Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Not Today: Tips for When You Don't Feel Like Writing

Writers have days when they simply aren't feeling it. Inspiration is elusive. You're tired. You're overwhelmed. You're burnt out. Writing is a job and some days you just want to play hooky.

So what do you do when you would rather get a root canal than plop your behind in the chair and write? Well, I hope it never gets that bad, but here are some tips that should help.

Find That Favorite Writing Place

We all have this little spot where the creativity flows best. Whether it's the coffee shop, the library, curled up in your comfy chair, or sitting on the deck looking out over the garden, find that spot and spend some time there.

Use a Writing Prompt

Writing prompts spark ideas. Whether a word, a sentence, a picture or a theme, a writing prompt moves you forward. I can't say I use them often (my mind usually has too many ideas brewing), but I do use them when I teach elementary students to write. Here is a link to a year's worth of writing prompts.

Set a Timer

Timed writing sessions are like taking a test at school--you only have so much time to accomplish your goal, so you set your mind to it and get it done. When the timer goes off, get up and go do something else for a while. Then maybe you'll be ready to start again.

Change the Scenery

Maybe that favorite writing spot isn't working for you today. There's nothing wrong with changing the scenery. Take a walk and clear your mind. Pack pen and paper--or computer--to the bookstore cafe for a change. How about setting a timer to allow yourself fifteen minutes to work in the garden. A few minutes away, might be all you need to get the creative juices flowing.

Find a Writing Group or Attend a Writer's Conference

There is something about hanging out with other writers that kicks inspiration into overdrive. You remember your passion for stringing words together. You start thinking about that partially finished manuscript that hasn't seen the light of day in weeks. The next plot point that you agonized over forever, suddenly seems so simple. This is the main reason I attend our local writers conference each year, no matter what else is going on in life. Just that one day pushes me forward for another year.


Pick up a book in your genre or by one of your favorite authors and read for half an hour. Any time you are reading, you are learning about writing. Reading helps you get to know your genre better. It reminds you why you like a certain author. It gets you thinking about style and structure and word choices.

Write Fan Fiction

This is one of those controversial areas of writing. Some people love it. Some hate it. As a new writer, producing fan fiction gave me the opportunity to focus on aspects of the craft I struggled with, and not worry about having to create characters from scratch. The other great thing about fan fiction: it can create a following for you. There are arenas where you can share your fan fiction stories and readers leave reviews. Positive feedback can motivate you to write more and provide an extra boost of confidence.

Perhaps one of the best tips anyone ever gave me is to set up a daily schedule. Time block your calendar and put "writing time" in. If you have to stare at "writing time" when you look at your calendar, it will be much harder to ignore. I hope this and these other tips will find you spending more time in your favorite writing place.

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Little Shepherd, A Christmas Kindness, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving and the recently released, Amos Faces His Bully. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at and her children’s book blog at

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Expect the Unexpected

I embarked upon a writing career when I had a toddler and an infant at home. What was I thinking? How was a mother of two little ones going to find time to write?

Here's the trick: you don't find the time, you make it.

One of the things that is helpful is to have a plan, but to be flexible enough to expect the unexpected. Whether it is a sick child, a new project, or a shortened deadline, when you're trained to expect the unexpected, you can take it in stride and still accomplish your goals.

  • Sit down and look at your to-do list. Anything that isn’t a priority should be assigned a new due date immediately. Don’t take these tasks off your list or you’ll find reasons to keep pushing them aside.
  • Review each item that is a priority and see if you can still meet your original deadlines. If you know it will be impossible, contact your client(s) immediately and request an extension. Professionals don’t wait until the due date to inform clients they can’t hand in an assignment. Hopefully your clients are fine with a short extension so you'll have wiggle room to deal with your unexpected issues. 
  • Track your time. This will keep you focused on the task at hand. It also identifies areas in your schedule where time is being wasted. If you’ve just been dealt an unexpected project, now isn’t when you squander the moments you have.
  • Consider timed sessions as a way to get to the end. Agree to work in 15 minute intervals. Set a timer, begin, and stop when the buzzer goes off. Breaking your task down into smaller chunks will make it easier to handle, allow you to judge your progress, and keep you focused.

Once the unexpected wrinkle in your carefully planned schedule is over, take a few moments to think about it. Was it truly unexpected? Is there a way it could have been avoided? Sometimes procrastination or allowing ourselves to get pulled away by distractions creates those unexpected moments that cause stress.

How do you handle the unexpected? Any tips you can share to make it easier?

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Little Shepherd, A Christmas Kindness, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving and the recently released, Amos Faces His Bully. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at and her children’s book blog at

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Writing, Submissions, and Working With Editors

By Karen Cioffi

Every writer, at least hopefully, will work with an editor from time to time. While we’d all like it to be on a regular basis, time to time is better than nothing.

When in the joyous situation (you’ve gotten something accepted for publication), there are some tips that will help you in your working relationship with an editor.

The first thing, even before you think of submitting your work, is to have your manuscript or article in the best shape possible.

Getting to the Point of Submissions

1. Be part of a critique group. Every writer needs the extra eyes of writers working in the same genre. Their insights and critiques will prove to be invaluable to you.

2. Revise and self-edit . . .  repeat and repeat . . .

3. When you think your manuscript is in perfect shape, send it to a freelance editor. You may think this isn’t necessary, but it is. Ask around for one that comes with recommendations.

Now you’re set; off you go on your submissions fishing trip. But don’t just drop the line randomly; be sure you do research and find the best spot – one where you know the fish are biting.
What this means is to look for publishing houses that are best suited to your manuscript, and ones that are accepting submissions.

After you’ve found a few publishing houses suitable. Read their submission guidelines CAREFULLY, and follow them just as carefully. Now it’s time for the infamous query letter. If you’re unfamiliar with queries, do some research.

Okay, you’ve done everything you needed to, and now you cast off. AND, you get a bite.

Working with Editors

Once you’re accepted by a publishing house, you will be assigned an editor. And don’t be alarmed, but that manuscript you meticulously slaved over, and even paid an editor to go over, will end up with revisions. This is just the nature of the beast—each publishing house has their own way of doing things. They will want your manuscript to fit their standards.

Note: the purpose of those long hours of writing work and hiring an editor is to give your manuscript the best shot of making it past the acquisition editor’s trash pile, and actually getting accepted.
Now on to 4 tips that will help make your editor/author experience a pleasant one:

1. Always be professional.

2. Don’t get insulted when the editor requests revisions. They are not trying to hurt your feelings; they are hired by the publishing house to get your manuscript in the best possible saleable state. They want your book to sell as much as you do.

3. Keep the lines of communication open. If you have a question, ask. If you disagree with an edit, respectfully discuss it. Editors are not infallible. Sometimes your gut feeling is right.

4. Take note of deadlines and be on time. This is your career, and in some cases your livelihood.

Hope these tips are helpful!

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move.

For more on writing, stop by Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.
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And, get your copy of WALKING THROUGH WALLS, a middle-grade fantasy adventure.