Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Are You Making These 10 Mistakes in Article Writing?

1. There's no point. Is there a clear focus to your article, or is it just a rambling of opinions and ideas? Using the structure of a Top 10 list should help.
2. There's no space. Is there enough white space for the reader in between ideas? A good rule of thumb is four lines maximum per paragraph. If you're publishing an HTML newsletter with a sidebar, that could be as few as one or two sentences!
3. There's no discretion. Oh my goodness!!! Are you overusing exclamation marks? If it's really that important, tell us why! Otherwise you're just distracting your reader.
4. There's no reader. Are you talking AT your reader or TO them? Ask them questions, use the word "you," and take a conversational tone in your writing. Try reading your articles out loud as you write; imagine a client is listening.
5. There's no end. Do your sentences tend to run on and on? Don't make it hard work to read your articles, or your readers won't stay with you. Write clearly and your ideas will be read, understood and shared.
6. There's no action. Do you let your reader off the hook with passive language? Pull them in by using lots of action words for things they should do, or to describe things you or others have already done.
7. There's no logic. Are you confusing your reader by combining too many points in the same paragraph? Use a clear and concise structure to separate your ideas.
8. There's no match. What is the focus of your list? If it's problem-focused, or a "don't" list (Top 10 mistakes, Top 10 symptoms, etc.), then that's what the header of each point should be. If it's solution-focused, or a "do" list (Top 10 ways to, Top 10 tips, etc.), then ALL of your list items should reflect that.
9. There's no magic. Do your list item titles (mini-headlines) stand out and attract attention? Choose a similar short phrase or keyword for each, rather than a full sentence. Make each mini-headline approximately the same length.
10. There's no invitation. Have you ever heard Andrea Lee say, "A confused mind always says no"? In the Author Resource box at the end of your article, make it clear which ONE action you'd like the reader to take - preferably to visit your website and sign-up for your free gift.
(c) Linda Dessau.

Linda Dessau is an editor, ghostwriter and certified coach, and is the author of The Customizable Style Guide for Coaches Who Write: Look Smarter, Write Faster and Get Better Results from Your Writing. Want more secrets to good writing? Visit to pick up your FREE copy of the Readability Secrets for Coaches Who Write. It includes a 5-point checklist that is guaranteed to improve your writing.

Write it down,


Monday, July 28, 2008

Why You Should Hire A Writing Coach

A writer needs a coach just as an athlete does. Although writing is not an athletic sport, (unless you count the activity of pacing back and forth in your office while you tear your hair out trying to figure out what to write,) it is a specialized profession. A coach is a specialized expert in their field.
Click on the Children's Writer's Coaching Club logo in the sidebar. Find out how Suzanne Lieruance can help you get your writing for children's career off the ground.

Following are five reasons why you need a writing coach.

1. Increase productivity. Free up more time for writing. Work like cooking, washing dishes or cleaning house is unproductive for writers. This type of work can be delegated to other family members or if your budget allows it, hire someone else to do it.
2. Earn more money. Your writing coach will teach you how write top notch query and cover letters leading to great writing jobs. Also, a writing coach will show you where to look for jobs.
3. Generate desired results. You are your own worst critics. A coach can be objective and open your eyes to your positive attributes.
4. Receive self-esteem support. It is easy to feel depressed when creativity seems to get stuck. You may feel inadequate and the knee-jerk reaction is to beat your self up. A coach can show you how to combat against writing blocks.
5. Shatter Procrastination. All the planning and goal setting in the world will not help you become a best selling author unless you apply action. A writing coach is there for you every inch of the way. Each time you cry out "It's too hard", your coach will tell you yes it is hard but you can do it!

A writing coach gives support, listens and teaches. If your writing career is not going where you want it to go you need a coach. It's time to get off the fence. Suzanne Lieurance is The Working Writer's Coach and the director of The National Writing for Children Center.
Write it down,

Friday, July 25, 2008

Five Thoughts to Discover Your Writing Inspiration

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." (Jack London)

Inspiration is all around us. A word, a song, or a picture can propel us forward to greatness.

Today inspiration came to me via Suzanne Lieurance, my writing coach from the Working Writer’s Coach, The National Writing for Children Center and my summer boot camp writing buddy, Lisa H. from Peace and Laughter in the Moment..I think. Job boards are also inspiring because when a job speaks to you, a slew of ideas begin to cascade through your head and you can’t wait to write them down and submit.

Consider using one or all of these five approaches to find your inspiration.

1. Music is a major source of inspiration. Listen to your favorite music when relaxing and ideas will come like a waterfall.

2. Free writing creates moments of the muse. You may be stuck on a topic and your writing is reflecting boredom. Even if you have to write the same words over and over keep doing it and before you know it your creative power is unleashed and you have a novel, article or EBook.

3. Next is reading. Great minds do travel in the same dimension. Get out a favorite book that is close to your own niche and read away.

4. Carry a small personal recorder in your purse or pocket. Now if you are in the shower that may be a little difficult. Dry off your writing hand and use the pen and paper that is laying on the bathroom vanity. Or run dripping wet to the computer and type it in.

5. Go to the park if you are feeling stuck. This is a wonderful chance to practice meditation and prepare your mind to receive great thoughts.

I like to take bike rides early mornings so I can "hear" the quite and "see" the Forrest with out the trees. Where are you when brilliant ideas pop in your head?

Write it down,


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How to Overcome Childhood Shyness

Shyness does not have a standardized definition in the dictionary and cannot be defined by one or two words. Bashful, frightened, timid are just a few. Most definitions incorporate feeling uncomfortable in social situations. The simple act of recognizing and understanding a child’s feelings can create an environment that feels safe or safer to a shy child.

Fifty percent of the adult population in the United States is shy. Most people are embarrassed by their shyness and keep it hidden. They somehow believe they are different than everyone else. Incorporating the following tips will go a long way to help bring a shy child out of their shell.

*Portray shyness in a positive light: Compare your shy child to other shy children who have grown up to be successful adults. For instance: Abraham Lincoln was extremely shy as a boy and was afraid of girls. Even movie stars like Tom Hanks were painfully shy. Explain that shy people can be more courageous than the average person. It takes more energy for a shy person to do the same things an outgoing person can do.

*Keep communication lines open on a daily basis: A shy child will feel closer to the family. All it takes is a smile, comment or even a question to make a big difference. The key is not to make your child feel singled out and different from other kids.

*Encourage a shy child to join an extra curricular activity group: Shy children need to feel like they are contributing to a cause and they need a reason to interact with other kids their own age.

*Compliment them on their accomplishments publicly: Most shy children crave attention but shun it at the same time. This is why it is important to be careful when drawing attention to them. The hit and run approach works best. Don’t give them the time to struggle or respond. “Great sweater. I really like it. What can I do for you?” Move forward and know that you did a good thing.

*Reward small improvements: Most shy children blossom when challenges are broken into manageable chunks. It’s their anxiety that gets in the way of their development, not their intelligence. Many shy children learn to overcome their fears when it is made clear that failing is part of learning.

When shyness goes unnoticed or rectified, it can have a distressing influence on an adult child’s life. It is possible for shy children to become introverted adults and miss out on many opportunities in life because no one ever demonstrated that shyness can be overcome.

“The way to overcome shyness is to become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid.” Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson.

For more on this topic you can read Dr. Bernado Carducci’s The Shyness Breakthrough. Dr. Carducci states that the cause of childhood shyness is not genetic. For another resource about communication go read Theresa Schultz's article How to Listen to Your Kids at Stress-Free Parent blog.
Write it down,

Monday, July 21, 2008

Must Have Books for the Intelligent Writer

It is rare when a writer uses the dictionary to find a correct spelling when pressing the F7 key will find it faster than it takes to turn a page. Instead of depending on the mechanical brain, depend on this list of books which will add to any office repertoire while enhancing the overall quality of writing.

The Elements of Style, (Strunk and White) Do you scuffle with which and that as I do? Sometimes you need to go “which” hunting as Strunk and White so cleverly articulate. That is the defining pronoun and Which is the nondefining pronoun.

“The lawnmower that is broken is in the garage." (Tells which one.)
“The lawnmower, which is broken, is in the garage." (Adds a fact about the only mower in question.)

The International Thesaurus of Quotations is a quotation book arranged by ideas and with many different proverbs to match meaning and sense. For those of you who like to use quotes in your writing you will find this book relevant and fascinating.

Writing: "He that writes to himself writes to an eternal public." Emerson, "Spiritual Laws," Essays: First Series (1841)
"I myself, I am not a character in this novel; I am the novel." Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly (1977)

The Chicago Manual of Style. An essential reference of words, technology, guidance for editing electronic sources for all writers. (there may be a version online) I must admit I have used this book the least and while perusing through for this post I realized I have been missing some key points on writing.

A verb is the most essential part of speech and the only one that can express a thought by itself, in a complete grammatical sentence (with the subject understood)




The Synonym Finder, J.I. Rodale. Often one will find oneself trying to think of an exact word and instead of right clicking on a word within your word document and scrolling down to synonyms, try looking up the word in The Synonym Finder. This book cuts down on using the same word too repetitively, incessantly, ceaselessly or boringly.

A couple of equally important books are the most current issue of the Writer’s Market and 1001 Ways to Market Your Books. Who knew that writing would include all this reading?

Write it down,


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Book Review: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

It is Children's Book Review week at The National Writing for Children Center this week. My review of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! is the first review of the week. Surf on over to read and leave a comment.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! is the Newbery Medal winner for 2008. One thing strikes me in this medieval historical fiction of individual monologues and that is the characters do not speak of their poverty with any resentment. Like many children they are cheerful and show moments of daring acts. Each character attribute is written in a matter-of-fact-that-is-just-the-way-it-is manner. Kids are just trying to figure out what their position is within the Lord’s Manor.
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Friday, July 18, 2008

Do You Write for Reluctant Readers?

I have not always loved to read. When I was in the fifth grade I distinctly remember hating to write book reports because I would have to read. However, fifth grade was also a pivotal year because I read a book all the way to the end. Before that crucial moment all of my book reports were based on jacket flaps. I can’t remember the author or the name of the book that piqued my interest in reading but I do remember it was about a girl my age who knew how I felt and liked what I liked. The author did a wonderful job leading a reluctant reader down a path of adventure.

Fast forward to 2008. Young reluctant readers (also known as Hi/Lo readers) are on the rise and there is a great need for authors to write in this unique genre. Reluctant readers read both fiction and non-fiction. According to Elizabeth Kennedy of in her article of Resources for Reluctant Readers there are several different types of reluctant readers according to the experts.

*Children who are intelligent and interested but don’t read well.
*Children who have no interest and are at risk of failing.
*Children who deal with specific learning problems.
*A child who reads well but has little interest.

Are you a writer who would like to help this type of reader? I found a helpful article by Lori Jameson and Paul Kropp on Reading Rockets: Hooking Struggling Readers. Writers of controlled-readability materials must be aware that the interest of a book must be held all the way through. Authors of regular novels can spend more time describing characters, scenery and background but an author of a Hi/Lo book has to keep the plot spinning to keep a reluctant reader’s attention.

To find out the science behind books for reluctant readers and free materials for teachers and parents go to H-I-P (High Interest Publishing) and visit Lori Jameson and Paul Kropp at HIP-Books. This information is a great start on researching how to write for reluctant readers of all ages.

An author needs to make the reader care what happens to the characters. Making connections from one's own experience to the text is an important reading strategy and a basic literacy skill. It is a challenge but that is what writing is about. Creating and challenging. If you can help a child relate to experiences in a book they may be able to stretch their reading curve up a grade level or two.

Write it down,


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Write As If You Were Dying

“Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?” (Annie Dillard)

Dillard says every book has an inherent impossibility, which is what a writer will notice as soon as the excitement for the project begins to dwindle. You write in spite of it. You have an idea, a plot, THE story, it has come to you on wings with your name on it, maybe just one line at a time but it is there nonetheless. I love Dillard’s words, “It’s like something you memorized once, and forgot.”

What do you write? Complex stories, poems, articles, essays? They all have the same difficulty as does a long novel. But do you think it is better to throw yourself into a bunch of little projects or should you exhaust your energy into one big book? Dillard says you should spend it all in one long project.
What do you think?

You know the saying “use it or lose it”. Creativity should not be bottled up or saved for another time. Ideas are saved and planned but when the words begin to flow don’t try to stop it. Give everything you have. Don’t lock it up. Write about winter in the summer.

Remember the last time a line or a few words were delivered to you magically, or so it seemed, and your fingers went flying over the keys. You couldn’t stop until you had spent all that you had received. This is the experience I am talking about. You are sitting at the keyboard or writing pad. Tapping your toe; thinking; “I wonder if Diane is going to call me.” Your mind is wandering from one place to the next like the balls in a lotto drum going round and round and never landing. You never see the words coming until they are in your face. You write till you drop.

Further, as writers we are also readers, so what do you look for in a writer? Are you looking for wisdom or courage? Why else do you read? I must admit I read for knowledge and entertainment. I am always inspired by other people’s words.

If you would like to learn more about Annie Dillard and her books check out this NY Times website.

Write it down,


Monday, July 14, 2008

I've Been Searchin' Ever Which Way

Who said “The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance?”

The only way to find out is to research. It doesn’t matter if you are writing fiction, non-fiction, for children, teens or adults; some one will ask you “How do you know?” (Gee no pressure here)

How does one create under this veil? Author Eve Bunting recommends “Be your self. That is the only way you can be anyhow…” Bunting has sold 167 books for young people. She advises: “Love the subject before you write about it. You won’t work up to your potential if you don’t.”

Do you know who said this yet?

“The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.”

I’m not telling you. Go research it and come back here to tell me.

A Few Pitfalls of Research

Avoid Lists of Facts Masquerading as an Article. Have you ever been told by an editor that they don’t want encyclopedia articles or more recently wikipedia articles? An encyclopedia is a compilation of facts about your subject and not the article. Your article will depend on how you handle those facts. It is a good idea to consult more than one source. Don’t start writing until you understand and process your material.

The use of too many passive verbs in your article or manuscript should be a red flag to you. This means you are just repeating information and have not internalized your subject yet allowing you to develop your own unique interpretation.

Unverified Web Sources

Don’t be sucked in by slick presentations. Investigate the authority of your sources. Never accept a Web page at face value; always check context. Click on the Home button and find out the owner of the site for further investigation if needed. Here are seven questions to ask yourself as you surf the Web.

1. Who are the author and the publisher?
2. What are their credentials?
3. How comprehensive is the coverage?
4. Is this an impartial site or one with paid links?
5. What is the original date of the information?
6. What is the historical context of the information?
7. Is the information verifiable through another reputable source?

My research for this post came from “Searching, A Research Guide for Writers” published by Writer’s Institute Publications.

Write it down,


Friday, July 11, 2008

Parents, Don't Be Sissies: Teach Your Kids to Manage Allowances

How many times do parents hear these words…“Mom, buy me a book.” or “Mom, I need money for the movies.” You give in and hand over extra money because they blew their allowance and it’s the easy way out. What are you teaching them to do? You are teaching them to spend YOUR money and that it is OK for them to spend more than they have. Take a look at these five ways to help jump start good money managing skills for you and your child.

1. Stop giving allowances. That’s harsh but what is your child or children doing to earn that allowance now? Watching TV and playing with friends? You might as well call it an endowment to your kid’s summer fund. Show your kids that allowances are actually earnings for work performed. Here’s how.

2. Determine what type of work your child is able to complete. Create a list of extra work that is unrelated to normal household responsibilities such as making the bed or feeding the dog.

3. Start Giving Allowances: But I just stopped them. Yes, I know but now you will be giving allowances to help teach your children how to manage money and learn from their own successes and failures. Instead of doling out money the “sissie” way make a list of what they will be expected to pay for. Also, pay your child on time. This teaches your children the value of honoring obligations.

4. Create a spending plan. In the past your kids’ plan was to ask you for more money. Now that they can see some savings add up, it is time to help them plan how not to spend it all at once. A small notebook will be adequate enough for the time being to write down income and expenses. Designing a spending plan can be as simple as writing a “to-do” list. If one of your child’s objectives is to go to the movies twice a week then this simple method will help them to check availability of money. When you hear the words “Mom I need money for the movies,” just ask “can you afford it?”

5. Set examples. This is by far the most important step. If your child watches you spend unwisely, he/she will tend to emulate you and believe it is OK to spend money well over your budget. Generally speaking your child will learn how to manage money through their own experience and your guidance.

Managing money is not easy and many people never learn how to turn it into a tool that will benefit the rest of their life. Schools don’t teach money management so it is left up to parents. Follow these five tips to help your child gain control over money instead of letting money control him or her. You will no longer have to take the "sissie" way out and give in to unwanted requests and you will also have a financially healthy child

To read more on how to teach kids to manage money go to Kids’ Money here and visit the Kids’ Money Store for more books.

Write it down,


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Got Any Ideas? They Don't Matter. Writing Does.

Ideas cannot be copyrighted. The copyright law protects “unique expressions” of them, not the ideas themselves. The same thing is true about titles. For instance I went shopping for “The Gift: The 12 Greatest tools of personal growth—and how to put them into practice by Shad Helmstetter, but when I asked the clerk if “The Gift” was in stock, she came up with “The Gift: A Novel by Richard Paul Evans.

A title is like an idea and not the author’s own unique expression. You would need to read the book to discover that. However, titles are very important and can help sell your book but that is another post.

Don’t discard any ideas just because you read a book with a similar idea or watched a movie with the same thoughts as yours. Those ideas could be the topic of your block buster novel. “American Graffiti” could have been MY story. It was so typical of my generation and I used to think writing about car hops on roller skates would be dull but then no one has read about my experience.

Express your ideas in original ways and from your perspective. You and I can look at a painting and when asked to give a critique, what do you think would happen? If you really want to protect your idea, you can turn it into a finished manuscript. Then you can register it at the Copyright Office. According to Harold Underdown’s FAQ’s he says the "Poor man's copyright" -- mailing yourself a copy of your manuscript so that it gets a postmark--will, I understand, do you no good.

Harold Underdown of The Purple Crayon has a great article and some FAQ’s on copyright law. Read the post here.

Write it down,

Monday, July 7, 2008

Writer's Toolbox: Links and Tips

Writers spend an enormous amount of time perfecting their craft so it stands to reason they will spend a good amount of time learning about the publishing business as well. There are pitfalls around every corner just waiting for the uninformed writer. Pitfalls could end a writer's career before it ever gets started. Don't let it happen to you.

Jerry Simmons is an author and former executive with the Time Warner Book Group. His web site is full of free articles and writing tips based on his 25 years in the publishing business.

I have read several of his articles and blog entries. One in particular stood out to me. All writers need editors. Jerry states “you cannot sell a good story that is poorly edited.” Another great article by Jerry is Who is making money in publishing?

Download the free article You Are Only a First Time Author Once.

More tips from a professional

I stumbled across Fiona Bayrock's site several months ago. She is a full time writer and writes a lot of “cool” science stuff for kids in addition to giving out writing advice, tips and links. You will enjoy surfing around at her site. I recommend the following article.

Getting from Theme to Article: Advice From a Theme Junkie.

Fiona also has a host of articles from children's non-fiction authors covering subjects like: Technique, Writing Science for Kids, Writing Biographies for Kids, writing query letters and selling Non-fiction. I could spend a whole day here.

Write it down,


Friday, July 4, 2008

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

What did Thomas Jefferson mean when he referred to the "pursuit of happiness"?

My thought is that pursue means to chase or go after. Happiness is not handed to us on a silver platter. It is a choice.

"Posterity--you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it."

~John Quincy Adams

Happy 4th of July

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

When Does Freelance Equal Expert?

A few days ago members of the Children’s Writing Coaching Club were discussing how beginning writers can become viewed as experts. What exactly makes an expert? Do you need a degree? Do you have to have thirty years experience?

Our writing coach, Suzanne Lieurance tells us we can become experts when we write about issues that are specific to our focal point on a regular basis. For instance, parenting, education and so on. Soon people will come to our blog or website first to find out the latest news. We each have it within ourselves to become experts.

Jeffrey Way also writes a great post about how to qualify as an expert. Go to Freelance Folder and read the entire post.

Write it down,

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Writing is Like Dancing

Writing is like dancing. Everyone wants the trophy but not everyone is willing to do what it takes to get it. I knew my girls had “it” because they danced around the house all the time.

With their hair neatly pulled back into a dinner roll bun shape, sparkling black patent tap shoes, I drove my talented twin girls to the local dance studio.

Soon my fantasy turned into reality. Turned in toes, bent knees, rounded backs and $400 a month! This was not the picture I had of my little darlings in the limelight. Stardom was going to take a little longer than I had imagined.

I filled out the enrollment form for the 4:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon combination class.

Week one: Ballet, jazz and tap all taught in 55 minutes. (What did I know?) At this rate they would learn one dance in nine months to be performed at the annual recital.

Week two: Flap, flap, ball chain, shuffle, grapevine… Dance slang… So exciting… I was learning more than my seven year olds. My feet began to vibrate with each tap.

Week three: My daughters had talent. I am sure the teacher would recognize it if she would just take her eyes off the Shirley Temple Clone in the red sequined leotard.

Week four: At last! The individual attention I had been waiting for. Each child was to gracefully walk across the floor on their little tippy toes while holding their arms as if they were carrying a large beach ball, with heads high and shoulders down…. It was obvious my darlings had never carried a large beach ball.

Week five: Repetition of weeks, 1, 2, 3 and 4. Thirty-six more weeks to go.

Before the thirty-six weeks were half over, I realized one dance class a week was not going to make anyone a dancer. In order to become good at what you do, you must do it daily.

Writing is like dancing. It is a discipline and must be practiced daily.

Write it down,