An Easy Way for Writers to Learn AND Get Published

Earlier this week, one of my posts was picked up by a site called inkPageant. I had not come across it before, but ended up spending some time browsing. inkPageant is a website offering a collection of writing articles sorted for easy reading.

Readers can browse articles by genre, date, category, or popularity. And the best part is that writers can submit their own blog posts for possible inclusion.

All it takes is to fill out a brief registration, and then peruse the submission guidelines. The site is looking specifically for blog posts, including the following: 
* Writing/publishing tips and advice
* Writing-related opinion pieces or essays
* Book reviews
* Upcoming events and news in the writing community (i.e. signings, conventions, new releases, etc.)
* Author/editor/agent interviews
* Movie reviews, if your analysis is applicable to writers

The links posted take users directly to the author's web page. As an added bonus, each post accepted gets entered for a monthly prize drawing. Check out the prizes offered for the month of February.

Even if you're not interested in submitting to the site, there are so many helpful articles, you'll probably want to spend some time looking around.

Do you know of other sites like this one? I'd love to highlight more of them.

Six Free Tools to Help You Write Your Best Novel Ever

We're slowly getting better at my house. Thanks to all of you for your sweet words. Here's a reminder about a fantastic resource many of you may have missed. Happy writing!

I've found the coolest resource over at The Bookshelf Muse. Every Thursday Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman add an entry to either the Emotion Thesaurus, the Setting Thesaurus, the Symbolism Thesaurus, the Color, Shape, & Texture Thesaurus, the Weather Thesaurus, and the Character Trait Thesaurus.

This collection, which is constantly expanding, is the place to turn when you need a fresh way to describe your characters or setting. The introduction gives you some great reasons to bookmark the page.

The Emotion Thesaurus. In my novel, one of my characters is a spoiled princess (hey, if you've had a curse hanging over you all you life, I'm sure everyone would treat you with kid gloves). Sometimes I run out of ways to describe her condescension. Enter the Emotion Thesaurus. I clicked on the link for Haughty/Smug/Superior, and found thirty-four different ways to show this specific character emotion. So far, there are fifty-six different emotions on the list.

The Setting Thesaurus. No matter whether your setting is a space ship or a subway station, a  pirate ship or a pool hall, the authors have you covered with the Setting Thesaurus. There are ninety-one settings to choose from. Planning a scene in a medieval castle armory? Don't worry. Clicking the link will take you to the page where an armory is described with all the five senses. Exactly what you need.

The Symbolism Thesaurus. Symbolism is a way authors can infuse their novels with meaning, keeping readers thinking about the story long after they've turned the last page. The Symbolism Thesaurus lists forty-four different examples, like coming of age or sacrifice. Each entry lists ways to show the symbolism through nature or society.

The Colors, Shape, & Texture Thesaurus. At first, I didn't think I'd need the Color, Shape, & Texture Thesaurus, but once I checked out some of the several dozen entries, I changed my mind. The texture and shape entries give both natural and man-made examples of words like crumbly or spiral, and include synonyms and examples. Color words, like blue, give lists of blue things in light, medium, and dark, and also share shades of the color.

The Weather & Earthly Phenomena Thesaurus. Weather can be such a huge part of a novel's setting, and these bloggers remind us that weather can also play into, or reflect a character's mood or the level of tension. There are over three dozen weather descriptions, like drought, sandstorm, vortex, mirage, and even air pollution. Just browsing the list may give you some ideas.

The Character Trait Thesaurus. This is the newest list on the site, though it already has over thirty entries. Whether you want your character to be manipulative or modest, a worry wart or wounded, the character traits will help you describe your character realistically. I like how each entry lists cliches to avoid with that character trait. You'll also find hints on ways to twist the character trait, and conflicting characteristics to make this particular trait more interesting.

This site is already on my bookmark list for research tools, along with the visual thesaurus. Have you found any sites that are particularly helpful to you?

Succumbed at Last

Today, February 20th, marks the two-month anniversary of my family's Season of Sickness. On December 20th, the first of my four children got sick with what would be a three-round-of-antibiotics-bronchitis. Since then, we haven't had one day where between one and four of us endured the flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, or the stomach bug.

Except me.

Even though I've been the one constantly in the face of each patient, I've felt fine. Which is good, since they all needed someone to take care of them.

But it looks like my time has come.

I hope it won't last long. I hope I won't need to sleep all the time. And I hope I can do some writing while I'm laid up.

I checked to see if other writers have tried to write while they're sick. Surprisingly, there was a lot out there. So even while I hope you stay healthy, here are some posts that might encourage you on your sick bed.

I absolutely love this post by SurlyMuse's Daniel Swenson. Writing While You're Sick, Tired, or Just Hate the World gives six practical but funny pieces of advice.

Sarah Wilson shares highlights from an interview with author Laura Hillenbrand of Seabiscuit fame. Hillenbrand has managed to fit successful writing into a life crippled by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Brian's situation at Anocial sounds like mine. Lots of sick kids, and he's the go-to guy. It's hard to work on bringing in an income when you can't actually take a day off.

Susannah Windsor Freeman, author of Write It Sideways, endured acute bronchitis while pregnant with twins (and caring for a toddler!). She shares how to keep up your writing when you're sick.

Do you try to write when you're sick? Maybe you just brainstorm, or do nothing at all. Hopefully, I'll see you Wednesday!

Creating Romantic Tension in Your Novel

Yesterday was Valentine's Day. And over the weekend, I attended a marriage conference and read a romance novel. Is it really surprising that I might have romantic tension on my mind?

Besides romance novels, many novels have a romantic thread. Some of those threads the reader can feel, and some fall flat. I decided to gather some resources to help with making romantic tension feel more real.

Author Karen Weisner writes a great summary of 20 steps to writing great love scenes on Fiction Factor. I especially like number five, her explanation of "exaggerated awareness". Worth the read.

Barbara Bretton, another author, shows the difference between sexual chemistry and sexual tension, and shares the secrets of creating page-turning romantic fiction.

Maholo has a comprehensive article that includes a ten-minute video on including romantic tension in your writing.

And from the queen of romance herself, Nora Roberts, comes a fascinating article on crafting romantic suspense.

What makes the romantic thread in a novel "real" to you?

Celebrating a Milestone: 200 Followers

When I started blogging in late 2009, I really didn't know much about it. I wasn't aware of statistics, etiquette, or anything about followers. I just blindly jumped in, muddled about for a while, and finally settled on a focus: sharing writing resources with others on the journey to publication.

Way back then, I was lucky to garner a few readers each day, along with the occasional comment. Things have changed, and so have I. I really love the interaction of a blog. Discovering new blogs when I comment back to visitors who stop by. Developing relationships with people around the world, despite the fact we may never meet.

Blogging is work, but it's so worthwhile. Today is a day to say thank you to everyone who has taught me and enriched my life in the writing world. And thank you to Teri, who just became the 200th follower! I appreciate each and every one of you!

How has blogging (or reading blogs) made a difference for you?

Guest Post: Tactics of the Winning Novelist, by Randy Ingermanson

Once a month or so, I share a post from author and writing teacher Randy Ingermanson. This article is one of three excellent ones in his current newsletter. If you're interested in writing, you really need this free subscription. Check the link at the bottom of the post.

Tactics of the Winning Novelist, by Randy Ingermanson

Tactics are the little things, the specific actions you take to build your skills as a novelist and then to write your novel.

Let's be clear that those are separate tasks: building your skills and writing a novel. An analogy might help:

Being a novelist is a lot like being a marathon runner. Before you can actually RUN a marathon, you need to first TRAIN for it. Typically, that takes a long time -- months of training to build the fitness and endurance to run an entire marathon.

But once you've reached that level, you can run more marathons with ease.

Of course, you'll continue to train between races, but now your training will be aimed at helping you run BETTER, rather than merely helping you FINISH.

In the same way, before you can write a novel, you need to develop your skills as a fiction writer.

But once you've got the skills to write one novel, you can write as many as you want with ease.

You'll always be improving your skills, but after you've written your first novel, you'll be working to write BETTER, not merely to FINISH.

I've identified five tactics you can use to build your skills as a novelist to the point where you're ready to write your first one.

These tactics are simple. In fact, they're "obvious." Success in life can be as simple as doing the obvious. You'd be amazed how many writers ignore all these tactics. You'd be amazed how fast you improve, once you start doing all five.

Here they are:

Tactic #1: Write on a consistent schedule.

Writing a novel is a marathon. A sprint here and a dash there won't get you to the finish line. Writing consistently for weeks and months WILL get you there.

Decide how many hours per week you can dedicate to writing. If you're a beginner, this might be only one or two. I recommend that beginners make it a goal to get up to five hours per week by the end of the first year of writing.

Your writing schedule is for WRITING. Not for research of your story world. Not for studying how to write. Not for reading magazines about writing. Not for reading blogs or hanging out on e-mail loops for writers. Not for going to writing conferences.

All of those are fine things, but they aren't WRITING.

You get better at running by running. You get better at writing by writing.

Tactic #2: Keep a log of your writing time and word count.

This sounds too simple (or possibly too anal) for words. It isn't.

Writing fiction is a JOB, at least for professional novelists. Someday, you'll be working with a publisher who has a publication schedule mapped out for two years in advance. You'll sign a contract with that publisher to deliver X amount of words on a particular date.

That date is not a fantasy. That date is reality. If you miss that date, it costs your publisher money. Yes, they build in some slack in the schedule. No, you don't ever want to use any of it. Not one minute. Your publishers will love you if they know they can trust you to meet your deadlines.

But you can't sign a contract to deliver X words on a particular date unless you know how fast you can write. You need to know how many words of output you can create in each hour of working time.

Good runners know what pace they can run each mile.

Professional writers know what pace they can write.

If you want to be a professional writer someday, then start acting like one today.

Tactic #3: Give yourself a weekly quota.

You can't do this until you've done #1 and #2 above. In order to create a meaningful quota, you have to know how many hours you can write each week, and you have to know how many words you can produce each hour. (They don't have to be GOOD words. Goodness comes later.)

Virtually all the successful writers I know assign themselves a quota of some sort for creating their first draft. While some writers use a daily quota and some use a monthly quota, most of them seem to set a weekly word count. I recommend weekly.

Your quota will be useless unless you actually meet it. Assign yourself a penalty for failing to reach your quota. Find an accountability partner who can check that you hit your quota and can make you pay the penalty if you fail.

Important: Make your quota possible. Never miss it.

Tactic #4: Find a critique group or critique buddy.

Most writers believe their work is either unutterably brilliant or wretchedly awful.

Generally, they're wrong on both counts. All writers are delusional. That's part of the job description.

There is only one way to know whether your work is any good or not.

You need somebody else to read your work and tell you.

You need a critique of your work regularly. I recommend that you get a critique monthly. Find one or more people with all of these qualities:
* They understand fiction
* They will be honest
* They will be kind

If your critiquers lack any of these, then drop them like a burning porcupine because they're useless to you.

Tactic #5: Constantly study the craft of fiction.

It is not your critiquers' problem to tell you HOW to write better. Their job is to point out what you're doing well and what you're doing poorly.

Your job is to find ways to improve your strong points so they're world-class (your strong points will make editors say yes someday).

Your job is also to find ways to improve your weak points so they're at least adequate (your weak points will make editors say no right now).

Generally, critiquers don't actually know how to teach you how to improve your craft. They may think they do, but they usually don't. Skill in critiquing is not the same as skill in teaching.

You have plenty of sources for teaching you the craft:
* Books
* Magazines and e-zines
* Classes
* Conferences
* Recorded lectures
* Mentors

When you know specifically what you want to improve, find some source of teaching on that exact topic and study it. Then apply what you learned to your writing and get critiqued again to see if you got it. Don't quit studying until you get it.

That's it. Five tactics that will turn a talented beginner into a professional writer, if you do them consistently for the rest of your life.

To summarize, "Write, write, write! Get critiqued. Study. Repeat forever."

Simple? Yes.

Easy? No.

That's why there are many more talented beginners than professional writers.

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 29,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Which tactics are part of your life now, and which ones do you need to add to your writing routine? 

What are the Best Blogs for Writers?

I'm off to the orthodontist this morning. My fourth child (the baby of the family) is getting his bottom braces on. Our family is four-for-four: every one of our kids has endured braces. I thought we'd get to skip it with one of them!

Today's resource comes from poet and editor Robert Lee Brewer. On his blog, My Name is Not Bob, he's posted a list of 39 of the best blogs for writers.

Brewer lists the blogs in groups: Writer's Digest blogs (he works for them), and "all-star blog"s (what he considers the best of the best). Beyond that are two more lists of "great blogs" and "blogs that rock".

On his "all-star" list, I regularly read more than half of his choices. Now I've got more to check out.

If you made an all-star list, which blogs would be on it? I'd love to have some more to browse.

Resources for Romance Writers

I write young adult novels. They're historicals, set in unique European locations, and each of them have an element of fantasy. There aren't nearly enough novels in this little genre slice for me to read. So I read historicals set in all periods and locations. Recently I read an e-galley by author Tracey Devlyn. It's a Regency with a twist: a thriller filled with spies, weapons, and a super-tough heroine.

At the end of the book, Devlyn thanked the members of Romance University, so I checked it out. I discovered it's a group blog designed for writers of romance. I love the site's tagline:  
Empower Writers ~ Entertain Readers ~ Understand Men
The seven-member faculty post three times a week, covering craft and career for writers. Even if you don't write romance, you'll likely find some great writing advice here.

A few examples:

Extreme Makeover: Writer's Office Edition Find out what kind of writing room you need depending on your personality.

Dark Matters: Cultivating Cruelty in Romance Fiction Read all about torturing your characters and why "love stories are unleashed not by license, but limitations".

When your critique partner's career is on the move and yours is standing still Feel left behind by the success of your writing friends? Read how three close friends rode the emotional highs and lows.

When Indie Publishing is a Viable Option Winning a major contest doesn't always translate into a publishing contract. Read about one author's journey through the ups and downs: ". . . in spite of my head telling me I was a solid writer, my heart felt like something you’d scrape off your shoes."

What not to do with a bad review Wendy S. Marcus shares what she went through with a particularly nasty review. Those of us on the journey to publication worry about the feedback from contest judges and agents, but think about it: we're exposing our work in a small pond, not the ocean of Amazon.

How "once upon a time" can lead to a happy ending for your manuscript Three tests your romance novel's first page must pass.

Subtext: Adding hidden layers to your story Find out what subtext is, and how it can make your manuscript more compelling.

Beta Readers: Saints or Sinners How to choose beta readers that will give you encouraging feedback, instead of bruising your ego.

You might want to put Romance University in your blog reader. I just did. Did any of these posts jump out at you?

Reaching the Finish Line: 54 Tips to help you finish your novel

You're almost there. The finish line is so close you can see it. But your muscles are burning, your energy is flagging, and suddenly taking a break is the most important thought in your mind. 

Do you push on? Or give in?

Writing a novel is a huge undertaking. Once the excitement of the brainstorming is gone, and you've written all the scenes that pop fully written into your head, you've officially come to the hard part. The part where you have to make yourself work.

Sure, there are some writers who happily tap out words day in and day out with no problem at all, but for most of us, there will come days when the pile of laundry looks more interesting than the next chapter.

So, in honor of writers who have hit a wall, here are some links to resources that might give you the energy you need to keep going.

22 Sam Horn shares nearly two dozen inspirational quotes to get your butt in the chair. Many of them are quotes I'd never heard before.

3 On Published & Profitable, Robert C. Parker lists three reasons why authors need help finishing their books, and what to do about it.

5 Write It Sideways boils down five reasons writers stop writing. Are you guilty of any of them?

12 Roger Parker comes up with twelve practical ways for writers to finish their books on time. Number two was my favorite.

8 Writing teacher Holly Lisle shares eight interesting ways to get to "the end".

4 And Writer's Digest boils finishing your novel into four simple steps.

If you want some more in-depth help to finish your book, here are two free courses to check out:

Timothy Hallinan's Finish Your Novel course's Novelist's Bootcamp course

Have you ever been stuck? Are you stuck now? What techniques have you discovered to get yourself going again?

Plan Your Novel With a Vision Board

Whether you're starting a brand new novel, or trying desperately to finish one, sometimes you need a way to rediscover what you love about your novel. Having a visual representation of the unique aspects of your story can revive flagging enthusiasm for your project.

One way to do this is with a vision board. A vision board is a spot to collect images and words that have to do with your novel. Photos of characters. Images of settings. Examples of objects that play an important role in your story.

You may already have a bulletin board set up with a collection of pictures. Or maybe they're languishing in a computer file. But taking the time to put them together in a creative way can be an inspiration on those days when words are hard to come by. Adding to your collection will help you understand your story in new ways. 

Charlotte Rains Dixon, a Portland-based writer, has written a helpful ebook that explains exactly what a vision board is, and why you might want one. Jump Start Your Book With a Vision Board will help you plan and create an eye-catching display for your writing space. It's free when you sign up for Dixon's bi-monthly newsletter.

If you're not the type for cut and paste, you can digitally create an electronic version of a vision board. Check out Glogster. It's a free site where you can make any kind of poster, using the clip art they supply, or importing in photos you come across.

I think it's time I came up with a vision board for my novel. I've already got character, setting, and object images. It would be cool to morph them into a poster, partly for my own inspiration, but also to explain my story obsession to others.

What about you? Do you have something like a vision board?


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