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Blueprint for novel writing

Writing a novel and building a house are pretty similar when you think about it. For instance, most builders or homeowners spend a lot of time dreaming about their ideal houses, but there comes a time when they have to wake up to the reality of building by analyzing what they expect from a house, and whether the plans they’ve selected will meet their needs. Architects argue that it’s better to build from the inside out.

This is where a home plan checklist comes in handy. This list assembles the key considerations to keep in mind when deciding on a plan, including what are called external monologues, relating primarily to the outside of a house and its environment, and internal (interior) monologues. (The word monologue, in building, refers to a single facet of overall composition on the inside or outside of a house, such as flooring material or landscaping aspects.) Writers spend a lot of time dreaming about their ideal story. Eventually they have to face reality and analyze whether or not the story will work. Authors, too, usually build from the inside out—in other words, they know what they want at the heart of their stories and they build around that.

This is where a Story Plan Checklist becomes essential, because it targets the key considerations necessary when building a cohesive story that readers will find unforgettable. The checklist has basic external and internal monologues.  Monologue, in writing, refers to a single facet of overall composition concerning the internal or external elements, such as conflict and motivation. Generally, these are composed individually in free-form summaries, but they need to develop and grow cohesively.

—Karen S. Wiesner

The Story Plan Checklist can ensure cohesion between character, setting and plot. This checklist connects all the dots between internal and external conflicts, and goals and motivations, thereby guaranteeing the cohesion all stories require. In its most simplified form, a Story Plan Checklist—which you can find an example of at—includes free-form summaries (or monologues) covering each of the following:


•    Working Title
•    Working Genre(s)
•    Working Point-of-View Specification
•    High-Concept Blurb
•    Story Sparks
•    Estimated Length of Book/Number of Sparks


•    Identifying the Main Character(s)
•    Character Introductions
•    Description (outside POV)
•    Description (self POV)
•    Occupational Skills
•    Enhancement/Contrast
•    Symbolic Element (character and/or plot-defining)
•    Setting Descriptions


•    Character Conflicts (internal)
•    Evolving Goals and Motivations
•    Plot Conflicts (external)

I call this list a Story Plan Checklist not only because of its correlation with a home plan checklist, but because if you haven’t considered each of these areas, written something solid about them and checked them off, your story may not be fully fleshed out and cohesive enough. Sooner or later, the basic structure will begin to fall apart.

While you’re in the beginning stages of forming a story plan, sit down and figure out some of the working details (which may change throughout the process).


First, come up with a preliminary title. All you need here is something to reference the project. While you don’t want to lock in your genre too early (stories evolve in unpredictable ways), get started with genre specification. For now, list all the genres this story could fit into.


Now, start thinking about what point of view you want to use for your book. It’s very important to start your Story Plan Checklist with this because the identities of your main characters will play a huge part in your characterization and, subsequently, each of the areas you’ll be summarizing on your checklist. Most stories spark with a character who may end up becoming your main character. Your best bet for deciding which character’s viewpoint to use: In any scene, stick to the view of the character with the most at stake—the one with the most to lose or gain.


The high-concept blurb is a tantalizing sentence—or a short paragraph with up to four sentences (one or two is ideal)—that sums up your entire story, as well as the conflicts, goals and motivations of the main character(s). It’s no easy task. Here’s a simplified explanation of what your sentence needs to contain:

A character (the who) wants a goal (the what) because he’s motivated (the why), but he faces conflict (the why not).

Or you can simply fill in the blanks—whichever works best for you:

(name of character) wants  (goal to be achieved) because  (motivation for acting), but she faces  (conflict standing in the way).


At this point in the checklist, we’ve established the basics of the story and we’re ready for the beginning spark—so crucial to drawing a reader’s interest—followed by the initial external and internal monologues on the Story Plan Checklist. Here, you’ll begin the cohesive development of your story. Most authors start strong because the idea that initially fascinates them guides them through this first portion of the sequence naturally.

A story spark is something intriguing that ignites a story scenario and carries it along toward fruition. It’s that “aha!” moment when a writer thinks up something that completely captures his imagination, and he must see how it unfurls and concludes. I dare say there’s not a writer alive who hasn’t come up with one idea that blows the mind. However, most don’t realize that a story has to have more than one of these sparks to sustain it. A story spark must infuse and re-infuse the story, and a new one must be injected at certain points in order to support the length and complexity of the story.

Most novels up to 75,000 words have three story sparks: one for the beginning, one for the middle and one for the end. The beginning spark sets up the conflict. The middle spark (or possibly more than one middle spark) complicates the situation. Finally, the end spark resolves the conflict and situation. Short stories, flash fiction and novellas usually have only one or two sparks (beginning and ending). All of these sparks absolutely must be cohesive to ensure a solid story.


The more sparks you include, the longer and more complex your book will be. It’s hard to get around that, so plan accordingly. But don’t consider it the end of the world if your “little” idea evolves into something big and beautiful. With that in mind, a story of more than 75,000 words may have an excess of three basic sparks, especially in the middle, because a longer story needs complexity to sustain it. A middle story spark can appear anywhere after the beginning one—before the end—though it usually appears somewhere toward the halfway mark of the book.

To give you a basic idea of how many sparks you’ll need for a novel, you can figure that if you have an estimated 250 words per page:

•    up to 75,000 words = 300 pages (3 sparks)

•    90,000 words = 360 pages (4 sparks)

•    100,000 words = 400 pages (4+ sparks)

You might also make a note about where you want to place the extra spark(s). In general, extra sparks should come in the beginning or middle of the book.

There’s a tendency for authors to include too much back story and action in the beginning, but you don’t want your story to be overdone from the get-go. Starting with focused action and back story is the best way to do it. Then, dribble more in when the story is capable of accepting it in the middle. The end won’t need more than one spark because you’re winding down at that point, rather than introducing new ideas.

In your quest to form a cohesive story plan, sit down and figure out the working details (which may—and should—evolve throughout the progression of the story).


If you have no idea who your main characters are, chances are this particular story needs a lot more brainstorming. Even if your story is more plot than character oriented, brainstorming on your characters until you can fully envision them—i.e., filling out character sketches and writing a Story Plan Checklist—will help immensely.

In this section of the checklist, simply list the names of the main characters. While a complex book will have more primary and secondary characters (in fact, that seems to be a trend I’m not sure I can get on board with, considering how difficult it is to keep up with 10-plus POV characters in a single book), most 75,000 to 90,000-word stories have, at least in terms of main characters, a hero, a heroine and/or a villain.


The introduction of a character in the Story Plan Checklist is a springboard into finding out more about him. It’s like meeting someone for the first time—you say your name and a few pertinent details about yourself. In the checklist, you list a name and the character’s role in the story. Each of your main characters will have particular skills that are shaped specifically for the plot, and that’s really what you’re introducing in this section of the checklist. Some of these could and should be carefully selected occupational skills, but most will go far deeper than that.


If you’re using a third-person omniscient POV, chances are your main characters will be described by other characters. Although this kind of description can include physical appearances, it should always incorporate impressions made by your characters upon the ones around them. You can (but don’t have to, as the checklist is only for your own use) describe the main characters from each individual viewpoint in the book. Or your summary can simply encompass the most basic impressions without ascribing them to the person offering them.


Very few people describe themselves the same way others do. That makes it even more important for main characters to describe themselves, because the reader gets a strong sense of who your players are with both outside and inside descriptions. In essence, these are like mini first-person profiles. The characters talk about themselves, and sometimes give their impressions of others.


Especially in a work of fiction, what the characters do is pivotal to their personalities and motivations. Just about everything hinges on these interests, hobbies or jobs. What the character does for a living (or doesn’t do, if he doesn’t have a job), gives him the necessary skills to deal with the conflicts he’s facing in the story. To build the form of cohesion we’ve been talking about, the character’s skills should be directly related to either his internal or external conflicts. In the best-case scenario, his skills will connect to both in some way.


If you want to create a truly unique character—and what writer doesn’t?—the best way to do so is by providing his personality with enhancements and contrasts. Enhancements are the subtle, balanced or extreme elements that complement what the writer has already established as traits for that character. Enhancements are personality traits that make a character uniquely larger than life. A writer can’t create a truly average Joe because he would be boring to read. In the fictional world, an author may present a hero who seems ordinary at first glance, but something makes him stand apart. This something may not be revealed until later, when his quality is tested.

A contrast, which can also be subtle and quite nuanced, balanced or extreme, is an element that’s in opposition to what the writer has already established as traits for that character. A personality contrast is one of the best and most frequently used ways of making a character rise memorably to the spotlight. Few readers want to know a hero who advertises “Hero for Hire—Inquire Within” on a sign outside his office. The hero who’s optimistic to a fault, whiter than snow and perfect in every way is dull.

Flawed (but likeable!) characters are the ones readers root for, because a character without flaws or fears is a character without conflicts. Readers know that true courage is facing what you fear most, pursuing your goals and not giving up even when there’s little chance of success. Readers go crazy for a rough and raw, imperfect hero with more baggage (of the emotional kind) than a pampered socialite. An eternal pessimist, he wants nothing to do with the title, let alone the job; he’s only forced into it by an oft-buried sense of nobility, or because something or someone he cares about deeply is in danger.

One way to develop a main character is by introducing another main, secondary or minor character (love interest, family member, friend or villain) who either enhances or contrasts his personality. You’ll see the saving-herself-for-marriage woman paired with a slutty best friend. The street-smart guy with the 4.0 GPA buddy. The happily married accountant with 2.5 kids, living vicariously through his footloose, unfettered college buddy who’s been to every corner of the globe on one hair-raising adventure after another.

As a general rule, a character who’s an extremist in any regard (whether hard, obsessive, ruthless, etc.) will need someone or something to soften him. In a character who’s more balanced, an enhancement or contrast may be more subtle, but should be just as effective. Whatever you do, choose characteristics that’ll be necessary at some point in the book, that don’t hit the reader over the head and that advance each story element.


Another effective means of developing character is to give him a symbol that defines him, defines the situation he’s in, or both. These symbols are sometimes called by the music term leitmotif. In the writing world, we use them to associate characters, objects, events and emotions. Each appearance makes them more intense and meaningful.

Whether you make symbols subtle or well defined, they take on layers of meaning each time they’re mentioned, and they become an integral part of the story. As a general rule, every character should have only one associated symbol, but if you have a total of two in the book, one of them should be subtle, while the other should be well defined. The point is to enhance or contrast, not take over the story so the symbol becomes the focal point when you have no desire for it to be.

The symbol can be tangible, in the form of something that defines the character, setting and plot in some way—a piano, pet, flower, key, map or necklace—but it doesn’t have to be. It can be a trait or mannerism the character uses frequently that says something about him and/or develops the character, setting and plot. It can also be a hobby or vice, or a disability or disfigurement, such as a scar. This tangible or intangible symbol also must be cohesive and not thrown in for the fun of it. In one way or another, it has to enhance or contrast—and thereby develop—your story in deeper ways.

Build in symbols to make your plot, setting and characters a seamless trinity. The nice thing about incorporating cohesive symbols is that while it’s ideal to do this before you begin writing the book, it’s never too late to come up with this kind of enhancement.


Your setting is a basis for building your story—it enhances the characters, conflict and suspense, and provides a place for all three to flourish. If your setting doesn’t match the other elements, you’ll work harder at creating fitting characters and plots. Additionally, it will be hard to create the appropriate mood. In any case, you’ll have to find a skillful way to play against the contrast of setting.

The importance of creating a setting cohesive with character and plot can be illustrated by imagining different settings for classic novels. What if Moby Dick, instead of being set at sea, had been set in, say, a lighthouse? Moby Dick wouldn’t have been the novel that’s become so well known if the setting had been anywhere else but where the author put it.

Describe your setting in such a way that it not only becomes evident how the characters and plot fit there, but super-charges your whole story. What does the setting reveal about the character’s personality? What in the setting means the most to him? How will this setting create the stage for conflict and suspense? How can you make it so real that your reader will believe the place actually exists?

The purpose in writing setting descriptions is to allow the reader to “see” what the main character sees, as well as to give a sense of the characters. Very few characters will notice every detail of their surroundings. A character notices the things in his setting that are important to him at the moment. In other words, focus the description. Describe only what means the most to the character, what enhances the mood you’re attempting to create. If the description doesn’t advance some part of the character, setting or plot development, it’s probably unnecessary.

The crucial need for cohesive character, setting and plot becomes boldly evident in these next steps—which are truly the heart of your story. Life is conflict, and fiction even more so. Without conflict, you don’t have a story. For every spark your story has, you’ll check off one of each of the following items for all the major characters. This is optional for secondary and minor characters.


Internal character conflicts are emotional problems brought about by external conflicts that make a character reluctant to achieve a goal because of his own roadblocks. They keep him from learning a life lesson and making the choice to act.

In fiction, character conflicts are why plot conflicts can’t be resolved. Simply put, the character can’t reach his goal until he faces the conflict. (Sounds a bit like not getting dessert until the vegetables are eaten, and that’s pretty accurate.) The audience must be able to identify with the internal and external conflicts the character faces in order to be involved and to care about the outcome. Character growth throughout the story is key to a satisfactory resolution.

Keep in mind that clearly defined conflicts are ones that won’t hit your reader over the head or frustrate her. If you as the writer don’t quite understand the conflicts in your story, your instinct will be to compensate by bombarding the story with unfocused ideas. The reader won’t find it any easier to sort through them and identify the true conflict. Vaguely defined conflicts usually lead to the reader putting down a book for good.

Your first story spark will usually suggest what the character’s conflicts are, and they’re almost always based on someone or something threatening what the character cares about passionately. In some instances, a loved one is in jeopardy, or something the character wants, needs or desires above all is at risk of being lost. It’s your job to give the character incentives not to give up until everyone is safe and he has what he’s fighting for.

Internal conflicts are different than external ones, but they’re related causally—the best definition of conflict I’ve heard is “can’t have one without the other.” Internal and external conflicts depend on each other, and therefore they need to be cohesive. Internal conflicts are all about characters, and external conflicts are all about plot. But keep this in mind, lest confusion creep in: Both internal and external plots belong to the main character(s). After all, if both didn’t affect him in some profound way, they wouldn’t be conflicts, and therefore wouldn’t even be part of his story.


Goals are what the character wants, needs or desires above all else. Motivation is what gives him drive and purpose to achieve those goals. Goals must be urgent enough for the character to go through hardship and self-sacrifice.

Multiple goals collide and impact the characters, forcing tough choices. Focused on the goal, the character is pushed toward it by believable, emotional and compelling motivations that won’t let him quit. Because he cares deeply about the outcome, his anxiety is doubled. The intensity of his anxiety pressures him to make choices and changes, thereby creating worry and awe in the reader.

Goals and motivations are constantly evolving (not changing, necessarily, but growing in depth, intensity and scope) to fit character and plot conflicts. Your character’s goals and motivations will evolve every time you introduce a new story spark because he’s modifying his actions based on the course his conflicts are dictating.

Beginning goals and motivations don’t generally change as much as they become refined to the increasing intensity of the conflicts—though this must be clarified when looking at complex novels, especially mysteries that must include red herrings and foils to keep the reader guessing.


External plot conflict is the tangible central or outer problem standing squarely in the character’s way. It must be faced and solved. The character wants to restore the stability that was taken from him by the external conflict, and this produces his desire to act. However, a character’s internal conflicts will create an agonizing tug of war with the plot conflicts. He has to make tough choices that come down to whether or not he should face, act on, and solve the problem.

Plot conflicts must be so urgent as to require immediate attention. The audience must be able to identify with both the internal and external conflicts the character faces in order to be involved enough to care about the outcome. Plot conflicts work hand-in-glove with character conflicts. You can’t have one without the other, and they become more intense and focused the longer the characters struggle. The stakes are raised, choices are limited and failure and loss are inevitable.

The first layer of a story is created when you plan for and lay the foundation. By using a checklist and analyzing the monologues, you’ll be prepared to craft an extremely strong initial layer—one capable of supporting everything you build on it afterward.

Want to learn more? You can write a novel in one month—seriously. Just follow the plan set forth in:
Book in a Month

Also check out these items that will help you write and publish your novel:

Get Your book noticed

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What is your platform?

By PR Expert Pam Perry

Find your “book hook.” Get some SWAGGER! Do your social media swag and build a list of raving fans online before the book is even published. That’s how you become a best-seller.

platform building

photo credit: Michael Hyatt

As an author, you want to get your message “out there!”
But what do you want to say?
Are you an expert? An evangelist? A life coach?
Do you want to position yourself as a “brain” or a “creative” – or do you have endorsements that will speak volumes for you?
Whoever endorses your book will “pin point” how you will be perceived/branded in the market. An endorsement from the right person can yield tons of media interviews and make you sales. It’s an art of knowing how to get them and make them work for you.

Make sure your message that you communicate makes the media say “wow” and not yawn.
Ask others what they see? If they are say the sorta the same things, that’s your USP.
Honestly answer this: Why is your book worthy of media attention?Is it really news? Or are you just trying to make a SALE? Know how to pitch the media (More on that later).

For now, Do this:

1. Build your platform BEFORE YOU PUBLISH that masterpiece.
2. Talk to everyone you know, network, get a marketing mindset! Talk it up, a lot. Blog about it, a lot.
3. Before you finish the book, start building your tribe. Cultivate an email list. Become a master at social media. (See video below from my friend, Lamar Tyler)
4. Get bookings to teach/speak on your topic and work your way up to several a week if you can. Make your initial mistakes locally, and build a devoted following close to home.
5. Take speaking, voice or acting lessons, or hire a media or PR coach. Be comfortable presenting your information. Make it exciting!
6. Join the local Toastmasters or the National Speakers Association or Junior Achievement. The point:  practice speaking in front of people, get feedback and make contacts for other speaking gigs.
 7. Video yourself; critique yourself; and practice a lot.   You want to shine for the media and make your “followers” and tribe proud.

5 tips for avoiding distraction


Guest column by Anne Lyle, author of THE ALCHEMIST OF SOULS
(Angry Robot, March 2012). Publishers Weekly said of the book,
“”Impressive … With an effective mix of espionage, backstage drama, and 
mystery, Lyle provides compelling drama in an intriguing setting.”
Visit Ann’s website or find her on Twitter.


1. Put your computer aside and write the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper. Sure you’ll have to type it up afterwards, but you can edit the prose as you go, so it’s not wasted time. Also, you can take your notepad anywhere, and you never have to worry about recharging batteries (though it’s wise to carry a spare pen!).

2. If you’re a committed typist, try using a non-internet-capable device. You might be able to get hold of an old, wifi-less laptop for next to nothing, or you can buy a dedicated word-processor. I wrote the first drafts of my two completed novels on my Alphasmart ( – a full-sized keyboard with built-in storage that syncs to your computer via USB. The LCD screen is just large enough to show a few lines of text, reducing the temptation to edit, and its impressive 700-hour battery life means you never have to worry about being near a power socket.

3. If you can’t afford new hardware, how about turning off your computer’s WiFi connection? It is admittedly rather easy to turn back on with a couple of mouse clicks, but you at least have to make the active choice to do so.

4. If you need the internet for research whilst writing, or are tempted by games, there are software applications that will limit your computer activity in ways that you define. I use Concentrate, a Mac program that will allow me to access the web but block certain websites (such as and also disable Twitter programs and email. You just set up a profile and then activate it when you want to focus on your work. Concentrate includes the ability to set a default time limit – I usually set mine to 30 minutes, which is enough to get some work done without feeling itchy about checking my email!

5. If you’ve tried all of these and you’re still having trouble focusing, consider whether there might be a good reason underlying your restlessness. Maybe you’re just too tired or ill, or have niggling non-writing worries, in which case you need to give yourself permission to take a break from writing to sort yourself out. Or maybe you’re burned out from constant writing. That age-old advice to write every day? Not written in stone. Even if you’re working to a contracted deadline, you need to schedule days off to recharge your batteries now and then. Take a day trip, curl up with a good book, or spend time on that neglected but satisfying hobby. Remember, all work and no play makes Jackie a dull writer!


9 editing tips that make your writing sparkle


By Suzannah Freeman

It’s often said that writing is rewriting.

Banging out a quick first draft can be fun, but the real grunt work comes in revising your work.

Here are nine editing tips that can help you polish your writing until it sparkles:

1. Read aloud

When you become too familiar with a piece of writing, suddenly it’s more difficult to spot weaknesses and errors. Instead of trusting your eyes to take on all the hard work, read your writing aloud, which forces you to slow down.

2. Record yourself

Better than just reading your work aloud is recording yourself (most computers have a voice recording program already installed). When you play back the clip, you’ll be able to hear the weaknesses in your manuscript.

3. Take a break

Don’t write the last word of your first draft and then launch into editing mode straight away. Taking a break of at least 24 hours from a piece of writing will bring to light all sorts of issues you never would have noticed.

4. Cut unnecessary words and phrases

If your sentence makes sense without using a particular word, cut it. Particular offenders are “that,” “in order to,” and “each and every.” By using unnecessary words, you’re actually diluting your message’s power.

5. Reword passive voice

“A passive construction occurs when you make the object of an action into the subject of a sentence,” says this university web resource. Instead of saying “The door was slammed by Joe,” say, “Joe slammed the door.” Choose “Stephen broke my heart!” over, “My heart was broken by Stephen!”

6. Identify your crutch words

Have you ever re-read a piece of your writing, only to find you’ve used the same word twice in the same sentence, or three times in the same paragraph? We rarely notice this happening until the editing stage. Keep a handy list of words you tend to overuse, then use your computer’s search function to spot them when you edit.

7. Check your transitions

“The most convincing ideas in the world, expressed in the most beautiful sentences, will move no one unless those ideas are properly connected,” (The Guide to Grammar and Writing). Do you jump from one thought to another? Have you taken care to conclude one point before you segue into the next? It’s important to ensure smooth transitions between paragraphs, sections, or chapters of your writing.

8. Replace cliches

We often write cliched words or phrases without even thinking about them, simply because they’re so ingrained in our manner of speaking. Is there a better way to rephrase those cliches so you use more original and powerful language?

9. Vary your sentence structure

Nothing is more annoying than reading the same sentence structure or length over and over again. Very short, choppy sentences get old quickly, and long, rambling ones frustrate readers. Vary the length of your sentences, and their structure, for a more fluid reading experience.

Polished Writing

No matter what you’re writing or what audience you’re writing for, you’ll want to put your best foot forward. Follow these guidelines when you revise your work, and you’ll notice improvement immediately.

What strategies do you use to help you edit your work?


About the Author: Suzannah Windsor Freeman is the founder of Write It Sideways, a blog where writers learn new skills, define their goals, and increase their productivity. She is co-founder of the Better Writing Habits challenge.

9 Steps to writing a book

Complete Your First Book with these

9 Simple Writing Habits

Your first book isn't going to happen by itself. If writing a novel or non-fiction book is something you've dreamed of, the only way to make that dream a reality is by putting it into action -- day by day.

And the best way to do that is to develop some simple habits that will make the dream a reality, one step at a time.

I've learned a lot about writing habits over the years. As a journalist, a freelance writer, and a speech writer, I've written thousands of articles over the last 17 years. I've also written a novel, numerous short stories, a couple ebooks, and am now working on a non-fiction book. It's a struggle, daily.

But I've found that certain habits go a long way, and after awhile, they're not as difficult as they are during the first week or so. Get past that first-week hump, and it'll get easier. And that dream of your first book will come true.

Note on forming habits: I recommend trying to form only one of these habits at a time, starting with the first one and working downwards. Focus on each for at least 2-3 weeks, until it is ingrained. Then move on to the next.
  1. Writing time
    The most important habit you can form is the daily writing habit. Even if you only write a page or two in a day, that's OK. The important thing is to do it. Eventually, you'll get there. Some days will be good, some will be not so good. Still sit down to write. It's important that you have one dedicated time for writing. You might do more, at other times, but make that one time be sacred. It might be first thing in the morning, right after lunch, right after work, or right before bed. Choose a time that you can do every single day, without fail. Dedicate at least 30 minutes to writing ... at first. Later, you'll need at least an hour, preferably two.

  2. Simple tools
    Get into the habit of focusing on the writing, and not the tools. You need to block out all distractions, especially Internet and email. Disconnect from the Internet, turn off the phones, plug some headphones into your ears to block out other distractions, clear your desk. If you use a pen and pad, choose simple ones. If you use a computer, use the simplest word processor or text editor possible. I recommend Dark Room or WriteRoom or some variant thereof -- just plain text, with no formatting, in full screen mode. It's you and the words and nothing else.

  3. Writing log
    This can be as simple as how many words you wrote today. Check your word count when you finish, and log it in. You could also add in notes about what you wrote, how you feel about it, etc., but the important thing is to log it in so you can see your progress over time. It helps enforce the daily writing habit, and it motivates you to keep going.

  4. Idea time
    You will probably be thinking about your book all day, if you're engrossed in it, but it's good to make it a habit to think about your book at certain times of the day. Exercise is a great time for that, as is house cleaning, driving, walking, government work, and any other activity where you don't need to think much. Make that time dedicated to thinking about the book.

  5. Capture ideas
    You will have ideas at different times of day, in different places. You will overhear dialog that you want to remember. You will think of brilliant character flaws while at the grocery store. You'll think of eccentric plot twists while driving. You need some way to capture ideas -- I suggest a notebook or index cards, but whatever works for you is fine. More importantly, you need to make it a habit to write your ideas down wherever you go.

  6. Just start
    There will be days when you don't feel like writing. That may actually be every day. But if you let that stop you, you'll never write a thing. Instead, you need to make it a habit to just start writing. It doesn't matter what you write, or whether it's any good. Just start. Make your fingers move. I find a good way to start is by typing something ritualistic, such as my byline on an article, or common formatting stuff. That gets my typing going, and then I just continue that. Once you get started, you might find that writing will come easier. In any case, get into the habit of just starting, no matter what.

  7. Write when inspired
    In addition to the routine writing time you designate (in Item #1 above), there will be other times when you'll want to write. Especially when you get a burst of energy or inspiration. You need to get into the habit of taking advantage of those times, and sitting down and writing immediately. Even if you're not at your computer, have your idea notebook, and just start writing. Inspiration comes at the most inopportune times -- you need to use it whenever it comes.

  8. Revise
    The dreaded word for many a writer, but revision is one of the most important aspects of the writing process. No one gets it right in the first draft. No one. If you aren't willing to revise, you might as well not write. But you don't need to develop this habit right away. Get into the writing habit first, and then begin developing rewrite habits. My suggestion is to begin half an hour of rewrite time, daily, after a month or two of developing the writing habit.

  9. Book bible
    Most writers won't bother with this, but that's a mistake. If you are serious about your writing, a book bible is a must-have. However, you can work on that last. This is ideally a binder with everything about your book contained in its pages: plot outline, character sketches, notes, bits of dialog, small details, scene description, research, etc. You'll find this extremely useful. The habit to develop: get a binder, write notes on characters, plot, scene, dialog, and keep it updated, as soon as you're done writing. So: write, log it, then update your book bible.
Written for on 09/12/2007 by Leo Babauta and republished on 4/30/10. Leo offers advice on living life productively simple at his famous Zen Habitsblog.Photo Credit:dragongirl

How to Market Your Fan Page With the New Facebook Changes

Feature Article: How to Market Your Fan Page With the New Facebook Changes


Facebook expert Amy Porterfield shares some insights into the recent changes.
First up, Amy can you tell us what the biggest difference is with the new Fan Page changes?
Here's the thing, it is no longer about the number of Likes. Just because you have a lot of likes, a lot of fans, doesn't mean you're going to have success on Facebook. If you want bottom-line results you must create ways to keep fans coming back for more, collect leads from quality fans and get them to take action inside and outside of Facebook.
With all the new changes, Pages are now more visually stimulating, which means that you can actually get more engagement just by the fact that there's a new layout on your Facebook page. To couple that with some of these strategies we'll talk about in this article, you'll have some surefire ways to get more action from your Facebook fans.

A lot of people are concerned that their Welcome Tab is gone and there's a new cover photo, can you tell us about that?
You bet. First let's go over the Timeline Cover Photo. Here are some specifics about these changes. Now you're going to have a big cover photo on the top. That big cover photo is a great opportunity for you to brand your business.
First of all what you need to know is the specs for that cover photo are 851 x 315 pixels. I know 851 is kind of an odd number but the closer you get to that, the crisper your photo is going to be, it's not going to be blurry or it's not going to be stretched too much or whatever.
Also, you have a new profile image. Here's an example of Coca Cola's page where you see the little profile image on the left. That image is 180 x 180 pixels.

Here's the frustrating thing about these new timeline covers for pages. There are a lot of restrictions. You can see these right on the Facebook Blog, too:
* Facebook says that you cannot include price or purchase info, such as 40% off or Download it at our website, you can't put that type of information on your cover photo.
* You also cannot include contact information such as web address, email, mailing address or any other info intended for your About section on your Facebook page. You know we all have that About section where we can give details of how to reach us. They don't want that type of information on your cover photo.
* In addition, you cannot reference a user interface element. What that means is you can't say "Like" or "Share" or any other Facebook site features. They don't want you to say Like our page or Share our information on Facebook on that cover photo.
* No calls to action, which is the hugest bummer. You can't do "Get it Now" or "Tell Your Friends" or "Sign up here" or "Go here to get more info;" you can't do any type of call to action.
* Facebook says that the cover timeline photo is not meant for promotions, coupons or advertisements.
* They also say that the cover photo should not be primarily text-based or infringe on anyone else's copyright.

As you can see, these timeline restrictions are pretty strict. There are a lot of things that we cannot do on the timeline cover. Here are some examples of what other companies have done with their cover photo:
They have a really cool image, it's colorful, it catches your attention and it makes things interesting on their page. You could just go with

Facebook is rolling out something called Applications, or Apps, can you speak to that?
Along with the timeline cover photos being a huge change on Facebook, Facebook has also changed how we use tabs. Tabs used to be on the left column of our Facebook page - now tabs are called Apps. Tabs and Apps - those words are pretty much interchangeable right now. It's your custom page that you can create inside your Facebook page. The specs for these custom apps are now 810 pixels wide which really allow you to do so much more with your custom pages inside Facebook then you ever could before. I'm going to show you some examples of this.
In addition to that, Facebook has also allowed you to create thumbnails to highlight your different applications. You can create thumbnails that have an image on top of them. That image could be 111 x 74 pixels, kind of a weird number but trust me these are the best dimensions to make your images look really great.

You cannot have thumbnail images on top of photos, videos, notes, likes and events. Those application boxes cannot be changed. Also you can move around your thumbnails and you can have up to 12 applications on your Facebook page.
If you go to my Facebook page, right below my cover image you'll see my applications and you'll only see the top four unless you click that button on the right, then it will be a drop down and you'll see the other four. What's cool about this is I was able to create custom thumbnail images for the three you're seeing right there on top and the two on the bottom; Social Media Updates, Free Video Series, Webinars, those are all thumbnails that I created. I've created the jpeg image then uploaded it.

There are some strategies for thumbnails that I want you to think about:
* Create a reason to click inside your thumbnail - as you saw, I have Social Media Updates, Free Video Series, these are things that I know my ideal audience will find valuable.
* Get strategic with the three apps above the fold - those three that you saw next to the big thumbs up; those three you can move around. Make sure those are the best three you have on top because until someone clicks that blue arrow to the right that I showed you, they won't see the ones below it.
* Rename the app itself, and you should think in terms of getting your fans to take action.
There's a lot you can do with the Applications or Apps, and we'll talk about that in part two of our Facebook Fan Page Marketing strategy session with Amy Porterfield.

Here's the great webinar I reference in this article:

Amy Porterfield is the co-author of Facebook Marketing All-In-One for Dummies and a Social Media Strategist for entrepreneurs and small businesses. With 12+ years marketing experience, Amy has worked with mega brands like Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, along with Tony Robbins International where she oversaw his content marketing team and collaborated on multiple online marketing campaigns. She currently creates online programs to teach entrepreneurs and small businesses how to leverage social media to gain greater exposure, attract quality leads and turn their fans and followers into loyal customers. To learn more about Facebook and social media for your business, check out Amy's blog:



When do you Need to secure permissions?



With more authors publishing independently than ever, I’m hearing more questions about rights and permissions. It’s a tough issue to navigate without having an experienced editor or agent to guide you.

I hope to provide some clarity on permissions in this post. Permissions is all about seeking permission to use other people’s copyrighted work within your own. This means you contact the copyright owner of the work (or their publisher or agent), and request permission to use the work. Most publishers have a formal process that includes paperwork, e.g., a contract to sign. Often, you are charged a fee for the use, anywhere from a few dollars to thousands of dollars.

When do you NOT need to seek permission?

  • When the work is in public domain. This isn’t a terribly easy thing to determine, but any work published before 1923 is in the public domain. Some works published after 1923 are also in the public domain. Read this guide from Stanford about how to determine if a work is in the public domain.
  • When simply mentioning the title or author of a work. You do not need permission to mention the title of someone’s work. It’s like citing a fact.
  • When you abide by fair use guidelines. If you’re only quoting a few lines from a full-length book, you are likely within fair use guidelines, and do not need to seek permission. See more about fair use below.
  • When the work is licensed under Creative Commons. If this is the case, you should see this prominently declared on the work itself as an alternative to the copyright symbol. For instance, the book Mediactive is licensed under Creative Commons, and so are many sites and blogs.

When DO you need to seek permission? When you use copyrighted material in such a way that it cannot be considered fair use.

Crediting the source does not remove the obligation to seek permission. It is expected that you always credit your source regardless of fair use; otherwise, you are plagiarizing. 

A Brief Explanation of Fair Use

There are four criteria for determining fair use, which sounds tidy, but it’s not. These criteria are vague and open to interpretation. Ultimately, when disagreement arises over what constitutes fair use, it’s up to the courts to make a decision.

The four criteria are:

  1. the purpose and character of the use (e.g., commercial vs. not-for-profit/educational). If the purpose of your work is commercial (to make money), that doesn’t mean you’re suddenly in violation of fair use. But it makes your case less sympathetic if you’re borrowing a lot of someone else’s work to prop up your own commercial venture.
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work. Facts cannot be copyrighted. For that reason, more creative or imaginative works generally get the strongest protection.
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the entire quoted work. The law does not offer any percentage or word count here that we can go by. That’s because if the portion quoted is considered the most valuable part of the work, you may be violating fair use. That said, most publishers’ guidelines for authors offer a rule of thumb; at the publisher I worked at, that guideline was 200-300 words from a book-length work in a teaching/educational context. Be careful whenever quoting song lyrics or poems; it is nearly impossible to use them without needing permission, unless it’s an epicsong or poem.
  4. the effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the quoted work. If your use of the original work in any way damages the likelihood that people will buy the original work, you are in violation of fair use.

To further explore what these four criteria mean in practice, be sure to read this excellent article by attorney Howard Zaharoff that originally appeared in Writer’s Digest magazine: “A Writers’ Guide to Fair Use.”

Does this apply to use of copyrighted work on websites, blogs, digital mediums, etc?

Technically, yes, but attitudes tend to be more lax. When bloggers (or others) aggregate, repurpose, or otherwise excerpt copyrighted work (whether it originates online or offline), they typically view such use as “sharing” or “publicity” for the original author rather than as a copyright violation, especially if it’s for noncommercial or educational purposes. (I’m not talking about wholesale piracy here, but about extensive excerpting or aggregating that would not be considered OK in mass mediums.) In short, it’s a controversial issue.

What questions are you left with? What needs further clarification? Let me know in the comments.


fitting your author life into your real life


Article by Arielle Ford

With each new year comes a fresh crop of aspiring authors prepped to inspire, excite, and motivate. To help you join that much-anticipated (and forever adored) group, I want to give you even more tools for achieving your dreams as an author.

In my last two posts I discussed how to wire your brain for success and awaken your creative genius. Today, I want to touch on an equally common issue -- how to fit book writing, promotion, and platform building into your already busy life.

The solution, of course, comes in many shades of gray. As you know by now, most authors write when they're not working full-time jobs or running the business that supports their life. Many are married, some are parents, and yet others dedicate their personal time to friends, hobbies, family and pets.

To help you create rituals that advance your dream of becoming the next big breakout author, I gathered input from three recently successful authors: Rich German, Kevin Hansen and Kailin Gow. Together, this group handles a wide array of professional and personal commitments -- when they're not busy being successful authors, that is.

Here are their recommendations (and my own) for how to fit your author life into your real life:

Schedule "me" mornings. "You've got to have a morning ritual," says Rich German, author ofMonetize Your Passion, who also runs a busy coaching business and non-profit. Exercise, meditate, and do whatever it is you do to take care of yourself. You need to "create a routine that gets you mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally ready for your day." The extra energy, focus and mental stamina you gain as a result puts you ahead of the game before you've even begun.

As a full-time employee, business owner, and author, I agree with Rich 100 percent. My mornings are sacred, time when I take an energizing walk and play with my cats. I also say a prayer at the start of each day that I learned in the "Course of Miracles":

"Dear God, on this day where would you have me go? What would you have me do? What would you have me say and to whom?"

Reciting those words settles my mind and leaves me open to each day's wonders and challenges.

List it out. Almost all of the authors in this group rely on lists. Instead of focusing on everything you need to do, however, focus on what you need to do today. List out tasks for your day, or possibly your week, but beware of the miles-long list that depletes your energy and gives you a slight migraine.

Forgo "timewasters." With two kids, a full-time job and a busy second career as the author ofSecret Regrets, Kevin Hansen has learned to slice and dice his days, focusing only on tasks that have a real impact. For every item on your list, he recommends asking yourself this question: Is this important to me completing my mission? Then complete only the tasks that jive with your highest priority goals.

Seize each (and every) moment. Working-parents-turned-authors often get an especially heavy dose of frenzy in their days. Instead of letting the quick pace of her life defeat her, Kailin Gow, author of multiple young adult fiction series, is driven by it. Rather than worry about how many hours you are (or aren't) spending on your author career, just dive in and use the time you do have. You'll be amazed at how quickly those five, 10 and 15-minute windows add up.

Learn the all-important two-letter word. One of the biggest reasons I'm able to hold a full-time job, run my businesses, and be a successful author (while also having a life) is my ability to use one critical word: No. I regularly say no to interesting invitations, opportunities, parties, and lunches. If I don't say no, I can't get what I really need to get done, done. The payoff, for me, is going to sleep with peace of mind, knowing I'm doing everything I can to realize my dreams.

While I'll admit that I've never met an author who claimed it was "easy" to earn a living, be an author, and have a life at once, I'll also say that I've met dozens and dozens who rave about how much their author careers have contributed to their lives. With that in mind, I hope these tips and insights help you make your author dreams real in 2012 and beyond!

Arielle Ford has launched the careers of many NY Times bestselling authors including Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Neale Donald Walsch & Debbie Ford. She is a former book publicist, literary agent and the author of seven books.


Sylvia Hubbard will be presenting a workshop entitled, How to Find Time to Write When You Have No Time to Write  at the 2012 Anointed Pen Conference for Christian Writers.




Your "Story" will make room for you

Your ‘Story’ Will Make Room For You

by PERRY+WILLIAMSON on Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 2:28pm

Have you ever thought, "if only more people could hear my message?"

You're not alone. We hear this from almost every client we work with -- from the beginners to bestsellers.


Most people think that getting heard is about talent, or having the right contacts. Both are important. But the real problem is something else.


If you want to sell more books, get more speaking engagements, and make a bigger difference in the world, the first thing you must do is get people's attention and attention, in today's noisy, social-media world, is scarce.


To be heard, two factors must be true:


(1) First, you must have something remarkable to say, and

(2) Second, you must say it in a way that spreads.

Your story is a big part of the "something remarkable" you have to say. 

Facts tell, stories sell.


Telling your story cuts through the noise, helps people relate to you, like you, and buy your stuff.

Simply put, just like your gift makes room for you, your story will too.


What’s your story?


Your story is a product of your life experiences -- who you are, where you're from, what makes you tick -- leverage to communicate the benefit and value of what you have to offer.


Ok, time for action:

I've included with this article, an exercise we use with clients. There's a link at the end of this article or visit


Instructions: Make a list of the top five objectives, questions or points you get or want to make about your products, services or cause. Then, identify a story you can tell to make that point. Continue building a library of stories, examples and testimonials you can use.


Learn to share purposeful stories and you can write your own ticket.  Until you do, you'll continue to struggle trying to shout above the crowd.


- Ramon Williamson

Links to Must Have information for Successful Scribes

Pam Perry on Branding

Do You dream in paragraphs?


Awake or asleep, creative writers are dreamers. But what’s the connection between writing and the dreams that come of their own accord at night? And how can a writer tap into this rich source of inspiration and creative energy?

If a writer can forge a link between the imagery and symbolism of their dreams and the power of their own writing, creative sparks will fly. Sometimes a snippet of a dream is all it takes to inspire a poem, story, or novel.

Examples Of Stories That Were Sprung From Dreams

Richard Bach was moved to write the first few chapters of Jonathan Livingston Seagull after he heard “a disembodied voice” whisper the title in his ear. But it wasn’t until eight years later, after a dream that featured the famous seagull, that he was able to finish his hugely popular novella.

Stephen King, too, has looked to dreams for inspiration. In Writers Dreaming by Naomi Epel, King says, “…when I got road-blocked in my novel It, I had a dream about leeches inside discarded refrigerators. I immediately woke up and thought, ‘That is where this is supposed to go.’”

Mary Shelley wasn’t even fully asleep—she lay down and closed her eyes and was haunted by a ghastly mental image that inspired her to write Frankenstein. “I began that day with the words, ‘It was on a dreary night of November,’ making only a transcript of the grim terrors of my waking dream.”

Even if a writer’s dreams don’t have a direct influence on their work, their creative energy can generate forward movement. Maurice Sendak, in Writers Dreaming, says, “What dreams do is raise the emotional level of what I’m doing at the moment. They add color or counterpoint to the work, acting as an almost symphonic accompaniment to what I’m doing.”

How to Make the Most of Your Dreams

1. Pay attention to your dreams and jot down notes about them as soon as possible when you wake up. You may be able to glean general ideas—themes, plot, characters, or settings—from the wild tangle of images, if not the full concept of a novel. Dreams can certainly be a jumping-off point for the creative process.

2. Try making a conscious effort, before going to sleep, to be present and aware in your dreams that night. Some people describe being aware of dreaming while in the midst of a dream and are able to participate more fully in the dream or even direct it to a certain extent—something that would certainly take some practice, but what fun it would be!

3. If you’re suffering from writer’s block or faced with a seemingly insurmountable plot problem, concentrate on the problem right before drifting off. Your subconscious may work to resolve the dilemma overnight and either reveal a resolution in a dream or upon awakening.

“The brain is so strange and wondrous in its mystery. I think it creates a number of things for itself—it creates launching pads and resting places—and it lets steam off and it reworks itself.” (Maya Angelou, Writers Dreaming)

Simply be aware of the process—and the power—of dreaming to tap into that creative energy—and use it to your writing advantage!

Writer QuestionsQuestion: Have you ever written anything that was inspired by a dream?


Tyler Perry - "How to be successful"

writers' resolutions

 Newbie Writer Resolutions

I will start/finish the book
I will always have at least three stories on submission, while working on a fourth
I will attend at least one writer's conference, and introduce myself to agents, editors, and other writers
I will subscribe to the magazines I submit to
I will join a critique group. If one doesn't exist, I will start one at the local bookstore or library
I will finish every story I start
I will listen to criticism
I will create/update my website
I will master the query process and find an agent
I'll quit procrastinating in the form of research, outlines, synopses, taking classes, reading how-to books, talking about writing, and actually write something
I will refuse to get discouraged, because I know JA Konrath wrote 9 novels, received almost 500 rejections, and penned over 1 million words before he sold a thing--and I'm a lot more talented than that guy

Professional Writer Resolutions

  • I will keep my website updated
  • I will keep up with my blog
  • I will schedule bookstore signings, and while at the bookstore I'll meet and greet the customers rather than sit dejected in the corner
  • I will send out a newsletter, emphasizing what I have to offer rather than what I have for sale, and I won't send out more than four a year
  • I will learn to speak in public, even if I think I already know how
  • I will make selling my books my responsibility, not my publisher's
  • I will stay in touch with my fans
  • I will contact local libraries, and tell them I'm available for speaking engagements
  • I will attend as many writing conferences as I can afford
  • I will spend a large portion of my advance on self-promotion
  • I will help out other writers
  • I will not get jealous, will never compare myself to my peers, and will cleanse my soul of envy
  • I will be accessible, amiable, and enthusiastic
  • I will do one thing every day to self-promote
  • I will always remember where I came from



How to Stop Procrastinating & Start Writing That Book Inside You

By Wendy Aron

Whenever I tell a new person I’ve met that I’ve recently had a memoir published, the response is, invariably, “You wouldn’t believe my story. I should write a book, too.” And my response to them is, invariably, “Then, why don’t you?”

The gap between having the desire to write a book and actually sitting down to write one is quite large, but with some effort, it can be bridged.

Start Writing

The first thing you need to ask yourself is what is actually stopping you from sitting down at the computer. Most people procrastinate because of fear of failure. If you never do anything then no one can say that you did it poorly. Most procrastinators are their own worst critics. Putting off doing something that they have always wanted to do is their way of avoiding their own perfectionism and convincing themselves that they could have excelled if only they had the (fill in the blank) to write.

When it comes to writing, the first thing you have to do to stop procrastinating is to challenge the assumption that what you write needs to be perfect. Even bestselling and award-winning authors are never satisfied with the first drafts of their manuscripts. A professional author can write multiple versions of his or her book before ever letting anyone read it. The best way to approach this is to just sit down and spit out whatever comes into your mind. There’s time for analyzing and revising later, and you can do it as much as you want before ever sending your baby out to be critiqued. The important thing is to just get your ideas down on paper or on the screen.

If you’ve decided to write fiction, chances are you’ll need to do some research, and you can motivate yourself to begin the project by going to the library to do some investigation. There’s nothing like learning about a new world for stimulating the imagination. Make the project fun by going to the library with a friend or family member who is also doing research for their own undertaking. And share what you have learned with others who can give you ideas and suggestions for making your work stronger and more appealing.

Another helpful approach is to break your manuscript down into manageable chunks, rather than putting yourself under pressure to write an entire book.  Divide your manuscript into chapters and set yourself short term goals for completing them. Writing a book becomes much less daunting when you approach it incrementally. Perhaps you can start by writing an outline or basic synopsis of your plot. That way, you’ll have a road map to guide you as you write.

Finding the Time To Write

Many people say they can’t write their manuscript because they have other obligations and just can’t find the time. I remember reading once that when John Grisham wrote his first novel, A Time to Kill, he was still working as a lawyer and wrote one page a night for a year until he had finished his book. The point is, if you really want to write, you can find the time. If you’ve got a family, you can talk to them about giving you a certain period each day when you cannot be disturbed. A supportive family will understand.


Many people also believe that they need the optimal conditions in which to work, and that absent these conditions, they just can’t produce. This is another faulty assumption. No less an author than the late Pulitzer-Prize winning John Kennedy Toole wrote his book, A Confederacy of Dunces, in his bedroom in longhand on a legal pad. You do not have to be in the perfect surroundings to write a book. And if you do have a favorite place to write, there’s no reason you can’t make yourself as comfortable as possible by arranging your workspace to please yourself.

Final Thoughts on Writing a Book

Don’t get me wrong; writing a book is no easy proposition. In fact, I once read on a publishing Web site that for every thousand people who aspire to write a book, one of them actually does it. But just think how great you’ll feel about yourself once you have a completed manuscript. You can be that one person, so start writing now!



learn from great mentors

Wise Mentors can assist you on your journey in life by offering sound advice, challenging you to greater achievement and helping you to avoid unnecessary mistakes. These are men and women who are walking or have successfully walked the path you desire to follow.

Throughout the Bible we find those who sought and adhered to the wise words of mentors in their lives. Elisha had Elijah. Esther had Mordecai. Ruth had Naomi. Joshua had Moses. Titus and Timothy had Paul.

Lean on the leading of the Holy Spirit to discern those in your life who have been assigned to mentor you. Some might be in your immediate vicinity either in your family, church or even at work. Make the time to watch, interact and learn from them.

For those whom you do not have direct access to because they are not in your circle; invest in your purpose by reading their books, listening to their material or using other products that they have available. Others might have already passed away; search and gather information about them.

Ask God to show you areas in the lives of your mentors that are worth emulating and the wisdom to avoid the mistakes they made.

5 lives unpublished authors tell themselves

Writers Digest Article

Writers tend to be creative in many areas of life, so it’s no surprise that we can get creative with the truth. Or, as my mother said, “You lie a lot.” This is especially tempting when we are debating why we aren’t published. Before I was a published author, I embraced a few cherished lies because they blunted the pain of rejection. But the road to publication required discarding these lies and facing reality. Here are five lies I believed before I was published:


 Guest column by Matt Mikalatos, freelancer,

and author of the novel “Imaginary Jesus”
(BarnaBooks, April 2010). See his website here.


I write amazing first drafts. If there were a contest for first drafts, mine would win every time. So I told myself, “Writing is not rewriting.” Other people might have to do multiple drafts, but my first drafts are so solid I could publish them as-is. For years I believed this.

One day I did three drafts of an article, and it became my first published article. A solid first draft is not good enough to be published. All those “rules of writing” that you read in Writer’s Digest, on blogs, and in creative writings classes are rules because they are true most of the time. So if there are some rules that you think don’t apply to you, think again. It might be the rule preventing you from getting published.


Ah, those blood-sucking agents and editors. I’m pretty sure they have meetings in a secret underground lair where they talk about how jealous they are of my writing skills and how they should team up to keep me from being published.

This is a lie that is so prevalent among unpublished writers that editors and agents have to go to psychologists so they can feel good about themselves again. I know one editor who calls herself “Dream Crusher” to assuage her pain. Here’s the truth: Editors and agents desperately want you to be good enough. They make a living by writers being publishable. If you’re getting rejected it’s because you still have work to do. either as a writer or as a marketer.


Which is exactly why you aren’t published yet. You have to do the hard work of writing a spectacular query and proposal. Notice that you have to “write” the query and proposal. You’re not being asked to do an interpretive dance or draft blueprints to a rocket ship. It might not be your style, and it might be hard work, but being a published author is hard work, complete with e-mails you don’t want to answer, deadlines, accounting and marketing!


It is way more fun to read Writer’s Market over and over—memorizing the publishers and agents—than it is to write your book. And while this is good practice for when your book is ready to shop, if the fantasy-to-writing ratio tips toward fantasy, it’s time to get back to writing. Unless you are writing a fantasy, in which case you are probably fine and keep up the good work.


If you’re like me, you love picking up a book from the “Top 10″ rack, flipping it open and cringing at the terrible prose. But this author (who is, keep in mind, a worse writer than you) somehow got a contract, got published and is selling well. I said this most often before I had finished writing the first draft of my first novel. Perhaps it’s just that the “hack writers” out there actually finish their books.

Here’s an exercise: Find a writer online who is published but far inferior to you as a writer. Look at what magazines they are published in. Then write stories or articles to submit to those magazines. This is a guaranteed way to build your writing resume. Unless—they are actually better writers than you, in which case, it’s a good reality check.

These are a few of the lies that I wish someone had confronted me with when I was an unpublished writer. Now, here’s one last truth for you: You can do this. Work hard, keep writing, improve your craft and be persistent. We’re all waiting to read your masterpiece!

what's your platform?

By Pam Perry

Find your “book hook.” Get some SWAGGER! Do your social media swag and build a list of raving fans online before the book is even published. That’s how you become a best-seller.

platform building

photo credit: Michael Hyatt

As an author, you want to get your message “out there!”
But what do you want to say?
Are you an expert? An evangelist? A life coach?
Do you want to position yourself as a “brain” or a “creative” – or do you have endorsements that will speak volumes for you?
Whoever endorses your book will “pin point” how you will be perceived/branded in the market. An endorsement from the right person can yield tons of media interviews and make you sales. It’s an art of knowing how to get them and make them work for you.

Make sure your message that you communicate makes the media say “wow” and not yawn.
Examine yourself and find your unique selling position.
Ask others what they see? If they are say the sorta the same things, that’s your USP.
Honestly answer this: Why is your book worthy of media attention?Is it really news? Or are you just trying to make a SALE? Know how to pitch the media (More on that later).

For now, Do this:

1. Build your platform BEFORE YOU PUBLISH that masterpiece.
2. Talk to everyone you know, network, get a marketing mindset! Talk it up, a lot. Blog about it, a lot.
3. Before you finish the book, start building your tribe. Cultivate an email list. Become a master at social media. (See video below from my friend, Lamar Tyler)
4. Get bookings to teach/speak on your topic and work your way up to several a week if you can. Make your initial mistakes locally, and build a devoted following close to home.
5. Take speaking, voice or acting lessons, or hire a media or PR coach. Be comfortable presenting your information. Make it exciting!
6. Join the local Toastmasters or the National Speakers Association or Junior Achievement. The point:  practice speaking in front of people, get feedback and make contacts for other speaking gigs.
 7. Video yourself; critique yourself; and practice a lot.   You want to shine for the media and make your “followers” and tribe proud.

Weekly Writing Plan