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New Testimonial from Chistina George

Lauren, thanks for making The Publicist, Book One and Two so much better. You really pushed me to do better, to write better and I appreciate the feedback. Authors, if you’re thinking of hiring an editor, look no further than Lauren Hidden. She has an eye for detail and understands the needs of the author and competitiveness of the market better than anyone. If you want to compete in this market, you’d better hire someone who knows their stuff. Lauren does. She is without question the best.

Thanks, Christina! I loved working on your books. One of the most interesting aspects of working on book 2 were reading and considering the Amazon reviews on book 1 while refining book 2!

3-Paragraph Essay Component: Focus

camera lens focusIn the last blog post I mentioned that there are 5 components of a 3-paragraph essay. The first of those is “Focus.” The writing rubric I’m using gives maximum points for focus if you have a “sharp, distinct controlling point made about a single topic with evident awareness of task.” Now of course, in writing a book, you will have more than one topic, but you will need to make sure the book addresses a single overarching topic and that each chapter stays on its own specialized topic. How can you ensure this?

  • Plan your overall purpose: How do you want your readers to benefit from reading this book?
  • What specific subtopics will you be covering in the book? Make an outline. It doesn’t need to be elaborate.
  • Ask  yourself “so what?” after you re-read what you’ve written. If your only answer is, “It’s interesting,” that’s not enough. Be especially careful when writing anecdotes. Make sure everything specifically relates to your topic and supports your point rather than detracts from it.

The easiest way to stay on focus with your book is to plan ahead of time instead of spending hours in the revision process. Know your audience, know your topic and know what is realistic to be able to cover in one book.

Stay tuned for the second component: Content.

What we can re-learn from a 3-paragraph essay: Intro

pen and notebookOver the next few weeks, we will be going back to the basics…we’re talking about 7th grade Language Arts basics…to review the important facets in writing a non-fiction, informational book. I have to admit, I was one of those students who just wrote off the top of my head. I never did the instructed sequence of writing notes/writing a draft/writing the final copy. I also used to write 10 page papers in college in 2 evenings, so clearly I wouldn’t recommend my writing habits to anyone. Fortunately I was a good enough writer that I’d score good grades anyway. Now that I’m an adult, I take my writing organizational habits much more seriously!

Have you ever seen a PSSA Writing Rubric? I have—lots of them. Over the last few years I have gotten reports on my son’s writing samples as measured against the PSSA writing rubric. After reviewing a client’s “how to” book recently, I found that there was no conclusion. One minute you were learning new information and the next, bam! Blank page. It’s not the first time I’ve seen this. It got me thinking, why do people do this? Is it a lack of planning or do they just get tired and stop?

That incident, coupled with a 3-paragraph essay writing scoring sheet in a yet-to-be filed pile on my desk got me thinking that we could probably all use a little review in the informational writing process. Planning ahead will save you loads of time (and sky-high editing fees). Whether you’re writing a 3-paragraph essay or a 300-page book, the format and expectations are almost identical.

We will be exploring the following 5 points over the coming weeks: Focus, Content, Organization, Style,  and Conventions. Stay tuned.

A historic or an historic?

37 comments. Yup, 37.

That’s how many comments are on a friend’s Facebook thread (so far) in response to his question today: Is it: a historic or an historic?

This is one of those quirks in the English language where you make your decision based on the sound of the letter in the context of the word rather than by the isolated letter itself.

My friend, Chris, who I went to high school with and worked in an Acme photo lab with (you know, in the late 80’s before anyone owned a digital camera and you had to drop off your photos to get printed), had heard a phrase on the news about the pope retiring being “a historic day” and he questioned if that was stated correctly.

My answer was yes, it was, but apparently my answer and about 75% of his other friends’ answers (including his wife’s) didn’t satisfy him, so I did a little research and pointed him to Judy Vorfeld’s post on the topic (after all, I had some book editing to do!) Here’s the link I gave him.

If you speak/write American English, here is a safe rule: if the “h” at the beginning of the word is “hard” so you hear it (like in history), it is preceded by “a,” not “an.” If the “h” is silent (like in honor), it would be preceded by “an,” not “a.”

For example, “A historical memoir written by an honorable gentleman may contain a horrific story or two.”

New Public School for Students with Language Based Learning Disabilities May Open in Harrisburg, PA

Those who know me well know that one of my passions is education. To that end, I have recently learned of a new type of school that we may be able to open in the Harrisburg area for next school year (2013-2014) if there is enough interest. Education Plus Academy Cyber Charter School is a college prep public cyber school that uses a blended learning model of small group instruction plus online curriculum to teach students—especially those with language-based learning disabilities like dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia but it is not limited to that population of students. Eventually the school will offer instruction for students through 12th grade, but is rolling that out gradually. Next school year (2013-2014) it is accepting students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Right now they have several schools open in the Philadelphia area and I had the opportunity to visit one last week. I left that visit very excited and hoping that we can get one open in the Harrisburg area. It seemed like a nice balance of small group direct instruction and self-paced online learning. A small group of interested parties (including me) are scouting possible locations and we have to make sure there is a minimum of 13 interested students in order for the school to open. We’d like to gauge the local level of interest. Please send me an email and I will add you to a confidential distribution list as more information becomes available.

Interviewed in Huffpro article!

I’m very jazzed this morning to see my name mentioned in Huffington Post. A big thanks to Penny Sansevieri over at Author Marketing Experts for interviewing me for the Huffington Post article “Why Editing Is the Single Best Marketing Tool” Check out the article to learn some insider information on why and how you should go about getting your book edited. Feel free to post a comment while you’re there!

Hurricane Sandy Disaster Averted!

My husband and I spent much of our weekend getting prepared for Hurricane Sandy…putting sand bags on the trampoline, bringing in deck furniture, tying down the grill so it wouldn’t roll across our deck, buying some water, non-perishable food, and stocking up on batteries.

Other than our power a flickering a few times and being woken up periodically by strong wind gusts, I’m happy to report that we (and hopefully most of Harrisburg, PA) seemed to suffer no ill effects from the storm. I was sorry to see that NYC, in many spots, was not so fortunate. Hard to believe the subways experienced flooding. I have been to NYC several times and am thinking of my clients and colleagues there as well as other folks around the country who weren’t as lucky as I was.

Schools near us are closed as are many businesses, but The Hidden Helpers office is fully operational today. Happy writing!

Assisted Self Publishing Blog

I’m so excited to be included in the Assisted Self Publishing project. A whole team of us have pooled together to take the author, Susan Younger, through the entire book creation and production process. The blog is following the project from the beginning and each member of the team is offering their input about their role, and triumphs and challenges. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get some inside information of how this process works and how you can create your own book by using assisted self publishing. Check out my blog post about the role of the proofreader.

Not Every Author and Author VA is a Match

I had an introductory conversation yesterday with a potential client who was referred to me. The result of the call was that we decided we probably weren’t a good match to work together–right now anyway.

As VAs, when we first start out in business, I think it’s really easy to be sucked into the mindset of wanting to land every client that contacts us. I’ll admit it…I was in that camp once. But when it’s not the right client-VA match, no one is getting their needs met, and the working relationship will end of out necessity sooner rather than later.

There are some author assistance tasks I like to think I do quite well, and there are others that other author VAs may do better than me. Just as I sometimes refer potential clients to VAs who might be better suited, I’ve received similar referrals. The best VAs know that every potential client isn’t a good fit.

By the end of my conversation with this prospect yesterday, we agreed that right now, we may not be the best match. But we pledged to keep in touch, because needs can change over time and “no” can sometimes mean “not now” rather than “not ever.” She was kind enough to tell me she appreciated my honesty about our lack of a fit. We had a great conversation and we shared a mutual laugh about a blog post I had written. Even though this prospect did not turn immediately turn into a client, I hung up the phone smiling and feeling satisfied, and expect she did the same. That is an ideal second best case scenario!

Murphy’s Law: Writing Coaching Call Interruptions

The boy and the bird. 2 potential distractions!

Top 3 Events Likely To Occur 2 Minutes Before a Writing Coaching Call
1. My cockatiel will start yelling.
2. My son (12 years old and convalescing at home after a medium-term illness) will want a snack/drink/me to fetch something.
3. My home phone will ring.

Top 5 Events Likely To Occur 2 Minutes Into a Writing Coaching Call
1. The Fedex man will ring the doorbell (speaker is right next to my office).
2. I will have forgotten to turn the ringer/text notification off on my phone and one of my friends will text me during the call, so my client hears “Chime Chime!”. (I am getting better at remembering to turn this off before coaching calls.)
3. I will get a notification that another call is coming through, I will ignore it, and then the person will immediately call my home number.
4. I will accidently bump the phone’s speaker button with my ear and then be confused why my client’s voice sounds so distant. At least once.
5. I will laugh at something my client says, or s/he will laugh at something I say. What’s the point of working together if you can’t have fun??