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Right Writing News, January 3, 2005, Issue #015
January 03, 2005

Welcome to the fifteenth issue and a new year for this publication. It highlights a best-selling author's writing life, numerous writing articles and some new links to check. This publication appears monthly. If you are reading this issue forwarded from someone, be sure and use the link below to get your own free subscription.
If you like what you see here, please forward this copy and use this link to subscribe.

Table of Contents

1) An Entrance to the World Through Books--Lee Roddy By W. Terry Whalin

2) Something New for 2005

3) Storytelling - How Much Is Enough? By Thomas B. Sawyer

4) How I Broke Into The CBA Market By Nancy C. Anderson

5) Beating Procrastination As A Writer By Dennis E. Hensley, Ph.D.

6) Personal Experiences: A Good Place to Begin By Cecil ("Cec") Murphey

7) Crafting An Article Step by Step By Laura Backes

8) Writing A Book, Writing A Proposal

9) Organize Your time and Space In Two Minutes Or Less By Karen O'Connor

10) Still Time For This Writing Opportunity

11) Finding New Niches for Your Writing By Robert Bittner

12) New Links to Check

An Entrance to the World Through Books--Lee Roddy

By W. Terry Whalin

At age thirteen, Lee Roddy stepped into a larger world. The key was a permission slip. Since books were rarely available in his home, Roddy could barely wait to receive permission to use the school library. This seventh grade honor gave access to the classics of literature, but usually Lee chose books of fast-moving adventure from the pens of Jack London and others.

Those stories became the mainspring for the gripping books Roddy has written primarily for 8 to 12 year old readers. The best place to find Lee’s books is at his personal website:

The oldest of ten children, Roddy grew up during the Great Depression and struggled for survival with just enough food on the table. His mother taught him to read at an early age.

Physically handicapped until age ten, his left leg was five inches shorter than the right. Until surgically corrected, Roddy wore a cork heel on his shoe. "I spent a lot of time in bed, rather than running and jumping with the other kids," Roddy says. Dime novels, westerns and anything else in print he devoured until the seventh grade library card opened broad access to books.

That same year, Lee tried writing a short story for the kids section of the Oakland California Tribune. "If they published your stuff, they gave you a pen and pencil set," Roddy recalls. When they published Roddy's story, he earned the only fountain pen and mechanical pencil in his entire household. It began his long career in published writing.

At 22, the central California boy headed toward the bright lights of Hollywood, determined to write scripts for the movies. Quickly he learned that screen writing positions were difficult to find and he began as a page boy at the NBC Hollywood studio.

Given a chance as a staff writer, Lee wrote short stories, radio dramas and scripts. For a while, he edited a small town newspaper but publishing books eluded Roddy. For 38 years, he wrote eleven books that were constantly rejected.

Despite rejection, he continued in various roles within the communications field. As a teen, Roddy had committed his life to Christ but during college and later years, he drifted. Then in 1972, Roddy recommitted his life to Christ. "Lord," he asked, "what do you want me to do with the rest of my life?"

No clanging cymbals or loud revelations boomed from heaven. "I heard a small, quiet voice," Roddy said, "saying write, travel, and lecture." The message seemed outlandish. None of his books were published. He had never given a lecture and his travels were limited to the U.S.

Today writing, traveling and lecturing are growing parts of Lee's career. In 1974, Roddy sold the Robert E. Lee and the Sower series, which remains popular today. His career mushroomed. In 1990, he completed his 50th book. Schools and other institutions keep Roddy busy traveling and giving lectures.

Roddy's first four books in the D.J. Dillon series won an Angel award for quality and excellence in moral literature in 1984. Roddy primarily writes for the 8 to 12 year old age group. He starts work at 6 a.m. and begins pounding on his computer. By the time he takes his short lunch break, the pages have been spinning--but his head isn't. Not yet. He doesn't quit until 5 p.m. From the initial idea to the final sentence, each book takes about 90 days.

"My books are about ordinary people with trust in God," Roddy explains. "Their faith is as much a part of them as eating or sleeping." Face to face with strangers and dangers, the characters grow and change.

Roddy's books appeal not only to young readers but also the parents. "After a while, the parents realize that a Lee Roddy book is a book you can trust," Lee said.

Lee has also written several adult length novels in the historical fiction genre. A popular speaker and lecturer at writer's conferences, colleges and schools, Roddy has finally captured some of his knowledge about storytelling in a short book called, How to Write A Story, An Instructional Guide for Understanding and Teaching Basic Story Writing. You can order this book from Lee's website.

Despite his numerous awards and published books, Roddy hasn't arrived. His commitment to work at his craft and grow serves as an inspirational example to follow. If interested in writing 8-12 year old books, Roddy encourages writers to purchase his books, tear them apart and study the form. It's a worthwhile suggestion to consider from such a master at the craft. Take your favorite author and do more than read the book, study the techniques and learn from the experience. It's certainly worked for Roddy.

W. Terry Whalin understands both sides of the editorial desk--as an editor and a writer. He worked as a magazine editor for Decision and In Other Words. His magazine articles have appeared in more than 50 publications including Writer's Digest and Christianity Today. Terry has written more than 60 nonfiction books and his latest is The Complete Idiot's Guide to Teaching the Bible (Alpha Books). See more about his writing at For more than 12 years Terry has been an ECPA Gold Medallion judge in the fiction category. He has written extensively about Christian fiction and reviewed numerous fiction books in publications such as CBA Marketplace and BookPage. He is the Fiction Acquisitions Editor for Howard Publishing. Terry and his wife, Christine, live in Scottsdale, Arizona.

© 2005 W. Terry Whalin

Something New for 2005

By W. Terry Whalin

OK. I'll admit that I'm a little behind on this one but I'm rapidly catching up. Merriam-Webster Online called the number one word looked up online in 2004: Blog. Thanks to some of my writer friends for helping me learn about blogging. It's going to be a regular part of my writing life at least for the near future. You can learn more if you click this image:

The Writing Life

or you can go to:

If you use Yahoo, you can add my blog to your news feed with the click of this button. Simply open your yahoo in a browser, then click on this button to add my blog. Then you can spot at a glance whenever I add new material and read it.

STORYTELLING – How Much is Enough?

By Thomas B. Sawyer

Knowing What to Include – and What to Leave Out

As with reducing dialogue to its essentials, occasionally there are whole scenes we can leave out of our stories. What are some of the criteria? Is the scene essential – a step that the audience must witness? A description, say, of a character doing nothing more than exiting a room, moving down a corridor and into another room – which you may have written because it's easier than figuring out an alternative transition? Another yardstick: is it a moment that, if omitted, will leave your readers confused? Which, by the way, is not always a bad thing. It's the level and frequency that can cause problems. It is a long way from momentarily (for dramatic purposes) disorienting your audience – to baffling them about what you're trying to say, and having them wonder why they're bothering. Continuing with the criteria: is the scene or incident sufficiently interesting, entertaining enough to survive the cut? Does it add to or detract from the narrative pace, from the progress of your tale?

Sometimes, the omission of a particular scene can cause a subsequent moment to become more effective. An example: While I was Story Editor on yet another (mercifully) short-lived action-adventure show, I had turned in a script in which the show's teenage protagonist comes home with his pals, gives his mother a perfunctory hello as he and the others dash upstairs. The kids enter the young hero's bedroom/lair/hangout – and are startled to find the bad guy waiting for them, a dangerous convict whose prison escape they'd earlier, unknowingly abetted by playing a video game with him on the web.

I did not include the scene in which the convict entered the house and managed to enter the kid's room because as a storyteller I knew the sudden reveal I had written would also be startling for the viewers – superior in this case to setting them up to anticipate the kids' reactions. It was an easy choice for me – a no-brainer. And yet, when the show's Executive Producer finished reading my script, he asked me how the convict had gotten into the house in the first place. I looked at him in disbelief: "Who cares?" He told me that he did, that he wanted me to write that scene, include it in the script.

Now, this was not my first inkling – in the three-or-four weeks I'd been on the show – that as writers – or for that matter, as human beings – he and I were probably never going to find ourselves on the same page. But it was the one that tied it for me. With as much diplomacy as I could muster, I pointed out that the convict could have gotten there by several methods: He could have rung the doorbell and given the mother some kind of phony story – or he could have sneaked in without her knowledge – or broken into the house when nobody was home. I explained that after weighing those unentertaining, mundane, all-too-predictable options against the value of surprising both our hero and the audience (which, I figured, wouldn't have given a damn how the convict got in – anyway), I had chosen to write it the way I did. The Executive Producer, however, was adamant – he wanted that scene. I refused. I would not write it, would not waste screen time on such a scene, adding that if he wanted it badly enough he would have to write it himself – and in the bargain remove my name from the script (lest anyone might think I would write that badly). Further (and obviously at that point superfluously), I offered that things were clearly not working out for us, and that I was quitting the show.

When the episode finally aired, it was as I had written it.


In simple, backstory is anything that your characters experienced, or that happened in your plot, before the first page of your tale. Mostly, it's important that you, the writer, know the backstory. But sometimes for clarity, context, dramatic purposes, or other reasons, it's necessary to include backstory in the piece you're writing. The danger is in how you write it. Because done badly it can slow or stop the momentum of your story. Or, it can confuse your audience.

In TV and film, backstory is something we try to minimize, or ideally, avoid – the use of flashbacks having fallen into largely-deserved disfavor – a stylistic gag that proved tedious and worse yet, sometimes made it difficult for audiences to follow. That's a good guideline for narrative writing as well.

All right. But the story you're writing requires some history. Below are several approaches for handling backstory.

A timeworn, somewhat dated, but nonetheless effective method is via a preferably brief prologue or foreword. Not necessarily the most artful tactic, it can do the job.

Another way is to gradually lay it in as exposition after you've put your present-day story in motion – employing narrative voice or by sprinkling it into your characters' dialogue. In the latter case, sprinkling is the important word. As with character-exposition, don't worry about being elliptical, even cryptic, as you drop in hints of your backstory. It's not necessary to put it all into a single speech. As long as it ultimately comes together for the reader.

In my own scriptwriting experience, on those occasions when I was stuck with backstory, where it was necessary to show past events, I tried to limit them to the visual (a car crash, a fire, theft or violent act), rather than play them as dialogue scenes. And usually I tried to place them, prologue-style, at the top of the show, often with a caption indicating the date or time the event was taking place. Not, as mentioned, a bad way to deal with the problem when writing prose.

Still another, rather extreme backstory device is the one described on page 108, used – but not invented by – Susan Isaacs in her novel, Lily White, which I emulated in my own novel, The Sixteenth Man – wherein the entire narrative jumps back-and-forth in time through alternating chapters. But in both of those cases the backstory was every bit as important as the main story.

Usually, however – as with so much of good writing – backstory should be limited by the old less-is-more doctrine.

Excerpted from Fiction Writing Demystified: Techniques That Will Make You a More Successful Writer All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.


Novelist, screenwriter, playwright Thomas B. Sawyer was Head Writer/Producer-Showrunner of the hit series, Murder, She Wrote, for which he wrote 24 episodes. Tom has written 9 network TV pilots, 100 episodes, and has been Writer/Showrunner or Story Editor on 15 network series. He wrote, directed & produced the cult film comedy, Alice Goodbody, is co-librettist/lyricist of Jack, an opera about John F. Kennedy that has been performed to acclaim in the US and Europe. He is co-creator of Storybase software. The bestselling mystery/thriller, The Sixteenth Man, is his first novel. Both his latest book, Fiction Writing Demystified: Techniques That Will Make You a More Successful Writer, and Storybase are Writer's Digest Book Club Selections. His next thriller, No Place To Run, will be published in 2005. Mr. Sawyer has been nominated for an Edgar and an Emmy. Tom, his wife Holly, and cats live in Malibu, California. You can learn more at his website: or his site for writers:

How I Broke Into The CBA Market

By Nancy C. Anderson

If you would like to gain access and insight into the world of CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) publishing, I'd like to share an insider's secret with you.

I was a newbie to the big (and sometime scary) world of CBA, but I was determined to get my manuscript in front of major publishers. I said a prayer, took a deep breath, and attended Marita Littauer's CLASS Career Coaching Conference (CCCC) at CBA Expo in 2002.

To my delight, I found Career Coaching was enlightening, informative and inspirational. I met many other writers who were kindred spirits and we have since collaborated on dozens of projects. The biggest advantage was meeting with editors from major Christian book and magazine publishers. Each one told us what they were looking for and how to write for their specific needs. I was amazed at their approachability and kindness as I met with several editors and gave them a short, three-minute synopsis of my book idea. One of them, Dave Hill from Kregel Publications, eventually, bought it!

Along with the class-room experience, CCCC also provides their attendees with access to the closed-to-the public CBA convention exhibit floor. This unique opportunity provided a rare glimpse of editors, publishers and agents in their "natural habitat." The primary purpose of the exhibit is to sell books to bookstores. It's a preview of the newest trends in Christian publishing and provides opportunities to meet many famous authors and recording artists.

CLASS Career Coaching Conference broke down the complex process of writing for the CBA market into simple, doable steps. The Conference this year is in Nashville (Jan 31-Feb 3, 2005) and if you'd like more information, go to I'll see you there!

Nancy C Anderson is the author of Avoiding the 'Greener Grass' Syndrome-How to Grow Affair-Proof Hedges Around Your Marriage (Kregel-December 12/04) You can learn more at her website:

Beating Procrastination as a Writer

By Dennis E. Hensley, Ph.D.

Do you sometimes find it hard to get started on your current writing project? Yeah, me too. Let me suggest that you try a gimmick I use: Rewrite your favorite advertising slogan as a personal motivator. Check out these examples.

"Just write it." (Thank you, Nike.) Manuscripts won't write themselves. You know that. So, go cold turkey. Force yourself, whether ready or not, to sit down and start producing words. Even mediocre writing that will need to be edited and revised later is better than no writing. Get busy!

"Writing is our business; our only business." (Thank you, Gerber's.) Hey, this writing gig – it's what you do. You don't sculpt granite or paint murals or assemble mosaics. You write. So, quit stalling and get down to business.

"Can you write me now?" (Thank you, Verizon.) Will waiting another two hours get you closer to a byline and royalty check? Nope. The cliché is still correct: there's no time like the present. Write on, bro'.

"You deserve a byline today." (Thank you, McDonald's.) Have you devoted years to mastering the craft of writing and to perfecting your skills? Yes! Have you persevered through rejection slips and form letters? Yes! Have you paid enough dues so that it is now time to see your name in print? Yes! Okay, then, go reel in that next byline!

"When you care enough to write the very best." (Thank you, Hallmark.) Do you enjoy having people send you letters and emails and cards saying that what you have written has changed their lives in some positive way? Sure, of course, you do. Who wouldn't feel validated by that? Well, you received that praise because you did intensive research, produced quality writing, and targeted the most appropriate markets. That level of work shows respect and concern for your readers. It also reminds you of why you're in this profession. It's more than the money. It's a chance to touch people and enrich their lives. As such, it would be wrong not to stay at it. Go ahead and write something today that will make the world a better place tomorrow.

"Good to the last period." (Thank you, Maxwell House.) Pre-think what you intend to write today. Before booting up the computer or grabbing up that ink pen, take a moment just to sit and mentally "see" your completed manuscript. Envision your title…your byline…your enticing lead paragraph…your insightful examples and witty anecdotes…your snapping ending. Ah, ha! Yes, that is something worth getting down on paper. I agree. Go ahead.

"Take a lickin' and keeps on submittin'!" (Thank you, Timex.) If fear of failure makes you hesitate to start your new writing project, don't think of it in terms of a roll of the dice. Writing a first draft is not a "winner take all" situation. Odds are, you, personally, will "reject" your first drafts. Who cares? Most writing winds up being re-writing anyway. Knock something out. Let it sit. Go back to it. Tweak it, massage it, trim it, style it. Send it out. If it comes back a time or two, update it and give it a facelift. Send it out again. Persistence will pay off. Your writing will sell. (To quote another ad slogan, "No fear!")

"Don't leave home without writing something." (Thank you, American Express.) If you were to roll a small snowball down a drift-laden mountain, it would eventually become an avalanche. Write even one page a day and you'll wind up with a 365-page book at the end of the year. When it comes to writing, this is no such thing as insignificant progress. Some is better than none. Sit down and write a sentence, maybe a paragraph, perhaps even a solo page. Don't be so worried about output or volume that you waste today's writing time. (Remember what Brylcreme used to say: "A little dab will do ya.")

"You're grrrrrreat!" (Thanks, Kellogg's Frosted Flakes.) Need a confidence booster? Pull out some of your previously published articles. Read a few paragraphs of each one. Not bad, eh? Dog-gone good, actually. Well, if you did it then, you can do it now. In fact, today you have more experience as a writer than you had back then. If you were good then, today you're incredible. Go get 'em, Tiger!

Now it's your turn. Be your own sponsor. Write an ad for your most important client-- you!

Dr. Dennis E. Hensley is director of the professional writing major at Taylor University Fort Wayne (IN). He is the co-author of the Leslie Holden mystery-romance novel series released by Harvest House and also the author of such writing books as How to Write What You Love and Make a Living at It (Random House) and Alpha Teach Yourself Grammar and Style in 24 Hours (Macmillan).

Personal Experiences: A Good Place to Begin

By Cecil Murphey

We're ready to write an article, but where do we begin? Three types of articles seem easier to sell than others, especially for beginners. They are personal experience (PE), devotionals, and how-to articles. In my biased opinion, I think writers need to master all three before they start with books.

PE articles are true stories about something that happened to us (or occasionally to someone else, but we were involved).

Why Write PE?

I can immediately suggest four reasons.

1. It's a natural place to begin. An experience is something we know and feel and we've learned something from it.

2. We use our life experience as the raw data.

3. The story doesn't involve research (unless we need to check a few facts).

4. If we're in touch with ourselves, we can write PE because we have felt the moment and we aren't the same people we were before the event. It has changed us in some way.

Qualities to Include in PE.

Here are the qualities we need to include in every PE.

1. A unique story. That part is simple. We tell what happened to us—an incident that made a significant impact on our lives. It can be an answer to prayer, a failure in our job, going through a divorce, or the death of a child. It may involve a moral issue, an ethical lesson, or the discovery of a religious truth. We can tell how a Bible verse has slammed into our lives.

PE accounts don't have to hit 10 on the Richter scale. They can involve everyday things such as frustration over traffic jams or problems we face with a dishwater. It's not the event itself, but the effect the incident had on us that makes it unique.

For example, HomeLife magazine asked me to write a PE piece about forgiveness. I told the story of being criticized and gossiped about by another missionary in Africa. That's a unique setting; not many people are missionaries.

2. Universal appeal. As we tell the story, we show that our experience has universal appeal—that is, that the lessons we learned can apply to others. In my HomeLife article, the universal appeal was that we all struggle with issues of being hurt by others—especially when we feel we're innocent. It took me a long time to want to forgive the man and even longer to admit that I might have had some culpability in the situation.

As I told my own story, I showed readers how Cec Murphey learned to forgive someone who had hurt him. I could have said, "I learned four principles from this experience." Instead, I chose to show the four things (not numbered) by relating my progress from wanting to forgive to being free. Either method can work as long as we help readers gain from what we've been through.

3. So what? That leads to the final ingredient for PE accounts. It's not enough to have a good experience, but we have to answer the implied question, So what? How does my experience help others? What meaning does the story hold for readers?

I concluded my article by sharing that years after I had forgiven the man, we met unexpectedly in the United States. When I stared into his blue eyes, I knew I had forgiven him and that I cared about him. We warmly hugged each other. By describing our meeting, I showed readers the ultimate effect of my experience.

Other Factors in PE.

In personal experience, the story itself becomes the vehicle to relate the message to readers. We are usually the main character or at least the person who changes. The best PE articles invite readers to identify with our experience and apply the message to themselves.

If we're going to write PE, everything hinges on our vulnerability or our transparency. The editors at Guideposts say they like stories about stumblebums. They don't want great stories of success that go beyond the average readers. That doesn't mean it's the place to confess our sins, but we show that even the most thickheaded stumblebum (ourselves) can gain insight.

After the insight, we don't become perfect; we always remain human. Years ago, I wrote a PE piece about dealing with my anger. I concluded, "I still struggle with losing my temper, but I'm growing…"

Question We Need to Answer in PE.

• What was an insightful moment? It doesn't have to be life changing, but it must be significant.

• How can I show this experience to readers?

• What did I learn from this experience?

• What can I teach others from my experience?

Helpful Things to Remember.

1. We need to show our emotions as well as our actions. Readers want to identify with us and feel they are experiencing our pain.

2. We use dialogue. No one expects the words to be literal, but we stay as close to the truth as we can. Dialogue makes stories come alive.

3. We don't preach. This isn't a time to lecture; it is a time to share. If we keep everything "I" centered, readers grasp the message through our experience.

4. The lesson or the moral of the story comes out of experience. "This is what I learned."

Where Do We Sell PE Articles? I urge writers to buy a copy of Sally Stuart's annual Christian Writers' Market Guide (Shaw). She lists all the Christian magazines that buy PE stories. That's an excellent place to start.
Cecil "Cec" Murphey received two rejections this past month. Despite hundreds of rejections, he has written, co-written, or ghostwritten more than 90 books, both fiction and nonfiction. His Gifted Hands, the autobiography of Dr. Ben Carson, has now sold nearly two million copies since its publication in 1990. He ghosted Franklin Graham's autobiography, Rebel With a Cause, which won an ECPA Gold Medallion. Reader's Digest magazine condensed I Choose to Stay: A Black Teacher Refuses to Desert the Inner City (Kensington) and Disney has optioned it for film as"The Mighty Bishops." Kinetic Pictures has optioned 90 Minutes in Heaven, written for Don Piper(Revell). His recent books include When Someone You Love Has Alzheimer's (Beacon Hill) and Committed but Flawed: Finding New Ways to Grow Spiritually (AMG). You can learn more about Cec at his website located at:
© 2005 Cecil Murphey. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

Crafting an Article Step-by-Step

By Laura Backes, Children's Book Insider

Writing articles for children's magazines can be a challenging and rewarding path to publication. But the steps an author takes in creating and selling an article are different than the process for writing fiction. Here's a checklist to help you out:

* Start with research. Once you've decided on your topic, do your research. This will show you if you have enough information for an article, and if you're able to uncover any unusual sources. Go beyond general source material and search out experts you might be able to interview, dig up old diaries or newspapers, or read publications by scientists in the field. 

* Spend a day at the library reading children's magazines. Note which publications appeal to you, and which might be interested in an article on your subject. Study each magazine's writing style, tone, and layout.

* Pick a slant to your topic. You can't use everything you know in one article, and simply giving a broad overview of the subject probably won't interest a magazine. So focus on one aspect of your topic. The age group for which you want to write will help determine how you slant the article.

* Write your rough draft. This will show you if you've done enough research, and if the topic is actually appropriate for the age group you've chosen. Keep your list of potential markets in mind when organizing your information. 

* Target magazines and send out query letters. Choose magazines that cater to the same age group as your article and fit your writing style. Get writer's guidelines from the magazines' web sites, or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope requesting guidelines from the publications' editorial departments. (See for tips on writing a killer query letter)

* Polish your manuscript. While you're waiting to hear back from editors on your queries, revise and edit your article. Make the tone lively and engaging, and present information in a way that will appeal to your target audience. Tighten until the article falls within the magazines' word limits. If the piece is too long, consider lifting out some facts to be used in a sidebar.

* Send out your article to editors who request it. Send it to one magazine at a time. You may have to slightly revise the article each time to fit with each magazine's tone. The more you custom-fit each submission, the better your chance at making a sale.

It's important to read several recent back issues of magazines for which you want to write. You'll find lists of publications in Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market from Writer's Digest Books. Each magazine's entry describes the age group and topics of interest. If you can't find the magazine on a newsstand or in the library, CWIM gives instructions on how to purchase a copy directly from the publisher.

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 2005, Children's Book Insider, LLC.
Reprinted with permission.

Writing A Book Or A Book Proposal?

With the new year are you writing a book manuscript or a book proposal?

If it's a nonfiction book that you want to write, the best way to cut through the noise is with a well-done book proposal. As an editor who has read a lot of this material in circulation, Terry Whalin knows the rarity of finding a well-done book proposal.

Terry Whalin has written more than 60 nonfiction books (all with traditional publishers). He understands what is required to produce a nonfiction book proposal. He has collaborated with a number of different people on nonfiction book projects. Also Terry is an acquisitions editor—often the first person to read these nonfiction book proposals. This book contains his insight and experience regarding book proposals that sell. His stories and insight will show you how to avoid the pitfalls of rejection.

If you want to write a nonfiction book, then you need Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success and you can have this product in a few instant clicks for only $19.95. Besides the ebook, Book Proposals That Sell includes a real nonfiction book proposal that Terry wrote (and an agent sold) for a six-figure advance from a traditional publisher.

Besides several valuable appendices in this ebook, Terry includes several bonuses with each purchase.

Organize Your Time and Space In Two Minutes Or Less

By Karen O'Connor

"Is your office space or the desk where you write a black hole of disarray?" asks Marcia Ramsland, Professional Organizer and President of Life Management Skills in San Diego, California.

If so, don't despair. Ramsland, a writer as well as seminar leader knows what it's like to be a 'messy.' Years ago she was one herself. Her life was out of control to the point that she couldn't go on in the same way. She looked at her family and took stock of her household. "I have got to get organized!" she exclaimed. And so she did. Soon friends and neighbors noticed what she had accomplished. They began asking her to help them. This led to seminars for church and civic groups. Today, some fifteen years later, Marcia Ramsland has a flourishing business advising men and women how to order their lives, as well as how to get control of their work and living space.

Wall-To-Wall Paper

One of the biggest hurdles for writers, according to Ramsland, is paper clutter. Even those who attempt to create a paperless office by transferring data to computer files still cannot get away from it completely. A quick look at our desks proves it. Here a scrap, there a scrap, everywhere a paper scrap! A note to acknowlege, a memo to answer, a bill to pay, a magazine to file.

Ramsland claims it is these little things that keep us spinning and then stuck! We want to get to the big stuff--those great articles and short stories that are brimming in our minds--but we get bogged down by the myriad tasks that shout at us like little children, demanding our attention. "Pick me!" "Handle me next." "Don't forget about me!" "Hey, it's my turn."

How can we change the pattern? Ramsland says we can do it in two-minute segments. She calls her technique The Two-Minute Pick-up™! Here's how it works.

"Whenever you leave your work area (whether it's a room in your house, an office outside your home, or a small space devoted to writing), stop, look around, and take an action step--something you can do within a two-minute time span," says Ramsland. "When you return you'll find it much easier to do what's next on your list."

For example, suppose you've agreed to meet with an editor, or you've scheduled a meeting over lunch, or you simply want to get away from your desk for a few moments to stretch or walk or grab a snack, or you decide to run out to the office supply store on your way to pick up your kids from school. Whatever the scenario, your flow is interrupted. You glance at your desk and sigh. There's always so much to do and too little time in which to do it all.

Ramsland suggests that you stop right then--before you leave and take just two minutes--not three or five or thirty. Just two--to do one of the tasks on the following list, or one from a list of your own making. Time yourself. You'll be amazed at how much you can accomplish in one hundred and twenty seconds when you are determined and focused. Instead of giving up or giving in to self-pity, take charge!

The Two-Minute Pickup™

Each of the following steps takes just two minutes or less.

1. Send an e-mail that moves an action forward. (Example: Introduce yourself to an editor you'd like to write for. Attach your resume.)

2. Return file folders to their proper drawer or cabinet. (Example: You've finished working on an article. Stow the copy and notes in the rightful folder before it becomes another piece of clutter on your desk.)

3. Make a phone call to someone's message center. (Example: Let an editor know an assigned manuscript is on its way; confirm an appointment, etc.)

4. "Stair-step" your assignments or files or projects on one side of the desk. Put the most important one on top and the next one a half inch above and behind that one and so on. (Example: A magazine you need to study followed by the editorial guidelines, followed by a list of ideas you wish to present to the editor, followed by a list of phone numbers of experts you intend to contact if you receive a go-ahead from the editor.)

5. Create a short 'action' list for when you return (Example: file, phone, attend meeting, etc.)

6. Put three Post-it notes on your desk with an action step on each one (Example: Outline article for Highlights for Children; Finish short story for Children's Playmate, E-mail Martha to set up interview.)

7. Make an entry or cross off a completed task in your Daily Planner. (Example: Write two query letters today. Complete article on family vacations, etc.)

8. Clear off and wipe down your desk and computer station. (Example: Keep a few cleaning supplies on a shelf or in a cabinet in your writing area so you won't put off this important daily task. A clean, dust-free desk and computer station create a healthy and attractive work environment.)

9. Set out the tools or equipment needed for your next project. (Example: paper cutter, three-hole punch, editorial guidelines, computer paper, grammar handbook, sharpened pencils, etc.)

10. Transfer contact info from business cards or voice mail messages to your contact manager system. (Example: Instead of tossing business cards into a drawer, or scribbling a name and phone number bn a scrap of paper after picking it up from your voice mail, type the info into a designated computer address file, e-mail address book, or whatever system works for you. Then toss or shred the cards or notes. In less than a minute you've eliminated one more piece of clutter.)

Take Action Now

According to Ramsland, "Loose papers equal incomplete action steps." "Therefore, as you take control of your paper with the Two-minute Pick-up (by filing, transferring data to your computer, tossing, shredding, etc.) you free yourself to take productive action."

And for a writer, this is paramount to success. If we don't get out the queries, complete the articles we've been assigned, write the next chapter of our books or reply to letters, phone calls, and e-mails then we remain stuck--dreaming about our futures instead of investing in them with positive forward movement.

MORE ways to take control in two minutes or less:

1. Dust office furniture.

2. Empty waste basket and sweep or vacuum the floor.

3. Add fresh paper to your printer.

4. Place reference books on a shelf near your work area.

5. Create an IDEA folder to hold notes, magazine clips, etc.

6. Open mail over the waste basket. File 'keepers.' Toss junk.

7. Stand, relax, stretch, twist, bend over and let your arms hang.

8. Load your cassette or CD player with your favorite background music.

9. Prepare a bowl of fresh fruit snacks and place on your desk.

10. Put a pitcher of lemonade or ice water and a glass nearby.

11. Close your eyes and count to 120. Then get back to work!

Beautify Your Space

Ramsland also encourages writers to beautify their work space--regardless of how humble it is. Once you get your office under control you'll enjoy spending time there. And if you make it attractive, you'll feel more motivated to write. You may wish to hang a family photo or frame an inspirational message, or set out a pretty box, or a small vase with a fresh flower.

For example, Betty, my hiking buddy and writer friend, brings outdoor beauty into her office by hanging framed photos of special scenes from the Sierra Mountains.

Earl, a cartoonist and writing workshop leader, decorated his office with photos and other artistic expressions from The Wizard of Oz, one of his favorite books.

Lee's office walls are filled with photos, certificates of achievement, and quotations from authors he admires to keep himself motivated and enthusiastic about his writing goals.

I have two scented candles in my office and a framed print of a mother reading to her two daughters which I bought at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as well as assorted plaques and certificates of some of the awards I've received. I also like to listen to classical music as I work so I keep a stack of CDs next to my desk. I am more likely to stay at my desk when I'm relaxed and inspired.

Capture It On Film!

If you're still in doubt about the value of bringing order and beauty to your office, take a 'before-and-after' photo. Ramsland promises that when you see how it was and how it can be, you'll never again want to slip back into the black hole of disarray.

"Control is not a once and for all experience," says Ramsland. "It is steadily practiced, and gained each day through good habits." And it is something everyone can achieve.

You may contact Marcia Ramsland and Karen O'Connor via e-mail. and
Karen O'Connor is a sought-after speaker and award-winning author of more than 45 books for adults and children, including the best-selling Help, Lord! I'm Having a Senior Moment (Regal Books), Getting Old Ain't For Wimps, (Harvest House) and In Step With Your Step-children (Beacon Hill). She is a wife, mother, grandmother and writing mentor for the Long Ridge Writers Group ( and for the Christian Writers Guild ( Karen is known for her wit and wisdom on the platform and in print. Visit Karen on her web site for more information:

© 2005 Karen O'Connor. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

Still Time For This Writing Opportunity

ATTENTION WRITERS – Send your true short story now! God Answers the Prayers of Soldiers and Their Families to be Published by Harvest House in Fall 2005


GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS is a new book series under the God Allows U-Turns® brand. Published by Harvest House Publishers, volumes one and two will release in March 2005. We are now accepting stories for a “fast track” volume three in the series; God Answers the Prayers of Soldiers and Their Families.

SPECIAL MILITARY AFFILIATION: This special military volume will release in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC) in Fall 2005. The PWOC is an international resource network that unites, trains and encourages women in the military chapel community in their spiritual growth. A portion of proceeds will be contributed to the PWOC from the God Allows U-Turns Foundation.

TIPS: All stories must have a military component—any branch, at any era in time. We are especially interested in stories from the current conflicts abroad. All stories must contain the theme of Answered Prayer. We publish the nitty-gritty issues of life – few subjects are taboo. Be able to tell a compelling story with drama, description and dialogue.

Submit stories to us now at:

Visit our web site now for complete Writer’s Guidelines and a Sample Story:

The God Allows U-Turns Project ®

Finding New Niches for Your Writing

By Robert Bittner

When writer Rich Marini was still in college, his father, an ad salesman with Esquire, arranged a meeting between Rich and the magazine’s legendary editor, Clay Felker.  "I was a journalism major at Temple University," Marini says, "and the one thing I remember Felker advising me was to find a specialty and stick with it."

The reason? Simple: In the words of Nancy Hendrickson, a full-time freelancer and author of Secrets of a Successful Freelancer, an e-book about writing specialties, "Editors like to have a stable of writers they can turn to who are knowledgeable in specific subject areas."

Whether or not you yearn to be at the top of the editor’s Rolodex at Natural History or Food and Wine, every freelancer can benefit from developing new specialties.

Maybe you’re a generalist at heart, but your scattershot approach to article writing just isn’t paying off emotionally or financially. Or maybe you’ve been focusing on a single subject that’s starting to wear thin, and you’re just plain bored. Whatever your current situation, exploring new writing niches can provide a creative change of direction, expand your marketability, and help you better weather the economic ups and downs of the publishing industry.

Why Specialize?

Elizabeth Johnson, a freelancer specializing in parenting/family issues, says, "I think the value of having a specialty is that you can focus your energies in one direction, instead of jumping around—automotive writing one day, potty training the next, best hotel mini-bars the day after.; With a specialty, you can also repurpose your information in a number of different ways.  You can build on the information you learn while researching one story to launch into another, related story."

Specialization also can lead to opportunities that strict generalists will rarely—if ever—find.

Columnist and author Susan Miller has built her entire business on one topic: astrology. After years of study, she began doing astrological charts for some of her friends—one of whom worked at Warner Books.That contact led to a contract for Miller’s first book, The Astrology Book of Days.  "While I was busy writing that small book, the same friend offered to help me get an interview with the Webmaster of the former Time Warner Web site, Pathfinder, so I could write a column on astrology," she says.Those talks led to the launch of Astrology Zone(, a 400+-page Web site written entirely by Miller. She has also been an astrology columnist for Self and McCall’s; her book Planets and Possibilities was published in 2001. Today, Miller's writing commitments have become so extensive, she says she’s worn the letters off three computer keyboards!

Choosing Your Specialties

Choosing a new specialty boils down to three main approaches:

1. Write what you know—or want to know.

2. Follow your passions.

3. Follow the work.

Write What You Know—or Want to Know

Elizabeth Johnson notes that her earliest parenting stories involved translating her personal experiences into more general service pieces. "For instance, after my son was hospitalized two different times when he was a baby, I wrote ‘How to survive your child's hospitalization.’I've also written about finding time to pray with your children (something I struggled with) and about children and migraines. (I have a son with migraines, but had never read anything about them in parenting publications.) My ideas often came about because I was seeking answers to questions, and I figured if I was looking for these answers, then other parents probably were, too."

Melinda Blau, a writer who has focused on parenting, relationships, and divorce, says, "I think ‘expertise’ is not as important as the idea. Sometimes personal curiosity is all you need, along with a willingingness to dive into the unknown."

Follow Your Passion

Gabrielle L. Gabrielle, a freelance writer, Web personality, and former Playgirl editor, admits that she didn’t really plan her focus on women’s issues. "I merely sent queries for articles to magazines I liked. Every month, I kept sending out queries until they finally relented!

My specialty arose simply out of my own selfish interests. I don't like finance, so I don't write about finance. I don't like environmental issues or politics, so I stay away from that. I stick with what I know. Which also means I don’t write about beauty or fashion, and seldom do I interview celebrities doing press junkets for movies, simply because I absolutely don’t care for those subjects."

Writer Helen Studley has also followed her passions. "I started out writing about music, which then was my field, and then moved to travel, which became my second profession." Eventually, her love for travel and a burgeoning interest in food and wine led to established writing specialties.  "After I opened a French restaurant with my husband in New York, I switched over to writing about food and wine, wrote a restaurant newsletter, published two books, and there you have it: a freelance food and travel writer."

Follow the Work

"My early specialization was medical subjects," Melinda Blau says. "It was interesting to me, but, more important, those were the assignments that the New York editor suggested, and I was thrilled to go along."

Rich Marini also followed the work, initially ignoring editor Clay Felker’s advice to settle down with a specialty. "When I was a freelancer, I'd write about anything that interested me—and quite a few things that didn't, if the money was good." In time, though, he gravitated toward a small number of topics that fed his interests and provided the most reliable work, including business travel, consumer electronics, personal finance and health/fitness/medicine, which helped him gain the expertise needed to land his current staff position as the feature department’s health and fitness reporter at the San Antonio Express-News.

A specialist in health/medicine and the environment, Catherine Dold got her start developing newsletters and publicity material as a staffer with an environmental group in New York City. "After about five years of that, I went through the NYU science and environmental reporting program in the journalism school. It convinced me that writing was indeed what I wanted to do." Her NYU connections eventually led to a job as an editor at Audubon magazine.

"After two years at Audubon, we all got laid off," she says."That's when I started freelancing. One of my first sales was to the New York Times science section. Through Audubon contacts, essentially; I'd never written a newspaper article before!" Dold attributes her success largely to the fact that she established a name in her specialty and was able to network within a fairly narrow group. "Regardless of my abilities, the people at Audubon recognized NYU and the environmental group I’d worked for. The Times people recognized Audubon. So they all figured I was okay."

One Writer, Many Specialties

I have high regard for those writers who can focus 100 percent of their attention on a single topic like taxes or travel or dogs. I haven’t found a single topic that I’m willing to devote myself to day after day. At the same time, it’s been hard to feel a strong sense of direction or progress while trying to craft a career out of a mosaic of single-shot articles.

So I’ve compromised. I’ve settled—for now—on being a generalist who happens to focus (mostly) on about a half-dozen subject areas. I’m not locked into only writing about these topics. But my shortlist of specialties helps to keep me focused, even as it offers enough variety to keep my curiosity engaged.  It’s also flexible enough to change as my interests change, as editor relationships develop, and as good markets come and go.

Writer Karen Hammond acknowledges that her own specialties have evolved over time, ranging from parenting to travel to upscale dining. "I take advantage of writing opportunities as they present themselves," she says, "one of the advantages of not feeling locked into a single specialty. For example, when I found myself in a little restaurant in the middle of a vineyard in Liechtenstein, drinking the most glorious wine I'd ever tasted, I knew I had a story and went looking for a magazine that would agree with me. My mother-in-law's battle with Alzheimer's turned into several health articles. Later, these gave me the expertise to write health articles for the Web. A nutty pet cat starred in a humorous essay; an unpleasant incident in Place Pigalle in Paris became the focus of a poem."

Where to Start

Kay Cassill, in The Complete Handbook for Freelance Writers, suggests asking the following questions when choosing a new specialty:

What do you know or like best?

What can you afford the time to work on right now?

Would this specialty require more training?

How crowded/competitive is this area?

Do you have a new angle or approach no one has thought of? Could you develop spin-off material—a column, a seminar, a book—from this specialty?

Are the reprint possibilities strong?

Will this specialty help you get where you want to be two, five, or ten years from now?

If you’re not what specialties might be especially appealing to you, consider taking a simple "interest survey" to pinpoint your interests, skills, and abilities. For example, Discover What You’re Best At by Linda Gale (Fireside, $13) offers six self-scoring tests you can take in just a couple of hours to better understand what subjects naturally fit with who you are.

Once you’ve settled on a new specialty, it’s time to get up to speed enough to understand some of the key issues, find saleable ideas, and know where to turn for expert sources. "When I want to add a speciality, I immerse myself in everything I can find about writing for that field," says Nancy Hendrickson. "Right now, I'm concentrating on getting into the health market. That means I'm reading about health writing, I subscribe to a health-writing newsletter and have even taken a class on writing on medical topics. Educate yourself, so that when you query, you sound like an expert."

For background information and the names of subject experts, the best place to start is the trade associations or other organizations associated with that subject. A simple Web search will likely yield numerous choices. Otherwise, stop by the library and consult the multi-volume Encyclopedia of Associations.

While associations and trade publications can yield story ideas, don’t forget to look closer to home. Parenting writer Elizabeth Johnson says, "When I'm looking for story ideas, I first look at my own personal experience and at the experiences of my friends and family members who are parents. I also frequent several parenting and family discussion boards on a couple of different Web sites. The hot topics of conversation may become story ideas down the road."

Supplied with good ideas, the only thing left to do is follow Gabrielle L. Gabrielle’s simple advice: "My only suggestion is to pitch interesting articles to magazines you genuinely enjoy or at least relate to. Keep pitching, and the editors will eventually pick you up on their radar.

"Really, it's as simple as that."

Robert Bittner is a full-time freelance writer specializing in books and magazine articles on a wide range of topics. His fourth book, a career guide for recent grads called Your Perfect Job is available now. Also recently he has been writing for a variety of publications, including: Chicago Tribune Magazine, USAirways' Attache, Ladies' Home Journal, PAGES, The Writer, Writer's Digest and others. You can learn more at his website:

© 2005 Robert Bittner.All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

New Links to Check

How Do You Find the Writing Life For You? Check out this excerpt:

Are you going to create a new website to build your platform? Then make sure you use the right tool. Consider using Sitebuild it and learn more at:

Be sure and read this excerpt from the new book, Plots and Structure by bestselling novelist, James Scott Bell:

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