Use Word Counting Applications for Precise Word Counts

Use a word counting application to help you write short fiction pieces of precise word length. If you need to write exactly 25, 50, 100, 101, or 499 words, a word count feature like Word or Open Office helps. You could use a web-based word count tool like Word Count Tool, WordCounter, or Grammarly.

What you use is purely personal preference. If you already use one and it works for you, stick with it. If you don’t use one, try out a few and see what works for you.

Just remember, not all word count tools count the same.

SmokeLong Quarterly Will Pay $1500 to the Winner of Its First-Ever Flash Fiction Contest

The SmokeLong Quarterly is celebrating its 15th anniversary by holding its first flash fiction contest.

If you think you have what it takes to write a $1500 flash fiction story, then SmokeLong Quarterly wants to hear from you.

Information about contest rules, entry fees, and guidelines are available on its awards page.

Happy Writing!


Learn From Any Feedback You Get

As writers we hear it all the time: The best way to improve your craft is by writing every chance you get. Write! Write! Write! And there is nothing wrong with that, but all of that writing doesn’t help you improve your craft if you never get feedback.

Feedback is fine from friends and family, but the real benefit of feedback is from other writers and especially editors. No matter how well you write or how many times you’ve been published, feedback helps you become a better writer.

That’s not to say that you will always get the kind of feedback you like, but most writers and editors are not out to insult you or your work. They are willing to help you as so many others have helped them.

If you have a thin skin and are sensitive to critiques of your writing, then maybe you should think of another profession, hobby, or passion to pursue.  If someone negatively criticizes your work without the benefit of providing some positive encouragement, by all means, ignore their crassness. They are either simply mean-spirited or they just don’t know how to constructively analyze, but don’t totally discount what they have to say either. Somewhere in their scathing commentary might be a gem of wisdom you can use.

Two publications I have personally received help and advice from are Bewildering Stories and 101 Words. The editors will provide useful comments and helpful advice. At, the writers there vote on and comment on each other’s stories.

Feedback is a two-way street. Don’t just solicit it give it as well.

Use Your Google Calendar App to Stay on Track with Your Goals

According to a study in an article in the Independent, the second Friday in January (known as Quitter’s Day) is when most people give up on their resolutions. An article in the Business Insider says 80% of people give up on their resolutions by February.

It’s three weeks into the new year. How are you on keeping up with the goals you set for yourself? Remember, don’t make resolutions, set goals. And make them realistic.

If you’ve set goals, you can keep track of them by using the Google Calendar app on your phone. Just tap the app, tap the plus sign button at the bottom right, then select Goal. Choose one of the five options closest to your goals. (I chose Organize my life.) Then select Custom. Personalize your goal by typing in the goal you want to reach.

The app will ask you how often you want to perform your goal, for how long you’ll want to engage in it, and what time of the day you’ll want to do it. Make your picks then click the checkmark; the goal becomes part of your calendar.

The app will take a look at your schedule and try to determine the best fit for your goal then ask you if it looks good to you or if you want to adjust the time. If you want to adjust the time, tap Adjust Time, click the pencil edit icon and make your changes. When you’re done, just save your changes.

Don’t Make Resolutions, Set Goals

The year 2018

We’re a week into the new year and many of us have already broken or severely undermined our resolutions already. Things will only get worse for some as the year progresses. Others will completely abandon their resolutions as unachievable. But there is a way of achieving (or coming close to achieving your resolutions). Don’t make any resolutions.

Resolutions are essentially promises we make to ourselves that we eventually can’t keep. But a resolution can be seen not as a lofty promise but as a set of reasonably achievable goals which can be adjusted based on feasibility and realistic expectations.

Set yourself a goal or series of goals and then set out to reach them. If a goal seems unachievable, re-evaluate it and adjust your outcome/reward. If it turns out you can’t reach it, no harm, no foul, just put it on your to-do list and skip it for the time being. Move on to the next goal.

If you’ve decided to finally write that novel you’ve had bouncing around in your head, then set yourself a goal of writing it. Set yourself a goal of writing a chapter a week. If that turns out to be too much, pare it down to a chapter every two weeks, or a chapter a month. If that’s too much, then pare it down to a paragraph a day. (Think of it as writing a novel in flash fiction installments.)

Get into a routine; it’ll become second nature. Eventually, you’ll be running on automatic and have that novel written and be ready to move on to the next one. And if something happens and takes you away from your routine, the habit of writing regularly will become ingrained. You will naturally be drawn back into a comfortable writing habit.

Just remember, life happens and stuff gets in the way. If you set reasonably achievable goals (baby steps along the way), when you get sidetracked, it won’t be difficult to get back on track. And if you begin to doubt yourself, you can gain some inspiration from New Year’s Resolutions for Writers.

For other resolutions/goals, check out Making your New Year’s resolution stick.

Afraid of Being Critiqued? Here Are Three Ways of Losing That Fear and Getting the Feedback You Want

Every writer wants to know how they’re doing. Feedback often comes in many forms. L. Roger Owens’ article, Getting Feedback Can Hurt—Here’s How to Ask for It can help soften the blow and show you how to solicit the type of feedback you want or need.

Sometimes You Just Have to Challenge Yourself as a Writer

Every day we’re all faced with challenges of some kind or another. As writers, we’re often challenged with what to write, what not to write, is the grammar correct, is the spelling correct, is the punctuation on target, and is what I said what I wanted to say. These are basically outside challenges that come with the territory. But sometimes, there are moments when some of our challenges are self-imposed.

Recently, Christopher (aka @shapshifter) over at not only wrote a story containing exactly 100 words, but he wrote it without using the letter L, and he titled it appropriately “No L.”  Check it out. Maybe you can write something omitting another letter of the alphabet.

Four Points to Consider When Sharpening Your Writing Skills

A surefire way of improving your writing is by pitting your skills against others in the competitive arena. There are four points to consider that just may help you advance your writing skills.

One: there’s always a writing prompt so you have no excuse for claiming you don’t know what to write about. The prompts will motivate you to write something, and as you do, you will think of other things to write about. The prompts usually come in two forms:

Form one: a word, phrase, or sentence.
Form two: a picture or video.

So you’ll have no excuse to not come up with something to write about. If you still can’t think of something to say after being given a writing prompt, give your brain time enough to process the prompt. Most writing contests allow adequate time to write a winning submission. Everyone has an opinion about something one way or another. Just give yourself some time to form your opinion and then expound upon it. (What I just said has already prompted some of you to form an opinion about it.)

Two: motivate yourself to write the best damn story you’ve ever written in your life. Why? Because you are competing against the best damn writers in the world–and you’re one of them. And if you don’t think of yourself as being on the same level as the best, then discipline yourself to take on the best. To be the best, you must compete with the best. Don’t second-guess yourself.

Three: if you win, place among the winners, or get an honorable mention, take the accolades and build on them. Such an accomplishment is a validation of your skills.

Four: if you don’t win or get an honorable mention, that doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes. It means you enter the next contest, then the next, until you get that honorable mention or win. And when you do get that win or mention, you move on to the next contest and the next. Along the way, you may get feedback. Understand that feedback is not a criticism of you but constructive critiques of your work. Many writers get bogged down with the critiques and let that feedback deter them from pursuing their dream.  Take that feedback and learn from it. Use it as the foundation upon which you can become the best damn writer in the world.

So remember to 1) Tackle those writing prompts. 2) Do your best. 3) Build on your accomplishments and push yourself to the next level. 4) If your best isn’t good enough, try again and again.

Sure and steady finishes the race. Now get out there and compete.

Libraries Are More Relevant Now Than Ever–Especially to Writers

More information is more readily available to more people than ever before in human history. Unfortunately, many people are not adept at wading through the information clutter and making logical sense of it all.
Fortunately, librarians and library support staff (paralibrarians) are still the best resources for assisting with navigating the information landscape. They can also be a writer’s best friend.

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” ― Albert Einstein

Can You Be Both a Writer and an Introvert?

Is it possible to be a writer and be an introvert? Yes, it is. Just because you don’t have a natural inclination to mingle and put yourself out there doesn’t mean you should give up being a writer. So what if you’re shy. Big deal. So you’re not comfortable being around people. Big whoop. You don’t have to be comfortable with anything but your writing. But how do you get noticed without being noticed? You can get noticed by working with social media.Introverted Writer

You can create a Facebook page to promote your latest book, blog, or stories. You can create a Twitter account then set about looking for other writers who share your interests. You can set your news-feeds to receive information and notices from fellow writers and those in the writing business–as well as readers.

Mystery writers write mysteries for people who enjoy reading them. Science Fiction writers write for those who enjoy reading science fiction. For every genre, there is an audience of readers.

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Goodreads, or any number of social media sites, or writer communities, you can post notes, updates, and any other useful information that will get your writing and your name “out there” without you actually being out there.