Welcome to The Persnickety Proofreader site!

February 20, 2009

Thanks for stopping by. Here you’ll find useful information to help your writing come alive, make your words leap off the page and dance around with glee. There’s plenty to see and do, so feel free to poke about. The blog is updated regularly – at least weekly – so check back often. Or you can follow us, to be automatically notified of new postings.

What to Ask a Beta Reader… and Why

May 13, 2021

Last week we discussed beta readers and the importance of engaging them. This week we’ll talk a little bit about the kinds of questions to ask your beta readers to consider, and what to do/how to proceed once you’ve gotten responses from them.

What kinds of questions are typical to ask beta readers to answer? Generally, you’ll want to ask your beta readers to provide feedback on broad topics related to your book – character, dialogue and plot, among other aspects. You want to ask the kinds of open-ended questions that will encourage well thought-out answers, not questions that can be answered in a few words. The more information you can get these early readers to provide, the more helpful their responses are likely to be.

These are some of the general questions I included:

  • Who were your favorite characters? Why?
  • What were your favorite/least favorite parts of the book? Why?
  • What did you feel was the weakest part of the book?
  • What were the funniest/saddest parts of the book?
  • What surprised you most?
  • What did you think about the ending?
  • What did you think of the book, overall?
  • Which facets of the story seemed least realistic?
  • Does the title make sense? If you were to suggest a different title, what would it be?
  • Which areas need to be tightened up?
  • Did you find any of the narrative distracting?
  • Were there words or phrases that got repetitive?
  • Were there places where the dialogue wasn’t believable?

But don’t just ask them about the good stuff in your book. Be sure to include the tough questions, too – and be prepared for tough answers: What were the weakest parts of the book? Where did the characters fall flat? What was boring? Remember, you’re looking for honest reactions from folks who are likely to read your work.

In addition to the broad-based general questions, I tailored some specific questions to the book:

  • How credible were Marc’s counseling sessions with Dr. Merino?
  • Did the dream sequences seem plausible?
  • Was there too much, too little or just enough sex? Was it too explicit?
  • Were the foreign-language sections adequately translated so you weren’t left wondering what was being said?

I provided a set of 19 questions for my betas (I later expanded the list to 24 questions for my fourth book) and asked each reader to respond to at least ten questions. I said they could answer as many questions as they wanted, but I needed them to respond to at least ten. Some answered nearly every question – which was monumentally helpful, because it gave me that much more feedback!

Remember: There are no right or wrong answers to any of those questions – and that’s the whole point. You want to get readers’ honest feedback and opinions.

When your beta readers respond, you’ll probably want to read their reactions individually as they come in. That’s fine. It’s natural to want to see what people have said about your writing. But once they’re all in, you may also want to do this: Compile all the answers to the various questions and look for similarities in responses. For instance, if five out of seven beta readers mentioned your protagonist’s constantly running his hands through his hair, it might indicate you’ve overused that particular gesture. Similarly, if five of your seven readers said they figured Eloise would have wiped her fingerprints off the bloody meat cleaver before leaving the dark alleyway, you might want to consider revisiting that particular scene to include that detail.

However, don’t feel compelled to implement every revision your readers suggest. If something they’ve said doesn’t resonate with you – or if it feels contrary to how you know your character would act – thank them for their input and follow your heart.

In case you’re wondering whether having beta readers can make a difference: On Tuesday I learned The Unintended Hero garnered Honorable Mention for Popular Fiction in the 2020 Kops-Fetherling International Book Awards competition. Likewise, its predecessor, Diagnosis: Love, took Honorable Mention for Romance in the Legacy category (for books published prior to 2020).

The whole point of this exercise is to make your final product the best it can be. Soliciting input from trusted beta readers is an excellent way to improve the quality of your manuscript before you engage a professional editor.

About the Author: Rita M. Reali is an author and longtime professional editor who most enjoys editing memoir, general fiction and romance, along with inspirational writing. She’s published three award-winning novels: Glimpse of Emerald, Diagnosis: Love and The Unintended Hero – the first three in the seven-volume Sheldon Family Saga – and her fourth novel, Second Chances, is due out this August. As a former disc jockey in her native Connecticut, Rita used to spend her days “talking to people who weren’t there” – a skill which transferred perfectly to her being an author. Now she talks to characters who aren’t there on “a little chunk of heaven in rural Tennessee.”

What the Heck is a Beta Reader, Anyway?

May 9, 2021

If you’re like me… first of all, my condolences. But seriously, if you’re like me, you’ve been reading a lot lately about beta readers.

If you’re wondering what a beta reader is (and/or does), you’re not alone. Until a couple years ago, I didn’t know, either. I had an inkling; over the years, I’d done some beta testing of software my husband wrote, so I figured a beta reader was a literary test pilot who helps determine whether a piece of writing soars or crashes shortly after takeoff.

In short, a beta reader reads your (largely unedited) manuscript, to provide constructive feedback regarding plot, character and dialogue.

When soliciting beta readers, it’s important to approach readers in your target audience, and those who enjoy the type of writing you do. For instance, if you write YA, you might not want to ask avid fans of Dean Koontz to be beta readers. Likewise, if you write steamy adult fiction, inviting your 14-year-old niece to beta read isn’t the wisest option (unless you want an excuse for your sister to disown you).

Where do you find beta readers? You can do an online search for people who do beta reading in various genres. Or do what I did: I posted on Facebook that I wanted beta readers for my third novel, The Unintended Hero. I gave a brief (<100 words) synopsis, laid out my parameters – read a 70,000-word novel in three weeks’ time and respond to at least ten comprehensive questions about the story – and invited folks to respond if they were interested.

From the respondents, I engaged ten beta readers, each of whom got a copy of the manuscript in Word. At the end of each chapter, I included these yes-or-no questions (highlighted in yellow so they couldn’t miss ’em): Are the characters believable? Is the dialogue plausible? Did the story hold your interest? I asked them to reply in the manuscript – and to add comments or revisions with Track Changes enabled.

I included a separate Word document with nineteen largely open-ended questions (both broad-based and targeted questions regarding specific aspects of the story) and a catch-all “Please add any additional comments or observations here” space). Some answered more questions, but all agreed to read the manuscript and answer at least ten questions.

Three of the ten had read one or both of my previous books; three others (fellow members of a writers’ group) had cursory knowledge of the characters; the rest had no prior exposure to any of the characters, aside from the synopsis.

I asked my beta readers to be honest and forthright in their assessment, specifying: “If the writing sucks, you’re not doing me any favors by not telling me.”

One reader despised my protagonist, claiming he had “no redeeming qualities.” Further, she couldn’t understand why his fiancée agreed to marry him in the first place, and kept “rooting for him to bleed out on the plane” (he was injured trying to disarm a hijacker). She said she struggled through finishing the manuscript, and her replies to my questions were filled with barbs that underscored her hatred for Marc.

While I couldn’t fathom her visceral reaction, I thanked her for her candid feedback and graciously honored her request not to beta read any more of my novels featuring Marc as the protagonist unless he gets horribly eviscerated or killed during the story.

Fortunately, the other nine readers responded more favorably to Marc (and most of the other characters); and save for one section all ten readers flagged as needing serious revision, they agreed it was a well-constructed novel.

For their efforts, I thanked each reader by name on the Acknowledgments page and gave each an inscribed copy of the finished book (except that one reader who never responded to my email asking for an address to send her book; I’m guessing she’s still busy wishing Marc a slow and painful death).

Next week we’ll talk a little about the kinds of questions to ask, and what to do/how to proceed once you’ve gotten responses from your beta readers.

For now, happy writing!

About the Author: Rita M. Reali is an author and longtime professional editor who most enjoys editing memoir, general fiction and romance, along with inspirational writing. She’s self-published three novels: Glimpse of Emerald, Diagnosis: Love and The Unintended Hero – the first three in the seven-volume Sheldon Family Saga – and her fourth novel, Second Chances, is due out this summer. As a former disc jockey in her native Connecticut, Rita used to spend her days “talking to people who weren’t there” – a skill which transferred perfectly to her being an author. Now she talks to characters who aren’t there on “a little chunk of heaven in rural Tennessee.”

Must My Antagonist Be Human?

May 1, 2021

The question of an antagonist’s humanity arises more than you might expect. And I don’t just mean whether your antagonist behaves in vicious and inhumane ways; I’ve found they often do. No, what I’m talking about is the non-human antagonist.

Oh, you mean like a dragon or something?

Not exactly.

Oh, then you mean like Godzilla or King Kong… right?

Both of those are good guesses, but – again – no.

Well, what then?

As K.M. Weiland describes in her blog post, What If Your Antagonist Isn’t a Person? classic antagonists – driving forces against a protagonist – include animals (or other beasts), nature (including weather), setting, society, technology (think Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey), the supernatural… or even himself.

Weiland prefers to call such non-human antagonists the “antagonistic force,” which makes perfect sense to me.

But those seven types of antagonistic forces don’t exactly make up a comprehensive list from which to choose when selecting an antagonist for your story.

Throughout literature (and, more recently, film), writers have pitted their protagonists against Time. Or Emotion. Or even Physical Constraint. Chances are, if you can dream it up, it can become the opposing force for your protagonist.

However, it’s important to remember this: The antagonist’s entire raison d’être (at least within the scope of your story) is to keep your protagonist from reaching his goal. If that’s not his sole purpose, then you don’t have an antagonist; you’ve merely got a villain.

And while “villain” and “antagonist” are sometimes used interchangeably, that’s not exactly accurate. A villain is a bad guy, but he doesn’t necessarily have to be the antagonist. Likewise, sometimes an antagonist isn’t evil, per se; he’s simply standing in the protagonist’s way and preventing him from attaining his goal.

In discussing one of my works in progress with my coach yesterday, I made an astonishing discovery: The character I’d expected to be my antagonist in Tender Mercies (the fifth book in the Sheldon Family Saga) has turned out not to fit into that role. Not at all. I say this with absolute certainty because, despite their evil façades, antagonists are supposed to have at least one redeeming quality. And – trust me on this – that guy possessed zero redeeming qualities… and he thoroughly deserved the exit he got. He was just a villain. A really dreadful villain, to be sure, but a villain nonetheless.

I discovered the actual antagonist is a combination of fear and faithlessness… and my protagonist, Gary Sheldon, works diligently to help two teenagers (who trust him implicitly) vanquish those two elements.

Without becoming overtly preachy, each novel within the seven-volume Sheldon Family Saga has a strong underlying faith element. Tender Mercies opens with Gary tidying up the classroom after his first-grade religious-ed students have left… when a former student approaches him with a faith crisis. Less than a week later, he’s faced with another former student’s equally pressing dilemma. Gee, nothing like having back-to-back inciting events, huh? Oh, and did I mention the wife who’s not exactly thrilled about his devoting so much time to his former students (especially when he’s got his own brood of kids at home)?

So, in answer to the question posed above: No, your antagonist doesn’t need to be human. And the next time you find yourself puzzling over who the antagonist in your story might be, don’t discount the real possibility of its being a non-human entity.

Who’s your favorite non-human antagonist?

Teach the World What You Know: 3 Tips for Creating a Positive Mindset

April 24, 2021

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
– Benjamin Franklin

What’s holding you back from writing your book that can greatly benefit the world: Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of not being a good-enough writer? Fear that you’re not expert enough?

Believe it or not, most book authors struggle with mindset roadblocks at some point. Even more experienced writers can struggle with a roadblock or insecurities. I’ve met plenty of book authors who label themselves as introverted and I shake my head in shock because that’s not the image they portray; that’s the ultimate “fake it ’til you make it” thinking.

Lifting mental roadblocks can be done with some daily habits and positive self-talk. Here are three tips you can implement right now in your daily life to create a positive mindset:

1. Fill your day with positive affirmations. A quick online search will give you thousands of affirmations to choose from, but you can start with a few that resonate with you. Post them anywhere in your home where you’ll see them often. Say one or more as you get ready in the morning. Take five minutes of quiet time during the day to say affirmations or to enjoy a short, guided meditation. If you get stressed during the day, walk away from your desk and start repeating your affirmations. The more you repeat them, the more your brain will believe them to be true.

2. Surround yourself with positive, authentic people. You don’t need a bunch of fake friends telling you how great you are; instead, find authors, colleagues, coaches or other friends who genuinely try to lift people up and make the world a better place. Their positivity will rub off on you and sometimes all you need is a quick five-minute phone call to one of these positive people to lift you from your funk.

3. Connect with your tribe; they are the ones who WANT to hear from you. We are all experts at something, even if we’re self-taught and don’t have an official degree. We learn a lot from our life experiences, which translates into expertise. Even if you feel like you have more to learn about your chosen specialty, you still know more than your tribe, and they follow YOU because of your style and authenticity.

Are there other experts in the online world in your field of interest? For sure, but don’t let their celebrity, status or number of social-media followers intimidate you. Share your message far and wide and your tribe will find you.

While you’re testing out these tips, start a brainstorm list of book ideas. You don’t need to know formats or specifics of how to create a book yet; simply jot down ideas that would help your ideal reader. Somewhere in that list is a book begging to be written, on the topic your audience desperately needs to learn more about.

Work on growing this list until you feel inspired to write your book and teach the world what you know!

About the Author:
Linda Berry is the owner, consultant, coach, trainer and reader for the Spiritual Discovery Center in Southern California. She’s an international astrologer, summit & podcast host, and spiritual & inspirational book author. She’s also the owner of Book Authors Support Services (BASS), through which she guides authors in writing, publishing and marketing their books by developing an author “plan of action” that includes manuscript development and writing, the publishing path and the execution of advertising, public relations and promotion of the book. Contact Linda at 951-665-7600 or lindaberry_@hotmail.com.

Autobiography vs. Memoir: Telling the Difference is a Piece of Cake

April 18, 2021

Over the years, several folks have asked me what the difference is between an autobiography and a memoir. While the difference is subtle, it’s generally not hard to differentiate between the two… if you know what to look for.

When explaining editing and writing, I love to use food analogies. If we can view an autobiography as encompassing the whole of someone’s life – an entire cake, so to speak – a memoir could be considered a slice of that cake, because it covers one specific segment of the author’s life… a piece of cake, as it were. (See? I told you it was a piece of cake!)

I’ve had two different clients ask me to edit their memoirs. Both turned out to be autobiographies. While it’s not a big deal, from an editing standpoint, the main differences are in the overall length and the scope of the manuscripts. And that becomes an issue later, in the publication and marketing phases. Perhaps we’ll discuss that in a future post.

While a memoir should be as long as necessary to tell your story, a typical one often weighs in at between 60,000 and 70,000 words… sometimes shorter.

According to the August 2020 post, “How Long Should Your Memoir Be,” by Ron Seybold, some riveting memoirs will hold readers’ attention through as much as 130,000 words. Jeanette Walls’ riveting memoir, The Glass Castle, weighs in at a hefty 100,000 words. At the other end of the spectrum, some memoirs are complete at 50,000 words or less. It just comes down to the space you need to tell your particular story. But, no matter how long (or short) your memoir is, the main thing to remember is you’ve got to tell a compelling story.

Here are some excellent tips from Anne R. Allen for penning your memoir.

An autobiography can generally be longer than a memoir – perhaps as much as 90,000 words. But be careful when sitting down to pen your autobiography. Unless you’re a major celebrity (think Elton John or Michael Jordan), no one will care about every detail of your childhood, your first-grade teacher’s flaky-skin condition or your first summer job – unless you juggled rattlesnakes in a traveling circus. Or you answered a vague-sounding classified ad in the mid-’70s and ended up getting hired as personal valet and joint-roller to Cheech and Chong.

Just because something happened when you were five and you remember every detail about it (for instance, the color of the dress your mother wore the afternoon she got stopped for speeding [in her blue ’73 Chevy Camaro] by that cute cop while headed to Haverly’s Shoe Emporium across town for its annual 50-percent-off sale on Frye boots), it doesn’t mean you necessarily have to write about it.

I’m presently doing some major pruning on an autobiography. The manuscript arrived as two documents – each about 250 pages long and roughly 76,000 words. After my first edit, I had the first one down to 200 pages and 71,000 words. Now I’ve pulled out the heavy equipment (I affectionately call them my “literary loppers”) and have already slashed 39 pages and 15,000 words… and I’m ready to take a second pass to trim out more verbiage. I just need to head out to my literary toolshed to sharpen those loppers.

So, in answer to the question, “How long should my memoir be?” I often say, “Gee, I don’t know. How long is a piece of string?” And the answer to that is: “It depends what you’re going to do with it.”

Have questions for The Persnickety Proofreader? Ask away. I love answering reader questions!

Gone: The Last Vestiges of My Childhood

April 9, 2021

The unimaginable has occurred.

The last remaining chunk of my childhood disappeared this morning. To be accurate, it happened a few weeks ago – but I was utterly unaware of it until a little before 10 this morning.

I was answering a question during a talk on editing I was giving at the Tennessee Mountain Writers annual conference. Someone had asked about storytelling in children’s fiction, and I’d used the example of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series – and how she never talked (or, more accurately, wrote) down to her audience; she always met readers on their level, where they were. And I happened to mention, “She’s got a birthday coming up on Monday, I believe.”

And that’s when it happened. One participant said, in a sort of offhand manner, “No, she died recently.”

For a moment, I sat in shock. Then I let out an anguished, “Nooooo!” as the last of my childhood evaporated.

My favorite childhood author, the woman who’d always, always been there – from long before I was born – was suddenly no longer there. She’d died fifteen days earlier, on March 25… a scant few weeks shy of her 105th birthday.

A few folks in the editing session said they’d read about her passing on Facebook, or on other sites. I later found out (after looking it up on Stiffs.com, my favorite snarky/macabre source for news of the dead) she died the day I learned of the death of my best friend since high school… so I was kind of preoccupied and my mind was in a bit of a muddled fog. But this morning’s announcement still scuttled me.

Some of my earliest memories of loving to read came about as a result of Beverly Cleary’s fiction. Some of my happiest childhood memories involve the Ramona books. And it should come as no shock her much-beloved “Ramona the Pest” character reminded my older sister and her friends of me. And honestly, Beezus and her pal Henry Huggins more or less reminded me of my sister and Carl Urbanski, who lived two houses up. Except, Carl didn’t have a mutt like Ribsy; he had two unclipped poodles (one beige, the other chocolate brown) named Loopy and Cocoa.

Ramona Quimby, Age 8Ramona and Her MotherRamona and Her FatherBeezus and Ramona… These were the stories I devoured as a child. And when I finished with them, I started on the Henry and Ribsy books, and eventually moved on to read about the other denizens of Klickitat Street (which, by the way, is the name of an actual street in Portland, Oregon, around the corner from where Cleary grew up). And in the past few years, my guilty pleasure has been re-reading those Ramona books. My friend Linda (a grandmother of 10 or 12 kids), who maintains an enviable array of Cleary’s books, graciously lent me several of them, which I gulped down with excessive delight, eager for more! Having never had children of my own, I had little cause to amass a copious supply of children’s books, so I’ve come to rely on raiding my friends’ stashes.

One day soon, I may venture out to the Art Circle Public Library, or perhaps the Book Cellar, in search of some of Cleary’s other books.

If you’ve got young readers in your life, do them a favor and get them started on Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series right away. They’ll thank you for it. And you might even rekindle your love for Ramona once the kiddos have gone to sleep.

Elegy for a Friend

April 3, 2021

Admittedly, the title’s a misnomer on two fronts: A) While this piece is, in fact, a lament of sorts, it’s not a poem and it certainly doesn’t rhyme. And 2) Jackie Corning Miller wasn’t just “a friend.” She’d been one of my best friends since the first day of high school 40-plus years ago.

Yes, I realize I said “A)” and “2)” – I’ve done that for years.

My first memory of Jackie was when she tumbled out of her mother’s tangerine sedan that early-September morning forty-three and a half years ago. She looked as scared as the rest of us in her blue gabardine skirt and vest as we milled about the front entrance to Mary Immaculate Academy.

She came over to where I stood engaged in nervous chit-chat with Nellie, a short senior with wire-rimmed glasses, a green uniform skirt and vest, and crisp white blouse (at the end of junior year, students got to choose the color of their senior-year uniforms).

“Hi,” she declared with a perfunctory wave, not even glancing backward as her mother’s vehicle navigated the circular drive and exited the grounds. “I’m Jackie.”

I introduced myself and commented on her mother’s interesting-hued car.

“It’s her favorite color,” she said with an apologetic smirk and a roll of her eyes.

We bonded like anxious ions in an elemental stew.

By sophomore year, Jackie and I had similarly bonded with Eileen (whom I’d gotten to know late in freshman year) and Christopher, this quirky guy who started at MIA that year. Inseparable, our laughter would ring throughout the hallways as we’d migrate from class to class.

Around November, we made it our mission to drive the nuns nuts. I strung a pair of jingle bells into the laces of my shoes; Eileen sewed several into the hem of her skirt; Christopher wore them inside his tie; and Jackie’s dangled from her hoop earrings. Now in addition to laughter, we’d jingle through the corridors. Eventually Sister Felicitas (the school principal) caught me and the jig was up.

It seemed Jackie was almost always the last to know about anything that was going on. Sometimes at lunch, I’d ask her, “Are you going to the dance?” and her inevitable response would be, “What dance?” Even years later, when there was clearly no dance, I’d ask her that at random intervals and she’d never fail to ask, “What dance?” While I was cracking up, she’d make that “you got me again” face and shake her head.

After high school, we might have gone our separate ways, but Jackie was tenacious about maintaining her friendships. When I went away to school near Boston, and she and Christopher would lament about how much they missed me, nothing would keep us apart. One Saturday night, I got a call about 10:00. It was Jackie saying they missed me and were on their way up to see me. “Great!” I said. “Tomorrow we can go into Boston.” “Oh, we’re not staying,” she said. It seemed silly for them to drive all that way just to turn around and go home. “You’re coming with us,” Christopher told me. I should have known better than to argue.

Two hours later, they showed up at my dorm room, grinning. We piled into the car and, after driving for half an hour, realized we were in the middle of Boston because Christopher had zero sense of direction. We finally arrived at Jackie’s parents’ house around four in the morning, about the time her dad was leaving for work. We trooped upstairs and fell asleep, waking up in time to crash my grandfather’s birthday party. Afterward, we went to a movie (we saw “An Officer and a Gentleman”) and out for a lovely steak dinner, then they drove me back to school.

Another time, they drove up for a weekend afternoon. I played flute in our ragtag pep band, and we were performing at a football game when I noticed familiar smiles on the people waving at me from the other end of the bleachers.

After college, we embarked on adventures in Hartford, and danced ’til all hours at the Comet.

We survived boyfriends and heartbreaks and bad decisions and good decisions and dogs and laughter and tears and apartments and houses and husbands and infertility and pregnancy loss and, later, friends’ and parents’ funerals… and through it all, the friendships remained strong, although the miles between us grew. Little by little the time between phone calls expanded. The last time I talked to Jackie was February 8. By then, the nightly dialysis and congestive heart failure had weakened my lively friend to the point where she was sleeping “a lot of the time.” When I called, the phone jangled her from sleep. She called me back later and we talked for 45 minutes. She told me she was on a transplant list for a new kidney… but they’d cautioned it would take about seven years.

I knew better than to tell her I was praying for her. I’d said that a year or so back and she blasted me with, “Cut out that prayer crap! I don’t believe in that @&#*^!” Thereafter, Eileen and I kept our copious daily prayers on Jackie’s behalf to ourselves… but we never stopped praying for her.

A little over a week ago – shortly after 11 a.m. on March 25 – my phone rang. When I answered it and heard sobbing, I knew something was terribly wrong. Eileen was calling to say Jackie had died… a week earlier – and her husband had, just minutes earlier, called to tell her.

Right about now, Jackie’s enjoying a grand reunion with Christopher. According to her obituary, there won’t be any calling hours, but they’ll have a celebration of life… at some point. Being 900 miles away, I probably can’t be there; but that’s okay. She’ll remain forever in my heart, that sweet girl with the infectious laugh and the smile that could light up a galaxy. Jackie was always her own celebration of life.

Set Your Goal NOW to Write Your Book

March 26, 2021

“Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.”
– W. Clement Stone

Think writing a book is hard? You may be right, but you know you can do it. The hurdle of planning out a manuscript and then a writing schedule shouldn’t stop you from your goal of becoming a book author. People have done harder things.

Setting goals is a task everyone ought to embrace. Whether you do it for a specific project (like writing a book), or at various times throughout the year, knowing what you want in life will prevent that feeling of just floating through each day without purpose. Knowing your purpose and goals motivates you to wake up and take action every single day. Just imagine waking up one day knowing you overcame your obstacles to writing your first book, or second, or third – it’ll feel great!

Setting goals in every aspect of your life will keep you focused on what you want, whether it’s about getting your book finished or increasing your business profits – perhaps from the completed book. Knowing what you want allows you to put action steps in place. Below are some examples of people who have set goals and overcome hurdles to achieve those goals.

If you’re feeling defeated with not reaching your goals in the past, don’t worry. Even the most successful celebrities and business owners have seen their own failures; but they continue to set goals anyway.

After all, nothing happens in life without taking action.

Successful People Who Set Goals and Worked Through Setbacks

Entertainer extraordinaire Beyoncé keeps a photograph of an Academy Award by her treadmill, where she sees it every day. In 2013 she won an Oscar for the theme song to the James Bond movie, Skyfall.

Michael Jordan, arguably one of the best professional basketball players of all time, was rejected by his high-school basketball varsity team because he was too short. Told he would never play at that level, Michael trained even harder and visualized his name in a professional locker room.

Walt Disney was laughed at by many bankers when he proposed his idea for the DisneyWorld theme park. The last laugh is on them because today the entire Disney franchise – including the many theme parks, movies, and merchandise – are worth many billions of dollars.

J.K. Rowling, known for writing the Harry Potter series, couldn’t get book publishers to talk to her. Depending on food stamps to survive, she finally found a publisher who agreed to publish her book after the publisher’s daughter started reading the book and became entranced.

Count Your Failures as Lessons Learned

Thomas Edison is another person who was labeled as “stupid” by his teachers; yet at one point, he held more than 1,000 patents for his inventions. Most famous for inventing the light bulb, Edison is also known for having said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

You may not have reached every goal you set, but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying. Setting a goal with a specific purpose – such as writing a book – is a definite starting point. And remember to revise your goals when needed and always take the necessary action steps toward reaching them. You’ll get there sooner than you think!

About the Author
Linda Berry is the owner, consultant, coach, trainer and reader for the Spiritual Discovery Center in Southern California. She’s an international astrologer, podcast & summit host, and spiritual & inspirational book author. She also owns Book Authors Support Services (BASS), where she guides authors in writing, publishing and marketing their books by developing a “plan of action” that includes manuscript development and writing, the publishing path and the execution of advertising, public relations and promotion of the book. She may be reached at 951-665-7600 or lindaberry_@hotmail.com

Afflicted by the Dreaded Writer’s Block

March 20, 2021

I’ve long asserted writer’s block results from uncooperative characters’ refusal to participate in the creative process. However, today I find myself having to admit sometimes it’s not their fault. Gary’s not being bratty or cantankerous, and it’s not that Marc has nothing to say (in either English or Portuguese). This one’s all on me. I’ve simply not been focused on writing.

These past several months, I’ve been actively writing two novels – Tender Mercies and Brothers by Betrayal – books five and six in the Sheldon Family Saga. Happily cruising along, since January 29 I’ve written slightly over 11,000 words in Tender Mercies. While it’s not exactly magnificent, given that it’s been six weeks, my word count for Brothers by Betrayal is slightly more impressive: Since January 15, I’ve logged nearly 27,000 words.

But this past week, I hit a literary wall. I wrote a shocking number of words. Zero. In either manuscript. Yeah, you read right. Zero words. Zilch. Nada. The big goose egg. Which is really disappointing… especially since I’ve been on kind of a writing tear since last April. In 30 days – April 27 to May 26 – I cranked out just short of 42,500 words, to finish the manuscript of The Unintended Hero (three weeks ahead of schedule, I might add). Alas, that’s not going to happen this year.

In my defense, my mind has been on other things. I’ve been working on editing and layout projects for various clients… estimating new editing projects for prospective clients… catching up on projects I let slide during the Women In Publishing Summit earlier this month… cleaning the house in advance of a house guest’s arrival next weekend… preparing two presentations I’ll be delivering at the upcoming Tennessee Mountain Writers Conference (which is all online this year)… and a doctor’s appointment an hour away in Knoxville. Plus, my husband and I are rather fond of regular meals… and they’re not going to prepare themselves.

But perhaps the biggest reason I’ve let my personal writing take a back seat is both books have reached difficult situations and I hate to put characters I love in painful scenarios. I know it’s for their own good (and for the sake of the story), but it pains me to see them having to endure hardships and emotional distress.

This coming week I’ve got three projects to tackle, including a proofreading project for a nonprofit group and a memoir edit for a new client. I guess I need to suck it up, put my blinders on and not get distracted by what’s not important.

Fortunately, next week guest blogger Linda Berry will be back to save me from myself.

In the meantime, when you hit a metaphorical wall with your writing (or other stuff that’s important to you), how do you overcome it?

And speaking of things metaphorical, here’s a clip (or should I say another clip?) from Guardians of the Galaxy that illustrates Drax the Destroyer’s inability to process metaphors. It’s purely for your entertainment… and because it always makes me giggle.

But now I suppose I should take it off endless loop and get back to work.

It’s Time for a Bit of Silliness

March 13, 2021

You know how sometimes you just don’t feel like doing anything serious? Well, today I don’t feel like writing a blog post. Call it boredom. Call it writer’s block. I just don’t feel like it. Yeah, yeah, I know: I’m a serious professional with vital writing and editing information to impart to my readers and… blah, blah, blah. <insert eye roll here>

I don’t know about you, but I could use some levity and amusement right about now. So today’s blog post will be devoted entirely to jokes, puns and other random silliness. If you’re looking for serious, click here. Or here. Or even here. The rest of this post is all about fun.

Mountains… they’re not just funny; they’re hill areas.

Sticks float. They wood.

Time flies like arrows, but fruit flies like bananas.

Math humor: What did 0 say to 8? “Nice belt.”

Why are foot soldiers so tired on April 1? You’d be tired too, after a 31-day march.

An old Russian couple was watching the news one winter night when Rudy, the red-headed meteorologist, predicted rain all day long, with temperatures remaining below freezing. “Why, that’s just ridiculous,” the man scoffed. “With the temperature below freezing, it would be snow.” But the wife shook her head. “Oh, no, dear,” she replied seriously, “It’ll be rain. I’m certain of it. After all, Rudolph the Red knows rain, dear.”

I just heard a report on the local news that sometime overnight, thieves broke in to the police department, disabled the security cameras and stole all the toilet seats in the place. No fingerprints were left at the scene and no suspects were identified. Investigators are baffled. Apparently, they’ve got nothing to go on.

I’m suing the Girl Scouts for false advertising. I ate a whole box of their Thin Mints and they didn’t work.

Then someone told me I could go to the paint aisle in the hardware store to get thinner. I’ve been going there every day for two weeks and that hasn’t helped yet, either.

St. Patrick’s Day humor:
What’s Irish and stays out all summer? Paddy O’Furniture.
There’s a new Irish florist in town. Phil O’Dendron.

My bicycle can’t stand up by itself because it’s two tired.

Two TV antennas got married. The ceremony was just okay, but the reception was terrific!

Speaking of weddings, I attended a really emotional wedding a few months back. Even the cake was in tiers.

Let me preface this next story by saying archeologists are a group of people who really dig their work. 🙂 Archeologists in Vienna recently exhumed Mozart’s body. They were astounded to find a little old man hunched over a piece of sheet music, working away with an eraser. “Wolfgang!” they cried. “What are you doing?” Mozart looked up at them, gave a shrug and said, “What do you think I’m doing? I’m decomposing!”

And finally, I’ve recently become proficient at knitting while I’m driving. One day last week, I was driving along on the highway, knitting, when a police cruiser pulled up alongside me. The cop rolled down his window, pointed toward the side of the road and yelled, “Hey, lady! Pull over!” I shook my head and showed him my half-finished project. “No,” I replied. “Cardigan!”

Okay, enough of these silly yarns. You may now resume your regularly scheduled serious adult day. But before you go, please post a reply, sharing your favorite joke or pun.