Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year Writing Resolutions

Jessica Nelson

The New Year. The time to make resolutions that we a.) are unable to keep, or b.) have no intentions of keeping. We make such resolutions as “I’m going to lose twenty pounds this year” or—the one I am most guilty of making and never keeping—“I’m going to finish that (novel, screenplay, short story, poem).”

Last week, Rhonda Browning White mentioned the increasing reminders we receive to “Write Every Day!” as the New Year approaches. Most years, I tell myself I’m going to do that—write every day. Technically speaking, it never happens. I mentally write constantly, but I never seem to find the time to get it all down on paper. Life gets in the way.

This year, I’m making a different Writing Resolution. Instead of trying to write every day, I am resolving to learn about writing every day. (Well, maybe every other day.) Learning about writing could be as in-depth as reading a section of a writing-craft book or as simple as reading a book for pleasure and asking myself—in the words of a former classmate—Why does it work? Of course, Wednesdays are covered—all I have to do is read the latest Inspiration for Writers, Inc., blog!

That seems like a reasonable resolution to me. Since I’m always reading, it should be no problem to take a moment at the end of a chapter or a particularly moving scene to ask: What made it so good? Why was I moved? Why do I love or hate a character? What is it about the author’s style that makes her book easier to read or more interesting than another author’s? How can I learn from what this person is doing?

My New Year’s Writing Resolution is not to write every day, but to learn about writing every day. Not too hard, and definitely something I could do on a daily basis. Who wants to join me?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Write Every Day--Are You Kidding Me?

Rhonda Browning White

We’re now fully immersed in the hectic, er, joyous and peaceful, holiday season: Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Yule, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Kwanzaa, Watch Night, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day . . . and the list goes on. We have shopping to complete, presents to wrap, trees to decorate, cookies to bake, parties to attend, dinners to host, football games to watch, and stories to write. What! Do you mean we’re supposed to find time to write over the holidays? Have you lost your mind?

That’s what I think each time I see a Facebook post, a blog entry, or a web article admonishing me to “Write Every Day!” Perhaps these reminders are popping up with increasing frequency in advance of the New Year’s Resolution craze. Or perhaps they’re showing up more often to drive me insane. Either way, I’m not falling for it. 

You see, over my twelve-year career as a ghostwriter, professional editor, and author, I’ve kept a giant secret, but I’m now going to share it with you: I don’t write every day. Sometimes I go two or three days without writing. Sometimes I go a full week without penning more than a simple grocery list (which I usually leave at home, only to discover it’s missing when I reach the dairy aisle—is it heavy cream or half-and-half I need for that recipe?), and, believe it or not, my writing never suffers from the break.

In fact, it often improves. 

How is this possible? For starters, you should know that I don’t believe in writer’s block. (I call it “writer’s laziness.”) Writing is a form of mental exercise, and, just like physical exercise, overdoing it can cause problems. The mind, like the body, needs time to rest and recharge. The best ways to recharge the writer’s brain are to read or to do something creative other than writing. Reading a great story—you can squeeze in a short story before bedtime, while sitting in the doc’s office, or waiting at the airport even on the most hectic days—or a writing craft book never fails to refill my writer’s well of ideas. Another prolific author shared with me that baking helps her put together scenes or chapters she’s struggling to work out in her mind. A poet friend paints gorgeous artwork between writing poems. Yet another author—a bestselling, award-winning author—told me he does some of his best writing while staring out the window or sitting on his porch for hours at a time, without touching a writing implement for days. 

Downtime is necessary for some writers to regenerate the creative part of the mind, and never is downtime more necessary for me than during the holidays. I’ll admit to you, though, that when I’m not in front of my keyboard or notepad, I’m often still writing. The idea for this blog entry came to me today when rushing through the grocery store. And while watching a little girl in red tights, a green sweatshirt and a motorcycle helmet stand with her hands on her hips while her father pushed a stalled Harley through a store parking lot, I came up with a great idea for a story scene. Were my hands on the keyboard? Nope. Did I have a pen in hand? Nada. Was I writing? Yes, I was. 

Tonight, when the house is quiet and the Christmas tree’s winking lights are reflecting on the wall outside my bedroom door, I’ll pick up the fabulous book of short stories I’m reading this week, and I’ll refill the writer’s well within my mind with strings of words that sparkle brighter than any light on my tree. And when the holidays are over, and my world has reached some measure of calm, I’ll again sit at my desk, and I’ll write.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday Contest!

Jessica Nelson

Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it!

Here at Inspiration for Writers, Inc., we’re gearing up for the holidays. Trees are up and lit, Christmas carols are playing on the radio, the shopping is done…well, mostly...or not at all. Anyway! We’re in the holiday spirit, and we want to spread the cheer!
Therefore—drumroll, please—we’re holding a contest!

Your challenge is simple: write a holiday themed story—Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, whatever it is you celebrate (or don’t celebrate)—of 1,000 words or less. Your story can be fiction or non-fiction, essay or narrative, or anything in between.

The contest will run from today (12/17) to Monday, January 5th, at midnight. You can submit your stories to Jessica Nelson at

Stories should be:

-1,000 words or less in length
-Sent in word document form as an attachment
-Written in Calibri, Arial, or Times New Roman font, size 11 or 12
-Double spaced

And remember:

-Be Creative!
-The stories don’t have to be perfectly grammatically correct, but it definitely impresses the judges if they are! (Especially when those judges are editors.)
-Feel free to go back through the blogs to pick up some tips for good writing.
-Did I mention, be creative?

We will award a first and second place. The first place winner will have his/her choice of a $50 gift certificate for any of Inspiration for Writers, Inc.’s services or an Inspiration for Writers, Inc. briefcase. Second place will receive the remaining prize. Both the winners and the winning stories will be posted as the blog on Wednesday, January 7.

Good luck, writers! May the Muse and the Holiday Spirit be with you!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lessons Learned

Bonnie Rose Ward

I’ll never forget the day I received my first shipment of books. I eagerly leafed through the pages with a feeling of elation. Finally! The years of pouring my heart and soul into writing, revising, editing, proofing, and the many invaluable lessons learned along the way—not to mention the million pots of coffee—had culminated into my first published book. A dream come true!

If I could do it all over again—perhaps a sequel in the near future—boy, would I ever change a lot of things! It is for that reason that I want to share my journey—which at times was rougher than a washboard road—from writer to published author with you. For all you writers out there who are working on a manuscript or just finished one and are now ready to publish, this is for you!

When I neared the completion of my manuscript, I became giddy with anticipation that I would soon be an author. I truly believed that once I typed “The End” on the last page of my manuscript, all my hard work would be over, and I would send it out to a few publishers, and one of them would gladly snatch it up in a heartbeat. After all, I believed I had a great story and, besides, I wrote it to the best of my ability, and I checked and double-checked my spelling and grammar. What else was there? Well, let me tell you. Rejections! That’s what. One after the other. What a letdown. Where was a “Rejected Anonymous Group” when I needed one? However, I picked myself up, squared my shoulders and moved forward. I was too invested in this project to give up now. It was time to search for a professional editor.


After learning that most editors will give a free sample of their work, I sent a copy of the first few chapters to editors as far away as California and New York and everywhere in-between. As the samples poured in, my eyes hungrily devoured the pages. Ironically, the best editing job—hands down—came from right here in my own state of West Virginia; Inspiration for Writers, Inc. But, as ill-fate would have it, the promise of a “good” comprehensive edit for a much cheaper price by a different company won me over. I convinced myself that it would be a “good enough” edit and I could save myself a lot of money. Right? I couldn’t be any more wrong! When the edit came back it wasn’t anything more than a proof. Many of the pages didn’t even have a red mark on them. I knew that my book could be so much more, and in the end, we really do get what we pay for. If I wanted my book to be the very best it could be—and I did—I knew what I had to do. I turned back to Inspiration for Writers, Inc. It was the best decision I could have made for my book. 

Over the course of a year, Sandy Tritt, Rhonda Browning White, and I diligently worked on my book. Not only do those ladies go above and beyond—trust me, they do–but through it all, they made it fun and easy, they taught me so much, and they did it all without changing my story or my unique writing style. Besides hiring a good editor—and I advise that you do so because it’s hard to see all of your own mistakes or to look at your work objectively—I also can’t stress enough the importance that you, the author, must take full responsibility to see that your manuscript is in top-notch shape and the best it can be before you consider publishing. That means working with your editor, revising, proofing, proofing, and proofing some more. Some of you may be thinking, “But I want to publish my book now.” So did I, but I’m glad I didn’t rush into it. Be patient and do what you’ve got to do to get it right. In the end, you will have something you can be proud of. Winds of Skilak has won two book awards and today sits on Amazon’s Best Seller List in two categories, and has received rave reviews. I attribute my success to Inspiration for Writers, Inc. I have learned my lesson well and when my next book is written, I will save myself a whole lot of money, time, heartache and grief—I will make a beeline straight to Inspiration for Writers, Inc.


I had often heard that once your book is written and ready for publication, you’ve only fought half the battle. I didn’t want to believe that. Actually, I didn’t believe it. However, once again, I realized I was wrong. No surprise there! I now had the daunting task before me of trying to publish and market my book. So many questions ricocheted in my mind. How do I publish? Who do I publish with? Do I try to find a traditional publishing company or do I self-publish? That was an easy answer for me. Having already run the gauntlet of submitting queries and proposals only to get rejections, I decided to self-publish. Now, that’s my personal choice. I’m not advocating that everyone should self-publish. For me, it was right. And again, you have to be proactive—it’s your baby and nobody cares about it more than you. There are many publishers out there, so you have to do your homework. In all honesty, I started searching my publishing options long before typing “The End” on my book. Once I made my choice and paid for my publishing package, I still had a lot of work to do. Don’t think for one moment that if you go with a self-publishing company, your struggles are over. I returned my manuscript many times to the publisher because of their formatting errors. I had to work to make sure they got it right. But, the day I held my baby in my hands, all the labor pains and hard work of giving birth to my story was replaced with indescribable joy!


The first step in marketing is to find your target audience. Believing your book will appeal to everyone is a big mistake. You need to define who will likely purchase your book, and then figure out how to reach those specific people. Where do they hang out? What magazines do they read? For instance, if your book is about hunting or camping or outdoor activities, you might see if you can put your books in a sporting goods store, or perhaps write an article or put an advertisement in a hunting or outdoor sports magazine. I recommend using social media, like Facebook (my favorite), Twitter, and Pinterest, just to name a few. Start a website and/or blog and engage your members, keep them motivated. Look for online magazines and blogs that appeal to your target audience and see if they will hold a book giveaway or give you an interview. Advertise in newspapers. And don’t hesitate to ask for reviews. Reviews are an author’s best friend and they do make a difference. Just remember, you can’t sit back and expect your books to fly off the shelves all by themselves. It takes work on your part. And, last but not least, if you have a well-written book with a great story, word of mouth will be your best advertisement of all.

It has been a pleasure sharing my experience as a first-time author with you, and it is my hope that some of the information I have provided here can be of some help—and for you new authors or soon-to-be authors out there, I wish you the very best on your journey to making your writing dreams come true.

Bonnie Rose Ward

Award-Winning Author of Winds of Skilak: A Tale of True Grit, True Love and Survival in the Alaskan Wilderness. After fifteen years as a "wilderness wife" in Alaska, award-winning author Bonnie Rose Ward now resides with her husband on their farm in central West Virginia. They still maintain a self-sufficient lifestyle, raising goats, chickens, and other barnyard animals, with four dogs and a peacock named George rounding out the menagerie. Bonnie enjoys canning vegetables from the huge gardens sowed by her husband with heirloom open-pollinated seeds, and in her "spare" time, she continues to write her memoirs of the Alaskan wilderness.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Spaghetti Trap

Charlotte Firbank-King

You’ve probably heard the term Spaghetti Western. It’s a sub-genre of western movies that reared its head in in the 1960s whose main aim was to imitate what was already a successful genre. They were low-budget movies using unknown actors produced and directed by Italians. The movies were mightily slated by critics in the US, England, and Europe. In fact, an Italian critic first coined the phrase Spaghetti Western. Then A Fistful of Dollars became a box office hit and it was a free for all; everyone in the industry was in on the action.

The same can be said for romance novels. Scholars have made a study of the romance genre, and authors like Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer and Samuel Richardson, among others, are seen as the forerunners of romance. In the 1930s, British publisher Mills and Boon started churning out escapist, feel-good books with happy endings aimed at women. They had to be tasteful and chaste with wilting virgins and hunky men.

Barbara Cartland started her writing career in 1901 with a risqué novel, Jigsaw, which became a bestseller. She is still considered the most prolific romance writer of all time. She produced over 700 novels, writing 23 books in one year, for which she holds the Guinness World Record. Georgette Heyer accused her of plagiarism—an accusation the high-flying society gal, Barbara, managed to field with her team of lawyers. Her work naturally deteriorated and became what can only be called Spaghetti Romance.

My point is that millions of authors have followed in her footsteps with varying degrees of success, but mostly failure. With the advent of Kindle, badly written books have escalated the spaghetti trend. The Twilight saga set off a spate of vampire books and movies, and Fifty Shades of Grey has put erotica on a new high with no holds barred.

My question is, are there no original authors out there? I write romance, but I’m almost embarrassed to admit it. Years ago, when I decided that I enjoyed writing romance, a publisher told me to read as much as possible in the genre I’d chosen. I spent an unhappy year reading thousands of romance novels. At the end of this year of penance, all I knew was that I didn’t want to write like that.

I urge every aspiring writer to read as many books as they can in the genre of their choice—then think laterally and be original. Don’t fall into the spaghetti trap.