Posted by: TA Sullivan | May 9, 2016

Editing: it’s not just proofing

There are a multitude of articles bemoaning the lack of editing that goes into independently published books. (In fact, I wrote one myself.) However, I think the point that is missed in these articles is to identify the types of editing that are needed.

Book editing requires more than just having someone go through and check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation. To ensure that your book is truly the best it can be, you should also have structural, developmental, and content edits done. These types of edits ensure that your book and your story have a smooth flow, good pacing, no plot breaks or inconsistencies, consistent POV (point of view) or recognizable POV breaks, clarity, believability, and above all, readability.

That’s a lot to ask of one person, which is why you usually need several editors to go through your manuscript. Structural editing for fiction and non-fiction is a talent and a skill, honed by years of practice and a lot of knowledge about what makes a good story and a great book. These types of editors can identify where the plot drags or goes off course, explain why, and then give you suggestions as to how to fix it. It might be that you introduced a character that is flat or you took your story on a side-trip that was completely unnecessary. But unless someone points this out to you, you may never see it; because this is your ‘baby.’

Most authors fail to see the need for trimming storylines, eliminating characters, or swapping out chapters, and that’s why structural editors are so necessary and so helpful. Authors, like most artists, tend to be very protective of their creations, and the last thing we want to hear is that we need to “fix” it or change it. To us, our creations are perfect, and having someone point out the flaws in our creations hurts.

As an author of both fiction and non-fiction, I have to admit that I’ve seen my share of red and blue pencil marks on my manuscripts, and while it hurts, it hurts a lot less than having a reader tell me that they didn’t like my book, or that they liked it until page 110, where it rambled and the story got lost. I would definitely rather have an editor help me fix my manuscript than lose a reader because I didn’t want to change my perfect creation.

Once you have the structure and content set, then you need to bring someone in to check the spelling, grammar, and punctuation. And don’t think that running your system spell- and grammar-checker are enough to get you through. I can’t tell you how many times the spell- and grammar-checker has told me my manuscript was perfect, when, in fact, it had numerous egregious errors (such as homonyms or homophones that would, and should, be caught via context and content). Spell- and grammar-checkers are notoriously unreliable. While they might catch the double “the” that you accidently typed, they rarely seem to be able to use the content to determine correct word or punctuation choices.

So, if you want to ensure that your readers have an enjoyable time, you need to give them the best product you can. For most of us, that includes trading or paying for the services of a book editor who can help us perfect our creations.

Posted by: TA Sullivan | April 16, 2016

Every Author Needs an Editor…not just independents

Starstone_Front_Cover_Only - 1I see so many posts admonishing independent authors to make sure they get their manuscripts edited. And while, I agree that editing is very important (probably as important as the story writing itself), I take offense at the implication that it is only independent authors who are lax about this step.

I just read the first two books in a 22-book series by a well-known author who is published by a well-known house (Harper Collins), and I have encountered approximately one misspelling or misused word per every ten to twelve pages. Now, I didn’t go into these books expecting errors, nor did I start reading them with the intention of keeping track of every little mistake I came across. But, I have to admit that after the first mistake interrupted the story rhythm, it sort of primed my instincts to be wary of others. (For instance, the character was fighting the urge to vomit, which was described as “…keeping her gore from rising…” when the term is gorge.)

As I continued with the story (which is really quite excellent and I do thank my friend for recommending the series), I found myself stumbling over other such instances of misplaced, misused, or misspelled words. With every stumble, I couldn’t help but wonder what the editors at this publishing house were thinking. These errors were obvious and easy to spot, so why didn’t they? While I can’t answer the question as to why the professionals didn’t catch the errors in this particular series , I can commiserate with them.

My bread-and-butter job is as a technical writer/editor and, trust me, when deadlines loom, and you’re working 50 or 60 hours, dead tired, and going at top speed, things can get overlooked…even obvious things (like gore for gorge). Is it right? No. Is it easy to fix…sometimes. Is it inevitable? Maybe…unless you’re Super Editor:  Able to scan 1000 pages a minute, edit 20,000 pages with a single blue pencil, and juggle ten manuscripts in a single night. However, since I don’t know any super heroes called Super Editor, I’m going with the assumption that most authors, writers, and editors are human beings, and human beings (unfortunately) make mistakes.

So, while I have no intention of publishing any of my books with mistakes, and I (and my editors) go over them several times for spelling, grammar, context, and content, I would still be surprised if someone reading through them didn’t find some flaw; some misspelled, misused, or just plain missing word. I’m human. My editors are human. And my readers are human (or at least most of them are).

Therefore, whether you’re an independent author or an author from a well-known publishing house, you need to understand that flaws happen. The key to getting and keeping readers despite the flaws is to ensure that 1) flaws don’t happen very often, and 2) the story is so good that your readers are willing to forgive the rare flaw.

(Coming soon:  “The Globe of Souls”  Book 2 of the Darkwind of Danaria series.)image003




Posted by: TA Sullivan | March 21, 2016

To Swear or Not to Swear

Starstone_Front_Cover_Only - 1

Do fictional characters swear?

It seems like a simple enough question, but when you really start to think about it, it’s not that simple of a question at all. There are so many aspects as to why people swear. You have to consider not only the character traits of the person, but also their societal, cultural, religious, and familial background. After all, even in our own reality and our own world, not everyone swears. Some people find it personally offensive, some were raised to believe it is wrong, others were taught it’s a sin, and some cultures punish swearing with fines, imprisonment, or death.

Then there’s the type of swearing that your character might indulge in. Is it sacrilegious, societal, or cultural swearing? My mother had a pet phrase that she used when she swore that was more of an indictment against the nation than anything else; while, my father’s word of choice was a societal one impugning female dogs.

So, what about fictional characters? Is there ever a reason to have a character spout off, and if so what terms or phrases would they use? In my case, I said yes, some of my characters would have fractuous opportunities and would need to express themselves accordingly. Of course, only those whose backgrounds, upbringing, and personality traits would lend themselves to such utterances would be allowed to express themselves that way. The others would find other ways to show their upset and displeasure.

But what type of swearing would they do? That became the hard part. If I picked a cultural phrase for one character and a societal or religious phrase for another, there was a good chance that the readers might not grasp it for what it was. However, if I picked a common phrase that could double both as a cultural and a religious epithet, the consistent use and repetitions would help secure it in the minds of my readers. Et Voila! Now to find just the right phrase.

As a child I remembered watching a cartoon series called Thundarr the Barbarian. His favorite expression was “Lords of Light!” He used that when he was shocked, excited, perturbed, and angry. How perfect is that? It seemed to be some sort of cultural reference to the cartoon character’s religious affiliation, yet it could easily replace some of the other expressions that real adults used. Now, to find a similar phrase for my characters to use.

I tried different sounds, phrases, and word combinations in my writing and in life. Instead of using the common swear word for fecal matter, I would substitute my current experimental swear word. I spent almost a year of trial and error searching for that perfect sound bite that expressed all the ranges of emotionalism from horror to exasperation, and from shock to anger. What I discovered is that all but one of my main characters were happy with the term, and the one that wasn’t…well, she doesn’t really swear anyway. So, it all worked out.

As for the others, they’re perfectly happy using the term and phrases that I devised for them:

Demons of Chaktar!

Chaktarian idiots!


So, how about you? Do you think fictional characters should swear?

Posted by: TA Sullivan | February 24, 2016

Creating a Sequel

frontcoverHow do you know when your story needs a sequel? It isn’t based on page count as many a novice author believes, it’s based on the higher story arc of the characters. Each book in a series, such as the Harry Potter series, is built around two story arcs: the low arc—such as finding and saving the Sorcerer’s Stone (book one of the Harry Potter series), and the higher arc—overcoming Voldemort. In each book of the Harry Potter series, there is a story within the ‘overcoming Voldemort’ arc that carries us along. We meet different characters that bring us information or eventually join in the end game of defeating Voldemort. In each volume, we find clues and hints of what is to come, what has occurred, and where we still need to go and do; and in each volume, the main characters grow, evolve, and transform based on what they’ve encountered.

Each sequel in a series is a growing experience for the characters and for the audience. However, each sequel should also be a semi-standalone story that a reader can pick up and become immersed in. While each story builds on the previous one, there should always be enough story in each individual book to capture your readers and pull them in. And once you pull them in, they’ll want to read the other books in the series to see what they’ve been missing.

I’ve seen too many novice writers break their story into sequels just because the page count is too long, or because they feel they can make more money by breaking the story in the middle and forcing the reader to buy the second half. Unfortunately, all that does is annoy their readers. In your first book, build your world and introduce your characters, but also give your readers a complete story. In the first book, The Starstone, I introduce you to the primary characters (the recurring characters), their world (Danaria), and then lay out the dilemmas facing these characters—the book-level challenge (finding the Starstone) and the overarching challenge (saving Danaria). Then, I have my readers follow along as the characters struggle to resolve the initial premise of finding the Starstone. However, the resolution of that book, should only move your characters part of the way to resolving the larger issue spanning the series (such as destroying Voldemort in the Harry Potter series). Keeping that larger arc of a story line unresolved is what makes your readers want the next book, and the next, and so on.

By giving your readers a complete story within each book, you gain loyal fans. That’s the difference between a good sequel and a poorly done one. Give your readers a good story, but make them want more; don’t leave your readers frustrated and angry because you broke the book in the middle of the story just to create a second book. If you need 1000 pages to finish the book’s story, then use 1000 pages. However, if the story has a natural conclusion at page 300, then use that. A sequel isn’t a way to break a book’s story into smaller segments.

A sequel should be a natural progression of the larger story and of your characters. By the end of each book in your series, your characters should be changed. Each story should cause them to grow and evolve. For the better or for the worse, your characters need to be affected by the events in each book, so that by the time you reach the end of the series, they are ready to face the ultimate challenges that the series has been leading to. That’s what a good sequel and great series is all about.



Posted by: TA Sullivan | February 9, 2016

Interview with the Characters from Danaria

Starstone_Front_Cover_Only - 1A friend and I were speaking the other day about fictional characters and what it might be like to sit down with them and actually speak to them about their plans, desires, wants, and needs. I was so taken with the concept that I decided to use the library interview questions that I answered to find out more about the characters in my fantasy series. So, to find out what Joelnar, Darkwind, Neerah, Phessari, and Marek think, keep reading.

Q: What do you want most from life?

Joelnar: A quiet life of raising horses that I can share with a wife and family.
Darkwind: If not love, then at least acceptance. Everyone fears me and thinks that I’m this terrible, awful person, but they don’t know me…at least not the true me.
Neerah: I thought I wanted love and adventure, but now I’m not so sure about the adventure, anyway.
Phessari: I want to share my life with someone while using my healing talents to help people.
Marek: Honor. I want to regain, and then maintain my honor so that I and my partner can lead our people and keep our village strong.

Q: What do you notice first about people?

Joelnar: How open they are. If a person is trustworthy, they tend to be more open in the way they present themselves and speak to you, because they have nothing to hide.
Darkwind: I used to take everyone at face value. Now, however, I try to note their energy patterns to see how believable and trustworthy someone is. Despite my ‘age,’ I still have a lot to learn about people.
Neerah: I notice a person’s face and whether the person is smiling or frowning, or looks friendly or sour. If they’re sour, like old lady Enderas, then I would rather not have to spend time with them.
Phessari: Their aura. A person’s energy signature precedes them by at least four feet, so it’s the first thing I sense, and it gives me so much information about the person.
Marek: How they carry themselves. A proud and honorable person is comfortable with themselves, meets your gaze, and stands tall and strong.

Q: What do you appreciate the most in your friends?

Joelnar: Dependability. I’m a very responsible person and I expect my friends to at least meet me half-way. If they tell me they’re going to do something, then I expect them to follow through.
I can’t say that I have ever really had any friends. But if I did, I should like them to be understanding and kind.
Neerah: Fun. I love friends who enjoy life.
Phessari: Respect. It’s not easy for some people to respect someone with different values or beliefs. So, I really appreciate having friends who respect me.
Marek: Loyalty. When I go into battle, I expect my friends to be there with me. My fight should be their fight, and their fight is my fight.

Q: What is your main fault?

Joelnar: Dependability. I’m a very responsible person and I expect my friends to at least meet me half-way. If they tell me they’re going to do something, then I expect them to follow through.
I’ve been told that I’m too controlling; but then, again, I’m rather reserved, so I get very uncomfortable in unstructured situations.
Neerah: Recklessness, I guess. Joelnar, Marmian, and my grandfather have all told me that I don’t think about the consequences of my actions; that I tend to just jump into things.
Phessari: My acceptance and my convictions in my faith. Sometimes I forget that not everyone is a believer.
Marek: Intolerance. I have been very intolerant of those who aren’t warriors or who do not follow warrior ways. I have little patience for spell-casters and the like.

Q: Do you have any regrets in your life, and if so, what?

Joelnar: Yes. I regret not going back to Darkwind’s when I first had the chance and rescuing my friend, Rafe, and my brother. But I’m determined to set them free, no matter what.
I regret my interactions with Neerah. Of all those I have hurt, her pain cuts me the deepest.
Neerah: I regret not taking my opportunity with Joelnar when I had the chance back in the Forest of Reflections.
Phessari: I wish I knew more about the interactions of couples. I have spent so much time learning my skills as a healer that I have had little experience with emotional entanglements.
Marek: I regret my quick dismissal of those who do not follow the warrior’s path. I am just now beginning to understand that it takes more than being a great warrior to be a great person.

Q: What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?

Joelnar: I would like to have the touch with animals, especially horses, that my mother did. There wasn’t any animal anywhere that would shy away from her.
Courage. I wish I had been braver when I first entered this world of physicality. Perhaps then, Ionee (now Neerah) would not have been so upset with me.
Neerah: Actually, I wish I could return the talent I was gifted with. I wish I couldn’t hear the gems singing, or use their power.
Phessari: I have already been blessed with so much, I would not ask the gods for more.
Marek: I have already been gifted with the skill and power of a mighty warrior. As a leader, this is the best talent to have.

Q: How do you wish to die?

Joelnar: Quietly, with my family around me.
Free. If I die, I want to be free of d’Oessler’s control, and with Ionee’s forgiveness.
Neerah: I don’t wish to die at all. That’s morbid, ask me something else.
Phessari: I will accept whatever fate the gods may bless me with.
Marek: In battle, of course. That is how a warrior should die.

Q: What is your favorite motto?

Joelnar: With love and family, all things are possible.
All are one.
Neerah: Life is a playground; let’s have fun.
Phessari: Life is a circular path leading to enlightenment.
Marek: Elai-gri nahk tie. Onward to battle!


Posted by: TA Sullivan | January 18, 2016

An Interview with This Author

meI was asked to participate in an interview for a local library publication, and thought I’d share it with my readers:

Q: What do you want most from life?

Acceptance. I want to feel as if I belong with a group, in the world, in this place, in this life. The biggest roadblock to that, though, is myself. I’m independent and prone to follow my own drummer, which makes me a puzzle to most people.

Q: What do you notice first about people?

Their face. I tend to look at a person’s eyes to see who they are inside. I truly do believe that the eyes hold the secret to a person’s soul, and you can usually tell by looking at their eyes what their true mood is. People can smile, but the eyes will tell you if it’s genuine.

Q: What do you appreciate the most in your friends?

Understanding. I’m very introverted and so really appreciate my own space. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care about someone; it simply means that sometimes I need to step away from the drama of everyday life, and I need friends who can understand that.

Q: What is your main fault?

I need to know ‘why’ about everything. I never outgrew the terrible two’s when you go around asking everyone why. I still do that. You tell me about an event, and if it isn’t clear to me why something happened, or why someone reacted the way they did, I’m going to ask…and sometimes I keep asking until I’m satisfied with the answer.

Q: What is your favorite occupation.

My favorite occupation is writing. I have always adored the written word. I taught myself to write when I was 3 because I wanted to understand what the magic was about words, and many decades later, I’m still exploring that magical realm of words.

Q: What is your idea of happiness? 

Happiness to me is many things. Some of those things are simple, like a soft breeze on a summer’s day or a bouncing, bundle of playful puppy or kitten. Sometimes I find happiness in watching my spouse come into a room and knowing that he’s safe and well. Other times happiness is knowing that I wrote a powerful passage that will move my readers or the knowledge that something I wrote has changed a reader’s life for the better.

Q: What is your idea of misery?

My idea of misery would be me being unable to communicate in any way—trapped in your body with an intact mind but no way to express your thoughts or ideas. That would be misery.

Q: If not yourself, who would you be?

I can’t imagine me being anyone other than who I am. While there are others I admire, I wouldn’t want to be them.

Q: Where would you like to live? 

I would love to live in the country, away from crowds and traffic. I adore nature and the tranquility it offers.

Q: What is your favorite color?

I adore rainbows because they have a blending of so many colors; however, if I have to pick a favorite, it would be purple.

Q: What is your favorite flower?

My favorite flowers are daisies and asters; primarily because of their ability to endure. I’ve seen them bloom despite drought or freeze, and I admire that.

Q: What is your favorite bird?

I’m not sure that I have a favorite. I find them all fascinating and interesting—even the noisy grackles and the rather ugly turkey vultures.

Q: Who are your favorite authors or most inspiring authors?

There are so many. I love to read, so I would say that my favorite author is the creator of whatever book I’m reading at the time.

When it comes to inspiration, though, Rod Serling and O. Henry were the authors that most inspired me. I adored the way they led you along a specific path with their stories so that you never saw the cliff looming ahead. I’ve always wanted to be able to able to write short stories the way they did…and someday maybe I will.  

Q: Who are your favorite poets?

Dr. Seuss and Ogden Nash. I love their playfulness and childlike innocence.

Q: Who are your favorite painters?

I want to be able to recognize what I’m looking at, so I like art that looks like what it’s supposed to be. That leaves out most impressionists, cubists, and modern artists (such as Van Gogh, Picasso, and Dali).

Q: Who are your favorite composers?

I’m fairly flexible in my musical tastes, but I would say that my favorites range from Beethoven and Mozart, to the Beatles and Billy Joel.

Q: What are your favorite foods and drinks?

Anything chocolate.

Q: What are your favorite names?

That would be like trying to name my favorite star or planet. Every name is beautiful. We only think badly of a name when someone wearing that name acts in a negative way toward us.

Q: What do you dislike about yourself the most?

I dislike my impatience. It keeps me from being able to enjoy every moment of every day. But I’m working at improving myself so that I can be more in the moment, instead of racing ahead to the next one.

Q: What historical figure do you dislike the most?

While I may not care for some parts of our world’s history, and I hope we never repeat those parts, disliking the people involved is like disliking an actor in a play. The past is in the past, and we can’t change it, nor should we. Because if we were to change the people and the incidents, then we wouldn’t be living in our here and now and we wouldn’t be the people we are in this time and place.

Q: What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?

I already was. I have the gift of wordsmithing.

Q: How do you wish to die?

Quickly, quietly, and without fuss.

Q: What is your favorite motto?

Life is a series of choices; make the best of each one.




Posted by: TA Sullivan | December 21, 2015

Before the Clock Strikes by EG Michaels

Before The Clock StrikesIf it weren’t for the unnecessary, and poorly done, prologue, I would give this book four stars. However, the prologue detracts from the excellently written and plotted story.

To me, it feels as if the prologue were thrown together in an effort to start the story with a bang (pun intended), but nearly caused me to abandon the book before giving it a chance. In the prologue we are introduced to a poorly developed character, Brianna. This is supposed to be a 13-year old girl, but comes across as a 20-something young man. We are also introduced to the killer, but, again, I find this unnecessary. The sympathy the author attempts to illicit by introducing us to, and then showing us her murder, doesn’t come across. I feel more sympathy and sorrow for the victim when I view the scene through Detective Simmons’ eyes.

Once the story moved to Detective Simmons, it took off. In fact, I think Detective Simmons could soon give Sara Paretsky’s character, VI Warshawski, a run for her money. Detective Kyle Simmons was well-developed all the way from his non-conformist attitude to his ability to see beyond the obvious. The story was good, if a bit sanitized (I expected a bit more grit considering it dealt with city gangs), but overall the pacing and writing were very good…good enough, that I would consider purchasing the second book.

Posted by: TA Sullivan | November 11, 2015


TechnologiesHow distracted are you, or do you even recognize it when you’re distracted?

I’m not speaking of the little interruptions that occur when you lose focus on a task. I’m speaking of the mindless tasks you complete every day without even recognizing for a moment what it is you’re doing. You scurry down the street toward your job focused on your phone, your email, or on all the things you’re going to say or do during the day. You don’t see the other people sharing the sidewalk with you; you fail to notice whether the sun is out or not; and you definitely have no idea of where you are or where you’re going. It’s all instinct and habit.

But what if you let go of all the distractions and simply focused on the moment. What if you looked at your surroundings and actually took notice of the day? How much more interesting your day might be if you actually participated in it rather than drifted along, going from distraction to distraction?

While going for a walk the other day, I actually took that advice. I actually put myself into the moment and was amazed at all the things I had been missing up to then. There was a hint of pink just lining the edge of the horizon. A deer raised its head and gazed stoically at me before resuming its grazing of the neighbor’s garden. A squirrel chittered overhead, unseen and hidden in the canopy of one of the nearby trees, and one of the neighbor’s cats slunk under the car, its green eyes following me as I strolled past. I wondered how often these creatures had been out there watching me as I marched through the numerous mornings ignoring everything around me while caught up in my own tumultuous thoughts or while busy texting, tweeting, or checking my email.

When at work, I often find myself disengaged because I’m too busy doing everything while on automatic instead of actually thinking about the tasks I need to accomplish and what they entail. So many evenings I would get home and think, I need a new job, this one is just so boring. It seemed that my days were mechanical—go in do the tasks, go home. Never anything different; never a change.

But you know what? Sometimes, you don’t need a new job, you just need a new attitude, a new perspective. You may do your job out of habit right now, but that doesn’t mean you need a new job. If you actually look at each task and treat it as something new and unique, instead of just the same as yesterday’s tasks, you’ll find yourself not only engaged, but perhaps even enjoying the days and the job a lot more.

In today’s world, it is so easy to become distracted. We have cell phones that do everything from letting you watch television shows and movies, read books, text, tweet, and…oh yeah, even make and receive phone calls. We have cars that let us send and receive phone calls, texts, and watch movies; we have watches that link us to social media; and we have computers that keep us linked in, hooked up, and completely distracted wherever and whenever we want. And if all that technology fails to keep us distracted, we can do an excellent job of distracting ourselves by worrying about the past or the future instead of focusing on the here and now.

So, unplug, disconnect, and stop worrying about what was and what might be, and simply focus on the what and when now. Notice the people around you, listen to the sounds around you, and involve yourself with the events happening right now. It’s amazing how energized you’ll feel when you do.

Posted by: TA Sullivan | October 21, 2015

What Do You See?

An-EyeWhat do you see when you look in someone’s eyes?

When I look in someone’s eyes, the first thing I see is their soul age. The second thing I note is their role. (Every soul has a role or predominant trait that they bring with them from life to life. There are those who love to create, those who are born leaders, others who crave and thrive on attention, others who are reclusive and prefer studying and acquiring knowledge, some who live to serve others, and those who seek to serve a spiritual cause.) After that, I can usually grasp some of their predominant personality traits. (Sometimes, I can see traits that they never even realized they had, but once pointed out to them they usually nod and realize I’m right.)

These “personality traits and roles” I’m seeing are the filters that the person chose to view the world with. Each person chooses a set of filters before they’re born, and like a set of eye glasses, they slip these filters on and forget they’re even wearing them. The filters are primarily fear-based, and they color a person’s perspective regarding everything around them.

For instance, if one of your filters is stubbornness, you’re going to see every chance for change as something to be afraid of. That’s because stubbornness says that it’s better to stay where you are—you know it and it’s safe. Or if your glasses contain the impatience filter, then you’re going to see everything through the fear of missing out. You’ll be thinking of the next place you need to go or the next thing you need to do, instead of enjoying where you are and what you’re doing now. Eyewear

Because most of us don’t even recognize that we’re wearing these filters, we don’t realize that we’re letting fear color what we see and how we react. The glasses become such a part of us that we never think to take them off, either. So, we blithely continue to view life with these lenses that skew our vision all the while thinking that what we see is the “real world,” the “true world.” That is, until something devastating happens—such as a near death experience. Then the filtering glasses get smashed, or the lenses cracked, and suddenly you start seeing the world in a whole new way…with a lot less fear. But you don’t have to wait for some soul-shattering event; you can practice viewing the world without your glasses on your own.

Just take a few moments to set those glasses aside. At first, what you see may seem overwhelming. The world may appear blurry, with lights too bright and colors to sharp. So, you may only manage to keep the glasses off for a minute or two. But every time you try this, you’ll find that your vision adjusts more easily and rapidly; and you’ll find yourself wanting to leave the glasses off for longer and longer periods of time. Eventually, you may even find that you like things so much better without the filter of fear that you never want to wear those glasses again.  

Posted by: TA Sullivan | September 29, 2015

What makes a great non-fiction author?

escortingcoverTo me, the number one answer to that question is: storytelling ability. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, if you can’t relate the information in an interesting and compelling manner, then no one will read it.

Many people can tell a story or an anecdote, but only true storytellers can make them come alive. This is so very important when creating a non-fiction book. You have to find ways to help your readers relate to the characters, but without sacrificing the facts. After all, in non-fiction your characters aren’t made up and your readers can check the details. Yet, you don’t want to bore your readers with nothing but a compilation of facts, either.

Writing truth as if it were fiction is a fine line to walk. Some authors do it quite well, and others fall flat. As a reader, I noticed the difference and I began taking notes on what made some books great non-fiction and others just so-so. When I decided to share my own near death experience story (Escorting the Dead) with the world, I went back to my notes detailing the differences between good and not-so-good non-fiction to make sure I did it right.

As I analyzed these difference, I found that the major difference between good non-fiction and so-so non-fiction was the author’s ability to relate a story. As an author of both fiction (The Starstone) and non-fiction (Escorting the Dead), I have learned that no matter what type of book you are creating, you still have to tell a good story.frontcover

But how do you tell a story when relating facts, history, and biographical or autobiographical data? I found that there were two methods that seemed to work the best: use anecdotes to bring your people and time period to life; or relate one major incident from the person’s life in a friendly, story-like way. Both methods let you add flavor and depth to the people you are writing about. This then gives your readers a chance to connect with the people in your book. If you can’t build that bridge between your reader and the key character of your book, then no amount of facts, figures, charts, and graphs will win them over. Your readers want to see the humanity in the people populating your non-fiction book; they want to be able to relate to and understand the reasons motivating the people in your book. They want a really good story, even if it is non-fiction.

So, a great non-fiction author is one who can bring reality to life and fool his or her readers into believing that what they are reading is just a great story even if it is a moment plucked from real life.

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