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Right Writing News, February 29, 2008, Issue #31
February 29, 2008

Welcome to the 31st issue to subscribers of Right Writing News. If you are reading this issue forwarded from someone, be sure and use the link below to get your own free subscription.
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Table of Contents

1) Two Unique Teleseminars
By W. Terry Whalin

2) The Big Grab
By James Scott Bell

3) Publicize Via Social Networks
By Fern Reiss

4) A Window to the Publisher's Thinking
By W. Terry Whalin

5) The Value Of Publishing Experience
By W. Terry Whalin
6) Five Ways to Promote Fiction
By Sandra Beckwith

7) How To Develop an Original Voice
By Laura Backes

Two Unique Teleseminars

By W. Terry Whalin

During next month (March), I have two unique teleseminar opportunities for you.

For Your Marketing Questions

Where do you go when you have marketing questions about the Christian market? It's hard to know where to turn and get a direct, straightforward answer.

If you have one of these questions, I've got the perfect resource for you--but you can't wait around and have to take advantage of it immediately. Next Wednesday, March 5th, I will be grilling Sally E. Stuart with marketing questions from the Christian writer. For the last 23 years, Sally has been compiling and publishing marketing information about the Christian market in the Christian Writers' Market Guide. In the last few weeks, the 2008 edition was released.

I'd encourage you to take your best shot and put in your burning marketing questions at You can either call into the teleseminar and listen on your telephone or you can listen to it on your computer. If you have a conflict and can't make the teleseminar, you are still covered because the teleseminar will be recorded. Everyone who registers for the teleseminar will receive the replay links

Beyond the valuable teleseminar with Sally E. Stuart, I've got an extra special offering for you. Several years ago, Sally wrote an excellent book called Getting Published. I believe this book is no longer in print but it has a terrific marketing chapter. I asked Sally (and she agreed) to give a FREE copy of this chapter to everyone who registers for this teleseminar.

Don't delay but while you are thinking about it, go to and sign up for this teleseminar. On the confirmation page (where you will hear my voice) you can immediately download this marketing chapter. I look forward to talking with you next week during this live teleseminar with Sally Stuart.

For Your Book Proposal Creation Questions

After interviewing Sally Stuart during the first part of March, I'm going to sit in that hot seat and Rosey Dow is going to grill me with your questions about book proposal creation. You can ask your question at: Ask Terry Whalin About Book Proposals. The teleseminar will be on March 26th. If you can't make it or have a conflict, still sign up because it will be recorded and the audio replay will be available to anyone who registers. Plus I'm giving away a full hour audio about book proposal creation to anyone who registers.

In addition, I have a new product about book proposal creation which will launch about the time of this teleseminar. I'm excited about how this new product can help many of you with your book proposal creation. I look forward to your participation on Wednesday, March 26th at: Ask Terry About Book Proposals.

The Big Grab

By James Scott Bell

A great beginning does not guarantee a successful novel. But it certainly knocks down the first major hurdle for busy book browsers. And don't forget your very first readers will be highly selective editors and agents, looking for a reason to reject your project.

So let's take a look at six ways you can pull off the big grab from the very first lines.


A writer by the name of Dean Koontz has enjoyed some literary success. Take a look at some of his openings:

Even before the events in the supermarket, Jim Ironheart should have known that trouble was coming. (Cold Fire)

Penny Dawson woke and heard something moving furtively in the dark bedroom. (Darkfall)

Katharine Sellers was sure that, at any moment, the car would begin to slide along the smooth, icy pavement and she would lose control of it. (Dance With the Devil, written as "Deanna Dwyer")

Tuesday was a fine California day, full of sunshine and promise, until Harry Lyon had to shoot someone at lunch. (Dragon Tears)

In his onyx-walled room in the occupation tower, Hulann --a naoili --had disassociated his overmind from his organic regulating brain. (Beastchild)

What are the successful elements of these openings?

First, they give us a character. By name. This creates the illusion of reality from the get go.

Some writers begin with a pronoun: She heard something moving in her bedroom. That's fine. But what I like about the Koontz approach is that a name gives an extra measure of verisimilitude and makes the willing suspension of disbelief that much easier.

Second, something is happening or is about to happen to the named character. And not just anything--something intriguing.

Note, however, that the intrigue doesn't have to be of the type we normally associate with commercial, plot-driven fiction. It works just as well in a literary novel:

The world outside the window was in flames. The leaves on the pistachio trees shone fire-red and orange. Mattie studied the early morning light. She was lying on the side of the bed where her husband should have been sleeping. (Blue Shoe by Anne Lamott)

Here Lamott starts with description. But she gets a character into the mix in the third sentence. And then she drops in a line indicating something amiss--her husband is not there, where he should have been.

We have a feeling of unease. Mattie is in the midst of a troubling situation and is going to have to do something about it.


Another opening method is to drop a hint of mystery into the proceedings. My novel Breach of Promise begins like this:

We were halfway through Twister, and Helen Hunt was about to run down another relentless force of nature, when I turned to Paula and said, "Please don't do it."

It is my hope that the reader will want to find out what the narrator doesn't want Paula to do. There are several paragraphs to go before the answer is revealed.


James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice begins: They threw me off the hay truck about noon.

We are, as they say, in medias res -- the middle of things. One technique to get you there is, after your first draft is done, making Chapter 2 your first chapter. Almost always, things move faster.

Another form of immediate action is dialogue. If there is an element of conflict in there, so much the better. I chose this for my opening in Final Witness:

"How old are you?"
"Going into your third year?"
"Second in your class?"
"Isn't it true you have a motive to lie?"
"Excuse me?" Rachel Ybarra felt her face start to burn. That question had come from nowhere, like a slap. She sat up a little straighter in the chair.

This cross-examination style plunges us into instant conflict between two characters.

Raw Emotion

The Quiet Game by Greg Iles begins with a father holding his four-year-old daughter in a line at Disney World.

Annie jerks taut in my arms and points into the crowd.
"Daddy! I saw Mama! Hurry!"
I do not look. I don't ask where. I don't because Annie's mother died seven months ago. I stand motionless in the line, looking just like everyone else except for the hot tears that have begun to sting my eyes.

We are immediately bonded to the lead through his deep feeling of a universal emotion.

Look Back Hook

Still another way to capture attention from the start is with the look back hook. Here is how Stephen King does it:

The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years--if it ever did end--began, so far as I can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain. [IT]

The two things Sarah remembered about that night later were his run of luck at the Wheel of Fortune and the mask. But as time passed, years of it, it was the mask she thought about--when she could bring herself to think about that horrible night at all. [The Dead Zone]

The idea is to immediately suggest there is a not-to-be-missed story about to unfold.


When using first person narration, especially in literary fiction, your can capture attention through voice and attitude:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. (The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger)

Grab your readers by judicious use of the above methods. You still have a long way to go to keep them reading, but at least you'll have a good lead out of the gate.
James Scott Bell is is the bestselling author of several thrillers.. His latest novel is Try Dying (Center Street). Catch the book trailer. He's also the author of Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure (Writers Digest Books). Visit his website:

© 2008 James Scott Bell. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

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Publicize Via Social Networks

By Fern Reiss, CEO,

'Social networking' has become the latest buzz phrase - but what is social networking exactly, and why would you want to get involved in it? The answer is that social networks--Facebook, LinkedIn, Ryze, Bebo, MySpace, etc--are fast becoming a phenomenon worth paying attention to, and are potentially poised to usurp many of the publicity and advertising dollars formerly vested in the more traditional media. In today's world, you become known by the talks you give and the articles you write. In tomorrow's world, you'll be known by your online profile. If you're an author, independent publisher, or small business owner, the earlier you jump in and get involved, the more connected you'll be five years from now--and the better your business will be doing. Here's how to get started:

Decide which social network works for you

Ideally, every small business owner should be working all the social networks, but of course, most people barely have enough time for even one. So pick the social network that makes the most sense for you and your business. LinkedIn is currently the most 'professional' network, garnering the business of most of the Fortune 500 company executives. If these people are your audience, that's where you should be. Ryze, while still professional, is a bit more 'chatty' than LinkedIn; it's somewhat easier to make new friends and acquaintances on Ryze, whereas on LinkedIn, you're really cultivating the offline connections you've already made. MySpace is preferable if your market is teens. Bebo is the social network of choice if you're European. And Facebook, which started as a site for college students, is rapidly becoming a world favorite, because it's the most user-friendly and the most 'sticky' to use. (I'm most active on both Facebook and LinkedIn, but I have profiles set up on most of the social networks.)

Create a profile

Many people are using social network sites just to stay in touch with their friends and relatives and have some fun. But if your ultimate purpose is business, then keep that in mind when you create your profile. Include only information that you would want clients, vendors, business partners, and potential clients to discover. Don't share details that are too personal or too revealing (and similarly, on the networks that let others post about you--such as Facebook--don't let friends post photos, videos, or other details about you that you wouldn't want made public.) It might be acceptable when college students on the networks tell each other about their latest hangover or sexual exploit; your clients aren't likely to find it as amusing. On some of the networks, such as Facebook, there's a way to distinguish between true friends (who can see all of your details) and acquaintances (who can see just your business profile), but don't take any chances: Don't post anything you don't want the world to view.

Start "making friends"

The more friends you have on the social networks, the more you can do. So start finding your friends. Most of the sites have functionality that searches your online address book to see which of your friends are on the network, which is by far the easiest way to get started. Once you've found a few friends and colleagues, look through their friends and acquaintances, to find more familiar names and faces. If you're diligent about checking back to see whom your friends have befriended, you can accumulate dozens of friends each day. (Feel free to start off by befriending me on Facebook. If you're not already listed, you'll have to register first.)

Get involved

Once you've made a handful of friends, start getting involved. Each of the networks has 'groups' that you can join to connect with people of similar interests. Dip into a few different groups and see what they're talking about. When you join a conversation, always include your contact details (both on the social network and off-line) so that potential clients and customers can find you if they'd like more information. Try several different groups to see what's out there. Then, when you've checked around, settle on two or three that seem to best match up with your business interests and become 'regulars' on those groups: Participate in conversations, provide information, make helpful comments. (Try out my Writing and Publishing group at On some of the networks, such as LinkedIn, you can also position yourself as an expert by answering questions in your area of expertise, which is definitely worth doing if you have enough time to do it consistently to build up a reputation.

Start your own group

Once you've got the hang of how groups work, start one of your own. Put up the reason for the group and a few posts before you invite anyone to join. Then invite all your friends. Remember when you create the group to set the group profile to open/global so that other people can join. You can also send a message to everyone in the group at once asking them all to invite friends and colleagues. Once you have a critical mass of people on the group, start mentioning the group in other places: In posts to listserves, in your email signature, on your website, etc.

There are a myriad of other creative things you can do on social networks too, but these tips are a great way to get started. Happy networking!

Fern Reiss is CEO of ( and ( and the author of the books, The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days, The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days, and The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days as well as several other award-winning books. She also runs The Expertizingģ Publicity Forum where you can pitch your book or business directly to journalists; more information at Sign up for her complimentary newsletter at And definitely sign up for her Facebook Writing and Publishing group at

A Window to the Publisher's Thinking

By W. Terry Whalin

Book publishing is subjective. One publisher or editor will love a concept and book project or manuscript and build the consensus inside the publishing house so that title appears in print. Hopefully this same editor will rally the publicity and marketing and sales area so the public learns of this book and the buzz begins to transpire.

It's not often that the average writer can get much insight into the current mindset of these publishers. Where are they headed? What trends do they see in the marketplace? What are their concerns or worries about the future of book publishing? While these are good questions, I wanted to point to a place where I got a bit of insight to the answers. Also I wanted to point to how I got this information in hopes it will help you see where you too can follow this type of information. I subscribed to Christian E-Tailing (a free twice a week newsletter). A recent newsletter included a release from the Christian Trade Association about their January meeting in Toronto, Ontario. According to the release, they did not record audios of the presentations. Yet they are providing downloads of the publisher's papers. I was intrigued with this quote: "Our prayer is that by offering these papers for free they will be a significant resource for the many that can benefit from them," CTAI President Jim Powell said. The free papers cover several topics, including "Christian Publishing International Initiatives," "The Future of Christian Publishing," "Developing Authors," "Opening a Christian Bookstore," "Christian Trade and the Global South" and "Christian Publishing Trends From the Perspective of a Developing World Publisher."

I'm always interested to read anything about trends in the marketplace and gain a window into their thinking. You may look at the page and wonder what I read. These two papers in particular were fascinating to me: The Future of Christian Publishing with contributions from Greg Thornton, Director, Moody Publishers (USA), Tessie DeVore, Executive Vice President, Book Group, Strang Communications (USA), Chris Johnsen, President, Christian Art (South Africa), and Bob Hawkins, Jr., President, Harvest House Publishers Developing Authors with contributions from Scott Bolinder, Executive Vice President and Publisher, Zondervan (USA), Phoebe Mugo, General Manager, Uzimo Publishers (Kenya), and Mark Taylor, President, Tyndale House Publishers (USA)

Included in these papers is that these leaders within their publishing houses rarely communicate with the public. If you download and study this material, it will help give you a realistic perspective about their viewpoint. Why do you care as a writer or book author? As an author you need to consider and write to your readers. Yet to be able to reach that audience, you need to connect with the gatekeepers of the publishing houses and tap their needs and/or calm their concerns and fears. You get some hints in this material.

Before you head over there and download this material, it needs a bit of a warning. You "could" find it discouraging. There are many places where you could grow concerned as an author. I'll give one example--out of context--from Tessie DeVore who leads the book group at Strang, "Christian publishers will find it even harder to start up new authors...This means "riskier" titles by newer authors will not be adequately featured..." Don't allow your self talk to say something like "Well, that does it for my book idea. It's over." It's not. One of the keys is your own attitude.

I love what Cynthia Kersey at Unstoppable wrote about this area. "How you deal with challenges will determine whether you achieve your goal or give up and settle for less than you deserve. If we really want to create different results in our lives, we must become aware of how we interpret the "facts" or "events" of our lives and understand that our explanations often do not represent the "truth" of what's possible for us.

In a very real sense, facts are an objective account of the event that occurred. No interpretation or meaning is attached. For example: "I was rejected by a potential investor for my project," "My husband left me," "I lost my job," "I was diagnosed with an illness," "I can't get pregnant."

Truth represents what's possible in any situation. "Each rejection brings me one step closer to an investor for my project," "I will find a new, better relationship," "I can find a better and more fulfilling career," "My health will improve," "I can adopt," and so on.

Many people believe that events control their lives and that their circumstances have shaped who they are today. It's not true. It's not the events of our lives that shape us, but how we respond to those events, what we think they mean, and whether challenges trigger the "giving up" reflex in us or motivate us to hang tough and keep fighting." I can't recommend strongly enough to go over to Cynthia's site and sign up for her Unstoppable Insights.

Notice what Scott Bolinder, EVP and Publisher at Zondervan says in his paper about Developing Authors At Home, "Publishing is a very relational enterprise and you have to cultivate lots of relationships in order to acquire content." Later he writes, "Keeping strong authors is often more challenging than acquiring them, so it must be treated with the utmost importance. Number one factor in caring for one another-- effective communication! Nothing will discourage an author more than a breakdown in communication with their publisher." Finally Scott writes, "Authors and readers are the lifeblood of publishing."

Ever wonder what publishers think about authors moving from publisher to publisher and the whole concept of "stealing" authors? Check out what Mark Taylor, President of Tyndale House Publishers says about this topic in his excellent paper on Author Development. I found it fascinating.

You will see there are many concerns that publishers have about the future of book publishing and their own role. I didn't mention anything about digital rights and Print On Demand (POD) and many other interesting things woven into these papers.

As a writer, it will be key for you to write your own passion--yet write it in such a way that it will reach into the heart and demand a "gotta-have-this-one" response from the gatekeepers within the publishing community. Then they will give you that opportunity to reach your readers.

The Value Of Publishing Experience

By W. Terry Whalin

Where can a writer turn for good advice? It's hard in the world of competing voices to find someone with a great deal of publishing experience to recommend to others. Often I see it in the writer's conferences. Someone has published one book or even five books and suddenly they become an "expert" and are teaching at various conferences yet they've just burst on the scene. I've attended some of those workshops and words like surface and shallow spring instantly to mind. It's one of the criteria that I use when I go and listen to someone else teach about publishing. I'm looking at their credentials and experience because I know firsthand the lessons from publishing are continual.

In the nonfiction area of book publishing, it is a challenge to find fresh teaching. Why nonfiction? As I've written about in the past, if you study the numbers of books sold from traditional publishers, nonfiction substantially out sells fiction hands down--year after year. I've watched many writers gravitate toward fiction because they believe it's "easier." Basically they are fooling themselves with this line of reasoning because fiction is not easier. Overall there are less fiction slots than nonfiction and many more people trying to write fiction than nonfiction. If you choose to write only fiction, then you are intentionally targeting the most crowded area of the marketplace within traditional publishing. That's my case for nonfiction in books so back to my original question, where do you turn for some seasoned advice?

The publishing marketplace is diverse and no single individual has all of the answers or insight. Yet I've read a terrific resource, You Can Write! by Sheryl Fullerton & Naomi Lucks. Several years ago I met Sheryl, executive editor at Jossey-Bass, at a writer's conference. You can see more details in the "About Us" section of their website You Can Write. Look around this site because it's another resource to know about and study.

You Can Write is loaded with sound wisdom and I want to give a small example. In Chapter 13, Fullerton and Lucks give the Nuts and Bolts of Book Proposal Format and Style. A sub-section is called "Take a Good Last Look" and they suggest hiring a professional editor before you send out your proposal and sample chapters. Then say, "If you can't afford to or don't want to hire a professional editor, go over the whole thing very carefully yourself. Ask a couple of intelligent friends to do the same and invite their candid comments (and sharp-eyed proofreading skills). Here are a few things to watch out for:

-Look for obvious mistakes--we all make them. Missing words, typos, and other common errors are easy to miss when you're familiar with your proposal.
-Use your computer's spell-checker, but don't count on it. Your spell-checker doesn't know if you meant "there," "they're," or "their," but you do."
Then they include three more valuable insights but you get the point. This book is loaded with insight and the voice of experience. It is well worth your time to read and study it.

Five Ways to Promote Fiction

By Sandra Beckwith

There's no question that it's harder to promote fiction than nonfiction so it's time we devoted some space to the unique needs of novelists. I see the fiction writers in my "Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz" class struggle more than the nonfiction writers to identify opportunities to get their book titles in the news. In addition, my friend Rhonda Penders, a romance novel publisher (, tells me that it's one of the biggest issues for her authors.

Let's look, then, at some specific things novelists can do to maximize the publicity potential of their books. Since many of Rhonda's authors subscribe to this newsletter, we'll use examples from the romance genre.

1. Tap into what you learned while writing your novel.

What research did you complete to make your characters or setting come to life? Did you learn a lot about colonial America or a specific profession while writing the book? Use this new knowledge as a springboard for that free media exposure known as publicity. For example, the author of an historical romance novel set in New York's Hudson River Valley can write and distribute a tip sheet on the top romantic and historical attractions in that region or pitch a local newspaper or regional magazine on a story about the area's most romantic date destinations (the story would use the author as an expert source - the book is the credential for this expert status).

2. Find the nonfiction nuggets in your manuscript and use them to create newsworthy material for relevant media outlets.

Is your heroine a jilted wife starting over in the workforce as - let's say - an account executive at a high-flying packaging design firm who finds love with her client, a studly executive at a consumer products company? You've got publicity opportunities with the packaging and marketing trade magazines. Is she a radio jock? The female morning drive time personalities would love to interview you by phone.

What about locations, products or services in your novel? For example, a story set in a national park or a convenience store gives you news pegs for exposure in the relevant trade magazines. A character's obsession with a little known beverage brand could get your book into that company's employee newsletter, too.

If you're writing your novel now, work in some nonfiction nuggets you can capitalize on later.

3. Market to "warm."

"Warm" in this case refers to those people who are most likely to buy your book. They are the people your book will resonate with the most. Is your heroine a nurse? Start by targeting regional and national nursing trade magazines. Is your story set in a real location? The people there will be interested in knowing more about your novel. Do you have a blog with a strong following? Tell them first when your book is available for purchase - they know and like you already and will want to support you (and might even help you spread the word).

4. Think globally but connect locally.

Make friends with your local booksellers by offering to do interactive book signings - do a presentation about the book-writing process rather than a straight book signing. In your presentation, explain some of your challenges and how you overcame them. Share a few research secrets. Tell bookstore audiences about the nuts and bolts of your book - how you named your characters or selected the story's location. Your bookseller will appreciate the influx of people for your appearance and might end up recommending your book to others.

Talk to local groups at their regular meetings, too, about what you learned while writing your book. Address some of the behind-the-scenes processes. Because most everyone thinks that they, too, could write a book - if only they didn't have that full-time job that takes all their time or that new baby who doesn't nap or could find a space in the apartment to make it happen - they will welcome a chance to hear about how you overcame similar obstacles to bring your story to print.

When considering which groups to offer your speaking services to, put a priority on those "warm" audiences - using the examples above, that might be nurses, packaging designers, or radio personalities. Let your stories get them thinking about their own workplace romance tales. That will lead them straight to your book table.

5. Learn from the masters.

Who are the gurus in your category? What did they do early in their careers to spread the word about their books? What are they doing now that's innovative, interesting, successful, attention-getting? When it comes to marketing and promotion, there's really no such thing as a "new idea" anymore - so take an old idea, put your spin on it, and see where it takes you.

****************************************************** Sandra Beckwith is an author and recovering publicist who now offers do-it-yourself courses and materials desigined to help authors create their own exciting book buzz. Subscribe to her free book publicity e-zine at and receive a free special report, "Beyond the Press Release: 10 Exciting Book Buzz Ideas That Will Take You to the Top." Visit her blog at

How To Develop an Original Voice

By Laura Backes

A story without a strong voice does not come alive for the reader, does not touch the readerís imagination. Thatís because the author isnít present in the story. This is tricky, because one of our goals as children's authors is to remain invisible. We want our readers to become so immersed in our stories that they forget an adult is behind the words. We donít want them to ever break that suspension of disbelief and realize that a person other than the main character created this tale. And yet if we remove ourselves entirely from the book it has no soul. So your author's "voice" is really that part of you thatís timeless, that reaches back across the generations and connects with the reader on his or her level. That part of you that says "I know what youíre feeling," and says it in a way that only you can.

Voice is the simplest writing technique to learn, because itís already in you. But itís the hardest to achieve, because it involves trusting yourself. It means learning what goes into a childrenís book and then forgetting it, or rather placing all those "rules" into your subconscious and allowing yourself to write. And learning to write without that annoying internal editor who says, "Youíre doing this wrong."

All stories start with an idea. We read something in the newspaper, we have a dream, we recall a vivid childhood experience. And in that moment, that first exciting spark where anything is possible, we think, "This would make a great book."

Then we start plotting out the story in our heads. And we begin to worry about the characters and the dialogue, when the climax of the plot will take place, how it will end. I suggest that in that first moment of inspiration you stop and ask yourself "Why do I need to write this story?" Forget about your audience. Be selfish. Whatís in it for you? You might try brainstorming on paper, freewriting where you jot down anything and everything that comes to mind. Leave that pesky editor in another room. You need to find a reason for creating this story that speaks to your writerís heart, in order to speak to your readerís heart.

Another way of looking at this is to ask yourself, "When I was five, did I need this book?" Try to answer this question from your five-year-old consciousness, which still lives inside you, rather than from your current adult perspective. If the answer is no (you wouldnít have sat still for this story) then youíre writing it for the wrong reasons. Discovering why you need to write this story -- and this applies equally to fiction and nonfiction -- leads you to that passion editors talk about. If youíre writing the story or article because something inside of you needs to hear it told, then youíre writing from your heart.

However, you still need to develop a technique that translates this passion from your imagination to words on paper. And a big part of the key to developing this technique is time. With a lot of practice, your voice will emerge, if you let it. This involves spending many hours just writing, without the pressure of creating a manuscript that you intend to submit to a publisher. Donít feel every time you put pen to paper it has to result in something that youíre actually going to show to anyone else. Instead of dictating where your writing will go, allow yourself to be surprised. Write about whateverís on your mind at that moment, describe what you see through your window, follow a memory and see where it goes. This process of stretching your writing muscles with no pressure to actually create something substantial allows you to relax, and eventually your voice will emerge.

I suggest you keep these "creative stretches" and, after youíve accumulated a file, take them out and look at them all together. Seen as a group, certain things should pop out at you. If youíve really allowed yourself to write freely during these exercises without editing yourself, youíll begin to see how your writing illustrates the way you look at the world. This viewpoint, your authorís viewpoint, will be original. And while I believe that there are no original themes, there are an infinite number of original stories, or ways of examining those themes.

If you read award-winning children's books you'll notice that the prose seems effortless. This is the result of a strong voice, though itís deceiving because it takes many revisions to achieve. However, if your writing sounds forced, your voice wonít ring true. This forced tone happens when authors try too hard to sound like a writer. I think the best voices happen when authors write as they speak. We've all had the experience of a story sounding great in our heads, but then losing something when it's translated to paper. Thatís because in your head youíre telling the story to yourself in your speaking voice, and when you write it down suddenly youíre trying to sound like a writer. You search through the thesaurus for the perfect word, a word youíd never use in normal conversation. And suddenly in that process of writing down whatís in your head, youíve lost your voice. And youíve adapted the voice of someone else, or the voice you think your writing should have. So next time you write, try writing exactly whatís in your head.

If you type, try typing your writing exercise with your eyes closed, so you canít see , and edit, what you've written. Closing your eyes also helps you focus inward where the story is being created. Then all youíll have to go by is how the words sound and feel in your head, and thatís the closest thing to your true voice.

______________________________________________________________ About the Author: Laura Backes is the publisher of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers. For more information about writing children's books, including free articles, market tips, insider secrets and much more, visit Children's Book Insider's home on the web at

Copyright 2008, Children's Book Insider, LLC.
Reprinted with permission.

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