Helping You—It’s What We Do!

Linda Taylor is a thirty-year veteran of the publishing industry. She’s a writer, but has a special place in her heart for editing and proofreading.  She just completed her master’s degree in English at Ball State, serves on the MWW board, and teaches adjunct classes at Taylor University in the professional writing department. You can connect with her on LinkedIn (Linda Chaffee Taylor), Twitter @LindaEdits, and by way of her blog where she often writes about the wonderful worlds of writing, editing, and grammar! 

So I know what you’re thinking, “Hmmm, can I really afford the time [or money] to attend this year’s Midwest Writers Workshop?”

You want to come, but you’re just not sure. Well, let’s have a little chat.Linda Taylor

Look, we all need a little bit of a pick-me-up in our writing lives. We need the encouragement that comes from gathering with fellow writers and swapping war stories and epiphanies.

We need one another.

Sure, you can do that connecting virtually. But there’s something about, you know, just getting together in one (really nice) location. There’s something to be said for that personal touch, getting to talk and laugh with other writers face to face.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a local writers group that meets regularly, give those folks a big hug next time you’re together. Many writers are laboring away alone because they haven’t been able to locate a group with whom they can connect. Hey, if it was good enough for C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien to meet with others in a group called the Inklings and read one another’s work, it’s certainly good enough for us!

As a member on the board for the Midwest Writers Workshop, I’ve so enjoyed watching my committee members in action. They work hard to bring in agents who are eager to hear pitches and faculty who can teach about a variety of genres. Last year we expanded our social media training module to help writers increase their presence by building a website and using other social media. Several really awesome Ball State University students gave 50-minute tutorials to eager writers. Some of our older attendees just need a little guiding hand to help them get over the hump and engage in the online world. Others had specific questions that the students researched before the conference and gave the advice and answers in the private session.

It was totally awesome.

And so we’re doing it again this year. Why? Because helping writers is what we do.

Many of our attendees go away having found new tribespeople, maybe even discovering folks in their own backyard with whom they can meet regularly for reading, critiquing, and encouragement.

At MWW, faculty teach about the craft of writing. If you need improvement, sign up for a session where a faculty member will discuss how to pace your plot (if that’s your problem), or how to create strong characters, or how to build a scene, or how to write dialog. These folks come to help the likes of you–of all of us. Take advantage of their expertise. These authors have been where you are now—and they know how you’re feeling. They want to help you. They want to share with you what they’ve learned along the way.

And literary agents love to come to our conference. And we love to have them. Take the opportunity to learn from them about the publishing world and even make an appointment to talk about that manuscript you’re working on. They will offer you invaluable advice.

Yes, you can afford to come.

For your writing life, you can’t afford not to.


Back Up There, Buddy: How Not to Lose Your Work

Ralston, Maye

Maye Ralston has published creative nonfiction, journalism, essays, and poems in newspapers and in corporate and commercial magazines since 1985. Her commercial writing practice was balanced between journalism and corporate writing and included writing content for, deploying, and consulting about social and emerging media, websites, ezines, and blogs. She currently writes opinion editorials and short essays for The Sage News Network, blogs at, and is writing a novel. 

If you connect with me on Facebook, or if you read my last “Shorties” post (at, you followed my recent drama over “losing” my novel. Basically, I spent hours in revisions, stupidly didn’t back up my work, then synced my novel with another app to make it accessible on all of my devices and easy to make changes on onedevice and have it show up on the other.

Of course I lost everything.

Fortunately I write in Scrivener so I got it back. You can read all about it here.

Being a bit of a techie person, I know it’s important to back up my work against the probability of hardware and software failures. And yet … So I’m going to quickly go over a few back-up options and provide links to a few back-up services for your convenience. (Just in case there’s anyone out there doing what I did.)

A couple of hardware options: 

1. An external hard drive–PROS: handy home office use and provides a second place to store your work; CONS: inconvenient to carry around if you travel with your laptop much and vulnerable to damage and hardware failures.

2. A CD or Flash Drive–PROS: smaller to carry around than an external hard drive, no user name and password is necessary; CONS: vulnerable to damage, vulnerable to loss (especially Flash Drives), and CD’s are inconvenient if you use a laptop with no internal Read/Write CD drive.

Online (Cloud) server storage options (basically you are borrowing or renting space on a computer somewhere in the ethernet):

1. (All brands) PROS: No internal Read/Write CD drive is necessary, you can backup from anywhere, no shlepping additional gear, your data is accessible on all your devices, and you aren’t going to accidentally drop it or leave it on the bus; CONS: you might forget your user name and/or password, you are limited to a minimal amount of storage in the “free” versions, to get more storage you have to pay a small fee (worth it in my opinion), it’s possible their server could have problems (generally they backup data to prevent loss).

My choice is…

…online server storage. Here are a few: Microsoft SkyDriveGoogle DriveEvernoteiCloud (for Macs and Apple Devices only), Dropbox (my favorite). Here’s a link to the top ten online fee-based backup options. You will note Dropbox is listed in the fee-based options. This is because you have to pay a fee to get more than 2G of storage with Dropbox.

 I put a link to Dropbox on my Facebook Timeline and on my Twitter stream. If you join the free Dropbox using one of those links you will get an additional 500 MB of space free. (And so will I.) Here are my Facebook and Twitter address links.

For smartphones, iPads, and Android tablet devices: SkyDrive (OneDrive), Evernote, Google Drive, and Dropbox have apps.

How to use:

Sign up for a service (make sure you are using the personal, as opposed to business version, if you want to use it for free or for a smaller fee), follow the directions to download the service link to your computer (if necessary for use), and begin using. You can google “how to use (insert service name)” for specific directions and additional helpful information. Here is the google search I did for Dropbox.

Special Note: Don’t forget to label each version of your work separately to avoid over-writing previous versions with your latest one. I use “FILENAME-VER #.”

Here is another online backup service that was suggested to me recently. It’s called BackBlaze and costs $5.00 per month for unlimited data backups. It backs up your entire computer.  I haven’t tried it yet so I can’t recommend it, but it might be worth considering if you have a lot of data to back up regularly.

What’s your preferred method of backing up your work?

Please share in the comments section if you have other suggestions or information that might help everyone, or if you have anything to add to this discussion. Also, I’m curious to know how many of you have lost something important because you forgot to back it up. (Come on now, don’t be shy…)


Getting Lost With Scrivener
Tools for Writers: The Benefits of Writing With Scrivener
An eSolution for Character Creation: Character Writer
My Pick for Screenwriting Software: Celtx
Where to Timeline and Storyboard: eSolutions
eSolutions for Social Media Addictions
For a Better Quality Break Time: Creativity Enhancing Goodies

Connect with Maye at: @MayeRalstonFacebookLinkedInGoogle+About.Me, and via her website.


Becoming a Conscious Reader

Writers don’t simply read for pleasure. We read to become better writers. This is what committee member Cathy Shouse reminds us below.

Cathy Shouse is a journalist who has published hundreds of stories in newspapers and magazines. She is the author of Images of America: Fairmount, and prior to joining the planning committee where she is director of special events, she was named a MWW Fellow in Fiction for her romantic mystery novel. Connect with Cathy on Facebook or on Twitter @cathyshouse on Twitter.

For more on her reading obsession go here.

In looking to manage my money better and improve my health, some experts say that it starts with getting off of autopilot with what you spend and your fitness choices.Cathy

With that in mind, I’ve recently realized the advantages to writers of becoming a conscious reader. The idea came when I taught a college class called Advanced Feature and Magazine Writing. A book called Pulitzer Prize Feature Stories: America’s Best Writing 1979-2003 was suggested as an assigned text to use for the class.

Now, I was no slouch when it came to reading, or so I thought. I had regularly sought out stories in magazines such as The New Yorker and The Atlantic. I would click on the entertainment sections of The New York Times, and read Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair, before his untimely death. For a while, I subscribed to Forbes and read business writing. Having learned that sports writing is considered some of the best in publishing, I read my share of features in Sports Illustrated and even Golf Digest.

But the Pulitzer Prize feature stories I read to prepare for class were beyond exceptional. The vocabulary was rich. The topics were riveting. The writing style was far superior to anything I had read in years — possibly decades — maybe ever. Plus, I was immediately able to incorporate some of these techniques into my own writing. It was as though my writing world had opened up. I looked at every story assignment differently, aiming for more depth. My students began to do the same, as if our collective bar on writing had been immediately raised, with no lecture or Power Point images required.

About the same time, I decided to read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, a book recommendation that came from an accomplished writer friend. Again, everything from the vocabulary to the theme to the characters was on a higher level from what I had been reading. My mind began to play with concepts that I would have discarded as too complex or not possible for my own fiction writing, before I read that book.

This was somewhat an epiphany. Since becoming a writer, I was told to read — which really meant to continue to read — in my case. And read I have. I simply wish I had been more mindful and had followed a well-thought-out supplemental list of books to broaden my reading experience. In fact, many successful authors have a standard list of writing craft books that they recommend to beginning writers. I’m wondering if it would be good to have specific novels that every writer should read, or at the least, a book list of the exceptional books in one’s chosen genre.

Like the Pulitzer Prize feature articles, these novels would have stood the test of time. I realize the books from the list might not even sell well if introduced today. But books from the list would make one’s own writing better just for having read them.

One of my goals for 2014 is to read some extraordinary books, ones that greatly expand a writer’s mind to explore new avenues and discover mental places unknown. To that end, I plan to read more professional reviews, which can be hard to come by these days. I’ll also look for recommended lists and pay better attention when writers mention books that are special to them.

So, let’s start right here.

What would you include on a list of must-read books for every writer?

What books have made you a better writer?