Tips from Lisa Cron's Book, Story Genius

Forty-three note cards for forty-three chapters completed the template from Cron's book
As SCBWI meetings, critique group sessions, and so much more offered by our local New Mexico chapter go, the subjects at two recent meetings couldn’t have been more helpful. This month’s post offers highlights from a meeting that presented and discussed Lisa Cron’s book, Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel, Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere. Have you been there? This author must confess that I have, in spades. Next month, watch for highlights from a workshop on Author Visits, presented by Caroline Starr Rose, author of  May B., Blue Birds, Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine, Ride On, Will Cody! and more.

The Third Rail
Cron begins in the Introduction, by explaining what it takes for a ms to succeed and why so many fail.

“The reason that the majority of ms’s are rejected—either by publishers or readers—is because they do not have a third rail . . . And so they write and rewrite and polish an impressive stack of pages in which a bunch of things happen, but none of it really matters because that’s all it is—a bunch of external things that the reader has no particular reason to care about.

Story is about an internal struggle, not an external one. It’s about what the protagonist has to learn, to overcome, to deal with internally in order to solve the problem that the external plot poses.”

The Third Rail drives your story, and the presenters at the meeting stressed, can save you lots of drafts. Some major Third Rail points:
  • The point of your book comes from the protagonist’s struggle—why it matters to him/her.
  • The protagonist pursues a difficult goal—how does this pursuit change her internally? What’s the point? Your book must come from this.
  • Each scene has to hit the third rail.
  • Nail your point—what do you want the reader to walk away with?

Two Weeks Well Spent
My WIP, a MG mystery and my first book, has been held up due to editing and revisions I've continued to make for over a year after I thought it was “ready.” This is after the ms had been reviewed by three professional editors, in various stages (I had a lot to learn). In past posts, I’ve emphasized making sure your ms is “ready” before submitting, and one way to make sure is to have a professional editor review it. So, when I made the acceptable changes suggested by my editors, the ms should have been ready. I had to go with my gut, though. I knew it wasn’t.

Fast forward to a year later—to NOW. When I went to the SCBWI meeting, I had planned to submit my ms that week. But after hearing what the presenters had to say about Cron’s book and taking a peek at my ms, I knew I had more work to do. It took two weeks.

My two-week revision started by using a handout provided by the presenters taken from the Story Genius book, "Plotting: Scene Card Template: What is the Point?" I made a copy of the template and stapled it onto a card, as it appears here:

On 3x5 cards, I made a note in each section of the template from each chapter, using the template as a guide. Conclusion? The story didn’t change, but my mc’s inner struggle strengthened, which made the story richer, explained the plot better, and helped clarify vague parts.

Worth the Time and Effort
Story Genius offers much more than could be covered in this post. I plan to use the ideas offered to begin writing Book Two in my MG mystery series and believe it will save months of edits and revisions. I recommend this book as an important addition to your bookshelf.

My writing buddies, Sweet Pea & Peanut
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

Write for Magazine Publication - #2

Writing for Magazine Publication is a great way to monetize your writing and to test topic marketability. This is the second in a series of posts investigating the components of writing essays and articles for magazines. Your work could be in print or online in just a few months.

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, standard templates for essay and article pieces, query letters, formatting for submittal, and copyright definitions.

What’s the difference between an essay and an article? The essay is all about the writer. An article is all about the reader. An essay is an analytical or interpretative composition while an article is informational non-fiction prose.

Today, let’s talk about researching to find the best magazine for your articles—
Use these questions to evaluate the best path:

•    Use a Marketing Guide to select the periodicals you want to study.

•    Would you be proud to promote the magazine and your writing included there?

•    What is the magazine’s specialty? Will your work fit?

•    How long is its typical article—300-500 words and an occasional 1,000-word piece?

•    Do the articles include the advice from experts? Is it an interview? What are the expert’s qualifications? How many quotes are included?

•    Which magazine would increase your byline influence?

•    Would the periodical send readers to your website or blog for more?

•    Does the magazine have a good reputation?

•    What is its readership base?

•    Where is the periodical’s coverage; local, national or international?

•    Would you consider working with a smaller magazine?

•    Does the magazine offer online and print subscription? Where would your work run—online and print or just one?

•    Check your market guidebook and the magazine’s website for detailed submittal requirements
•    Are the submittal requirements doable for you? Make detailed notes of the submittal process conditions missing no requirement, remembering the process varies from magazine to magazine. Don’t let a missed detail in your submittal be grounds for dismissal of your piece.

•    Does the magazine accept simultaneous submittals?

•    Avoid Wikipedia except for general information. Consistently double check the information to confirm it as a credible resource.

•    Use data from governmental sources or from well-known organizations.

•    Disclose your sources of information.

•    Use your personal experience, be your own expert!

Please share your tips in ‘comments’ below.

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!

Five Keys for Writers to Profit from a Conference

By W. Terry Whalin

I've been attending writer's conferences for many years. Some times I attend for the training. Other times I'm invited to speak and when I have a spare moment, I attend the workshops and sessions of other speakers. Normally my workshop is recorded and I get a copy of the recording. At a recent writers' conference, they gave the faculty the opportunity to get the recordings for the entire conference (over 40 sessions). I downloaded everything on a flash drive and look forward to listening to these sessions.

Some people wonder how I’ve published in more than 50 print magazines and written more than 60 books with a variety of types and age groups. While I may not be the best writer in the room, I am one of the most consistent. If I pitch an idea and an editor says something like, “Sounds good. Send it to me.” I will make a little note, then go home, write the article or book and send it. Yes you have to write what the editor wants and many writers do not want to write what the editor is requesting. Overall I’ve found such a simple strategy works.

I understand to attend a conference is an investment of money, time and energy. In this article, I want to highlight five ways writers can profit from a conference.

1. Listen for opportunities, and then take action. For example, one editor I met told me about a forthcoming series of Bible studies that his publisher will be doing. In the past, I’ve written Bible studies  and enjoy this type of writing. Because I heard about the opportunity, I emailed this editor and affirmed my interest in the project. The editor was grateful for my interest and said at the right time he would be in touch. This type of follow-up work leads to additional writing opportunities. You have to be listening for them and take action.

Another editor at the conference has worked on a publication that I’ve never written for. It has a large circulation and I wanted to write for this publication for the exposure as much as a new writing credit. I’ve emailed the editor and we are corresponding about some ideas which I believe will lead to an assignment and eventually publication. There are numerous opportunities at these conferences—if you listen for them.

2. Take time to prepare in advance before the event. Study the faculty and see what they publish and then write pitches and book proposals. Most publications have writer’s guidelines and other information easily available online. At a recent conference, several writers brought flash drives with the electronic copy of their material. I appreciated the quick response from these writers and it moved their submission to the top of my stack. I put their material into our internal system and moved it forward through the consideration process. In one case I’ve already turned in a writer’s project to my publication board and I’m hoping to get a contract for this author in a few weeks. The germ of this activity was her arrival at the conference prepared for her meetings. You can learn and mirror such actions when you attend an event.

3. Pick up the free copies of the publications and their guidelines at the conference. These publications are looking for freelance writers. You have to pick up the publications, read the guidelines then make your pitch or query or follow-through. When someone mentions an interest in your material, make sure you exchange business cards with them. Then when you get home, send them an email and follow-up.

4. Exchange business cards with editors and other professionals during the conference. You must bring plenty of business cards to the event. I met many people and came home with a large stack of business cards. I’ve been following up with writers and encouraging them to send me their proposal and/or manuscript. Yet few of them have reached out to me—and this type of situation is typical from my experience. If you reach out to the editor and take action, your actions will receive positive attention and you will get publishing opportunities
5. One of the reasons to attend a conference is to learn a new skill or a new area of the writing world.  Are you learning how to write fiction or a magazine article or tap a new social network? A variety of skills are taught at conferences. It’s easy to put away the notes and never look at them again. The writers who get published take a different course of action. They review the notes and apply it to their writing life.

As writers we are continually learning and growing in our craft. A conference can be a huge growth area if you take action and follow-up.

Have I given you some ideas? If so, let me know in the comments below.


Here’s Five Keys for Writers to Profit from a conference. (Click to Tweet)

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  One of his books for writers is Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success.  He lives in Colorado and has over 220,000 twitter followers.  
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Book Marketing and the Query Letter

If you are contemplating writing a book or you’ve already written one and intend on going the traditional publishing path, you’ll need a query letter and a cover letter.

This is true whether you’re an author, a writer, or a business owner who wants to build his authority with a book.

Wondering what a query letter has to do with book marketing?

The query is part of the second step in your book marketing journey. Think of it as the beginning of a hopefully rewarding relationship with a publisher or agent.

The first step is writing a great story. The second is getting a contract – this is where the query comes in.

If you’re not sure what a query letter is, Jane Friedman notes that it’s a stand-alone letter and has only one purpose. Its sole purpose is “to seduce the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work. The query is so much of a sales piece that you should be able to write it without having written a single word of the manuscript.” (1)

The query letter is your foot in the publishing door. So, you can see how much rides on this one or two page letter (preferably one page).

The query letter usually has 8 elements to be aware of:

1. Do your research. Have you gone to the publisher’s or agent’s website to make sure your manuscript topic is something s/he handles?

You can do an online search for publishers or agents that will be a fit for your story. Or, you can use an online service, like

2. Know what you need to do. At the site, did you carefully go over the submission guidelines? I mean really, really, really, carefully!

3. Is your opening (in the query) grabbing? Will it get the reader’s attention?

4. Edit, edit, edit. Have you checked for grammar errors? Have you checked for redundancy? How about spelling? Don’t rely on a word processors speck check feature alone. Edit your letter manually.

5. Keep it short and sweet. Eliminate non-essential personal information.

6. Include credentials, and/or pertinent background information that is relevant to the story you’ve written, if any.

7. Include your book marketing strategy for promoting your book. In this section, include your social media following, only if significant: 500 followers, 1000 followers, 5000, 10,000. Obviously, the more the better. And, it’s essential that you have an author website and include the link in your heading.

8. Have you studied the query letter format?

The format consists of several paragraphs?

a. Your introduction, mentioning that you’ve visited the website and why you’re querying.
b. A very brief gist of what the manuscript is about and the intended age group.
c. A very brief synopsis of the story.
e. Your background, if pertinent. Include your marketing intentions.
f. Thank the editor/agent for her time. Mention that you included XXX pages (the number the guidelines said to send), if applicable.

Taking the time to do it right and write an optimized query letter may make the difference between the slush pile and a contract.

The query letter is the portal to a contract. If the reader says NO at the letter, your manuscript may be great, but it won’t have a chance.

(1) The Complete Guide to Query Letters
How to Write the Perfect Query Letter

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning author, successful children’s ghostwriter who welcomes working with new clients, and an author/writer online platform marketing instructor.

For more on children’s writing tips and writing help, stop by Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.
Be sure to sign up for her newsletter and check out the DIY Page.

Karen is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move.

This article was originally published at: 


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Overcoming Writing Distractions

I recently went to a class conducted by writers Amy K. Nichols and Joe Nassise. They talked about writing in the age of distraction (squirrel writing, they called it). It was very helpful, so I'm going to pass on some of the ideas I found most useful.

-Know your triggers. Write down all the things that distract you from writing and be ruthlessly honest as you do it. Internet surfing, e-mail, games, videos, etc tend to be big culprits, especially since you can do them on the same device you're supposed to be writing on. Even legitimate research can be a distraction, especially if you interupt the creativity of your first draft to go down that particular rabbit hole. Being aware of your worst distractions can help you avoid them (more on that below).

On the other side of the coin, know what triggers your creativity and productive writing. Sometimes wearing some item of clothing (a magic writing hat, etc), playing certain music, putting on headphones, or writing at a certain time will get you quickly in the zone. Take advantage of these triggers.

-Get into habits and do things religiously. Set aside certain writing times and treat it like a job. Ask yourself, "Would I get fired right now?" If the answer is yes, get off Facebook or whatever and get back to your job of writing.

-When writing at home, put a sign on the door (doorknob hangers work well) so that family members know you're working and know not to distract you.

-Try a brain focus app, like Brain FM. It sees what focusses you and then plays sounds that help.

-Use the Pomidoro technique (see my last post). This consists of 25-minute working sprints followed by short breaks (5-10 minutes). During your breaks it might work to reward yourself with one of those distractions you wrote down earlier.

-Give yourself deadlines, but make them reasonable and connect with other people who will keep you accountable to those deadlines. After all, if someone expects a certain number of pages from you by Monday, you're more likely to get it done.

-Resist "shiny thing syndrome" where you get excited by shiny new projects and start so many things but never finish. If this starts happening, pick one and finish it.

-Use apps that turn off the internet or black out the rest of your screen except your writing page for a certain amount of time. There are many apps and browser add-ons like this.

-Try something like Write-o-Meter, which tracks word count and keeps a log of productivity over time. It may help also you find when your most productive hours are.

-Take care of yourself mentally and physically, and don't compare yourself to others. Be kind to you.

-Give yourself permission to "be a writer." It will legitimize your work and make your work time seem more valuable.

Thanks, Amy and Joe, for all this valuable advice!

Melinda Brasher's most recent sale is a twist on Rumpelstiltskin, appearing in Timeless Tales. You can also find her fiction in NousElectric SpecIntergalactic Medicine Show, and others. If you're dreaming about traveling to Alaska, check out her guide book, Cruising Alaska on a Budget; a Cruise and Port Guide. Visit her online at

How to Write More, Sell More, and Make More Money Writing

Whether you're a freelance writer or an author who wants to write and sell many books, you need to be a productive writer.

That way you can write more, sell more, and make more money.

So here are a few tips to help you get more writing done.

1. Repurpose everything you write.

Try to have at least 3 different ways you can use most of what you write. Blog post, podcast, e-book, e-course, special report, etc.

If you write novels, use excerpts for blog posts and press releases, for example, to make the most of your work.

If you write nonfiction, reslant magazine articles so you can use the same material for more than one publication.

2. Schedule regular writing time instead of just writing whenever you have some free time.

Most people who say they will write when they find the time never seem to get much writing done. Something else always gets in the way.

It's much better to set aside some writing time on your calendar and treat that time like you would a regular business appointment. You'll be much more likely to get some writing done on a regular basis.

3. Know what you need to write BEFORE you sit down to write.

That way, you can get started immediately instead of staring at a blank page.

You’ll also be able to quickly create some momentum.

Think of planning time as different from your actual writing time and schedule time to plan first, then schedule time to write.

4. Block out your time so you allow a specific amount of time for each writing session.

It might take several sessions to complete each writing project, but you'll be less likely to waste your writing time when you know you've only got a certain amount of time for each session.

5. Avoid getting overwhelmed with too many tasks or writing projects to complete at the same time.

This zaps your energy and actually makes you less productive.

Prioritize your tasks and keep just a few tasks on your to-do list each day.

6. Relax and be willing to write awful stuff at first.

You usually need to write the awful stuff in order to get to the good stuff.

Most people only want to write good stuff.

But, ironically, they usually write nothing or very little as a result.

Schedule some time just to write crummy first drafts.

7. Design your writing days according to the way YOU work best.

Some people can switch between different writing projects throughout the day.

Other writers work best if they can spend all day or at least all morning or all afternoon on a single project.

Experiment to see how you work best.

If you start following these tips, my guess is you'll discover even more ways to increase your productivity as a writer.

Try it!

Visit my blog at for more articles, tips, and resources for writers. Get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge and gain free access to my private resource library for writers.


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Internet Marketing Simplified for Writers

by Valerie Allen

Marketing is ongoing, using every means to bring attention to you and your books. “Persistent Perpetual Promotion,” is behind every best selling author.

One of the quickest, least costly and far-reaching marketing strategies is using the internet. Many writers find the electronic highway overwhelming, but there is an entire world of readers who use only social media to find, read and review books. An online presence is a must for writers in the age of social media.

Here are some basic suggestions for smart marketing using cyberspace.

1)    Your e-mail signature line should contain the title of your books. Everyone you email should see the name of your book(s). It should also have your contact information, at  least your email address and web site.

2)    At least once a month go to to see which libraries carry your books.

3)    Google your name every week and see where the internet leads people who are looking for you. Does it go to your web site? To your book on Amazon?

4)    Each week click on, and to see what is happening with your book(s) at those sites. Also for your ebooks on Kindle, Nook, etc.

5)    If you have a web page, consider mutual links to the sites of other authors, writer blogs and newsletters.

6)    Join with bloggers at writing sites to become known, offer suggestions, find good marketing ideas and writing tips.

7)    Create Facebook, Linked In, Google+ and Twitter accounts. Join writer's groups and groups related to your book content. Follow up in discussion groups, book clubs, offer tips, etc.

8)    Post a review online for every book you read.

9) has a lot to offer. Take advantage of these features:

    Use the Search Inside the Book feature.

    Add tags and keywords so those searching by topic will find your book.

    Look at the books that have been purchased by those who have purchased your
    book; contact those authors, study their web pages, view their tags and keywords   
    Make a Listmania and put your book titles on it.

    Create a profile and post a review for every book you read. Use your real name and book title in your signature line.

    Join Goodreads and post your books, books you've read, do book reviews and join in discussion groups.

Remember to do at least one thing every day to market you and your books. Make it a habit!

Valerie Allen writes fiction, nonfiction, short stories and children's books. ( She assists writers with marketing via Authors For Authors with 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:  and


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Are You Too Busy?

We've all been there . . . being too busy.

But, is your busyness constructive?

Or, is your busyness, just busyness?

If you're trying to build a writing career, you've got to be busy on things that will move your career forward.

Do you want to become an author?

Well, you've got to decide which niche you'll write in. And, then you'll need to learn the ropes and write until you reach your goal.

Do you want to build a freelance writing career? 

Again, you've got to decide on the niche you'll write in. Learn as much as you can about it and then jump. 

Do you want to market you and/or your books?

Yep. You've got to put in the work.

No matter what it is you want to do, make your busyness constructive. Make it move you forward to achieve your goals.

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.


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Career Development: 5 Ideas

No matter what your area, it's essential to stay on top of the latest news, information, and trends in your industry. People hire experts. So do everything you can to hone and improve your level of expertise.

Want to be the go-to in your field? Here are five places to look for information today to stay ahead of the pack.

1. Find 5 Blogs. If you are in writing or marketing, you already have one blog you like, so do a search and find a few more. Set your RSS feed or make a weekly - or twice weekly - appointment to visit these URLs and read what's happening.

2. Find 5 Podcasts. Podcasts are an excellent source of information. The best part is, you can listen while doing other things, such as running errands or commuting to work. Ask friend in your industry to recommend their favorite podcasts. Then, subscribe, so you get new episodes as soon as they are released.

3. Find 5 Groups. These can be local groups, online, or a combination of both. Whether it's an association directly related to your industry, or one, such as marketing, that can help you improve your business, find places with like-minded people where you can share - and receive - resources and recommendations.

4. Find 5 Events. Once you discover your groups, finding events will be a snap. These can be conferences, workshops, or continuing education. Some of these may also be all of the above. Btw, don't need to actually attend all of these, tho it's great if you can. Many organizations have e-learning options. Plus, some live events have Twitter feeds you can follow as the next best thing to being there.

5. Find 5 Books or Authors. You know the trendsetters in your industry. And if you don't, find them. Do a search. Then, follow them. Get their newsletters, connect on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube. And regularly read what they have to say.

Look for places that offer the kind of information that will allow you to improve your level of knowledge, so you can excel. This will help you, as well as your clients, no matter what your field.

What do you do to stay on the top of your field? Please share in the comments.

For more on Career Development, drop by my Twitter chat #GoalChat tonight at 7pm PT to discus or read the recap on Write On Online.

* * *

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.

Writing with Focus

You have a wonderful idea for a story.

Maybe it’s a mystery novel, a children’s middle grade story, or a picture book. Maybe it’s a young adult. You know what you want to say. You know what you want the reader to ‘see.’ You start typing away.

This is the beginning of every story.

But, we should backtrack a moment and go back to the idea.

The idea: your protagonist has a problem or conflict. Delving a little deeper, you can see how each chapter or section will be worked out.

You are sure you can bring your idea to full fruition—without the use of an outline. Okay, that’s fine. Many writers use the by-the-seat-of-your-pants (pantser) writing method.

So, off your mind and fingers fly . . . creating something from nothing . . . well, not exactly from nothing, from an idea.

You type a draft of your story. How long this process will take depends on how long your manuscript will be—whether a novel, short story, or children’s story. It also depends on your writing schedule and/or if you encounter any road blocks.

Take note though . . . even if your story is as short as a children’s picture book, you will need focus in your writing.

Writing Focus

Focus is the path from point A to point B. It’s the path from beginning to end that keeps the story together and wraps it neatly up.

An example might be an ice skater whose goal is to become good enough to get into the Olympics. His focus will be to train vigorously to accomplish his goal. Barring any injuries or other sidetracking, he's focused on and moves toward that end goal.

A better example might be that of a school bus on its route to pick up children and bring them to school.

The bus depot or shop is where the bus begins - this is point A.

It will end up at the school, point B.

But, between point A and point B, the bus must deviate from a direct path in order to pick up each child. If the bus doesn’t keep on schedule, if it doesn’t keep focused, if it deviates too much from its intended path, it will get the children to school late.

The same holds true for your story.

There is a path the story needs to follow to accomplish its goal. If you deviate too much from this path your story will become diluted or weak.

This is not to say you can't have subplots, it means everything needs to be tied together moving forward on the same path toward the same end.

Using an outline can often help with maintaining focus, even with a short story.

It’s kind of a writing GPS that guides you from point A to point B. It allows you to stray here and there with the comfort of knowing that you need to be at certain points throughout the manuscript. It’s a reminder to help keep you focused.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author. She runs a successful children’s ghostwriting and rewriting business and welcomes working with new clients.

For tips on writing for children OR if you need help with your project, contact her at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

To get monthly writing and book marketing tips, sign up for The Writing World – it’s free!


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Needing a Writer's Pick-Me-Up?

Have you ever been down about something and then something serendipitous happens and you’re like, wow, that’s the exact message I needed?

Isn’t it cool how life can happen like that? It’s as though some giant loving force is working in the universe. Whether you’re religious or not, these things happen to all of us and it’s pretty darn special when it does. Recently, I had a serendipitous thing happen to me and I'm so thankful. It changed my outlook completely.

You see, I have had a particularly rough time lately. I think it happens to every writer. We feel like our message isn’t being heard or that no one really cares and we want to just give up.

Us, writers, we’re a pretty insecure bunch on the whole. We sit alone writing and we absolutely love it, don’t we?! It feels so good as the words just come pouring out of us from the voices in our head or the passion in our heart. We think, ‘man, the world is going to love this!’

But, then, we have to get out there and actually sell this great masterpiece and that’s pretty hard for introverts. We love people, no doubt. But, talking to them, well, that can be intimidating. We might be better able to post our stuff all over the internet because that’s a little safer, but most of us feel like that’s a lot of stuck-up-ness when we do it. ‘Hey, look at me, my book is awesome, buy it!’

That doesn’t feel natural and well, it isn’t natural. Nothing about selling an intimate piece of art is. It’s like taking your heart out of your body and showing it to everyone in the world and saying, ‘hey, love this.’

So, after doing what is an incredibly unnatural thing for a while and not seeing the results we’d like (maybe we didn’t win the award, or make the sell, or land the book deal), we want to just give up.

That’s exactly how I had been feeling.

The questions swam in my head. ‘Why am I doing this?’ ‘Who am I doing this for?’ ‘What if I never succeed?’ ‘What if no one ever cares?’

Have you ever felt that way?

I’m sorry if you have. I’m truly sorry. No artist should ever have to question their art’s worth. You don’t create because you want to be great and famous and rich. Okay, all those things would be nice, but that’s not why an artist creates.

An artist creates because they can’t NOT create. 

And you know why? Because there’s a force at work inside each artist pushing them to express their unique message in a creative manner in order to touch other people’s lives on this planet and help them in some way—whether it is to entertain them, make them laugh, make them cry, inspire them, help them not feel alone, etc.

So, if today, you are feeling discouraged as I had been feeling, I want to encourage you to not give up! Stand firm in your gift. You are special and you have a unique voice that the world needs to hear. Don’t let anyone rob us from hearing what you have to say. Don’t let the lack of something, keep you from pouring your heart and soul into this world. Give your gift to the world anyway. We need YOU!

And today’s message is my serendipitous gift to you!

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 is a former National Pen Women of Cape Canaveral. She belongs to 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

Freedom of the Press Starting with Words

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

You may be wondering why The Frugal Book Promoter would be straying from topics like editing and book marketing to something like freedom of the press and the importance of words. Well, because without the former, a huge percentage of us would be out of work and others would be severely limited in the topics we choose to write about. And when our government starts limiting the words we may use in official documents, that is the beginning of censorship we writers should take very seriousl

And that is just what is happening.

Well, a couple of months ago the White House issued a list of words the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shouldn’t use. It bothered me then and it bothers me even more now that we just experienced a near epidemic of flu in this country! (My husband and I are both part of that epidemic. Neither of us has had the flu or a cold for over 40 years and this one has been a doozy!)

TheLA Times(Tuesday, Jan 16, page B2) used this as a lead for the story:
“’It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.’ George Orwell writes in the fifth chapter of his dystopian novel, 1985.”

I love the novel the Times chose to quote, but I have always been too optimistic to give its dystopian theme much credence. But here we are with four public health experts from Emory University in Atlanta saying that if the CDC actually obeys the recent White House order to avoid certain words and phrases it would “squander [the agency’s] limited resources.” Other agencies were also “forbidden” to use words like “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science based.” In some cases, the administration’s budget office suggested alternative terms.  And only yesterday I read that the word “abortion” is next. Can you imagine how many words might be needed for that if we didn’t have that one?  Can you imagine how much more disinformation might swirl around the topic is we can’t use we (or our government) can use the word?

Then in a recent Sierra Club magazine (sources docount for us writers!), I learn that the US climate office was told not to use the terms “climate change,” “emissions reduction,” or “Paris agreement.” Seems someone is trying to control what we write about. Or just make it hard for us to do our jobs.

We should be as concerned about limiting the words we can use as we are about the books we can read or about copyright issues.

These commandments from the Trump administration sound like a violation of both freedom of speech and freedom of the press (the government does publish tons and tons of stuff!) to me. Times also reported that gagging like this also violates The Plain Writing Act of 2010 that requires all federal agencies “improve the effectiveness and accountability to the public by promoting clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.”

We writers should be thankful for that “plain writing” encouragement! Still, too few in the government are paying attention to it. Luckily, the CDC seems to be ignoring these new guidelines limiting the words our agencies can use for now. But as writers, we should all be worried—even on the lookout—for anything that limits our use of words.

As an example, we’ve been encouraged to use only Merry Christmas as a holiday greeting for decades. I’d hate to lose alternative greetings. As a courtesy, I’ve always reserved Merry Christmas for people I know to be Christian, Happy Hanukkah for those I know to be Jewish. Have a great Kwanzaa for the black people I know celebrate it. Ramadan? Well, I’ve never had occasion to use it (sorry!), but if I did I would be equally careful to abide by the traditions of the person involved.W

There are others, but generally, “Happy holidays,” is a polite way to be inclusive when we don’t know the situations or do know that in a diverse population I may be addressing a few people who are members of each group with a few atheists to boot. That is a very small example of how important words are, and how important it is we have access to all the ones we find in a dictionary (and some we don’t). For clarity. So that we can. . . ahem, obey the Plain Writing Act. Now there’s a government proclamation I can get my teeth, molars, and incisors into! Before you get too blasé, be sure to revisit the date that it was written! 2010! 

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 the newest book in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers.

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. 

SEO and the Author P8 – Images and Website Speed

In a previous SEO and the Author series post (see the link below in More to Read), I talked about how to optimize your website images. However, I didn’t touch on what the size of the image files can do to your site.

For the average author website, most use JPGs or PNGs for their images. The problem that may arise is the size of the file. The larger the file the slower the website.

So, why should you care about your website speed?

Because of Google, of course.

When your website takes a long time to load, and we’re talking just an extra few seconds, it affects your website speed.

One of the things Google looks at when they decide to list your site in a search result is the speed of your website. A factos that effects how quickly or slowly your site will load is the size of the images you use. 

If your site is slow to load, people who land on it won’t bother waiting – they’ll just leave. This is considered a bounce.

Google monitors your bounce rate. If a lot of visitors bounce (leaves your site before it loads or leaves very quickly for other reasons), Google will note that you have a high bounce rate which means poor performance.

According to MOZ, “A poor performing website results in a poor user experience, and sites with poor user experiences deserve less promotion in search results.” (1)

Okay, that was a bit of a sidetrack, but I wanted you to understand the importance of speed and your website.

Back to Images

Going back to images, the longer an image or images take to load, the slower your website will be. So, when deciding whether to use a JPG or PNG, go for the JPG.

If you’re wondering why, it’s because PNG files are much larger than JPG files, sometimes double the size for the same image.

This means that PNG images take longer to load.

According to Thrive Themes, “Even on a fast connection, large image files can take several seconds to load. And when it comes to website speed and conversion rates, you don't have several seconds to spare [. . .] Loading several, large, uncompressed images can slow your pages down to an absolute crawl and that will send your bounce rate through the roof.” (2)

Why would anyone use PNG images?
While in most cases, the JPG and PNG images may look similar, the PNG files are clearer, crisper. For some sites this difference makes a difference. But for most of your uses, it’s not worth the extra load time and space taken on your computer.

For a more comprehensive look at images types and sizes, read:

(1) How Website Speed Actually Impact Search Ranking 

(2) Image Type and Size for Fast Websites


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’d like more writing tips or help with your children’s story, check out: Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

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


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