Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Getting Published’

A Handy (and Fun!) Reference Book for Writing and Editing

In Uncategorized on July 5, 2020 at 11:00 am

Shelley Widhalm of Shell’s Ink Services poses with the proof of her book, “50 Tips for First-Time Authors.”

Becoming pro at writing takes time and experience, but for those gaps in knowledge, it’s great to have a bookshelf (virtual or real) of reference books.

I consolidated many of the writing tricks and tips I learned over the years in my new release, “50 Tips for First-Time Authors: Learn the Secrets of Writing for Publication.” The book comes out in Kindle and print on Lucky 7/7, or July 7, 2020.

From the Reviewers

I sought reviews for the book and got some great responses, including one from a reader who said the tips “are clear, compelling and practical.” “They truly provide a map to move steadily forward in the writing journey,” the reader said, adding that the journey also can be discouraging.

I can attest to that discouragement. I’m trying to get traditionally published and have had some interest but not a final yes, while self-publishing requires the same amount of time, dedication and patience. There is as large a learning curve as there is to learning how to write and edit in a clear, crisp and compelling style that gets reader buy-in and builds a fan base.

Another reviewer said, “In this concise and practical book, this successful writer uses her insight and skill to encourage, support and guide fellow writers through their creative process.”

And Now for the Tips

In nine quick-to-read chapters, I offer tips for getting started writing, what’s involved in the writing process, the difference between writing fiction and nonfiction, and editing best practices, plus ways to avoid the dreaded writer’s block. I wrap up with a dozen reasons for loving writing.

The final chapter, “Loving Writing (Because It’s Essential!),” is my favorite. An excerpt from the chapter sums up why writing is a great practice.

It’s a way to be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do, going places, and doing things you might not do otherwise.

And, most importantly, it’s interesting to find out what you created after spending a few minutes or hours on a novel scene, short story, or essay. It’s the ultimate process of discovery.

To learn about these and other tips and find out about the essentials to writing and editing, visit Amazon to get a print or Kindle version of 50 Tips for First-Time Authors.

Thanks for checking out my favorite tips from the hundreds I’ve learned and collected over the years!

Overwhelming Outlets for Writing and What To Do

In Shelley Widhalm, Writing on August 9, 2015 at 11:00 am

When it comes to entering contests, submitting stories for publication and finding a literary agent, I find the options overwhelming.

In my writers’ magazines, especially during special issues about contests and publications, the lists of potential places to submit work often span several pages. How do you figure out which places to submit without straining your wallet or spending excessive time and energy with little result?

First, figure out your goals and come up with a plan. Part of this plan can include an artist’s statement of why you write and your specific writing goals—what are they daily or weekly and for the year? The statement can serve as a reminder of why you write and what you hope to achieve.

Make sure your goal, or goals, is challenging and specific.

Do research of what’s out there—such as short story, poetry, book, genre and essay contests— and narrow down based on the factors you identify as most important. Do you want to win a cash prize, have your writing evaluated, get recognition, be published in a high-profile publication, meet literary agents or have your conference fees paid?

As you conduct your research, make sure the contest has a Website. Also, large contests may have a higher entry fee and because contests always are located within a region, the judges may prefer writers from that area, or they also may be looking for certain genres and quality of writing.

What are some places to look for contests and agents? Try writers’ guides, classified ads in magazines and special sections in writers’ magazines that include lists of contests (which have the notoriety to be mentioned) and agents now accepting work. Other places to check are literary journals, specialized magazines, anthologies and short story collections to see what and how they publish writers’ work.

Set a deadline of how many stories or poems you want to submit each week or month and how many agents to send query letters and sample chapters, making sure to follow their guidelines.

Measure your progress by marking how many submissions and letters you send off each week or month or by filling out something like a spreadsheet. A spreadsheet can include sections for story titles or literary agent names, journal names, dates submitted and the results.

As for the writing, I find that if I get overwhelmed with finding outlets for getting my work out there or doing the work in the first place, I need to start small.

Typically, when I’m in the midst of a writing project, I try to write 1,000 words a day three to four times a week. But if I’m stuck, I’m happy with 300 to 500 words once a week. I tell myself to do one thing at a time and to have a “to do” list, so I can check things off and have a feeling of accomplishment.

Picking the best writing contests to enter (and overcoming the fear to try)

In Staying Motivated, Writing, Writing Contests, Writing Processes on April 5, 2015 at 11:00 am


I have a slight fear when it comes to entering writing contests, or actually two fears—will my writing be thrown into the reject pile and will I be wasting my money?

The answer to the first is practical and philosophical—I can’t win if I don’t try, and, as a friend told me, I basically lose by not trying.

What can be “won” can include publication in a magazine, journal or anthology, prize money, an all-expense trip to a writer’s conference or a meeting with agents and editors.

As for my second fear, I have to remind myself that not all contests require an entry fee, and those that do can provide a return on investment, if not a win. The ROI is the feedback you receive in the score sheet or written comments beyond the form letter rejections that will help you improve your writing for the next time.

The ROI in a win or an honorable mention, such as for a short story, nonfiction or poetry contest, is a demonstration to agents and publishers that someone other than family and friends sees merit in your work. You earn an accolade to mention in the query letters you submit to literary agents for longer work.

But before you even enter a writing contest, realize winning or not winning isn’t personal or a reflection of your writing quality and originality. It can be a matter of the publication’s style, the editors’ personal taste and a high number of entries from other talented writers.

Also, it’s important to:

  • Be selective on which contests you enter, and only enter those where winning guarantees publication in a reputable journal. Avoid contests that lack a website or mailing address or that have large entry fees and low payouts to the winners.
  • Follow the contest guidelines, themes and rules for entering.
  • Get a sense of the taste and style of the magazine, journal or anthology.
  • Research the final judge and read his or her work.
  • Avoid entering simultaneous submissions; save them for non-contest entries.
  • Keep track of your submissions on a spreadsheet, including contest name, entry date and deadline, title of the work and the entry fee, if required.
  • Submit early and, if allowed, often.

Most of all, make sure what you enter is your best (and polished) work. Realize that contests are one of many paths to publication. Submitting to a journal or magazine during regular submission periods also can earn you those publication credits.

(See Zoey the Cute Dachshund’s blog at