You Know You're a Writer When Your . . . Part 2

Dare to dream  Photo by Linda Wilson
Build a strong foundation:  Read as much as you can. Study your weak areas so you can improve them. Share your work with a critique group. Take courses. Attend workshops and conferences. Build a marketing platform. Write the best article/book/poem/memoir you can. Ask a professional editor to proof your work. Whatever you do, don't give up. You've covered the bases. You are on a sure road to success.

And, don't forget: write from your heart. For, without putting your heart and soul into what you write, your works would have little meaning. To find meaning you need only to look inside. As one editor put it, "Go to the well. That's were you'll find what to write." Sound easy? It hasn't been easy for me. Nestled in among the flowers inside there are weeds, weeds that I sometimes don't want to see. But when I take a good, hard look, each weed that I pluck adds meaning; and in the end, could be the very reason for my story to linger.

What has made up your well is the sum total of your past, your thoughts and feelings, your experiences; in short, where you come from. While reading through this small sampling of the main forces that have shaped great authors' careers and how far their humble beginnings have taken them, think about how your own writing choices originated; how these choices have driven you, even challenged you, toward the subject(s) you write about today.

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

. . . relative is a journalist.
  • Brian Doyle, the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, Oregon; and author of thirteen books, most recently The Plover, published in April 2014, writes that he is asked how he became a writer in almost every class he visits. His short answer is "By writing." In an article for The American Scholar, Doyle imparted precious gems he learned from his journalist father: "My dad was a newspaperman, and still is, at age 92 . . . he taught me immensely valuable lessons. If you wish to be a writer, write . . . Note how people get their voices and hearts and stories down on the page . . . Be honest with yourself about the size of your gift . . . The best writers do not write about themselves but about everyone else . . . The best writers are good listeners."
. . . family is your biggest influence.
  • As an extremely shy girl, Jane Austen, the youngest of seven, centered her world around her family. The author of six novels, including Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, Austen drew her "comic abilities" and "knowledge of the sea" from her brothers. Though Austen never married, she drew much of her fiction from her own life.

  • Eudora Welty grew up in a house full of books. After attending college at the University of Wisconsin and Columbia, she returned to her childhood home in Jackson, Mississippi, where she lived most of her 92 years. She never married, saying, "It never came up," and of her life at home, said, "I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within." Welty wrote four short stories which were reissued in 1980 as The Collected Stories; five novels, a volume of essays, The Eye of the Storm (1978), and a memoir, One Writer's Beginnings (1984).
. . . life is changed by a catalystic event.
  • In answer to why he became a writer, on his website Stephen King writes, ". . . there was nothing else I was made to do. I was made to write stories and I love to write stories." King grew up without a dad. Endearing to me is that he made a success of himself in spite of that. Though he grew up with meager finances which continued for the first part of his career as an English teacher, he and his brother David benefited from a loving mother. At six and seven years old King's mother read aloud to them. Stephen loved her choice of stories, from the comic book series, "Classics Illustrated," to Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. She said of a thin, plain "grown-up" book, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, "This one's a scary one. It's about a man who changes into something else." Stephen begged, "Read it to me." She gave in. The story only fanned the fires already burning in Stephen's heart. Even at the tender age of seven he thought, "I have to do that, but I have to do that worse."

  • When Stephen was eleven years old he and David amused themselves by going to the movies. They liked the scary ones best. One matinee, The Pit and the Pendulum, moved Stephen so much that he wrote his own version and passed copies of it to his friends. Movies helped develop his unique writing style: "I write down everything I see. It seems like a movie, and I write that way."

  • Yet King's most poignant influence came at the discovery of an old box of his father's books--horror stories--that he found in his aunt and uncle's attic. Among the books was a 1947 collection by H.P. Lovecraft, one of the first noted horror writers, called "The Lurking Fear and Other Stories." Like Lovecraft, King was from New England. King realized, too, that he could establish his stories in the place he knew best--Maine.
. . . life experiences have moved you to help others.
  • Offering examples from the experiences of the patients in his psychiatric practice, M. Scott Peck, M.D., developed a philosophy discussed in his best-selling book, The Road Less Traveled (1978). It is an engaging read which, in the first part, focuses on the importance of discipline in helping solve life's problems and in living a fulfilling life. Peck sums discipline up in neat categories, such as: Delaying gratification: the process by which some children by the age of twelve "are able to sit down on occasion without any parental prompting and complete their homework before they watch television;" Acceptance of responsibility: the ability to accept responsibility for our actions and not avoid it by expecting others to be responsible; Dedication to truth: "Courageous people must continually push themselves to be completely honest, yet must also possess the capacity to withhold the whole truth when appropriate," and; Balancing: the ability to handle situations appropriately. Peck argues that by trying to avoid legitimate suffering, people ultimately end up suffering more. The last two parts of The Road explore the nature of love and the power of grace, respectively.

  • "Be in control of your life and live the life of your dreams." That's the mission stated on Dr. Wayne Dyer's website. Dyer is the author of over 40 books, many audio programs and videos, speaker in the field of self-development, and guest on thousands of television and radio shows. His belief that every person can live an extraordinary life is particularly poignant, for he grew up in orphanages and foster homes. In the late '80s, I listened to audio cassette tapes by Dr. Dyer in which encouraging words were spoken by him in rhythm. The rhythm matched the steps I took on walks, and provided reassurance at a time when I needed it most. Dyer's books and audio products have evolved since then; I haven't been able to find that specific program I enjoyed while on walks. But Dyer's works, available in print, CD and audio download, cover the gamut of encouragement.
Writers from our own ranks at Writers on the Move exemplify the urge to help their readers by virtue of their writing choices. Readers can scroll down from this post to the list of contributors and by checking out our writers' websites and blogs, can find a treasure trove of expertise and heartfelt advice.

Now for my humble beginnings: Chronicling my life in diaries has satisfied a natural inclination to record anything that strikes my fancy, from childhood on. Serious efforts began by reading "how-to" books and writing for local newspapers and periodicals. Today, after retiring from teaching elementary school, my dream to write for children has finally come true. The best part is that writing for WOTM has allowed me to delve into topics that I enjoy writing for adults, too. I feel I have arrived at the best of both worlds.

Sources:;  "Jane Austen: Get the Particulars," by Ginny Wiehardt, at;; and "Stephen King," Biography Today, vol. 1, 1995;

Next month: Know Your Audience

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 7-9 year olds. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Be Who You Are and Take the Risk

You are creative.

You have a voice.

You can write in a way no one else can.

But are you getting lost in the mechanics and not writing from your gut?

Don't get me wrong. I am all for learning the particulars - the basics of word usage, writing tight, grammar rules, etc. But don't let these things overshadow your creative yearnings!

When I think about famous painters or composers over the centuries, rules were broken and personal style took precedence. Can you imagine if they all started and ended with cookie cutter methods?

Get the basics down, but let your style shine. You are the only one that can find this balance. 

If no two snowflakes are alike, no two finger prints, doesn't that spell U N I Q U E?


There are many ways to tell something and you are going to tell it the way no one else can. And you may use some unconventional ways to do it.

Going with our gut is risky. Sometimes we're wrong. But there is something that wells up inside of us that says go for it! We might fall flat on our face. But it was worth the sheer enjoyment of putting ourselves out there. That's because you know what you're good at. And even if everyone won't applaud your work, there is someone out there who will.

You just have to find them.

What writing project are you struggling with? Could it because you are trying to be someone you are not? 


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 -

Write on Your Summer Vacation

Summer is almost here and I have vacation on my mind. This trip is also my annual writing retreat. I chose the accommodations and I will have the freedom to roam about town.

Sitting around on park benches and hanging out at outdoor cafes allows me to people watch. There might be a ballgame or concert going on at the park. Maybe an artist will be painting a local scene.

I can visit museums and shop at stores. I might see an object that starts telling me a story. Maybe it’s an antique, something that was well loved by someone long ago. Perhaps it’s a piece of art or a photograph that speaks to me.

In the evening, when it’s cooler, I may go for a walk. I might see historic houses and wonder who used to live in them. Perhaps I will watch the birds move about, searching for food and flying back to their nests.

I may meet some interesting people. One year on vacation, I met a mystery writer. He was working on his latest creation at the inn where I was staying. On another trip, I was able to chat with a children’s author. She was selling her new book at a local festival.

When you plan your summer vacation, think of  it as an opportunity to be inspired, to write about what you see and do each day.

What plans are you making for this summer?

Whatever you decide to do, have fun and good luck with your 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.

When Taglines Don't Work. Part III

Two months ago we looked at what taglines are, and what they're meant to achieve. I also encouraged you to try your hand at creating your own. Last month we looked at some author taglines that work well. This month, I want to round off this theme by looking at a few taglines that don't work, and why.

AT&T had a catchy tagline: Reach Out and Touch Someone. As an inspirational writer who has a lot of contact with people going through cancer treatment, I often encourage people to touch their friends and family if it is appropriate. By touch, I mean to reach out and hold a hand, or give a hug, to show them some love and care. So that seemed a good tagline.

That's before I looked up AT&T and discovered they are a mobile network company. Hmm. Where I understand what they're trying to say (I think) the idea of someone reaching out and touching me from my cell phone kind of gives me the creeps! This doesn't say what it's meant to say.

Electrolux marketed vacuum cleaners in the United Kingdom with the tagline, Nothing sucks like an Electrolux. That is a great recommendation for a vacuum cleaner or course, but it sure sucks as a promotion. Incidentally, although this was regarded by many as a huge blunder, the company claims this was a deliberate effort to gain attention. It worked! So, is this a good tagline or a bad one?

If you know Electrolux is a vacuum cleaner, it's a clever line. But if you don't? I know Electrolux is a well-known brand, but it is just possible there are some people out there in our global village who don't know. And that sucks! This tagline has a double meaning.

Kentucky Fried Chicken's finger-lickin' good is a well-known tagline, but they need to be careful if they translate it into Chinese. It then becomes "We'll Eat Your Fingers Off!" So it works well for its American market, but if it's used globally, and of course KFC is pretty world-wide now, it could cause some concern.

A well-known author uses the term HEA in her tagline. I read a comment by her on a blog recently where she says, "People would have to know what HEA stands for of course, but I’d assume most romance writers do."

Well, as a matter of fact I didn't. But then, I'm not a romance writer. So I Googled the term. I found it could mean:
  • Higher Education Act
  • Higher Education Authority
  • Hypospadias and Epispadias Association
  • Household Economy Assessment
  • High Energy Astrophysics
  • Happily Ever After 
  • and another 40-odd possibilities.
Ahh wait! She assumes most romance writers know what HEA stands for, so I'm guessing it's Happily Ever After. It's not her fault I didn't know that's what she meant, but then surely she wants her tagline to reach out and appeal to more than just romance writers? Maybe not.

Then we have
  • the car company that says We put people in front of cars. Really?
  • the airline that says, We get you there. Umm. That's probably a good thing. But they don't say how! It doesn't enthuse me to use their service. 
  • the spice that says it's Distilled in hell. As a Christian I would be apprehensive of sprinkling this on my food!
I could give many more examples but they're all there on the World Wide Web. You only need to Google "Bad taglines." The Internet has dozens of them.

It's not my intention to belittle the people who came up with these taglines. They're all pretty clever when you know what they mean. But what have we learned from these examples?
  1. Don't rush your decision. We need to consider the different cultures we're writing for, and think of whether readers in another land will understand our meaning.
  2. Be cautious of a clever play on words. The Upper Room, a devotional magazine that is published in over 40 languages, refuses to use any idioms that would not make sense to other cultures. That is a challenge; but then we're writers. We're up to challenges.
  3. Make sure it gives the message you want it to.  No creepy hands coming out of the mobile! Or people standing in front of cars!
  4. Avoid initials or abbreviations unless we are only using our tagline "in house," with a group of people that will know what we're talking about.
Hmm. Suddenly my tagline, The Write to Inspire doesn't seem so clever. It is of course a play on words: The Right to Inspire. Back to the drawing board!

How about you? Do you have any more advice? Points we should beware of when we come up with that startling, all-important, tagline that's going to shoot us up the charts of fame?

SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her bookStrength 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

The first two parts of this theme can be read here:

Part I What is Your Tagline?
Part II Some Taglines that Work

How do You Capture Writing Time?

As I approach 60, I know that life occurs in stages and I wake up amazed some days at where I am in relation to where I thought I would be. I find when talking to others my age, they are either pursuing their dream or feeling overwhelmed and disappointed that there is never enough time to reach their goal. As a nurse and also a shop owner,  I have heard it more than once from peers..... "I will do such and such when I have more time" or " when I retire I want to take up sewing, quilting, writing, painting, volunteering," and the list goes on. Well folks, I am here to say for the record for those who want to pursue writing the time is now.

While some other skills, hobbies, or crafts may have to wait because of finances or family obligations, writing can be done with little investment and with as little time as 15 minutes a day. It is all about capturing those precious moments of time to pursue your writing dream.

 Writers just beginning need only a piece of paper and a pen. Simple enough, and of course the desire to say something to the reader. I dare say that those of us with some experience need only a pen and paper as well. The vast amount of courses, books, and software that help writers to hone their skills are invaluable but a writer needs a pen, paper, the spark of an idea, and TIME to pursue the dream.

So how do writers capture writing time?

 I find that the most important thing is to prioritize. Making a list of activities that take time in each day and writing this in on the page helps to identify snippets of time that can be directed towards writing time. Scheduling a set time for writing on the calendar makes it as important as any other item you schedule, but only you/I can decide how important to make it.

Preparing is another way to capture writing time. Always carry a small notepad and pen with you wherever you go. Writing phrases of a conversation, the colors of a sunset, the scents, sounds, or adjectives describing an emotional or important event can be jotted down. Later those few words may be all it takes to flesh out a great story or article. Technology allows many notes to be made or recorded on your cell phone deleting the need for pen and paper so being prepared can be a simple as knowing how to utilize those apps on your phone or notepad.

I find that the best way to capture writing time is to actively pursue it After I prioritize the list of tasks for my day, then prepare by having pen and paper, I am better able to pursue valuable writing time every time I have a few extra minutes during the day. I work a part time nursing job and run a quilt shop but I can still flesh out a scene during my lunch break or write a character description during a lull at the shop. I use waiting time at appointments, extra minutes in the early morning or 30 minutes before bed.

 Capturing writing time can be a challenge for those who have kids at home but so rewarding as you find time to squeeze writing in between homework, bedtime, and other family activities. Try for at least 15 minutes a day and you will gradually be able to add more time as your story or article begins to take shape.

For those who pursue writing full time,  an eight- ten hour writing day might be the norm. Others like myself must grab writing time in between another job or business. When writing is a priority, capturing writing time is as much a part of life as doing laundry or making dinner. You just do it. Prioritize, prepare, and pursue.

 How do you capture your writing time?

Terri Forehand captures writing time between nursing, quilting, running a quilt shop, and being a grandma. Author of The Cancer Prayer Book and The ABC's of Cancer According to Lilly Isabella Lane, she writes from her home nestled in the hills of Brown County Indiana. Visit her author blog at and her author website at

Getting Unstuck When Writing a Novel

by Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer's Coach

As a writing coach, I see it all the time.

Someone decides to write a novel.

They get off to a brilliant start.

Then – about 4 or 5 chapters in – they get stuck.

They don’t know what to write next.

They try to figure out what to do, but most of the time they don’t, so they give up.

They put the manuscript away and start on something new.

Sound familiar?

If it does, then dig out your half-finished novel and take a look at it with the following elements in mind.

Chances are, one or more of these elements is lacking, or not fully developed, in your story and that’s why you’re having trouble moving forward.

Elements of a Novel

1. Compelling and Distinctive Characters

Readers need to care about your characters, right from the start. Otherwise, they have no reason to continue reading past the first few pages.

Readers won’t like or love all of your characters, of course. In fact, they’ll probably hate your protagonist. But, the point is, they need to have strong positive or negative feelings about these characters. They should not feel indifferent about them.

What have you done in your first few chapters to make readers care about your characters?

2. A Compelling Overall Story Problem for the Main Character

Quite often I see writers run into trouble midway through their novels because they haven’t created a BIG enough overall story problem for their main character. When that happens, it’s often difficult to keep readers’ interest. There just isn’t enough at stake for the main character, so readers don’t care whether or not he solves the big problem.

What is the overall problem your main character (your protagonist) is trying to solve? How much is at stake - what will happen if he doesn’t solve this problem?

3. Rising Action – Dramatic Tension

Once there is plenty at stake for the main character, the next step is to create LOTS of conflict, so it isn’t easy for the character to solve this problem. Things should get worse and worse – this creates rising action.

When your story has plenty of conflict or rising action, readers will worry and wonder if the main character will ever be able to solve, or at least resolve, the big problem. They’ll keep reading to find out!

How do things keep getting worse and worse for your main character?

4. Believable and Effective Turning Points

Turning points are those places in your story where things change. They take a different direction, usually because some choice has to be made or there is some sort of dilemma for the main character. An effective turning point means once a choice has been made, or a specific action has been taken, there is no going back for the character(s).

Do you have several turning points in your story? What are they?

5. Vivid Sensory Details

Details make your story come alive for readers, so they feel as if they’re experiencing the story along with the characters and not simply reading about what these characters are doing and what is happening to them.

Appeals to all 5 senses (taste, touch, sound, sight, smell) should be seamlessly woven into the action and dialogue of the story.

Do you have appeals to several senses in each chapter? Could you create more sensory details to enliven your story?

6. Engaging and Cohesive Subplots

Subplots are stories within the main story. But they relate to the main story. When used effectively, they can create additional rising action and conflict related to the overall story problem.

What are the subplots in your story? Can you create an additional subplot to create more rising action?

7. An Effective Climax

This is the most exciting part of your story. It’s when your main character must do something or make some decision that will cause him to solve or resolve the overall story problem. But it can’t be easy for him.

What is the most exciting point of your story? What is decision or dilemma your main character must face at this point?

8. A Satisfying Resolution

The climax of your story leads to the resolution, where everything is tied together or resolved. Usually, readers get some idea of what life will be like for the main character, now that he has solved or resolved the overall story problem.

It’s a good idea to consider how your story will end even BEFORE you start writing the story. This doesn’t mean your ending (and even other things in the story) won’t change by the time you write the ending. But if you know how you want the story to end, it will be easier to keep writing because you know where you’re going.

How did you tie up all the loose ends to complete your story? What is different for your main character(s) now?

Use these elements as a checklist when writing a novel and you'll be less likely to get stuck and never finish writing your novel.

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 can help you write your first or next novel. Find out more about her Quick Start System to Writing Novels at

Let Passion Fuel Your Writing Career

The Four Levels of Engagement & How to Use Them To Fuel Your Work

When you are looking to start a new writing project, here are some things to consider:

Level 1 Engagement: Lack of Enthusiasm: When you find you are lacking enthusiasm for your current writing project, many times this is because you are not following your passion, but that of another person. As a writer, we can all write a variety of things from non-fiction to short stories to novels, and we can choose from a wide range of topics. But when you find yourself writing something that doesn't seem to drive you toward your own goals, this lack of enthusiasm may cause you to stumble. Write what fuels your passion.

Level 2 Engagement: Inspired: Inspiration occurs when an idea manifests. Inspired people are more engaged in their project and may think and speak about the 'great idea' they have. Inspiration is important to fueling your writing, but inspiration alone is not enough. Talking about and thinking about what to write will not get words on a page.

Level 3 Engagement: Motivated: Motivation is an idea you can't put down. It won't let go of you, following you to the grocery store and to bed at night. But its more than just an idea, it's an idea that must, and I mean must, be acted on. Motivation means you will sit down at your desk and write. Being motivated will fuel your writing and provide you with a body of work.

Level 4 Engagement: Passion: Passion is when you have an idea, and it's one that won't let go of you and you writing this particular article or longer piece is part of your destiny, your path. This project will take you where you want to go with your writing career. It is the work you were meant to write to share with the world and it will show in your final product. Let passion fuel your work.


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

NYTs Best Seller's List or Book Club?

In this profession, they say you've made it when you are on the NYTs Best Seller's list, or at least in the top 100 on that list.  But what if you were to get your book or books as part of a book club discussion?  Do you think that is "making it"? 

I recently attended a "Reluctant YA Readers" book club (a group of adults who don't want to admit they read YA but do anyway - lol) at the local library.  I really enjoyed the discussion, even though I hadn't read the selected read for the month.  After the group left, I spent some time talking with the librarian who heads up the reading clubs.  My book, FINALLY HOME, will be either the book selected for the October reading or I may end up on a different day just to have my own book event with the ability of being able to sell my book.  The hope is that the second story in the series, THE TIES OF TIME, will be completed and published, so I can sell both books at the same time.

To me, it's not necessarily the NYTs best seller's list, but it means I have finally made it.  I'm making a name for myself, starting locally and building a readership and hopefully that will lead to word of mouth sales, which in turn will eventually lead to NYTs Best Seller's list, not that that has really been goal since publishing my first story.  It's a nice little perk.

Eight years from the first story being published online after taking a shared 2nd place to the present, putting my book out there for the librarian to put my books out in the face of the public.  I've not pushed my books in the last couple of years as much as I did when I first got published, but now I feel it is time to really step it up and put more effort into getting my stories completed and published and maybe shoot for the stars - the NYTs Best Seller's List.

This is an encouragement note, as Heidi's was a couple of days ago.  It doesn't matter the route you take to get there, just keep at it and persevere and you will get there.  Reach for the top rung!!

Elysabeth Eldering
Finally Home (A Kelly Watson, YA, paranormal mystery) - available in print, ebook, and as an audiobook
The Ties of Time (A Kelly Watson, YA, paranormal mystery - coming soon)
Elysabeth's Writing Blog

Turning your poetry dabbling into a marketing tool

Poetry doesn't sell.  It's so often said (and validated by poets everywhere), that it has become something of a truism.  If you write poetry, you probably do it for the love of it.  You may well be supporting your poetry habit with a range of more lucrative types of writing like nonfiction or even working a day job.  However,value doesn't always come in the form of cash.  There's real value - and ultimately financial value, to be had by using your poetry as a marketing tool.  So where do you begin?  Here are a few tips to get you going.

Think themed chapbook

Have a look through your existing poetry collection, and see if you can find a recurring theme that you can use.  Some examples of themes which immediately suggest a market include (and I’ve used some of these myself) – Mothers, Love (in all forms or a specific aspect of love such as romantic love), Pets, Nature, your locale, a historical period, person or notion, politics, family life, humorous wordplay, or even sports.  Some chapbooks that I’ve particularly admired from well known poets include one on phobias, one on romantic love, and one set in the world of Walt Whitman during his period on the battlefield.  My own tendency seems to be towards writing scientific poetry – astronomy, physics, the genetic code, evolution.  So don’t limit yourself to clich├ęd themes.  If there’s something you tend to gravitate towards, go with it.  Another option is to think about what fits your other work - the stuff you want to sell, and theme the book around that - this way you'll be drawing in your target market. And speaking of markets...  

Define your market

Identify the market that matches the theme you came up with in the first exercise.  Try to make of list of up to three specific markets, and then list another six examples of those.  For example, if your market is florists, then come up with six florists you could contact when you go about marketing your work.  Having a sense of where you’re planning to market will help you plan and create your book in a much more coherent and effective way.  Always keep your market in mind when you’re constructing a book.

Construct Your Book

This might sound like a big thing but it's actually just a simple collation exercise.  Start organising your poetry into a Word (or other word processor) file.  You can use a Word book template for that - there are quite a few that come as standard with with Word or you can search here:  A chapbook could have as few as ten and as many as thirty pages of poems. Twenty poems would be about average for a small chapbook.  Put them in an order that makes sense and if there are any gaps or areas that require more poems, then write them!  Once you've got everything together number your pages, add a table of contents at the front, and voila, you're almost there.

The all important bio

This is the key - your bio.  This is where you need to make your book work for a living.  Include not only a little bit about yourself, but a link back (with an enticing offer like a free chapter) to your selling page for whatever product - your novel, your nonfiction, your audio series, etc, you want to sell.  Also include an attractive photo.  Don't rush this.  This is what's going to make value for you. 

Get someone else to read it for you. 

Whatever you do, don't skip this step. Get a fellow writer or eagle eyed reader to read through it for errors, things that don't make sense and the overall ordering.  If they like it, get them to give you a quote to use somewhere at the back of the book. 

Get it out there 

Make sure you've got an enticing title, that the book looks good, and then turn it into a .pdf.  If you're using Word 2007 onward, then you can just save as a .pdf.  You could sell the book if you want, but you probably won't make much.  Using it as a promotional tool, you can upload it to your website or blog and offer it as a gift for anyone who subscribes.  This way you not only get more subscribers, more people reading your work, but you also draw in readers and potential customers for your big tickets items. 

Writing isn't always about commerce and marketing. Sometimes it's about creating meaning, and that, of course is at the heart of poetry.  But there's no reason why you can't create meaning, bring in readers and still sell your work.  Using a poetry chapbook is a unique way to gift your work and still benefit financially from it. 

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

The Path to Publication

When I began writing my first novel in 1996, I really did not think I would ever be published. But it was a cathartic experience, and it was something I needed to do to prove to myself that I could write a novel.

I started researching my second book in 1999. After about ten years of rewriting, polishing and collecting rejections, Cowgirl Dreams was published. I’m not telling you this to discourage you, but to encourage you.

That first attempt has yet to be published, and I am so glad it was not then. I did the best I could, but in going back and doing the rewrites (it will be the fourth in my series), I find I’ve learned so much about the craft of writing.

I met both of my publishers at writing conferences hosted by Women Writing the West. Since Cowgirl Dreams was based on my rodeo-riding grandmother, I thought that might be the best place to look, and it was. The first two books in my series were published.

At another WWW conference, where attendees can set up appointments with agents, editors and publishers, I pitched the idea of writing a series of magazine articles about the old-time rodeo cowgirls of Montana. As I was leaving, one of the other editors in the room jumped up from her table and caught me at the door. “I couldn’t help overhearing your pitch,” she said. “Make an appointment with me.”

I did, and Globe-Pequot Press offered me a contract to write a non-fiction book. When my first publisher closed down, I asked if GPP was interested in my third novel. They were and also picked up the first two books to be republished with new covers and new editing.

Dare to Dream was launched this week, the newest novel in the “Dreams” trilogy. The non-fiction book, Cowgirl Up! will come out in September.

My message to aspiring authors is this: do not be in a hurry to get that first book published. Have patience, study and practice the craft of writing, get feedback from critique groups or partners, and get it professionally edited (especially if you are self-publishing). You do not want a book out that is riddled with errors and flaws.


A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona where she blogs, teaches writing, and edits. Herfirst 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, has just been released. Heidi has a degree in journalism and a certificate in fiction writing.

Create Less Than Perfect Characters

Create Less Than Perfect Characters
"Create Less than Perfect Characters" by Joan Y. Edwards

In order to create less than perfect characters, each character must have a flaw. It's okay to dream up a character with more than one flaw. Brainstorming your character with different types of flaws may help you decide which one creates the most havoc for him in his particular situation. You could group three primary flaws that are characteristic of one particular gigantic shortcoming for your character. However, you may want one flaw that signals their defining trait.

Flaw, according to the Google dictionary, is a mark, fault, or other imperfection that mars a substance or object. For example: The outlet store sold plates with flaws in them. Synonyms for flaw are defect, blemish, fault, imperfection, deficiency, weakness, weak spot/point/link, inadequacy, shortcoming, limitation, failing, or foible.

In 1993, to focus attention and resources to eliminate accidents and human error, Gordon Dupont, a worker in maintenance for Transport Canada developed the following Dirty Dozen list of causes for human mistakes at work:
  1. Lack of communication
  2. Distraction
  3. Lack of Resources
  4. Stress
  5. Complacency - a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, unaware of potential danger, defect, or the like.
  6. Lack of Teamwork
  7. Pressure (of deadline)
  8. Lack of Awareness
  9. Lack of Knowledge
  10. Fatigue
  11. Lack of Assertiveness-don't feel free or not allowed to speak up
  12. Norms-the way you've always done it
These could cause life-changing situations for your characters. But you don't want your characters to get hurt. I understand. About 6 years ago, Pam Zollman told writers you have to hurt your "bunnies" (characters).  Oh my goodness! As a writer you may be a "Mother Hen or "Protective Father" and don't want anything to happen to your little ones. However, to have a plot, to have a story at all, means that you must create something bad to happen to your main character. That's bad, spelled and pronounced B-a-a-a-a-d. After the bad experience, watch him meet the challenge. I promise you that your character will meet any challenge you give him. He will make it out of the darkest corner. With your help, how can he fail?

To look at the dark side, the darkest corners of films, watch a few film noir from the 1940's to late 1950's. The Guardian lists the Top 10 Film Noir movies and a summary of each one and why it was good. Film noir was usually in black and white. It may have been an American Detective or crime film that emphasized cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. It seemed to me that no character in a film noir ever reached the good side of human behavior. One person, the detective who solved the mystery, may have been the only one on the right side. According to Fandor, the noir style has expressionism and realism with night scenarios, strong shadows, low-key lighting, dynamic compositions, hard-boiled dialogue, flashbacks, fragmented narratives, and fluid camera movements.

One of the many I've seen on AMC on television is Out of the Past (1947).

A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.

But it could have been one of many. Film Noir present a pretty bleak view of our world. Consider this pitch description of Blackout:

A down-and-out American visits London and meets a beautiful blonde who offers him a fortune to marry her. He quickly agrees but the next day he awakens in an artist's studio covered with blood and his supposed father-in-law's corpse!

Sometimes writers put a funny spin on the foibles of the characters, one such 1955 film is "The Trouble with Harry." Poor Harry gets dug up numerous times during the story. I remember when I saw a 1989 movie Weekend at Bernie's considered a dark comedy. I was so surprised at myself for laughing hysterically at it.

Many times in life, the story behind the story is intriguing and goes to the dark side. For instance, the movie Captain Phillips (2013)

The true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship hijacked in two hundred years.

Some of the men in the crew with Captain Phillips contend that Captain Phillips shouldn't have taken them there in the first place and have claimed a lawsuit against the real Captain Phillips. Now that would make another good movie.

Reverse the usual for your characters. What if everyone in your story except one person was evil...not just one flaw, they had all flaws except for one good redeeming trait. See what kind of story you get.
For instance, there's a robbery in town. Everyone helps the robber get away. Why? It's sad to think about, but what if the world was that way. What if your character has people believing the best about him and they couldn't believe he did it. He had charisma personified. But one character could see through all the songs and dances and convict the robber.

When you write a story, you get to create a world that might be hard to imagine...a sad, tragic, magic, or joyful world. But it's your story with your main character with many flaws, three flaws, or only one flaw. A flaw is what gets him into trouble. A flaw is what gets him into the deeper depths of despair. Only when your character is brave and wise enough to see things differently is he able to think of a way out of his bottomless pit. You have a choice of a happy ending or an ending that you drape in the perils of tragedy.

I thought by looking at these 12 causes of mistakes and glancing at the dark side might help you decide which flaw is "perfect" for a character in your story to make him memorable.
Here are a few first sentence story-starters or character sketches:
  1. Everyone in his family for generations has been trustworthy. But not, Ned Parker.
  2. A leader needs good communication, but the President of the United States did not have good communication on the day when the people of Zamboo declared war.
  3. Everyone cringed to think that the airplane built by Forever Airlines had not had the suggested maintenance inspections and repairs. Whose fault was it that maintenance orders were not carried out? Who is going to pay for the deaths caused when Flight 513 went down on I-95?
  4. James couldn't focus on his job as a taxi driver. He worried about his grandfather. He worried about his son in school. Most of all, he worried about his bank account. He didn't notice the lady walking out from two parked cars.
  5. Teresa was unaware of the faulty electrical cord she used to turn on her hair dryer. She never checked her surroundings. She took it for granted that everything was going to be fine and that electrical outlets stay good for a lifetime. The day her hair frizzed and the shock went through her body, was the day she became paranoid about safety.
Please leave a comment. Tell me some of your techniques for helping your characters fall deeper in trouble or rise from a b-a-a-a-a-d situation to create a better world for themselves. I'd love to hear what you think.

Celebrate you and your gift of writing,

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

I hope you'll buy Flip Flap Floodle to read to your children and grandchildren because even mean ole Mr. Fox can't stop this little duck from playing his song.

Joan’s Elder Care Guide, Release December 2014 by 4RV Publishing
Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

Submit to Fiction Magazines with Themes

I love magazines with themes or prompts, because they expose the many, many ways our minds work differently to produce so many stories from one kernel of an idea.

For all you fiction writers out there, if you're having writer's block or if you want to challenge yourself to write something you normally wouldn't, try writing for one of the magazines or e-zines below. 

Paying Markets ($10-$50)

THEMA Literary Journal.  Each issue is based closely around a specific theme.  All genres.  Reprints accepted.  Current and upcoming themes:  "Was that today?" and "We thought he'd never leave."  Submission guidelines

The First Line Literary Magazine.  Each story must start with the same sentence.  All genres.  Current and upcoming first lines:  "Fifty miles west of Bloomington lies Hillsboro, a monument to middle-class malaise," and "We went as far as the car would take us."  Submission Guidelines.

Pantheon.  As the name suggests, this magazine's issues center around various gods and goddesses.  All genres welcome.  Reprints accepted, but unpaid. Current themes:  "Ares" and "Gaia."  Submission Guidelines.

Infective Ink.  All genres.  Current and upcoming themes:  "The future of dating," "Great friendships."  Submission Guidelines.

On the Premises.  This is run like a contest, but with no fee.  Third to first prizes $100-$180.  Honorable mentions, $40.  All genres.  Current Contest:  "Decisions, Decisions."  Submission Guidelines.

Long Count Press. E-book anthologies of fantasy fiction.  Currently closed to submissions, but check in the future.  Last theme:  "Mesoamerican Fantasy."  Submission Guidelines.

Timeless Tales.  Retold fairy tales.  Next theme:  "Twelve Dancing Princesses."  Reprints accepted.  Submission Guidelines.

Subterrain.  A Canadian magazine that requires paper submissions (and an SASE with an IRC).  Upcoming themes:  "Pulp Fiction," and "Meat."  Submission Guidelines.

Semi-Pro and Pro Markets

Crossed Genres.  Science fiction or fantasy only.  Current and upcoming themes:  "Typical" and "Robots, Androids, and Cyborgs."  5 cents/word.  Submission Guidelines.

Unlikely Story.  Their two main themes are "entomology" (bugs) and "cryptography" (codes and ciphers).  They also have other theme issues, like "cartography" (maps).  All genres.   5 cents/word.  Reprints accepted at a lower rate.  Submission Guidelines.

Crab Orchard Review.  Literary.  One yearly theme (submissions accepted October).  This year's theme:  "Stories that covers any of the ways our world and ourselves have changed due to the advancements, setbacks, tragedies, and triumphs of the last twenty years, 1995-2015."  $100 minimum.  Submission Guidelines.

Penumbra.  Speculative fiction only.  Upcoming themes:  "Pain" and "Lewis Carroll."  5 cents/word.  Submission Guidelines.

Cobblestone Publishing's non-fiction magazines for kids 9-14 accept 800-words stories based on specific themes.  Your choices:  Calliope (world history), Cobblestone (American history), Dig (archeology), Faces (world culture and geography), and Odyssey (science).  Check the guidelines for query dates and themes.  Very good rates.  Submission Guidelines (choose the individual magazine you're interested in).


Fiction magazines these days come and go, so be sure to verify the details before submitting.  And, as always, read the submission guidelines, word count requirements, and theme information very closely.  Some are so specific you'll pretty much have to write a story with the magazine in mind.  Others are looser, so you can match up stories you've already written. 

Whatever you do, have fun and keep writing.

Melinda Brasher's first fiction sale was in THEMA, one of the magazines above.  She has other stories published in various magazines, including On the Premises.  She also loves to travel and is currently writing a budget traveler's guide to cruising Alaska.

4 Book Marketing Strategies That Are Guaranteed to Keep Your Online Platform Moving Forward

By Karen Cioffi

Your author or writer online platform is all about numbers and reach. It’s about how many people are aware of you within your niche and how many of those people think you have authority within your niche. In other words, it’s about how many connections you have. You might equate it to a popularity contest.

Unfortunately, there are millions of contestants in the online platform arena trying, as you are, to get the golden subscriber email address and get the emails they send opened.

Because of the sheer number of marketers, people are bombarded with marketing emails on a daily basis. This in turn has caused a drop in email opt-ins and a drop in marketing email open rates.

So, what can you do to fight the odds and keep moving forward to reach your goals?

There are four strategies you can use to keep you connected to people and keep you on the visibility radar.

1. Connection frequency

You need to connect with your subscribers and target market on a regular basis.

This doesn’t mean adding to the email inbox bombardment, it means to be visible in multiple places. How many times a week are you connecting with your subscribers and your target market?

This matters.

Are you taking advantage of the different venues you can reach people? Are you being active in groups? How about social media, such as Facebook, Linkedin, GooglePlus, Twitter, and Pinterest? Are you offering valuable information on a regular basis?

Each of these connection venues is another layer of visibility and familiarity. This frequency helps establish a relationship and helps it grow.

2. Consistency

Everyone when first starting a platform is determined and motivated. You diligently keep on top of social networks, blogging, article marketing, sending out a newsletter on a regular basis, and so on. But, then, when results aren’t what was expected or don’t come quick enough, the motivation and effort slows down.

Well, being consistent is what will help you reach your goals. In fact, without being consistent you most likely will never reach your goals.

Coleman Cox says it best: "Even the woodpecker owes his success to the fact that he uses his head and keeps pecking away until he finishes the job he starts."

Create a plan of action steps and stick to them. Be consistent.

3. Authority and Usefulness

According to pro-marketer Travis Greenlee, statistics show that published authors have a 300% higher credibility rating than non-published authors.

That’s quite a difference and gives the published author a big advantage in authority. If you’re not published yet, a quick remedy is to create an ebook and get it out there. With that said, your ebook needs to be a quality product.

But, having an ebook isn’t the cure-all. In addition to this, you need to deliver quality (useful) information to your target market on a regular basis.

The point here is that you need to be perceived as a person of value to your target market. Your actions and offerings need to demonstrate that you can help them with their problem, need, or want.

If you are perceived as having high authority (knowledge and experience) and value (capability and usefulness), people will want to be connected with you.

4. Visibility

Visibility and frequency go hand-in-hand. While you need to make frequent connections, you need to know where and how to make those connections. That’s where visibility comes in.

How many different formats are you using to be visible to your connections and make new connections?

There are a number of marketing formats you can use to generate visibility, including:

•    Blog posting
•   Guest blogging
•    Creating podcasts
•    Creating videos
•    Creating e/books, reports, etc.
•    Sending out newsletters or ezines
•    Offering webinars, teleseminars, or workshops
•    Staying current on social networks, such as Facebook, Linkedin, GooglePlus, and Pinterest

You get the idea. Keep it fresh. Don’t use the same formats to bring information to your subscribers, readers, and visitors.

You need to use all four of these strategies to keep your online platform moving forward.

Karen Cioffi is an author, ghostwriter, and online marketing instructor for authors and writers. Get her weekly newsletter with must-know writing and marketing tips at:


Goal Setting – It’s Not About Ideas, It’s About Making Ideas Happen
Selling Your Book - 2 Steps Toward Success
26 Reasons a Writer Should Blog (Part 1)

A Call for Writers to Find Balance

By Terry Whalin  @terrywhalin Within the publishing world, I’ve often heard it is harder to sign with a literary agent than to locate a publ...