August 2012 Edit of the Month

Exciting news for writers!

Here at Written Dreams, Lara and I want to be able to help as many writers as we can put forth a well-written story. We know editing fees are something writers may dread due to the sometimes heavy costs.

Every month we will post on our Facebook page the current sub-genre that is the Edit of the Month. August 2012’s sub-genre is Romantic Suspense. Send us your 60,000 word or less romantic suspense manuscript anytime in the month of August 2012 and the rate for editing will be $250.00. This rate includes a cover letter explaining any over-arching issues. The manuscript will be edited using the tracked changes feature and will include embedded comments in the margins.

Manuscripts can be sent to Please type Edit of the Month in the subject line.

For manuscripts longer than 60,000 words, please query us for an estimate. Thank you!

August's Inspirational Photo Taken in Illinois at Haigh Quarry

Writer’s Wednesday Guest Blogger Lily Silver on Indie Publishing

We’re happy to welcome Lily Silver to The Editing Essentials today!

Lily has been swimming opposite the mainstream currents for most of her life. She has been practicing the art of writing since 1992, when as a homeschooling mother of two, she desperately needed something to do that didn’t involve the kids. Once her children were grown she returned to college as a non-traditional student at 42 years of age, and spent the next several years trying to pick ‘just one’ major. As a journalism student, she achieved an award for excellence in journalism, and went on to become the editor of the college newspaper, a staff writer and staff photographer.

Lily never did find that one perfect major as she explored art, writing, theatre, photography. She graduated with a B.A. in History and a B.A. in Humanistic Studies with an emphasis in Ancient and Medieval Research, a minor in Art History as well as a minor in 2 Dimensional Art. She’d still be in college if they’d pay her to keep learning and acquiring degrees. True to form, Lily has chosen to go against the flow again by choosing Independent publishing over traditional. She published two full length Historical Romance novels on Amazon in the spring of 2012.


Dark Hero by Lily Silver

Dark Hero is a Gothic Romance with paranormal overtones. It is Book One in the Reluctant Heroes Series. Some Enchanted Waltz is a Time Travel Romance depicting the events of the United Irishmen’s failed rebellion of 1798. Bright Scoundrel, Book Two in the Reluctant Heroes Series, will be released in October 2012.

Visit Lily’s website and blogs at:        


Independent publishing has divided the publishing world. There are authors who love it and those who reel back in horror, regarding it as <gasp>  vanity publishing.  In the past, self publishing was considered a poor substitute for the traditional publishing routine. Independently published authors had to spend oodles of money hiring a printing press to print large orders of books the author then had to try to sell on his own. And, there was a stigma connected to the practice as the author was considered ‘not good enough’ to have found a real publisher to accept his work.

With the advent of e-readers and e-book retailers, writers can now upload their books directly to online platforms and readers can purchase them within hours. This phenomenon is similar to what happened in Paris with the Impressionist Art Movement. You had a traditional gallery system; art curators decided what would be shown to the public and what wouldn’t. Unknown artists like Van Gogh kept trying to gain admittance to these exclusive salon exhibitions. The curators refused to allow the Impressionists to exhibit paintings, so these imaginative men held their own art show and invited the public to attend. It was a success, and brought new styles of art to the forefront for art lovers to purchase. Art dealers of the time thought Van Gogh’s painting was crap. Today, everyone knows who Van Gogh is. Thankfully, he and other artists were persistent about presenting their work to the public when it was refused entry into the traditional salons.

A similar revolution has taken place in the publishing world today; writers can upload books to digital stores and readers can decide what they want to read instead of corporate publishing houses.

Why choose to self-publish?

First, let me point out that the term self-published  is not favored among us because of past stigma attached to it. We prefer to be referred to as independent or Indie Author  to describe writers who have uploaded their works to digital platforms.

I have been writing seriously for twenty years. I submitted manuscripts to traditional publishing houses in the late 1990’s. I received very polite rejection letters. My last attempt at traditional publishing was in 1999. After that, I returned to college for several years. I still held the dream of one day sending a finished manuscript to a traditional publisher. At the beginning of this year I attended a talk featuring two authors with experience in independent publishing. They were having astonishing success selling their work on digital platforms. After hearing their experiences with both traditional and independent publishing, I decided to give independent publishing a shot.  The results have been amazing. With over 6,000 downloads at Amazon in two months as an unknown author, I have found an audience for my work. Another plus is making 70% of the royalties instead of the typical 8%-10% with a traditional house. The best part is receiving letters from readers who say they enjoyed my books and asking about sequels.

Is working on the cover art difficult?

Not really. I did need to spend time searching online stock photo databases. My son is a graphic artist, so all I needed to do was purchase stock images and send them to him for my first book. He did the rest. For my second book, I purchased a pre-made cover from Romance Novel Covers. I was pleased with the results of both covers. If someone is proficient in Adobe Photoshop, they could easily create their own cover.  If not, the good news is that there are tons of great graphic artists who can create digital cover art for a reasonable fee.

What have you learned from other writers about their experiences with Indie publishing?

Patience. You need a lot of patience. It’s like building a snowman. You start with a small snowball in your hand and keep rolling it in the snow until you have a life-sized snowman. It is the same with finding an audience for your work. It takes time. An added benefit of Indie publishing is your book can remain for sale indefinitely, allowing readers to discover it. With a traditional publishing, if your books don’t sell well within a few months, they are pulled from the shelves and returned by stores. Also, it is important to have someone proof your manuscript. This is where critique partners or freelance editing services like Written Dreams come in. You want to present the best book possible, so you need other people to help you remove the warts before you hit that ‘publish’ button.

Which outlets (Amazon, GoodReads, etc.) do you feel work well with authors? Which platforms are the easiest for new writers to use?

Amazon is easiest. It’s also the top digital platform at present. Smashwords is good, but their formatting requirements are a little more technical. If you download the formatting guide and follow it, you’ll be fine. Smashwords will convert and distribute your books to all the e-reader platforms (Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc) for you, so that is the place to go if you want to have your work distributed on all platforms. All the outlets accept indie authors but a few, like Apple, only allow distribution to them through an aggregator like Smashwords. Others, like Amazon, B &N and Kobo allow authors to upload directly to them.

Goodreads is helpful to authors. I held a giveaway of Dark Hero in June. 786 readers requested the 4 print copies offered. As a result, many readers put the book on their ‘to read’ list and will hopefully purchase it. Through August 25th, I have a similar giveaway in progress at Goodreads for print copies of Some Enchanted Waltz.


Some Enchanted Waltz by Lily Silver

Indie publishing isn’t for everyone. It requires courage and determination. You wear a lot of hats; writer, editor, art director, and marketing. Yet, it is a rare opportunity for authors brave enough to take up the challenge. I’m glad I did. The rewards are well worth the effort.




Thank you, Lily, for taking the time to be with us today, and for the excellent advice on Indie publishing.

Wednesday’s Writers Guest Blogger Dorothy McFalls!

We’re so excited to have Dorothy McFalls as our guest today! 🙂 Dorothy, thank you, for sharing these wonderful tips on writing a great synopsis with us.


Dorothy McFalls

Dorothy St. James is the author of the White House Gardener Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. The Scarlet Pepper, the second book in the series, was released in April 2012. Dorothy also writes romance as Dorothy McFalls. The Huntress, an independently-published kick-ass romantic suspense, recently climbed the Amazon bestseller list, hitting #4 in romantic suspense. You can find Dorothy at or or on Facebook ( or on Twitter (@DorothyStJames). Other books by Dorothy McFalls include The Nude, The Marriage List, A Wizard For Christmas, and Neptune’s Lair. Visit Dorothy’s website to see a complete list of her novels.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend an impromptu writing retreat with three other amazing authors. One of those authors also happens to be an acquiring editor. As we were talking, she mentioned how surprised she was at the poor quality of many of the synopses she receives with the submissions. She couldn’t understand why authors didn’t spend more time on writing a synopsis when it is one of the major elements editorial staffs look at when deciding whether to buy a project or not.

I have to admit that I used to struggle with writing a synopsis. The end result was often dull. Flat. And it, quite frankly, bored me to death. That was before I learned what I was doing wrong.

Your synopsis is not a summary of your book. Yes, the synopsis should contain a beginning, middle, and end. But don’t simply state what happened in your story. Don’t write an outline. First, that’s boring. Second, it doesn’t demonstrate to the editor how incredibly talented you are.

Your synopsis is an advertising tool to sell your book. This is especially true if you are hoping to sell on proposal (in other words—convince a publisher to pay you money for a book you haven’t yet written.)

Not only should the synopsis tell the editor about your book, you also want it to:

  1. showcase your unique voice,
  2. represent the genre you are writing, and
  3. make the editor excited about the story (so she buys it!)

The synopsis should match the tone of your book. If you’re writing a comedy, make the synopsis funny. If it’s a thriller, write it so the editor is on the edge of her seat when she’s reading the synopsis. If it’s a sexy romance, make the synopsis sexy. Let the editor know when the hero and heroine kiss and more. (I was forever leaving out the first kiss and deepening relationship details in my synopses for my romance novels. And, consequently, I didn’t sell a book until a writer friend insisted I add that to my synopsis. Remember: the synopsis is a tool for selling your book.)

Most novels are written using a three-act structure (whether the author knows she’s doing it or not.) So why not use the three-act structure to write your synopsis?


Act 1: The Beginning:

Just like in your book, start with an interesting hook. For my latest cozy mystery release, The Scarlet Pepper (a book that sold based on its synopsis), I opened the synopsis with:

Someone is tampering with the Presidential vegetable garden, and Casey Calhoun, organic gardener for the White House, is determined to track down the garden prankster. Red peppers are growing instead of the green ones that had been planted. There’s cabbage where the First Lady’s favorite variety of lettuce should be. And all the tomato plants are gone.

From this opening paragraph you know (1) who the main character is, (2) there’s a mystery to be solved, and (3) that the story will be light-hearted in tone.

Because your synopsis isn’t a summary or outline of the book, it doesn’t have to open where the book opens. Open the synopsis by introducing your main characters and the story problem.


Act 2: The Middle:

What are the major turning points in your story? What problems does your hapless hero face as he tries to win the heroine’s heart? How do matters get progressively worse as your amateur sleuth works to solve the murder? All of these things happen in the middle of your story. In your synopsis, you want to describe the obstacles your main character faces…and how things get worse.

If necessary, the middle is also where you would introduce subplots. For example, if you’re writing a mystery and there’s a romance subplot, you would want to introduce the subplot in this part of the synopsis. But I caution you to be extremely selective with subplots. You want a lean, fast-reading synopsis that catches the editor’s attention. Many subplots, while interesting in the book, will slow the action in your synopsis. When in doubt, leave it out.


Act 3: The End:

Don’t leave this part out! The editor wants to know you’ve written a complete story. She needs to know if the story fulfills its promise to the reader. She can’t know you’ve done your job if you don’t tell her how your book will end.

If you’re writing a romance, tell how the hero and heroine find their happily ever after. If you’re writing a mystery, tell how the mystery will be solved and the bad guys get caught. If you’re writing an emotional women’s fiction novel, show the conclusion of the main character’s emotional arc.

If you include subplots within your synopsis, be sure they are wrapped up at the ending as well.


Final Thoughts:

  1. Don’t forget to show/tell how the main character grows and changes over the course of the story.
  2. Leave out minor characters and most sub-plots. Give the editor what she needs to know and nothing else.
  3. Keep it short. Most editors want 3 to 5 page synopses. That said, every publisher is different. Check the publisher website to see if they’ve posted guidelines for what they want in the synopsis.
  4. Always write the synopsis in present tense.
  5. For guidance in developing a tight plot, I highly recommend Blake Snyder’s screenwriting book Save the Cat and his Beat Sheet (

Now, go write that synopsis and sell that book!








And writers, if you still need help after you’ve followed these tips, Written Dreams offers editing services for writing synopses and query letters. See our Services Page on our website for details. We’re happy to help in any way we can. 🙂

Thank you, Dorothy, for the terrific advice! She will be with us all day so feel free to ask Dorothy questions or make a comment on the post. Thank you! 🙂

Don’t Be Afraid to Say Hi

E. Tip of the Day: Writing is a business of friends and relationships.

Before I started Written Dreams, I worked at Tekno Books for Marty Greenberg. One of Marty’s best friends was Isaac Asimov. Yes, that Isaac. The one and only. 🙂  I never had a chance to meet Isaac personally. He passed before I started working for Marty. But I had read short stories and books written by Isaac. Who hadn’t? They were so entertaining.

After all the work was done for the day, Marty would occasionally tell me stories about Isaac. Fond memories he had of the man he didn’t want to ever forget. But that was Marty. He had such respect for other people in the business. He knew how important it was to treat others the way he wanted to be treated. Marty always treated me with respect. He was an old-fashioned gentleman and generous of heart. He was very well-liked in the business, and an advocate for the underdog. Some say he was a prince among men. To me, he was a wonderful role model.

I made many wonderful friends while I was at Tekno. Dorothy McFalls was one of those amazing people. She and I just clicked. I believed in her writing wholeheartedly. We worked on her novel, The Nude together. One project turned into two, and so on. We became close friends. And like a good friend will, she encouraged me to go after my dreams. Thank you, Dorothy. I will forever be thankful for that support.  🙂

So, the next time you’re at a convention, don’t be afraid to say hi to someone you don’t know. They just might turn out to be the next Isaac Asimov or Dorothy McFalls. 🙂

Learning From the Pros Upcoming Guest Bloggers

Would you like to learn about writing from the pros? Mark your calendars for these upcoming Wednesdays! 🙂

Join us next Wednesday, July 11th when my good friend, author Dorothy McFalls aka Dorothy St. James, stops in to give advice on how to write a great synopsis.

Next, author Lorrie Kruse will be stopping in on July 18th to share news with us on her new release.

Lily Silver, author of Dark Hero, will be visiting July 25th, and answering  questions on self-publishing.

And August 1st, we’ll have an interview with the one and only Jim C. Hines.