Writing from the Peak, PPW Blog

From the President

Pikes Peak Writers
Photo © Mike Anderson


By: Kim Olgren, PPW President

Is it a sunset, or a sunrise? For some, it’s both as they move out of one chapter and into another. One thing is for sure. It’s sure a beautiful image for the header of our soon-to-be-unveiled shiny new website. One of the many things your new board of directors and a host of other volunteers are diligently working to bring fresh and useful content to our members. As your new board president, I’m thrilled to be a part of the exciting changes happening with Pikes Peak Writers that will help us better serve our membership in so many ways.

Who am I?

Kim Olgren, PPW President

I’m Kim Olgren. Some of you may have seen me around hosting non-conference events. These are the events we put on nearly every week and special events we put on once a quarter and the occasional pop-up event. We may have met at one of our previous conferences. If not, I’ll be at the 2023 conference. Be sure to say “hi.”

What qualifies me to be president of your PPW board? My background includes having worked several non-profits, including The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Goodwill, and The Retired Enlisted Association, Chapter 1. Where I worked closely with their boards and/or leadership. I’ve worked in HR for a few companies in the Pikes Peak area as well. Giving me the necessary soft/people skills to thoughtfully match people to the positions best suited for and in which they can flourish. I’m a maker, creator, author, and likely your best cheerleader. For me, creativity is life. Math and data entry are necessary evils to be executed as cleanly and quickly as possible (I said what I said). I’ve run non-conference events for PPW for the last couple of years, including budgetary responsibilities. I’ve been the editor of our newsletter, I’m a contributing writer for the PPW blog, handled PPW’s social media, and done some administrative work as well. But mostly, I’m passionate about PPW’s mission:

Pikes Peak Writers (a 501(c)(3) organization) is committed to helping writers grow and thrive through education, outreach, and community.”

Pikes Peak Writers

We are an all-volunteer organization run by an all-volunteer board of directors. We run 100% on coffee and tea laden, wild-eyed (possibly somewhat feral) volunteers who are determined to fulfill our mission. Each one is precious to us, as are each of our members. Those in leadership positions with PPW have a special obsession for helping others. You’ll be meeting the rest of the board in future social media posts. Please be patient with us as we transition into new leadership positions and take on new tasks. We encourage every board member to take on some kind of responsibility within the organization besides their duties as a board member. I still wear several other hats for PPW. Our vice president is also the newsletter editor, one of our members at large is transitioning into the role of non-conference events director, another is taking over social media, and the board helps with conference in many hands-on, behind-the-scenes ways, just to name a few.

What are our future goals? Great question! Our biggest priority is to give you, our members, what we promise in our mission statement. The pandemic has been tough on all of us in some way. Many of us who rarely had too many issues writing found ourselves with too much time on our hands and too isolated to write. Others found they couldn’t find the time to write as spouses were suddenly home 24/7 and kids were attending school online from home. Some of us flourished during the pandemic and are having trouble adjusting to post-pandemic routines. If your train has jumped the track, we want to help you get back online. Attending some of our events and connecting with fellow writers again could be just what you need to find that spark again or you may find the desire to continue. My door is always open. You can shoot me an email at president@pikespeakwriters.com anytime. I will do my best to answer emails within 48 hours.

Who are We?

My job, along with the rest of the board, is to be responsible leaders, decision-makers, and stewards of Pikes Peak Writers assets in order to best fulfill our mission; whether that’s during our annual conference, non-conference events we hold throughout the year, our info-packed website and blog, or our anthology. We’re always working hard to inspire and help Pikes Peak area writers grow and thrive. Look for exciting new events and workshops happening every month culminating in one of the best writers’ conferences in the land, Pikes Peak Writers Conference, happening April 28-30, 2023. Volunteers are always welcome to help us serve our writing community. Email volunteer@pikespeakwriters.com to find out more.

The all volunteer board of directors are:

Kim Olgren President
Deb Courtney, Immediate Past President
AJ Metzgar, Vice President
Charise Simpson, Returning Treasurer
Kathie Scrimgeour, Secretary
Laura Hayden, Returning Member at Large
Dustin Hodge, Member at Large
Sharon Manislovich, Member at Large
Leilah Wright, Member at Large

PPWC2023 Submission Portal

The 2023 conference workshop submission portal is open until October first, and there’s never been a better time to share your knowledge. Conference registration will open in November. Be sure to register early and reserve your room. They go fast! Our lineup of workshops is shaping up to be stellar and with keynote speakers like Robert Crais, author of the best-selling Elvis Cole novels, Barbara O’Neal (who’s won more awards than you can shake a stick at), and Dave Chesson, creator of Kindlepreneur.com this conference promises to be one of our best. You do not want to miss this. Some attendees say one of the best things about conference happens in between and around the fabulous workshops when you might have the opportunity to rub elbows with your favorite author, meet a new favorite, or maybe even chat with an agent or editor. We are, after all, the friendliest conference in the U.S.

I look forward to seeing you soon. Until then, write on!

Kim Olgren

President, Pikes Peak Writers

Character Arcs

By: Donna Schlachter

This month we’ll take a look at how to create a Character Arc for the main characters in your story, usually the Hero, Heroine, and Villain. Secondary characters can have a character arc, as we’ll see below, but that most often stems from a main character’s Arc.

A character arc is the inner journey a character embarks on from the beginning of the story to the end. It hinges on the goal, motivation, and conflict (GMC) of the external events, the emotional or inner conflicts, the relational events, and sometimes the spiritual circumstances. This means, in fact, you could be looking at up to four GMC’s, depending on your story. As you can imagine, in a novella, with a limited word count, you need to get these arcs moving quickly yet believably.

Think of a character arc as a mini-model of life. None of us is the same as we were three years—or maybe even three months—ago. The same holds true for our characters. For a story of any length to be satisfying to the reader, something must happen. Action is good, but it is also shallow, in that it doesn’t touch us to our core. However, true change that results in a person becoming better in some way, can teach us something about ourselves.

The resources listed below this article are particularly helpful, especially Debra Dixon’s book Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. These sources provide lists and specific examples, some by genre, for various kinds of character arcs. For this post, I’ll simply list the information for you to think about, because there is way too much for one reading.

Character arc goes beyond story structure, although that’s important to understand as well. Once you figure out how to write a strong arc, you’ll understand your story far better, because change is the point of any story. Nobody wants to read a book where neither the main characters nor the world around them is any different at the end than at the beginning. What would be the point?

In the first resource below, Helping Authors Become Writers defines the various kinds of character arcs:

  1. Positive change arc – where the character or their world changes for the better
  2. Negative change arc – where the character realizes what they want isn’t better; where they fail to achieve their goal (tragedy); and where they change their mind about what they want and accept something less
  3. Flat arc – where the character has a belief that gets tested throughout the story but that belief keeps them going until the end

This same article goes on to list how to write each character arc. As you can imagine, the Positive Change Arc is the most complex, because it depends on forward momentum of circumstances and relationships that will mold the character into something new.

Write with a Positive Change Arc:

The first act and first plot point:

  • Reveal the Lie your character believes—and make it big enough to matter
  • Show conflict between the Lie and who/what your character wants to be
  • Know why it’s important to your character for the change to happen
  • Introduce your character in their normal world but set them up to move quickly into the now-evolving world
  • Give your character the opportunity to unlock the first dangerous door in the first plot point

The second act and midpoint plot points:

  • Send your character where he/she has not gone before – stretch them
  • Show how your character has learned from this blundering about and has figured some things out.
  • Move the character from the reactive phase to the active phase, taking control of the conflict
  • Take your character to an uber low moment that he must confront

The Third Act:

  • Increase the intensity of the onslaught of circumstances as you head toward the inevitable conclusion

The Climax:

  • As the reason for the story, this is where you, the author, reveal what the journey the character just endured was really all about.

Writing a Flat Character Arc:

  • Act 1 – make sure your character knows their Truth then make them use it to overcome the tests you plant
  • Act 2 – here your character acknowledges the Lie that’s embedded in their world, and holds it up to the Truth to choose which to believe
  • Act 3 – here your character’s Truth overcomes the Lie

Writing a Negative Change Arc:

  • Act 1 – show what Lie your character believes or what Truth they believe
  • Act 2 – your character confronts the Truth and rejects it, or confronts the Lie and accepts it
  • Act 3 – your character lives out his days in inner unhappiness and incompleteness


Modern fiction and storytelling usually embraces the Character Change Arc, because people change, and we hope they change for the better. Not that the character has to be more skilled in some aspect of their lives, or physically more robust, or mentally stronger—they just need to be changed in some positive way by the circumstances.

According to the MythicScribes article, which caters primarily to Fantasy stories, the primary arcs are the Character Change Arc and the Flat Arc. This makes sense, because in the Flat Arc, the world around the character has changed for the better.

As you can see, readers will have different expectations according to the genre. If the book is a Tragedy, which would be made clear by the title, the cover, or the back cover blurb, readers will find a Negative Character Arc satisfying, so long as the outcome is believable.

And that’s what a story of any length is all about—satisfying the reader’s expectations. When we do it well, the story and characters will resonate with the reader, and they’ll want to read more stories about those characters. They’ll also trust you to produce a satisfying story the next time around—which is your goal.

Next month, we’ll talk about how to give physical attributes without sounding like you’re reciting the character’s driver’s license.






Donna Schlachter, HeadshotA hybrid author, Donna writes squeaky clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published more than 50 times in books; is a member of several writers groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both, and is an avid oil painter.

Stay connected with Donna through her links below:
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/DonnaschlachterAuthor
Twitter: www.Twitter.com/DonnaSchlachter
Books: Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ci5Xqq
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/donna-schlachter
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&query=donna+schlachter


We Are Looking for YOU!

Are you that person who loves to socialize and be a part of something great? Have you ever asked what more you could do to keep that writing spark alive? The solution is simpler than you might think.

Pikes Peak Writers is an organization built and run solely by people who dedicate just a little bit of their time. You can be one of those people. PPW’s BoD has a few positions open that just might be the perfect fit for you. These positions vary on how much, or little, time it takes to fulfill the obligation.

We Need YOU!!

On September 15th the board of directors will meet to elect several positions. If you are one of the special people who want to take your career to the next level, we are looking for you. The open positions are: Member at Large, Secretary, Vice President, and President.

Read on for a punch list of what each job entails. This is not a full listing of responsibilities, but the most important.

  • THE PRESIDENT is the public face of the organization when possible at events and conferences, answering any phone messages, and negotiating contracts. The president organizes the quarterly board meeting, along with the agenda (the Vice President often assists), while facilitating communication among board members when a topic must be discussed (and potentially voted on) via email between board meetings. With the Secretary, they organize the election slate.
  • THE VICE PRESIDENT shall assist the President in the performance of his/her duties, fulfill any other duties assigned by the President, and assume the duties of the President if needed.
  • THE SECRETARY attends the board meetings, takes notes, compiles and cleans up the notes after the meeting, and gets them out to the rest of the board. Needs to track motions, seconds, votes, passage, or failure of motions, too. If bylaw changes are made, the official documents need to be updated and filed accurately on Google Drive.
    He or she also works with the president to put together the slate of nominees each year for the September elections and disseminates the slate and attendant documents to the board.
  • Members at Large (MAL) will attend the board meetings, provide input on issues discussed during board meetings, and has a voting right on issues that require a vote. A MAL must head up a committee, or serve on a committee, such as NCE, Social Media, Editor, or in any other capacity that is needed within the organization.

Pikes Peak Writers is one of the best organizations for writers and is run by writers like you. If you are interested in one of these positions, please send your interest to Kathie Scrimgeour (Member at Large) Kathie.MAL@pikespeakwriters.com. Also, visit PPW’s website for more information on the organization.

My Fantastic Journey to PPWC2022!

By: Jen Wolf – Proud recipient of a 2022 PPW Conference Scholarship. This is her story of what she experienced at PPWC2022.

It began with a Nerf Gun Battle

My journey to the 2022 Pike’s Peak Writers Conference began in my recliner, where I was living (for several weeks) after I sprained my psoas muscle during a Nerf gun battle at my step-son’s birthday party. I had already received information about the conference in PPW’s newsletter but I couldn’t afford to attend – I lost my job due to Covid last June. Then, in early February, I got the announcement that scholarships were available. So I opened up my laptop for the first time since my injury and made myself as comfortable as possible, and I began to write my application. I explained how I was getting back into writing after many years. I had just completed a short humor book that I was in the process of publishing, and I wrote how overwhelmed I was feeling because my next challenge is to plot the science fiction series that I have been researching for the past six years. I told the committee that “if I am able to attend, I believe I will gain tons of valuable information which will help me turn my writing dreams into a realistic plan for the future.” I was thrilled when I found out that I had won a scholarship to the conference. Spoiler alert: I learned everything I was hoping to learn, and more!

Past Failures Forgiven

From my perspective, the conference couldn’t have started out any better. I attended Becca Syme’s presentation, “Why Can’t I Execute My Plans?” and by the end of her talk, I forgave myself for any of my past failures to launch or finish a project. I tend to beat myself up a lot, so Becca deserves all the credit for that – her knowledge of human behavior systems gives her the absolute authority to gently help us get over ourselves. I walked out of her presentation as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It was an awesome way to begin and I felt (and still feel) hopeful that I can improve my writing life by working with my own individual parameters for getting stuff done.

Then I got a panoramic snapshot of the current publishing industry at Jane Friedman’s workshop, “Today’s Key Book Publishing Paths: What’s New, What’s Old, What’s Right For You?” I was particularly interested in learning more about the business of writing since I was in the process of publishing my humor book and I had a steep learning curve in front of me. A month before the conference, I had submitted my manuscript and was accepted for publication by a small vanity press. I didn’t want the publishing phase of the book to take as long as the writing phase, and I felt I needed some help to get me over the self-publishing hurdles that I thought I didn’t have time to learn how to jump (covers, formats, and ISBNs! Oh my!) Luckily, I was only charged a minimal fee, but Jane’s presentation was the first of many times during the conference when I wished I had waited to start the publishing process until afterwards. Oh well, you know about hindsight. And you also know how, as soon as you finish the final, painful edit of your manuscript – you want to get it out there!

After lunch on Friday, I attended the workshop that had first attracted my attention when I saw the conference listing: “How I Failed My Way To Six Figures,” with Ines Johnson. She shared the ups and downs of her writing and publishing career, making us laugh the whole time. I learned how important it is to establish consistency for your readers by staying true to your genre and providing them with fresh books on a regular schedule. I learned about productivity, marketing, and sales tools that might have taken me years to stumble upon. Thank you, Ines, for being so open and generous with your knowledge and experiences! That inspiring presentation was a crash-course in how to become a publishing goddess.

Lunch with Steve Saffel

At lunch on Friday, I sat at Steve Saffel’s table and enjoyed a great discussion that led to the topic of query letters. I will never forget what Steve said: “Explain why your manuscript has to get written, and why you are the only writer who can write it.” I also attended Steve’s workshop “The Novelist’s Career Path,” and he elaborated on this basic idea, giving many examples of authors who were in the unique position to write the books they did, and showing how their perspectives sold Steve on their ideas. I think this advice is golden and I loved the opportunity to sit and talk casually with the PPWC’s expert presenters on a more personal level.

Saturday morning I attended Jennifer Wilson’s workshop, “An Introvert’s Guide to Creating an Author Platform.” I desperately needed this information, and Jennifer summed it all up perfectly. After the conference I used my notes to claim my author’s pages on Amazon and Goodreads, create a website on Squarespace, and establish a social media presence. And the really amazing thing is that I felt confident in what I was doing and energized because I knew I was putting my time into the most effective things I could do to launch my book by myself.

Lunch with Ines Johnson

I sat at Ines Johnson’s table at lunch on Saturday and she answered a couple of questions that I had come up with since I attended her workshop. From my conversation with Ines, I took her to be a dedicated do-it-yourself-er, so I asked her about creating e-book files and about the process for self-publishing an audiobook. Ines is an awesome person, and when she realized the entirety of my lack of knowledge when it comes to indie-publishing (I am laughing at myself here,) she told me that she was attending Mark Lefebvre’s workshop on Draft2Digital after lunch and she encouraged me to go.

So I did. And Mark’s presentation was amazing! I found out that Draft2Digital is poised to be the Tesla of self-publishing vehicles, especially after its recent merger with Smashwords. Mark described the features of D2D in a down-to-earth, user-friendly way so that even a novice like me could understand and appreciate the tools available on the platform. Immediately after Mark’s presentation I went to his book-signing and got “Wide For The Win,” which has become a valuable reference in the weeks since the conference. I am super grateful that I got to chat with Mark for a few minutes about my publishing situation, too. After my conversation with Mark, I decided to keep working with the vanity press to get the paperback out there and the Kindle version out on Amazon because those were nearly complete at the time, but I have since created an e-book on Draft2Digital (the process was super easy and, dare I say, fun!) and I distribute my e-book everywhere else through Draft2Digital. How lucky am I that this was Mark’s year to pinch-hit for the keynote speaker who was originally scheduled? Very lucky.

Then the Banquet

Anyhoo, then there was the banquet, where it was once again a pleasure to sit back and relax while Aaron Michael Ritchey info-tained us with his original comic stylings before introducing his good friend Mark Lefebvre to the crowd for the keynote address. Mark’s speech was an enthralling reminder that as writers, we are the magic-makers. We are the spell-binders. We create the mind-symphony between a reader and a book, when that reader is truly connected. Thank you, Mark. And thank you Jenny Kate! And many, many thanks to all the volunteers and coordinators of the PPWC. I didn’t get a chance to meet all of you, but I remember your smiling faces (and your dogs’ smiling faces 🙂 and I hope we will meet again. Pike’s Peak Writers Conference is truly the “friendliest writing conference in the country.” Just a thought – a superhero theme might be in order one of these years. I got to meet some real-life superheroes at the 2022 PPWC and it changed my life!

For information on PPWC2023 click HERE.

If you are interested in a scholarship for PPWC2023 click HERE

Jen Wolf, Headshot

Jen Wolf is from Wisconsin but Colorado is her adopted home. She grew up wanting to be a writer but kept putting her writing goals on the back burner as she moved from state to state – living in Maine, Tennessee, Washington, Florida, and finally settling in Colorado where she met her husband, Chris McMichael. Along the way she started a soap company, worked as a karaoke host, and briefly owned a food truck. Recently she ghost-wrote a book of humor for men and currently she is working on a series of sci-fi / alternate history books based on the Ancient Aliens theory. This is Jen’s first article for Writing from the Peak.

Want to Write a Children’s Book?

By: Trista Baughman

So, you want to write a children’s book? Easy-peasy, right?

It can be easy, but it isn’t always. A lot of work goes into writing even a short book. I don’t say this to discourage you. The hard work is worth it. I have written fun rhyming books in a few minutes and picture books that took a few months. I am working on a chapter book I started years ago. Life happens.

Approaches to Writing

Before starting on a project, let’s learn a little about the different approaches to writing.

Pantser, Plotter or Plantser: You can take the pantser approach (butt in your chair and write as your muse guides you with little to no planning) or the plotter approach (make outlines, character sketches, etc., for your story, then connect the dots). Or my favorite, the planster approach (a combination of the other two.) Sometimes an idea springs to mind and I write the story all at once. Sometimes I make a brief outline before letting my creative juices flow. Other times, I plan out every detail before writing the first word. It just depends on my mood.

Tidbits to Keep in Mind

Here are some helpful tidbits to keep in mind, whichever approach you choose.

Start with an idea.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How will I begin my story? (You want to reel the reader in.)
  1. What will happen in the middle? (This is the climactic part that keeps the reader going.)
  1. How will it end? (This is the resolution, a satisfying ending that solves (most of) the problems. No cliffhangers, please.)
  1. What will the theme be?

You don’t have to answer in great detail; flesh these out later.

You may already have an idea. If you don’t, it’s no biggie. Book idea generators are a thing. (Who knew?)

If that doesn’t work, think about books from your childhood that you liked or disliked. How could you use those?

You can browse the public domain to take and tweak (Public Domain Books – List of Public Domain Books (libgen.onl)).

Tidbits Specific to Children’s Books

Rhyme and repetition.  Will your story be told in poetry or prose?  Rhyme can help children to experience rhythm in language and teach them essential skills in reading. Repetition can help make a book more memorable.

Do a bit of research. Visit your local library or bookstore and browse through your competition. Google and Good Reads can help you discover some of the best sellers in your genre, check out some of the lesser-known books and authors, too. You don’t want to copy these (that would be plagiarism). 😉 But it’s important to know your market.

Think like a child. You are writing books for kids, so you need to think like one. Consider problems kids face, things they find humorous, comforting, or scary. What personal experiences could you draw from?

Know your audience. Your audience is kids. But what age group? Knowing will help you choose your vocabulary and content for your book. It will determine the word count and type of book (e.g. picture book, early reader, chapter book, middle-grade book, young adult novel).

Know your purpose. Why are you writing this particular children’s book?  Are you writing to entertain or to convey an important message? Knowing can keep you going and help determine if your book has the effect you desire once you’ve completed your first draft.

Choose a voice. This is where you will think about your narrator and POV. Who is telling your story? Which point of view will work best?  Make sure you stick to whichever POV you choose. Will you tell your story in the past or present tense?

Know your characters. You want your characters to go through a bit of change in your story, but your character will have their distinct behaviors and dialect that set them apart. Your readers will notice if your character does or says something uncharacteristic.

The Writing Part

Begin your story “in medias res”.  Start where the action is; grab your readers’ attention. Younger kids won’t care for genealogy or ten-paragraph description of the setting or character appearance.

Motivate your characters– your MC (main character) needs a clear goal. Give them a goal they want more than anything else in the world.

Conflict– No conflict = no story. Conflict keeps MC from their goal. Have two or three minor additional conflicts for your character to overcome.

Setting– Start with places that are familiar to children. These areas won’t need as much detail, allowing more focus on plot.

Plot– Your plot consists of the significant events in your story with important consequences. It’s what your characters do, think, feel, or say that affects what comes next.

Dialogue– You want your dialogue to sound natural and help progress the story. Your characters will speak differently depending on their personalities and geographical origin. Remember to identify your speakers, especially when more than two converse.

Show, Don’t tell.  You’ve heard this your whole writing life. Show action rather than stating something has happened. Scenes should advance the plot and establish your characters. Keep passive voice to a minimum.

Denouement– the closing scenes of your story. They will tie up most loose ends and fulfill your promises to your readers. If you plan to have a sequel or series, leave a few ends untied so your readers can wonder what’s next.

Ready, Set, WRITE!

Revise. Rewrite. Edit. Repeat. Congratulations on finishing your book! Now the work begins. You will want to read several times, looking for different things each time.

  • Read through your story for content. Look for plot holes, inconsistencies, typos, that sort of thing. Is your plot and manuscript length appropriate for the age group? Has your main character grown throughout the story? Are your characters and setting consistent?
  • Next, omit unnecessary words. Concise, clear sentences are the way to go.
  • Now, focus on punctuation, grammar, and spelling. Bring out your thesaurus, dictionary, and style manual.
  • Utilize beta readers to give you feedback. Read your story to a kid. They are your audience; take notes of their reactions.
  • Do a final read-through to see if you’ve missed anything. At this point, you’re likely sick to death of reading your own story. Hang in there.
  • When your story is complete, you’ll want to find an illustrator or illustrate it yourself.

Publish Your Book

If you choose to self-publish, Amazon and Barnes & Noble Press are both worth your research. Keep in mind along with self-publishing usually comes self-formatting and self-marketing.

If you choose traditional publishing, Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market has you covered with lists of Children’s book agents, illustrators, publishers, and more. Also, check out the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), a great resource and networking system for children’s writers, etc.

Keep all this in mind and you’ll be off to a great start on getting your children’s book out there. I’ve attempted to give some insight into the process of writing a children’s book as well as some helpful tips, but I couldn’t fit everything into a single blog post. Luckily, there are tons of great books and courses on the subject, which I encourage you to pursue. I’ll include a short list of helpful books that I’ve used throughout the process.  Happy writing!


Helpful Books:

  1. The Everything Guide to Writing Children’s Books
  2. Writing Children’s Books for Dummies
  3. By Cunning and Craft
  4. Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 33rd Edition
  5. Self-Publishing with Amazon Ads: The Author’s Guide to Lower Costs, Higher Royalties, and Greater Peace of Mind
  6. Social Media Marketing for Dummies


Trista Herring Baughman

Trista Herring Baughman is a proud military wife and a homeschool mama.  She isthe author of The Magic Telescope. Her second book, Zombiesaurs, will be available soon at Barnes & Noble Press. You can find out more about her books on her website, or catch up to Trista on Facebook.

Tone Down the Drama – Please!

By: Donna Schlachter

Last month we talked about not having too much harmony in our story, and I shared ways to make sure the harmony we do have isn’t boring. Also, I shared about making sure the characters, the storyline, the plot, and the theme need to align so nothing and nobody is out of place. Readers sense that, even if they don’t know exactly what the problem is.

This month we’ll talk about having too much conflict, or tension, and not enough harmony, or downtime. Readers need a break once in a while. And we should give it to them. Not long enough for them to lose interest, yawn, and turn out the light, of course. Just enough to let them think we’re finally going to give the character a break.

Amp it Up!

And then we amp it up again.

But this isn’t about story arc, black moments, or crises. Or is it?

Every element of our story should play into and work on the story arc, the character’s journey, and all the elements of a good book. But too much of a good thing can detract from the reader’s enjoyment of the story, leading to confusion and a desire to never read another of our books.

Conflict, as we know, is at the heart of every story. Even a simple romance needs conflict to keep the love interests apart until the end of the book.

That said, depending on which theory you subscribe to, there are five or six kinds of story conflict possible in any book. I’ll list the six below:

  • Person against person – the most common type of conflict; can be relational, romantic, emotional, theological, issue-related, political, or a host of other options. Both persons should be strong enough to overcome the other, with the hero/heroine possessing some trait that helps them win in the end.
  • Person against nature – often the character is on their own and has to find a way to overcome the situation; if in a group, the sum total of the character’s skills should be able to overcome the natural force, so long as they work together.
  • Person against self – could be a fear, an addiction, a difficult past, or a tendency to choose wrong relationships. There must be a desire to overcome their situation, and often a mentor or romantic interest comes alongside to help in the journey.
  • Person vs society – the hero/heroine comes to the aid of a victim of a real or perceived injustice
  • Person vs technology – we often see this in science-based fiction or world-building fiction; can be real (existing) technology, or futuristic; steam punk is often found in this conflict
  • Person vs supernatural – can include imagined supernatural such as shape-shifters, or it could include ghosts, demons, gods, goddesses, aliens, and the like.

Chicken Wings

I know there are some of you saying, “But I hate conflict, and I don’t like to write it.” I get it. When I think of conflict, I envision prima donas, shouting matches, snippy comebacks, and the like. Seinfeld on steroid.

However, conflict in books doesn’t have to be like that. You can write about conflict between characters while staying true to your character, which is actually very important.

I’ll use an example. We recently went to Lambert’s Café in Sikeston, Missouri. I wanted fried chicken wings, so I asked the server what constituted a heaping platter, as the menu advertised. She said four wings. I said that wasn’t a heaping platter where I come from (thinking ten or twelve wings. I was hungry.) She said she figured I’d be full because of the two sides and the pass arounds. I said I’d be the judge of that, thinking she was trying to fill me up with non-chicken wing things. Well, when the plate came, it had four wings not much smaller than my hand in length. Four full wings, eight pieces. And yes, I took home food that night.

All that to say, there’s chicken wings – which I discovered when I went to a buffet a few days later, and they were obviously substituting sparrow’s wings for chicken wings – and there’s Chicken Wings. Conflict doesn’t have to be a knock-em-down-drag-it-out fight. Conflict isn’t always a fight to the death. Sometimes, you can simply foreshadow that something bad might happen.

Or, you can have a character be really indecisive about a direction they need to take. That creates conflict for the reader as they worry through the choices along with the character. How they deal with this says something about them.

You can use setting (as in people vs. nature) to create tension by placing your character in a dangerous situation, and how they work out of that pickle helps them grow as a person.

End a scene or chapter with a question. That creates tension for your reader and your character. This keeps the reader reading and the character moving forward. If your main character isn’t motivated to solve a problem, you’re going to have a difficult time writing a book about nothing.

Not Too Much Conflict

BUT – and there’s always one, isn’t there?—too much conflict will keep your character reacting instead of responding. Too much conflict will wear down your readers because they never get a chance to sit back and draw a breath, which, as we know, is the perfect place to then put them in more peril. Too much conflict makes the story something it isn’t, perhaps. Yes, thrillers and high concept books have lots of action, but it isn’t always conflict. It might lead to the next tense scene, and readers of these books expect that, but even those stories have moments where the characters settle down, have a meal, reminisce, or make a plan for the next big thing.

For example, while a shootout between the sheriff and the outlaws makes for good conflict, readers don’t want to stick in that scene for the entire book. Something must happen that leads the characters and the story on their arcs to the ultimate conclusion.

There is a difference between internal and external conflict, and each type impacts the main character(s) in different ways. We don’t only want our characters to grow in their skills, we want to see them grow as people. For the scoffer to find something to believe in. For the deadbeat to finally find a cause. For the sceptic to understand the meaning of whatever they’re seeking. For the cynic to find true love. For the loner to find family.

When it comes to internal and external conflict, remember that internal conflict changes the person, while external conflict changes the story world. We need both in our stories, because if there is only internal conflict, you’re making it emotionally harder for the character to resolve the story arc. Don’t focus on the internal conflict except as to how it keeps the character from overcoming the external conflict and achieving the external goal.

Next month, we’ll talk more about character arc and character change, particularly as it relates to Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.

6 Story Conflicts Possible in Your Book
Writing Conflict in Stories When You Hate Conflict

Donna Schlachter, Headshot

A hybrid author, Donna Schlachter writes squeaky clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published more than 50 times in books; is a member of several writers groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both. She humbly admits she doesn’t always get the number of characters perfect, so she often spends a lot of time re-writing.

Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!


Consistency vs. Routine

By: Bowen Gillings

Routines are death. When I was in the Army, I learned routines are literally death. It’s called operational security (OPSEC). Having a routine, a regular schedule to daily operations, let the enemy know your wheres and whens, and before you knew it, kablooey! Having a routine in daily life can make your creativity and productivity go kablooey. Consistency, on the other hand, is what publishers demand, readers want, and writers need.

Allow me to clarify the terms. Routine is patterned behavior. It’s the realm of day planners and iPhone Reminders. It’s multi-colored calendar entries that follow the same Roy G. Biv arrangement week-in and week-out. Consistency is meeting deadlines. Consistency is regular, high-quality production on time and on target. Consistency is the goal. Routine is the crutch.

Routine is patterns. Consistency is production.

“But wait!” I hear you cry. “My routine is how I consistently produce.” Many can’t imagine finishing a manuscript without the structure of routine to lean on. You guard your daily writing time like Cerberus at the gates of Hades. You find comfort in knowing what the morning will bring or solace in seeing your word count at the day’s end. Routine works for you. It’s comfy and nice and would never hurt you the way Cindy did in high school. I gave you my heart, Cindy!

So, what happens when your routine gets violated? How do you feel when you don’t get the day’s writing (or anything else in the routine) done? Do you beat yourself up? Chastise yourself for “not making writing the priority?” How do you cope and correct? And where do new experiences fit into your routine?

Say you need to learn something new before your character can do it in your story. I don’t know, skydiving perhaps. Where do you fit that into your routine? My bet is that you add skydiving lessons to your iPhone calendar in the color designated for research then mentally flagellate yourself for how it messes with your routine.

I challenge you to ease off your routine fetish and focus on consistency. Consistency is bigger, broader, and allows more wiggle room for life to go freestyle.

Say you want to produce a book per year. You do your research. You pick a release date (give or take a week). That gives you a rough idea about cover reveals and pre-orders and promotions. You know your genre and the word count you’re shooting for.

And so, you write.

You write mornings. You write when everyone’s in bed. You write at coffee shops. You dictate while driving. You write. You edit. You meet your deadlines. You get your book out when you planned.

Along the way you hiked three fourteeners, drove cross-country with a high-school friend, enrolled in a new martial arts school, and learned to play the ukulele alongside your spouse. You also got your kid to the ER when they woke up at two-thirty with a massive bloody nose, you replaced the bathroom flooring after the toilet went tango-uniform, and you dropped everything for a month when your grandparent died.

And you never regretted violating a routine.

Consistency equals freedom.

Freeing oneself from the handcuffs of routine and embracing the true goal of consistency is the path to creative freedom (damn, that sounded evangelical). Like routine, consistency takes discipline and commitment. Unlike routine, consistency gives you the freedom to live without checking the planner first.

Consistency is a life spent open to possibilities while keeping eyes on the prize. It’s okay with stretches of no writing. It embraces those days when five thousand words get added to the work in progress as well as the days when a friend invites you to coffee and you’re only three paragraphs in. Consistency is a mindset of “I will write” versus routine’s rigid dogma of “I must write right now.”

Focusing on consistent production (big picture) provides for a healthier writing life. Routines stagnate or worse, trap you in their familiar, comfortable clutches. Break the shackles of routine. Free yourself from your patterned behavior before your writing life goes kablooey.

Bowen Gillings holding Fresh Starts

A Night to Remember, by: Bowen Gillings

Bowen Gillings is an award-winning author featured in PPW’s first anthology, Fresh Starts, Allegory e-zine, and the Stories Live!, Voices and Views, and Rocky Mountain Writers podcasts. He is an active member and former president of Pikes Peak Writers and a member of both Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and The League of Utah Writers. Bowen loves travel, cooking, martial-arts, and a fine adult beverage. He lives in Colorado with his wife and daughter. Learn more about him and his fun, quirky writing at storiesbybowen.com and be sure to follow the author on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Avoiding Conference Burnout

By Catherine Dilts

If you’ve just attended your first writers conference, you may still be walking on a cloud. You’re inspired and motivated. If you did things right, you’re also a little overwhelmed and exhausted, yet eager to attend again next year.

But if this was your tenth, or you’re attending several conferences a year, the whole experience may be turning a little sour for you.

I had attended PPWC off and on for nearly twenty years. Once I became published, other authors insisted participating in conferences was essential. You had to keep your name out there. Visibility, baby. Be seen.

So I signed up for another in-state conference, Colorado Gold. Because I write mystery, I went to Malice Domestic, Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, and Killer Nashville. Each was different, drawing either hundreds or thousands of attendees, with emphasis on craft and business, or geared toward fans.

You’ve got to work that conference. Schmooze. Mingle. You know – those things introverts just love to do. Not. So I tried. I got on panels, as a participant or moderator. I signed books. I networked in my own feeble, socially awkward way. And I left conferences drained.

My problem was allowing other peoples’ goals to be my own. You can avoid burn out with advanced planning. Before registering, consider what you hope to gain from the experience.

Goals that may disappoint:

  • Land a contract with a dream agent or publishing house. Sure, it has been done. You should definitely try. None of my “send it” conquests came to fruition, although they did motivate me to continue writing. Pinning the entire point of attending on making a sale may cause you to miss out on learning experiences that will result in future publication.
  • Who wouldn’t want to be fawned over by a public who recognizes your genius? One PPWC, I saw a nearly empty table at dinner. I hurried over, glad to have snagged a seat near the podium. The lone occupant was one of the best-seller keynote speakers. A few other people joined us before the evening program began, but that was a good lesson that even big names can be overlooked at conferences. Another time, I repeated this tactic and sat next to a local author who had made a big sale to a major publisher, only to be virtually ignored by peers at the conference. This author was incredibly grateful I sat at that table, to spare the embarrassment of sitting alone.
  • Sell books. At conferences, everyone is pushing their books. The reality is that few people sell enough books to pay their bar tab, much less their conference attendance. At big conferences, publishers may be giving away books. Bags of free books may cause attendees to question shelling out bucks for your books.

Running yourself ragged promoting yourself can suck the enjoyment right out of a conference. Yes, conferences are a business opportunity. But I can guarantee you’ll get a case of burn out if you don’t have some fun.

Increasingly post-conference, I felt my time would have been better spent actually working on a novel or short story. When I volunteered behind the scenes, appeared on panels, and moderated talks, I spent a ton of time in preparation. It felt too much like work.

Then COVID hit. Conferences abruptly cancelled due to the pandemic. I discovered something about myself during the lockdowns. I am an extreme introvert. While other folks were in a state of panic and depression being socially isolated, I was deliriously happy. For a while.

I still believe conferences are personally and professional beneficial. I plan to jump back in. Before I go, I want to know I won’t leave feeling I wasted my time. I’ll have specific goals.

Goals to avoid conference burn-out:

  • Know your purpose. Why are you attending this particular conference? Proximity to home? Workshops on topics of interest? Is it specific to your genre? Your writing buddies are going? It’s okay if your main purpose is social. Writing is a solitary endeavor. A weekend surrounded by creative people can be invigorating.
  • Set achievable professional goals. Everyone wants to be the next amazing conference success story. Hopefully that happens for you. Until that golden moment though, how about achieving a “send me” from an agent? Learn something about the art and craft of writing that breaks your writer’s block? Receive news about the current state of publishing from actual publishers?
  • Research people in advance. You might run into them in an elevator. Know who the keynote speakers are. Who is teaching the class you’re most interested in attending? Are there agents or editors you want to meet? Put this info in your pre-conference notes. Don’t reach the last hour of the last day in the realization that you failed to meet someone important to you.
  • One of the best ways to network is to help out behind the scenes. Shuttle speakers from the airport. Moderate a panel. Clerk in the conference bookstore. Attend pre-conference planning meetings. But don’t overcommit. Know your time and energy limits.
  • Make it matter. You spent your valuable time and money to attend. Post-conference, review your notes. Follow up on advice or new knowledge gained. Make those contacts, join that critique group, apply new wisdom to your work-in-progress.

I’ve talked it over with my old conference running buddies. We are all in for a return visit to PPWC 2023. You’ll probably find us at the lounge, reminiscing about conferences past.

Conferences mentioned in article:

Multi-genre Conferences- 

Mystery Writers Conferences-


Catherine Dilts headshotCATHERINE DILTS prefers writing cozy mysteries and short stories surrounded by flowers on her sunny deck, but any day – and anywhere – spent writing is a good day. Author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, and the stand-alone Survive Or Die with Encircle Publications, Catherine also writes for Annie’s Publishing, contributing three books for the Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library and two for the new Annie’s Museum of Mysteries series. Her short story HazMat Holiday appears in the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine January/February 2022 issue.



Harmony and Conflict – Different Sides of the Same Coin

By Donna Schlachter

Boy finds girl.
Boy falls in love with girl.
Boy marries girl.
The end.


Anybody who’s ever told a joke knows that to keep the listener or reader interested, there has to be a problem, a question, or a problem raised so that the twist/conclusion/punch line offers a solution. In a joke, there is usually an unexpected outcome, which is what makes that short story version humorous. In a novel, while the reader wants a good ending, or at least one that’s unexpected given the circumstances, there has to be something that keeps the boy from getting the girl the first time. Or the second. Or even the third.

Harmony is what happens when we get our happily-ever-after (and yes, HEAs are not limited to romance stories. Readers want an HEA or at least the promise of one in every story where a romance exists. Unless, of course, your story is literary fiction or a tragedy.)

Conflict is what keeps the reader reading and the listener listening. Conflict doesn’t have to appear as bickering or even out-and-out street brawling. Conflict happens when one of the main characters isn’t getting what they want—or what they think they want.

Introduce Conflict and Harmony

We can introduce conflict and harmony into our stories in various ways. Here are a few:

  • Through spoken dialogue, where each character expresses their wants and desires which should be contrary to what the other person wants. Think back to your last discussion with your spouse or friend about where you wanted to eat that night. One wants Indian, the other wants pasta. Conflict. Harmony appears when you reach a compromise: a buffet. Or a salad bar.
  • Through internal dialogue, where you show us what the characters are thinking. The best conflict comes when their spoken dialogue and internal thoughts are contrary to each other. For example, if you say you want to eat pizza, but the other person says curry, you might say, “Okay. Curry is fine with me.” You always get your way. But I’m tired of fighting about it.
  • Through narrative, you can use the setting or surroundings to impact your point of view character. For example, ‘It was a dark and dreary night” could be perfect for a scene where your character planned to go for a walk, and now can’t because the weather isn’t cooperating. Downpouring rain could prevent your hero from rescuing your heroine, building conflict in himself. And in her, when she wonders why he won’t brave a few raindrops to save her. A bright sunny day could build conflict in a character whose mother is being buried today. Or harmony in a woman whose abusive husband is being buried today.
  • Through occupations or skill sets, you can have characters who solve problems (create harmony) using what they know. For example, if your hero is a race car driver, he could get the heroine away from bad guys by outdriving them. And if your heroine is a doctor, she could fix up the hero when he gets shot. But if your story is about finding lost gold in a hidden mine, none of their skills would help out. Which could create conflict. So then they invite somebody else in to help, who turns out to be a bad guy who shoots the hero and leaves them for dead. Now their skills can come in handy again. So you went from harmony to conflict to harmony again.

Don’t get me wrong—harmony and conflict belong in the same story—even in the same scene. You might even treat a scene like a mini-story – harmony (current world) to conflict (inciting incident) to new harmony (resolution). However, while you don’t want to write every scene like that, these mini-breaks from the conflict are a place where readers will exhale, relax, and continue reading. That’s a great place to slap them in the face again with another problem, question, or serious choice to be made.

Readers want to be satisfied with the ending, yet surprised. Like a punchline in a joke, they like to look at the world differently because of your story. Keep them reading by employing some of these harmony and conflict techniques, and they’ll come back for more.


Conflict is the Driving Force of a Good Story

Character and Background: Harmony and Conflict

Donna Schlachter, Headshot

About Donna:

A hybrid author, Donna writes squeaky clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published more than 50 times in books; is a member of several writers groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both.

www.DonnaSchlachter.com Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!
Check out previous blog posts at www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com and www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/DonnaschlachterAuthor
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Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/donna-schlachter
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Helping Author Friends

By: Trista Herring Baughman

Occasionally, I witness a rallying call to support local businesses. It’s a nice gesture, one I’d like to see more often. I prefer to shop local when I can: farmers’ markets, locally-owned specialty stores, mom-and-pop restaurants, etc.

I don’t think authors generally come to mind when we speak of local small businesses, but they should. Indie authors, especially. Their books are their business. Writing, formatting, marketing, and publishing are all their responsibility.

When you write a book, it’s a part of you that you’re setting out into the world.  It isn’t as much about the money as it is impacting your readers. But money pays the bills and allows you to continue your writing passion, so there’s that.

It’s a common misconception that authors make tons of money. Well-known authors such as J.K. Rowling and R.L. Stine probably do. The majority of authors aren’t there, just yet. I don’t know many authors that earn enough to write books for a living.

Most self-publishing authors make more per book in royalties, but typically sell less.

Let’s say you self-publish a full-color, 32-page book on KDP and sell it for $7.99 (The minimum price is $6.08). $3.65 goes to printing. Estimated royalties are $1.14 per book; the rest goes to KDP.

You’ll have to sell many copies to get a decent paycheck. To sell many copies, you need a marketing plan, which, you guessed it, takes more money.

As you can see, your author friends could really use your help.

Whether your friends are traditional or indie authors, here’s a few simple ways to be supportive.

  1. Buy their books. This one seems obvious. When I released my first book, I was so excited. I shared it on social media and told all my friends. I even booked a few signings around my local area. I gave out a few complimentary copies to select friends and family who congratulated me and were excited for me. But only a handful of those actually bought a copy, shared my posts, or came to events. Less than a handful reviewed my book. You may be thinking, “Well, maybe your book sucks.” Don’t think I didn’t wonder that myself. But it doesn’t suck. I came to find out that other authors (amazing authors) had this exact same problem. I think family and friends simply don’t realize all the different ways they can help. So, if your author friend has a book, buy it for yourself or as a gift for someone you know. Books make great gifts for all occasions! You could even grab a copy for your local little free library!
  2. Share their website. Like, follow, and share their pages and posts on social media: Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, Instagram, etc. This will boost their visibility on these platforms and increase the chances of reaching more potential readers. Follow their blog, visit their website for updates. Leave a comment. All of these small things are huge to your author friends.
  3. Review and star their books. Did you like their book? Let someone know! Word of mouth is a great way to get more readers. Sites like GoodReads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble are great places to star and share reviews. It will only take up a little bit of time, even if you do all three! (No reason why you can’t copy and paste the same review). Five star reviews will help their book pop up in more search results. Think of it as a gift that keeps on giving.
  4. Add their books to your “reading” or “want to read” shelves on GoodReads. The more shelves their books are on, the more newsfeed they get into.
  5. Tell them personally what you like (or dislike) about their book. Authors need honest feedback! They will appreciate your praise or constructive criticism.
  6. Volunteer to be a beta reader. Beta readers read the book before anyone else and offer feedback. This may be notes on grammar errors or plot holes, or it could just be your overall opinion of the book. Before you offer to be a beta reader, get the details. How long is the book? Will you need to read the whole book or only part of it? When is the deadline? If you have the time, set a reminder on your phone so you won’t leave them hanging. If you think you won’t have the time, respectfully decline. Saying you will when you won’t is the opposite of helpful.
  7. Send some good old-fashioned snail mail. You can make an author’s day by writing to say what you thought of their book.
  8. Request a copy of their book at your local library and bookstore. If they already carry it, ask anyway! It may inspire the librarian or sales person to read the book themselves or recommend it to others. If enough people request a title, bookstores may order a few for their shelves.
  9. Go to their events. Show your support by stopping by with your copy of their book to book signings or festivals. There is nothing sadder than a book signing where no one shows up.

Whether you’re a writer yourself or not, you can do these things for your author friends. But there’s even more you can do if you are a writer, too.

Writers Helping Writers can…

  1. Interview your author friends for your blog.
  2. Review their books on your blog.
  3. Invite them to your writer’s group or start one with them.
  4. Carpool to a writer’s conference. This is a good way to network and learn valuable trade skills. It’s always nice to have a friend when learning.
  5. Host workshops to lend your expertise to fellow writers. Invite your writer friends.
  6. Mentor a new/struggling writer.

These are just a few ways to help your author friends. They are an excellent place to start. I think you will find that helping others will make you feel great, too!

Trista Herring Baughman

Trista Herring Baughman is a proud military wife and a homeschool mama.  She isthe author of The Magic Telescope. Her second book, Zombiesaurs, will be available soon at Barnes & Noble Press. You can find out more about her books on her website, or catch up to Trista on Facebook.