Category: Helpful Hints For Writers

Sitting at her desk Cynthia struggled to come to a decision. The story was done. There was nothing more she could do to change it. It was what it was. The characters were completely fleshed out. The story had a beginning, a middle and an end. Nothing was missing. She knew that and yet she hesitated.

Should she change that one word here or there? Did her character’s name roll off the tongue easily enough? After all, it was a unique name. Maybe she should change it. Or maybe she was just second guessing herself.

Cynthia stared at the email she’d written. It was good. The agent would see her clearly. The words she’d chosen gave a complete picture of the woman who’d written them. Jammie Bendwick would read Cynthia’s words and know her to be a plucky woman with a sense of humor and a strong business ethic. A woman who you could count on to get the job done.

Everything was there. The email was complete. The story was typed in 12 Point Times New Roman font. The margins were at .5. There were no indents as requested in the agent’s specifications. She’d followed the rules. Her story followed the guidelines.

So why was she sitting in her small office terrified that she was making a mistake when she knew she wasn’t? Because she was a new writer and this was her first try at publication. What if she never heard back or if she got a rejection notice? Both would be dramatic. Both would be terrifying, even traumatic.

But what if she didn’t send it out? Would she be any less a failure? The reality was staring her in the face. If she didn’t send it out, she might be safe from being told, “No,” but she’d be saying, “No,” to herself. She wouldn’t be giving herself a chance.

Thinking of it that way, she didn’t like the outcome. She was being the judge and jury of herself and if she didn’t let the story go – she’d be pronouncing judgment on herself and become a failure. She didn’t want that. Even if the story came back, she’d given it a chance to live. She could always play with it later and make it better so that someday it would live again. That sounded hopeful.

Taking a few deep, calming, breaths and sending a prayer heavenward, Cynthia, reached out and clicked the SEND button. It was done. The story was sent on its way and Cynthia had just taken her biggest leap towards publication. She was a writer. And she’d sent her work out.

Lots of people say it. They have some long tall tale to tell. It was one of those events that happened years ago and they still can’t quite forget it.

These are real life stories, things in everyone’s memory that the right comment sets off and you find yourself sharing. There are so many things that happened in connection with that event that naturally, “You Could Write A Book.”

It sounds easy. After all, how hard could it be to jot down on paper what you remember. There is no research, no interviews and most of all, no right or wrong answers.

So why is it so many of these stories never find it to paper? Is it because they aren’t important? No, we just haven’t made the time.

I challenge you, my readers to share your tall tales here and make them reality. Everyone will learn.


Writing a story. Some find it easy, others not so much. There are hundreds of ways to go about it and every one is a maze of ideas and words all jumbled together. Some are accepted and have been for hundreds of years. Others brake the rules and are considered writing abominations. Still, writing for writing’s sake is an art form.

When writing is done by teams, a whole new experience comes alive. Two thoughts of thinking, two styles of writing and endless possibilities are produced. How these unalike minds will mesh together to create the perfect story is pure magic. It doesn’t always work like music team where one writes the melody and the other the lyrics. In writing a story, where there are two writers writing the same story and the same characters the process can easily get confusing.

I’ve heard stories where one writer took one character (the hero) while the other spent his time writing about the villain. That they came up with something seems fantastic but what is even more fantastic is another story I heard. This one was about two men Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre with a grilling writing pace. Their story was to be serialized and they had very little time to come up with the whole thing from idea to published article.

Their system was simply to spend one week figuring out who the characters were and roughly mapping out each chapter and giving each a name of its own. The second week was the week of writing. One man took all the odd chapters, the other the even. On week three they each read the chapters wrote by the other and added anything they thought was needed for transitions between the scenes of the two chapters. This version was sent to the publisher and published. They wrote 35 of these novels. The series was known as Fantômas. It’s no wonder that these stories are at times disjointed and slightly redundant but here in lies their charm and their lasting legacy. These stories were written slightly over a hundred years ago and yet they are still being translated from their native French and the concepts within the writing have inspired many future generations in their own story writing, movie scripting and television photoplays.

Today let’s concentrate on writing something, anything down. It doesn’t have to be wonderful; it doesn’t even have to be decent. No one will ever see it unless we let them so let er’ rip. Let the words flow and watch and see how many make sense today as well as tomorrow. You never know. You might have the makings of a novel on your hand.


Here is one place that got it right. Too often we wait until it’s too late. The disaster happens and the general population is left scratching its heads. We want to help but we don’t know how.

Disaster drill staged at old Charleroi football stadium – Tribune-Review
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The simple answer is yes. They are very important. Whether the deadline you’re working on is self-imposed or one set upon you by some faceless name is of little importance. What is important is what’s behind that deadline, the bottom line. Most of us strive for publication and if that is our goal then a deadline will ultimately be a part of our lives at some point in our chosen career.

Giving ourselves a deadline is oft times just as important as one given by an agent or a publisher. hey make us accountable to ourselves. We no longer can allow dilly-dally. We are working toward a goal and the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (I know too many cliches.)

Without the dreaded looming deadline we get very little done. We don’t see the number on the calendar march on, we don’t see the possibilities evaporate or the contest date expiring. What we see is plenty of time. What that normally means is time wasted. Nothing constructive gets done. Our stories remain unfinished. We can claim nothing. Eventually when someone asks, “Are you published yet?” and you answer, “Not yet,” you will become a non-writer in their eyes. They will call your, ‘I’m a writer,’ remark nothing more than, ‘calling wolf.’ You’ll find yourself a has-been and you haven’t even been anything.

So are deadlines important? You bet they are. Start this month with a goal of writing something with a date in mind for its completion. Don’t give yourself anything that is unrealistic. Play fair with yourself. Remember that word count has a lot to do with the time allotted and that there should be time for editing included.


Example: A 3,000 word story may take 2-3 weeks but a non-fiction article of the same length may take only a week. It all depends on the amount of variables.

All of us experience this familiar phenomenon, we have been writing the same story so long we’re bored with it. No new ideas spring forth, only old ones. After a time we seem to be recycling our characters and our plots. We may not have full-blown writer’s block but we still have a problematic issue. We’re writing gibberish and ruining all our hard work, not to mention wasting time.

So what can we do to fix the problem and recharge at the same time? There are several steps involved. First is the traditional route of put your story away for a week or two and then go back to it? But what to do during that time? How do we use that time wisely? We recharge. Instead of giving up writing for that time, we write. The trick is to pick something very different from what we were writing before. If your character was sweet and kind, write about one who is cruel and heartless or vise versa.

Sometimes it difficult to come up with what we don’t know. What we do know is what type of person we are. That would be easy to write about. So spice it up. Instead of writing about what you would do in a given situation, write about what your exact opposite would do. The real trick becomes making that type of person grow and change but that’s the fun of it.

Lastly decide on a word count that won’t take long to write and stick to it. Make a goal of 1,000 to 3,000 words. In this way you are redirecting your creative juices while at the same time writing a short story that you can possibly sell for some extra income. Writing should always be fun and by doing this you are always ahead of the crowd.

Publication is not for the faint of heart. There are many hurdles jumped through everyone of the takes time. It is a commodity that will not and cannot be a stingy one.

As with any business there are steps to being published writer first you must have something to say to know how to say it. Then there are two different paths to choose. Each is a busy throbbing partnering. One direction from the four belongs to the domain nonfiction all the other is reserved for flights of fancy, fallacy and fantasy. Like the writing, the direction you take is of the utmost importance.

If you go with nonfiction you can sell an idea but shall need to write a book proposal. If your heart throbs with fiction ideas you must first write to complete the book. No one will look at an idea in this arena.

Okay, you know what you’re writing and you’ve written what you have to. Either a book proposal or the completed manuscript is sitting on your desk. You have been accepted format in you get a few local people with good grammar spelling skills go over to, says the best can be. Good. Now it’s time to find agent.

All some of the smaller publishing houses will take “ unsolicited” manuscripts, the larger ones won’t. That means you need an agent who can talk to those people for you. If you have the right agent they will fight for you. They believe in you’re writing and their job is to sell it for you and get the best possible price. After all, they don’t get paid until you do, if the price is small than their pay is smaller yet.

So how do you get a good agent? Research, like anything else. Find out what they specialize in. What kinds of books have they recently sold? Will you are book look good in this line up?

Do not just look at the agent’s accomplishments. Look at them as a person. After all, if they agree to represent you you’re going to be working together. Is there something in their background that you can’t deal with? Do you have something in common? You have to walk away from your research with the idea that you found a good fit and possible friend.

All right. You found an agent. Now you need to write that all-important cover letter that will not only sell your book but you to the agent. Be personal. Don’t send a form letter! Let them know just by how you write that you did your homework. Just like there was a special format for writing either the proposal or book there is a format here to. It is important. If you don’t follow these qualifications you run the major risk that the agent won’t even read cover letter and if they don’t read that, they won’t read the other things you sent either.

Writing is a crap-shoot. If you don’t have the facts or don’t follow through on them, you lose. The winning streak begins when an agent picks up the letter and grins. They found a new jewel. You find out because you don’t get a form rejection letter, you get an acceptance letter. Now sit back and take a deep breath. You did it. You got an agent. You’re on the way to publication. Now write that nonfiction book or smile if you wrote fiction because you’re done.


Cleo Lampos is a wife, mother, teacher, friend and now a writer. With her book she teaches us yet more lessons. I highly recommend, Teaching in the Tough: Mining the Potential in Every Student. While it may have been written with the teacher in mind, there are many principals that can be applied to anyone’s life.

Here we see that Tough doesn’t have to mean Tough Love. There are many solutions to life’s problems and here Cleo shows us what she’s learned along the way to a fulfilling life. Teaching Diamonds in the Tough is a gentle self-help book in a small bejeweled package. Walk with Cleo into a world of troubled children and walk out with a smile that says we made a difference.

Cleo’s prose speak of hope and light on the other side. Written in the form of personal essays we see what types of roadblocks the modern teacher may encounter and learn life lessons that will remove both the mental and physical signs to allow for a more open understanding between teacher and student.

Just as each child and situation are different, so are the stories she shares. Life is a blessing. Cleo clearly teaches this and defines what it means to be a kind gentle soul who’s along for the whole journey.

I know you will both learn and enjoy. The teacher is in. Let life lessons begin. Be assured the ride is worth the trip.

Visit her on her guest blog at or on her own website at

For writers, every day is Writer’s Day. Yet there are certain days throughout the year that hold a special meaning for writers over regular people.

Since we are creative in many ways, we share ourselves in different sectors. We write about the real and the imaginary. Our stories are found in books or on the silver and small screen. It is a type of magic that is enjoyed by many.

For ourselves we experience frustrations and lagging while we struggle to find our true path. It is who we are and exactly what we are supposed to be.

Listed below is a list of days that speak to writers as a group. There are days for ideas and emotions. Each expresses us whole sharing who we are with others. Have fun and remember that to be a writer is to be on this list.

1/13 Make Your Dream Come True Day

1/23 National Handwriting Day

2/7 Charles Dickens Day

3/5 Multiple Personalities Day

3/12 Alfred Hitchcock Day

3/23 National Organize Your Home Office Day

3/29 Festival of Smoke and Mirrors Day

4/5 Go for Broke Day

4/9 Winston Churchill Day

4/15 Rubber Eraser Day

4/27 Tell a Story Day

4/28 Great Poetry Reading Day

5/1 Mother Goose Day

5/11 Twilight Zone Day

5/12 Limerick Day

6/14 Pop Goes he Weasel Day

6/27 National Columnists Day

7/4 Tom Sawyer Fence-Painting Day

7/26 All or Nothing Day

8/18 Bad Poetry Day

9/4 Newspaper Carrier Day

9/6 Fight Procrastination Day

9/10 Swap Ideas Day

9/22 Hobbit Day

9/25 National Comic Book Day

10/5 National Storytelling Festival

10/2 International Moment of Frustration Scream Day

10/16 Dictionary Day

11/1 Plan Your Epitaph Day

Beginning your own writers group can be a bit tricky. There are several questions you must ask yourself at the onset. Each is important in its own way and just as essential as the other. There is no specific order to the questions but they all must be answered before you begin. Below you will find a starting list of the types of questions you must ask yourself. Just the action of reading them will bring to your mind other questions. Answer them. They are important.
After these questions are asked you must think of the guidelines you will use to run your group. Each set of people is different. They expect different things and have different fears. To that end you must do your best to calm or all together alleviate problems before they begin.
For the most part, being a writer is a solitary endeavor. We write in private and hide our manuscripts from sight. The action of joining a writers group is letting go of our insecurities about our writing and ourselves. Writers take a big step forward by visiting a writer’s group and an even bigger one by joining. We must help them come to the conclusion that they made the right decision.
Every group has a different set of people. Some expect to read every time, others bring something once in a great while. You can expect to find at least one soft-spoken person and might have one who does quite a bit of talking. To make the group work and to be fair to everyone, it’s a good idea to see how the group works the first few meetings and if you find that you’re consistently going over time, suggest using a timer for each member. That way you’re not singling anyone out and you’re keeping a schedule.
Some people like rules and are afraid when there is a lack of them. So I’ve found it’s a good idea to draw some up before the first meeting begins. That way when someone expresses a concern you’re ready with the answer.
What follows are some samples that will help y on your way to creating and enjoying your new Writer’s Group. If these tools help than the time I spent one this article are worth it. Good luck and as always, ‘Happy Writing!’

Here are some of the questions, likely they will raise some more.

1. Where: Think about your area’s demographics. What types of people live in your town? Do you have an artsy set? Do you see signs for concerts, a free community movie night or other like events? If you do than, you might be able to host your writers group in your own town. If you don’t see these things you might want to think of a neighboring town that has some of these things. Will you meet in your home or in a public place like Panera or Starbucks? Would your library sponsor you?
2. Type: Do you want to focus on a specific type of writing? Poets work different than screenwriters and fiction writers see the world in yet another light from nonfiction writers who do more research than writing for long periods of time. If you desire a diverse group, consider offering a mix and leave the type open.
3. Advertisement: How do you plan to tell people about your group? Will you go by word of mouth or will you put up posters? Are you social media savvy enough to get people interested in your group and know how to target people you live near you?
4. When: As you plan your event try to think of a day/time that will be convenient for the most people. A little research into events that happen in your town will give you a heads-up on when a reoccurring event happens so that you don’t schedule yours to coincide on the same night and find yourself in constant competition. Weekday, weeknight, weekend, what time of the day will you agree to meet every time? People need something easy to remember so don’t switch it on them. You’ll lose members quickly if you do. How often will you meet? One a week, once a month or every other week?
5. Cost: Decide what you will charge your members or if you will make it free to join. Remember you will be making posters or spending time on the Internet to promote your group. Do you want to be reimbursed or is this your baby and you say, ‘hang the expense!’
6. Name: What will you call your group? When choosing a name you should go for one of two goals. Either you make it catchy and hip so that people remember it or you make it specific to the type of group you are starting.

Below is a sample of what your rules might look like. You can add to them but be sure that the results don’t read like a law book. People need to know you’re there to protect their rights but they don’t want to feel intimidated so that they leave the group either.

Critiquing and meeting manners:

1. Members should be courteous and honest in their critiques – we are here to help each other accomplish our goals. Only through honest answers will we learn and write suitably for publishability.
2.Members should be aware of the time so that everyone gets a fair chance to read/explain their work.
3.  Members should always get permission before they take an extra copy of another’s work home with them – some people are not comfortable with their work leaving their hands.
4. Members should never tell someone outside the group about another member’’ work; whether it be an idea in the making or a complete work unless asked to by that member.
5. Members should be aware that anything that is either typed/written down is protected under US Copyright Laws.
When sending emails:
1. We ask that you please refrain from sending junk/interesting story mail – we get enough already from others.
2. Only send messages pertaining to writing, writing events or answers/requests from a fellow member.
3. Please do not share any members email address without prior permission and knowledge to that member.

Below is a sample poster to give you an idea of what might work. Adding an attractive picture gets people’s eyes to stop and read just to see what it is.


Event Name:          Nonfiction Writers Group of McHenry County

Time:                       6:30 – 8:45 p.m. the 1st Monday of the month
Beginning August 6th

Location:                               McHenry Public Library
809 N. Front St. (Route 31)
McHenry IL 60050

Cost:                                                   Free

Contact Information:                      Your Name
Your email address
Your phone number

Description:  Are you a writer?  Do you want to publish your nonfiction article or book? The Nonfiction Writers Group of McHenry County is a group of authors seeking other authors who are actively working on pieces, researching topics, and compiling interesting stories on various subjects.  Only other nonfiction authors understand what it takes to make a piece captivating yet factually accurate. Join us as we help each other accomplish our goals and succeed in the writing business.

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