Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Writing - Getting Past the Gatekeeper

How Do You Make a Good Story Worthy of Getting Past the Gatekeeper?

Just about every author knows about the "gatekeeper." The dreaded acquisitions editor who decides if your manuscript is worthy of her attention and the publishing house's backing. In other words, the editor who decides if your manuscript is worthy of a publishing contract.

To make sure your ‘good’ story becomes a 'worthy' story, the Writer’s Digest article, "7 Simple Ways to Make a Good Story Great," gives excellent tips on just what it takes to create a 'worthy' story.

The author of the article, Elizabeth Sims, explains that "there are subtle differences between fiction that’s passable and fiction that pops—fiction that shows that you know what you’re doing."

So what are those 7 strategies or tips?

1. Well, the first tip mentioned is the five senses. Sims says writers have to go beyond what is expected. Editors and agents want more. "They want physical business that deepens not just your setting, but your characterizations."

2. Next on the list is the use of idiosyncrasies. Each of us has some idiosyncrasy, some weirdness, some form of irrational behavior that makes us unique and interesting. Using those characteristics deepens and broadens your characters.

3. Third up is realism. Sims says, "Forget about being pretty." Write it as it is. Don't worry about it being raw or dark or unpopular. Don’t go for the popular or expected, make it real.

4. The fourth on the list is to write without 'dumbing' down. Readers are savvy and most are educated. They don't want to be written down to, to be told what to think and when. Let them fill in the empty spaces.

5. Fifth on the list is to keep it focused and moving forward. I've read a number of manuscripts that had 'pausing' information - content that wasn't needed in the story and that would make the reader pause, wondering why it was in there. Causing a reader to pause while reading is never a good thing. Pausing causes distraction, which may keep the reader from turning the next page.

6. Next up is the use of laughter. Wit and understated humor goes a long way in increasing engagement in a story. And, even if your novel is on the serious side, there will be moments in it that you can lighten it up a bit of subtle humor.

7. The final tip is to "make them cry." Sims aptly notes that, "Lots of books make readers laugh and lots make readers cry, but when readers laugh and cry while reading the same book, they remember it."

The gatekeepers have keen eyes, looking for weaknesses in your manuscript. Use these seven tips to help get pass those gatekeepers.

To read the Writer's Digest article, click the link:
7 Simple Ways to Make a Good Story Great

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

If you’d like more writing tips or help with your children’s story, check out: Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

You can follow Karen at: LinkedIn and Twitter 

And, be sure to check out Karen's middle-grade fantasy adventure, Walking Through Walls.


Saturday, March 28, 2020

Tips From A Psychologist On Handling These Trying Times

Everyone is struggling through shelter-ins, isolation, social distancing, loss of income, and an array of other frightening and unusual events, like being unable to find toilet tissue, disinfectant wipes, masks, and so on.

For me, being in a hot spot definitely adds to the worry. Everyday I hear about more and more people I know or know of who have it. And, it's definitely not just seniors! So, everyone please be careful.

To help with this craziness, Dr. Valerie Allen offers some great advice and tips on how to handle the stress we're all under.

Dr. Allen was a guest contributor on Writers on the Move multiple times as an author, but I didn't know she was also a psychologist.

As I subscribe to her mailing list, she sent along a PDF on how we can help ourselves and has graciously allowed me to share it:


You can find out more about Dr. Allen at:

Write, Publish, Sell! 2 Ed
Beyond the Inkblots: Confusion to Harmony

I hope this helps you and PLEASE SHARE!

Karen Cioffi


Friday, March 27, 2020

Spring Cleaning at One SCBWI Chapter

"Hide and Seek," by Alan F. Stacy
Our New Mexico Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI-NM, chapter held its first “Write & Sketch” monthly meeting in early March 2020, pre-pandemic. We are currently looking into ways to continue meeting online for now. But in the future, for SCBWI chapters and other writing organizations looking for a way to meet and still get some work done, this post is for you.

Prior to “Write & Sketch,” our monthly meetings were called “ShopTalk.” Our facilitator would organize the evenings based on themes members were interested in. For example, a panel of four presented an evening’s discussion on “Diversity,” which I described in my November 27, 2019 post Diversity: Is Research Enough?; and turned out to be one of our last themed get-together's.

Our new facilitator decided to try something different. She took a look at what other SCBWI chapters are doing, gave us some examples, and opened up for discussion. How did we want to reshape our monthly get-together's, if at all, as some chapters don’t hold monthly meetings? In a nutshell, here are a few examples of what she found:

Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Region hosts six events:

  • Writer’s Day March: A one-day conference featuring speakers, intensives, writing contests and awards.
  • B-I-C Retreat April (even years): A three-day, two-night retreat featuring your butt in a chair working on your craft.
  • Critiquenic June: Free, informal critiquing sessions for writers and illustrators, held after a picnic lunch.
  • Working Writer’s Retreat Sept/Oct: A three-day, two-night retreat featuring editors, speakers, and intensive critiquing.
  • Illustrator’s Day Oct (odd years): A one-day conference featuring speakers, juried art competition, contests, and portfolio reviews/display.
  • SCBWI-Los Angeles’ members host smaller events throughout the year called LitMingles. LitMingles are informal get-togethers, often held monthly, where general topics are chosen for group discussion.

New England: Alternate every other month between free ShopTalk meetings and paid presentations.

New York-Manhattan Metro: Write & Sketch; Roundtable discussions every other month on social and equity topics in children literature; and 3-4 times/year formal paid workshops.

Oregon: Write Directions social hours at a coffee shop to network for 45 minutes-1 hour.

Others: Only conferences and no monthly meetings.

SCBWI-NM Takeaway
One of our concerns is to reach out to beginning authors, as well as PAL authors—those who have traditionally published books, and indie or self-published authors. Out of the other chapters’ ideas, we came up with three ways we might meet our members’ needs.

  • Write & Sketch
  • Periodic field trips for inspiration
  • Periodic low-fee workshops presented by our members and others in the community, such as local authors, editors, agents, and librarians.
  • Conference and retreat: In addition, our chapter holds a fall conference each year, Handsprings, and every other year a writer’s retreat at the Hummingbird Music Camp in Jemez Springs, New Mexico.
Our Write & Sketch Maiden Evening
Our first experiment with Write & Sketch was a great success. Our Chapter Regional Advisor arrived early and arranged the tables and chairs in the room in groups. The meeting began by members sharing their news. When it came time to work, our facilitator set her watch for an hour, and left time afterwards to talk about how we did.

My Table
I sat with two artists and two other writers. During our hour it was gratifying to look up and see the concentrated expressions on everyone’s faces, and all the work we were getting done. Most surprising and delightful were our table's results:
  • Debbie, one of the artists, experimented with colors with her portable paint set and her water brush, to decide on the hair color and other features of characters she was working on. Debbie says water brushes come in a range of sizes; the smallest brushes can make a mark as delicate as a pen stroke, but her brush was a bit larger than that. 
  • Alan, the other artist, drew in his sketchbook from a prompt provided for the evening: to create a character and then have him hide or hangout somewhere. Alan ran with the prompt and came up with the illustration he named, “Hide & Seek;” which he thought was fun and which he has graciously shared with us.
  • The writers edited and revised our current writing projects; such as a book about a therapy dog and my mystery/ghost series.
A Bright Future
Plans to visit a Jim Henson Muppet exhibit at an Albuquerque museum and other activities, of course, had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). But once the danger passes, I think our members are excited about our new plans and look forward to sharing social and work time with new ways to be excited and inspired . . . together.
Enjoying a sunny day in Alamo Canyon
Alamogordo, New Mexico

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. Website coming soon.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Descriptive Writing - Make it Realistic

All our writing; be it stories, blog posts, essays, articles, or books are strengthened as we use descriptive details to engage our readers.


Our need and aim is to grow our observation skills in general and specific ways. These skills could be the most essential task for writers and is true for narrative pieces and stories. Further, it creates relatable writing. For this, we must build our descriptive muscles.

Tips for writing descriptively:
1.    Use sense words: sight, smell, sound, texture and taste, and paint a picture for the readers’ imagination. As the sensory detail flows, the reader forms a mental picture and is attracted to the piece.

2.    Brainstorm specific pictorial ideas using post-it notes or a whiteboard.

3.    Build a collage of photos from magazines or sketches.

4.    Use description to make your writing vibrant, essential and focused.

5.    Spend 10-15 minutes playing the scene in your own imagination and then write it.

6.    Descriptions of physical features and appearance will support the story.

7.    Boost interest by using comparisons, metaphors, and simile.

8.    Use detail to express items of importance: the big picture, a specific purpose, or significant points.

9.    Stay focused on the topic to avoid confusing the reader with non-essential wordiness.

10.    Writing descriptively doesn’t require writing more, but often less.

11.    Too many descriptions can slow down the story, use it with the purpose of slowing the piece or avoid it.

Quick checklist for description in a piece:
1.    Do we “see” a mental picture or impression?
2.    Do the words engage the senses, describe shape, or time?
3.    Does it form a larger picture for the story or narrative?

Rebecca McClanahan is the author of “Word Painting, The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively”.  This is my current read and her masterful use of descriptive writing is astounding. It’s worth checking out.

Descriptive Word lists help to recognize just the right word for the piece.
Helpful links:

Wishing you all Wellness always! 
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 writer’s website at:  
Her caregiver’s website at:
Facebook: Deborah Lyn Stanley, Writer

Share on LinkedIn
And via the icon bar below:

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Listen to Bestselling Books (For Free)

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Many libraries have temporarily closed (including the one down the street from me). The good news is their online feature are still open and accessible if you have a library card. I continue to check out and listen to books from my library--and you can too. 

Recently I listened to the new memoir by actress Demi Moore  called Inside Out. About the time I finished listening to the book, the hardcover print memoir was #1 on the nonfiction bestseller list from Publishers Weekly.  

While Inside Out was unusual listening for me, it wasn't the first time I heard a current bestseller about the time of its release. In fact, it happens to me often. I read or listen to many bestselling books. In this article, I want to show you how you too can listen to the latest books about the time of their release and when people are talking about them and you are reading about them in the news.

1. Read about forthcoming books and use free online publications like Publishers Weekly, Shelf Awareness, newspaper or magazines. As you read, be watching for the information about forthcoming books and then take action. The action that I'm encouraging you to take is to sign up to get the book coming your direction (free).

2.  If you see something of interest, search for it at your local library on Overdrive and get on hold list for the book. You will have to learn how to use the search tool of Overdrive then get on the waiting list for the book. The beauty of this process is to find the book, put a hold on it, then get in line for when the book is available. Using the hold process, when the book is ready for you to check out, it will automatically be checked out to you and you will receive an email that the audiobook is ready for you to download on your phone. I love the Overdrive process because it is free, easy and I carry the books everywhere on my phone. It allows me to listen when I'm in my car for a few minutes or a longer drive. I can listen to an audiobook when I exercise or even when I travel on an airplane—because the audiobook is on my phone. After 21 days the book “expires” and returns to the library. This expiration process is automatic and does not involve physically returning the book since it is all done electronically.

3. If you can't find it, then make a request for it through your local library. They can possibly buy the book and if you have requested it, you get to be one of the first people to get the book. I've gone through this process a number of times with books and my local library has ordered the book.

4. From looking at the books that I've been reading and writing about on Goodreads or Amazon (follow these links to see the books), I hope you will see the diversity. While I'm a conservative Christian, I do not read or listen to only conservative Christian books. I mix into my reading books from people who are at the opposite political spectrum from me. For example, in recent days, I listened to Susan Rice's memoir called Tough Love. I enjoyed this audiobook and heard it cover to cover (which I don't do with every book). 

Also I vary the types and genres of books that I consume. The diversity builds something intangible but important in my life. It is a pattern I recommend for you as well. Don't be in a reading rut but be open to many different types of books. Because I'm using the library, there is a wide spectrum of available books.

I've given you the steps and ways I learn about forthcoming titles and then listen to them for free. Are you listening to audiobooks? Maybe you do something completely different. Let me know in the comments below.


You can listen to current bestsellers for free. Get the details 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).  His latest book for writers is 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed. 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 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Cricket Media's New Call

Want to get your mind off a certain virus?  Have extra time in quarantine?  Need a break from the dark, gritty novel you're writing, or that manual on how to survive an apocalypse? 

If you write for kids, or would like to get into it, consider Cricket Media's call for submissions (due June 15) for Cricket, Spider, Ladybug, and Babybug.  It's a highly competitive market which pays professional rates.  

BABYBUG®: Beep-Beep, Vroom-Vroom! and Breezy Summer
LADYBUG®: Making Make Believe and My Family
SPIDER®: Wordplay and Get a Move On!
CRICKET®: Best Friends Forever? and Tales of the Sea 

Submission details here:
If you want a subscription for your own kids (or your own market research):

Melinda Brasher's fiction and travel writing appear most recently in Hippocampus, Deep Magic, and Twenty-Two Twenty-Eight.  Her newest non-fiction book, Hiking Alaska from Cruise Ports is available on Amazon.    

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

Visit her online at

Saturday, March 14, 2020

What Is Keeping You from the Writing Career You Want?

Working with writers as a writing coach for many years, I have discovered that there are several reasons why people who love to write don't turn this passion for writing into a career.

Check out the following statements and see if any of them apply to you.

Obstacles to a Thriving Writing Career

1. You hate the pressure of editor’s deadlines, but you work best when you have a timeline for completing writing projects.

2. You constantly lose your enthusiasm for writing projects before you complete them.

3. You procrastinate when you think about querying editors or looking for new writing clients.

4. You constantly think about how things that happen in your life would make for great articles and stories, yet you don’t turn these events into published materials.

5. You enjoy writing shorter pieces rather than novels and nonfiction books.

6. You don’t enjoy research and aren’t even sure how to effectively research topics you wish to write about.

7. You want to build confidence in your writing ability, but you know you need support and guidance to do so.

8. You want to learn new writing skills as you move closer to figuring out exactly who you want to become as a writer.

If any of these statements describe you, then check out my self-study e-course, Fearless Freelance Writing: Build a Career Writing about What You Know and Love.

It could be the path to a writing career that is just right for you.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is a fulltime freelance writer, writing coach, certified life coach, and the author of over 35 published books.

For more tips, resources, and other helpful information about writing and the business of writing, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge at

Writing - Getting Past the Gatekeeper

How Do You Make a Good Story Worthy of Getting Past the Gatekeeper? Just about every author knows about the "gatekeeper." Th...