Saturday, October 1, 2022

Write for the Reader, Not for Yourself

 

By Karen Cioffi

Years ago, a client told me that I don’t write for the client; I don’t even write for myself; I write for the reader.

This was in regard to a picture book I wrote for the client and it’s the best compliment I’ve ever gotten.

This is how every author should write.

Two key points when writing for children are: Write for the reader and take professional advice.

At this point in my writing career, I’ve probably written around 350 stories, between ghostwriting and rewriting. Most of them are ghostwritten.

That’s a lot of clients. And even though I’ve had a number of series clients and return clients, all-in-all, I’ve dealt with at least 300 individual clients.

And I’m most likely underestimating this.

My point, though, is that most authors, especially new authors or wanna-be-authors, don’t realize the importance of writing for the reader.

So, what exactly does this mean?

A perfect example of this is a young adult story I’m currently working on. It’s over 100,000 words and is engrossing, but it’s also very complicated.

I’m working with the client for around nine months or so, and a running problem keeps coming up: he writes for himself.

-He knows what every character’s backstory is – every little detail.

-He knows the story’s backstory.

-He knows the history of the story topic intimately.

-He knows why Character Z is evil.

-He knows how the enemy is getting their information.

-He knows how the next two books in the trilogy will pan out.

The problem…

The reader doesn’t know. And, the client more than occasionally throws in something that the reader will get lost on.

The client can’t grasp that the reader can’t read his mind.

It’s easy to fall into this hole.

It’s super easy to get caught in this scenario, especially if it’s a long story and you’re writing independently.

Again, you know what you intend. You know what’s happening – you know the why to what’s happening. But this doesn’t mean the reader will unless you clue them in.

To give a more straightforward example, suppose a story has four brothers battling an enemy, but it’s mentioned somewhere that there are five brothers. The fifth brother is mentioned vaguely in a very brief scene, then just disappears.

The author knows who the fifth brother is, where he is, how he vanished, and why he vanished. The author thinks it’s important to mention the fifth brother because that brother will play a big part in another book. The problem, again, the reader doesn’t know any of this.

The reader will begin to wonder. Who’s the fifth brother? Why was he there and then vanished? What is his place in the story? She’ll possibly get annoyed that the author even mentioned the fifth brother.

You don’t want the reader to feel she’s left out of the loop or that the story is too complicated for her. Give the reader what she needs to be engaged in the story and on top of it.

LOL Writing this, I’m not even sure if I’m being clear enough. I know what I’m trying to say; I hope it translates over.

Readers are savvy and can read between the lines as long as the author provides enough clues or information.

Write with clarity. Don’t expect the reader to be a mind reader.

Finally, if you’re working with a professional editor, rewriter, or ghostwriter, take her advice, especially when it’s on something that just makes sense. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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

Karen’s children’s books include “Walking Through Walls” and “The Case of the Stranded Bear.” She also has a DIY book, “How to Write Children’s Fiction Books.” You can check them out at: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/. If you need help with your children’s story, visit: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com.  

MORE ON WRITING AND BOOK MARKETING

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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

One Last Edit: Re-think before Submitting

Think of a story as a string of pearls. If you don't have a string,
you can't put the pearls around your neck.
                                Adapted from a quote by Marsha Norman

By Linda Wilson   @LinWilsonauthor

Can you read through your completed book without making any changes? I tried it after thinking I had finished up the basic editing and even the polishing. There couldn't possibly be anything more to "fix," thought me. Wrong. I found more changes, important changes, many changes. Throwing caution to the wind, I gave up all notions of completion and continued, alternating between rummaging through additional passes as the need occurred to me with my pinpoint-sharp #2 pencil, and then laying my book down to rest for short periods of time. My conclusion? The persistent question: When will I ever be done?  

What do I need to re-think?

While in the throes of this quest I decided, what the heck, what's one more pass? I came up with: What do I need to re-think? It turned out to be the most revealing edit of all. It resulted in a title change, removal of a subplot (that was tough--it was like losing an arm--but I had to do it), addition of a character (that was fun), rearranging some of the scenes and re-checking the arcs, making sure someone or something didn't disappear in large sections of the book. I once heard an editor liken follow-through in our works to a pearl necklace. The string of pearls need to stay intact. Each character arc, and each event had to have follow-through from beginning to end. If I hadn't done that particular check, pearls of the necklace I had begun to string would have fallen off before the clasp could have been attached. Nightmares could have resulted. I could have wound up with a school daze Incomplete, only this time from an editor and not my teacher!

Take one more look

Go back to the theme you prepared before or during the writing. Make sure the main theme shines through and ask yourself: Do the minor themes bolster the main theme?

Check the structure one more time. Is it solid?

Does each character have an arc? Each story part introduced have follow-through to the end? Follow each one all the way through to make sure.

Is your main character's flaw/need evident in the beginning and satisfied/solved from what she/he's learned by the end?

Have you done a scene check to make sure there isn't any section that might work better elsewhere?

Is there any character or scene that doesn't move the story forward? 

Is there anything to add to strengthen any part, or any weak part to delete which will strengthen the story?

Is description kept at a minimum (in a children's story)? Is the story told mostly through dialogue and action?

If it is a mystery, make a list of the clues, red herrings and reveal to make sure everything is covered.

If your book is written in close third person, have you added enough thoughts by your main character? Heightened the tension enough? Are the stakes high enough?

Advice from Jon Bard and Laura Backes from the website, Children’s Book Insider: try going back and forth from writing on paper to writing on computer. They say a different part of the brain is used each way.  

Do one last fact check.

If you grow weary of so many revisions, give your story a rest and come back to it later. One of my writing instructors once told me, you don't write a book, you re-write a book. When at first I thought I was done, I had to disengage from disappointment when finding so many glaring errors. This must be the armor people talk about that writers must grow and wear, and perhaps why people admire authors so much. For the fortitude and single-mindedness it takes to do the seat-time, on and on, until we are finally satisfied with the finished product, whatever it takes. Being sure of your work is a must if a writer wants to produce a sparkling, page-turning, humdinger of a book!

Introductory photo: Courtesy of wondoropolis.org.

My next picture book,
Cradle in the Wild,
will be out soon!


Linda Wilson writes stories for young children. Visit Linda at https://bit.ly/3AOM98L. Click the links for free coloring pages and a puppet show starring Thistletoe Q. Packrat. While you’re there, get all the latest news by signing up for Linda’s newsletter. 

Find Linda’s books at  Amazon Author Page.

Connect with Linda: FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram  




Sunday, September 25, 2022

The Benefits of Working with a Writing Coach

Suzanne Lieurance


It’s no secret that top athletes in any professional sport work with a personal coach at one time or another during their careers.

 

A good coach can help an athlete attain the peak performance needed to get to the top of his game.

 

In today’s highly competitive world of publishing, many writers are now turning to personal writing coaches to help them get to the top of their games, too.



So, what can you expect from a writing coach?


A lot, actually.


Here are some of the many benefits of working with a writing coach:

 

√ A good coach helps a writer stay motivated by providing constant feedback and encouragement. 

 

A writer not working alone, and accountable to the coach on a regular basis, finds it’s easier to keep going until a project is completed.

 

√ A good coach provides a system for success that the writer can stick with. 

 

It’s often difficult for a writer to break down a project into smaller activities and learn how to do this with any type of project. 

 

A good coach helps develop a system based on an individual’s particular writing and working style, while taking other, non-writing responsibilities and commitments into account.

 

√ A good coach helps the writer learn to set realistic goals and stay focused on them. 

 

This is perhaps one of the greatest benefits of a writing coach. 

 

Writers are creative people and may be easily distracted by other exciting opportunities and creative ideas that come their way. 

 

A writer can learn not to become distracted by other possibilities when having a tough time with a current project.

 

√ A good coach helps a writer get going again when stuck or off-track. 

 

A good coach will see that projects no longer end up as unfinished manuscripts tucked away in drawers or on computer files. 

 

They will be completed.

 

√ A good coach offers a writer professional advice. 

 

This is why it is so important to work with a coach who is also a professional writer, someone who knows the ropes.

 

√ A good coach helps a writer accurately evaluate progress. 

 

Writers can be impatient and dissatisfied with their progress because they think they should be farther along than they are. 

 

Publishing is a slow game and a good coach helps the client see realistically.

 

√ A good coach keeps the process enjoyable. 

 

Let’s face it. 

 

A writer who isn’t enjoying the writing and publishing process isn’t very likely to stick with it. 

 

A good writing coach knows this and provides ways to keep the process enjoyable so the writer will attain set goals. 






For more tips about working with a writing coach, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge



Suzanne Lieurance is a freelance writer, writing coach, and the author of over 40 published books. 


Learn more about her coaching programs and other resources for writers at writebythesea.com.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Use the Power of Asking


By Terry Whalin 
@terrywhalin

As a writer, there is a great deal which is outside of our control. Publishers, editors, booksellers, agents and others in the industry appear to have much more control and power than writers. I want to give you some action-oriented ideas how you can use the power of asking in your writing life.  I wrote about this topic on this blog in 2008 but this article has completely different content and ideas. 

James, the Apostle and brother of Jesus, wrote, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:2-3, NIV)

Before You Ask

To be successful in your asking, there are several steps to take before you ask. As I’ve said before in these articles, who you know in publishing is almost as important as what you know. As a writer, each of us needs to be consistently building and maintaining relationships with others. There are many ways to build these relationships such as connecting on LinkedIn, joining their email lists, reading their newsletters, commenting on their blog, reviewing their books, and many other ways to catch their attention and help them—before you ask for anything. As you do these additional steps, you will position yourself in a different way and hopefully help the asking process to go smoother and much more positive (getting a yes answer rather than silence or no).

Ask In the Right Way

Whenever you ask someone for something, you want to follow several key principles. First, create a short, personal email. If you are asking for an endorsement or a foreword, offer to draft the material (write it) for the other person. In general, an endorsement is a couple of sentences while a foreword is 1000 to 1500 words and more like a short magazine article. In your pitch, you can include a draft of this material to make it easier for the person to say yes. I suggest including a deadline so the other person understands the timeframe. If you ask in a thoughtful and careful manner, you give yourself the best opportunity to get a yes response. 

When you launch a book or new product, many people gather a launch team. Create unique benefits and gifts for people who agree to be a part of your launch team. Take the time to learn some of the tools and techniques for creating a launch team such as a private Facebook group, then build and encourage this group and ask for their help to spread the news about your new book. Remember there are thousands of new books entering the marketplace every day. What steps are you doing to make your book memorable and standout? Use the power of asking others for this process.

Whenever you pitch a magazine editor, a book editor or a literary agent, you are asking for their assistance. Before you send them anything, make sure that you are asking the right person in the right way. It’s important to personalize your pitch and make it targeted to whoever is receiving it. Your extra effort will give you the best possible opportunity to get a positive response. These professionals receive thousands of pitches and can quickly tell whether the writer has done their homework or not.

When you pitch the media (and every author needs to learn to pitch the media—journalists, podcast hosts, radio hosts and many others), learn to craft a short, attractive and targeted pitch. These professionals receive thousands of submissions and can quickly tell which authors have done their homework before asking.

No matter who you are asking, understand and use the power of asking in this process. It is something every writer can learn and do—whether you have been in this business for decades or are only beginning. My hope is that your using this power will open new opportunities for your writing.

Tweetable: 

Every writer needs to use the power of asking in their writing life. This prolific writer and editor provides a series of insights to help you get a positive response. Learn the details here. (ClickToTweet)

________________________________________

W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. Get Terry’s newest book, 10 Publishing Myths for only $10, free shipping and bonuses worth over $200. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success.  Check out his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: www.terrywhalin.com. Connect with Terry on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Short Story Benefits

 



Short Story Benefits by Deborah Lyn Stanley

Writing short stories is a great way to build skills and enrich our writing practice. Many writers use short story writing to develop a strong style and voice.

Free writing is a useful method for starting. Use prompts if you prefer. Anticipate that you will hit a kernel you can develop; go on with it and choose an inspiring image that relates. Paste the image to the top corner of your first page as a thumbnail. It will help you focus and to ignite your story.

Writers garner income from competition wins, and selling short stories to magazines. Competitions and Magazines expect short stories to be fiction. If you have a personal experience you want to use, fictionalize it.

Story starters or prompts work your imagination. You can use images, nouns from your life’s journey, nouns from the dictionary, or historical events; ex. While traveling to a new job, in a new town, he gets lost in unknown territory—a forest or desert, etc.

Now Write! Add structure, characters, descriptions, setting, dialogue to your story. You might select your characters based upon people you know. Describe interesting traits, habits, and looks---but mix it up so they are fresh characters. Stories are expected to have a crisis, a defining moment, that changes a character’s life or perspective forever. Build it.
(Check out Now Write: https://www.nowwrite.net/fiction/ )

Stories love structure!
The links below help empower your storytelling adventure!

Mia Botha, Writers Write
https://www.writerswrite.co.za/how-to-write-a-short-story-all-the-tips-youll-ever-need/

How to Write a Short Story That Captivates Your Reader, Jerry Jenkins
https://jerryjenkins.com/how-to-write-short-stories/

And my review:
How To Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing Career by James Scott Bell,
a Book Review

https://www.amazon.com/Write-Stories-Further-Writing-Career


Each chapter of this book broadens our knowledge and paints an exciting picture for growth through short story writing. Its focus is crafting stories, fundamentally strong; flash fiction, short stories, or book length. It includes samples of five short stories to emphasize key points of structure that identify and analyze the strength of each story. Best of all, the book encourages writing short stories; it will improve our writing.
The author’s intent is to strengthen writers for a lasting career of productivity and publication. I used the book to learn the keys to story structure and to help me develop viable story ideas.

I recommend this helpful, instructive book to enhance our writer’s journey.

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories.
She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her My Writer’s Life website at: https://deborahlynwriter.com/   
Visit her caregiver’s website: https://deborahlyncaregiver.com/

Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love is available:
at Amazon & https://books2read.com/b/valuestories


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Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Strategic Productivity for Writers

 


 Strategic Productivity for Writers by Deborah Lyn Stanley

Time management is important for writers who want to get more work done each day. A strategic look at our day-to-day writing practice, work load and goals is, time well spent. A better work-life balance allows free time for ideas to flow and for other pursuits.
 
The benefits of better Time Management include:
A boost to your productivity
Minimizing stressors; both known and those unexpected surprises
Improved workflow management
Meeting deadlines more consistently

But How? Here are some adjustments you might make:
What’s on your plate for today? Start with a plan
Prioritize important tasks and time sensitive projects
Break down tasks into workable chunks
Limit distractions: meetings, email traffic. Say NO or reschedule.
Batch similar tasks or projects to better organize your time
Avoid multitasking—remain focused on the task at hand
Mark your calendar for undisturbed blocks of time by scheduling appointments with just you.
Delegate when possible.

It is helpful to review your day and summarize what worked, and what needs to change. Revise areas as required and make a list of all that worked well.
List the things to be addressed tomorrow.
Make note of what inspired you to keep writing today? Do it again!

Consider trying out The Pomodoro Technique: a focused writing time then breaks technique.


 
Or use the Eisenhower Matrix:


 

Links of Interest:
Upwork Time Management Strategies
https://www.upwork.com/resources/time-management-strategies  

USA EDU Time Management Techniques
https://www.usa.edu/blog/time-management-techniques/

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 My Writer’s Life website at: https://deborahlynwriter.com/   
Visit her caregiver’s website: https://deborahlyncaregiver.com/

Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love is available:
On Amazon Mom-Me-Story-Dementia-Power
& https://books2read.com/b/valuestories






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Friday, September 9, 2022

Featured Productivity Tool: Break the Rules




What does breaking the rules have to do with writing and productivity? Everything!

Thinking out of the box - and getting creative with your ideas, solutions, etc. - gets you inspired. Inspiration leads to motivation which results in productivity! 
 
In August, I invited John Chen of Engaging Virtual Meetings, Jennie Mustafa-Julock aka Coach Jennie, and Deanna Seymour, host of the “Eff That: Breaking the Rules of Online Business Podcast,” to talk about breaking the rules on #GoalChatLive. 

John believes that when you break stuff, you learn more than everyone else. "A lot of the time the world breaks you; there’s something empowering about choosing to break."
 
Jennie suggests breaking the mold of being around like-minded people. "It’s better to be around diverse-minded people." 

Deanna says breaking the rules is all about innovation. 

Watch our conversation: 


Goals for Breaking the Rules

  • Jennie: Don't wait for things to be perfect. Do the things!
  • Deanna: Be brave. Ask for something every day this week
  • John: Give something away. Share your gifts and talents

Final Thoughts 

If you think about it, writing is not just about breaking the rules, it's about creating your own rules: worlds, processes, characters - and then sharing them with the world.


* * * 

For more inspiration and motivation, follow @TheDEBMethod on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin! 

* * *

How do you break the rules? Please share in the comments. 

* * *

Debra Eckerling is the award-winning author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals and founder of the D*E*B METHOD, which is her system for goal-setting simplified. A goal-strategist, corporate consultant, and project catalyst, Debra offers personal and professional planning, event strategy, and team building for individuals, businesses, and teams. She is also the author of Write On Blogging and Purple Pencil Adventures; founder of Write On Online; host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat, #GoalChatLive on Facebook and LinkedIn, and The DEB Show podcast. She speaks on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.


Write for the Reader, Not for Yourself

  By Karen Cioffi Years ago, a client told me that I don’t write for the client; I don’t even write for myself; I write for the reader. This...