Thursday, August 28, 2014

Revision, Part 1: An Early Fiction Checklist

My backpack-on-wheels travels everywhere with me. In it I schlep my old, heavy laptop, my iPad, if I stack them right quite a few books and my Kindle, at least one three-ring binder and my trusty pencil bag, which includes a highlighter, pencils, erasers and a pencil sharpener; different color pens, a mini-stapler, small post-its for note-taking, a flash drive, and paper clips. I'm ready to work, either electronically or on paper, at the drop of a #2 pencil.

Writing on the Run
Deep in the throes of revision while having to go on a recent short trip, I had to face that writing time would be hit or miss; normally squeezed in whenever there's a free moment. To really dig in, though, I wanted to take more than could possibly fit in my catch-all bag: a dictionary, my thesaurus, reference books, as-of-yet unread writing books, etc., etc. Knowing this was impossible, I took a break to think about what I could realistically get accomplished on the trip, sat back and read an article, "4 Tips for Writing Scenes," by Ingrid Sundberg,

Sundberg's article changed everything. Maybe I couldn't have all my tools, but I was at a place in my story where a preliminary check would be helpful. After a cursory look at my WIP with Sundberg's advice in mind, I made a startling discovery. The drama and emotion I thought I'd poured into my draft--heart, gut, and soul--didn't have the impact I'd envisioned. An editor might even call my scenes downright flimsy! I chose three areas that Sundberg suggested need to be present in each scene and decided not to wait until the end of the entire draft to consider them, but to review them early in the draft and see what would happen.

Three Scene Booster Musts
I backtracked to Chapter One and evaluated each scene according to Three Scene Boosters suggested in Sundberg's post. In each scene, I isolated these three areas:
  • Significant Emotional Change: Does your character go through some sort of emotional change?
After a thorough scrubbing this is what my I came up with: In Chapter 1, my character is sleepy and bored after starting out in the wee hours of the morning on a long ride home from a camping trip. Her grandfather's VW Bug starts to pick up speed. She stiffens as his car careens down a narrow mountain road, faster and faster. She is thrown side to side clinging to her stuffed animal, her only comfort.  Her short life flashes before her, like the car's headlights that are sweeping ever faster past a thick forest of trees. These minutes--seconds--could be her last.
Revised emotional change: I needed to show a starker contrast between my character's boredom and fear.
  • Dramatic Action: What action does your character take to get out of the bind she finds herself in?
Her grandfather shouts, "Hold on!" She grabs the door handle. He taps the brake but the wind whistles even louder past her ear. She shouts, "Quick, do something!" He pulls up on the emergency brake--the skinny little lever next to her seat--and the little VW Bug shudders and shakes. Her palms are slippery but she hangs on, with only her stuffed animal for comfort.
Revised dramatic action: As the car picks up speed, I needed to show how frightened she is more clearly, which was to show how helpless she feels. 
  • Scene Summary: What is the main action in the scene? At the end of the scene go back and look at your character's main action(s).
Stuck in the car; realizing it's out of control flying down a narrow mountain road. All she can do is hang on to the door handle, her palms slick, her arms hurting from holding on so tight.
  • What is your character's main emotion(s)? Fearing for her life.
Though likely not my last run-through, these early scene boosters have strengthened my scenes by looking for my character's emotional change, how dramatic her action(s) is, and giving her the maximum emotional punch. This technique has helped make my scenes more exciting and dramatic. The bonus? This effort should save time later during the final editing stage. That will be when most of the polishing is complete and each run-through is to make sure all the other essential story elements are in place.

Just think, if another short trip comes along I won't have to take so many writing tools in my backpack. All I'll need is a pencil, eraser, colored pen, post-its, and extra paper. Oh, and a book to read in my spare time!

See if this plan works for you: In coming months more revision highlights will be explored to help narrow down important areas in your manuscript, one at a time.

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, recently completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction course. She has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children, and is currently developing several works for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gearing Up for September

Around here, September marks a fresh start. After 3 months of fun in the sun, it will feel good to get back into a routine. It's also a good time to review the year, reflect on successes, and make changes if necessary.

Here are some tips that will help you cross the finish line of meeting your goal(s) at the end of the year:
  • Work Space - Do you need to do some filing and organizing? Are there outdated post-it- notes stuck around your space? Is your chair comfortable? Do you have enough room? How is the lighting? I recently moved my desk to another part of the room and it really made a difference.
  • Supplies - School supplies are being sold everywhere at some really good prices. Now is the time to stock up! I like the composition notebooks (used come only in black and white) that now come in lots of colors. I use one for each project I'm doing. Every idea, deadline, contact, etc., goes in the color-designated notebook. I've found this works best for me instead of a file folder for current projects. 
  • Schedule - How is your writing schedule working? Are you taking ground? Even if it feels slow and steady, it counts! Are you trying to work in the morning, when you do your best at night? Have you been able to balance your personal life with your professional life? Take a good look at your writing routine. If you're not producing what you had planned, it's a good indication something needs to change. Don't be afraid to do it.
While practical tips are important for success, are you enjoying the journey? Are you pacing yourself so you don't miss the "little things"? Or are you sprinting to the finish line and the scenery has been a blur?

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Life is a journey, not a destination." Isn't it true we can be so focused on where we need to go that we are not enjoying how we're getting there? 

As summer ends and a new season begins, I hope you'll review your year thus far and be energized in the coming months. But mostly, I hope you're enjoying the process!

  After raising and homeschooling her 8 children and teaching art classes for 10 years, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. She enjoys writing magazine articles and more recently had her story, "One of a Kind", published in The Kids' ArkYou can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Refocusing after a Vacation from Writing

In my July post, I shared that I was going to give myself a writing vacation.  No writing blog posts, revising manuscripts or developing first drafts.  I have a lot of writing projects at different stages of development, but I was not anxious to work on any of them.   My writing time was going to be reallocated to summertime fun and travel.  I was going to give the written word a rest.

During my writing hiatus, I visited with friends, went to museums, read more and travelled.   I also spent way too many hours stuck in airports—travelling over 15,000 miles in the month. 

In an attempt at full disclosure, I have to admit that I did jot down some notes during the month.   As I traveled the country or roamed my hometown, I jotted down ideas, quotes, and books that piqued my interest.  These ideas may become seeds of a new project or tidbits added to a manuscript I need to finish.  Even my impatience with airport delays was somewhat alleviated by observing fellow travelers whose antics became scribbles in my notebook.
As writers, I think it is important to allow the space and time for new ideas to be sprinkled into one’s life.  When dealing with the pressures of deadlines or the struggles of revision an occasional writing vacation can help generate new ideas.

After a writing break, try the following tips to get back on track.
  1. Summarize any notes from the writing vacation and save them in a file
  2. Read your unfinished writing projects
  3. Assess the next step for each project
  4. Prioritize your writing projects
  5. Establish and track your writing goals.
  6. Try using a goal setting/tracking app.
This fall, I’ve decided to try lifetick, a new goal tracking app.  I let you know if it helps me re-focus and stay on track.

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life coach. For more information check out:  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Marketing as a Beginner

The shop of the bookdealer Pieter Meijer Warnars--Johannes  Jelgerhuis (1770-1836)
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

With a new fiction novella out in October, I have been brushing up on marketing techniques. As far as I can see, the only certainty is that there is no certainty. What proves successful for one author may not work for another.

My publisher has listed the need for Facebook and Twitter and I'll set up new accounts for my author persona. But social media is continually evolving and the new algorithms always tend to favor the website creators. FaceBook changes have made it more difficult to spread your news and views to all the friends on your list. And not all authors can afford or wish to afford paid ads.

In a new article suggesting how to stop wasting time with marketing, Tom Buford notes that 90% of his business comes from just two strategies: peer endorsement meaning recommendations from friends--this may perhaps include
affiliates?-- and using education based webinars to sell his products.

With a two step strategy in mind, I am considering slideshare and an infoproduct how-to course as a thankyou gift for purchasers of my book.

To work on my website, I'm following Tiffany Lambert's day by day blog--One Year in a New Niche.

Her blog may not be everyone's cup of tea but she's a great marketer and her openness and techniques are built for selling.

That said, here at Writers on the Move we have some of the best book marketers in the business. I have my copy of Carolyn Howard-Johnson's award-winning Frugal Editor and the Frugal Book Promoter  and a folder of helpful ebooks from Karen Cioffi-Ventrice.

Blogpost of the Month

This one has so much help and information that I'm still dipping into it weeks after publication.  Cynthia Lindeman writing for Boost Blog Traffic lists
101 Writing Resources That'll Take You from Stuck to Unstoppable. I don't know how unstoppable I shall be as I'm still having such fun with the list that I haven't quite got started.

* * * *

Next month I'll report back on my marketing plans and updates.

In the meantime, any help and advice in the comments below on which book promotion strategies  work best for you will be greatly appreciated. :-)

 Anne Duguid is a freelance content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and she passes on helpful writing,editing and publishing tips from time to time at Slow and Steady Writers 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Writing Games

Have you used any of the writing games that are sold by various retailers? I have one of them, The Storymatic®. There are three versions. I have the Classic edition. It’s made in the USA, by The Storymatic Corporation of Vermont and has been around for several years.

My writers group played with The Storymatic recently. The box is filled with cards of two different colors. One color is about characters, the other color is about situations. There are nine suggested games within The Storymatic to choose from, but you do not have to use any of them.

At our meeting we tried “Add to It.” Each person takes turns drawing cards and adding to the story that the first person started. You can go as long as you want. My group took turns telling a story about a couple out on a date. An engagement ring, a paramedic, an ambulance, a Chihuahua, a baby elephant, and a veterinarian hospital were involved. I have forgotten what else was thrown into the story. It was very funny! We were meeting in a public place, so our laughter generated some looks from other customers. We decided to play again sometime, but in the “safety and comfort” of a member’s home!

To generate new ideas and have some fun, I recommend The Storymatic. If you want to learn more about this game, two websites that contain additional information are and The latter site includes an interview with the man who created The Storymatic.

Have you tried a game to get new ideas or to break writers block? Please post about your experiences here.

Have fun playing and writing!

Debbie A. Byrne has a B.S. in Mass Communication with a minor in History. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is working on her first children’s book.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

There's a Gorilla in the Phone Booth! - The dangers of flashbacks

by Shirley Corder

The fog was closing in. Marsha dashed across the road to the phone booth to call her husband to come and fetch her. With relief, she pulled open the stiff door and slipped inside. She peered towards the phone dial, and instead her eyes focused on a gigantic dark hairy chest. Fearfully she looked up, and up . . . until she made out the terrifying features of an adult gorilla. There was a gorilla in the phone booth! 

His immense mouth opened and she gazed in horror at his vicious-looking teeth. She was about to be devoured by a raging primate. It reminded her of the time when she and her husband had gone to see the film, “Gorillas in the Mist.” It was a beautiful evening, their first real date. They had sat and eaten popcorn and drank soda. When they ran out of popcorn, Robert slipped his hand across and gripped hers. The rest of the film was a blur. All she remembered was what happened on their walk home . . .

Okay, this is a variation of a common theme for writers. You’ve created an exciting scenario. A gorilla is a massive animal, renowned for its phenomenal strength. We can think of the well-known advert of King Kong as he rips apart the jaws of a T-Rex, or of him wreaking havoc in New York City. He is not a creature to tangle with. And he’s certainly not something you want to share a phone booth with.

Why did the author put the gorilla in the phone booth in the first place? Because it’s a tiny enclosure. There’s no way anyone can win a battle with a gorilla in a phone booth. The victim would be ripped apart in no time. The tension is unbearable. The reader holds his breath.

And then he’s transported to the cinema. On a trip down memory lane. What a letdown.

What was the writer thinking? He’s created a breathtaking scene, and then left the reader hanging while he explores another part of the heroine’s life. It’s called a flashback, but it’s a dangerous technique. If the author doesn’t want to lose his reader, a flashback has to be handled wisely.

For writers, the lesson is: Stay with the gorilla in the phone booth! The story needs to keep moving forward. The reader doesn’t want to know about the time at the cinema. He wants to know how Marsha is going to handle her ordeal in the phone booth.

There are times for flashbacks, but less is more. Think twice before you leave your reader stuck indefinitely in a phone booth with a gorilla. It's not a nice place to be.

OVER TO YOU: How do you feel about flashbacks when you're reading? Any authors that do them well? Do you use them in your own writing? Leave a comment below.


SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer contains 90 meditations based on the time she faced a gorilla in the cancer valley.

Please visit Shirley through, where she encourages writers, or at, where she encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or FaceBook

Monday, August 18, 2014

Two Things You Must Do if You Want to Make Money Blogging

by Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer's Coach

Whether you’re a full time freelance writer or a published author, you probably have at least one blog (or you should have anyway).

You probably have a mailing list, too (or you should have).

But you may not realize how your mailing list affects your blog traffic.
In his e-book, List Building for Bloggers, Phil Hollows includes a short note from Internet guru, Seth Godin. In this note, Godin says "I get ten times more response to my blog from my email subscribers than I do from anyone else."

That just shows how powerful a mailing list can be. It can drive traffic to your blog.

But here's the rub. It's good to have visitors to your blog and people on your mailing list, but in order to make money from your blog, there are two things you need to do: optimize and monetize.

What does that mean?

It means that each and every blog post has a clear call to action for your readers.

It means that most of your blog posts include your affiliate links to relevant products and/or services.

It means each blog post is keyword rich, with the exact keywords people are using to search for the kind of information you're providing in those posts.

It also means your blog content is aimed at your target market, and this is where so many bloggers miss the mark. They either don't have a specific target market in mind or, if they do, their content isn't directed at this target market.

Today, instead of creating new content for your blog, go back to some of the archived content. Make sure it is optimized (keyword rich for starters) and monetized (includes links to affiliate products or at least some clear call to action). Also, be sure the content is directed toward the specific target market you are trying to attract to your blog.

Once you've monetized and optimized your site, you'll be ready to grow your email subscribers - those people who will be most responsive to your blog and purchase the products and services you blog about.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, certified professional life coach and writing coach, speaker and workshop presenter. She has written over two dozen published books and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and other publications.

For more ways to make money from your blog, download The Freelance Writer's Guide to Affiliate Marketing by Suzanne Lieurance.

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