Recommended: Gift from the Sea

W.Ink Recommends > Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea

Recommended: Deep philosophy in simple yet elegant language, AML offers to us the important aspects of life:  not money, not schedules, not harried miscommunication.  Instead, living in the present, loving others more than possessions, taking time for silence and communication:  these are what matters.

Revealed through shells gathered on the beach, AML explores each shell as it represents our lives and reminds us to be grateful for what life offers.

Snippets from the book:

The Beach

Rollers on the beach, wind in the pines, the slow flapping of herons across sand dunes, drown out the hectic schedules of city and suburbs, timetables and schedules.  One falls under their spell, relaxes, stretches out prone.  One becomes, in fact, like the element on which one lies flattened by the sea:  bare, open, empty as the beach, erased by today’s tides of all yesterday’s scribblings. (16)

Channeled Whelk

I want first of all . . . to be at peace with myself.  I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry these obligations (husband, family, home, work, friends & community). (page 23)

Grace: an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony.  I am seeking perhaps what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phaedrus when he said, “May the outward and inward man be at one.” (page 23)

Moon Shell

Now, instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, we choke the spaces with continuous music, matter, and companionship to which we do not even listen.  It is simply there to fill the vacuum.  When the noise stops, there is no inner music to take its place.  We must re-learn to be alone. (page 42)

When one is a stranger to oneself, then one is estranged from others, too. (page 44)

Solitude, says the moon shell.  Every person, especially every woman, should be alone sometime during the year, some part of each week, and each day. . . . [T]hese are among the most important times in one’s life—when one is alone. (page 49-50)

Double Sunrise

For the first part of every relationship is pure, whether it be with friend or lover, husband or child.  It is pure, simple, and unencumbered. . . .  And then how swiftly, how inevitably the perfect unity is invaded:  the relationship changes;  it becomes complicated, encumbered by its contact with the world . . . [and] somehow we mistakenly feel that failure to maintain its exact original pattern is tragedy. (65-66)

In a growing relationship, however, the original essence is not lost but merely buried under the impedimentia of life.  The core of reality is still there, and needs only to be uncovered and re-affirmed. (69-70)

Oyster Bed

I am very fond of the oyster’s shell.  It is horrid and awkward and ugly.  It is slate-colored and unsymmetrical.  Its form is not primarily beautiful but functional.  I make fun of its knobbiness.  Sometimes I resent its burdens and excrescences.  But its timeless adaptability and tenacity draw my astonished admiration and sometimes even my tears. (83)

Instead of facing them (difficult seasons of life or work, relationships or health), one runs away;  one escapes—into depressions, nervous breakdowns, drink, love affairs, or frantic, thoughtless, fruitless overwork.  Anything, rather than face them.  Anything, rather than stand still and learn from them.  One tries to cure the signs of growth, to exorcise them, as if they were devils, when really they might be angels of annunciation. (87-88)

Argonauta (Paper Nautilus)

Saint Exupéry: “The life of the spirit, the veritable life, is intermittent and only the life of the mind is constant. . . .  The spirit . . . alternates between total vision and absolute blindness. . . .  Here is a man who loves music—but there are moments when it cannot reach him.” (107-108)

We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity—in freedom. (108)

The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping even.  Security in a relationship lies . . . in living in the present and accepting it as it is now. . . .  One must accept the security of the wingéd life, of ebb and flow, of intermittency. (109)

A Few Shells

Here (on this island) there is time:  time to be quiet;  time to work without pressure;  time to think. . . time to look at stars or to study a shell;  time to see friends, to gossip, to laugh, to talk.  Time, even, not to talk. . . .  Then communication becomes communion, and one is nourished as one never is by words.  (116)

The Beach at my Back

If we stop to think about it, are not the real casualties in modern life just these centers:  the here, the now, the individual and his relationships.  The present is passed over in the race for the future;  the here is neglected in favor of the there, and the individual is dwarfed by the enormity of the mass. (126)

Family, now, here:  “The basic substance of life . . . .  We may neglect these elements, but we cannot dispense with them.  They are the drops that make up the streams.  They are the essence of life itself.”  (127-128)

Gift from the Sea Re-Opened

It takes time to find the re-center of gravity. (134)

Much of this exploration and new awareness is uncomfortable and painful for both men and women.  Growth in awareness has always been painful.  But it does lead to greater independence and, eventually, cooperation in action. (138)

Available here.

We recommend a slow read, one chapter a week.  This tiny book is packed with concept that must be mulled over, considered, then applied to our lives.

Grammar Starter: 1st 6 Lessons

Here is a Grammar Starter powerpoint with 6 grammar lessons.  Each lesson contains two sentences filled with several errors.  Answers for each slide are at the end of the powerpoint.

These sentences come from an old textbook adoption handbook that I once used in my teaching.  I usually had to increase the number of errors in each sentence.  9th grade students did not find the errors difficult.

mark errors with red ink if the grammar problems bleed through communication
Red Ink

Each slide usually contains one tricky problem.  All of the sentences serve as reminders of the small ticky details that students often overlook in their own writing.  These are the same ticky details that often irritate us in the world at large.  A perfect example is ladie’s above the ladies’ restroom door.

Two lessons a week work well (Mon. and Wed.), followed by a review of any problems that were spotted (Tues. and Thurs.)

Expect capitalization, end mark and quotation mark problems, usage and verb tense, subject/verb agreement, commas with nonessential phrases, and run-on sentences (fused sentences) among other problems.

Grammar Starters

The next Grammar Starters will be issued on September 19.  That slide series will contain 16 lessons (or 8 weeks of lessons).

Grammar Helps

Has the thought of the Grammar Monster got you screaming in terror?  Are you begging for some grammar helps?

Alfred Smedburg’s 1912 “Bland tomtar och troll”

Here are a few beginning handouts and lessons for home schoolers and others tackling the Grammar Monster.

Speechparts practice

Usage Matters 15 items

Usage Matters 15 practice

Grammar Basics Expletives 3 Cs

Go forth and conquer.

Never forget, communication is possible even if you don’t understand all the words.  The position in the sentence is everything.  I picked up the following many years ago (it’s definitely not mine.  I’m not this clever.)  The answers are here.


Corandic is an emurient grof with many fribs; it granks from corite, an olg which cargs like lange. Corite grinkles several other tarances, which garkers excarp by glarcking the corite and starping it in tranker-clarped storbs. The tarances starp a chark, which is expanrged with worters, branking a storp. This storp is garped through several other corusees, finally frasting a pragety, blickant crankle: coranda.

Coranda is a cargurt, grinkling corandic and borigten. The corandic is nacerated from the borigen by means of loracity. This garkers finally thrap a glick, bracht, glupous grapant, corandic, which granks in many starps.

  1. What is corandic?
  2. What does corandic grank from?
  3. How do garkers excarp the tarances from the corite?
  4. What does the slorp finally frast?
  5. What is coranda?

Curiously enough, a Yoast SEO readability says “the copy scores 64 in the Flesch Reading Ease test, which is considered ok to read.”  I don’t find “Corandic” ok to read.

Here’s a little more, not necessarily grammar helps, but this shows how the entire year of grammar is tied together with composition and literature, the other two arts in the world of Language Arts.

Communication comes in two opposite forms which are based on opposites.

  1. Visual (sight-based) drawn OR not-drawn (gestures, body language, facial expressions and para-language – tone and sounds that give meaning)
  1. Verbal (word-based) spoken OR written

Written Communication comes in two opposite forms which are also based on opposites.

  1. NonFiction = about real events, short memos OR long reports, instruction manuals before you work OR evaluations after you work), essays – personal OR public, factual OR opinion
  1. Fiction = about imaginary events, short stories OR long novels, highly fantastical OR a mirror of reality

Fiction written as a PLAY has lines spoken by character.

A poet groups lines together in stanzas.  Any POEM is like an emotional essay.  POETRY can be pure verse (rhyming, etc.) or free verse (free of rhyme).

Just like communication, our world is based on OPPOSITES (in, out; stick, circle; on, off;  hot, cold;  sun, moon;  good, evil;  male, female;  work, play).

We see opposites in VOCABULARY when we understand a word by what it is and is not like (synonyms AND antonyms) as well as in crazy homonyms and connotations.

We see opposites in GRAMMAR when we realize that thoughts >> which become sentences >> are based on idea AND action (subjects AND verbs).  Punctuation has starts (CAPS) and stops (. ! ?) as well as LINKERS which show PROGRESSION.

COMPOSITION combines opposites and progressions in the Introductions vs. Conclusions, achieved through the Body;  the subject explored through the thesis and its progressive topics, themselves progressed through details.

Old Geeky Greeks

Blood tragedies.  Atonement.  Harry Potter.

I, Robot.  Ironman.  Hubris.

The 13th Warrior.  The scariest woman in all literature.  The Hobbit.

Dudley Dooright.  5 Stages of the Hero . . . and the Monster.  Jurassic Park, in all its iterations.

What does this oddly-matched list have in common?  All have origins with the ancient Greeks and Romans.

The first writers developed techniques to influence their audiences.  Through an early look at what worked and what didn’t, they laid the foundation for writers today.  Many techniques of these old geeky Greeks are still in use, re-packaged as glittery infographics and Wham-Pow webinars, three-point seminars and exclusive insights to Buy Now!

Old Geeky Greeks: Write Stories with Ancient Techniques presents techniques such as the Blood Tragedy and dulce et utile in a clear, organized method for writers who want to write rather than invest hours getting three snippets of information.

Chapters in OGG cover understanding characters to the five stages that established the modern protagonist from the ancient hero.

Aristotle’s requirements for plot precede a survey of the oldest plot formula, the Blood (or Revenge) Tragedy.

Concepts such as in medias res and dulce et utile can help writers solve sticky problems and develop new ideas.

Old Geeky Greeks (and Romans) tried to understand the writing sense that emerged from the chaos.  They looked at successful plays and other story-telling methods to determine what influenced the audience.

Which characters were still talked about weeks and months after a performance?  Which play structures failed—and which were consistently winners?  Which ideas helped writers develop their celebrated writings?

Writers today are still searching for the answers to these questions.

The bright minds of Classical Antiquity first explored these questions, and their answers are applicable in the age of the internet, open-source software, special effects, and infographics.

Aristotle, Seneca, Plato, Horace, and many other ancient geeks have their ideas matched to Harry Potter, Avatar, Last of the Mohicans, and Shakespeare.

Whether we’re writing novels or plays, blogs or non-fiction, poems and songs, Old Geeky Greeks is a seminar in 28,000 words.

Using Color Symbols in Writing

Originally this blog post published July 2016 on the Writers Ink Books website.  As WIS takes a vacation, we repeat three of the WIB blogs in the summer of 2016.  After all, reruns are totally watchable again.

You Can Do Magic:  Paint with Colors

Artists paint with words;  writers paint with images.  The first images are colors.

At the same time that symbolic numbers were developing in primitive cultures, ancient women and men were looking around and associating meaning to the colors they saw in nature and our bodies.

In spring, everything greened up to grow, so green came to represent life and growth.  They bled when they were cut while working or hunting;  red represents what we must sacrifice in order to achieve our goals.

November 29, 2016, blog by Robin Daly
A Color Wheel with images from Nature, found at

Here’s an interesting side trip:  one primitive culture only had 3 color names.  Three!  We have more synonyms than that for all our colors. (red, cardinal, persimmon, crimson, scarlet, ruby, garnet, cherry, carmine, wine, vermilion, florid, ruddy, maroon, brick, and more!)  The Piraha of the Amazon have no words for numbers, and their colors are white (light-time), black (night-time), and red (blood).

Brent Berlin and Paul Kay named 11 basic color categories in their famous 1969 study:

white          black          red           green         yellow       blue

brown         purple        pink        orange       gray.

Back on the main road, we’re after the symbolic meanings associated with colors.  Like the numbers, some will have both positive and negative connotations.

Here’s what I’ve gathered:

The Primaries in Nature
  • Red = blood, sacrifice, the wounds inflicted by trials.
  • Blue = the heavens, truth (true blue).  The sky where the gods oversaw man’s petty achievements was blue;  the heavens are the realm of the gods.  Since gods are a constant eternal form that never change (whereas Earth is all about change, as Heraclitus succinctly put it), truth is associated with a universal constant (whereas facts–the earth is flat–constantly change).  Thus, blue = eternity.
  • Yellow = warning, sometimes the radiance of the sun = warmth.  Contrarily, cowardice (a yellow streak).
  • Green = life, growth, spring, morning, youth.  In a negative connotation, jealousy (green-eyed glare).
  • Black = death, winter, night, the dark of trouble and of ignorance, absence (with a negative connotation).  In modern times, artists create black by adding all the colors, so modern writers have begun to use black as a symbol for “all things added in”, a sort of chaotic plenty.
  • White = winter, light / knowledge, purity / unstained innocence, “pearl”, absence (with a positive connotation).  Again, modern artists leave out all color to have white on their palette, so modern writers have begun to alter the color to create an idea of the vacuum, a sucking hole that deprives of everything.
  • Grey = sorrow, rain / mist.
  • Orange = summer, noon, the ripening to harvest, adult.
  • Brown = autumn, afternoon, maturity, and the color of dried blood > old wounds, old scars, a veteran.
Secondaries, Not so Common in Nature
  • Purple = royalty.  Kings rule by the red Blood Right (either they inherited the crown or won it on the battlefield) + the blue Divine Right (the gods intervened to ensure their victory).
  • Silver = a “mirror” color (mirror backs are “silvered” to reflect).  Mirrors reveal truth;  silver withstands magic.  In the mythic trope, vampires cannot see themselves in mirrors because they are not “true-ly” alive.  Yes, I know modern writers decided not to work with the mythic trope because it didn’t “fit” their world.  Sigh.
  • Gold = “tested” purity.  However, all that glitters is not gold.  It is richness and wealth >> but pure gold can be shaped by the hands, so it has a softness.  Thus, in the King Arthur myths, Arthur is associated from birth with gold because he and his dream will be corrupted.

Symbolic Colors in Art

King Arthur retrieves Excalibur, by N C Wyeth.

Look at the N.C. Wyeth painting of King Arthur.  The fabled hero is receiving Excalibur and its miraculous sheath from the Lady in the Lake.

  • His blue cloak is lined with red and trimmed with gold.
  • Gold appoints his saintly-colored mail and the boat.
  • See the three white swans flying away?
  • And the grey mist?
  • White-bearded Merlin wears a dark cloak:  is that deep blue or black?
  • And the mirror-like quality of the lake itself as the arm of the Faery Queen from an eternal existence offers the magical sword?  Have you ever known lake water to be so mirror-still?  Small pools, yes.  Lakes?  No.

Wyeth has painted the symbols that reveal the deeper elements of the Arthurian legend.

As symbols enrich Wyeth’s painting, so will they enrich your writing.  Play with them as Wyeth has done.

Symbolic Colors in Literature

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby, a character enters a room with a blood-red floor and a ceiling that is a bridal-cake confection of white plasterwork.  From that early chapter, the reader should know that Daisy and her husband and their wider family have the appearance of beauty and innocence while they have walked on the blood of others to get where they are.  They are corrupted, and all the remaining symbolic colors in the novel prove that over and over.

Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” occurs in a yellow wood:  Caution!  he says.  Don’t lie to yourself, as many teachers have deceived their students into reading this poem and thinking the road they take matters.  Frost says it doesn’t and that we lie when we tell ourselves the road we take is different:  he tells us three times that the “just as fair” roads are “worn . . . about the same” as they “equally lay”.  It’s what we do on those roads that matter, not the choice of the road.

Unless you’re Stephen Crane’s “Wayfarer” who discovers the thick weeds on the roads are actually knife-blades.

Paint with Colors.

Your readers will thank you.

~~ M A Lee

Using Number Symbols in Writing

Originally this blog post published July 2016 on the Writers Ink Books website.  WIS reruns it because, after all, reruns are totally watchable.
For those looking for the Grammar Monster blog series, look for the chart link at the end of the blog.  In that chart you will find the important background lessons that students need before the Grammar Monster comes out of the cave.

You Can Do Magic:  Paint with Numbers

In the last blog, “Let’s Play” (in 2016, remember, on the WIB website, not this one), I mentioned that working in threes is the preferred number for repetition.  Three is that mysterious number in the realm of symbols, and it has great influence on the audience.

3’s are significant, whether spoken or written or visual.  Most will “hear” the first mention of an idea but think nothing of it.  A second mention sounds like coincidence.  The third mention is magic for the readers and audience.

A good comic will set up a joke with an unusual phrase, cycle back to that phrase in a later joke–just in passing, then hit that unusual phrase for the clincher of a closing joke.   Expectation has been created with the second mention and fulfilled with the third.  The humor then has a greater effect on the audience.

Ron White is the master of this extended use of threes. [Don’t click if you don’t like curse words. ;)] Listen for the third different use of “tater”.

So, that’s the effect of the 3 in repetition.  What about the other numbers?

Well, numbers are important in the world of literature (and religion, both so closely tied together in their origins that their devices [tropes] take on mythic gravitas.  Wow, that was a side excursion and a half).

The symbolic meaning of numbers (and colors–coming in the next blog) solidified in primitive cultures.  We can see the influence of the natural world and our own bodies in their development into virtually universal meanings.  Many numbers have both positive and negative connotations.

So, here are the meanings I have gleaned:

First Hand
  • 1 = the Self, of course.  Solitary / lonely  (positive / negative).  Independence, self-reliance.  Rank, descending or ascending (I’m number 1!  or the starting [lowest] point).

    the Three Norns by HLM: the Crone, the Matron, the Maiden or Past / Present / Future
  • 2 = companionship, love.  Deception > two-faced.
  • 3 = mystery > e.g., the Moirae, the three Fates of ancient Greece; the three Erinyes ( the Furies who are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone); the three Norns; the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; past / present / future;  Plato’s tripartite being: mind / body / soul.
  • 4 = the number representing Earth > e.g., north / south / east / west; the basic elements of earth / air / water / fire; and proteins / carbs / lipids / acids; the luck of a four-leaf clover; the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the four mathematical operations; the four Beatles.
  • 5 = 1/2 of 10 and thus halfway to completion; the limits of aspiration.  The musical staff is on five lines;  it takes both treble and bass staffs to create full harmony.  The five Sikh symbols.  The pentagram.
Second Hand
  • 6 = doubled mystery > secrecy, magic
  • 7 = perfection, absolute.
  • 8 = rebirth (one more than perfection > starting over), renewal OR as 8 is between 5 and 10, on the road to completion.
  • 9 = 3 + 3 + 3 = intensified mystery.
  • 10 = completion, fulfillment.
Three Extras
  • 11 = transition, thresholds, the liminal space. Over time, 11 became associated with death, which is the greatest of thresholds to cross.  BTW, literature pre-supposes that man has an existence after death, whatever form that existence might take; so it’s this existence, crossing the threshold, and the after-existence.  In literature, death is not a stoppage–unless it’s modern literature.  Oh, well.
  • 12 = man’s relationship to the Divine, in whatever form the Divine takes > 12 Tribes of Israel, 12 Apostles of Christ, 12 Signs of the Greek Zodiac, 12 cycles of the Chinese Years, 12 chief gods of Olympus, and more.
  • 13 = considered unlucky because man steps beyond his relationship with the Divine to pursue his own path, and challenging the gods [as Tantalus discovered] is never wise.  Gradually, it became associated with the occult.

How do you work with symbolic numbers in writing poetry and fiction and non-fiction?

Using symbols can add surprise and depth:

  • Instead of a Council of 5 have a Council of 4, representing the four pillars of earth.
  • Instead of four traps, have 6.
  • For a protagonist who never achieves his goal (how sad), have the number 5 constantly pop up:  a meeting at 5 o’clock, 5 friends who give him advice he never takes, the missed train on Platform 5, the fifth missed message from his boss, the 5th time he forgot his anniversary on May 5.
  • Repeat an image three times.  Repeat using synonyms or other variations of a concept six or nine or twelve times.
  • We all see lists of seven or ten.  Be different:  create lists of eight.
  • Categorize into four major areas, each with three subsets (a hidden seven).

When it’s time to flesh out the details of your outlined work, think through the numbers and see if they can magically assist you.

~~M A Lee

Click this link for the Grammar Monsters Opening Lessons Chart.

Grammar Monster: Introduction

We have to do hard things in life.

Especially in places like school or at completely new jobs, we find ourselves introduced to a lot of hard things.  So many new things are thrown at us that we want to throw some of them back.

We find it extremely difficult to see the reason we have to plow through all of the ticky little details involved with that hard thing.

And we look and pray and hope and wish for the end of it.

Grammar is one of those hard things that we encounter in school.

It is necessary.

One mark by which we all are judged, whether we are speaking or writing, is our grammar.  Make one mistake, and people automatically assume that we’re ignorant.  Or that we didn’t learn it.  Worst of all, they think we can’t learn it.

Those people judge our level of intelligence as well as the credibility of what we are saying.  It’s not right, but it happens.

Quite frankly, credibility–the believability that others accord to our statements, our opinions, our standing in the community, our businesses, and so much more–is all we stand on.

Each small nick in credibility costs us.  Those small increments build over time until the statue of “us” falls.

What is the point of grammar?

What we call “grammar” is actually divided into three disparate realms:  grammar (the way words work together to form complete thoughts), usage (the way words are used), and mechanics (the punctuation coding that helps us read groups of sentences).

We call it GUM:  grammar, usage, mechanics.

Use the wrong “their/they’re/there”, and people think you weren’t educated.  Slip the wrong verb form in the wrong place (“have tooken”), and people cringe.  Plop an apostrophe where it doesn’t belong, and opinions go downhill.

We say “grammar”, but we actually are talking about communication.

Whether spoken or written, we are communicating.

You may have heard of the “7 38 55 Rule of Communication”  or that verbal communication (speaking or writing) is only 10% or 20% of all our communication.  That’s not quite right: This Psychology Today article clears it up.

What is right–and non-quantifiable–is that we judge the speakers and writers (whether casual or informative) based on how they use the language.  GUM guides that judgment.  No errors, and we continue blithely along with that person.  Lots of errors, and those little nicks in their credibility start being applied.

What would happen to your belief in my ability to understand grammar if I had an error in this writing?  Down, down, down it would go, and nothing I wrote afterwards would have any effect.

It doesn’t matter if I tell you that no one is absolutely 100% perfect.  That mistake sits there, glaring at you, glaring at me, glaring at everyone.

The nick happened.  We can’t move on from there.

You say, “The computer will find the errors for me.”

Maybe.  It can’t now.  It may never be able to do so.  Grammar rules, especially in English, dependent on what are called fluid factors.  To encode all those fluid factors would create a massive computer program.

Take this simple spelling rule:  I before E except after C or as sounded as A as in neighbor and weigh, and weird is just weird.  This one rule has four fluid factors.

Think of all the unusual forms of sentences where the subject does not occur first.  The first sentence of this very paragraph has an understood subject.  We also have modifiers that come first.  Questions throw the subject out of position.  Sentences are sometimes inverted.  That’s four more fluid factors.

Now add in all the words of the English language, which is twice as large as any other language in the world.

Do you see the problem?

Students in my dual enrollment college composition courses tried to defeat the monster that grammar can be by using an online grammar checker for essays.   This is a much more sophisticated program than the simple grammar/spelling checker in word processing programs.

Word processing software doesn’t find every error.  However, surely something online can find every error?  Sorry.  Not possible.  Not yet.

The students used the online grammar checker because they didn’t want to learn how to avoid the Type I errors.  More than three Type I errors would fail an essay (not my rule but the rule of the college).  Invariably, more than a handful of Type I errors would be missed by that online grammar checker, and they would fail the essay.

Maybe your grandchildren won’t have to learn grammar–but I doubt it.  English has too many variables.


Misktakes do happen, don’t they? 😉 (That was deliberate, BTW.)

I do understand a lot about grammar, much more than the average English teacher, but I will add that I don’t understand everything.

What I do know and how I know it, these things I will share with you.

So, here are the Grammar Monster blogs, provided for anyone wanting more information about GUM and specifically as Home School Helps.

Starting on August 8 will be the first Grammar Monster blog.  Enjoy.

(Grammar can be enjoyable.  Truly.)

Think Pro: 5 + 5 Essentials for Writers

Think Like a Pro:  New Advent for Writers

Advice for the Week:  Looking for the Essentials?  Don’t Re-Invent the Wheel.  Learn from those who have gone before.

Who’s gone before?  Aristotle.  An ancient geeky Greek philosopher.  Aristotle rocks for writers struggling with character.

This week we start looking at 5 + 5 Essentials for Characters that the ancient Greek Aristotle first offered.


WIS: Manuscript Guidance

7 Common Elements of a Book Manuscript

Do you need a little manuscript guidance for electronic publication?  Here are two lists you need to use as a checklist.

1. You know you need a title.  Did you know you also need a Boilerplate?

The boilerplate is a unit of writing to be re-used over and over without change.  You will find it on the back side of the title page in any printed book and on the page following the title in any electronic book.

A boilerplate gives copyright information as well as any other publication information.  Who controls your copyright?  Who can reproduce this work–if anyone at all–with permission from you?  While this statement is such standard procedure, you probably have never noticed it.  Use any book to determine what you need to have.

2. Beneath the boilerplate you should have a disclaimer:  “All characters in this book are fictitious. . . .”

This protective statement lets people know you used your imagination.  While your inciting situation might be “ripped from the headlines”, the book itself is the work of your brain, not a dry statement of the facts.

3. Acknowledgement / Dedication:  Did someone give you help?  Proofreader?  Cover designer? Or even just watched the babies so you could write?  Thank them.  

As William Shakespeare said, “So long as men can breathe and eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”  Your dedication gives them life as long as your acknowledgement page is available.

4. Other Books by You:  This list is shameless self-promotion.  Remember, always vote for yourself.

In a printed book this list occurs before the title page.  In electronic, it is best after the title page or (even better) at the end of the manuscript.

Many indie writers also run promotions for their other books by providing blurbs (abbreviated summaries).

5. Table of Contents

In any good word software, you can locate the table of contents in the references toolbar.  Really great software allows the TOC to be hyperlinked.  Readers can click the TOC to go anywhere in your book.

Yes, I myself once thought the TOC a waste of time.  With electronic publishing and hyperlink ability, I have been proven wrong.  Thanks to all the people who pointed it out.

6. Chapter Headings and Page Breaks

Use headings in your home toolbar to set up your chapter headings.  The TOC will pick up on the common headings to create itself.

Page breaks are another matter.  You don’t want these in the TOC.  Devise a method to show the switch of scene or character viewpoint within a chapter.  A variety of symbols abound;  whichever you select, be uniform.

7. A Book of your book :: What?

A Book of your book is a Master Book.  In it you keep all of your background work:  character information, plot guides, special information, maps, images, etc.

This Master Book will guide you whenever you decide to return to your manuscript.  Deciding to write a sequel?  The Master Book should have everything you need.

Much of the information in the Master Book will never make it into your book.  That’s as it should be.  We want to avoid info-dump.


Simple Procedure for Preparing a Manuscript to be Published on Kindle

Go for 10!

1.Read the article above entitled “7 Common Elements of a Book Manuscript”, and make sure your MS has these.

2. Use the most common 10 fonts:  Times New Roman, Arial, Baskerville, Courier, Georgia, Helvetica, Lucida Sans, Palatino, Trebuchet, and Verdana.

We all have our favorite fonts.  Some of these (Courier) are downright ugly.  While you may prefer a different font, these 10 create no problems across multiple platforms when reading on a narrow or small screen.

3.Avoid fancy & charming glyphs and special images.

Even the smallest image adds to the size of the file you will upload.  Amazon KDP has special content that you can read which will explain this in more detail.

A few–such as those for chapter headings–do add grace to the MS.  Be certain that their format is acceptable.

If you are desperate to add special touches, consult a book designer who will understand not only the acceptable types of image files but also how large such files can be–as well as how image files can disrupt the flow of your words.

4. Use Page Break for any new section.

Page Break to reach the TOC.  Page Break to reach Chapter 1.  And Page Break to reach Chapter 2.  etc.

Otherwise, let the text flow on by itself.

5.  And let the text flow on by itself.

Don’t use “enter” when you reach the end of a line on your computer screen.  Only hit “enter” on the keyboard when you want a new paragraph.  Your software will default to have the next paragraph indent itself:  let it.

6. Turn off these three things in the “Paragraph Settings”:

  •  Check the box that says “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same type”.  You only have spaces between paragraphs in business documents. Yes, I know your software automatically defaults to this.  Your software, however, was developed for business, not for writers in the entertainment industry.
  •  At the top of that pop-up window, select “Line and Page Breaks”.  Also on that screen, UNcheck “widow/orphan control” and “keep with next”.  These two UNchecks will prevent big gaps at the bottom of some of your pages.

7. Two spaces after a period or one?

This simple question still causes controversy.  Pick which way you want, and stick with it.

The use of two spaces does create a larger gap between sentences.  When reading on a narrow / small screen, this can look awkward.  Most writers have gone to one space between sentences.

However, have you noticed that when you text or email, if you double-space, the period automatically inserts itself?  Two spaces may be coming back.

8. Using Grammar / Spell Check is not enough.  Print out and proofread your manuscript.

And don’t read from the screen.

As sophisticated as current software is, it is still not great.  Believe it or not, you will find more errors on a sheet of paper than you will on a computer screen.

If you don’t feel up to the task, hire a proofreader. (Shameless promotion :: Writers’ Ink has a proofreading service.)  Whatever you do, don’t let a MS out there with “vial” when you mean “vile”.  Please.  I’m serious. It’s a huge turn-off to your reader.

9. Find out your Readability Statistics and Passive Sentence Percentages.

Go to File > Options > Proofing and check the box that says “Readability Statistics”.  After you run a grammar / spell check (and yes, I would still do this.  The machine does catch some things.),  a window will pop up that will tell you the MS’s reading level and number of passive sentences.

Most readers are comfortable at a 7th to 9th grade reading level.  The majority of American newspapers were once geared to a 6th grade reading level.  That’s not a bad thing.  You want to reach as many people as possible.  Don’t impress your reader with BIG words;  impress them with your IDEAS.

Passive sentences are to be avoided.  Try to keep them below 15%.

10. Save your eyes.

They’re the windows to your future as a writer.

You are working an arms-length between eyes and screen, right?

Get amber-tinted glasses or turn on “Night Shade”;  save the cones and rods in your eyes.  Plenty of evidence has emerged that blue-tinted light (especially at night) not only disrupts sleep but causes problems for your eyes’ functioning.  The amber helps to prevent that blurring which represents damage from over-strain.

And use the magnification in your software.  Ramp the size of the text on screen up as far as you need to see without strain.

Finally, take breaks from staring at the screen.  15 minutes for every 45.  If you can’t find anything to do during that time, take a walk.  Not only your eyes but also your tush will thank you.


WIS: Prices for Proofing & Editing


Proofreading and Editing Services

While no one can guarantee to catch 100% of errors, Writers’ Ink has over 35 years of experience in catching mistakes in manuscripts.  Our proofreading and editing services will not only find errors you may not have seen but also plot holes and character discrepancies.

Provide us with a copy of your MS*.  Priced depending on the length, we will proofread and correct mistakes in spelling, usage, and most punctuation.  (Since some punctuation is a matter of style or a reading assistance, we will not remove these marks of punctuation.)

Proofreading finds simple errors in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, usage, and simple grammar errors.  We understand that dialogue may not be grammatically  correct.

  • Proofreading is only done for manuscripts that are considered complete.
  • If, while proofreading, we discover content editing problems, we will notify you and re-negotiate.
  • If you wish us to continue with Content Editing, that cost will be applied.  Our task will convert to content editor as opposed to proofreader.   Content errors will need to be revised prior to the completion of proofreading.

Content Editing looks for plot holes, character discrepancies, and illogical problems (a character on the East Coast who at 7 a.m. calls someone on the West Coast who is eating breakfast on their sunny patio.  This is not possible.  The West Coast is four hours behind the East Coast.  That would be 3 a.m. their time.  Writers Ink has seen this problem not picked up by other Content Editors.)

Developmental Editing:  for poetry and Non-Fiction only.  Even though we are helping you “develop” your writing, we do not ask for credit on the title page.  You are the writer;  we are looking for ways to improve the ideas you are communicating.

  • In a poetry series, developmental editing will look for thematic arcs and suggest line structure possibilities.  We will note change words although we may suggest such changes.  We will consider the sequence of poems in a series.  We have over 35 years of analyzing, explicating, and teaching poetry by the masters.  We understand that poetry is a special art form.
  • In Non-Fiction,  logical sequence and explanation & elaboration on themes, topics, and subjects will be considered.  We have over 40 years writing nonfiction as well as teaching the nonfiction form to students.

Cost of Proofreading

$250.00 for the first 100 pages (standard font, approximately 250-285 words per page, 1-inch margins all around)

$50.00 for each additional 50 pages

For a manuscript of more than 500 pages, please contact us with the completed length for a different price.

Cost of Content (Line) Editing

$300.00 for the first 100 pages

$75.00 for each additional 50 pages

Cost of Developmental Editing for Poetry

$300.00 for 100 pages

$100.00 for each additional 50 pages


*We do not work in the genres of horror, psychological thrillers, and erotica or soft porn.