Invisibility is good

shocked“The story in this book is fantastic!” Rowlf exploded. “I can’t put it down.”

“Oh really?” Cyndy interrogated. “I found it annoying to read because of all of the oddball speaker attributions.”

“That’s because you have no vision,” Rowlf interjected. “This writer is being experimental.”

I’m proofediting a book right now for a publisher that is full of attributions just like these. It also has no discernible POV, switching within scenes to whatever character is most convenient at the time (head hopping)—or even to omniscient.

So why do I like the book? And what lessons can you learn from it? See my post today at Seriously Write, one of my favorite writer’s blogs.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /


Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Mike-9Michael loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying his playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor here at, where he often takes a writer Into The Edit, pulling back the veil on the editing process. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.


Quote It! William Faulkner

“I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately, I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”

William Faulkner, (September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962) was an American writer, Nobel Prize laureate, and Pulitzer Prize winning author.

Such a key principle it hardly needs unpacking. Yet, finding and holding on to that kind of dedication and commitment is a common problem for many writers.

I tend to subscribe to the theory that writer’s block, as romantically understood, does not exist. It’s much more likely, in my experience anyway, that the writer is afraid that what he writes is not “good enough.”

And he’s right.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t get it down anyway. As a wise friend once told me, “you can’t fix what’s not on the screen.”

What do you think?

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Are You A Productive Sheep?

“Accountability breeds response-ability.”

—Stephen R. Covey

I fear accountability. There, I’ve said it. I need it; but I avoid it.

It hasn’t always been so. Early in my time at Bethel College (Indiana), I was invited to join a group called the Writers’ Accountability Network (WAN). You can still see me and the group here.

Members of WAN began each month by sharing their goals for the next four weeks. At the end of that time, we all reported on our success—and where we didn’t quite measure up. In between, we encouraged each other.

I’ve never completed so much writing! In fact, while a member of that group I wrote the first draft of my novel.

What happened?

As I took on more responsibilities professionally—a good thing—I soon found myself over-committed—a bad thing—and left the group.

I’ve worked on the novel sporadically since then, never with the intensity and commitment of those days.

What I’ve learned is I need accountability to be productive. As Proverbs 27:17 tells us: “You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another” (The Message). That was the benefit WAN provided.

I needed to make changes. I needed to embrace, again, the power of being a good sheep. Here’s how I do it. Maybe it will help you.

Setting boundaries

The biblical idea of Jesus as our shepherd and us as His sheep has always resonated with me. I have sheepy tendencies. In WAN, we were all sheep within the same pen. The fences (goal-setting, accountability, encouragement, and reporting) helped us be good sheep together.

These are the fences I’ve built now to get back some of that accountability.

  • Fence 1—Television: I can’t give up it up entirely, but I can cut back by at least an hour or two a week. (Can’t give up Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy—that’s good writer TV!)
  • Fence 2—Social media: It’s time to wrestle my e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter addictions to the ground. There’s an important place for social media, but too much of any good thing can be a problem.
  • Fence 3—Mornings: While in WAN I got up early to write for an hour before reporting to my job—and it worked. I completed the first draft. I need to repair the holes in this fence.
  • Fence 4—Accountability: This is the gate to my sheep pen. I need writing partners, other sheep, who will make sure I do what I say I’m going to do—and who’ll cut me no slack when I don’t.

Speaking of accountability: Who are you accountable to? If no one, would you consider an accountability partner?

Next Tuesday: One of my favorite authors, Michael Dellosso, will step Into The Edit with me. Don’t miss it!

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Pssst! Maybe It’s Who You Are

Some people think of publishing as an “It’s who you know” industry. And it often works that way.

But I believe it’s not “who you know” as much as “who you are.”

You may think:

  • “I’m no one. I’m not published. I’m still adding to my (growing) file of rejections.”
  • “I’m no one. My first book didn’t do well and I can’t even get an agent to return my calls.”
  • “Sure my series sold well, but I’m still waiting for that big break that will make me the next Dean Koontz.”

Treadmill reality?

Whatever goal you have yet to accomplish, do you feel you’re constantly dodging the next obstacle? Maybe you see yourself as George Jetson, walking his dog on that moving sidewalk outside his space bungalow—walking, walking, walking—but never going anywhere.

I’m not trying to scare you, but maybe it’s not who you know. Maybe it’s who you are.

Are you the kind of writer who:

  • Bristles when someone suggests edits you don’t like?
  • Doesn’t use standard manuscript formatting?
  • Never follows up when an editor requests your proposal—with changes?
  • Always asks for deadline extensions?
  • Pushes ahead of others to get the seat at the editor’s side at a conference meal?
  • Brings every conversation back to you and your project?
  • Believes you know it all, but no one sees your brilliance?

Time for a rehab?

If you see any of these traits in yourself, consider whether you may be sabotaging yourself. What changes can you make to be the kind of writer editors want to work with?

Editors prefer writers who are partners in the process—writers who have a long-term vision not just for their own careers, but also for where their work fits into the larger picture.

Be that writer and you’ll come to know and be known by the right people.

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Quote It! Isaac Asimov

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist.

–Isaac Asimov, American author best known for his science fiction. (1920-1992)

This is where many authors fall short. They give up too soon. If you believe in your work, and have talent, you must keep at it. You cannot let what seems to be a dead end defeat you. (Preaching to myself, too.)

How do you keep on in the face of rejection and lack of success? Share your tips and encourage someone else.

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Quote it! St. Augustine

“God has promised forgiveness to your repentance; but he has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.”

St. Augustine, (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430)

Procrastination. My longtime enemy and the enemy of many writers.

  • To-do lists don’t work for me. I’m not driven by placing tick marks next to a task.
  • Guilt is a poor motivator–unless you’re my mother.
  • Success? This can actually be a de-motivator.

One thing motivates me: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)

What motivates you? How do you use that to your advantage?

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

So, you want to be a professional?

Many believe there are only seven basic plots. What amazes me are the variations on those plots writers come up with—the twists and leaps they make within those structures.

As a freelance editor, I see manuscripts in all shapes and sizes. One conclusion is unmistakable—those who work with me are all creative people.

But what is also clear is that some of those professing to pursue professional writing are shooting themselves in the foot with unprofessional presentation.

Marks of an amateur

What I often find are typos on the first page—sometimes within the first three paragraphs. Or, if not a typo, some kind of inappropriate formatting:

  • A nonstandard typeface—most places still prefer to see only Times New Roman or Courier fonts in 12 point
  • 1.5-line spacing rather than 2-line spacing
  • Full justification instead of ragged right
  • Too narrow or too wide margins (standard is still 1” to 1.25”)

All of these formatting errors are easily correctable. As a freelance editor I can catch these—and I’m glad to do so.

The competition is stiff

But editors and agents have mounds of submissions on their desks to plow through. Wise writers don’t give them reasons to set those manuscripts aside, instead they work to develop their skills to the level editors expect.

If you’re serious, you’ll want to ensure any freelance editor you hire (like me) can spend time polishing your prose rather than correcting obvious mistakes you could have caught.

Five steps to take

There are many things you can do to develop your skills, but these five ideas will provide a great return:

  1. Join (or form) a critique group. Several groups incorporate critique options, including American Christian Fiction Writers. Or, like Novel Rocket, can help you connect with others looking for critique partners.
  2. Purchase, read, and use resources. Excellent books are available on standard manuscript formatting.
  3. Proofread your work. Form a partnership with a writer friend and pass manuscripts back and forth. Then proof again—and again.
  4. Take classes. You can do this through conferences, online courses, or a local university.
  5. Join a professional organization. You have your choice from faith-based or secular (or both), including ACFW, the Christian Writers Guild, My Book Therapy, and Writer’s Digest Online.

If you do these things, your take on one of the seven basic plots could end up published—rather than tossed in File 13.

There are loads of excellent freelance editors. See my Editorial Services page or contact me at michael.ehret (at) inbox(dot)com. You can also use the Find An Editor service of the Christian PEN (Proofreaders and Editors Network).

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line