21 Hints for Better Writing, from ELEMENTS OF STYLE

Elements of Style, Fourth Edition

 By William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White


This excellent classic has been updated recently and remains one of the best concise guides to fine writing.

In one portion of the book, the writers give 21 hints to improved writing, and explain each in, typically, a few pages of text. Here are the hints:

1. Place yourself in the background.

2. Write in a way that comes naturally.

3. Work from a suitable design.

4. Write with nouns and verbs.

5. Revise and re-write.

6. Do not overwrite.

7. Do not overstate.

8 . Avoid the use of qualifiers.

9. Do not affect a breezy manner.

10. Use orthodox spelling.

11. Do not explain too much.

12. Do not construct awkward adverbs.

13. Make sure the reader knows who is speaking.

14. Avoid fancy words.

15. Do not use dialect and less your ear is good.

16. Be clear.

17. Do not inject opinion.

18. Use figures of speech sparingly.

19. Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity.

20. Avoid foreign languages.

21. Prefer the standard to the offbeat.


Their explanations and examples are well worth reading.




Using a personality inventory she developed, LAB Profile ®, Ms. Charvet has consulted worldwide on how to influence people who have different personal styles. She has her own set of category labels, not all of which are obvious:



Proactive people act with little consideration.

Reactive people first analyze, then act.



The words that reflect the listeners goals.



Toward: oriented to achieve goals.

Away From: oriented to avoid loss.



Internal: they are guided by their own standards.

External: they are guided by the standards of others and seek feedback.



Options are continually sought and used to update plans

Procedures are relied upon to assure completion.



Sameness preferred.

Sameness with rare Exceptions wanted.

Difference: change preferred.

Difference and Sameness with Exception: like both evolution and revolution.



Specifics emphasized.

General overview preferred.



Self: barely notices others’ behavior.

Other: highly attuned to others’ reactions.



Feeling: emotional.

Thinking: rational, analytical.

Choice: mixes the two styles.



Independent wants to work alone.

Proximity likes a few others nearby, but he controls his space.

Cooperative wants and needs others, team player.



Person: what counts is how people feel, relate.

Thing: the outcome, getting the job done, is paramount.



Four possible combinations of having rules or not that apply to self or others: My/My, My/No, No/My, My/Your.



See, Hear, Read, Do



Number of Examples: how many are needed.

Automatic: gives benefit of the doubt.

Consistent: almost impossible to change.

Period of time: “time will tell,” a critical duration needed for confirmation.


Charvet gives many examples of the application of this analysis to convincing others, forming teams, hiring, etc., and offers examples of the wording most appropriate to convincing people of the various types she analyzes. She presents estimates of the distribution (frequency) of the various types. She has had a successful career using this method for consulting and there are some studies that support it.

The book is available from amazon.com .



May 25, 2019


Jenkins is the creator of the bestselling Left Behind series.


Becoming a writer seems glamorous. I became a writer because I had a message, wanted to make a difference, touch other people. Strong desire leads to fear of mot succeeding, thus procrastination, “writer’s block.”


Number one complaint of writers is fear. They cannot achieve their dreams because of it.


If you have a dream, you have come to the right webinar to get help.


I’ll teach you nine secrets to conquering that fear. I’ve averaged over four books a year, selling tens of millions. I, too, was once unknown and unpublished.


  1. Set a sacred deadline. Tell others. Commit. Calculate pages/day to make your deadline. Schedule some procrastination and work time. Recalculate the pages/day needed as you approach the deadline.

  2. Establish a daily writing routine. Stick to it. Minimize social media involvement.

  3. Celebrate small gains. Title, subtitle, dedication, acknowledgment, epigram, Prologue, first paragraph…print them out. You have started. Next day, another small goal.

  4. Always think “reader-first.” What will make this most interesting?

  5. Know your why. Recall the reasons you wanted to write this book? What is your “why”?

  6. Make time to write. Schedule, sacrifice. Even three hours per week.

  7. Make yourself accountable to someone else. Tell them how you are doing.

  8. Join a writers’ group to work together with.

  9. Find a mentor…to learn the craft and help you overcome barriers.




This talk was followed by a description/pitch for a writing program being sold by Jenkins et al., The Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild.  There are self-study courses, with detailed roadmaps, master classes, fiction and non-fiction. Sessions are recorded and archived and put into pdf files. E.g., self-editing, dialog, point of view, show don’t tell, your first five pages, prefect itch, theater of your readers mind, main characters, memoirs, how-to…all available in the archives.  


Manuscript repair and re-write: JJ edits the first page of a student’s work. Highly popular sessions. Show what must be changed and why. Example helps students do it for themselves.


Office hours make JJ available online.


Motivated, caring communities of fellow students. 2000 members.


These benefits raise your confidence and improve your performance, getting you to your published book.


What is the cost? $45 / month. JerrysGuild.com. Sign up online.




If you want my coaching/editing help for your book, contact me at WriteYourBookWithMe.com. I am not Jerry Jenkins, but you will not be one of thousands in a group, but one of a few, getting personal attention. It is the difference between getting books/videos etc. or getting a personal coach.


Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D.


20 Fixes for Your Slow-Selling Book (Hall, 2015)



Although I have covered some of these in earlier parts of this book, I list here Rayne Hall’s 20 fixes for why one’s book does not sell. She devotes a chapter to each:


·      the book cover

·      the blurb

·      sample pages

·      link detours

·      know your reader

·      targeting versus scattershot

·      permission versus intrusion

·      buried in cemeteries

·      social media

·      websites, blogs and other time sinks

·      stop obsessing over what doesn’t matter

·      how to get real book reviews

·      end-matter excerpts

·      shared marketing

·      once-effective methods no longer work

·      distribution channels

·      focused efforts to achieve more

·      change the title

·      the opening scene

·      freshen up your writing voice


Let’s look at some of these we have yet to discuss:


·      Sample Pages: Some book promotion sites allow you to select a percentage of your book to display, the first 10%, 20%, etc. Make sure your book’s “good stuff” fits there. Be generous.


·      Link Detours: Every time you ask readers to click on a link to go somewhere else, a large fraction refuse to do so. You’ve lost them. Make your links usually go to where the book is sold.


·      Know Your Reader: Define your prime demographics. Where do they hang out?


·      Targeting vs. Scattershot: Promote your book to your target audience, or you are wasting time, money, and effort. Go where your readers will be.


·      Permission vs. Intrusion: Hall, “Most advertising is unwelcome. It intrudes….” Some advertising is welcome, though, as people have agreed to receive it, like mail-order catalogs. Intrusion advertising repels, and permission advertising attracts. Broadcasted advertising can easily devolve into spam, making the advertiser unpopular, even a pariah.


·      Buried in Cemeteries: Don’t advertise where there are lots of other similar advertisers, or you will not stand out. Don’t pay to be on a site which just promotes books, rather than supplies material that will attract readers.


·      Social Media: Hall notes, “Every social media message is a mini-sample of your writing.” Remember that. Create interesting posts, but not merely about your book, although writing about related content makes sense. Avoid automated Tweet schemes.


·      Websites, Blogs and Other Time-Sinks. Hall writes, “You need an Internet presence, a way for publishers, journalists and fans to contact you. But you may not need as much as you think….and where to you take the time from? It’s the time you would otherwise spend writing books.” Consider closing an ineffectual blog and guest-blogging instead. Keep your website up to date...or close it down. Online groups are often time-wasters.


·      Stop Obsessing Over What Doesn’t Matter Good advice in general. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is irrelevant for writers. Forego social media ranking games. Do try to get ranked high in some Amazon sub-genre categories, however, Hall maintains, as readers will often be influenced by that. Be a big fish in a small pond to get noticed. You’ll have to contact Amazon to get your categories changed. Use all the keywords you can.


·      How to Get Real Book Reviews:  Readers are influenced by the number and enthusiasm of book reviews a book receives. Hall’s suggestions: Ask your beta readers for reviews; at the end of your book, ask your reader for reviews; when fans contact you, ask them for reviews. Offer free ebooks, but nothing else, for reviews. Don’t respond to reviews, Hall writes, whether positive or negative. Don’t buy reviews ever. Don’t swap reviews with other authors. Don’t have friends sabotage competitors.


·      End-Matter Excerpts: If a reader has finished and liked a book, he is likely to buy a similar one he is exposed to with an excerpt at the end of the book he just read. Add an excerpt from your next book or arrange to swap excerpts with an author in the same genre.


·      Shared Marketing:  Hall writes: When you join forces with another indie author, you can halve your marketing workload and double your results – but only if you choose the right partner. I find that on Twitter, much the same effect is obtained by posting to hashtags like #promocave and #amwriting.


·      Once-Effective Methods No Longer Work: The original becomes conventional. The rare becomes common. Free books glut the market. Circumstances change. Hall: “By the time you copy someone else’s success technique, it’s already useless.” Let’s hope her advice lasts longer than that. She recommends you try what has worked, but stop if it no longer works or does not work for you.


·      Distribution Channels: Conventional publishing relied on the path publishers-distributors-bookshops-reader. Now indie authors sell online, choosing their own channels, preferably Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, etc. “Most new authors sell far more ebooks than paperbacks, so make sure your book is available in electronic format.”(Hall, 2015)


·      Focused Efforts Achieve More: Success breeds success. Investing in reaching the ranking of #3 from #30 pays better than moving from #3000 to #2000, Hall maintains, so place your money and efforts on your near-winner rather than your also-rans. Concentrated promotion beats long-term.


·      Change the Title: See earlier discussion on titles. Note this change in your book descriptions.


·      The Opening Scene Hall (2015): “Many new authors’ novels begin with the same few openings.” Avoid.



·      Freshen Up Your Writing Voice: Use less common words, but not arcane ones. 





    Excerpted summary from my Write Your Book with Me of the material in Hall, Rayne (2015). Why does my book not sell? 20 simple fixes.





Marketing Your Book

You have written your book and now have to get someone to read it, and better yet, get many people to buy it. That was the problem I was faced with. If you are a memoir writer, you have the advantage of a fairly popular genre and the disadvantage of having only one memoir and not a series of memoirs that might support each other. If someone likes your memoir, you do not have another to offer.


Early in my quest for book marketing insight, I found John Locke’s (2011) How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in 5 Months!  His ebooks were novels, sold at $0.99 each, nine different titles, five with the same “hero,” the somewhat unsavory Donovan Creed. Locke sold this How-To book for $4.99, correctly predicting that would-be self-publishing authors, such as myself, would readily ante up the big bucks for it. Glad I am that I did. Well, pretty glad.


 I will paraphrase Locke’s “Business Plan” and compare it with my own efforts for my book:

1. Write the best book you can. Done: Ting and I: A Memoir.

2. Create a website. Done: tingandi.com .

3. Use Twitter to get people to your website. Done: “@douglaswcooper” has approximately 10,000 “Followers.”

4. Answer all your emails from readers. Will do.

5. Create a simple blog site. Done: http://douglaswinslowcooper.blogspot.com. By June 2015, I had posted over 400 blog entries in a four-year period. They averaged about 100 visits per entry. Not a big deal, but not chopped liver, as they say in New York City.

6. Use Twitter to call attention to your blog. Doing it. Facebook, too.

7. Epublish your ebook. Done, through Outskirts Press and as Kindle book through Amazon.

8. Repeat the cycle with other books you write. Doing it.


Locke maintains that his low ebook price, $0.99, encourages uncertain buyers to try his novels, as it did me. He by-passed conventional publishing houses because he wanted to write his books his way, not theirs. He tried many of the suggestions offered him for marketing, but eventually came down to his website - blog - Twitter Internet triad for success. He emphasized, as well, that he wrote his books with a particular kind of reader in mind, his market niche. Depending on the kind of life you have led, you may have significant constraints on niche-seeking. Some of Locke’s luster lessened when it was found that he had paid for many of the favorable reviews that helped propel his books high on the bestseller lists.


Amanda Hocking, twenty-something author of “young-adult paranormal” novels [USA Today, February 9, 2011] sold 450,000 ebook copies of her nine titles, most priced at $0.99, in January of 2011 alone. She writes about vampires, zombies et al., and promotes her book through a blog, Twitter and Facebook. Social media move ebooks as well as helping to sell conventionally published works.


 Back to Locke, who emphasizes writing for one’s target audience, finding them, interacting with them, listening to them. With a memoir, perhaps your audience is People Like You. There are elements of our story Ting and I that should have had wide appeal to:

1. Women who like romance stories.

2. Would-be career women whose marriages had to come first.

3. Asian - American women, especially those of Chinese ancestry.

4. Couples in their second marriages, with step-children.

5. Couples with one member seriously handicapped or critically ill.

6. Nurses, doctors, social workers who deal with the critically ill.

7. Families providing prolonged health care at home.

8. Those making decisions about hospice care.

9. All who like inspirational stories about a person’s success against the odds.


Your book will have a different niche, or niches, but as you identify them, they should suggest key words to use in Internet searches to find the magazines and ezines that your potential audience reads. We were able to get some articles that mentioned our memoir published in magazines and ezines that served these niches.


Both the United States’ and Britain’s national multiple sclerosis (MS) societies accepted articles about us and our book, “Undefeated” and “A Book for My M.S. Heroine,“ as Tina’s quadriplegia is due to M.S. The online monthly publication, asiancemagazine,com, for Asian American women, has accepted each article I submitted monthly for the past fifty months. Youandmemagazine.com accepted three pieces, as they are interested in first-person articles dealing with aspects of medicine. Wellspouse.com accepted “Interracial Stepparent and Caregiver.” Marriage Magazine accepted “Together Forever.”  I have been less successful in getting pieces in publications for seniors or into any of the general-circulation magazines, such as Women’s Day, which magazines tend to limit their acceptances to writers with established national reputations and clippings.


Joining the Orange County [NY] Chamber of Commerce opened up many useful channels. I have written several pieces that were published in their monthly public newsletter [circulation 80.000], gotten excellent advice on marketing and help in doing it from fellow members, and have enjoyed involvement with a nice group of people, thus alleviating some feelings of isolation. The Chamber members I talked with encouraged me to start a blog, a personal web site that contains samples of my writing and allows others to comment on them. A member gave me valuable advice on improving our web site and others are planning to go well beyond that in improving my visibility in social media.


 Concerning advice he received from others, John Locke noted that the following did not work out for him:

1. Trying to get his books into bookstores [need an agent and a publisher].

2. Trying to get interviewed by newspapers. [We did get a very nice interview article in a local weekly paper and an exceptionally sympathetic and well-received article in a local monthly magazine.]

3. Hiring a publicist.

4. Sending out press releases.

5. Radio interviews.

6. Paid advertising in various media.


Locke welcomes the rest of us to try our luck, but his explanations of his experience made sense to me, so I did very little of the above.


Where does that leave us? Good book, web site, blog, Twitter, and prayer.


P.S. In 2015, after four years of my promoting my Ting and I, I was given the gift of an hour with a professional book publicist from the Bradley Communications group. We discussed what I had done to promote the memoir, and he told me I had done the right things and that memoirs from unknown people rarely do even as well as the few hundred I had sold.




Excerpted from my opus, Write Your Book with Me, published by Outskirts Press and available from OP and online booksellers like amazon.com and bn.com.






The Audience Revolution (Iny, 2015)

You have written your book, gotten it published, obtained some favorable reviews, given a few talks here and there, and gotten some press. Despite that, you have sold a hundred or fewer copies, just like the overwhelming majority of non-celebrity, first-time authors.


Where did you go wrong? Like me, you thought, build it and they will come, write it and they will buy it. As recently successful author, program developer, marketer Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing explains: one must build one’s audience first.


Makes sense, actually. Celebrities have successful memoirs because they already have big audiences, and unless the book is a dud, they are going to sell myriads, or at least a whole lot.


Iny’s book is THE AUDIENCE REVOLUTION: The Smarter Way to Build a Business, Make a Difference, and Change the World.  It lives up to its title. Well, maybe “change the world” is a bit premature.


Iny has a great line: “failure is only failure if it happens in the last chapter. Otherwise, it’s a plot twist.” This 2015 Easter morning, minister Joel Osteen spoke about one of the messages of Easter: it’s not over just because it seems to be a failure; something better beckons. A sage is said to have remarked, when asked what is universally true, “This, too, will pass.” We must persevere.


Those of us who have not yet built an audience can still do so. In the next chapter of our lives, we should take Iny’s advice: examine our passions, find what others have asked of us already, and look for the intersection of these that marks our best choice for making a contribution others will value.

This book offers a link for a site with a video and worksheets to help in this exploration.


Excerpted from my Write Your Book with Me, available from amazon.com and other online booksellers as well as from Outskirts Press, its publisher.


Getting Maximum Publicity in Minimum Time



Steve Harrison of Bradley Communications Corporation gave a web seminar, a webinar, having this title. I listened raptly as he presented over an hour of useful information for free, followed by a twenty-minute pitch for services his company offers.


Harrison started out in journalism, having majored in English in college. He soon joined his brother Bill Harrison in publishing the Radio and TV Interview Report, started in 1987, and the Harrisons and their Bradley Communications Corporation have by now coached over 12,000 authors and speakers, helping them to obtain successful promotion of their books and presentations.


The company’s mission is simple: to help you achieve your mission. Among the successful authors that they have helped obtain widespread dissemination of their works are Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, whose Chicken Soup… line of books have sold over 500 million copies. Another author they helped to succeed is Dr. John Gray, whose Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus relationships book and associated activities have made him a millionaire many times over. They also coached Robert Kiyosaki, whose Rich Dad, Poor Dad book also rocketed into a highly successful worldwide publishing orbit.


Publicity is better than advertising because it is free, more credible, and tends to multiply, as media coverage leads to more media coverage. It’s almost viral.


Publicity makes you an expert. This then increases traffic to your website, word-of-mouth recommendations, distribution, social media buzz, buyers for your product, and makes you sought out for speaking engagements and interviews, giving you the opportunity to raise your fees and product prices and generate even more publicity. You establish a virtuous circle, where success leads to more success. “The rich get richer.” Well, less poor anyway, as most books lose money.  


It surprised me to learn that every day over 100,000 media outlets are seeking guests of one sort or another, interviewees who are in some sense experts, due to education, training, or experience. Despite this, most authors and speakers fail to promote themselves successfully, remaining relatively unknown. Jack Canfield has commented that not promoting one’s book is much like giving birth to a baby and then leaving it on someone else’s doorstep. If you have something worth communicating, then self-promotion also serves others.


Harrison described seven different ways in which famous authors and speakers differ from those who remain unknown.


First, the unknowns have tended to talk about their products, whereas the famous have understood that they must direct attention to good ideas. The famous understand the need for a “hook.” A hook is an attention-grabber, a teaser, the kind of headline you see on the cover of popular magazines. On radio or TV a hook might be prefaced with the words “coming up….” What follows can usefully be a statement of how to do something, the countering of a myth, presentation of a prediction, or the proposing of a question, such as, “Is your house making you sick?” (I would add that journalists have a favored set of question starters: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?)


Second, famous authors and speakers give reasons why they need to be covered NOW. They have a timely hook: a season, anniversary, holiday, news event---sudden or predictable.


Third, the famous authors and speakers have not relied on a single hook but have developed multiple, good hooks. Harrison gave as an example a hypothetical book, Nutrition 101. Certainly, one would approach media outlets that are centered on fitness and health, but Harrison gave examples of tailoring the message for those outlets interested in consumer affairs, personal finance, personal relationships, and self-improvement. An example from his talk would be for the author of Nutrition 101 to offer to speak about “five ways to trim your grocery bill” or “how your beloved may be sabotaging your diet.”

Speaking about multiple hooks, Harrison presented the following list of media interest groupings:

·      Small business and entrepreneurial advice

·      Parenting and family

·      Personal finance

·      Relationships

·      Christian

·      Women’s

·      Consumer advice

·      Sales and marketing

·      Psychology and self-improvement

·      Health and fitness

·      Leadership and management

·      Career advice

·      New Age and spiritual

·      Alternative health.

     No doubt there are more, and each of these could be further sub-divided into narrower niches.


Fourth, the famous utilize many different media types to maximize their exposure:

·      Radio        

·      Television

·      Newspapers

·      Magazines

·      Trade-published newsletters

·      Blogs

·      Podcasts

·      E-zines

·      Tele-seminars

·      Webinars

·      Conferences.


Who will become the new Oprah Winfrey? Bloggers may deserve this title. For example, the blog babble.com is the 276th most popular website, receiving over 4 million visitors per month. To get your message on such a blog, you can offer a guest post, offer to be interviewed, present a book to be reviewed, give away some chapters of your book, and offer your book as a prize. To be successful doing this, however, you must research the blog, to make sure that what you’re offering is appropriate.


Fifth, the famous have had publicity plans, knowing WHO is their core audience, WHAT they read or watch, and WHEN various topics will seem timely to them.


Sixth, the famous often prepare the ground for their publications and presentations by getting publicity before the book is completed. One good way to do this is through the creation of short, few-minute videos, placed on YouTube, which has become one of the top search engines on the Internet. In 3 minutes one might cover a topic such as listing “the top reasons men are afraid of commitment.” Be sure to include links to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.



Seventh, the successful have learned that they cannot do this all on their own. There is a lot of work involved, with special skills, data bases, and experience needed. They need the help of professionals, such as the Harrisons and their Bradley Communications Corporation. For  $2500, the Harrison’s will give you an in-depth consultation with one of their consultants, at least four valuable publicity hooks, three half-page ads in their Radio and TV Interview Report, four ads in their publication Experts4Interviews, a 90% discount on attending Steve Harrison’s multiple-day $2000 publicity workshop, and they will shoot, edit, and upload five videos for you. They placed the value of this package at over $5000. Those who are interested in learning more about their program should go to the website http://specialpublicityoffer.com .




Excerpted from my recent opus, Write Your Book with Me. See also my writing-coaching-editing site, http://WriteYourBookWithMe.com.

Publishing's Long Tail


Publishing a book is like stuffing a note into a bottle

and hurling it into the sea.

Margaret Atwood, novelist, essayist, poet


The publishing industry has changed radically in the past few decades, due to the Internet and Print-on-Demand technology. Lower costs allow many more titles to be put up for sale, though they are then easily lost from view.



 “More nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”

That simile need not describe the modern would-be book author. The publishing world has been changing, giving newcomers greater opportunities for being published, but making it less likely that their books will have large audiences. Let me explain:

Imagine creating the following graph: list the books published in the preceding year from 1 to whatever, in the order of their sales for that year, and plot the sales against that rank ordering. The best-selling book’s sales would be plotted high, at position 1, the second-best-selling book’s sales, somewhat less, at the number 2 and so on. The curve would fall continuously, but would go on and on, reaching values just somewhat larger than or equal to one book that year.

This kind of curve is said to have a “long tail,” staying above zero much farther than most common mathematical curves would.  There were several hundred thousand new titles published 2010, I have read, and the expectation for 2012 was a million or so, with the advent of electronic book publishing (“ebooks”) and publishing on demand (“POD“) printing technology. A decade ago, far fewer new titles were published.

Economics and technology enable this explosion in the number of titles “in print,” where we consider those that are available as ebooks as being “in print,” whether or not anyone prints them on paper.

My magnificent 2011 opus, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion, recently ranked about one-millionth on the Amazon list of printed published books sold by them and about 250,000th among their Kindle ebook offerings. Imagine if a book store was to try to keep the top million sellers, so you could be sure to find mine there: at a half-inch (1/24th of a foot) thickness average per book, and only one book on the shelf per title, the shelf space needed would be (1/24th) x (one million)x(feet) = 42,000 feet, almost eight miles of shelf space. [Mine would be way down at the far end.] I have read that a typical book store carries only about 25,000 titles.

No sensible book store would try to carry the top 1 million best sellers, and my Ting and I would be doomed. With the Internet and Amazon and my publisher’s [Outskirts Press‘s] Print on Demand technology, my book has a chance to be seen on the Internet at amazon.com and bn.com etc. by people who would never have had that opportunity years ago.

This “long tail” situation allows economical production and electronic “storage” of far more books than ever before, giving the writer for a niche market a chance of being published and being read by his proper audience. The bestseller lists will rarely have such a title on them, but the book will be published, and its author will have a shot at reaching his intended readers. The costs for printing and storage will be relatively small, the profits per book possibly large, especially for ebooks, and the number of buyers largely dependent on the author’s ability to promote himself and his work, as well as on the quality of the book itself.

Thus, this long tail can be to our advantage. We will be published. Next, we have to promote ourselves and publicize our book.

Writing a Novel: Historical, Sci Fi, Romance




Historical fiction takes place in the past, which changes the setting for the characters and their interactions. You still need a strong story, but some of your readers will be reading partly for the information about the times and the places in which your characters are immersed. They want to feel they are being educated while they are being entertained. So, bone up on the period and places in which your story unfolds.


The tricky part is not getting things wrong. The dialogue cannot contain modern slang and other anachronisms, items from another period rather than the one you are dealing with. The battles must be in the right places with the right winners. The “news” of the time must be correct. Did they have indoor plumbing? Radio? Electricity? Trains? You get the idea.


Historical fiction seems to require less imagination and definitely more research than other genres, but you cannot get so bogged down in research that you stop writing the story. Readers don’t need all the historical details. Strike a balance. 


As with other forms of fiction and for memoirs, the writer needs to make sure the reader knows the answers to the questions journalists pose for themselves: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Similarly, the stories need to start with something like headlines to alert the reader to what is coming: “The girls never forgot that day….”






Googling “how to write science fiction and fantasy” produced 8 million hits. The winner: novelist Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, the second print edition of which was published in 1991 and the Kindle ebook edition, which I bought for $5.75, published in 2015. It contains sound advice on his genres, followed by more about writing fiction in general. Here’s material from Card’s summary of the contents of his five chapters:


1.   The Infinite Boundary What is, and isn’t, science fiction and fantasy….and how SF and fantasy differ from one another.


2.   World Creation How to build, populate, and dramatize a credible, inviting world that readers will want to share with you….


3.   Story Construction Finding a character for an idea or developing ideas for a character to enact…. Should the viewpoint character be the main character? ….The MICE quotient: milieu, idea, character, event….


4.   Writing Well Keeping exposition in its place. Leading your reader into the strangeness, step by step. Piquing the reader’s interest….


5.   The Life and Business of Writing.

Card (2001) tells would-be authors, “…in many ways this is the best audience in the world to write for. They’re open-minded and intelligent. They want to think as well as dream. Above all, they want to be led into places that no one has ever visited before….”


So, get Orson Scott Card’s ebook…it’s a bargain.





On Writing Romance: How to Craft a Novel That Sells, by best-selling novelist Leigh Michaels (2007), is highly favorably reviewed on the amazon.com site, so who am I to disagree?


It will show you (the description says) how to:

·      Steer clear of clichés

·      Craft engaging and realistic heroes and heroines the readers will adore

·      Convincingly develop the central couple’s blossoming relationship

·      Add conflict by utilizing essential secondary characters like “the other woman”

·      Use tension and timing to make your love scenes sizzle with sensuality

·      Get your characters to happily-ever-after with an ending your readers will remember forever.




     This is not a genre with which I have much familiarity, despite being a romantic myself.




     Excerpted from my own magnum opusWrite Your Book with Me, published by Outskirts Press recently and available from OP and amazon.com, bn.com, and other online booksellers.


     My writing-coaching-editing website is http://WriteYourBookWithMe.com.

How to Write a Book about Health





Major categories for successful nonfiction books include health, wealth, and relationships.


Yes, we are all going to die sometime. However, we’d like it to be later rather than sooner, and along the way we would like to look good and feel good. So…diet and exercise, and maybe meditate.


If you have the credentials, possibly if you only have experience, you can write credibly about these topics.


One of my writer drop-outs wanted to write a book about weight loss through exercise and diet, having lost scads of weight she had put on during and after a divorce. She took up body-building and developed a body that most men would like…to have themselves. My limited test marketing with some women I knew indicated that they did not want to learn how to look like her.


I did learn that 3600 calories are equivalent to about a pound of fat, and that much of the early weight loss in various diets is due to excretion rather than fat loss. While most of us expend around 1500 calories per day, the Navy SEAL trainees expend 6000 calories per day.


If you want to look slimmer, you need to eat less and do more. Hey, I’ve got the basis for a book, How to Look like a SEAL. Maybe not. At least it isn’t How to Look Like a Seal, although they are sleek.


Short of being a psychiatrist or a psychologist, what credentials do you need to be a mind- or mood-improver? One of my other writing dropouts was a kind of martial-artist-plus-meditator in a get-up, who eventually drifted off into multi-level marketing.



They say that old age is not for sissies, and neither is writing a book. Expect to spend hundreds of hours on it. And lots of mental calories.




Excerpted from my magnum opus, Write Your Book with Me, published by Outskirts Press and available from OP as well as from online booksellers like amazon.com and bn.com.


Consider visiting my writing-coaching-editing site for a free ebook version of WYBWM and a free consultation on your plans to write and publish your book. 

How to Write a How-Too Book



I checked Amazon today for books in the category “how to….” 655,335 entries came up. We know these books are popular and there are lots of them, including How to Survive the End of the World as We Know it, and the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. As our little secret, a potentially profitable writing niche, note that “how to build a gazebo” got only 23 hits.


I went beyond Amazon: Googling “how to” got 3.48 billion results. As with so many such searches, I did not venture past the first page.


Knowing something about a topic and knowing how to do a particular thing within that general topic are very different. Understanding bicycles is not knowing how to ride one. I’m reminded of the joke told about one of my fellow physicists, who was said to know a hundred ways to make love to a woman, but he didn’t know any women. I digress.


Let’s go back to the example I gave near the beginning of the book and fill in that “how to…” outline:


What you are trying to do.


Your potential reader is likely to search for a book or article that starts with “how to…” and continues to name the particular goal. If you Google some topics, you will be amazed at the variety you find.


Here, I will show how to walk your dog, based on my interactions with our rescued Chow-Retriever, Colette. No, she is not “part Chow” because of her voracious appetite for only the choicest canned food. She is genetically part Chow and part Retriever, but fully “Daddy’s girl,” having me wrapped around her not-so-little paw.




Why it is important to you.


Try to think of all the reasons why doing this is important:

1.   I’d rather walk the dog then clean up after her because I had failed to walk her.

2.   I usually enjoy taking a bit of a walk, unless the weather is bad.

3.   I know it makes Colette happy, because she makes a big fuss just before we go out.

4.   She looks sad if I don’t take her out.


Note the ordered, numbered list. People like lists. Specific, clear, finite, lists rule in the how-to genre.


Materials you’ll need.


List what is needed and where to get it.

1.   A dog. Call or capture yours. [See Figure 1, not shown here.]

2.   A dog collar, attached to the dog.

3.   A leash. Purchase one that is strong, hard to chew through. [Figure 2.] (On an early trek, our part-Chow chewed through hers.)

4.   A little plastic bag to pick up feces. Buy at grocery store. [Figure 3.] (Carry this conspicuously, to reassure the neighbors, even if you don’t always use it when you should.)

5.   A dog treat, optional. (To reward good behavior, if it occurs and if it is observed. Note: praise is almost as effective and does not leave crumbs in your pocket.)

6.   Clothing for dog walker, suitable for weather and neighborhood, and clothing for the dog, if you have that kind of dog.


Step-by-step instructions for accomplishing it.

0.   Check the weather, by opening the door or window, or by listening to the radio or TV.

1.   Call the dog. Example: “Come, Colette. Come, Colette. Colette, where are you?”

2.   If calling fails, bring leash with you, attach it to dog’s collar and gently lead the dog up to and out the door.

3.   If calling succeeds, praise the dog [“Good dog, Colette!”], attach leash to dog’s collar and gently lead the dog out the door.

4.   If this is a “business trip,” walk the dog where this will not cause angst in your neighborhood.

5.   If necessary, remove excrement from ground and deposit in bag, praising dog for urinating or defecating outdoors rather than indoors.

6.   Return home, walking as little extra or as much more as you deem appropriate.

7.   Congratulate self and dog. Example, “Good dog, Colette.”


What the outcome should be.

1.   Dog will have done her “business.”

2.   You will have obtained exercise.

3.   Floors indoors will not require supplementary cleaning.

4.   Your “significant other,” if there be one, will approve.


Sources of information and materials.


         List them here, as appropriate. Numbered list, of course.


Surprisingly to me, how-to pamphlets and videos and books are big sellers, so go to it, providing somewhat more value to your readers than this brief example provided.



For extra value, and possibly extra money, produce a video.





Excerpted from my magnum opus, the recently published Write Your Book with Me, available from its publisher, Outskirts Press and from online  booksellers like amazon.com and bn.com in paperback and ebook: 



Is Irony Dead?



Ten days ago I posted on LinkedIn an excerpt from my recent opus, Write Your Book with Me, giving the excerpt the tongue-in-cheek title “Writing Your Book Is Easy.” I append the piece below as evidence. Evidence? Well, a reader took me to task for writing about myself and giving a bad example. Unless being ironic herself, she seemed to be missing my irony. Here’s what one dictionary tells us about “irony”:


1.  humor based on opposites: humor based on using words to suggest the opposite of their literal meaning

2.  something humorous based on contradiction: something said or written that uses humor based on words suggesting the opposite of their literal meaning

3.  incongruity: incongruity between what actually happens and what might be expected to happen, especially when this disparity seems absurd or laughable

4.  incongruous thing: something that happens that is incongruous with what might be expected to happen, especially when this seems absurd or laughable

5.  theater Same as dramatic irony

6.  philosophy Same as Socratic irony

Early 16th century. Via Latin ironia < Greek eirōneia "pretended ignorance" < eirōn "dissembler"]

See ironic.


Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.



Let’s see how I tried to signal my intent.


The picture accompanying my piece shows someone giving blood, “opening a vein,” so to speak, as in my first major heading.


The title is hyperbole; few would agree that writing a book is “easy,” and I certainly don’t think so, though I am trying to make it easier, as an author and a writing coach.


         The first heading is jocularly presenting the task as simple: “Sit. Think. Write. “Open a Vein...,” quoting another writer’s humorous explanation of how to deal with the personal issues that arise.


         A few serious paragraphs follow, then we get into an ironic description of how to be a disciplined writer, Self-Discipline Exemplified: No Email until Noon, in which I describe my rather pitiful attempt to set aside distraction and keep writing until noon, the time I had determined that I would allow myself to open email, always more tempting than the “sit, think, write” regimen. I hoped the title of this section would again suggest humorous over-statement. Note “exemplified.”


         There follows a tale of my wandering off to get copies of an article about myself and my wife, a piece written by a local reporter.

Quickly we return to the main subject. “Enough about Lara Edwards. Let’s talk about me.” Quite baldly stated, for the reader’s amusement.


Is my ending enough to show the reader how I have been fooling myself? Now that I am home from the printer, I have resumed writing, by writing this. It is already eleven, which is almost noon. I’ll sign off here and check my email.


I had meant this piece to be in the tradition of Robert Browning’s classic poem, “My Last Duchess,” where the monologue by the duke about the wife that he had ordered executed shows her excellence and his obtuse narcissism and cruelty, of which he is wholly unaware…but the reader sees clearly. Well, I’m no Browning. Regretfully.


Is irony dead? In a world rife with self-absorbed foolishness, it may be hard to tell.


Why the picture related to ironing that accompanies this? A pictorial play on words, a visual pun, implying that here I am trying to iron out a misunderstanding. Ironing isn’t quite dead, at least.












Gather your stuff and find a place where you won’t be disturbed too often. Put your working title at the top of your page. Jot down some elements of an outline. For your memoir: crisis, background, aftermath, significance. For your novel: who, what, when, where, why, and how…the journalist’s questions. For your “how to” book: problem, significance, solutions, and resources. You are on your way!

Next, start adding details to the outline. Try the mind-map. Do some writing. Build momentum.

Check the clock. Ideally, you would measure your effort by results, such as word count, or sections completed, but at the very least you can mimic our governments and measure the inputs, your time. Determine to sit there for 30 minutes or even an hour.

Have a goal for your output, or your input. Keep it simple. Keep track.

“Open a vein” if personal revelations or strong, emotive language is needed. Tap your inner comic or your inner tragedian.




Finding time is as “easy” as getting up early or turning off the television. The news is repetitious anyway. You’ve seen sports before. The commercials waste your time. [Aversion therapy for the TV-addicted.] Finding space requires closing doors or going elsewhere. These take discipline and practice. I’ll show you next how I handled the need for self-discipline toward the beginning of my writing career:

Self-Discipline Exemplified: No Email until Noon

         “No email until noon.” It is a simple rule, designed to reduce the distractions plaguing this novice freelance writer. A person of stronger character could peruse his email, look only at the most pressing items, and get back to writing. Not me. Better, “Not I.”

I established this email rule yesterday. The allowable exceptions are yet to be determined. After I called our printer this morning, I broke it. They had sent me files I really wanted to look at. The files were from a two-page spread in our local weekly paper, with pages 4 and 5 all about Tina and me and my just-finished book, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion. I had to read it.

The paper’s editor had given the assignment to a “stringer,” a part-time, freelance writer, who herself is a poet and author, Lara Edwards.

“This one is for you” or words to that effect, the editor had said. He did not assign it to the writer who covers our local “beat,” town meetings, open-air market openings, etc.

Ms. Edwards, daughter of a highly educated Turkish and American couple, a social worker herself, was the right person to do the piece. She did a magnificent job, breaking the first rule of journalism as practiced today: she read the book before interviewing me. She came prepared, adapted well to our conversation, wrote an article too good for the editor to abridge.

Enough about Lara Edwards, let’s talk about me.

Rather than continue writing, I drove down to the printer and arranged to get one hundred copies of the article. Admittedly, I don’t have that many friends and family members, but someday I will be sending the copies to people I hope will review the book. I may also hand them out from a stall at a county fair, to entice the rural visitors to buy our book about an interracial couple who have dealt successfully with the challenges of almost twenty years of separation, followed by Tina’s increasing disability due to multiple sclerosis.  It’s upbeat, inspiring. I swear it is.

Now that I am home from the printer, I have resumed writing, by writing this. It is already eleven, which is almost noon. I’ll sign off here and check my email.






You’ll need an outline. Write down a half-dozen or so basics, then do some free-association thinking, some brainstorming.

I’ll discuss later a variety of book types, but one popular form is the memoir. If you are going to write a memoir, the story of part of your life, as you experienced it, it will be not the whole truth, but some of it, and none of it should be false, although nobody’s memory is perfect. You start with a simple outline and then fill in the details.

Here is a very simple preliminary outline for your memoir:

·      Crisis: catch the reader’s attention with something dramatic.

·      Background: what led up to it.

·      Outcome: what followed, immediately and in the long run.

·      Lessons learned: what did you learn and what can others take away?

Let’s analyze my own memoir with respect to this outline:

·      Crisis: In the first book that I wrote, Ting and I: a Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion, the first chapter describes the life-and-death situation my wife, Tina (born “Su Ting-ting” in China), faced due to an exacerbation of her multiple sclerosis that left her quadriplegic, on a ventilator, fed and medicated through a gastric tube, with the prognosis that she would live only a few months.

·      Background: Who are these people? How did they come to this point in their lives? What is the cause of the crisis? What is the possible resolution? How likely is that? The next chapters traced Tina’s life and mine to our meeting, our parting, our re-uniting, and our marriage. Then her multiple sclerosis worsened.

·      Outcome: What followed from the crisis? What are the implications both for the writer and for people who he/she really cares about? Tina’s life as a quadriplegic and mine as a caregiver and care-manager was described.

·      Lessons learned: What did the writer take away from this experience? What should others learn as well? Themes were the power of love, the importance of marriage, the value of life even when seriously disabled.

That was pretty easy, wasn’t it?

         Because memoirs are stories, we can profit from the advice of S. Evans (2015) with respect to novels, start with a bang: “The beginning of the story is what is going to capture the reader….” He says to make them wonder about the outcome of something. Sketch the setting, the way a cartoonist would. Introduce the main character, someone to like or dislike strongly. Give only a little background information.

The memoir will have lots of stories. As with fiction, the writer needs to make sure the reader learns the answers to the questions journalists pose for themselves: Who? What? When Where? Why? How? The little stories need to start with implicit headlines to alert the reader to what is coming: “It was a dark and stormy night….” Snoopy knew what to write! [Though Edward Bullwer-Lytton’s opening line has often been mocked.]

Another popular type is the how-to book. Let’s develop a short outline format:

·      What you are trying to do.

·      Why it is important to you.

·      Materials you’ll need.

·      Step-by-step instructions for accomplishing it.

·      What the outcome should be.

·      Sources of information and materials.

Again, the outline is straightforward. We’ll discuss this kind of book in more detail below, too.

For this book of mine, WYBWM, I had an outline of approximately 30 chapters. I put the outline at the beginning of my manuscript, and then I copied it again and added it below the first one. That’s where I planned to write the details under the various headings of the outline.

As I went along, I checked off in the first outline the sections that I completed. If I added new sections, I put them both in the initial outline and in the outline that forms the framework for the body of the book. I recommend you do this also. Hopefully, this keeps you on track.

With an outline, you are already getting a good idea of what you’re going to need to finish writing the book. If it is a memoir, look at letters, memorabilia, programs, publications of yours, photo albums, and records of a vast variety of types. If it’s a how-to book, you’ll want to be gathering written materials and videos other people have used to try to explain what it is that you will be explaining.

Since WYBWM is essentially a how-to book, I have indeed spent some time gathering materials prepared by myself and others to help guide and support its writing.

Recently, Britain’s Ginny Carter, “The Author Maker,” wrote a fine book on outlining as the key to writing your book. I wrote the following highly enthusiastic review of it for amazon.com:



Ginny Carter refers to herself as The Author Maker, and she does in Britain many of the same things I do in America: we help others to write and publish their books. She and I have corresponded occasionally, and she is a pleasure to know. When I saw her book I was inclined to like it, and my expectations were upheld.


As it is a book about outlining a book, the crucial step in building a framework on which the whole edifice depends, I’ll adopt her own outline to tell you about the book…which you should get if you are planning to write a non-fiction book relating to a business you have or wish to have.



Ms. Carter starts with a bang, as you should, “When we open a business book it’s a bit like stepping into the author’s imaginary home; each room holds a different aspect of their thinking and knowledge.” She’s personal, direct, interesting, and conversational.

We are reassured we will not be wasting our time in reading this concise guide: “In this guide, I use the exact same techniques I use with my clients. So I know they work, and they will for you too.”


Taking her own advice, offered later in the book, she quickly offers a helpful download in return for our precious email address. 


Then she gets right to it:


Step 1: What Do You Want Your Book to Achieve?

“It sounds like a funny question, doesn’t it? You’ve probably been dreaming of writing a book for quite a while, so asking why you want one seems beside the point.” But this is exactly on point.


Your goals in writing the book will shape everything that follows, so they need careful attention. You can’t get There if you don’t know where There is. Your goals will shape your writing and your book promotion. A “business book,” as she defines it here, is a book that furthers a business you have or hope to have. Most “businesses” make money, but some are charitable or even hobbies that enrich the lives of their “proprietors.”


A well-done book will add to your gravitas, your credibility, your client or email list, and your sense of satisfaction. Stephen King once noted [in his memoir, On Writing] that it will not likely help you get dates, but that is another issue.


Step 2: Who Do You Want to Read Your Book?

You might answer “everyone.” More modestly, you might want friends and family to be sure to marvel at and mull over your magnum opus, but a “business” book has as its targets prospective customers and those who influence people to become customers. If you are a writer, you are looking for gigs. A coach wants those who would want to be coached. Medical and legal professionals, for example, seek to raise their stature (and their incomes) by being authors, authorities…while giving the readers something of value instead of self-aggrandizement, which does not sit well with most who read books.

You have to target your audience, often the more specifically the better, as those who know you are talking about them will resonate to your message the way others will not. Targeting often involves an awareness of demographics, as well as a knowledge of needs and interests.


Step 3: What's Your Book About?        

Your book needs to have a BIG MESSAGE. And that message should be the answer to a single, burning problem or question – the very one your readers are grappling with right now.”


Here’s her formula that can work well for most of these books:

“I want to help _________________________ (your target readers) to

___________________________ (your big message) so I can _________________ (your goal).”



If this review were a book, my example would be: I want to help aspiring non-fiction authors to decide to buy this book so they and their writing coach will prosper.  


That was easy.


Step 4: Let's Outline Your Book!          

Ms. Carter gives several detailed examples of outlines that can work well. She has selected five types of “business” book:

1.      Transformational memoir (your story and how your readers can learn from it)

2.      Coaching programme into a book (the method by which you help your clients make a transformation)

3.      Inspirational book  

4.      Self-help guide

5.      Collection of interviews


Step 5: How to Market Your Business in Your Book    

You’ll want to trade some additional material of value for email addresses, and a wise businessperson will include snippets about the business within the text. See her book for additional comments.


End Note                                                                          

There’s lots more in this book that a review cannot cover, and I invite readers who hope to become authors to get this book.


About Ginny Carter

I’ll let her book tell you: “….So after some soul searching she gathered the courage to follow her dreams and put this talent, together with her lifelong writing skills, to more powerful use as a business book ghostwriter and book writing coach.”

First 10% of Write Your Book with Me:



Payoffs = Plan x Prepare x Publish x Promote


Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D.





By Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D.

 “If you're thinking about writing your own book and need inspiration, step-by-step guidance and lots of encouragement, this book is for you. Doug Cooper writes in an approachable style, and his scientific background comes through as he analyzes and picks apart the actions you need to take to make your book a success. From getting into the right frame of mind, to planning, writing, publishing and marketing (or as Doug says 'payoffs = plan x prepare x publish x promote’), this book contains all you need to make your own a success.”

Ginny Carter, The Author Maker, www.marketingtwentyone.co.uk


“I wish I had a copy of Write Your Book with Me as I wrote my first book in 1994. The process by which you can write a book is spelled out step by step, with time-lines, accountability tables, and all the resources necessary to make the journey a pleasure. If you ever thought writing a book was impossible, I encourage you to pick up this book, and you'll see the possibilities.”

Edison Guzman, President, A&E Advertising and Web Design


“Dr. Cooper’s academic credentials (Ph.D. from Harvard, etc.) led me to expect academic writing—technical and boring. I discovered, to my delight, that I was completely wrong. In these pages I found a great intellect reading widely in the field, consolidating the most practical tips, and expressing them in crisp, down-to-earth prose. He’s also honest—neither promising nor claiming best-selling status—but telling us candidly what works (and doesn’t work) for him and others, motivating us by his passion for writing and his genuine concern for helping fellow writers along the way. In the rapidly changing writing and publishing industry, I needed a refresher and update before publishing my latest book. This one more than met my need!”

 J. Steve Miller, author of Sell More Books! and Why Brilliant People Believe Nonsense: A Practical Text on Critical and Creative Thinking


"As a budding novelist, I’ve read a lot of books on how to write. A lot. I wish I’d had access to this book sooner. Ever the scientist, Dr. Cooper has extensively researched what the experts (Stephen King, Dan Poynter, and others) have said, and then distilled it into a comprehensive text. He covers all the different formats: fiction, nonfiction, and memoir. 

“The book starts with an excellent section on why to write in the first place, then covers preparation, the actual act of writing, publishing, promoting and marketing. It covers the whole enchilada. The best part, in my opinion, is how the author illuminates each section with examples from his own memoir, Ting and I.

“If you’re contemplating writing and publishing, this book should be in your inventory."

Dr. G.E. Nolly, author of the Hamfist series




by Douglas Winslow Cooper

“This book reads like the book Love Story, but with the harsh realities of how a couple deals with a catastrophic illness….Ting and I is a must-read for any health care professional.” Patricia A. Burns, Ph.d., R.N., Professor of Nursing. 

“Whether it be close friendships, lifetime companions or marriage soul-mates, this book clearly illustrates what it means to be a human being.” Amazon reviewer (5 stars).

“This is a poignant saga of a brilliant, beautiful young Chinese woman who fell in love with an American Ivy League student that tugs at the heartstrings.” Amazon reviewer (5 stars)

It is unique because the people it is about are unique. God bless them both.” Amazon reviewer (5 stars).

“The memoir was a great read!” Amazon reviewer (4 stars).

Poignant story of true love and commitment.” Amazon reviewer (5 stars).








































































HOW TO MAKE A LIVING WITH YOUR WRITING: Books, Blogging, and More (PENN, 2015)




























This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit. Fiction writers, present company [King] included, don’t understand very much about what they do---not why it works when it’s good, not why it doesn’t when it’s bad. I figured the shorter the book, the less the bullshit.

One notable exception to the bullshit rule is The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. There is little or no detectable bullshit in that book. (Of course it’s short; at eighty-five pages it’s much shorter than this one.) I’ll tell you right now that every aspiring writer should read The Elements of Style. Rule 17 in the chapter titled Principles of Composition is, “Omit needless words.” I will do that here.


[This is King’s Second Foreword to his On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.]



Cheryl C. Cohen, Director of Membership Investment at the Orange County [NY] Chamber of Commerce, has once again added her editorial efforts to her encouragement, for which I am very grateful.

Edison Guzman, President of A&E Advertising and Web Design [aeadvertising.com], has warmly encouraged me and expertly advised me. 



You know you want to write a book, and I know I can help you. My book will help you get started, and my coaching enterprise [writeyourbookwithme.com] is available to give you personalized help, like a personal trainer does for those who want to get fit.

I just Googled “how to write a book,” and I found 25 million entries…lots of interest, lots of advice. I’ve added to that collection. Information comes nearly free, consultation and coaching do not. Since you are here now, “love the one you’re with,” and let me help you write, publish, and promote your book to get you your payoff, whatever that may be.

You can do well by doing good, as author and entrepreneur Jorge S. Olson (2009) writes:

Want to be famous? Start writing.

Writing is one of the greatest and most noble ways of unselfish self-promotion. Through your writing you are able to entertain, you can tach, you allow your readers to imagine and dream. Writing is truly one of the ultimate tools for unselfish self-promotion.

The Internet site writeyourbookwithme.com describes the coaching business I established after writing and publishing my own Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage and Devotion. What I did I can teach you to do. I don’t guarantee you a bestseller or financial success, but if you follow the path I’ve taken, you will have written and published your book, promoted it to let others know it exists, and perhaps even profited financially from the process.

payoffs = plan x prepare x publish x promote

This sub-title of mine implies that each step builds on the preceding ones. You will gain from having planned and then prepared your text, gain more by publishing and then promoting it, and you may even profit from it directly or indirectly, getting a payoff that you sought.  If the equation were exact and if you improved each of the factors on the right-hand side by 20%, your payoff would more than double. A retired physicist, I love equations, even ones that need a bit of interpretation.

Certainly, you will gain a sense of pride in your accomplishment, like completing a marathon. Those who read your book will gain from the experience.

Jump right in. The water is fine. I hope you will be entertained, energized, and educated by what you read here.


Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D.







phone: 845.778.4204

264 East Drive

Walden, NY 12586-2329 


Today, Sunday, I’m getting serious about writing this book for you. The day you start to read this may be the day you, too, get started seriously on your own book.

Pretty early in the process, you should set up a method to keep track of your progress. In management, they often say “if it isn’t measured, it isn’t managed.” So, by keeping track of your progress in terms of word count, you can see how well you’re doing, congratulate yourself when you’re doing well, scold yourself when you are a bit behind schedule. You’ll find that just the little reward of self-praise and the little punishment of self-blame will accelerate your progress. Incentives incent.

For me, I started by outlining this book a week or two ago, but now I’m beginning to write. My progress record will be: the day, what I worked on, the cumulative word count, and the added amount. Here’s my first week:


WEEK ONE                                   Final Word Count | Change

Saturday, outlined.                                 w/c= 500.     Added 500.

Sunday, wrote up to WHY WRITE.         w/c= 2,500.           Added 2,000.

Sunday, added prior blogs.                   w/c=17,900. Added 15,400.     

Sunday, more writing.                             w/c=20,100. Added 2,200.

Monday, more writing.                            w/c=21,840. Added 1,740.

Tuesday, more writing.                           w/c=24,800 Added 2,960

Tuesday, deleted 1000 duplicates.         w/c=23,870  Added -  930

Wednesday, organized, planned, wrote. w/c=26,030   Added 2,160.

Thursday, wrote.                                     w/c=26,880   Added 850.  

Friday, wrote nothing, added file.           w/c= 27,350 Added 470.  


You get the idea. I’ve put my whole progress and effort record in Appendix I. Bestselling author Shelley Hitz (2015) recommends an even more detailed tracking of your progress, including calculating words per minute written. Well, “whatever floats your boat,” as they say, whoever “they” are.

         A good feature of Microsoft’s Word is that it displays unobtrusively your page count, page position, and word count. Another nice feather is “autocorrect,” which caught and changed my initial misspelling of “unobtrusively.” Sadly, it sometimes guesses wrong, so you can get “fort” instead of “font.” Beware.

I got a head start by having material I had already written for my blog, and I am a fast writer, so there are days when I added 1000 words in a few hours. Your speed will vary, but aim for a pace you find you can usually achieve. Try to write every day. As noted above, keep track of your effort or your output or both, so you see how well you are doing. Accomplishment feels good. Slacking off, not so much. The day I didn’t write, I felt I should have. Life intruded.

Write and Publish Your Book?

By Douglas Winslow Cooper

“You ought to write a book!” Has anyone said that to you? Have you said it to yourself? I recently published Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion through Outskirts Press.

Why publish? What are your goals? Start there. If it is only vanity, stop there. Few people want to hear us brag. An early comment on my own book was that the reader was relieved that, unlike many memoirs, it was not an exercise in self-congratulation. Of course, as an author, you will feel that having written a book puts you a cut above some who haven’t. Don’t gloat, however.

You can publish to inform, to inspire, to thank, to amuse, to mourn, to justify, to chastise, to set the record straight, among other reasons. I wrote in tribute to my wife, Tina Su Cooper; in thanks to those who have helped us; to inform others how we managed around-the-clock intensive care at home; and to express myself on numerous issues. You will need some strong motivation to expend the needed effort and money.

Why should anyone want to read it? If it’s a how-to book, that answer is easy. Even books not explicitly instructive will inform their readers, however.  In publicizing your book, you will need to make clear what the reader will gain. For my book, there was a romance to enjoy, idealism to inspire, information to obtain about home health care and insurance, and a variety of voices to be heard, as I quoted friends, family, doctors, and staff extensively. At the very least, those mentioned in the book were thanked by being in the book and by our praise for them. They are part of the book’s natural audience. If you are in business, you have staff, customers, and suppliers you might want to cite. You have anecdotes about successes and failures, probably some funny, some sad. Minimize your criticisms, however, as those criticized do not have an equal opportunity to respond. At least, consider cloaking the worst offenders in anonymity, unless you are ready for a dispute.

You could hire someone to write your book based on information you provide, under your direction and your authorship or co-authorship on the title page,  perhaps “as told to….” I wrote my own book, and I’ll assume you’ll write yours. I started with a sketchy outline, perhaps a half-dozen to a dozen major points. To capture the reader’s attention, I chose a dramatic moment in the “middle” of our story, my wife‘s nearly fatal multiple sclerosis attack. I followed this with earlier biographical material, then continued on from the dramatic moment, eventually reaching our present. Reflections, thanks, tributes followed. I wrote a page or two or three a day, not in any particular order, revising and expanding my outline as new recollections and thoughts arose. Write first. Revise later. Proofread later still. Would I have enough material? I ended up with plenty, over 320 published pages worth, about 80,000 words. Half that would have been enough for a presentable book, 160 pages at 250 words per page.

If you planned to have a book-writing career, you would next be looking for an agent to represent you and your book to conventional publishing houses. I will assume that, like me, you are likely to write only one book and you are not a celebrity or a famous person or even a person involved in something newsworthy. Extreme talent and good luck might get you a literary agent, but we won’t bet on it. A small publisher might accept you without an agent, too.

No agent, no big-time publishing house, no book? Not so. As I did, you can “self-publish,” through a “vanity” or “subsidy” publishing house. They will take your money and your manuscript and put the money in the bank and the manuscript into a book format and print the number of copies you are willing to pay for. I found Outskirts Press after some searching on the Internet. They paid more attention to me to get my business than they did once I signed up, but the final results were good, and I have no idea how well another such company would have treated me. A friend had a generally good experience publishing several historical books with Xlibris. Two other new authors I talked with usediUniverse, also with success.

In some cases, as a local author, you may find a small, local publishing house willing to take a chance on you. I have seen several examples at book-signings I have attended. For the rest of us, it will require pay to play.

How much will it cost? That depends on how much help you want. I took an upper-middle package at Outskirts Press, the “Ruby” option. Outskirts Press agrees to have the author keep all rights in the book, a plus. I added Ebook and Amazon’s Kindle publishing for another $100 plus about $100 for revisions after we (not they) proofread the work. That brought my total to about $1000. If I had paid for their copy-proofing, it would have been about 1.5 cents per word, another $1200 for my 80,000-word memoir. With help from my friends, we did it for “free.” One of our friends is a professional magazine editor, and she edited the book as a gift to us, saving us $1200. I edit their books for my clients. Though I had written over one hundred technical articles published in refereed scientific journals, I needed editing and proof-reading, and so will you. Mistakes in your book are like blemishes on a pretty face…they can make it ugly.

You can’t tell a book by it’s cover, but many people will try. The subsidy or “self-publishing” companies will give you a plain vanilla cover as part of their package, which you will find adequate but not compelling. I jazzed up our cover with a stunning portrait of my wife in her twenties, a lovely and intriguing Asian American woman, our heroine.

The other major expense is for the free copies you will want to distribute. My nearly 350-page book costs me $10 per copy, because each copy is printed electronically, rather than from an offset press. This “print on demand”  (POD) technology is expensive per copy, but you are not locked into a press run of thousands of copies, as is typical in conventional printing. Outskirts Press, for example, will do as few as five, within weeks.

When I worked out my gift list for friends, family members, medical professionals, neighbors, staff, etc., I needed 100 copies. To promote the book, I would be giving away copies to those who might review it or tell others about it. Another 100 copies is not unusual in such situations, I have read. That’s $2000 more I invested. Various expenses added hundreds of dollars more. Because of the pricing options I chose, I will net $1 or less per printed book sold or electronic book downloaded. Mine is a book with two messages: the value of loving commitment in marriage and the preciousness of life even under severe handicaps. One typically broadcasts one’s messages for free rather than expects to get paid for them.

Is it worth it? For me, a book intended as a gift for my heroic wife turned out to be a gift to myself, too. The books, given as presents, have brought pleasure to those we sought to thank. I enjoyed the process, and it rekindled my interest in writing.

Editing, publicizing, and marketing it have taken at least as much time as writing did, which is not unusual. I gave some talks and received some nice coverage in local publications. Doing so introduced me to interesting people whom I would have never met otherwise. I established a small business helping others with their own books. A small film production company is considering making a movie from it and they video-recorded me as I read the entire book. We’ll see what develops.

There are over 100,000 new book titles produced in the U.S. each year. Outskirts Press publishes 100-150 per month. Of those published by such subsidy publishing houses, I have read that only 2% sell more than 500 copies and most of their authors sell (or give away) only 100 to 200 . You can be among the exceptions, with talent, effort…and luck. You may well be satisfied with just having written a book that is worth reading, given to those who will appreciate it.

Sound good to you? Come on in, the water’s fine.


Gerund or Participle: What Difference Does It Make?

By Douglas Winslow Cooper

“I observed him running” or  “I observed his running”…which is correct?

First, he was running, and you were not. So we don’t need, “Running, I observed him.” 

If you are emphasizing that you observed HIM, and he happened to be running, then the first is correct, and “running” is a participle [verb form used here as an adjective].

If you are emphasizing that you were more focused on the RUNNING than on him, then the second is correct, and “running” is a gerund [verb form ending in “ing” used as a noun], and you use the possessive case of the pronoun, “his.”

I often see mistakes in cases like these.

How to Order Your Chapters

By Douglas Winslow Cooper

Imagine you have written nine chapters. What order shall they be put in? 

If you are telling a story, as fiction or a memoir, you could tell it chronologically, a principle which dictates the chapter order. Often, this is not the most interesting arrangement, and you will likely start with a chapter that grabs attention, as well as sets the theme or a theme of the piece. That leaves you with the rest of the chapters to put in order.

You have more choices than you may be comfortable analyzing. Mathematics tells us that N chapters have N factorial = N! = (N)(N-1)…(1) possible orderings. For N=5 chapters this becomes 5!=5*4*3*2*1=120 possible orderings. N=9 chapters have 362,880 possible orderings. No wonder the choice can be difficult!

To simplify your problem, you need a method to your madness. Break the work up into major sections, then order within the sections. With N=9, three sections of 3 chapters each, the possibilities are 3!=6 orderings for each section, 6*6*6=216 for all the combinations of these when taken together, and 6 times this if the section orders are also free to be chosen, a real improvement. 

So, finding a principle on which to base the ordering is a plus for the writer, and for the reader, and breaking the work into sections simplifies the ordering choice even more.

8 Steps to a Compelling Book Introduction

By Douglas Winslow Cooper

This is based on an excellent Amazon Kindle ebook, BOOK LAUNCH, by highly successful writer and publisher Chandler Bolt. The book is subtitled How to write, market, and self-publish your first bestseller in 3 months or less AND use it to start and grow a six-figure income.”

Bolt notes that number-one bookseller amazon.com gives the first 10% of the book in its “Inside the Book” feature, so your Table of Contents and your Introduction need to be compelling. His eight tips are for non-fiction books of the “How to…” genre.

Here are the eight steps:

1. Identify the problem. Let the reader know what problem you will be solving.

2. Present the solution briefly.  Your book will show how to solve the problem by….

3. Reassert your credibility. Tell who you are and why you wrote the book and why your advice should be trusted. 

4. Restate the benefits. Tell reader what they will get, again, in more detail.

5. Give them proof. Tell some stories, briefly.

6. Make a promise. Bigger is better, as long as you deliver.

7. Warn against waiting.  If they wait, they may lose out on benefits.

8. Get them to start reading immediately.  Read it now, to be ready whenever. 

Chandler Bolt’s book is packed with useful information and serves as an effective advertisement for his training program:   www.self-publishingschool.com.

7 Ways to Make Money From Your Book

By Douglas Winslow Cooper

This is based on an excellent Amazon Kindle ebook, BOOK LAUNCH, by Chandler Bolt, subtitled How to write, market, and self-publish your first bestseller in 3 months or less AND use it to start and grow a six-figure income.”

Bolt notes: an Amazon ebook becomes a one-click “impulse buy that‘s being promoted and marketed by the biggest brands in the world,” with unlimited, free distribution and unlimited shelf space.

Here are seven ways:

1. Passive income from book sales. Your ebook can be read almost anywhere, anytime. Amazon Kindle will give you 70% of the purchase price between $2.99 and $9.99 and 35% of the price below  $2.99.

2. Leads for your business. Your book advertises your business.

3. More coaching clients and speaking gigs. “…no better way to increase your fee, book more speaking gigs, and land more coaching clients than through a book.” It makes you an authority.

4. Free exposure and PR for your business. Publications, radio, TV…the book gives you an entrée, a reason to be interviewed. Each appearance improves the likelihood of another, somewhere.

5. Build/grow your business. Bolt built a business he did not originally have, based on his first book. Your book is a “salesman in print that’s constantly building relationships with buyers….”

6. Grow your network. “These days, a book is like a glorified business card….when was the last time you threw away a book?” Get past their gate-keepers, “…mail a copy of your book to their door….”

7. Grow your local business. Your book gives you added credibility, home and away. 


Create a Killer Non-fiction Book Title

By Douglas Winslow Cooper

Kristen Eckstein has written a fine short book, a bargain on amazon.com at $0.99 for the Kindle version: AUTHOR’S QUICK GUIDE to Creating a Killer Non-fiction Book Title, one of her series of GUIDES. I’ll summarize some of it here, but I also encourage you to buy it.  

Authors understand that getting people to read our books is almost like seduction: we lure them in with a good-looking cover, capture their interest with our title, then we tell our story.

I titled my memoir of our 50-year-long interracial marriage Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion. Let’s analyze this:

1. The primary title is Ting and I. Unless you are well-known, you are advised to keep your title short, five words or less. Check. Who is “Ting”? That added a touch of mystery, a good thing, and perhaps echoed The King and I, another good thing. It sounded foreign, which is exotic to some and attractive, but off-putting to others, so the result is mixed. Women buy more books than men, so it would have been nice if this suggested that “Ting” is a woman, but it doesn’t.

2. The subtitle is A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion. It tells you what kind of book it is, a memoir, which is good. Check. It does not exactly indicate what benefit the reader will get, though some might like to read about love, courage, and devotion, and some may even be inspired.

3. The title does not indicate how to do something, and How To is a favorite category for book buyers. Perhaps reading the book will show you how a very lovable person (my wife, Tina) behaves, but the title and sub-title don’t foreshadow that. Oh, well.

4. The title lacks numbers, which are often very attention-getting:

7 Habits of Highly Effective People, One-Minute Manager, 50 Ways to Make Love to a Woman. I added that last bogus title because there was a joke about us college physics majors that we knew the 50 ways but didn’t know any women.

5. The title and subtitle were not chosen for Search Engine Optimization [SEO], but sometimes one should do so.

Kristen Eckstein’s handy GUIDE includes a link to her coaching site, UltimateBookCoach.com, and a link for a free set of instructions, “The 50 Ultimate Book Titles Template,” with suggestions for creating your own killer, ultimate, maximally effective title.