Ruminations about Feedback

As any successful author knows, feedback is the key to quality.

I’ll be perfectly honest here. I struggle to take feedback well. Criticism, even constructive criticism, makes me cringe. I have always had a very thin skin. I’m easily hurt, and my reactions have cheated me out of some very valuable lessons. When I hear something I don’t like, and I feel hurt because of it, I put up a mental wall. Information starts bouncing off as I close my mental doors. I’m not interested in input. Instead, I’m focusing on how much I feel hurt and how I can make it stop.

This has been disastrous for me. I’ve said really nasty things to people because I’ve been so desperate to stop them from hurting me, even when they weren’t really doing that.  It’s never ended well. Then, instead of only one of us feeling hurt, then both of us feel hurt, and the relationship is seriously damaged, all because I hadn’t made the little adjustment needed.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Nobody has to feel hurt. Here’s how I’ve gotten around this over-sensitivity, so that I’ve been able to accept the valuable information that feedback gives. My trick is to shift my focus. Instead of thinking “This person is trying to tear me down,” I think “This person and I are trying to improve this book together.”

In short, I depersonalize. I take the information as important information that I can use to make things better. I give up the idea that my work is perfect in every way from the very start, no one’s work ever is. Editing is a good, normal part of the writing process. I knew a person who refused to change a single line of his work. His writing was terrible! To this day he hasn’t sold a single copy. Don’t be like him.

Feedback is valuable. Embrace it. Whether you take the advice or not, think about it, really consider it. It can be frustrating to edit your book over and over, but it doesn’t have to hurt emotionally. This simple mental shift takes practice to master, but you will have plenty of chances to do so. In the end, you’ll have a book to be proud of.


Via Daily Prompt: Ruminate

Vivid Descriptions Draw a Reader In

During my role playing session last night, an interesting topic came up.  We started talking about different ways to make vivid descriptions.  Anyone who has done tabletop role playing knows that if the person running the game can’t describe things well, it creates a boring game.  The same is true for novels, essays, really anything that is written.  It’s even true, in slightly different way, for paintings and drawings.

Accurate Descriptions

The key to vividness is accuracy.  Have the scene firmly in mind, thinking of all the details about it, and then describe the scene while trying to engage the audience’s senses.  Think about what it would look like, sound like, feel like.  Then think about first impressions.  You might get something like this:

“She stood on a sandy, lemon colored plain, vainly blinking to clear the fine, flourlike dust that lifted in swirls and puffs every time she made a move.  As she wrapped her scarf firmly about her nose and mouth, she looked around at the looming, knifelike mountains.  Even from this distance, they looked like black obsidian, carved and tortured by time.  Her mouth tasted like dust and she shivered in the thin wind.”

The audience knows what flour is like, they’ve all had dust in their mouth, they may know what obsidian looks like and even if they don’t, they know what black looks like.  They have a higher chance of connecting with the character with this paragraph than if you said

“She was standing on a yellow plain.  She had dust in her eyes and it made her blink.  She wrapped her scarf around her face and looked at the mountains, which were dark and brooding.  It was cold.”

Active vs. Passive voice

The above paragraphs also demonstrate the difference between active and passive voice.  I’m really not the queen of active voice, yet I know that when I use it in my writing, things come alive.  Everything becomes more vivid.

Avoid Cliche

When you use a cliche, your reader stops thinking.  You want your reader to stay engaged with what you have to say.  So try to avoid cliches whenever possible.  Cliches also lead to inaccuracy.  The conversation I mentioned at the beginning of this article started about a cliche.  In describing a planet, I had said it was a “blue green marble hanging before you in space, a golden yellow sun shining beyond.”

My player had an epiphany and realized that not only is that a cliche, but it’s also inaccurate!  If both planet and sun are in front of you, you’d be viewing the dark side of the planet, with at best a crescent of light side showing.  So I came up with this description.

“Ahead of your ship, you see a razor thin blue green crescent, flecked with white, cradling a glowing black opal, the golden primary shining beyond.”

Much better, more evocative, and no cliche to be found.


In general, it’s best to engage your reader’s senses and keep them interested in your story. Avoiding over-used phrases will help a lot.  Put yourself in the story, see, hear and feel what’s around you in your imagination, and your readers will be able to do the same.  Good description can make your writing truly come alive!

Bonus: how to be vivid – for artists

Many of these tips can be used when you are painting or drawing, too.  Contrast is important if you are trying to make a strong visual impression.  Pay attention to where the light falls, where the shadows lie, and how deep they are.  Careful observation will help you here.  Even if you make art from your imagination, observing real world things can make your art great.  Faithful depiction of the details can make the same difference that good description does in a story.  All my favorite artists pay attention to contrast and also small details.  Sure, that swordsman has a belt, but are there signs of wear on it?  Are his boots new, or are they a bit slouched, scuffed, and dusty?  You get the idea.


via Daily Prompt: Vivid

Doubting the quality of your book blurb?

If so, you’re not alone.  Many authors hate writing blurbs. However, a good blurb will give your book its best chances for a sale.

Even with the best cover, a bad blurb will send potential readers running away screaming, never to return. On the other hand, a good one lets the reader know why they should be interested in the book and piques their curiosity without giving too much away.

It’s worth the time spent learning how to write a good one.  A blurb is great to have for many reasons. You use it for your book page, for your ads, and you can use it on any handbills/bookmarks/etc, in full or in part. You can use it author interviews, query letters, back cover matter, ads in the back of your books, you name it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve copied and pasted mine, or parts of mine, for various purposes.

We all know what looks bad.  It’s easy to conjure visions of terrible book blurbs. Bad ones are filled with misused or misspelled words, poor grammar, poor punctuation, run on sentences, choppy sentences, and more.  You can do better!

So, what makes a good blurb, anyway?

It should quickly summarize your book and introduce the plot. There should be no repeated information. An interesting sentence at the beginning, to use as a “hook,” is great too.

Something like

“The World will end on a Saturday.”

“Winged horses may be common, but not if they can talk.”

“Everything seemed normal until I noticed the dragon under my bed.”

“The contagion is coming.”

If you can hook your reader and make them wonder, that’s a good step. Your cover and your blurb work together to draw your readers in. It can take ten or twelve rewrites until you’ve written a good one. The best way to learn is to practice, while reading as many other blurbs as you can. Notice what works. Notice what doesn’t. Notice how others in your genre are writing them.

Here are some basic tips for creating a good one.

Identify the main character by name.
Tell a bit about where they are.
Mention their primary goal in the plot.
What challenges do they have to overcome?
What are they doing to overcome them?
What is at stake?
Keep your blurb short. 3-6 sentences works well.

Here is an example of a blurb I wrote, with the help of some fine folks at a Goodreads writer’s group. It’s not a perfect example, but essentially follows these rules, including the one for length.

Before the fateful phone call, Daphne’s greatest worries were limited to making rent, making art, and what to feed her finicky Siamese. During an otherwise unremarkable shift, a particularly hateful voice coming through her phone line unleashes shadowy horrors that threaten her sanity, her workplace, and eventually her entire city. Daphne and two unlikely companions, a tattooed metalhead and a ditzy nurse, must find a way to free themselves from the curse or face a world of endless fear, blinding fog and deadly phantoms!


If you mention bios, many authors will groan.

A good bio is much easier to write if you approach it like a blurb. Cover the essentials, pique readers’ curiosity, and communicate who you are and why people will find your work interesting.

Basics for bios:

Your name
Brief history of accomplishments.
Brief discussion of your interests.
A line or two about latest work, if appropriate.
Keep it short, just like in the blurb.

Rohvannyn Shaw has been an avid reader for her entire life. Raised by two writers, a love of literacy permeated her childhood. With this background, it was inevitable that she would eventually turn her hand to the family trade. She has written several novels and edited both fiction and non fiction books. Apart from paying the bills by working in a call center, she is also an artist and illustrator, and happily soaks up the Arizona heat with her partner. She is currently owned by a fluffy calico who graciously allows her to maintain her Mindflight blog.

Now, get out there and do better than that!

via Daily Prompt: Doubt

Via Memoir notes: tips for self published authors

Originally posted on Adidas Wilson: Self-published authors are sometimes ill-prepared or don’t know what to expect when they approach booksellers about selling their titles, signing events, policy, etc. To be successful in pitching their books to booksellers, self-published authors should have a sense of the resources available to booksellers, what is appealing to them, and…

via Eight things booksellers would like self-published authors to know — Memoir Notes

It’s a beautiful day to squat in the backyard…

…the sun is shining, the hummingbirds are visiting the feeder, and the temperature is warm and lovely.

In between trips to my backyard, it’s time to plan the next steps for my blog, my editing business, and the spring garden.  I’ve done a little spring cleaning around Mindflight, reworking the banner and updating the pages.  I hope you enjoy them!

New updates include a page just for authors, editing and proofreading services, and a new book all about self publishing!  It’s available as we speak for only 99 cents.  Mindflight is here to support creativity.  I love my fellow authors, artists and creators, and I want to help them by offering resources.  This book does all that.  Feel free to check it out, or check out the new author page!

Happy Spring!



Useful Tips for Writers

Originally posted on Steven Capps: As a warning, I am writing the rough draft of this post on my IPhone while I do cardio at the gym (cue gym selfie below). I am trying to be more efficient and thought that this would be a good time to get in some writing. Earlier today, I…

via 6 Signs of Scam Publishers — Die Erste Eslarner Zeitung – Aus und über Eslarn, sowie die bayerisch-tschechische Region!

How to Self-Publish: eBooks and Kindle

Most of my discussion so far has been regarding paperback books. However, it’s pretty simple to also offer eBooks, and a great way to increase your readership, as well as give more value to your customer.

Converting files to eBook

It’s not hard to use a converter like Calibre and convert your existing PDF to ePub, and offer it as a file on your own site.  Calibre is free and simple to use.  It’s just a few mouse clicks to do most conversions.

However, and Kindle Direct Publishing also offer ways of doing that, as do many of the other self publishing sites.

CreateSpace makes it especially easy to offer an eBook of your work. At the end of your publishing process, they will ask if you want them to convert your existing work to Kindle. Then they send you over to Kindle Direct Publishing, where you can set your prices and territories. You have to wait about a day for review on those as well but it’s not a big deal. There is no fee for that either.

You can even offer a package where someone can get an ebook version of your book, either cheaply or for free, when they buy a print copy.

Kindle Select

When you tell them to bring your book over to Kindle, I highly recommend taking a copy of your book and converting it to .doc. That makes a much better looking product and the Kindle software has an easier time converting. LibreOffice does that easily, it’s just a matter of hitting “save as” and selecting “.doc” in the file dropdown.

You will also be offered to join Kindle Select. I usually do this as it offers some great benefits. It lets you run promotions for your book at no cost to you, lets you take a bigger cut of the profits, and gives you more sales options. The only tradeoff is you are agreeing to only sell your eBook on Kindle while you are a member of Kindle Select, but it’s a limited term in case you change your mind later. I’ve never regretted it.

Kindle Select also makes your book free to people who have Amazon Prime. You’re still paid when they read it – you are paid a proportion of the profits, which usually works out to be about a half a cent per page. It’s great to be able to say to your buyers “check out my book for free if you already have the Kindle subscription.”

If you end up using CreateSpace, your paperback and Kindle versions will show up on the same Amazon listing and that makes it really easy for customers to pick what they want.  It also means that if a person reviews your paperback version, that review will be visible on the Kindle version, and vice versa.

eBook covers

The only other note about eBooks as opposed to print books, is the cover is a little different. You only need the front half of the cover. I generally go into Gimp, use rectangle select to isolate the part I want, hit “crop to image,” save that new file, then boom. Done.

Some people do the Kindle or eBook version first, then set up a paperback later, some do the other way around.  Either way is fine.  Kindle Direct Publishing is starting a feature where they convert your Kindle boosk to paperback without you having to use CreateSpace, but that option is currently very new and I haven’t used it yet.