Innovative and Proven Writing and Marketing Strategies WEEK with Writers on the Move

Beginning tomorrow, December 1st, Writers on the Move is featuring a full week of innovative and proven writing and marketing strategies. It will kick off with "5 Innovative and Proven Marketing Strategies" by Karen Cioffi (me :)) and end with "Writing and Book Marketing – Crafting a Pitch (Part 2)" by Carolyn Howard-Johnson.

This is the beginning of a writing and marketing information packed December as a thank you to YOU.


And, to further show our appreciation, we have an ebook of Quotes that the WOTM members compiled to inspire and motivate you . It's still in the works, but will be ready sometime mid-December.

So, be sure to stop by often and let us know what you think about the posts. And, please don't forget to share them with the social icons we have at the bottom of each post.

Talk to you soon,

Keep a Personal Account of Your Progress

Dottie Enderlie displays her original Writing Wreath on her blog

Do you keep track of the number of words, pages, hours you spend each day on writing? Since last month's post on organization, I've experimented with another means to gain more productivity: keeping track of my progress. Before closing in on a method, I took a look at what other writers do. The results were helpful and inspiring.                                                                             
Functional to Sublime

If you are interested in keeping track by using programs online, an excellent article, "Tracking my writing goals with Scrivener, Evernote and Google Spreadsheets," was posted by Jamie Todd Rubin, science fiction writer, blogger, Evernote paperless lifestyle ambassador; on his blog post, January 13, 2012. Rubin uses a combination of three tools to help him reach his writing goals each day.
  • Scrivener - One of Rubin's rules of thumb is to write in full-screen mode to avoid distractions. Oh my, this is a lesson in itself, for I keep my cell phone near my PC so I can hear the bleeps and bloops every time I receive a new email or text message. Then I drop whatever I'm doing and hastily check to see, "Who could that be? Whoever wants/needs to talk to moi?" I never suspected that my second lesson in becoming more productive (my first lesson appeared in last month's post on October 28th about getting more organized), would be to close my office door, turn off all my devices, and NEVER, NEVER stop to check my email! Not until my writing goal is reached. Ah, but I digress. Back to the fact that Rubin sets a 500 word/session target. He doesn't stop writing until Growl pops up and tells him he's met his goal.
  • Evernote - Rubin keeps a notebook in Evernote called "Daily Fiction Writing." He copies and pastes each day's offering into this notebook so he can go back on any given day and see what he wrote. This is done only for first drafts. Note to self: This is an excellent way to keep track of that great idea that got lost during editing. My past printed first drafts of my current WIP sit in a box; much of my computer-generated edits replaced original drafts, therefore got lost in the editing process. So I particularly would like to try this method.
  • Google Spreadsheet - First drafts go into a Google Spreadsheet, which keep track of what Rubin worked on each day and how much he wrote.
Rubin gives detailed descriptions of his tracking system and includes diagrams of his actual spreadsheets, all very helpful. If you are interested, please visit to read his full post.

  • The article, "Task-Based Logs: The Most Useful Method of Record Keeping," by Laurie Lewis, a freelance medical writer and editor, describes a system that keeps track of each phase of a freelancer's work, by the task. Lewis contends that keeping a task-oriented log helps the freelancer make appropriate decisions regarding what the client expects and a breakdown on how she meets those expectations, while keeping track of how much to charge per hour. Table 1, as it appears in the article, is a simple log for typing a 25-page paper:
                      Look over material, decide on style  1/4 hour
                      Type (25 double-spaced pages)        2-1/2 hours
                      Proof                                                  2 hours
                      Make corrections                               3/4 hour
                      Total                                                  5-1/2 hours

The article continues to describe how to create a task-based log for more complicated projects, and includes another table to illustrate. To read Lewis' entire article, please visit Her book, What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants, might also be helpful in creating your own log system.

Dotti Enderle's Original and Creative Writing Wreath

A most delightful and innovative approach to keeping track of words-a-day is the Writing Wreath that children's author Dotti Enderle created. Dottie's award-winning historical novel, Crosswire, was included in the list of "Books that Rise Above," in the Highlights Foundation workshop I attended last October. I ordered a copy and was so intrigued by it I ordered, Severed (A tale of Sleepy Hollow), out just this month, that Dotti wrote under the psyeudonym Dax Varley--a fun, fun read. She is the author of dozens of other children's books. I became acquainted with Dotti on Facebook and discovered her Writing Wreath when I visited her blog,

Dotti created her Writing Wreath to track her writing progress. Here are the rules she set up for herself:
  • Only add a ribbon for 650 or more words a day.
  • Only add a ribbon for current novel. Blogging doesn't count. :)
  • Only add a ribbon for fresh work. Not revision.
Dottie didn't inlcude her contract work for Ghost Detectors, only her original works. I think her rules are great. They are a strict indicator of accomplished new material. Visit Dotti's blog if you would like to see the photos she has posted of her progress in creating the wreath and details about how she made it.

The Great Experiment

To begin keeping track of my own efforts, I took a simple course of action. I created an excel spreadsheet, with the headings:
  • Date
  • Project
  • Time In/Time Out
  • No. of Pgs Completed
  • Type of Work/First draft/Editing
  • Good Day/Bad Day
  • Tomorrow's Goal
In my tracking system, I have included all of my writing projects, which are currently self-generated and include short stories and articles, children's fiction books, and blog posts. My main purpose, as I've discussed, is to become as productive as possible. So far, I've managed to rewrite an outline of a short story that was languishing, rejected, in my drawer (along with many of its cousins). I've begun research and begun creating the outline for my next book, and I've continued to edit my current WIP. For me, this is productive. Work prior to this effort consisted of only one project at a time. I really wanted to branch out from that and get more projects done simultaneously.

What I have Learned: How distracted I've been, mainly by social media and emails. Keeping a record of my actual writing time was an eye-opener. The time spent wasn't as much as I originally thought. So, I've sectioned off times during the day when it's okay to "do email." When it's okay to take time for everything else. And when it's okay NOT to work. The rest of the time is happily spent writing.

Only time will tell if I've met my goal of becoming more productive. Once that goal is met, who knows, perhaps I will be that much closer to my final goal, which is what we all strive for: To find an audience so that we can entertain our readers with our works and make a contribution to their lives.

Next month: My #2 Pencil

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; Highlights for Children; 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. 


Gratitude Can Help Make You a Better Writer

It's early evening. I'm sitting here in my favorite brown sweater. It's long enough to wrap around me when I'm cold, it has a hood that is perfect for dodging snowflakes, and a belt (which I never tie) that has been known to get caught in the car door. It's the one I always reach for this time of year. And it's the one I paid less than $5 for on the J.C. Penney clearance rack 8 years ago!

I'm thankful for my sweater. Sometimes it's the little things that give us the most comfort. 

We live in a very busy, rushed world. When I slow down, my mind follows suit. And even if I am thinking over the events of the day, thinking through a problem, or just day dreaming, I have learned to take the time to be thankful. 

Research has shown that gratitude is beneficial for health and well being. Being thankful puts things in perspective.  In my experience, counting my blessings makes me a better person, and therefore, a better writer. It helps bring balance from the concerns, worries, and difficulties we all face. It's a healthy practice and should be regularly scheduled into our lives. 

What better way than to write down what we are thankful for? It may just turn into an article or book to help others.

Need a jump-start? Here are some ideas:

  • Nature. We are surrounded by wonderful sights, sounds, and smells that help us pause and be thankful for the beautiful world we live in. Nature has a calming affect. I write about these things to help my readers to be encouraged. 
  • Family and Friends. Taking the time to remember the people in your life is especially important, especially if they are challenging relationships. Find something about that person you can be thankful for and focus on it. If there is just one person you can be thankful for you are blessed. Don't forget the kindness of strangers!
  • Provision. Do you have a car? A home? Food? All things to be thankful for. One time I was driving my car in the winter and the heat wasn't working. I turned to my son in the front seat and said, "At least we have a car!" Even if you don't have the nicest car, a home too small for your family, or only bread, milk, and eggs on your table - be thankful. It will make you happier!
As you practice gratitude, many things you didn't notice before will soon become important and valued. In turn, your outlook will positively affect your writing business and everything else you do.

How about you? Is there one thing you can be thankful for? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Happy Thanksgiving!


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

Writing Software.

Tree Sheets

Despite the title, this month's free software choices are not simply for writers. But they are worth mentioning because they can potentially save money and time. I admit being prone to play with new gadgets and ideas. My time savers can soon become time wasters, if I'm not careful. So when I read the recent reviews for Tree Sheets--another planning/ list making/to do tool, I was skeptical. Nothing the matter with my "to do" lists in Word, I decided. But I couldn't resist taking a look--and I love it.

It took a little time reading through the interactive manual which teaches you the system as you go. Even using it in its simplest form, I have found it fun to use, it saves me time and I am whipping through my lists of work to be done much faster than I would normally. This, I suspect, is because it is more than a list maker. It allows me to plan as I go and so speeds the writing process.

To do list with Tree Sheets

You can create grids of any size. The squares expand to  fit text and you can insert new grids inside the squares, add photos, and organize your ideas in an order to suit you. I find it far more flexible and faster to use than Excel or other spreadsheets and think it will be excellent for planning not only daily tasks but also book outlines.

It creates a tree-like mind mapping structure for your thoughts.
You can download it from the site above or from sites like Softpedia or Cnet.

Office Solutions

For writers disillusioned with the ubiquitous Microsoft Office, there are several free office suites constantly updating and improving and coming closer and closer to challenging the MS programs.

Open Office has had recent upgrades and the newer Libre Office is well worth looking at. Both are compatible with and can save docs in Word formats. Libre Office, I believe, may work better with the Word Track Changes function beloved by e-book editors. I have downloaded it, like the new templates for its presentations, and joy of joys, it is not clashing with anything else on my computer.

Worth a look especially if money is tight. 

Create an Online Comic

This might be another way to plan a book or picture book. Comix I/O is an online cartoon generator which is a great way to get to grips with learning html -- very useful to know when it comes to building your own websites.

It looks a bit daunting but try Geek Gurl Diaries #17 on You Tube, a quick six minute video on how to do it. I'll add my comic clips once I've practiced a bit more lol

My browser settings are not compatible with the editor feature but I can work around by copying the html into Notepad, changing the text there and then saving the new version with the html suffix--i.e. I save as mycomic.html in the new title box. Remember to keep a .txt version too to be able to change the text again.

Any problems, let me know.

But please leave the links to your creations in the comments below and share your opinions on any low-cost or no-cost software you find particularly useful.

 Anne Duguid is a freelance content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and she tries to pass on helpful writing,editing and publishing tips at Slow and Steady Writers 

November Challenges Part Two

Last month, I wrote about two November writing challenges that I planned to participate in: PiBoIdMo and NaNoWriMo. I am currently working on both. For me, PiBoIdMo is going better than NaNoWriMo. Hmmm. Does that mean I will be better at writing picture books than novels? Or perhaps it’s more realistic to plan to do only one of these during the month of November.  J

What I am doing this month seems insignificant compared to the challenges that many in my home state of Illinois are facing. On Sunday, November 17, several tornadoes hit parts of northern, central and southern Illinois. There were several deaths, along with many injured. Tornadoes also struck other Midwestern states – Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.

If you wish to help those in Illinois affected by Sunday’s tornadoes, there is a list of businesses and organizations accepting donations at the website below.

I don’t know who is collecting donations in the other states, but I recommend giving to the
American Red Cross or the Salvation Army if you would like to help.

I will be back to my regular monthly blog post in December. Thanks for reading!

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.

Reaching Your Writing Goals 15 Minutes at a Time

A number of my writing friends are participating NaNoWriMo this month with a goal of writing a 50,000 word first draft in November.  It’s a challenge designed to push writers forward through extended, dedicated writing time. 

And then, there are those who just can’t find the time for even 1,000 words—50,000 might as well be a million words.

It’s easy to get caught up in the belief that you don’t have the time you would like to dedicate to your writing. Unfortunately, this belief can derail your writing dreams.  So how do you pursue your writing goals when you are short on time?  

Jennifer Lawler, author of the Dojo Wisdom series, discusses how a martial artist trains each day, even when old and disabled.  The martial artist accommodates life around his art.  One of my critique partners is a lawyer with a full time job, two active young children, a wife, soccer games…the list goes on. Yet he still manages to write one to two hours a day.  How does he do it?  He gets up at 5 a.m. each morning.  He puts in the effort to accommodate his life to his art.

So how can you accommodate your days for your writing life?  Commit to 15 minutes of writing a day.  Even 15 minutes a day will begin the process of transformation.  Why?  Through those daily 15 minutes, you are informing your subconscious that you are committed to your goal.  You will be amazed after a week of allotting only 15 minutes a day, how much you can accomplish and how easy it can be.  Build it into your routine (e.g. shower, coffee, 15 minutes of writing).  If you are ready to change your life and pursue your writing goals, you will find the time.

So this week start with a daily routine of even just 15 minutes.  This small action oriented goal will help you create the habit of pursing your writing dreams.  Maybe that finished manuscript will be done sooner than you ever thought possible.

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life strategist. For more information check out:  

An Uncle in the Marketing Business? ~ Part 1

This past week I’ve been doing some fresh thinking around the topic of marketing. As Terri said yesterday, it can be a full-time job. On the other hand, if we allow it to be full time, we won’t ever get more writing done.

At times I feel as if I’m banging my head against the fridge—-but no food is coming out. So what am I doing wrong?

The other day, I had a light-bulb moment. I haven’t finished processing the topic, and would love to hear from you, but I do believe I’m on to something.

Let's start off by asking five questions.

1. Where are we marketing? As writers, we like to hang together, after all writers are really the only people who understand writers, right? We rejoice with each other when we have some sort of break-through moment. We encourage one another. And we share our links. This is a great idea. But it’s not marketing! Marketing starts to happen when those people, whether they are writers or not, share your links and your information.

2. Who are we marketing to? Here in South Africa we have a chain of furniture stores called “Joshua Doore”. They have a catchy advertising jingle that first appeared in 1970. It says, “You’ve got an uncle in the furniture business: Joshua Doore!” (You can listen to the original version here.) It really is a brilliant piece of advertising, and the fact that the main slogan is still played daily on our television sets proves this to be true.
It’s great to have friends in the business, and I’m sure the staff of Joshua Doore take advantage of specials on their floors. But imagine if you will that the advert only plays in store, outside of shopping hours, so the staff are the only ones present.

Kind of silly, don’t you think?

Yet, is that perhaps what we do as writers? We belong to writers’ groups, we create an author’s page on Facebook, and we invite all our writer friends to follow the page. After all, our “personal page” on Facebook is just that. It’s personal. We create one or more Twitter accounts, and we “follow” other writers and ask them to follow us. We retweet other writers’ messages—to other writers (of course, because those are the ones following us) in the hope that they will RT ours. We join LinkedIn, and we link to other writers’ groups. We may enjoy the fellowship, and much of this may be helpful, but it’s not marketing! Marketing starts to happen when those people catch the message and share it, together with your links.

3. Do people really follow our marketing attempts? A friend was a missionary teacher in a primitive country. Her small daughter was one of her pupils. One day the mommy was busy making supper and the little girl was trailing her, chattering endlessly. All of a sudden the child called, “Teacher! Teacher!” The mommy stopped and looked in astonishment. The child had worked out how to get her mommy’s attention. She had realised that Mommy had tuned out from her incessant chatter.

Don’t we all do that? We tune out to voices or other people who are not interesting us. That leads to another question. In our marketing, are we perhaps trying too hard? When people see our posts, do they switch off? I confess that I have a few such contacts. I know any link they share will be self-promotion. I know nothing about them except that they are writers. And they know nothing about me. They're not interested in me—and I don’t know enough about them to know if I'm interested in them. I hardly ever read their tweets, their Facebook pages, or their LinkedIn comments.

4. Are we missing the point with our marketing? Not other writers (unless of course we’re writing for writers, like this blog). But are we reaching the ones who want or need to read what we have written? Sure, we're interacting on various social media sites, like Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus . . .   But think about it. These all fall under the category "Social Media".

My dictionary defines “social” as “Marked by friendly companionship with others.”  We're not talking about Marketing Media. It is called Social Media. Social. Friendly. 

5. How can we be social and still market? Is it possible? We're already complaining that we don't have time to both market and write. How can we now stop to have "friendly companionship with others"? Surely that will take up even more time? "I don't have the time for this!" we wail, as we carry on furiously using up time on ineffective methods of marketing.

I don't believe it will require more time. I think it calls for a smarter use of our time. But I've already taken up enough of your time explaining the dilemma, and I hope I've given you something to think about. Next month we'll look further into this, and hopefully come up with some easy ways to become an uncle (or aunt) in the marketing business.

OVER TO YOU: Do you have any thoughts about how we can develop our social skills without frittering away time we don't have? Please share your suggestions below.

More Reading on Making Friends on Social Media

Making Twitter Friends
Some Old Facebook Friends

SHIRLEY CORDER  lives a short walk from the seaside in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with her husband Rob. She is author of Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer. Shirley is also contributing author to ten other books and has published hundreds of devotions and articles internationally. 

Visit Shirley on her website to inspire and encourage writers, or on Rise and Soar, her website for encouraging those on the cancer journey. 

Follow her on Twitter or "like" her Author's page on Facebook, and if you tell her who you are she'll be happy to be your friend and follow you back.

Marketing Is Not for the Faint of Heart

Marketing is hard work... no really it takes effort. Those who have celebrity status may not have the same difficulty with marketing their work but little old me who has only a handful publishing credits doesn't fair so well. It can downright make me grumble.  Here is what I have learned, my own marketing 101 if you will.

1. Marketing is a full time gig. Whether you are giving a 20 second statement to a peer about what you do for a living or you are meeting with your printer to do a flier on your new book you must think about how, when, and where you can market your newest work and also yourself with every contact you make.

2. Marketing can take up so much time that you don't get enough writing time. It may take up so much time that you actually feel resentful because between websites, blogs, and networking  you don't feel like a writer anymore but more like a PR spokesperson. And the truth is, you are.

3. Marketing one published work will continue well into the next project promotion if you want that published work to keep selling. You also must start marketing the newest project well before it is published to continue building your writing platform. It feels like a continuous motion similar to the endless moving sidewalks in those huge airports. One leads to the next and finally you get to your terminal.

4. You need to set marketing boundaries and as an author, you need to rest and refresh. Realistically decide what percent of your day should  be writing and what should be marketing and networking. Design your day and your work week with those boundaries in mind and include a portion for rest and rejuvenation.

Marketing can be fun but it is also time sucking hard work. Seek advice from experts in the field of marketing the written word and some of those experts are right here at our fingertips. Soak up the information in their books and on their websites and sign up for their newsletters. Join a critique group that will help steer you to the right contacts or who will write  reviews of your work or share your name with those who might need your services. And the most important part of marketing is to believe in yourself and your work. That is not being arrogant but confident, and that will make the marketing of yourself a tad bit easier.

Tips on Point of View

You have completed your manuscript and now is the time for you to edit and rewrite. One of the things you should look at is your point of view. Did you choose the right perspective from which to tell your story? And is it consistent? Here are a few guidelines.

First of all, point of view refers to who is telling the story. Generally three points of view are used. First person - where the "I" voice is used and it is a character who is telling the story. This provides a level of intimacy, a closeness to the story teller.  Omniscient - which is where the author is telling the story and generally provides a more distant perspective. And third person - which is almost a mix of the two, where you can tell the story from several different perspectives and move easily from one character's head to another. 

Tips for editing POV:

1. Determine how much intimacy you want to create between the reader and your characters.

2. After deciding the level of closeness you want, check to see if the point of view you chose also allows you to easily tell the story in the way you want.

3. If you have chosen first person, is your character someone readers will want to spend time with? Are they likable, but flawed? Not annoyingly perfect.

4. If you chose to write in third person, review each scene and determine who's head you will be showing the scene through and make sure you are consistent in only sharing with the reader those things that particular character would know.

5. When using third person, check each passage and determine how soon you clue the reader into who's head they are in. You may want to make sure readers can quickly identify who's perspective they've stepped into. 

6. To continue to create consistency in your POV, look to ensure when you are writing from a particular character's perspective you are using the words, terms and emotions that are most likely to be used by your character. 


D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, House of Glass, Book 2 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

Marketing Mistakes to Avoid if You're a New Freelance Writer

by Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer's Coach

If you’re trying to build a business as a freelance writer, you need to market yourself and your business, of course. But avoid these common marketing mistakes and you’ll build your business (and your income) much faster:

Setting Up Too Many Online Sites Too Soon
Most writers love to blog. In fact, I see writers who set up blog after blog before they find any writing jobs that pay, thinking these blogs will help them build their writer's platform. But then, before they know it, they’ve eaten up all their available writing time simply trying to keep up with the many fun sites they’ve created.

Create just one blog or website that you can use to promote your freelance writing, then get some writing jobs that pay before you branch out and set up additional fun sites.

Writing for Free for Too Long
In the beginning, freelance writers need published clips so they can get bigger and better writing assignments. And it’s often necessary to write for free to get these published clips. Yet many writers continue to write for free long after they’ve acquired published clips. They spend their days writing book reviews or conducting interviews with authors. They end up spending a LOT of time doing this, and it eats up the time they could, and should, spend writing for pay or looking for new assignments or clients.

If you're a new freelance writer, write a few short articles for online directories or no-pay markets to get clips. But once you have these clips, start looking for writing jobs that pay. If you like to write book reviews and interviews with authors, do this only after you’ve acquired some steady writing assignments that will provide you with income.

Spending Too Much Time Doing the Fun, Easy Stuff
To earn money as a freelance writer, it’s necessary to send out queries and take other actions to get new clients and assignments. This is usually uncomfortable for new writers, so quite often they avoid the real work that can help them earn substantial income in favor of spending too much time doing fun, easy stuff like tweeting, posting to Facebook, and even writing short low-paying articles for content mills. They convince themselves this is building their business, yet it isn't bringing in any new clients or assignments.

Start your workday looking for new assignments or clients and save the social networking and more fun stuff for later in the day.

It isn't difficult to build a substantial income as a freelance writer if you spend most of your time focusing on actions that can earn you money.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, certified professional life coach and writing coach, speaker and workshop presenter. She has written over two dozen published books and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and other publications. She lives and writes by the sea in Jensen Beach, Florida.

Visit her blog at and for daily tips to help you stay focused on your writing career, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge at

Writing, Fear and Yoga

Though it may look like the writer isn't doing much, sitting for hours in front of a laptop, the brain is heavily engaged. The work is often emotionally demanding in the extreme, taking us places that we're afraid of but need to go, and forcing us to look deep into the black hearts of our deepest fears to uncover reality in our characters and situation.  It takes great courage to walk the difficult path of the artist, and often the effort is physically exhausting.  Fear is always tracking you, and the closer you are to reaching your writing goals, the more intense and insidious that fear can become.  Fear is a great shapeshifter, looking like block, like the need to research, like being too busy to write.  It can stop your story in its tracks just at its most critical point.

My latest work in progress (WIP) is particularly challenging, taking me to dark recesses of the past, exploring notions just beyond my intellectual capabilities, and forcing me to rethink what I know about fiction.  Every writing session is hard.  That's how I know I'm on the right path - because it it were easy, I wouldn't be pushing myself, growing, or moving my skills to a higher bar.  So how does one cope with this fear in all of its incarnations?  How do you push through it towards completion?

My biggest ally against fear is to move my body.  Exercise of all kind helps, but for me, there's nothing quite like either swimming, or doing yoga - two forms of exercise that have a mental impact on me - helping to clear my vision, work out intellectual problems with my stories, and teach me to cope with fear.  Both swimming and yoga are what I call breath practices.  They involve engaging your breath and using the breath to propel and lengthen the muscles.  Being quite small boned, I tend to get cold easily and it's often too cold to swim.  I don't much like heated indoor pools (the chlorine doesn't agree with me), so I tend to do quite a lot of yoga.  Yoga is amazing for writers.  Here are three reasons why yoga is a natural ally for the writer:
  • It helps teach us to see writing as a practice, rather than an end point.  We keep moving along the writing path, growing, changing, and pushing towards wisdom and expression.  It's not possible to fail, no matter how hard it is, when you have this perception. 
  • It teaches you to breathe. Ah, breath.  How simple and yet how powerful. Breathing is the perfect antedote to fear.  I first found out how powerful it was when I was in labour with my first child, screaming in pain.  An angel of a midwife came to me and taught me to breath slowly, deeply, with my full body and I calmed down and got to work. I've turned to breath again and again in times of stress, strive, and fear, and it never fails to remind me of the transience of each moment and the need to work, calmly, through the panic. 
  • It teaches patience.  Sometimes the right words take time to come.  You have to keep showing up, doing the exercises, stretching, breathing and working towards the vision. 
About my writing work, yoga teaches me to see my writing as work that has to be done - a responsibility and positive impetus rather than a vanity (another manifestation of fear). So next time you're struggling with the dragons of fear - call it what you will: block, self-doubt, other priorities, "no-time", try taking a 30 minute yoga break and see if that doesn't help. Breath through it. Even when it hurts. Then back to work. The world is waiting for you to change it.

Dialogue Important in Memoirs Too

The use of dialogue is important in memoirs as well as in fiction.

Many of us assume that because we can’t recall conversations word for word, we can’t write dialogue. Memoirs are your “memories,” so you can take a little creative license with them. Actually, no one recalls conversations in detail. If you do remember a significant line or exchange, by all means quote it. But more often you will simply remember that a conversation took place. You will have to imagine the conversation as a novelist would, without all the uhs and ers, tangents and digressions that people use when they talk.

Here’s what dialogue is:
• Talk is an ACTION. An ideal, compact way to advance your story by having one character tell the other what’s happening—to reveal, admit, incite, accuse, lie, etc.
• A way to define a character. The way someone speaks—accent, vocabulary, idiom, inflection—tells as much about what he is like as his actions do. And let’s us see him better than just using description.
• One way to show emotion. Characters reveal themselves when under stress or angry. Dialogue is used to create an emotional effect in the reader.
 • Another way to show point of view POV. (in whose head the reader should be.) This is not quite as critical in Memoirs as in fiction, because it may be all from your POV. Depends how you write it—if you’re writing someone else’s story, you may want to write it in story form, from “within your character’s head” or third person—Suzy did, she said, etc.
• Often used to get across what is NOT said. Example, if you want to show that someone wants to avoid an unpleasant encounter, you can show this by having them talk around the subject uppermost in their mind, but never quite touch it. In this way, you’re asking the reader to read between the lines. It’s tricky, but think about how you talk to someone yourself when you’re angry at them but don’t want to tell them exactly why—by being sarcastic, arch, nitpicky, over solicitous, etc.

Techniques. One of the most common reasons for flat, voiceless dialogue is formality. Dialogue sounds artificial when it is totally coherent and logical. You want thoughts that are loose, words that tumble out.

• Use more contractions—“I would not (wouldn’t) do that if I were you.” UNLESS you want to portray your character as being stiff or pompous or that English is not his first language. “Is it not wonderful?” has a Continental flair.
• Use sentence fragments. Example: Instead of:
“Is she sick?”
“It does not matter if she is or is not. She is not going to go to the party.”
“Is she sick?” “Doesn’t matter, she’s not going.”

Taglines. Whenever possible, try to use an action instead of a tagline (he said, she said). One of the reasons for not using a lot of taglines is to develop each person’s distinct voice, so that all your characters don’t sound the same. Hint: If you do use taglines, it’s better to stick with the word “said”, rather than trying to come up with substitutes such as cry, interject, interrupt, mused, state, counter, conclude, mumble, intone, roar, exclaim, fume, explode. These are “telling” words. Let the words in the dialogue show the emotion. And you can NEVER smile words, or squint them, or laugh them.

• Establish the point of view (POV) of each character, i.e. his or her values and attitudes
• Recreate the impression of natural speech.
• Use dramatic structure to shape the sequence of what is said.
• Let characters make long speeches
• Put in “dead” dialog that doesn’t further the story line, e.g., “Hello, how are you?” “Fine, how are you.”
• Use too many odd spellings, for dialect
• Use too many taglines or substitute different words for “said.”


A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona. Her first novel, Cowgirl
Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of the Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and her next book Dare to Dream Will be published next May.

Use Seven Senses to Spark Your Writing

Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison
Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison
"Use Seven Senses to Spark Your Writing" by Joan Y. Edwards

In learning how to write better song lyrics for the musical movie I am writing, I ordered about 6 books about how to write or improve your writing of lyrics from the library. Much to my surprise, when I read Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison, I was amazed that he gave his readers exercises that would not only improve the writing of lyrics, but any kind of creative writing, you might pursue.

He suggests that for ten minutes - only ten minutes a day - not a minute longer to do an Object exercise.
Use seven senses: (There may be more, but Pat Pattison only emphasized seven)
  1. Sight- What you see and what it looks like
  2. Hearing - What you hear with your ears and what it sounds like.
  3. Taste - What you taste and what it tastes like.
  4. Smell - What you smell and what it smells like.
  5. Touch - What you touch and what it feels like: hot, cold, prickly, smooth.
  6. Inside Body Functions (Organic) - Your awareness of inner bodily functions. For example: heartbeat, pulse, muscle tension, stomach-aches, cramps, nausea, and breathing, pain, poisons. Concerns the movement and function of the physical organs insights and senses inside your body. 
  7. Kinesthetic - Sense of motion, speed of motion, balance, gravity. Use of the body to do something or create something, to move. 

For ten minutes you write freely. The only thing is you write sentences or phrases about the object. Tell something you remember about this object. Show us in as many ways as you can. Use your senses. Make it personal to you or write as a character in a story. You are free to include who, what, when, where, why, and how to your writing during the exercise. I think it would be a good idea to read over the different senses described here before you begin to write.

Pattison says that each time you do it, you'll dive deeper into your subconscious mind and get all those treasured word jewels hiding out in there. Each time you do it, you'll get more relaxed and able to dive down sooner than you did the last time. You can pretend you are a character seeing or using this object.

Pattison says not to spend longer than ten minutes a day doing this. He warns that people stop because they say it takes too long when they spend more than ten minutes. Or they say, I did 30 minutes today. I can skip Thursday and Friday. When you do it regularly, you reap the benefits.

I'm going to put a word here: SALT. I'd like for you to share what you wrote about it during your ten minute exercise as a comment. If you don't want to share your writing, just tell me how and why you think this will lead you to improved writing.

Here are five other words you might like to do a free 10 minute exercise for 5 different days:
  1. sand
  2. clock
  3. concrete
  4. beret
  5. refrigerator
I did a 10-minute writing exercise for the word Salt. I will post it in the comments area. I may not have used all 7 senses, but I had fun writing it. If you like these kind of exercises, let me know. I'll try to dream up or find a few others to try to help us improve our writing.

Celebrate you
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards

Pat Pattison. "Writing Better Lyrics:" 

Never Give Up-Joan Y. Edwards
My Books:
Flip Flap Floodle, even mean ole Mr. Fox can't stop this little duck
Joan’s Elder Care Guide, Release date June 2014 by 4RV Publishing

Writing for Children - Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

If you’re in the children’s book industry long enough, you’ll find out there are two schools of thought. Some editors, authors, and agents believe the chicken came first. Others argue it was the egg.

Personally, after writing over 80 books for such publishers as Scholastic, Reader’s Digest, and Chicago Review Press, I’m a firm advocate of the egg.

What am I talking about? The “chicken” I’m referring to is a manuscript. The “egg” is a contract. If you want to have success, build a rewarding career, and earn a steady income from writing, which should come first, the manuscript or the contract?

There are countless articles interviewing successful writers who believe the chicken came first. These say, “Write the manuscript first and then get it published.” These articles explain how it took years for the author to hone her skills, revise her manuscript innumerable times until it was polished to perfection, and then catch an editor or agent’s eye. There are numerous conferences where editors and agents speak and repeat, “Send me a manuscript that knocks my socks off, and I’ll publish your book.”
What I want to know is, how did those authors pay the bills all those years? How did they maintain their sanity through the mountain of rejections? How did they build a career?
You see, I believe the egg came first. If you talk to career writers, those successful authors who earn a decent and steady living writing for children, you’ll find a surprise. More often than you realize, these writers land a contract before they write the manuscript.
How did I discover this? It happened at my very first conference. A friend said, “I signed you up for an appointment with an editor!” After I got over my shock, curiosity got the better of me. I went to the appointment. And listened. The editor told me about a new book idea she wanted. I found myself nodding my head and saying, “I’ll send you a proposal for that idea.” I went home, followed her directions, and sent her a sample of a potential manuscript. I landed a contract. And then I wrote the book. My very first book.
At that same conference, I stood in the lunch line next to a different editor. I asked her what she published. She said a series of Bible storybooks. I asked her if I could try to write one. She explained what to do. I went home and followed her directions. I landed a contract. And then I wrote the book.
And so the story continued. Time after time, I landed a contract first, and then wrote the book. I was starting to see a pattern here. It was exciting, and it sure helped pay the bills!
The story continues today. I found a blurb in a writer’s magazine saying Sleeping Bear Press was looking for alphabet books about multicultural topics. I studied their website, noted which topics their books already covered, and saw they didn’t yet have an alphabet book about African American history. I e-mailed a query asking if they’d like to see a proposal for such a book. They e-mailed back and said sure. After submitting the proposal, I landed the contract. Then I wrote the book, D is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet. Which came first in the picture book genre, the chicken or the egg? Once again, the egg. The same was true for my teacher’s book, Readers Theatre for African American History. Which came first in the educational market, the chicken or the egg? The egg, again!
My search for a new contract usually follows the same pattern. I look in market guides and writers’ magazines, browse bookstores and libraries, and network at conferences and writers’ groups. I look for a publisher who accepts queries. When I find one that interests me, I study their website, look at their catalog, and think of three to five ideas that could fit into their product line. Then I send a query asking the editor if she’d like a proposal on any of those ideas. When that query is in the mail, I look for another publisher to target. If an editor replies and asks for a proposal, I prepare one to submit. If I’ve never written for that genre and the editor requests a writing sample, I ask for a sample assignment so I’m submitting a sample targeted to that publisher. Once that’s in the mail, I continue the cycle again.
And so it goes. This method works in every genre. From middle-grade novels to nonfiction to novelty books to fiction picture books, I land the contract first and then write the manuscript. It’s daunting. It takes work. But it’s very, very rewarding. And it helps pay the bills.

Nancy I. Sanders is the bestselling and award-winning author of over 80 books with publishing houses both big and small. She wrote a children’s writer’s column in The Writer’s online magazine, the Institute of Children’s Literature e-news, and The Christian Communicator. Nancy still lands the contract first before she writes the book. You can learn more about how she does it in her award-winning book, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career.  It shares insider tips and winning strategies that have helped her land over 80 book contracts. Learn more at:


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Watching for Euphemisms and Mealy-Mouthed PC-isms

Frankly, I think getting too PC (politically correct) can interfere with clear, concise English. But, we writers need to be aware of PC trends so we can make conscious choices and avoid faux pas whenever possible. And there are lots of PC-isms we out there we need to know.

But here's an example of  what I consider just too, too PC: An academic at one of the universities that uses my husband's reference book, What Foreigners Need to Know About America From A to Z ( objected to the word "Foreigners" in the title. My husband was aware of that difficulty when he chose that title. Some consider it pejorative. The thing is, there is not really a perfect substitute in the English language. "Aliens" calls up an image quite different (and for some even more negative) than "Foreigners." These academics who used to call their students from other countries "foreign students" now call them "international students," but that term wasn't quite right for this book. Some people this book is written for may be emigrants. Second generation citizens. Tourists. People who aren't Americans who conduct business with Americans both in the US and in their own countries. And on and on. Though not a perfect term, "foreigners" was the most inclusive word he could find.

I think that often attitudes about words tell more about the person who objects to them. When did it get to be a bad thing to be a "foreigner?" In America, even Native Americans were once from somewhere else. Or, more importantly, when are we going to get over the idea that being a foreigner is a bad thing.

Now the LA Times reports that the respected AP (Associated Press) has decided to discourage its reporters and editors from using the word "illegal immigrant." Some find the term offensive. The Times reports, "They prefer 'undocumented' arguing that 'illegal' is dehumanizing and lumps border crossers with serious criminals."

So the venerable AP stylebook warns against the term, though they, too, couldn't find a suitable substitute for all cases. Instead they suggest a kind of "working around it" approach—which may be an adequate alternative in the body of a written piece but may be tough when coming up with a title or headline.

There are all kinds of phrases and words that we should be leery of. We know—instinctively or because we writers need to keep up on such things—most of them. But sometimes the style suggestions are just plain mealy mouthed. Meaning that they are diluting our language without offering anything that works as well.

Decisions. Decisions. Just remember. "Undocumented" isn't going to work. Some people have documents, just not the right ones.

But the part of all this—the part that I love—is the idea a senior manager at Associated Press put forth: "It's lazy to label people. It's better to describe them." I have to agree with that. I was labeled all my life and hate putting labels on people. It's a little like putting them in a box, locking it, and throwing away the key.

And, just so you know, LA Times and The New York Times will soon be weighing in on the "illegal" and "undocumented" issue. Can't wait to see what they come up with.

Note: In the 1970s, the LA Times style book preferred "illegal alien." Times do change…gradually. Thank goodness, mostly for the better. I'm going to accumulate style choices, possibly for a new book. If you have ideas for me, please let me know at


Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults. and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (How To Do It Frugally series of book for writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at , where writers will find lists and other helps including Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog. She tweets writers' resources at .

Using Personality Typologies to Build Your Characters

  Contributed by Margot Conor People often have asked me how I build such varied and interesting character profiles. I’m fond of going into ...