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J- Join the Dots to a Writer's Life by Susan Stephenson


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Muselings -- Editor -- Susan Stephenson


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J- Join the Dots to a Writer’s Life


Susan Stephenson


Do you remember those puzzles so popular in colouring books where the full picture was revealed when you carefully drew a line to connect a series of numbered dots? A writer’s life resembles those puzzles. We need to join up all sorts of dots to create our unique writing persona and then to find a balance within ourselves. That’s the way to attain our full potential as writers.

Writers don’t exist in a void. We are members of a family, a community, a society and we’re global citizens as well. Usually, we write for those audiences and we need to interact with them, listen to them and get feedback from them. Freelancers writing for magazine markets need to keep up to speed on trends in the marketplace. Children’s writers must be aware of what’s been published recently. Neither of those tasks can be done if a writer lives in hermit-like isolation.

It’s important for writers to read the work of other writers, to read widely in and outside of their preferred genre. I firmly believe it’s important in a marriage for both partners to participate in some activities outside their relationship so they can bring new ideas and freshness back to their relationship. Similarly, it’s important for a writer to allow himself to take in ideas from all sorts of reading opportunities. Stimulate your creativity by delving into other genres, new authors, and different formats.

It’s important for writers to edit. "Revise, revise and revise again" should be the watchwords of every writer. Word processing programs won’t pick up your choice of "peek" or "peak" instead of "pique", so a writer must be vigilant in checking each word in her text. Some tips for editing include: reading the text from the end to the beginning, so that your eyes see word-by-word; reading aloud or into a tape-recorder and listening for repetitions, clumsy sentences and faltering rhythms; putting the finished text away for a period of time (Stephen King suggests three months in On Writing) so that you finally look at it with "fresh" eyes.

It’s important for writers to network with other writers. Even if you don’t have the chance to join a "real life" critique group, there are many opportunities to do this via the internet. I belong to a crit group called Musemints, one of many such groups which form part of the Muse It Up Club, formed by Lea Schizas. (Lea is the illustrious editor of Muse Marquee. Please pass on my comments about her so she will increase my salary!) There are currently four of us "Mints": Kathleen, Mary, Jasmine and I. One of us submits up to 2000 words on Monday and during the following week, the other three critique that writing, trying to give honest feedback, suggestions for change and ideas for possible markets. None of us have met in real life, but we have formed a wonderful, warm and supportive relationship via the internet. One of the main benefits for me of my Musemint membership is the chance it gives me to look at my writing through someone else’s eyes. Even when I’ve put work away and revised it to the nth degree, there have still been times my crit friends have found major or minor problems. Thank you, Mints!

If you would like to join a critique group through the Muse-it-up Club, you can link here to find out more:

It’s important for writers to make learning about their craft a life-long process. Don’t shut yourself off from learning – I believe any learning can benefit your writing, whether it’s learning to ride a skateboard while drinking margaritas or how to determine the gender of a baby turtle. And what a wonderful resource we have in the internet! I belonged to so many writing sites and newsletters at one stage, I had to rationalize my membership and unsubscribe from several.

Two of the many sites I’ve found useful for increasing my knowledge and skills in writing are:

Creativity Portal. It’s well worth a look. This link takes you to many articles by Laura Backes about writing for children.

Absolute Write at I wrote an article for them and received 12 months membership to their Absolute Markets Premium edition. The site itself has many helpful links and articles and their Absolute Write newsletter is free.

It’s important for writers to market themselves. Get hold of books like Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER: HOW TO DO WHAT YOUR PUBLISHER WON'T (Carolyn is a Muse Guest on April 2nd or you can link to her site to find out more : ) There’s a wealth of information on the net which a Google search can bring to you and I hope to tell you more from my own experiences in a future column.

It’s important for writers to write. We established that in the November 2005 Muselings column, F- Finding Writing Ideas. But, sometimes, it’s important for writers to have a break from writing. Yes, we need to discipline ourselves to write, to push through writer’s block or laziness or FreeCell fever. But there comes a time when too much writing without a break can lead to joyless prose, to say nothing of backache and RSI! The answer is to find a balance. We need to ensure our writing time is full of writing and thinking and editing but also to make sure we take regular breaks from writing. Don’t forget, writers need holidays, too. Hourly breaks from the computer are advisable for our physical selves. I believe our creative selves need just as much attention but rarely get it.

Once we’ve joined the dots and got the balancing act under control, our potential is unlimited – let’s go for it.


Have you been to these sites yet?


Fun For Kidz is a magazine created for boys and girls from
6 to 13 years, with youngsters 8, 9, and 10 the specific
target age. We are looking for lively writing that involves
an activity that is both wholesome and unusual. We are
looking for articles around 500 words as well as puzzles,
poems, cooking, carpentry projects, jokes, riddles, crafts,
and other activities that complement the theme. Articles
that are accompanied by good photos are far more likely to
be accepted than those that need illustrations. We pay a
minimum of five cents a word for both fiction and nonfiction,
with additional payment given if the piece is accompanied by
appropriate photos or art. We pay a minimum of $10 per poem
or puzzle, with variable rates offered for games, carpentry
projects, etc.



Saga Magazine, in association with HarperCollins, is looking for a new children’s author. The prize will be every amateur writer’s dream – publication by one of the biggest publishing houses in the UK

We are looking for a dynamic new talent who can write for older children. The winner of our competition will have a dream prize: their book published by HarperCollins. Entry is by submission of a synopsis of, and a manuscript of, an original and new work aimed at children between the ages of 8 and 14 years. The Manuscript should be between 20,000 and 60,000 words in length. The competition is open to UK residents only and entrants must be over 50 years old.

Reminder re Highlights

The theme for Highlights' 2006 Fiction Contest is Stories that explore the true spirit of holiday celebrations. Three prizes of $1,000 each will be awarded and winning entries will be published by Highlights.

Stories may be any length up to 800 words. Stories for beginning readers should not exceed 500 words. No crime, violence, or derogatory humor.  Work from both published and unpublished authors is welcome. All submissions must be previously unpublished.

All entries must be postmarked between January 1 and February 28, 2006.

For all the details, visit the Highlights Website.


Firebrand is acquiring
Children & Young Adult (8-21): mainstream, historical, literary,
romance, chick-lit, mystery, and fantasy novels.

Adult Fiction:
romance, historical, literary and mainstream novels.

pop-culture, narrative, business, and how-to.

This site really impressed me. You can see at a glance authors they already represent, read their mission, contact their editors etc. I hasten to add, I haven’t actually contacted them myself. Yet.

Until next time, write on!