"I don't know what to do."
That's what Barbie wrote when she contacted me about her book.
She'd been working on her memoir for years. The writing was done and she wanted to move forward, to publish the book, but she had so many questions.
Should she find someone to edit the book? Where could she get a cover design? And what about the inside? She had no idea where to begin.
She's not alone.
Writing a book is a huge accomplishment, getting it into book form and publishing it is another.
Together we reviewed her manuscript, edited and organized what she'd written, talked about titles, cover designs ... and how and where to get it published.
As we worked through the project, Barbie often thanked me for my guidance and told me she was learning so much about the process.
I was learning, too. Learning about how hard it can be for writers to share their work, to hand it over and trust things will work out.
Last month after Barbie's book was published, she sent me a note:
"Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have been a dream to work with. I am so happy with my book. I could NEVER have done with out you."
Do you have a book tucked in a drawer ... waiting to be published?
Do you have an idea for a book but aren't sure where to start?
Maybe I can help. Especially with things like ...
So there's this dog up the street; a menacing, bothersome dog. It came at me on Sunday, full bark.
It was one more run-in with a dog that reminded of another run-in, so I decided to write about it.
After getting it all down, it was too long and too wordy, so I edited what I'd written. And edited some more.
But there was still one bit that wasn't right. It was too forced, too much.
Does that happen with your writing?
You have too many (or too few) words, but still struggle to find the right ones?
Well, I kept at it until I found the one word that would fix it all: dumbfounded.
Here's the story. I'm sharing it because it's ridiculous and good for a laugh if you need one.
Years ago I was walking with Agatha, my long-earred, droopy-eyed, red and white basset hound. It was early morning and I chose to mix things up and walk through a neighborhood across the avenue.
We were two blocks in when a German shepherd bolted from the side of a one-story house on the corner.
Agatha was a sweet, easy-going dog and she merely raised her head to look at him and continued on her way.
I should have followed her lead, but this guy, with so much barking and circling, getting closer and closer, was making me nervous.
Until I heard a voice.
A woman's voice coming from inside the house. It was hard to make sense of it all, but there she was, peering out from a six-inch gap at the bottom of an open window. With her head tilted and wedged in the opening and her cheek pressed against the windowsill, she pushed her face forward toward the outside screen and spoke again.
"Ask him if he wants a bath," she said.
"What?" I asked (though I was fairly certain I heard what she said).
"Ask him if he wants a bath," she said again.
Dumbfounded, but feeling a bit desperate, I did what she said.
Turning to the circling shepherd I said, "Do you want a bath?"
That dog stopped barking, dropped his head, tucked his tail, and turned back toward the house.
The gap in the window closed.
Until I found that one word, I was writing about how confused I was, how I wasn't sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing ... blah, blah, blah.
Writing is hard for all of us because ... writing is hard.
Do you sometimes struggle with writing?
Maybe I can help. Especially with things like ...
Spelling is complicated ... and easier than ever. Spell-check is a great tool, even if it's always correcting me, fixing my mistakes, and schooling me on the proper spelling of this word ... and that one.
But, despite its know-all application, I know it's not perfect.
Do the spell-check double check
Spell-check catches a lot, but a regular check on spell-check is good practice.
Proofread your writing
Your book, ebooks, essays, and emails could all use a good proofing before being shared.
Give your writing (no matter the format) a good review; eyeballs on each and every word.
Read your writing out loud
When you've got your final draft, read your writing out loud. It's one of the best ways to catch awkward phrases and confusing sentences.
This simple infographic was designed to help you visualize three words that spell-check, and your memory bank, might struggle with: their, they're, and there.
The first clue: they all start with the same three letters: t-h-e.
It's a good tip. Especially when you're trying to remember how to spell their. Is it "i" before "e"? Not this time.
Wondering if it's their or they're? Just remember their is possessive. The clue here is the possessive "i" tucked in there, just right of center.
What about they're? Break it apart and look at the two words it represents to get your answer: they're = they are. Is that what you're trying to say? It's a good tip for figuring out if it's its or it's, too. Separate the words and you'll know.
And finally, there. It, too, holds a clue, it's got the word "here" nestled comfortably inside itself. Remember that and you'll know if it's here or there where you want to be.
If you need help with words, let's exchange a few. Maybe I can help.
I write words, edit words, and arrange words, online and on paper. Helping you look like the professional you are.
Call 207-252-9757 today, or write.
p.s. I did the spell-check double check on this email and my fingers are crossed I didn't miss anything. But let me know if I did.
Much of my work revolves around words: arranging words, writing words, and editing words.
Last week I considered the word racism. And then the opposite, respect: to show regard or consideration for.
As I considered the words, I imagined editing them, replacing one with the other. Then illustrating the idea with red line editing; crossing out the unwanted word, writing in the new one.
Spell-check and track changes in word processing documents have replaced red line edits done by hand. A hand-drawn line through a word with a loop at the end indicates the word should be taken out. Removed. The arrow indicates what it should be replaced with.
If only it were that easy to edit and change behavior. To replace racism with respect and acknowledge that Black Lives Matter.
Flipping the switch was flipping me out. Last week's storm left us without power.
It was Thursday morning and I was up early. Not because the alarm went off. No, it was the rain lashing against the bedroom window that woke me.
Fifteen minutes later the power went out.
It was a blackout: no power, no lights, no heat, no opening the refrigerator, and no computer.
A day and a half later (37 hours, but really, who's counting) we still didn't have power.
But I was still flipping switches.
It wasn't that I was hoping the power was back, it was utterly clear that it wasn't. It was habit. An especially bad habit in light of things. At least a dozen times I flipped a wall switch.
And each time it was the same thing. Nothing.
It was worse than nothing. I was ready to scream. Well, I did scream. It was so frustrating.
Flipping the switch was flipping me out.
So I put my headlamp on.
The headlamp gave me what I needed: a beam of light.
I stopped flipping switches.
The point is to see it fresh.
Sometimes a fresh approach to a nagging problem can help you move forward. If you've been struggling with your marketing, a book, or your website, maybe I can help:
• blog posts
• email marketing
Call 207-252-9757 or write today for a free consultation and a fresh start.
It was the third round of editing on a piece I was writing about the autumn harvest. It was all about kale, collards, squash, and Brussels sprouts. The problem was, I had it all wrong.
Instead of Brussels sprouts, I was writing brussel sprouts. No capital B at the beginning, no s on the end of Brussels.
I'd cooked and eaten lots of Brussels sprouts, but clearly I'd never written about them.
Lesson #1: Proper names have proper spellings.
When a red line appeared below the misspelled "brussel," I was surprised. So I checked the dictionary.
I found the correct spelling: A capital B? A bit more digging revealed the name comes from the city of Brussels, in Belgium.
Unless you're certain about the correct spelling of a product, a city, a town, someone's name, title, or product, look it up.
That was last year. This year, I have another editing tip courtesy of the Brussels sprout.
Last week I was watching a cooking show when the chef introduced a new segment by saying, "Today we're making Brussels sprouts."
Lesson #2: Ask yourself, "Is that what's really going on?"
Of course the chef wouldn't be "making" Brussels sprouts, as in constructing or creating them. He would be cooking them. Or, maybe he'd be roasting them.
In the context of the show, it didn't matter much. It was a live taping and viewers could watch and listen.
But his word choice caught my ear. I've been writing a lot and that means I'm rewriting and editing a lot.
I wanted to edit the script, to rewind the tape and have the chef say, "Today we're roasting Brussels sprouts."
Roasting is a more descriptive word. Making is vague and in this example, inaccurate.
Every word has a purpose.
Lesson #3: Just because you're familiar with something doesn't mean you know all you need to know.
It turns out eating Brussels sprouts didn't make me an expert. From misspellings to context and relevance, it's important to know what you're writing about. Do some research. Dig around. What you find may not only surprise you, it could add a new dimension to your project.
Get Your Cabbage On
Are you a fan? Brussels sprouts with a capital B offer a boost of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. And they're good for gut health, too.
The only question is, how will you cook them?
Feeling the heat?
If you don't like to write, are feeling overwhelmed, or just need a fresh set of eyes to read through what you written, let me know. I can help with:
Notes on illustrations:
The title illustration with the Brussels sprouts images was created for this post. The letter is hand-drawn using Ledge, a lettering style I developed for my Riddle Me Mail project. If you're interested, here's a how-to lettering guide for Ledge.
The autumn collage was also created for Riddle Me Mail. You can learn more about my collage process here.
Call 207-252-9757 or write today for a free consultation.
Love It or Hate It
Whether or not you like to write, it seems most of us have to do some sort of writing at some point.
Email is ever-present, websites are all about content, content, content, and blogs can challenge the best of us.
When I'm struggling to begin a new writing project, big or small, I remind myself that getting something down on paper is a good first step. It can be an outline, a summary, or a list. Something, anything to get me started.
When Things Get Fuzzy
After two, three, or four rounds of writing, editing, and rewriting, things can get fuzzy. Overwhelm sets in and I'm burdened by the order of things. I worry about what it is I'm trying say, how much to say, and how to say it.
That's when I revisit one of these books:
• Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
• Writing Well, William Zinsser
• Words Fail Me, Patricia T. O'Conner
Revisiting them reminds me what it takes to write well.
• In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott, reminds me that I just need to start. Forget about word choice and form. Just write.
• On Writing Well by William Zinsser reminds me that good writing is all about rewriting and clearing the clutter.
• Words Fail Me is funny. Patricia T. O'Conner reminds me that each sentence has a job to do, that clarity is paramount, and it's OK to lighten up a bit.
I've read each one of these books cover to cover, many times. But it's hard to remember it all. When my writing gets the best of me, I grab one, read a chapter or two, take a deep breath, and get back to writing.
Writing Is Hard
If you don't like to write, are feeling overwhelmed, or just need a fresh set of eyes to read through what you've written, I can help:
• content development
If I can help, call 207-252-9757 or write today for a free consultation.
And stay tuned. I've got a new book in the works. Here's a hint:
Boost your credibility.
Writing a book can boost your credibility as an expert in your field and it serves as a permanent record of your achievements, ideas, and expertise.
Make it the best it can be.
If your book is hard to read or lacks a professional presentation, you'll lose readers before they get to the last sentence in the first chapter.
Let's make your book real page turner.
Together, we'll make your book read well and look good. From creative page designs to illustrations, photos, and sidebars, we'll make it a real page turner.
• illustrated biographies
• reference books
• corporate histories
Get the 5 Compelling Reasons to Write That Book
Call, text (207.252.9757), or write today, for a free consultation to see how I can help make you look good in print and online.
Letters from Camp
It happens every summer. One publication or another runs an article about camp letters. Missives from home-sick, bug-swatting campers who have been cut-off from smart phones and social media.
Most include funny stories about how good or bad the food is, how infrequently someone may or may not be brushing their teeth, or how often they're changing their underwear. But a lot of them begin or end with some commentary about how kids these days don't know the basics of writing a letter, let alone how to address an envelope.
I write a lot of letters and have been for a long time. I know how to address an envelope, where to put my return address, and where to put the stamp. I thought most everyone else did, too.
Not so much.
I'm sure it's a problem that extends beyond campers stationed in remote woodlands, reduced to pen and paper, so I created an infographic to address the issue. The Elements of a Letter offers a rundown of the basics: gathering supplies, writing a letter, addressing an envelope, and where to put the stamp.
If you're interested in reading more about writing letters, visit, Postmark1206, where all things letter writing can be found. Letter writing, it turns out is good for campers, their parents, and rest of us, too.