Friday Speak Out!: Words From A Clear Inner Voice, guest post by Irene Cohen, MD

Friday, August 31, 2012
Words From A Clear Inner Voice
by Irene Cohen, MD

In 2009 I undertook a one year course of study with two teachers who created a program called the Voice for Love. This program teaches one how to hear her clear inner voice. The program consisted of meditation, writing, speaking from this voice and learning spiritual counseling. As a psychiatrist I had been interested in the connection between mind and spiritual practices for many years and found this program illuminating.

I didn’t start out to write a book. As a long-time meditator, I prefer to sit in the early morning before the day begins. This practice has always set the course of the day for me and creates the sense of peace and concentrated focus which I bring with me no matter what occurs. Although I did not start out to write a book, I found that during my meditations, when I was quiet and empty of thoughts, words began to come to me with the prompt to write them down. So I started to meditate with my netbook in my lap, sitting on a cushion. Without asking any questions or thinking of any particular subject, messages and contemplative pieces came forth. Through a melding of my mind and my own unique abilities, something greater than myself emerged. The information I wrote down was not channeled, but it was a part of me, a greater and vast part, a larger Self. In this process, during which I am fully conscious and aware, words come forth effortlessly and in a sharper, clearer way than if I were to try to explain them myself.

When my book of 100 short meditative passages was finished, I also edited it from the place of my higher self. Getting myself out of the way, with my ego’s doubts and fears, made the editing and rewriting process much easier. If I am editing from that space of higher knowing, I can think with more clarity about what I am trying to convey and in doing so, create more of what was meant to be.

But isn’t the creative process always so? We write from another place within us which feels compelled to express itself. Artists and writers have often called it inspiration. It is a blossoming of who we truly are. If we gain clarity from a quiet mind, which for me means a regular, daily meditation practice, we can all write with less effort and more ease, knowing that what we mean to say will be distinctly in our voice.

* * *

Irene A. Cohen, MD is a psychiatrist, acupuncturist and interfaith minister who has maintained an integrative practice for almost 30 years. Hay House / Balboa Press just released her first book, Soul Journey to Love: 100 Days to Inner Peace . Visit Dr. Cohen on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and blog with her at

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Preparation: Don't Leave Home Without It

Thursday, August 30, 2012
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.


I am a big believer in preparation, especially when it comes to writing conferences. Probably because I look at conferences as more of “workferences.” I mean, yes, I confer with a ton of people. But honestly, I work that event like a politician in a room full of babies.

Which doesn’t exactly sound polite. And I am very polite. But I’m also a writer determined to maximize my return of investment. And that takes weeks of preparation before I ever walk (nervously) through the doors of opportunity.

Here’s what I do. (Maybe it’ll help you.)

Check the schedule and target the sessions that offer you the advice and information you need for where you are in your writer’s journey. If you’re a sparkly new writer, you’ll want to find classes for the beginner. But if you have a couple of finished manuscripts, you'll want to hear what agents and editors have to say. Most conferences offer plenty of sessions, for all levels of writers.

Research the speakers. Read the books they’ve authored, or at least familiarize yourself with what they’ve published. For agents, know what they’re looking for, and for editors, check the books they’ve edited. Because you may find yourself at lunch (mostly because you planned it that way) sitting next to the editor from a huge publishing house. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could say, “Oh, I loved (fill-in-the-blank-with-a-book-she-edited)!” And a delightful conversation ensues.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You don’t want to be that writer, the one who’s sucking up. But you’re not sucking up; you’re working. Speakers want to help you. They’re happy to share their expertise. They come to conferences, expecting to meet and talk with lots and lots of writers. They’re looking for their next writer star.

Of course, if you know too much about a speaker, you’re saying, “I’m that crazy writer who’ll pick up your used napkin after you leave.” You do not want to be that writer.

You do want to be that writer who says, “Wow. That conference was worth every penny!” So put in the work before the conference and you may find yourself quoting Henry Hartman who said, “Success happens when opportunity meets preparation.”

(I prepare Cathy-on-a-Stick for conferences as well. But she never really behaves herself.)
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Does a Freelance Writer Need a Resume?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Recently, an editor encouraged me to apply for a freelance position opening within his organization.

My initial thought was Well, if you are encouraging me, then why don't you just hire me? :) (It's a large conglomerate of publications and websites, so I have to follow protocol.)

I received a list of required application pieces: a cover letter, writing samples, and a resume.

I opened my Word document to peruse my resume and make any necessary tweaks. But what should I include? Do I list my last ten years of work experience? Do I list only writing-related jobs? Should I submit only publication list?

It's a bit of a conundrum.

Here's what I came up with: a targeted skills resume and publication list.

First, I revamped my resume so it featured writing, blogging, and editing jobs. I've been lucky; I haven't had any lapses in my freelance work. Even if I had, I would have been able to include teaching positions since I instruct several writing, English and Journalism classes.

A skills resume let's me highlight my qualifications in multiple categories:

  • Blogging: I've written content for several blogs, including The Muffin. I listed and linked to several examples of my best blogs.
  • Business and Copywriting: I've developed, written and edited company newsletters and brochures. 
  • Editing: Editor of... In my case, I can include the stint I had as an editor of a literary journal, jobs editing for a publisher, my weekly self-syndicated newspaper column, and the previously mentioned company newsletter.
  • Writing: List the number of years I've been a freelancer with experience in newspaper, magazine, and website content; author of a one-act play. Include book publications and collaborations.
  • Miscellaneous: I have judged writing contests in the past. I can write in HTML. I'm proficient in Adobe InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator. It doesn't hurt to include all desktop publishing formats you can manipulate.
Under the education section, I listed my B.A. and M.A. concentrations, as well as writing workshops and class I've participated in.

Finally, I included awards and memberships: The Nebraska Press Association awards for feature writing and  editorial material, award-winning recipes I've written, coaching awards received for Speech and Drama activities, etc.

For the publication list, I used a targeted approach. Since the publication featured sports, I included sporting magazines and newspapers I've written for.

While many publishers and editors won't require a resume, it never hurts to have one that focuses on your credentials prepared.

You never know when you'll be encouraged to apply for a position.

by LuAnn Schindler

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Details Can Make or Break Your Writing

Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Great novels are full of details that draw the reader into the story.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the details we use in our writing. Last spring, I attended a retreat and had a manuscript critiqued by an editor who told me that my setting was good but could be better. “You need detail to pull your reader in.”

So as I read, I’ve been paying attention to details, especially as they relate to setting. In The Shattering, Karen Healey propelled me up the New Zealand Coast from beach to deserted town. I found myself sorting through racks of stained glass and watching the progress on a rehabbed Victorian mansion in Lisa Kleypas’ Rainshadow Road. Vanessa Diffenbaugh had me sorting through blooms to put together just the right arrangement and wondering the fragrant stalls of the flower market in The Language of Flowers.

The details in each of these settings made what I was reading tangible and touchable. If I ever found myself in one of these places, I would instantly recognize it.

But beware giving details about a place you’ve never been and something you’ve never experienced. An inaccurate detail will yank your reader out of the story and make them question everything else in the book.

Recently, I read a novel about a character on a lengthy trip. As she travels, she eats things she’s never had before. The author describes the character sitting and sipping her Blizzard.

Wait a minute. I know this takes place in the summer but how long has she been sitting there? Either the author has never had a Blizzard or she meant to indicate that more than a few minutes had gone by. Whichever one it is, this one trivial detail pulled me out of the story.

Be careful writing about a food you’ve never had or a place you’ve never been. Sensory details are tough when you’ve never had that particular experience. Is a lion cub’s fur soft or coarse? What does an orange grove in the warm sunshine smell like?

Before you write something like this down, check it out or talk to someone who has experienced it, because an inaccurate detail will pull a reader out of your story twice as fast as an accurate detail draws them in.


SueBE blogs at One Writer's Journey.
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A Modified Writer

Monday, August 27, 2012

A pantser or a plotter? When you hang around with writers this is a question you’re asked on numerous occasions. If you ask me on two different days you may get two different answers. Because the fact is, I am a little known variety: the modified. The modified writer came about not from some burst of genius on my part but, like most inventions, out of necessity.

I am the average writer. I have three children, a husband, a full time job, a group of friends that know I am always good for a few hours of volunteering, two dogs that are always in need of a walk, a vegetable/flower garden that is always in need of weeding, the list goes on…The time I can dedicate to my YA novel is limited, severely limited. Yet when I came to that precious time of the day I often found myself rereading yesterday’s writing, looking up details, musing over what my characters would do next, in general frittering away valuable time.

After some experimentation, I found that the best way to jump into the day’s writing was with a daily assignment. Each night, after I collapse into bed I read over that days writing and decide in the most general way what will happen next. Than I write out the title of tomorrow’s assignment. Something like: Deuce tells G. he’s joining the Army.

Giving myself a “daily assignment” the night before gives me time throughout the day to consider it: while I dab on my makeup, pack lunches, drive to work, even while I’m on hold. I can try out scenarios in my head, do basic research (where would someone from Pennsylvania go to Army basic training?), and hopefully arrive at my writing time with at least an opening sentence. Sometimes when I sit down to actually write the planned scene gets tossed in the trash heap of my mind, but at least I didn’t spend my entire writing time pondering that scene, leaving another day without one word written.

So if you want to make some progress on your latest WIP perhaps it’s time to become a modified writer. What type of writer are you?
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Gaining Momentum In Your WIP

Sunday, August 26, 2012
Gain momentum on a writing retreat
I recently finished a wonderful workshop with some middle-grade writers, and one of their comments gave me the idea for this blog post. I had been working with them on their debut middle-grade novels since spring, and most of them were ALMOST finished with their first or second draft. The workshop was set up so that they turned a chapter into me each week, which I critiqued, and they also critiqued each other. They all hoped to keep up with the one chapter a week goal and finish their novels before fall. But as we all know--life happens--and it's a lot harder to give yourself a deadline than to meet a deadline for someone else.

So back to the momentum comment--basically, the writer was talking about how she had been having trouble writing and sticking to a schedule. But recently she was glad to have revised her first chapter and to be writing again. But she still wished she could get some of the momentum going that she had during our class/workshop.

Momentum--what does that mean for a writer exactly? What I think this particular writer meant was because she was writing a new chapter every week during the spring and summer, ideas for her characters and plot were constantly at the surface. She was really making progress on her work-in-progress. She was going, going, going forward with the story. This is one of the best possible things that can happen for a writer.

The opposite is when we're stuck. We are not moving forward in our WIP. We are editing the same chapter over and over again, or we work on the novel so infrequently that we can't remember where we are in the story each time we actually get our butts in the chair; so part of our writing time is spent reviewing notes and past chapters and trying to figure out where we are in the story. This is miserable for a writer.

So, what can you do to get momentum going in your writing life?
  • Take a class--online or in person. WOW! offers several classes on writing for beginners to advanced, on general writing to genre-specific classes in young adult, crime fiction, memoir, middle-grade, picture books, and more. The classroom schedule can be found here. For writing classes in person, look at your community college or a local writing conference. 
  • Join a critique group--I have an awesome critique group, whom we've named Lit Ladies. Every single lady in this group works hard and wants to be published. Two of us have publishing contracts now, and the others have had positive feedback from industry gurus. A good critique group helps your momentum because they expect you to turn in pages from your WIP. They meet often and provide helpful feedback that makes you want to work on your manuscript.
  • Plan a writing retreat--The Lit Ladies just went on a writing retreat this summer. That's three of us pictured above at Bennett Springs State Park near Lebanon, MO. We planned the weekend ourselves, including huge chunks of scheduled writing time to work on our novels and submission materials, like query letters and a synopsis. We all felt much more organized and productive after this weekend, and I am happy to say that I have a good start on a new mystery series for middle-grade readers now! (I plan to post more details about our writing retreat in the future.) 
Find some way that works for you to get your momentum going in your WIP. If setting your own deadlines doesn't work or you find yourself constantly creating a writing schedule you don't stick to, try one of these ideas above. Your WIP and cast of characters will thank you.

Get your momentum going if you are interested in writing middle-grade novels by enrolling in one of Margo's fall middle-grade novel classes. The beginners' class starts on September 7. More information can be found here. The advanced class (for writers who have at least three chapters of the novel written and a plan for the rest) starts on October 19. To view the syllabus for the advanced class, go here. 
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Influential Teachers

Saturday, August 25, 2012

An article in The Writer's Chronicle got me thinking about
a teacher. Credit: Elizabeth King Humphrey

Were you born a creative writer or were you taught to be a creative writer? I picked up a copy of the September issue of The Writer’s Chronicle, a publication for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs. It’s a publication I read often when I was getting my MFA in creative writing. One article immediately drew my attention: “Borges as Self: Toward Teaching Creative Writers” by Eric LeMay.

There is a line in the article, which I will paraphrase, that poses the question about whether creative writing can be taught or can students be taught to be creative writers. The article discusses various programs and what they may offer writers.

But when I read that, I didn’t look back on my master’s program. I didn’t reflect on an undergraduate poetry class with Kenneth Koch or a graduate workshop with Denise Gess (both incredibly passionate writers). I immediately thought of my high school English teachers.

And one in particular: Marilyn Griggs Riley.

To my knowledge (okay, to my memory!), she didn’t teach me anything about creative writing. I don’t remember the whys and wherefores of points of view or how to create suspense in a novel.

But Marilyn taught me a lot. She taught me about a love of writing. She opened a world of writing that I had never seen before—she wrote the introduction for poetry collections and, later in life, penned a collection of profiles of spunky Western women. Areas for writing that I hadn't considered before. Her enthusiasm didn’t teach me the craft of writing. Her Carol Channing hairstyle didn’t convince me to become a writer (or even influence my style choices).

Her enthusiasm helped me to discover writers I wanted to identify with—and could. Her passion and laughter and encouragement helped me to feel that writing—and being a writer—is an important skill/job/vocation/life.

We kept in touch even after I graduated and she remained a wonderful cheerleader and a fantastic teacher.

In my mind, writers can be taught. Writers can even be taught to be creative writers. But passion is a lot harder to come by. But when you have a teacher who is passionate and believes in you, you can become anything you want to be.

Including a writer.

I enjoyed LeMay's article because he made me think about those personal connections with teachers and their many influences throughout the years.

Do you have a teacher who helped move you to become a writer? Is there someone whose passion set you on the writerly path? Who was he or she?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in Wilmington, NC. Her kids just started back at school, so she is excited for a bit more free writing time. (Ha!)
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Friday Speak Out!: Take Notes, guest post by by Mary Jane Downs

Friday, August 24, 2012
Take Notes!
by Mary Jane Downs

As a writer, scribbling down the ideas that come into my mind during my day is just as important as developing the idea I am working on at the moment. In the past, I wrote on post it notes that never seemed to make it in my special manila folder. Most of the time the notes were forgotten or lost and the inspiration in that moment faded away.

Recently, I was working on a blog post, when an idea for another bog post came to me. On a whim, I quickly created a Word document, titled it and typed everything I could think of about the subject. When I finished, I closed the file and got back to what I was doing. Later, when I went back to look at the new idea, I realized I had written down most of what I needed to write a new post. Thank God for whims!

This system is now what I use to save my ideas for my blog. Whenever I get an idea I want to develop, I make myself take the time to create a Word document for it. I title it (even if I change the title later) and write all the points I can think of at the moment. My thoughts are in no special order. Complete sentences or grammar concerns will come later. I save the documents on my desktop page for easy access, if I want to add more. I have about 10 folders in various stages of completion right now.

In the end, I have found this method has boosted my self-confidence as a writer because I know I already have ideas prepared for when I need them. It helps keep my ideas accessible so I can ponder them until it is time to complete them. Plus I have noticed it helps me be a good steward of the gift God has given me.

* * *
 Mary Jane Downs is a writer, speaker and teacher. She has been featured in Awe Magazine, and has been a guest blogger for the Boot Camp Writer’s Conference and Contact Mary Jane at or visit Mary Jane’s blog

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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When the Writing Stinks

Thursday, August 23, 2012
I saw a Facebook status the other day from a writer friend, lamenting her bad writing, and asking what to do when your writing is stinking up the page.

I had to smile. Because what writer hasn’t had a moment like that in the middle of a manuscript or article or essay? When you look at the reeking words before you, and then glance around in search of a blowtorch to put the putrid sentences out of their misery?

The truth is, my writing often starts out badly. My first drafts are rarely exactly what I want to say, and how I want to say it. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I only need to tweak to get the stench off. But other times, especially in fiction writing, I’m overwhelmed at the foulness of what my brain hath wrought.

And sometimes, I don’t even have to be writing to be overwhelmed by the stink.

If I’m reading a great book—one of those novels where the words flow like manna from heaven and the plot rolls along seamlessly and the characters…oh, the richness of the characters! —I’ll put the book down and want to cry. Probably because I’ve just banged my head on the desk while muttering, “I’ll never write this well! Never. Never. Never.”

But then I take a walk. Or work in the yard, or (and this is drastic) clean under a bed. I need time off, time to remember that most writers, even the author of the book that just gave me quite a headache, thought at one time or other that his or her work was…well, crap. Then I feel a little bit better. Like we’re all in this writing mess together.

Other times, when I’m in the middle of writing (and holding my nose), I have to step away from the work, too. I’ve gotten way too close to the words to see anything objectively, so I need a perspective break. I’m always amazed when I come back to a manuscript after a self-imposed exile. I can see much more clearly where I stunk it up.

And sometimes, when the stink gets very, very bad, I need to have lunch with another writer friend who’ll laugh at my jokes. And I’ll laugh at hers. Then we’ll tell each other we’re swell—and maybe where our plots took a left turn.

Those are my strategies, but how about you? What do you do when the writing stinks? (Because honestly, who can afford a blowtorch these days?)

~from Cathy C. Hall
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The three most important elements of your action scene: Character, Character, Character

Wednesday, August 22, 2012
by Bonnie Hearn Hill

You need more than guns, knives and exploding objects to make an action scene work. When I started writing thrillers, I didn’t know that. The more bodies, the better, right? Those early attempts of mine didn’t sell, and I didn’t have a clue what they were missing. More action, perhaps?

Articles on the internet offered tips on pacing and other literary devices. Okay, I now knew the effects of different chemicals in the bloodstream. I understood how to kill someone with a nail gun to the head. This was about the time my husband started looking worried when I discussed potential weapons at the dinner table.

Only when I began understanding the elements of character-driven fiction was I able to write novels that sold. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a high body count will guarantee a compelling action scene. Remember The Silence of the Lambs? I don’t know about you, but I had to hide my eyes and cover up the words as if I were watching a movie. Yet how many people died in that story? One, and that murder starts the protagonist’s quest. Clarice wanted to save just one girl, stop just one more killing. When you think about that book, what do you remember? Clarice? Hannibal? These characters drive the story.

One of the biggest problems writers make in crafting action scenes is relying on what author Gary Provost called surface tension. This is secondary conflict that is caused by physical danger. Primary conflict is always person to person. Buildings might be blowing up, and bullets may be flying, but it’s the character who makes the scene compelling to the reader. Stay in his head, and if possible, have him interact with one other character. Think of Rue in The Hunger Games. Those scenes with Katniss would have been less without Rue in them. Their dialogue doesn’t detract from the action in the scene; it enhances it.

Another problem writers make is what I call researchitis. It’s fascinating to pore over details of murder and mayhem when you’re researching. Besides, doing so allows you to put off actually sitting down and writing your story.

You really don’t need to know that much to make a scene believable. Write the scene first, and research the kind of bullet in the gun later if you think you really need to.

Here are some other elements you can include to make the most of your action scenes:

An antagonist. A single antagonist is better than an army of them. You may have an army, but make one person the true antagonist in the scene.

Dialogue. It improves your pace.

Stakes. Why is your protagonist committed to the scene’s outcome? What is at stake for your character?

A ticking clock. Something is going to happen if your character doesn’t win this struggle—now.

Tight point-of-view. Your character is in the middle of an action scene. She is not going to be thinking of the action as a blow-by-blow police report. Record the action through her senses.

The best action scenes have true tension because of the characters and what they have at risk. Only then will the danger matter to the reader or the writer.

Now, where did I put that nail gun?


 Author, teacher and public speaker Bonnie Hill worked as a newspaper editor for 22 years, a job that, along with her natural nosiness, increased her interest in contemporary culture. Her novel, Intern wascalled “a page-turner” by Publishers Weekly. Killer Body, a thriller about our weight-obsessed culture, was a Cosmopolitan magazine “pick.” She also wrote three newspaper thrillers featuring hearing-impaired reporter Geri LaRue for MIRA Books, the young adult Star Crossed series, and most recently, Ghost Island, a paranormal love story. Her publication credits include short stories, nonfiction books and articles.

>>Bonnie's classes, Murder, We’ll Write: Intro to Crime Fiction and Vampires Optional: Writing Young Adult Fiction, start September 5

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What's Your Log Line?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012
"What's your book about?"

Ever heard that line, only to resort to a spread-out, strung-together diatribe about the contents of your novel? Thirty minutes later, the friend who uttered the question has dozed off and you're still explaining the intricacies of chapter one.

When my new critique partner asked that very question, I knew I couldn't make that mistake.

So, I grabbed an idea from a college writing class from 30 years ago and narrowed my response. Short. Sweet. To the point.

I used a log line, a scriptwriting technique used to entice agents and producers to pursue your script.

Consider it an elevator speech for your book.

A log line is a spot on, short explanation that includes information about the protagonist, the protagonist's goal, and the antagonist. Keep these additional questions in mind while writing a log line for your book:

  1. What genre is your novel?
  2. What makes your main character stand out?
  3. What kick-starts the conflict?
  4. What happens to the protagonist if she fails?

A log line can be particularly helpful when attending a writing conference or pitch session, when time is of the essence and a you need to give the agent or editor a clear vision.

So, I'll ask the question once again. What's your book about?

by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of her work at her website.
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The Power of Daily Writing

Monday, August 20, 2012
by Kelly L. Stone

One of the most powerful actions you can take to establish writing as a habit in your life is to carve out time to write every day for at least 30 days, and make a commitment to write every day for that entire 30 days. Even if it’s just 15 minutes a day, if you make the short-term commitment to do this, you will soon have a deep understanding of a very important concept: there is power in daily writing!

Daily writing leads to success, no ifs, ands, or buts. That’s because it forces you to focus like a laser on your work in progress and hone your writing skills whether you feel like writing or not. This in turn influences your subconscious mind to help you start thinking of yourself as a writer (or reinforces that belief) and that in turns affects your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors toward writing. Writing begets writing. Daily writing begets writing success.

Success is predicted by how you think, feel, and behave toward your writing goals. A person who has success-oriented thoughts and who feels confident in her abilities will naturally take daily actions that bring about her desired outcomes. She will feel enthusiastic, motivated, and dedicated to those outcomes because she thinks, feels, and acts her way toward reaching them, and she does the things every day necessary to achieve success.

This is the case with writing. An aspiring author who thinks positive thoughts and believes in herself will touch her craft daily, which will generate the enthusiasm and motivation to set goals. She will then cultivate the dedication required to take steps to reach those goals over a long period of time. She will write every day or take action every day toward her writing dream. She will act in methodical, self-disciplined ways that bring about desire outcomes. She will think, feel, and act in ways that stimulate enthusiasm, motivation, and dedication for achieving success as a writer as she defines it.

You can be that writer. Even if you have gotten off-track with your efforts to become a successful writer, it’s never too late to start again! Through daily writing, you can generate the enthusiasm, motivation, and dedication needed to work toward your long-term writing goals. You can create for yourself what is known in psychology as a positive self-fulfilling prophecy, which is a belief system that sets you up to succeed!


Kelly L. Stone ( is the author of a women’s fiction novel, GRAVE SECRET (Mundania Press, 2007) which Romantic Times Book Reviews called “powerful” and “well-written.” She is also the author of the TIME TO WRITE series for writers: TIME TO WRITE: No Excuses, No Distractions, No More Blank Pages (Adams Media, 2008), THINKING WRITE: The Secret to Freeing Your Creative Mind (Adams Media, 2009) and LIVING WRITE: The Secret to Bringing Your Craft Into Your Daily Life (Adams Media, 2010). She is a sought after keynote speaker and workshop presenter at writing conferences across the country and offers online classes, critiques, and coaching services to writers. Contact her at

Make your writing a priority and join Kelly in the WOW! Women On Writing Classroom!

EmpowerYour Muse, Empower Your Writing Self starts September 3, 2012.

No MatterHow Busy You Are, You Can Find Time to Write! starts October 8, 2012
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How Much Research Should I Do?

Saturday, August 18, 2012
One of my mad passions when it comes to writing is research and it is one of the topics I speak on at conferences.  Invariably, someone wants to know how much research they should do for an article or book.  The standard answer that most people give is “find every fact three times.”

Let me tell you a story.

One of my first research topics was the Chinese delegation to the St. Louis 1904 World’s Fair.  As Imperial China’s first official delegation to anything, it was a big deal.  The local papers dogged the delegates like paparazzi and were just about that accurate too.

Among the things they reported on was an attempted burglary.  Attempted because the nocturnal criminal couldn’t find the wallet in the delegate’s Chinese clothing, hanging in his room.  Allegedly, the delegate was so glad that the robber failed that he started wearing American trousers.  It made no sense, but I found this “fact” documented so frequently that I quit keeping track.  On the other hand, I found the retraction only once.  If I had gone with the “rule of three,” I would have compounded the error.

When someone asks me how much research they should do before writing their book, this is my answer.

  1. Research until you know enough about the topic to immediately spot a “fact” that doesn’t fit with the rest.
  2. Look at the authors and publishers of your sources.  What are their biases?  How will this effect how they report on the material?
  3. Make sure your sources represent a variety of view points.  Ten sources with one perspective will report on something in much the same way.  You need more than one opinion.
  4. Whenever possible, find primary sources.  This way you get the facts without another person filtering them for you.
  5. Research until you aren’t finding anything new.

That is when you are ready to write.


Sue Bradford Edwards also blogs at One Writer's Journey.
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Friday Speak Out!: No More Query Letters, guest post by Joanne Lewis

Friday, August 17, 2012
No More Query Letters

(If you’re not having fun, don’t do it)

by Joanne Lewis

I wrote my first novel when I was 24 years old and while a prosecutor working sex crimes. I didn’t have an agent. A small press that has since gone out of business published the novel. While I did not sell many books, I was invited to speak on panels and did book signings. I got an agent. I was on my way. Then my agent unexpectedly passed away.

Opportunities continued to arise, at least for a short time. Another small press wanted to publish a book of mine, however the novel was never released.

At this time, I’m 29 years old and feeling like my writing career would never go anywhere.

I didn’t write throughout my thirties. Not writing gnawed at my brain but I was productive in other ways. I left the State Attorney’s Office and opened my own practice. I fell in love. But still, I didn’t write. I knew, however, that I would write in my forties.

Four days shy of my 41st birthday, I experienced a life changing event. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After a radical hysterectomy and six months of chemotherapy, I emerged cancer free and ready to write. I was determined to be published again.

One day, as I was trying to write the perfect query letter, I told my sister I was tired of hoping an agent or editor considered me worthy. She said, if you’re not having fun, don’t do it.

I stopped. No more query letters. No more hoping to find an agent. No more praying for that editor to make me the next big thing. No more yearning to call a publishing house my home. I decided to self publish.

Here’s what I’ve learned about self publishing. It’s better than traditional publishing in many ways. We still do our own marketing but we also have control over our product. The final edits. The cover. How much we charge.

Do you know who looks down upon those of us who self publish? People in the publishing industry. Shouldn’t they be cheering us on?
Do you know who doesn’t care if we self publish? The readers. All they ask for is a good book.

What I don’t understand is how come self publishing, which is the same as being self employed, is given a bad rap? I started my own law practice and was congratulated for being an entrepreneur. I bought a house, flipped it and people were impressed. I have been self employed since 1997. Why is writing the only industry where being self employed is frowned upon?

When I am not working as a lawyer, I am writing and striving to follow my sister’s advice. If you’re not having fun, don’t do it.

I am 47 years old now. I have self published two novels. I do not sell a lot of books. I know that will change when I am in my fifties. Hopefully, this time the life changing event won’t be so drastic.

* * *
Joanne Lewis is the self published author of Wicked Good (co-written with her sister, Amy Faircloth) and Make Your Own Luck, a Remy Summer Woods mystery. The Lantern, a Renaissance mystery, will be released in November 2012. Please visit her website at and email her at Her books are available as eBooks and as paperbacks on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all over the web. Please ask your local bookstore to order her novels.

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Cliches When Writing Books for Kids: How to Fix Them

Thursday, August 16, 2012

by Guudmorning!
When I pitched my YA novel to an agent at a conference, she told me that some of my plot points were cliche. The biggest problem was the parents of the main character dying in a car crash in the beginning. Actually, they die before the novel even starts, but that's not my point today--to discuss my YA plot. I was devastated and thought there was no hope for my book. I didn't know there was a "dead parents" cliche. 

Fast forward a couple months to a student in my middle-grade novel class this summer. She is a great writer with an interesting book idea for a middle-grade fantasy book. But the parents have to die for the plot to work, and I immediately thought back to my conversation with the agent. I didn't want my student to feel like I did, but I also feel it's my job as her teacher to tell her about this "cliche" and help her fix it. So that's what I did. 

How did we fix it? Did she have to come up with a whole new plot? No! What we decided was instead of focusing on the actual death in the first chapter, we would pick up after the parents died and focus on the main plot point that their death causes, which launches readers into a fantasy world. 

What do you do when someone tells you something in your book is cliche? Whether it's a word, sentence, character, scene, or plot point, this can be hard to hear. Should you scrap the whole thing? Definitely not! 

Have you heard the saying that there are no new stories? It's all in the way we tell them! I completely agree with that. Look at the recent WOW! blog tour for The Divorce Girl. Divorce is a subject that has been written about countless times, and yet because of the voice and character, The Divorce Girl was one of the best books I read all year.

It may take a little effort to put a spin on a story that's been told again and again. I mean, look at the romance genre or romantic comedies: boy meets girl, they like each other, something happens to keep them apart, and they overcome the obstacle and fall in love in the end. Right? Is it cliche? Some may say that, but I'm thinking that authors and screenwriters are going to be selling these stories again and again because of their creativity in putting a new spin on the story or using a unique voice or point of view.

So what would you do if someone told you your work was cliche? How do you avoid this in your own writing?

If you are interested in Margo's advanced middle-grade novel online course, starting on 8/23, please see the WOW! classroom page and sign up today! It's not too late to join in on creating the best middle-grade novel possible. (We also take writers working on chapter books for ages 7 to 10 or tween books for ages 12 and 13.) 
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What Are You Making?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Embrace mistakes and keep writing.
Credit: EKHumphrey
 I don’t know about you, but I’ve been trained to not make mistakes. (My kids may see it as my perfectionist tendencies....)

For many years, I have worked as a journalist. I consistently work to get my facts right. Obviously mistakes can happen. But I really do try to avoid them. Are you the same way with your work?

This perfectionist attitude at the keyboard—or using pen and paper—can sometimes cause problems. For several years I’ve studied creativity, which encourages mistakes.It is the trial and error that helps to bring us around to the truth we are seeking as writers and in writing.

While this may push against the “write what you know” lesson, in this case it may be trumped by “learn from your mistakes” lesson. After all, didn’t you need to switch points of view in your first novel to really understand how to stay in one point of view or learn how to gracefully shift from one to the other? Or what about switching your protagonist from a male to a female halfway through your short story? Just trying to get things right, even if he ends up as a she on page 150.

Recently I realized I have not been making enough mistakes in my fiction writing. So I’m going to work on making more mistakes. What are some ways one can try to make mistakes in writing? Here are a few that I’m going to try:

  1. Write for a longer time than usual, which may cause the writing to become more carefree...and maybe more prone to mistakes?
  2. Take the most opposite point of view imaginable. We often are in a comfort zone about the point of view we start with. Take an unexpected perspective and see where it takes you. Getting out of the comfort zone will challenge your characters and your writing.
  3. Insert an unexpected conflict. Tension can build with conflict—what happens to your narrative if something (or someone) arrives that is different than the direction you were headed?
  4. Comfortable writing poetry? Practice writing a press release. Is corporate writing a breeze for you? Then challenge yourself to some flash fiction.
  5. Play with length. Try telling about your town’s claim-to-fame in 140 characters or less. (Then tweet it!) Or write as if your entire novel—including any back-story—can fit into 100 words (or less).
Because we spend so much time in our lives trying not to make mistakes, challenge your writing a little and don’t be surprised if you find mistakes after you’re done!

What is the funniest, UNintentional mistake you’ve found in your own writing?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is an editor who spends her time finding mistakes—frequently in her early drafts! She writes and edits in North Carolina.

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A Trick To Better Writing

Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Do you ever wish for a magic motivational trick? One that will take your writing to places it’s never been before? Step right this way, folks, and I’ll amaze you with how I improved my writing.

I invested in myself. Tadaa!

Er, it occurs to me that you might need to see how the trick works.

Back in the day when I decided to get serious about writing fiction, I sat down at my computer and typed away. But there was a problem. My stories lacked a certain je ne sais quoi.

Okay, that’s not true. I knew what my stories lacked. I needed to brush up on important story elements. Stuff like plotting, pacing, theme, characterization, and setting. I needed feedback. I needed an instructor. And I needed money in order to take the writing class that would provide all that stuff.

Now, I happen to be married to a swell guy. We’ll call him The Beneficent Mr. Hall (because that’s what I call him). And he certainly would’ve given me the money I needed. But I knew that if I spent my own money, I’d work harder. So I set out to earn that money.

I wrote essays and entered contests and pestered editors to run my column, and eventually, the dollars added up. I took a beginner’s class that wasn’t too expensive. After I finished that class, I knew I needed an advanced class. So I wrote more essays, and tried web content writing. It wasn’t always fun, writing about topics like, “How Owls Can Keep Your Backyard Safe From Predators.” But I kept my eye on the goal and earned enough money for the next class.

I continue to sell my words, investing money back into my career. I won’t quit because I have too much of my own money invested. And besides, I know my fiction writing is getting better and better.

You can motivate yourself, too. Even if your writing’s not at the point where it’s earning big bucks, think outside the box. I have a friend who teaches piano lessons to supplement her writing income so that she can afford conference fees.

The trick is in the personal financial investment. Believe in yourself enough to put your own hard-earned money in your writing and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll get back. Tadaa!

~from Cathy C. Hall (The Magnificent)

Image courtesy of
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Sara Fasolino, author of Cabernet Sauvignon: Beginners Guide, Launches Her Blog Tour

Monday, August 13, 2012
& special e-book giveaway!

Sadly, I’ve spent my entire adult life letting other people choose my wine for me with a wave of my hand and an uninterested “Whatever.” Recently, a friend decided it was time for me to start acting like a grown-up and appreciate wine making as the true art it is. Slowly, I’m starting to recognize different types of wines and, instead of drinking whatever is placed before me, decide what I truly like.

If you’ve decided to expand your knowledge of wine, look no further than the beginner wine series by sommelier Sara Fasolino. Her book Cabernet Sauvignon: Beginners Guide is the perfect place to start. In addition to advice on choosing a good Cabernet Sauvignon, there is wine trivia and history, food pairings, and other tips for wine lovers. It’s a book everyone should have on their e-reader.

And, in the interest of making sure everyone has some wine knowledge on their virtual bookshelf, Sara and 101 Publishing are offering everyone a book. Yes, everyone! All you have to do is fill out the form on the Facebook App. You can choose Cabernet Sauvignon: Beginners Guide or one of 20 other wine books! Along with familiar types such as Champagne and Zinfandel there are a few I’ve never even heard of . . . Melon de Bourgogne, Nebbiolo, Tempranillo and more! The giveaway contest closes on the last day of the tour Wednesday, September 7 at 11:59 PM, PST. Don’t let your friends miss out. Tweet about this great giveaway using our hashtag #Wine101CabSauv.

E-Book: 22 pages
Publisher: 101 Publishing (July 1, 2012)
Genre: Nonfiction
Twitter Hashtag: #Wine101CabSauv

Cabernet Sauvignon: Beginners Guide is available in e-format at Amazon.

About the Author:

Sara Fasolino is the Beverage Systems Manager at Morton's The Steakhouse and is recognized in the industry as a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers, as a Certified Specialist of Wine by the Society of Wine Educators and as an Advanced Mixologist. Fasolino's role with Morton's includes overseeing the restaurant's beverage inventory for all its locations, serving as the restaurant's liaison with the Court of Master Sommeliers and managing all educational and training materials related to the restaurant's wines, liquors and beers. Fasolino's experience in the restaurant industry dates back to her college years in Ohio, where she was a server in a restaurant. Upon graduation from Marietta College with a bachelor's degree in psychology, she worked with a beverage marketer and distributor in Ohio before relocating to Chicago in 2005. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., Fasolino has been with Morton's The Steakhouse since 2007, working in its global headquarters.

Find the author on Twitter: @SommelierSara

---------Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: Sara, when I read that you were a "Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers" my imagination ran wild. I could picture you being "knighted" by some sort of Wine King. But seriously, tell us how you became a sommelier. What's an average day like for a sommelier?

Sara: Well actually, it was a bit like getting knighted by a wine king! Let me explain. First, I decided to go about this course at the suggestion of my former boss and mentor while working as the Corporate Beverage Manager for Morton’s The Steakhouse. I have been in the restaurant/beverage industry since college and he felt that it would give all of that hard work some added credibility. After panicking a little, I finally agreed to the challenge.

Becoming a Sommelier is a difficult task. Within the Court of Master Sommeliers there is a four tiered structure that leads to the eventual goal of becoming a Master Sommelier. Keep in mind there are only about 100 Master Somms in the US. So the first exam is called the Intro Exam. This is a written exam that focuses on regions, grape varieties . . . things like that. Upon passing this exam a person may call themselves a Sommelier, but they are technically not “certified.”

The second exam is the Certified. It is about a hundred times more difficult than the Intro Exam and consists of a written exam as well as a service practical where you have to properly serve a Master Sommelier still or sparkling wine while they fire questions at you about regions, styles, vintages, food pairing, cocktails, beers, cigars and things like that. If you get through that without shaking so badly you spill wine everywhere, and you have passed the written exam, you can call yourself a Certified Sommelier.

Once this task is achieved, you can apply to take the Advanced Exam. If your application is accepted, you are subject to almost certain death. Your life stops and all you do is study and taste and practice. The exam is a week long affair. It begins with a practical exam that is a thousand times more difficult than the Certified. After that, you move to a service practical that is three parts: Decanting, Champagne Service, and food pairing/spirit identification. Again, at each of these three tables, the Master Somms are firing questions at you about everything under the sun. The third part of this exam is the blind tasting where using a deductive process you have to identify the grape variety, region and vintage of 6 wines–the caveat is you have to do it in about 12 minutes. If you make it through this (only about 4% of the people taking the exam pass) you may or may not get invited to take the Master Exam. Honestly I’m emotionally exhausted just thinking about this process! I have attempted the Advanced Exam and was not part of the 4% but I fully intend on going back and subjecting myself to more pain.

WOW: I may have to lie down after hearing about that! If that’s what the test is like, what's an average day like for a sommelier?

Sara: An average day for a Sommelier can vary vastly given your duties and job description. For me personally, I oversee the Beverage Programming for 822 Chili’s Locations and 44 Maggiano’s nationwide, so my duties fall in more of negotiations with suppliers to find the best products at the best price. For most Somms, however, working in the restaurants directly with the guests in service and sales is their main activity while others work in sales with wholesale distributors. One common thread we all share, though is that we have a passion for teaching about wines and spirits. Most Somms should be very down to earth and willing to help you understand things without making you feel embarrassed; that said, if you ever run into a snobby one you have my permission to call them out or completely ignore them. They are not doing their job correctly!

WOW: You're touring with Cabernet Sauvignon: Beginners Guide but you've written several books on several different wines. Do you have a favorite type of wine? If you were stranded on a deserted island with one bottle of wine, what would it be?

Sara: I really don’t have a favorite type; I like pretty much all of them. For me, winemaking is an art and I respect any artist who makes an attempt to put themselves out there to be judged—that’s scary and deserves respect. I typically choose wine in two ways: either by the food I am eating with it or by the weather. For example, on a hot summer day I would be more likely to choose Sauvignon Blanc than Merlot. If I were choosing Sauvignon Blanc regardless of whether or not I was pairing it with food I would then choose the style. Do I want fruity from New Zealand or flinty from the Loire? My mood and the food are typically the deciding factor on that.

So to answer your question about the Island—well, the food would likely be fish and the weather would be sunny and warm so . . . I would stick with a white wine—a nice white Grenache would be great or maybe a Riesling from Germany or a Torrontes from Argentina . . . so many choices, so little time!

WOW: Oh my, I’m still caught up in the fact that you described a wine as “flinty.” I can’t even begin to understand what that means! I must confess, I always let friends choose my wine for me. Why should we all know at least a bit about wine?

Sara: That’s a very good question . . . everyone should know a little about wine so that you can choose what you like rather than relying on someone else’s ratings, reviews or marketing. I often see people buying wine because someone else rated it highly and I think that is a dangerous thing in a way.

Think about it this way—how do you like your peanut butter and jelly? Do you like more peanut butter? More Jelly? Equal amounts? If you ask a group of people this question you will find many different answers. Our taste preference is strongly related to our upbringing and the things we were exposed to.

What I am saying is just because someone who happens to write reviews for a magazine likes something it doesn’t mean that they are right about their review or that you will or will not like something that they love or hate. Having a little knowledge can give you the confidence to make those decisions on your own and find what YOU like.

The other reason is that the wine industry is a for profit business like any other—sure, there is passion and love but at the end of the day it is a commodity like any other. A little knowledge can help you weigh out the good from the bad. For example, a passionate winemaker may make an incredible wine and charge—say $50 for it—while another perhaps not so scrupulous winemaker may try to make it seem like their wine is also worth $50 and it's really worth about $5. On the flip side of that, from a retail standpoint, a little knowledge can help you understand if the retail mark up is in line with where it should be. If you visit a few different stores you will notice that they pretty much (depending on the state laws) have different pricing on the same items. Knowledge is power!

WOW: I'm sure many people think of wine as a rich man's interest. Do you have to be wealthy to enjoy good wines? Can those of us smack in the middle of the middle class (who are worrying about our children’s looming college tuition bills) also find worthwhile wines to match our budget?

Sara: Indeed . . . YES! There are so many good wines out there that are budget friendly! The best advice I can give here is to take a deep breath and break away from the brands you know best. You’ll be amazed at the quality of the lesser known brand names. I recently did a side-by-side blind tasting of wines specifically geared towards budget friendly and was surprised by how good the lesser known brands tasted. Some I had never even heard of tasted much better than the big names!

WOW: And now a quick question for the next dinner party I'm invited to . . . is Cabernet Sauvignon a good wine to take as a gift when you're invited to someone's home? Is it versatile? Do most people like it?

Sara: Absolutely! Cabernet Sauvignon is still King among grapes. It is good to drink on its own and pairs well with rich foods like steak but its biggest strength is that it is positively brilliant with chocolate!

WOW: Wine and chocolate? You’ve convinced me!

--------- Blog Tour Dates

Wednesday, August 15 @ Books, Books, The Magical Fruit
Although Books, Books The Magical Fruit calls the land of wine (California) home, she's eager to learn more about Cabernet Sauvignon from wine expert and author Sara Fasolino.

Friday, August 17 @ A Writer’s Life
Need the perfect wine for your next dinner party? Maybe sommelier Sara Fasolino can help you. Don't miss a review of her book Cabernet Sauvignon: Beginners Guide.

Tuesday, August 21 @ CMash Loves to Read
Stop by for male and female points of view on a great wine book for beginners: Cabernet Sauvignon: Beginners Guide.

Wednesday, August 22 @ Thoughts in Progress
Come enjoy a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon with us and read the review of Sara Fasolino's Cabernet Sauvignon: Beginners Guide.

Monday, August 27 @ Misadventures with Andi
Experiment with a new wine after reading Sara Fasolino's book about Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wednesday, August 29 @ Donna's Book Pub
Want to know more about the world of wine? Stop by to learn about a wine series and receive a free e-book on the wine of your choice.

Friday, August 31 @ Empty Nest
Last chance to read a review of Sara Fasolino's Cabernet Sauvignon: Beginners Guide and register for a free e-copy.

Get Involved!
If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at

Download the FREE Wine E-Book of Your Choice HERE:
There are 21 books to choose from!

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Jimmies or Sprinkles? Getting the Details Right in Fiction

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I’m just back from a beach vacation where I learned something new – in my hometown those little sugary doo-dads you sprinkle on your ice cream are called sprinkles but at the beach they’re called jimmies. I took note because I’m playing with the idea of a book that happens at the beach. As a reader, I know that any anomalies (such as sprinkles where there should be jimmies) can ruin the reading experience. And as several authors I know can attest to, anomalies can also ruin the writing experience since readers can and will send you an “oops” letter to inform you that you have the wrong flowers growing in your character’s garden, have them using the wrong curse words, or painted their ’57 Chevy a color that wasn’t available in ’57. And not only did it ruin the whole book for them, but they also told everyone they know about your mistake!

At first, you may believe that fact-checking is less important with fiction writing than with non-fiction. Not true! Unless you are writing science fiction or fantasy (where it’s equally important to follow the rules for the world you’ve created), one inaccuracy can destroy the entire world you’ve created. If your Oregon character is using Arkansas slang it’s tougher for a reader to lose themself in the story, to fall in love with your characters, to want to share that world with other readers.

If it’s something you’re an expert at such as slang in your region, a job you’ve held, a hobby or skill you have you’re all set. Proof, proof, proof. But what if it’s something out of your realm? Tulips, ancient Egyptian culture, the life of a taxi driver? How do you ensure that your book doesn’t include any glaring errors? Find the experts. I’ve found experts in several places:

1. Academia – College professors can be helpful with specific factual questions. It helps if you know or can obtain an introduction from a friend but sometimes an out-of-the-blue email can result in an answer. Emails seem to be the contact of choice for professors. To help narrow down who you should contact, go to a school’s website and learn what the professor has published recently. Just because they’re a history professor doesn’t mean they can answer your questions about World War II, they may be an expert in the French Revolution.

2. Professionals – Find someone doing the job of one of your characters to learn if you’ve got all the facts, lingo, and timelines correct. Many times there are public relations people for specific companies or professional organizations that are happy to make sure you portray their world correctly. When I needed some basic information on the military world, a public relations officer at Dover Air Force Base and a local Army recruiter happily answered my questions and suggested other people that could help me.

3. Groups – There are groups for everything: gardeners, tattoo artists, Polish-Americans, collectors of beer bottles, Edgar Allen Poe enthusiasts, everything! Another great source that usually is happy to send out a mass email (or include a notice in their next newsletter) to their members about your questions.

4. Non-expert Experts – Want to make sure you have city living right? Run your book by an urban resident. Not sure if your Southern slang rings true? Time to consult a Southern belle. They’re not exactly “experts” but it’s the life they lead. If they don’t know, who will?

In my experience, for more “official” experts the more specific you are, the better. Don’t expect a response if you send a 200 page manuscript to a state police officer with a “Did I get everything right?” Instead, give a broad overview of your book and your key questions such as:

1. Who notifies the coroner?
2. How many people would be at a small town murder scene?
3. Do you really wrap everything in yellow crime scene tape?
4. Do you wear blue booties in the crime scene?

When you’re looking for a more general “Does this feel like Alaska/Irish step dancers/a bakery shop?”, especially for things such as regional or special groups’ details and slang, it seem more helpful to include the entire manuscript ( or at least the section that features this group). Things are less overwhelming if you highlight words, actions, or details that could be wrong (or better expressed by group specific lingo). Ask them to focus on the highlighted sections but to read everything, just in case you missed a key error. Often your non-expert experts are family and friends so they are more willing to take the time to read an entire manuscript. The highlighting reminds them that you don’t just want a “I liked/didn’t like the story” but also their expertise on details about Alaska/Irish step dancers/bakery shops.

Never forget that in fiction writing, even the smallest fact is important. Take the time to get it right. Your readers will thank you…by not sending you “oops” letters.

Jodi Webb is a WOW Blog Tour organizer and has taken a bit of time off from her blog Words by Webb to focus on her YA novel that takes place mostly in her regional area (Hooray! She knows lots of experts.) and partially in the military world (Where she's met lots of helpful experts who call her ma'am.)

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Weak Link? Or, Why Links Expand Our Navigational Path

Saturday, August 11, 2012
Most mornings I begin my day perusing the headlines on the New York Times website. Then I head to MSNBC and catch up on even more headlines, like this one touting National S'mores Day.

I appreciate that the articles on these sites allow me to follow links, opening up other sources of information on a particular event or topic. And in today's news world, linking to original sources strengthens a story's credibility and offers additional insight.

That's why, when I stumbled upon Matthew Ingram's article on, I found it interesting that some news outlets don't link back to the original source.

As a journalist, citing sources was drilled into my head during J school. Give credit where credit is due.

But in today's digital realm, I can see how easy it is to use someone else's news story and not credit the source.

Heck, if I Google my name and dig back a few pages in the search results, I'll find websites that have used my stories, blog posts and book reviews and link back to the original publication. That's great!

But for every site that does include that information, how many use my writing without giving proper credit?

So, I'm curious. How many of you writers/bloggers/journalists link to original material in your work? Do you click on links in articles? Or, do you think links disrupt the flow of reading?

Photo and blog post by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of her work at her website.

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Friday Speak Out!: Benefits of an Editorial Calendar, guest post by Stephanie Romero

Friday, August 10, 2012
Benefits of an Editorial Calendar
by Stephanie Romero

When I started off my writing career, I was making literally pennies a day. However, the source that I was writing for always provided an editorial calendar.

The calendar reminded me of special holidays and events coming up that could be used as content. It also contained topics and ideas to spur my creative juices.

Now that I am no longer writing for them and make better money as a professional blogger, I have found it beneficial to create my own editorial calendar. Whether you blog personally or professionally, coming up with topics can be a challenge.

One source that I professionally write for requires that each month I produce 15 blogs on parenting teens, 10 on housekeeping, 10 on fitness, 5 on marriage, and 5 on home-based business. Coming up with fresh ideas each month can be a challenge, so that is when I decided to create my own editorial calendar.

I picked up a calendar from my local office supply store and began to fill in each month with ideas. Not only did I include holidays but I spent time looking up other nationally-recognized events.

For instance, “National Simplify Your Life Week” can be used in a home business blog or housekeeping. “Middle Child’s Day” is a great topic for parenting teens. And “Relaxation Day” fits in with my personal blog that I write.

You have to think outside of the box when it comes to topics. September is generally known for the time of kids going back to school. Depending on who you write for, you could turn this into a topic.

In fact, you could create a series out of certain topics. If you are hard-pressed in coming up with new ideas on what to write about, consider creating your own editorial calendar.

* * *

Stephanie Romero is a professional blogger for Families and independent contractor for We Do Web Content. Through her personal blogs she inspires others to actively pursue their dreams and mothers to seek out those heartfelt prayers for their children. She is the creator and instructor of “Recovery from Abuse,” an online course that is currently being used in a correctional institution’s character-based program. In addition, she leads an online writer’s critique group for Proverbs 31 Ministries. Stephanie has taught workshops and Bible studies on a variety of topics to small and large groups of women.


Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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The Importance of Rising Tension in Your Story

Thursday, August 09, 2012
The other day, my son discovered Maury Povich, and it wasn’t just any topic. This was “whose the baby’s daddy.” I decided to watch with my tween son and use the show to drive home a few cautionary points. What I didn’t expect was a lesson in building tension.

First, they would bring out the young woman. She would tell her story and swear up, down and sideways that the guy they were about to meet was the father and she was going to prove it. THE PROTAGONIST had a GOAL.

Then Povich would interview the “father” who would swear that there was no way the child was his. He became the ANTAGONIST.

This alone would just be a case of he said, she said. But the producers made sure we got RISING TENSION. One guy said the baby didn’t look like him. Another pointed out that she had pulled this before; he had proved the first baby wasn’t his. The ANTAGONIST has a GOAL that goes against the protagonist’s goal.

At last, Povich held the envelope with the DNA test in his hand – the TURNING POINT. Invariably the man in question was not the baby’s father. Why invariably? To keep the TENSION high, and, believe me, with the tears, screaming and name calling, there was plenty of tension.

As writers, you need to manage the tension in your stories as if you were a producer on Maury Povich.

Start with your PROTAGONIST. What is her GOAL? If you are going to use it to create tension, it has to be a big deal. What is at risk if she fails? She doesn’t have to look foolish on national television, but the bigger it is the more tension you will create.

There also has to be someone or something in her way. If you use an ANTAGONIST, vs. nature or time, your antagonist doesn’t have to be evil. His goal just has to be at odds with the goal of your protagonist.

Before the end of the story, you need to INCREASE THE TENSION. The reader could learn something about the protagonist that puts her goal in question. Or another character could surprisingly side with the antagonist. In some way, the protagonist must meet a REVERSAL.

This is where so many of us fall down on the job. We like our characters and don’t want to be the cause of their suffering. We make things too easy. We make things boring while Povich and his producers keep throwing more and more trouble into the mix.

Do this and, like Povich, you will keep your audience on the edge of their seat, shouting, cheering and maybe even booing. The one thing they won’t be doing is putting aside your writing to watch something on TV.


Author Sue Bradford Edwards blogs at One Writer's Journey.
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Using LinkedIn to Find Readers

Wednesday, August 08, 2012
LinkedIn seems to still be a mystery to many writers on how to use it effectively. In one of WOW!'s issues, we had a LinkedIn expert write an article for us about the best way for freelance writers and published authors to use LinkedIn for marketing and networking purposes. If you missed that article, you can check it out by clicking here. 

If you are a published author--traditional or self, print or e-book--you are looking for readers. So, how do you find readers and connect with them on LinkedIn? It's not as hard as you may think. It will be easier for some authors more than others--depending on the type of book and the subject matter. But all in all, authors can take these few strategies below to help find an audience on LinkedIn when their book comes out.

  1. Who is your perfect audience? For example, if you are writing a memoir about being "an army brat" and traveling the world with a father as a colonel, you have a lot of different possible reader-types. Make a list: memoir writers, army brats, military wives and moms, and military enthusiasts. Now go to LinkedIn and go to the "Groups" choice in your tool bar across the top. Click on groups directory and start doing searches for the different perfect audience members. Some of the groups are open to everyone; some are closed. Decide which ones will accept you and what you have to offer and join. One word of warning: Don't join a group and start a hard sell. NO ONE wants to be pitched to. Build relationships in this group. Mention your book if it comes up casually. Make connections with others in this group. Writers tend to join groups of other writers on LinkedIn. How many writers groups are really going to help you sell your book? You need some for networking purposes; but other than that, you need to find readers! 
  2. If you have a nonfiction book, you should be in the ANSWERS section of LinkedIn often to become an expert and meet people who have questions about your subject matter. To find this section, go to the tool bar and click MORE. You will see ANSWERS appear underneath it, click on this. Next, you will see several categories listed on the right-hand sidebar such as finance, human resources, and management. Click on one of these fields to read questions other LinkedIn users asked under this category. If you know the answer, you can comment. You can then connect with the person who asked the question. You can answer several questions in one category several different times to get to know more people in this section. Again, this is not a place where you are going to make a hard sell. If your book comes up naturally, great! If not, then you need to connect with others, mention your book in passing, and so on. 
  3. You can do a general search for a type of job or skills on LinkedIn. I have a middle-grade historical fiction novel coming out soon. To look for readers to connect with on LinkedIn, I can do a search for elementary school teachers. There are tens of thousands of teachers on this site, so I might want to narrow it down. Plus, LinkedIn does not allow me to spam and contact all the people on this list. But if they are a 2nd or 3rd connection to me or in the same group as me, but I haven't "met them yet," then I can contact them as a friend and/or ask another one of my connections to introduce me. (There is a limit to how often you can get an introduction or send an "INMAIL" to someone you don't know with a free account. All of those details you can find on the site.) Anyway, if I wanted to connect with some of these teachers, who I want to read my book, I can start with this search. Then I can narrow it down by looking at the left sidebar, and clicking one of the choices, such as: GROUP MEMBERS or 2ND CONNECTIONS, and start sending connection requests. Then when I get more teachers linked to me, I can update my status or e-mail about my book.
Two of the worst things you can do is hard sell your book to your connections every time you communicate with them and/or only join and connect with other writers. Writers are supportive. Writers know a lot of people, but they also know a lot of people who already have books. Find people interested and needing your subject matter on LinkedIn.  And always, always get involved in your alumni groups if you have some on LinkedIn (or Facebook, too). A lot of these people will support you because you went to their high school/college!

For more tips like these for using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, (and possibly Goodreads and Pinterest, too, depending on the students' needs and desires), consider taking Margo's ADVANCED SOCIAL NETWORKING CLASS (online). It starts 8/13 and goes for 6 weeks. For more information, a syllabus, the fee, and to sign up, please go here. 

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