How to Write Vivid Scenes: Connecting Scenes

Check out Chris's Haunted Series:
The Ghost on the Stairs, The Knight in the Shadows,
The Riverboat Phantom,
and The Ghost Miner's Treasure

We welcome prolific author for children and adults, and editor, Chris Eboch, who has graciously agreed to share her three-part series of How to Write Vivid Scenes, from her book Advanced Plotting. Part 1 appeared last month: How to Write Vivid Scenes, Part 1. This month we present Part 2, and next month: How to Write Vivid Scenes: Cause and Effect.

Each Scene is a Mini-story with its Own Climax

Each scene should lead to the next and drive the story forward, so all scenes connect and ultimately drive toward the final story climax. 

A work of fiction has one big story question — essentially, will this main character achieve his or her goal? For example, in my children’s historical fiction novel The Eyes of Pharaoh, the main character hunts for her missing friend. The story question is, “Will Seshta find Reya?” In The Well of Sacrifice, the story question is, “Will Eveningstar be able to save her city and herself from the evil high priest?” 

In Desert Gold (written as Kris Bock), the big story question is, “Will Erin find the treasure before the bad guys do?” There may also be secondary questions, such as, “Will Erin find love with the sexy helicopter pilot?” but one main question drives the plot.

Throughout the work of fiction, the main character works toward that story goal during a series of scenes, each of which has a shorter-term scene goal. For example, in Erin’s attempt to find the treasure, she and her best friend Camie must get out to the desert without the bad guys following; they must find a petroglyph map; and they must locate the cave. 

You should be able to express each scene goal as a clear, specific question, such as, “Will Erin and Camie get out of town without being followed?” If you can’t figure out your main character’s goal in a scene, you may have an unnecessary scene or a character who is behaving in an unnatural way.

Yes, No, Maybe

Scene questions can be answered in four ways: Yes, No, Yes but…, and No and furthermore…. 

If the answer is “Yes,” then the character has achieved his or her scene goal and you have a happy character. That’s fine if we already know that the character has more challenges ahead, but you should still end the chapter with the character looking toward the next goal, to maintain tension and reader interest. Truly happy scene endings usually don’t have much conflict, so save that for the last scene.

If the answer to the scene question is “No,” then the character has to try something else to achieve that goal. That provides conflict, but it’s essentially the same conflict you already had. Too many examples of the character trying and failing to achieve the same goal, with no change, will get dull.

An answer of “Yes, but…” provides a twist to increase tension. Maybe a character can get what she wants, but with strings attached. This forces the character to choose between two things important to her or to make a moral choice, a great source of conflict. Or maybe she achieves her goal but it turns out to make things worse or add new complications. For example, in Desert Gold, the bad guys show up in the desert while Erin and Camie are looking for the lost treasure cave. The scene question becomes, “Will Erin escape?” This is answered with, “Yes, but they’ve captured Camie,” which leads to a new set of problems.

“No, and furthermore…” is another strong option because it adds additional hurdles — time is running out or your character has a new obstacle. It makes the situation worse, which creates even greater conflict. In my current work in progress, tentatively titled Whispers in the Dark (written as Kris Bock), one scene question is, “Will Kylie be able to notify the police in time to stop the criminals from escaping?” When this is answered with, “No, and furthermore they come back and capture her,” the stakes are increased dramatically.

One way or another, the scene should end with a clear answer to the original question. Ideally that answer makes things worse. The next scene should open with a new specific scene goal (or occasionally the same one repeated) and probably a review of the main story goal. Here’s an example from The Eyes of Pharaoh:

Scene question: “Will Seshta find Reya at the army barracks?”

Answer: “No, and furthermore, she thinks the general lied to her, so Reya may be in danger.”

Next scene: “Can Seshta spy on the general to find out the truth, which may lead her to Reya?”

Over the course of a novel, each end-of-scene failure should get the main character into worse trouble, leading to a dramatic final struggle. 

Next time: Cause and Effect

Chris Eboch is the author of over 60 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. This essay is adapted from Advanced Plotting, available for the Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback. Chris is the also the author of You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. Learn more at or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.

Writers: Let Mistakes Be Your Teachers

Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery
was self-published in June, 2020

By Linda Wilson

Three mistakes—whoppers, and very painful, I might add—stand out in my writing career, all the rest are small (and many!)

Mistake #1: Taking on more work than I could handle. Back when my daughters were growing up, both in their 30’s now, I landed a terrific job as a writer for a well-known library journal. I had left teaching elementary school for a while and had made the big time! Our subjects were short biographies, called by the journal “biosketches,” about famous people. The editor gave me my pick of subjects and any number of sketches I wanted to write. Up to that point, I had experience writing newspaper articles, period. Not to worry! One of the other writers advised me that my sketches needed to be conversational as well as factual.

I started out with only one or two, with 2-3 weeks to research and write. A research assistant sent me articles and information, but the perfectionist in me decided that wasn’t enough. So, while my husband was at work and my daughters were in school, I did more research in the library. My subjects were such interesting personalities as Stephen King, Troy Aikman, and William Shatner.

The extra research paid off. My sketches were tight with information, and friendly. The editor was pleased.  

Piece of cake. I decided to take on more, 3-4 sketches at a time. That’s when I hit the wall. I didn’t realize the time crunch I was getting myself into while volunteering at my daughters’ school, being a girl scout leader, and more. I missed a deadline, and I was toast.

Lesson Learned: Take on only what you’re sure you can handle.

Mistake #2: Signing up with a Vanity Press without doing a search for complaints. According to Wikipedia, “a vanity press or vanity publisher, sometimes also subsidy publisher, is a publishing house in which authors pay to have their books published.”

About two years ago, I chose a publisher that I’d been following, sold by the way the company presented itself on their website and in phone conversations I had with the company rep. I loved the packages they offered, which included everything under the sun that I would need.

My husband and I lived in a small town at the time. I didn’t have the advantage of a critique group or contact with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s chapter as I do now, living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I joked that my package—the Ultimate, mind you, promising the moon—was my “Harley,” a gift from my husband a few years after he bought his dream Harley. I would buy my dream: a way to publish my book with the help I believed I needed.

Now, after finding help in critique groups with my fellow SCBWI-NM authors, and information from the SCBWI organization itself, I see how misguided I had been. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As luck would have it, just days before my book—my first, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, a ghost story for 7-to-10-year-olds—was to be published, I read a book that changed everything: 10 Publishing Myths, by W. Terry Whalin. I had barely turned the first few pages before a feeling of dread crept into my soul. In Chapter One: “Myth One: I Will Make a Lot of Money Writing My Book.” Of course, I understood that. But in this chapter, Whalin makes the case that “to be a best seller, the book needs broad distribution to online plus brick-and-mortar bookstores who report their sales to a bestseller list. Balboa Press [a press that he uses as an example] is online and their books are not sold in brick-and-mortar bookstores.” This was not the case with my company, I assured myself. Whalin goes on to say that the overall production of these books is not good quality. Not mine. I'd already seen the cover and had worked closely with the artist. My book was beautiful. Whalin hoped this author didn’t spend a lot of money to produce her book.

Well, I did spend a lot of money. Harley's are expensive! As my alarm grew, I turned to the next page, where Whalin suggests doing a Google search to check out potential publishers, by typing "Publisher’s name + complaints." I did that and was in for the shock of my life. Not only were there a substantial number of complaints against my publisher, but these complaints were made by twenty-nine authors who had published with my company and created a revolt on a private Facebook page. Why? Not one of the twenty-nine had received one royalty check. Not one. Today many more authors have joined the group, an attorney has gotten involved, and the owner is facing several lawsuits. 

I spent two taxing days and sleepless nights reading the authors’ experiences, sent an email to one of them, and he invited me to join the group and tell them about my experience. The group welcomed me, and in their posts, I found the help I needed to obtain my files from the company and proceed to self-publishing my book.

My caveat: I was lucky. I already had possession of my files which were print-ready and easy to publish on KDP. Some others are still battling to obtain their files and as a result, are unable to publish their books.

Lesson Learned: Before doing business with anyone, do a Google search to see if there are any complaints against them.

Mistake #3: Being out of touch with my calendar. Recently, I entered a picture book manuscript in a contest, and it won an award—first, second, or third to be announced at a later date. I wrote to everyone I could think of with the news, then read the fine print. The manuscript had to be unpublished. I forgot that tiny fact when the illustrator finished her work. I went ahead and published the book on Amazon as soon as I could. 

Lesson Learned: Make sure you write down your important dates on your calendar. If I had written the date the announcement was to be made about the contest, I would have waited to publish the book and received the award. Instead, I had to disqualify myself and the award went to someone else.

Ultimate Lessons Learned: It’s become natural for me to know how much work to take on now. I check the companies I work with on Google, and am making it as a self-published author. As for the contest? I’m determined to win an award with the same contest next year. It’s taken me about a week to come up with an idea. Soon, I will begin work on it and when the contest opens, I will enter it and put the important dates on my calendar. This experience has also encouraged me to search out other contests which I plan on submitting to. Who knows? Maybe I will win another contest.  

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher, has published over 150 articles for children and adults, several short stories for children, and her  books, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, and A Packrat's Holiday: Thistletoe's Gift, are available on Amazon, Publishing credits include biosketches for the library journal, Biography Today, which include Troy Aikman, Stephen King, and William Shatner; PocketsHopscotch; and an article accepted by Highlights for ChildrenSecret in the Mist, the second in the Abi Wunder series, is coming soon. Follow Linda at

Location, Location, Location: Researching Place

by Suzanne Lieurance

Sure, location may be the most important factor for realtors and homeowners.

It’s also a major concern for writers, yet most don’t have the luxury of working on location.

Instead, they do the majority of their work at home, using a variety of research techniques to make specific locales come alive for their audiences.

Here’s how to uncover those special details that let readers know you’ve been to the places you’re writing about—even if you haven’t!

Travel Electronically

Lisa Harkrader lives in a small town in Kansas.

When she was writing a novel set in the Australian outback, she needed to find out how to throw a nonreturning boomerang.

She couldn’t just take off for Down Under.

Instead, Harkrader traveled the Internet.

She located a website for a company in Australia that sells boomerangs.

“I e-mailed the company, explaining who I was and what I was doing, and asked if they knew where I could find the information I needed,” says Harkrader. “They e-mailed back with very detailed instructions on how to throw a nonreturning boomerang. These are the kinds of details that are hard to uncover when you can’t actually visit a place, so you have to be creative and relentless in tracking them down.”

Julia Beiker also lives in Kansas.

When she was writing a story that takes place in Italy, she journeyed through the Internet, too.

She joined an Italian genealogy group online to get a feel for how to enhance her story.

Beiker says, “An Italian professor gave me expressions that would have been used by a boy during the time period of my story.”

Now, here’s a switch.

Kristin Nitz lived in Italy for several years and wrote a novel set in Tuscany.

“I used Yahoo (search engine) to look at rentals in the Italian countryside,” Nitz says. “The house and grounds I created for my setting are a composite of several of those villas.”

Kim Williams-Justesen writes travel guides and usually does visit most of the places she includes in her guides.

Yet she also goes online for some of her research.

“I look at the government sites because it’s amazing what you can find there, especially for state and national parks and historic sites,” says Williams-Justesen. “I visit travel sites that might have reviews of places that I’m going to review—but I do this after I’ve visited a particular site, so their review doesn’t color my own perception.”

When Jane Buchanan, who writes historical fiction for kids, was working on a picture book set in 1910 Dorchester, Massachusetts, about a Polish family’s first Thanksgiving celebration, she found, “The hardest part of that story was finding confirmation that factories in the Boston area would have been operating on Thanksgiving Day in 1910. For that, I used the Internet. I found articles on the library’s magazine article index and tracked down their authors on the Web. I also came across a labor history listserv and people there were most helpful.”

Study Maps

For writer Nancy Ferrell, the first step to researching location is to “obtain a map, as detailed as I can get, for the city and country I’m writing about. A map lets the writer know how far it is from point A to point B—important information that’s often needed to make the action of the story credible.”

Wendie Old, who was a children’s librarian for more than 30 years, and writes fiction and nonfiction, agrees. “It helps to have a map. That way you’re consistent as you move your characters from place to place.”
Maps can be obtained from your local library, but the Internet is also a good place to find all kinds, everything from highway to weather maps.

When you’re writing a historical book and “not on the scene,” says Suzanne Hilton, author of over 20 books, “one aid is a topographical map that shows just the mountains, streams, and such—no highways, etc.”

She recommends the Library of Congress for “extremely early maps.”

Contact the Library of Congress also about travel brochures, flyers, and pamphlets.

The picture books of Verla Kay take place in a variety of locations.

Kay has written about the California Gold Rush, the railroad, covered wagons, and many other elements of U.S. history.

“I’ve written successfully about places I’ve never been,” says Kay, “but it’s much easier when I’ve been there in person.”

She obtains brochures, flyers, and pamphlets from chambers of commerce, travel agencies, and the local visitors’ bureaus for the locations she writes about, as a starting point for her research.

Williams-Justesen also sends away for materials.

In one of her children’s stories, a young girl goes to Ontario in search of a long-lost uncle.

To find out about Ontario, she says, “I sent away for brochures and maps and got a lot of really good stuff for free.”

Many Ways to Research Location

As you can see, there are many ways to research location.

Next month, you’ll learn additional ways in Part Two of Location, Location, Location.

For more writing tips, be sure to visit and get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge. Once you're a subscriber, you'll also have access to a Private Resource Library for Writers.

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

Are You Writing A Perennial Seller?

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

In the last fifteen years, the publishing world has changed. In the past, self-publishing was the poor step-sister to traditional publishing. These self-made titles often looked poor and were not accepted in libraries or bookstores. As book production has improved, this attitude is shifting. There are still poorly made self-published books and the average self-published title sells less than 200 copies during the lifetime of the book

My bent in this area is for you to get the largest distribution and produce the best book you can produce. It's why I continue to encourage authors to create a book proposal and work with traditional publishers as well as explore other models like Morgan James Publishing (where I've worked for over nine years).

While there are many ways and companies to help you create your book, at the end of the day, the key question relates to sales of that book. Is it selling? Are people buying it on a consistent basis? Are you as the author promoting your book consistently? After all, as the author, you have the greatest passion for your book—whether you went with one of the big five publishing houses or a small publisher or self-published.

One of the best ways to learn about publishing is to consistently read how-to books about writing or marketing. As you read these books and take action from the information, you will grow as a writer. I've got stacks of these types of books that I read.

Several year ago, I learned about a book from Ryan Holiday called Perennial Seller, The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts. Books that last and continue to sell in the market are rare. Traditional publishers are known to be fickle in this area. I have seen it when I've worked inside publishing houses (not Morgan James). You work hard to get a book published and into the market, then for whatever reason it does not sell, then a publishing executive writes a letter to the author or literary agent and takes the book out of print.

Every day thousands of new books enter the market.  Which books become continual sellers? Bestselling author Ryan Holiday has studied these details with his own books and with other books. Perennial Seller is loaded with the details for every author or would-be author to read. Ryan has a keen sense of what it takes to create an excellent book and each of his sections includes gems of information for the writer.

While many writers believe their key failure is in the marketing areas, Ryan writes in the opening pages, “Promotion is not how things are made great—only how they are heard about. Which is why this book will not start with marketing, but with the mindset and effort that must go into the creative process—the most important part of creating a perennial seller.” (Page 19)

Also for those writers who believe they can quickly crank out such a book, Ryan cautions, “Creating something that lives—that can change the world and continue doing so for decades—requires not just a reverence for the craft and a respect for the medium, but real patience for the process itself. (Page 29-30)

No matter who you are working with to get the book out there, Ryan is realistic in Perennial Seller encouraging the writer to take their own responsibility rather than feel like they can delegate it to someone else. In the section on positioning, he writes a section called “You’re the CEO” saying, “If the first step in the process is coming to terms with the fact that no one is coming to save you—there’s no one to take this thing off your hands and champion it the rest of the way home—then the second is realizing that the person who is going to need to step up is you.” (Page 67)

Wherever you are in the publishing process, you will gain insights reading  Perennial Seller. I found the book engaging and valuable—in fact, maybe a book that I will read multiple times (unusual for me). I highly recommend this title.

Whether you read Perennial Seller or not, I recommend you get the free gift from the back of this book. You subscribe and confirm to be on Holiday's email list, then you get a series of case studies which were not included in the book—yet from experienced publishing people.

Are you writing or dreaming of writing a perennial seller? What steps are you taking as a writer to make that happen? Let me know in the comments below. 


Are You Writing A Perennial Seller? Check out this article to  Make Your Book a Perennial Seller.  (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page
.  He has written for over 50 magazines and more than 60 books with traditional publishers.  His latest book for writers is 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed. Get this book for only $10 + free shipping and over $200 in bonuses. On October 5th, his classic Book Proposals That $ell will be released. He lives in Colorado and has over 190,000 twitter followers

Strategic Creative Writing Tips


by Deborah Lyn Stanley

Consistent writing hones our skills and expands our experience—the key to writing success.

Creative writing is beneficial to all writers.
•    Enhances imagination and creativity
•    Shapes thoughts to logically create the plot
•    Growth of confidence
•    Clarity and skillful communication
•    Creates a change of pace and stimulates fresh ideas

The best suggestion is using creative exercises to foster imaginative stories & ideas that relate to people.
•    Include dialogue between characters to express relationships.
•    Give attention to Point of View.
•    Similes build images by comparisons.
•    Use a short narrative anecdote to develop your characters.
•    Ask yourself “What If” questions.
Just get into the flow and write! Later—review, revise, and polish.

Story starters can help us get going. Check the internet for: 1) Creative Writing Now/story ideas and 2) Writing Forward .

Read well to write well. Sample a new author’s work, go beyond blogs and social media to classical literature—there’s a wealth of written works to learn from and enjoy. Some things that standout to me include: plot and story structure, the flow of narrative and dialogue, and character development.

Our discussion of Commonplace Books (post #1 & #2) could be very useful.
In the first post, I mentioned—the essential commonplace book (or journal notebook) is your personal place for useful and informative content.  Post #2:  

It’s your idea book—uniquely yours, a central storehouse of knowledge. It is a helpful resource to gather your notes of wisdom, impressive sayings, and practical applications. As you read, capture an idea by making notes, scribbles, or comments. Let your commonplace book become your treasure store of ideas and wisdom. Organize it as you wish: diagonal snippets, vertical standout points, doodles and diagrams.

Nurture creativity. Devote time to this grand adventure. Here are a few ways to foster creative writing skills:
1.    Spark it with art projects or art field trips,
2.    Schedule writing appointments with yourself,
3.    Use writing text prompts or magazine images,
4.    Listen to music, write the story that comes to mind

Understand & Strengthen Your Personal Creative Process

Helpful Books & Links:
What is Creative Writing?  

Ready, Set, Write: a Guide to Creative Writing by Melissa Donovan

Writing the Wave by Elizabeth Ayres

Telling True Stories: Nonfiction Writer’s Guide–Multiple Contributors, Edited by M.Kramer & W.Call

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 My Writer’s Life website at:   

Visit her caregiver’s website:
"Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love"




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Writing Residencies - Apply, Apply, Apply

By Mindy Lawrence

A writer I know decided to stick her neck out and apply for an international writing residency. Guess what? She was accepted! She got to go to Iceland and participate in a program for memoir and nonfiction writers. She’s getting to go for one reason—she applied.

It’s important to grow. We do that by pushing past what we think we CAN do and exploring the murky ground of the unknown. When we succeed, it gives us the motivation we need to investigate our abilities even deeper.  You might want to investigate some of the residencies mentioned in the links below and see if you are interested. By all means, look at them and apply, apply, apply.


·         Nine Unconventional Writers’ Residencies:

·         Conferences and Residencies Database:

·         Artist Communities Residencies:

·         12 Offbeat Writer Residency Programs:

·         Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow:


 Original first published in Sharing with Writers.

Mindy Lawrence is a writer and artist based in Farmington, Missouri. She worked for the State of Missouri for over 24 years and has retired to her sumptuous home office where she’s writing and doing calligraphy. She proofed and wrote a column for Sharing with Writers newsletter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson for ten years. 

Get Moving: 5 Fitness Goals for Writers

A lot of people see fitness - working out - as a necessary evil. That first part is correct.

Fitness relates to your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. But, let's face it, working out, has a positive impact on all three. 

The truth is, personal and professional goals are forever intertwined, Feel good and you are more productive at work. When work goes well, typically so does your personal life.

As writers, our default mode is sitting at the computer. But it doesn't have to be.

Having trouble committing time and energy to a regular workout?

Here are 5 fitness goals for writers:

1. Explore Workout Videos. Like with any business service, you will connect better with some trainers than others, There are a plethora of workouts from which to choose on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. Start searching.

2. Find a Workout You Enjoy. Test out different types of exercise until you find one that fits you. If you enjoy your workout, you are more likely to do it. 

3. Start Small. A 10-minute workout still counts as a win. Don't go overboard with new workout goals ... you may burn out, over-do things, and/or potentially hurt yourself.  Instread, start small, pace yourself, and build up to longer workouts.

4. Join a Community. There are plenty of fitness groups for sharing and reporting on workout goals. You can also share your goals and wins in my Write On Online Facebook Group or on my weekly #GoalChat Twitter chat.

5. Track Your Progress. Keep a log of your workouts, including what you did, when, and for how long. Seeing your progress with help motivate you to keep going! 

Bonus: Set rewards for accomplishing your fitness goals. You worked hard on working out. You deserve it! 

Committing to fitness - much like your commitment to writing - is a gift to yourself. So, choose yourself.

And, remember, you can do it!

* * *

For more on Fitness, watch this week's GoalChatLive:  

What are your fitness goals? Please share in the comments.

* * *

Need some extra help setting and achieving your goals? Please reach out!

* * *

Debra Eckerling is the award-winning author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals and founder of the D*E*B METHOD, which is her system for goal-setting simplified. A writer, editor, and project catalyst, Deb works with entrepreneurs, executives, and creatives to set goals and manage their projects through one-on-one coaching, workshops, and online support. She is also the author of Write On Blogging and Purple Pencil Adventures; founder of Write On Online; Vice President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Women's National Book Association; host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat, #GoalChatLive on Facebook and LinkedIn, and The DEB Show podcast. She speaks on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Essentials for Managing a Writing Career


When I was on a panel at PALA (the Publisher Association of Los Angeles (an associate of Independent Book Publishers Association or IBPA), I was asked to give them the five most important tips to an independent writing career and this is an abbreviated rundown of what I told them:

1.    One of the most deleterious ideas—the one that has the most disastrous effect on the welfare of an author’s book—is that marketing is selling. Especially selling people something whether or not they want it (or can use it).This incorrect idea of what marketing is at its roots is unethical, destructive to creativity, and absolutely false. It is what marketing is not. Here’s what marketing is:

a.    It is having a passion for one’s own book, a passion coupled with a strong belief that it will help others—either a certain group of others or everyone. That it it is an authentic belief that the book will make their lives better. Help them. Entertain them.

b.    Marketing is the process of learning who those people are and showing them why it is right for them and helping them access it in the most convenient way for their needs.

c.    It is about caring and making it evident that this caring is  apparent through the campaigns and promotions the author does. Authors will be forgiven for that awful term selling if the reader can see—and feel—the caring. Both in the book and in the marketing campaign itself.

2.    Here’s my most inspirational tip:. You can now be in charge of your own writing career. That means you get to make your own decisions. Fortunately that also means you have the never-ending uphill learning curve to climb and I believe it’s fortunate because you will never get bored.

3.    There are no blanket rules—no undeniable, unforgiving, steel-clad rules in writing or publishing. But you must know the rules anyway. If you don’t,  and you put out a less than professional product (and it is apparent there is no good reason for having broken those rules), you have done yourself and all the other independent authors a disservice.

4.    Learn, learn, learn. One of the best ways to do that is to use the benefits offered by respected writers organizations. Use them to learn more but also use the benefits they offer to help you market. Both their paid services and the ones that come free with membership. Example: One that works well is renting one of their lists for a direct marketing campaign.
5.    Learn to fight what is left of Book Bigotry or Entrenched Publishing Rules without spending time trying to change others’ minds. People only change their minds when they’re in enough pain. Be confident in knowing that entrenched (read that traditional) marketing ideas aren’t the best way to sell books anyway. The best way to use your marketing budget and time is to find the ways you can reach the most people in the least time (and where you can make the greatest net profit)—and that isn’t by selling through bookstores. . .or in airports.

6.    Tips: Read, read, read, but read cautiously. Everyone on the Web isn’t an expert. Find experts with newsletters written by experts who will keep you up to date.
Examples: Amazon sends information about their new promotion opportunities to those who are already published. To get that information, you have to read their e-mails.  And read newsletters. My favorites are:

                           I.        Dan Poynter’s
                         II.        Hope C. Clark’s (Funds for Writers)
                       III.        Joan Stewart’s (The Publicity Hound)
                        IV.        My SharingwithWriters
                                    (Subscribe at
                          V.       And for speakers (one of the best ways to market), Tom Antion's letter for speakers

7.    Join organizations:
I love Independent Book Publishers Associations (IBPA), of course, but there are lots more targeted associations like memoir writers, journalists, the Military Writers Society of America, PEN. Remember they only work as well as you work them.

8.    Join listserves, sometimes called social network groups or forums. IBPA has a great one. Author U is one founded by Judith Briles. Here’s a tip: Learn which contributors are experienced and which aren’t before you take advice to heart.

Article reprint from 2015

Carolyn Howard-Johnson has been promoting her own books and helping clients promote theirs for more than a decade. Her marketing plan for the second book in the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers, The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success won the Next Generation Millennium Award for Marketing.
The just-released third edition of The Frugal Book Promoter, published by Modern History Press, is New! Expanded! Updated!
Her poetry, fiction and nonfiction books have been honored by the likes of Writer’s Digest, USA Book News Award, the Irwin award, Dan Poynter’s Global Ebook Awards and more. Learn more about Carolyn and her books of fiction and poetry. Each of them helped her learn more about maximizing marketing efforts for different writers, different titles. Learn more at and Carolyn-Howard-Johnson: Amazon Page.

Positive Thinking and the Writer


 "Positive thinkers see the invisible, feel the intangible, and achieve the impossible."
~ Sean McCabe

When I was looking for a house a couple of years ago, I saw this quote by Sean McCabe, and it amazed me how accurate it is.

As my husband and I were looking, my husband saw all the things wrong with each house. It had wall paper; it needed a complete renovation; it needed a kitchen; the basement needed to be finished; the rooms weren’t right. The lot was too big. It was a corner property. The list went on and on.

I saw all the things right with each house. I saw how it could be. I had the ability to look beyond what was actually there (see the invisible and feel the intangible) and see what could be.

It made me think about writing. Most writers understand that writing can be a tough business. There are lots of rejections and lots of ups and downs. To survive in this business, you need to keep a positive mindset. You need to persevere. You need to see beyond the slumps. You need to keep moving forward and achieve what may seem impossible.

This also goes for those who want to be an author but have no clue how to go about doing it. Seeing things through a positive mindset allows you to figure out what to do, whether it means hiring a ghostwriter or taking the steps necessary to learn to write yourself.

But it goes beyond writing. As with everything in life, there will be obstacles in your path. Sometimes those obstacles may seem insurmountable. The key is to not let them stop you. Keep moving forward. You might even envision yourself happily beyond the problem or obstacle.

So, whether it’s with your writing life or life itself, be a positive thinker. See the invisible and the intangible, and achieve the impossible.


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author. She runs a successful children’s ghostwriting, rewriting, and coaching 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.

And, check out Karen's The Adventures of Planetman picture book series and her other books at:.


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