Remarkable Finds

Revising Your Fiction: Question Everything!

It’s a big day. You’ve finished the first draft of your book. You share the news on Facebook and get so many Likes—which will surely translate into book sales. But the ghosts of English teachers past remind you that a first draft is not a finished piece of writing.

“Fine,” you tell them. “I’ll edit.”

To appease the red pen-wielding apparitions, you add a semicolon here, take out a comma there, do a spellcheck, and now you’re done! Really done!

“Nope,” say the ghosts. “Revise.”

“But I spellchecked! I replaced two commas with em dashes! I even undangled a participle!”

“That’s editing,” they say. “Not revision.”

A lot of us consider these concepts synonymous, but they’re not quite the same thing. Revision is something a little more comprehensive.

The ugly truth is that lots of us don’t quite know where our stories are going until we get there. Sure, you might know the broad strokes, but good writing is all about the details. You discover things about your characters along the way—their motivations, likes, dislikes, loyalties, and more. Going back to make sure you’re as true to these details in your first sentence as you are in your last will make your stories better, your characters more well-rounded, and your readers more satisfied.

Ask yourself the following as you revise:

  • Who are your characters?

Do their actions make sense? Does your meek protagonist suddenly get loud and violent for no reason? Characters can—and arguably should—undergo change, but not on a dime, and not without cause.

  • What’s your setting?

Does the setting fit the story? What does it reinforce about the mood of your story or your characters—or how does it create contrast between your characters and their location? Properly setting your stage also sets the tone of your story.

  • What’s happening?

What happens? Are events properly set-up or do they occur randomly? Sure, life is random; but, in the same way that truth is stranger than fiction, truth is also less orderly. Fiction needs structure to feel believable.

  • Where’s the conflict?

This is the evil twin of plot. Both drive your narrative. What’s happening that generates interest, drama, or change? It can be external (like a ticking time bomb or a tough new boss) or it can be internal (like facing a debilitating fear or the acceptance of a breakup). Even better, include internal and external conflict. Good fiction is like life—complex.

  • Whose point of view is this?

Who’s telling the story? If your narrative is dependent on knowing lots of intimate thoughts and details about your main character, consider writing it in first-person. If the story works better with the reader kept at more of a distance—especially if there are lots of characters to touch on—try third. There’s no right choice, but be consistent—and be true to the voice you create.

In short, question everything about your story or book. It’s no easy task, but if you can’t answer the questions above, your readers will be left with lots of questions of their own—including why they should bother reading anything else you write.

Give your manuscript to a trusted (but picky) reader or two. Ask the above questions to them. The ones that stump them will show you where to start providing answers with a thorough revision. Your work will be better for it—and the ghosts of your English teachers will finally find some rest.

Getting Noticed: The Art of the Description

You wrote a book – congratulations! You’ve achieved something incredible. You wrote it, formatted it, reviewed the copy, self-published it and you are thoroughly satisfied, now all that is left is to put it up for sale and rejoice as readers the world over enjoy your work.

pexels-photoBut – selling a book is no easy task. Particularly in a literary world where self-published books are plentiful. By some UNESCO estimates, more than 800 books are published in the U.S. alone each day.

So, how do you make your book stand out?

Aside from writing a terrific book, the most important thing to do is to write an even better description. In fact, it’s arguably more important to write a great description.

The description is the front line for your book, the entryway to your literary world. It is the most important piece of writing you’ll do in terms of marketing your book and getting it noticed. And getting noticed is key! No one will know how good your book is if they aren’t enticed by the description to pick it up in the first place!

As both a consumer and a writer, there are a few things I’ve noticed that separate a good description from a poor one (and often these items mean the difference between someone buying your book or passing it over):


  • Brevity – The word count should be in the 150 to 250 range. This is a brief description meant to sell a reader on the book, it should not serve as a summary of the book. You are advertising your book, presenting a teaser that will make the reader want to pick up your book and find out what happens.
  • Introductions – Introduce your protagonist, the inciting incident, the setting/place/time – all the basics. Use strong, emotional language, in the third-person (even if the book is first-person). Writing in the third-person is a particularly effective way of removing yourself (the author) from the description.
  • Hook – Some suggest beginning with a hook, some ending with it. Either way, you need to “hook” the reader by evoking the genre and speaking to your intended audience. If your book is a crime thriller, make that clear with language that builds suspense or implies the unknown. If it’s a fantasy, let the reader know that they will be transported to strange new worlds with unique creatures and characters.
  • Raise the Stakes – Once the reader knows your protagonist, the inciting incident and has been hooked by the language, the stakes need to be cranked up to instill tension and motivate them to know more. A good story is steeped in conflict; tell your potential reader, either subtly or flat out, what the conflict is.
  • Write It as the Publisher – You wrote your book as the author—telling a story. An author is not a salesperson. You should write the description as the publisher, the person who wants to sell this book. Or better yet, have someone read the book and write the description for you! Whatever you do, stepping out of the author role is critical to writing an effective description.


While these aren’t the only rules, nor are they hard and fast, they will serve as guidelines when creating your description. The description is your only opportunity to grab your reader and make them want to read your book. Don’t waste this chance—use it to get as many people reading your book as you can!

Q&A with Award-Winning Lulu Jr. Author

This summer, Rainbow Resource Center, which is based in Illinois, held a Super Summer Book Writing Contest for children ages 5-17. Using Lulu Jr.’s My Awesome Book, children wrote and illustrated their stories and submitted them for the competition. Avery B. was the grand prize winner and she won $250. We sat down with Avery to learn what inspired her…

Question – Congratulations! How does it feel to be a published author at 13?

Avery B. – Really great! I feel like I’ve grabbed the key that opens a door for future possibilities.

Question – What was the best part of writing your own book?

Avery B. – I had a lot of fun thinking of the silly challenges that Ego and his friends would overcome.

Question – How did your friends in Beep Patrol help inspire you to write the story?

Avery B. – I always liked it when everyone on Beep Patrol, my FLL Robotics team, worked together to come up with great concepts. Core Values are some ideas that guide the teams to gracious gamesmanship. Since I was Core Values leader, I wanted to write a story about how Core Values changed someone’s life for the better.

Question – What was the hardest part of writing Ego?

Avery B. – The hardest thing for me to do was seeing something through. It was super hard for me to keep working at Ego. I was happy after my first draft – that is usually how I leave my work. However, I kept polishing Ego until it was ‘purrrrfect’. I’m really glad I spent a lot of effort in Ego!

Question – What have you learned from this experience?

Avery B. – I learned that if I follow my plans through, great things can happen.

Question – Do you have any plans to continue writing?

Avery B. – I will definitely keep writing. I am writing a novel about superhero kids called Scarlet Eyes and I think it is going to be a super neat story. I also thought of another story called More Than Gold. I’m going to keep working on that too.

Question – Is there anything else that you’d like to share?

Avery B. – This is some advice for aspiring writers: NEVER GIVE UP! Plan a story from the beginning to the end, and then follow it through. That is what I found makes writing a good story possible. And for my fellow Whovians: Don’t blink!”

The team at Lulu Jr. would like to congratulate Avery on the wonderful book that she created and we look forward to seeing the next one!

If you want your child to be a successful author like Avery, then head over to Lulu Jr. to find the perfect kit to turn your child into a published author too. Happy creating!

Maximize Your Lulu Customer Support Experience

Writing is no easy task, but once it’s done the book creation process begins. That’s where Lulu comes in. While our tools are designed to be accessible and user friendly, undoubtedly, questions and technical issue will arise. Lucky for you, dear author, Lulu’s Customer Support Team is here to help you overcome any obstacles you encounter.

To ensure a quick and efficient response, follow the instructions below when submitting your support request. These tips will help our support team better understand your problem and remove those obstacles preventing you from completing your project.

To get started, click on the Support link at the top of the page. Then choose the correct support category. Helpful articles are listed below each category that may answer your question. If not, click the I Still Need Help button to open a support request form. 


1) Project title, Content ID, ISBN, Order # –

These are the most important bits of information to be included when creating a support case. You will also notice three lines that aren’t required, but are helpful: Item ID; Item Name; ISBN. Including this information allows us to more quickly and accurately provide a solution. Remember, the more information you include in your original request, the fewer follow-up questions we will need to ask and the faster we can resolve your problem.


The Content ID, ISBN, and Title information are displayed on the My Projects page:


If your question involves an order that you are waiting to receive or one you have received, but have questions about, it is very important you include the order number in your support request.


The order number is listed on the order confirmation email we send, on the packing slip inside the package, and from within your account (My Orders)


2) Include all important information in your request

Describe the Problem as clearly as possible. A simple description such as “My EPUB won’t convert” or “My order didn’t go through” is often sufficient.

If you are having a specific issue, try to give as much detail as possible such as the step on which you encountered the problem or the error message you received. Screen shots are also very helpful to include.


3) Support Team responses

Emails are sent to you and routed back to us through a single email address ( Since this is a generic email account used by our entire support team, responses may get routed to your spam or junk folder. If you haven’t seen a response to your query, it’s possible our response is in one of those folders!

IMPORTANT: When you respond to an email from our support team, DO NOT change the subject line. The subject will look like this, but with a different case number:


[ ref:_00D406zP6._50070flt3l:ref ] Case 01234567


The information in the subject line ensures your response is filed with your original support request and routed to the correct Customer Support team member. If you add or change anything in the subject line, we may not receive or respond to your email in a timely fashion!


4) Where to find the answers – Knowledge Base and Author Forums

Lulu is a self-publishing company. We want our authors to grow and thrive. As such, we provide several support options.

  • Self Help: In our Knowledge Base you can find the answers to many of the “how do I…?” questions that come along with self-publishing, like formatting a Word file for EPUB conversion or How to Revise a Completed Project
  • Author Community: Post your question in the forums and other self-published authors will share their know-how, 24/7.
  • Support Team: We are happy to provide support for technical issues M-F from 8-5 Eastern US Time.

Believe me, if you can dedicate hours, weeks, and months of your life to telling your story, you can get through the steps of our creation process and make your book a reality. And, when you hit roadblocks, the Customer Support team is here to help!

Bud Loftus: A Story. A Book. A Legacy.

At 85, Bud Loftus added one more accomplishment — published author — to a life that has been defined by them.


Bud Loftus lived a story that was almost never told.

He suffered the sting of poverty as a child. Experienced the pain of war as a young man. And found success in business as an adult. He wanted his children and grandchildren to learn from his journey, to take the lessons of his life with them. But at 85, the goal seemed out of reach for Bud — until he found Lulu.

“Dad was able to make something for the family he once thought impossible,” said Cecilia Lahiff, the middle of Bud’s seven children. “Lulu offered the professional experience of a traditional publisher, if not better.”

Bud’s has been an extraordinary journey. The son of Irish immigrants, he grew up on welfare in Philadelphia. The day after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, he went to a Marine Corps. office to enlist. He was only 17 and had to wait until he finished high school, but he went on to fight in the Pacific theater of World War II.


After the war, Bud took the government’s offer of a free college education and attended LaSalle University, where he received top marks in the pre-med program. He became the first Director of the Division of Drug Manufacturing at the Food and Drug Administration, and, after retiring from the agency, built a 17-year career in the pharmaceutical industry. It’s a story that Cecilia encouraged her dad to publish.

“The Lulu experience has been terrific,” said Bud, who released his 315-page memoir, “Bud Loftus: An Irish-American’s Journey” in late 2009. “I got a tremendous amount of help from the staff going above and beyond.”

And the book has taken the story of Bud’s life to a whole new audience. In November 2009 he was featured in a story by The Washington Post.

Q&A: Where and when is your favorite place to write?

Mahdiyah A Window

Mahdiyah’s Window

We asked our author community where they write and what makes that place special. As you can imagine, the responses were as diverse as Lulu authors. Some prefer working at a desk, others in bed. Some prefer music in the background, others prefer silence. Some write by hand while others prefer computers, laptops and tablets. We have selected a few of our favorite responses to share.

Where do you write?

“Sitting at my window just watching nature and reflecting on life’s synchronicities” – Mahdiyah A.

“In my spare bedroom that I redecorated and refurnished as a writing space cum office cum library. It’s more comfortable than hunched on the sofa and the view out the window is nicer this side of the building that on the other side.” Merita K.

“I do all my writing on the Path train.” – Havana G.

Rena's Armchair

Rena’s Armchair

“In my armchair at any time of the day when the words are flowing and my fingers are flying over the keys.” — Rena B.

Currently, at my desk in Afghanistan with my headphones on. My coworkers beg for pages at the end of the day. They’re hooked.” – Guenevere R.

“Outside on the town green.” – Jessika S

“Hmmm, the best place to write is at work because my desire to not be there allows me to escape into my dream job.” Sheena A

When do you write?

Anita O beach

Anita’s Inspiring Photo

“My desk in my room at night because it’s quiet. I’m least distracted and write better at night.” — Moriko F.

“In the front room at 2a.m. to 4a.m. in the morning when the world is asleep!” – Ranis T

“I usually write in the evenings. I like it when the streets are quiet, the people are gone, and everything is dark. And I write at home, in total silence.” James C.

“I do my best writing while cooking dinner and cleaning the house. I love doing both and that relaxes me and gets my mind going. It’s special because writing is my escape and clears the clutter in my head.”

“I write on the go, I write late at night, I write all the time!! I also like to take photos, which also helps me write even more!” – Anita O

Writing aids: coffee, tea, margarita?

“In a bar drinking coffee at a table by the window.” – Laura D.

“Sitting outside a little cafe in my Greek village listening to my mp3 watching the people go by whilst I sip a Fredochino.” – Karina K

Karina's Beverage of Choice

Karina’s Beverage of Choice

“Sitting in my window seat looking out at the countryside scenery with either a pen & pad or my laptop, oh and a HUGE mug of coffee.” — Rebecca H.

“At my 2 foot by 2 foot table in my bedroom! It is the perfect surface for a laptop, iPad, and glass of pop!”– Jan S.

“At home, with coffee at my side, in my PJs. When I’m comfortable, there’s no stopping me from writing. I could sit there for hours and just get it all out on paper. It’s like therapy…”– Jennie C

Most of the time, if I need to do typing, it’s at my desk. I have a huge touch screen and an antique wingback office chair that are perfection. However, if I’m actually *writing,* then I am usually in bed with my lap desk. Either way, there is ample space for a bag of cookies and cream Hershey’s Kisses or a big frozen margarita. – Jaqueline J.


Given all of these choices, I think I’ll bring Rena’s armchair to Greece and sip a margarita while I struggle through the next chapter of my masterpiece – or the next article for the Lulu blog.

Happy writing!

The Best Writing and Storytelling Podcasts for Authors

Boost your writing skills with podcasts recommended by Lulu for writing and storytelling.

We’re all book people here at Lulu. We believe in the power of telling stories and our mission is to give everyone the platform to do so. But technology has been as important to other forms of storytelling as it has been to book publishing. Case in point: podcasts.

There are dozens (or hundreds) of podcasts for every subjecg out there, and it’s no different for publishing, storytelling, and writing. If you’re an author with some downtime, you owe it to yourself to download some podcasts and plug in some headphones to make sure you stay at the top of your game.

Here are a few of the best podcasts to help you hone your writing skills and get your storytelling juices flowing.

Authorpreneur Lulu Author PodcastsAuthorpreneur Want to learn about the business of writing books? Whether they’re fiction writers or entrepreneurs, Jim Kukral gets tips and tricks from authors on how to make a living being an author in Authorpreneur. For anyone serious about making a living being a writer of any sort – or just for listeners who want to learn how people dedicated to their craft have carved out their niche – Authorpreneur is a valuable resource.

Recommended episode: How Andy Weir Took ‘The Martian” From Blog to BestSeller to Blockbuster Movie (Starring Matt Damon)

The Moth The Moth isn’t necessarily about writing, but it is about something that’s important to all writers: telling stories. Whether you’re writing business books or paranormal romance, it’s important to engage your audience. The Moth showcases some of the best live stories about nearly every topic imaginable, and is a great tool for learning how to tell a compelling story.

Recommended episode: Neil Gaiman – Liverpool Street

Dead Robots Society Podcast Lulu Author TipsThe Dead Robots’ Society As the title implies, The Dead Robots’ Society is a little more irreverent than other writing podcasts, and it could be right up your alley if you want something more lighthearted. Still, the hosts take writing very seriously and have no problem sharing their (sometimes painful) writing experiences. The most recent episode as of this post is “The Horrors of Back Cover Copy” and is a hilarious take on trying to sum up your story in a few hundred words.

Recommended episode: Episode 349 – Kickstarters and Patrons

Helping Writers Become Authors Interested in avoiding common writing mistakes? Having trouble writing compelling character arcs? Not sure how to pitch your novel? Helping Writers Become Authors covers every aspect of the book-writing process that you could ever hope to come across. If you want a comprehensive collection of tips – especially for fiction writers – download Helping Writers Become Authors today.

Recommended episode: Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 32: Boring Opening Lines

Selected Shorts Brought to you by Symphony Space and WNYC, Selected Shorts is a collection of “fiction, sometimes classic, sometimes new, always performed by great actors from stage, screen and television who bring these short stories to life.” It’s a more traditional take on storytelling, as much a stage show as a podcast.

Recommended episode: Cannolis and Carroll

Lulu Podcast Snap JudgementSnap Judgement Sometimes the best way to tell a story is to combine it with other art forms. Snap Judgement features stories told to music and you’re just as likely to be inspired by the story being told as you are by the soundtrack it’s set to. Listening to stories is a very different experience than reading them, and hearing accompanying music brings that auditory engagement to a whole new level. It’ll make you think about how your audience interacts with your own stories.

Recommended episode: Snape #603 – Omen

The Writer Files Every episode of The Writer Files podcast is titled “How [Insert Author Here] Writes.” Could it be simpler than that? From bestselling authors to people who write for business – such as bloggers and copywriters – The Writer Files picks their brains to find out just how they get their work done. Learn about overcoming challenges, nurturing writing best practices, and more from a wide variety of authors.

Recommended episode: Standing Desks, Binge Reading, and James Patterson’s MasterClass

Is your favorite podcast listed here? Have some others that you’d love to share? Or maybe you have a podcast of your own! Let us know in the comments.