Tuesday, December 29, 2015

When Family Isn't Supportive

from FundsforWriters Newsletter, Volume 15, Issue 51, December 18, 2015   

I received a heart-breaking Facebook message from a 15-year-old young man who asked me how to get his writing accepted. When I explained about polishing his words, agents, publishers, indie and the like, he replied: "For me, I come from an unsupportive familly that doesn't take writing as a talent or a valuable art. How can I practice in such conditions?"

My husband supports me unconditionally, often following me to my appearances. One son out of town reads my work and gives honest feedback. My sister-in-law in Iowa reads every book within days of release. Other than that, nobody else in my family has read my novels much, and definitely haven't read any articles, blogs or other items I've published. While I thank my lucky stars for the three people I have, I know how that stings when family doesn't care. 

I told the young man this: 

"At your age, it's a matter of being well-read first and foremost, then attempting to write stories from what you've absorbed via those good authors. They are your family right now. You are young. You will be an adult in good time and be able to do what you wish, when you like, but in the meantime, read with a writer's eye, seeing what makes for a grand story, great character, and snappy dialogue. Write as you can. And know that successful authors everywhere are in your corner."

When family doesn't believe in your writing, you do the following:
  1. Join a writer's group. Use it like a support group.
  2. Read with a writer's eye. Nobody puts down reading.
  3. Write when you can: lunches, night, early mornings, outside, riding in the car, or while everyone else is watching TV.
  4. Relate your interest in writing to your family member's interest in something else. I once used my teenagers' interest in playing hockey. Ask them how much time and money they "invest" in their sports, hunting, cars, video games, etc.
  5. Carve out time and call it yours. It doesn't have to be called writing time, but you use it as such. Just make sure you capitalize on it and write instead of doing other non-productive things.
  6. Refuse to feel guilty about a beloved hobby/profession.
  7. Display how much writing makes you whole . . . and happier. If you act grumpy, you accentuate their opinion.
  8. Ask them when they'll give up reading, watching television, going to movies, listening to music, playing online games, because a writer allowed all of those entertainment opportunities to happen. 
  9. When someone asks when you'll do something other than "that writing stuff," tell them you adore what you do. Eighty percent of the world hates their job, and you aren't one of them.

Thanks ~ Hope

C. Hope Clark is a freelance writing expert, author of the award-winning Carolina Slade Mystery Series, the Edisto Island Mystery Series, and editor of FundsforWriters.com, a weekly newsletter service that reaches 40,000+ writers. Learn more at her website chopeclark.com

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What Do Agents Really Want?

Guess what? Agents are people. There is no truth to the rumor that they are nasty little trolls who love, love, love to reject writers. They do not drool and mutter "Mwwaaaaah" (evil laugh) when they send query letters to delete-ville.

In truth, agents are pragmatic business people who stay in business by making correct choices, meaning, clients with projects that are publisher friendly.

Therefore, be sure your query letter introduces you as a writer with a fabulous manuscript.

What do agents really want?

Agents want quality manuscripts to sell to publishers. Period. This need has increased in recent years as multiple avenues of publication, from ebooks to audio books to podcast books, etc., have expanded the market and opportunities for writers.

You may be a writer who continually struggles to get through the publishing door. Even though you've crafted a fascinating story, you are unable to locate the right agent to guide you through the publishing maze. Why?

The answer's pretty basic. Perhaps you don't know how to:

  1. write a query that tells your story: who wants what, why can't they have it, and what happens if they don't get it.
  2. assemble a query submission packet.
  3. self-edit your work to eliminate ALL writing mechanic errors.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Reblogs: The Two Most Powerful Words That You Can Say To Yourself While Writing

(from io9.com)

“I’m bored.” 

These two words are the hardest thing to admit, when you’re writing your deathless novel, or screenplay, or short story. You’re supposed to be creating a work of timeless brilliance. How can you be bored?

But admitting that you’re bored is the first step to not being bored.

The power of boredom

A lot of writers get really good at pretending that we’re not bored, and it’s possible to get so good at pretending that you even convince yourself that you’re interested in what you’re writing, when you’ve actually checked out a while ago. We put so much energy into motivating ourselves to keep writing, to put words on the page at all costs, that it can be a huge nightmare to admit that what we’re writing is actually not that fun or interesting. It feels like a terrible betrayal.

And a lot of writing advice boils down to “If you get bored, just keep writing until you find your way through it.” Or ways to cover up your boredom, or work around it, or distract yourself from it. Just taking a beat and saying “This is boring” feels as though it goes against the “just write a crappy first draft” ethos.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Getting A Clear Read

Picking a reader takes more than handing your manuscript off to the next person you see.  A reader can be instrumental in the success of your writing so choose carefully.

First, you need someone who is an avid recreational reader.  The higher the book count the better because he won't differentiate between your manuscript and the book he just bought today.  Someone who reads in multiple genres and mediums is good too, such as mainstream fiction, magazines and the daily newspaper.  This person knows what sits on the store shelves and can evaluate how your work will play within the current trends.

Second, an effective reader can explain the reasoning behind his opinions.  How many times have you handed a manuscript to someone and only to have the person say, “Oh I like it “ or “It’s not my favorite”?  That doesn’t help when you're trying to figure out if the ending gives the payoff promised or simply stops the story.   There must be some give and take with both sides questioning each other.  You have to feel comfortable with your reader to ask why does he think that and to play a game of "what if..."  with him. 

Third, honesty is the most important issue in the writer-reader relationship.  The risk of hurting your feelings may keep the people closest to you from giving you an honest critique.  Ask yourself, "I can trust him with my life, but can I trust him with my manuscript?"  On the flipside, struggling through life together can strip away all pretenses making your soulmate or your best friend the perfect reader.  He knows you and how you work and you know him.  Any inkling of sugar-coating would be spotted right away.  As your friend, he wouldn't betray the trust you placed in him when you turned over your manuscript.

Next you need to decide if a reader is necessary for you.  Look at your limitations.  I have a hard time seeing simple mistakes, not only in my work but in whatever I read.  My mind automatically corrects the mistake and I read through it.  Readers can spot basic errors and typos because they read with fresh eyes.  They can tell you what works, what to fix and what to cut out.  

I also have a habit of "writing short" for the sake of the word count, sometimes sacrificing clarity.  When you research a project, you learn far more than you'll ever put in your manuscript.  As a result, you may leave out information inadvertently because you know what you're talking about.  You know the backstory.  A reader can point out areas where your 1000 words don't add up to a picture for those outside your brain, and he can work with you to get your point across without busting the word count. 

It may be that you'll find a need for more than one reader.  Different people give different perspectives even when they're looking at the same manuscript.  Life experiences, interests and education all influence how a person looks at the written word.  Two people may like the same things but for different reasons.  They may pick out the same problem area, but offer differing solutions.  Of course, you could get critiques that make you wonder if you even gave them the same manuscript.  In any case, they'll both give you something to think about.

If you write in different mediums, it can be helpful to have different readers for each.  A reader who enjoys fiction might find nonfiction boring, while a nonfiction reader might not pick up on the nuances and subtleties of fiction.  Another way to split your reading needs is between grammar and content.  One can read for sentence structure, grammar errors and spelling, much like a copy editor, while the other handles the big picture of content and flow.  Then there's the availability issue.  If your deadline looms and your reader is on vacation, having a second reader available saves you that risk of submitting a flawed manuscript.

Deciding on the need for a reader is personal.  If you're already selling every word you write, you might not need a reader.  If your sales are sporadic or if you find yourself bogged down in revisions unable to let anything go, an effective reader can help.  So evaluate your career honestly, recognize recurring problems, then look for someone with the traits and skills to give your next manuscript a good read.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

ReBlogs: Finding Time To Write During A Busy Holiday Schedule

(from Huff Post Books)

The busy holiday season is here! In between baking, visiting family and friends, decorating, shopping for gifts, wrapping the gifts, and a million other tasks that make the holidays hectic—how will you ever find time to write?

When your schedule is packed, it’s hard to justify taking the time to write and easier to tell yourself, I’ll just do it tomorrow. But too many “tomorrows” later, you may find yourself in the middle of January with nothing but a pile of blank pages. Here are some smart ways to keep your writing on track amidst all the turkey gobbling and sugarplums dancing.

The Hassle: You feel rushed and stressed when you steal a few minutes to write.

The Holiday Helper: Instead of noting how much (or how little) time you spend writing, keep track of the number of words you write in a day. By removing the pressure of trying to beat the clock, you’ll free yourself to see your productivity in a new way. Also, give yourself a little slack this time of year. If you normally maintain a rigorous writing timetable of an hour a day, every day—maybe, for now, you could consider any amount of writing on any day as a success.

Read the remaining tips on Huff Post Books.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

ReBlogs via Indies Unlimited: Almost Everything You Need to Know about ISBNs

Are you considering self-publishing your book? 

Laurie Boris, a freelance writer and indie author, is a regular contributor to IndiesUnlimited.com and she recently discussed the how-to's and what-for's about ISBNs.

One of the most frequent questions I’ve heard lately from self-publishing authors is about ISBNs. Do you really need them? Do you really need to buy them? What are the pros and cons of buying an ISBN versus using the free or inexpensive ones offered by CreateSpace, BookBaby, Smashwords, and other online partners? Let’s see if we can clear that up some.

First, a little background

ISBN stands for “International Standard Book Number.” Early iterations began in the 1960s as a system for booksellers to better organize and track their inventory. Books published before 2007 have ten digits in their ISBNs. Books published after January 1, 2007 have thirteen digits.

Read the remainder of Laurie's article.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

ReBlogs: The Author’s Abyss

It occurs every time I complete a manuscript and send it out for comment.  I can’t explain it.  It just happens.  I tumble into something I call "The Author’s Abyss", a sinkhole of self-doubt.  It’s recurring epiphany I have that, in plain language, reminds me I can’t write worth a shit.

I realize the beloved project–my novel–that I dove into with such enthusiasm and optimism has disintegrated into something worthy of only a paper shredder.  In the beginning, full of passion and fervor, I commanded, at least to myself, “Let there be light,” and a fictional world full of interesting characters and compelling stories began to take shape out of a formless void.  Pulitzer Prize-candidate stuff.

But by the time I’d spread my incompetent hand over the dark waters, and sent my baby out to “finishing school” for critique and comment, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt there was no Pulitzer in my future.  Probably not even a cheap ribbon for participation.

H.W. “Buzz” Bernard is a best-selling, award-winning novelist. His novels include Blizzard (the most recent), Eyewall, Plague and Supercell.  Buzz is a native Oregonian and attended the University of Washington in Seattle where he earned a bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science; he also studied creative writing.  He’s currently vice president of the Southeastern Writers Association.  He and his wife Christina live in Roswell, Georgia.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Writing Fiction

Disclaimer:  It is all Lee Clevenger’s fault.

For years I built my writing platform. I began with smaller items in women’s magazines, lessons for Christian weeklies, interviews for local newspapers, and feature writing for collections and anthologies.  I took classes from wonderful professionals like Cec Murphey, Terry Kay, Bob Mayer, C. Hope Clark, and Deborah Blum.

After years of writing for media and because everyone in my writing circle had one, I too wrote a book. My first book contained information that I had garnered in writing short articles for other media. Plus, I added new research and my own experience in the world of ministry, parenting, grandparenting, leadership, and marriage. I included quotes from authorities plus questions and exercises. In short, I poured my heart into that first volume. With a modicum of success, I quickly followed it with another manuscript.

In between times I hired an agent. We parted friends. I hired another. Let’s just say, we parted. Finally, I met someone who believed in me and liked my books. Voila! A match made in heaven. Since that time, I have enjoyed working for that beloved editor. Don’t get me wrong. I loved this type of writing and I want to keep doing it for the rest of my life.

However, along came a contest. It was the You are Published contest offered by Thomas Maxx, Lee Clevenger’s publishing company. I had toyed with the idea of entering before, but that was all. I never got beyond thinking about it.  This year in a moment of ‘dare I call it inspiration’ I resurrected some characters that I created years ago. Through the years when I had nothing better to do, I would place a character in a situation and see what happened. I liked my cast but wasn’t sure what to do with them.

In thinking about the contest, I decided to take a bizarre situation and insert my zany cast, stir the pot, and allow my pseudo-detectives to take over. I tricked it out with a pinch of intrigue, a slathering of humor, and a lot of southern charm. The end product was fun to do, but would others like it? I had a friend I was communicating with concerning SWA. Since she was an editor of cozy mysteries, I decided to run it by her. A few hours later, she wrote back that she loved my story and wanted three more – to publish!

Long story short. That’s how Murder at Golden Palms was born. Clara, Roxy, Amy, Suzy, and Hattie breathed life. They began walking around in my life, talking, plotting, and appearing in my dreams. My editor at Take Me Away books sent mock ups of covers for me to approve. I swooned. This was heady stuff.

Later (with the help of my marvelous writing buddy), I added Murder at Sea to the mix. By this time the first mystery had been included in a collection which gave me more exposure and added to my excitement.

Finally, I understood what my fiction novelist friends experienced. Fiction is great therapy. There’s hard work and research involved, but manipulating your characters by putting them in danger and in insane situations is fun. 

So consider this is a warning! I’ve drunk the fiction writer’s Kool Aid and I want more.

Sheila Hudson's work has appeared in Chocolate for a Woman's Soul series, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Patchwork Path, From the Heart, Vols. 1 & 2, plus numerous periodicals including Costumer Magazine. She established Bright Ideas to bring hope and inspiration through the written word.  Sheila has also served as president of Southeastern Writers Association.  Read more about Sheila on her website.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


I saw the sunrise.  I heard the beautiful red, blue, and black birds sing their songs of communication. I saw the pine needles, in the tall pine trees, sparkle when a ray of sunlight hit them just right.  I heard voices and contributed to the conversation.

I felt the soft, warm fur of the kitten. I heard the sounds of movement while the kitten was running around and jumping up and down.

The rose has a sweet aroma. Every flower had their own individual aroma.   

I walked for miles with intervals of running. While walking in the sun, the mountains were so very beautiful.  Green mountains with patches of dark green where the sun did not hit it.  Snowcapped mountains against a blue sky spotted with white clouds.  Two mountains close together with their peaks pointing toward heaven.  Can you see it?  Between the two peaks, see the red ball of fire setting beyond the mountain.  The red sun against the sky which was a mixed color of pink, blue, and white.

I felt the cold wind blow and night was coming with every draft.

The warmth was specular when he and I embraced each other.  His heart was pounding, his lips sweet.  His arms were strong and his shoulder damp from my tears.  The only eyes I have are his. The only ears or voice I have is his.  My legs are his legs. There is something that is truly my very own. That is my vivid imagination of the world beyond my darkness, and beyond the wheels of my chair.

B. M. Sturtevant was born and raised in Savannah, GA, where she lives with her husband and son. In addition to writing, she enjoys working with numbers, walking, knitting, crocheting, and reading. Her bucket list includes attending at least one SWA workshop at Epworth and learning to play golf.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

5 Tips to Fight Writer's Block

The work of the world does not wait to be done by perfect people.”
—Source Unknown

Have you ever had writer’s block?  That paralyzing anxiety that convinces you that any word you put down on paper would be meaningless so you refuse to even try?  I used to get it ALL the time.  It is hard to beat, but not impossible.

First, get over the fear of being wrong, doing wrong, saying something wrong.  

The world will not come to a halt if you split an infinitive.  Mrs. Allen, the toughest English teacher the sixth grade has ever seen, does not stand behind you, her red pen in hand ready to slice and dice your manuscript.  Just write your words and save them to your hard drive.

Second, embrace the delete key.

Hitting that delete key is one of the greatest joys a writer can have.  In a flash, your mistake, your inane sentence is gone, finished, forever.  You can’t dwell on it, can’t go back and reread it, can’t see it.  So how do you know you even wrote it?  You can’t prove it, can you?  It’s gone. 

Third, you can’t fix something that isn’t there. 

You need to write without editing.  Just write.  Write anything and everything you can think of.  Don’t worry about too many adverbs or “to be” verbs.  Those can all be taken care of later.  Just get the words on paper because words are like rabbits and tend to multiply placed in close proximity to each other.

Fourth, get off the computer.  

Print out everything you have written.  The good stuff, the bad stuff, the scrap file, everything.  If you still haven’t shaken your writer’s block, you need to get physical with your manuscript. Grab a legal pad, a pair of scissors and a roll of tape or a glue stick.  Legal pads run 8.5x14 and give you more length but not too much for physically cutting and pasting your manuscript together.  You can also handwrite transitions between the cut outs.

Why does this work better than cutting and pasting on the computer?  I don’t know exactly.  Maybe it makes the manuscript more tangible rather than lines on a screen.  Maybe the change in situation refocuses the brain.  All I know is that it works when nothing else will to jump-start my writing and creativity.

Fifth,  don’t give in to it.  

No one’s perfect.  No best seller was ever written in one draft.  Don’t even call it writer’s block.  Don’t give it that acknowledgment.  Make yourself write anything—new words to your favorite song, new dialogue for the inane sitcom your kids watched last night, great comebacks for the next time your sister makes you crazy.  Do anything to get the words to flow.  The next thing you know is you’re ready to work on that manuscript.

Amy Munnell is has been a freelance writer and editor for over 25 years with her work appearing in various publications including the Chocolate for a Woman's Soul series, Saying Goodbye, From the Heart, Points North, ByLine, Athens Magazine and Georgia Magazine. Find Amy on Twitter: @amunnell

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

ReBlogs: How to Get Book Reviews: 50+ Resources to Generate Book Reviews

Stephanie Chandler, founder and CEO of the Nonfiction Authors Association, is the author of several books including Own Your Niche and The Nonfiction Book Marketing Plan. She recently discussed the benefits of book reviews and how to solicit them.

50 Ways to Generate Book Reviews

Book reviews are essential because they help potential readers make a purchase decision. Sending out review copies for potential review is something every author should include in their marketing plans. The more people who know about your book, the better the chance of building word of mouth buzz. Plan to send out 50 to 500 review copies of your book in both print and digital formats.

If you've been wondering how to get more book reviews, below you will find a comprehensive list of book review sources, including both free and paid options.

A note on paid options: We do NOT advocate paid services that promise to churn out X number of manufactured book reviews based on how much money you spend with them. However, we have included a listing of reputable services that offer quality reviews.

Read the remainder of Stephanie's article

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

What to Try and What Avoid When Self-Marketing Your Book

Unless you’re a brand-name author (e.g., John Grisham, James Patterson, Janet Evanovich, etc.) marketing your books likely feels somewhat akin to preparing for a colonoscopy.  I know.  I’ve done both--marketed my books and swilled 55-gallon drums of go-juice so a doctor can push a little camera (with attached snippers) up my posterior plumbing.  I look forward to neither.  But in the new world of publishing, unless you’re in the aforementioned group of elite writers, you’re going to have to get out there and gulp your 55 gallons.

As a minor leaguer, you aren’t going to have vast amounts of marketing dollars backing you up.  In fact, if you’re with a small or even medium-sized publisher, you probably aren’t going to have any.  Except if they’re yours.  I know I’ve spent more than a few of my own bucks trying to get bottle rockets attached to my sales.  I have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t.  Mostly what doesn’t.

Admittedly, it’s hard to measure success.  The only way I have of doing that is to track my ebook sales rankings on Amazon.  (That works fine for me, since the vast majority of my sales are in digital format.)  The biggest problem is that the rankings bob up and down due to a lot of other factors besides deliberate marketing efforts.

Anyhow, here are a few approaches I probably will avoid in the future: 

Virtual book tours

These are electronic tours through the blogosphere where you pay someone to set up book reviews, guest blogs, and interviews.  I’ve done a couple of such tours and can’t say they’ve ever moved the sales needle much.

Public Relations (PR) firms

I’ve been warned off hiring a PR firm by a number of authors.  Such firms might work well for a nonfiction writer with a platform, but for a novelist, such an investment is likely a waste of money.

Book signings/speaking engagements

Except if it’s a book launch, I’ve learned sales at book signings are close to zero.  I’ll do local signings since they don’t cost much (and they keep my name out there), but I always do so with low expectations.  I have to remember, except for friends and family, nobody knows who I am.  For a speaking engagements, a handful of sales are possible.

Facebook advertising 

I’ve tried FB advertising several times.  Often it’s been in conjunction with promotions on Amazon set up by my publisher.  (More on that later.)  I tried advertising on FB once without the benefit of anything else going on and I can’t say the results were stellar.  I tried to filter out the noise (typical ups and downs) inherent in sales rankings, and determined--best guess, anyhow--that I spent $180 to make about $25 in royalties over what I would have otherwise.

✦  ✦  ✦

Okay, there are some things I think are important to do, and that don’t cost much.  They are efforts that keep your name visible and (hopefully) make you look professional.

You MUST have a Website

I splurged to get one professionally built and maintained, but you don’t have to.  You do, however, need a site where you can promote your books, blog, list up-coming appearances, and crow about your awards and recognitions. 

Facebook Author page

By the same token, you should have an author site on Facebook.  It’s where you can keep your name and books in front of the public.  And it’s free!  (So far.)


I don’t have a Twitter account, but I’ve been advised it’s a good idea--for all the same reasons cited above.  I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.  Again, it’s free.

Let me end on a positive note.  Here’s what really works, at least for me:

Promotions on Amazon

I don’t set them up, my publisher, BelleBooks, does.  And they are the only efforts I’m aware of that truly rocket my sales rankings. As I understand it, these days books have to be nominated for Amazon promotions, such as Kindle Daily Deals or Monthly Deals.  But once selected, a book will take off like an Air Force F-22 in afterburner.

H.W. “Buzz” Bernard is a best-selling, award-winning novelist. His novels include Blizzard (the most recent), Eyewall, Plague and Supercell.  Buzz is a native Oregonian and attended the University of Washington in Seattle where he earned a bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science; he also studied creative writing.  He’s currently vice president of the Southeastern Writers Association.  He and his wife Christina live in Roswell, Georgia.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Reblogs: The Writer's Circle: 5 Famous Authors and Their Strange Writing Rituals

(This article by Stephanie Ostroff originally appeared on The Writer's Circle.)

Routines keep us focused when we start drifting off course. They snap us back to reality and remind us that yes, we can do this. The words will come to us. Turning to a familiar writing ritual can help us find balance. Most authors have that one thing they do, even subconsciously, that sets the tone for a solid writing session.

Sometimes it’s as simple as creating the right lighting in a room or hearing songs from a favorite album. It’s the difference between churning out pages of your best work and wasting an afternoon staring at a blinking cursor.

At times, these rituals are taken to an extreme. Some of history’s most celebrated authors swore by unusual and bizarre rituals. It’s possible we owe many great pieces of literature to the fact that they were so meticulous in maintaining these strange habits.

In honor of the writers who embrace their quirky routines, the Writer’s Circle is highlighting a few of the oddest rituals practiced by famous authors:


Crayons, a white coat, and a comfy horizontal surface. These were Joyce’s essentials. The author of Ulysses found his words flowed better while lying flat on his stomach in bed. Since he was severely myopic, crayons enabled Joyce to see his own handwriting more clearly, and the white coat served as a reflector for light onto the pages.


Most writers can’t afford to check into a hotel when the urge to scribble hits, but for Angelou, it’s the key to great writing. In the wee hours of the morning she’ll book herself a room with a special request: all distracting wall d├ęcor must vanish. Armed with a bottle of sherry, a deck of cards, some legal pads, a thesaurus and the Bible, she’s spent hours crafting prose in this carefully constructed environment stripped of almost all inspiration.


The creative genius behind In Cold Blood, Capote was a superstitious man. His writing rituals often involved avoiding particular things. Namely, hotel rooms with phone numbers including “13,” starting or ending a piece of work on a Friday, and tossing more than three cigarette butts in one ashtray.