How to Pre-Blog

Thinking about starting a blog? Then you should devote some time to what I call Pre-blogging.

Pre-blogging is akin to the pre-writing work that goes into writing a book. Most writers, before they type Chapter 1, think about these elements: idea and plot, characterization and viewpoint, authorial voice, theme, and, last but not least, getting it written. That's pre-writing. Let's apply this pre-writing technique to starting a blog.

Idea and Plotting

In a book, you get an idea, and you turn it into a plot. What's a plot? It's what happens in a story and it's built from the significant events in a story. In a book, you come up with events that have important consequences.

In a blog, you should also have an idea upon which you can write again and again without getting bored or boring your audience. You take an idea and create a plot - a series of significant events called blog posts. These articulately presented thoughts should have important consequences of drawing readers to your blog.

Decide what thoughts you wish to impart to your audience. For this blog, I sling words about the art, craft, and business of writing with a bit of extraneous material thrown in every now and then as an element of the unexpected. Primarily, this blog is about book writing. So I plot out posts based on what I wish to provide.

~~ What are the ideas which will serve as your constant topics? Start plotting it out by thinking of post subjects.

Characterization & Viewpoint

In novels, you create characters who take action, moving your plot along. Of all the characters, you'll have one who is your primary viewpoint character. Everything will be filtered through this character's eyes, ears, brain, etc.

In a blog, you are the main character. You're the hero/heroine, and everything is filtered through your viewpoint.

~~ How will your blog be a vehicle for your character? How will you use your viewpoint?


In a book, an author's voice is the style by which the story is told. Voice is comprised at the very least by the words the author chooses and the way sentences are constructed. The style and the tone of the book is part of the author's voice only in that the author may choose to write in a humorous vein as opposed to a serious one, in a conversational chatty style as opposed to a formal one.

In a blog, voice is shown in the same way, and style and tone may be used similarly.

~~ How will you use your voice in creating your content? Will you deliberately choose a comfortable style or a more formal one to fit the demographics of your potential audience?


In a book, theme is what your story is really about. A romance starring characters from opposite sides of the tracks is really about love conquers all.

In a blog, theme is your underlying truth. In my blog, the underlying truth is that I believe we should help each other. It's like Jackie DeShannon wrote long ago:

Think of your fellow man. Lend him a helping hand. Put a little love in your heart.

~~ What's your underlying theme, your philosophy that drives you?


In a book, if you're under contract, you look at the length, let's say 100,000 words. That's about 400 manuscript pages. You should know how many pages a day or words a day you can write given the demands of your life. You go to a calendar and block out writing days. If you write 4 pages a day, that's 1000 words, and you can write 5 days a week, then it will take you 20 weeks if you schedule no days off.

In a blog, you look at your calendar and you figure out how many days a week you want to post to your blog. You figure out approximately how long each blog post will be, and you estimate how much time it takes you to write a post. Then you make a commitment to post to your blog X number of times a week by scheduling that time in your life.

~~ How much time can you commit to the blog? Be honest and be consistent even if it's just once a week.

Takeaway Truth

Time spent in preparation is time invested in success.

My New Profile Pic

Come April, I'll celebrate the 4th anniversary of Sling Words. By the anniversary date, I'll have published nearly 900 blog posts. So I think it's time I do a little redecorating.

Sure I've tweaked the layout here and there - generally when I'm bored i.e. on hold on some phone call - or when I'm procrastinating from real work. I haven't changed the template, fonts, or even my profile photograph. In the next few weeks, I'll remedy this. Today I'm changing my profile picture.

Picture Or Graphic Image

Last week I read A Picture Is Worth a 1000 Words. I thought about my profile picture which needed updating. One of the comments I left on that particular blog post was that someone could use an icon or logo image in lieu of a photograph.

I started thinking about that because I've been trying to find time to post a new photo to my profile. I never take the time to have professional portraits done. I always use a snapshot my husband has taken, but I we haven't really taken any photos in the last couple of years. I guess we're always too busy taking pictures of the rest of the family.

The photo I've been using was a few years - and several hairstyles - ago. So I decided to take my own advice and just use a logo image for my profile pic. That way I never have to worry about hairstyle - and color - experiments making me unrecognizable should anyone actually see me and know the *LOL* genius behind Sling Words. Never having to update is an easy choice for me.

Takeaway Truth

Photographs are important, but it's also important to update them. If you don't wish to do this, then go with a nice image logo.

20 Minutes To Success

Do you sometimes have a hard time getting started? I don't just mean in the morning when you crawl out of bed, but when you're supposed to be in front of the keyboard and writing

I confess that sometimes I just can't get those words flowing and the fingers moving on the keyboard. I'd rather be doing anything - even cleaning house - than writing. Writing's my job so I can't afford to idle away the hours playing Free Cell or cruising the net in search of entertainment.

Secret Way To Get Moving

You'll probably think I'm the biggest goof in the world or the most undisciplined, but here's a method I created that works for me. Especially on Monday mornings when I have contracts due during the week for dozens of articles on esoteric subjects about which I can't find a dram of enthusiasm no matter how many cups of coffee I ingest.

I set my oven timer for 20 minutes. For those 20 minutes, I play a mind-dulling computer game. I just give myself permission to goof off. When the timer buzzes, I get up and reset it for another 20 minutes. Then I deposit my behind in the chair, open my writing file and dive into whatever I've been procrastinating on. I type away, giving myself permission to write garbage as long as my fingers are moving. I work until the timer bleats again.

When I have to rise to turn the timer off, I usually don't reset it because that 20 minutes of writing is enough to keep me going. My brain has been engaged. My writing skills are at the ready, and I'm no longer writing dreck.

If for some reason I'm still rebellious, then I reset the timer. Only this time I increase the writing time by five minutes. I've never had to use the timer beyond two blocks of goof time.

20 Minute Rule

I call this method of tricking myself into doing something I don't want to do the 20 Minute Rule because you can do anything for 20 minutes if you've got a reward at the end - goofing off for another 20. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I use my 20 Minute Rule for housework too because I'm never enthusiastic about domestic chores. When I use it for housework, I have to keep resetting the timer. Ironically, my goof time in between cleaning always involves writing as my reward. Weird, huh?

Takeaway Truth

Sometimes you have to trick the brain into doing what needs to be done.

Lesson from a Writer's Journey

Is it true that writing is a lonely profession?


It's true that we toil away, pecking at a keyboard, usually with the door to our respective inner sanctums closed in order to block out the kids, the television, the spouse, the dog, and other aspects of real life. We've learned that no matter how much our spouses, sig others, and best friends may love us that they do not understand why we keep at it day after day in the face of rejection after rejection.

Unless they too are writers.


It is not true that we're all misanthropic loners. Sometimes, we do reach the point where most of our friends are other writers. We gradually get to where we're not making new friends outside the writing community. Why? Because other writers are the only people who truly understand what we're attempting to achieve. They are the ones who know the black pit of depression when we've been rejected yet again.

Writer Defined

Writers embody the basic definition of a novel: we are interesting characters, struggling against great odds, to achieve a worthy goal.

Becoming a published author is difficult. Once you reach that goal, you realize that writing and staying published is a tough business. It always has been and always will be.

The Constant

The one constant in this lonely business is that the people you meet along the way will usually remain in your life. Forever. We workers in this lonely profession are really good at maintaining ties. The closest friendships are among those who started out together, overcoming the hurdles along the way.

Takeaway Truth

Embrace and nurture the friendships you make along the way. They'll probably last far longer than your most famous book's life on a best seller list.

New Author Sponsors Contest

The New Author, aka Brian, is giddy over writing his 100th blog post. Gosh, I've forgotten that kind of excitement since I've done nearly 800 now so it's refreshing to find someone with that newbie enthusiasm.

In honor of his achievement, he's holding the First Annual New Author Writing Contest.


Visit his blog for all the details and to see if he has placed a ceiling on the number of entries.

Two Categories: short, short story and poetry.


1. The short, short story must be 1500 words or less.

2. Your poem must be limited to one page.

3. Your name and the title must be on each page (in case I get clumsy).

4. E-mail all entries to

5. Include 'writing contest' in the subject line.

6. You may enter a maximum of two short, short stories and two poems.


Brian will read all the entries and select the top five stories and poems. These will then be posted on his blog The New Author for everyone to read.

After all the stories and poems have been posted, he will have a poll on the site for readers to vote so it will be a peer-driven award.


No cash, but a nice badge to display on the winners' websites.


March 31, 2009.

Takeaway Truth

Contests are fun. Even if you don't win big bucks, bragging rights are cool.

Advertise Your Website

Use your website to promote your brand - your company and your product. If you manufacture thingamajigs, then your company is Thingamajig Inc., and your product are the aforesaid thingamajigs. If you're a writer, then your company is you (your writing career), and your product is your writing whether that's books or whatever form of writing you do with the thought of making a profit.

Websites, if done correctly, are a low-cost way to advertise - to gain publicity and promote your brand. However, you have to drive traffic to your site, meaning you get people to visit your site so they can see what a wonderful writer you are with a great career.

There's an entire industry out there who are more than willing to charge you big bucks to help you do this. Most writers I know don't have big bucks so they stumble along trying to make it happen through their own efforts.

Here are 10 quick ways to get your website known.

1. Print materials.

Make up business cards and other paper items i.e. promotional postcards, bookmarks, brochures, etc. with your website URL along with a short tagline or blurb about what visitors will find on your site. Give the cards out freely. Drop them in the "win a lunch" fishbowls.

Print up adhesive labels to use as envelope seals. Design with the same info mentioned above. If you have a book coming out, put the title, your name, and release date. Slap one on every piece of correspondence you mail. This helps mostly when communicating with friends, family, organizations to which you belong, etc.

2. Comment on other blogs and your link shows up.

3. Exchange links with anyone who exchanges. Of course, use good judgment. I mean, you wouldn't want a porn site link on your website, would you? When starting out, you don't have to be so concerned with the quality of other links so everyone from Aunt Felcie to her cat is fair game.

4. Subscribe to websites that review other websites.
Give good, honest, not hurtful though, reviews, and you'll get some in return. You'll start getting more traffic.

5. Have a bumper sticker made with your website URL and the tagline or a window cling sticker or a magnetic sign. It all depends on your chutzpah.

6. Order a license plate frame with your URL.

7. Frequent bulletin boards
and forums and have your URL in your sig file.

8. Create a signature with your URL that automatically is added to every email you send.

9. Letterhead should have your URL.

10. Write articles
for print or online newsletters and have the URL as part of your bio notes.

Takeaway Truth

Using your website to promote your brand isn't going to happen overnight. It takes time to build momentum so be patient.

Look to Your Conscience

Quote for the Week

Susan B. Anthony said: Forget conventionalisms; forget what the world thinks of you stepping out of your place; think your best thoughts, speak your best words, work your best works, looking to your own conscience for approval.

Too many writers, or even civilians (those who don't aspire to writing careers), spend way too much time thinking about what other people think of them. So much energy is wasted in worrying about what the world thinks. What do they think of your writing and what do they extrapolate from your writing about you as a person - your personality, morals, attitudes?

If you care too much about what others think, you'll be personally miserable, and you'll be professionally crippled. When you're writing, it's death to your manuscript to think about what Mom or Dad will say when they read this. Or what your kids will say. Your minister. Your co-workers.

Look to your own moral compass and to your own conscience. Disregard the world. Learn early to ask: who the frack cares what someone else thinks?

Takeaway Truth

What's important is what you think - what you say to yourself when all those yammering at you finish speaking.

10 More Internet Irritants

Last year I wrote 10 Major Internet Irritations. That post got a lot of comments with most visitors agreeing on other irritants spoiling the Internet experience. You'll probably have noticed that I write a lot on both blogs and on my website about website design, etc. My purpose in doing this is to help you make the most of your Internet presence.

Every time I discuss Internet writing and website design, people comment about things that drive them up a wall and make them, well, cranky. When I review websites, I try to be diplomatic and mention easy ways the website owner can improve his/her site. I find myself mentioning the same elements over and over. Of course this must mean it's time for another blog post about Internet irritants. This list came from comments from visitors and from my own cranky files.

In no particular order, here are 10 More Internet Irritants.

1. Webpages with black or dark backgrounds and white or other light-colored text.

For anyone who has far-sightedness, astigmatism, presbyopia, or just plain tired eyes from staring at a computer monitor all day, there is no worse design for a webpage. With so many negative comments about black background/white text, I don't know why this design is even offered.

2. Entry pages - unless because of age requirement for the site.

Oh, but these are universally hated. When someone visits your site, they don't want to have to click another icon to get to the site. Another reason entry pages are bad is that they are not crawled by the web spiders so they will result in low Google PageRank and low SERP placement.

3. Music.

Oh, my! If you had to name one thing that is most hated, it would be music. Not that people hate music. They just hate other people's music commandeering their speakers that's already playing something of their own choosing. Or the music that suddenly pours from the site you clicked on is something the listener utterly hates i.e. techno bombarding the ears of a string-quartet lover or Beethoven doing the same for someone who's into Toby Keith.

Most people dislike this so much that they immediately hit the back button rather than hit the icon that says "turn music off." Many avoid roaming MySpace sites for this reason.

4. Lots of different fonts in lots of different sizes and colors.

Other than a font for headings and a different one for the body of an article, you shouldn't change fonts. It's a design thing. You want fonts that don't scream: Look at me! You want the content to be the center of attention. Same goes for color. Black on white or light colored background. Bold face and Italic where appropriate. Trust me on this. Or ask a graphic design specialist. Just because you can select 144 different font colors doesn't mean you should.

5. Dancing, wiggling, jumping, pulsating images.

As I said above, your content - your words - is what you want people to remember so eliminate all those old-school gif animations and Flash scripts. The only smiley face anyone wants to see is a still photograph of you the writer.

6. Unpleasant ads.

Ads that are bigger than a breadbox or the banner box holding the title of your site. Ads with video that open without you doing anything. Ads that pulsate, blink, or have animation elements. Ads that take up more space on your blog than your written content. A gazillion social network and referral badges that take precedence over your most recent content.

Sure, you can make money on your website, but people won't visit you to help you make money. They will visit if you give them good content. The monetization should be secondary, not your primary focus.

Never have an ad above your website title. You want to brand yourself and your site, not a commercial entity's products and services. Put those ad banners in the sidebar or at the bottom. And never have more ads than content.

7. Websites with poorly arranged elements.

Look at a website that's popular and study how the elements are arranged. Is everything orderly so that you can find out about the writer, find an email address, and easily find articles in specific categories? That's what you should be aiming for. You don't want things scattered all over the place as if they were after-thoughts. You also don't there to be so much on each page that scrolling to the break takes minutes instead of seconds. Scrolling the whole length of the page gets abandoned. And never forget to have a Contact page or email link on your site. On blogs, you can always hit Comment, but on websites, there's no way to get in touch with the owner if this is omitted.

8. Webpages with no white space.

You know what I mean - those pages where text spans margin to margin without so much as a quarter inch of space on the sides - so long top to bottom that you have to scroll and scroll to find the end.

In print publishing, white space is a required design element. There has to be sufficient white space to allow the eye to rest. White space makes reading easy. Many website novices either don't know this or haven't learn it because their goal seems to be to take all the space for text with very little margins around.

9. Text not formatted for Internet publishing.

The way you write for electronic publishing is different than the way you write for print publishing. Learn the difference. I've touched on this before. I'll post on it again in the near future.

10. Sites that are slow-loading.

It doesn't help to put a disclaimer: "This site is graphic-intensive, but worth the wait." No one will hang around and wait for it to load. Your disclaimer doesn't convince them. They don't care. They just move on.

Takeaway Truth

Learn some basic website design elements and study a lot of sites so you can put your best foot forward instead of shooting yourself in the foot.

10 Commandments of Internet

This morning I received an email obviously intended for someone else. It was quickly followed by an apology email when the sender realized that dreaded digital sin of sending a candid email to the wrong party had been committed. I was amused rather than angry. The sender was obviously swamped with emails.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard horror stories about this issue. Authors sending nasty emails to their agent or editor instead of to their best friend on whose shoulder they wished to cry about said agent or editor.

That started me thinking that maybe there should be a written code of honor the Internet could follow. So I created one. Hopefully, there won't be the kind of backlash in the real world with this 10 Commandments at the center of controversies.

1. The Internet is not your Lord God.

It's just a vehicle for rapid, one hopes, communication so don't give it your every waking minute.

2. Thou shall not spend more time surfing the Internet and playing online games than you spend playing with your kid and being a companion to your spouse.

3. Thou shall not send a complaining, cursing, or defamatory email without making sure of the name in the To: box.

4. Honor your father and mother and don't say nasty things about them in your blog.

We don't want to hear it. We probably also came from dysfunctional families. If you've got a beef, confront them personally.

5. Thou shall not kill a person's character by defaming them in blogs and forums. People have committed suicide because of this.

6. Thou shall not commit adultery with online romances when you have a spouse or significant other in your life. Spend as much time cultivating that romance as you do an online relationship with a woman who in real life may be incarcerated for murder.

7. Thou shall not steal the words of others even though it's easy to do in this digital world.

The original author of the book you're scanning to upload to a website worked hard to pull those words out of her brain so why should you take away her livelihood? She only makes money if people buy her books. The blog author who committed to consistently publishing every day spends a lot of time working to make his blog compelling so why should you steal his words and pass them off as yours? Do your own work.

8. Thou shall not bear false witness (that means spreading lies) against your neighbor, your boss, your spouse, your friend, your competitors, or your children's competitors.

Children have committed suicide because of this.

9. Thou shall not covet your neighbor's Technorati ratings, Google PageRank, Alexa Rank, or any of the myriad ways to rate a website.

Work on your own site and learn how the PR leaders got those ratings. Then build your own traffic.

10. Thou shall not write anything on a website or in an email or forum that you wouldn't want to see printed on the front page of every newspaper in this country.

When you're angry, don't send emails. Don't post on forums. Don't write blog posts. Ill-chosen words have a way of coming back to bite you. By the way, just in case you didn't know, if you know how to do a search, you can read the text of what are supposed to be private emails. Also, many bulletin boards and forums are crawled by Google which means they also can be pulled up. What you say in moments of anger, live on in the digital world forever.

Takeaway Truth

Think before acting.

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

For those of you who are into contests, here's one that has a big payout.

ABNA and Penguin Group (USA) announced the 2nd annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA), an international competition seeking fresh new writing voices. One Grand Prize winner will receive a full publishing contract with Penguin including a $25,000 advance.

Contest Defined

The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is an opportunity for emerging fiction writers to join a community of authors on, showcase their work and compete for a chance to get published. Sponsored in partnership with Penguin Group (USA) and CreateSpace, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award first launched in October 2007 and received more than 5,000 initial entries. In the inaugural contest, Amazon customers voted and named Bill Loehfelm the winner with his novel, “Fresh Kills.” Several of the other Top 10 finalists also received publishing deals with Penguin.

Grand Prize

A full publishing contract with Penguin to market and distribute the Grand Prize winner's winning manuscript as a published book, including promotion for the book on and a $25,000 advance.

How To Enter

Contest submission period begins February 2nd, 2009, at 12:01 a.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time) and ends February 8th, 2009, at 11:59 p.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time), or when the first 10,000 entries have been received, whichever is earlier.

More Info

Visit the Amazon webpage to sign up to receive contest updates, get tips on how to enter, participate on the ABNA message boards as well as find full contest rules.

Takeaway Truth

Contests are always a shot in the dark, but, sometimes, when you shoot in the dark, you may actually hit something.

Free Blog Vs. Your Domain Blog

Last week someone commented on one of my groups about their perception of blogs. Their opinion? Free blogs are not professional. Only own-domain blogs have credibility.

I chipped in my two cents and thought my answer might make a good blog post for general consumption because I have a free blog - this one- and I have a blog for which I pay for my own domain name - Joan Slings Words.

Truth in Blogs

A free blog can look professional, have a high Google PageRank, and a high standing in SERP.

A domain-owned blog can look crappy, have a zero PR, and never come up in the top 10 SERPs.

I've seen free blogs that are crap just like individually-owned domain blogs that are crap. I've seen great free blogs just like great individually-owned blogs.

No blanket statement can be made regarding the professionalism of a blog based solely on whether it's on a free platform or not. Everything depends on these basic factors: content, aesthetic design, awareness of the intended audience, and consistency of effort.


You must have good content that educates and/or entertains. It must always be fresh and not rehashed and should appeal to the audience you've identified as yours.


On the Internet, people like pictures with their words. Art serves a couple of purposes: it draws attention, refreshes the eyes, and, if done properly, hints at what the article is about. For instance, the graphic I used is, I think, humorous and tells you immediately that I'm giving an opinion piece, though it's opinion based on experience. I hope it draws in my intended audience - other writers, readers, and those wanting to know whether to pay for a blog or set up a free one.

Aesthetics are more than throwing in a picture with a post. The design of your blog, the banner graphic, the formatting, the fonts used, the colors, the way the elements are arranged, the sheer volume of referral image links you have, the ads - all that either enhances or detracts from your content. If it detracts too much, no one will bother reading what you have to say because your site is an eyesore.


Every blogger should have an idea of who they want as readers. Sure, we'd all love to have millions reading our deathless prose, but what are the odds? Instead of shotgunning it with articles about everything on the planet, really put some thought into what you want to say and to whom you wish to say it. My audience? Like I said, other writers, readers, those interested in making the Internet work for them, and those interested in pop culture. That's the major groups I hope to attract because those are the things that interest me. Now, there are sub-groups, but I won't go into all that. Just know who your audience is.


Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." However, he wasn't talking about blogging. He was talking about thinking. He meant that a great mind doesn't have to think consistently from one day to the next. When it comes to blogging, consistency from one day to the next is the gold standard. Inconsistency is the hobgoblin that marks your blog as an also ran.

Not many of us can blog every single day so strive for consistency of effort with an editorial calendar tailored to your time constraints whether that be every other day, only on weekends, or only once a week. Establish a schedule and be consistent in keeping it.

My Opinion

Professionals in design and/or writing fields have higher expectations so if they are your intended audience, you're going to have to be on your toes with great design and well-written content expressed with good grammar. I know I'm more critical of blogs written by writers than blogs from the general population. Of course, the general population of non-writers is usually much less critical than professional writers and artists. That's why you can see a free site chockablock with pulsating ads and grammatical errors that may make you wince yet it manages to attract an audience and become popular. (I'm thinking of a craft site I've visited.)

Final Points

From my website design/review experience, remember these points.

1. Choose a memorable name for your blog or website.

2. Use good navigation.

3. Avoid Flash because it hampers your ranking.

4. Give value to visitors with real content.

5. Use background colors that don't irritate. The number one complaint? Black background with white text.

6. Use images.

7. Make text easy to read.

8. Format for web writing.

9. Make sure load time is minimal.

10. Make site universally accessible.

Takeaway Truth

If you build it and populate it with good content, they will come.

Foreign Short Fiction Markets

Today's blog is actually part of the Market Newsletter published each week by Cynthia Sterling aka Cindi Myers. This particular newsletter is from the week of January 11, 2009.

I encourage you to subscribe to Cindi's newsletter. It's a wealth of information about who is buying what in the publishing world. To subscribe: send a blank email to CynthiaSterling-subscribe at

Excerpts from Cindi's Newsletter

This week I'm taking a look at some overseas (non-US) markets for short
fiction. Writing for these magazines can be a great way to resell previously
published stories for which you've retained rights or for selling new fiction.
Pay close attention to each magazine's guidelines. Some will accept email
submissions, but some require you to mail the manuscript to them, in which case
you'll need to purchase International Reply Coupons (IRCs) at your post
office and include them with your submission to pay for the return postage.

Park Publications

In the UK, produces several short fiction magazines that welcome submissions from freelancers. One is Countryside Tales, issued quarterly. It publishes humour, romance, supernatural, crime, etc. as long as it has a rural/countryside theme or setting. Up to 2000 words. See the guidelines.

The Edge

Please see Comment from Anonymous.

Horror, science fiction, fantasy, crime fiction, slipstream and erotica. Stories should be over 2000 words. Editor is Dave Clark. See Guidelines.


Magazine of science fiction and fantasy that has been published in the UK since 1984. Editor Andy Cox is interested in short stories of up to 8000 words. Detailed guidelines.

My Weekly

Popular women's magazine in the UK. The primary readership is women over the age of 45. They've been around a long time and publish a lot of short fiction. They publish romance, crime fiction, fantasy and other fiction either 1300 words or 2000 words. They also like "Twist in the Tale" stories with surprise endings. The editor is Sally Hampton. You can learn more or email: myweekly at dcthomson dot co dot uk or write: My Weekly, D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL.

D.C. Thompson and Co also publishes The People's Friend, aimed at women over 60, with short stories and longer serials. Stories are 1000 to 4000 words and nostalgia is always popular. Guidelines are here or contact the magazine for more detailed guidelines: The People's Friend, DC Thomson and Co. Ltd, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL.


Short stories of 1000-1500 words. The editors particularly like romance and family stories. The audience is women over 50. They have great guidelines.

Cindi says: "As always, feel free to pass along this newsletter. If any part of it is reproduced or quoted, please give me credit. Anyone can sign up for the
newsletter by sending a blank email to CynthiaSterling-subscribe at

Takeaway Truth

A good writer keeps abreast of market news.

Joy of the Expected

Quote for the Week

"Talk about the joys of the unexpected, can they compare with the joys of the expected, of finding everything delightfully and completely what you knew it was going to be?" Elizabeth Bibesco, Balloons, 1922.

I've exited the winter of my discontent. Thank goodness! I can only stand so much of being frustrated and annoyed with life. After unloading my feelings in my blog post, my usual attitude of optimism resurfaced. With it came an expectation of the positive outcome I wanted.

I just told myself that the phone repair man would be out sooner rather than later on Saturday, in plenty of time to do the needed repairs. Guess what? It happened just that way. A very nice gentleman from AT&T showed up prior to dark, assessed the situation, and installed a new phone cable - to be buried by another crew in two weeks.

I've found that you usually get what you expect out of life. That's why I try to expect the best. I don't mind if I'm surprised because the worst shows up because I can live happily in the interim rather than ranting and railing at the fates over this, that, or the other.

Takeaway Truth

There's a great deal of truth in the idea that your thoughts determine your destiny. If we could all get into the habit of expecting life to dump miracles upon us, perhaps we'd all experience more miraculous lives.

High-Tech & Supercharged

Yesterday my DH and I were watching the Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction on TV. I find these car auction shows fascinating. We usually watch, mouths agape, as cars from our youth sell at auction for small fortunes. Every time we watch one of these shows, my DH wistfully says: "I wish I still had that '64 Buick Skylark."

That was his car in high school in which he installed and removed motors faster than you could see quarter mile turn. If he had it today, I know he'd be looking for a Buick supercharger to install just to get more power. You know you can't ever have enough power, right?

Of course, you don't have to have a classic muscle car to use a supercharger. You can put them in just about any make and model. SuperchargerPros has great prices and customer service, not to mention a wide selection of Buick Superchargers. In fact, they can probably provide for all of your air induction needs. Check out their website and give them a call at their toll-free number if you don't find what you need.

Takeaway Truth

Never underestimate a man's love of auto power.

Winter of my Discontent

With apologies to Shakespeare and his Richard The Third: Act 1, Scene 1.

Now is the winter of my discontent, and, trust me on this, it is NOT made glorious by anything that has happened of late. Today, was the final drop in the bucket of frustration I've been lugging around these past two months. This morning, the very nice gentleman building a fence for the neighbors behind us neatly sliced through our phone line.

Thanks, At&T

Uh oh! No phone. No Internet. No repair until maybe 7PM tomorrow night when they come out to assess the problem. Let's see, tomorrow is Saturday. What are the odds that they will actually repair a buried, severed phone cable in the dark? Anyone want to take that bet? Next day is Sunday. Do they work on Sunday? Guess I'll find out.

Richard, the future king, may have been celebrating an improvement in his family's fortune when he uttered the line that is so often misquoted, but even he quickly descended into bitching and moaning about Edward IV, his brother, and Edward's decadence once he became king - not to mention Richard has plenty to complain about because of the cruel vagaries of Fate that sent him deformed and hunchbacked into the world.

It Is What It Is

You can be happy with a severed phone line or frustrated and bitchy. Regardless of which mood you decide to adopt, you'll still have a severed phone line so you might as well be happy.

Like Richard, I'll try to bring about my own glorious summer, but I think I'll attempt peace and serenity and acceptance of no phone and no web through meditation and positive thinking. Mainly because I can't think of a single way to get AT&T out any sooner by doing it the way Richard gained the throne - by manipulation and treachery just to name a couple of his methods.

Takeaway Truth

I'll be off line after I sign off here. See you as soon as AT&T graces us with a visit.

Use Stats to Pick Social Network

Here we go again. If you invest time in social networking sites because you're trying to promote your name/book/career, then do some web metrics research. Find out where your time is best spent.


As with my previous post, the data reported herein was gathered nearly a year ago. Do current research to obtain current data.

Website ----------- Monthly Visitors -- Trend

Facebook ----------- 31,948,779 -- up 57.5%

Fliker ----------- 36,866 -- up 413.8%

Flixter ----------- 3,842 -- down by 66.2%

MySpace ----------- 60,267,059 -- down by 10.9%

Performancing ----------- 118,570 -- down 56.2%

Reunion ----------- 8,037,346 -- up 39.7%

Squidoo ----------- 2,859,064 -- up 141.8%

Twitter ----------- 1,725,977 -- up 1313.4%

Yahoo 360 ----------- 3,095 -- down 66.4%

YouTube ----------- 58,661,346 -- down 33.9%

Takeaway Truth

Time is money so make sure you spend yours well.

Artist Medium? Auto Bodies

My DH and I are both fans of the car shows on HD television. (That's our baby in the picture.) We DVR everything from the muscle car auctions to the TLC show Overhaulin'. His interest is because he wants to do all that stuff. My interest is because I'm writing a mystery that involves classic cars.

Amazing Reconstructionists

The thing that amazes me is how these guys can take an old clunker from a cornfield and turn it into the sleekest, fastest, hottest thing on 4 wheels. They replicate body parts that rusted to dust long ago. I mean, these auto body specialists are true artists.

My Experience

My only experience with auto body shops was when some bonehead smashed into the rear of my beautiful merlot Thunderbird. When that happened, I wish I'd had auto body repair service bookmarked on my browser because I was in a total panic. I wanted to be reassured that an auto body repair artist would make my car just like new because I'm crazy about my convertible T-Bird. It stays in the garage with its hard top on a hoist hovering overhead.

Resources For Car Lovers

Collision Repair Experts help you find a quality repair shop in your area. They're in just about every state. Their car service directory makes it easy. They have strict requirements for their members and only list shops that provide high quality, top-of-the-line service. When you obtain a list of shops from the online directory, you can then find out details including the payments they accept, their hours of service, contact info, whether they're I-CAR gold certified, and even maps and directions to the shop.

If I'd had that resource, I might not have worried myself to a frazzle while I waited for insurance adjusters to do their thing. All ended well for my sleek, dark red baby, but I've bookmarked Collision Repair Experts just in case I ever need them.

Takeaway Truth

Shopping for service providers in ever category is easy with the Net.

Followup to Stats/ePublishers

Apparently, my post about picking an ePublisher by using web metric stats pushed some hot buttons. The post received some good, articulate comments as well as some, um, really, uh, interesting emails.


Author Terry Odell who is print published and ePublished had some good questions that those considering an ePublisher should ask.

Lara Diamond commented and gave what I assume - I didn't check them - are some current stats for one of the most popular ePublishers that had low stats all those months ago.

Again, let me tell everyone, as I did in the post, that the stats I quoted were pulled nearly a year ago and were posted correctly according to that data. Also, as I said in the post, do your own homework. Get current stats. That's the business end of being an author that you all have to embrace.

Anyone can subscribe and obtain up to date web analytics. There are a lot of companies on the Net that provide this service - some do it for free, remember? The point of that post was to show authors that there are tools they can use to help them make the best choice for their career.

Coming Attractions

Later today - or in a few days if I run out of time today - I'll poke the angry lion with another sharp stick by giving some data about social networking sites since so many use it as a promotional vehicle.

Takeaway Truth

A successful career demands you make good choices so use the necessary tools.

Outdoor Living Requires Furniture

The weather outside may be frightful in your part of the country, but here in Texas, it's bright sunshine and clear blue skies. True, it's a tad cooler than normal, but you can still get out and enjoy the outdoors.

Of course, if you have a fire pit, even cold days can be made enjoyable. My brother had a beautiful fire pit installed in his courtyard in Dallas. In case you don't know, Dallas weather is some of the worst in the state. They can have winters that seem more like you're in the wilds of the Dakotas rather than the Lone Star State. But he gets to enjoy his outdoor space even on the coldest days thanks to his fire pit.

I want to screen my covered patio this year so I'm shopping online for new patio furniture. At Max Outdoor Living, I learned something startling. Patio furniture is different from outdoor furniture. Patio furniture can't be used in direct sun and shouldn't be exposed to rain and other bad weather. So for my redesigned covered patio, patio furniture is indeed what I want. Of all the styles available, I think I want wicker furniture.

However, for the other patio which is in full sun, I now know, thanks to the website, that what I want is
outdoor furniture which is designed for all weather conditions - even our hot Texas sun and torrential rains.

Takeaway Truth

Outdoor living is popular everywhere so furnish your outdoor space properly and enjoy the fresh air and Mother Nature - regardless of the temperature.

Watermark Your Images

Jonathan Bailey at Plagiarism Today has posted a great analysis of 3 free online watermarking software applications. If you don't subscribe to Jonathan's site, you should. He provides resources that writers need.

If you're like me and create your own artwork or use your own photographs, then you probably want a way to watermark your images. Stock photography sites have software that can batch-code images uploaded to their sites, but individuals who work with just a few images a week don't have that tool at their disposal.

Here's the same image, originally created in PhotoShop, which I hurriedly watermarked a few seconds ago at WaterMarkTool. It's so easy and fast.

Thanks, Jonathan, for your post.

Takeaway Truth

Placing a watermark on your created images is another way to promote your brand. If you're a career-driven writer, that's a good thing.

Using Stats to Pick ePublisher

Believe it or not, a lot of writers are now beginning their writing career by going to electronic publishing route. They think they're chances are better with ePublishers than with traditional print publishers. They're vehemently supportive of ePublishing.

Facts Are Friendly

While they don't assert that they're making as much as A list print published authors, many proclaim that they're making more money than those that are print-published by small presses.

The point of this blog isn't to take issue with any of the above statements, but to point out ways authors can verify ePublishers' claims as to their traffic. So if you've decided to get published by an electronic or online publisher, you might want to do your own web analysis.

Site Analytics

Most websites are rated by how many unique visitors visit the site's pages as well as how many seconds they spend on the site. Unique Visitors counts a person once no matter how many times they visit a site in a given month because they originate from the same IP address. Unique Visitors are typically used to determine how popular a site is. Therefore, most web analytic sites consider additional metrics in order to determine the popularity of a given site.

This way, if sites buy a lot of advertising across the web and drive up their Unique Visitor count, even though many of the visitors may leave the site immediately, there are other tools that measure how much time people actually spend on the site as well as how many pages of the site they look at on average during each visit. This is a truer measurement of a site's popularity.

There are many businesses that provide this kind of in depth analysis, usually for a subscription fee. Some sites though offer a trial period where you can test their metrics for yourself.

Some website analysis businesses are: Google Analytics, Omniture, Stat Counter, and Piwik. Read, Write, Web lists several analytic services.

How This Helps

You want to pick the right publisher to ePublish your front list or your back list. That publisher needs to have a website with decent traffic. You can compare the actual stats for a website against other websites in order to pick a publisher that has the most traffic. If your book is going to be sold mainly through the publisher's website, this is of great importance to you. I mean, you can have the best book in the world, but if the traffic is too little, you won't sell enough to buy a cup of coffee.

With my subscription to one of these services, I decided to compare the ePublishers I had heard mentioned most often. I was surprised by the findings. Sorry, I can't tell you which web analytics I used, but I will give you the results. This survey was done 9 months ago so don't consider it an accurate representation of the sites' current visitor statistics. Do your own analysis.

Remember: these stats are 9 months old, and unique visitors, as explained above, are counted.

Website ----------- Monthly Unique Visitors -- Yearly Trend

Amber Quill ----------- 2 -- no trend

Black Lyon ----------- 1,075 -- no trend

Bold Strokes ----------- 3,347 -- up 40.5%

Champagne Books ----------- 1,868 -- up 262.7%

Dragon Moon Press ----------- 831 -- up 22.2%

Ellora's Cave ----------- 194 -- up 136.6%

eXtasybooks ----------- 3,283 -- down 39.3%

Freya's Bower ----------- 3,160 -- up 100.1%

Granite Books ----------- 915 -- 386.7%

Harlequin ----------- 178,268 -- down 33.6%

Hard Shell ----------- 1,031 -- down 27.1%

Highland Press ----------- 861 -- up 60.3%

Imajinn Books ----------- 1,446 -- down 54.5%

Juno Books ----------- 1,767 -- up 427.5%

Linden Bay Romance ----------- 1,141 -- down 45%

Loose ID ----------- 9,480 -- up 22.5%

Mundania ----------- 2,079 -- up 206.6%

New Concepts ----------- 11,783 -- up 15%

Resplendence ----------- 1,901 -- up 1433.1%

Samhain ----------- 23,363 -- up 19.7%

Siren ----------- 6,136 -- up 123.2%

Virgin Books ----------- 1,002 -- down 55.2%

Whiskey Creek Press ----------- 4,401 -- up .4%

Wild Rose Press ----------- 149 -- down 67.4%

Takeaway Truth

Writers need to be good business people. In today's world, that means understanding web analytics and their many applications.

Own Yourself

Quote for the Week

"You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done, which may take some time, you are fierce with reality." Florida Scott-Maxwell, The Measure of My Days, 1968.

Not only are you fierce with reality, but once you own your actions, your past, your present, then you are in a position to be self-actualizing. That's when you can create real change in yourself if you aren't satisfied with what you discover. When you claim the events of your life, the good and the bad, you begin living honestly.

If you haven't been able to achieve what you wanted in the past, maybe it's time to look at your past and acknowledge the decisions, good and bad, that have led you to where you are - and who you are. Then look at the present and see what you can do differently to make the changes you want. We can always do more, be more, because we can become more.

Takeaway Truth

We should always be like an unfinished novel - a work in progress that grows richer and more complex with experience and the passage of time.

Website Update Highlights: Jan. 2009

My website is updated the first of every month. I'll try to do better this year about posting the highlights for this blog's audience. So check it out. There may be something on the website to tickle your fancy or help you with your career.


The first page that opens the site contains a Note each month with general overview of the monthly update. For details about the update, you can subscribe to Wordplay, my website newsletter, and receive it in your Inbox on the first of each month. Wordplay contains a detail of the new things on the site as well as an article, essay, or short fiction that appears only in the newsletter.

The Pleasure of Reading

This page is all about authors, books, and reading. January features an Interview with freelance writer and aspiring novelist Lisa Haselton. Next month, the very popular Annette Blair will be the guest of honor.

The Joy of Writing

This page is for writers and aspiring writers or maybe just those interested in the writing life. Many of the articles can help any career, not just writing. January's feature article: Make the Internet Work for You: Blog Basics will help you with your web presence.


My subscription Newsletter can be read on the newsletter page, but if you subscribe, you receive the newsletter in your Inbox the first of each month. The entertainment feature for January is: Blame it on the Romans, a Very Short History of New Year Resolutions.

In February, the January 2008 issue of WORDPLAY will be removed and stored in the 2008 Article Archive. Each month thereafter, the next sequential 2008 issue will be removed and archived.

The Archives

An article usually appears on its originating page for two months. After that it's moved to The Archives. With the February 1 update, all the 2006 articles will be removed. If there's one you want, print it now.

WIP or Work in Progress

1 of 12 for 2009 is a brief essay about goals, especially my goals for the new year. I'm making myself accountable to my readers this next year. Nothing like a challenge, huh? Who will you be accountable to for your goals?

Previously Published

Feature Article: Think Outside the Box and the entire series Keeping and Using Your Rights remain in place until the February update. The cover of my most recent large print book Most Wanted is shown. The book is an example of my following my own advice about using reverted/retained rights.

Written Wisdom

For January, the theme for Written Wisdom which appears on every page of the website, is Change. Look for quotations from Jane Austen, Christina Baldwin, Gail Sheehy, Elizabeth Janeway, Ursula K. LeGuin, Mignon McLaughlin, and Edith Nesbitt.

Epitaph on Mel Blanc's tombstone: That's all, folks.

Takeaway Truth

Like most authors in this business, I work hard to make my website a treasure of information and entertainment.

Commercial Fiction Continuing Trends

I'm still thinking about trends so I thought I'd give you my list of trends in popular fiction that started about 10 years ago and are still present. I didn't even have to consult the muse about it though she stands ready should I require her assistance.

Sexy Books

This isn't just romance novels. All books seem to have sexed-up. This is good if the author is good at writing sexy copy, and the resulting writing is organic. If the author, with a grimace of distaste, is doing it because his/her editor/agent said to up the sexuality, it's bad, and the writing suffers. Some authors increase the sexuality by having secondary characters doing "it" or by having sexually explicit details about a crime or a character.

If a woman is your main character, you want her comfortable with her sexuality. Sure, many women aren't, but your heroine needs to be, and that doesn't mean she has to be a slut. It just means that she's aware of all the ramifications of sex and makes smart decisions. Unless her emotional conflict makes her choose a dumb move, and you darn well better have it believable when a smart woman does a dumb thing. And that brings me to....

Capable Heroines

Your heroine learns from her mistakes and moves on. No matter what genre, readers are looking for real women - someone competent and confident - not a nervous Nelly. When a woman is the main character, you want her to be strong, smart, and responsible for herself and her choices. She's somebody who makes things happen; she doesn't have things happen to her.


You must write a book that moves. A novel is characterized by forward motion, and, in this century, that motion is fast-paced. You want the reader turning pages, following the story and the characters.


Like I said, a novel is motion. Motion demands action. Active verbs, not passive. Active characters doing things not just sitting around contemplating their navels and thinking about what needs to be done. They do it. They act.

Unintrusive Backstory

If you could eliminate only one thing from your writing world view, it be the idea that you have to lay out all the background before you can get a story moving. The story begins at the moment of change.

Once I read a contest entry that took 9 pages to tell the reader that the heroine had just got divorced and had a car accident that changed everything. You only need a few sentences to set that scene. Here's a rough example: Molly, feeling incredibly free now that the judge had signed her divorce decree, flew down the courthouse steps. From behind her, she heard her lawyer call her name. Without stopping, she looked over her shoulder. Next thing she knew, she was tumbling head over heels down the marble steps until she slammed into an unsuspecting man at the bottom.

That's about 60 words. Sure, I didn't tell about her miserable childhood and how she married the first jerk who looked her way just so she could escape. I didn't detail how he hadn't been able to keep it zipped nor his descent into the bottle. I didn't go into her long lonely struggle to get an education and a decent job while she had to support her alcoholic husband.

All that stuff is something you reveal as you go along. Sprinkle it in like chopped red peppers in spicy dishes - a little here, a little there. You don't just dump it all in at once.

Takeaway Truth

Every era has its own literature. You must be a part of the time in which you live.

Time to Part-tay!

I don't know who'll be competing in the Super Bowl this year. I don't even have a favorite team because, frankly, I'm not much of a football fan. (My son Michael thinks this is ridiculous, but he loves me anyway.)

Cooking Rep To Maintain

So when Super Bowl time rolls around, I'm not sending prayers heavenward for my team. I am, however, scouring my cookbooks and my favorite recipe websites in search of something new and distinctive to serve my football fanatic family.

Rather than relying on supermarket dips, cold cuts, and other standards, I search far and wide for unique super bowl party food ideas. I've already selected three new recipes at that I can't wait to try: Guilt-free Cheesy Dog for my daughter who's health conscious; Butternut Fries for me because they sound good; Fired Up Breadsticks, Truffle-scented White Bean Dip, and Mojito Mayo Dip.

Distinctive Dishes

Everything on the website sounds delicious but these tickled my fancy. I make Sweet Potato Fries so I'm thinking the Butternut Fries will have that same dimension of flavor. And breadsticks just can't be beat, but Fired Up with cayenne and crisp bacon, they sound like real winners. As to the dips, well, the two I picked sound tons better than the standard french onion dip.

If you're hosting a party this year, check out They'll give you some great ideas to make your party a success.

Takeaway Truth

Whether you like football or not, celebrate in style because what you're really celebrating is life and friendship.

Looking for Writing Trends

I'm having a nice cup of tea with lemon and thinking about what I want to write this year in the area of fiction. I remembered an article by Debbie Macomber, one of my favorite romance authors.

I just finished reviewing Debbie's article again. Do yourself a favor and go read it. I'm just going to summarize some of what she said and give my own commentary.

Debbie says you can identify trends by identifying and using pop culture to write and sell your novel. I completely agree with her which is why I blog a lot on my other blog where the writing biz meets pop culture about television and movies.

What's happening across the big pond?

Think of how many TV shows here first started on the BBC. I have friends who watch BBC television to see what's coming down the pike. That's something you can try since BBC is on many satellite TV systems.


Yep, we used to call it the boob tube (before boob was in common parlance as a body part). Now it's a reflector of our culture. Look at the shows - all those reality shows so many of us hate as well as the sitcoms, dramas, game shows, and action series.

Movies: Cinema or Other Release

Have you seen the movies that garner the most buzz, awards, or ticket sales? If not, you're missing an eye into pop culture.


Read what Debbie says. I never realized it, but she's right. I get an avalanche of catalogs every year. I never saw them as a peek into millions of people's buying habits, but that's what they are. What people buy translates into what interests them.


I still read magazines and newspapers. I've blogged before about why people should do this. I know Dick Wolfe of the Law and Order franchise has built a substantial career from "ripped from the headlines."


All of you probably guessed that's one of the ways to spot trends whether it's the Brittany-obsessed, sobbing teen to the yammering dog made even more famous on Talk Soup.

Takeaway Truth

Writers need to look for trends, but they should try to write a trendy story. There's a big difference in the two.

A = Adorable & B = Baby

If A is for Adorable, and B is for Baby, then C must be for Clothing because the three words go together so well. Adorable Baby Clothing is something moms just love to look at which is a good thing because most of us seem to know several women who are expecting bundles of joy this spring. In our circle of extended family and friends, we've got an arrival in March, one in May, and one in late summer which is really too far off to shop for. Yet.

I'm goofing off this afternoon, well, as much as I allow myself to, and shopping online for baby gifts because baby showers are coming soon.

We know the March baby is a little girl who's going to be as special as her delightful mommy. It's easy to believe that this little girl will be made of sugar and spice and everything nice. I've been checking out Baby Girl Clothes because I want something really special and pretty. I think the Candy Babies Newborn Baby Girl Personalized Teddy & Blanket Gift Set will be perfect.

The May arrival is still to be determined. The new baby's sister wants, of course, a girl. While the new baby's brother wants, you guessed it! A boy. Mom and Dad aren't taking sides. I've looked at Baby Boy Clothes and found a cute Guitar Hero Rock N Roll Baby Onesie.

Of course, I may just hedge my bets and go with the Funky Sock Monkey Baby Blanket I posted above. It's funny and cute, and it's Gender Neutral.

Takeaway Truth

Babies are fun from the very beginning, and shopping for babies is a delight.

Hot Japanese Trend Surfaces Here

I'm sure you heard about books on cell phones being the hottest thing on the publishing scene this past year in Japan. Well, Roger Lichfield, founder of billed as: your one stop publication house for Mobiles & iPhone, is bringing it to an iPhone near you.

Roger emailed me about his company several weeks ago. I told him I'd look into it. When I first checked it, the links he'd sent didn't work so I marked my calendar to check again. After all, this is a new enterprise.

Today, I followed up and found everything working very nicely. So listen up. This might be an opportunity you want to pursue.

What They Offer

Roger's company offers Authors and Publishers the ability to publish their eBooks through their proprietary eReader application which converts existing eBooks into Apple iPhone Applications that can be downloaded from AppStore.

Why do this? The immediate reason is the possibility of exposing your book to a potential market of a million users. That's how many iPhone users there now are.

Of course, this is one of those: you have to spend money to make money programs though they do offer a free membership but with a reduced royalty.

You Judge

However, judge for yourself whether this is something you want to dive into. Here are the links you need to research because you need to know all the details in order to make an informed decision.

Royalty Structure: – basically, the royalty is broken down after the wholesale price or paid out of 70% of book list price.

: – Authors/Publishers retain all the rights to their works, they can also modify the list6 price as well as cancel with us at anytime.

Takeaway Truth

In the ever-changing world writers now inhabit, we need to explore every opportunity.

Format For Web Writing

If you're writing for the Internet, then learn how to format it so people will actually read it. But, you sputter, of course they'll read my erudite blog post that contains the secret of getting published or the secret of cold fusion or whatever.

Wrong! They won't if you format it as you would an article for a print periodical. Why they won't stick to your site and read is because of what I call...

Glazed Eye Syndrome

You know what that refers to. You see something and the eye just doesn't know what to do with the massive sensory bombardment so they glaze over. In real life when you experience sensory overload, you back away. On the Internet, you do the same by hitting the back button or closing the tab and moving on to something that's easier on the eyes and thus easier to assimilate.

The human eye gets easily tired by reading from a computer. It's only human nature to scan content, looking for the sought information. What's the bottom line? What are you looking for? Where are the facts?

Causes of Glazed Eye Syndrome

1. Too much information. An embarrassment of riches.

2. Poorly presented information. Content is presented in a way that the eye can not easily take in.

I'll give you some quick examples without naming names. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

Too Much Info

Internet sites where the text is like a college thesis written in a 12 point font that looks like Pica print on a typewriter. Plus the lines of text run from the far left of your monitor screen to the far right. And there are hundreds of line of text with nothing to break it up. All you wanted to know was the definition of folksonomy, but you end up backing away without ever finding that fact.

Poorly Presented Info

Have you seen those Internet sites or blogs that open and the text is in a myriad of fonts, usually also in vivid colors shrieking for attention? You have big bold headlines, italicized text, bright colors. Where does your eye look first? It skitters all over the displayed page. Chances are your visitor backs away.

Mile-Long Posts

Blogs that have posts that should have been broken into 2-5 shorter posts. Maybe, you wanted to see all the posts for a certain week, but you find yourself scrolling and scrolling and scrolling the never-ending blog post, trying to reach the next ones. Then you find they're just as long.

The Cure

1. Focus your article or blog post so you convey succinct information.

2. Don't try to write every fracking detail about a subject.

3. Use the same font with variation only for title or headline and sub-heading. Bold text makes distinctive titles and sub-heading. Use Italics sparingly. It takes the human eye 30% longer to read italicized text. So it slows the reading.

4. Don't go crazy with text color. Less is more.

5. Avoid those long blocks of unbroken text. Use Sub-headings to break them up as I do in my blog posts, or use numbered lists or bullet points because this helps readers spot hard facts.

6. If you absolutely must write extremely long posts, consider using Expandable Post Summary as Peter explained in his blog. That way a short piece of your post is displayed with a link that says, "Read more."

7. Use pictures. Hey, we're all visual. Pictures attract. You want to draw attention to your words.

Takeaway Truth

You write to be read so avoid shooting yourself in the metaphorical foot, or you'll risk losing readers.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Every writer has an image of his or her readers. Since Ulverscroft in the UK recently began publishing part of my romantic comedy back list, I have this image of readers in the UK having a copy of one of those editions - maybe the one shown here - on their bedside table.

I hope, to match my enchanting prose, that they have a super comfortable and stylish bed like the
divan beds offered by Time4Sleep.According to my chiropractor, a good, quality bed is essential for good, quality sleep. Most people keep their mattresses far beyond their usefulness.

If you're not sleeping well at night, maybe you need to evaluate your mattress. Does it still support your body the way it did when new? Perhaps, it's time you shopped for a new bed. If so, you can't beat the selection offered by Time4Sleep. They've got antique beds to wooden beds, divan beds to upholstered beds, and everything between.

I'm like most women. It's simply not enough to have a quality bed. It has to look good also. I quite fancy the divan beds shown on the website. They look like something you'd see in a luxury hotel. Did you know that a divan bed is a patented design? I didn't. I'm re-doing our guest room this year. I think one of the sleek divan beds would be stunning in there. The only problem is that I might have a hard time getting rid of my guests if I do that.

Takeaway Truth

A good bed is an investment in your good health.

Who Influences Your Thinking?

That's quite a profound question. I was talking to someone-who-shall-remain-nameless. Let's call her Ms. Negativity. She was upset because someone had made a disparaging comment about her new home. Of course, in my blunt manner, I immediately asked, "What does it matter what they think? What do you think?"

What Matters

She just kept sputtering about how the mutual friend had hurt her feelings, etc. She didn't get the point that I was trying to make: it doesn't matter what someone else says or what they think. The only thing that matters is what you say to yourself when the other person shuts up.

Ms. Negativity could have said: "Well, Horace just doesn't know what he's talking about." Or, "Horace is a jerk with the social skills of a jackass."

Instead, she said to herself: "Oh, my God. Horace is right."

What Do You Say

Sure, we all recognize that my friend is insecure or she'd have just ignored what Horace said. But, how many of us act just like Ms. Negativity when it comes to something we're trying to achieve?

You write a manuscript and submit it to an agent. The agent soundly rejects it. What do you say to yourself? "Oh, my God. She's right. It is crap." Or, "That's just one person's opinion. I'll send it to the next agent on my list and see what she/he says."

What You Learn

Maybe a particular manuscript will never get published. So what do you say to yourself then? I'm a loser. Just paint a big L on my forehead. Or, "Okay, for whatever reason this manuscript won't sell. But my time wasn't wasted in writing and marketing it. My writing improved. I learned more about the publishing business. I'll take what I've learned and write another story. That's how you succeed and be happy in this business.

Takeaway Truth

Success and happiness are largely dependent on what we tell ourselves.

Link to Define

When you're writing on the vast page of the Internet, you should remember something very important: not everyone who reads your copy is an Internet expert. I know it's hard to believe, but everyday there are people online who are novices when it comes to the Internet and its resources. These beginners probably aren't up on the lingo.


Do you just ignore that fact and sling around esoteric terms and ideas thereby adopting the attitude that it's their tough luck if they don't understand?

Do you stop and explain every single thing and risk boring your Internet veterans?

Is there, perhaps, another option where you try to serve these newbies, explaining ideas, terms, and procedures - all without alienating your regular readers? Ah, I'm glad you asked.

Link to Explain

One thing you can do is link a word to a page that defines or explains the Internet dynamic. For instance, if I wanted to blog about monetizing a site, but I wanted to explain to a new reader what that meant, I'd do it this way.

Can you make money by monetizing your blog?

As you can see by this simple example, the linked word takes you to a Wiki article about the subject.

Obviously, you wouldn't fill a blog post with hot linked words, but, by doing so, you make sure your subject matter can be clearly understood. After all, isn't that one of the reasons to write? To educate?

Don't Forget Audience

At the same time, you provide service to your current readers by ensuring your content is fresh, with new ideas, or expanded information about old ideas, so you won't lose your existing audience in the process of providing service to new users.

Takeaway Truth

Strive to make your content of value to all users.