Sunday, July 14, 2019

Writers: How to Handle Feedback about Your Work

We all will need to handle feedback at one time or another in our careers.

For the writer, this feedback is usually the critique of either an unpublished manuscript (from an editor or members of a critique group) or a published piece (a review, for example).

Feedback can be both positive and negative.

Some people are bad at giving feedback and some people are talented at doing it.

But, even if someone who is bad at it gives you feedback about a piece of your writing, you can learn to handle both positive and negative feedback appropriately.

Let’s go over some tips for handling both positive and negative feedback.

Let’s start with negative feedback.

Avoid Acting Defensive

One thing that sometimes happens when we're given feedback is we become defensive when we hear something negative and we immediately want to defend ourselves and our work.

But when we do this, we usually turn off our ability to listen, which is not a good way to react.

If you get like this, take a step back and watch yourself getting the feedback from afar in your mind.

Focus only on what they’re saying, and don’t put your own feelings into it at all.

You can ask questions about how they think you can improve your work, but don’t argue with them about it.

After all, unless they’re your editor, you don’t need to take their advice to heart, but you can probably learn something from it if you can avoid being defensive.

Inform the person that you appreciate what they’re saying and you will consider their suggestions, and leave it at that.

Ask For Clarification

When someone is giving you negative feedback, take the time to hear what they’re saying, then repeat back to them what you thought they said to ensure you really understood.

Sometimes (especially if we have low self-esteem or are new to writing) we can over-interpret something as negative when it’s not.

Ask for understanding and take the time to let it sink in so you’re sure you really do get it.

Negative feedback should actually be constructive criticism as far as manuscripts go.

It shouldn’t be someone simply slamming your work.

Instead, they should be offering you feedback you can use to improve your work.

Sadly, though, many people—especially beginning writers in critique groups—find it difficult to offer constructive criticism (probably because they don’t that much about writing themselves), so they tear a manuscript to shreds.

If you’re in a critique group that operates like that, you might look for a different group with more experienced writers who know how to offer constructive criticism instead of just negative feedback.

Now, let’s talk a bit about handling positive feedback.

As much as handling negative feedback makes people squirm, so does positive feedback, and sometimes we react incorrectly to it.

There really is only one right way to handle positive feedback.

Say, "thank you very much."

Saying thank you is an important way to handle positive feedback and will make the other person feel satisfied that you heard them.

If you react negatively to positive feedback, you could set yourself up to never receiving it even when you deserve it.

Don’t do that.

Say thank you.

Mean it.

Move on.

The truth is, you’ll get both negative and positive feedback any time you let someone read something you have written.

It’s important to put this feedback into perspective and not dwell on it either way.

For example, one day several years ago, I went online to amazon and found a bad review of one of my books.

The review was so bad, I felt terrible about the book.

But later that day, my editor called to tell me that the same book had just won an award.

Right then I realized that feedback, either positive or negative, is really only someone’s opinion.

And that both types of feedback can be learned from.

So just learn from the feedback you get, move on, and keep writing.

Try it!

For more tips and resources to help you become a better writer, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge.

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 35 published books, a writing coach, and editor at

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Perfect Perfection Test

One of my favorite phrases is, "Done is better than perfect." 

There's also, "Perfect is the enemy of good." 

And, another fav, "Art is never finished, it's abandoned."

Whatever your perfection philosophy, you have to agree. There comes a point in any project - whether it's a book, screenplay, essay, article, or pitch - where it's time to release it into the world, ready or not. 

But how do you know when you're ready to hit, "send," "post," or "publish?"

Here are five things to think about before pressing that magic button:

1. Does it have a beginning, middle, and an end? Does it need them? Most things do. Know your work well enough to know whether it has all the necessary parts?

2. Did you run it through spellcheck? An editor? For smaller pieces, and even emails, you should always look for those spellcheck and grammar-check squiggles. Larger works often require a second set of eyes. Don't skimp on professionalism.

3. Have you read it out loud? That's the easiest way to catch mistakes.

4. Did you set it aside for a day? A week? If you have time to walk away and read it fresh, before it goes out, that's ideal. And, whereas sometimes it's difficult to step away from an important project, that fresh perspective is invaluable.

5. Are you happy with it? Or are you at least happy enough? Are you excited and ready for it to make it's debut? You'll know when it's time. Just trust yourself.

While it's important to take pride on your work, it's also essential to know when to let your words to speak for themselves. As long as your work is professional and the passion for your project shows through, remember it's all good. And sometimes good is perfect!

For more on Perfection, read the #GoalChat recap on the topic.

* * *

How important is perfection? And how do you decide when something is ready for the world to see? Please share in the comments.

* * *

Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of The D*E*B Method: Goal Setting Simplified and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group.  Debra is the author of Your Goal Guide, being released by Mango in January 2020, as well as Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages. She is host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat and the Guided Goals Podcast, and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Borrowing From Superheroes

My husband—sweetie that he is—brought me a copy of The Smithsonian from his dermatologist's office. So thanks to Lance and Dr. Mantel, I am now a diehard fan of the magazine.

One of the articles was inspired by the new movie, Man of Steel. They take up how "superhero origin stories inspire us to cope with adversity."

The elements that make superheroes so popular can work with characters in any kind of fiction you may write (or read). Here are the ones that Smithsonian writer Robin Rosenberg found in several of the most popular superhero tales. Check your stories and novels to see how these themes (or "life-altering experiences") might be capitalized on to further pique the interest of your readers.

~Destiny—is your character "chosen" in some way?

~Trauma—has your character suffered trauma that increased his strengths or weaknesses?

~Sheer chance—Sheer chance is usually not as compelling as an action that has been caused or motivated, but sometimes a writer just has to resort to it. If an author makes that choice, he or she should put more emphasis on how the character deals with it.

~Choosing "altruism over the pursuit of wealth and power."
My own takeaway from Rosenberg’s piece is that literary criticism of the last decade has relegated backstory in novels as pretty undesirable, something that should be minimized at all costs. In my gut, I've always disagreed. Of course, we can't let backstory get in the way of momentum, but backstory is often part of your hero’s path to character building so they very well may deserve more attention.  I’m also reading Wally Lamb’s new novel and I’m pretty sure from the evidence that he agrees with me—at least in regard to literary fiction.

Backstory helps your readers relate and find meaning in loss, and it provides models for coping. If you are a write of nonfiction, you may find ways to use superheroes' themes anecdotally in your work.

In either case, understanding the psychological underpinnings of why we are so affected may benefit us all by "tapping into our capacity for empathy, one of the greatest [super?] powers of all."

There’s one more that Rosenberg missed. I think we're all searching for connection—human to human. If that happens to be human-to-alien or human-to-superhero, so be it. It's part of what we all need as readers.

Note: Rosenberg, a clinical psychologist, has written several books about the psychology of superheroes. Search for her on Google.

This is republished from a January 4, 2014 post on this site.

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 Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; 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. Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .


Market with Content

The Necessity of Simple Follow-up

Freelance Writers: How to Schedule Your Work Days

How Authors Can Get Books into Campus Libraries

Q&A a la Ann Landers

Getting Your Book into Campus Libraries and More!

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

I occasionally run a Q&A based on the Ann Landers columns in my SharingwithWriters newsletters. I grew to love Landers’ wisdom when I edited the originals way back when I was a staff writer for The Salt Lake Tribune. This is one that received the most feedback since I published my first e-newsletter back in 2003. 


Regarding university bookstores: I know that Random House had my book in their catalog targeting educational sellers. Is there more than that I can do? How would I 
1. identify them and
 2. approach them?


I'm going to use my husband's experience with his What Foreigners Need to Know About America from A to Z as an example because he was so successful with it. 

He put together a form letter (which he tweaks) depending on who it's going to. He goes online and finds areas on campus that could use his book. Great possibilities on campuses include: 
1. College acquisition librarians
2. International student programs and clubs 
3. Campus career centers
4. International studies professors
5. Professors who teach American  literature, history, etc., especially the ones who teach ESL (English as Second Language) students
4. Campus bookstore buyers  

He spends about thirty minutes a day finding all the resources available on one or two campuses. He sends query letters to each of those resources, always trying to address the specific person in charge (and spell his or her name correctly!). Sometimes that's only one contact a day. Some days, when research goes well, it's three or four.  

Lance has had some amazing successes like having his book chosen as gifts/recommendations by the university that hosts the Fulbright Scholars in the US each summer. His book is also been accepted by imore than 300 university libraries and some of those ordered more than one copy. 

He offers a free book to those influencers who show an interest (i.e. those who answer his e-mail) with a “yes!” response. I am “The Frugal Book Promoter,” so I love this approach. It costs less than just sending a book with a cover letter to each contact.  Of course, there is also a cost to sending books when requested, but otherwise using this method doesn’t cost an author anything out of pocket. I love it because the results of one’s efforts are easily traceable. You know, as an example, a professor has recommended it to a class when suddenly you sell thirty-five books all being shipped to the same place! 

I also love it because the dollar-and-cents results have proven to outweigh the expense. 

When Lance gets a perfunctory positive response, he sometimes worries he will be wasting a book. But that response usually results in many more than the sale of one book. He has had requests to use excerpts for professors’ classroom assignments or handouts. (He always provides those who ask for permission to reprint with an extensive bio and sales pitch that he asks them to include as part of the assignment.) The top sale we could trace to his letters (it's sometimes easier for self-published authors to trace sales to a specific effort) was fifty-nine copies. 

One more secret. He is persistent.

One more big benefit: I’s apparent that word travels among universities.  

Here’s an alternative that he tried. It isn't as frugal and not as effective because the contact is not personal, but it’s a lot less time-consuming than his one-on-one method: 

IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) has a catalog that they send out to selected resources. One goes to libraries. A separate one goes to university libraries and another to reviewers.  I've used that service for my books in my HowToDoItFrugally Series of books,too, and a couple of my poetry books. It can be good...or not. Depending on the title. 

Be aware that if you find an instructor who recommends your book or uses it as class reading, the bookstore often stocks the book automatically. But not always. It doesn’t hurt to mention in your query letter that your book was ordered by X university or that Professor X showed an interest in your book in a followup letter to the library’s buyer.

PS: The recommendations and endorsements from many of these contacts also resulted in a request from a Ukrainian press to publish his work in translation. It was also published in Simplified Chinese, apparently through his contact with a Chinese studies program at one of these universities.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a multi award-winning novelist and poet who started her writing career in journalism, PR, and marketing. Her multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers has been helping authors since the publication of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; now in its second edition. The multi award-winning second edition of The Frugal Editor; is also in its second edition, and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers and The Great First Impression Book Proposal are her inexpensive booklets for writers. Her Getting Great Reviews . She loves to tweet because it is a social network that understands the value of marketing. 

Monday, July 1, 2019

The 3 Levels of Picture Books

Picture books have three levels or purposes in regard to the reader and purchaser.

Think of it as the structure of a house: there’s a basement, a first floor, and often an upper floor.

Level 1: The basement, or Surface Level, is geared toward the youngest reader (or listener if too young to read). This child is able to understand what’s going on. He is engaged by the story.

Using a wonderful children’s picture book, Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, the child will think it’s funny that monkeys take the peddler’s caps, put them on their heads and won’t take them off.

Level 2: The first floor, or the Underlying Meaning Level, is for the older children who can understand on a deeper level. At this age, they can realize danger, anger, and a cause and effect scenario.

Again, using Caps for Sale, the children should be able to understand that the monkeys are mimicking everything the peddler does, but the peddler doesn’t realize what they’re doing. With this age child, he/she may yell out, “They’re doing what you do!” in an effort to help the peddler.

Level 3: The upper floor, or the Take Away Level, is the value the book holds for the purchaser, usually the parent, grandparent, or teacher. The adult reading the book to the child understands the meaning of the story, what value can be taken away by children.

In the case of Caps for Sale, the young child is engaged and understands the monkeys took the peddler’s caps and wouldn’t give them back. The older child is engaged and understands that the peddler is causing the monkeys to act as they are. The value that might be taken away is that our actions create reactions.

I just want to point out that Caps for Sale was first copyrighted in 1940 and renewed in 1967, so there is a great deal of telling in the story.

Back then, writing for children used a different structure. The stories were not geared toward today’s short attention span and need for action. But, some stories, such as this one, hold up even through change.

Keep in mind though, in today’s children’s market a writer must take into account that a child is bombarded with media and entertainment. Children’s publishers want showing rather than telling. They also want action right from the beginning of the story. In today’s market it’s the writer’s job to grab the reader quickly.

This article was originally published at:

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author. She runs a successful children’s ghostwriting and rewriting business and welcomes working with new clients.

For tips on writing for children OR if you need help with your project, contact her at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

To get monthly writing and book marketing tips, sign up for The Writing World – it’s free!

And, you can follow Karen at:


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Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Enchantment Show with New Mexico's SCBWI Chapter

"Up on the Roof," by Eddie Edwards
This year marks the Sixth Annual Enchantment Show for the New Mexico chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI. Illustrators who signed up are given a deadline to complete an illustration of their choice, in their choice of medium. Participating writers are then randomly matched with an illustration, and must create a one-page story to accompany their illustration. This year’s theme is “Serenity.” The stories and illustrations are displayed at a local library in Albuquerque for the month of June, and a reception held to celebrate our members’ creations.

Last year, as a nonparticipant, I attended the reception to enjoy the show and also to see, frankly, if I would be up to the challenge. This year, I am happy I took the leap. Not only was it a challenge to think up a story that would give my terrific illustration justice, but it awakened the desire to create more. The biggest benefit was meeting more SCBWI members, and especially the artist, Eddie Edwards, my illustrator. I had spent many hours dreaming about her illustration not knowing who had created it. To finally get to meet her was a thrill.

So, without further delay, I present:

Stars and Dreams Forever
by Linda Wilson

Hunter pressed his hands over his ears. Luna, his little sister, wouldn’t stop wailing. His dad paced back and forth across the living room, jiggling her in his arms. It didn’t help. And no one had turned down the TV. There had to be a better place to find some peace and quiet than under this coffee table. 
He slid open the patio door and stood by the porch railing. On the streets below, sirens screamed and drivers honked, the sounds tunneling up between apartment buildings. All this noise hammered into his brain. This wouldn’t do, either.

A pot bubbled on the stove. Mmm. Mom’s spaghetti sauce. He slipped into the kitchen. His mom and Mrs. Martinez, their neighbor from the apartment next door, were busy talking and laughing. Supper would be a while. Time enough to escape to his room.

Sitting on his bed, Hunter glanced at the Star Wars posters plastered on his walls. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Darth Vader stared back at him from “Return to the Jedi.” The saying at the top, “Return to a Galaxy Far, Far Away . . .” took him lightyears away, to suns and moons and planets . . . to infinity . . . places beyond his own imaginings. If only he, little speck-on-the-Earth-Hunter, could travel as long and as far as it took to get to other galaxies. The Andromeda Galaxy, maybe? But how could he ever do that?

His eyes shot up to the ceiling. The plain white paint gave him a blank canvas, as an artist would use, to think and dream up his next creation. An idea came to him. He found his dad, now holding Luna fast asleep in his arms, and whispered, “Dad, can I go in the hallway and check out the stairs?”
“Why, whatever for?”

“I want to see how far up they go,” Hunter said.

His dad thought a minute. Hunter held his breath. Then his dad said, “All right, go ahead. I’ll catch up as soon as I put your sister to bed.”

“Thanks!” Hunter climbed the stairs and swung open the door at the top. A cool breeze ruffled his hair. He’d found his building’s roof. It’d been here the whole time, a place on top of the world!
Above, a crescent moon shone, and constellations of stars sprinkled across the nighttime sky, sparkling like jewels. Below, life had quieted down some, the only sounds soft music, soft voices and TVs turned down. Even the traffic had slowed. In a spot that looked just right, he lay back. The door opened. He said, “Hi, Dad.” At that moment, a shooting star streaked across the sky. A spectacle that he and his dad could share, and it didn’t make a sound.
Illustration: I'd like to thank Eddie Edwards for sharing her illustration for this post.
Watch for Secret in the Stars,
soon to be published. Don't worry:
Readers of WOTM will be
the first to know!

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter and is working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Create a Strategy that Delivers Great Content

What does it take to promote your writing, be it articles, stories or books? Indeed, the answer is much more than Sales Pitches and Events. 


How do you tell your readers or a prospective publisher what you are about? How does your promotion offer benefit the reader? The answers are: your Author Platform, your Branding, and your Website.  It’s the way you inform and engage your audience. This week we’ll talk about Great Content, and developing a Strategic Plan.

Points for brainstorming your strategic plan to deliver great content:
1.    The WHAT: Writing a series of five, six or ten articles focused on one theme
2.    The HOW of delivery is via quality information in text, graphics, video and audio. We are not entitled to our reader’s attention. Deliver content that grabs their interest early, and make it good for the quick-look reader.
3.    Change up the presentation by offering an article in text with audio as well.
4.    Make it original, relevant and valuable while staying focused on your theme.
5.    Also, make it substantial and in-depth even when it requires 1000 words or more.
6.    The WHY: Connecting with your audience which leads to engagement and sharing
7.    WHEN you build Connection, readers are more likely to follow by taking Action
8.    Build an archive of your content articles in preparation for creating a good online course. An organized file archive is enormously helpful in repurposing your best articles for additional opportunities.

Use proven structures essential for effective SEO:
1.    Headlines, and sub-headlines, that command attention
2.    Focused introductory sentences
3.    Provide information that solves a problem
4.    Limit the message to one central point
5.    Stand out with lists or listicles, for quick reads
6.    Use relevant links, and test them

Great Content = Successful Marketing
Be the best in your niche!

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts. Visit her web-blog:

Write clear & concise, personable yet professional.
Know your reader.

Writers: How to Handle Feedback about Your Work

We all will need to handle feedback at one time or another in our careers. For the writer, this feedback is usually the critique of either...