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Anne R. Allen's Blog


My Photo

Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, December 28, 2014

What Did You Care About Most in 2014? Our Top Writing Stories.

by Ruth Harris

As Anne and I looked back at the blog for the past year, a portrait emerged highlighting the themes and subjects that interested you most. We were intrigued by these clues about what was on our readers’ minds in 2014 and thought you’d be interested, too. So here are the topics that rang your bells.


As writers we care about how our readers respond so getting feedback is high on our lists. A series of three posts addressed this important issue from three different points of view:

  • Anne delved into the function of crit groups and offered guidelines about what advice to heed and what to ignore.
  • Editing is life. The blue tie? Or the yellow one? Peter or Paul? Or Mary? Ruth, a former editor, shared the secret of every successful writer, editors and editing
  • Jami Gold made valuable suggestions about how and where to find beta readers and how to hone your own skills as a beta reader.

Beginnings and endings

  • Great first chapters, made even more important because of the “Look Inside” feature, seal the deal and impel the reader hit the buy button. Ergo: first chapters matter. A lot. Anne talked about how not to begin your book (and turn off your prospective reader). 
  • Now that you’ve written a grabby, impossible-to-resist first chapter, what next? Chapter endings keep the pages turning. Jessica Bell gave must-heed advice about the key to a great chapter ending

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Twitter Is big, confusing, fun, and scary and you have only 160 characters to make your point. Here’s Molly Greene’s stellar advice about how to behave (and how not to) on twitter.
  • Aiming too high? Aiming too low? Stuck with a lousy deal? Anne wrote about the dumb things she did and what you can do so you don’t make the same mistakes. Pay attention!
  • Tipping off that you’re a clueless newbie? Turning off readers and agents? You don’t want to do that either, do you? Here’s Anne’s guide to beginner’s mistakes—the mistakes you don’t want to make. 

The no-outline outline, the killer blurb and writing for the 21st Century

  • There are plotters and there are pantsers but what about those of us somewhere in the middle? Nathan Bransford boils it down to 3 great tips that will get you from that first vague idea to an actual, usable plan that will get your book (and you) off to the right start.
  • Blurbs are so important that today even the Bible has one. They are a little bit art, a little bit craft, a little bit commercial poetry, so how the $^%# do you write one? Ruth, a blurb writer in a former life, shares some tips.
  • Styles change in art, music, fashion. And in books, too. Sketch, don’t paint. Unbury your dialogue. The magic of white space. Anne offers valuable insight into writing for the 21st Century reader.

Genre, categories and keywords

  • Romance with a side of horror? Happens in real life—oy!—but not such a hot idea in fiction. Cozy mystery with a side of blood and gore? Only if you want readers coming after you with shoulder-fired missiles. Genres come with rules that create guidelines for writers—and set up expectations in readers. Here’s Ruth’s round-up of genres with links to expert advice about how to write them. 
  • Readers know what they like and what they want. Categories and keywords help them find what they’re looking for and smart writers know how to use them effectively. Ruth delved into the mysteries of BISAC and BIC, of categories and keywords with lots of advice from the category and keywords gurus.

Coming attractions...from Anne

We've had such enthusiastic responses to our guest bloggers this year, we've invited some more great guests for 2015: 

January: Agent Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary Agency on "Why You Don't Need a Literary Agent" (but why you might WANT one.)

This is an absolute MUST READ for anybody who is querying right now. Even though Laurie is closed to queries, SHE WILL ACCEPT QUERIES FROM READERS OF THIS BLOG.

Also in January: an interview with Walter Reuben, the winner of the L.A. Film Critics' Award for Best Indie Film for 2014. His film, The David Whiting Story, addresses the same mysterious Hollywood death as my novel The Gatsby Game. But what's most important is that a Boomer who followed his dream--and not the rules--achieved amazing success with a first film. Walter is an amazing inspiration to all new writers out there, no matter what their age. 

February: Melodie Campbell, Canada's Queen of Comedy and president of Crime Writers of Canada will be back for another of her hilarious how-tos.

March: Super-editor Jodie Renner on How to Write Award-Winning Short Fiction.

April: Robin Houghton, author of the great book Blogging for Writers with some Insider's Blogging Tips.

We also hope to have a visit from radio talk show host Dave Congalton with tips for authors on how to be a good radio guest. 

We're also hoping to have some of our great guests from last year back again.

Coming up from Ruth: She's been researching the newest approaches to creativity and productivity and she's planning a post I know will help and inspire us all.

Coming up from Anne: 

  • How Kindle Unlimited has changed indie publishing and why we need to think outside the Amazon box.
  • Has the Indie Bubble Burst?
  • How new changes to social media affect authors. 
  • Authors as marketers: why a lot of marketing advice doesn't apply to selling books.
  • Should you follow the trend and return to newsletters and drop social media?
  • Why quality, not quantity, is what still matters.  
  • Why blogging is more important for authors than ever. In spite of what you may hear.
  • Why customer reviews are becoming less relevant. 
  • How to save money and time by ignoring people who are exploiting authors. 
  • Tips for entering (and winning) contests.
  • How to decide if your book will do better with trad. or indie publishing in today's market.

Both of us wish all of you great reviews and happy readers, sentences that flow and books to be proud of. We look forward to seeing you in 2015 and, until then, wish you the very best of New Years!


CHANEL and GATSBY: A Comic two-fer. Only 99c!
Hollywood and Manhattan: it's Bi-Coastal Comedy!

Available at NOOKKoboAmazon USAmazon UKAmazon CA

The Chanel Caper


Blake Weston is a smart, savvy, no BS, 56-year-old Nora Ephron-like New Yorker. Her DH, Ralph Marino, is a très James Bond ex-cop & head of security for a large international corporation. At a tense time in their relationship, Blake & Ralph are forced to work together to solve a murder in Shanghai & break up an international piracy ring.

A totally fabulous, LMAO adventure with some of the best one-liners I've ever read!!! Ruth's wit is just a hoot, and her characters have the best sassy mouths in the biz!!!...bestselling author D.D. Scott

The Gatsby Game


When Nicky Conway meets Fitzgerald-quoting Alistair at a Princeton mixer, she falls for his retro, Jazz-Age charm. But she discovers he’s a con man obsessed with his own “Daisy”—British actress Delia Kent. After Alistair manipulates Nicky into nannying for Delia’s daughter on the set of a Hollywood film, Delia finds Alistair dead in her motel room. Local police can’t decide if it’s accident, suicide—or murder, in which case, Nicky is the prime suspect.

"For anyone who likes their books to be witty, with great characters, an atmosphere which it is a delight to experience, and a fast moving plot, this book is one you definitely shouldn't miss." ...Gerry McCullough of Gerry's Books


VIGNETTE WRITERShere's a contest for you! The Vine Leaves Vignette Collection Contest. The prize is for a collection of vignettes and poetry up to 20,000 words. Fee $25.  Prize is $500, publication by Vine Leaves Press (paperback and eBook), 20 copies of the paperback, worldwide distribution, and promotion through the Vine Leaves and staff websites. It will be judged by an editor from Simon and Schuster. Deadline February 28, 2015.

THE MEADOW NOVELLA PRIZE $15 ENTRY FEE. The winner of the contest will receive $500 and publication in the annual print edition of the journal. Submissions should be between 18,000 and 35,000 words.  Deadline February 1, 2015.

The M.M. Bennetts Prize for Historical fiction. $10 Entry fee. $500 prize for the best historical novel published in 2014. To be announced at the Historical Novel Society Conference in June in Deadline January 31st, 2015

Writer's Digest Short Short Story CompetitionFirst prize $3000. Top 25 will be published. Entry Fee $25. 1500 words or less. Deadline January 16th, 2015.

THE GOVER PRIZE FOR SHORT-SHORT STORIES from Best New Writing. $5 Entry Fee. The prize is $250 and publication in Best New Writing to the best short fiction and creative nonfiction. Entries are limited to 500 words or less. Gover Prize winner and finalists will be published in the upcoming BNW edition. Deadline January 10th, 2015

WALKER PERCY PRIZE IN SHORT FICTION $15 ENTRY FEE. Winner receives $1,000 and publication in New Orleans Review. All finalists considered for publication. Enter previously unpublished original stories up to 7,500 words. Deadline December 31st

Writers’ Village International Short Fiction Contest $24 entry fee. Prizes of $1600, $800, $400 and $80. A further ten Highly Commended entrants will receive a free entry in the next round. Professional feedback provided for all entries! Any genre: up to 3000 words. Deadline December 31st.

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Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Laurie will accept queries from blog readers? That's huge.
It does help to go back and see what draws in readers and commenters. I know the big post draws on both my blog and the IWSG site.

December 28, 2014 at 10:06 AM  
Blogger Wm. L. Hahn said...

Just to briefly say, scanning this list reminds me how valuable it's been to come and read these posts every week. Thanks Ruth and Anne for such great insight and support!

December 28, 2014 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Alex—Interesting, isn't it?, to see what readers are interested in. Let's us do a better job and keep our focus. Happy New Year!

December 28, 2014 at 11:10 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Wm. L. Hahn—Thank you for your kind words and the motivation that comes along with them. Anne and I wish you the happiest of New Years!

December 28, 2014 at 11:12 AM  
Blogger Sarah Brentyn said...

Thanks, Ruth! This is a fantastic compilation of posts. Have a wonderful New Year!

December 28, 2014 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--I'm so jazzed that Laurie is going to open to queries from our blog readers! She's amazing. She has lots of interesting things to say about the changing role of literary agents.

December 28, 2014 at 4:40 PM  
Blogger Roland D. Yeomans said...

You provide such a great resource for all of us. THANKS! Anne, I hope you are feeling much, much better. Ruth, pace yourself! Happiest of New Years!

December 28, 2014 at 5:03 PM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

What a great roundup of your awesome posts! I've loved every one of them. I'm looking forward to future posts on newsletters (I STILL don't have one. Haven't jumped on the bandwagon) and how KU affects things for authors.

Anne and Ruth, I wish you both a healthy and prosperous 2015. Thanks for all you do on this blog!

December 28, 2014 at 7:15 PM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Looks like a fascinating approaching year. Thanks again & Anne & Ruth, may your new years smile upon you.

December 28, 2014 at 8:05 PM  
Blogger D.G. Hudson said...

I'm sure I read most of those posts. Best wishes to both of you for the new year! I'll be back in January. Wouldn't want to miss Laurie's post! I'm trying to get back on track.

December 28, 2014 at 10:30 PM  
Blogger Eileen Goudge said...

Above all else "quality is still what matters." I second that. Thanks to you, Anne and Ruth, for another year full of useful information and inspiration, delivered with wit and style.

December 29, 2014 at 3:23 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Sarah—Thank you. Anne and I wish you all the best for the New Year!

December 29, 2014 at 4:13 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Roland—Thank YOU! Anne and I wish you the best of New Years!

December 29, 2014 at 4:15 AM  
Blogger Churadogs said...

Scanning the list and the upcoming posts makes it clear what an amazing and valuable blog this is. Anne's created something extraordinary here with her hard work, talent and, of course, help from other talented writers generously sharing their insights and experiences. The result is pretty spectacular. Best of luck for another great year.

December 29, 2014 at 6:10 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Julie—Thank you! Very pleasing to know our efforts have been helpful. Thanks, too, for the suggestions. Anne and I will discuss. We both wish you all the best for 2015!

December 29, 2014 at 6:41 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

CS—Thank YOU! Anne and I wish you an excellent 2015!

December 29, 2014 at 6:42 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

D.G.—We're also looking forward to Laurie's post and her input. Have a great year!

December 29, 2014 at 6:44 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Eileen—Yes. Quality! :-) Anne and I wish you every good thing for the coming year!

December 29, 2014 at 6:45 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Churadogs—Anne had indeed created something unique and extraordinary. We're lucky to have her. :-) We both join in wishing you the best for 2015!

December 29, 2014 at 6:47 AM  
Blogger John Wiswell said...

Huh, I'll be interested in Renner's post. Juries and open voting groups can have such diverse tastes that I'd imagine mapping what wins is a great challenge, beyond the traditional advice of studying the demo and avoiding comedy. Poor comedy.

As always, thanks for the lovely blog, Anne! It is always an interesting resource.

December 29, 2014 at 8:40 AM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

A big thank you, Anne and Ruth. It's been a great year for your blog. I learn something new and important every week here. Looking forward to the New Year and all the great topics and folks you've lined up. Happy New Year!

December 29, 2014 at 8:59 AM  
Blogger Claude Forthomme said...

Very interesting to see what your readers liked the most, great idea...Hey, I might copy it for my blog - actually that's something I never checked and of course one always should - thanks for reminding us.

And I wanted to take this opportunity to comment to tell you how much I enjoy your blog, Anne and Ruth, and to wish you a very Happy and Successful 2015!

December 29, 2014 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

John--Jodie has great tips about short story writing, but of course nobody can predict the whims of contest judges. And you're right that they often do not get humor. Or irony. Sincere and heartfelt always seems to win. And I so hate being sincere...;-)

December 29, 2014 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Paul—As always, thank YOU for your comment and your flattering words. Anne and I wish you all the best for 2015!

December 29, 2014 at 11:20 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Claude—Thanks! Anne and I didn't want to do the usual "10 Best" or some such list. We reviewed the year and saw that certain subjects really engaged our readers. We decided that a review of those posts would be most helpful and would also be a second chance for those who might have missed them first time around.

Anne and I wish you a most excellent 2015!

December 29, 2014 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Leanne Dyck said...

It looks like you are planning a very interesting and informative 2015. Thank you, Ruth and Anne.

December 30, 2014 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Leanne—Thank you for the kind words. Anne and I do our best to be guided by our readers and their interests. We both wish you a happy and healthy new year!

December 30, 2014 at 12:54 PM  
Blogger Elie Axelroth said...

Thank you Anne and Ruth. I've gleaned many tips from your blog and your book, "How to Be a Writer in the E-Age." Both terrific

January 1, 2015 at 5:25 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Elie--Thanks so much for the kudos for my book! Ruth and I thank you for the praise for the blog as well. We have fun here, and I think that's the secret to keeping a blog going.

January 1, 2015 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Elie—Thank you for the kind words about the blog. Anne wrote "How to Be a Writer in the E-Age" with Catherine Ryan Hyde. They got no "help" from me. ;-)

Anne and I both wish you a very happy 2015!

January 2, 2015 at 4:30 AM  
Blogger Bernardo Montes de Oca said...

The only drawback to this post is that the pile of messages and errands, files and documents seating next to me, anxiously longing for my cubicle-ridden 2015 to start, will have to wait as I must review all the helpful links you posted here. Great read!

January 5, 2015 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Bernardo Montes de Oca—Bernardo, thank you for the complimentary words! Take your time, the articles linked don't have a sell by date!

January 5, 2015 at 12:43 PM  

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