Posts Tagged ‘resources’

Sometimes, We’re Mute, We Writers (with Resources for Dreaming Writers)

SOMETIMES, WE’RE MUTE, we writers. Sometimes, we drift, dream, words floating above us, like sunset clouds in fantastical shifting shapes—now a ship, now a sheep, now a swan and his wife. Sometimes, it’s twilight, and we’re quiet, content. Sometimes, we choose not to cast our nets to capture those words, glittering like so many stars in the broad night sky of our imagination.

My writer friend and co-author Tia Levings signs off emails with this quote:

But the dreamers of the day are dangerous people, for they may think their dreams into reality with open eyes. —T.E. Lawrence 

So, yes, sometimes, it’s enough to read what’s in our own hearts, and let the words build castles and angels and half-memories, undisturbed. Sometimes, we have no need to chase them and jar them, like fireflies, but, instead, simply watch the words flicker into tiny, brief constellations that mean just what they mean to themselves, while we allow them—and ourselves—to be mysteries that remain unsolved. At least for now.

These may be times to read fairy tales or peek into other writers’ journals to see how they dream and drift on the page. Here are some stories and pages that may flutter beside your own quiet heart right now.

Reading resources for dreaming writers

A GIRL GOES INTO A FOREST, short stories by Peg Alford Pursell

MAGICKAL FAERYTALES: An Enchanted Collection of Retold Tales, by Lucy Cavendish (edited by me!)

SPILLING OPEN, a visual journal by Sabrina Ward Harrison

THE DIARY OF FRIDA KAHLO, by Frida Kahlo

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

***

The cloud painting, above, is from my art journal—where I dream in color and shape and brushstrokes … and sometimes in words.

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Whisper, Shout, Hit “Send”!

WHILE WRITING CAN BE A FORM OF SELF-EXPLORATION, it is also a way to communicate our thoughts and stories with others. About this, my novelist pal MK Swanson says,

There is no writer without a reader. Writing is a performance art. When I was little, I used to make up stories that my girlfriends and I would act out—sometimes with puppets, but usually with our bodies. One time, Kori and I pretended to be in the Nautilus, being dragged down into the depths by a great sea creature, a story inspired directly and entirely by the sound the washing machine made as it shifted cycles.

We performed as if someone was watching and applauding. I thought I was the most talented, funniest writer in the world, as I directed my friend and myself to run around the porch, captaining the submarine. Now, when I try to make something new, and I don’t think anyone will ever see it, it falls flat. An audience pulls art into the third—or maybe the fourth—dimension.

I agree with MK. When I write with an audience in mind, it gives my work a sense of purpose—traction, focus—that it lacks when I am writing only for myself.

In SHOW YOUR WORK! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered (see a list of those ten ways, below*), author Austin Kleon discusses the many benefits of sharing our creative work with others—especially how doing so can make us “findable.” Reviewer D. Bivins says of the book, “This is a refreshing kick in the butt about believing in yourself as a creative person and jumping in with both feet. The basic idea is to put yourself out there even if you (or your work) are a work in progress.

And while we may not currently be availing ourselves of pre-Covid in-person opportunities to show our work (remember open mics and free, monthly bookstore writing groups?!), there are myriad contact-free ways to offer our writing to the world.

You could always start a blog, join an online writing group, or send out stories to literary contests—all great options for sharing your work. You might also try one or more of the following suggestions if you’re seeking fresh avenues to show your writing to others:

Postcard poems
Every August, there’s an event called the Postcard Poetry Fest. Essentially, once you register at the site, you’re sent a list of addresses. You then write a (possibly terrible) poem each day for August’s 31 days and mail it to one of the 31 recipients on your list.

Can’t wait until August? A friend and I used to declare an arbitrary period our own personal Postcard Poems month. Then, for the next 31 days, we would email daily mini-poems back and forth. Often goofy, sometimes poignant, our “poems” generally started with a place name (fictional or not) and were written from the perspective of an imagined persona who was there visiting. Here’s an example:

Dear Dolores,

I’m in Quincy, Alabama, and the almond trees are in high bloom. So are my allergies. My nose, red like a rose, won’t win me any suitors. But my days and nights are full enough without thoughts of another to cloud my view of the stars.

Wish you were here.
Myra

Throw a Zoom! prose-and-poetry party
Back in the day (basically, pre-February 2020), friends and I used to gather regularly to eat, chat, and read our work to one another. Zoom! makes this even easier, now. No need to arrange a ride—or even wear proper pants. Just find your tech-iest friend and get them to make it so.

Publish on Medium
If you don’t know about Medium, I’m about to make you very happy. Medium is a platform for writers. And readers. Here’s their mission statement:

Medium is not like any other platform on the internet. Our sole purpose is to help you find compelling ideas, knowledge, and perspectives. We don’t serve ads—we serve you, the curious reader who loves to learn new things. Medium is home to thousands of independent voices [um, that means “independent writers,” which, by definition, could include you!], and we combine humans and technology to find the best reading for you—and filter out the rest.

Interested in writing for Medium? Start here.

Submit to THE SUN MAGAZINE‘s Readers Write
A well-regarded, ad-free, glossy print and online monthly, THE SUN magazine not only publishes poetry, interviews, short memoir, short fiction, and fabulous black-and-white photographs, they also open their pages to their readers!

In their Readers Write section, they publish twenty or so short nonfiction pieces each month. These pieces are written to themes (like “ghosts” and “getting started”) listed on the website. As their Readers Write submission guidelines say, Topics are intentionally broad in order to give room for expression…. Writing style isn’t as important as thoughtfulness and sincerity. There is no word limit, but we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the section before you submit.

And if your piece is chosen for publication, you’ll receive a six-month subscription to the magazine!

More ideas for showing your written work
You’ll find more ideas and resources in A Writing Coach’s 5 Simple Tips for Sharing Your Writing on Social Media. Choose an approach from those choices, or from any of the ones listed above. But whatever way suits you, do as Austin Kleon suggests and be “open, generous, brave, and productive [… and] share something small every day.”

* Here are Kleon’s ten ways:

  1. You don’t have to be a genius.
  2. Think process, not product.
  3. Share something small every day.
  4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities.
  5. Tell good stories.
  6. Teach what you know.
  7. Don’t turn into human spam.
  8. Learn to take a punch.
  9. Sell out.
  10. Stick around.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

10 Tips to Make You Look Like the Smart Writer You Are!

I WAS READING AN EXCELLENT BLOG POST by a writing-industry professional (who will remain unnamed, here, because this is not a grammar-shaming post), when I stumbled over his use of the word “hone” where he meant “home.” The sentence went something like this: “You’ll improve your chances of garnering agent representation if you hone in on agents who are enthusiastic about your genre.”

Unfortunately, the verb “hone” means to sharpen, while the verb “home” means to aim for or close in on—which is what the writing pro intended: “We should home in on (aim for) agents who like what we’re writing.” (“Typo,” you’re thinking? Me, too! Until he repeated the mistake later in the post.) Admittedly, this particular misuse is a pet peeve of mine. Still, this is a guy who is giving aspiring authors high-level publishing advice on a regular basis. He should get this right.

But, you know, English is an odd language. And we English speakers may confuse words that are similar in sound and meaning. For instance,

  • home and hone
  • imply and infer
  • compose and comprise

As writers, we generally like to be precise in our use of language, though, as that is the raw ore we meld into the gold of our literary work. Also, we are smart folks! And, whenever possible, our smarts should shine like a halo around our brilliant heads—untarnished by avoidable usage errors. Hence, the following list.

10 tips to make you look like the smart writer you are

Tip 1: Take care with your use of commonly confused words. Amber Nasland wrote an article for MEDIUM that lists 31 commonly misused words to watch for.

Tip 2: Double-check for spelling errors—especially (because you’re a writer!!) misspelling the foreword of a book as “forward,” and the afterword as “afterward.” If you’re not 100% certain of a word’s spelling, google!

Tip 3: Get yourself a fun, readable editing guide and keep it at hand when questions of correctness arise. I like COPYEDITING & PROOFREADING FOR DUMMIES, by Suzanne Gilad.

Tip 4: Know your style guide. If you’re writing articles for publication in periodicals, you’re likely to be expected to follow AP (Associated Press) style. Non-scholarly book-length work? It’s Chicago style all the way (usually, lol). Style guides clarify things like which numbers to spell out and how to punctuate street addresses for your intended audience—among about a gazillion other arcane rules. Whether you like the idea of a style guide or not, though, your written work should adhere to one—unless you make a clearly defined house-style guide for yourself.

(Believe me, the pain you experience as you try to accept this professional requirement and figure out how to apply it to your own projects will be worthwhile: Your correct style usage will make you look smart to editorial eyes for years to come—which is the point of this entire post.)

Tip 5: Subscribe to THE CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE ONLINE. In their own words, “It is the indispensable reference for writers, editors, proofreaders, indexers, copywriters, designers, and publishers.” A year’s subscription is (currently) $39. Knowing who to turn to in the middle of the night to help you avoid embarrassing usage mistakes? Priceless.

Tip 6: Unless you’re deliberately trying to create interest with an experimental approach, format text conventionally. (For dialogue, for instance, start a new indented paragraph with every new speaker.) Research or review the formatting requirements for your application. Good formatting makes you look like a hotshot right out of the box.

Tip 7: Keep language fresh! I generally have THESAURUS.COM open when I’m writing. It helps with spelling (yay!) and offers me new ways to express what I’m saying. (Fresh = reader interest. Good spelling = reader respect!)

Tip 8: Read your work out loud. And I don’t just mean your dialogue! When I read every word of a blog post aloud, I find sticky sentences, boring passages, repetitious use of language—and TYPOS! I don’t know why I can’t SEE all these things on the page. But evidently I can’t. Thus, reading my work aloud has saved the day (and my readers’ sensibilities) more times than I can count.

Tip 9: It’s easy to become word-blind to our own work. The more important a piece is to you, the more important it is that you have it professionally edited before publishing it or sending it out.

Tip 10: Enjoy the process of drafting. Let loose! Freewrite, explore, ignore all the rules of grammar, spelling, style, and anything else your English teacher (or I) taught you. But once you’ve got what you want on the page, make sure to polish that diamond to a high shine—using any of the tips above.

See how smart you are?!

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

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The Flip Side of Writing

READING is the flip side of writing. Every author, teacher, or writing coach worth their salt will suggest you read widely in your genre if you want to publish—Stephen King* not least among them! We’ll say this (often) because we know you’ll learn as much about structure and style from considering how your favorite authors artfully construct their stories as you will from even the most instructive books about the writing craft.

Further, reading—in one’s genre or out of it—reliably restocks our pond of creativity, so that, when we go angling for new ideas and approaches, there are always plenty of fish to choose from.

Also, as poet W. H. Auden is reported to have said, “We read to learn more of what it means to be human.” And it does seem that often we are—consciously or unconsciously—seeking wisdom of some sort when we pick up a book.

There are a gazillion or so lists of books to consider adding to your reading pile. Among them, THE NEW YORK TIMES Book Review, BookBub, and Goodreads.

A little closer to home (like, here, on this blog!) are a couple of reading lists you might want to peruse. The first, 20 (or so) Novels That Have Impacted Our Lives and Imaginations, was compiled during a very literary walk with my best pal Jill. The second, a post titled Support Black Writers, has a list of lists—Black-authored books that PBS, Penguin Random House, and HuffPost consider must-reads.

*And, as you may know, Stephen King, who reads voraciously, widely, and well, includes a list of 96 books he considers important in his ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT. You’ll find that list on Aerogramme Writers’ Studio.

Wherever you are in your reading life, keep turning those pages. Reading not only fills the creative well—it fills our hearts, our souls, our minds, and our imaginations.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

* * *

Thank you to Llewellyn Worldwide for kind permission to use the image of the Nine of Pentacles card from the EVERYDAY WITCH TAROT

5 Fabulous Tips for Plotting Your Novel

PLOTTING YOUR NOVEL CAN BE CONFUSING. If you don’t have a guidance system to help you navigate, you might find yourself asking questions like these: Where do I start my story for greatest impact? What events will force my main character to undergo the change they so desperately need to make? How do I construct stakes that are high enough to keep my main character engaged with their quest all the way to the end?

If you, like me, need some help to deal effectively with these and other pressing plot questions, read on. I’ve compiled a short list of tips, approaches, and resources that demonstrate ways to successfully traverse the rough terrain you and your main character must travel to create a compelling tale.

FABULOUS NOVEL-PLOTTING TIP #1: Explore a myriad of plotting methods.

Fortunately, for those of us who are writing novels, novellas, short stories, screenplays, or memoirs—basically, anything that tells a story and develops a character arc—many writers have gone before us and have generously blazed a trail through the wild woods of plot for us to follow.

So which of these many plotting methods is the best? I think that depends on your learning style.

When I immersed myself in the mysteries of plot, I read book after book on the subject. But I always felt I was missing something. Then Joyce Sweeney and I started developing the plot clock—and everything fell into place! The plot clock’s approach made perfect sense to me. Suddenly, I saw how exactly how plot can create a character arc—and what steps to take to make that happen.

For years, Joyce and I taught the plot clock at workshops, writing conferences, and to our clients one-on-one (which I still do).

But now, we’ve also written the book! As you’re browsing Amazon looking for good books on plot, check out our PLOTTING YOUR NOVEL WITH THE PLOT CLOCK. It’s short—just seventy pages! And yet it explains how to accomplish the two most important tasks you face when writing a novel or memoir: 1) relating a dynamic set of story events and 2) making your character changes in response to those events.

Of course, as I said, this is just the method that works best for my brain. You might love any one of a number of other more linear takes on plot, like SAVE THE CAT  WRITES A NOVEL by Jessica Brody. Or you might enjoy diving really deep in story theory with a book like THE WRITER’S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler.

This choice is personal. Take the time to find what plotting approach works best for you—even if you have to experiment with several styles to do so. It will be worth it. Because once you find what fits, that method will be your trusted guide through the rest of your story-writing journey.

FABULOUS NOVEL-PLOTTING TIP #2: Start with the basics.

Here are five quick, handy reference points to help you think about how to get your story started and where you’re going to take it. Considering your plot in these simple terms allows you to see if your basic idea has enough oomph to carry the story to the finish line.

Once upon a time there was … (Describe your main character.)

Every day … (This is a glimpse at your main character’s “ordinary world,” before the inciting incident changes their life.)

One day … (Aha! Inciting incident!!)

Because of that … (Here, we see how the main character responds to the inciting incident—and we establish stakes [see Fabulous Novel-Plotting Tip #5, below] that propel them forward into the main events of their story.)

Until finally … (This actually takes you past most of what happens after your character commits to their story—their trials and challenges; their low point; their lessons learned—and brings them to the climax, the battle to end all battles, the inevitable high point of your tale!)

FABULOUS NOVEL-PLOTTING TIP #3: Let the three C’s catapult your plot.

Raindance, an independent film festival and film school that operates in major cities, including London, Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Budapest, Berlin and Brussels, offers up a helpful article on the “The Three C’s of Plot (and how they help you get through Act II).”

The “three C’s” of this approach are conflict, choice, and consequence. Having a handle on these major story drivers will assure that your plot has the traction it needs to keep readers deeply engaged.

Further, in the above-mentioned article, writer Jurgen Wolff says, “{While] you can use these [the three C’s] to develop your main plot … they are equally useful in constructing the smaller components of your story-–the individual scenes. This is especially true in helping you construct the hardest part of any story, the middle, or Act II.”

Learn about this concept at the Raindance site.

FABULOUS NOVEL-PLOTTING TIP #4: “Yes, and …”

This improv acting tenet offers an easy-peasy way to allow your character to engage dynamically with the events of their plot. Every time the plot makes your character an “offer,” be sure she “accepts” that offer (says “Yes” to it), and then adds to the situation (or, better still, complicates it!) by adding an “and …”

For example, let’s say your character is walking down a crowded street and notices someone running from a store, having just robbed it. In improv, we’d call this an “offer.” In other words, the story has brought something to your character’s attention that she can act upon. Taking action in response to the “offer” is your character’s way of saying “Yes, and …”

Rather than allowing your character to just ignore the commotion—which can slow the story and make plotting more difficult—consistently require she make a “Yes, and” response to whatever happens in her story. In this case, she might give chase (the “Yes” being her acknowledgement of the thief escaping and the “and,” her taking off after the person). Alternatively, she could rush into the store to try to help anyone who was injured in the incident—or she could rush into the store to take advantage of the confusion and steal something herself!

In any one of these examples, your character’s active response to a situation raised by the story allows more and increasingly complex interactions with other characters to unfold. These interactions will drive her character arc and her plot forward.

This technique is particularly useful when you’re writing your first draft, as it keeps you from stalling out in the shallow waters of character ennui and unwillingness. Once you’ve “Yes, and-ed” your way through the entire plot, you can always revise to rein in or eliminate any excessive reactions on the part of your main character.

To learn more about improv and how “Yes-and” creates lively story-telling and a lively life, I suggest YES, AND: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration—Lessons from The Second City.

To learn more about how to apply this improv precept to life off the stage, take a look at this MEDIUM article titled “Saying ‘Yes, and’—A principle for improv, business and life” by Mary Elisabeth.

FABULOUS NOVEL-PLOTTING TIP #5: Create compelling stakes.

Stakes. They’re what gets your character off her duff and involved with a plot that, let’s face it, is likely to end up being a pain in her butt!

According to the Institute for Literature, “One of the most important questions to consider when developing a story is ‘What is going to be at stake for my main character?’ By this, we mean, ‘What is the cost of quitting?'”

These are great questions!

If your character can quit the demands of your plot with few or no consequences, you’re likely to lose your reader early on. You see, we readers like to see a character struggle with conflict. It helps us understand better how to do so in our own lives!

So, how do you make sure you’re getting your character into a situation that has sink-or-swim urgency? Consider my four-question “stakes squared” approach.

Jamie’s Stakes Square: Your character is faced with a significant choice. You’ve backed her into a corner. She MUST say yes or no, not delay the decision—because her decision will set a significant plot point into motion! To establish the stakes inherent in the choice, ask yourself these four questions:

Question 1: What might your character GAIN if she says YES to the choice on offer?
Question 2: What might your character LOSE if she says YES to the choice on offer?
Question 3: What might your character GAIN if she says NO to the choice on offer?
Question 4: What might your character LOSE if she says NO to the choice on offer?

If you make sure that all of these potential outcomes create problems for your character—problems that are in proportion to the overall intensity of your story—you’ll be well on your way to creating plot-driving stakes that will hook a reader and not let them go!

(Be sure to consider how this stakes-setting technique impacts the perhaps-impulsive choices your character makes when you require that she say “Yes, and …” to everything the story offers her!)

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

Support Black Writers

WE ARE WRITERS. Which means we are readers. We read, in part, to understand the lives of others—both the lives of fictional folks and those of our flesh-and-blood kin, past and present. As POETS & WRITERS so eloquently put it: [W]riters … help us understand ourselves and our times, deepen our capacity for empathy, and imagine a better future.

The current uprisings in our country have pointed out to me that I have not grasped the realities Black people in our communities live with every day. If this is true of you, too, know that there are many ways to address the gaps in our awareness and to support our fellow Americans. But for the purposes of this forum, I’m focusing on what you and I share: We read. And our reading can both deepen our understanding of the lives of Black citizens and support the livelihood of Black writers.

READ BOOKS BY BLACK AUTHORS

Want to start with the classics? PBS‘s Black Culture Connection lists 10 Black Authors Everyone Should Read, which comprises “prominent Black authors who have left a mark on the literary world forever,” starting with Maya Angelou and ending (alphabetically!) with Richard Wright.

If you’re familiar with the authors on the PBS list and want to read some contemporary Black authors, here are two more resources for you to peruse.

Penguin Random House lists 25 Books by Contemporary Black Authors: Their list includes “… some of the best fiction and nonfiction by contemporary black authors, including books in every genre from literary fiction to personal memoirs.”

HUFFPOST has compiled an even more extensive list: 50 Amazing Books by Black Authors from the Past 5 Years: “From Roxane Gay to Michelle Obama to Ta-Nehisi Coates, these writers are making an impact.”

READ BLACK POETS AND ESSAYISTS

For the rest of the summer, the Academy of American Poets will be dedicating their Poem-a-Day to Black poets and engaging a number of Black curators for that project. They will also create a new series for Poets.org that features essays by poets of color. They are also in the process of adding biographies of Black, Indigenous, and all poets of color who have contributed to shaping American poetry to Poets.org.

In addition, they offer these protest poems and this Black Lives Matter anthology.

BUY BOOKS FROM BLACK-OWNED BOOKSTORES

AfroTech has made purchasing books from Black-owned bookstores as easy as ordering from Amazon. Check out 10 Black-Owned Bookstores to Support While at Home.

Literary Hub shares their list of 60 more Black-owned bookstores, all of which are taking phone orders today! You can browse their virtual shelves, then purchase a big stack of new understanding—and great reading—while having a real, voice-to-voice conversation with another human!

Read on, dear writers. Read on.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

Aspiring Cozy Mystery Writer Shares Her Journey

BONNIE CEHOVET IS A MUCH-PUBLISHED NONFICTION AUTHOR who is also an aspiring cozy mystery writer. I’m a cozy mystery fan myself—and a fan of Bonnie’s other work!—so I asked her to share some of her thoughts about finding her way in this genre, (You’ll find Bonnie’s bio and a list of her books and other publications below the interview.)

What do you think makes a cozy mystery a cozy?
My personal shortlist of what makes a cozy mystery a cozy, as distinct from other mysteries, is this: no foul language, no explicit sex, and no violence. The one word that describes this genre for me is “gentle.” Cozy mysteries are gentle mysteries. They have great story lines, well-developed characters, and a dash of humor. The main character of a cozy is an amateur at solving mysteries. She generally lives in a small community, or a small community within a large city.

What do you like about reading cozies?
They make me feel good. I can identify with the characters; I understand the difficulties they are facing. I laugh and cry with them. They transport me into another world for the time I am reading them. I can see the streets where they live and work in my mind’s eye as if I were there. In the series that I follow, I may be reading little tidbits about coffee, or baking, or miniature work—and, if I’m lucky, the author will include recipes! I also love trying to figure out who did what to whom before the author closes the story.

Examples of cozy mystery series that I love are The Hannah Swensen series, by Joanne Fluke; The Cat Who series, by Lilian Jackson Braun; The Tea Shop Mysteries series, by Laura Childs; and The Father Brown mystery series, by G. K. Chesterton.

What made you want to write cozies?
It was a natural selection to want to write cozies, because that is what I prefer to read (although I do like legal mysteries, along the line of Haughton Murphys work). I also prefer my life to go at a gentler pace than it has perhaps in the past, and I want my writing to reflect that. I can bring in things like the tarot, meditation, astrology and crystals to augment the story, without the story having to be about them.

What’s most challenging for you about writing in this genre?
While I do not find writing in the cozy mystery genre challenging at all, I definitely want to channel a bit of Sherlock Holmes in my writing! However, while I am looking to write a series of cozy mysteries with a female protagonist, when I started the first story, it immediately became evident that it was not going to be a cozy! It falls more into the paranormal category, with references to mind-reading and long-distance viewing. It will be a three-book mystery series. But once I’ve completed the series, I’ll let the cozies flow!

What’s most rewarding about writing in this genre?
What is rewarding to me about writing in the cozy mystery genre is that I can be kind to all of my characters. There will be tension, of course, but no one has to be mean to anyone else. I can present everyday life in, hopefully, an interesting fashion—a fashion that will keep my readers coming back for more!

What software do you use when you’re writing for publication?
Every book I have authored or co-authored has been done in Microsoft Word. No other software was used. It was what I knew, And, yes, it was time consuming.

I am now using Grammerly, and find it a great help, as it corrects as I write. Yes, there are some days that I want to strangle it! But, overall, it polishes what I write and sees mistakes that I do not see.

I have Dragon, which is speech recognition software. I’ve used it off and on, but have found it hard to get used to. I keep the program because I have arthritis, and I know there will come a day when typing may become too much for my hands.

Right now, I am working with Scrivener, and feel this is the ultimate software for any writer to keep their work in good form and change things at will.

What tips would you offer my readers who might be interested in writing cozies?
For my mysteries, I start out by defining my protagonist and gathering some idea of what the story is going to be about. I have a writer’s bible for each of my books, where I keep lists of characters, their backgrounds, and their traits, along with the plot for each story, and its timeline.

My number one tip for all writers is to just start writing! Let it flow. You can always go back and edit. Each of us has something interesting to say—we just need to let it out. Allow the story to flow and allow each character to write their own story. Believe me, they will! If you feel stuck, walk away and do something else for a day or two, then go back. Most times I can edit a story to make it work. If I can’t make it work, I start over again.

I also have a blog where I write flash fiction—little 100-word stories. For me, writing flash fiction clears my head, and allows me to get back to my WIP with a fresh perspective.

For more tips specific to the cozy genre, check out these articles:
5 Tips for How to Write a Cozy Mystery
The Mystery of Mysteries: 16 Steps to Writing the Cozy Mystery
Formula for Writing a Cozy Mystery, Part 1: A Good “Hook”

Do you have any other suggestions for writers?
Something we have to remember as writers is that we need to keep our name out there, and we need to network. I found that, for myself, writing reviews helped me to keep my name out there and helped me meet other writers in the tarot field [the field in which Bonnie is best published], as well as connect with individuals in the deck and publishing industries.

I came across the Aeclectic Tarot site early on in my review writing career and found it to be very beneficial. The site owner, Kate (Solandia), is a lovely lady with integrity and a knack for putting an excellent site together. I was blessed to meet her in person at one of the early Reader’s Studio conferences hosted by Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone. The site is still up, although no longer accepting reviews.

My suggestion would be to read what interests you, and review that. Place your reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, on your own site or blog, or anywhere you feel they will be seen.

What writing resources would you recommend?

Blogs:
Ladies of Mystery
Nathan Bransford
The Creative Penn
Writer’s Digest

Mystery Writer’s Organizations:
Author’s Guild
Mystery Writer’s of America
Sisters In Crime

BIO
Bonnie Cehovet is a professional tarot reader, author, reviewer, and Reiki master. She segued from working for 27 years as a medical technologist to becoming a professional tarot reader, which she has been doing for over 24 years. It was a case of an avocation becoming a vocation. Over the years, she has also added writing to her repertoire, mainly focusing on tarot and self-help, in the form of articles, books, and reviews (most of which have been placed with Aeclectic Tarot, Amazon, and Goodreads).

She currently lives in the state of Nevada with her two cats, Midnight and Pumpkin. Her focus right now is on publishing in the cozy mystery genre. She writes a flash fiction blog and an author’s blog.

Authored by Bonnie Cehovet:
TAROT IN REVIEW (Lulu 2008)
THE WORLD OF TAROT: As Seen Through the Eyes of the Interview (Create Space 2010)
TAROT, BIRTH CARDS, AND YOU: Keys to Empowering Yourself (Schiffer 2011; Karyn Easton, Artist)
TAROT, RITUALS & YOU: The Power of Tarot Combined with the Power of Ritual (Schiffer 2013)
SURVIVING THE HOLIDAYS: Taking Charge Of Your Life (Kindle/Create Space 2014)

Co-authored with Brad Tesh:
SEEK JOY … TOSS CONFETTI (Kindle/Create Space 2013)
INVISIBLE ME: Journeying Through The Soul (Kindle/Create Space 2019)

Articles:
LLEWELLYN TAROT READER: 2004, 2005
THE CARTOMANCER: Spring, Summer, Fall 2015, Spring, Summer, Fall 2016, Spring, Summer 2017, Spring, Fall 2018,

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

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Image “getting-published Atlanta GA” by agilemktg1 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A Writing Coach’s 5 Simple Tips for Sharing YOUR Writing on Social Media

WE WRITERS CAN BE A QUIET, PRIVATE TRIBE. But we also have voices, stories, and ideas we long to share. And thanks to technology, today, we don’t need to wait for agents, editors, or publishers to give us the nod! Instead, we can explore various social media platforms, looking for those that allow us to offer our thoughts and experiences to readers most likely to appreciate what we have to say.

While we may be cautious about stepping into the teeming river of social media, if we’re smart in our approach, the interwebs present myriad opportunities for us to publish, build an audience for our work, and even—gasp!—get paid!

Tip #1: Blog: Yes, blogging is still a thing. Your blog is your own personal spot on the internet. There, you can write what you want, when you want, as often as you want. Be consistent enough, and you could develop an appreciative readership.

Wonder what you’d write about? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Write about incidents from your life. We humans are very interested in how other humans conduct their lives.
  • Free-write to prompts and share what you create. You’ll find, like, an actual TON of prompts if you just search “writing prompts”!
  • Post a daily inspirational message to uplift yourself and your readers.
  • Share a brief excerpt from something relevant you’ve read elsewhere (with links and proper attribution, of course), and then let your readers know your thoughts on the topic and why you find it important.
  • Post recipes you’ve successfully completed—with pictures, please! (If you like this idea, you might enjoy reading the cooking memoir JULIE AND JULIA by Julie Powell, who food-blogged her way to a book and film deal! )

Tip #2: Guest blog: You might not know this, but Google rewards those who regularly publish content with improved rankings. But even the most prolific blogger gets dry at some point. And that’s exactly the point at which they might be thrilled to have you write a guest post for them.

You’ll most likely want to make this offer to a blogger whose work you read regularly and with whom you have had some positive contact. For instance, perhaps you comment on their posts every few weeks or otherwise let them know you appreciate their content. If you’re engaged by what a blogger writes about, chances are good you have some thoughts that you could develop into a thousand-word guest post. Ask them if they’re interested, and if they are, write a draft for their approval.

Guest blogging is good for you and good for your blogging host! You get exposure and they get a break! And … drum roll, please … some writers actually make a fair portion of their living by writing guest blog posts! Check out “How to Write a Guest Blog” on Lifewire for further insights and suggestions.

Tip #3: Join the conversation: Writers and non-writers alike talk about all sorts of things on social media. Join the conversation! Find Facebook or LinkedIn groups focused on topics you’re passionate about and offer your thoughts to folks who share your interest. Also, since writers are readers, they love to discuss books. Engage in literary conversations by writing book reviews. Amazon and Goodreads are two great places to start!

Tip #4: Instagram for writers: Instagram may be the hottest platform of the moment. And while it seems the perfect spot for social media influencers and producers of visual content, like photographers, writers can get some traction on Instagram, too!

Instagram lets your followers know what and where you’re writing. Here are three articles to get you started on using this social medium to boost your sharing power:

Tip #5: Submit your work on Medium … and maybe get paid! If you don’t know about Medium, I’m about to make you very happy (I hope!). Medium is a platform for writers. And readers. Here’s their mission statement:

Medium is not like any other platform on the internet. Our sole purpose is to help you find compelling ideas, knowledge, and perspectives. We don’t serve ads—we serve you, the curious reader who loves to learn new things. Medium is home to thousands of independent voices [um, that means “independent writers,” which, by definition, could include you!], and we combine humans and technology to find the best reading for you—and filter out the rest.

Interested in writing for Medium? Start here.

May the virtual road rise up to meet you, writer: Whichever of these ideas piques your interest, go explore. The internet is a whirling hub filled with gazillions of words that have to be composed by writers and are read every day by readers hungry for insights and opinions and a new take on our shaky old paradigm. Go forth and share your voice with the cyberworld!

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

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Photo credt: Mike Eisenman, via Creative Commons

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A Freelance Editor’s 5 Tips to Getting the Most from Your FREE Sample Edit!

TOM WALLACE IS A SAVVY EDITOR and an extraordinary ghost writer. I asked him if he’d be willing to share a useful nugget from his wide experience in the world of professional writing—and he delivered the goods!

The Sample Edit

Tom Wallace

Shopping for a freelance editor can be a nail-biter. You know you need one, but they have to be the right one. You want an editor who not only knows the principles of editing backward and forward but has the sensitivity and perception to edit your voice, to get what you’re saying. One of the most important tools to use in this epic search is the sample edit.

There are two kinds of sample edit. The first is the paid sample, usually of a good chunk of your writing—say, your opening two chapters or initial twenty pages. This is, frankly, not a popular choice, because, if you’re getting four paid samples, this search could get a bit costly.

The second type is free, so that’s what we’ll focus on in this post. Most freelance editors will be happy to do a free sample edit. They’ll jump at the opportunity to prove they’ve got the chops you’re looking for.

5 Tips to Getting the Most from a Sample Edit

Tip #1: A free sample will be about five pages. Get a sample of this length from three or four editors, so you have enough comparison material to make an informed choice between them. Have all your prospective editors work on exactly the same material—which should be the first five pages of your book. (Indeed, the three most important parts of your book are the first sentence, the first paragraph, and the first page. What’s in the beginning constitutes your best hope—quite likely your only hope—of hooking a reader.)

Tip #2: This sample should be done in Microsoft Word with the Track Changes function turned on, allowing you to see every revision and margin comment made by each editor.

Tip #3: Editors might deal with any number of issues: wordiness, spelling, punctuation, character development, pace, etc. So comparing these few sample edits can be very enlightening.

Look for things in the text like deletions of repeated words or ideas, the rearrangement of sentences and re-punctuation of dialogue, and the solving of grammatical problems like dangling modifiers. If two or three editors agree about the majority of these issues and one does not—well, then it’s time to remember what you learned on SESAME STREET: one of these editors is not like the others.

Also, if editors are revising for style, which does the best job of polishing your work without obliterating your voice. Are they really adding value, or are they just changing things to change them?

Tip #4: Look at the margin comments. These may contain information about why something was changed, suggestions to you about what you might add, or questions meant to clarify your meaning or clarify an idea in the editor’s head that will help her do good work on your material, should you decide to work with her.

Tip #5: Finally, if you don’t understand a choice an editor has made, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember that each editor is essentially auditioning for a part in the play that is your writing life. If they grumble at the idea of answering questions—or communicating with you in anyway—they shouldn’t be in your play.

Sample edits rock. They’re one of the best tools you have in your search for a talented editor.

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Thanks so much to Tom for sharing the ins and outs of getting a sample edit. Want to learn more about working with a freelance editor? Contact Tom Wallace!

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Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review!
Want to know more about hiring a writing coach? Click to read Should I Hire a Writing Coach in THE WRITER magazine.

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Top Writing Coach Tip #1: Get the Writing Conference Delivered to YOU!

QUICK! WHAT DOES A WRITING CONFERENCE OFFER?

  • Big name authors discussing their genres and journeys.
  • Experts teaching literary craft.
  • Agents and editors sharing insider FAQs about the publishing industry.

Also, ballrooms filled with fellow writers, a chance to pitch your book or have your first pages critiqued, a bookstore to sell your latest work, networking opportunities galore … and, of course, too much mediocre hotel food.

All at a fairly steep cost, right? Even a local-to-you writing conference is likely to set you back $500. Add travel and lodging for an away-from-home weekend, and you’re looking at twice that, or more.

But if you believe the golden information gleaned from authors and industry experts forms the heart of a writing conference, I’ve got great news! You can get that delivered right to your door—every month, at the tiniest fraction of the cost!

All you need is a subscription to a top-notch writing magazine. Here are four excellent magazines for your consideration:

In each issue, these magazines provide a plethora of topics you’d expect to see presented at a writing conference—like agent spotlights, new-author features, craft articles, and industry guidelines. And these pieces are written by the same experts you’d expect to see on a discussion panel or speaking from a conference platform!

For instance, articles in the most recent issue of WRITER’S DIGEST (just arrived in my mailbox last week) include,

  • The Art of Breaking Character: when, why, and how to have your characters act, um, uncharacteristically.
  • Steering the Ship: twelve tips for researching a nonfiction project.
  • The Frugal Writer’s Guide to Everything: ways to save big money on literary expenses. (Hey! This blog post is right in line with my pal Elizabeth Sims’s article!)
  • The Power and Peril of Prologue: when, how, and why to use a prologue—and what risks you run with agents and editors by doing so. (This in-depth, super-helpful article is by another pal, Ryan Van Cleave!)
  • The WD Interview: with Pulitzer Prize-winning author of LESS, Andrew Sean Greer. (No, Andrew’s not a pal—but I did love LESS!)

And that’s only half the full-length articles this month. There are also ten columns, the Writer’s Workbook feature, and Inkwell, with its writers’ guide to editors.

It will take me most of the month to digest (ha!) every morsel of this month’s WRITER’S DIGEST—chewing on its contents in bite-sized pieces that are easier to process (for me, anyway) than the weekend binge of a writing conference.

Top Writing Coach Tip

Here’s what I suggest:

1) Subscribe to a great literary magazine. 2) Read all the articles in each issue (you never know what information will come in handy!). 3) Earmark pieces that are relevant to your current project(s). 4) Discuss what you learn with writer friends (over coffee, and you’ve got the makings of a mini-conference!). 5) Feel reassured you’re keeping your writer self current on what’s going on in the writing world.

Of course, attending writing conferences is great, too! There’s lots of interactive magic afoot in those ballrooms. Just don’t get your hopes up about the food.

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Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review!
Want to know more about hiring a writing coach? Click to read Should I Hire a Writing Coach in THE WRITER magazine.

* * *

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