For Story Believability, Set Up Particulars in Advance

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 Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days isnow available. See details below

Have you ever raised your eyebrows at something like this? In a contemporary romance, an accountan grabs an épée from a castle wall and fights expertly with the castle owner. Smaller events then that can cause readers to shake their heads or confuse them. 

Set up an event, the use of a prop, or a special ability in advance.

I had to make the lack of cell service clear in The Invisible Woman in a Red Dress. Today, people tend to think cell service is everywhere in the continental U.S. Where I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains between two small cities, this is not true. Some people in my community have cell service in their home, or at least in one room. I have no cell service inside my house. And only one carrier’s service works in my yard. 

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So when Candace came to Twisty Creek, a fictional community in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I had to make it clear to readers that her Richmond, VA, AT&T service would not work there. I’d mentioned the cell problem early in the story, but my editor questioned later in the story why Candace couldn’t use her cell inside her grandmother’s house. So I had to go back and make the cell situation explicitly clear.

Local readers of The Invisible Woman in a Red Dresswould have had no suspension of belief. However, it took my husband and I awhile to get our children to stop texting us. We didn’t get their texts until days later when we shopped in a nearby small city.

Setups you create must be realistic.

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In book two of the Twisty Creek series, The Identical Woman in a Black Dress, I created a setup early in the story concerning Trace’s rifle. I put his rifle in the window rack in the back of his truck. He would need it there later.

My husband is a beta reader. He questioned the legality of having the exposed rifle in the truck when Trace and Lattice go inside a restaurant and a store. We looked up the situation for Virginia. Our research was clear. My setup might be legal, but an exposed rifle in a truck cab while the. owner is in business building isn’t smart or realistic.

I created an alternate, more believable setup, which worked as well as the one in my draft.

Enlist or hire beta readers, critique partners, and/or a professional editor.

Note in both cases above my setup corrections were made in my drafts. At least an editor and my husband read through my final drafts. I could have lost readers if the insufficient or unbelievable setups had made it into my books.

What event, prop, or ability in a story suspended your belief?


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Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor
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Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author




5 Tips for Authors to Keep Writing-Related Tasks Straight

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Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days now available. See details below.

I’ll share what I do to keep the writing, marketing, financial, pay-it-forward, and event tasks straight. I hope other authors will share what they do. Now that I have eight books in different stages of publishing, I’d welcome more suggestions.

Tip 1: Make Separate Marketing Mailboxes for Each Book on Email.

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Since you’ll use these mailboxes every day, place them at the front of your mailboxes so you’re not constantly scrolling. Put them alphabetically by a title word or title’s initials.

Add sub-mailboxes that work for you. My sub-mailboxes are:

  • Ads
  • Announcements
  • Books in Store (where I keep all my purchased Kindle gift-book emails ready to forward for giveaways, contests, reviews, etc.)
  • Contests
  • Endorsers
  • Events (online and physical)
  • Guest Blogs
  • Influencers
  • Materials (bookmarks, postcards, business cards, posters, etc.)
  • Reviews
  • Winners

Drag pertinent emails into these mailboxes. When you have a question about what a blogger wants from you as a guest, you can find it quickly in the Guest Blogs emails for that book. Don’t forget to store your sent emails too so you know what you’ve submitted or agreed to.

Tip 2: Keep Logs for Certain Responsibilities.

I agreed to be the treasurer for a state chapter of an international writers’ group to pay forward help I’ve received. I’m responsible for special and yearend reports. So I keep a log in a word processor table (could use a spreadsheet) of each action I perform. Just a brief action, who, and a date. For special, monthly, or yearend reports, I don’t have to remember or hunt for what I did.

This would be good for keeping track of what you’ve done or assigned to others for a large launch party. 

Tip 3: Have Frequently Used Documents Quickly Accessible.

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My husband John takes care of much of the marketing, financial, and KDP publishing tasks. We have a shared folder on Dropbox with subfolders and sub-subfolders: 

  • for each book 
    • final edited manuscript
    • long and short blurbs and bios, 
    • interview content
    • marketing documents (ad and tweet content)
    • memes
  • one for all books 
    • headshot
    • financial spreadsheets
    • all final book covers 
    • newsletter content
    • general marketing

I can quickly find the items hosts ask me to attach for my guest posts, newspaper interviews, and events. 

Tip 4: Make the Best Use of a Calendar.

Most writers put events and due dates on their calendars. Try jotting a note on the dates you’ll write a guest post, interview, or workshop. Enter a note on the date you’ll polish and send it and one on the date it goes live and you’ll promote it. Also, I enter dates I expect my guests to have sent their guest posts to me.

I live by a weekly schedule sheet I developed. When I create my schedule for the next week, my calendar helps make my job easy. I know what stages of projects I need to schedule. I don’t worry about ending up in a crunch.

Tip 5: Use Checklists for Repeated Tasks.

Writers usually have blogging or other tasks they do each week or month. I developed a checklist for putting my blog content on WordPress and promoting it. Then I don’t forget to add links, select a featured image, add tags, or who I’ve promoted it to after it’s published. 

What tips do you have to keep all your tasks straight?

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is TYFMI30D-Print-5.75x8.89.jpeg

Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author



4 Ways to Prevent Errors from Invading Your Books

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days now available. See details below.

We’ve all heard, “Hire an editor.” And I do. Here are four other things you can do to avoid errors in your book.

1. Check for typos in the changes you make during editing.

Sometimes deadlines make it easy for typos and other errors to creep into our stories. This happened to me. I had limited time to apply edits from my freelance editor before an indie novella was due for a collection. As I read the Kindle version, I was appalled to find eight typos. Eight! The errors have been corrected. Thank goodness. 

Most of the eight typos occurred when I was quickly making a change my editor had suggested. Really? I’d hired an editor to catch my typos along with grammar and story issues, then included typos in making the changes? 

You can be sure from now on, no matter how pressured I am, I will check twice for typos in the changes I make.

2. When receiving galleys ask at least one other person to read them for errors. The more the better.

My husband reads my galleys. We always find a typo the other doesn’t find, and sometimes we both miss one. 

Tell your editor about the typo you find after you’ve sent back galleys. I’ve done so, and my publisher has made the correction. 

For self-published books put on such publishing platforms as KDP, make corrections you or others find. You want readers to have an error free read.

If you’re a reader, letting authors know about typos you see, especially on a Kindle version, is usually appreciated. 

3. Don’t miss a comma, period, quotation mark, or single-letter edit among other more complicated edits in track changes.

If I’m not careful, I get wrapped up in what my editor has marked as wordy or awkward and miss that comma, period, or quotation mark she inserted. Also, don’t zip by that vertical line on the left margin in track changes that has no bubble message on the right side. It’s usually flagging something the editor has inserted.

4. Scan the final manuscript for word processor flagged words to catch the valid ones you’ve missed.

But don’t blindly accept the ones you question. Look up the spelling and grammar issues of words. For example, my word processor always calls for a comma after an opening so.

“Your copper hair complements your green eyes,” Mark said.

“So you think I’m pretty.” 

My word processor just flagged that so. But when sosignals a similarity or suggests logical continuity, no comma. This is usually the case.

I get so used to the red squiggles flagging the spelling of characters’ names, such as Jassie, that I fail to spot a valid warning. Now I add such names to the spelling and grammar dictionary so the processor doesn’t flag them. My possible errors stand out.

What tips do you have to help us produce an error-free book?


Buy Link

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is TYFMI30D-Print-5.75x8.89.jpeg

Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author