Category Archives: Guest post

Guest Post: Writers Need An Escape Hatch by Jaye Wells

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Thank you to Writers in the Storm and to Jaye Wells for this wonderful article on how to avoid writer burn-out.

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When I started writing, I was a stay-at-home mom in need of a hobby. During naptimes and after bed time, I’d run to my laptop and get carried away. It was my escape hatch. Something that was just for me that also provided a creative outlet. But then something miraculous happened–I got published.

For several years, I threw myself into becoming a Real Author. I wrote and wrote and wrote. My vacations were usually spent at conventions.  All of my friends were writers. In my free time, I read to keep up with the market. My dream had come true, but there was this nagging sense that I was missing something.

I burned out in 2014. My new series wasn’t “meeting expectations.” I’d gone back to school to get my MFA in writing popular fiction so I could get more teaching gigs. I wrote a novel and two novellas in four months. I was bitter and exhausted. That’s when I realized I needed to take a step back and figure out what was missing.

As it turned out, I had to face the hard truth that I’d become a workaholic. Every facet of my life revolved around books. I love books. I love writing. I love reading. I love book people. But there’s more to life than all that. In order to figure out what was missing, I had to go back to the beginning and see where I went wrong.

Turns out, I started out right. I found a hobby that was rewarding and fun. It was when I became a pro that I got off track. See, what I figured out is that everyone needs a hobby. We each need something that doesn’t have ego or income tied to it. When my hobby became my job, I lost that safe space where I could create without fear.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Guest Post: AVOIDING FIRST CHAPTER BLUNDERS by Ryan Lanz

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Thank you to Ryan Lanz of A Writer’s Path for this excellent article on your novel’s opening chapter.

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You’ve got your idea. Your characters are fleshed out. The setting is crystallized in your mind.

You power up the laptop, and you place your fingers on the keys. Chapter one.

There’s a magic in that. You can practically feel the readers forming an orderly line to purchase your book, even before you finish the first paragraph. But what do you want to accomplish? What are the things to avoid in your first chapter? In this post, we’ll look at the nitty-gritty of a novel’s first chapter.

What are you looking to accomplish?
In a first chapter, you have several things that you want to accomplish and clue the reader on. This is not an exhaustive list, but let’s look at some common items.

  • Identify a protagonist
  • Establish something the protagonist wants
  • Set the tone for the book
  • Make a few promises
  • Indicate what time/place in history
  • Present an immediate conflict/issue

Let’s take a look at each.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Guest Post: 8 Poetry Elements That Editors Love To Publish by Writer’s Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

As you read this, editors are eagerly searching for poetry submissions to publish in their literary journals. And at the same time, writers are preparing their strongest poems to submit! So if you want your poems to stand out — and to increase your odds of getting published in a literary magazine — consider the core poetry elements that lit mag editors find irresistible when reading poetry submissions.

Poetry Elements Editors Love To See In Poem Submissions

New perspectives on traditional topics. In the right hands, old subject matter can become startlingly new. Feel free to explore any subject you like — don’t worry about it being overly “familiar.” Just be sure to add your own unique perspective and voice, and your poem will naturally bring something fresh to an ongoing conversation.

Boldness and bravery. Whether a poem explores a moment of unspeakable sacrifice or quiet shock, the spirit of a poem can catch an editor’s eye. Editors love to be engaged (and sometimes surprised) by an emotionally generous poem.

Experimentation. Editors enjoy finding poems that bend the rules, challenge readers’ assumptions, and bring a new sensibility to traditional forms. Discovering new ways of using language and trying new forms are great ways to stand out in a crowd.

Playfulness and humor. Some poets fall into the trap of writing poems that strike only one note or explore only one mood. But sometimes, a little bit of whimsy, humor, self-awareness, and playfulness can bring much-needed levity to an otherwise heavy poem.

Brevity. A few editors accept long poems, but poems that fit on one page are easier to place with today’s editors than longer poems. There are a number of reasons for this. Short poems are easier to lay out on a page; they allow for editors to feature more writers in one issue; and — frankly — they tend to be rigorously precise and concise.

Print-friendly formats. Poems that feature such long lines that they can’t fit the width of a single page tend to be challenging for editors. The same goes for poems that incorporate multimedia elements or that require unusual formatting. Even when editors love such poems, some literary magazines simply don’t have the technology to publish them.

Multiculturalism. Poems that explore various cultures — whether the culture of a specific socioeconomic region or of a single family — tend to claim a special place in literary magazines and journals. The key is writing about multicultural perspectives with authentic insight and sensitivity.

Core human concerns. Poems that explore the questions, issues, and emotions we all have in common are poems that have the potential to reach a wide audience — and touch people’s hearts. Editors are often drawn to poems that delve deep into the fundamental aspects of the human experience.

What Editors Really Don’t Like These Days

In the right hands, poetry concepts that have fallen out of favor can be elevated to something marvelous. But if you’re wondering what kinds of things editors (as a whole) tend not to accept these days, here’s a short list: rhyming poetry, one-word titles like “death” or “promise,” super-long poems, double-spacing, centering, and more. But remember: It’s better to write what feels right than what is trendy.

Guest Post: Storm Chaser by Donna

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Thank you to Donna from My OBT for this wonderful article about one of my favorite photographers.

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Arizona native Mike Olbinski makes the most of his home state’s occasionally dramatic weather.

“When you’ve lived in Arizona your whole life, you learn to appreciate unusual things like clouds, rain…and weather in general. Especially in the summers when it’s so hot out for months on end, you welcome the cool breezes after a monsoon thunderstorm. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been obsessed with weather. I used to watch lightning out my window with my brother when we were little. I have pictures of clouds I took while in high school. And now I chase storms.”

Though he is technically an amateur photographer, Olbinski’s work does a beautiful job of capturing the power and majesty of nature. I’m sure you’re going to enjoy them as much as I did.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Guest Post: THE DOS AND DON’TS OF DIALOGUE TAGS by Ryan Lanz

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Many thanks to Ryan Lanz of A Writer’s Path for this article on good writing.

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Writers use dialogue tags constantly. In fact, we use them so often that readers all but gloss over them. They should be invisible. However, there are ways to misuse them and make them stand out.

In an effort to avoid that, let’s take a closer look at dialogue tags. Toward the end of “Tag travesties” is something I sorely wish someone had told me before I started writing.

Why do we use dialogue tags?
The simple answer is that we use them to indicate who’s speaking. In visual media, such as movies or television, the viewer can easily tell who’s talking by lip movement and camera angles. When reading a book, obviously that’s not an option.

Tag travesties
There are certainly ways to misuse dialogue tags. When I was a new writer, I felt compelled to overwrite. I ‘m sure every new writer goes through a version of this. I observed how successful writers used simple tags like “said/asked” and thought to myself, that’s boring. I’m going to be an awesome writer by making them more interesting. You don’t have to admit it aloud, writers, but we all know that most of us have. Let’s look at an example of this:

  • “We can’t cross this river,” Alanna exclaimed repugnantly.
  • John crossed the room and shouted disgustedly, “I’ll never take you with me.”
  • “This has been the worst day ever,” Susie cried angrily.

For those of you who still aren’t convinced, let’s up the dosage with a paragraph:

Hank crossed the room and sat down. “We should have never waited this long for a table,” he seethed, leaning over to glare at her. 
“If you wanted a better spot, you should have called ahead for a reservation,” Trudy returned pointedly.
“Well, perhaps if you didn’t take so long to get ready, I could have,” he countered dryly.

Can you imagine reading an entire book like that? *shiver*

So why do new writers feel the urge to be that . . . creative with their dialogue tags? Back in the beginning, I thought the typical tags of “said/asked” were too boring and dull. It didn’t take me long to realize that dull (in this context) is the point.

Imagine your words as a window pane of glass, and the story is behind it. Your words are merely the lens that your story is seen through. The thicker the words, the cloudier the glass gets. If you use huge words, purple prose, or crazy dialogue tags, then all you’re doing is fogging up the glass through which your reader is trying to view your story. The goal is to draw as little attention to your actual words as possible; therefore, you keep the glass as clear as possible, so that the reader focuses on the story. Using tags like “said/asked” are so clear, they’re virtually invisible.

Now, does that mean that you can’t use anything else? Of course not. Let’s look further.

Alternate dialogue tags
Some authors say to never use anything other than “said/asked,” while others say to heck with the rules and use whatever you want. Some genres (such as romance) are more forgiving about using alternate dialogue tags. I take a more pragmatic approach to it. I sometimes use lines like:

“I’m glad we got out of there,” she breathed.

The very important question is how often. I compare adverbs and alternate dialogue tags to a strong spice. Some is nice, but too much will spoil the batch. Imagine a cake mix with a liter of vanilla flavoring, rather than the normal tablespoon. The more often you use anything other than “said/asked,” the stronger the flavor. If it’s too powerful, it’ll tug the reader away from the story and spotlights those words. In a full length book of around 85,000 words, I personally use alternate dialogue tags only around a few dozen times total.

By saving them, the pleasant side effect is that when I do use them, they pack more of an emotional punch.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Guest Post: 55 Social Media Hashtags For Authors (And How To Use Them) by Writer’s Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

Unless you’ve been living in a remote cave (or buried under a giant pile of writing research), you know hashtags serve a very valuable purpose on social media. Those clickable words or strings of words can help you follow ongoing conversations, sort posts according to interests, and expand the reach of your musings beyond your own friends and followers. Furthermore, tweets with hashtags get retweeted 55% more than tweets without them.

Boost your social media efforts and effectiveness by following — and using — this list of hashtags for writers:

Enjoy The Writer’s Journey

These “share the journey” hashtags bring the active writing community together by sharing the day-to-day trials and tribulations of the writing life.

  • #amwriting
  • #amediting
  • #writerslife
  • #WriterWednesday

Write The Words

Every writer needs a creative boost now and then. Follow these hashtag prompts to nudge yourself and others into getting the words onto the page.

  • #1K1H (1,000 words in one hour)
  • #WritingPrompt
  • #StoryStarter
  • #wordcount
  • #writingsprint
  • #NaNoWriMo (for the November marathon)

Pose A Question To A Pro

Need guidance from a professional? Pose a question or peruse the hashtag to pick up tips and tricks from the experts.

  • #AskEditor
  • #AskAgent
  • #AskAuthor

Gather Your Genre Group

No list of hashtags for writers is complete without a list of genre-related hashtags. Following these keywords can keep you up to date about what’s going on in the industry as well as connect you to fellow lovers of your genre.

  • #RomanceWriter
  • #Horror
  • #YA
  • #KidLit
  • #LitFic
  • #Crime
  • #Thriller
  • #Suspense
  • #DarkFantasy
  • #SciFiChat
  • #MGLit (middle grade literature)
  • #ShortReads
  • #flashfiction
  • #ChickLit
  • #WomensFiction
  • #HistFic
  • #RWA
  • #NINC
  • #SCBWI
  • #SFWA

Peruse Publication

Trying to get published can be bewildering. Follow one or more of these hashtags so you’ll be in the know.

  • #PubTip
  • #SelfPublishing
  • #SelfPub
  • #QueryTip
  • #Publishing
  • #GetPublished
  • #IndiePub

Seek A Slot

#MSWL is short for “Manuscript Wish List.” Editors and agents post the kinds of manuscripts they would most like to see cross their desks right now. For authors on the hunt for a new agent or a new house, #MSWL gives you a chance to strike while the iron is hot.

Augment Your Audience

Grow your tribe by sharing your writing with readers using the following hashtags:

  • #TeaserTuesday
  • #FridayReads
  • #MustRead
  • #LitChat
  • #SampleSunday
  • #novelines

Move The Merchandise

Hashtags are fabulous for book marketing, especially if you have a launch or a free or discounted book.

  • #freebook
  • #freebie
  • #freedownload
  • #BookGiveaway
  • #99c
  • #booklaunch
  • #BookBuzz
  • #NewBook

Harnessing Hashtags — The Right Way

Since hashtags are essentially keywords that help folks find what they’re looking for, it’s important to use them correctly. Here are a few guidelines:

  • Use hashtags specific to your message
  • Try to take advantage of the important keywords in your post’s text
  • Or, add hashtags at the end of the post
  • Don’t use too many hashtags, except on Instagram, where it doesn’t seem to matter

Once you get the hang of including hashtags in your social media posts, you’ll find that it’s an effortless way to expand your reach. Keep in mind: With the exception of Instagram, you should keep the number of your hashtags down to one or two. A Tweet or Facebook post riddled with hashtags, or followed by a river of them, looks a lot like spam.

For more writing tips and advice visit WritersRelief.com.

Guest Post: The Summer of Altoids by Donna

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Thank you to Donna from My OBT for this lovely article.

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These are the adorable miniature paintings inside used mint tins by Heidi Annalise. You know how I love tiny things, and I’ll bet these affordable, wee masterpieces smell great, too! Annalise quit her Washington, D.C. government job (can you blame her?) and returned to her native Colorado to find her bliss. And boy, has she ever found it!

” Floating between realism and impressionism, my artwork adds an element of fantasy to the natural world with heightened colors and simplified shapes. By bringing glimpses of nature into our indoor environments, we can soak up these extraordinary vistas on all of our more ordinary days, and remind ourselves to go exploring whenever we can.”

Annalise was inspired to start painting mint tins by one of her favorite artists, Glenn Dean, who uses Altoids tins to test his works before painting them on a larger canvas.

With 50K+ followers and many happy customers, this artist is living her dream and making the world a cuter, better-smelling place. I have only one question. What does she do with all those mints?

To read the rest of this article, click here.