Monday, July 27, 2020

COVID19 Brought Opportunity That Helped Make Me A Working Writer

I have been writing since the ’90s. I decided to work toward earning income with my writing in 2012. Making a living the dream. I was still working full time in a day job.

At the end of 2013, I lost my job. The job search began. I had several interviews and second and third callbacks, but still, no job offers.

Around 2015 my mobility declined to the point of narrowing my job options. I started looking for remote or virtual work exclusively. Some jobs I went through all the preliminary stuff with interviews and testing but no hire. One I was hired for but then told no because they over hired.

From November 2017 to 2018, I was totally homebound as mobility continued to decline along with my quality of life in general. The constant rejection job-wise was disheartening and a bit depressing.

No matter how hard I tried, everything I tried just did not stick or work out. I had some up-and-coming prospects and hopes that just did not happen or pan out.

My self-esteem and self-worth dive bombed. I was really struggling just to get through the days. I have worked since I was fifteen years old. For the first time in my life, a lot of time had passed without me finding work.

I could no longer maintain the life I created and lived since my father died in 1990. I was putting in the work and seeing very little change for all the effort.

Investing in your writing communities.

The one thing I did do is stay very involved in my writing communities: Holly Lisle’s writing class forum since 2011, Insecure Writer’s Support Group since 2014, and Ninja Writer’s, LLC since 2016.

Another writer from the Holly forums and I started Stormdance Publications to create themed anthologies in November 2018. We have published three Grumpy Old Gods anthologies so far, with four more on our schedule to release this year into 2021.

And then there was COVID19.  

The closings and stay at home in the USA started around March 2020. The world became homebound. Everyone was forced to figure out new ways to work, socialize, and survive.

I attended a lot of Zoom meetings. I also joined Ninja Writers Academy in January 2020 and started seriously working on my novel. I began hosting write-ins with my Ninja Writers science fiction/fantasy workshop group. They started finishing their first drafts.

In the last week of May 2020, the opportunity presented itself to start my own online business.

I had decided to create a short story course. Another NWA student approached me, offering to pay me when they heard about it. They wanted me to teach them, one on one via Zoom, as I created it.

That was the spark that changed me from an aspiring writer into a working writer.

I discovered I have a knack for story development and worldbuilding. People started asking me for that service.

I added developmental coaching to my service list. I also started offering help for those who struggle with learning Scrivener via Zoom one on one too.

That began my evolution to becoming a working writer.

Ninja Writers founder and creative, Shaunta Grimes, noticed that Ninja Writers students were finishing their first drafts in our science fiction/ fantasy workshop in the academy. When she asked them they told her that my holding the write-ins had helped a lot.

She approached me to run write-ins for Ninja Writers Club & Academy working part-time for Ninja Writers, LLC. I am now part of a team of eight. Now I do a NW fiction co-working call for the club and academy on Tuesdays, a short story drop-in for academy only on Thursdays, plus the write-ins.

I am the Ninja Writers Accountability Manager. I am the fiction columnist and editor for the The Ninja Writer Pub on Medium.  Ninja Writers have many new things in the works for the end of the year and the coming year that are still in the planning stages. 

My life before COVID19 was between four walls with little face-face socialization, jobless living on a tiny fixed income that did not cover the bills. I wondered if that was all my life would ever be any more. I felt like quitting everything.

Now my life is socially full, and I am a working writer. Things are far from perfect, but these are some long time dreams coming to fruition.

I have invested in all my writing communities for years now. I continued writing.  I kept trying and chose to stay involved where I could; when COVID hit, I was able to step into opportunity.

Stay involved even when things feel hopeless. Opportunity pops up in unexpected places when you are not looking. If you don’t have a writing community to get involved in, find one. You are not alone.

Keep dreaming.
Hang on.
Never give up. 
Community matters. 
Networking is important
Do the work.  

IWSG ROCKS, insecure writers, join us! 

Monday, July 20, 2020

10 Ways to Be an Environmentally-Friendly Writer by Chrys Fey

Writers go through a lot of paper when we write in notebooks, print out manuscripts, and even have our books printed. We also create a lot of plastic waste through the use of pens and ink cartridges. If you are becoming more conscious of your impact on this earth and wonder how you can be a more environmentally-friendly writer, I have several techniques that you can try, and none of them are hard. Anyone can do these things with little effort.

1. Whiteboards
Use dry erase whiteboards to plot out your stories or to jot down ideas. This technique can be used in the place of index cards and Post-it notes. You can get a large whiteboard for one of your office walls, if you have the means. A couple of normal-sized whiteboards could work very well to plot out several chapters at a time. Even a bunch of small whiteboards, that you can find at Dollar Tree, can be effective for plotting purposes and would be a lot easier to put on the wall with double-sided sticky pads.
Another alternative is to use Black Latex Charcoal Paint and turn a wall in your office, or even just a section of it, into a blackboard.

2. Print Double-Sided
Sometimes, writers can’t get away from having to print out their manuscripts. Editing on paper can be a lot easier than doing it on the computer, and that could mean having to print out hundreds of pages. A good way to cut down on the paper you use is to print double-sided. If you have a newer printer, you have this technology at your fingertips. All it takes is to select this option when you are preparing to print.
Having less paper, means you’re saving trees, but also you don’t have as much paper weight to haul around.

3. Refillable Pens
If you’re like me, you write a lot by hand, and that means that your pens run out of ink quickly, which leads to tossing out dead pen after dead pen and buying more. A better strategy would be to buy a refillable pen and a pack of ink refills. Unfortunately, ink refills aren’t recyclable, just as the barrel of a pen is the only item that can be put into plastic recycling bins, when taken apart and all other bits (plunger, spring, ink tube, etc) are removed. However, with ink refills, you are creating less waste.

4. The Pen Guy
I've known about The Pen Guy for years. I mailed him a box of pens I had collected years ago so he could use them for his pen art. Once, he created a Mercedes Pens, a car covered in pens! The Pen Guy, Costas Schuler, collects pens (even markers and highlighters) and creates amazing works of art with them. I bet he may even take ink refills and could create a lot of art with them.

If you want to continue using pens that aren’t refillable, set a box by your desk and toss your old pens into it. When you fill the box, send them to The Pen Guy. Or you could create your very own pen art. I hot-glued a collection of used pens to a large coffee cup and to a binder that holds my printed manuscripts for editing.

5. Recycle Ink Cartridges will pay for your used ink cartridges and the shipping, too! It's even free to sign up. I created an account, printed out my free shipping label (after verifying how many I had and the type through email), put it on a manila envelope, and sent off my ink cartridges. The kind I have is worth .25 each. You need to have a total of $5+ before they'll send you a check. They prefer to get 8+ when you mail in your empties, so if you go through a lot of ink, this is a great option for you. Even if you have to save up enough empty cartridges, it’s better than throwing them in the trash.

Also, when you sign up for Instant Ink through HP, they send you free recycling envelope so you can send in your empty cartridges.

6. Recycle Used Paper

When you’re done with your printed manuscripts, or if you have a stack of them you don’t need anymore but don’t know what to do with, shred them, put the bits into a paper bag, and put the whole thing into your recycling bin. Do not put it in a plastic bag as this defeats the purpose. And don’t put it in a package with staples or tape. A simple paper bag is appropriate.

7. Recycle Used Notebooks

I stock up on notebooks when it’s back to school season. I use them to write on my stories in the evenings when I’m away from my computer. Because of this, I’ve had to recycle many notebooks once I don’t need the content anymore.

To recycle spiral notebooks, you need to separate the meta spiral from the paper. Rip out the paper and the remove the covers. You can then shred the paper and put the shredded pieces into a paper bag for the recycling bin.

8. Use Products Made with Recycled Paper

You can purchase 100% recycled copy/printer paper for the manuscripts you need to print. These papers are tree-free from the start, so you can have a good conscious when printing hundreds or pages. Even better when you do #6 and recycle that recycled paper when you’re done with it. your notebooks, you can use eco-friendly notebooks made with 100% recycled materials. I love these notebooks, especially to use as my bullet journals. They have such a neat, natural look and feel to them.

9. Donate Used Books

Writers tend to collect books. I know I do, and I go through my books a lot to make room for even more books. When I do this, I donate the books I don’t want anymore. I bring them to my local libraries who use then them for book sales to earn money for necessary library purchases. I even bring in used magazines, since my local libraries have spots by the doors for patrons to put free books and magazines that anyone can pick up. Someone will want the books you don’t think anyone would want.

You can also donate books to Goodwill, The Salvation Army, and local thrift stores.

For more ideas on where to donate books, check out this article by

10. Sprout Pencils

Sprout Pencils are special. The top is biodegradable and contain non-GMO seeds. There are ten different kinds you can get. You use the pencils as you normally would. When you reach the stub, you plant it, putting the top first, so the point (granite) is pointing up. From that used pencil you will sprout a herb, flower, or vegetable. You get 8 in a pack for $14.95 on Amazon. Talk about good for the environment.

Whatever you can do to take a step toward being an environmentally-friendly writer, do it, and feel good that you are doing something kind for you, the earth, and for the next generation.

SHARE: Your tips for being an environmentally-friendly writer.

Chrys Fey is the author of Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication. She is also the author of the Disaster Crimes series. Visit her blog, Write with Fey, for tips on how to reverse writer’s burnout.

Monday, July 13, 2020

#IWSG - Talking to readers about converting to ebooks!

How often do you have to explain to readers that your book is an ebook and not available as a paper book or as an audio book, but still just as awesome?

At one time, I told people that I didn't want to read any books that were on a device. I didn't want to read on my phone, or a Kindle, or my computer.

But, I feel like that was SOOOO many years ago, and I've been totally converted since then. I actually read on my phone, AND my Kindle, AND my computer!

I still enjoy the occasional paper book, but now I need cheaters (glasses that magnify) in order to read them!

Just the other day I was singing the praises of ebooks to a reader...

  • Did you know there are like a gazillion books that are only available as ebooks?
  • Did you know that some major publishers have lines that are only ebooks?
  • Did you know you can download ereaders for free on all kinds of different devices?
  • Did you know that you can change the size/color of the font on an ereader?
  • Did you know that most ebooks are cheaper than paper books? (Unless you're using your local library!) (Which you totally should be doing!) (And you can totally get ebooks from your library!)
  • Did you know you can download your favorite titles in just seconds for instant gratification?
These are just some of the many reasons to give ebooks a try!

I hope I gave them some ideas to think about and perhaps make them a convert!

How about you?
Have you converted any readers? 
How do you feel about ebooks, paper books, and audio books?

Did you know that the IWSG has an anthology contest going on right now? Check out all the details HERE!!!

Monday, July 6, 2020

Keeping Readers Hooked Throughout a Series

Today we're so excited to welcome Mary Kole. I call her Editor Extrordinaire. Welcome, Mary!

Many writers celebrate when they’ve written one novel or book for young readers—it’s a huge achievement, after all, to complete a manuscript! However, there are those writers whose stories span two, three, five, ten, or more books. I spoke with a client a few weeks ago who had a story written at over a million words, spanning nine decades, and more than ten manuscripts! Series writers are a special breed, and that’s why I’m excited to talk about crafting plot and character arcs over the long haul, rather than “just” one project, here.

Character development and plot development take on a somewhat different meaning when we talk about a series. You have some big decisions to make when it comes to both of these crucial elements. Let’s tackle character first. Here are three tips for crafting a great series character arc:

  1. Give your hero enough substance. A hero who goes “from innocence to experience” is fine and good, and a great hook to “hang” a standalone story on. But series characters need compelling wounds and objectives, motivations and needs, and some deep-seated damage or flaw that makes them interesting in the long term. 
  2. Turning points capture readers. As your nuanced character navigates their story, they need to have realizations, make decisions (good or bad), and wade through some ethical and moral gray areas. Series characters should have changes of heart, make mistakes, and be presented with tough choices. You are tracking years or decades of a character’s life, and a lot happens over an extended period of time that tests a character, yes, but could also change a character—for better or for worse. Readers should see the highest highs and the lowest lows of your protagonist before the series is done. It’s okay to not like them for a while or to even fantasize about killing them off, like thriller writer Lee Child’s famously admitted to doing with his Jack Reacher protagonist (featuring in 25 installments as of fall 2020).
  3. Think outside the protagonist. Series often come alive in the supporting characters and antagonists. If Voldemort hadn’t been that compelling, would Harry Potter have sung quite as beautifully over seven (very long) books? A series gives readers an opportunity to really sink into a story, and often that means lending additional development work to supporting characters, foils, and villains in the world.

When it comes to plot, you have one big decision to make right away: Will you be continuing one story or saga in your series, or will each book cover an isolated (but related) event? Series have gone many ways. Most series, like the Hunger Games and Percy Jackson series, follow one POV character through a series of interrelated events set in the same world. But there are options for telling a series story. Interconnected thrillers One of Us Is Lying and One of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus follow different characters and different events, as do Kristin Cashore’s Graceling-world books. Or you can do a little bit of both—a linear character and story treatment, and then a companion book, like Allie Condie’s Matched series, with the addition of The Final Voyage of Poe Blythe. Or take a different path entirely. For example, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, and Ender’s Shadow, tell the same story through different POVs. 

Once you have your overall story scope figured out, here are considerations to keep in mind for a great series plot arc:

  1. A world with enough substance to support the conflict. In order to keep your series plot fires burning hot, you will need enough conflict to make things worse and worse and worse for your characters. We shot down a dragon invasion in the first book. Now the selkies are acting up in the second book. Then the king’s subjects will revolt in the third. World-building is crucial in any story, but if you intend to support a series with yours, is the world broad enough with enough potential hot spots where conflict can arise? But be wary, too, of just tossing random conflict into the ring. They shouldn’t discover a random alien planet that’s about to boil over for the fourth book just because we ran out of conflict on the home plant. Ideally, the conflicts are going to escalate in severity but also importance and potential impact on your characters and the world readers will have come to know.
  2. High stakes—in believable doses. I’ve long maintained that high stakes are actually very tricky to write (link to: because they have to be compelling and believable. A series needs enough stakes and plot tension to support more than one book. However, if there’s an asteroid hurtling for the planet in every installment, followed by a supervolcano, then a zombie invasion, readers may get stakes overload—or think that your story world is the unluckiest place in the galaxy. Ideally, the stakes grow from the primary conflict of your story, one that boils down to an ideological difference between your protagonist and antagonist. All of the events of the conflict should be interconnected, and build one on top of the other. The first Hunger Games book is a story of personal survival for Katniss. By Mockingjay, she’s leading an entire movement in the same story world, for the same main cause. The world is big enough, per the point above, to support many conflicts … but they are offshoots of a main theme, and the stakes grow believably with each book.
  3. A denouement that rewards characters and readers. “Landing” a series is tricky, because readers and characters alike have invested years of their lives, literally, into the story. As a writer, you have more choices to make. What do you resolve? How? Does everything come up roses for the character, or is the series experience the place to play  more in the gray areas—with more victories, yes, but also more defeats? Readers become invested in series, which is exactly the point, but that also means more passion and more expectations. It’s always possible to extend a series, for example, Divergent and Hunger Games, both originally published as trilogies, with a fourth sidecar book issued later. But ideally, you will say what you want to say in a way that captures the nuances of an extended character and world, and also satisfied the bigger investment readers have made. Figure out what your entire series is about, in terms of world-building and theme, and wrap it up in a way that’s loyal to your personal thesis of the work. Every great series has something big to say, at the end of the day.

There are as many series, series characters, and series events as there are series writers. This list is not meant to be comprehensive or all-inclusive, as there are always exceptions to every single rule. However, I hope to have given you food for thought. 

What are some of your favorite series that have hooked you as a reader? How do they play into these ideas, or disagree with them?

Visit the Good Story Company

Some things about Mary Kole:

Former literary agent Mary Kole founded Mary Kole Editorial in 2013 and provides consulting and developmental editing services to writers of all categories and genres, working on children’s book projects from picture book to young adult, and all kinds of trade market literature, including fantasy, sci-fi, romance and memoir. She founded Good Story Company in 2019 with the aim of providing valuable content—like the Good Story Podcast and Crit Collective writing forum—to writers of all categories and ability levels.

She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and has worked at Chronicle Books, the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and Movable Type Management. She has been blogging at since 2009. Her book, Writing Irresistible Kidlit, a writing reference guide for middle grade and young adult writers, is available from Writer's Digest Books.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Sizzling IWSG First Wednesday in July

Alex J. Cavanaugh, Founder

Is anyone new to this site? Anyone who doesn't know about IWSG? Just in case. Here's what we are and what we do.

This is a place for writers to express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

We post the first Wednesday of every month. This is our official Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. You can also choose to answer the question of the month if you'd like. 

Be sure to visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

July 1 question (answering is optional)- There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

The awesome co-hosts for the July 1 posting of the IWSG are Jenni Enzor, Beth Camp, Liesbet, Tyrean Martinson, and Sandra Cox! 

As a hybrid author (one who's traditionally and self-published) I've already seen one change that I wanted. The Indie author has become much more professional and, therefore, much more respected. 

In the future, I'd like to see more combinations of media, and I believe this is already happening. Recently I purchased a picture book that came in print but that was also accompanied by a musical version of the story. This was perfect for the young reader, but I think it also appeals to some older readers. There has always been a fascination about what music suits a story--a lot like what happens in the film industry. 

I'd like to see more Podcasts used in conjunction with published books, too. I think that hearing the stories behind the story enhances the reader's experience and connects authors to their readers. 

How would you answer this month's question?

Check Out The Guidelines & Rules
Don't miss this next opportunity to be included in a IWSG Anthology. This contest is up and running. If you want to submit a story, find all the details about how you do it HERE.

Quick Overview

Word count: 4500-6000
Genre: Science Fiction
Theme: Dark Matter
Submissions accepted: May 6 - September 2, 2020

I'm rambling on about writing and reading over at my BLOG, so stop by if you have time.