After several years of writing, submitting, and watching other writers and wannabes, I have come to realize the importance of these four rules for getting published in the short form. Since I’ve had over 50 short stories published, I feel confident that these hints will work for you:

  1. Write every day, or at least five or six days a week. Set aside a time, and apply the seat of your pants to the seat of the chair, and write. Aim for 1,000 words each day.
  2. Finish a huge majority of the stories you start. I have seen so many writers start lots of projects and never finish any of them. Of course, these stories will never see publication.
  3. Read every day. When you are a beginner, it does, in my opinion, help to read how-to books about writing, creativity and motivation. It’s better to learn about  point of view, for example, from a book than from the editor who rejects your manuscript because your POV is inconsistent and confusing. Read in the genre you wish to write in. And read in genres you plan never to write in. It’s all good for you.
  4. Submit every week. If you submit one piece each week, that equals fifty-two submissions a year! Of course, at first you will have to work up to a significant number of stories to submit. If you write every day, you will soon have enough. Aim to write one short story a week or at least every two weeks, and within a year, you will see major improvement in your writing and hopefully, some acceptances. If you get a rejection, immediately send that story out again. It can count for the one that week.

I admit, I used a critique group to help me meet the goal of writing at least one short story every two weeks for a few years. Having other people waiting for something to read from you is a great motivator. If you can’t join a group, at least find a critique partner or two. Try it. And let me know if it works for you.


Every day there are so many things we do without thinking. Yes, every day. Sometimes it’s a good idea to stop and contemplate exactly what we’re doing with our time. How could we improve our environment and way of doing things to maximize the time we have to work on things that are really important to us? You are more likely to do this if you have a clear set of goals for your life, written down, in the forefront of your mind. Otherwise, you’ll tend to drift and to put things off.

Your mantra should be, “What’s the best use of my time NOW?” Ask yourself if whatever you plan to do next will move your life forward in the direction you want it to go or will just be wasting time, standing still.

Your goals don’t have to be lofty or pie in the sky. They can simply be to enjoy some time with your loved ones, or to watch the sunset every evening, or read a good book (I like this one—please do!).

But if some of your goals include long-term ones, such as traveling to exotic places, or writing a novel, or painting the whole inside of your house, it might help you to pause every so often and ask yourself, “Will this action help with my long-term goals, or is it just a time waster?”


Continuing with my advice to writers, I do hope you will take this.

Beware of toxic critiquers. These are people who trash your writing, all the way from your grammar usage, to your plotting, characters, descriptions, and even voice.

A friend of mine, a beginning writer, ran into such a person at a writer’s group not too long ago. She was devastated. The critiquer should not be allowed near another person’s writing ever again. She had no idea about how to give a good critique, and she could destroy beginning writers with her sharp red pencil and sharper tongue.

Fortunately, after my friend’s first impulse to shred her work, she came to her senses with the help of another friend, her husband, and an email from me to let me see her work before she did anything drastic.

I found her premise solid. I found the writing itself very good for a beginner. I liked her main character. I even liked her main character’s dog. I liked the set-up of the story. All of that bodes well for more good stuff to come.

Sure, there was room for improvement. But I could tell she would take advice, she would work hard and most likely finish writing this novel.

A good critiquer does three things:

  1. First, tell the writer what she liked about the piece overall.
  2. Mention a few things that need improvement (fewer for new writers, more details for more advanced writers).
  3. Tell the writer again what she especially liked and urge the writer to produce more for the critiquer to look at.

Never belittle, condemn the whole submission, or only say negative things. There is always something good in everything you see. Some great sentence. A great character, description, premise. I don’t understand people who are so harsh and mean. What does it get them?

Have you ever run into such a critiquer? How did it make you feel? What did you do with the work after the critique? I’d love to hear from you.


Small things can make a big difference. When you have the mail in your hand, for example, stand or sit next to the wastebasket and discard all the junk mail, unopened. Next open the rest, throwing away all the outside envelopes and junk. You now have a manageable pile to work with. Going even further, if you have set up a good filing system, simply file away the papers you don’t have to do anything further with. The trash can and file drawers are your friends.

Other suggestions:

  • Empty your purse every evening and throw away used tissues and other trash, and remove sales receipts and anything else you won’t need later.
  • When you call someone new, business or personal, whom you think you will need to contact again, be sure to enter the info into your phone directory immediately so you don’t have to go hunting for it later.
  • Put away things when you’re finished with them. Always. You’ll be amazed what a difference this can make
  • The day before garbage collection is the day to empty all the trash cans in your home and go through the refrigerator to throw away anything that’s green that isn’t supposed to be green.
  • Arrange everything you own into categories and store them all together. Everything you use to do your hair, for example, should go in one container or drawer. Same for stuff for your nails, for the beach (yes, put the suntan lotion with your bathing suit and towel—you’ll always know where to find it), for baking anything you bake or cook often, for working on a craft or hobby, etc.

If you open a drawer or cabinet and see something you haven’t used in years, consider throwing it away. Once a year, go through each space and discard anything that’s broken, never used and no longer loved.

Every time you bring something new into the house (except for groceries), discard something old. In other words, if you can’t resist a particular decorating item and end up buying it, then pick something out you no longer like as well as the new purchase, and get rid of it. Same for clothing. Even better, if you have a lot of clutter, get rid of two items for every new one you bring home. Donate, give to someone you know who wants/needs it, or if necessary, simply throw it in the trash.

Little things can make a big difference when it comes to organization.


Here are some qualifications—see if you meet them:

  • Children’s Book Writer:  Graduated from childhood with a degree in finger-painting and bike riding.
  • Romance Writer: Has had at least a few failed romances in life, and a couple of good ones. Haven’t we all? Plus read lots and lots of other romance books.
  • Mystery Writer: Might have no background in police work nor been a private investigator. Probably never broken the law, is not an attorney or a judge, doesn’t have a medical degree, never been involved in a murder, either as murderer or victim. Can’t knit, crochet or scrapbook and can barely cook. Has no other hobbies. Not an old woman nor an old man sitting in the corner. Likes to read and write mysteries. Those are the only qualifications, except being alive, preferably breathing.
  • Horror Writer: Dreams are so haunting, they must be written down. Fears rule her life. Come join her if you love thrills and chills.
  • Science Fiction Writer: Can see into the future. You will be amazed twenty, thirty, forty years after reading his books about how much he got right. Come gaze into his crystal ball. Oh, wait a minute. Those are used by the fantasy writers . . .
  • Fantasy Writer: Yes, she believes in unicorns. And fairies and fortune tellers. She loves to create incredible worlds where you both, writer and reader, can lose yourselves and get away from it all.

Oh, wait again, that last sentence is true for all us writers. My point? We’re all qualified to write anything we want to. Of course, we have to research what we don’t know enough about. That said, just write. You might surprise yourself.

Have you any doubts now? How many writers reading this have written something they were afraid they couldn’t pull off because they didn’t know enough? Did you succeed?



We’ve now covered some basics for being organized. It’s time to talk about how you feel about your space and time.

If you’re reading this part of my blog about organization, you might not feel too good about your organizational skills. But you have to be careful about how you talk to yourself. If you constantly mentally berate yourself, if you’re always unhappy, it won’t help you improve.

“I did what I could” and “It’s good enough” are two phrases that will help you immensely in the process of becoming better organized.

At the end of the day, think about those actions that improved your environment and make you feel good about what you accomplished. And if you are not totally pleased with something you accomplished or didn’t finish or didn’t do to your satisfaction, let it go for now. It was either good enough or you can tweak it some other time. Congratulate yourself on the old college try and for getting something done.

Listen to your “self-talk.” What are you saying to yourself that is getting in the way of accomplishing your goals? Are you constantly berating yourself? Are you always feeling overwhelmed and voicing that to yourself over and over again?

It’s very hard to get things done if you’re tense all the time. The ideal is to have a plan (we’ll talk more about planning later), to do as much as you can on that plan every day, and then to relax, knowing you did what you could considering time, resources and energy.

Beating yourself up about what you haven’t accomplished just makes you feel bad, discouraged. Don’t do it! Treat yourself as well as you would anyone else. You deserve it!


You’ve just read a blog post somewhere about how to write well. Next you must decide if the advice you’re reading is good advice or bad advice, or if part of it is good or bad. The more you read and hear writerly advice, the more you will see certain points made over and over again.

I say, for a writer, the only rules are for grammar, punctuation and spelling, and most of us, especially beginners, had better follow them in order to be taken seriously. But after you’re more established, even these may often be bent.

However, there are some “gurus” who advise you about other topics. For example, to eliminate all modifiers. They say you should make your verbs and nouns “strong” enough so you never need a modifier. Ever. But you’ll see some quite famous writers who use modifiers liberably. What to make of all this? Moderation, of course. Yes, find a stronger verb or noun, if you can, and if the one you choose doesn’t make the sentence sound pretentious or weird. But many times a modifier makes it better. Yes, it does. I don’t ever remember seeing anyone mention flow or rhythm when they announce this rule. And they should, because those little modifiers can help with flow and mix it up so your sentences don’t sound like rifle shots—noun, verb, object, followed one after another in a constant, boring rhythm.

Other examples are the topics of point of view (POV) and “show, don’t tell.” But there are no hard and fast rules in an artist’s world.

Okay, we’ve figured out that we need to take each “rule” and turn it into a suggestion for us to follow. Or not. Some of the suggestions might hit their mark with us, with the way we write, with what we want to accomplish in a particular piece of writing. In other words, we want to remember it, to follow it.

But few of us can remember everything we want to, so we need to write stuff down. In today’s world, there is more than one way to do that—by hand or by keyboard, or even touchscreen.

I started out before everyone used the computer for almost everything. I had a spiral-bound notebook my daughter gave me, and began jotting down anything that struck me as good advice.

That notebook is now almost full. I love to go back and read through it every once in a while. Some of the stuff in there is now ingrained in me so that I don’t have to think about it anymore. Other stuff has been lost to my memory, and it’s good to read it again.

I also have lists that help me with editing, checking for my overused words using the search feature in my word processor, and lots of other tips.

Takeaway #1—The “rules” depend on a matter of style and preference.  As a guideline, if you see a “rule” mentioned over and over, it might be a good idea to follow it as much as possible. And, if you think you may not remember them, write them down somewhere.

Takeaway #2–Look at the title of this post again.

Anyone have any ideas about how to organize their own personal list of rules? I love comments. We’re all in this together, so, if you have ideas, please share.