Apps to Help You Find New Tweeps

Guest Post by Frances Caballo

We all know that social media isn’t a numbers game. While we may ooh and ah over a colleague’s 45,000 Twitter followers, we know that what’s most important is whether we have a dedicated following that frequently retweets our messages, buys our books and leaves comments on our blog.

However, if you are thinking of leaving the self-published route behind, a prospective agent or publisher invariably will ask you if you have a marketing platform. Then that person will want to know how many followers and Facebook page Likes you have.

So even though social media is about engagement and not numbers, someone – without fail – will be more interested in your follower count.

If you feel that you have too few followers and you want to boost them before pitching your book to an agent, there are several strategies you can implement to boost your numbers.

Twubs -

If you want to grow your following, consider occasionally joining a twitter chat. When you sign up for Twubs, you can use this tool to find a Twitter chat and join one. Joining a chat from Twubs enables you to jump into a discussion and Twubs will take care of adding the chat’s hashtag to your tweet. By joining a chat you will discover like-minded individuals who share your interests and who have great content to share.

Tweepi -

Tweepi is familiar to many Twitter users. With its free version, you can unfollow anyone who isn’t following you back, assuming that’s an important criterion for you. However, you can also use Tweepi to follow new users based on which Tweeps they follow. In addition, if you especially like industry experts such as Jane Friedman or Joel Friedlander as examples, you can use Tweepi to follow their lists. If you are willing to upgrade to a paid account, you can also search for tweets based on geolocation and the topic of their messages and decide if you want to follow them. Another paid feature would allow you to search for new users according to keywords they used in their bios to describe themselves, such as authors, writers, or bookworm.

ManageFlitter -

ManageFlitter is a helpful tool that will enable you to unfollow Tweeps who haven’t yet personalized their avatar and accounts that are fake. In addition, it will identify Tweeps who rarely use Twitter. It’s paid plan will search through more than 80 million Twitter accounts and find the right people for you to follow. You can also use this app to copy other Twitter account’s followers or accounts they follow.

If you feel as though your follower account is stagnating, it might be a good idea to use one of these apps to boost your count. I’ve noticed that as my follower account grows, my book sales increase. So even if you aren’t thinking about finding a publisher, it might be wise to boost those numbers on occasion as long as you don’t compromise engagement.

What Twitter tools do you use?

About the Author: Frances Caballo ( is a social media manager for writers and author of Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers to Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time to Write, Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers. Presently, she is the Social Media Manager for the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter, the San Francisco Writers Conference, and the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+.

Book info:

Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers To Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time to Write.

Synopsis: Social media is no longer an option for writers--it is a required element of every author’s platform. If you’ve been avoiding Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social networks because you think tweeting and posting will take large chunks of time out of your day and leave you with little time to write, think again. Using social media to market your books doesn’t need to be time-consuming. And with the four-step formula you’ll find in this book, it won’t be.

Whether you’re a seasoned or a newbie social media user, this book will introduce you to posting schedules, timesaving applications and content-rich websites that will help you economize the time you spend using social media to promote your books. You will learn:

•    How to create and perfect your author platform.
•    Where great content exists on the Internet and how you can use it to further your brand within your niche.
•    The importance of being social and applications that make this task easy and fun.
•    Tools that enable you to track and measure your success so you can better understand the return on investment of your valuable time.
•    Which tools prevent you from accessing the Internet when the time comes to sit and write that next book.
•    Exercises for introverted writers to help you feel comfortable on the social web.

Frances Caballo is also hosting a book giveaway for Avoid Social Media Time Suck on Goodreads during the month of April.

To keep up with writing and marketing information, along with Free webinars, join us in The Writing World (top right top sidebar).


You Know You're a Writer When . . .

Bloom where you're planted  Photo by Linda Wilson
You have a desire to express yourself. It won't go away. Pieces come out in your everyday life. At work. At home. With the people you know and love. With acquaintances and strangers, too. You might trek to the farthest reaches of the earth and sea. Start your own business, a new hobby; begin an exercise program, pick up a musical instrument. Go into politics or find volunteer opportunities. Yet you still want to do more. So, you sit down and write. You become a writer.

As busy as you are with your life, have you ever wondered where this desire to write comes from? You may be a physician/writer, a teacher/writer or a writer/writer. But deep down you know: Writing is your heart and you never want to stop.

The reasons one becomes a writer are as varied as life itself. Some of them are collected here, for you to ponder and perhaps to remind you of your own beginning, when you first noticed that pulse that beat so strong inside that it spilled onto the page and hasn't stopped. It's only grown. And you've grown, too.

You know you're a writer when you . . .

. . . Enjoy looking up words in the dictionary and thesaurus.
  • Speaking from personal experience, I like nothing better than to look up words. I am now in the market for an electronic dictionary/thesaurus. Any recommendations left as a comment would be appreciated.
. . . Are willing to forgo a social life, belonging to clubs, playing bridge, etc.
  • Years ago, I read an article where best-selling author Barbara Taylor Bradford (A Woman of Substance, and twenty-nine other books), was quoted as saying that you must choose between having a busy social life or becoming a serious author. In a recent article where Bradford offered writing tips she wrote: "First and foremost, you need to be serious about your desire to become a published author. It takes an extraordinary amount of time, effort and dedication to hone your skills and produce a work worthy of publication. But like anything else, if you possess the talent and the determination, you will likely succeed."
. . . Love the process without concerning yourself with the end result. Your mind is always working on an idea or problem for an article or story.
  • Newbery medalist and well-loved children's author Betsy Byars described one of the best things about our craft in the reference book, Something About the Author,  " . . . creativity. I can't define it, but I have found from experience that the more you use it, the better it works."
. . . Are willing to keep learning your craft and grow.
  • In the article, "Timeless Advice on Writing from Famous Authors," June 18, 2012 published  by Brainpickers, Chilean novelist Isabel Allende is quoted as saying, "Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too."
. . . Keep working and don't give up despite any odds against you, such as rejections, self-doubt and lack of time.
  • Through the years, I've heard successful writers and editors say that it's sad. Many talented writers give up too soon. They've become discouraged because of the demands that come with being a published author. If they had hung on a little longer, their work would have been ready.
. . . Want to share what you've learned.
  • A Catholic nun was the first person who encouraged me to write. I had made puppets and a puppet stage and written and adapted puppet plays for the children in our church when my daughters were very young. She told me how my project could help others if I would take the time to share what I had done. The article I wrote and photographs I included became my first published piece. Thanks to her encouragement I learned right from the start the satisfaction that comes from sharing our work.
. . . Have become a good listener, a good observer, a good student of life.
  • "A writer, early and late, does a lot of listening at doors . . ." Richard Peck, Newbery-medalist
I hope you will take the time to leave a comment about how you got started on your creative path.

Next month: You Know You're a Writer When . . . Part II


Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, recently completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction course. Linda 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 7-10 year olds. Follow her on Facebook. 

The Critics

Critics are everywhere. 

They will stop us dead in our tracks or make us more determined with our dreams.

Writers bare their soul with words. Our work is an expression of who we are. First drafts of angst or sheer joy flows across the page with unhindered rhythm.  

But, unfinished symphonies of literary beauty have been lost because of the critic - unless the writer has learned to work through the struggle. 

The critic has a place. But you don't want the opinion of someone to crush your creativity.

Be inspired with this video clip, Why Your Critics Aren't The Ones Who Count, by Brené Brown.

Brené is a research professor and nationally renowned speaker on topics such as vulnerability and courage.  I met Brené through Christina Katz, author and writing coach, who shared this video with her readers.

I sincerely hope you are inspired as I was.

Let me know what you think!


After raising and homeschooling her 8 children, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. You can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts

What's Stopping You Writing ?

What stops you writing? 
head in hands

Writer and marketer Jenn Dize asked me that question today in a new 30-day course on web writing--Making Waves as a Web Writer.

And it made me think. I thought I knew--procrastination. But when I analysed why I was procrastinating, I came up with something new

One of my faults is that without a deadline, I write too slowly--not a bad thing in itself provided it equates to better, more thoughtful writing. But when it leads to losing focus, ideas blowing in the wind, and too few projects ever completed, then it is time to tackle the problem.

As freelance writers, our income depends on how much we write--how many reports, articles or books we produce.  We need to manage our output without falling victim to burnout.

The assignment was to face the problem and do something about it. I had pinpointed procrastination as a weakness but the realization that writing too slowly was the main factor stopping my writing came as a surprise.

"Do something about it," said Jenn, who is very hands on as a motivator, always at the other end of an email.

How to Write Faster

I searched the Internet and found lots of advice and help. An article by Dany Iny pointed out the importance of planning. I know this but still jump fast into anything which is teetering toward a deadline. The article, of course, also led me to investigate the website, join the newsletter and download the free book.

Yes I know the article says not to do things like that but the book is going to help me finish what I start--honest.

As I am battling to finish a novella by June, I was delighted to find K.M.Weiland's series on character arcs--especially useful for fiction writers.
Knowing what you're doing speeds up working patterns. Having a way of structuring work helps divide it into headed sections and writing content to match headings keeps it from straying too far off the point.

And yes, I investigated the website, joined the newsletter and downloaded the free book all about crafting unforgettable characters. Well, I need to do that, right?

Joanna Penn's podcasts offer 75 hours of writing, marketing and publishing advice. Plenty of potential for procrastination here but liberated by nailing my flaw, I am too enthused at the thought of writing to stop for long. I did however have a little look around the website, signed up for the newsletter and picked up the Author 2.0 Blueprint. After all, I am about to be an author when I finish my book.

And then there was Holly Lisle on pacing dialogue and action scenes--your story at your speed.

At your speed, perhaps. But not mine. My speed is somewhat slower than that of a lackadaisical snail. My story would take a century to unroll if left to itself. But if I don't know about pacing, I risk far too many wasted words and wasted words really do slow the writing down.

I know what you think--and no, I didn't. I already have Holly's newsletter and free book.

I then found myself tempted by How To Publish More Kindle eBooks Faster: How To Write 7,000 Or More Words Every Day by Marc Guberti . It was free on Amazon today. Irresistible. Will it work? I'll let you know--when I can spare the time from writing to read it.

Useful Websites

For the first in the character arcs series:

If you change the number after character-arcs- you will find all the articles in the series. The latest so far is number 10

For news and reviews of  Making Waves as a Web Writer, visit my blog.

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

Computer and Internet Safety - Not Just for Writers Part 2

Last month, I wrote about the end of Microsoft’s support of Windows XP.  Since then, I found a few additional articles that my readers might find of interest.

Lifehacker provides information on upgrading your old computer. I tried doing that with mine and it did not turn out well. If you wish to keep your old computer, I suggest reading the following article:

However, I recommend buying a new computer. Clark Howard and Kim Komando offer some advice here 

What did you decide to do?

Happy writing!

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.

Email Marketing and Free Email Services Warning

By Karen Cioffi

If you’re an email marketer, and you should be, you should be paying attention to what’s going on with the free email services and your subscriber lists.

The first to play havoc on their email customers is Yahoo.

Yahoo recently made a change to its DMARC ((Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) Policy, according to iContact.

What does this mean for you?

Well, maybe nothing. But, if you send your subscriber emails through email services, such as iContact, Yahoo is bouncing the majority of them. They’ve bounced about 80% of my last four subscriber emails.


This in itself is a problem, but add to this that there was NO notification, unless you were looking for it, DOUBLE YIKES!

So, email marketers who found out after the fact, like me, had to resend their emails, which means about 20% of my subscribers got duplicate email content for four messages.

My sincere apologies to those who did receive duplicates. Unfortunately, 80% of those subscribing to The Writing World didn’t receive the emails, so I needed to resend them.

iContact notes that Yahoo’s purpose is to prevent suspicious or phishing attacks. So, if your ‘From Address’ is tied to and it’s not sent from one of their IPs, your email will be bounced.

Just the Beginning

As with everything online, there are usually no solitary acts. Yahoo may be the first to implement this anti-spam bounce policy, but be assured that the others will follow.

The Solution

If you are using free email services like Yahoo and Gmail for your email marketing, change your “From Address” to a paid service, use a domain that you control, one that’s connected to your website.

If you’re not sure how to do this, ask your email marketing service for help.

Hope this is helpful,

Karen Cioffi, the Article Writing Doctor
Prescription for Your Content Marketing Needs
Content Writing Training for Small Businesses, Solopreneurs, and Health Professionals



The Evolved SEO Marketing – Content Discoverability and Socialization (the top 3 strategies)
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Procrastination Styles - Results from Survey

Last month I asked our readers to complete the procrastination style survey .  Thanks to everyone who participated in this survey.  We had over 100 respondents!  The pie chart below breaks-out  the percentage  for each procrastination style.  

  • Many respondents indicated their procrastination style was a combination of styles.
  • The largest group of respondents were Dreamers, followed by Crisis-makers, then Perfectionists.  

  • 25% of  respondents were male; 75% female

  • The only category that appeared to have a correlation related to gender was defier.  A greater percentage of males were defiers than females.

  • 44% of the respondents were under 30
  • 39% of the respondents were over 50
  • Over-givers crossed all age groups except 20 and under.

Although different forces drive each procrastination style, structure is the one tool that helps keep any procrastinator on track.  Scheduling and tracking your writing time on your calendar can increase your productivity.  Start with manageable time expectations--something you know you can achieve.  This sets the stage to keep your personal commitments.   Slowly build your time commitment.  This structure will keep you focused.  

Try this for two or three weeks, and see if it impacts your writing.  I'd love to hear from anyone who tries this strategy or already schedules their writing time.

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

Some Taglines that Work: Part II

Last month we had a look at taglines, what they are, and what they're meant to achieve. I encouraged you to try your hand at creating your own, if you hadn't already done so. This month I thought we'd take a look at some author's taglines that really work well.

You wouldn't believe how long it took me to find 10 effective author taglines! Does this mean the authors haven't bothered to work on one? Or is it that they are not using them?

I suspect more of the latter. I admit that is something I haven't been good at either. I use the tagline as the name of my newsletter, The Write to Inspire and Encourage. But when I looked at my websites I discovered welcomes you to the website where writers and readers receive inspiration and encouragement. And says, Shirley Corder offers inspiration and encouragement to any who are negotiating the Cancer Valley, whether as patients or as people who care. So in both cases, the thought is there, but the tagline is not.  (Note to self: Make use of your hard-sought-for tagline!)
So here are ten author taglines that I think work. Take a look at them and see if you think the author's taglines (in bold) fit the type of writing (in italics).

Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist well-known for her trademark "Seatbelt Suspense" books. The majority of her books cover harrowing though Christian crime thrillers. Her tagline says it all: Don't forget to breathe...

Karen Kingsbury, often described as America’s favorite inspirational novelist writes fiction that links her readers to real life crisis situations. Her tagline is: Life-changing Fiction.

Jill Elizabeth Nelson who writes suspenseful mysteries seasoned with romance, humor and faith writes under the tagline: Endless Adventure—Timeless Truth.

Cynthia Herron writes heartfelt, homespun, contemporary Christian romance novels. "A hopeless romantic at heart, Cynthia enjoys penning stories about ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances." (Taken from her website.) Her tagline is Heartfelt, Homespun fiction.

Heather Thurmeier writes "sweet, funny romances that capture your heart!" (Review by NYT and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Probst.) Her tagline is Heart, Humor, and a Happily Ever After.

Pat Ballard (with the nickname of Queen of Rubenesque Romances) writes books for plus-size women. Her comment on her website says, "The message is for all women to love ourselves as we are and stop trying to be something we were never meant to be." Romance novels with big, beautiful heroines.

Ciara Knight writes edgy fiction that always has a ray of hope. Her tagline? Defy the Dark.

Clive Cussler is an American adventure novelist and marine archaeologist who writes thriller novels. His tagline sums it up: The Grandmaster of Adventure.

Ali Cross says, I’ve always been a dreamer. When I would tell my family what new adventure I wanted to take on, they’d roll their eyes and say something like, “Oh yeah? Well let us know how that works out for you.” Her tagline? Stories that transcend the ordinary.

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author who has a passion for both God and romance. Her tagline sums it up: Passion With a Purpose.

So what do you think? Are there any that you think stand out from the others? Or are they any you don't think work?

Next month, same time, same place, we'll take a look at some taglines that definitely don't work—and why.

SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer contains 90 meditations based on her sojourn in the cancer valley.

Please visit Shirley's Write to inspire and encourage website or at, where she has the Write to inspire and encourage those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or FaceBook

P.S. Does the attempted use of my tagline in my bio work? Yes? No? Help!

Writing for Children: 3 Tips to Make Your Books More Appealing to the Library and School Markets

Writing for children is a very competitive business. And while most children's authors are available for book signings at libraries, bookstores, and schools, there are a couple of additional things EVERY children's author needs to do in order to make their books more appealing to the library and school markets. After all, teachers and school librarians account for a great percentage of children's book sales. Why not cash in on these ready markets?

Here's how:

1. Before you even write your book, figure out several ways it can tie in to the school curriculum for your intended readership.

2. Teachers and librarians also love to be able to use a tradebook to teach content ACROSS the curriculum. If you write a book about the Civil War, for example, it's pretty obvious how educators can tie the book to the social studies curriculum. But figure out ways they can also use your book to teach other subject areas like science, math, language arts, etc.

3. Create study guides for your books and post them to your website, where teachers and librarions can download them, or offer to provide the guides for teachers or librarians who purchase your book(s). Again, guides that provide activities across the curriculum will be very appealing to teachers and school librarians.  Educators will also expect the suggested activities in your study guides to align with state education standards (common core standards), so go online to your state's Department of Education to get the common core standards for all subjects at all grade levels. Once you look at these standards, you'll get some ideas as to the types of activities you can create for your study guides.

In today's competitive world, children's authors need to do everything they can to widen the appeal of their books. These 3 tips will help you do that.

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.

Lieurance helps children's book authors and illustrators get the word out about their books through the author showcase at the National Writing for Children Center.

Creatively Dreaming

Last week my husband asked me, "Don't all authors only have one book in them?"

I think I almost snapped at him, "No, the saying is all people have at least one book in them.
Writers have too many to count and they just keep coming."

The reason I might have almost snapped, well everything is an opportunity for another project. Which is why it's such a struggle for some of us. We hear a snippet of conversation in a grocery store and it's the beginning of a novel or the scene for a great character. We see a movie and think, what if they'd gone a different direction? What would that have done to the story? I have so many ideas, and so little time to flesh them out. Right now my idea notebook is full, and I found my last one in a drawer a couple of weeks ago and thought, hmm, there's some good stuff in there.

As a creative writer, I'm finding that I'm constantly inspired - what causes me the most challenge is the 'behind' in the chair kind of work that is required to get them completed. Or even the 'which one should I work on now' kind of thought. Which is why I'm creatively dreaming these days.

Do you have a writing dream? Mine is a cottage or cabin far from everyday life. A place without internet or television, but with running water and heat. I think I could get by with just that.

So why don't you find me on a mountain top? That's a great question. One I'm still asking myself. I guess to some degree I feel selfish doing something that brings me so much pleasure. Your work shouldn't make you that happy. Right? Wrong!

But creatively dreaming inspires me to exciting realms of new thought. Places where I can be and do anything. It's better than reading a good book, only because I can determine the direction I will go, and even though right now I'm also working a 'real job,' creatively dreaming means I'm always ready to get to work when the moment presents itself.

The best news is, that creatively dreaming doesn't mean you can't have and live any of your other dreams. So today, start dreaming.

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

Story Pricing

My friend, Lana Voynich, and I were having a discussion the other night about the price of ebooks, specifically short stories. I've put all my short stories on Kindle (for now, and had them enrolled in the KDP select program) at 99 cents each. The story length varies from just under 1800 to just under 5000 words. So, the question is, "Is 99 cents too much to pay for a story that is under 5000 words?"

If I tried to price them lower than 99 cents, I can't make any royalties, so anything below 99 cents is not eligible for any type of royalty payment. She suggested that I compile the similar stories and put them up at $1.99 for the one combination of stories (3 or 4). Looking at my short stories and some started stories I probably could flesh out, I could combine four of the ones I already have published coming in at just about 12,000 words (the four romance stories), but by the same token, by doing this, I would only make 70 cents for the combined stories as opposed to 35 cents for each one that sells at 99 cents (not that any of them are selling well anyway). If I price the compilation at $2.99, I would make 70% royalties, roughly $2.10 for each copy sold, but with only 12,000 words, I wouldn't feel right about doing so.  What are your suggestions on this pricing dilemma?

She has priced her novels or novellas (roughly the same length as FINALLY HOME, mine being 56,000 words; hers being 51,000 and about 58,000 (I think that is what she told me)) at $3.99 and $4.99 and I've priced FINALLY HOME at $2.99. What do you all think of pricing of ebooks? Do you mind paying 99 cents for short stories and a bit more for longer stories or do you think 99 cents is too much to pay for a short story?

 Remember, no matter how the writer sells her stories, she still has to make royalties in order to make it worthwhile. The big name writers don't count here since we are all struggling to make a little piece of the pie in order to survive in the writing world, what with the market being saturated with everything since it is so easy to self-publish these days and most of the time, self-pubbed can be done at much lower costs than even five or ten years ago. I'd love to hear some of your comments on how to price stories and still be able to make a small amount of money from my writing.

 Leave a comment and be entered in the drawing for an "earth day"(* - see note below) bookworm bookmark. Conserving trees all around the world, one bookworm bookmark at a time.

Elysabeth Eldering
FINALLY HOME (A Kelly Watson, YA, paranormal mystery)
coming soon THE TIES OF TIME (A Kelly Watson, YA, paranormal mystery)

*Earth day bookworms are essentially available in over 20 colors, not just the "earthy colors" any more, and can be mailed anywhere, not just in the United States. For choices and pictures of colors, please stop over and visit my blog,

Three Reasons Why You Can't Afford Not to Go to Writers Conferences

If you follow my blog, you'll know that I've been waxing lyrical over the past month over the Newcastle Writer's Festival, a writer's conference that has now taken place twice in my locale. I've been extremely enthusiastic about the festival, not only because it was easy for me to get to (very few of the big festivals are), it was supported through my local Writer's Centre and it was full of people I knew well enough to enjoy hanging out with, but also because it was seriously good for my writing career.  I know that, for some of us, our writing time is limited, and networking is often tiring, time consuming, and expensive, but attending a writer's festival, maybe once or twice a year, can make a huge difference to your work itself, the opportunities that present themselves, and your public profile in a way that nothing else can.  Here are three reasons why it's worthwhile making time. 

1.  The courses.  You can attend courses at a writer's conference for a fraction of the price that you'd pay anywhere else and they're often the kinds of courses you won't find anywhere else.  I'm thinking of the masterclass.  Most conferences hold these, and they're usually taught by very high-profile authors in small groups where you can get extensive one-on-one criticism. For example, at the upcoming Sydney Writer's Festival, you can attend masterclasses on such things as writing for young adults, writing comedy, writing a memoir, screenwriting, and writing for digital media.  Most tickets are around $75 for a full day of it.  The learning is invaluable, but you can also then say that you've "studied with..." which is a nice thing for a literary resume, promo kit, etc.

2.  The networking.  Writing is such a solitary profession that it's very enjoyable to come out of the cave and hang with other writers.  But it's also very healthy for your career. If you're seen, and known, then you'll be invited to participate in projects. You can spend time trading notes with others working in your genre, which will give you perspective and a greater understanding of the market.  You'll create an impression that you're a writer, and although an impression is no match for an excellent piece of writing, it's a critical part of promotion.  If you're a relative newby, shy, or broke, you can always volunteer to help (volunteers get plenty of perks, like free admission to many events, free food and drink, direct exposure to the guest writers, and a lot of appreciation - plus you'll learn from every event you help out at).  It may be that you volunteer to help at the first one, but you actually offer to run a session at the next.  Getting known to the organisers is the first step towards being a direct invited participant.

3.  The Pitch.  Most writers conferences offer the opportunity to pitch your work directly to agents and publishers.  In a noisy world where getting noticed is hard, this can be a very worthwhile exercise.  Make sure you do your homework, perfect your elevator speech, and come very prepared if you intend to do this (and make the most of the rest of the conference too).  Don't bother pitching to a publisher who doesn't publish your genre (pitching your work as a 'cross-genre' manuscript is probably doomed to failure unless you're already famous, in which case you don't need to pitch), don't go in without a prepared and super-concise pitch, and above all, appear relaxed and professional (even if you don't feel it). 

There are plenty of other reasons to give writer's conferences a go, not least of which because they're utterly fun and if you pick your sessions carefully to match your own writing challenges and interests (as a reader too!), can be very energising, providing you with ideas, material, and inspiration that you can carry with you into your solitary work, so you produce better writing.  That's what it's all about.

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

Helpful Critiques

I don’t know what I would have done without my critique groups over the years. They keep me accountable, give me a deadline to meet, and each person has had a strength that helped me improve my writing. Without feedback, I get too close to the writing and can no longer be objective or see the mistakes.

Here are some hints for critiquing:

As Critiquer: This is important! Always start out your critique with the positive—what you liked about the scene, what worked well, what evoked emotion, memory, nice descriptive phrases, etc. When you talk about something that didn’t work, say “I bumped on . . .” Try not to “fix” the problem or tell her what to do—let the author do that.

As Critiquee: When you are being critiqued, remember the motto “JUST NOD AND SMILE.” It is best not to try to explain too much and especially not to get defensive about your work (it’s a natural reaction, but not constructive).Just take in what the critiquer is saying and use it or not as you see fit. It may be something you might not agree with at the moment, but after thinking about it, maybe it starts to make sense. Or, it’s a question that you know you’ve answered in a previous or upcoming scene. When the critiquer asks a question, you are not required to answer it—it’s just food for thought.

Things to look for in doing a critique:

Point of View (POV)—not switching from one to another within scenes. Trying to avoid the omniscient.

Character Development—emotions and feelings. Does the character stay “in character?” Growth/change as the story progresses. What does the character learn from his/her experience?

Setting and Grounding—Descriptions, using the five senses (Sight, Sound, Smell, Touch, Taste). Keeping the reader “grounded”—reminding him/her where the characters are and what they’re doing during dialogue.

Dialogue—realistic, concise, not overly didactic (giving info to the reader through dialogue where the character would obviously know it and not have to state it). Watch for overdoing dialect. Watch overuse of “taglines” (he said/she whispered). Whenever possible, substitute with an action or a reaction by the character. This helps with grounding and helps you develop each character’s individual voice.

Show vs TellHint: Any time you write “He/she felt something” or “He/she was something” you are TELLING. You want the reader to identify with your character, to be inside his/her head. Do you identify with the first or the second example?
“Sally felt so sad and depressed after John died that she cried all day.” Do you feel her sadness or depression?
Or-- “Suddenly she realized the sound in the room was her own sobbing. Tears burned hot on her cheeks. She raised a hand and it trembled before her eyes. She could end it all right now.

Orchestration/continuity. At the beginning of the scene she was wearing a blue dress, by the end she had on brown pants. Or how did he get from sitting in the living room to suddenly standing in the kitchen? Are all the arms, legs etc. in the right place, doing things that are physically possible (in a love scene or a fight scene etc.)?

  A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona where she blogs, teaches writing, and edits. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreamsis based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. The next book in the series, Dare to Dream, will be published in May 2014. Heidi has a degree in journalism and a certificate in fiction writing.

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