I’ve been talking about how to organize your ideas. Now I want to talk about where those ideas originate. You might ask, “Don’t ideas just come?” For some of us, the answer is a loud, “Yes.” There are people who are overwhelmed by a constant flood of ideas. I’ll talk about that problem later. I

Clone of Where do ideas come from?

While working on my LoveChild memoir, I found the family photos my mother had kept invaluable.

Working with Photos for a Memoir

I’ve been thinking about this, and I’m guessing the answer to my question may be very simple: we don’t approach writing as a business. We typically see our book as inspired art, a handcrafted masterpiece made from parts of our soul, or perhaps our best chance to minister to others. And we become focused on getting this marvelous creation into print so that as many other people as possible can enjoy it with us and benefit from what it says. What we don’t do, either because we just don’t see it or because we don’t even want o go there, is to see our book as a product, and publishing as a business.

Why Are So Many Christian Writers Naive About Publishing Their Book?

A short time ago, I had a free ebook on Kindle. “They Can’t take That Away From Me,” It’s a short story, under my alter ego’s name (J. A. Menzies), and it’s not quite like anything else I’ve written. Closer to thriller than mystery. I thought I’d use this as a jumping-off place to talk

Funnel Publishing

Don’t let your readers get lost! A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that many writers sort of assume that the reader knows who is telling the story, especially if it’s telling a true story. If you haven’t read that post, you might want to read it first. As I said then, assuming your readers

Where are you? The importance of setting in first person POV stories

Assuming the reader knows who you are is one of the most common mistakes I see both in personal stories and fiction. When using the first person point of view, many writers just start telling the story, assuming that the reader knows who “I” is. I mean, the writer knows who “I” is, so why

Who are you? Writing from the first person point-of-view

At a recent conference, where I was taking pitches and doing critiques, I was reminded of some of the most common problems of new and even not-so-new writers. I ended up getting a copy of this book from the bookstore and recommending it to a number of people. Some of them are writing fiction. Some

How to make your stories better – whether they’re true or fiction

I’ve been writing since I was tiny. And over the years, I’ve probably made every mistake possible. Okay, maybe not every mistake. But a whole lot of them! Plus I have a medal in English, and I taught English in a high school. So I know a little bit about good writing and grammar and

4 key things I believe all new writers need to know

Yesterday, on my personal website, I posted a character sketch of my “hero” Glen Sauten, the protagonist of my first published book, The Best of Friends. If you’re writing fiction, you might want to check it out. The truth is, I broke two key writing rules when I wrote the book, and yet it still

How to create realistic characters

Honestly, if all we had to write with were notepads and typewriters, I’d be the most frustrated writer alive. I love technology and all the things it helps me do! So here are the 10 tools I’d have great difficulty living without. 1. Multiple computer screens I’ve only had two screens for a couple of

10 writing tools I can’t live without

Yesterday, on my main website/blog, I posted my writing goals for 2014, along with some details on how I plan to achieve them. While the post was about me and my goals, I also added some information that I think might be of benefit to other writers. I went beyond goals to break down how

Choose writing goals for the year

Most of the time when new writers tell me they’ve written a book, what they actually mean is that they’ve completed a first draft of a book. And my advice is, “Don’t rush off to find a publisher for a first draft.” So, if you’re in that boat, what would I suggest you do? 1.

You’ve written a book: now what? The 8 steps I advise

Some years ago, I was at a Bouchercon mystery convention where some of the world’s greatest mystery writers appeared on panels that covered a variety of topics. I forget which panel I was on, and I forget most of what I heard there. But one comment from one panel I attended stuck in my mind

Thinking like a professional writer

I speak to a lot of aspiring fiction writers, and I find that the majority of them want to write a novel (or are already writing one). My advice to them is to write at least ten short stories first. Let me explain. Ed Hoch passed away on January 17, 2008, at the age of

Top 10 reasons why you should write 10 short stories before you write a novel

Is your current work space in chaos? If so, take some quality time to just sit and think about what works best for you. I remember when our kids were small. We wanted them to set the table and empty the dishwasher when it was clean. But they weren’t tall enough to reach the cupboard

Getting organized to write: create order out of chaos

The absolutely most important item for any writer to have organized is his or her ideas. Everything else can get messy or be allowed to sink into oblivion if necessary, but ideas are the straw writers must have in order to spin their gold. So how do you keep those ideas safe? First, I never

Getting organized to write: idea catchers

The moment you have several ideas down on pieces of paper, you need some files. Not a lot of them. You might start with only five or six. You can easily buy a small metal holder with half a dozen or so coloured folders in it. Mark the blue folder Nonfiction Ideas, the red one

Getting organized to write: create files

Over the years, I can’t begin to estimate how much time I’ve wasted looking for things I’ve misplaced—slips of papers with ideas on them, contracts, books, emails… You name it, I’ve misplaced it. And I’ve spent hours and hours and hours searching for something, only to have it turn up shortly after I stopped looking

Getting organized to write: finding things

I probably have close to 1000 file folders. All colours. They’re in various places, including a 4-level horizontal filing cabinet, a smaller narrow filing cabinet, drawers in two desks, several Omni carts, several other movable carts with file folder spaces on the top and plastic drawers underneath, and a few file boxes. The files are

Getting organized to write: filing

If you’ve been in one of my workshops where I talk about writing fiction, I usually hand out small cards with these words on them: character, setting, plot, theme. For me, they are the four corners of all good fiction. But when you begin a story, you usually have only of these things: a character

What to do with your idea for a novel or short story