How to Write a Story

Do you long to write stories but just can't seem to get started?

That's probably because you don't understand all the elements needed for any good story.

Learn these elements and the writing process will be much easier (and your stories will be better, too).

Here are the five elements needed for any full-fledged story.

Without all of these elements you won't have a story.

You'll simply have a series of incidents.

Story Element #1 - An interesting main character with a problem to solve.

Your main character needs to want something and want it so much that he is willing to overcome all sorts of obstacles to get it.

This character is your protagonist; the person readers will root for as he faces conflicts and complications.

Story Element #2 - An interesting setting.

A good story needs to be set in a definite time and place and readers need to feel they are right there in this time and place with your characters.

Use a variety of vivid sensory details to transport your readers to the time and place you've chosen as the setting for your story.

But weave these details into the action as much as possible instead of just giving paragraph after paragraph of descriptions.

Story Element #3 - Conflict.

Something or someone must get in the way of the main character in his quest to get what he wants.

The main character who creates this conflict is your antagonist.

Keep in mind that this person should not be all bad.

He should be flawed, of course, but if he's all bad he won't seem like a real person, he'll be more like a caricature.

Story Element #4 - A series of complications.

Things should keep getting worse and worse for the main character in his quest to get what he wants.

These complications will create the dramatic tension and rising action for your story so readers will want to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.

Story Element #5 - A culminating event that creates change.

Something dramatic needs to occur that will change everything for your main chararacter.

This event is the climax of your story or the solution.

Your main character will either finally get what he is after or he will understand why it is not possible to get what he wants and he will have to make some sort of peace with that.

Either way, your main character will no longer be the same person he was at the beginning of the story.

He will have changed or grown somehow as a result of the conflicts and complications he faced.

This change (or changes) will lead to a natural resolution as the ending for your tale.

Before you get started writing your own story, take some time to closely examine a few simple stories (fairy tales are good for this purpose) for each of these elements.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 35 published books and a writing coach. Visit her website at for more articles and resources about writing. And, for money making tips for writers, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge at

Create a Believable Protagonist with Realistic Characteristics

It’s noted that you should let the reader see your protagonist’s characteristics within the first few pages. This enables the reader to quickly identify with him. This connection will determine whether the reader turns the next page.

Unless you’re writing fantasy or science fiction, your protagonist will have ordinary strengths (possibly extraordinary, but within the realm of reality); he will also have weaknesses. These qualities need to be conveyed early on.

Here are 13 characteristics that may pertain to a protagonist or main character (MC):

1. Intelligent: Is your MC smart? If so how smart: is he a genius, did he finish college, does he gets all As in school?

2. Handy or Crafty: Maybe your MC isn’t great at academics, but is he handy, musically inclined, or crafty?

3. Arrogant: Does your character think he’s better or smarter than others?  Does he let others know it? If so, how?

4. Trustworthy: Is your MC the kind of individual that others feel they can trust?

5. Determined: Does your MC know what he wants and strives to obtain his goal?

6. Greedy: Is your MC the kind of person who wants everything he doesn’t have? Is he the type of person who wants much more than he actually needs? Does he make it obvious?

7. Dependable: Is your MC the kind of individual that others know they can count on?

8. Brave: Does your MC do what he has to even if he’s frightened? Is he known for his bravery?

9. Cowardly: Is your MC afraid of his own shadow? Does he try to avoid any kind of confrontation or adventure?

10. Caring: Does your MC demonstrate kind and caring qualities? Does his family and friends think of him as a caring individual?

11. Selfish: Does your MC think of only himself? Is he known for this unsavory quality?

12. Strong: Does your MC have great physical strength? Is he strong emotionally?

13. Weak: Is your MC weak either physically or emotionally or both?

These are just some of the characteristics you can give to your protagonist. There are many others though, such as: shrewd, cheap, a liar, a thief, a go getter, beautiful, awkward, loyal, kind, lazy, introvert, extrovert, and cruel.

It’s up to you as the creator to give your protagonist a set of characteristics that will allow him to connect to the reader – whether the reader loves him or hates him there must be a connection. This connection is what will cause the reader to keep turning the pages.

Be cautious though, if you are giving your protagonist unsavory qualities at the beginning, be sure to include at least one redeeming quality otherwise your audience may not find that connection and decide not to read on.

And, remember, you can always have the protagonist change characteristics through the momentum of the story. He can start out as a coward and through various occurrences within the story he can evolve into a hero, or whatever you choose. That’s the amazing thing about being a writer – you create something from nothing. You give your character breath and dimension.

This article was first published at:

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

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

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

(An easy-read middle grade fantasy adventure set in 16th century China)


One Last Edit? Rethink Before Submitting

Helping Children Find the Main Story Idea

Are You Living the Writer’s Life?

The 5 Secret Steps to Re-Boot 2018

August can be a second start to the year for those that have children because the little ones are headed back to school.

Whatever you put on your new year’s resolution list you made way back in January that may have gotten pushed to the bottom of your to-do list, well, now is a great time to bring it back up to the top. Authors wear many hats and authors who are also parents have an additional rather important one. So, now that the unstructured summer days are behind you, things can get back into a routine.

Here to help you are the 5 secret steps to re-boot 2018.

1. Celebrate. Take a moment to celebrate the things you have done so far, even if they weren’t your original goals. Maybe you didn’t write as much as you would have liked, but you did write some. Maybe you got your book cover designed. Maybe you connect with a new author group. I know you did something these last 7 months, so feel good about those successes. We all need to show ourselves some love from time to time. You may enjoy a quiet cup of coffee or another beverage of your choice. You may take a long bubble bath. You may sleep in. Whatever feels like a reward for you, do it.

2. Evaluate. Look at what got in the way of you accomplishing what you set out to do. Evaluate whether you what caused you to not keep pushing towards your goal was because you got side tracked or because it no longer was your goal or because it was too difficult to do, so you let it slide. If you need to learn something to accomplish it, sign up for the class. If you need a coach, find one. Now is the time to do whatever you need to in order to make your writing and publishing goal a reality.

3. Replace. If the goal no longer fits for you, that’s okay. Let it go, but replace it with a better one. One that is reachable. One that matters to you. You feel excited to pursue. Find your passion.

4. Envision. Now, place your goal front in center in your mind and envision you have reached it. Studies have shown that visualizing a thing makes it more likely it will happen. Remember vision boards? There’s a reason for them. Envision holding your completed book in your hand. Envision signing your book at a release party. Envision signing a book contract. Whatever your goal, not only envision it in your mind’s eye, but using your creativity that you use to describe a scene, invoke all your senses. What does it feel like, smell like, sound like, who is with you, where are you, etc.?

5. Create. Finally, create a list of steps to get you to your goal. What’s the very first thing you need to do? Once you’ve completed your list, ask yourself what may stand in your way. And then make steps for handling those obstacles.

If you need help, seek out another author or a group of authors who will encourage you and maybe even be a resource to help you get where you want to be by the end of 2018.

Wanda Luthman has her Masters of Arts in both Mental Health Counseling and Guidance Counseling from Rollins College located in beautiful Winter Park, Florida. She has worked as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Adjunct Professor, and Hospice Counselor for teens. She’s currently a Guidance Counselor at a local High School. She is an award-winning, best-selling, international author who has self-published 5 children’s books (The Lilac Princess, A Turtle’s Magical Adventure, Gloria and the Unicorn, Little Birdie, and Franky the Finicky Flamingo). A former National Pen Women Organization in Cape Canaveral. She belongs to the Florida’s Writers Association; Space Coast Authors; and Brevard Authors Forum. She presently resides in Brevard County Florida with her husband of 23 years and 2 dogs. Her daughter is away at college, like Little Birdie, she has left the nest. To download a free ebook, visit Wanda Luthman’s website at and follow her on Facebook at

The Ins-and-Outs of Contests and Your Book

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Awards Set Your Book Apart

But Ya Gotta Enter Contests to Get ‘Em

Excerpted from the new edition of The Frugal Book Promoter, the flagship book in the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

I pity the poor reader these days. Reviews can’t be relied on for unbiased opinions so a reader may have trouble telling which book is most likely to set her heart a’ beating. As she shops, she often turns to the blurbs or endorsements on the back of the book. She may read a few of the first pages of that same book. But a book that has won a contest for book awards from organizations like Jeff Keene’s USA Book News Award or IBPA’s Ben Franklin Award award or the New Millennium award or, yes, from universities like Columbia’s Pulitzer, will probably clinch a sale faster than many others.

Let’s take that one step farther. Authors who have won literary contests (contests run by journals, publishers and the like for poetry, short stories, novellas, novels and other literary entities) also gets bragging rights that might get inserted into their media kits, query letters, and websites. That makes it easier to sell a promotion idea (or a next book!) than someone who is new to writing. Gatekeepers—anyone from acquisition editors to feature editors at newspapers—can be influenced by a contest. Make that a contest win, place, or show. It may be what’s needed to set you apart from the many authors clamoring for attention. In fact on a slow news day, just about any award looks like a nugget of gold to a busy editor.

So why are authors so ready to hate contests? 

Fear of rejection is an easy answer. An article in the revered Poetry & Writers’ magazine mentions that writers often consider contests rigged and resent the fees (usually from free to $25 for literary contests and from free to $125. for book awards.). The magazine article pointed out that publishers and organizations become dependent on the fees they charge for contests and note that rarely does an unknown author win.

I’m not sure the last part isn’t sour grapes; the point of many contests is to find delicious new voices that will keep the not-so-voracious appetite of publishers for new material well fed. If it is the truth, perhaps we should do something to hone our own skills to approximate those of more established authors.

Hint: There are other benefits to contests. Some offer critiques of entries—a value that cannot be overestimated in terms of learning more about the contest-winning process and one’s craft. Some publishers sponsor contests to attract submissions of great new manuscripts. One of my favorites contests that is reasonably priced and offers helpful benefits to those who enter is #NorthStreetBookPrize sponsored by

Regardless of the category (and there are some that don’t seem to fit neatly into either category), a contest win is a contest win is a contest win in terms of marketing.

Some contests only accept nominations from publishers. You may need to prod your publisher a bit if you know of a contest for which you think your book would be suitable.

Here are some guidelines for using contests to gain exposure and expand your credentials:

Choose contests that fit the size of your pocketbook. No-fee contests work well until you refine your contest IQ. Those include following submission guidelines to the nth degree and selecting contests that suit your material and your voice. Pick contests that impose fees at least as carefully as you might select a tomato from the produce department at your market. Sometimes journals that award prizes to the best work submitted for their pages in a given year are a good, frugal way to start. Find lots of these in the Submittable newsletter. (Submittable is the online service that many contests use to handle their online submissions.)

Choose contests based on the kind of writing you do. Read up on past winners. Examine past winners for genre, voice, length.

Find contests from a source that lists less popular contests as well as those that have names attached to them like Hemingway, Faulkner, and Pulitzer. (See resources for finding some later in this chapter and some I like because even beginners have a chance at winning on my website at

Pay attention to the contest’s guidelines, except for the one that calls for no simultaneous submissions. This rule is patently unfair to the author. You know it and they know it. It’s a rule, not a law. It is a courtesy, however, to notify those contests or journals you have submitted to if your entry wins elsewhere.

To increase your chances and to keep you from worrying about each entry, submit work to several contests at a time.

Keep track of entries so you don’t submit the same material to the same contest twice.

Hint: Some journals still don’t accept online entries. Don’t recycle paper copies that have been returned to you. Editors complain about entries that look as if they have spent a night in the rain.

Find suitable contests on the Web, in books, and through organizations. Here are a few leads:

- Use the “Deadlines” section of Poetry & Writers magazine to find reputable contests. Most are very competitive and charge fees. Check them out at
- A fat volume called Writer’s Markets publishes an updated edition each year. It lists contests, publishers, agents, and tons more. Buy the book and get online access to updates.
- Check professional organizations like your local Press Women, the National Federation of Press Women, and the Wisconsin Regional Writers’ Association (WRWA). There is probably one in your state.
- Do a Google search on “writing contests” plus your genre.
- Subscribe to Winning Writers newsletter at

I love this one for finding free contests.

Once you’ve won a contest—finalist or first place—you are newsworthy:

- Add this honor to the Awards page of your media kit. If it’s your first award, center it on a page of its own. Oh! And celebrate!
- Write your media release announcing this coup.
- Post your news on media release distribution sites that allow you to post your release yourself. Find a list of these sites at
- Notify all your professional organizations.
- Notify bookstores where you hope to have a signing and those where you have had a signing.
- Notify your college and high school. Some have press offices. Most publish magazines for alumni and their current students.
- Add this information to the signature feature of your e-mail program.
- Add this honor to the biography template you use in future media releases—the part that gives an editor background information on you.
- Use this information when you pitch TV or radio producers. It sets you apart from other others and defines you as an expert.
- If your book wins an award, order embossed gold labels from a company like You or your distributor can apply them to your books’ covers. If you win an important award, ask your publisher to redesign your bookcover or dustcover to feature it a la the Caldecott medal given for beautifully illustrated children’s books? If you don’t know this medal, visit your local bookstore and ask to see books given this award.
- Be sure your award is front and center on your blog, your website, your Twitter wallpaper, and your social network pages.
- Your award should be evident on everything from your business card to your checks and invoices.

Robert W. Schaefer, one of the readers of the first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter, wrote to tell me that he would appreciate a plan of attack for getting an award for a book:

§ First and foremost, write a great book. One with great content. One that is organized well. A reminder here. It’s almost impossible to do this without some personal guidance, which is why I recommend writers conferences (see the next section of this chapter in The Frugal Book Promoter), and well-vetted writing classes in your genre.

Caveat: When you change genres, take another class. Do it even if you have been supremely successful at writing in another genre. Authors who have achieved stature should be especially cautious about embarrassing themselves by launching into another arena without knowing all the new stuff they need to know. Poetry is not fiction. Writing a romance requires some skills science fiction does not, and vice versa. Journalists have a great start, but they’ll find knowing more about some elements of fiction like dialogue may inform their news stories as well as help them write a better novel.

§ Get your book edited by a professional editor. You’ll have an easier time of selling it if you do this before you begin the submission process, and because many publishers have cut their editing budgets, you’ll be more assured that the job is done well enough to have it qualify for an award. Read my The Frugal Editor ( to know more about editing and how to choose a qualified one.

§ If you are self-publishing, hire an excellent book cover artist. Mind you, I didn’t say a graphic designer or fine artist. People like Chaz DeSimone ( know things about book cover design and marketing pitches that others may not know.

§ If you are self-publishing, hire a good formatter or interior book designer, too, one that knows the intricacies of frontmatter, backmatter, headers, footers, and page numbering.

§ If you write nonfiction, learn the art of indexing. It isn’t as easy as the word processing programs seem to make it, but I think it’s one uphill battle that’s worth fighting on your own because no one will know your book—know what you feel is important for your reader to know—like you do. There are, of course, also excellent professional indexers who will work closely with you. If your publisher provides an index for you, check it to see if important categories or details have been overlooked.

§ Follow the guidelines above for finding the perfect contest, one that is a match for your book.

§ Attack this process with confidence and be willing to make an investment of time and some money.

As you can see, the more you know about publishing, the better equipped you will be to produce a product (and your book is a product!) you can be proud of—perhaps even a prize-winning book. You wouldn’t expect to become a computer programmer without knowing how the hardware worked, now would you?

Carolyn Howard-Johnson promotes her multi award-winning poetry and fiction using contests of all kinds. She also sponsors contests as a way to market her writing career. Learn more about her methods in any one of her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers: and learn dozens of other frugal ways to promote your book in the new second edition of her Frugal Book Promoter (expanded to 416 pages!) and updated.

SEO for Authors Part10 - Friendly URLs for Blogposts

This is Part 10 of the SEO for Authors series. This article deals with your blog posts and your URL.

I’m pretty sure the contributors to Writers on the Move and its readers know about URLs.

If not, URLs are the addresses to your webpages and blog posts.

URL is an acronym for Universal Resource Locator and according to Techopedia, “Tim Berners-Lee and the Internet Engineering Task Force working group is credited with developing the URL in 1994.”

Here’s an example and breakdown of a URL:

1. The protocol for most: Http or Https
2. The location: This is usually the domain name
3. The TDL (top-level-domain): .com, .org. .uk, and so on
4. The rest is information pertaining to the specific webpage address

Along with providing location information, did you know that you can have SEO friendly URLs and ones that aren’t?

So, what makes a URL, in regard to a blogpost, friendly or optimized?

Here’s an example of an optimized URL for a blogpost. It reads:

It’s easily readable. This makes it simple for people to get a gist of what the article is about. This is also easy for search engines read and categorize.

Words, especially keywords, have power. Having them within your URL is another element of optimizing your website.

This is important because the URL is one of the first places a search engine will look to find out what your blog post is about. Making it easy to read is always a plus.

Okay, we saw what an optimized URL looks like, but what about one that isn’t.

Powerless URLS

This is what a powerless blog post URL looks like:

Using this generic format, each blog post will have a different number, but they will not have word power.

The search engine will have no idea what the post is about from the numbers. And just as important, neither will the reader.

So, how do you make sure your blog post URLs are optimized?

Well, in WordPress’ Dashboard, under Settings: Permalinks, you’ll have the option to choose how you want your URLs to read.

This is what it will look like:

If you notice, there is an option for Plain and an option for Numeric.

You don’t want to use either of those.

Click on ‘Day and Name’ or ‘Month and Name’ or ‘Post Name.’

In the image above, I have mine set for Day and Name, but I’ve since changed it to Month and Name.

I like the month and year in my URLs for my own purposes. If you don’t need or want the date, just choose Post Name, circled in RED.

No fuss or muss.

Once you choose how your URL will appear from the Permalink setting, you don’t need to do anything else. Each post will appear the title of the post.

Doing this for your blogposts, you’ll have one more simple-to-do SEO element checked off.



Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter/ rewriter. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move and author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

If you need help with your author platform, check out Karen's e-classes through WOW:


A Workshop on School Visits

How to Take Control of Your Own Submissions

Book Events - 5 Etiquette Tips

A Workshop on School Visits with Caroline Starr Rose

Make sure all students are included.
Much helpful information on school visits can be found online from experienced children’s authors who so generously share their experiences and advice. But in my book, there’s nothing better than learning the ins and outs in person. Recently, I had the pleasure and privilege of attending a workshop, “Lasting Connections: Planning and Preparing School Visits,” offered by Carolyn Starr Rose, award-winning author of May B. and Blue Birds, both historical verse novels, Ride on Will Cody!, Jasper, The Riddle of Riley’s Mine, and Over in the Wetlands.

Caroline has taught social studies and English, which I think helped her create her terrific program for students and teachers. A browse-through of Teacher Resources on her website is an education in itself on how to reach children through the content of our books.

In this post, I would like to share the highlights of Caroline’s approach to conducting successful school visits, learned by trial and error, which hopefully will save those of us just starting out some of the challenges she has encountered.

Where to Begin?

  • Read articles by children’s author and guru of school visits, according to Caroline, Alexis O’Neill, in SCBWI bulletins.
  • Visit author’s websites and see how they handle school visits. We broke into groups, studied author’s websites, and jotted down what we liked or disliked, then shared our findings with the group. Our author-choices included: Kate Messner, Dan Gutman, and Don Tate, who includes a Core Curriculum State Standards guide.

Decide: What Do You Have to Offer?

  • Work/life
  • Personality strengths
  • Writing focus or knowledge: Caroline emphasized that above anything else, students want to learn about the writing process. Under the list of presentations that she offers is “The Writing Process, From Idea to Publication.” On slides that she shared at the workshop, she includes close-ups of drafts of her WIP, with cross-outs and editor’s comments, excellent for students to realize the work that goes into revision.

Choose: Content from Your Book to Present to Students

  • What subjects from your book would make good teaching material?
  • What grades is your content suitable for?
  • Learn what works best in small classrooms or large groups.
  • Create ways to capture and hold attention: Photos and images, props and activities.
  •  As a retired teacher myself, I recognized the activities Caroline shared at the workshop, as ones frequently used in the classroom. Note to self: to gather ideas, you could browse a teacher’s store and look for teaching ideas online and incorporate them into your own uses. 

Here are a few of Caroline’s ideas that she shared with us:

  • Mingle Game (from May B.): On card stock, write a Fun Fact from your content (Caroline wrote her facts on one side and put the cover from May B on the other, and laminated her cards. Cards are small, about 3" x 3", perfect size for small hands and I loved the size, too). Example: “Chores: Men’s chores included clearing fields, planting crops, constructing houses, caring for livestock, and hunting.
  • Class monitors pass a card to each student. Students break out into small groups of two or three, read the Fun Fact from their card, first silently to themselves, then to the others in their group. Then students go around the room and read their Fun Facts to each other. 
  • Teacher claps, sends students to their seats and asks What Did you Learn? Students can raise their hands and tell the class what they learned.
  • String activity: Have students measure out with brightly-colored string the size of the space a frontier family lived in, the typical dimensions of their beds, etc.
  • What Did you Learn? How does a person have privacy from the way they lived, etc.
  • Act it Out: Choose volunteers to act out parts of a story.

Caroline’s Helpful Tips 

  • Find out who to speak to and what the school’s policy is on author visits, and where to go when you first arrive.
  • Be professional: draw up a one-page contract stating what you’ve agreed to do and what the school has agreed to do and have it signed by you and your school contact. Be gracious to your contact, teacher/librarian. Have contact name memorized.
  • Have materials prepared to send to your contact and include your request to have the students read your book and send you their written questions ahead of time. Find out what other books children are reading.
  • Ask that the teacher stay in the classroom and participate. Clearly state in the contract that teachers stay to be engaged and to redirect distracting behavior.
  • Find out if school will provide technical equipment, such as a projector and screen. (Caroline uses her own equipment to avoid problems, including taking an extension cord).
  • Arrive fifteen minutes early, come prepared and be flexible (go with the flow). Keep in mind that there are often glitches with every visit. Organize props and materials ahead of time. Give yourself time to set up.
  • Connect to curriculum.
  • Practice your presentation—normally it takes longer than it seems.
  • Keep visit simple and easy. Do a quick introduction. Establish rules ahead of time. Use school’s quiet signal and practice it together. Remind students to listen and save questions for the end.
  • Talk to booksellers, teachers and librarians. Follow teachers on social media and share information. Check what SCBWI has to offer. Caroline has invited a bookseller to come along to sell books.
  • Is a business license required? Find out.
  • You can offer a special reward: a "Meet the Author" lunch and book signing session with students chosen by your contact.
  • Should you get paid? Yes! But you can start by offering a limited number of short visits at no charge. Skype visits can be offered at no charge.
  • As a thank you to the school, volunteer for Battle of the Books, Literacy Night, etc.

Remember: there will be good and bad visits. Take it all in stride.

Photo: By Linda Wilson
Visit Caroline at 

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

Write for Magazine Publication - #3


Writing for Magazine Publication is a great way to monetize your writing and test topic marketability.
Let’s talk about Structure today. 

This series offers tips and ideas for magazine publishing: a list of genres or categories and where we find ideas (posted 5.25.18), research tips (posted 6.25.18), standard templates for essay and article pieces (7.25.18), query letters, formatting for submittal, and copyright definitions.

What’s the difference between an essay and an article?
  • The essay is all about the writer, but an article is all about the reader.
  • An essay is an opinion piece: an analytical or interpretative composition with a limited point of view.
  • An article is non-fiction prose that is information or knowledge based.
Templates for composing an Article or an Essay:
The recommended template for Articles follows:
  • The opening paragraph, is the introduction, and should be to the point and tightly written.
  • Transition – getting into the subject
  • Steps – describe the process in steps
  • Tips – offer tips for success
  • Conclusion

The standard Essay template follows:
  • Introduction Paragraph – Capture interest, move from the general to the specific and write a thesis statement as the final sentence of this paragraph.
  • Body of the Essay – Three Supporting Paragraphs
  • Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence, and then present evidence to support your ideas, anticipate push back – refute it, and finish the paragraph with a smooth transition to the next supporting point.
  • Conclusion – One Paragraph
    • Restate your thesis in a similar way
    • Summarize your first, second, and third supporting points
    • Confirm the validity of your ideas
    • End the conclusion with a call-to-action or an emotional appeal

Resources of interest:
For Articles -- Eva Shaw’s The Successful Writer’s Guide to Publishing Magazine Articles--Amazon:

For Essays:

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts. Visit her web-blog:
Deborah Lyn Stanley : MyWriter's Life .
“Write your best, in your voice, your way!

Where To Find Writing Ideas

By W. Terry Whalin

Often writers wonder, “Where do you find good ideas?”
The operative word in this sentence is “good.” Years ago, Guideposts contributing editor Elizabeth Sherrill told me, “Writers are swimming in a sea of ideas.” 

One of the best places to find good ideas is through focused reading. You can read magazine articles or books or the newspaper. Through the reading process, you can just absorb information and not come up with a single idea for your writing.

Or you can take a more focused approach and ask questions like:

—Where would you like for your writing to appear? 

—Who is the audience that reads that type of writing?

—Can I write what this audience is wanting to read?

With some answers to these questions, your reading can be more productive. I would encourage you to keep a notebook with your ideas.

As you read newspaper articles and think about what you want to write, cut out the clippings and tuck them into your notebook. It will only take a minute but these clippings can stir your writing.
Your writing can go in a million different directions. If you need some ideas in this area, check out the first chapter in my Jumpstart Your Publishing DreamsThe chapter is FREE so use this link.

Now that you have a list of ideas, what are you doing to take action on them? 

—Are you creating book ideas into a proposal format and properly pitching them to agents or editors? 

—Are you writing short query letters and getting them out to magazine editors and getting assignments?

—Are you writing full length magazine articles and sending them to editors on speculation that they will be a perfect fit for the magazine and get published?

These questions are not mutually exclusive. You can take the same idea and write a magazine article and a book pitch from it. There are several keys: focus on a particular market and audience. You need to understand the potential reader and write with that reader in mind. Then move on your ideas and pitch them to a specific professional.

Here's the wrong way to begin your pitch—and I recently received one of these pitches:

“To Whom it May Concern:

I am writing in regards to gaining information and feedback on my story. At this point, I am not an established writer, or even a writer for that matter. I simply have an amazing life story to tell.”

Yes, I've actually quoted this email—but what followed was pages and pages of cathartic rambling writing—not for any target—just a cry for help. I don't know how many of these emails this author fired into her email (maybe a few or maybe many of them). I expect most people hit the button to throw it into the trash without giving it a second thought. Many of my editor and agent friends receive hundreds of these pitches each day. 

I could have ignored this email too—but I did not. I wrote the author and asked who was the target audience and was it a magazine article or a book pitch or what—and encouraged the author with several free resources that I've created to help answer those questions. The email in my view was a cry for help. Unfortunately many people are floundering in this situation.

This writer claims not to be a writer. If that is the case, this person needs to reach out into the marketplace and find someone to help her. Maybe go to a writer's forum (there are hundreds of them) and ask for help. There is not one path but many different paths (and this is confusing to many people. Each path involves taking specific action.

Many people feel overwhelmed with publishing and like they have few opportunities—yet if you look closely at what they are doing, they are not taking action and trying different possibilities. 

What steps are you taking today to make your reading more focused and targeted? How are you capturing your ideas and taking specific steps to move forward and get those ideas into the marketplace? Let me know in the comments below. 


Ideas are everywhere. How to you find good ones? Get help here. (Click to Tweet)

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  One of his books for writers is Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success.  He lives in Colorado and has over 205,000 twitter followers.

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A Space Travel Guide for Science Fiction Writers

If you or any of your friends write science fiction set in space, check out this great resource: Intergalactic Travel Bureau Vacation Guide to the Solar System, by Olivia Koski and Jana Grcevich.

It's a lot of accesible real science about realistic space travel and how things work on the moon and the planets in our solar system. Mixed in with this science is a lot of great speculation about what tourism would look like in a more space-faring future.

It's already inspired ideas for a couple of short stories, and I'm going to read through a lot of the first chapter again and take notes on what space travel would really be like.

It's also simply a fun and interesting book, beautiful with its helpful illustrations and retro-chic travel posters for outer space.

Check it out from your library or get the Vacation Guide to the Solar System on Amazon. I recommend the actual paper version to appreciate the full aesthetics.

You can read (and listen to) Melinda Brasher's most recent short story sale at Pseudopod.  It's a tale of a man who doesn't believe in superstition...until he has to.  You can also find her fiction in Ember, Timeless Tales, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and others. If you're dreaming about traveling to Alaska, check out her guide book, Cruising Alaska on a Budget; a Cruise and Port Guide. Visit her online at

Creating Character Names - Ol’Whatshisname!

by Valerie Allen

When naming your characters it’s tempting to give your friends, family, or coworkers a chance for their 15 minutes of fame. Before indulging in the name game consider the the following implications that names reveal about characters.

1. Names have implications such as: status, education, religion, place of birth, heritage, culture,  sex, age, etc..

2. Short names with hard sounds such as Max, Kurt, Nick, and Zena are often used for the bad guys (or gals).

3. Two syllable names and two part names are typically used for children or to portray child like qualities: Bobby, Cathy, Jimmy, Lulu; Sally-Jean, Bobbi-Jo, Jimmy-Ray

4. Single names, multiple names, hyphenated names, and initials imply importance: Cher, Madonna, John Philip Sousa, Frank Lloyd Wright, Gertrude Hart-Taylor, Charles Miller-Wright, FDR, JFK, MLK

5. Names can indicate ethnicity:  Maria, Juan, Collin, Eileen, Anthony, Lisa, Nigel, Gretchen, Vijay, or Abdul

6. The spelling of a name can imply age or character traits: Smith vs Smyth, Elizabeth vs Lizabeth, Rose Ann vs Rosanne, Lisa vs Liza vs Lissa, Carl vs Karl

7. Names must fit the theme or time period of your story, such as, biblical, Civil War era, Native American, science fiction, European, aristocratic, etc.

8. Names often reflect popular public figures or famous families during specific time periods: Franklin or Eleanor, Elvis, Shirley (Temple), Douglas (MacArthur), Amy (Carter), Chelsea (Clinton).

9. Nicknames are typically used for extroverted characters: Barb, Liz, Bill, Joe, Rick. They can also be used to reveal characterization:  Shorty, Babe, Honey, Slim, Hot Stuff, Tex.

10. Use only one common name (Jim Jones) and only one exotic name (Theodora Ginasia-Peacock) per story.

11. Use unique names for each character, not: Jack, Jim, Jon, or John in the same story, nor Mary, Marie, Maria, Marla, Maureen.

12. Last names follow the same rule, do not have: Jamison, Johnson, Jenson, Jepson in the same story.

13. Use caution with names that have special significance such as, grandfather/father/son, Sr./Jr., The III, use of family names as a first name (Fulbright, Hathaway), unisex names (Taylor, Parker, Madison), flowers (Azalea, Buttercup, Lily), gems(Ruby, Pearl),  and nature (Summer, River, Plum)

Helpful resources for character names are The World of Baby Names, Character Naming Sourcebook, and the US Census of Common Names.

Readers make associations with names based on their unique experiences, however, stereotyping is alive and well. Who do you picture when you hear the name Bertha?

Valerie Allen writes fiction, nonfiction, short stories and children's books. ( She assists writers with marketing via Authors For Authors  in warm and sunny Florida. Meet the Authors Book Fair in the Fall and the Writers' Conference: Write, Publish, Sell! in the Spring. Vendor tables and presentations encourage networking and marketing to increase book sales. Book Display options are available for authors throughout the USA. Valerie loves to hear from readers and writers! Contact her at: and


The Lazy Way to Be a Great Writer

Developing Dialogue

Avoid These Common Mistakes in Creating Characters for Your Story

A Few of My Favorite Ways to Make at Least $100 a Day as a Writer

When I tell people they can make real money as a writer, I'm not talking about a mere $100 a day!

But you've got to start somewhere!

So today I'd like to list some of my favorite ways to make at least $100 a day as a writer.

Once you're earning $100 a day as a writer, there'll be no stopping you!

You can go on to earn the income you've always dreamed of earning as a writer.

But again, the key is to just get started!

Too many writers wait for something that will have them instantly earning thousands of dollars a day.

But that isn't the way it usually works.

Writing isn't a get-rich-quick scheme.

It's a skill and a business that takes time to develop, just like any other skill and business.

Okay, so here goes. Let's get started!

1. Search the online job boards and locate at least one assignment that pays $100 and that can be done quickly - in a few hours.

Apply for the assignment, get it, finish it, invoice the client for it.

Do this on a regular basis.

Each morning, get up and search for assignments that pay at least $100.

If you start doing this on a regular basis, after awhile you'll also stumble into some bigger, better paying gigs, too!

They key is to simply get started and do this consistently - day in and day out!

You'll build your confidence and your skills as you build your income!

2. Create information products and sell them online.

It doesn't take many of these products to earn $100 a day.

It just takes a few that sell well.

An information product can be an e-book, an e-course, a special report, etc.

Pick a target market and find out what they WANT to know.

Then package this information so they can easily purchase it online from you.

Another option would be to create information products for others - ghostwrite these products.

3. Develop a teleclass and charge for the class.

If you develop weekly teleclasses, you can charge a weekly or monthly membership fee that will give you regular income.

What do you know a lot about?

It doesn't need to be about writing.

Are you an expert about traveling with kids?

Do you know a lot about fishing?

Do people admire the way you decorate your house without spending a fortune?

Turn your expertise into cash!

4. Promote/sell affiliate products in an ezine and at a website or blog.

Simply monetize your site by offering affiliate products that appeal to your target market.

Many writers make big money doing this.

But they learn all the "tricks of the trade" to make the big money.

Still, you can make $100 a day without knowing everything there is to know about affiliate marketing.

Again, just get started, and be consistent at it.

Write reviews and other information about affiliate products on a regular basis.

5. Write for magazines or other publications on a regular basis.

First, you need to break in with a few publications, of course.

But once you do, keep submitting ideas to the editors.

Even if they don't use your ideas, they may continue to hire you to write articles they need writers for.

It takes a while to break in with major magazines.

But, once you do, you'll earn significant money this way if you write for these publications on a regular basis.

6. Create a live workshop or course and charge for it.

Do this on a regular basis to supplement your writing income.

You can offer the workshop at a local coffeeshop, community center, or even a bookstore or restaurant - or, in good weather, at the park.

7. Create a product, service, or training program for businesses, then promote regularly to these businesses to make regular sales.

Do a little research to determine what writing services, products, or training programs local businesses need.

Then submit a proposal to a few businesses offering your services, products, or programs.

Once you sell your products and services to a few of these businesses, gather some testimonials that will help you sell to other businesses.

8. Write books for publishers who need authors for upcoming titles.

Many freelance writers write several books a year this way.

After awhile, they have ongoing royalties from many, many books and these royalties add up to a nice income.

9. Develop a few services that you love to provide for clients, and focus on acquiring many clients for just these services.

For example, if you're good at writing press releases/media releases and you enjoy this type of writing, make this your speciality and promote it big time!

You can easily earn $100 for a single press release.

And you can write a press release in just a few hours at the most.

You'll have a thriving business if you write just a few press releases every day!

You can spend the rest of each day working on your novel or something else to earn even more money!

Those are just a few of my favorite ways for earning at least $100 a day.'s your turn.

What's your favorite way to earn at least $100 a day as a writer?

Share your way here in a comment.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 35 published books and a writing coach.

Visit her website at for more articles and resources about writing.

And, for more money making tips for writers, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge at

Writing Fun 101

When was the last time you wrote something because you wanted to? Usually on the priority scale, things tend to get done because it's deadline or time-sensitive, client work, a long-delayed project you had to wrap up, and in some cases all of the above. 

If you don't know the answer off the top of your head, then it has been way too long.

It summertime! And, while there is always work to be done, that shouldn't stop you from having fun ... both in real life and with your writing.

So, here is your assignment. Pick one of the following:

1. Have an adventure and write about it. It can be as simple as people watching or a fun afternoon out.
2. Start a new journal. How awesome is book full of fresh paper just waiting for you to fill it with words?
3. Write a pitch, essay, poem, song, or quick article.
4. Start a new long-form project, such as a book, novel, or screenplay.
5. Do anything you want. Haven't you been paying attention? This is your project. Your decision.

Now comes the fun part...

After you finish reading this article, stop what you are doing, set a timer for 15 minutes, and start writing one of the above. If you can't freeze time right now, that's fine. You may do it later today ... or if necessary within the next 24 hours. Then schedule at least two 15-minute appointments each week to work on it. 

The point is this. You will always have things to do, deadlines, and other responsibilities. Yet, on most days 15 minutes is totally doable. Take time for yourself and your passion projects, in small increments of time. You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you prioritize the things you enjoy. Oh, and bonus: you will likely be happier too!

What fun thing will you write today or this week? Please share in the comments.

* * *

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