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Valentine’s Day is all about love, sweets, roses—and writing ideas. What better way to prepare for the upcoming holiday than to write about something reminiscent of it? These Valentine’s Day writing ideas won’t just inspire and uplift you; they’ll help set you up for a sale. So head to your computer and get your creativity—and heart—flowing:

Valentine’s Day History

For history buffs, Valentine’s Day is more than a holiday; it marks an important day in history. Check out this list of key events that have occurred on Valentine’s Day. Any would make an interesting story topic.

A Famous Couple

Bonnie and Clyde? Franklin and Eleanor? Kim and Kanye? Whoever interests you—or not—find a juicy detail about a famous couple and bring it to life.

Puppies

Who doesn’t love puppies? And what puppy doesn’t remind us of love? Craft a story for kids, a piece for a pet magazine, or a personal essay about puppies.

The Color Red

What does the color red signify besides the color of a heart? Write an article on the color red—or pink, white, or purple, other common Valentine’s Day colors. Research what the color signifies to others, or write about an object or event associated with a Valentine’s Day hue.

Heart Health

Heart health is a popular topic today—and not just physical heart health. Broken hearts and how they affect mental well-being makes big headlines too. Actually, just about anything related to the human heart is a marketable story idea and one that's gratifying and potentially lifesaving.

Chocolate

Writing about chocolate might be the sweetest idea yet. If you like this tasty treat, you’ll have even more reason to pen a story or article about it. Plus, there’s plenty to talk about—a new type of chocolate, a favorite family recipe, a country known for its chocolate, you name it. When it comes to writing about chocolate, the sky’s the limit.

Flowers

You might think roses are the flower of Valentine’s Day, but many people get bouquets of lilies, carnations, tulips, or a mix. Which flower do you like best? Find out what’s unique about it—does it have medicinal properties or an interesting past? Even if you’re not a gardener, writing about flowers is a great way to recognize Valentine’s Day, prepare for spring, and sell your work.

Valentine’s Day is more than a time to celebrate love—it’s filled with unlimited writing ideas, too. Pick one of the above, and take advantage of all the great writing potential packed into the sweetest day of the year.

Image by Peggy2012CREATIVELENZ

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fall-park-benchEvery year, I get excited about fall. It’s not just because I can start wearing sweaters and jeans again; I like everything about fall - the weather, the changing colors, the approaching holidays, and especially the peace and quiet. Fall is my favorite time to reflect. And write.

But if you’re like me, sometimes it takes a minute to get out of summer mode. The slower pace of August isn’t that easy to part ways with, even though the computer beckons.

What works well for me is doing something new and different to jumpstart my Autumn writing routine. Fortunately, fall is rife with options that are motivating, fun, and profitable. Check out these fall writing activities, and make this autumn your best writing season yet.

Write a Halloween Article or Story

If you’re a web content writer, there are all kinds of Halloween-related article ideas that are sure to sell, like Halloween safety tips, nutrition-based treats, modern-day costume ideas, or the latest Halloween apps. Halloween stories and articles for kids are big sellers, too. Look for Halloween writing contests for places to submit.

Get Ready for the Holidays

October is a great month to start writing for the winter holidays. Article buyers seek material months in advance, so get writing and submitting now. You may have a quick sale if it’s unique and well written. One thing’s for certain: holiday-themed writing is always in demand.

Write Outside

What better time to write outside than on a beautiful fall afternoon? The gorgeous colors, cool temperatures, and light breezes make being outside refreshing and inspiring. Head to the park, sit outside at the public library or pull up a comfy chair on the patio. A change of scene can be highly fruitful for your writing career.

Take a Hike with Your Notebook

Fall hikes are full of adventure - and writing ideas. Take a nature hike with your notebook and jot down whatever captures your attention. Hikes are exceptionally visual activities that can spark all kinds of thoughts, emotions, and sensory descriptions. Be sure your notebook fits in a pack or your pocket, and don’t forget a writing utensil.

Attend a Conference

Fall is loaded with conferences and the perfect time of year to attend one. If you’ve got kids, check into writing conferences that you can do together. Not sure where to look for a conference? Try local writing organizations, colleges or the public library, or look online.

Don’t let fall slip by without taking advantage of this great writing season. Try any of the above fall writing activities, and make autumn productively pleasing from start to finish.

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writer-605764_1280So you’re done writing an article for the web. You’ve polished it, collected images, done your final edits, and put it in the proper format. Before you press submit, hold on. Did you include a bio? Writing a bio may not have been part of the assignment, but rest assured, it’ll be needed. Bios aren’t just for print magazines; they’re used on websites and blogs too. And that’s a good thing for you. It gets your name out there and can bring exposure—and more work.

A bio is basically a short summary of a writer’s credentials and interests. As small as they are, bios have a big job—to describe you in a way that grants you readership and credibility. So don’t take writing a bio lightly; done well, it can do wonders for your career.

So how can you write a top-notch bio that’ll get you noticed? Here are six tips to help put you on the right track:

Choose a Voice

Should you write in first or third person? Good question—and one only you can answer. Often it depends on who you’re writing a bio for. If you’re not sure, ask. Some editors prefer third person; others first. For your personal blog, first makes more sense. Do what’s stylistically appropriate.

Focus on Brevity

It’s great if you have a lot of credentials; just save them for your resume or you might lose readers. If you’re not required to stay within a specific word count for a bio, offer a few sentences—powerful yet succinct is the goal. Be sure to include the obvious: your name, position, and key accomplishments.

Home In on the Significant

Sometimes it’s hard to decide which parts of your background to use in a bio, especially when they all seem important. Look to your audience for help. Readers will want to know what makes you an authority on the subject at hand. If you’re writing about pets, for example, mention your expertise in pet training, competition, or veterinary care.

Add Something Fun

Do you have a unique hobby or skill that would interest readers? Maybe you’re a fitness writer who has an affinity for ballroom dancing and a dream of joining a dance competition. Offer a side of your personality that makes you relatable to your audience.

Link Up

Your bio is just a sampling of who you are professionally, but some readers will want to know more about you. Give them the option. Add links to your resume, website, Facebook or LinkedIn profile, or blog. Pick just one or two, though; too many links gets confusing.

Include a Photo

People want to see a real person behind the article they just read. Make sure you have a photo, whether it’s of yourself or something relevant to your bio. The picture will likely be small, so don’t choose something with too much detail. Make it simple—a head shot of you works well.

Writing a bio is an important task for any writer. Give yours the attention it deserves, and see what a huge impact it can have on your career.

 

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writing contestWhen it comes to writing contests, Minnesota earns top marks for opportunities for writers of all skill levels, ages, and genres. Just check out this list of offerings for Spring 2016, and you'll get a good glimpse of the North Star State's flourishing writing community. And what better way to do what you love, get noticed, and earn some cash than by entering a writing contest? So go ahead, browse away and find a contest that sparks your interest. No excuses; there’s something for everyone, even out-of-staters.

Lake Superior Writers Going Coastal Fiction Writing Contest—deadline April 1, 2016

This year, the Lake Superior Writers group is calling on fiction-only entries of 6,500 words maximum for an anthology tentatively titled Going Coastal! The theme is anything about Lake Superior, Minnesota. The contest is free to LSW members, but those living outside the region must pay a $15 entry fee. For more information on entry requirements and rules, click below:

http://lakesuperiorwriters.org/going-coastal-2016-fiction-writing-contest/

2016 Minnesota Christian Writers Guild Annual Writing Contest—deadline April 11, 2016

This contest is open to members of the Minnesota Christian Writers Guild only. The MCWG is calling for “stories that encourage readers to press on through life’s periods of crisis and stress.” You’ll be writing a guest blog for this contest. A $5 entry fee is required.

http://www.mnchristianwriters.com/annual-contest/

Minnesota Middle School Association 2016 Writing Contest—deadline April 15, 2016

Open to Minnesota middle school or junior high school students, the 2016 MMSA writing contest is themed “Ignite!” Submit stories of 200 words or less about a time you were energized by someone or some event.  No entry fee.

http://www.mmsa.info/content/mmsa-writing-contest-theme-ignite

Minnesota State Bar Association Student Writing Competitions—deadline April 3 &15, 2016

Calling all law students, these contests are open to those attending certain law schools in Minnesota and out-of-state law students interested in practicing in Minnesota. Judges are seeking papers and articles on the topic of food, drug, and/or device law as well as health law. Check out the rules here:

http://www.mnbar.org/members/committees-sections/msba-sections/food-drug-device-law-section/writing-competition#.VrqI-PkrKUk

http://www.mnbar.org/members/committees-sections/msba-sections/health-law-section/writing-competition#.Vrto1vkrKUk

Pioneer Public Television PBS Kids Go! Writers Contest—deadline April 15, 2016

Got a kindergarten through third-grader who’s a blossoming writer and illustrator? Have them enter the Pioneer Public Television PBS Kids Go! Contest. Stories can be fact or fiction, prose, or poetry but must include five original illustrations to go along with the story. No fees to enter and no purchase necessary.

http://www.prairiepublic.org/events/pbs-kids-go-writers-contest-3

18th Annual Geek Partnership Society Writing Contest – deadline May 15, 2016

Located in Minneapolis, the Geek Partnership Society (GPS)is a “society celebrating imagination, inspiring creativity, and building our community through service and education.” Multiple divisions will be judged, including open, poetry, youth, and graphic novel. The open category selects an additional winner for the Scott Imes (an honorary member of the Minnesota science fiction writing and reading community who passed away in 2001) Award. No entry fees.

http://www.geekpartnership.org/programs/writing-contest/

Minnesota Genealogical Society Family History Writing Contest

No word yet on this annual writing contest aimed at family history writers, but check the website for updates. Past contest deadlines have been during the summer, but spring is a great time to get started writing. Take a look at Julie’s Genealogy and History Hub for past notices:

http://genealogy.julietarr.com/blog/entries-are-being-accepted-for-minnesota-genealogical-society-2015-family-history-writing-competition/

Image by matsuyuki

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Happy_Holidays_(5318408861)With many of us still enjoying the fall colors and warm afternoons, it’s hard to believe that the holiday season kicks off next month. For writers, that thought can bring a wave of anxiety, knowing we have only weeks to write—I mean seriously write—before the holiday hustle and bustle set in. But don’t let anxiety keep you from making these next few weeks productive. In fact, now is a great time to get busy writing, make some sales, and get into the holiday spirit.

Need some suggestions on how to get started? Check out this list of holiday-themed writing ideas that’ll lure you straight to your computer.

  1. Think of a particularly funny, emotional, or inspirational anecdote from a past holiday—a long, lost relative who showed up at Christmas dinner; a historical blizzard that changed holiday plans; or a holiday prank that backfired. Write an essay for an anthology or draft a blog post.
  2. Re-read some of your favorite childhood holiday stories, then think of a new way to tell the story, using modern characters, settings, plot twists, and themes. Write your new holiday story and submit it to a children’s magazine.
  3. Need a deadline to get you motivated to write? Research holiday contests, like those from FanStory.com, and choose a contest with a theme that inspires you. Write your story or article, keeping in mind the deadline, and enter it in the contest.
  4. Write an acrostic poem about the holidays. Acrostic poems are easy and fun, and they can be written for personal enjoyment or sale. All you need to do to get started is come up with a holiday-related word. For more information on writing acrostic poems, see my earlier blog post.
  5. Pick an item in your home that reminds you of the holidays. It might be a knick-knack on your fireplace mantel, a table furnishing, a photograph, or just something with holiday colors. Use that item as a starting point for a mystery, romance, or historical fiction story.
  6. Have a favorite holiday recipe that you’re willing to share? Many magazines, websites, and newspapers look for recipe submissions to share with their readers. Consider writing a brief history or background to submit with your recipe.
  7. Many animals remind us of the holidays—reindeer, puppies, and cardinals, to name a few. Choose an animal that you associate with this time of year and research the connection. Write an article discussing the unique correlation between the animal and the holiday season.
  8. Pick a country that you would like to know more about and learn how they celebrate—if they celebrate—the holidays. Stories about other cultures are widely popular with both children and adults. Check Writer’s Market for publications that accept cultural holiday stories, and submit.
  9. If you’re looking for gift ideas, why not give the gift of your writing? Put together a booklet of holiday memories, with pictures, for friends and family. Or, make a calendar filled with favorite photos, and write a short description with each month’s entry.
  10. Start a holiday journal for personal use. Discuss your thoughts on the upcoming season and New Year. You might also use your journal to brainstorm for writing ideas, goals, and plans for the next few months or year ahead.

The holiday season is fast approaching, but there’s still plenty of time to write. Choose any or all of the above ideas, and make these next few weeks and months some of the most productive yet.

For more help on writing holiday stories, see last year's post For Some Festive Fun, Write a Holiday Story.

Image by Marcus Quigmire