Tag Archives: writing advice

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts January 2011

Time for the first ‘Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts’ post of the the year. I’ve collected a lot of great picture book links through the 12 x 12 challenge Facebook group, but I also have a few links in other areas of writing, too.

Writing (General)

Some Advice to New or Aspiring Authors

Some great advice and tips for writers new to the writing/publishing journey.

How to Make a Boring Character Interesting

This post outlines the various reasons your character could be coming across as boring or flat and offers some solutions to make your character more interesting.

Five Tips for Revising Your Novel

Literary Agent Courtney Miller-Callihan gives five tips that look at your novel as a whole when doing revisions, including a tip on character names and another on dialogue tags.

What Will Make an Agent ‘Gong’ Your Query

Thirteen reasons why an agent will stop reading your query–things to avoid when writing query letters.

Grandma Mary Can’t Market Your Book

Whether you intend to self publish or go the traditional publishing route, authors need to consider marketing. This post gives 7 steps to building a marketing plan and reaching out to your readership. It even includes a nifty chart you can use.

When to Quit Querying and Self-Publish

This post does a great job of presenting the various aspects you need to consider if you’re thinking about self-publishing after having little success with querying. It takes a very honest look at the possible reasons your work may be getting rejected and whether self-publishing is a viable alternative and also gives the honest facts about what it takes to self-publish. I love how honest, balanced and unbiased this post is in regards to self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.

Writing for Children

9 Factors That Make a Picture Book Successful

If you are a picture book writer this is a post well worth reading. These are nine important elements to writing an effective picture book.

The 6 Most Common Mistakes Made by Aspiring Children’s Book Authors

6 common mistakes this editor sees made by picture book authors and some advice on how to avoid them.

For All Picture Book Writers, Read This

Links to a four-part interview with Vice President and Editorial Director of HarperCollins Children’s Books and a three-part interview with Golden Books/Random House Editorial Director. Lots of great little nuggets of advice for picture book writers in both interviews.

Picture Book Tips from Successful Agents

Children’s book author and editor Tamson Weston consulted with agents on what makes a picture book successful and shared the top five tips for making your submission stand out.

Writing Easy Readers – Or How To Get 2nd Graders to Love You

5 quick tips for appealing to early readers as shared by an author of children’s chapter books.

Write on Con Follow Up – Now It’s Over

What a week! Any time I had a spare moment I was checking out all the newly posted topics on Write on Con or visiting the forums to critique or be critiqued. Here is a run down of some of my favourite parts of the conference:

1. The vlogs. Apart from the great opening song that played at the start of all the blogs (Song 2 by Blur), it was great to sit back and imagine I was sitting at a real conference while I listened to the experts speaking about topics ranging from querying to character collages. I especially liked the vlogs because of a night time when my eyes were getting too tired to read the words on the screen I could just listen. One of my favourite vlogs was Romance in YA by Lisa Shroeder, I loved the acronym she came up with and it will definitely be helping me inject more realistic romance into my YA writing.

2. The live chats. Although I missed most of these because I’m in Australia and the timing usually worked out to be the very early morning hours for me, I did manage to catch one in real time. And fortunately the ones I missed were still able to be accessed afterwards as transcripts or videos. In particular the agent live chats were very informative. My favourite was probably Natalie Fischer’s live chat. I didn’t get to see it in real time, but watched it afterwards. She was just lovely and answered lots of questions. It was a very informative session.

3. The critiques. I got so much fantastic critique from everyone on the queries and first five pages I posted. And best of all a few of my fellow PB writers and I are now forming a critique group together after ‘meeting’ at the conference.

4. So many great topics! I still haven’t finished looking at all the ones I wanted to, but the ones I’ve read/listened to so far have all been so informative. Some of my favourites include: Plot and Pacing by Weronika Janczuk (particularly part 2); Writing Middle Grade by Jon Lewis (almost made me want to change my YA novel to Middle grade!); Pie-in-the-Face (how characters react to situations) by Rosemary Clement-Moore (very funny vlog); and any of Joanna Volpe’s query critiques.

And the very best part? Write on Con has given a big injection of motivation to write and keep on writing. I’ve taken so much away from the conference and I’m bursting to use all my newly gained knowledge in my writing.

I can’t wait to read the remaining topics I haven’t had a chance to look at yet. If you haven’t had a look at any of the Write on con topics yet it’s not too late, you can find them all in the August archives on the website: Write on Con

The forums have taken on a new look following the conference. All the conference sections are grouped together and some new sections have cropped up, including new critique sections and discussion areas for PB, MG and YA writers. Write on Con Forums

I can’t wait until Write on Con 2011!

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts – July 2010 Edition

I just realised it’s been two months since I last did one of these, so here is a round up of some helpful writing sites and blog posts I’ve come across in the past two months:

You Have to Believe

Rachelle Gardner (literary agent) has a great blog, with lots of fantastic posts for writers. This particular post was quite an inspiring one encouraging writers to believe in themselves. My favourite line: “God gave you something powerful – a story or a message, and the desire to share it. God is not in the business of tricking people, or of squandering anything – not talent, not passion, not time. Pursue your God-given passions with an unwavering faith. Praise and bless the obstacles. And keep believing.”

Tips for Pitching and Querying Agents

YA writer Ingrid Sundberg shared a hand-out from Andrea Brown agent Mary Kole that she received at an SCBWI agent day on pitching and querying. It includes some great advice, as well as step-by-step questions you should address in your pitch.

Try This Picture Book Editing Checklist

For anyone out there writing or editing a picture book this is a great checklist to refer to, from the editors of Children’s Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children’s Writers.

Will Literary Agents Really Read Your Query Letter?

This posts covers reasons why a query letter may not be read, the problems with many queries and some tips on how to write better queries.

The Power of the First Sentence

We all know how important that first sentence is in a manuscript, Brenda Hineman, a freelance writer, guest posts on this blog on what makes an opening sentence memorable.

Eleven Senses – Who Knew?

Anyone who reads my blog knows how much I’m a big fan of ‘show, don’t tell’ in writing, and whenever I talk about showing in writing I refer to using the five senses of taste, touch, sight, sound and smell. This workshop handout covers eleven senses, including pain, balance, sense of time, joint motion and acceleration, temperature differences, and direction. Not only does it describe how each of the senses work, but how they can be applied to writing, some writing exercises and, best of all, a comprehensive list of verbs for each of the senses to spice up your writing.

7 Techniques for a Dynamite Plot

An editor offers some solutions to common problems writers have when constructing their plot.

The Secret to Getting Published

Published author Karen Gowen offers some down-to-earth truths on what is and isn’t the secret to getting published. My favourite line: “You have to want it more than you want anything else. You must want it with every fibre of your being.”

3 Ways to Show, Don’t Tell

There’s my favourite writing mantra again! A short post covering verbs and nouns, sensory details and dialogue.

Query Letter Suicide

Another great post from YA Writer Ingrid Sundberg, this time sharing some advice from Agent Jill Corcoran of the Herman Agency. A comprehensive list of what not to do in a query letter.

Do You Know the Real Reason Not to Use the Passive Voice?

The dreaded ‘passive’ voice. It’s something I’m working on cutting in my novel revisions at the moment. This post by an editor shows an example of the difference between using the passive voice and the active voice when writing.

Advice for New Writers Blogfest

Last week I participated in Peevish Penman’s blogfest on ‘My Best Advice for New Writers’. There were 42 participants altogether. I haven’t quite got through reading all the posts yet, but the ones I have read have offered some fantastic advice. You can find the links to all of them on the Blogfest page, they’re well worth checking out.

My Best Advice for Other Aspiring Writers

I’m writing this post as part of Peevish Penman’s “My Best Advice to New Writers” Blogfest.

My best advice is something I’ve talked about on this blog a couple of times before, but it truly is my writing mantra: “Show, Don’t Tell”.

Some of this advice I’ve covered before, but there are also a few new little gems I’ve recently discovered.

Use All Five Senses

Don’t just tell the reader what the characters are experiencing, have them feel and experience through your character.  Use sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. For example, don’t tell the reader your character is cold, show the reader how your character experiences the cold, “Lucy pulled her coat tightly around her body against the icy wind. The snow crunched under her feet.” Something I like to do when writing is close my eyes and imagine myself in my character’s place, focusing on each of my senses. I’ve even gone as far as putting my hand in a bowl of ice water to describe how my character felt as she plunged into an ice cold stream.

Eliminate ‘Was’

This is something I’ve recently been focusing on in my edits for my novel. Find the places where you’ve used the verb ‘was’ (or ‘is’ if writing in present tense, or ‘am’ if writing first person present tense), then reword the sentence without using ‘was’. This forces you to not only use stronger verbs, but turns a ‘telling’ sentence into one that shows. Take this sentence, “I was tired.” Let’s try to eliminate was and turn it into a ‘showing’ sentence, “My eyes felt heavy, I could barely keep them open.” The sentence conveys the same information, but shows the character is tired, rather than tells.

Interweave Description into the Story

Telling your reader your character is short or the building is old is boring and assumes the reader is not smart enough to figure out things from more subtle descriptions. Interweave details into the story to create a picture that allows the reader to form their own assumptions and at the same time create a stronger story. Take the above examples, the character is short and the building is old. Let’s interweave those details into a few sentences without using those adjectives. “Bill and Peter had to duck low as they passed under the arch, but Jimmy walked under it comfortably, his head barely grazing the top. The boys looked up at the building before them; its brickwork crumbled in places and ivy wound its way up the wall.”

Take Out Your Highlighter

As I proofread my drafts I use a blue highlighter whenever I come across any parts I think are telling, then when I do my edits I rework those parts to show instead of tell.

Just a few other pieces of advice to end this post:

  • Keep writing, every word makes you a better writer.
  • Listen to those who offer critique on your work, your writing can always get better.
  • Always keep a pen and paper handy for when sudden inspiration strikes.

To check out some of the other great advice being offered during Peevish Penman’s blogfest, check out the links on this page: “My Best Advice to New Authors” Blogfest

Some useful writing websites

Over the past few weeks I’ve come a cross a few really helpful writing websites/blogs that contain some fantastic advice on writing, querying and getting published so I wanted to share a couple of my favourites.

The first one was linked to me by a friend and fellow writer and I spent nearly two whole days reading through every post on the blog because I found all the information so valuable to me as writer (plus I may have just been procrastinating a little on tackling all the problems in chapter six of my novel, which I am happy to say have mostly all been ironed out now). This blog is written by an agent named Mary Kole (who is also a published author)and offers some great tips on various aspects of writing, as well as some great insight into agents’ thought processes. It also occasionally runs contests. I have it bookmarked and I highly recommend it to any aspiring author. It can be found here:


I can’t remember how I found this second site, but I believed it was linked to from another site I was perusing. Like the first blog I mentioned, I found this blog to be insightful and full of great writing advice. This blog is written by a published author named Barry Lyga and he covers a lot of different areas of writing. His advice isn’t only very helpful for those wishing to develop their craft, but he also writes his blog in a very down-to-earth manner. This is another site I have bookmarked. It can be found here:


Here are a few other sites I have bookmarked in the past because It hought they were helpful to my writing journey:

http://maxbarry.com/writing/help.html (His tagline is ‘help for writers’. They specifically offer advice on querying agents and approaching publishers)

http://www.fictioncentral.net/hpforum/index.php?act=idx (Although this is a fanfiction forum devoted to Harry Potter, don’t let that dissuade you from checking out their writer’s resources section which is a treasure trove of great writing advice and tips, especially regarding the technicalities of writing. You will need to become a member to view the writer’s resources section, but it’s free to join up)

I hope you find these sites as useful and insightful as I have found them to be.