Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Importance of Believing in Yourself as a Writer

Are you struggling with a writing project that seems overwhelming?

All writers go through this at one time or another.

Usually it means that YOU—the writer—are not quite convinced you can pull off this particular book, article, novel, or whatever the project may be.

In fact, you probably spend precious energy second-guessing yourself thinking, What in the world did I get myself into this time?

But here's the rub.

The project will only start to fall into place once YOU are convinced you can complete it.

So take a deep breath and relax.

Figure out why you're struggling with this project and write down the problem(s).

For example—Do you have a too-tight deadline?

Does the project require intensive research and you're overwhelmed with all the facts and figures you'll need?

Are you spinning your wheels just trying to figure out how to get started?

Once you've figured out the real problems behind your struggle, take some steps to solve them.

For example, if you're on a too-tight deadline, contact your editor right away and ask for more time.

Your editor wants quality work, and if you contact her now, rather than at the last minute, more than likely she won't be upset about giving you more time.

Editors usually allow a little wiggle room for all projects anyway.

If your project requires intensive research, make a list of the source materials and experts you wish to use for this project.

Then, BEFORE you contact the experts, do enough research about the topic to develop a structure for the book or article you are trying to write.

You'll have to do enough research to develop the topic headings, or chapter titles for your work.

But, once you've done that, THEN contact the experts with questions that relate to each of your topic or chapter titles.

That way, you'll get quotes that relate closely to the material you already have for the project instead of lots of other material and quotes that will be difficult to work into your chapters or subtopics.

If you're stuck at a point in your novel and you just can't get your characters to move the story along, you probably don't know the characters well enough and you're trying to get them to do something they don't want to do—or wouldn't do if they were actual people.

Take one or two of the main characters and ask them some questions (yeah, this sounds crazy to people who aren't writers, but I know YOU know what I mean).

Find out more about their backgrounds and you'll learn more about their passions, desires, and fears, which will translate into motives and actions that will come naturally for these characters—and will be easier for you to write.

You really CAN complete that writing project that seems overwhelming.

YOU just have to believe it first.

Try it!

For more tips, resources, and other helpful information about writing and the business of writing, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge at

Suzanne Lieurance is a fulltime freelance writer, writing coach, and the author of over 35 published books. She offers more tips and resources for writers at

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Challenge Yourself Year Round

There are no shortages during the month of November. In addition to National Novel Writing Month (aka #NaNoWriMo), there's National Podcast Post Month (#NaPodPoMo challenges you to post 30 podcasts in 30 days) and #BlogLikeCrazy (a daily blogging challenge). 

These types of "events" are really helpful for productivity. When you have a massive project to do in a short amount of time, you get it done ... and then you go back to perfect it.

Now, I "won" the first NaNoWriMo I tried around 10 years ago. Since then, and over the years I've used National Novel Writing Month for other purposes: non-fiction projects, blogging, and general writing productivity. 

Last year, I discovered National Podcast Post Month, which was created by Jennifer Navarrete and is now in its 12th year. "The goal of NaPodPoMo is to use the challenge of podcasting daily as a form of podcasting bootcamp," she says.

Well, this year, I was tempted by both. However, between client projects and a book launch in January, I didn't have time to do either. So I did the next best thing. I created my own.

I named my November challenge #DebMo. And the concept is simple. Post a different piece of content on my The D*E*B Method Facebook page every day during the month. It can be a video, graphic, link, or text post. In creating content every day, I am developing a pattern of posting, increasing the value of my page as a resource, and growing my community. And I am having fun! 

What to create a challenge of your own to help you progress in your career, business, or passion project?  Put some parameters in order to set yourself up for success.

1. Choose a Month. Look at your calendar and make sure you don't have other major obligations. 

2. Choose an Activity. What are you doing? Writing, editing, sending pitches? Cooking, reorganizing, working on a home project?

3. Choose a Daily, Weekly, or Monthly Goal. What are you counting and how are you counting it?

4. Choose your purpose. How will this challenge benefit you personally or professionally? Even something for fun has personal benefits.

5. Invite Friends. Projects are much more fun when you have others along for the ride. You can hold each other accountable, too.

There are numerous specialty months throughout the year, including National Novel Editing Month and National Poetry Month ... both in April, so do a search to see what is out there. And if you can't find a challenge to fit your timing and needs, create your own. You'll be glad you did.

For more on the more traditional November challenges, read the #GoalChat Twitter moments recaps.

* * *

What sort of challenge will you take part in? What will you create for yourself? 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, November 8, 2019

8 Steps to Take Before Submitting Your Manuscript

Writing is a personal experience. Each writer faces his or her own obstacles and processes. But, one common aspect of writing is it always starts with an idea.

You may take that idea and turn it into an outline. You then take your outline and sprinkle it with letters and words and watch it grow. Words turn into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into chapters.

The journey can take months and even years.

It's the love of writing, the love of your story, and the hope of publication keep you dedicated.

Then the day finally arrives. Your manuscript is complete. The query letter is ready. All you have to do is submit, submit, and submit again.

But, hold on a minute.

Have you gone over all the necessary steps to ensure your manuscript is actually ready to be submitted to a publisher or agent?

There are eight steps that every writer, especially those new to the business of writing, should follow before submitting a manuscript:

1.    Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Then self-edit your story until it’s the best it can be.

2.    Make sure you belong to a critique group in your genre and submit your manuscript to them. 

3.    Revise your story again taking into account the critiques you received.

Here you want to use common sense in regard to which critiques you listen to. If all your critique group members tell you a particular section of your children’s story isn't age appropriate, listen.

If one member tells you he/she doesn’t like the protagonist’s name, use your own discretion.

4.    Resubmit the manuscript to the critique group again. See if you’ve revised or removed all the problem areas.

5.    Proofread and self-edit the manuscript until you think it’s perfect.

6.    Print the manuscript and check it again. You’ll be surprised at the different types of errors that will be found in this format. You should use a colored pen or pencil for these corrections so they’ll be easy to spot later on.

7.    Now, it’s time for the final corrections. Give it another go over.

8.    Have your manuscript professionally edited.

If you’re questioning why you need to have your manuscript professionally edited after going to the trouble of having it critiqued and worked on it meticulously and endlessly, the answer is simple: An author and a critique group are not a match for the expert eyes of a professional editor.

- Did you and your critique group catch all the punctuation errors?
- How about knowing when or if it is permissible to use quotation marks outside of dialogue?
- Do you know about the Find function on your word program to check for over used words, such as 'was' and 'very.'
- What about ellipsis dots, or the over use of adjectives and adverbs?

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Isn’t it understandable why it’s important to take that extra step, and yes, expense, to have your manuscript edited?

If you’re undecided, ask the professional writers you know if they recommend it. You can also ask if they could recommend a qualified and affordable editor.

The powers that be, editors, agents, reviewers, and publishers, all know the difference between a professionally edited manuscript and one that is not.

Every house needs a solid foundation, right? Getting your manuscript professional edited is the same thing - it will provide a solid foundation.

The number of authors seeking publishers and/or agents is staggering. Yet, the number of publishers and agents is limited. Give your manuscript every advantage possible. One of those advantages is having it professionally edited. It can be the deciding factor in whether your manuscript makes it to the editor’s ‘to read’ pile or the trash pile.


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children.

And, get your copy of Walking Through Walls (a middle-grade fantasy adventure set in 16th century China. Honored with the Children’s Literary Classics Silver Award.


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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Making Your Book Reviews Into Workhorses

 A Peek at Great Book Review Idea from New Release 

Off-The-Wall -Alternatives

Making Your Reviews Into Workhorses

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson


Excerpted (and adapted) from Carolyn’s new How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career to be released this fall.

Authors rarely get the most of their reviews. Surprised? I think it’s either that they are so excited about the review or that the idea of extending a review’s value doesn’t occur to them. Or it’s because so many reviews these days come from readers. They aren’t professionals, so they have no idea how to distribute content beyond posting their review on Amazon.

One of the ways they can get more mileage from their reviews is to get them reprinted in more venues than the reviewer ever planned. Or you do it for them. And, no, it isn’t stealing or plagiarism if you get permission from the reviewer first. In fact, it can benefit the reviewer.
When you get further distribute reviews you already have, it’s like getting a little marketing bonus. Here’s how to do that:

If your reviewer doesn’t normally write reviews (these reviewers are often called reader reviewers), suggest she send her review or the link to her review to her friends as a recommendation.

If your reviewer lives in a town with a small daily or weekly newspaper, she could send her review to them. She may realize the thrill of being published the first time.

Ask your reviewer—even one who writes for a review journal—to post her review on,, and other online booksellers that have reader-review features. I have never had a reviewer decline my suggestion. It is ethical for a reviewer to do it or give you permission to reuse the review as long as she holds the copyright for the review. (Most reviewers do not sign copyright-limiting agreements with the medium who hires them.) Get more information on Amazon’s often misrepresented review policies in Chapter Eleven, “Managing Your Amazon Reviews.”
After you have permission from the reviewer to reprint the review, post it on your blog, on your Web site, and in your newsletter. Use quotations from the reviews to give credibility to selected media releases and queries.
Once you have permission to use reviews, send copies of good ones to bookstore buyers and event directors as part of your campaign to do book signings, to speak, or do workshops in their stores. Go to for a starter list of bookstores.
Send quotations (blurbs) from the reviews you get to librarians, especially the ones in your home town or cities you plan to visit during book tours. Include order information. Try Midwest for a list of libraries.
Use snippets from positive reviews as blurbs in everything from your stationery to your blog. (Use your e-reader’s find function to search for other ideas for using your blurbs in this book.)
If your reviewer doesn’t respond to your request to post the review on Amazon, excerpt blurbs from them and post them on your Amazon buy page using Amazon’s Author Connect or Author Central features. They will appear on your Amazon sales page.
Include the crème de la crème of your reviews on the Praise Page of your media kit and inside the front cover of the next edition (perhaps a mass market edition like the pocket paperbacks sold in grocery stores?). See my multi award-winning The Frugal Book Promoter for the complete—and I do mean complete—lowdown on media kits.

Hint: Occasionally authors get reviews on Amazon that, shall we say…don’t thrill them. Reviews like that can be minimized by asking others for reviews. As new reviews are added, the old ones tend to get buried in the lineup of reviews. We can also (pleasantly!) refute a position a reviewer takes using the comment feature—or thank them for bringing something to our attention. We can also dispute their validity with Amazon, though that rarely works.
You can use some of these suggestions as part of your keeping-in-communication-with-reviewers effort after her review has been published.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is an award-winning novelist, poet, and author of the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers. She taught editing and marketing classes at UCLA Extension’s world-renowned Writers’ Program for nearly a decade and carefully chooses one novel she believes in a year to edit. The Frugal Editor ( award-winner as well as the winner of Reader View's Literary Award in the publishing category. She is the recipient of both the California Legislature's Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award and the coveted Irwin award. She appears in commercials for the likes of Blue Shield, Disney Cruises (Japan), and Time-Life CDs and is a popular speaker at writers’ conferences.
Her website is

Be sure to check out: How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically

Sunday, October 27, 2019

An Evening with Author/Illustrator Pat Cummings

2019 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
It is the first week in October. In Albuquerque, New Mexico that means Balloon Fiesta time. Magical airships fill the skies—600 or so each year—and for almost two weeks the entire city has its head in the clouds. This year during this time, the New Mexico chapter of Society of the Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI, enjoyed magical moments of its own with a visit from the incomparable author/illustrator and educator Pat Cummings. Pat is the creator of over thirty books for children, and among other awards, is the recipient of the Horn Book-Boston Globe Award, the Orbis Pictus Award for nonfiction, and the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustrators, in 1983 for the illustrations in My Mama Needs Me.

Google Pat’s name and feast your eyes on books that she has illustrated, among them, Angel Baby, Harvey Moon books, Ananse and the Lizard; and her latest, which she wrote and is available now in hardcover and on Kindle, paperback coming out in April, Trace, a story about “a strange apparition of a little, ragged boy[who] leads [the main character, Trace] on a search into the history of the Colored Orphan Asylum fire that took place on the [New York Public Library's] original site, during the Civil War–era draft riots.”

The More You Write, the More You Love It
The above quote is one of the first things Pat told us. Perhaps due to one of the biggest points she made that evening: FEAR STOPS WRITERS. She said, everywhere you go you will hear negative comments about the arts. I took this to mean that these comments go like this: You’ll never make money in the publishing industry. Better find a more substantial career. Are you good enough? It’s too hard to find an agent. Too hard to interest an editor. And so on, and so on.

Pat urged, “Listen to what you’re telling yourself. Your brain is a muscle. Flip the negative.” Here are some of her suggestions to combat these negative forces:
  • Editors have to be in love with your book. Identify those people. How? Keep a list of agents, editors and publishers you have come in contact with at workshops, conferences, retreats; study what they look for, and query them. Remind them where you’d seen or met them and that they said they’d read the work of attendees. Of course, you have to have the goods. Be ready. She stressed that doing this makes a difference.
  • Judgement is important: Illustrators--weed out any illustrations in your portfolio but the best ones. You could be passed over.
  • For all the shy, reserved writers out there, change yourself. Chat someone up. Make yourself into an outgoing person. If you’re having a good time, it will shine through in your work. Also, you need to work on something you’re in love with.
  • Get cards, give cards.
  • Each editor has different tastes. Find one who “gets” you.
  • If you love something, put it in a book. Do your book your own way.
  • Be flexible.
  • Be sure to be in a critique group.
  • When a germ of an idea comes to you, you will get the work done if you simply sit down and work on it. (My two cents: This sounds easy, but it’s amazing what a novel—no pun intended—idea this is!)
  • Get an agent: Pat didn’t have an agent for forty years. Until . . . all five editors turned down one of her books. An agent had been invited to be on a panel at a Highlights Foundation workshop, during one of Pat’s Boot Camp sessions there. Pat asked her to look at her project. She took it and sold it to one of the editors who had rejected her book. Pat says, “It behooves you to shop for an agent.”
  • Above all, remember to stay positive. Your draft isn’t horrible at all if you take it page-by-page.
Apart from being one of the funniest authors I’ve ever heard—Pat's stories never stopped coming and were hilarious—she brought excellent handouts for everyone and gave us a PowerPoint presentation on illustrating and writing gleaned from her experience in publishing. Pat’s wisdom extends far beyond the scope of this article. According to her website, she travels extensively. If she comes to your neighborhood, be sure to go. You will come away smiling, inspired, and ready to give your work your all.
Additional Sources:
Photo courtesy of: Ben Curry @benxcurry

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.

Friday, October 25, 2019

What’s Different About an Author’s Website?

As authorprenuers, we must market our products 

i.e., books, articles, and niche. 

Platform, Brand, and Website form the vehicle to make that happen.

Today let’s talk about websites. What does a writer need to set-up a dynamic website, or to update up an existing one?

  • Create a Clear Identity
  • Create a vibrant headline with an image that is topic or niche focused and describes what you write and might include an image of your latest book cover, or another highlight of your work
  • SEO Optimization is critical! Search Engines must find your site and the more often the better
  • Create Quality Content, focused and quickly visible
  • Use titles that grab readers’ attention
  • Titles & Subtitles Keyword effective
  • Consistently use Keywords and categories with each post and page
  • Include Social Media button links to your pages—ask readers to like and follow you
  • Create a navigation bar—a menu bar—that is easy to follow
  • What Pages should you include?
    • The Landing page, aka the Home Page
    • An About page, to introduce yourself, what you are about and your professional bio
    • A Contact page
    • A Page for testimonials and/or reviews
    • A Page to describe your product or services
    • A Sales page
    • A Blog page

What to avoid:
  • Clutter
  • Use only one sidebar if at all
  • No pop-ups

Remember to update your website periodically. A website is never finished; it is ever a work in progress. Make improvements as you go, as your work transitions, changes and grows.

  • WordPress: offers free themes for the basic structure of your website, it’s the most versatile; it will grow with you to promote and offer value to your readership, as well as handle sales transactions. WordPress uses Plugins to enhance the functionality of each site.
  • “All in One SEO” is a plugin for optimizing your site with search engines that I have found to be the most friendly to use and the most thorough.

As you consider the design of your website, visit other author websites to check out the ease of using the layout and access to information. The following WordPress Themes for Authors are worth considering: 
  • Astra
  • Ocean WP
  • Author Landing Page
  • Ultra
  • Writee

YouTube instructional guides for the theme you choose work quite well to speed up the process.

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 writer’s website at:   
And her caregiver’s website at: 
Facebook: Deborah Lyn Stanley, Writer


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Snatch Writing Time

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

“What are you writing these days?,” one of my friends asked. I had to do some personal accounting for a second. I’m not currently facing a book deadline and I’m not cranking out a certain amount of words each day.

Most of my personal writing is emails to authors and my colleagues at Morgan James. This type of communication does not show up in print.

If you aren’t writing much but would like to do so, are you committing time to regular writing? If not, then I suggest you take a step back and see how you are spending your time.

Maybe you are doing more reading or maybe you are spending more time playing games or watching television or spending time on social media such as twitter or facebook.  Each of these ways of spending time are OK but none of them include regular writing and do not move ahead your dreams and desires as a writer.

I’m writing these words on a two hour flight. As I look around at others. Some people are asleep. Others are making small talk with each other. Still other people are reading while some are playing games on their computer like solitaire.

As writers we can choose a different path and way to use our time. Instead of those other activities, I’m using my AlphaSmart and pounding out a few more words. I’m writing.

Prolific novelist James Scott Bell teaches writers to snatch time. Check out this video where he talks about it:

If you aren’t accomplishing your novel or your magazine writing or your blog, then I encourage you to take an accounting of how you are spending your time. If your writing is a priority, it will get done.

I’m choosing to write some words and get them out to you. What about you? Let me know in the comments below.


How can you snatch writing time?  This article has insights and encouragement. (ClickToTweet)


W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  One of his books for writers is Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success. One of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has over 205,000 twitter followers 


The Importance of Believing in Yourself as a Writer

Are you struggling with a writing project that seems overwhelming? All writers go through this at one time or another. Usually it means ...