Writers@Work: An Interview with Author Dana Cameron

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28 April 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

IMG_2924Greetings! I spent Saturday at the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America conference, soaking up tips on writing romance for young adults. The conference was held in conjunction with the annual Barbara Vey Reader Appreciation Luncheon, which brought together 60 authors with more than 500 readers. I didn’t attend the luncheon, but had a chance to meet some of the authors, including Tess Gerritsen. And I got a whole bunch of books and swag!

Today I have a special treat for you, an interview with award-winning author Dana Cameron. I met Dana at Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee and fell in love with her books. Read the interview then enter to win a copy of her newest book, Hellbender.

Happy Writing! Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach

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You’re an archaeologist by training. Do you still work as an archaeologist? How did you make the transition from archaeologist to author?

Hi Rochelle—thanks for having me!

I no longer work as an archaeologist and there are days when I miss being in the field (usually around deadlines or when the weather is gorgeous). As for that transition…it was unexpected. A guy came onto a site where I was working and pulled out a gun. He was trying to steal artifacts, and luckily, he left before something bad happened, but it was…scary. Shortly after that field season, I found myself writing a series of six mystery novels featuring amateur sleuth, archaeologist Emma Fielding, starting with Site Unseen.

Then a few years later, my friends Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner invited me to write a short story for one of their urban fantasy anthologies. Writing that story was amazing fun and led to a lot more Fangborn short stories. Eventually, those in turn led me to write the Fangborn series, which features a young archaeologist (and werewolf) named Zoe Miller. They are: Seven Kinds of Hell, Pack of Strays, and most recently, Hellbender, all published by 47North.

I’ve loved both of your series featuring strong women who work in archeology—the mystery series with Emma Fielding and the urban fantasy series with Zoe Miller. What kinds of decisions and plans did you need to make at the beginning of a series?

Thank you! With the first series, I didn’t really make plans because I had no idea I’d be published. I started to write after telling a friend about the incident above, and she said, “You need to write this down!” And boom, instantly, I had to try. I wrote, took a writing class, then joined a critique group. I went to the Bread Loaf Writers Conference where I found my first agent. But with the Emma books, I did want to show what it was like to be an archaeologist, to give readers a look behind the scenes of what really goes on during a dig.

When I got to the Fangborn books, I had much more experience writing. I wanted to keep the archaeology, because I love it and it would give Zoe a way to explore the history of the Fangborn and make sense of her world. I wanted her to start off as someone who was on the margins in every way, but who grew into the power she discovered she had. And I wanted to show characters with different kinds of strengths working together. It was a way to look at a lot of big life questions for me.

Hellbender front coverFor the Fangborn series, you’ve changed our world and its history by adding the Fangborn and their history. What are some of the steps you took to build this unique and believable world?

The first thing was that I did was to invert many of the traditional tropes about werewolves, vampires, and oracles. My characters are superheroes working in secret to protect humanity from evil; my vampires need sun to charge up and my shifters can change form whenever they want. Shapeshifting stories appear in most cultures run the gamut from godlike, to good, to evil. I decided that all of these traditions were connected, just places where the Fangborn failed to cover their tracks and got incorporated into local folklore. What lends an air of believability, I hope, to my world is that I describe real artifacts and places the reader might know.

What does your writing life look like?

I have an office at home and work with music, making a playlist for every story or novel. It’s really helpful with focus, and if I am writing a series, I can listen to earlier playlists and get right back into that mindset. I usually warm up after breakfast with email and social media, then figure out what has to get done that day. I try always to have two or three things going, to have something to work on when one project is stuck. The cats can come in and hang out, as long as they behave. I work until lunch, eat, and then go back until about five or so. I aim for about four to eight pages a day, less for short stories, and I don’t outline. Most of my ideas come from my travel and museum visits. I have beta readers whom I really trust when I’m done with a first draft.

What are some of the best books you’ve read lately?

I was in awe of Mike Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts. The Martian was so compelling and so inspiring—it was great to see how the main character used logic and science to survive. And I’ve been reading a lot of comics lately: Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Bitch Planet, and Afterlife with Archie are all amazing.

Thanks so much, Dana! Readers, don’t forget to enter to win a copy of Hellbender!

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DanaCameronAbout the author: Dana Cameron writes fiction inspired by her career as an archaeologist. In addition to the six Emma Fielding mystery novels (starting with Site Unseen), Dana’s short fiction evokes the darker side of life, ranging from the Anna Hoyt colonial noir stories (the first was “Femme Sole”) to thrillers and the “Fangborn” urban fantasy world. The latest novel in the Fangborn series, Hellbender, combines archaeology with werewolves, vampires, and oracles and was published in March by 47North. Her work has won multiple Anthony, Agatha, and Macavity Awards, and has been nominated for the Edgar Award. Dana lives in Beverly, Massachusetts. Visit her online at: www.danacameron.com

 

 

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Overcome Procrastination in Five Minutes or Less by Rochelle Melander

2015_101BestSites21 April 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

Great news! Writer’s Digest magazine has named Write Now! Coach one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers. This is my first time on the list, and I’m honored to be there with so many amazing sites.

If you’d like to see the entire list of Best Websites for Writers, it’s in the May/June issue of Writer’s Digest Magazine, on S0382_1stands now.

This week, I’m planning to work on some projects I’ve been putting off all winter. As I do, I’ll be putting into practice the procrastination solution I explain below. Read on. It might help you, too!

Happy Writing! Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach

 

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My daughter and I have fallen in love with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the new sitcom on Netflix. The story opens with Kimmy being rescued from the underground bunker of a doomsday cult in Indiana. After spending 15 years underground, Kimmy embarks on a new life in New York City. Along the way she offers bits of wisdom from her days in the bunker, including this one from episode two: “You can stand anything for 10 seconds. Then you just start on a new 10 seconds.” Kimmy flashes back to the bunker, where she turned a crank—to no purposeful end—for 10 seconds at a time.

I immediately thought of writing—and all of us who fight to overcome our procrastination habit. I don’t know about you, but I procrastinate at very specific times. I put off writing when I think that the work will be too hard, confront a problem I don’t know how to solve, or worry that I don’t have the skills to complete the task. When that happens, I can’t imagine spending a day or even an hour on the project. I’d rather do almost anything else. But I could manage ten seconds or even five minutes.

In the book Mind Gym by Sebastian Bailey and Octavius Black, the authors recommend that readers overcome procrastination by taking a five-minute start. Tackle a project for five minutes. When your timer beeps, think about how you feel. If you’re up to it, try writing for another five minutes. By taking absurdly small steps, you’ll be able to overcome procrastination and finish your projects.

Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is an author, a certified professional coach, and a popular speaker. Melander has written ten books including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It). As the Write Now! Coach, she teaches professionals how to write books fast, get published, and connect with readers through social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at http://www.writenowcoach.com.

 

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Writers@Work: Content–What It Is, What It Does, and Why You Need It by Sarah Schwab

14 April 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

I’m delighted to welcome Sarah Schwab, the content creation coach, to the blog to explain what content is and why you need it. As a writer, you’ve no doubt been hearing a lot about content marketing. Whether you’re hoping to be hired to write content for a corporation or you just want to understand how you can use content to market your book, today’s article will help you. And if you want to learn more, you can join Sarah for a teleseminar tomorrow or in person in Milwaukee on Thursday for a class on why content is still king!

Happy Writing! Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach

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Whether you are a writer, service provider, or entrepreneur, we all have the same goal – attract more readers, clients, or customers. We don’t live in a “build it and they will come” (or “write it and they will buy”) society. We must get the word out and attract people to us.

How do we do that?

The way I see it, there are only 4 functions for any marketing activity that support our goal:

1. Drive traffic

2. Capture leads

3. Nurture leads

4. Convert leads into customers

That’s it. That is the process. For every marketing activity you do, you should be able to identify which of those steps you are contributing toward. If you aren’t sure, it’s time to revisit your strategy.

Content Is 3 Out Of 4

Content plays a critical role in the first three steps in this process. Content marketing is such an incredible tool, and it is the cornerstone of effective online marketing. But it can seem very broad and unclear. It overlaps with many other forms of online marketing, which adds to the confusion. So what exactly qualifies as content marketing?

Well, it’s not as complicated as you might think. First of all, it requires the creation of content that aims to share value and build relationships with your prospective clients. Once you understand what content is and what forms it can take, content marketing is simply the umbrella for all the things you can do with that content.

There are many specific ways that you can use content, and that is where the overlapping and confusion comes in. It’s a little bit like when I was learning about shapes in elementary geometry. I was told that a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t necessarily a square. The rectangle has a broader definition, while the square is more specific.

In the same way, e-mail marketing can be a form of content marketing, but not all content marketing involves e-mail. Blogging is a form of content marketing, but not all content marketing is about writing a blog. SEO is significantly affected by content marketing, but not all content marketing is about SEO.

Because there are so many faces to content marketing, it can be difficult to know where to start. So, perhaps it is better to think about, not the specific uses for content, but the broader marketing purposes it can serve. 

The ultimate purpose of content is to build relationships with the people who see it. But how you use the content determines what role it will play in your overall marketing plan.

In this sense, there are really only three purposes for content marketing: Drive traffic, capture leads, and nurture leads.

Drive Traffic

The first role that content plays is in increasing traffic to your website and your message.  There are several ways you can use content to serve this purpose. First of all, having a significant amount of content on your site improves your rankings on the search engines. If you are using keywords in your content that people are searching for, your site and articles will show up in their results, driving them to your site.

Another way content can drive traffic is when you post it in other places where there is already a lot of traffic. Posting links to your content pieces on social media sites, popular blog sites, or other networks increases your reach and encourages people to visit your website. This could also happen in the form of partnerships during a launch or marketing campaign, when others encourage their followers to visit your site.

Capture Leads

The second thing that content can do is allow you to capture leads. This happens when you require people to opt-in in order to view your content. While this is a simple idea at its core, there are innumerable ways that you can execute it.

There are many different types of content that can be used for this purpose: e-books or white papers, videos, webinars, teleseminars and more. The opt-in can be something that lives on your website for a long period of time, or it can be part of a launch or shorter term marketing effort, using landing pages and other tools.

This is a critical component of content marketing. Capturing information from your leads is the only way to be able to communicate with your prospective customers and clients who find you online. If you don’t capture their e-mail address, they will disappear and you have no way of building a relationship with them.

These days, you must have a compelling piece of content for which people are willing to exchange their contact information. Not everyone will opt-in for the first thing you create either, so new opt-in campaigns should be built occasionally based on your overall marketing plan. This is where content marketing begins to overlap with e-mail marketing.

Nurture Leads

The final purpose of content marketing is to nurture leads. This is critically important as most people will not be ready to buy from you or hire you when they first encounter you. You need to establish trust and deepen your relationship with them, always moving them closer to the ultimate goal of becoming a paying customer.

This is typically done in the form of e-mail marketing. Sending your prospective customers, whose information you have captured, content pieces that they find helpful, interesting, and valuable. You can nurture leads in other ways as well, but using e-mail marketing in an authentic way is the most efficient and effective way to maintain a relationship with many people.

Hopefully this helps you to think more clearly about what content marketing is and how it can help you grow a business or market a book.

If you’d like to find out more, I’m doing a presentation called “Content Is STILL King.” You can attend the teleseminar, or if you happen to be near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, you can come and see it live. I’d love to have you there!

 

Sarah Portrait smallAbout the author: Sarah Schwab is the Founder and President of Content Creation Coach. She helps small businesses and entrepreneurs to create consistent, compelling content they need to market their business online. She believes in the power of self-expression and creativity to transform her clients’ businesses and lives. Find out more about her approach to online marketing and content creation in her F.R.E.E. report: “Create Content That Connects: Three Mistakes That Are Making Your Content Fall Flat.” Get your report today and find more blog articles like this one at www.contentcreationcoach.com

 

Resources:

To learn more about content marketing writing, check out this post.

To learn more about writing to market your book, read this blog post.

 

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Juggling Timelines in Your Novel by Hallie Ephron

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

Last fall, I had the privilege of attending Mystery Writers of America MWA University. While there, I heard Hallie Ephron speak about Dramatic Structure and Plotting—which changed the way I think about writing fiction. I’ve invited her to the blog to talk about one small aspect of plotting—how to juggle timelines. She demonstrates that skill brilliantly in her brand new suspense novel, Night Night, Sleep Tight.

Happy Writing!

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach

 

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By Hallie Ephron, New York Times best selling author of Night Night, Sleep Tight

 

I had no idea I was making trouble for myself when I started writing a novel that began by reuniting two characters who haven’t seen each other in twenty years.

In Night Night, Sleep Tight Deirdre Unger and Joelen were fifteen years old the last time they were together on the night when Joelen’s movie star mother’s boyfriend Antonio “Tito” Acevedo was stabbed to death.  They’re reunited twenty years later, soon after Deirdre finds her father floating face down in his swimming pool.

So there’s the story of what happened back in 1963 and the story of what’s happening in the “present” (1985). With two timelines, the storytelling can’t be straightforward. It has to zigzag as events in the present trigger memories from the past.

Writing the back and forths, I got hopelessly mixed up until I hit on a way creating a timeline for both characters, past and present, and lining them up so I could figure out see what each was up to in each one’s parallel universe.

Here’s part of the timeline I created for my novel. The highlighting shows when the characters are together, same time and same place.

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I went on, laying in parallel timelines for 6 other characters, stretching it back to their births and forward to the end of the novel’s timeline.

This was enormously helpful because if I started to write “It had been four years ago that…” I could go to my timeline and see if that was correct. It also helped me dressing and coiffing my characters (torn-neck T shirts and long curly hair ’63-65 after the movie “Flashdance”` came out) and getting my “current” events and cultural references right.

Much of what I wrote down—what was going on in the characters’ timelines—never found its way into the novel. But building a “real” life for each helped me to understand why my characters behaved the way they did on the page.

 

HallieRedCoatRtched4by6About the author. HALLIE EPHRON is the New York Times bestselling author of Night Night, Sleep Tight. She also wrote the Edgar-nominated Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel and is a regular crime fiction book reviewer for the Boston Globe. Night Night, Sleep Tight, is inspired by an infamous murder that took place Beverly Hills when she was growing up there in the ‘60s, surrounded by but never part of Hollywood glamour. The book received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly (“a captivating thriller”) and the Richmond Times-Dispatch raves, “So hooray for Hollywood, hooray for homicide, and hooray for Hallie Ephron, who begins with a seed of truth and grows it into a bumper crop of crime and cynicism.” Her earlier novels—Never Tell a Lie, Come and Find Me, and There Was an Old Woman—were all finalists for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Visit her online at: http://HallieEphron.com

 

 

 

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Guest Post: Write Your Bestselling, Client-Attracting Book in a Weekend and Make a Fortune! by Rich van Smarmington

Writers,

I’m delighted to welcome my colleague Rich van Smarmington to the blog. He read Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It) and told me he could teach you how to write even faster (and make a fortune). So, I’m giving him a shot even though I don’t believe you can write a book in just a weekend. Also, I’ve never made THAT kind of money from my books. But whatever. I hope his program works for you. It hasn’t worked for me. Yet.

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach

 

file7411252893790Write Your Bestselling, Client-Attracting Book in a Weekend and Make a Fortune!

(No Training, No Work and No Expertise needed!)

by Rich van Smarmington, bestselling author and social media guru

Teaching You How to Do Less and Earn More since 2014

 

Do you dream of quitting your day job? Is writing a book on your bucket list? Do you long to make money by teaching seminars from the comfort of your million-dollar beach house? Now you can. I’ve perfected a process that’s fast, easy, and, best of all, takes no preparation. Here’s how:

1. Get real. Do you really want to drink the horrible office coffee for the rest of your working life? How long are you planning to let your brother-in-law look down his large snout at you just because his luxury car cost more than that piece of crap car you drive to work? And can you face one more high school reunion as the loser you are? Get real about life. You can fix this. And I can show you how.

2. Find your desperados. You’re desperate to make money and be famous, right? Capitalize on that feeling. Find a large group of frantic people and resolve to fix their problem, even if you don’t know how. Take a look at #3 and learn how to find an answer to their dilemma fast.

3. Get expertise. Have you always thought you needed a pesky PhD or years of experience to become an expert? Think again. All you need to do is read one book and you will know more about your topic than 97% of the population. So find a book that will fix your desperados’ problem and read it. And since you only have a weekend, read fast.

4. Write. Now that you’ve read the book, all you have to do is write one of your own. Just make it simpler than the one you read. You only have a weekend, and there’s only so much you can write in a few days, so don’t yammer on. Get to the point. Here’s the outline we use at the Write Your Bestselling, Client-Attracting Book in a Weekend and Make a Fortune Program (WYBCABIAWAMAFP):

Chapter One: Describe your desperados’ problem with a great story. Reel them in with details of how bad it can be. (Use the senses! What does their problem smell like?) Let them know that you can help them. Just don’t tell them how. Yet.

Chapter Two: Talk more about the problem. Make lists of the symptoms of their problem. Tell the stories of how real people who experience these problems feel. List the effects of having this horrible problem.

Chapter Three: Talk about how a solution might be able to relive the stress of experiencing the problem.

Epilogue: Give your readers a taste of the solution. Let them experience just a little of how you can help them solve their horrible problem. Just don’t give them more details. Do let them know that you’ll share all of your secrets at the thousand-dollar seminar and your $10,000 private coaching package.

5. Package it! Slap a shiny cover on that little beauty and get it online. Make sure you list it in a tiny little category that speaks directly to your desperados so that you can own that category and claim the title, “bestselling author.” And put up a squeeze-page site to sell your seminar and coaching package.

Bonus: Now add “bestselling author” to your email signature and every single one of your social media profiles. Talk about yourself incessantly online and offline, and push that coaching program on your desperados. Before the week’s over, you’ll be rich!

 

 

 

 

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Three Surprising Reasons to Write Poetry by Rochelle Melander

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Creativity is intelligence having fun. —Albert Einstein

 

Most of my clients write serious stuff, novels about tough subjects and nonfiction

books with big ideas. Come to think of it, I’m usually writing about the darker parts

of life. That’s why every so often, I like to forget about my big projects and write

poetry, preferably silly poetry.

 

Tomorrow night, in honor of April Fool’s Day and National Poetry Month, I’ll be

teaching a class on Foolish Poetry at the library. We’ll dust off our rhyming

dictionaries and pen limericks. We’ll puzzle out some riddle poems. And we’ll

put together our irrational thoughts in an absurdity poem.

 

I don’t believe anyone should have to justify the time they spend writing

poetry—even silly poetry. But if you worry that writing poetry is a WASTE of

time, here are three reasons to try it:

 

1. You’ll be in good company! Lots of smart people with important day

jobs wrote poetry. Like who?

+Wallace Stevens, a lawyer and vice president of Hartford Accident and

Indemnity Company, wrote several books of poetry including Ideas of Order.

+T.S. Eliot worked in as a clerk in a bank for several years before going on to

work as an editor and professor. He’s the author of many beloved poems, plays

and prose, including, The Waste Land and Journey of the Magi. And of course,

we have him to thank for the hilarious, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats 

(which became the musical Cats).

+William Carlos Williams, author of the wonderful poems The Red Wheelbarrow and

This is Just to Say (and many others), worked as a physician in Rutherford, New Jersey

for forty years.

(For more day jobs of poets, see this awesome comic.)

 

2. Your brain will get a workout. Poetry forces you to communicate complex ideas

with just a few words. I think it was Blaise Pascal who first said, “I would have written

a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” With poems, writers don’t have the

luxury of multiple chapters to unpack the meaning of love, death, and life. They have

to do it in a few lines or stanzas. On top of that, poetry writers have to fit all of their

ideas into a specific format. The best poets choose words with attention to rhythm,

rhyme and so much more. All of this word play stretches your brain.

 

3. You can work through your emotional baggage. Psychologists have studied

the healing benefits of reading and writing poetry. In fact, there’s even a

National Association for Poetry Therapy. Poetry gives you the opportunity to take

your worst experiences and make sense of them through language. (If you need a

book on this, try Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem Making by John Fox.)

 

Are you convinced yet? If so, grab a notebook and a pen and play with words.

If you need a little support, try one of the prompts I’m giving to my class

tomorrow night:

 

1. Writing a poem about a made-up illness. Take a look at this wonderful list of

medical prefixes and suffixes online and use it to make up a few diseases like:

Praiseorrhea—what first-time parents do when their children do ANYTHING.

Blabiosis—what my children say I do with my friends.

Scoliology—the study of twisted things

 

2. Write a riddle poem

Here’s one from The Guess Book (c. 1820)

Riddle: The beginning of eternity,

The end of time and space,

The beginning of every end,

And the end of every place.

Answer: The letter e

 

3. Write a limerick.

It doesn’t have to be about a naked lady. Try one about someone who annoys

you or something that puzzles you, like time travel. Here’s a fun one:

There once was a young lady named bright

Whose speed was much faster than light

She set out one day

In a relative way

And returned on the previous night.

- Anonymous

 

Happy Poetry Writing!

 

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How to Find the Perfect Agent by Rochelle Melander

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There was a time in the not-so-distant past when agents were an essential part of achieving success as a writer. That’s no longer true. Today, writers can succeed without an agent by publishing with small presses, connecting with editors directly, or publishing their own books. But for some writing genres (children’s, popular fiction, some nonfiction), it’s still helpful to have an agent to connect with the big publishers and broker a great deal. Here’s my quick guide for finding the right agent.

 

Who is YOUR perfect agent? Look for someone who

+represents books like yours. Most agents have niches or types of books that they represent. If you send your book proposal on the life cycle of seals to an agent who only represents mystery novels, you will get rejected.

+supports you, your career, and your book in a way that works for you. Some agents are interested in supporting clients in developing a writing career. Others deal with one book at a time. As you seek out an agent, it is important to know what kind of support you need from your agent.

+is connected to people in publishing who will buy your book. An agent cannot do anything for you unless he or she is connected to editors in your field. The best agents have developed good relationships with several editors in their niche.

+is willing to negotiate the best contract. Agents get to do what writers cannot do for themselves—fight for more money, both as advance and in royalties.

 

How to find YOUR perfect agent!

1. Make a list of potential agents. It takes time to find an agent who is right for you. Most writers I know feel so desperate to move forward that they will take any agent that says yes. Don’t. It is important to research agents in order to find one that works to you.

+Search online. Both AgentQuery.com (no cost) and WritersMarket.com (yearly fee) offer online search tools for agents. Writers can search for agents according to the types of books they represent.

+Check acknowledgments. Most writers thank their agents in the acknowledgments. Look at books that are in your niche or writers who are similar to you and find out who agented their books.

+Ask. Talk to your critique group colleagues and other writing friends about their agents. Most writers are willing to share the name of their agents. Some will even introduce you to them.

 

2. Get to know the agents on your list. Before you query, learn as much as you can about the agents you’re interested in. You can figure out a lot about who an agent is, how they work, and what they’re looking for without ever talking to one.

+Visit their website or blog (or both).

+Follow them on Twitter.

+Search for information about them online.

+Attend conferences where they speak.

 

3. Connect and submit!

Once you’ve learned what agents you want to connect with, write the best query letter and synopsis or book proposal you can. Then, submit! Of course, the best way to query is to send letters to agents who are ready to welcome your queries. Usually, these are agents you’ve met through:

+A writing conference

+PitMad (A pitch party on twitter. http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/)

+A mentor, colleague, or friend

Happy hunting, friends!

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Write Now! Tip: Be a Lucky Writer by Rochelle Melander

17 March 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

In Milwaukee, where I live, they’ve been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day since the first weekend in March. Today, the bars open at 6:00 AM for Irish breakfasts and, of course, beer.

Even if you’re not Irish, you might be interested in today’s article about how to be a lucky writer!

Happy Writing! Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach

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When I was young, I often spent hours searching for four-leaf clovers. I knew that finding one would bring me good luck.

Although I’ve mostly grown out of that notion, I sometimes attribute writing success to luck. When someone lands a big agent, repeatedly gets good writing gigs, or has a bestseller, I might think: “That writer has the best luck!”

Then I remember the old adage from Louis Pasteur, “Fortune favors the prepared mind.”

For the most part, the luckiest writers read a lot, write regularly, attend conferences, submit their work, and regularly connect with readers.

Yes, sometimes they also have amazingly good luck—how else can we explain the wild success of some of the less well-written best sellers? (I’m not naming names.)

But we have no control over luck. All we can do is write, submit, revise, and promote—and repeat until fortune favors our preparedness!

 

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Try These Five Fun Writing Prompts by Rochelle Melander

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Last month at Dream Keepers, I worked with nine-year-old boy who wanted to write his autobiography. He titled it, “The Challenges of My Life.” I immediately fell in love with his idea—what a brilliant structure for a memoir.

When my writing feels stale or I get stuck in the middle of a narrative, sometimes an intriguing structure or format will help me approach my story in a new way. I’ve used the following five formats with my Dream Keepers Writing Circles for years—and perhaps they’ll help you get inspired to write now!

1.         Life list. For years, coaches and other life management professionals have encouraged people to write their life lists—50 or 100 things they want to do before they die. But that future focus might not be quite right for you. Use my student’s idea and write about the 50 challenges of your life. Or perhaps you’d rather write about strengths—list 50 of your biggest or least known accomplishments. If you’re writing a novel, create a life list for one or more of your characters.

2.         Protest document. Maybe it’s because I grew up Lutheran, but I’ve always been intrigued by Martin Luther’s The 95 theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences, his protest document against the church. Luther’s act of posting the 95 Theses on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany ignited the Protestant Reformation. No doubt you or one of your characters has something or someone to protest? Write it, post it—and see what happens next.

3.         Policies and Procedures. Many of my colleagues earn their incomes writing technical documents, like policy and procedure manuals. I’ve often wondered if there are individuals who write policy and procedure manuals for their homes or families. (It sure would save a lot of time if I could answer the questions my children ask with, “Check the manual!”) If you’re not sure what to write next and are itching for some fun, write a policy or procedure document for an event or activity in your life.

4.         Lab Report. I envy scientists, with their experiments and data and formats for reporting the information. It all seems so concrete. Sometimes I fantasize about creating a hypothesis and running an experiment about why my daughter leaves her dirty socks all over the house. What do you need to track in your life? Does one of your characters have a hypothesis they need to test out? Can you or they create an experiment and then write up a lab report? For a lab report template, check online.

5.         Tall Tale. I love tall tales because you can throw in elements that are wildly improbable and exaggerate just about everything, and it all seems to fit. When I am struggling to write a scene, sometimes writing it in a different genre—like a tall tale—can help me discover the essential elements of the scene. Then, I can go back to the beginning and write the scene in the genre I am working in. When I’m thinking about my own life, a tall tale can help me laugh and gain perspective.

Your turn: What writing formats have helped you break through blocks and write more?

 

 

Note: A version of this tip appeared at the #amwriting blog a few years ago.

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The Artist’s Date by Rochelle Melander

3 March 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

I’m so happy it’s March! This Saturday (March 7th), I’ll be celebrating March and Dr. Seuss’s birthday by teaching Boing! Bam! Boom! at Central Library in Milwaukee, WI, from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Bring your kids and join me in writing noisy poetry!

Today’s tip is about one of my favorite activities—taking an artist’s date!

Happy Writing

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach

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In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron encourages readers to take a weekly artist’s date. I love the idea but rarely take time to do it. This year, the winter has been long and cold. Just leaving the house and braving the icy sidewalks feels daring. But in these dark winter days, more than ever, I need to take time for artist’s dates. As Cameron says, “Always, when I return to the practice of Artist’s Dates, my sense of wellbeing increases and my work deepens and enlarges.” Walking in the World: The Practical Art of Creativity by Julia Cameron, p 10) Here are five fun and free ways to nourish your creative spirit on an artist’s date:

181791341.         The Kitchen Table. Get out your art and craft supplies and make something. Don’t worry about being fancy or professional—all you need for this activity is paper and crayons or colored pencils. Scribble and enjoy! (Pro Tip: My favorite companion lately has been the book The Art of Whimsical Lettering by Joanne Sharpe. Loads of fun with letters!)

 

 

 

2.         The Library. Visit your local public library and wander around until you find a IMG_1125section that piques your curiosity. Grab a book. Repeat the process (wander, get curious, grab a book) until you have a stack of books. Find a cozy corner of the library and page through the book much like you would wander through an art museum. Stop on the pages that intrigue you, skip the ones that don’t.

 

 

 

 

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3.         The Music Device. My teenage son is a musician and insists that the best way to understand an album is to listen straight through, from beginning to end. Choose an album that you love and listen from beginning to end. Or make a playlist of songs to spark your creativity. (And if you don’t have a music device, don’t worry. Use the radio, an online streaming service, or YouTube to get your music fix!)

 

4.         The Junk Store. Maybe my favorite part of visiting craft fairs is seeing how file5731271955180artists repurpose everyday objects to make art. Though I work with words rather than stuff, I like visiting second hand stores. Sometimes I think about how I could makeover old items. At other times, I’m happy to just wander and admire the art of every day things—dishes, fancy shoes, and books.

 

Maisie wants to make art, too!

Maisie wants to make art, too!

5.         The Zoo, Aquarium, or Humane Society. We got a new dog in February. As crazy as it’s been to cope with a young dog in the middle of winter, it’s also brought great joy to our lives. Take an afternoon off to visit the animals or hang out with your own.

This winter, don’t whine about being tired or burned out. List 20 activities and places that you could do for an artist’s date and start planning. Remember, you can do an artist date without spending a dime—take a walk in the woods, attend an author’s book reading, or visit a building with great architecture. Just get out of the house and have fun! I’m guessing this small act will have big results for you.

 

IMG_0091About the authorWrite Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is an author, a certified professional coach, and a popular speaker. Melander has written ten books including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It). As the Write Now! Coach, she teaches professionals how to write books fast, get published, and connect with readers through social media. Contact her for a consultation.

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