novel writing

Writing tools, 26 ways to improve your writing is now available as a free download

Announcing the release of Writing Tools: 26 Tips on How to Improve Your Writing: Writing and Marketing Better Books.

Release day for Writing Tools

Writing tools, 26 ways to improve your writing is now available on Amazon.comWhen I accepted the task of participating in this year’s AtoZChallenge, I didn’t know what I faced. I almost didn’t enter, as I found out about the annual event at the last minute. I had no idea the twenty-six blogs I wrote as a way to train myself to blog more often would turn into my latest release, Writing Tools.

My New Year’s resolution for 2017 was to blog twice a week—Mondays and Thursdays. Like all good intentions, it quickly fell apart. When I saw a Tweet in late March about the AtoZChallenge, I thought, Why not? If nothing else, blogging every day would (almost) be the same as participating in NaNoWriMo, which I’ve done several times, officially, in my old writing group, and on my own.

Writing Tools: The Challenge

I’m not going to lie, it was a challenge. Not only did I have to write every day, I had to publish every day. And find appropriate images (thank you Pixabay and Canva), and spread the news through various social media outlets.

Editing for Red Riding Hood and the Lone Wolf was pushed back a month. Thank goodness I’d published Snow White and the Eighth Dwarf In March, so I was “between” books and had time to spare.

The most challenging aspect of blogging every day was finding subject for those awkward letters—Q, X, Z, but I persevered. (maybe with a little cheating when it came to J).

I banked a few days and pre-scheduled blogs as I faced a four day grand-babysitting job in the middle of the month (my son and daughter-in-law celebrated their tenth anniversary with a trip to California). At the end of the month I’d proven I could write 1,000-1,500 words on random subjects, publish and promote them.

A Big Thank You to BlogChatter

For unknown and mysterious reasons, when I signed up for the challenge, I did so under the umbrella of, a blogging powerhouse based in India. I received awesome support, met brilliant writers, and received free promotion on their website.

In May, they announced they would host our books if we wanted to compile our twenty-six blogs into a book. Heck, yeah, why not? I formatted my blogs, made a cover (thank you Canva) that complemented my other non-fiction book, The Plot Thickens: 21 Ways to Plot Your Novel (what is it with numbers in titles?), and sent it to blogchatter, which hosted it as a free giveaway for two months.

The Next Step

With encouragement from blogchatter and using the experience I’ve received from publishing my other books, I’ve uploaded Writing Tools to Amazon. I hope you’ll download it and benefit from the tips, techniques, and tools I’ve discovered over my eighteen year writing career.

From the blurb:

” . . . a valuable collection of tips for all aspiring authors, content writers, digital marketing students and anyone who wants to know the precious tools in the content marketing world.” —

If you’ve written a book and seek ways to improve it and, once published, how to market it, Writing Tools has the answers.

Writing Tools, 26 Tips on How to Improve Your Writing explores writing, marketing, and social media knowledge and shortcuts, making you a better writer. In this instructional ebook, author Cheryl Sterling delves into her eighteen years of experience to share:

  • How to set up an effective Amazon Author’s page.
  • Character development using Myers-Briggs and Numerology.
  • Scheduling of social media using BoardBooster and Hootsuite.
  • The benefits of Facebook groups, Goodreads, and Pinterest for writers.
  • The effective use of writing scene and sequel.
  • 3 and 4 act structure, which is best for you?
  • Improve your writing speed and how to revise your rough “vomit” draft.
  • Outlining and The Hero’s Journey
  • The importance of back-links and universal book links
  • 26 essential tips on writing and promoting your best work

You are a writer. Ensure a quality book and your best marketing practices with this how-to guide.

Click on the “Buy Now” button and start today.

Praise for Writing Tools, 26 Tips on How to Improve Your Writing:

It has all the necessary points for non-fiction writers and fiction writers. And the most important of all . . . to promote your published work.

It is easy to read, has some great insights with a dash of unexpected humour, and a ready-made cheat sheet to help you market your book better.

A Special Thank You

In conjunction with the release of Writing Tools, I’m re-releasing The Plot Thickens at a special price of 99 cents (down from $2.99). The book has been re-formated, re-indexed, and I’ve added images. If you’ve ever wanted to write a book but didn’t know where to start, The Plot Thickens offers 21+ ways to plot your book and get you started on the path to publication.

Please consider buying either or both of my books. And, as always, if you do purchase, please leave a review, however short. Reviews help Amazon bring better books to you.

Thank you and many blessings,










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Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling

Pixar Studios has developed wonderful stories in the past twenty-five years. These include the Toy Story series; UP; Wall-e (my favorite), Finding Nemo; Monsters, Inc. We can identify with many of the characters and situations.

There isn’t much difference between writing for the screen and writing for print. The objective is to have the reader empathize with your characters, worry and despair over their troubles and cheer when they overcome insurmountable difficulties.

How does Pixar hit all these points? How are they so successful? Well, it seems they have a formula, or rules. 22 of them, in fact.

These rules were originally tweeted by Emma Coats, Pixar’s Story Artist.

As a beginning writer (many years ago), I started with #3, I’ve since added many of these to my arsenal, specifically, #6, 7 and 16. Pixar’s rules can be applied to writing fiction, and I urge you to review and adopt some, if not all, of these strategies:

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Do you use any of Pixar’s 22 rules of storytelling? If so, which ones?

Happy writing,


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Raise the stakes in your novel.

Does every scene raise the stakes of your plot?

Raise the stakes in your novel.

Raise the stakes in your novel.

Lately, I’ve been playing a little game called RTS.  It stands for Raise The Stakes, and it’s made a big difference in the tension of my novel.

In order to catch and keep your reader’s attention, you have to involve them with your characters.   You want them to love them or hate them, root for or against them, and be actively involved with them.  (Think of the audience in The Truman Show).  Every scene should create a dilemma for your character, leaving the reader to wonder how your hero/heroine will react and get out of this newest problem.  This is especially true at the end of chapters.  The absolute worst thing you can do is end a chapter where the H/H goes to bed.  This is known as the “back-of-the-toilet” scenario, whereupon your reader, metaphorically or literally, turns the open book upside down on the back of the toilet and leaves, possibly never to return to reading your cherished story.

What you want to do is raise the stakes for your H/H in each scene.  Whether it is major, like killing someone/finding a body, or minor, like having something prevent you from completing the report your boss really, really needs, some ACTION has to happen to prevent your character from going on her merry way.

No one wants to read a book where nothing happens.

Raise The Stakes, or RTS, came to me as I fine tuned my outline for the last third of my current WIP, The Dearly Departed Dating Service.  Of course, I wanted a HEA (happily ever after) for my heroine, but I want it in a specific way.  I kept thinking about how a totally different character from one of my favorite authors achieved a similar HEA (the plots are not even close in similarity).  I spent a few days reading her novel again.  First for pleasure, and second, deconstructing each scene.

How I deconstructed a novel

First, I established in whose viewpoint was the scene written.  This author fairly split the scenes between hero and heroine.  This effectively raised the stakes for the reader as switching between the H/H’s dilemmas kept them curious and involved.   You knew Joe had been hit with a new problem in the last scene, and here’s Jane getting hit, as well, but what about Joe?  Better keep reading.

Next, I wrote down who else was involved in the scene and why.  Each character has to have a reason to be there.  If not, get rid of him.

Next, I wrote a two or three sentence synopsis of what was happening in the scene.  More often than not, one of these actions was the RTS.  How can the Heroine pay back the money she owes when her job is threatened?  How can the Hero salvage an important meeting when someone shows up uninvited who he knows will ruin it?  What do you mean, you’re married?

As large or as small as each problem is, they incrementally suck your reader further into your story.  Each scene should raise the stakes, propelling the characters deeper and deeper into chaos until your reader has to keep turning the page.

Sure, it’s fun to write that scene where this or that happens to X, but if X isn’t disturbed by it, why would your reader want to spend time on it?  Dull scenes are the death of your novel.

An exercise for you

Take one of your favorite books off your keeper shelf.  You know, the one that kept you up until 2 a.m.  Deconstruct some of the scenes.  Maybe not the whole book, but enough to understand what the author is doing – swirling her characters down a whirlpool and taking you along.

Once you’ve recognized how neatly and masterfully your author has entrapped you, the reader, apply some of her methods to your own writing.  Take a current scene from your WIP and analyze it, keeping RTS in mind.  Are you raising the stakes for your characters?  What can you add that will make it worse for them?  Do you need to drop a secondary character or add someone else?  What EVENT has to happen to make things worse?

Whatever changes you make, ensure that your character is left off worse at the end of the scene than the beginning.  Your novel will be enriched, and your reader enthralled.

Happy writing!



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