How to Write Like a Professional

How to Write Like a Professional
6 Surprising Mistakes That Make Writers Look Like Amateurs... and How to Avoid Them

Monday, October 29, 2012

30 Days Hath September


If you're having trouble with something, try doing it differently.

Old adage thirty days hath September || how to try something different | writing

"Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November." I never could remember that phrase. I love calendars and always have to look at them to tell. I was camping this past weekend and asked my husband how many days does October have? 30 or 31? I wasn't sure... I don't even remember what he said, or if he was right. 

Today I decided to teach myself something DIFFERENT to help me remember. I know April only has 30 days because my birthday is on the last day of the month, so that one's easy. So that leaves: June, September, and November. Here's my little acronym:
  • Juni Separates Novels into 30 chapters.
  • or...Junior Separates Novas into 30 pieces.
Today's challenge: DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT AND ENJOY THE RESULTS.

Keep on keepin' on...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pot-O-Gold Blogger Award #18: Teach Mentor Texts

So it's time to get back to business. The last three posts were about web design: What Makes a Good Author Website, The Cost of Having a Website, and How to Choose a Web Designer. Today's post is all about a great new blog I discovered. Without further ado, the Pot-O-Gold Blogger Award goes out to...


Jen and Kellee over at 
Books that Can be Used as Mentor Texts to Promote Literacy.



I created this award for excellent blogs based on... 
  • interesting and helpful content AND
  • visually appealing and easy-to-navigate design
It's an award that says, "Look at this awesome blog! There's a wealth of information here! If you visit once, you'll want to return again and again." In other words, it's like discovering a pot of gold. 

Why I like their site:

  • The CONTENT is awesome. You could spend hours in there searching their "database" of mentor texts, books that help children learn how to be better readers and writers by having read and studied them. They have fiction and nonfiction, picture books and novels, even poetry. If you TEACH, then you NEED to check out this awesome blog. And if you WRITE, then you can learn from these same texts, too! I know I'll be back for more!
  • The label list on the side bar gives easy ways to search for that perfect mentor text of nearly any aspect you need to teach. They even have a tab across the top that defines each of their labels. Another tab across the top tells more about these two lovely ladies and their teaching background. 
Join the 450+ followers who think their site is worthy of visitation rights. I did.


How the award works:

  1. Say thank you to the person who gave it to you.
  2. Write a post and include the image of the award, a link to the person's blog who gave it to you, and a link to my blog, WRITE WILD. (Copy and paste the rules in your post.)
  3. Award four bloggers this award and tell why each is a Pot-O-Gold! (If you receive this award more than once, you only have to forward it the first time.)
  4. Share four simple things about yourself: 1-a time you had to exercise FAITH, 2-something you HOPE for, 3-something (or someone) you LOVE, and 4-a time when you felt LUCK.
Keep on keepin' on...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Running With a Grammar Slinger

Runners and writers are a great bunch of people, but we have our quirks too. Runners like to sling a lot of things around: snot, spit, water bottles, you name it. Grammar slingers do the same, slinging commas, adverbs, and adjectives left and right like there's no tomorrow.

Running and Writing Quirks | grammar | tips for writers | running humor | funny blogs

I love thinking up analogies that link running and writing together. As I was out doing my 10-mile run, I realized that slinging snot is a lot like slinging grammar. It's altogether unsightly. The point being...

...aren't you embarrassed?

To be a snot-slinging runner, that is? Yes?

Well, perhaps it's even more embarrassing to be a grammar-slinging writer. And please, oh please, do not call the Grammar Police over here to "edit" this post.

Don't you know shorter sentences are simpler, and sometimes better? Not so short that they're choppy, though. Commas can be edited.

You can delete your own adjectives as you pick up your lone, empty water bottles from the side of the road. Use strong nouns. Drink Dasani.

And as far as adverbs go? Well, they're just plain ugly, like someone spitting a bubbly wad of white froth on the ground, or like a child picking their nose. Adverbs are a private lot. They like to be used sparingly, in the privacy of a tissue, please.

So are you going to run with a grammar slinger or write with a snot slinger? Anyone else the latter? If so, you can join me in my upcoming half-marathon in just a week and a half. And I promise to keep my snot in my nose, or take tissues along. Colder weather does have a tendency to make one's nose run a bit. There's no excuse for being a grammar slinger. Learn the craft. Get stronger. At least editing can always fix our foibles, just as a great massage can fix our aching muscles.

SO... are you a grammar slinger or a snot slinger? Share in the comments!

Keep on keepin' on...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lucky Clover Picture Book Contest: SUMMER Winner Announced!

The Lucky Clover Picture Book Contest announces winners four times a year. The SUMMER contest ran July through September and now it's time to announce the latest winner. A big congratulations goes out to...

Lauri Meyers

for her manuscript:

Don't Splash the Mama 

It's a cute little story for 0-2 year-olds about bath time fun and imagination. 

Lauri, you can expect your critique in your inbox within 2 weeks. Everyone please take a moment to congratulate Lauri or even visit her at her blog.

Note: Submissions are now open for the FALL 2012 contest. Be sure to send in your entries by December 31.

Friday, October 19, 2012

[3 of 3] How to Choose a Web Designer

So you're a published author. You've decided to take the plunge to ratcheting up your career. Whether you need a website designed from scratch or you already have one and want it completely revamped, you have decided to go with a professional web developer to design and manage your site. But how do you find one? Here are some ideas...

How to Choose a Web Designer || author websites | should writers create their own website | marketing for authors
  1. Look at the sites of the authors you love and find out who designed their sites.
  2. Get referrals from friends who have paid someone to do theirs.
  3. Google "web design for authors" and you'll get about 10 hits on the first page.
  4. Check out the listings in the SCBWI catalogues or other organizations you're a member of.
  5. Ask me in a year, and I'll be able to give you a personal quote (I've already got my site designed in my head and a company name picked out).
I personally have 22 sites saved in a folder in my favorites (for ideas, etc.). And yes, they all specialize in web design for authors. So how in the world do you choose? Price is not the most important thing. I know it matters to your bank account, but again, I repeat, price is NOT the most important thing. So what is? STYLE and FUNCTIONALITY!

  1. Visit ALL of the sites you found. Look at their portfolios. Get a feel for the company from their own website. 
    1. Do you like the style of the sites they've made? Did you visit several of the sites? Are they easy to navigate?
    2. Can you envision working with this company? Is their site easy to navigate? 
    3. Does their FAQ page answer most of your questions? (Do they even have an FAQ page?)
  2. Narrow your list down to your 3-5 favorites.
  3. Think about how you want to operate in the future.
    1. Do you want to be able to make your own edits? (Are you semi- tech savvy?)
      1. Ask if this is an option.
    2. Do you want to pay one company for site updates (if that's what you want) and hosting services, or do you want to pay "A" for hosting and "B" for updates.
      1. Ask if they offer web hosting too.
    3. Do you want to work with a small company or a large company?
    4. Write down any other pertinent questions you may have.
  4. Make up a pros/cons list for your 3-5 favorites based on feel, style, and professionalism. Try to put them in order from most favorite to least favorite. See if they give a guesstimate for how much they charge. Some sites will say, and some won't, but don't let that be the determining factor. 
  5. Get a quote! Get a feel for the person you'll be working with. 
    1. Do you feel like they'll understand what you want?
    2. Do you feel like you'll be able to work with this person for a long time?
    3. Ask how long they think it will take?
    4. Choose the ONE you feel best about. If in doubt, PRAY.
Lastly, get out your wallet and enjoy the ride!

Read the other posts in this 3-part series:

#1: What Makes a Good Author Website?
#2: The Cost of Having a Website
#3: How to Choose a Web Designer

Keep on keepin' on...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

[2 of 3] The Cost of Having a Website

There are four basic costs involved in having a website. Before jumping in, you should be aware of what those costs are. (Next post: how to decide on a web designer.)
  1. Domain names
  2. Hosting service
  3. Site creation
  4. Updates
The Cost of Having a Website || basic costs of owning a website | author website tips | cost of domain name | hosting for author websites | domain names for writers

DOMAIN NAME: The first and simplest cost is that of registering your domain name. Prices range from $4 a year to $15 a year, with the average being $8-12. Beware of going with the cheapest because they'll offer lots of add-ons (for extra money) that may be included in a plan that charges more.

You can sign up for your domain name without even hosting a site. That lets you snag your name before someone else does. With writers, you should decide what your pen name will be. If your name is Jane Doe and you want all your books to say "by Jane Doe," then you'll probably want your domain name to be www.janedoe.com, but if it's taken, you could consider using your middle name, middle initial, or maiden name in your byline instead, especially if you don't have a book published yet. Jane Rita Doe, Jane R. Doe, Jane Whitmire Doe. If you don't want to do that because you already have books published, you could possibly use www.janedoebooks.com or janedoeauthor or janedoewriter. The point is that you don't want someone else to "steal" your domain name. A couple of good ones are godaddy.com and 1and1.com.

HOST SERVERS: Another necessary expense for website upkeep. After your site is created, the domain and all it's attached pages will need to have a place to live online. That's called a server, or web hosting. Without it, your site could not be live. Prices range from $5 a month to $20 a month, with the average being $10-15, for an annual expense of $120 to $180. The top 5 web hosting services are hostgator.com, godaddy.com, 1and1.com, fatcow.com, and dreamhost.com. If you make your own website, you can probably host it there as well (Wordpress, Yola, Godaddy, Weebly, etc.).

If you hire a professional, you may have a couple of options: to continue (or begin) to host on your own, or let your web designer host it for you (for a fee - usually $10-15 a month). This could be a benefit if you pay your designer for updates, then you only have to pay one entity instead of two separate ones.

SITE CREATION: This is by far the most expensive cost of getting a website, but it's a one-time payment, unless you hire someone a second time to get a completely revamped web design later on. Fees typically range from $700 to $7,000, with the average being around $2,500. The range is widely varied because of individual needs, the number of pages, the skill of the designer, how customized the site will be, etc. I highly advise this option as it will be a much cleaner and um, well, professional site.

UPDATES: If you create your own site, then this will be FREE. If you (wisely) go with a professional, there could be a couple of options. Some designers create your site using certain tools that will allow you to update your own text, photos, etc. Be sure to ask. If you don't feel like fooling with that, most designers charge around $25 an hour for updates. But really, how often does an author need to make updates? And how long will it take? Maybe 2-3 hours per year, if that. It totally depends on how fast you publish books and how many changes you want to make. This is really not that large of an expense, when you think about it.

In the end, is it worth the expense? If you consider yourself a professional writer, then having a professional website is like handing out free business cards to every one who has read your book and having them hand out cards to everyone else they know that they think will like your book too! It's just plain old good business sense. Just remember what makes a good website, and that it's totally okay to make your own before you're published. Happy writing!

Read the other posts in this 3-part series:

#1: What Makes a Good Author Website?
#2: The Cost of Having a Website
#3: How to Choose a Web Designer

Keep on keepin' on...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

[1 of 3] What Makes a Good Author Website?

I've been thinking a lot lately about the qualities of a good author website. As a writer, I am constantly looking at books, researching those same books online, looking up authors, searching out debut authors, connecting with bloggers, surfing in online bookstores, checking out agents and their sites, researching editors and publishers. I've gotten pretty good at identifying what I like and don't like and what works and what looks unprofessional.

What makes a good author website? || how to design a website | should writers make their own websites | qualities of a good author website

It's the same with reading books. The more you read, the more you know what you like and don't like. I'm a picture book addict and quite choosy about which books I label as my favorites. There are a lot of picture books I absolutely adore. And then there are a good number about which I am left asking, "And this got published because why?" or "Cute, but who's going to buy it?" I know, I know, picky, picky, picky...


The point is that when you get yourself a website, it needs to be good. If you are a writer who is more or less just starting out (i.e. "pre-published"), then you could make your own website for kicks and for practice (like I did), but don't keep it once you're published! Get a professional site and quick! (Note for future: I'll be offering professional author web design in about a year - much better than my current site.)

Anyway, here are the qualifications that make up a great professional author site:

  • Beautiful. Visually appealing. Professional-looking images. Not choppy, too small, or too big.
  • Voice. It's gotta BE YOU! This can by a style, a theme, or even just the color scheme.
  • Informative. The best sites have most (but not all) of these tabs:
    • Home (but don't put the home tab on the home page, or at least don't have it be an active link since you're already on that page)
    • About
    • Books
    • Blog (if you have one)
    • Contact
    • News
    • School Visits (if you do them)
    • Resources (for writers, parents, teachers, educators, or kids)
    • Activity pages or Fun & Games (usually for kid resources)
    • Calendar
    • ...There could be others, but those are the basics and they can be organized (and "titled") in different ways, too. The point is, be creative, informative, and have fun, but most of all professional and efficient.
  • Efficient. This one's a biggy for me. The information presented should be easily accessible, look sleek, and run smoothly. Navigating from page to page should be seamless, enjoyable, and not take any extra brain power. 
SOME GOOD ONES, though all very different:

Some elements of sub-par home-made sites:
  • no header or banner
  • no prominent display of author's name (adding a GOOD author photo is also a good idea)
  • no images (or only displaying clip-art style images - okay for a blog though)
  • everything in sharp squares (old-style html)
  • images and/or text doesn't line up
  • strange lines running where there shouldn't be any
  • large text
  • lots of bold text
  • every page a different color
  • no home tab
  • book page with
    • no current books
    • no links to buy books (indie bound, amazon, B&N)
    • no images of book covers
    • no ISBN numbers, publisher, date, summary of book
  • no contact info!
  • difficult navigation (tabs not displayed on every page)
  • tabs at the bottom of the site (instead of at the top or to either side)
  • every page is a giant image (including the text)
  • no links
  • too many animated images
  • a site map
  • long lists with no images
  • links that say click here
  • too many fonts and colors for text on the same page
  • INCONSISTENT from page to page 
  • inconsistencies within a single page 
  • distracting and/or busy backgrounds
  • a site that is actually a blog (okay for beginners maybe, but can be tricky when adding more depth or more pages because of the side bars that aren't editable)
  • Okay, I'm sure there are more, but you get the idea!
What are some of YOUR favorite author websites?

Read the other blog posts in this 3-part series: 

#2: THE COST OF HAVING A WEBSITE
#3: HOW TO CHOOSE A WEB DESIGNER

Keep on keepin' on...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

HIGH FIVE #21: Nothing Like a Puffin

It's time for another HIGH FIVE interview to spotlight a debut picture book author. Today, please welcome Sue Soltis, author of Nothing Like a Puffin. With two active boys, Sue is well qualified to discuss Halloween, superheroes, and patience. Take it away, Sue! And by the way, her boys are nothing like a puffin...


Here’s a big HIGH FIVE congratulations to you for your debut picture book.

Title: Nothing Like a Puffin
Author: Sue Soltis
Illustrator: Bob Kolar
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release date: September 2011
Word count: 460
Short summary:
A puffin is an amazing creature. It's completely unique and one-of-a-kind. A ladder is nothing like a puffin. A house is nothing like a puffin. A newspaper is nothing like a puffin... But wait! Who would have guessed? Could these things be more alike than you think? Young children will love following this mischievous puffin in an entertaining exercise in creative classification - and are guaranteed to start looking at everyday things in a whole new way.

Question ONE: What are three of your favorite picture books? Just three mind you.

  1. One Witch by Laura Leuck, illustrated by S.D. Schindler (since Halloween is coming!)
  2. What the Ladybug Heard by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Lydia Monks
  3. Monster Sleepover! (kind of Halloween-ish too) by Scott Beck
I have heard of What the Ladybug Heard before; it sounds quite intriguing. (Is Halloween your favorite holiday?)

Question TWO: What is your bedtime routine like with them? How do books play a part in that?

I have two boys, 9 and 4. They have introduced me to the fine details of worlds I only dabbled in before—like superheroes, Star Wars and dinosaurs. We read to our younger son every night and are always carting books back and forth from the library—mostly because it’s an unusual book that wants to be read again and again. We don’t always agree on favorites, but a lot of times we do. Right now, we’re on an Oliver Jeffers kick, everybody loves his books, even my 9-year-old—who mostly reads on his own every night. Somehow he’s claimed the best seat in the house, but what a pleasure for me to be able to just sit down, even in the second most comfortable place and read. Of course, books are the best part of bedtime and the one lure that makes it even possible. Books are always at the tail end and usually earlier too!

I agree; books are the best part about bedtime. My 8-year-old son still does not read much to himself, aside from Pokemon books. I hope he will eventually catch on to the fire of reading. I wonder what book will make the change for him.

Question THREE: How might teachers use your book in the classroom?

I think teachers like it because it’s a fun take on a compare and contrast lesson. Kids can come up with their own comparisons to puffins—things that are really unlike puffins or that have a lot of similarities. Also, I think it’s a great book to read out loud to a class. It’s the kind of book that kids will have something to say about in the middle; its’ not so much a very quiet bedtime book. For older kids, teachers could use it to teach Venn diagrams. And, all of this logical thinking is a basis for math too!

Yes! Venn Diagrams, for sure! Imagine that…literature and math combined. You’ve written a cross-curricular book! We should share it with every teacher we know.

Question FOUR: Can you tell us a little bit about your revision process and the illustrator’s role in your book?

My first draft did not have illustrator notes, but somewhere along the way there was one revision that did. That was totally discarded. I’ve come to the conclusion that illustrator notes should be avoided, and most editors and publishers will tell you that. But, actually, I’d take it further than that—I avoid writing stories that would even need illustrator notes. Sometimes, when I review my work I take out things that can be shown—but it can be a delicate balance as to what to leave in, what to take out (as usual!). Because of a piece I’m working on that is more character-centered, I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

A good illustrator really does have the ability to visually create a story. I was amazed by Bob Kolar’s illustrations; I think he really captured the tone of the text and he created a page-to-page swing. On the flipside, in the final edits of Nothing Like a Puffin, a line or two of text was taken out because the illustration covered it. So those lines served as illustrator’s notes, in the end, although they weren’t conceived that way.

My title never changed. In fact, it was the springboard for the story. But otherwise, there were so many revisions! I did not keep count, and to tell you the truth, I’m still reluctant to go back and check. But there were pre-contract revisions, post-contract revisions, final revisions, re-wordings for a UK version, and revisions once the illustrator was on board.

Bob Kolar is awesome! It’s a good thing writers are flexible and they we enjoy revisions (okay, maybe some of us do).

Question FIVE: What are your top three writing tips you can offer to writers seeking publication?

  1. There’s a question, because I don’t feel like I’m there yet. I’m still ready for people to give tips to me. However, patience must be number one because it’s the rare writer that doesn’t get snagged somewhere: looking for an agent, shifts in editors at publishing houses, getting the next book contract, deciding to throw away that last story and start with something new.
  2. Second is the craft; it’s startling how you can always make it better. So while you’re waiting, work on the next thing, and make it better. Make it better again. Is that three?
  3. One more—recently I started a critique group after running out of excuses. I had many: I’ve been in so many workshops I think I’ve internalized the process, I don’t think I can find people, and I don’t have time! But I’m finding it’s a great motivator for writing, wonderful for combating that reality of working in isolation and a pleasure to see people’s work in progress.
Thanks so much for being with us today, Sue! It was delightful. Hope to see your second book, soon!

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