Learning your craft

Every author wants to improve their craft. Here’s a few tips on what to do.

Write a lot. Write on a schedule. Write different things, different forms, different stories. One editor used to say to set a goal of writing one short story a week. If you do that, at the end of the year you’ll have 52 short stories you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

If it’s early in your arc as a writer, by the end of the first year, none of those 52 stories are likely to sell, but during that year you will have learned a lot about the art and craft of writing. And probably learned a lot about yourself as a writer.

Keep with that schedule, and at the end of the second year, you’ll have written over one hundred stories. By this point, you may have produced a few stories that have a good chance of selling and learned more about writing than you’ll ever learn in any sort of writing program.

Read a lot. Read different genres, different formats, by different authors. If you write mystery, read romance. If you write humorous, read serious stories. Pick apart the story, analyze the characters, their actions, their emotions. Are they realistic?

And most of all, don’t stress the small stuff. Writing should be fun, fulfilling, and something you enjoy doing. If you’re struggling with a story, set it aside and start something new.

Don’t Stress The Small Stuff

E. Tip of the Week: Don’t stress the small stuff. It’s okay to ask for help.

                                Two Contest Drawings!

Writing a synopsis or query letter can be difficult. Instead of stressing about it, let us help you. This month, send us your query letter or synopsis that you’ve  been struggling with writing, and we’ll enter your name into a hat. On Dec. 21st, a winner will be chosen for a Query Letter Edit. That winner will receive a free edit on their query letter.

On Dec. 28th, we’ll choose another winner for a Synopsis Edit.

Emails can be sent to contest@writtendreams.com. One winner will be chosen randomly for each contest.

For more details about writing a great synopsis, read the blog post by Dorothy McFalls on The Editing Essentials from July 11th, 2012.

Writer’s Wednesday: Introducing Cheryl Yeko

Today our special guest is Cheryl Yeko. Cheryl is relatively new to the publishing world and wanted to share her experiences. She is a Wisconsin author. Visit Cheryl’s website at: http://www.cherylyeko.com/ or contact her through the social media sites: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ProtectingRose, Twitter: https://twitter.com/cherylyeko, or Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5406425.Cheryl_Yeko

My writing journey was swift and exhilarating, and my head is still spinning. My life quickly immersed into the world of writing. I love it! But, there have been surprises and setbacks along the way.

When I was younger, I devoured romance novels. My problem was that once I started a novel, I found it impossible to put it down until I reached the happily-ever-after. As such, as life’s struggles crept in, I found the time spent reading was interfering with work and family. I went cold turkey, and stopped reading novels altogether. A decision I now sometimes regret, but it is what it is. Whatchagonna do?

Then a few years back, my husband bought me a Kindle and I rediscovered my love of all things romance. My children are grown so I now found the time to read. Two years later, I finally came up for air and decided to try to write a novel. So, I checked out some books from the library, signed up for some online classes and began my manuscript on PROTECTING ROSE. I spent the next eight months writing my novel. When I had finished it, I was clueless on what to do next. I found the local RWA group in Milwaukee and joined. I also joined a critique group, which I think is an essential writing tool.

That’s when I realized I had written my novel in a passive voice, instead of an active voice. A newbie mistake that most new writers make. I spent three months fixing this issue, as well as tweaking overused words and learning the ‘romance’ language. I even entered my WIP (work in progress) in some contests, receiving some really nice feedback, and finaled in the 2011 Launching a Star Contest. I submitted PROTECTING ROSE to three publishers, and received two offers. The coolest thing I’ve learned is that the very weakness that caused me to stop reading romance novels years ago, is now my greatest strength. My muse is always active.

PROTECTING ROSE won the 2012 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. What a thrill! I was hopeful that the New York Times bestselling list was next. LOL! Well, color me naïve.… But, it was still awesome to be recognized by my peers! PROTECTING ROSE was released in paperback in October, so, we’ll see how that goes. I have to say, it is really cool to hold a book in my hand that I wrote, and I’m looking forward to conducting some book signings in the near future.

PROTECTING ROSE has garnered some nice attention, and I’ve actually grown a decent fan base, but it still tends to get lost in cyberspace among the many, many other novels offered on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I had no concept of all the marketing activities being an author would entail, and I’m still struggling to wrap my mind around that. But, if you don’t market your books, you can expect your novel to fall into the novel wasteland. Isn’t that a song? If not, it should be!

My latest release A MAN TO TRUST is based on a double murder trial that I sat on as a juror last summer. Of course, the romance is totally made up, but the details of the crime are based on what I learned over the two weeks of trial. I plan to market more strategically and consistently from here on out! No. really, I mean it ;>)

The characters in A MAN TO TRUST are loosely based on individuals involved in the case as well. I built a romance between the lead detective on the case, and the widow of one of the murdered drug dealers. How fun is that!

This is the second book, in a series of three. The first, PROTECTING ROSE, was my debut novel and released last December. A MAN TO TRUST came out October 24th this year. My third novel planned for this series is Rick and Sheila’s story, (no title yet) who are both characters from PROTECTING ROSE. Rick is also in A MAN TO TRUST. My plan is to complete the arc and bring all the characters together one last time. This time, Rick gets the girl!

Thank you, Cheryl, for being our guest today! If you have questions or comments for Cheryl, she’ll be with us all day. Thank you!

Writer’s Wednesday: Bryan Thomas Schmidt And Writing For Children

BTS & Friend

Today, we’d like to welcome Bryan Thomas Schmidt to The Editing Essentials! Bryan is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel,The Worker Prince (2011) received an Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble’s Book Club’s Year’s Best SF releases in 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012. The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books are 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He  has also edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA. Visit his website at: http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/

Making the transition from writing adult novels to children’s books can be challenging. There are both advantages and disadvantages to be considered. Vocabulary, plotting, descriptions, dialogue–so many aspects must be simpler, depending on the age group targeted for the book. But children are the most enthusiastic audiences (usually), much more so than adults. Their eyes light up when you’re introduced as an author and when you read to them. They look at the silliest illustrations with utter seriousness and laugh at the jokes with gusto, even when they’re mildly amusing ones. Here are some of the considerations authors have to consider in making the switch.

Advantages: Enthusiastic, eager readers and parents used to buying lots of entertainment for their kids at all kinds of prices. If your book has educational or historical elements, all the better. Then they feel even better about buying it. And if readers fall in love with you young, they may grow up and follow you from kid’s books to adult books. So, in a way, you’re helping raise your long term audience.

Children’s books are shorter and illustrated so it’s fun to see your story come to life in visual ways, and you can also write more books in less time. The advances are often larger than those for novels, depending on the writer, reputation and how much they like the plot or series. The market for children’s books is good.

But the biggest advantage for me has been creative freedom. Suspension of disbelief is a lot easier for kids than adults. You can posit many things to kids that they’ll accept which adults would demand more evidence of. For example, in my Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter series, 9 year old Abe and Davy Crockett are sent back in time with two others by accident. Coming up with complex time travel theory was unnecessary. Being accurate with which dinosaurs and plants lived in which geography and proximity was not so important. As long as the names and basic facts match science and history, you can provide education and entertainment at the same time while having a lot of fun writing it. These books are some of the funnest stories I’ve gotten to write. I mean, how often do you get to write scenes with Abe Lincoln narrating Davy Crockett wrestling a saber-toothed tiger and fighting off bears and T-Rexes? As Mike Resnick put it, “Not often enough.” It’s a blast!

Disadvantages: Kids learn fast but appropriate vocabulary and sentence structures/length are a concern. The general rule is to not have sentences with more than two more words than the age of the oldest child in the age range of the intended audience. Writers and publishers fudge this though, because so many kids vary in their development cycle. A second grader can be reading at a sixth grade level and will want more complicated books and so on. This makes it easier for the writer on vocabulary, but harder on audience pitch because sometimes two friends whose reading is not at the same level can’t share books like they might want to. Disappointing children and parents is always disappointing, especially when you did your best.

A similar issue is dealing with description and nuances. Kids at different intellectual levels but the same age will understand things differently. Keep it too straight and simple, you bore the more developed children. Go the opposite way, you lose the less developed ones. On top of that, some kids handle violence and intense content better than others. So you have to write in a way that lets them off the hook in the right amount of time to avoid creating trauma or unnecessary fear for your readers. This often means altering your writing style in other ways. Also, schools and parents will evaluate content for a book based on varied criteria. So you have to leave out grittier elements which adults may take for granted and be very meticulous in choosing words and phrases, etc.

In truth, writing children’s books helps me write more clearly for adults. It also allows me to think and play outside the box, which keeps me fresh and happy and energized when I dive back into my novels. Plus, I have yet to see many adult reader’s faces light up the same way kid reader’s faces do when I show up for a reading or signing. And the hugs, well, they’re better than chocolate (or close). Writing for kid’s has taken me back to the age of wonder I had as a creative child, making up stories. It’s given me a chance to revisit old favorite authors and books. And it’s also encouraged me to write the kinds of stories I never would have dared otherwise. All in all, not such a bad thing, when you’re a writer.

Thank you, Bryan, for being here today and giving us great tips on writing for children! Please feel free to ask Bryan questions today. Thank you!




Just Write…Anything

E.Tip of the Day: Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of concerns from writers about how hard it is for them to stay motivated to write. Having that urge to put forth great stories and strong characters continuously can be daunting at times. Asking for help can be even tougher. Writing is a lonely occupation after all. Or is it?

Yes, writing can be lonely but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re struggling with getting words on the page for a week or two, or more, let us know. We’ll help motivate you to getting the right words on the page again. That’s what we’re here for. That’s part of the reason Written Dreams was formed. 🙂

Motivation to some people can be a no-brainer. If you want to do something, than do it. Clear. Concise. And to the point. No complaining. No wondering. Task complete. Simple, right?

No, not quite. Writing is a craft, and with every craft comes the need for creativity. Without that creativity you end up having a flat, life-less story. But, what most writers don’t realize is it’s okay to have a little flatness. It’s okay to write something horrible. It’s okay to stay on the page typing random letters and numbers once in a while. And it’s okay to write something that you will toss out later. Because the important thing here really, is that you’re writing–whether it makes sense or not every day is not important. If you have to get through a few hours of writing a story of silly, random made-up words, you might look at the screen and think you’re nuts. You’re not nuts. Really, you’re not. And just the act of writing something unconventional will motivate you. Try it, and see. 🙂

If you’d like more info on our Coaching services, please see the Coaching Tab on our website under Services. We’re happy to help in any way we can with furthering your writing career! 🙂


Writer’s Wednesday, Author Peg Herring Shares Tips On Writing A Series

Today we welcome author, Peg Herring, to The Editing Essentials! The first book of Peg’s I read was MacBeth’s Niece, a very enjoyable story. Thank you, Peg, for joining us today!

Peg Herring is the award-winning writer of three series and several standalones. A former educator, she lives in Michigan with her long-time husband. They often go traveling, much to the disgust of their cats, Trouble and Alice, who are left at home to guard the place. Visit Peg’s website at http://pegherring.com or her Amazon page, Amazon.com: Peg Herring

As a writer of three series, with nine published books and two more on the way, I’d like to address five writing questions people ask at my workshop, “Write, Edit, Publish!”

1. “I have a great story idea, but I can’t get started.” (or “I can’t get past the first three chapters.”)

It’s hard to write a book. Really hard. On the other hand, it’s easy to let storylines float through your head, where every idea seems interesting, workable, and compelling. It’s only when you try to write them down that you realize it won’t work.

So lots of people have great story ideas, but only a few write those stories down. It might be that you really don’t want to write a book; you just want to say you’re a writer.

If you are willing to do the work, great–now apply the BITCH principle: Butt In The Chair, Honey! Thinking about your book, talking about your book, even outlining your book isn’t the same as WRITING your book. Set a time each day to work. Any active writing is better than that filmy wisp in your mind.

If (when) your progress stalls, do something else for a while, but then make yourself go back to work. It might not go well. You might even have to toss a day’s work (or two or three), but you must actively write rather than letting yourself imagine that point in the future when it will all flow seamlessly from your fingertips. Ain’t gonna happen.

2. “I’m three-quarters done, but I don’t know how to end the book.”

We sometimes call that the Muddle in the Middle. You’ve got so many strands going that you don’t know how to weave them into a whole. Again, the only thing to do is finish it. For me, writing the ending clarifies what has to happen in the middle. “Oh!” I say to myself. “A paragraph on page 92 will clear that little knot up nicely.” And it does, but only when I’ve seen how the whole thing resolves.

3. “I finished my book, and my mom likes it. How do I know if it’s really good?”

Don’t trust Mom; she loves you too much. In fact, don’t trust the opinion of anyone you know. (You might ask, “Will you give me ten bucks to read my manuscript?” That separates the wheat from the chaff!) It’s easy for friends and family to gush, “Gee, that’s great! You should publish.” When there’s no investment required, almost everyone will say nice things. It makes you happy.

My first advice for judging the quality of your own work is wait time. Let a manuscript rest for a few weeks and then go back to it. Often your reaction will be, “What was I thinking?”

I always read the manuscript aloud or have my computer read it to me. My ears find lots of things needing attention that my eyes didn’t see.

I read each of my manuscripts many times. One reading assures that I’ve included at least one non-visual description on each page. It’s easy to tell what things look like, but what do they sound, taste, feel, and smell like? That adds depth to your description and interest to your writing.

4. “What’s different about writing mystery?”

Mystery requires everything other types of writing require AND a puzzle for the reader to figure out. Mystery authors walk a fine line, tossing in clues to the solution while trying not to give away too much. A reader’s reaction upon finishing a mystery should be, “I didn’t guess the killer, but I should have.”

The modern mystery has lots of elements: suspense, romance, history, paranormal, occupational info, police procedures, and even crafting trivia. The writer needs to enlighten her readers without obscuring the mystery with facts, anecdotes, and quilting details.

5. “How do you keep yourself interested when writing a series?”

Aha! This is where I get to tell you about my work! I have a historical series with Five Star Publishing set in Tudor England (next book, THE LADY FLIRTS WITH DEATH, May of 2013).

My Dead Detective Mysteries (LL-Publications) are mildly paranormal, meaning some characters are dead (no drooling zombies). THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY won EPIC‘s best mystery of 2012.

The new series, The Loser Mysteries (also LL), begins in November with KILLING SILENCE. Loser, a homeless woman, is haunted by her past and endangered by her present as she tries to help a young father accused of murder.

How do I keep three series from driving me crazy?( I often don’t!) Some things I’ve learned to do help: first, I work on one book at a time, whether writing or editing. I attack whatever’s most pressing and put other projects aside until I’ve finished it.

Second, I keep notes on what the characters look like, drive, eat for breakfast, etc. It doesn’t do to say Loser hates oatmeal in one book and then have her order it in a restaurant in the next.

Finally, I have in mind the general arc of the series before I begin, with an idea of how many books it will entail. The Dead Detective Mysteries is a five-book series, following the adventures of Seamus, who resolves problems he faces while helping others solve theirs. Seamus’ story weaves through the series, so the solution to the mystery in each book is only part of the reader’s enjoyment of the larger story.

That’s a little of the advice I give writers. If you have a specific question or a comment on something that works for you, I’m ready to listen.

Thanks, Peg, for the great tips! If you have a question or comment for Peg, she’ll be with us all day. Thank you!

Thunderstorm Challenge

Inspirational Photo of the Week: Put your character on a back porch watching the thunderstorm from the safety of their home, or in a vehicle trying to get somewhere. What is their reaction? Are they afraid? Do they enjoy the sweet smell of rain? Do they have something outside that will be drenched and ruined?  Show the emotion of what they’re feeling as they feel the storm around them. Writing from inspiration can sometimes be an easier way to get into the mood of writing. Good luck!

Thunderstorm Tease

Writer’s Wednesday: Award-winning Author C.C. Harrison Shares Secrets On Researching

Today we welcome mystery author, C.C. Harrison. I first met C.C. a few years ago when we worked together on her novel, Running From Strangers, a 2009 National Reader’s Choice finalist. She is a kind woman and a wonderful friend. Please help me in welcoming her to The Editing Essentials as our guestblogger today!

C. C. Harrison lives in Anthem, Arizona.  When she’s not reading, writing, or working out at the gym, she can be found in the mountains of Colorado or in some far-flung corner of the Southwest.

All authors are advised to write what they know.  But how many of us know very much about anything outside of our ordinary lives?   How many of us know anything interesting enough to carry a book through 90-100,000 words?  Well, I’ve discovered the novelist’s secret—RESEARCH!  So I say change that advice to write what you can research.

The benefits of research are many.

–   Lends authenticity, realism and flavor to your story

–   Adds little known details that can enhance your story

–   May discover entirely new plot elements that deepen and solidify your story, or important details and facts that affect the trajectory of your entire book

How much you research depends on how much you already know about your topic, and how complex your plot is.  In most cases, your research will happen in stages during the development of your story.

Begin when your story idea hits.  Build your foundation with general information.  Gather contacts, professionals who can help you later with details.  At this stage, information will come to you in surprising ways.  Once you have the idea for your book, information and research sources will fall into your lap.  Your mind will automatically pick up information, you’ll notice newspaper and magazine articles, TV news items will jump out at you, you’ll meet just the person who has the information you need.

During the outline stage, you’ll have a good idea what you will need to research in more detail later on.  Make a list.  During the actual writing, you’ll want to seek answers to questions and fill in details as your scenes unfold.


Internet – For a writer, this is the most valuable tool next to the computer itself.

Libraries – Local, big city, university.  Many are online and available at no charge.  Small town and regional libraries are excellent places to find locally written books, and newspaper clippings with information of local interest.

Used Book Stores – Out of print or small press books, and other treasures can be found here.

Museum Book Stores –  Also full of treasures.

Historical Societies – Especially in small towns.  Great source for books, photos, diaries, journals, logs, and valuable first person historical accounts.  Visit, call, or email through their website.

Footnotes and bibliographies – Check the list of sources at the back of the book you are using for research.

Network With Clubs and Professional Organizations –Join or attend conferences, seminars, meetings.  Excellent opportunities to gather information and meet experts in a particular field. Get on their email list.  I belong to several email groups – private investigators, law enforcement, self-defense, hand to hand combat and survival instructors to name just a few.

Telephone – Call professionals/experts and ask questions.  Most law enforcement departments and big companies have media relations or public affairs departments.  Just ask when you call, and have your questions ready.  Most will be flattered to be used as a source.  Always ask for an email address for follow up questions.  That way you will have your answer in writing and not make a mistake or misuse the information.

Law Enforcement – Check Amazon.com for law enforcement books.  Also, Paladin Press website.  You’ll find books on military and police science, i.e., firearms and weapons, self-defense, SEAL sniper training, KGB Training Manual, and so on.

Also, go on a Ride Along with local law enforcement; take a Citizen’s Police Academy course (I learned that one million dollars of used bills will fit into a pillowcase.) Develop law enforcement contacts such as sheriff’s deputies, detectives, etc.  They are usually quite happy to speak with novelists.

Time Line Books and Websites – Outlines sequence of historical events, often with photos.

Children’s Books – Check the children’s section in bookstores and libraries.  Some very good basic information on all kinds of topics.

Government Websites – FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Marshal Services, Witness Protection Program, National Security, Homeland Security website, and Department of Defense, etc.

Idiot’s Guides and For Dummies books – On just about every topic imaginable.

Honor the privacy of your sources.  If someone gives you his or her private email address or home phone, do not give it out to anyone else without their permission.  Give them credit.  Ask if you can thank and acknowledge them by name in your article or in the front matter of your book.  Above all, show gratitude.  Send a thank you note (email is okay), and if their contribution was major, send them a copy of the published piece.


Geographic/Regional – Visitor and Convention Bureaus, travel sites, travel books (Fodor’s, for example) tourist guides and brochures, etc.

Occupations – Vocational Biographies, and other career reference books carried by most libraries and high school/college placement offices.  Mostly online now.

Clothing – Period fashions, uniforms (military, medical, job specific.)  Find in books and museums.

Food – Regional, traditional, Victorian, Medieval, etc.

Language/slang/occupational or scientific terminology – Make sure your character speaks using appropriate language.  Your cop should speak like a cop, your lawyer like a lawyer, your quilter should know specific language of people who make quilts.

Guns/Weapons/Explosives – Gun manufacturer websites, NRA, police and law enforcement blogs, police equipment websites, etc.  (I once had to know how much a police officer’s duty belt weighed.) Attend gun shows and ask questions.

Geology – Describe landforms, seascapes for sense of place.  Use the right words.  I have geology reference books.

Weather – Storms, describe skies, sunsets, sunrises.  I have weather and sky books.

Don’t get too attached to your research, or go off on tangents. It’s easy to do if you are a history or research fanatic.  And don’t get distracted.  Stay focused on information that pertains specifically to your novel.

You might be tempted to put all your research into your story, but don’t.  Only use the information for flavor unless you are writing a “historical” novel which will require you to be totally accurate.  Unless you are writing for historical correctness, don’t sacrifice your story for the research.  For most writers, story wins out over research every time.  Keep your research records especially if you are going to write other novels set in the same period or location.

Readers like books with a realistic sense of place, but how do you realistically set a book in a place, especially a well-known location, without actually going there?  Here are some tips:

Have Your Story Character Be New to the Area – Set it up so that your main character has recently moved to the city/town, so he or she won’t know much about it.

Read Books Set in the City – You can Google search for lists of books set in a certain locale.

Watch Movies Set in the City – Use Google/Bing searches for this, too.  Internet Movie Data Base (IMBD) is a good search site.

Contact Tourist and Convention Bureaus – Call or email with questions, ask them to send you brochures, pamphlets, travel kits, whatever they have.

Local Police and Fire Departments – Call or email the Public Affairs Officer or Department with specific questions.

Get Maps – MapQuest, AAA, or buy from a retail map store.

Look at the City’s Internet Site – This will give you information on places of interest, restaurants, theaters, schools and universities, and give you some idea what it’s like to live there.  Also, search for blogs about living in that city or locale.

Ask Friends or Family Members – Call anyone you know who lives there.

Online Webcams – Cities often have live webcams active on intersections, or other places of note in the city.

GOOGLE EARTH – You will be amazed how down to earth you can get in a city using Google Earth.

Good luck, and have fun!


Thank you, C.C., for joining us today. If you have questions or comments for her, she’ll be with us all day. We hope you enjoyed this post and will share it with other writer friends who will find it helpful. Thank you!🙂