Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Is Writing Skill Better Than Talent?


 By Karen Cioffi, Children's Ghostwriter

 I read a very interesting paper, Innate Talent: Myth or Reality? by Lynn Helding. It delved into whether you can truly succeed, become extraordinary in your field without innate talent.

It got me thinking of writing among other things, such as musicians and mathematicians.

-Do some writers have an innate ability (talent) to create amazing and memorable stories?

-Do the words just flow onto the page with less effort than the average writer?

-Can a writer with an innate ability come up with storylines when needed without staring at the computer or pulling their hair out?

-If you don't possess that innate talent, can you become a skilled writer and produce works as outstanding as someone who has talent or is gifted?

Bottom line, does practice and HARD work make up for innate talent?

While I'm not an expert in the field, in my humble opinion, I believe that people do possess certain innate abilities, whether that be talent, physical prowess, agility, exceptional intellect, or something else.

With that said, and aside from physical attributes, I don't believe the lack of an innate talent in a particular area limits anyone from excelling in that area.

Jeff Goins in his article, The Truth About Natural-Born Talent, agrees with this. "Certainly, there may be some amount of natural talent for some abilities. But as Geoff Colvin pointed out in his book Talent Is Overrated, if talent does exist, it doesn’t really matter."

Goins goes on to say that it's all about hard work, practice, consistency.

In an article at Fortune Magazine, Secrets of Greatness, it pretty much states the same thing. "You do not possess a natural gift for a certain job, because targeted natural gifts don't exist. You are not a born CEO or investor or chess grandmaster. You will achieve greatness only through an enormous amount of hard work over many years. And not just any hard work, but work of a particular type that's demanding and painful."

Even the paper I mentioned at the beginning of this article concludes that innate talent is not what creates greatness. It's the time, effort, and work one puts into a career.

On the flipside, in the Fortune Magazine article, Warren Buffet said that he was, "wired at birth to allocate capital." The article does note that Buffet devoted his life to studying his field.

What's super-interesting in that article is the research shows that a lot of people who work hard for decades in a particular field may not achieve greatness.

The researchers found that it takes 'deliberate practice' and consistency to make the difference, to take one's performance to the elite status.

As I mentioned, I do believe that some people do have something, an innate talent or physical attribute, that may make writing, playing an instrument or sports, or excelling in the business world come easier and allows them to become extraordinary in that area.

One perfect example is the 7'2 basketball player. Won't it naturally be easier for him to make a slam dunk than a 5'10 player could? But on the flipside, imagine that 7'2 guy trying to do gymnastics.

I guess the physical attributes may play more of a factor than innate talent. As research is showing, an average person can become great with hard work, deliberate practice, and consistency.

The innate talent may get the individual started and it may initially be easier for him, but, some with an innate talent won't go on to greatness or develop expertise without putting in the work and time.

What do you think?

This article was first published at: Writing Skills Vs Talent


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

Karen’s children’s books include Walking Through Walls and The Case of the Stranded Bear. She also has a DIY book, How to Write Children’s Fiction Books. You can check them out at: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/


Friday, October 28, 2022

A Writer's Bucket and Mop List

Do you have all the time you want to write?

I don't. The first thing I want to do when I get up in the morning is write. But there are so many other things to do. Often, I don't sit down to do it until nighttime when the dishes are done and the house is quiet.

Throughout my day I dream of having (in order of preference):

·                     a nanny (if I still had kids at home)

·                     a maid

·                     a cook

·                     a secretary

·                     a research assistant

·                     a dedicated media specialist

·                     an errand runner

·                     a personal trainer

·                     a gardener

·                     a dog walker

 In other words, I wish I had a wife. Wait, I am a wife!

Make Your Life Your Inspiration

An excellent humorist writer friend of mine once told me about challenges her husband faced at his job. About what was going on with each of her three sons. About her own life and lack of time to get everything done.

But, she said, I wouldn't trade my life for anything. If it weren't for the angst in my family, I wouldn't have anything to write about.

I've never forgotten her insight. It's a lesson I cherish every day. If I had too much time to write, my need wouldn't be as urgent. I may not be as motivated. I may not have those few hours of pure bliss to look forward to each day.

Once I did nothing but write. My life became so narrow, it sapped any energy I had once had for my writing projects and soon I ran out of ideas. My page was as blank as my life. Create a proper balance in your life and this effort will take care of everything. What if balance isn't possible? Lopsided is good. As long as you take time out each week to work on your writing projects. Though it sometimes seems impossible, eventually you will finish and go after publishing your work.

Gains and Losses

Since recently finishing my first book, I realize I am teetering on the brink of publishing and marketing it and jumping into my next writing project(s) with both feet. Here is the short version of what has happened to my time while writing the book and a scenario that is sure to continue as I endeavor to reach my future writing goals.


·                     The many friends and acquaintances I've made that will surely remain a part of my future.

·                     The sharpening of my skills.

·                     Learning many new things every day.

·                     Staying up late and still getting up early.

·                     Enjoying the feeling of joy inside at all that writing has given me.

·                     The fun it is to share with others.

·                     The feeling of accomplishment at completing such a challenging task as writing a book.

·                     Looking forward to writing more books, articles and stories.   

·                     Keeping other interests alive to strive for less lopsidedness and more balance, especially spending time with my family.

·                     How much I've grown from reading and learning about different people and subjects, and then the growth that has taken place from writing about them.

·                     Emotionally I feel I've grown, too, for it seems that understanding our own emotions and others' emotions is part of writing.

·                     Being an entertainer.

·                     The sheer fun of having an audience!


·                     Little time for other hobbies, though I squeeze them in when possible.

·                     Little time for socializing; having to say no to invitations to join clubs, play bridge, loll around the pool . . .

·                     Miniscule free time to simply curl up with a good book or watch TV, or do nothing.

·                     Everything I do has to have a purpose in order to squeak out time to write.

Live a Life of Gratitude

The list of gains is long, losses is short. Good! Like my humorist friend, I wouldn't trade this life for anything. Let us be grateful for the lives we've been given, which have brought us so willingly to the page over and over again. 

Illustration: Courtesy of vectorstock.com                                                                            

Linda Wilson writes stories for young children. Visit Linda at 
https://bit.ly/3AOM98L. Click the links for free coloring pages and a puppet show starring Thistletoe Q. Packrat. While you’re there, get all the latest news by signing up for Linda’s newsletter. 

Find Linda’s books at  Amazon Author Page.

Connect with Linda: FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram  

Secret in the Mist: An Abi Wunder Mystery,
Book Two in the series, is coming soon!

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

An Interview with Children's Author Nancy I. Sanders

 by Suzanne Lieurance

Nancy I. Sanders is a prolific children’s book author. She has also written hundreds of articles for magazines, newpapers, and blogs. Other writers can learn a lot from Nancy, so I asked her a few questions about her writing career and how she works.

                                                        Nancy I. Sanders

Suzanne Lieurance: Nancy, please tell us a little bit about yourself as an author. How did you get started writing for children? What is your most recent published book? How did it come about?

Nancy Sanders: I started writing when my kids were born, nearly 40 years ago. I fell in love reading baby books to them and wanted to write my own. My most recent books are a set of baby board books! My dream has come true! Bedtime with Mommy came out last year and my newest release is its companion, Bedtime with Daddy. You can purchase them if you order them in at your local bookstore, order online at your favorite online store, buy them at the airport (they’re on sale across the nation!) or support the publisher by ordering at their website at endgamepress.com.


SL: Do you have an agent? If so, what do you think are the advantages of having an agent?  Are there any reasons not to have an agent?


NS: Yes, I have an agent. If you want to get books published with houses that only accept agented submissions, you have to have an agent. However, most of my books have been with the educational market or with publishers who do not require an agent and I didn’t use an agent for those.


One of the biggest reasons NOT to have an agent is if you work with a small publisher. An agent in the loop might be too difficult. There are plenty of small publishers out there and they’re delightful to work with. Plus they usually keep your book in print for years where the big publishers don’t. And they usually don’t require an agent.


SL: Do you have any kind of process you use regularly to come up with ideas for stories and books?


NS:  I take a very focused strategy with I brainstorm ideas for new books.


STEP ONE: I read through publishers’ online catalogs to see if there are any holes in the market or a big demand in the market for specific types of books. For example, when I was looking for a new baby book idea, I looked at a lot of catalogs and saw that many publishers have books for mommies with their babies. I could see these are a hot topic.


STEP TWO: I got as many baby books as I could from our local library about mommies and their babies. I had stacks and stacks of books that I read through! Over 50-100!


STEP THREE: I read through those books and brainstorm ideas that haven’t yet been done. I had just self-published a set of reproducible books for teachers called 42 HABITAT MINIBOOKS. So as I read through my stash of books, I realized nobody had done a baby book of animal mommies putting their babies to bed in habitats around the world! 


That’s where the idea for my books was born.


SL: Nancy, I know you have written over 100 published books for kids. Do you usually work on more than one book at a time? If so, do you have any tips for juggling multiple projects at once?


NS: Right now, I’m working on 2 major writing projects. I have one project’s research books spread out on the dining room table. The other project’s research books and journals are stacked on a side table in my living room. I keep them in separate places to help me keep them apart. And I keep them OUT. Keeping them out helps me connect with them on more constant level.


I tend to work on my one research project in the morning and the other book project in the afternoon/evening.


I also use separate pocket folders for each project to keep my files and research notes organized.


Sometimes I get tired working on one project, so I’ll pick up the other one and work on it for a while.


However, both have tight deadlines as I create new content, so I can’t let one lay idle for too long!


SL: What do you think are your greatest strengths as a writer?


NS: I’ve realized that I’m really good at taking something already written and putting it into my own words. 


This is good for retelling Bible stories. 


It’s good for researching facts and putting them in an interesting style for kids to read. 


It’s also a good strength to have if you want to write for a series because you have to take a voice that’s already published and fit into it with your own story.


I also like to share my insider’s secrets that I’ve learned over the years to be a successful children’s writer. 


I’ve self-published two how-to books for KidLit writers: Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career and Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books.


SL: When you are going to write a book, how much planning do you do ahead of time? For example, do you make a complete outline of the book? For longer books, do you interview your characters or create character profiles to get to know them better?


NS: Absolutely! For example, the two projects I’m working on right now required outlines of the whole project before I even wrote the content. And when I’m writing fiction or biographies, I always sit down and get to know my characters before I start writing about them. But the fun is that you learn more about your characters as you travel on the journey through writing about them. So it’s always a work in progress and nothing is written in stone.


Some of my favorite experiences as an author have been when I’ve handed in an outline for a book to a publisher. Then three months into the research, I discover an amazing new fact about this character and my whole project takes a U-turn!


SL: Voice is very important in children’s books. Do you have any tips for creating strong character voices?


NS: One of the most fun ways to develop your character’s voices is to sit down with them before you write the next scene or the next page. Imagine them each sitting in a different chair around your kitchen table. Then ask them questions about the upcoming scene. How do they feel about what is going to happen? What memory does that upcoming scene trigger for them? What do they want to say or do about the issue that will be confronted?


Then listen for how each one responds. Let them each tell you their answers in their own voice.


If you have trouble doing this exercise, assign each one of your characters a common animal. The stubborn character could be an ox. The flighty character could be a silly goose. The villain could be a crafty fox. Repeat this exercise and see how they respond!


SL: I know you’ve done some WFH (work for hire) in the past. Do you continue to do WFH projects? Any tips for other writers who want to find WFH projects?


NS: I love doing WFH projects! You get cash. Cold cash that doesn’t have to wait for sales and royalties. You don’t have to say a word to get the news out about your book. You don’t have to spend one single minute on social media plugging your book. Although I have a writer friend who wrote a children’s book as a WFH project. She said her publisher offered her, I think $1000, if she wanted to help promote her book on her social media sites. She did it. Now that’s the kind of WFH that’s really had a fun perk to go with it!


SL: What are you working on right now?


NS: I’m actually working on a WFH project right now!


I’m working on 2 projects: one is a curriculum project, and one is content for a new Bible.


SL: What is your biggest tip for beginning writers who hope to get published and make a career of writing for children?


NS: Treat it like you would any other job and you’ll succeed. Schedule on your calendar to sit down and write new content every day. Join writer’s groups where you can network and land contracts. Attend writer’s conferences so you can improve your skills and learn what it means to be a better writer in today’s publishing industry.


I belong to two writer’s groups. You can join these online communities so you can grow as a writer, too. Follow us on social media. Offer to contribute as a blogger or help the group out on a social media platform that you engage with.


Write2Ignite hosts a virtual Master Class twice a year. Plus we feature tons of timely writing tips for KidLit writers on our blog. Follow our blog and sign up for our newsletter so you can be in the know! https://write2ignite.com/


Christian Children’s Authors posts a lot of book reviews of current published books in the Christian market, so it helps you stay on top of new publishing trends. Please follow our blog! https://christianchildrensauthors.com/ 

SL: Wow! Thanks, Nancy, for taking the time to answer all my questions.

NS: My pleasure, and thank you, too.



I hope you’ve found this interview interesting and helpful. Find out more about Nancy Sanders and her books at Nancy’s website: http://nancyisanders.com


Follow her blog for children’s writers at:

Blogzone (for writers): https://nancyisanders.wordpress.com   

Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, writing coach, speaker, and workshop presenter. She is a former classroom teacher and was an instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature for over 8 years. She lives and writes by the sea on Florida’s beautiful Treasure Coast with her husband, Adrian.


Lieurance has written over 40 published books and her articles and stories have appeared in various magazines, newsletters, and newspapers. She sends a free e-mail called The Morning Nudge to subscribers every weekday, filled with tips and resources for writers. For those who need more than a nudge, she offers a monthly membership program called The Monday Morning Shove, live, via zoom, every week, which includes a private Facebook support group. 

Friday, October 21, 2022

A Simple Way To Be "Different"

Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin) 

While I’ve been in book publishing for decades, one topic is central to our business yet something I rarely see written about or discussed: communication.

Communication undergirds everything from email to print to phone calls to face to face. I believe it is infrequently highlighted because we work in a non-communication environment. Writers work hard on crafting their query letters or proposals. They edit and rewrite them and even send them off to their critique partners or outside editors before sending them to the literary agent or editor. This extra polish and set of eyes gives them a better chance at success.

After you fire off your gem of an idea, it goes into black hole. You hear: nothing or it earns a form rejection letter or form email rejection letter. The experience brings despair or determination to find the right place. I hope you are determined because finding the right fit is a key part of the publishing process.

Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen were rejected 140 times for Chicken Soup for the Soup, one of the most prolific series of books in the English language. Determination and persistence are qualities for every writer.

Why don’t editors and agents communicate? Can’t they send a simple email that they received it? Unfortunately this practice is not built into our publishing community. If you are a good communicator, your use of this skill is another way that you can use this simple way to be a "different" type of writer.

My authors at Morgan James Publishing consistently tell me they are surprised with my speed of communication. Sometimes they will write me after they have tried others (with no response) because they know I will help them.

I’ve learned a number of tips for communication and I want to detail some of them in this article.

Email is the best tool to use.  If you are following up a submission, a brief email asking if it was received is the preferred approach. 

Last week I got multi-paragraph email from a writer I will see at conference this week. It was too much information and while I read it, it would have been better in a few sentences and made a better impression. Here are some other key tips:

1. Text is OK—but use sparingly.

2. Phone is the worst way to approach an editor or agent and something I recommend you rarely use if at all. 

At Morgan James Publishing, we acknowledge every submission with a physical letter in the U.S. mail—and each year we receive over 5,000 submissions for only 180 to 200 books which are published. Communication with authors is built into the fiber of Morgan James. Many writers neglect to send their mailing address with their submission yet it is a critical part of our process of getting a submission started. Fairly often I have to email a writer and ask for their mailing address.

Some of my publishing professional colleagues have boundaries on their emails. For example, they only answer emails between their working hours in their office Monday through Friday 8 am to 5 pm. If you have emailed me, you know I don’t have such a boundary and will often answer emails early or late or on the weekends. It is all part of my commitment as a writer and editor to be a communicator. 

As a writer what steps do you need to do to increase and improve your communication skills? Let me know in the comments below.


Good communication is a simple way every writer can stand out. Get some tips and insights here from this prolific editor and writer. (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 newest 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 To Speed 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 TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Short Story Writing Builds Skills for Tighter Text

 Short Story Writing Builds Skills for Tighter Text by Deborah Lyn Stanley

Writing short stories is a great way to build skills and a daily writing practice. Don't try to understand what people want. Instead, figure out what you want to say and write the heart of it.

We will be more satisfied with our stories if we learn from the master authors of classical short stories. For a worthwhile reference see: https://americanliterature.com/   I am quite impressed with their menu options as well as creating a personal library for my quick “planning ahead” reads. At the top right, open the “login” and create your account with an email with password. Now start building your personal library.

Short Stories have traditionally ranged from 1,500 to 5,000 words (but 3,000 is more common). Short Stories use the 3-Act structure (beginning, middle, end) used for novel writing. A short story is condensed, with setting and action beginning from the start. Structure with art in the delivery.

How do we find great story ideas?
I have a book by Fred White titled: Where Do You Get Your Ideas? A Writer’s Guide to Transforming Notions into Narratives. He mentions:
* Sometimes a newspaper report will catch your eye or hit a nerve, and become a story.
* You might retell an ancient myth into a current tale.
* You’ve grabbed an idea you can work with. Here are some pre-drafting activities you might find useful. Lists can provide inventory for content; Maps help create a layout for events; Profiles help develop your characters; and Collages visualize your story idea.

In How to Write Short Stories, Jerry Jenkins includes several points. I have included a few below:
* Learn to recognize the Kernel of an idea, a memory, a problem or fear.
* Make a practice of jotting down notes to expand upon during free writing, discover what comes to mind. Descriptions of characters to add or a setting for the story might pop in from your notes.
* We come in contact with people daily: at the supermarket, walking, and on the web. Use some of those traits to help develop your characters.   
* Now start writing. There’s plenty of time for changes and additions once you have a draft. If something doesn’t seem quite right, cut it out (at least for now).
* Be sure to craft a satisfying end, that leaves the reader appeased for the time well spent.

The Take Aways:
•    When you have a collection of 12 or more Short Stories, consider combining them in book form as an anthology. Consider thematic clusters, or maybe choose all 12 of a similar theme. Plus, remember, a powerful, interesting title is key for grabbing the reader’s eye.
•    Approach magazine publications and propose adding one of your stories to a coming issue.
•    Where Do You Get Your Ideas? See: https://www.amazon.com/Where-You-Get-Your-Ideas/dp/1599635305
•    Jerry Jenkins https://jerryjenkins.com/how-to-write-short-stories/

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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