The Productive Writer


October 9, 2017

Is Your Year on Track?

I am certainly trying to keep mine on track! Can you believe that three-fourths of the year has already passed? Have you done three-fourths of everything that you wanted to get done this year or are you behind? As far as my writing schedule goes, I am still on track for getting what I intend to finish by the end of this year. However, regarding my business and book marketing, I am not where I want to be right now. I have improved since the beginning of the year on almost every level.

Now here it is already the second week in October. This week I start a new part-time job. In addition to substitute teaching, I am part of an afterschool tutoring program for elementary children. I could put my writing goals aside to spend all my time into teaching, but I am not going to do that. Instead I am going to see how much I actually can get done in the time I have left.

Gearing up

In November NaNoWriMo starts again. If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it is National Novel Writing Month. It is a month long event that occurs every year where storytellers write down the first fifty-thousand word first draft of their first or next novel in just thirty days. This year will be my ninth year and I intend to win again. (Everyone is a winner who writes the 50K)  If you too have ever thought of writing a novel, participating in NaNoWriMo is a fantastic way to make amazing progress in a single month by finishing the first draft.

Start the Pre-writing Process Now

Though there are a lot of people who start their novel from scratch on the first day of November, I personally like to do some prewriting in October in preparation for getting the actual event in November. The two most important aspects of the novel writing include developing characters and the plot. Although I think that it is important to develop realistic characters, I like to start with a basic plot with which to give those characters something to do.

The Seven Universal Story Lines

Do you know that all plots fall under seven universal story lines? These universal story lines include: overcoming the monster, rags to riches, the quest, the voyage, comedy, tragedy, and rebirth. Every story line you could imagine falls into one of these seven categories. If you can’t think of a plot, examine these story lines and take your imagination and run with it.

Overcoming the Monster

Hero learns of a great evil threatening the land, and sets out to destroy it. Many war stories, apocalyptic stories, or political thrillers fall into this category.

Rags to riches

Surrounded by dark forces who suppress and ridicule him, the Hero slowly blossoms into a mature figure who ultimately gets riches, a kingdom, and the perfect mate. Oliver Twist and The Prince and The Pauper are rags to riches stories.

The Quest

Hero learns of a great MacGuffin (a motivating element in a story that is used to drive the plot. It serves no further purpose) that he desperately wants or needs to find, and sets out to find it, often with companions. Go no further than the Lord of the Rings Trilogy to understand this universal story line.

The Voyage and Return

Hero heads off into a magic land with crazy rules, ultimately triumphs over the madness and returns home far more mature than when he set out. The Odyssey would be an example.


Hero and Heroine are destined to get together, but a dark force is preventing them from doing so; the story conspires to make the dark force repent, and suddenly the Hero and Heroine are free to get together. This is part of a cascade of effects that shows everyone for who they really are, and allows two or more other relationships to correctly form. Every romance novel ever written falls into this category.


The flip side of the Overcoming the Monster plot. Our protagonist character is the Villain, but we get to watch him slowly spiral down into darkness before he’s finally defeated, freeing the land from his evil influence. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are examples.


As with the Tragedy plot, but our protagonist manages to realize his error before it’s too late, and does a 180 degree turn to avoid inevitable defeat Think of a character like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol or The Ginch in How the Ginch Stole Christmas.

Not Sure Which Universal Plot to Use?

There’s a good chance that you have either a plot idea that you want to use or you have started to develop a couple of characters and a setting. You might already see which universal story line you want to use. However, perhaps you don’t. There’s nothing to keep you from playing around with several different story lines.


As I am reading this, I realize that with The Locket Saga series, I could fall into a predictable pattern of using just one or two of these story lines. However, as I look over the list, I see several different ideas that I could use to create some variety. I hope you do too as you consider your first or next work of fiction.





Beat the drum and help potential readers find your book with a better than average book description

In my upcoming book: Write a Book to Ignite your Business, I demonstrate not only how writing a book  can provide an awesome marketing tool for your business, but I also show business owners how to actually write the book. One of the first things I recommend they do is to write their book description.  The seven elements needed to nail it include: having a compelling hook, having a great thesis statement, putting it in present tense, writing in the third person (most of the time), using the right key words, using power words, and making the reader want  to read more by providing a cliffhanger.

  1. The Narrative Hook

Whether you are writing nonfiction or fiction, a hook draws the reader in, encouraging the reader to invest time in reading your book description.

Here are fourteen types of hooks:


Words of advice that will make an impact on your reader.



A short and amusing story about an incident or a person, usually famous.


Bold Statement

A statement or assertion that arouses an opinion or response from your reader.



A pair of concepts that don’t go together.



A definition (Caution—don’t quote the dictionary) of a term or concept that is relevant to your work.



A situation where a choice must be made between two or more, usually undesirable, outcomes.



An interesting fact from a reliable source.


Famous quote

A quote from a famous person that is relevant to your work.



A joke, quip, or scene that arouses laughter or amusement in your readers.


Personal experience

A short story about an experience in your life that is relevant to the writing topic.


Rhetorical question

A question that inspires curiosity, but that cannon be simply answered (but it should be addressed in your essay).



A description of a scene or setting that stimulates any of the five senses.


Simile or metaphor

A comparison of one thing to another, usually unrelated, thing.



A startling statistic from a reliable source.



  1. The Right Thesis Statement

The right thesis statement is essay 101 and is basically being able to say in one sentence what your book is all about. If you can’t, then you don’t know your book well enough.


  1. Present Tense

Present tense means the action in the description is happening now and you want your reader to actively feel that your book is relevant now rather than in the past or even in the future.  Use words like “is” rather than “was” and “what people are saying rather than “what people have said” to emulate the idea that this book is a book for today.


  1. Third Person

In the case of most books, write in the third person “he” or “she” is doing this rather than” I did this” or “you did this”.  One exception is the how-to book where you might want to use second person in your description.


  1. Key Words

Do you know which keywords are frequently put in the search bar but are seldom written and that relate to your book’s topic?


Keyword research is one of the most important, valuable, and high return activities in the search marketing field. Ranking for the right keywords can make or break your website. By researching your market’s keyword demand, you can not only learn which terms and phrases to target with SEO, but also learn more about your customers as a whole.


It’s not always about getting visitors to read your book description, but about getting the right kind of visitors. The usefulness of this intelligence cannot be overstated; with keyword research you can produce the content that web searchers are actively seeking.


Understanding which websites already rank for your keyword gives you valuable insight into the competition, and also how hard it will be to rank for the given term. Are there search advertisements running along the top and right-hand side of the organic results? Typically, many search ads means a high-value keyword, and multiple search ads above the organic results often means a highly lucrative and directly conversion-prone keyword.

The key though is not to just throw in keywords that just have the best scores however. It is most important that the key words relate directly to what your book description (and book!) is all about.


  1. Power Words

Power words are words that excite the reader. The most powerful word is because. We will be more successful at doing whatever it is that we say because  we offer this reason.


Some words have been overused, however. “New and improved”, “more”, “free”, and a few others have become spam because they have been written a little too often and are no longer as powerful as they used to be. This is because of their over use and abuse.


One of the greatest ad campaigns simply used the ‘if then’ duo to sell its message. If you spend only five minutes a day then you will…..fill in what ever success you could imagine. Surely your have five minutes you could spend every day?


Simply put if and add an appropriate reasonable action with a resulting then. Use this power word duo and take note of how it improves your power of persuasion.


Let the evidence or the authority speak for you. Let the higher authority leverage what you say. Use the power words to act as the pry bar to give you that leverage. Use an anecdotal authority story as a group of power words in your book description to create a set of power words.  A story about how you did something that is in your book or a story about how something didn’t work and how you had to fix it.


More power words exist. A study of these words by googling “power words” can help you develop stronger reasons in your description for readers to buy your book.


7. Cliffhanger

Just as the hook draws the reader in to invest time in reading your book description, the cliffhanger encourages the reader to purchase and read your book. Put a cliffhanger at the end of your description that leaves the audience in suspense, wanting more than what the description offers and looking to the book to provide the answers that the description doesn’t .

Different Types of Books Require Different Applications of the above elements, therefore it makes sense to study how effective other authors have used these elements in their descriptions of the books within your genre and good luck your book!

Book V of the Locket Saga: In the Shadow of the Millpond is nearing completion!

I am looking for help in two areas. The first is that I would like you to check out my book’s description. Do you like it? Even more important, how would you change it?


Fifteen-year-old Lacey Mayford has been infatuated with Matthew since she was a little girl, but Matthew doesn’t see her as anything more than a little girl cousin. How can she convince him that she is not only not his cousin,.she is also growing into a beautiful young woman.

In the frontier town of Pittsburgh, PA near the turn of the century,  Matthew Thorton is blamed for Luther Hannibal’s murder because of an altercation that Matthew had with the man over some stolen furs. As a half-breed Indian, Matthew seems to have a chance to defend himself so Lacey with the help of a teacher at the Pittsburgh Academy, Felix Grackle, look into other suspects who could have killed Luther Hannibal. At the same time, Matthew’s father Luke and Luke’s best friend Jacque Pierre is looking for whoever it was who stole the furs because they believe that this person might have something to do with Luther Hannibal’s murder.

A  vigilante group heightens the danger. They are seeking to do everything they can to avoid a whiskey sales tax that has been imposed on them from stealing the US mail to tarring and feathering US government officials attempting to collect those taxes.

Will Lacey be able to clear Matthew’s name? Will Luke and Jacque Pierre find the man who stole the furs? Will the vigilantes stop the Whiskey Rebellion without bloodshed? The truth is far more sinister than anything that anyone could imagine.


What do you think of this description? Would you read this book? What do you think would improve it? Now that you’ve checked out the description, check out these book covers. Which book cover do you think best fits this book?



Which Book Cover Do You Like Best?

Comment below about which of the following seven book covers do you prefer that goes with this description? Which one is best? (Please refer to the book cover(s) you prefer by the corresponding letter).


A) In the Shadow of the Millpond

A) In the Shadow of the Millpond



B) In the Shadow of the Millpond

B) In the Shadow of the Millpond



c) In the Shadow of the Millpond

c) In the Shadow of the Millpond




D) IN the Shadow of the Millpond




E) In the Shadow of the Millpond




F) In the Shadow of the Millpond


G) In the Shadow of the Millpond

G) In the Shadow of the Millpond











Which is your favorite? Which book would you be likely to pick up? Please share your answer in the comment section below! Please share with your friends! Please help me make this the best book of the Locket Saga!


As Author Cygnet Brown, Donna Brown is the author and publisher of historical fiction series The Locket Saga. which includes When God Turned His Head and Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, and, A Coward’s Solace, Book III of the Locket Saga,  Book IV of the Locket Saga: Sailing Under the Black Flag! Her next book Book V of the Locket Saga: In the Shadow of the Millpond will be out later this year!

.For more information about Cygnet Brown and buy her books, check out her website at






In December of last year I wrote two small books. One was Using Diatomaceous Earth Around the House and Yard and the other was Help From Kelp. I wrote both books because I wanted more information available to my readers about these two substances and how they can help reduce the effects of harmful toxic chemicals in our daily lives.

Here are two sources about the value of kelp that scientists are currently investigating.regarding kelp helping save the environment.

Help from Kelp the Office of Aquaculture


Help From Kelp Measuring radioactivity from the Fukushima Plant in California’s coastal waters

To get a FREE copy of Help from Kelp beginning tomorrow Click here


Here is yet another article about growing kelp. It seems as though  kelp has definitely been growing in popularity.

Today, this book is selling for just 99 cents, but beginning tomorrow for the next five days, (Tuesday-Saturday) I will be making Help From Kelp FREE to on Kindle. After the FREE promotional, the price of the book is going up to $4.99.


If you would like a copy of my other book, Using Diatomaceous Earth Around the House and Yare, I have made this book permanently free to any e-reading device. You can get this book at

IMG_8330 final copy

Donna Brown is pastor at Faith in God Church  1 1/2 miles south of Brandsville, Missouri on Hwy 63. Sunday services are at 10 am and Wednesday night Bible Study at 6:30 pm.   As Author Cygnet Brown, she  has  published a nonfiction book: Simply Vegetable Gardening: Simple Organic Gardening Tips for the Beginning Gardener

She is also the author of historical fiction series The Locket Saga. which includes When God Turned His Head and Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, and, A Coward’s Solace, Book III of the Locket Saga. The next book Book IV of the Locket Saga: Sailing Under the Black Flag will be out in the near future.

Her most recent publication were two booklets Help From Kelp and Using Diatomaceous Earth Around the House and Yard. Available in paperback

.For more information about Cygnet Brown and her books, check out her website at .


Whether you’re writing a fiction book, a nonfiction book, an article, a persuasive letter to the editor, locating a good recipe for a special mean, or even just an informative comment in a blog post, there will be times when you will need to research a topic.

Probably the most important thing that you need to know when doing research is to know exactly what you need to know before you begin so that you do not get bogged down reading research materials and end up going down rabbit holes along the way which steals valuable time.

Begin with a goal in mind

Know specifically what you want from your research.

It used to be that when we had to research information from books, we would have to wade through hundreds of volumes of books to find the information that we were looking for. Now, we can simply go to the internet and within minutes we can find the information we want in minutes rather than hours or even days. However, there is so much information out there that it is easy to get lost on the information highway. That is why it is important to

For instance, in my upcoming book: Book V of the Locket Saga:  In the Shadow of the Millpond, I wanted to describe a keelboat, so I needed a good description of one. Rather than just type “keelboat” into the search engine, I typed in “description of keelboat”.  This got me the specific information that I was looking for. Even when I am doing macro-research, I try to get as specific as possible. When  I wanted to know more about “Pittsburgh” rather than typing just Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania” I typed in “Early History of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania” that way I didn’t have to wade through a bunch of travel information relating to modern Pittsburgh.

Use Reliable Information

A lot of the information we can find on the internet is simply not true. Much of what is there is either opinion or is meant to sway us toward a specific way of thinking about a specific topic. Information on the internet is often sensationalized. Rumors can be toted as fact. Headlines can be purposely misleading to increase the article’s ability to go viral. How can we separate the truth from the sensationalism?

The most important consideration is to “consider the source”. Wikipedia is often a good place to start research, but it should never be the final authority regarding information that you find online. Most of the Wikipedia articles have good reference links to follow regarding the information provided in the article, and if there isn’t one, then the information might not be accurate.

Some of the best articles online come from government (.gov) or university sites (.edu) sites. (Unless you’re a conspiracy theorist, then this information is suspect too.)  Organizations that specifically deal with your topic are also great resources. If I am dealing with a historical question, I might go to a historical site. I may even go to nongovernment and educational sites as well. For instance, if I am writing about a certain civil war battle, a great resource could be a re-enactor website where the re-enactors have included their research of the topic. Asking questions of the administrators on these sites are also possible.

First-hand  accounts recorded on the internet are also great resources. Many diaries of specific individuals, both famous and not-so-famous are available online. These first-hand accounts, however,  can be limited and speculative on the part of the eye-witness so therefore should never be considered the ultimate authority. I always look up at least three sources and try to include the eye witness account whenever possible and first-hand accounts offer depth that other sources cannot possibly offer. For instance, I used an eye-witness account of the Boston Tea Party when I wrote Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues. According to one of the participants of the incident, dressing as Mohawks was not planned ahead of time, but because some of the men were afraid they would be recognized, they covered their clothes with blankets and blackened their faces. Then someone said something like, “Hey, you look like a Mohawk.” The story then became that they dressed as Mohawks.

I Cut and Paste My Research into a Word Document

Once I found the information I want for my project, I have learned that it is important to record at least the part of the article where I found the information on a word document. Usually, I cut and paste the information and then get the URL for the website page where I found that information and paste that onto the document as well. This way I have a ready reference if someone questions my accuracy or I want to go back to that article to get more information that I didn’t feel that I needed right then, but then decided that I did. I find that this works so much better than bookmarking websites when all I want is a few lines of information from that website. I mark the document ORIGINAL RESEARCH so that I can idstinguish that information from my own writing based on that research.

This way too, I can do all of my research in just a short time. I can go online, find what I need for that day, record the information word for word and then go back later, mash up several different accounts of the same thing and incorporate it into my story and have that same information available for any other book or article that I want to write about the subject.

NEVER Plagiarize

Once I have cut and pasted my research into a document along with the URL, I open another document and rewrite the information that I obtained into my own words before including them in my fiction. When I add it to the actual story and in the case of the Separating Fact From Fiction Chapter at the end of the book, I pay careful attention, during the editing process., I edit the information even more to avoid any appearance of plagiarizing.

IMG_8330 final copy

As Author Cygnet Brown, Donna Brown  has  published  several nonfiction books including Simply Vegetable Gardening: Simple Organic Gardening Tips for the Beginning Gardener, Using Diatomaceous Earth around the House and Yard, and Help from Kelp.

She is also the author of historical fiction series The Locket Saga. which includes When God Turned His Head and Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, and, A Coward’s Solace, Book III of the Locket Saga,  Book IV of the Locket Saga: Sailing Under the Black Flag is also on sale now!

.For more information about Cygnet Brown and buy her books, check out her website at .


When I was in college, I had to do a lot of research for school papers. Because I had to write one every week, and because I had a lot of those papers to write, I learned to do it efficiently. Now that I am starting to research my next book in the Locket Saga, I am using what I learned back in college to make the most of my researching time. Here are a few ways that I do that.

Use Your Research Time Effectively

  1. I research as specific a subject as possible. For instance, in the latest work that I am researching for Two Rivers, I have Andrew going south on the Mississippi River on a flatboat. Because I learned somewhere that the word millionaire was first coined in Natchez, Mississippi, I thought that I would check out that city as Andrew’s destination rather than New Orleans which I knew was also a port of call. But Natchez, Mississippi still wasn’t specific enough. Not only did I need to limit the city of choice, but I needed to limit the time period on or before 1803-1806. So I limited my research about Natchez Mississippi to the time period of prior to 1806.
  2. I do Macro-research before Micro-research. Macro research is a term that I created meaning general research about a specific topic. For instance, when I googled Natchez and looked at the history of Natchez before 1806, I learned that Natchez was named after the Natchez Indians, that it was first ruled by France and then by Spain and then transferred to the Americans in 1798. Well to do society built a town up on the bluff, but the men who ran the riverboats worked along the river in the rough part of town called ‘Natchez-Under-The-Hill. When a flatboat docked, the river men aboard would find entertainment at the taverns and brothels set up along the river. I learned that when they docked in Natchez, the men sold their boats and walked north along a dangerous tract called the Natchez Trace.
  3. I use Macro-research to discover what Micro-research I need to examine. Based on this general information, I looked deeper into Natchez-under the Hill and Natchez Trace. I learned that certain highway men frequented the area. One I discovered started after my story began so I didn’t include him in my story, however, another one—Samuel Mason– had led a gang of river pirates during this period so I examined his story more deeply. I discovered however that his story actually ends shortly before my book begins, but I am going to include it anyway because it is such an interesting aspect of river-boating.
  4. Next, I determine where in the story the research will be used. One of the reasons that I find that I have to outline my books has to do with the fact that I plug research into specific parts of the story. Because I have a general outline written and have the book divided into chapters, I am able to plug the research into a specific part of the book. This way I don’t have to go through a bunch of notes to find the information that I need. I have already included it.
  5. In addition to plugging the information into the book to be edited later, I post the information into another document specifically about that subject. Since I have already researched the material, it is easy to reuse that research. For instance, when I was writing A Coward’s Solace, the information that I wrote about Lucy Flucker Knox I made into an article on Hubpages Check that article out here: An Unsung Heroine: Lucy Flucker Knox.  Here’s another one I did about The Boston Massacre:  The Boston Massacre—Powder keg of the American Revolution  Including your research in online articles improves your credibility in facts relating to your novel’s subject matter.
  6. I personally have not yet done this tip, but I have known several people who have done this. They use the same research used in their fiction and write a nonfiction book with the same information. Currently, I include a section in the back of my novels called Separating Fact from Fiction which explains the true story behind my fiction. I started doing this after someone criticized my first book by saying that “some of the women were too modern” and that “cocoa did not exist in Colonial America”. The criticism about the modern women revolved around Mrs. Hiller who was a real person but fictionalized. (She really did all the things I wrote about) and though cocoa back then was not “ditched” as it is today, it did exist, but it was brewed like coffee and was much more.
  7. I also save research discoveries for future books. Sometimes I’ll come across information that I hope to use in a future story. For instance, when researching Natchez, I learned some of the story about the first steamboat trip that occurred in 1812 that went from Pittsburgh, PA to Natchez, MS. I was going to have Andrew meet the love of his life during Two Rivers, but decided that I couldn’t pass up this information. It connects so well with other aspects of the Locket Saga especially the Natchez Pittsburgh connection.

Be specific with your research, use macro-research to determine micro-research, plug research into the story immediately to save time, and utilize your research in more than just your fiction to make the most of the time you spend researching your next book.

IMG_8330 final copy

As Author Cygnet Brown, Donna Brown  has  published  several nonfiction books including Simply Vegetable Gardening: Simple Organic Gardening Tips for the Beginning Gardener, Using Diatomaceous Earth around the House and Yard, and Help from Kelp.

She is also the author of historical fiction series The Locket Saga. which includes When God Turned His Head and Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, and, A Coward’s Solace, Book III of the Locket Saga,  Book IV of the Locket Saga: Sailing Under the Black Flag is also on sale now!

.For more information about Cygnet Brown and buy her books, check out her website at .

blue skies

When the sun sets on one project, it rises on others.

Working on Final Edits of yet another Tome of the Locket Saga

Now that Sailing under the Black Flag is out and available for general purchase and I have the templates that I need to do my marketing projects, I can again focus on moving onto other projects. The writing process doesn’t end when a book is launched. The process just continues on with more writing projects. One of those projects is Book V of the Locket Saga: In the Shadow of the Millpond. I finished the second draft of this book last summer and am currently working on my final editing process.

When doing this final editing process, I work from macro-issues such as story continuity down to micro-issues such as getting rid of passive language, and ensuring that I am using the right punctuation and spelling.

I learned that by editing in this order, getting the story line right, and then fixing more detailed problems like getting the right word or punctuation, I am not editing material that I will eventually edit out anyway. This is a time saving devise that often gets overlooked in fiction writing, but this can literally save days of work over the course of the editing process.

Starting New Research to Keep the Series Going

In addition to working on this final editing process, I am starting research for Book VII of the Locket Saga which has the current working title of Two Rivers about two cousins who in 1803 take different rivers. Andrew Mayford takes the Mississippi southward to Natchez, and Isaac Thorton takes the Missouri westward with the Lewis and Clark expedition. Not only will they be going in different directions physically, but the paths they take will take them in different directions philosophically as well.

Thinking about another Garden-Based Book Project

Another project that I was talking to my brother about today was the idea of sustainable gardening. This concept goes deeper than organic gardening and even deeper than permaculture in that the focus isn’t just on the plant life, or the domesticated animals that are brought to help sustain the humans living on an acreage, but focuses on the life cycles of every organism including micro-organisms. The idea is based on the premise that the earth is not just an inert pile of pulverized rocks that will function with chemicals pumped into it but is a living breathing organism in its own right.

The idea includes the idea that human beings don’t have to destroy the earth in order to sustain himself, but can work with nature, recycling all of his wastes back into the soil and benefiting all creatures in a symbiotic relationship.

IMG_8330 final copy

As Author Cygnet Brown, Donna Brown  has  published  several nonfiction books including Simply Vegetable Gardening: Simple Organic Gardening Tips for the Beginning Gardener, Using Diatomaceous Earth around the House and Yard, and Help from Kelp.

She is also the author of historical fiction series The Locket Saga. which includes When God Turned His Head and Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, and, A Coward’s Solace, Book III of the Locket Saga,  Book IV of the Locket Saga: Sailing Under the Black Flag is also on sale now!

.For more information about Cygnet Brown and buy her books, check out her website at .



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