Awhile back I had mentioned the Writer’s Digest annual writing competition. This is just a friendly reminder that the deadline for getting those submissions in is looming on the horizon–June 3 to be exact.

As mentioned in many earlier posts, writing contests are an excellent way to not only exercise your writing skills but gain some industry recognition for your efforts. And some contests, like this one from WD, have a sizable payoff as well: cash prizes from $25 for 6th -10th place to $1000 for first place (for each category), and a whopping $3000 for the overall grand prize winner in addition to editorial consultations and a trip to the WD Conference in New York City.

So for a little bit of time and a nominal entrance fee, you have a chance at some big-time prizes and exposure.

There are 10 different categories for the contest:

* Magazine feature article

* Genre short story

* Inspirational writing (spiritual/religious)

* Mainstream/literary short story

* Memoir/personal essay

* Children’s/young adult fiction

* Stage play

* Television/movie script

*Rhyming poetry

*Non-rhyming poetry

Yes! Finally a place for your poetry! To get more information and guidelines concerning the contest, go to WritersDigest.com. But hurry…you’re running out of time! And..if you do apply and win, let us know! Good luck!

As a writer, what are you afraid of? Many new writers have fears because they don’t know yet if they can succeed. But even experienced writers have fears. Most writing fears can be grouped into three categories: fear of failure, fear of rejection (and these two are different), and fear of success.  I’d like to talk a little about the difference between the fear of failure and the fear of rejection as well as how to determine which of those three you may be dealing with.

A fear of failure is when you don’t think you’ll make it because you believe your personal efforts, skills, achievements, and so forth aren’t good enough to help you reach your goals. The fear of failure is very inward based and points directly to your personal efforts as a writer.

When you think about reaching a goal or making it as a writer, do you have doubts that say you can’t because of an intrinsic ability or characteristic? Do you look at your shortcomings and think they’re going to hold you back? Granted, we all have insecurities when it comes to our writing. But if they great enough to keep you from thinking you’ll ever succeed, you’re likely dealing with a fear of failure.

A fear of rejection is more outward based. This fear believes that even if you do your part others in the writing world will reject you and cause you to fall short of your goals. This may take the form of a publisher not being interested in your book or magazine article, or other writers not being accepting of you for whatever reason, or the writing industry not ready for your writing style or approach.

Many writers are actually way ahead of their time, and industry influencers aren’t willing to take a chance on them, so they get rejected. It’s only those writers who can rise above this fear of rejection and remain persistent who will eventually find their way.

To combat the fear of rejection, it’s imperative to learn not to personalize the rejections. Often books and articles get rejected, even if they’re well written, due to market trends, budget constraints (for books), topics that miss the mark, etc. You must approach each project realizing that rejection is a very real possibility and have a plan of action in the event you are rejected. Maybe you can re-target that article or send it to a different magazine. The more market research you can do before submitting any work, the greater you’ll decrease your chances of rejection.

Determine beforehand that you will not take the rejections personally. Use them as a learning tool to see how you can improve next time. I had a writer friend who used to say she’d visualize each rejection letter as a stepping stone that was paving her way to being published. I thought that was a great image to keep in mind! So, if you’re adequately confident in your own ability to succeed, yet believe there are “forces” “out there” that are going to stand in your way, you’re probably up against a fear of rejection.

“[Fear of success] is definitely a sign that we’re running out of fears. A person suffering from fear of success is scraping the bottom of the fear barrel.” — Jerry Seinfeld

I laugh every time I read that quote. But for many people, this is a very real fear. In my earlier post on the fear of success, I go into detail on ways to overcome it based on getting at the root of what you’re really afraid of. For now, I’d like to simply identify it so you know if it’s affecting you.

When you think of succeeding, are you happy about it? Do you have a sense of accomplishment, of satisfaction, of joy when you see yourself succeeding? Or, do you have a sense of dread, of anxiety, or uneasiness–even if you can’t put your finger on why? Most people with a fear of success can’t really identify it as the culprit, maybe because they think it’s absurd. But being successful launches you into the unknown–and fear of the unknown is a very strong fear.

There are various roots to the fear of success, but if you have any negative reaction or emotion to the thought of succeeding, then you’ll have to look further and find out what about success is making you wary. Because, regardless of what fear it is or where it comes from, it will absolutely paralyze you as a writer and create roadblocks you may not even be cognizant of. Your fears will ultimately become self-fulfilling prophecies that dictate how far you will go as a writer. It’s worth checking into!

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve posted about writers’ fears,but if you’d like to learn more about conquering the fear of failure as well as the fear of success, please take a moment to read those articles.

Be sure to check out my updated list of writers’ conferences for 2012 if you’ve been thinking about trying to attend one this year. More will be added as definite dates are announced.


You’ve probably heard the saying, “Always use spell check but never depend on it.” One of the main reasons for this is because spell check will never catch those times when you choose the wrong word over the correct one. I’m not talking about words that mean the same thing, but one just sounds better or offers a better connotation than another; I’m referring to choosing between two words that have totally different meanings–and choosing the wrong one.

Standing in line at my local grocery store the other day reminded me of just how prevalent the misuse of words is in our society. I was in the express lane, which was available for customers with “15 items or less.” (If you don’t see what’s incorrect about this phrase, please keep reading!)

The list of such words is rather exhaustive, and there’s no way I could ever compile a complete one. I have, however, assembled a list of words that often get used in the wrong manner in hopes that you’ll be more aware of these the next time you use them in your writing. And, remember that other piece of good advice: when in doubt, use a dictionary!

Advert–to refer to vs. Avert–to avoid

Affect–to influence (always a verb) vs. Effect–result (noun) or to accomplish (verb)

Altogether–entirely vs. All together–unity

Amiable–friendly or kind people vs. Amicable–something two parties have agreed upon

Amount–a bulk quantity vs. Number–individual items

Backward, forward, toward–American usage is without the “s”; British usage is with the “s.”

Beside–next to vs. Besides–in addition to

Born–referring to birth vs. Borne–past participle of bear

Comprise–to include or be made up of vs. Compose–to form the substance of something

Continual–occurring over a period of time with pauses vs. Continuous–occurring over a period of time with no interruptions or pauses

Counsel–advice vs. Council–group of advisors

Couple of–use together for adjective form, not “couple” by itself

Definite–exact vs. Definitive–conclusive

Discreet–careful to avoid mistakes vs. Discrete–separate or detached

Elicit–to bring out (always a verb) vs. Illicit–unlawful (always an adjective)

Enormity–evil vs. Enormousness–very large

Etc–refers to things vs. Et al–refers to people

Farther–physical distance vs. Further–extent

Fewer–individual items vs. Less–bulk quantities

Forego–to go before vs. Forgo–to do without

Hanged–form of execution vs. Hung–other forms of hanging (as in pictures)

Imply–to suggest (to give out) vs. Infer–to take a suggestion or hint (to take in)

Ingenious–intelligent or clever vs. Ingenuous–childlike simplicity and candidness

Loath–reluctant (adjective) vs. Loathe–to hate (verb)

Odious–hateful vs. Odorous–having to do with smell

Perpetuate–to prolong something vs. Perpetrate–to commit an act

Persuade–to influence actions vs. Convince–to influence thoughts or beliefs

Precede–to be in front of or go ahead of vs. Proceed–to move forward with an action

Stationary–immoveable vs. Stationery–writing papers

That–used as a restrictive relative pronoun to refer to a particular item vs. Which–a nonrestrictive relative pronoun to add information about an item (in this sense should followed by a comma).

Tortuous–having twists or bends vs. Torturous–inflicting pain in a cruel manner

What words would you like to add to this list? Which words cause you the most headaches in remembering how they’re used?

Did you ever notice how some writers have a way of easing you from one paragraph to another with smooth transitions, interesting topic and final sentences that force you to keep reading, and manage to keep your thoughts organized–all at the same time? That doesn’t come easily. Writing powerful and persuasive paragraphs is hard work.

Here are some tips to get you started:

•  Think through your paragraphs before you write them. Think about your main goal and where you’re headed with each paragraph. Then consider how you will get from one paragraph to the next while maintaining a coherent train of thought for your reader. Outlining your paragraphs using main points and subpoints is very helpful for this.

• Choose your topic sentence wisely. Your topic sentence should tell your reader where you’re headed. Be sure it’s not too vague nor too narrow in scope. And make sure it covers precisely what you will be discussing. It is your vision statement for that paragraph.

• You must decide on a method of organization. Is the information you are presenting prone to being organized chronologically? Or, maybe step-by-step, as if you were sharing instructions? Or, perhaps it should be organized by problem then solution. Think about what you are presenting and which organization method makes the most sense for your information.

• After you decide how to organize your paragraph, write your subpoint sentences, making sure each one fully supports your topic sentence. If you find one that does not, delete it. To keep your reader tracking with you, your paragraph should progress in some orderly fashion with all sentences pointing back to your topic sentence. Do not permit any straggler, off-topic sentences to remain in your paragraph!

• End your paragraph with a sentence that either sums up the paragraph you just wrote or leads into the next paragraph. To write a lead-in sentence, either leave an unanswered question (which will be answered in your next paragraph) or omit some valuable piece of information that the reader simply must have and must keep reading to find out:

“After all, there is only one way to truly make it big as a professional athlete.”

• Use strong transition words to ease your reader into your next paragraph. The goal of transitions is that you don’t recognize that you’re moving to a new paragraph with a brand-new topic sentence and unique vision statement. You don’t want your reader to have to go back to your preceding paragraph looking for something they think they missed because you dove too abruptly into your new paragraph.

Words like therefore, thus, consider, again, or numbering in a sequence with second, third, or finally, work well as transitional words depending on your method of organization.

• Finally, check your sentences for varying length (all short or all long sentences are not effective), proper grammar, and readability. Make sure they flow well one to another. The best way to do this is to read your paragraphs out loud.

Just a short blog today to wish everyone a fun, safe, peaceful, and bountiful Thanksgiving. Hope you can spend  it with loved ones and friends and remember how truly blessed we are. I’d like to share a proclamation from Abe Lincoln regarding the very first Thanksgiving. I believe this captures the real heart and essence of this holiday and how it was meant to be carried out throughout the years in America. Too bad, like most things, its true meaning has gone by the wayside in favor of commercialism and secularism.


I pray that you will always remember the reason our country continues to be the most prosperous and blessed this world will ever know: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).

Remember, if you count your blessings, your problems are subtracted and your peace is multiplied!