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.

WIS: Pricing for Trailers and Clips

Book Trailers and Corporate Clips

What attracts the reader’s eye?  The image, of course, and wise writers look to graphic artists for guidance with the book cover.  Yet how do we draw people to look at the cover in the first place?  Have you considered a book trailer?

You can write tens of thousands of words for a manuscript, but you can’t write a short script for a trailer that will be 30 seconds to a minute long.  Or you’re too busy with your customers and clients to spend the hours necessary to develop a short clip for your website or Facebook page.

Contract with us. 

For books, all you need to do is provide a synopsis / blurb and a few elements on a script questionnaire.  For products or services, we will drop by, tour your business, ask a few questions, then head off:  Once we have the background information we need, your part of the job is over.

Writers Ink will work in three stages:

First is Stage 1: our preliminary script based on the questionnaire / interview and your provided information.  If you want to make suggestions or head us in a different direction, that’s workable.  If you want us to go in a different direction, that’s do-able although we may need more information.  We will happily cycle back through Stage 1 with you.

Stage 2: We will generate a completed MP4 film file using MS PowerPoint, which we will upload to our YouTube for website.  Once it’s up, you can hyperlink to it or download it to your own drive, to a cloud drive, to Facebook, and to your website.  We advise having the original in two separate locations.  Want it on a flashdrive?  $15.00 more (Sorry.  Cost of flashdrive.)

Stage 3:  Sound makes trailers wonderful.  Once you approve the basic MP4 film file, we will select sound files that work with the tone of your novel or atmosphere of your product or service.  If you wish to choose your file from audiojungle or Envato Market, you will need to provide us with the location information.  Once the file is chosen, we will add the sound file to the MP4 draft.

Cost of Services

  • Deposit before Stage 1 of the Book Trailer :: $100.00  This deposit will be applied to the total cost.  If you want to stop at this point, our generated script becomes your property.
  • 2nd Stage Development of the Trailer / Clip :: MP4 without Sound $215.00 (minus the deposit, the amount is $115.00 more.)
  • 3rd Stage Addition of Sound to the MP4 film file :: $50.00 (location and cost of the sound file included) or $35.00 plus the cost of the sound* file that you located** on audiojungle PLUS the cost of insertion and second manipulation of the MP4 file to work with the sound file).

For all three stages of work, you are paying $265.00.  This includes the approved script, development of the film file, and insertion of the sound file, all into an easily accessible form.  You are paying for our expertise and our time, and we will provide you a quality product that you can proudly use on your social media platforms.

If you want us to upload the trailer / clip to your website and to your Facebook page, we will be happy to do so for an additional fee.

*Sound files should be located on audiojungle or on Envato Market.  If you have licensed copyright access to another sound file of reasonable length, we will try to work with you.
**If you locate the sound file and the cost of that sound file is more than $25.00, the additional cost will be applied to your bill.

WIS: Sins & Virtues of Trailers & Clips

Book Trailers & Corporate Clips

What are they?  Trailers & Clips are small marketing videos that we can post on Facebook and on our internet sites for people to enjoy.

Videos and clips are a benefit to static websites because people naturally watch what “moves.”  Short videos on Facebook always capture attention, especially when they are well-done.

 What can I say?  I am very intrigued by well-done short videos.  I especially enjoy the ones that present books.  I slow down in my internet surfing and on Facebook to watch the shorter advertising for certain products and services.

Yet when things with such advertising go wrong, they go very, very wrong.  It’s as if the short form exaggerates the problem rather than flashes past it.

How do we avoid the sins of the worst advertising?  We have to understand the virtues of the best advertising.


Sin 1] the trailer or clip that goes too long.

Statistics claim that most people have a 15-30 second attention span.  We can stretch this to 45 seconds.

This statistic is true for me.  My attention span for book trailers, something that intrigues me, lasts about 35-45 seconds.  For the ones that aren’t interesting, I turn off somewhere around 20 seconds.  TV commercials affect me in the same manner.

When I started researching book trailers, I found several interesting ones–but the ones that ran a minute and more totally lost me.  Totally.  Beautiful graphics, enchanting sound, intriguing words–but I clicked out before those trailers where halfway through.

Melissa Marr has a lovely one for Wicked Lovely by COS Productions.  You can see it here:

Wicked Lovely trailer  (You may have to watch an ad prior to viewing.  Sorry.)

Marr’s trailer seems to be PERFECT.  It runs about 40 seconds.

Sin 2] the NARRATED book trailer.

Please don’t.  Voice is such a powerful element when it’s done correctly.  Few people do it correctly.  It requires pauses and intonation.  And the voice itself must be attractive.  Unfortunately, most narration for short advertising comes across as either flat or artificial.

Especially do NOT narrate if you are reading the text on the screen.  Please ~~ don’t.  In the meetings where presenters read aloud their PowerPoints to the participants, everyone cringes.  Then we get restless and turn off our attention.


Study video trailers that you like.  What you like about them will be boiled down to three cardinal virtues.

A} Graphics

Most people use elements of their book cover or logo design for their short advertising.  K.M. Weiland does this very well with her book trailer for Dreamlander.  Examine the cover, then study how she uses the different parts to create her graphics for the trailer.

For products or services, the company’s logo and the packaging for the product or a stock image depicting the service can be used very similarly to the book cover.

Weiland’s trailer runs over a minute.  As interesting as it is, that length is beyond my attention range.  Her book seems greatly detailed in plot, however, so the minute-long trailer may be necessary.  You can see Weiland’s trailer here:


B} Text

Limit text.  You want to present your protagonists and their opening conflict question OR your product / service and the need it fulfills.  Sparking curiosity is also essential.  Another blog here details the instructions for creating a script.

Marr’s trailer sparks curiosity very well.  Mystery and intrigue are deepened with the simple text that accompanies the images allude to the book cover.  Weiland’s trailer also does the curiosity spark very well.

Sketch your 12 key points out and expect to spend the necessary time to polish them to a fine edge.  Keeping the word count down will keep the interest level up.

C} Sound

Believe it or not, sound is the trickiest of these three elements.

Sound is so personal.  People listen to certain types of music and rarely are eclectic enough to accept other types.

The sound you select should also represent the tone of your work.  Heavy metal will rarely work for historical fiction.  Preppy pop music will not fit a doctor’s office.  Soft piano will not work for epics.  Lilting Irish harp doesn’t equate with auto repair.

Sound ::  Problems with Voice

Narration, as already noted, can come across flat or artificially dramatic.  I personally don’t like it.  Neither of the book trailer options I have referenced use narration.  However, a nontypical voice or one that has a feature that stands out might possibly work.  Might.

“Featured” voices include accents.  Should you be tempted by an actor who can do a Scottish accent (or Irish, Cockney or Australian)?  After all, you might tell yourself, my book is set in Scotland.  I should hire someone–or get someone from the local little theater?

Or you might think, “My customers aren’t rich;  they’re just home folks.  A little country accent in the narration might go down well.”  Well, a country accent might turn-off a lot of customers who think it doesn’t sound “educated”, and it might NOT turn-off customers who like that “folksy” feeling.  How can you know?  You can’t, not without a survey of every customer you serve. 

So stop.  Just stop.  Will the narrator’s accent take away from the text?  Ask yourself this question before you find someone to do a narration for you.  Voice is personal.  If it’s not just right, it will turn away your viewers.  After all, most of Disney’s animated feature flops did not use people with distinctive voices.

If you’re desperate for voice, watch one of Pixar’s animated features.  They use voices that work with the characters, not with “big name actors”.   Pixar is the whole package.  Voices (not actors) are selected for how well their cadence, timbre, and tonal quality match to the characters.

Go enjoy Up,  Finding Nemo, and Toy Story  for the nth time.  The voices of the primary characters evoke the personality through tonal quality.  Ed Asner, Ellen DeGeneres, and Tom Hanks are big-name actors whose voices capture the personalities of the old man, Dory, and Woody.  These are FINE actors, not just people with a name.

In my research, I cringed through several narrated trailers.  It’s hard to do voice well.  Please stop that idea at its birth.

Instrumental music avoids the multiple problems of voice.

But, you ask, where can I get music that is 30 seconds or 45 seconds or 68 seconds long?  Try audiojungle.

On the audiojungle website, you can search for music types and for various lengths. (You will first need to determine the length of your trailer before you decide on a music selection.)  The cost will range from around $10 to $19 for 30 seconds to a minute.  Support these indie musicians, and don’t infringe copyright.  They are artists struggling to make a living, just as you are.


So, we decided to create book trailers for everyone here at Writers Ink Books.  We all want more promotions for our novels.  Book trailers seemed to be the next step.  I volunteered, and that was a four-hour learning curve.  Sigh.

The four-hour learning curve had nothing to do with the difficulty of computer program.  That was me and not the software.

I won’t go into the ins and outs of the software I used (MS MovieMaker) because these rudimentary helps are intended for the general user, and various software programs abound.  I picked MS MovieMaker since the program came installed with the version of Microsoft Office that I had.  MovieMaker, unfortunately, is no longer supported by Microsoft.  If you find the program on your computer or download a version, you will work through the learning curve then find it very simple.

However, I don’t advise venturing into the “no longer supported computer software” world.

In the most recent book trailers, I have used MS PowerPoint without a learning curve;  however, I was already extremely familiar with the program.  I found it simple to create slides then transfer the ppt to a movie form.

In PowerPoint, text manipulation is much easier than it is with MovieMaker.  Even though we don’t have a lot of text in our trailers and clips, we do want it to shine.

  To see what I have developed so far, here are three videos.

The first video is the one I developed for Edie Roone’s “A Matter of Trust”, with MS MovieMaker, a video following the first two cardinal rules of graphics and text, I hope.

Next is M. A. Lee’s Digging into Death, developed using MS MovieMaker.  Finally, here is M.A. Lee’s The Key to Secrets”, with MS PowerPoint, Both of these videos follow the cradinal rules for graphics and text and sound.