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Said is NOT dead

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I hear people on the Internet, especially on YouTube, say that their English teachers had told them that “Said is dead”, meaning, don’t use the word “said” when writing a novel or short story. I don’t remember my teachers saying that specifically, but they did insist that we use more “interesting” words to describe speech. I’d never really thought too much of it until recently.

A few AuthorTubers were talking about this and saying that it’s okay to use said. In fact, they’re saying that if you do use it, it kind of floats to the background and your readers don’t really notice it. It’s almost invisible, which is a good thing. I thought that what they’re saying made sense, but it wasn’t until I picked up a book written by someone who had used anything but “said” that I realised exactly how much it changes your writing.

I found myself noticing every word they used. Replied, reciprocated, insisted, intoned, argued, countered, retorted, interjected… the list goes on. The first things I noticed was that it didn’t feel natural and it didn’t fit with the style of the writing. The next thing I noticed was that it started to really annoy me. “Said” would have been better than most of the words used.

Sure, there may be instances where you need to make sure your readers know how something was said, and that’s fine. Use another word. But “said” and “asked” are quite adequate for most things.

Although, if you write, “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!”, you don’t need to write ‘Sarah yelled’ afterwards.

Another thing you can do so that your writing isn’t full of he said, she said: Try to use an action rather than just telling the reader that someone spoke.

For example, instead of this:

“Are you coming to the mall with me?” asked Mary.

“Um, I don’t know,” said Jill.

“We could go to that shoe shop where the cute guy works and then we could get a smoothie,” said Mary.

“Okay, I’ll get my purse!” exclaimed Jill.

Use this:

Mary strode into the living room. “Are you coming to the mall with me?”

Jill cringed. She didn’t want to go, but didn’t want to upset Mary. “Um, I don’t know.”

“We could go to that shoe shop where the cute guy works,” Mary insisted as she twirled a lock of her hair around her finger, “and then we could get a smoothie.”

A devilish smile spread across Jill’s lips. “Okay, I’ll get my purse!”

Which example sounds more interesting?

On a side note, when writers say “Said Mary” instead of “Mary said”, it rubs me the wrong way. To my mind, the books I read in primary school when I was learning to read would use “Said Mary”, so it makes the writing sound childish. And it seems to sound worse when written in the present tense. Or maybe that’s just me.

Is it just me? Or does this bother you too? Let me know in the comments below. Or tell me if you think “said” is dead.


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No warmups – just write!

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There is a lot of advice out there about preparing to sit down and write your book. Some people tell you to free write or journal beforehand. They say to just write about anything that comes to mind. I’ve sort of tried this and it’s okay. But I guess I didn’t love it, or I’d still be doing it and this blog post would be totally different.

This advice is usually meant for someone suffering from Writers’ Block. To help them get unstuck and back into the swing of things. To get their mind muscle back into writing again. And this may work for you. But I don’t think we need to free write every time we sit down to write.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this advice. It’s just that it doesn’t always apply. Or it doesn’t always work for us as writers. I think maybe we have to look at other factors, like the time we have available to write. I have plenty of time, but a lot of people don’t. You might only have an hour or less per day. Or an hour a week. However much time you have, it is precious. If you spend that time writing about something totally unrelated to your story, then you won’t get your story written.

As I’ve said in a previous post about writing faster, a good idea is to plan ahead and know exactly what you’re going to write about in your allotted time. Then sit down in the chair and just do it. Planning ahead really helps to eliminate Writers’ Block, because you know what you’re going to be writing about. It’s in your head already. You might have been thinking about the scene you want to write on your way home from work, and now that you’ve set aside time to write, it all just pours out onto the keyboard.

If you do find you need to write something to help with Writers’ Block or there’s something you’re stuck on, try writing about something related to your story. Those words won’t be wasted. You could write a totally unrelated scene, a scene depicting something that happened in one of your characters’ lives in their childhood, an “interview” with the main character or the antagonist, or anything you can think of. And don’t forget, you don’t have to write your scenes in chronological order either. You might be having trouble writing a scene because you keep on thinking about this other scene that is more exciting because it’s a fight scene or something. Go ahead. Write it. Just do it!

You’re the author. You’re the boss.

As we write, we establish our own routine and we learn how we like to do things and what works for us. What works for you? Do you like journaling or free writing? Add your comments below and we can start a discussion.

I hope this has been helpful to you.


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Don’t fall for the free ISBNs!

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You may be aware that for a lot of online book distributors, you don’t need an ISBN to publish your ebook. If you want to publish a print copy or an ebook with Apple’s iBooks, you need an ISBN.

I think you should get an ISBN anyway, even if you don’t have to get one. Then you can publish it anywhere.

You will need one number for each version of your book, meaning, one for the print version, one for an audiobook version (if you decide to go that route), and one for your ebook version. I’ve been told that you need a separate one for EPUB and MOBI, but I’m not sure. It doesn’t sound right. It’s just the electronic form of the book.

Online distributors will tell you that if you get your ISBN through them, it is absolutely free and that’s great, especially for me here in Australia where we have to pay for them.


DON’T DO IT! Even if ISBNs are free in your country. Why? Because if you get a number through Amazon’s CreateSpace, Smashwords, Lulu, Ingram Spark, and whoever else offers them, then THEY are the owners of the ISBN, NOT YOU! You won’t be able to use that number anywhere else! If you decide that you don’t want to publish through Smashwords anymore, you can’t use that ISBN on Amazon. And vice versa.

Find out about how much it costs, or if it’s free where you are, and get your own. Here in Australia, it costs $44 for one ISBN, $88 for 10, and $480 for 100. I went with the 10. is the place to go. They are the official ISBN Agency. For Australia, it’s Thorpe-Bowker and the website is

If you publish a print book, you’ll need a barcode for the book. In Australia, barcodes are $45 each if you buy between 1-5 barcodes. From 6-10, it’s $40 each. 11 plus and they’re $35 each.

Yes, I know. More money. Every time you turn around, someone wants your hard-earned cash, but it is worth it to OWN your ISBNs and barcodes. Then you can have total control over their use.

One thing to note: You can’t use the same ISBN for different books. If you decide to take a book off the market and you’re never going to sell it anywhere again, you can’t reuse that ISBN. Sorry, but that’s the way it is. It’s because there still might be copies of it floating around out there, being sold second-hand on eBay or Amazon. New book, new number.

Same goes if you change your author name, like I did. I went from my married name, Susan Carter, to my maiden name, Susan McKenzie, and used up another two ISBNs and another barcode. But that was my choice. If – I mean when – I become famous, I don’t want it to be under my married name when I’m not using it anymore. If I ever get married again, I’m not going to change my author name. It really was a pain in the neck to do. But that’s another story.

So, it’s all up to you, of course, but the whole idea of self-publishing is to have control over all aspects of the publishing process.

I hope this has been helpful to you.


Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at

How to write your book faster

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There is lots of advice out there on how to write faster and be more productive. They tell us to be more organised before we sit down to write. Plan ahead. If you only have an hour a day, or even less, make sure that you know ahead of time what you need to write, so that you don’t waste time thinking about what to write and maybe not even get any writing done. This is great advice and I’ll be following it closely when I start writing my first draft of my next novel.


There is another way that you can all write faster, and that is, to actually WRITE FASTER! It’s kinda simple really. If you learn how to touch type, you can really get more words down in your novel in the time that your bum is in the chair and you are typing.

You’re probably thinking, “Yeah, I can type,” but how many fingers are you using and do you have to look at the keys? Most people use two or three or four fingers and if they use social media a lot, they’re probably pretty fast, but…

Your accuracy will improve immensely if you can look at the screen and see your mistakes as you type them. If you learn how to type properly – using nine fingers, you will be too slow at first, but your speed will pick up and soon you’ll be typing faster than you did with two fingers. Faster than you can type on your phone with two thumbs. And more accurate.

I can type 70 words per minute while I’m writing my novels. I used to use a program that measures your speed while you write your book. I start off slower, but once I’m into the swing of things, I’m doing 70.

There are plenty of typing programs out there, and there are plenty of free ones. Give it a try. I’ll warn you now, the exercises will get tedious and even boring doing it, so do it in small doses. Maybe ten minutes a day. It will be worth it. It is an investment in your business as a writer. And once you’ve learnt this new skill, you will use it for the rest of your life. It isn’t boring or tedious once you are using it to write your books. Believe me. I pick up my phone and get frustrated at how slow I have to type. Sometimes, I just wait till I get home before answering Facebook messages or emails.

Here are some free typing programs I found on the Web (OMG! I sound like Siri!):

Typing Club – –

The Typing Cat –

Learn –

Speed Typing Online –

You can always ask Mr Google if you don’t like any of these.

I hope this has been helpful to you. I would love to know what you think in the comments below.


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Naming your chapters – my opinion

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I’d like to give my opinion of giving your chapters names. I don’t think it’s wrong and that you should never do it, but I won’t do it in a full-length novel. And I’ll tell you a few reasons why.

Firstly, it is difficult to do well and takes a lot of time and effort. Secondly, if you don’t create good names, they’re going to sound awful or cheesy. Thirdly – and this is my main reason – they can act as a spoiler. I’ve had chapter names spoil what’s ahead for me so many times that I actually try not to read them. But I can’t help it. I have to read everything. It’s the way I am.

It’s distracting for me too. While I’m reading the novel, I start to wonder why the chapter has that name and how it relates to the story. I start thinking about what it could mean for the protagonist and sit and stew about it if the chapter name is a spoiler. Then I have to read the page I was just reading all over again because I wasn’t concentrating.

My advice is not to name your chapters. Do it for me.

Now, if you’ve been to and read my two short stories, you’ll probably be thinking that I’m crazy. One of my stories – The Alien – has named chapters. The main reason for me doing this is that everyone else seemed to be doing it and since the stories on Wattpad are uploaded one chapter at a time and read over a long period of time by the readers, I thought that maybe it would be a good idea to help people keep track of what they’d read. The Alien was only seven chapters long and I tried not to give too much away with the names.

So I’ll say it again. I won’t ever name the chapters in a full-length novel. It’s not really needed in books meant for adults and teens.

I hope this has been helpful to you. Let me know in the comments.


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When books in a series aren’t clearly numbered

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It happens with movies too, but more often, it is a problem with novels. It’s one of my pet hates. I never want to read a book series out of order. Or watch a movie series out of its order. One reason is because it’s hard to follow what’s going on. Another reason is because there’s gonna be spoilers. And I HATE spoilers.

I understand that just naming them something like Jaws I, Jaws II, Jaws III, and Jaws IV is kinda boring and I’m all for variety – just as long as they make sure it is very clear which book in the series it is. And I mean VERY clear.

An author and YouTuber that I’m subscribed to announced the third and last book in her trilogy in a video that I watched last night and one of the first things I noticed was that each book had the title and author name. The covers looked great and the books are probably fantastic, but unless you watch her channel or follow her other forms of social media, you would have no clue where to start, or that they’re even part of a series. And there’s way too many books out there like this.

If I can’t figure out which book comes first, I won’t read them. That’s lost sales – not only for book one, but for the whole series. And I’m probably not the only reader to do this.

My advice to authors out there who are creating a series of stories for the world to enjoy, please, please, please put the book number on your covers!

Thanks in advance!

I hope this has been helpful to you. Let me know in the comments.


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Software for writing – Why I don’t recommend Word to write your whole book

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Most people that own a computer know how to use some kind of word processor, whether it is Microsoft Word, Microsoft Works, Apache Open Office, Polaris Office, or Libre Office Writer.

I think probably the most used and most well-known would be Microsoft Word. That’s what I use. It is a good program and because it’s so widely used, the files created by Word are compatible with what most people are using.

But… There’s always a but. I don’t use Word anymore when it comes to writing a full-length novel. I tried it and found it to be too hard. You are probably wondering how an easy-to-use and widely used program could be too hard to use to write a book. And I don’t blame you. But if you’ve ever attempted it, you might understand. I had a novel that was about 120,000 words long at the time, and when I was editing and adding stuff, it became extremely difficult to find the section of the story that I wanted to edit.

I couldn’t remember which chapter had what in it and editing became a real nightmare. I tried to set up a spreadsheet to keep track of each chapter. Things like what was in it and what page it started and finished on. The problem was; those things kept changing. If I added a few paragraphs to a chapter, it would become longer (obviously) and the page numbers would have to be changed every time I worked on my book.

I found a program called Storylines, which let me add scenes along a timeline, and I could have separate timelines for each character. They appeared on the screen as cards on a caulk board. From there I could write a detailed scene for each scene/card. I had some difficulty with a lack of formatting for the text and I needed to italicise what people were thinking, so I went on the hunt for something else. Please note that I liked Storylines and that it was an older version. The formatting problem might not exist now.

I found a free program called yWriter which had been created by an author and programmer in order to make writing easier for himself. He now shares his creation with the world. I will do a post soon on yWriter to give more details about it, but for now I will say that I have found it to be thorough and easy to use and, of course, it makes the job of writing and keeping track of everything so much easier.

You can separate everything into scenes and chapters, write notes for each chapter, write descriptions for characters, items, and locations in the story, and write out the goals, actions, and reactions for each chapter. You can name each scene and put in a short description, so finding the section you want to edit is a breeze.

It can all be exported into an .rtf file format, which is similar to Word’s .doc or .docx formats and can be read by Word and a few other word processors. It can then be transferred into .doc or .docx formats, or even .pdf if you want.

There are reports you can print and you can keep track of your word count as well, to keep you motivated.

And it’s free.

I know there are other programs out there, like Scrivener, but a lot of authors aren’t made of money, so yWriter is worth checking out. It’s available at I don’t get anything moneywise out of recommending this software to people. I recommend it because it’s good.

Give it a go. It costs nothing to try.

I hope that this post has been helpful to you. Let me know in the comments.


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