Saturday, April 03, 2010


Should Writers Specialize?

I've known since I was a young age that I wanted to be a writer. In high school and college, I wrote for my school newspapers. After working in corporate America and teaching both high school and college English and Journalism, I took the plunge into freelance writing.

Experts say "write what you know." What should I write about? Education? Writing? Cooking? Current events? I made a list of topics I felt I could successfully write about. Sure, they were fun, and my knowledge base in many of them ran deep, but I wanted to write and learn. Would I be able to write about any topic and sell a piece to a magazine or should I focus on one area and specialize?

Sure, some experts preach sticking to one area. With social networking and author branding, specializing may seem like a no-brainer. For me, specializing limits my writing style. I've been lucky. I've had investigative pieces appear in national magazines. Regional topics appeal to me and make up half of my monthly sales. And since I have experience teaching writing, I've used that knowledge to bolster sales.

What I've realized about specializing is this: writers need to find the best fit for their writing style. This month, a national glossy may want a 3,000 word article. Next month, a regional newspaper or magazine may offer you eight assignments.

For writers who do choose to specialize - and for writers in general - here are a few ideas to break out of your niche and find new homes for your work:

  • Branch out. Think about the subtopics associated with your specialization area. Under those topics, you'll find even more subtopics, and eventually you'll have a huge cluster of possible articles.
  • Consider the opposite. If you primarily write for women, tailor an article on the same subject toward men. Write for adults? Why not focus on teens or tweens?
  • Find common bond. I once had a writing teacher who said you should be able to write about any topic for any publication if your writing is strong. Look at a topic and consider how it can fit the editorial needs of a magazine or publication you've never queried before.
  • Renew interests. Even writers need to renew their interest in a topic. Are there conferences or classes you can attend that offer new insight? Sign up and learn all you can. Not only may you find new writing ideas, you may also find that you'd like to write a different style of article.
  • Understand trends.Use trends to boost timely sales. Look at trends and find a correlation between them and your area of expertise.

Determine if specializing will be best for your writing career. Discover what fits your style. Decide what writing goals drive your freelance business.

And then, write.

by LuAnn Schindler

Visit LuAnn's website or follow her on Twitter @luannschindler.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Hop, skip and jump to your desk!

For the most part, I make my money writing non-fiction for newspapers, magazines, television, and blogs. But when my kids head back to school (and in between the paying jobs), I'm dusting off my fiction writing, sweeping away some cobwebs and getting back into creating fictional worlds.
It's been too long, but in a way it feels natural to have let the stories germinate for a while. But Thursday morning, as the kids head out the door, I'll revel in the silence (for 5 minutes) and then hop, skip and jump for my pen and paper.
Recently I read that to keep your writing fluid and fresh it helps to dive into a variety of writing styles, genres and projects. Always admired poetry? Dip into during a quiet lunchtime. Interested in short stories? Pull out a pen and pad while waiting for your laundry to dry or for a friend to come visit.
For me, I've been dabbling in non-fiction writing by chance. I was writing fiction--short stories and a couple novels--when I started picking up non-fiction writing assignments. Because of my journalism background, it was a natural fit. But I've now strayed so far that I am aching to finish a novel I've started, a young adult novel my daughter is begging me for, and to stitch together the threads of a story I have been sketching since spring.
With the kids returning to school in a couple days, I am anxious to start creating and crafting fiction again.
Is there anything you've been wanting to get back into creating? What has been stopping you? What is one small step--or one small hop, skip or jump--you can take to start getting back on the path to your project?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and freelance writer. She also blogs at and, delving into creativity in everyday places. For different reasons, she--and her children--will be counting the hours until school starts.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009


What is the Focus of Your Story?

I recently edited a picture book for one of my Editor 911 clients. Although the story was a great idea, it was all over the place. I actually found three stories in one, and that is way too many for a picture book. It might be okay for a novel but not for a shorter work.

I see this as a problem in many people's manuscripts for adults and children. With longer works, this out-of-focus problem usually rears its ugly head as the subplots take over the main plot of the story and confuse the reader. If you are suffering from writers' block, don't know where your story is going, or your critique group members say they are confused while reading your story, maybe you have lost focus on what your book is actually about.

With my client, I told her what I thought the three different plots were in her book, and I asked her which one is the most important to the story she is trying to tell. Once she figures that out, she can write a better book for kids. The other two stories do not have to disappear. In children's books, the illustrator can help with subplots, or the author can write another book--maybe a sequel.

Here is what you can ask yourself if you feel your story is losing focus. This should work on any story--long or short, for kids or adults.

  • When I first had the idea for my story, what was my original idea?
  • Why did I want to tell this story?
  • What are the plots and subplots I have in my story?
  • What is my story's theme?
  • What is my story's purpose?
  • Is there any scene in my story that does not fit with my answers to the above questions? (You know those scenes that you think are brilliant, but readers are wondering why they are in your story? Don't delete them--save them for a rainy day.)

If you do a little story soul-searching, then you should be able to find your focus again. If you are still having trouble, ask your critique group members if they will answer the questions above about your story and see what they think. Their answers will be based on the actual manuscript you have written. Sometimes, your answers are based on the manuscript on your paper AND the manuscript in your head--as writers, we know these are not always the same thing. Take a day or two to get your story back in focus. It will make finishing your manuscript easier and more enjoyable.

Happy focusing!

Margo Dill

Read These Books and Use Them (blog): For teachers, parents, and children's book lovers.

photo by Capture Queen

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Monday, March 02, 2009


George Singleton, author of Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds, launches his blog tour!

In Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds: Indispensable Wisdom and Cautionary Advice for Writers acclaimed Southern story writer and novelist George Singleton serves up everything you ever need to know to become a real writer (meaning one who actually writes), in bite-sized aphorisms. It's Nietzsche's Beyond Good & Evil meets Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. It's cough syrup that tastes like chocolate cake. In other words, don't expect to get better unless you get a good dose of it, maybe two.

Accompanied by more than fifty original full-color illustrations by novelist Daniel Wallace, these laugh-out-loud funny, candid, and surprisingly useful lessons will help you find your own writerly balance so you can continue to move forward.

Singleton graduated from Furman University in 1980 with a degree in philosophy, and from UNC-Greensboro with an MFA in creative writing. Singleton has taught English and fiction writing at Francis Marion College, the Fine Arts Center of Greenville County, and the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities. He has been a visiting professor at the University of South Carolina and UNC-Wilmington, and has given readings and taught classes at a number of universities and secondary schools. He has published four collections of stories: These People Are Us, The Half-Mammals of Dixie, Why Dogs Chase Cars, Drowning in Gruel; and two novels: Novel and Work Shirts for Madmen.

He lives in Pickens County, South Carolina with the clay artist Glenda Guion their eleven dogs and one cat.

Visit his website at

Published by Writers Digest Books., $17.99
Publication Date: October 22, 2008
Non-Fiction, Writer’s Advice, Hardcover
ISBN# 9781582975658

Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are holding a contest to win a signed copy of George’s book, Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds, to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end. We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment. Enjoy!

Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: Welcome to WOW!, George. We're delighted to launch your blog tour for your book, Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds: Indispensable Wisdom and Cautionary Advice for Writers (Writers Digest Books, 2008).

George: Well, I've visited The Muffin and I definitely win Most Curmudgeonly, Ugliest Person to ever be on the blog. Sorry about that.

WOW: Why don't we change that to the Trailblazer Award? After all, you're our first male author on a WOW Blog Tour. And writers, of all people, know not to judge a book by its cover. George, up until now your cover has been stamped "fiction" with four short story collections and two novels. How did you switch from fiction to writing advice?

George: I started writing these little aphorisms and anecdotes in September of 2007. I told my friend Will Allison (a fellow novelist) about it, and he said, "You should contact Lauren Mosko at Writers Digest Books." I did, and sent her 40 of the little sections.

WOW: How did you decide to include illustrations with the book?

George: Actually, while Lauren was consulting with her boss about accepting my book I was on a book tour in Nashville where I told Daniel Wallace (a writer and illustrator) about it. He said, "I want to do illustrations for that book." It was as simple as that.

WOW: It seems like this book led a charmed life. Everything just fit into place.

George: Lauren was a great editor--taking out some of the aphorisms she rightly didn't think made sense. But then, about a week after the book came out Lauren let me know about her decision to leave Writers Digest Books. When Lauren left I felt as though the book no longer had a cheerleader. Wait--I don’t think of Lauren as a cheerleader. I know longer had anyone in my corner. Wait--I don’t think of Lauren as a boxer's cut person. (Laughs) Then I learned that because of layoffs there wasn't exactly a PR department either. My book was an orphan.

WOW: So what does the author of an orphaned book do? Did you have your own marketing plan set up?

George: I never did any publicity for myself. The publishing houses would assign a publicist and I would go off to book signings, interviews…or the people somehow found me. I had some book conferences and festivals lined up, so that was about it.

WOW: Sounds like you aren't a big fan of drumming up publicity for your writing George.

George: I think of it as a necessary evil. I would much rather sit at home and write. It's not that I'm a total misanthrope--I've been known to have a good time--but I get way too nervous at book signings and readings.

WOW: So I suppose a Blog Tour is perfect for you. What's up next, maybe a rant against unreliable publicity plans? And what type of publicity plan for your next book?

George: I'm working on a novel and have a collection of stories pretty much ready. But I'm waiting out the storm. I hope that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt gets going again, or someone buys it out. [HMH published George's fiction books but recently stopped acquiring new manuscripts--another victim of the economy]. I worry, again, more about the writing than on publicity plans.

WOW: Well, we're looking forward to those books and are glad to see that you haven't lost that sense of humor that makes Pep Talks, Warnings and Screeds such a fun read. Want to join George on his blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.

Blog Tour Dates: Come and join the fun!

March 2, 2009 Monday
George will be chatting with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. Stop by and share your comments! One lucky commenter will win copy of George's book!

March 3, 2009 Tuesday
George will be stopping by Writer's Round-About and sharing his advice on how to make a living as a writer! And, there's a book giveaway contest! Not to miss.

March 4, 2009 Wednesday
George will be stopping by Joyce Anthony's new blog for an exclusive author interview and book review.

March 5, 2009 Thursday
George will be stopping by Jo Ann Hernandez' BronzeWord's Blog to share his writing advice!

March 7, 2009 Saturday
George will be stopping by Mike's Writing Workshop for an author interview and guest post. Not to miss!

March 9, 2009 Monday
George will be visiting Annette Fix's Paper Trail blog to talk about the craft of writing. Be sure to stop by!

March 10, 2009 Tuesday
George will be visiting Writer Unboxed to share his tips on the five things every writer should know. I can't wait for that one!

March 13, 2009 Friday
George will be visiting Beth Morrissey's blog Hell Or High Water to talk about making a living as a short story writer. Another must read!

March 16, 2009 Monday
Thursday Bram will be reviewing George's book Pep Talks, Warnings and Screeds at her fantastic blog!

March 17, 2009 Tuesday
George will be stopping by Mary Jo Campbell's blog Writer Inspired for an exclusive interview and book giveaway contest! Comment for a chance to win a copy of George's book!

March 19, 2009 Thursday
George will be stopping by C. Hope Clark's blog for an exclusive interview!

March 23, 2009 Monday
George will be stopping by Susan Johnston's blog The Urban Muse for a surprise guest post!

March 27, 2009 Friday
George will be stopping by Day by Day Writer for an exclusive interview!

Get involved!

We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.

If you have a blog or website and would like to participate in George Singleton's blog tour, or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at:

** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.

Oh, be sure to comment on this post to enter in a drawing for a copy of George's latest book Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds: Indispensable Wisdom and Cautionary Advice for Writers. Visit his website at

George will be stopping by to answer your questions, so ask away! ;)

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