Writers: 3 Must-Have Tips

Here's a sample of what you can do with Canva

How can we writers come across information to make our lives easier? First stop, organizations set up to help us. In my town, Albuquerque, I belong to the New Mexico chapter of the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and our own local Southwest Writers. Both organizations offer conferences, workshops, and resources to help guide our publishing journeys. Second stop, books such as the award-winning How to Do it Frugally Series, by Carolyn Howard-Johnson. Howard-Johnson's books are chock full of helpful information that will keep you on top of what you need to know.

Fellow authors have introduced various companies to me that have become indispensable. Canva, a design company that you can use for free to create terrific-looking banners, posters, and more. The illustration in this post was designed by moi at no charge. Dropbox stores content in the Cloud, offering no size limits, and a terrific way to share your files with anyone. And bitly, a software company that offers transforming long URLs into short ones which you can use in your social media posts. 


Here’s your chance to be an artist! All for free!

First, create your account, and then explore.

Choices of the types of designs are many, including Video, Presentation, Logo, Instagram Post, Flyer, Resumé, Poster, Certificate, Brochure.

Canva Pro offers a lot fancier types of design, starting at $12.99 for up to five people. Check it out!

I wanted to create a banner—the illustration for this post—and settled on creating a Facebook Cover. It was a good choice because I’ve used this banner in my email signature and other places besides Facebook.

Here’s how it goes: Click on Facebook Cover. Find a background by either looking through templates (on the left side of the page) or uploading a photo from your computer, such as a landscape scene or flowers that you’ve taken. Note: Backgrounds with a crown icon are chargeable. There are plenty of free backgrounds to choose from.

Upload photos from your computer that you want to display, which will be kept in a Canva file and is easily assessable. In my case, I uploaded the front covers of my books, photos of myself, etc. Drag the uploads into your design. They will automatically conform to the size you need. Use the Text button to add a title and text. I added a title to my design at the top of the page. This helps you find it easily in your Canva upload file.

Canva automatically saves your design and adds it to your uploads. I downloaded my designs into a file on my computer. This helped with cropping.

Crop from your download for the correct size of your design: I found that the background was too large for my use. Downloading the file was key. I cropped the design from my download file. If you need to go back to your original design on Canva to make any changes, no problem. Make the changes, and save the file with a new name. The result of my latest design (which I put together today in about 15 minutes, though my upload file was already in place) is the illustration for this post. 

The same design will be used for social media with the addition of my photo.


There is a charge for DropBox. I pay $9.99/month. It’s well worth it. At first, I used DropBox to save files in the Cloud in case my computer loses the files. Then I shared files while working with the illustrators for my books. After that I’ve used it in many other ways, such as sharing text files with editors and critiquers, and photos shared for my books, and also photos for my personal life.

Recently, I joined a guitar jam group. We share our songs in a file that everyone uses on their iPad when we meet once a week. The organization of the songs is terrific, with an alphabetical list on the left side, and the piece of music on the right, which you can maximize.


On Twitter, in books, and in many other places I saw URL addresses using bitly. I didn’t understand what it was for a long time. I decided to Google it and the rest is history. 

Bitly is free, though for more sophisticated users, there is a charge for upgrading the service. But for the need to simply shorten a small number of URL’s, there hasn’t been a charge for me. I have only a few URL addresses I need bitly for, such as my website, my author page on Amazon, and the individual pages for each of my books. It’s a terrific service, especially for giving URL addresses on Twitter.

For quite a while I resisted looking into these types of companies and services. Signing up with, exploring, and learning about them takes time away from writing. But once you start marketing your books, networking, and doing all the other myriad things you need to do to sell books, you find that these types of services are part of writing. Besides, they’re loads of fun!




DropBox organization
for songs--terrific!

·        Linda Wilson lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a classical pianist and loves to go to the gym. But what Linda loves most is to make up stories and connect with her readers. Visit Linda at https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com. Sign up for Linda’s quarterly giveaways. Choose your prize! 

Find Linda’s books at https://www.amazon.com/author/lindawilsonchildrensauthor.

Tools for Organizing Your Freelance Writing Business

by Suzanne Lieurance

The better organized you are as a freelance writer, the better able you’ll be to run a successful business.

Part of being organized means having the proper forms, templates, and other items on hand.

Here’s a partial list of the kinds of items you need to run your freelance writing business:

Professional Resume – You’ll need this when applying for writing jobs. Your writer’s resume is a bit different from a traditional resume. Potential clients need to be able to tell, at a glance, if you’re the person for the assignment they have to offer.

Short Professional Bio – Many times publishers will ask for a short bio to run with your articles or to put on the back cover of your books. There are all sorts of other uses for your bio, so it’s good to have this on hand, although you may customize it just a bit each time it’s used. And remember, the bio you send to clients and publishers should be written in 3rd person.

Weekly Marketing Plan & Work Schedule – With a plan and schedule in place each week, come Monday morning (or whenever your work week starts) all you need to do is follow the plan and stick to the schedule.

Contract and/or Letter of Agreement – A letter of agreement is needed for speaking engagements and author visits; a contract is needed for all sorts of freelance assignments (sometimes the client will provide the contract, but many times you will need to provide it). The more detailed your letter of agreement is for speaking engagements and author visits, the smoother those events will go and the easier (and quicker) it will be for you to receive payment.

Proposal or Estimate Form or Template – When you have a regular form or template to use, it’s easy to write up a proposal or give a potential client an estimate for a project.

Invoice Template – A template makes it simple to invoice clients. It doesn’t need to be complicated. It just needs to spell out your assignment and the terms of this assignment, including how much you will be paid for it and the date payment is due.

Client List – You need to keep track of clients & their contact information, plus other important details that will help you serve them better. Include editors, publishers, business clients, etc.

Query & Submissions List - This is a MUST for keeping track of all the publications you send queries or manuscripts to. You can keep this list in an online file or in a looseleaf notebook—whichever works best for you. I prefer a notebook because I can look through it without using my computer.

Sample Confidentiality Agreement – Some clients may want this, and a template will make it easy to personalize the agreement for different clients. When potential clients ask about your services, let them know you’ll send them a confidentiality agreement for their review before you start working together.

These are just some of the most basic forms, templates, and other tools you’ll need to run your freelance business. Make sure you have these items on hand to keep your business well organized and running smoothly and efficiently. 

Many of these tools are available (free) in our Private Resource Library for Writers when you join the mailing list at writebythesea.com.

As a subscriber, you'll also receive The Morning Nudge.

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 40 published books and a writing coach. 


What Drives Your Publishing?

By Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin

Few people talk about this truth of publishing: it is hard. I’ve been doing it for decades and it is still hard. There is a reason it is called work. Yet thousands of new books are published every day. These books join the millions of books which are already in print. Yes the field involves lot of competition yet there are also huge opportunities for writers.

Since I was a small child, I have always loved and appreciated many different types of books. As I wrote about in the first chapter of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, a high school English teacher pushed me toward joining my high school newspaper and beginning to write stories. It is a path I’ve walked for decades. I have spent (and continue to spend hours) learning the craft of storytelling. I study publications, publishers and agents to learn what they need then deliver it. I continue to build reader and audience connections. I care about the details of editing and understand the need to rewrite (especially if the editor needs something else). I’ve only given a few items in a lengthy list related to publishing. The reality is publishing is a complex business with many twists and turns. I’ve been continually studying it for decades.

As I’ve traveled the publishing journey, I’ve met incredible people and had remarkable experiences. For example, twice I’ve received six-figure advances from traditional publishers. I’ve also been fired and had book contracts cancelled.  I’ve experienced the thrill of success and the dismal feelings of rejection.  I’ve stayed at my computer sometimes all night to keep my fingers on the keyboard and meet a deadline.

Why do it? Why invest such effort into this challenging work which is filled with many “no thank yous” and rejection? My motivation is rooted in my personal experience from years ago. Books change lives and I know this fact firsthand because a book changed my life.  

For the first year and a half I attended Indiana University to study journalism, I rebelled from my Christian upbringing. You can read the details in this magazine article, Two Words ThatChanged My Life. During this period, I wandered in a Christian bookstore two blocks off the campus to look at their cards and posters. I found a book called Jesus the Revolutionary by H.S. Vigeveno (Regal Books). The title and cover caught my attention. This book changed my life and I saw a different side of Jesus than I had ever seen in church. I began a personal relationship with Jesus and changed the direction of my life. Instead of journalism, I spent ten years in linguistics and missionary work before eventually I returned to my writing and my first book was published in 1992. The printed page has the power to change lives and I know it from personal experience. These memories motivate me every day to be involved in some aspect of publishing.

Now that you know my motivation, I encourage you to spend some time thinking about your motivation. Can you capture it in sentence or two? Or maybe like my story, you have an experience about a changed life. Publishing is complicated and full of hard days as well as good one. My motivation to change lives is foundational as to why I fight through the hard experiences and keep on going. What motivates you? Let me know in the comments below.


What drives you to publish? According to this prolific writer and editor,books change lives. Learn the details here: https://bit.ly/3sLhuEH #writinglife #pubtip (ClickToTweet)


W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. Get Terry’s recent book, 10 Publishing Myths for only $10, free shipping and bonuses worth over $200. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets ToSpeed Your Success. Check out his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: www.terrywhalin.com. Connect with Terry on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Word Choice Matters


Word Choice Matters
Sentences Build Paragraphs 

by Deborah Lyn Stanley

Writers need to develop a strong vocabulary for building up the many facets of storytelling and article writing. Word lists of favorite, unusual, fun sounding words to compose a selected topic helps. Test the flow of sounds and experiment using some for creativity in your next piece. Expand your reading collection with classical, by-gone authors, to become familiar with how they expressed dialogue and scenes in their day, or lyrical stories and poems. Jot down words of interest. Note them in your Commonplace book, and create a collage of word pictures to describe scenes.

Enlarging your vocabulary with lively and interesting expressions, and writing like your natural speaking voice, is engaging. It’s a good way to empower your articles or poems.
Just write, remembering we always follow with revision and polish to honor clarity and communicate well with readers.

My Commonplace book includes a long word list of random words I’ve noticed while reading—including ones I am not familiar with, seeming unique, especially in the way used. These can be a welcome addition to my usual; for example; sweet Elysium (paradise), rose-colored visions, desecration, petitions, syncopation, provincial, and sexton.  You might also, choose topical words for particular projects, such as tranquility, shelter, botanical or courage.
Try it. You’re sure to be inspired!

Writers Read!

Sentences Build Paragraphs:
Effective communication elements: Clarity, Coherence, Control, and Credibility are key.
Points to Consider:
1.    Clarity—Help your reader by telling them where you are going, the information you plan to present, and offer your conclusion.
2.    The three-part paragraph structure gives a map for topic, development & resolution.
3.    Coherence—Paragraphs help to contain your thoughts. You may have several points in a paragraph, but in a unifying theme, each sentence supports that focal point.
4.    A natural, coherent flow to a paragraph begins with the first sentence; so, reorder the sentences of your paragraph if needed. A logical order of things leads to what comes next.
5.    Control—You are in control of the pace of your piece. Use paragraphical emphasis: longer is slower, shorter is faster.
6.    Credibility results from several things: language, knowledge of the subject, word choice, and your writer’s voice.
7.    The better you know your audience, the more successful you will be in delivering your information.

Write Sentences
Think in Paragraphs

Revision & Polish Tips:
1.    Keep the focus, the theme, of the piece consistent throughout,
2.    Sentence structure: a subject—a noun or pronoun, and a predicate/verb that explains what the subject is doing,
3.    Use nouns rather than adjectives and remove over used adjectives such as very,
4.    Verbs are where the action is—choose strong ones,
5.    Avoid adverbs that diminish the strength of a sentence.
6.    Vary sentence length within the piece.
7.    Make it personal and professional, convey the message, be specific.

Helpful Tools:
Melissa Donovan’s 10 Core Practices for Better Writing https://www.writingforward.com/books/10-core-practices-for-better-writing

Mastering the Craft of Writing by Stephen Wilbers 
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mastering-Craft-Writing

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: https://deborahlynwriter.com/   
Visit her caregiver’s website: https://deborahlyncaregiver.com/

Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love is available:
& https://books2read.com/b/valuestories

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Writers: Be Organized, Be Productive

At worst, a house unkept cannot be so distressing as a life unlived.
                                                                                                   --Rose Macaulay

Have you taken an honest look at your work habits lately? I’m one to talk. That’s why I didn’t clean up my office before I took the photos for this post. If I’m working on a project non-stop, I’ve been known to walk around the mess on the floor of my office, place my notebook ON TOP of the pile on my desk, and keep working until the project is done. THEN I clean up. I wouldn’t recommend this method. Though to be sure, some chaos feeds my process. I do try to keep the chaos to a minimum, because I believe that to be productive one needs to be organized.

Tips of the Trade: My Method

I’ve found that I need to write OR organize. I can’t do both at the same time. Hence the mess I sometimes get into while working on a writing project.

My Tips:

Clean up your office.

Put papers away.

Collect various projects in folders and file the folders in a metal incline sorter or the like.

Label everything.

Keep your computer files sorted and easy to find.

Got a problem with feeling torn between household projects and errands vs writing? We all do.

Treat writing time the same way you do appointments and errands in your calendar. Designate a certain number of hours a day/week to work on writing, write this in your calendar, and stick to your plan.

Take part of your project and/or paper and pen/pencil everywhere you go. It’s amazing what you can get done in small snatches of time.

If I’m especially stressed to get household chores done, I set my manual kitchen timer for one hour. I run around and get as much housework done as possible. I do the same for writing time. The ticking clock reminds me to stay motivated and keep going. I do that as long as I can throughout the day until I simply must stop and finish either the household chores or writing for the day.

Try getting up super early. I struggle with this but when my alarm goes off at 5:00am, if I make myself GET RIGHT UP, I’m good. Those days I allow myself to take a short nap. 😊 Though I’m an early riser, if you’re a night owl, the same principle holds true.

At the end of a writing session, write yourself a note with where you need to start working the next day. This helps me get started faster than searching around for where I left off. I do the same thing for running my household. This helps me get a lot done in shorter amounts of time than if I didn’t plan ahead.

Add a good measure of throw-it-all-to-the-wind chaos to your work. I suppose being too organized might tend to be boring. I wouldn’t know because as much as I try, I never truly reach that pinnacle of true organization!

BONUS: Allow yourself to feel satisfied with the work accomplished each day. Feeling satisfied with the work accomplished each day has actually re-energized all aspects of my life, which in turn, as we writers know only too well, adds the fuel that feeds our writing!

Your take: I hope in some way your own creative process has been helped by this post. Please leave a comment with your thoughts. We would love to hear from you.

I couldn't let you go without seeing
the rest of my office.
Clean up time anyone?!

 Linda Wilson lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a classical pianist and loves to go to the gym. But what Linda loves most is to make up stories and connect with her readers. Visit Linda at https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com. Find Linda’s books at https://www.amazon.com/author/lindawilsonchildrensauthor.

Featured Productivity Tool: Networking Goals

I know what you are thinking: Networking is a tool? Yes, it is. You see, you can't reach your goals on your own. You need your community of resources, champions, and connections. Your friends may not always be your ideal reader or client. But everyone has their own circle. Your community grows multi-fold every time you grow your community. 

The challenge with networking is it takes time and energy. The best way to stay on top of networking is to set networking goals.

Here Are Networking Goals You Can Set Each Day, Week, Month, Quarter, and Year

1. Each Day: Set a 15-Minute Active Networking Appointment. During this time:
- Connect on LinkedIn with new friends
- Send an email or message to check in on a friend or peer   
- Post, comment, and reply on social media

2. Each Week: Attend 3 Events 
- One mixer
- One education event (Workshop or CE)
- One one-on-one with someone you met at one of the first two events to continue the conversation

3. Each Month: Create New Content
- Post on your blog. Ideally, you want to do this at least once a week, but better to aim for something feasible and achieve that goal
- Guest on Someone Else's Platform. It could be a blog guest post or interview, live show, or podcast 

4. Each Quarter: Refresh Your Online Presence
- Make sure your website bio and LinkedIn profile are up-to-date
- Make sure your profile photo still looks like you
- Bonus points for updating your banner image

5. Each Year: Attend at least one Live or Virtual Industry Conference
- It's one of the best ways to make new connections, solidify relationships, and learn new things in your area of expertise

Final Thoughts 

Until you prioritize networking - and focus on making real general connections - you never know what good will come of it!

* * * 
For more inspiration and motivation, follow @TheDEBMethod on Twitter and Linkedin! 

* * *

What's your best networking tip? Please share in the comments. 

* * *

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 goal-strategist, corporate consultant, and project catalyst, Debra offers personal and professional planning, event strategy, and team building for individuals, businesses, and teams. 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.

Kid's Stories - Should They All Become Books?


 Writing over 300 stories, between ghostwriting and rewriting, I’ve only seen one story that couldn’t be tweaked, nudged, shaken, or even deconstructed and reconstructed into a publishable story.

The concept and author of that one book were, well, not quite all there. Dealing with so many clients, I’m surprised I only had one so far.

Aside from that though, most stories or drafts can be magically turned into something an author will be proud to be author of.

A big problem I see is that new authors sometimes don’t know what a publishable story is.

But, wait a minute …

Let me clarify what I mean about a publishable book because today any story can become published, whether it’s poorly written or a well written story.

When I use the term “publishable,” I’m talking about a book that meets the U.S. standard children’s  publishing guidelines.

Three of the top mistakes I see that would warrant taking another stab at your story or demolishing it and starting over are:

1. The point-of-view

You’re writing a picture book or chapter book and have more than one point-of-view (POV).

This can happen when you have two or more main characters in your story or it can happen if you have head-hopping in your story.

Let’s go back a step and define POV. Every story has to be told from someone’s perspective. In other words, who is the story about.

It’s essential in young children’s writing that you clearly define who the protagonist (main character) is. And, there should only be one.

Jerry Jenkins, author of over 190 books, says he avoids slipping into an omniscient viewpoint “by imagining my Point of View or Perspective Character as my camera—I’m limited to writing only what my character ‘camera’ sees, hears, and knows.”

So, POV is a critical element of your story. Check to make sure you have only one POV and its that of the protagonist.

Head-hopping is slipping from one character’s POV to another, within the same paragraph or even same sentence.

In the example below, Tommy is the protagonist:

Tommy dug his cleats in. He raised the bat to his shoulder. A second later he watched the ball heading toward him . . . like a torpedo out of it tube. Without blinking he swung the bat. CRRAACCK. Stunned, he dropped the bat and ran. Did . . . did I just hit the ball.

“Pete,” said Jim with a nudge, “you see that. I didn’t think he’d hit that ball—it came so fast.” Jim threw a pretend pitch. “Look at him running round the bases.”

The second paragraph in the example is a no-no. It’s bringing Jim’s perspective into the story since Tommy couldn’t see or hear him.

Tommy is the protagonist and must know what’s going on in the story or it can’t be in the story.

This could be rewritten, though:

Tommy dug his cleats in. He raised the bat to his shoulder. A second later he watched the ball heading toward him . . . like a torpedo out of it tube. Without blinking he swung the bat. CRRAACCK. Stunned, he dropped the bat and ran. Did . . . did I just hit the ball.

When Tommy raced to home plate, he heard Jim yelling, “I didn’t think he’d hit that ball—it came so fast.”

Now it’s all with Tommy’s point-of-view.

2. Adults save the day.

Children want to read about children. They want the protagonist to solve his own problem.

While parents or other adults in a story can be a support system, their involvement needs to be minimal. The young protagonist needs to come up with the solution to her problem.

In “Stephanie’s Ponytail” by Robert Munsch, Stephanie wants to be unique. Here’s how the story starts:

“One day Stephanie went to her mom and said, ‘None of the kids in my class have a ponytail. I want a nice ponytail coming right out the back.’”

The problem though is the day after Stephanie comes in with that particular ponytail, all the girls in her class have it. So, each day she tells her mother create another specific kind of ponytail. The day after each new ponytail, the class copies her.

At the end, Stephanie comes up with a clever, and funny, idea that cures the class of copying her.

While the mother in involved in the story, it’s Stephanie who comes up with all the ideas. And, it’s Stephanie who solves the problem.

3. Jumping in without learning how to swim first.

You’ve wanted to write a children’s book for years. You have tons of ideas and you’ve even written a couple down. It’s gotten to a point where you can’t wait any longer and you put one of your ideas into a story.

You type or write away and finally have your story, and it seems great.

Picture books can be 10 pages, right? You ‘kind of’ draw, so you can create your own illustrations, right? You have a couple of rhymes here and there, so that’s good, right?

While you may have a great story idea, standard picture books are usually 32 pages - of those pages there are 24-26 for content and illustrations. Unless you’re a professional illustrator you shouldn’t create your own illustrations. And, either you’ve written a rhyming story or not.

There are lots of other elements that you need to be aware or before jumping in to write a publishable book.

So, there you have it, three top children’s writing mistakes.

If I were to give a number 4, it would be that you have TOO much showing in the story. If I were to give a number 5, it would be that you’re trying to knock the young reader over his head with the moral of the story.

Hope these tips help you when you sit down to write your story.


Fiction Writing for Children

POV with Jerry Jenkins

This article was first published at: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2018/10/28/are-all-childrens-stories-meant-to-become-books/  


Karen Cioffi
is an award-winning children’s author, a successful children’s ghostwriter with 300+ satisfied clients worldwide, and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For children’s writing tips, or if you need help with your children’s story, visit: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com

You can check out Karen’s books at:



The Lazy Way to Be a Great Writer

Making Your Book Into a Classic

Tips for Balancing Action & Exposition


Using Personality Typologies to Build Your Characters

  Contributed by Margot Conor People often have asked me how I build such varied and interesting character profiles. I’m fond of going into ...