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Friday, June 30, 2017

Friday Speak Out!: Hot Flash: Sketches

by Jane Hertenstein

Historically in journalism columns and thought-pieces were the domain of men. Women were sometimes able to back-door their way into the papers. Often they had to use non de plumes or adopt initials to disguise their sex. Later they were given domestic assignments, what might be considered “light” writing.

Sketches were one way women could bring their world into the broader purview. Louisa May Alcott wrote Hospital Sketches (1863) about her experience working as a Union nurse during the Civil War. In 1881 Sarah Orne Jewett published Country Byways, sketches of life in rural Maine.

Just now I am making up a book which is to come out in the fall -- called Country By-Ways. It is mostly sketches of country life -- and of my own country life. So far I have simply tried to write down pictures of what I see -- but by and by I am going to say some things I have thought about those pictures. I don't know whether the pictures or the meditations will seem truest, but I know that I have found out some bits of truth for myself --  Letter from Sarah Orne Jewett to Theophilus Parsons, 12 June 1881

Sketches might be considered an early form of blogging. An observation or impression generally short, perhaps enlivened with dialogue and character, but definitely from a personal point of view. The genre was invented in the 16th century in England, as a result of increasing public interest in realistic depictions of “exotic” locales. A sketch story is a hybrid form, containing little or no plot. Authors such as Mark Twain and Charles Dickens padded their income by writing and compiling a number of these for publication.

Word counts vary, but generally flash is thought to be 1,000 words or less. Some journals in their submission guidelines can be very specific. Smokelong for instance asks for flash that can easily be consumed in the amount of time it takes to finish a cigarette. Flash as a form can be applied to almost any genre. There are flash mysteries. Postcard flash might only be about travel—you are limited to the amount of space typically taken up by the back of a postcard. Flash foodies write very small about . . . FOOD.

I write flash memoir.

Using a process I call Write Right Now, I encourage readers to do just this: build a portfolio of small flash memories that will eventually be expanded upon or become the foundation for a scene. Memories are the building blocks to most everything we write.

For some of us sitting down to transcribe or pen a memoir can be an overwhelming task. I recommend approaching it in bite-size pieces or rather applying flash. By freeze framing a moment, a memory, like a camera snapshot, and dwelling there you are creating the foundation for longer memoir, a jumping off place to expand upon later.

Like so many of our memories, there is an undercurrent of lose threads, fuzzy blurred beginnings and endings with little or no significance. They simply are. The nice thing about flash is that it can be unresolved.

So write right now. Why not attempt a sketch, your impressions. Compose an impressionistic scene, a loose rendition of a recent experience or memory. The essence of the ordinary, though humble, reveals an extraordinary life. One built upon sublime moments that may add up to an epic memoir. If only you begin.

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Jane Hertenstein is the author of over 90 published stories, a combination of fiction, creative non-fiction, and blurred genre both micro and macro. Her latest eBook is Flash Memoir: Writing Prompts to get You Flashing (available everywhere). She can be found at where she gets 10,000 hits a month. Twitter: @memoirjane
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!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Get Smart!

I resisted getting a smart phone for years.

I had excellent reasons. Like, I didn’t use a cell phone much. I didn’t want to be like so many people, paying more attention to a phone than family and friends in the flesh. It was a waste of money, right?

And then I broke down and got a smart phone because of my step counter. Yeah, technology begets more technology. It was the smartest thing I’ve ever done (no pun intended).

No more getting lost! No more sweating over missing an email. And did I mention no more getting lost? Honestly, I wondered why it had taken me so long to get a smart phone. And then I remembered.

Oh, yeah. I don’t like change. I don’t like taking the time to learn new stuff. And I especially don’t like dealing with new technology.

As a writer, I’m constantly keeping up (or attempting to keep up) with new technology in the industry. One day, I may log into my blog and find that the way I’ve always posted has changed (We’ve improved it! All you have to do now is follow these 18 simple steps!). The next week, the site I’ve used for photos decides to mix things up and now I must have an account (I’m not going to lie; I find another site because I have way too many accounts that I already can’t keep sorted).

It’s always something, whether it’s technology-related or just changes and improvements in the writing world that evolve daily. And every fiber of my being resists when a new something pops up. But I power through it.

You know that saying, “He who hesitates is lost”? In the fast-paced publishing world, that’s certainly true. If you don’t keep up with what’s going on around you—just think of all the changes in self-publishing!—you’ll be left behind. There are hundreds, thousands of writers chomping at the bit to get their chance. They’ll happily chomp right through you.

And before you think this is an age thing, think again. I know plenty of mature writers who are as sharp as tacks and extremely successful because they know how important it is to keep up with a dynamic industry.

But I also know a number of writers—young and old—who complain about change and sit on the sidelines watching their peers zip by. Their negativity and resistance ends up as their downfall.

Don’t let resistance get the best of you and your writing career. You don’t have to grab on to every new thing that comes along—Lord knows, I don’t have time for the hundreds of apps out there for my smart phone—but pay attention to this remarkable writing world we live in and keep up with the important, relevant changes. I promise, it’ll be one of the smartest things you ever did for your writing career!

Cathy C. Hall is a kidlit author and humor writer. When she's not busy writing, she's busy keeping up with the ever-changing writing world. And sometimes, she spends two hours fixing her printer. Whatever...

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Meet Megan Waters Winter 2017 Flash Fiction Runner Up

Megan is an avid reader and writer who hails from Long Island, New York. The former cytotechnologist now spends her time reading all the material she can get her hands on to continuously improve her craft.

When writer’s block sets in, Megan likes to dabble on where she enters writing contests and plays with poetry. She is enamored with flash fiction and short stories, and hopes to one day publish her first novel currently in the works.

Megan would like to thank her friends and family for pushing her forward while supporting her in her endeavors.

Before reading her interview, take time to read her story, “Lies of a Certain Nature.”  Megan created a story about a character who lies to get what she wants from someone who also lies.  But she’s also set the reader up  for a twist about who is guilty of what. 

WOW: What was the initial inspiration for “Lies of a Certain Nature”? 

Megan: I initially wrote this piece for a different writing challenge, one where the first sentence was provided for the contestants.  I asked myself, “What’s the difference between lying, and lying for a reason?” I decided if a character is going to justify his or her negative behavior, it’s got to be for a really big reason. 

WOW: The big reason is Ali’s, so why did you choose to use Robert as your POV character instead of Ali?  

Megan: I felt that if I used Ali as the POV character, it might reveal her feelings and thought processes too early on in the story. I wanted the reader to discover the motivation behind her behavior at the same pace Robert did. In my eyes, it lent a little more mystery to the story.

WOW: That it did! By leaving out much of the backstory, you enable the reader to see Ali as Robert sees her until her dialogue reveals the truth. How did you decide what details to include and what to leave out of the story?  

Megan: When I wrote the first draft, I had so much more information than what ended up in the final draft. I had to get to know the characters, and once I got a feel for who they were, and what their dynamic was, I continuously edited the content down. I focused on the details which revealed their selfish intentions.

WOW: What was the most difficult part of writing this story compared to other flash fiction stories you’ve written? 

Megan: Revealing the characters’ personalities while driving the story forward in a finite number of words was the most difficult part.  I wanted the reader to have a basic understanding of who these two people were without giving away too much of the plot.

WOW: What advice do you have for writers who are new to flash fiction?

Megan: When writing a first draft, throw word count out the window. Write as much as you can so you, as the writer, understand your characters, plot, setting, etc. Once you have a firm grasp on the main theme of your story, whittle away the extraneous fluff. Also, if you get stuck, don’t get discouraged. Put the story away for a day or two and don’t think about it. When you go back to re-read it, you will see it with fresh eyes and find it easier to edit -- or at least I do!

WOW:  Throw the word count out the window until we know our story?  Ladies, do you think you can do it?  Find out more about Megan and work by following her on Twitter @MeganWaters129.

Interviewed by Sue Bradford Edwards.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Summer Reading

Summer reading...I love to think of the stack of books that would steadily shrink as the days got longer. Then I had kids. Of course, it wasn't too bad in the beginning. I snuck in a few books while waiting poolside at swimming lessons, while the kids were at day camp, while dad was constructing a bonfire for the marshmallows they would burn to a crisp and I would end up eating. Then came summer reading. THEIR summer reading. They would come home on the last day of school with a list of books to read before the fall. Happily, my kids liked to read and we schlepped to the library each week for the summer reading program and to choose new books.

That's the catch with summer reading assigned by the school. They don't get to choose the books and they are often not the books they would normally read. So they would plow through them, complaining all the way. The reading usually goes hand in hand with a project: a book report, a journal, an essay, an art representation. This year my soon to be high school freshman is reading a book that -- after reading an excerpt in sixth grade -- he is sure he won't like. On top of that he isn't an enthusiastic reader. So, with me has his cheerleader/grumpy boss he begins his reading and chapter by chapter journal.

I'm relieved that he has a lot to say (mostly negative) about the first chapter. After blurting it all out to me over dinner, he decides what he will write in his journal and we're off and running. And so it goes, read one chapter, grumble about it over dinner, write a journal entry and the next day start over again.

As I re-read his entries I learn that he has much more detailed critiques of this book than he ever did before. In the past his ratings of books were restricted to okay (accompanied by a shoulder shrug), funny or lame. Now he's writing exactly what he thinks is okay, funny or lame -- along with plenty of other reactions. In fact, his critique is a lot more detailed than some I received from adults for a novel I'm writing.

After all, when do readers write a critique? I imagine most wait until they've completed reading the entire thing. By then many details have blurred leaving just a negative or positive feeling. "I liked the dialogue." Oh, you want specific examples of the dialogue I like? Some of the situations felt forced. Which ones? Let me think...

Imagine if you were feeding your novel to your beta readers one chapter at a time. You could get a chapter by chapter reaction to the novel and pinpoint where they liked/disliked characters, where they were bored, what plot lines surprised them/they saw coming. Not only that, but I feel like readers would be willing to take on a critique if they saw it as one chapter at a time, rather than an entire 200+ page book.

Maybe critiquing is better chapter by chapter -- whether you're critiquing for a friend or asking a friend to critique for you. This is what I learned from my son's summer reading journal. I just hope he learned something because there's an essay on the first day of school!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Side-Kicks: Making Supporting Characters Memorable

Whenever I ask someone about their book or their work in progress, their face lights up. They give me a strong snap-shot of the world they created, the major conflicts and, of course, a detailed description of the protagonist. It isn’t until I read their book that I discover their often-delightful, supporting characters.

I’ve always felt bad for supporting characters. They don’t get the love and attention they deserve. Like Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series, or Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth Bennet’s best friend in Pride and Prejudice - each one is complex and interesting, but when push comes to shove, no one’s going to pay money to dress up like them for Halloween.

Creating interesting side-kicks for our protagonists is an art form in of itself. We pour time and energy into perfecting our protagonists, but without their friends, acquaintances and, let’s face it, frenemies, we can’t see all their complexities. Each supporting character brings out a new side of our protagonist, making their personalities rich and multifaceted.

In the interest of disclosure, I have an easier time developing supporting characters than I have crafting protagonists. I start by thinking of the traits my protagonist lacks. For example, in my current work in progress, my main character needs to work on her empathy. The solution? Creating a side-kick who desperately needs the patience and understanding of others. My protagonist lacks confidence, so I created a love interest who demands it of her. Even in real life, we gravitate to those who possess talents and traits which we lack. Why should our characters be any different?

By having each supporting character embody one strong personality point, I help bring out the strengths and weaknesses in my main character. Technically, these types of characters are called foils (think of Shakespeare’s incredible pairing of the passive lover, Romeo, and the intense fighter, Mercutio). By developing multiple foils, you not only allow readers to have a clear understanding of your supporting characters, but you also make your protagonist come alive.

A protagonist alone doesn’t make a story. Give some extra love to their side-kicks and watch them shine.

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A WAHM Guide to Not Being Productive During Summer

A post shared by rlroberson (@rlroberson) on

I say it every single year. Won’t you join me? “This summer I am going to be SO productive with my writing! I’m going to make reprint sales. I’m going to finally make progress on my manuscript!”


So how’s your summer going so far as we approach the end of June? Right now mine is pretty much par for the course. I thought that having kids who are finally older (middle school age, gasp!) would make things easier. Was I ever wrong. Here’s a little overview on how my June went for me.

The day after school let out—my mom arrived for a weeklong visit. She lives halfway across the country, so this was a treat. I’m not exactly sure why I arranged for her to arrive the day after what is always the busiest week at my kids’ school, but the plane ticket was purchased, and we had to go with it. Of course, the day she was scheduled to fly in also happened to be the ONLY day I could schedule an interview with a local vet for an article I was working on. I explained to him my time crunch, and we got everything settled. I rushed back home with an hour to spare to grab the kids. Of course my mom’s flight happened to be early so we weren’t there when she got off the plane. We weren’t there when she collected her baggage. Sad to say, she met us in the front of the airport and jumped in the car as I pulled up in the terminal, leaving me feeling like the worst daughter in the world.

I had also planned for us to take a road trip to the beach for two days during her visit, and reserved a condo with great views of the ocean and Wi-Fi, or so I assumed. Never assume. I couldn’t figure out how to connect to Wi-Fi and had to end up calling the owner. She was older and doesn’t realize the joys of internet connection and said she didn’t know the password, and she would try to call the property manager and find out. I tried not to stress because I had planned on doing a little work while there. One of the benefits of freelancing is that you can work from anywhere, right? Not if you don’t have Wi-Fi! I had to end up using a hotspot from my phone that used my data, which worked, but left me limited with what I could do. I never heard back from the owner or property manager.

A few days after Grandma left, my son went away to Boy Scout Camp for the very first time. I was a nervous wreck, but I still had to work and figure out how to entertain my daughter. Two days of that week, she had to volunteer at the library so I simply took my computer and worked blissfully uninterrupted. Luckily she is 14, and can pretty much entertain herself when she’s not at a friend’s house, facetiming random classmates or at a violin lesson. This week, my son is back and was exhausted for the first few days. Then the questions started. “What are we doing today?”

You may remember that I also do pet sitting/dog walking for supplemental income. This has been the busiest week I’ve ever had with two overlapping pet sitting jobs, which I’ve tried to weave in along with assignments and driving the kids where they need to be. My daughter had to be picked up from volunteering every day this week, so I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the car. Two nights I ago I realized I don’t have anything for my son to do when my daughter goes to music camp next month, and in desperation I signed him up for a basketball camp sponsored by our local NBA team. He was pumped, and then the next day I got the opportunity to go on a travel press trip to a water park the EXACT week of both of their camps. I slyly asked him if he wanted to go to a waterpark instead of basketball camp, and he said no. I turned down the trip. Next week we are tagging along on a business trip of my husband's and I will have my computer with me. At least I know the hotel has Wi-Fi.

You see where I’m going with this. The erratic schedule of summer is actually worse than the erratic schedule of the school year—at least in our house. So far I’ve been able to keep my head above the water with my paying assignments, but the manuscript remains untouched.

So how’s your summer going?

Renee Roberson is a freelance writer and editor who writes for lifestyle and parenting magazines and is still trying to figure out the balance between motherhood and writing. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Speak Out!: The Writer's Voice

by Lauren Garner

We breathe every moment of the day, and often times, we speak with that same breath. As human beings, we never notice the sound of our voice or how it carries into another persons' ear. It just does. However, when we are sitting at our desks, laptops are open, eyes glued to the screen with our eyebrows furrowed because nothing is coming out. No words are written and no inspiration is flowing, and why is that? On a normal day-to-day basis we can communicate so profusely, but when it comes to putting your pen to paper, it's almost like you forgot how to write. It's not that you don't know what to say, it's because you don't know how to say it. You haven't discovered your voice.

To begin knowing your voice, you have to know yourself. Begin by taking a few minutes to describe yourself in three to five words. Are you funny, smart and outgoing? Or maybe you're sassy, independent, and beautiful. There is no wrong answer in this game unless you aren't being honest with yourself. Once you are done with this, ask your friends and family to describe you in a few words. Take this data and apply it to your writing.

What is that book series that you couldn't put down, or that one writer that has stolen your heart? Whoever it is, look to them for their support and guidance. All of them started out exactly where you are now and they're great mentors. Figure out what their voice is and you'll find yours, too. It wouldn't hurt to turn to your favorite musicians and things you watch such as movies and TV shows. All of it is a beautiful inspiration.

The most important part is to not force it. Write because it's fun and you love doing it. A lot of new writers think that finding their voice is the hardest part about writing, and this can cause them to become discouraged. Sometimes they'll even throw out a masterpiece because it just isn't right to them. Think of a writer's voice as being like the cheese in a grilled cheese. You wouldn't eat the sandwich if it was just bread, would you? So why would you read the book if it doesn't have any personality? Your voice is what tells people, "No one else could have written this."

* * *
Lauren Garner has been a writer since she was a little girl. Throughout her life, she was known for always carrying her notebook around working on her latest story. With many different topics that interest her, the main goal in Lauren's life is to help others. In her free time, she writes for her blog, and works on her short stories and 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!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Camp NaNoWriMo

I have something of a love/hate relationship with summer.  I love that my son has time off.  But I hate trying to get things (my writing) done around his busy schedule.  I'm writing this on Tuesday and he has this day off.  So do several of the friends that he works with.  That means my dining room is wall to wall life guards.  I don't think they have indoor voices!  

The problem is that I manage to meet hard, fast paying deadlines and not much else.  Writing for fun? Work on my novel or either of my picture books in progress?  Forget it.

Fortunately, I just read about a spring and summer time version of NaNoWriMo.  Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) takes place in April and July.  

Like NaNoWriMo, it is a great way to draw inspiration from your fellow campers.  Of course, since this is writing camp, you're fellow campers are all writers and most of them are in the same situation I am. They are trying to squeeze writing into a busy summer schedule.  

Unlike NaNoWriMo, you aren't expected to draft a novel in a month.  That's right - there is no 50,000 words in one month goal. Honestly, I have trouble even typing that.  I know I can write 15,000 words a month, but 50 thousand?  

If you feel the same way, you'll be relieved to know that Camp NaNoWriMo allows you to set your own goals.  Maybe you want to draft a chapter book for young readers.  Set an 8000 word goal.  Maybe you just want to get back into your novel.  Would 100 words a day do it?  200?  Set your goal to 3100 or 6200. 

The point is that the goal is up to you.  This is your camp.  

Speaking of camp - you even get to participate in a cabin.  This is perfect for those of us who are more than a little introverted.  Campers are organized into cabins.  This is a group of up to 20 people who are your "writing buddies" for the month of July.  You can register for Camp NaNoWriMo and be randomly sorted into a cabin with other campers.  Or, if this seems a little too like sleep over camp, you can join with a group of friends and form your own cabin.

Personally, I’m a lot more comfortable with this flexible program than the more heavily structured NaNoWriMo. If this sounds like something that would help jump start your writing this summer, you can sign up here.  Questions?  Check out their lengthy but informative FAQ page.

Me?  I’m just debating – duffle bag or backpack?


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins August 14th. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Book Review: Lilli De Jong by Janet Benton

Lilli De Jong by Janet Benton is a well-written, touching and often heartbreaking historical fiction novel set in 1883 Philadelphia. It tells the story of Lilli, a twenty-two-year-old woman, brought up in a Quaker home, whose mother has recently died. She is miserable in the house with her father and his female cousin, and finds comfort in Johan, who is her father's  assistant.

Johan and Lilli fall in love, and he informs her that he is going to Pittsburgh with her brother, Peter. He asks her to be his wife, but her father does not allow it. Before Johan leaves, he and Lilli make love one time. This is when Lilli becomes pregnant.

Because her home life is so tension-filled, with Patience (the cousin) now marrying her father, and their ex-communication from the Quakers, Lilli hides her pregnancy, but she isn't able to forever. Patience confronts her, and Lilli admits she is with Johan's child. Patience sends her away to Philadelphia Haven for Women and Infants. It is a home specifically for unwed mothers, where they are taken care of (barely) and given a safe place to sleep.

The women have their babies in "the haven", and then their babies are taken away from them and given to an adoptive family. The women can leave the home and start over, hopefully leaving the disgrace behind them. Unlike Lilli, many of the women are pregnant because they were raped.

This is the plan for Lilli, only she doesn't want to give up Baby Charlotte after three weeks of nursing and caring for her, even though she believes there is no spot for her in her father's home, and she hasn't heard from Johan since he arrived in Pittsburgh. After many heart-wrenching scenes, where Lilli is writing about her life and the other girls in her diary, along with her own scorn and misfortune, the novel follows her path as a woman who had a child out of wedlock in the late 1800s and what she must do to survive.

This book will anger you at the treatment of these women. It will make you celebrate the strength of women. It will help you feel the special bond between women and children. The interesting thing is that while I was reading Lilli De Jong, I also started watching The Handmaid's Tale (a book by Margaret Atwood) on Hulu. If you aren't familiar with it, The Handmaid's Tale tells the story of a future dystopian United States, where women are second class citizens, who are only kept alive for the babies they can bring into this world. The themes of this dystopian series and this historical fiction novel are so similar, it's scary. Women's rights should never be a question.

Lilli De Jong is Janet Benton's first novel, and it's a winner. In the author's note, she states that this novel began when she was nursing her own infant and she heard Lilli's voice in her head. "Sometimes she railed against being cast out, with her life derailed for good, while her lover walked freely among respected persons. Sometimes, my own moments merged with hers, as when I marveled at the calm that descended while nursing or felt a fatigue I could never have imagined."

Check out Lilli De Jong today.

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, blogger and writing coach in St. Louis, MO. Find out more here. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Meet Cheryl Fines, Winter 2017 Third Place Flash Fiction Winner

Cheryl Fines is a secondary school teacher in a small city on the Canadian prairies. She gets the greatest satisfaction from teaching English literature, particularly when she can introduce a reluctant student to a genre or format that makes him embrace the English language arts. Sharing her love of literature—and her love of writing, of course—makes teaching the perfect fit for Cheryl.

Cheryl has a B.Sc. (Psychology) from Trent U in Peterborough, Ontario, and a B.Ed. from Brandon U, but her true passion is writing. She enjoys writing in many genres and formats. She loves the precision of language required to tell a full story within the tight word count parameters in flash fiction. Cheryl has two novels on the go at present, as well as some nonfiction, and poetry. Lately, she has enjoyed reading fiction with a non-traditional narrator, and it’s entirely likely that you’ll see some of that in her writing before long.

Making time for a wide variety of creative pursuits is vital to Cheryl; aside from writing, she enjoys all manner of fibre art, and dabbles in fine arts projects from time to time. She lives in Brandon, MB with her husband and two children, whom she urges to challenge themselves, and pursue their dreams, just as she has done.

If you haven't done so already, check out Cheryl's award-winning story "Catharsis" and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the WOW Winter 2017 Flash Fiction Contest! What was the inspiration for your short story, or what prompted you to write it?

Cheryl: “Catharsis” was brewing in my mind for quite a long while, and has been through a significant evolution process along the way. As with most of my fiction, I’ve drawn from many different life experiences of my own, as well as the struggles and achievements of others. The sensory descriptions largely come from personal experience in hospitals: volunteering as a teenager, visiting various people, being a patient myself, and spending time in the palliative unit when my mom was approaching the end of her life.

The relationship aspect is a little more complex. There are fragments of my own experiences and thoughts, but equally important, I drew from the fallout I’ve seen in the lives of several others who never had the opportunity to resolve past issues before they lost a parent. It seems to cling to them forever. Personally, I was very fortunate to have a cathartic visit with my father not too long before he passed away, in which I felt like I was seeing him through adult eyes for the first time ever. Pieces fell in place. Resentment and anger really did just fall away. So – that’s the long answer to your question. “Catharsis” is definitely a mish-mash of many experiences and observations, with a healthy dose of straight-up imagination.

WOW: Thank you for sharing that! It’s so fascinating to hear where stories come from. What do you enjoy the most and/or the least about writing?

Cheryl: I am passionate about writing. It is so satisfying when the words are flowing, and ideas abound. It’s so rewarding when I read back what I wrote and find that I actually do like it. I love that it is an expression of the creativity that resides inside me, and indeed, inside each of us. I have concluded that creative expression is a genuine need. Not a luxury, not a pastime.

What do I like least about writing? My immediate response to that question is, “finding the time.” But that isn’t about writing, per se; it’s about time management. What I like least about writing is having grave misgivings about something I’ve written, or how I’ve written it. These don’t tend to come from within, but rather when I seek feedback from others. For instance, I’ve been strongly advised against “head hopping” (switching narrators throughout the piece), and was cautioned not to use a flashback format. Both of these pieces of advice stopped my writing dead in its tracks. Once I’ve doubted a piece, and set it aside – or worse, scrapped it and started over – it’s never quite the same. I’m not essentially a blind rule-follower. I wish I’d never had these particular pieces of advice, because when I step back and think about the creative process of writing, I prefer to think that there are no hard-and-fast rules in writing. As an expression of one’s imagination, surely there can’t be rigid rules like those to follow.

WOW: I love that you said creative expression is a genuine need, not a luxury. So often I feel guilty when I take time to write because I do feel as if it’s a frivolous luxury, and that’s one of my biggest creative blocks. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Cheryl: I’m about to set down an unfinished autobiography of Carson McCullers, in order to read Craig Russell’s Black Bottle Man. I’m going to read it for several reasons – Craig is a local author, it’s received many rave reviews, and I’m hoping to include it in the reading list for my English class next fall.

WOW: Can you tell us more about your two novels or other works-in-progress?

Cheryl: Sure. One novel is a drama following the relationship of one couple. I began writing that one when I went through something of a crisis myself, and although there are a couple of things borrowed from real life, it’s definitely a work of fiction. Strangely, feedback from another author was that a particular element of the story was not believable – and that was the one true part in the writing!

The other novel is quite exciting to me. It’s a dystopic, not-so-far-in-the-future setting, which brings in several elements of political and social situations that are actually occurring, as it turns out. When I started writing, these true elements had not yet come to pass; the fact that they now have makes it even more compelling, at least from a writer’s standpoint. What I really want is several days to myself, just to write - to kick start that process again. This is the one that I stopped writing after receiving the advice to avoid flashbacks. I should never have listened.
Other than that, I dabble in short stories, flash fiction (as you know), and poetry.

WOW: That all sounds so exciting! I hope you get some time to yourself—or make some time—to keep working on that novel. If you could give other creative writers one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

Cheryl: Be true to yourself. It is your voice, after all, that the reader wants to hear. Adhering to writing rules and formulaic structures is probably not going to be conducive to authenticity.

The reason I’d give that advice is simple: as I mentioned before, it was hearing the well-intentioned advice of others that completely stalled my writing, on two major projects. Even if changes to narrative structure, voice, etc., turns out to be desirable, do that in a revising stage. To start, just be as genuine as you can with your storytelling.

I know you asked for one, but I feel compelled to add a second piece of advice: keep on writing. Life is busy. There is no time for anything, it seems. But you need to carve out time for the things in life that fill you back up. Writing is one of those things for me, and I would imagine for any creative writer.

WOW: Fantastic advice. Thank you! Anything else you’d like to add?

Cheryl: Well, this might seem like a shameless plug for WOW, but it’s completely genuine and unprompted. WOW offers a submissions consultation with writer Chelsey Clammer. I had such a consultation a couple of months back, and it was absolutely fabulous! She has wonderful insights, a professional perspective, and of course, can suggest publishers who would fit your writing. I found this to be such a useful process, and would recommend it to other novice writers.

WOW: Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses. Congratulations again, and happy writing!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive female athletes.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Branching Out with a WOW! Women on Writing 'On Air Tour'

Did you know you can market your book with a WOW! Book Blog Tour?

We've also recently branched out our marketing efforts and we offer a little different twist with our latest offering of a:

WOW! Authors on the Air Tour:

- Written pitch highlighting your book with interview topics sent to radio show hosts
- 4 or 5 podcast/radio spots
- Promotion of events on WOW's Twitter for each spot

You can purchase just this On Air Tour without the traditional Book Blog Tour, but we highly suggest it as an add-on to the traditional tour. Pairing the On Air Tour with the Basic Blog Tour means you'll reach those who enjoy reading book blogs, people on social media, AND those who listen to talk radio.

Radio is intimate because people can hear your voice and they feel much more connected that they would after just reading your bio and seeing your photo. The best part of our On Air Tour is that the station advertises your interview to their audience, so you are really reaching potential readers twice. You'll reach those who happen to have tuned in the day of the broadcast as well as anyone visiting their site or social media channels. Most stations also have an archive of their shows so your interview will be available after the day of the "stop". Some authors have even linked their favorite interviews to their personal web pages.

Are you thinking about your local radio station? Local stations are fabulous, but think global! We have worked with stations from Europe and you don't have to focus just in your area, we can branch out and send your pitch sheet (that we create) to our large network of radio producers.

Whether you've done a traditional blog tour in the past or are considering your options right now, please reach out to us at: and Jodi, Renee, or I would love to help you put something together!


Crystal is a secretary and musician at her church, birth mother, babywearing cloth diapering mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 10, Andre 8, Breccan 3, Delphine 2, and baby Eudora due this fall), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff here, and at her personal blog dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day

Father's Day is a holiday I celebrate with my husband, Randy, because my own father died 40 years ago last month. Randy is a great father to our kids, but I can't remember the last Father's Day card I bought for my dad, and am sad that my own children never got to meet him.

There are two stories about the origins of Father's Day, ironically, both featuring women who wanted to honor their fathers. Sonora Dodd, from Washington State, along with her five siblings were raised by a single father and came up with the idea after hearing a Mother's Day sermon and believed fathers also should have a special day, which was held in 1910 in Spokane.

On the other side of the country, Grace Golden Clayton from Fairmont, West Virginia, came up with the idea in 1908 to honor the more than 360 men killed in a mine explosion, which would give the children a special time to honor and remember their fathers.

So how does this all tie together in a writing blog by women? Well, I was thinking about one of the reasons I love writing and reading and stories in general. When I was a child, one of my favorite memories was sitting on our gold-carpeted living room floor while listening to my dad read from The Best-Loved Poems of James Whitcomb Riley, published by Grosset & Dunlap, NY.

I remember the way he took on the dialects from the poems The Raggedy Man, and Little Orphant Annie, which, by the way, was a scary tale. Out to Old Aunt Mary's was another favorite, which sounded sentimental to me even at a young age, because I was reminded of my dad's elderly aunts.

Why did he read Whitcomb Riley? I don't know, but listening to the work by a man whom Woodrow Wilson called "a man who imparted joyful pleasure and a thoughtful view of many things that other men would have missed," sums up my feelings about the memory of that day.

My father's voice was silenced a long time ago, but I wanted to honor him and the role his storytelling had on me as a reader and a writer.

Mary Horner is a freelance writer and editor, and the author of Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing. She also teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday Speak Out!: How to Know If a Writing Class Is Worth Your Time

by Joanne M. Lozar Glenn

You can move closer to your goal of getting published by taking a writing class to develop your writing skills. But how do you know if the class is worth your time?

Writing classes are a great way to give yourself deadlines for your writing project, become a more skillful storyteller, and move closer to your goal of publishing your work.

But if you’ve never taken a writing class before, how do you know if it’s a good one?

First, check out the instructor’s personality, background, and focus. If you’re taking the class through a community organization, contact the program director and ask what kind of feedback the instructor gets. Then consider talking by phone with the instructor, to see if the class (and the teacher) feels like a good fit.

Here are some questions you might ask before enrolling:

• How is the class structured?

• What is a typical class session like?

• Will we write during class?

• Will there be homework?

• Will we share writing with other participants?

• Is class content customized to individual participants?

• Will you read and comment on my work?

Once you’re enrolled, pay attention to how the environment (physical and psychological) feels to you. But more than that, use this guide to decide if the class is as good an educational experience as it could be:

• Does the class inspire you to write?

• Is the instructor encouraging? Does s/he show respect for all participants’ work?

• Has s/he emphasized respecting confidentiality about the writing everyone shares?

• Are you encouraged to discover and stay true to your own voice, even while learning techniques for honing and clarifying that voice?

• Does the instructor provide examples of how to apply a particular writing technique?

• Can the instructor explain a concept in more than one way? Do the explanations and examples make sense?

• Does s/he find and comment on your strengths as a writer?

• Does s/he help you improve one or two things at a time, rather than redlining everything in your story?

• Can you feel your writing changing?

• Do you feel safe enough to explore challenging subjects?

• Has the instructor set ground rules for responding to others’ work, and modeled helpful and non-helpful responses?

• Has s/he clarified the differences between responses that are appropriate for first drafts versus those for revised drafts?

• Does the instructor admit that her response is only one opinion … and encourage you to trust what resonates?

• Are you learning from the other class participants as well as from the instructor?

If you can answer “yes” to most of the questions, then you’ve got a winner.

* * *
Joanne M. Lozar Glenn is an award-winning independent writer, editor, and educator who also leads destination writing retreats. Her book Memoir Your Way: Tell Your Story Through Writing, Recipes, Quilts, Graphic Novels, and More, co-authored with five other writers, was released by Skyhorse Press in September 2016. She is a frequent contributor to association and trade journals in the business education and healthcare fields, and her memoir essays and poetry have appeared in Peregrine, Under the Gum Tree, Hippocampus, Brevity, River Teeth, and other print and online journals. 
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!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Keep the Reader Hungry... Or, Staple Their Eyes to the Page

I've been struggling with the ending of my WIP. I already know my beginning needs to be completely overhauled (it's boring and doesn't engage and certainly doesn't hook the reader)... and now I'm thinking that if I can fix my lead, it'll result in my final pages getting polished to a high sheen.

I need to make sure my reader's hungry.

Recently I read this article by Lee Child on creating suspense/tension. I've been roaming through a forest of confusion--when it comes to the final part--and needed some guidance. Child wrote:

We need to bring the same simple principle to our books. Someone killed someone else: who? You’ll find out at the end of the book. Something weird is happening: what? You’ll find out at the end of the book. Something has to be stopped: how? You’ll find out at the end of the book... The basic narrative fuel is always the slow unveiling of the final answer.

I'm starting to understand that if I can create the whiff of a question in the first few pages, I can answer that question at the end... and keep the reader hungry until the very end.

photo by pixabay

This summer I'm teaching the class I have for the past five summers. It's an intense graduate class. The course teaches teachers to think of themselves as writers. It's all of June, all day and five days a week.

It's also a blast. 

Invariably, to prep for the class I reread some of my writing books to find articles and essays to share with the other teachers. Ralph Fletcher is always on the top of the stack.

Being self-centered (I'm-telling-myself-I'm-doing-research-for-others-but-in-reality-I'm-doing-it-for-me) I skimmed through the table of contents of Fletcher's What a Writer Needs until I found a section on tension. Fletcher writes:

This is such a fundamental expectation that while we read we are always on edge, slightly tense, awaiting the first sign of calamity. We actually get disappointed when events unfold smoothly: "Nothing is happening..."

Tension staples the reader's eyes to the page, and writers work hard to create it.

If I can craft a subtle question in the beginning of the story, it'll help me improve the ending. (After all, the middle was so easy to write. It practically wrote itself.)

And hopefully the reader's eyes will be stapled to the page the whole way...

If you're working on a manuscript, what kind of tension are you weaving into your story? Frustrated (and nosey) minds want to know...

Sioux is a writer, a teacher, a wife, a mother, a mother-in-law and a grammy. She's keeping her fingers crossed that a story of hers makes it over the final hurdle for the Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Kind of America. In her spare time (when she's not teaching or sleeping or fantasizing about sleeping) she reads voraciously and writes. To read more of her meanderings, check out her blog.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Summer Reading

Ever seen a grown woman squeal with delight when she learned her new public library has a summer program for adults? I can assure you that the librarians at my public library have.

I thought I’d make a plug for public libraries, given that it’s the summer, and there is nothing finer than sitting on the beach and reading a great book (under an umbrella for those who are sun-shy, of course). I make this plug not only because libraries support authors – like ourselves – and promote reading to people of all ages, but also because they are essential to an author’s success.

I always cringe when I hear writers say they have no time for reading. As writers, it is essential that we read! Even if you only read books in the genre in which you write, there is so much to learn. To start, they reflect the trends of your intended audience. Remember that year-long teenage vampire craze? Authors who jumped on the vampire train often found themselves published, because teenagers couldn’t get enough. Perhaps it’s the opposite - maybe you’re someone who wants to be completely original. By reading books in your genre, you know what major trends to avoid.

Books in “your” genre serve as much-needed comparison titles. Use them when pitching your books to literary agents or publishers. I’ve attended two writers’ conferences, and agents often asked for titles which are like my own. Comparison titles help agents get a sense of your book, but they are also evidence that you immerse yourself in the literary world.

Reading books helps you better craft your own writing – either through inspiration or by finding mistakes you want to avoid. I’m always interested to find which point of view an author chose to use, or to explore the unique settings they create. The quality of their writing inspires me to move forward with my own. By contrast, there are times, say, where I don’t connect well with a character. I use those experiences to figure out why and avoid those same mistakes in my work.

Although we naturally gravitate towards our favorite genre, I do suggest branching out. I’m the first to admit my initial reluctance to pick up anything that’s not YA, but I’ve read enough incredible books to take chances on other genres as well.

If it’s been a while since you’ve read a book, why not mosey over to your local library? We work hard to perfect our own writing, but we shouldn’t neglect the writing of others. What better place to find those treasures than the public library? And if you’re lucky, they might have an adult summer reading program. Six more books and a Chick-fil-A ice cream cone is mine.

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Meet Winter 2017 Contest 2nd Place Winner Monica Cox

Monica Cox is an aspiring novelist who enjoys writing stories about and for women having found being one a fascinating, frustrating and fabulous experience. She is currently working on a historical fiction novel. Monica spent most of her career spinning stories of a different variety while working in public and media relations in Washington, D.C. and Atlanta. She also blogs at High Heels and High Chairs, which initially tracked her transition from the corporate world to at-home motherhood and later documented the joys and pitfalls of on-ramping and flexible work arrangements. She now blogs less often than she would like about her writer’s journey and balancing a creative life with the demands of parenthood. Monica is a graduate of the School of Media and Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and their two sons whom they are raising to be unabashed Tar Heel fans and book lovers. You can learn more about Monica at Read her poignant story, "Last Rites," and then return here for an interview with this talented writer.

interview by Renee Roberson

WOW: Congratulations, Monica, and welcome! Like many writers (such as myself), you have a background in public relations but left the industry to focus on parenting and more flexible work arrangements, which is also the focus of your blog, High Heels and High Chairs. Was it difficult for you to make that transition into working from home? What insights can you share with our readers about that process?

Monica: Working from home can blur the line between work and home time making it easy to feel like no one - not work, not your spouse, not your kids - are getting the best of you. When I started, I sought out the advice of a friend who also worked from home. She said to be where your feet are: when you’re working, you’re focused on work; when you’re with your kids, you’re completely with your kids. This seems easy to do but with technology making us and the outside world available at all times, it can be hard to resist the temptation to fire off that email or check Twitter when you’re supposed to be helping with spelling lists. This balancing act was especially hard when I first started working from home in public relations - my kids were still in preschool and working after the kids went to bed didn’t always fit with office demands during business hours. Now that my kids are older and I am writing and answer only to my own deadlines, it has settled into a more predictable and manageable routine. I think the key to making any type of flexible or work from home arrangement successful is to understand how you work best and honor that.

WOW: Wise words! Now on to the creative stuff. You've recently completed a historical fiction novel. Can you tell us a little more about the subject of that novel?

Monica: I was actually writing a completely different novel when a secondary character I knew would appear much later in the story kept popping up much earlier than she was needed. She obviously had something to say. When I finally took a step back and focused on her, I realized hers was the story I needed to tell so I shelved the other and started my research.

The novel is set during the Vietnam War and follows a young nurse in the Army Nurse Corps. All of the nurses who served at this time -- the majority of them women -- were volunteers. I was fascinated by what would prompt a young girl in the 1960s to raise her hand for such an assignment. Trying to get this story right in honor of the brave women who served in the ANC as well as the men they treated has been my greatest challenge so far.

WOW: Sounds fascinating! I can't imagine what kind of research goes into something like that. Hats off to you. Regarding our Winter 2017 Flash Fiction Contest, "Last Rites" is a portrait of a young family in the throes of disintegration. How did you get the idea for the characters in the story? I found the children to be especially poignant!

Monica: The opening line for the story actually came to me first: “The fish died on a Tuesday.” As a parent, we all have those days when our worlds may be falling down around us -- we’ve been laid off, a family member is ill, we’ve received our own diagnosis, a tough decision needs to be made -- but we must still carry on with our daily tasks so that our children feel secure, comforted and loved. The idea that this mother needed to focus on comforting her children as they dealt with the death of a pet while she was also struggling with the larger death of her marriage (and all that would mean for her family) really tugged at me.

And thank you! I loved writing the children and thought it was important that they have their own voice. Children so often get to the heart of the matter, whether they intended to or not.

WOW: What are some things you like to do to refill your creative well (reading, painting, exercising, etc.)?

Monica: I, like most writers probably, am a voracious reader, although I don’t know if that truly fills my creative well so much as it keeps me sane! When I’m really stuck creatively, I like to visit an art museum. Visual art raises so many questions about perspective, the setting, the subjects depicted, what happened just before or just after. I love viewing an artist’s work and finding the story in it. I also get recharged being outside. I love walking in my neighborhood or hiking an area trail to clear my mind. Whether it’s art or hiking, I think engaging the senses allows me to get outside of my own head and experience the world in a different way allowing creativity to flow. At the very least, it feels more proactive than sitting at my desk waiting for the muse to show up.

WOW: On your blog you say you are a writer who "manages to find any number of ways to not be writing." I'm sure there are many of us who can relate to that statement! How do you push yourself to be productive? Do you have a set writing schedule you plan around?

Monica: I try to cram as much writing time into the hours my children are in school as I can so that I can spend my late afternoons on mom duty. I block two hours every weekday morning as untouchable time. I don’t schedule appointments, answer the phone, check email or social networks and instead focus exclusively on my work in progress. I find that by protecting that time I have become more productive in the hours that surround it. I may get to my desk and start work earlier or stay longer if I’m in a good flow. That leaves my afternoons, before the boys get home from school, for research, new projects or that really important Target run for all those things I didn’t know I needed.

WOW: Ha ha! I think most of us know a little about that all-important Target run. We look forward to reading more of your work in the future!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Make Your Feature Articles Stand Out

I’m lucky that one of my regular writing clients is a local monthly lifestyle magazine. Over the past nine years (is that right?!) I’ve had the opportunity to work on so many different stories and meet a number of interesting residents and business owners. While some assignments go smoothly, others do not.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years to make your freelance assignments stand out and make you irresistible to assignment editors.

Contact your sources well before your deadline. This seems like a no-brainer, but all too often my e-mail inbox gets inundated before I make a note of my article deadline. It’s important to read the article assignment thoroughly when you first receive it and make a note of suggested sources, when the assignment is due, and if you have any questions for your editor. People go out of town, or have their contact information changed, so contacting sources early can help you avoid stress later down the road.

Use your judgment when it comes to interviewing sources. Some freelance articles I write are 250-word pieces about a new local business or product and others are 600+ human interest stories. I usually can conduct interviews by phone for the smaller articles and try my best to set up in-person interviews for the longer pieces. I also try to send a few interview questions to my sources ahead of time so they will have time to formulate responses or get an idea of the article topic before we speak. These small details make for a more polished piece and show a level of professionalism, in my opinion.

If you are in a bind, don’t be afraid to ask for an article extension, especially if you have a good relationship with your editor. I know this may go against your beliefs as a writer, but there are times when it is necessary, especially if not doing so results in turning in shoddy work. I can recall one time when I should have asked for a deadline extension and did not. I had the flu, and interviewed a local gardener about her backyard patio oasis by phone while I was obviously feverish. I dashed off the piece quickly because I was on deadline, and a few days later she asked to look over some of her quotes. Imagine my surprise when she pointed out I had several facts and key points in the 250-word piece completely wrong, and I had to explain that I had been ill when I wrote the article (which was embarrassing, to say the least). Luckily, I had time to resubmit the article with corrections to my editor, who was very understanding. I’ve since learned from that mistake and don’t rush jobs, and I especially don’t turn in things that I’ve worked on with a raging fever!

What do you think makes a writer irresistible to editors? Have you made any freelance writing mistakes you can share with us so I don’t feel alone? I’d also love to hear about tried and true practices when working on writing assignments.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who made a lot of mistakes when she first started writing professionally. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

How to Complete a Requested Rewrite: Sometimes You Have to Muscle Through

Last Monday I felt pretty good about where I was in terms of meeting deadlines. Then I checked my e-mail. The rewrite request that I’ve been waiting for since April had finally arrived. It is a book for teens. It touches on politics, oil, green energy, Native American history, chemistry and economics. I knew there were going to be things I needed to change.

I quickly popped down to the end of the document. Requested changes are always in comments and I wanted to see how many there were. 123. 8 chapters. 15,000 words. 123 comments. I skimmed them quickly and saw that it is pretty much the same old, same old.

But still, 123? It can be panic inducing as my publisher knew. Her e-mail was so sweet and complimentary that it sparkled. Obviously, a panicked writer is not particularly productive. Here are five tips on how to deal with something like this.

Walk away. That’s right. Once you’ve glanced things over, give yourself a day to calm down. You do not want to tackle this kind of thing when you’re in a panic. Go do something else. Finish reading a book. Crochet. Hike. Whatever. But do not rewrite.

Skim it all. Read over the whole thing as quickly as you can. Don’t start making the changes yet. You want to make sure that there are no sweeping changes that need to be made. By sweeping, I mean things that will affect the entire book. Having to rewrite a chapter is big but not sweeping. Make sweeping changes first.

Take it one chapter at a time. If there are no sweeping changes, pick a chapter. Depending on how you work, you might want to rewrite half of chapter 8 before tackling small changes in chapter 2. Whatever. But focus on one chapter.

Discover how you work. As you work through it all, especially if this is your first requested rewrite, pay attention to what is easy and what is difficult. Once you’ve figured this out, learn how to work with it. I quickly move through the chapter and do all of the easy things (check this work, add to glossary, footnote, etc.) Then I do the bigger jobs, like rewrite half of chapter 8. This doesn’t work for everyone but it works for me.

Remember what the end goal is. When you are looking at 123 changes, it can be easy to get grouchy, especially when the content expert man-splains something to you that actually proves you right. You don’t have to make every change (see man-splaining), but both my editor and publisher want this to be the best possible book as does the content expert. Will the changes move it toward that goal? Then make them.

There’s no doubt about it. Working through a book in a week is tough but it can be done. You just have to keep the end goal in sight. And take breaks. I’m a firm believer in taking breaks.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins June 12th. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Do You Need a Writing Coach or An Editor?

Since I happen to do both writing coaching and editing, I often get requests for either one of these services. Currently, I have one of the most fun coaching clients--she wants motivation to write and plot her book, and she wants me to brainstorm story elements with her. She definitely doesn't need editing right now--she's in the drafting stages. I had another client recently who wrote a very interesting ghost story, and she inquired about editing. I asked for some sample pages and let her know that I thought she was ready for a content edit, but not a full edit with proofreading yet because she was probably going to have some revisions.

How do you know if you need a writing coach or an editor (and what kind of editing)? If you don't have anyone who can help you decide or you haven't really thought about it, then here are some things to consider before you spend any money on services:

1. Have you finished a manuscript and which draft stage are you in?
If you've finished a manuscript, then you need an editor. A good editor will let you know what type of editing you need. For example, if you have a critique group that has already helped you revise your drafts, then you probably need a good proofreading. If you wrote this manuscript and no one else has ever read it, then you need a content edit, where the editor will help you with characterization, plotting, setting, and so on. 

The only time you might need a writing coach when you have finished a manuscript is when you're submitting to editors or agents and you need help, advice, and motivation with this.

2. Are you looking for someone to help you polish a manuscript or motivate you to write?
In other words, ask yourself WHY you reached out to a professional to help you with this project. If it's because you need help with punctuation and grammar, then you need a proofreader. If it's because you can't finish the thing, then you might need a few writing coach sessions to figure out why and to give you some deadlines to meet. 

3. Do you want someone to hold you accountable to deadlines?
This is what a writing coach can do. Many writers take my WOW! workshop class "Writing a Novel with a Writing Coach" because they like having to turn in 4500 words each week. It makes them work on their novel and prioritize their writing because they spent money on it, and someone is reading and discussing it. 

4. Do you need to brainstorm your plot because you are feeling stuck or unmotivated?
A rule of thumb is this: an editor is generally working with a finished manuscript or at least close to finished. A writing coach can help you at any stage, depending on your goals. A writing coach, like a life coach, is there to motivate you and discuss plot and career with you. (A writing coach can also help with branding and marketing.) An editor is there to help you with your writing and to make your finished manuscript the best it can be whether you are planning to traditionally publish or self-publish. 

If you have another situation you are in and wondering about, let us know in the comments below, and we will try to help you decide which type of services you need. OR let us know how you have previously worked with a writing coach or editor. 

Margo L. Dill is an editor, writing coach and author in St. Louis, MO. She is currently having a sale on her editing and writing coach services until the end of June. To check out these details, please click here and look at the white box at the end of the post. Or to sign up for her July writing coach class, please go to WOW's classroom  here. Her website is

Pencil photo above by Oteo on