Widen Your Scope by Starting Small

Whatever your target market or writing niche… how could you make this tip work for you? Starting small takes off the pressure to be bigger than you really feel. If you’ve been feeling like a fraud, not able to take yourself and your writing seriously or give yourself the credit you should be… take it down a level. Give yourself some time to catch up with yourself. Just for a short time. Don’t get too comfortable and stay small. Build yourself a nice cushion and then begin taking bigger steps. See how far you have gotten the next time you pause to look back at where you have been.

3. Widen your world by starting small

Counterintuitive as it may seem, in the same way that it makes sense to focus your content, it also makes sense to closely focus any initial beyond-your-own-blog publishing efforts you’re inspired to make. Want to see your name in print? If your town has a local newspaper, pitch some stories to the features editor. If you’ve found a website you especially admire, contact the editor or producer to see if you might contribute content on a subject that requires your special expertise. If there’s a magazine that touches on a subject you love, study the small pieces that appear in the front of the magazine and pitch a story or two to that section’s editor. Your ultimate goal is to develop a relationship with an editor or producer that will give you a regular outlet for your pieces – and a potential springboard to a wider world beyond.

Source: Five expert tips for getting started in travel writing – Lonely Planet

The Best Contact Page

As an editor/ site reviewer at dmoz I’ve seen a lot of sites. Today I found what may be my favourite ever contact page on a site. Here is the screenshot. Notice how simple it is to know where they are located. I like the city name as a header before each physical address too. Even if there were only one location, it sets it off very nicely. I like the map, big and easily read. Plain, simple and tidy – really nice.

Above this is the header with the company name, phone number and navbar.

If you have a business site, consider this a great template for your contact page.
best contact page
Source: Celco

Could you be a Food Editor?

This is a real job posting, originally from Buzzfeed online. Do you have what it takes to be a food editor?

BuzzFeed is looking for an ambitious, internet- and social-media-savvy editor with a huge passion for cooking to lead its popular food section. This is a full-time job based in New York City.

Write posts about food in the shareable BuzzFeed style and tone.
Come up with smart ideas for food posts to assign to the food team.
Edit staff posts and generate effective, clever headlines aimed at sharing.
Drive, coordinate, and oversee the production of cooking tutorial photo and video shoots in the BuzzFeed Test Kitchen.
Grow, diversify, and innovate the food section’s presence on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media channels.
Outline and execute a vision for growing and expanding the section to reach new, diverse audiences.
Line edit original recipes for clarity and accuracy.
Establish and maintain relationships with chefs, food writers, and other food-world authorities to bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the section.
Obsessively track viral trends on Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr and create content around those trends.

Two to four years of website, magazine, or blogging/vlogging experience — or similar experience in the food industry.
Experience editing and managing writers.
Proven understanding of the kinds of food and cooking that generate engagement on social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, and the ability to articulate those qualities.
Self-starter and hard worker with tons of smart ideas.
Obsession with and passion for cooking plus a strong interest in and knowledge of professional cooking techniques.
Flexibility, an open mind, and enthusiasm about experimenting with unconventional ideas.
A sense of humor.
Ability to take the perspective of others.
The technical cooking expertise to create new image­-based cooking tutorials and write posts full of authoritative tips is a plus.

Writing for Content Marketing Sites is Too Expensive

How much does it cost to write for other sites, like HubPages and Squidoo? There is a push for writers at these sites to add video along with the content they write and the images they post too.  No one quite dares to make video mandatory (as far as I have seen). However, for me personally, the addition of video to my posts has cost me $20 a month more on my ISP (Internet service provider) bill.

Viewing several videos for each post takes up bandwidth. My account is not one of the huge packages, I live on a budget (as most writers who don’t have money to burn, do). There is also the image added to a post. Some writers at these sites pay for the images they use. I don’t. I use my own photos, create images myself or go to sites where the images and clipart are free to use.

Don’t forget to count your writing itself. No matter how you feel at the time, writers should be getting paid for the content they create. I find many of these content marketing sites don’t pay writers a single cent. Over time a writer may make a pittance or two. However, how much time writing, promoting and researching has the writer spent to earn $10 over the months… years… they gave.

I used to think writing community sites were a good thing for web writers. I don’t any feel that way now. Mainly the cost of viewing video and the push for writers to add video – that is what has me a little angry actually. No big deal for these sites to ask for video added to posts. The sites make money on the farm of writers they keep. Don’t think they are struggling too much. Their success comes from the people they pay nothing to almost nothing. It doesn’t matter to them if the writers are happy, not really. People who write for them are a dime a dozen, cheaper actually.

So why write for them and spend more than you get paid? Pick yourself up, copy your content from the site and put up your own site. It’s not hard and you shouldn’t be intimidated. You don’t have to be a huge success right away. If you can improve your earnings from cents to dollars you’re ahead of where you were before. Plus you can have pride in what you have done, you are your own editor (along with spellcheck) and every penny you make stays in your pocket.

How to Use Dmoz aka the Open Directory Project

Dmoz writer resourcesI was an editor at Dmoz (The Open Directory Project) for 10 years. I worked my way up to the title of ‘editall’ which meant I had the run of the directory. I would review and add new sites submitted. I could edit current listings or delete those which were no longer functioning or had become spam like splogs and link farms. I enjoyed the work. I still like finding great links from all the content online. I like adding links to any post I write here on HubPages and part of the enjoyment is just tracking down the links themselves.

From what I have seen The Open Directory Project is not being updated very reliably now. It looks like very few people are still maintaining the directory and the listings. When I look at categories I used to maintain myself I find link rot and listings which need to be fixed for spelling, punctuation, grammar. There are even links which lead to parked domains, and other useless sites.

The Open Directory Project (ODP) may be unpredictable and a little neglected, but it’s still a free to be listed there and the directory database is still picked up by many other sites.

If you want to submit a link to Dmoz

Find the best fitting Dmoz category for one of your posts which represents your niche at HubPages. If you look at what you’ve been writing you will see you do have a niche/ theme of some kind. Your personality will show through the range of your topics, go with that. Narrow it down to one post and then find the corresponding category in the Dmoz directory.

Don’t submit more than one post anywhere else in the directory. Wait, even as long as a month, before you try another submission. Try a different category, something even more specific to your content/ topic. Never submit to a top level category. Those kind of sloppy submissions are almost 100% sure to be deleted without even being looked at by any editor.

Do not get yourself (or HubPages) labelled with a bad reputation for too many submissions or submissions to the wrong categories. Dmoz will block networks/ domains like HubPages from any submissions if the editors begin leaving negative comments on the submissions from that domain.

When I was part of the workings of Dmoz editors could be very diligent, keeping categories clean, tidy and updated. Even then some categories had no editor and no one checked them regularly for submissions or bad links. I think there are less editors working there now so it is even more important to have patience with any links you submit there. Sending a second submission too soon just makes you look like a mass submitter. Also, extra submissions will just be deleted while the original sits in the category until an editor takes time to look at them all individually. Editors are more likely to work on a category that does not have a lot of submissions they have to mass delete. It’s just common sense when you remember the editors at Dmoz are volunteers, not paid for their time.

Check your submission to the Dmoz directory

  • Proofread your submission. Spelling, grammar and punctuation do count.
  • Double check the link (the http:// link, not the title) of your post.
  • Don’t use excessive keywords.

Selling Manuscripts

Originally posted to SuiteU, part of Suite101. SuiteU is being removed from the site. I wanted to save the ecourses so this resource would not disappear.

Selling Manuscripts

By Dawn Whitmire


You’ve just finished your manuscript or maybe you have the finish line in sight. Are you wondering what next? In between editing your book and preparing the query letter to your targeted agent or editor, there’s a step you must take….writing the synopsis.

If you’re like I was a few years back, your face is wrinkling right now and the dread is settling in. What if I were to tell you it didn’t have to be that way? What if I could show you a quick, precise way to write your synopsis and make it as enjoyable as writing the manuscript? What if I could make you look forward to your book’s ending just so you could get to the synopsis? Or maybe even help you to write the synopsis as you wrote the book.

Read more

Writing Editorials

Originally from Suite101 University, a free ecourse posted a few years ago. I’ve saved the information here because there is a lot worth keeping and I don’t know what will happen to all of it now that Suite101 is closing this area of their site.

Writing Editorials

By Jason Reeher


Welcome to the Suite University course on writing newspaper editorials. In this course, you can learn effective techniques for writing letters to the editor, then submit your opinions to everything from your local newspaper to national publications. Valuable for anyone interested in public affairs, current events, and pop-culture, this course will help the student to develop a writing interest, as well as hone argumentative and persuasive writing skills. This course is great for beginning writers, as well as those interested in scientific disciplinary writing, print journalism, editorial processes, and public policy discourse.

Writing newspaper opinions is a great way to gain expression for your writing. With relatively little time invested, you can learn to produce concise, effective and persuasive editorials on a regular basis. Perhaps the most exciting element is that YOU can choose your subject based upon public interest and current relevancy. By learning what subjects are most important to your target community, whether it’s local property taxes or “American Idol,” you become part of the public discourse when your opinion is published. This course can help you get there.

Read more

I’m Applying for Suite101, Again

I’d like to be part of bringing Suite into the new social media age. I’m active on Twitter, I’m a content curator on Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Scoop.it and Snip.it. I’ve been a web publisher, doing it all myself, since 1998. My oldest, still active blog is now 8 years old. I have a lot of experience to bring to Suite; some of it from Suite itself!

I was accepted as the Writing Community Manager at Suite101 in 2004. I also wrote a regular topic, The Internet Unplugged. At some point I became a copy editor and felt quite pleased to be entrusted with extra responsibility to maintain standards in the Religion topic.

The site is doing some new stuff, making big changes. I’d like to see what they do with it. I used to write there but quit when they put the ad content over all the writer’s content, blocking it from being seen at all. They still run a lot of ads on the front page of the site but, once you get in there they are developing a lot of new areas (it seems to me). It should be an interesting time to be writing there again.

My old profile is still there and yet it comes up 404 if you click the direct link. Interesting in an odd way. All my old content seems to be gone too. I wish I had kept copies of it all at the time.

Making Resolutions for Writers

An old post from BackWash, written by a friend, now deceased. Her blog, Anything Under the Sun, is still up on WordPress.com. She was a teacher and a poet, among other things.

It’s the season for making resolutions. And this is no different for those of us in the writing world.

I don’t know about you, but I have not been writing like I should for a few weeks now. Procrastination has set in with a vengeance. So, it’s time for me to make some resolutions:

1. I will write every day. I don’t care if I have anything I think is worth saying. The physical act of writing will eventually spark some writing that will be worth pursuing.

2. I will read every day. It has been too easy lately to come home, sit down in front of the TV and three hours later I realize I have done nothing. I don’t care if it’s a newspaper, a magazine, or a book of poetry. Wide reading gives me fodder for my writing.

3. I will take a writing class, seminar, weekend, whatever. I need the interaction with other writers to grow and develop. I need their feedback.

4. I will attempt to publish more this year. If very little goes out, very little will be published. And I have a lot to share with others through my writing. All I have to do is find the right publication, the right editor, and hope s/he didn’t have a cucumber sandwich for lunch.

5. I will finally apply for that degree I have always wanted.

So You Think You Can Write

Assignments | So You Think You Can Write. – The event is over for this year, but the assignments are still up.

Day 1 Assignment: The Opening Page

Are you up for the challenge?

You know you have a great story waiting to bust out. The key is getting started. First things first: a great opening line leading into a captivating opening page. How will you get the editor to take notice, put down her coffee and clear her appointments for the rest of the day? What are your characters saying to you? Don’t ask me, write it down.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t get bogged down in eloquence. Just start writing the your story. You can finesse your words later.
  2. Make sure your story starts in an exciting place. Don’t have the heroine thinking about her entire life, where she was born, her first job out of college as she’s brushing her hair or driving her car. The characters should be moving somehow, even if they’re actively grappling with a dilemma.
  3. While your opening page is fabulous, grabbing us in from the start, don’t forget to describe the physical elements of your setting and characters. Immerse us in the story.
  4. Remember that this opening page is a way to hook your reader. Show us what you’ve got! Pull out all the stops! Great opening lines can live forever and this is your chance to show off.
  5. Characterization is key to survival in a romance novel. Since your reader has to live with these characters for hundreds of pages, you should show the hero or heroine through action, dialogue, point of view—or all of the above. Make us have to take their journey with them.

Day 2 Assignment: The Scene

Are you up to the challenge?

You know a memorable scene when you read one. A pivotal event usually occurs in a dynamic scene. In real life, you have many “events” but not all of them are significant: making dinner, brushing teeth, waking up. For a novel, you need to provide scenes that keep the reader obsessively turning pages. The day-to-day scene and events can be a nice slice of life here and there, but for a romance, you need to cut to the chase a bit more: write and show us the most exciting parts of a love story.

What makes a scene great? Drama, tension, setting, characters, conflict and that special “x factor” that makes your fans look for your stories on the rack. A good scene makes hairs on your skin rise up and you’re rooted to the ground/bed/bathtub/plane seat. You think you might implode if you don’t find out what happens next.

For a successful romance, those juicy scenes are a must. Readers need to see the characters, sympathize with them (or at least feel something about them), and want to continue. By the end, the reader should wonder how the hero/heroine is going to make it through this journey. You, the reader, may be crying or laughing hysterically because you can’t believe that character could do such a thing. And you never forget that moment in a story.

Remember these scenes?

  • Hugh Grant can’t go through the wedding in Four Weddings and a Funeral and has to communicate through his hearing impaired brother.
  • Lizzie tells Darcy that he’s the last man she could ever marry.
  • In the deli, Sally does something a little outrageous to prove a point to Harry.
  • All the instances where Jane Rizzoli happens upon a clue that solves the crime.
  • Bridget Jones realizes that she can’t go back to Daniel Cleaver even when he offers himself up to her for the second time.
  • How mortifying it must have been for Julianna Margulies’s character to stand by her philandering husband at the opening of The Good Wife.

Think of the scenes that affected you. What made them resonate for you? Why was this scene important for the story? How did it change the characters? Your scene could be as simple as a trip to the store—where something crucial occurs (and not a discount on canned peas, even though this can be exciting). A useful exercise would be to think of jarring scenes from your own life, the ones that flash through your mind at odd moments and those that have shaped you into the person you are today. Scenes are vital. They don’t have to involve a burning building, gunfights and car chases. They could show an exchange of some kind, but this exchange has to move the story forward in a major way.

Here are some tips:

  1. Show us the characters. What are they doing? What are they feeling?
  2. Introduce the conflict in the scene. What are they fighting for?
  3. Provide atmosphere. Where are they?
  4. Move things along. Excite your reader!

So, now that you’ve done some pondering, it’s time for you to show us your scenes. Make us—the editors—burn to know what comes next for your characters. You may have the scene in your head—a good starting point. Next you need to describe it to us. Take us on a journey—a succinct one you can encapsulate beautifully in 3-5 pages (or 750-1250 words).

Day 3 Assignment: The Synopsis

Are you up for today’s challenge?

No one really likes to read or write a synopsis, but it is a useful tool for editors. We tend to refer to them throughout the publishing process: writing memos to recommend the stories to senior editors; filling out the cover art forms; and writing the back cover copy. We need an organized synopsis that summarizes the story.

We all have different opinions on how long a synopsis should be. Some like 1-2 pages single-spaced, some like 10 pages double-spaced. This can be maddening to a writer, but it’s one of those tasks you have to grit your teeth and do. If you’re not sure what an editor wants in a synopsis, just ask. For our purposes, how about we compromise with 5 pages, double spaced synopsis, using 12-point size font? Sound good? Good.

In the writing/submission process, you may have faced the blank page and thought, Why in blazes do I have to do this? Why can’t I just write the story and let the editor figure out the synopsis? Because it doesn’t work that way. Writing a synopsis guides us so that months after we read your book, we can refer to the synopsis instead of rereading the entire book. Remember how your parents told you to eat your vegetables? Writing a synopsis is a bit like that and will benefit you/us in the long run. It might even help you organize your story.

Here are a few tips for creating your synopsis:

  • Make a list of all the events that happen. Hero and heroine meet. They both have major issues. He takes her out to breakfast. They fight. She reveals secret baby. He stomps off, she thinks, because he doesn’t love her. He comes back and tells her he just started trust fund for their child. They live happily ever after.
  • Those are the main points of the story. Now you can string these sentences together, fill out the main points with a fuller picture of the setting, the characters, and the conflict. While you don’t want to write: This happened, then this, then this, then this little thing, you can provide more minor details to add spice. Bear in mind that the editor wants the highlights. You can also pretend you’re telling an editor the story and just record your words on paper. Before you know it, you’ll be done with those five pages. In fact, it might be much easier than you thought.
  • One last item to consider: Make your synopsis readable. A synopsis can be dry. While it doesn’t have to be edge-of-your-seat gripping, you are allowed to write a synopsis we will enjoy reading. But mostly, make sure you include the highlights.

So, now that you’ve done some pondering, it’s time for you to send us your synopsis. Make us—the editors—excited about your story and the directions it takes. Take us on a journey—a succinct, well-written one you can tell in 5 pages (or approximately 1250 words).

Day 4 Assignment: The Query Letter

Now it’s your turn!

The ideal query has three paragraphs. While you want to convey your personality, remember that editors read many cover letters and submissions. A gimmicky query letter tends to bomb and put you at the bottom of the pile. Why is this? Because most of all, editors want just the facts about your story. You can put all your wit and sparkling prose into your writing, but the query letter should go something like this:

Opening paragraph:

What is this submission and what line were you targeting? It only needs to be about three sentences, a brief overview and introduction of your story. You should also mention if the book is complete or not. Consider, as well, that we keep track of our submissions, so if you have previously sent this manuscript to us, we will have records of this.


In Deadly Waters is my 55,000 word story which features a couple white-water rafting in Colorado. Danger strikes as an enemy sabotages their romantic trip. This romantic suspense would be ideal for the Romantic Suspense line. If you’ve met the editor in person, you can include that here: I enjoyed meeting you during our editor appointment at RWA in New York City.

There. Wasn’t that easy? On to the next paragraph.

Middle paragraph:

What is your story about? In about five sentences, you should describe your novel more thoroughly, focusing on the most important aspects. What is the major theme? Who are the key characters? What do they learn at the end? If you have a romance, what is the big conflict between the hero and heroine? You’ll want to use enticing language to make the editor want to read the story. Also, bear in mind that the editor wants to know how the story fits into her line.


To try to mend their relationship, Jesse Smith and Martha Brown take a vacation in Colorado. No sooner do they begin than they encounter bad luck on their trail. The further from civilization they go, the more dangerous their trip becomes. They have to band together to fight a vicious threat from the past. You can add a few sentences from here and just remember to write the most exciting parts of the story. Leave out that it took Martha Brown two hours to pack her suitcase. We just want the juiciest parts of this tale.

Concluding paragraph:

What is your background? Do you have any writing credits? Day job? Night job? Do you belong to RWA and/or a chapter of RWA? This is the part where you get to brag about what you’ve done or how much you love the romance genre. After this, remember to thank the editor for her/his consideration.

And you’re done! With this foolproof formula, you can crank out a winning query letter in no time.

Day 5 Assignment: Submit Your Manuscript and Synopsis

Show us what you’ve got!

We’re put on our thick reading glasses and are ready to read your work. It’s time for you to fine-tune your prose and synopsis. Here are some last-minute pointers:

The Opening Chapter & Beyond:

Begin your story in an exciting place. Does your story open with the heroine picking out yarn to use for her next sweater? Or maybe the hero can’t decide if he should put skim or whole milk in his coffee. These more mundane activities can be woven into the main story, but for the opening chapter, you should work on luring the editor/reader into your tale. Stay away from: gimmicks and clichés. For example: SEX! Now that I have your attention (that’s a gimmick). Cliché: the heroine is rushing out the door and runs smack into the hero.

Strong points of view win the day. You could have a character doing a mundane action if the point of view is fun to read. The heroine could be brushing her hair, if she’s planning something devious, something exciting. This is often the exception to the rule, but if you have a strong voice, you can get away with a lot more.

Beyond that first exciting chapter, try to end as many chapters with a bang. Keep us wanting to turn the pages. How do you do that? If I could capture this secret, I would sell it for millions. But for now, just keep putting as much momentum as you can into your story. Make sure your story stays fresh, captivating and does right by the characters. Keep up the excitement, the fun, and, of course, the romance.

Be aware of the word count and the line you want to target. You’ve heard a lot about the different series lines and doing research.

Oh, and please double-space your prose, using one-inch margins.

The Synopsis:

Ah, yes, the dreaded synopsis. We know they’re not fun to write, but they can help keep you on track and they help editors in a variety of ways. The ideal synopsis is between 5-7 pages, showing a clear vision of the story’s arcs and characters. As editors, we want to see how the characters develop and how they’re tested. In addition, we need to gauge if your story builds in momentum to the end. If not, we can help you find ways to strengthen your plot. Often, if a synopsis is too short, the writer isn’t quite sure what he/she is writing. If the synopsis is too long, the writer might be bogging down her/his story with too much detail and not enough romance. You want to get to that just right synopsis-length that gives a clear overview.