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With a fresh year approaching, how about taking a fresh challenge: drop your old, worn-out writing habits and adopt a new approach to your craft. You might be surprised at how a simple change of pace, style, and attitude can bring revived life to your writing—along with a year of productivity. Try these eight ideas for starting the New Year fresh, and see how you can unleash a new writer in you that’s better, bolder, and bound for success.

Set Writing Goals

Make this year the one you focus on achieving your writing goals. Start by writing down everything you hope to get done in 2019. You can devise a list of goals for the year as well as monthly and weekly goals. Then keep the lists handy so you can refer to them regularly.

Grow Your Confidence

If you’ve been shy or uncertain about your writing worth, take time to assess your accomplishments. What have you published to date? Have you earned a new degree or attended a conference? Putting together a resume can grow your confidence by helping you see how far you’ve come as a writer.


What better time to learn than the beginning of a new year? Consider taking a writing course or enrolling in a workshop to improve and expand your skills. Learning can also open up doors for your writing business, sharpen your mind, and offer networking opportunities.

Take on a Writing Challenge

Ever wanted to participate in Nanowrimo? How about submitting to a high-circulation magazine? Don’t hold back. Commit to doing something that gives you reason to work your hardest and produce your best material. Success often comes in the risk-taking and journey rather than the end result.

Get Serious

The month of December can be slow and unproductive for writers, especially when holiday activities pile up. But there’s no excuse not to get serious come January. Adopt a determined attitude and see how it can do wonders for kick-starting your writing for the New Year.

Make an Investment

That is, of time, resources, writing tools—you name it. Whatever you need to do to push your writing to a new level this year, go ahead and invest in it. Making improvements to your writing life may be costly upfront, but you’ll find the long-term payoff to be worth it.

Give Back

Giving isn’t just a nice thing to do; you’ll benefit from the gesture. When it comes to growing your writing career, there are plenty of ways to give that’ll fill the bill. Offer your writing skills to a nonprofit, mentor a novice writer, or donate a percentage of your writing income to your favorite charity.

Start Strong Now

Don’t wait another day to be a new, improved writer. Procrastination won’t move your talent or career along, but action and perseverance will. Shrug off the bad days and the rejections. They’re a normal part of the writing life. Be bold, push through, and strive to be the best writer you can be—starting now.

Let the new writer in you emerge. Try the above ideas, and make it a year of progress, productivity, and endless possibilities.

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Ah, summer in Minnesota, the season of cool lakes, warm breezes, lush parks, and spectacular wildlife. But don’t just soak it all up; write about it. If you’ve been itching to try your hand (and talent) at writing and you live in Minnesota, you’re in luck. The best time of year to get started is right around the corner. Summer in Minnesota offers writing opportunities and ideas galore, plus you’ll have plenty of resources at your fingertips thanks to the state’s thriving writing community.

Ready to delve into a writing career? Make summer in Minnesota the time and place you begin. These three tips will help you get started:

Attend a Summer Class or Conference

Taking a class or attending a conference or workshop is a great way to learn the craft of writing, get some feedback, and practice your skills. The best part? You can find just about any type of class or conference in Minnesota during summer. Got a passion for Christian writing? Check out the Northwestern Christian Writers Conference at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul in July. Interested in writing poetry, science fiction, or memoir? Head over to the Loft Literary Center, where you’ll find plenty of writing class pickings. Young writers can enroll in Hamline University’s Young Writers Workshop in June. Or, check out your local community education program for a list of summer writing courses nearby.

Write Outside—or Lakeside

Embarking on a writing career begins with an interest in writing—and a lot of doing it. The great Minnesota outdoors has all the venues you need to inspire your creativity, especially during summer. Grab your writing materials and head to your favorite spot outside—a shaded park bench, beneath a tall oak, or nestled in the backyard hammock. For some extra inspiration, seek out one of the state’s many lakes. You’d be surprised at all the ideas that can pop into your head when out on the lake, sitting near one, or just researching the history and beauty of a Minnesota lake. Not only that, lakes bring on a sense of calm and serenity that can unclutter the mind and get your creativity flowing.

Connect with Minnesota Writers

While there’s a vast network of authors and writers in Minnesota, getting connected takes diligence. Start by contacting writing organizations that interest you and consider joining a local or regional chapter. Many organizations host meetings or summertime events and provide opportunities to meet new writer friends and learn the ropes of writing. You might also look into joining a Minnesota writing meetup, where you can connect with like-minded writers and attend gatherings or critique groups. For something less formal, network with Minnesota writers through social media and plan some fun summertime meetups of your own. Summer is an ideal time to get around town and make friends with other writers, when the weather is at its best.

There’s no time like the now to get started as a writer in Minnesota. Take advantage of the summer season and all the potential it holds, and watch your writing career blossom and flourish.

Image by Pete Markham



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The holidays are fast approaching—which means it’s time to get writing! Put aside any thoughts of a pre-holiday writing break and get ready for some festive and productive fun. Holiday writing is plum full of opportunities that can bring bounds of joy, not to mention some well-earned cash. Try these ideas, and prepare for holiday season 2017 the writer’s way:

Get Ready for the Winter Olympics

Craft a story or article about the 2018 Winter Olympics, just around the holiday corner. Write about the host country of South Korea, a new sport being added, a rising star athlete, or whatever angle strikes your interest. Olympic topics are engaging, plentiful, and lucrative.

Write a Holiday Recipe

Got a unique holiday recipe you’d like to share, like a festive cookie or a favorite dish from your great-grandma’s recipe box? Food publishers are always on the lookout for tasty holiday fare. Be sure to test your recipe out, write it well, and include mouthwatering pictures.

Go on a Shopping Spree

This one will pay off big; you’ll get a jumpstart on holiday shopping and first dibs on the inventory, plus you can sell a piece about your shopping experience—like tips on finding the perfect gift, how to beat the rush, where to shop, and ways to get the best deals this season.

Write Your Personal Gift List

The holidays are all about giving and receiving. Focus on receiving for a minute and consider what might boost your writing potential in 2018. A new style book? A different desk or lamp for your office? Don your thinking cap and put together a gift list that’ll help further your career.

Draft a Holiday Game

If you enjoy playing games during the holiday season, here’s an idea: create one of your own. Draft holiday trivia questions or a word game or puzzle. Holiday games and puzzles are in high demand, especially in the children’s market. And who better to write an intriguing game than you!

Research Holiday Writer Events

Lots of events for writers come to town during the holidays. See if one of your favorite authors is scheduled to speak, look into a writer’s workshop, or attend a local bookstore’s holiday event. Listening and learning from the pros can go a long way in enhancing your writing efforts.

Don’t let the holidays slide by without taking advantage of the many opportunities available to utilize and hone your craft. Try these activities, and prepare for a productive season of writing.

Image by Negative Space


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Having trouble deciding on a New Year’s resolution? Why not look to your writing for help. Even if you’re satisfied with how things are going, there’s always room for improvement. Take a minute to reflect on your writing life during the past year—what you liked about it, what you didn’t, and what you could do differently. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you come up with a New Year’s resolution—or a whole list of them. To help you get started, here are some ideas to consider:

Set Higher or Lower Goals

If you feel like you’re putting too much pressure on yourself to produce, maybe you need to scale back this year. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to set a high standard to stay challenged. Re-evaluate what you know you can and cannot accomplish in the next year, and resolve to meet your goals.

Try a New Writing Genre or Market

Have you been unhappy with the type of writing you do? This could be the year you begin your mystery novel or try your hand at children’s writing. Maybe you just need to look into new markets for your work. Do some research and see what piques your interest for the upcoming year.

Acquire Knowledge

Learning helps you advance your craft, plus it’s a good way to avoid burnout. If you’re writing life feels stagnant, make it your New Year's resolution to taking a writing class—or a class on any topic that appeals to you and helps you further your career. Or, join a writer’s group or organization. You’ll learn from your peers and make some friends in the process.

Start Submitting Regularly

How often do you submit your work? If the answer is very little, it’s time to step up your game. Pledge to submit a certain number of articles or queries weekly as your New Year's resolution. Remember, the more you submit, the more likely your chances of getting published—which will help keep you happy and inspired this year.

Talk Openly About Your Writing

Many of us are quiet about our writing. No one asks, so we don’t talk about it. Telling the world you’re a writer, though, may open up good discussion and new opportunities. One thing’s for certain: it’ll validate to you and others that you’re a writer—and that can be just the motivation you need for a fruitful year.

New Year’s resolutions are good for writers. Spend some time coming up one or more. You’ll approach 2017 with a much better outlook and a greater likelihood of success.

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writing v editingMost of us writers know that writing and editing have a lot in common. For one thing, they both need each other. You can’t write, or write well, without editing, and you can’t edit without a piece of writing. For another, they both involve words, grammar, mechanics, communication, headwork—and the list goes on.

But writing and editing are actually very different disciplines, and understanding those differences can go a long way in making you better at either—or both. Check out these five, and learn what skills you need to use for each process. You might even discover which one you’re best suited for.

Writing is about creating; editing is mending.

Writers are creators of stories. They know how to tell a tale or put an idea into readable form. A thoughtful, creative mind is a quality of a good writer. Editors are fixers. They’re good at cutting, pasting, adding, revising, restructuring, and rewording.

Writing requires finding research; editing corroborates it.

While writers must find resources to back up their facts, editors do the fact-checking. They need to verify that the writer is telling the truth. Fact-checking is a good skill to have as a writer, but it’s essential for an editor.

Writing uses the heart; editing relies on the head.

Writers are a passionate bunch. They write with heart, soul, and all the senses. Editors make sure the writing isn’t overly emotional, flowery, or opinionated and that it appeals to the intended audience. Editors must be mindful and objective.

Writing takes reading; editing takes resourcefulness.

Most good writers are avid readers. Reading makes writers better at their craft. Editors benefit from reading, but they must be good at using resources even more. Knowing how to make something read better by consulting style guides is key for editors.

Writing can’t be interrupted; editing can.

Writing is something you need hours of quality, uninterrupted time to do. Editing can be done in pieces—a paragraph or page at a time. It helps to have continuity when editing; writing, on the other hand, depends on it.

Writing and editing go hand-in-hand, but they’re not the same thing. Even though many writers are editors and vice versa, each requires a different set of skills. Know what it takes to do either job and learn how to become better at what you do best.


kids writingIf you're a young Minnesota writer looking for ways to cultivate your craft this summer, listen up. The Twin Cities has some great opportunities for blossoming student writers. Summer writing camps and workshops are an ideal way to learn because they’re laid back, pressure-free, and centered on fun. Besides that, they’re a productive use of your time and a chance to meet new friends. What have you got to lose?

Check out these six writing opportunities for youth living in the Twin Cities area. But don’t wait too long to enroll; many start soon and space is limited.

Minneapolis Young Writer’s Workshop. North Central University in downtown Minneapolis hosts this creative writing workshop for young writers aged 13-19. You’ll get one-on-one critiques, open-mic opportunities, and evening sessions with keynote speakers, including Jay Asher and Jonathan Friesen. The workshop runs June 14-16, 2016, and costs $300.

Writing Magic – The Art of Creative Writing. Targeted at grades 3 through 8, this four-day Edina Summer Computer Camp runs from June 7-10, 2016, and is an opportunity for students to explore different genres of writing and gain confidence in their skills. You’ll also learn about digital writing, including blogging and self-publishing. The fee is $135, and the camp is held at South View Middle School in Edina.

Hamline University’s Young Writer’s Workshop. This is a great opportunity for high school students to prepare for college and connect with other writers in the area, including the Hamline staff and published authors. Besides in-depth instruction, you’ll get to tour the literary Twin Cities. Cost for this workshop is $400 for four full days, from June 20-23, 2016.

Bethel University’s Journalism Mini-Camp. Have an interest in the media? This camp might be just the ticket. It’s a three-day minicamp for students in grades 9 through 12 who want to learn more about reporting and other forms of media work. You’ll also get to hear from top Twin Cities journalists. The camp runs July 22-24, 2016, and costs $75. Find the details here.

Intermedia Art’s Writing Circle for Teens. If you're a teen who loves to write and you’re looking for a peer group to learn and workshop with, this Intermedia Arts-sponsored program fits the bill. The Writing Circle for Teens meets every other week to share prompts, set goals, and get feedback. The best part is, it’s free! Check the website for times and dates.

The Loft Literary Center Summer Enrichment Classes. Minneapolis’s well-known literary center, The Loft, has an array of classes for youth ages 6-17 this summer. There's everything from writing fan fiction to fantasy to college essays. Dates and fees vary, although discounts apply for Loft members. Online classes are available too. You can see the full listing of summer youth programs here.

Know of any other summer writing camps or workshops for youth in Minnesota? Please share them below.

Happy summer writing!

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editing If self-editing isn't your thing, you’re in good company. Plenty of writers don’t like doing it. Some writers skim through the task just to get it done quicker; others skip it altogether. I wouldn't recommend either, even if you have someone else lined up to do the job. While a peer or professional edit can be enormously useful, self-editing has worth, too. In fact, done with caution and care, self-editing can pay off in ways you may not have considered.

Here are nine reasons to take the task of self-editing seriously:

It’s good practice. Self-editing is a good way to brush up on the rules of grammar, spelling, and style. It also helps you become more proficient at using key writing resources, like dictionaries, thesauruses, and style guides.

It can make or break a sale. When there isn’t time or resources to send your work out to be edited, a self-polished piece has a much better chance of landing a sale than one that hasn’t been reviewed by you.

It’s free. Professional editing doesn’t come free, but self-editing does. Even if you do get your work professionally edited, cleaning it up first can decrease the time a professional uses, right along with the fee.

It’s a productive diversion. Self-editing gives you a break from writing. You’re still working with words, but you’re doing it in a different way. Self-editing is a diversion that’s both productive and refreshing.

It helps improve your writing. Self-editing is essentially the process of making your writing better—clearer, cleaner, and more professional. And who doesn’t want to improve their writing?

It makes you more serious. When you put some effort into self-editing, you show others that you are serious about your craft and credibility. More important, you prove it to yourself.

It adds closure. Think of self-editing as a final step in the writing process. When you give the task your all and complete it, that’s when you know your work is done and ready to be read.

It’s what true professionals do. Self-editing is the fine-tuning you do that separates you from hobby writers and less serious professionals. A self-editing job well done earns you respectability.

It does more good than harm. What are the cons of self-editing? It takes time, you might miss errors, and you may not enjoy yourself. But just re-read all the pros above, and you’ll see all the good that self-editing does!

For more information on editing your work, check out my earlier posts on punctuation, style, and usage.


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groundhogToday is Groundhog Day, a great day to think spring now that Punxsutawney Phil has predicted its arrival in just six weeks. With that in mind, why not leap into your writing by working on some fulfilling and rewarding new projects that’ll make the last few weeks of winter fly by? Here are a few ideas to consider:

Enter a writing contest. In past years, I’ve posted many Spring writing contests around the state and nation. Take a look at my past posts for 2012 and 2013, and check the links for updates. Visit Fanstory.com, and look at the upcoming contest offerings. Or search writing contests in your preferred genre or locale, and see what pops up.  You’ll be surprised at all the options, both fee based and free, for entering a writing contest.

Start a writing journal. I asked for a writing journal for Christmas this year. It’s still sitting on my desk, waiting for my pen to mark up the pages. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I want to use my journal—as a place to take notes, write poetry, draft character profiles, jot down writing tips, practice paragraph styles, scribble daily thoughts, or all of the above. Of course, you don’t need to put a lot of thought into journal writing. The purpose is to just write, every day. Good advice to self.

Write outside the box.  Have you ever wanted to write a fantasy story but didn’t think you had it in you? Do you sometimes wish you could go back to school and develop your writing skills more fully? Has your fear of networking kept you from meeting other writers and finding markets for your work? Being a successful writer requires stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things. Take a class, try your hand at writing in a different genre than you’re used to, or join a writer’s group. The benefits of your leap of faith will far outweigh the risks.

Happy writing all!

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social-media-419944_640So you’re well on your way to a blossoming freelance writing career. You’ve got plenty of publishing credits to your name, clients with upcoming projects tailored just for you, and fresh ideas for writing pieces you plan to tackle this year. What more do you need to succeed? You might say nothing—but you’d be wrong. There are some key must-haves for experienced (and not-so-experienced) writers that fall outside the obvious. Here are five that come to mind:

  1. Social media presence. If you haven’t opened an account on Facebook, twitter, or linked in yet, it’s time to get on the bandwagon. Having a social media presence is essential for today’s freelance writer. Not only does social media help you network with other writers, it’s also one of the best ways to promote yourself and your work and to find new gigs—all key to success.
  2. Goals. Without goals, you won’t get very far in your freelance writing career. Goals give you something to work toward and help you complete steps along your writing journey. Goals can be short term or long term, simple or complex. They are also subject to alteration. The most important thing is to write goals down and take them seriously. Then, feel the joy and rewards of crossing them off, one by one.
  3. Daily inspiration. This might come in the form of a book of daily writing prompts, a tweet from a favorite author, or an activity that spurs you on and gives you motivation. You can also get daily inspiration by simply reading a chapter of an engaging novel. Anything that gets your creative juices flowing, even if it’s just a morning jog or a cup of joe, can be all the inspiration you need.
  4. Writing support. Writing is a solo act, but it shouldn’t be a lonely one. In fact, acquiring writing friends, mentors, and supporters is a necessary part of becoming a successful freelance writer. Social media is a great way to round up writing friends, but don’t leave out those who have helped advance your career by encouraging you to pursue your dreams, like spouses, long-time friends, librarians, and teachers.
  5. Desire to improve. Writing is an ongoing process that always has room for improvement. The more you strive to improve, the more developed your writing will become. You may write what you think is your best effort, but it won’t be the best piece you can ever write. A desire to improve is a necessary mindset for success. Without it, you may miss out on drafting some of your most amazing work yet.

If you’re an experienced writer, a novice, or anything in between, what must-haves make your list?

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thesaurus pageIf you don’t already own a good thesaurus, now’s the time to invest in one. A thesaurus isn’t just a useful writing tool; it can turn out to be one of your most valuable resources and one you’ll find hard to live without. I like to compare a thesaurus to a best friend. Here’s why:

It makes you better. The purpose of a thesaurus is to help you discover the right word choice. No two words are exactly the same; synonyms have similar meanings but different connotations. Sometimes, a dictionary is necessary to use alongside a thesaurus to help you determine the best word fit. But a thesaurus is the tool that helps you choose exactly which word you mean to use so that your message is accurately and clearly conveyed.

It’s there for you every day. And, trust me, you’ll refer to it every day. A thesaurus is by your side as you write, there at every minute to advise you. It’s accessible, convenient, easy to follow, reliable, and full of good ideas…just like a best friend.

You’ll wish you had two. The only thing better than one best friend is two best friends. Thesauruses are no different. I have a large hardcover thesaurus and a smaller, paperback one. They are completely different in design and format, but they both serve me well. When one thesaurus doesn’t come through, the other invariably does.

It’ll help you out of tricky situations. When you’re stuck, do you call on your best friend? In writing, a thesaurus serves the same function. Often, we writers get stuck mid-sentence, hung up on trying to find that perfect word. Thesauruses can whisk you out of a roadblock and get you back on track. You may not know right away what word you’re looking for, but one word leads to another and another, until finally, there it is—the word!—dancing on the page, luring you back to work.

It’s different from the others. Though full of words, like a style guide or a dictionary or a usage manual, a thesaurus isn’t one of them at all. It holds a unique place in a writer’s life. It’s a gift of just words—a stockpile of vocabulary, neatly arranged, simple yet not superficial, and unlike any other resource of its kind.

So, like a best friend, a good thesaurus is indispensable…and well worth the time and effort it takes to find a good one. Be sure to research thesauruses thoroughly before investing in one. Each thesaurus has different features from the others. If, for example, you prefer an all-in-one dictionary and thesaurus book, take a look at Merriam Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus. Want your thesaurus to include handy usage notes and real-life sample sentences? Check out the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus. For a classic, comprehensive thesaurus, you might consider Roget’s International Thesaurus.

Of course, you can always refer to an online thesaurus, such as Thesaurus.com; however, I find that having a physical book to page through makes my job of finding that perfect word easier, handier, and—most importantly—more fruitful.