Read! It’s Good for Your Health

read booksA new study has some good news for readers. Read! It’s good for you—and it could help you live longer. A study by Bavishi et al looked at the potential health benefits of reading and how the type of material you affects the results. What they found will have readers all around rejoicing.

Read a Book Today

It turns out that reading up to 3.5 hours a week reduces your risk of mortality by 20 percent. And what’s more, book reading trumps newspaper or magazines. So it appears that it isn’t just the act of reading, but the materials as well.

Of course the icing on the cake is that if you live longer, you have more time to read. This study isn’t the first to explore the benefits of reading.

Increasing Empathy

A review earlier this year published in Cell Press found that reading fiction encourages empathy. And if you think about it, it’s easy to see. When you read, you become involved with the lives of the characters. You may be privy to their thoughts and fears. You respond as natural to us humans; you feel empathy.

This behavior is evident even in small children. When we see someone hurting, we reach out to help. When you read, you spend a lot of time with a character and her issues. In real life, we may not spend nearly the amount of time dissecting a problem as you do when you read a book.

In terms of living longer, logic would also tell us that reading can help relieve stress. For a brief time, we leave the world of our own problems and live in a different world. If it’s a similar problem to our own, reading may help us cope and see things from a different perspective.

As if any of us needs a reason to read, maybe now we can set aside the newspapers and magazines and pick up a novel. We can spend time someplace else and leave stress behind for a little bit.

photo credit: beer and book session via photopin (license)

Writing Tips from Lessons Learned

This entry is part of 3 in the series Lessons Learned

writing tipsIn this last post for the series, Lessons Learned, I wanted to give you some writing tips from going through the process of concept to publishing. It’s been a journey.

Writing Tips for Marketing

My book, 101 Things to Do on Lake Minnetonka, is unique for me in that I’m taking an active role in marketing it. I want the book to be a success. In many ways, it’s not unlike our experience with the Wisconsin Great River Road.

When my husband and I first saw it, we had to share it with everyone. It was too beautiful not to encourage people to visit this scenic byway. We felt the same about Lake Minnetonka.

So, here are a few writing tips I’ve learned:

  • Double, triple check all of your copy, your links, and anything going out to the public.
  • Make sure your Amazon copy is engaging. Sell your book to someone who needs to be convinced of its value.
  • You need to invest money to make money. Buy books to give out to create the buzz.
  • Get mini Moo cards guerilla marketing and just to hand out. Be sure to include an Amazon Associate referral link to capitalize on your profit. I can’t recommend these cards enough. They look fantastic!
  • Don’t be shy about engaging family and friends.

Staying the Course

It’s a tough venture to write a book. It’s your baby at this point. It’s hard not to feel a bit fragile after going through the process. Here are some writing tips to help you keep your sanity.

  • Keep a journal about the process. It’ll help you identify areas to fix next time around as well as help you remember what worked.
  • Be realistic. Your book is the center of your world, but word has to get out before it takes off. Be patient.
  • Spend the time marketing, but also start planning your next project. You’ve built some great momentum. Use it.
  • Always remember what you’ve accomplished. Think about it. You’ve taken an idea and made it come to life. Not many people can say the same thing. It’s a bucket list kind-of-thing. Be proud of yourself.

I hope these writing tips have helped. We are a unique group of people, us writers. Never forget that.

photo credit: because I was there. Yesterday at late night I went to a movie theater. The film was … via photopin (license)

Editing Made Easy

editing solutionPerhaps the title of this post made you chuckle. Editing made easy? Yeah, right. But, hang on. There is an easier way to edit your book. It’s called Pro Writing Aid.

Editing with Pro Writing Aid

If you’ve read anything online lately, you’ve probably noticed what everyone has too—people make mistakes. Even major newspapers and editors let a few slip by. And the reason might be simpler than you think.

Microsoft, or any word processor for that matter, cannot catch everything. Even your browser misses a few. The reason is that it looks for spelling and grammar errors, not contextual errors. That’s where Pro Writing Aid comes in.

It looks for the obvious stuff like typos. But it goes one step further. Their editing tool looks for clichés, overused words, repeated phrases, and much more.

It also includes things like plagiarism check and consistency screens. The latter was helpful as I wrote 101 Things to Do on Lake Minnetonka. It flagged inconsistencies in capitalization where I referred to the lake by name and other times as simply, the lake. It’s a good way to check some errors that would pass a spell check but not a readability scan.

Streamlining the Process

As I wrote my book, I followed the golden rule of not editing along the way. I just wrote. Then, I put each item in the Pro Writing Aid tool. I cleaned up my writing. And I’ve got to say that I was shocked by how much I missed.

When my reader looked over the book, he found very few errors. And yes, the editing process was easier than it’s ever been for me.

You can try it out to see if it’s for you. If you like it, the Pro Writing Aid tool is a subscription-based service at $40 a year or $45 for the additional plagiarism checks. I would definitely encourage you to check it out.

The last thing you want as an indie author is to come across as an amateur. The Pro Writing Aid tool makes your work appear more professional.

Formatting Your Book Made Easy

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Lessons Learned

Lake MinnetonkaWelcome to my series, Lessons Learned. Over the next few posts, I’ll share some tips I learned from publishing my latest book, 101 Things to Do on Lake Minnetonka. In a nutshell, I think that I broke the code on making the process easier and seamless. Formatting was simplified.

Formatting Your Book

I completed another book last year called All Plants Are Edible Once. This book was a personal project. I wrote it for me. However, I procrastinated. And the main reason was formatting.

Completing e-books is a breeze compared to print. Even with templates, it still borders on maddening. My bane was the headers. Tip: as good as Libre Office is, Microsoft handles the job much better. I was frustrated. Then, I stumbled upon Pressbooks.

Formatting with Pressbooks

If you use WordPress, you’ll find using Pressbooks simple to use. You can easily create parts, chapters, and sections. For my 101 book, these features proved to be invaluable.

I set up parts for each city on Lake Minnetonka. Then, each to-do item became a chapter. In doing it this way, I was able to get the nice numbering for each one with a chapter number.

What made it so powerful was the customization. I could make some chapters without numbers to keep the correct order of items. I could also add HTML code to force page breaks. That was HUGE.

Making It Pretty

What I really loved was the vast collection of themes. With over 50 to choose from, you can select the right theme for your project. I chose Atwood.

The site also includes a cover generator. It works just as well as CreateSpace, but you need your own image. I ended up using my own formatted image, but used the cover creator for the layout. The nice thing about it is that it gives you recommended dimensions so you can correctly size your image.

You can create both e-book and print book covers. The beauty of this particular feature is that I don’t have to worry about a backup copy of either. It resides on the site.

Exporting Your Book

You can export both a PDF and e-book file. The site will export it in ePub or MOBI, with other choices too. And yes, it does cost. But for all the frustration it removed, I think it is priceless. The cost is $19.99 for an e-book alone or both print and e-book export for $99. Hit the link below to get 25 percent off.

The process of publishing 101 Things to Do on Lake Minnetonka was so much easier. I was able to preview my files to clean them up. Again, I have that handy backup on the site. If you’re a writer looking for an easier system for formatting your book, you can’t go wrong with Pressbooks.

Go to the Upgrade page and enter the referral code, CDRWEBORG in all caps to get 25 percent off.

Imagining Better Writing

thinkingIt’s always interesting when real life confirms science. A meta-analysis by the University of Toronto does just that. Researchers found that images, primarily paintings, activate specific neurons associated with learning and inner thoughts and emotions.

It also sets up a system that activates the brain’s reward circuit. In a way, it’s like your own classical conditioning experiment. The positive reinforcement from visualizing and creating feeds into this system.

Using Images

Novel writing software often uses images with character and location sketches. Along with the detailed notes of profession, looks, and quirks, you can also select images to represent the main features of your work. I’ve followed this practice with my previous mystery and now with my new work-in-progress.

All of my characters have faces—and homes! A quick search online led me to the perfect houses and furnishings for all of the major scenes in my book. Having this material handy makes writing so much easier.

They don’t have to be online images, though it does keep things tidy. A gardening book from my bookshelf gave me the ideal setting for one of my character’s backyard. It added a new dimension to my writing experience to have a visual. And it’s certainly something you can bring to your own work.

The Science Behind It

With advances in neuroscience, we’re able to peak behind the Oz curtain and see what’s going on. Susan Reynold’s book, Fire Up Your Writing Brain, delves more deeply into the science of writing. Our brains continue to develop and change all through our lives, a concept known as neuroplasticity.

Building habits and routines adds this process, as does a healthy dose of mindfulness and gratitude. Images for elements of your book are one way to start cultivating those good practices.

Here’s my challenge to you: if you are writing a book, visualize it. Collect images to represent the elements of your project. Think on them before you write, and use them as you write. See if your writing doesn’t take on a greater sense of place and vibrancy.

By Chris DR/

photo credit: The Thinker via photopin (license)