Category Archives: Self publishing

Guest post from Grammarly! Why Proofreading matters

As most of you know from earlier posts, I’m a big fan of Grammarly. When Nick Baron emailed me to ask if they could post an article on my blog, of course I said yes! It’s a great kick-off to 2014 for this blog (we moved in January, among other distractions!). Enjoy!

Why Proofreading Matters


Anyone who puts pen to paper or finger to keyboard as it so happens today, needs to understand the importance of proofreading. Proofreading is the very thing that can separate good writing from bad writing and greatly impacts your chances of being published. Further, proofreading is a simple task that takes very little of your time.

I should know, my name is Nick and I work over at Grammarly. Grammarly is a site dedicated to proofreading and improving your grammatical skills and part of my job is to study the writing habits of everyday writers to greater improve our site. As you can imagine I come across hundreds of texts daily with terrible usage and believe me when I say, it makes understanding the writers point near impossible.

So let’s start off with the basics—what is proofreading?

Proofreading, also known as line editing, is exactly what you think. It is the process of meticulously analyzing every word, line, paragraph of your writing for spelling errors, punctuation errors, usage errors and other typos. Proofreading is not a natural ability; it is a skillset that takes practice and patience to develop. Though it can be rather tedious at times, a well proofread piece is the true sign of a professional. It is the creation of a text that has the highest level of clarity and therefore understanding.

Therefore, if you want to be taken seriously as a writer and if you want your point to be understood you HAVE to proofread and proofread well.

This is why today we are going to review some resources that are available online. These resources will pave the way to your understanding of proofreading and editing, which will ultimately mold you in a better writer. Many of these resources deal with grammar and usage as these are typically the bulk of errors you will encounter, while others provide tips for making the task of proofreading easier.

  • Purdue’s Online Writing Lab—understanding the true mechanics of grammar has never been easier with the aid of Purdue’s famed OWL. The excellent writers over at OWL take those confusing grammatical elements and break them down in easy-to-understand language. It is a wonderful resource that will definitely advance your knowledge on both grammar and various writing styles.
  • Chicago Manual of Style—if you want to bring you grammar game to the next level, consider thumbing through the Chicago Manual of Style. What better way to learn the rules than from the people who make them? The manual itself is a little thick and boring, so should only be used as a reference or in a school settings however definitely check out their forum. There you can find endless discussions on virtually every grammatical topic known to man.
  • UNC’s Writing Center—like Purdue’s OWL, UNC’s Writing Center is an excellent resource for both academic and non-academic writers. Here UNC provides some excellent articles on tips and strategies for revising your writing. Working through their incredibly well-formatted website will leave you a proofreading pro in no time.
  • Daily Writing Tips—as the name implies, this site is dedicated to offering writers daily tips to help hone their craft. The site is filled to the brim with a number of proof related articles and covers many topics like grammar, spelling, punctuation and more. Further, many of these articles are not just well written but fun to read! Daily Writing is a must have on your “favorites” tab.
  • Grammarly—falls into the category of “online proofreader” but it is a lot more than just that. At its core, yes, Grammarly is an online proofreading site (arguably the best online), but a proofreader that does more than just proof. Grammarly is a tool that totally encompasses every aspect of writing as it can provide stylistic edits, word replacement suggestions to expand vocabulary, checks for plagiarized material while suggesting proper citations and more. However, the truly unique bit is that Grammarly teaches you along the way. Grammarly takes your grammatical errors and teaches you proper usage. Undeniably Grammarly is an excellent tool for any writer and proofreader.

Obviously this list does not include every resource out there but will get you started on the right foot. Proofreading, much like writing, takes time and effort to hone. If you are committed to learning the above sites will make your proofreading education much easier than your old high school grammar classes.


 By Nikolas Baron


Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown childrens’ novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.

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Release day is ALMOST here!

I was hoping to get Darian’s War released earlier this week, but that didn’t happen. However, I’ve proofed both the print and e-versions, and am just waiting on the final files and artwork files, then however long Amazon and Createspace take to process. I haven’t seen the boxed set stuff yet….. I realize other people celebrate Thanksgiving, too, so I’m trying to be patient! (Not my strong suit!)

I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving, and that you’re not killing yourselves trying to shop. I don’t shop this time of year, since I don’t like crowds, but my daughter’s in-laws were out in the wee hours of the morning. Stay warm and safe!

Christmas-Countdown1I’m going to have some free days and sales going on around Christmas and New Years, so stay tuned!

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Did you think I disappeared? A writer’s tale…

I’m alive! yeehaw!

I realize you couldn’t tell it from my blog activity (this blog, at least). That’s because life just came along and slammed me in the face. True story. In fact, I’m taking time out from packing up our house to write this post out of guilt for not having written in so long!

So what’s up in the writer’s house? Glad you asked!

First of all, and a huge HALLELUJAH, I got Darian’s War off to the production team yesterday, only a month-plus late. Here’s the cover reveal: TA-DA!!!

Darians War cover 2

Do you love it? I do!! Here are all three covers side by side so you can see the awesome work Glendon at Streetlight Graphics has done:

IXEOS 800 Cover reveal and Promotional Ixeos Rebellion 800 Cover Reveal and Promotional Darians War cover 2

Not only will Darian’s War be released (fingers and toes crossed) next week, we’ll also have a boxed set of all three available for Christmas! So that’s really exciting. (I won’t tell you how stinking hard it was to wrap up a global war… Whose brilliant idea was that anyway?!) Now for marketing and all that stuff, and hopefully some good sales coming up to and just after Christmas.

In other news, we’re moving three hours away in January. I’m pretty excited because I’ve wanted to live there for years, but it’s kind of complicated, since we’re moving to a house we already own and which is already furnished. Plus it’s 1/3 the size. So that’s proving to be a logistical nightmare.

My grandmother will be ONE HUNDRED (yes, 100!) on December 1, and we’re all headed to FL for her big party the following weekend. She still lives alone, walks her dog, makes her meals… All my cousins will be there, so it’ll be chaotic craziness. But we’re driving, which is nine and a half hours, so that’s two full days. Then helping my mom get everything ready. It’ll be a fun but not very productive week.

My husband and I have been doing some national radio hosting. It’s been a blast! We’ll see if it goes anywhere, but, as the guy said last night, “You guys are a great team on the air!” I told him we were a pretty great team off the air, too!

C&J wedding brunch

Then there are the holidays just upon us… How is 2014 almost over??

So that is life at the moment, and I must say, I’m SO glad I’m not trying to do NaNoWriMo, and so glad to have Darian’s War done. I won’t be writing fiction for awhile. Maybe February? Or I might wait and see if the Office of Letters and Light does another April Camp NaNo. The next book will probably be a sequel to Undaunted Love. We’ll see!

Meanwhile, I’m hard at work on fundraisers for my nonprofit. Those of you who follow me on Facebook know about our work in Uganda and Andros, Bahamas. The end of the year is coming, and we’d love to have your help with our work. Please check it out, and you can donate on the website or at our page. A little goes a long way, especially in Uganda, so thank you for anything you can contribute!

That’s about it. I’m going to try to be more regular here, or at least repost some “best of” blogs. I’m going to be crazy busy until the end of January, so don’t think I disappeared! I wish you all a VERY………


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My take: Scrivener, Evernote and Celtx

I was so excited to have the guest post from author Heather McCoubrey on why she loves Scrivener and Evernote, because those are probably my two favorite programs, as well. I’ll add Celtx into the mix for screenplays, because I don’t think there’s a better program out there for the screenwriter. Here’s my take on all three.


When I wrote my first novel during NaNoWriMo in November 2011, I had never used Scrivener before. I got it on sale through NaNo, and spent a few panicked days trying to make sense of it enough to use it for this crazy “at least I’ll be able to say I wrote a novel” event. It had a lot of great features for the first-time novelist, especially since I didn’t have a method back then except panic-fueled marathon planning and typing sessions. What I liked was that I could have a separate folder for each chapter. What that looked like at the end of my first draft was this:

Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 10.28.07 AM

As you can see, I was able to go back and insert subfolders of scenes into chapters where I needed to add information that would be crucial later on. While I no longer use random names for my chapters (I just number them), I do make frequent use of the ability to go back and add another chapter, like this one in IXEOS: Rebellion:

Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 10.34.46 AM

Another thing I liked with Solomon’s Throne is all the things I could do when I was working on characters, plot, names, etc. I’m a very visual person, so the bulletin board/index card layout is a great way to stay organized and keep all my notes in one place.

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While I use Scrivener a little differently now, because I’ve written almost seven books and I know what works for me and what doesn’t, and am not longer running around in a panic to just WRITE THE DAMN NOVEL, I do use it for my first through third drafts and still love it. I love that I can easily find things, insert things, edit things, and navigate so effortlessly through my work. Once I’ve done major edits in Scrivener, including printing it out and doing an on-paper edit, I move it to Word to finish it. But I would never, ever write a novel in Word.

(You can format ebooks in Scrivener, but I’ve never done it, so I’m not commenting on that here. I hear it works well for uploading to Amazon KDP, but I don’t want to guarantee that since I have no first-hand experience!)

NOTE from experience: My husband wrote his first book in Word. It is nonfiction, and the chapters weren’t linear, meaning he would be moving them around when the book was done. He wrote them in thirty-six separate files in Word, plus another eighteen files of one-liners he was going to intersperse throughout the book. I was the one who was supposed to edit and collate this word. *cue the mad face and angry music* The first thing I did was move everything to Scrivener, where I could at least move the chapters around easily. The one-liners were a nightmare. I made him swear to NEVER, EVER EVER EVER write another book in anything other than Scrivener again. Ever. On pain of a slow, painful death. Save you, your spouse or your editor time and sanity. Use Scrivener!


I am fairly new to Evernote. I got it a few weeks before I went to Andros, so I’m still playing with it and figuring out, like I did with Scrivener, how to use it most effectively. I tend to be a note-taker. I have tons of yellow mini legal pads full of notes, lists, and scribbles. Trying to shift that to electronic is harder than learning Scrivener, but I’m determined to make it work. To that end, I’ve upgraded to Premiere (which lets me work off-line), and have ordered this for use with my iPhone and iPad (which I just realized won’t come until late this month, but since I’ll be without my writing hand anyway, it’s no biggie!):

Adonit Jot Script Evernote Edition

Keep in mind that Evernote is free! And the ancillary apps, like Skitch, are also free. I use Evernote on my phone for all kinds of lists, which I can then print off from its instant sync with my computer. This was especially handy for my Uganda buying-stuff-for-everyone list!

Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 11.16.55 AM

I also use it for story ideas, snippets of dialogue I think of, names for future characters, photos (through the companion app Skitch, which allows you to make notes on the photo), and for those to-do lists that I’d normally be scribbling frantically on my ratty yellow legal pad. You can also schedule reminders.

Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 11.19.41 AM

See those little check-off boxes?? I love that! I think that’s either an iOS7 update or maybe a Premiere feature, but it is so helpful!

Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 11.21.39 AM

There are a lot of things I haven’t used it for yet: trip planning (you can keep your electronic boarding passes in your folder, plus maps, ideas, photos of things to see, weather reports, you name it!); moving (we’ll be moving soon, and I will be heavily relying on Evernote for that); and a new app called Evernote Eat, which I just got yesterday. It keeps track of food you love in restaurants, recipes, and all things food. I love all things food, so that works for me!


Celtx is a truly remarkable screenwriting program. While they do have other modules, such as novel writing, I found Scrivener to be better for that. But for screenplays, I don’t think Celtx can be beat. It’s got desktop, mobile and online workspaces, so you can work in whatever situation you find yourself, period. Second, you can truly collaborate and co-write with someone else, or simply let someone read your work and comment, without giving them the ability to change the original work. Everything is saved and synced and always up to date.

Second, it formats everything for you automatically, which saves a TON of time when you’re writing a screenplay. There is a lot more formatting required, and typing it all is tedious. Setting up macros to do it is tedious. With Celtx, you hardly even notice that you have to do it.

Here’s a shot of my screenplay, LAID WASTE:

Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 11.40.24 AM

On the left side, you can see that all the scenes are listed. Celtx does that automatically, so I can go to any of the 138 scenes in the film and see what’s going on very quickly. The grey line demarking the scenes, as with the “Ext. Migori, Kenya – Dusk” are also automatically added. The character names auto-fill once you’ve created them. All of the indentions are done automatically, as well. You can also add photos and notes for each scene, and there’s a scratchpad tab that lets you play around with ideas, either for yourself or your co-writer(s). The comments don’t interfere with the scene, and are great for getting feedback from others.

Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 11.44.57 AM

Another awesome feature, if you’re using Celtx to produce your screenplay, is the storyboard. This screenshot is from a sample screenplay called Dirge. Do you see the tabs across the top? That allows you to set your production schedule. If you are a filmmaker, these are incredible tools that are not only at your disposal, but available to anyone on your team to whom you give permission!

Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 11.49.30 AM


All three of these programs are well worth your while to get and learn to use. With so many programs and apps available, it’s hard to know exactly how things will work for you, of course, but as far as productivity goes, these are winners!


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Why I Love Scrivener and Evernote – Guest post by Heather McCoubrey

A big welcome to author Heather McCoubrey, who talks about two of my favorite programs, Scrivener and Evernote (which I’ve only recently discovered!).

I started writing when I was thirteen and back then we didn’t have fancy word processing or even computers.  I know, can you imagine?  The way I learned to write was by using a pencil or pen and writing it down in notebooks.  I sound old, don’t I?  I’m not really, I’m thirty-six… but when I think back to being thirteen and writing my first poem and short story, I feel old.  So many people I’ve talked to have told me they hate hand-writing, they love the ease of typing, of auto-saving, of spell-check, of quick searching, of being able to type faster than they could write (even with short-hand).   And some of the younger authors, well, they’ve always had computers.  Why would you write it out when you can type it?

It’s a question I get asked often, even from my husband, who is the epitome of new-age technology.  He lives and breathes computers, computer programs, and everything technology.  But try as I might, I cannot break away from hand-writing parts of my novels or short stories.  I love writing by hand and have several million notebooks to attest to this.  And the reason I love it – besides it being more personal, an extension of myself and a testament to the heart and soul that goes into my writing?

It’s convenient.  You’re sitting there right now, confused and dumbfounded.  This woman is crazy!  Convenient, is she daft?  No.  I’m not daft, I am perfectly serious.  Since Microsoft Word has been available, I’ve used it for all my writing needs.  And I’ve hated every single minute of it.  For years – more than two decades! – I’ve wished for a program that mimicked my notebook obsession.  A program that didn’t make me scroll for hours looking for a passage I needed to reference.  And I hated having several different files for research and notes.  I wanted it all in one place, one “notebook”.  The time I spent searching, closing programs, opening files and scrolling, scrolling, scrolling – it put a huge damper on my writing.

For me, writing is not a fluid thing.  I don’t write and write and write until I’ve exhausted my muse.  I write, research, write, reference, write, write, research, reference, write.  I’m constantly flipping pages back and forth, back and forth – but that’s just my writing style.  I am the writer who lets the story ebb and flow on its own.  I rarely outline – my outlining is me fumbling in the dark when I wake up from a dream to write down the idea and supporting sentences.  When I’m coherent, I start the story and I let the characters, plot, and emotion take me through their story to the end.  So by doing it this way, you can see my need for constant research and reference.

Now skip forward to the beginning of 2013, I’ve finished my first novel, To Love Twice, and I have sent it out to my critique circle and beta readers.  As their input comes back, imagine my frustration with trying to sort it all out and make it work.  Word is impossible for this, at least for me.  So I started doing research on novel writing software.  I started with my pals over at the NaNoWriMo forums.  I’ve participated in NaNo since 2011 and I knew that if anyone would have an opinion, it would be them.  Almost immediately I received responses.  Scrivener, Q10, FocusWriter, Liquid Story Binder and ZenWriter were the most popular.  I checked them all out faithfully, carefully reviewing all the pros and cons I could find.  Some were out because I use a Mac and the software wasn’t compatible with the Mac iOS.  Some didn’t seem to fit my needs and some just seemed too hard to figure out.  I didn’t want something that was going to add even more stress to my writing.

I finally settled on Scrivener and worked with their free trial for a couple of weeks before buying the software for approximately $40.00 (US).  I made use of their tutorial program, which took me approximately an hour to complete.  It was full of useful information, not just on how to use the software, but all the extra goodies inside.  What I immediately loved about Scrivener was that it so closely resembled my notebooks.  Scrivener uses a table of contents like tree and you can separate your novel any way you’d like.  For me, I make each chapter their own folder and I put each scene inside its appropriate folder.  In this way, if I need to change a scene placement all I have to do is to click on the file and drag it to its new spot.  SO easy!

Another feature I love: It has its own branch for research!  All of my research goes into my Scrivener project file and it’s right at my fingertips when I need it.  Bonus: it will open in a little box that floats on top of your current work.  You can move the box around and reference it as you type!

Yet another feature I love: A branch for character charts and description.  You can create your own character template or use the one provided.  I love having the character descriptions so easily accessible; being able to reference them at any moment is priceless.  For me, I have three to four novels going at once and sometimes I forget whether this particular heroine’s eyes are green or blue.

Scrivener will also compile your manuscript into different forms: eBook, Paperback, Screenplay, etc.  When you’re finished with it and ready to print it out to send to an agent, publisher or editor, Scrivener makes that so easy.  It has branches for all the front matter, a place to hold photos and cover photos.  And your whole project is in ONE file.  It’s amazing.

Now, I’m not going to lie and say I never write in notebooks anymore.  I do.  But it is less and less often as I get acquainted and comfortable with Scrivener.

I’m completely in love with Scrivener, so why did I reference Evernote in the title?  Well, my Mac laptop died a horrible death.  I did have all my files backed up, so thankfully I didn’t lose anything.  When I went to replace my laptop, I decided to try a different approach.  I got a Mac Mini and a Chromebook to replace my laptop.  Do you see where I’m going?  I have the Scrivener app on my Mini and I use it when I’m down at my desk.  BUT often, I’m out and about and I bring my Chromebook with me wherever I go.  Any of you who have a Chromebook know that it is web-based and you can’t have “apps” on it.  So, no Scrivener for my Chromebook.  That’s when I found Evernote.

Evernote is Scrivener-like in that you can make “notebooks” for your projects and then have notes inside these notebooks.  It’s great for me when I’m away from my desk and Scrivener and have some writing to do.  When I’m back to my desk, I just access Evernote and copy and paste my updated work into Scrivener.  Granted it’s a bit of a hassle to do it this way, but then that’s my own fault for doing this whole Chromebook deal.  A nice feature of Evernote is that it does the auto-save and you can access your Evernote files from any computer connected to the internet.  What I dislike about Evernote is if you aren’t connected to the internet, you can’t retrieve your files… and that’s where my trusty notebook still comes in handy!

I know this probably sounds like a plug for Scrivener and Evernote, but truthfully these are the writing programs that work best for me.  Several people have told me how much they love Q10, Liquid Story Binder and FocusWriter.  It’s all about what YOU need as a writer.  Find what works best for you and stick with it.  And Microsoft Word?  Nothing beats Word in my opinion for the formatting, fonts, and just plain making it look nice.  Once I compile my manuscript, I definitely paste it into Word to finalize it.  Like I said, whatever works for you as the writer.

Once you have the environment you need, nothing can stop you.  Happy writing!

Heather McCoubrey author photo

You can find more from Heather at her links:
The Independent Author Network

Couple at Big Ben after sunset

Find Heather’s novel, To Love Twice, here:


Filed under Guest Post, Self publishing, Writing