B U S Y F R E E L A N C E R
Monthly Writer's E-zine For Freelancing Parents
March 1, 2002 Volume 1 Issue 3
Busy Freelancer is a division of Write From Home
Copyright (c) 2002, Kim Wilson/Kim Wilson Creative Services
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In This Issue...
>>>> Letter From the Editor, Kim Wilson
>>>> Article: "Don't Be Afraid To Begin"
by Susan Younan Attiyah
>>>> Write From Home Site Updates
>>>> Reciprocal Relationships <<<<
"Coffee Conundrum: Our Daily Ritual For A Better
Marriage" by Carolyn Burch
>>>> Tips, Hints & Resources
>>>> Article: "Making Working Motherhood Work"
by Carla Charter
>>>> Success Spotlight
>>>> Article: "Organize! Plan! Publish!"
By Kathryn Lay
>>>> Article: "Dialogue, The Making of a Story"
by Christine Collier
>>>> Humor <<<<
"Dealing With Distractions" by Sheri Waldrop
>>>> Paying Markets
I want to extend my condolences and sympathy to the family
of Daniel Pearl. I know he will be deeply missed by his
family, friends, colleagues, and the literary world.
░░░░░ LETTER FROM THE EDITOR, KIM WILSON ░░░░░
Greetings fellow writers! Is it just me, or do you think
time is flying by? I can't believe we're already three
months into the New Year.
Now is a great time to review your list of goals. Are you
on track? Have you met or surpassed the items on your list?
Have you even written a list?
If you're on track, met or surpassed your goals, I
congratulate you and encourage you to stick to your plan.
If you haven't written down your goals, or have not met
the ones you set, don't fret. You still have plenty of
time to get on track, and it's never too late to set your
sights on what you want to accomplish. If you find
yourself in this predicament you'll want to read Kathryn
Lay's article, "Organize! Plan! Publish!" located in this
issue. You're sure to pick up many useful tips and
I hope you enjoy this issue and want to wish all of you a
healthy, happy and productive month.
"Don't Be Afraid To Begin"
by Susan Younan Attiyah
You love to write, it takes you away to another world. And
you would love to do something with what you write, but
that means you would have to have someone else read it. You
just don't think you are ready for anyone to read your
work. What if they think you don't have what it takes to be
a writer? What if they laugh at you? What if? What if? What
I know how it goes, we, as writers, have all said
everything you just read, but it's called a first step. And
when better to begin that first step than now, a whole New
Year...a New Year's Resolution. You need to start
somewhere, even if you begin with something as simple and
comforting as a journal, it's something.
The first thing I would suggest, is a writers group. They
are all just like you, and they all need support like you.
Beginning to write is like beginning a workout program; you
need a workout buddy to give you a good kick out that door.
That is what a writing group would do. They would support
you and direct you in the right direction. I belong to many
groups, one in particular has close to 900 members, that is
900 extra people other than your family members that are
going to support you. You are going to learn everything
there is to know about finding an agent, finding a
publisher, and what the heck is a query letter?
*Write about a subject you enjoy.
Do you have experience or talent in a particular topic?
Then write about it. For example, you may do some walking
everyday for a particular reason. What is that reason? Is
it to lose weight? Is it health related? Maybe it is just
for peace of mind. What does walking do for you exactly? Do
you know how many articles we just came up with by walking
everyday? My point is, to have the reader feel what you are
feeling. Put your feelings in your words. Make me, your
reader, want to put my shoes on and go for a nice brisk
walk. Explain your talent; let them know why you are the
right person to write this article. Why, as a publisher or
editor, should I buy this particular article or book from
You're afraid to send your article or manuscript out to
publishers, because it may get rejected, right? You know
what? It may get accepted too. Do you really want to take
the chance of not knowing? And if it does get rejected...
so. Are you really going to give up? NO! If you believe in
it, someone else will too. If it does get rejected, it
doesn't mean you are being rejected or that you are not a
good writer, it just means that it's not what they are
looking for at that particular time. We all get some kind
of rejection letter, for some, it just makes you try
*But what about the kids?
I know...kids! If you are like me, you have kids, work,
PTA, sports, etc., etc. You almost think, there is just no
way you can handle one more task in your life. Believe me,
if writing is a love of yours, like it is for me, you just
have to find a little extra time for yourself. I cut my
television time almost 75% to write. I know a lot of
people's excuse to not write, is due to not having enough
room in the house to write. All you really need to begin
with is a little corner, small table, and a pencil until
you know if this is what you really want to do. You don't
have an empty corner? Everyone has a kitchen table, try not
to let anything stand in your way. When you show the kids
the area with your desk in it is "mommy or daddy's quiet
time" they adjust and learn to keep themselves entertained
while you work. If that doesn't work, have them sit next to
you and color or tell them to begin their "own" book. It is
all about adjustment.
And always keep in mind, writing is good for your mind and
soul. It helps relieve stress and helps you get your true
feelings out; this is the best reason to give yourself a
chance and write. It's like "they" say, writing is a talent
you are born with...I think it's time to find that out.
And always remember to, "follow your dreams!"
Susan Younan Attiyah, is an Award Winning Author for her
first children's book, "I'll Never Find Anything in Here!"
She continues to work as a freelance writer in the subject
of Parent Education in which she has studied for many
years. Her work has been seen in many newspapers and
magazines such as, Novelearn, Myria Media, iParenting,
Writing Parent, Baby Years and many more. Susan is also a
contest winner in the Writers Weekly, "Freelance Success
Story." For more information about Susan and her book,
"I'll Never Find Anything in Here!" visit her Web site at
http://www.susanattiyah.homestead.com. Susan loves to hear
from her readers and welcomes them to write her at
░░░░░ WRITE FROM HOME SITE UPDATES ░░░░░
==>>New Monthly Column Added To Write From Home<==
"Life of a Writer Mom" written by Carla Charter offers
insight into the daily struggles writing parents face. This
month read "On Being Patient With Writers" at
==>>Articles added to Write From Home<==
Direct links to these articles can be found at
* "5 Reasons Kids Make You A Better Writer" by Sharon Wren
* "Going With The Flow" by Carolyn Burch
* "Literary Food Chain" by Sharon Horton
* "9 Ways To Simplify Your Writing Life" by Kyle Looby
* "Organization For The Creative Writer" by Sheri Waldrop
* "The Do Not Disturb Cap" by Felice Prager
* "The Benefits Of Being Pressed For Time" by Andrea Mack
* "Writers Glossary" by Devorah Stone
--> Featured Book of the Month
"How To Publish Your Articles" by Shirley Kawa-Jump
"Coffee Conundrum: Our Daily Ritual For A Better Marriage"
by Carolyn Burch
Each day as I wake up, I know that awaiting me in the
kitchen is my daily first cup of coffee. My husband, sweet
protagonist that he is, tenderly makes it for me every day,
stirring in just the right amounts of sugar, equal and
creamer to make my head come out of the clouds and waken me
just enough so that I can work.
It is, for us, one of the sweet little enduring things we
do to support each other in our daily workday world, when
we're not arguing or throwing paper clips at each other, of
So, as I go to my desk, opening the doorway to another
dimension, a location where time and space are muted and
things are not always what they appear, where my garage is
no longer a garage, but a writer's haven of ideas and
momentum, and I enter the WriterZone, I have his morning
welcome to me to get it started right.
It is his little gift to me each morning, and I, as soon as
I'm awake that is, appreciate his gesture more than words
But it wasn't always this way.
*Dates, Dinners, and other Undoables
When my husband and I got together, forever ago, we had all
the romance and tender moments most couples have. We
didn't, even then however, go out much. So when a few years
back we decided to put back a little zing in things with a
relationship renewal rite of some kind, we were horrified
to discover we were rather unfit for most of the
suggestions that appear in magazines and articles. "Have a
date day every week." The experts touted. Yet none of them
offered to pay the bill for daycare and meal (four children
for the two hour minimum comes to $50, plus dinner, even at
Burger King comes to at least ten more) and that's not even
to mention the outrageous rushing and fretting that goes
with dressing, packing and otherwise, preparing four oft-
grouchy little ones at the end of their day to be removed
from their natural habitat and deposited until well past
bedtime elsewhere. And, frankly we have better odds at the
lottery than we do at having all four without runny noses
or coughs at one time.
"Um, Weekly, huh. What else is there?" My husband said when
we discussed it.
"Take an exotic vacation together for the ultimate in
romance!" I read out loud, while internally thinking, 'Oh,
yeah, that's the other, times about sixteen for costs and
hassle factor.' Plus the fact that neither of us can really
get away for a two week vacation.
"Do people really do that?" He asked.
"I don't know any. At least none with kids. Or if they do,
they take that giant boat and the kids with them."
Oh, that would be romantic, alright. "Mommy, Mommy! Do my
hair first! No Mommy, do mine! Mine! No, mine!" he mimics
our daughters fighting for position.
"Mmm. Here's one. Write love letters to each other from
time to time, preferably monthly. I can do that! That's a
good one." I said.
Yeah, me too. Let's do it. Send me a recurring task in my
Outlook to remind me, will ya? When do you want them, on
the fifteenth or the first of each month?"
Hmm. Perhaps I better keep looking, I thought.
"Try out each other's sexual fantasies."
Boring. Been there, done that, we agreed. Several times.
Besides, he gets tired of being Benito the cabana boy, and
I have to admit, answering the door while wearing Saran
Wrap frightens most people and can cause an annoying rash
in the Arizona heat. Last time I did that, he was two hours
late and I swear I lost four inches off my butt. Which
isn't a bad side-effect, but still...
"How about this one, "Do one kind little thing for each
other each day." I read hopefully. Hey, we could do that!
It doesn't cost anything, and it would be straight and easy
from the heart."
And then, an unusual thing happened: We both agreed.
But what would it be? What kind little thing did we want
from each other? What would say the most to each other
about our personal devotion, our desire to please each
other, and, perhaps more importantly at this stage of our
marriage, what wasn't utterly and completely corny?
*Truth, Lies, and Videotapes
We decided early on that it couldn't be a thing "not to
do," it had to be something actively done for the other
spouse. And it had to be their choice. And after a thorough
analysis of the current state of our marriage, what stood
out as missing to him that he would like was kissing.
Ah, yes, that harbinger of youth. That thing you slip away
from as you age together. That thing the kids wiggle and
squirm and "Ooooh, Yuck!" when they see you do. Indeed. We
don't do that much anymore. So I agreed to a good morning
or good night kiss every day, of the old lasting variety we
had when we were childless.
That was easy enough. There were stipulations of course,
like that it had to last at least sixty seconds, the total
and complete absence of morning breath and whiskers had to
be assured by both of us, and I promised to make sure I
didn't have any remaining Cheerios in my hair from the two
babies' food fights, or discernable spit up anywhere on my
person. And, there were to be no videos playing, or TV of
any kind, and that if it were unsatisfactory to either
party by violation of these or any other unwritten rules,
herein put forth, we would not put on a stiff upper lip and
lie that it was fine. It was an effort on both our parts to
refuse to let the kissing portion of our relationship of
our youth die in the wake of age, years, and small
children, report cards, inlaws and outlaws, and other forms
of known disasters and distractions that fall in our
insurance policies under the innocuous heading, "Acts of
God." Not that we over-discuss anything, of course.
But what of me? What did I want, he was curious to know. In
what way could he enrich my day-to-day existence and make
me feel spoiled?
"I would have to think about it," I replied.
He was scared, I could tell. He looked just a bit like a
deer in the headlights as I considered for the next two
days. And then, it came to me.
*One Shining Example
My parents didn't have a good relationship. In fact, they
were separated when I was just a year old, and I only
recently discovered during a genealogy quest that my mother
had been married three times. But I was fortunate in that
my Aunt Pat and Uncle Bob did have a good relationship and
we visited them often when I was a child. I remember lots
of chivalrous and other delightful things their family did,
among them sitting down to family dinner in a dining room
every night, music playing every evening, a lovely
fireplace with a fire, and two large matching arm chairs in
which they sat as husband and wife every night. And
holidays and huge dinners to shame Julia Child. But there
was one standout.
Often as not, Uncle Bob could be found getting Aunt Pat,
even in their old age, a glass of wine, or a cup of
coffee, with a look of utter devotion on his face,
tending to her needs with obvious delight in caring for her
in that way.
She often did it for him as well, but in my childhood
memories, it was him for her most of all. And that, I
decided, I wanted for my own.
And so now, for the past three years, each morning my day
begins, with a cup or two of Joe, especially on my three
early mornings a week when I rise at 2:20 to do my writing
before the world is wide awake and making its demands of
me. There is something warming to the soul about a cup of
coffee, and especially so when someone you love takes the
time to prepare it for you each and every day.
I am slowly weaning myself of the true stuff, and drinking
more and more of what horse people call "Gelding" coffee.
But it is still a treat to me. The smell of it, the sound
of it percolating. Even taking the grounds out to the
garden each day is a delight.
It's not a Bahamas Vacation, or a dinner in Souz E Vous
restaurant on ninth. But it is a warming, welcoming,
loving gesture. A trade off between a husband and his wife
who decided to keep the spirit of love alive and remembered
with a single gesture each day of affection, which to me is
better than any contrived romance anyway.
"But tell me," I asked him the other day as he handed it to
me with a mock curtsy, calling himself the coffee boy,
"While you're at it, you think you could say something
like, "Buenos Diaz, Senora. Yo May Yamo Benito!?"
Carolyn Burch is a freelance writer, columnist and
contributing editor to several sites on the Web in the
areas of parenting and family, home, writing, marketing,
and Human Resources. She is the editor of the new
WriteAngles E-zine, and the lead instructor for 2001-2002
at Cornerstone Creative Writing's One Month Intensive
Workshop series. She is also a mother of four, and the wife
of an extremely talented husband who she hopes doesn't turn
out to be a better writer than she is.
TIPS, HINTS & RESOURCES
~ Do you need to brush up on your grammar? "Acu-Write"
published by Fran Hamilton, author of "Hands-On English"
may be what you're looking for. This e-mailed publication
offers tips to help you improve your writing. To subscribe
send a blank
~ If you hate spam as much as I do, you'll want to download
"Mailwasher." This free program enables you to check your
mail on the server level, allowing you to "bounce" unwanted
mail back to the sender. Over time this action will depict
your e-mail address as invalid, causing it to be removed
from spamming lists. Other functions include deleting mail
before it even hits your mailbox. For more information go
to http://www.mailwasher.net. Note: This
functions with POP3 accounts. It does not work with
Hotmail, Yahoo or AOL.
~ Looking to connect with other freelancing parents? Join
the Write From Home discussion list by sending a blank
~ For a detailed list of links to job boards and guideline
databases go to
"Making Working Motherhood Work"
by Carla Charter
Working mother. The phrase means different things to
different people. For me it means a computer, a second-hand
desk and file cabinet in the corner of the living room. I
am a freelance writer.
Working at home is wonderful and I wouldn't change it for
anything. I too deal with many of the same problems that
other working mothers deal with albeit sometimes in a
Take schedules for instance. There are the days that run
like clockwork when everything happens as it's supposed to.
Rare days I might add. I wake up to birds chirping and
manage to finish an article before the rest of the family
After dropping the three children at their various schools
and enjoying a rare second cup of tea I manage to get a
second article completed and have time to send off a few
query letters. All without any child related emergency
phone calls. These are the days when working motherhood
seems like a piece of cake and I congratulate myself on
handling things so well.
Then there are the bedlam days. These happen with more
They ring true with working parents everywhere. It starts
with my 4-year-old telling me he can't wear his new
sneakers. "Why," I ask, thinking he couldn't have worn
them out already. "Their gray," he replies. Sounds like a
reason to me! I assure him he has to because gray is a
really cool color. With this crisis solved, we head toward
the door barely making it out on time.
I head home only to notice an unusual clunking sound in the
car. As I contemplate whether something is about to fall
off or not the cell phone rings. My daughter who said she
felt strange this morning has discovered at the school that
the strange feeling was precipitating a stomach bug.
I head to the school to pick her up and then I aim for
home. With my daughter comfortable on the couch watching
television, I print out the article I want to send off,
only to discover the printer ribbon needs to be replaced.
These are the days I think I must be totally crazy to even
try to work from home.
With dad in charge I leave to pick the two younger children
up and realize the clunking car sound has stopped. With
them in the car we head to the store to get a printer
ribbon. That's when the 3-year-old decides he's tired and
lays down in the middle of the store aisle and refuses to
Back at home I serve lunch and settle everyone down with
their favorite video, since rain has started to add to
While Aladdin is playing for the hundredth time, I quickly
finish up my work. I think my children consider the clack
of computer keys to be part of the background music in all
of their videos.
Sometimes, as with all working mothers, my work travels
with me. My children are quite used to me pulling out my
writers notebook and scribbling away while waiting for
appointments or at various rehearsals or practices.
Working motherhood for me is the constant art of
compromise, trying to make it all work out, and in the
process trying to keep everything in balance and on track.
It means enjoying my children and my career knowing that
without either one my life would not be complete. Enjoying
the little successes along the way whether it's a published
story or the "A" on my daughter's report that I know she
worked so hard on.
As working mothers we all have concerns. Finances,
retirement, quality schools, and just trying to make the
life of a working mother work out.
Carla Charter is the mom to Samantha (11), Halden (4),
and Mathew (3). She's also a freelance writer specializing
in newspaper and magazine journalism. Among her publication
credits are; Woman's World, American Indian Report, and New
England Business Journal. Online she has been published in
Scubasource.com and Military.com. She is currently a
correspondent for the Fitchburg Sentinel in Fitchburg, Ma.
She teaches creative writing courses at Mount Wachusett
Community College in Gardner, Ma. Her latest project is
"Across Lots," her first historical fiction novel. She may
be reached at
Share your success with others. Regardless of how big or
small, I want to know about your accomplishments. If you
sell an article, receive a book contract, or met a writing
goal send the information to
e-mailto:email@example.com with the subject
'success spotlight'. I'll print your news item in the next
issue. (Hint: this a great area to do a little shameless
Karon Goodman, on the release of her new book, "You're Late
Again, Lord! The Impatient Woman's Guide to God's Timing."
Read more about Karon and her book at:
"Organize! Plan! Publish!"
by Kathryn Lay
Do you have writing projects you'd like to work on? Markets
you'd like to study or find? Queries you'd like to polish
and send out? Books to outline, proposals to put together?
Would you like to teach online writing courses or even take
one? Would you like to enter writing contests? Are there
writing publications you'd like to read? Would you like to
be a part of a local writing organization or begin one? Do
you have family, friends, activities, jobs, and hobbies you
must spend time with? Do you do volunteer work? Does all
this seem impossible for one person?
It's not. I do all of the above, homeschool, and keep 40-60
manuscripts or queries in the mail at all times. I'm not
super woman or a robot. I've just learned that I must
organize and plan, or I could easily push aside my writing
another week, year, or decade when I am less busy.
It takes a little effort and work to become an organized
writer. But once you do, you'll feel less frustrated about
your writing and marketing.
If you were to walk into my office and look at my
bookcases, cabinet, and desk, you'd think I was the least
organized person in the world. But I know where things are
and how to find them. I have systems that work for me and
little ways to organize areas that can be managed once a
1. Organize Ideas
Finding and keeping track of ideas is as important as
writing them. I'm amazed when students in my writing
classes tell me they can't come up with ideas. Ideas truly
are everywhere. There are several ways I add to my store of
ideas. One is by making lists of things I know, things I'm
interested in, interesting conversations I've heard,
questions I would like answered, discussions I've been a
part of, news I've watched or read.
All these are idea possibilities, but only a few may be
marketable. As a writer of personal experience articles
and essays, I keep a journal for this purpose. I write down
events that happen that might lead to an idea. The honest
shopkeeper, the baby bird my daughter and I rescued,
unemployment situations, sicknesses in the family,
friendships and friendships lost. Because I may find a home
for these topics later, I use the journal to organize my
thoughts, emotions, the way the events happened, and even
the lesson I may have learned. Later, I'll have an account
of all that went on.
Another way to come up with ideas is by taking a stack of
magazines and reading through them. Invariably a topic may
lead to an idea I've written or would like to write. A
specific column in a publication may lead me to essays I
have or ideas of my own.
2. Organize Markets
How do I keep 40-60 writings in the mail at all times? By
being market-conscious. Through writers magazines (print
and online), lists I am on, writer friends, looking over
magazine racks in book stores, reading market guides, and
downloading guidelines, I have acquired an extensive list
of markets. But the key to sending manuscripts and queries
out quickly is finding markets quickly.
I keep my market books near my printer. Beside them is a
binder notebook filled with guidelines and information on
markets. Once a month, I go through and reorganize the new
markets I've stuffed inside, listing them by alphabetical
order. I also keep a 3x5 box of cards that list the basic
stats of publications I will probably approach. Editor
names, address, how to submit, length requirements, and
what they buy. These are separated into sections of
children's fiction, religious nonfiction, other nonfiction,
essay markets, etc.
When I've printed off a story or article, I'm ready to make
my market list of the top 10-15 markets where I can send
this piece. From then on, returned manuscripts are out the
door that day or soon thereafter to the next market on the
list. Reprint Markets are added once a piece is sold.
3. Organize Projects
Because I generally have several pieces I'm working on at a
time, including some that have editor imposed deadlines,
I've found that keeping a file folder for each project
works best. I can keep all editor correspondence,
research, and other information on the piece together. When
I am working on a project, I pull out the folder and
everything I need is right there. Folders are stacked
neatly beside the computer or in a basket on the floor next
to my chair.
I love entering contests. Until I made myself a contest
folder and filed the information according to deadline
date, I missed many contests I would have loved to enter.
1. Setting Goals
If you want to meet goals, you must know what they are. My
fellow critique members asked recently if I write down all
my goals for my writing each week. Definitely. I know what
I want to accomplish each month, separate it into weeks,
and those weeks into days. I give myself some type of
writing time each day, and a Marketing Day each week
whenever possible. That goal may be to send out 2 new
queries a week. And to complete a requested article. It may
be to rewrite a book for my agent or write a short story
that's been roaming around my head.
Written goals are real goals. Putting them on paper (or
onto your computer) somehow makes it seem important.
2. Prioritizing Goals
What are your goals? To write a novel? To Break into a
specific magazine? To make a certain amount of money each
Set up your writing activities to meet that goal. If your
ultimate goal is to complete a novel, but you get caught
up in research, you need to give yourself writing goals. A
chapter a week, 500 words a day. Something that will move
you forward in your goal.
3. Meeting Goals
Make your goals realistic. When I get a bee in my bonnet,
need extra money, or just get nuts with wanting to see
several projects completed, I too often over-goal myself
and get discouraged. If you tell yourself you're going to
write 3 chapters on your nonfiction book each week and get
only two done, you may begin feeling frustrated. But if you
set a goal of a chapter a week and surpass it, your heart
pounds and you're proud of your writing accomplishment.
1. Write it
Procrastination is often a writer's middle name. We love to
write, but we fear it. Or maybe we write, rewrite, rewrite,
and rewrite a little more.
It's great having several projects wanted by editors. But
if each one is partially written, waiting for the 'muse' to
dance an Irish jig across your computer, your bylines will
be far and few between. If you want to be a more organized
and selling writer, understand that you won't FEEL like
writing all the time. Sometimes, you may not feel like it
for days on end. But what about the projects you need to
I find that, on those times when I don't feel creative but
know I need to work on pieces I've promised editors or see
a looming deadline for a contest or anthology, I set up a
For me, it's sitting at my desk, my headphones on and my
favorite music drowning out the world. Sometimes I have my
favorite soda or a cool glass of water. The only light on
in the room is the one over my computer. I reread the
beginning of my project, or the query letter and response
from the editor, etc. Before long, I'm ready to write.
2. Cash it
Not every writer is organized. And not every organized
writer will sell everything they write. But organization
never hurts. And the rewards-the acceptances, bylines and
checks are worth the time it takes to begin getting
Since becoming an organized writer, I've doubled my income
and tripled my yearly sales. I write for much larger
magazines and sell a larger percentage of what I write and
Try organizing one area of your writing life. Whether it's
the way you find and sort ideas, your marketing ability,
setting goals, or sticking to writing each project, you'll
be thrilled with the results.
Kathryn Lay has had 650 articles, essays, and stories
published in: Woman's Day, Guideposts, Woman's World,
Today's Christian Writer, Cricket, Boy's Life, Chicken Soup
For The Mother's Soul, Chocolate For A Woman's Blessing,
God Allows U-Turns, and hundreds more. Her writing courses
are found at
http://coffeehouseforwriters.com. Her 62 page
booklet, "The Organized Writer Is A Selling Writer" can be
ordered by e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ATTENTION AUTHORS OF WRITING RELATED BOOKS!
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Dialogue, The Making Of A Story!
by Christine Collier
When I first started writing I had no problem coming up
with ideas, even in the beginning. What brought terror to
me was dialogue and how to end sentences. Every time I came
to the end of a sentence I couldn't help saying "he said"
or "she said." Of course I would throw in a few "he
replied," "she smiled," "she answered" or "he frowned," but
still it did not flow right in my mind. New writers tend to
worry about the repetition of "said" going to extreme
lengths to avoid it. However, when you really do need a
tag, don't be afraid of the word "said."
How do you write so people know who is speaking, so you
don't need so many tag lines? When dialogue is flowing
right, you don't even think how to end the sentence, just
as you don't when you are speaking in life. Write as you
speak. Your story should sound as close to a real
conversation as possible. Have the dialogue be natural and
true to the characters lifestyle. It's the main thing that
moves your story; in fact it's what sells a good story. If
you know your character and plot and the scene is started
with a good conversation, the dialogue can actually help
you write the story.
Dialogue introduces the characters, brings in the conflict
and advances the plot. Correct punctuation helps readers
understand who is speaking. In many cases with good
dialogue and proper punctuation you don't need tag lines.
You should be able to tell who's saying what without any
"he saids" or "she saids!" Use tag lines only when there
may be confusion as to who is speaking. Don't let an
untagged exchange of dialogue go on for too long. Use
gestures and physical description in ending or starting a
Write a simple scene, for example, "The children ran into
the kitchen for breakfast. Their mother was drinking a cup
of coffee at the table." Okay, how could dialogue improve
"Beth," her brother yelled, "Don't eat all the scrambled
eggs. We're having that spelling bee today and I don't want
my stomach growling during it."
"Billy" Mom called to her son as she sipped her coffee,
"There are plenty of eggs for you and your sister."
Practice your own little scenes. You will be surprised how
much better you will get. Have your characters talk
realistically, don't have them be sappy sweet or one
dimensional. Get right into the action. Don't explain what
dialogue can say for you. Show don't tell the scene. From
this short scene we learn that Billy hasn't taken the time
to see that there are more eggs, is he nervous over the
Readers describe fast moving dialogue as the number one
reason they enjoy reading a story along with an exciting
plot. Every writer should work on improving their dialogue
all the time. By doing this, over the course of time, you
will see improvement.
Christine Collier began her writing career as an "empty
nester Mom" after Amy, Adam and Andrew flew the nest. She
became a first time grandmother of Emma this past fall.
Collier completed a writing course at the Institute of
Children's Literature, and presently is taking the advanced
writing course at ICL. She enjoys writing middle grade
fiction, especially mysteries. Recently she wrote a short
adult "cozy" mystery. Her work has appeared in Holiday &
Seasonal Celebrations, WeeOnes, Once Upon A Time and the
Institute of Children's Literature. She writes a chat news
column for the newsletter for children's writers, From
Dolly's Desk, email@example.com telling of sales,
markets and good news about her fellow writers. She can be
reached by sending
Dealing With Distractions (Did you just ask if you could
dye your hair purple and get a nose ring?)
by Sheri Waldrop
One of the biggest complaints that most writers who are
also mothers, wives, or just living and breathing on this
planet have is this:
You are in the middle of working on that big assignment.
You know, the one that finally pays REAL money, you get
paid by the hour, or the word, instead of a laughable
little lump sum that might get kitty her food for the week.
No, this is one you really, really, need to get done to pay
a bigger bill (like the car that broke down last week and
is being held hostage by the garage until you agree to
give them large bills, unmarked).
You are at that crucial point in your short story. Your
hero is hanging on by one arm to a rappelling rope, while
the beautiful girl he is saving clings to his leg. He is
inching up, hand-over-hand, up the cliffside, and then...
In the midst of your creative frenzy, someone walks in and
actually tries to hold a CONVERSATION with you. It
happened to me the other day...
I was in the zone (you know, THE ZONE, when words are
flying from the keyboard, the one we all pray for as
writers). I mumbled without looking up, nodded my head,
ANYTHING to finish this crucial bit of writing before the
exquisite prose left my mind, never to return.
Suddenly, my head jerked up and I went to find my teenager.
She had a look of delighted glee on her face, which is
frightening, because she is NEVER happy lately, instead,
she goes around with a perpetual sullen look.
"Sarah, what did you ask me a minute ago?" fearing her
answer, I waited.
"Oh, Mom, thank you, thank you," she gushed. Terror
trickled in my stomach. She never thanks me, instead, she
only grunts acknowledgements.
"Thank me for what?" I asked.
"For letting me do it," she was ecstatic.
"Tell me what I agreed to," I was upset now.
"Don't you know? You said I could." She had the set face
that meant she was ready for battle.
"Get my hair dyed, and get a nose ring."
It took a lot of discussion to let her know I had never
heard her question, and only grunted reflexively while
distracted. And the worst part is, I KNOW she purposely
waited to ask me when she saw I was busy with my work, my
mind elsewhere (she denies this, of course).
All writers have to deal with distractions, especially if
we do any of our work at home. Home is an open field for
anyone to walk in, from the youngest member of the family
(and friends) to the spouse who asks questions on a regular
basis that never change: "Aren't you done yet?" "When are
you getting off that thing?"
Short of locking the door to your work room, or moving out
until your children are 21 and your spouse is old and
senile, you won't be able to avoid these distractions (some
days, I have gone to Home Depot, and been very tempted by
their bolt locks. But I can't quite bring myself to doing
this yet to my family.)
So how do you "stay in the zone," and change gears while
balancing writing and being a mom or dad?
Here are a few ideas.
1. Never just say "yes" to get them to leave you alone. You
may find your child with a nose ring and purple hair.
Instead, teach yourself to say in your sleep, reflexively,
"Mom's busy right now, I can give your question my full
attention in 8 minutes." Then do this. Finish the sentence,
make a quick note of where you were going in your story to
follow up on later, then turn and listen. And make sure
that if you give a time limit, you keep it, or the young
lawyers in your house will come in and say, "It has been
precisely 8 minutes, and you PROMISED to listen." Keep your
2. Trade babysitting/friends over with other parents. They
are dying to have free time to pursue their hobbies, too,
and weekends are golden times when there isn't work. But to
get free, uninterrupted time, you have to be willing to
trade back. Let your kids have their friends over for a
weekend (okay, so you don't get to write, play tag or
football, and eat junk food. But think of the fact that now
you can in good conscience let your kids play at their
friend's house for an afternoon, and use that time to
write). Encourage your children to have very active social
lives for this very reason. It's good for their
development. They will learn to get along with others well
and thank you when they are older.
3. The phone is a huge interrupter. That small rectangular
instrument will ring at that critical point in your
writing. Some thoughts: When you answer the phone, say "No
one is here." People will stop calling you after awhile,
and you will have plenty of free time to write. If that
seems extreme (hey, how dedicated ARE you?), then an
answering machine is critical. Let it pick up the messages,
and only answer if it's your husband saying, "The car broke
down, please come and get me." And don't say, "Okay, but
wait until I finish this article, honey," or he will get
mad. Trust me.
4. E-mail is another huge distraction, especially if you
belong to online lists. I belong to several, and hundreds
of e-mails come winging their way daily into my mailbox.
While it's fun to connect with other writers, it can also
steal hours of precious writing time. There is something
you can do. Go into your computer, into your "Inbox." Click
on an e-mail, then click on "Control A." It will select all
of your e-mails. Now hit delete.
Okay, that was a little extreme, although I once did it
when work was piling up. A better solution is to only get
the digest version of writing lists, and to schedule e-mail
time AFTER you finish your writing goal for that day.
5. Have a separate work area. Your writing area ideally is
NOT next to the TV (how do you resist seeing if you can
beat those Geeks? You know as much about movies as they
do!). Instead, a quiet corner facing AWAY from
distractions, or better yet a room that is dedicated to the
pursuit of your freelance career can make a huge
difference. Put a sign on the door that says, "Writer at
Work. Unavailable except for emergencies" and let your
family know that writing time is WORK. (How to get them to
believe that will come in a future column, it can be done.)
6. Teach your children to cook and make their own snacks.
Even young children can learn, and by age six any child can
make a peanut butter sandwich to hold themselves until
dinner. This will cut down on the "Can you make something
for me, Mom?" right when your hero is making an important
decision that will save his society. If they know where the
crackers and string cheese are kept, and that the apples
live in the bottom compartment of the refrigerator, then
you can gain a few precious, distraction-free minutes. You
can also set up a "work station" for your child with paper,
markers, and crayons near you at their child sized table,
so they can "write" too with you. It's amazing what they
will come up with.
And finally, the greatest secret of all. Your children (and
your husband) will be more willing to grant you your
writing time, which means the world to you, if you in
return give them special time as well. THEY want you,
distraction-free, for them as well. And the younger the
child, the more that time will need to be. A trip to the
park together, and playing tic-tac-toe may mean that you
can grab that half hour later on in the day when they are
playing quietly. Spending plenty of real quality time with
all of them (including your spouse) will mean that when you
DO ask for that uninterrupted time, they will be more
likely to agree that yes, Mom does deserve some time.
Dealing with distractions is part of the writing life. But
it can be done, and your writing will take off as you learn
to make time for your writing.
Sheri Waldrop is a registered nurse and certified diabetes
educator with over 20 years experience as a critical care
nurse and health educator. Currently, she is the owner of
Proscribe Writing Service, and has written on topics for
clients such as: About, Inc., Women's International
Network, Advance Nursing Magazine, French Cove
Magazine, Discover Belly Dance, and others. She also
manages an Internet company that provides dial-up
services, and teaches ESL (English as a Second Language) to
Hispanic adults. She has developed and written monthly
newsletters on Women's Health issues, created patient
education brochures, developed the Hispanic diabetes
curriculum for a major teaching hospital, and created
content for Web sites on topics ranging from fitness and
health to corporate communications. She is married with two
teenaged children, and is an avid gardener in her spare
time. You can view samples of her writing and learn more
about her writing service at
ATTENTION PUBLISHERS! If you are a paying market send your
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Devotional magazine seeking meditations, stories, poetry
Length: 250-500 words, prayers and poetry 40 lines max.
Pays on acceptance $35 and up.
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projects, nature and finances. Not interested in fiction,
nostalgia, or poetry.
Length: 450-1,200 words
Pays within 45 days of acceptance. Fees vary.
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Length: 700-3,000 words
Pays on publication $100 and up for original work,
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Prefers: Completed submissions versus queries, postal mail
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Length: 300-1,700 words
Pays on publication 50б/word. Purchases FNSR.
Does not publish parenting stories or articles.
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Monthly business publication for crafters, including
artists, retailers and promoters. Seeks articles devoted
to the business and marketing of crafts.
Length: Feature articles 1,100-2,000 words, news articles
500-900 words, profiles in success 900-1,100 words,
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Pays upon publication. Rates vary.
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Length: 150-800 words
Pays on publication $75-150 for articles and 15б/word for
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