How to Jump Start your Writing

If we were to modify a popular expression, we could say, She who hesitates gets no writing done.  Natalie Goldberg exhorts writers to “burn through their first thoughts, coming to a place where you are writing what your mind sees and feels, not what it thinks it should see and feel.”

If the act of starting to write is hard for you, begin with I remember and keep going. If you get stuck, repeat the phrase and move forward again.

Keep your hands moving. Don’t re-read the line you have just written or try to wrangle control of what you are saying. Don’t revise as you are writing. There will be plenty of time for that later.

Don’t edit, censor or cross-out.

Don’t correct typos, punctuation or grammar. That too can happen later AFTER your first thoughts are on paper.

Don’t think or try to be logical. If the naked and the scary and horrible emerge, invite them in for a cup of tea and take down their stories.

Now…that your first draft is down on paper, literally or digitally, let me know how it went, and share your tips and tools for plowing forward.

Thanks for visiting and come back often.

R. R. Harris, author of Double Take, a romantic mystery-thriller set on the Big Island of Hawaii and soon to be available on Amazon.

Commas, Commas, Commas – How To Use Them Correctly

When editing a manuscript, the use of commas is so different among different writers, and even different style books, that I’m always either inserting them or deleting them.

Let’s all agree on proper comma usage, to help our readers, and to lessen the stress on our editors! Here’s a great explanation of the best use of commas from

Commas Help Separate You from the Cannibals

What’s so great about the comma? It clears away ambiguity, confusion, and on occasion steers us away from cannibalism. For example:

Martha finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog.
Martha finds inspiration in cooking, her family, and her dog.

There are many, many rules for comma usage …

So many that we’re going to break it down to the most common grammatical errors involving the comma.

Prevent confusion and uphold your credibility by using these comma tips:

To Use or Not to Use the Oxford Comma

Commas are used to separate elements in a series. Some authors choose to use the Oxford Comma (a.k.a. the serial comma) and some don’t. The argument for not using the Oxford Comma generally revolves around printed publications, like newspapers, to save on space.

While considered perfectly acceptable in either case, the Oxford Comma is used before a concluding conjunction in a simple series and offers that extra edge of clarity for complex sentences with internal conjunctions. In addition to the example involving Martha above, without the Oxford Comma:

Today’s menu includes eggs and toast, peanut butter and jelly and fish.

In this example, is it [peanut butter and jelly] and [fish] or is it [peanut butter] and [jelly and fish]? The Oxford Comma clears that right up:

Today’s menu includes eggs and toast, peanut butter and jelly, and fish.

Commas in a Series of Equal Adjectives

Equal adjectives (a.k.a. coordinate adjectives) occur when two or more adjectives of a similar nature modify or describe a noun. Commas are used to separate a series of equal adjectives. If the adjectives could be separated by ‘and’ without changing the meaning, the adjectives are considered equal.

Avoid walking down a dark, dangerous street alone.
Avoid walking down a dark and dangerous street alone.

If the last adjective alters the meaning of the noun (a.k.a. cumulative adjective) and creates a noun phrase (e.g. denim pants, red eye, etc.), then no comma is necessary.

The cheap wooden chair exploded when my Great Aunt Sue sat in it.

Commas in Nonrestrictive Clauses

Both restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses give additional information about a word or phrase in a sentence. What’s the difference? A restrictive clause is essential to the meaning of a sentence and its intention is straightforward. A nonrestrictive clause can be eliminated from a sentence without changing the sentence’s basic meaning. It all depends on the intention.

Restrictive: The bus driver who was in the accident usually drives my bus.
Nonrestrictive: The bus, which normally arrives on time, is behind schedule.

Don’t Force the Comma Where it Does Not Belong

We’ve heard this farce time and time again: “A good rule of thumb is to use a comma when you feel the sentence needs a pause.” This is far from the truth. One common error is joining two (related) complete sentences, otherwise known as a splice. Here’s an example of this scenario: “I went to the store with Frank, I bought milk.” Ugly, isn’t it? Here are a few fixes for this situation:

  • Period: I went to the store with Frank. I bought milk.
  • Semicolon: I went to the store with Frank; I bought milk.
  • Conjunction: I went to the store with Frank, and I bought milk.

5 Last Chance Quick Comma Tips

  • Name and Hometown: John Smith, Santa Barbara, and Hillary Baker, Ithaca, were called to the podium.
  • Name and Age: John Smith, 42, and Hillary Baker, 38, were called to the podium.
  • Name and Age and Hometown: John Smith, 42, Santa Barbara, was called to the podium.
  • Yes and No: Yes, I can come to the party. No, I will not.
  • In Address: Happy Birthday, Rufus! Let’s eat, Susan. Frank, could you take a look at this?

Use these comma tips to strengthen your writing skills, as well as maintain your credibility.

Happy writing!
Roger Harris, editor and consultant

P.S. Grammar got you down? Don’t sweat it. Indie Author Counsel is having a half-off summer sale on editing services. Check it out at

Don’t Trip Over These Words – Proofreading 103

It's worth bending over backwards to keep misused words out of your text.

I’ve spent the last week editing a book and five articles for clients, and was amazed how easy it can be to stumble over synonyms, and trip over typos.

“There’s no such thing as perfect writing, just like there’s no such thing as perfect despair.” ~H. Murakami

But, you want your readers to understand and be awed by your prose, not upset by your misused words. Here’s a quick checklist for your next writing gig, offered by

affect vs. effect

affect – is a verb that means to have an effect on; to touch the feelings of or to make a difference to.

If Penelope wrote, “I love Chocolate Mint ice cream and I think that eating it effects my behavior.” You might reply, “Uggh Sister!!, please do not write that way again. Obviously, eating Chocolate affects your writing.”

effect – is a noun that means to cause something to happen; a change, consequence, outcome or conclusion that is a result of an action or cause.

Incorrect: Chocolate had an incredible affect on Willy Wonka’s behavior. Correct: Chocolate had an incredible effect on Willy Wonka’s behavior.

allot vs. a lot

allot – To give or to apportion something to someone as a share or a task.

Incorrect: I will a lot a prize to each of the top-three finishers. Correct: I will allot a prize to each of the top-three finishers.

a lot – (never alot) A large amount, very many; also, very much. NOTE: the phrase “a lot” is vague and not very precisely descriptive, so its use should be avoided.

Incorrect: I like monkeys allot. There are alot of them at the San Diego Zoo. Correct: I like monkeys a lot. There are a lot of them at the San Diego Zoo.

then vs. than

then – At that time; at the time in question; after that, next, afterward.

Incorrect: I went to the San Diego Zoo and than to Balboa Park. Correct: I went to the San Diego Zoo and then to Balboa Park.

than – Used in expressions when introducing an exception or contrast.

Incorrect: Micheal is shorter then Christopher. Correct: Micheal is shorter than Christopher.

lie vs. lay

lie – To be in or assume a horizontal or resting position; the way, direction, or position in which something lies.

Incorrect: I am going to lay down for a nap. Correct: I am going to lie down for a nap.

lay – Requires an object, to put down (generally carefully or gently).

Incorrect: I am going to lie the baby down for a nap. Correct: I am going to lay the baby down for a nap.

desert vs. dessert

desert – as a verb, to abandon; as a noun, a dry, barren area of land; barren.

Incorrect: I felt desserted when my family went away for the holidays and I had to stay behind to work.

Correct: I felt deserted when my family went away for the holidays and I had to stay behind to work.

dessert – The sweet course at the end of the meal.

Incorrect: My grandmother always baked mouth-watering deserts.

Correct: My grandmother always baked mouth-watering desserts.

Thanks for stopping by. If you’d like to join me in trying to write your NOVEL IN A MONTH, click here.

R. R. Harris


I spent three years writing my first novel, The Chakra Diaries. Then, a full year on the sequel, Chakra Secrets, which I can happily say is now finished and on the way to the editor.

Now, I’m ready to write the book my students and readers around the world have asked for – Chakra Healing Simplified. I have the title ready, Balance Your Life, and my enormous pile of information at the ready.

I want this book written quickly. So, I decided to jump into a new way of writing for me – an organized routine and structure for writing. I was introduced to this program, NOVEL IN A MONTH, when joining Indie Author Counsel, and I’m going to see if the system works to use both my left and right brain to complete my self-help guide.

Now, are YOU ready to write as well? Laptop at the ready, a rough story outine lying pent-up, cramped into the folds of your brain, awaiting glorious release through your fingertips?

Anton Chekhov suggested that every sentence should spend two days in the brain, lying perfectly still and putting on weight. But using that principle, your work might be completed by the time you are 98 years old.

If you want to join me in the challenge of writing a book in a month, try the program along with me….

Learn how YOU can write your own book in just ONE MONTH, by visiting the official website:

I’ll be posting my progress as I move through my outline this week. If you try the program or have other writing advice, please share your comments as well.

Happy writing,

Becca Chopra, author of The Chakra Diaries

Proofreading 102


These are are the 5 most misused words by writers, according to Strengthen your writing skills and maintain your credibility by ensuring these errors never see the light of day in your work.

Its vs. It’s

its – Associated with a thing previously mentioned or in reference to an animal without prior knowledge of the animal’s gender.

Incorrect: That monkey will never be a ballet dancer; it’s posture is horrendous.
Correct: That monkey will never be a ballet dancer; its posture is horrendous.

it’s – Contraction of it is or it has.

Incorrect: John bikes to work. Its his favorite part of the day.
Correct: John bikes to work. It’s his favorite part of the day.

Lose vs. Loose

lose – To be deprived of or cease to have; to cause someone to fail to gain or retain something.

Incorrect: Loose weight in 5 weeks or loose your chance to go to the beach!
Correct: Lose weight in 5 weeks or lose your chance to go to the beach!

loose – Not firmly or tightly fixed in place; to release or set free.

Incorrect: The dog’s collar was lose, so Bob tightened it before the dog got lose.
Correct: The dog’s collar was loose, so Bob tightened it before the dog got loose.

Your vs. You’re

your – Possessive form of you (typically used before a noun).

Incorrect: You’re article writing skills have improved!
Correct: Your article writing skills have improved!

you’re – Contraction of you are.

Incorrect: Your an article writing master!
Correct: You’re an article writing master!

Their vs. They’re vs. There

their – Possessive adjective indicating a particular noun belongs to them.

Incorrect: There keys are in the ignition.
Correct: Their keys are in the ignition.

they’re – Contraction of they are.

Incorrect: Where are they? Their at the shop.
Correct: Where are they? They’re at the shop.

there – Reference to the existence of something; a place or position.

Incorrect: Their is a reason why the pie is gone. John ate the last slice over they’re.
Correct: There is a reason why the pie is gone. John ate the last slice over there.

To vs. Too

to – In the direction of or at; used with the base form of a verb to show the verb is in the infinitive.

Incorrect: Susan goes too the store too buy vegetables.
Correct: Susan goes to the store to buy vegetables.

too – Very, as well, also.

Incorrect: Bill drives to fast on his motorcycle to.
Correct: Bill drives too fast on his motorcycle too.

R. R. Harris

Proofreading 101

I have got to loose eight pounds before bikini season, Sarah thought as she guiltily enjoyed an afternoon chocolate bar. Of course, even more would be grate as my clothes might be too lose. But, even if I don’t, its my party and I will cry if I want too. They’re are always tricks like vertical stripes and dresses that don’t tie at the waste.

“No one can make you feel inferior without you’re permission.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

So, how many errors did you find in the above two paragraphs?  Several of them may be all too obvious and stick out like a proverbial sore thumb – underlined in every color of the rainbow by spelling, grammar and punctuation checkers, yet absolutely no product is foolproof. The Proofreader function on this blog missed two of them! As such overlooked mistakes can be a shot to the heart of your labor of love, you absolutely must avoid them.

That is where a professional proofreading service like Indie Author Counsel can come to the rescue. Although your budget may be small, we know that you want your work to look and sound as good as professionally published books and eBook versions such as Kindle. So, do not make the mistake of relying just on your eyes or those of your neighbor or partner. We will check your formatting, spelling, grammar and punctuation, plus offer suggestions on word usage and sentence structure as warranted.

Our staff has many years of writing, editing and proofreading experience in a wide range of genres from nonfiction, white papers and self-help books to creative writing efforts such as poems, mysteries, juvenile, science fiction, fantasy and romance. We will perform these services affordably with quick turnaround.

As a value-added bonus, will post two reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and  Becca’s Chopra’s Book Blog  to kickstart the sales of your work.

Thanks for visiting. Please tell your friends and colleagues about us and sign up for our updates as we begin our journey to writing a NOVEL IN A MONTH.

Happy writing,

R. R. Harris