Tag Archives: Writer

Who Wants to Be a Better Writer?

In this posWritert-modern world where everyone is encouraged to express their opinion to the universe—in 140 characters or less on occasion—we should all strive to be better at articulating our thoughts in writing.

I laugh along with everyone else at the cartoons about the Grammar Police and the proper use of “there, their, and they’re,” but why is it funny? When did poor grammar become a joke?

This morning I was interviewed about a fundraising event our writers’ group is hosting. It’s sad to think that we needed a fundraiser. Why would a non-profit organization that promotes better writing not be filled to the brim with members? You can’t throw a stick without hitting a blogger.  Most people do some sort of writing every day in their job.

Whether one writes reports, articles, direct mail copy, blogs, marketing material, novels, instructional pieces, web copy, emails or even personal correspondence by hand (gasp!), it’s important to present oneself as an intelligent person.  We rely on spell-check and grammar correcting programs too much.

Being part of a group that teaches when to use “further” instead of “farther” helps to make you a better writer. It makes for better reading, too. It’s not about looking like a smarty-pants. It’s about making the reader’s experience more enjoyable or more informative, without making them get out a red pen to correct you.

When a reader decides they know more than you, they stop reading. Period. Your article, blog, instructions, or story is no longer relevant to their needs.

If you’re a writer (and you certainly are) join a writers’ group. Take a class. Learn, grow, and improve. If you’re the one who already knows it all, then join a group to help others. Please. The universe needs you.

Fothumbnail kimr information about my local writers’ organization, visit www.panhandleprowriters.org.

by Kimberly Black

Kimberly Black is an award-winning author of both fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books. She is the President-Elect of Panhandle Professional Writers in the Texas Panhandle.

To learn more visit https://kimblackink.com.





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The Hybrid Author

You’ve heard the term, but just what does it mean?

Simply put, it is a writer who publishes their work both traditionally and through self-publishing channels. The hybrid chooses her own path and isn’t inhibited by the prejudices of the past in an ever changing publishing industry.

Dianne G SaganDianne G. Sagan, long-time Panhandle Professional Writers member and award winning author, has released a ground breaking and timely book — The Hybrid Author. If you’ve ever asked yourself the question, should I self-publish or traditionally publish, this is the book that will help you make a well informed decision. The Hybrid Author explains in detail what makes a writer a hybrid, examines the pros and cons of the four paths available in the publishing industry, and assists the reader in making career decisions from a neutral position. Bob Rich, international author and editor of the popular Bobbing Around Newsletter, says in his book review:The Hybrid Author

“The Hybrid Author is a treasure house of useful suggestions and resources for any writer, already published or still merely hopeful. While reading, I followed up some of Dianne’s recommendations, particularly in the areas of marketing and publicity, which are my weak points. This useful information is logically organized, clearly presented, and is in a style that is a perfect compromise between being chatty and formal. My only suggestion for improvement is that each resource should have a web link accompany it. I’ve been a hybrid writer for many years, but didn’t know it until I read Dianne’s definition. It is someone who has some books out through royalty-paying publishers, with other books, or other versions of these books, through a less conventional path such as self-publishing. She sets out the advantages and disadvantages of each of four options, and I cannot fault her reasoning. I agree with everything she has stated. A useful feature is Chapter 8, which is a series of interviews with successful authors. I was fascinated by the commonalities and differences in these people’s opinions. Chapter 10 is also particularly useful in a different way: it is an extensive list of questions to an intending author. Thinking about the answer to each will help you to choose the uniquely right path for you.In short, this book is a useful resource for any writer.”

The Hybrid Author can be purchased at: The Hybrid Author Kindle version

The Hybrid Author print version

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The Road to 80 Rejections

My father was an avid fisherman.

hook     Some of my earliest childhood memories were of fishing trips out to the lake. We’d set up shop at the spillway or down on the rocky shore. He’d spend the day catching some of the biggest catfish I’d ever see. Personally, I’d be lucky to land a gar, despite the fact those things were everywhere. You didn’t even have to put any effort into catching gar. They’d slither directly from the gates of Hades to your fishing line, even though your worm had fallen off ten minutes ago and your bobber was only half-on. Yeah, I was lucky to even get one of those. My dad, however, flung fancy tackle around in all sorts of ornate patterns and could catch sharks from a creek bed.
     There were times when I’d get really lucky and could catch a small perch. I’d tie a line to my finger and find a little rocky hole in the water. I’m sure that my success rate was something like 1,594 fishing trips for each silver dollar-sized perch. Suffice it to say, I’m no angler.
     I can remember one fishing trip better than any of the others. My family in Amarillo (where I live now, but didn’t when I was a kid) brought us along for a vacation that spanned from a bear-infested camp in Colorado down to a mecca of all that is good and glorious in New Mexico. Our options were either to fish or to go hiking. My dad chose the former and I was happy to join him. The thing is, he wanted to do some serious fishing. And he knew I didn’t. Ground rules were set that I’d have to actually cast lines and try to catch something.
     About two hours into our mission, I got the first bite on my line. I jerked my pole up in the air the way I saw him do it and reeled my line in. No fish. “Here’s your problem,” Dad told me, “throw a line out all day and if you don’t know how to hook it, it won’t do you any good.”
     I’ve dropped a few figurative lines in the literary lake now. Seven attempts, to be exact. This last week started out with my very first rejection. My line was sent back sans worm, but with a kind note stating that it was them, not me. And then, just two days later, I got my very first nibble. A managing partner liked what she saw and requested my full manuscript and a brief summary of my novel. My first reaction was one of triumph and my second, worry pooling in the bottom of my stomach. I’ve never been any good at setting that hook. I thought back to my dad, and that time at the lake, and him telling me that arms flailing and excited screaming never caught anything at all. I need patience, faith, and one heck of a hook.Meli Landry
By Meli Landry
When Meli Landry isn’t chasing down her children or behemoth boxer, she relaxes with a good book and her blog. Visit her at: www.melilandry.com
The Road to 80 Rejections is part of a series about Meli’s journey into publication.

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What a Character

They’re all around us. The people whose outfits demand a raised eyebrow, whose accents incite chuckles, or whose topics of discussion could give hard-boiled news anchors a full-bodied blush. They are the real-life characters in your daily routine, and they make wonderful additions to your story, too.

Most of my fictional characters are fairly normal human-beings. They all tend to be semi-well-adjusted adults of various ages, with typical jobs, cars, homes, and families. But every story needs some quirkiness. It breaks up the normal, and wakes up your reader.

man-looking-through-binocularsI like to add some fun to a story with folks like Jib Boeller, a middle-aged man who insists that he saw the aliens who abducted the missing photographer. Rowan Kirk is a character I invented who refuses to wear neck-ties – why give an attacker a weapon already in place? – and who is fluent in nearly one hundred different languages, if you count all the most common computer programming scripts. I’m currently developing Ingrid, who is 118 years old with the appearance of a twenty-something supermodel. She’s a gourmet cook who loves opera and dangerous stunts.

My eccentric players are fictional, but their most defining character traits are certainly borrowed from my reality. I have friends who “speak” computer, see aliens, and jump from one adrenaline rush to the next. Every time I hear about someone doing something outrageous, I write down the basics and look for opportunities to include them in a story.

I don’t write them in such a way so that they could recognize themselves and be offended. I just include the details that make me curious about them in the first place. I believe that if I, as the author, am interested in them, then my audience will be, too.

Go ahead and give your reader a character who wears tiger-striped pants and chews fruflamesit gum whenever he wants to remember his computer passwords. Give your hero an Aunt Gilda who wears blue-glittered false eyelashes and drives a hearse with flames on the fenders.

These quirky folks don’t have to be your protagonists, but how a point-of-view character reacts to their idiosyncrasies can speak volumes to your reader. A vignette with a peculiar personality can provide your readers with respite from an otherwise tense scene. A well-placed kooky character can also help connect you to your reader. They will recognize their outfits, their mannerisms, or their habits, either in themselves or in someone they know.

Great characters are everywhere, just waiting to be part of your next tale. Keep your eyes and ears open and your pencil handy.

Kimberly Black

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Yes, Writer, You Do Bear Some Responsibility for Getting a Good Critique From Your Group

critique-help-imageI had written a half page summary of a novel that is almost finished. It stated the concept and the theme, the major characters and the key plot points. Over lunch at a Taco Villa, I handed it to my friend and critique partner, Janda Raker.  After she read it, she made the comment that if the group had seen it before I started reading to them, perhaps they could have done a better job of critiquing. Hmmm.

There is a lot written about the responsibilities of critique groups—be constructive, don’t get sidetracked on gossip, don’t get sidetracked on grammar, don’t get in arguments. The main reason for reading each other’s work is to help the writer make it better.

Janda’s comment got me thinking about the responsibility the writer bears for getting the most from the group. For helping the group do its job. Let’s look for a minute at the big picture. A novel must contain characters who grow, a plot with a sticky problem that is structured correctly, and a setting that evokes a picture in the readers’ minds. If the group doesn’t know where the author is headed, it can easily get bogged down on details within a scene—word choices, the hero’s granny walking through a closed door, the dog morphing from a collie to a setter. I don’t mean to imply that those things aren’t important, but the possibility exists for hammering a point to death, when, if it is taken within the context of the whole story, needs to go anyway. That’s why you skip the grammar for now, by the way. Your manuscript does need a close edit, but save it until you’ve got the rest of the issues addressed.critique

For me, this means that the next time I go to a critique group with a new project, I will first present them with a summary, or an outline—some representation of the guts of what I am about to write. That, of course, means I must quit writing by the seat of my pants and actually know all those things they need to know before I start writing. Having done the seat-of-the-pants thing, I realize it is possible to get to the end that way, but man, does it ever require a lot of revision. So, this is the bottom line for me. Put in the work of structuring, thinking through the whole plot, identifying the character arc before starting to write and get better quality help from your group, or do that work as you go—again and again.

One more suggestion for the writer. If you know what you have written isn’t good, don’t waste the group’s time. When you don’t need them to tell you how to fix it, don’t make them do it.

How do you help your critique group with your work?

Vicki Schoen

Follow my blog at vickischoen.com

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Practice, Practice, Practice

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

When I first started writing I went to plenty of classes and conferences, hungry for every bit of knowledge that the pros had to offer.  I took copious notes, recorded the lectures as often as I could, and saved every handout I ever got.  In the end, that was all I had, notes, recordings and stacks of handouts.  My own writing had not improved.

I’ve since learned that no matter how much money you spend on conferences, books, classes and so on; there is only one true road to better writing–practice, practice, practice.

Just like the old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall.  Practice is the key.  Read every book you want on the art and craft of writing.  Continue to go to conferences.  Attend lectures as often as you can, but the bottom line is write every day.

Here are a few suggestions to keep you writing every day even if your time is limited:

1.  Start a journal.  It’s not the same as a diary, you don’t have to write every detail of your day.  Use it to write insights and observations as they occur to you, story and character ideas, and settings.  Use the journal to pose the “What if” questions.

2.  Write a letter.  What kind of letter?  Any kind.  Write a letter to the editor on something you are passionate about.  Write a letter to a friend you haven’t written to in a long time.  Write a letter to a deceased loved one.  The type of letter you write is not as important as the writing itself.

3.  Find writing exercises.  There are many places on the internet where you can find these.  Some may seem silly, but as you experiment you will find that they inspire you.

4.  Contribute to a newsletter or start a newsletter, even if it’s just for your family.

5.  Try your hand at flash fiction.  And try the shortest form of flash fiction you can.  A story in six words or 100 words or less.  Make sure your story has a beginning, middle and end.  This teaches you to write tight.

6.  If you have a smart phone, search for writers apps for story starters and inspirations.

The more you write the more you learn to use an economy of words to express emotion, set a scene, or describe a character.  After a while, you’ll find that you are writing faster and better.

Take the challenge and see what happens.  You will be surprised.  Even the best writer will see improvement in their work.  A side benefit  is the confidence that comes with writing every day.  At your disposal you will find myriads of ideas you never thought you had to draw on when you come to the bane of every writer–the dreaded writer’s block.  It won’t happen, or at least not as often.  There will always be new ideas–new “What ifs”  to inspire you.

So, how do you get to be a better writer?  Practice, practice, practice.

What works best for you?

Suzanne Bogue

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The Muse Takes a Holiday

Some call it Writers’ Block. Others refer to it as a simple lack of inspiration. What happens when you just don’t know what happens next in your story? The words won’t come. At all. What is the author of the next Great American Novel to do?

Of course, there are lots of suggestions out there. Take a nap. Fold the laundry. Phone a friend. I’ll be the first to confess that most of these “tricks” are merely avoidance techniques. But why do I procrastinate with something that I love to do?

I’m certain that there is a deep psychological meaning behind it, but I refuse to research that right now, maybe it could be the subject of my next book.

In fact, research may be at the root of the blocked imagination. When I don’t know what should happen next, it’s often because I have no idea what would happen next. I haven’t researched that deeply into the technicalities or history of the subject. On the other hand, sometimes I find that I’ve researched so much that I don’t care anymore. Yes, it’s often the mystery that keeps me going.

If research isn’t the problem—if I just don’t know how my protagonist would respond in a particular situation—maybe I need to get to know him or her better. I could write a scene, completely separate from my story, in which my lead characters are all trapped in an elevator somewhere between floors of a Metropolitan high-rise. What do they say? How do they treat each other? What do they smell, see, or hear? Sometimes writing out these little vignettes can trigger something that will propel the stalled work-in-progress.

Another solution may be to skip to the next scene that I know, and write that. The idea is that having that next goal in sight may shed light on the path to get there. Or… it may not be that I have writers’ block at all, but that I’m trying to write too much. A minute-by-minute account of my hero may just be boring. Experiencing a stall may be an indication that I should skip that part. If the next scene makes sense without it, it’s highly likely that a reader would skip it, too. Leave it out. Write tight.

I hope that these suggestions help—I just thought of something…

Kimberly Black


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Finding Time To Write

Are you struggling to meet your writing goals?  Just can’t seem to find the time to put your thoughts on paper?  Is life interfering with your desire to write the next   breakout best-seller?  What should you do?

Every writer is different.  What works for one won’t necessarily work for another.  If you are a planner, perhaps what works for me will work for you.  Here’s how I do it.

I schedule my writing time; every bit of it.  I schedule my time throughout the week and on weekends.  I actually write down how many hours I plan to write each day and what I want to accomplish.  When I am actually working on a project, I strive for 30-40 hours per week writing.  That’s in addition to the 50 hours per week at my regular job. If that sounds like a lot, it is.  How do I do it?  I plan.  I make a plan and I stick to it.

How do I accomplish that?  First, I have a very supportive wife.  She knows how important my writing is to me and she wants me to be successful as a writer.  Talk to your family and help them understand the importance writing has in your life.  Ask for their support.  Make sure they know your proposed writing schedule and are on board with it.  That works for me because my wife knows my schedule.  She knows when I will be writing and when I will be available to do other things around the house.  Family support is so important to writers.

What about life’s little interruptions?  How do I overcome unanticipated schedule changes?  By being flexible in my planning and revising my writing schedule as I go, much the same as how I revise my writing after the first draft is complete.  On the occasions when my day job calls for me to be at work at 8:00 AM instead of 6:00 AM, I get up at the same time and try to be at my computer by 5:15 AM and write until 7:30 AM.  That makes up for the two hours I know I will lose at the end of the day by going to work later than usual.  My kids live out of town.  When my wife and I visit them, I take my laptop and write while I am there.  How do I do that and still find time to spend with my kids?  One way is that I am an early riser.  I get up long before anyone else in my family.  I take advantage of that and I write until everyone else gets up.  I sometimes combine that with staying up and writing after everyone else goes to bed.  Either way, I always try to accomplish something and advance the project I am working on.  Again, I must emphasize the support of my family.  My kids also support my writing and know how important it is to me.  As you establish the importance of your writing to those around you, and adopt the writer’s lifestyle, finding time to write will become the norm rather than the exception.

What about research time versus actual writing time?  Research doesn’t count as actual writing time, but it still has to be done.  How do you reconcile that?  The way I do it is by scheduling my research time just the same as I do my writing time.  Remember. My written schedule includes what I want to accomplish as well as the actual time scheduled.  Sometimes that goal is primarily research rather than prose.

Even though I am a meticulous planner, I have discovered something that runs contrary to the way I plan that has turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.  If you are a planner, rather than an organic writer, the basic plot outline is a great place to start.  However, if your plot starts to go elsewhere as you write, let it!  You might be pleasantly surprised at the results.  I was!

Here are some other tips to help you be a more productive writer.  Friend of PPW, Candace Havens (www.candacehavens.com) presented a session at the 2012 Frontiers in Writing Conference entitled Fast Draft.  The end result is to have a 280 page first draft in 14 days.  Sound like a lot?  It is.  How do you do it?  You plan it out.  Here are some of the highlights:

First, do all research, plot outlining, scene sketching, etc. ahead of time.  Those activities are not part of the 14-day Fast Draft process.

  • Next, get your family members on board.  For 14 days, this will be your primary focus.
  • Next, find an accountability partner.  You need someone who will ask you every day if you met your goal the previous day.  If you didn’t, they will want to know why.  To be successful, you need a partner who won’t accept excuses!
  • Set your goal for the number of pages you want to write each day.  Candace recommends a goal of 20 pages per day.  This results in a 280 page first draft in 14 days.
  • One important point is that there is absolutely no self-editing allowed during the Fast Draft process.  Simply put words on the page.  Remember, your goal is a first draft, not a finished product.  Major revisions will be required.

Once you have completed your Fast Draft, the revision process works just the same as the original process.  Get your family on board, find an accountability partner, and set a goal for the number of pages you want to revise each day.

Another thing to remember is that you pick the number of pages for your daily goal.  Be realistic.  If you know yourself well enough to know that 20 pages is too much for you, pick a realistic number, whether it is five, 10 or 13 pages.

One last thing to beware of; writing related tasks can interfere with your writing time if you let them.  What do I mean by writing related tasks? I’m talking about blogging, or social media related to your writing.  If you blog as a way to promote your work or if you use Twitter or Facebook to promote your work, plan and schedule that time separately from your writing.  Otherwise, there is a danger that you will discover you are spending valuable writing time doing something other than writing!

The bottom line is that how you write is just as unique as what you write.  What I’ve covered here works for me because I’m very structured and organized.  My method is not for everyone.  Find what works for you, commit to it and write!  You’ll be glad you did!

Matt Sherley

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Deadline:  “may refer to: time limit(Wikipedia).  Or, from Dictionary.com:

1)      The time by which something must be finished or submitted; the latest time for finishing something.

2)      A line or limit that must not be passed.

3)      (Formerly) a boundary around a military prison beyond which a prisoner could not venture without risk of being shot by the guards [1864 Civil War prisons].

My most recent deadline was getting this blog post ready – today.  Historically, I procrastinate and pull together information just making a deadline.  Why? Does my adrenaline kick in and get me going when a deadline gets near? I’m not sure, but the pressure of a deadline does get my creative juices going.

At the latest PPW board meeting the importance of meeting deadlines was brought up.  Being an employee for 20 years at a government agency, I was constantly gifted with “suspense” items (Aha! Another word for deadline).  I never dreamed of not meeting these deadlines.  However, I was provided one deadline/suspense that confused me.  It concerned a matter that I was not responsible for.  When I questioned the suspense I was advised, “We knew if we gave it to you, it would get done, and we thought you could get the information we needed quicker than if we gave the request to the person responsible.”  Another reason I retired . . .

In preparing for this little blog, research revealed Deadline is also:

­ An American western film

­ A horror film

­ A war drama

­ A Swedish thriller

­ A fictional villain

­ A British Comics magazine

­ A British drama

­ An American TV series

­ A video game

­ A computer game

­ An on-line entertainment news magazine

­ An American rock band

­ An American punk band

­ And the title of several novels

If you have tips for meeting deadlines (using suspense/tickler files, keeping a detailed calendar, stacking your deadline items in order of their due dates, etc.), please share these with your fellow writers (Perhaps in an article for the PPW Newsletter?).

For writers, deadlines mean getting paid for their work by fulfilling contracted deadline requirements for their books or articles.  It could mean losing that contract or missing the publication date for a periodical and your article not making it in.  This is a writer‘s bread and butter.  One either meets the deadline and gets paid and acquires a positive reputation, or the writer’s reputation becomes one of being hard to work with or unreliable.  That means it will be harder for the writer to earn a living and eventually it will mean not being able to sell his/her work.

If you have trouble meeting deadlines, or try to avoid some you do have, I challenge you (I’ll leave it to others to threaten you) to set a deadline of OCTOBER 15 to finish any project you’ve left undone.  Then let us know how you accomplished your goal.  If you’re good at meeting deadlines, tell us how you do it.

Donna Otto




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Ten Books on Writing Everyone Should Read

I’ve read tons of books on writing in my life.  Some of them were very good and I’ve marked the pages and reread them many times; others were forgettable.

Here’s what I consider the best list of books on writing that any writer should have in their toolbox:

1.   The Elements of Style by Strunk and White

2.   Bird by Bird:  Some Instruction on the Writing Life by Anne Lamott

3.   On Writing by Stephen King

4.   Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

5.   Ernest Hemingway on Writing Edited by Larry W. Phillips

6.   The War of Art:  Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield

7.   How to Create a Sentence by Stanley Fish

8.   How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren

9.   The Writer’s Journey:  Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler

10.  Word Painting:  A Guide to Writing More Descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan

Each of these books has something unique to offer.  Whether you write science fiction or non-fiction, you will learn and improve by reading these books and practicing the techniques described in each.  Try them each, you can find them in most libraries, online used or from ebooks.  I hope you get as much from them as I have.

Happy Writing

Suzanne Bogue


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