Refilling Your Creative Well, Finding Inspiration, And More Tips for Writers

Refilling Your Creative Well, Finding Inspiration, And More Tips for Writers

I love doing podcast interviews and wanted to share a link to a recent one I did for the Getting to the Heart of Why We Write podcast. Everyone has a story tell and the people on this show have published theirs. Host Gina Soldano-Herrle talks to authors about the stories they write and the underlying fire at the heart of their writing. 

Here are some highlights from my chat with Gina.

How I learned over many years to refill my creative well with meditation, yoga, reading, and jigsaw puzzles.

Finding inspiration from all the different corners of daily life from flag etiquette to theme park princesses.

The importance of ergonomics for writers.

How oracle cards are different from tarot and how they can help writers.

Using vision boards, action steps, and concrete goals to move past obstacles.

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from the interview:

“Find those things that rejuvenate you and remember not to take it personally.”

“[Writing] gives me a voice. When I write, I feel like I’m fully myself.”

Check out the interview here!


Also, be sure to check out Gina’s article on my blog about the Kickstarter campaign for her children’s picture book.


Essential Tips For New Writers: Keep It Simple & Find Your Tribe

Essential Tips For New Writers: Keep It Simple & Find Your Tribe

tips for new writers

Recently, I had the opportunity to be interviewed on the BookTribe Podcast and we discussed some essential tips for new writers. I met the host, Erica Birtles, on Instagram and was impressed with what she has been doing for the book world.

Not only is she a dynamic podcast host, but she has also been building a community for readers and authors, called The BookTribe, a one-stop shop for all things fiction. It’s a community app that connects authors and readers through fun activities, groups, and exciting events. You can find out more about that via her website and linktree.

For the podcast, she interviews seasoned authors and literary experts to discover the secrets to writing and publishing a good book.

During my interview, we discussed various aspects of the writing process and provided valuable advice for authors. I shared my  journey into fiction writing and explained how I transitioned into providing support and guidance for other authors. 

Here are a few of the tips we delved into:

  • Surround yourself with other writers and join writing communities for support and guidance.
  • Read extensively in the genre you are writing to learn from well-written books.
  • Seek feedback from critique partners or beta readers to improve your writing.
  • Do thorough research and consult experts when writing about diverse characters or unfamiliar topics.
  • Focus on continuous learning and find mentors who resonate with you.

We also talked about common mistakes, developing a positive mindset, balancing writing with lifestyle, tools for writers, authentic representation of diverse characters, and much more.

You can check out the episode here or tune in below to get some helpful tips for writers.

Essential Tips for New Writers: Keep It Simple and Find Your Tribe




Time Management And Body Language Tips For Writers – Podcast Interview @AWolfe6293

Time Management And Body Language Tips For Writers – Podcast Interview @AWolfe6293

Authors Alcove time management

Could you use some tips on managing your time better as a writer? How about advice on how to express your characters’ emotions through body language?

Then I hope you’ll tune in to my interview on the Authors’ Alcove Podcast: Writers Helping Writers, where I discuss these topics and more. Host Agnes Wolfe interviewed me about my motivation for starting the Shortcuts for Writers website, and how during my career as an author and freelance developmental editor, I observed common mistakes made by writers.

Throughout the conversation, I emphasized the importance of writers learning to think like editors to save time and money on the editing process. We briefly discussed my courses, which aim to empower writers with the skills to catch mistakes on their own, producing stronger manuscripts and reducing the need for multiple rounds of professional editing.

The conversation also delved into practical writing advice, including time management tips, the Pomodoro Technique, and the significance of writing routines. We stressed the importance of quality over quantity in writing time, encouraging writers to find small pockets of time for consistent writing rather than waiting for longer sessions. I also discussed the impact of clutter, both physical and mental, on writing productivity and suggested strategies for decluttering and organizing writing spaces.

Agnes and I also touched on the importance of portraying body language effectively in writing. I explained how I created a course, the Energize Your Writing Toolkit, to help writers diversify their descriptions of body language beyond common clichés. The course provides lists of phrases for different emotions so writers can use them as starting points to enrich character interactions and avoid overused expressions.

You can listen in at the below links or watch the interview on YouTube.


From Hospice Chaplain To Author: Bridging Personal Stories And Hard Facts

From Hospice Chaplain To Author: Bridging Personal Stories And Hard Facts

As a freelance editor, I have the opportunity to work on all kinds of projects, and one author I am extremely proud of is Maryclaire Torinus. A former hospice chaplain, Maryclaire had a powerful, poignant, and hard-hitting story to tell when we met. Unlike some manuscripts, it didn’t fit neatly into one particular category. She had beautifully written patient stories to share, chronicling their emotional final days, but this was more than a memoir. It was also an exposé that spotlighted the inner workings of for-profit hospice providers run by professional investors and the harmful effects on patients, families, and staff. Not only that, but it’s also a how-to guide for families. It’s a must-read book for families exploring hospice care and is truly an eye-opener. Below, Maryclaire shares how she blended enlightening stories at the bedsides of dying patients with the facts and statistics of investigative journalism. 

After wading through a mountain of research and working on my hospice narrative for six years (on and off), my book was released in mid-October with the Manhattan Book Group in NYC, a hybrid publisher. Surviving Hospice: A Chaplain’s Journey Into The Business Of Dying has finally found a home in the marketplace.

Early on, when fellow authors questioned me about the genre, I couldn’t quite put a finger on the category. It was complicated. My first attempt at writing this narrative was as a creative nonfiction piece; it seemed to fit my premise the best. In my lap, I had an expose written from a chaplain’s perspective sitting at the bedsides of dying patients. An untold story. Indeed, I had a lot of stories—those of my patients and my personal experiences during that period—and a poignant memoir was in the works.

However, when our company was purchased by a NYC equity firm (unbeknownst to us) and our hospice mission changed, our resources shriveled to the most basic care to increase the profit margin. Our best clinicians left for other hospice companies. The consequences of the new financially-motivated policies began to trickle down onto the beds of patients and into the lives of staffers. The harm occurring in our company, corroborated by negative hospice headlines appearing across the nation, was frightening.

Consequently, when the investors had evolved into the primary stakeholders of our hospice company, I started to possess more and more sobering statistics on the harm to patients from our lapse in care— separate elements—but, all based on a unifying theme. So, I needed to conflate the interaction of true events, facts, ideas, patient stories, and my personal experiences. I needed to gather the information and organize the literary styles into something that resonated with my readers. A clear, logical, unified, well-paced description that didn’t come across as a stuffy newspaper article. I knew I would need help.

My first attempt to begin my book was based on the current reality of the hospice market. The graying of America, coupled with the commercialization of the hospice benefit, has transformed hospice from a mission of mercy into a multi-billion-a-year healthcare enterprise. Every sector of society has been preparing for an aging world. Consequently, senior nursing care coupled with the hospice market is expected to grow into a $550 billion-a-year market by 2024. Nobody wants to die. But death is inevitable; so then, no one wants to die badly. Good hospice care offers the best hope for dying well and living fully until we do. Doula workers tell me that ‘their goal is to restore death to its sacred place in the celebration of life.’ As a result, consumers needed to understand the revelations highlighted in the July 2019 report released by the Department of Health and Human Services. Blah, Blah, Blah.

My book now begins with stories so my readers want to keep turning the pages.

In my third week on the job, I arrived at 7:30 a.m. and bumped into one of the medical directors at the front desk. The first words out of his mouth were, “I’m glad I’m not in your shoes right now.” He cocked his head toward the conference room. My pulse quickened as I rounded the corner and stopped just short of the conference room door to find members of my interdisciplinary team gathered inside around an oblong table, drinking black coffee. No doughnuts or creamer in sight.

No idle chatter, just heads huddled. When I entered the room, four somber faces turned to me in unison. As I pulled up a chair, Sandy, the registered nurse announced, “A chaplain is the most qualified person for this situation. You should go first. They all nodded.”

The Health Insurance Accountability Act sets standards and regulations to protect health information and patient privacy. To maintain these standards in my narrative, I reviewed the guidelines for confidentiality in the HIPPA. I was not able to locate the families of my deceased patients, so I fictionalized identifying information. The stories I related were a composite of my actual experiences ministering to patients and families over the course of my hospice internship and clinical career. Chaplains are trained to retain patient information and to archive it for documentation. We learn to write verbatims (word-for-word notes) during hospice visits to accurately record patient comments and the type of counseling provided at each appointment. I also learned to keep extensive notes on my patients to accurately reflect their lives to deliver heartfelt eulogies at their funerals.

Obviously, it would become necessary for me to look for the intersections or commonalities between the seemingly disparate categories: memoir, a how-to guide, and the sobering statistics of an end-of-life medical industry suffering under the sway of professional investors. Often, the two hundred sixty-five pages of patient accounts, my personal stories, statistics, and horrific facts seemed to take on a life of its own, more like a living species. It seemed too unwieldly to manage.

Therefore, it was not surprising that my first attempt to consolidate the breadth of my work was not satisfactory; the order was not compelling. I had begun the first chapter with the nuts and bolts of the current hospice market. The tempo was stoic and plodding, and I hadn’t captured the emotion and drama of what really occurred at my for-profit hospice company. I needed to rethink the approach.

As I began to query agents, it had become clear to me and to them that I had two books in the works: a memoir and a research-driven investigative piece. A lot of agents were interested in my timely topic and requested that I write two separate accounts of what had occurred at my former company. But I wasn’t interested in that approach. Writing one book was challenging enough. Sometimes a writer needs to do what I writer needs to do and that’s what I did. I said thanks, but no thanks. In the end, I did what was best for me. I didn’t want to write two books; I wanted to use my patient’s experiences to deliver the statistics.

And to be honest, I was weary of jumping through the hoops sometimes demanded by agents and owners of independent publishing firms. It’s important for authors to have boundaries and to be true to themselves. So, it was on me to figure out how to compose a unified and fluid account for the benefit of my readers and the integrity of my patients. One agent suggested I write an annotated outline of each chapter (which was a lot of work) to clarify the goals of my writing, and what order would best address my broad target audience: hospice consumers, hospice clinicians, chaplains, professional hospice trade organizations, lawmakers, lawyers, and medical personnel.

I also began to search for books that had similar themes as mine to see how the authors managed to mix stories with statistics. I stumbled upon the book called The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis. He utilized a character-driven narrative to tell how professional investors foresaw the collapse of the mortgage market in 2008 and then pocketed millions from their bets. The Boston Globe wrote about his style, “Lewis expertly describes a broken financial system that rewarded bad decisions and fraudulent alchemy, and then shifted the inevitable losses to the strapped U. S. taxpayer.”

My premise was so similar; it addressed the hijacking of hospice by private equity firms to generate wealth and the subsequent harm to dying patients, the hospice staff, and the image of the hospice Medicare/Medicaid benefit. Professional investors in the hospice market also left taxpayers holding the bag for their gaming of the hospice system. So, I decided to begin my narrative with the poignant stories of dying patients in pain and weave the data and facts of the current state of hospice care through those heartbreaking stories.

At this stage, I knew that I had at minimum, a solid memoir on my desk, but I still needed to jettison my two genre conventions (memoir and data-driven journalism) in a way that would keep my narrative from becoming too broad and confusing. Like Manhattan Book Group, a combination of traditional and self-publishing, I was creating a hybrid genre. I understood that stories were powerful and if the readers could just fall in love with John, Martha, Helen, George, and Mark, the statistics would bear the faces and voices of real people. Consequently, I decided to cordon off the information into three sections.

Part I includes how I ministered to my patients and their families under the selfish motives of a greedy owner and under the restraints of professional investors who had purchased our company (memoir). Part II includes the qualities of a reputable hospice provider and how to locate a trustworthy provider. Part III addresses the results from the 2019 OIG Report on the state of hospice care across the country, and what might happen next to dispel professional investors from end-of-life medical care. I also needed to include end notes and an index after the second and third sections of the book. In my preface, I explain to readers how to read through the schema of my narrative.

This partial list of chapter titles will give you an idea of the memoir section.

Part One – Spiritual Stories of Crossing the Threshold

Going Back * The First Year * On-Call * John and Martha * A Bullshit Barometer

Dark Nights * Secrets Lie in Shadows * A Day Away From Death

A Company Ruse Backfired * Let Them Eat Cake * The Quantum Leap

Part Two – How to Make What’s Invisible, Visible

Qualities of a Reputable Provider

How to Find a Trustworthy Provider

Behind the Window Dressing

Part Three – Helping Hospice Return to its Roots

Dying for Dollars

Weak Oversight Breeds Neglect

The US Government Sound the Alarm

Next Steps

As I was preparing to submit this beast to hybrid publishers (who do not accept every manuscript submitted), I hired Stacy Juba to do a thorough developmental edit of my second attempt to consolidate the unruly information into a unified structure. She did a fantastic job. I never could’ve gotten the professional results to publish this crucial and timely book without her expertise, experience, and talent.

hospice memoir

Buy the book on Amazon.

About the Author

Maryclaire Torinus received certification in Clinical Pastoral Education for Chaplaincy at St. Camillus Senior Living Residence. She worked as a hospice chaplain and as a hospice consumer advocate for eight years. She also worked for two years as a pastoral counselor in an acute-care wing of the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Complex. Maryclaire is a Wisconsin native and met her husband, Mark, in the fifth grade. She and Mark were married for 37 years until his passing in 2013. They have three children and three grandchildren.





Stress-Free Networking For Freelance Editors

Stress-Free Networking For Freelance Editors

Are you a freelance editor wanting to advance your career but feeling overwhelmed by networking and promoting your business?

Whether you’re just starting your freelance editing career, are an industry veteran transitioning to freelance work, or are an experienced freelancer, the key to professional growth lies in building the right connections. I recently had the opportunity to read and review Networking for Freelance Editors: Practical Strategies for Networking Success, written by Brittany Dowdle and Linda Ruggeri.

This informative guide geared toward book editors offers practical advice and a fresh perspective on networking. We all know that networking is important, but it can often be a source of stress and discomfort. The authors tackle this issue head-on by helping editors identify and dismiss stale, stress-inducing ideas about networking that hold them back. By challenging these beliefs, editors can overcome Imposter Syndrome and wasted effort, allowing them to approach networking with confidence and purpose.

As a fiction author, freelance developmental editor, and online course creator, I do a ton of networking. I’m always hopping on Zoom calls, getting to know others in the publishing industry and brainstorming ways we can collaborate. This has led to forming affiliate partnerships, speaking at online conferences and inside membership programs, appearing on podcasts, exchanging guest blog posts, and receiving client referrals.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve attended conferences and participated in Facebook communities with collaboration opportunities. I thought I was a networking pro!

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised at the new insights gained from this book. Most of my experience has revolved around networking with fellow authors and course creators—not editors. Although I’ve collaborated with editors and book coaches, we usually met through an author community, online entrepreneur group, or mutual friend. Until reading this book, I never thought of seeking out organizations and Facebook communities specifically aimed at editors.

Suddenly motivated to fill this gap in my networking strategy, I joined the Facebook groups recommended in the book. As I browsed the archived materials and posts, I discovered wonderful resources to save for future reference. I’m also considering joining one of the professional organizations that Brittany and Linda suggested.

However, the book goes beyond recommending reputable, positive communities. The authors also provide a step-by-step guide that builds a strong foundation for professional, long-lasting relationships. This method allows freelance editors to grow their network at a comfortable pace, making the process enjoyable and sustainable. The book also emphasizes how each editor is unique, with individual strengths and talents that can be leveraged for networking success.

About the Authors

Brittany Dowdle, editor and owner at World Cat Editorial Services, is a freelance editor with over ten years’ experience in the publishing industry. She has edited the work of best-selling traditionally published authors, award-winning indie authors, and international best-selling authors. Brittany graduated summa cum laude from the University of North Georgia with a degree in English. She is a founding member of the Editorial Freelancers Association’s Diversity Initiative and helped design the Welcome Program, acting as its codirector in 2019–2020.

Linda Ruggeri, editor and owner at The Insightful Editor, is a freelance nonfiction editor, writer, and authenticity reader (Spanish/Italian) with a degree in communications and fine arts from Loyola Marymount University. Linda runs the Mentorship Program for PEN as well as the Welcome Program for the EFA.

networking for freelance editors

More About Networking For Freelance Editors

If you’re ready to take your freelance editing career to the next level and establish a powerful network that propels you forward, Networking for Freelance Editors is the resource you’ve been waiting for. This book is for editors, proofreaders, indexers, fact-checkers, translators, writers, and anyone pursuing a freelance career in the publishing industry.

Buy direct from Linda and Brittany

Buy from retailers

Learn more about the book



How To Become A Ghostwriter – Busted Myths With The Ghostwriter JB

How To Become A Ghostwriter – Busted Myths With The Ghostwriter JB

how to become a ghostwriter

Have you ever wondered how to become a ghostwriter? My friend JB Favour, a ghostwriter and coach for aspiring ghostwriters, stopped by to explain how to become a “Ghost” and busted some common myths. Read JB’s post below.

If I had a dollar for every time someone asks me how they could become a ghostwriter–I’d be able to buy out my favorite Nike sneakers in every color possible. Thing is, ghostwriting has become a buzzing topic especially with the mouthwatering pay attached to it whenever it makes the news. Emphasis on the news, because not every ghostwriter gets to make headlines unless by facts you are ghostwriting for a public figure or celebrity. Now how many of us actually belong to that elite category? No shades, I’m not there either. 

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, back to the million dollar question. How does one become a ghostwriter? In this quirky yet informative article, I’ll be guiding anyone who has ever wanted to become a Ghost through some common myths and busting them along the way. 

Let’s go!

Myth 1: Anyone can become a ghostwriter. 

Yes and no. 

How can anyone become a ghostwriter? I’ll answer this in simple, plain baby language. 

By waking up one morning and declaring that you wanna become one! Seriously, mindset first. You have to actually want it enough to get it. And I say this because you will need to put in some serious work and it is only if you want it bad enough that you can stick around till the end.

Next, you have to brush up your writing skills if you don’t already have one. Many writers recommend reading as one sure way to do this and I gladly agree. Books will open you up to a lot of awesome vocabulary and give you an idea of how a good book should look and sound. If you don’t have a strong command of language–abort mission. One of the key requirements of ghostwriting entails being able to express and communicate accurately in the language of your specialization. For example, if your primary writing language is French, what good will it do you to try writing in French without understanding French grammar or tenses first? Now you get me.

Fixing up your fluency in the language of your choice is my ultimate first step recommendation. Take spelling classes, grammar lessons, vocabulary classes, dust your writing and comprehension skills first.

So, nope! Anyone who doesn’t have a good command of the language they intend to write in cannot become a ghostwriter. Well, realistically they can tag themselves ghostwriters on any freelance platform of their choice as is common these days, but we all know how that pans out in the long run. 

But, if this doesn’t apply to you – congratulations, you may now proceed to; 

Myth 2: You can’t have proof of your work.

Big fat lie. Being a ghostwriter doesn’t mean you have no proof of work. Sure as Ghosts who typically sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement), you cannot disclose that you are the ghostwriter for a work you do unless by sheer will the author decides to give you credit in any way. Typically by ghostwriting, you’re signing away the rights to any material or work you develop under the limitations of an NDA. So how then can a Ghost show that they truly are a writer? 

Easy peasy. We write. Tons of ghostwriters have gone on to become bestselling authors of their own book. So while you cannot claim a work you’ve ghostwritten, you can write yours. Next, you definitely need to have an online digital footprint. I’m sorry but people should be able to find out who you are with a simple Google search or you’re not serious about business.

Build a portfolio or get a simple website and leave samples of what your writing style looks like. There are so many options and if you want to start with a free one–I’d recommend Journo Portfolio. Nope, this is not an ad, it is the one I use and I’m a big fan of the analytics feature it allows users for the free version. Grab a template and edit it to your style and voila – you can start uploading samples. 

Myth 3: You must be on freelance platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, and the rest to get clients.

Who says so? No seriously, who is selling this lie? As much as this is not in any way a discredit to those who are actually getting paid their worth on these platforms, the majority of freelancers can agree with me when I say, these places house the most modern form of slavery. The constant bidding and bargaining, the bulk jobs and the fact that these platforms leave freelancers at the mercy of prospective clients who can simply wake up one morning and cancel an order. Talk about audacity–yep, you can find it all on these platforms. 

Every time a newbie Ghost approaches me, I hear one sad, frustrating story after the other. So here’s a secret for free. 

In the last two years, the least I’ve ever earned for ghostwriting a book was $2000 – $2500 for a word count of 50k words. Prices go higher depending on project size, amount of research needed and of course if I’ll be doing an interview, I’ll get paid for that too. Memoirs and autobiographies which have been my special forte for a while have different rates beginning from $3000 – $15,000 depending on the project. 

All this and never having to pitch on any of these freelancer sites. In my early days when I first started, I signed up on as many of them as possible in a bid to get one single gig. Soon enough after burning out, I quit and found a way to get myself to the kind of clients I wanted without having to engage in pitiful bargaining.

Today, I teach those who I coach how to make a career out of ghostwriting, doing it their way and breaking free from the industry’s stereotypes. Listen, there are clients who will PAY. You’ve got to believe this. 

You don’t have to offer work for free, accept poor rates, or even work with middle men or agencies just to get gigs. And you certainly don’t need freelancing platforms to earn. You can be a ghostwriter by simply being good at what you do and learning to find your type of clients the right way. 

Lastly, there are several pathways to having a successful career in ghostwriting and mainstream is often not the only stream. Carve your path and walk the walk. It can be hard, but there’s nothing consistency, effort and knowledge won’t get you.

 More About JB Favour

Meet JB Favour, a passionate ghostwriter with a talent for turning ideas into captivating stories. With over five years of experience in the industry, JB has worked with a diverse range of clients, from memoirists to business leaders, trauma/abuse survivors and inspirational icons to bring their stories to life.

As a seasoned wordsmith, she understands that everyone has a unique story to tell, and is honored to be entrusted with the task of sharing it with the world. With a keen eye for detail and a talent for capturing the essence of a person’s voice, JB has helped countless clients to connect with their audience and inspire others with their message.

But JB’s work isn’t just about writing words on a page–it’s about creating a legacy. By helping people to tell their stories, she believes that they can make a lasting impact on the world and leave a meaningful legacy for future generations.

When she is not ghostwriting, she is running her agency FAVES_PEN, which is a content, branding and marketing agency for businesses and entrepreneurs who want to grow sustainable brands. In her free time she enjoys watching movies, listening to BTS and binging on K-drama. 

Connect with JB online:

Coaching with The Ghostwriter JB

Visit her website

Follow her on LinkedIn



5 Essential Research Tips For Fiction Writers

5 Essential Research Tips For Fiction Writers

essential research tips for fiction writers

Author and book coach Meredith R. Stoddard is visiting today to share 5 essential research tips for fiction writers. I met Meredith because we both had chapters included in Launchpad: The Countdown to Writing Your Book and were interviewed on a YouTube show together. Her chapter is full of valuable advice on how to do research, so I asked her if she would share some tips for my audience. Her post is below.

What can a fantasy author tell you about researching fiction? First, that it doesn’t matter what genre you write; believability is key. For everything from historical fiction to sci-fi, keeping your readers immersed in your story depends on making them believe what you are writing. That means that even when writing about the magic system in a fantasy book, or describing a government in a dystopian world, we have to start by grounding it in something familiar to your audience. Those things that readers already know to be true are the foundation that we can use to build castles, spaceships, and fairy realms. Even a fantasy writer like me, has to ground some things in reality, or at least the semblance of reality.

#1 Put yourself in your characters’ shoes

Building a credible world for your characters to move through, and telling how your characters relate to that world means that we need to know everything from what they eat to how they sleep. Where do your characters shop? What do they wear? Which jobs do they have? What kind of laws affect their daily lives?

Fortunately, YouTube is full of videos showing people walking through places, and activities that can give you clues. You can search for “day in the life” videos by location, profession, or demographic. There are videos of markets and grocery stores, and cooking videos of national or regional dishes. All of these things can give you ideas for describing how your characters live. If your settings are real, you can use Google Street View to walk around many places in the world.

#2 Research for all five senses

You’ve probably heard that you should write for all five senses. That means you should also research for all five senses. Your readers are going to want to know what your fictional world and even your characters smell like. They’ll want to know the sounds, tastes, textures, and sights of the world you’re creating and how your characters perceive them. Pay attention to those details while researching. Those details will draw your readers in.

#3 Look for more than just the facts

The way we and our characters experience the world is subjective. Just as much as facts make your work believable, giving your readers opinions and letting them react to the world around them is important. This helps with characterization and gives your work an emotional punch. Reaction videos and product reviews are great sources for understanding people’s opinions and seeing how they react to events. Listening to people tell their own stories is also helpful.

#4 Use Smart Search Terms

The amount of information on the internet is ever-expanding. Sifting through that information to find what you need can be difficult and overwhelming sometimes. Search engines help, but sometimes getting the exact results you’re looking for is a challenge. You can make search engines work for you by using some simple commands to refine your searches.

Putting your terms inside quotation marks will search for your terms exactly, while adding a tilde in front will include synonyms for the words you’re searching on. A dash before a word in your search terms will exclude the word that follows it. This is useful for narrowing searches of common terms. You can specify the kind of results you’re looking for by using location: or filetype: before your search terms. All of these refinements can help you sift through the volumes of information and get the results you need.


#5 Check your sources

Unfortunately, the internet is also full of misinformation or articles that are out-of-date. When you find the information you’re looking for, you should make note of the sources of the information. Because it is so easy to post articles on the internet, it’s important to be skeptical of the information you find. If you’re looking for facts, be sure to use multiple sources for confirmation. Know the business model of websites you are using as sources and be conscious of the potential for bias. Wikipedia is a great resource, but it is crowd-sourced so its accuracy will vary. It does require that editors include their sources, so it makes a good bibliography. You can also use fact-checking websites like, and

There is a lot more I could say about researching for fiction. In fact, I wrote a chapter on researching for Launchpad: The Countdown to Writing Your Book with more details. The key thing to remember is that everything we read or observe feeds into what we write. The best research for fiction is observing the world and the people around us.

The Once & Future Series

research tips for fiction writers

Celtic legends and modern life collide in this saga of a contemporary woman coming to grips with a destiny set in motion generations ago. Inspired by her unusual childhood in rural Appalachia, Sarah MacAlpin is set on pursuing a career as a folklorist. She had a rough start in life but has worked tirelessly to set herself on the right track. Just when Sarah comes closest to reaching her professional goals, a startling revelation turns her whole world upside down.

The River Maiden, book 1 of the Once & Future series is free on most ebook platforms.

Launch Pad: The Countdown to Writing Your Book

book for writers to read

You can read Meredith’s chapter on research and my chapter on grammar in Launch Pad: The Countdown to Writing Your Book.

Each focused chapter brings authors and would-be-authors closer to the creation of a story well told and ready for publication. The brainchild of entrepreneur, author, and speaker, Grace Sammon, this book series builds on the wildly popular radio show LAUNCH PAD – celebrating book releases and the authors who create them. With countdown tips, ways to connect directly to the authors, and bonus downloadable planning sheets, LAUNCH PAD delivers a craft book that speaks right to you.

Buy it on Amazon.

More About Meredith

Meredith R. Stoddard is the author of folklore-inspired fiction including her Once & Future Series, a contemporary fantasy series that blends Celtic legends with modern life. She is also a book coach at The Book Grower, and the Communications Director of Bookish Road Trip, a community of readers, writers, and travel lovers where she hosts an Instagram Live program called Author Ride Along. She is a contributor to the Launch Pad Countdown series on writing, publishing and marketing books from Red Penguin Books, and a member of Author Talk Network. Her latest novel Thistle & Lion will be released June 8th, 2023.

Visit her websites:


Discover The Mistakes To Avoid When Plotting Your Novel #writingtips #writingcommunity

Discover The Mistakes To Avoid When Plotting Your Novel #writingtips #writingcommunity

mistakes to avoid when plotting a novel

Are you struggling to figure out what mistakes to avoid when plotting your novel? Do you feel like your plots lack depth and direction, or as if your storyline is becoming too complicated? If so, I have great news for you!

I’m excited to introduce my brand new mini course, Perfect Your Plot: Common Story Development Mistakes and How to Overcome Them.

It’s just $47, and in this course, you’ll learn how to avoid common pitfalls that can derail your storyline and alienate your readers, and gain insights from an experienced author and editor with over 30 years of industry experience. (That would be me!) 😊

With Perfect Your Plot, you’ll discover:
✅ The top 6 plot development mistakes that writers make
✅ Practical examples, inspired by real editorial letters that I’ve written, to help you avoid these mistakes in your own writing
✅ The fine balance between predictability and believability when crafting your plot

how to plot a novel

The course is packed with valuable information and resources to help you take your plot to the next level. You’ll get instant access to:
✅ 7 video lessons with closed captions
✅ A cheat sheet recap that you can refer to for every manuscript you write
✅ An actionable worksheet that guides you through evaluating your story for plot flaws

And the course comes with a 7-day money-back guarantee, so you can enroll risk-free.

If you’re ready to whip your storyline into shape, then check out Perfect Your Plot. I pored over 10 years of editorial letters to my clients, finding common plot hole patterns, when putting this course together.

Click here to learn how to catch these mistakes yourself and start finetuning your plot.



New $9 Course: Learn How To Write A Book Description That Sells #WritingCommunity

New $9 Course: Learn How To Write A Book Description That Sells #WritingCommunity

how to write a book description

Are you an author who feels stressed trying to write a book description that sells? If you’ve been struggling with the dreaded book blurb, then I have exciting news.

I’ve created a brand new mini course for fiction and nonfiction writers called Book Blurbs Made Simple: How to Write Back Cover Copy That Stands Out and Hooks Readers, and it may just be the best $9 you’ve ever spent!

I’m so pleased with how this course turned out and how it breaks down the blurb-writing process (which let’s face it, can be annoying) into manageable steps.

Creating a captivating book description that sells can feel like an impossible task for many authors. Boiling down the essence of your story into a few short paragraphs that will draw in potential readers and convince them to purchase your book is no easy feat.

Book Blurbs Made Simple is the mini-course you need to guide you through every step of the process. With valuable insights and techniques, you’ll learn how to create killer book descriptions that entice readers and leave them eager for more.

Whether you’re pursuing traditional publishing or self-publishing, a strong blurb is essential. Remember, you only have seconds to make a first impression. If your description doesn’t grab readers’ attention, your book may never get a chance to find its audience.

When you enroll in this mini course on how to write an effective book blurb, you’ll discover how to:

✔️ Write your book description faster and more effectively without the struggle.

✔️ Avoid common mistakes and use proven techniques to make your blurb stand out.

✔️ Follow a simple formula that you can use every time you need to write a blurb.

How to write a book description that sells books

​You’ll learn through bite-sized videos, each under 7 minutes. Then you’re going to get downloadable resources to help you put the tips into action. These include a:

✔️ 50-page workbook that will guide you through the preparation and writing process

✔️ Cheat sheet recap to keep what you learned at your fingertips

✔️ Adjective Inspiration List to help make your book description sizzle

✔️ Examples and written analysis of 7 successful book blurbs from various categories

​And yes, you’ll really get all these book description resources for just $9!​

As you can probably tell from all that’s included, I could easily charge more for this course, but you know what? I wanted to keep it extremely affordable.

Even if you don’t have a completed manuscript yet, I still recommend that you start thinking about your blurb. In fact, inside the course, I advise writing the blurb before you finish your book. Way before, if possible! I explain why inside the class.

If you’re ready to simplify the blurb-writing process and learn the tips and tricks that will help you create a professional, persuasive, and engaging book description that entices readers, then this course is for you.​

Sign up for Book Blurbs Made Simple today, and let’s get that book description written!



6 Novels That Portrayed Native Americans Authentically: Avoiding Stereotypes As A Writer

6 Novels That Portrayed Native Americans Authentically: Avoiding Stereotypes As A Writer


6 novels that portrayed Native American characters authentically

Author and writing instructor Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer helps authors confidently write Native American characters through her amazing course Fiction Writing: American Indians. Below, she shares 6 novels that portrayed Native Americans authentically and why these are her picks.

Here’s Sarah with her guest post.

If you want to learn how to write about Native Americans, one of the best ways to start is by reading good books. As a tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and author of 15 historical fiction books that feature Native main characters, I’ve compiled a list of 6 books which I feel accurately and authentically portray Native people and cultures. 

First, I want to mention that we too often think of American Indians as being a novelty of the old West in the 1800s, or Squanto and Pocahontas and first contact. Though the books on this list are historical fiction (my favorite genre), Native people are alive and well today. Many of these books were written by those very much alive Native people.

I hope these stories inspire you to dig deep when you’re working to create genuine, non-stereotypical American Indian characters.

writing about native american characters

The Star That Always Stays

Shelved as a young adult novel, this coming of age story follows the true life story of Norvia. She’s a gentle soul with heartbreaking moments at a tender age—her father’s dislike of her Ojibwe blood, and her mother’s remarriage and her request of Norvia—to tell no one of her heritage.

I appreciate so many things in this story. It shows a young girl living in two worlds and embracing both without losing either in the end. I especially loved the character of the Native grandfather, and how authentic he was in action and speech. While I typically steer authors away from falling into the stereotype of the “wise guide” role for Natives, in this story, it’s a natural fit. 

We should look to our elders for wisdom and guidance. The beautiful thing about this book is, a “wise guide” is not the only reason for the character. 

The main character is on a journey of her own, one removed from the mystical stereotype we often see when Native characters are featured. She’s a regular girl with regular hopes, dreams, mistakes, and heartache. And she’s strongly Ojibwe. 

The Star that Always Stays was written by Anna Rose Johnson (Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa Tribe). This novel is directly based on her great-grandmother. 

Order it on Amazon here.


native american characters in books

House of Purple Cedar

I have certain pages of this book that I come back to again and again. One is a scene in a kitchen where a cluster of Choctaw women chatter about the men in the other room. There’s something about the dialogue that rings so true, I feel I’m in the kitchen, chuckling along with them.

There is another scene where a pastor contemplates violent revenge. I’ve read it over and over.

This book influenced my first novel (The Executions, Choctaw Tribune Historical Fiction Series Book 1), set in the same years (1890s), a tumultuous time for the old Choctaw Nation in Indian Territory. It’s a hard time of injustice, tragedy, and hope. 

Strong oral storyteller traditions comes through on the written pages of House of Purple Cedar, blending Native humor and thought-provoking questions for today.

I agree with Joseph Bruchac, who said of the book, “There is nothing else quite like it in its loving, clear-eyed description of a people, a time, and a place that are little-known to most.”

House of Purple Cedar was written by Tim Tingle (Choctaw).

Order it on Amazon here.

How to write native american characters

The Healing of Natalie Curtis

I deeply appreciate how this author wrote an accurate and respectful story of Native history and culture. Based on the true story of Natalie Curtis, it ventures from the east coast in New York to humble dwellings of the Yuma people, and on to several tribes as Natalie finds her place and purpose in the West. She begins to sympathize with the tragic history of Native people in the early 1900s, and sets out to preserve beauty from their culture that is being stripped, song by song.

There were many whites in this time period who knew Native culture was being erased from history. In fact, Indian people were labeled the “vanishing race.” Whites like Natalie fought against the erasure, while knowing much was inevitable. Natalie saved what she could. 

This book asks the hard question we still ask today: Should non-Natives write Native stories? 

I talk about this topic a great deal, and created a digital course, Fiction Writing: American Indians, to equip authors of any ethnic background how to write about Native Americans accurately and respectfully. 

I feel this book achieves that.

The Healing of Natalie Curtis was written by Jane Kirkpatrick.

Order the book on Amazon here.

how to describe native american characters

Code Talker

When writing my own novel Anumpa Warrior: Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I, I came back to this book again and again. Code Talker tells the story of the Navajo Code Talkers in WWII from the perspective of Ned Begay, a youth who was among those young Marines off to fight a war on foreign soil. 

This young adult novel shows challenges for the multiple races in the United States Military beyond the horrors of war. We learn the true background of many of the Diné (Navajo) who went to fight—what their growing up years were like, and what hardships they faced during them. 

Drawing inspiration and facts from interviews with code talker veterans, the author gives an entertaining, enlightening account of the true Navajo Code Talkers of WWII.

Code Talker was written by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki).

Order it on Amazon here.

how to write about American Indian characters

Rising Fawn and the Fire Mystery

This is a tragic yet gentle story of a little girl who is torn from her home and her family during the Choctaw Removal period of the 1830s. 

Though shelved as a children’s book, I hold on to the words of the author who believes that Native stories should be told the same for an eight year old as an 80-year-old. 

You feel that in the pages of Rising Fawn as you experience the depth of a family’s love, the great loss of homelands, and the hope of a kind white couple who gives Rising Fawn a new chance at life.

This is a quiet read that can touch your soul in a few words with striking depth and rhythm. 

I included Rising Fawn and the Fire Mystery in my anthology of Choctaw Removal stories: Touch My Tears: Tales from the Trail of Tears.

Rising Fawn and the Fire Mystery was written by Marilou Awiakta (Cherokee).

Order it on Amazon here.

avoiding stereotypes when writing about Native Americans

Little Bird

Reading this book makes you wonder how much personal tragedy one woman can endure. We explore that through Little Bird—Esther McLish—as she overcomes life’s tragedies one at a time.

This is another story set in the 1890s when justice and fairness was at a minimum. Esther has few places and people to turn to as she fights to get her son enrolled on the final Chickasaw Nation rolls.

Based on true events and written by a descendent of the main character, it masterfully weaves the history together in a way that keeps the story moving while peeling back layers of tribal histories, customs, and truths. 

Little Bird was written by Mary Ruth Barnes (Chickasaw).

Order it on Amazon here.

Writing about american indians course

Learn How to Write about Native Americans

Hopefully, this brief list of books will help you on your journey to writing American Indian characters. If you want next level learning, I invite you to check out my digital course, Fiction Writing: American Indians. 

Fiction authors who want to write about Native Americans face a challenging minefield riddled with dos and don’ts. That’s why I created this course. 

Through it, authors are equipped to write authentic stories that honor First Americans history and culture. Discover more at

There, you can also download a free copy of my ebook, “5 Stereotypes to Avoid When Writing about Native Americans.”

Chi pisa la chike, my fellow author. I will see you again soon.

Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

About the Author

Fiction authors who want to write about Native Americans face a challenging minefield riddled with dos and don’ts, and no clear answers. That is why author and writing instructor Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer created the Fiction Writing: American Indians digital course.

As a tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, she has written and published 15 historical fiction books with Native main characters, and over 275 non-fiction articles on Native artists and organizations with representatives from dozens of North American tribes.The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian honored her as a literary artist through their Artist Leadership Program for her work in preserving Choctaw Trail of Tears stories, and she is a First Peoples Fund Artist in Business Leadership alumni.

Through her in-depth, honest course, authors are equipped to write authentic stories that honor First American’s history and culture. Discover more at

Affiliate links were included in this post, however, I only promote products that I recommend.



Launch Pad Has Launched! A New Craft Book For Writers To Read #amwriting

Launch Pad Has Launched! A New Craft Book For Writers To Read #amwriting

Looking for just the right balance of inspiration, skill building, and a toolbox of writing craft tips? I know just the resource for you. It’s a brand new craft book for writers to read, called LAUNCH PAD: The Countdown to Writing Your Book. 

I’m excited to have a chapter included in this jam-packed guide for writers, which gives you the literal ‘launch pad’ for your first (or next!) book. I contributed a chapter on grammar and punctuation, and in it, I delve into the Oxford Comma and how to use it, colons and semicolons, ellipses, and much more.

If you’re intimidated by the thought of outlining your novel or creating rich and complex characters, or want to learn the secret to writing a great scene, Launch Pad has you covered. Learn why using the right point of view in your book is so important and how to choose the right one. Nail those pesky grammar and punctuation slip-ups once and for all and get yourself ‘query ready’.

Grammar and Punctuation guide for authors

You’ll also get practical advice on how to research smarter, which tools to use and what you can do if you want to go the extra mile; learn what book coaching is, how it differs from editing, how a coach helps you write your book, and how you can find the right coach for you; and get tips on writing scenes that grab readers’ attention, draw them into your characters’ lives and the world you’ve created, and build up to the big moments you’re working toward later on in the story.

Other topics include: developing suspenseful scenes that hook readers; exploring the principles of world building, the best tools for the job, and how to get off the world building merry-go-round; learning about personality types, understanding the role genre plays in the character you write about, and how to find your character’s inner flaw; why you need to both show and tell if you want to uplevel your craft and pull your reader right into your character’s mind; and where to find critique groups (both in-person and virtual), what you can expect from them, and how they’ll help your writing long-term.

You’ll also discover the three things a publishing gatekeeper wants: knowledge, sparkle, and an attention to detail. Each focused chapter of this book brings authors and would-be-authors closer to the creation of a story well-told and ready for publication.

Order the book on Amazon.

You can find the other retail links and information about the authors here.

Below, you can also watch the book trailer.


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