Free Ebook: 279 Days to Overnight Success

Some people achieve success. Some people achieve success and tell others how they did it. Chris Guillebeau is one of those.

Guillebeau is an entrepreneur, world traveler, and writer. His newest book is The Art of Non-Conformity: Set your own rules, live the life you want, and change the world. But Guillebeau also gives away two books on his website, along with dozens of articles on writing, entrepreneurship, and the traveling life. His website is listed on Writer's Digest Top 100 Websites for Writers.

279 Days to Overnight Success: An Unconventional Journey to Full-time Writing is a book for bloggers and writers seeking to expand their presence online using social media. From Guillebeau's site, here's what you'll learn:

* How he became a full-time writer in 279 days
* How to establish your brand
* Avoiding the 'vampires' who would like to see you fail.
* Whether to use web advertising or not
* How to become a problogger in 10 months

Basically, Guillebeau shares how writers can create an online community in less than a year, without resorting to paying for advertising. He shares what he did right, along with the mistakes he made.

If you're interested in Guillebeau's other book, check out A Brief Guide to World Domination. Tour around his site for many more articles on all kinds of topics.

How important is it for you to establish an online community?


[Sentence] Variety Is the Spice of Life

 Have you ever read a paragraph of fiction and wondered what was wrong with it? Sometimes, when you can't put your finger on the problem, it may be sentence variety.

Click here for an example of a paragraph full of five-word sentences. Not pretty. Even though the paragraph is grammatically correct, the cadence gets tiring. I decided to check out a few resources to help improve my knowledge of sentence patterns. I don't want to bore my readers!


Dr. Kristi Siegel, of Mount Mary College, explains how to analyze your writing to decide if your sentences are too short, or burdensome.

Patricia Schulyar explains how to begin your sentences in interesting ways, and includes links to more articles on the topic.

This article on sentence patterns, explains the four different kind of sentence structures writers use, so you'll be able to bring in more variety.

The Purdue Writing Lab gives great examples of using both short and long sentences, and varying the way sentences start. They offer 'before and after' revisions.

And last, but not least, consider reading your work out loud, or listening to someone else read it. If your sentences are too similar, you'll notice right away.

How do you check the cadence of your writing?

Agent Friday: Weronika Janczuk

Weronika Janczuk (pronounced: Veronica Janchuck) is an agent with Lynn C. Franklin Associates. Not only is she a literary agent, but she's also a writer, student, and the editor of two literary magazines. 

I have no idea how she makes the time to blog, but she maintains Lightening + Lightning Bugs. The name comes from my favorite Mark Twain quote: "The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter-- it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."
-- Mark Twain 

I discovered Janczuk through WriteOnCon, and found she had such good insights, I wanted to see what else she had to say.

From WriteOnCon 2011: On Compactness. What is compact writing? Janczuk gives multiple examples to explain the concept.

From WriteOnCon 2010: Plot and Pacing Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

And from her blog:

Writing About Terrible Things: Janczuk shares her take on a workshop at a recent conference.




Janczuk represents both adult and YA fiction and non-fiction. Find out more about what she's looking for on her query page. She seems to be pretty speedy on the query replies.

Need more Agent Friday? Click here.

Answer the Question: Quizzes for Writers

 When I pick up a magazine with a quiz, I can't help but complete it. There's a niggling curiosity: what will it tell me about myself? I recently saw a writer's quiz mentioned by author Megan DiMaria, who I met at a writer's group. 

It got me wondering if there were other quizzes specific to writers. Google showed me scads of them. I waded through to find the ones that would be helpful to a writer on the road to publication. Have fun with them!
What type of writer should you be? This quiz helps determine the genre you may want to consider.

 Who do you write like? Paste a sample of your writing to discover what famous writer your prose is most similar to. I came up with Anne Rice.

Which crazy writer are you? Take this quiz to see which eclectic writer you are most like. Very tongue-in-cheek!

Beginning Writer's Quiz. How much do you know about the business of writing, particularly freelance writing?

Holly Lisle has a ten-question quiz titled: Are You Right for Writing? It helps to figure out if you have what it takes to be a writer.

The Professional Writer's Aptitude Quiz A quiz for aspiring novelists.

And here are a few quizzes for bloggers:
Should you start a blog? Ten questions to help you find the answer.

What kind of blogger are you? Seven questions to narrow it down. Turns out, I'm a "link blogger".

The 23 Blogger Breeds: Which are you? This one is not exactly a quiz, but insightful descriptions of the different types of bloggers out there. You'll recognize many--maybe even yourself!

 If you'd like to come up with your own quiz, check out Charles Kelly's Online Quiz Generator.

Did you learn something about yourself today? I'd love to hear who you write like.

"I'm a Failed Writer" Video Series

Thanks to the blog of Robin Lee Hatcher, I found a funny and encouraging video series by writer Yuvi Zalkow.

I'm a Failed Writer #1-Revisions

Episode 1: Revisions (I'm A Failed Writer Series) from Yuvi Zalkow on Vimeo.

I'm a Failed Writer #2-Time Management
Episode 2: Time Management (I'm A Failed Writer Series) from Yuvi Zalkow on Vimeo.



I'm a Failed Writer #3-Bucket Writing
Episode 3: Bucket Writing (I'm A Failed Writer Series) from Yuvi Zalkow on Vimeo.

I'm a Failed Writer #4-Failed Book Trailer
NOT IN MY LIFETIME Book Trailer from Yuvi Zalkow on Vimeo.


 Other Zalkow videos to check out:

I'm a Failed Writer #5-Writing in the Cold
 
Balancing Writing and Marketing

The Coolness of Scrivener

Desk Envy: Making a Creative Space

Writing a Novel When Busy

Serious Creative Writing With a Computer

What aspect of the writing life most brings on feelings of failure for you? The actual writing? Time management? Finding an agent or publisher? Marketing?

What Determination Can Do

One man. Forty years. And an enormous amount of determination. 

On Sunday, my family and I visited a legendary site in Colorado. Bishop's Castle. Jim Bishop began building a stone cottage in 1969, and was working on it when we stopped by. The highest parts of the castle soar to over 160 feet above the ground, and are covered with elaborate ironworks. Visitors are invited to explore every inch of the castle, climbing innumerable steps to dizzying heights--at their own risk, of course. 

The most amazing thing is that Bishop has accomplished all this alone. And without the kinds of tools you'd expect. He gathers the rocks from the forest with a shovel and wheelbarrow. He hoists them up the walls with a pulley system and a pickup truck. Bishop is nearing seventy years old.

Standing in front of the massive structure made me think. One person with a dream, who never gives up, can accomplish far more than anyone imagines. Those of us who labor at writing, alone, facing the roadblocks of a giant publishing industry, can feel like giving up sometimes. 

Jim Bishop chooses stones like a writer chooses words, selecting some and discarding others. Fitting them together in just the perfect way to fashion a winding staircase or a soaring turret. He's endured ridicule, government restrictions, and (according to him) more broken fingers than he can remember.

Yet he's never given up. Not even when he burned both palms down to the bone.  I want that kind of determination. To finish each novel. To hone my craft. To leave something beautiful to inspire others.

What do you think?

For more on Bishop's Castle, check out this video, or this slideshow.

Another Year of Writing


I'm off to the airport at a ridiculous hour this morning. It's time to say goodbye again, as my daughter leaves for her sophomore year of college--far away from Colorado. It makes me feel a little better that she loves it and has wonderful friends and professors. But she also gets to study Creative Writing.

So I'll deal with missing her.

I'll be back tomorrow with a regular post, once I've dried my eyes.

(Katie just turned 20. This is a photo of her with some of her gifts: Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, and a blank journal. It sure is easy to buy gifts for a writer!)

WriteOnCon Recap, Day 3

Last day, I promise. Again, the WriteOnCon organizers and presenters have outdone themselves. Check out what happened on Thursday:

Ask A Bookbuyer by bookbuyers Faith Hochhalter and Brandi Stewart

Visual Storytelling by illustrator Eric Wright


10 Traits of an Author by author Amy Dominy

Moments That Matter by author Matt Myklusch

Writing A Great Query by literary agent Jim McCarthy

Respect by author Kiersten White

Live 250-word Pitch Event with literary agent Alyssa Eisner Henkin


Pacing by author Tara Hudson

Live chat with literary agents Marietta Zacker, Joan Paquette, and Michael Bourret

Revision by author Carrie Ryan


Traditional vs. Self-Publishing Live Chat with literary agent Sara Megibow

Dialogue by literary agent Tina Wexler

Live YA Query Letter Event with literary agent Roseanne Wells


Answers to Questions by literary agent Steven Malk


Panel of Professionals (Natalie Fischer, Anica Rissi, Kathleen Ortiz) 

Andrea Brown Lit Chat (Jen Rofe, Kelly Sonnack, Jennifer Laughran, Caryn Wiseman) 


 Now you've got the weekend to catch up! Hopefully I will, too.

WriteOnCon Recap, Day 2

The nice thing about an online conference is that when life gets in the way, you don't have to miss out. My day was busy, but wonderful, ending with a campfire sing-a-long with my kids and their friends. But I didn't get to sit around in my pjs like Tuesday.

Not to worry! I can catch up between appointments today, and also try to keep up with the new workshops. Here's a rundown of what you may have missed yesterday--like me:

The Debut Year by Author Lindsey Leavitt

Illustration 101 by JH Everett and the Studio 5 Illustrators

 You’re Already Invited: Connecting to the Lit Community Online

 I DON’T CARE THAT HE’S HOT: Building Believable Romance

The Shakeover Makeover ? Shake Your PB Till It Shines!

Novel Beginnings, How to Know Where To Start by Author Lisa Schroeder

How to Write A Synopsis

Irresistible Picture Book Characters

Middle Grade’s Got Heart

LIVE FORUM EVENT: Pitch + 100 words with literary agents Carlie Webber and Christina Hogrebe

Are You Ready to Query?

On Compactness

Live Q&A with author Sarah Rees Brennan

Character Development

Your Own Hero's Journey: Using Intuition to Balance Writing and Life: Advice from an Editor and Life Coach for Writers

Live Q&A with literary agent Jenny Bent

Submission Basics

How Do I Know That I Really Love It? 

Live YA Q&A chat with Holly Root and Barbara Poelle

Critique Groups 101 with the YA Muses

Marketing 101 for Children’s Book Authors

Live Panel of Industry Professionals: Kate Testerman, Martha Mihalick, Joanna Volpe, Jen Rofe, Diana Fox

Wednesday Night Recap Includes the Friday schedule.

I'm looking forward to checking out The Debut Year and Your Own Hero's Journey. How about you?



WriteOnCon highlights

Please don't think I'm obsessed with WriteOnCon or anything. It's just that I learned so much yesterday, I don't want anyone to miss out. Some workshops are written (like a blog post), others are video workshops (most only 6-10 minutes), and a few are live chats (which you can read through anytime--not just during the chat). There are also online forums to read on topics like agent questions, querying, and pitching.

Browse through these links to see what might interest you. And then, head over to WriteOnCon to take advantage of today's workshops. WriteOnCon ends tomorrow, but the links will stay up.

A humorous look at the realities of writers' submissions.

I learned she likes a query in the voice of the book's character over the author's voice. It gives her an idea of whether she'll like the MS. She recommends that writers, while querying, start the next book.

She prefers a live website before receiving a query--it's not an absolute, but a professional looking website will impress her. Headshot, bio, news page, what I write. A blog counts.



Two editors and an agent give a realistic view of the publishing process.

 I bookmarked this. Great information.

I loved this video. Learned several new tips.

This workshop leads writers through the process of working on setting.

One of the most encouraging videos. For anyone who has ever considered throwing in the towel. This author had every reason to and didn't, and now she's a NY Times bestselling author.


For anyone who's thinking about coauthoring a book.



Which of these caught your eye? Will I see you at WriteOnCon today?

Four Free Books to Grab Right Now

 Don't forget that WriteOnCon starts today! Get on over there!

Today I wanted to alert you to four free writing books for both the Nook and Kindle. Even if you don't have an ereader, you can download free Kindle software for your PC or Mac, so you don't have to miss free books. By the way, if you want to keep up with free ebooks, sign up for the Pixel of Ink email.

I haven't read these yet, so I can't review them, but I'll include the blurb about each one.

Portable MFA in Creative Writing, by the New York Writer's Workshop

Writers can get the core knowledge of a prestigious $50,000 MFA program without paying tuition. With sound, nuts-and-bolts instruction and real-world career advice, this book is the only book speaking directly to the tens of thousands each year who don’t make it into MFA programs. The topics include magazine writing, memoir and personal essay, poetry, fiction, playwriting and more: inspiration and tips on revision, stamina and productivity; clear instruction on the craft behind the art; and, detailed reading lists to expand writers’ literary horizons. Those who heed its advice will gain the wisdom and experience of some of today’s greatest teaching minds, all for the price of a book.




Robert's Rules of Writing, by Robert Masello

The 101 Rules You Need to Know
*but no one has ever told you
You already have a million writing books. You know the principles, the lectures, the “expert” techniques. And you’ve discovered that sometimes tried-and-true just equals tired.
In Robert’s Rules of Writing, successful author Robert Masello stomps out status quo writing advice and delivers 101 uninhibited techniques to improve your writing that include:

Burn your journal (See rule 1)
Strip down to your briefs (See rule 38)
Spend time gossiping (See rule 61)
Buy the smoking jacket (See rule 56)
Skip the Starbucks (See rule 7)
De-claim! De-claim! (See rule 63)
 
Whether you’re a fiction writer, freelancer, memoirist, or screenwriter, Robert’s Rules of Writing gives you the unorthodox advice to transform your writing life and get published!


Find a Job You Love With Your English Degree
What do Steven Spielberg, Alan Alda, Barbara Walters, Clarence Thomas, Diane Sawyer, and Stephen King have in common? That’s right–they were English majors who now have successful careers.
I’m an English Major, Now What? helps English majors and graduates understand their skills and talents so they can find satisfying jobs across a diversity of fields and dispels common fears and misconceptions that English majors will never make good money.







Grammatically Correct, by Anne Stillman

How does good writing stand out?
If its purpose is to convey facts, findings, or instructions, it need be read only once for its content to be clear. If its purpose is to entertain or to provoke thought, it makes readers want to come back for more.
Revised and updated, this guide covers four essential aspects of good writing:

Individual words—spelling variations, hyphenation, frequently confused homonyms, frequently misused words and phrases, irregular plurals and negatives, and uses of capitalization and type style to add special meanings
Punctuation—the role of each mark in achieving clarity and affecting tone, and demonstration of how misuses can lead to ambiguity
Syntax and structure—agreement of subject and verb, parallel construction, modifiers, tenses, pronouns, active versus passive voice, and more
Style—advice on the less hard-and-fast areas of clarity and tone, including sentence length and order, conciseness, simplification, reading level, jargon and clich├ęs, and subtlety
 
 Filled with self-test exercises and whimsical literary quotations, Grammatically Correct steers clear of academic stuffiness, focusing instead on practical strategies and intuitive explanations. Discussions are designed to get to the heart of a concept and provide a sufficient sense of when and how to use it, along with examples that show what ambiguities or misinterpretations might result if the rules are not followed. In cases where there is more than one acceptable way to do something, the approach is not to prescribe one over another but simply to describe the options.
Readers of this book will never break the rules of language again—unintentionally.

Hope you enjoy them! I'm off to WriteOnCon--will I see you there?

Agent Friday: Lauren Ruth

Lauren Ruth is a full-time literary assistant at Bookends LLC. She maintains a wonderful blog, called Slush Pile Tales, where she analyzes query letters for what the authors did right, and what turned her off. Reading her comments will make your query letters stronger.

I like how Ruth gives readers an opportunity for feedback on many of the query letters. She often ends the post with a one-question survey, so readers can share their own opinion. These query critiques are called Query Dice, and often answer questions writers have about what to include in query letters:

Query Dice 1: What if there are too many things happening in the beginning of the novel? What if the novel is too short?
Query Dice 2: What will an agent think if you leave out the salutation? Will typos earn a form rejection immediately? She also shares the need to include strong conflict in the query.
Query Dice 3: How writing credentials can make up for a less-than-stellar query.
Query Dice 4: What is the best salutation for a query? This query shows how small prepositions used closely together can make your writing look weak.
Query Dice 5: Is it ok to begin a query with a question? If it's a children's book, how specific should you be with the age-range of the reader?
Query Dice 6: Should you use ellipses or em dashes in a query? Is it ok to describe your novel by naming similar published books?

Other interesting posts: 

 If You Build It They Will Come: finding your voice
State of the Inbox Address: It's interesting to see what can be learned from an agent's statistics.
One Author's Journey: One of Ruth's clients shares her path to publication through self-publishing.

Have you written a query letter? How do you think it would fare under Ruth's scrutiny?

Stuck for a Novel Idea? Steal It From a Movie

Enjoy this post from early on in the blog.

Are you stuck for a great theme for your new novel? You can steal one. Well, not like plagiarism stealing. It's more like getting inspired.

Think about a movie you've watched recently--even if it wasn't very good. Come up with a one-sentence summary of the the theme (this is good practice for your own story). Then imagine the same theme with completely different characters and setting.

Will other people be able to tell you swiped your theme? See if you can guess where these themes come from:

The one thing a character can really do, a skill that gives her confidence and a sense of worth, must be held back and hidden or her identity will be discovered.

What movie is it? Spiderman. I threw you off by changing the sex of the main character. You can do the same thing with the theme you select.

Here's another one:

A character is so focused on how others need to change, that he can't recognize what changes are needed in himself.

Did you guess? It's RV. Robin Williams' character is desperate for his kids to change and want to spend time with him like they did when they were younger. He misses the point that he has let his work come before his family, and has stopped pursuing a relationship with them.

So, the next movie you watch, don't consider it "down time" from writing. Use it to come up with a great new idea.

What have you been watching lately?

Note: I found a terrific post by Creepy Query Girl that speaks to this topic. She shows how the plots of the movies Pocahontas and Avatar are virtually the same. Fascinating.

Have you ever tried this? Where do your plots come from?

Book Review: Social Media Marketing for Writers, by Edie Melson

I recently found a great book recommendation through my friend, author Beth Vogt. She posted a review of Edie Melson's ebook, Social Media Marketing for Writers. I have a hard enough time managing to write in between blogging and social media, so I was interested to hear how another author handled the juggling act. 

I was pleasantly surprised at the $.99 price for the book. Once it downloaded to my Kindle (remember that Kindle books can download to PCs, Macs, and smartphones). But once I read the book, I realized it answered most of the questions I was asking about marketing for authors. Things like:

How to keep social media from taking over your life. My biggest fear is that social media will consume my time, and that I'll be so distracted, and pulled in so many directions, I won't focus on my manuscript. Melson wisely answers these issues by sharing her own social media schedule--which is quite manageable.

How to offer something of value to your audience. Three ways to get your name out there without making it 'all about you'. Readers respond better to a generous writer. Melson shares several ways to do this, and includes mistakes to avoid when posting on Twitter and Facebook.

Whether to blog . . . or not. Blogging doesn't work for everyone. Melson helps writers decide whether to blog by sharing four ways blogging works for writers, and four ways it doesn't work. Each point is explained in detail. Melson helps writers think through the purpose of their blog, and who their audience is. 

The how-tos. For blogging beginners, Melson gives step-by-step instructions on starting a blog. How to make your blog post to Facebook automatically. How to get started with Twitter--and a primer on Twitter etiquette. Melson's Twitter explanations really helped me a lot. I have a Twitter account (@DebbieMaxAllen, if you're interested), but I'm still learning how to wrap my brain around using tweets and hashtags. Melson's advice is helping tremendously, with analogies that make it easier to understand. She also gives tips on how to compose compelling tweets and Facebook posts.

Writing your professional bio. The three kinds of biographical information writers need, what each should contain, and when to use each of them. Melson takes writers through a four-step process of asking themselves questions for a painless bio.

How to tie everything in to Amazon. The book giant will be a big part of your marketing life. Writers can take full advantage of their Amazon author page with a bio and photo, and more importantly tie their blog into their author page.

I've already begun highlighting many sections of Melson's book. She gets right to the point on each topic, so I don't feel like I'm wading through unnecessary information. And for $.99, the price is right! If you're interested in Melson's blog, check out The Write Conversation.

What social media do you participate in? Do you feel like you're taking advantage of everything it offers?


Free Resources from Wordserve Water Cooler

I've already blogged about the amazing blog from agent Rachelle Gardner. You'll miss a lot if you don't read her daily. Happily, there's an additional resource connected with her agency, Wordserve Literary. More than forty of Wordserve's clients have joined forces to create a group blog (or Glog), called the Wordserve Water Cooler. It's focused on building a community for writers, and sharing their knowledge of the publishing process.

The blog is only a week old, but already writers can find some great topics covered. Things like:

Tips for Landing an Agent- twenty-nine authors share their advice.

Preparing for an Interview- how to relax and have fun.

How to Find the Perfect Publisher- two things to do, and one thing to avoid.

Becoming a Nationally Syndicated Columnist- how it can help with book sales.
Up a Creek Without a Paddle- advice on the marketing game.

A Time for Every Purpose- Dealing with time management.

This is definitely a blog to put in your reader. What a wonderful way for these authors to give back. If you'd like to see who they are, check the list of contributors.

When you're published, how would you like to give back?

Monday-Write on con

One week from tomorrow, on August 16, the much-anticipated WriteOnCon begins (ending August 18th). If you haven't heard of it, it's a free online writing conference, with all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a professional conference. Though started for children's authors, the information in this conference is valuable for authors of any genre.

Find links to last year's workshops on the What You Missed page. It's like attending the 2010 conference all at once.

And they've recently posted a list of their Ninja Agents. These are agents who have agreed to spend time in the WriteOnCon Forums. Writers post their query letters or a writing sample. The agents will offer feedback--and may even request partials based on what they read. Queries and samples can be posted as early as Monday, August 15. Who could pass up professional feedback on their writing? For all the details, visit the Ninja Agents page.

To see a complete faculty list of authors and agents, check here. And to register for the three power-packed days of information, all the links are here.

Have you attended a conference this year? If not, this could be the one that works out for you.



Author Summer School: Starting Now (find out how to attend for free)

 How would you like to learn the basics of writing, publishing and marketing--for free? Starting right now, and going through August 10th, 2011, the Author Summer School is in session. And there's no tuition.

During the week-long school, eighteen experts will share on topics vital to writers trying to finish books, deciding whether to pursue traditional or self-publishing, working on fiction or non-fiction topics.

Head to the Author Summer School page to see a list of the experts and the courses they'll teach. If you sign up, you'll first get an email inviting you to join the "Dean's List Club". The Dean's List does have a cost, and you are under no obligation to join. It gives users recordings of the sessions, and extra materials, but users of the free portion can access the sessions for 24 hours after the live class. 

The second email will contain an orientation video, and links to each of the classes.

The classes included are:
The Most Essential Facts Every Potential Author Needs to Know
Simultaneous Book Writing and Publishing
Get Your Book Under Contract With a Literary Agent or Publisher
Non-Fiction Bestseller's Formula: Here's How You Can Stand Out
How to Write an Ebook in 72 Hours or Less
Going Beyond the Book: Fast, Easy Product Creation for Authors
LinkedIn Marketing for Authors
Expert Panel Open Q & A
Getting Into Holiday Gift Guides
Be the News
Fans, Followers, and Friends: How to Maximize and Monetize Social Media
Creating "Bestseller" Status to Enhance Your Business and Brand
How to Get Your Book Into All Types of Stores-Internet, Book, Retail Stores and more
Matthew Bennet's: "How I Sold Millions of Books"
Make Your Book a Bestseller, Make Big Money, Make a Difference

The summer is a great time to learn, whether it's reading a book on craft, or taking a workshop or online course. How are you learning this summer?

Seven Free Downloads from Writer's Digest

In the current economy, it really helps if you don't have to pay for everything. So I thought I'd share some finds from the Writer's Digest website. You don't have to subscribe to the magazine (which is wonderful, by the way) to take advantage of their website offerings. Here's what I found:

If those aren't enough, I've listed more free things from Writer's Digest in a previous post.

Note that these are .Pdf files. Hope you enjoy them!


Book Review: What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers, by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter

Have you ever wished you could suspend your life and participate in an intensive writing program? For most of us that's impossible, but authors Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter offer the next best thing in their book What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers.

Bernays and Painter are successful novelists and long-time teachers of creative writing. They use exercises to help writers think creatively, come up with new ideas, and improve their craft of fiction. 

The authors have culled more than seventy-five of the most successful writing exercises from hundreds of examples they've come across over the years. Each exercise focuses on a specific element of writing, from dialogue to characterization to subtext, and more, such as:

*The difference between writing like a writer and thinking like a writer. 
*Figuring out where to start and end your story.
*Understanding when to use dialogue, and when to insert indirect discourse.
*How to take actual events and fictionalize them in a compelling way.

The writer is encouraged to skip around the book, not necessarily going through the exercises in order. The authors feel it's better for the writer to pick and choose the aspect they need to work on at the moment. Examples are included from published authors, but it's also helpful that there are examples from students' work.

For writers stuck without ideas, or aware of specific weaknesses in their writing, a book of exercises like this is invaluable.

What was the best writer's exercise you ever tried?

Free Resources for Slaying Your Cliches

I attended a wonderful workshop last night. Author Evangeline Denmark shared several solid tools for avoiding cliches. If you ever get a chance to take a workshop from her, don't miss it. And if you need a laugh, check out her blog, Breathe In, Breathe Out.

One of the resources Denmark mentioned was the blog How to Slay a Cliche. I've blogged several times about cliche resources, and this is another good one.

The author, Wordsmith, takes a different cliche in each post, and rewrites them five times. Writers can search through the many dozens of cliches already rewritten, and are encouraged to add their own rewrites in the comments. For ease of use, there's an alphabetical listing of the cliches already posted.

And to give you one spot for cliche advice, here are links to the previous cliche resources, all of them amazing:

Are You Blind? Digging Out Cliches in Your Manuscript--includes a link to the wonderful Cliche Finder.

No More Cookie Cutters: Avoiding Cliches to Create Original Fiction--links to lists of cliches and four different types of cliches you may never have considered.

What do Cliches Do to Your Readers? Three things you don't want to subject your readers to.

Are you a cliche player, or a cliche slayer?

Get a Free Education at Pitch University

I'm surprised I hadn't come across Pitch University in my internet browsing. What a wealth of information! Even if you're not ready to pitch right now, you're probably ready to learn. And the folks at Pitch University have worked incredibly hard to provide you the tools you need.

The amount of articles, videos, and audios is amazing. Start at the home page, and scroll down to Pitching 101 You'll want to do some browsing on the site to get familiar with all they offer.

Begun by Diane Holmes, Pitch University is a safe and comfortable place for writers--no matter how hesitant or shy--to learn to verbalize their story. Holmes grew up in a family of salesmen, and even majored in marketing, but she confesses, "I suck at pitching." Makes you feel better, huh?

One of the events at Pitch University is a monthly "PitchFest". The organizers host an agent or editor who is currently looking for books. Participants are encouraged to pitch to the professional, via query letter, audio, or video.

Among the many offerings at Pitch University are:


The Pitch U Writers Manifesto (which will ease your mind)


The first of 27 lessons on pitching. Scroll down on the right to see the list.



The free Monthly Pitch newsletter (signing up gets you the free bonus "10 Reasons You Suck at Pitching Your Book")

Do you feel comfortable with your pitch? Have you pitched in the past? How did it go?

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