demographic.  There were twelve best-sellers in the genre, including three directly targeting this demographic, therefore…”

That’s a business case, not a pitch.  I am not saying to ignore the business case, mostly because don’t want to invite nasty comments for such a trivial issue, and because for non-fiction a business case can actually be very helpful even before defining your target audience (you might slightly alter whom you write the book for).

I am saying you need a solid pitch. Think about what might be written on the back of the book.  That is the basis of the pitch- what the book is about and why someone should buy it.

If you want to sell your idea to a publishing house, you’ll need the pitch to sell to them and, more importantly to sell them on being able to sell your book to the public. If you plan to self-publish, the pitch is what you’ll tell the public directly.  Either way, you’ll need the pitch in social media and when approaching book reviewers.

One note about the pitch and your genre.  If your book is fiction, you are trying to pull at people’s emotions and sense of suspense.  For some non-fiction genres, such as history and biography, you are doing the same.

But for more practical genres, such as business, how-to and self-help, you are trying to pitch the usefulness of your book.  And rather than focusing on readers and book lovers, you need to find people in the niche.  For example, a book on woodworking needs to be pitched not through book reviewers, but through woodworking bloggers.

Will my book be successful?

I don’t know.  Your idea is probably good, since few people think of writing a book without a feasible idea.  Few people with no ghost of a chance get told by their friends, “You oughta write a book.”  So, it is possible that your idea will fail of its own lack of merit, but not likely.  It might need some further development

If you come to us, you know you will get top-notch writing and help developing the idea.  You might already have it incredibly well-written on your own.  Either way, your manuscript has all the ingredients for success.

As for the pitch, that is a tougher one to define, and often the biggest factor in the success of a pitch is your own perseverance.  We can provide a synopsis and query letter (at no extra charge to our book writing clients, upon request), but you have to be able to ignore rejection after rejection to eventually find the publisher ready to take a chance on a new author on the strength of your manuscript alone.  Sometime the first publisher will recognize your genius.  Sometimes the 100th.  And sometimes, your route to success is to self-publish.


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This fortune cookie speaks volumes

We get so many requests to write biographies.  People want to capture trying periods of their lives.  People want to share their stories as inspiration for others.  People want to capture family history from an elder member of the family before it’s too late.

So many stories.

So much inspiration.

We have even posted a chart showing how many people are seeking biography writers compared to other writers.

That is why I had to break out in a grin when I read this fortune cookie at Home of OHM:

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Writing assignment – how to describe hair

If you ask the average person how to describe hair, they might mention color and length.

But a writer has to be able to do so much more, because how you describe hair sets the tone for how people see a character.  This applies equally to fiction, biography an any other book (or blog post or article) that involves storytelling.


TIP:  Pick up our free cheat sheet to help describe your characters.


When you read that a character has long hair, you right away assume that this is a free spirit, perhaps laid back, somebody who is not in authority.  When you hear a man has short hair, you assume that the person is ambitious, someone in authority or a self-disciplined person.

When you read that a lady has long, blonde hair, you assume the lay is fun-loving, probably popular and perhaps not much of a thinker.  “Blondes have more fun” and “dumb blonde jokes” might seem like  outdated stereotypes, but people still make assumptions in line with those old clichés.

Hair is more than color and length

Pop quiz:  What does the hair in this photo tell you about this unfortunate man?

Answer: It tells you that I had spent way too much time ripping apart lathe and plaster walls.  But demolition is fun, so it wasn’t all that bad.

But there is more to hair than color and length.  Consider texture.  Hair could be rough or smooth or shiny.  Or slicked back with gel. It could be frizzy or curly or straight.

What about smell? Yes, smell.  Most often smell is mentioned in steamy romance novels…

He grew dizzy from the soft fragrance of her hair, like lavender carried on a fresh morning breeze,  enveloping his face, stunning his senses…

OK, so now you know why I leave the steamy romance novels to other ghostwriters on our team, but you get the idea. The smell of a person’s hair sets the tone for what the person is like, and even where that person has been.  The arsonist can change his clothes, but isn’t that a slight smell of gasoline I smell in his hair?  Or smoke?

So pay more than passing attention to a character’s hair when describing the person.  You don’t have to say that Jimmy is an auto mechanic, you just have to say…

Jimmy’s hair was slicked back, just as if he had combed oil into it.  Oil?  No, the smell was not that of oil, but of automotive grease.  There is a difference.  Maybe the scent was coming from his hair.  Or maybe it was coming from his clothes.  Or perhaps it was just a part of him, so basic an element that his very skin smelled of it.

Class assignment:  Jenny is a 35 year old, recently divorced, a nature-lover and a bit of a hermit.  How would you introduce her to your readers, using her hair to do so?  Please feel free to write in the comments below.


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Are you an original blog writer?

Are you an original?  OK, so I am sure you will say “yes”.  No two of us are the same, and these days movies, songs and personal development blog posts drum into our heads the importance of individuality.

But this is not a personal development blog post.  This is a blog post about your blog posts and your articles.  The question is, “Are you an original…blogger.”

A lot of emphasis has been placed on “original” and “unique” content recently, mostly because people believe (partly correctly) that Google robots will storm your website and emasculate it in the SERPs if they discover that you are publishing duplicate content.

The bad news is that blog owners and blog writers have reduced “originality” to “Can this article pass Copyscape?”  You hear ghost writers constantly promising that their copy is original and unique, just because it is not “duplicate content”.

If you or someone you are guest blogging for is even asking this question, you are not only missing the point – you are missing the boat.

Originality is not about rewording a sentence and adding bullet points.  Originality is about thinking new thoughts.

Now that’s a new thought!

How can I be original?

Let’s be fair.  Not everybody is a creative thinker, not everybody is a born writer, and not everybody is meant to be.  So how can someone be original?  Here are three prompts to help you.

Prompt Number One: Read three or four articles or blog posts on the topic you want to write about.  As you read them, make notes about what you agree about – and, more importantly, take notes about what you disagree about.

If there is something that more than one article says that you disagree with, you have the foundation for a truly original article.  Playing Devil’s Advocate is always a great way to be original.

If there is no common theme you disagree with, review your list of points you disagree with.  Maybe there are three points in the four blog posts.  Maybe just one.  In either case, you have at least one, and perhaps three, blog topics to write about that are your own original thoughts.

Prompt Number Two: Pick a topic you like – the topic might not be original, nor your opinion – and wrap it in a brand-new analogy.  In the case, your idea or topic is not unique, but your presentation of it is very unique.   Here are a few ideas of analogy themes you can use:

  • Animals: Replace people with animals that display characteristics you are writing about.
  • Food: describe your topic as a meal.
  • Recipe: Write a recipe for the advice you are giving.
  • Geography.  I am sure you have seen the maps called “The United States of…”.  You can put just about anything into map form, and you can do so in writing, too.
  • Geology.  Every topic has a hard-to-scale mountain, a vast uncrossable dessert, an ocean, an abyss, etc.
  • Clothes.  How can you dress up your topic? Underwear (you can’t leave those off), regular clothing, outer wear, accessories… now write it.

There are countless other analogies possible.

Prompt Number Three: Interview somebody.  Sure, this is cheating, but when you can’t come up with your own original thoughts, pull them from someone else.  Try to be as creative as you can with your questions, and make sure to ask for original content:

“Can you share with our readers one tip you have not included in your course?”

“Can you give an example of when this has happened to you recently?”

“What was the most successful [whatever] you ever did?”

Originality pays off

There are hundreds of blogs and thousands of articles on almost every topic.  I don’t have time to read most of them.  I will read those that are not just the same old, same old rechurned slop they served up at the last dozen blogs I have visited.

I am not saying it is easy to come up with truly original content, especially in well-trampled niches like personal finance, blogging, nutrition and such.  But the payoff will be a loyal readership that spreads the word for you – a growing audience of engaged fans.

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Anonymous Sources – is it ethical to use them?

Bloggers increasingly like to refer to themselves as “citizen journalists.” However, in spite of the title, some writers might not actually use journalistic standards when they prepare information for others in their blogs and even in books they might write.

As a professionally trained journalist, I’ve learned that if you want to establish yourself as a writer with credibility, whether you are writing for a newspaper, a magazine, a book, or a blog, it helps to observe journalistic standards. And, if you want people to take your writing seriously as a piece of credible information, it helps to be careful when you use unnamed sources.

The Anonymity of the Web

Thanks to the Internet, it’s possible to say just about anything – true or not. While there is good information out there, it’s also possible to run into information that is less than credible. One of the things that makes it hard to determine whether or not you can trust something is the anonymous, and semi-anonymous, nature of the Web.

It’s possible to say almost anything about anyone, and not get “caught.” However, even though the Internet seems to thrive on anonymous name-calling, if you want credibility, you need to watch out for using unnamed sources, especially if that source is name-calling.

One example is a recent post written on The Verge about the new Digg. While there were plenty of sources cited, there was one, unnamed, “source in the aggregation industry” that was quoted. I understand why a source close to aggregators and marketers might want to keep a low profile on this one. And the first part of the quote, “The fact that these folks are pissed off is a good sign,” I don’t have a problem with, per se, even though I think that there are probably other insiders and experts who would probably have shared similar information on the record.

My issue comes in when the source started calling out names, singling out two marketers, and referring to them as “shady online marketing scum who tried their best to ruin the organic Internet.” When you start making those sorts of name-calling accusations, my opinion is that you should have the guts to come clean about your identity. One of the issues with the Internet today is that it is so easy to hide behind anonymity when you want to say something rude about someone else.

When to Use Anonymous Sources

 Of course, there are times when it makes sense to use unnamed sources. The most compelling reason is when the source could lose his or her job, or be ostracized by the community to which he or she belongs. When personal safety is involved, such as getting information from a criminal informant, it also makes sense to grant anonymity to the source. But that anonymity comes with greater responsibility. If you are going to use an unnamed source in the article, it should be accompanied by the following:

  • Thorough research and evidence
  • On the record sources who back up the statement, or information
  • Independent verification of the source’s identity
  • Verification that the source can actually speak to the issue at hand

Most of the time, though, there isn’t much need for unnamed sources. For most stories, you can find people willing to share their names along with their opinions and information.

So, do I trust an anonymous source engaging in name-calling, or do I trust someone that went on the record in that self-same article? Anonymous sources call creditability into question. A named source is always more credible than a non-named source. As a result, if you want to be a more credible writer, it makes sense to avoid using anonymous sources, unless you have verified the information as best you can, and you can demonstrate a compelling reason to keep those sources’ names out of it.

Miranda Marquit is a journalistically trained freelance writer and professional blogger. Her blog is Planting Money Seeds.

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Thank You to Our Blog Tour Hosts!!!

These Golfing Geese Are About To Ruffle Some Feathers at Penny Ehrenkranz’s Blog

Meet Sami DeMani, a Canada gander with a legendary golf game. He’s on track to win the prestigious Waterfowl Tour — and put his nemesis, the ruthless Pete Swan Lake, in his place once and for all. But right as Sami prepares to take a critical swing, a surprise scare changes everything — ruining the shot and putting Sami in the hospital. What happens next dashes any hopes for golf glory — or does it? No longer able to play, Sami throws himself into coaching his nephew, Myles, in the game he loves. Then the golf pro hatches a plan to help his nephew win a tournament with the aid of the specially designed Gooseneck Putter. This breakthrough device has the potential to change everything — including the confidence of the golf prodigy who uses it. But none of them are prepared for what’s about to occur as the tension rises on the course. Along the way, Sami and Myles will learn a powerful lesson regarding sportsmanship, perseverance, love, and what really matters in the game of life. A heartwarming and inspirational tale, The High-Tech Gooseneck Putter is about the power of golf to boost self-esteem, change lives, and bring a community together.

This is the latest Happy Guy Marketing success–my collaboration with artist, singer and Laughter Yoga leader Samuel DiMatteo. I am excited that Sami listed me as co-author because Samuel is one-of-a-kind. He, along with the colorful cast of golfing geese, sportscasting squirrels and business-minded beavers in the book, has won over several lovely lady authors–and I am thankful to every one of them.

It is Thanksgiving this month, after all!



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As part of the “High Tech GooseBlog Tour,” we showcase author and tour host Karen Cioffi…

Wang bound the last bunch of wheat stalks as the sun beat down on the field. Sweat poured from the back of his neck drenching the cotton shirt he wore.

I hate doing this work. He hurled the bundles on a cart. “Father, the bales are stacked. I am going home; it is too hot.”

Twelve-year-old Wang longed to be an Eternal. He craved wealth . . . and power….

So opens Walking Through Walls, Karen Cioffi’s retelling of a classic Chinese fable. In just a few sentences of this 40-page children’s book, she establishes the main character, a disgruntled twelve-year-old boy, and the conflict, his dreams of a life away from unending hard work on his family farm. She also hints at a mystery: what is an Eternal?

In short order, Coiffi-Ventrice also introduces us to a bit more of Wang’s personality. Like any 12-year-old, he fights with his sister and his father. He knows his father wants him to work on the farm rather than daydream about learning magic and being “the richest man in all of China”.  When he receives a dream visitation from the dragon illustrated on the cover—think ERAGON set in China—Wang decides his father can’t keep him on his peasant farm any more.

After Wang goes to the Elder of his village, a lemon-loving mystic, and asks the way to the Eternals’ home, he ends up more confused than ever. In typical martial-arts movie fashion the Elder speaks in cryptic messages before scolding Wang for seeking wealth and power for their own sake: “I cannot give you the information you seek. Your heart has already spoken. Go home and set your sights on learning patience and virtue.”

Oddly, Wang’s younger sister helps him, because of her sweet nature—or perhaps she wants to teach the arrogant Wang about a girl’s worth. The true value of a person—character, kindness, integrity—is a common theme in this story and Cioffi-Ventrice brings it out quite well. She also subtly highlights the Confucian society of the time, where “respect your elders, especially males” is paramount, and the Asian ethos, in which the group is much more important than the individual. Wang, like many child heroes, rebels against his family and society to seek his own way—and learn a lesson. You have to give Wang credit for pursuing what he wants and for undertaking his perilous journey to the distant mountaintop to find the Eternals (This is what you want: you must follow through, he thinks). While Wang’s journey may seem reckless, he shows some guts and courage in leaving his family to pursue his dream.

There’s a lovely moment in which Wang’s father gently touches him and asks him to stay. It’s an understated and in-character way of showing that Wang’s father is concerned, for the first time, about his son leaving home—a deeply human emotion.  Wang does not understand until much later—he is too excited about seeing the mystical temple of the Eternals materialize after his long perilous trek.

Wang’s impressions of the temple capture my own awe whenever I visit Asian temples such as Wat Pho, Senso-Ji, Sanjusangendo, and shrines in Taiwan, even though in keeping with a fable like this, the temple’s plain exterior belies its grand interior (representing, perhaps, the richness of the Eternals’ spiritual life). Although I have never met an Eternal Master, I imagine he (she?) would be just like the one in Walking Through Walls (many of the Buddhist rimbans and reverends I’ve met have senses of humor to package their lessons). The Eternal Master is the equivalent of a magical drill sergeant—not what Wang expected. Everything about the Eternals, from their strict regimen of simple food and hard work to their habit of appearing and disappearing, confounds Wang—although he begins to understand a bit more of the world when he meets his roommate Chen and hears of Chen’s quest to help his village and rescue his sister by becoming an Eternal. Chen’s story kindles compassion in Wang’s heart, but not enough to make him gain patience. With all the magic around him, Wang is hungry to become an Eternal himself, especially after he sees the more advanced students walking through walls after a midnight feast. Is it a dream? Is it a test? Wang decides he must learn to walk through walls.

Wang endures his peculiar education for a year before deciding to leave, despite his best friend Chen’s hope of having an ally in his quest. The Eternal Master teaches him the longed-for spell of walking through walls, even though he lectures Wang about not being pure of heart or worthy of the Eternals’ great power. Of course, Wang does learn the spell—and faces a test of his character once he returns home. During that test, I bit my nails and then screamed, “Don’t do it,” when Wang was about to make the wrong choice. Cioffi-Ventrice makes us care about Wang in spite of, or perhaps because, of his character flaws. In addition to the magic of the storytelling, the sense of wonder never lets up—enchanted snakes and other creatures follow Wang as he chooses his destiny, and we learn that the Eternal Master is even more extraordinary than he appears…

In addition to the story, Cioffi-Ventrice provides dragon lore, a brief, easily readable history (and cultural facts) of the Ming Dynasty during which the story is set, and activities and questions for young readers.



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Guest Blogger: Karen Cioffi–Is Your Character One, Two, Or Three Dimensional?

Ghost Blogger Kristin Johnson’s Note: As we announced, Walking Through Walls author Karen Cioffi is one of the hosts for the “High-Tech GooseBlog Tour”. She is also honoring us with a post that speaks to the advice my fellow Ghost Bloggers and I have provided previously. If you read Karen’s book, which I will review in a subsequent post, you will glimpse her 3D Character System at work…and you don’t even need 3D glasses!

Thanks for this wonderful article, Karen.

Is Your Character One, Two, Or Three Dimensional?

By Karen Cioffi

Between your characters, the plot, and the other writing elements, you develop a story. If the mix is right, and the characters are believable, you can create a story worthy of publication.

Creating believable characters is an essential part of writing, and they need to be as life-like as possible. To accomplish this, you need to have a three dimensional protagonist.

So, which is your protagonist?

Is your protagonist flat – lacks any type of emotion and action, like the simple and safe kiddy rides at a children’s amusement park, the carousel horse that goes round and round, but does nothing else? Then you have a one-dimensional character on your hands.

Is your protagonist a little bumpy – he has some quirks, life and emotion, but no real depth of character or history, like the carousel horse that goes round and round and up and down at a steady easy pace? Then you have a two-dimensional character struggling to break into the world of believability.

Is your protagonist a full blown amusement park – a roller coaster, full of ups and downs, knowledge, emotion, character, quirks, life, and history? Now you have it; you have a believable three dimensional character that is strong enough to bring your story through to the end.

Now the question is: how do you create a wonderful, believable life-like three dimensional character?

There are a number of methods you can use that will help you create a believable character, here are two:

1. Create a character sheet or use an index card before you begin.

On your sheet, list all the characteristics, quirks, moods, mannerisms, physical attributes, artistic attributes…you get the idea. Keep this sheet handy as you’re writing your story. If you tell the reader Pete has blonde hair in the beginning of the story, and then you describe it as black, unless he dyed his hair as part of the storyline, stay true to the character. Readers pick up on errors very quickly.

The more detail you add to your character sheet the easier it will be to know what your protagonist will do in any given circumstance. This will take the element of wondering out of your writing process and save time: Pete finds a bag of money next to his neighbor’s car. Hmm . . . will he keep the money or try to find out if it’s his neighbor’s? Oh, wait a minute, on your character sheet you wrote he’s an honest guy! Simple.

2. Add characteristics and attributes to your protagonist as you write your story.

Write your protagonist’s characteristics, quirks, moods, mannerisms, and so on, on a character sheet as your story evolves. There are some writers who use different methods to create a story. Maybe you’re using the ‘seat-of-the-pants-method’ and your character evolves as your story does. With this method, you want to be sure to note each new development in your protagonist’s character or being.

Let’s go back to Pete again. Pete scratches a car as he’s parking. Does he leave a note on the car he damaged? Does he quickly leave the scene? Does he just ignore the incident as if it didn’t happen? Whichever one of these actions he chooses will establish another element to his character – be sure to make note of it.

No matter which process you use, remember to add life-like qualities to your character. Readers need to develop a relationship with the protagonist. If they feel Pete is three dimensional and they are drawn to him, they’ll be sure to read to the end of your book.


Karen Cioffi is an author and ghostwriter. Her new MG/YA fantasy book, Walking Through Walls, is based on an ancient Chinese tale.

Wang longs to be rich…and powerful. At twelve-years-old, he already knows more about the Eternals and their way of life than many of the adults in his village. Learning about these mystics takes his thoughts away from the possibility of working in the wheat fields all his life, like his father. Wang has far grander goals.


Walking Through Walls should now be available through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and book stores. If it’s not yet listed, it will be very soon!
You can also order the book today at:

To learn more about Walking Through Walls, its touring schedule and contest, and purchasing information visit:

To learn more about Karen and her books, visit:


Please be sure to stop by Eylsabeth Eldering’ site on July 19th for the next stop on the Walking Through Walls Tour.



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The High-Tech Gooseneck Putter Blog Tour–Christmas in July!!!

These Golfing Geese Are About To Ruffle Some Feathers

Meet Sami DeMani, a Canada gander with a legendary golf game. He’s on track to win the prestigious Waterfowl Tour — and put his nemesis, the ruthless Pete Swan Lake, in his place once and for all. But right as Sami prepares to take a critical swing, a surprise scare changes everything — ruining the shot and putting Sami in the hospital. What happens next dashes any hopes for golf glory — or does it? No longer able to play, Sami throws himself into coaching his nephew, Myles, in the game he loves. Then the golf pro hatches a plan to help his nephew win a tournament with the aid of the specially designed Gooseneck Putter. This breakthrough device has the potential to change everything — including the confidence of the golf prodigy who uses it. But none of them are prepared for what’s about to occur as the tension rises on the course. Along the way, Sami and Myles will learn a powerful lesson regarding sportsmanship, perseverance, love, and what really matters in the game of life. A heartwarming and inspirational tale, The High-Tech Gooseneck Putter is about the power of golf to boost self-esteem, change lives, and bring a community together.

This is the latest Happy Guy Marketing success–my collaboration with artist, singer and Laughter Yoga leader Samuel DiMatteo. I am excited that Sami listed me as co-author because Samuel is one-of-a-kind. He, along with the colorful cast of golfing geese, sportscasting squirrels and business-minded beavers in the book, has won over several lovely lady authors. Suzanne Drazic will host us for Christmas in July on her blog to kick off our tour! A schedule:

And of course any of these lovely ladies has a standing invitation on this blog.

Our tour has a special significance: each date corresponds to golfing events in honor of our hero. A sample of the events:

  • July 18, Karen’s stop–Ernie Els’s charity golf tournament Els for Autism Golf Challenge, TPC Deere Run, Silvis, Illinois
  • July 24–Skins and Pins Shootout, Strategic Fox, Fox Hills Golf Club, Plymouth, MI
  • August 5–36th Junior PGA Championship, Sycamore Hills Golf Course, Fort Wayne, Indiana
  • August 22–Las Vegas PGA Expo, also Boy Scouts of Omaha Invitiational
  • November 5–PGA Tour President’s Cup in Australia

We have teed and shouted “Fore!”

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A Ghost Writer Reviews “Ghost Writer”

Finally! Our profession gets its own movie, thanks to a novel written by Hannibal Lecter creator Thomas Harris. We should be flattered that the mind responsible for one of the most compelling characters of all time thought of our profession as worthy of a novel, and that Hollywood finally gave us our due.

I finally got to see “Ghost Writer” on a recent flight and thoroughly enjoyed it. For one thing, it adds a little glamour to what we do, and in the movie, the titular ghostwriter, played with wry perfection by Ewan McGregor, gets a nice hefty paycheck of ten million pounds to ghost the memoirs of former British PM Adam Lang, played with heavy creep factor by Pierce Brosnan. Famous client, great pay, and the manuscript is already written…by the previous ghost, who died mysteriously.

This is where fiction and fantasy enter in. The movie, while true to the spirit of what we do, is about as realistic as TV cop or medical dramas.  I personally have never gotten an assignment because the previous writer died. (In fact, as a previous blog post points out, clients are far more likely to do a vanishing act.) I also have never gotten such a notorious client as Adam Lang, who’s under investigation by the International Court for war crimes in the Iraq War. (But who’s to say it couldn’t happen?) I do have clients with stories that can tear you up, but I’ve never been thrown into an international controversy. Or been the potential witness to dirty deeds. (Thank God.)

However, I found that “Ghost Writer” treated the profession with respect and accuracy in many ways. To wit…

1. Tough deadlines. The Ghost is given a month to polish and finish what his predecessor started. Granted, this month of intensive exclusive work includes complete in person access to the client. After the media frenzy reaches the remote American island where Lang stays, the ghost writer gets to sleep and work in Lang’s residence. Useful for meeting deadlines…even if The Ghost may literally face life and death meeting his.

2. Research. Although my research has taken my projects down unexpected paths, with the clients along for the ride, I’ve never gone to the extremes The Ghost does. His efforts in piecing together what happened to his predecessor efforts prove the value of researching a client…Also, his insistence on clarifying the timeline of his client’s political activism prove to be the kind of tenacity you need as a ghost writer.

3. NDAS. I have been under a code of silence, but never been told, “the manuscript is not to leave this room. It is not to be copied.” Still, client confidentiality is a hallmark of the business.

4. Bad openings. Lang’s manuscript starts with his family history! McGregor’s utter frustration and disbelief are spot on when he reads the opening.

5. Personal entanglement. So many of my clients become my friends, and in many respects it’s like adding a dozen or more family members. However, there’s something sinister and codependent in the way that McGregor’s character gets entangled with Lang, his wife, and Lang’s admin/mistress.

6. Reading between the lines. The Ghost meets with Lang’s enemy, an MP who advises him the previous Ghost coded a hidden message in the manuscript. Proof positive that an eye for detail is necessary in this profession!

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Write your book!

Entrepreneurs! Consultants! Experts! CEOs! Professionals! Have you written your book yet? If not, now is the time. This blog post is specifically written for anyone whose personal reputation is vital to their business success.

If your credibility, if your knowledge and skill, if your personality can help increase your conversion rate, keep reading.

If your credibility, if your knowledge and skill, if your personality can help increase the value of your sales, keep reading.

If your lack of credibility, if your unknown skills, if your personality can – oops! – lose you sales and cost you business, keep reading.


Your name.  Your face. Your book. Here are ten reasons why you should write a book with your name as the author, with your face on the cover, with your expertise buttered across the pages in an easy-to read manner designed to impress the reader that you are the undisputed expert who can solve their problems and fill their needs.

It sure makes a business card look amateur: Do you hand out business cards. Yeah, so does every other real estate agent, every other advertising account representative, every other business consultant. But how many of them hand out a book, with their name and face on the cover? Guess which one – the business card or the book – will make a prospect take notice. And when nobody you compete with has their own book, you stand to gain the most; Real estate agents, take note.

“I wrote the book on [insert your expertise here]“: That’s right. As a new author, you can proudly adopt a new stance, clearly spoken or subtly implied. To “write the book” on a topic means that you are the ultimate expert. That is a competitive advantage that does not go unnoticed even at the subconscious level.

“Published author”: Those two words just might be the most powerful words on your resume. They open doors for clients. They open doors for speaking opportunities. They give you, as a consultant or a speaker, the ability to raise your fees – significantly!

Get the media to call you: Journalists are always looking for credible sources to quote. They often seek out authors who – wait for it… “wrote the book” on the subject. 1. So make sure the media have a copy of your book. Why bother? Potential clients see your name and look you up. 2. “As quoted in The New York Times” is a powerful testimonial (You are not only an expert published author, but also an expert because the New York Times says so. Wow! 3. Your stature within your industry or niche rises when others see you in the media.

Book reviews give you exposure: Exposure is good, as long as it is not of the x-rated kind.* Exposure that positions you as an expert, is even better. Make sure book reviewers in your niche get a copy.

Each chapter is a new online marketing tool: If you distribute articles online as part of your marketing efforts, try spinning each chapter into and article. Or into several. Imagine how much more persuasive your article will be when your bio box reads: “Based on chapter 3 of [insert name of book here]”

Book signings: People love getting autographs and they love free stuff. Whether you arrange for a signing at your local book store or set up a free signed book element to your trade show booth, you are bound to attract people who otherwise would overlook you.

Higher speaking fees: Yes, I know, I mentioned this in reason number 3, but it is a reason in itself. Give the same speech to the same people, but charge $1000 or $2000 or $5000 more. Yes, publishing your own book is like printing money. Don’t tell the FBI – they do n ot approve of private money-printing.

Back-of-the-room sales: If a few thousand more dollars in speaking fees is not enough, you can make a mint selling your book after the speech. This is called back-of-the-room sales. I have known many speakers who make more selling – and autographing – their books after their speech than they make delivering their speech. (Not speaking yet? Hmmm…maybe it’s time to publish a book and start speaking.)

R.O.I.: It costs nothing but time to write, and if you feel you need to hire a ghostwriter, it likely will cost just $5000 – $15,000 for an effective and professional manuscript.

It really is amazing how many entrepreneurs, consultants and professionals have not yet written their book. It is one of the first things anyone should do when trying to establish himself or herself as an expert in any field. Write your book and reap the rewards.

* Except if you are in the adult entertainment industry.

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17 signs you need a proofreader

Many people have atrocious spelling. Even intelligent people. Even educated people. And other people, too. And sometimes they leave “signs” all over the place that say “I need a proofreader!”

Here are 17 signs that all say “I need a proofreader!”

1. When you want a sense of “occassion”…

2. Back to “shcool” for this spelling bee contestant…

3. “Hipocracy” is for the hipos…

4. If you can edit this sign, “your” smarter than its writer…

5. The masked proofreader strikes again!…

6. This lady might not know English very well…

7. Sign’s need more apostrophe’s…and what is “beyone”?

8. A sign that maybe the staff should stay after class…

9. What do you do when you run out of space to finish your sign?…

10. West Newbury is a town that desperately needs a “scolarship” fund…

11, Whoever “THE CHURH” is, I’ll bet he’s not as ashamed as the person hiding her face behind her sign…

12. Get a brain! Moron*…

13. This lady is so excited about English, that she double-underlines the words she misspells…

14. When peeling them once isn’t enough…

15. Too bad. He should be “useing” a proofreader or editor instead…

16. Demonstrating just how badly someone might need both an editor and a proofreader…

17. Here’s a sign that you are insulting your customers…

*No morons were harmed in the creation of this post. The damage was done years ago.

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Top Ten Tips To Make Sure This Sign is Not About Your Screenplay

While this is an “only in L.A.” billboard, having your screenplay unsold is a worldwide reality for many anguished writers. We know your pain. We offer you our hard-earned bits of wisdom to make sure you can prove Chase Bancorp’s marketing and advertising department wrong.

1. Read screenplays., the Internet Movie Script Database, and all have a plethora of screenplays. You can learn as much from reading the scripts for B-movies as you can “Chinatown”. You’ll see how screenplays are constructed. A tip: Don’t put camera angles in scripts just because you saw them in shooting scripts. That happens once the producer buys your script and/or hires you to write another script. Similarly, the long blocks of description in, say “Spartacus” may have worked in 1960, but not today.

2. Proofread your script or hire someone to do it. This may sound obvious, but typos indicate a lack of professionalism.

3. Learn structure from Syd Field, Robert McKee, Linda Seger, Aristotle, and Chris Soth.

4. Too personal? Don’t assume everyone cares about your alcoholic parents or that you were raised by circus midgets — unless you can make it funny and commercial. “A boy starts his own circus to escape alcoholic circus midgets,” on the other hand, might inspire an agent or development executive to laugh. “But that’s not how it happened” shows a lack of imagination. Give yourself permission to rewrite your life — or someone else’s, if you have the rights to the story.

5. Have a clear protagonist (hero) with a clearly defined goal. Who is your lead character and what does he/she/it want? If you have an ensemble piece, you still have to have one main character — at least for casting purposes.

6. Don’t have your antagonist drown puppy dogs and steal money from orphans. A great villain, or even a great antagonist who’s not necessarily a villain, has motives for what he/she does. For example, Bill of “Kill Bill Vol. 1″ and “Kill Bill Vol. 2″ keeps the Bride, aka Black Mamba, alive instead of having her murdered by stealth because of his honor code. Although this gives the Bride time to plot her revenge against the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, Bill has his own motives for allowing her to do so.

Similarly, in “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” Vice-Principal Gene Wolters doesn’t decide to cut Mr. Holland’s music classes because Vice-Principal Wolters hates music and teenagers or wants to hurt Mr. Holland (although he admits to jealousy). His stated motive (supported by hisactions) is, “I care about these kids just as much as you do. And if I’m forced to choose between Mozart and reading and writing and long division, I choose long division.” Even if Mr. Holland (and the viewer) feels that the decision is wrong, Vice-Principal Wolters has a motivation that stems from who he is: an administrator who feels he is doing is best with the resources he has.

7. Assume your audience is intelligent. Remember your alcoholic circus midgets? Don’t have your hero sit around and talk to his circus buddies (unless they’re circus animals) about how unhappy he is with his situation. Show us in a brief scene or two why the hero must change his circumstances, why he must start the circus. You don’t need to show us scene after scene of the circus midgets mistreating your hero. Give your hero other obstacles and smaller goals that complicate the quest — he needs to smuggle his favorite elephant out of the circus, for example–but watch the budget, you may have to change the elephant to a dog that wants to be an elephant.

8. Write more than one script. Your first screenplay is usually practice. Your second, third and fourth scripts are, most likely, practice. It’s usually a good idea not to send out your first screenplay.

9. Nonhuman characters must have their own personality and motivations. Pixar does brilliantly at this. “Wall-E” takes a nonhuman robot that barely speaks, and creates an endearing character who wants to escape his loneliness. The rabbits in “Watership Down” are far from happy, cute and cuddly bunnies. Some of them scheme and some behave like tyrants.

10. Hire a pro. To make sure your screenplay hits the right beats, that the format looks perfect, and that you have your pitch, e.g. alcoholic circus midgets, hire a professional ghostwriter who can (a) edit your dialogue/formatting or (b) polish your screenplay. Get an independent evaluation.

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High Blood Pressure Hits

Our ghostwriting and editing team has helped another expert travel that exciting and challenging road from expert with important advice to published author. Dr. Chad Rhoden’s new book Bringing Down High Blood Pressure is now available for pre-ordering from .


Learn straightforward solutions you can incorporate both immediately and in the long term. Focusing on lifestyle factors readers can change, Dr. Rhoden weighs in on alternative therapies for reducing blood pressure, while Sarah Schein brings her dietary expertise to the table with practical advice on nutrition, tips for healthy food selection and preparation, and 70 tantalizing recipes each with its own nutritional breakdown.


Kristin Johnson was the writer helping Dr. Rhoden find the right words to express the ideas and information he is conveying – vital information that everybody should read for their own health.

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The Frugal Book Promoter: Review

Authors who help, support and educate other authors are to be admired. This is the aim of the Book Publicists of Southern California IRWIN Award-winning book The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, a wonderful author and friend to authors who understands the need for authors to maximize their resources, especially in today’s economy.

I had the honor to review the book for, and the review, reprinted for this blog, has become popular., founded in 1998, is a high-traffic and award-winning Web site that does a tremendous service to reading, literature, readers and writers. The dynamically designed and attractive site offers a plethora of thoughtful and thorough reviews (by a passionate corps of volunteers, several of whom have publishing credits and a desire to contribute their talents)  and Holiday Reading Lists, as well as monthly columns that explore literary genres and subgenres.  Each month it brings the love of the written word into homes and businesses with a newsletter and a network of discussion lists that are no doubt eager for their dose of’s literary magic. Many thanks to and to Carolyn Howard-Johnson!

The original review also included an Author of the Month interview.

The Frugal Book Promoter
How To Do What Your Publisher Won’t 
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
August 2004
ISBN: 1-932993-10-X

When Joyce Spizer’s Irwin Award winner Power Marketing Your Novel debuted in 2000, writers everywhere realized how much they didn’t know about book promotion.  How effective is Spizer’s book?  Even stellar promoter/self-publisher Dan Poynter gave it raves. After reading Spizer’s book I thought I’d need no other book on book marketing.

I was wrong.

Novelist/poet/columnist/reviewer Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s new book, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won’t, picks up where Spizer leaves off.   Armed with both Spizer and Howard-Johnson, writers can actually capture book sales.

Do you know about writing book reviews and articles–often for free–to get your name and your book out there in the press and, more importantly, into the minds of the vampire fans/bodice-ripper devotees/true crime aficionados you want to capture? 

Harlan Ellison once famously said, “Don’t give it away!”  As Howard-Johnson explains, you aren’t giving anything away, although with mailings, you’ll be spending your own money.  Oh, and creating a press kit.  And doing your own Web site.  Don’t have one yet?  Get one.  Send out advance review copies–your publisher won’t.   For that, you’ll need your own media contact list.

Howard-Johnson offers a hot tip that even seasoned writers forget: Meet the media face to face, from the crime beat reporter to the lady who writes a gardening column–for that matter, you can start your own column.  Or blog.  (If you’re working up to that, Howard-Johnson advises doing the next best thing, using to promote yourself, by writing reviews, lists in Listmania, and “So you’d like to…” guides, features I only began using as marketing weapons after my third book came out).  But when you take a breather from all this promoting, invite your neighborhood reporter to lunch. Howard-Johnson makes the point that relationships sell books.

Oh, and when you’re writing articles and reviews, don’t forget to add your tagline with information about your book, like my sample tagline in this review.  Free publicity may not be free, but you can start spending your publicity dollars wisely by buying The Frugal Book Promoter.

For more information, visit

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Editing gone too far

In the previous post, Kristin itemized ten key things to tell your editor.  A good editor is important to your success.  You want to make sure your words, tone and method of rolling out the story are consistent.  You want the action to feel real.  You want the characters to feel real.  And you want to remove unnecessary words that far too many people put into their writing. 

However, please don’t take this to government-secrecy extremes…

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Ten Critical Things to Tell Your Editor

“Black eyes” have been around forever. EEI Communications’ Editorial Eye newsletters feature reader-submitted black eyes, or mistakes in print. Imagine those mistakes on your cake, and you have the inspiration for 10 Unfortunate Cakes, which in turn inspired this blog post.

A birthday cake with a misspelled name or worse can be eaten without too much fuss (it is a cake, after all), but a manuscript filled with errors and contradictions is quite embarrassing. When you’re working with an editor, such as the ones here at The Happy Guy Marketing, or with a book editor, here are ten crucial ingredients to ensure that your book turns out in a way that does you and your subject credit.

Always tell your editor:

  1. The exact spelling of your name, or any important name in the book – especially in nonfiction. Just ask Geri in the article.
    Many ways to spell Geri

    Many ways to spell Geri

    The spelling of the name should be consistent throughout. The exception might be if you’re tracing a family name or noting errors in the recording of a name over time, in which case the editor should be alerted.

  2. Any important dates that need to be kept consistent.
  3. Precise place names. Angola, Indiana is different than the African nation.
  4. Foreign-language words, which can be embarrassing if misused. For example, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used the wrong Russian word with her gift of the “Reset” button. (As an aside, Opechatka is Russian for ‘typo’).
  5. Any obscure term thrown in, such as a German beer law in a food article.
  6. Correct quote attributes. For example, a writer could write, “John Wayne said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’” Actually, the famous quote by Patrick Henry reads: “It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
  7. Any information from the Internet that is not yet verified.
  8. Whether or not your controversial scientific book has been peer-reviewed (vetted for accuracy). Medical terms always need to be checked.
  9. Photo captions that need to be checked. has some fine ones.
  10. Any copyrighted material that you need permission to use. You can slip in a poetic quote, but the editor might not realize that you’re copying Ella Fitzgerald’s lyrics. No joke. “Fair use” is misunderstood.

I can’t guarantee that writing and editing your book will be a piece of cake. However, communicating with your editor (and proofreader) will ensure that when you’re showing off your book to agents and publishers, you can feel proud of your book. A publishing contract will be…the icing on the cake!

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Social Bookmarking – the indispensable tool for writers

Whether you write novels or blog posts, marketing materials or business books, articles or self-help books, the Internet provides a wonderful resource for writers, and no aspect of the Internet provides such a versatile writer’s toolset as social bookmarking websites like Digg and Propeller and Zoomit. Some of the uses of social bookmarking website might be obvious to you; others I am sure you have never thought of. Without further ado, here are the ways a writer can harness the tremendous power of social bookmarking.

Understand how people think – headlines

You don’t have to spend very long on a website like Digg to see that there are certain headlines that attract more attention than others. There are a number of variables in the Digg algorithm, but obviously the headline plays a big role in a site where users vote on the popularity of the content. Take a look at the stories that make it “popular” (on the home page of Digg or on the main page of any of its major categories) to see what really works. 

Study the chapter headings of the posts with the most votes, and you will understand how to pique people’s interest. A few of my own observations:

  • First ever items attract interest
  • Precision attracts interest (“Seven ways to…” works better than “How to…”
  • Sex sells
  • Shock sells
  • Titles that appeal to topics of interest, even if the topic of the item is a little off
  • See what other patterns you can discern

These lessons will be most useful to marketing writers and blog writers, but really they are important for anyone writing a book or article on pretty much any subject. Headlines always have been critical to drawing the reader into the article or chapter.

Understand how people think – comments

It’s one thing to understand how people react to headlines, it’s another to see how they react to the content. For that, it’s worth reading the comments they leave at websites like Digg, because members often feel safe in their anonymity to say what’s really on their mind. Sometimes this leads to great thoughts; other times to pure rudeness.

If you want full-fledged, raw rudeness (say that ten times fast) try Reddit. There is more anonymity there (no avatars, less internal communication and relationship-building) and you’ll find sharper comments. I was going to post an image here, but let’s just say that if you are sensitive about language, you’ll thank me for not doing so.

For more polite option, try Propeller. But don’t get caught up in judgments; understanding the full range of reactions to various types of topics is a great way to understand your audience or even to develop characters (in the case of fiction). Uncensored feedback is gold.

If you are a blog writer, you’ll probably have encountered some reactions to your writing. Studying the comments on websites like Digg, Reddit and Propeller gives you insight into a wider range of reactions to a wider range of writing. It’s worth spending the time.

Research topics

Want to know what topics are of interest to a certain audience? Study the topics that make it popular within various categories at Digg and Reddit, or at specialty social bookmarking websites, such as Tipd for financial topics.

Research details

I won’t tell you that everything you find on social bookmarking websites is the most accurate; writer beware. But I will tell you that the most exciting and most popular sources are all there, and you might as well use information that the people have said they like – the stuff that really engages the reader – when you do your research.

Research reactions

Not to get too repetitive, but just as reading comments can give you an understanding of how people react to various kinds of information, studying comments on specific topics can give you an idea of how people will react to specific things you might write. Yes, you may now take out the eraser and rewrite that paragraph that might draw ridicule.

Seek feedback

I know writers who have built up a bit of a feedback circle. They post their poetry and prose, usually to Digg, and people let them know what they think. This extra feedback from people beyond their real-life circle helps them improve their writing and know when they have a winner. Here’s an example of feedback that MyscticDave received for one of his works (Click the image for the complete submission).

Promote your writing

And social bookmarking websites are the ideal place to promote your writing. This is obvious for blog writers, but you can also promote your book, chapters of your book, poetry and articles. Here is an example of an article that EnglishChick was able to share with social bookmarking (Click the image for the complete submission).

There are a number of other great social bookmarking websites, like Zoomit for Canadians and Mixx and Plime. For research, you don’t need to even join any of these websites. However, to really promote or get a decent amount of feedback for your writings, you need to get involved by voting for and commenting on the submissions of others and marking people as friends.

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