Tips for Writers


Ellen writes a monthly column for writers on SheWrites, the online community of women writers, and contributes regularly to The Savvy Book Marketer.  Take a look at the latest:


pagescr[TIPS OF THE TRADE]: Are you sure you want to write a page-turner?

“I couldn’t put it down.”  Is that really the praise every author is looking for?  Should it be?




Mistakes, Missing Links, and Other Wonderful Problems

Every family story has gaps.  But those missing pieces may turn out to be exactly what makes your writing great.





What Makes a Perfect Book Party?

A home-made podium, a dry run… and a lake.





What Makes a Winning Memoir?

Hint: try a “log-line.”





Turn your book talk into a multi-media presentation

…while avoiding “PowerPoint hell.”





Searching for a publisher: Seven tips and a slice of apple cake

Delicious suggestions for writers on the path to publication.





Are You a Scientist or a Writer – or Both?

Albert Einstein said the best scientists are artists.  But are artists also scientists?





How Many Readers Is Enough?

Does a writer’s satisfaction stem from the number of readers?  The quality of our readership?  What keeps us going?  How do we measure success?





Focus on the What:  Critiquing with Compassion and Rigor

What’s the best way to help fellow writers do their best work?





[TIPS OF THE TRADE]: The Kite, the Beach Ball, and the Stone: Six Ways to Set Your Own Pace After Publication

When your book is published, you’ll be very busy.  As time goes by, you can keep getting the word out – at your own speed.





Up-close & Universal: Balancing Big and Small in Memoir-Writing

As the winner of the Grub Street National Book Prize, I delivered a lecture at the “Muse & the Marketplace” Conference in Boston, March 4, 2013.  I discussed the increasing importance of memoir in our culture today, three types of memoirs, and ten aspects of craft that contribute to a successful memoir.  Poems, quotations from great memoirs, and what memoirists have to say about their craft.



[TIPS OF THE TRADE]:  Talking turkey

When is it time to admit that a writing project is a turkey and let go?  Questions I’ve learned to ask myself when I’m partway into a project and need to decide whether to go all-in…or walk away.



[TIPS OF THE TRADE]:  A Writer’s Best Resource – Right in Your Neighborhood

What’s the world’s best resource for writers?   The hands-down answers:  libraries!  Six ways to make use of this fantastic local treasure to improve your writing and advance your career.




[TIPS OF THE TRADE]: Four ways to share your work in progress – without showing the manuscript

I once heard about a woman (a mother, of course) who wrote an entire novel in secret – in the bathtub.  She didn’t show her work to a soul, or even breathe a word about it, until she was completely finished.   That’s not me.  Most of us want to share along the way — but when, how, and with whom?



[TIPS OF THE TRADE]: “Inchy by inchy, Leonardo da Vinci.”

Wise – and surprising – words for writers to live by.





[TIPS OF THE TRADE]: Who Cares About Your Family Story? Ten Tips to Ensure Readers Will Care

Ten ways to keep readers engaged with the story that engages you.





[TIPS OF THE TRADE] Joys of Book Promotion

Are you a writer who wishes you could just write–nothing else–and everything else would just fall into place?





[TIPS OF THE TRADE]:  Ten Ingredients for a Successful Book Talk

Where should I speak?  How do I approach speaking venues?  What makes a great talk?





 [TIPS OF THE TRADE]: Book Party: Five Steps to Success

Planning a book party?  Follow these steps and you can’t go wrong.






[TIPS OF THE TRADE]: My Mother, the Writer

Having a writing mother, being a writing mother – for me, each has been a precious privilege.





[TIPS OF THE TRADE]: The Best Writers’ Group

How to find, or start, a writers’ group – and what makes it work.





[TIPS OF THE TRADE]:  Are You a World-Changer?

“I arise in the morning,” E.B. White wrote, “torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”  Explore the intersection between writing and activism — and find out why these guys are teetering down the street in high heels.


[TIPS OF THE TRADE:] Writer on vacation: five great tips

Taking a break doesn’t necessarily mean leaving your literary pursuits at home. Use your vacation time to restore yourself and improve your craft.





[TIPS OF THE TRADE]:  Your Family Story Toolbox

“It doesn’t matter whether you write fiction or nonfiction,” says Ursula Le Guin, the master of science fiction fantasy.  “All storytellers work with the same box of tools.” So what’s in the toolbox?




[TIPS OF THE TRADE]:  In which Hirsh Leib opens my eyes

Writing depends on taking notice, keeping our eyesight as keen as can be. How do we keep our eyes in working order?  How do we see–and keep on seeing?




[TIPS OF THE TRADE]: A Writer Walks into a Conference

Even for a seasoned author, a writers’ conference can be daunting.  Top ways to get the most out of it.




 [TIPS OF THE TRADE]: Why I always read the acknowledgments first

Never thank a cat…and other idiosyncratic advice.





[TIPS OF THE TRADE] What’s Your Interview Style?

I used to favor an aggressive interview style; then I changed my mind.





 [TIPS OF THE TRADE] How to Fill an Empty Room

Unless you’re famous, even a bookstore (in fact, especially a bookstore) is just an empty room – and it’s your job to fill it.





[TIPS OF THE TRADE] 5 Ways to be Book Promotion Buddies

When Sara Mansfield Taber and I learned that we’d both been assigned the same publication date for our new books, we decided to get together and help each other out with book promotion. Here’s what we do.





[TIPS OF THE TRADE]: And the Award Goes To…Socially Engaged Fiction

Are you writing a novel about “the world as it is with an eye for how it could be”? If so, Barbara Kingsolver may have a prize for you.







[TIPS OF THE TRADE] Oink! A Report from BookExpo America

When my publisher wangled me an autographing session at BookExpo America, the publishing industry trade fair, I had two goals…




Chloe Yelena Miller: A Writer and Writing Teacher’s Blog: Inside Hints

“Although memoirs and works of fiction are two different animals” I told Chloe ,“memoir writers need to make use of fiction techniques, including these three…”

Lisa Romeo Writes: On writing about the up close and personal – and the universal – in nonfiction.

My guest post talks about my favorite memoirs and how they balance the personal and the universal – an individual life rubbing up against the sweep of history…