Category Archives: Useful Articles

Brutal Editing

Hello everyone!

So, you’ve written something and are ready to get it published. You have read and re-read your piece and are sure it’s worthy of being seen by readers, but is it?

Back in January, I entered WritersWeekly’s Winer 2017 24-Hour Short Story Contest. There were a lot of submission guidelines and a list of common themes to avoid; themes the judges had seen in so many submissions that they had become groan worthy. I read the submission guidelines and the list of common themes three times: before the prompt was posted, the day the prompt was released, and right before I submitted my short story. I was 100% certain that I had followed all of their instructions. I had worked hard and done research to make sure that my take on the prompt would be too original for anyone else to duplicate. It sounds vain, but I expected to win or at least get an honorable mention because the idea was so unlikely to be replicated. When the winners and honorable mentions were announced, my story was not listed. I was disappointed, but I have been to too many acting auditions to let it crush me. Competitions, like auditions, are subjective. You can do everything right and still not be chosen.

I read the list of common themes seen in the stories submitted for the Winter 2017 contest and was satisfied to see that my story did not contain any of those repeated themes. In that respect, my research paid off.

My thought was to post my short story on my blog so that others could see what I had done and get a feel for my writing style. I e-mailed my brother a copy of my short story and asked for his feedback. I know many people say you should never ask your family or friends to critique your writing; because, they will tell you it is wonderful to save your feelings, but my family is not like that. My family tells me what I did well, but they also tell me what confused them, where I have plot holes, or where they got bored. Then, they offer suggestions on how to make the weak parts stronger.

After he read my short story, my brother called me. When I asked if he thought it was ready for publication, he countered with, “What do you think of your story?” That made me stop and evaluate my story differently than I previously had. Up until my brother asked me that question, I had only focused on the originality of the idea, the accuracy of my research, and making sure that the ending wrapped things up nicely. When I started listing to my brother the things I was proud of, it suddenly struck me that the plot itself was not very compelling. The protagonist made a decision at the end of the story, but up until that point, she had passively let life happen to her. It is very boring to read about a passive rather than a proactive protagonist.

I was so focused on being different that I ignored perhaps the most crucial part of any story: the plot. My brother made some suggestions for how to rewrite the story so that the protagonist was taking a more active role in outside events or so that the conflict was all internal.

After our talk, I understood why my story had not been chosen. I also became more conscious of a tendency which I need to watch out for as a writer: I become so focused on details that I forget about the big picture.

When it comes to editing your own work, I have four pieces of advice:

  1. Unless you are participating in a 24-hour short story competition, put your writing away for a few days before you edit it. This break from your work will give you a fresh prospective on what you’ve written.
  2. Find someone to read over your work who you know will be honest with you. This person should be good at pointing out what you did well and at explaining why something needs to be improved.
  3.  Do not be defensive about your work. If you want to write something that is worthy of publication, you need to be willing to demolish and rebuild your story multiple times. Kick your ego to the curb and put your story’s interests before your own.
  4.  You can’t please everyone, so at least make sure you like what you wrote. Remember that writing is an art and, therefore, subjective. Have the wisdom to know when the feedback you receive reveals an issue with the plot, characters, or writing style and when the feedback is just the reader’s personal preference. I am part of a writing group and my rule is if half the group has the same question or issue, I need to make a change. If only one person has an issue, it is probably personal preference; I can use my own discretion and either reject the advice or make a change.

Good luck editing and happy writing!


Picture Books: The Underlying Structure

Hello everyone!

One of my goals as a writer is to get at least one picture book published.  However, the picture book market is very competitive.  Below are two blog posts and an article about how to structure a successful picture book.  I hope you find them to be as helpful as I did.

“Writers: The 20 Questions I Ask a Picture Book” by Rachel Hamby: (Special thanks to Laurie Wallmark for leading me to this article.)

“Concept book, concept book. What do you see?” by Bonny Becker:

“7 Ways to Structure Your Picture Book” by Brian A. Klems: (This article ties in with Bonny Becker’s article.  I think of the seven structures as seven writing challenges.)

Happy writing!


Marketing Children’s Picture Books

Hello everyone!

One of the most important things authors do is market their books.  Check out the articles below for ideas on how and where to market your children’s picture book(s).

“How To Market Children’s Books” by Jessica Schein:

“Tips for Marketing Self-Published Children’s Books” by Alex Palmer:

“Getting the Word Out: Marketing Children’s Books” by Barbara Cohen:

Happy writing!


Trademark Trolls

***Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.  I recommend that you speak with a lawyer about any legal questions you have.

Hello everyone!troll-1

I recently found the following article about trademark trolls and thought you would also find it interesting.

“Has a Troll Falsely Accused You of Violating Their Trademark? Here’s What You Should Do” by Angela Hoy:

For those of you who would like to do some research on your own, I have included a few more links which I believe you will find helpful.

“Trademark vs. Copyright Protection”:

United States Copyright Office:

U.S. Trademark Law (January 14, 2017):

United States Patent and Trademark Office (Especially look under the “Trademarks” tab at the top of the page.):

Happy writing!


Publishing Tips for Indie Authors

Hello everyone!

On Tuesday, I went to an event called “Journey of an Author” where Dr. John Benedict spoke about his writing process and some of the ins and outs of self-publishing.  Below are four articles that restate and expound upon Dr. Benedict’s advice for indie authors.  I hope you find the information to be as helpful as I did.

“Indie Publishing Paths: What’s Your Distribution Plan? Part 1” by Jami Gold:

“Indie Publishing Paths: What’s Your Distribution Plan? Part 2” by Jami Gold:

“‘Going Wide’ – Gaining Traction on non-Amazon Vendors Part 1: The Upload Process” by Angela Quarles:

“Is KDP Select Right for You?” by Marcy Kennedy:

Happy writing!


Query Letters

Hello everyone!

Once you have completed your novel (keyword being completed) it is time to write the query letter.  Basically, be professional and keep what you have to say short, to the point, and error free.  Below are some articles with more in-depth advice.

“How to Write a Query Letter” by

“The Complete Guide to Query Letters” by Jane Friedman:

“How to Write the Perfect Query Letter” by Mary Kole:

Happy writing!

Katie Merkel

Writer’s Voice

Hello everyone!

A new year brings endless possibilities.  As 2016 was closing out, I thought a lot about voice.  My goal was to discover what a “writer’s voice” is and how to develop my own.  I found the articles below to be helpful.  I hope they are for you as well.

“The Author’s Voice ” by Sydney Bauer:

“Defining Author Voice” by Ava Jae:

“Unleashing Your Voice” by Ava Jae:

“On writing…author’s voice…” by Jill Eileen Smith:

For those of you who, like me, need an example to grasp a concept, check out some of Roald Dahl’s children’s books.  His distinctive voice is evident through recurring themes, character traits, and stylistic choices.  To see what I mean, try comparing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda.

Happy New Year and happy writing!