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Quick Edits: Name Magic

Craft of Writing, Quick Edits, Writing

Quick Edits is a short feature where I give quick editing advice on how to handle common problems in fiction writing.

I haven’t done a QE in a long time! I’m excited to bring it back 🙂

Name Magic

To know and use someone’s True Name is power.

You might wonder what this has to do with writing fiction. As authors, we have power and control over our readers while they read our books. We use this power to create stories in their imaginations that, hopefully, elicit the emotions we’re looking to pull from them.

The names you choose for your characters play an important role in this. Is your yuppie lawyer named Tyler? Or Brittney? Or Ahmed? Each of these names will bring up a different vision for your reader, before you’ve even begun to describe them physically.

Stereotypes

William Edward Charles Weddingham III

Who do you envision when you see that name? A stuffy, suit-garbed, man, perhaps in his 50s, perhaps British? What if I told you that yes, he’s wearing a suit and tie, but he’s Jamaican with rasta braids tied back into a long ponytail down his back and when he’s not working in his investment firm, his friends call him Chuck?

Play with stereotypes to your advantage. You can play directly to them. Or you can break them. (I encourage you to break them 😉 )

Avoid Naming Echoes

One thing I see with relative frequency, particularly with newer writers, has to do with what I call “naming echoes.” This is the tendency to name characters with the same first letter: John, Jessica, Jerry. Sometimes, it’s deliberate (sometimes authors think it’s clever), but usually I think it’s unconscious.

Regardless of the “why,” it’s generally not a good idea to name characters in a similar way, whether that’s first letters or names that sound like each other. This is because readers will often read quickly, especially if they really want to know what happens next (yay!). If you have both John and Johanna as character names, it would not be difficult for a reader to mistake which character did what thing.

As a reader, I’ve done this. Nothing pulls me out of a story faster than a reference to something one character did when I think a different character did it. Then I have to go back, find the scene, and re-read it. And that messes up my entire experience of the book. To be clear, it’s my fault that I misread. But it is an easy fix for an author that will avoid the problem altogether.

Have a look at your WIP. Do you have a “naming echo” issue? I tend to lean toward female names that end in ‘a’ for some reason. So when I’m naming my characters now, I pay attention to that specifically. I also seem to like “J” names a lot (as evidenced by this post 😉 ). So I keep an eye out for those also.

Figure out your own “naming echo” issues so that when you name characters, you do it intentionally.

Are there any editing issues you run into that you’d like covered in the Quick Edits series? Drop a comment below!

Keep writing,

Venessa’s State of the Book! December 2018

Free Fiction Friday, State of the Book, Writing

Happy Boxing Day! I hope you had a lovely holiday yesterday, if you celebrate. If you don’t, then Happy Random Day Off Work Day! 😀

I’ve decided it would be fun to give periodic updates as to what’s going on in my writing life, so you know when you can expect goodies! So here’s my very first State of the Book Address!

Jivaja begins 2019 with a sale!

I’ve got a week-long promo from January 1 through January 7 where you can snag Jivaja on Amazon for .99! Make sure you bookmark the Amazon page! (Don’t worry; I’ll post a reminder next week!)

In the meantime, if you’re not familiar with Jivaja, you can check it out here!

Blue-Edged Soul to be released in mid-January!

Blue-Edged Soul, or BES as I like to affectionately call it, is almost done — ie, it’s being formatted right now! — and is slated for release around January 15!

BES features Ken, David’s brother, in London where he’s been sent to protect Carolyn and Jenny Barron. This short story runs concurrently with the climactic scene in Jivaja.

And there are BIG REVEALS!

If you’ve already read Jivaja and would like BES for free, make sure you’ve signed up to get your copy (and updates).

Get your free book!

Soul Cavern 2

Yep. It still doesn’t have a proper title. I’m almost done with the first draft. Hoping to finish it this week so that I can jump into revisions in the new year! Publication time frame is mid-April. Really excited to get this one out there!

Sad news for Free Fiction Friday

Jivaja is currently enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (yes, that means you can read for free with your subscription!). The unfortunate thing is that it also means I must suspend Free Fiction Friday until my KU term is over (in April). KU requires an exclusive distribution license, so I cannot offer Jivaja anywhere else, including my own site.

This Friday will be the last FFF for Jivaja. *sadface*

Around January 15th, I will be taking down all the sections of Jivaja after Chapter 5. The first five chapters will remain up so people can still read a free sample. (That’s allowed.)

I’m kicking around the idea of putting up a few shorts stories I’ve had done for awhile that are just sitting around, gathering electronic dust. They’re about the MSA — Magical Security Agency. ooOOoo 😉  But that wouldn’t be a weekly thing. Likely monthly. I’ll decide after the first of the year. Let me know if you’re interested!

So that’s the December 2018 State of the Book! 🙂

I hope you all have a lovely remainder to the holiday season and I will see you in the new year!

NaNoWriMo Winner!

Writing

Wooo! I did it! I won NaNoWriMo! Yeah, it took me the weekend to recouperate enough to write this post, but there it is! Lol (Okay, in truth, my mom in law is also in town, so that’s my excuse!)

What is NaNoWriMo?

For those who don’t know, National Novel Writing Month happens every November and it is a personal challenge to write 50,000 words (usually on a novel, not always) in 30 days. Kinda crazy, yeah. But a lot of fun and incredibly productive.

It’s not always easy. It means writing an average of 1667 words each day. That may sound daunting, but it isn’t. Not really. Sit down with a 15 minute timer and write. Don’t allow yourself to stop for more than 5 seconds at a time. Don’t sit, staring at the screen, thinking about what you’re going to write. Actually write. For fifteen full minutes. Then count your words.

I’ve discovered that if I’m really in the zone, I can kick out 700 words in 15 minutes. But that’s not a usual 15 minute sprint. The absolute minimum I get is 400 words. But that’s not a usual 15 minute sprint either. A usual 15 minute sprint is about 550 words.

With 550 words every 15 minutes, I can write 2200 words in an hour. (You can probably get somewhere in the ballpark too. I’ve noticed that most writers can get at least 1500 words in an hour.)

So it’s not the number of words that’s the challenge. It’s the consistency of doing it every day.

And then there are the non NaNoWriMo events

In addition to NaNoWriMo and the usual Thanksgiving holiday, I also had an out of state wedding in the first part of November. And when I got home, my mother in law came over from Europe for a visit. We picked her up at the airport 4 days after we got back into town and she was here… Well, she’s still here. 😉

Since I knew I was going to have a lot of distractions this year, I front-loaded my writing. I wrote at least 2500 words almost every day for the first week. Don’t get me wrong. I was still behind by day 20, but I wasn’t nearly as behind as I would have been.

And I pulled it out in the end, so go me! 😀

What I used

Scrivener for Windows (of course!)

Write or Die 2 (Gaaaah! There’s a version 3!!!)

Jamie Raintree’s Writing & Revision Tracker (new one’s coming out soon! Squee!)

Writing sprints with my Tribe (if you haven’t joined The Writing Tribe, why not?)

What I worked on

I was a bit of a rebel this year and did two different projects. First, I did a short story (about 11k words) that will be a bridge between Jivaja and Book 2 (which is, as yet, title-less). And then, I wrote the remaining words on Book 2. So that is more than halfway done!

The short story is already with my beta readers and once I figure out the title of that, I’ll have a cover. I’m looking to release it in January. But if you’ve read Jivaja (or plan to read Jivaja) and want a free copy, drop your email address in this form and I’ll let you know when it’s available! It’s my little way of saying

As a note, it isn’t a stand-alone story. You will definitely want to have read Jivaja first.

All very exciting! Stay tuned for more cool news coming up!

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

Also, links in this blog post may be affiliate links. This means that if you purchase something, I will get a small percentage of it, though it does not increase your cost in any way. I appreciate you using my links 🙂

Official Jivaja Release! Get Your Copy Now!

Book news, Writing

Today is the big day! Jivaja is officially launched! Woooo!!

So you can find links to Amazon and B&N, as well as Goodreads on my website page for Jivaja. Oh, and as a note, I enrolled Jivaja in Kindle Unlimited, so if you’re a bit short on cash right now, but subscribe, please feel free to borrow from KU!

This has been a weird book publishing experience, because I wanted to have some advance copies available for Dragon Con (because a million people go there). But that meant I had to upload it to Amazon early, to get copies (because you can’t order copies without it being live), so it’s actually been up there for awhile. But having copies out that early just made the entire experience weird!

But anyway…

Marketing is not my forte anyway and so I’m sort of flying by the seat of my pants! lol I’ve got a few random things going on this week.

There will be an interview out at Speculative Chic this afternoon at 4pm. If you click the link and get a 404, check the time. It’s probably not 4 yet 🙂

I’ll be doing an Ask Me Anything FB Live on my Author Page on Wednesday around 8pm EDT. So feel free to come over, pop in, and ask me all the burning questions you have about Jivaja or writing or when I’m going to have the sequel done!

I’m sure I’ll do other things this week, but those are the big ones. I’ll also be spamming your feeds all over social media, so there’s that too! Keep an eye out on Facebook and Twitter for other happenings!

 

 

 

 

Links in this blog post may be affiliate links. This means that if you purchase something, I will get a small percentage of it, though it does not increase your cost in any way. I appreciate you using my links 🙂

Super exciting news about Jivaja! Cover Reveal! Woo!

Book news, Writing

I hope you’re enjoying Free Fiction Friday! A couple weeks ago, I posted about the novel’s name change from Soul Cavern to Jivaja. This came about for two reasons.

First, the novel has been named Soul Cavern since I completed it for my grad program at Seton Hill University many, many years ago (yes, it’s been done for a long time). But as anyone who knows me knows very well, I suck at titles. Like, I really suck at titles. I get one good title idea a year, if I’m lucky. And I was never able to win the lottery on that book’s title.

Several publishing pros, from award-winning authors to senior acquisition editors at well-known publishers, over the years have told me in conversation that the title didn’t pop enough, just wasn’t good enough to catch their attention.

So I knew that it wasn’t good enough. I just couldn’t find anything better.

Because I suck at titles.
(Anyone want to be my title generator?)

Secondly, and a bit more simply, the title felt too big for the cover. It took up too much room. I didn’t really realize this was an issue until we did the switch from Soul Cavern to Jivaja. The new title fits the cover perfectly.

And speaking of covers… want to see it?

If you follow me on social media, you got a preview of the cover when the proof copies came in. I was so excited, I posted a pic of me (sans makeup! You know I was excited to post my face au natural! lol) with the book. So you might not be surprised with this reveal. But maybe you will be!

Ready?
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.
.
Set!
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Go!!

 

Isn’t she gorgeous?! 😍😍😍

About the artist: My cover artist is an amazing woman named Sophia Fedderson, also known as the Book Brander. She first hit my radar when I was listening to back list editions of The Creative Penn Podcast and she was a guest. I really liked what she had to say about covers and her entire philosophy about them. Also, she’s an author herself, so she understood both sides of the equation, which was also a plus to me. So I bookmarked her site way back then and now, probably 3 or 4 years later, she’s my cover artist!

I think you’ll agree with me that she does incredible work! So if you’re looking for a cover, definitely check her out.

The book will officially be for sale on October 15th, in case you don’t want to wait for each scene to be posted on #FreeFictionFriday!

So tell me… what do you think of the Jivaja cover?

Tool Time Tuesday: ProWritingAid

Tool Time Tuesday

Every other Tuesday, we talk about the different tools available for writers to make life easier (theoretically 😉 ).

Today’s Tool: ProWritingAid

Platform: Browser, Windows, Mac, pretty much everything

Cost: Free web version; Premium version available ($50/yr, price breaks available for multiple years; $175/lifetime; discounts for edu folks & bulk purchasing)

What it does: Wow. When I found this a couple years ago, I was astounded and fell in love all at the same time! While it can’t tell you whether your story is a good story, it can tell you how to improve your actual craft.

This is what Word’s Grammar check aspires to be! I use this on all my work before it goes to a professional editor (or acquisitions editor/agent if I’m submitting). I cannot accurately convey the depth of my love for this little program!

Okay, Venessa, enough praise. Show me!

So you can choose to use the free web version and do a section of your work at a time. If you can’t afford the premium version, this is a perfectly good way to do it. It will take longer, because you’ll be doing a lot of copying and pasting, but you’ll get the full functionality of the program, just a piece at a time.

If you upgrade, you can download the software to your computer (there’s even a 2-week free trial!). But here’s the brilliant part: you can use the software with the program you write in, whether it’s Word, Google Docs, Open Office. I use Scrivener for Windows. Here’s what ProWritingAid looks like when I open my novel, Soul Cavern, in it:

ProWritingAid

Sorry, you don’t get to see the text! Check out FreeFictionFriday later this week, if you want to read it 🙂

As you can see, it shows me all of my writing, in the Scrivener structure, and lets me work on it piece by piece. I use this for every story I write.

Check out all the features across the top. Style, Grammar, Overused words (it’s worth the price for just these three things alone!), Readability, Cliches, Sticky sentences (these are unnecessary words/sentences that slow your reader down), Diction, Repeats, Echoes, and Sentence lengths. The More tab has a dozen other tools like Thesaurus, Pacing, Pronouns, and, of course, more.

This month's #ToolTimeTuesday, featuring @ProWritingAid: It shows me all of my writing, in the Scrivener structure, and lets me work on it piece by piece. I use this for every story I write. Click To Tweet

 

You can also choose, on the Tools option at the menu on the top, what sort of writing you’re doing: academic, creative, business, etc, so that the suggestions are geared toward your particular work.

Photo courtesy of ProWritingAid.

I wouldn’t recommend solely relying on any digital tool for final editing, but I 100% recommend using ProWritingAid before sending any work to an editor. If you’re working with a professional freelance editor (like me!), running your manuscript through ProWritingAid will likely cut down on the cost of your edits, as it can help you make your manuscript much cleaner for your human editor. This will allow her or him more time and effort to focus on the story itself and less on the mechanics of the writing.

Also, a program like this is a great learning tool as well. ProWritingAid not only suggests corrections, but will often explain why the thing needs to be corrected. This is a fantastic way for newer writers to learn.

Where to get it:

Writing Improvement Software

I really do strongly recommend this software. I probably put it as #2 right after Scrivener out of all the Tool Time Tuesdays I’ve done.

Have you tried ProWritingAid? How has it helped with your writing?

Do you have a writing tool that you absolutely can’t live without? Drop a line to me down below and tell me about it!

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

Also, links in this blog post may be affiliate links. This means that if you purchase something, I will get a small percentage of it, though it does not increase your cost in any way. I appreciate you using my links 🙂

Announcement: Free Fiction Friday featuring Soul Cavern!

Book news, Free Fiction Friday, Writing

One thing I’m noticing about this entire Indie Publishing thing is that stuff takes longer than I anticipated. Part of that is me — I’m inherently lazy 😉 Part of that is just the process and learning how long things take.

Anyway, I mentioned in this post that I was planning on starting a Free Fiction Friday segment in April. Well, here it is July and that stuff hasn’t happened yet. It’s mainly because the pen name stuff has taken a lot longer than I was planning and I still haven’t gotten the second book out yet. So I’m putting that on hold for a month or two so I can do things here. Because you guys have been waiting FOREVER! 🙂

Free Fiction Friday, featuring Soul Cavern!

My new feature, Free Fiction Friday, will begin on August 3. Many authors do this and often post short stories. I thought I might try something a little different. I will be posting an entire book. (That gives you a reason to come back each week!)

What’s Soul Cavern about?

Soul Cavern is a vampire story without vampires. At least, in the traditional sense. The Visci, a species that subsists on human blood, are not undead. They’re not human. And they never were.

Close kin to humans, the Visci pass within our society easily, and over millennia, have wedged their way into positions of power. Long-lived, they are also very difficult to kill. However, they have an evolutionary flaw. While they do not die easily, they also do not reproduce easily.

But they can mate with humans — and have, giving rise to a population of human-Visci hybrids, called half-bloods by those of pure Visci lineage. For centuries, they lived and worked together, these half-bloods and pure bloods. But tensions have risen and civil war is looming.

We will discover the Visci alongside Mecca Trenow, a seemingly normal Atlanta college student, who is heir to a family Gift which allows her to manipulate human energy. She hates her gift and has refused to learn anything beyond how to control it so she does no harm. That is, until a rogue pure blood attacks her and she reacts instinctively, draining his life — the life he’s stolen from another — out of him in moments.

When word gets back to the Visci of someone who can kill one of their kind with just a touch, the race is on to acquire Mecca as a weapon in the upcoming war. As she learns about this shadowy underground group, she also discovers her father’s dark past and the secret he has kept from her all of her life. Reeling from this discovery and unable to trust the one person she has always counted on, Mecca is isolated from everything she once knew, all the while being hunted by dangerous creatures bent on using her Gift for their own bloody purposes.

How It Works

Interested?

On August 3, I will post the opening scene from Soul Cavern. To get us ramped up and into the story full-swing, I’ll post another scene (possibly two) each day throughout that weekend. But once Monday rolls around, we’ll be on our regular schedule of one or two scenes (depending on length) each and every Friday, until the book is done!

As we go, I will create a Table of Contents so that you can easily catch up if you fall behind.

What About a Real Book?

Everyone wants to be a real boy!

Everyone wants to be a real boy!

The plan is to have both an ebook edition and a print edition of Soul Cavern available for sale by the end of August. I really want to have it ready for Dragon Con!

I’d like to offer a book for sale for those who prefer not to wait for the entire story to be posted (some of us are impatient!). And also for those who are interested in supporting the author (me!).

Supporting Authors

Speaking of supporting authors, you know the best way to support your favorite authors, aside from purchasing their books, is to leave reviews on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, right? Even if you choose not to purchase a copy of Soul Cavern when they’re available and just continue to read for free on the site, leaving a review on Amazon especially would be really appreciated.

It’s a great way to give back to the authors who share their stories with you!

Back to work!

All right, now I’ve got a bunch of work to do, so I’m gonna get back to it! Remember to check in on August 3rd for the first installment of Soul Cavern!

In the meantime, feel free to leave me a comment below telling me what you think about Soul Cavern and/or Free Fiction Friday!

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.
Also, links in this blog post may be affiliate links. This means that if you purchase something, I will get a small percentage of it, though it does not increase your cost in any way. I appreciate you using my links 🙂

Quick Edits: A Look at “Show Don’t Tell”

Craft of Writing, Quick Edits, Writing

Quick Edits is a short feature where I give quick editing advice on how to handle common problems in fiction writing.

Show Don’t Tell

In my capacity as an editor, I’ve written “This is telling. I want to experience this with the character, not be told about it,” countless times. And the soundbite is “Show, don’t tell.” We’ve all heard it.

But the problem with soundbites is they’re meant to be short, so if we embrace them as rules, rather than guidelines, we lose the nuance.

“Never use adverbs.”
“Don’t use passive verbs.”
“Don’t use exclamation points.”

All of those items that are verboten by soundbites are valid, useful parts of speech. The issue the soundbite is trying to address is that they’re all overused, so the general guideline is not to use them at all. The guideline is really to keep us from overusing them (or using them wrongly, which is usually the case with adverbs) and to make us think about the instances when we do choose to use them.

“Show don’t tell,” is similar. Authors should mostly show. But it doesn’t mean authors should never tell. The “show don’t tell” soundbite drops all the nuance and all the reasoning of why authors should show, rather than tell. And because of this skipped nuance, many authors, particularly novices, adhere to the soundbite as if it is set in stone.

It isn’t.

Below is a list of instances where telling could be appropriate, where you can and sometimes should violate “show don’t tell.” Note that you don’t always have to tell in these instances, and sometimes shouldn’t. As writers improve, they learn when each is appropriate. Generally guideline is still: if you’re unsure, go with showing.

When to Tell

  • when transitioning from one scene to another – often Telling can happen at the beginning of a chapter or a scene when setting up for the action to come
  • when the action doesn’t matter – if your character is traveling from one place to another and nothing happens during the travel, the reader doesn’t need to know every turn and stop the character makes
  • when there is repetition – if a character has to tell another character about something the reader has already heard or experienced, Telling the reader that the character conveys the story is better than rehashing everything the reader already knows (an exception to this is if the character is misrepresenting or misunderstood what happened; that can be important for the reader to know)
  • when time passes – similar to above, if time is passing and nothing important happens, you don’t need to Show us that
  • in short stories – because short stories have a word limit, Telling is often necessary to summarize events that may not be as important to the plot as others.

There are also some instances in which you should rarely Tell. Obviously things that are the opposite of the list above. For example, any time the action does matter, it should be Shown and not Told. Another instance is action scenes. Action scenes should always be shown.

So there you go! A quick guide on when not to use Show Don’t Tell. Can you think of other times when you should Tell rather than Show?

Are there any editing issues you run into that you’d like covered in the Quick Edits series? Drop a comment below!

Keep writing,

Quick Edits: Don’t Blink

Craft of Writing, Quick Edits, Writing

Quick Edits is a short feature where I give quick editing advice on how to handle common problems in fiction writing.

Don’t Blink

We’ve all read it. Some of us have probably written it.

Some surprising thing happens. And, in response, a character blinks.

This is a problem. Why?

Because blinking is not an indicator of surprise. If it were, we would be indicating surprise more than twenty five thousand times in a day. Blinking is a mostly involuntary bodily action. It happens all the time.

In face-to-face life, it isn’t blinking that shows a person’s surprise. It can be wide eyes, a shocked expression, raised eyebrows, a flinch, a mouth agape. There are any number of things that actually show surprise. Blinking is never one of them — unless it’s a melodramatic blink for effect. And even then, I’d argue that’s deliberate, not as a result of a surprise.

Blinking, like breathing, is a natural thing that the body does over and over again each day. In order to justify mentioning it on the page, there should be something special about that particular blink. So I find blinking to be acceptable when there’s something in the character’s, eye or when he’s trying to hold back tears.

As an editor, I see the use of blinking as an indicator of surprise to be a wasted opportunity. There is so much more that could be described to really push the surprise across to the reader to make it vividly drawn in her mind. Using blinking seems lazy.

So don’t blink.

Are there any editing issues you run into that you’d like covered in the Quick Edits series? Drop a comment below!

Keep writing,

Tool Time Tuesday: NaturalReader

Tool Time Tuesday
NaturalReader

About once a month, on Tuesday, we talk about the different tools available for writers to make life easier (theoretically 😉 ).

Today’s Tool: NaturalReader

 

Platform: Online, Windows, Mac

Cost: Free both online and downloadable with some limits; paid downloadable tiers: $99, $129, $199 (one-time payments); paid online tiers: $59.88, $95.88 (annual payments)

What it does: NaturalReader is text-to-speech software that you can use for free, or pay for if you need additional features.

One suggestion that I always give writers is to read their work aloud. Your ear will hear what your eye doesn’t see. But one of the issues with an author reading their own work is that sometimes we see on the page what we have in our heads — what we meant to put on the page but actually didn’t. NaturalReader is a good alternative, because your work is read to you by “someone” else. The chances of hearing mistakes or just noticing inconsistencies is higher.

So how does NaturalReader work?

If you just want a passage read to you, you can use the free online version, which allows you to paste text in to have read to you. I had a lot of fun playing with this one, because they have many voices to choose from, including American and British English, as well as a number of non-English voices, all in both male or female. I admit to having a lot of fun listening to my stories read to me by a British dude. 😉

 

The voices aren’t bad, either. Some of them sound a lot like Stephen Hawking’s speech, simply because there is natural inflection in words and sometimes the inflections used when the words were recorded don’t match the cadence of a sentence. But it’s not terrible and is less pronounced with some of the voices than others.

One issue I did notice is that contractions are a problem. Apostrophes don’t seem to be recognized. The voice would pronounce we’re as were and would spell out contracted words that don’t make real words, like wasn’t. This could be more of a technical issue, because I can’t imagine they didn’t record the word we’re when creating the vocabulary database. My bet is that the typographical database either recognizes curly or straight apostrophes and whatever I pasted in was the opposite. (I’m too lazy to check and see if that’s true.) Other than this little glitch, I didn’t find much in the way of issues while I was testing it out.

Obviously, if you’re writing something that has a lot of uncommon names, foreign words, or fantasy type names, the program isn’t going to be pronouncing them. But it’s not terribly distracting to have things spelled out rather than spoken.

Where to get NaturalReader: There are two different pages for this program: the Online version and the Desktop version. The Desktop version is available in both Windows and Mac. You can toggle between them via a button on that page.

Do you have a writing tool that you absolutely can’t live without? Drop a line to me down below and tell me about it!

Looking for more helpful writerly stuff? Check out all the other Tool Time Tuesdays!

 

Keep writing!

 

 

 

All NaturalReader media on this page is courtesy of NaturalReader.