Friday, December 31, 2010

Great Local Resources for Writers’ Research

Libraries Linking Idaho
The LiLI Databases (LiLI-D) are online services providing full-text articles from magazines, professional journals, newspapers, and reference books free to all Idaho residents.

A comprehensive genealogy database of census, birth, marriage, death records and more. Brought to you by the Kootenai-Shoshone Area Libraries. Only available for use in your local KSA Library.
Access census records from 1790-1930, search through over 1.9 million genealogy and local history articles, find information on people and places described in over 20,000 family histories, and browse through Revolutionary War and Freedman's Bank records.
Remote access available. Contact your local KSA Library for log in and password information.

Whatever your goal, LearningExpress Library's resources will help you succeed. Each of our Learning Centers offers the practice tests, exercises, skill-building courses, and information you need to achieve the results you want—at school, at work, or in life. Looking to land a job? You'll find an entire Learning Center dedicated to helping you get the one that's right for you.
Novelist Plus

The site includes Recommended Reads, Author Read-Alikes, Book Discussion Guides, Book Lists, Award Winners, and much more for children, teens, and adults. With over 150,000 fiction titles, 50,000 nonfiction titles and over 4000 custom created articles and lists for your reading pleasure.
Remote access available. Contact your local KSA Library for log in and password information.

Go to this source and sign in for an account:
Happy New Year from all of us at writingnorthidaho! We hope you have a productive, successful, fulfilling 2011.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Travel Writing

Are you interested in becoming a travel writer? Most writers say, “What is there not to like about travel writing?” Here are a few web sites to help you understand the trials, rewards and how-to’s of such a choice.

The first web site is by Laura Duniston who is in her words a perpetual globetrotter and travel writer. She has written for such exclusive travel magazines as “National Geographic Traveler,” “Get Lost,” “Hemisphere,” “Lonely Planet” and “Thomas Cook.” She tells us exactly what the life of a travel writer is like. Duniston says she travels anonymously with her travel photographer husband so as not to influence the treatment she receives in restaurants or hotels. She also says she spends many days in a drab hotel room in some city she does not like, glued to a chair facing her computer and on deadline.

The second site gives an article by Phil Philcox on the specifics of writing travel articles. He takes a unique approach for finding buyers for his articles. His slant is to contact off-beat trade magazines like cattle ranching, dry cleaning or printing businesses telling the editors he is going to be visiting (country.) Would the editor be interested in an article about the costs, difficulties and successes of dry cleaning in New Zealand or buying dyes in India or whatever relates to that magazine’s business interest. You will not get rich this way but it would offset some of your travel expenses as long as you do not mind working part of your vacation.

The third site I previewed and liked is about how to get freelance jobs as a travel writer. It gives you the bones of the operation, how to get started, where to look for assignments but not much about the negatives of travel writing.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Motivation -- The Rocking Chair Test

How do we as writers become motivated? Books on how to write say that reading has the most impact. We are what we read. Successful authors tell us the most significant impact will be to write every day. Both motivate us. Reading shows us how clever phrases, tightly crafted plots, a good story line and an extensive vocabulary combine to provide us with a wealth of tools to feed our creative brains. Writing daily produces the same results.

However, what if you are not motivated to write? The people who say they wish they could get going in their writing are not willing to put forth the effort required to be considered writers. What happens if we wait for an idea and no idea surfaces and inspiration doesn’t strike?

Take the rocking chair test. Sit in a rocking chair and look back on your life. Examine all the things you accomplished and the rewards you received from those activities. Then look at your life as if you had not achieved your goals or accomplished what you wanted. Relate this to writing. Have you set goals for writing and strived consistently toward them or are you waiting for motivation?

Mark Twain could have been talking to writers when he said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Paraphrasing John F. Kennedy, “If not (your name), who? If not now, when?“ Nike made a fortune selling tennis shoes with the tag line “Just do it.” They were right. “A determined person will do more with a pen and paper, than a lazy person will accomplish with a personal computer.” Catherine Pulsifer

Friday, December 24, 2010

History of The Pencil

On Fridays we post weekend events that are of interest to writers. Since there are none this weekend, I thought you may be interested in some trivia.

The pencil is one of the oldest and most used writing utensils. The forerunner of today’s pencil was devised by the Romans and Greeks who used flat pieces of lead on papyrus.

In the 1400’s, graphite (Greek meaning graphum “to write”) was discovered and mined in England. Graphite is one of three forms of pure carbon, diamonds and coal the other two. Graphite was cut into square rods which were bound tightly with twine. Late in the 16th century, a method of gluing strips of wood around graphite was invented.

Initially, the centers were square making it difficult to use any pencil sharpeners. Round graphite pencils came into use during the early 1800’s. By the 1840’s pure graphite mines were depleted so inventors including Henry David Thoreau developed forms of graphite mixed with clay and sometimes water; they were still referred to as lead pencils. An aside is Henry David Thoreau’s father, John, operated the biggest pencil factory in the United States. Henry worked there many years. Erasers were first attached to pencils in 1853.

Today’s mechanized method seems simple.
1. A block of California cedar is cut into slats.
2. The slats are stained and grooves cut into one surface.
3. A graphite clay mixture (“lead”) is put into the grooves and a second slat is bonded to the
4. The slats are sawed into individual pencils.
5. The individual pencils are painted.
6. A ferrule is crimped onto one end followed by an eraser.
7. Pencils are stamped with the company’s name and hardness of the graphite mix (1 is the softest, 4 is the hardest.)

Some famous authors who used pencils are Thoreau (of course), Hemingway, Kerouac, Nabokov, Steinbeck and Francis Scott Key.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Purdue Online Writing Lab or OWL

Many universities and colleges have websites that provide support and information about how to write, answers to grammatical questions and how and where to do research. Most are aimed at undergraduate students and writing for a college level class assignment. However, there are always times when we non-collegiate writers need backup references or answers to questions. is one of the best sources I have found. According to the introduction, OWL provides “global support through online reference materials and services.”
Their main divisions are:
*Writing and teaching writing
*Grammar and mechanics
*Style guides which includes formatting and style guides for APA and MLA 2000

The research section tells you how to conduct research (interviewing, surveying, observing and analysis) as well as how to evaluate your sources of information. If you have questions on where to put the quotation marks (inside or outside the period), look for dependent clauses, dangling participles or if a sentence needs a comma, the grammar and writing section can help you.

I have used other university web sites but find I go back to OWL. Instead of reaching for my style books or grammar books, I click on this bookmarked site and find the answers quickly.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Special Gift of Inspiration

It is Christmas Eve and you just sat down with a cup of coffee, glass of wine or eggnog. The fixings are chopped for tomorrow’s turkey dressing, the fresh cranberries are cooked, the table is set and all the presents are wrapped. Your mind stops spinning and begins to contemplate the family members who will be sitting at the table Christmas Day….

I was stumped for a topic for today’s blog, hence the following email exchange between my daughter and me.

“Hi Sweetie,

Can you think of anything wonderful to write as my blog to be posted Dec. 19, the week of Christmas? I thought of the legend of the spider in the Christmas tree or mistletoe but neither one seems right (or write). I can’t think of anything Christmas-y and writing related. Seems kind of weird to write about punctuation or how to plot stories.

Thanks! Love, xxoo, MOM”

“Hi Mom,

For the Christmas blog you should write about how a great gift would be a letter written to a loved one to tell her how much you love her, like you did for all of us on our birthdays. We treasure your letters.

Love, A”

What Angela is referring to are letters I wrote to my husband, daughters, their husbands and each grandchild during 2009 on their birthdays. I told each how grateful I was that he or she was born. Not surprisingly, it was easy. I was thankful for one who has such a good sense of humor, intelligence, and caring. For another was his ability to see all sides of a situation and come up with an agreeable solution and the love he displays daily to my daughter and their children. To a three year old, I wrote how excited we were when she was born, how fun it was to read her books because she was so quietly in my lap, how much she resembles her grandfather and how impressed I was with her developing artistic skills. My husband’s letter could have pages about why I was glad he was born! Love displayed daily, wonderful children, a secure life, and lot of exciting adventures were just a few things I noted.

The letters were about a page long, some shorter than others depending upon the age of the recipient. I started each one with “I am writing this letter to you on your (x)th birthday to tell you how glad I am that you were born.” I was with only one person as he read his letter so I do not know the exact reaction of each person but reports were that each letter was appreciated.

It does not take much to convey “I love you.” Hopefully, we say it every time we talk to our loved ones. A special letter or simple note written for Christmas 2010 could be an extra gift your family will cherish throughout the New Year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

TGIF: Scrumptious Writerly Tidbits

Despite what the newspaper circulars are screaming in bold type, there's still plenty of time (well, maybe not plenty, but enough) to stock up on fabulous books to give as gifts. Or keep them yourself, thinking ahead to those long winter evenings best spent with one's nose in a book. In any case, come out and support some local authors while you're out and about this weekend. Here's what's happening around the Inland Northwest literary scene:

On Friday, December 17, Jane Fritz will sign copies of her book Legendary Lake Pend Oreille at the Cedar Street Bridge Cafe in Sandpoint (corner of First and Cedar) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (208-263-3573)

On Saturday, December 18, Patrick McManus will visit Auntie's Bookstore, 402 W. Main Ave., Spokane, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. to sign copies of his books, including his latest, The Huckleberry Murders, and the paperback release of The Double-Jack Murders. (509-838-0206). Michael Marsden will sign copies of his book Sam d'Bear at Hastings in Coeur d'Alene, 101 Best Ave., from 1-4 p.m. (208-664-0464). And Carolyn Nunemaker, author of Spokane and the Inland Northwest During World War II, will appear from noon-3 p.m. at Hastings on Wellesley, 1704 W. Wellesley, Spokane (509-327-6008)

And here's something for anyone who enjoys a good tale. On Sunday, December 19, DiLuna's Cafe (208 Cedar, Sandpoint) will host A Christmas Storytelling Company, an evening of Christmas songs and stories to warm your heart and make you smile. The event begins with dinner at 5 p.m., followed by the show at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for kids under 12, plus the cost of dinner and beverages. For info or tickets, call 208-263-0846 or e-mail

Stay warm!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How Do You Spell "Critique"?

[This is a guest post by Sandpoint writer Anita Aurit.]

I love my critique group. They are instrumental in my growth as a writer and I wouldn't write on a regular basis if they didn't inspire me to do so. If you're not as enthusiastic about your group, may I suggest you consider using our spelling of critique?

C - Contribute pieces for critique. A successful critique group contains people who write on a regular basis (letters to the editor, newsletters, or novels, it doesn't matter; it is the act of writing that is important).

R - Read! A writer who does not read is like a chef who refuses to eat or taste his food.

I - Invest the time. Read each piece before the meeting and get your piece to the group at least a few days prior to the meeting.

T - Table the urge to ghost-write. Critiquing is suggesting.

I - Illuminate. Explain your comments. "It doesn't work for me" is not a valid critique.

Q - Quell the urge to defend your writing. Listen and ask questions. If you are busy defending your plot point or use of commas, you will miss valuable suggestions.

U - Understand that writers are emotionally attached to their work. Handing over a piece for critique is like handing over your baby. Be gentle and gracious. Don't coo over the baby and say how sweet it is. Don't mete out harsh correction either. Be gracious and gentle when offering guidance and suggestions and you will raise writers of excellence.

E - Enjoy the process. Listen, learn, and use what you determine to be the best advice.

This is how my group spells critique. However, spelling is not an exact science. You may have a slightly different view of the spelling of critique and I encourage you to use the one that fits you best. Writers can differ about spelling, just as Artemus Ward and Chaucer did. Ward said, "It is a pity that Chawcer, who had geneyus, was so unedicated. He's the wuss speller I know of."
Anita Aurit's interests are diverse and so is her writing repertoire. She has published short humor in the Saturday Evening Post, an article on fantasy football for women in an online sports magazine, and travel articles. Her devotionals have been published in The One Year Life Verse Devotional and in the Judson Press publication, The Secret Place. She has written an award-winning children's play, The Care and Feeding of Caterpillars, as well as several short, made-for-video productions. She is currently working on two nonfiction books and is toying with the idea of making the next book a novel.

Anita's day job is as a business consultant and mediator. She and her husband, Mark, an Internet software engineer, share their northern Idaho home with three "fur children," all of the Siamese purr-suasion.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Deep snow and deep thoughts

Did you know that shoveling snow can increase your creativity? Physical exercise--especially a repetitive activity that requires more muscle than thought (like shoveling)--increases blood flow to the brain and frees your mind to wander and roam.

So instead of resenting the snow piling up on your sidewalk, look at it as an opportunity for some creative idea incubation. Dig, lift, grunt, toss. Dig, lift, grunt, toss. As your muscles work, give your brain an idea to chew on and see what happens. (But be careful out there! Don't let your mind wander so far from what you're doing that you create a hazard for yourself or anybody else.)

One such "shoveling meditation" you might want to ponder as the year draws to a close is the state of your writing life. How did your writing go in 2010? Was this the year that you made that initial leap from non-writer to writer? Did you achieve any specific writing goals that you'd set for yourself? Did other priorities take precedence over your writing? What would you like to do differently in 2011? What would you like to keep the same?

Did you attend any conferences, classes, or workshops or join any writing groups in 2010? Did you enjoy it and/or learn from it? Will you attend the same event again, or maybe choose something else in the future?

How is your craft coming along? What genre(s) did you write in? Would you like to stay there, or switch genres, or both? Maybe you improved your vocabulary and syntax, and now you'd like to work on plotting or character development or research skills.

Did you market any of your work in 2010? How did that go? Are there new markets you'd like to pursue? Did you enter any writing contests?

Give some thought to your personal writing practices. As you look back over 2010, do you see any patterns? Do you tend to do your best writing in the morning, afternoon, evening, or in the middle of the night? Did you write very little in the summertime but start churning out stories in the fall? Why do you think that is, and how can you take advantage of that pattern in 2011?

Soon your muscles will be tired and your brain will be full. Set down your shovel, come inside for a hot drink, and congratulate yourself on a clean sidewalk and some clear ideas on where you'll take your writing next--or where it will take you.

Friday, December 10, 2010

TGIF: The Write Gift

Today is the perfect day to let Santa know what you want for Christmas.

Technology keeps changing the game for us writers. Although nothing has yet been invented that can fill that first blank page or give you more hours until deadline; there are many items, both new and traditional, that will aid in your task.

Gone is the gobbledy-gook of the old text-to-speech software. New Speech Recognition software promises up to 99-percent accuracy, and upgraded versions enable you to use voice commands to control your computer. What a great holiday gift - create, dictate (documents and email) and edit THREE times faster than typing!

Dragon from Nuance Communications seems to be a good choice, with prices ranging from $75-$200. SpeechMagic, Tazti, Sonic Extractor, and e-speaking are others you might check out. And just so you know, Windows 7 and Windows Vista come with a built-in speech recognition system. Wow!

Here are a few more ideas in case you're still not quite sure what to ask Santa for Christmas. My thanks to fellow blogger Jennifer Rova for starting this list. If you have other ideas, be sure to add them!

New computer
Upgrades for computer - wireless adapter, external hard drive, etc.
Kindle or Nook
Voice Recorder (A voice recorder pen is the latest thing!)
Padded laptop carrying case
USB Flash Drive
Flash Memory Card

Essential Tools
Waterman pen
Business Cards
Bed desk
Portable lap desk
Colored file folders
Colored recipe cards (for those plot points)
Ream of computer paper
Book holder

Extended Learning
Certificate for online writing class
Gift Certificate for Barnes & Noble, Hastings, etc.
Gift subscriptions to a literary or writing magazine
2011 Writer's Digest or Children's Digest
Books- The Think's Thesaurus, Sophisticated Alternatives to Common Words

Relax & Get Those Creative Juices Flowing
Gift Certificate for a massage
Electric coffee cup warmer
Single coffee cup machine or espresso machine
Gift Certificate to coffee shop

Just for Fun
Magnetic Poetry
Art glass paperweight
Sterling pencil charm
Tray or holder for reading glasses
Customized mouse pad
Custom door hanger (Writer at work!)
Book ends
Magnifying glass

Custom Writer's T-shirts
I'm not day dreaming, I'm planning my new novel
Shhh...writer at work
I collect rejection letters
In my write mind
Careful or you'll end up in my novel
Some of my best friends are fictional
Writer's block is a figment of your...uh...

Writer's Basket
Coffee/Coffee mug

You'll find hundreds of online gift resources, and many stores carry these items. Merry Shopping! - Tools for serious readers, good quality gifts including lap desks, book holders, bookends, and more. - Shirts, office supplies, customized items, business cards, coffee mugs, calendars, letterhead, tablets, etc. - Fun writing gifts with a Victorian flair like a quill and pen. - Quirky little trays for glasses and writing tidbits.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Internet Welcomes Poets

He who draws noble delights from sentiments of poetry, is a poet though he has never written a line in all his life. - George Sand

I consider myself to be a connoisseur of poetry. I love its rhythm and rhyme; and I enjoy the pre-meditated structure, meticulous phrasing, and scattering of deliberate words designed to touch my emotions.

Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance. - Carl Sandburg

During the holidays, I often spend hours finding poems, or excerpts from poems, for each of my guests to read before our meal. Through the years I've collected a small library of poetry books that I can choose from, but more commonly, I would traipse off to the library and spend many hours glancing through dozens of books in search of the perfect poems.

Boy have things changed. The Internet is a goldmine of all things that wax poetic. Just type in the word and you'll hit the mother lode.

While searching for Christmas poetry recently I discovered the work of dozens of poets I've never read (or even heard of) by searching the Internet. Thousands of poems at the click of a mouse - what fun! If you enjoy poetry, are researching a specific poet, looking for how-to information on writing poetry, searching for inspiration, or seeking a place to post your own musings, give it a try.

You'll discover many free poetry websites offer news and feature articles on the art of poetry. They list poetry blogs, books, videos, audio, podcasts, programs, and contests. Most include biographies of famous poets, lists of well-known poems, and the history of poetry. You'll also find information on how to publish a book of your own poetry; and valuable resources including poetry terminology, poetry tips, and how-to articles. Check out these websites:

Many poetry websites allow visitors to post their original poems. Be sure to take a look at Poetry Soup. Post your poems and then take at look at their latest Soup news, notes, blogs, events, and articles.

I hope you'll enjoy the following poem I discovered when looking for Christmas poems.

Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen
during the moment. - Carl Sandburg

A Christmas Poem* - Jane Merchant
My grandmother sat
On Christmas morning
Mending overalls.
A tall tree glittered,
A hen was roasting,
And the room was merry
With dolls and balls,
So why was she mending
The air is magic
On Christmas morning
And it isn't a time
For doing chores.
We had given her
A brooch that glittered
After anxious searchings
Of ten-cent stores
So why was she working
At everyday chores?
I didn't know then
But I learned much later
That Christmas magic
Goes through and through
The fabric of living
Love, threading her needle,
Made mending
The Christmas-thing to do.

*Printed by permission from

Monday, December 6, 2010

Slash Your Way to Success

Learning to write concisely is an art. It takes a keen eye, an open mind, and a sharp knife. But once you trim the excess, the clear-cut message you pen will evolve into the concise, easy-to-read style of writing appreciated by both publishers and readers.

I learned the importance of making every word count while writing articles for a newspaper. The message from my editor echoed loud and clear, "You cut the words or I will."

At first, it was difficult to slash my way through my carefully constructed words, but as I progressed, I became skilled at eliminating them with the ease of a hired assassin.

Just last week, those editing skills came to my aid when I entered the Folgers Coffee essay contest. The assignment: write a 200-word essay on what is the best part of wakin' up at home for the holidays with Folgers Coffee.

Words flowed as my idea took shape. Then I hit Word Count. Oops! I geared down. My second draft hit the mark - 212 words. That's when I really went to work.

It took several hours, and many rewrites to perfect my entry. Conveying a compelling story in 200 words is not an easy task. But, finally it was done. I had 200 words on the nose.

Then disaster! After I copy-pasted my entry onto the Folgers Coffee entry blank, I gave it a final read and noticed my last two words had disappeared. After several tries, with no success, I realized their computerized entry form counted my essay differently. According to them I had 202 words.

Now, the cuts bled as I hacked away at the meat of my story. Dispirited, I quit working on it for the day. The break helped, and first thing the next morning I noticed a simple phrase I could change. The magic number 198 finally appeared when I hit Word Count.

I hit SEND. Then I completed two more entries - each with 198 words.

Most writing books have a chapter on the importance of writing concisely, and there are dozens of Internet articles on the subject. Each offers constructive advice on ways you can strengthen your writing, eliminate redundancies, and deliver compact, interesting material.

I recommend following their advice, but meanwhile, don't forget one of the simplest tools for learning to write concisely is to write under the restriction of a word-count. Hone your knife and give it a try.

Friday, December 3, 2010

TGIF: Good Reads for Winter and Gifts

With the arrival of several inches of snow as we move into December, North Idaho has turned the corner into winter. But the roads have been plowed and there are plenty of upcoming writing-related events to consider attending. Support our area authors and take advantage of these great opportunities to stock up on books as Christmas gifts for friends and family.

Dust of Snow
by Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Here is an overview of upcoming events:

At Aunties Bookstore this weekend Joan Kopcyzinski discusses her memoir, Lies, Spies and Psychosis, and Cheryl-Anne Millsap autographs copies of her essay collection titled Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons. Also this weekend, you can meet the children featured in the Faces of Hope 2011 Calendar, which benefits children with autism through the Issac Foundation.

Next week (December 8) poet Robert Wrigley will talk about and read from his latest collection of poems, Beautiful Country. Then on December 10, David Michaelson will sign copies of his award-winning cookbook, The Burntwater Cook’s Kitchen Guide, followed that evening by author Michael Marsden presenting his new novel, Sam d’Bear.

Also coming this month are signings by Seattle journalist Candace Dempsey, children's author Aunt Kimmie Bebo, historian Buddy Levy, and bestselling humorist Patrick McManus.

Check the times, locations, and details of these and other upcoming events on the Events page of this blog.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Beyond This Blog: Your Ideal Reader

Following is an article excerpted (with permission) from Randy Ingermanson’s popular newsletter, Advanced Fiction Writing, which provides an abundance of useful information for writers. Enjoy.

Your Ideal Reader

When a publishing house considers your novel, one of the first things they ask themselves is, "Who's going to buy this book?"

One answer they won't even consider is, "Everybody."

Every book has a natural audience. When a publisher tries to market your book, they're going to target that natural audience.

This is true, even when a story has extraordinarily broad appeal. The Harry Potter series was massively popular, but even so, plenty of people didn't read it.

I know lots of readers who heard about it and just shrugged and said, "So what?" I know others who read the first chapter and didn't get it and stopped. I know others who read the first book and then quit.

I'm going to bet that very few of them were 11-year-old boys. The ideal reader for the first Harry Potter book was an 11-year-old boy.

True, lots of other people liked the book. Zillions of adults. Zillions of females. But we're talking here about which group loved it best. That group was the set of boys Harry's age.

Why think about these "ideal readers" when they obviously aren't the only readers for a book?

Simple. Every publisher has a limited marketing budget. Their game plan is to market your book to the people most likely to love it. Then those early adopters will market it to everyone else via word of mouth.

Word of mouth is the best thing going in marketing fiction. The smart marketer tries to get word of mouth going by starting a "brush fire" -- igniting interest in those people most likely to love the book.

If you're writing a novel, then one of the things you must do to get it published is to identify your target audience. Publishers will insist on knowing this information. The better able you are to tell them, the more likely they are to buy your novel.

How do you identify your target audience?

Start by imagining your ideal reader -- one person -- who is "most likely" to love your book. This doesn't mean that other people won't like it, but we're going with the probabilities here. Think of the one person in the world who will love your book most. Now answer these questions:

* Is this reader male or female?
* What age is this reader?
* What ethnic group does this reader belong to?
* How much education does this reader have?
* What does this reader do for a living?
* Where does this reader live? Which country? Which state?
* What is this reader's goal in reading a novel?
* What is this reader's deepest yearning in life?
* What does this reader fear most?
* What is this reader's most dangerous secret?
* Who does this reader admire most?
* Who does this reader hate the most?
* What matters most to this reader -- sports, clothes, politics, religion, love, fun, cars, career, drugs, money, or something else?

You may find it helpful to give your ideal reader a name and hometown. (My ideal reader is named Bob and he lives in San Diego.)

Now take your answers to the above questions and write up a one-page document named "My Ideal Reader." Pretend he's a character in your novel and write up his backstory and describe his life, focusing on his hopes and fears, his loves and his hates, and the reasons he likes your kind of fiction.

That's all. You might find it helpful to print out your document and tape it on the wall and read it every day before you start writing. It'll keep you focused on the reason you write.

Remember this. No matter how narrowly you define your ideal reader, there are thousands of people in the world who are a lot like him. There are millions of people who are fairly similar to him.

If you can define your ideal reader, you can write a novel he'll love, and your publisher can find a way to market to him.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 23,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.