August 2018 Newsletter

August HSW Meeting 


Learn How to Get New Readers and Reviews with Michael C. Grumley

How does a self-published author get 8,000 reviews on his first book? How does he develop a series that has gotten several thousand reviews on each release? Ask these questions (and many more) of Michael C. Grumley at our August meeting.

If you’ve wondered how to kick-start your book sales, you’ll have a chance to meet someone who has done exactly that and in a big way.

He’ll be our guest and will make a presentation on his career, followed by an interview and Q & A session.

About Michael C. Grumley

For years, Michael C. Grumley dreamed of writing thrillers the way he thought they should be written; complex, multi-genre stories with unique plots that ‘move’. Enter BREAKTHROUGH, AMID THE SHADOWS, and THROUGH THE FOG: all deeply human stories with endings you will never see coming.

Michael C. Grumley lives in Northern California with his wife and two young daughters where he works in the Information Technology field. He’s an avid reader, runner, and most of all father. He dotes on his girls every chance he gets.

His website is Check it out for more about his books.

He is currently working on the next Breakthrough story.

The August High Sierra Writers Meeting will be on Saturday August 11th at the South Valleys Library on Wedge Parkway. (The yellow building surrounded by ball parks.) The meeting begins at 10 and runs until noon. Matt will be doing First Pages at this meeting.

From the President, Matt Bayan

Many of you attended our meeting a few months ago where Mignon Fogarty (Grammar Girl) gave us a taste of how she has become hugely successful by mastering major platforms of social media. If you weren’t at that meeting, Grammar Girl has spawned numerous bestselling books and has a following in the hundreds of thousands on major social media platforms. All of this started by her creating simple podcasts over a decade ago.
Many of you voiced interest in having her come back and conduct a full-day workshop. The goal of the workshop: train us on the step-by-step method we can take to use social media to increase book marketing success.
To do an all-day workshop, we need to pay her. So, we’d like to get a head count of how many of you would be interested in attending this workshop (probably in March) if we charged for it. We need at least 20 attendees to make this work.
So, how much would you be willing to pay for this all-day workshop? And don’t say $10 because that just won’t work. I think somewhere between $30 and $50 would make this possible. HSW will kick in money to subsidize the event, but the more people sign up, the lower the ticket price can be. So, give us an idea of what the workshop is truly worth to you and email us the highest price you’d be willing to pay.
We may open this up to the public, but we want to be sure our members have first dibs.
Please respond ASAP so we can either schedule the event or forget about it. Send your response to:


Critique Group Update

Critique Group Wrangling is now online and <mostly> self-service!  If you’d like your name added or deleted from the ‘looking for a group’ list, or your group added, deleted, or status change (open/closed), be sure to email Nicole   

Contest info:  it takes a month or longer on average to get people into new critique groups, so don’t dawdle when you’re ready!  This will be especially true for all of the expected ‘finish’ groups (full novel beta reading) for the contest next summer. You should get on the ‘looking’ listing and indicate when you anticipate being ready to join a finish group a month or more in advance of being ready. Finish groups typically consist of 4 members who read one manuscript a month. You’ll want to get in on that at least 6 months before the contest so that IF your novel is the last one read, you still have some time to make your edits (again).

The “i before e” Controversy

Maybe you heard the rule when you were a child: “I before e except after c or when sounded like a as in neighbor and weigh.”

While this axiom handles most of the spelling issues in English regarding the sequence of these two letters next to each other in a word, many exceptions do exist. In fact, this rule only applies to about 75% of the words we use with ie/ei combination.

Merriam Webster points out numerous variations that buck up against this rule; such as words that have a sh sound like glacier, or words that appear in superlatives like fancier. Don’t forget the combo has an sound in height.

If you add ing to a root word ending in e, it may remain before the i, as in cueing. Then you have the random exceptions like science and weird.

Your best bet to get these right is to turn on your spellchecker and let it do the work.

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July 2018 Newsletter

NY Times Best Selling Author
 Will Speak at HSW Meeting!

July 14 Meeting Features New York Times #1 Bestseller, Ellen Hopkins

Ever want to question how a New York Times #1 author got there? Here’s your chance. Our July meeting will be devoted to one of the biggies: Ellen Hopkins.

Join us for a discussion on craft, Q&A, and what it takes to become a wildly successful author. Starting with the massively successful novel, CRANK, we’ll discuss how her career developed into her worldwide popularity.
Ellen Hopkins is a poet, freelance writer, and the award-winning author of twenty non-fiction titles, three novels for adults, and thirteen NY Times Bestselling novels-in-verse. She has published hundreds of articles on subjects ranging from aviation to child abuse to wine-growing. Ellen is a regular speaker at schools, book festivals, and writers’ conferences across the US, and now throughout the world.

If you want her to autograph a copy of one of her titles, bring it with you. Just don’t steal one from the library shelves. They get prickly when we do that.

Photo credit: Ellen Hopkins at the 2011 Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas, United States. Larry D. Moore (Wikipedia)
Photo & book graphic design by Rene Averett

From the HSW President

In previous HSW meetings, we’ve sometimes discussed the relationship of poetry to prose. Mostly we’ve focused on how the intensity and compression of poetry can be used to develop short, crisp images to replace rambling description.

Our July guest, Ellen Hopkins, has taken poetry into an even more difficult area. She has successfully used poetry to shrink prose to its absolute narrative core. She captures the interactions of characters in a distillation that is amazingly powerful in the sparseness of its approach.

I read her first novel, CRANK, in preparation for her visit. Apart from the gripping nature of the work, I got schooled on how bloated my own writing now seems in comparison. If you don’t attend another meeting this year, attend this one on July 14.


Membership Renewals

A reminder that if you are joining or renewing your HSW membership by mailing in a check, please include your email address on the check or on a note in the envelope. This way, we can ensure that you get on the newsletter email list. 

If you haven’t renewed your membership, please do so soon to continue all the great benefits of being an HSW member. Thanks!

Critique Group Shakeup!

Get excited, everyone; we’re going to try something new in the land of Critique Group Wrangling! 

We will now have all of our current groups, as well as those looking for a group, listed on the website. There are two parts to our new system: 

1. The current groups (whether open or currently closed to new members) are listed so the leader of an open group can be contacted directly by a looker.

2. There will also be a list of those looking for a group, and they can contact each other and either choose to stay on the list as a looker, or form a group and be taken off the looker list and put on the ‘group’ list (as either open or closed). 

So head on over to the website and check out the lists. And if you have a group to be added (or deleted or altered), and/or if you’d like to join the list of those looking for groups, (either a finish group or an on-going group), let Critique Group Wrangler Nicole know!

New HSW Writing Contest

At last month’s meeting, Donna Stegman announced this year’s writing contest and it is something special. If you weren’t at the meeting and haven’t gotten the word, the information and rules are posted on the High Sierra Writers website at 

Look for 2018-2019 Novel Writing Contest in the Menu bar at the top. Or click on this link:

This will be a great opportunity for the winner, so check it out.  Image: checkmark


Your Book on the HSW Website

Just a reminder, if you are an HSW member and you’ve published a book, we are happy to add your book cover and a link to the sales page on the HSW website. We are proud of our members who publish and would like to highlight their achievements. 

If you have a book or books to list, please send a cover image and the address link to Rene at 

While you’re at it, peruse the listings at:

Quick Grammar Tips

Grammar can be a big stumbling block for writers, particularly when words sound the same but are spelled differently or are used in more than one way. I’ll be posting a quick tip each month to help you figure out when to use what word.

This month: Is it toward or towards? Or backward or backwards?

If you’re not sure which one to use, you’re not alone. I used to ponder over that question myself, but it isn’t as hard as it seems. The rule applies to toward, backward, forward, and most any other -ward word. It’s a basic preference in usage. The only difference is the s. Most Americans prefer to omit the while most Europeans use the s. You can use the one you prefer.

There is an argument that the word without the is an adjective and with the s, it’s an adverb. But that’s only a guideline, not a rule. 

The real rule here is consistency. Whichever style you chose to use, stay consistent with it in your writing. At least, for the book you’re working on. Feel free to change it for a different book.


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June 2018 Newsletter

High Sierra Writers 2018 Writing Contest 


Win a Chance to Change Your Future

Would you like to jump the publishing slush pile and get your book on the desk of a publisher?

That is exactly what the 2018 High Sierra Writers contest will do if you are the winner. This is an amazing opportunity and one that has the potential to get your book published. You don’t need to query an agent in order to get your book seen by eyes that could green light your novel.

Want to know more about it? Come to the June meeting of the High Sierra Writers to get the details. Donna Stegman will be providing all the contest details and answering any questions about the process.

Donna has acquired information on what the top publishing houses are looking for in trends and genre. Want to know what they expect will be the hot genres for this year? She has that information and is willing to share it at this meeting. She will be doing a short question and answer session, so come prepared with specific questions you might have about publishing and what you, as an author, might expect. If there’s any publishing question you’ve been dying to ask, this is your opportunity to ask.

Donna will be running her Blurbs Critique for the only time this year. Find out if your book teaser is catchy enough to grab readers. To participate, bring in your book blurb, typed in at least 12-point print, without your name on the page. She will read it to the members and encourage feedback to help improve it. 

The High Sierra Writers Meeting is June 9th from 10 a.m. to noon at the South Valleys Library, 15650 Wedge Pkwy, Reno, NV 89511. With the sports fields next door in full swing, come early to get a good parking spot, even though the library doesn’t open until 10 a.m.

See you there!


Matt will be hosting First Pages at the June meeting. To get feedback on your first page, bring a hard copy printed in 14 point font\ and double-spaced. Use Times New Roman or Arial type to make it easier for Matt to read aloud. Do NOT put your name on it, as these are anonymous, but you can include the book title and the genre at the top of the page. Hand it to Matt or Rene at the sign-in table at the beginning of the meeting. 

From the HSW President


Of the seven basic story elements, the first a reader encounters is THE TITLE. (Include agents and editors as readers.)

“Don’t judge a book by its title,” we often hear, usually from writers with crummy titles. The horrifying reality is that titles really matter. They draw readers and agents to books.

I’ve personally witnessed several cases where an agent asked to read a manuscript solely because someone’s elevator pitch offered an interesting title.

Several years ago, a Hollywood producer friend told me how the pitch session went for a movie titled, “Snakes On A Plane.” It lasted one minute and ended with a Hollywood executive offering a greenlighted contract to the writer on the spot.

Why? The executive said he could see the whole movie from the title.

It’s true that publishers will usually change a writer’s working title, but that’s more incentive to come up with an irresistible working title. One thing to realize is that before a manuscript gets published, it runs through a gauntlet of more than editors. That manuscript also gets evaluated by people in sales and marketing. They’re asking questions based on what is selling right now and what they estimate will trend in the next year. 

The editor who is championing your book has to convince sales and marketing that your book is different than what is out there. But not too different. Though publishers say they want “new” ideas, in fact, they want something with a new spin on an idea that’s already selling.

When urban fantasy was the rage, publishers wanted more urban fantasy, but with a twist, or more high concept. Throw in a lesbian vampire or bi-racial magicians and you were on your way to an advance.

Back to titles. Publishers want writers to submit various title ideas so that marketing has options. The internal forces are looking at how many words should fit on the book cover. If an author is new, the title is larger than the author’s name. If the author is famous, then we may have to hunt for the book title because the author’s name is gigantic. Look at recent releases from Lee Child for example.

As you’re writing a book, a strong title can help you focus on what should happen in the story. So can a strong blurb. Both can be touchstones so that if you start to stray into the world of extraneous, but oh-so-lovely writing, you can look at your title and blurb and realize your extra subplot isn’t really helping to lift the story.

Different genres have different flavors of titles. When Robert Ludlum was at his peak, the spy genre was afloat in clever word juxtapositions that frequently didn’t make much sense. Start with The Bourne Identity as an example. An informal game began making the rounds among writers in which you chose a random word from each of two columns of random words to come up with a title. The Moscow InversionThe London GameThe Parsifal Confession. You get the idea.

Remember, everyone who considers your book WILL judge it by its title, so act accordingly.

‘Nuff said.
Matt Bayan

Quick Grammar Tips

Grammar can be a big stumbling block for writers, particularly when words sound the same but are spelled differently or are used in more than one way. I’ll be posting a quick tip each month to help you figure out when to use what word.

The word for this month is it.

It is a pronoun that refers to an object or something not human. While we often refer to pets as he or she, they can also be referred to as it, especially when the gender is unknown.

The bigger problem comes with the possessive form of it. Usually, a possessive is created by adding an apostrophe and an s to the noun. Examples: Ray’s hat, Mary’s car, cat’s tail.

When you use it as a possessive, you don’t put in the apostrophe. For instance, I watched the paper plane fly on its journey.

The reason for this irregularity in use is that the conjunction of it and is becomes it’s. So when you see it’s in a sentence, train yourself to think it is and that will usually stop you from using it’s as a possessive.

Rene and Nicole set up a display at the TMCC Writers Conference in April. The table set up wasn’t fancy, but it drew quite a few local area writers over to ask about it. Some showed interest in coming to our meetings. A few were surprised we had a writers’ group in Reno. We were happy to see several HSW members at this conference.

In May, Rene took all the information to the Barks and Badges Benefit, which promotes and earns money for the Washoe County K-9s to provide training and equipment that is not included in the budget. She set up the table in the photo and our sign and handed out flyers, bookmarks, and business cards to local readers who stopped by. Several potential writers also chatted for a bit and we hope to see them at the next meeting. Again, people expressed surprise that we have a writers’ group in town. 


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May 2018 Newsletter

From the HSW President

Marketing 102

At a previous meeting, I explained push/pull marketing and promised to get back with more information on “pull” marketing, which can best be described as market research. Specifically, I want to show how market research can help find the right agent.
A lot of my editing clients are first-time novelists. They make two huge mistakes in trying to get signed by an agent. First, they give up their querying far too easily, when they don’t get a quick, positive response. The need for instant gratification causes problems. Realistically, even if a writer has cranked out fifty queries, that’s not unusual. It’s important to wait; agents usually take months to respond, if at all.
Let’s apply market research. Worst-case scenario, you send out twenty queries over a two-week span. Let’s say two months later, you’ve received zero responses. Not even rejections. The market is telling you something. You may have written a brilliant novel, but a crappy query letter. Is the letter short? Short is better.
Did you follow the agents’ instructions? If they ask for the first three pages, only send the first three pages. Don’t squeeze in a couple more with the belief that the more the agent sees, the more he’ll just love your work.
Change the focus of your letter. Try to capsulize the basic conflict of the book without trying to explain the whole plot. Three or four sentences should be enough. Agents usually say they only want a one-page letter. That doesn’t mean you cram every word possible into that page. Shorter is better. You’re trying to whet their appetites not force-feed them.
Maybe your writing is not up to par. Yes, your mother and your friends love your manuscript, but they’re not editors. If this is the problem, it may be why you haven’t received responses. More and more agents just ignore a query they’re not interested in rather than waste time to send out a form letter rejection.
Have you put your manuscript through a critique group? That’s a free exercise. Other writers will very quickly see the flaws in your work. Or hire an editor. Get feedback from people who are published instead of friends and family, who have no experience in publishing, editing, or writing.
I find that I get the best feedback from other writers who don’t like me, because they will find every last tiny molecule of imperfection in my work. You’ll find your enemies eager to help.
My point here is that if you’re not getting responses from agents, it’s not the agents’ faults. Something you’re doing has to change.
The second mistake new writers make is wasting time and effort contacting the wrong agents. Here again, market research is the key. I’ve heard tales of woe from many writers who have sent out skadey-eight zillion queries but can’t get an agent interested.

Before starting a new query campaign, it’s important to marshal good resources. Two I recommend are The Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) and QueryTracker.
AAR agents are the cream of the crop. AAR requires certain qualifications to become a member: ethical conduct, experience, and a minimum number of book sales, among others. These are usually the most established agents and those with the most thriving practices. You can use their agent search engine at You can use key words such as mystery or romance to find the agents who handle those genres.
Another search engine and great tool to track the queries you send out is QueryTracker. They currently have a database of about 2000 agents, which are searchable by all sorts of filters (more than AAR), such as genre, location, gender, and whether they’re closed or open to queries. As you send out queries, you can enter the contact info in QueryTracker and they will keep track for you, showing how long the query has been in play, rejections, requests for partial or full manuscripts, etc. The basic service is free.
So, what do you do with these tools? They are valuable sources of market research. Instead of sending out a mass of queries in a shotgun approach, chances for success are greatly increased if you send to the specific agents who would be most likely to want your work. This takes research. I suggest at least a half-hour for each query.
Let’s say you have a mystery. In QueryTracker, you click that genre. Maybe you want to first try for agents in New York City. Click that location. And so on. You make sure the agent is not closed to queries. If your book has a lot of violence, you might also winnow down the agents by gender. Male agents would probably be more interested than women. The reverse holds true for romances.
As you investigate an agent, click on the link for the agency website. If there are a half-dozen agents in the agency, read the information on each agent. One of the other agents might be a better match than the first one you read.
Many agents post links to their blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. Check these out. I’ve seen a lot of blogs where agents say exactly what they’re looking for right now. This information is much fresher than what’s on the agency web site, which might not get updated for months or years.
Now, as you query from a short list, you’ll reach agents who have the greatest likelihood of signing you.
This process is ongoing. If you’re not getting results, evaluate your query letter, revise, try again. Same with your manuscript. It should be a feedback loop. The market is constantly giving you feedback, whether negative or positive.
Try something. Stir, rinse, repeat.
And most of all: Don’t give up. 


From Podcast to Best-selling Author

When you don’t know whether to use who or whom, or whose or who’s, where do you turn for answers? Grammar Girl, of course. Next meeting, we have the Grammar Girl herself as our guest speaker.
On May 12th, author of Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips and The Grammar Devotional, Mignon Fogarty – aka Grammar Girl – will talk about how she went from doing a podcast in her bedroom closet to being featured on Oprah and becoming a New York Times bestselling author. Mignon will give tips and tricks on how she increased her audience, a few dos and don’ts about podcasts as well as her ever witty, practical and easy-to-remember advice on grammar. You don’t want to miss this meeting! Doors open at 10 a.m.

Mignon Fogarty was the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase “grammar nazi” and loves the word “kerfuffle.” She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University.Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. She strives to be a friendly guide in the writing world. Her archenemy is the evil Grammar Maven, who inspires terror in the untrained and is neither friendly nor helpful.

Find Mignon at her website:


We’ll also read First Pages, so bring in your material in hard copy. Please help Matt out by doing the following: Print in 14 point font; double space, use Times New Roman or Arial; put the book title on the top line with the book’s genre. Hand it to me at the beginning of the meeting. Matt has some from the last meeting and he promises to get through all of April and May’s at this meeting.

The May Meeting will be Saturday May 12 at the South Valley Libraries on Wedge Parkway. (The big yellow building next to the soccer fields.) It begins at 10:00 a.m.

Parking was at a premium last month with the game season now started, so come early to get a parking place.

Overcome Writer’s Block

HSW Member and writer Paula Riley is presenting a class on Tuesday, June 12 from 6 to 9 p.m. that explores techniques and tools for breaking through creative roadblocks.  The course fee includes handouts. 

To learn more about it, go to TMCC’s Workforce Development and Continuation Education website.

If you have questions, email Paula at or visit her web site

Annual HSW Contest Coming in June

Mark your calendars for the June meeting now.  Donna Stegman with be announcing all the particulars and the prize for the 2018 Writing Contest at our meeting on Saturday, June 9th. This will be one contest you want to enter ’cause it may change your life. Donna will also be critiquing blurbs at this meeting… only time this year, so get yours ready to go.

Is Your Mailing List a Potential Violation?

Many writers have a mailing list of fans and potential book-buyers. It’s a great, personal way to market books. You collect the mailing list from your website, Facebook, and other online sources then store in a database. If you’re actively promoting, you may be mailing out a newsletter a month or even more frequently with updates and general chat to entice your readers to look at your book.

However, if you have people on your mailing list who are in the European Union, a new law going into effect on May 25, could affect you. Called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), its purpose is to provide more security and moderation of online data gathering. In conjunction with this, the EU is requiring a double opt-in for email sign-ups and the opt-in must state the purpose of the mailing list, such as book information only, general newsletter, etc. The person opting in needs to have a confirmation response that they do, indeed, want to be on the list.

Failure to comply with this can lead to a significant fine from the EU. So, take a look at your mailing list opt-in. If it isn’t clearly stated what the data is used for, change it. Also, check to see if it is set to a double opt-in.

Learn more about this change at this web site:

Get A Professional Book Review and More Exposure

The LeRue Review-A Publisher’s “Three-Chapter View”

Writers! Get your book reviewed (with a thumbnail image of the book).
Review cost is $10. All you do is send 3 chapters to us with a cover image to our specs. We will post the review in What’s the Story, (2500 distribution plus online).

What kind of review? It’s brief and to the point from a publisher’s perspective. One of the features is a scale of the likelihood we would publish (if we were open to submissions in that genre/topic). This is not a solicitation for new manuscripts. We love to encourage authors and want to provide a review service that is unique and helpful to readers and to you.

You can use the review AFTER it is published in What’s the Story? as long as you give LeRue and WTS attribution. Deadline: 1st of the month. You will usually see your review in the following month’s issue. (Example: Received by May 1st, published in June issue). We will notify you of your anticipated publish date.

Why wait? Get your review now! Contact lrp@lrpnv.comInclude LRR-3 Chapter View in subject line.

Reprinted with permission from Janice Hermsen at LaRue Press.

From the Editor: To clarify the submission, it is the first three chapters of your book, double-spaced and 12 point Times New Roman. You can send either a WORD doc or PDF file.

Missing an issue of our newsletter? The most recent issues can be found in the archive by clicking the View this in your browser link at the top of this email. From there, you can select the previous issues. this is a new feature at MailChimp and the archive will continue to grow to 20 previous issues over time. Issues for this year thorough August are also available on our website www.highsierrawriters,org
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February 2018 Newsletter

From the President:


“My mystery/thriller, JUMPING JACK, will be as big as any John Grisham. You’ll make a lot of money with my book.” Agents love queries that start this way.

My mother loved it. Check.

I worked hard for over four months to write it. Check.

This is my THIRD (!) draft. It’s ready. Check.

Yes, writers write these things. In our monthly meetings, we’ve talked a lot about how to write queries, but this topic can never be discussed too much.

It’s great to be enthusiastic about one’s work, but it’s impossible to predict how a book will sell. Making claims about sales only shows a lack of experience and professionalism. Giving a list of readers who “loved” the work is not impressive unless a reader is a bestselling author or some other famous person.

Stick to basics.
Paragraph 1: Why are you contacting the agent? Did you meet at a conference? Did you see in the agent’s blog or web page that he or she is looking for new works in your genre?

Paragraph 2: Brief back-of-the-cover synopsis of the manuscript. End with a hook; don’t tell the ending: Will Charlotte overcome her fears and do the right thing?

Paragraph 3: Brief bio. Give your writing credentials, but don’t exaggerate. You don’t need to have been published. If you write your employer’s monthly newsletter, mention it. In fiction, definitely tell if you have experience in some area that supports the genre and story. For example, if your book is a crime thriller, it’s helpful and appropriate to mention you were a police officer, or prosecutor, or private investigator.

The only other thing you can do is adhere to each agent’s requirements. Some want 10 pages included in the body of your email. Some want a 1-page synopsis; others want a 2-page synopsis. Some only want the query letter. Follow instructions and make sure you spell the agent’s name correctly. That’s all you can do.

Send and relax.

Matt Bayan

Next HSW Meeting

Join us at the February HSW Meeting on Saturday, 02-10-18, when best-selling author, Terri Farley will be our guest. Terri will be presenting an interactive workshop to help you build your character. For this meeting, she suggests you bring a photo, printout from the internet, or illustration that resembles your character. We hope to see you there and ready to begin building an unforgettable character.

    When: Saturday- February 10, 2018 at 10 a.m.
Where: South Valley Library on Wedge Parkway –
yellow building next to the ball park

Time to Pay Your Dues

That’s right! It’s time to pay the annual dues for HSW membership. If you have already paid, thank you. For the rest, you can pay Jay with a check made out to High Sierra Writers or cash at the next meeting or you can mail it to High Sierra Writers, PO Box 7825 Reno, NV 89510.

Critique Groups

If anyone is looking for a critique group to join or to start, please contact Nicole at the next meeting or email her at
She will help you get started or try to match you up with an existing critique group that may have an opening. 

TMCC Writers Conference

TMCC is hosting its annual Writers’ Conference on Saturday, April 21 at the college campus in the Sierra Building. The program includes authors and agents covering various topics plus three agents will be available for one on one ten-minute meetings for an additional fee. The agents this year are Jennifer March Soloway, Laurie McLean, and Sheree Bykofsky.

The fee for the conference is $149. For more information and to sign up, go to TMCC’s website at

In addition, Sheree Bykofsky, an East Coast agent, will be presenting a class on Friday, April 20 for $39 titled “Grab an Agent’s Attention” on writing query letters. You can sign up at the same page as the conference.

Hometown Reads

A fairly new community organization, the goal of Hometown Reads is to help local authors connect with readers in their hometown through what they describe as a Read Local movement. The site listings are free to authors who sign up and list their books. The authors are then grouped by city so local readers, who can also join the community, can find local authors. They are also encouraging book stores to use the site as a resource for contacting authors for live events.

Several HSW members are already signed up on the site and Reno is a listed city. It takes 10 authors for the city to be listed, so we are there already. If you have a book published, check it out and get your listing up. It is free so you have nothing to lose and maybe new readers to gain. The web site is:

5 Tips to Giving Critique

Many web sites offer advice for both giving and receiving critiques. The reality is that it varies depending on the type of critique and if you are covering a whole piece of writing versus a few pages or a chapter. If you’re in a critique group, how you handle it may vary based on the preference of the members of the group. These five tips pretty much apply to any situation.

1. Be courteous and start with a positive remark. Address the strengths of the writing and plotting. Look for those things the writer has done well.

2. Be objective and make suggestions.  Keep in mind that every writer is different and writers have their own style of writing. Don’t try to make them write to your style, but give them valid feedback when something doesn’t read smoothly or is unclear.

3. Critique the writing, not the writer. Don’t make this personal. Express how you feel about the writing and why something about it bothers you or feels awkward. Keep in mind the writer’s experience level and be kind.

4. Suggest solutions. Don’t be hesitant to point out problems in the piece and suggest ways to correct them, but don’t rewrite them. If the writer is to benefit from the critique, he must do the work to change it.

5. Invite questions. Don’t get defensive if the writer questions your feedback, but point out your reasoning why you felt the writing was weak in that area and remind them it is your opinion and they can accept or reject it.

In some critique groups, writers are expected to listen to the entire critique from all members before asking any questions. In others, the writer can jump in with a question at any time or after each person finishes his/her critique. It’s up to each group how this works.

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HSW News & Information for January 2018

From the HSW President 

No, I’m not going to talk about New Year’s writing resolutions or how to find the time to write. Instead, I want to talk about a coincidence that brought into focus an issue near and dear: showing vs. telling and how much detail is enough.

Last week I read two recently published books: Camino Island by John Grisham and A Legacy of Spies by John LeCarre’. The subject matter couldn’t be farther apart. The former is about the theft of valuable literary manuscripts and the latter is a spy novel.

I hated Camino Island and loved A Legacy of Spies. Why? The coincidence I mentioned is that both books have a substantial amount of telling. Why does one work and the other doesn’t? Le Carre’ provides detail that at first seems unconnected. Imagine a bowl of alphabet soup with letters randomly appearing. But at some point the letters begin to form into important information. With the Grisham book, we look at the same bowl of alphabet soup and realize we’re just looking at soup. Even when he appears to be showing, such as in dialogue, Grisham’s characters are still telling. And telling.

Apart from a lackluster plot, Camino Island has unimportant characters of which we learn too much. We get page after page of meaningless dialogue or summary or description. I got the sense that Grisham had a 50-page story, but he needed 300 pages, so he backed up the dump truck and dropped a lot of fill dirt.

The contrast with Le Carre’ is that each piece of dialogue, each backstory, slowly weaves into a tighter and tighter net and seemingly unrelated information begins to form a picture.

As an editor, I try to get my clients to avoid too much detail. But in these two contrasting books, we see Le Carre’ push beyond the limits of what I would normally feel comfortable with, yet he pulls it off with skill. Why? Because his details have meaning. Grisham, on the other hand, needs to get taken to the woodshed by his editor.

The lesson here is to make sure every detail drives toward a plot point. Details that do this will eventually satisfy the reader. Details that don’t will only aggravate. The former have purpose; the latter are bloat.

Matt Bayan

It’s a New Year!
Dues are Due!

It’s the new year and we all need to become members or renew memberships. The small membership fee of $25 per year goes toward renting our meeting space at the library, paying speakers to make presentations and hold workshops, buying supplies such as name tags and markers, keeping a post office box, and operating a bank account. Your membership fee is tax deductible; High Sierra Writers is a 501 (3) (c) non-profit corporation.

Critique Groups

Critiquing is critical to the development of any writer. Yes, receiving feedback will help you to see your work-in-progress more clearly. But giving feedback might be even more important. Developing good critique skills teaches your mind to analyze story elements. It teaches you to sift the beautiful from the mundane. And that training—sharpened in the process of helping someone else—will carry over into your own writing.   – Daniel Schwabauer,

Contact Nicole, your Critique Group Wrangler,  to join a Reno-based group in 2018!

1st Meeting of the Year is January 13. 2018

Our regular feature. Give your first pages to Matt at the beginning of the meeting. Please put the genre at the top of the page, use Times New Roman font at 12 pt., and double space. This makes it easier to read.

A short discussion on how to target your queries with a demo of a helpful tool to do it efficiently.

High Sierra Writers meeting is at 10:00 a.m. at the South Valleys Library, 15650 Wedge Parkway.

February Meeting Preview


Special Guest: TERRI FARLEY


Editors and readers will follow great characters anywhere. In this interactive workshop, you’ll explore your character’s heart and head, walk in their shoes, examine their pasts, and chart what makes them tick. Besides bonding with your character, you’ll acquire techniques to humanize book people who’ll create excitement and intensify your themes.

This workshop works best if writers arrive with a picture – ripped from a magazine, printed from the Internet – that resembles their character.

Our guest, Terri Farley, is the best-selling author of the Phantom Stallion series for young readers. She was honored by the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame and her HarperCollins books have sold more than two million copies in 28 countries.
Farley is an advocate for the West’s wild horses and works with young people learning to make their voices heard. Wild at Heart: Mustangs and the Young People Fighting to Save Them is her first work of non-fiction. Chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection, Wild at Heart was published by Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt in September 2015.
Missing an issue of our newsletter? The most recent issues can be found in the archive by clicking the View this in your browser link at the top of this email. From there, you can select the previous issues. this is a new feature at MailChimp and the archive will continue to grow to 20 previous issues over time. Issues for this year thorough August are also available on our website www.highsierrawriters,org

Newsletter layout and editing by Rene Averett. Images used are from Graphics Factory or Stencil and are used with permission.
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December 2017 Newsletter

From the HSW President 

Particularly because of looking at entries for the short story contest, I think it would be helpful to contrast two key elements of a story: setting and immediate scene. I’ve talked about immediate scene before; it’s writing that occurs in the moment. It’s a close POV where the reader is experiencing what is happening as it happens. Dialogue is usually immediate scene, unless the dialogue is recounting something that occurred off-stage, out of the sight of the reader. Usually something in the past.

Setting is that element that tells the reader when and where the story is taking place. It creates an atmosphere or context for the story.

Here’s the conflict. Traditionally, stories started out with a description of setting. In both movies and books this was called “exposition.” However, in recent years, exposition has shrunk more and more. We have shorter attention spans. We want things to get moving. We don’t want a long explanation of background.

That’s why “immediate scene” has become more important to readers and moviegoers. Audiences want to get right into the story, be immersed in it. The challenge for writers is to plunge in, yet introduce the details of setting without bogging down the scene.

Think of TV shows such as, Law and Order, CSI, Gray’s Anatomy. The show usually starts with some kind of emergency or a murder or some other crime. The audience doesn’t know the context at the start. The pieces start to get revealed as the show progresses.

How do James Bond movies start? With an action scene. In Casino Royal, the first ten minutes – the teaser – involves Bond chasing some operative in the most spectacular footrace I have ever seen. It looks like they’re in the tropics, but we don’t know where. We don’t know who the guy is who’s running from Bond. We don’t know why Bond is chasing him. This is a far cry from Dickens who would have given the dates of birth of pursued and pursuer, walked us through their grammar school days, and given the shoe size of everyone in the scene.

The teaser that launches immediate scene is now expected by audiences. When we send queries to agents, they expect immediate scene too. The slow burn is something bestselling writers can afford because they’ve already captured an audience who is more willing to give them some leeway. But if you’re starting out, stay in immediate scene as much as possible.

Matt Bayan

December Meeting

Literary Tour Highlights

As some of you know, Donna Stegman spent a month touring literarily significant sites in Europe. She slept in William Shakespeare’s pajamas, drew graffiti on Dante’s birthplace, and knocked over one of the stones at Stonehenge. That was just in the first week. For your edification, she will regale us with a brief presentation of her literary journey.

Contest Results

At our December 9th meeting, we’ll announce the winner of our short story contest. This will lead into a discussion of the consistent issues that we found in just about every entry. Think of it as expanded first pages, but we’ll be taking examples of Dos and Don’ts from beginnings, middles, and ends and reviewing them with the perspective of an editor or agent. Since the contest was anonymous, the items for discussion and feedback will remain anonymous.

First Pages 

Matt will be doing First Pages at this month’s meeting. If you’d like to participate in this month’s first pages critique with Matt Bayan, please bring in your first page. Please print the page in at least 12-point font and double-spaced. If you have more than one manuscript, feel free to bring in more than one sample. It helps if you identify the genre at the top of your page. This is anonymous, so don’t include your name.

Book Blurb Critiques

Our Communications Director, Donna Stegman will be critiquing Book Blurbs at this meeting. She will read aloud back-cover synopses submitted by members. She will give a verbal critique and get feedback from the group. Please bring a printed copy, 12-point minimum font, to hand to Donna at the beginning of the meeting. All blurbs are kept anonymous to keep biases from interfering with the critique.


A back cover synopsis/blurb is a three paragraph summary of the novel that does not tell the end of the story. It’s simple, direct, and needs to have a hook.  Whether you’ve finished your novel or are still plotting, writing an effective synopsis for your story is key to selling your novel.

Membership Renewal is Coming Up!

Your HSW membership runs from January to December of each year, no matter when you joined.  So, come January, it is due for renewal. For $25, you can enjoy all the benefits of HSW membership, including the newsletter in your inbox, critique groups, discounts or free entry to special workshops throughout the year, contest options, and more. You can submit your payment to Jay Leavitt at the December or January meetings or you can mail   check or money order to  High Sierra Writers at PO Box 7825 Reno, NV 89510.

 One benefit to being a member of the High Sierra Writer’s group is your access to join or start a critique group. So far this year 27 people have taken us up on this offer, and six new groups (some temporary) were formed.  So if you’re feeling the itch to jump on the critique bandwagon and help give your project a giant push forward, contact Critique Group Wrangler Nicole and join in on the fun!  And if you’re waiting for a group, go ahead and refresh your intent to join a group (meaning…remind me in case you fell through the proverbial crack!).  cgwrangler@highsierrawriters. org  – Nicole

As some of you already know, I recently returned from Europe…28 days, 14 TSA screenings, 5 trains, 4 tour cars, 4 water taxis, and at least a million cabs, and I watched an episode of Outlander being filmed. It was epic. Now that I’ve been home a few weeks, I’ve had a bit of time to digest what I saw and experienced.

In a freakishly fortunate turn of events, I ran into an old buddy while in Edinburgh, who just happens to own the rights to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Dacre Stoker was in the U.K doing a tour on all things Dracula, Bram was born in Ireland where he started his famous novel but honed his craft in Scotland. Lucky for us, the people of Scotland have preserved his house as a museum, so I asked for a guided tour of where he wrote, From a Stoker! Yes, I was a gushing fangirl for 3 hours.

With everything I saw, smelled, and touched, you know what I found most fascinating? Next to his desk was a pile of papers under glass, all covered in doodles, yes doodles. Dogs, birds, trees, and bugs were doodled on scratch paper all over this brilliant writer’s desk. He had lists of items he needed to pick up at the market, lists of bills he needed to pay, and dates for dinner scrawled on the back of a receipt. It made me think, no matter where you are in your writing career, we daydream, we find anything to do that isn’t writing, and we doodle.

It should give us all hope that we’re not alone, even the most successful of writers can’t buckle down and get to work sometimes. Dacre thinks that it’s all part of the process, that our creative minds must wander in order to gather tidbits that make-up our imagination.

Donna Stegman

Congratulations to NaNo Writers

Several of our HSW members participated in NaNoWriMo this year. Whether you wrote 10,000 words or 100,000 words, you are a winner because you have that many more words toward your writing project. NaNo isn’t completely about the winning, but for the participation and effort. If you follow the plan, you’re writing every day and you will form the daily habit. Now continue to do it. Congratulations to each of you. Good job!

Please Update Your Information

When you change email addresses, our newsletter can’t find its way to your inbox if you don’t update your information. We use MailChimp to handle our mailing so it is easy to update from your computer, smartphone, or tablet. Simply click on “update your preferences” at the bottom of the email and edit your email address. If you don’t have access, you can always see Rene Averett at an HSW meeting and give her your updated information. Thank you.

Newsletter layout and editing by Rene Averett. Images used are from Graphics Factory or Stencil and are used with permission.
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November 2017 Newsletter

From the President


So you’ve done your research, created a list (or a spreadsheet if you’re a paragon of efficiency and organization) of agents you want to query, and think you have everything you need. Your query letter looks great; your pitch is enticing and you’re confident. Use this checklist before you hit send.
__ My manuscript is complete (and edited, and proofread).
__ I’ve done my best to come up with a great opening line.
__ I’ve described the plot in a clear and concise way.
__ I’ve included the genre and word count of my manuscript (or projected word count for a nonfiction title with a proposal) in my query.
__ This agent represents that genre.
__ I want to work with this agent because something in her bio or credentials (or blog post or interview) resonates with me.
__ If I’ve met the agent at a conference, I’ve included the conference name in the email subject line (and somewhere in the query itself).
__ I have checked this agent’s submission guidelines.
__ I have included all the materials that this agent requires.
__ The materials are included in the desired format, i.e. in the body, not attached (if that’s what the submission guidelines call for.)
__ I greet the agent by name, not as a generic Dear Agent.
__ I’ve checked that the agent I’m addressing is the same one I’m emailing.
__ I’ve spelled the agent’s name correctly.
__ If unsure of the agent’s gender, I’ve used the agent’s full name or first name.
__ I’ve spelled the agency’s name right and named the correct one (if I’m mentioning it).
__ I’ve included my contact information.
__ My subject line includes the working title of the book.
__ My query can be read without a magnifying glass.
__ My formatting is consistent throughout the query.
__My email address shows my name—not my spouse’s, or mine and my spouse’s, or a random string of letters and numbers, or a quirky nickname, or my main character’s name.

-Matt Bayan


If you are entering a short story in the “Poker Pot” competition, your submission(s) and $10 entry fee per story are due at the November meeting. You will need to pay your fee and get a receipt from our treasurer, Jay Leavitt, then hand the submission to Linda Enos (Bailey). She is the contest coordinator.


Linda will tear off the cover page, then give the stories to Donna and Matt. This will ensure completely blind and unbiased evaluation of the entries. Be sure to include all the required information—name, title, genre, and contact – on the cover page.

IMPORTANT: The story title, genre, and page number must be in the header of each page of the story. All pages must be stapled together in correct sequence with the cover page on top. Do NOT include your name or contact information on the story pages. If any story pages have your name and/or contact information, the submission will be disqualified.

Election Results for HSW Board 2018

The slate was unanimously passed by voice vote at the October meeting…plus two emailed “yay” votes.

Matt Bayan – President
Nicole Frens – Secretary
Jay Leavitt – Treasurer
Donna Stegman – Director of Communication
Rene Averett – Director of Membership
A HUGE thank-you to our incoming board!

From the Treasurer

Jay will be taking the story fees, $10 per story, two-story maximum per writer, at the November meeting. He will also begin taking membership renewals, $25, for 2018 at this meeting. He reminds everyone that HSW has already contributed $100 to the pot so the winner is guaranteed to get at least $110 dollars. Winner will be announced at the December meeting.

Jay also needs any outstanding reimbursement requests with a receipt in order to close out the December and 2017 books at the end of the year.

Planning for Success

Last month, Gina Decker presented a program on planning to achieve your goals. It was suggested that those who want to do it can plan and bring their goal-setting to discuss with other members. Gina will be at the meeting to answer any questions or help clarify the use.

For those who don’t recall the technique or weren’t there, Gina suggested a sheet of paper folded in half lengthwise, then folded into thirds to make six boxes when unfolded. Label each box as Goals: Educational, Big Projects, Personal and the bottom first two are things that might distract from the goals: Organizations and Work, then add in Helpers to get you to your goals. Under those headers, you then list what you plan to achieve in 2018 and the things that will help and distract you from your goals.


Next Meeting is November 18, 2017 at 10 a.m. at the South Valleys Library on Wedge Parkway. We will have first pages and blurbs.

7 Tips to Break Writer’s Block

From the experiences of Rene Averett

As I’m starting my 4th year of NaNoWriMo, I’m planning to complete the first draft of my next novel. I have “won” every year so far and have every expectation of completing 50,000 words plus quite a few more in November. Even while doing NaNo, writer’s block can set in. I have a few techniques I use to get past them so I will share my top 7 tips for anyone else to try.

1. Change writing mediums: If you’ve been typing on a keyboard, try writing with paper and pen. I find that it triggers my mind into using my creative side and words tend to flow more easily as my mind shifts modes. After a page or so of writing longhand, I can usually get back into the flow of the story and to the computer.

2. Move around: Get up, take a walk, or do something physical for about 15 minutes. Your brain may just need a break. Put on some music and dance or exercise.

3. Refresh and ask questions: Get a cup of coffee or a glass of water and allow your mind to think about the scene. Ask yourself questions about it. Maybe you haven’t planned it well enough. Ask the basic reporter’s questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? If you can answer them, then you might trigger the next part of your story or you can write a character back-story scene that gets you going again.

4. Take time for play: Play a game or do something creative, such as sketching, drawing, or cooking. Once again, this provides a break and allows your brain to work on the next part of your book.

5. Skip over the scene and go to one that is clearer in your mind: This works well if you’re a plotter. Often when plotting, you add scenes that you’re looking forward to writing while others are part of the necessary lead-up to that great scene. If the lead-up isn’t coming together, jump to the scene you’re really wanting to write. This often sorts out the troublesome scene in the process.

6. Turn off your inner editor. Easier said than done, but seriously, editing uses a different part of the brain and stifles creativity. Let your creative side go and just write.

7. Dream on it: If you’re having trouble with a scene, think about it before you go to sleep. Your brain will work on it while you’re sleeping and you’ll probably have the solution in the morning.

Hope these tips help you if you find yourself staring at the same line of your computer screen for a long time.

Newsletter layout and editing by Rene Averett. Incidental images from Graphics Factory are used with permission.
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October 2017 Newsletter

From the HSW President


Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas and New Year. The next three months will suck you away from whatever writing routine you may have. Don’t lament, don’t cry, don’t panic.

Accept the fact that you will be distracted. Downshift your expectations and take a detour.

Take the slowdown as an opportunity to stop writing new material and use it to improve what you’ve already written. Here’s how. Mark up the first three pages based on which of the three types of writing each sentence falls under: description, summary, or immediate scene. Use different colored highlighters or underline or circle. Whatever works for you.

Then look at those pages and assess which type of writing dominates. If description or summary come out on top, you have a serious problem. Go through the rest of your manuscript and mark it up. When you finish, you now have a road map of what you need to do. The good thing is that you can work on small segments at a time.

Have a half hour? Rewrite a few pages. Convert description to compact images. Get rid of long summary. Upgrade your chapters into immediate scene. Increase dialogue. Look for other ways to better say what you wrote before.

Whether you get done during the holidays doesn’t matter. If you do this mark-up, you’ve set an inventory of work to get done over whatever time frame works for you. Doing this exercise will make a significant improvement in your novel.

When you’re done, go back to page one of your manuscript and read through to see if it is “a dramatic story told dramatically.”

Matt Bayan

HSW Board Ballot is at the bottom of this newsletter. Please read.

November Meeting Changed

Due to scheduling conflicts with the library, the November meeting is rescheduled to the third Saturday of the month, November 18th. It will still be at 10 a.m. at the South Valleys Library on Wedge Parkway.

The program for this meeting is undetermined for this time. Details next issue.

Short Story Contest Entries

Since the November meeting has changed to November 18th, the deadline for the Short Story contest entries has moved to the 18th meeting when they can be handed over. Only current HSW Members may enter the contest.

Things to note:

  • All entries must be submitted by the NEW November date; Nov. 18 th.
  • The entry fee per each story submitted is $10.00 with a maximum of two entries.
  • Jay will be accepting fees starting at the October meeting if you will not be at the November meeting or wish to pay early.
  • If you can’t make the November meeting, you may hand your short story to Lynda Bailey (Enos) at the October meeting.

In case you forgot the criteria for the short story entry, your story must have:
A.  A romantic element
B.  A fight scene
C.  A plot twist
D.  Dialog as the first sentence
E.  A cover page with name, title, genre, and contact.

Winning story will be announced at the December meeting. Judges decisions are final and not subject to negotiation.

Next HSW Meeting Will Feature Planning
The meeting is October 14th at 10 a.m at the South Valleys Library. We will not be doing blurbs at this meeting, but we will be doing first pages, so bring those along. During our October meeting, we’ll have two programs.

1.    Goal Setting for Writers
Our October guest will be Gina Decker,, who will give a presentation on goal setting and then lead the group in a personal goal setting exercise. Gina Decker holds an MA in Educational Leadership and BAs in Music and English from the University of Nevada, Reno. She is the owner of Tech Done For You, Writing and Editing Today and offers consulting services to authors and small business owners who need websites, blogs, and social media management. Gina works full time from home doing tech for business owners, has published 5 books with a 6th in the works, and is here to talk to you about how to organize your creative writing projects so you can focus on what you love. Bring a blank sheet of paper.

2.    Craft Workshop
Bring a few pages of your manuscript. We’re going to work on them and show some simple ways to make your writing more powerful and engaging. This workshop will be anonymous, so don’t freak out about having your work publicly analyzed (unless you want it).

Gina Decker did an interview with Barbara Ingrassia, a certified copyright manager, speaker, and trainer, regarding copyright mistakes small business owners make. HSW members may view the interview at this link.

Ms. Ingrassia offered a free booklet, which Gina passed on to us: The Top 10 Copyright Mistakes Small Businesses Make (that could land them in court) and How to Avoid Them: gift.

Romance Times Convention Comes to Reno

Yes, this is a big deal in the romance genre. Romance Times is a reader/writer convention of epic proportions, almost as big as the RWA Convention.

Come May 15 through May 20, the Peppermill Hotel will be overflowing with romance, or at least a slew of writers and readers. Featuring an array of authors and numerous panels available to both readers and writers, this is a convention to consider. Although the price is also a little on the epic side, it does offer more than 100 workshops, parties, and reader events. As with any convention of this type, it’s a great place to network and make important contacts.

If you’re interested, check out their web site soon as they are accepting registrations NOW!

High Sierra Writers
Election Ballot

President – Matt Bayan
Secretary – Nicole Frens
Treasurer – Jay Leavitt
Director of Communication – Donna Stegman
Director of Membership – Rene Averett
Director of Education – NA


  • Voting is open until the end of October.
  • Since none of the positions are being challenged, you can email Linda Enos at with either a *Yay* or *Nay* vote.
  • We will also do a *voice* vote at the October meeting.
  • Results will be announced at the November meeting.
  • A challenge period will last until 11/20 with the final, official results announced at the December meeting.

Any questions or concerns, contact Linda Enos…

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September 2017 Newsletter

From the HSW President

There’s no THERE there. How to engage readers with active verbs.

Whenever you see “there” you usually have a passive verb, except when “there” is a place, as in “over there.” Word search for “there” and you can cut a lot of passive verbs and make your writing more engaging for readers.

Example 1: There are storm clouds on the horizon.

This sentence doesn’t convey much.

Example 2: Storm clouds loom on the horizon.

Better? Sense of foreboding?

Example 3: Black storm clouds boil over the horizon.

Compare Example 3 to Example 1.

Which is stronger? Why? Which is active rather than passive? Which one is easier for a reader to visualize?

‘Nuff said.


September Meeting Reminder

At our September meeting, we will have two speakers, Harlequin authors Anna J. Steward and Melinda Curtis, who will be presenting an all day workshop on Building Your Characters from the Ground Up. The morning session, beginning at 10 a.m. with Anna is free. We’ll break from noon to 1:30, then the afternoon session with Melinda will be $10 for HSW members and $15 for non-members. Feel free to invite others to join us for this exciting session.

The meeting is Saturday, September 9th at the South Valleys Library on Wedge Parkway. The meeting will begin as soon as possible after the library opens at 10 a.m.

As authors, we know writing is hard. Real hard. Brutal even. It’s beyond tough to get the story points right, create compelling characters and avoid the dreaded “mushy middle.” But as the saying goes, if writing was easy, everybody would do it.

Still, it’s in our nature as humans to try to find ways to turn what’s difficult into something less so. In short, we’re looking for a Golden Ticket – a way to make the arduous task of writing easy. That’s why we buy books on characterizations and attend workshops on plotting. But news flash…such a golden ticket doesn’t exist. Why? Because, as with so many things in writing, an author’s process is subjective.

That’s right. Subjective. The concept we all love to hate. A writing method which works for Author A, probably won’t work for Author B. Or for you. Does this mean you should stop trying to better your craft? Absolutely not!! It just means you can’t take everything that anyone says as gospel. You need to glean the tidbits which work for you because – and here’s the kicker –you have a writing process too. One unique to you, and you alone. So read those books and attend those workshops on writing, but remember…there’s no golden ticket. Just a lot of hard work.

Lynda Bailey

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, which is November. The objective of the event is for participants to write a 50,000-word novel during the month in order to encourage writers to focus on writing. It is an attainable goal and the organization provides many motivators to help writers achieve it.

To assist on the local level, the national organization appoints a volunteer Municipal Liaison (ML) for each region or city who helps to organize writing events and provide general encouragement throughout the month. This year, our region has two ML’s handling the tasks, Rene Averett and Jennifer Baumer, listed as Lily Wolfe and Jenna Stone on the regional page. Since they both live in Reno, they will be looking for people in Carson, Minden, Fallon, and Tahoe to assist with physical write-ins.

If you are interested, you are invited to join the NaNo Reno Facebook page. Go to  You can also contact Rene at for more information. For more about the program, visit

Agent Jen Hunt with HSW President Matt Bayan at the July HSW meeting. Jen talked about submitting to an agent and things to avoid saying in your query letters.

Reno Comic Con Booth Opportunity

The Reno Sands Comic Con is returning on September 23rd & 24th.  It is not on a par with the bigger Comic Cons, but it is more affordable for vendors. Along with another Reno writer, Rene Averett will have a booth under Pynhavyn Press in the Dealer’s Room.  If you are a science fiction or fantasy writer, this is a good opportunity to get your book on display and possibly sell a few copies. The booths run $110 for the weekend. For more information, go to

Critique Group Happenings

Critique Group Wrangler Nicole is now putting together groups for writers of non-fiction, short stories, and  novels. If you’d like to start or join one of these groups, contact her today!

Short Story Reminder

Don’t forget the Short Story Contest entry deadline is coming up in two months. If you haven’t written it yet, stop procrastinating and do it! Write in September. Edit and polish in October. Submit in November. Did we mention you could win a CASH prize plus bragging rights?

Editing Lingo 101

 Bringing in the Experts

If you’re publishing your work in the traditional fashion, or if you’re an indie author, you’ll need to understand the world of editing. I’ve had many questions at our meetings on editing and in what order it needs to be done.  Today, I’m introducing a Development Editor.

Developmental Editing
The first stage after you write a book is developmental editing. Better yet, have this person in place as you write.

What Do They Do?
A developmental editor’s job is to pick apart all the pieces of your manuscript and help you put them back together better and stronger.

A great developmental editor is more of a guide than a collaborator, although you’ll need someone that you get along well with and who can nudge you in the right ways. This editor should always specialize in your genre.

Basically, you want someone who can point out the flaws in your writing, as well as the things you’re doing well, and help you figure out ways to fix the things that aren’t working and amp up the things that are.
Developmental edits focus on the big picture: does your book make sense? Is it missing anything? Does it contain too much?

In fiction, that means looking for plot holes, undeveloped characters, weird pacing, strange jumps in point of view, characters who appear and disappear out of nowhere, inconsistencies, and so on.

What Don’t They Do?
In a lot of cases, developmental editors don’t provide copyedits or proofreading. They’re just there to help you whip the structure and function of your book into shape, going over matters of plot, pacing, characterization, and more.

Granted, some aspects of mechanical writing will come into play—if you struggle with certain grammatical rules or spelling issues, that will get addressed—but developmental editors mostly focus on the big picture.

When you’re hiring a developmental editor, be sure that you’re both clear on what exact services the editor provides and how many rounds of revision you’re going to get.

This will be a lengthy relationship, treat picking a developmental editor like picking out a roommate. You’re going to love them, hate them, cry to them, and they’ll see you at your worst, and at your best.

Donna Stegman
Continuity Editor (we’ll get to my specialty next month)

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