A Writer's Process: Longhand or Keyboard?

Which is the better way to open your mind to greater creativity: by writing longhand or on a keyboard? This question first came up during one of my online writing courses. The instructor said that a different part of the brain is involved with each method, and encouraged us to compose our first drafts by hand. She pointed out the connection from brain to hand delves deeper into thoughts and feelings than typing on a keyboard.

Experts Debate the Issue
At stake is not only writers' creative processes, but what is best for learning to read for young children. Namely, the trade-off in elementary schools across the nation from cursive writing in favor of printing in Kindergarten and first grade, then on to keyboards. What is lost, if anything? What is gained?

In Favor of Longhand: A 2012 study discussed by quite a few articles I read, conducted by Karin James, a psychologist at Indiana University, asked five-year-old children who had not yet learned to read or write to copy a letter or shape by typing into a computer, draw on a blank sheet of paper, or trace over dotted lines. An MRI scan on the children drawing freehand revealed areas of the brain "lit up." The other two ways showed much weaker brain activity. Read articles by Tom Chatfield and New York Times Article by Maria Konnikova

A study with children in grades two through five, conducted by Virginia Berninger, a psychologist at the University of Washington, found that children who wrote material by hand "not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on a keyboard, [they] expressed more ideas." Visit Joe Buhlig's May 20, 2016 Blog Post

College students who take notes by hand retained the information better than their peers on laptops. In 2013, researchers Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer asked this question. Conclusion: students who wrote by hand had to summarize rather than simply type out the lecture, which aided in comprehension. From Maria Konnikova's article

Rewriting your notes by hand helps to retain the information. It is the method I discovered in college; the only way I could learn the material. I learned how to expand this method while teaching, using such tools as Venn diagrams, a sketch of adjoining spheres to simplify complex concepts for easier comprehension, skimming a textbook chapter, noticing what the headings and subheadings are about and jotting notes on post-its to isolate main points during reading.

In Favor of Keyboard: Some experts believe the method of learning makes no difference in learning to read and write. Anne Trubek, associate professor of rhetoric and composition at Oberlin College in Ohio, believes the fast action of typing allows more time to think.

There is no substitute for having the world at our fingertips on a computer.

Engages both hands rather than the dominate one in longhand writing.

A teacher once told me: Children must be prepared for the future, and computers are the future.

Tip of the Iceberg
When I began reading about this topic, I had no idea its complexity. Also under consideration is the significance of the dominant hand; the issue of what could be lost in reading comprehension if children don't learn to form letters thereby memorizing them as they draw them; the very effort of doing so teaches them the letters by trial and error, which helps them recognize the letters later when learning how to read. The Anne Chemin article mentioned "body memory" when letters are written by hand and understanding the science behind the debate.

I have experienced "finger or muscle memory" as a piano student. Eleven (long) years of lessons as a child abruptly ended upon entering college. Thirty-five years later when I took up piano again, the pieces came back to me with little difficulty. Granted, they were rusty, but after practice it's as if I had never stopped. I suppose, much like never forgetting how to ride a bicycle.

Why I Believe What my Instructor Said

Throughout my writing career, I have ping-ponged between writing drafts by hand and typing them on the computer. It has become my writing process. While under deadlines when freelance writing, I did do away with paper and pen and did all the work on my computer. Now no longer under deadlines, I write first draft in longhand, type it on the computer, print that out, and during editing go back and forth until done.

Teaching reading and writing at school and to my own children was mostly the old-school method where the children learned their letters by hand and then learned to read. However, by the time I started substitute teaching in the 90s, cursive had already been phased out and typing on the keyboard was emphasized. The children's little hands printed everything (computer lab took place several times a week; there were only one to three computers in the classrooms then. Teachers teaching with their own laptops had just begun). Gone was each child's signature handwriting and the pride that went with it, since they didn't know how to write in cursive.

What Does this Mean for Writers?

Imagine my joy when my instructor suggested writers should undertake the very process I've been exploiting all these years. It makes sense that different parts of the brain are involved. Perhaps the same principle applies when composing in your beach chair by the sea or even simply finding a nook in your house that gives you a different perspective. Typing on the computer can never take the place of these intimate moments; so close to the experience of the feel of a book in your hands compared with reading on a digital device.

For a deeper understanding of the issues involved, I invite you to read the articles for yourself and weigh in on what you think by commenting. Also, what is your process? How did you discover it? How does it work for you?

Additional Resources:

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 has currently finished her first book, a mystery/ghost story for 7-11 year-olds, and is in the process of publishing it and moving on to new writing projects. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Keep Going, Keep Going

By W. Terry Whalin

If we are honest, not every day in publishing is fun. Sometimes it feels like we are running in a long-term race and we wonder how in the world we will be able to finish. Yet even in those difficult days, I continue hitting the keyboard and cranking out words and stories. Other days I spend on the phone with authors or answering emails and questions about contracts or other issues.

Yet in the midst of the opportunities or challenges, I continue helping authors create new books through my work as an acquisitions editor. I continue to write for new blogs or magazines and working on my social media and growing my own measure of influence in the marketplace.  I continue the work because I believe in the life-changing effects of books. I know that first hand as I explained in this short video several years ago:

Often we can't see the results of our writing and how it is affecting others. Recently I was listening to actress Lauren Graham's memoir, Talking As Fast As I Can. I enjoyed this story she told about bestselling author James Patterson. Graham was in Atlanta and about to begin filming Middle School, based on the books by Patterson and Chris Tebbetts. At the cast dinner, Graham was seated next to Patterson. She turned and asked him a question that he had probably been asked many times, “How do you do it?”

“He turned to and said, “Keep going, keep going, keep going.”

I found this story encouraging that even  mega-bestselling author like James Patterson has to use this mantra of keep going. Each of face different curve balls along the publishing journey. Maybe your editor leaves the publishing house and you have to work with a different editor. Maybe your publishing house closes or gets sold to another publisher. 

Maybe you face an unexpected family crisis of health or any number of other situations. The challenges of life are plenty for everyone and enough for some people to throw in the towel and not move forward. From my experience and listening to numerous stories from bestselling authors, the people who succeed and write their bestseller or find their best publishing opportunity, are the ones who keep going.  
Many authors give up too early in the process and do not keep looking for the right publisher at the right time and the right place. 

As someone who has been studying about publishing for many years, admittedly there is a lot to learn for every writer. You need to learn how to craft a pitch to an editor or a literary agent. You need to learn how to write excellent stories and then do the long-term work of telling people about your book (marketing). 

I love the advice best-selling author Harvey MacKay gave in this recent article called Never Give Up. MacKay gives terrific specific details in this article and then he always has a summary statement that he calls a MacKay Moral: The hardest sale you'll ever make is to yourself.  But once you're convinced you can do it, you can.

When you face the bump in the road of your writing life, I encourage you to keep going. 


When your writing is challenging, read this encouragement. (ClickToTweet) 

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 books for traditional publishers and his writing has been published in more than 60 magazines. His latest book is Billy Graham, A Biography of America's Greatest Evangelist. Terry and his wife Christine live in Colorado.

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Book Covers That Sell - The 7 Must-Haves

There's the old adage: A picture is worth a thousand words. Well, that's pretty much what your book cover is about. In a quick glance, it has the power to motivate someone to take action . . . to buy your book.

 And, aside from this, it's usually the very first impression a reader will have of your book.

The cover is one of the most important elements of your book marketing strategy. It's a selling tool.

To help you make your cover the best it can be, here's a video from Derek Murphy from Creativindie. It's a bit lone at 43 minutes, but it has great information and worth the 'watch.' 

What'd you think? Was this video helpful?


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Write a Romance!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today is the perfect day for a little romance.

So why not try your hand at writing a romantic short story?

If you read romance novels or romantic short stories, you’re already familiar with the “formula” most of them follow.

It’s quite simple really.

The formula is just, “together, apart, together.”

That just means a couple meets and is attracted to each other (they get “together).

But as they get to know each other something happens that pulls them apart (so naturally this is the “apart” component of the formula).

An old flame, an argument, or a compromising situation can all lead to a couple pulling apart.

But, since all romance readers love a happy ending, something else needs to happen in your story that helps the couple get back together.

So, that’s the basic formula - "together, apart, together."

Now...Start Writing Your Own Romantic Story

To start writing a short romance, come up with your main character – usually a young woman.

Put her in a situation where she will meet a young man.

Actually, she may already know the young man, but something will need to happen to cause her to see him differently now, in a more romantic way than she has before.

Now, bring the couple together and let them be happy for a while, until…

Something happens that threatens their relationship and they either decide to take some time apart or they break up altogether.

Just be sure they are both miserable while they are apart.

Next, create something that happens to bring them back together.

Sounds easy, right?

But there is more to writing a compelling romance than just the storyline using this formula.

Your characters must also be engaging and likeable (at least to some extent).

You must include dialogue that rings true and serves to move the action forward.

And, of course, you must use a variety of sensory details throughout your story to bring the setting, action, and the characters to life.

To Get Good at Writing Romance

The best way to get really good at writing romance is to practice, practice, practice writing romance, of course.

But it’s also a good idea to read, read, read the types of romantic stories you wish to write.

Do you like historical romance?

Then read plenty of historical romance novels.

Do you enjoy paranormal romance?

Then read widely in this romantic sub genre.

But since today is Valentine’s Day, spend a little time today coming up with an interesting storyline using the formula I’ve described here.

Then flesh out this storyline to create a romantic short story.

As you continue reading romance, you can always go back to the story you create today and make it better and better until, finally, it’s ready for publication.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of more than 30 published books, a freelance writer, and the Working Writer's Coach.

She publishes The Morning Nudge, a short email for writers and other creative types, every weekday morning.

Get your free subscription now at http://www.morningnudge.com.

4 Social Media Marketing Tips To Being More Productive

By Karen Cioffi

There are certain strategies that social media marketers use to make their efforts effective. It’s not enough to simply publish your blog posts to the social channels. You need to have a plan. You need to work the system.

1. Number one is a give-in: you need to know your audience and cater to them.

This goes for any form of marketing – you need to know who your audience is and what they need or want.

It’s pointless to send messages to the technology industry when your platform is on health writing.

It’s pointless to send in-depth SEO marketing posts to an audience that’s just getting their feet wet in the marketing arena.

It’s pointless to send ‘how to find a mate’ posts to an audience who wants to learn marketing strategies.

You get the idea.

Your platform needs to be focused on what your target audience wants.

Along with this, the Social Media Examiner post points out that your audience’s needs may change. You need to keep current on all things pertaining to your industry / niche and with the changing needs of your audience. Keep ahead of the game and help your audience do the same.

Let your audience know you’re the ‘go to’ person in your niche.

I do lots of research to come up with helpful posts for my readers. I also share helpful posts I come across in that research. If you think an article you’re reading will benefit your audience, share it.

2. Build relationships.

Marketing on social networks isn’t just about ‘hit and runs.’ You shouldn’t just post your content and run. You need to build ‘meaningful’ relationships with customers, other businesses, and anyone else within your business realm.

To build these relationships, you’ll need to offer helpful information that is actually useable. You want to inform, teach, and help those in your network.

Along with this, you need to engage with other users. Share the posts of others. Help promote a product or service you know to be helpful. Take the initiative to help others in your networks.

I spend around 30 minutes each day to schedule my posts, share the posts of others, and to engage with others in my social network sphere.

Social Media Examiner says to, “be a giver as you interact” with your audience. “Offer your time, resources, knowledge, encouragement or support.”

This helps build relationships.

3. Making money also needs to be a factor.

While you should earnestly want to help those in your audience, it’s also important to spend your time fruitfully.

Not many can selflessly spend time helping others. Businesses need to make money to survive. 

To keep this in the forefront of your social media marketing strategy, promote what you’re selling. Whether it’s a product, a service, a workshop, a presentation, include it in your social media postings.

Now, to do this, you need to upload lots more helpful information compared to promotional content. A standard ratio is 85% useable content to 15% promotion. You might even lean more toward 90/10.

You don’t want your audience to feel you’re using them for your own gains. Give lots and lots of quality information. Be helpful.

At one point, I posted around 12  to 15 posts of my own posts to Twitter each day. I also share posts of others that I come across in research. In addition, I Retweet and Favorite other users’ Tweets.

I would share 10 to 15 posts of others each day in addition to my own. This is being active and engaging. My connections know I offer valuable information on a regular basis.

This allows me to promote what I’m offering without seeming overly promotional.

Due to a very heavy work load, I’ve had to reduce the number of posts per day, but I am still consistant.

4. Monitor your results.

This is a must for all your marketing strategies. If you don’t monitor what you’re doing, you’ll never know what’s working and what’s not.

Monitoring your results is time well spent. Don’t forego this step.

Even if you don’t want to spend hours on analytics, you can simple monitor your website traffic and its sources. And, you can easily see if you’re getting sales from your efforts.

If you’re not seeing the results you need, change course. Try another strategy.

To read the article at Social Media Examiner, click the link:
6 Habits of Social Media Marketers

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning author, ghostwriter, and author/writer online platform instructor. Get must-know writing and marketing tips at http://thewritingworld.com.

And, check out Karen’s e-classes through WOW! Women on Writing:


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5 Ways to Use Video for Promotion

Most writers are shy. They prefer to be behind the computer screen, not on it. (Full disclosure: I am not one of those people.)

Video is, however, one of the best ways to promote yourself as a writer ... or really as any business professional. You know how important it is to have a picture of yourself on your website so your audience get a sense of who you are? That connection strengthens manifold when that picture comes to life.

Filming is also relatively easy, since most people have a camera - in their mobile phone - at an arm's reach at all times.

Here are 5 simple things you can create on video to promote yourself. And, yes, you can be off-screen for some of them. Even if you are uncomfortable on camera, you can still use videos to stand out in the social media news feed.

1. Create a Book Trailer. There are wonderful online tools, such as Adobe Spark and Animoto, where you can use images and audio to create a video to promote your book. The best thing about these tools is they have templates, so you can upload pics, add text and music, preview, and publish. Then share your trailer on your website or blog, add it to your LinkedIn profile and Amazon author page, and more.

2. Do a Quick Live-Video Stream. Between Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Periscope, and Live Streaming on Instagram, you can broadcast whenever and wherever you want on a variety of social networks. Feeling inspired? Jump on-air, share something, and jump off. (I recently recorded a quick live video to promote the fact that my event host planned to live-stream my entire workshop. See tip #4.)

3. Plan a Live Video Event. Create a virtual event, such as a book launch. Then, invite your friends and fans to watch, and interact with them. Ask questions, hold little contests, make it fun. Maybe even read an excerpt from your book. Since live-streaming is no longer solely mobile, you can easily set up your camera, watch for comments, and respond in real-time.

4. Record a Workshop. In January I gave a goal-setting workshop at the LAX Coworking Space. When I arrived, they asked if it was okay to live stream. I was thrilled. Not only could those unable to attend watch live, I now have a great example of my workshop embedded on my speaking page for potential future gigs.

5. Give a Quick Tip or Several. Set an appointment with yourself every week or so to record a few short videos. Offer quick insights or easy tips that showcase your expertise either in your genre or field. If you prefer not to be on camera, showcase images and record voice-over with your tips. This enables you to show people you know your area of expertise through content you create for your blog and social media channels. 

Video may seem scary, but - like writing - it gets easier the more you do it. Plus, it helps you to better connect with your current and potential audience, which is a great thing for any business.
What do you think? Have you promoted yourself via video? What sort of videos did you create? How did it go? Please share your experience 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 author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages and host of the Guided Goals Podcast.

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

Advice from Writers at the Glendale Chocolate Affair

Last weekend was the annual Chocolate Affair in Glendale, Arizona. As part of the celebration, romance writers sign books and give classes about various aspects of the craft and business of writing.

I attend the writer's classes whenever I can, and this year I've compiled my favorite tips from the various sessions I attended.

From Mona Hodgson:

Use description only when it serves a purpose in the story. It must advance the plot or make the characters and scene more vivid. If it's distracting from the character and what he or she is doing, cut it.     

Be a literal storyteller. Tell people about your novels. When you're telling them the story you're currently working on, watch to see if their eyes light up. If they don't, you might need to change something. If they ask questions, pay attention.

If you're writing a crime/police drama, don't be afraid to call your local police station, explain that you're a writer, and ask if there's someone you can talk to. More than likely, you'll find someone happy to tell you about themselves and their job. Don't think you aren't important enough to make the first call.

Don't write linking scenes just to write them. If you do, they'll be boring. Skip all the boring scenes.

Melinda Brasher's next book comes out soon!  Cruising Alaska on a Budget is a guide for people who think cruising is only for the rich and famous, for those who dream of experiencing the majesty of Alaska for the first time, and for confirmed Alaska lovers who want to save money on their next trip.  If this is you, sign up for the mailing list here.  Visit Melinda online at http://www.melindabrasher.com.

The Social Media Marketing Smorgasborg


How to Navigate It

By Karen Cioffi

I read a great article by Jeff Bullas and it made me realize that those just entering the online marketing arena, specifically the social media marketing arena, can feel like they’ve been hit by a bulldozer.

There are lots and lots of social networks available for your use whether you’re a marketer, author, or writer. The most popular ones include:

•    Facebook
•    LinkedIn
•   Twitter
•    Pinterest
•    Instagram
•   YouTube
•   Snapchat

This is not a complete list and keep in mind that you don’t’ have to use them all. In fact, that would be a mistake.

So, how do you navigate the social network smorgasbord?

1. The first step, and most important, is to decide which networks you should work.

You’ll need to know who your target market is for this one. Research the various networks and determine which sites your audience frequents.

I’ve written about this before, pick around five or six networks to broaden your visibility reach, but choose one or two of those to actually work.

Working a network means to focus on that network. Post to it every day (you should post multiple times a day) and engage with other users.

2. Determine what type of content to use.

In particular, determine what type of information your audience needs to help them move forward in their endeavors.

This step encompasses being helpful to your audience.  Become the person who creates and shares useable content and engaging content.

This will help create trust and conversion (getting the person to take a desired action, say signing up for your mailing list).

3. Put it into action.

Start sharing your content to your chosen networks. And, become active on the one or two networks you will be working.

To be active or work a network, you will:

- Share your own content
- Share the content of others
- Engage with others (reply to messages or shares from others; share the content of other users; start a discussion; post relevant video; and so on)
- Monitor your efforts

4. To ease the social media marketing time element, look into automation.

Automation allows you to preschedule posts and it allows you to have your new blog posts shared automatically, among other features.

The service / tool I use is Buffer.com.

An article over at RazorSocial.com, lists the top tools and their features. It’s worth the read: Social Media Automation.

Choose one that will work for you and that fits your budget – some tools are free.

These four tips should help you ease into social media marketing. 

To read Jeff Bullas’ article on this topic, go to:
5 Key Steps to Mastering the SMM Landscape

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning author, ghostwriter, and author/writer online platform instructor. 

You can check out Karen’s e-classes through WOW! Women on Writing:  https://thewritingworld.com/your-author-platform/


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