adventure, age groups, characters, fantasy, manuscripts, marketing, mystery, Writing

What Age Group Am I Writing For?​

The answer to this question can be all over the place.  Not all seventh graders read at the same level.  Some are reading college-level readers, while others are struggling to keep up.

You can run reading level tests on a Word document, but that specified a reading level, not an age group.

The most common age groups are

  1. picture books–heavy with illustrations that match the text.
  2. early readers–children who can read words and still like some illustrations
  3. middle-grade readers–children who can read longer works; illustrations are more realistic. No sex, drugs, cussing, or drinking.  Characters are 8 – 12.
  4. young adult readers–any reader who is 10+ and is capable of reading more challenging material.  Sex, drugs, cussing, drinking–IF they help create a character or move the plot.  Gratuitous scenes are red flags:  stop reading. Characters are older than the reader.
  5. adult readers–adult material only.  However, a majority of adults are now reading YA.

Caveat:  don’t cross from Middle Grade to YA.  If your character ages, have him age within the given genre.


What you should know about your characters

  • their age
  • should possess relatable human feelings
  • no stereotypes
  • a contradiction in character, a fatal flaw
  • they should be moving in an age-appropriate world and making teen-like decisions
  • relationships should have substance
  • keep your characters moving and in interesting places
    • Harry woke up, ate breakfast, and then went to school.  BORING!  Yes, Harry is doing something, but don’t you do the same thing?  Why does this merit writing about?  Maybe Harry did wake up, but in a world he didn’t recognize.  Now we know something very different has happened.  Harry eats.  You eat, too.  But Harry is nibbling at a plate of lettuce.  Is Harry a human or a rabbit or did something happen to Harry?  And yes, he goes to school.  Yawn.  But Harry goes to school in a magical forest, and a unicorn teaches him to levitate.  You didn’t do that in school!  Boring Harry just morphed into mysterious Harry. More, please.
  • somebody’s life should change
  • consequences should be significant (If everybody wins, that sucks for everybody.)
  • kill off somebody who matters



Agents, books, editing, editing process, editors, Indie writing, Letters of inquiry, manuscripts, marketing, Publishing, publishing process, query letters, Self-publishing, successful writer, Writing, writing for success, Young Adult, young adult fiction

To Prologue or Not to Prologue?​

We’ve all seen it.  Start pulling some books off a shelf, and chances are you will see a prologue.  However, a prologue can be a red flag.  If you haven’t heard back from your editor/agent/publisher, rethink your prologue.  It can be the worst offender of all. #RMFW2017 @RMFWriters @crystalpubs2014

Continue reading “To Prologue or Not to Prologue?​”

Agents, manuscripts, marketing, Publishing, publishing process, self-esteem, successful writer, Writer's Market, Writing, writing conferences, writing for success, Young Adult, young adult fiction, young writers

Help! I Want to Write a Book

Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?  All you need is a computer, pen and paper, sit down, and write.  This simple process is not as easy as it looks. #crystalpubs2014 Continue reading “Help! I Want to Write a Book”

Agents, manuscripts, publishing manuscript standards, query letters, successful writer, Writing, writing for success

Simple Steps to Publishing Success

Who are you?  You are an author, an informed author.  Maybe you don’t have a lot of experience yet, but you will.  You will exude confidence in the publishing world.  Just make sure you do your homework.


  • For printed manuscripts, use 8 ½ X 11-inch, white paper (use only one side of the paper).  Ask if you may send your ms. electronically.  Many publishers will ask for both.
  • Set 1- to 1 ½-inch margins all around.
  • Use 12-point standard typeface: Times New Roman, Courier, Ariel
  • No end-of-the-line hyphenated words or justified right margin.
  • Double-space the entire manuscript.
  • Indent paragraphs.
  • No additional spacing between paragraphs.  Be careful here.  Word will sometimes automatically put in extra spacing.  Check your settings.
  • Add identifying information, your byline, and the header:
    • Type your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address in the upper left corner, single-spaced. In the upper right corner, type the word count. You can round the word count up to the nearest hundred or the nearest ten in short pieces, if you’d like.
    • Drop down about halfway on the first page and center your title. Your byline goes beneath it. These are double-spaced.
    • On page two (and subsequent pages), add a header that includes your title, last name, and page numbers.


Write your Letter of Introduction.  Sample from Windy Lynn Harris, #windylynnharris

Fabulous Writer (you)

Your address here

And here


November 20th, 2017


Jane Doe, editor

The Perfect Magazine

107 N. Robertson St.

New York, NY  10028


Dear Ms. Doe:

I’m submitting my 600 word humorous essay, “Magical Words for Marrieds,” for your review. I think it would be a great fit with other essays I read in your magazine.

This story was created as I reflected on my thirty-five years of marriage. I am a member of Wise Women Write and have been published recently in The Chick-Lit Review.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.


Fabulous Writer

Phone:  xxx-xxx-xxxx

Email:  xxxxxxxxxxx


Encl:  Manuscript and SASE

See Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide to Getting Yor work Published, Windy Lynn Harris, Writer’s Digest Books

Tomorrow we will discuss what to do when you send in your manuscript and hear no response.  Again, more simple solutions.

Agents, gabaldon, imagination, Indie writing, outlander, Publishing, publishing process, Writing, writing conferences, Young Adult, young adult fiction, young writers

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers

RMFW held its Colorado Gold Conference this weekend in Denver, CO. #RMFW2017 @RMFWriters

I have been encouraging new writers to join an organization. It is the number one way to improve your writing, get the latest information on the publishing industry, get help for your stuck points, practice pitches, and talk to agents, editors, and publishers.  This conference targeted new writers.  Tons and tons of workshops and panels, tons and tons of experts willing to give you some individual time, and lots of master classes for the already accomplished author.

AND we got to meet Diana Gabaldon, author of the OUTLANDER series, which premiered on STARZ last night.

Throughout the week, I will be posting sage advice I gleaned from the conference and pass that along to you in segments.

You can join for as little as $45.  Check out the online classes, free help sessions, and monthly events–all designed to make you a better writer.


Agents, pitch, Writing

Pitch a Hit

“So, tell me a little about your book…” and the pitch session begins.

Does this simple question strike fear in your heart of hearts?  Keep Calm and Carry On as they say in Britain.

Beyond these simple 5 words, what else can you do to get the most out of a very short, but valuable pitch session?

Prepare and Organize. Prepare and Organize. Prepare and Organize. Prepare and Organize.

I can’t emphasize this enough.  Here is a list of some typical pitch questions you should be familiar with.  Rehearse your answers over and over again so your responses are natural and to the point.  Know your material.  You don’t have time for “uh” or “duh.” This is your opportunity to show confidence in your writing and yourself as a writer.

Introductory Questions

  1. Tell me a little about yourself.  Why are you a writer?  What are your goals?
  2. What is the working title of your book?  Audience? Genre?
  3. What work does it resemble?  How is it different?  What makes it unique?
  4. Why should an agent or publisher read your work?

Information Questions

  1.  So, what is your book about?  Tell me about your characters and conflicts.
  2. Is there any diversity in your book?  How so?
  3. Have you written a query letter or previously pitched this book?  What was their response?
  4. Have you shared your work at a conference, with an agent or publisher, with book groups, or writing organizations?
  5. Has the book been edited?  How much is completed?

Closing Questions

  1.  Do you have any questions for me?

Closing Reminder

  1.  Leave all your contact information.
  2. Ask if they would like a hard copy, electronic copy, or both.
  3. Follow up.  Follow up.  Follow up.