Sunday, August 2, 2020

Launching a NEW Service: Covert Critiques

I've been providing critiques as a member of a limited-market nonprofit for several years. I've also paid for a critique for my own work, so I know the value of an objective, professional opinion. It only occurred to me a few months ago that I should offer critiques  as part of my editing services, so today I launch the Covert Critique!

The best part is that if an author chooses to hire me to edit the work I critiqued, I will deduct the cost of the critique from the total for the editing project. 

Have you had any of your writing critiqued professionally?


Friday, July 31, 2020

"Everyone" Is Not Your Target Audience

Do you struggle to define your target audience because you believe everyone should read your book? Maybe I can explain the problem in a way that makes sense. 

Who is the target audience for your WIP?

Monday, October 28, 2019

Toads' Halloween - a Halloweensie Contest Entry

Brenda Covert, author of
Toad's Halloween
        Toads’ Halloween 

The toads are trick-or-treating.
Can you believe your eyes?
The garden gnomes are frightened
And give them candied flies.

The toads are hopping faster.
Behind them scurry skinks.
The sneaky lizards gather
something as a newt winks.


(This is the first 2 stanzas of my entry for Susanna Leonard Hill's 9th Annual Halloweensie Contest. The rules are to use no more than 100 words in the story — not including the title — and to use a form of the words trick, potion, and cobweb in a story written for kids age 12 or under. This challenge was so much fun! It took effort to whittle my poem down to 100 words exactly.)

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Write2ignite Conference, Sept 20-21, 2019!

Hi, friends!

Sorry I haven't posting anything in a while. I've been busy editing book manuscripts, doing some social media management work, having a busy little granddaughter, etc. And I forgot my login info. 😲 Took me numerous attempts tonight to get on here! Looking back through my blog posts, I see I've neglected to share my role on the leadership team of the Write2ignite Conference. I am proud to serve with a creative and caring group of individuals. This September 20-21, 2019 marks my 3rd year leading a poetry workshop for attendees of the teen track, which is always fun, as teens are wonderfully creative and more willing to share than most adults! (Incidentally, this is my 1st year as admin of our new Instagram account and 3rd year as W2i Twitter admin and Critiques Coordinator.)

My colleagues sent me to an interview with a local Christian radio station, discussing my upbringing and the upcoming writers conference, which I share with you now.

For more info on the Write2ignite Conference, visit the website here: Write2ignite. Hope to see you at the conference!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Life as a Writer

Updated July 17, 2018; originally published January 6, 2009

PROMISE ME that when I tell you about my life as a writer, you will NOT pitch this great new book idea that you think I should write and split the profits with you. PROMISE!!! It’s that kind of reaction that makes writers lie about their work.

Stranger: So what kind of work do you do?

Me: I’m a ... uh ... er ... um ... telemarketer; yeah, that’s it! You wanna buy—

Stranger: No, thank you! (walks quickly away)

Me: (wiping brow) Whew! Dodged another one!

I'm not the famous kind of writer, a la Nicholas Sparks or John Grisham. (They don't want your book idea either; trust me. You are going to have to write that baby yourself.) For nearly 9 years, I wrote every week and received a regular direct deposit, and I didn't have to tour the country promoting my work on TV and radio or in autograph sessions. I wrote educational materials for grades K5 through high school, anything from nonfiction articles to scripts to poetry, all with an educational bent. I also edited other writers' work there. I loved that job, and it enabled me to buy a house in the fall of 2007. The only downside to that particular job was the entrance of a harshly critical editor who would lie to get her way. (I left that job to become a book editor for a local publishing house.)

I also accepted assignments from Union Gospel Press. Specifically, my niche was sets of 13 fictional short stories to be used in Sunday school take-home papers for children ages 9-11. They were published in quarterly format, thus the need for 13 stories. It usually took me three months to complete a set of stories. I also wrote poetry for one of their adult publications. Payment came in a lump sum a month or two after completion. I couldn't make a living from those assignments, but they allowed me to collect a nice bonus a few times a year. When they re-vamped their publications, I took a break from writing, but I hope to get back to it soon.

For a while I had a monthly grammar tips column in a secretarial e-newsletter, but I let that go due to time constraints. I also had a sporadically/monthly homeschool column for Christian Online Magazine from 1999 - 2010, I think it was. Again, time constraints sometimes left me with nothing for the month.

I self-published a book in 2006 before I appeared as a guest speaker at a South Carolina homeschool convention. Confessions of a Single Parent Homeschooler was part personal testimony and part homeschool survival tips. This book had practical encouragement and suggestions for ALL homeschooling families, with special uplifts for single parents. I began homeschooling in 1997, and from 1999 as a single parent, so I had plenty of material.

I also have an unpublished mystery, so if you're an agent or publisher looking for a great new mystery author, you found me! LOL! I called my book Corpse in the Courtyard: a Covert Caper or something like that. The manuscript is around here somewhere ... I haven't looked at it in ages. I went to two mystery writers conventions years ago and had a great time, but I didn't get any great leads. Furthermore, finding an agent or publishing house willing to so much as read a synopsis is like finding a goldmine in my deep freeze. (So far, nothing but ice!) Nicholas Sparks got a boat load of rejections before someone finally read The Notebook and decided to give him a chance. Maybe I gave up too soon ...

I just think it's incredible that I get pitches for stories people would like me to write—after I've explained that my background was writing educational materials for children. One fellow told me I could set that stuff (that paid my bills) aside and work on preserving history—at no pay until the thing sold, mind you. I have enough ideas of my own, thank you, and I have no desire to write anyone's biography or the history of the North Carolina mountain people. Seriously. It's not my thing. Besides, I NEED to collect paychecks in order to keep my house, eat, simple things like that. You understand.

These days my focus is more on editing. I edit everything from children's picture books to murder mysteries, Christian romance, inspirational books, and more. Even cookbooks! It's so rewarding to help authors polish their manuscripts and see them go to print.

I often work seven days a week, but I do have a life outside of writing and editing. Photography is another passion of mine, and it's one that my daughter also shares. I enjoy reading, sightseeing, decorating for holidays, and visiting with friends. But I've got to keep working! Paywork is the #1 priority of a single parent. Nobody else is going to make that mortgage payment for me, not to mention paying for cable, utilities, food, gasoline, clothing, and dental expenses. Those trips to the beach or mountains don't pay themselves, either!

Speaking of paywork, I hear some story ideas calling out to me. I'd better heed the call before they move on to some other writer and leave me with writer’s block!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Nicknames - a Creative Way to Name Your Characters

Photo from
“Mom, can you call me Li’l Sunflower?” 11-year-old me asked one spring.

“What?” Mom asked, amusement spreading across her face. “Why do you want me to call you Little Sunflower?”

I flushed, embarrassed to have asked. “Just because...”

That experience taught me that you can’t give yourself a nickname. Later on, a high school friend nicknamed me “Sometimes,” saying sometimes I was happy and sometimes I was sad (apparently I was a moody teen—go figure), and college roommates nicknamed me “Dictionary” for helping them with spelling. But those nicknames didn’t stick.

While you may be unable to successfully give yourself a nickname, you can successfully nickname your characters. Who can forget Ponyboy and his brothers Sodapop and Darry from The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton? Where would Ramona Quimby be without her big sister Beezus (Beatrice)?  And then there are Scout and Jem Finch and Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird and, more recently, Tris (another Beatrice) and Four (Tobias) from the Divergent series.

Since 2002, I’ve written more than 400 children’s stories published in UGP’s supplemental Sunday school materials, and after running through my favorite names, popular names, unusual names, and names based on their meanings, I realized that nicknames were an option that would help define characters and provide variety when mixed in with the given names of other characters in these stories.

A nickname could be as simple as the character’s initials, like PJ, the baby in the Family Circus comic strip, or T.S. Garp in The World According to Garp.  You could give a character a long name while providing an easier nickname, like Roni for Veronica, or Lexi for Alexandra.

The fun comes when you come up with a nickname for a character based on a quirk, trait, or habit, a nickname no one has heard before. The Harry Potter series gave us He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, The-Boy-Who-Lived, Wormtail, and Mad-Eye Moody, among others.

One caveat: nicknames based on physical appearance or background are best avoided, although if a villain comes up with such a nickname for another person in the story, that would reveal an extension of his villainy.

Consider nicknames from the animal kingdom, food, games or sports, music, weather, or anything else that comes to mind that would somehow define your character in an unusual way. And if you feel so moved, you might name a shy little girl who doesn’t want to be invisible “Li’l Sunflower.”

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Why Publishers Reject Your Manuscript After Reading Just Two Pages

Nooooo! Not another rejection!

If you’ve been wondering why publishers are rejecting your manuscript, then waste no time heading over to read this blog post by Jerry B. Jenkins. He tells it like it is! Link: How to Edit a Book: Your Ultimate 21-Part Checklist

Read it, learn from it, and when you get to the end of it, get yourself a copy of Jerry’s free, downloadable self-editing checklist and keep it where you can refer to it. You’re welcome!

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