You Don’t Have to Be a Great Writer to Have a Great Blog

Guest post by Michele Netten

3 Mindsets Bloggers Should Have and Not Have To Be Successful

I’ve been thinking lately about what can help – or hurt – writers who wish to write a blog. When considering my own writing goals, I feel mixed. I have a strong desire to write about things of importance, yet also trepidation that I won’t say what’s on my heart in a way that resonates with readers. If I let myself dwell on the fear of failure, I’ve found I can effectively talk myself out of writing anything.
And that’s the real ogre standing in the way, right? Fear of failure.

Each of us writers has a calling that is different from any other writer. If we don’t write our message, no one else ever can. Yet, most writers (artists) wrestle with a fear of failure. I’ve come to believe fear may even simply be a companion that accompanies us on the journey whether we like it or not. Still, though, other writers have conquered and we can get past writing fear too, one little step at a time.

Hence, my tips for getting around the fear blockade!

3 Mindsets Bloggers Should Have and Not Have To Be Successful


1. Don’t think you have to be the world’s greatest writer. A good subject, some reasonable preparedness and research if needed, and a good spell checker is enough to get started.

2. Don’t give up. If you start something, commit and keep going. Don’t post an article or two and then stop. You ‘ll look like a flake for all the world to see.

3. Don’t be discouraged by the initial technicalities of the setup process. Websites, WordPress, SEO plugins, etc.. The entry into this arena is challenging at first but there is a lot of quality and generous help out there to get past this.


1. Write from your heart. Express things that are important to you that will inform, help, or entertain an audience appropriate for you. If something is important enough to you to write about, there are people out there who agree and will be interested in what you have to say. (If you’re starting from scratch as I am, finding that particular audience takes effort and patience, and is the subject of more articles). Be consistent in offering value and be generous with your thoughts and giveaways -- your audience will grow in time and with effort.

2. Choose a subject you can write with passion about. This may go without saying, but if you’re deeply interested by your topic, it will show (and the flipside is if you’re not, that will show too and no one else will be interested either).

3. Read. Read. And read some more. The more you read, the more you’ll want to write and the better a writer you will become from doing both. Going back to the beginning of this blog, if you have ever been inspired by the way an author has chosen to tell a story or shown a character’s heart and courage, simply reading more and more brings tremendous benefit with no downside! It’s one of life’s major gifts. Reading is our best teacher and the beauty of it is learning comes as a byproduct!.

In closing, ponder what you’re passionate about. Commit to the journey, perhaps with a friend who feels as you do. Then, fill up your tank on the words of others and emulate the process in your own writing. When you do, it will be the start of your own beautiful story.

About the Author

Michelle Netten is a lifelong fan of books and storytelling and reads and writes stories every chance she gets. She earns a living as a hi-tech writer (content-on-demand) and her true heart is always in books, literature and stories. Her children's books and blog can be found at her Cheer-ebooks website:


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Take a Break, Write a Short Story

Happy Halloween! Photo by Linda Wilson
Taking regular breaks from your WIPs to write short stories and articles can be a great enhancement in many ways. First, it's fun and exhilarating. It takes less time than long-term projects. It's a great way to sharpen your skills. And publication can be a teensy bit faster than book pubbing. The benefits of writing articles, in the words of a nonfiction writer, name unfortunately lost to me now but her words never forgotten: you become an "expert" on a topic then get to move on. And short stories? Research is just as important, of course, but birth to submission can run in the fast-er lane: oh joy, fewer words, quicker results.

Birth of an Idea
This year once October 1st rolled around, I got the itch while grocery shopping to browse the neat, fully-stocked, yet as yet untouched Halloween section at our local super store. With notes in mind that I keep in my back pocket (files) at home, of clever costumes and fun activities from years past, I suddenly hungered for a fresh, new trend.

Here is a short list of what I found:
Tear-away masks: a scary partial mask that can be torn off to reveal an even scarier inner mask
Giant mad baby mask
White skull mask
Maniac's skull mask
Undertaker mask
Ghost face mask
Zombie gas mask
Hockey mask
Creepy clown mask
Spider mask
Skeleton mask
Mullet wig
Raggae wig
Hooded death helmet
Frightful accessories:
Zombie blood
Vampire make-up kit
Snake eyes
Cyborg make-up
Neon zebra
Skin suits
Inflatable steer; inflatable shark to wear as a shirt

But wait, Something's Missing
Particularly intriguing were the skin suits. You know the kind: the plastic tuxedo, black, red and blue skin-tight suits that incredibly, cover the entire body, head included, which can turn any ordinary soul into a pseudo-ninja with elusive precision. Haunted by visions of faceless skin-suited trick-or-treaters knocking on my door, I finished my shopping trip and hurried home.

Back in the safety of my office that I pretended even skin-suits couldn't penetrate, I sorely missed one of my all-time All-Hallow-Eve favorites: mummies. I'd been to Egypt, seen real mummies in their native land way before anyone thought to show off their stuff on road trips to museums around the world. So I asked myself, where were the mummy costumes? Hidden underneath the skin-suits?

Story Starts to Form but Wait, there's More
While skin-suits and mummies stalked around in my head, I hadn't yet explored the Internet for more ideas. See if a story-starter doesn't pop up in your mind while you browse this list, found by a Google search in under a minute:

Hooded huntress with bow & arrow                    The Mad Hatter
Robin Hood                                                          Purple Jester
Flirty Flapper                                                       Pirate Captain
Cave Girl                                                             Mime Girls
Egyptian Princess                                                Crystal Ball Gypsy
Jewel of the Nile                                                  Polar Princess
Cleopatra                                                             Blue Peacock
Forest Bandit                                                       Honey Bee

Give yourself a Timetable
Now it's time to narrow down and choose the spark that can turn your research into a full-blown story. For now, I'm content playing around with the possibilities brought by skin-suits and mummies. With so many choices, you could almost close your eyes and point to any one of the costume ideas and see where your imagination takes you. Once an idea jumps out at you, give yourself a month to write, edit and put away your story. November 1st while you look into a holiday story, revisit your Halloween story, take it to your writer's group, polish it and submit it.

Anytime you need a break from your bigger projects try writing a short story or article. Submit ahead nine months or more, if possible, to give your magazine choice the time it needs to publish your story for the next seasonal go-around. You will go back to your other projects refreshed and safe in the knowledge that your story soldiers are out there working to give you shorter-term rewards for all your hard-earned efforts, while keeping your sites set on the big picture.

Coming soon: Great advice and words of wisdom from writer, editor and teacher Joyce Sweeney

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, recently completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction and picture book courses. Spooked by a recent move, once settled she will forge ahead with big writing plans and resume work on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Writing During Challenging Times

What lies behind us and what lies before are tiny matters to what lies within us.
-William Morrow

There is a 2 mile trail near my home which runs along a river, twisting and turning through the woods. I have been walking there almost daily since mid-June. Rich autumn colors of copper, gold, and ruby have made the trek especially enjoyable.

I decided to grab my camera today, even though we have moved past peak color. I'm glad I did. Although the frost had killed the undergrowth and the wind had blown off most of the leaves, its barrenness revealed some hidden treasures.

The fallen leaves left bare, gray branches. But I was able to see through them to the sky, spotting a bald eagle flying over the river. And the layer of fallen leaves laid out a multicolored, royal carpet for hikers like me. 

Challenges can leave us feeling barren after the frost or wind has hit our lives. Whether the challenges are unexpected or ongoing, they can be discouraging and distract us from writing. 

Or, they can end up improving our writing by revealing the hidden treasures yet to be discovered within us. 

We're familiar with the typical writer's challenges such as rejection, insecurity, writer's block, and fear. 
But how about our daily, personal challenges? Strife, illness, divorce, finances, etc.? Those things can become a source for what we write, but they can also affect how we write. Challenges can make us better people and better writers through showing us what really matters. We hear more intently, see more clearly, and appreciate more deeply. 

Whatever you're facing, let it work for you. "Grab the camera" even if you don't think it's worth it. Let the days naturally unfold and look for the beauty in the ashes. 

Have your personal challenges made you a better writer? How? Please share your comments.


After raising and homeschooling her 8 children and teaching art classes for 10 years, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. She enjoys writing magazine articles and more recently had her story, "One of a Kind", published in The Kids' ArkYou can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts

Make Your Dreams a Reality with 15 Minutes a Day

I had every intention as I flew out to Las Vegas for a conference this week to squeeze in some writing time on the plane--instead I slept.  I needed the sleep, since I had stayed up late the night before helping my husband with a project.  I can get off track and let other people's priorities trump my own desires.  If I let this go on too long, I loose sight of my own goals.  When that happens, I reassess my goals and carve out some time in my schedule for my dreams.  I use this new found time to take small action steps.   
It’s easy to get caught up in the belief that you don’t have enough time to pursue your own dreams. Most writers I know have a day job and a full life.   They struggle to squeeze in writing time and believe they don't have the flexibility to write more.  Unfortunately, this belief can derail a writing career even before it begins.  Jennifer Lawler, author of the Dojo Wisdom series, discusses how a martial artist trains each day, even when he is old and disabled.  He accommodates his life for his art.  One of my critique partners is a lawyer with a full time job, two active young children, a wife and he still manages to write one hour a day.  How does he do it?  He gets up at 5 a.m. each morning.  He accommodate his life to his art. So how can you accommodate your days for the life you want to dream into being?  Even 15 minutes a day will begin the process of transformation.  Why?  Through those daily 15 minutes, you are informing your subconscious that you are committed to your goal.  You will be amazed after a week of allotting only 15 minutes how much you can accomplish.  Build it into your routine (e.g.  shower, coffee, 15 minutes). If you are ready to change your life, you will find the time.So this week start with small actions steps and create the habit of pursing your dreams.  This step may lead you to dreams more magnificent than you could have ever imagined. 
Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life coach. In you live near Chicago, check out her latest workshop:  Give Wings to Your Dreams.
For more information check out:  

It’s almost November and time for PiBoIdMo and NaNoWriMo!

Registration for Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) begins October 25.The 2014 website for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is up and running.Have you checked them out yet?

PiBoIdMo and NaNoWriMo are fun and challenging.There is no charge to participate.Even if you don’t finish, you will probably learn something from the experience that will help you move forward with your writing.

You can organize your own kick-off party for PiBoIdMo.There is a three page handout to get you started.It’s filled with great ideas from previous PiBoIdMo years,

Some libraries have gotten involved with NaNoWriMo.This library in New Jersey is hosting a program to convince people to participate,

Perhaps groups in your own community are planning events to be held in November. 

Good luck with your writing next month!

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.

Making Friends Across the Globe ~ International English #1

One day, a lady from the western side of America wrote on a group I belonged to, "I can't get to the shops today because my husband took my car to the shop."

I wondered how her husband could sell her car when she obviously needed it, so I asked, "Are you going to get another one?"

Back came the response, "No. Why would I? There's nothing wrong with this one."

"Then why are you selling it?" I asked, confused.

Time for a lesson in International English. Americans send their cars to the "shop" when they need a service. South Africans send their cars to the shop when they want to sell them.

In South Africa I see many British and American magazines that were unavailable a few years ago. And of course, thanks to the Internet, our words are globally available the instant they appear on the Web. As writers, we are now communicating with people across the world in a way we never could before. This is wonderful--but it's also full of pitfalls for the unwary writer.

So today I thought we'd start a monthly series of articles that will help us improve our global communication, no matter where we live. 

POINT #1: Make friends in other countries.

Join writers' groups on the Internet. The web is an excellent place to interact with writers from other countries. It will not only help improve your writing, it can increase your understanding of different cultures. 
  • Don't be slow to ask questions. "Do you use that expression in your country?" Or, "I don't understand what you mean. We don't use that word." 
  • Look out for those who live in other countries, and learn from them. This will not only help you write for the global market, it will broaden your knowledge and understanding of the world. 
Join a group that follows your hobby or interest.  My first experience of an Internet group was when I joined a Christian Rubber Stamping Group, a large group of mainly ladies, who all loved rubber stamping. We shared ideas, compared notes, and sent cards to one another. In the process, I got to know a number of Americans, a couple of Australians, and one lady in England. Many of these are still my friends today, even though I no longer do stamping.  

When I went to America for a writers' conference, I stayed in four different homes of people with whom I'd become friendly through my stamping group.
  • I learned to eat doughnuts for breakfast.
  • I taught an American friend how tasty toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches were; a common light meal in South Africa.
Participate in Social Media. Read posts and blogs by people from other countries. See how they do things and how they express themselves. Leave comments making sure it's clear you live in another country. I enjoy asking questions on my Facebook Author page to encourage participation. A few weeks ago I asked the question, Do you buy potatoes in small quantities or as a pocket? I was taken aback when the only person who knew what I was talking about was a fellow South African. "What's a pocket of potatoes?" was the theme of the responses.

When I did a search of the Internet to find an image to post, I couldn't find one! I promised to take a photograph and post it. Which is a point . . . 

Facebook, Twitter, or another form of social media are ideal ways to make friends across the globe.
  • We can get to know people in other lands, then go "off site" to discuss an issue that perhaps we need to know about for our writing project. I have made many friends through social media where I can ask their advice and be sure they understand my terminology. 
  • We can build an awareness of other cultures. We may come to see them as people with the same emotions, concerns, and interests as us. It's not that the people are different. It's their cultures, their challenges, and their outlook which are often different. And if we're going to write for them, surely we need to know these things.   
I have developed an on-line relationship with a young woman who is years younger than me, who belongs to a culture so remote from mine that she'd probably be persecuted if our "friendship" was discovered. She simply began to follow my Facebook page, and then wrote to me privately about something she wanted advice on. 

Over the years, I have learned things about her religion and way of life that totally horrify me. Yet she is a young woman in need of love and understanding, and for some reason she has taken a liking to me. I have come to realize some of the deep needs and issues facing some of the young women who live in far-off foreign lands. I can ask her questions if I need to. I can find out how her family would react in various situations. What a wealth of information is available to us, thanks to Social Media.

Today, we've looked at ways of getting to know people across the globe who live in different countries. Next month we'll take a look at some of those countries and how this can and should influence our writing. 

OVER TO YOU: Do you interact with people from other countries? Is there any part of this topic that you would especially like us to look at? Leave a comment below.

FURTHER READING: What in the World Do You Mean? Do you know what a Dolly Varden is? It all depends on the country you live in! It could be anything from a fish to a hat to a cake to a piece of furniture!

SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer has created a multitude of friends and contacts across the world.

Please visit Shirley through, where she encourages writers, or at, where she encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or FaceBook

What Happens When Time Gets Away?

What happens when time gets away from you and obligations you have made as an author are forgotten? Let's face it, we are all busy with life and trying to make our writing life successful. To do this authors may stretch their memory to the max by agreeing to tasks, meetings, reviews, or other business related actions that can clog the calendar. I am convicted of this very thing just this week when I missed posting a book review on a blog tour I promised to participate in.

 Here are a few tips on how to graciously handle being over booked or completely forgetful without ruining your author platform and reputation.

  1. Keep good records regarding dates, times, deadlines and obligations that you agree to whether in person or online. Mark them down, put them in your phone, set an alarm, make a list, and do what ever you can to remind yourself of the tasks you have agreed to especially those related to your writing career.
  2. Check you list or calendar daily to make sure you have not missed a deadline. Also make a note on which projects or tasks you can begin ahead of time. Guest posts, book reviews, and some types of articles can be submitted or prescheduled on a site before the actual due date.
  3. Apologize and be sincere. When you find that you have missed a date, even those done pro bono, be sincere with your apology and offer to reschedule. Everyone misses a deadline especially when it was agreed upon months or weeks in advance and sometimes things get so busy a guest post or review might easily be overlooked but no matter the reason it is a must to apologize.
  4. Along with an apology, offer an additional article, post, or review in addition to the one to be rescheduled. Giving more than is expected along with your sincere apology will ensure the other party won't take it as a personal offense. Playing nice with peers and colleagues is imperative to keeping your reputation as an expert and an author intact.
  5. Learn to say no when your calendar is too full. Be selective when taking on projects that don't enhance your business or improves your platform to avoid being so busy that you can't get your own writing done.
  6. Forgive yourself for being human. Don't dwell on one mistake, rather learn from it and change how you do things in the future. Move on and keep writing. This too
In my own case, I did email an apology immediately when I discovered I was two days late on submitting a book review. I also offered to do an interview or other post on a second day to enhance the book tour for this author. It may be that I am not included in the next tour but an apology will at the least show my integrity. It was my error both in forgetting but also in recording the due date incorrectly and filling my calendar too full, another lesson learned. Details and deadlines matter.

How do you handle missing a due date or forgetting a task you promised to do?

Terri Forehand writes from her home in the hills of Brown County Indiana. She and her husband also run a small quilt shop when she isn't writing, sewing, or working as a nurse.
Visit her website at or her blog at

Your Author's Photo - 7 Tips to Getting it Right

Last month I spoke a bit about writing your author's bio and mentioned the need for an author's photo as part of it. Today I thought I'd talk a bit about getting your author's picture just right.

Along with writing, I do a fair share of photography. I enjoy taking photos of the seasons as seen above, but I have taken an actor's head shots, as well as done some graduation, wedding and professional pictures for websites, etc.

However, I'm not photogenic at all! And like some of my clients, I freeze when the lens is turned on me. There are, though, some tricks to getting the best photo possible.

  • Tip 1: Your author's photo is part of your image - a big part. Make sure it is consistent with what you would like your reader to know or feel about you. Think about how you want to appear - edgy or romantic? Whimsical or serious? Natural or funny? Check out your favorite author's photos and see what they've done to create their image and then think about what you can do to make yours stand out.
  • Tip 2: What to wear. Wear a color you look good in. Black is slimming, but you may find that a bright color is great against your face. Stay away from busy patterns and bring at least one change of clothes and perhaps a scarf, tie or other accessory to try.  Keep makeup natural looking - there is no need to go heavy.
  • Tip 3: Your facial expression.  Practice your smile before your shoot. You want a smile that impacts your eyes and appears genuine - or if you are a mystery writer, practice your mysterious look. Determine which side is your best and make sure to let your photographer know.
  • Tip 4: Where to go. Once you have figured out the image part, this may be easy to determine. If you have a professional taking your photo, an indoor setting with some lighting, etc will work well. If you are asking a friend or family member to help you out, you may want to consider doing your photo shoot outside, as natural light will give you a better opportunity to get it right. 
  • Tip 5: The photo. You may want to try both close-ups and some that include your whole body. For close-ups: I recommend the chicken neck. Pull your shoulders back, stick your neck forward, tip your chin slightly down and watch as the extra neck skin and chins disappear.  Play with head tilts - in other words, after each shot move your head slightly. For photos that include more of your body: Stand with one foot in front of the other angling your good side to your photographer - this is slimming as well. Remember the chicken neck. Focus your gaze at a place just above the camera.
  • Tip 6: Take a bunch of pictures. With digital cameras there is no reason not to. The more photos taken, the better the chance of getting one you really like. Not only that, but with hearing the shutter click, click, click you might just start feeling like a movie star and relax and have fun. I've found that some of the best shots I've taken, many times, came at the end of a session when I'd shot a hundred or more photos.
  • Tip 7: Photo editing. There is plenty of photo editing software to help you refine your picture. My current favorite is PicMonkey. I use the free version and it does, generally, all that I need. I also use some of my iPhone's editing software and that works well too if I'm taking a photo on the fly. 
A number of years ago I heard an interesting fact about photographs - you can take a photo of almost anywhere and anything and if you hold up the original photo and a mirror image of that photo, most people can tell which one is the original and which the mirror image - even if they have never seen the place or item before. We apparently have an inborn idea of what images should look like - except that is when we look at ourselves. The reason, we only ever see ourselves in the mirror - so we only see the mirror image of ourselves. That's why our own photos, many times, seem a bit off. In the past I always felt that my personal photos were so awful and looked nothing like myself even when others raved over them - now that I realize I'm looking for something that no one else sees, I'm a bit more forgiving about them. 

Hope these tips will help you get the author's image that represents you, flatters you, and allows readers to easily recognize and remember you!


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.

You Can Write a Romance in 5 Simple Steps

by Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer's Coach

Romance writing is a billion-dollar-a-year industry with hungry readers gobbling up as many as forty new romance novels every month. So why not try your hand at this fun and fascinating genre?

Just follow these 5 simple steps:

1. Become inspired.

Read, read, read romance, so you understand the many subgenres of this distinct genre. You’ll also gain inspiration from the stories you read that will help you develop characters, settings, and story lines for your own romances.

2. Research.

Each romance subgenre has distinct guidelines, so researching these genres will help you write more marketable romances within the subgenre(s) you wish to write.

3. Get organized.

Part of the fun of writing romance is collecting and organizing materials that will help you write your stories. Use a loose leaf binder to create a project notebook for each of your romance novels. This notebook can be used to keep track of any pictures you tear out of magazines (for inspiration for your setting or characters), notecards with research information, the outline for your story – just anything that pertains to the novel you’re working on.

4. Write.

Create a regular writing schedule so you get your manuscript started and finished within a reasonable amount of time. You probably won’t be able to write for hours every day. But that’s okay. The main thing is to write on a regular basis, even if it’s just for 30 minutes to an hour a few times a week.

5. Publish.

Once you’ve completed your romance novel, you’ll want to see it published. There are several different roads to publication. You can self-publish your story. You can find an agent who will sell your story to a publisher for you – or you can find a publisher yourself.

For more details about each of these 5 steps, read my book, Write a Romance in 5 Simple Steps from Enslow Publishers.

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. Let her help you launch your career as a romance author - at the beach. Find out more at

October Blogging Prompts

At a loss for blogging ideas? One way to engage your readers is with seasonal content.

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction – and if your niche is writing, marketing, or consulting – there’s always something to write about.

One of my favorite things about writing is that you can take one topic and spin it numerous ways, so it reflects your interests and expertise.

With that in mind, here are topics you can use to generate blog ideas in October ... or just use these writing prompts to jumpstart your creativity for your writing.

Autumn – How does the change of seasons impact your business? How does the change of seasons impact your writing? What are some fun fall-specific activities that interest you and how can you share them with your readers? October means football, fall fashion, hay rides, apple picking, fall crafts. There’s something seasonal that relates to your business that you can share on your blog. Do some brainstorming to discover what it is.

Fall Food – When all else fails, seek a food holiday. October is both National Dessert Month and Vegetarian Awareness Month, and there are a host of other daily, weekly and monthly food holidays. Do you write food mysteries or have a foodie blog? Do you write content for a restaurant or edible product? Perhaps you just like to eat…  Check the list and see how to spin it for your specialty.

Halloween – Didn’t see that one coming, did you? (joke) Write about anything and everything Halloween-related from food, d├ęcor and costumes (human and pet) to family adventures and activities. Also, most people associate October with the color orange. Fiction writers, interview an author. Share a funny or scary story. Or, even better, tips for how to write one.

Bonus: If you are a fiction writer, you can also use these topics to stimulate ideas for your stories. Send your characters out on an autumn adventures. You don’t even need to use the story in your final manuscript. But let your characters have a little fall fun. You never know where an adventure will take you.

In a perfect world, we have all the time in the world to write our blog content in advance. If you’ve already written all your October posts, just file this for next year. If you haven’t, hope these ideas will get your creative mind rolling, so you can create some awesome October blog posts!


Debra Eckerling is the author of Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages. She's a writer, editor and project manager/goal coach, as well as founder of Guided Goals and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. She is an editor at Social Media Examiner. Debra is also a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting and social media.

How do You Know When You are 'Telling'?

Examples of Telling
  • His fingers moved down Mary's neck.
  • Petals fell from the blooming trees on a sunny day.
  • Jimmy hit the smoke alarm, opened the door, and threw the burning pan outside.
Examples of Showing
  • Mary's heart thrummed when his fingers slid down her neck.
  • Pink petals fluttered from the trees like cotton-candy snow in the spring sun.
  • Jimmy slapped the smoke alarm, flung open the door, and tossed the flaming pan out into the rain.
  • Jesse's fingertips brushed the grass. The delicate blades, hardy from recent rains, felt like eiderdown.
Telling forces a reader to stand outside a candy store window, able to see, perhaps, and hear what happens inside.  But he remains outside.  Yet when a writer shows, he invites the reader into the store to taste the bite of bitter chocolate or the tang of a lemon drop.  The reader will feel the stretch in taffy, maybe even become mired in a mess of spilled molasses.
·Telling is impersonal
Showing is intimate
·Telling is aloof
Showing is up close
·Telling is an essay about a vacation trip
 Showing is going on the trip
Telling is often a simple recitation of he did, she was, I felt.  Too much of this and the reader loses interest. If you find yourself skipping long sections of a novel, chances are those passages are all tell and no show—you've not been invited in, so you pass over the text.

In your own writing, look for clues in words and phrases:  Use of is and was and were, especially there is, there was, and there were; has, had, felt, and thought; uses of always (I always ate ice cream after a good murder); use of and then.

Such words and phrases are not always inappropriate, but their use or overuse warrants a second look.

There are times when Telling is needed.  Telling is for covering the ground, when you need to, as a narrator (whether the narrator is a character, or an implied, external narrator in a third person narrative). It's supplying information: the storyteller saying "Once upon a time", or "A volunteer army was gathered together", or "The mountains were covered in fine, volcanic ash". So it's a little more removed from the immediate experience of the moment. The more I talk about Telling, the more I call it informing.

Telling/informing: The temperature had fallen overnight and the heavy frost reflected the sun's rays brightly.
Showing/evoking: The morning air was bitter ice in her nose and mouth, and dazzling frost lay on every bud and branch. 

How do you show rather than tell?

A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona. Her first novel, Cowgirl
Dreams, is based on her grandmother, the sequel, Follow the Dream,  won the national WILLA Award, and Dare to Dream rounds out the trilogy. In addition a non-fiction book, Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women has just been released. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of the Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing, edits, and blogs. 

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