Monday, August 18, 2014

Author Intrusion

Yoo-hoo! Over here! Right, yes, that’s me, Lisa Lickel, waving! I’m interrupting your reading experience so I can tell you something…

How many of you readers have experienced this very powerful jerk right out of the story? It’s like pulling off a fresh scab, like ripping duct tape from your lips. Or it can be a comfort, like macaroni and cheese, if you’re a fan of early nineteenth-century literature.

According to’s a fair definition: Authorial Intrusion is an interesting literary device wherein the author penning the story, poem or prose steps away from the text and speaks out to the reader. Authorial Intrusion establishes a one to one relationship between the writer and the reader where the latter is no longer a secondary player or an indirect audience to the progress of the story but is the main subject of the author’s attention.

How many of us authors are guilty of practicing this example of intrusive writing?
Active intrusion is something like the character turning away from what he’s doing and acting out of character, or trying to get your attention to tell you, the reader something: “Jordan trotted after the purse-snatcher, but as the young boy in the hoodie gained distance, Jordan knew he’d never catch up. In order to save face, he veered to tangle with a woman walking her schnoodle. And that, my friends, is how you fake heroism.”

Intrusion can be as simple as changing tense in the middle of your work – “The old houses along the boulevard used to be creepy with their boarded-up windows and overgrown crabgrass lawns. When the rehab project started to clean them or tear them down, the neighbors were pleased. Now they are beautiful and sell for over a hundred grand, and the city happily filled its coffers.” Even if you, the author, are using a bit of truth in your story, remember, if you’re writing fiction, tense is your friend. Your book is a not an expose or a piece of journalism exploring a current topic, it’s a story told in order, using literary devices which must be consistent throughout.

Passive intrusion may often be a simple point of view mistake, like a character telling us her hair is lush and soft, or foretelling the future by saying something like, if I’d known what going to happen, I wouldn’t have…

Author intrusion is not internal monolog, nor is it omniscient or narrator voice.

Is author intrusion always bad? Well, no. If you’re Charlotte Bronte, for example, you wouldn’t have anyone to talk to. If you’re Agatha Christie, you couldn’t have a murder no one would see, much less find; if you’re Jane Austen, Lizzie Bennet wouldn’t know what she was supposed to do to find a husband. Dickens couldn’t have carried off pretty much ANY of his books. Of course, works like Thornton Wilder’s Our Town wouldn’t have the same impact, now, would it? Can you imagine Jay Gatsby not saying good-by? Or Hamlet, like, not announcing he’s croaking?

Our Town is a play—but you see what I mean? It has a narrator on purpose. Sure the characters could have directed themselves, and even spoken, but sometimes an author has to take literary license. As long as it’s for a good purpose, is unique, and the exception.

You’ll notice that these examples are mostly…well, old. Fads come and go in this business. But in today’s American story-telling, it’s still a good rule of thumb: A key goal of an author is to be invisible.  

Here are a couple of other articles to check out.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Author humor

Enjoy a little humor while I get over jet lag....ask me about Istanbul :)

The monster.
Found on
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Friday, August 8, 2014

The Miting, by Dee Yoder

the mitingThe Amish are all the rage these days. Novels about them, TV shows about them, cookbooks written by them. I have a couple, by the way. Amish women know how to cook.

By now, most of us know that the Ordnung is the guidelines or rules of the church, and most of us know Rumspringa is a time in a teenager's life, before he or she joins the church, of testing the waters in the Englisher world. If you watched the beautiful Kate Stoltz change from simple Amish girl to super model on the show Breaking Amish, you know just about anything can happen during the teen's running season.

But what happens when the worst a young lady does is get a job, wear jeans, and attend church on Sundays? What happens when her biggest sin against the Amish is reading a King James Bible?

In the Old Order Amish, the Meidung, or shunning, is just the beginning.

Dee Yoder tells us the story of seventeen-year-old Leah Raber, whose inquisitive mind leads her in a quest for a relationship with the loving God, a rebellious act that subjects her to the terrible choice of denying her family, or denying her Savior. When a young woman is caught in a world unfamiliar to her, when she longs for family and home, when she wishes to cling to her new-found faith in disobedience to the church bishop, what choices does she have?

Each Amish order is different, some stricter than others. Inside the strictest orders, some kids feel the need for escape and freedom. Some endure things not often recorded in the novels we read. As a mentor and volunteer for Mission to Amish People, Dee tells of a darker side of the religion. MAP is a ministry developed to help those who wish to escape a religion that often seems oppressive. Dee's fiction is based on the lives of those escapees whom she now calls friends. The Miting, a coming-of-age story is her first full-length novel, and it is well worth the read.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

How to Be an Author Book Bloggers Will Love

I’ve been fortunate enough to interview a lot of authors. Hundreds, in fact. Some were fabulous and I wished I could have crawled through my computer monitor and hugged them. And some? Meh. The problem is the ones that were “meh” are also the ones who seemed to be the most difficult to work with.

Authors really need book bloggers, today, so we can’t afford to leave a “meh” (or worse) impression behind. Here’s some stuff that I personally appreciated when working with authors that left a good impression.

No Drama

There’s nothing worse than getting a last minute request to schedule a post (or worse, review a book) while an author drones on and on about deadlines and how exhausted they are in promoting this book and how busy they are and… sigh…

Know why bloggers hate this drama? Because they have jobs, too. They also have a limited amount of time in a day and while your book is the most important thing to you it isn’t the most important thing to them.

The best authors to work with have been respectful of my time and effort and answered my interview questions without drama.

Personalized Thank You Notes and Even Gifts

Writers are always on a budget, so gifts are a really rare thing, but I was given a couple things by authors and guess what? I remember them fondly. One sent me a cool Elizabeth I notepad from London and Starbucks gift card for being a first reader for her Tudor fiction book. Another sent me an antique coin. Both gifts tied in with their books, and the added effort was noticed and appreciated.

But I’ve also received personalized, handwritten thank you notes from several authors and those meant just as much to me. In fact, I’ve decided to make this a habit for the people that host me on a blog from now on, too. Sending a note doesn’t take much time but it does mean an awful lot to someone who made the effort to put you on their site.

Be Interesting

When you’re doing a blog tour, and answering the same questions over and over, it can be a challenge to be interesting. But resist the urge to cut and paste answers, and really try to make every question, even the ones you’ve answered a bazillion times, reveal something cool about yourself.

Tell a story with your answer. Compliment other writers or the blogger who is hosting you. Add a photo you haven’t shared too much. Find a unique way to interact with readers.

Some of my favorite interviews have been the ones where authors took my boring old questions and were so funny and charming they made me sound like James Lipton.

Follow Their Rules

When you have a book to promote and a blog tour to do, you want to control the show. You might even send an email that says “I’ll do an interview, guest post, and giveaway” but be careful about being too limiting. Some bloggers like to do it their own way.

Several years ago I stopped doing giveaways on my writing blog. My readers seemed to hate them. They enjoyed finding out about new writers but weren’t wild about leaving comments for books, and some even wrote me to tell me they’d like my blog a whole lot better if I didn’t give stuff away.

What did I know? I thought everyone loved giveaways, but if my readers weren’t fans why should I do them? So I stopped the practice but some authors get very testy about this. One insisted I do a giveaway because her publisher required it. (I’m still not sure she had that correct, but maybe it was true.)

I once did an unusual interview where I had to answer a lot of hypotheticals about my dating book that related to pop culture. It was super fun and I got a lot of positive comments on it.  Sometimes bloggers like to mix it up by having you answer questions as your character, or having you answer rapid fire, silly questions… whatever their preference, go with it.


Be sincerely grateful when bloggers are hosting you, because they really are helping your career. One author followed up an appearance on my blog by doing a post on her blog listing the top 10 things she loved about getting interviewed by me. I did mention that my questions are rather boring, right? So this was a clever and creative thing to make the interview stand out, and I was touched that she added that to her site.

However you decide to respond to and thank your bloggers, be sincerely grateful. Your intentions will show in the words and actions you choose, and your bloggers will be happy to welcome you back again when your next book is out.


Cherie Burbach has written for, NBC/Universal,, and more. Visit her website,
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Monday, August 4, 2014

The Idiot Box

Google Free Imges
Watching T.V. is a real time sucker, and a roadblock to productivity for writers. Wow, that statement sounds like it was made by a die hard non-T.V. watcher. Who was that? Oh yeah, me. Actually, I'm a huge fan of Hawaii Five-O, NCIS (and I can't wait for NCIS New Orleans - Lucas Black!), and Person of Interest, Downton Abbey, Psych (sniff, no more) and possibly a few others. Thank heaven for DVR. My husband and I save them up and get caught up on a weekend every now and then.

To assuage my guilt over watching TV instead of writing, I make sure I have a notepad and pencil (extra sharp) and/or a laptop in my lap. I've jotted down notes that I've used in books and short stories. See? So don't judge me, lol.

Some ways I've used the Idiot Box (that's what my dad called it):

1. Creative metaphors: Witness a TV car chase and terrible crash? This is what ended up in my book:

Marriage? Head on Collision. Career? Run off the road.

2. Prompts: What if my female MC met Steve McGarrett in the diner where she works? What if I played McGee's mother in an episode and Gibbs got a crush on me. Wait, did I just say that? What if is was my number up and Reese and Harold had to protect me? Can I create a brand new character for my favorite show and write a short piece of fan fiction introducing him/her? Maybe that character will find a spot in my WIP. Sometimes playing 'what if' with T.V.  helps flesh out a character for me.

3. Commercial activities: I sometimes jot down the adjectives used in commercials, then use them in sentences. I like to see how many words I can type, without stopping to edit, during a commercial. I ran across this article and thought it might give some ideas:
 Watching TV and Writing Your Dissertation: Using the Commercials to get Something Done

4. Identify the plot. Analyzing the plot of a 30 minute or 1 hour T.V. show is good practice for my own plot planning. It's fun to pick it apart, especially when something happens that I didn't see coming. How did they do that?

Or...don't watch T.V. and get a lot more done;) do you make wasted time work for you?
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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Checklist for Considering Writers' Groups

People have a variety of viewpoints when it comes to belonging to the writer’s group or workshop. Some authors like Dean Koontz abhor them. Some say they will cause you to quit writing or destroy your writing style. Others say they could not write without them.

I have experienced both points of view. Over the years, I have belonged to three writer’s groups. The first was the Frisco (Texas) Writer’s Group. It was a hybrid group. Some sessions focused on the learning the business of writing. Other sessions were for critique. Over time, I outgrew this group of mainly want to be writers. I attended the group from 2006 through 2009.

While attending the first group, I learned of the Dallas-Fort Worth Writer’s Workshop. It is a larger group with many full-time and published writers. They sponsor the DFW Writer’s Convention. In 2008, I attended convention.

I joined the DFW Writer’s Workshop in 2009. I was a paid member through 2012. For several years, I drove twenty-five miles each way through heavy Dallas – Fort Worth traffic and freeway construction to attend the group.

The meetings had a set agenda. They began with an introduction of guests and new members. Next was a time of sharing submissions, rejections, being asked to send a full manuscript, and getting an agent. You could also sign-up to read. You were assigned to critique groups for the evening. There you read. Then others commented on your work. You did not respond to their comments. The comments were extremely helpful and required a thick skin at times. The group has been around since 1977. Over the years, members have had over 300 traditionally published books. The group charges $100 per year to be a member. It meets 52 weeks a year.

I had published over two-dozen magazine articles before joining the group. I credit the group with keeping me motivated. It caused me to look at my writing at a level I did not know existed. It provided encouragement as I witnessed fellow members being published. The group was a first-amendment group where you could write anything. The critique group helped me write, as I needed something new to read each week. While in the group, I published over a dozen pieces. I also completed the 80,000 words book that I am currently shopping.

In 2011, I joined Wholehearted Writing Group. It is located less than two miles from my day job. The location was the reason for joining. The group is more about writing prompts than analyzing or working on your current project. It meets 26 times a year with the cost of $10 per meeting.

Whether you are joining the writers' group to gain new friends, network, or to improve your craft and motivation, you need to make sure it meets your needs. Below are some points to consider when selecting, joining, and attending a writer's group.
1. Does the writer’s workshop have in writing defined goals?
  • Does the group know where it is going?
  • Does it regularly meet?
  • Are members submitting, progressing in the craft and publishing?
2. Does the group start on time and stay on mission? I will use the DFW Writer’s Workshop that I belonged to as an example.
  • The group starts on time – 7 PM. It began with a large group session.
  • They recognize guests, ask them what they write, and how they found out about the workshop.
  • They ask for rejections followed by asking for submissions.
  • They ask is anyone has sold articles or gotten a contract for their manuscript.
  • After the large group session, they break into small critique groups.
  • Writer's read for ten minutes followed by a critique of five minutes.
  • They have a monitor for a group who times and moderates the readings and critiques. The monitor keeps the group on track.
  • The group ends at 9:30 PM. Ending on time respects the participants.
3. Does the group have an interest in your writing or is it just a niche group?
  • Is it a first-amendment group allowing freedom of expression?
  • Does the group focus only on fiction or non-fiction?
  • Does it require you to filter your writing through the scope of the group? For example, you would not want to attend a Christian writer’s group if you write erotica.
4. Are there rules for people whose work is critiqued to follow?
  • Having guidelines is essential.
  • People get defensive when others are telling them what they did wrong.
  • The man or woman receiving the critique needs to have rules to follow.
  • We have him or her listen with no response or rebuttal.
  • You need to listen to what people have to say about your writing and learn from it. 
5. Does the organization allow you time to network and develop relationships with others in the group?
  • Do the group members like each other?
  • Are they happy to see you and urge you to participate?
  • Does the group assimilate new members?
  • Does everyone get to read?
  • If the group members spend more time telling you how great they are or what they hope to do instead of staying on schedule and mission, find a different group.
6. Should I pay to attend a writer’s group?
  • Most writers’ groups in the USA are free and run by volunteers. Fee-based groups are also common.
  • One of the most expensive writer’s groups in the USA is the Original Los Angeles Writers Group™. The cost for new members is $475 a year while returning members get a break at $450. That is about $9.00 per week.
  • The Kansas City Writer’s Critique Group meets in ten-week sessions with each session costing $65.00 ($5.50 per week).
  • The DFW Writer’s Group in Texas is $100 per year (paid in advance). You must be a paid member to read.
  • The Burlington Vermont Writer’s Group cost $12.00 per month.
  • Wholehearted Writing in Dallas, Texas is $10 a session.
  • I have attended pay and free groups. Most pay groups are very polished, professional, stay on task honoring the attendee’s time by starting and stopping on time plus having a set break. Many are connected to educational institutions or are legal nonprofits with a constitution by-laws and elected leadership from the paid membership that manage / lead the group. They are not social in nature and have had an evaluation element. The leader in the pay group may receive your writing assignment in advance. They check your style, grammar, and transitions as a proofreader or outside editor. They may lead you in structured revisions.
While people have a variety of viewpoints when it comes to belonging to the writer’s workshop, a writer’s group is not for everyone, but it could be what you need to get to the next level.
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Monday, July 28, 2014

Know What You Write

Today's post is compliments of debut author Brad Seggie, who allowed me to be the cowriter of our soon-to-be released conspiracy thriller, The Simulacrum. Brad did all the research for that novel, much of it amazingly detailed and intense. He developed an exciting plot from his research, and the resulting book was a blast to write.

Details help to bring a reader into a story. A little bit of local color can go a long way toward bringing your readers into the story. The flip side is that some of the readers know a thing or two about the subjects and places that you are describing. If your details are inaccurate, it will cause readers to lose faith in your writing and give up on your novel. In order to ensure accuracy, you will need to research.

The first place to go is the internet. An internet browser and a search engine is the quickest way to find information that you need. When it comes to describing the locations in your novel, you’ll probably find that there are plenty of photos and videos of the place you want to write about. When I was researching a scene involving the National Academy of Sciences building, I was able to find lots of pictures that helped me to describe the pagan imagery that adorns the building. And the same applies to technical, medical and scientific issues. When I was researching arguments concerning creation and evolution, I was able to read a large number of creationist sites and a large number of Darwinist sites. All in all, I found the Darwinist sites to be the most helpful. By reading both sides, I was able to identify the strongest arguments to present to the reader.

Another way to research is to hit the books.  Although we like to believe that everything is available on the web, there is still some information available in book form that isn’t available on web pages. In researching The Simulacrum, I purchased a number of books about the Royal Society and the issue of creation and evolution. It’s probably a lot cheaper, though, to visit your library.

You can also travel to the locations described in your novel. As it so happened, I had visited Washington, DC in the recent past, so I had some idea of the layout of the city and the location of the bedroom communities.  Although I have lived in Texas, I have never visited Paluxy, the site of the so-called “man tracks” and the location of the novel’s key fossil find. Some of the action takes place in the Nashville area and I had the opportunity to visit Nashville for the first time this month – just a month before the novel is set for release. Although I didn’t see anything that would require us to change what we wrote, I was happy to see another location of some of the key scenes in the novel.

Finally, you can talk with people who know about your subject. In The Simulacrum, there is a scene involving a plane flight. I was lucky to have a friend who is a commercial pilot and who has substantial experience flying smaller planes as well. We sat down and discussed the appropriate terminology. I asked him how a pilot would react to certain difficulties happening while he’s flying the plane, and how the plane itself would react. I shared the details with my co-author and it gave us a certain degree of confidence in writing the scene.

                We’ve all heard the old saying, “write what you know.” I believe you should write what you want to write, but “know what you write.” If you do your research, you will earn your readers’ trust and you have the opportunity to draw them into the story.

Keep an eye out for The Simulacrum! Release date, August 15!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Content Marketing with Karen Cioffi

This article originally appeared Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing on Monday, May 19, 2014. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Become a Niche Powerhouse - Build Relationships with Your Audience and Subscribers with Content Marketing

Part 1 of this three-part series discussed finding a niche and working it. Part 2 discussed finding your audience and building your list. Now, it’s on to establishing relationships with your audience and subscribers.

This element of niche building actually goes hand-in-hand with finding your audience.

To find your audience you need to search them out and share valuable information. To develop a relationship and create trust, you need to continue to offer valuable information on a regular basis.

Part of your marketing strategy should be to genuinely want to help your subscribers succeed. You should want to help people by giving them the answer to their problem or question. 
So, how do you build a relationship with your audience, your subscribers, and leaders in the industry?

Simple. Through content marketing.

Blogging - Providing regularly scheduled content on your website should be the foundation of your content marketing strategy and the first rung in your relationship building tactic.

Keep your blog posts focused and give your audience ‘useable’ information.

The Freebie – Your ethical bribe is the primary tool that will ‘hook’ the visitor into becoming a subscriber. At this point, you will be able to develop a stronger connection.

Since you took the time to find a ‘doable’ niche and searched for your audience, you know what they want . . . what they need. Your content and especially your freebie should define their want or need and provide the solution.

Email Marketing – This is an essential element of turning a subscriber into a customer/client.

You need to set up an autoresponder series, beginning with the Welcome Message, that establishes you as the go-to person in your niche.

After the automatic email series, continue to provide valuable information on a regular basis. This cultivates trust and authority, and leads to sales.

Article Directories – Publishing on article directories, like Ezine Articles, is an excellent strategy to broaden your visibility and increase your audience. This allows you to develop new relationships.

If you provide valuable information that’s actually useable, news sites may very well pick it up. This in turn leads to even more visible and a larger audience.

Guest Blogging – This is one of the most powerful article marketing strategies when used to create authority and credibility, create connections, increase your audience, and build relationships.

The important factor when guest blogging is to query major blogs in your industry or niche. Take the time to get acquainted with the type of articles the blog publishes and then pitch an article.

One of my favorite adages is, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So, don’t be intimidated, just go for it.
Using all these strategies helps build authority and credibility. This in turn, makes you more valuable to your audience and helps strengthen your relationships.

Becoming a niche powerhouse through these strategies will help you build a successful business.

P.S. If you liked this article, PLEASE SHARE IT!

To start at the beginning, read Part One: Become a Niche Powerhouse – Find a Niche and Work It

Karen Cioffi is a multi-published author, ghostwriter, freelance writer, and acquisitions editor intern. Visit her at for writing and marketing information and be sure to sign up for her FREE monthly newsletter--you'll get two FREE e-books in the process and two more for just stopping by.
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Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Review: How to Succeed In Business Without Really Crying

I love books that offer lessons about getting ahead, writing, and managing a business, and yet aren’t about those things specifically. What I mean is, I enjoy reading about how people are succeeding in the writing life in a totally unique way. That’s one reason I picked up How to Succeed In Business Without Really Crying by Carol Leifer.

Emmy-Nominated Writer and Producer

Leifer has been nominated for four Emmy’s for her writing work on shows like Seinfeld, Saturday Night Live, and the Academy Awards. She’s been on Late Night With David Lettermen over two dozen times, as well as a host of other talk shows. I was interested in her take on things given that she’s in the male-dominated world of comedy.

Part Memoir, Part Business Advice Book

This book was filled with advice combined with Leifer’s own personal stories and photos. It was interesting to see some of the comics and talk show hosts of today (like Paul Reiser, Jerry Seinfeld, and Jay Leno) in early pictures from their college days. It was a testament to the power of relationships that Leifer held on to these friendships. Many of these guys were very helpful in encouraging her and teaching her about the craft.

Often, she learned by observing, taking things that worked for others and making it her own. I related to this advice because I think very often we try and copy what someone else’s is doing as writers and it just doesn’t work. You still need to do what’s right and works for you individually.

Being Present

A lot of the advice centered around being “present.” This means paying attention, noticing opportunities, and taking care of yourself. These are big points for writers because you’re not always given an opportunity that is clear cut. Very often you need to hammer it out for yourself, and in order to do that you need to be tenacious and take care of yourself mentally and physically.

Trying Again and Again Without Getting Held Back by Failure

So often when I read these books, the advice is about counting your successes and letting the times you fell flat on your face fade from your memory. This is true of Leifer’s book as well. She even mentions walking up to a famous Hollywood star and not having him remember her. She could have walked away mortified, but she held her head high and chalked it up to experience.

One time she mentioned being on Celebrity Apprentice and being the first one eliminated. Awful! Yet instead of getting down about it, she asked Donald Trump for a donation to her charity as she was being asked to leave. He obliged, and her charity benefited from her appearance on the show.

I think as a writer persistence is key, and this book breezily talked about how to keep pitching, keep tossing ideas out there, keep contacting people, and doing it as if it’s just part of the daily job. And it is. Writers will find that part very valuable.


Cherie Burbach has written for, NBC/Universal,, and more. Visit her website,
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Details, Details, Details!

Google Free Images     
( Can you find the 16 differences between these images?)

My husband and I sometimes like to watch movies that include story note pop-ups. We enjoy that there are some interesting and little known facts to be learned that enrich our watching experience. Last night during an action adventure movie, a subtitle appeared that announced the current location of the characters. They'd traveled to a new city in a few hours.

The story note pop-up shared that the characters would have had to drive for 16 hours straight at 120 miles an hour to arrive there within the plot timeline. Oops.  "My wonderful editor would never let me get away with that," I told my hubby.

Continuity in fiction can be a challenge. Plot blunders are best noticed in the revision, not after publication. (Duh) A cat named Mitzy in Chapter One must not be referred to as Muffin in Chapter 32. Here are four ways to keep on top of those pesky details.

1. Keep a detailed list of the physical features, birthdays, etc. of each character. Most of us do this anyway as we flesh out our characters. The list helps with continuity as well. Have you accidentally changed your heroine's eye color later in the manuscript? Is her name spelled the same way throughout?

2. List details about your settings in the order in which they appear in your novel.  Have you made the same blunder as we discovered in our movie? How long would it actually take to get from one place to the other? Does the weather match the season portrayed in the story?

3. List the events that occur on a timeline. I like to use a calendar and jot down in the squares the things that happen on specific days and times.

4. Devote one read-through exclusively for fact checking.  Medical issues? Sure, you've done your research, but it couldn't hurt to run the details by a  healthcare professional.Things change rapidly in some professions. My medical contact did a read-through for me and highlighted places saying "We don't do it that way anymore."

Lists such as these really help in the revision process. Blunders may not be as easy for readers to catch as in the children's picture above, but I have stumbled many times as I've been reading a novel because something wasn't right. Any other ideas on how to keep things straight?

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