Proofreading tips

Proofreading tips to help professional writers, students, or anyone that writes as part of their work day. Error free writing and typing is possible!

The skill of proofreading is necessary whether you are a student, a professional writer, or someone who creates lots of office memos. No matter the context in which you are writing, there are systematic procedures that you can follow to ensure you produce the best work possible.

There are three types of proofreading: Comparison, content, and format. A comparison proofread may not be applicable to every project you do. It applies to projects in which you have an original document you are copying from. This ‘original document’ could be your own handwritten notes, they could be a typed document that needs to be re-typed because a file was lost, or they could be a document with changes scrawled by hand all across the pages. A comparison proofing requires a word for word, character for character comparison of the new document and the old document. The purpose of this reading is to make sure that the exact same words and punctuation are in both documents. A comparison proofread is the first type of proofing that will take place.

For a content proofread, you may put aside the original document and focus on the new document. At this stage, you will be looking for correct sentence structure, logic, spelling, punctuation, and factuality. You will also be looking for consistency. If your memo says, “(s) he would be in violation of company policy” and then later states ” he/she would need to report the incident to the appropriate supervisor”, there is a consistency error. A change should be noted to use either “he/she” or “(s) he” consistently. The purpose of the content read is to make sure the document is correct and reads well.

Finally, a format proofread is performed. A format proofing is just what it sounds like. You are looking for a correct format and consistent format in the document. There are certain formatting conventions that are followed when typing, for example, a business letter. There may also be specific formatting rules when typing a memo for a company. An easy way to start a format proofread is to ‘scan the edges’ of the document and look for anything that sticks out and doesn’t look right. Then look at the overall page: Does it look balanced? For example, is the text consistently justified or consistently left aligned? Now scan the document and pay attention to the spaces instead of the words. Take out any extra spaces you find within the text. Finally, this is the time when you will check page numbers and footnotes, if applicable.

Give yourself ample time to go through each of these three types/stages of proofreading for the cleanest most professional resulting document. The following tips will help you do a more accurate proofing at any stage:

1. Always proof from a hard copy. Do not try to proof a document from your computer screen; you will miss many errors this way.

2. When marking the document, try using proofreader marks. If you are unsure of the proofreader mark for a particular correction, write out the change you want to make. Be clear and specific about your corrections, do not simply circle the errors.

3. When possible, do not proofread your own work. You know what you mean to say, so you are more likely to skim over errors. If you are able, get more than one person to proofread your work. Everyone has different strengths and they will find different errors.

4. Break down your tasks. When you are doing a content proofing, the number of things you need to look out for may overwhelm you. It is best to break it down into quicker, more specific proofreads rather than one big proofread. For example, do one proofing for spelling and punctuation, next proof the document for grammatical errors, then do a third content proofing for factuality and consistency.

5. When you are doing a comparison proofread, use a straight edge (such as a ruler or piece of paper) as a guide. If you carefully move the straight edge from line to line on the original document, you are less likely to miss omitted text in the new document.

6. During a proofing for spelling, try reading the document backwards. When each individual word is looked at, outside the context of a sentence, you are less likely to miss spelling errors.

7. After corrections have been made, don’t forget to proof the revised document. First check to see that all the corrections were made, then read over the document one more time to make sure you didn’t miss something the first time around!

 

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Most famous books set in each state

Insider came up with this list of the most famous books set in each state. How many have you read?

AL “To Kill A Mockingbird” (Harper Lee)
AK “Into the Wild” (Jon Krakauer)
AZ “The Bean Trees” (Barbara Kingsolver)
AR “A Painted House” (John Grisham)
CA “Play It As It Lays” (Joan Didion)
CO “The Shining” (Stephen King)
CT “Revolutionary Road” (Richard Yates)
DE “The Saint of Lost Things” (Christopher Castellani)
FL “Their Eyes Were Watching God” (Zora Neale Hurston)
GA “Gone with the Wind” (Margaret Mitchell)
HI “Hawaii” (James Michener)
ID “Housekeeping” (Marilynne Robinson)
IL “The Jungle” (Upton Sinclair)
IN “The Magnificent Ambersons” (Booth Tarkington)
IA “A Thousand Acres” (Jane Smiley)
KS “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (L. Frank Baum)
KY “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
LA “A Confederacy of Dunces” (John Kennedy Toole)
ME “Carrie” (Stephen King)
MD “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant” (Anne Tyler)
MA “Walden” (Henry David Thoreau)
MI “The Virgin Suicides” (Jeffrey Eugenides)
MN “Main Street” (Sinclair Lewis)
MS “The Sound and the Fury” (William Faulkner)
MO “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” (Mark Twain)
MT “A River Runs Through It” (Norman Maclean)
NE “My Antonia” (Willa Cather)
NV “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (Hunter S. Thompson)
NH “The Hotel New Hampshire” (John Irving)
NJ “Drown” (Junot Diaz)
NM “Cities of the Plain” (Cormac McCarthy)
NY “The Great Gatsby” (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
NC “A Walk to Remember” (Nicholas Sparks)
ND “The Round House” (Louise Erdrich)
OH “The Broom of the System” (David Foster Wallace)
OK “Paradise” (Toni Morrison)
OR “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (Ken Kesey)
PA “The Lovely Bones”(Alice Sebold)
RI “My Sister’s Keeper” (Jodi Picoult)
SC “The Secret Life of Bees” (Sue Monk Kidd)
SD “A Long Way From Home” (Tom Brokaw)
TN “A Death in the Family” (James Agee)
TX “No Country for Old Men” (Cormac McCarthy)
UT “The 19th Wife” (David Ebershoff)
VT “The Secret History” (Donna Tartt)
VA “Bridge to Terabithia” (Katherine Paterson)
WA “Twilight” (Stephenie Meyer)
WV “Shiloh” (Phillis Reynolds Naylor)
WI “Little House in the Big Woods” (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
WY “The Laramie Project” (Moises Kaufrnan)
DC “The Lost Symbol” (Dan Brown)

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Setting

by: Jo Anne Fontanilla

Every story takes place at same point or points in space and in time. It is incumbent upon the writer of fiction to “place” his story in space and time, as early as possible in his narrative, so that you will begin making the proper associations with the setting. The setting also presents a share of technical difficulties, but most novelists embrace them gladly. The novel is a prose form and emphasizes realism: its style ought to be, for the most part, terse and transparently plain. Whatever poetic impulse the novelist may have is likely to be frustrated: only the setting provides him an outlet for it; for in his descriptive writing he is allowed to express his feeling for beauty and create a scene in lavish

The novel is a prose form and emphasizes realism: its style ought to be, for the most part, terse and transparently plain. Whatever poetic impulse the novelist may have is likely to be frustrated: only the setting provides him an outlet for it; for in his descriptive writing he is allowed to express his feeling for beauty and create a scene in lavish hues, if he wishes.

The degree of elaboration with which setting is depicted depends upon a number of considerations, all of which the astute writer keeps in mind. Perhaps the first consideration is the importance of the setting in relation to the other essential elements in the story—plot and character. In some stories— especially contemporary stories that

In some stories— especially contemporary stories that take place in surroundings that are familiar to most readers— the element of setting can be safely minimized. The particular setting, moreover, is not indispensable to the conversation that constitutes the body of the story, although the weather not only furnishes its title but also points symbolically to the problem raised by the slightly developed plot.

Another consideration for the conscientious writer is the probable familiarity of his setting. If the setting is one that is likely to be familiar to most of his readers, the writer needs to depict it in detail; he may assume that the details he selects will give his readers that pleasure of recognition that is one of the special values of familiar material. For example, although millions of Americans have never visited Coney Island, most of them are so well acquainted with the
using this setting in a story for an American audience need feel no compulsion to present this particular setting elaborately.

With a setting that is remote from most readers not only in space but also in time, a different problem arises. A writer may safely assume that contemporary London will be much more familiar to most of his readers than Elizabethan or eighteenth-century London. If his story takes place in either earlier period, the writer will have to build up his setting out of appropriate details. Such a treatment involves information concerning the houses, the costumes, and the
period.

Since the development of literary realism, readers become increasingly critical of the accuracy of historic settings, and the contemporary writer runs the risk of annoying his readers if he indulges in such conspicuous anachronism as the Elizabethan audience allowed its dramatist when they used settings remote in time and place. In the use of settings much less familiar than New York or London—such as ancient Persia or medieval India—the contemporary writer may content himself with a minimum of specific details—so long as the details he chooses and emphasizes are appropriate—since every few of his readers are in a position to challenge the historical accuracy of such details as he offers.

Finally, the treatment of setting, like the treatment of character, will depend on the mode in which the writer is working, whether it is classical, romantic, or realistic. What we have said concerning character in this connection is equally true of setting. In classical stories—in Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas or Voltaire’s Candide, for instance—the setting is usually sketched in broadly. In romantic stories there is a greater attention to detail, the writer may fall back on elements in

In romantic stories there is a greater attention to detail, the writer may fall back on elements in setting that have been accumulated by generations of romance writers. The Romantic Age brought in a passionate sense of identification with nature, and the idealization of it. It is soon reflected in the novel. In realistic stories, the writer must consider seriously the accuracy and fullness of his details, since it is one of the tenets of realism that setting should be depicted with a high degree of circumstantiality. Faithful adherence to this tenet resulted in the development, in the middle and later nineteenth-century.

The most richly regional story in this collection is Faulkner’s “Was,” and the very detailed presentation of setting, atmosphere, and manners is justified not only because the place and the time of the story are unfamiliar even to most American readers, but also because the details are intrinsically interesting and amusing.

In contemporary realism, however, the reader is likely to find a rather less circumstantial treatment of American settings than the realistic fiction of the nineteenth century. This less particularized treatment is due, on the one hand, to the writer’s assumption that readers have now become familiar with the flora and fauna of regional America and, on the other hand, to a change in the conception of the technique of effective description.

In the more expansive form of the novel, the writer may feel free to devote a proportionately greater amount of space to the depiction of setting in and by itself than the constricted form of the short story will permit.

Most authors’ delight in turning out lengthy passages of description, “set pieces” with lavish strings of adjectives. However, by now that belongs to a past fashion. Today’s readers are impatient and skip solid pages or even paragraphs that do not advance the story. It is best to insert description as unobtrusively as possible, an image here, and the next—after dialogue, or a bit or scatter his pictures of the physical background, just as a dramatist artfully handles his “exposition.”

Percy Lubbock observes that paring a novel bare of most detail is occasionally good, but not very often. The consensus is that the factual inventory can be carried too far, is it is by Hugh Walpole and Theodore Dreiser, who compile altogether too much insignificant data; but that is merely abuse of a method. Too few externals can also be an error. To most of us, clothes and houses are telling clues, and the novelist owes it to us to report how his characters dress,

To most of us, clothes and houses are telling clues, and the novelist owes it to us to report how his characters dress, and same time, he fulfills his role in a larger degree as a social historian. But, besides this, a professor Lathrop suggests, the setting has become ever more important in contemporary fiction, because we increasingly recognize a man’s background as one of the factors that has shaped him.

The active pressure of environment in forming personality is widely acknowledged now. “The setting is seen as a ‘force.’ The plot is often presented not as a thing in itself, but as something caused and conditional, possible and characteristic only in its milieu. Hence, the greater demand to have the setting authentic, realistic. A thin or inadequately studied setting is not acceptable today.”

Ultimately, the kind and amount of background detail one likes in a book depends on its subject and aim, and no less on the temperament of the author and each reader.

References:

Reading Fiction: A Method of Analysis with Selections for Study by Millett, Fred Benjamin ,Harper; New York 1950

The Art of Reading the Novel by Freund, Philip, Collier Books; New York 1965

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A New Publisher Who Promotes Your Book

When JK Rowling first wrote Harry Potter, she couldn’t land a publishing deal. That’s right, the greatest money making book of our time was passed over repeatedly.

However, it was finally accepted…not because an editor actually read it, but because one of them gave the first chapter to his eight-year-old daughter and said, “Here, you read it.”

Not only did she read it, she begged for chapter two. She was hooked!

And so, a billion dollar industry was created.

This got me thinking about modern publishing, which is very much web-driven.

It doesn’t really matter much anymore what traditional publishers think about your book because brick and mortar stores are going away.

Today, it matters what readers think about your book. It’s what moves books to the top of the Amazon best-sellers list.

There’s a relatively new publishing company called Inkitt that I think is taking the right approach.

Inkitt creates a free copy of authors’ books that people can read using their app. If readers like the book, then Inkitt offers the author a publishing contract.

Authors then receive 25% of the book’s sales, which is a very generous contract.

But why would authors use Inkitt when they could just self-publish and keep all the proceeds? The reason is that Inkitt agrees to spend money promoting their authors’ books, and driving them to the top of Amazon’s rankings. Individual authors are usually not able to accomplish that.

This seems like a really good approach for new authors, especially if you are unsure about the details of formatting and self-publishing your book.

To get your book in front of Inkitt’s readers, all you need to do is upload the text to Inkitt’s site. If readers like it, you’ll be offered a publishing contract.

They accept all genres of fiction (but not fan-fiction). You can even submit already published books.

There are a few requirements:

  1. Your book must be 20,000 words or more.
  2. It can’t be a collection of stories or poems.

And…that’s it.

So, if you have a book that didn’t do well, or sales have started to dip, submit it to Inkitt and they’ll get it to their readers. You can even tell them to limit the number of free copies they allow their readers to read, just in case you’re worried.

If it works out, then you’ll have the option to sign a contract with them and let their professional marketing team get to work. There is no cost for this service — their revenues come from book sales.

Inkitt already has quite a number of successful authors. You can see some testimonials on their site.

Click here to visit their site and upload your books:

www.inkitt.com/getpublished

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How Do You Punctuate Dialogue?

Quotation Marks

Dialogue can be a bit intimidating. All that punctuation. But it’s really not that complicated. The usual practice is to put dialogue in quotes and place an attribution after it, separated with a comma inside the closing quote mark. The attribution will not be capitalized, because it’s part of the same sentence:

“Hello,” he said.

The only thing that’s a little weird is if the quote is a question, you still don’t capitalize the attribution, even though it sort of looks like you should:

“How?” he asked.

When using a character’s name, it’s best to place the name before the verb, as in

“Hello,” Mark said.

This has fallen out of style:

“Hello,” said Mark.

 You can also put the attribution first:

He said, “Hello.”

 That’s really about all there is to dialogue punctuation.

The other important rule is to change paragraphs each time you change speakers. This would be confusing:

“Hello,” he said. “How are you?” she asked.

But this isn’t:

“Hello,” he said.
“How are you?” she asked.

 

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Settings – How Much Detail?

by: Jo Anne Fontanilla

Every story takes place at same point or points in space and in time. It is incumbent upon the writer of fiction to “place” his story in space and time, as early as possible in his narrative, so that you will begin making the proper associations with the setting. The setting also presents a share of technical difficulties, but most novelists embrace them gladly. The novel is a prose form and emphasizes realism: its style ought to be, for the most part, terse and transparently plain. Whatever poetic impulse the novelist may have is likely to be frustrated: only the setting provides him an outlet for it; for in his descriptive writing he is allowed to express his feeling for beauty and create a scene in lavish hues, if he wishes.

The degree of elaboration with which setting is depicted depends upon a number of considerations, all of which the astute writer keeps in mind. Perhaps the first consideration is the importance of the setting in relation to the other essential elements in the story—plot and character. In some stories— especially contemporary stories that take place in surroundings that are familiar to most readers— the element of setting can be safely minimized. The particular setting, moreover, is not indispensable to the conversation that constitutes the body of the story, although the weather not only furnishes its title but also points symbolically to the problem raised by the slightly developed plot.

Another consideration for the conscientious writer is the probable familiarity of his setting. If the setting is one that is likely to be familiar to most of his readers, the writer needs to depict it in detail; he may assume that the details he selects will give his readers that pleasure of recognition that is one of the special values of familiar material. For example, although millions of Americans have never visited Coney Island, most of them are so well acquainted with the appearance and nature of the resort that the writer using this setting in a story for an American audience need feel no compulsion to present this particular setting elaborately.

With a setting that is remote from most readers not only in space but also in time, a different problem arises. A writer may safely assume that contemporary London will be much more familiar to most of his readers than Elizabethan or eighteenth-century London. If his story takes place in either earlier period, the writer will have to build up his setting out of appropriate details. Such a treatment involves information concerning the houses, the costumes, the manners, and the types of work and play characteristic of the period. Since the development of literary realism, readers become increasingly critical of the accuracy of historic settings, and the contemporary writer runs the risk of annoying his readers if he indulges in such conspicuous anachronism as the Elizabethan audience allowed its dramatist when they used settings remote in time and place. In the use of settings much less familiar than New York or London—such as ancient Persia or medieval India—the contemporary writer may content himself with a minimum of specific details—so long as the details he chooses and emphasizes are appropriate—since every few of his readers are in a position to challenge the historical accuracy of such details as he offers.

Finally, the treatment of setting, like the treatment of character, will depend on the mode in which the writer is working, whether it is classical, romantic, or realistic. What we have said concerning character in this connection is equally true of setting. In classical stories—in Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas or Voltaire’s Candide, for instance—the setting is usually sketched in broadly. In romantic stories there is a greater attention to detail, the writer may fall back on elements in setting that have been accumulated by generations of romance writers. The Romantic Age brought in a passionate sense of identification with nature, and the idealization of it. It is soon reflected in the novel. In realistic stories, the writer must consider seriously the accuracy and fullness of his details, since it is one of the tenets of realism that setting should be depicted with a high degree of circumstantiality. Faithful adherence to this tenet resulted in the development, in the middle and later nineteenth-century.

The most richly regional story in this collection is Faulkner’s “Was,” and the very detailed presentation of setting, atmosphere, and manners is justified not only because the place and the time of the story are unfamiliar even to most American readers, but also because the details are intrinsically interesting and amusing.

In contemporary realism, however, the reader is likely to find a rather less circumstantial treatment of American settings than the realistic fiction of the nineteenth century. This less particularized treatment is due, on the one hand, to the writer’s assumption that readers have now become familiar with the flora and fauna of regional America and, on the other hand, to a change in the conception of the technique of effective description.

In the more expansive form of the novel, the writer may feel free to devote a proportionately greater amount of space to the depiction of setting in and by itself than the constricted form of the short story will permit.

Most authors’ delight in turning out lengthy passages of description, “set pieces” with lavish strings of adjectives. However, by now that belongs to a past fashion. Today’s readers are impatient and skip solid pages or even paragraphs that do not advance the story. It is best to insert description as unobtrusively as possible, an image here, and the next—after dialogue, or a bit—or scatter pictures of the physical background, just as a dramatist artfully handles his “exposition.”

Percy Lubbock observes that paring a novel bare of most detail is occasionally good, but not very often. The consensus is that the factual inventory can be carried too far, is it is by Hugh Walpole and Theodore Dreiser, who compile altogether too much insignificant data; but that is merely abuse of a method. Too few externals can also be an error. To most of us, clothes and houses are telling clues, and the novelist owes it to us to report how his characters dress, and vividly where and how they live. At the same time, he fulfills his role in a larger degree as a social historian. But, besides this, as professor Lathrop suggests, the setting has become ever more important in contemporary fiction, because we increasingly recognize a man’s background as one of the factors that has shaped him. The active pressure of environment in forming personality is widely acknowledged now. “The setting is seen as a ‘force’…The plot is often presented not as a thing in itself, but as something caused and conditional, possible and characteristic only in its milieu. Hence, the greater demand to have the setting authentic, realistic. A thin or inadequately studied setting is not acceptable today.”

Ultimately, the kind and amount of background detail one likes in a book depends on its subject and aim, and no less on the temperament of the author and each reader.

References:

Reading Fiction: A Method of Analysis with Selections for Study by Millett, Fred
Benjamin ,Harper; New York 1950

The Art of Reading the Novel by Freund, Philip
Collier Books; New York 1965

 

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Make Your Writing More Active

Passive writing is boring. Here’s a simple change you can apply to every sentence you write to make it more interesting. Simply look for the word “was.” For example:

The house I grew up in was in Los Angeles. It was a low, ranch style house with some modern touches. It was designed by my father. But maintenance was a challenge. After only a few years the plumbing was rusty and paint was peeling from the outside walls.

That’s really boring! Here’s what it looks like if we change all those “was” passive verbs to something more active:

I grew up in Los Angeles, in a low, ranch style house with some modern touches. My father designed it, but he didn’t realize how hard it would be to maintain. After only a few years plumbing rusted and paint peeled from the outside walls.

Quite a difference, isn’t it? The changes were minor, but now it is active and interesting. It even got shorter!

Try eliminating “was” from your writing and see how much more interesting it becomes! (If you write in present tense, look for “is” instead.)

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Best Children’s Books of 2016

Here’s the New York Times list of notable children’s books from 2016:

Picture Books

DU IZ TAK? Written and illustrated by Carson Ellis. (Candlewick, $16.99.) In this enchanting tale of bugs who build a fort in a plant, only to see it toppled by a spider, Ellis presents an imaginary land of stylish insects who speak their own made-up — but easily understood — language.

FREEDOM OVER ME. Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life. Written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan. (Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum, $17.99.) Basing his work on an 1828 document he found, Bryan has created dignified, heart-rending portraits of 11 slaves who were put up for sale, imagining their individual voices and the details of their lives.

I AM PAN! Written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein. (Roaring Brook, $18.99.) An exuberant look at the irrepressible yet often overlooked Greek god Pan that “seems to owe as much to Old Hollywood as to modern graphic novels,” our reviewer, Maria Russo, said.

Continue reading the main story

THE JOURNEY. Written and illustrated by Francesca Sanna. (Flying Eye, $17.95.) This heart-stopping, visually sophisticated story of a happy family suddenly forced to flee their home because of war evokes the dark danger of fairy tales to present the stark realities and enduring hope of modern refugees.

LEAVE ME ALONE! Written and illustrated by Vera Brosgol. (Roaring Brook, $17.99.) This clever, witty tale of a beleaguered grandma who just wants to knit in peace “manages to feel both classic and ultracontemporary,” according to our reviewer, Michael Ian Black.

MY NAME IS JAMES MADISON HEMINGS. By Jonah Winter. Illustrated by Terry Widener. (Schwartz & Wade, $17.99.) This soulful book honestly explores the predicament of a sensitive, inquisitive boy — the son of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings — who spent his life “owned” by his father, a founder of our democracy.

WE FOUND A HAT. Written and illustrated by Jon Klassen. (Candlewick, $17.99.) “A masterpiece of honest feelings, emotional tension and poetic restraint,” our reviewer, Sergio Ruzzier, called this third of Klassen’s hat-themed books, about two turtles who find a hat they both want to keep.

SCHOOL’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. By Adam Rex. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, $17.99.) A funny, unexpectedly touching look at how awful the first day of school is for the school building itself, until, helped by a kind janitor, it starts to enjoy the exuberant children and their learning.

THE THANK YOU BOOK. Written and illustrated by Mo Willems. (Hyperion, $9.99.) Willems’s beloved Elephant & Piggie series comes to a fitting close with the two winningly mismatched friends finding a way to thank everyone who has helped them, including their loyal readers.

THEY ALL SAW A CAT. Written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. (Chronicle, $16.99.) A cat walking through the world looks mighty different to various other creatures, such as a fox and a goldfish, as this delightful, ingenious book shows.

THIS IS NOT A PICTURE BOOK! Written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier. (Chronicle, $16.99.) This clever and lovely celebration of reading — and of picture books themselves — features a picture-loving duckling who ends up transported by the power of words, too.

THUNDER BOY JR. By Sherman Alexie. Illustrated by Yuyi Morales. (Little, Brown, $17.99.) “Soaring,” our reviewer, Minh C. Le, called this playful story about a Native American boy who, tired of sharing a name with his father, seeks a suitable new one for himself.

Middle Grade

THE BEST MAN. By Richard Peck. (Dial, $16.99.) An 11-year-old boy has to learn some new lessons about masculinity and family when his uncle marries another man in this touching and insightful novel from the beloved Peck.

GHOST. By Jason Reynolds. (Atheneum, $16.99.) Trying to outrun his own painful memories and personal challenges, the budding track star who narrates this National Book Award finalist is “worthy of a place alongside Ramona and Joey Pigza on the bookshelves where our most beloved, imperfect characters live,” our reviewer, Kate Messner, said.

THE INQUISITOR’S TALE; Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. By Adam Gidwitz. Illustrated by Hatem Aly. (Dutton, $17.99.) This delightfully twisty tale of traveling children — are they saints or heretics? — wanted by the King of France in 1242 is “dense with literary and earthy delights,” our reviewer, Soman Chainani, said.

MS. BIXBY’S LAST DAY. By John David Anderson. (Walden Pond, $16.99.) This story of three troubled boys’ devotion to an exceptional teacher who somehow gets through to each of them, but falls ill and has to leave the classroom, is tragic, funny and uplifting all at once.

PAX. By Sara Pennypacker. Illustrated by JonKlassen. (Balzer&Bray/HarperCollins, $16.99.) “Truly remarkable,” our reviewer, Katherine Rundell, called this resonant story, which alternates between the points of view of a boy and the pet fox he is forced to set free when his soldier father goes off to war.

RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE. By Kate DiCamillo. (Candlewick, $16.99.) A girl in 1970s Florida who is abandoned by her father tries to lure him back home by baton-twirling her way into the newspaper in this heartbreaking, utterly enchanting novel.

WHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER. By Grace Lin. (Little, Brown, $18.99.) This National Book Award finalist about a girl’s search for her grandmother is the last of a trilogy that incorporates traditional Chinese tales, which our reviewer, Emily Jenkins praised for its “surpassing wonder and emotional weight.”

Young Adult

THE GREAT AMERICAN WHATEVER. By Tim Federle. (Simon & Schuster, $17.99.) A gay aspiring screenwriter coming to terms with his sister’s death and his own stalled romantic life is at the center of this “moving tale about grief that’s also laugh-out-loud funny,” our reviewer, Ali Benjamin, said.

THE PASSION OF DOLSSA. By Julie Berry. (Viking, $18.99.)“Magnificent,” our reviewer, Marjorie Ingall, called this absorbing, elegant novel about a young medieval gentlewoman on the run from an obsessed friar who wants to burn her at the stake for heresy.

SALT TO THE SEA. By Ruta Sepetys. (Philomel, $18.99.) This devastating literary thriller about a group of young refugees fleeing Stalin’s troops at the end of World War II is set against the worst maritime disaster in history, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, which cost over 9,000 lives.

THE SERPENT KING. By Jeff Zentner. (Crown, $17.99.) Zentner manages to blend humor, optimism and ominous Southern-style moodiness in this tale of three devoted teenage friends who help each other face violence, family shame and the difficulty of breaking out of the trap called home.

STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO. By A. S. King. (Dutton, $17.99.) Our reviewer, Jeff Giles, praised King’s “beautifully matter-of-fact use of the supernatural” in this hypnotic and insightful tale of a teenager who meets her future selves as she struggles to make her way through a dysfunctional present.

THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR. By Nicola Yoon. (Delacorte, $18.99.)Jazzy, romantic and philosophical, this novel’s main action takes place over the course of a single day in which a Jamaican girl about to be deported meets and falls for a Korean-American boy.

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Give the Gift of History — Yours!

writeyourlifestoryclass

As the holidays approach, our thoughts turn to gift giving. When I look at advertising, so much of what I see being touted as great for gifting seems thoughtless and shallow. I like to give truly personal gifts that will create emotion in the heart of the recipient. So here’s an idea for something that I would certainly love to receive as a gift:

Give your family the gift of your own history. Sure, you might occasionally tell a story that amuses them, but what if they had a book, memoir or journal that captured your entire life? Not only would they understand the journey you’ve made, but it would become a treasured family keepsake to be shared with future generations.

I’ve made it easy to create your own personal history with my online class, Write Your Life Story, from Writing Academy.

And there’s another way to give the gift of history, too. Consider giving a class about writing a life story to the senior members of your family. It will make it easy for them to share their memories with you, and you’ll learn things about them that will bring you closer together.
This is the perfect time of year to begin a life story, because there’s time to get it into print for the holidays. And it’s the perfect time of year to purchase the class Write Your Life Story as a gift, because I’m offering it at 75% off for the next few weeks.

This course shows you how to create an exciting and engaging biography or autobiography to share with friends, family and the world. Hundreds of students have taken this course and rated it 5 out of 5 stars! Enroll now!

Special 75% Off Deal

Right now you can enroll in Write Your Life Story, or purchase it as gift, for 75% off. Simply use the special link below to receive this life changing experience.
https://writingacademy.com/courses/write-your-life…

I’ll see you there!

P.S. My new book, also called Write Your Life Story, is available from Amazon. It makes a great gift, too!
write-your-life-story-cover

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NaNoWriMo: Creating a Novel in 30 Days

November is National Novel Writing Month, when authors can sign up at http://nanowrimo.org and receive encouragement as they work to create a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Hundreds of my students have successfully used NaNoWriMo to complete their first draft, so it’s a valuable tool.

It sounds like a lot of work, but you may be surprised how easy it is to create a novel in a month — if you approach that goal with the right strategy.

Here are my tips for how to succeed at NaNoWriMo:

  1. Don’t just start typing. If you do, you will get lost, hit a dead end, and give up. You must start with a plan, prepared even before NaNoWriMo begins.
  2. Start with a scene list. If you have a list of 50 to 100 scenes planned to get you from start to finish, then it’s easy to start writing each day, because you know exactly what you need to work on.
  3. Your scenes need to flow, so create them within a three-act structure. The easiest way is to use the nine checkpoints I teach in all my writing classes.
  4. To create a checkpoint structure you need to know your characters, especially your protagonist, so start by designing that character. Most importantly, you need to understand the flaw your protagonist must overcome to achieve the goal that drives your novel.
  5. Steps 2-4 may sound familiar. If you work through them in the opposite order — from character through checkpoint structure to scene list — you are following the path I teach in all my classes. With that done, success is just some dedicated effort away.
  6. So how much dedicated effort is that? If your scene list is ready to go at the start of NaNoWriMo, then you can focus on writing. 50,000 words is about 1700 words per day for a month. But you should write more than that, because Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or having relatives to entertain are all likely to get in the way as the month draws to a close. Plan on 2000-2500 words per day.
  7. How much writing time is that? Even if you can type very fast, you probably can’t “write” faster than about 20 words per minute. The great thing is that even if you can’t type very well, you can still probably write about 20 words per minute! That means you need to dedicate 90 minutes to two hours per day to writing during November. If that sounds like a lot, think about how much time you spend watching television. The easiest way to succeed at NaNoWriMo is simple: don’t watch any television in November!

If you follow these guidelines you’ll have a finished first draft by November 30.

Then what should you do?

Put it aside and enjoy the holidays. Then, on January first, create your own NaNoEdMo — that’s National Novel Editing Month! Polish it into a second draft and you’ll be ready for publication in February.

I’ve listed some course links with great discounts below, specifically for NaNoWriMo. The first three will get you ready for NaNoWriMo, and the last one will get you published in February.

Preparing for NaNoWriMo:

Novel Writing Workshop at 90% off (just $19)
https://writingacademy.com/p/novel-writing-workshop/?product_id=1909&coupon_code=20160824

Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy at 84% off (just $49)
https://writingacademy.com/p/writing-science-fiction-and-fantasy/?product_id=128260&coupon_code=SFSPECIAL716

Young Adult Fiction Writing Workshop at 90% off (just $19)
https://writingacademy.com/p/young-adult-fiction-writing-workshop/?product_id=1910&coupon_code=20160824

Publishing Your Finished Novel:

Publish Your Book Now! at 60% off (just $19)
https://writingacademy.com/p/publish-your-book-now/?product_id=1922&coupon_code=HOLIDAY

Sign up today and you’ll have a completed novel on November 30th!

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