Tag Archives: tips for writers

How to Tweet Like a Pro [Lab]

I’m working on developing these practices. Let me know if you have other tips!

Steve Boseley

Tweet like a proTwitter is one tool in an author’s bag that can, if used effectively, be utilised to assist in the building of your author platform, which you hope ultimately will result in book sales, plus it’s a great way to make a connection with influencers or to speak to your readers. But a question that was raised in my mind, was:

How do I compose an effective Tweet?

I recently wrote a guest post for Nicholas Rossis’ blog titled What is the best time to Tweet. Choosing the right time to Tweet is definitely an element of what goes into an effective Tweet. Check out that post (when you’ve finished this one!) for guidance.

But for a Tweet to be effective, it involves a lot more than just publishing at the right time, so read on for the anatomy of an effective Tweet.


According to Twitter, there are…

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Filed under business of writing, indie publishing, Marketing books, social media, Tech tips, Writing

What’s your favorite punctuation mark? And the one you hate?

The five basic comma rulesHere’s a great article for you punctuation police to agree or argue with. My personal favorite is the comma. Used intelligently, commas are wonderful signposts that tell readers which part of a sentence they’ve stumbled into—and then help them make their way out again. I like commas so much I wrote an entire post about them.

If comma rules confuse you, take heart! If improving reader comprehension is your goal, there are really only a few “rules” to remember:

Use commas:

  • After introductory elements.

This is the one most people seem to know about. But I argue that commas are really only necessary when the introductory element gets long enough that readers may miss the lane change back into the main part of the sentence.


After a moment he left the room. (No comma needed unless you want to emphasize a pause.)


After he spent  an extended vacation in a remote village in the Alps, where did he go next? (The comma lets readers  know that “where” begins a new clause.)

  • Around “interrupters,” including non-essential modifiers.More comma rules

I think this one is the most confusing for many writers.

Short interrupters can be easy to spot:

Jane, however, did not go with him to the Alps.

Non-essential modifiers are elements that can be lifted out of the sentence without compromising its meaning or purpose.

The old car, which was a lot like the one my grandfather used to drive, had been repainted bright blue. (The rule here, and it is a rule, is either two commas or none. You need that second comma to signal the return to the main clause.)

Here’s an example of an essential modifier, one that can’t be lifted out without turning the sentence into nonsense. (I often see commas inserted into constructions like this.)

Author Stephen King wrote a lot of books.

Note: no commas. Now try it without the essential modifier, in this case an appositive:

Author wrote a lot of books.

  • Direct address (this is also a rule, not an option):Do you need the Oxford Comma?

Hi, Mr. Smith.

Did you buy bread at the store, Louise?

Louise, did you buy the bread?

  • Before “and,” “but,” etc., if you have more than two items. (This is the Oxford or serial comma Pinker discusses in the article I’ve linked to, and his examples of the power of this punctuation mark are good ones.)

If you have only two items linked by “and” or “but,” you have a compound and don’t need a comma, as in this sentence (and note the comma after the introductory clause).

  • Before the “and” or “but” if you’re joining two complete sentences.

I’d argue this is a judgment call, but again, as in this sentence, judicious use of the comma in a compound sentence like this one can provide valuable information about which part of the sentence a reader has ventured into.

{Note commas after the introductory element and around interrupters in this sentence. Commas can keep those elements distinct, so that they make sense.)

That’s five “rules” to absorb—not really so many. Rule Number Six: if one of those five rules doesn’t apply, DON’T INSERT A COMMA. No commas between subjects and their verbs, no commas after “and” or “but,” and so forth. List the five rules and check your questionable comma to see whether one of these applies*:

  • After introductory elements
  • Around interrupters
  • In direct address
  • Before “and” or “but” in a list of three or more items
  • Before the “and” or “but” in a compound sentence (two complete sentences joined with a coordinating conjunction like “and” or “but”**).Check the five basic comma rules

*There are some “conventional” rules for commas that don’t really affect readers’ comprehension, such as the comma that should follow the name of a state (“Austin, Texas, was his home.”) or the ones before and after the year in dates. Any handbook will answer your questions about those minor comma uses.

**There are actually a number of coordinating conjunctions in addition to “and” and “but,” and the rule applies to them as well, but I didn’t want to muddy the waters too much. The other coordinating conjunctions you’re likely to use include “for,” “nor,” “or,” “yet,” and “so.”





Filed under correct grammar, Editing, grammar, grammar rules, Learning to write, Myths and Truths, punctuation, self editing, style, Writing

InDesign Beginner’s Cheat Sheet: Finishing Up, Part 2

Three books fanned open from aboveThis is part of a series. Here is a complete list of current posts in my InDesign Beginner’s Cheat Sheet.

In this post, some final InDesign formatting must- and should-dos as you prepare to create the pdf of your print edition for proofing and upload to Ingram and CreateSpace.

Click images for larger versions. Click here for a complete list of posts in the InDesign Beginner’s Cheat Sheet series.

Removing Master Formatting from Chapter Opening Pages

The experts in book-design informed me that the opening page of each chapter should NOT display the formatting I incorporated into the masters that control the appearance of each page. In other words, no page numbers, no running heads.

A chapter-opening page with running heads not removed

The running heads and page numbers need to be removed from this pags. (Note that this spread is selected in the Pages panel to the left.)

Fortunately, it’s easy to remove these.

Select a chapter-opening page in the Pages panel by clicking on it. If you want to see that particular page on your screen, double-click. If you want to see the whole spread, choose View>Fit Spread in Window.

Go to Layout>Pages>Apply Master to Pages.

Layout>Pages menu in InDesign

You’ll get a box that tells you which page you’re about to act on; the box defaults to your “A-master,” or main master. However, the other option, available through the familiar arrow on the left, is “None.”

Choose “None” and “Apply” to remove the running heads and page numbers from the targeted page.

Page in InDesign with master/ running heads removed

You do have to repeat this move for each chapter. If you’re working chapter by chapter, as I do, you can make removing the formatting part of your “placing” routine.

(Remember that you can make universal changes on master elements. If you decide you don’t like the font of your running heads or the placement of your page numbers, change these elements on the masters by double-clicking on the masters to display them. Your changes will appear on every page in your manuscript to which the master is applied.)

Refining your Widows and Orphans

You will need to make a choice regarding widow/orphan control. Just as in Word, you can choose the “Keep Option” of eliminating widows and orphans or allowing them. (Your “Keep Options” are available in the menu on the left side of the Paragraph Styles Options dialogue box.)


Some book designers whose web sites I’ve visited argue that the “square-page” look you create when you allow widows and orphans is just as acceptable as the sometimes-shorter/sometimes-longer look you’ll get if you insist that every lonely line get sucked up into the previous page or pushed to the next one.

This is your individual choice. Allowing widows and orphans adds a step to your formatting. But this is the choice I’ve made: for the square-page look, where all pages are the same length.

When you consider that single lines of dialogue standing by themselves at the top or bottom of a page are considered standard, it’s hard to see what’s wrong with a single line of text in either position.

Page in InDEsign with single line at bottom.

I’ve decided I’m okay with this. . . .

Page in InDesign with single line of text at top

. . . And this.

However, even the advocates of a square page don’t like very short orphans (or widows—these appear to be used differently by different people) at the top of a new page. No one- or two-word lines!

So if you do opt to allow widows and orphans, you will need to edit to eliminate egregious overflows of this sort.

If you’re formatting for someone else, working with text that’s not your own, you have to have some conversations about how to address this problem—because the fix I use requires editing the text. It’s possible that professionals use minute adjustments of leading and “tracking” and “kerning”—adjusting the space between lines and between words and letters—to push text around. But that seems risky to me. It would be easy for us beginners to end up with paragraphs that are visibly out of kilter.

Hence, I go for a comparatively easy fix.

If you’ve ever had to hit a particular page-length requirement, you probably already know this trick.Happy that InDesign is working

Say you have an extra line at the top of a page that you consider too short.

Scan the preceding page (or sometimes, pages) for a paragraph with just one or two words on the final line.

Find a cut in that paragraph to eliminate the final line.


Well, this IS the “Beginner’s CHEAT Sheet.” green smiley happy

If this is not your book, and you think this is a viable option, you’d need to clear each cut with the author, or perhaps allow him or her to suggest the cuts. Because there are likely to be a good many such decisions to be made in a long book, you would need to plan for this time investment.

Note one advantage of working chapter by chapter, as I do, instead of placing an entire book in one file. Changes made on the first or second page of a placed file affect every page thereafter in that file. So eliminating an orphan on page two may create one on page six. If you work chapter by chapter, this effect is limited to just that one chapter. If you later decide you want to edit a paragraph in Chapter 3, for any reason, you won’t subsequently have to go through the entire book from Chapter 3 on to correct effects your simple early choice has caused.


According to Wikipedia, “In writing and typography, a ligature occurs where two or more graphemes or letters are joined as a single glyph.” (This article is actually quite interesting!) The ligatures you can allow will most commonly be those in which “f” combines with “l” or “i.” Allowing ligatures, which the experts recommend, involves checking only a single box under “Basic Character Formatting” in the “Paragraph Styles Options” box, which you can open by double-clicking on the name of the style in the Paragraph Styles panel, usually housed on the right of your workspace.

InDesign Ligature option box

You’re almost ready to create your pdf and proof.

Next time: some bonus stuff you will want to know, and generating a pdf for Ingram or CreateSpace.


Filed under book design, indie publishing, novels, Print on Demand, Publishing, Self-publishing, Tech tips, Writing

Using -ing Words | The Editor’s Blog

This article provides excellent, detailed discussion. In critique groups I’ve been enrolled in, some critiquers seem terrified of the progressive tenses, and some believe that using a present-participle phrase as a modifier constitutes “mixing tenses” and therefore incorrect. The article is on point that glomming onto such rigid rules limits writers’ options for rhythm and meaning.
And the discussion here of dangling modifiers should be required reading for all aspiring writers. i see so many of these. Otherwise competent writers seem oblivious to them. The examples here precisely mirror what I see. Here’s my rant on dangling modifiers.
I think writers need to READ, widely, and not just the latest free examples of their favorite genre, to see how good writers make use of many available strategies and apply rules thoughtfully rather than blindly.
If you’ve ever been told to cut “-ing” words, take the time to read this!

Colleen Chesebro ~ Fairy Whisperer

book-1012275_1280I wish there was a magic wand I could wave to correct my grammar as I continue editing my novel. How about you? Read this comprehensive article about editing and how to fix some of your mistakes. This is a MUST-READ! ❤ 

There’s a lot of conflicting advice that tells writers to never use words that end in -ing or to not use -ing words under certain conditions. Explore both the advice and the rationale behind it.

Source:Using -ing Words | The Editor’s Blog

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InDesign Beginner’s Cheat Sheet: Finishing Up, Part I

This is part of a series. Here is a complete list of current posts in my InDesign Beginner’s Cheat Sheet.

In this post: Part 1 of some follow-up moves you can and should make in InDesign as you format your POD book interior.


Creating Additional Styles for Chapter Titles and Numbers

Just like Word, InDesign works best if you create a style for each element you use often and apply that style consistently across chapters. So you need a style for whatever elements—for example, chapter names—that you plan to include.

Create these additional styles exactly as you created your original main body style.

  • Select the text you want to style, for example a chapter title.
  • Format it to look the way you want.
  • Click “Create New Style” in the Paragraph Styles panel.

The new style, called “Paragraph Style 1” (or “2” if there’s already a “1” in the list, possibly for a style you never developed) will appear in the panel. In the figure below, I’ve created several new styles, renaming “Paragraph Style 1,” for example, “Chapter nos.” for chapter names.

InDesign page with Paragraph Styles Panel open

I created additional styles for my “Part” and “Chapter names,” as well as for the numbers of sections within chapters.

  • Double-click this new style in the Panel list to open the Paragraph Styles Option dialogue, where you will see the features you’ve selected, such as font, font size, and justification.
  • Make any adjustments using the menu on the left of this box.
InDesign Workspace with Paragraph Styles Options open.

In this example, I formatted a style I’ve called “Experiment,” clicked “Create New Style” in the Paragraph Styles box, renamed the style “Experiment,” and double-clicked to open the Paragraph Styles Options box, where I can see the Style Settings I’ve chosen.

A Consideration in Creating Additional Styles: “Before” and “After.”

When formatting elements like chapter titles, you will need to decide how much space to require “before” and “after.” Just as when formatting an ebook, say, for Kindle, you want to avoid long stretches of returns.

Creating a specific style with appropriate “before/after” attributes is optimal.

  • Double-click on the style name to open the Paragraph Styles Options dialogue.
  • From the menu on the left, choose “Indents and Spacing.”
  • Locate the fields for “Space Before” and “Space After.”
  • Use the fields to indicate the spacing you want.

It appears that your choices here are limited by defaults that you access by clicking the up and down arrows. I’m not sure why you can’t type in any value, but I’ve never been able to do so.


Set “before” and “after” using the small arrows to the left of each field. Your choices seem to be limited to preset distances.

For your main body styles, by the way, you generally want these fields to be set to zero—no extra spacing between paragraphs. (This is one of the annoyances of recent versions of Word: extra space between paragraphs seems to be the default, and people often do not know to go to “Format>Paragraph” and turn this default off.)

For the book I’m currently formatting, Blood Lies, I have a style for “Chapter nos.” or names, and one for “subset numbers,” or the little numbers between sections in each chapter. Because I place the text chapter by chapter, I can then “Select All” (CTRL/COMMSND + A) and apply my main body style. I then do have to change the style of the chapter title and go through the chapter to find the “subset numbers,” select them, and apply the style. You may find a much faster way to apply your styles. If so, please let us all know!

Creating Character Styles

I discovered that if I wanted to italicize a single word in a paragraph, I couldn’t do so—the whole paragraph would be converted to italics.

Solution: Create an Italic “Character Style.”

Like the Paragraph Styles panel, the Character Styles panel will appear in the right-side menu. (It can be called up via the “Window” menu if necessary.) It works exactly the same as the Paragraph Styles panel:

  • Select the text you want to change.
  • Format it.
  • Click “Create New Style.”
  • Double-click the new style that appears in the list, and you’ll get the now-familiar dialogue box showing your settings.
  • adjust your settings from the left-side menu in this dialogue box.
InDesign Workspace with Character Styles Open.

In this close-up, I still need to rename my new style, and to click on “Basic Character Formats” in the left-hand menu to choose “italics.” I also need to adjust the font size slightly.

You have a great deal of control over these styles. Conversations with readers of my developing design suggested to me that the italic that came with Garamond, which I was using for my main body style, was too ornate: crabby and hard to read. I experimented with a number of italics and finally created a Character Style using Book Antiqua with a slightly reduced font size. Again, I do have to locate italics in the text and apply the style manually.

By the way, I have not found InDesign’s Find/Change box to work well when asked to locate italics, perhaps because I haven’t always specified precisely the attributes it needs to search for. I make double-checking for italics part of my proofing process when I’m reading my pdf.

InDesign Workspace with Character Style application illustrated.

In the final version of this character style, I’ll reduce the Book Antiqua font size slightly to match the Garamond body text, and then apply the style manually to italicized words in the text.

Next: Part II of Finishing Up!

Please visit other posts in this series! Your feedback is welcome!

Formatting for IngramSpark in InDesign: You’re Almost Already There!

InDesign for Book Formatting: Cheat Sheet I

InDesign Cheat Sheet 2: How to Get Started

InDesign Master Pages: No Big Deal!

InDesign Cheat Sheet! Add Some Text!

Finally! Formatting Text in InDesign, Part I

InDesign Obstacle: When Smart Text Reflow Doesn’t Work

InDesign Beginner’s Cheat Sheet: Finally Formatting Part II


Filed under Blood Lies, book design, business of writing, indie publishing, King of the Roses, novels, Print on Demand, Publishing, self editing, Self-publishing, Tech tips, V. S. Anderson, Virginia S. Anderson, Writing

Grammar Rules: Split Infinitives | Writing Forward

Here’s my take on this article:

I agree with this post: what to do with infinitives is a judgment call. Some observations:
In the 18th century, pundits thought English needed to be more like Latin, a “more mature” language. You can’t split an infinitive in Latin (nor in Romance languages like French or Spanish–such languages have one-word infinitives). But since English needed to emulate Latin, its two-word infinitive needed to be treated like a Latin one-word infinitive. So there. Obviously English is a very different language from Latin–it’s not a Romance language at all, it’s Germanic–so following a rule meant for a Romance language doesn’t make sense.
Second, one reason “to boldly go” sounds so good is that placing “boldly” within the infinitive creates an iambic phrase: ././ Iambic is the “natural” meter for English; it’s Shakespeare’s meter, for example. It just plain has a ring.
So place your adverbs wherever you think they create that ring. (And don’t eschew adverbs universally, either. They have important roles in prose.)

Colleen Chesebro ~ Fairy Whisperer

FINALLY! Split infinitives explained and how to NOT use them! ❤

What are split infinitives and do grammar rules tell us whether or not we can use them or when it’s appropriate to use them?

Source: Grammar Rules: Split Infinitives | Writing Forward

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InDesign Beginner’s Cheat Sheet: Finally Formatting Part II

Finally Formatting—Part Two!

King of the Roses Page 1

My formatted Page 1 of King of the Roses. The titles are in Minion Pro, the text in Garamond.

This is part of a series. Here is a complete list of current posts in my InDesign Beginner’s Cheat Sheet.

This is the next installment in my Beginner’s Cheat Sheet meant to help you format your own book interiors using InDesign. Note, again, that this series covers only plain text formatting, not graphics. But the fact is—YOU CAN FORMAT YOUR OWN BOOK INTERIOR!

In the previous post in this series on using Adobe InDesign to format your own book, you used the Paragraph Styles dialogue box to make basic decisions about font, font size, leading, and justification.

In this post, we’ll consider options you can choose in InDesign that might not be offered in Word.

***Click on the images for a larger version. Then use CTRL/COMMAND + + (plus sign) to enlarge them still further.***

The first of these options:

Aligning your text to the baseline.

This ensures that the lines of text on facing pages align with each other. This feature will become part of your main body style going forward.

Step One: Make a note of two pieces of information: your leading, which you can recover from the Control Panel if you’ve forgotten it, and the actual top margin value—how far it is from the top margin of your text box to the top of the page. You can recover this by opening Layout>Margins and Columns. If you set the margin to 1 inch, this is the number you want, NOT the margin from the top of the header where your running heads are.

Workspace with Control Panel Circled

Step Two: Reselect the paragraph you’ve been working with.

Step Three: Go to your “Preferences” menu—under “Edit” for a PC and under the “InDesign” logo in the upper left-hand corner on a Mac. Choose Grids.

  • In the “Baseline Grid” box that appears, type your top margin number, for example, “1 in,” in the box that says “Start.”
  • Type your leading number in the box that says “Increment every.” This can be in points.
  • The “View Threshold” number allows you to tell the program when it can display the grid for you to see, assuming you want to (and I think you will). Mine defaulted to 75%. If you leave it at the threshold, you’ll be able to see the grid only if your zoom is 75% or higher. This appears to be a good value for this box.
  • Don’t mess with anything else. Leave the defaults.
  • Click OK.

InDesign Baseline Grid panel from Preferences

Step Four: Go to Type>Paragraph.

You get a new little dialogue panel (not the same as the Paragraph Styles box you’ve already worked with). In the lower righthand corner of this panel you’ll see a little double-columned icon. Hovering your cursor should reveal that this is the place where you click to “align to baseline grid.” Click this icon.

InDesign Paragraph Panel

Align to baseline in lower right, hyphenate option in lower left.

You should see the lines of text in your selected paragraph move a little.

I suggest that you check to see whether your text actually did align to baseline by going to View>Grids & Guides>Show Baseline Grid, then select “View>Actual Size.” You’ll see the gridlines across your page/spread. If your text has aligned, it will sit on these gridlines.

Possibly it hasn’t aligned. In the experimental file I’m using to write these posts, the text didn’t align when I clicked the icon. I discovered how to correct this. I’ll get to that below.

For now, you have set your baseline grid. You can turn off the view by clicking the “Hide Baseline Grid” option which you might as well do for now, even if your text hasn’t aligned.

Other Options—Hyphenation:

While in the Paragraph Panel where you aligned to the baseline, click “hyphenation” in the lower lefthand corner.

Now reopen the Paragraph Styles panel from the righthand side of the workspace. Double click on the style you’ve created and named—the one you’re working with. “Paragraph Styles Options” should open.

The description of your style (Style Settings) should now note that you have added a hyphenation choice and, if your icon obeyed you, a desire to align to baseline.

InDesign Paragraph Style Options dialogue

On the left of this main box, you’ll see a list of options you can apply.

If you click on “Hyphenation,” you get some choices as to exactly when your document is allowed to hyphenate. I haven’t messed much with these options, but you certainly can.

Widows and Orphans

You now have to make the fateful decision about widows and orphans. To do so, in this same Paragraph Styles Options dialgue, click on “Keep Options.”

In my research, I discovered that this isn’t a hard and fast choice. It boils down to whether or not you want “square pages” or uneven pages, which occur if the program moves single lines of text around to avoid leaving one alone at the top or bottom of the page.

I deliberately chose not to have the program eliminate widows and orphans. This created some more work for me (which I’ll discuss in a later post), but I just like the square-page look. You can decide.

If Your Text Didn’t Align to Baseline—

Open the “Indents and Spacing” option. Here, when the alignment command seemed unresponsive, I found a drop-down box labeled “Align” and noticed that “none” was selected. When I discovered that another option was “All lines,” I chose that.

InDesign Paragraph Styles Options dialogue

Bingo. My text dropped obediently to the baseline.

You will be able to confirm that your text has aligned when you apply the style to more pages. If so, your bottom line of text will sit almost right on the bottom margin.

InDesign baseline alignment shown

Test aligned to baseline sits right on the bottom margin of your pages.

Final Option: Optical Margin Alignment

Say what?

This is really neat!

InDesign offers you the option of “hanging” your punctuation—periods, quotation marks, hyphens—ever so slightly outside the margins of your document. The idea is that those kinds of nearly invisible marks, when left inside the margins, create a slightly ragged-looking page.

To see what this option does, leave your paragraph selected and go to Type>Story.

InDesign Optical Margin Alignment

Remember to adjust the font size to match yours.

The tiny “Optical Margin Alignment” box appears. Adjust the font size to match your font and click in the checkbox to activate. This feature will be added to your style, although I haven’t been able to make it show up in the style description in the Paragraph Styles panel.

You won’t be able to tell if you like this feature until you apply the style to several pages. But you can disable it by simply selecting all, re-opening the little box, and turning it off.

Now, you can select all your text with CTRL/COMMAND + A, click on your new style, and see what it looks like in actual text.

If you don’t like some feature, just select the text where the style will apply, reopen the Paragraph Styles box, and use the options in the list on the left to make changes. Any changes you make will impact all the text to which you have applied this style.

Next Post: Additional and Character Styles for Chapter Heads and Italics

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Filed under book design, indie publishing, novels, Print on Demand, Publishing, Self-publishing, Tech tips, Writing