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Writing Truths, Fears and Secrets
                                                                By Nikola Hartmann

Some evenings when I sit down to write a wave of anxiety sweeps over me. Will anyone want to read my work? Is another rejection letter headed my way? Does this piece sound dumb? Will everyone find out I’m a phony?

Most writers I know have insecurities and self doubts. Take my friend Annette, who threatens suicide with every rejection letter she receives. She freezes up at failure. Failing to see that rejection is a voting partner in our line of work.

Early on in my writing career I learned three indisputable facts:

Writing is hard.

Writing takes courage.

Writing is not for everyone.

Over the years I’ve learned three additional lessons.

Truth: Revision, Revision, Revision - “Fighting clutter is like fighting weeds – the writer is always slightly behind.”

- William Zinsser.

Most first (and second), drafts can and should be “pruned” for clarity and simplification. Get rid of trite expressions, repetitions and “puffspeak”. Your reader’s will thank you.

Fear: There Are No Guarantees - Sometimes what you write is really going to suck. And folks will say that what you’ve poured your heart out writing … is rubbish. Other days the creative juices will roll. Your words will flow and the rewards will be immeasurable.

Secret: The R Word – Did you know that John Grisham’s A Time to Kill was rejected by a couple dozen agents before being picked up by Wynwood Press? Or that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (later changed to Sorcerer’s) Stone, was rejected by nearly every publishing house in England?

What special gifts do these writers have? It’s a big something called perseverance and the ability to push pass their insecurities.

You learn how to write by writing, and writing, and writing. Make it a habit like walking your dog or taking your morning shower. Get your words (good or bad), down on paper. It’s the only way to get good at it. And the best way to conquer your fears.

Are you overwhelmed by similar fears? If so, how do you overcome your insecurities?

6 Things Writers Should Never Pay For
By: Nikola Hartmann

The genius who said, “The best things in life are free” certainly got it right. Here’s a list of six essentials you can get totally free.

Proofreader. Paper Rater checks your work for readability. You get an in-depth analysis of grammar, spelling, style, and word choice. It even checks for plagiarism and offers writing suggestions.

Knowledge. Internet Public Library2 is a vast database of information. It provides credible articles on diverse topics ranging from The Art of Fake: Egyptian Forgeries to The Three Stooges Collector’s Showcase.

Images. Shop the stock .XCHNG. This museum quality gallery has over 350,000 images to stimulate your writing senses. Some “photogs” require a simple note of credit, most don’t.

Books. Fictionwise makes it simple to download fiction and nonfiction eBooks to computers, and handheld devices like smartphones, Sony Readers, Kindles and similar electronics.

Office Software. If you like Microsoft Office, you’ll love Open Office suite. It’s easy to install and use, available in many languages, and compatible with most computers and other software.

Rate Calculator. This Freelance Project Hourly Rate Calculator is designed to show exactly how much you earn per “writing” hour. It factors in billable hours and time spent on administrative tasks.

Don’t be a “starving writer”! Cyberspace is full of FREEBIES designed to give your wallet a break.

Previous Columns

The Secrets to Making Your E-Query Standout Amid the Clutter

By: Nikola Hartmann

Email queries are fast replacing those sent by surface mail. While some editors still prefer the traditional approach, many publications, especially those online, only accept digital.


It’s easy, cheap, and convenient for you to instantly send your submissions to just about any editor’s desk. A process that use to take what seemed like an eternity, now takes mere seconds. Editors like it too because they quickly determine if you have potential.

The good news is that writing a first rate query is not difficult. Especially once you know the winning format…

Think of your query like a sales letter. You’re selling yourself and your work. Use these tips to make sure your first impression isn’t a disaster!

  • Check the Writer’s Guidelines. This may seem silly to mention, but … then again, maybe not. Remember, not all publications accept e-queries; those that do post where to send them. It won’t do much good to send your proposal to Mary Clark in sales, if Mary Clarkson is in charge of submissions.

  • Subject Matters. Don’t leave this section blank! Your email will be deleted, unread. It’s best to lead with the word, “Query” followed by a three to four word description of your proposal; e.g. Query: New Skin Cancer Threat.

  • Keep it Classy. Got to love those bouncy emoticons and phonetic spellings. But this is not the time to show your “fun” side. The number one complaint of editors is that writers submit work riddled with grammatical and spelling errors. Make your spell checker your BFF.  Also, stick with time honored greetings and closings: Mr., Ms., Sincerely, Respectfully. You’re a professional. Make sure your work shows it.

  • Editor’s Choice. Again, this is not the place to show your personality nor write your dissertation. Editors like short, simple, and tight. Grab their attention with a killer hook; tell how you’re going to write the article, and what it covers. Seal the deal with two links to your work, then close with your signature block (name, address, phone, Email address, website).

Cyberspace makes it super easy to send your queries all over the globe. Just remember to check, check, and re-check your work before you click “send.”

What are your thoughts on e-queries? Love them, like them, or hate them?

Let us help you grow into the writer you were meant to be.

Jennifer Brown Banks---Manager of Operations

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