Monday, December 30, 2013

What are your Writing Goals for 2014?

It's that time of year.

Making resolutions. Yep, you know, every year you swear you won't make any resolutions but as the year winds down, you crumble and start your list.

1. Lose weight
2. Be nicer
3. Find more time to spend with my friends
4. Spend more time with my kids
5. Start that novel

.... whoa, wait a minute there.

Start a novel? Or, maybe it's "finish your novel", or "get your novel published" or any of a combination of something to do with writing a book.

What's the problem here?


Not enough time?

No real dedicated writing space in your life?

Haven't done the research you need to do?

Or .... you tell me, what is your reason?

I'm serious, I want to know. Because, you know what? I can help you with it.

Honest and truly. I can help you with whatever your reason is for not writing or completing your writing goals.

I love to help writers. I love to help writers meet their goals. When writers meet their goals with my help it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I get a sense of pride and joy that doesn't exceed whatever I could do myself.


Because I've helped you find that great writer inside of you and helped you release it to the world. I truly believe it's a shame that great writers should be hidden away because of excuses.

So, are you having trouble meeting your writing goals?

Do you start a writing project and not finish it?

Do you need to work on the mechanics of your writing, such as grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.?

Are you looking to develop more realist characters, stronger conflict and  plot, and correct point of view?

Could you benefit from a writing coach who will provide honest and insightful feedback?

What were you answers?

Did you say "yes"?

We can work together. I can help you find out what you need to get that book finished or started or even researched.

Together we can achieve your goals.

I can provide you with exercises that will help you strengthen your technical skills.

Do you need references to magazines, websites, or books specific to your needs? I know where to find them.

Best of all, I can provide you with the ability to overcome any challenges you face that interfere with your writing progress.

Have you attempted to write and publish? Did you get minimal results? Are you now going to write for the "fun" of it now, instead of for the money? Is that your reasoning for not pursuing  success?


Do you know that you can have fun writing and be successful too?

Yep, it's true.

Just ask me and I'll point you in the direction of half-a-dozen writers off the top of my head who are hugely successful and have fun at the same time. They've made it happen, so can you.

So, let's see where to start when creating your writing goals.

First, make a list of all writing activities you want to do. That includes research, reading books about writing, and reading blogs about writing.

Don't stop until you've listed everything in your memory. Then, peruse your desk and look for all the sticky notes with reminders about things you wanted to accomplish. Find them all. Even the one under that book over on the right corner.

Got them all, now?

Now, read over your long list. Then think carefully before you do this next part.

Give each one a priority number. Every single one.

What is number one? What is number 10? What is last?

Look at numbers 1-5. Do you really want to accomplish your goals? Are you totally serious? Then, don't want anymore. E-mail me at

We'll sort through your goals and help find the ones that you need to work on and we'll find projects for you to do to complete those goals.

We also have writing challenges. Need to focus on a particular challenge? We have them all here. Don't see a challenge you'd really like to do? Suggest it to  The next time you look at the challenges page, it just might be there, with a thank you for you!

Looking forward to helping you make 2014 a successful writing year.

Image credit: kozini / 123RF Stock Photo
Image credit: convisum / 123RF Stock Photo

Friday, December 27, 2013

Friday Five Minute Exercise - Dreams

1. Set your clocks/timers for Five (5) Minutes.

2. Write about Dreams. Decipher your "visual soul", your dreams. Keep a notepad by your bed and each morning, try to record the details of your dreams as quickly as possible. Later, during your writing time, use the writing process to discover possible symbolisms. Try to analyze the visuals that surface while your soul is abundant and free.

Get into as much detail as you can for the next five minutes.

3. Ready?

4. Go.

5. Finished? Review and be amazed.

I hope you had fun. Come back next Friday for a new writing prompt.

Was this exercise helpful?

Did you succeed with this writing exercise? Was it helpful? Did you dream? Were you able to capture your dream on a notepad you kept beside the bed? What symbols did you identify? Was this exercise helpful? Did you enjoy it?

Why or Why Not?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas, my wonderful readers. I've had a wonderful year full of good posts, writing exercises and grateous comments. You have filled my heart with joy. Thank you so much for everything. 

Thank you for being there during the decision to build a writing coach business and the support I needed.  I will need your support now more then ever as I begin speaking engagements, workshops and coaching sessions. 

I'll hope to keep up with  my regular posting and writing exercises. If I fall behind, don't hesitate to tell me what my priorities are and set me straight. 

You are why I write this blog. God bless you and thank you. 

Your Writing Coach

Monday, December 23, 2013

Do You Think You're the Only Scared Writer Out There?

Twenty-Five Years Ago:

I was the scared writer who didn't know if I had enough talent in my little finger to try and write a book.

  • I have been there with a book, not knowing if it's good enough to catch a publisher's eye.
  • I've been there with a publishing contract in my hand not knowing if I should sign or what?
  • I've been there when that first book was printed and I held it in my hands for the first time. Like holding your baby for the first time.
  • I've been there in critique classes when another writer would tell me I "wrote it wrong" or "used wrong tense" or something else equally as humiliating. How could I be writing it wrong? Then the flood of "am I not good enough" comes again.
  • I've been there during book signings when no one shows up. Once again, it hits, "Am I not good enough?"
  • The marketing is scary. It means I have to talk about myself in a positive way.
  • The selling is hard. How do I tell people about my book and hope they'll buy it? I'm not a salesperson.
  • I've been the writer who sits in a room of other writers thinking I'm the only one who is scared.

Does this sound like you?

Raise your hands. Too scared to raise your hand? I totally understand. I've been there.

I have BEEN there.

Not anymore.

That was twenty-five years ago. I am no longer that scared little writer thinking I'm the only one in the world who feels like that.

I've written books. I've had books published. Yes, with real publishers!! Publishers who I had to submit to and wait anxiously for acceptance or rejection.

I've got a rejection pile so large you can sit on it.

Yes, I've kept every single rejection letter. 

Why? Because it means I'm working my butt off trying to get my work published. It means I'm working.

I got past the "what if I'm not good enough" and I'm writing, but I think my dialogue is flat or I can't tell which Point of View I'm in. I did research. I learned. I asked other writers. 

I wanted to join a writers' group. There wasn't a writers' association  in Florida. So, what did I do? I co-founded the Florida Writers Association. I worked hard with other people to make it the best organization in Florida. It is, too. Just ask anyone.

I created writers' groups. I created critique groups. I helped other writers. The FWA motto is "Writers Helping Writers". 

Like it?

It's my mission to help other writers. I want to provide aspiring fiction writers with the tools they can use to be the best writers than they can. I know I can do it. 


Because I've been there.

And, I did it all the while fighting a debilitating disease. Bipolar Disorder. I fought against 
  • social anxiety disorder, 
  • generalized anxiety disorder, 
  • panic attacks, 
  • PTSD, 
  • and OCD. 

It never stopped me from writing. It never stopped me from succeeding. 

I did it. 

You can too.

I know, deep down in my heart, you have what it takes to be a great writer. If I can do it, anyone can. 

I wrote through hospitalizations. 

I wrote through suicide attempts. 

I wrote through depression. 

I had great writing moments during manic episodes.

I learned ways to manage the Bipolar Disorder so that I could be the best writer I knew I could. I knew it was inside. I knew I had to be the one to break out of my barriers and fight the obstacles. 

I did.

If you are a true writer, you won't let any obstacle, big or small, get in the way of writing.

I didn't. 

I can help provide you with the tools you need to be the best writer you can. 

Just write to and tell me you're ready to be the best writer you can be. We'll take it from there.

Image credit: poulcarlsen / 123RF Stock Photo

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Five Minute Exercise - Procrastination

1. Set your clocks/timers for Five (5) Minutes.

2. Write about Procrastination. Why do you defer the inevitable? Do you do it because the work is hard? Create a written time schedule to accomplish the inevitable. Do you love your life as a writer because of the freedom you have from strict schedules? If so, alternate the tasks on your schedule daily or weekly - the key is to plan, tackle, and move on to the next task.

Get into as much detail as you can for the next five minutes.

3. Ready?

4. Go.

5. Finished? Review and be amazed.

I hope you had fun. Come back next Friday for a new writing prompt.

Was this exercise helpful?

Did you succeed with this writing exercise? Was it helpful? Did you figure out why you procrastinate? Do you procrastinate?  Were you about to create a schedule with tasks? Do you like being a writer without a definitive schedule? Were you able to plan, tackle, and move on to the next task? 

Why or Why Not?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Writing Tips - Your Writer's Notebook

Have you started a Writer's Notebook?

You haven't?

Just how long have you been writing? That long, eh? And no Writer's Notebook?

Well, let's get down to business here and see what we can do about this lapse in your library.

Your Writer's Notebook is something totally different than your journal or diary or whatever you call the notebook you write about your feelings or thoughts.

You may even have a journal that you write in your writing ideas and tips. Good to have.

Your Writer's Notebook is probably a binder of sorts. Something that you can open and close and move papers around. You can either add separators and dividers to help organize the information you keep in it.

What is the purpose of a Writer's Notebook? Why to help support your writing, of course.

It would probably have a collection of posts, articles, and maybe even motivational quotes about how to improve your writing skills and techniques. Hey, you might even find a blog post from this blog to put in there. (No pressure, okay?)

If you're working on a writing project, it may be the first thing when you open your Writer's Notebook. That information may change as your projects do. You may have other sections based on your current project, such as Characters, Motivation, Setting, Description, Theme, Point of View, etc.

Now, I've given you an image of a binder. However, every writer is different, thus their Writer's Notebook could be different.

Heck, it might not even be a physical binder at all, but a folder on a computer with a ton of files.

Whatever suits you and your busy world. Just so long as you always have some sort of paper to write on at all times and a pen or pencil to write with. Then you can transfer the notes you've written into your notebook at the end of the day, or whenever you get a chance.

I really wasn't busting your chops here, when it comes to having a Writer's Notebook. It's something important to have to organize your projects, writing information, etc. It helps you find the information faster when you're looking for it.

Okay, so who is going to be the first to run out and get themselves a 3-ring binder and some paper?

Or, are you going to start a new folder on your computer and start moving all the various files you've been collecting through the years into it?

Whatever you do.

Do it.


You'll thank me.

Image credit: bohbeh / 123RF Stock Photo

Reference: 30 Steps to Becoming a Writer by Scott Edelstein

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday Five Minute Exercise - Solitude

1. Set your clocks/timers for Five (5) Minutes.

2. Write about Solitude. As writers, we often long for the retreats in life. Write about solitude and try to concentrate on the benefits of rejuvenation and revitalization.

Get into as much detail as you can for the next five minutes.

3. Ready?

4. Go.

5. Finished? Review and be amazed.

I hope you had fun. Come back next Friday for a new writing prompt.

Was this exercise helpful?

Did you succeed with this writing exercise? Was it helpful? Did you figure out what kind of retreat you needed to revitalize and rejuvenate you and your writing? Was it near the water? In the woods? Up in the mountains near a lake? Do you enjoy being alone and writing? Do you find it more tranquil when writing in a retreat?

Why or Why Not?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Writer Turned Architect - Designing Your Perfect Workshop

Let's take off our writers' caps and put pencil behind your ear and grab a tape measurer. We are going to build us the "perfect" writers' workshop.

For better understanding, we are talking about fiction writing. Ok, now that we got that out of the way, resume.

Is there such a thing as a "Perfect Workshop?" Let's start with that, shall we?

I think so. I think if we held a consortium and asked writers of various stages in their writing career what the entities they felt needed to be in a workshop of their choice, we could build not one, or two, but many "perfect" workshops.

So, let's begin at the beginning. If you were a beginner writer (or those who aren't and can look back and say "hey, I wish someone asked me that question!") what topic or topics would you like to be taught?

What is most important to you when developing your book or writing?

  •   Characters
  •   Plot
  •   Point of View
  •   Description
  •   Dialogue
  •   Setting and Pacing
  •   Voice
  •   Theme
  •   Revision/Editing
  •   Business of Writing (remember, this can be a WHOLE other group of workshops)

Look at the list I just created above. We could create separate workshops on each topic. Don't you think?

Okay, Let's take it a bit deeper.

Of these topics, what is most important to learn? Tell me. I really want to know.

Would you like hand-outs that the instructor would actually go over with you?

Would you like hands-on writing exercises where you could be brave enough to read yours to the group and possibly receive feedback? Would you like feedback from the other members of the group? Would you like feedback from the instructor?

How many people would you feel comfortable in a workshop style setting? 5? 10? 20?

I know, some of you are raising your hands in the background. I see you. Yes, I know what you're going to ask. What about critique groups? That's a great point.

Would you be interested in a critique group? Would you want to meet with writers of various calibers and work on pieces and have them read and critiqued by others?

I know, it's a bit off the topic of workshops, but that person in the back was waving their hand so wildly I had to pick on him, or else he might have fallen off his seat.

Let's get back to workshops.

Could you describe your perfect workshop to me in the comments below?

We're not talking price, location, or anything like that. If all those outside influences were met, and we just talked about you designing the subject, what would it entail?

So, tell me, at what level do you see yourself as a writer?

  • Just beginning, no publications
  • Just finishing with first book
  • Looking to publish first book
  • first book published, how to top it with a second?
  • Advanced writer, several books under my belt, but something is missing
  • Uber Writer. I know it all. Well I thought I did, until my books stopped selling and I can't find anything else to write about

So, with your level of writing in mind, describe the perfect workshop for you in the comments below. Can you do that for me?


Image Credit: vectorart / 123RF Stock Photo

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday Five Minute Exercise - Options

1. Set your clocks/timers for Five (5) Minutes.

2. Write about Options. Write down all your options - the alternatives - the choices. Sit quietly and try to remember the dreams you had as a child. Get in touch with your soul be recurring desires and aspirations you have long forgotten. Write to discover the endless possibilities that exist for you as long as you listen to your heart. Free your mind from the restraints you have placed on yourself … write to hear -- write to understand -- write to experience -- write until you know.

Get into as much detail as you can for the next five minutes.

3. Ready?

4. Go.

5. Finished? Review and be amazed.

I hope you had fun. Come back next Friday for a new writing prompt.

Was this exercise helpful?

Did you succeed with this writing exercise? Was it helpful? Were you able to write down all your options? What about your choices? Did you remember any dreams you had as a child? Were you able to get in touch with your soul? Did you write until you understood? Experienced? Until you knew?

Why or Why Not?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Writing Tips - Ways to Begin a Story

Today's Writing Tip comes from Robie Macauley, from the book titled What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers.

There are various ways a writer can open a story. As a writer it's your job to choose the most appropriate way to being your story. How do you want your story to start? With dialogue? With a description? With a backflash? WIth a character thinking?

Let's take a look at the various choices you have.

With a Generalization
"My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America."
-- Amy Tan, "Two Kinds"

With a Description of a Person
"He was lifing his kneads high and putting his hand up, when I first saw him as if crossing the road through that stringing rain, he were breaking through the bead curtain of a Pernambuco bar. I knew he was going to stop me." -- V.S. Pritchett, "The Sailor"

With Narrative Summary
"An unfortunate circumstance in my life has just recalled to mind a certain Dr. Crombie and the conversations I used to hold with him when I was young. He was the school doctor until the eccentricity of his ideas became generally known." -- Graham Green, "Doctor Crombie"

With Dialogue
"Don't think about a cow," Matt Brinkley said. -- Ann Beattie, "In the White Night."

With Several Characters but no Dialogue
"During the lunch hour, the male clerks usually went out, leaving myself and three girls behind. While they ate their sandwiches and drank their tea, they chattered away thirteen to the dozen. Half their conversation I didn't understand at all, and the other half bored me to tears." -- Frank O'Connor, "Music When Soft Voices Die"

With a Setting and Only One Character
"After dinner, with its eight courses and endless conversation, Olda Mikhailovna, whose husband's birthday was being celebrated, went out into the garden. The obligation to smile and talk continuously, the stupidity of the servants, the clatter of dishes, the long intervals between courses, and the corset she had put on to conceal her pregnancy from her guests, had wearied her to the point of exhaustion." -- Anton Chekhov, "The Birthday Party"

With a Reminiscent Narrator
"I was already formally engaged, as we used to say, to the girl I was going to marry." -- Peter Taylor, "The Old Forest"

With a Child Narrator
"I don't have much work to do around the house like some girls." -- Toni Cade Bambara, "Raymond's Run"

My Establishing Point of View
First Person
"There was no exchange of body fluids on the first date, and that suited both of us just fine." -- T. Coraghessan Boyle "Modern Love"

Third Person
"The August two-a-day practice sessions were sixty-seven days away, Coach calculated." -- Mary Robison, "Coach"

A two-part exercise: First experiment with different types of openings for different stories until you feel comfortable with the technique of each. Then see how many ways there are to open one particular story you have in mind. How does the story change when the opening changes from a generalization to a line of dialogue?

To see how experimenting with several ways of opening your story can lead you to a better understanding of whose story it is, and what the focus of the story will be.

I'd like to know what you thought of it, so please leave a comment at the end.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Five Minute Exercise - Change

1. Set your clocks/timers for Five (5) Minutes.

2. Write about Change. Do you embrace change or avoid it? Does your writing benefit from unpredictability that life presents? Write about the changes in your life that turned out to be beneficial to your spirit?

Get into as much detail as you can for the next five minutes.

3. Ready?

4. Go.

5. Finished? Review and be amazed.

I hope you had fun. Come back next Friday for a new writing prompt.

Was this exercise helpful?

Did you succeed with this writing exercise? Was it helpful? Did you discover if you liked or disliked change? Did you determine if your writing benefits from the change thrown at us from our world? Were you able to write about a change in your life that turned out to be beneficial to your spirit?

Why or Why Not?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Writing Tips - Pairs of Beginning Sentences

Today's Writing Tip comes from Alexandra Marshall, from the book titled What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers.

I'd like to know what you thought of it, so please leave a comment at the end.

Sometimes less is more, and sometimes it is just less. But no matter what, writing with a strict economy of purpose can force useful answers to fundamental questions. Even from one sentence you can learn both who the character is and what the story is about. To provide focus, it is helpful to begin by writing sentences in arbitrary pairs with established parameters.


Write the first sentence of a story about a birth. Now write the first sentence about a death. Try other paris, such as falling in love an filing for divorce. Try pairs that are not in opposition, such as spring and summer. Then invent your own pairs.


This is a way to sharpen skill by working for a specific kind of clarity. It is about naming essences.


A birth and a death
1. I won't be doing any bonding with either one of them for quite awhile; I know I shouldn't have gone into the delivery room.
2. "He doesn't look peaceful or tortured or saintly, and no he doesn't look 'just like himself''; he looks like some dead thing that I never knew, and I don't know why I'm here."

Falling in love and filing for divorce
1. It could have happened to him a dozen times before and with women prettier, smarter, richer, funnier, sexier, even nicer, but it didn't, did it?
2. I don't want to throw her out the window or cheat her out of the money or tell her what a shit she is; I want to thank her for every damn day of it.

Spring and summer
1. All spring means to me is that things change, and if they didn't, I'd never die--but I'd want to.
2. The end of summer stopped having any tangible meaning in his life long ago, but with each year he is still slower to recover from it.

Can you think of other examples? Choose subjects and write beginning sentences. I'd like you to come up with pairs of sentences that help you bring together a specific kind of clarity; the naming of essences. If all you can come up with is opposition, that's great too. Just start writing.

Let me know what you think of this tip and exercise.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Five Minute Exercise - Adventures

1. Set your clocks/timers for Five (5) Minutes.

2. Write about Adventures. When was the last time you had an adventure? Do you work in your office or home and rarely take a break to have an adventure? Today, create a written to-do list and timeline for adventurous experiences that you would like to have this year. Your adventures are sure to lead to new and exciting topics that you an write about.

Get into as much detail as you can for the next five minutes.

3. Ready?

4. Go.

5. Finished? Review and be amazed.

I hope you had fun. Come back next Friday for a new writing prompt.

Was this exercise helpful?

Did you succeed with this writing exercise? Was it helpful? Did you discover the adventurous side of you? Did you create a to-do list of adventures? Are you going to start doing them? Why or Why not? Did you discover a whole new set of new and exciting topics to write about?

Why or Why Not?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Writing Tips - Structuring Your Story

Story Structure. Think of it like building a house. You need the foundation which the story structure is built. And, you need framework, that holds the story together.

With me so far?

Within the framework of a story are three major elements:

1. Characters
2. Action
3. Conflict

Winding it up, the structure indicates that there must be a beginning, a middle, and an end.

We will not be discussing Plot. Plot is different from structure because it deals with a story's design. The architectural design of the structure. We'll deal with plot on another day.

So, does every writer need to structure their story the same way?

Of course not. You, as a writer, must figure out what works best for you from a various set of designs.

Some writers outline first.

Some writers begin with page one and just write.

Some writers start with character sketches and go from there.

Most writers are flexible with their ideas and plots and sketches. To them, so long as it all works out in the end, whatever worked was how it should have been.

So, how do you as the writer keep all of the bits and pieces of your story straight in your head and not float away?

One author I know uses Storyboarding. What they use is have a very large white dry-erase board hanging on a wall in their office. By figuring out the beginnings of the characters she maps out in a couple of sentences what the physical action is going to be. If there is a romantic relationship, she maps that out as well.

By using the storyboard, you can check your time line to be sure things are progressing in the right order. You can track your character development, even your settings, to make sure everything is in conjunction with everything else and all of these elements are compatible with the story line.

Don't be set on the ideas that you start with when you create your story line. Ideas will come to you as you write. It's up to you to decide if you are going to use them or not. Some ideas are just what your story was looking for, other ideas can be captured for use later either in this story or another story.

All in all, have fun with your story and don't be too rigid in your planning.

Writing Resource: How I Write - Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich with Ina Yalof
Image credit: AnnieAnnie / 123RF Stock Photo

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Five Minute Exercise - The Need for Silence

1. Set your clocks/timers for Five (5) Minutes.

2. Write about the Need for Silence. Do you need silence to calm your spirit? How does silence relate to your level of creativity? Does the stillness in your life elicit your creative tendencies?

Get into as much detail as you can for the next five minutes.

3. Ready?

4. Go.

5. Finished? Review and be amazed.

I hope you had fun. Come back next Friday for a new writing prompt.

Was this exercise helpful?

Did you succeed with this writing exercise? Was it helpful? Do you need silence to be creative? Does silence calm your spirit? Were you able to relate silence to your level of creativity? When silent, are you more creative?

Why or Why Not?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Writing Tips - Instilling Immediacy into your Writing

When writing your story, you want to grab the reader and suck him/her into your book. You want your reader to experience your book as it's happening. Word by word. Emotion by emotion. Action by action. To do so, pay attention to the following three areas:

1. The Story's Structure

2. Description

3. Writing Style

The Story's Structure 
Right from the very first Chapter, your story must grab your reader. If you're not grabbing your reader look at the following:

Point of View: If the point of view is clear and consistent from the story's beginning, readers won't be forced to guess whose perception they are seeing through.

Conflict: Action proceeds from characters in conflict - and pulls readers into your story. If you have the conflict clearly in mind, and pose it clearly for the reader, you will reach for the more active phrases and situations that create immediacy.

Exposition and background: Long descriptions of character or setting background intrude on the reader's illusion. Many writers feel it is important to the reader to being their stories with such passages. Readers do not need the entire background of your fictional world to appreciate the story's movement. The opposite is true. A single sentence, if well-imagined and worded, can do that far more immediately.

Create Compelling Description
Animating objects is just one way for resting immediacy through description. Consider these others:
Create charged images: A charged image evokes all the other elements of your story - theme, character, conflict, setting, style, and so on. As the reader moves through the story, the charged image discharges its potency gradually, keeping the reader involved and intrigued.

Make descriptive sentences rhythmic, as opposed to mechanical.

Filter all description through point of view.

Be brief.

Writing Style
How you arrange your words, phrases, and sentences also contributes to the sense of immediacy that keeps readers engrossed in your story. There are certain styles and techniques you can use to create a forward flow:

State things in chronological sequence

Use active phrasing

Keep transitions crisp

Impinge phrases

Juxtapose elements

Use reveals and surprise to sustain the reader's immediate attention

Use repetition to emphasize certain elements

Avoid distractions and deadeners

Making fiction immediate is a tremendously awesome task. The biggest problem the author has is that he/she tens to own the emotions, imagination and intellect of the reader. We delude ourselves that what we put on paper will be as intensely immediate for the reader as it was for us.

You can overcome much of this occupational hazard by imagining as your write, an audience of strangers. Try to feel their living, breathing presence and respond to their craving for an immediately intense experience.

Writing Resource: The Writer's Digest Handbook of Novel Writing

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Five Minute Exercise - Writing Spaces

1. Set your clocks/timers for Five (5) Minutes.

2. Write about Writing Spaces. What characteristics make your space more inviting? What features of your writing environment encourage your creativity? Does burning a candle or having windows in the room help you feel more at ease to create?

Get into as much detail as you can for the next five minutes.

3. Ready?

4. Go.

5. Finished? Review and be amazed.

I hope you had fun. Come back next Friday for a new writing prompt.

Was this exercise helpful?

Did you succeed with this writing exercise? Was it helpful? Did you identify the characteristics of your writing space that are inviting? Did you determine the specific features of your writing environment that encourage your creativity? Do you burn candles? Do you listen to music? Does your writing space have windows? What did you find that helped you be more at ease to create?

Why or Why Not?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Writing Tips - Theme

The ultimate question to every story is "Why?"

What's the point?

Why are you telling this story?


You have an idea for your story. You want to write. But, you must first ask yourself why do you want to write this particular story? How do you control all of the ideas you have floating in your head? How do you capture all the right ideas and create something awesome?

What are your motives? Honesty is important here. Your answer will help you decide how to develop the pattern of thought in your work, which is theme.

Does the word theme make you nervous? Does it recall bad memories in English class about having to write a five hundred word theme on how you spent your summer vacation?

Just to clear things up, when we mention theme in this article, it has nothing to do with high school themes.


Theme: the central concern around which a story is structured. It is your inertial guidance system. It directs your decisions about which path to take, which choice is right for the story and which choice isn't.

There are several patterns of theme that you can apply to your story.

1. Plot as Theme

Everyone likes a good action film, right? Okay, well most of us do. That's how Plot becomes a theme. It's all about the escape into a good chase. The reader can sink into the story and become one with the protagonist as he/she follows the clues. In these kinds of books, everything, including character, are secondary to all of the fun action and plot. Books similar in style: think anything James Bond-ish.

2. Effect as Theme

The main focus of the pattern changes from events to emotional effect. There are various kinds of emotional effect: terror, suspense, love and romance, or comedy.

If you choose effect as your story's theme, concentrate on it and study the masters. Stephen King, John Carpenter, Robert Ludlum, Robin Cook, Alfred Hitchcock, any Harlequin romance writer, or Woody Allen.

It's important to understand the expectations of your reader before you write your story.

3. Style as Theme

Here we are looking at the author's style. It's the expression of style; an elevated artistic technique. In actuality, this is a very limited market.

4. Character as Theme

To define theme as character, your story must concentrate on a person (or persons) so that they are the center of plot and action. Similar books in this area: David Copperfield, Anna Karenia, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

5. Idea as Theme

No other theme makes us think as much as the "idea" theme. These stories affect us in such a way that we take a bit of it with us when we are finished. Very famous books like Robinson Crusoe and Don Quixote are great examples of a theme plot based on ideas.

Ideas can come from a number of different forms. Here are the major categories into which most Ideas as Themes fall:

  • The moral statement: a work that attempts to persuade the reader to accept a certain moral principle
  • Human dignity: a character's fight for dignity and the right to be who he/she was in the face of a system that set to out to destroy him/her.
  • Social comment: writers may sometimes be tempted to preach when it comes to writing about the ills of society. Remember: show, don't tell. If you feel the urge to make a social comment in fiction do so from the character's point of view. Argue from your character's convictions, not your own. 
  • Human nature: the main character or characters of the story represent universal human types. These characters and their crises, reach beyond the page because they represent our view of civilization, of humankind in general.
  • Human relations: the author is concerned with understanding who we are as people and examining the difficulties people have when it comes to getting along with one another, especially complex, intimate relationships such as love, marriage, and family.
  • Innocence to experience: "coming of age" stories or "loss of innocence" stories.

If you decide on a theme for your story, you'll have kind of a roadmap to follow. Let it guide you. Write with your heart and the theme will follow.

Resource: The Writer's Digest Handbook of Novel Writing

Image credit: midnight13 / 123RF Stock Photo

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Five Minute Exercise - Your Senses

1. Set your clocks/timers for Five (5) Minutes.

2. Write about Your Senses. Think about sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smelling -- write about the relationship between your senses and the quality of your life experiences.

Get into as much detail as you can for the next five minutes.

3. Ready?

4. Go.

5. Finished? Review and be amazed.

I hope you had fun. Come back next Friday for a new writing prompt.

Was this exercise helpful?

Did you succeed with this writing exercise? Was it helpful? Were you able to associate with all your senses? Did you write about the relationship between your senses and the quality of your life experiences?

Why or Why Not?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Your Writing Coach is Offering Coaching Services

Hi Everyone. I'm tooting my own horn today. Tum-ta-da-da!

I'm stretching Your Writing Coach's wings and we are now offering coaching services for writers. 

You can read all about me, the services we are going to offer and more by clicking on the links above, near the title of the blog.

I'll still be posting writing tips and writing exercises to this blog. No worries there.

As your Writing Coach, I will provide you with detailed and honest critiques, references to magazine articles and books specific to your individual needs, and written evaluation of your skills. I'll guide you to achievable goal setting with assistance to complete your writing project. 

Together, we'll overcome challenges that interfere with your writing process.

Can you answer the following questions?

Are you having trouble meeting your fiction writing goals?

Do you start a writing project but not finish it?

Do you need to work on the mechanics of your writing (grammar, spelling, punctuation)?

Are you looking to develop more realistic characters, stronger conflict and plot, and correct point of view?

Could you benefit from a writing coach who will provide honest and insightful feedback?

If you answered "YES", then I am the Writing Coach you're looking for.

If you'd like, I can offer you a FREE 20 minute session to see if we can work together. Contact me and we'll go from there. I look forward to chatting with you and about your writing.

If you are serious about your writing career and want to succeed, let me help you.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Writing Tips - Quest for the Quintessential Query Letter

The Query Letter -- the elusive quarry. We know near perfect ones exist. Editors expound those that come across their desk. Writers rave about their flawless recipe of words that caught an editor’s interest. 

Everywhere you go in the writing world, someone offers you tips or advice to create a query letter. Ever since I realized I could sell my writing, I’ve been on a quest, searching for the perfect formula to create the quintessential query letter.

What I’ve discovered is that if you go to any resource website or read any writing resource book, you’re guaranteed to find at least one, probably more, articles about query letters. It’s overwhelming to say the least.

Did you ever wonder why there are so many articles? Because there isn’t just one perfect format. Nope. You can stop searching for the magic formula. It doesn’t exist.

However, even though I’ve discovered that there is no ONE perfect query letter, there are specific qualities of the query letter that can come close to perfection. We all know that for as many editors there are in the publishing world, you’ll find that many types of query letters. Each one was created to catch an editor’s eye. What did it?

What I’ve found in common with every article written about query letters is the basic structure. It doesn’t matter whether you are pitching an idea for an article, short story, novel, or non-fiction book, the structure of the query letter is still the same.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll break down the query letter into its essential parts. Some of them may look as if they are over simplified and obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often they are forgotten in the rush and excitement of production.

Overall Look

Start with a professional look to your letter. Use stationery imprinted with your name and address. Now, this doesn’t mean spending a load of money for printed stationery. Just make sure your letterhead format is professional.

Make use of your word processing software to give your letter a little touch of class. You’d be amazed at what a header and footer line can do.

IMPORTANT: Study the publisher’s guidelines. Follow them to the letter. No exceptions! Don’t waste the editor’s time if your book, article, or short story doesn’t meet the publisher’s needs.

TIP: Use the publisher’s guidelines to adjust any nuances in your query letter. Don’t get stuck in a generic format that can’t be adjusted for each editor. They can pick out a standard format at twenty paces. Make that editor feel as if you’re writing this letter just for them.

Address and Salutations

Always address your letter to a real person rather than a generic department title. Reading “Dear Acquisitions Editor” is akin to reading “Dear Occupant.” Don’t do it. Use the correct address and don’t forget suite numbers.

TIP: Make sure you have the correct spelling and gender titles.

What’s the best source for getting the correct name and spelling? The publishing company or magazine you want to send your query letter. Call and ask the person who answers the phone. It’s that simple. Use the Writer’s Market to get addresses and telephone numbers. Look in the magazine for the credits section. You’ll find names and numbers there.

IMPORTANT: Now is not the time to be shy.

Don’t make the mistake of addressing your letter to an editor who no longer works at the company or use the wrong title. No one likes to be addressed as a Mister if she is a Miss or vice versa.

First Paragraph

Make sure you know where your book, article, or short story fits in the publishing world. This means you must know the tone, length, story line, and market. If you are expecting the editor to figure this information out for you, don’t hold your breath. That’s your job.

Your first paragraph should describe your book, article, or short story, the tone, word length, and where it fits in the market. Make sure you use a title when describing your work, even if it isn’t the exact title you want. Preface the title with the word “working.”

TIP: If someone has referred you to the publisher, don’t forget to mention that important fact in your opening sentence. If you met the editor at a conference and he/she asked you to submit, mention that also.

Second Paragraph

Use the second paragraph of your query letter to hook the editor. This is where you tell the editor about your book, article, or short story.

Be sensitive to the editor’s needs and time. Now is not the time to spend pages explaining your idea in excruciating detail. Be succinct and brief.

IMPORTANT: Practice putting the basic premise of your book, article, or story into twenty-five words or less.

If you can’t explain the gist of your book, article, or short story in twenty-five words or less, you may not have a good grasp of what you want to write about. If you can’t explain it, how can you expect an editor to understand it?

Third Paragraph

The third paragraph should describe you, your writing experience, and any publishing history.

TIP: Don’t forget to mention any relevant information such as memberships, career, or other expertise you have to help you write your article, book, or short story.

Final Paragraph and Signature

Always end your letter by asking the editor if you can send him/her your entire article, manuscript, or outline in the case of a non-fiction book.

Don’t forget to thank the editor for taking the time to read your query and let the editor know that you look forward to hearing from him/her at their earliest convenience.


Don’t ever, ever forget to include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Use a postage stamp rather than a metered stamp. The editor many not get to your query for up to a month or more. The metered stamp may have expired by then.

IMPORTANT: Make it easy and convenient for the editor to respond to you!


Some editors ask to see “proof” of previous publishing experience. Others don’t. Read the guidelines carefully so that you know if you should include them or not.

TIP: Make sure they are clean copies (either a tear sheet from the magazine or printed from the internet.) Don’t ever include them in the body of your query letter.

Secret Ingredient

So, what makes the query letter perfect to an editor? You. Only you can add that one special ingredient that will make or break your query letter. Your unique voice. That’s what the editors are looking for.

Of course, good grammar and spelling help too! But, most of all, you must leap from the page or screen and grab the editor’s attention. It’s your first chance to make the editor notice you. You know the old saying, “First impressions count.” Make this one count the most!. Don’t blow it.

IMPORTANT: However, don’t get so caught up in the structure that your personal writing voice doesn’t shine through your query letter. Be unique.

Be yourself and let your writing speak to the editor. That’s what counts.