Writing Goals, Detours, and Opportunity Cost

It’s just about the end of January; the year is under way. Hopefully, most of you have taken the time to think about and actually write out your writing goals.

This is actually a key element to seeing your goals recognized – you must write them down and keep them where you can see them everyday. Certainly, you’ve heard this strategy before. It’s simply not enough to think of your goals, you need to see them written and even visualize them.

Jack Canfield and his co-author Mark Victor Hansen of Chicken Soup for the Soul ( wrote their goals out and pasted them everywhere possible, even in the bathroom. No matter where they were, they saw their objective and after 144 rejections, Chicken Soup for the Soul was finally accepted for publication.

Mark Thompson says, “Two of the vital ingredients for success online or in the "real world" is converting your Dreams to Goals and surrounding yourself with people with similar goals and ideals.”

Again, this is achieved by making your writing goals visible, writing them down, and by projecting them. But, you also need to make your goals attainable and don’t overwhelm yourself with too many goals.

According to writing coach Suzanne Lieurance, you should limit your primary goals to three, and under each goal list the strategies you’ll take to achieve each one.

As an example, suppose you want to freelance for magazines. This is your number one goal and actions you might take to help you achieve that goal are:

1. Research three magazines you’d like to write for.
2. Decide on a topic that would be appropriate for each magazine.
3. Write an outline for the article.
4. Write a query letter for each magazine.
5. Submit to each magazine.

Then, you would simply follow your own goal reaching instructions to obtain your objective/s.

One big pitfall or roadblock to achieving your writing goals though, aside from not writing them out and reviewing them everyday, is a lack of focus and allowing yourself to get sidetracked by taking detours.

If you’re like me you start the year with your goals front and center. Then you seem to get sidetracked doing ‘this and that.’

You might decide it’s a great idea to prepare and present workshops or webinars to build your mailing list or sell products.

Or, you attended a number of webinars that told you how easy it is to make money creating your own information products. So, off you go, doing ‘this and that.’

Unfortunately, unless that ‘this and that’ is earning you money, the detour is pointless. It’s not only pointless, it creates an opportunity cost.

What do I mean by ‘opportunity cost?’

If you spend your time and energy on projects that aren’t in line with your end objectives (your writing goals), and those detour projects aren’t earning you money, you’ve lost time and energy, and you’ve lost the money you might have made if you stuck to your original objectives. defines ‘opportunity cost’ as “a benefit, profit, or value of something that must be given up to acquire or achieve something else.”

That lost time, energy, and money you lost on your detours is the ‘opportunity cost.’

If you do decide to make a detour, be sure the benefits (money, networking, learning, etc) are worth it.

Achieving your goals takes discipline, drive, and perseverance. Don’t let unfruitful detours derail yours.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter/ rewriter. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move and author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

If you’d like more writing tips or help with your children’s story, check out: Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

If you need help with your author platform, check out Karen's e-classes through WOW:

Related Writing Articles:

Keep Your Writing Goals Front and Center
Writers and Authors: The Ongoing Process of Evolving


10 Helpful Writing Articles

Learning the craft of writing takes time and work. One of the ways to help hone your craft is to read articles on 'how to write.' 

Check out the10 helpful writing articles I have listed below (had to eliminate a couple of links for SEO reasons):

AP StyleGuard and the Death of Editing

Being a Writer: Learn the Craft of Writing

Best Advice for Writers from 2011

10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Dialogue

10 Tips to Banish Typos

Top 10 Best Online Backup Companies



Submitting for Book Awards by Nancy Sanders

Submitting for Awards
by Nancy Sanders

I'm getting ready right now to prepare to submit my newest book for awards,
Frederick Douglass for Kids (Release date June, 2012. Website:

Two years ago I spent time submitting my other book in the same series for awards, America's Black Founders.

I worked with my publicist at my publishing house and basically, here's the plan we came up with:

1. Prepare a budget for awards submissions. Be sure to include the cost of your book, postage and envelope to mail it in, and the price for submissions. If working with a publisher, find out if they have a budget for awards, too. Many do.

2. Make a list of places to submit your book to for awards. Note the cost for submission and the qualifications for the award. (Some only award picture books, some only award novels, etc.)

3. Be sure to include places that don't necessarily offer an award, but honor your book by including it on their list of recommended reads. For instance the state reading lists.

4. Make a calendar. The calendar notes the deadlines for each place you're submitting your book.

5. Start submitting. Especially submit to award sites that are free.

The philosophy of the publicists I've worked with has been:

Don't worry about whether your book wins the award or not. Submit if it's within your budget for one main reason: EXPOSURE. When you submit your book for an award, it lands in the hands of judges, many who are important folks in their circle of literary influence. My publicists have even submitted my books for the Caldecott and Newbery awards and even for the Pulitzer Prize solely for exposure alone!

Some of the awards are free to submit to. Others carry a more hefty price tag such as the Mom's Choice Award which costs $300. However, they have an early bird special coupon to save $100 so try to get that if you can determine whether or not you think the exposure fits in your budget.

One other thought...rather than aim for expensive awards such as the Mom's Choice Award if it's too far above your budget, consider contacting several mombloggers who have a couple hundred of followers each. Offer to give them a free copy of your book if they'll review it on their site. I have one independent publisher who likes this approach and it has earned them thousands of dollars of sales of my books and great exposure...for a much more reasonable cost!

-Nancy I. Sanders ( is the bestselling and award-winning author of over 80 books with publishers big and small including her how-to book for children’s writers, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career. She is available for teaching your group of writers an online class on how you can take the next step forward in your career as a writer. For more information about her online workshops, visit her site: Virtual Visit Zone at

Related Book Marketing Articles:

Plan a Virtual Book Tour: The First Steps
Book Promotion: The Foundation



Writing Nonfiction: Using Quotes

Writing fiction has a number of elements that a writer needs to incorporate to create an engaging and believable story, such as characterization, plot, structure, clarity, and so on.  

Writing nonfiction also has a set of elements that must be incorporated into the piece to create similar results, such as clarity, structure, and an engaging story. But, when writing nonfiction the writer also needs to provide authentic information. defines ‘authentic’ as: “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact.”

If you think about it, this makes complete sense. Anyone can write an article or a book and purport that it’s fact. But, what gives your content the authentic, credible element that it needs to be convincing, to be taken seriously?

The answer is simple: Using quotes.

While your nonfiction article may be accurate, you researched the information thoroughly and created your own content, there’s no real authenticity or credibility without relevant quotes from reliable sources to back your piece up. Along with adding creditability, using quotes increases your professionalism and expert status when writing nonfiction. Those who read your content will assume you know what you’re talking about because you provided evidence from reliable/expert sources.

The quotes can also be the cornerstone of your story, allowing you to build upon them.

Along with the above benefits, Andrea Di Salvo, an author and freelance writer, offers a few more benefits in her article, Using Quotes to Give a Creative Twist to Your Writing.

First off, using quotes offers variety by changing the voice of the story. According to Di Salvo, “Every writer has a voice, a certain tone to his or her writing.” While this is a good thing, switching it up a bit creates engagement and helps keep the content fresh. It helps break up the monotony of a possibly long drawn out monotone piece, which in turn will help keep the reader reading.

Di Salvo also notes that, “a good rule of thumb is to place a relevant quote every few paragraphs.” Along with increasing the story’s credibility, it also adds white space to the piece.

Why is adding white space to your article, report, or book important?

It aids in easy reading.

This is a known writing technique that is used in various forms of writing, including copywriting. You don’t want the reader to become hypnotized and blank-out from too much continuous text. If your content goes on and on with very few breaks (white space) the reader will lose interest. Using quotes will force you to create new paragraphs, which will usually be short. This adds additional white space and gives the reader a breather; it also creates a less cluttered piece, which is also something the reader will appreciate.

When using quotes in your article or book, be sure to offer some information pertaining to the author of the quote. Take a look above at how I introduced Andrea Di Salvo and her information.

Sometimes, especially when writing health or scientific information, you may need to include quotes from research teams. Here is part of the information used in a health article I wrote regarding a particular quote used:

Researcher Talal M. Nsouli, MD and his colleagues at Watergate Allergy & Asthma Center in Washington, reported their findings at an American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (ACAAI) meeting.

In addition, if your quote is four or more lines, it needs to be blocked off, and each line of the quote needs to be indented. explains that you will need to “provide an introduction to the quote in your own words with a colon after your last word.” There is also the matter of using part of a quote or shortening a quote,; in this case you will need to use ellipses and possibly brackets.

Another factor to consider when including quotes in articles is that article directories, if you will be submitting to them, only allow a certain number of quote lines within your piece.

For in depth information on using quotes in your nonfiction work, you can check out the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) and/or the APA Publication Manual.

Other Writing Articles:

Keep Your Writing Goals Front and Center
Aim for Writing Success
7 Steps to Writing for Article Directories


I can help. Visit the Karen Cioffi Freelance Writer


Being a Writer: Learn the Craft of Writing

In the June 2010 issue of The Writer, author Jane Yolen discussed the need to learn the craft of writing in an article titled, Dedicate Yourself to a Writing Apprenticeship. She explained that the process is slow and long, but is necessary learn the craft in order to be a 'good' writer.

If you’re wondering what the craft of writing is, it’s proper writing technique, grammar, and style. These writing elements include structure, formatting, clarity, and in fiction writing, plot, character development, point of view, and dialogue. Even knowing the particulars in the genre you write is important.

So, what exactly is the meaning of the word ‘craft?’

Wikipedia’s definition is, “A craft is a branch of a profession that requires some particular kind of skilled work.”

Merriam-Webster refers to ‘craft’ as an occupation requiring “artistic skill.”

And, mentions membership in a guild.

Between all three definitions we know that a ‘craft’ is a branch of a professional group or guild. It is a career or occupation, not simply a hobby.

Interestingly, there are various avenues that can be taken to become an accomplished or professional writer, but each one has the need for learning, practice, time, and commitment. Some writers may go to school and get degrees, others may learn from a coach or mentor, others from trial and error, failures and successes. But, whichever path is taken, there is a lot of work that goes into becoming experienced and knowledgeable, in being a writer. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.

But today, with the easy-to-do-it-yourself self-publishing explosion, writers may not be viewed as professionals. Certainly, most people have read a self-published book or e-book that lacks proper grammar, structure, and even clarity. These products are easy to spot, but yet they’re available for sale, and the authors consider themselves writers.

While it’s great that those who want to write have a vehicle to publish their own work, especially in this overwhelmed publishing market, those who don’t take the time to learn the craft of writing do themselves and others an injustice. They make the self-publishing book market murky and the label of ‘writer’ less professional.

This shouldn’t be the case.

Think of a professional musician. Imagine him playing an amazing piece, smooth, fluid, and beautiful – every note is perfect. Now imagine another musician; this one isn’t in tune, can’t read the music, misses notes, and sounds awful. Which musician do you want to be?

You should want to be the professional; the one who offers polished and experienced work; the one who earns a reputation for quality.

According to, it doesn’t matter what your experience level is, there is always room for improvement. Writers should strive to “study ways to improve their craft.” While this may take time and work, it is easy to find the needed help and resources.

It doesn't matter whether you're an author, a freelance writer, a content writer, or other. Learning the craft of writing is a must.

To begin, do a search for online writing instruction; try the keyword “learn to write.” You can also check your local schools for adult education classes, or take some college writing courses. There is an abundance of writing information available, much of it free or very inexpensive; take advantage of it.

Being a writer means you need to learn the your craft and continue honing your skills.


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Keep Your Writing Goals Front and Center
Writing Books - Is There Money In It?