Adding Description to Your Story

Do you want to write fiction? Do you want to write a memoir that includes storytelling?

During the lockdown of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I've taken to learning how to write a story or a memoir. This is a change for me because not only do I not write fiction or stories, I don't read it either!

Some might think that makes me shallow. Perhaps so. I find some of the descriptive parts of fiction tedious. But as I've been learning, I get how they bring a reader into a scene better. 

To grow in my learning of how to add description I've done five things. 

First, I wrote my story including all events I wanted to be included. 

Second, I searched online for articles on adding sensory descriptions to stories. I learned about the importance of creating a visual, an aroma, a texture (touch), and sound. Easy to read about, not always as easy to capture. 

Third, I visited websites that give examples of show, don't tell.

Fourth, I pulled some of my husband's fiction books off the shelf and also a few from my daughter's old room. I sat with a notebook and Post-it notes. I looked for examples in these books that might describe parts of my story. 

For instance, in a scene where I'm confronting someone, I looked for the same in the fiction books. 

Then, I took notes or put a Post-it note on the page to hold the spot. I returned to my story inserting something similar. I didn't copy exactly what the book said, but I used it as an example and worded it to fit my character.

Fifth, I realized my daughter's books weren't helpful as they pertained to fantasy and unreal worlds mostly. I'd need another avenue for this exercise. 

So I took to Amazon. I searched a number of memoirs for sale that have the "search inside" feature. 

This was fun. I was able to glimpse into so many books! I could even use my keyboard to search for certain words like "farm" or "disappointed". 

I borrowed a number of examples to put into my story, again rewording lest I be accused of plagiarism. (My examples were far different enough.) 

At one point, I put my story through an online tool called ProWritingAid. It didn't like several of the words I'd used. It suggested I used too many words in some sections. 

On editing, I went through my story again, adding more texture and reworking the story as we always do when editing. 

This has been a very fun and helpful exercise to help me increase my storytelling. Even when I write nonfiction, I often tell small stories. I am better prepared now. 

Are you About to Self-Publish?

Motives and Focus

I believe some authors have the idea that writing a book makes them appear more legitimate or important. I believe one's motives for publishing a book should be better than that. 

That leads me to write this blog and ask some important questions:

What is your reason for writing and publishing your book? 

Maybe you do have a good story to tell or sage advice to offer others. Perhaps you've uncovered a niche market that is in search of a solution you can provide. Does that describe you? Then I'd say that's a worthy motive.

Is your motive for writing and self-publishing simply an attempt to earn lots of money? 

When I tell an average new non-fiction author what they can expect to earn from their book, they are sometimes offended. One friend said, "I can't charge a mere $5 for my book after all the work I've put into it!" 

That feeling is common, but ignorant of the truth regarding the book buying market. People want to buy books at low prices. KDP has a price setting tool to use and often it suggests a price point of $3.99 to $4.99 on my books.

I've seen some authors charge over $20  for their book. I'm not sure there is a market for such by unknown authors. I did purchase one and was shocked how little there was inside the book. It was a good well-written and helpful book, but $20 was extreme in my opinion. 

When you publish with Amazon KDP, you receive a mere percentage of each sale. Big buck earnings are hard to come by.  

Yes, authors put in hours upon hours to write and edit. Some work on projects over years. Some pay for critiques and editing. It adds up. 

If you self-publish, any marketing is up to you.  

I don't mean to sound negative, but realistic. This comes from my place of being in the writing world interacting with writers for some time now. 

If you're about to self-publish, do it. But set the right motives,  and set realistic goals for your writing. 

Affordable Copyediting is Available

Typos and Edits 

Before you go and self-publish through KDP I want to share some points. I recently paid $10 for a book from someone I met on Facebook. Something in her post resonated with me causing me to make the purchase. I hoped I'd find some new direction and inspiration from her book.

The book started off great. But then it led me down bunny trails. Reading it from the viewpoint of a writer who has done editing, her errors were glaring. There were grammar errors, punctuation errors, typos, and so on. But what really bothered me was understanding the point of the book as it tended to stray.  

I now provide a copyediting/proofreading service purposely for self-publishers of books under 40,000 words.

Yes, it is scary having someone else read your manuscript. But it can be well worth it. 

Need Editing or Proofreading?

Are you a blogger, article writer, or Indie author? 

Do you have a short book, article, letter, or other item you need proofread or edited at an economical price? 

I am available to work on your project--all done virtually. 

Please see my website for details or contact me at this email.

Nonfiction Only


Don't get caught looking unprofessional! 
Have your writing checked!

Writing Non-Fiction? Are you Realistic?

When I submitted my first book for publishing, publishing houses were still viable. I was brave and submitted a manuscript. The returned message was discouraging as it is for most.  I was told I would do better with a platform. 

But that doesn't mean the person without a platform doesn't have something meaningful to communicate. 

The response I got that day also urged me to try article publishing first. I made queries mostly to no avail, and then got a gig with a web content company. To date, I have over 400 purchased articles published in a 10-year period. This is my anniversary of getting my paid writing career off the ground!

Over time, publishing houses went belly-up. CEOs were let go. Self-publishing began to take the stage.

I don't believe in writers pursuing self-publishing with companies that make you pay to have your book published. Too many friends of mine have ended up with stacks of books in their garages. They have no idea how to sell them.  

I do believe in Kindle Direct Publishing by Amazon (KDP). I have had good success with it. 

Editing or Proofreading for the ESL EAL Market

There is a writing, proofreading and editing market for the EAL and ESL sector.

Many people need help with written work here in Canada and the USA.  The work can range from a newcomer needing to fill out government forms to an engineer writing a report. It might include a university professor submitting a scientific journal or a student submitting a paper. 

Some people I've helped with their written work have included:

  • A scholar submitting scientific journals  
  • An executive needing his CV tweaked
  • A BSc student applying to med school
  • High school students needing essays proofread
  • An MBA student's multiple submission of documents 
  • A recent immigrant's government documentation 
  • A Professional Engineer submitting a report
I offer my services virtually.  I don't ever have to meet a client face-to-face, but I can if necessary.

If you are a writer and want to help out this market try these methods:

  • Put ads for your services on online directories such as
  • Post an ad in your local school or college.
  • Spread word by word of mouth.
  • Spend time in the ESL/EAL communities getting to know people who may need your help.
  • Do quality work and don't get pushed around.
If you want to do this type of work, set boundaries. For instance, it won't help a student if you significantly change their writing. Their professor or potential employer needs to see a true representation of their abilities through their writing.

Use the Right Style Guide 

Be careful to ask if there is a specific style guide you're to follow eg. APA, ALA, CMOS, or other. Scientific writing is much different than writing for the arts. 

Decide how you will do this work. When I started, I worked in person with one client.

Another author brought a thumb drive to my house and picked up the changes a few days later. 

Then I began email exchanges with clients. 

How to Do it

I always edit in MS Word with track changes on. I send back a marked-up and a final copy. I allow one revision in the price quotation.

I have found I need to charge more for most ESL/EAL writing when the grammar is extremely choppy. It takes time for me to understand what is being communicated. That is more time consuming than simple editing. It is about making the writing make sense. 

Getting Payment

I usually back the work and then forward an invoice to be paid through PayPal. 

I had one student who wanted to ignore the invoice and when she did pay it, complained about having to pay the Paypal service fee. In the future, I may only return half a document until it is fully paid. 

If you have an idea of how to do this more effectively, perhaps with a document download prevention program until payment arrives, that would be ideal. 

Editing and Proofreading Help for the ESL/EAL Student

I live in Southern, Ontario, Canada but I can edit your ESL/EAL work, in most cases, no matter where you live!

If you need proofreading or editing of your project, let me know how I can help at this email, or visit my website at for further information.

Get Tough On Yourself and Write with a Point

An editor within the agency I write with rejected an article I wrote and submitted recently. I've had them rejected before, but usually, the editor has pointed to corrections needed. 

This time, the editor's words were piercing:

"You failed to deliver on the article's title.
Do not resubmit."

Wow. That hurt. Surely I could change the title. I'm certain something could be reworked. And, by the way, isn't it up to a client to decide if it is buyer-worthy or not?

So the idea that I failed to deliver on the article title's promise hit me. I didn't take the editor where they felt they would go. 

This was one article I just wanted to get submitted without letting it simmer longer. I didn't want to revisit it again after spending so much time on it already. But had I let it simmer, I might have seen the problem for myself and changed it.  

Make Sure Your Writing Delivers 

Literary agents will be sure to tell you problems like this are common. They want to know a book is going to deliver not only on what the title promises but on what the book back or Amazon description promises. They want to know the article they're about to read will give them some new insightful material and answer any question posed in the title or introduction. 

Sounds simple, but time and again authors miss the point. I've purchased self-published books and discovered that for myself. It may be that the book trails off in a new direction. This might happen when an author puts a book aside for a time and when they return, their personal passion, temperature, or mindset is different. 

I've started books only to discover what an author suggests works for all people doesn't work for me. This is so true in those writers who assume everyone has a fulltime job or career like they do. 

Sometimes the problem is a chapter problem. An author gets so attached to a chapter they can't bring themselves to chop it. It gets included but has little relevance to the rest of the book. 

When writing and editing, it's important we write for a target audience. Otherwise, we're merely writing for ourselves and our own fun. 

We can ensure we make a point when we ask ourselves important questions as we're writing such as these: 

  • What's the goal of this article, book, or book chapter?
  • What is the point of this paragraph?
  • Does this story illustrate the point of the chapter?
  • Does this anecdote reflect the book's theme?
  • What conclusion am I urging the reader to draw?
  • Have I enlightened, informed, or inspired the reader?
  • Do the stories I add undergird the theme of the book or simply make the reader feel displaced?
  • Why am I mentioning such-and-such?
  • Does mentioning such-and-such distract from the story?
  • Are my words bossy, preachy, or spoon-feeding the reader?
  • Is this book merely my own catharsis, a way to brag, an attempt to make a quick buck, or does it offer value to the reader?
  • Why would someone pay to read this?

Writing is easy and hard. Good writers get tough on themselves. 

Take Writing Breaks

This is probably an unnecessary tip. It is take a break when you have nothing to write. 

Over the past few months I've not been inspired to write. I was busy on a new websleuthing project for a group which is always fun, but I don't earn money for that. 

I had worked on a new book I hope to release and sell, and after so many edits, decided to put it aside for a fresh look later. 

I thought I'd go back to article writing, but everytime I sat at the computer felt brain dead. I had no motivation to write. Some old articles have sold but if I'm not putting out anything new, money will dry up. 

I simply want to suggest if this happens to you that you do other things when your writing enthusiasm disappears. There's no point spending time on writing things your heart isn't into. Wait for your inspiration to return and don't feel guilty. 

Writing a Memoir?

Someone in one of my Facebook writers groups posted a question about how to structure a book about her life experiences. I suppose she was writing a memoir. 

I gave her this response and thought it might be a good blog post:

"I know writing this will be therapeutic for you. 

To actually sell it, you'll need to consider who would read it and why. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

How will your experiences inspire or enhance a reader's life? 

Why would someone want to read it? Is there a hook?

Why would someone pay money to read it? 

If you were going to buy such a book, what would you expect from it? 

Will there be a point to the book aside from you having fun telling your story?"

The Point of the Book

I write non-fiction and often weave life experiences into my writing but I try to only do that if it moves the reader further. My illustrations should have a point that is connected to the theme of the book. 

Sometimes my writing presents a problem and provides some solutions and in the case of a memoir, I'd think the writer would have life examples pointing the way for the reader to find solutions for themselves. 

I went on: 

"If you can find an interesting hook or define a niche topic, you'll have more success. 

Would it appeal to someone the same age you were at the time? Is it geared for others questioning their faith upbringing? What caused you to have one foot in your faith and one foot out? Is that likely to happen with a reader too? Who are the people that might be in a similar situation?

Once you identify the person you want to share your story with, write it as though you are talking to them over coffee. Give your reader points to ponder. Ask them probing questions."

That's my 2 cents.

I cringe when I hear of another memoir being written. I don't particularly want to read another person's life story. There must be something compelling me to read it if the person has no existing platform.