Targeting Specific Audiences Part 3 (results for one specific audience)

Targeting specific audiences, Part Three:  Results for the one specific audience… 

Guest Post by Steve Moore

The following is the third part of the report on my ad campaign associated with the Montclair Film Festival.  That campaign was described in Part Two.  How will I measure the success of my campaign?  To use the marketing word du jour, what are the metrics?  I can think of two in general: website traffic increase and book sales increase.

I used the built-in CysStats from my WordPress software to measure website visits and hits.  For the week previous to the release of the Film Festival catalog, I was averaging about 700 visits and 800 hits per day.  After the release to volunteer personnel, the number of hits went up to 1600 but the number of visits stayed about the same.  I returned to the “steady state” until a week later, the first weekend the general public had the catalog, when I obtained about 1800 visits and 1900 hits (April 12), but the next day it settled back to 800/900, almost the initial steady state—this 800/900 level became a new steady state with peaks on weekends, until the release of the Montclair Times Magazine.

The Montclair Times Magazine ad was released to the public on May 2.  This had a wider distribution than the Festival catalog.  There was only a slight bump on that day.  There have been other slight bumps, which I attribute to the sporadic reading of the Montclair Times Magazine (it goes to subscribers in the Montclair area, but these include doctors, dentists, and lawyers’ offices).  As of May 15, I’ve achieved a new steady state around 900 visits and 1000 hits.  For me, this increase is hardly significant, but I’m hoping the magazine ad has a long tail.

Did this increase in website traffic translate into book sales?  From the catalog ad, no.  Both Amazon and Smashwords showed pathetic performance up to the Montclair Times Magazine ad—just the same old dribs and drabs.  There was only a slight uptick after the magazine ad.  Perhaps the difference was that the magazine ad had the cover of The Golden Years of Virginia Morgan; the catalog ad did not.  Both referred readers to my website that lists all eleven of my books available at that time (I have since released Teeter-Totter between Lust and Murder).

I’m writing this report now (May 15) rather than waiting to measure any long-tail effect because these statistics are metrics for an open system.  The release of a new book and some new reviews will start making it difficult to separate cause and effect.  For now, I think it’s being wise to say that this campaign didn’t work.  I’m more convinced than ever that rising above that sea of ebooks, even those in the same genre, is quite difficult because of the competition.  The chances of success, say sales of 10,000 for one book, is perhaps more likely than winning the Power Ball Lottery, but not by much.

Am I discouraged?  Yes.  Will I throw in the towel and stop writing?  No!  It’s too much fun.  I hope my writing also provides entertainment value for those who read my blog or my ebooks.  That’s always been my goal—to entertain.  In libris libertas….

Steven M. Moore  
Author of The Secret Lab, Pop Two Antacids and Have Some Java, The Midas Bomb, Angels Need Not Apply, Teeter-Totter between Lust and Murder, The Golden Years of Virginia Morgan, Full Medical, Evil Agenda, Soldiers of God, Survivors of the Chaos, Sing a Samba Galactica, Come Dance a Cumbia...with Stars in Your Hand!

Read Parts One and Two of this three part series:

Part One - The Marketing Conundrum
Part Two - One Specific Audience

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Leonard Marcus: Let the Wild Rumpus Start

Leonard Marcus's presentation on Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) concludes in Part Five of this series from my notes taken at the Highlights Foundation workshop, "Books that Rise Above," that I attended in Honesdale, PA last October. Today, the focus is on Leonard's explanation of how Sendak wrote Where the Wild Things Are.

Leonard pointed out that Sendak looked at every part of life for ideas and inspiration; he read widely, not limiting himself to children's books. In children's literature, some of Sendak's influences were:

*Lewis Carroll's, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: Makes fun of every kind of authority
*Charles Perrault's Puss in Boots: Is far from a sweet rendition of childhood
  • The cat bags a rabbit in the forest and presents it to the king as a gift from his master
  • He orders the country folk along the road to tell the king that the land belongs to the "Marquis of Carabas", saying that if they do not he will cut them into mincemeat. (You get the picture!)
*A. A. Milne's, The Story of Babar: The mother of Babar, a young elephant, is shot and killed by a hunter on the first page
*Beatrix Potter's, The Tale of Peter Rabbit: On page 1 Peter's father is turned into a pie

Sendak's Deductions
  • Children's bad behavior is fun
  • Children like to be scared
  • The intense feelings wrought by these books are beautiful
  • Sendak wanted to knock art off its pedestal and instead, foster what the average child cared about
Some of Sendak's Innovations

Sendak's innovations in Wild Things can be summed up in two words: No rules. His illustrations get bigger and bigger until they push the words off the page, before shrinking back. Max does not appear on the cover. The title page gives the story away: that Max is in charge, not the monsters-- he kicks them away. As Leonard explained, we are tipped off that the scary things are Max's creations, that maybe Max is the scary one. Indeed, Max is dressed in an original costume that makes him look different than an ordinary boy. Thus, his playful animal-like appearance may be safer for children when dealing with their own monsters and demons than a normal boy's appearance would. The monsters themselves are presented in a way we can handle; perhaps helping children make their own monsters and demons less scary.

Wild Things Pierces the Soul

To find his story, Sendak wrote a different version every day for a month. Little by little the story evolved. But, he got stuck in the middle. He had to ask himself: why would a child like Max choose to go back home when being sent to bed without supper? Sendak knew every child is hungry for the love of his mother; that it is a deep-seated need. Max struggles with his desire for freedom, but finds he can't do without the ordered (and warm and loving) structure of HOME, represented as a hot meal. So, as Leonard so eloquently stated, the most brilliant ending (the last line) in all of children's literature is that supper awaited Max when he got home (he woke up), "and it was still hot." Thus in the end, children can confront the Wild Things and feel good about them.

Leonard's take-away: Everything today rests on the effort Sendak made in children's literature. He used his opportunity to speak out for children, to support children's First Amendment rights. My take-away: Learning about the time and care Sendak spent in his creations has helped me revisit time and again my own current creation. Also, how my own expereiences can better serve children, of course, in an entertaining and fun way. In a nutshell, to stamp out any triteness in my own work.

If you would like to read past posts in this series, please visit:

Next month: Behind the Scenes with Deborah Heiligman
In future posts: A link to the complete list of "Books that Rise Above" will appear at the end of this series. Then look out, more to come!
Sources: Google searches to complete references to Sendak's influences from children's literature.

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children, and is in the final editing stages of her first book, a mystery story for 7-9 year olds. Publishing credits include seven biosketches for the library journal, Biography Today, which include Troy Aikman, Stephen King, and William Shatner; Pockets; Hopscotch; and true stories told to her by police officers about children in distress receiving teddy bears, which she fictionalized for her column, "Teddy Bear Corner," for the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Newsletter, Dayton, Ohio. Follow Linda on Facebook. 

Preserving the Old in a Digital World.

The sophistication of our technological world has caught me between a rock and a hard place.

Who doesn't love the ease of the digital world?  Building a freelance writing career is a click away. The ease of networking with other writers provides a myriad of information, mentoring, and visibility. Contacting publishers and editors is instant with email. Blogs, social sites, and online courses abound. Uploading your manuscript is almost as easy as 1-2-3 and all over the world people are reading your book with the convenience of their e-reader.

While these advancements are certainly a plus, it makes me wonder what could be lost. Will the printed book be a thing of the past? Will there be a generation who will never experience taking in the earthy smell of a library, perusing its shelves, and soaking in the solitude? Will sharing ideas and critiques over coffee be replaced with online meetings? 

Sounds unlikely but the more we rely on the digital world, the less we give attention to some tried and true old-fashioned ways.

Maryanne Wolf, developmental psychologist and cognitive scientist of Tufts University states: "There is physicality in reading, maybe even more than we want to think about as we lurch into digital reading—as we move forward perhaps with too little reflection. I would like to preserve the absolute best of older forms, but know when to use the new."

It's possible we could be losing more than just the memory of the good old days. 

When it comes to pen and paper, studies have shown there is more to it than we think. According to the WallStreet Journal, "Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole letter by touching a key. She says pictures of the brain have illustrated that sequential finger movements activated massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory—the system for temporarily storing and managing information."

                                                athena. / / CC BY-NC-ND

So, how do we preserve the old in a digital world?
  • Print it. For several years I had a personal blog. I took the time to print and compile the pagesI wanted a history for my children and grandchildren to read someday. Computers crash. Journals, letters, and books are forever.
  • Write longhand. Try writing your manuscript longhand and see if you feel a difference. Write a letter now and then. Finding a box of old, hand-written letters tucked away in an attic is a treasure! I recently read a letter from my grandmother written 40 years ago. I found myself studying her handwriting and remembering her in ways a computer font would not do. 
  • Go to the library. There is something special about a library. It offers an aesthetic experience and a respite from the busy world. If  you have children or grandchildren, by all means take them! But don't you forget to go there, too.
The new way we read, write, and communicate is fascinating. But we must wisely find ways to preserve our heritage. It's helped make us who we are today and we cannot lose it.


Kathleen Moulton is a freelance writer.  You can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts -

Show Me!

            Experienced writers have learned this less well, but less experienced writers are still learning it or have it yet to learn. Even for experienced writers it is good to review it every so often. What am I talking about? The “show, don’t tell” rule of writing. It sounds so simple, and yet it is one of the hardest to learn for some of us.

            Telling is what you see with narratives, and it is okay in the proper prospective. But you do not want to fill your book with telling your story. Your readers like action, dialog, descriptions, emotions, all the things that your readers can take and create a picture in their minds.

            Show your story. Give it characters your reader can fall in love with and want more of them. Give them a setting or location that their mind can grab hold of and feel they are right there with the characters. Make the characters speak to them and create action that keeps the story moving. Give descriptions of the setting and characters through narrative and some through dialog, but do not insult your readers by giving them every little detail. Readers like to be a bit creative themselves so give just enough to stimulate their own imaginations, and let them run with it.

            When you have fast-paced scenes, it is good to slow things down and give your reader a chance to breathe. Your story should run in waves of fast pace and slow pace. That is where the narrative comes in. You can use it to slow down the pace of the story.

            Someone once told me to read through my story; and if there are areas where I am telling, ask myself if there is a way I can show it rather than tell it. If there are, then I need to change it.

            Narratives do serve a purpose, so remember not to change all of them. Also remember, it is the author’s responsibility to create a world in which his/her readers can get lost and want more of it.

            Following are some points to remember when self-editing your work:  1) How often do you use narrative summary?  2) Which sections do you want to convert into scenes (action)?
3) Do you have any narrative summary? (You do need some.)  4) Are you describing your characters’ feelings or are you showing them?

Faye M. Tollison
Author of:  To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books:  The Bible Murders
                                Sarah’s Secret
Member of:  Sisters In Crime
                      Writers on the Move

Do you have an eReader?

If not, you might want to buy one. Or win an eReader, like I did!

Last year, I won a Kindle Fire. I love it! I’m still learning about all the things it can do, but mostly, I use it to read books. I have many books on my eReader, and have read some of them. They are about various subjects such as writing, business, health, home improvement, and money. I also have some novels and children’s books.

I have apps on my Kindle. Newspapers, travel, organizational, and shopping apps are mostly what are useful to me. I also purchased an app that helps me to categorize my books. I find that is the easiest way to locate what I am looking for. And the layout is attractive and organized.

An eReader can be used to access the internet, making it convenient for on the go. You can check your email and read social media sites. If you don’t want or need to carry around a laptop, an eReader may be what you need.

You can buy digital books on all kinds of subjects. If you have a Kindle, you can get books from Amazon. If you have a Nook, you can get them from Barnes and Noble. There are a number of websites where you can download free eBooks too. You can also borrow them from your library. Some also offer classes on how to borrow books with your eReader. Be sure to check out what your local library has to offer. You might be surprised.

Besides the Kindle and the Nook, there are other eReaders such as the Kobo and the Sony Reader. I recommend researching eReaders to learn which one is best for you.

I still buy, read and borrow regular books. I think I always will. However, I have found the Kindle to be very convenient, easy, and fun to use.

I plan to write about technology in future blog posts, as I learn more about my eReader and contemplate purchasing additional gadgets.

Do you have an eReader? How do you use it or would like to use it? If you don’t have an eReader, do you plan to buy one?

Debbie A. Byrne has a B.S. in Mass Communication with a minor in History. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is working on her first children’s book.

4RV Publishing Entered the Staples’ PUSH It Forward Contest and Needs Your Help

I’m an author and editor with 4RV Publishing and I know the quality and care that goes into the books it publishes. Being a small publishing house, 4RV incurs all the expenses of publishing books and like all publishers is feeling the financial squeeze.

So, please vote for 4RV in the Staples’ PUSH It Forward Contest. 


The following instructions and contest information is courtesy of Holly Jahangiri:

You can help a deserving small business win $50,000 – and maybe win $1500 for yourself, while you’re at it! Voting is easy:

1. Go to – this is Staples’ Facebook page already set up for you to vote for 4RV Publishing.

Next, you’ll be taken to this page, where you can Vote for 4RV Publishing – just click Vote now > :

2. Next, you’ll be taken to this page, where you can Vote for 4RV Publishing – just click Vote now >

You will be asked to give Staples’ app some permissions (Might as well – you can always revoke them later, but they ask only for access to your public profile data – something everyone can see, already – and to your friends’ list, presumably so that you can share this with them and promote the contest via Facebook. I have plenty of friends participating and have not seen any of them “spamming” me in the name of Staples, so I feel pretty confident in granting the requested permissions.)

3. Last, but not least, when you vote, you’ll have a chance to enter to win $1500 for yourself – how cool is that? Just for helping a small business achieve more. We could all use this kind of “push,” right?

A big thank you to Holly for allowing me to share these step-by-step instructions!


For a great interview with Vivian Zabel, founder and owner of 4RV, visit:

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Moving Out of Your Writing Comfort Zone

My husband loves to wash dishes.  It’s not one of my favorite chores.  I like scrubbing sinks.  He doesn't seem to notice the scum at the bottom of the sink.  We have found a comfortable division of household labor. Generally we’re both responsible for chores we enjoy, or at least we’re able to avoid the ones we hate. 

Writers aren't always that lucky. There are many aspects of a writer’s life, and most writers spend a majority of their time in the role that is in their comfort zone.

Here are just some of the pieces of the process.

    • Generating ideas
    • Research
    • Writing the first draft
    • Revision
    • Submission
    • Marketing

The list could go on….

I recently heard Linda Sue Park, Newberry Award winning author of A Single Shard, talk about the role of Writer vs. Author. She felt marketing, speaking engagements and other promotional activities required her author’s hat, and the actual writing called for her writer’s hat.  She seems to have balanced both roles well.

I like the early stages of working on a manuscript.  That’s my sweet spot.  My critique group keeps me moving through the revision process.  I realized I needed to push myself to submit my work.  The realization alone was not going to make it happen for me, so I have allotted 2 to 3 hours a month for that piece of the writing process. 

Where’s your sweet spot and where do you need to push yourself?  Once you know where you need an extra push, schedule it into your writing life.  Amazing things happen when we move out of our comfort zone!

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life coach who has helped writers achieve their goals. For more information check out   or folllow her at:  

Is Thinking about Writing .... Well writing?

Do you find yourself thinking about writing, dreaming about writing, and making up characters in your head? Is thinking about writing..... well the same as writing?

The answer is yes and no. Writers spend a good part of the time with their characters and actions for their characters twirling in their heads... thinking. Some call it percolating, others call it day dreaming, and yet others may call it procrastination. Keeping all those thoughts in your mind though and not on paper may be all of the above and could not be defined as writing.

Thinking about writing isn't writing if you never put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. We are not talking about publishing here or seeing your byline. We aren't even talking about revised and polished work. We are simply talking about getting those thoughts in your head onto the written page. That action makes you a writer even if you never get published.

Saying you are a writer when you have not written so much as anything more than your grocery list doesn't make you a writer. It makes you a wanna be.  Writers write. And all of this goes back to having three major writing goals, action plans for each of those goals, and using some of your time every day or every week to put those actions into play. Simply said, a writer writes with purpose.

When life gets in the way and keeps you from your writing it never keeps ideas from formulating in your heart and your brain. Take note of pain, sadness, and all happy things happening and record feelings or key words that will help you recall the incidents later to put on paper. Keeping in tune with what you feel, see, smell, and experience makes real life the percolating part of your writing process. Don't allow real life to assist you in procrastination. That won't make you a writer. Pulling those real life details out later to weave into a paragraph or chapter makes you a writer.

 If it is in your heart to write as it is with mine,  the seed to becoming a full grown writer has been planted. It is our job to tend to the seed by practicing our craft so at harvest our crop will be plentiful in the form of many pages of written words, our words. We are writers. It will never be enough for us to be thinkers so what will you write today?

Terri Forehand is a nurse, writer, and recently a quilt shop owner. She writes from the hills of Brown County Indiana where she resides with her husband, several rescue dogs, and 5 rescue cats. Visit her blog at and her author site at

Targeting Specific Audiences Part Two (One specific audience)

We're back with Part Two of Targeting Specific Audiences. If you haven't read Part One, please visit:

Targeting specific audiences, Part Two of Three:  One specific audience…

Guest post by Steve Moore

The Montclair Film Festival is in its second year.  For 2013 (from April 29 to May 5, to be precise), it’s expanded, with more venues, films, speakers, and discussion sections.  We attended last year.  Because I’m an incurable people watcher (even though I’m introverted and don’t enjoy being in large crowds), I observed that there is a large overlap between films and book lovers.  Thought-provoking films make people think while they enjoy the film—these are the films shown at the Montclair Film Festival.  A thought-provoking book does the same thing.

“Thought-provoking” is a sloppy term.  I can easily enter a vicious circle—a thought-provoking book is one that makes you think beyond its plot and characters to more substantive issues.  Even a vampire romance can make you think of issues you might not consider outside of your reading. My sci-fi thrillers will make you think too—they’re entertaining extrapolations into the future. What I observed at last year’s crowd at the Festival was that thought-provoking films and books have a common audience—people were talking about films and books.

This year I’m waging a two-stage PR and marketing campaign at the Montclair Film Festival. It sounds like I’m playing Eisenhower planning D-Day, but it wasn’t time- or money-intensive.  The Montclair Film Festival has a catalogue so people can figure out what events and movies to attend. I have a small ad in the advertising section. The local newspaper, The Montclair Times, also publishes monthly the Montclair Magazine. April’s issue will feature the Film Festival and has an advertising section where I’ve placed a bigger ad.

I believe I’m targeting a specific audience with my few marketing funds and time (because I’d rather spend it writing) in a more efficient manner. I’m reaching local people that don’t know about my books and might enjoy them if they did. How do I know this is true? Four of my PODs that I donated to the Montclair Public Library became so worn I had to replace them. Many of my “near future” thrillers take place in the tri-state area (The Golden Years of Virginia Morgan, just released, is set almost exclusively in New Jersey). Locals will definitely identify with the venues in the books.

Unfortunately, I’m at a stage in my writing career that deciding which books to promote is a problem—I have ten sci-fi thrillers and an anthology. In Montclair Magazine’s ad I focused on Virginia Morgan, my new release, but in both ads I highlighted my website URL—visiting the site allows them to peruse the entire list with their blurbs and buttons to peek inside the books at Amazon. The locals are very computer literate and shop online. Moreover, many editors and free-lancers live in Montclair because of its proximity to NYC news media outlets and publishing companies.

Who knows whether this will be a successful campaign? It’s an experiment and reflects my perhaps modest opinion that there are readers out there who will enjoy what I write if they could only discover it and know a wee bit more about my background. I discover new websites all the time. Internet sites don’t arrive and slap you in the face (and we tend to avoid those that do). Maintaining a website is a necessary condition, not a sufficient one, for writing success. Somehow, you have to drive people to it so you can see what you offer. This is true for all internet marketing, of course, but especially true for writers.

Stay tuned for Part Three in this book marketing series: the results of the Montclair Film Festival.  It'll be here May 30th.

Steven Moore


Scaling the Marketing Ladder in One Fell Swoop
What is an Author Platform and How Do You Create It?

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Both readers and writers can benefit from a surprise once in a while.

Creating surprises in your writing can take many forms. You can surprise a reader by choosing a word that is new to them - or at least one that is rarely used.  Consider ailurophile - one who is a cat lover, or bucolic - a lovely rural setting. 

Or consider a surprising metaphors. "A hospital bed is a parked taxi with the meter running." - Groucho Marx or  "Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." Marcel Proust

Similes are another great way to surprise your reader. A simile uses the words like or as to form an image for your reader. "The snow fell like billions of breadcrumbs, promising a flurry of activity and a huge pile of shit in the aftermath."

Finally you can create a surprise for your reader by a turn of plot or by a character doing something, well, uncharacteristic. Some ideas for how to surprise: 
  • have a character share an embarrassing secret
  • cause your character to fail at achieving their goal
  • increase the emotion in a scene or change the expected emotion
  • introduce a new character in an unusual way
Creating surprises for your reader ensures your reader will want to keep going. Creating surprises while you write does the same thing for you. So go on - surprise me!


D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, Flight from the Water Planet, Book 1 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole and, Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.  

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at

You can also follower her at or on Facebook

How to Write a Novel: Start with a Novel Outline

by Suzanne Lieurance

Wanna know how to write a novel?

Every novelist has his/her own method for getting started. But generally it helps to have an outline.

Here’s a simple novel outline trick: Create an informal outline that contains ONLY 12 chapters.

That’s right, ONLY 12 chapters.

No matter how many chapters you end up with by the time you actually write the book, if you start with only 12 chapters in your outline, the planning and plotting process will be much more manageable.

You don’t need a formal, Roman Numeral type, outline either.

Just number 1-12 on a sheet of paper and leave a couple of blank lines between each number.

To Start Your Outline
First, decide how your story will begin.

Chapter 1 – Start with a character readers will love. Put this person in the middle of some sort of change. You’re setting the stage for the overall story problem. Write a few sentences about all this under number 1 on your paper.

Next, figure out how your story will end.

Chapter 12 – Where will your main character end up, and how will he/she change or grow by the end of the book? What has he or she learned as a result of facing all the conflict? Make a few notes about what's next for this character, too (just give a hint of this). Put all this information under number 12 on your paper.

To Fill In Your Outline
Go back and fill in each of the other chapters (numbers 2-11). Keep in mind that you want to create rising action up to the climax, then falling action and the resolution.

Here’s what you should have for chapters/numbers 2-11:

Chapter 2 – In the movies, you usually see the main character take a trip or go away somewhere soon after the movie starts, so, by chapter 2, the character is now in a different location than he/she was in the opening of the story. But this change in location can be something simple, like the character leaves his house and goes to town. It can be more dramatic, like he/she leaves home for the first time, or has to go on a far away trip for some reason.

Chapter 3 – The main character faces some sort of complication to the conflict. The action starts to rise.

Chapter 4 – We learn more about the complication and wonder how the main character will deal with it.

Chapter 5 – The main character deals with the complication and moves on. But the overall story problem still exists.

Chapter 6 – But now, another complication occurs and we wonder what he/she will do this time.

Chapter 7 – The main character deals with the second complication and the reader begins to think maybe things will be okay for the main character.

Chapter 8 – But just when we think things will be okay, they get worse.

Chapter 9 – Things reach a crisis point. An action is taken that brings about the climax.

Chapter 10 – The climax occurs – This ends the crisis in some way and changes things.

Chapter 11 – The Falling action begins – this can be the start of the resolution.

Once you have all this initial information about your novel in place, you can start thinking of scenes for each chapter.

Make a few notes to describe each scene you intend to write for each chapter.

Keep in mind that once you start writing actual chapters, you’ll probably find that you need more than 12 chapters. But that shouldn’t be a problem. If one chapter is too long, just divide it into two chapters.

You’ll probably also find that your climax comes closer to the end of the story – say, in chapter 11. But, when you’re creating your initial outline, put the climax in chapter 10 to make sure you don’t plan to end your story too abruptly without tying up all the loose ends. start writing your novel, look at number 1 on your outline to see what your opening scene should be for the book.

Next...write that opening scene.

That's all it takes to start writing your novel.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is a full time freelance writer, author, speaker, and writing coach. If you need a coach to guide you to start and FINISH writing your novel, find out more about her one-on-one book coaching at

Letting Go of the Novel: How to Deal with Empty Pen Syndrome

Novels take such a long time to gestate. For me, that period is longer than the time it takes to gestate a child.  In fact, my first novel was conceived (that is, begun in earnest) while pregnant with my first child, and born (that is, finally finished), around the same time as my third child was born.  So the gestation matches the time frame of all three of my children.  And now, published, out in the world, it’s like a 20 year old who has flown the nest (while my real children are still here).  There have been other books since then - some that have taken less than a year and others that have taken three or more years.  My current WIP is celebrating its second year of gestation and I'm thinking that I still have at least six months of work to go. So these are long term projects that live with you and change, grow and develop. There are plenty of guides providing excellent information on how to best gain publicity for your book: how to promote it, sell it, flaunt it.  You'll get lots of information on that here, and some of it from me, but I’ve yet to see a guide for how to let go.  A finished novel is often something with only the most tenuous connection to those words which you held inside – your name on the cover and your photo inside perhaps.  Your book now belongs to your readers.  You can (and should) promote the heck out of your book. You can glory in the good reviews, and cry over the bad ones. But you no longer have much influence over that.  The book’s on its own.

 There has to be a way to deal with that hollow feeling you get when someone reads and interprets (often in different ways than you intended) words that were internal and private for so long.  There has to be a way to stop promoting for a bit, and move on to the next project.  So here are five tips, I’ve gathered together, as much for myself as you. 

  • This is the most obvious, so I’ll start with it.  Move on!  Sounds easy, right?  Begin getting into your next book.  All that plotting, characterising, researching will help you with the all important bonding process you need. 
  • Set a limit to your promotional work.  I know this is exactly the opposite of what everyone (including myself) tells you, but it’s easy to become obsessive.  Do one thing a day, and then, maybe after six months, one thing a week.  Otherwise you can spend hours checking those Amazon stats (and feel flat when they don’t move), panic about whether you’ve done enough, and feel like you've wasted your time when your quarterly sales figures don’t match your expectations.  Keep promoting by all means, but don’t go berserk.  You've got another creation that needs your attention.
  • Allow your book the space to be itself.  All art reinvents itself for the person experiencing it.  Allow your readers that freedom.  Not everyone will review, or talk about your book in a way that matches your vision.  But alternative perspectives are not only valid – after all, the symphony of your book only plays when it meets a set of receptive ears – but also rather lovely, even when it's at odds with your intention.
  • Harden up.  Your book really is a commercial product now.  You may not even be living off the proceeds (thank goodness, unless you’re Rowling), but your publisher probably is.  Your book is now a concrete piece of merchandise, and talking about it in terms of things like return on investment, shelf space, and merchandising may help cure that romantic sense of it being your own little baby.
  • Finally, enjoy the freedom.  You’ve done your bit.  You’ve finished what you started, and there’s a sense of real accomplishment in stopping and saying that.  So go on, say it.  Nice and loud.  I’m done.  It isn’t that hard.  At least with a bit of practice. 
These tips probably won’t stop you from feeling just a little overly sentimental about your first novel – the learning curve is so large, and the sense of intimacy so strong the first time around, that, like any ‘first,’ your first novel will always be just that little bit special.  It gets a little easier after that, but it's always difficult to move on and stop focusing on it so heavily so you can go back into creation mode.  However, with a little effort, you can learn to accept the totality of your career – there will be other novels – better than the first.  There will be readers, with their own histories, and perspectives, taking your words into their hearts and making them their own.  That’s why we do it, after all. 

Magdalena Ball is the author of the novels Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening, the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Sublime Planet, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future. She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Find out more about Magdalena at

Maguffin: An Object of Desire

So, what is a Maguffin, you might ask, as I did when I first heard the word. Is it some kind of puffin or
penguin-like animal? Or maybe a “Big Mac” sized muffin?

The term appears to have originated in 20th-century filmmaking, and was popularized by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1930s. He described a Maguffin as that object of desire everyone in the story wants, but whose only purpose is to bring the protagonists and antagonists together.

Maguffin (or MacGuffin) is a plot device, something in the plot that someone (or everyone) is after, making it a focal point of the story. It may be a secret that motivates the villains. A common Maguffin story setup can be summarized as "Quick! We must find X before they do!"

The most common type of Maguffin is an object, place or person. However, a MacGuffin can sometimes take a more abstract form, such as money, victory, glory, survival, power, love, or even something that is entirely unexplained, as long as it strongly motivates key characters within the structure of the plot. The Maguffin technique is common in films, especially thrillers. The Maltese Falcon is such a device, as is the stone in Romancing the Stone, The Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the One Ring in Tolkien's trilogy.

Here are some examples of others: 
• The crystal egg in Risky Business. It has little or nothing to do with the story, but it is always prominent in Tom Cruise's character's mind because any damage to the egg will tip off his parents as to his antics and adventures while they are out of town, so he gets into a lot of other trouble trying to keep the egg safe and in his possession.

• The "Unknown" grave filled with gold in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Most Maguffins are moveable objects (ala the Maltese Falcon), but there are plenty of breathing and unmovable Maguffins as well (gold mines, people and the like).

 • R2-D2 in Star Wars is the main driving force of the movie, the object of everyone’s search.

• The meaning of “Rosebud” in Citizen Kane.

The term has also lent itself to a number of "in" jokes. In Mel Brooks's High Anxiety, which parodies many Hitchcock films, a minor plot point is advanced by a mysterious phone call from a "Mr. MacGuffin". In one episode of Due South, the MacGuffin is a matchbook that makes its way around the episode, going from character to character. The hotel maid in this episode is named Mrs. McGuffin, and earlier in the episode, a mall security guard's name is Niffug, C.M. (McGuffin, spelled backwards). Also, the basement janitor in the hotel in part 1 is named Mac Guff.

What is the Maguffin in your story?

Protagonist’s Backstory PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 6

Protagonist’s Backstory   PLANNING YOUR NEXT STORY: PART 6

Other discussions in this series include:

Today we will discuss something related to getting to know your protag and that is learning from them about their background, backstory. We all have one. If you’re alive and have lived at all, even for a minute or two, you have a backstory.

So how do you learn about your protagonist’s? You ask him/her through an interview. Devise a series of questions you might ask anyone you know (real person) or want to know about. Then verbally ask those questions to an empty chair. Although that chair won’t really be empty, because your protag will be sitting there, answering or refusing to answer, your questions. If they refuse, find a way around the question to seek the same answer.

Since you completed a character worksheet last month, you already know the basic stats about your character: hair color, style, length, eye color, etc. What you seek now is more in-depth about their childhood, their parents, siblings, schooling, tauntings or bullyings, special events from their past which helped make them who they are.

Don’t forget to ask WHY or HOW. Ask about any unresolved issues from their past and how they might complicate matters now. What are some catalysts that marked their life? How did they respond/change?

Here are a few questions to include in your interview:

What do people like/dislike about you?

What do YOU like/dislike about yourself?

What are your beliefs? Secrets?

What are your personal demons? Why? What have you done about them?

Are you optimistic or pessimistic? Why? How does this affect your life?

How confident are you?

What is your level of morality?

What would you change about yourself if you could? What’s stopping you?

Do you like your name? 

Who is the most important person in your life? Why?

What would you do if something bad happened to them?

Who were your friends growing up? Now?

Who were your enemies then? Now?

Learn all there is to know about their parents/guardians. I discovered an entirely new side to my story while discussing Rayna’s parents with her. Suddenly the woman who turned her over to the Peacers had a motive and the bully in the Gestortium’s motive matched giving me bookends. Readers LOVE bookends in stories. I’ll talk more about them at a later date. But by learning about Rayna’s mother’s backstory, I discovered she also had a bully growing up (the one who turned in Rayna) and the two bullies’s motivations are the same: now and then for Rayna and her Mum. Without learning about her Mum, I would never have seen that parallel.

Ask about siblings, dead or alive. You’d be surprised how many protags have experienced deaths they don’t like to discuss, but which had an impact on them. Ask about cousins, aunts & uncles, grandparents, neighbors, playmates (again-this became instrumental in my later bully motivation), etc.

Don’t forget to think about all of the characters revolving around your protag. You DO NOT need such in-depth interviews for all of them, but any who play a major role in the story need to be interviewed—if only to get to know them better and not use any of their background in the actual story.

Next month,

Thanks to K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel

Rebecca Ryals Russell, a fourth-generation Floridian, was born in Gainesville, grew up in Ft Lauderdale then lived in Orlando and Jacksonville with her Irish husband and four children. Due to the sudden death of Rebecca's mother, they moved to Wellborn, near Lake City, to care for her father, moving into his Victorian home built in 1909. After teaching Middle Graders for fourteen years she retired and began writing the story idea which had been brewing for thirty years.  Within six months she wrote the first three books of each series, YA Seraphym Wars and MG Stardust Warriors. The world she created has generated numerous other story ideas including two current works in progress, SageBorn Chronicles based on various mythologies of the world and aimed at the lower Middle Grade reader and Saving Innocence, another MG series set on Dracwald and involving dragons and Majikals. She is finishing a YA Dystopian Romance which has been a NaNoWriMo project for three years. She loves reading YA Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi as well as watching movies.  Read more about Rebecca and her WIPs as well as how to buy books in her various series at  You may email her at

Authors Need to be Realistic

By Terry Whalin  @terrywhalin Over the years, I’ve met many passionate writers. One brand new writer told me, “My book is going to be a best...