July 31, 2020

by Kris Maze

Writing is hard work and it can take a toll on our well-being unless we advocate for better self-care. My recent experience of neglecting my healthy routine to focus on deadlines ended with ice packs and an avoidable headache. So, my writing peeps, here is a reminder to take care of yourselves. Be kind to you!

We create worlds out of nothing and breathe life into characters that didn’t exist before, but writers can forget to propagate this magic into their own lives. Stories take time and a tremendous cognitive load that our acquaintances may not fully understand. Emotional health is important for all people, but especially for creative, sensitive writer types.

Take some time to check in on yourself - you won’t regret it. *applies menthol to lower back*

My assumption is that, if you read articles in Writers in the Storm, you understand the importance of writing communities and their value in keeping your writer's perspective fresh. This rich tapestry of friends and resources is essential to a thriving writing life. Find those relationships that both bolster and push you further in your career.

Today I'm sharing five (5) practices for Writer Self Care that have made a difference for me personally. My hope is for you to add your own suggestions in the comments below.

I urge you to be gentle on yourself and tend to your most important creative tool: your well-being!

1. Create a positive mantra.

Get crafty and focus your intention with a few sentences to describe your desired outcomes.

  • Include words that describe yourself as the successful author life you strive for.
  • Describe what work you do and how it brings you and others joy.
  • Be specific, name what you want your work and life to be like and be extravagant.

Say it aloud. Write it with a fancy marker and feel it flow from your pen. Put it in a journal or a bathroom mirror where you can see it daily where it can draw you back into your writing flow. Come back to your mantra before writing and built it into your routine for added encouragement at any stage of your writing career. You deserve to rewire your thinking to be your optimal Writer Self. You may find your goals are not that far out of reach.

Looking for inspiration? Don’t have the energy to form your own saying? Here is a Goodreads list full of positivity.

2. Avoid getting overwhelmed.

Take bigger tasks and break down your work into smaller goal chunks. I add these to a checklist where I can mark off one or two goals I accomplish each day. Here is a blog post on time management tools to stay on track with writing projects. The article provides descriptions of technology used by many writers with pros and cons for each.

3. Celebrate Small Successes.

Find the little ways to make daily progress in your writing and reward yourself. Perhaps buy yourself a treat to celebrate - a special coffee mug that feels just right in your palms or soft slippers that feel so inviting they summon you from your bedside. Another writer treat might be a notebook with a funny saying or paper you can’t resist.

Your reward doesn’t have to be something purchased. The gift of time to read your favorite book or enjoy a phone call to a friend is rewarding. Are you a writer who gets up early to write in the wee hours? One way to appreciate your work is to enjoy the sunrise. Take a picture and send it to me! I am addicted to sunrise (and sunset pictures) and can feature them in a future post on my website.

4. Feed Your Creativity.

Find podcasts on writing or online shows that provide an audio version of writer advice. One that I often listen to while walking my dog is from DIY MFA where they have author interviews and craft lessons available. Pressing play while walking lets my brain relax and washes my mind with writing ideas. Your mind will begin to chew on these ideas and add substance to your writer’s life.

Feed your mind with author news, craft building ideas, and other author methods that you can glean from. Some will inform your work and improve your own life.

5. Take care of your body.

Find a physical activity and build it into your daily routine. Here is my Writers in the Storm post on writer stretches to help prevent injury from repetitive actions. Don’t deny yourself a few neck rolls or a quick stroll around the living room.

Listen to your body and it will help you write more!

Writers under intense deadlines need stretch breaks, but rest periods away from writing are beneficial also. Longer periods of exercise are opportunities to resolve plot issues and character development. A few of my writer peeps claim that training for Ironman Triathlons or taking extending bike rides improves their writing. Brain science studies also show that physical activity boosts mental health.

Many writers also use their physical hobbies for inspiration in their writing. Many went outdoors to recharge their creativity.

How are you finding energy for your projects? Do you have a writer's well-being tip to share? Add to the comments below and share with our Writers in the Storm community.

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About Kris

Kris Maze writes empowering, twisty stories and also teaches Spanish. After years of reading classic literature, mysteries, and legal thrillers, she sought to publish her own books. Her first Science Fiction novella, IMPACT, published through Aurelia Leo, is now available in PRINT COPIES!

Kris Maze is fascinated with strong characters like her protagonist Nala Nightingale, a teen journalist who reluctantly works with a crazed scientist Edison to survive an incoming asteroid implosion. For more information on her book, look here.

Check out her newly revised website and say hi!  While you are there sign up for her newsletter for updates on blog tours and media takeovers during the next couple months. There will be free resources for Writer Wellness Resources available during the month of August.  Sign up at her website here!

July 29, 2020

by Laurie Schnebly Campbell


We might have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen in a story when we pick up a new book. Most of the time, we can judge that book by its cover – or if not, then by its reviews or word-of-mouth from friends.

Even if nobody else has read it yet, we feel fairly certain that a book showing a rancher and a schoolmarm in a chaste embrace will likely end with the couple getting married. Or a book showing a police badge and some crime-scene tape will likely end with the detective taking the killer to jail.

So if we already know the ending, how can there possibly be any page-turning tension along the way?

The only way it can happen is if the writer has used some great techniques to keep us wondering what’ll happen next. Even if we feel confident that the main Story Question will be resolved in the final chapter, what about all the other questions on the way to that final chapter?

That’s where you build the tension.

Maybe your character is facing a choice. Say, Allegra is torn between marrying Carrick or becoming a nurse. Or Jemmy can’t decide between the red or the yellow lollipop. Or Pat doesn’t know whether to rescue Hobson or Sophie.

How will they choose?

Or maybe your character isn’t sure what lies ahead. There are unsubstantiated rumors of danger. A friend might or might not have betrayed their trust. The long-awaited day could be sunny or stormy.

What to expect?

Maybe the reader suspects something, or knows something, that the character doesn’t. A surprise package is on the way. The supposed butler is actually the duke’s illegitimate son. There’s a terrorist planning to bomb the factory.

What’ll happen when the truth is revealed?

Maybe there’s some dissonance between the setting and the story line. A Wall Street trader is plunged into a war zone. A shy librarian has to seduce a raucous World Series pitcher during the seventh-inning stretch. A malicious wizard is disguised as Santa’s head elf.

Something doesn’t quite fit.

Those questions are just the beginning.

There are all kinds of situations that provide fertile ground for building tension. Just grabbing random titles off the past decade of Publishers Weekly lists, you can see the kind of story questions that keep readers intrigued in books like:

Some of the above story questions include...

Who will survive?
What will it take for them to survive?
Can they do it?
What’ll happen if they fail?
Is it worth the struggle?

Those are just a few sources of tension that build throughout these bestselling reads. Regardless of the audience or setting or characters or struggle at hand, the stakes are always high...for the characters, and thus for us readers.

And you’ll notice that while in some cases a life-and-death struggle is literally about avoiding the loss of life, it can just as well be a struggle to avoid the loss of social approval. Or of true love. Or of freedom, family, friendship, a favored outcome for a quest...or any such threats endangering not the main character, but those they love or their entire society.

When the stakes are high, so is tension.

Or at least, it SHOULD be. That’s where we get into techniques (beyond the classic “ticking clock”) for building it...sustaining it...increasing it...occasionally relieving it for a moment or two...and then bringing it back even stronger.

Those are what we’ll talk about next month in “Building Tension,” but you’ve already seen how some of your favorite authors do that. If you’re not on the edge of your seat over Jimmy’s choice of a red or yellow lollipop, that’s okay! Whatever writer uses YOUR favorite kind of tension is one who’ll have you turning pages long past midnight.

Which books have done that more than once?

The reason this matters is because it provides a hint regarding what kind of tension works best for you. That’s also the kind that’ll work best for your readers, because they’re the ones who’ll appreciate your style of writing...your storytelling voice.

Sure, readers also like wondering which of a character’s most valued people, or beliefs, or practices will matter the most. And what’ll happen if the character has to choose between Love or Prosperity, Justice or Comfort, Saving Their Child or Saving Their Continent?

Millions of characters have faced such compelling choices. But you sure don’t remember every single book in which a character had to decide between, for instance, Fairness and Kindness. It’s only a few that stand out as particularly engrossing. What stories are those?

Our prize-drawing question

Somebody who answers, with either the book title/s or a description of what contributed to the tension in a beloved story, will win free registration to my August class that goes into more detail on such contributions. And if your response contains something quotable, you might very well get credit for providing a Reader Opinion...so let me know if you’d rather stay anonymous!

[Laurie, figuring one less-than-expert way of building tension is mentioning that the winner will be announced this Saturday and I can’t wait to see whose name gets picked by random-dot-org.]

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About Laurie

After winning Romantic Times' “Best Special Edition of the Year” awards over Nora Roberts, Laurie Schnebly Campbell discovered she loved teaching every bit as much as writing...if not more. Since then she’s taught online and live workshops for writers from London and Los Angeles to New Zealand and New York, and keeps a special section of her bookshelf for people who’ve developed that particular novel in her classes. So far there are 48 titles -- will yours be next?

July 27, 2020

by Linda Ruggeri

A few months ago, my editor and translator colleague Luis Pelayo asked me, “Why aren’t more US authors publishing in Spanish?” He shared a 2019 report titled El Español: Una Lengua Viva from the respected Instituto Cervantes, a non-profit organization devoted to the study and teaching of Spanish language and culture. The study states that Spanish is a first language for 483 million people around the world and that in the US, Spanish is the second most learned language at every academic level. What’s more, because of demographical reasons, the percentage of Spanish speaking persons continues to increase.

That’s a lot of potential readers who need some good books in Spanish.

My Experience

I grew up in Córdoba, Argentina, in a bilingual household, with a father who was an avid reader. By fourteen, I had read Rimbaud, Verlaine, and Victor Hugo, all in Spanish. Getting books in English was near impossible, and the ones that made it into local bookstores were textbooks for learning English as a second language. I would have loved to have an e-reader to download Spanish versions of Nancy Drew, Judy Blume, or even Sweet Valley High. Or anything else targeted at teens.

Instead, my only options were the classics: Treasure Island, Tom Sawyer, and the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Rosamunde Pilcher, and Jules Verne. Like most of my friends, I read all of them, voraciously, in Spanish. Those books let me travel to foreign made-up lands and cultures. Now more than ever, people need to travel and space out.

6 Tips to Translate Your Book Effectively

Think about all the readers around the world who are waiting to find a book like yours to take them away. Right now, you have a captive audience. If your book is doing well in your native language market, it will probably do well with a similar audience elsewhere. For this blog post, I’m focusing solely on literary translations. Here are my six tips on how to do it effectively and efficiently.

1. Hire a human being to translate your work.

Don’t attempt to translate the book yourself. If you’re not a native speaker of the language you’re trying to publish in, don’t even attempt it. Google Translate or Deepl is not for that. Nor is any other translation software. You need a human being to interpret your work and ideas and put them on the page in the way it would be said in their language.

A literary translator understands tone, voice, style, and can interpret meaning. What’s more, they know of the target language (TL) culture—therefore making sure you don’t offend anyone either. Remember, your time is probably better spent being creative and writing your next piece.

2. Calculate a budget and set aside funds.

A professional translator is going to cost money, whether you go through an agency or hire a freelancer. The agency advantage is that they can translate your work into many languages at the same time. However, freelance translators are often more accommodating, have flexible schedules, and are available for direct consultations.

Literary translators are professionals who study, are continually educating themselves, take tests, get certifications, are qualified, and excel at translating literary works. Search a reputable online directory of translators like Proz.com or The American Translators Association, or ask fellow writers or editors for recommendations.

Most translators can translate between 300-400 words per hour, with rates starting at $50 per hour. Some translators may bill by project depending on the topic or difficulty of the text. Calculate how many hours it should take to translate your work and budget accordingly (if it’s a book, count the cover, front matter, and back matter too.) Don’t skimp on translation. A bad translation may earn you negative reviews, decrease your sales, and damage your reputation.

3. Vet your translator, then book them.

Hire a professional translator whose native language is the TL you want your work translated into. They should have good reviews and samples of work you can check out. You could even ask them to translate half a page of your work, and then have their work reviewed by someone who speaks the TL.

Once you’ve chosen a translator you like, book a spot in their calendar. Good and reliable translators are booked in advance (they might not live in your country or time zone.)

A client of mine recently asked her American-raised German colleague to translate her memoir. My client thought it would be fun to involve her friend. Her friend thought she was doing my client a favor. When I hired a native German speaker to proofread the book, the feedback I received was, “It reads like a book that’s been translated into German. Not written in German.”

Don’t distract your reader from your text because of incorrect word choice, awkward vocabulary, or inaccurate TL sentence structure. You want the reader to enjoy the story without being taken out of it because something doesn’t sound right. Your translated book should read like it was written in the TL. If you want to involve your friends, use them as beta readers instead.

4. Have a Contract, be flexible, and available when needed.

A professional translator should offer you a contract that states word count, “start-by” and “deliver by” dates, how many rounds of revisions they’re willing to do, and the approximate cost for the whole project or each work hour. You’ll need to be available if the translator has questions about interpreting parts of your work. Don’t be surprised if they make a re-write suggestion because “in their culture, they don’t say things that way.” Ask if they’ll proofread your work after it’s laid out, what that will cost, and if they’ll correct any errors found later at no cost (some will do this for a year).

Be kind to your translator. It’s important to establish a good and professional relationship with them for future work you may have. Who knows, they might even refer work to you too.

5. Organize your work and send.

A week before you send in your work, check in with your translator and confirm that they’re ready. Make sure to prepare all your files and keep them in the same “Translation” folder. PDFs work better because errors can’t be introduced.

If you’re having a book translated, include the following:

  • The book cover
  • the interior files (TOC, chapters, artwork, graphics, front and back matter)
  • your book blurb
  • Your author bio.

Those last two may come in handy when uploading your book to an online seller or any marketing you choose to do later.

6. Review the work, make final changes, and have it proofread.

It’s wise to have the translators work reviewed by someone who speaks and reads in the TL. If you need to fix anything, compile a detailed list, and notify your translator so they can make those changes all at once. Once your work has been laid out (remember to include the translator’s name on your project), have it proofread in the TL (preferably, also by the translator).

Having your work translated can initially seem overwhelming. But remember, once you’ve done it the first time, and established a good relationship with your translator, you have all the tools you need to do it again successfully.

Have you ever considered translating your book? What questions do you have for Linda? Please share them down in the comments!

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About Linda

Linda Ruggeri is a full-service editor and project manager based out of Los Angeles, fluent in English, Spanish, and Italian. She co-authored the historical memoir Stepping Into Rural Wisconsin: Grandpa Charly’s Life Vignettes from Prussia to the Midwest and can be found online at The Insightful Editor and on Instagram where she reviews books and posts tips for writers.

Linda also volunteers as the Welcome Program director for the Editorial Freelancers Association, and is co-coordinator of their Los Angeles chapter.

Top Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

July 24, 2020

A few times a year we throw open the virtual doors of WITS and offer up the comments section for your shameless self-promotion. This delightful takeover usually doubles the size of our to-be-read piles with all the great books we find in the comments section. With this pandemic, more reading material is a great summer bonus.

Many years ago, we borrowed the name of this event from the glorious Chuck Wendig. Here's how it works:

  • Pimp out somebody else’s work – this can be a favorite author, blogger, post or book you’ve read, a wonderful teacher or just someone who had profound influence on you as a writer or a person. Please limit your comments to one work.
  • Promote one of your projects that you’re excited about – a hobby, a blog, a book, or a new direction your writing is taking you. You decide. Just tell us about it in the comments! (Please restrain your enthusiasm to just one of your WIPs.) The rest of us will jump in and “ooooh and ahh” at you, and likely promote your project even further because we’re just so darn excited today.

We'll start you off with some P&P from the WITS Team

From Ellen

Pimp: Eldred “Bob” Bird’s Karma series, introduces us to writer James McCarthy who evolves from a sheltered man into a sharp investigative journalist willing to put himself in harm’s way. The stories are page-turners with well-developed characters in settings that make you feel like you're right in the middle of the action. These books are a lot of fun to read.

This wonderful series is suspenseful with a sprinkling of humor. The series in order is: Killing Karma, Catching Karma and the soon-to-be released Cold Karma.

Promote: I'm working on my website and would love to get eyes on it: http://ellenbuikema.com/. Stop by and subscribe! I share on topics ranging from writing to recipes to help with children at home. One of the pages on my site is named Ask Frankie. Frankie the Fish is full of snark. People ask Frankie questions and he responds in character. This is great fun for kids.

From Jenny

My P&P's are actually tied together and I'm pretty excited about both sides of this coin.

Pimp: I've been taking some training through Mirasee, to teach me how to launch a successful online class series, and I can't say enough good things about them. Their knowledge, their hand-holding, their resources (I could build a shrine to their resources) are just top-notch. Founder, Danny Iny, also wrote a rockin' book called Teach Your Gift. (Available on Kindle Unlimited!)

Promote: I spend my days making people, companies and products look good. When this pandemic hit and so many of my pals got laid off, my side hustle became helping them power up their LinkedIn profiles. I've always done these for companies, but I had a blast helping people become more searchable, expand their networks, and get jobs.

Enter Mirasee. They're teaching me everything I need to know to create a "LinkedIn for Success" series of classes, starting with a pilot class. I'm in the research phase, so I'd love a 15 minute no-sales chat with any of you who have pain points with LinkedIn. Let me know down in the comments!

From Kris (KMaze)

Pimp: If you are looking for a young readers series of books, I recommend checking out Charlie Chameleon and his adventures. Our WITS team member, Ellen Buikema, writes this series which helps children ages 3-9 develop empathy and cultivate insight into their lives. The multicultural stories cover situations children typically encounter like getting lost, moving, starting a new school, making friends, family vacations, working in a team, and dealing with bullies using positive methods. Each chapter ends with one or more activities for children and parents or teachers to do together, related to the actions in the stories.

The first three chapter books in The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon Series are New BeginningsSchool Days, and Summertime.

Book Cover IMPACT by K Maze

Promote: If you enjoy a fast paced book with a girl protagonist who uses wit and moxy to survive an incoming asteroid, try my recent debut novel: IMPACT, A Young Adult Sci-fi Novel.  Nala Nightingale uses hidden talents beyond her broadcasting training to overcome her wily captor Edison and his mysterious underground world.

This book is written for teens or adult readers who would enjoy an optimistic book with lots of twists and turns. 

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Happy Reading and Stay healthy, y'all...
Jenny and the WITS Crew

July 22, 2020

By Ellen Buikema

Animal characters are created in all genres, either in cartoon-like or realistic forms. They may be walking, talking substitutes for human characters, or reality-based beings that may or may not be augmented with special abilities. No matter how you incorporate an animal into your story, they should be a memorable character.

Choose Your Animal

Some animals will better fit a particular function in a story. In a reality-based fight scene, a snake probably wouldn’t do as well as a dog or a cat.

Say you are writing fantasy and want a reality-based animal to act as a spy. A bird might work well in this instance, perhaps a raven, as was done in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Ravens are intelligent, playful, and have a sense of humor, having been known to perch on snowy rooftops waiting for people to pass by, and then pushing snow on top of them.

When writing historical fiction, consider researching which animals were popular pets of the era so the animals will be a good fit for the story. Jean Auel conducted an immense amount of research for her brilliant prehistoric fictional Earth’s Children series. She incorporated the domestication of wolves in her work.  The main protagonist, Ayla, studies animals in order to hunt for food and learn their habits. Those wolf studies enable her to understand pack behavior and the similarities to the human pack or extended family unit—leading to the domestication of a wolf pup.

One of my favorite animal characters is the dog in Dean R. Koontz’s suspense novel, Watchers. Einstein is a golden retriever, altered at the genetic level by scientists working with the military. This dog has a high intelligence level, psychic ability, and sense of humor along with the characteristics typical of a golden retriever. Einstein functions as a secondary protagonist, a protector, and in a way serves as a comment on human behavior.

Animal stories for children

Children may be more likely to recognize their own traits, the good and the not so good, seen humorously in an animal than written as a child. Frankie Fish, from my Adventures of Charlie Chameleon series is naughty but well meaning. Many children relate to Frankie.

Stories for children often have pets as characters that help their humans learn important life lessons. Sometimes they are a bit like guardian angels with paws. Often the child is the hero but the pet is a crucial character in the story. Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie uses a pup that enables the main protagonist, young India Opal Buloni, to learn how to trust.

One of the oldest forms of children’s literature is the Fable. In these stories, the animal is affiliated with a particular human trait and there is a lesson to be learned. One of my favorites is Aesop’s The Ant and the Dove. The lesson learned is that a kindness is never wasted.

Creating your animal character


  • Is the story for adults or children? Animal characters for teen and adult stories will need more subtlety than animals in stories for children.

Prominence and type

  • What is the animal character’s role? The animal characters may be secondary sidekicks (comic relief), protagonists, or antagonists.


  • Who is the story’s voice? The story may be written from the perspective of the human or the animal.
  • Consider physical size. If the character is tiny it will see the world in a much different way than a large one. For example Mouse vs. giraffe; Toddler vs. teen; Toddler vs. Great Dane.


  • The best animal characters feel authentic to the animal type and relatable to the reader. This is true for either cartoon or realistic characters. A cat character may be playful but a little too much affection, like one pet too many, will still get you smacked in most realities. 
  • Whichever animal you choose, writing a list of personality traits and quirks will help as you introduce the character to your readers and develop the story.

Special characteristics

  • What makes your character different? The animal character may have a similar emotional or physical trait as the protagonist.
  • For SciFi and fantasy stories the animal character might read minds or defy the laws of physics.
  • Writing a list of special abilities and traits in advance will be useful, especially if there are several characters of varying abilities.


  • Your creatures have certain looks and personalities. Names may follow suit. Bandit for one with a mask coloring in the fur, Jester for another with a multi-colored face, Spot, Blackie, Chairman Meow, Dude, the possibilities are many.
  • For humor, try a huge dog named Tiny, a tuxedo cat named Scruffy.
  • Alliteration works well for animal characters in children’s stories. Black Beauty, Frankie Fish, Tamika Turtle, Mickey Mouse, Peppa Pig.


  • The background information of the character does not need to be in the story itself, but is handy to know in order to understand what motivates the character. Fictional characters need to feel real. Knowing the backstory helps define that reality.


  • Goals, the driving forces, mold the character’s personality. It may give love to a child, or encouragement to an adult. Whatever the case, subtlety weaving goals into the story adds richness and depth.

Obviously, like a human character, there are many details to consider when writing an animal character. Doing it well will make your story memorable.

Do you have animal characters in your stories? Of all the stories you’ve read, do any of the animal characters still bring a smile to your face or terror to your heart? We want to hear all about it down in the comments section!

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About Ellen

Author, speaker, and former teacher, Ellen L. Buikema has written non-fiction for parents and a series of chapter books for children with stories encouraging the development of empathy—sprinkling humor wherever possible. Her Work In Progress, The Hobo Code, is YA historical fiction.

Find her at http://ellenbuikema.com or on Amazon.


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