Tag Archives: writing

Writing Reviews Equals Selling Power

Going into a purchase blind isn’t something people usually do nowadays. More and more, buyers look for the stars before shelling out their hard earned cash. And rightfully so, as nothing stinks worse than spending your dough on subpar products.

However, I look beyond the stars to the review itself. I want to know why people love–or hate–a product. I want to know how it fits and how it holds up. I want to know the nitty-gritty as well as the undying lust. In short, reviews are the cyber-sphere’s version of word of mouth.

So, do your fellow buyers a favor and review the products you’ve purchased. Be honest, but not callous. Or, conversely, not all gushy-mushy. Give solid reasons for your likes and dislikes. Share whether you would purchase the product again or whether you’d buy it for your Aunt Harriet. Lastly, don’t forget to mention the reason why.

The why is the key to a good review.

  • Super cute, but the craftsmanship seems shoddy. The sole separated from the shoe within a week.
  • The skirt was the perfect length for my 5’2″ frame. Too often mini skirts on me are maxi sized.
  • The phone case actually fit my LG G2. I had to search long and hard to find one that works for Verizon’s special size. (True story, which begs the question: Verizon, why is your version a different size than every other carrier’s? Seriously.)
  • Despite keeping me glued to every page, the end of this novel was a disappointment. I didn’t like that the story had no real resolution–not unless I buy the next novel in the trilogy.
  • The mugs were broken when I received them. The supplier immediately resent new ones, which my mother-in-law loves because they are smaller than most giving her time to drink her coffee before it cools.
  • Likeable characters, but no real depth. The perfect beach read that you can walk away from when you’re done.

Solid reasons that neither gush nor shame. Rather, they have a mixture of both. Now, as a buyer, I can pick and choose which products will likely satisfy me. And so can you. But only if people leave reviews for us to sort through.

Only if you and I take the time to review the products we buy.

Do negative reviews scare you away from buying a product? What types of information do you find most helpful in a review? Least helpful? Are you a reviewer, or more of a reader of reviews?

From the author standpoint, it’s been said that it takes 20 reviews (good, bad or indifferent) to impact sales and draw readers toward your writing. How do you garner reviews for your writing?

Curious minds want to know.

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Fluffing up yourself: scholarships and query letters

Dear Daughter has been working on scholarships recently, which has meant a lot of essays.

“I can’t write about myself,” she wails. “It seems so pompous and uppity.”

Yeah, making yourself look good on paper can feel a bit like you’re patting your own back. The trick is doing it in a way that highlights your accomplishments, passions and future plans without sounding like a one-upper.

How is this possible?

VERBS. Your verb choice is your best friend. Consider a line from one of Dear Daughter’s application.

I got first place at speech subsections.

True, but got isn’t her best option.

Received. A better choice by far, but still doesn’t reference the hard work that went into that First Place win.

Her final version: I earned a First Place medal at speech subsections.

All of those versions mean basically the same thing: she came home from a tournament with a first place. However, the connotations behind them morph her from a passive recipient to a hard-working, motivated medalist.

SPECIFICS. Adding the right details can also go a long way in making you sound like a great candidate without fluffing up your feathers. The simple addition of “medal” in the above statement makes Dear Daughter’s accomplishment feel more robust and prestigious.

CONSISTENCY. Far too often, we write as we speak. This can land us in a world of inconsistent patterns that are not noticeable when talking, but can be extremely distracting on paper. Punctuation and sentence structure while discussing similar ideas or listing activities or skills is super important. A comma here a semi-colon there. Added up, they prove you have no attention to detail–a desirable trait in writers, employees and scholarship recipients. Show your attention to detail by how you present your information, as this is far more impressive than reading the line, “I am detail oriented.”

TASK TALK, NOT BRAGGING RIGHTS. My daughter could easily say, “I’m one of the best students in my class,” or “I’m smart,” or “I rock at speech.” If she used these or similar phrases, she would just as easily turn off every committee considering her for scholarships.

Instead, she–and we–need to focus on what she’s learned or what she’s accomplished. For instance: “I rank in the top ten percent of my class.” Or, “Speech has provided me with strong communication skills as demonstrated by my various medals and honors over the past three years.”

So, while puffing up your chest on paper might feel awkward at first, concentrating on what you did (not who you think you are or want to be) and presenting it in a concise manner will help you remain in the running for top jobs, scholarships and book deals.

What other resume, scholarship or query writing tips do you have to make yourself stand out as a viable candidate, not a bragster?

Curious minds want to know.

National Novel Writing Month Begins

If you see my children panhandling on the street, please feed them and send them home. If they appear dirty and disoriented it’s because I’m ignoring them. Why? Because once again, I have challenged myself to write 50,000 plus words during the next thirty days.

Funny, since I’m not even sure what I’ll be writing about and NaNoWriMo started nearly twelve hours ago. As (if) my muse moves me, I’ll keep you posted.

Have you ever done anything so ridiculously challenging? How’d it turn out? Any tips for succeeding in the face of the near impossible?

Curious minds want to know.

Sealed Lips Sink Ships: pushing away support

So, I had an eye-opening experience this past week. With two novels under contract–one due out in a week and the other next year–I was feeling a little put out that my Dear Hubby wasn’t flapping his gums about my impending success.

Right? I mean, I’ve worked so hard to perfect my craft and piece together stories worthy of public consumption. Shouldn’t he be hanging from the streetlights with a megaphone?

Okay, part of that is a silly fairytale dream, but equal parts are true. As spouses, we support each other publicly and privately–except in this one small area. So, we sat down and had a heart to heart. Turns out, I’m the one who sealed his lips from years of being so guarded with my writing.

Scenario 1

  • Him: Whatcha working on?
  • Me: Nothing. Just stuff.

Scenario 2

  • Him: What did you get done today?
  • Me: Not enough.

Scenario 3

  • Him: What’s your new story about?
  • Me: Hmmm, it’s kind of hard to explain…

Scenario 4

  • Him: walks by as I peck at my computer
  • Me: covers screen in embarrassment

I could write a thousand and one more scenarios, but the point will always be the same. I. Am. Terrified.

I’m terrified to talk about my writing, to share my writing, to articulate where I’m at in the process. I am insanely scared of being judged when my work is incomplete. Once I’ve finished a piece–and by finished I mean polished to near perfection–I’m tolerably okay with sharing.

The problem is that by sitting behind my writing wall for so many years, I’ve shut him out. Him and probably other people as well. Not a good place to be when you’re gearing up to throw your baby onto the world’s bookshelves.

So I ask you, dear writers, have you locked your writing and your writing process behind fences and walls to the point where you feel isolated from those who would otherwise love to support you? If so, it’s time to throw the gates wide. The question is how…

If  you’re one of the smarter ones and have been open with your writing from the get-go, please share any tips you have so the rest of us can learn to gracefully and graciously accept the support we so desperately want, but so completely push away.

Curious minds need some help!

Little Dog. Big World.

I love reading. I love writing. I love the idea that Somebody Somewhere reads the words I write. And yet, it’s terrifying.

IMAG0260My stories are small dogs in the giant kennel of life. They are but an infinitesimal dot on the landscape of literature. The period at the end of a single sentence in the vastness of the Library of Congress.

Yet my hope is that Somebody Somewhere will be impacted–in a good way–by the tales I tell. But there’s so much great writing out there already that I worry how my words will hold up against the books on the world’s bookshelf.

Over the last decade, I’ve had short stories, poetry and articles published in various places under various names. This past year alone has been a bit of a rush with six short stories in four anthologies, a major project in the works and a debut novel coming out this fall under my alter ego.

And yet I wonder: how will you find my writing? Physically and emotionally. Will you stumble across it on someone’s coffee table, on an Amazon recommended list, on GoodReads or a blog? Will you hear about it because Someone Somewhere said, “Hey, you have to read this.”? Or, will it languish in the corner like a naughty, half-starved mutt in the kennel? You know the ones. The kind so ugly they hurt your sensibilities with a yappy bark so annoying your ears bleed. Yeah, those dogs.

Confession time: I am terrified that in addition to being a small dog in a big world, my writing is subpar at best.

Although, Someone Somewhere took a chance on me. I’ve had an agent. I’ve had editors. I’ve even got a publisher. What I seem to struggle with is the confidence to just flop down with the big dogs like I belong.

How do you gather the courage to pursue your passions despite the fears that go along with them? Are you as terrified of succeeding as you are of failing? Do you ever feel like a little dog in a big world?

Curious minds want to know.

That Moment When…

  • You walk out of the store and realize your sock is stuck to the Velcro on your pants pocket,
  • You thought you had your hand on the back of the couch, not your neighbor’s chest,
  • You count your toes each and every time you see your feet–in case a digit has somehow been lost since the last time you checked,
  • You realize you are entirely more human than you want to be and just can’t change the past no matter how often you replay it in your head.

This weekend, my family came to visit from states far and wide. Together, we reminisced. Hilarious childhood memories abounded, long-dormant quirks were revealed and new moments were forever burned into our collective soul.

I won’t tell you which of the above I am guilty of. Just know that I am capable of stirring up a commotion wherever I go. And so should our characters.

As a reader, my new favorite character is Dante Walker by Victoria Scott. He’s a bad boy who feels so real that I literally LOL when he talks. Miss Scott has nailed his personality–full of elevated self-worth, harsh judgments and acid wit. If I weren’t happily married with four kids and three dogs, I just might be tempted to call him up for a date.

Dante, as portrayed by his creator, is unabashedly himself. He’s not wishy-washy. Rather, he’s fully engaged in who he is, what he does and why he does it. He takes human foibles to a whole new level and reeks of a charisma so potent I can’t stop the pitter-pattering of my heart.

I fell in love all over again with my three wonderful siblings this weekend as we sat on the bed at 11:30 at night and tried on each other’s glasses to see who was more blind. They/we are goofy, fun-loving, serious, smart, quirky, strange, hilarious and utterly teasable.

As a writer, I can only hope to fill up my novels with such depth and character as was shared in a few short hours. Because truly, being human is downright amazing on so many levels. Capturing that magic and bringing it to our readers is an art.

Dear Readers: who is your favorite character now-a-days and why?

Dear Writers: how do you capture the essence of a character and write him in such a way he comes alive?

Curious minds want to know.

Mixed Massages: when what we say isn’t always heard

The view on the way down from Hanging Lake

Last week while visiting beautiful Colorado, I partook in a mixed-message massage that went something like this:

  • Masseuse: What are you looking for today?
  • Me: Well, I went hiking yesterday, so an overall massage would be great.
  • Him: Okay.

Only it apparently wasn’t okay.

I know because I’ve had massages before. Massages where my WHOLE body got a good rub down. Massages that actually targeted the muscles you specify. Massages that didn’t ignore the single largest muscle in your body, as well as the ever-important-to-mountain-climbing quads.

My masseuse, bless his heart, was either deaf or didn’t understand that my rear end was included in the I-went-hiking-whole-body-massage request. When it came time for working out the kinks in my gluteus maximus (aka, the largest muscle in the human body and one that is used extensively while hiking a mile and a half straight uphill to see an incredibly beautiful lake), he threw another blanket over my bum and poked at it like one might use a stick to prod a presumed-dead animal on the side of the road. When I rolled to my back, the only muscles not ignored were in my feet.

What I thought I said (a full body massage) and what he heard (only the parts you like most) were two completely different things.

Does this ever happen to you? Dear writers, how do you employ mixed messages to ramp up the tension between your characters? Dear readers, do mixed messages work in the books you peruse, or do you get tired of the main characters’ inability to communicate properly? 

As a married mother of four, I can attest that mixed messages occur on a regular basis. Thankfully, though, I’ve only had one mixed massage.