Villain or Antagonist: What's the Difference?

Is a villain and an antagonist one and the same? Sometimes, and sometimes not. First stop, the dictionary definitions:

Mwa Ha Ha

A villain is: 1. a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel; 2. A character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot.

Second, a peek on Google by searching popular villains in children’s literature (which was wicked, good fun.) A few all-time favorites:

  • Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress of Crunchem Hall Primary School, in Roald Dahl’s book and the film, Matilda, is the tyrannical educator who terrorizes her students with creative, over-the-top punishments.
  • Cruella de Vil, originally the character from the Dodie Smith 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians, who kidnaps Dalmatian puppies for their fur.
  • Captain Hook, from J.M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan, is a “callous and bloodthirsty” pirate. Note: In Disney’s animated film Peter Pan, Hook is more comical than the original villain.

The Not-so-Dastardly Antagonist

An antagonist is: 1. A person who is opposed to, struggles against, or competes with another; opponent, adversary; 2. The adversary of the hero or protagonist of a drama or other literary work: Iago is the antagonist of Othello. (Definitions from

And now for examples of popular antagonists in children’s literature—a little harder to find. This is where the words villain and antagonist get blurred. Examples found on Pinterest include the Evil Queen in Snow White, The Evil Step-Mother in Cinderella, The Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz, and so on. Villains or antagonists? You decide.

Does the Difference Between a Villain and an Antagonist Even Matter?
Summed up:
  • A villain is evil, through and through. His motivations are evil and his actions are evil.
  • An antagonist opposes the protagonist. She causes conflict with the main character.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road
In my WIP, I have crafted an antagonist. I wanted to make sure he isn’t simply a one-dimensional character. Through research and reflecting on personal experience, I think I have found a way to make him quite an interesting, and I’m hoping compelling, fellow. Below, I have used the term “villain,” but I think the same holds true for your antagonist.
  • Understand your villain’s motives: Make her as detailed and nuanced as your main character. Achieve this, and you’ve uncovered one of the most important keys to a compelling story. Where to begin? Get personal. Mine your personal experiences and the people you have known and expand from there.
  • Find a model: Your villain can be based on someone you know, a celebrity, or someone you’ve seen on TV. I’m guessing most women have had a catty gf at one time in their lives, someone who wouldn’t be considered a friend, and may have even done mean things to them. I’ve had two incidences that I know of (luckily, I’ve been spared from knowing any more than that!), one in early grade school and the other as an adult. At the time these incidences occurred I was devastated. My adult experience took me about two years to get over—after two years I said Enough! and finally was able to let go of the hold the experience had on me. 
  • Describe your villain as carefully as you’ve described your main character: Add to your villain’s persona a drooping eyelid, a telltale scar slashed across his cheek, or something that connotes this character’s dark side.
  • Conjure up how your own misfortunes made you feel: Keep these feelings in a notebook. If your model is a stranger, watch how their misdeeds make the protagonist feel. Show these feelings in your story. Caveat: Little did I know that later I would be able to draw on the bad feelings I experienced to help me empathize with what mean words and actions can do to my characters. And also, how my experiences have helped me craft my villains.
  • Nail down your villain’s motivation: Was it something bad that happened to her in the past? Did he do something, such as steal something small, find that he enjoyed the thrill of living on the edge, and try for bigger and better spoils?
  • Show that your villain is fearful of something: J.M. Barrie’s Captain Hook, from his play Peter Pan, had two fears: the sight of his own blood, and the crocodile who pursues him after eating the hand cut off by Pan. In Roald Dahl’s book and the film Matilda, Miss Trunchbull is very superstitious and has an intense fear of ghosts, black cats, and the supernatural in general. 
  • Show that your villain has a good side: Each article I researched made the point that portraying your villain as all bad risks creating a cardboard character. He will be more human if he has some good qualities.  J.K. Rowling does this expertly in Harry Potter. Lord Voldemort was once a student at Hogwarts, just like the series’ hero.
  • Show that your villain is likeable: In Mark Twain’s book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, according to Cliffs Notes, thirteen-year-old Huck Finn’s “literal, pragmatic approach to his surroundings and his inner struggle with his conscience that make him one of the most important and recognizable figures in American literature . . . He is playful but practical, inventive but logical, compassionate but realistic, and these traits allow him to survive the abuse of Pap, the violence of a feud, and the wiles of river con men." 
  • Have a clear idea of the conflict between the villain and the hero in your story: How does your hero thwart your villain’s main goal? At your story’s climax, your villain and hero need to confront each other alone. Make the stakes as high as possible by ramping up the obstacles the villain has thrown in your hero’s path.

Follow these guidelines and read more detailed information on the creation of your villain/antagonist by consulting the list of articles below that contributed to this post.; post by Annika Griffith
Clipart of villain courtesy of: Clipart Panda

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 has completed her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, and is hard at work on Book Two in the series.  Follow Linda at

Writing - Brainstorming for Ideas

Brainstorming is a technique for generating ideas and creative solutions. Several formats and can be utilized for a group, one on one, or independently.

My first experience was during a company training session. A problem was presented and discussion guided by a facilitator.  Throughout the discussion, ideas written on postett notes lined the walls. Each participant was encouraged to contribute, no idea too quirky to build upon. When each member is involved in developing solutions, they’re much more likely committed to see it through.

It is interesting that in studies individual brainstorming generates more and often better ideas than group storming because people find they can be freer and more creative without dread of group egos.

Five Techniques for Effective Brainstorming:

1.    Brain Writing is a technique to get everyone in a group involved in the generating of ideas. The basic process is to separate the idea generation from discussion. Each individual writes their ideas then submits to the facilitator directly. Often, away from distraction and public opinion, this format develops more unique ideas.

2.    Starbursting focuses on forming questions instead of answers, beginning with who, what, where, when and why.

3.    Mind Mapping may be the most classical approach and the one I've seen most often. The written goal is noted in a center circle, with lines branching out to subtopics, and again for subcategories. Circled notes continue as ideas continue to form.

4.    Blind Writing is freeform writing, forcing you to put pen to paper for a minimum of 10 minutes to open up fresh ideas. The one rule is that you must keep writing for those 10 minutes.

5.    Reverse Storming is idea generation in the opposite, gathering ideas of how I can stop a goal from succeeding. It helps to uncover new approaches.

For additional information see:  

Deborah Lyn Stanley is a writer of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and story. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts, which she often writes about. Visit her web-blog: Deborah Lyn Stanley : MyWriter's Life .

“Write your best, in your voice, your way!

The Writing Life Details Are Important

By W. Terry Whalin

Let me begin with good news. Every writer can learn the skill of handling the details. Some of us are only focused on the big picture with our writing. We are determined to complete a particular book or magazine article and writing on it every day to meet this goal. Yet the craft of your words and storytelling is important. Are you sending it to the right editor? Are you using the correct spelling of that editor's name? The details matter.

A while ago, I purchased all of the remaining copies of Book Proposals That Sell. With over 130 Five Star reviews and great feedback about this book over the years, I know it has helped many writers to succeed in the world of publishing—no matter what type of book you write. I wrote this book from my passion as a frustrated acquisitions editor to help writers send better submissions. If you don't have a copy, it has never been so inexpensive and available only from me. Follow the link to learn more details.

As a part of this effort, I purchased a website, wrote the words for that website, created special bonuses and have been telling others about this effort through emails, articles and twitter. In the process of setting up this launch, I created five emails on autoresponders. These autoresponders contained the bonus items for those who purchased the book.

During this creation process, I received an email from one of these people who purchased Book Proposals That Sell. He had not received these bonus item emails. The email clued me that something was wrong some place in the process. I investigated my shopping cart and learned that I neglected to click one button in one place. From working with computers for years, I've learned one simple truth: the computer only does what you tell it to do.  I had skipped one important detail and no one got their bonus items. Talk about embarrassing! To straighten it out, one by one, I sent all five bonus items via email to each individual. Now that my shopping cart is fixed, the process of sending these bonuses is automated.

There are several lessons for you from my experience:

1. The details are essential. As writers, you ignore them at your own peril. Your submissions will not hit the target nor get results if you do not work at the details.

2. Listen to your audience. When they tell you something, spring into action or make adjustments.

3. Deliver on your promises. Your word and integrity are important. And if something goes wrong, apologize (everyone is human) and then fix it as soon as possible.

4. Work hard to maintain and keep your relationships. Years ago, I heard John Kremer, author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Book say, “Selling books is all about building relationships.” See the truth in this statement?

Whatever you are writing or promoting, the relationship is critical and the details of your writing life are important.

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing and the author of more than 60 books including Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success (available exclusively through this website with bonuses even though this book has over 130 Five Star Amazon reviews). He blogs about The Writing Life and lives in Colorado and has over 200,000 twitter followers.


Why are the details of your writing life important? Here's four practical lessons. (ClickToTweet)

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The One Sentence Pitch for Your Manuscript

Your one sentence pitch is a very condensed, super-tight yet concise description of your story, specifically the plot of your story. Think of it as a one sentence calling card – you’re unique selling proposal or proposition. It's a beginning step on your book marketing journey.

You might ask why does it have to be only one sentence. Well, it may happen that the time you have to pitch your manuscript is under a minute.

Suppose you’re at a conference and happen to get on the elevator at the end of the day with a frazzled publisher or agent. You want that very short span of pitching time to be as effective as you can make it, without annoying or further frazzling your target.

It may be the only opportunity you’ll have for a direct, although very brief, uninterrupted pitch.

This is where the one sentence pitch come in.

The one sentence pitch, also known as a logline, takes time, effort, and a lot of practice. You need to condense your entire manuscript into one sentence. Within that sentence you need to harness the soul of your story (the plot) in a simple, concise, and hooking pitch.

The general writing consensus is to do your best and create one sentence that tells what your story is about.

Once you have it nailed, expand it into a few more, adding only the most important aspects of the story.

This expanded version is considered your elevator pitch. And, it's an excellent practice for tight writing.

This way you’ll have two different versions of a micro pitch. It’s important to always be prepared – you never know when or where you may come upon an unsuspecting publisher or agent . . .  maybe you’ll have a few seconds, maybe you’ll have 3 minutes.


From Nathan Bransford (1)

Three kids trade a corndog (FLAVOR OF THE STORY) for a spaceship, blast off into space (OPENING CONFLICT), accidentally break the universe (OBSTACLE), and have to find their way back home (QUEST).

From Writer’s Digest (2)

NOT: “A burning skyscraper threatens the lives of thousands, including a pregnant woman trapped on the top floor.”
INSTEAD: “A former firefighter, fired for insubordination, races to save the lives of thousands of people in a burning skyscraper, including his pregnant wife.”

From Madeline Smoot (3):

The Emerald Tablet — In this midgrade science fiction novel, a telepathic boy discovers that he is not really human but a whole different species and that he must save a sunken continent hidden under the ocean.

From Janice Hardy (4)

A meek bank teller discovers a magical ancient mask that unleashes his deepest desires — and gives him superhuman abilities to act on them. (The Mask)

And, here’s my own one sentence pitch for my children’s fantasy chapter book. The 39 word version hooked a contract with a publisher:

Twelve-year-old Wang decides he’ll be rich and powerful if he can become a mystical Eternal; but after a year of hard work as an apprentice, and very little magic, he quits, but not before learning to walk through walls.

Obviously, if you have a scheduled pitch you will need to adhere to the publisher or agent’s rules as to the word count. But, even if nothing is scheduled, it’s a good idea to have that logline on hand for that you-never-know moment.



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. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

Check out the DIY Page and don’t forget to sign up for the Newsletter that has great monthly writing and book marketing tips.

And, get your copy of Walking Through Walls (a middle-grade fantasy adventure set in 16th century China. Honored with the Children’s Literary Classics Silver Award.


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Writing - Rules of the Road

Contributed by Valerie Allen

Writers are always striving to be successful . . . to hone their craft.

Well to be successful, every writer needs to be aware of the most common standards in the publishing industry.

Here are some basic rules for clear text and easy reading:

1.    Use a word processing program. You may enjoy the kinetic energy that comes from hand written work, but ultimately your manuscript must be in a word processing document to meet publication standards.

2.    Use one inch margins on all sides; justify text. Chapter headings are typically centered.

3.    Use 12 point type, simple fonts. Times New Roman is universally accepted but sometimes titles or chapter headings are done in a different font to add interest or focus attention for the reader.

4.    Use one space at the end of a sentence. When typewriters were popular the rule was two periods at the end of the sentence due to differing sizes of letters.

5.    Dialogue requires quotation marks.
    (“Where are you?”)

6.    Start a new paragraph with each different speaker. This is especially important when there are more than two speakers.

7.    Keep the speaker’s action and dialogue in the same paragraph.
    (“What are you doing?” Valerie asked, as she entered the kitchen.)

8.    Use subject verb sentence structure.
    (USE: “This is important,” Valerie said.)
    (NOT: “This is important,” said Valerie.)

9.    For time sequence use both words: and then.
    (USE: She picked up a pen, and then wrote a note.)
    (NOT: She picked up the pen, then wrote a note.)

10.    Punctuation marks go inside quotation marks.
    (“Here I am,” Valerie said. “Where are you?”)

11.    An apostrophe replaces a missing letter (goin’, don’t. 'tis)

12.    Use italics for internal thoughts of the characters.
    (USE: That nasty old women!)
    (NOT: That nasty old women!, Valerie thought.)

13.    Limit the use of exclamation points (!) and dashes (-)

14.    Use only one punctuation mark at the end of a sentence.
    (USE: “You did what?”)
    (NOT: “You did what?!!!”)

15.    Avoid clich├ęs.

16.    Avoid over-use of fillers in your sentences: that, very, just, really, maybe, perhaps, got

17.   Consider if a character is  “asking” or “telling.” 
   (USE: “What time is it?,” Valerie asked.) 
   (NOT: “What time is it?,” Valerie said.)

Follow these basic rules to have your work appear professional and appeal to editors, agents, and publishers as well as to your readers.

Valerie Allen writes fiction, nonfiction, short stories and children's books. She assists writers with marketing via She hosts two major annual events in warm and sunny Florida. Meet the Authors Book Fair in the Fall and the Writers' Conference: Write, Publish, Sell! in the Spring. Vendor tables and presentations encourage networking and marketing to increase book sales. Book Display options are available for authors throughout the USA. Valerie loves to hear from readers and writers! Contact her at:


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21 Ways to Network with Other Writers

If you're a writer, creating a wide network of other professional writers will enhance your own career.

You'll be able to share information and other resources with people who all have at least one thing in common—they love to write.

Here are 21 ways to broaden your professional network.

1. Join listservs and online forums for writers.

Here are a few to try:

Absolute Writer Water Cooler
This forum welcome writers of all genres.
It is a well-moderated community and very active.

Writers Digest Forum
This forum is from the publishers of Writer’s Digest Magazine.
You’ll find all sorts of writing related topics covered in this active forum for writers.

Writing Forums
Opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in their craft.

Writers can also participate in forum competitions.

2. Join social networking sites such as twitter, facebook, linkedin, and

The key to these sites is you should be an active member and not just someone who reads the posts of other writers.

Reading and then sharing the posts of other writers on these social media sites helps these writers get to know you, and they will usually start sharing your posts with their followers, too.

3. Visit other writers' blogs and leave a meaningful comment along with a link to your writer's blog or website.

I welcome helpful comments at, for example.

And I like to return the favor by visiting the sites of everyone who comments at my site and leaving a comment.

Over time, this is a great way to add other writers to your professional network.

4. Host an Internet radio show for writers.

There are many Internet Radio networks.

Listen to some of the shows on various networks before you decide to start your own show.

You'll find shows at:

5. Sign up for online writers' workshops.

You’ll find all sorts of online workshops for writers.

Check out sites like, Wow! Women on Writing, and even my site, WritebytheSea for lists of upcoming or ongoing workshops you might enjoy and learn from.

6. Start your own blog for writers.

Note, however that a blog for readers should be somewhat different from a blog for writers.

Visit several blogs for writers and see what type of content these sites tend to post.

7. Start your own networking group for writers.

You can do this either online or offline. is a good place to go online to help get an in-person writer’s group started.

It does cost something each month to have your group on the site, however.

But simply charge a $3.00 or so fee at each meeting and you should be able to more than cover the monthly charge.

8. Host other writers on virtual book tours.

If you have a new book to promote, you can take turns hosting each other’s blog tours.

9. Guest post on other writers' blogs.

If you follow my blog at or read my Morning Nudge, you know that guest blogging is something I’m helping my clients and readers focus on right now.

That’s because guest blogging is not only a great way to network with other writers, it’s a great way to build your own creadibility and online visiblity as a writer.

10. Start a free newsletter for writers.

I started The Morning Nudge in 2006, and have been publishing this free email every weekday morning since then.

It gives me a great way to connect with other writers, many of whom turn into clients and customers as well as good friends.

Why not start your own newsletter for writers?

You don't have to publish it as often as my Morning Nudge.

Just once a month would be good to start.

11. Teach online workshops for writers or start your own offline workshops for writers.

I’ve been teaching online workshops for years.

Recently I added offline workshops here on the Treasure Coast in Florida where I live.

It’s always fun to connect with writers all across the planet via online workshops, but it’s also fun meeting people face-to-face each week at an offline venue.

12. Host your own teleseminar series for writers.

You can even charge for this.

You’ll need some sort of service so you can reach many callers at once.

Instant Teleseminar

13. Use articles from other writers on your site(s) that you find on online directories such as

The authors of these articles will drive traffic to your site if they know you're featuring one of their articles there.

And you can start networking with these authors on a regular basis once you've featured one or more of their articles on your site.

14. Became a guest on Internet Radio Shows about writing.

To find radio shows for this, check out

15. Start a mailing list so you can stay in regular contact with other writers who join your list.

You don't need a newsletter to start a mailing list.

Simply send out an email "broadcast" each time you post something new to your blog.

Everyone on your list will get this email and many will go to your site to read your new post there.

When they do, if they leave comments, you'll know who they are, so you can make a point of visiting their sites and commenting, too.

16. Create a coaching program to coach other writers.

What is your area of writing expertise?

Use your knowledge and expertise to not only network with other writers but to profit from it as well.

You'll be able to reach out to writers everywhere with something that can really help them.

17. Interview other writers and post the interviews at your site.

You can do written interviews, audio interviews, or even videos that feature interviews.

18. Form joint ventures with other writers.

You can turn those interviews into audios you sell to other writers, for example.

You can also help other writers set up teleseminars or create online workshops, which you promote jointly and both profit from.

19. Introduce writers you know to each other (via email, for example).

I've met many professional writers this way.

Some of them even gave me tips for finding assignments, including editors names, etc.

20. Start a blogchain or meme for writers.

This is a good way for a group of writers to grow their online following.

With a blog chain, everyone in the chain tries to visit all the blogs on the chain and leave a comment.

Each blog in the chain also includes a link to the next blog on the chain, so it's a great way to increase your following.

You'll meet all sorts of writers when you either create your own blogchain for writers or you join someone else's chain.

21. Sign up for other writers' online newsletters.

You'll get some great writing tips and other resources. You'll also get to know more about these writers, so eventually you'll know who to approach for joint ventures, etc.

Now...I'm sure you have additional ways you network with other writers.

Care to share?

Just leave a comment to let everyone know how you network with other writers.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of 35 published books (at last count) and a writing coach.

She lives and writes by the sea in Jensen Beach, Florida.

Learn more about her books and her coaching services at and sign up for her free email, The Morning Nudge, with tips and resources for writers delivered to your mailbox every weekday morning.

Successful Writing Strategy: Know Your Intent

Intent is a crucial factor in success. But, what exactly does this mean?

According to Merriam-Webster, intent is an aim, a clear and “formulated or planned intention.” It is a purpose, “the act or fact of intending.”

Intent is a necessary factor on any path to success, including your path to writing success. You need to know what you want, what you’re striving for. And, that knowledge has to be clearly defined.

An unclear destination or goal is similar to being on a path that has very low hanging branches, an assortment of rocks that may hinder your forward movement, uneven and rugged terrain, branches and even logs strewn across the road; you get the idea. You kind of step over the debris, look around or through the branches, you don’t have a clear view of where you’re going.

A clear-cut goal is akin to walking on a smooth and clear path. No goal related obstacles to hinder your forward momentum or vision.

But, let me add to the sentence above, while intent is crucial, it’s an active and passionate pursuit of your intent that will actually allow you to achieve success. It reminds me of a passage in the Bible at James 24:26, “Faith without works is dead.”

While the intent is there, if you don’t actively take the needed steps to get from A to B, walk-the-walk, rather than just talk-the-talk, you’ll never reach your goal.

To realize your intent, it would be beneficial for you to create a list of questions and statements outlining the specifics to that intent.

A few of questions you might include are:

- What is your ultimate success goal?
- What does the obtainment of your goal mean?
- After picturing it, what does success look like to you?
- How will you reach your goal?

So, how would you answer these questions?

As a writer, perhaps your goal is to write for one or two major magazines. Maybe you’d prefer to be published in a number of smaller magazines. Possibly you want to author a book a year and have them published by traditional publishing houses. Or, maybe you want to self-publish your own books at a faster or slower pace.

Maybe success to you is to make a comfortable living, or you may be very happy with simply supplementing your income. Maybe you want to be a professional, sought after ghostwriter or copywriter. Maybe you want to be a coach, a speaker, offer workshops, or present teleseminars. These are just some of the potential goals for a writer.

Whatever your vision of success is, you need to see it clearly, write it down (it’d be a good idea to also create a vision board), and take the necessary steps to get you where you want to be.

If you find you have a realistic success vision, and are taking the necessary steps to achieve your envisioned intent, at least you think you are, but you still can’t seem to reach the goal, then perhaps your efforts aren’t narrowly focused enough. Maybe your success vision is too broad.

Wanting to be a writer is a noble endeavor, but it’s a very broad target. There are so many niches within the writing arena that if you don’t focus on one or two in particular, you’ll be known as a ‘jack of all trades, master of none.’

Try narrowing down, fine tuning your goal. Remember, it’s essential to be specific and focused.

It might be to your advantage to create success steps that continually move you forward on the path to reaching your ultimate goal.

For someone new to writing, the first step on a writing career would be to learn the craft of writing.

You might give yourself a year or two to join writing groups, take advantage of writing workshops or classes, write for article directories, or create stories.

You should also be part of at least one critique group. This would be your first step to achieving your intent, your success vision.

Instead of trying to go directly from A to B, it might be more effective to go from A to A1 to A2 to A3 . . . to B. But, again, for each step, the intent, a clear-cut vision, and the driving passion all need to be front and center.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter/ rewriter. For tips on writing for children OR if you need help with your project, contact me at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

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Journaling: A Writer's Best Friend

Whenever someone asks me how to get unstuck - and believe me, I get this question a lot - my immediate response is journaling.

Whenever someone asks me how to improve their writing, I tell them to start journaling.

Whenever someone asks me how to develop a new idea, I say - you guessed it - journaling.

The concept of journaling typically conjures memories of a tiny book, which harbors your deepest thoughts and secrets, and is locked up with a small key. However, whether you call it journaling, brainstorming, or free-writing, the process of getting words out of your head and onto the page can be cathartic, practice, or solve any number of problems. 

Here's how to use journaling to improve your writing, as well as your quality of life.

1. Problem-Solving. It is nearly impossible to solve a problem - writing or other - solely inside your head. Yet, when you write things out and look at them objectively, it helps with clarity and direction.

For example, let's say you don't know what you want your character to do next. Put yourself in your character's shoes and start journaling from their point of view. This will help you take a deeper dive into their background ... and enable them (your characters) to give you a suitable direction. 

Let's say you are having trouble with your outline. Journal several scenarios, set them aside, and look at them fresh the next day.

Stream-of-consciousness writing, whether it's as the author of the character, can help you solve a multitude of problems.

2. Practicing. The best way to improve you writing is by writing. The more you do it (practice), the better you become. It's like any sport of form of exercise.

What's a better way to practice writing than journaling. You are writing for yourself, and so you can pretty much put anything you want down on paper ... no audience, no judgement. It also helps you to develop your style and tone. When you write about the things you observe and experience, you don't need to think about it. You can just write, explore, and improve.

Note: Beginning writers, especially, may want to read their journal entries out loud (in private, of course), since that's the best way to catch any mistakes.

3. Pondering. Whether you are deciding the next step in a writing project, or trying to determine what to work on next, take it to your journal. Schedule a little bit of time each day to brainstorm on paper, as a way to explore your options. When you hit on something exciting, you'll know, because that will be all you will be able to journal about. It can also serve as a repository for ideas for future projects. Next time you are ready to start something new, turn to any page in your journal, and see if what you have written ignites a spark.

However you choose to use the practice of journaling is fine. And, remember, you don't only need to use it when you are stuck, need to practice, or explore what's next. It can be used on an ongoing basis to track ideas, observations, and adventures.

How do you use journaling? Please share in the comments.

* * *

Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of 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 Guided Goals Podcast and 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.

Submissions and Working with Editors

Every writer, at least hopefully, will work with an editor from time to time. While we’d all like it to be on a regular basis, time to time is better than nothing.

When in the joyous situation (you’ve gotten something accepted for publication), there are some tips that will help you in your working relationship with an editor.

The first thing, even before you think of submitting your work, is to have your manuscript or article in the best shape possible.

Getting to the Point of Submissions
1. Be part of a critique group. Every writer needs the extra eyes of writers working in the same genre. Their insights and critiques will prove to be invaluable to you.

2. Revise and self-edit . . .  repeat and repeat . . .

3. When you think your manuscript is in perfect shape, send it to a freelance editor. You may think this isn’t necessary, but it is. Ask around for one that comes with recommendations.

Now you’re set; off you go on your submissions fishing trip. But don’t just drop the line randomly; be sure you do research and find the best spot – one where you know the fish are biting.
What this means is to look for publishing houses that are best suited to your manuscript, and ones that are accepting submissions.

After you’ve found a few publishing houses suitable. Read their submission guidelines CAREFULLY, and follow them just as carefully. Now it’s time for the infamous query letter. If you’re unfamiliar with queries, do some research.

Okay, you’ve done everything you needed to, and now you cast off. AND, you get a bite.

Working with Editors

Once you’re accepted by a publishing house, you will be assigned an editor. And don’t be alarmed, but that manuscript you meticulously slaved over, and even paid an editor to go over, will end up with revisions. This is just the nature of the beast—each publishing house has their own way of doing things. They will want you’re manuscript to fit their standards.

Note: the purpose of those long hours of writing work and hiring an editor is to give your manuscript the best shot of making it past the acquisition editor’s trash pile, and actually getting accepted.

Now on to 4 tips that will help make your editor/author experience a pleasant one:

1. Always be professional.

2. Don’t get insulted when the editor requests revisions. They are not trying to hurt your feelings; they are hired by the publishing house to get your manuscript in the best possible saleable state. They want your book to sell as much as you do.

3. Keep the lines of communication open. If you have a question, ask. If you disagree with an edit, respectfully discuss it. Editors are not infallible. Sometimes your gut feeling is right.

4. Take note of deadlines and be on time. This is your career, and in some cases your livelihood.

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. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

While you're there, sign up for the Newsletter - it has great monthly writing and book marketing tips. And, check out Walking Through Walls (a middle-grade fantasy adventure set in 16th century China. Honored with the Children’s Literary Classics Silver Award.


Writing: Getting past the first blank page

Finding Writing Ideas

Plot or Character?

Items to Bring for Your In-Person Book Events

When I first started going to in-person book events, I would invariably not have something I needed. I didn’t always know I was going to need a particular item either. But now, after doing a fair number of events, I have a list of things I need to take and I take this one ‘Must-Have’ item every time.

First, my list includes:

Books (but, of course!) You won’t believe this but yes, one time I forgot my books.

Banner (I have a banner made that just says, “Meet the Author and Book Signing.” I kept it generic to be able to fit any event. Mine hangs for tent events but I’ve seen the ones that stand. That’s my next investment.)

Tablecloth (I invested in a large rectangular—maybe 120 inches long--no-iron tablecloth. You can always make a longer cloth fit a smaller table but you can’t stretch it to fit longer one.)

Book stands (to stand my books up for more visibility)

Business cards and Holders (obvious)

Signs and Plastic Holders (these are signs I’ve created and printed at home that say something like “Book Sale and Price” and I place them inside plastic holders that stand up. You need a sign that says you are selling books and for how much. It just makes sense if you’re selling anything to have a sign saying what you’re selling and the price.)

Bookmarks (I use them as promo items but I also give one to everyone who purchases a book.)

Newslettes Sign-Up Sheets (I also have a plastic sign promoting the Free Ebook they receive for signing up.)

Pens (for that exciting time when you get to sign your book to a buyer/reader!)

Glasses (I need them to see! You can omit these from your list if you don’t need them.)

Table Decorations (For me, I have toys because I’m a children’s author, but I’ve seen people have all sorts of items related to their books.)

Credit Card Scanner (Don’t miss a sale because you can only take cash.)

Ipad/Phone (to run the credit card scanner)

Candy dish and candy (because everybody likes food)

Money Bag (To keep all the money you’ll need when you sell your books and to make change)

Now, for the ‘Must Have’ Item—it’s a clear rectangular box that keeps all my “must have’s.” It is invaluable, did I say it’s something you really gotta have?!

Anyway, here’s what’s inside my box:

You can expand on my items adding more or taking less depending on what you think you’ll need but these things, man, I’ve been so glad I had them.

A folder with my Newsletter Sign Up Sheets (I have a bunch in my folder, just in case I run out. In fact, at one event, another author borrowed one because they forgot theirs.)

Pens (Lots of them in different colors because I like to sign my children’s books in fun, matching colors to the cover)

More Glasses (just in case I forget the ones I usually wear)

Scissors (heavy duty ones that’ll cut through anything)

Clothespins (You just never know when you’re going to need to clip something)

Tape (both clear and painters tape—for times when you don’t want the tape to stick to something)


Nametag (it’s important to wear a nametag. It shouldn’t just have your name, but also indicate that you’re an author. I can’t tell you how many times people are surprised when they find out I’m the author of the books I’m selling)

Square Reader with Sign that says I accept Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover

Clips to hold your tablecloth down (like picnic table clips—these are fabulous when you’re at an outdoor event and it’s windy)

Zipties (you gotta have these—invaluable, I say!)

Ziptie cutters (my heavy duty scissors don’t quite cut it, haha!)

Extra business cards

Baggies (you’d be surprised, but sometimes you need to put something in a baggie)

Hand sanitizer (you shake a lot of hands, just saying)

And last but not least, I have a rock (this came from a particularly windy day and everything was blowing everywhere and some kind soul handed me a rock, it was a lifesaver!)

This box is probably 12 x 9 x 3 or 4 inches high

It’s one of those things that keeps all my small items in one place and I can just grab it and go knowing that I have everything I need in it!

Another note: I always pack up the night before by going over my list.

And one more thing: I graduated from a rolling bin to a wagon just because I had to stack everything up in a rolly bin and in a wagon, I have more space to spread out and keep things only 2 items high. It’s easier to keep organized and find what I need.

Sometimes when I’m setting up my table and I’ve stacked things 4 high, the very thing I need first is at the bottom. But, my new wagon, the table cloth is on the side and I can grab it first without having to move anything else. Plus, it has great wheels which makes it easy to turn in tight places (which is usually is behind tables and up against a wall or another table).

Hope this helps you be prepared for your next in-person event. And if you have something else you’d like to add, I’d love to hear it!

Wanda Luthman has her Masters of Arts in both Mental Health Counseling and Guidance Counseling from Rollins College located in beautiful Winter Park, Florida. She has worked as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Adjunct Professor, and Hospice Counselor for teens. She’s currently a Guidance Counselor at a local High School. She is an award-winning, best-selling, international author who has self-published 5 children’s books (The Lilac Princess, A Turtle’s Magical Adventure, Gloria and the Unicorn, Little Birdie, and Franky the Finicky Flamingo). She belongs to the National Pen Women Organization in Cape Canaveral; the Florida’s Writers Association; Space Coast Authors; and Brevard Authors Forum. She presently resides in Brevard County Florida with her husband of 22 years and 2 dogs. Her daughter is away at college, like Little Birdie, she has left the nest. To download a free ebook, visit Wanda Luthman’s website at and follow her on Facebook at

Importance of Email Signatures with Award-Winning Author

Your Email Signature: Choosing Courteous and Great Marketing

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Borrowed from Carolyn’s free #SharingwithWriters newsletter that has been helping writers succeed since 2003.

In a public e-mail to her clients, someone near and dear to me (an expert) said most people look at the first two lines of an email. That’s it. They aren’t interested in fishing through pages of post-signature blather. People need to have ways to learn about you, not reasons to put up shields.” She advised three or four lines, tops.

Boy, did that set me off. So, these people we send mail to are in such a hurry that they’d rather spend time looking in dozens of places for the information that could just as easily have been in the contact’s e-mail signature?

Here’s my rant—er . . . rebuttal:

My old friend, I so disagree with this.

For one thing, there are no fast rules. Much depends on a writer’s preferred genre. Another depends on the author’s personality. But more than that, I view a signature as a courtesy. Put that word in caps! COURTESY!

There is nothing more annoying than getting an e-mail from someone who doesn't have proper contact information in it. And the trouble is, depending on what the recipient plans to do with the email, it is difficult for the sender to know exactly what will make the life of that contact easier.

Will she need your website address? Will including your Twitter moniker help her in some way? Won't the repeated visual of your book cover to your contacts help your branding? And if your contact has seen your cover before, will it hurt her that much to see it again? Especially considering that old marketing advice based on research that people need to see something seven times before they act on it.

And don't you––as an author or someone whose business it is to help authors--want to sell as many books as possible and to get as much media attention as possible?

In the PR world the winner is the person who makes it easiest on the gatekeeper to do her job. It is a busy world. She doesn't need to be searching for information, especially information that could easily go into a signature.

To arbitrarily tell anyone how to sign their emails without any idea of the tone or purpose of the email seems presumptuous to me. When signatures eliminate something that will help me help them, I may get annoyed. Depending on how busy I am, I may move on to greener fields (meaning a source that understands this gatekeeper’s needs and respects her time!)

I hope you will consider this alternative view. Many authors are already far too reluctant to get the word about their books out there. Having agents, publishers or even fellow authors tell them to arbitrarily limit information in their signatures may encourage their reluctance to do right by their books—and their own careers.

Here is the signature (with permission) used by an author and director of several South Florida book fairs. It could be flashier (maybe include some social network addresses), but it is also quiet enough for most authors to feel comfortable with a similar one:

Hugs, [Yes, hugs. Even rants are mostly designed to help and make enemies!]


Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a former journalist, retailer, and marketer who started publishing how-to books for writers for the classes she taught for UCLA Extension’s renowned Writers’ Program. Members of the California Legislature named her Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment. Learn more about her how-to books and her creative writing at Learn more about book promotion (and avoiding being the reluctant book promoter!) in her The Frugal Book Promoter and the rest of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for write Subscribe to her #SharingwithWriters newsletter at where you’ll find a great free Writers’ Resource section, too. The newsletter subscription form is at the top right of almost every page.

What You Need to Start a Business Online

I was thinking how I got started in my professional career as a Virtual Assistant and decided this might be a good article for those thinking about starting up their own business.

So, here are 10 tips to help you get started:

1. You need a place where you are happy and can concentrate without interruptions. Someplace with lots of light and connections for your computer and printer.

2. Desk: It can be a simple lap desk to a fancy height-adjustable desk. Whatever makes you content. Don’t forget that comfortable chair. You might be in it for hours at a time.

3. Computers: I like a laptop that you can take anywhere you want or need. If the weather is nice you might want to set up a place outside where birds are singing.

4. Put some peaceful pictures all around you. It might be of your husband and kids to pictures of nature. Maybe you like certain collectibles. Whatever it is, make sure it makes you smile.

5. I’ve heard that green plants are important for your health. So, try to arrange a few around you: Spider plants, Indoor Pothos (indoor air purifier), Lady Palm and Bamboo Palm are all air purifiers.

6. What business are you interested in doing? Selling, marketing, promotions, graphic designing, etc.

7. What’s your Name going to be? Think hard about this because you’ll want it to reflect what you do. For instance: Selling. If you are going to sell online, you need a catchy name. If you were selling ocean products - Sea Sell

8. Don’t forget you’ll need that most important Website. There are many to choose from. Here are a few: Wordpress, Homestead, GoDaddy, Weebly and many more. Just Google it.

9. Rates: What are you going to charge? Are you going to charge hourly, monthly, or by the project? Maybe a combination of all three. Figure out the best potential for your business ability.

10. How are you going to collect the money? I like PayPal.

I hope this has given you plenty to think about.

If you are an author, then writing is your business. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s something you’re going to enjoy doing every day.

Linda Barnett-Johnson, is a Virtual Assistant for authors and enjoys writing poetry, short stories, articles about writing and making up quotes. Many of her articles and poetry have been published. She’s a former editor, former assistant editor of Long Story Short ezine, former administrative director of Long Story Short School of Writing. You can locate her website here: She also posts new books, writing articles and author interviews on her blog: Always looking for guest bloggers that would post writing tips, articles and anything to do with writing.

SEO for Authors Part5: Marketing Trends to Be Aware Of

We're back with more SEO for Authors. Part 5 goes over the marketing trends you should be aware of.

- Did you know that 75% of searchers will NOT go past the first page of the search results?

- Did you know that up to 80% of searchers ignore paid ads. They go right to the organic results.

- Did you know that traffic from search engines is more likely to result in conversion?

This information is from Marketo (1) and their blog offered what marketers should be paying attention to. And, if you're an author and have a book for sale, you're a marketer . . . a book marketer.

So, let's go over the 3 tips Marketo offered:

1. Video is taking over the rankings.

Studies show that 60% of people rather watch video than read text.

Fifty-five percent of current Google search results has a minimum of one video.

That's just over half of all search results has a video embedded in the blog post or webpage.

Keep in mind that YouTube is owned by Google, so is it any wonder why this will be the case? Google is favoring video.

This is something I'm not thrilled about as I prefer text over video. But as a marketer, you have to go with the flow.

Bonus tip: Create descriptions.

Randy Fishkin (2) recommends taking advantage of ‘rich snippets’.

These are the descriptions you can give to your videos, images, and other content on most CMSs (content management systems), like WordPress.

If you’re on, you don’t have the option of optimizing your images or video with keywords or descriptions. There are other ‘free’ website hosting platforms that don’t have this capability also.

This is one of the HUGE benefits of using a CMS like WordPress.

What does this mean for you, the author?

If you're not using video already, start incorporating it into your blogposts and on your webpages. The sooner the better.

And, be sure to create a transcript of your video.

Along with the importance of using video for visitors to your site, Fishkin highly recommends that you provide a transcript of the videos within the blog post.

The reason for this is SEO is text oriented. This means while people love video, search engines still use text to gather information from your content.

This for me won’t be difficult as I start with an article or some form of content before I create an animation or video.

2. Google is working on voice searches.

Just like you ask Alexa or Siri questions by talking, Google intends to have voice searches.

This means it will be important to use phrases that people will be saying for searches rather than simply keywords.

Marketo suggests using long-tail-keywords, but it’d probably be a good idea to include LSI keywords (synonyms for the topic) as well. 

What does this mean for you, the author?

When writing your content think how people might actually ask a search question about your topic. Then try to write with that in mind. Use long-tail-keywords and LSI keywords to give a broader target.

3. You will need to have a 'mobile-responsive website.

A mobile-friendly or mobile-responsive website is one that can be navigated via a mobile device, like an iPhone.

This means that if someone lands on your website via their mobile devise, they will be able to get to all your pages through a visible menu. While it won’t look exactly like it will on your laptop or computer, it’s able to be navigated.

This is super-important as the results from searchers using mobile devises will take priority over desktops and laptops.

What's this mean for you, the author?

It's simple, make sure your website is mobile-responsive – Google will be more likely to use sites that are mobile-friendly than not.

If you're not sure, look up your site on your mobile phone. If it’s easy to navigate to the different pages, it’s good to go. If it’s not, then look for another theme.

Or, you can check if your site is mobile friendly by using:

Now it’s on to more SEO tips from Neil Patel.

In an article over at Patel’s (3), it notes that Google makes around 500+ algorithm updates a year.

While most of these updates don’t have real significance to authors and bloggers, a couple of them do.

4. Fluff or thin content is out.

According to Search Engine Land (4), if you want to show ads or promote affiliate links on your blog post, MAKE SURE the post is full of useful and 'relevant to your site' information.

In other words, don't write a blog post just to promote an affiliate link or your product. Write an informative post for the reader and naturally add the promo if it works smoothly.

This has been done a lot in the past. Affiliate bloggers would write posts just to promote their affiliate link. The content wasn’t very helpful to the reader, but the blogger didn’t care. They simply wanted the opportunity to get a click on their link and hopefully make a sale.

Those days are over.

Google is watching and sites with 'thin content' or what I like to call ‘fluff content’ will be penalized. This means Google won't send traffic to their site.

While most, if not all, of Writers on the Move’s readers don’t use this blogging strategy, I thought I should include it . . . just in case.

5. Google boosted its 'rich snippets'.

A rich snippet or featured snippet is Google’s answer to a searcher’s query.

Supposedly this was done to eliminate linking to fluff content. In other words, Google is trying to answer the search query with what it thinks is the most relevant answer.

This often makes it unnecessary for the searcher to scroll down to look for different answers to their query. This in turn means less organic search traffic for most of us.

Below is an example of a snippet using the search query: what is a laptop:

For this one I searched for: How do fish breathe?

If you notice, Google highlights the best answer, putting it at the top of the search results and on the first SERP (search engine results page). It’s giving the searcher what it thinks is the best answer.

And often, the searcher will get what he needs from that quick snippet or click on the rich snippet link without looking at the other results.

Why I mention this is to get you to think about your blog post description. If Google happens to choose your blog post as the answer to a searcher’s query, they’ll pick up your description with it.

If you don’t use a description, they’ll most likely use the beginning of your first paragraph.

Creating an effective description can matter. It’s what will help motivate the searcher to choose your blog post to click on.

Below is an example of using descriptions from Writers on the Move (WOTM).

I input a search for “SEO and Authors”. While WOTM wasn’t on page one or two of the SERPs for that keyword, we were on page three.

Considering there were almost 15 million results, being at the very top of page 3 is darn good:

Unfortunately though, it's not good enough as most people never go past page one.

But aside from that, look at the description. It’s got the keywords in it and it gives a clear message of what the article is about.

If I didn’t include a description to optimize the post, Google would have picked up the beginning of the post:

Writers on the Move will be giving some basic tips on using SEO to get more visibility and build authority in your niche . . . and hopefully sell more books. Part 2's topic is keywords and descriptions.

Not as appealing, is it?

What's this mean for you, the author:

Simple: Adding descriptions to your blog posts matters.

6. Deep and lengthy content, that’s what Google is looking for.

It seems that blog posts under 500 words are getting poor results from search engines. Even under 1,000 words aren’t doing so well.

Studies show that Google wants well over 1,000 words, closer to 2,000. Again, it's about digging deep down into a topic.

Neil Patel noted that bloggers (content writers) are taking 1-4 hours to write just ONE blog post.

For most of us, this doesn’t make sense. We write posts to be helpful, to shed some light on a topic we think our readers are interested in or should know.

I think my average posts are somewhere between 600 and 1,000 words. And, I have no intention of upping that.

I write to get the point across and while I’d love to be in Google’s rich snippet or even on its first SERP, I don’t have the time or inclination to write just to appease the giant.

What's this mean for you, the author?

Keep in mind that Google wants in depth content. It wants content that will be of real help to your readers. So, as the article marketing king, Jeff Herring, says, go an inch wide and a mile deep when giving information.

7. Another aspect of this deep content is the use of LSI keywords.

I discussed this topic in Part 4 of the SEO for Authors Series.

Basically, it's about using words/phrases that are broader than specific keywords and longtail keywords, but are still relevant to the topic.

According to Patel, "LSI keywords add context to your content and expand its reach beyond just the original topic." (2)

How it can work to create longer blog posts is that each of the LSI keywords can be used as a subheading for your topic.

I tried this with the keyword ‘book marketing’ using LSI Keyword Generator and this is the results I got:

It does give great ideas for not only subheadings, but for topics under that keyword.

You can use the free LSI Keyword Generator to find words that will work for your topic:

You can read the full article on LSI Keywords at:

Summing it up.

It's all about the reader experience. Google wants your blog posts to actually help, entertain, or enlighten the reader.

While I’m not going to write 2,000 words articles, unless I’m writing and that’s where it ends up, I do write for the reader.

This post is close to or around 1800 words. I didn’t do that intentionally, it’s just how it turned out to include all the information I thought would be helpful to our readers.

You need strong content - content readers will value. Content they’ll be willing to share.







Other article of interest:
SEO Trends in 2018 - What the Experts Think

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

If you need help with your author platform, check out Karen's e-class through WOW:

Tips for Creating Subplots in Middle Grade Novels

by Suzanne Lieurance   If you’re writing a middle grade novel, you want to include at least one or two subplots. Subplots in fiction are sec...