Save Time: Try an Outline-Sketch

Beat the Clock with an Outline-Sketch

I wrote my next book, Book two in a mystery series for 8-12 year-olds, while making dinner last night. To be more precise, every time my hands were free I jotted down plans for the book in a sketchy outline. Don't let this boast fool you, though. The one-page outline-sketch came together after the idea for the book rolled around in my head for about a year and after I collected thoughts on note paper and even wrote a detailed, single-spaced typewritten outline, all neatly collected on paper in a file folder.
The problem? It's something I learned from the hours and hours I spent outlining my first book on gobs of notecards, post-its, bubbles on large sketch paper, and yes, a detailed, single-spaced typewritten outline and more. That story took so many unplanned twists and turns while writing it--ideas that were never written down-- that for this story I knew there had to be a better way.
Not Every Writer Would Agree
Before I started Book 1 I followed advice on writing a detailed outline from many different sources. The advice went something like this. An outline can:
  • Save you hours of time and effort and even reduce writer's block.
  • Help you work through problems of events and characterizations.
  • Give you a blueprint to follow, even give you the advantage of seeing the entire story at a glance.
  • And so on.
The wisdom of a well-developed outline didn't work for me, though. I spent much of my time making many different outlines. I started with, you guessed it, the detailed, single-spaced typewritten outline, painstakingly written over a sizable chunk of time. But while writing, I veered away from that outline. I tried to go back to the outline and rewrite it to keep the story intact to save time. I wound up spending so much time changing the outline that when I got back to the story there were still changes I wanted to make. It became a vicious cycle. At that juncture, I tried the different methods of getting the outline of the story out: notecards, sketches, etc. When that didn't work, I gave up on outlines and simply plotted as I went along. That was time-consuming as well. I ended up following a pattern of letting the draft "rest" for a few days, then finding inconsistencies and thinking of new ways to improve the story, some of which involved major rewrites. Much of the time I felt like I was operating in a fog of uncertainty.

Your Book in a Nutshell
Here is what magically appeared on my dinner-time planner:
  • The main characters were listed and their roles in the story.
  • A clear idea of who the mc is and what flaw or need must be worked out by the end.
  • An idea of what the theme will be. It is important to make the theme clear from the start because it needs to be addressed and solved by the end.
  • The setting as imagined.
  • Scenes which had already been envisioned were sketched out.
  • Thoughts on the climax and ending. For a mystery, this is essential. It is the puzzle that your mc must piece together throughout the book. Knowing the puzzle in the beginning should help make the rest of the book fall into place. Also for a mystery, it's good to have a general idea of how your character solves the mystery.
This is not an exhaustive list and I haven't figured it all out yet. But I plan on keeping my outline sketchy on purpose! I'd like to write this book in a matter of months rather than a matter of years (as in Book 1). We'll see if this goal can be accomplished.

Guideposts and Skeletons
If an outline-sketch touches on the main points to be covered and actual writing is the filling, then Story Structure is the skeleton that holds everything together. There are many ways Story Structure is described, from the Story Arc, in which the scenes build tension to the climax and the ending ties up the loose ends quickly in a neat bow; to the Hero's Journey, introduced by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), according to Wikipedia, and described as:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

I keep a copy of the Hero's Journey in a notebook which I copied and pasted from http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero's_journey.htm
In his book, Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing, Larry Brooks writes that the single most important word in storytelling is conflict. No conflict, no story. Partnering with conflict is Story Architecture/Structure. No structure, no story, either. Brooks' six Core Competencies are: Concept, Character, Story Structure, Scene Execution, Voice and the Development Process. Guess which chapter is the longest. That's right, Story Structure. I highly recommend checking out Brooks' book and his website at http://storyfix.com.
Please leave a comment about your experience with outlines. Do they work for you? Of course, this post addresses fiction. When I wrote nonfiction articles I followed an outline-sketch I learned from an editor: Answer the W's in the first and second paragraph and explain the how during the rest of the article; when writing for newspapers, begin with most important information as the ending can be cut off due to space limitations. Worked for me.
Clipart courtesy of: http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/17000/17041/clock_17041.htm.

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 has currently finished her first book, a mystery/ghost story for 8-12 year-olds, and is in the process of publishing it. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Save Time: Try an Outline-Sketch

Beat the Clock with an Outline-Sketch

I wrote my next book, Book two in a mystery series for 8-12 year-olds, while making dinner last night. To be more precise, every time my hands were free I jotted down plans for the book in a sketchy outline. Don't let this boast fool you, though. The one-page outline-sketch came together after the idea for the book rolled around in my head for about a year and after I collected thoughts on note paper and even wrote a detailed, single-spaced typewritten outline, all neatly collected on paper in a file folder.
The problem? It's something I learned from the hours and hours I spent outlining my first book on gobs of notecards, post-its, bubbles on large sketch paper, and yes, a detailed, single-spaced typewritten outline and more. That story took so many unplanned twists and turns while writing it--ideas that were never written down-- that for this story I knew there had to be a better way.
Not Every Writer Would Agree
Before I started Book 1 I followed advice on writing a detailed outline from many different sources. The advice went something like this. An outline can:
  • Save you hours of time and effort and even reduce writer's block.
  • Help you work through problems of events and characterizations.
  • Give you a blueprint to follow, even give you the advantage of seeing the entire story at a glance.
  • And so on.
The wisdom of a well-developed outline didn't work for me, though. I spent much of my time making many different outlines. I started with, you guessed it, the detailed, single-spaced typewritten outline, painstakingly written over a sizable chunk of time. But while writing, I veered away from that outline. I tried to go back to the outline and rewrite it to keep the story intact to save time. I wound up spending so much time changing the outline that when I got back to the story there were still changes I wanted to make. It became a vicious cycle. At that juncture, I tried the different methods of getting the outline of the story out: notecards, sketches, etc. When that didn't work, I gave up on outlines and simply plotted as I went along. That was time-consuming as well. I ended up following a pattern of letting the draft "rest" for a few days, then finding inconsistencies and thinking of new ways to improve the story, some of which involved major rewrites. Much of the time I felt like I was operating in a fog of uncertainty.

Your Book in a Nutshell
Here is what magically appeared on my dinner-time planner:
  • The main characters and their roles in the story.
  • A clear idea of who the mc is and what flaw or need must be worked out by the end.
  • An idea of what the theme will be. It is important to make the theme clear from the start because it needs to be addressed and solved by the end.
  • The setting needs to be decided.
  • Scenes which had already been envisioned need to be sketched out.
  • Thoughts on the climax and ending. For a mystery, this is essential. It is the puzzle that your mc must piece together throughout the book. Knowing the puzzle in the beginning should help make the rest of the book fall into place. Also for a mystery, it's good to have a general idea of how your character solves the mystery.
This is not an exhaustive list and I haven't figured it all out yet. But I plan on keeping my outline sketchy on purpose! I'd like to write this book in a matter of months rather than a matter of years (as in Book 1). We'll see if this goal can be accomplished.

Guideposts and Skeletons
If an outline-sketch touches on the main points to be covered and actual writing is the filling, then Story Structure is the skeleton that holds your story up. There are many ways Story Structure is described, from the Story Arc, in which the scenes build tension to the climax and the ending ties up the loose ends quickly in a neat bow; to the Hero's Journey, introduced by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), according to Wikipedia, and described as:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

I keep a copy of the Hero's Journey in a notebook which I copied and pasted from http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero's_journey.htm
In his book, Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing, Larry Brooks writes that the single most important word in storytelling is conflict. No conflict, no story. Partnering with conflict is Story Architecture/Structure. No structure, no story, either. Brooks' six Core Competencies are: Concept, Character, Story Structure, Scene Execution, Voice and the Development Process. Guess which chapter is the longest. That's right, Story Structure. I highly recommend checking out Brooks' book and his website at http://storyfix.com.
Please leave a comment about your experience with outlines. Do they work for you? Of course, this post grapples with fiction. When I wrote nonfiction articles I followed an outline-sketch I learned from an editor: Answer the W's in the first and second paragraph and explain the how during the rest of the article; begin with most important information in writing for newspapers as the ending can be willy-nilly cut off due to space limitations. Worked for me.
Clipart courtesy of: http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/17000/17041/clock_17041.htm.

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 has currently finished her first book, a mystery/ghost story for 8-12 year-olds, and is in the process of publishing it. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Summer Writing Activities

Here we are at the end of July and as usual, summer seems to be slipping by us.

I hope you found time to get away, even if it's a spot in your own backyard.

Maybe you've set your writing aside while vacationing or working on projects around the house.

Sometimes rest isn't just sitting around. It can be doing something different and changing up your schedule a bit.

Here are some summer writing ideas that may be fun, help break up your routine, and energize you to finish the year out with gusto.

1) Read, read, read.

I don't read as much as I should. I used to think it was a luxury for people who had the time. Then I realized I have to make the time. Not just for relaxation but to help make me a better writer.

If you haven't been much of a reader, now is the time to start. It's been said, good writers read. Some benefits include mental stimulation, increased vocabulary, inspiration, and improves memory.

So, while you are escaping with a great novel, you are getting added benefits along the way!



2) Enter a writing contest.

My very first success came when I won in the inspirational category of one contest and Honorable Mention in another one. Both boosted my confidence and started my list of credentials. It was also very exciting to see my name in print in an anthology!

There are many, many (did I mention many?) contests out there. Do a search and you will find them. Most offer cash prizes and/or a free trip to a conference.

3) Take an online course.

Last year I took a course, How Writers Write Fiction. I am a non-fiction writer and do not enjoy writing fiction, but by the time I completed this free course, I found I could write fiction and I actually enjoyed the assignments. 

Choosing a genre you aren't interested in will help you grow as a writer. The challenge is not only fun but taps into an ability you are unaware exists.


4) Write something new.

I don't like to read poetry.

But I can write it!

Go figure.

I didn't know this until I was assigned a poetry lesson at the end of my free writing course. 

Summer is a great time to get adventurous with a new writing experience. 

How about you? What are some ways you have enjoyed the summer? 

Have you taken a full break from writing? Or is summer a time to play catch up?

Please share your comments below.

Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

***

Kathy is a K - 12 subsitute teacher and enjoys writing for magazines. Recently, her story, "One of a Kind", was 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 Increase Your Reading of Books

By W. Terry Whalin

There is an old saying in the writing community: Writers are readers. As I child in the summers, I hung out in my local library and read stacks of biographies. That early experience shaped my continuing love of reading biographies. 

While I love to read, as an acquisitions editor, I have a lot of material coming my direction. I often say that being an acquisitions editor is like trying to drink water from a fire hose. The volume of information coming my direction is staggering.

As a part of being an editor, I'm always looking to see if the writer is reading the type of material that they are pitching to me. For example, if you are a novelist and writing romance (the largest genre), I'm probably going to ask if you read romances. And if you don't that tells me something about your knowledge (or lack of knowledge) about the genre that you want to publish.

In recent months, I've greatly increased the amount of books that I'm reading through audio books. In particular, I'm using Overdrive on my smartphone. Overdrive is a free app that I downloaded on my phone and it is tied to your local library. You can check out the audio book from your library for 21 days then download the entire book on your phone. Now that I have the complete book on my phone, I can use it anywhere. I listen to the book while I walk on the treadmill. Because of Bluetooth, I listen to the same book in my car—even when I drive a short distance. Recently I've been traveling and I've listened to these audio books in the airport or on the airplane. Almost always I have my phone and have access to the audio book. 

You can have different library cards on Overdrive. Each library has purchased different books so you can access a different selection. Currently I have three library cards and recently drove into Denver to get a Denver Public Library Card because they have a larger selection of books on Overdrive. Like any library, Overdrive has a wide variety of books—fiction and nonfiction.

I listen to a great deal of nonfiction—business books, biography, memoir and how-to books. You can see many of these books just checking this location on Goodreads. After I listen to the audio book, I will write a short review and post it on Goodreads and Amazon. This regular practice doesn't take much time but increases the number of reviews I write because of the increased number of books I've been consuming. 


Are you using audio books to increase the number of books that you “read?” Tell me about your experiences in the comments below.

Tweetable:

Discover How to Increase Your Reading. Ideas at: (ClickToTweet)

________
W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 books for traditional publishers and his work has appeared in more than 50 print publications. As a frustrated acquisitions editor, Terry wrote Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success, which has over 130 Five Star Amazon reviews. Get the book exclusively at this link. He has over 180,000 twitter followers and blogs about The Writing Life.

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Writing the World Around You

Getting it Down Right

Recently I spoke to a friend about paying attention. We were talking about being observant in relationship to her home and neighborhood, but how much do we as writers also need to slow down to 'get it right'?

Here are some points to ponder:

  • Details: You've probably heard the adage, 'it's all in the details.' And I agree. When reading another's work, it's the details that suck me in and take me on the journey with the author. When we as writers slow down and pay attention, adding those small details makes our writing that much more impactful. 
  • Sensations: To get the details right, focus on smell, taste, and hearing as well as what you see. We have more than one sense, yet many times we forget that. Creating scenes where more than one sense is used gives a roundness to our writing that elicits connection.
  • Remember when: You were a child and the simplest things delighted you? The sound of crickets? The smell of wood smoke? The way the butterfly flits from one flower to the next? These simple things that once delighted you, can pull your reader back to a similar time and place and delight them. 
  • Dialog: How we talk to each other in real life is, many times, not at all how we think we talk to each other. Often in my conversations with family and friends we are finishing others thoughts, interrupting, getting it wrong, or getting it right, but still not necessarily listening well and responding appropriately. Dialog creates conflict, and also creates connections between your characters. Slow down and listen to conversations. Pay attention to how people really communicate with each other.
  • Find your metaphors: Metaphors add so much to your writing, but sitting in a room in front of the computer may not be the best place in which to develop them. Instead, pay attention to the detail you are trying to convey in a different way and use those same senses above to find a connection that fits. 
In this world that seems so much about hurry, hurry, hurry, it may not be easy to make the switch to slow down, listen, and feel, but your writing will be enhanced and your readers will appreciate the effort.

______________________________
D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, Solem, the story of three generations of women in a small town in Minnesota was released in 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.



PEACE

 While posting to Facebook, I found one of the most timely and moving videos ever. With all the unrest in our country and all over the world, I think everyone should watch and share this video.





Thank you Reba McIntyre for creating this!

This has nothing to do with writing or marketing. It has to do with living in what seems to be an unprecedented time of hatred and terror.

There is power in just one, but imagine the power of billions. God does hear prayers.

To our readers: Would love to know your thoughts.




Writing - How to Edit in a Rush

Guest Post by Ernest Mendozza

Every writer out there procrastinates. We're not proud of it, but we tend to find ourselves in situations where we start working on a project last minute. Sometimes literally. The result is usually disappointing to everyone involved, but, hey, at least you submitted it, right? Now it's the editor's problem.

Well, if you're that type of writer who unloads a raw draft on an editor, you can be sure you're not well regarded by them. This issue has an easy fix: editing. But how do you edit something in a rush? Those of you who do it often know how labor-intensive and time-consuming it is. And aren't you risking mucking up the piece beyond repair by not having enough time to do it at a leisurely pace? Not if you know what you're doing.

Don't Print it Out

Lots of stuff has been written about the benefits of editing the old-school analog way. There are probably still editors out there who print out the digital copy they get, write notes in the margins (with indecipherable handwriting, of course), then scan and send it out to the writer. And, yeah, this method is great if you can afford to sit down with an iced coffee to take your time and ponder whether this sentence can stand to lose this or that word.

But not in a time crunch.

When you're pressed for time, doing the editing on a computer is the only way to do it efficiently. Not to mention the fact that you're saving paper this way!

Make Peace With Your Mistakes

Since you don't have a ton of time, you'll have to deal with the fact that none of your efforts are going to cut too deep into the text. If what you wrote has some deep-level issues, there's nothing you can do about it now. Make peace with what you wrote and the fact that you can only pretty much correct surface-level stuff.

And this might go against everything you've ever learned, but don't work too hard. The way you're doing this is focused on speed, not making something perfect (which, as you might know, can never be done in the first place). Instead of beating yourself up over how the piece is never going to be as stellar as it deserves to be, focus on making it the best you can with the resources that are available. That's the best you can do in this situation.

Get it Done in Two Passes

I've learned from experience (can you tell that I write in a rush often?) that two is the perfect intersection between time-saving and editing effectiveness. Two passes, each focused on a specific aspect, with a short break in the middle, are the way to go:

First, get on the sentence level. Read your entire piece sentence by sentence, trying to get to the core of what it's supposed to be. If it has obviously superfluous parts, take them out. If what you're editing is your first completed draft, consider rewriting most of them. Remember to manage your time and keep in mind that it doesn't need to be perfect at this point. If you see one sentence that can be split into two, most of the time the text will benefit from it. If you notice language that's too flowery, change it. This is the pass where you correct your grammar, too.

Second, after taking a small break to clear your mind, go through the text paragraph by paragraph. Make sure that you're not repeating yourself. Make sure that your writing is structurally sound. Overall, make sure that what you're trying to convey is being conveyed. Lots of writing suffers from being too into itself to effectively communicate something. Make sure that's not happening.

That's it! Hit send. You've done the best you can with the limits that you're under, and you can rest easy because you've submitted before deadline (or at least not as late as you could have been). Proceed to reward yourself with an ice cream.

Sources:
wikihow.com/Copyedit-and-Proofread-Written-Work
wri.tt/blog/how-to-be-a-good-editor-for-your-own-writing

About the Author

Ernest Mendozza is a writer and blogger trying to find a balance between productiveness and binge-watching Netflix at 3 a.m. He writes about innovations in tech and social media. His best friend is his dog, Milo.

MORE ON WRITING AND MARKETING

A Writer’s Bucket and Mop List
Finding Names for Your Characters
What It Takes to Promote a Book



6 Tips to Increase Your Blog Traffic

1. Who is your audience? 
Why are you writing?  To give them the goods, to make it worth their while to come to your site and spend time there.  If they find value for their time spent, they will come again.


2. Be Consistent.  Get in front of your audience often and consistently.  Keep on getting out there!  As soon as you publish a post, publish a teaser to your social media pages: Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.  Each teaser draws traffic back to your blog so be sure to include your Web URL address. 
 
3. Stay focused on your post topic and keep it relative to the theme of your blog.  Write about inspiring, empowering topics.  Staying on point will make it more powerful.  We only have a few moments to grab and keep our reader’s attention.  Go for it and capture those moments! 

For longer posts use the ‘read more’ function when drafting your post.  Blogger calls this function a “Jump” break.  WordPress calls it "insert read more tag". Using this function will not change your post; rather it creates a link to a separate page for your complete post.

4. Write your best, in your voice, your way.  Write to personally connect with your reader.  Write as you speak and use personal language so that the reader senses you are having a conversation with them directly.
 
5. Ask for comments.  Leave a question applicable to your post or a “What do you think?”  “Anything to add?” question at the conclusion to your post.  Questions generate reader comments as many want to respond to the conversation you have started.

6. Always proof your post before publishing.  I often revise my posts to remove passive wording and to be more concise.

Do you have a tip or question?  Please share it in comments; we all want to hear.
Thank you for reading - see you next time.  Together with you in this writing endeavor and wishing you the best!  deborah  Deborah Lyn Stanley - Writers Blog 

Recognize and Weed Out Self Doubt to Reach Your Goals

Self doubt can creep into your psyche without you even suspecting it’s there until the first niggling thought makes itself clear.

This happens to writers all the time.

If you're a writer, you must constantly be aware of your thoughts and how you’re reacting to them, so you can weed out thoughts of self-doubt before they grow and take over your creativity and destroy your goals.

Doubts can run wild in your mind, making you question your abilities about anything new or different.

If you’re prepared, you can recognize the doubts for the untrue limiting beliefs they are and let your knowledge and common sense get you through.

When you check in to reality, you’ll realize that the negative thoughts are occurring for various reasons.

For example, you could be lost in comparing yourself with other writers.

This may make you feel inadequate and doubt your ability to succeed.

Make a firm decision and stick to it.

When self doubt about what you’re trying to accomplish creeps into your thoughts, make a decision to either carry through with your goal or trash it and go on with something else you’re more certain of.

If you do decide to go on to something else, don’t think of it as a failure.

It was a learning experience that taught you a lesson and you aren’t wasting any more time on it.

If you decide to go through with the plan, take action immediately.

Making a fast decision may seem impulsive, but most likely the decision is based on intuition and the knowledge that you’ve prepared enough for the journey ahead.

You can always fine tune your plan as you progress.

At least you’re taking action toward your goals.

Replace negative self doubt with positive thoughts. Choose any method that works for you. Meditation, journaling, affirmations, listening to music or reading a good book or simply chatting with positive-minded friends may give you the boost you need to move on.

All of us find ourselves dealing with self doubt at some point in our writing careers.

But if you let self doubt get the best of you, by feeding into it and actually believing the untrue stories you’re telling yourself, it can destroy even the best of intentions for success.

Learn to recognize and weed out the crippling, negative thoughts and get on with achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself.

Begin by becoming aware of your thoughts – check in with them a few times a day.

You’ll soon be able to discern the “keeper” thoughts from the “discard” pile.

Try it!

As the Working Writer's Coach, Suzanne Lieurance helps people turn their passion for writing into a lucrative career.

She is founder and Director of the Working Writer's Club (membership is free) and offers tips, articles, and additional resources to other writers every weekday morning in The Morning Nudge (which is also free).

Think You're Fast at Typing?

This is a little off the beaten path for Writers on the Move, but it sure is entertaining.

I don't usually spend time watching YouTube video, but a particular video lassoed me in.

I found this piano player who seems to have lightening in his fingers. And, it seems there are piano stations all over the place for anyone to play - in airports, in malls . . .

While this doesn't really have anything to do with writing or book marketing, it's an excellent example of the power of video. It made me stop and watch. Hey, I guess it does have to do with marketing after all. You've got to have something to GRAB the audience with and something that will hook them - keep them in place long enough for you to get your message across.

Try creating a video as part of your book marketing strategy.

Hope you like Boogie Woogie!




I'd be one of those people who stopped to watch!


If you watched it, we'd love to know what you thought. And, of course, please share!

MORE ON WRITING AND MARKETING

What It Takes to Promote a Book
What is the Lifespan of Your Emails? And, Other Email Marketing Tidbits
A Writer’s Bucket and Mop List




How to Run a Contest on Your Blog

Do you run contents on your blog? Have you considered it?

Contests are a great way to generate content and traffic to your blog, as well as encourage engagement with your community. Plus, it gives you material to share on your social media sites.

A regular contest translates into low-maintenance, ongoing content. For instance, I run a contest every month on my website and community for writers: Write On Online. Anyone who posts goals on the website or Facebook page, throughout the month, is entered to win a book from Michael Wiese Productions, a screenwriting and film publishing company. A winner is chosen at random.

Here are a few easy options of free contests to run on your blog:

Photo Contest: Have entrants share an image, related to a theme or in some way, your business.

Essay Contest: Ask readers submit a story of a defined length on a specific topic.

Sweepstakes: This is the lowest barrier to entry. Your audience members simply need to enter their email address for a chance to win a prize at random. This is another way to add subscribers to your newsletter list.

To create a contest, you must also establish and publish rules, a deadline, judges (if applicable), and prizes ahead of time. Prizes can be as simple as a copy of your latest book or consulting time from your business specialty.

Now, here's the best part. Contest give you automatic blog posts, since you need:

  • Contest launch and rules (you'll also want a standard page on your blog with rules)
  • Deadline reminders (for early-bird and regular deadline, if relevant)
  • Winner announcement and posts

Contests don't have to be complicated, they just need to be representative of your site.

Note: If you do a contest in relation to a social network, check their Terms of Use before posting anything on the platform.

What do you think? Do you run contests on your blog? What kinds of contents to you find most effective? 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.


The Importance of Imagination

In case you've never seen the TV show Castle, Richard Castle is a mystery writer and kid at heart, lover of aliens, zombies, conspiracy theories, ninjas, magic, and ancient curses.

Once, after being rather disparagingly called "reality-challenged," he said,

"I prefer fantasy-augmented"
                                     --from Castle


So, if anyone ever disparages your imagination, ignore them.  Or pity them.  Your imagination helps make you a great writer, even if you have no zombies, aliens or conspiracy theories in your work.  And if you ever start to feel stuck, it may be that you haven't been nourishing your imagination enough.  It's like a muscle.  Keep it exercised!







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.

Five Tips to Create Physical Writing Boundaries for Optimal Health

Contributed by Irene Roth

    Physical Boundaries are probably the easiest to define although they can be very hard to bring about. The best way to describe physical boundaries is that they are property lines. For instance, my desk, office, my locked car, my computer with password protection, money in my bank account, and my body are all physical boundaries.

    One of the reasons that physical writing boundaries are the easiest to define is because they are external. It is easier to set up physical boundaries, and it’s easier to observe when someone has created a chasm in a physical boundary. 

    It is crucially important for writers to ensure that their physical boundaries are met and that they create some solid space for themselves and their writing.

    There are several types of physical boundaries. They are as follows:

1.    Computer Boundaries
Do you have to share your computer with another family member? This could cause a lot of difficulties for you. Also as a writer you have privacy issues that you will want to uphold too. This is all a part of your physical boundaries. You may feel infringed upon and unhappy to be giving your personal computer to anyone else, even if it is only on a borrow basis. So, keep your computer to yourself and don’t share it with anyone.

2.    Noise Boundaries
Can you tolerate noise outside of your office as you write? Do you have to have the drapes drawn so that the sun and people passing by your house won’t be a distraction? How easily distracted are you by noise?  Many writers are very easily distracted by noise and commotion. If you are one of them, develop the proper environment in which to write so that you are most successful. Take steps to ensure that you have the proper kinds of sounds as you write. You may want to have a CD of soothing nature sounds or music as you write. If you don’t know what makes you most productive, experiment a bit.

3.    Exercise Boundaries

All writers need to exercise every day given their sedentary work at their desks. So, you must ensure that you get a bit of exercise every day.  Exercising and writing will go hand in hand because the more you exercise the more productive you will feel. We all need a different amount of exercise to be at our best. So, experiment with what you need and then follow through for optimal health and productivity.

4.    Furniture Boundaries

To be at your best and to do your best writing you need to have ergonomic furniture that is suited to your body and any physical requirements that you may have. If you have special needs because of arthritis or other stiffness, take time to buy exactly what you need to write at your best. It will give you GREAT dividends later on. And you will have gained a lot of self-knowledge about yourself as well.

5.    Healthy Eating Boundary
One of the most important things that writers can do is to eat healthy foods. This will ensure that they are more productive and healthy too. Try not to eat a lot of carbohydrates or refined sugars. Also, make sure that what you eat is healthy and good for you and that keep your mind active and productive.  If food affects how you think, take heart. Just learn to do all that you can to accommodate your needs so that you could be most productive at the desk.

    Healthy writers must create these physical boundaries for themselves. In fact, you will be most successful if you take the time and patience to create these boundaries.  So, take out some time today to reflect on whether you have these physical boundaries in place so that you can be healthy to write and be creative.

    Writer can have a difficult time taking care of their health. It is therefore important for writers to guard their physical boundaries. Every time you do, you will not only be healthier but also much more productive and self-confident. Now this is a winning combination for all writers.

To learn more about create physical boundaries, double click on this link: Amazon.

Irene S. Roth, MA, (freelance writer and author) 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.

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Conflating Promotion, Children's Lit and Promotion

Article Children’s Promo

Formula for a Long-Lasting Promotion

E-Book + E-Gift + Cross Promotion = Great FREE Promotion for Children’s Books

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson,
Author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers

The 4th of July seems like a good time to talk about children’s books, to celebrate children's book, to give author of children's literature a little support. In a discussion I had with one of the longtime subscribers to my SharingwithWriters newsletter, Wanda Luthmam, author of The Lilac Princess, she said, “Of course the thing that is different for children's authors is that the product is for children yet the purchaser is an adult.”

Because Wanda is absolutely right, one of the best kinds of promotion is one where children’s authors cross promote.  That means partnering with other others, sharing lists. Forming groups where you cross-tweet one another’s tweets that point out benefits of each children’s book to the parents cause kids won’t be on Twitter, not yet at least.  

One of my favorite promotions—the one that lasted longer and was more “keepable” than any other I’ve done—utilized cross promotion. Here is a case study of that promotion straight from  my multi award-winning The Frugal Book Promoter. I have adapted it slightly to be more meaningful for children’s authors.

The anatomy of a free e-book might be just what you need to make one work for you. The free e-book I published as a cross promotion with other authors was one of best, most long-lasting promotions I’ve done. Let’s call it the new math for free publicity. It is: E-book + E-gift = Promotion. Oops. Error. Make the answer FREE promotion. However, it would be better if we slotted in another element: + Cross Promotion.

I met Kathleen Walls in an online group. She asked more than two dozen authors from several countries to contribute to an e-book that would be given away. Her idea, Cooking by the Book could be used as a gift of appreciation to the support teams it takes to edit and market a book and to the legions of readers who cook but had never read any of our other books. Children’s authors could use exactly the same idea (or adapt the basic steps to another theme). Here’s why. 

Authors who had at least one kitchen scene in their books (children’s authors might have a household cooking scene or just something foody going on in the plot like lollipops, ice cream cones—even apple trees!) were invited to contribute to Cooking. Each author’s segment begins with an excerpt from that scene. The recipe comes next, and then a short blurb about the author with links so the reader can learn more about the authors and their books. When children’s authors adapt the them, they might adapt the recipe segment to something else that would appeal to parents like the psychological benefit their child will get from reading the book. 

This e-tool was a cross-pollinator. Contributing authors publicized it any way they chose as long as they gave it away. Here are some of the ways we used to distribute Cooking by the Book
  • Some offered a free e-book as part of a promotion and let people e-mail them for a copy. This is the least techy approach and it allows personal contact with readers. It also allowed us to collect and categorize our readers’ e-mails to use in later promotions.
  • Some set up an autoresponder that sent our e-book directly to our readers’ e-mail boxes when they sent requests to an address we provided. This automated approach requires little but promotion from you after you’ve once set up the responder. I sent the first chapter of my novel using SendFree.com, but it could as easily been a full e-book.
  • Some contributors sent readers to their Web sites where they found a link to download a .pdf file of our free e-book. E-books distributed like this are more effective if they include an offer or call-to-action—perhaps a discount on a series of your books—within its pages. If I did a promotion like this again, I’d include a contributor page in the backmatter that listed each contributor, her book’s title, and a direct link to an Amazon Kindle edition. The side-benefit for this is that traffic to your site soars and that helps your search engine optimization (SEO). 
  • ome contributors let others distribute our e-book as a gift to their clients, subscribers, or Web site visitors—either with a purchase or as an outright gift. When you use this method, you get to set the guidelines for its distribution because you provide the free e-book.
  • If we were doing this promotion today, we could offer our free e-book through Smashwords.com. To make free e-book editions work for you, your book must include ads, links in the text, or both to entice readers to your Web site or to buy your other books.
  • You may find other ways to distribute your e-book or alter these processes to meet your needs. You could even give out business cards or bookmarks at children’s bookfairs that give the links to the free e-book you are offering.
Contributors to our Cooking by the Book benefited from their efforts and from contacts with other authors. It turned out that we had some superior promoters among us:
  • Most of us set up a promotional page for the cookbook on our Web sites. 
  • One promoted it in her newsletter. 
  • Mary Emma Allen writes novels, but she also featured the cookbook in the columns she writes for New Hampshire dailies The Citizen and The Union Leader.
  • David Leonhardt incorporated the cookbook into a Happiness Game Show speech he delivered over a dozen times.
  • We all gave away coupons offering this gift at book signings. Because e-books cost nothing to produce, they can be given to everyone, not just those who purchase a book. Some made bookmarks featuring this offer.
  • I put an “e-gift” offer for Cookbook on the back of my business cards.
  • If we were doing this promotion today, we’d all blog about it and use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social networks.
  • We treated the promotional book like a real book. We got blurbs and reviews. Reviewer JayCe Crawford said, “For a foodie-cum-fiction-freak like me, this cookbook is a dream come true.” That review popped up in places we didn’t know existed. 
  • We used them as e-gifts to thank editors, producers, or others online.

Our most startling successes came from sources we had no connection to at all. The idea for using a promotional e-book like this was featured in Joan Stewart’s The Publicity Hound, in Writer’s Weekly, in the iUniverse newsletter and more. They probably found it especially newsworthy because it worked so well for writers of fiction. Your book themed for the parents of children might appeal to popular psychology Web sites or others—depending on the theme.

When I queried radio stations for interviews with angles related to this cookbook, I had the highest rate of response I’d ever had, and that was in competition with a pitch for my novel This Is the Place just before the Salt Lake City 2002 games and an intolerance angle on the same novel right after 9/11.

Each year Mother’s Day beckons us to repeat our publicity blitzes, because, if you haven’t noticed, mothers tend to do lots of cooking. Almost any e-book that appeals to mothers of young children could also benefit from Mother’s Day promotions.

Hint: I love services like Createspace.com and Bookbaby.com for publishing both e-books and paperbacks, whether or not they are to be used as promotions. You can probably do everything yourself and absolutely free except for the copies you buy and the extra services, if you prefer to have that help. I also like that you can put your own publishing company’s name on the book—in other words, develop your own imprint. There are even templates for covers there. If this feels kind of publishing feels scary at first, I can coach you through the first one and you’ll be set forever more. Contact me through the contact page on my Web site.

Special E-Book Offer: I offer a free e-book for subscribing to my Sharing with Writers newsletter. Find the offer on most pages of my HowToDoItFrugally Web site, upper right corner. Everyone is your cross-promotion pool could do the same thing.

Here’s another idea from Wanda. She says “At my events, I invite children to my table to make a free craft that is book-theme related. While they are working, I talk to the parent about the benefits of the book and reading.”

-----

Today's blogger, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, will soon have a children's picture book ready to submit to her agent. It's about the feisty squirrel who is bent stealing tangerines from her tree. 

Carolyn is not known for writing children's literature. She brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter and her multi award-winning The Frugal Editor won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award.

Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. 


The author loves to travel. She has visited eighty-nine countries and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her Web site is www.howtodoitfrugally.com 








Writers on the Move Knows Why Blogging is Essential and is Looking for Members

By Karen Cioffi

In case you’re not familiar with Writers on the Move, we’re a writing and book marketing group utilizing content marketing to broaden our visibility and authority, and boost sales.

We have experienced writers and our content marketing strategy of choice is blogging.

The reason why we use blogging?

The marketing game is always changing, because of this, it’s important to keep up with marketing trends. One useful tool for this is Technorati’s Yearly Digital Influence Report.

According to their latest report, which is based on “over 6,000 influencers, 1,200 consumers, and 150 top brand marketers,” blogs are now heavy hitters with consumers. Blogs are regarded as trustworthy, they are popular, and they wield influence over consumer buying decision making.”

Another important finding of this study is that over 50 percent of consumers feel that smaller communities offer more influence. Even new sites were trusted over social networks.

From this study it would seem that people like connecting with other people, not crowds. They like the personal relationship, the kind of one-on-one relationship of the blogger that social networks don’t necessarily offer.

Why blog with Writers on the Move (WOTM)?

Anyone can blog, but that doesn’t mean they’ll get the visibility and traffic needed to get positive results. Well, WOTM has been around since 2008 and we’ve continued to grow and thrive for 8 years now.

The reason?

We keep track of current marketing trends and use them in our marketing strategies.

Doing this has given us a steady stream of monthly visitors and engagement. We often get notifications from AddThis and StumbleUpon that ‘we’ve got a spike in our website traffic.’ As a blogger, this is one of the results you want to see happen.

The purpose of this article?

We have three openings for new members in our group.

Each member in the group posts one article, once a month on an assigned day to the WOTM website. The posting day remains the same each month.

The benefits to members?

Visibility, authority, and being part of a group with seasoned writers and marketers.

So, if you’re a new writer or seasoned writer and want to take advantage of this opportunity, please let me know.

You can email me at:
kcioffiventrice –at—gmail--.com

Please put “WOTM Member” in the Subject box.

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