Is Your Website Really Yours?

I've written about the importance of having a paid website. 

What this means is you buy the website for so much per month or year. It's like buying a condominium. You own the house or apartment, but the grounds and outer structure is maintained by the condominium.

It's the perfect situation. And, there's great customer service. And, you can make the site as unique as you like.

Some of the benefits.

You can do whatever you like to your website. You can:

- Use whatever content management system you want.
- Sell whatever you like.
- Talk about whatever you like.
- Take advantage of lots of pages.
- Take advantage of lots of themes.
- Take advantage of great SEO plugins
- Have a media file with optimization options.
- And, lots, lots more.

So, it's easy to see why you do need to buy website hosting.

Okay, it's June 1st and the Memorial Day Weekend special is over. But, you can still get great hosting for only $3.95 per month. Still a great deal!

And, using a service like Bluehost, you can have multiple websites under ONE account. I have about 8 sites up and will be creating two more very soon - one for my son-in-law and one for my husband. At NO extra cost, aside from the domain name.

I have Bluehost for all my WordPress sites and I love it, so much so I'm an affiliate.

I don't promote stuff like this often, but the Memorial Day sale was just too good to keep it a secret.

If you're in the market for a website or want to upgrade from a free one, check it out today.



ADDED BONUS:

If you use my link above, if you like, I’ll send you a video on getting your site up and running. It’s part of my Get Your Website Created Today e-class and it’s yours free. Once you sign up through my link, send me an email (kcioffiventrice ---at ---gmail) and I’ll get that video off to you.

Get Started Today: CLICK HERE!






Tips on Polishing your Novel


Reach for the moon and you might catch a star
 
You've finished your book. All the major edits and rewrites are done. Now it's time to polish. Polishing includes the obvious edits, including making sure the story elements are present, verbs are active, every chapter moves the story forward, etc., as in the Fiction Short List put together from the collection I've made over time for self-editing, which appeared in my December 28, 2015 WOTM post. 

Fiction Short List:
Does the beginning draw you in? Or could the story be started at a different point?
Does the main character appear soon enough? Is there enough dialogue in the beginning?
Does the story show and not tell?
Is there a beginning, middle and end? Can you form a circle from beginning to end?
Do the scenes flow and advance the plot?
Does each character have an arc?
Does your main character have a goal?
Does your story have conflict?
Is your story predictable?
Did you explain everything well?
Does the main character grow and change by the end?
Would a different point of view, such as first person as opposed to third person, make the story more interesting?
Are there any shifts in point of view?
Does the dialogue sound natural?
Are there any description "dumps" where pieces of the information could be spread out, ever so briefly? Does the story come to a satisfying conclusion?
Are you finished? Not quite. Now it's time to polish. Check to see if you've covered these technicalities, which I've collected since recently finishing my mystery novel for 8-12 year olds.
Edit each Item One at a Time
1. Each chapter beginning establishes "place" and each chapter ending entices your reader to find out what happens next.
2. Check past drafts to add any spicy details that were inadvertently edited out, such as brief descriptive phrases and personal thoughts of your main character.
3. Make sure you've covered the story elements, such as: Concept, Plot, Characterization, Voice, and Structure; beginning, middle and end, in a nutshell, the basics.
4. Are there are any "dead spots" where the story doesn't move forward? Delete them.
5. Change any "telling" sentences to "show" what your character is doing and thinking.

6. Be specific. Check for anything vague or general and change to specific.

7. Do a drama check. Heighten the drama wherever you can.
Try this simple outline for each scene from Elaine Marie Alphin's book, Creating Characters Kids will Love:
  • Situation
  • Dialogue
  • Main character's thoughts and feelings
  • Action
  • Show moves or gestures and facial expressions to show feelings
I prop Alphin's book in front of me when I'm creating a scene. Her example on page nine is especially helpful, as this excerpt shows:

His sneakers were braced against the roof's shingles. Slowly, Benjy took one hand off the sill and gripped a lower shingle instead. Then he took a deep breath, told himself very firmly not to be afraid, and let go of the sill with his other hand . . . Why couldn't he have been a few inches taller? Benjy cursed his height silently. Even just a couple of inches would have meant his toes might have been able to feel the bench beneath him. But wishing wouldn't make him grow.
6. Scrutinize every word. For example: Make sure you've cut out unnecessary prepositional phrases, haven't overused adjectives as too many adjectives weaken nouns, haven't relied on unnecessary words such as these words listed by author Margot Finke on her website: seemed; thought; started; might; she said; he saw; got and get. Use fresh figurative language; no clichés. Use clear, concise language that paints a picture. One editor described this in a way that you won't easily forget: "Write it plain then make it fancy."
7. Make sure every scene builds toward an explosive climax and satisfying ending.
8. Collect important information in one place to help write your letter to the publisher and market your book:
  • The story problem 
  •  The main character's special need or flaw
  • The theme: Does your theme clearly stand out (without stating it)? My favorite example is Bruce Coville's, The Skull of Truth. Charlie Eggleston has a not-so-slight problem telling the truth. On page three "a familiar voice sneered, 'Well, look here--it's Charlie Eggleston, king of the liars.'" Telling the truth carries throughout the book; the last line finishes the theme off with, "And that was the absolute truth." Even though 'truth' is brought out in many not-so subtle ways--it appears even in the title--the book is such fun to read, the message of 'telling the truth' is integral to the story and never stated.
  • The encapsulation of your story in as few words as possible.
  • The synopsis: Tell someone or say out loud what your book is about--not always easy for someone who expresses herself/himself on the page.
  • The book jacket blurb.
  • The list of characters, brief descriptions, their goals and their own character arc.
  • The list of chapter titles and page numbers.
9. Tie up loose ends: Jot down each part of the action and goal of each character and make sure you've followed through.
10. Last but Most Important: Your first sentence and first chapter are the most important part of your book. Make sure they contain what is necessary to interest an editor and your reader. Somewhere in my research I read that Stephen King has been known to spend a year on the first chapter. That's how important it is to get it right. There are very specific points editors look for that must be covered.
Here are samples from two books I use to help me get the correct information in the first sentence, first paragraph and first chapter. In the opening, a few sparse words establish "place," establish a bond with the main character and tell you what the entire book is about.
The Green Ghost by Marion Dane Bauer.
1938
"Papa! Look! isn't it beautiful?" Lillian breathed the words, long and slow. In the cold air, her breath clouded the store window. She wiped it clear again with a corner of her scarf.
The cloak was beautiful. It was dark green wool . . . All that green made Lillian think of a Christmas tree.

We don't know it yet, but we've met our ghost--she is the main character who came from an earlier time, 1938. In Chapter two we meet Kaye who is riding with her parents to her grandmother's house for Christmas in a snow storm. While reading the book I thought Kaye was the main character. Later when I analyzed the story I realized that though most of the book was about Kaye, Lillian was the main character. She became the green ghost wearing the green cloak, which was made clear in the above first two paragraphs but was so subtle I didn't catch it until I thought about it.
When My Name was Keoko by Linda Sue Park
1. Sun-hee (1940)
"It's only a rumor," Abuji said as I cleared the table. "They'll never carry it out."
In one amazing first sentence we learn what the book is about. The chapter goes on to explain the details about the rumor and how it is planned to be carried out. The theme is established on page two:
"Nobody ever told me anything. I always had to findout for myself. But at least I was good at it. You had to do two opposite things: be quiet and ask questions. And you had to know when to be quiet and who to ask."
The next paragraph explains the details, and so on.
A valuable resource for editing and polishing your ms is The Frugal Editor by Carolyn Howard-Johnson and then when you're ready to promote your book, be sure and follow-up with Howard-Johnson's, The Frugal Book Promotor.

Your comments about this post will be appreciated: Please let me know what I've left out. As you might guess, I'm in the process of polishing my mystery story for 8-12 year olds. If you're like me, you want to make sure your masterpiece is the best it can be. The only way to do that is to check and re-check your draft and know that your editing is probably not done when it gets in the hands of an editor. But never fear, your hard work will be worth it. Your editor and publisher will help you spin your magic and place your book into the waiting hands of your readers.

Photo courtesy of: http://absfreepic.com/free-photos/sky.html/

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 completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction courses, picture book course and mystery and suspense course. She is currently working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

 

Writing - Ways to Cultivate Solitude

Contributed by Irene S. Roth

Silence and solitude are the two spiritual disciplines that seem to be most lacking in our digital world. It is ironic that what our soul longs for is silence and solitude, but instead we fill our lives with noise and activity to pack the void.

And writers especially need some quiet time to regroup and to rest. It can be hard to rest when we are always plugged in. So, we need to cultivate times when we are resting and alone doing something that we truly enjoy that we know will renew us.

The silence that is required for solitude has gotten a bad rap. Most of us hate silence. But it is in the silence that we can find renewal and fulfillment, and we could be ready to face whatever else we have to face every day.

Silence is about letting go of our inner distractions and is probably the most challenging and least experienced spiritual discipline among most of us today. Studies show the average person today can only bear about fifteen seconds of silence. Each of us needs to make the opportunity to be alone and silent to find some space in the day to reflect, and to listen to our inner voice within us.

Solitude is about letting go of your outer distractions. It is in solitude that we nourish our relationship with ourselves.

Here’s some practical ways to start cultivating these disciplines in your life:

•    Turn off the radio when you are driving.
•    Keep the television off when you’re not watching it.
•    Practice listening more to others and speaking less yourself.
•    Resist the urge to text and post every experience. Hold the experience to yourself for a while.
•    Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock – make a “no phones go to bed with me” rule.
•    Listen for the sounds of nature whenever you can.
•    Try to keep one ear tuned to your inner voice throughout your noisy day.

So, go ahead and take time to find space to be alone and silent each day. Don’t let the digital world drown out the sound of your voice speaking to you. To really live life to the fullest we must not let the digital world distract us from being who we truly are.

We need to take control of our lives by setting clear boundaries. Embrace this one life that we were given by learning to say “no” more to your digital world and say “yes” to the importance of soul care for yourself and your family. And tomorrow, you will probably do your best writing too. It is a win-win for everyone.

To learn more about cultivating solitude, double click on this link: Healthy Writer

Irene S. Roth, MA writes for teens, tweens, and kids about self-empowerment. She is the author of over thirty-five books and over five hundred online articles. She also writes articles for kids, tweens and teens and her articles have appeared in Encounter, Pockets, Guardian Angel Kids Ezine, and Stories for Children Magazine and Online. She also has four hundred and sixty published book reviews both online and in print.



More ABCs for New Writers; P - T

P is for polishing.

Proofreading would work here, but that goes without saying. Polishing is just what it implies - you are making your piece shine.

Take a step away from your writing for a couple of hours or more. When you go back to it you will see it from a different angle and polish the smudges. You will rearrange a sentence that didn't feel right. A fresh ending will pop into your head. Do this a few times before submitting your article or manuscript. 

Q is for query letter.

New writers will learn new words in the writing business. Query letter is one of them.

A query letter is written to an editor or agent to consider your idea for a book or magazine article you have written (or are writing). It is a sales pitch and should be written well. 

First and foremost, personalizing your query letter goes a long way. It's not about you. It's about them. Show you care by serving the needs of who you are writing for.  

Your query letter will provide a short summary of what your book or article is about. It should hook the editor or agent so they will want more. The summary of your book will ultimately make or break your chances of landing the agent.

R is for rejection.

It is discouraging to get a rejection letter when you have invested so much time on a piece.

Rejection is common to all writers.

I get discouraged easily but I have grown through handling the defeat from rejection letters. You either work through it or you give up.

Never give up!

Do you know the number of famous authors who were rejected? When I learned the author of The Help was rejected 60 times over the course of 3 1/2 years before her book became a best seller, I realized maybe it will be the next time for me.

S is for success.

You will be successful if you don't give up and commit to follow through with your writing goals. If you get off track (and we all do), just get back on.

It is so rewarding to receive a phone call or acceptance letter for your submission. The paycheck that follows is even more rewarding.

Keep going at whatever you love to write. Learn all you can. You will be successful but it will take time.

T is for target audience.

Once you have narrowed down what you like to write and what you are good at writing, it is time to figure out target audience is.

I really like this simple description of what a target audience is:
"One of the biggest mistakes ... is trying to appeal to everyone. Think about the game of darts: You have to aim in order to hit the board. (If you let your darts go without aiming them, you probably won’t be very popular.) If you hit the board, you score. And if your aim is very good and you hit the bull’s eye, even better!"
Some questions to ask yourself: 
  • Who will be interested in what you write?
  • Who will benefit?
  • What age group will be reading your writing?
  • What problem do you have the solution for?
There is plenty of online resources to help you further research and identify your target audience. 

Next month More ABCs for New Writers U - Z.


Image courtesy of Vlado at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

~~~


After raising and homeschooling her 8 children and teaching art classes for 10 years, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. She enjoys writing magazine articles and more recently had her story, "One of a Kind", published in The Kids' ArkYou can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts http://kathleenmoulton.com








How To Catch An Editor's Attention

By W. Terry Whalin

Do you feel like you are pitching your book projects into a black hole with little or no response? As a writer and now an editor in the publishing business, I'm aware of my own responsibility to be communicating with others via email or phone. As an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing, we acknowledge every submission with a letter in the mail. This simple act distinguishes us from others which never respond. Then I follow-up with a detailed conversation on the phone to see if their book idea is a good fit for our publishing program. Sometimes the concept is a fit and other times it does not and I wish the author well—but at least they caught my attention and were heard.

Being an acquisitions editor or a literary agent is like trying to drink water from a fire hose. A lot of information is coming my direction. My task is to sort through it and find the best authors and best submissions for our publisher. Some publishing insiders have estimated that at any given time there are over a million ideas in circulation. Each of us have a limited amount of time to read and respond to your pitch. 

Today I want to give you four ways to catch an editor's attention with your book.

1. Craft An Excellent Book Proposal. During the course of my years in publishing, I've written two book proposals which received a six-figure advance. As an editor, I was frustrated with the missing information inside the pitches and proposals I received. 


To help writers be more successful at their submissions and to help the industry receive better material, I wrote Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. The book has over 130 Five Star Amazon reviews and has helped writers find an agent, get a large advance and much more. Yet don't get it on Amazon. In recent months I purchased all the remaining copies, slashed the price from $15 to $8 and created a series of extra bonuses. Get the book directly from me (follow the link). No matter what type of book you are writing and even if you are going to self-publish, you need a business plan and a proposal.

2. Be An Expert in Your Target Market. Whatever you are writing, publishing professionals are looking for experts. Do you speak on your topic? Do you write for magazines on this topic? Do you blog or Tweet or have other connections to show that you are an expert. If not, begin today because it will make a difference.


3.  Be Building Your Platform. Editors and agents are looking for authors who can reach their readers. Inside publishing, this connection is called a platform. The truth is everyone begins with a small platform. Their email list is small and their number of Twitter followers is small—but with consistent work, you can build your presence.  Check out my free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas For Every Author, and then apply these ideas to your writing life.

4. Be Persistent. As a writer, keep growing and learning your craft but also continue knocking on doors and trying new venues and making new connections. As the author, you have the greatest passion for your book and your topic. You never know which door or opportunity will be the tipping point for your own success—especially if you aren't knocking.

From my experience, there are no overnight successes in publishing. There are talented writers who have been in the trenches writing to find the right opportunity. It's out there for you but only if you are continually looking for it. If I can help you in this journey, let me know.

Tweetable:

Four Keys for Every Author or Would-Be Author from An Editor (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin has written more than 60 books for traditional publishers including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success. A former magazine editor, Terry has written for more than 50 publications. His blog on The Writing Life has over 1300 entries. He lives in Colorado. You can follow Terry on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/terrywhalin.

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Scrivener - The Novelist's Friend

A few years ago I was introduced to a 'New' program. By then I had several novels under my belt, one had been written by hand, another in Word Perfect, a few in Word. When someone suggested Scrivener, I wasn't necessarily sure what I thought. 

For one thing, there is a learning curve. Did I really want to begin to learn a new program 'just' to write my next novel? Would the learning curve eventually pay off in rewards that I currently didn't understand? Well, the simple answer is, yes.

Reasons to consider Scrivener:

1. Plotting
    • Plotting with Scrivener is a dream! There is no other way to say it. Notecards can be written in the program and then that information is transferred to the area where text is written. This allows me to plot several chapters and then easily take the notes with me into the text writing area and write while viewing my notes.

2. Organizing
    • I tend to write from several character's perspectives. Scrivener helps me to color coordinate which character I'm writing from and allows me at a glance to see where I should go next, or if I'm spending too much time in one character's head.
    • I am also one who likes to research and gather information for my novels. This information I used to find and print and keep in folders - lots and lots of folders. Scrivener allows me to utilize a section of the program to keep all those files and all that information and then lets me write and view the research at the same time - meaning I'm not having to flip from screen to screen to get information and check to make sure I'm getting it right, and I don't have to be connected to the internet to access files, or drag them with me when traveling.

3. Goals
    • Perhaps one of my favorite things is setting up my goals. Why? I'm a goal oriented person and having a bell let me know that I've reached my goal of word count brings me great pleasure. It also keeps me focused on the end goal of total word count for my novels. 
4. Bonus Help
    • Name Generator: I always have difficulties with this and so having a name generator is a bit of fun
    • Word Use: Also an issue I have. I come up with a great word and then I use it and use it and use it. Scrivener will call me on it. The program lets me me know how often I use words, which is great for finding weak verbs, but also great for finding the unusual word used several times as well.
    • Multiple formats: Want to write a comic book, the format is there. How about a play? Yep, it's covered too. 
So, while I realize for you it might also mean a learning curve, I recommend giving it a try. 
________________________________________________

D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, Solem was released February 2016.


D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole, and Perception, and the co-author of The Exodus Series: The Water Planet: Book 1 and House of Glass: Book 2. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.                                                                                             

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at www.djeanquarles.com                                      

You can also follower her on Facebook.










3 Actionable Ways to Edit Text on a Budget

Guest Post by Andrew Howe

No matter how experienced you are, you might spend some time editing and proofreading your text before publishing it. And as a writer, you would agree that if the writing process takes time, the editing process needs even more efforts. To edit texts well, you need to be attentive and skilled which is not so easy, so some writers would rather turn to editors.

But:

Hiring professional editors is expensive, so if you're on a tight budget, you'd better learn how to edit texts without spending much money. And there are four actionable ways how to do it.



1. Use Free Tools

The most common way to check your article is to use online tools that can highlight stylistic and grammar mistakes so that you can correct them. As the technological progress is developing daily, the number of tools is growing, too.

No better feeling can be found than finding useful tools that are free of charge, especially if you don't have money to spend on online editors.

Here are some free tools to edit your chunks:

•    Hemingway
•    Grammarly
•    AdverbLess
•    ProWritingAid
•    AutoCrit 

Once you find tools that work for you, start using them, but never stop exploring the Internet in order to find new useful tools to edit your writing.

2. Collaborate with Other Writers

Even if you give your text time, double check it, and use all the editing techniques you know, making your text perfect is a hard thing to do as you perceive the information in a different way.

To have a fresh look at the text, you'd better share it with another writer. Once your colleague gives you feedback, you can analyze your piece from a different angle.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Although begging your colleagues isn't good, you can collaborate with them in order to take advantage of it for both of you: exchange articles to edit, give feedback, or highlight chunks that should be proofread.

3. Enhance Your Editing Skills

If you're good at editing, that's great. If you keep developing your editing skills, that's even better! It goes without saying that even a professional editor can make some mistakes or typos. But, the more you train, the better your results are. Thus, pay attention to ways how to enhance your editing skills right from your home (or wherever you have the Internet connection):

•    MOOCs. Enrolling in online courses from the world-best universities is a good way to improve skills. As the variety of MOOCs is big on the web, the number of courses for writers is growing rapidly, so you can sign up for courses to learn self-editing techniques.

•    Learning from gurus. Surfing the Internet, you come across different writers and bloggers who are successful. Most of them share their tricks and tips, so reading their articles can give you insights.

•    Practice. There is nothing better than practicing. Once you have some free time, dig into your drafts and try to edit them. Every time you come back to your article, you can find some things to work on: find a better word, change some sentences, or include a new example. Practice is the key to editing success!

While you're learning editing skills, write down new tips and techniques so to remember them. Once your skills are advanced, you can craft better text from scratch.

A well-written article will not only grab, but it will also hold your audience's attention, thus polishing your writing skills is a crucial task for writers who want to stand out in their niche.

The truth is, it's nearly impossible to write an outstanding piece without spending time on editing and proofreading it. So, to save time and money, use the above-mentioned strategies. They'll help you learn how to become a better editor.

Do you have editing tips you’d like to share?




Andrew Howe is a student who loves learning something new! Being fond of writing, he has crafted AdverbLess, a  tool to help people eradicate adverbs in their proses to make it stronger. Contact Andrew via mail: andrewhowe306@gmail.com





MORE ON WRITING AND BOOK MARKETING


3 Ways to Writing Builds Strength
Pros and Cons of Outlining Your Novel
A Critical Skill for Every Writer




Why Specialize as a Writer



Many people who start out offering writing services try to write anything and everything for anyone and everyone.

They figure they need to do this to get work.

But when I coach new writers, I usually advise them to specialize (right from the start) in at least a couple of areas.

Here’s why:

• You’ll get better and better at what you do.

When you do something over and over again you naturally get better at it.

Not only that – it gets easier to do it each time you do it because there isn't a constant learning curve as there is with something new each time.

This means it will eventually take you less time to do this type of writing, which means you will naturally make more money because you will be able to take on more work.

• You can charge more for your services.

If you’re really good at something, you can charge more for it, which is another great reason to specialize.

You will be able to work quickly AND charge premium rates for your services.

• Clients will come to you.

When you specialize, you become known as an expert in the areas you specialize in.

And when you're an expert people seek you out because, generally, people want to hire experts.

That means you won't need to spend as much time marketing yourself and your writing services since clients will often find you (provided you have a website or other listing for your business).

People will come to you for other things besides writing, too.

For example, you will have opportunities to speak about what you know or even to teach what you know to others.

These opportunities can provide additional streams of income, which is another nice perk to specializing.

• It’s easier to market and brand yourself.

When you specialize in just a few areas, people know what to expect from you.

And you know what to offer potential clients.

Again, you are the expert in those areas.

You can market these types of services and use them to brand yourself as a writer.

• You can focus on doing only the types of writing you really love to do.

Perhaps the best perk of specializing is that you can focus on doing only the types of writing you really love to do.

If you hate writing press releases, for example, don't specialize in that type of writing and don't even offer it as one of your writing services.

That way, people won't come to you when they need someone to write a press release.

They'll only come to you when they need the type of materials you love to write.

As you can see, there are all sorts of reasons to specialize as a writer.

If you haven't done this yet, start thinking about the types of writing you really love to do, then decide to specialize in this areas.

Try it!

For more tips about specializing, register for this online writers'workshop, presented by Nancy I. Sanders, called Specialize: The Time is Now.


Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, certified professional life coach and writing coach, speaker and workshop presenter. She has written over two dozen published books and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and other publications.

For more short writing tips, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge at www.morningnudge.com.



5 Pursuits to Inspire Creativity

When was the last time you stepped away from the computer and got creative? If you have to think about it, then it has been too long.

A regular dose of creativity will keep the inspiration flowing, when it's time to put pen to paper.

Here are 5 things you can (that aren't writing) to spark your creativity,

1. Make Art. Draw, sketch, doodle. Paint, papier-mâché, crochet. Design a tree-house. Or build one. Even if you don't consider yourself an artist, step out of your creative comfort zone and make something. As your hands are occupied, allow your mind to wander. You could solve a creative problem or imagine something new.

2. Get Outside. There are plenty of things outside that inspire creativity - you just need to open your eyes and look around. Go for a walk, a run, or a bike ride. Or plant and tend to a garden. Fresh air is invigorating, not to mention healthy. 

3. Go Dancing. There are social, physical, and mental benefits to going out dancing. And I certainly recommend it. However, you can get the latter two without leaving your home. Schedule a daily dance break. Set an alarm, and when it goes off, put on your favorite radio station or song, turn up the volume, and dance.

4. Cook or Bake. Cooking and baking are two of the most creative things you can do. And, as a bonus, you get eat the fruits of your labor. Whether you follow a recipe (which you have to do to some extent when you bake although decorations are up for grabs) or create as you go, remember to have fun.

5. Have an Adventure. Enjoy the creativity of others. Take a field trip to a museum or art gallery, go to a booksigning, or see a show. Support other artists. At least for me, nothing is more inspiring that seeing and appreciating the creative work of others. 

A few months ago, I shared some tips on how to get unstuck when writing. Well, you don't need to find yourself at a loss for words as an excuse to get creative. You can't avoid getting stuck all the time, but you can decrease the likelihood.


Schedule (yes, schedule) time to be creative to remain inspired as much as possible. 

What creative things do you pursue in addition to writing? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

* * *
Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of Guided Goals and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. 

She is the host of the Guided Goals Podcast and author of Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages. 

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


A Proofreading Tip--from Psychology

I ran across this interesting video from Bite Size Psych.  It's about a 3-question test given to college students--many of whom miss at least one of the questions.  The test reveals cognitive bias, that quick conclusion-making that can sometimes lead us astray.  And it's exactly the type of thing that makes it difficult to spot typos in our own work.


Studies seem to show that students do better on tests when...get this...the font is hard to read.  It slows down the brain's processing, giving you time to really think instead of simply jumping to the easiest conclusion.

So, the brilliant proofreading tip:  when you're ready to do that final proof, change the font on your document to something unusual and hard to read.  You'll find more errors.

Just don't forget to change it back.

Check out the full video here:  The Simple Riddle that More than 50% of Harvard Students Got Wrong




Melinda Brasher currently teaches English as a second language in the beautiful Czech Republic.  She loves the sound of glaciers calving and the smell of old books.  Her travel articles and short fiction appear in Go NomadInternational LivingElectric SpecIntergalactic Medicine Show, and others.  For an e-book collection of some of her favorite published pieces, check out Leaving Home.  For something a little more medieval, read her YA fantasy novel, Far-KnowingVisit her online at http://www.melindabrasher.com.

How to Create a Writing Sanctuary

Guest Post by Irene S. Roth

Writers spend a lot of time in the confines of their offices. Many of our home offices seem drab and uninviting. Most office spaces consist of a desk and computer along with drab colored walls. That is not a very motivating space in which to write is it? Unless we create a sanctuary for creativity, we may not be so inspired to get to our desks to write our best work.

It is, therefore, important for writers to take the time to personalize their writing space and making into a very inviting place where they could be inspired to think and do their best writing by adding colours, sounds and scents which will be inviting and calming. It is fairly easy to produce such a comfortable and productive workspace with just a few easy steps. 

1.    Place fun photos of your family and friends on your desk or computer screen. This will help to transport you to a positive and happy space while you write.

2.    Paint your office in one of your favorite colours. I love lavender. It is soothing and I feel productive when I enter my office. Experiment with different colours until you find one or two that really resonate with you.

3.    Put some wallpaper or borders on one or two walls of your office. This will make your office really pretty and inviting. Choose colours and patterns that really speak to you and inspire you.

4.    Add a touch of class to the windows by putting up colourful curtains and blinds. This way, you can control the amount of light and noise that comes into your office from the outside. You want to have the right amount so that you could write at your best and feel comfortable in your space.

5.    Position your desk so that it has a wonderful view. By doing this, you could take a refocus break once in a while by looking out your window.

6.    Choose some of your favorite CDs and have them available as background music.  Mozart is my favorite. Experiment a bit in order to find the music you feel most productive and inspired with.

7.    Choose some of your favorite scented candles and place them in your office. I use a lot of soothing lavender as it is my favorite scent. But if you don’t know what is soothing for you, just experiment a bit.

8.    Don’t allow yourself to have any toxic feelings or emotions when you come into your office. Simply think of pleasant and positive thoughts as you open door to your office. Remember this is a sanctuary for creativity.

9.    Don’t have a phone in your office if you can avoid it. Instead, use a cordless phone when you get out of your office.

10.    Keep your office at the just the right temperature. You want to avoid it being too hot or cold.  This is usually very uncomfortable.

11.    Avoid clutter in your office. There is nothing that takes energy away from your writing more than that. So, before you leave your office for the evening, declutter your office.

    By setting up your office as a place of refuge and a sanctuary, you will be very productive and happy when you enter your sacred space to do your daily writing. Your office is really that important to your success and happiness as a writer.  So take a few minutes to look around your office right now and take steps to make it as pleasant and productive as possible. Write down the changes that you should make. Then make the simplest and cheapest changes first. Then make other changes later. Take a few months to create a place that you will want to consider your very own den for creativity. 

About the Author

Irene S. Roth is a freelance writer and author. She writes for teens, tweens, and kids about self-empowerment. She is the author of over thirty books and over one thousand hundred online articles. She also writes articles for kids, tweens and teens and her articles have appeared in Encounter, Pockets, Guardian Angel Kids Ezine, and Stories for Children Magazine and Online. She also has over a thousand published book reviews both online and in print.

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Get Those Emails Opened – 4 Powerful Email Marketing Tips

By Karen Cioffi

Whether you’re an author, freelance writer, or other, email marketing should be an essential part of your marketing plan. Part of the elements of sending emails is to know your open and click rates.

In marketing research conducted by MailChimp, the average email opens were under 20 percent. Knowing this information is important, so you can determine whether you’re:

a. Below average
b. Average
c. above average
d. a super email marketer

Well, let me backtrack just a moment. After you have an email list going and you’re sending out regular emails to your subscribers, you need to keep tabs on the number of Opens and Clicks. You can find this information through your email service provider; the service should provide reports.

Why is keeping track of your Opens and Clicks so important?

The answer: Email marketing takes time and effort . . . you don’t want to waste either.

In the simplest terms, the Open and Click rates are the only way to know if your email marketing efforts are paying off. If you have 500, 1000, 10,000 or more subscribers and only 10 percent of your emails are being opened, you’re losing a lot of your mailing list’s potential. The same holds true of your click rate.

If your subscribers aren’t opening your emails and aren’t clicking on your links, you won’t be selling much.

So, it’s easy to see that tracking those numbers is important, but since the Open rate is more important than the Click rate (if they don’t open your emails, they certainly won’t be clicking on anything), let’s go over how you can improve your Open rates.

4 Must-use Tips to Get Higher Open Rates

1. The title.

This is probably the number one Open determinant. If the title (subject line) of your email is engaging, offers to provide something your list needs, or has some other motivating factor, your Open rate will increase.

Effective titles include:

•    Secrets to success (Secret Steps to Building a Successful Information Product Line)
•    Tips (5 Critical Tips to Building an Information Product Line)
•    How to (How to Build Your Own Information Product Line)
•    Questions (Do You Want to Build Your Own Information Product Line?)

Effective titles should also be keyword effective. Using Adwords.google.com, I found that the keyword “information product” has 165,000 global searches and 60,500 local searches. This is valuable information. I know this is a keyword people are searching for.

2. Avoid ‘spammy keywords in the title.
While you do want to use effective keywords in your title you don’t want to use:

•    ‘Spammy’ keywords (#1, Free, Amazing, Earn, Guaranteed, Congratulations)
•    All CAPS
•    Excessive punctuation.

Remember keep it honest, simple, and to the point.

3. Skip the uninformative titles.

It seems there are more of these types of email subject lines lately, but they’re really not effective. These are titles that might say:

•    You must open now
•    Important – Read this now
•    Do you think this works?
•    You won’t want to miss this

People are too busy and have too much in their inboxes to play a guessing game of what the actual content will be about.

I quickly delete these types of titles.

4. The content of your email (or the link) must be relevant to the title.

As with everything in marketing, you need to be focused. Your title must be a foreshadowing of what the content will provide - it must be relevant to the information in your email.

There you have it – four tips to increasing your email Open rate.

After you develop a relationship with your subscribers through regular and helpful emails that follow the four tips above, your subscribers will trust that you are offering helpful information and be more inclined to ‘Open’ the email.

Try these tips today.

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