Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Carolyn Howard-Johnson Shares How to Make Reviews into Marketing Workhorses


July 5, 2022, #1
How to Make Reviews into Marketing Workhorses
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
This is the first of a series of guest posts for #WritersontheMove 
that help writers understand the power of reviews with excerpts from her 
How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: 
The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing caree

Follow them on the fifth of each month through October 5, 2022.
“Very simply put, reviews are the gift that keeps giving.” ~ CHJ
So you have a review now. Maybe it’s your first. Maybe it’s your umpteenth. You may be able to determine that sales resulted from it. You may not. If not, you may be disappointed. Don’t be. The work a review can do for you has just begun. Here are a few ways you can extend its usefulness.

Permission To Reprint the Review
The sooner we ask for permission to reprint any review we get, the better. That gives us the freedom to use it as needs arise. As our file of reviews-with-permission grows, we come to understand that it is an unmatched cache of promotion jewels.
The best way to get permission to reprint from amateur and reader reviewers is to ask the reviewer personally. If your review is in a journal, you may not know who the reviewer is, but you can ask the editor or publisher for permission. Tell either contact you would like to reprint. Ask them how they would like to be credited and what link and other contact information they would like you to use. Just these two questions should suggest to your reviewer that they could benefit from giving you that permission. Add those details to your file so you it will nudge you to the right thing long into the future when you may decide to use it again.

Keep in mind that copyright law gives you the right to quote excerpts from a review without asking. So if all your grant-permission-rights efforts fail, you can choose, quote, and credit a positive sentence or phrase from the review when you can get permission—and when you can’t--as long as you credit the reviewer. The guidelines for quoting from a review are called fair use and they differ from genre to genre and situation to situation. But for novels and full books of nonfiction, Amazon uses twenty-five words as a guideline and I trust they have great copyright attorneys advising them.

Caveat: Getting unnecessary permission can be cumbersome and counterproductive. Or it can be a great advantage. When you’re working with reviews, asking permission can slow you down, but it can also earn you friends as you work with those who reviewed your book. They are influencers in communities of readers. So balance your decision-making process each time you get a review. Ask yourself, Is the reviewer and/or publisher prestigious, credible, approachable? Is the long-term advantage of networking worth the time and effort in your schedule as it exists in this moment. I hope you use networking approach most often. A great contact (read that friend!) is almost always worth the time it takes to make one.

Here is how to use both the reviews and blurbs excerpted from my 300-page-plus How To Get Great Reviews. It will help WritersontheMove subscribers and visitors extract ethical blurbs (endorsements) from their reviews and credit them appropriately.

Excerpting Blurbs and Endorsements from Reviews

Most of us weren’t taught this excerpting business in school, probably because excerpting seems such a nonissue. Many have no idea how to do it and don’t realize they need to figure it out. They can go miserably astray.

Blurbs may be neglected because there is confusion about what they are. I have heard them called endorsements, testimonials, praise, quotes, blurbs, and even bullets because they are frequently printed on the back cover of books set off by little BB-sized dots.

When my husband solicited blurbs from VIPs in the Asian community for his first book What Foreigners Need to Know about America from A to Z (bit.ly/AmericaAtoZ), he came up with a few other . . . ahem! . . . choice words for getting them. He had been told it is a difficult process. Difficult, but not impossible. He ended up with endorsements from the ambassador to China from the U.S. and the ambassador from China to the U.S. This illustrates why authors shouldn’t listen to naysayers who think approaching influencers is futile. You can do it and you can do it effectively. His step-by-step method takes a full section in How To Get Great Book Reviews and it may be something you need for your process. But for now, the excerpting process is easy and a lot of fun. Let’s say you have a review that includes some praise or even a word that made you happy. Perhaps the rest of it wasn’t all you’d like it to be. Perhaps (yikes!) it doesn’t include your name or title! Here’s how to proceed:

    Put on your marketing bonnet and reread your review thinking “soundbites” or the phrases that remind you of the praise you see in ads for movies. Many of them are excerpts or little clips from advance reviews of that film.
    Choose the little gems that make you glad you wrote the book. Some will be very short. Even one word. Shorties are used for everything from restaurants to movies because they emphasize the raves that are . . . mmmm, over the top—even forbidden when publishers and authors use them about their own work. Words like awesome and fantastic.
    Select some of the praise that points out the benefit a reader might get if he or she reads your book.
    When you must leave something out of the sentence you choose, let ellipses (three little dots…) take the place of those missing words.
    Sometimes you need to substitute for purposes of clarity or brevity. If the blurb says, “If there is any justice in the world, this book is destined to be a classic,” and you would rather have the title of your book in that excerpt rather than this book, you can do that. Remove this book and replace those words with the name of the book: “Two Natures by Jendi Reiter.” You need to put the squarish brackets around the part you insert yourself. So it would read “… if there is any justice in the world, [Two Natures by Jendi Reiter] is destined to be a classic.”

Note: You can see that your job is to make the excerpt as true to the original meaning as possible without sacrificing its value.

    Stow your excerpts in a file you can refer to later. Be sure to include the accreditation for each blurb. That avoids confusion later and makes using one of them a quick copy-and-paste process. The best accreditation included the name and of the reviewer and the entity the review was published in or the position or book the reviewer is most known for.
    Though we should also take care when we quote others, it is legal to quote for certain purposes and in certain amounts without getting permission especially if you write commentary, satire, criticism, academic material, or news reports. Reviews are considered criticism. If you are using your reviews efficiently, you will probably already have permission to reprint according to guidelines we’ve already mentioned. (Use How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically’s Index to look up all the references to copyright in that book.)
    The number of words you can use without permission depends upon the size of the copyrighted work as a whole. Guidelines differ from genre to genre. Find specific guidelines at the Library of Congress web site (loc.gov/) or let a research librarian help you. The online bookstore division of Amazon protects itself by allowing quotations and blurbs of up to twenty-five words directly from reviews.

Note: Those who want to learn more about copyright law as it applies to authors will find help in Literary Law Guide for Authors: Copyrights, Trademarks and Contracts in Plain Language (bit.ly/LitLawGuide) by Tonya Marie Evans and Susan Borden Evans with a foreword by my deceased friend and book marketing guru Dan Poynter.

Once you have asked for reprint rights or a review journal like Midwest Book Review notifies you when your review has been posted and the notification includes permission to reuse it—a very nice service that benefits both Midwest and you—record each permission you are given in a folder reserved for great blurbs and reviews. Use  a subfolder for each of your book titles. At that point, you are ready to go to work.

Watch for my next guest blog on WritersontheMove on August 5, 2022. We’ll cover ways you never imagined you could use your reviews and the excerpts (blurbs or endorsements) you have gleaned from them. Trust me, there are probably several free and frugal ways to use your blurbs and endorsements you have never thought of. If you can’t wait, try my How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically at https://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews available as an ebook or paperback.

More on Guest Blogger and Regular WritersontheMove Contributor 

Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and founder and owner of a retail chain to the advice she gives in her multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter, now in its third edition from Modern History Press. Her multi award-winning The Frugal Editor won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. The third full book in the HowToDoItFrugally series for writers is How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically.

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

The author loves to travel. She has visited ninety-one countries before her travels were so rudely interrupted by Covid and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her Web site is www.howtodoitfrugally.com.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Writing and Supporting Characters


By Karen Cioffi

 Every story has a least one supporting character.

According to Cynthia Lord, author of "Rules," a Newberry Honor Book, "A secondary character has two jobs: to show us another side of the main character and to create tension and problems that will move the plot ahead." (1)

To understand this, think of any story. Now imagine that story with just the main character.

Who would he talk to?

Yes, he could talk to himself, but that would get old fast.

How would we learn more about the character other than what he would tell us himself?

We wouldn't.

Supporting characters are necessary to every story.

Using Supporting Characters to Learn More About the Protagonist

A movie I loved is Cast Away, the 2001 movie with Tom Hanks.

Hanks played Chuck Noland, a FedEx worker who gets stranded on a remote desert island. He's stranded on this island for four years.

No other people are around.

So, the clever writer, William Broyles, Jr., created a supporting character for Chuck. A volleyball that washes up on shore.

Yes, a volleyball.

As time goes on, Chuck names the volleyball Wilson.

If not for Wilson, the viewer would know very little about Chuck and there wouldn't be much of a story.

Chuck talks to Wilson, confides in Wilson, argues with Wilson, and even cares about Wilson.

If you haven't seen it, it's an amazing movie. One that proves even an inanimate object can be a powerful supporting character.

While Wilson showed us a lot about Chuck's character, an inanimate object as a supporting character doesn't really do much to move a story forward. And, it doesn't have much ability to add tension or problems into the story.

In this movie, the elements and Chuck's emotional state were the antagonists causing conflict.

Using Supporting Characters to Provide Conflict

Supporting characters can actually provide the conflict for the main character and drive the story forward.

I'm writing a sequel to my middle grade fantasy, Walking Through Walls, and it's the supporting character who is adding a big serving of problems for the main character.

In the first book, the story was solely about the main character, Wang. It was about his struggle to get what he wanted. While the supporting character Chen was introduced, he didn't have a significant role.

In Book Two, Chen is the source of the conflict and struggles the two friends go through to reach their goal.

In this new story, which I haven't given a title yet, Chen is the one with a problem. His sister was abducted by evil warriors and he asks Wang's help to get her back.

As the main character, Wang is learning his skills as an Eternal student while helping Chen. This all allows the reader to see more of Wang's character and to connect with him.

The story is a fantasy action adventure, so along the way, the two friends will encounter a number of obstacles on their journey to save Chen's sister.

Using Supporting Characters to Provide Subplots

Sometimes, a story from Point A to Point B, may be a little boring or may just need a little something to spice it up.

According to New York Book Editors, "subplots add dimension to your story. They have the power to transform flat black-and-white stories into a living, breathing, prismatic experience." (2)

Subplots can also help pace your story.

I'm using this strategy in a middle grade story I'm ghostwriting.

The main storyline is strong, but to carry its weight through 40,000 words, it may lose steam.

The solution is to have the supporting characters have their own little stories going on. While the main character is privy to everything that's going on, these little diversions create reader engagement and help move the story forward.

Another benefit of subplots with supporting characters is that they can be in the forefront for a short while to liven things up, then lie low until needed again.

These subplots help the reader get better acquainted with the characters.

It's important to remember, though, that when you create a subplot in a story, you need to have an arc for each subplot you create. You need to tie up any loose ends it creates. Think of it as a mini-story within the main story.

So, if you're writing your first book, think about your supporting characters. How will they help liven your story up and engage the reader? How will they help move your story forward?


(1) https://gointothestory.blcklst.com/great-characters-wilson-cast-away-5a6ff322139d
(2) https://nybookeditors.com/2017/11/the-importance-of-subplots/ 


Karen Cioffi
is an award-winning children’s author, a successful children’s ghostwriter with 300+ satisfied clients worldwide, and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For children’s writing tips, or if you need help with your children’s story, visit: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com

You can check out Karen’s books at:



The Foundation of Every Children's Story

5 Revision Tips 

Six Steps to Finding Writing Jobs and Building Your Business 



Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Writers: Tips on Writing Humor, Part One

Lots of Humor in Waddles the Duck: Hey, Wait for Me!
                                  Linda Wilson's latest picture book, illustrated by Nancy Batra

By Linda Wilson @LinWilsonauthor

In articles about writing funny, some authors say if you can write well, you can also be funny. That sounded reasonable. Others say humor writing is "tricky." Getting warm. Note: mustn't mistake for hot flashes. I didn't even let Frank Gannon discourage me when he said, If you want to write humor "you obviously have something wrong with you, and that is the one single quality that all humorists must have. You have something wrong with you, but you don't want anyone to notice what it is. Therefore, you try to make them laugh." What a relief. Finally, someone has the guts to tell me what's wrong with me--I want to write humor!

Jokes aside, the truth is most say humorous writing is hard work. I say, we writers work hard at everything else. Why not humor, too? Here are three reasons to try:

People love to laugh; laughter is good for us.

Humor is an effective communication tool that can humanize our work and even make the act of writing more enjoyable. Also, it boosts creativity by challenging us to approach our craft in new ways. From: How to Write Better Using Humor, by Leigh Anne Jasheway.  

Toss in the bottom line and there you have it, every reason to give humor a go: "Humor is the one thing that I've never seen an editor say they have too much of . . . period. They all say they'd like to see more." Jan Fields, Author, Instructor and Web Editor of the Institute of Children's Literature.

Ways to Ease into your Funny Bone

Make your humor lighthearted: Try poking fun at human nature. Funny things happen around you every day. Everything you do has potential for humor. The keys are to remember to be gentle, be consistent throughout the book; and as stated below in the Tips, your humorous parts must move the story forward and/or relate to the story's theme (just like everything else, or out it goes).

An unexpected turn in Bruce Coville's book, The Skull of Truth, made me laugh out loud when the main character, Charlie, ate dinner with his family. Charlie had somewhat of a problem: he was a liar. Throughout the book the theme of "Don't lie" came out loud and clear. The dinner table discussion offers a seamless example of combining humor with the book's theme: "Andy Simmons ate a bug today," put in Charlie's youngest sister, Mimi, who was in kindergarten . . . "Then he spit it out. It was gross." She looked very pleased with herself. "Charlie wondered if the story had any truth to it. He still hadn't figured out how to tell when Mimi was fibbing."

Jack Gantos' book, Dead End in Norvelt, the 2012 Newbery prize winner, is replete with good ole, new-fashioned edgy humor. If the first sentence about Jack's mother ruining his summer vacation doesn't grab you, the excruciatingly long second sentence will: "I was holding a pair of camouflage Japanese WWII binoculars to my eyes and focusing across her newly planted vegetable garden, and her cornfield, and over ancient Miss Volker's roof, and then up the Novelt road, and past the brick bell tower on my school, and beyond the Community Center, and the tall silver whistle on top of the volunteer fire department to the most distant dark blue hill, which is where the screen for the Viking drive-in movie theater had recently been erected." Talk about getting hooked by an introduction. I was already smiling, which made absorbing the opening facts effortless.

Exaggerate: Author Connie Willis wrote that Mark Twain called exaggerations "stretchers." Stretching the truth is funny, just don't go too far.

Later in the Norvelt story, it would be hard to top how Jack saved a deer his dad had in his sights when they went deer hunting together. At the most intense moment when his dad was about to pull the trigger, Jack was squatting high up in a tree house in the freezing cold   . . . when . . . "a gut desire to save the deer gave me just enough oomph, and I let out a thin stream of gas which sounded roughly like the slow opening of a creaky coffin lid that had been closed for a thousand rusty years .  . .'Good timing.' [his dad] said sarcastically without even looking at me." (I urge you to read this exhilarating, hilarious yet touching book because this example is far too brief and covers only a slight part of that scene; like so much else in the book it is hilarious while at the same time pulls the heart strings.)

For Children

Bathroom humor: Describe situations where someone breaks wind, something smells, mention underpants, make up words and names

Slapstick comedy: Exaggerate physical clumsiness, such as slipping on a banana peel

Tell Jokes

David Lubar, author of Hidden Talents, an ALA Best book for Young Adults, voted onto over twenty state lists by thousands of kids and educators; the sequel True Talents, and short collections including, In the Land of the Lawn Weenies on writing funny:

Overstatement: Comic exaggeration or overstatement is especially easy with first-person narration. In "Get Out of Gym for Free:" "I figured the gym teacher would be tough, but he looked like he was about to bite off someone's head and spit it on to the floor. Maybe after sucking out the eyeballs."

Understatement: In "At the Wrist:" "I'd lost Dad's hand. This was not good."

Death, and taboos: In general, can be funny as long as it isn't personal. Lubar wrote a whole series about a dead kid that is a hoot.

Relief: We laugh at pitfalls because we're relieved that they've happened to someone else.

Surprise: The joy of figuring out the unseen connection or seeing the unexpected solution. Humor arises when the reader figures out the unstated connection. In "Cat Got Your Nose?": "Emily liked visiting Miss Reaker. She made wonderful cookies, as long as you didn't mind a bit of cat hair among the chocolate chips, and the occasional little crunchy thing that was better left unidentified." Seeing the connection between two objects is funny, too: "Even with his face wrapped in black cloth, I had no trouble identifying Jimmy, thanks to a unibrow that could have been mistaken for a climbing rope." From: Seven Stages of Humor, by David Lubar.

Ideas from Susie Brown's blog

Use Funny Words:  For "destroy, " say "pulverize;" for "impractical," say "dorky."

Timing: Construct an artificial lull by starting a new paragraph before something funny happens; gives the reader time to think about what came before and brace themselves.

Tell a dumb joke, then make fun of it.

Say the punch line in a foreign language.

Make fun of yourself: Keep self-ridicule light; don't be afraid to call yourself a dimwit, but if you do, do it proudly. The key to self-ridicule is confidence. From: Write Funny--You'll Make More Money. by Susie Brown

Additional sources: How to Write Funny, by John Kachuba, Chapter 6, "The More and Less of Writing Humorous Fiction," by Connie Willis; and Chapter 12, "Writing 'Funny Bits' for Kids," by Patricia Case; "Writing Humor--But Seriously, Folks," by Esther Blumenfeld and Lynne Alper, Writer's Digest, January 1982; "How to Write Funny," by Lynn Coulter, from an undated SCBWI newsletter; "Funny Business," by Frank Gannon, Writer's Digest, December, 1993.

Next month: Part Two of "Tips on Writing Humor" takes a peek at how farce and sarcasm are used in fiction.

Linda Wilson lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a classical pianist and loves to go to the gym. But what Linda loves most is to make up stories and connect with her readers. Visit Linda at https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com. Sign up for Linda’s quarterly giveaways. Choose your prize! 

Find Linda’s books at https://www.amazon.com/author/lindawilsonchildrensauthor.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

An Interview with Children's Author Lisa Harkrader

by Suzanne Lieurance

It’s always fun to learn how other writers work, so recently I interviewed children’s author Lisa Harkrader.


Lisa has written all sorts of materials for the children’s market, but she loves to focus mainly on middle grade fiction. 

Her middle grade novels include:


CROAKED!—sequel to CRUMBLED! available now
THE ADVENTURES OF BEANBOY, starred review—School Library Journal, William Allen White Award nominee

AIRBALL: MY LIFE IN BRIEFS, William Allen White Award winner


Here are the questions I asked Lisa, and her answers.


Q: Lisa, please tell us a little bit about yourself as an author. How did you get started? What is your most recent published book.  

Lisa: I've wanted to be a writer since third grade, when it suddenly dawned on me that somebody had to write all those books I love to read. 


When I began pursuing a writing career as an adult, I started with short stories. I had young children at the time, and a short story was something I could hold in my head all at once and work on in short snippets of time. 


My first book was a nonfiction travel books for kids—Kidding Around Kansas City, co-written with writer and writing coach extraordinaire Suzanne Lieurance! 


I also ghostwrote three books in the then-madly-popular Animorphs series, which was great practice for writing my own first novel, Airball: My Life in Briefs.


Q: Do you have an agent? If so, what do you think are the advantages of having an agent?  Are there any reasons not to have an agent? 

Lisa: I do have an agent, Steven Chudney of The Chudney Agency. 


For me, the advantages of having an agent include having someone on your side who knows the business end of publishing much better than I ever will, someone who knows editors personally, knows their tastes and what they're looking for, who can call them, nudge them, ask them questions, someone who knows all the minutiae of a publishing contract and can negotiate to get the best terms for my books, and who can take all the drudgery of sending and tracking submissions off my shoulders. (An example: For my latest books, a series of fairy tale detective novels called The Misadventures of Nobbin Swill, I had written the first book and had ideas for several more. My publisher initially offered a two-book contract, but my agent negotiated it to three books with a higher advance.) 


Plus, once upon a time, writers could send manuscripts to book editors directly, but in today's market, it's very difficult to get editors to read unagented work. 


The main reasons I can think for not having an agent would be if you are focusing on magazine pieces, nonfiction books for the school and library market, educational publishing (e.g., classroom materials, assessment passages and items, etc.), or you plan to self-publish.

Q: How do you get your ideas for stories and books? Do you keep a notebook with you at all times, so you can jot down ideas as they come to you, for example?


Lisa: I know this is not going to sound very helpful, but when someone asks how I get story ideas, my first thought is, "How could I NOT get story ideas? They're everywhere." 


I got the idea for my first published short story from trying to park my car on a residential street and noticing a sprinkler on the curb, but instead of sprinkling into the yard, it was sprinkling into the street. 


I kept wondering why it was aimed that way—and yes, I did write it down; I've always got paper and pencil handy—until I ended up writing a story about a woman who put a sprinkler out to keep people from parking in front of her house and the neighborhood kids who turned the sprinkler into a car wash. 


I get ideas every day, more than I will ever be able to turn into stories or books. 


I've also written a lot of work-for-hire stories (such as reading passages for educational publishers), and for those, I've had to come up with story ideas that  fit specific parameters in a very short time period, such as an hour or two! 


I've found that even when my mind is totally blank, if I set a timer for 15 minutes and tell myself I must come up with 10 story ideas, no matter how terrible, by idea 5 or 6, I've come up with something I'm excited about writing.


Q: What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

Lisa: Oh, gosh, first drafts are excruciating for me. 


I love, love, love editing. 


I love when I have a finished draft before me, like a lump of clay that I can mold and form into something so much better than my initial output. 


But starting out, especially in the first few chapters, when I haven't built up any steam, is hard. 


To get over the hump, I usually do sprints of 15 or 20 minutes each, just to get words on the page. 


I also participate in Zoom write-ins with a few other authors, where we get together, chat for a few minutes, then mute ourselves and write for 25 minutes before coming back to discuss our progress. 


I find that very helpful.


Q: What do you think are your greatest strengths as a writer?

Lisa: That's a tough question because I'm always trying to grow. 


I try to take something I think is a weakness and turn it into a strength. 


When I first began writing, I noticed that I hardly described anything, probably because, as a reader, I tend to skip long passages of description. 


So I made it a mission to conquer description, and I think I'm pretty good at it now because I sort of make it stealth description, weaving it into the action, with my characters experiencing sights, sounds, smells (I love describing smells), tastes, feels, as they go about their business. 


But for my greatest strength as a children's writer, I think it's that I'm still pretty much a twelve-year-old kid on the inside, so it's not that difficult for me to see things from a middle-grade character's point of view.


Q: Who are your favorite middle grade authors? What do you like about their books/writing style, etc.?  


Lisa: There are so many great middle grade authors and books that I know I'm going to leave some out. 


I love fellow Kansas authors Clare Vanderpool (whose Moon Over Manifest won the Newbery Medal) and Elizabeth Bunce (Edgar Award winnder for her mystery series starring middle-grade Victorian sleuth Myrtle Hardcastle). 


I love Vivian Vande Velde, who writes everything from mystery to fantasy to science fiction. 


I think I'm drawn to books that, in addition to being a delightful journey with characters I love, are works I can learn from. 


Clare's Moon Over Manifest is a historical novel set in two different time periods, and I love studying the way she seemlessly moved back and forth in time and wove the two stories together. 


In Elizabeth's Myrtle books, I love seeing how she weaves forensic science, which was just starting to be an actual thing in that time period, and other historical details into a rip-roaring mystery adventure.

Q: When you are going to write a book, how much planning do you do ahead of time? For example, do you make a complete outline of the book? Do you interview your characters or create character profiles to get to know them better?  

Lisa: I plan. A lot. 


I do interviews with my main characters. 


I make outlines. 


Sometimes I start writing before I have completely finished outlining to the end, but I always have a good idea how the book will end so I know what to write toward. 


In my two latest books, Croaked! and Clocked! (books 2 and 3 in The Misadventures of Nobbin Swill series), I had to write a detailed outline of each to send to my editor, and having that much detail all the way to the end made writing the actual book so much faster and so much less stressful. 


It doesn't mean I stick strictly to the outline or that I have no room for creativity, but it does mean I have a path for a solid story, and I can just let go and write. 

Q: Voice is very important in middle grade stories. Do you have any tips for creating strong character voices?  

Lisa: I have to actually be able to hear my characters' voices in my head before I can start writing. 


I work on fleshing out my characters before I begin the actual manuscript, and when I can hear their voices—especially the main character's voice—clearly and authentically in my head, that's when I know I can start writing. 


And I think the key word there is "authentically." 


I think a strong voice is always the voice that is authentic to that specific character.


Q: What are you working on right now?

Lisa: Right now I'm working on a middle grade novel about a girl who accidentally orders a fairy godmother on the internet, and when she shows up—as a lunch lady at my main character's new school—she's the worst fairy godmother in godmother history.

Q: What is your biggest tip for beginning writers who hope to get published?  

Lisa: My biggest tip is the old tried and true READ. 


Read the kinds of books you want to write. 


Read the books that truly speak to you and try to figure out why. 


Make a note of which publishers publish the books you love, and do an internet search to see if you can find out which editors edited them and which agents represented them.

For more author interviews and tips and resources for writers, visit writebythesea.com.

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


Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Why I’m Still Blogging (and You Should too)

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

“As an acquisitions editor, you should not be blogging,” one of my long-term writer friends told me in 2008. I worked inside a well-known publisher and she believed a blog was a complete waste of my time.  I was an early adapter to the blogging trend.  I ignored her advice and I’m still blogging for many different reasons. Isn’t blogging out of step? Many writers are still blogging regularly including my long-term friend, Jerry B. Jenkins, who has been on the New York Times list 21 times. We talk about blogging some in this Master Class interview (follow the link). In this article I will help you understand why you should be blogging too.

Pick Your Audience and Focus for Every Entry

Before you post your first blog article, you need to determine your audience or readers. Just like no book is for everyone, no blog is for every reader. You can’t be all things to all readers and the focus of your blog will be critical to drawing returning readers. For example, my blog is called The Writing Life because each entry (now over 1,600 of them) are focused on various aspects of my life in publishing. I tell personal stories, point out resources and things that I’m learning. It is not just books but magazine and other aspects of the publishing business. My focus is broad enough to allow a great deal of variety. It never grows old to me (so I abandon my blog—which many people do) and I have an endless supply of material. These aspects are foundational and critical when you start blogging. Also determine how frequently you can post. If you post once a month, that pace is too infrequent for drawing readers. If you post daily, the pace may be too consuming—and you will possibly give up. I decided to blog once a week and I post on the same day every week.  Throughout each week, I have numerous ideas and I keep track of these ideas (develop your own system to capture them) and they become articles.

Some people organize a team of contributors on a topic and rotate article. Others (like me) post my own blog articles. 

Multiple Reasons to Blog 

From my view, there are multiple reasons to regularly blog:

Consistency. Blogging is an easy way to build a consistent writing habit. You can also mentor and help many others with your blog entries.

Platform and influence. Literary agents and publishers are looking for writers (despite their form rejection letters). Your blog is part of your platform, a way to show your writing skills and influence others.

A place to store your various ideas. Articles for my blog are made quickly and random topics. A number of years ago, I took those random entries and organized them into a book. Within publishing we call this process a Blook. My Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams originally started as blog entries.

A place to repurpose my ideas. When I need a blog article for someone else, I often turn to my blog with a wealth of material. In a short amount of time I can repurpose and rewrite a blog entry for these needs.

A way to make money. It’s not my first reason to blog but I make money from my blog. Through blogging, I’ve found authors that publish through Morgan James. I’ve made affiliate income from my blog and much more. I’ve even got a risk-free eBook called The 31 Day Guide to Blogging for Bucks (follow the link) for more insights on this topic.

Practical Lessons for Your Blog

Here are several practical lessons I’ve learned for your blog

--Get a header or look to your blog which people will recognize when they go to it. It doesn’t have to be complicated but should be distinctly your look. You can use a template or get help from someone at Fiverr.com but do invest this energy into the appearance.

--Add a search tool into your blog. I picked up mine from google but look for a simple HTML addition that you can add to help your readers. For The Writing Life, my search tool is in the right hand column (scroll down to find it). I use this search tool often when I’m looking for something among my many entries.

--Always include a royalty-free image with each blog entry. You can’t use just any image you find but should get it from a royalty-free source (check this link for some resources). The image gives others an easy way to pass on your articles and give you additional readers.

--Add a subscription tool to your blog. I use Feedblitz and have about 500 people who receive any update to my blog through their email. Use this link to subscribe to my blog.

--Add a ClickToTweet for every entry. There are other tools but I use ClickToTweet and from monitoring my social media, I know a number of people use this tool. Follow this link to learn how to install it.  Make it easy for people to share your articles.

A key part of the writing life is a word I don’t really like but actively do: discipline or the discipline of consistently writing. A blog is an important part of this process for me.


Are blogs still relevant? This prolific writer and editor tells why he is stillblogging (and you should too). Get 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 Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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