Archive for February, 2010

Writer’s Digest Goes Digital

February 26, 2010

Some exciting news for those of you who like to read magazines on screen. Digital subscriptions are now available for Writer’s Digest. You can now get 8 issues of Writer’s Digest Magazine, delivered in PDF format. When each new digital issue is posted, you’ll receive an email with a link to the issue.

Learn more here

“Your Story” Tally of the Weird

February 25, 2010

As you may have seen in previous posts, I always enjoy keeping a tally of occurrences of monsters/aliens/strange phenomena that pop up when our staff reads through the submissions for the Writer’s Digest “Your Story” contest. Here is the latest from a story prompt where something goes horribly wrong during a magician’s act at a children’s birthday party (a prompt from The Writer’s Book of Matches):

Category 1: Posing as a magician

  • 2 Vampires
  • 1 Ghost
  • 1 Manifestation of Karma as a human being
  • 1 Alien escaped from an intergalactic insane asylum
  • 1 Leprechaun (YES!)

Category 2: Produced from a top hat

  • 2 Demons
  • 2 Dragons
  • 1 Ogre

Category 3: Other strange occurrences

  • 3 displays of telekenetic powers/psychic abilities
  • 3 black holes/alternate dimensions/portals to Hell
  • 1 Cameo appearance by Ozzy Osbourne (as a youth)

Learn more about the Your Story contest here

Check out The Writer’s Book of Matches

Dealing with rejection

February 22, 2010

Hope everyone had a nice weekend. Mine was full of ups and downs. I went snowboarding (my first time)… talk about an exercise in patience. I fell. A lot. And getting up with a snowboard strapped to your feet is a feat in itself. But after some great instruction from my brother in law, a lot of work, and a ton of spills, I finally started to feel like I was getting it. Not getting it to the point of proficiency, mind you, but I was able to make it down one slope with no falls and I learned how to make turns and to slow myself down without the use of my posterior. The whole process took a lot of patience and a fair amount of bruises.

Do you feel a writing parallel coming? Good guess. Trying to get published is never easy- even if you’ve been published before, even if you have connections. Each project is a different challenge and unless you’re a big name author with a proven track record, you’ll be at the whims of sales people and a fickle market that is flooded with books trying to capitalize on the next big trend.

This weekend I also learned that the project I had going through proposal was passed on. So another bruise to add to the ones I picked up on the ski slopes. But I’m not dwelling on it. I’ve got other ideas and those deserve my full attention while I pack this one away in a mental trunk full of possibly useful things for another day. I’m already working on another writing project, as a matter of fact… and I’ll be hitting the slopes again for another day of snowboarding before winter’s end. Count on it.

Here are a couple of helpful online courses to help you market your work:

Writing the Query Letter

Marketing Your Magazine Articles

Nonfiction Hooks and Book Proposals

Goals and deadlines

February 12, 2010

I have a natural tendency toward procrastination. I’d much rather spend my time imagining a plot or coming up with some interesting idea for a character and their backstory than sit down and get to work. Being organized is something I have to work at. I think it’s the reason I’ve become obsessed with calendars- to the point of it being compulsory. I make endless lists and obsess about checking things off. It’s necessary for me to get anything done.

Lots of writers I talk to seem to feel the same way. I wonder if it goes hand in hand with having an inclination to write- to invent stories, or to catalog the world as we see it into words. That idea makes sense to me.

Structure in your writing life can be freeing. Sounds like a contradiction, but when you have a deadline approaching and are forced to sit down and work, you get much more done. If you can set out a writing schedule it can help you commit to your writing: you’ve decided that a particular time of day is your time to write. Doing so can take away the worry of finding time to write and allow you the luxury of spending that energy on your writing itself.

If you have trouble sticking to self-imposed deadlines, then you might want to try a book writing plan (there are lots of great books out there that give you the structure you seek). Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt is a great one. You can also try doing the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge- it’s a great way to commit to deadline.

Learn more about Victoria Schmidt’s Book in a Month

buy Book in a Month (on sale at

SAVE 40% or more on select titles at the Valentine’s Day Sale

Plot and Character

February 11, 2010

Author Jeff Gerke

So, I’m editing a new project titled Plot Vs. Character by Jeff Gerke, author of the Operation: Firebrand military thriller trilogy. Gerke is a self professed “plot-firster” (a writer whose tendencies lean toward putting the importance of plot before character). Realizing that this was a problem, Gerke set out to improve his understanding of how to create convincing, authentic feeling characters for his elaborate thriller plots- in doing so he came up with a system that he’s set out to share with other writers in his forthcoming book.

In reading the book, I’ve become interested in the idea that many writers have a natural tendency to lean toward characters or plot (or that they’re better at one than the other- sort of like being right-handed or left-handed). Do you find this to be true in your own writing? Take a hard look at your writing process. Do you map out your plot and then switch characters around depending on what role you would have them play? Or do you find yourself examining the psychology of your characters, writing intricate backstories for them, figuring out what makes them tick- then realizing that your story isn’t really going anywhere or that the pacing is slow?

It’s something worth considering. Gerke’s Plot vs. Character will certainly be a great tool in helping you assess your own tendencies. The book is scheduled for October of 2010. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few other opportunities to explore your plot and character work.

The following online courses are currently available through Writer’s Online Workshops and should help you improve your craft in either of these key areas. Check them out:

Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint

Write Great Fiction: Plot and Structure

A couple of nice reviews

February 10, 2010

Here are a couple of reviews for books I’ve helped edit:

Publish Your Nonfiction Book by Sharlene Martin & Anthony Flacco–this insider’s guide to the publishing industry was reviewed by the Huffington PostCheck out the review here

The Art & Craft of Writing Historical Fiction by James Alexander Thom–here’s a nice review on, a site dedicated to the love of period fiction. Read the review here

Both books are available in print and download editions at

Publish Your Nonfiction Book: paperback; PDF download

The Art & Craft of Writing Historical Fiction: paperback; PDF download

Another Monster Spotter mention

February 10, 2010

Sorry to be tooting my own horn so much lately, but I couldn’t resist posting a link to this mention for Monster Spotter’s Guide to North America. This artist named Brian Blacknick makes these cool sea monster sculptures and was inspired by one of the entries in my book.

Check it out

Monday morning

February 8, 2010

After a wintery weekend, I’m back and ready for a new week. My book project was discussed on Friday, and I have an email saying “it’s a maybe.” So here I am, still in limbo (a familiar feeling, right?) The waiting continues.

But this boosted my spirits a bit: My previous book (Monster Spotter’s Guide to North America) was featured on a social sciences website and there were some nice comments. Check it out here

Here’s a great place to get a copy–it’s on sale.

On to my editing projects… Hope everyone’s week is off to a good start.

My new fav online comic

February 2, 2010

I’ve been cracking up reading an online comic called The Oatmeal. It features comic strips of about all kinds of weird stuff, but the artist also seems to have a few pet peeves about misspelling and grammatical errors. Check out these strips about proper spelling and punctuation:

Upcoming events

February 1, 2010

Hope everyone’s week is off to a good start. I’m looking at my calendar and thinking about some things that are coming up and thought I’d share some info on an upcoming opportunity.

  • March Editor’s Intensive (March 13-14, 2010): These events take place at the Writer’s Digest offices and are filled with workshop, panels, and a chance to have a writing sample critiqued by one of our staff editors. It’s a great chance to get ideas on how to improve your work in progress and get ideas for laying the groundwork for your self promotion efforts.
    Learn more here

I always enjoy our editor intensive events and meet a lot of great writers. Hope to see you there (um… here…)!