BOOK COVER REVEAL: Launch Timeline, Massive Giveaway and Big Changes 


I’m excited to announce that I’m launching a new book in October 2017…

Query Letter Swipe File

I’m really excited because the book is about the exact words, phrases and templates to write query letters, get literary agents and publish books for life.

  • Here’s a link to a free, short online presentation that I created and shared earlier today on social media:
  • Here’s the set of the PDF  slides from that presentation with clickable links (I had you at PDF didn’t I?)


I laughed out loud when I heard..

My book has been called the Mad Libs of Query Letters.

I laughed out loud when I heard that but it’s pretty accurate. It’s almost as if the query letter is written for you.

However, there are MAJOR distinctions between my book and Mad Libs:

  • My book is serious (although hopefully vastly entertaining in it’s own way)
  • The swipes in my book don’t give you cookie-cutter queries (far from it)
  • My book provides proven “recipes” that each writer can adapt to create an unlimited variation of perfect pitch

Why Query Letters?

I’ve spent the last 20 years excavating the patterns, forces and tactics that make literary agents say yes. These very same tactics allowed me to get a literary agent with my very first query letter.

Over the last six months, I’ve written over 100 query letters for other writers. Here is just some of the feedback that I have received:

“Again, above and beyond on his way with words. Superb ideas and word choices. Highly recommend!” – Tmanners555


“WOW! I’m amazed. If this letter doesn’t grab attention, nothing will. It’s the absolute best that I’ve ever read. Christopher takes his time and he delivers. I highly recommend him and without hesitation I’m going to hire him again.” – brooklynmom


“I literally cried when I got the query back, and there wasn’t one but THREE of them! As a 24/7 family caregiver- soon to be Sci-fi published novelist, I don’t have the income to pay top $ to a query writer/editor. Mr. Kokoski is a top dollar writer who is helping to other writers to further their dreams.Thank you so much Mr. Kokoski!” – mamanicey


Those reviews hold deep meaning to me because I love helping other writers fulfill their dreams.

As you might have guessed, I used the Query Letter Swipe File to write them. What surprised me most is that I was able to craft each query in less than an hour.


Without further ado, here is the cover of my new book which I’m in love with:

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What do you think? Let me know in the blog comments, on Twitter or on my Facebook page.




Because I want you to be completely in the loop, here are the important dates of my upcoming launch:

There is a massive swipe file giveaway open right now where you can enter for a chance to win $200 worth of swipe files including the following:

  • Synopsis swipe files
  • Viral blog swipe files
  • Author bio swipe files
  • Cover letter swipe files
  • Nonfiction query swipe files
  • And much much more.

You can see the full list of giveaway swipe files on this webpage. (Note: the pre-launch is not open yet so those “order” buttons will redirect you to a page to enter the giveaway. Or, you can scroll down to the bottom of the landing page to see the full giveaway list.)

If you want a cool count down to my book launch, check out this page.


  • The pre-launch starts on September 23 and runs only for two weeks. So the pre-launch bonuses are only available for two weeks and then they go away completely forever.
  • The official online launch for the book is set for October 7 
  • The live launch is set for October 14.

Other Things of Note:

  • As part of the launch, I am revamping my online platform
  • That includes my newsletter manager and website. I’ll be giving you more details in the next week or so but be on the lookout for a change of
    platform for my blog.
  • The good news is it will still be at, same domain name.

What Else Am I Doing? 

  • Guest posts on other blogs
  • Seeking guest spots on podcasts
  • Developing other products, freebies and live/online events to create buzz

Yeah, it’s a lot! If you want to hear about my Book Launch, let me know and I’ll write a few posts.

Finally, I created a WRITING SECRETS Community Facebook Group for swapping stories, struggles and strategies for writing bestsellers and drilling down deeper into my blog posts, books and courses on writing.

It’s a private Facebook Group for subscribers of my Writing Secrets newsletter. So sign up and then request to join here: Writing Secrets Community

Whew, this has been one heck of a loaded post about my book launch. Thanks for sticking it out with me.



20 Reasons You Should Quit Your Novel Right Now

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“Don’t give up.”

“Keep going.”

“Just get it done.”

As writers, so much of our energy is spent desperately clawing toward THE END. We cheer on other writers who moan, complain or struggle. And rightly so, because writing is hard business, full of anguish and self-doubt.

Supportive writing communities like NANOWRIMO (the National Novel Writing Month) are essential to curbing the temporary urge to throw up our hands in defeat. Together, or alone, we lift our chin and march on.

But…and this is a big BUT…

Often we don’t stop to consider if we SHOULD finish a novel.

Because, honestly, sometimes we should quit.

That’s what this post is about: why you should quit, why you shouldn’t, how to know if you should really quit and a simple, step-by-step process on how to go about quitting for good.

By the way, I should mention that Tim Ferris just released a powerful “round table” style podcast episode on quitting. It inspired this post. Listen to the full podcast here (Episode #254)

“Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.” –  Douglas MacArthur

See that quote?

The thing about the quote is that it is both powerful and revealing. As a pithy statement pinned up next to my “Don’t Quit” cat poster, I love it. As a life motto without exception? That’s where I believe so many of us wordsmiths go astray.

The MacArthur quote is indicative of how society (and writers included) look down on quitting. But I ask you: Why does quitting wrinkle the soul? Does it ALWAYS wrinkle the soul?

I’m not sure. I don’t think so.

But MacAurthur is right about one thing: quitting is hard on the mind, body and soul. Why is that?

Why It’s Hard To Quit

  • We don’t (seriously) think about it
  • There is a stigma around quitting
  • We would feel inadequate if we quit

We talk about quitting all the time. And why not? Writing is hard. Writing well is even harder. Yet, most of the time all our talk of quitting is just that: talk, and nothing more. We aren’t serious about quitting; we are just expressing the pain and stress and natural floundering of our creative struggle.

For most of us, quitting is not a real option. It’s a nice thought, sure, like the fantasy of selling all our possessions and traveling the world. But we never book the flight.

Added to lack of real commitment, there is the painful stigma that quitters are somehow “less than”, as if quitters wouldn’t have quit if they had the talent, skill or character to go on.

Yet, remember, some people DO sell all their belongings and travel the world.

A location free lifestyle is not just a fantasy for everyone. Some people live it. And neither is quitting a current project, work or pursuit a fantasy for everyone. Some  Lots of people quit. In fact, lots of highly successful, powerful, influential and dominating figures throughout history have quit.

“Letting go has nothing to do with ‘quitting.’ Ask yourself, ‘Am I sticking it out or am I staying stuck?’ You know yourself best.”

– Alex Elle, author

So quitting really is hard. No argument from me there. We double or triple think, doubt ourselves and trap ourselves in limited thinking. Is there really another way? Is there a compelling reason to quit?

Why You Should Consider Quitting

  • Successful people quit often
  • Save yourself time
  • Save yourself energy
  • To refocus on another more promising or more fulfilling project


Most of the time we focus on how successful people didn’t quit. There are myths and legends among writers about bestselling authors who persevered despite racking up a mountain of rejections. J.K. Rowling is just one (quite inspirational) example.

Persistence IS a huge trait of successful full-time authors. However, it’s not perseverance in everything. It’s not never quitting a story no matter what. That’s where confusion sets in for many aspirating writers because black-and-white thinking is often our default mode – especially when such thinking resonates with a commonly held belief like “quitting is bad.”

But what if it’s not so cut-and-dried? What if there are critical exceptions that can shift our perspective, lift us up and free us with infinitely more options?

The truth: It’s not that these bestselling authors of legend never quit; it is they never quit this ONE time on this ONE story.

The truth is that they likely quit many other projects many times before. They probably had to quit lots of other things to make room in their life to passionately persevere with the novel that eventually made it.

What does that mean for you?

  • It means that quitting is on the table
  • It means that quitting is an option
  • It means quitting might be the BEST choice
  • It means that quitting ONE thing might lead to a BETTER thing that changes EVERYthing.


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When you think about it, someone could easily argue that blindly pursuing a goal is just as “bad” as quitting a good project too early. In other words, maybe quitting isn’t ALWAYS bad and maybe not quitting isn’t ALWAYS good.

That brings us to the question of, “How do we know the right time to quit and the right time to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get back to the story?”

While each person and project is unique – so there’s no easy answer that fits for everyone in every situation – there are patterns to notice and guidelines to follow.

Here are 20.

“If you fail, try again. If you still fail, quit. There’s no reason to be foolish.”


– Mark Twain

20 Reasons To Quit Your Book or Novel

  1. Quit if your gut tells you to quit
  2. Quit if you aren’t making progress
  3. Quit if it isn’t working
  4. Quit if someone beat you to it
  5. Quit if you don’t care anymore (hate it? Quit)
  6. Quit if you don’t believe in the mission (the idea or an associated vision)
  7. Quit if you are lukewarm (It’s either “hell yes” or it’s no)
  8. Quit if another, better opportunity comes along
  9. Quit if the world or market has changed (context matters)
  10. Quit if YOU have changed
  11. Quit if YOU aren’t ready
  12. Quit if it’s unethical
  13. Quit if it costs too much (the cost of time, money or energy outweighs the benefits)
  14. Quit if you’ve already tried your best
  15. Quit if it’s toxic (hurts you in some way)
  16. Quit if the timing isn’t right
  17. Quit if there is a higher priority
  18. Quit if your fans want something else (that you also love)
  19. Quit if you are only doing it for other people
  20. Quit if fear is the only reason to continue (fear is rarely, if ever, a good reason to continue a WIP)


There you have it: 20 good reasons to throw in the towel, scrap your story and get that dreaded day job at Kinkos.

But before you hit send on that resume, the next logical question is, “When don’t you quit?”

When NOT To Quit

  • When you are making progress but it’s slow
  • When it’s hard
  • When you are blocked
  • When YOU do still believe in the mission
  • When it gives you joy

Hard work, struggle and setbacks are not necessarily signs from the universe to pivot. Every great writer stumbled along the way.

So how do you really, REALLY know when to quit?

4 Step Process To Know When to Quit

  1. Decide on Your Metrics (preferably prior to beginning)
  2. Periodically Reassess: ask yourself the Quitting Questions (see below)
  3. Get Feedback from Trusted Mentors
  4. Try Quitting

Let’s take each step one at a time.

Decide On Your Metrics

First, decide on your metrics. Choose upfront how to measure your “success” so that temporary emotions don’t trigger permanent decisions.

So, how will you measure success?

  • Words written
  • Books published
  • Book sales
  • Facebook likes
  • Email subscribers?
  • Joy?
  • Helping others?


When you decide beforehand, you can gauge your progress (or lack thereof). And even better – give yourself a timeline to reach your metrics.

That way, if you reach them, you have a clearer sense that you are on the right path. If you don’t meet them, readjust your metrics OR move to step 2.

Periodically Reassess

Take time to assess your current WIP at regular intervals. Maybe once a week, once a month or every few months.

How do you asses yourself?

  • Get somewhere by yourself
  • Start with the metrics you came up with in Step 1
  • Then move to Step 3 & 4

Get Feedback From Trusted Mentors

After your personal gut check, now it’s time to check in with others. Let me save you some time: your (mom/dad/best friend) will love you no matter what you decide and people who don’t write will offer you vague generalities about not giving up.

Now that we have that out of the way, go find a trusted mentor. Someone wise and who, ideally, has achieved their own measure of success (however they define it).

What do you do or say when you meet with your mentor?

  • Lay out your situation, your feelings and thoughts up to this point.
  • If they are willing to listen, go through the Quitting Questions with them, explaining your answers.
  • Pause occasionally to see if they want to inject a response.
  • Ask for their honest feedback. Say, “If you were in my exact situation, what would you do and why?”

If you still are not yet sure if you want to quit or not, move to Step 4.

Try Quitting

Most people think of quitting as permanent.

But it’s not. Just ask any pro athlete who quit only to un-quit several months or years later. The truth is that quitting is only as permanent as you make it.

So why not TRY quitting out for a awhile? See if you like it. If not, you can always quit quitting.

Here’s a helpful framework for your quitting:

  • Give yourself a specific time frame (3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months, etc).
  • Decide what you are going to do with the free “space” in your life (perhaps more time with the family, traveling or experiment with a new writing project)
  • At the end of the trial period, reassess with the Quitting Questions.



Is my gut telling me to quit?
Am I making progress?
Is it working?
Did someone beat me to it?
Is the opportunity gone?
Do I care?
Do I believe deeply in the mission?
Is it “hell yes”?
Is there a better opportunity? A more promising WIP?
Does the market still want/need this?
Have I changed? Am I still the right person for this idea?
Am I ready?
Do I have the experience, expertise and talent?
Is anything about it unethical?
Does it give me joy?
Does it cost too much (costs of time, money or energy outweighs the benefits)?
Have I tried my best?
Is it toxic?
Does it hurt me mentally, emotionally, spiritually or physically?
Is the timing right?
Is there a BETTER time?
What matters most right now?
Does my audience want or need something else?
Why WOULDN’T I quit?
Is fear my only motivation?
Am I doing this for others or myself?


After your trial quitting period, you should be 100% certain (or as close as possible) if you want to return to your project or quit for good. If you want to go back to your WIP, by all means, go back.

Quitting isn’t the right choice every time. But at least now it is a real choice.

It really is about choosing your beliefs and behaviors. Another great example of bucking the status quo by choosing to believe differently (and more accurately) is in Jeff Goin’s newest book, Real Artists Don’t Starve. Read this post about the belief behind the book.

But let’s say you decide you really do want to quit for good. It’s over. You don’t want to go back and you’re wondering how to go from trial quit to permanent quit. Don’t worry. I have your back. Here are my suggestions on how to quit for good.

How To Quit For Good

  1. Take Time to Mourn the Loss. Even if you feel a rush of relief from letting go, there is still a loss involved. Nurture the loss, embrace and allow yourself to feel it until it naturally passes through you. This can help prevent procrastination, writer’s block and (in more extreme cases) bouts of depression.
  2. Take a Symbolic Action. Quitting this WIP may be a huge shift in your life. Mark it with a symbolic action, like locking the manuscript in a certain box or trunk. Perhaps toss the story notes or burn them. This kind of ritual can help solidify your decision and help in the process of moving on.
  3. Throw a Quitting Party. While there may be loss involved, there is also bound to be joy, relief and excitement about the future. Why not mobilize that positive energy into something fun? Throw a party. Invite your mentor, friends and family. Believe it or not, this kind of event can help those in your inner circle accept your decision to quit without feeling like a “failure” for not pushing you to “follow your dreams”. Just for fun, here’s a free Quitting Party Flyer you can use.
  4. Give Yourself Space. Take time to settle into quitting. Don’t trade one creative cage for another. Brainstorm, experiment, free yourself up to all the different possibilities for a new project.
  5. Go Slow. Don’t rush into your next project with abandon. Be thoughtful. Think it through. Don’t turn a good thing (quitting) into a bad next thing (jumping the gun). Your options are endless. Take your time. Play around with different ideas until something clicks with you. Make it a “hell yes” project. Make it fun and meaningful. Get feedback from others you trust. Design your metrics, give yourself a timeline, schedule self-assessments and – when you are ready – pull the trigger.


If you’ve read this far, the irony is that you haven’t quit a long article about the benefits of quitting. Does that mean the post worked or didn’t work? I’ll let you be the judge.

Me? I’m quitting.

At least for now. 

Authors: A brand new book on writing query letters is helping unknown, first-time authors crush their competition and get literary agents on their first try.

Get the exact words, phrases and templates to write the perfect query letter. It virtually writes the letter for you. The QUERY LETTER SWIPE FILE launches in October 2017, but you can enter the GIVEAWAY right now to have a chance to win $200 worth of bonus swipe files (like a synopsis swipe file, book review swipe file, online marketing swipe file and more!). Enter here or click the image below!

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Here’s Why You Hate Your Writing (It’s Not What You Think)

Is this you?

The Hollywood archetype for the writer is the self-loathing bearded hermit who dashes off a few hundred thousand words in a log cabin by the sea.

The truth is that authors come in all varieties – from hipster to high brow – and cornering writers into easily definable categories is near impossible. But Hollywood did get one part right: all too often, writers hate their own writing. It's the hidden epidemic plaguing newbie and bestselling authors alike.

Somehow, we all think the last thing we wrote is utter crap.

WHY is that? And HOW can we stop?

For a related topic, check out my blog post on how to Have a (Book) Affair


  • We don't see ourselves accurately. We misjudge, mis-interpret and mistake humanity for mediocrity.
  • We get lost in translation. The ideas in our head NEVER perfectly transfer to the page.
  • We unfairly compare ourselves with other writers. We confuse apples for oranges. We somehow think our first scribble should match up to a master's opus.
  • We are often blind to our beauty. Everyone (including the latest guru) has blind spots. We filter our words through blurry, blacked out lenses. No wonder we see only in part.

If you have ever felt the sting of despair, ever awed at the utter (apparent) garbage on the page, I have good news: you are not alone.

In fact, not only are you not alone, but you are also completely normal and in great company.

"The first draft of everything is shit" – Ernest Hemingway

Oh, that Hemingway.



If you can relate to anything in this post, let me first say, "I get it." I've been there. I think many writers suffer in silence as their eyes tick back and forth between the "0" book sales and the dreaded heap of words on the page.

Let me also give you some more good news: There is a way out.

And it's wonderful.

While the grass may not always be greener on the other side, the place of joy and peace awaiting you on the other side of this temporary funk is more than real and more than worth it.

You just have to get there. And getting there is possible, but not always easy.

Here's how to fall in love with your writing all over again. It's time for a fiction honeymoon.

  1. Acknowledge Your Humanity. Yeah, look at any flaws square in the eyes and love them. Embrace them. Why? Because they are you. Make peace with them by seeing them and freeing them to exist. You don't have to be perfect. No one is. No one ever will be.
  2. Appreciate What Is. Sure, we may not be master wordsmiths yet, but we are on a journey. I bet your writing is better than it was ten years ago. I bet it is even better than last year. Mastering any craft takes time, talent and tenacity. Appreciate where you are to get where you want to go.
  3. Commit To Only Fair Comparisons. That is, only compare yourself to someone in your exact same position with your exact same set of life experiences, talent, time, relationships, emotional make-up and thinking patterns. Oh, there's no one else? Isn't that something.
  4. Find Your Blind. We are all blind to certain parts of ourselves. It's human nature. So find your blind. LOOK for gaps in your awareness. Even better, ask someone you trust to help you see yourself clearly and completely. Yes, even your writing.

If you go through this process (and I hope that you do), it probably won't be a completely painless process. But the end result? Now that will be beautiful.

If you've ever struggled with self-doubt as a writer, let others know they are not alone by posting in the comments. And please, if you know anyone who might need to hear this message right now, share it with them


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The Surprising Backstory Secret of Bestselling Authors

The movie DEEPWATER HORIZON does a brilliant job at backstory. 

For those who don't do movies (or at least this one), here is the movie trailer: 

Yes, THAT movie. 

Deepwater deftly handled backstory – no easy task – like a Grandmaster Bestselling Author (I just made that up). 

How did the movie do it? 

The Surprising Backstory Secret of Bestselling Authors

 The secret: indirect revelation 

There were at least three ways the movie threaded backstory into the ongoing story: 

  • Interaction/Demonstration 
  • Threat
  • Quips 


One of the opening scenes finds Mark Walhburg (protagonist) and his wife listening to their daughter read a school project on what Mark does for a living – deep water oil drilling. 

He corrects her along the way and cheers at the end. This is fluid, interactive and INDIRECT revelation on the story "world". 


As part of the "rehearsal" demonstration, the daughter uses a soda can to represent deep water drilling. 

This visual object focuses attention, enhances clarity and allows the different characters to interact. 

It's a brilliant scene that ends with the soda can erupting. Just as the deepwater drill will later explode. 

What does that tell us? Drilling is a dangerous job rife with the unexpected. Backstory mixed beautifully with foreshadowing. 

Interesting, visual and indirect. 


 Another example from the movie occurs moments later when Mark's wife quips: "You only worry about a marine when he stops (complaining)". 

Complaining is my word. The movie word started with a "b" and rhymes with "itching" 🙂

This quip, too, is indirect revelation – Mark's character is a Marine, or former Marine. Important character info hidden in a "throwaway" line of dialogue. 

Again, indirect. Clever. 

When you have story info to share, do it indirectly through dialogue, demonstration, conflict and quips. 

But knowing about these techniques doesnt necessarily mean that you know how to make them work in your own story. 

So here's how…

How To Develop Your Own Backstory Delivery System

1) Know the important backstory 

Not every piece of backstory is critical. As a rule of thumb, leave out as much as possible. Critical backstory is what the reader MUST know to make sense of the story. 

2) Start "On the Nose"

Write it out directly first. In the movie, this would be Mark saying, "I'm a Marine." 

Sometimes, surprisingly, this works. 

So begin "on the nose" to give yourself a baseline, a starting block. Once you have the backstory down directly, move to the third and final step. 

3) Pivot to Indirect

Take that direct drop of backstory and apply one of the indirect methods. Say, demonstration. Maybe Mark has a tattoo, folds his old uniform, or stops a burglary. 

Try the strategy on. See how it fits. If so, perfect. If not? No worries – just try the other techniques. 

Go with the one you like best. 

How else have you handled backstory? Share your tips in the comments below. 

REPOST: How I Built A $3,000 per Month Ebook Empire – Podcast


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Lise Cartwright built a $3000 -$4,000 eBook empire from scratch.

Got your attention? Mine, too.

The Podcast

Here’s Lise explaining step-by-step how she did on the SELF-PUBLISHING SCHOOL podcast with Chandler Bolt.

Note: the podcast is 47-minutes of fun, actionable content.

Don’t have 47 minutes? Then let me suggest… 


The Workaround

  1. Save the podcast for later – maybe on your commute (It’s an awesome episode so I highly encourage you to hear the complete interview for yourself).
  2. Until then, read my quick hit list of personal highlights below

Hit List of Highlights

Here are my key takeaways from the podcast episode with Chandler and Lise. Note that these are just MY personal highlights – there is much more to the podcast. Something that I missed might be the ONE idea that changes your writing career forever.

  • Mind-map your ideas (Lise explains the process in the podcast episode)
  • Mind-map a series of books (fiction and nonfiction) BEFORE you start writing
  • You probably have a LOT more content inside you than you think
  • Research the book idea on Amazon before writing it so that you know there is a hungry market ready and willing to buy
  • You might have to start completely from scratch to find the book you were meant to write
  • Writing a (good) book in a week is possible. Lise’s book is a bestseller (as are her other books)
  • She wrote, edited and launched her first bestseller in a few weeks
  • When she launched, she didn’t have a big email list so she implemented a short, 7-day pre-order launch. The rest, she says, is history
  • Her mantra: “Done is better than perfect”

Her advice to other writers is brilliantly simple: “Don’t wait. Just go out there and do it.” (Paraphrased).

Don’t forget to catch the entire episode and drop YOUR highlights in the comments. 

Don’t miss the launch of my next book (coming soon) – tons of bonuses, a giveaway and a resource for writers like you’ve never seen.

Wheelchair Clown and Other News

So I was browsing through old notes on my Evernote app last night when a strange title took me by surprise.

See if you can guess which one from this list of my note titles…

WordPress Themes
Blog Types
New Book Launch in Oct 2017
Wheelchair Clown
Book Covers

Need I go on? I didn't think so.

I stared at my screen. Wheelchair Clown? What the…

Then I clicked on the note to expand it because I just HAD to know.

As soon as I read it, I laughed and shook my head. It was an outline for a short story I had never got around to writing. Guess who the protagonist was?

Yep, the infamous clown in a wheelchair.

Goes to show you that you never know what's going to happen or how life might change moment to moment.

As I stood there laughing about the clown, I reflected on all the changes on the horizon for me.

  • New book for writers coming out later this year.
  • Switching newsletter providers
  • Ramping up a new level of book promotions
  • Writing Nonfiction
  • Moving my blog to a paid WordPress site by next year.

Change, however, can be an incredibly good thing.

That's certainly my hope.

Truth be told, I'm super excited about what's going on in my life and what it means for my life and writing career.

I can't wait to share the details with you. (This is a huge writing resource that I've never seen anywhere and that I promise you don't want to miss.)

What changes are on the horizon for you?

How To Open Your Book Like A Pro [Infographic]

I stumbled across this really cool infographic on Pinterest and HAD to share it with you. 

It shows different types of opening sentences, like action or character or setting, with examples. 

It’s so simple. Yet, so awesome. 

Check it out here: (then come back – Pinterest can be scary after dark).

What do you think? Cool, right?!

Now, what to do with all this writerly wisdom? 

  • Try writing an opening line for your story 
  • Write one opening line using all the different opening strategies 
  • Test them out on beta readers, social media or strangers in line at Starbucks (bonus points for whispering them into the ears of the person in front of you). 

I love discussing how to open a story with other writers. 

That’s why I wrote the blog post, 10 Story Openings That Instantly Turn Readers Off.  It has become one of my most shared posts. 

Jacob M. Appel wrote an excellent guest post on Writer’s Digest on opening lines (it also has some humor, which means I doubly enjoyed it). 

Check out his post here: 7 Ways To Create A Killer Opening Line For Your Novel

Sidenote: I really like the title of his post. Of course, if you kill your readers, you’ll quickly run out of them….

You might also want to check out Jeff Gerke’s post Begin Your Novel with Action: A Good Rule? on adapted from his book The Irresistible Novel. (Get your copy here). Oh, and that’s an affiliate link because school is about to start and my kids need new shoes. 

What’s your favorite trick for opening a story, novel or bank vault? Especially that last one. Do tell. 

The 3 Most Important Times To Edit That Most Writers Forget

Dean Koontz edits each page of his bestselling books 20 times (at least) until they gleam wetly in perfection. 

Stephen King takes (at least) three passes over his manuscripts before publication. 


Because readers will forgive almost anything except poor editing. 

Hear me straight: readers are rarely looking for perfection. However, even an occasional grammar goof is enough to distract and distance a reader from your story. 

“Only edit the pages you want published.”

– Christopher Kokoski 

Which is why it’s so surprising how many writers fail to edit for the three most critical reasons. 

The 3 Most Important Times To Edit That Most Writers Forget

1) Edit for Pure Pleasure 

Focus your first pass over your manuscript on fun, on what lights your fire, on enhancing anything and everything that brings a big, goofy writer grin to your face.

This is harder than it sounds. 

Why? Because it means filtering out all care for readers. This is about you. 

What makes you happy? 

What do you like or don’t like? 

What is fun?

How can you have MORE fun? 

If you could write your PERFECT book just for you, what would you add, change or take out? 

2) Edit to Add Value 

Ah, now back to your dear readers. Your second pass is all about them. What makes them smile? This pass is about enhancing value. 

If you are writing fiction: 

What genre tropes do readers LOVE?

What tropes do readers hate?

How can you amplify the genre’s main emotion? (Fear for horror, uncertainty for mystery, excitement for thrillers, etc)

How can you give readers more of what they expect? 

How can you give readers more than they expect? 

If you are writing Nonfiction: 

How can you be more specific? 

What’s another example? 

How can you do any of the steps for readers?

Can you add a chart, list, summary, worksheet, Cheatsheet, art, video demonstration, etc?

How can you be even more helpful? 

3) Edit to Silence Critics 

The third and perhaps final pass is about a subsection of your readers – aka, critics, those loathesome mythological creatures that haunt your literary nightmares.

Why care about critics? 

  • Everyone has them!
  • They write reviews 
  • They can make your book better

All three reasons matter but let’s focus on the last one. 

How does editing to silence critics make you and your book better? By thinking like a critic, you break out of the box of bias to get a subjective view of your work. 

Critics think differently. Critics find the gaps in your story or book. Critics focus on what’s missing. 

What is wrong with your book?

What is missing?

What can be challenged? 

What questions will critics have?

What will make critics angry?


Let’s recap. The three most critical “times” or reasons to edit are: 

  1. Edit for Pure Pleasure 
  2. Edit to Add Value 
  3. Edit to Silence Critics 

Need a helpful reminder of these steps? Feel free to save and/or share the image below:

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The Bestseller Character Checklist

Bestseller Character Checklist

Develop Bestseller Caliber Characters in 24 hours or less.


If you can create a character readers care about, you can attract hordes of raving fans and enjoy a lasting writing career.
That’s a bold statement, and one that I believe is unequivocably true.

What makes a bestseller character?

There are, of course, entire books written that attempt to answer that question. 

This post is meant to be a quick action guide to get you started, a way of putting a frame around the task of developing characters, a final checklist to ensure that you didn’t leave anything out.

Download a PDF of this Checklist

The Bestseller Character Checklist

✔️ Good Name 

✔️ Unique (personality)

✔️ Unique physically 

✔️ Unique dialogue 

✔️  Externally Motivated

✔️ Internally Motivated 

✔️ Conflicted

✔️ Connected to Theme

✔️ Connected to plot

✔️ Connected to conflict 

✔️ Connected to setting 

✔️ Reluctantly Involved

✔️ The best….

✔️ The most…

✔️ The last…

✔️ The only…

✔️ Troubled (lingering past hurt)

✔️ Clever

✔️ Grit

✔️ It Factor 

✔️ Hiding secrets 

✔️ Flawed 

✔️ Unexpected 

✔️ Hits the Archetype Trigger

✔️ 3 Dimensional (job, family, hobby)

✔️ Status 

✔️ Wanted 

✔️ Vulnerable 

✔️ Tics, Mannerisms, nonverbal tells

✔️ Trophies – with emotional meaning 

✔️ Change and growth 

✔️ Proactive 

✔️ Trapped 

✔️ A reputation (that precedes them) 

✔️ Redeemable 

✔️ Relatable

✔️ Believable

✔️ Victims are characters too

✔️ Profoundly affect the story 

✔️ Drive-By Characters steal the show

✔️ The Police Sketch – age, race, height, hair and eye color 

✔️ Play multiple roles

✔️ Extremes 

✔️ Die heroically

✔️  Lions, Tigers and Bears – oh my! (Pets)

✔️  Larger than life 

✔️  Vicarious 

✔️  Out of Character Moments

✔️  Sense of Destiny

✔️  Out of Story Moments (History)

✔️  Twist Cliches

Download a free PDF of the Bestseller Character Checklist

Have a (Book) Affair: Why Cheating On Your Story Makes You A Much Better Writer

Book monogamy is probably killing your narrative.

Story thrives in polyamorous romps with other stories, ideas, learnings and experiences. 

That is to say: the more you “cheat” on your story by flooding yourself with sensory-rich, dopamine releasing altered states of joy, the better your story. 

5 Reasons To Start A Book Affair Today 

  1. Re-engage emotionally 
  2. Spark creativity 
  3. Trigger new insights 
  4. Fresh Lens (perspective)
  5. Expand worldview 

So, yeah, go ahead – have a Book affair. 

How To Have A (Book) Affair

There are essentially three major steps to your book affair. Each step takes you deeper into the torrid affair: fantasize, realize and  synthesize. 

That’s another way of saying hook, look and book. 


In this first step, you take a step back from your Work-In-Progress (WIP). Close your eyes. Breathe. 

Allow your mind and heart to wander again, free from the structural constraints of your current story. 

Plot? What plot? 

Erase from your mind all inklings of character, motivation, conflict, story problems, etc. 

This is brainstorming for the soul. 

Fantasize about your perfect story. What elements are included? How would your favorite author write it? Your favorite director direct it? Favorite actor play it?

Just like a good brainstorming session, your ideas don’t need to make sense. In fact, it’s probably better if they don’t. 

Divergent ideas are not only welcome, they are essential. 

If you want Tom Cruise to play a teenage Chinese girl in a love triangle with Vin Desiel and a Werewolf – do you baby. 

This is FANTASY. 


In this second stage, you discover your perfect book and, consequently, what you are missing in your WIP. 


You take a good hard look at your (book) fantasies. 

Then, you ask yourself the following types of questions:

What are the common patterns?
Which elements are connected (or can you connect)?
How do I get as many of these elements as possible into a single story?
What common themes keep cropping up?
What are the common conflicts?
What patterns do I see in the settings?
What genre or genres do these elements fit into?

Once you answer these questions, and others like them, you’ll have a good sense of the elements that most resonate with you and stories you enjoy.

At this point, you will probably also be feeling very passionate and motivated to write about these elements.

But there’s one more stage left before you put pen to paper.


Once you have fantasized about the perfect story, once you have realized the commonalities and picked apart the patterns, you are ready for the third and final stage of your Book Affair.


To synthesize is to integrate the common patterns and fantasized elements into your current WIP.

This often takes a few rounds of experimentation, lateral thinking and good old fashioned literary elbow grease.

Don’t be surprised when adding a single element upends the entire narrative of your WIP. Don’t be surprised if your story becomes 10 times more original and therefore 10 times better.

In summary, your book affair involves three stages – fantasize, realize and synthesize. 

  • Fantasize: free flowing brainstorm of self-discovery focused on ideas that excite, inspire and light you up.
  • Realize: Recognizing patterns in your fantasized list of ideas 
  • Synthesize: Integrating the patterns into your WIP