Prompts or Actions?

Today’s post was going to be a simple written prompt to get your words flowing, but then I thought, maybe that isn’t what you guys actually want. Maybe prompts aren’t suitable for the stage you’re at in your writing career. Maybe you have plenty of ideas, but no idea what to do with them or how to make them work. Maybe what would be useful to you is one simple, actionable step you can take today to create the writing career you’ve always wanted.

Though I currently only make a part time income from writing, I am actively working every day to further my career as a writer, and I know the next steps of my journey as well as the steps I’ve taken before. I don’t know everything about writing–nobody does–but I do know enough to help you, either by inspiring you to write more or by showing you the steps you can take each day to move forward.

My question to you is, what do you want from me? Do you want prompts, or do you want actionable steps you can take to move forward in your career? Please leave your thoughts here


Website Consultation Services

Hi guys,

Thanks so much for joining me at The Dabbler. It means a lot to me, especially those of you who have followed me from one blog to the next over the years, that you have stuck around through my various upheavals and down times. And it means a lot to me that you’re here, celebrating the birth of this new blog with me, because this blog is about you even more than it is about me. Without you guys, I would have stopped blogging a long time ago.

That’s why I’d like to introduce you to my new service, website consultation, and offer you a special introductory rate of $100 for your 5-page website. In case you’re wondering, a website consultation looks like this:

  • First, I go through each page of your website and make notes on everything, the good, the bad and the ugly, with an eye towards proofreading as I know many struggle with this–even professional writers.
  • Then I send you a .pdf with all of these notes, pointing everything out and making suggestions to help you transform your website so that it’s more client friendly.
  • Finally, I answer any questions you might have about the report, grab a testimonial if you’re willing to offer one–which gives you a prominent link on my Services page–and my work is done, though I like to keep in touch with my clients because you’re awesome.
  • If you’re in North America, I’m also happy to do a 30 minute phone chat about your website, and if you don’t, we can always chat on Skype if you want to communicate in real time. If you do go for either of these options, I will still send you a .pdf with all the information we discuss.

    All you have to do to get your website consultation is email me at and let me know what kind of website you have and what you want out of your consultation. I specialize in freelance websites, but I’ll happily research sites similar to yours so I can make educated suggestions on your website, whatever that might be.

    I spent much of my time at DJiZM Disc Jockey Services suggesting and supervising changes to the website, and I’ve also done website consultations for private clients such as Jordan Clary, a freelance writer who had this to say about my work:

    “I consulted with Dianna Gunn when I was re-doing my writer’s website after being away from freelancing for several years. Dianna has a great eye for detail and a knack for turning an average sentence into a compelling one. Her ideas definitely made my website stronger. If you want to make your website stronger, I definitely recommend Dianna Gunn.”

    If you’re convinced, shoot me an email at and we can talk about what your website needs. Unfortunately I can only accept payment through Paypal or Interac E-Transfer at this time. I am working on a system that will allow me to accept credit card payments and do so more easily, but that looks like it’s going to take longer than expected. The introductory price for my website consultations ends June 27th, so email me right away if you’d like to take advantage of this special offer.

    Do you need help with your website? Are you prepared to invest in your career by purchasing a web consultation? Why/why not? To share your thoughts, post a comment on the original post here, and don’t forget to sign up for my email newsletter here.

    Preparing your blog for emergencies

    As I went to finish and publish my post yesterday, the power went out. In fact, at one point most of Toronto and all of Mississauga, our neighbouring city, had no power. The streetlights weren’t working, and while I have about four hours of battery life on my computer, without internet I couldn’t actually post anything.

    Yesterday happened to feature Toronto’s largest rainfall in many, many years, with more rain in just a few hours than we usually get in the entire month of July. Our power stayed out all night, subways didn’t run and one GO Train was half submerged in one of the many rivers surrounding our city. Power returned very early in the morning—some would have considered it late at night—and the internet came on just over an hour ago.

    Of course, this was nothing compared to the three day blackout that took out the entire GTA in August 2003, but it certainly got me thinking about what systems I need in place for my blog in case something similar happens again, and what I need to survive without electricity in general.

    So instead of the post I had originally written to get The Dabbler started, I’ve decided to share a list of things I need to have in case of emergency. If you haven’t thought about this in a while, now is the time. Don’t wait until there is an emergency to get these things, because if you do, you could end up miserable, hungry and trapped halfway across the city—which is pretty much how I found myself last night.

    So what safety measures am I taking before there’s another big blackout? Check them out:

    1. Schedule posts in advance. I really should have three weeks worth of posts written and scheduled in advance at all times. This way, if my power goes out for a day or two, my blog is still active and your experience of The Dabbler isn’t marred. My emergencies shouldn’t change the way you experience this blog. On Thursday I’ll be sitting down and writing as many blog posts as I can pump out in a single day to make sure that this happens, and that you don’t suffer the next time I have a blackout.

    2. Carry snacks. Another thing I need to do is make sure I always have something to snack on. In our modern day world, you don’t think of food as something that’s hard to get, but when the power’s out all over your city, you’ll be going hungry. Grocery stores close without power, and most people have electric stoves, meaning they can’t even cook in a blackout. So I need to make a conscious effort to carry around snacks that don’t need to be cooked, even if it’s just cereal bars.

    3. Bring my flashlight everywhere. In the city, you don’t think of yourself as always needing a flashlight, but you never know when you will. It doesn’t need to be a particularly big or powerful flashlight. In a blackout, even a little bit of light can make a big difference. You’ll probably want a big one for home though, especially if you have a basement that might flood.

    4. Have a back up way to access the internet. I need to make sure I have a way to let my readers and clients know what’s going on and why I haven’t been online. This will probably look like using someone else’s smartphone, as I do know a few people whose data plans still let them go online during the storm. Every online business person should have a plan if the power goes down, even if it’s just someone they trust who lives elsewhere and can contact people for them.

    5. Have money in the real world. Without power, ATMs and Interac machines simply don’t work. It’s a good idea to always keep cash on you. An ideal amount would be enough for a cab ride home—that would have been a lifesaver last night, when the subway wasn’t running and there were delays everywhere.

    Those are just a few ideas, and the things I’m going to be focused on building over the next couple of months. There are tons of other things that can be done to prepare for a blackout or other big emergencies, but these five things are key for anyone who works online, lives in a city and relies on public transit.

    Are you prepared for emergencies? Will your business survive if you go offline for a couple of days? Please leave comments on the original post at The Dabbler.

    The Dabbler is up!

    As promised, The Dabbler site is now set up: I still have some things I’d like to rearrange and a services page to add, but I’ve spruced up my About page a little bit and moved everything over there. I’ll be out of town for the week but will start posting at The Dabbler regularly as of July 8th. I will repost everything here unless it’s about site maintenance until my payment on this domain runs out in January.

    Please do check out the site, and if you haven’t already, sign up for my email newsletter by following this link: sign up form.

    Have a great weekend and thanks for sticking with me through this move!

    The New Name of Dianna’s Writing Den And Other Changes

    Friday ended with the votes tied between The Serious Writer and The Dabbler, so I made an executive decision:

    Henceforth, I will be blogging at The Dabbler.

    I now have the domain and the hosting and I’ll be spending the next two weeks setting this site up. In order to set the site up, I’ll be extending my usual week long blogging break. There will not be another post here until next Friday, when the new site will hopefully be up. If the new site isn’t up by next Friday, I’ll definitely be in touch to let you guys know what’s going on and why it’s not there.

    With the new website you’ll notice some other changes, too. I have finally chosen a few coherent packages that will be available to writers and other professionals who need help with their websites. The packages will include things such as a website consultation designed to make your website look and work better for its intended purpose email support while you implement the changes. These packages will be offered at a discount for the first three weeks the new site is open and will go up after that.

    Of course, my ebook The Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer will be releasing sometime this summer and will be available through the new site. I am still looking for feedback on this 20 page booklet and the exercises within. If you’re interested, please leave your name and email in the comments below. I will be responding to email, just not writing blog posts.

    If you’d like to be updated on the new site via your email, you can sign up on this page. This is also the sign up form for a monthly newsletter I plan to start showcasing both popular articles on the blog and articles exclusive to the newsletter itself, so if you’d like to support my work going forward, please sign up.

    The Book Tour Blues

    FB profileby Joelle Fraser

    I’m sipping coffee in a cute café in the tiny mountain town of Quincy, California, 90 miles from my home. Tonight is the last signing for my new book, The Forest House. For nearly three months, like a traveling peddler from the Old West, I’ve spent my weekends driving from one town or city to the next.

    This is my second book tour—and I did it all wrong.

    My memoir about a year spent healing in an isolated forest retreat is with a prestigious, but small, publisher: Counterpoint Press. My publicist, sweet and professional, set up about half of my “events”—readings, radio interviews, guest blog posts, a college class and a book club visit—and I arranged the other half.

    What I feel, as I wonder how many will show up tonight (3? 6? 10?) is relief. It’s the way you feel as you spy the corner of the last lap of the race. You’re tired, but the knowledge that it’s almost over is like an espresso shot of energy.

    Of course, everyone’s tired after three-plus months of concentrated effort, of being “on stage,” of meeting new people and always being polite and punctual.

    Before I continue, I will admit there’s something annoying about authors who complain. This is mostly true for authors who’ve made it—who never have to worry if the room will be empty. When reading about book tour advice, I’m come across heartbreaking laments like this: “My toddler kept me up the night before I had to go on the Today Show!” Really?

    My first tour, in 2002, was for The Territory of Men, a coming of age memoir about growing up in the wild 70s California with several stepdads, and the legacy of that life on my adulthood. It was a sexy book that struck a lot of chords about the culture of that time. The book was reviewed well in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Elle, the Los Angeles Times, and I had my 15 minutes of fame on NPR’s Fresh Air.
    Fast forward 10 years, and the The Forest House came out to relative silence. I did get fine reviews in Kirkus and Booklist, and a few bloggers gave the book high marks, but it was nothing like my first book.

    Instead of the 75 people who filled the room at Northtown Books in Arcata, Ca., to hear me read from my first book, 5 people wandered in for my second. I sold two books at this event that required a 14-hour round trip drive, two tanks of gas, meals, a pet-sitting fee, and a motel stay (all on my dime). The people who did come were enthusiastic and lovely, but would I do that again? Probably not.

    For a few weeks I blamed the quiet response to my book’s release on the nature of the book itself—it wasn’t sensational. It was reflective, literary, full of deer and doves and serene, snowy morning walks. Nature memoirs are a lot of things, but sexy ain’t one of them.

    Then I finally realized how different the media landscape is: it’s a blizzard out there. All I had was a website and a Facebook page with 290 loyal fans.

    According to BJ Gallagher in “The Ten Awful Truths About Book Publishing,“ “it is increasingly difficult to make any book stand out. Each book is competing with more than ten million other books available for sale, while other media are claiming more and more of people’s time.””

    Publishers are quite aware of this, which is why even selling The Forest House in the first place was a grind because as the big presses told me and my agent, I had no “media platform.”

    Today, in addition to having your own blog or at least writing guest blogs regularly, you need an author website, a Twitter and Tumblr following, regular witty podcasts, clever dispatches on your FB author page, a catchy YouTube book trailer—and then you must stride up and down Main Street with a bullhorn.

    Guess those publishers had a point: it’s hard to launch anything off a nonexistent platform.
    What I would do differently next time? I’d customize my book tour to myself.

    Just as there’s a surprising and wonderful difference between a one-size-fits-all outfit and a tailored one, there’s a stark contrast between the traditional, paint-by-numbers book tour and a contemporary, custom one.

    So, given that it’s a blizzard out there, what kind of snowflake are you? Here’s what I’d do next time I brave the storm:

    1. I’d set up more visits at book clubs, college writing classes, and women’s clubs in my community (such as the Soroptomists). These events meant captive audiences who were excited about me and my books. I brought books to sell and flyers to hand out so people had something to take home.

    2. I’d plan more parties with family and friends at houses, restaurants, nightclubs—wherever people can gather to celebrate. Again, books and flyers would be on hand.

    3. I’d get my media ducks in a row well before launching—or even selling—the book. That means not just creating an online presence, but ramping up the one I already have by blogging, posting on social networks and YouTube, and doing interviews with other authors.

    4. I’d limit my actual “tour” to bookstore events at a few nearby stores where my reading would count as news in the local paper and on the local radio station. If I wanted to visit a faraway bookstore, I’d bring my son and make a vacation out of it.

    5. I’d set up “paired” readings with author friends so we could double our promotion and hopefully our audience.

    What I’ve learned is that a book’s release into the world should be fun and worthwhile. In the end, I stay gracious—and grateful that I’ve gotten to experience this wild and crazy life as an author. I can’t wait to see what happens with book # 3.

    Joelle Fraser is the author of the memoirs The Territory of Men (Random House 2003) and The Forest House (2013). A MacDowell Fellow, she has an MFA from the University of Iowa. She teaches writing and lives in northeast California with her son. Find her at

    The Ten Commandments of a Serious Writer

    Today is a very special day. It is time for me to tell you all about the ebook I’ve been working on, The Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer. The ebook is based on this post, with a slightly altered list of commandments.

    Each commandment has been more fully explained, with exercises designed to help you become more fully committed to your writing. This ebook will give you all the tools necessary to plan the next stages of your writing career, including three potential schedules for you to base your own on. If you’re looking for help to make the transition from hobbyist, this is the ebook for you.

    This ebook isn’t a comprehensive guide for becoming a successful writer, but it will walk you through the process of laying a foundation for your career. That said, this book isn’t quite finished yet. First, I’m looking for your help.

    If you have committed to one of these commandments–you’ve written every day for the last six months and finished a book, or you’ve found and learned to work with a critique group–and it’s helped you grow as a writer, especially if it’s helped you make money writing, I’d love to hear from you. I’d like to add one short personal story from a different writer to each commandment.

    This will be a free ebook given to my subscribers. Those who contribute their stories will be allowed to give the ebook to their own personal blog subscribers as well. This is your chance to be officially quoted in an ebook, and to get your name in front of my readers. If you’d like to share your success story, email me at

    I’m also looking for feedback. I’d like one or two people who in the process of laying the foundation for their writing career to give me feedback on the book and the exercises within so I can make any improvements. The ebook is now finished, but everyone needs a second pair of eyes on their writing. I’d like that second pair of eyes to belong to one of my readers. If you’re interested, once again just email me at and I’ll tell you what kind of feedback I’m looking for. Copies will be sent for feedback at the end of this week to any interested parties.

    As for the new name of this blog: I’ve had such wonderful suggestions and there was a little conflict because the most popular name is taken by someone else, so I’ve decided to extend voting until Friday, when I’ll also be explaining in more detail my plans for the new site. Vote here.

    What do you think of all the changes around here? Are you eager to read The Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer?

    What would be your second choice?

    For those who voted that my new domain name should be Much Ado About Writing, I’d like to ask for your second choice. There is already a Weebly site called Much Ado About Writing, so I’m not sure if I want to use this name for the blog. I am still considering it, because the domain name itself isn’t taken and hers is more of a website than a blog, but I’d like to know what your second choice for the new name is.

    As a reminder, your options are:

    • Every Writer’s Den or All Writers’ Den–more community based versions of this blog’s name, implying that it belongs to all writers
    • The Committed Writer(s)–based around commitment and community. With or without the S.
    • The Serious Writer–I thought of this one because it relates to the ebook I’m currently editing, The Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer.
    • Genre Crosser(s)–I’m the kind of writer who dabbles in every format of writing and every genre, and I get the sense many of you are the same. I’m not sure about this one however as it sounds great but sounds like more of a fiction blog, whereas I want this to be a haven for writers who dabble in everything, including non-fiction.
    • The Dabbler– For someone who dabbles in everything… To represent that I can never be constrained by one format and genre and to give help to other writers who feel the same way. This one’s my personal favourite.
    • Let’s Write and Write On- New suggestions by Jill Nelson. Thanks Jill!

    Please tell me in the comments below what your second choice for the new blog name will be. Voting will close tomorrow night at 9PM EST.

    Summer Schedule and Vote on a New Blog Name

    As I mentioned on Friday, there are going to be many changes around here over the next few months. The first thing to change will be the schedule.

    For the next two weeks, I will continue at three posts per week. This week I will be writing all three posts myself. On Friday I’ll be introducing the ebooks I plan to release this year. Next week I’ll be choosing a blog name and a great article about book tours by Joelle Fraser will be going up.

    After that there will only be two posts per week, on Mondays and Fridays. There will be occasional interviews and guests when people approach me, but I simply don’t have the time to find contributors anymore. I will always accept articles from other writers, and in the new blog I hope to have a regular contributor or two. At this point, however, it looks like there will probably only be one guest article this month.

    I will also still be taking one week off a month. This month that week will be the 17th-21st. The week will be devoted to working on all my book length projects.

    After that, Mondays will be used for in depth articles and announcements of future changes, and Fridays will be devoted to writing prompts and exercises.

    Now, what you’ve been waiting for: potential domain names!

    I spent the weekend brainstorming potential domain names, and I’d like you to vote for your favourite–or suggest a new one. The official domain name will be chosen next Monday. The one with the most votes wins. Voting ends Saturday night.

    These are my ideas:

  • Every Writer’s Den or All Writers’ Den–more community based versions of this blog’s name, implying that it belongs to all writers
  • The Committed Writer(s)–based around commitment and community. With or without the S.
  • The Serious Writer–I thought of this one because it relates to the ebook I’m currently editing, The Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer.
  • Genre Crosser(s)–I’m the kind of writer who dabbles in every format of writing and every genre, and I get the sense many of you are the same. I’m not sure about this one however as it sounds great but sounds like more of a fiction blog, whereas I want this to be a haven for writers who dabble in everything, including non-fiction.
  • The Dabbler– For someone who dabbles in everything… To represent that I can never be constrained by one format and genre and to give help to other writers who feel the same way. This one’s my personal favourite.
  • Much Ado About Writing– Suggested by Eric Cameron. Thanks Eric!
  • To weigh in on what you’d like the new name for this blog to be, tell me which one is your favourite and why in the comments below. Your feedback is always appreciated, and it’s still not too late to suggest a new name.

    All new names suggested before Friday will be entered into the vote.

    Progress Report June 2013

    It’s June now, meaning it’s time to do two things: analyze how much progress I made towards my goals in May, and make my plans for the summer.

    Let’s start by taking a look at what I’ve accomplished towards my various goals:

    Editing Moonshadow’s Guardian– Last month I edited exactly six chapters and 42 pages. I should be finished editing before the end of this month, and I am going to start looking for beta readers this month. There’s less than a hundred pages to go and I’m thrilled to be this close to the end. So far, June’s looking pretty good month as I’ve already edited three pages and written a new chapter. I’m going to spend the next two weeks in a marathon with a goal of finishing by the time I graduate on the fifteenth.

    Launch the Ten Commandments of a Serious Writer eBook– I’ve now got this ebook almost ready and I’ll be explaining in more detail what it is this Friday. I should be able to launch in June.

    Make $5, 000 this year from my writing– in May I only made $300 from my writing, but I’m expecting more in the next few days and I’m now actively looking for new work. I also had several articles published this month at varying pay rates, which is awesome. And I’ve made a distinct plan for how to get this money, which I’ll show you in more detail later this month. My writing income goal for June is $750.

    Launch an email newsletter– I’ve decided to move to a self-hosted blog, and finally decided what my newsletter will look like, so it will be part of the new incarnation of this blog. It will probably launch in July.

    Write a new novel– I actually didn’t choose a plot for a new novel, but it’s percolating in the back of my head as I plan an event for Nanowrimo this year. Instead, I’ve created an outline for an ebook I’m going to release at the end of the summer. My goal for that this month is to have written the entire thing.

    I finish school halfway through this month, and I’m using existing blog posts for sections of the ebook I plan to release in July, so I think these are totally reasonable goals. To achieve them, I’m dedicating one hour a day every Saturday and Sunday to each project. Once school ends, I plan to work on each goal for at least one hour Monday through Friday during the summer and take weekends off.

    What are your goals for this month? How did you do last month?