Being Prepared for Your Writing Conference

With the summer conference season in full swing, we’ve got tons of helpful tips over at the new site. Since our subscriber list has moved, we’re posting solely over there. Are you subscribed over at our new digs? We’ve had fantastic topics this month and just want to make sure you’re getting in on the discussion!

New address:

Latest posts:

Jul 11th: What Should an Author Expect from an Agent?

Jul 9th: What I Learned About Submissions as a Reader for an Agent

Jul 7th: Unblocking Yourself: Ten Ways to Beat Writer’s Block

Jul 4th: GREAT post by Chuch Sambuchino!
Submission Tip Checklist: Double-Check These 16 Things Before Sending Your Book Out

We look forward to bringing you many, many more posts like these!

Happy Summer to you from…
Fae, Jenny, Laura, Orly and Sharla

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Are You Subscribed to Writers In The Storm?

Since our subscriber list has moved, we’re posting solely at the new site. Are you subscribed over at our new digs? We’ve had some fab posts since the move and just want to make sure you’re getting them!

New address:

Last week’s posts:

JUNE 20TH, 2014: How Emotional Peril Keeps Readers Reading by Janice Hardy

JUNE 18TH, 2014: The Secret Weapon of YA/NA Writers by Tiffany Lawson Inman

JUNE 16TH, 2014: Write Your Own Happy Ending with Scrivener by Gwen Hernandez

We look forward to bringing you many, many more posts like these!
~ Fae, Jenny, Laura, Orly and Sharla

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Novel Diagnostics: How to Tell if Your Book Might Have Terminal Problems in TEN Pages

By Kristen Lamb

Image via Flickr Creative Commons. Bansky's "Peaceful hearts Doctor" courtesy of Eva Blue.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons. Bansky’s “Peaceful hearts Doctor” courtesy of Eva Blue.

For those of you who have submitted before, ever wonder how an agent can ask for the first 20 pages and still reject your book? Did you ever wonder if the agents really read these pages? How can they know our book isn’t something they want to represent with so little to go on? I mean, if they would just continue to page 103 they would see that the princess uncovers a whole underground movement of garden gnomes with inter dimensional capabilities, and they wouldn’t be able to put it down. Right?


I’ve edited countless manuscripts, and today I am going to let you see the first 20 pages through the eyes of an agent or editor. This is Novel Diagnostics 101.

The doctor is in the house…

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Pop on over to our new site to see Kristen discuss four things that are sure to land your manuscript in the rejection pile. Plus, we’re giving away more prizes today!

Note: The subscriber list will be moving over any day now. If you’ve been meaning to subscribe, now is a good time to hit that button at the top of the right sidebar. You’ll only have to do it once. :-)

See you at the new blog…

~ Fae, Jenny, Orly, Laura, Sharla
AND the always-awesome Kristen Lamb!

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Writing Contests — Hell or Heaven?

by Fae Rowen


photo credit:

I don’t usually enter contests, but I decided to go all out this year.

During the past two months I’ve redefined my understanding of the experience from both the judging and entrant viewpoints. I hope this post will help you consider whether entering contests is in your best interest at this point in your career. Next month I’ll share perspectives of a judge.

Pop on over to our new site to see more on my “Heaven” and “Hell” contest experiences. Plus, we’re giving away our first prizes today!

Note: The subscriber list will be moving over any day now. If you’ve been meaning to subscribe, now is a good time to hit that button at the top of the right sidebar. You’ll only have to do it once. :-)

See you at the new blog…

~ Fae

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Writers In The Storm Moving Party is TODAY!


Party bus!

Hop on the party bus and come over to the new site!

We’re giving away TONS of prizes this week:
books, online classes, a Ninja Pack and an Amazon gift card.

And, not to worry, we’ll be moving our subscriber list over.
That means all you have to do is relax and enjoy the party…

See you at the new better-than-ever Writers In The Storm blog!

~ Fae, Jenny, Laura, Orly and Sharla
  The Writers In The Storm Team

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6 Reasons to Write a Short Story

Happy Friday to all our friends here at WITS! We’re doing some extra special posts this week as an advance thank you for helping us migrate to our new site next week. All will be unveiled on Monday!

Today our pal, Julie Glover, is here. *Jenny jumps up and down* Here’s an example of why she’s one of our favorite peeps. When we told her y’all love nice meaty posts, Julie responded with:

“I hope I delivered. I’m even hoping it’s bacon. All posts should be like bacon.”


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My Sister's Demon, paranormal fiction by Julie Glover, @julie_glover

As a novel reader, I always believed I was meant to write full-length books. Yet I find myself entering the self-published market with a collection of short stories instead.

I wrote the first one on a lark—merely a story premise I wanted to get out of my system. But I liked the result so much, I started another. And then I got hooked, eventually completing six young adult paranormal shorts.

6 reasons you might consider writing a short story:

1. Writing short stories hones your skill for writing lean—a skill that will help you craft more effective scenes in a novel.

The limited space of short stories requires the writer to stick to what must be included and leave the rest behind. Mastering storytelling in short form can help you see your novel in a different light.

After working on short stories, I returned to edits on my book and suddenly recognized sections and scenes that didn’t pull their weight. Now that I better understand how to pack punch into a shorter word count, I can transfer that skill to writing longer fiction and create a more power-packed novel.

2. Short stories appeal to the our fast-paced lives.

It’s tempting as authors to expect everyone to be voracious readers like us, toting around thick books or an entire library on our e-reader. But today’s world is fast-paced, and many people simply don’t have time or make time to read a full novel. They might, however, be able to get through a short story and satisfy their urge for fiction.

A short story can be read on the subway or bus to work, while waiting to be seen in a doctor’s office, or in those few minutes to yourself at night before you crash into sleep.

Shorts appeal to our overfull schedules and keep readers reading.

3. Your story idea is great, but not enough for a novel.

Practically speaking, sometimes this is true. You have wonderful characters in mind and a story event worth telling, but it’s not layered enough for a full-length book.

Indie author Kait Nolan‘s most recent publications are her Meet Cute Romances, a series of shorts celebrating the first meeting of a romantic couple. She says:

“Ideally, for a novel, you’d have a full conflict and character arc that brings them together. And that’s great. But sometimes, all you’ve got is the beginning, that moment of promise that gives you a thrill of knowing this is IT, this is the ONE. And in your head you can see it playing out—as relationships often do in real life—with little conflict worth a full dramatic story. That doesn’t make the story of that relationship any less worthy of being told, it just means it needs a shorter format that zeroes in on that moment of spark.”

Not every idea is worthy of 300 pages or so, and sometimes you can tell a great tale in 10, 20, or 30 pages. So don’t toss that fabulous idea! Make it a short story.

4. Shorts help maintain reader interest in between full-length books.

Self-published authors and traditional publishers have discovered how important it is to keep an author’s name active in a fan’s mind. Since it takes a while to write, edit, and publish a book, how can you keep your readers engaged during the wait?

More and more, short fiction fills the gap—with novellas and short stories both teasing and satisfying a loyal fan base. Many successful authors, such as thriller author Lee Child (Jack Reacher) and Kathy Reichs (Bones), have added shorts to their series as a welcome bonus for their readers.

5. Anthologies provide an avenue for gaining new readers.

Collaborating with other authors can put your name in front of potential readers. If another author’s fans buy the anthology, they might give your story a shot and discover you’re their happy cup of tea as well.

However, participate in an anthology because you believe in the product or cause, not merely for exposure. Best-selling urban fantasy author Jaye Wells wrote “The Werewife” for the anthology Carniepunk: “Agreeing to submit was a no-brainer because the other participating authors are good friends and the carnival theme was irresistible. The side benefits of increased exposure was a secondary consideration.”

When choosing to submit a story for an anthology, Wells has this advice as well: “I’ve also learned that it’s often best to write stand-alone short stories because writing a scene or connected story with your other books comes off as an advertisement, which can annoy readers.”

You might pick up a new reader, not with a teaser story for an existing series, but for your unique voice in fiction.

6. Short stories are a powerful storytelling medium.

Remember the short stories you enjoyed? I vividly recall The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe, The Veldt by Ray Bradbury, and The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. These fiction greats understood the power of short fiction to hook a reader.

Indeed, the short story market is growing. While shorts never went away, they weren’t commercially viable with printing costs. The ebook revolution has given this powerful medium a resurgence, to the benefit of both writers and readers.

Why write a short story? Even with these six reasons, the ultimate reason is because you have a short story to tell. Many writers do, if they open themselves up to the idea and let their imagination go.

Have you ever written a short story? What do you like about writing short? If not, what keeps you from exploring short fiction? Who is your favorite short story writer?

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About Julie

Julie Glover, Writers In The StormJulie Glover is the author of “Color Me Happy,” a young adult romance story in the Orange Karen: Tribute to a Warrior anthology, and My Sister’s Demon, the first of a series of young adult paranormal shorts. She is also working on a novel and lives with her wonderful husband and two sons in her beloved Lone Star state. (That’s Texas, y’all.)

Find Julie at her website or on Twitter. She loves to tweet.

Posted in Blogging Guests, WriterStrong | Tagged , , , , | 73 Comments

Margie’s Rule # 2: Write the Hard Stuff — Facial Expressions



by Margie Lawson, @MargieLawson

If you watch NCIS, you know Jethro Gibbs, aka Mark Harmon, has rules. Fifty-plus rules. My next fifteen (or fifty) blogs will feature a different Margie-Rule for writers.

[Click here for Margie's Rule #1:
Never Take Any Word for Granted

Margie’s Rule #2: Write the Hard Stuff: Facial Expressions

Write the hard stuff.

Those words sound harsh. Nobody wants to write the hard stuff. And writing fresh facial expressions is tough.

It’s easy to write a sigh. It’s easy to write a nod. It’s easy to have a character shake their head.

It’s easy to write eyebrows raising, lifting, lowering, wagging.

It’s easy to write eyes narrowing, widening, slitting, squinting, winking, rolling.

It’s not easy to write fresh facial expressions.

You may be thinking, why write fresh? What’s wrong with writing overused facial expressions? Everybody writes them.

Lots of writers use those overused phrases. Readers have read those phrases thousands of times.

But clichés are invitations to skim. The reader detaches from the read. They take a mini-break. They tune out of your story and tune into their real word.

For many agents and editors, clichés aren’t just invitations to skim. They stop reading.

I’m not the only writing expert who wants to kill most clichés. Every basic how-to book for writers cautions against using clichés. I’ll share ideas from several How-to-Write books.

Here’s what James V. Smith, Jr. said about clichés in YOU CAN WRITE A NOVEL. This is from his “YOU MIGHT BE AN AMATEUR IF” section.

 You might be an amateur if you rely on clichés.

This item is obligatory for any writing handbook. Beware the automatic phrase, such as “white as snow” and “quiet as a mouse.” If your heroic character roars like a lion, she’d better be a lioness. 

One of the books on my top ten how-to books for beginning writers is THE FIRST FIVE PAGES by Noah Lukeman. He has sixteen pages listed in the index that address something about clichés. He includes this caution in chapter one:

I can’t tell you how many manuscripts either open with clichés or have one on their first page. This is almost always a sure indicator of a commonplace sensibility and will thus lead to instant rejection.

Trust the writing experts. Avoid clichés. Push yourself to write fresh. 

All the examples in this blog are from Margie-grads. Enjoy!

Blaze, Joan Swan, multi-Margie-grad, 3 time Immersion-grad

For an extended second his eyes remained steady and unblinking on her face. A deep vertical line pulled between his brows, as if someone had smacked him upside the head and he hadn’t quite recovered.

When she looked up, Owen’s expression held a mixture of decades-old emotions that stirred her heart and her libido.

Dirty Magic, Jaye Wells, multi-Margie-grad, 2 time Immersion-grad

Gardner’s expression went tense, like she’d hoped I would have forgotten about that. When he finally looked up, his eyes were shiny and red-rimmed.

His smile transformed his face from boyish to almost-mannish.

Sweet on You, Laura Drake, to be released August, 2014, multi-Margie-grad, Immersion-grad

Margie Lawson, Laura Drake

Margie Lawson and Laura Drake ~ RWA Nationals 2013

Her expression in the mirror looked familiar for the first time in weeks. She looked like a soldier; determined, tough, and ready.

The Cam in front of the cameras looked so different than the Cam she was getting to know. His face was closed, carefully composed. A Cool Hand Cahill mask.

Her lips attempted a smile, but her eyes didn’t bother.

Two Paragraphs:

He opened his eyes and studied her face. Her lips taut, her eyes cool, shuttered, and professional. And that hurt. “Will you have dinner with me tonight?”

Her look lasered to a hawk’s predatory gaze. No cool there now.

Dare You To, Katie McGarry, multi-Margie-Grad 

Beth’s face explodes into this radiant smile and her blue eyes shine like the sun. My insides melt. This moment is special and I don’t want to let it go. I’m the one that put that look there.

From over his shoulder, Dad indicates I should join them by giving me one of his rare I’m-proud-of-you smiles. It makes me unbalanced.

Mom shifts in her seat like a crow fluffing out its wings. The only thing she’s missing is the pissed-off caw.

Find Me, Romily Bernard, Golden Heart Winner, and multi-Margie-grad

“That’s good. That’s good.” Bren’s nodding hard enough to knock something loose.

Everyone else is talking and crying, but Tally’s motionless, staring at me like I’m the only person who has ever mattered. Like I’m a hero.

The Last Breath (MIRA), Kimberly Belle, to be released Sept. 30, 2014, multi-Margie-grad, 4-time Immersion-grad

A smile slides up Jake’s face and settles in. It’s a magnetic, no-holds-barred smile, a smile that’s fierce and undeniably sexy, a smile that tugs and tingles somewhere deep and low in my belly.

Now Cal doesn’t bother hiding his surprise, or his fury. His neutral expression mushrooms into something livid and then clenches. Slammed brows, squeezed lips.

The realization slams him back onto his seat and sobers his expression more thoroughly than ten double espressos.

I watch as every emotion I feared most competes on Jake’s face. Grief, disgust, hatred, despair.

Kennedy Ryan, When You Are Mine, to be released June 17, 2014, multi-Margie-grad, Immersion-grad

Kerris’s smile played tug-of-war with her sad eyes.

The smile Kerris pushed onto her lips felt like a too-tight sweater.

Walsh flashed a smile he’d been cultivating in expensive schools and exclusive parties since he was twelve years old, hoping no one was the wiser.

Two Paragraphs:

“Walsh,” his mother said from the head of the table a few feet north of him and Sofie. “Will you open the dancing with me?”

Walsh lobbed a silent yes-get-me-out-of-this expression to his mother. She returned with a mama-always-knows smile.

I’m so impressed with my Margie-grads. Stellar writing!

If you some of these examples grabbed you, tweet or Fb the authors, and post a comment below. They’ll all stop by the blog. Let them know they wowed you!

One more point about clichés. Reviewers notice clichés too.

I’ll share the last sentences from two reviews. They’re for different books, by different authors. One is from Publisher’s Weekly, one is from Kirkus.

The last sentence from one review:

Clichés roll past like tumbleweeds on the prairie.

The last sentence from the other review:

(Author’s name) message gets buried in a sludge pile of clichés.


You do not want anyone reviewing your book to mention clichés!

I hope you all dig deep and write the hard stuff.

If you feel stuck, consider the lecture packet for the third in my Big Three writing craft courses: Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist. I teach that online course next March. That’s why the lecture packets are available through Paypal from my website.

You’ll find loads of teaching points and examples in my lectures. You’ll learn how to write body language and dialogue cues fresh, and it won’t seem so hard.

The more you write fresh, the easier it becomes. The more you write fresh, the stronger your writing.

Post a comment and you could win an online course from Lawson Writer’s Academy!

Check out the courses we’re offering in June:

1. Character-Themed Writing — Instructor: Elizabeth Essex

2. Love Your Voice — Instructor: Julie Rowe

3. From blah to beats: Giving Your Chapter a Pulse — Instructor: Rhay Christou

Due to my travel schedule to present at a university, at writing conferences, and teach six Immersion classes across the U.S. this summer, the next online class I’m teaching is in August: Visceral Rules: Beyond Hammering Hearts.

Margie Lawson, Brenda Novak

Margie Lawson with Brenda Novak at the CG Conference

Please check out my three donations on Brenda Novak’s Diabetes Auction.

1. Twelve Months of Online Courses from Lawson Writer’s Academy — $600 value

2. Margie Lawson’s 50 Page Triple Pass Deep Edit — $350 value

3. Immersion Master Class, Lodging, and Two Bonus Days with Margie Lawson! — $1550 value

Thank you!

See you on the blog!

All smiles…………….Margie

p.s. No you haven’t imagined it…we have an extra post for you this week as a thank you (in advance) for helping us transition to our new site next week!

** Writers In The Storm is getting a makeover! **
We’re moving to our new digs June 2nd. Stay tuned for party news (and giveaways)…

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About Margie

Margie Lawson, Writers In The StormMargie Lawson —psychotherapist, editor, and international presenter – teaches writers how to use her psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques to create page turners. Margie has presented over eighty full day master classes in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Writers credit her innovative deep editing approaches with taking their writing several levels higher—to publication, awards, and bestseller lists.

To learn about Lawson Writer’s Academy, Margie’s 4-day Immersion Master Classes (in Colorado, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Dallas, Seattle, San Antonio, Houston, and on Whidbey Island), her full day Master Class presentations, keynote speeches, on-line courses, lecture packets, and newsletter, please visit

Posted in Craft, Margie Lawson | Tagged , , , , | 72 Comments