Posts Tagged ‘#NWNF’






Editing Is Not for the Faint of Heart



Whenever I say, “Let’s move the furniture,” my husband cringes. This is especially true during the holidays as we make room for the Christmas tree. He expects me to know exactly where to place each piece so he only has to move it once. If it were only that easy.


The truth: I have an idea in my head where things should be placed.


The problem: Once it gets there, it doesn’t fit the overall plan.


Sometimes, writing is much the same as rearranging furniture. Once you get your words out of your head and in front of your eyes, what made sense before, doesn’t make sense now. That’s when the real work begins.


Once you have your words on paper—or tucked away in your computer—it’s time for the editing/proofreading/rewriting process. This is not for the faint of heart. But if we want our words to shine, we can’t skip this process. Even if we plan to hire a professional editor, our manuscript should be as clean as possible before we send it into cyberspace.


Here are a few elements to look for when you begin the process:


  • Start with the basics: grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Look up words you’re unsure of, especially hyphenated words.
  • Don’t mix past and present tense, especially in the same paragraph.
  • Avoid overusing quotation marks and exclamation marks.
  • Use correct formatting (12 pt. Times New Roman, double-spacing, one-inch margins). No fancy fonts, and no bold, all-capped, or underlined words.
  • Glance at your paragraphs. Are you beginning too many with the same word (He, She, They … and especially I)?
  • Know your pet words and phrases. Do a word search and eliminate them.
  • Get rid of weasel words (that, just, because, however, so, suddenly, quickly, quietly).
  • Read your manuscript aloud for syntax and sentence structure. There should be a natural flow to your story (both fiction and nonfiction), and events must be in chronological order.
  • Be careful with POV (point of view). No head-hopping.
  • Show, don’t tell your story.


Compare editing and rewriting to remodeling a house. It’s easier to build a house from the ground up, but sometimes the initial structure is beautiful and sound—it just needs to be made a little better by some important and well-thought-out additions or changes.


Don’t let the process derail you. It’s a natural part of the writer’s life. Whatever you do, keep working until your manuscript is as clean and professional as possible.


“Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.”  ~ Patricia Fuller



Andrea Merrell is an award-winning author and professional freelance editor. She is an associate editor with Christian Devotions Ministries and LPC Books and was a finalist for the 2016 Editor of the Year Award at BRMCWC and the 2018 Excellence in Editing award by the Christian Editors Network. Andrea is a graduate of Christian Communicators and was a finalist in the 2015 USA Best Book Awards and the 2018 Selah Awards, as well as a semi-finalist in the 2018 ACFW Genesis contest. She has been published in numerous anthologies and online venues, teaches workshops on writing and editing, and is the co-founder and regular contributor to The Write Editing, a blog designed specifically for writers. Andrea is the author of Murder of a Manuscript, Praying for the Prodigal, and Marriage: Make It or Break It.








#Blogwords, New Week New Face, #NWNF, Guest Post, Andrea Merrell

Read Full Post »




Just One More Round of Edits

I have a teenage daughter who is sweet enough to listen to updates on my current book’s progress. “I’m starting edits” eventually becomes “I’m halfway through this edit” which then becomes “I’m almost done with this edit!”


“Great!” she says. “Then you release it, right?”


Oh, I wish. Because the edits I’m on are just the story edits. After I make sure the story itself is solid, then it’s on to heavy copy edits, making sure the wording is good, that it’s clear and makes sense, that details don’t change, that no plotlines are left unfinished, that wordiness is eliminated—all that fun stuff.


And then it’s done—


Nope. Then it’s time to reread it and make sure I’m happy with the changes and see what other wordiness I can eliminate. I try to make it a game. Can I get this chapter from ten pages to nine? Can I cut eight lines from this chapter by tightening up paragraphs? All kinds of mental challenges like that just to make the book lean and read faster.


And then it’s do—


No, then it’s my own proofread, going through it one more time to make sure it’s super clean because… the outside editor gets it next.


I’ve been a freelance editor for a number of years, and even though I’m an editor now in my day job, my book still needs fresh eyes. So once it comes back from her—oh, and from my beta readers too—and once all the changes are made…


It’s d—


It’s time for proofreading. Again.


Even then it’ll probably take a few reads to get to the point where I feel like it’s as mistake free as I can make it and where it’s time to format it. Which means a few more read-throughs of the formatted version to make sure everything’s good there.




That’s exhausting, just thinking about all the rounds of editing and about rereading my own work. I read Kept, my first book, at least thirty times before it was released, sometimes doing a full read just for one character’s voice. There came a point where I was so done with that story! I didn’t want to read it ever again.


That was long before that thirtieth read.


But this is the reality of book publishing. Writing isn’t a rough draft, one friend’s thoughts, a round or two of proofreading, and then voila—instant sales! It’s round after round after round after round of chipping away at what needs to go, only to reveal a deeper layer of things that can be fixed and addressed.


But you know what? It’s beyond fun to see this gem you’ve had in your mind turn out to be just that—a book that sparkles and shines and hooks your readers. One that has them leaving reviews that said they stayed up until early the next morning, just because they had to find out what happened.


Just because you took time to edit.


And edit.


And edit.


And then edit some more.


Is there a time to stop editing? Oh, yes. There definitely is. Sometimes I catch myself rewording the same phrase or clause over and over, and that’s when it dawns on me that I need to move on. Get to the next scene. The next chapter. The next round of edits.


Because then it’s…





Sally Bradley writes big-city fiction with real issues and real hope. A Chicagoan since age five, Sally has been fascinated by all things Chicago (except for the crime, politics, and traffic) for almost as long. She now lives in South Carolina with her family, but they get back to Chicago from time to time for important things, like good pizza and a White Sox game.

A USA Today bestselling author, Sally has won a handful of awards for Homestands, Kept, and another work-in-progress. Visit her online at sallybradley.com, at Instagram @sallybradleywrites, and at Sally Bradley, Writer on Facebook.








#Blogwords, New Week New Face, #NWNF, Guest Post, Sally Bradley

Read Full Post »





Five Words that Make Readers Yawn

As a writer, sometimes we have thoughts about our editors…thoughts like this: I don’t need to know the comma rules, because my editor will take care of it. I don’t need to know when to use “lay” or “laid” because my editor will take care of it. Is this the right word for that? I’m not sure. I’ll just throw this in there and see what my editor says.


Come on. You’re guilty. So am I. If my editor leaves it in, then it must be okay. And for technical stuff, it is okay, though in my opinion we authors should take the time to learn at least five comma rules and follow them (because a misplaced comma can change the intent of a sentence). So your editor will delete and insert commas and fix “lay” and “laid” (which by the way, are difficult, even for editors).


But when it comes to your writer’s voice, that expression of you that gives life to your writing, your storytelling, editors respect that to no end and are loathe to change it. And that means that sometimes word choices that might make readers yawn stay in your stories—because an editor might interpret your use of them as your voice.


There are times when authors say “the editor changed my writing voice.” Because editors are more objective about your writing, they sense and tune in to your writing voice right away and are generally finding ways to enhance it rather than change it, such as recommendation to delete adverbs (very, really, gently) and extraneous wording (she thought to herself, she looked over at me). Overusing adverbs are not part an author’s voice but detract from voice and slow the pacing, and pacing is a huge part of an author’s expression.


As authors, it wouldn’t hurt us to pay attention to our voices, work on developing them, refining them, so they truly are an expression of our inner selves, our talents, our faults, what makes us unique.


And one way we can do that is by reserving a self-edit just for pacing, searching for wording that slows the pacing and takes away from the storytelling rather than enhancing it. There are a multitude of posts that talk about extraneous wording (https://www.vivienreis.com/feed/29-words-to-remove-from-your-novel).


In this post, I’m focusing on five words that slow pacing, detract from the author’s voice, and cause a reader to yawn—just by the use of the word itself:

  • comfortable
  • dull
  • routine
  • blah
  • boring


When these words pop up in our stories, we’ve relaxed our guards. We’ve gotten comfortable, dull, routine, blah, and boring in our writing! If our characters experience “comfortable” silences, act “routine” or by “rote,” feel “blah,” believe another character—or themselves—is “boring,” and find that a relationship feels “dull,” that’s all well and good. But those words convey an immediate relaxing of the tension and weaken our voices.


Many times when using such words, authors are trying to convey a change taking place or coming up, a way to foreshadow. But I recommend maintaining ambivalence with word choices, and I’m suggesting these words not show up at all, that they be deleted and/or replaced with true expressions of voice—in other words, showing versus telling.


Unlike some other scenarios (e.g., how do I write “he slid out of the car” in a fresh, original way? [yeah, right]), these five words often have clear options for recasting.


Rather than “Jason and Shawna drove in comfortable silence” try:

A silence that didn’t tear Jason and Shawna apart with its tension settled in the car. (Think in terms of opposite—what’s the opposite of comfort? Here, being “torn apart.” Convey that they were more at ease with each by choosing words, in your voice, that maintain the storytelling tension.)


Rather than “their daily lives felt dull,” try:

Their life together drove Elissa crazy with the day-in and day-out sameness. (Use a tension-upper word [crazy] to show the dullness.)


Rather than “John and Debbie’s routine was to have a date night every Friday,” try:

John and Debbie went out to dinner every Friday night and didn’t see the need to break that habit. (Or just remove “routine”—“John and Debbie went on a date night every Friday night.” Sometimes, deleting the word and slightly recasting is enough to remove the sense of pulling back on the tension.)


Rather than “Katie felt rather blah today,” try:

The sun rose this morning, the same as every day. Had Katie expected something different? (Convey the angst in the blah.)


Rather than, “Kim was Jackie’s friend, but Kim couldn’t get any more boring if she tried,” try:

If Kim said “No, I think I’ll stay home tonight” one more time, Jackie might strangle her. (Twist up what makes Kim boring into how the characters reacts to it.).


To maintain taut pacing during conflict ebbs in the storytelling and to avoid detracting from your author’s voice, remove or recast words that convey a sense of relaxation to the tension. Opt for wording that expresses you as a writer. Do your best to keep comfortable, dull, routine, boring, blah out of your storytelling, and readers will hunch their shoulders and hold the book tighter rather than set it down with a bored yawn.




Dori is an award-winning writer, editor, author coach, and speaker. When not eating licorice and fantasizing about living in Hawaii, Dori writes and edits books full time. She owns Breakout Editing and edits for mainstream publishers as well as indie authors, and she serves as managing editor of Redemption Press. When not writing and overusing exclamation points, she speaks at writers’ and editors’ events, and she’s on a mission to prove that commas do make a difference—she could spend hours chatting about commas. From big-picture content edits to—yes—ensuring that necessary commas are properly placed, it’s her goal to help authors fulfill their writing and publishing dreams.















Dori is offering a copy of her novel, A Christmas Hallelujah.

Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

Giveaway will begin at 12:00 A.M. on Monday 8 April and end at 12:00 A.M. on Monday 15 April. Giveaway is subject to the policies found on Robin’s Nest.






#Blogwords, New Week New Face, #NWNF, Guest Post, Dori Harrell

Read Full Post »






     One of the most discouraging moments in a writer’s life is opening an email and finding a rejection letter. After all, our work is our baby. What mother wants to see their child rejected? We work hard for weeks, months and sometimes even years on our brainchild. It’s flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone. Every mother knows their child is the most beautiful in the world. Sure, other people can have cute kids also, but none are like ours. Then the time comes for our child to participate in a talent contest. There are other children that also signed up, but ours is undoubtedly the best. Even so, even though we know our amazing child is going to take home that blue ribbon, we work with them and polish them up. We wash them and style their hair. We buy them a new outfit and put just a dab of stage make-up on; not too much, mind you… we don’t want to be one of those mothers! Most importantly, we find out what the judges are looking for and “help” our child to exhibit just that.


This is the same way we feel about our work, don’t we? We know our work is the best. If only the rest of the world were as smart as we are and could see what we see; then they would know too. But just like that mother, we need to do our part in showcasing our work in the best possible light. Granted, every genera is different, and every publisher is looking for something distinct, that’s what makes our craft so unique and so much fun. But there is one universal trait that all are looking for. They want it edited. Did you know that over half the submissions are rejected due to editing errors and authors not following the procedure of the agent or publisher? Who wants to be that author?


I don’t think it’s a coincidence I was asked to write about editing on April Fool’s Day. Those of you who know me can attest my spelling and language skills can be atrocious. I want to assure all writers, it’s possible to learn basic editing. I should know. I’ve had to work hard to overcome challenges involving learning disabilities. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years; my “dummy hint to editing.”


I want to hit on the three top tools I use when I edit my work:


Spelling and Grammar

This is often the first thing we think about when someone says editing. It’s the foundation. If the spelling and grammar aren’t correct, few will continue reading to find our jewels. Our inability to correct our work shouldn’t prevent us from doing a good job editing, however. Two of my personal favorites are Microsoft Word and Grammarly.


I write in Microsoft Word. I have mine set, so it shows me the spelling and grammar errors as I write. I then copy what I wrote and transfer it to “new letter” in my email. This works in conjunction with the Grammarly I’ve installed. I use the free version from grammarly.com. I highly recommend getting this app, even if you’re not challenged in this area as I am. Between the two programs, you’ll find you can correct 99.9% of all spelling and grammar errors. These both will pick up on homonyms, although I believe Grammarly does a better job with this. I must warn you that neither of these is perfect. I find I need to correct both at times, especially if I’m writing dialogue. Even with the care I take in correcting my work, I find it helpful to send it to a real editor before I ship it off to a publisher or agent. Even the best of us can use a second inspection before releasing it into the world of competition. I highly recommend my amazing editor Deborah Whiteman at debsedit.com. She’s quick, efficient and reasonable.


Microsoft Word Read Aloud

I’ve found the Read Aloud function on Microsoft word invaluable. When I read my work, I know what it should be. I have dyslexia. I’ve had to work hard to overcome this and I’ve trained my mind to correct what it sees. This, however, can work to my disadvantage when trying to spellcheck my work. I don’t see the mistake. I only see what I think or want it to be. I can often correct it using Word or Grammarly, but this won’t help if the word is spelled correctly but I’ve used the wrong word.


For example, while writing this article, I replaced the word work, for the word word in the above paragraph. I didn’t catch it and it wasn’t caught by Word spelling check. But as I used the Read Aloud function, my mistake was glaring.


Read Aloud also helps in finding redundant words or phrases. While the voice is mechanical and doesn’t use inflections, it still gives a sense of what is being relayed and what needs to be changed. Hearing is often better than seeing when it comes to our own work.


Cutting and Polishing

The final stage is cutting and polishing. We don’t want our finished product to be good enough; we want it to be perfect. We want it to be a shining example of excellence. But how do we take it from ordinary to extraordinary? Have you ever been in the midst of reading and come across a sentence so exquisite you stop reading just to savor it? This is what we want to achieve. But how?


Our first step is to cut and tighten. Look through your work for words like:

Just, Only, Very, Some… to name a few.


I’m not one to say never use these words, but if they can be avoided… avoid them. These words are a sign of lazy writing.


If a word is cut, it may need to be replaced. The word you replace it with can take the sentence from average to excellent. I use a thesaurus to find those words. If you were peeking over my shoulder while I worked, you would rarely see me writing without having a tab open to thesaurus.com. Yes, this takes work, but this is how you make your work exquisite. Let’s look at an example.


It was a very dark night and only the stars shown above.


Now… Cut and Polish.


Sparkling jewels flickered above, penetrating the pervading darkness.


An ordinary sentence becomes extraordinary.

Now you try. Post your extraordinary sentence below.



Kristena Mears is an award-winning author, freelance writer, blogger, and speaker. Her book Under Penalty of Death is anticipated to debut late this year. She lives in the Cincinnati Ohio area with her husband of 36 years.









#Blogwords, New Week New Face, #NWNF, Guest Post, Kristena Mears

Read Full Post »






How Much Author Research Can a Reader Handle?


Mystery is the one genre that pits author against reader. The reader picks up the story accepting the author’s dare, with the author swearing the reader will not predict the ending before it’s properly revealed. It’s as old as Edgar Allan Poe and classical as Sherlock Holmes.

One would expect an intense amount of research required to create realistic red herrings and proper forensics, but the magic is not in the details of the science and facts. It’s in the reactions of the characters and escalated suspense achieved as a result of those details. . . something most readers don’t realize.


What is Too Many Details?


Andrew Horowitz’s 2018 runaway bestseller Magpie Murders is a ridiculously detailed mystery within a mystery, and a double whodunnit you won’t see coming. A tale with meticulous, exhaustive examination of every character both in the story and the mystery manuscript contained within the story. One needs a map and spreadsheet to keep up with names, places, dates, times, and relationships, and the absorption of it all will have you stopping every couple of chapters to ponder and take a breather. There’s always the fear that the book is running away from you.

Brilliant in the end . . . but a longer than normal read because of the intricacies. Intricacies the reader won’t necessarily take away with them after the read. They’ll simply be amazed at whodunnit.

Yet a tremendous amount of effort goes into those insipid details, because there will be one reader who will write the author back, having highlighted the mistake on page 182 about how fingerprints were taken or a gun was loaded. The knife was too close to the edge of the plate to be clearly seen, or the boat could not have sunk that fast due to the construction of the interior hull.

Authors break a lot of sweat in this sort of research for fear of individuals who seek mistakes. It comes with the territory, remember? The author daring the reader? That reader expects the facts to be legit, the events clearly revealed, no mistakes, and no faking the clues.


Keep Up the Pace


On the other hand, regardless what they say, readers hate being entrenched in too much detail. Four pages of analysis stops the story’s pace and makes a mind wander off. Frankly, after the story is over, the reader can’t exactly recall what those details were that tripped up the bad guy and raised the brow of the sleuth. Admittedly or not, they were into the story for the intensity, passion, and reactions of the beings in play with each other rather than the factuality.

They want adrenaline, not a lesson in forensics. But they want to feel smart, too.

That’s why there’s an art to the mystery and the research going into it. Simple, yet crisply wise is the point. It’s easy to overdo the clues and spoil the cleanness of a well-oiled tale.

Think Silence of the Lambs. We didn’t get involved in the facts of skinning an overweight people to make a woman suit.  We just wanted the EWWW factor.


Plant Just Enough


Readers crave a book that trots briskly, dropping just enough clues and elements to make them feel intelligent and able to keep up with the detective or private investigator. Too much detail about automobile mechanics, thunderstorm formation, toxic formulas, or shoe sizes has the potential to frustrate even the most keen of mystery readers.

The vial contains poison. Do we need to understand it’s composition’s breakdown when exposed to air, or just know it dissolves lungs? An author doesn’t want Do we need to know that? to flit unexpected and unwelcome through their reader’s mind, because that pause. . . that stepping away from the page. . . is enough to interrupt the storytelling and lessen their opinion of you, the storyteller.

Writing the perfect mystery still pits the reader against the author, but it’s the shrewd author who enables the reader to believe he was keeping up all along. . . and understood all those clues. All it takes is planting enough information to sound smart without coming off scientific, enough facts to raise that adrenaline and excite, not educate for a final exam. After all, again, the reader needs to think he was right there with the protagonist. . . not stumbling ten yards behind.



C. Hope Clark’s latest release is Dying on Edisto, where her research took her into the art of growing indigo, and the ability to identify poison. The fifth book in the Edisto Island Mysteries, the book is a crossover between this series and her Carolina Slade Mysteries, and the two protagonists finally meet and solve a case together in the jungle Lowcountry of coastal South Carolina. Hope is also founder of FundsforWriters.com, a newsletter that reaches 35,000 readers and earned Writer’s Digest’s choice in its 101 Best Websites for Writers. www.chopeclark.com







#Blogwords, New Week New Face, #NWNF, Guest Post, C. Hope Clark

Read Full Post »






Books, newspapers, museums, websites… These are the standard research tools of the trade for a writer, especially for an historical fiction novelist. But what if the subject or era you are writing about doesn’t seem to have any information available to research? What if you have a fantastic idea for a story and cannot find anything about it?

Anyone who knows me has repeatedly heard me declare that the only reason I write is because it gives me a valid excuse to research my favorite subject—anything historical. Yes, I have my favorite eras—ancient history, the American Civil War, the Crusades, all topics I have written about in my novels. However, for my newest project I could find almost nothing specific about the subject, namely the history of the German states of Baden and Württemberg, in particular, the Imperial Free City of Überlingen on the northern shores of Lake Constance, around the year 1800. Sounds simple enough, right, except that from the paucity of information I could find, I’d begun to think it didn’t really exist. But it does. I know because the main character of the story is my distant great-grandmother was born there, and as this is a story about her, I couldn’t exactly pick another place to set her story, a story that is just too good to set aside.

For the topics of my previous novels, I had no trouble finding information. The Crusades are well documented; the Civil War even more. There was almost too much information to absorb. For me it was heaven on earth—all those books, all those maps, and documents, and… Sorry, I lost myself in the revelry of the moment. Anyway, even with my ancient Biblical-Historical series on Noah and the Flood, I found tons of information—from mythology to speculative history, from the Bible to archaeology—from which to draw out a novel. I’m still researching the third and final books for the Crusades and Flood series. But, for Überlingen, in the year 1800? Nothing. Well… almost nothing. So what was I to do?

The problem is, Überlingen, as an Imperial Free City within the Holy Roman Empire, did not fall into any particular state. It wasn’t until a few years later that it was absorbed into the current state of Baden-Württemberg, so the information about it had to be independent. It was just too small of a city to find itself chronicled in the history of the Holy Roman Empire beyond a casual mention. I could find a number of decent sized books, but I would need to learn German first (not a likely scenario, though it helps I know a smattering of that difficult language) and that is the problem I ran into time and time again. I could find a number of books that mentioned the city, perhaps even a few bland paragraphs, but nothing of the magnitude of detail I needed to write a novel that took place in the city. I could find the most cursory timelines and a few interesting facts, but not those nuggets of gold that is pure treasure for any historical fiction writer.

So what was I to do?

Obviously, a good place to start is the Internet, but unfortunately, most people don’t realize that when you make a search on the Internet, the results are based on the popularity of the search. Search engines like Google or Bing are in the business to make money, so the algorithms in their engines are optimized for the sites most visited, not always the ones we would like to see. So when it comes to researching an obscure topic, a valid result may be buried down on the fiftieth page, if at all.

So… we need to dig a little deeper. We need to think outside the box. During my previous novels, I turned to several outside-the-box sources for details—any details—I could find, so I returned to those sources to bring my ancestress’ era to life. I’ll share a few here.



Yes, I know, we’ve all heard that you should never trust Wikipedia as a source for anything beyond basic facts, but it is a great source if you know how to use it. I always start any project by looking up the topic and using it to create a simple framework or timeline. It’s hard to get dates wrong—usually. Using basic information, I begin to build a backstory outline. I’m not really an outliner, more of a pantser, but when it comes to historical information, I am very detailed. You have to be. Some things you can’t get wrong.

After I glean all I can for an outline, I turn to the best part about Wikipedia—the internal links within the separate articles. If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you’ll usually find a section entitled, External Links. The References, Bibliography, and Further Reading sections can also be a great help to find the sources of the article, often more detailed books (Yes, I’m one of those kind of people) on the topic, but the External Links are the gold, as they contain websites and sources you won’t usually find by simply making a search on the Internet. Those external links lead to other topics and their own links to search out. It’s tedious sometimes, but well worth the effort. Give it a try. You might just strike gold.

The example below is for the Wikipedia article for Baden-Baden, Germany.



If you’ve never heard of Google Scholar, you’re missing out on a great resource for those hard to find, detailed scholarly repositories of research. Google Scholar is a search engine for pdfs, articles, books, and more written by professors, historians, grad students, professionals, and others. In the example below, I found a critical analysis of a nearly forgotten book (Agnes von Lilien) written in German during the Enlightenment/Weimar Classicism period in Germany that gives a great insight into the life of a fictional noble woman written by an actual member of the noble class, an author who was also a woman (Caroline von Wolzogen), a rarity for the times. (Fortunately, there was also an English translation!) Most often, the articles contain recent, up-to-date research on a topic and provide a wealth of knowledge hard to find elsewhere. As an additional bonus, if you click on the small link under the entry for Related Articles, it will take you to even more great discoveries. I can’t say how many great articles I’ve found on a whole range of subjects—some not even related to my writing!

Another sight for scholarly works with more than twelve million academic journals, books, and primary resources is JSTOR.org, although it is best to access this site at your local library or college, as a login/membership is required. The easiest way to find Goggle Scholar is to search for it using Google and click on the link.



One of the biggest challenges when writing an historical novel is knowing what words or phrases belong to a particular era or not. Nothing pulls a reader out of a story more than a misplaced word. Google’s Ngram Viewer helps with that challenge. Type in a word or string of words and the viewer draws from more than five million scanned documents in Google Books dating from the present (2008) back to 1500 to determine the frequency of use. You can also filter for different date ranges and some languages, though I haven’t used the language feature… yet. In my current story, I needed to know if the term bookstore existed during the period, or was a different term more commonly used. In the example below, I searched for the terms bookstore, bookshop, bookbinder, and bookseller for the period 1750-1850. As you can see bookstore was not in use while the other three were, but bookshop was in use the most. Using bookshop adds a sense of realism that, in the end, only I may know, but at least it’s accurate.


Another of my favorite search engines is Google Books. Whenever you make a search on Google, one of the submenus is Books. You can often access many old books free online or as ebooks through links on Amazon.com or other places such as Gutenburg.org and Archive.org. Many, more recent books have a search feature that permits you to see previews of a book, often many pages, without having to obtain the entire book, which is helpful for viewing only a few needed paragraphs. Simply type in a key word and the most relevant pages will appear for preview. I have saved hundreds of dollars in research simply by accessing this resource. If I feel a resource is worth buying, I can get a good preview. Many of the facts I’ve discovered in my research, I’ve found through this method. I would never have found them through a search on Google. Below is an example of a search for the key word Überlingen 1800. Be sure to click on the English results only at the top of the search list if necessary—unless you are multilingual!



Have you ever thought of doing research using photos—not for the images themselves, but the websites where those images are located? For almost every image found on Google, there is a corresponding website. Click on the Images tab under the Google search box. It brings up a slew of images, and each one has a link to the website and often an article, as well as many other photos. Give it a try. On the image below, I searched for Überlingen and the first image linked to the Wikipedia article on Überlingen and a host of other sites, all with information about the city. It works the same for Pinterest. Unless the pinner has uploaded the picture, the pins all link back to a website. It is like a treasure map. You never know where it will take you or what you will find.


One resource I try to use to find old, outdated books, usually ones out of print and hard to find, is Archive.org, an online library of millions of free books (usually in a variety of formats). These are not just OCR scanned transcripts, but actual scanned books so everything is visible, including all diagrams and pictures, things you won’t find using an Internet search. In the example below, I searched for the word Überlingen and the results yielded a number of documents, but all in German. Not helpful in this case, but perseverance does pay off. I later found an old genealogy magazine that explained the use of the title of Baron and all its nuances during the late pre-Napoleonic era. Now, that was helpful!



EBSCO is a massive magazine database for a large range of online resources, journals, magazines, and ebooks, available through local libraries. Using just my library card I can access unlimited amounts of magazine articles, many often dating back for years, some since the publication began.



Did you know you could read a book through your library even if it is not on its shelves or in its ebook files? If you’ve never used or heard of the Interlibrary Loan Program, you need to check it out. The free program is simple and it provides access to rare and hard to find books, or even just books your library simply doesn’t carry. The program is limited to an average of 2-3 weeks of use for a particular book and it may take a while to locate the book, but I have obtained books from a vast array of locations, most being universities and colleges that have been invaluable to me in my research.


So there you have it: some of my most used and trusted resources for hard to find facts and information. When I started research of my current novel, I found almost nothing. Now, I have more research than I’ll probably need, but it helps having a wide pool of information from which to draw out a believable story. The small details add authenticity to a story.

That said, I must close with a final resource: imagination and creative license. Even with a world of knowledge at our disposal, research for historical novels will never give you every detail you might want or need. So many times, you have to make the jump between fact and fiction, and simply make the best educated guess you can. It’s okay. If you’ve done your homework properly and diligently, and made the least amount of leaps possible, readers will forgive you for a minor mistake. It is fiction after all.




Scott R. Rezer lives in the Desert Southwest and is an indie published author of seven historical fiction novels ranging from the Civil War to the Crusades to ancient Biblical history. Two of his books have garnered Editor’s Choice selections by the Historical Novel Society (The Leper King and Shadow of the Mountain). He is currently at work on his next novel…  THE HABERDASHER’S WIFE.








#Blogwords, New Week New Face, #NWNF, Guest Post, Scott Rezer

Read Full Post »





My Heart Really Does Belong in the Blue Ridge


I LOVE doing research for books, especially for my historical books.


There’s something special about stepping back in time in search of gems to add to the story or to help the readers ‘see’ what the author is seeing. I don’t know about other writers, but the research often inspired other stories too. Inevitably, I’ll stumble upon a nugget of information that inspires a new story idea.


Doing research for My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge was a little different because a lot of it came from my Granny Spencer.

I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and was blessed to have a wonderful, storytelling Granny who could trace family history stories back about five generations. Granny would talk about her, her mama’s, and her grandmama’s way of life, painting pictures for me to ‘see’ into a world I’ve never experienced.

Of course, Appalachia is known for being several decades behind the rest of the world, so my childhood held parts of an ‘old-timey’ feel anyway. I remember visiting my great granny’s house and having to use her outhouse. So, the pictures Granny painted with her words helped me step even more into the world of my ancestors.

My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge originated five years ago as I was going through the notes I’d taken from my Granny before her death in 2010. When people say fact is stranger than fiction, they sure got it right! Some of the stories she told were unbelievable, which sparked all sorts of creativity in my writer-brain. Kizzie and Sam McAdams (my great grandpa) stories weaved into the fabric of the fictional people I’d started crafting, influencing them, changing them, creating the world readers get to know as Maple Springs and the McAdams family.

Now, I did have to do a little bit more research besides my notes from my Granny.

I read Catherine Marshall’s Christy again (for fun).

Stalked a few of my favorite Appalachian blogs likes The Blind Pig and the Acorn and Appalachian Magazine.

Contacted a few of my family members, old and younger, to clarify some of my notes.

Took a physical trip to Christy counter (in southeaster TN) to get a ‘sense’ of place for a world encapsulated by mountains.

And, of course, delved into a few of my favorite Appalachia books like The Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Foxfire books, and Our Southern Highlanders by Horace Gephart. I LOVE the discoveries I made to help inspired future books in Maple Springs, but I think the research dearest to my heart, wasn’t research at all.

I’m Appalachian. These Blue Ridge Mountains are a part of who I am. They’re a part of who my Granny was.

They become a part of the story in their own right. I know that may sound weird, but it’s the best way I can think to describe it.


When I write these stories, I feel like my granny is peeking over my shoulder and grinning at the way her words – and the lives of generations before her – are being celebrated for the glory of God.


Is there a place that speaks to your heart?



As a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pepper Basham enjoys sprinkling her Appalachian into her fiction writing. She is an award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and a lover of Jesus and chocolate. She resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her family.

Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter | Website








Pepper is offering a paperback copy of My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge. (sorry, U.S. addresses only.)


Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.


Giveaway will begin at 12:00 A.M. on Monday 11 March and end at 12:00 A.M. on Monday 18 March. Giveaway is subject to the policies found on Robin’s Nest.







#Blogwords, New Week New Face, #NWNF, Guest Post, Appalachia, Pepper Basham, Giveaway

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Immerse~ Enlighten~ Inspire

Kayla Lowe

Christian romance author/Editor/Freelance writer


a blog for books

The Tales of Missus P.

little adventures of me

lynn j simpson

just a gal doing life, a step at a time, with hope, love and faith

Zoe M. McCarthy

Distraction to Attraction, Magnetic Romances Between Opposites

Cover To Cover Cafe

Escaping Between The Covers Of A Great Read

Author Kari Trumbo

Swoony heroes and heartfelt romance

It's a Buzz World

The Crazy Story of our Life

Fiction Aficionado

The power of fiction, the beauty of words, and the God who made us to wield them for His glory.

Inspired by Life ... and Fiction

Novelists bound by the pen, sisterhood, & more


Keeping Things Simple with Jesus

Wisdom for Living

Practical Wisdom Nuggets


Book Reviews and More

Veda's Vintage Views

…ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls… Jeremiah 6:16 NKJV

Connect in Fiction with Marguerite Gray

Entertain. Encourage. Educate.

Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud

Learning to follow Christ one day at a time