Kelly Abell Books

Writing Tips for Writers

This blog is designed to post tips that help writers produce a better manuscript.  There will be frequent postings by Kelly and then she encourages you to add your thoughts and questions.

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Tip #39 Organizing Book Signings

Posted on March 31, 2012 at 9:10 AM Comments comments (0)

I recently read this post from a very successful writer that I know.  He does a lot of his own marketing and he had these suggestions:

I don’t schedule many signings at bookstores. I’ve done a few and have two upcoming at Barnes & Noble stores. I’m not excited about those because I don’t make any money after they take their 40%. I sign at bookstores just to build name recognition.


Book clubs have been great for me. I contact the person in charge by phone, email, or snail mail and give them a short pitch. I set up a time to attend one of their meetings, do a short reading, and sign books for buyers. The members are delighted to meet the author – they treat me like a mini celebrity – and almost all of them buy. And…book clubs typically have snacks, and sometimes a full meal. I LOVE BOOK CLUBS.


NOTE: When you pitch your books make sure you let them know your book is NOT self-publihed. I don't mean anything negative by that, but many people prefer to deal with authors who are traditionally published.


Libraries have been good for me also. I go there, talk to the person in charge, and offer to schedule a signing event. I donate a book to the library as a thank you. They publicize the event in the newspaper and on their email list and website.


I write westerns, so I focus on events that attract potential readers. Fairs, rodeos, outdoor events of all kinds often work well. I shared a booth at a local artist event (called Mecca Fest) last fall. I sold out, 19 books, and wished I had more. I had a signing in the gift shop of a large western-art museum during their annual cowboy symposium. Big crowd. I sold lots of book and at the end of the day, the gift shop bought ten copies to stock.


Private businesses can be great also. A pizza restaurant held a special signing event on a Saturday evening. They treated my wife and me to a meal, brought in a live band, and made me the celebrity guest of the evening. They had promoted the event on radio, on line, and newspaper ads. Another big crowd. I don’t remember how many books I had with me, but I left with only two.


Most businesses plan sales events during holidays. That’s when the crowds show up, and it’s an ideal time to sell books. Car dealerships, garden supply stores, office supply stores, and most other retailers will welcome an author to help pull a bigger crowd. My biggest single sale day was at a real-estate office. The broker plugged the event on the marquis sign for a week ahead.


Fund raisers are good too. I offer to donate $2 for each book I sell.


For each event, I make up 11 X 17 custom posters for the host to display to announce the coming event. I put it together on the computer (with my wife’s help), store the file on a flash drive and take it to Staples. They’ll make 11” X 17” posters for $2 each on poster stock. I also plug the event on line, of course.


I have an 8-1/2” X 11” stand-up sign for my signing table that reads: Autographed books make great gifts that are often treasured for a lifetime. Several people bought more than one copy. One man bought 2 copies, and his wife sent him back for 4 more. Another man bought 10 copies just before Christmas.


Make sure you have high-quality, coated bookmarks that have a photo of your book cover, and your contact info - printed both sides. Put 2 in every book you sell (readers will keep them a long time). At the end of your signing, leave a handful on the counter for the host to offer as freebies. I order bookmarks in lots of 500 from Overnight Prints.


To pull a bigger crowd, team up with another author or two who write in a different genre than you. They will also help promote the event.


I hope this helps. With effort in the right places, you can have more book signings than you’ll have time for. I have some information about free publicity too, if you’re interested. But I’ll shut up for now.


The new F-word in fiction


Upon a Crazy Horse


Tip #38 - How to Tighten UP That Writing

Posted on January 25, 2012 at 7:40 AM Comments comments (0)

When you are writing a novel one of the most important things you can do before you submit to an agent or editor is tighten up your writing and make it be the absolute best it can be and avoid really long run on sentences that don’t add much value and really drag your story down.

(Whew) See what I mean? Many times it’s the simple things that keep your book from being read by an agent or an editor. Here are some tips…

  • You’ve got to have a HOOK! In the first few paragraphs, or at the very minimum, within the first page, give your reader a reason to keep going. Set something in motion that draws in your audience. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic fight scene or a bomb that blows up, although that could be interesting. It can be something very simple that makes your readers want to know more about your story. Without it, you’ve lost before you’ve even started. Many agents have told me, “If I don’t find the hook in that first sentence then I’m done. I read so many submissions that the work must stand out right away.”
  • Clean up your basic writing skills. Use correct punctuation and spelling. Avoid run on sentences with three or more conjunctions and really try to avoid adverbs. Choose more active verbs to keep your story moving. For example, He cried loudly. Change to He wailed. See how easy that was? Many times it’s all about word choice. A good editor can help with this.
  • Avoid unnecessary details. You don’t need to spend paragraphs describing a scene. It can drag your reader out of the story and bore them to tears.
  • Remember whose head you’re in. I can’t tell you the times I’ve read books where I’m seeing the story through one set of eyes then I get yanked into someone else’s head in the same paragraph. Even worse is getting yanked from a person’s head to an omniscient (see all) point of view. The reader can feel completely removed from the story and find it difficult to dig back in.
  • Spend some time with your synopsis and your thirty second pitch. A talented writer can say what their book is about in two sentences at the most. Work on this. It can be used at conferences for agents, or in your submissions to publishers. Stay tuned for more on this topic.

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Tip #37 - A Look at Third Person Point of View

Posted on December 11, 2011 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (2)

Third person POV can be quite confusing and take on many forms. A writer needs to be cognizant of their utilization of those forms. In this blog entry I will attempt to help you as a writer distinguish between the types of third person POV and how to successfully use them in your writing.

The first method of third person narration is the Dramatic or Objective Point of View. This method is used most often by writers and involves rendering action and speech that all the points of view share. You are not in a particular person’s head from a narrator’s standpoint. The presentation is limited to only what is spoken and what happens. There is no presentation of inner thoughts of the characters. This leaves readers the freedom to react on their own accord, much like a jury in a trial.

Next let’s discuss the Omniscient Point of View. Omniscient means all-knowing. This narrator can see all, know all and potentially disclose all. Here the speaker of the novel presents not only action and dialogue but also reports the inner thoughts and reactions of the character. In reality we can never know what is in another person’s mind, but we make assumptions and that is the purpose of the omniscient point of view. This can add dimension to the characters in a novel.

Within the omniscient POV you may have the Limited or Limited-Omniscient POV and this focuses on the thoughts and deeds of the main character in a story. Personally this style works well for me. Here I can present my character’s thoughts and motivations. The reactions and emotions of my characters take on a depth I can’t accomplish with dramatic point of view. It gives a story richness without limiting whose eyes a reader can view a story through.

Limited-Omniscient POV leads many editors criticize writers for “head hopping”. With head hopping a writer adjusts this Limited-Omniscient POV too quickly and without a scene break. It can be utterly confusing for a reader when a writer presents a scene from two limited-omniscient points of view. That is not to say that you can’t use more than one Limited-Omniscient POV but it is easier on your reader if you have an obvious scene break or chapter break prior to changing which character’s thoughts and emotions you are presenting. This is particularly important in love scenes or arguments. You can illustrate what your POV character is observing and that will give you the ability to show your reader what is happening without getting into the other character’s head.

Third Person POV can be an easy way to tell a story and give a writer the ability to richly describe the events and actions of a story as well as demonstrate the deepening of all the writer’s character’s development. Write on my friends and enjoy exploring many different points of view for the depth they can add to your stories.

Writing Tip #36 - When Trimming the Fat Don't Cut the Muscle

Posted on November 13, 2011 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Many new writers travel around the internet reading various writing tips like these and a vast majority of them all boil down to someone's opinion, and I guess mine are no different.  But I do want to comment on something I've seen recently in my editing.  Many writers read the advice - Trim the Fat - If your manuscript has unnecessary scenes, cut them out.  Don't bore the reader with meaningless detail.  They also read - "A publisher won't publish work over 100,000 words so you should keep your manuscript tight and clean."

I don't disagree with the above advice, just don't trim too deep.  As you are going over your manuscript don't cut details that do the following:

1.  Help the reader get to know your character better.  If there is a scene that portrays something critical to helping your reader "feel" who your main character is, or gives them a little more insight to the plot then leave it in.

2.  Blend in your backstory.  Don't overload it all at once, but in the editing process don't trim those things that are necessary for your reader to understand what's going on.

3. Don't cut a scene that builds upon another scene.  If it is important to the future leave it in and make sure the link comes sooner rather than later

As you review your first draft and decide on making changes, don't think about word count as much as thinking about what scenes are critical to moving your story and your character forward.  If it doesn't, it's fat and can be trimmed.  If you've got a tight story that draws the reader in and rolls all the way to the end then leave it alone. 

Want a good example of what I mean?  Read A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.  It is a very thick book and a long read, but each scene trickles in a little more and a little more until you get to the end and BAM.  That's what you want to do.  Don't bore your reader, but don't cut so deep that they look up suddenly scratching their head, saying "Something's missing here."

Trim the fat but don't cut the muscle.

Until next time...


Writing Tip #35 - Three Dimensional Characters

Posted on November 6, 2011 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (2)

I'm working on editing a few books and I just wanted to share some thoughts for aspiring writers. Take a look at your characters and make sure you make them three dimensional for your readers. Readers do not like flat characters. They want to know what makes your character tick. Sprinkle in some background, NOT too much at once, but as your character becomes involved in more situations throughout your plot, reveal things you want your reader to know. Are they afraid of spiders, a germophobe, wish they'd never moved to where they live now. Little things make a difference.

You can also accomplish a well rounded character through your dialogue. You can show emotions that make your character real and build their personality for your reader. When your character gets angry, what does he/she do? Stamp their feet, turn purple in the face, scream?? Or do they silently brood until they explode. Do they have a laugh like a donkey when they are extremely happy? You get the picture.

Another thing to remember is to make sure your character has purpose for their actions and that they are in sync with what is going on around them. Really stop and think about your characters motivation. What do they want? How are they going to get it? What obstacles will they face on their journey?

Don't make your reader suffer through a character with no pizazz and personality. Round them out and make them come alive. Breathe breath into them and help them jump off the page, grab your reader's hand and yank them right into the pages!

Other writers? How do you make your characters less flat? Please share.

Writing Tip #34 - More on Showing vs. Telling

Posted on June 19, 2011 at 7:32 AM Comments comments (2)

As I've gone through the editing process with Jewels of Hera, I can assure you that a GOOD editor is more valuable than any precious gem.  Worth more than twice their weight in gold!  Always be willing to improve your craft and a great editor can help you do that.  They will enhance your voice!


I digress.  My topic in this entry is about Showing vs. Telling, another one of my weaknesses and a very easy trap to fall into when writing a lengthy novel.  It is SO SO boring to a reader.  I'm just going to deal with one word here that has turned into a crutch word for me, and for those of you with more experience in the craft, this may be old news, but for me it's been a true learning experience.


The word is...Felt!  This word sucks you right into the "telling" trap.  Allow me to share a few "out takes" from my recent editing experience.

My Sentence: She didn’t know if she felt relief or terror.

My Editor's Comment:  Describe what she is feeling - don't tell us

My Revision:  Relief flooded her. The door latch held firm, but eventually she'd have to face him.  There was no other way out of the room.  Sweat trickled down her back and dampened her palms.  Her heart raced. She had no other options.


My Sentence:  I got dizzy and felt sick

My Editor's Comment:  "Felt is telling.  Revise"

My Revision:  My world spun out of control.  The car rolled over and over, rattling my brain against my skull, and churning  my stomach.  I fought the nausea but lost. 


I think you get the idea.  No more "felt"  show us!

Until next time...


Writing Tip #33 - Recognizing Passive Voice and Tense Issues

Posted on May 24, 2011 at 8:17 PM Comments comments (1)

In working with my fantastic editor for Jewels of Hera she gave me another cool tip I'd like to share.  I've always had trouble recognizing passive voice and this tip made it very easy for me.  For passive voice, Laura recommends looking for the word was + a verb ending in "ing".  If you find that you've got passive voice.

For tense issues check out the following:

It's all about when the action happend.

He will buy it. (future)

He bought it. (present)

He'd bought it. (past)

Hope these quick little tips help you as you work through your own edits. 

Until next time...

Writing Tip #32 - Pre-editing your manuscript

Posted on May 10, 2011 at 6:48 AM Comments comments (0)

I just began working with my editor on my newest novel with kNight Romance Publishing.  Jewels of Hera has begun the editing journey and I wanted to share with you the pre-edit email I received from my editor.  I wish I'd had an email like this years ago so I hope it helps you.

Here's your manuscript. I need you to go through and search out the following words:

began to

started to






and then





to be





Please reword the sentences where these words are found. They're considered weak words and our goal is to make your prose stronger. Now, if you run across these in dialog, no worries. Keep the flow natural. We speak these words everyday. But the rest gotta go.


Also, search out the conjunctives: for, and, nor, but, or, yet. Check to see if these words connect two complete sentences. If so, put a comma before the conjunctive. If not, leave it out.


Make sure all If-Then sentences have a comma. If the sentence starts with 'if', it has a comma where the 'then' would have been placed. Ex: If I'd known, then I would've done it. If I'd known, I would've done it.


Go through and correct:

Towards - should be toward

Forwards - should be forward

Backwards - should be backward


Please reword all sentences with semicolons by either breaking into two sentences, adding a conjunction, or rewording.

Please revise sentences with colons. Ex: Instead of He had one thing on his mind: sex. Change it to He had one thing on his mind. Sex. OR He had one thing on his mind—sex.


So there it is folks.  As I go through my manuscript, you begin going through yours BEFORE you send it to that agent or publisher.  This is not all the editing you will need, but it is a REALLY good start.  My thanks to Lauren, my editor.  I'm looking forward to working with you!

Until next time...

Writing Tip #31 - Are you a "Was-er"?

Posted on March 4, 2011 at 8:03 AM Comments comments (0)

I know I've wrtten about this before but I've been hanging out on this really cool site called - a site to post your writing sponosored by Harper Collins - a really cool site by the way...Any way I digress.  I've been hanging out on this site and reading some of the writing that is posted there and I noticed something.  If I had a dime for every "was" that I've seen in those manuscripts I'd be a very rich girl.  I could retire and write all day long.  Now I must confess I am a recovering "Was-er"  There should be a 12 step process for us.  But alas the only thing that will fix "was-ing" is hard work.  Using was throws your mansucript into passive voice and drags your story down.  Go through your manuscript and count all your was-es.  And get rid of as many as you can.  For example Johnny was crying - change to -Johnny cried.  See how much better that sounds?  How much more active rather than passive?

I promise if you do this your editor will thank you.  I know mine did.  (winking at Frank)

Until next time -

Oh by the way - if you want to keep up on tips like this please join my site and become a member.  I send out a monthly newsletter with tips like this and all the latest news about my books! 

Happy Writing


Writing Tip #30 - Giving Characters Richness

Posted on February 5, 2011 at 12:57 PM Comments comments (3)

I was reading a friend's new novel this week, and I thought of a few things that I would like to share.  The writer had a really good story, a good hook, and a plot that would hold up well, but the problem was the characters were flat.  They needed to be richer.  Now when I say that I don't mean they needed to be wealthier. They needed more depth of personality.  Let me try to give you an example.  One character, let's call him Bob, had a phobia of funeral homes.  Since Bob's wife died on their honeymoon he had not been able to set foot in a funeral home.  The writer had Bob's mother call and ask him to go to a funeral of a friend because she couldn't get there.  In my humble opinion Bob agreed too soon in order to please his mother.  There was no argument, he just said yes.  Even after he agreed there was no real regret or anxiety.  Oh, there was a little bit, but not enough to really make the character stand out in a reader's mind.  Now my friend is a good writer, but I think what happened here is my friend let a good plot override the importance of giving the characters in a story more depth.


What can you do when your characters show up a little dreary?  Give them a quirk.  Have them be afraid of something ridiculous, have a speech impediment, a twitch, a wart on their face that they are self conscious about...Something that will make them interesting.  But don't stop there.  Through dialogue, bring them to life.  Give them an accent.  Maybe they have a drawl or a nasal tone to their voice.  Give them a personality.  Let the reader like and dislike things about them.  For my friend I suggested the use of Showing Vs. Telling to bring Bob to life.  If he has a true phobia of funeral homes he will begin to sweat, get an upset stomach, cry, or possibly even throw up at the mere thought of a funeral home.  He would have argued with his mother until she became angry with him over his silly obsession.  After all dead people can't hurt you, right?  Show the reader through your character's reactions how they feel about things.  If it fits your character's personality have them use humor to express how they are feeling.  The point is make them pop off the page using all those tools you have available to you in your imagination. 


Building a personality sketch can help.  Review one of my earlier tips for a great personality questionnaire that you can use to bring those little things in your character to life.  There is nothing worse for a reader than a flat character.  Breathe some life into yours. 


Until next time...