Using an old-fashioned Alphasmart Neo to increase productivity is one of many ways writers can sharpen their craft. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Using an old-fashioned Alphasmart Neo to increase productivity is one of many ways writers can sharpen their craft. (Jennifer Bardsley)

So you want to be a writer? Here are Jennifer Bardsley’s tips

Tip No. 1: Don’t start your writing project unless you can describe it in two succinct sentences.

I recently spoke with EPIC Group Writers about what it was like being a newspaper columnist and fiction author. Over the course of the past 12 years, I’ve moved from being someone who writes as a hobby, to writing full-time. I’ve written “I Brake for Moms” for more than nine years. At Sno-Isle Libraries, there’s a 37-readers-long hold list for my latest book, “Sweet Bliss.”

How did this happen? Mainly, by not giving up, and learning important lessons along the way. If you’ve ever dreamed of writing a book, this column is for you.

Begin with the end in mind. Never start a project until you can describe it in two sentences. In publishing, this is called “the hook,” “the longline hook” or “the elevator pitch.” It doesn’t matter if you are writing a novel, a children’s book, a newspaper column or a Christmas letter; know what you’re doing before you start doing it. People don’t intend to write the most boring Christmas letter of all time, they happen to do so because they don’t have a plan. For more help, read “Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing,” by Libbie Hawker.

Get to the point. The world no longer has patience for prologues. You need to capture your reader’s attention within the first 5% of a composition. If it’s a 250-page book, that means the first 12½ pages. If it’s a 500-word essay, that’s the opening paragraph. Readers deserve clarity. They are giving you their time, and you should not waste it — or worse, bore them with backstory.

Know your audience. Who wants to read what you are writing? Will they read it online, in print, on a tablet or on social media? Understanding audience expectations is critical. Romance books need happy endings. Children’s books need accessible vocabulary. Cooking blogs require high-quality food photography. Read the top-selling performers in your category so you get a better understanding of what your audience enjoys.

Write every day. It’s very difficult to write half of a book and then come back five months later and try to finish it. Even taking two days off on the weekend can interrupt the flow of creativity. But if you can commit to writing at least one paragraph every day, you’ll stay in touch with your storyline. I draft on my MacBook Air — or my trusty old Alphasmart Neo 2 digital typewriter — for faster productivity.

Decide if you are a hobbyist or a professional. There’s nothing wrong with being a hobbyist. Writing for the pure joy of writing is a worthwhile endeavor. People who make their living by writing, however, must also master the business of writing for profit. Traditionally and self-published authors need book marketing expertise, backlists and more to survive. They can’t write whatever strikes their fancy; they must write what sells. For more information, read “Book Marketing is Dead: Book Promotion Secrets You MUST Know BEFORE You Publish Your Book,” by Derek Murphy.

Guard your wallet. If you want to go to grad school or fly to New York for a writing conference, go for it. But please understand that your return on investment might be minimal. You don’t need a master of fine arts degree to land a book deal. You don’t need to spend $300 to attend a writing conference to finish writing your book. Instead, search for writing tips online. Watch free YouTube tutorials. Form a critique group. Borrow books about writing from the library. Think twice before you give someone your credit card. Preying upon an author’s hopes and dreams can be a lucrative business. I should know. I’ve been ripped off quite a few times over the years, which is one of the ways I’ve learned these tips.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at

Talk to us

More in Life

CloZee performs during the second day of Summer Meltdown on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 in Darrington, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The psychedelic fest Summer Meltdown is back — and in Monroe

The music and camping event is on for July 28-31, with a new venue along the Skykomish River.

Gardening at spring. Planting tree in garden. Senior man watering planted fruit tree at his backyard
Bare root trees and roses have arrived for spring planting

They’re only available from January through March, so shop early for the tree or rose you want.

Veteran Keith F. Reyes, 64, gets his monthly pedicure at Nail Flare on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021 in Stanwood, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
No more gnarly feet: This ‘Wounded Warrior’ gets pedicures

Keith Reyes, 64, visits a Stanwood nail salon for “foot treatments” that help soothe blast injuries.

Photo Caption: A coal scuttle wasn't always used for coal; it could hold logs or collect ashes. This one from about 1900 sold for $125 at DuMouchelles in Detroit.
(c) 2022 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.
Coal scuttles of days long gone by now used for fire logs

This circa 1900 coal scuttle is made of oak with brass trim, and sold for $125 at auction.

Enumclaw, the band
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Most of these venues require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or negative… Continue reading

Does this ring a “Belle”? Storied anime writer-director Mamoru Hosoda’s newest resets “Beauty and the Beast” in a musical, virtual environment — among other modern twists. (GKIDS/TNS)
‘Belle’ is striking virtual reality riff on ‘Beauty and the Beast’

In it, ‘Beauty’ is the charismatic online avatar of a moody teenager that attracts the attention of a bruised and brooding Beast

"Redeeming Love"
Movie review: ‘Redeeming Love’ doesn’t yield cinematic riches

The story, about a sex worker “redeemed” by a folksy farmer in Gold Rush-era California, is creepy “tradwife” fan fiction.

Eggs Florentine
Baked Eggs Florentine: A brunch favorite inspired by a queen

The kitchen manager at Quil Ceda Creek Casino shares a dish that pays homage to a spinach-crazy 16th century monarch.

Jennifer Bardsley, author of her newest book Good Catch, at her home on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021 in Edmonds, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds author transitions from young adult novels to romance

Jennifer Bardsley’s “Good Catch” is set in an Edmonds-like town. Spoiler alert: There’s a happy ending.

Most Read