Tail Spinning through Tale Spinning

By David E. Sharp

Gripping the reins of my imagination, I pull them back with a white-knuckle grip, desperate to gain altitude before this whole thing crashes into the dark, cold ocean of dejection and everything goes to pieces. My caffeine gauge hovers over empty. My single operational engine sputters and sparks. How did it come to this?


Flashback to January, one year prior.

My writing year began at a frenetic pace. Having completed the final manuscript for my follow-up novel, I found myself in the throws of prerelease pandemonium. My release date was fast approaching, and I was transmitting radio signals to anyone who would listen: “This is the captain of the L.o.a.P: Character Developments. Requesting permission to market. Over.”

I had tried my hand at marketing before. Everything from blog tours to signing events, radio spots to printed ads, contests to live readings. And, of course, social media. It’s always hit or miss. Some strategies work better than others. Special discount events through Amazon and the coveted Bookbub promotion have given me the best results. But I had a sequel coming out, and I didn’t have time to mess around.

The truth is, writing the book is just the beginning. Marketing is a big job, and those books will not sell themselves. I have tried a lot of different techniques. Contests can be terrific, but they often have an entry fee. Some contests are better than others, so I’ve learned to choose carefully. I have little luck with social media, but I maintain a sparse presence on Facebook and Twitter. However, landing a spot on a big established newsletter can create a notable spike in book sales. Easily the most bang for my buck.

Refueling in April.

I made a deter to a supply depot I had been to before. A sign hung over the entrance declaring it The Writing Heights Writers Conference. This place had everything. I topped off my inspiration, recalibrated my creativity, and took some pointers from the impressive gathering of experienced writers, agents, editors, and publishers.

Not one to spurn professional advice, I learned I had been flying without a website for too long. It was high time I remedied that. Fortunately, this conference had an informative session about creating effective author sites with many examples. I also encountered a terrific marketing guide who pointed out different routes to marketing I had never tried. Networking for honest reviews, taking a guest spot on a podcast, and writing guest spots on your favorite blogs (hint, hint) are all great ideas.

Fueled up, I took to the skies.

I put on my marketing face and got to work. I nailed down my website, which you can see here: https://davidesharp.com/. I was thrilled to appear on the Indie Writer Podcast. And my book launched on a crisp May morning to blue skies and favorable winds. And what a gorgeous cover! Props to my publisher’s design folks.

On a writing high like this, there is only one thing to do. Draft a bunch of short stories! They didn’t all take wing, but I had a few favorites worth submitting. I connected with a few anthologies and hoped for the best. Navigating a clear summer sky, I cracked the spines of a few books and returned to my roots as an avid reader.

Then I got the distress call.

My novel was in trouble. Well, actually, the reviews were doing all right. But I had left some things open-ended, and I was due to start working on the next book in the series. So, tightening my flight goggles and plotting my course, I set off again. Through darkened skies and tumultuous winds, I pushed on. Facing menacing rewrites, debilitating writer’s block, and perilous distraction by corgis, I placed word after word after word.

And that brings me full circle. I lost the first engine undermining my plot points, and the rewrites will get hairy. Nevertheless, I maintain my bearing through a Save the Cat plot structure. My manuscript strains against the literary forces threatening to tear it apart. But we’ve been here before, and we will make it through.

Just as things look the bleakest, I catch an updraft. I have an idea to carry the story in a bold new direction. Or it will throw us into a whole new spiral. Only time will tell. But in the meantime, it feels great to be in the pilot seat.

Save The Cat

Year End Review

Build An Author’s Website

Writing My Way Through 2022

By Shelley Widhalm

In 2020, I was pretty much done with writing, overwhelmed with trying to keep my freelance writing and editing business afloat and supplementing it with a gig grocery store job. 

Despite my sort of giving up, I still went to conferences and belonged to writing groups like Northern Colorado Writers (see https://northerncoloradowriters.com).

But in 2021, I realized by “quitting” writing, I was quitting myself and my dream to be a traditionally published author with at least one book made into a movie. So in 2022 after procrastinating for a few months, I returned to my goal of being an author by actually writing novels—I’d written my sixth and last novel in 2016, followed by a couple of novellas and dozens of short stories, “stopping” writing on the large scale.

To make my return, I combined my daily journaling and poetry writing with my large- and small-scale writing projects into a structure, turning the hobby into a job and a passion.

A Year of Writing

I have a few accomplishments for 2022, including writing a daily poem for the Poem-A-Day Challenge. I started the challenge in September 2014 and have continued since, skipping two weeks in late 2020 when I underwent a major surgery. I got behind a few times, then filled in the blanks, as many as two weeks’ worth (see https://www.writersdigest.com/write-better-poetry/poetry-prompts/april-pad-challenge).

I wrote in my daily journal, something I’ve kept up since second grade. I still have all my diaries and journals—I started typing them in 2014, so they’re easier to read (and reference if I want to look up facts or memories).

I wrote two short stories, one in January and one in September. I submitted both to contests.

I wrote a novel in four months, starting May 1 and finishing Aug. 28. I clocked in 170 hours and wrote 160,142 words, which is way, way too long. I edited the novel, round 1, in about half my writing time, working on it Sept. 1 to Oct. 24. I cut it to 140,713 words, but I have more work to do to get it down to at most 90,000 words. 

A Year of Working

I clocked in my writing on a timesheet, indicating how many hours I wrote and approximate number of words per session. For editing, I indicated number of hours and number of pages edited.

On average, I wrote eight to 14 hours a month from January to April, then jumped to 79 hours in May, 65 hours in June, 23 hours in July, and 45 hours in August (this includes my work on poetry). I then moved on to editing, putting in 33 hours in September and __ hours in October. As a note (but not an excuse!), during the summer months, I did get busy with a vacation and a couple of short trips.

I aimed to write every day, but in July before a trip to the 123rd Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention (see https://vfw.org/convention), I didn’t write for two weeks, because the week before the trip, I got slammed with freelance work, then I was on vacation. After the trip, I wrote one to seven days a week. I also wrote one to five hours a day, making sure to break up my longer sessions with breaks.

Avoiding Procrastination

As I mentioned before, I put off writing for years, then I put off the novel for a few months after getting the initial idea late last year. Though writing gives me joy and is my passion, I let everything else take priority. 

Now when I get freelance work and planned a writing session, I treat my writing like it’s a work assignment already scheduled in my day. I don’t put it in last place, like I used to where I had to do everything else first. I work on my novel, either writing or editing, whenever I can, aiming for an hour a day, but accepting when I can’t. I just miss it when it’s more than a couple of days.

Achieving Milestones

I’ve had a few milestones in 2022 with my top being writing a novel in four months. Yah me!

I improved my writing efficiencies as a freelance writer and editor, even becoming comfortable with my one tech writing assignment for GRAPHICS PRO magazine. I came up with a process of quickly identifying the lead or hook and organizing how to write the story, structuring it so that it flows from one topic to the next, all while doing this in my head or with a few notes.

I attended the 2023 Writing Heights Writers Conference this spring and met with two agents. I got requests from both, but did not get actual interest, since it wasn’t a fit. I plan to attend the conference next year and try again, plus participate in all the wonderful workshops on writing, editing, marketing, and publishing advice (see https://northerncoloradowriters.com/page/conference).

I achieved interest in my novel possibly to be made into a movie from the work of my fiancé, who connected with those working in the financial and moviemaking industries. My novel, actually a memoir, is high-literary Fifty Shades (see https://www.amazon.com/Fifty-Shades-Grey-Book-Trilogy/dp/0345803485) with elements similar to the Da Vinci Code (see https://www.amazon.com/s?k=da+vinci+code&i=stripbooks&crid=1KAZSGWVDAU7E&sprefix=da+vinci+code%2Cstripbooks%2C142&ref=nb_sb_noss_1), told in an experimental framework of storytelling. 

I consider 2023 to be a success, especially since I learned that doubting or putting your passions aside isn’t the smartest thing to do for the heart. I need to do what I love, being creative, writing, and editing, and to do it with staying, not quitting, power!

Shelley Widhalm is a freelance writer and editor and founder of Shell’s Ink Services in Loveland, Colo. She provides copy editing and developmental editing, as well as consultations on writing and editing. She has more than 20 years of experience in communications and holds a Master of Arts degree in English from Colorado State University. She can be reached at shellsinkservices.com or swidhalm@shellsinkservices.com. For more writing and editing tips, follow her blog at shellsinkservices.com/blog.

The Year in Review

By Brian Kaufman

Flashback to January 2020: I had two books scheduled for release from two publishers. The first was historical about an old bluesman, and I’d planned a legendary release party. Live music, food, and probable fame. Then COVID made hash out of my marketing plan. Meanwhile, the other publisher postponed my second release until January of the following year. The company’s usual marketing efforts could have been more present. The book was effectively orphaned.

Continue reading “The Year in Review”

Down in The Exposition Dumps

By Katie Lewis

In 7th grade, my best friend lent me the first Wheel of Time book by Robert Jordan. As a veteran of Tolkien, including The Silmarillion, I was excited to dive into another high-fantasy series. Over a hundred pages in, after a detailed description of the Bel Tine festival and one village’s preparations, there was no sense of plot movement or even who our protagonist was meant to be. I closed the book and sheepishly returned it.

I remember fearing she’d be upset, but she only shrugged and admitted Jordan’s writing style wasn’t for everyone. I’ve never attempted to revisit those books. Still, I think about that experience often and why the initial overload of exposition turned me away from the series so quickly.

Continue reading “Down in The Exposition Dumps”

The Evil Twin

By David E. Sharp

Whether you are closing in on your NaNoWriMo word count or plugging away at your magnum opus, those rigorous word counts take a lot of think-juice. You have been diligent, laying one word after another, watching the chapters take shape. Your verbs are immaculate. Your adverbs are scarce. You always attend a date with your word processor. Even when you’re tired, you push through. And things are going great!

Until they aren’t!


Suddenly, the words won’t come. You try to force it, but the… words… just… don’t… writing… goodly… anymore! What happened? Is this the dreaded Writer’s Block?

Continue reading “The Evil Twin”

What gets more attention? Description or action?

By Shelley Widhalm

If you want to keep readers turning pages, the key is balancing description with action. Readers get bored with too much description, and they get overwhelmed with all action and no breaks.

Action in a novel or short story keeps the pace moving at a rapid clip, while description can slow the movement within a scene. Description is what anchors a story and adds layers of meaning. (See https://wac.colostate.edu/resources/writing/guides/detail/

Continue reading “What gets more attention? Description or action?”

Author Central

By Brian Kaufman

The most frustrating part of being a published author has to be marketing. Marketing your books takes two valuable resources (time and money) and offers no guarantees. Worse, for most authors, promotional efforts yield little in the way of results.

If you’re not a published author, you might think, Woe is you. I’d take that problem in a heartbeat. What you should consider is, when my work-in-progress publishes, how will I promote it? 

Continue reading “Author Central”

Proper Care And Feeding of Your Inner Troll

By David E. Sharp

The writing journey is a hazardous one, full of setbacks and self-doubt. I remember asking myself why I thought I had a story to tell. I felt like a fraud. The sight of my manuscript in progress would put me into a tailspin of criticism and despair. I wondered if Amazon would deliver sackcloth and ashes to help me wallow. The memories are vivid. On the one hand, it feels ages ago. On the other—more literal—hand, it was last Thursday.

You need no introduction to your inner critic if you are a writer. It follows you around an inner voice, shaming you for your mistakes, pointing out all your failures, and scrutinizing your every decision. The inner critic can have a detrimental effect on your writing life. It lays the foundation for imposter syndrome. Inner critics are the bane of first drafts, harping on all their infantile flaws before they can grow into anything. They are unyielding perfectionists, draconian masters, and lousy roommates. But are they all wrong?

Continue reading “Proper Care And Feeding of Your Inner Troll”

Spur Your Writing

By Shelley Widhalm

As a freelance writer and former journalist, I’ve learned to live by deadlines.

And as an anti-procrastinator, I’ve made it my habit to turn in assignments before the due date because facing a ticking clock stresses me out. 

But when it comes to writing novels and not having a publisher demanding a first or final draft, deadlines sometimes become dead . . . on arrival.

Continue reading “Spur Your Writing”