New Year Wishes

Wishing Everyone a Healthy, Safe, and Prosperous NEW YEAR!

As a thank you for being a loyal reader of our blog and to start the New Year off right, here are two gifts:



Hope you get some benefit out of these ebooks!

Begin Stories with your Character: A Workshop with Lois Ruby

Who will your character be?
Are your stories plot-driven, or do you begin with a character? Lois Ruby’s stories don’t take off until she has gotten to know her main character. At a recent Albuquerque Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI, meeting, Lois shared her technique.

And what terrific characters Lois creates! One look at her books, and you will read a “heart-pounding romance about a contemporary girl, Lori, who falls crazy-in-love with Nathaniel, a soldier in the Battle of Gettysburg.” The only hitch is that she’s very much alive, and he’s a ghost. (Rebel Spirits, Scholastic/Point, 2013); an Austrian brother and sister who survive World War II in Shanghai, China (Shanghai Shadows, Holiday House, 2006; a Bank Street Book of the Year, 2007, and a Kansas Notable Book, 2007; a homeless girl who can communicate with a police horse in New York, and many more vivid characters. (Visit to learn more about Lois and her books).

How does Lois create such intriguing characters?

Begin with What’s Going on Inside
Lois likes to know her character’s description, but before she gets to that, she pins down:
  • When they lived—where they fit into the context of history.
  • What is their backstory—doesn’t show up in story, but we need to know it.
  • What is their emotional status. For example:
    • Saying one thing and doing something else.
    • Laughing when not appropriate.
    • Quick to anger—how character expresses anger.
    • Tension when internal thoughts contrast with verbal response.
  • How the name fits the character. For example:
    • Molds the personality
    • Ethnicity
    • Geographical area they came from
    • Nicknames
    • Station in life
What’s on the Outside Comes Next
Lois arrived with armfuls of portraits (photos) of people she finds intriguing, cut out of magazines and kept in clear plastic sleeves. Each portrait raises questions. Each answer opens a window to develop and round out the character.
  •  Girl or boy
  •  Where does h/she live?
  •  Contemporary or historical?
  •  What is the family like?
  •  What does her voice sound like?
  •  What is the conflict in his life?
  •  Adventurer or not?
  •  Any annoying habits?
  •  Who is his greatest hero?
  •   Powerful or powerless?
  •  What are the moral limits? Skin Deep, Scholastic, 1994, currently out-of-print, is about a boy who is drawn to a hateful white supremacist group. His personality changed, and his girlfriend Laurel sees this and wonders if he can ever return to the boy she loved. Lois said she interviewed three skinheads to answer this question and was horrified, but she needed to know.
Our Turn
Lois ended the workshop by displaying random words on the projector screen:
High school yearbook
Dr. Dowd
ID bracelet
Baseball uniform
Barn animals

Participants were given a short time period to create a character-driven story using as many words as possible. It was fun to hear the different takes. My story evolved around a young man in his 30s flying to see his dad in the hospital after he had a heart attack, working on his job application, taking his dad’s ID bracelet to him (will he remember it?), etc.

Raised in California, Lois has called Texas and Kansas home, and now, lucky for us, she lives in Albuquerque. Her portrait-study technique has certainly yielded a solid collection of intriguing and diverse characters in her books.

A parting word about Lois’s only nonfiction book (so far), Strike! Mother Jones and the Colorado Coal Fields War, Filter Press, 2012. Mary Harris (Mother) Jones, was so concerned about the poor working conditions of a wide range of people from the 1870s through the 1920s—including, street car operators in New York and San Francisco, female bottle washers in Wisconsin, copper miners in Arizona, and the deplorable conditions of children working fourteen-hour days in the textile mills of Pennsylvania—that she called meetings and made speeches, urging workers to go on strike and fight for their rights. Authorities and industry leaders labeled her a troublesome agitator, and the story goes on. (Book is available on Amazon prime at a very reasonable price). Even in nonfiction, Lois has done it again: delighted readers with her knack for creating fascinating characters, and in the case of her nonfiction book, uncovering the story of this incredible woman.
Clipart courtesy of:

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. Her first book, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, is hot off the press and will be available soon. Currently, she is hard at work on The Ghost of Janey Brown, Book Two in the series. Follow Linda at

Write for Magazine Publication - series #8

Writing for Magazine Publication is a great way to monetize your writing and test the interest level of your topic. This series has offered tips for magazine publishing. (Topic archive below)

Essays are all about the writer; articles are all about the reader. An essay is an opinion piece. An article is non-fiction text.

Today, we’ll talk about Letter of Agreements and Copyright.

Letter of Agreement:

An informal outline of all the terms you agree to is a Letter of Agreement (LOA). It is in the format of a letter with signature lines at the bottom. The agreement covers the following and acts to clarity the agreement:

1.      Annotates the services provided, and those not provided

a.       High level editing with “track changes” using Word

2.     The due date for the publishers receipt of your article or essay

a.       Delivery as a Word.doc with “track changes” active

3.     The delivery terms detailing the manner in which the publisher wants to receive and edit your piece:

a.       Format, electronic delivery or otherwise

b.      Style choices determined by AP Style Guide and client’s house style

c.       Editing shall preserve the author’s tone and style

4.      Payment rate per word or flat fee

5.      Payment terms (check/PayPal etc.)

This link may be helpful:


A Copyright is the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell or distribute a piece of writing.

The best thing I can offer you are links to the technical aspects of the Copyright Law of the United States.  

Helpful Links for Copyrights:

This series offers tips and ideas for magazine publishing: a list of genres or categories and where we find ideas (posted 5.25.18), research tips (posted 6.25.18), standard templates for essay and article pieces (7.25.18), query letters (informal known to editor 8.25.18) and (formal query tips 9.25.18), guidelines for submission (posted 10.25.18), and contracts (posted 11.25.2018), and LOA & copyright tips (posted 12.25.2018).

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts. Visit her web-blog: Deborah Lyn Stanley : MyWriter's Life .

Write your best, in your voice, your way!

Create A Plan for the New Year

By W. Terry Whalin

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. It’s an old saying and cliché yet rooted in truth. What plans do you have for the New Year? Now is the time to be working on a plan. Do you have a book? What is your plan to market your book?
When many writers get this question, they pile on the excuses and look around for someone else. They have fallen into the trap of someone who has written a book. They firmly believe, “If I build it (write it), they will come (buy it).” These writers firmly believe the marketing for their book is the responsibility of someone else—some publisher or some bookseller or some marketing person. Countless times I’ve listened to writers in my role as an acquisitions editor when they tell me about their disappointment in the results of their book sales.
Remember, when you point your finger at someone or something, four of your fingers are pointing toward you. As the author, you have the primary responsibility to continually market your book. No one else can do what you can do.
Let me give you a bit of my background so you see why I’m writing about this issue. I’ve published more than 60 nonfiction books and for five years I was a book acquisitions editor. When I became a book editor, I began to understand the economics of book publishing. It’s important for every author to understand these dynamics—whether they write fiction or nonfiction.
Here’s the financial information that I didn’t understand until I worked inside a publishing company: for every book (fiction or nonfiction), a publisher is going to spend $30,000 to $40,000 (real dollars) to take your manuscript and turn it into a finished book. These numbers are with a modest advance to the author (say $5,000) and zero marketing dollars. These costs are production, cover design, editorial work, etc. on your book. Publishers receive thousands of submissions from would-be authors. When I was a part-time Fiction Acquisitions Editor at Howard Books, I was looking for six to eight full-length novels a year—and I’ve received over 250 submissions from individuals and literary agents. I’ve rejected some quality fiction because of the volume and limited spots. Imagine these numbers multiplied on other editor’s desks.
Let’s pretend for a minute that you are the editor and have to wade through these volumes of material to find the books for your list. You have two manuscripts. Both manuscripts are excellent, fascinating stories. One manuscript has a marketing plan and the other doesn’t. As the editor, you will be held accountable for your choices (within the publishing house). It’s a business to sell books. Which manuscript will you choose to champion to the other editors, the publishing executives (sales, marketing, etc.)? Editors risk for their authors. Your challenge is to prove to be worthy (actually more than worthy) of this risk.
Everything that I’m going to write is based on the assumption you’ve learned your writing craft and produced an excellent manuscript that is appropriate for a particular publisher. A big part of you may resist even creating a marketing plan. Isn’t that why you go to a publisher instead of publishing it yourself?

No, you go to a publisher to use their marketing efforts in combination with your efforts to sell more books (and to have your books in the bookstore). Publishers love authors who “get it” and understand they need to roll up their sleeves and take a bit of their energy to market the books to their own network. Also publishers always want to do more for their books especially when they release. Yet they have 20 books to shepherd through this process—and you have a single book. Who is going to be more passionate about the book? It’s you as the author—well show a little of that passion in your marketing plans for your book.
Check out PyroMarketing by Greg Stielstra (Harper Business). This book will help you see how you can stir people to purchase your book and why mass marketing techniques are ineffective. To get a taste of this book, read this free introduction (I use with Greg’s permission).
Finally can you bring your publisher a deal from the beginning that will sell at least 5,000 books? It’s not a crazy question since 70% of special sales are something that the author begins. For some creative ideas, check out Jerry Jenkins’ site. This is not the Left Behind author but another Jerry Jenkins. Put your own spin on these ideas with your book. Also you can learn more about this special sales idea through a free teleseminar which I hosted at:
Publishers are looking for true partners in the book-selling process. A marketing plan shows that you are actively going to enter into the process of selling books. Yes, publishers are looking for excellent storytellers but they need authors who care about selling books.

Now is the time to be working on your plans for the new year. What plans are you making? Let me know in the comments.


Create a plan to market your book for the new year. Get ideas here. (ClickToTweet)
W. Terry Whalin has written more than 60 books for traditional publishers and his magazine work has appeared in more than 50 publications. He is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing and always looking for great books to publish. Terry is a book proposal expert and the author of Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Sucess. He has over 200,000 followers on Twitter.

Literary Magazines with Themes: The First Line

Image courtesy of The First Line Magazine
The First Line is a literary magazine where each issue contains stories that all start with the same first line.  

Next year will be their 20th year in print, so they're doing something a little different.  To celebrate all past issues, they're welcoming stories based on previous years' first lines.  For the spring 2019 issue (stories due Feb 1), you can choose from twenty different first lines.

If you're interested in a little inspiration or a fun challenge, take a look:  The First Line

Sample First Lines for Spring:

The rules are clearly spelled out in the brochure.
"Well, there's ten minutes of my life I'll never get back."
My father and I left on a Thursday.
I remember the radio was playing the best song.
Whitney Heather Yates knew she was in trouble from the moment she learned how to spell her name.
It sounded like she said, "Every day when I get home, I find a naked body in the bed."
The party was only the beginning of what would happen tonight.
"Step this way as our tour of Earth continues."
"How did you end up with a nickname like that?"
The first thing I saw when I woke was Chris' face.
"The incident on the island is the stuff of legend, but let me tell you the real story."
Jimmy Hanson was a sallow man who enjoyed little in life save for his _________. [Fill in the blank.]

Guidelines Highlights:

-Stories must be between 300 and 5000 words and unpublished.  Poetry is also welcome. 
-Multiple submissions are fine, so if you find several of these prompts interesting, go to town!
-Pay is between $25-50.
-Submit electronically before February 1 for the spring issue.  Other submission dates and first lines are available on their website.

You can read (and listen to) Melinda Brasher's most recent short story sale at Pseudopod.  It's a tale of a man who doesn't believe in superstition...until he has to.  You can also find her fiction in Ember, Timeless Tales, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and others. If you're dreaming about traveling to Alaska next summer, check out her guide book, Cruising Alaska on a Budget; a Cruise and Port Guide. Visit her online at

Try These Christmas Writing Prompts for a Little Creative Writing Practice

The holidays are a fun time to get in a little creative writing practice when you have a few spare moments.

Here are 10 new Christmas writing prompts to help you get started.

Choose one prompt to begin a new short story or combine several prompts to come up with an interesting tale.

1. It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

2. Donna and her husband had saved all year so they could pay cash for all their Christmas presents. But then the furnace conked out on December 1st, just as Donna was getting ready to start her Christmas shopping.

3. Janice hadn't heard from her brother in over seven years. But now he was coming home for Christmas.

4. Most people looked forward to Christmas every year, but not Harold.

5. "Christmas is going to be different for us this year," Mary announced to her family at breakfast one morning in early December.

6. "I can't believe you got fired two weeks before Christmas," Terri said to her husband. "What are we going to do?"

7. It had been a difficult year for the residents of the tiny town of West Falls, but now everyone was looking forward to the holidays and a much better new year.

8. "Let's go to the mall," said Mom. "Santa will be there today and you can tell him what you'd like for Christmas."

9. It was just your typical office Christmas party until...

10. Sandra knew just what to get her husband, Matt, for Christmas this year.

Happy writing and happy holidays!

For more writing prompts each week, visit

And get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge at for a short email every weekday morning with writing tips and resources.

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 35 published books and a writing coach.

Surviving December

This time of year, it's essential to remember balance.

You have extra obligations - social and end of the year wrap ups - along with likely some additional stress. Plus, if you work full time and have side projects, writing and otherwise, you'll find yourself extra over-extended.

Remember, you cannot function if you don't pace yourself.

With that in mind, here are 10 things you can do in December to stay healthy and happy

1. Write out your top 3 wins for the year. Look at it whenever you are feeling stressed, discouraged, or like you haven't accomplished enough lately. You have!

2. Go through your todo list for December. Eliminate or postpone any non-essential tasks. Then, in January, eliminate anything you postponed that doesn;t actually need to get done.

3. Take a nap. You know you want to.

4. Say "no" at least three times. You are responsible to yourself, first and foremost. If someone asks you to do something that will not propel you forward - and that you don't have the bandwidth to accomplish - it's okay to decline. And DO NOT explain yourself. It's not necessary.

5. Reward yourself. You deserve it.

6. Eat healthy. Be mindful that you will likely be more exposed to more treats than normal. Don't deprive yourself, but don't over indulge.

7. Workout at least twice a week.  Okay, once. And it can be a brisk walk or a YouTube video exercise. Or just dance to music around your home. Re-read #6 of you need a reminder to stay active.

8. Read a book. You know, the one that's been sitting by your bed for the last three months. It's okay. You can read for a few minutes.

9. Accomplish one more thing. Go through your todo list - the ones that made the cut - and  cross something off of it. You should probably get  it done first, tho. It'll feel great. Trust me.

10. Think about your 2019 goals. You have lots to do. Start planning what you want your wins to be this time next year.

Happy Holidays!

How do you survive December? Please share your recommendations in the comments.

* * *

Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of The D*E*B Method: Goal Setting Simplified and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook 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 #GoalChat Twitter Chat. Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Make Your Children’s Writing Website Focused

By Karen Cioffi

Is your site on the mark?

As we get caught up in our writing careers sometimes it’s easy to forget to remain focused.

That’s a no-no! It’s important to present a focused brand and site.

Okay, so what are three website must-haves and six tips?

The Must-Haves

1. Create a website using your own name.

As a writer, whether you’re co-writing with someone or not, you need your own website. And, your main (hub) site should have your name in it. This will be your central site linking off to your other related sites.

As an example, my children’s writing site is: Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

Now, with this title I have two essential elements covered: (1) my name, (2) the site’s keyword.

The visitor and search engines can quickly determine what the site is about. This is super important for website ranking and authority.
While there are a number of other areas that need your keyword for website optimization, the title is one of the top ones.

Note: In this case, when I say “title,” I mean the URL also. Your URL is an optimization tool. It gives the search engines more information the site.

So, using my site above, the URL is

My site’s title and its URL both have the always-important keywords in them. This is focus.

2. Include the niche you write in as part of your URL and website title.

This was touched on in number one above. If you write in only one niche, say children’s historical fantasy, you should have that keyword in the title of your site, as well as in the domain name. Then you can have one site to list all your books. Just be sure to create separate pages for each book.

Tip: It’s really a much better idea to create a separate website for each book, in addition to your central author site. It allows you to create multiple must-have pages for each book. See number 4 in the tips below.

HOT TIP: If your title is too long, it’s better to use the niche keyword, say ‘children’s historical fantasy,’ and omit your name.

Unless you’re Eric Carle, or Kevin Henkes, or James Patterson, you’re name has no search engine value.

3. If you are branding yourself as a children’s writer, keep your site specific to writing for children.

I originally had a problem with this. I ventured into a number of writing arenas including content writing and online marketing. Instead of keeping those areas separate, I brought them into my children’s writing site.

So, why is this a mistake? Well, because of dilution of expertise.

If you’re branding yourself as a children’s writer, the focus of your site must be children’s writing. If you promote yourself as ‘doing this, that, and the other thing,’ you’ll become known as the ‘jack of all trades and master of none,’ – dilution of expertise.

TIP: If you’re also involved in other writing arenas as I am, create a separate sites for promoting yourself as an expert in those areas. You wouldn’t want to have your steamy romance books listed on your children’s writing site.

Remember, whatever your site’s niche is, keep it focused on that niche.

6 TIPS for a Better Website/Blog

1. Always have an about page on each of your sites, include a short bio and photo.

2. Always have an opt-in box (for your mailing list) readily visible on your sites.

3. Always make sure your visitors can easily find how to contact you – a contact page is a good idea.

4. Have a page for reviews of your books, excerpts of your books, testimonials, illustrations, awards, etc. You can also link to interviews others have done about you and your books. (This is where a separate site for each book comes in handy.)

5. Offer a resources and/or tools page. The visitor will appreciate this and hopefully share your site with others and link back to it.

6. Get a book trailer or video on your site. Mix it up. People love visuals.

Using these tips will help you create a focused and reader/search engine optimized children’s writing website.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. She is also an author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

You can check out Karen’s e-classes through WOW! at: 


Writing to Get Published – 4 Basic Steps

Is Series Writing for You?

Raise Your Writing Standards

Dr. Judith Briles Gives Away Million Dollar Speaking Secrets

Because of ethical conflicts, I rarely review books. Occasionally I make an exception when a book that can help the publishing industry in some way comes along. This is one of those times. As you will see, authors interested in publishing have needed the latest information possible on the best marketing device for success ever for a long time. Ta da! Now comes Dr. Judith Briles’ How to Create a $1,000,000 Speechthe kind of advice that comes from experience!  

TITLE: How to Create a $1,000,000 Speech
AUTHORS: Dr. Judith Briles
PUBLISHER: Mile High Press, LTD.
ISBN:  978-1885331-67-0
293 pages, $25.00
GENRE: Nonfiction
CATEGORY: Speaking/Careers

Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, 
author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

My first serious introduction to self-publishing was at a SPAN conference in Atlanta (Small Publishers of North America); it was there I was introduced to a very fat volume on self-publishing by Marilyn Ross that included the idea that real publishing includes marketing. She also applauded speaking as the best wayto market a book—read that as the most assured path to success.

Since then, I have recommended a couple of super speakers’ books to my clients and in the appendixes of my #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers and, I’ve pointed to the writing (and speaking) career of the late Dan Poynter as an example of how well speaking benefits a writing career—and vice versa. 

Now, years later, Dr. Judith Briles, adds her How to Create a $,000,000 Speech to the battery of my choice for “Best Books on Speaking.” And trust me, it is not a long list! 

Though the title may seem as if it is promising more than speaking can deliver, it is not. I have seen speaking make many authors a ton of money over the years and build writing careers as it does so. One side-benefit that always appealed to me: Travel.

Have I convinced you of the possibilities? Then the next step is to study up.  And may I suggest you start with Briles’ book? For the fun of it. For the enthusiasm and inspiration between those royal purple covers. And for the all-in-one-place advice you’ll get on the process. 

Patricia Tripp, CSP and Past President of the National Speakers Association, said it perfectly and I can’t beat that: “Learning from Judith Briles could well be your best purchase of the year.” 

It boils down to experience. And, of course, Judith’s near-unique ability to tap that experience and organize it into a book you won’t want to put down or relegate to a bookshelf. Not when you can keep it near your computer to nudge you toward your speaking goal a little each day.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The
books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won multiple awards. That series includes both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoterand The Frugal Editorwon awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethicallyis her newest how-to book and her newest poetry book is Imperfect Echoes.

Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. 
The author loves to travel. She has visited nearly ninety countries and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague, as well as USC, her alma mater. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her website

The Book Summary – Five Must-Know Components

After your book query, the book summary or description is the most important marketing element. You can think of it as number 2 on the book marketing ladder.

Once your book query gets the reader to actually read it, the summary is what will entice the editor or agent to ask for more.

If you’re writing fiction, this means taking your novel, short story, or other fiction genre and reducing it, condensing it, to around 200 words. Many authors, especially new ones, have a difficult time with this. How do you turn a 35,000 children middle grade book into 200 words? How do you turn a 250,000 word novel into 200 words?


Well, as impossible as it may seem, that’s what you need to do to get your manuscript out your door and into a publishing house.

So, what’s involved in writing a ‘killer’ book summary?

According to Margaret Fortune, in an article at Writer’s Digest, the “synopsis [summary] is about one thing: Convincing an agent [or editor] to read your book.” (1)

Again, you book query made the editor/agent look, but it’s the summary that will have her wanting more.

The summary breaks the manuscript into five primary components:

1. Main characters

Once the reader gets to the point of reading your summary, you need to provide an engaging protagonist (main character). This very brief portrayal must demonstrate the protagonist’s individuality. The reader must be able to relate to the character through some trait, goal, peculiarity, or other.

In my middle grade fantasy adventure, the protagonist didn’t want to labor in the fields like his father. He wanted more. He wanted to find the Eternals, a mystical group who had extraordinary powers. In fact, he obsessed over finding them.

This gives the protagonist a particular characteristic. It sets him apart. 

2. Plot, including setting

This is one of the toughies. You want to be descriptive, but you need to make it lean. Give enough, but don’t give too much.

According to the article Shrink Tank by Grace Bello, “The key is to entice, not to reveal all.” (2)

TIP: A helpful way to condense your story is to first create 10 different elevator pitches for it. These are one or two sentences that you could convincing get out within a 30-60 second elevator ride.

Once you can narrow the manuscript down to an elevator pitch, you should find it easier to write a 200 word overview.

3. Tone

The tone is established through phrasing and even word choices, such as positive or negative words. The tone is subjective – it’s the author’s attitude toward the story or components within the story.

Write the summary in the same tone [narrative voice] as the book. If it’s humorous, make the summary humorous. If it a mystery or suspense, keep that tone in the summary.

4. Genre
The editor or agent will of course want to know the genre, so be sure to include it.

TIP: If you submit a children’s story to a romance book publisher, that editor won’t be interested in your story – no matter how well-crafted your summary is. So, be sure you research the publishing houses and/or agents you intend to submit your query and summary to. Be sure the accept submissions in your genre.

5. Comparable titles

While years ago, this wasn’t an issue, it is now. Agents and publishers want to know what they can compare your story to.

As an example, my middle grade fantasy, “Walking Through Walls,” is set in 16th century China. It has the elements of respect and honor that the time period conjures
up. If I had to compare it to something similar, I’d have to go with “A Single Shard,” by Linda Sue Park.

This is in no way stating it’s as good as “A Single Shard,” it’s saying that it has a similar tone and mood to that book.

TIP: Be careful with this component. You don’t want to puff your book up by comparing it to a great book. As with my example above, I’d be quick to mention that it’s only comparable in tone and mood.



(2) The Writer, October 2013, Shrink Tank, page 33.


This article was originally published at:

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. She is also an author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

You can check out Karen’s e-classes through WOW! at:


Writing Skills - Spread Your Wings

Writers - You Have Enough Time to Write

Writing a Book – Bait and Switch Editing

Tips on Adding Flashbacks to your Author Kit

A flashback is a literary device that momentarily departs from a story to a scene in the past. A flashback can be as brief as a sudden thought, a dream, or a memory. Flashback can help give your story depth, and make your main character more interesting. As Diane O’Connell, author of The Novel-Maker’s Handbook, put it on her blog, “Used wisely, flashbacks can add richness, emotional resonance and depth to your novel.”

“Flashbacks can thicken plots, create dynamic and complex characters, reveal information otherwise left unspoken, or surprise the audience with shocking secrets. A large part of a character’s essence can be found in the past and the memories which resurface over time.” (Helpful examples of flashbacks can be found on this site as well.)

“Using flashbacks wisely” is the key. If you’d like to try using flashback in your story, follow these tips and read the articles suggested at the end of this post, and you’ll be good to go.

The Good News First
When a flashback scene enhances your story:
  • A scene that depicts an incident from your protagonist’s childhood could shed light on her current situation and help your reader understand her better.
  • An incident that occurred before your story began, in a far-off time and place, could enhance your story present. 
  • What has driven your character to act? Something that happened to her in the past? Flashing back to that incident could help explain her motives.
Now for the pitfalls:
  • The biggest disadvantage of flashbacks is that they happened in the past. Not in story time. 
  • Flashbacks need to be done effectively to avoid removing your reader from your story.
Tips for Effective Flashbacks
  • Never start a scene with a flashback.
  • Have a flashback follow a strong scene.
  • Keep flashback brief.
  • Make sure the flashback advances the story.
  • Use flashbacks sparingly.
  • Orient reader at the start of a flashback, in time and space, and transition back to the story present.
  • Tenses: for past tense, use past perfect and simple past; for present tense, use present tense in the entire flashback, and resume story in present tense.
  • Transitioning: Make transitions clear. Use the above tenses to guide readers in and out of flashback.
The following flashback, as Nancy Kress wrote in her Writer's Digest article, does a good job of transition. It’s from Thomas Perry’s mystery novel Sleeping Dogs. Protagonist Michael Schaeffer, a former hit man, has just come upon the site of a multiple murder:

All his old habits came back automatically. At a glance he assessed [everyone’s] posture and hands. Was there a man whose fingers curled in a little tremor when their eyes met, a woman whose hand moved to rest inside her handbag? He knew all the practical moves and involuntary gestures, and he scanned everyone, granting no exceptions. He and Eddie had done a job like this one when he was no more than twelve. Eddie had dressed him for baseball, and had even bought him a new glove to carry folded under his arm. When they had come upon the man in the crowd, he hadn’t even seen them; his eyes were too occupied in studying the crowd for danger to waste a moment on a little kid and his father walking home from a sandlot game. As they passed the man … (From “3 Tips for Writing Successful Flashbacks,” by Nancy Kress.)

Flash Forward
The opposite of flashback is a glance at the future, or the flash forward. Example:

  • The light flashed so bright, Emma had to shut her eyes. She couldn’t know that once she took even a peek, she’d be seeing a ghost.
Flashbacks and flash forwards might come more naturally to you than you might think. While reading a few chapters of my current WIP to my husband today, I was surprised to find a flashback, written before I did my research for today's post. So, now that you know how to slip these literary devices into your own writing, if you haven't tried them yet, you might experiment with them as a way to enhance your own writing. Just keep one guideline in mind: use flashbacks and flash forwards sparingly.

Please note: My post "Live Author Interviews," Part II from last month's post, "Tips on Author Interviews" will be appearing soon.
Clipart courtesy of: 

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. Her first book, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, is hot off the press and will be available soon. Currently, she is hard at work on The Ghost of Janey Brown, Book Two in the series. Follow Linda at

Write for Magazine Publication - series #7

Writing for Magazine Publication is a great way to monetize your writing and test your topic for readership interest. This series has offered tips for magazine publishing. (Topic archive below)

Essays are all about the writer; articles are all about the reader. An essay is an opinion piece. An article is non-fiction text.

Today, we’ll talk about a long form magazine agreement, which may be used when the editor is interested in hiring you to write an article or essay.

Magazine Contract:
Contracts cover all pertinent information, and must be considered point by point. Take it slow and break it down item by item to know the conditions you are committed to deliver.
The main sections and subsections are:

1.       Payment method and rate
a.       Payment upon acceptance or on publication, but typically between 30-90 days
2.       Rights and responsibilities
a.       First North American Serial Rights,
1.        Provides the publisher exclusive rights to be the first to publish your article. Note the time period for this exclusivity, commonly 90 days.
b.      One Time Rights,
1.        Gives the publisher the right to publish your article one time
c.       Second Serial Rights or Reprint Rights,
1.        Grants the publisher a nonexclusive right to publish, one time, a piece already published somewhere else.
d.      All Rights
1.        You are selling all the rights to your article to the publisher—this takes careful consideration. What if you want to publish the article somewhere else? And, what if they rework the piece so much that it’s not yours any longer?
e.       Electronic Rights
1.        This means all forms of electronic media: CE’s, DVD’s, games, apps, etc.
3.       Deadlines and format for delivery, and
4.      Word count

These links may be helpful to you:
Contributor’s Agreement Sample

Kerrie Flanagan’s new book is an informative resource:
“Writer’s Digest Guide to Magazine Article Writing”  by Kerrie Flanagan

This series offers tips and ideas for magazine publishing: a list of genres or categories and where we find ideas (posted 5.25.18), research tips (posted 6.25.18), standard templates for essay and article pieces (7.25.18), query letters (informal known to editor 8.25.18) and (formal query tips 9.25.18), guidelines for submission (posted 10.25.18), and contracts (posted 11.25.2018), LOA & copyright tips.

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts. Visit her web-blog: Deborah Lyn Stanley : MyWriter's Life .  

Write clear & concise, personable yet professional. 
Know your reader. 
Use quotes & antidotes.

Active vs. Passive Writing: Energize Your Prose!

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