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Past Pens of Gail Sattler

November 2013

What's in a title?

As I'm working on my current project, my publisher has changed the title of my book, so that's my topic this month.
Sometimes the titles come easy, sometimes they don't. So let's think about it. What, really, is important when constructing a title?

First, let's go over what a title must be. It must be short. It must indicate something of the story and plot. it must tweak the reader's interest enough to make them check out the storyline.  It must be unique.
That said, secondly, what must a title not be. It must not be.... boring.  It must not be too long. It must not be flowery or over-descriptive. It must not be something that's been used too many times.
As an aside, titles can not be copyrighted. That means that a title legally can be used again by another author. Usually this is done without either author's prior knowledge. I mean, really, who would deliberately pick a title they know was already used?

Back to our topic. Think of some titles of books or movies that struck you. Or, if someone says the word or words, there are many you will automatically know the story, even though it's been years or decades since you read the book or saw the movie.

Carrie. Speed. The Hunger Games. Jurassic Park.
Look at those titles. A couple of them were one word. One. Word. Those are all memorable titles. Or here's a longer one. Gone with the Wind. (4 words)
You know in a nanosecond what the story was. You can picture the characters. For some, you can even quote lines.
How does an author do that?
I can tell you, it's not easy. Those short blips may sound easy, but we all know that the easier it sounds, the harder it was to do. Really, how can you describe a book that takes 4 1/2 hours to read in one word?
It can be done.

When we first start marketing that book as a manuscript to a publisher we need to summarize the entire book down to 100 words or less. For the movie-teaser, 2 sentences, and they can not be run-ons or have the word "and" to make it longer. Once you have that movie-teaser perfect, then take your high concept. If you haven't got both of these done, you shouldn't have written that book yet. In order to focus on really nailing your plot, you must know your high concept. Once you have that, then summarize your high concept into a few words, and there is your perfect title.
Easier said than done? Well, of course.  But it's worth it.

Until next time.



Summer is over, and Indian Summer is almost over, too. That means the end of the weather that tempts us to go do fun things outdoors, and restricts us a little more to indoor activities.
What is about writers that we could call writing an "activity"? It certainly doesn't require much action, except of the fingers and mind, which doesn't require as many calories as a jog around the block with the dog.
But now that Autumn is here, many of us will be returning to our computers more often to work on that book we've been ignoring all summer.

My topic this month is editing. I find that editing is always best done after you haven't looked at your WIP (Work In Progress) for a while, so you are looking at it somewhat fresh. A bit off topic, I received notification that an older book of mine is being re-released in a new venue with Harlequin, and I got a PDF galley copy to look at. Since it originally released in 2002, let's say it's been a very long time since I last looked at it. Maybe it was curiosity, but I opened it and started reading it. It felt very strange, my own words, and definitely my style, but not immediately recognizable because it's been over a decade since I last looked at it.  I knew what was going to happen in the big picture, but each sentence was new.

That's the best way to edit our work - to put it down and not look at it for a significant amount of time so it can be fresh reading. There have been times when not only myself, but other writers have typed the same word twice, and not noticed in an edit, and that's because our brains just skipped by it, we'd read the same sentence so many times too recently.
If you have that time, which if you're on a tight deadline you probably won't, but the best editing is done when you haven't looked at your writing for as long as realistically possible.

So here is a challenge for you. Keep writing your current project with as little editing as you need, write your story, touch it up where you need to, and keep writing. Then when the book is done, that is the time to back to the beginning and run through an edit.

See what happens. I think you'll be glad you did.


August 2013

Reviews - are they really that important in that final sale?

Many authors and/or publishers send copies of books out for review, hoping that when a potential buyer is scouting out the book, they will like the review and buy it.
Does this really happen, we ask? Yes, it does.  I've bought many books after reading a few good reviews.
But... not all reviews are created equal. Not only me, but there are many people who look at the source of the review before putting out their hard-earned money on a book.
This topic is at the top of my list this month because I have a new book coming out in August, and I'm thrilled to say that it got a 4 1/2 star review from Romantic Times.
Let's go over why this is one of the ones that count.

Starting at the bottom of the list or reviews and comments are friends and relatives who would never say anything bad about a book they've reviewed because, well, because they are your friends and relatives.
Some reviewers are the group called "influencers". These readers are given a free copy by the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are honest, but often tend to be soft with any negatives because even though they are honest, if someone gives you books for free on a regular basis, it's kind of bad form to be giving negative reviews. They know the reason they are given the free book for a review is to help promote it.

Then there are book clubs or book groups. These are readers who just love to read - many read more than they watch television (yay for this group!) - and they like to do reviews. This is an honest group, but also this is a group who read so much, they can tend to be a bit on the negative side because they just read so much, so fast. But you can also get some very honest reviews from this group, because they have a lot to compare every new book to.

Some reviewers are authors who have a site made to promote their own writing, but they need content. They can't update the site only when they have a new book out or it would only be updated once every year or two. So to keep people coming, since most writers are voratious readers, they review many of the books they read. These are generally honest reviews because not only did they pay for the books they review. There is no obligation to say something nice. However, since they read a lot, some people tend to skim, and get some of the details wrong, which often can skew the story. Best are people who relax and read at a comfortable speed.

Some people are just readers who like to read, and with the ease of blogging, simply give their honest opinion on everything they read.

Some are people who just like to read and don't do a lot of reviews, they only post reviews on the books they either really love, or really hate.

In a different category are endorsers. This is when an author makes a comment that is printed on the back of the book or on the first few pages of the book itself. These are really important because their credibility is at stake. They can not endorse a book just because the author is a friend - they have to maintain a level of trust with readers, so they can't say a book is good when it is not. As well, most big-name authors are very busy people, and chose their reading carefully.
Last is professional reviewers - Romantic Times, Publishers Weekly and others like it. They are the opposite end of the spectrum. While they do get books for free to review, they are obligated to readers, not the publishers, to give an honest review, and most of these organizations pay people to do the reviews, making the reviewer obligated to the association, not the publisher or author. These are bang-on honest reviews.

But, and there is always a but, before we judge any review, regardless of the source, we have to know one thing.
Any review is one person's opinion.  Regardless of the source of the book, the connection to the publisher or author if any, it's just one person. As we all know, everyone can have a different opinion of the same thing. No one is right or wrong, it's just their opinion, based on a number of personal factors we will never know.

So, regardless of the source, before you take any review or series of reviews as the be-all-and-end-all statement of the quality or readability of a book, that review you just read is merely one person's opinion. Is it yours? The best thing to do is to 5 or 6 reviews from different sources and see if they all say basically the same thing. But in the end, you'll have to read the book and find out yourself.

Happy writing, happy reading, and.... happy reviewing.

Gail Sattler


June 2013

This month I'd like to touch on a subject that is getting a lot of notice, a new phrase in the publishing world, and that is Indie Publishing.
It's short for Independent, and recently there has been a lot of debate about if this is a new catch-phrase for what was formerly known as "vanity" publishing.

First, let me define the kinds of book publishing that are available to authors. Some are named differently depending on which side of the fence you're on, the writing/author side, or the publisher side.

First, the kind most people think of to define being published is the old fashioned way - advance/royalty published.
This means that a publisher, which is a business, pays an author money in "advance" of the book being published, and most of the time, in advance of the book being written. The author received a percentage of the agreed amount, which is more, the more famous the author is. The author writes the book, and when it's done by the agreed date, and is acceptable in length and quality to the editor, the author is paid the rest of the "advance" money.  The book is edited, proofed, promoted, marketed, and it hits the shelf. The author will receive a percentage of the cover price of each book sold, and when that figure equals the amount already paid to the author, then the author starts to receive more money, usually twice a year, with their royalty statement, until the book runs its life and goes out of print.

Second is "for hire" writing. The author and publisher agree on an amount, the author receives half of it and finishes the project. When the project is finished in the agreed time and is at the agreed/expected quality, the publisher pays the author the other half of the agreed amount, and that's it, no more is paid. If the project sells big, the author will not receive any more money. On the other side, if sales do not reach projected targets, the author doesn't have to pay anything back.

Third is what was formerly called Vanity Published or Subsidy Published. This was when an author did not contract with a royalty-advance publisher for a variety of reasons, so in order to get the book published, the author, in agreement/contract with a smaller publisher, would bear a large portion of the cost of editing and cover design and publicity/promo work in order to get the book published. Many times the agreement was fair and both author and publisher did reasonably well. But unfortunately many times the author was taken advantage of with extremely high editing prices and cover design costs, coupled with poor quality work. The percentage paid to the author was higher than royalty/advance because the author already bore a large portion of the expenses. However typically the book price was so high not many people bought the book. As well, most larger bookstores would not buy from the growing list of these type of publishers. Also, since the author paid for most if not all of the expenses, these presses didn't need to be so selective with the quality of what they contracted. Some authors did well, many did not.

Fourth is what was formerly called Self Published. This is where the author doesn't deal with any type of publisher, but would find and pay for their own editor, or not use one. The author would bear all expenses and do all the work they didn't contract out, including promotion.

Now there is a new buzz-word called Indie Published, short for Independent Publishing. This is a modern version of Self Published with a technological twist, and a more positive recognition. With the advent of e-books and various online stores that sell e-books, marketing has changed in the book-selling universe. Even though paper books still outsell e-books by a vast majority, e-book popularity is growing exponentially. Indie Published is when an author heads up and pays for the editing, cover design, and publicity/promo, but when it comes time to the actual selling of the book, most is done online only, selling either as e-books, or POD which is Print On Demand, printed one book at a time, if the buyer wants a hard copy. It's more expensive to do one at a time, but then no one has to pay for thousands of copies and warehousing and distribution expenses. Most sales are e-book only.  This is growing in popularity among authors, and many royalty-published authors are selling Indie published books as a sideline.

There are lots of statistics, good and bad, about Indie publishing and how successful, or not successful, an author can be. We've all heard of a few Indie published books that made millions. At the same time, there are many Indie published books that the author has not recovered from the expenses incurred to get the book to the point of sale, or barely broke even. In my circles, most authors who have gone the Indie route have been moderately but not hugely successful.

The bottom line is this - only the author can decide which way to go based on their ability, time, and resources. Getting a book published, by whichever method is used, is always a varied combination of those three things.


May 2013

For this month my topic is promotion. Just how much promo is an author expected, and needing to do? I can say that the answer varies depending on your history and genre, but despite that, the answer is that an author needs to do more promo than in years gone by. When I first started writing, pretty much all I had to do was write the book.
But things are different today. Especially with bookstores closing down all over the continent, and with the explosion of e-book readers at a reasonable price, the author must be ready to catch a morphing readership.
A decade ago, very few people had e-book readers. For those who did, they were very expensive, and the quality of the books for e-readers was questionable. I'm not saying there weren't good e-books out there, but it wasn't like it is today. Today most famous and popular authors are selling e-books, either through their traditional publisher, or many have decided to try self-publishing.
And, with so many authors self-publishing in addition to the many authors with DTB's (dead tree books) and e-books, the market is overwhelming.

How does one get their book noticed, and purchased by people who aren't on their Friends list?
That, unfortunately, is a question that is impossible to answer. Different promotional efforts work for different people at different times. Unfortunately, most authors are doing the same things, and even though they are good things - getting their name and book titles in the eye of the public both in print and e-media, there are just so many that most get buried.
The only way to be successful is to be where your target market audience will find you.
That means, first you need to find out who exactly is your target market audience.
If you are writing for young adult, your marketing attempts will not work at senior citizen events. Although hopefully some seniors would buy your book for their grandchildren.

Before you spend your time, and more importantly, your money, on advertising efforts and venues, ask yourself, who exactly are you writing for, and where will they be looking so you can tell them about your book?
If you're not sure where to start, put the situation in reverse. When you are looking for a book, knowing the genre you read, where do you start looking? If you read the same genre you write, then that's the first place you should do your own promotion. The place you look when you're wanting to find a new and exciting author is the place you should start your own efforts.

Happy marketing!


March 2013

Solitaire and the writer.

Have I got your attention? Somehow, the two go together, even though they shouldn't.

As a writer, you might find yourself playing Solitaire when the words just aren't flowing from your fingertips. Unfortunately this happens more than we care to admit. Strange thing, as far as I know, no one has ever maxed out their favorite game to get a response that there are no more games left to play. Still, I don't want to look at my own statistics counting how many games I have played. It scares me.

Believe it or not, the point of my article today is not really about wasting time, but instead, it's about your opening hook. How do you grab your reader's attention? I am hoping I grabbed your attention, and since you are still reading this after all this time, it appears to have worked.

I have to admit, as far as opening hooks, what I did was quite mediocre. That said, what makes a great opening hook? Quite simply, something grabs the attention of the reader, making them need to read more. At first I'd written "want to read more", but I edited that. A great hook doesn't just nudge, it hooks, and once something is hooked, it cannot escape. I now must ask, is your hook effective?

For example, if you were fishing, a fishhook catches a fish and you are able to reel it in. The fish cannot escape.

If you were catching cows, then a fishhook wouldn't do much good. You'd also need something different to get a cow's attention than a nice juicy worm. If by some fluke you did manage to get a curious cow to nibble on that hook, your nylon fishing line would not keep your cow where you wanted her. In fact, she's walk away and likely not even notice you were trying to hold her. Maybe a good heavy rope would hold your cow, if the rope were anchored firmly, or better yet, if your rope were tied with a good sailor's knot to the frame (not the bumper) of a Dodge Ram pickup truck.

What I'm trying to say is that one hook does not catch all. Before you throw out your hook, you have to know what you're aiming at, and know what it will take to hold it once you have it.

In other words, before you write your hook, know your target market audience. Who are you writing for? It will take a different hook to catch a romance reader than a suspense reader.

For me, today I was trying to catch a writer. Gotcha.


December 2012

Since it's December, I can ask, did you participate in NaNoWriMo?

No, that's not a typo. That's the international National Novel Writing Month (see it, now that I wrote it out the long way?) which is every November, every year.

The title is exactly what it is. The month to pull out all the stops and blast through and write a novel in a month. I'm going to over-state the obvious, which is something that should be edited out later. :)  That means, just write. No editing. No going back to change your mind. Just blast through and write your brains out. Your goal is not to edit, tighten your plot, solidify your characterization, or correct your grammar. The purpose is to simply write and keep writing until you type THE END.
I did not participate, but I know people who did. A few of them finished their novel, too, which is great. Too often authors get so hung up on that first critical chapter, or three chapters, that the rest of the book never gets written.

NaNoWriMo participants logged 3,291,381,525 words in November 2012. Yes, read that number again. Over 3 billion words. That's a lotta typing. I did the math, and based on the average book being 55K, then that means approx 59,843 books got written in November 2012.

That said, even though it's past November, if 59,843 people did it, you can too. I'm not saying to do it in one month, but to just do it. Some people edit a lot as they write, some hardly edit at all. Some people have the entire book plotted out (the Plotsters) and some just write and see where the story goes, (the Pantsters, ie writing by the seat of your pants) Some people have a critique partner or critique group go through every chapter after it's written before they continue on to the next, some collect the critiques and do them all at once at the end of the book, and others don't have anyone read it at all.
There is no right way or wrong way to write a book. Do whatever works for you. The only thing that everyone must do is... keep writing until The End. Happy writing.


November 1st.

When I realized it was time to make a new post for this month so many things jumped through my head I didn't know where to start. Therefore, that's what I'm going to make as the topic of this post - Where to start. Let's all imagine the cheery and encouraging voice of Julie Andrews from The Sound Of Music - Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.
What great advice, really. When you have a story to tell, start at the beginning.

Too many times, when we as writers are looking for a place to start, we don't know where that beginning is.
Therefore, that's the time to stop and put on your reader hat. Yes, as writers, we are all readers. In fact, I would bet, if I were a betting person, that all writers were first readers before they started writing.

So when you have a million thoughts raging through your head, and you don't know where to start, then start... at the beginning.
What is the beginning? In a good book, that isn't at the point the principal character is born. Nor is it necessarily the time they graduated from high school. That point of beginning, when you're a reader looking for a great story, is the point at which something important changed, that will start your principal character on a journey from which there can be no turning back. They have to make it, or break it, until death or success. I'm going to stick with the success part.

So many beginning writers, as they get their story going, the real start of the story is usually somewhere in where they have as chapter three, and everything before that is backstory.

Back to The Sound of Music. Where did this story start? Did it start with Maria joining the nunnery? Did it start with the birth of Captain von Trapp's first child? No. Many things happened as both their lives moved forward, but for the purpose of this story, all those things were backstory. Despite what we all know was the history of both characters, the real story starts when..... Okay, fill in the blank. You know what that point was, that neither of them could turn back.

Now, do the same thing with that story in your head.

Just start at the very beginning, at that one point that changes, that turning point at which your principal character starts to either sink, or swim, because they can't stand still.


Mid-September 2012

I've been asked a question on my personal website at and I thought I'd answer it here.

Another writer had commented that they had difficulty clearing their thoughts to get new thoughts out, because the first 10-15 minutes of writing time were lost in trying to figure out how to begin.

This is a common problem, and not always easy to fix. My first piece of advise comes partly from Stephen King's writing book. I photocopied one page out of the chapter about a writer's writing space, and then when I am on a critical deadline (okay, they're all critical) I close the door to the room where my computer is, and tape it to the outside of the door. I don't have the paper here, so I'll try to paraphrase. A WRITER DOESN'T NEED A FANCY WRITING SPACE, ALL THEY NEED IS A DOOR THAT THEY CAN SHUT.

So shut the door, and this creates the "writing only" space, which is different than when the door is open, the family can come in and out, and upstairs the sounds from the television helps you follow the story, even if you can't see it.

The next thing I do to get into writing zone mode is to block out distractions. Part of this is that I only write in one place, and that's my computer in the office at my house. Here, I can minimize distractions and shut out non-writing visuals (including the television upstairs). When I'm on a real critical time span, in addition to closing the door, I turn off the internet, which forcefully minimizes my biggest distraction.

Next is to focus. This means getting my train of thought to the point where I need to begin, which is where I last left off. First I read the small section of my outline, at the point of where I am. This focuses me on where I am in my story, and where I need to go. I then re-read the last part of the last thing I wrote, which is up to a chapter. Reading part of my outline gets me into where my story is, reading the last part of the story gets me into the characters, and reading the part of my outline that continues from where I left off gets me fired up with what I need to do. And then, the writing continues. 

Happy writing to all!

Gail Sattler


  September 2012

Fall has, well, fallen. Summer is now officially over, and I'm going to reflect a little on what I did this summer.

For the most part, I was frantically trying to get my last deadline done on time, which I didn't, but I was close. My editor understood and graciously gave me a little extra time, and I'm grateful for that, because I wanted to submit my book to be the best it could be at that stage, before the Macro edit and line editing process. Oh, I do love my editor.

This summer I had the opportunity to go to the OCW, or Oregon Christian Writers Conference in Portland, OR. For those of you who have never been to a writers' conference, I encourage you to go. Yes, they can be expensive, but if you are serious about writing, you really should attend a few.

The first thing is that you get to live in the same hotel/facility with only writers for a few days. Face it, writers are a little different than the "normals", because not only do we tend to think a little differently than other people, we also want to tell about it. Even though all year long you exchange emails with these people, this is the time to be with them in person, and there's nothing like it.

The next important thing about a writer's conference is the classes and workshops. All classes are geared to writers, and the larger conferences have different levels of classes for writers at different places in their careers. The classes are taught by professional writers doing exactly what you want to do, which is get your book published, and make money from it. This is different than learning  from a teacher who has been taught to teach - this is learning from someone who actually is paid writer, and they are sharing what they do and how they do it - successfully.

One of the most important things you'll do at a conference is meet with agents and editors. Most conferences will set you up with a personal appointment with the editor and/or agent of your choice, but since everyone lives in the same area for 4 to 5 days, you will see these people at meals, walking in the hallways, or even relaxing having a coffee when the official activities are over for the day. Editors and agents go to conferences to find their next Shining Star, so they want to meet authors and talk to them. That means you. You can talk to them anywhere, anytime, during the length of the conference, except please don't follow them into the washroom.

You also will have the opportunity to sit and have a personal appointment with a professional author, which is great to ask questions and possibly have a professional author listen to your story and give you some feedback on your writing and career goals. I had the honor of taking appointments, and I must say that I enjoyed the excitement and enthusiasm of the people I spoke with. Most of all, I could tell them that if I can do this and become a professional published author, then so can you.


July-August 2012

Ah, deadlines. We've all heard authors curse about deadlines, but really, having a deadline is what we all aim for.

But with this changing world of publishing we're now passing through, the word "deadline" has many meaning, depending which angle you're coming from.

First is the Royalty/Advance deadline, which is what I just finished. This means that I sent a proposal to my publisher, who contracted me for a 85K word book that will come out in both print at the bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, Chapters, etc, and all the big bookstores. Also, they will come out in e-book format on For these, I wrote the proposal, they contracted me to write the book. Then, on contract, they paid me an advance, I wrote the book with the deadline we agreed to, then they pay me the rest of the advance. The manuscript then goes through all the editing stages and the cover work with the design people, and the publisher pays for all that. Then it goes out for sale on a pre-set date. When the sales meet what I've already been paid in the advance, then I start collecting more money.

This is what most authors aim for, and that's to be paid a fair chunk of change before you write the book, and then another fair chunk of change when it's done, at least the initial draft. Mostly, the point is that the author isn't the one who pays for all the work that the average reader doesn't know or think about, which is all the edits, the proofing, the setup, the artwork, the advertising, and the marketing and administration.

With smaller presses, that's pretty much the same, except there is a much smaller advance, sometimes no advance, but still, it's the publisher who pays for the editing and cover work, but not so much of the marketing. Those kind of deadlines have the same result, only the advance is much lower, and the payments, depending on how the book sells, will come sooner because less gets paid to the author up-front.

Next is the Subsidy presses, or as they are called amongst authors who don't use these kind of publishers, and never among the actual "publisher" is the Vanity presses. These are the publishers share the expenses with the author. They have varying degrees of cost for the author for all the work, which is the costs of editing, proofing, cover design, and marketing. Many are legitimate, in other words, small presses that simply don't have a lot of capital, so they give a higher royalty percentage in exchange for the author paying a lot of the costs in getting a book out in the marketplace. However, there are far too many who charge the author more for the editing services than they are actually paying, and more for the cover design than they are actually paying. Unfortunately, there are some that provide very questionable editing and artwork in comparison to the price they say they are "sharing" with the author. This means that by the time the book is ready to be marketed, they've already made their money, so they don't need to do any more, and they certainly don't need to take any risk. They don't have to sell a single book, they have already made all the money they wanted. Sometimes it's a hard call to determine which of the two you are dealing with, so search out other authors who have used those publishers to see which side of the fence they are on. There are many good Subsidy presses out there, but unfortunately, there are also many who are not good.

Last is something new, and continues to change with these changing times of more and more affordable e-book readers, and that is being self published. Five years ago, self published meant the same as my first example, except the author paid for all the expenses, and the hardest part was the marketing. Unfortunately, few bookstores would tender a book self-published by the author, so unless an author could do a lot of effective marketing and selling that didn't involve an established big bookstore, few were truly successful.

But today, with so many books in e-book format only, the marketing is different. If an author decides to write the book, get it professionally edited (or unfortunately, marginally edited, or more unfortunately, self-edited) and then the author contracts to get a cover designed (or unfortunately, has someone they "know" do it for a pittance, or more unfortunately, designs their own cover with free clip-art), then the author can self-publish their book in e-book only format online, and keep 100% of the sales, less the percentage given to the bookseller who has it on their site (Amazon, or any of the other smaller e-book only sellers)

This can be done, and I know many authors who doing it, and putting out some really great books. I know others who are selling older books where they've got the rights back and are selling them again as e-books. Many they have written a book they have not marketed out with regular publishers, and have chosen to do all the background work themselves (or contract it out and pay for it) and then do their own marketing. Many have been successful, although many have not.

Marketing is tough, especially for someone who doesn't already have a following. Now we're seeing people selling books on how to sell books.

But all this on marketing.... first.... go write the book. Meet your deadline, whether it's a deadline set by a publisher, or if it's a deadline you've set for yourself.

Happy Writing to All!


May 1, 2012

Further to my last post, hopefully the showers are over, and it's time for the May flowers.

Like those flowers, it's also time for a lot of things that have either lain dormant to spring up, getting ready for the summer that is nearly upon us. What does that have to do with writers?

I know many other writers are like me when the long doldrums of winter are over, and here where I live on the West Coast, the endless Spring rain seems to finally be at an end. That means only one thing for the writer - distraction. There are so many things to do, even if it's just to go out and enjoy the summer.

My topic this month is distraction, since this time of year is often more distracting than the Christmas season. At Christmas, it's cold and miserable, and it's not a hardship to go inside and sit down for hours at the computer after the stores close. However, in the late spring, there are a million things to do, and after being trapped by winter, sitting in the basement all alone with the computer is not many peoples' idea of a fun time.

But it can be. Just as all the flowers and plants are in their biggest spurt of growth all year, so can all those plots and themes. The trick is to sit down and do it. I have a few suggestions, but the trick is to do what works for you, because different things work for different people. Sometimes all that's needed to motivate a writer to sit down and write is to move to a more pleasant location. This might be as simple as taking the laptop outside to sit on the back porch - in a location where you can still see the monitor in the bright light. If you have this feature on your word processing program, it sometimes help to change the background to black and the text to white when reading in a location with very bright light.

For me, regardless of where I am, what motivates me to write more and surf/email less is to turn off my WiFi. Of course, this also makes the battery last longer, so that has two benefits.

Another thing that can work to fight distraction is to plan a time frame to write, and then do it. You may only need 20 minutes a day to get started, or if you can take one hour at a time every day, in a week you will have done more than an entire workday's worth of writing, and that's a lot.

If you're not writing, but instead out enjoying the summer, another thing a writer can do is to watch people as a character study. It's not as productive as actually writing, but if you "know" your character well, you will write faster once you do sit down to write.Go find your principal protagonist, or even your antagonist. He or she is out there!

If you're out driving, study the world around you - and learn setting details. Then when you do sit down to write, close your eyes and picture somewhere you've been recently. What colours were there? What did it smell like? Was it windy? Were there lots of trees and/or flowers? Was it pleasant, or could you hardly wait to get away from there? Why?

I hope I have given you some ideas to help motivate you.

In my current project, I need to do some studies on chickens, and I know exactly where to find them. I also know you can buy chicken diapers on eBay. Oops. Gotta turn off the WiFi.

Until next time, happy researching, and productive writing.


April 1, 2012

 Happy April!  Welcome to all our new members this month!

April showers bring May flowers, and this is the time for those showers.

I wonder how the rest of that poem goes, but this isn't the place for that. This is the place to write new poems and prose. This is also the place that I'm going to answer another question that's been asked.  This month's question is - how can I keep true to POV (Point Of View)? Or to reword this question, how can a writer stop head-hopping?

To define head-hopping, that is when in a scene, the writer shares the thoughts of more than the principle character of that scene with the reader.

The trend of styles of today's writing, except for extremely well-established old-time writers who established a following back in the olden days before computers and easy editing, is no head-hopping allowed - one POV per scene. If a writer bounces heads in a scene, this means a quick rejection by an editor, because it screams Beginning Writer. Not that a new writer can't write a good story, because every multi-published writer had to have sold a first book at some point in their writing career. But when such a basic writing error shows up early, most editors think that there are bound to be many more. In today's market, a book must be nearly print-ready (for both print and e-books) to be considered, especially for a beginning author who doesn't have a following of eager readers.

Of course the way to solve this is easier said than done, but in today's market, it must be done. The "rule" that works best for most writers is to put virtual horse-blinders on the POV character, and think, with every thought from that character, with horse-blinders on, is this something this character would see, hear, or think, or is it coming from a source that they wouldn't be able to see, hear, or think, without those horse-blinders?

To show my point, here's a sample of what I mean.

Gail sat, writing at her computer, worrying about not meeting her deadline, but she didn't see the man behind her with the knife until it was too late.

If the POV character didn't see the character, how could she know he was there?

Better - Gail sat, writing at her computer, worrying about not meeting her deadline, when a reflection in her monitor caught her eye - the reflection of a man with a knife...

Did she see it in time to move?

Only the writer knows.

Until next month, happy writing!

Gail Sattler


Winter 2012

I'm going to answer another question that has been asked of me by many aspiring writers, and some experienced ones.

Should I outline, or should I just go where the story leads me?

This is a difficult question and the answer is - do whatever works for you. However, now that it's said, we have to carefully consider what results we are trying to acheive, because the results we are striving for will narrow our fields of how we get there.

We have names for these methodologies of outlining or not - Plotster and Pantster. The Plotster is one who writes down and fully outlines their story before they start writing. The Pantster is called that because they write by the seat of their pants and follow where the character is going, as the story progresses. Do not let it be said that Pantsters don't plot, it's just done in a more loose and less planned manner.

Which one is right for you? Honestly, most writers are somewhere in the middle. Most Plotsters I know (myself included)  outline the story but leave plenty of room open for flexibility. Most Pantsters I know have an ending sort of planned out, but they don't know how they're going to get there, their characters just do as they go along with the story.

When I sell a book, I'm selling the story before it's written, which means I have to outline the story in my synopsis in order to sell it. Once contracted, I'm obligated to follow the plot I have sold. For me, once it's outlined, it's easier to write because I know where I'm going, why I'm going there, and how I'm going to do it.

For the true Pantsters I know, they have the book full written, then they summarize it down to a synopsis, so when they sell the book, it's all done and all they have to do is touch edit it.

So the bottom line is, either way the story gets written, do what works for you.

And with that, first, happy writing to all!

 Gail Sattler


First p

Writer's Article List

Date ▼ Article Title   Source Categories
Jun 2010 Why Am I a Writer? Why Write
Jun 2010 Settings — Beyond Talking Heads, Bare Stage Settings
Jun 2010 The Father’s Heart Christian Writing

Take the Trophy and Run

by Gail Sattler
Take the Trophy and Run

When the theft of a famous lawn ornament rocks the local garden club, all that's gnome is that a sprinkling of romance and a growing community drama are sure to follow.