Tag Archives: books

How Book Marketing is Like Flirting, Dating, and Getting Engaged

By Rebecca Waters

You’ve written a book. You may have a publisher or agent. You may have decided to publish the book yourself. Whatever path you take, there are marketing decisions you will make that will help or hinder book sales.

This post examines stuff not in your book. It is a look at the cover: the front and back of your book. It describes marketing in terms of what people see when they pick up the book or scroll through a pile of possible reads on Amazon or Goodreads. This is often your first contact with readers outside your mom and a close circle of friends.

How Marketing is Like Flirting, Dating and Getting Engaged by Rebecca Waters

Marketing is like flirting

Your smile catches the eye of that certain someone. Remember? In the same way, the book cover and title catches the eye of the reader.
–Rebecca Waters

Let’s start with the front cover. You have a say in your book cover. Take a look at best-selling books in your genre. What elements do they have in common? What do you like about the covers? Once you have researched your genre, sketch out a few ideas. You need not be an artist to capture your thoughts. Do the best you can and label the parts. Your publisher will run a few ideas by you, but it’s good to have researched your genre and considered a few ideas yourself.

If you are indie publishing, make sure your cover is a high-resolution image. You can hire a graphic artist or use an online tool such as Canva to create your book cover. I used a high-resolution photo and a free template on Canva to create the cover for the Marketing You and Your Writing 101.

Make sure the picture on the front matches the content. Check the lettering against the background color and image. You don’t want the title to get “lost in the clouds” or be hidden in the trees. Be sure to try the title out on the image you’ve selected before publishing. For my first novel, the publisher sent me the cover photos separate from the title. I was disappointed when I realized the title didn’t stand out on the print version of my book.

The title is another way to catch the interest of potential readers. Although traditional publishers have the right to change the title of your book, careful research of the title you propose will help you land on a successful name for your book.

There are trends in titles. For instance, a few years ago it was popular to include numbers. We see trends from time-to-time in one-word titles. Again, look to your genre to see what sells. And, of course, make sure your title connects with your content. Examine your book carefully for phrases or themes you may weave into the name of the book. Good marketing means being aware of what other products are doing too. 

Marketing is like dating

Dating is that time in a relationship when you get to know the other person. It is that period of time when you make a decision about whether or not to continue seeing one another. You want your reader to want you…okay, you want them to want your book… but it still is a relationship you want to foster. If you were successful in the flirting stage, your potential reader has turned the book over or in the case of Amazon, started reading the book blurb to see if they want to pursue this relationship. Marketing is much like this. 

Draft a compelling book blurb. If you have written a nonfiction work, tell how your book differs from other books. If you write fiction, give enough of the story to grab the reader’s attention. Draw on the premise statement you used for your book proposal. Read the blurbs of popular authors in your genre. You will get a feel for how much info you need to include.

Remember that “boring” date? He or she was yammering on and on about something you would have preferred to learn on your own? You don’t want to make that mistake. Keep your book blurb short and intriguing. This is the book description. Save talking about yourself for the author bio or in the case of Amazon, the Author Page.

Want more tips? Check out Rebecca’s newest book, Designing A Business Plan for Writers.

This leads us to another facet of the dating stage –getting to know the object of your affection. Make sure your “about the author” paragraph is an accurate portrayal of you without all the details of your life. Make it fun and interesting. Include your credentials if you are writing nonfiction. Offer other writing successes for both fiction and nonfiction works. Your potential reader likes to know enough about your past to see if you might be a good match. And while we’re at it, look closely at the bio you offer on other platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. While they don’t need to be exactly the same in form, the information should be consistent and send out the same vibe. We simply don’t like dating someone with multiple personalities!

The headshot. Make sure you have a professional headshot for the back cover of your book. You’ll use this same picture for your author page on Amazon and for your social media accounts.

“DO NOT USE A SELFIE.”–Rebecca Waters

If you can’t find a good deal for a professional photo with all digital rights, at the very least have a friend with a good camera take several pictures of you and see if you can use one of those. Crop out the tree coming out of your head and the man standing in the background making faces.

I have a friend who uses a picture of him standing by the Ganges River. His wife took the photo. It’s a good shot. Moreover, because his book is about his work with various indigenous people groups of India, it gives the book credibility.

One other word of advice: Make sure your headshot is current. Don’t try to fool those readers and followers you are still that young brunette if indeed you had that picture made ten years ago.

Once, I was invited to a panel of writers at a library celebration in Kentucky. I was pretty excited since there were several well-known authors on the panel with me. I couldn’t wait for one of my favorite writers to arrive. Imagine my surprise when I realized the gray-headed woman at the next table was the woman I had followed and read for years. She had to be seventy-years-old. The picture on her books and blog were taken at least thirty years ago.

“Portraying yourself as you were in an old photo is not like taking off your make-up with that special someone around. It’s more like removing a mask.”
— Rebecca Waters

Marketing is like getting engaged

This is it –that dream come true moment. A guy gives a girl a diamond ring. Your reader gives you a sale. And if you deliver what you promised, it could be a relationship that lasts forever.

Rebecca Williams WatersRebecca Waters’ freelance work has resulted in articles for Chicken Soup for the Soul, the Lookout Magazine, The Christian Communicator, Church Libraries, and Home Health Aide Digest. Prior to publishing her first novel, Breathing on Her Own, Rebecca was a college professor and speaker on the Ohio Writing Project circuit. Author of Breathing on Her Own (2014) Snag the bookLearn more! Visit my site & Read my blog  Let’s connect! Follow me on Twitter & Like me on Facebook.

Top 10 Things To Consider When Choosing A Publisher With The Same Care As A Jane Austen Heroine Chose A Husband


It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in possession of a good story must be in want of a publisher.

It’s the age old story. You have so many hopes and dreams. You have all these wonderful stories to tell. You know that it will take an attachment, a proposal and perhaps a big commitment to make you moderately rich and a teensy bit famous. So you, the perfect Lizzie Bennet, who will only writes for love, not necessarily £10,000 a year, will be happy just to attach yourself with a publisher who respects you.

Fortunately for you, your access to publishers on the internet is an inviting a prospect as a town full of regimental soldiers to a 16-yearold girl. But if you don’t have a benefactor such as the much lauded Lady Catherine de Burgh, or your family’s connections are little more than a barrister uncle in Cheapside, you’re going to have to figure it out on your own.

Never fear. This list will give you some guidance.

Top 10 Things to Consider When Choosing A Publisher With The Same Care As  Jane Austen Heroine Choose A Husband

Top 10 Things to Consider When Choosing A Publisher With The Same Care As Jane Austen Heroine Choose A Husband


  1. You’ll attract folks like you. If you want the best, then be the best.  Before you start looking for a publisher, make your story the best it can be. I know, you’ve been working on it for a long time and it really is good. It’s not silly like Lydia or Kitty’s, and it’s not quite as good as Jane’s (but she’s being courted by the Big Six.) Your first responsibility as a writer is to write well. Take your time. Learn from the greats. If you are going to take your writing seriously and you want to attract publishers who take writing seriously, then push yourself to the most excellent level. If you want to make a fast buck, then you’ll attract publishers who want to do the same. Don’t know where to get advice? Start with hanging out at my Facebook group, 10 Minute Novelists, which was named by Writers Digest as one of the top 101 sites for writers for advice. 


"That is enough, child. Let the other ladies have a chance to EXHIBIT!"
“That is enough, child. Let the other ladies have a chance to EXHIBIT!”

2. Get the right kind of feedback from those knowledgeable in the industry. They will push you to excellence and the right connections. Your story is level headed. It  has a liveliness to it,  it’s been tempered by your exposure to great literature and you’ve been told, more than once, that it has “fine eyes.” But the best advice will come from critique groups, beta readers, editors or experienced writers who know the business and can honestly show you where to improve. You need to listen to them and improve your story in the very best way you can. You also never know who knows who. It does pay to be connected. I recommend Scribophile as a great resource. 10 Minute Novelists has a group there. Check them out. Ask for Sara Marschand. She’s awesome!

3. You understand your own goals for publication. Some writers have Rosings Park ambitions. Some will be content with Longbourne. (Forget Purvis Lodge. The attics there are dreadful!) If you don’t know what you want, then it will make choosing a publisher all the more difficult. This is what I did: I tried to find books, both fiction and non-fiction, that were similar to mine in content. I looked at who published them and who represented them. I asked myself if I wanted my books to be lumped together with these kinds of books. If I did, then it was from this list of publishers and agents that I would do research. If I didn’t, then I kept looking until I found books that were a better match. Writer’s Market is a great resource for writer willing to do the research. Get the book! 

Oh, Mr. Collins! You are such a charmer!
Oh, Mr. Collins! You are such a charmer!

4. You have a full understanding that an entire industry has been created to take advantage of desperate authors. And along comes your first contact with a publisher. He is tall, dark, handsome (okay maybe not in reality, but go with me, this is fun!) He is a mercenary. He may not be interested in art. He may not be interested in your long term goals. He may just want to cash in from your hard work. Legitimate publishers, who have good reputations, are, in this current economic climate, not likely to initiate relationships with writers. They don’t have to. They’re turning manuscripts away constantly.  It’s the less than trustworthy who are Googling authors and trying to sign anyone. Anyone. What to do? Go to Preditors and Editors and look for the names of reputable and notorious publishers, agents and editors. This is like Consumer Reports for writers. You’ll be really glad this site warned you about that Wickham!

5. If the publisher that contacted you is a start-up with few past authors, you need to be careful.  This should be a red flag. If you are their first client, or one of the first, it’s not likely that they have the credentials or the power or the skills to make you famous or even sold. Get names of anyone associated with them and send a few emails. Ask this, “I understand you worked with Wickham House for your book on gambling. Was that a positive experience for you?

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 11.54.16 AM

6. You should get a third party to look over a contract or legal document. If this potential publisher wants you to sign something, it is in your best interest to ask a lot of questions. Find a lawyer that specializes in contracts, or ask an agent to look something over for you. You don’t have to sign with an agent to sign a contract, but if you should be fully informed in what you’re signing. This is not one of those moments when I agree to the terms and conditions should be your knee-jerk reaction. And if your potential publisher doesn’t have a contract to sign, that means they’re depending on verbal agreements. This should be a red flag for you. A reputable publisher will be happy to provide you a contract, make adjustments, be patient with you while you get someone to look over it, and calm your nerves.

7.Make sure that they have professional editors working for them. Get names. Ask for specifics. Just because they say they’ll handle the editing, doesn’t mean that they will. You would hate it if your ARC was full of spelling and punctuation errors. It would be as embarrassing as having your petticoat six inches deep in mud. Need to find an editor? This is a list of reputable editors who would be happy to help you prepare your manuscript for publication. Check them out. 

8. Make sure that they have professional graphic designers working for them. Ask what happens if you don’t like the cover. Ask other authors if they liked their covers. Ask for them to show you all of the covers that they have been responsible for in the past. If you don’t like what you see, you may want to rethink this relationship.

9. Know the difference between a self-publishing house, an indie house and a vanity press. More importantly know what kind of publishing house you are working with. Check out this article that explains what a vanity press is and why you sign up with on, you just may regret it. 

Jane: "Oh Lizzie! The deepest love! And  . . . I can totally see up your nose!"
Jane: “Oh Lizzie! The deepest love! And . . . I can totally see up your nose!”

10. Don’t be desperate. Beginning writers think that having the word “published author” is like a halo of legitimacy. In some ways it is, but waiting to get published with a reputable, trustworthy publisher is far better than rushing into a relationship that you’ll want to get out of in a few months. Take your time. Do your homework. Someday I’ll use your book to teach your ten children how to play their instruments very ill.

Because you want so badly to be published, you’re not much different from the sad situation that all young women of the Regency Era were in.

You want to be published! That’s been the goal all along! Your mother has four other writers in the house who need to marry well because if they don’t the estate will be entailed away to Harper Collins! (Oops, sorry. I got carried away!) But trust me, you don’t to sign up with the first soldier that comes along. 


Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 12.02.15 PM

You do have choices. While being published is a great accomplishment, it’s not the only opportunity for writers. So before you sign, take the time to really get to know your publisher and do your research.

And your ending will be a happy one.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 11.58.45 AM

50 Cheap And Easy Ways To Improve Your Writing This Summer

At the beginning of every summer, I post this little gem. If you need a way to improve in your craft, without breaking the bank, these this will surely help! 

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 2.52.49 PM

How Can I Be A Better Writer?

Can’t afford to take a summer writing class? Never fear! All you really need is a library, internet access, Instagram, Netflix, Facebook and Twitter! YOU can improve your writing skills by doing these 50 things. I admit, some of these aren’t exactly writing activities, but if you do them, and you practice observing with all five senses and spend at least ten minute writing about the experience, you will improve. YOU WILL!

My kids say that there are 104 days of summer vacation, so that gives you something to do, every other day, with four days off for good behavior.

  1. Read Victoria Mixon’s blog — all the back entries. (My all-time favorite writing blog!)
  2. Get Instagram and write haikus for all of the photos in your feed.
  3. Challenge yourself to write a comment for ten of your friends daily on Facebook. Don’t overthink it. Just do it!
  4. Watch a movie with the sound off. Write as much dialogue as you can while you watch.
  5. Tweet this: Every new follower I get today will receive a personalized haiku. Then be prepared to write them.
  6. Buy this game and play it often: Story Cubes.  
  7. Go to Storybird. Choose artwork. Make yourself write an 8 page story in a half hour.
  8. Set a timer for ten minutes and describe all of the sounds that you hear.
  9. Set a timer for ten minutes and answer this question: I write because I  . . ..
  10. Read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. 
  11. Watch your favorite TV show, then spend 20 minutes thinking what conflicts your favorite character should get into. For example:  Peggy Olson’s mother should get seriously ill and need Peggy to take care of her. Peggy’s boyfriend, Abe, reconnects with an old girlfriend, a Jewish one, and Peggy is threatened. The priest from Season Two shows up at Peggy’s door because he’s left the priesthood and now he’s homeless.
  12. Go on Pinterest and pick a craft — you don’t even have to like it — in which you have all the stuff on hand. Make the craft. The act of making it will spurn your creativity elsewhere. And observe with all five of your senses! 
  13. The seven deadly sins are: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. Write for ten minutes about how your character(s) or even someone you just made up, is guilty of each of these. Be specific.
  14. Give all your characters this narcissism quiz.
  15. Go to Bartlett’s book of quotations and open it to a random quote. Write for 10 minutes on how this truth affects the life of your character.
  16. Read Stephen King’s On Writing.
  17. Go to your local library and check out the 15th work of fiction from the first five rows of books. Don’t even look at the titles. Go home and read the first hundred pages of each one. Do it again for the second five rows.
  18. Write a limerick about the things that happened to you today.
  19. Set a timer for ten minutes and decribe everything that you see right now.
  20. Read Rachelle Gardner’s blog.
  21. Read Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White.
  22. Play Mad Libs. (There’s an app for that!)
  23. Rewrite a local news story but make it about vampires.
  24. Take a walk in your neighborhood and create stories about the people you see.
  25. That guy/girl that gave you so much trouble in high school? Look them up on Facebook (if you can) and spend ten minutes writing about the life they’ve had since you saw them last.
  26. Go to Amazon.com and do a search on your favorite (or even least favorite genre). Read the 40th book’s description. Then, set a timer for 20 minutes and write your version of what should happen in the story. Do not publish this. It is only for practice.
  27. Let’s say the characters of The Simpsons were stuck into Pride and Prejudice. Homer is Darcy. Marge is Lizzie. Patty and Selma are Kitty and Lydia and Mr. Burns is Lady Catherine Deburg. Write for 10 minutes about what they could do or say.Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 9.19.12 AM
  28. Make an entire meal from scratch. The creativity and mental energy you use will stimulate your writing. If you have guests over to eat it, the conversation will help too. If not, oh well. You had to eat anyway.
  29. Read K M Weiland’s blog.
  30. Follow the Twitter hashtag #amwriting. Follow ten new writers. Introduce yourself. Ask them about their writing. Click their links. Share the love.
  31. Read all of these bad opening lines. Set your timer for ten minutes and write the succeeding sentences for at least five of them.
  32. Reheat those leftovers from #29. Spend ten minutes describing what everything tasted like.
  33. Read STORY by Robert McKee. 
  34. Watch 1st season episodes of 30 Rock  or How I Met Your Mother  or Parks and Recreation  and when your done, spend ten minutes writing about each of the main characters. What do they look like? What are their greatest desires? What would they say?
  35. Pretend your childhood hero contacts you because he/she has read your work and loves it. You decide to meet for lunch. Spend ten minutes writing about what you would say to them.
  36. Read Writing The Breakout Novel  by Donald Maass.
  37. Read the archives from Etiquette Hell for a half hour. Then, spend ten minutes rewriting one of these anecdotes in your favorite genre. (And if you get stuck, add a zombie.)
  38. Write for 10 minutes where you think a pair of working boots, a football, a black dress shirt and a crock pot disappeared to. These are real life items from my household that we’ve lost. We need a clue.
  39. Play Apples To Apples. Draw three red cards (for example, mountains, cheesecake, Bill Cosby) and three green cards (for example, crunchy, peaceful and uninteresting) and spend ten minutes writing a story about them all.
  40. Read On Writing Well by William Zinsser.
  41. Read The New Yorker magazine. (Your local library probably has a copy.)
  42. Read anthologies of your favorite comic strips from your childhood, such as Peanuts, Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbes  or The Far Side. Look at them not just as comic, but as stories with rich characters and complex plots. And don’t drink and read at the same time.
  43. Have you ever served on a jury? Do you know someone who has? Write for ten minutes about what actually happened at the crime scene.
  44. Read the personals on Craigs List. Spend ten minutes writing a story behind the drama.
  45. Let’s pretend the Disney Princesses are all in their mid-40’s and have opened  accounts on Facebook. Write for ten minutes about their interests, education, employment and their latest status updates.
  46. That embarrassing moment you had in high school? Rewrite the account of it, only make it worse. You have ten minutes. Go.
  47. Rewrite your favorite fairy tale in an altogether different style. Say, in King James English or as a gossip columnist.
  48. Take a very familiar mystery and rewrite the ending so that someone else was guilty. Then, instead of being caught, have them kidnap the sleuth. Write for ten minutes about what happens next.
  49. Ask you local librarian what they have read and liked. Then check it out and read the first hundred pages.
  50. And finally, leave a lengthy comment sharing what you’ve learned, what you’ve liked, what you’ve disliked and any other suggestions.

 Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant to conquer Twitter, but you don’t have the time?

This downloadable workbook will show you how to create a long-term Twitter presence, approaching your Twitter activity in three parts: your set-up, your strategy, and your system. This book is not a guarantee of success, but what it will provide for you is an orderly, thoughtful process in your brand, your biography, your target market, and your future tweets. Throughout the sections, exercises are provided to help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter. This book was originally intended for authors who want to use Twitter to build their tribe of readers, but the principles of it are universal. Anyone with an interest in using Twitter as a marketing tool would find this book useful. Download. 29 pages.


TODAY IS RELEASE DAY! Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day is NOW Available!

Today I release my first non-fiction book, Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day! 

You can purchase it or see the reviews here! 

Click on the image to get your advance copy!

This is the story of how I got the contract — it’s a great one! 

Also? I created a Facebook group for writers who have no choice but to write in 10 minute increments! Wanna join over 1000 writers worldwide as we encourage each other to pursue our writing dreams?  Click here! 

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 1.30.44 PM


Are you a blogger?  Would you like to help promote this book? Leave a comment! I’d love to work with you!

Are You A Blogger? Would You Review My New Book?
Blogger Wanted! Leave a Comment & I’ll contact you!

#Top10Tuesday Top 10 Reasons Why You Need To Buy “Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day”

This Thursday, my book Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day will be released!

You can order your copy here! 

Today’s Top 10 List is about some of the great advice you’ll find in this book!

1. This book will give you step by step instructions on how to write a novel that you work around your already time-crunched schedule.

2. This book breaks down every single element of a novel: story, plot, genre, characters, setting and three act structure into small, bite sized chunks and helps you sculpt these concepts a little bit at a time.

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 5.47.05 PM

3. There’s a WHOLE CHAPTER on time management and how to make small adjustments in your day so can find ten minutes here and there to write.

4. This book lists dos and don’ts for the drafting process. The first do? Understand that if you don’t draft, you’re not a writer.

Click on the image to get your advance copy!
Click on the image to get your advance copy!

5. This book quotes dozens of familiar books and points out examples of good prose.

6. This book has a thorough checklist for the revision and editing processes.

7. This book lists various apps and software that could be useful to you as you write in 10 minute increments.

Awesome gifts for writers
Mug says: “I’m A 10 Minute Novelist and I have awesome friends!”

8. This book describes publishing options and things to consider when choosing between self pub, indie pub or traditional publishing opportunities.

9. This book mentions other elements of novel writing like dialogue, scene development and characterization. Each chapter has exercises to guide you as you develop them in your own work-in-progress.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 1.30.44 PM
If you’re a member of 10 Minute Novelists, you can put this badge on your blog!

10. This book also has a list of writing groups around the world that can encourage you in the pursuit of your dream. The most fun of which is 10 Minute Novelists. 

I am very proud of this book and I hope that as you read it, you are encouraged and gain the skills you need to write a novel and pursue your dreams!


You’re Invited To A Birthday Bash (And Book Release!)

In March, the Facebook writers group, 10 Minute Novelists, is ONE YEAR OLD!

Happy Birthday 10 Minute Novelists!
Happy Birthday 10 Minute Novelists!

This group was inspired by the book “Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day” which just HAPPENS to be released on March 26.

Click on the image to get your copy!
Click on the image to get your copy!


10 Minute Novelists has over 1000 time-crunched writers worldwide who have discovered tips, encouragement and community through their website, chats, encouraging discussions, and other craziness. This last year has been an amazing one for this group and it’s time to celebrate!

What’s going to happen at this FACEBOOK Birthday Party?

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 1.30.44 PM

For TWO WHOLE DAYS, on the thread of this event, we’ll feature editors, publisher, publicists, authors and agents who are going to answer questions, have contests, give away prizes, offer books, give advice and tell you why they love 10 Minute Novelists! Author Katharine Grubb will be there to talk about “Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day.” We’ll have videos, invisible “snacks” and TEN SIGNED COPIES of “Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day” will be given away. It starts March 26 at 9:00 AM EST and wraps up March 27 at 9:00 PM EDT. Come drop in and hang out as you want. Meet some great people! Win prizes!

10 Minute Novelists is one of the fastest growing, most supportive and most lively writing groups on the internet. If you’ve needed a writing group or writing advice this is the place to hang out. Come March 26 and 27 and join the fun!

March Forth! Eleven Tips To Help You Be More Creative!

Who wants more ideas? Who needs a brilliant thought? Who could stand a new insight? A fresh perspective? A story idea?

Who needs more creativity?

I know I do! I just wish I could turn on good ideas like I turn on the tap. It’s too bad our muse only shows up at inconvenient times or not at all.

I believe, however,  that creativity can be encouraged. We can play with our own minds in such a way that can help solve problems and get good ideas. Here’s a long list of ways to be more creative. Try some! And leave a comment if you got them to work!

Eleven Tips To Help You Be More Creative
Eleven Tips To Help You Be More Creative

1. Get Yourself In A Good Mood. This study suggests that listening to happy music or finding positive stimulus can relax your brain enough to solve a problem. 

2. Go For A Long Walk Like The Poets Did. What worked for writers of the classics could work for you!

3. Read creative works. Don’t settle for the typical fare, find books that are completely unique and pay attention to what the author did. I’m currently reading The Intuitionist and the author did a brilliant job creating a world where elevator inspectors were the most respected roles of society. Elevator inspectors?  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why he would come up with that. I could get frustrated with the book and give up on it, concluding that this type of creativity is kooky, or I could be challenged. Could I come up with something that unique and interesting? Check out this Goodreads list of creative books, they’re heavy on fantasy, but they could give you some great ideas.

“Where is human nature so weak as in the

4. Sit and observe. It’s hard enough to find 10 minutes to write in a day, but if you can, take a few minutes and observe the world around you.  Put yourself in a public setting so you can people watch and then free write about everything you see. Practice this and your creativity will be strengthened and you’ll start seeing things you haven’t seen before. This excellent article gives practical tips on how to be more observant and deduce facts from the world around you. 

5. Push your metaphors as far as you possibly can when you write.  If you use a common simile such as “busy as a bee” then spend ten minutes getting into the specifics of what that looks like. Through a free write, perhaps, you’ll have a fresher image of what we mean when we say, “busy as a bee”. This will clearer and it will also spurn your creativity.

6. Read slower. Sit with a  book from a great classic writer. (My choice would be Flannery O’Connor) and instead of reading the sentences, savor them. Sip them, as you would a glass of wine at a tasting. Pay attention to the nuance. Make notes of what you notice. Train your literary palate to recognize things so that when it’s your turn to write, you’ll be able to tap into your subconscious and write more creatively.

“We write to taste life twice, in the

7. Write in short spurts and then do something mindless. You may have heard this before: set your timer for 10 minutes and write. Then, when the timer dings, go do something mindless, like wash the dishes or prepare a meal. Your brain will use the “down time” to recharge so when you return to the creative activity, you’ll be energized and more successful. This is backed up scientifically. Check out this very helpful article from 99U. 

8. Do some math. This isn’t a joke. If you want to be more creative, get your left brain involved as much as your right brain. Spend a few minutes with something logical and analytical, like Sudoku or 1024. This will get those creative juices flowing. Because according to this article, the “math” we do is really problem solving. The more exercise your brain gets in one discipline, the more it will help the others.

“God writes a lot of comedy... the

9. Want more? Inc.com has 9 Ways To Become More Creative in the Next 10 Minutes. 

10. Creativity Post has 101 Tips On How To Be More Creative.

11. And  . . . 10 Minute Novelists now has a Pinterest Board devoted to becoming more creative! Follow us! 



#Top10Tuesday Top Ten Links That Demonstrate Your Self-Published Book Looks Cheap & Amateurish

In our series on Love Your Reader, Love Your Art, Love Yourself, we didn’t have time to discuss the importance of good design in your self published works. If you went to all the trouble of editing and proofreading, of character development and plot, you should put just as much care into your book’s first impression.

1. First, take a look at these covers listed on BuzzFeed and make some notes: Things That Make Designers Cringe 

2. This informative post shows exactly why somethings work and some things don’t.  Habits of Bad Graphic Designers

Top 10 Links That Demonstrate Your Self-Published Book Looks Cheap and Amateurish

3. And everybody needs example of what not to do. Lousy Book Covers website! 

4. Just because you have a bad cover, doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer.  Embarrassingly Bad Book Covers for Classic Novels 

Top 10 Ways Your Self-Published Book Looks Cheap and Amateurish
Papa Hemingway? A cover like this could drive you to drink. Wait, maybe it did.

5. And even Penguin can make a mistake in a book cover. You will never look at Charlie and The Chocolate Factory the same way.

6. A graphic designer goes into details as to why some graphic elements work and some don’t. This is worth reading, especially if you’re designing yourself.

Top 10 Ways Your Self-Published Book Looks Cheap and Amateurish

Call me anal retentive, but the F and I should not get so cozy here.

7. The same blogger from Lousy Book Covers, (number 3 of this list) was featured on Huffington Post and gives us more examples of what not to do!

8. Here’s a list of common mistakes that self-published writers make with their covers. 

9. Some of my all time favorite bad book covers. This one is my favorite.

Top 10 Resources To Show You How To Avoid Bad Book Covers
“Anybody can be cool, but Awesome takes Practice!” I tell my kids this all the time!

10. And the last thing on the Top 10 List is a Top Ten List! Ten Ways To Create A Bad Book Cover. 

Love Your Reader by making them excited to read your book. Love your Art by investing in quality art to represent your words. Love Yourself by handing the design over to a professional. 

Your Readers, Your Art and YOU are worth it!

Author Spotlight: Meet Jane Steen

10 Minute Novelists is a community of writers from all over the world. Twice a month, we feature one of our writers. Today? It’s Jane Steen, author of House of Closed Doors and champion of Author Ethics.
Join Ethical Author Weeks! February 1-14, 2015
To continue this conversation, this blog is sponsoring Ethical Author Weeks February 1-14. Got questions on how you can start conversations on ethics on your blog? Leave a comment!

Welcome Jane!

1. How did the topic of ethics for authors become an interest of yours?

It just started out as an observation that there were quite a few authors out there behaving unprofessionally. I’ve been active on Goodreads as a reader for years, and I could see wave after wave of shock run around the community because an author had plagiarized another author’s work, or had attacked a reviewer in the comments thread, or they’d detected yet another reviewing ring (where a group of authors had all given each other five stars). I could see how these actions by a few authors were eroding the trust that should exist between reader and author. I began noticing in author groups that a few authors (not the majority) were treating the market as a free-for-all, proposing dodgy marketing tactics as the latest great idea and trying to coordinate actions that I knew, from the Goodreads side, were seen as spam at least and unethical at worst.

Author Spotlight: Jane Steen

So one day I spoke up. Ironically, shortly before I did that I wrote a blog post about how I wanted to be a writer, not a campaigner—it was never my intention to become “Mrs. Author Ethics” or anything like that. But now that my efforts have been taken up by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and groups like the 10 Minute Novelists, I can see there are several ways in which I can help new authors adopt professional ethics right from the beginning (and thus have long and happy careers). I’m hoping that in 2015 I can help make author ethics as popular a subject as how to produce great book covers or the best way to edit your book. I’m already seeing other authors discussing ethics and adopting the ALLi badge.

And then, when everyone accepts ethics of part of a writer’s toolkit, I hope to focus fully on my other writing. Think I’ll succeed?

2. Why are the specific points of the Code of Ethics so important?

The Code’s written as an outline of the most basic principles, not as a detailed “law.” So it’s easy for an author to adopt and follow, and it’s nice and short—eight short paragraphs, headed up by the guiding principle, which is to put your readers first. In the end this effort is all about respecting, appreciating and honoring the people without whom you wouldn’t be an author.

Badge, Ethical Author, ALLi
Click the image above to go to Jane Steen’s Code of Ethics or take a screen shot of the image, put it on your blog as a sign you’re an ethical author.

3. What have you learned by watching other authors’ bad behavior?

What not to do! I’ve often observed how a huge row frequently begins as a mistake on the author’s part—in the first flush of being an author (or sometimes, regrettably, once they get famous enough that they have fans telling them how great they are) they decide to take offence at the way readers behave. Yes, readers do things authors would prefer they wouldn’t—they post snarky reviews or totally misread your book or make moral and psychological judgments about YOU based on what your characters do, or blame you for getting history details wrong where in fact you’re right. That doesn’t justify the author in going on the attack against her own readers—in what other industry does a producer turn round and tell its consumers they’re idiots for not appreciating the beauty of its product?

I’ve learned from experience and observation that you’ve got to build up a relationship of trust with readers, and although you can (and I do) set some boundaries (I’ve deleted comments that are clearly troll attacks, for example), for the most part you just have to keep your professional face on and if you’re upset, tell your best friend and not the entire internet about it.

Do Ethics for Writers Matter?

4. What advice would you give new writers in regard to ethics?

Well, obviously I’d advise them to read the Ethical Author Code! Also, I’d advise new writers to seek out the best sources of knowledge about the publishing industry in general and their particular niche. Look for blogs by respected industry observers, journalists, book bloggers and successful authors—I read Joanna Penn, Jane Friedman, Hugh Howey, Anne R. Allen, Dear Author and many more every day. Making an effort to keep yourself informed about the industry is vital, even if you’re publishing with a Big Five publisher.

“The days when an author could just sit back and let someone else direct their career are gone. Take responsibility for yourself and your writing business.”
Historical Romance Author Jane Steen
Historical Romance Author Jane Steen

5. Tell us about your other goals for 2015?

In 2014 I came up with the idea of the 365K Challenge, and ended up writing over 380,000 total words—which included part of two novels in my series, and concepts for a standalone novel and a new series. This year I’m participating in the bigger 365K Challenge that the 10 Minute Novelists group has launched, but I’m also working toward my own new goal—2,000 words a day but only on weekdays, as I find it harder to write on weekends. (That’s over 500,000 words a year, by the way.)

My other goal is to become successful as an entrepreneur. This means gradually introducing all kinds of systems for success—planning, scheduling, daily productivity beyond my word count, and keeping up with the other responsibilities in my life. I have several measurable goals for 2015, but my overriding aim is to work out how to stay proactive about my business and my writing, and keep moving both forward.

6. Why do you love writing historical novels?

I find history increasingly fascinating. The more you read about it, the more you see how all the parts fit together! As I’ve grown older I’ve gained a much clearer view of how I fit into history, or perhaps I should say how history has shaped the world I live in and which informs my thinking. Writing the novels allows me to invent characters who are moving within a historical context that we understand because it’s already happened. They don’t know what’s going to happen, but the author (and frequently the reader) does. And I love writing about characters who have to cope with the absence of things we take for granted—antibiotics or plane travel or telephones.

The House of Closed Doors by Jane Steen
The House of Closed Doors

7. What is it about 1880s Chicago that is so fascinating?

I began The House of Closed Doors in 1870 because I wanted to write within a specific framework of the evolution of Poor Farms—and it was set in the Chicago area because that’s where I live (the inspiration for the story came from a photo of the County Poor Farm which used to stand on my town’s main street). Right now I’m writing about Chicago in 1876-1877, and if I write the whole series as originally planned I’ll end up in 1888, well into the Gilded Age. During that time span the world of my characters will make huge technological advances and there’ll be some major societal rumblings (women’s rights and the labor movement) that lay the groundwork of the massive changes that will happen through the catalyst of the two World Wars. So I’m watching the modern world emerge through the eyes of a set of characters I like and find fun to write.

Also, the dresses are GORGEOUS. The fashion for lots of embellishment in the 1870s and 1880s produced some absolutely stunning work at the top end of the price range, and filtered down to more everyday clothing in the form of an attention to detail we’ve almost completely lost in the West. My novels are for anyone who stares in rapt attention at the costumes in period TV shows or movies—that’s why I made Nell a dressmaker.

8. What is your definition of success?

I’d like to earn a modest living from being an author-entrepreneur, of course. But my real definitition of success would be to write some characters that people love so much they dress like them and write fan fiction about them and remember them long after I’m gone.

“No writer’s immortal, but a really good character can be—look how long King Arthur’s lasted, for example. My dream is to invent characters that fuel other people’s dreams.”

How Will You Know When You Are

9. What important things do we need to know about you?

I’m British—I married an American, which is why I live here. I’ve always been fascinated by languages, and by fine crafts—if I had multiple lifetimes I’d become fluent in more languages than English and French, and I’d do way more than knit lace shawls. I’m an avid reader, as you’d expect, and have had my nose stuck in a book since I was four years old. But I also love to be outdoors, and I run, walk, bike or ski on the local forest preserve trails most days. I’m happily married with two adult daughters. I’m not at all fond of housework, but messiness and dirt make me feel anxious so I force myself.

10. Please finish this:  I love my reader when I  ______________.  I love my art when I ______________. I love myself, as a writer, when I ________________.

#EthicalAuthors Weeks Feb 1-14

“I love my reader when I respect their opinions. I love my art when I give it the time and attention it deserves. I love myself, as a writer, when I celebrate my successes and acknowledge—and address—my weaknesses.”

Jane Steen lives with her husband and daughter in the Chicago area. 

Neurotic Thoughts On My First Traditionally Published Book (Or The 9 Month Long Battle With Inner Voices)

In 2014, I wrote and submitted my very first traditionally published book (and you can pre-order it here).  The process of drafting, editing and submitting was nothing less than a constant fight with negative inner voices. I was a mess. But it’s done. And I’ve survived.

Write A Novel in 10 Minutes A Day

I’ve written and published a book before, but the first one was self-published. When I self published, I realized I had this huge ocean of grace — all the mistakes, all the decisions, all the vision, all the glaring spelling errors are mine alone. No one else was invested. The stakes were low. I joined the ranks of thousands of other writers who publish their own work too, for better or worse, and I could rest comfortably that my reviews (some of course, from my family and close friends) were there to build me up and keep me going. (Bless her heart! She has a hobby!)

This book was vastly different. There was an ACTUAL PUBLISHER involved. And Actual Publisher had to negotiate a deal with Literary Agent (that I had to SIGN WITH !!!) so that me, AUTHOR, can write a book! Now the stakes were higher. This is the story of how that deal went down. It’s pretty crazy.

With this contract, my writing was no longer a hobby, if it ever was. Now it’s real. My communications, my presence, my manuscript has to be professional. 

Neurotic Thoughts On My First Traditionally Published Book
Neurotic Thoughts On My First Traditionally Published Book

When I sat down this last spring and wrote out my chapters, I have to admit, I was shaking. More than once I tensed up, thinking they had the wrong writer, the wrong idea, or this was all a big mistake. But I kept going. More than once, I had to remind myself that they approached me. I didn’t approach them. They saw something in me. I didn’t cajole or manipulate or bribe them. They were willing to risk their brand on me to the point that documents were signed and checks were written. Oh, and I had already spent the advance, so I couldn’t give it back.

Yeah, so I spent my advance on office stuff. You like?
Yeah, so I spent my advance on office stuff. You like?

If those voices of self doubt weren’t enough, I also thought the project itself was talking to me.  It said all kinds of evil things to me, especially when it came to certain songs on my lyric free Pandora stations.  If it was the Downton Abbey theme? My WIP got all pretentious, talked to me in a fake English accent, and distracted me. It told me how we were going to marry off my daughters to keep the entailment, fight a war and then forced me to make tea (which I make just to keep WIP quiet). Then I say something about how we need to get to work because it was a work in progress and it needs to be finished. With that, the fully nonverbal WIP accused me of pulling an O’Brien. It said, You are in a conspiracy to kill me off. Well, you ARE a work-in-progress, you’re going to be done someday, I say. I consider pouring my cup of tea on my keyboard to keep it quiet but saner inner voices prevailed. 

Oh! Brien!
Oh! Brien!

To add to all this, the irony smacked me in the face on a daily basis. I wrote in the manuscript: Because to have your name attached to something of inferior quality insults your hard work and the readers who read it. Hello, self? Yes, would you like more pressure? You don’t seem to have enough, do you?

But after six months, I finished it. And then I experienced this very odd feeling: I was so glad to have this 800 pound tea sipping gorilla of a task off my back, but then realizing HEY! I always wanted to have this particular gorilla!!!!  I was stressed and concerned about the whole project, but did I actually enjoy it?  I don’t know yet. Let’s get to the reviews.

I am fortunate enough to have close friends with strong editing backgrounds. So I gave my little manuscript to Jane and Barb and asked them to give it a once over with their stabby red pens to find all the errors. I foolishly thought that between the two of them, I’d see them all. There would be so much overlap between the two ladies’ interpretations, that this little book would most definitely sing.

What kind of genre do I write?

Um. No. That’s not what happened. Barb gave me five pages of notes. Five pages!!  And after I made all her corrections, I looked at Jane’s notes. Jane wrote right on the ms itself and her notes were nothing like Barb’s!!!  I would like to say, with complete confidence that I inhaled a deep breath and exhaled a prayer of gratitude that my thorough friends did such an excellent job of trouble shooting. But that’s not what I did at all. I caught myself thinking, this proves I’m a loser! 

NO! It doesn’t.  After going through all the corrections, I stopped thinking that. I realized that this was just part of the learning process. Jane and Barb also had a lot of NICE things to say and they were all true. My friends loved me and never accused me of being fictional British housemaids. They edited my book for free. I’m not a loser, I’m a wise writer who understands the power of thoughtful readers to help.

What do I do when I'm stuck on a story idea?
from Frabz.com

Then I was ready to submit. No matter how nervous I was, I had to push the send button. The truth of the situation is that the deal is done.  My agent will not drop me because of this book. The publishers are already committed. They aren’t going to change their minds. (Note to self: Just the fact that you think that this is a possibility may be a sign there’s more sessions with your therapist in the future. And mention Downton Abbey. Think about it.)

Guess what?  I wasn’t done after submission. A few weeks ago, the proofs came and I had to go over them and make a few changes. I was only slightly less neurotic with this task. It helped that both my agent and the publisher had very nice things to say about the manuscript. I also have to say that seeing my name like this is a great motivator.

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 8.13.40 AM

So that’s the story. What have I learned? There’s a price to pay for pursuing my dreams. My price includes facing my neuroses head on and working my butt off.

And it’s worth it.

UnWrapping Love! An Anthology by The Writing Wenches (And 10 Minute Novelists)

On December 1, a group of women, and one man they affectionately call “the barkeep,” who call themselves the Writing Wenches pulled off a pretty major accomplishment. They released an anthology collection of twenty-one holiday themed short romance stories, in a single volume, called Unwrapping Love.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 11.43.16 AM

It took months of coordination, effort, writing, editing, formatting, cover designing, and marketing to pull this off. In the end, they put together a project that was unique in its scope. The reviews have been amazing, and I’m really proud of this group, that had its start in the 10 Minute Novelists group.

When I asked them what led them to want to work on a project like this, I got a variety of answers, but most of them had one central theme: They had created a writing group based on common interests, even though they wrote in different aspects of the romance genre (paranormal, suspense, historical), and within that group was a support system that each had been looking for, some of them for months or even years. Working within that group to create the anthology seemed like a logical extension.

With 21 authors, there were bound to be some issues. There were group meetings to determine if they should release volumes or one large book. At 738 pages, this book is one of the largest I’ve seen. Key dates in the schedule were revised a few times, and a few authors had to drop out because of things going on in their lives.

But with a group of writers dedicated to the group dynamic, and the desire for a successful book launch, edits were completed, and many virtual hugs were given. For some of these authors, the anthology marked the first time they had worked with a professional editor, and that’s not always an easy process.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.05.36 PM

The book couldn’t have been completed without the help and guidance of PageCurl Publishing and Promotions. Unwrapping Love was published under their imprint, and they provided editing, formatting, marketing, and cover design services.

The following Writing Wenches are hosting a blog hop. Each of them is hosting a giveaway, and telling you a bit about her part in Unwrapping Love! You can stop by each website to learn more about the anthology and enter each individual giveaway, which will be posting over the next several days.

Kay Blake contributed Winter’s Gift. Her site is http://www.authorkayblake.wordpress.com

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.15.23 PM

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.24.31 PM

Christine Cacciatore wrote Noah Cane’s Candy. She blogs at http://poopwafoley.blogspot.com/ .

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.29.11 PM

Patricia D. Eddy wrote On The Eve of Love. Her website is http://www.pdeddy.com/holiday-blog-hop.


Patricia Eddy
Patricia Eddy

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.27.37 PM

C. S. Kendall is the author of Second Chance Girl. She would love it if you would visit her at http://www.cskendall.net

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.11.35 PM

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.18.40 PM

Tami Lund is the author of The Perfect Christmas. You can find her at http://tamilund.com/?page_id=91 .

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.32.29 PM

Misti Murphy contributed Christmas Candy. Her site is http://mistimurphy.weebly.com .

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.26.37 PM

Quenby Olson wrote First Position. You can visit her at http://quenbyolson.wordpress.com/ .

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.33.53 PM

Keisha K. Page contributed Rhythm of Love. Her website is http://thewordmistress.blogspot.com/ .

Author Keisha Page
Author Keisha Page

Grace Ravel wrote Shut Up and Kiss Me. Her site is www.graceravel.com

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.21.01 PM

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.22.59 PM

Jennifer Ray wrote Declan’s Special. You can visit her at www.adventuresinjentopia.wordpress.com .

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.22.05 PM

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.23.55 PM

Jennifer Senhaji is the author of Angels in Disguise. You can find her at http://jennifersenhaji.blogspot.com/ .

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.14.33 PM

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 4.25.24 PM

A.E. Snow contributed Miles and Mae. Her site is at www.aesnowauthor.blogspot.com

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.16.16 PM

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.25.17 PM

Sheri Williams wrote Numb, and is sharing the blog hop from the Writing Wenches main website at www.writingwenches.com.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.12.39 PM

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.30.13 PM

S. K. Wills wrote Hanley’s Secret. Her website is http://skwills.com/blog/ .

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.36.27 PM

Allison Winfield is the author of Stay With Me. You can find her at http://alwinfield.com .

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.17.10 PM

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.18.03 PM

Other stories in Unwrapping Love were contributed by:

Melody Barber, Sonja Frojendal, Melina Gillies, Michael Simko, Beth Stanley, K.R. Wilburn

Check them out and get your copy of Unwrapping Love today!

#Top10Tuesday Awesome Writer Gifts To Give This Holiday Season

Got a writer in your life? Don’t know what to buy them for the holidays? Here are 10 writing related gifts that I know I would LOVE to have.  (Send this link to anyone who’s shopping for you!)

1.  Your writer needs ideas! Make inspiration fun with a gift that everyone in your family can play! Give them this:

What games promote creativity?
This innovative kit includes a 64-page booklet filled with 60 exercises and instructions that focus on a “right-brain” approach to writing.

2. And if your budding writer only gets their best ideas in the shower, make it convenient to write them down! Buy them Aqua Notes – Waterproof Notepad!

How Can I write notes down in the shower?
The waterproof pad features 40 perforated sheets so you can take your ideas, lists, and plans for fixing the government wherever you go.

3. And I don’t know much about this book, but it really look good! The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley 

What do I do with ideas in the middle of the night?
The 3 A.M. Epiphany offers more than 200 intriguing writing exercises designed to help you think, write, and revise like never before – without having to wait for creative inspiration.

4. Every writer I know has a serious obsession with blank books. Why not buy them a great one? Moleskine Gift Box – Writing (7.5 x 7.75) (Gift Box Sets) by Moleskine 

5. Every writer also needs a place to put their coffee. How about a mug that has all the great first lines of literature? For $13.95 on Amazon.com

6. This book is on my must read list! I’ve heard it’s very inspirational! Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon


7.  Oh, to hang the words of Louisa May Alcott around my neck! Handmade She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain quote necklace.  

8. Next? Encourage your budding writer to save up to attend a conference or register for that MFA. Vintage Style Typewriter Coin Nostalgic Piggy Bank by Things2Die4

9. Want a gift they’ll use every day? (Assuming of course they use a mouse!) Try a Best Writer Ever Mousepad by 3dRose.   

10. And last, but trust me, this is IS THE BEST GIFT EVER FOR A WRITER (unless you buy alcohol) Chocolate Treasures Gourmet Food Gift Basket


How Being An Armchair Analyst Can Make You A Better Writer (And Football Fan!)

My 10 year old son knows a lot about football.

He takes it very seriously. Can't you tell?
He takes it very seriously. Can’t you tell?

He knows the most obscure penalty calls.  He knows who the third string quarterback is for the Raiders, what college he went to and why he’d probably be taken by Miami next year.  He knows who won every Super Bowl, who coached the winning teams and crazy stats like how many championship victories were earned by teams who came from behind. Along with every Patriots fan in New England, he wants to tell Coach Bellichik exactly what went wrong in last week’s game. My son doesn’t restrict his knowledge to the Patriots; he knows about the Broncos, the Jets (oh! How we hate the Jets!) the Giants (hate the Giants too!) and other threats in the season. If he were myopic about the world of football he would miss out on a lot of great games. (Don’t even get me started on how he feels about college ball!)

For all this knowledge, my son can’t put his knowledge into practice very well.

He’s got his Wii football games. He plays pick up ball in the neighborhood. He loves Madden, but he’s just not going to be able to apply his knowledge within the limitations of his life. He doesn’t play in an organized team. He probably won’t see high school play so college play is probably out of the question. And if he has a future in the NFL,  it won’t be one with shoulder pads on his body and numbers on his shirt. He is for now, just an armchair sportsman, devoted in his passion, hungry for more knowledge and ravenous for more opportunities. 

Like my son, good writers should be just as excited about their game.

How Being An Armchair Analysts Can Make You A Better Writer (And Football Fan!)  #write #writing #amwriting

If we are reading constantly, then we can get, like my son, a spectator’s view of strategy and drama. We can put in our own opinion of what other writers are doing wrong, learn from them and go back to our literary heroes and know their “stats” too.

We need to know our game inside and out.

How can we be armchair analysts?

Read as obsessively as my son watches. A writer who isn’t in the middle of reading a good book can’t call themselves a writer. Don’t know what to read? Join Goodreads, ask your friends, read some of the books from the writers in our Facebook group, go to your local library, find a local book club.

Pay attention to what we’re reading. Look at structure, character development, word choices and imagery. You absolutely can’t be a good writer if you aren’t a reader. Surround yourself with quality books and examine everything from sentence structure to plot. You will get better by learning from the experts.

 Get vocal about the flaws in the books you read. As long as you aren’t mean-spirited, you can explain the trouble spots in your reviews.  Don’t want to leave a review? Keep private notes. Every writer makes mistakes, either out of sloppiness or laziness or lack of skill. Point these out, at least to yourself, and think about what you would do differently.

 Know the league, not just your team.  If you read outside of your genre, the you can still learn much about story, character development and style.  Don’t sell yourselves short in learning from great writers because you were too devoted to the home team.

Why should I get help in my writing?
Sooner Born and Sooner Bred and When I Die I’ll b Sooner Dead! (Sorry, I said home team and I got a little carried away!)

Work in the off season. Guess what my son talked about all spring? THE DRAFT! It’s not football season, but he’s thinking about what’s next! So should you. You don’t have a book out yet, but you should still learn about marketing. There is so much to learn, take advantage of opportunities, like our 10 Minute Novelists weekly chats. 

Expect surprises.  Bellichik and Brady do the best they can, but nobody really knows what the final score will be. (Let’s try to avoid that disastrous game against Kansas City!) That’s the way with the writing/publishing/marketing world. You give it all you’ve got, but you don’t really know what the result will be.

Expect disappointment. The truth is, the writing world is saturated with wannabe novelists and instant ebooks. Tapping into this market and being successful is about as hard as a 10 year old trying to be Brady’s wide receiver in 2024. Keep going. Your dream is worth it.

When we are armchair analysts, we think about the game more completely.

Because my son saturates himself with all things football, he can apply it to his game when the opportunity arises. When I saturate myself with good writing and think critically about what I’m reading, then I’m a better writer too.

What have you learned about your game from other writers? Who do you root for in football season?

Why I Write: Literature’s Role in the Teen’s Journey to Self-Acceptance, A Guest Post by YA Author Ellen Mulholland

Back in the late 70s and early 80s, I was a high school English geek. I was the nerdy girl who loved and debated every book we read. I was the good friend who helped with essays and theme analyses. I savored each minute of class and could have spent the entire school day reading and writing. We read the greats –Austen, Knowles, Steinbeck, and Lee. Stories about courage, love and discovery. We discussed characters’ journeys and authors’ themes. We explored friendship and family; and I fell in love with Elizabeth Bennet, Gene Forrester, Tom Joad, and Scout.

Why do I write?
You can get to know Ellen better by checking out her website! Click the image to go there! www.ellenmuholland.com

Inside my own middle-class upbringing, I understood that every teen embarked on a journey to self-acceptance.

I loved to read and write. My path was clear to me. I would major in English Lit and Journalism at USC.

There, my world opened wide. I heard and read about liberal thinkers and journalists like Ted Kennedy, I.F. Stone, Daniel Ellsberg and Geraldine Ferraro.

Like many college students, my innocent suburban childhood crashed head-on into the world’s inequities and injustices. I discovered the underdogs.

I soon understood that my task in life was to tell others’ travels.

What books has Ellen Mulholland written?
Click the image for more information!

My role as a writer would be to give voice to the mute and form to the invisible, tell the stories of real life heroes.

However, after spending internships and short stints reporting on drunk drivers, gang violence and dirty politicians, I quickly ditched the journalism career. This wasn’t the footprint I wanted to leave on the world.

First, one life-changing assignment for a small paper in a sleepy and conservative Southern California community changed my life forever.

Why Does Ellen Plotkin Mulholland write?
Ellen Mulholland, Author of (THIS GIRL CLIMBS TREES and BIRDS ON A WIRE)

It was 1982, and the AIDS epidemic had just begun hogging headlines. My assignment: interview local citizens and gather their reactions to this crisis. I did. Their responses shocked me. I was a 20-year-old journalism student, and they were housewives and businessmen. My worldviews were just opening up. Theirs were mired in the past.

Homosexuals needed to change their lifestyle.”

“ AIDS is punishment.”

After college and ditching the journalism dream, my path grew murky. I moved to London and travelled. I wrote a novel about childhood, about growing up amidst life’s challenges – death, love, family, and gender stereotypes. It took me another 25 years before I published “This Girl Climbs Trees”. During that time, I married, raised two kids, taught teenagers, and divorced. I lived a life.

What book can I read about climbing trees?
Click the image for more information!

Back in California, I was ready to write about that heroic underdog.

As a middle school teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve met many young people who struggle with fitting in, how to dress, what to say, whom to friend.

These teens search to define themselves. Many of them find role models in the media. Celebrities entering and exiting rehab. Instagram and YouTube phenoms. Not all exemplify good choices. Not all live a realistic life.

I decided my students lived the real stories I wanted to tell.

My second YA novel, “Birds on a Wire”, begins with a boy – an ordinary likeable kid who anyone might identify with or as a friend. Matt West, a 16-year-old bright and quiet high school junior, struggles with his sexuality. He has two best friends – one with a long-term girlfriend, one with many short-term girlfriends. Matt’s reality makes it difficult to say who he is; he questions how he’s viewed. His friends are loyal but very heterosexual; they illustrate life’s gray areas.

I didn’t want it to be easy for Matt to come out. I didn’t want it to be impossible either. I wanted it to be his choice. His journey.

Matt West is my underdog. He’s a hero I could love because he is so deeply conflicted with expressing his true self and maintaining his lifelong friendships.

I believe this conflict is at the heart of much teen angst. When we reach adolescence, we discover our autonomy; we glimpse our destinies. We arrive at a crossroad between venturing forth to our truth and preserving the foundation of our past. This is our coming of age. A story told repeatedly throughout literature.

With “Birds on a Wire”, I try to tell this story. Matt West must not simply choose his destiny, he must preserve who he is and accept who he can be. Matt must realize the importance of friendship, family, love and honesty; he must own the impact he has on those around him. Matt’s journey is not defined by his sexuality; it is merely his vehicle to self-acceptance. His is every teen’s journey.

Many stories that I read as a teen influenced the characters and themes I developed in “Birds on a Wire”. Here are 5 deeply moving classic novels that demonstrate the teen’s impassioned journey of self-discovery.

“A Separate Peace” by John Knowles

“The Chocolate Wars” by Robert Cormier

“The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” by Carson McCullers

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou

“Monster” by Walter Dean Meyers