Category Archives: Writing and Getting Published 101

Information for the newest writers. Posts by writers for writers.

Writers: Learn From The Good Wife

(Spoiler alert: If you haven’t caught up with The Good Wife’s latest episode, and don’t want to know what happened, don’t read on…)

The number one rule of writing: ‘Kill the baby.’


Yes. Kill the baby. Or in this case, Will Gardner.

Will and AliciaToo often, writers miss the mark on this one, and lose their readers in the process. Here’s the thinking on that.

Of all the lessons I’ve learned through writing, reader reactions, classes, and forums, the best advice to come my way, without question, is:  ‘kill the baby.’ The exercise went like this:

The assignment:  Once upon a time, there was a village in the forest. It was a happy village. Everyone was loving and healthy and the village was a wonderful place to live. Until one day, people started to get sick and die. The people were devastated by their losses, and began to fear for themselves as the sickness ravaged their friends and family. Finally, the wise ones of the village decided to break the law of the forbidden land and cross the river to ask the evil one for help. The evil one agrees to help, but the price is high. The cost is one baby…. Finish the story….

It is remarkable how many ways there are to cheat death. We did everything we could to save the child. Some of us had a plan to get the baby back. Some would somehow use a second boat to fool the evil one. Others would give him a sickly child who would die anyway. We could go with the ‘it was a dream’ plan. How about negotiating for three old people. We were prepared to do anything but give up that baby.

In the end, our instructor shook his head in pity at us. We’d done exactly as he expected. Not one of us gave up the baby.

His advice? Kill the baby.

Bad things happen in real life. Bad things happen in stories. Let the bad happen. Type through your tears. The tragedy must be respected. To lessen the loss is to cheapen the story. You, the writer, are responsible for the plot. You owe it to your reader to tell the best story possible. And the readers will remember your story longer, the stronger the feelings they’re left with. In the end, you’ll be able to pay for therapy with all the money you’ll make from the sales of your book.

We all went back and killed the baby. It was difficult. But we certainly understood the point of the lesson.

Think about endings that have left you feeling like you just wasted hours reading a good story – or watching a movie – only to have the ending ruin the entire experience. Or better yet, offer up ‘alternate endings.’

Not every story has to end in tragedy. But every story needs its fair share of emotion – good and bad. Protecting your characters makes them bland

Robert and Michelle King, great writers.

and uninteresting. Challenge them and let them tell their story.

Robert and Michelle King, writers of The Good Wife know this. And, risking the wrath of loyal fans everywhere, killed Will last night. They have their reasons.

But in the end, it all boils down to good writing.

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How To Become A Writer

So the manuscript submit form seems to be working now. It was no small feat, and my rusty brain had to go all the way into the code to do it. But, as always, the harder the task, the greater the sense of accomplishment.

There are those who would say that writing a novel would present an insurmountable challenge. Having written two myself, I would argue. But when asked for my best advice for writers, it’s like a trance settles over me and I might as well be talking about a life-altering love affair. Though, now that I think about that, I probably am. There’s writing, and there’s getting published. They are two completely different animals. And while I’ve often shared my best advice for getting published, let me share my joy in the process of writing.

Write. Everything. Research can wait. Grammar can wait. Spelling can go away altogether. Whether you use a keyboard, typewriter, or pen, write. Write from your mind. Write from your heart. Write what you know. Make stuff up. Nothing has to make sense. Nothing has to connect. Just write. And watch what happens. Give it time. Commit to the process. A year from now, compare what you wrote this week. Then let’s have a conversation!!

Create your own process. With a full-time job, two kids, and a household to run, writing was the last thing I had time for. But when that ever-loving husband of mine stepped in, writing became my salvation. He insisted we take advantage of my job’s payroll computer purchase plan and buy our first laptop. He insisted I find someplace – outside of the house – to write. And he gifted me the time to do it. Every Saturday, he would drop me, my music, my laptop, and my quietly-smuggled snacks, off at the local library. I holed up in my reserved, enclosed cubicle, plugged in, settled down, and left my life behind. For seven solid hours, I sat on my butt, and rejuvenated my soul in ways I’d never dreamed possible. In time, every commute to and from the job, every minute spent folding and ironing – okay I don’t iron, but you get it – every minute I had to myself, I was writing. I was going through dialogue, scenarios, reactions, characters, plot twists, and ideas in my head. By the time Saturday rolled around, I was busting! The novel didn’t happen in one long line. I wrote it in bits and pieces, as I’d had time to develop it in my head. The fact that it fit together in the end was nothing short of miraculous – leaving me in awe at some of the remarkable connections I had made. When it was done, I was a wreck. Noticeably so. My husband’s answer to my despair? Start another book. Done.

Develop your skill. As the creative side of writing begins to take hold, start to hone your skills. Take a writing course. Learn some grammar – and prepared to be amazed at how much you’ve let slide… Take a keyboarding class – though I got by in the beginning with my grade 9 typing skills, 100,000 words later, I was, and still am, typing in the dark with my eyes closed, as fast as I can think! Join a writers’ group. Learn how to research properly. When these compulsory skills start to come more easily to you, the work of writing well melts into the joy of writing.

Open your mind. Rediscover your imagination. Spend time brainstorming ‘what if?’ Resist the urge to jump in on a current fad; the world will have become bored with that idea long before you can finish your masterpiece. Consider different styles, genres, lengths. And don’t be surprised when your budding romance turns into an all-out adventure.

Watch your characters. These will be some of the most fascinating people you’ll ever meet. And they will be as real to you as anyone you’ve ever encountered. Don’t try to make them do anything they wouldn’t naturally do. Let them grow – we don’t need to know everything about them in the first chapter. Let them surprise you.

Give yourself time to enjoy the process of becoming a writer. If you’re thinking this is a great way to make a living and you’re sure you’ll be the next Rowling, don’t quit your day job. In fact, stop writing now. You’re in it for all the wrong reasons. But if you’re thinking of this as an outlet – a creative way to purge your mind of the overflow of ideas it tries to hold on to, a way to vent your emotions, a way to share an idea, then get started. Find what works for you, and don’t stop.

There are plenty of people who ask what, exactly, in this age of publishing chaos, is a writer. Can I call myself a writer? When am I considered to be a writer?

The short answer is, if you have to ask, you’re not a writer. Just write. You’ll know when.


Filed under For Writers, Writing and Getting Published 101

Writers and Marketing ~ Self-Promotion Without Pain

In this changing literary landscape, it is becoming the norm it is imperative that authors participate in their own marketing.

If you are not already doing so, the above statement is likely intimidating, frustrating, annoying, and perhaps a little humiliating. And understandably so. What with all the Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, who’sit, what’sit… It’s no wonder. To the uninitiated, the idea of marketing yourself and your writing is a world of new and confusing. I once overhead a writer complain, “I’d rather cut off my feet and run on stumps than learn all that (crap).”

Pretty much sums it up.

So how does one who is a master of words go about the promotion of self and work? There’s so much to learn. And who wants to learn? We want to write!!

Aha! And there’s your answer. Putting yourself out there is easier than you think.


Getting started online and promoting yourself is easy. Writing a book is hard. Look at it like any other project you’ve taken on in your lifetime. Think back to learning how to cook. You didn’t start out with four-course turkey dinners. Chances are, you scrambled an egg. Now you look at the Internet and think, “I can’t do that.” And no one is asking you to. We just want you to start with an egg.

In geek terms we’ll call that a blog.


A ‘blog’ (so named because ‘Web Log’ is too long to type,) is nothing more than an online journal. Like keeping a diary, you can write in it every day, once or twice a week, or whenever the mood hits.

Unlike a diary, it is versatile, forgiving, and powerful. Versatile, because all of the work – outside of the actual writing – is done for you. Forgiving, because mistakes are easily corrected, your shortcomings in design and tech know-how are easily compensated. And powerful, because it has the potential to reach an audience beyond your current resources and imagination, in real-time (not in some projected point in the future), and in ways that the ‘blog’ platform has evolved into, beyond the expectations of those who developed them in the first place.

Start a blog. It’s easy. And it’s free. There are websites out there that host blogs. The two biggest are Blogger and WordPress. Romantic Shorts uses WordPress. There are others, but these are the easiest to start with. Blogger is easier to use for beginners, has plenty of fun ways to personalize your site, and will meet virtually all of your needs. WordPress is a little more involved behind the scenes and can be a little intimidating for beginners, but has a great help section and some terrific looking themes, and, I’ve found, better options for growth.

Log on to either of these sites:  or

Click the ‘Start a Blog’ button and follow the directions. All you need to register your blog is a valid email address. There are no catches.

Give some thought as to what you would like to call yourself. You will be asked to choose a Username. This can be different from your Blog Title, but cannot be changed so long as your blog is in use. It is also the name that will be used in your URL (the blog address visitors will type into their browsers to find you.)

For example: if your name is Kate Middleton, you will likely find that KateMiddleton is already taken. Try for variations like CatherineMiddleton, KateSMiddleton, theKateMiddleton, KatieMiddleton, AuthorKateMiddleton, etc. When you find one that works, you will be given a URL:   or

Your sign in will be your user name and you will be asked to choose a password.

At this point, you have an account. You will then be asked to name your blog, provide a Blog Title. I suggest using your pen name. You can make a separate blog for a specific book, project, etc. But for now, start with a writer’s blog. Everything you put in there will be easily sorted.

Your blog host will now show you how to post your first article. Tech stuff is done. Now you’re back to being a writer. So write. About anything you want.

Post your thoughts, your ideas, comments about other things, some of your writing, etc. Anything you want. It doesn’t matter. Just start. Try to post something regularly – twice a week is a great place to start. Every day is difficult – even for the pros.

Later, when you’re comfortable, start looking at personalizing your blog with themes, pictures, widgets (don’t worry about what they are – you’ll figure that out later – and they’re fun,) links, etc. Let your blog grow with your expertise. Set a goal to have something that looks pretty good a year from now. You’ll look back and wonder what was holding you back. All you’ll been doing for the past year is writing.


Your name is your name. As a writer, it’s your brand – the words/logo/idea that identify you as you to the rest of the world.

Grab the Domain!

What that means is very much like getting a patent for your invention. If you are WriterKatieMiddleton, go online and register the Domain   Even if you don’t use it, you’ve prevented everyone else from using it. You will want it later. It’ll probably cost you around $15 per year. If you have the cash and the inclination, grab the other domains,, .co, .mobi, .me, etc. They’ll cost about $7 per year each. But owning your domain means that down the road, you will be able to address your own website with a personalized domain name.  is more professional and confident than

That can all happen when you’re more comfortable with the online stuff. But put them in your back pocket for now, now, before someone else takes your name.

There are Domain Hosts – not to be confused with Web Hosts – that can sell you a domain registration. Big websites like GoDaddy and HostGator are easy to find, have good support, and reasonable prices. There are smaller sites who can do the same thing – this depends on your preference. Often, you’ll get a better price on Web Hosting in the future if you decide to expand your blog into a full blown website, and use the Domain Host’s services to host your website. (WordPress will ‘host’ your blog site for free, Web Hosts charge for a much more intricate service.) Many of the smaller Domain Hosting companies don’t have, or don’t have extensive, web hosting services. Take your future plans for online growth into consideration when choosing a domain host.


No, if you’re not comfortable with all of this, you don’t have to join Facebook.

But you do want to connect with other people. Writers, readers, fans, editors, publishers, bloggers.

As a writer in the real world, you’ve likely attended writers’ courses, seminars, symposiums, conventions. You’ve probably joined a writers’ group. You’ve probably talked to friends and family about your writing.

In the virtual world, you do the same thing. Only with exponentially effective results. There are forums, blogs, social networks, businesses, and connections online where you can meet people who have the same goals, challenges, needs, as you do. You can Google “WRITERS” and spend the next month sifting through some of the millions of sites that come up.

Save yourself some time. Look at the organizations, people, and businesses that you work with in the real world. Do you have a magazine subscription? A writers’ group? A favourite bookstore? Find them online and join their discussion boards.

As with real life, if you wouldn’t walk into a dinner party where you know no one and start handing out your business cards and asking people to buy your product, don’t do that online. There is an etiquette to joining a group of people who likely already have a longstanding relationship. Introduce yourself, listen, get to know others around you, ask questions. Let them warm up to you. They will eventually start asking about you. Invite them to read your blog, to add a link to your blog on their sites, and ask if you can link to their sites from your blog. These relationships are what grow into a solid and marketable online presence.

Use patience and care to grow your blog, as you would a treasured rose bush. Sure, you could go out and make a sensational YouTube video of you dancing naked on Parliament Hill. It would go viral and everyone would want to know who you are. But your fifteen minutes of fame will fade quickly if you don’t have the content to keep your visitors interested and coming back. And, let’s face it. If you put the work into the content and quality of your blog, it will grow. And you can keep your clothes on.

Now a year or two down the line, you’re pitching a book idea to a publisher, and you invite the publisher to visit your blog. She sees a ton of quality sample writing, gets to know your personality and friends, and knows exactly with whom she’s going to be dealing. You’ve essentially just invited her over for dinner to meet your family. You have a thousand visitors a month who are going to know that she’s publishing your book – that’s good for you, that’s good for her. Suddenly, you look much more appealing.

Put this all into perspective at Romantic Shorts. Once we’re running at full steam, we expect to be publishing upward of 200 short stories per year, written by some 150+ writers. If each of those writers has a thousand visitors per month, and links to our publication, inviting readers and writers to join us, we could easily be looking at a network of tens of thousands of visitors per month. That’s no small potatoes for our writers!


So a year has passed. You’ve now polished your blog, mastered your widgets, welcomed the world. It’s time to move forward with confidence. There are countless ways to grow your site into something that meets your needs, interests your visitors, and makes you some money. As you reach this comfort level, take some time to watch others, to see how they grow.

I’ve always been intrigued by my inadequate impression of people. I see a pregnant woman at the mall, and I can’t think of her as anything but a pregnant woman. Yet I could see her again in two months, and am then surprised to have to perceive her as a young mom. We take snap shots of the world around us all the time, without giving much thought to the process that led to, or the growth that will come from, that moment.

Websites are an excellent example of this. You will connect with other sites. Watch them grow, change, evolve to meet the changing expectations of their visitors, the growth of their product, and the maturity of their expertise. Use these examples to make a plan for your own site. Where do you want to be two years from now? What was once scary and intimidating, is now full of enthusiasm and anticipation.

The bottom line. You’re going to be writing anyway. Don’t work harder; just work smarter.

Tell us what you think. Do you have a writer’s site? What has been your most difficult obstacle? Your best advice? Feel free to leave your URL so we can see what you’ve been able to accomplish.

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Filed under For Writers, Writing and Getting Published 101, WUC Symposium