Friday, March 22, 2019

Find Mentors for Your Writing

Where do you get help for your writing?

By W. Terry Whalin

Who are you listening to and then applying that information into your life? Whether you call them mentors or not, whatever feeds into your life are voices where you are listening to information. It can affect the results of your life and work.  

As I think about my own writing life, it is built on a foundation of great lessons and teaching from other writers. In the early days of my freelance writing, I wrote many personality profiles of bestselling authors. I wrote these articles for different magazines but it gave me the opportunity to spend time with each of these authors on the phone or in person. I would quiz these authors about the details of how they practiced their craft and connected to their audience. My hour-long conversation contained a lot of information which never made it into my 1,000 word magazine article—yet built experience and lessons into my personal life.

In this article, I want to provide several resources which I use daily for inspiration, learning and mentoring in my life. The first one is from Darren Hardy, the former publisher of Success magazine. Some time ago, Hardy began the Darren Daily which is a short five day inspirational thought which comes via email. It's free and I listen to it early in the day when it arrives. You can begin getting it in your mailbox and listening to it.

The various books that I read is another way that I discover mentors. Last year I completed 2 Chairs (Worthy Publishing). The overall message of 2 Chairs is to make time every day to meet with God and listen to the Holy Spirit. For many years, I've been having a daily quiet time in the Scriptures. Each year I select a different version of the Bible and read it cover to cover in this time. While I thought 2 Chairs had a “different” title, I love the insight and wisdom contained in this book and recommend it. If you don't have this daily pattern of reading in your own life, I recommend it.

My third method of teaching and insight is to read my twitter feed. Maybe you go by once a day or several times a week and check the various articles. I read the various articles and information that I post—and I apply it to my writing and marketing efforts.  You will gain from it as well if you feed this information into your routine.

One of the keys to continued growth and learning is a personal commitment, then an attempt to find balance in your life.  There are days when I'm not learning and out of balance but it's something that I have as a continue force in my life. I hope these three ideas will help you find the mentors for your writing life.


Who are your mentors in your writing life? Get some new ideas here: (ClickToTweet)

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

When Naming Your Characters, Use the Whole Alphabet

I recently read a book where eight significant characters (which was a good percentage of the significant characters) had names that began with the letter A.  To make matters more confusing, it was a fantasy book, so many of the names were not familiar to us.  The worst combo was Avem and Avarum.   I constantly had to stop and think about who was who. 

My mom was just telling me about a book where almost all the main characters had names four letters long, including Lena, Luna, and Lisa.

We, as writers, know our characters very well.  We know who they are and how they fit in and we would never confuse Avem with Avarum or Lena with Luna.  But our readers don't know our characters so well.  They may have only spent a few hours with them, not weeks and months and even years.   And trust me, some of our readers WILL confuse Zola and Zora or Fur'langye and F'galen. 

So, here's my challenge:

1)  Sit down with any short story or novel you're writing and make a list of all the significant characters.  Bonus points if you also list any minor character who appears more than once.

2)  Analyze the list.  Look for names that start with the same letter, names that rhyme, and other similar-sounding or similar-looking names.

3)  If you find two names that are too similar, change one.  "Wait!" you may protest, "I can't change their names.  That's like changing who they are!"  I know it's hard, but do it anyway.   You do NOT want your readers to have to stop and think about who is who every time a character comes into a scene.  You want them to stop and think about your mysteries or your characters' inner struggles or that particularly beautiful piece of writing they just read.  The sooner you change the name, the sooner you'll get used to the new one.  It sounds hard, but it'll be okay in the end.
4)  In your next novel or short story, use the list as you start naming your characters, so you don't have to go back and change anything later. 

So, when can you let similar names slide?

-If it's really important to the plot or characterization

-If the names are distinct enough.  For example, you might leave Dr. Turgenev and Tom alone, because they're quite different, but if you have Trent and Trevor or Carol and Cheryl, change one.

Melinda Brasher's fiction appears most recently in Leading Edge (Volume 73) and Deep Magic (Spring 2019).  Her newest non-fiction book, Hiking Alaska from Cruise Ports is available for pre-order on Amazon.    

She loves hiking and taking photographs of nature's small miracles.  

Visit her online at

Thursday, March 14, 2019

One Way to Build Your Freelance Writing Career

Many people think they'd love to write for major magazines.

The trouble is, most of these people never spend the time, energy, and even money learning HOW to break in with these markets.

Here are a few tips to help you write for magazines and build a lucrative freelance writing career:

• Learn how to write a winning query.

You may think you know how to write a great query, but if your queries are not landing you at least a few writing assignments, then you're definitely missing the mark somewhere.

A winning query does more than let the editor know your idea for an article.

You need to hook the editor with your query the same way you will hook his/her readers with your article.

• Learn how to study the magazine markets.

There is so much more to studying the markets than merely looking up the entry for a particular magazine in a current market guide.

Find out how to effectively study the markets.

• Provide editors with information and contacts they cannot easily find on their own.

This is not as difficult as it might seem, and it's one way to prove to an editor that YOU are the perfect writer for the particular piece you are offering.

• Be persistent.

Don't expect to break in with a major magazine on the first try.

It could happen.

But it probably won't.

Prove to the editor that you are serious about wanting to write for his/her magazine by being persistent.

Keep sending out queries to a particular publication until you begin to get some favorable and encouraging comments.

Note: This will start to happen once you learn the other tips here, even if you don't get an acceptance letter for one of your queries yet.

• Limit your queries to just a few specific publications.

It takes too much time and energy to carefully study more than just a few publications at a time.

Pick ONLY the ones you really, really wish to write for at first.

Study those publications and query those editors on a consistent basis.

• Don't try to sell your article ideas to just ANY publication.

Too often, beginning writers simply want to make a sale, so they query anyone and everyone.

Editors want to feel that you're trying to help them fill a need for their magazine, not merely make a sale.

Target your queries carefully.

Strive to help editors, and they will love you for it!

Writing for magazines isn't difficult once you know how to do it, and it's a great way to start building your freelance writing career.

Try it!

Before you get started, find out if writing for magazines is the perfect job for you!

Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, certified professional life coach and writing coach, speaker and workshop presenter.

She has written over 35 published books and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and other publications. She lives and writes by the sea in Jensen Beach, Florida.

Get your free subscription to her daily mailing, The Morning Nudge, at

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Social Media SOS

Whether  you love social media - or you view it as a necessary evil to promote your business products and services - some times it takes on a life of its own. 

Take today, for example. Facebook and Instagram were down for most of the day. There was widespread panic on the social platforms. I do some work in social media, and have many friends in that realm, so I probably know more affected people than most. 

Here's the thing. Like any actual - or non-emergent - emergency, there are a few things you can do to stay calm and stay in touch with your clients and prospects in the event of a social media shutdown.

1. Don't panic. If social media management is your business, email or call your clients and let them know what's up. Being proactive - and reminding them that technology isn't always perfect and sometimes, there are glitches out of your control - is much better than ignoring the problem and hoping your clients don't notice. You may even want to remind them that it's likely everyone is affected - including their clients, prospects, readers - so you are all in this together. Treat yourself to a cup of coffee by facing the problem up front.

2. Be present on other social media networks. Seize this opportunity to step up your skills on other social media platforms. For instance, Facebook and Instagram may have had issues today, but Twitter and LinkedIn were doing just fine. A good social-media strategy is a well-balance social media strategy; that means utilizing multiple platforms. If you are not already posting on the main four, use this reminder to step up your game.

3. Unplug. Frustrated by social media? Walk away from it. The problem isn't going away quick enough, so move away from the problem. Here's an idea: Take the time away from social media to embrace being offline. Write an actual on-pen-and-paper thank you note to your clients, jot a note to an old friend. Use the time wisely and surprise someone with a thoughtful act of kindness.

For more on the power of social media platforms, check out the recap from my #GoalChat on this topic.

* * *

How do you balance your social media efforts? 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.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Learning to Love Passive Construction

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including the winningest in the series, The Frugal Editor

Writers of fiction are often told to avoid passive sentences. Nonfiction writers sometimes get the same advice.

The reasons for such admonitions are many. After all, they tend to tug on the forward momentum we are usually after. But passive construction can be used effectively, too. When we sense that there would probably be no passive constructions, we should listen. Our writing may improve if we force ourselves to accept passives regardless of their ugliness. We can utilize what they’re good at in our writing and—at the same time—recognize their flaws so we can avoid them when they are just plain ugly.

Luckily, good editors are here to help. Yours may help you avoid passive constructions by making suggestions to “activate” them. There are times, however, when you must do your own editing. Here are some examples to try your hand at.

1. "I was offended by the President's proclamation." (Some argue that this isn’t a true passive because the hidden subject is evident, but when you pick up the object of the preposition, “the President’s proclamation,” put it up front, and ditch the helping verb, you’ll see how the sentence comes alive.) Scroll down a bit to see the magic this makes!

2. "Catherine was being watched."
~Your edit:

3. "Catherine was being silly."
~Your edit:

Here is your cheat sheet:

For the first you would, of course, make it "The President's proclamation offended me."

For the second, you'll have to provide the intended subject. It might look like this:

"The fuzz watched Catherine."
(So, maybe you'd be more formal and call them "coppers!")

The third example might throw you a curve. That's because it isn't a passive sentence according to the strictest of definitions. Here's the thing. We tend to assume a construction is passive when we see helper verbs and "ing" words. But these are not always passive indicators. That's one more thing for you to figure out in addition to deciding whether you want to avoid a passive construction. You’ll find a complete discussion of the dreaded “ing” words in my The Frugal Editor.

You can still avoid the not-so-active sounding helper verb with a mini rewrite:
“Gracie thought Catherine was being silly.”

You might ask, “So, if these slowpoke constructions stall the forward motion of my prose, what are the good reasons for using them?”

Few, if any, etymologists argue that language usually doesn’t develop or change unless there is need. When we recognize what passive construction and its copycats can do for us, we may grow to love it. Here are reasons you might want to intentionally use passive verbs:

1.    You want to slow down the movement in a saga sent in the 19th century. I do some of that (very judiciously!) in myThis Land Divided now being shopped by my agent. That the first chapter of that book won’s Scintillating Starts contest proves that passive is pretty—sometimes.

2.    You need to set one character’s dialogue apart from another to avoid overworked, fussy dialogue tags or because the tenor of that voice suits that character’s personality better than strong active verbs.

3.    You’re writing political copy and you want to avoid pointing a finger at, say, the FBI because you don’t want to get put on the dreaded US No-Fly list. So instead of saying “The FBI is watching Carolyn.” You say, “Carolyn is being watched.” It’s a device that lets you avoid pointing a blaming finger at the perpetrator.

4.    If you write copy for pharmaceutical TV ads, your career could depend on knowing how to use passive voice. I watch TV commercials carefully because I do some acting and the voiceovers behind all those happy, healthy faces make me cringe. The use of passive voice clearly avoids assigning any responsibility for all those side effects and deaths. One actually says, “Deaths have happened.”

We need to know how to make verbs active, when to leave them alone, and, yep. When to use them to our advantage. That way, we can take a red pen to them when they are likely to brand us as amateurs, occasionally put them to very good use, and even learn to love them. 


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

Friday, March 1, 2019

Don't Let Your Reader Get Disengaged

As an author it’s your job to create an engaging, compelling, suspenseful, intriguing, romantic, or other type of story content that will lure readers in and keep them turning the pages. But the key word for a successful story is ‘engaging.’

Engagement, according to, means to have an emotional involvement or commitment. Based on this, no matter what genre you write in the story must hold or engage the reader.

In an article in the Writer's Digest January 2011 issue, Steven James takes a look at aspects of “great storytelling.”

The first rule to a successful story is, according to James, “cause and effect.” In children’s writing this is the same as an obstacle and its solution - there must be a circumstance that leads the protagonist to an action in an effort to find a solution. I do like the wording James uses though, because it’s more in line with multiple writing genres.

In its simplest form, something happens (the cause) that creates or motivates an action or reaction (the effect).

James goes on to explain that along with cause and effect, the order in which an event unfolds or how it’s written will also make a difference between keeping a reader engaged and allowing for disengagement.

“As a fiction writer, you want your reader to always be emotionally present in the story,” explains James. If the sequence of an event causes the reader to stop and wonder why something is happening, even if just for a moment, you’ve left room for disengagement.

As an example, suppose you write:

She fell to her knees, dropped her head, and wept uncontrollably. Her husband was dead.

While in just eight words, the reader learns why the woman is crying, it could very well leave enough time for her to pause and wonder: Why did she fall to her knees?

This can lead to disengagement.

To create a cause and effect scenario that keeps the reader in the loop, you might write:

Her husband was dead; the words echoed through the room. She fell to her knees, dropped her head, and wept uncontrollably.

The second aspect of writing James touches upon is creating and maintaining a believable story. Even if writing a fantasy or science fiction, consistency is needed, along with believable actions, reactions, observations, conclusions, and so on within the boundaries of the story.

A basic example of this might be if you write about a character with brown eyes, then somewhere within the story you accidently mention the eyes are blue. This little slip creates a believability gap.

Any gap in the believability of the story or its characters has the potential to cause the reader to pause, question, and very possibly become disengaged.

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

Check out the DIY Page!

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


How to Write More, Sell More, and Make Money Writing

Writing Fun 101

Creating Character Names - Ol'Whatshisname!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Writing Tips from Author Chris Eboch

"If it's a good book, anyone will read it. I'm totally
unashamed about still reading things I loved in my childhood."
                                                     J.K. Rowling
Chris Eboch, author of over 60 books for children and author of novels of suspense and romance for adults, as Kris Bock, presented a workshop recently, "You Can Write for Children: Share your Stories with Young People." Chris’s books for children include, The Well of Sacrifice, Jesse Owens: Young Record Breaker (Childhood of Famous Americans), and The Eyes of Pharaoh. She is also the author of You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers.

Our New Mexico Regional chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI, is fortunate that Chris stays active, currently leading monthly ShopTalk informational meetings, and shares her expertise in many other ways. Treat yourself for a look at and Chris’s Amazon page.

Chris geared the workshop to people in our community who have thought about writing for children and would like to learn how to go about it. And though I’ve published articles for children, a handful of short stories, and have middle grade stories and novels in various stages of completion, I bought her book, You Can Write for Children; her book coupled with the workshop provided me with invaluable nuggets to help me in my work.

Want to Write for Children? Begin at the Beginning . . .

  • Think up a Catchy Title: The Genie’s Gift, Chris Eboch
  • The Dead Man’s Treasure, Kris Bock
  • Whispers in the Dark, Kris Bock

Make the Beginning Dramatic
  • Introduce the main character, MC, with a problem and a goal which your character wishes to achieve.
  • Grab your reader’s attention with action, dialogue, or a hint of drama to come.
  • Set the scene
  • Indicate the genre and tone (in fiction)
  • Each scene needs to have a goal; MC works toward achieving that goal.
  • Start in the middle of something happening.
  • Establish the time and place; hint of the “world” in your story early on.
  • Immediately establish the type of story: humorous, mystery, adventure . . .
  • The beginning reflects what the story is about.
Move Story Forward with a Solid Middle
  • The plot involves the MC working to solve the problem/reach the goal.
  • Builds to a climax—a do or die situation.
  • MC must change due to what he or she has learned; something they didn’t expect.
  • Theme becomes apparent, though it is not stated. As MC learns the lesson of the story, change comes from this. Trust your readers to discover the theme: example can be that your novel helped your reader to never give up.
Wrap up the Story with a Satisfying Ending
  • The ending can circle back to the beginning, not that it necessarily has to. 
Chris’s Tips that I’ve Found Most Helpful

  • GMC each chapter:
  •  Goal: What does your MC want or need?
  • Motivation: Why is it important?
  • Conflict: Why is it difficult?

Stories that begin with PLOT:

  • Come up with a challenge; a difficult situation for someone.
  • What kind of person would have the most trouble in that situation?
  • The problem must be difficult, as in The Genie’s Gift: A shy girl, not adventurous; has never left the family circle; wants to be strong; needs to learn how to deal with people; in the end, she doesn’t need the Genie’s gift, she found what she needed from her own journey.          

  Stories that begin with CHARACTER:

  • Write a brief character sketch: what your character likes, dislikes, fears, what                               would challenge them the most.
  • Chris’s brother has a fear of heights, but he went on a difficult hike.
  • Chris has a fear of suffocating because she has asthma.
  • Indiana Jones hates snakes, yet gets dumped into an underground chamber                                  filled with snakes.
  • What are you afraid of? Me? Speaking in front of people. Playing the piano in front of people.  What are the sensory details that happen to you physically when faced with                                your fears?

Write this on a Card and Prop it on your Desk
Chris's book, You Can Write for Children, offers a thorough explanation of her approach, much more than she could squeeze into a workshop. I highly recommend it. Here's an example:
  • In Chapter 11 on Dialogue and Thoughts, Chris mentions a suggested pattern, from Manuscript Makeover, by Elizabeth Lyon: stimulus (thing happens)--reaction/emotion (physical reaction)--thoughts (thought reaction)--action (what MC does next). This simple pattern has helped me flesh out areas that I found missing in my manuscripts.
While writing one of Chris’s HAUNTED series, The Ghost on the Stairs, The Riverboat Phantom, The Knight in the Shadows, and The Ghost Miner’s Treasure, Chris came up with the question: Why should MC help the ghost? What’s the penalty if she doesn’t help him? The MC’s sister had died. If she were to meet her ghost, she would want to help her. That gave her the desire to help the ghost in the story. And for Chris, while writing the book, that revelation made all the difference.

My experience is as an elementary teacher, and like so many of us, I fell in love with children’s literature while teaching. I’ve taken courses on writing for children and learned most of what I know from those courses. I found Chris’s approach on helping up-and-coming authors understand how to write for children refreshing and down-to-earth, and very helpful. She is a delight to know, and look out. She will make you fall in love with the spectacular sunsets, azure skies and diversity of people in New Mexico. To quote part of her bio on Amazon: “Her BFA in photography is used mainly to show Facebook friends how lovely the Southwest is.”
Image courtesty of:

One of my writing buddies
loves to hear stories

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter and is working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Tips for Online Magazine Pub series #10

Last time we talked about tips for selling essays to magazines, including personal essays. (1.25.2019) If you are interested in more about personal essay writing, “Crafting the Personal Essay” by Dinty W. Moore might be one for your to-read stack. It is in mine.

Publishing in magazines, in print and online, is a great way to connect with your audience and grow your platform. In each article, be sure to include a short bio with your byline.

Today let’s talk about publishing online.
Opportunities for publishing online include:
•    Magazines in print with an online division have similar submittal requirements for both
•    Online only magazines often publish multiple times a month and may pay less
•    Blogs: Companies use blog post writers as part of their marketing strategy -- Best format = Tip lists or “listicles” are often key formats
•    Blogging entities open to contributing authors allow your byline and media links as your remuneration

Research the magazines and blogs that grab your interest, and choose with whom you want to associate, and then be willing to start without pay swapped for a byline and links to your website.

It takes time to find the right fit for publishing your topics and areas of importance. You might find a match in the categories I’ve noted above.

Useful Links:
The Write Life freelancing hints and leads:

Upwork matches the freelancer with those posting jobs:

Content Marketing - quality content always works:

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 clear & concise, personable yet professional.
Know your reader.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Keep Experimenting to Sell Books

By W. Terry Whalin

I've never met a book author who didn't want to sell more copies of their work. It doesn't matter if they are published through one of the largest publishers or Podunk Press (I don't believe there is such a small publisher named Podunk Press but maybe since there are many of them).

I've interviewed more than 150 bestselling authors and spoken with hundreds of other authors. If you bring up the topic of selling more books, almost every author has a story about something they tried yet failed to work. Often these stories are filled with the author blaming someone else for the lack of sales. They blame:

their publisher
their publicist
their agent
their editor
the wrong title
the wrong cover
the missing endorsements
_____ you name it

It's rare that I hear the author blame the real culprit: themselves. Yes, it's hard to admit but it is the first step toward selling more books and understanding who bears the true responsibility for selling books—the author.

In Jack Canfield's bestselling title, The Success Principles, How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, he begins the book with some fundamentals for success. The first principle is: Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life.

For book authors, you can easily take the word Life and substitute Book: Take 100% Responsibility for Your Book. It's amazing how your attitude will shift if you take this simple step.

Many authors long to have their book appear on the bestseller list. For some authors they equate getting on the bestseller list as their benchmark of success for their book. Years ago, I read Michael Korda's Making the List, a Cultural History of the American Bestseller 1900–1999. Korda at the time was the Editor-in-Chief at Simon and Schuster, one of the largest publishers. If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it.

In the introduction, Korda writes, “The bestseller list is therefore neither as predictable nor as dominating as its critics make it out to be. Plenty of strange books get onto the list and stay there for a long time…at least half of the books on any given list are there to the immense surprise and puzzlement of their publishers. That's why publishers find it so hard to repeat their success—half the time they can't figure out how they happened in the first place.” (Page xv) I love his honesty. There is no magic bullet and it is different for every book. The author is key.

Some books start slow and steadily sell then catapult in sales. Other books begin strong then sales drop to nothing. There is no consistent pattern.

My encouragement is for you to keep experimenting with different methods to sell your book. Each author has a different experience.
Recently I spoke with an author who had sold 8,000 to 10,000 copies of his self-published books. He had held over 300 book signings for his book. For many authors book signings have yielded almost nothing but not for this author. He regularly speaks at schools and service clubs and even AARP meetings.

If you aren't speaking much as an author, I encourage you to get a copy of Barbara Techel's Class Act, Sell More Books Through School and Library Appearances. This book gives step-by-step help and is loaded with ideas where you can take action.

What proactive steps can you take to learn a new skill or try some new way to sell books? It doesn't matter if your book is brand new or has been in print for a while. Keep the experimentation going until you hit the elements which work for your book.

What new actions are you taking to sell more books? Let me know in the comments below. 


As an author, you must be experimenting to sell more books. Get resources from a prolific author. (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. One of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has over 200,000 twitter followers.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

How and Why to Get Clear about Your Ultimate Career Goal

As a writer, it can take quite some time to come up with an ultimate career goal.

After months, even years, of writing and submitting, many writers decide the writer’s life is not quite the beautiful dream they thought it would be.

In fact, it’s really just a lot of hard work and, well, a lot of writing.

Other writers decide to stick with the writing, but they change focus along the way to the career of their dreams.

They suddenly “get” how they can narrow the focus of their writing, yet attract more readers, customers, and clients.

As they gain more publication credits, they branch out and search for more opportunities for public speaking, too.

The key to realizing your ultimate career goal is to get really, really clear as to just what that goal is.

After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, how can you possibly figure out how to get there?

Here are a few questions for reflection.

Use your Success Journal to write down these questions and leave a page or so for each of your answers.

1. What is your ultimate career goal (what would your ideal writing career look like)?

Try to describe this in as much detail as possible.

Include what your writing schedule would look like.

How much would you be writing?

What would you be writing?

Where would you be writing?

How much money would you be earning each month from your writing?

Would you be doing any public speaking in addition to writing?

If so, where would you be speaking? Who would you be speaking to?

How much income would you earn each year through speaking?

2. What would be the big advantages of reaching your ultimate career goal?

List as many advantages as you can think of. Money shouldn’t be the only advantage.

3. What would be the disadvantages of reaching your ultimate career goal?

List as many disadvantages as you can think of – even fame and fortune have disadvantages.

4. How do you FEEL when you think of the disadvantages of your ultimate career goal?

Are these feelings keeping you from really striving to reach your ultimate career goal?

If so, do you need to change your goal or simply learn to overcome any negative feelings?

5. Take a look at all the actions on your marketing plan or to-do list.

Are these actions leading you to the ultimate writing career you’ve described in your answers to these questions?

Why or why not? Explain in detail.

Your answers to these questions should help you get clearer about your ultimate career goal.

With increased clarity, you should be able to create a more targeted marketing plan to move toward this goal.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance lives and writes by the sea on Florida's beautiful Treasure Coast. She also coaches writers.

For more tips and resources for writers visit and get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge to receive a short email for writers every weekday morning.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Random Writing Prompts: Winter Edition

Bored of winter? Sick of the snow? Or, in my case, completely over what counts as winter in Southern California? It's cold and rainy weather, by the way. 

You don't need to go outside to have a great adventure. Write one. Take a few minutes - take an hour - and start on a new story.

Here are three writing prompts designed to get you through the winter doldrums.

1. Spring Fling. Nothing says "change of seasons" like a party to welcome spring. Plan an elaborate "to do" from the guest list and invitations to location, food, and activities. Then, jump on in and have a ball, and then write about it. You can do this as yourself or a new character. 

2. Summer Fun. Time for a summer vacation ... in February ... on paper. If you could go anywhere, all-expenses paid, where would it be? Why? Sky's the limit, so what are you waiting for. Don't forget to tell us all about it. Write it as a letter, a fictional travel essay, or as a treatment for what could become a much more in-depth story.

3. Fall Frenzy. You didn't think these would all be good, did you? Think ahead to the end of summer/beginning of fall. You are getting set to start the new school year and something happens ... then something else ... and something else. Pile on the problems, and write your way out of it. It's fictional, so there really is no such thing as too outrageous. Besides, with all the fictional problems you create, the last thing you will be thinking about is bad weather.

There''s nothing like writing to get out of the slushy snow and on to warmer thoughts. You never know. One of these writing prompts may spark a new novel, essay, or screenplay. Have fun and see where your story takes you.

Where will you go on your fictional winter adventure? 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.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Writing – Time Management and Organization

As this is the first time in over 10 years that I missed my publish day, I though this article appropriate.

When I first started out in my writing career, I began to think more and more about organizing my writing. But, I was in what I call, slow mode. I worked on my stories with the intent to eventually... hopefully get published. However, I was in no rush; writing came after everything else I had to do.

That changed.

Being a former accountant, I decided to make writing my second career.

Suddenly, I was writing and illustrating a book my family decided I should self-publish. That meant researching companies that offered print-on-demand service along with working on the book itself.

While in the process of doing this, I was writing other works and submitting them to publishers and agents. As with most of us, I received rejection after rejection.

I also joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). This site has tons and tons of helpful writing and publishing information from new and seasoned writers. In addition to this, I joined a critique group.

Writing clubs were on my mind too. I found a good one at the time and that was when my writing took on more depth and I entered the business of writing.

At the time I joined the writing club, my book was in the process of going to the printing stage of publishing. So, I had to broaden my writing arena to include learning about marketing and publicity on a very low budget. I also became a member in several children's writer's groups online. Juggling all these things was a true challenge, one that I didn't always live up to.

In addition to all this, I tried to participate in every teleseminar and teleconference I came across as well as doing research on writing and marketing. To add more on my plate, I became a co-moderator in a very active critique group, and I created a website and a blog. At times, it felt very overwhelmed.

What I finally realized, out of necessity, is that I had to create and enforce a time management schedule.

This came to a boiling point when I received a letter from an agent requesting 3 chapters of my short story along with a 3-5 page synopsis.

I was so overwhelmed at the time, I didn't immediately respond.

Okay, it was also because I didn't have a 3-page synopsis ready. Because I was so frazzled I sent the agent the chapters she requested, but told her if she still wanted my synopsis after reading the chapters I would love to send it.

I still cringe at my stupidity when I think of this . . . at the lost opportunity.

After this long, long lead in, my advice is:

Don't wait until you become so frazzled by an overwhelming workload and lack of organization that you become your own stumbling block to success.

If you're reading this now and don't have a time management schedule in place, MAKE ONE TODAY and try your best to stick to it.

This article was first published at:

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

Check out the DIY Page while there!

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


5 Must-Use Tips on Writing Fiction

Sentence No Nos

Make at Least $100 a Day as a Writer - My Favorite Ways

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Stay Grounded with Caroline Starr Rose's "Writer's Manifesto"

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ―Aristotle

The Handsprings Conference, presented by the New Mexico regional chapter of SCBWI, which took place Oct. 26-27, 2018, at the Bosque Conference and Retreat Center, Albuquerque, NM, offered something for everyone. Faculty included such distinguished professionals as Patrick Collins, Creative Director, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, Patricia Nelson, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, Sara Sargent, Executive Editor, Harper Collins Children’s Books, and Caroline Starr Rose, author of award-winning children’s books, including Ride On, Will Cody!Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine; and two books coming out in 2019 and 2020, respectively, A Race Around the World and Miraculous.

Breakout Session with Caroline Starr Rose
Caroline offered sage advice on writing for children, and for that matter, any kind of writing, in her “Writer’s Manifesto.” For at some point, writers need to “put their writing out there,” which, moving out of the cocoon of our office to meeting the public, can be a scary experience indeed. She remembers a time when she struggled. That’s when she took the time to think about what she needed and came up with The Writer’s Manifesto.

She suggests going back to the basics. Laying groundwork for yourself to refer back to again and again in your writing journey. First ask: Why do you write? Curiosity? Love of children? Love of the subject matter? Remembering why helps.

Caroline said she writes for her fifth-grade self—middle grade; picture books for children and parents. Why she writes? To make beautiful works of enduring value. She added, “I want my words to honor childhood and to extend dignity to children.”

Then there’s the slithery slope of success. For down at the bottom is the deep, dark hole of failure. The path to success is a moving target, as Caroline pointed out, with plenty of room for disappointment. Somehow, you need to find a way to survive these ups and downs, for there will be both, successes and failures. Second: What is your definition of success?

By creating sustainable definitions of why you write and what success means to you, you will have laid the foundation you will need in order to stay grounded. First and foremost, these two definitions will help keep your mindset in your control, and no one else’s. There will be no room for doubt.
In addition to keeping your mindset in your control, Caroline’s Writer’s Manifesto offers additional ways to stay grounded. Here are the two that come up frequently.

You have become a success. You have multiple published works with traditional publishers that are selling well, even winning awards. The Writer’s Manifesto says, “Hold success loosely.” Remember: Success is a gift, not a given. It’s a gift when someone likes your book. When you receive praise and are treated as someone special, hold it loosely. Don’t think you’re more important than anyone else. Stay grounded: Remember why you write and how you define success.
You are rubbing elbows with authors and illustrators who have garnered success. You can’t help it. You find yourself comparing yourself to them and feeling envious. And what’s worse, your peers don’t even notice you. At times like this, take the long view. Stay generous. Another person’s success doesn’t mean there is less opportunity for you. Acknowledge that you’re envious. Use your envy as a map. Follow this map to where you want to go. These successful artists are your inspiration. View them that way. Stay grounded: Remember why you write and how you define success.

Caroline’s Writer’s Manifesto can be your anchor. It can be your guide, leading your thoughts and opinions to the highest place they can go. Creating a manifesto of your own can save you a lot of time and effort, so you can re-focus your energies on what matters: your works.

Here are the questions on a handout, “A Writer’s Manifesto: Who You Are, What You Value, and Why It Matters,” which Caroline gave to each participant:
Why do you write?
What is your sustainable definition of success?
How can you deal with comparison and envy?
Creating your Own Manifesto:
*What ideals do you want to hold to?
*What truths do you want to guide you?
*What do you want to stand for?
*What do you want to avoid?

In parting, Caroline urged us: READ THIS!!!

Visit Caroline's website at and her blog for helpful writing information and tips. Caroline is an active member of our SCBWI regional chapter. She lends her expertise and help in our activities throughout the year. She is a delight to know and we are grateful for her participation and support.
Clipart courtesy of:
Some of my writing partners
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. Her first book, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, will be available soon. Currently, she is hard at work on The Ghost of Janey Brown, Book Two in the series. Follow Linda at

Friday, January 25, 2019

Tips for Selling Your Essay - Magazine Pub series #9

Tips for Selling Essays to Magazines  ----   Should I submit a pitch or a draft?

The question of sending a full draft or a pitch varies from magazine to magazine. Follow your selected magazine’s guidelines and requirements for submittal, if possible.

Here are points of reference:
•    Literary journals customarily require full drafts for submittal.
•    If you don’t have clips of published essays, a good rule of thumb is to submit essays on spec, meaning in full draft form.
•    When your essay is difficult to convey in a pitch, send a full draft.
•    On a tight schedule? Get your pitch out there and buy yourself some time to draft it.
•    Some editors prefer to receive a pitch. Search the magazine’s website or place a call for the info.
•    If your essay topic is relative to breaking news, your best choice may be to pitch your idea.
•    When you’ve worked with an editor previously, a pitch may be all that’s needed to assign the essay.
•    Should your essay require in depth research and include interviews, pitching the idea may be best.

To grab your reader, compose the essay as you would a story with one theme, a beginning, middle, and end. Include dialogue, setting, and engaging description. 

You may choose to write a personal essay sharing a part of your life with others. Personal Essays connect and communicate to the reader they are not alone. As I worked through an essay about being emotionally sidelined during childhood I knew I was not alone and wanted encourage others with similar experiences. Writing a personal essay in first-person narrative is customary. 

Personal essays are just that: personal. You are telling true-life experiences that may also lead to discussing a subject about which you are passionate. These essays are public—it’s important to consider the subjects you would rather keep private for your journal alone.

** Last time we talked about getting a handle on our Copyrights. I’ve added a couple links you may find useful. 

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 clear & concise, personable yet professional.
Know your reader.
Use quotes & antidotes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Where Is Your Tipping Point?

By W. Terry Whalin

How do you find your tipping point in book publishing? Or to ask it a slightly different way: what elements have to come together for  book to become a bestseller? One of the critical elements in my view is great writing and storytelling. Good writing helps people spread the word or buzz about the book (word of mouth).  Yet some wonderfully written books don’t get to the bestseller list.

Several years ago, I was interviewing Jerry B. Jenkins for a story related to one of the Left Behind books. Jerry realizes the unusual way his series of books has caught public attention—with over 60 million copies in print and a huge appetite for the concept which continues today with about 10,000 units of the first book continuing to be sold. Jerry wrote the first book in 1995.

Jerry recommended that I read a book from Malcolm Gladwell called The Tipping Point, How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Little, Brown Company, 2000). A tipping point according to Gladwell is that magical moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips and spreads like wildfire. What causes it?  

The Law of the Few is one of the critical elements where three groups intersect and come together. These three factors are: connectors, mavens, and salesmen. A connector is someone who knows lots of people and Gladwell gives a simple test. He takes about 250 surnames from the Manhattan phone book. You are to scan the names and see if you know someone with that last name. As he says on page 41, “All told, I have given the test to about 400 people. Of those, there were two dozen or so scores under 20, eight over 90, and four more over 100…Sprinkled among every walk of life, in other words, are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are Connectors.”

A Maven is one who accumulates knowledge. “A Maven is a person who has information on lots of different products or prices or places. This person likes to initiate discussions with consumers and respond to requests.” (p. 62) So you see two of the elements—mavens and connectors.

“In a social epidemic, Mavens are data banks. They provide the message. Connectors are social glue: they spread it. But there is also a select group of people—Salesmen—with the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing, and they are as critical to the tipping of word-of-mouth epidemics as the other two groups.” (p. 70).

Do I have it figured out? Not at all. I believe Gladwell is on to something significant for these factors to come together to tip the balance and make a book move from one level to the bestseller category. I hope it provides you with a bit of my insight. I still have a great deal to learn about this particular question.

How do books finally make a tipping point to become a bestseller? Let me know in the comments below. 


How can you find the tipping point for your book? Get some ideas 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. One of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has over 205,000 twitter followers

Friday, January 18, 2019

Using Anthologies to Study the Market

One piece of writing advice I hear a lot, and which I agree with, is that you must read.  But not everyone agrees on the particulars.

Some say you should read like a reader and others say you should read like an editor or a scientist, dissecting what you read to see what works.

Some say read, read, read your genre and then stop reading while you write, so you don't accidentally let whatever you're reading influence your own work too much.

Others say read, read, read all the time, in your genre and others.

I write short stories in a variety of genres, novels (fantasy and sci fi), travel essays, travel guides, and various other types of work.  But I have to admit that my reading habits are a bit more narrow.  I tend to mostly read novels instead of short stories.  I read travel guides to places I plan to travel, but don't read as much other travel writing as I should.  Part of this, of course, is due to limited time.

So, to make my reading of short work more efficient, I use the anthology approach.

Benefits of Reading Yearly Anthologies

Long-standing, well-respected anthologies are great because they collect some of the (subjectively) best fiction of the year from various magazines.  You don't waste time with mediocre stories.  You get a feel for what's current and what editors are throwing their support behind.  Go ahead and dissect these stories and learn from them.

Another valuable aspect of an anthology is that you see which magazine first published which story.  This is very useful for your own work.  You know the old advice about submitting to magazines:  read a few issues first to see if your work fits.  This is excellent advice.  Unfortunately, we don't always have time to read a few issues of every magazine.  Luckily, anthologies give you a shortcut.  Pick out the stories you like or that could be good matches to yours, then see which magazines they were published in.  Start submitting to those magazines. 

Some Good Anthologies:

The O. Henry Prize Stories, edited by Laura Furman.

The Pushcart Prize; Best of the Small Presses, edited by Bill Henderson.

The Best American Short Stories, edited by Heidi Pitlor and various yearly editors.  Obviously the yearly editor puts a slant on things, so some years may be more "best" than others.

The Best American series has other genre-specific anthologies, such as The Best American Essays, The Best American Travel Writing, The Best American Mystery Short Stories, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, etcLook for your target genre to see if they have one that matches.

The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Rich Horton.  Also in the series, The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, edited by Paula Guran.

The Best Horror of the Year, edited by Ellen Datlow.

Many of these can be found at your local library as well as at online and brick-and-mortar bookstores.

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 this summer, check out her guide book, Cruising Alaska on a Budget; a Cruise and Port Guide. Visit her online at

Find Mentors for Your Writing

Where do you get help for your writing? By W. Terry Whalin Who are you listening to and then applying that information into your lif...