My Favorite Books for Writers

My Favorite Books for Writers

by Adam Huddleston


I thought this week I’d share a few books that I felt were very helpful for new writers.

The first is “Writing Fiction for Dummies” by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy. At first glance the title may appear to be condescending or lead the observer to believe that there is little useful information between its covers. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The authors touch upon a wide range of topics in fiction writing. Everything from plot creation and character development to querying an agent and understanding royalties are covered. And what’s better, they are explained in a very easy-to-understand manner. This is the first title I read when I began my journey as a writer and I still return to it from time to time.

Another great reference, which I’ve referred to in the past, is “The Writer’s Digest Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy” by Orson Scott Card. Who better to give advice on writing fiction that a world famous author? He covers world-building, story creation, and the business side of writing.

For another famous author’s views on writing, read “On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King. This personal work focuses more on his life and how he became a writer than actual advice on the subject, but it is still an interesting read nonetheless.

Finally, no writer’s bookshelf would be complete without William Strunk and E.B. White’s “The Elements of Style.” The subject matter may get a bit technical at times, and it exists as more of a reference than a title you would read straight through from beginning to end, but it is a classic. It contains helpful information on proper grammar and punctuation usage, as well as a list of commonly misused words and expressions and several “reminders” when writing.

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore (yes there are still books with paper pages out there), and pick-up a copy of these marvelous works. You’ll thank me later.

Happy writing!


Outtakes 238


by Cait Collins


Sitting in a hospital waiting room for three days gave me a chance to do a lot of people watching. I found the perfect characterization for Elizabeth, a secondary character in Three by Three. I’ve known the lady in question for a number of years. She’s been a part of my family circle for longer than I care to remember. She’s always been quieter than most of the group, I have learned to appreciate her strength and loving nature.

My family is pretty outgoing and expressive. We are often blunt, but we have no problem saying, “I love you.” On the other hand, our friend and family member doesn’t give away much. But when the doctor asked to speak with the immediate family, she guarded the waiting room door. I have a feeling she should have been a mama bear protecting her cubs had anyone tried to disturb the meeting.

This is Elizabeth’s personality. She shares joint custody of her niece, Sara, with Tyler Crawford. Her under stated authority helps keep Sara from becoming a tantrum-throwing brat. Her gentle affection supports Sean when he begins to piece together the threads of his life.

Liz is the perfect foil for the more flamboyant Samantha Tolliver. But woe be to the evil minions who threaten the ones she loves. The sweet, soft spoken lady knows how to protect what is hers. Elizabeth’s role in the story is subtle but important. Others will turn to her to find an anchor and safe harbor in the on-coming storm.

How Do I Manage My Social Media?

How Do I Manage My Social Media?

By Rory C. Keel

As we have already discovered, social media will help the writer in building their brand, platform or fan base for their writing. Social media is expected in the modern world of technology.

We previously explored the large variety of social media applications available to the writer such as blogs, business-to-customer avenues like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. We also looked at business-to-usiness focused applications such as LinkedIN. And let’s not forget the use of picture and video oriented social media venues such as Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube.

Managing Social Media

Now that we have a social media presence on the web, how does the writer manage the avenues he or she has chosen?

First, you must understand that social media is NOT FREE.

Are you surprised?

While you may not have pulled out your credit card to set up an account, you will pay by investing either time or money. Your time equals money and unless you are a professional blogger, the hours you spend managing your social media accounts are hours NOT spent on writing projects.

Secondly, you need to understand the different ways to manage your social media accounts.

Individual App Management

This will require you to log on to each application and enter information, reply to messages or requests for followers and manage the account yourself. If you have several different applications this can be time consuming.

The optimum average time one should spend managing all accounts should be no more than 15-20 minutes in the morning and the same amount of time in the afternoon.

Basic Simple Links

Basic simple links in the applications offer the user shortcuts to link them together. By linking these social media platforms, one entry can be made and it will be posted on all applications, saving time and money.

Management Programs and Services

When you achieve your fame as a writer, management services are available to manage these accounts for you. They range from free limited services to different levels of service for various monthly charges.

Next week we will discuss some general tips in using social media.



By Natalie Bright


Who remembers 8-track tapes? Soon after, the cassette player in my then boyfriend’s car was something else, and the fancy case with his cassette collection was impressive. From even further back, I have a cabinet full of mom and dad’s album collection. Their beloved, overly large, oak-veneer record player makes a great plant stand.


Some of you may recall surfing through only three major television channels, and the lucky houses with strong antenna signals could pick up PBS. And then cable brought channels devoted to history or animals. Cartoons were on 24 hours! It wasn’t any time before we could watch edgy content that would never be shown on CBS, NBC, or ABC. The satellite dish brought us hundreds of channels. I streamed the entire season of Longmire on Netflix one snowy, dull weekend not too long ago. Waiting for a major network to schedule the reruns is a thing of the past. Amazing!


Music and television have gone through a transformation in the past decade. Now it’s book publishing’s turn. As I follow blogs and podcasts this year trying to educate myself on the changing tide of book promotion in the new century, all indications are that 2015 was the turning point. How we publish and read books has been altered forever. There’s no going back.

I’ve been pondering these important points:

  • I just downloaded the first book in a series by a favorite author for FREE in iBooks. The iBooks App is a built-in app on some hand-held devices, or is available for free download for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
  • India and China have seen the largest growth in the number of hand held devices, and now have more users than US, with 250 million English speaking people living in India.
  • It’s impossible to analyze the impact of eBook sales because many are being published without ISBNs.
  • Through a wide variety of book platforms such as iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, Nook, Kindle, etc., paired with all that social media offers, readers will seek their favorite genres and discover authors. The publisher’s name has very little impact. People are going to read what they want to read.
  • The future is mobile.

For the work that writers do, I think there are several important questions to consider. Where will fans find your books in 2016? Will more people read stories on their hand-held devices? What if more people became readers because they have easier access to the kinds of stories they like?

What I’m trying to tell you is that during a one hour traffic delay because of the lumbering construction equipment blocking Highway 287, I read the heck out of an iBook on my iPhone.

Welcome to the 21st Century. I’m thinking it’s a great time to be a writer!

Keep on writing onward as always, WordsmithSix-ers!

It Starts With a Picture


It Starts With a Picture

By Nandy Ekle



The way to start a story is with a picture.

I love photographs. I love to look back at my babies, all the homes I’ve lived in, cars I’ve driven, places I’ve been . . . Just different times in my life. We have wedding pictures, anniversary pictures, pregnancy pictures, pictures of illness, pictures of storms, mountains, oceans, clouds, pets, and snow. And we have pictures of children sleeping, playing, bathing, reading, fighting, and hugging. And each and every picture has a story.

Another kind of picture I like is something obscure in a magazine. I have never been there, I did not see it first hand, but it sparks my imagination. I can look deep into the glossy print and play-like I see myself running through the tall brown grass, dark clouds in the horizon and the sun behind me. Or maybe I’ walking the halls of a beautiful ancient estate looking for my lover. I wind my way through enormous trees following fairies and gnomes. I cringe under the cover of my giant canopy bed as the ghost tears its way through the room in the middle of the night.

So, as a writer, my job is to transport my readers to the same picture I’m seeing. I want them to live through the same adventure I’m having, and feel the same things I’m feeling. As soon as they turn to the first page of my story, I want to grab their hand and shout, “Come with me!” I want them to stay close to me and trust that I will get them through to the other side. And in this journey, they will want something, love something, lose something, learn something, and win something.

At the end, I gently drop their hand, kiss them on the forehead, and invite them to come again. And this is the pay off.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Chekhov’s Gun

Chekhov’s Gun

by Adam Huddleston

Just a quick reminder today. There is a principle in writing known as Chekhov’s Gun. It basically states that if you introduce a major element in your story early on, that element must make an appearance later in the plot. The principle’s name derives from the statement that if you mention a gun hanging on the wall in Chapter One, that gun must go off later in the story, otherwise, there is no reason to include it to begin with.

Happy writing!

Character Sketch

Outtakes 237

Character Sketch

by Cait Collins


Normally, I’m a “pantser”. I construct my stories as characters and situations reveal themselves. Normally it works. But with my new work Three by Three, I’m running into issues. You see, the protagonist and his two best friends’ relationship goes back to grade school. They had a dream of a business partnership and working together after college. On Good Friday, each man was blindsided by a life altering blow and none of them will ever fully recover.

While I have a vision of each man, I find it difficult to separate them as individuals. So I have to write detailed character sketches. As I jot down various thoughts, I learn that Sean Hawthorne’s (aka Creed Whitley) primary state is confusion. Five years ago he woke up in a hospital bed with no memory of who he is or how he was injured. Tyler Crawford still grieves for the woman he loved and lost. Adam Sinclair is drowning in anger over his fiancé’s betrayal.

The trick will be to bring resolution to the upheaval in their lives and to make each man whole. I’m looking forward to the adventure.

Which social media platforms should a writer use?

Which social media platforms should I as a writer, have a presence on?

By Rory C. Keel

As we discussed on my blog post last week called Basic Social Media for Writers, that Social media for business has become the norm. For a writer it is no different, you are a business and your customers are your readers.

With literally hundreds of options to choose from such as Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube, it could drive a person mad. Before deciding on which social media venue to have a presence, you need to do your research.


First, you need to develop a platform of readership. Choose a B2C social media platform. B2C simply means a business–to-customer platform that will allow you as a business, to focus on your genre and connect with your readers, the customers.

Second, understand what the venue is and how it works.

A Blog is a place to publish thoughts, tips, ideas. Regular blogs provide keyword-rich content for search engines and can help create you as an expert in your field.

Facebook, Google +, Myspace and other similar platforms, are used to connect and interact with your audience with personal and/or business pages

Twitter allows you to follow and connect with a target audience.

Tweeting about your writing with excerpts, answering questions, and offering helpful insights can help to build loyal readership.

YouTube is the top site for user generated video content. It’s a place to share your business by how-to videos, video readings, discussions, or simply a video introducing YOU.

Other social media sites use the medium of photos to share ideas and communication, such as Instagram and Pintrest.

Another type of social media platform is a B2B platform. B2B simply refers to a Business-to-Business platform. In another words a wholesaler to you as a business.

As a writer, you need access to editors, publishers, or agents. You might even need connections with an ink cartridge and paper supply company. You as a business can connect with others who offer services you need.

LinkedIN is an example of this type of platform and has a business focus.

Having the proper research and information, you can begin to formulate an idea of which social media platform to focus your attention.

With that in mind, next week we will discuss how to best manage your social media so that you will still have time to write.



“If you want to be a successful professional writer, you need to learn business.”

Kristine Katherine Rusch

THE PURSUIT OF PERFECTION, And How It Harms Writers, WMG Publishing, 2013.


Rusch makes a strong argument for writers to take control of their own careers in her book THE PURSUIT OF PERFECTION.

She points out that the business side of what we do is not a part of an MFA degree. We are often told that most writers can’t make a living. Writing is a labor of the heart, and we’re reminded that very few authors reach the level of earning potential that we all dream of. We pour our hearts and souls into our stories, and then we willingly hand over our creations and financial control to complete strangers without a second thought.

There’s no doubt that writing is hard work and long hours, and it is a business after all. All industries experience cycles of downturn. Smart business owners know how to survive through the lean times and make smart investments during the surplus years.

A writer needs to understand the publishing world and that sometimes sales slack off. If you understand your chosen profession, it might be a tweak of your writing or a new cover design is the answer. Or not. Maybe you’ve signed a bad contract.

The main point that I learned from Rusch’s book is that writers must have a grasp of the options and take control. For a new perspective on the business side of publishing, you might give this book a try. I found it to be an interesting read and an eye-opener.


Personally, I’ve always been a glass half-full kind of person. In today’s publishing world where everything is undoubtly changing, why can’t we have it all?

If you’ve ever read much about the halo marketing theory, it stands to reason that every piece of writing we tag our name to helps promote ALL of our projects. Bios in freelance articles and blog posts can include your other book titles for sale. Books published can lead to speaking invitations and booths at library fairs. Everything we tag can help drive readers to our website where they can find out more.

Set aside your dreamy, creative selves for a second and put on your business caps. If you want to control the content, put your book up for pre-sale, create a little buzz and save money to self-publish. You can make it happen.

If your book doesn’t have a universal appeal, but it’s near and dear to your heart, find a small press. Develop a killer marketing plan for your region and sell the heck out of your book. Do it now.

Should you ever write a book extraordinary enough to snag an agent resulting in a huge print run from a major house, wouldn’t that be great too?

I agree with the simple business theory that can apply to writers too: produce a quality product worth paying for.


It Starts With a Word


It Starts With a Word

By Nandy Ekle


The way to start a story is with a word. Can’t be just any word—it must be the absolute perfect word. Choose it carefully because it has to capture your reader and not let them go until they read the last word.

So you find your word and you know it is exactly the right word to start with. To this perfect word, you add another word, and to that, another. Soon, you have a sentence. And this sentence starts your story. At the end of this sentence, your reader should be so enrapt that walking away from your story is impossible.

But if you stop with one sentence, your reader will walk away after all. So you must put together another sentence. And then another, and another. Before long, you’ll have an entire paragraph.

Paragraphs are very important. For one thing, they are tools to give your story logical organization. Since a paragraph is a group of related ideas, it gives your reader a sense of what comes next, leading them in the direction you want them to go.

Paragraphs are also used to emphasize points. There are instances when you need an idea to stand out on its own. If you separate this idea away from other words and sentences on the page, your reader gets the sense of boldness.

Another thing paragraphs do is make the page appear more inviting. If you have a page of one sentence after another, no breaks, the reader feels like they have run a marathon. There’s no stopping place, no place to take a breath. This will cause them to get tired and give up before even getting to the end of the page.

So your paragraphs lead the reader through, building the story one paragraph at a time, one sentence at a time, one word at a time, you create a chapter, which has the same uses as paragraphs, but on a larger scale.

And then you have your book. And this is the pay off.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.