What Happened In This Scene?

I’ve run a critique group for years and years. Every member of the group typically brings one scene to each meeting to be critiqued. By far the most common question I ask after reading a scene is: “What happened in this scene?” It seems like a simple question, but it covers a lot of ground:… Read more »

How to Plan a Series of Novels

Writers often ask me how to plan out a series of novels. They usually phrase the question like this: “Can I use the Snowflake Method on a series, instead of just using it on a single book?” The answer is that it depends. You can always do it, but the way you do it will… Read more »

Writing Fiction on a Big Stage

Most novels have a few viewpoint characters and maybe a couple of dozen other characters, set in one or several locations.  But what if you’re writing a novel with hundreds of characters in many dozen locations? How is your reader going to keep track of it all?  That is what I call “Fiction on a… Read more »

Where Is Your Novel Going?

A story is not like real life. Very often, real life feels like it has no direction. Lots of random stuff happens, and we get through it, or we don’t. We may have plans, but they usually don’t work out. Or they do work out, but then we discover we didn’t want what we thought… Read more »

Where Do Ideas Come From?

I’ve been thinking lately about where ideas come from. They often seem to blip into your head out of nowhere. And that feels very random. Do you just have to trust to luck for your creativity? I’m pretty sure the answer is no. Creativity is not about luck. There seem to be three common elements… Read more »

Writing the Perfect Synopsis for Beginners

If you’re trying to sell your novel to a traditional publisher, you must learn to write a synopsis. It’s almost impossible to sell a novel without writing a proposal, and a key element of your proposal is a synopsis of the plot.  If you think you can avoid this by hiring an agent to sell… Read more »

What to Do When You’re Overwhelmed

Modern life forces you to make impossible choices. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the stuff that needs doing. When you get overwhelmed, your anxiety level rises, you lose traction, you get even more behind, and you feel more and more overwhelmed. Writers are very susceptible to getting overwhelmed. Besides everything else that Normal… Read more »

How to Promote Your Reader Magnet

In my last blog post, To-Fu For Novelists, I talked about the importance of creating a Reader Magnet, a free piece of your writing that you can give away to your fans and potential fans.  You give it away free as an inducement to sign up for your e-mail newsletter. Then whenever you release a… Read more »

ToFu For Novelists

“ToFu” is marketing slang for “top of funnel.”  And what is a “funnel?” That’s a standard marketing term that refers to your system for attracting potential new readers, engaging with them, and ultimately converting them to paying customers.  It’s called a funnel because it’s wider at the top and narrower at the bottom—you attract more… Read more »

Trust the Magic

Every writer has felt the magic.  You sit down to write, but the words don’t come. Not instantly, anyway.  You press on a bit, and the words gurgle out like rusty water from an old faucet.  You keep pressing on, and the words start to flow a little more, but they’re still not right.  And… Read more »

What Your Reader Desperately Wants

This blog post is reprinted by permission of the publisher from Chapter 1 of my book, How to Write a Dynamite Scene Using the Snowflake Method.  What Your Reader Most Desperately Wants Your reader desperately wants one thing.  You have it in your power to give your reader that one thing. And what is that… Read more »

5 Secrets of Great Marketing Copy

Most novelists hate marketing, and that’s OK. Why do we hate marketing? Because we don’t want to feel like a weasel. We all hate those oily marketing dweebs who write slick copy to separate people from their money by selling them things they don’t need.  It’s good to have a conscience. It’s good to not… Read more »

How to Make Your Annual Plan

It’s an old tradition to make New Year’s Resolutions every year. It’s an equally old tradition to completely forget them by the second week of January.  Savvy authors don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. They make an Annual Plan. But what is an Annual Plan? Why is it better than New Year’s Resolutions? How do you… Read more »

Your Massively Transformative Purpose

Writing fiction is hard work for low pay. If you’re going to succeed, you need to know why you’re doing it. A reason to keep going when things are going badly. A couple of months ago, I read a book by Steven Kotler that helped me see what it is that keeps a writer going…. Read more »

5 Inspiring Quotes About Writing From Roxane Gay by Info


Is the Essay Incubator For You? An Alum Shares Why You Should Apply Today by KENDRA STANTON LEE


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Introducing GrubStreet’s Cultural Equity Report  by Eve Bridburg


Every Day at 4:40 AM: Mary-Kim Arnold and Matthew Derby on Writing and Marriage by Mandy Syers


Introducing the 2021-2022 Emerging Writer Fellows by Info


Countdown to Muse 2021: Small Victories by Lisa Braxton by Lisa Braxton


6 Reasons to Love the Memoir Incubator  by Kristen Paulson-Nguyen


Writing Black Joy Contest Winners by Info


Author Interview: Matthew Salesses On CRAFT IN THE REAL WORLD by Alison Murphy


Author Candace McDuffie on Writing & Publishing 50 Rappers Who Changed The World by Candace McDuffie


Are You Ready to Query Agents? by Katrin Schumann


"I Like to Immerse Myself In My Story": Angie Chatman interviews Lisa Braxton About The Talking Drum by Angie Chatman


Write On Prompts: Episode 8 — Ethan Gilsdorf by Info


“Be Patient with the Process”: Interview with Memoir Incubator Alum Michelle Bowdler About Her Book IS RAPE A CRIME? by Kristen Paulson-Nguyen


Freelancers! Figured this just might qualify for a good read. Any thoughts?


Hey Persons of Letters, this could possibly be valuable.

The Top Ten Writing Myths We Still Believe. Myths 1-5 by Catharine BramkampLet’s welcome back monthly columnist Catharine Bramkamp as she shares with us “The Top Ten Writing Myths We Still Believe. Myths 1-5.” Enjoy!


Women Write 2020, a five-day intensive (in-person) writing workshop was quickly shifted to an online offering. 

Our goal is to deconstruct and present the how and why of creating a book by offering systems to stay on track. But before you can move forward, it’s important to leave behind many of the durable writing myths that slow progress as well as set you up for disappointment and frustration.

You can access the full talk at the end of the article.

Myth 1: Your writing is not good enough

We often compare our beginning drafts to a finished book. Don’t. To publish a book — it takes a village of experts. That book in your hand has been vetted, researched, and edited by a team of professionals. You can have the same attention and help when you get there. But first, go ahead and write, it’s very much good enough.

Myth 2: You are too old to start 

We are going to age anyway, why not create something for your own legacy? As long as you can hit the keys on a computer, go for it. 

I won’t bore you with all the stories of later-in-life-successes, but I will say that the valued distance of maturity, writing is often rich and nuanced, and publishing is more easily understood for what it really is. Also, that same  combination of maturity against time passing can encourage efficiency and focus.  

Myth 3: To write a book, you need an outline

We remember outlines from school, big Roman numbers, small letters captured by parenthesis. III, iii, a.  

For whatever reason, you may feel that in order to create a coherent story you need to begin with that kind rigid road map. You don’t. Many writers write from the hip (ahem, like me). We create stories based on characters, ideas, or a comment we overheard, and we cheerfully write from there, no outline at all.

Will you get in trouble later? Yes. Can you write from a plan? Yes,  But if you are inspired to start today — start. The plan and form will follow.  

Myth 4:  Publishing will make you happy

Publishing your wonderful book will give the project closure and will make you happy because you now hold the book in your hands and it’s finished.

Placing your book on your living room bookshelf will also make you happy.  Discovering your book on a store shelf is a genuine thrill. For a few minutes.

For sustained happiness, nothing beats the writing. Nothing is more satisfying than exercising your creativity, being in the zone of creation, and channeling the Muse.

The process of writing is what we love and what truly makes us happy. The finished project is just that, finished. 

Myth 5: Success, thy name is Oprah

This is a myth that will not die. For years it seemed that all an author needed was one interview on Oprah and their book would hit the bestseller list, and yes, that is good, even great. But it’s not a very strong marketing plan.

Your book certainly can be mentioned in Oprah’s magazine, even endorsed as a book club pick, but you have better odds playing the Powerball Lottery.

What will work is working. Create a strong marketing plan, reach out to your potential readers and find your future 1,000 fans who will buy your book and help you make it a bestseller in your category — it can work. But calling up Oprah is a long shot, although I would never discourage anyone from trying.

Myths are fun, myths are wonderful to consider and dream, and I encourage you to dream big about your book. But information will save you from watching your dreams dash on the rocks of reality.  

There is help easily available. Take advantage of classes, conferences and coaching, and find the right outlet for you and for your book!

Visit the whole workshop at www.sonomahealingpress.com and www.Catharine-Bramkamp.com for more classes and opportunities. 



Catharine BramkampCatharine Bramkamp is the co-producer of Newbie Writers Podcast that focuses on newer writers and their concerns. She is a successful writing coach, Chief Storytelling Officer, and author of a dozen books including the Real Estate Diva Mysteries series, and The Future Girls series. She holds two degrees in English and is an adjunct university professor. After fracturing her wrist, she has figured out there is very little she is able to do with one hand tied behind her back.

The post The Top Ten Writing Myths We Still Believe. Myths 1-5 by Catharine Bramkamp appeared first on Writer's Fun Zone.

Was I correct? No need to thank me.

Persons of Letters! Thinking this just may justify a look. Any thoughts?


Greetings Great Minds, this just might be inconsequential.

Do You Use Gender Neutral Pronouns by Willow WoodfordLet’s welcome back monthly columnist Willow Woodford as she shares with us: “Do You Use Gender Neutral Pronouns?” Enjoy!


Pronouns: they soften our sentences, shorten them and make them easier to read and speak. Though today I’m primarily speaking to writers. And I’m preaching to no one. I’d simply like to give you something to think about. 




Feet up

Photo by Julia Stepper on Unsplash

“Amy lifted Amy’s foot

from the stool at Amy’s feet.”


“Amy lifted her foot

from the stool at her feet.”

Seriously, do you want to read a novel written like the first one?

Neil Armstrong

Photo by History in HD on Unsplash

‘Cause I don’t. 


Traditionally, humankind has been referred to in the masculine as a default. (More about this and the language surrounding it in the links at the end.) 

“One small step for man
One giant leap
for mankind.”
–Neil Armstrong


Except we aren’t all men, are we? 

(Neil Armstrong claimed to have actually said, “One small step for a man.” But 1960’s audio didn’t catch it. In 2006 evidence was found that he might have been right, though Armstrong himself said he couldn’t hear it.)


Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

As we have come to understand ourselves, and humankind, we’ve realized that there is so much more to us than meets the eye. And gender is one of those things. 

Gender Neutral Pronouns and Gender Identity 

Many people have come to understand that they don’t identify, in their inner selves, as male or female. Depending on how they feel or relate to the world, they may feel more comfortable with a pronoun that isn’t a part of our daily vocabulary. Yet. 

“I think one of the main reasons
pronouns are important
 is because, other than our name,
it’s one of the main ways
people identify and call us.”
Rowan Hepps Keeney

I’m not going to delve into the science or cultural feelings on gender identity. I’d just like to recognize that they are a part of the society we live in. 

As writers we reflect that society. 

Many of us choose to include characters who don’t identify as the traditional male or female gender. I applaud you! 

Culture adapts as we learn more about ourselves. And language adapts to reflect that change. One of those changes is gender neutral pronouns. 

As authors, we have a responsibility to recognize and herald language adjustments. We are the ones who record them! 

What are Gender Neutral Pronouns?

They are important, even if they feel strange on our tongues and in our fingers as we type. 


They/Them are the easy ones. If you don’t know, just assume. You won’t be wrong, because that is as neutral as you can get. 

Yes, we’ve traditionally used they/them for plural references, but really the pronouns work.

xe/xem/xyrs or ze(zie)/hir/hirs

Others include xe/xem/xyrs or ze(zie)/hir/hirs with the pattern of she/her/hers. (Read more in the links!)

Here’s the best part! 

Make Up Your Own Gender Neutral Pronouns

If you are writing a story you get to choose the pronouns for your gender-neutral characters. Or, even better, make them up! Just be sure to explain them if you make your own up. 

I encourage you to write gender neutral characters. They are a part of the fabric of humanity. My friends’ words when we were discussing this article resonated with me. 


Photo by Luca Onniboni on Unsplash

“Part of how we write is knowing who our audience is.
Thinking about it in terms of those two disparate groups
could open up some possibilities.
I mean, we talk about inclusion and everything,
but it’s easy to exclude people who aren’t there yet too.”
— Suzanne Williams


Humanity comes in many colors and forms. Let’s celebrate and write about all of them! But please be careful and purposeful in choosing the pronouns you use. Correct pronouns validate an individual’s feelings about themselves and experience with the world and show respect.

Links to hear what others are saying about gender neutral pronouns

  • In this video a group of students discuss their own experiences with pronoun usage. 
  • Here, HubSpot, discusses gender neutral pronouns and offers some suggestions about using them at work. 
  • The NYC Human Resources Administration policy.
  •  This is from the University of Wisconsin LGBTQ+ Resource center

The evolution of language

And because language is a passion of mine, here are some articles on how language forms and changes over time. Some of them explain why we used to say mankind, and why it’s changed.



Willow WoodfordWillow lives in her imagination because it’s more interesting than the real world. When she isn’t dreaming up new stories, she likes to cook, hike, and cuddle with her chihuahua. She reads voraciously, staying up far too late, and reading anywhere she can; including grocery lines, parking lots, and waiting rooms. (Except during quarantine, because she isn’t going anywhere right now!) 

Her real-world counterpart, Ann Shannon, lives in New Jersey with her family and spends as much time as possible visiting her grandchildren on the West Coast. 

Chat and follow Willow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/WillowWoodford.

The post Do You Use Gender Neutral Pronouns? by Willow Woodford appeared first on Writer's Fun Zone.

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