Wednesday, March 31, 2010

5 Things I Learned About Writing

by Rafael Figueroa

1. Blank pages are more intimidating than pages full of half-baked ideas.

While the writing process varies from author to author, they all start each new project with a blank page (be it paper or a computer screen). The first few times I ever wrote a creative story, I would stare at the blank page for a time, gathering my thoughts and trying to develop the `best' place to begin. More often than not, the page remained blank. There was something about the blinking cursor or the clean ruled lines of a notebook that just stared me down. On some level, the notion of befouling the virginal space with anything short of brilliance seemed wasteful.

As my confidence grew and I cultivated an approach to writing that worked with my personal strengths, I was able to forge ahead more often. However, the blank page remained an early obstacle to each endeavor. At some point, I discovered the fine art of editing and a new world opened up to me. Rather than find the right place to start, I started wherever I pleased and then revised my way to a satisfactory work. For example, this very article originally started with `thing number 2' and a much different example than the one you are reading now.

The moral of the story is to identify and eliminate the intimidation of the blank page by whatever means fits your way of thinking. For me, it was as simple as finding that editing my half-baked ideas was easier than waiting for the idea to fully form before starting. If you wait long enough for anything you run the risk of forgetting what you are waiting for.

2. The truth will set you free, but it can be a hindrance.

Early on, I wanted to have all the facts straight. I couldn't have my hero shooting fifteen rounds from his police issued 9mm Berretta pistol, if in all actuality, contemporary policemen were issued 6 round capacity .357 Magnum revolvers. When it came to mentioning what kind of gun the cop was using, I'd hit the books (or do a quick Google search). Sure enough, I'd get the information I needed to make the scene accurate, but the passion to write left me while I switched hats from author to researcher and back again.

Nowadays I write when the spirit moves me and research when I have writers block. I have accepted two core ideals. Firstly, that a compelling story defies the facts as long as what is presented is plausible. Secondly, anything that halts the creative process is a hindrance and will not make your writing better. While we don't want the medieval knight performing CPR on a fallen comrade, we don't necessarily have to stop writing our story to make sure that the Saxon blade was in common use in the 14th century. If you aren't sure, your readers probably aren't sure either… unless it is a critical matter that could pierce the suspension of disbelief, trust them not to Google it.

3. The moral of the story is… really not my job.

Some of my earlier writings were bad for a whole host of reasons, but one thing that was particularly dominant was my overarching need to tell people what I wanted them to take away from the story. If the moral was `drugs are bad,' I'd go at length to show how bad they were, tell you they are bad, and then tell you that I told you that they were bad. What this demonstrated, above and beyond the fact that I was a novice, was lack of trust. I didn't trust my reader to get my message, so I over-delivered it. I also feared that the reader might misinterpret misdirection as advocating.

At some point, I realized that it was OK. Whatever the reader takes away from your work, they took something away. It may not be what you intended, but that's fine. Don't sacrifice the flow or substance of your stories to get some lesson across. Put it there in a natural way and trust the reader to understand it.

4. Ego can be a problem… both having too much and too little.

I'm no Stephen King, but boy do I know how to run myself through the grinder. Guess what, there was a time when Stephen King was some unknown, workaday nobody who just happened to have a few screws loose. Just like us, he used the pen to tighten things up. He got famous. Good for him. Just because nobody on the face of the planet is clamoring for your next novel, it does not mean that such will always be the case. Conversely, just because everyone in your coffee clutch gives your work glowing reviews, it doesn't mean that those five editors that sent you those five rejection letters were wrong for doing so.

At the end of the day, we are all just folks. From the powerful to the powerless… if you prick us do we not call 1-800-LAWYERS? The key to finding my comfort level in writing was managing my ego. I write well, but so does the janitor at the Hazleton Wal-Mart. My story idea is better than the last movie I saw, but there are ideas better than mine that will never see print let alone be made into movies. In the end, I decided to write the stories that I would like to read, share a part of myself with whoever is willing to read. Any judgment about the quality of such is for the reader alone to decide. Getting so prideful as to scorn rejection/criticism is equally as self-destructive as having too little pride in my work to share it.

5. In the end there was the beginning.

As in art and film, great works of writing are never finished, only abandon. Early on, I never finished a story. I would write a significant portion of it, get the characters developed, set the plot in motion, and tighten the tension to the breaking point. Then I'd just walk away and find something else to write about. People hated me. It was like that TV show you found and loved that was cancelled midway through the first season, leaving you unfulfilled. It's not that I was sadistic… well I was sadistic but that had little to do with leaving my stories unfinished. I failed to finish many of my early stories because I was afraid.

I'm sure that we have all followed some book, TV show, or movie through to the end only feel as though our time had been wasted. A plot, laden with possibilities, must eventually give way to a conclusion in one final form. The joy of setting up the plot lies in tempting the imagination with those possibilities and the danger of resolving the plot is that the reader's imagination might be better than yours. I never learned how to pick the best ending; I only learned that ending the story was just the beginning. After I chose an ending, I was free to go back to the beginning and change anything or everything. The most important part of ending the story was that it was my ending.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Break

Word Mine's been on a little bit of a break this week--some of our members are gearing up for the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group's "Write Stuff" conference and doing a last minute push for our own Write It Right Conference, coming up in just a few short weeks!

We'll be back next week with tales from the front lines.

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Interview with Jodi Webb

BDWN: Thanks for speaking with us, Jodi! You’ve been a freelance writer for quite a few years—can you tell us about some of the publications you’ve written for?

JODI: It’s exciting to be the interviewee. Usually it’s the other way around and I’m the interviewer! I think I’ve been writing magazine article for 15 years. It feels like a lot of different publications with no rhyme or reason—I’m not an “expert” on any one subject. My first article was for Matt Holliday at Pennsylvania Magazine and I still write for him—in fact I’m working on an article right now. So many others…Grand, Grit, Birds and Blooms, Toy Directory Monthly, Reunion Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, The History Magazine, E-the Environmental Magazine, WOW-Women on Writing, Writers Weekly to name a few.

BDWN: So what exactly is a blog tour, and how did you get started as a blog tour organizer?

JODI: We all know what a book tour is. An author visits different book stores (and sometimes other venues) speaking about and hopefully selling their book. This is the same thing except it’s “virtual.” The author goes to blogs—book review blogs, writer blogs, parenting blogs, teen blogs, 50+ blogs—it all depends on what their book is about. Sometimes authors are interviewed (in print, audio or video) and sometimes they contribute guest posts. Often the blogger post a book review. And, if the budget allows, the author sponsors book giveaways.

Actually I started out selling advertising space for WOW-Women on Writing. After a few months the founder Angela Mackintosh asked if I would help her with something new she was starting at the request of some followers: WOW Blog Tours. Truthfully, I had no idea what blog tours were but I thought I’d give it a try. I found out arranging blog tours is so much more fun than selling advertising space! Although it can get a little crazy.

BDWN: Why would a writer participate in a blog tour? Do you think more writers are opting to do blog tours over regular book tours?

JODI: There are so many reasons to organize a blog tour. First, overall you can reach more people over a large area for less money. Sure, you don’t pay anything to appear at a book store but there are transportation costs, meals, lodging and you can go through all that trouble and have no one show up. With blogs you can target blogs that have large numbers of followers all over the country (even the world).

It’s also more convenient, both for the author and the reader. A person who doesn’t have time to head over to a bookstore at 6:30 pm on Tuesday night might read Bonnie Blogger’s Blog every morning before they start work and will read about your book. Also traditional book tours are a one shot deal. If the readers don’t show up on Tuesday night at the bookstore they aren’t going to hear about your book. Bloggers archive their posts so readers could show up the next day, the next week, the next month and still read the post about your book.

There’s also time. You have to continue writing (and probably working a day job). If you’re visiting the bookstore from 6:30-8:30 on Tuesday, with the commute and preparation you’re probably investing at least three hours of your time. By comparison an appearance on a blog can only take one hour of your time (if that) to answer interview questions and check in to interact with readers through the comments section. And you can do that hour on your lunch hour, using your iPhone as you’re waiting to pick up your kids from basketball practice, whenever. Blog tours give you more freedom. And through archiving the post lasts forever.

I think more authors are turning to blog tours because they want to go where the readers are—and frankly it isn’t in book stores anymore. Everyone is online. And the opportunity for word of mouth about your book is better using online outlets. If someone hears about your book at a bookstore how many people will they tell? A dozen if you’re lucky? Online a reader could hear about your book, click on their Twitter account, send an email, or post on their blog and tell hundreds of people. Literally in seconds!

BDWN: It seems like everyone has a blog these days. Why should writers have one? How can it help?

JODI: I don’t think every writer needs a blog. I think every writer needs an online presence. This can be a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account. I think every writer needs an online presence because of the opportunity to connect with readers. Penny Sanseveri, a publicity maven, once said a person needs to come in contact with something (in this case your book) seven times before they decide to purchase it. Online just gives you that opportunity to get your name in front of your audience.

Blogs are a significant time investment. You shouldn’t have a blog if it’s going to keep you from writing for payment or if you can’t contribute to it regularly (at least once a week). Blogs are great because not only to they help you attract reader’s attention initially but it can help you keep their attention for when you release your next book. If you have people loyally following your blog you can keep them updated about future releases—it’s especially helpful if you are working on a series.

A blog can also set you apart from all the other authors a person hears about in a year. It makes you a friend. It gives you the chance to tell readers that extra something about yourself or your book that makes them want to buy it and tell others about it.

A blog can also show agents and publishers that you understand the importance of marketing yourself. If they had two manuscripts for similar audiences and one is blogging and has a built in following and the other wrote their book in their basement and never told a soul who do you think has a better chance of selling books? And that ultimately is what agents and publishers are interested in—-who can sell books.

BDWN: Any pointers for what not to post on a blog?

JODI: Do not burn industry bridges on you blog. If an agent turned you down or your publisher strong armed you into changing the title and you’re not thrilled your blog is not the place to vent.

Although it’s fine to get reveal personal info, consider your audience. If you’re writing children’s books don’t get into your sex life. If you’re writing romances you might not want to get into controversial topics like religion and politics. That is, don’t talk about them on your professional blog where you’re marketing your writing. Why alienate any of your audience? Of course if you’re writing a book about politics, definitely let loose with your political rants on your professional blog. But generally, if you have some controversial topics you want to talk about start a second personal blog.

BDWN: Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ll be covering at the March BDWN meeting?

JODI: I’m going to give everyone tips on organizing their own blog tour from where to find high traffic blogs that match your book’s audience to how to publicize the tour to what to talk about in your guest posts. Basically, how to make the most of the publicity a blog tour generates. Although setting it up can be time-consuming, a blog tour can be an effective(and inexpensive) way to spread the word about your book.

Thanks again, Jodi! BDWN's March meeting will be held on Saturday, March 20 from 10 a.m.--12 noon at the Tamaqua Public Library!

Monday, March 15, 2010

5 Popular Writer Excuses

Writing is easily one of the most therapeutic and cathartic pastimes a person could ever hope to engage in. Besides simply being a means for unlocking a person’s thoughts, fears, joys, and sorrows, writing can help us discover new worlds and new characters with varying degrees of troubles of their own.
But the rewards only come if you actually sit down and start writing.

Like most creative efforts, writing doesn’t come easily—even the most prolific writers have had dry spells occasionally. But without actually putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you’ll never get the tremendous sense of accomplishment that far outweighs the frustrations. It’s funny—if everyone who said they want to write a book or get into magazine article writing actually sat down and started on these types of projects, the shelves of our nearest bookstore couldn’t hold all of the items we’d have published.

But it’s easier to just put it off. Below are the top 5 things folks who want to write (but don’t) tell themselves, finally self-sabotaging their efforts before they even get started:

“I don’t have time.” You have just as much time in the day as any other prolific author working today—the trick is what you do with that time. You have to commit to writing just as you commit to anything else—a workout routine, volunteering in the community, etc. Get up an hour earlier, stay up an hour later, or squeeze in a few minutes on your lunch break—you’d be surprised at how much you can get accomplished in a measly 60 minutes!

“I don’t know what to write about.” So write about how difficult it is to keep writing when you think you don’t have any ideas. A key skill for any writer is to recognize the story potential in anything, anywhere, at any time. For magazine article writers, you might get an idea for a piece from your neighbor who builds miniature doll furniture and pitch it to a crafting magazine, or a market focused on those who like collectibles. Or dolls. Your disastrous family vacation might spark an idea for an essay. Or your lovably nutty, Auntie Mame-like grandmother could be the inspiration for the daft great-aunt character in the novel you’ve been working on. It does take some practice to find the story potential in the everyday, but once you get your mind to start thinking that way, you won’t be able to keep up with all of your ideas!

“No one will read this.” How do you know unless you start sending it out? Also, remember that not all writers are looking to get published. Take JD Salinger, for example. After the initial success of The Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey, and Nine Stories, he basically disappeared from the limelight, but his family and close friends say that he never stopped writing. The only difference is that he started writing for himself, not a mass audience. What’s more important to you—having your work published and immortalized forever, or simply sitting down and writing for the sheer joy of it? Either one is fine, but your answer will depend on how hard you work at finding an agent, publisher, and getting your work sold.

“Nothing I write is any good.” Here’s a big secret—no writer truly likes their work, so if it makes you feel any better, picture some of the biggest names in literature silently (or not so silently) cursing every page and filling their wastebaskets with one false start after another. One nice thing about computers and their ability to delete is that it’s helped many writers save quite a bit of money on paper. No first draft is ever a masterpiece—that’s why it’s called a draft, and that’s why we have editing tools—spell check, proofreaders, and editors, to name a few.

“I don’t know where to start.” Even if your first few paragraphs (or pages!) are a little rough and not exactly how you want them to sound, you can always go back and make changes. Getting started is the hardest part of writing, whether it’s an article, short story, or novel, but once you start working on it and getting into the “flow” of the piece, you’ll find that the words will come easier. The important thing here is not where you start, but that you start.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Find Feedback In a Critique Group

Many writers are simply looking for feedback on their work, whether or not their plan is to get published. For this reason, many writers either join or start their own critique group.

A critique group provides a safe, supportive environment where writers can do exactly that—critique each other’s work and offer suggestions for improvement and to “tighten” the piece. This helps to iron out any rough spots or point out some areas that just don’t sound right (for example, a story set in a Civil War hospital certainly wouldn’t include penicillin or anesthesia). Critique groups are often informal, with some members who drop by once and never make another meeting, or more formal, with a core group of attendees who thrive on the camaraderie and support of other writers.

Here are 5 ways to make the most of joining a critique group:

Have a piece to critique. It’s hard to get feedback on something you haven’t written yet. Some folks join a critique group thinking it will help them start writing—although it may jumpstart the muse, the truth is, the point of a critique group is having a piece to critique!

Bring enough copies for the other members. A lot of people don’t do well with having something read to them—they need to read it for themselves. Be sure to bring enough copies of your piece so that the other members can write comments or just have something in-hand for reference as you work on making it better.

Be honest. If you’re not “buying” something in another writer’s piece, say so. They’re part of the group so that they can improve their work—the comment you’re afraid to share with them just might be something that helps them strengthen their story.

…but not too honest. You may not want to blurt out “That’s the biggest piece of crap I’ve ever heard!” , even if that’s really what you think. The idea is to give constructive criticism, not brutal, hurtful comments that could likely discourage the writer from even finishing the piece. Think about it—would you want your work slashed to pieces?

Don’t take the feedback personally. Let’s face it—artists are sensitive folks, and putting your work (and, by extension, yourself) out there for the world to judge is not an easy thing. It takes some practice to separate yourself from your work—just remember that the other group members are there to help you improve your work, not judge you personally. This is a great training ground if you do decide to pursue publication and send your work out to agents or editors—it helps to develop a thick skin early, so that the pros’ comments (which may not be so encouraging) won’t be completely devastating.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Interview with Holly Landau

Holly Landau is a workshop facilitator and adult learning expert. She’s designed and facilitated dozens of workshops in corporate, non-profit, and community settings addressing a long list of topics including creative writing, poetry, innovation, communication, and various leadership topics.

She was a contributing writer for Women’s Monthly Magazine and has also written national public service announcements, documentary scripts, press releases, advertising copy, theatrical monologues, and a leadership blog. Current writing projects include humorous haiku and songwriting. She is one of the founding organizers of the annual Northeast PA Poetry Festival.

Holly attended American College for the Applied Arts in London, has a BA in Sociology from Thomas Edison State College and is currently completing a Master’s Certificate in Executive Leadership at Cornell University. She is an Adjunct Instructor at Lehigh Carbon Community College and a Guest Lecturer at corporate events and colleges including Penn State. She is currently the CEO & President of Landau Leadership, a corporate training consulting firm, where she coaches and motivates corporate leaders ( She is also a rock-n-roll singer in the acoustic duo, The Sparks (

BDWN: Thanks for speaking with us, Holly! Can you tell us a little bit about your business?

HOLLY: I lead the training & employee development firm, Landau Leadership. We specialize in customized training curriculum, public leadership events, and online learning solutions to boost individual and team productivity. We’re a team of facilitators, curriculum designers, and keynote speakers covering topics like leadership, strategy, creativity, and communication. I also do a lot of writing. I am a regular contributor to several business blogs including, New York Entrepreneur Week, and my own leadership blog at I’m really excited about to be one of the contributing writers for the upcoming American Express OPEN Book on Leadership.

BDWN: For many of us, getting started on a project is half the battle. Why is sitting down and getting to work so difficult?

HOLLY: I’ve talked to so many people about this subject. I know that many people feel stuck because they have too many ideas and all the ideas seem like great places to start. Others say that their minds go blank as soon as they start to write. And some people simply lack the confidence to put pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard!). And for some of us, the idea of writing a lengthy novel can seem like a daunting task; and we don’t want to start something we won’t finish.

BDWN: Every writer has fought with writer’s block at one time or another. How do we power through when we get stuck? How can we keep ourselves from just quitting the whole project? Can you give us some pointers on how we can stay motivated?

HOLLY: One of the ironic aspects of writing (which is a solitary activity, for the most part) is that reaching out to others for feedback and support can help re-invigorate your idea/essay/story/play/etc. Collaborating with other writers is very indulgent to me because I get more ideas about possible directions to take my storylines or unique ways to develop my characters.

That said, I think it’s a good strategy to put some projects aside if you need a mental/emotional break from them. Unless you have a pressing deadline about your project, then putting it on ice for a while might allow you to explore other projects. You can always come back to it in the future and maybe you’ll have a fresh perspective and some new ideas that will add texture to the project.

BDWN: You do a lot of sessions on creativity, which is another important element for writers to tap into. So what do you say to those folks who say “I want to write, but I don’t have any ideas”?

HOLLY: I’m a big believer in creativity exercises to help your mind identify a specific idea and expand it. I also like the fact that you’re sort of tricking yourself into believing that the exercise is a game, so your ego is less likely to get in the way. You can take workshops that include creativity exercises and/or search for these exercises in books and on the web. I’m always amazed at how many incredible works started from these simple exercises.

Can you give us a sneak peek of what you’ll be talking about at the Write It Right conference?

HOLLY: I’ll be presenting two workshops during the conference. Hilarious Haiku is my humble attempt to combine haiku (which is normally pretty serious) with the silliness of comedy. I facilitated this workshop a few years ago and the attendees surprised themselves by writing some really funny stuff.
The other workshop I’m facilitating is called Build a Character (for your novel, short story, play, or screenplay). I love to start with a clean slate, so I’ll encourage attendees to create a character from scratch. We’ll then develop that character through a series of thought-provoking exercises. There’s also a surprising plot twist in the workshop itself!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Still Time to Register!

Can you hear the buzz?

Unfortunately, the early bird registration is behind us, but there’s still time to sign up for the first-ever Black Diamond Writers Network’s Write It Right Conference! Write It Right is not only the first event of its kind for our group, but the first of its kind in Northeast Pennsylvania, and there’s been a definite buzz going around.

A few of our members held library talks within the last few weeks to talk about getting published and to help spread the word about the group and our conference. A few snow days mixed in there posed a challenge, but we’re grateful to those folks who came out to hear what we had to say!

The media has been very supportive about this event, as well. Read the story from the Hazleton Standard-Speaker here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Interview with Priscilla Y. Huff

by Jodi Webb

Priscilla Y. Huff has been a freelance business and nonfiction writer/author for over twenty-nine years. She has written numerous articles and columns on the topics of home-small businesses, women’s entrepreneurship, and other subjects for Home Business Journal, Income Opportunities, Small Business Opportunities, Pennsylvania Magazine, as well as for many online web sites. She is currently a feature writer for the print publication, Home Business Magazine ( Huff is currently working on a children’s adventure series. Her business, LITTLE HOUSE Writing & Publishing, offers business information, consulting and research services, as well as e-books and other publications.

JODI: So many people treat their writing as a hobby, not a business. Can you help us draw a line in the sand? When should we consider writing a career?

PRISCILLA: Writing is the ideal home-based profession. Most writers start writing professionally on a part-time basis, just like seventy-five percent of all home-based business owners start their ventures on the side. Why? First, of all, most writers are not independently wealthy and have to work a day job (or two). They write in the morning, in the evening, or during any free time they have available, and that is not occupied by family, work, or other activities.

Secondly, it takes time to find your ideal writing “niche” or genre. Entrepreneurs fail an average of three times at business start-ups before they succeed with a venture. Most writers will write poetry, fiction, non-fiction or for other sources, until they discover what type of writing market(s) is best for them and have publishing success. Entrepreneurs persevere and learn the ins and outs of their industry, along with perfecting their business skills. So do professional writers who attend workshops, conferences; and enroll in courses to improve the quality of their work, investing in themselves and their writing skills. Entrepreneurs work and/or study in their industry to stay current as what potential customers need and desire. Professional writers must also study the writing and publishing industry to know what markets are open and how to approach agents, editors, and publishers.

Thirdly, home-based business owners have a passion for their work. That passion drives them and sustains them through the ups and downs and long hours to do what is necessary to succeed. Professional writers, when not sitting down and writing, are usually thinking about their writing: developing plots and characters in their mind; or the next article or book idea they want to research for publishing potential. If you do ALL of this, you WILL be published. When that happens, I can assure you that you will be “hooked” into the writing business and consider it your lifelong career.

JODI: How can we work toward that goal of full-time writer? Should we dedicate a certain amount of time to writing?

PRISCILLA: Dedicate time to write each day. In order to fit in this writing, look at your daily schedule to see where and when is the best time to write. Managing your time and keeping organized with your writing is essential to help you “juggle” your writing career and your personal-work life. You may have to give up something to do this: getting less sleep (writing earlier or later in the day); cutting back on social activities (instead of heading a fund-raiser or being the president of an organization, be an active participant for those you can manage); and giving up mindless TV shows or “wandering” on the Internet. Set goals. Stephen King in his book, On Writing, recommends a writer produce 1,000 words a day for your book. If you are a freelancer, set goals to contact or query so many potential markets a day or week.

JODI: As professional writers, how much should we be earning? Should newbies write for free?

PRISCILLA: To acquire published clips, beginner writers will often write for free for some projects to acquire published clips and build their writing credentials. To offer one’s[work] for free, however, just to see one’s writing in print (or online), “cheapens” the writing profession in general. Professional writers are equal to any other professionals and should charge what the value of their writing is suggested by the industry; and what their markets will bear.

Legitimate writing markets will state in their writer’s guidelines how and what they pay. The annual Writer’s Market, found in the reference section of most public libraries, provides a section, “The Business of Writing,” with suggested pricing guidelines for various writing projectes; along with a listing of organizations that also recommend the professional prices members can charge. But as one editor informed me when I was deliberating on one of my book’s contracts, “Everything is negotiable.” You can always ask for more. Networking with other professional writers will also help you know what is a fair payment for your writing.

If you intend to make writing an on-going part-time business or hopefully, a full-time career, explore different writing venues to see which ones are the most profitable for you. I, like many writers, write for the markets that make me money; while at the same time, I am presently doing creative writing in another genre with the intent to find a publisher for these manuscripts.

Seeking residual income in the form of royalties from printed books or e-books will help to bring in a steady income while you are working on other writing projects. You do the work once and get paid over and over again (with revisions as needed). The ideal is to have your name recognized in your writing field or genre so that you build a loyal readers’ following. Think of your favorite authors and how you look forward to their next book or articles or blog entry.

JODI: So when does writing as a hobby become a career?

PRISCILLA: Your hobby becomes a career when you begin earning money that you will have to declare taxes and is becoming part of your regular income. The IRS has a page on its site stating the criteria of a hobby versus a business:,,id=172833,00.html. Basically, if you intend to earn money with your writing, then it is a career-business, whether you make a profit or not. Entrepreneurs consult regularly with accountants, lawyers, insurance agents, and other professionals to ensure they and their business are following income laws and have liability business protection. Professional writers should also have these experts on hand in the event they need them. Get referrals for these experts from other writers or professional writing associations such as The Author’s Guild and The National Writers Union .

JODI: Are there any advantages, financially, to declaring your writing a career?

PRISCILLA: Yes, you can deduct many business-related expenses incurred while writing and traveling. Intrinsically, you will also treat your writing as a profession, knowing you must work on a regular basis to produce quality material for your readers, clients, editors and publishers.

PRISCILLA: Here are just a few suggested resources:

--Writers’ market books such as the annual Writer’s Market and Writer’s Digest Magazine and others that often present writing business tips.

Additional Suggested Books:
--Getting Started as a Freelance Writer, Expanded Edition by Robert Bly
--The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman
--Be a Writer: Your Guide to the Writing Life by Steve Peha; Margot Carmichael Lester

Two helpful links:

JODI: Can you give us advice on how to get clients to take us seriously. How can writers project a professional appearance? Do we need a website, advertising, client referrals?

PRISCILLA: Professionalism is an important goal that anyone serious about his or her career should practice. As I mentioned previously, that includes educating oneself as to the conduct, ethics, protocol, and qualifications that a business person, writer, or any other professional is expected follow and develop to become recognized by their peers and their target markets.

How you approach editors; market yourself and your writing; promote your image as a writer; and most importantly, meet the expectations of your readers, are all part of your overall image and how you will be perceived. Develop your editor and writer referral networks through genuine support and sharing of information. It is rewarding to help others and it will come back to you in many good ways. Study those successful in your writing genre in what they write, how they market their writing, and the steps they took to become recognized, and follow their examples.

JODI: What's the biggest mistake/most common mistake new writers make with their business?

PRISCILLA: In my opinion, the biggest mistake is not being a professional writer. Most of us can write but have we learned to write with above-average skills and to supply what publishers and readers really want? Certainly, you hear of first-time writers who receive large advances, but if you look more closely, even those writers, spent years in developing their styles, their voices, and how to approach agents, editors, and publishers.

Happy Writing!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

GLVWG's "The Write Stuff" Conference

We would be remiss in not giving a huge shout out to our friends at the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (GLVWG), whose annual The Write Stuff conference will be held on March 25-27 at the Four Points Sheraton, Allentown, PA. GLVWG has the difficult task of staging a conference down to a science, and this year’s schedule is no exception. In addition to their regular schedule of breakout sessions, GLVWG is holding a special pre-conference workshop with bestselling author James N. Frey (How to Write a Damn Good Novel) on Thursday night. Additionally, the day includes appointments with agents and editors (you must register for a slot ahead of time), Flash Fiction writing contests, and the ever-popular author book fair at the end of the day. Some of our BDWN members have attended GLVWG’s conference, and can verify that it’s one of the best—definitely money well-spent. Kudos to conference chair Kathryn Craft and her committee for all of their hard work! For more information on the Write Stuff, visit , or their blog, All the Write Stuff.