Thursday, July 25, 2013

Guest Post for Writers--Blogger Sandra Valente--What Every Writer Needs to Know

I'm so excited today because I get to share a little wisdom with the rest of you from one of my newest friends, Sandra Valente. I’m re-blogging this today because I think Sandra is so awesome and shares so many great words of wisdom for writers that need to be seen! I met Sandra on Emma Meade’s blog, where she did a Q&A about blogging and her interaction with writers. I found her post so insightful and refreshing, I’m linking it here in case you want to take a look. Emma Meade's post. Thanks so much for letting me re-post your amazing tips, Sandra and for being so honest! It really is helpful, and I hope other writers will find this post and gain a bit of wisdom :)

If you have questions or comments for Sandra, please speak up!


First, a little about me. As I can’t call it an ‘author bio’, I’ll go with reader/blogger bio.

Sandra lives in South Africa with her husband of 22 years (they met when they were both two), son and two dogs. She has a ferocious passion for reading and coffee, and is against women/child abuse and animal cruelty. Sandra runs a book blog where she shares her passion for books. She’s finally found an outlet, said blog, SSBookFanatics (although the blog’s name will be changing soon) where she is able to share reviews, interviews, promote Indie authors and their books including taking part in blog tours and sharing guest posts when time allows. Running her blog puts her in her element, but meeting a handful of authors who have become special friends is the icing on the cake.

She prides herself in not only being a mother and wife, but a teacher, hairdresser, taxi driver, cook, psychologist, nurse, negotiator (the typical female role) and also a bit ‘good’ crazy. 

She loves soppy movies and chick flicks. Family, friends, music and reading are all food for her soul – including food! To prove her ‘good’ crazy she’s willing to share the following photo whilst at a kitchen tea. The theme was ‘Alice in Wonderland’, and all guests were tasked with making their own hats. Last but not least, Sandra constantly changes hair colour: between blonde and brunette – makes life that much more interesting.
This post was originally done in two parts, but here I've decided on an inclusive post.

Now, I’m not an author but I am an avid reader – really a coffee drinking book obsessed nut – who happens to be quite capable of finding her way around the English language. This doesn’t make me all-knowing, and I’m not perfect either. I do know that when I’m not sure about something, I ask. It is how I, we, all (hopefully) learn.

Just so you know, English isn’t my first language as I’m Portuguese, but I’ve lived in South Africa since the age of ten and due to this obsession with reading – I believe – has made me pay more attention to detail, or rather words and spelling. By saying that I’m not an author simply means that I have not written a book or published one… yet. In this day and age, anyone can write a book and publish it in the blink of an eye. Technology is amazing, but then so are institutions such as Amazon, Smashwords and so on who provide outlets for those who either haven’t been fortunate enough to be picked up by a publishing house, or for those who simply don’t want anything to do with a publishing house. According to some, signing a deal only results in signing away most of your rights/life. I know of one author who is and has done extremely well, is self-published and adamantly refuses to sign over her hard work for someone else to do with as they see fit. She also admits that this way she can damn well write what she pleases.

I am, however, the author of my blog posts. Sounds silly, I know, but I take them very seriously. When I write/type up a review, it’s never, ever just something I bash out on my keyboard. I’m not looking to have a review up every single day for the sake of saying, ‘Look at how brilliant I am; I can do these in my sleep.’ Nope, that’s definitely not me. I take my time, because I want to mean what I say and quite honestly, I say what I mean – always in a kind way and always as close to perfect as I am able to make them.  

With that said, I have edited and worked on two books (yes, for real); with a third coming my way soon and I can’t wait! I have also beta/proofread for a NYT bestselling author. Not shabby for someone who spends her life – most of it anyway – reading. I can’t be that bad… I think. I guess this is why I pick up on certain things and it seems to be an emerging pattern. It’s hard though, I know. Eyes are deceiving little buggers, sneaky to boot and make you either miss something that IS there, or read something (in other words, fill in words) that are NOT there. It’s happened to me, still happens to me and I know it’s happened to you. So, without further ado, here are some of my tips regarding issues I pick up when reading, especially with self-published books. I must mention at this point that there are loads of people who are ‘editors’ by profession and authors, or so they claim yet when I read their blog posts, book blurbs and even excerpts, I am left slightly stunned. Again, nobody is perfect, but please check your own work. There is nothing worse than being interested in a book, visiting the author’s site – all excited mind you – and what I read there is sometimes really bad, so bad it totally puts me off buying their book. I’m not the only one who feels this way, trust me. It doesn’t matter that you are only doing a blog post, be professional in all aspects of social media. Also, bear in mind that I am not pointing a finger at anyone in particular because I’ll have four pointing right back at me, but as I am a staunch supporter of Indie authors, I always want to help where I can.

Something interesting I’ve done on a few occasions was e-mail an author and shared with them things that were either out of context, not consistent or incorrectly spelt in their book. This may surprise you, but not once have I been told to take a flying leap off a tall building. In one case, an author was shocked. Why? Not one single person mentioned anything to her in this regard. Here too, I was thanked. Of course, now that I’ve said I’ve had nothing but positive responses back, I have gone and jinxed it and next time I do e-mail someone… I will be told to take that flying leap off a tall building! That’s okay; I can take the good with the bad. What pleases me, though, is that most authors are appreciative which only shows me (the reader) that they do want to perfect their books as much as possible, and are willing to go that extra mile not only for themselves but for their readers. You can’t ask for more. Remember: much haste, less speed. This will only result in disappointment and will affect book sales.

I will leave you with something to think about: I cannot tell you how many times I have received a book review request where the e-mail from the author is so badly written, I go back and read it again just in case I read it wrong the first time around. You want to pique their interest, not put them off. Readers who are impressed with your first communication – your e-mail – will want to read your book. Although most will only accept genres they prefer, it could very well be your chosen genre. It’s much the same as going for a job interview. I doubt very much you’d walk into an office looking like you were dragged through a bush backwards. Be friendly, I personally prefer the laid back type of person, but everyone appreciates professionalism at the same time.

Before you read what I have to say, please take into account that these are things I constantly pick up in books, and it seems to be an emerging pattern.

●  First rule, always: please, please make sure that before your book is beta read, proofread or edited, you decide which spelling you will be going with, and then make sure that your beta reader, proofreader and/or editor knows this. So many people including (yes) editors still don’t know the difference and mix both – I see it every time I read a book. This is frustrating and more often than not when reviews are written, readers will point out that a book was riddled with errors when in fact they weren’t typos at all.

Some examples of US and UK spelling:


You will note that with the US spelling, the ‘u’ where anything ‘our’ is concerned is dropped. Note the difference regarding the ‘s’ and ‘z’ as well. With the UK spelling, most words ending with a ‘t’ are spelt differently when using US spelling as they then end with ‘ed’.  Be careful, though, as you would not want to write ‘spent’ as ‘spended’. When in doubt, ask or look it up.

●  Make sure that the word you want to ‘write’ is the ‘right’ spelling of the word. It’s important that you not only know the correct spelling, but that you know the meaning of the word you want to convey to your readers. The below mentioned words are tricky as they are pronounced the same. If you ever have any doubts, it’s as simple as doing a Google search. If you still can’t find it, ask someone, heck ask me and I will try and help. Incorrect use of these words can totally stop the flow in your story, and done more than a few times will put a reader off your book leaving them no choice but to put it aside… in the DNF pile. You do not ever want this to happen.

Although most of us know the difference, it’s still surprising that most of us don’t. Remember, they really are so easy to miss.

Some examples are:

Conscience (This one got me recently, although I know the difference!)
Too and two

● Be consistent! How many times have I read a book where the girl has blue eyes, only to reach a new chapter and she suddenly sports green eyes? Or, blonde and short hair for half the book, to fiery red down to her waist the next? It happens… a lot. I’ve just read a book recently where a particular sentence went something like this: ‘I shoved him back, stared into his eyes but kept my head on his chest.’ Do you see what’s wrong? She didn’t shove him with her ‘head’, unless she’s a bull. She shoved him with her hands, yet she kept her ‘head’ on his chest. A simple spell check is not going to do the trick or fix this for you. Each word has to be read as a stand alone and then the sentence as a whole, because seven times out of ten these types of mistakes will be missed. There are so many sentences I could add here, but I’m sure you get the gist of what I’m saying.

These are the ‘top’ issues I constantly come across in books. I hope they are helpful.

I will end with one more tip, and this has nothing to do with what’s on the inside, but rather what’s on the outside. Book covers. They are important. I said this recently when interviewed by an author regarding book covers. ‘I love and am mad over book covers.’ This is how I see it (just bear with me): pretend you own a store. You want to draw people into your store hoping they part with a portion of their hard earned money. What do potential customers see first? The outside of your store front. If it’s not eye-catching or it’s shabby looking, they (including me) will walk on by without giving it a second glance. In order to draw customers into your store, you would need make sure it’s appealing, right? It’s exactly the same with your book cover. Much like having beta readers or proofreaders working on your story, why not ask a few people what they think of a particular cover/look you are debating over? One author (quite cleverly) put two book covers together, posted them on her blog and invited readers to comment. She asked which one was better looking, and which was the more appropriate for her story. Not only did they help her with this daunting task, but it was actually fun. What better way to find out what your readers look for than by asking for their input? There is no better way. Ultimately, it’s your choice but at least this way you get a feel for your market.

After this mouthful, I will say that there have been times I’ve read a book sporting a gorgeous cover, yet what was within was not up to par. All in all, to make your book as much of a success as you want it to be, work extremely hard or harder than you already have, and pay attention to not only one but all aspects of your book. Do this and you will receive positive feedback. For those who constantly put down Indie/self-published authors, shame on them. I’ve read independently published books and believe you me, most of them were better than books I’ve read by traditionally published authors. It’s a given though that in both there’s good and bad (ummm, Stevie Wonder – now I’ll be singing this all day) in the traditionally and self-published world. All you need to do is make yours stand out. Be the best you can be.  

Thank you for reading.


Thanks so much for your insightful tips, Sandra! There are so many things to consider when publishing your own books. I've made mistakes myself in publishing, thinking I could have trusted family or friends to do the work of professionals. In the end, sometimes it's better to wait a bit before publishing to make sure you have professional quality when you finally hit publish. I wish more bloggers were as open and honest as Sandra, and I hope writers realize how important bloggers are to our success. Most bloggers don't get paid for what they do. They review, make up dreamy posts and find ways to keep us entertained all because they love reading. I, for one, am grateful for all you bloggers out there. Thanks for taking a chance on Indie authors and for all the time and effort that you spend writing your posts.

It's surprised me to realize how much time and effort can go into a review, and to think people do it because they love books and want to share that with other readers warms my heart. Sending big, fat cyber-hugs to all of you!



  1. Christie, thank you so much for re-blogging this post, for having me on your awesome blog and most especially, for your kind words.

    You are not the first author I've seen mention that in the beginning, family and friends were relied upon. I know a lot of Indie authors can't afford professional editing services, it is quite expensive (depending on the extent of editing you want done) probably due to the fact that it is a very time consuming job. There is always the option prior to editing, of asking fellow authors and readers to beta read. More often than not, they pick up on typos or inconsistencies, which is a huge help for any author. One thing I hope beta readers, proofreaders and editors don't or won't do, is tell an author how their story should play out. That for me is a no-no. Everyone has an opinion, rightly so, but at the end of the day, they didn't write the story so they shouldn’t (attempt to) re-write someone else's book. If they suggest: a sentence change, tweaking the construction of a particular sentence or even a word change – great – and those are things you’d like to know about. The rest? Not theirs to pull apart. The author burnt his or her midnight oil; it’s their story to tell, whether we like it or not. Period. We simply climb on board to help. Of course, if the story doesn’t make sense, that’s another matter entirely and one which should be discussed with the author, but then the author usually asks for feedback regarding this very thing.

    Sorry, Christie. I do and can go on. Again, thank you so much for having me over. As a blogger, I appreciate YOU!

    Sending a big, fat cyber hug right back. 

    Have a super day,

  2. My Pleasure, Sandra! I just hope a lot of writers see this and listen, lol.

    My first experience with a professional editor left me a few thousand dollars lighter and a bunch of red marks on my pages.

    Let's just say I didn't understand the difference between a developmental and a copy editor. I agree with you that those who beta read and edit should let the story be what it is, unless, of course they encounter errors such as hair color or names and timelines.

    Thanks again for stopping by and for your wonderful insights. They really are helpful and I hope other writers will take advantage of them.

    Thanks for the big hug! I needed it this morning :)

    I hope your day is wonderful!


  3. Great post. Sandra, the care you take with reviews and posts on your blog shows!
    Though words like learnt and spelt were traditionally British, these days, learned and spelled are quite common in UK books. Even now writing 'spelt' felt wrong to me.

  4. A well-written, insightful blog post, containing excellent advice for all.

    I will share everywhere. :-)

    Thank you.

  5. Thanks, Elizabeth! I totally agree :)

    Thanks too, Emma, for stopping by!

    I appreciate your comments, guys!

  6. Anything that helps would be writers learn the tools of their trade has to be useful and the blog does just that.

  7. Thank you, Emma. :) You know I’m going to leave a long comment. :p Yes, I've seen that of late.  Not to be too finicky (I know I'm painful that way) if someone uses the same spelling of a certain word throughout their novel, fine, although I’m still a stickler for the correct usage. But that's not the case, not that I've seen anyway. I'm reading a book now where the author is British, but his work has been edited in US English. Throughout, there are both spellings of 'leaned' and 'leant', 'leapt' and 'leaped', 'towards' and 'toward'. This is frustrating. So, consistency is very important. For me anyway, lol.

    Here's some food for thought. I use UK English because we were once a British colony, so in UK English here is what these two words mean, and this was taken from the Editor’s Bible (available on Smashwords) by Vanessa Finaughty – she’s truly an extraordinary editor:

    ‘Learned’ means ‘educated’, and ‘learnt’ is the correct spelling for ‘obtained new

    ‘Spelled’ means to cast a spell on someone (usually used in fantasy or thriller writing). When referring to spelling in language, it’s ‘spelt’.

    I have to share this one word, a word that drives me insane. ‘Petrified’. It’s used a lot in US English. When I see this word, all I see in my head is people turning to stone. It’s true, because the original meaning of this word was just that. Here’s an explanation, also from the Editor’s Bible.

    The word ‘petrify’ refers only to organic matter converting to ‘stone’. It’s commonly
    used incorrectly to mean ‘terrified’, and many dictionaries include this as a ‘legitimate meaning’, but the only correct usage is when referring to organic matter that’s become ‘stone’. The correct definition of petrified is: ‘to convert (organic matter) into stone or a substance of stony hardness by the infiltration of water and the deposition of dissolved mineral matter’. The only reason so many authors use this incorrectly and just as many dictionaries include it is simple: it’s been used incorrectly for so long that the intended meaning is now clear to any reader. However, that does not make it right. Whenever I read about a petrified character, I visualise them turning to stone, because that’s what petrification (or petrifaction) is.

  8. Christie, you are so welcome. I do apologise for only replying to comments now, but you know I've been sick with flu. Still am, but had to pop in.

    It always saddens me when authors have spent a whole load of money... for nothing. We live and learn, right? Still, such a pity you have to go through a kind of hell first.

    In case you need another, I'll send one more hug your way. :)

    Thank you so much for having me on your blog. It's been awesome.


  9. Thank you so much, Elizabeth. Appreciate your comment, and sharing. :)

    Have a great day.


  10. Chloe, thank you, and I agree. Any help is worthwhile taking the time to check out.

    Appreciate you stopping by, and commenting.

    Have a super day.


  11. Christie, I didn't have a clue how to reply to each comment, as it takes me to a different comment form, so I hope you don't mind that I did it all at the bottom. Think my head is still fuzzy. :) x

  12. Hi Sandra,

    I'm not sure why there isn't a reply to each comment, but this is how my blogger is set up and since I am not a techy, I have no idea how to fix this, lol.

    Thanks again for your insights and for spending time on my blog when you feel bad. I hope you are recovering well and will soon be up and about again.

    As far as the different usage of words, it's funny because I'm a little more relaxed when using terms that have come to mean something else over time. Words evolve and change with the centuries, and I wonder what meanings the words we use now will have in a few hundred years. It's sort of fascinating to me.

    Anyhow, thanks again!

    Hugs back!


  13. It's been a pleasure, Christie.

    I think I need to evolve with the words, either that or I need therapy and get over it already, lol. :)

    As for your comment form, here is what you do. This way, when commenting, we will be able to do it from your post including replying to specific comments instead of a new form opening up.

    Once you've logged in, go to where you normally click (More options) to go to your posts and select 'Settings'. Then you click on 'Posts and comments'. When you see a 'Comments' heading you're at the right place. The very first sub-heading, which is 'Comment Location' is what you need to change. Change it to 'embedded', and click on 'save settings' top, right hand corner (orange tab). I think yours is on 'full page', and that's why it opens up elsewhere. Let me know if it works. :)

    Thanks, Christie! :D

    1. Well, look at that, Sandra! It worked!!!

      Awesome! You're explanation was perfect :) I'm techno challenged, so I appreciate the advice.

      As for evolving with the's hard to do sometimes, but change is a part of life, lol.

      You rock!!! Thanks, Sandra!!!

    2. YAY!! Doing the happy dance. LOL I'm so glad it's working. :D

      It is, hehehehe. (Maybe I'm too old to change... shhhh) Do you know when's the only time the word 'petrified' doesn't bug me? Don't laugh now! LOL It's when Gloria Gaynor sings 'I Will Survive'. Are you laughing? :D

      You are very welcome! Such a pleasure. x

    3. Hahahaha!!! Sandra, I am laughing :)

      And you aren't old!!! Not even a foot in the grave yet, lol. I only say this because if you are old that would mean I am old, and I'm not! Haha.

    4. LMAO! I knew it! Me and my big mouth. Sheesh. Hehe.

      It's true you know, I'm ancient, but when one is a vampire... looks can be deceiving. ;)

    5. Hahaha! You're going to make my side ache from laughing. Vampire, indeed. :0D

    6. S'true! My real name is Shavonda. LOL

      Have to feed the masses (all of two), catch you soon. Gosh, my cheeks and ribs hurts from all this laughing, Christie!

    7. Shavonda the blood sucking blogger! See what you find out when you really get to know someone! LOL.

    8. Hehe! Now if that isn't a name for a book riddled with humour, I don't know what is. Love it, lol.

  14. Hahahaha! :) That is a great name for a book!

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