Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - Shortcuts To Stronger Writing

This one's a posting at the  Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America website.  It isn't new, but it sure applies for all writers.  Not a bad review for the established and lots of good advice for the new writer. Writerisms & Other Sins sit back, read it through and give it some thought.  As they say at the site, "Writerisms: overused and misused language. In more direct words: find ‘em, root ‘em out, and look at your prose without the underbrush."

Have at it! 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top Five Free Resources for Broke Writers & Some Extras

Want to get started writing, but you're broke and think you have nothing to start with?

Well, you're wrong.  One of the best things about freelance writing is you don't have to spend a lot of money up front to begin writing and hopefully making some money from your work.
You will need some basics though:

Paper of some kind (you can frequently get this free), ask around, companies change letterhead and throw out the old, some notebooks get partially used before someone tosses it out - tear out used pages & use the rest. Use the back side of one-sided paper someone has thrown out. Be creative and think. Watch for sales at office supply at the beginning of the school year; they frequently offer notebooks at $.01 each or maybe $.05 each.

Writing implement - you can score free pens in the bank or maybe left lying around somewhere. You can get them really cheap at beginning of school year sales. They're probably just lying around the house and lots of places hand them out as promos.

A flash drive whether you actually own a computer yourself or not.  Again, watch for sales at office supply stores. I've gotten a 3 meg flash drive for as little as $5.00 - sometimes with rebates you can get them free. Maybe a friend has a bunch lying around and wouldn't mind sharnig one with you. Ask for one for a birthday or holiday gift.

Okay, so you have the rudimentary basics. Here are some things you can get for free or use for free.  Some of this may not be terribly convenient, but convenience usually costs $$$ so once in a while that has to be sacrificed until you can afford your own set-up.
With that in mind:

You need a computer but don't have one yourself yet.

1.    First resource: Public Library - Yes, they  have computers for public use.  Most want you to reserve time so keep that in mind. If using this resource it's best if you do your draft work on paper, then plug in your flash drive, transcribe your work, proofread and save to the flash drive. At that computer you can also create a free email account perhaps at, or some other you may know of.  That account is from where you can later send your queries. Just make sure you remember to create a password that can withstand a nuclear hit and make sure, since it IS a public computer, to sign out when you leave - every time.

The library will have rules for computer use and accessing the internet. Some have very short periods you can use the computer. Obey the rules. Type fast! Make friends with the librarians.

Oh - a side note - you're in the library, they do  have a lot of reference materials. It doesn't work like the net, but it defintely fills a need. Don't pass up that great resource.

You actually do have a computer with internet access, but you can't afford all that software.

2.    Second resource: Free Software - Yes there is software out there you can download free (hopefully when you make some money you'll donate to help keep them going). A really great one is Open Office Check out the freeware there. They offere a suite of software that does most of what you need. Words processor, spreadsheets for your bookkeeping or query tracking, and several more I haven't had need of yet, but came with the package. The word processor is compatible with Microsoft Word so people can open your .DOCs  when you email them. And, if you plan on some self-publishing you can make PDF files with Open Office very easily. They also have lots of templates for things like books and screen scripts. Check it out.

Spacejock offers free software for the writer-especially novels at

Plotbot offers free online screenwriting software

You have a laptop computer with wiFi ability but no internet connection of your own.

3.    Third resource: Free Wi-Fi. There are lots of places now that have signs posted offering Free Wi-Fi. Just look around. Coffee shops frequently offer it. Your library may offer computers for use as well as free Wi-Fi. There are even 'hot spots' that offer free Wi-Fi such as bookstores & cafes. Check out your own town with an eye to those places. If you can't buy a cup of coffee try sitting outside and see if the Wi-Fi extends that far. But remember, don't become a problem or an obstruction. If the joint starts jumpin after you arrive and you're taking up valuable table space with one cup of coffee for two hours be considerate: pack it up and come back later.

You're a writer but sometimes you get stuck or just can't get it moving, you need some motivation.

4.    Fourth resource: Dr. Wicked's Write or Die: You can use it online free or purchase a desktop version for $10.00 (no I'm not selling it). Look to the right on the site and you'll see the Write Or Die Online box where you can type in your goal of number of words, your own time limit and a 'punishment' level. It does have sounds so either turn those off or use headphones. You're gonna love it. He now offeres the "Edit Minion" as well.

So now you're rolling, what the next thing you need? Writing work!

5.    Fifth resource(s) There are a number of places out there where you can bid for work, check for job postings, etc. There's (lets you make a number of free bids per month - but remember with Elance you're bidding against low bidders so it can be tough to make any serious bucks) and of course you can post on offering your writing services. offers advice and market listings as does  Most magazine websites list writer's guidelines or submissions under "contact us" or something along those lines. If you want to write for a particular magazine and the masthead doesn't give online contact info check out the editor section, get the address and use snail mail (as primitive as that sounds).  You acn also find publsiher listings in books such as Writer's Market, Writers & Artists' Yearbook, Writer's Online Markets and more at your library. Another thing to do while you're there!

These recources should get you well on your way. Plainly, using a bit of creativity and being persistent there are ways out there to get started and earn money with your writing even when you're too broke to put some cash out. Have at it and good luck.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - Association of Authors' Representatives

This is just a great site. Association of Authors' Representatives Its a great place to check out prospective agents. It's a not-for-profit organization and it's members are required to abide by a strict code of ethics. It offers some frequently asked questions and links to professional associations in addition to info on agents.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How To Cope With Being A Shy Writer

Many writers, if not a majority of us are shy. And that means we can have a variety of problems in furthering our careers since we don't particularly do well in making human contact!

But, these problems, like most others can be overcome, or at least minimized. We all just need to take a deep breath and think about this, then plan a course of action.

Now it's very unlikely that someone is going to yell at you or call you bad names simply because you make a professional business contact. They may not be interested, but really, is that so bad? Move on.

Don't let yourself think only the extrovert and boisterous have a shot at real success in the book writing biz.  Here's the thing, nobody knows what goes on inside someone else, but the extrovert is likely to be even more insecure in his or her own skin than the introvert who may not be great out in the big world, but is likely to pretty comfortable with him or her self.

But, to an introvert who's happy and content tucked away behind the keyboard, creating stories, polishing and pampering them, it can be nothing but burning agony to do a cold-call, a sales pitch or speak to a group. It can mean sleepless nights, the jitters and sweaty palms at the minimum.

At the risk of repeating myself, take another deep breath.  You, the shy writer, can do this. You can face humanity, you really can deal, make a difference and do it all on yoru own terms.


Practice. Find a conference or workshop for writers nearby or far afield. Attend. Now, it doesn't mean you suddenly have to emerge from your shell and bounce from one thing/person to another. Instead, check out the event before you go. Know a lot about it and decide what this conference can do to help you with your goals. Then grab yourself (figuratively) by the shirt collar and go meet a presenter. Or if not up to that  yet, ask a question after a presentation. If you ask a question of someone else it shifts the attention away from you, the asker, onto the person who answers. This  helps you in several ways.  Hopefully you've asked a question you'd really like an answer to thus getting you some information. It forces you to open your mouth in public in a small way, but experience is experience. You gain just that much more self-confidence.

Make sure you have some nice business cards along on your conference trip and don't forget a professional looking and sharp name tag. Many times the name tag alone will draw people to say hello to you who might not otherwise do so. And if you have a business card to present, all the better. Make a point of keeping those cards handy and presenting them to folks who have something in common with you. Other writers in your field, maybe agents or editors. 

While at the conference be sure to observe people, to study how they make introductions or share a story.  It will relax you by giving you somewhere to focus and it will provide helpful tips for you to use in your own social interactions.

And, when you meet someone you can use the same tactic as you did in the presentation. Ask a question. It breaks the ice and the added bonus is, psychologically, when you avoid attention to yourself by turning it onto someone else in the form of a question, the other person generally believes you are a very cool and interesting person to get to know. That starts more interaction which may result in the first person introducing you to others (keep those business cards handy). Not bad! The more you do this, the easier it will become.  Believe me, I've been there. From close-mouthed, terror-stricken youth to self-confident social networker, that's me!  (with shy person still very much present inside) You can do this, and on your own terms. Breathe, take stock of who you are and plunge in.

Oh, and one last tip when you attend a writer's gathering. People do judge you by your appearance even if they aren't aware of it themselves and certainly wouldn't admit it. The fact is, decisions can be influence dby your appearance, what clothes you're wearing, how you look, how your put yourself forward, so keep it in mind, and work with it. Look your best.

That doesn't mean you have to wear a suit or fancy dress. Instead be neat, clean and well-groomed. Wear clothes that are appropriate. That means avoid torn, stained clothes, shorts, T-shirts and the like. Wear something like business casual; clothing that shows respect.  It's still generally true that it's better to overdress a bit than the opposite. What could be wrong with looking your best and frankly, smelling your best? Remember, at a conference you'll no doubt find yourself in close physical proximity with lots of other people. Comb your hair, take a shower, use a deodorant, brush your teeth. You want them to remember you for your pleasant company and  your good ideas not your ragged jeans, your overpowering breath or that awful smell! Don't laugh, I've experience just exactly that from a few choice others at a convention.

So get out there, you can do it. You don't have to be a star, you just have to be you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - Random loglines

It's Wednesday - getting close to holidays so I figured what the heck. whip out the link to the Random Logline Generator.  Now this may seem a bit odd, maybe even not so helpful, but here's the thing.  While it produces random loglines it's entertaining - and it may spark an idea for you.  Doesn't matter if you're a novelist or screenwriter. Some very fun nuggets can be found with a bit of playing at this site. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What About Romances? - Crunching the Numbers

The economy isn't great, in fact, it's still pretty bad, and though statistics are really only in through 2009 (we've yet to see what 2010 has done) the undeniable fact is that though the economy is still struggling to bounce back from the latest recession, book sales increased slightly in 2009 from 2008.


Who knows.  Some say it's because the cost of a book is relatively cheap compared to other forms of entertainment out there (does that include playing with a computer game already purchased?).  Others claim its because reading a book offers an escape for readers from tough times (movies already owned on DVD don't accomplish that?) I don't know the why and the 'experts' aren't very convincing, but really, does it matter to the writer? He or she just wants to be read and carve out a career so any reason is a good reason for book sales to climb even a little. In fact, just holding steady right now is a major plus.

In fact, Romance fiction continues to hold the largest share of the consumer market, beating out other categories like Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Crime, Horror and others.  

For romance writers the good news is romance fcction (with all it's sub-genres such as Historical, Paranormal, Fantasy, Sci/Fi, Inspirational, Regency, Suspense, Erotic) has, for a long time, been the mainstay of the mass-market paperbacks.

More good news for the romance writer; the genre is gaining a foothold in the Ebook format (which is pretty much exploding about now) as well.  As a mater of fact it went from number 3 position in 2009 and is currrently in number 2 postion for 2010.  The year will have to end to see how that shakes out overall.

So who publishes all those Romances?  Well, the primary publishers are Mira, Berkley, Avon, Little Brown, Pocket, Dell, Grand Central, HQN, Ballantine and Zebra. Tuck that info away in your brain if you're writing or thinking of writing a romance. The best selling 'sub-genres' are Contemporary (series), Contemporary (single title), Paranormal and Historical. But choose one your really enjoy writing, not one that's simply in the 'best-selling' category.

Who is the general audience for the romance writer? Apparently the core of the readership is women between thirty-one and forty-nine - oh, and apparently in a romantic relationship of their own.  And over 90% of romances sold are to women - guess that tidbit isn't too surprising. And obviously those who read specific sub-genres have their interests there.

Another thing to keep in mind is how these readers find out about the books they buy.  Apparently personal websites aren't having too much impact as yet - at least when it comes to generating direct buys.  Mostly it's word of mouth, impulse buying from a book display at a store, generally liking the subject of the book before opening it and perusing the best-seller lists. I haven't seen much about what's hooking them for the Ebooks they purchase, but can only project its similar, but with cyber displays, etc. 

Oh, and in case you're wondering how that translates into dollars, Romance Fiction sold better than one and a third billion dollars worth of books in 2009.  Overall book sales were more than ten billion dollars for the year just past.

So if you're considering writing a romance, go ahead, have at it.  You  never know where it may lead.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - brainstorming

Are you into mindmapping to help you brainstorm your next writing project? Heres a free, online mindmapping source.  Works pretty good too!  Really good for brain play when you get stalled on a story.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Want to UnMuddle Your Writing?

Okay, so shoot me, I got creative with 'UnMuddle", but ponder this. Why do you write (no matter what you write)?

To communicate.

So, tell me, what good is it all if the one you’re trying to communicate with can’t easily understand what’s being said?

Whether the person you're writing to is reading a novel, trying to decipher an instruction manual, perusing a travel magazine or just reading a sales ad, if that person you're writing to finds it difficult to follow along, you’ve lost your reader. The book gets closed. The magazine gets laid aside, the advertising is ignored. That’s where Keep It Simple comes in. You've heard of it. KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid (well without the 'stupid' part, because plainly you aren't).

Writing with clarity is tougher than most folks think who aren't writers so, the simpler the better. That’s not to say you’re to write ‘down’ to your reader. It’s not that other people are stupid (well, not many of them are, and plainly my readers and yours aren’t), it’s just that they’re busy. They’re distracted and let’s face it, nobody, whatever their level of ability, wants to have to stop and decode what they’re reading.  Just don't want to, don't have to. They can move on and that's not good for you, the writer.

The concept applies well to all your writing. Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Don’t you find it off-putting to be confronted by a sheet filled solidly with print and very little white space? Isn’t it easier to follow down a page that offers some breaks? Maybe it’s dialog or shorter paragraphs for fiction. Perhaps it’s sub-headlines in advertising copy. Could be beautiful pictures in travel magazines. All of those help to draw the reader along, into the flow of the written page. Eye candy, whether text or pictorial.

Generally it's best to use easily understood words. Some writers use huge vocabularies and use them well. Other writers use vocabularies which are much smaller. Hemingway fell into the later camp by the way; Steinbeck too seemed to love single syllable words. That’s not to say you should not use colorful words. Simple and colorful are not exclusive of each other.

The key is clarity. Don’t use a hundred-dollar-word when a five-cent edition will do. This is especially true when you aren’t comfortable with that hundred-dollar-word in the first place. When you write what you are comfortable with it will naturally come across clearly - at least the great majority of the time. Write within your comfort zone. Don't think you have to prove anything.

I personally think all of this is a remnant of childhood. Remember children's books with large print and lots of pictures? Remember that first time when you were young and decided to read a ‘young adult’ book without pictures (well, mostly without, maybe there were a few line drawings at chapter beginnings)? Kind of a shock wasn’t it? I think we continue to carry a little bit of that kid along with us through life. A sort of “hey, where’re the pictures?” kind of attitude.

Reading what you’ve written out loud is a great help when you’re trying to keep your writing simple and clean. Remember, you’re not trying to impress your reader with how big a vocabulary you have or how perfect your grammar or how long a sentence you can produce with all the comas, semicolons and exclamation points in the correct places. Nope, that’s not what you’re doing. What you’re doing, is communicating. Telling a story of some kind. Whether fiction, non-fiction, or advertising, the writer is telling a story. And if you can't read one of your sentences aloud without running out of breath, you're in trouble.

So, think in terms of talking to a friend. If you were talking to a friend would you speaking to impress, or would you simply be relaying a story? Think about it. Through your writing you are communicating - be effective you must be understood.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - I Write Like

Okay, this one is just for fun. It's called I Write Like and it compares your writing to the greats (and maybe not that great).  All you have to do is paste a few paragraphs of your writing into the box, click on analyze and see who you come up with. 

Other Posts Of Interest:

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