SCBWI Book Critique Boutique

I've got exciting news.

On December 10th, I'll be at Touro College in Bayshore, Long Island selling books and giving 10 minute critiques for ONLY $10.

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators is having it's first ever (as far as I know) Book Critique Boutique!
(If this has been done before by SCBWI, please let me know in the comments!)

If you're in the area, stop on by. I look forward to seeing you!


Amazon KDP Allows Author Copies

A while back, I was excited to learn that Amazon KDP (their e-book publishing program for independent authors) was streamlining the process so you could publish paperbacks through the same platform you publish e-books. Previously, you had to use CreateSpace, their paperback publishing program. Two processes. Two websites you have to check up on. Two separate payment systems. Two of everything. So combining it would be awesome.

Then I did some investigating and found several reasons not to be so excited. One of the main ones was that through KDP you couldn't order author copies at cost, like you can through CreateSpace. Author copies are pretty important for selling at appearances and local bookstores, for giving away as prizes, for putting your writing in the hands of people who don't like e-books or online shopping, for getting more honest reviews, etc. Yet KDP didn't do it.

Well, they've changed their mind. As of now, it's just available for "selected publishers," but they promise that within weeks, both proof copies and author copies will be available for everyone at cost (plus tax and shipping). Hoorah! It remains to be seen if they will be priced similar to their CreateSpace counterparts and if this new feature will make publishing everything through KDP the way to go, but it's something to consider.

For more information, go here: (proof copies)

Melinda Brasher's fiction appears in Nous Electric SpecIntergalactic Medicine Show, and other magazines  For an e-book collection of some of her favorite published pieces, check out Leaving Home.  

Her newest book, Cruising Alaska on a Budget; a Cruise and Port Guide helps budget travelers plan a trip to majestic Alaska.  Visit her online at

4 Writing Tips on Using Descriptions

Using descriptions can be a powerful writing tool. The most important thing to keep in mind is to use your imagination. Close your eyes and picture what your character is doing. Picture what the scene looks like then paint it with words.

Below are four tips to help you get a handle on writing descriptions.

1. You’ve got to engage your readers.

How do you do this? By showing them what’s going on.

Let the reader:

- Smell what the character is smelling.
- Hear what the character is hearing.
- See what the character sees.
- Feel what the character is touching.
- Taste what the character is tasting.

Let the reader feel like she’s there. Use your character’s senses to describe (show) what’s going on.

2. Use descriptions in action scenes.

Using an excerpt from Walking Through Walls, I could have said just said it was hot. But that wouldn’t show how hot it was for the protagonist, Wang.

The sun beat down on the field. Sweat poured from the back of his neck drenching the cotton shirt he wore. I hate doing this work. He hurled the bundles on a cart.

I used description to show the action scene. This helps engage the reader.

3. Use description to emphasis the scene.

While you should write tight, sometimes it’s powerful to use description to bring the reader into the scene. In the excerpt below, the protagonist of Walking Through Walls is on a path that could change his life forever:

Deep in thought Wang did not notice the black cat that crossed his path, or the black raven that swooped and almost landed on his head. He did not even notice the silver snake with the purple tail that slithered along beside him on the road. Wang only noticed that each step took him closer to the merchant’s home and the beginning of the road leading to his destiny.

I could have simply used a version of the last sentence to say he didn’t notice anything. But, this wouldn’t allow the reader to know what was going on around him - how absorbed he was in fulfilling his dream. It wouldn’t bring the reader into the scene.

In addition, the description used for that scene is brought up later in the story. So, it’s also helping move the story forward.

4. Don’t use description dumps.
While it’s essential to use descriptions in your writing, you don’t want to overdo it. And, you don’t want to give description dumps.

What this means is avoid going beyond what is needed to engage. Yes, authors did it years ago – they’d elaborate on descriptions for sometimes pages. And, I would think it gave the writer a sense of freedom to be able to describe in full what she was imagining - not having to worry about tight writing. But, it won’t fly today.

Today it’s about writing ‘lean and mean.’ It’s about thinking carefully about your word choices, your descriptions, and your character’s backstory. If you can say it effectively in two words rather than six, do it in two.

It’s about making sure everything thing in your story is moving the story forward. No sidetracking for a beautiful description. No sidetracking for over elaborating.

Weigh what will work and what is too much. Use balance in writing descriptions in your story.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, children’s ghostwriter, and author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move.

For more on writing, stop by Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.
Be sure to sign up for her newsletter and check out the DIY Page.

You can connect with Karen at:


Writing the World Around You
Twitter Chats 101
Once You Have Social Network Followers, Then What?

Top 10 Mistakes Made by New and Not-So-New Freelance Writers

As a writing coach, I meet many new and not-so-new freelance writers who are struggling to make a living.

While the exact cause for each writer's struggle is not the same, there are some common mistakes I see most of these writers make.

Here's my list of the top ten mistakes made by new and not-so-new freelance writers.

1. No Real Career Plan

A plan is like a roadmap.

When you're just starting out, if you don't know where you're trying to go, how will you know when you get there?

Take the time to make a career plan, so you know exactly what the freelance writing career you're trying to build should look like.

Then, make sure your plan includes consistent, planned actions to take to build that career.

2. No Real Focus

This goes along with not having a career plan.

Many writers never take the time to figure out the kinds of writing they really enjoy.

Instead, they leap into freelance writing, figuring they'll simply take whatever work they can get.

Usually, the work that comes their way is not the kind of work they enjoy, so they give up before they ever really get started.

Plus, there are thousands of writers out there who will take whatever work comes their way.

It's much better to focus on a particular niche and become a recognized expert in that area.

3. Little or No Training

If you want to become one of the top earning copywriters, for example, you need to spend time (and money) learning how to write GREAT copy.

If you want to become a children's book author, then take some courses that will train you to write specifically FOR children.

Don't just assume that if you like to write you can write anything and people will be glad to pay you for it.

4. No Understanding of winning queries and cover letters

Many beginning freelance writers never take the time to learn how to craft a winning query or cover letter.

The ones who stick with freelance writing eventually get the hang of it, but when they're just starting out, they waste a LOT of time writing queries and cover letters that couldn't sell drinking water to a man dying of thirst!

5. A Weak Professional Resume

Too many freelance writers use the same all-purpose resume they've used for years instead of creating a professional resume specifically to attract writing clients and land well-paying assignments.

6. No website, blog, or online portfolio

Any freelance writer today needs some sort of online presence, whether that be through a website or blog.

Part of that site should be an online portfolio of the writer's work, plus a list of available writing services.

Also, the site needs to look professional.

If you aren't a web designer, hire a professional to help you develop your site.

7. Under-charging for their services

This is probably the biggest mistake made by freelance writers.

They also tend to accept jobs that pay too little.

One of the reasons they under-charge is because they underestimate how much time and work a particular job will take.

Right at the start, they should add 10% to any estimate they give a potential client because the job will probably end up taking more time and effort than they thought.

8. Fear of Taking On Well-Paying Assignments

Many beginning freelancers are afraid to even apply for jobs that pay well.

As a result, they stay stuck working for peanuts for months, sometimes even years.

You won't land well-paying assignments unless you go after them.

Don't be afraid to do just that - go AFTER jobs that pay well.

If you've trained and worked hard to become a good writer, then you're worth the money!

9. No marketing plan

Many freelance writers are weak at self-promotion, so they have no real plan for marketing their writing services.

Freelancers need to be promoting their writing products and services all the time and they need some sort of specific strategy for doing so.

10. Little or No follow-up

Most people won't hire you just from seeing your website, blog, or business card.

They'll need to get to know, like, and trust you.

In other words, you need some method for following up with people who call you, email you, or visit your website to find out about your writing services.

If you get good at follow up, you'll have a steady stream of clients to write for!

And, if you avoid all 10 of these mistakes, you'll build a successful freelance writing career before you know it.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is a freelance writer, the author of 35 published books, and a writing coach.

She publishes The Morning Nudge, a free e-mail with tips and resources for writers every weekday morning.

Visit her online at

NaNoWriMo: It's Not Just for Novels

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

We are almost at the midway point of National Novel Writing Month

November is that time once a year where seasoned and wannabe authors around the world commit to writing an at least 50,000-word novel. has a place to log word-count, as well as forums and live and virtual events for community and inspiration. It's all about getting the words on the page without overthinking and self-editing throughout the process.

I am all about setting goals, productivity, and community. And I love National Novel Writing Month. Anything that gets people writing, and supporting each other, is fine in my book. But, if you are not a novelist, or even if you are, there are other ways to participate and get to the 50,000 word count. In fact, there's an "other" category for novel genre.

Use NaNo to write:

1. A non-fiction book
2. A screenplay, teleplay, or stageplay
3. Creative non-fiction

A series of
4. Blog Posts
5. Poems
6. Short Stories
7. Articles
8. Essays
9. Interviews
10. Songs

You can do the mix and match approach. A little of everything til you get to 50,000 or even 25,000 words.

The first draft of anything is the most important, yet most difficult, first step. Once you have words on the page, you have something to revise and refine. Then, the real work starts!

It's not too late to sign up for this years NaNoWriMo. And, then, of course, there's always next year.

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What do you think? Are you participating/have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? What kind of project? How does NaNo work for you or how do you use NaNo? Feel free to also share your NaNoWriMo profile link in the comments. And if you want to connect with me, my username is coastbunny.

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Post and report on weekly and monthly goals on the Write On Online Facebook Page. Join the Write On Facebook Group for ongoing community and support.

* * *

Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group

She is author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, and host of the Guided Goals Podcast.

Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Inspiration is Everwhere!

I read a lot of blogs about writing, I watch a lot of webinars about book marketing, and I read quite a few newsletters from organizations that support independent authors. I love learning about the industry and catching up on the latest information and tips. But, recently, I opened a newsletter from an organization that I hadn’t read in a while. And I just grinned from ear-to-ear. It was a blog that obviously I had signed up for years ago when I was searching for more positivity in my life.

We all have those times in our lives where things aren’t going just right and we wonder what it’s all about. I had gone through a divorce a few years earlier and while it was very upsetting to me on a faith level (divorce isn’t acceptable in my religion), I felt liberated. I had been in an abusive relationship and leaving was the best feeling I had ever had. So, that wasn’t my difficult time. No, it was later. I had re-married a wonderful man and had a beautiful daughter and while we had our up’s and down’s, nothing was really “wrong.” But, life just wasn’t turning out the way I had planned. It caused me to question everything. During that time, I had a good friend suggest I keep a Gratitude Journal.

I don’t know if any of you keep a Gratitude Journal but I can tell you when I started, it was difficult. I mean I only had to write down 5 things I was thankful for and I couldn’t think of one. Okay, maybe my friend who suggested I write the journal but since it was a frustrating exercise, maybe no! Ha! Anyway, even if I wrote I was thankful for air to breathe and that the sun was shining that day, well, that’s what it was. But, pretty soon, I could easily come up with 5 things and sometimes more than 5. And the things I was grateful for became more meaningful too. And surprisingly, I became a much happier person. Okay, maybe not too surprising to those of you reading now, but to me, at that time, I didn’t really think keeping a Gratitude Journal would do too much to help me. And I’m a therapist! I should know better. Ah, helper, help thyself, right?!

Anyway, back to the main subject of this post which is the blog I stumbled back upon. It struck me as I was reading that day’s post and searching around their site, that my passion is positivity! I hadn’t noticed it before but I love sharing funny videos, memes, and feel good stories on social media. I don’t engage in fighting with people online. I don’t see the point. I love puppies, and kittens, and goats jumping around in sweaters. I love sharing stories where someone helps someone else.

I had started writing children’s books that had positive character messages in them, but someone recently pointed out that there’s a lot of psychology in my books too. I have really been trying to figure out my niche. I had a Marketing Consultant tell me that I do Character Education. I agree, but I knew I did more than that. This positivity blog helped me realize that my vision is bigger than that. I want to encourage others to focus on the bright side of life. Be grateful. Love and help one another. That is who I am at my core. That is my passion!

So, inspiration is everywhere. Even in your inbox. What will you discover today that will inspire you?

Wanda Luthman has her Masters of Arts in both Mental Health Counseling and Guidance Counseling from Rollins College located in beautiful Winter Park, Florida. She has worked as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Adjunct Professor, and Hospice Counselor for teens. She’s currently a Guidance Counselor at a local High School. She is an award-winning, best-selling, international author who has self-published 4 children’s books (The Lilac Princess, A Turtle’s Magical Adventure, Gloria and the Unicorn, and Little Birdie). She belongs to the National Pen Women Organization in Cape Canaveral; the Florida’s Writers Association; Space Coast Authors; and Brevard Authors Forum. She presently resides in Brevard County Florida with her husband of 22 years and 2 dogs. Her daughter is away at college, like Little Birdie, she has left the nest. To download a free ebook, visit Wanda Luthman’s website at and follow her on Facebook at

Your Best Writing: Wordiness vs. Accessible Writing

Your Best Writing May Not Be What You Think  
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

One of the biggest writing problems I see among people in my mentoring program, and others who hire me to improve their writing, is that they're afraid to write like they talk. Perhaps they fear “wordiness”, but sometimes writing like you talk is less wordy.

For instance, they never use one-word sentences. Or fragments. Those, for sure, are not wordy!

They refuse to start sentences with words such as "and" and "but" because an elementary teacher way back when told them not to.

They try to sound important when they write. So they use long words in long sentences that make up long paragraphs.

They remove all slang from their writing so it's clean and pure. And often, boring.

Business coach Michael Angier agrees.

"Too many times, I see people who are good verbal communicators try to put
on a different air in their writing," he says. "It doesn't work. It's much
better to be conversational."

Writing like you talk is one of thirteen tips Michael offers for writing clearly
and convincingly. It was one of the lead articles in an issue of
Joan Stewart’s free subscription newsletter, The Publicity Hound.

Lisa Cron’s book, Wired for Story (, shows us how humans were storytellers long before they were writers and how the processes in their lives wired us for story. Story and anecdote. It works for articles like this. It works for novels—great novels. And you’ll see it appearing more and more often as part of news stories. Another book I recommend is Tom Chiarella’s Writing Dialogue ( published by Writer’s Digest. You may find it inexpensively on Amazon’s New and Used feature. You'll find a longer list of books to improve your writing (and the marketing of it!) in the Appendices of all my HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers. 

In the newest book in my multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writing, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically, I remind authors that the best blurbs and endorsements come from people who compliment their books and their style in off-the-cuff conversations. When asked to write a blurb or endorsement, the same people may use language that is stiff, official—and unconvincing. I tell them to ask their contacts (or reader) if they can use what their reader just said to them rather than having them back up and make it into a brittle, lifeless twig. I found a nice endorsement in my e-mail box from Libby Grandy,  one of the attendees at a presentation I did at California Writers Society. I took my own advice and simply asked if I could use it. 

Readers probably spent many years reading staid textbooks. They may now prefer  to learn what they need quickly. When authors make their point with stories (and do it colloquially), they find their readers more easily bond to them. It’s about connection. Think loyalty.

Have you ever wondered why many are turning to the Web for information even at the risk of fake news and unprofessional advice. They are in a hurry. They’re after easily absorbed information (retention). You can provide both. Sure. Watch for wordiness. But don’t skip the story your readers’ brains crave. They’ll love you for it.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers
including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The multi award-winning second edition of The Frugal Editor; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Her blog, lets authors recycle their favorite reviews absolutely free.