Articles by Meg @ Lulu

Authors using the Helix Review: William J. Smith

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 12.45.04 AMWilliam J. Smith, author of the science fiction novel, Straight from Heaven; Delivered from Hell recently submitted his work for a Helix Review.  This is what he had to say about his experience.

Tell us a bit about your book:
The Smith family was a normal,middle-class family living happily in the suburbs of New York,with three gorgeous children,and a fourth on the way,but almost as soon as that child is born,a group calling themselves The Apocalypse Watchers,shows up at their house, preaching that the Anti-Christ has been born,and they come to believe that this new member of the family is the Anti-Christ and that they must rid the world of her by any means necessary to avoid Armageddon.Can the Smiths protect their little girl,Carol Anne,from these crazy cultists,or will The Apocalypse Watchers succeed in putting an end to the Anti-Christ’s reign once and for all?

How would you describe your writing style:

I usually like to write in the third person in which I’m the narrator telling the reader about events that happened to me, my fictional family, fictional children, and set these books 5-10 years into the future (which,right now,is 2020-2025).

Why did you decide to try Helix:

To give me some advice and constructive criticism of my writing style.

What were you able to learn from the Helix Review:

That my writing style, in some areas matches those of other, more notable and well-known authors.

How do you plan to use the Helix information:

To tweak my writing style to make it more professional and appealing to readers.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix:

Helix is a useful tool to help you evaluate your writing style.

About the Helix Review
Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book. – See more at: http://www.lulu.com/blog/category/helix-review/#sthash.RIG4o0bN.dpuf
Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

Self Publishing Momentum Continues!

The independent publishing industry has taken great strides since Lulu first made the option to self-publish books widely available in 2002. On October 9, Bowker released new data highlighting the strong adoption of self-publishing as the industry continues to build momentum.

Most notably, Bowker cites a 59% jump in self-published titles in 2012 from 2011. That’s huge! Similarly, eBooks continue to gain popularity among self-published authors with 40% of the ISBNs that were self-published in 2012 being eBooks compared to 11% the year prior.

Recently, there has been yet another groundswell of enthusiasm and participation in the movement. There is ever-increasing credibility and success among self-published authors, even those that have been traditionally published before. Writers everywhere continue to embrace the opportunities and control afforded by making their books directly and immediately available to readers everywhere.

Highlights from Bowker’s 2011 annual findings included the addition of over 148,000 new self-published titles, which translates to 43% of all print books released in the U.S. that year. Also, self-published books represented 12% of all e-book sales and as much as 20% of specific genres like romance and fantasy.

You can read more about these trends and Bowker by visiting these sites:

Authors using the Helix Review: B.D. Salerno

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 12.33.19 AMNext up in our ongoing series on Helix Review authors is B.D. Salerno, author of Forensics by the Stars: Astrology Investigates.  Here’s what he had to say about the Helix experience:

Tell us a bit about your book:
The author, an avid reader of true crime as well as an accomplished astrologer, delves into the use of astrology as a means of gaining more insight into famous crimes, world events and missing persons cases.  Examples of well known crimes include a discussion of the murder of Marilyn Monroe, the peculiar crash of TWA Flight 800 — whose investigation has been recently reopened — and the Haiti earthquake.  The book includes a useful appendix of astrological information for the beginner and lay person alike.

How would you describe your writing style:

My writing requires the careful research and retelling of famous crimes and events, as seen through the lens of the astrology horoscope cast for the moment of those events.   The horoscope is analyzed in clear and concise terms and the astrological symbolism is explained.  While the writing is journalistic in scope, it is also explanatory and educational for the reader, citing news sources as well as classic astrological references.

Why did you decide to try Helix:

There are very few books on the market related to my topic so I wanted to se how my book stacked up against other current works in the field.

What were you able to learn from the Helix Review:

I gained a sense of confidence in seeing that my writing is comparable to other works and measured favorably when compared to other books in the field.

How do you plan to use the Helix information:

In an effort to keep my work as educational and concise as possible I will strive to keep sentence length a little shorter than its current ranking, which was slightly longer than average.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix:

I would tell them it is a very worthwhile investment which can provide helpful guidelines for future writing endeavors.

For more information about B.D. Salerno and  Forensics by the Stars:  Astrology Investigates:

Author Website
Author TwitterAuthor Facebook

About the Helix Review

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

Authors using Helix Review: Geoffrey Lloyd Vough

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 11.18.26 AMFor the next installment of our series on the Helix Review, Geoffrey Lloyd Vough, author of the historical fiction novel “Multnomah,” spoke with us about his experiences with the Helix Review.

Tell us a bit about your book:

Multnomah is the story of the events leading up to Boadicea’s revolt against the Roman occupation of Britain. The story is told to two modern-day brothers (in Oregon, at Multnomah Falls) by Yhenna, the eldest of Queen Boadicea’s two daughters.  Those were recorded to have lived, but no historian names them.  Set in the middle of the 1st century AD, and modern-day Oregon, there are three interwoven stories in Multnomah. Using her powers, Yhenna projects a sending of herself to those two brothers in order to tell at last the real history of what happened in Celtic-Britain; because history is always written by the victors. The Earth is coming up to the foretold “Shift of the Ages” and Yhenna is connected to one of the two brothers; he the one she will tell her story to because he has dreamed of writing it.  Those parts of the story are heavily driven by dialogue and are metaphysical/philosophically-oriented.  Yhenna’s own story is two-fold, part of it her discovery that at the roots of druidry is a dark secret, and that leads her to her half-brother she’s never before known or met. A gifted druid, also a wyrdcrafter, Yhenna learns that an alien power in/from Otherworld (what druidry calls Faerie) is the wellspring of the wyrdcraft which is druidry’s “magic” — a secret only those druids capable of wyrdcraft ever learn.  It a buried secret.

How would you describe your writing style?

I prefer to write realistic fiction, what’s commonly called Speculative Fiction, but I also appreciate clever fantasy elements. I think melding those, realism and history with fantasy and fiction, makes for an exciting plot. I try to write simply but complex, making for a fast paced but “packed” read.

Why did you decide to submit your book for a Helix Review?

I wanted to see the various components Helix measures for use in comparisons and the like. I felt it offered a perspective one couldn’t get from live reviewers.

What did you learn from Helix?

I felt the way I write to be “validated” some, though that’s kind of a pompous statement. I felt seeing my work in such a light gave me a unique perspective though.

How are you going to use what you learned?

I use it mostly for comparing my writing style and such to other authors/books in the genre, and out.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix?

I liked the service and would recommend it.

For more information about Geoffrey Lloyd Vough and “Multnomah,” please visit:

About the Helix Review:

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

Authors using Helix Review: Jack Gunthridge

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 11.02.07 AMFor the next installment of our series on the Helix Review, we spoke with Jack Gunthridge, author of the romance novel “Broken Hearts Damaged Goods,” about his experiences with the Helix Review.

Tell us a bit about your book:

When Jack and Liselle find themselves having been cheated on, they decide to use each other to get over the heartache.  They would be each others rebound so that nobody else would get hurt.

How would you describe your writing style?

My writing style is very natural and conversational.  I want the readers to feel the experiences of the people in the book.  With a romance, I want the women to identify with the female lead and to fall in love with the male lead.

Why did you decide to submit your book for a Helix Review?

Since I am a male author writing romance novels, I wanted to see how I compared to the more traditionally published female authors.  I wanted to see how I was similar and how I could set myself apart.

What did you learn from Helix?

The Helix Review allowed me to see the normal range of the pacing of the genre I am working in.  Given this information, I can better determine if I am on track with other authors, or if I might want to increase my pacing.

How are you going to use what you learned?

I plan on looking at my books more and dissecting it differently than I would with normal editing where I look at spelling, grammar, punctuation, and making sure the ideas are presented clearly.  I can now look at making my works fit more into the genre.  I can also balance this with what makes me unique as a writer.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix?

It is definitely worth the money.  It lets you know where you are as an author.  Are your sentences too long?  Are they too short?  Where do you fit in with other authors?  How are you different?  It helped to answer a lot of these questions.

For more information about Jack Gunthridge and “Broken Hearts Damaged Goods,” please visit:

About the Helix Review:

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

Authors using the Helix Review: Martin Wolt, Jr.

Next in our ongoing sScreen Shot 2013-10-07 at 11.17.49 AMeries looking at self-published writers who have used Helix Review, we speak with Martin Wolt, Jr., author of the fantasy fiction novel: Daughters of Darkwana.

Tell us a bit about Daughters of Darkwana:

Trapped in a fantasy world laden with Japanese mythology, Wally Cook must avoid super natural assassins, befriend a clan of kitsunes, and save the world of Darkwana. If he cannot save their world, he cannot save ours. If he cannot face his inner demons, he cannot defeat Darkwana’s own.

How would you describe your writing style:

While most fantasy writers use a long-winded style that builds upon their worlds via rich histories and character backgrounds, I use a minimalist’s style rarely seen in fantasy. As a result, my plot moves like greased lightning.

Why did you decide to try Helix:

I felt curious to see what information it could share with me.

What were you able to learn from the Helix Review:

That my fantasy novel moves at a significantly faster pace than most.

About the Helix Review

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

Authors using the Helix Review: Gary Briley

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 11.00.43 AMAs a part of our ongoing series looking at self-published writers who have used Helix Review, we interviewed Lulu author Gary Briley, who wrote the mystery novel: Stalemate. Helix, powered by The Book Genome project, allows authors to upload a manuscript and receive an incredibly in depth analysis of the book.

Tell us a bit about Stalemate:
After artist Julia Storey is murdered by a hit and run, her journals reveal a secret life that her husband Nick realizes puts him, his son, sister and parents—away on one of their “trips to nowhere”—in the crosshairs of a vicious killer.  Police Detective Sam Oliphant focuses on Nick as the prime suspect. Nick pairs up with Oliphant’s reluctant partner, Olivia Barton, Nick’s first love, to rescue his parents, now held hostage by cohorts of Lupo, an organized crime boss. Their search leads them through a maze of betrayal and murder, and ultimately to revelations that rattle through the Storey family and their construction business.

How would you describe your writing style:

I like to present characters that are real, but not perfect, and involve them in authentic life situations, challenges they struggle to overcome; characters that the reader can identify with through their interactions and dialogue. I like to create a story with intrigue, and suspense that could happen to any of us.

Why did you decide to try Helix:

To compare my story and its development with others.

What were you able to learn from the Helix Review:

That my book falls well within the parameters of the genre, that my dialogue is probably better than most.

How do you plan to use the Helix information:

To achieve a better story structure.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix:

It is well worth the money to see how your story compares to best sellers, and what is special about your book.

For more information about Gary Briley and Stalemate:

Lulu Author Spotlight
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About the Helix Review

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

Top ten errors writers make that editors hate

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 3.40.50 PMHelga Schier, independent writing and publishing consultant and founder of Withpenandpaper.com, recently gave a brilliant presentation at the Writer’s Digest Conference covering the trials and tribulations of book editors.  More specifically, she eloquently and succinctly outlined a list of the top ten errors editors hate — and often see — the most. For the writers in the room, this was a gold mine of valuable information and I would like to share what I learned.

First and foremost, there are three levels of editing and they should all build upon each other.

  • Editing that deals with the surface structure of the words on your page – copy-editing.
  • Editing that deals with style and voice, as well as, tightening your manuscript by getting rid of unnecessary sections – line editing.
  • Editing that deals with ways to make your world come to life, including ways to create your characters, build your world, and write good dialogue  – conceptual editing.

Before you hand your book to an editor, you should have already gone through these three levels of review…

The Basics: Writing

1. Editors hate it when it’s clear that you never ran that spell-check.

These are things everyone can fix.  This level deals with spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Your words are your tools so make sure they are in good working order. Some may argue that editors should care more about the story and characters. This is true, but these kinds of mistakes greatly distract readers from understanding and absorbing the book.  Your job as an author is to take the reader by the hand and take them on a journey through the story.  Bad grammar or spelling mistakes detract and sway from that journey.

2. Editors hate it when you serve leftovers.

  • Plot or character inconsistencies
  • Timeline issues

A good way to keep this from happening is to run a second reader check. Give your book to someone who will critically read it and ask them to report on things that don’t make sense to them.

Beyond the Basics: Writing in Style

3. Editors hate it when the writing is heavier than a ten-ton-truck.

  • Inflated sentences – polish your sentences, don’t use unnecessary lead-ins. Get to the point or meat of the sentence quickly.
  • Stilted language – you want to meet your readers through your work and you want to call the readers attention to your story or argument.  Unnecessary language reminds readers that they are actually reading and takes them away from being immersed in your world.
  • Overuse of adjectives and adverbs – makes a story feel cumbersome and lazy.  Most adjective and adverb phrases don’t do the description justice.

4. Editors hate it when style isn’t really style but writing in your comfort zone.

  • Repetitive use of vocabulary
  • Repetitive sentence structure and length

Every writer has a set of words that they fall back on and don’t often notice unless they specifically go looking for them.  Remedy: make a list of your most used words/phrases and go through your manuscript hunting them down.  Make sure your characters use their favorite words not yours.

Vary the length of the length and structure of sentences to provide a unique mix for the readers. Also, allow your characters to use varied sentence structure depending on their personality, background, and environment in which they find themselves. Step outside your comfort zone and find your voice.

5. Editors hate clichés. Except when they don’t.

  • Innovate and personalize clichéd images and comparisons.
  • Use clichés and stereotypes as character markers.
  • Turn stereotypes upside down to define a personality or relationship.

Leave trusted clichés behind. Clichés are predictable and writing should never be predictable.  Replace established clichés with your own creative ones. These images should be new and personal but, not obscure to your readers. You want your readers to turn the pages because they can’t wait to see what is beyond the next paragraph.

Far Beyond the Basics: Writing to make your world come to life

6. Editors hate it when characters resemble cardboard cutouts.

Don’t let your characters be predictable and don’t give your character’s entire back story all at once.  Readers can’t digest that volume of information and the story comes to a screeching halt with all suspension of disbelief gone. Giving the character’s back story is not the same as creating and developing a character that comes to life. You want fully developed characters with their own psychological make-up, who have a past, hopes for the future, and most importantly, a motivation or reason for their actions.

7. Editors hate it when the narrative tells rather than shows.

  • Scenes need to show how characters act and interact.
  • Narrative needs to observe, not comment.

Show don’t tell, but this does not mean that you should shy away from the description. “Show don’t tell” refers to the way your characters should interact. Scenes cannot happen in a vacuum. Your narrative must develop the scene.  Don’t simply say, “the restaurant was loud”, rather describe the conversation at the bar, the waiter dropping the tray, the phone ringing off the hook at the host stand. If you show something well enough, there is no reason to tell the reader.

8. Editors hate it when dialogues turn into speeches.

  • Dialogue requires that people interact with each other verbally and non-verbally.
  • Dialogue passes on information.
  • Dialogue defines characters and their relationships.
  • Dialogue exposes tension and conflict.

Dialogue in a novel is polished speech that serves certain functions…it shows relationship, moves the story along, creates scenes, etc.  None of your characters should ever lecture or pontificate. Dialogue should always have at least two people interacting verbally and non-verbally. The words a character chooses says a lot about the character’s background, personality, and status. Again, words should be theirs, not yours. Dialogue words must also fit the situation. Someone will speak differently given a different situation.

People don’t necessarily say what they mean or mean what they say. There is often a subtext. Do the characters have a relationship? Trust each other? Hate each other? Have a secret crush? This all can come through in the subtext of the dialogue.

9. Anything goes! But just because you say doesn’t make it so.

  • Events must be caused by earlier events and lead to the next.
  • Natural story development depends on the interplay of plot and character.
  • A character’s natural behavior must be motivated by his/her psychological disposition.

Remember, in a novel one event must lead to the next and the interplay of your characters and events should create the plot…in other words, it is the characters that write their own stories.

10. Editors hate hangnail writing.

  • Everything in your story has an impact on your readers.
  • Show and tell your readers only what is relevant. No more.
  • Show and tell your readers everything that is relevant. No less.

An extra scene, banter, subplots, or characters that don’t drive the story forward create boredom and distrust of the author.   Show the readers what is relevant, no more and no less. Readers take in everything about the story, so you must follow through. You absolutely must show everything that is relevant as readers only see what you show not what you may know.

Quick but hugely important tip:

Take time off from your manuscript, a step back, and gain distance. In that time…READ, READ, READ (other people’s work) then, reread your work.  First, start looking for the big picture stuff. Before you edit, read it again and look at style and genre. The third time, go for typos, spelling etc. DO ALL OF THIS BEFORE YOU BEGIN TO REVISE!

For access to Schier’s slide deck, click here.

 

 

 

Authors using the Helix Review: Brett Russell Andrews

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 10.56.00 AMBrett Russell Andrews, author of Teaching Abroad: The People’s Republic of China is next up in our Helix Review series.

Tell us a bit about your book:

This is a collector’s book which chronicles cross-cultural exchanges and teaching experiences at secondary and post-secondary schools in China. The memoir includes a profile, three central essays, photos, mementos, syllabus, assessments, movies in review and municipality “model worker” honor.

How would you describe your writing style?

My writing style is specific to painting a clear picture in the minds of readers with words. My approach is to take any reader with me on a literal academic odyssey. I often question myself on whether or not the information I offer is not only helpful, but ultimately useful.

Why did you decide to submit your book for a Helix Review?

I used the review to gain an objective perspective about my book.

What did you learn from the Helix Review?

I learned the weak points and the strong points of my book and was shown what I needed to see to make a decision on future works.

How are you going to use what you learned?

In regards to the data, my word length, sentence length and paragraph length were comparable genome plus biography and autobiography averages. My use of unique vocabulary was in fact above par in respect to each. This spoke well to the overall density of my book. Sometimes less is more. My writing style averages including motion, density, dialog, description and pacing were collectively balanced…I was very satisfied with results of my book’s Story DNA. It was right in line with my initial intentions.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix?

There is no better feeling than looking into your minds mirror and liking what you see.

About the Helix Review:

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.

Authors using Helix Review: Shontaine

For the next installment of our series on the Helix Review, we spoke to Shontaine, author of Married to Madness.

Tell us a bit about your book:

The book tells the volatile story of the marriage of eccentric Brandon and her charmingly domineering husband, Zack Cerasani. The adoration they share hasn’t gone much unappreciated by either in over a decade. They raise their children and love philanthropy work in unison and with great pride. There’s also the occasional moonlighting as vigilante killers that they do behind each others backs as well.

How would you describe your writing style?

I write in an offbeat, quirky, and “urban” voice. I take on writing like a good man, I ride until the wheels fall off.

Why did you decide to submit “Married to Madness” for a Helix Review?

It seemed interesting to get a general, in depth analysis of my book.

What did you learn from the review?

The review confirmed that I had an interesting story that was a simple enough to understand and follow through on.

What would you tell someone considering trying Helix?

It’s actually very informative and useful. My comparison was fairly accurate overall.

For more information about John Locke and “Stuff I’ve Written So Far,” please visit:

About the Helix Review:

Back in May we launched an experimental new offering called Helix, and dubbed it The Personality Test for Your Book. Helix is powered by The Book Genome Project, a massive database of over 100,000 of the world’s best-known books. And basically, it gives you a way to upload your manuscript and get back an incredibly rich and unbiased perspective on your book.

Lulu authors are currently using Helix to gain a better understanding of their book for marketing purposes, and in some cases to gain insight into their writing style. For the first time, we’ve caught up with some of the earliest Helix Review customers to hear more about their book and writing style and what they hoped to learn from Helix.

If you are an author that has used Helix and would like to be featured in the future, please tell us about your experience here.