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Contests 101: 5 Editor Takeaways

Contests bring out the best in all of us—the entrants, the judges, the agents. 


I’ve been on the receiving and giving side of both ends of the manuscript contest spectrum.

This blog posts focuses on the editor’s response to contest critiques.

As an editor with experience in evaluating and editing manuscripts (250 since 2017), I understand what it takes to catch an editor’s eye. I value the awesome responsibility required to evaluate and comment on a writer’s beloved work. And I respect what’s needed for each manuscript that comes across the work desk. It’s exhilarating. Truly.

Five Facts about Evaluating Contest Manuscripts

  1. Evaluating is hard.
  2. Evaluating is vulnerable.
  3. Evaluating is empowering.
  4. Evaluating is responsive.
  5. Evaluating is unpredictable.

I’d like to think that these are five of many possible facts about evaluating contest manuscripts.

Five facts from an editor’s perspective in evaluating manuscripts

  • Hard, because we know the author has poured blood, sweat, and tears into their manuscript, and it’s as much a part of them as their massive library collection.
  • Vulnerable, because we’re judging blind, not knowing who wrote what we’re reading. Yet we want to offer kind and helpful comments for each entry.
  • Empowering, because to think that we get to empower and validate a writer we don’t know is just the best thing there could ever be. That’s just pure bliss right there, and tastes richer than any mint dark chocolate bar in the whole wide world.
  • Responsive, because hitting that Submit button after judging an entry because we hope we have judged to the best of our ability and respected the author’s voice, their story, and the message while providing active feedback tailored for each manuscript.
  • Unpredictable, because once we hit that Submit button, there is no turning back. No guarantee that the writer will agree with us as we prayed our way through each story for wisdom in assessing and for words of encouragement in offering helpful feedback so that the story can be improved and scale up the ladder toward publication success.

What ebb-and-flow levels of curiosity and responsibility, huh?

In truth, most editors are happy to review manuscripts, to offer advice, to empower authors because if it weren’t for authors, we’d be out of a job. Publishers would not survive. Bookstores would not add to their shelves. And readers would have no books to enjoy.

Contests 101: Five Editor Takeaways

  1. Evaluating is easy.
  2. Evaluating is protection.
  3. Evaluating is discouraging.
  4. Evaluating is empowering.
  5. Evaluating is predictable.

I know, I know. Oxymoron, but we’re doing a switch on the “fear” words from the five facts about evaluating contest manuscripts.

  • Easy. While we realize that we take great care in providing useful, helpful, and honest feedback to each writer’s entry, we know that being as clear as we can about how the writer can implement our comments will be easy for them.
  • Protection. Most contests have high guidelines for their judges (or they should!). We know that a contest that has solid expectations for each entry is gold because we do indeed value each submitted manuscript and want to critique it to the absolute best of our industry knowledge. This creates a sense of protection for the entrants because the judge knows what they’re looking for and will have your story’s best interest at heart.
  • Discouraging. We sometimes do have to provide the author with a low score because perhaps the story is not where it needs to be . . . yet. And that yet is so empowering!
  • Empowering. And sometimes we give a great score because the writer did well in their story presentation.
  • Predictable. In all, we know that if the writer has done their homework, studied the craft, enlisted beta readers or a professional editor in the editing and proofreading stage, and knows that a contest does not define them or their writing, then we are confident that our comments on the writer’s manuscript will be received in a manner of gratefulness and encouragement.

And, who knows? You might even place in the contest, like one of my author-clients did!

Above all, each judge should view your manuscript through the eyes of grace. If they don’t, then please by all means, you’re free to chuck their advice. Grace given is a valuable and precious gift.

So, my writer-friend, don’t bemoan when submitting to contests. Exercise due diligence. Find out what your manuscript needs *before you submit. Most often, this includes reaching out to a trusted and experienced editor who knows what they’re looking for and who can give you the best overall critique advice for your story—in hopes of getting great feedback on that story submission.

If you’re worried about the cost, it’s usually not much. The cost of a critique is basically the same cost as a cup of coffee—-in general terms of experience. Both prices and experiences are just right.

So . . . are YOU submitting this season? Le me know in the comments!

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Contests 101: 5 Author Takeaways


Contests bring out the best and the worst in all of us—the entrants, the judges, the agents or editors. 

As a published author and professional editor, I’ve been on the receiving and giving side of both ends of the contest spectrum. And though I often didn’t like the judges’ score, I did appreciate their gracious feedback and insightful questions.

Their feedback and score did not define me or my writing skills.

I’m still alive and well to tell about it. Like now.

This blog focuses on the author’s response to contest judges’ feedback. (Next month, I will share the judges’ side.)

As a writer with about twenty years behind me (well, twenty exploratory, learning, and professional years combined, but still counts!), and having submitted to college contests three years in a row with nothing but disappointment (and I was a writing major), and having submitted to professional contests three years in a row with nothing but confusion and tears to show for (didn’t my writing degree prove anything??), I’ll share my personal journey with you.

Five Facts about Submitting to Contests

  1. Submitting is hard.
  2. Submitting is vulnerable.
  3. Submitting is empowering.
  4. Submitting is scary.
  5. Submitting is unpredictable.

I’d like to think that these are five of many possible facts about submitting to contests.

  • Hard, because we will never know if our manuscript has been edited enough. What if we missed that comma that we didn’t know we missed? What if our dialogue doesn’t sing? What if . . .? What if someone is just a better writer than me? Oop, let’s just close the computer right now and hang it up forever.
  • Vulnerable, because someone we don’t know is going to read our precious words. Oh my gosh, that’s just too much for me. What if this judge absolutely hates my story because their uncle chased them with a scary clown mask. giving them lifetime nightmares too? Oh dear. That’ll disqualify me for sure!
  • Empowering, because to think that someone we don’t know is going to possibly, hopefully validate us is just the best thing there could ever be. That’s just pure bliss right there, and tastes richer than any mint dark chocolate bar in the whole wide world.
  • Scary, because hitting that Submit button just might seal our fate to never ever send out our work again, so we might as well just keep sipping coffee and eating dark chocolate and loving, appreciating our words, as if no one else will ever like them but us.
  • Unpredictable, because once we hit that Submit button, there is no turning back. No guarantee that a judge will agree with us. No promise that a judge will believe in us or our story.

What ebb-and-flow levels of fear we’ve created, huh?

True. If you are not inclined to submit because of these fears (yes, let’s say what they are), then you won’t follow through. If that sounds harsh, please understand that I have been in that spot before.

I didn’t follow through because I sincerely thought my manuscript idea and story was not good enough. No one would like it. The judges would give my manuscript a total score 40 and tell me I needed to enhance my characterization, my theme, my dialogue. Blah. Why enter if I was going to get that kind of rejection? Not worth it!

Ohhh, but what I didn’t realize was that submitting to contests *was worth it! Don’t believe me? That’s okay. You’re not inclined to; but if you’ll stick with me to the end, I’ll share five things authors can takeaway from submitting to contests . . .

Contests 101: Five Author Takeaways

  1. Submitting is easy.
  2. Submitting is protection.
  3. Submitting is discouraging.
  4. Submitting is empowering.
  5. Submitting is predictable.

I know, I know. Oxymoron, but we’re doing a switch on the “fear” words from the five facts about submitting to contests.

  • Easy. This might sound confusing or intriguing. When we dash the fear that submitting is hard, submitting then becomes easy. Not necessarily easy in the act of hitting that Submit button, but easy in knowing that whatever happens, it’s easy to let go and trust God and the powers that be.
  • Protection. Mmm, yes. Protection. Most contests have strong guidelines for their judges (or they should! If you’re unsure, then take the power plunge and query them for judges’ guidelines or qualifications). This creates a sense of protection for the entrants because the judge knows what they’re looking for and will have your story’s best interest at heart.
  • Discouraging. This is a heavy word, but it’s truth here. You may not get a good score when the results come in. That’s life. That’s reality. That’s discouraging. However, if the judge behaved objectively (as they should), then their comments will be comforting, encouraging, and empowering. You’ll know what to do next time! Isn’t that encouraging?
  • Empowering. And sometimes you’ll get a great score on one score sheet. Yay! Go you! Or maybe you’ll receive a personalize comment from a judge who discloses their name and email address, specifically telling you to contact them when you’ve made changes. Ooo! (Now, they’re generally not supposed to, but in the faith-based market, judges are also sometimes editors, so they know a good story when they see one; and often reach out to help authors who show promise—in the hopes that the author will one day impress and agent or publishing board.) How cool is that?
  • Predictable. Hmm, this one is interesting, because it’s kinda like gambling, isn’t it? I say submitting is predictable because if you have done your due diligence and gotten good solid feedback on your manuscript before submitting . . . meaning, you have had encouragement from a trusted source (published author, skilled editor), then chances are, you’ll have great results after hitting that Submit button.

And, who knows? You might even place in the contest, like one of my author-clients did!

Above all, each judge should view your manuscript through the eyes of grace. If they don’t, then please by all means, you’re free to chuck their advice. Grace given is a valuable and precious gift.

So, my writer-friend, don’t bemoan when submitting to contests. Exercise due diligence. Find out what your manuscript needs *before you submit. Most often, this includes reaching out to a trusted and experienced editor who knows what they’re looking for and who can give you the best overall critique advice for your story—in hopes of getting great feedback on that story submission.

If you’re worried about the cost, it’s usually not much. The cost of a critique is basically the same cost as a cup of coffee—-in general terms of experience. Both prices and experiences are just right.

So . . . are YOU submitting this season? Let me know in the comments!

We’re into the submission season. There are still open contests out there!

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Year in Review: 2022

Reviews are curious things. We review abilities and actions, bills and budgets, causes and effects, and many other things. Each review brings us to what we care about most and why we care most about it.

Looking back on 2022, and quite honestly 2021 too, I cared a lot about what happened.

I learned that as I truly treasured myself in each moment of my day—whether spending time recharging, enjoying intentional conversations, learning something new, experiencing (fun) challenges and growth in my editing and writing business—I can point to moments as a whole that energized me, brought fulfillment, and gave me a sense of deeper purpose.

Focusing on my physical health was a gift I didn’t know I needed. This was quite the journey as I sought to improve and change daily life, activities, and priorities. To say it was hard work is an understatement, and the required stamina seemed like a mountain sometimes. But the hard work paid off, the value I gained rewarding, fulfilling, and life-giving.

Speaking to several groups of professional writing college students filled me up, and as I engaged with them in whatever topics they were exploring or supporting them in whatever questions they had, I saw how their gifts and talents were being shaped and sharpened in real time.

Choosing to reduce social media time exponentially increased my connection with others, God, and myself. With the freedom to be intentional helped me value my time and resources so that they would be used optimally. I’m reminded of the quote (loosely paraphrased) by Allen Arnold that is on my fridge, Who and how often I serve is critical, because if I’m serving everyone and everywhere, I’m not serving anyone anywhere. This concept has been a gift to me in recent years as I’ve honed my big-heart skills and fine tuned my resources.

Deciding to hire a business coach infused my personal and professional life with rest, peace, and joy. For several years I knew that I was hustling more than I needed to, but I didn’t know how to slow down—or didn’t want to. In giving myself grace and going at a pace with God’s grace, I realized that hustling doesn’t serve me, and doesn’t serve anyone else. at. all.

I have hustled for far too long. I hustled through childhood, teenage years, college and grad school, and early career years. Now the word ‘hustle’ makes me feel exhausted. I’d rather serve myself, others, and God with grace, knowing that whatever is meant for me will be there for me when I need it.

As I move into a brand new year, my phrase-word is Less Is More.

I will continue editing books, author coaching, and serving the publishing industry I love dearly. I’m also speaking twice this year. (Will share the details soon!)

I will be returning to my own writing—something I’ve neglected the last two years—and finishing my second historical fiction novel. I’m excited to talk about bookish and writing news in my newsletter. (If you aren’t already following the journey, please join?)

I will be spending less time on social media and will be blogging once a month. I’ll be repurposing valuable blogs at first, as my online wings relearn to fly with grace.

And I’m anticipating a fresh, restful, intentional year at a pace with abundant grace.

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How to Trust the Process


(original post published in 2018)

Writers are often told that the best piece of writing advice is to write what you know, or build your platform . . . or anything related to writing that we strive to make better in our lives. However, the best piece of writing advice I have ever been told resonated with me in such a way that changed my thinking about my writing journey.

Trust the process.

That was the advice, plain and simple.

So many times we get caught up in our writing friends’ successes, how many books they have published, seeing how perfect their worlds seem that are so unlike our own clumsy path we’re trying to follow. And that’s discouraging. I’ve been there a time or two. When I started on the path to finding an agent, I was completely overwhelmed. What if I didn’t have enough “platform” numbers? What if my writing wasn’t good enough? What if no one would like what I wrote?

But I reached out to agents anyway and pitched my story to them. Some agents liked my story but it wasn’t a good fit for them. Other agents loved my story and wanted to work with me. Oh, now, that was exciting!

Then, just like getting a large papercut, I received some disheartening news. My platform wasn’t large enough. However, not to be discouraged, the agent encouraged me to do several things, and one of those things was to get a mentor. Now, I know what you might be thinking. Asking someone to be my mentor is super intimidating. But let me put you at ease. Even Stephen King and Francine Rivers had to start at the bottom, just like you and me. And writers are always helping other writers; that’s how we grow. So, asking an author you admire, who is further down the publishing path than you, to mentor you along is the best thing you could ever do.

I did that, and my mentor told me to trust the process, because I wasn’t sure how my platform would shape up. And for the past year, I have been (trying, praying to) trusting the process as I continue doing what works for me, whether it be writing blog posts, interviewing authors, sharing research information, or encouraging up-and-coming writers, because I know that if I continue to keep my pen sharp, my heart open, and my eyes on God, that this entire process of getting published will be well worth the journey.

God’s given you a process that only works for you, and no matter what your other writer friends are doing, He will never fail you.

Let’s Chat! I’d love to hear from you in the comments~

How have you seen your own writing journey blossom this year?

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Three Similarities in Theater and Writing


(first printed Dec. 7, 2018)

“All the world’s a stage,” so they say, and a backdrop for what we experience, how we react and respond, what we do, what and how we learn.

For six years, I worked in theater, the person behind the scenes as production manager, costume assistant, seamstress, hair/makeup assistant, and as backstage rehearsal support. Long hours, late nights, and large cups of strong coffee were my best friends during those years.

And now as a writer, long hours, late nights, and lots of coffee are still my best friends. I get to work with a different type of “stage”: the backdrop of paper and the illustration of ink. And my characters are, well, the actors. And I’m the director. Or at least I try to be.

Do I miss the stage? You bet I do! A piece of my heart belongs to the world of theater, and I secretly want to join a traveling acting team. (Shhh, don’t tell anyone!) The picture above is special to me because it was a debut production. “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” and the actors who performed each role ravished students, faculty, and staff with its swashbuckling, wit, and intense moments during every night of the performance.

Delightfully enough, the acting and writing are similar. And without further ado, may I present three things wherein writing and acting similar.

  1. Creativity
    Just as the director must devise creative ways to direct the cast in how to produce just the right emotion, the right action, the right message that conveys the correct audience response, so does the writing need to create compelling characters, engaging plot, and a strong message that encourages readers.
  2. Conciseness
    Just as the script must include those actions, cues, and dialogue needs to tell a tight story with a lesson, moral, truth, or concept, so writing should convey a well-planned plot that presents only those details that further enhance the story’s message, the character’s desire/goal, and the author’s intent.
  3. Cleverness
    Just like every road has a turn, every great play has that twist, that sudden “What? No way! That can’t—” which catches the viewer off guard and sets them on the edge of their seat. Likewise, a great story will have that shock factor that grabs the reader by the throat or causes their heart to connect with the character, and thereby compelling the reader to read just one more chapter until they’ve reached the end.

My creative friends, seek to craft a work that is creative, concise, and clever, for in doing so, readers (and viewers alike) will have a wonderful reading (or viewing) experience.

Your Turn!

What other similarities would you add?

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Punctuation Series: 4 Ways to Edit Commas

punctuation series

Four Ways to Edit Commas

 1.  Commas used with adjectives.

If you can place the word “and” between two adjectives before a noun without changing the meaning, then you need a comma separating the adjectives.

Here is an example:

His narrow chiseled jaw showed off his handsome physique.

His narrow [and] chiseled jaw showed off his handsome physique.

His narrow, chiseled jaw showed off his handsome physique.

The two adjectives here act as separate modifiers for the noun “jaw,” and that’s why there is a comma between them.

However, if two adjectives before the noun are considered a unit, then do not use a comma.

Here is an example.

The author had written many famous award-winning articles.

Famous describes award-winning, and award-winning describes articles. Therefore, no comma is needed because the words work together and make sense.

2.  Commas with adverbs.

Generally, adverbs like howevertherefore, and indeed are set off by commas.


She wanted to join the group, however, she had to work instead.

He asked his boss if he could take the week off, therefore, he was able to finish writing.

But if the adverb is important to the meaning of the clause, or if no pause is needed in the reading, then no comma is needed.


The cattle indeed ran through the pasture as a group.

I’ll wait for you however long it takes for you to make a decision.

Even if you’ve written a letter, you are therefore a writer.

3.  Commas with cities and states.

This is an often-confusing issue. When do you use commas and when don’t you?

Always use a comma between the city and state, even if the state is spelled out or used as abbreviation.


Grand Rapids, Michigan, is one of several Christian publishing hubs.

Will you visit any museums in New Orleans, L.A., this year?

If the state precedes a zip code, do not use a comma.


Send your book proposal to Your Agent, 123 Proposal Rd., Manuscript, TN 12345.

4.  Commas with compound predicates, dependent clauses, and independent clauses.

Compound Predicates. Do not use commas when you have two verbs that belong to the same subject.

For example,

The writers drove to the writer’s conference and attended every session.

Dependent Clauses. A dependent clause that is considered restrictive cannot be left out of the sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence, therefore, use a comma when the dependent clause comes before the main clause.

For example,

When you send the manuscript to the publisher, tell them we can edit if necessary.

A dependent clause that is considered nonrestrictive, and which provides information that supplements the sentence not necessary to the entire sentence does need a comma.

For example,

I’d like to spend the afternoon in the bookstore, if you don’t mind.

Essentially, if you can leave out the dependent clause (“if you don’t mind”), and the rest of the sentence makes sense, then you need the comma.

Independent Clauses. An independent clause is part of a sentence that can stand on its own. If there are two of them together, joined by a conjunction (and, but, or), then a comma comes before the conjunction.

For example,

The instructors prepared for their sessions six months in advance, and they taught several classes at the annual writer’s conference.

The only exception: Short clauses don’t need a comma.

For example,

Sarah ran the signup table and Bill greeted the guests.

Using commas correctly is important because it makes a world of difference in the meaning of a sentence. One wrong comma could mean someone’s life! (Let’s eat Grandma… or Let’s eat, Grandma.)

Next month, we’ll look at some more ways to edit the punctuation in your manuscript, but for now. . .

Please take a minute and join in the discussion! I’d love to hear from you!

What do you struggle with when using commas?  

Oh! And in case you’re interested, there’s an excellent online writer’s conference going on right now (February 12 — March 5, 2019)! It’s all online — so that means no travel, no hotel, no childcare, no dressing up, NO stress—and the best part is that it’s FREE! 

25 stellar speakers bring you up-to-date industry news, strategies, and encouragement right to the comfort of your living room. I’m presenting two sessions on self-editing, so be sure to click this link >> FlourishWriters Online Conference and register! It’s free!

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The Horse in a Book

The Horse in a Book

The Horse in a Book first appeared on, August 13, 2018.

I’m very excited to welcome author and editor, Tisha Martin, to the blog today to talk to us about horses in fiction. If you missed her first two posts in this series, you can find them HERE and HERE.

Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us, Tisha! 

This is the final blog post in a three-part “Writing about Horses” series. It’s been so wonderful to guest blog for Kathleen, and I truly hope you’ve enjoyed reading these blogs and that they’ve been a help to you.

Like many of you, reading or writing about horses can be either exhilarating or exhausting. I grew up with horses, trained a few, therefore, I thought I knew how to write about them. Turns out it was harder than I bargained. In this third installment of writing about horses in our stories, I aim to share tips about how to write good horse scenes by making sure that the terms we use are accurate. If you’re a reader, perhaps you’ve read a book or two where reading the horse scenes made you cringe. Why? Well, read on, my horse-loving friend!

Whether you’re writing a historical, contemporary, or horse-infused novel, it’s important to make sure the horse anatomy, phrases about horses, and horse-related terms we use are completely accurate. I’ll provide information for English riders, Western riders, and some in-between phrases that I hope will be of help to you as you write or read. (Maybe some of you are book reviewers. You must possess a keen eye for those little details because that’s what makes or breaks the authenticity of your book review.)

The Horse


Image 1

Horse anatomy isn’t hard, but it can be tricky. It’s like taking a class on Anatomy and Physiology. While it’s a little confusing, thankfully, writers and readers only have to worry about the outside of the horse . . . unless there’s a veterinarian in your book, and then, well, you’ll have to learn the squishy parts of the inside of the horse too. Here are some key horse anatomy terms to keep straight because they’re super important when referring to character actions with the horse.

  • Poll—this is the space on top of the horse’s head that is between the ears. A character would apply pressure to the horse’s poll to get the horse to lower his head so that the character could put on the bridle. The error most writers make is having the character stroke the forelock to put in the bit. That makes any horse expert cringe. Unless the character has taught the horse to lower his head when his forelock is touched, don’t use this terminology for putting on a bridle.
  • Withers—this is the little hump at the end of the mane and right in front of the horse’s back. On a Western and English saddle alike, there is a hump at the front of the saddle. This hump sits on the withers, acting as the center of gravity. The rest of the saddle sits on the horse’s back, of course. The error most writers make is to place the saddle on the horse’s withers. If the character does this, that means that the saddle is also sitting on the horse’s neck! Yikes.
  • Pastern—this is the long, slender bone between the fetlock and the hoof. The character would run their hand down the horse’s pastern to get the horse to lift its hoof so the inside of the hoof can be picked out with a hoof pick. If the horse refuses to lift his hoof, then the character can tug on the horse’s fetlock or apply gentle pressure to the coronet (which is like a fatty nerve directly above the inside of the hoof wall). If a horse has been trained correctly, he will lift its hoof when you touch his pastern. If not, well, that’s the perfect time for a lesson!
  • Barrel—this is the roundest part of the horse that resembles a barrel. Easy, right? Of course. However, in most books about horses, the writer refers to the rider kicking the horse in the flanks. This is dangerous because the flank is farther up and back on the horse and causes two problems: the horse takes off and the rider loses balance. Another problem in books about horses is when the rider spurs the horse. This action is painful to the horse because real spurs tend to have sharp edges, so a nudge is better. Therefore, if a character has to flee on a horse, kicking or nudging the horse in the barrel is a more accurate term. But it may be easier to say, Jones nudged the horse into a canter. The reader will know what that means.

Horse Phrases

Like a character kicking the horse in the flanks, these type of horse phrases are tricky to master, but not impossible to master. Knowledgeable readers want to read an author’s book involving horses with the comfort that they won’t have to cringe at an ill-fitting phrase. Below are some overly used phrases that are often out of place.

  • Above the bit—when the horse raises his head above the rider’s hands that he no longer is attuned to the rider’s control. For example, Acorn strained above the bit, causing Melody to sit deep in the saddle and tug on one rein to bring the horse back into submission.
  • Back—to make the horse step backward. For example, Laurie backed her horse in a smooth circle.
  • Bascule—to describe the arc of a horse when he jumps a fence. For instance, The yearling, Shantih, leaped over the six-foot fence, her body bascule. (Yes, this really does happen to horse owners and characters. Shantih was my yearling.)
  • Four-In-Hand—a team of four harness horses, like the horses pulling a stagecoach (although there are usually two-in-hand). For example, The driver stopped the four-in-hand.
  • Half Halt—a “pay attention, please” to the horse when the rider wants the horse to change gears. For example, Champ trotted forward, but Jed pulled back in a half halt and nudged the horse to the right.
  • Jog—the actual Western riding term for a horse’s trot, and a term for a shortened pace in English riding.


In Conclusion

Writing about and reading about horses is such fun whenever the horse anatomy and horse phrases and terms are used correctly. Otherwise, it’s like nails across the chalkboard. Not so pleasant. However, if an author studies the craft of writing about horses by employing a dictionary, asking a horse expert, or purchasing a few solid research books, the horse-lover reader will buy that author’s books for the pure reading enjoyment of the authenticity of the horse material.

About Image 1: English Trakehner gelding, Sybari in standing pose, marked with major points of the horse. Foaled in 2001, picture taken in 2010 (aged 9). Annotated with major morphological points sourced from Goody, John (2000) Horse Anatomy (2nd ed.), J A Allen ISBN0.85131.769.3. and (2007) Complete Equine Veterinary Manual, David & Charles ISBN0.7153.1883.7. Image sourced from Wikipedia. Created by Owain Davies CC 3.0. No changes made.
Photo Credit: Unsplash

Let’s Chat!

Which of these horse terms did you find the most interesting? Have you ever noticed an error related to horses in the stories you’ve read? Tell me about it in the comments below! (Just remember to be kind.)

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The Year of Trust

Word for 2018

It’s that time of year . . . where people all across the globe are reflecting on the year that’s behind them and anticipating the new year that’s ahead of them. Wow, where did this year go? Truly seems like I was sitting on the couch only moments ago, wondering how 2018 would shape up. Guess it shaped up fairly well—we’re at the end of it now!

Now . . . as I sit at my computer on Christmas Day, listening to Mannheim Steamroller and reminiscing all that 2018 had to offer me, teach me, encourage me, and grow me, I sigh with satisfaction. Satisfaction that even through a rocky and unpredictable 2018, my chosen word of the year—trust—really guided me every step of the year’s journey.

The Trust Journey

From the train station to the plane station, traveling different modes of transportation allowed me to see the world from different viewpoints—and each one super special. Getting to talk with complete strangers about their jobs and their lifestyles helped me to appreciate people more.

Boston Countryside

From California to Boston, it was such a pleasure to meet so many new friends and catch up with old friends. In all, I traveled ten times, and each one a matter of trust because it was definitely an investment year for my writing and editing business.

From my home to others’ homes, the joy of spending time with people and sharing their daily lives is always a treat.

From being a guest on a podcast to giving two talks about self-editing at a writer’s conference, I had the privilege of getting involved in other writers’ lives and sharing the wonderful world of writing . . . and editing. Loved connecting with writers and talking about their books!

Big Apple in Michigan

From having no contract to securing a contract with a publisher, it was such a joy to see this process unfold. Years of hard work, prayer, and mountains of trust happened to get to this happy place! Sharing about this on the blog soon!

And with all the ins and outs of expanding a freelance editing business, more trust than I thought possible was required this year. But a-trusting we did, and seeing the results of blood, sweat, tears, and much prayer is so rewarding! I’m blessed beyond measure to serve the authors and publishers I work with. Truly it is a team effort to get books out into the world!

What Did Trust Mean For Me?

Throughout all of my travels and adventures this year, I learned to trust the process and the plan in each situation I found myself. Sounds easy? No, my friend, it was far from easy. But it was rewarding after I was able to look back and see how each step was laid out exactly as it was supposed to. Then the trusting was definitely worth it!

I’m starting to see a trend here though. 2017 was Adventure, 2018 was Trust, and 2019 looks like it will be either Encourage or Joy. Maybe the two will end up mixing? We’ll see! But the trend I’m seeing is that these words fit well together, as far as the lessons I’ve learned from each year’s events. Each year has built on the previous, but isn’t that life life though? We’re constantly learning, constantly growing.

What Am I Doing in 2019?

Well, here’s the working plan:

  • Give two talks on self-editing at FlourishWriters, a mega online writer’s conference. If you’d like more information, click here. Starts January 22!
  • Keep writing my second historical fiction (post-WWII) novel.
  • Work on edits from my first historical fiction (WWII) novel.
  • Attend a writer’s conference. Or two. Maybe more.
  • Continue to work with great authors. If you’re interested in any of my editing services, please visit my Editing Page to see how we can work together to make your manuscript shine! My 2019 calendar is filling up fast, so get in touch today to make sure your manuscript gets into the calendar!
  • Continue to bring you exclusive content that is helpful, beneficial, and enjoyable. If you have a topic or subject you’d like to see, please contact me, and I’ll see what we can do to deliver that to you!
  • Get excited and plan an anthology book launch, coming fall 2019! I’ll be sharing a post about that, but to keep in touch of the progress and to get in on launch goodies, sign up for my newsletter. Delivered only four times a year—and may or may not include a gift card!

Wishing You a Very Happy New Year!

In 2019, I want to continue to learn and grow and reach out to others.

How about you? What are your 2019 goals? Plans? Trips?
I’d love to hear from you!

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8 Survival Quotes for Writers

fanned book

This blog post first appeared here, September 22, 2016.

Recently, I attended the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Association yearly conference in Nashville. Armed with my program booklet for the four-day conference, I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the various sessions the conference offered.

In this post, I’ve included more snippets of key elements and survival tips taught in the sessions–elements that caused me to sit up and take notice. Hope they are an encouragement to you as well.

Susan May Warren & Rachel Hauck, Go! Write Something Brilliant

  • Start the novel at the core of the problem.
  • How well a reader connects with and cares for your character determines the success of the story.
  • Find the universal emotion that is relate with.
  • What can your character do at the end that he couldn’t do at the beginning?
  • About Susan
  • About Rachel

Janice Thompson, Sustaining a Lucrative Writing Career

  • Good things come to those who have a strategy plan.
  • Keep your name out there and in front of readers/editors.
  • Have  your brand on your Facebook header.
  • Throw arrogance into the trashcan.
  • About Janice

photo cred: google


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Three Ways to Beat the Winter Blues


Writing with the Winter Blues
Don’t know about you, but this winter’s dragged on forever with no end in sight. Here in the Midwest, we had our first snow over Christmas. Then negative below temps stretched three grueling weeks, as did the snow. And in February, it kept snowing, melting, snowing, melting, raining, snowing, melting, raining, snow—Ahhh!

The country girl in me couldn’t take it any longer. And the writer in me shriveled for a bit; I felt like a snowman stripped of his decorations by giggling children who wanted to build a bigger snowman. And the editor in me? . . . quickly sprang to life because I needed to get cracking on my manuscript edits and guest blog posts and author book giveaway interview blog posts and client meetings and editing for clients and conference preparation and book proposals.

Are you with me still? Yes? Great!

How do you write during those winter blues? (Instead of simply staring out the bay window waiting for Spring?) My writer friend Pearl Allard wrote a fabulous post about her shriveled season. You can read about it here. You’ll love her beautiful tantalizing descriptions, words of wisdom to power you through. Right Click the link and Open link in new tab, reader or save her article, and come back here. You won’t to miss what’s coming next. . .

I’d like to share three things I do to beat those winter writing blues:

  1. Beat on another door.
    If writing isn’t working for you, it’s okay. Don’t panic. It happens to every writer, from multi published to beginner, from confident to scared, from experienced to inexperienced. No one’s exempt. Consider working on your platform—remember, that means building relationships on whatever social media is most comfy for you—or jotting down new story ideas, or sending out emails to writer friends to plan attending the next conference together. Several great ones coming up are listed in The Christian Writers Market Guide. Several conferences to look into that are surprisingly affordable: Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing, Blue Ridge Writers ConferenceKentucky Christian Writers Conference, SoCal Christian Writers Conference, St. Davids Christian Writers Conference, REALM Makers, Taylor University Professional Writers Conference, and Breathe Christian Writers Conference, to name only a few. How about offering to beta read for a friend? Get involved in a blog tour or three. Two great tours to sign up for are Singing Librarian Books and Just Read. I’m part of Singing Librarian’s blog tour coming up Friday, April 6, for an author’s book, and the story line’s beautiful. You should come back and see what it’s all about!
  2. Beat your brains out with manuscript edits. No, don’t actually do that. It hurts. I just couldn’t think of a better way to begin point two. Seriously, though. Sometimes when those words don’t flow like milk and honey, it’s best to stop frustrating yourself and look over what you’ve already written. Don’t focus on writing. Focus on editing. Does a sentence not make any sense to you as it did at 2 a.m.? Make a note in the margin and move on. The trick here is not to stop and dwell on the words. We’re not writing, we’re editing. Big difference. Do you need to do more research for a particular scene? Jot some thoughts down of what you need to google or find in your research book’s index. Do you need stronger verbs? Nouns? Words in general? Pull up the online Thesaurus and enjoy discovering new words that are spicier than those old ones.
  3. Beat your plans into submission. Again, I’m writing this at 4 a.m. so my word choice may not be the best. Sorry. I think I need to use the Thesaurus more often too. What do I mean by “beat your plans into submission”? Think ahead. If you haven’t written a book proposal, use this stunted writing season to research the best ways to organize your book proposal. Keep in mind each agent or publisher has different requirements, so you’ll want to pay careful and close attention to their submission guidelines. Important: a book proposal is like a job resume. You want it to best fit the agency’s or publisher’s (if you’re self-publishing) guidelines you’re submitting to. Guidelines can be found on the agent’s or publisher’s official website. Generally, a book proposal consists of: the cover letter, target audience, current and future marketing (for when your book baby is published), complete synopsis (NO secrets kept here), and the first three chapters or fifty pages of the manuscript. A few great resource articles are Keys to a Great Book ProposalJane Friedman’s How to Craft a Book ProposalCrafting an Academic Book Proposal, and a few excellent and affordable books to include to your wintertime reading: Michael Hyatt’s Fiction and Nonfiction Book Proposals and Writer’s Digest Selling Your Nonfiction Book (ebook). Check them out and let me know which you’ve decided to get!

I hope you find these three things for beating the winter writing blues helpful.

What about you? How do YOU beat those winter writing blues? Let me know in the comments! Looking forward to hearing from you!!

Speaking of winter blues—oh look!

There’s a bright orange chested robin careening over a pine tree; and there’s the sun—the sun!—peeking over the horizon. I feel better now. Spring’s on its way. Hot dog! I’m gonna fly now—see you at the next writers conference! First, please leave a comment; conference’s not for a few weeks yet. I want to engage in conversation with you about YOUR winter writing blues.