Savvy Writing Careers Has Moved to Better Serve Creative, Freelance and Ghost Writers


Savvy (novel)

Savvy Writing Careers has moved to its own self-hosted website.

I felt the move was necessary because I wanted to do more with this blog. I wanted to provide more resources for creative, freelance and ghost writers than I could provide in the past. Now that Savvy Writing Careers is on its own server, I can better help aspiring and experienced creative, freelance and ghost writers reach their goals.

I’m in the process of updating the website. I look forward to seeing everyone at Savvy Writing! Stay tuned…


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Steal Like Oscar Wilde: Improve Your Writing and Online Presence

Are the best writers’ thieves? According to history, the answer is yes. Oscar Wilde stole from everyone. It’s speculated (some believe) that William Shakespeare didn’t write his plays, but rather Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe or Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford did. Some historians believe that Thomas Jefferson plagiarized the Declaration of Independence by stealing from John Locke. That’s John Locke, aka The Father of Liberalism, not John Locke from Lost. Good show, by the way. Anyway … I digress.

It’s illegal to violate copyright laws or claim a work of fiction or non-fiction as your own. But it’s not illegal to observe and learn from other writers and adapt whatever it is they do for your own work. After all, you’ll want to put your own ‘spin’ on anything you publish. Otherwise, it will be bogus and inauthentic.


1. Vampires, werewolves, hybrids, witches, warlocks, outcast/loner, headhunters, magical lands, fairies, far-away lands, etc. can be found in many books. Change the names, time, setting, and tweak the plot, and you basically have the same book.

2. Mysteries are no different. Whether it’s a retired cop or rookie detective, a mystery’s a mystery. The case will be solved and it will be closed … or will it? Trilogies happen.

3. Horror is no different. Slashing, thrashing and bashing can occur throughout the pages of a book or graphic novel. Whether it’s a guy with a chainsaw or some out-of-this-world creature, the horror of it all will continue.

Tip: The best horror books don’t contain a lot of blood and guts. They build suspense and ‘suck’ you into the story. They keep you on your toes and make you want to turn the page to find out how it ends.

4. Historical novels contain the same basis of the story … history. You can’t go back and change the War of 1812 to the War of 1814. However, you can change the character names, plot, scenes, dialogue, etc.


1. Have you ever been down the self-help aisle of a bookstore? Pick up a couple of books and compare them. They probably contain the same information but are packaged and written differently because people are different. An author who resonates with your friends may not resonate with you.

2. Do you know how many baby name books can be purchased online or in a bookstore? A lot. Pick up any book and you’ll find the meaning for the most popular baby names. Again, the packaging and verbiage are different but the origin of Emma is still Old French and Old German.The meaning is still entire or universal.

Let’s face it; you may think your idea is original, but the reality is another writer probably already wrote a book or screenplay using ‘your’ idea or is in the process of writing something along the same line as you. It’s the same situation with blogs and articles. It’s not a big deal because readers know what they like and will choose to ‘follow’ authors and writers who appeal to them. The key is to observe and learn from the ‘best writers’ and take what they’re doing and apply it to your own writing career. History has shown us that this happens time and time again.



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Amandah Blackwell’s Don’ts and Do’s for Attending Writer’s Conferences

In a couple of weeks, we’re about to bid farewell to 2011 and welcome 2012. For authors and writers, this translates to sorting through the enormous amount of writer’s conferences and choosing a few to attend during the New Year. Before you pack your bags and fly or drive to your destination, read the don’ts and do’s of attending writer’s conferences.

The Don’ts

1. Don’t sit at table with grumpy look on your face. All of us know that writers are ‘supposed to be’ solitary people however, when you’re at a conference, you may want to loosen up.

2. Don’t insult other authors and writers. This is bad business acumen and downright unacceptable. There’s room for all writers.

3. Don’t monopolize editors and publishers. You’re not the only one at the book or writer’s conference. Give your 30-second elevator speech and ask to schedule time with editors, literary agents, and publishers during classes and workshops.

4. Don’t dress sloppy. Like it or not, your appearance is just as important as your manuscript. Iron your clothes and or pack wrinkle-free clothing.

5. Don’t forget to bring your iPad and or laptop.

6. Don’t forget to bring marketing materials such as business cards, postcards, flyers, etc.

7. Don’t forget to participate in classes and workshops. You’re not in elementary or high school anymore. It’s alright to raise your hand. If you give the wrong answer, you’ll survive.

The Do’s

1. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Dress for success” a million times but there is truth to it. If you dress professionally, you’ll feel like a million dollars. Before you attend a writer’s conference purchase new clothes and get your haircut, styled and colored. When you look better, you feel better.

2. Do get over your shyness. You may want to get to the ‘root’ of your shyness and dissolve it. Life’s too short to be afraid to speak up and speak your mind. Walk up to someone you don’t know and say, “Hi! My name is (fill in the blank). It’s nice to meet you. What do you think of the writer’s conference?” It may take you a couple of times but once you do this, you’ll be able to speak to anyone, including your fans.

3. Do send hand written ‘Thank You’ notes to editors, literary agents, and publishers. Remember to ask for a business card.

4. Do network as much as you can. If you want to collaborate with another writer, conferences are the best places to find the ‘right’ writing partner.

5. Do bring paper and pen along with a recorder (if permissible). You never know, there could be a power outage and you may not have time to charge your laptop.

6. Do learn all you can about the publishing process. The more you know the better you’ll become at writing and sending query letters and understanding what agents and publishers want.

7. Do prepare a list of questions. When it’s time for the panel discussion, be prepared to ask your questions. Do your homework and learn all you can about the conference, panel, etc. Know before you go!


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Freelance Writer Dotted I’s and Crossed T’s: Query Letter Still Needs Work

I, the freelance writer, was thrilled to hear from the editor at a consumer magazine I recently queried. Unfortunately, he wasn’t interested in general interest stories, unless, of course, it’s an angle that hasn’t been covered over and over again. He also rarely accepts unsolicited queries. Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed. I reviewed ALL of the information that was posted on Writer’s Market before I submitted my query. According to Writer’s Market, “the publication needs expose; general interest and new product articles.” This wasn’t entirely true.

Before I submit a query, I review a publication’s website along with current and back issues (where available). I didn’t see an article with my angle on the website. However, the editor informed me that the angle I pitched was already covered in the ‘hard copy’ of the publication. I would have known this if I went to the library and read back issues of the magazine. Lesson learned.

I subscribed to Writer’s Market because I want to grow my portfolio, especially in the area of consumers’ magazines. I have many article ideas that I’m passionate about and would benefit readers. The listings on Writer’s Market make it easy for freelance writers to find publications to query. However, freelance writers shouldn’t assume the information is 100% accurate. It pays to dig deeper to ensure you know exactly the types of stories an editor needs and wants.

Steps freelance writers can do before querying publications

1. Read current and back issues of a publication in addition to reviewing their website. Make sure your angle is totally unique and can’t be found in another publication or on their website.

2. If you subscribe to Writer’s Market or some other writer’s publication, don’t take the information at face value. Dig a little deeper to find out exactly what an editor wants. As I discovered, the information about a publication and what an editor wants may be out-of-date.

3. Read, edit and revise your query letter. Read your query letter out loud to make sure it sounds coherent. Correct grammar and punctuation. Also, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How unique is my angle? What can I do to ‘tweak’ the angle and make it more unique?
  • Will the publication’s target audience be interested in my article?
  • What do I have to offer the readers of the publication?
  • Where can I find experts for my article?
  • *Do you have the correct spelling of the editor’s name?

*Note: Writer’s Market provided an email address for the editor of the publication I queried; the editor’s name was not included. I performed a Google search to locate the editor’s name. Always find out the correct spelling of an editor’s name.

4. Do you need to send a CV/resume and clips to accompany your query letter? The information on Writer’s Market did not state that a writer must send a CV/resume and clips to the publication I queried. When in doubt, find and read the writer’s guidelines. If they’re not listed on the website, send an email to the editor and or assistant editor and request them.

As I said in the beginning, I’m thrilled to have heard from the editor of the publication I queried. All is not lost because I have the opportunity to submit another angle (stronger) along with my CV/resume and clips. Whew!

Freelance writers; learn all you can about pitching and querying editors. While Writer’s Market and other publications for writers are fantastic ways to get your name out there, don’t take the information at face value. Do your own research before you email or send your query via snail mail.

Good luck!


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Alexandre Dumas May Be Dead But He Still Makes Headlines and You Can Too

Alexandre Dumas is an author who still makes headlines — he’s been dead for over 140 years! And he’s one of my favorite authors. Alexandre’s books such as The Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask, The Count of Monte Cristo and other books have been made into Hollywood movies over and over again. Some of them are good, and some are not so good. But the point is Alexandre Dumas’ books are still read by millions of people and directors and producers continue to make movies based on his work. Talk about having the ‘it’ factor!

Why is Alexandre Dumas still popular? For one thing, he loved what he did and he was a versatile author. He had a rich family history which he used to his advantage. Did you know that one of his ancestors was a general in Napoleon’s army?  Unfortunately, this particular ancestor wasn’t serving in the army long, but he still earned the right to say, “I served with Napoleon.”

Do you have trouble writing? Do you schedule writing time, only to find yourself working on other things? Alexandre Dumas put in 14 hour days writing into the wee hours. He also collaborated with other writers to create works such as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.

Alexandre was a colorful character and could have been a character in one his novels! He was no angel but at least he was true to himself and never shied away from being his authentic self. He didn’t fret about what others would think of him, especially family and friends. Dumas lived large — emphasis on lived.

What authors and freelance writers can learn from Alexandre Dumas?

1. Use your family’s history to your advantage. If you come from a colorful family, write about it. Create characters based on people deceased and living. If you’re worried about backlash, give characters ‘extra’ characteristics that will differentiate them family and friends.

2. Write! You’ve heard this a billion times but it’s true. If you want to write a book, you must sit down and write it.

3. Forget about your closest critics. If you know you’re supposed to write a book, sit down and write it. Only speak about your books with supportive, loving people. This may not include family and friends.

4. Improve your writing by attending classes, conferences and workshops. Join writers groups, read blogs written by other writers, editors and literary agents; subscribe to the Writer’s Digest and other publications; and purchase a couple of books on writing.

5. Learn the art of sales and marketing. Like it or not, authors must become comfortable with sales and marketing. It’s important to learn how to connect with your audience. Welcome and answer their questions. Be sincere and grateful readers are buying your books. Don’t be afraid to ‘own’ and stand behind your writing. Increase your self-confidence by talking with a life or writing coach. You can be ‘all’ the writer you can be!

Whenever you’re feeling stuck, ask yourself “WWADO” What Would Alexandre Dumas Do?


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What 5 Topics Are Writers Afraid to Write About?

Sometimes, writers have ‘fear’ about writing on certain topics. They either fear backlash from family and friends or backlash from strangers on the internet. Unfortunately, you can’t control the actions and reactions of others — you only have control over your thoughts, beliefs, actions, reactions and feelings. If there’s a ‘hot topic‘ you’ve been dying to explore, why not go for it? Everyone is entitled to their thoughts, beliefs and opinions. Express yours in a diplomatic, matter-of-fact way and you may be surprised to discover that readers agree with your point-of-view.

Here are five topics I was afraid to write about:

1. Parenting: When you don’t have kids. I used to fear (I have teen life coaching site but haven’t wrote in a while) this one but now that I’ve become a ‘surrogate mom’ to my nephew and niece, I’m not holding back. I have a lot to say on parenting and becoming a parent in the 21st century. I’m sure there will be a percentage of people out of the 7 Billion people on earth that would agree with what I have to say.

2. Marriage. I have a lot to say on marriage and relationships in general. For example, if you have a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach before you’re about to walk down the aisle, that’s a RED FLAG you’re about to make a BIG mistake for which you, your children and society will pay dearly for. It’s better to turn to your father and say, “I’m sorry you spent all of this money, but I can’t go through with it.” It’s better to listen to your father ‘rant and rave’ about how much money he just lost instead of being stuck in a dead-end, life-sucking marriage.

3. Politics. Like most people, I have strong thoughts, beliefs and opinions on politics, especially in the U.S. I’ve been afraid to express my view in opinions pieces but not anymore. I may ruffle a few feathers because I’ll challenge people to ‘think’ for themselves instead of being co-dependent on the media, government, other people, etc.

4. Family. What is a family? Most people hear the word ‘family’ and think of the ‘old school’ version which includes a mom, dad and kids. However, the definition of family differs from person to person. And, some adult children (some have children) are moving back with their parents. The family dynamic has changed in the 21st century.

5. Self-help advice. You’re probably groaning about this one because there are many self-help experts or gurus in the ‘self-help’ section of a bookstore. I’ve dabbled in this area, but I haven’t pushed the envelope as much as I would like to. Why? I’m different because I tell it how it is. I believe in ‘tough love’ and won’t sugarcoat anything. Most people don’t want to hear they’ve created their own problems. It takes a ‘big’ person to admit their mistakes and wrongdoings. It’s not easy but it can be done.


What 5 topics are you afraid to write about? Share.

R.L. Stine Shares the Worst Writing Advice Given to Writers

According to R.L. Stine, author of the popular Goosebumps series, the worst writing advice given to writers is as follows:

  • Write from your heart.
  • Write what you know.

When I read Zachary Petit’s interview with R.L. Stine in the November/December 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest, I was taken aback that Mr. Stine would say writing from your heart and writing what you know is the worst advice given to writers. Mr. Stine said, “Well, I hate it when authors come into a school and they say to kids, “Write from your heart, write from your heart, only write what you know, and write from your heart. I hate it because it’s useless.” Ouch!

Mr. Stine made a good point by saying, “I’ve written over 300 books — not one was written from my heart. Not one. They were all written for an audience, they were all written to entertain a certain audience.” Publishing is a business and most publishers are in business to make money; however, it would behoove them to understand that marketing and solving problems is a part of the business of writing as well. Authors are in the business of marketing their books and solving various problems from self-help to educating; from entertaining to inspiring. Again, it is a business.

R.L. Stine pointed out that if authors only write from their heart or write what they know, they’ll become blocked. This is true. Their imagination goes out the window along with pushing themselves out of their comfort zone. It’s good to try different genres, tones, voices and styles of writing. You won’t know what you’re good at if you don’t try it. And, you may find that you prefer one genre over another.

I’m guilty of telling writers to write from the heart and write what they know. Of course, this was the ‘friendly’ advice I was given; I passed it along to my fellow writers. Perhaps, R.L. is correct that writing from the heart and only writing what you know is the worst advice given to writers. Who knows … Then again, Mr. Stine is a famous and well paid author. Perhaps, he does know what he’s speaking about.


What’s the worst writing advice given to you? Share.

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How to Become a Powerful Storyteller

How powerful of a storyteller are you? Every author and writer could use tips and tricks for crafting their stories. It’s about maximizing your impact on readers. It’s important to write engaging and entertaining stories that will captivate and hold readers attention. You want them to come back for more.

How to become a powerful storyteller

1. Get in touch with your emotions and transfer them to your characters. Think about your characters and what emotions they would feel and have.

2. Who are your characters? What do you know that they don’t?

3. Stay in the moment and hold onto it.

4. Go inward to connect outward.

5. Step in and out of your characters.

6. Get into the moment and feel the emotion of it.

7. Silence is golden and can make a strong presence.

8. Think about the body language of your characters. Do they slouch or stand up straight? Do they cross or fold their arms? Is their face contorted?

9. Be comical! Everyone can benefit from laughter.

10. Do exaggerate. For example, think about how Oprah introduced her guests. When she introduced guests she wouldn’t say, “Please welcome John Travolta.” She would say, “Come Out, Jooooooooohn Trrrrraaaavoooolta.”

11. Don’t forget about branding your message. Use a catchy phrase that will stick in the minds of readers.

12. Be an authentic author. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.

13. Don’t play it safe. Be a bold and daring author/writer. Go deep and be precise in your writing. Don’t hold back.

14. Love yourself and your readers. Remember, they buy your books and other merchandise.

15. Be the amazing author/writer you know you can be.

16. Your manuscript will set you free. Keep writing and rewriting your manuscript until it is spot on!

17. Write, edit, proofread and read your story. Put it aside for a while and come back to it. Give yourself a break. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in one day.


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7 Easy Steps to Writing a Book Fast

Did you know that you can write your book in 8-weeks or less? Obviously, you want to write a quality book; however, you want to write it fast. The faster you write your book, the quicker it gets into the hand of your target market.

Think about the following questions:

  • What is your passion?
  • What would you like to write about?

For example, if you’re a writer who’s also a parent of an autistic teenager, you may be interested in providing parenting advice for parents of autistic teenagers. Brainstorm for ideas. As a parent of an autistic teenager, what difficulties do you face? What challenges does your teenage face every day? What difficulties does an autistic teenager face in the 21st century? Break it down until you have a niche or theme. Once you know this, you can write your book in no time.

7 Easy Steps to Writing a Book Fast

1. Be clear on the BIG idea of your book. The theme of your book will become the brand. It’s imperative to drill down your idea and get to the core of it. Think about the following: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Put your journalist “cap” on and answer these questions. Once you have your “big” idea or theme, you’re ready to write your book.

2. Use a model aka guideline. Who are your favorite authors? What did they write? Visit a bookstore or library and find books by your favorite authors. Read through the books and take notes. How are the chapters structured? How many pages is each chapter? Is there a resource page for readers? Choose a book and imitate it — use it as a guideline to write your book.

3. Use the number “7”. This is a good number for TV and radio segments. If you’re using your book to obtain speaking engagements, producers will be happy your book is “7 Fill in the Blank.” It’s easy for you to speak about, and the audience will be able to remember “7 Fill in the Blank.”

4. Speak your book. You can speak your book and have it transcribed or you could use software such as DragonNaturally Speaking software or Windows Speech Recognition for Vista and Windows 7. Simply activate the software and speak your book. The alternative is to use a service like iDictate. Speak your book into your iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, or voice recording device and have it transcribed for you (sent via email).

5. Don’t edit your book while you write it. If you’re a freelance/ghost writer, you may be tempted to edit while you write. Write your book then go back and edit. Of course, you could hire an editor to edit your book. This takes the pressure off of you.

6. Test out your idea on your target market. Join groups and social media websites where you can ‘test’ out your BIG book idea. Ask for feedback on your idea. What’s attractive about it? How do others react to it? Gather enough information to ascertain if your BIG book idea will work or needs to be tweaked.

7. Write! You’ve heard this before — write all of the time. Schedule your writing during the week and on weekends. Even if you write for one hour day, you’ll make progress. Keep writing and say “No” when you have to. Family and friends need to understand that you’re serious about your writing dream and goal.

Writing your book doesn’t have to take months or years. Give yourself a deadline along with a consequence if you don’t finish your book on time. Keep in mind that you can always update your book by producing new versions. Windows does this all of the time as does WordPress. Your first book could be “version 1” and the next book can be “version 2” and so on. Look for a ‘print on demand’ book company which means your book won’t be printed until orders have been received. It’s a great way to get started as an author.

Good Luck!

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How Many Pseudos Does an Author Need?


You may be surprised to discover that your favorite authors use more than one pseudo. Best Selling Author Nora Roberts publishes under J.D. Robb. Jayne Ann Krentz uses pseudos such as Jayne Castle, Jayne Taylor, Jayne Bentley, Amanda Quick, Stephanie James, and Amanda Glass. Dean Koontz has 11. That’s a lot of pseudos! Is it necessary to use one or more pseudos aka pen names? What’s the benefit? What are the drawbacks of using a pen name? How complicated is it? Let’s find out.

Benefits of using pseudos

1. You get to disguise who you are. Perhaps, your family and friends would be flabbergasted to find out you write erotic, romance novels. Maybe you write science fiction novels but your family wouldn’t approve because they don’t believe in such things. Writing under a pen name could give you peace of mind.

2. You may have a ‘huge’ following in one genre such as mystery and but don’t want to disappoint fans who may not understand why you’re writing a children’s picture book series.

3. If you’re collaborating on a novel series, you may want to use a pseudo. This is a good way to keep your writings separate from the collaboration.

4. Your boss may not be thrilled to know you’re moonlighting as an author. Using a pseudo will keep everyone happy.

5. A pseudo or pen name may carry more ‘weight’ than your birth name. This may not be easy to hear but think about Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain. Which name do you gravitate towards? Which name screams Best-Selling Author?

How to select and use a pseudo aka pen name?

1. Brainstorm for names. After you have a list of 10 names, check with the U.S. Copyright Records; the white pages (if you still receive them), peruse the internet and other information websites. Make sure you don’t select the name of another writer.

Once you find a name you like, try it out. Create a ‘mock’ book cover in Power Point, InDesign, Word or some other program. Step back and look at the name on the cover. How do you feel about it? Do you like it? Can you imagine being introduced at a book signing as (fill in the blank)? Ask supportive family, friends, etc. to look at your book cover — get their reaction. Ultimately, it’s your decision. But feedback can assist you with selecting the ‘right’ pen name.

2. Even if you use a pseudo, readers could find out who you are. Look at Nora Roberts who publishers under J.D. Robb. I found out she was J.D. Robb because my mom told me; she’s an avid reader of her books. When I found out Nora published under J.D. Robb my reaction was, “Who know?” Obviously, I didn’t. Make sure you’re comfortable with readers knowing that you publish under pseudos.

3. Consult with an attorney to see if you must register your pen name as a DBA (doing business as) with your municipality. Remember, cities, states and countries have different laws.

4. You’re allowed to register copyrights under a pen name. However, the time frame of a copyright with your name is your life + 70 years. If you publish with a pseudo it’s the shorter of 95 years from the publication or 120 years from the creation. This can be tricky business — consult a copyright attorney. Know your rights!

5. Sometimes, processing advances and royalties is complicated when you use a pseudo. Make sure you fully understand the process. Again, consult with an attorney and ask the publisher to explain their advance and royalty payment policies and procedures.

If you choose to use a pseudo or pen name, make sure it’s for the right reasons. If you’re trying to escape paying taxes, forget about it. You’ll have to pay them. If you want to ‘blast’ your enemies or naysayers, you can still get caught and face libel and slander charges. Meditate or ponder ‘why‘ you want to use a pen name before you select and use one. It can be fun to use a pseudo, but isn’t the point of publishing to see YOUR NAME in print. It’s something to think about.


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