Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blogs That Work - The Empress Chronicles

This last year I've spoken with several enterprising authors who are shaping a blog around the main characters of their novel....who have yet to meet their book jacket, editor or even an agent! Of course, this foresight on behalf of the writer excites this former agent. What agent wouldn't LOVE to bring on an author who's already built up their book's audience? Talk about platform!

But only one, so far, has totally captured my attention, as it takes a good deal of organization, solid creative direction, persistence, foresight and market savvy on behalf of the author to keep the blog moving forward and relevant to the reader who has yet to fully connect with the characters and their world - it's tricky business, make no mistake, and you should only attempt this after considerable research and organization on your part. Suzy Vitello's blog, The Empress Chronicles, based on her yet to be published YA novel with the same working title, is one to watch as Suzy has masterfully created her blog around one of the main characters in her novel, Princess Elisabeth of Bavaria (Princess Sisi who would later in life marry Franz Joseph and become Empress of Austria and Queen consort of Hungary). I'm a sucker for the Royals anyway, but what is totally captivating about this blog is its voice - fun, chatty, at times a little bit catty and always very informative. Suzy has a knack for bringing history to life in a fun and timely way and once her book is published, readers of the blog will be totally connected to the tale through the rich context she's provided via the blog.

I had several questions for Suzy about the blog:

TLC: Has the blog helped you shape the story?

SV: I originally began the blog as a research tool. It helped me organize historic tidbits while developing aspects of Sisi’s voice, so in that way, writing the blog has offered texture and background and a bit of moxie to character development.

TLC: Do you feel your audience is hooked on Sisi?

SV: I do! And, being a pleaser type person, I don’t want to let my audience down by lulls in posting or a break in voice or spirit.

TLC: Will you open the blog up in the future to include Liz's story? (Liz is a parallel character in the novel)

SV: Well, I’ve been playing with Sisi’s comments on all things popular culture (the royal wedding, for instance) as a way to create contemporary relevance. At this point, I don’t see Liz herself working into the mix of the Empress blog, because I don’t want the blog itself to become too plot-centric, rather, I think of the blog as a “value-added” component, and because of the historical component in my book, the look and feel should not stray too far from that. That said, I foresee a very cool website that embraces the duality of the characters and time periods. My latest favorite author website is recent Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan’s site. The little “extras” she tucks in here and there. The delicious meanderings. I’d like to do something similar geared a bit more to YA, but keeping in mind a potential crossover audience.

TLC: Do you foresee any changes to the blog when the book publishes?

SV: Yes. I see an organic evolution depending on my editor’s vision. Author-publisher partnerships that utilize digital social media tools are simply going to become huger and huger in selling books. Hopefully, within this model, authors will be invited to tap into the same level and spirit of creativity that created the book rather than simply morphing into rote sandwich boards for Amazon. I think the overarching idea here would be to intensify the “dream” for the reader—bring the reader closer to the characters and/or world of the story.

TLC: Considering your blog is for a YA audience, has creating it inspired you to find other creative ways to reach your target audience?

SV: I’ve been spending a lot of time on this lately. I finally bit the bullet and subscribed to Publishers Marketplace and I can’t believe I didn’t do this earlier (even though I remember you advising me to, Erin). What a treasure trove! Following the breadcrumbs from deals to books to authors in the YA market, I’ve gotten quite an education on various strategies. I think the key will be to take part in more online conversations with authors and readers. Expand my Twitter and Facebook and blog following, in order to find, as they say, “my people.”

But, too, I need to heed the tipping point, where I’m burning cycles and hitting cul de sacs that are so time-consuming there’s no time for the actual writing! I have a great idea for help with this though, come summertime. My wonderful schoolteacher husband, Kirk, is a gifted spreadsheet maker and research assistant!

I'm excited to watch this blog continue to grow...and even more excited for the book!

A few caveats for those who would like to create a blog for their yet to be published character(s):

Blogs centered around fictional characters are best suited for genre novels.

You MUST have a strong hook (the blog itself and every post) to grab your intended audience's attention. In Suzy's case she's taken the historical figure from her novel, posts consistently in her voice about timely topics and loads of other fun, light, relevant material.

Don't forget, your NOVEL is first priority, the blog, a secondary priority. Not every writer needs to blog, facebook, tweet, etc. And certainly not every writer yet to publish a book or even find an agent needs to capture their audience before they have something to sell. Craft always comes first - without it, you've got nothing to sell, so plan your time and energy wisely. Blogging and writing a novel are two completely different animals. If you're 100% sure your characters could support a compelling blog and you've got plenty of material lined up, go for it. Just remember, you're making an impression and agents and editors will be able to tell if it's a good one or not.

Capture the interest and attention of your audience but be clear that the book has yet to be published. Do not attempt to collect pre-orders for your yet to be published novel. Highly problematic and ethically questionable.

Now you tell you follow blogs centered around fictional characters? How are they successful? What draws you in?

About the Blogger

Suzy Vitello, (a past TLCG contributor) has been making up stories since third grade, and currently splits her writing time between marketing copy and fairy tales. Her latest project is a young adult teapunk mystery with the working title THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES. Suzy is represented by agent, Melissa Sarver of Elizabeth Kaplan Lit.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Creative Offroading: Are We There Yet?

Allow me a little offroading with this one, writers.

As I was resting from some serious Easter lunch overindulgence, I heard Dorothy in a far off room telling her valiant traveling companions, "There's no place like home. There's no place like home." Instantly I smiled, first thinking The Wizard of Oz never gets old and because my dad, who passed away about 5 years ago, dreaded watching the show his 5 daughters insisted he watch every time it aired. I can't watch Dorothy embark on her epic trek down the yellow brick road where she will make her many pit stops to pick up strangers she's met along the way without thinking of dad. I can still see his reluctant smile as he surrendered yet again to another two hours of pure technicolor happiness (he loved it, really!)

I think of my dad often as I travel down my road without him. Dad and I were best pals. He wrote columns for our local paper and we easily enjoyed sitting in the same room with one another for a few hours without saying much of anything - just read or watch TV together. As I hear Dorothy's saga wrap up in the other room, I remember the one piece of advice he gave me, the one I always come back to, "Don't get yourself into anything you can't get yourself out of."

This has kept me out of a lot of trouble in my life but probably most importantly, it's forced me to get myself out of pits I didn't think I was capable of escaping. And in the doing, I've gotten messy, scraped my knees and learned quite a bit about the absolute lows and highs of human nature along the way.

That's a writer's life, isn't it? Getting lost, messy, roughed up. And feeling the relief, wonder and joy after the journey has ended...only to begin a new one. Along this journey, writers will come to me frustrated that they're not "there" yet...always their own worst critic. Too many wrong turns, stop lights...too much road ahead of them yet.

My dears, you will never be "there"'ll always be on the road. So do yourself a favor and get into it. Get yourself deep into it and rely on your gut to find your way. Turn off your screens and use your own common sense - let's do this old school and sing the whole way there. Art is messy. Life is messy, but here you are, a living, breathing, creating being capable of getting yourself out anything.

And be thankful for all those wrong turns and extra loooong stoplights that have held you up considerably. No doubt you gained a few new friends, new skills, a broader perspective, hopefully a sense of humor and most importantly the courage it takes to keep moving forward...and something to really write about.

Happy trails, friends.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Avoiding Book Pitches that Mislead - A blogshop with Pitch Alchemist, Diane Holmes

I hate to lead this post with a bummer of a statement, but there's nothing worse than being "sold" by a pitch (query letter) that promises a particular reading experience only to be delivered something you totally didn't expect (not in a good way) or a piece of work that felt slightly off from what was promised in the pitch or that flat lined altogether. It's a let down. Agents, editors and all their submissions reader bees experience this every day.

And we know you're doing all you can to capture lightning in a bottle with your pitch. Pitch crafting is hard! I hear this from a lot of you. But it absolutely can be taught, writers. Fortunately we've got Diane Holmes, chief Pitch Alchemist and the woman behind the curtain at Pitch University, an online everything-book-pitch resource for writers, here to help you understand the difference between a pitch and a synopsis and also, the importance of pitching your book accurately.

You've got one opportunity to hook an agent or editor - capture them with the right pitch!

DH: There are a lot of things we writers worry about when struggling to create a pitch (or write a query letter) for our books. We worry that it won’t make sense. We worry the editor or agent won’t like it, because we didn’t say the right thing. We worry that our manuscripts will never even get the chance to be rejected, because our pitches get a “no.”

But no one worries that we’ll get a “yes” for the wrong reasons. That in our best efforts to say something interesting and hook the agent and condense hundreds of pages into a couple sentences and find the “hookiest” details, we’ve totally mislead our audience.

Sometimes, in our best effort to capture the essence of our book, we create a pitch that lies.

“Wait!” you say. “Every single detail in this pitch is true!” And I know it is. That’s why we don’t realize that we’re even lying. The only one who catches the lie is the person who believed the pitch, expected a book based on the pitch, and then read the manuscript presented to her. That person knows the story she’s reading isn’t at all what she expected.

Okay, let’s look at what happened.

The word we need to understand is “imply.” Pitches (and query letters) don’t just tell the reader what’s included in the book, they imply…

· what the entire book will focus on and

· how it will unfold from beginning to end.

Let’s look at an example:

Here are 4 pitches for the book Tell No One by Harlan Coben.

Pitch 1:

Eight years ago, Beck’s wife was abducted and murdered by a serial killer while the couple swam together at a secluded lake. Except now he begins to receive emails from here, saying things that only she could know.

Pitch 2:

A doctor who works in a free-clinic is pursued by the police when a serial killer’s victims are discovered on his family’s land… the same serial killer who supposedly killed his wife 8 years ago.

Pitch 3:

A billionaire must stop a man from digging into the death of his wife.

Pitch 4:

An inner-city doctor at a free-clinic must rely on a drug dealer to stay alive as he tries to find out who framed him for murder.


These pitches contain accurate information in the sense that you can find these detail in the novel Tell No One. In fact, they’re even essential details. But each pitch is implying a completely different book and setting different expectation for the reader.

Even more critical, pitches #3 and #4 do not match how the book opens (first 50 pages). In fact, if you read the first 50 pages, you’d feel irritated and misled, because “this is a completely different book from the pitch.”

And if you’d read the first 50 pages, you’d feel that pitch #2 really missed what was most essential and exciting in those pages (the emails from his dead wife).

Only the pitch #1 seems derived from what’s important about the book… from the point of view of a reader who has picked up the book and begun to read.

Wait, didn’t I say that pitches tell what the entire book is about from beginning to end?

What’s all this about the first 50 pages?

Answer: You’re not trying to pitch everything the book is about. That’s re-telling your story. Remember, you’re implying your story in a pitch, and you imply by getting the reader started in the excitement of the story (what’s crucial, what turns the engine, drives the character, and must be resolved at all costs), as well as sharing the trajectory of the story.

Oddly enough, this is also what the beginning of your book does.

Your Takeaway: If an agent says, “Yes,” to what you pitch, it’s because she believes the book will be a match for her tastes, her agency, the market, and all the other variables. If what you deliver seems to be a different book, then that ‘yes’ you thought you heard was a ‘yes’ for the pitch only. Not the book.

Perhaps you’re hoping the agent will love what you’ve sent even more than what she expected. But few people enjoy getting excited about receiving one thing only to have it swapped out with something else. In sales, this is called “bait and switch.”

The best strategy is to fulfill every expectation, and then blow them away by giving them more.

Get an agent excited about your book by creating a pitch that accurately implies the project, then fulfill those expectations with your manuscript and dazzle them with your writing chops. Get a yes that’s really a yes.

TLC: Now, my dears, here's my one addition to Diane's message - not only do you need to ensure you're delivering what you pitch, but you need to ensure the writing you're pitching is spectacular! Your pitch could be well crafted, but if the writing isn't "there" you've wasted your time. Ultimately, the writing has GOT to grab that agent, that editor, that reader and not let go until they finish reading the manuscript. Promise me you'll craft your perfect pitch after you've crafted your best work.

Your Action: Questions? Solutions that have worked for you? Share them with us!

Here's to a fruitful week, writers!

About the Contributor:

Diane Holmes is the founder and Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, the first online, no-cost resource where writers who "suck at pitching" can learn to pitch their books from the agents and editors who make their living doing it.

Diane brings her background in marketing, writing, and community building to Pitch University.

She’s founded writers’ groups, co-owned a small press, had plays produced, written novels and scripts, run writer's contests, held offices in writing organizations, taught writing… and just like you, she sucks at pitching her own books.

Pitch University is the only website devoted to learning how to verbally pitch your book and answer the question, “What’s your book about?” in a way that actually sells your book. And the best part? You learn from the experts who pitch books for a living: agents, editors and experts. Learn. Pitch. Sell.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Next on The Lit Coach's Guide - Diane Holmes from Pitch University

Does your pitch promise something that's not in your book proposal or novel? This is one of the biggest reasons agents reject proposals and novels - the work fell flat compared to the pitch. Stop by next Monday when my guest poster, Diane Holmes, founder and "pitch alchemist" of Pitch University, a fabulous everything-book-pitching related resource for writers, shares how to craft the perfect pitch.

Holmes has culled an impressive line-up of lit experts to help writers learn and master the art and craft of pitching. Industry experts include: Jennifer Wilkov, consultant, author and host of Your Book is Your Hook; literary agents, Michael Larsen, Christine Witthohn and Katharine Sands; bestselling and notable authors CJ Lyons, Marcus Sakey, Darynda Jones and more...

A few weeks ago I announced my partnership with Pitch University as a monthly columnist. It's soon time for my new column this month, but if you didn't check out my last post on getting your audience hooked on your nonfiction book's concept, you can read it here.

Hope you're all enjoying your week!


Monday, April 11, 2011

Creative Offroading - Keep Moving Forward with author Jessica Anya Blau

Every writer gets off track at some point in their creative journey. For some, this is a daily diversion and others, a once in a while loss of direction. Whether you're headed on a long literary road trip or a few day adventures, there are two things you must remember - bring a map but be flexible to changes in the terrain (this plot isn't working!), blocked roads (my emails to my interview subject keep bouncing back/go unanswered), and stormy weather (I'm just not cut out for this). And two, if you get lost, if you experience major changes to your travel itinerary, if the luggage you packed all your mojo in gets lost, DON'T PANIC!

Author Jessica Blau (Drinking Closer to Home, Harper Perennial, 2011) has more to share on how a little creative offroading may just lead you to your final destination.

Everyone starts out writing with the same hopeful, optimistic energy. You have a great idea that would make a good story, and so you sit down and write. Eventually, however, something slows you down (unless you’re Steven King who apparently writes entire novels in his head and then just transcribes them) and you find you’re lost. You know where you want to end up, but you have no idea how to get there. To me, this is the equivalent of being at the Colosseum in Rome and trying to find your way to the Spanish Steps. You understand exactly where you are, but navigating to the Spanish Steps with a Roman map is like trying to follow the varicose veins on your grandmother’s thigh: downright impossible. You loop, you curl, and if you hold the map upside down maybe you can find your way...but no. There are no straight lines in Rome and there are no straight lines in writing. You are stuck.

At this point in writing, many people abandon the project and decide that their great idea is really a shitty idea. Others sit at their computer, eyes fixed on the screen and wait for something to show up. They’ll wait hours, days, months even (with a lot of email and facebook in between)! What both the quitter and the sitter don’t realize is that it’s not important what you write, all that is important is that you do write.

Let’s go back to Rome. Even if you abandon plans for the Spanish Steps you have to leave the Colosseum at some point. You fully understand that neither your hotel, nor the Spanish Steps are ever going to be coming to you, so you get up and start moving. You might wander, you might catch a cab, you might hop on the next bus (wonderfully crowded with nuns!). No matter. You’re getting away from the Colosseum and moving toward something new. At some point you’ll hop off the bus at the sight of a beautiful crumbling ruin growing out of the ground like a stalagmite. Or maybe you’ll have the cab pull over when you see the Pantheon out your window. Or perhaps, if you’re walking, you’ll stumble into a crowd and realize that, indeed, you have landed at the Spanish Steps! The point is, you aren’t where you were earlier (the Colosseum) and you may or may not be at the Spanish Steps, but you are somewhere new. Somewhere different. Somewhere interesting. And, most likely, somewhere closer to where you really want to be.

The thing that’s vital to successful writing and successful travel isn’t that you follow the exact route you originally thought you had to take. What’s important is that you keep your mind and heart open to the unknown and undiscovered. And when you’re stuck, just keep moving forward. I guarantee, it will get you somewhere.

TLC: I have a client who is pressed for time due to her very full day job and feels an overwhelming pressure that she's not moving forward with her writing unless she's sitting down at her laptop pounding away until 4 am which leaves her utterly exhausted. My tip to her which is also your ACTION this week: when not able to write, take a camera (most cell phones have them now) and shoot images that inspire story or characters (use them in your blog, if applicable, to underscore the message). Use the voice record feature on your smart phone to capture thoughts or go old school and use a good old journal and pen. The biggest part of writing is observing. Be open.

About the Contributor:

Jessica Anya Blau is the author of newly released DRINKING CLOSER TO HOME, which has been called "a raging success" and "unrelentingly sidesplittingly funny." Her first novel, THE SUMMER OF NAKED SWIM PARTIES, was picked as a Best Summer Book by the Today Show, the New York Post and New York Magazine. The San Francisco Chronicle and other newspapers chose it as one of the Best Books of the Year. Jessica lives in Baltimore and teaches at Goucher College.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Adventure of a Little Creative Offroading

I originally intended this post to be short and sweet when I sat down to write it last night…before I inadvertently deleted it…twice! I’m technically challenged, it’s no secret. Anyway, sometimes getting off track is a blessing.

I’m inspired by three posts from bloggers I follow regularly – and how their message ties into a common challenge in the writer’s life – stress and too much "life" in general.

Clara Paulino writes eloquently in Writing in The Margins, that amidst her country’s crumbling economy, amidst the personal and financial crises those around her find themselves in, amidst her own challenging professional schedule, how would she continue to focus her blog and how could she continue to post with such limited time? Rather than throw in the towel, she decided to make a date with herself and enjoy a lovely dinner and glass of wine along the river (she lives in Portugal), where the answer would come floating past her on “elegant boats.” Rafts. Until her schedule allowed her time to write her signature full-bodied blog stories she’s become known for, she would piece together “blog rafts” or “patchwork” stories, musings, and thoughts to keep the momentum of her blog moving forward because, Clara says, “without writing, I don’t breath so well.” Bravo, Clara. Great solution.

Shortly after, I received another blog post from a totally different but equally compelling blog, A Walking Carnival, where blogger Deirdre Lewis creatively shared what happens when she begins working on her list of things to do with all the best intentions only to totally veer off path. Deirdre doesn’t indicate whether this offroading is welcome or not – but the image stuck with me (or rather, the song stuck with me…check out the post to see what I mean). When I work on my to-dos I know if I don’t follow through, I’m just as likely to veer off path myself – something I’ve trained myself not to do over time (survival skills from my ADD childhood). But sometimes those sideways, off track journeys lead you toward your next inspiration, your next a-ha moment, if you’ll allow the Oprahism.

Then today, after I posted on my facebook page that yes, really, my blog post is coming (it’s always up on/by Monday, except for maybe two times), I get a new post from one of my new favorite bloggers Lisa Rivero, a very busy writer, instructor and student, asking us all if it might be time for a creative spring break? Her solution is to devote some much needed time in the morning for long-term planning and a little self TLC. That’s when I knew – something’s in the air.

This month is going to be about creative road trips and adventures. It’s about enjoying trips you didn't plan on and being ok with some non-linear thinking. Let’s have a holiday. You’ve earned it. You follow the advice of all us publishing bloggers, you write your brains out, glue yourself to your social media for all the latest book news, the latest new friend, you send out queries and wait anxiously for an answer, you wait for feedback – any feedback. You’re neck deep in this writing life and it ain’t for sissies. How could any creative person stay motivated and fresh under all this pressure to "do it now!"

So, your action is to spend some time with yourself. Take yourself out of your normal element. Go off road. Take a spring break – even if it’s just an extra hour for yourself in the morning or before you go to bed. Recharge your brain and reconnect with the passion that’s lead you this far on your writer’s journey.

Here’s to your new adventures!


Friday, April 1, 2011

Q&A with The Lit Coach

Time for another round of Q&A with The Lit Coach!

Q: Do you have an approach or checklist for editing? I have a 500 page novel, my first, and I have just begun the editing process. Obviously, I want to address structural problems, dialog, etc., but as I'm starting, a few things surprised me. I didn't realize how much I love dashes or the word 'as'. So how about some basic guidelines for an editorial approach? Besides the big picture things that need to be addressed, I feel a need to deal with the glitchy things that may arise because of certain tendencies I may have developed. Linda K.

A: Everyone has their own approach to editing their work. My best suggestions, the method that works for me, is first reading for flow: does the story flow and make sense? Are there any plot and/or character flaws? Those are the issues you'll spend the most time addressing so address those issues first - you want your story to stand on solid ground before more work is done. And resist the urge to cut and paste edit - this is not editing and it's not writing. Readjusting plot and/or characters is major re-constructive surgery not getting your brows waxed. Take the time you need to recover those issues - because I'll tell you, people who deal with book development for a living - agents, editors, etc., can tell the difference.

Ok, so once those issues are addressed, go back through and clean up grammatical errors, typos, format, technical writing issues. This can also be time consuming. If you're able to hire an editor to do this for you or at least point out the mistakes, do it. Otherwise, go through your work with a fine tooth comb and address those issues when you see them, like those dashes and the word "as." If you can coax a few well-read friends or family members to break out their red pens and help you spot the errors, do that, too. It takes a village to raise a book. That's why acknowledgement sections in books are so long.

Then, Linda, after you've addressed all those issues, go through the work once more to check the sturdiness. Does it flow? Is the plot solid? Are the characters well-developed and will we care about them? No grammatical errors or typos? Is it formatted correctly? Then you're ready to start researching agents and crafting those query letters! Just remember, there is NO hurry.

Good luck, Linda!

Q: I have been blogging with Wordpress for just over six months. The blog is a creative writing blog and the question I have been chewing on is whether or not to self-host. I have had a couple of people tell me it's a pain [and I am technologically challenged]. However, there is so much I cannot do because I am not self-hosting. I am curious as to what you think. Margo

A: Most blogs you read are hosted by Wordpress or Blogger. Agent Kristin Nelson's blog has long been hosted by Blogger, mine is hosted by Blogger, Writer's Digest's, Robert Lee Brewer's is hosted by Blogger as is lit agent Rachelle Gardner's and a few others on my Guide to Great Blogs and Sites page (no, Blogger is not paying me to advertise for them). And I see a lot of cool blogs hosted by Wordpress (hint, my next Blog That Works is hosted by them).

Different hosting sites offer different features. On the bottom of this blog (if you're reading it on the site and not through email), you'll see a bar that will allow you to share the post via Twitter, Facebook and more. That option is available on Wordpress, too. On this site, I installed a box that allows people to subscribe to my posts via email through Feedburner. If you want more bells and whistles, I would urge you to hire a blog development specialist who knows the ins and outs of html code and adding special features. If you'd rather DIY, buy Wordpress for Dummies. I, personally, have Twitter for Dummies on my desk that is begging to be read.

Good luck, Margo!

Q: I have story lined my first novel. In the middle of my first draft, I see the end in sight, but want to present my best, most polished work.

Does it makes sense for me to hire an editor to help me with the first re-write before I attempt to send it out?

A: Yes. What I'm seeing on my end is not enough time spent in the editing process. Too many writers getting it "down" and sending it out to "see what happens." Let's just not do this anymore, writers.

Depending on your budget, you've got three options:

Hire a reputable editor/editorial consultant who's spent time in the book business to work with you through your novel. Not only will these professionals help craft your novel, they have an eye toward market, and genre dos and don'ts, which will help you when you're ready to approach agents and editors with the work, if that's the route you choose. Even with those who want to self-publish, I still say hire out and make sure the work is perfect - you still have to attract your readers with quality writing. Full disclosure, I offer these services.

Recruit some of your better-read friends to review your first drafts. Ask them for specific feedback - that's what you need to make your work better. Ask them, how's the flow? Did you notice any character flaws that need addressed? Where they likeable and vibrant? Are the villains multi-faceted? Is the plot plausible and always moving forward? Are there any points in the book that felt stagnant? What are your suggestions for improvement? It's rare a first draft will be "awesome" so let your friends know you can take the constructive pounding. That which does not kill us...

My friends don't read. Time to get new friends! Kidding. Partly. Ok, so nobody around you "has time to read." Check out some online workshop opportunities. Writer's Digest offers loads of online courses to help writers with the development of their work as does Gotham Writers' Workshop. If you can join a local writers' workshop with other writers at your level or above, supported at a university or just by a collection of writers who like to get together a few times a month to workshop, that's another great option to check out. If you just cannot afford to attend workshop online or at the university level and swear there are no writers within a 50 mile radius, start making new friends online in the myriad writing groups available on SheWrites, Writers Digest Community and Backspace for starters. If you're a children's writer, check out SCBWI- I've directed a client there in the past and she assured me it was a gold mine of inspiration, ideas, insight and new connections.

Keep in mind, this takes time, so don't get frustrated when progress to join a workshop or form one is slow going. Allow yourself that time, learn about this new process and stay focused on your goal.

Good luck, Maryann!

Thanks again for the great questions, writers! I hope I've shed some light on the right solutions for you.

Have a great weekend!