Writers - Don’t Let Your Fears Define You

Guest post by Irene S. Roth

Most writers are fearful of something. And for most of us we are afraid of any public acknowledgement and presentation of our work. So, for many of us, this can be a really difficult thing to overcome.  But it can have a negative impact on our health and well-being as writers.

    One of the most important ways to deal with your fears is to ensure that they don’t define you. Most of us take our fears personally. The important thing to remember is that our fears are out there just as your face and body image is. Also, our fears are merely negative stories that our mind keeps telling us over and over again. The real difficulty is that we usually end up believing these stories over time. And this is where our real problem lies.

Embracing Your Fears

    So many writers are plagued by fears when they write, regardless of whether they are beginning writers or more mature ones. They have so many negative thoughts and feelings about their writing career and their ability to complete these projects.  This negative mindset can wreak havoc with a writer’s self-confidence and overall productivity levels.

So, it is important to deal with these fears and embrace them as much as possible because if you don’t your fears will define you and possibly many of your writing projects. So, you have to deal proactively with your fears and come to terms with them before they start running your writing life.

    Here are a few ways to take steps to embrace your fears.

•    Sit down with your writing journal and write down all of your fears. Take your time coming up with your list. Be as honest as possible. The more honest you are the better it will be.

You may want to spend a week or so compiling your list. One way for you to generate this list is to carry your notebook with you at all times, especially when you sit down to write. As soon as you have a negative thought, write it down right away.

•    Once you have your list of fears and negative thoughts, examine them. Write down the recurring negative thoughts on a separate sheet of paper. Then, choose one of the most common negative statements and work at stamping it out over the next few weeks. Choose one that isn’t very emotional but yet consistently on your mind. Then beside it, write a positive statement to replace the negative one. Practice saying the positive statement for a few weeks.

For instance, if one of your negative statements is that I will never finish this project, change this statement to I plan to finish this project this time. And keep repeating this positive statement.

By taking these steps, you will be gaining self-confidence as a writer, and you will be embracing your fears. This is not a recipe for success and happiness but for overall health.

    So, you don’t have to be defined by your fears. Instead, you could problem-solve around your fears and resolve to be the best writer that you can be one step at a time. Just determine your worse fear and then work from there. In other words, work through your fears to eradicate them. By dealing with your fears directly, you will be taking steps to lessen their negative impact on you and in the process you will be taking control of these negative mindsets.

For a lot more tips on how to be a healthy writer, double click on this link: http://www.amazon.com/Healthy-Writer-Irene-S-Roth-ebook/dp/B0176Y6NWG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1446101541&sr=1-1

Irene S. Roth, freelance writer and author, writes for teens, tweens, and kids about self-empowerment. She is the author of over thirty books and over five hundred online articles. She also writes articles for kids, tweens and teens and her articles have appeared in Encounter, Pockets, Guardian Angel Kids Ezine, and Stories for Children Magazine and Online. She also has five hundred published book reviews both online and in print. For more writing tips, please visit my website at: http://irenesroth.wordpress.com/


The ABCs of Writing - Tips for New Writers
5 Ways to Get Unstuck
What is the Lifespan of Your Emails? And, Other Email Marketing Tidbits

Writers: Pin Down Your Alter Ego(s)

Give your garden sunshine, water and food. Watch it thrive.
Whatever the origin of your character, whether it be a kid you knew in your childhood, a composite of kids you've known as in the character of Tom Sawyer who was based on a number of boys, or other observations you've made of kids; identifying and understanding the different sides of your own personality can only help.

A helpful resource in character development is Elaine Marie Alphin's (1955-2014) book, Creating Characters Kids will Love. Alphin, author of Ghost Cadet and Ghost Soldier, as well as YA books and books for very young children, said in an interview, "There's a little of me in just about every character I write. I think there has to be, in order to give each character life." 
Some of your character creations may surprise you. Those are the best ones. Alphin said, "This comes into play when you try to make the character do something you thought was essential, but he refuses to do it! He wants to do something else. He has just surprised you. This is a wonderful moment! When it happens, let him do it and see what happens. Often he'll do something that's more effective than what you had in mind in the first place."
Keep a Character Journal
A good way to begin is to keep track of your "persons of interest." Describe the way he dresses, her mannerisms, what attracted him to you, etc. In her book, Alphin goes into great detail about capturing what the people were like in your childhood, the things they did and what you thought about them.   
  • Who were you as a child? Were you the oldest, youngest or in the middle? An only child?
  • Write in detail how you felt about where you were in your family, what your family members were really like relative to their relationship with you.
Ways to Inform Character Creation

1. Make your character care:
  • Alphin: The easiest way to make the reader care is to make the main character care. Something must be at stake for the character - something he wants, something he needs, something he desires, something he'll lose if he fails. The more critical the problem is to the main character, the more eagerly the reader will turn the page, desperate to find out What happens next?
  • What you can do: Make a list of what you care about. Your character can find ways to show that he cares about these things, too.
  • Make your concerns personal: My concerns center around loving and respecting nature and encouraging children to feel the same way. All my stories have taken place in natural surroundings (still, that includes apartment living, as in many children's lives, but having much of the action take place outside, hearing birds, etc.) Animals, plants, trees (insects, the sky, mountains, grass--the list is endless!) become a backdrop to the action.
2. Create a plot that propels your character to find a solution to a problem, solve a mystery, and in the process change to become a better person.
  • Alphin:Character motivation is the heart of what makes a story work or not! Writers are like directors in a play - we know what we want our character to do and where we want them to move to, so we're tempted to just pick them up and move them around in order to get them there, much like pulling the strings of a group of marionettes. But if that's all we do, we end up with two-dimensional characters who are less believable than a row of marionettes dangling from their storage hooks. Characters come alive for readers when we as writers know their motivation - why they want to do or say what the writer wants them to do or say. A character's thought process has to be as believable as our own.
  • What you can explore: What issues did you and your childhood friends face? Do other children you know face? Visit and re-visit these issues. Chances are these are the same that kids have always faced, described in a nutshell as "Children's Basic Needs," by Lee Wyndham in Writing for Children and Teenagers:
  • The need to love and be loved.
  • The need to belong.
  • The need to achieve.
  • The need for security--material, emotional, spiritual.
  • The need to know.
3. Throughout the book there are exercises that are great for ways to develop your characters, as in this example:
  • Choose a situation; write a conversation between two characters. Next, make one character your main character and add that character's thoughts and feelings. Next, add the action. Then, show each character as he or she moves or gestures. Use facial expressions to reflect his or her feelings.
  • In my current WIP, I've used this example to analyze conversations between and among my characters. Some places skimped on one or more elements, i.e., I left out my mc's thoughts or feelings or how one of the characters moved, gestured or made a facial expression to reflect their feelings.
3. At your story's resolution, show how your character has changed and grown.
  • In the chapter on character growth, Alphin describes in detail how to show how your character grows and changes; an element I find particularly challenging. The example that has helped the most is in the beginning of the book under the subheading, "Characters do things."
  • Alphin includes a scene from her book, The Ghost Cadet, about how Benjy, her 12-year-old mc climbed down a roof for the first time. She writes, "You can tell that Benjy is afraid from his slow progress, and that he probably hasn't done this before from his awkward movements. You can see his frustration about being short. You can see the way he talks himself into doing what he doesn't want to do . . . the next time he has to climb something" he'll be more confident.
  • My mc is unfamiliar with country life and in a similar scene she climbs a dark, narrow staircase, not knowing where it leads, and finds a trap door that leads to the roof. Alphin's description of how Benjy has learned from his first scary experience has helped me show better how my mc can gain confidence from hers. From there, I've been better able to show her become more adept at each new thing she tries until she is fully capable by the end to do what it takes to solve the mystery.
  • Alphin: In another example, Marc wants to find the treasure in order to hold onto a person who may be gone from his life. Perhaps he will discover not only hidden treasure, but also the hidden truth that friends sometimes go in different directions and that growing apart isn't the end of the world, because you're open to new friendships. Or perhaps his friend will get caught up in the search, and Marc will realize that they're still friends after all. His friend is the real treasure, and he just needed to reach out to him in order to hold on. Either way, Marc doesn't just find the treasure, he grows and changes because of the actions he takes in order to achieve his goal. His inner problem is what makes the story unique and meaningful.
  • What I've learned: What began as curiosity about the meaning of alter ego(s) led me to discover Alphin's terrific book and embark upon more in-depth thought about who my characters really are. Not just sides of my personality struggling to show themselves, but living, thriving beings with backgrounds, feelings, desires, likes and dislikes.
Photo: From Linda Wilson's collection, taken on a warm fall day in Alaska

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction courses, picture book course and mystery and suspense course. She is currently working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.


More ABCs for the New Writer - F-J

If you are a new writer and you missed the A-E tips be sure to review them to get you started in your writing career.

F is for fear. 

It can be scary to begin a new endeavor. It's normal. But if it paralyzes us to the point of not moving forward, we will never be a successful writer.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you trying to be perfect? Nothing is perfect. 
  • Are you afraid of rejection? What one publisher rejects, another will accept.
  • Are you afraid of change? Me, too! You have to do it anyway. Watch what happens
G is for grammar.

Brush up on your grammar. A poorly written cover letter or query tells all. Be meticulous or else you may find your article or transcript submission passed over.

Thanks to the internet, grammar help is one click away.This site gives you 10 websites to assist you.

H is for hook.

To get your reader's attention and hold it, you've got to hook them with the first sentence.

Whether you are writing a book, magazine article, or resume - that first sentence is critical.

Start with a question, use descriptive words, or make the reader curious with some missing details.

  • Do you want to get in shape without going to the gym?
  • Swirling, sparkling snowflakes appeared to fall in slow motion under the yellow glow of the street lamp.
  • The air was thick with rotting garbage. We were afraid to find out what was behind the vine covered door.
I is for inspiration.

Sometimes we reach for the stars when there is no place like home.

What I mean is there is plenty to write about in your own life. You may not be aware of it.

My daughter is a photographer. When she met with the owner of a wedding site, the conversation revealed what her passion was: photographing children and families. It's not that she couldn't do weddings well, but she never realized what really inspired her and she had been doing it all along.

What are your experiences? 

What do you enjoy doing? 

Start out writing what you know. You will be amazed how effortlessly the words flow!

It doesn't stop there. In time, your interests will broaden and you will learn more about what interests you. I recently decided to take an online course on resume writing. I had done a few in the past for myself and family and enjoyed doing it. When I first started writing 4 years ago it wasn't in my mind. Recently, a resume job was posted on one of the job boards and it got me thinking. I live in proximity of 4 colleges. Advertising would be a breeze. And oh my goodness I like writing resumes! So, here we go!

J is for job boards.

As you work consistently, you are sure to connect with successful writers and authors online. I am thankful for them directing me toward reputable sites.

Freelancewriting.com is one of those valuable sites. Here is where you will find some tried and true job boards  to assist you in looking for freelance work.

Looking at job boards every day is part of a good routine for a successful writing career. I am amazed at the need for writers. It never ends. You are sure to find something you can do. Even if you are not sure, go for it anyway. You will feel accomplished as you regularly apply for jobs.

Next month we'll look at K - O. Stay tuned!

Please leave feedback in the comment section if you are a new writer and have tried one of my tips that have helped you.

 Image courtesy of  Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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 http://kathleenmoulton.com

Online Editors - Which to Use?

Common sense and publishing experts all stress the need for careful editing before submitting for publication. And no matter how experienced you are in doing your own editing and proofreading, there is always room for another eye on your work.

The odd typo or missing punctuation mark pops up even in the best-edited books from famous authors and prestigious publishing firms.

But--and this can be a big but when you're starting out--editors cost a fair amount.  If you're only earning minimal royalties per book, you would need to sell 1000 copies at least to afford an editor. Add another few hundred sales to pay for a designer cover. And you may well be working at a loss, considering the average number of copies sold per book is said to be around 500.

So if you need to go the self-editing route, read your work aloud. That helps you hear where words are missing, misspelled, or where the dialogue sounds unnatural. At least use the grammar and spell checker options provided by Word.

Do your best to provide a manuscript that

  • a) follows all the guidelines laid down by your prospective publisher and 
  •  b) is as free of errors and as perfect as possible.

I don't think I have ever read a perfect book. Readers are forgiving up to a point but too many misspellings and awkward grammar mistakes get between a reader and the story.

And that leads to bad reviews. Amazon, too, is threatening not to publish poorly presented work. So, enter the robotic editor.

Try Online editors

Interestingly more and more online editors are appearing. And these can do a good job of catching things you  missed. Though, like those that tackle translation work, they are certainly not infallible.

Four that I looked at in the past month were EditMinion,  from Dr. Wicked--remember his Write or Die? ( A software download that punished dilatory writers with a shocking noise or even by deleting words if ever you stopped writing for too long to think.).

EditMinion is in beta at the moment, meaning it is still looking for bugs to iron out before its official release. But it looks for all the things most editors focus on when reading--too many adverbs, passive verbs, weak words, cliches, obtrusive dialogue tags, word echoes, homonyms and poorly placed prepositions.

I also liked Ginger. It is a great app but may not be for you if you hate seeing your errors highlighted as you go. As well as spellchecking. proofreading, and grammar inspection, this one gives suggestions for rephrasing sentences.

After the Deadline like the others offers a demonstration version on its website. I inserted the introduction to this article and it picked out one example of passive voice--which I dispute--and suggested provide was too complex a word. Its suggestions were "give" or "offer."

Grammarly is perhaps the best known for its browser extension which is well reviewed by many writers. Again it is free , checks against grammar rules, lets you know the reasons for its decisions. See what you think.

Download Warning

Be careful with any downloads to your computer or browser. Free software can come bundled with toolbars or allow search systems which do not agree with your computer. Keep reading to check exactly what is being downloaded.

My Avast antivirus and Comodo firewall complained hysterically when I tried to download some of these. Is it worth it? I'd find at least one of them very handy. The choice is yours. Let me know if your computer says no :-)

But at least try out the demonstration pages and see what you think. As good as a real person or not? For me, people are best. But the robots do an excellent back up check on tired days and can suggest interesting changes.

Anne Duguid
Anne Duguid Knol

A local and national journalist in the U.K., Anne Knol is now a fiction editor for award-winning American and Canadian publishers. As a new author, she shares writing tips and insights at Author Support

Her Halloween novella, ShriekWeek is published by The Wild Rose Press as e-book and in print  included in the Hauntings in the Garden anthology. (Volume Two)

A Critical Skill for Every Writer

by W. Terry Whalin

With the ease of cranking words into a computer, it's easy to get lulled into the idea that anyone can be a writer. Yet the specific words you write are important. Which words are you selecting when you write and are you using the right combination?

Whether you are writing a children's book or a novel or nonfiction or a personal experience magazine article, your word choice is critical. How do you learn this skill? You will use it in many aspects of the work—from the title for your book or the headline for your article. Or the words on the back cover of your book which helps a reader know if they should purchase your book or press on to the next one.

In the writing business, creating words which sell is called copy and the specific skill is called copywriting. The good news is you can learn this skill as a writer. 

First, you need to be aware your word choice is important and can drive sales. Years ago as a young journalist, I learned the power of writing great headlines to draw readers. When you write a headline or the words on a website, what is drawing readers? Be aware of the response. Do people click your button and buy your material or do they breeze past it? Awareness is a critical step.

Second, practice. When you write a blog post or a magazine article or a book proposal or a book manuscript. Think carefully about the title or headline. Are you telling a story that pulls the reader into your writing? What are the words doing and are they achieving what you want? This type of internal analysis will help you be more deliberate about your word selection.

Third, there are skilled teachers who teach copywriting. One of the best in this area is Ray Edwards. Recently Edwards has published a new book, How to Write Copy That Sells. The book is less than 160 pages and covers key topics like headlines, emails, bullet points, irresistable offers, secrets of product launches and much more. Each chapter begins with an inspirational quote. Here's how chapter four begins, “Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” — Leo Burnett

As an acquisitions editor, I read a great deal of unpublished pitches and manuscripts. Some writers have learned their words have power and they pull me into their manuscripts. Others lack this critical storytelling skill. If you learn this skill, it will increase your sales potential. It doesn't matter what you are writing at the end of the day you are selling something. The sooner you can learn this skill, the sooner your writing will be published and sell.


Do you have this critical skill for every writer? Learn About It Here. (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He is always looking for good books to publish and his email address is in his twitter profile. He has written more than 60 books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and for more than 50 magazines.

Keeping a Writer's Notebook

As I have written almost consistently since I was a child, the notebook has also been a pretty constant companion. At least once every year or two I go through these treasured books and pick out the ideas that stand out.

Even today, when I write most everything on a laptop, I still have a number of moleskin notebooks, generic notebooks, sheets of blank paper and other assorted places where I can write down the things that come to me when I'm not at my desk.

For me, I find the process of sitting down and writing on a laptop wonderful for getting the plot and story on the page, but then comes the rewrite, when I'm looking to surprise my reader on every page and my notebook becomes critical. How is it possible to surprise your reader on every page? Well, it's easier if you expand your reader's vocabulary, which means expanding yours, or through the use of interesting dialog - in my case, this is otherwise known as eavesdropping and modifying conversations heard in the check out line at the grocery, at the coffee shop or library, or finally using simile and metaphors - which means I spend time in nature getting my head in that space where I can let go of day-to-day challenges and instead think creatively.

I would love to say that my notebooks are organized with appropriate headers: quotes, vocabulary, plot ideas, similes & metaphors, but I'd be lying. And sometimes in those notebooks you will find a receipt from a gas station just stuck in between the pages with a brilliant thought.

Bottom line, having a place where you can store precious thoughts is critical for the writer. Ideas that seem unforgettable one day are too often gone the next. I've tried to use computer programs to manage my notes but I've found it just doesn't work as well as my disorganized paper stash-all.    

Where do you write your ideas? Your snippets of conversation? Your precious writer's notes?

D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, Solem was released February 2016.

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, and the co-author of The Exodus Series: The Water Planet: Book 1 and House of Glass: Book 2. 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 www.djeanquarles.com                                      

You can also follower her on Facebook.

Can Marketing and Networking Harm Your Writing Career?

Can you market your work and network too much? My writer friends and I have discussed this question several times over and it can be quite controversial depending on where an author is in the process of a writing career. Early on in the beginning of my writing adventure  marketing and networking was part of every course I took. Build your platform, network with other writers in your genre, network with writers, publishers, illustrators on social networks to help get your name out there, blog to build an audience, and offer to write for free to get your feet wet. Everywhere I turned, someone was telling me to get myself out there.

 As I began finding my way, the advice included Query, query, query.... find a publisher you want to write for and send your ideas. Worry about the writing when you have an accepted idea. Write for various free sites and build your article folder, make yourself an expert and the work will find its way to you. Etc. Etc. Etc. New and seasoned writers know the drill. Does all this sound familiar? But when is too much marketing and networking harmful to your career and when is it enough?

Here is what I have discovered over the past 10 years of writing and trying to build a niche...it takes discipline to stay on course and courage to promote yourself in a humble way, Yet marketing and networking is essential even when  it can be too much and it can be harmful. Here is a quick list of when and how it can hurt your career.

  1. Marketing and networking can be harmful if all you do is market, network, and never sit down to write or create a product. You loose your authenticity when you say you have a product or you promise your book to your audience but you do not deliver. It is only a positive reflection on you as an author if you have something valuable to offer your audience and you continue to provide what you promise in your marketing campaign. 
  2. Social media is a fabulous tool but it is only a positive tool if you are using it to either promote your product, book, or service. It is also a positive career move to promote others through social media especially those in your field of interest and those who can help you to grow as an author. Social media can have a negative impact on your career if you find yourself distracted from your writing or if you get caught up in the negative or false leads that social media can trend or if you use social media to procrastinate from the job you need to be finishing. 
  3. If you see positive results with the marketing techniques you are currently using and you can schedule your time like any other task it can be positive for your writing career. If you focus all of your free time on marketing and networking at the expense of writing time or family time it can be detrimental to both your professional and family relationships. There must be a healthy balance between writing, marketing, and family obligations. 
  4. Marketing can be self-absorbing if you are the only one saying good things about your work. While we need to be our own best horn blower,, at some point you must count on the opinions of others in the form of reviews of your work, comments on your blog, notes from editors, and such to balance and provide an objective view of your products. Someone somewhere must notice your work... your tried and true product or story. It can harm your career if you are the only one saying you are a great author. Networking with authentic people in your area of expertise can validate your work and in turn promote your career in a positive way. 
Marketing and networking must be guarded and planned just like the story you create or the product you develop. Care must always be taken to make sure the actions you take to promote your career are helping and not harming your reputation as a writer. 

About the author: Terri Forehand writes from her home in Nashville Indiana. When she is not writing, designing, or crafting she spends time working in the neonatal intensive care, spending time with grand kids, and running the small fabric shop she owns with her husband, She is the author of The Cancer Prayer Book and The ABC's of Cancer According to Lilly Isabella Lane. She is currently working on an picture book about first aide for first graders. http://terri-forehand.blogspot.com

Don't Give Up on Freelance Writing too Soon

Since I’m a writing coach, all too often I see people give up on freelance writing too soon.

They quickly manage to get their first writing assignment, but when more assignments don’t come so quickly or easily, after a few weeks (yes, just a few weeks), they often give up and decide the freelance writing life isn’t right for them after all.

They decide to get a regular job – or stick with the regular job they already have.

They still dream about being a writer, so they decide to write a novel in their spare time to keep this dream alive.

This is okay.

But if your dream is to have the freedom (and money) of a fulltime freelance writing career, don’t give up on that dream too soon.

Here’s what to do instead:

1. Make a point of finding 3 writing jobs to apply for every weekday morning.

Notice I didn’t say make of point of looking for 3 writing jobs.

I said make a point of finding 3 writing jobs.

Years ago, when I was starting out as a freelance writer, I quickly discovered that if I just said I was going to look for 3 jobs every weekday morning, many times I looked but didn’t find any jobs to apply for.

But when I changed my goal to actually find 3 writing jobs to apply for and then apply for them, my writing career quickly took off.

Sure, some of the assignments I accepted weren’t my “dream” work, but they gave me experience and income and led to other, better opportunities.

One note here: If you’re confused about which jobs you should apply for on job boards, decide to become an expert at just one or two types of writing services.

Then go after only those types of jobs.

For example, if you want to offer resume writing and related services (like media kits, etc.), then go after only those types of jobs.

When you know exactly the type of jobs you're looking for, you'll be surprised at how quickly you find them.

2. Besides checking job boards, look for writing opportunities on your own.

For example, if you write for children, look through a children’s writers market guide for publishers who hire freelance writers and accept resumes, then send them a cover letter and your resume.

If you want to write for businesses, find several businesses in your area and call and introduce yourself and tell them what you do, or send a letter of introduction to the owners of these businesses.

You can also go to networking events (in person) where local businesses owners go.

This is a great way to find new business clients.

Also, send out queries to local and regional magazines.

I did this when I was just starting and landed a job as a regular columnist for a local publication.

This gave me some income, some great clips for my resume, and some experience working with an editor.

3. Connect with other freelance writers.

Established freelance writers have all sorts of contacts and tend to know about writing opportunities that aren’t advertised.

Surprisingly, most writers are willing to share this information, particularly if a writing opportunity is in an area outside of their expertise or if they’re booked solid and don’t need more work at the moment.

Join a freelance writer’s group (local or online) and make a point of interacting with the other writers in this group regularly.

I’ve gotten all sorts of jobs this way and I’ve also helped other writers get jobs.

Don't give up on a freelance writing career too soon.

Do what it takes to create a little momentum.

Once you do, it won't be long before your writing career really takes off.

Try it!

For more tips to help you build your freelance writing career, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge at www.morningnudge.com.

Suzanne Lieurance is a fulltime freelance writer, writing coach, certified life coach, and the author of over 30 published books. Learn more about her services at www.workingwriterscoach.com.

When New Year's Resolutions Don't Work

Usually, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.  I never keep them.  This year I decided I’d make one resolution.  It seemed like an easy one to keep.  My resolution was to give up my gym membership by the end of January.  I had joined the gym in July with every intention of working out twice a week.  I didn’t show up in July or August or September.  As a matter of fact, as December rolled around 'I had not yet stepped into the gym'.  Why didn’t I cancel my membership?  Because each month I thought, this is the month I would get on track.  So by the end of December, cancelling my membership seemed like an easy resolution.  Unfortunately it took me to the beginning of March to cancel my membership.  I have a busy life and resolutions don’t work for me.  That said, when I clearly define a goal that is important to me, I have learned how to support my goal.

If your writing life is stuck, maybe it is time to step back and redefine what it is that you want to achieve.  Why are you writing?  What are your goals?  Dig deep and determine what it is that you really want. Once you are clear on your true desire, I have found that the following strategies will support achieving your goal.
1.       Define your desire as a SMART goal.  Setting a goal that is Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and realistic, and Time bound is the first step to success.

2.       Have daily visual reminders of your goal.  Daily visibility is a key to success.  Use post-it notes on your bathroom mirror or have a vision board above your desk.  You can also set your goal as a daily alert on your phone.  It’s easy to forget about your goal, if you don’t see it each day.

3.       Identify a goal buddy to help hold you accountable for your progress.  Having someone to check in with each week will nudge you towards your goal.  Sometimes it’s not an individual but a critique group which holds you accountable for your writing goals. If you don't have a critique group and you can’t identify someone you know as a goal buddy, consider joining one of the following online communities.

               i.      Goal-buddy.com is an online community that matches you with a goal buddy who is striving to achieve a similar goal.

             ii.      Habitforge has an online community and potential for a goal buddy, it is also designed for someone who wants to work on their own.  Habitforge provides daily email encouragement related to your goal.

4.       Track your progress.  You can also use software to keep your goals on track.

               i.       Lifetick is a goal tracking program.  It not only helps you track your goals but allows you to invite others to view your progress.  If you have identified a goal buddy, this is a great way to track each other’s progress and hold each other accountable.

              ii.      Goals on Track is a goal setting software that will help you set SMART goals and track progress. It works with IPhones and androids and best of all it’s free.

5.       Use negative incentives.  Sometimes we need something a little stronger to nudge us on our writing journey.  Try stickK—A commitment contract designed to help people achieve their goals.  According to stickK, people don’t always do what they claim they want to do and incentives get people to do things.  They have found that having a financial stake increases your chances of success up to 3x and having someone as a referee to monitor your progress increases your success 2x.  StickK asks users to sign a binding contract where they commit money that they lose if they don’t achieve their goal.  This is definitely for someone who needs a stick instead of a carrot.

Try a few of the strategies above and your goal just might become reality.  If you have other strategies you use to achieve your goals, I would love to hear from you.

Mary Jo Guglielmo is a writer, educator, and life coach.   For more information check out DoNorth.biz

5 Tips for Your Bio

Whatever business you are in - author, marketer, entrepreneur - you need a bio. In a lot of cases, it's someone's first impression of you.

Here are 5 things you need to know about writing your bio.

1. Write Several Bios. Since you use bios in different places, you'll need versions of various lengths. 

  • A mini one (two lines) for your byline and perhaps the first page of your website.
  • A concise bio (one paragraph) to incorporate into query and pitch letters.
  • A short bio (two to three paragraphs) for your blog, website, and/or book cover.
  • A long bio for your media kit or when people want additional information about you.
  • Bonus: A future bio: As a fun exercise, write what you want your bio to read a year from now. A future bio will help you stay focused on your aspirations.Just remember to write it in the present tense and to look at on a regular basis. (Keep it near your goals.)
Sometimes it's easy to start with the shortest bio, and then grow the different versions. I recommend beginning with the two- to three-paragraph bio. Then make the more concise versions, before expanding to the long one.

Note: If you are a multi-hyphenate, you may need alternate sets of bios with different emphases.

2. Start from Scratch. People sometimes get tripped up writing their bio, based on their resume or LinkedIn profile. A bio is not a list, it's a narrative, sharing your accomplishments, experience, and expertise. 

Start by reading a previous bio or resume (as a reminder), and then do a brainstorm draft from scratch. Once you get the words out, feel free to double check and make sure you included everything. Then revise until you are comfortable with it.

3. Write After Networking. The best time to write a bio is after you have been at a networking event. You have likely spent a fair bit of time introducing yourself, so your background will be in easy-recall mode.

4. Ask Friends. Curious about which of your characteristics stand out? Ask your friends and peers. People who know and trust you will offer a unique, unbiased perspective. They will definitely come up with things that didn't occur to you.

5. Review and Revise Regularly. In this fast-paced world, your experience and achievements are constantly changing. Once you settle on a bio (or bios) you like, put it in your schedule review and update it on a regular basis. My recommendation is to add a quarterly reminder to your calendar. 

Bonus: Add Your Headshot. No bio is complete without a photo. Don't just tell people who you are, show them. A visual cue will make you more memorable and recognizable, especially when you meet people in person who you only previously met virtually. It's an awesome feeling when people come up and introduce themselves because they know you from your picture.

When you write any bio, remember to use your own tone and style. It's another way for new people to get to know you through your words.

What tips do you have for writing a bio? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

* * *
Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of Guided Goals and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. 

She is the host of the Guided Goals Podcast and author of Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages. 

Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Tropes in Literature #2: This is My Story

 Tropes can be our enemies or our friends.  These literary devices, characters types, and plot elements are so common and popular that they often seem clich├ęd.  As I said in my first post on the topic (Mr. Exposition and Captain Obvious), I don't believe that you should never use tropes.  They're popular for a reason.  But I think it's important to be aware of them so that you can choose carefully which ones to use, which to avoid—and which to subvert.  

This is My Story

Tvtropes.org brilliantly collects, links, and names many TV and literature tropes, and this is one of their best descriptions, cleverly using the trope itself: This is My Story.  I highly recommend reading it yourself,

The trope involves opening your story with something like this:  "My name is John Smith.  My story is important because blah blah blah."  Or, "You won't believe this story, but it's mine, and it's true."  Or, "Everything you've heard about me is wrong, so I'm going to tell you this story to set the record straight."  Or, "This is the blah-blahest story you'll ever hear." Or, "My name is blah blah and I'm famous for blah blah." 

Sometimes this really works, like in The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold: "My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."  The brilliant thing here is the shock value.  It's not what you're expecting from a This is My Story opening.  Most of the time, however, I think it's weak.  I want you to show me that your story's interesting or important or unbelievable.  Don't tell me. 

People rave about The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss.  I honestly couldn't get into it, but that might have been my state of mind at the time.  It starts, "My name is Kvothe. I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in."  Massively creative. A taste of intriguing world building.  But then it goes on. "I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day."  And on. "I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep."  When reading, all I could think was, "Great, another wordy braggart who just won't shut up about himself.  That's all I need in my life."  But it obviously worked for a lot of people. 

Here's how Mark Twain started Huckleberry Finn:  "You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter."  A variation on the theme, with a little added product placement.  Other classics start similarly, as if writing a boilerplate introduction paragraph to a five paragraph essay:  Robinson Crusoe, Great Expectations, various others.  I've also seen Asimov and Heinlein do it in third person.

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford begins, "This is the saddest story I've ever heard."  To me, that's like writing a query letter to an agent and saying, "This is the best book you'll ever read."  Automatic reject.  But again, it obviously worked for some people.

This one's cool, but chiefly because it plays with the trope—and intrigues the reader:  "In a sense, I am Jacob Horner."  John Barth, The End of the Road.  So, in a sense you're not?  Makes me want to read. 

I challenge you, as a writer, to never start a book this way unless you can give it a clever twist.  

Melinda Brasher currently teaches English as a second language in the beautiful Czech Republic.  She loves the sound of glaciers calving and the smell of old books.  Her travel articles and short fiction appear in Go NomadInternational LivingElectric SpecIntergalactic Medicine Show, and others.  For an e-book collection of some of her favorite published pieces, check out Leaving Home.  For something a little more medieval, read her YA fantasy novel, Far-KnowingVisit her online at http://www.melindabrasher.com.

Honoring Your Voice

As a writer, your voice is one of your most powerful assets. Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, novels, screenplays, marketing copy, y...