The Right Word in the Right Place

“To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement.”

~Mark Twain

The most apt word you can find put into the place that it will work best.

Picking the right word and putting it in the best place in the sentence.

The right word in the best place.

The right word in the right place.

I’ve been wearing the editor’s hat lately, deeply engrossed with words and the placement of words. How does a writer or editor know they’ve got the “right word” and that they’ve got it “in the right place”?

To answer the first half of the question, you need to have an intimate acquaintance with words: use them, study them, get to know them in various contexts and come to recognize the many facets of their personalities (so to speak). I often recall my freshman college English prof lecturing about “denotation and connotation” of words. She also drilled into us the concepts of “concrete vs abstract” words. This teaching gave me a good foundation in choosing and using of words.

Read a lot. Keep a dictionary, thesaurus and style book close at hand on your desk. And use them!

Generally look for a word that is accurate, specific, strong, active, and that isn’t already used in that sentence or paragraph, or used too many times on that page.

So you’ve snagged the right word? Now, what is the right place for it? Here are a few placement issues to watch for:

1. Are the words placed in a sentence in the order in which you want the reader to process the information? Usually that’s chronological order, especially in fiction. Don’t say, “She disappeared into the shadows after she kissed him good-bye.” But say, “She kissed him good-bye then disappeared into the shadows.” Show cause first, then effect. Keep moving the action forward, not back and forth, back and forth, which gives the reader whip lash.

2. Place modifiers next to the words they are modifying. Inexperienced is what writers are who write sentences so disjointed. 😉 But show that you are an experienced, capable writer who composes well-ordered sentences. We want fluidity; we don’t want anything to stop the reader, nothing to cause him to go back and read again to get the sense of the sentence.

3. Often the most effective sentences place the most important words—the ones with punch that you want to create emotion or response in the reader—at the end of the sentence. This is called a periodic sentence. Try it—and give your writing pizazz!

4. Place words in a pleasing pattern. Read your sentences out loud and listen to them. Is the rhythm natural? If you’re writing dialogue, is this how people talk?

Those are a few little tips that can make a big difference in getting published, and in reaching and influencing readers.

The Business Side


Larry’s workshop at Colorado Christian Writers Conference yesterday was titled, “The Business Side.” A motivated group of men and women engaged in hands-on learning about setting up a writing or publishing business, including how-tos for tracking sales, invoicing, managing inventory, taxes, choosing accounting software, and much more.

He was definitely wearing Cladach’s BUSINESS EXECUTIVE



Meeting Authors at Colorado Christian Writers Conference

A mountain view at YMCA of the Rockies during CCWC

This week, Thursday through Saturday, we (my husband and I) will be present at Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park, Colorado. We look forward to this event—just an hour’s drive from our publishing office. I will be wearing my Acquisitions Editor “hat” hat-3as I meet with prospective authors and consider their queries/proposals. I enjoy meeting writers and hearing their stories, each one unique and usually heartfelt and sometimes downright inspired.

While I visit with each writer in 15-minute appointments during those three days high in the Rockies, I will also be trying to listen to a still, small voice, silently asking Him to give me wisdom, discernment, and guidance, to help me really hear the heart as well as the mind of each person who has poured out their insights, experiences and passions on paper.

One author I met last year at CCWC – Jimmie Kepler

We have found seven of our authors at this conference: Nancy Swihart, Donna Westover Gallup, Kyleen Stevenson-Braxton, Gayle M. Irwin, Loritta Slayton, Templa Melnick, and Marilyn Bay.

Will this conference see another name added to the list?




Giving Birth

The birth of a baby — or a book.

What could be more awe-inspiring than the birth of a new life? From the time I knew my daughter was expecting her third child until a few days ago— all during the nine-month gestation period— we prayed and dreamed and worked and waited and prepared and planned.

Cladach's publisher, Catherine, with newborn grandchild.

Cladach’s publisher, Catherine, with newborn grandchild.

There were many details, many concerns, many uncertainties during those nine months. Complications arose. We waited, prayed, hoped. We had to be patient with the process and trust in God’s timing and ability to overcome the obstacles.

This is the third time I have been present at the birth of a baby and there is nothing to compare to the expectancy, intensity, and thrill. One can almost hear the flutter of angel wings and the tinkle of heavenly bells ringing as the Creator gives breath to this new life. . . .

But birthing a book can come close. We dream and conceive, we learn to be patient through the gestation period as we write and wait, write and listen, write and pray, write and then rewrite, edit and polish.

Writers submit queries and proposals and manuscripts, then wait and wait some more.

Publishers agree, then prepare to attend the birth and catch the baby, wrap it in a bright cover and hold it up in presentation to the world.

We — both author and publisher — will feel as proud as new parents and full of wonder at the creation of this new thing. We’ll have high hopes for this book baby, that it will thrive, that others will love and celebrate it with us, and that it will develop a growing circle of influence to make the world a better place; that it will help God’s kingdom come, his will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.



Christian Writers and Editors are Window Washers


We need to perceive the Truth.

Yet, darkly we peer through the glass.

Clean me for use

Free me to serve

Lift me to reach

That I may wash windows for You.

Wrong doctrine obscures

Gray living besmears

Raw weather, it blurs

The pane on this side.

Provide a soft cloth—not abrasive

The vision to transcend the obstructive

And courage to rub for perfection




Till, through one clear corner,

Someone sees You.


Catherine Lawton

from the book, Remembering Softly: A Life In Poems © 2016

Photo: (c) Can Stock Photo / Ghen

Tantalizing but Tricky! : Query Letters

As I said in the previous post this is my most difficult publisher hat to wear:



I receive queries and proposals daily, both through email and snail mail. This publisher’s hat may seem glamorous, and I admit to a certain curiosity and gambler’s hope that in the slush pile I may discover the “next bestseller”—but, alas, I must say “No, thank you” to the vast majority of author queries.

So, you may ask: what makes me say “Yes” to an author’s book proposal?

First of all, the first sentence of the query letter must “grab” me with this writer’s giftedness, creativity, and unique slant on the subject. I barely have time to read unsolicited queries, so if you start out with the impersonal, boring, and obvious, I probably won’t even finish reading it. For instance, please don’t start (as many do) with, “Dear Editor, I’m writing to you in hopes that you will publish my book …” I already know that! Dive right into the gist of your passion, message, and/or quest—as any good nonfiction book or novel does. For instance, here are the first sentences of a query letter that recently grabbed my attention:

Ms. Lawton:

This story does not begin on the day Spring-baby Westbay throws a rock at Amen: a simple-looking donkey who knew Adam and Noah, Abraham and Moses, Jesus Christ, the Apostle John, Saint Francis of Assisi.  Nor does the story begin when Spring-baby’s father jilts her by dying far away from home and rebuke.  The story begins in the beginning – when death itself comes into the world and initiates its nefarious plot against Spring-baby’s dad amongst countless others.

Gadly Plain (a novel of 59,000 words told from an omniscient point of view) follows the struggle of a twelve year old girl as she grapples with one of life’s most mind-wrenching questions: Is death really the end? …

Not surprisingly, I kept reading this one to the end, then asked for sample chapters, then just had to read the entire novel, then offered J. Michael Dew a contract. And voilà! the first literary novel in Cladach’s fiction line was born:

Gadly Plain

Okay, there were a few other steps to the acquisition process. The manuscript was sent to a few readers whose input I value, and their responses were positive. I then had several phone conversations with the author. We negotiated a royalty contract. But the process started with those first few sentences hooking my interest.

I must add, though, that I have received some amazingly-written queries/proposals that caused me to ask for the manuscript with great expectancy only to be disappointed that the writing of the book did not match the quality of the professionally-prepared proposal. At writers conferences and from freelance editors and book doctors you can get help writing a proposal that will blow off the publisher’s socks and whet their appetite with tasty tidbits, making them want to express mail a contract offer to you. But the manuscript that follows had better offer real meat to chew on, flavor in every bite, and new taste twists presented on the plate in a memorable way.


All the Hats a Publisher Wears

As a small publisher, we learn to wear many hats. And we don’t just decide in the morning what hat to wear that day; we may change hats hourly or … any minute now.

What sort of hats do we wear most days? The hats below may seem in random order, but often our days are like that. I do a lot of these things; but, thankfully, not all of it by myself.


Our main task, besides producing great books, is to create demand for those books. We believe in each Cladach book’s author, message, artfulness, and ability to touch hearts and minds. So we must continually look for ways to convince potential readers that these  books will give them enjoyment as well as strength, encouragement, and inspiration.


Manuscripts, drafts, proofs, on the screen or printed out, all need editing. Either Cathy or Christina—or an editor or proofreader hired for the job—goes through the copy with a fine-tooth comb, digging, refining, clarifying, cleaning up, and polishing.


Once we upload book data to places like Bowker, Ingram,,, Baker & Taylor, and the Library of Congress, that information disseminates all over the internet and in book data retrieval systems worldwide. It is important that the data be accurate and up-to-date, and checked and updated regularly.

The publisher receives queries and proposals daily, both through email and snail mail. She tries to answer them in a timely fashion, but sometimes queries “fall between the cracks” of slush piles, old emails, and busy days. This is probably the hardest job because it’s hard to say “No,” which has to be said to the vast majority of queries and proposals. If an author and their query does pique our interest, we usually ask for a full proposal and 1-3 sample chapters. Prospective authors find us online and in lists of publishers, including the annual editions of Christian Writers Market Guide. We also meet writers and find manuscripts to publish at writers conferences. The publisher enjoys meeting and talking with writers (but that doesn’t make saying “No” any easier. We have, however, said “Yes” to several good writers and their books, at writers conferences). And then, still in my acquisitions hat, there are contract offers and negotiations and agreements. Then onward and upward together with a new book in view!


As book sales trickle in—and occasionally a bulky order knocks on our door, so to speak—the plus side of Larry’s spreadsheet increases and we try to forecast expenses and how many books to print, the best use of advertising/publicity budgets, what percent royalties and advances to offer authors, what retail prices to put on books, etc., etc. Profits aren’t real impressively high, but Cladach stays in the black, and we often remind ourselves that we are doing this as ministry—though it has to be done in a businesslike way in order to continue.


Larry may call or visit a store to check sales, restock consignment shelves, or we may let stores know about a new title and that they can order through the two major book wholesalers. We receive direct orders from individuals, authors, stores, libraries, and nonprofits in the U.S., U.K., and beyond. Larry processes the orders with accounting software and keeps meticulous and conscientious records and produces reports, as he is the one who usually wears this hat.


The buck stops here. Decisions have to be made, staff meetings and communications directed. Fortunately, we really enjoy creatively brainstorming together.


I guess you could say that’s what I’m doing right now in writing and developing this material. Cathy and Christina (and our authors) develop content for editorial and marketing purposes, to be shared as book descriptions, back cover copy, web content, bios, blog posts, other social media posts, letters, newsletters, press releases, etc.


So we’ve written an article or post, we’ve developed and produced a paperback book, we’ve published a web page. Now we can convert the paperback file into an ebook file, the post into tweets, the graphics and description into a video trailer, the web page content into an ad or an email. Get the idea? Gotta be creative and keep thinking “outside the box.”


All the Cladach staff have worn this hat at one time or another. But Larry has expertly taken on the job and wears this hat almost daily. Our warehouse/shipping department is lined with cartons of books and is all set up with packing supplies and a handy table for sorting, labeling, packing, etc. Then trips are made to the Post Office and to FedEx, which are handily close by. This hat is fun to wear. We love sending out books! Go, team Cladach!


Here’s another job that’s fun but can eat up time and requires a constant, steep learning curve. Very satisfying to the artistic side and creative urges felt by this publisher. We use top of the line software to design book pages and covers. Many of our book covers have been designed in-house, but we have contracted with graphic designers and artists for a number of our designs and cover—as well as interior—art. Besides the books themselves, there are web pages, promo pieces like postcards and sell sheets, and other design output required in the course of our publishing days. We keep this hat handy, usually near the computer.

The book cover is designed and tweaked, the text edited and proofed, the pages formatted, the book data disseminated, the forthcoming title announced. The book must then be printed! This involves organizing and sending out specs, studying and comparing print quotes, comparing choices of papers, finishes, bindings, etc. Decisions, decisions, often feeling like guesses, about how many books are expected to sell and how quickly, how active the author will be in promoting their book, how wide a market can we reach, should we print a larger quantity and pay much less per copy and have a lot of stock on hand and use up our cash, or print a small quantity and preserve cash flow, though we pay much more per copy, or should we go with print-on-demand? Once we’ve decided on the printer, and we’ve used several reliable book printers/manufacturers, the biggest decision is “how many books to print?”.


This has become an important hat to wear at least a while each day. Social media is where readers are hanging out and we can connect and get acquainted and talk about some of our favorite things:  life-changing ideas and experiences; the daily life of faith, work, family, and wonder; our Creator and Lord who initiates every good thing; the creativity He inspires; new and talented authors; and … books! You may connect with us here on this blog, on Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and? Who knows what’s next. One thing for sure, we’ll find a hat for it!




Cladach Authors Reflect the Body of Christ


Cladach authors come from various streams of the body of Christ:

Baptist, Nazarene, Evangelical Presbyterian, Anglican, Vineyard, Christian Church, Assembly of God, Salvation Army, Messianic, Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical Free, etc.

We seek to have agreement on the essentials of the Faith, liberty in non-essentials, and in all things love!

Do you follow Wesley? Calvin? Wimber? Jonathan Edwards? Phineas Bresee? Phoebe Palmer? Catherine Booth? The Early Church Fathers?

I wonder how our perspective might change if we were allowed a glimpse of all those men and women in fellowship together in Heaven and praising God together?

“They will know we are Christians by our …” Denominational affiliation? Theological distinctives? Form of government? Church buildings? Politics?


“They will know we are Christians by our love.”

That doesn’t mean I don’t think theology is important. I do. I study it; I listen for it in sermons I hear and books I read. I sometimes write about it.

But I find it interesting that we tend to believe, sometimes fiercely, the theological slant of the particular tribe or camp into which we were born, or where we first came into the Faith and received teaching, or where we found soul refuge, acceptance and belonging.

What is a “Christian Book”?


A book isn’t created in God’s image, can’t commit sin, exercise free will, or be saved and sanctified. But it can portray the results of sin, describe grace, and be used by God.

A book is paper printed on and bound together into a volume for reading. Or a digital file stored in a computer database or hand-held device for reading on a screen. Or, perhaps, a recording of written material into sound bytes for listening. Books come in many forms. And there’s nothing intrinsically “Christian” about the forms.

The person who envisions, experiences, writes, edits, and/or publishes a book, however, may certainly be Christian. If a believer in—and follower of—Jesus Christ writes a book, I believe that will be a “Christian book.” That book will be written from a mind that is being renewed, a mind that seeks to view the world as the Bible views it and as the living Word, Jesus, views it; it will be written out of a heart that is stone made flesh, set on and responsive to the Redeemer-King; written from a soul that is being restored according to the holy Creator’s plan.

I haven’t found a perfect book yet, or a perfect person. But I’ve known Christians whose lives ring true, and I’ve read books that ring true.