Can You Call Yourself a Writer?

Writers just starting out might wonder: Can I call myself a writer, say, if I’m not published? If all I write are my thoughts, wishes and dreams in a journal? If letters, texts, and emails are all I write?

Well, I have the answer. I heard it once from an editor (so it’s got to be true). You can call yourself a writer if you enjoy looking up words in the dictionary. There you have it. It's that simple. So, are you a writer?

Not only do I like, no relish, looking up words in the dictionary, I also enjoy finding just the right word to use to express an action, emotion or to jazz up dialogue, in my thesaurus. Also, I’m sure every serious writer has Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style at their elbow. It’s a big help, though not with every rule. I’ll get to that in a minute.

And what would I do without my Chicago Manual of Style? My “Chi Man” looks like a bird on a cold winter morning who has fluffed up its feathers to stay warm. That’s because I’ve had to look up so many rules, the same ones, mind you, so many times that I finally labelled my most troublesome rules on Post-it page markers for easy access. There are twenty-two of them. I just counted them. Guess what the biggest one is: Punctuation.

It’s okay, though. I once learned from yet another editor that writers can’t possibly remember every grammar rule and have to look up many. So, although some might think it’s tedious if they’re told “go look that up,” genuine writers like you and me know they’re not writers and we are.

Take Lay
Lay is one of the trickiest irregular verbs. The word is categorized simply as "Lay" in Elements of Style, and is explained in this way:
A transitive verb. Except in slang (“Let it lay), do not misuse it for the intransitive verb lie. The hen, or the play, lays an egg; the llama lies down. The playwright went home and lay down.

Lie; lay; lain; lying (I made a note in my book here: Past tense of lie is lay)
Lay; laid; laid; laying

As much as this explanation is helpful, I still ponder the correct usage and have four different explanations for Lie and Lay in a Grammar file I keep on my computer. I finally found the most helpful explanation for Lie and Lay at Professor Malcolm Gibson’s website, “The Wonderful World of Words.” This site is fun for anyone who loves words.

The principal parts (most-common verb forms) of lie are:

lie (present,) lay (past) and lain (past participle).
     The principal parts of lay are:
lay (present), laid (past) and laid (past participle).
     As an aid in choosing the correct verb forms, remember that lie means to recline, whereas lay means to place something, to put something on something.

Correct Usage:
Present tense: I lie down on my bed to rest my weary bones.
Past tense: Yesterday, I lay there thinking about what I had to do during the day.
Past participle: But I remembered that I had lain there all morning one day last week.
Present tense: As I walk past, I lay the tools on the workbench.
Past tense: As I walked past, I laid the tools on the workbench. And: I laid an egg in class when I tried to tell that joke.
Past participle: . . . I had laid the tools on the workbench.

The professor has discovered an easy way to remember the rule so that it is used correctly every time. He has named it after one of his students who invented her own way to remember the rule. He calls it The Michiko Sato Rule.
Write these six words and then try them out:
                                Lie         Lay         Lain
                                Lay        Laid        Laid

Sometimes when I'm stuck on correct usage of a word, after I've researched and chosen what I think is correct, I go to Google, type in my sentence and see what comes up. Oftentimes I see the same passage in other works and feel assured that I'm using the word correctly.

Don't get me started on swim, swam, swum. Swum just doesn't sound right to me. Normally, I avoid it by tiptoeing around it. There are other ways to describe your characters while they're swimming than using the word swum, right?

Do you have a method for keeping track of word usage that you'd like to share? Please leave a comment and tell us about it. After all, anyone who reads this post must care about words and therefore is qualified to call himself or herself a writer.

Clipart courtesy of:
Photo: by Linda Wilson

We writers need to put
all our ducks in a row.
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she has completed her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, and is hard at work on Book Two in the series.  Follow Linda at

Write for Magazine Publication (1)

Writing for Magazine Publication is a great way to monetize your writing and to test out the marketability of various topics. This is the first of a series of posts investigating the components of writing essays and articles for magazines. See your work in print or live online in just a few months.

This series will offer tips and ideas for magazine publishing. Such as: standard templates for both essay and article pieces, a list of genres or categories, where we find ideas, research tips, query letters, formatting for submittal, and copyright definitions.

What’s the difference between an essay and an article? The essay is all about the writer. An article is all about the reader. An essay is an analytical or interpretative composition whereas an article is informational non-fiction prose.

Today, let’s consider genres and ideas.

The list of Genres/Categories for magazine writing is huge but here are a few for your consideration:
  • Consumer topics
  • Trends
  • Local news, highlighting merchants or events
  • Interviews with notable people in a field or industry
  • True crime
  • Sports
  • Parenting
  • Trade Journals
  • Health & Safety, Alternative Health
  • Aging, Seniors
  • Retirement
  • Travel
  • Humor
  • How-To
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Food & Cooking
  • Personal Essays
  • Writing to Inspire
  • Business to Business
  • Seasonal and Holiday pieces

Finding Ideas:
Write about topics close to home and away from home.
  • Do you have a notable vacation spot in your area? San Francisco Bay Cruses, Catalina Holiday, Queen Mary Dining, Dana Point Harbor, San Diego Zoo, Bowers Museum, Balboa Island – All are a great places to research and begin an article.
  • Do you like to Travel? Present a little known fact in your piece.
  • Do you have specific or specialized knowledge for a certain topic? Write about it.
  • Are you an Artist? Do you paint, work with textiles, jewelry, or clay? Write How-To technique articles for beginning artists and/or for artists experimenting with a new medium.
  • Are you into car repair and maintenance? Write tips and money saving ideas.
  • Start a clipping file of articles, columns, newspaper/journalistic reports that have captured your attention, interest, or imagination. 

Please add your ideas in the comment section below.
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: Deborah Lyn Stanley : MyWriter's Life .
“Write your best, in your voice, your way!"

Write A Review and Promote Your Latest Book

By W. Terry Whalin

For years I have supported other writers through reading their books and writing reviews. Writers are readers and I am always reading at least one or two books. As a practice, when I complete a book (or even hearing an audiobook), I write a review of that book on Amazon and Goodreads. In addition, often I will tell others about my review on my various social media connections. If the book is tied to writing (as some of them are), I will also repurpose some of my review on a blog article about the Writing Life.

In this article, I want to show you how to promote your latest book on the bottom of your review. There are several details involved in successfully doing this type of review and promotion. If your review is short (only a sentence or two—as many people write), then this technique will likely not work and you could even be banned from writing reviews on Amazon. Please pay attention to the details of your review.

1. The review has to be of substance or at least 100 words. In your review, you show that you have read the book because of the summary you give about the book—but also I normally include a short sentence or two quotation from the book and I list the specific page for the quotation. It shows the reader that I didn't just flip through the book one night but read it cover to cover.

2. Normally I write my review in a Word file where I can easily count the words and see the length of my review. I craft a headline for my review. Then I cut and paste it into the customer review place on Amazon. Note you do not have to have purchased the book on Amazon to write a review of that book. You do have to have purchased something on Amazon to be able to write reviews. This detail about purchasing something is not normally an issue but it is one of the basic requirements from Amazon to write customer reviews. I've written almost 900 customer reviews on Amazon. Yes that is a lot of reviews and didn't happen overnight but little by little.

3. At the end of my review, I write a separate little paragraph that says, “Terry Whalin is an editor and the author of more than 60 books including his latest Billy Graham, A Biography of America's Greatest Evangelist.” (Notice this link is a live link that takes people directly to the page for my book on Amazon). As a rule, Amazon does not allow you to add working website links on your review. But, they do allow you to add product links within your review. A few times (maybe half a dozen with almost 900 reviews) this technique does not work and my review is rejected. In those few cases, I have my review in a Word file, so I resend it without my little one sentence bio line. Then the review is still posted on Amazon and still helps the other writer.

As an author I know how hard it is to get people to write reviews. Serving and helping other writers is one of the reasons I have consistently reviewed books.  I've written so many reviews and my email is easy to find, that several times a day I get requests from authors to review their books. I do not review ebook only books. I look at the book and normally I answer their email but I politely decline the offer to review their book. In my decline, I also send them to my free teleseminar about reviewing books to give them this resource. If they take me up on my offer, they join my email list in this process.

4. After I write my review on Amazon and Goodreads, I normally tout my review on social media. If that author has a twitter account, I include their twitter account in my social media post. Some of these authors re high profile people who thank me via social media for my review. Before my review I had no connection to these authors and it has been fun to see their gratitude and responses on social media.  If I originally got the book directly from the author or from a publisher or publicist, I make sure I email this person with the links and results of my review. This final step of follow-up is important because it shows your professionalism and puts you on their radar for future books. As I've written in other places,this follow-up step is necessary. 

I've included the details about this process because I have not seen other authors using this process to promote their latest release. It does take work to read a book then craft a thoughtful review but it is worth it in my view. 

Are you using such a process? If so, let me know in the comments below.  


For a book review, learn the details of how to promote your latest book. (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 books and his magazine work has appeared in more than 50 publications. Terry lives in Colorado. Follow him on Twitter where he has over 220,000 followers

Other references in this article:

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Plot and Your Story - Four Formats

Plot. As writers we’ve all hear of this literary term. But, what does it mean?

Well, plot is what gives the story a reason to be. It’s the ‘why’ as to the reason the story exists. Plot is what the story is about. And, if the plot is good, it will entertain and engage the reader. It can even change the reader’s life.

In children’s writing, these stories are usually based on external conflict and action.

Think of Superman fighting his nemesis Lex Luther. Or, Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty. And, the conflict doesn’t have to come in the form a person. It can be battling a flood or a volcanic eruption, climbing Mount Everest, or training a crazy, peeing-all-over-the-place dog.

In his book, “Aspects of a Novel,” F.M. Forster said, “A plot demands intelligence and memory also.”

Examples of plot driven stories include:

- Bovary – through the plot, Emma is driven toward a tragic end.
- Lolita – the plot holds the reader fascinated as Humbert delves helplessly into depravity.
- Great Expectations – through the plot, the reader watches Pip live his life in pursuit of having Estella love him.

These stories hold the reader captive. They drive the reader to turn the pages, to find out what will happen to the characters.

According to Children’s, there are four types of plot structure (1):

1. Dramatic or Progress – think of this format as a pyramid.

a. The protagonist starts out okay or is in the beginning of a dilemma – it may be physical or emotional. This is the setup.

b. The obstacles or conflict rise. As each obstacle is met and overcome, another one arises of increasing severity. This goes on to the climax – the top of the pyramid.

c. The climax is the final conflict and has the protagonist giving his all to achieve his goal. It’s win or lose time.

d. Then comes the closing or wrap up of the story. The story descends the other side of the pyramid to a satisfying conclusion.

This is your typical young children’s story structure.

Keep in mind that the scenarios don’t have to be heart stopping action or doom. They can be as simple as a moral dilemma, of doing right or wrong.

2. Episodic – think of this format as a long obstacle course of usually lower impact ups and downs in chronological order. Usually each chapter or section depicts related incidents and has its own conflict climax. The story is connected through the characters and/or the theme.

According to Story Mastery, episodic formats “work best when the writer wishes to explore the personalities of the characters, the nature of their existence, and the flavor of an era.” (2)

3. Parallel – with this format, there are two or more plots. They can be linked by the characters and/or a common theme.

In a recent upper middle-grade book I ghosted, there were three plots connected through characters and the overall plot.

This format can be used for upper middle-grade and young adult stories.

4. Flashbacks – this format provides the reader with flashbacks throughout the story. It allows the writer to begin with an action scene and fill in the ‘why, what, and how’ in flashbacks.

While plot-driven stories are engaging, it’s the stories that combine a good plot with believable characters that the readers can connect to and ‘feel for’ that become memorable. It’s these stories that have the potential to be great.


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!


Point-of-View and Children’s Storytelling
Conflict in Your Story
Where Does Your Story Really Start

The Pomodoro Technique for Getting Your Writing Done

I recently heard of the Pomodoro Technique--something I've done off and on for years, more or less, without having a name for it.

Here's what I love about it:  the name.  It comes from those old kitchen timers that look like tomatoes.  Tomato, in Italian, is pomodoro.  So basically, it's a fancified name for a simple but efficient work strategy.

How to use the Pomodoro Technique:

First, get a kitchen timer (or an internet timer or a fancy Pomodoro App on your phone).

Set it for 25 minutes.

Write until the timer beeps.

Take a five minute break:  walk around, play a quick round of a game, get some water, stretch, pet your cat, etc.


It's remarkably effective, and can be used for many tasks, not just writing.  Plus, it's got a great name.

Melinda Brasher's most recent sale is a twist on Rumpelstiltskin, appearing in Timeless Tales. You can also find her fiction in NousElectric SpecIntergalactic Medicine Show, and others. If you're dreaming about traveling to Alaska, check out her guide book, Cruising Alaska on a Budget; a Cruise and Port Guide. Visit her online at

Developing Dialogue

by Valerie Allen

There are no absolute rules about creating good dialogue, but some guidelines help shape a story. Well written dialogue goes unnoticed by the reader because it sounds right. It is not stiff. It is not artificial. It is written to sound as if someone is speaking.

Dialogue has three main functions:

1.  Reveal more about a character
2.  Establish the relationship of one character to another
3.  Move the story forward

Some basic guidelines for using good dialogue include:

•    Create a new, indented paragraph every time a different character speaks.

•    If more than one speaker is involved in the conversation use his name to clarify who is speaking.

•    Use the noun verb form (Valerie said  not said Valerie).

•    If it is a statement the tag is said (“Valerie is here,” she said.).

•    If it is a question, the tag is asked (“Valerie, where are you?” she asked.).

•    Use movement, a gesture, or a tag instead of said/asked (Valerie opened the door. “Here I am.”).

•    Use vocabulary appropriate to the age, education, and culture of the speaker, as well as the context of the story.

•    Write conversation as it is spoken, not structured as standard written English.

•    Dialogue is primarily about what the speaker believes his problems or conflicts to be.

•    Punctuate so it is easily read without confusion (George, the alligator bit me. George, the alligator, bit me.   George! The alligator bit me.).

•    Do not have characters continuously address each other by name.

•    Do not have characters giving each other information they already know; use exposition. (Not: Valerie, I remember on your birthday, May 10th, we went on a picnic. Use: Valerie, I remember last year we went on a picnic for your birthday).

•    Avoid dialects; use just a few telltale words to give the flavor of the dialect and then return to standard English.

•    Contractions make dialogue more natural.

•    Use apostrophes for missing letters (don’t, you’ve, goin’)

•    Incomplete sentences are common in dialogue (“Where are we going?”,“Out”, “Where out?”, “Quiet—l or you’re not going!”)

Good dialogue does not confuse the reader. Good dialogue clarifies what is being said by whom.

Valerie Allen writes fiction, nonfiction, short stories and children's books. ( She assists writers with marketing via Authors For Authors with two major annual events in warm and sunny Florida. Meet the Authors Book Fair in the Fall and the Writers' Conference: Write, Publish, Sell! in the Spring. Valerie loves to hear from readers and writers! Contact her at:  and AuthorsForAuthors.


One Last Edit? Rethink Before Submitting
Write What You Know
The Best Writing Advice - 9 Tips

A Dozen Ways to Build Your Confidence as a Writer

It's tough being a writer, especially if you're just starting out.

Rejection can easily tear down what little self-confidence you have, so here are a dozen ways to build your confidence as a writer.

1. Do Something First Thing Every Morning That Makes You Feel Good About Yourself.

It might even make you feel powerful.

Go for a jog, do some exercises, take a shower and get dressed even if you won't be leaving the house all day.

Clean your office, put flowers on your desk.

Do one small thing that celebrates YOU.

2. Expect to Be Successful.

Once you do, make sure that every thought, statement, and action reflects that expectation all day long.

Another thing to consider: What someone says about you can help you create a totally different and new expectation for yourself - so get a friend to write out a positive statement about you.

Then notice how you strive to LIVE according to that statment every day.

Eliminate the self-doubt and negative thoughts in your head. Also, monitor the statements you make to others.

Avoid statements that begin with:

I can't...

I don't...

I'm stressed...

I'll try, but....

I have to...

3. Focus on Others Instead of Yourself.

As a writer, who is your reader?

Who is your customer?

How can you serve this customer and how can you get better and better at serving him?

When you're out of the house - make a point to give a stranger or a friend or relative a compliment.

Focus on them.

Ask them about their day.

When someone asks you how you are or are things are going - immediately say "GREAT" and believe it!

4. Don't Think about Success Too Much.

If you do, you're actually thinking about failure, not success.

Failure is about doubt and worry and stress.

Success is about letting go, going with the flow, feeling vibrant, excited, and full of energy.

When you expect success, you can begin to focus on the actions you must take rather than wallowing in self-doubt over the actions you have already taken.

Just keep taking action.

5. Avoid Living, Thinking, and Working in a Panic Mode.

This is when negative statements creep into your head and your language that do not serve you or others well.

6. Don't Compare Yourself with Others.

You are unique.

It might take you 10 years to accomplish something someone else did in 2 years, but so what?

Maybe you will learn so much more along the way than that other person did.

7. Realize that GOD, the Universe (whatever it is that controls the world) Wants Each of Us to Succeed Because When We Succeed We Serve the World in Greater and Deeper Ways.

Faith is not so much about faith in God as it is faith in the divinity within you.

Trust yourself to be able to handle anything you need to handle, to be able to do anything you need to do when, and if, you need to do it.

But don't spend time worrying or even thinking about this ahead of time.

8. Fake it Till You Make It.

Act confident even if you don't really feel that way at first.

Make it a game.

But haven't you ever noticed that the people who are truly the MOST confident are not arrogant?

In fact, some of the most confident people are the most gentle people you will ever meet.

9. Don't Be Ruled by Your Ego.

If someone does something you don't like, or says something to you that you find insulting, practice relaxing and let it flow right through you.

10. At the End of each Day, Make a List of the Things You Did That Day That You are proud of.

This could be simple things like folding the laundry, making dinner, or writing one scene of your novel.

11. Every Morning, be Grateful for Another Exciting Day Full of Pleasant Possibilities.

12. Be Sure You Hang Around Successful, Positive People.

Use this list today to start building your confidence as a writer.

You can do it.

Try it!

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

Visit her blog at

Register for her free newsletter for writers - The Morning Nudge - at