You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Writing’ category.

college-students-in-lecture-hallOne thing I am doing this year to improve my writing is to take a class. This class is about writing the historical narrative. I’m hoping that it not only improves my nonfiction history writing but it will improve my research skills.

It feels odd taking a class. I can’t tell you the last time I took a class where I was expected to participate and do assignments. I’ve taken some online training courses, but those just required me to listen and absorb. I wasn’t required to participate.

I’ve been teaching classes in history and writing for years, but it is definitely a different feel being on the other side. Luckily, the class is only once a week so I have time to digest what each class is about and get the assignments complete. I have gotten no feedback from my instructor yet, but I will be curious to see how much work he says my work needs.

Depending on how well this goes, it will help me decide whether I’ll keep using this method to improve different aspects of my writing.

I have to say that I was leery going into this. This is because I have considered going back to college for my Master’s Degree. When this happens, I sit down and look at the costs of getting the degree versus what I can gain from of it. I wind up asking myself the question, “I’ve been a professional writer for 30 years. Has writing changed so much that it is worth tens of thousands of dollars to learn something new?”

The answer is “no.”

In fact, I have talked to some friends who have needed to earn a Master’s to advance in their work. The consensus among them is that they didn’t learn much that they didn’t already didn’t know from already working at the job.

This class was different. It’s a single class, so it’s not costing me an arm and a leg. The second reason I chose it was because I had been looking to improve my research skills to dig out more details on the stories I write.

So, I’m taking the plunge to become a student again. Have any of you returned to school years after graduating? What has your experience been with it?

You might also enjoy these posts:


new-years-resolutionsHappy 2019! It’s a New Year, so what are planning on doing with your writing? My writer’s group will talk about our writing resolutions this week, I thought I would share mine on my blog just to have them in writing. It will give me something to refer back to if I start to wander.


I have five books that I would like to get out this year. One is already in layout so that will be no problem. One has the first draft complete. I am working hard to complete the first draft on another one, and two others have partial drafts.

I have a good start. Two of the books will definitely come out. The potential problem will be if I run into a snag trying to complete a decent first draft. It happens sometimes. The story just doesn’t come together on the page, and I get slowed down trying to fix the book, which pushes the projects that come after it behind.


I lost three of my newspaper columns last year. One newspaper was bought by a company that doesn’t want to use freelancers. Another newspaper got a new editor that decided not to continue the column and the third newspaper didn’t like that I became the editor of a magazine they consider the competition.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that newspaper columns don’t pay that well, so if I can replace that lost work with two decent paying magazine articles each month, it will more than make up the loss. That’s my goal.


I have signed up for an online history writing course to improve my writing skills. This is a first for me. I listen to podcasts and read books, but this 10-week course will have assignments that I need to complete. I can’t coast along. I will need to focus and get the job done.


I laid out a monthly marketing plan I wanted to try to implement this year. I will also sit down with an expert in websites and SEO marketing to try to improve my online platform.


It all comes down to selling more book. My goal is to increase my book sales by 20 percent and my ebook sales by 100 percent.

That may sound like a lot for ebook sales, but that is an area of my work I don’t feel I have tapped as well as I could.

So there you have it. That’s what I’m hoping to accomplish this year with my writing. What are your goals?

You might also enjoy these posts:

winter-blues-snowmanI finished up my last event for the year, and now, for me, winter begins. It’s not only a season, but it’s also the time when my business slows down. It won’t pick up again until mid-March.

In some ways, this is a good thing for me. I catch up on writing projects so I’m on track to release the early books I have planned for the year. I have time to do more research for stories. I get all of my tax information together to fill out my taxes. I lay out plans for my broad-term marketing for the year.

On the whole, though, it’s a rough time for me. I don’t have as much income coming in. I have to tap into my business savings to make up shortfalls.

I’ve learned to plan for this period. I save up during my busy months to have income for this time. I put off certain projects knowing I will work on them during the winter.

It’s all part of being a full-time writer. For anyone planning on a writing career starting with the New Year, don’t let the slow start off put you. It’s typical and cyclical.

Things will get better, but then winter comes every year.

You might also enjoy these posts:

book-panel-212Want to win a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas? There are 3 days left in my giveaway.

If you like reading e-books, I’m giving away a Kindle Paperwhite. This version is nicer than the old Kindle that I have. It’s waterproof. That makes it great to read at the ocean, near the pool, or in the tub. If you have ever tried to read your phone’s screen outside on a sunny day, you will appreciate the 300 ppi glare-free display. However, it also has a built-in light for nighttime reading. It’s not backlighting, so it won’t strain your eyes.

You can enter the giveaway daily, and the more you share it, the more chances you will have to win. So enter every day, share it on Facebook, and retweet it.


You might also enjoy these posts:

20181124_133149So I took a long weekend off after Thanksgiving to go to Universal Studios in Florida with my family, and I actually took time off from work.

One of the problems with working from home is that it is hard to get away from work. Even when I go away for an overnight show or even on vacation, I check and respond to e-mail and work on my latest project. Last year, my family took a cruise. I get up early so I would grab my notebook, walk out on a deck that had comfortable seating, and write until the sun came up and my family woke up.

As things turned out this weekend, though, I didn’t do any work. I was either too busy with driving or having fun in the parks. By the time I got back to the hotel room each night, I just wanted to shower and go to bed.

Now I’m on the other side of that weekend and seeing how true time off affected me.

I was caught up with work before I left, so I’m not behind. That’s a good thing.20181125_093004

What I feel is that I’m having trouble to find my work groove. It’s hard to get into the articles that I’m writing.

I’m hoping that I will have a jolt of inspiration for the book that I’m writing, but I haven’t been able to work on it yet. It’s taking me so long to get into my other projects, I’m not having time left over to write my book.

I don’t regret the time off. I had a lot of fun. I was just hoping for a rush of fresh creativity.

You might also enjoy these posts:


I was speaking to a group recently about writing article query letters. I always recommend listing some of your pertinent credits as part of the letter. After I tell a group this, someone always asks, “What if I don’t have anything published?”

I have two recommendations to remedy this: 1) Write stories for free, and 2) Write filler pieces.

rdu-1504249200The second method not only can get you paid writing credits, you can get your foot in the door with some larger national magazines. A prominent example of this is writing a short humorous anecdote for Reader’s Digest. The pay is small, but you are only writing a hundred words or so. However, once published, you can list Reader’s Digest as one of your credits.

This was how I got into Boy’s Life Magazine. I wrote 200 words about something a local Boy Scout troop was doing that had national interest. Now I list Boy’s Life among my 130 or so publishing credits.

A slight variation of this technique as you work your way up the food chain to feature articles in this high-paying publications is to query about writing an article for one of the publication’s departments. The articles are shorter and don’t pay as much, but once again, they allow you to use the publication as a credit. In fact, many editors tend to test out unknown writers with department assignments first. If the writer flops with the assignment, it’s easier to fill the empty space than if the unknown writer had dropped the ball with a cover feature.boyslife

I’ve gotten started writing for a number of magazines in this way. In fact, for magazines that I do a lot of writing for, my assignments jump back and forth between features and departments. Writing a department article doesn’t take me as long and it keeps the money flowing.

The goal for a new writer is to build your portfolio in order to get larger and higher-paying assignments, and this method can help you do it in an impressive way.

You might also enjoy these posts:

thSo I noticed something unusual about my writing lately. I have two area that I write for each day; my books and my articles.

Last week, I had a burst of writing enthusiasm for the novel that I’m currently writing. I wrote about 10,000 words of the first draft. At the same time, I was struggling to write my articles that are on deadline. I had no enthusiasm for them.

This week, it’s been the opposite, I’ve been having no problem working on my articles, but I’m procrastinating doing any work on my book.

It’s the first time that I’ve noticed something like this happening. Sometimes, I burn out. When that happens, I burn out for both my books and articles.

Has anyone else ever noticed something similar happening with their writing? Do you have any suggestions for how to level things out?

You might also enjoy these posts:

Steel-Pen-Writers-Conference-October-2015-5No matter what type of writing you do, you can find a writer’s conference that will help you learn more about your craft. While the price tag on some of the conferences may seem daunting, keep in mind that the impact of a writer’s conference can continue far beyond the few days conference lasts.

Many writers attend conferences wanting to pitch their book ideas to editors and agents. While that approach can work, you’ll see more success if you first sell yourself. If editors and agents like you, they will be more inclined to work with you. You should be looking to establish long-term relationships with editors and agents who will help you produce wonderful books year after year.

While a writers’ conference will bring writers, agents, and editors together, it is up to you to get the face time with an editor or agent.

Do some research before the conference to find out who is scheduled to attend and what genres they work with. Make a list of the people you want to meet in order of importance along with the person’s thumbnail picture that can find on the conference material or website. You now have a cheat sheet to know who to look for and why they would be interested in your book.

Sign up for a pitch session if it is available. These are quick pitches to a specific agent or editor. If the person likes your idea, he or she will ask for you to send more. Be friendly and excited about your idea, but don’t be pushy. Again, you want to sell them on the idea that you are someone with whom they will enjoy working.

Make sure you get the person’s business card. It will have all the direct contact information on it along with the proper spelling of the person’s name. Once the pitch session is over, I will write any notes about the meeting and the person on the back of the card while the details are fresh in my mind. I refer to these notes when I am writing my cover letter to the package that I send the editor or agent.

You can also meet editors and agents informally at the various events at the conference. I know one writer who likes to volunteer as an escort at conferences. He takes the conference speakers, usually editors and agents, from room to room so they can get to their sessions on time. His escorting time also allows him a little time to pitch his book to the person.

Coming across as likable is more important for these informal meetings. People don’t want to stand around talking to someone who is annoying or inappropriate. Another writer I know has pitched his book upon seeing an agent or editor in a bathroom. He hasn’t been successful so far.

While editors and agents are your primary targets at a writer’s conference, don’t neglect networking with other attendees. Friendships developed can increase your pool or potential beta readers for your manuscript, potential reviewers and even other authors who could provide you with a cover blurb for a future book.

Don’t expect something without giving something. Be generous with your information or areas of expertise. Share information with them about markets, other writers, cover designers, etc.

Pass out your own business cards, postcards, and other promotional materials. If the conference has gift bags for speakers or for auctions, see if you can include something.

After the conference, send thank you notes to editors and agents for their time. It doesn’t hurt to follow up on any other friendships you started either.

If you are an introvert like me, it can be hard to step outside your comfort zone to network at a conference. You won’t be the only person who feels that way. Just remember that everyone there is looking to make connections that can help them. Who’s to say it won’t be you?

You might also enjoy these posts:

thThere are lots of ways you can write for money. Books, short stories, articles, ads, and more.

While most towns nowadays have only one newspaper, they will generally have multiple radio stations. For a writer, this means multiple opportunities to write spots for radio salespeople who want effective ads for their clients.

Radio has been called “The Theater of the Mind.” Written correctly, a radio spot can convey vivid imagery that would be too expensive for some companies to pay for in a television commercial.

Radio also has its disadvantages, which must be worked around when writing a radio spot.  Because of the large number of radio stations with various niches (rock, country, talk, news, etc.), the audience is very fragmented.  Advertisers might have to advertise on a number of different stations to reach their total market.  Also, clutter from too many commercials lessens the impact of your spot.

Radio’s biggest disadvantage, though. is that it is used as background noise.  This means consumers may hear your commercial but might not actually listen to it.  And those people that hear your commercial view it as an interruption of their program or music.

If you’re going to write a radio spot, here are some tips for making your spot stand out from the crowd.

  • Stress a benefit to the listener. Give the customer a reason to buy the product.  Don’t Say: Macy’s has new fall fashions.  Say:  Macy’s fall fashions make you look better.
  • Grab the listener’s attention. Radio allows you to use a wide range of sound effects.  I once combined the sounds of a car and a briefcase opening and closing to create an image of a small car that was being folded up and put into the briefcase!
  • Zero in on your audience. If you know who you’re selling to, radio’s fragmentation can be used to attract the right audience.  For instance, because of the general age of the audience of a rock station, it doesn’t make much sense for AARP to advertise on it.  If you have ever heard ads that start with a line like:  “Allergy sufferers, now there is relief from your hay fever.”  or “If you’re concerned about your family’s well being, you want to keep them healthy.”  Both of these opening statements immediately target their audience (allergy sufferers and concerned parents).
  • Keep the copy simple and to the point. “To be or not to be” may be the best-known phrase in the English language, yet the longest word in the phrase is three letters.  Big words don’t impress people, but they may confuse them.
  • Sell early and often. At most, you’ve got 60 seconds to convince the customer to use the product or service.  Use all of those seconds for your client’s benefit.  Stress one point and do it frequently.  Don’t try and sell a great deal, the reputation of the company, and the quality of the product in a single spot.  You’ll dilute the power of the message.
  • Write conversationally. Radio is personal.  It allows customers to feel you are sitting beside them in the car talking just to them like a friend would.  Read the copy out loud to see if sounds friendly or stilted.
  • Use positive action words. Words like “now” and “today” urge action and are particularly useful when advertising a sale.  “Drive by Anderson’s Hardware today to take advantage of our anniversary sale.”  Radio has a quality of urgency and immediacy.  Take advantage of them.
  • Put the listener in the picture. Writing for “The Theater of the Mind” means you don’t have to talk about a new car.  Revving engines, the squeal of tires on a turn, and dramatic music will put the listener behind the wheel.
  • Mention the client often. Also, make sure listeners know where the advertiser is located.  If the address is complicated, use landmarks to get them there.

Radio copywriting can prove to be a steady source of income for you. It’s not unheard of to earn $50 for a one-page radio script, which represents a one-minute radio spot. Though it won’t get your name out in front of an audience, it will help pad your bank account.

You might also enjoy these posts:

A_stack_of_newspapersFor those of you who don’t know, I write a local history column that I enjoy. It’s called Looking Back, and it has appeared in six different newspapers. However, it’s currently running in three newspapers.

The column is a hybrid between a syndicated column and a local column. It’s syndicated in terms that it appears in multiple newspapers and sometimes the same column will even make an appearance in more than one newspaper. However, I tailor the columns to fit each newspaper’s readership. So, the Cumberland Times-News Looking Back has stories about Cumberland, Md., and Allegany County, while the York Dispatch Looking Back has stories about York, Pa., and York County, etc.

I recently had a newspaper that had been running my column for five years drop me. It wasn’t because they didn’t like the column. They got good feedback on it. It was because I started to edit a magazine that circulated in the same area as the newspaper. I was told that they didn’t think it was right to have the face of a magazine competing for the same advertising dollars as the newspaper writing for the paper.

On the one hand, I understand it. They feel like they are supporting the competition even if the magazine I’m editing covers a much wider area.

However, they are hurting their readers because they are removing material that their readers like. That doesn’t sound like a good decision in the long run.

It certainly was a painful choice for me. I make a lot more money doing the magazine work, but I can’t write history articles for the magazine. I really liked writing the column, too.

What are your thoughts about this?  Is the newspaper’s rationale’s sound? Do you see a way around this situation?

You might also enjoy these posts:

Get 3 FREE E-books!

Sign up for my newsletter using the link above and you will get copies of Canawlers, October Mourning, and The Rain Man for FREE.
Follow Whispers in the Wind on

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,043 other followers