The Secret Source of Support: Fellow Writers

Fellow writers provide a rich source of knowledge. You can use this knowledge to expand yours. From writing groups to indie author idea exchanges you can build your personal knowledge base on writing and publishing skills.

New writers, especially, can fall into the trap of spending hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars on writing and publishing courses. Before you do that seek out fellow writers for critiques of those courses before you buy in by midnight tonight.

I’m not saying don’t take courses. Education is beneficial. First get feedback on the cost reward of the program. Build a network of fellow writers to learn which courses and which paid blog or advertising spots will serve you well.

There are many ways to gather invaluable knowledge for other writers and authors.

  • Join a critique group — before you self-edit, and then send your manuscript to an editor, your critique group will help you find your blind spots from punctuation, spelling, typos, and grammar to plot holes.
  • Join a local writing group — this may cost you a few dollars a year, but you will meet a wider circle of writers and authors and have the opportunity to attend group events where you can expand your knowledge even more.
  • Join an online group — expand your knowledge globally by exchanging ideas with fellow writers. Social media like Facebook and Google+ have groups and communities where you can exchange ideas, get reviews of courses and paid advertising opportunities, and even get feedback on book cover ideas. Keep in mind the writers are not graphic designers. Or get suggestions on cover designers familiar with your genre. Get tips on what works and doesn’t work with Facebook fan pages, Amazon marketing, Facebook marketing, genre specific book descriptions, or just dealing with Amazon and other book retailers.
  • Join a professional writers organization — a good choice is one that is genre specific. Join forums to where authors discuss details of publishing and marketing.
  • Attend conferences — meet writers, agents, publishers and learn from experienced authors. If you are working with a limited budget, find one that is close to reduce air travel, stay with a friend to reduce hotel costs. Remember that much of the great conversation and discussion happens outside of the formal presentations. Socialize.

By the time you have expanded your circle of writing and author friends you will know more about how to improve your own writing, where best to spend your writing budget, and you will discover tips and resources you would not have imagined if you had not connected with other writers.

These suggestions are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning from other writers. You’ll find offhand remarks that change your thinking and tips that refine your writing, your publishing skills, and your professionalism.

Zara Altair

Zara Altair writes mysteries set in ancient Italy. Argolicus thinks he has retired, but he and his tutor, Nikolaos, are drawn into puzzles, politics, and murder.
She consults with a select group of writers as The Story Bodyguard.


More Mysteries for April

More Mysteries for You

Once your books are published, connecting with other authors is an excellent way to get your books in front of more people. The simplest way to do this is called cross-promotion. Join with one or several authors to promote each other’s books.

This month I joined with other crime writers. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t like mysteries. Here’s you chance to check out new writers in the mystery and crime genre.

Go to our April Crime Authors page to explore a variety of stories.
Along with The Peach Widow you’ll find more fun reads for free or low price. What better way to relax in this Spring Break time?

Fans of Argolicus may like these books:

A.K. Lakelett has a new Occupational Hazard series and the first book is The Good Riddance Project: A Project Management Mystery.

Cecelia Peartree offers the 5th in her Quest series with A Quest in Berlin. Reminiscent of the master Helen MacInnes, a couple plunges into danger in post-war Berlin.

Ryn Shell pairs two young girls in Australian history in Billabong Escape as an Aboriginal girl and a rich white girl become unlikely allies against inner-city crime.

Fans of female private investigators will love Judith Lucci’s Michaela MacPherson and her retired police dog Angel as they tackle international human trafficking in The Case of Dr. Dude.

There are more books, so head on over to the April Crime Authors page and find a book.

Don’t forget to tell your mystery-loving friends about this special promotion.

Independent authors rely on our readers for support. If you read any of the books please read a review. Retailers such as Amazon count reviews, the more review, the more a retailer features the book. That means authors like me are grateful for each and every review.

When you leave a review, you help other readers make a choice about purchasing the book.

Thanks again!


Inside A Home in Ancient Italy

Join the Argolicus Readers Group. Enter an ancient world.

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Read an E-Book Week, March 5-11

Read an E-Book Week 2017

Meet the Author Monday – Zara Altair

A Father, Writer, and Logistics Wizard

Today on Meet the Author Monday we have Zara Altair here to tell us a little about herself and her books. As usual we will put my comments/questions in BLUE and our guest author will be GREEN.

I always like to start off with exploring out my guest authors entered the literary world. Is there a specific person or even that made you a reader?
Wow, Andrew, I’ve been reading since I could read at about the age of five. In our family, reading aloud was a daily tradition, so I could get more stories when I could read myself. Kipling was an early favorite. I loved the way he talked to you, O Best Beloved, as though he were telling the story just to you. Winnie the Pooh, Just So Stories, The Wind in the Willows, both Alice books, Albert Payson Terhune because I loved dogs. Those were…

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History for a Supporting Character

roman tutor, roman learning

Three Shortcuts to Learning Story

3 shortcuts to learning story

True Romance, Clarence and Alabama, learn story from films

Read to Write

Reading is the inspiration for many writers to begin their own, writing career. For me it was reading and meeting an author when I was five. That’s what I want to do, was my childhood thought. Creating stories seemed like such a magical way to live a life.
As an adult, the hard truth hit that having a story idea and creating a story is a path fraught with pitfalls. When I  read my first short stories now, I am embarrassed at how they lacked story. Yep, those old tropes like a beginning, middle, and end, not to mention character revelation, action, description, and a story line that engages the reader.
Yes, there were scenes that even today can bring me to tears, but the story just did not hang together.

What’s a writer to do? Learn story.

The best and most lasting way to learn story is to go into other stories.  For fiction writers, there are three excellent ways to experience story.

  1. Read books
  2. Listen to books
  3. Watch films

However many posts (like this one, alas), software and online tools you gather they won’t help you as much as diving into other stories.

Focus On Good Writers In and Out of Your Genre

Reading books from the perspective of a writer is much different than as a reader. Once you begin the journey of writing you begin to notice things that an average reader does not.

  • The beginning – the first sentence, the hook, and the setup
  • Character arcs – not just the protagonist, but every character
  • Description – all five senses and what you need to fill in as the reader
  • The all-important Middle – how does the author keep your attention? What are the tension elements?
  • The antagonist – how is the antagonist developed
  • Point of view and why the author chose 1st person or 3rd
  • Tone – is it even throughout? Does it match the genre?
  • The ending

Yes, every element.
As you keep reading, you begin to start comparing your writing–in a good way. Would you use that plot device? Would your character have that flaw?
As you continue reading with a critical eye, you begin to see how writers, even major writers, have flaws. This is where it drags. I don’t believe that character would naturally perform that action or say those words.
The more you read, the better you understand story. 

Audiobooks and the Moments in Time

I used to have a book in different rooms–the bedroom, the kitchen, the living room. Now that I listen to audiobooks, I usually have one reading book in the bedroom and listen to audio books on my mobile device.
Applications like audible allow you to listen to books with some very dynamic readers. As you listen to the story, you can bookmark a passage with annotations like fight scene, forest description, interior monolog, deep point of view, etc. These bookmarks help later when you are constructing a certain passage in your story.
Because audio books are on a mobile device you can listen while cooking, gardening, walking the dog, driving and many other activities of daily life that would keep you from sitting down with a book.
I’ve increased my fiction “reading” since I started using audio books several years ago.

The Basics of Story: Movies

Screenwriters struggle with story basics like how to keep the middle from sagging the same way novelists do. Because films are a collaborative project scripts are the skeleton for the story that allows for interpretation from directors, actors, set designers, lighting engineers, etc. But, story basics are key to a good film.
Unlike a novel which may take hours or days to read from beginning to end, a movie is two hours or less of time. And you can spend this time with friends and family as a diversion from your solitary writing time.
Those two hours are filled with sparks for ideas: plot twists, supporting character arcs, subplots, character reveals, and the crucial elements of story getting from the beginning to the end.
The same is true for film as well as books, watch in your genre and outside of your genre to see how story is constructed.

Books, Audio Books, Film

As writers, we can always improve our craft. Learning from other writers builds an accumulation of skill points that cannot be matched. Balance your writing time by learning from others.

If you are a first time writer, developmental editing can help you strengthen your story structure. Check out my content editing service on Reedsy.
Zara Altair

Explore Character Development

Writing Exercise: Practicing the Craft

reading for writers, Ursula LeGuin, Zara Altair

Playing with Writing

A writer who wants to write good stuff needs to read great stuff.  
Ursula LeGuin says in her book Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story. The book is a guide for writers. Each exercise is prefaced by examples from writers followed by a writing exercise following the premise of reading good stuff.
I’ve read many, many books about the craft of writing most of them filled with exercises that did not appeal to my imagination. I tried a few exercises and they felt…well…boring. I’d rather be writing my story.
On the other hand, improving my craft is important to me. That’s why I read all those books and took a stab at the exercises. I resonated with this book. If you are a writer, I highly recommend approaching your craft through the exercises.
If you are a reader, you may like seeing the kind of work a writer does that never makes it into the story you read.
The first chapter is about the sound of words, sentences, syntax and calls for some playful use of phrasing and has two parts.

The first exercise: Being Gorgeous

Being GorgeousMoisture dripped from the leaves–ferns, vines, orchids, and the round leaves of the giant tree; filled the air and planted inaudible droplets on the skin–cheeks, forehead, arms, ankles–like an unseen jacket against the cool grey day. The flutterings, slitherings, jumping, and hopping among the leaves–flashes of blue, green, red and slow and fast movement crept, crawled and leaped sustained by air and water. In her lungs the air was soft; breathing a quiet rhythm, a secret music filled with the air around. Anna said, “You know that play The Steam Room? What if waiting for God was like this?”


When he entered, what was left was things. He walked to her dressing table and touched each jar one by one. He opened one–Spikenard and something, an evening under the stars. He opened another and sniffed–faint earth in red powder. He opened them each, one by one and mixed all the contents on the table top. There was the white robe ready for the Christening hanging from the wardrobe. Her writing desk was clean except for a piece of thin vellum and a pen. He bent to look at the vellum: a quick note unfinished. Dearest Mother, I miss you. I feel alone. I am afraid. You said it would be like fire and joy…

He turned to look at the bed. The stripped mattress was covered in fresh bleached linen. He bent over and looked under the bed to see: nothing but the sunlight through the window lighting a bright spot on the floor on the other side of the bed. Not one piece of swaddling cloth. Not one drop of blood. He put his hands on the bed and raised himself up off the tiled floor. He put his face to the mattress; nothing of her. Nothing of a child. Nothing of a blue baby. Nothing of Julia.

Zara Altair