Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and reading resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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Will Write For Chocolate


Archived WWFC strips


If you'd like to see older WWFC strips, please check the Will Write For Chocolate archives or start from the beginning. You can also follow WWFC on Facebook, Pinterest and Google+. Thanks so much for your continuing support! -- Debbie


Sven's Book Signing


Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

Apologies in advance for this week's column, which I admit has less practical use than my previous entries. But I couldn't help myself; the winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest were announced yesterday!


The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest has been hosted by the English Department at San Jose State University since 1982. The tongue-in-cheek literary competition challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels. The contest is named after Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, author of the the infamous Paul Clifford, whose opening phrase is the oft-mocked "It was a dark and stormy night."

This year's winner is Jim Guigli of Carmichael, CA. His winning prose: "Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean." Apparently this fellow submitted 60 entries!

After perusing these deliberate "travesties of literary ineptitude," you may want to check out the Sticks And Stones page, where readers have been encouraged to analyze examples of published bad writing. Some overly catty comments here, yes, but also some enlightening ones as well.

Alphabet Soup




How To Write A Query Letter

Unless they're incredibly lucky and have custom-made writing assignments land in their laps on a regular basis, most successful freelance writers need to learn how to write an effective query letter.

Here are some useful sources of information:

General query letter resources

Write Query Letters That Sell by Michelle Lee, who has worked as an editor at Mademoiselle, Us Weekly, CosmoGIRL, Parenting, and Glamour magazines. She’s written for Self, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal, Fitness, Fit, YM, Teen, Maxim, Men’s Health, and others.

How To Write A Successful Query by Moira Allen. An excellent article, part of

How To Write A Query Letter by John Hewitt. I especially like the section on what NOT to put in a query letter.

Publish Or Piss Off: Query Letters by Linda Formichelli. Column written for 1099, a magazine for independent professionals.

How to Write a Query Letter: part of

Pitching A Query

Fiction queries

Writing A Query Letter by Charlotte Dillon. Excellent resource, with useful articles, links and sample query letters.

Query Letters by Tara K. Harper.

Writing A Query Letter That Sells by Alex Keegan.

The Complete Nobody's Guide To Query Letters by Lynn Flewelling. Part of

Dos and Don'ts: How to write the perfect query letter by Gail Eastwood.

Write A Query Letter That Sells by Marilyn Henderson.

Query letters to a literary agent

SoYouWanna write a query letter to a literary agent? (all except children's books) Includes a sample query letter.

Books about writing query letters

Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals by Moira Anderson Allen. Excellent resource, written by the editor of Includes useful info about online queries, tips on how to approach newspapers with column or syndication ideas, how to get corporate freelance work, other opportunities.

How To Write Irresistable Query Letters by Lisa Collier Cool. This was the guide I used when I was just starting out; it remains a good resource. Focus is on pitching magazine articles, though there is a chapter on how to query agents and book publishers.

The following are books I found in Amazon but haven't read myself (if you've used any of these, please do post comments):

How to Write Attention Grabbing Query & Cover Letters by John Wood.

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock : The Freelance Writer's Guide to Selling More Work Faster by Diana Burrell and Linda Formichelli.

ive 'Em What They Want: The Right Way to Pitch Your Novel to Editors and Agents, A Novelist's Complete Guide to : Query Letters, Synopses, Outlines by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook.

Query Letters That Worked!: Real Queries That Landed $2K+ Writing Assignments by Angela Hoy.

Writer's Guide To Book Proposals: Templates, Query Letters, And Free Media Publicity by Anne Hart.

Do you have other suggestions for useful resources? Please post them below!

What to charge: guide to freelance writing rates

My first sale was a short story to a now-defunct magazine, for $10. Like Mimi in this week's strip, I never did cash the cheque. But now I'm many of you remember your First Sale? And did YOU cash your cheque?

I've had a growing number of e-mail queries asking me about freelance rates, so I thought I'd put together a list of some useful resources for this column instead. If you know of any others, feel free to suggest them in the comments section.

Punctuation for sale

The print version of the annual Writer's Market always has a section devoted to pay rates for freelance writers.

How much should a freelancer charge? by Moira Allen, from Should you charge by the word or by the hour? Why time isn't the only factor.

Putting a price on your capabilities: How to set your fees as a freelance writer: by Debra Jason. According to this article, determining your fee depends on your overhead, your experience, and your geographic location.

What To Pay A Writer: Canadian freelance rates based on PWAC's rate guidelines.

NUJ freelance fees guide: part of the Freelance Fees Guide. Listed rates refer to articles that appear for the first time in a UK publication.

Freelance pricing strategies: articles on how home-based business services set pay rates.

Copywriting fees: Focus is on copywriting, but there's useful info here for freelancers in general.

Ultimately, however, freelance writing rates will be what the market will bear. Some writers post their rates online, you can find some of them by typing "rates for writing services" or "freelance writing rates" into Google.

You can also check Inkygirl's list of jobs/market resources for places where individuals and companies will sometimes post job listings, including what they are willing to pay writers, or search for writing-related job listings in general job boards.

Mimi's First Sale


Freelance writer time management tip: daily time sheet

A problem that occurred while my system administrator was upgrading a server on Samurai caused me major e-mail woes during the past week. I'm happy to report that my e-mail seems to be straightened out now, but unfortunately I haven't had a chance to properly research online writing communities for the column I said I'd write this week.

I'll be posting something about online communities in a future column, so you still have time to put in a good word for your favorite online community or communities for writers!

Plot For Sale

As I posted in a recent Blathering recently, I've been keeping a daily time sheet ever since I got back from my trip, and I've found that it's greatly helped increase my productivity. I created a template in MS-Word and print a weeks' worth of pages out at a time, keep them in a clipboard on my desk. After a week, I archive them in a binder.

At the top of each day, I have a place to write the date as well as my goals, both work goals and non-work goals. Examples of daily work goals: "Novel: 1200 words" and "Research markets for Italy articles." Examples of daily non-work goals: "Buy stamps at post office" and "Call back Stats Canada." Below that I have a chart where each line has a space for Start Time, End Time, Work Activity and Non-Work Activity.

I'm not suggesting you do this longterm, but I found that after two weeks' worth of detailed records of how I spend my time, I'm already learning how easy it is to feel Busy and Productive when I'm not really being productive at all, or at least not productive in terms of my writing goals. Just forcing myself to be more aware of exactly how I'm spending my time is making me readjust my work habits. The daily log keeps me focused on longterm goals as well as daily goals.

I also don't feel as guilty when I do take a break because I know that I deserve it.


I've started updating Inkygirl again, by the way. Inkygirl is an online resource for writers who work from home.

Have a good writing week, everyone!

Mimi gets writer's block


Writing inspiration follow-up and a survey re: writing communities

A survey for my next column: Do you participate in any online writing communities? Why or why not? If you do, which ones are your favourites? Please include any relevant URLs, thanks.

In my last column, I asked how the rest of you found creative inspiration. Some of your responses:

From Palmer:
"...Generally I go between reading something, playing games, or just switching projects for a while. Simply mixing things up usually does the trick for me. Failing that, I grab my girlfriends and harass them with brainstorming for a while. They always seem to come up with ideas that don’t work, but usually tips me into finding something that does."

From Amy:
"Definitely exercise. That really gets me motivated, especially if I’ve hit a wall in my writing. I pull on my shoes and head out the door. More often than not when I sit back at the computer 20 minutes later, I can do my Rambo thing on the wall, keep going, and clean the mess up later. (I think it’s ‘cause of all the blood rushing to my head
Also a fan of the journal, but I use mine just as a daily diary– what’s been happening in my life and thoughts about that, etcetera. It’s only on occasion that I’ll write story lines. But either way, I find the non-editing extremely freeing (if a little embarassing on the re-read!)"

From Lynda:
"Inspiration – I found this book really helpful: “
I do mind-mapping to get inspiration - I have a big drawing pad that is covered in related words and freewriting. I also use photography books as a kick start.

From Clair Ching:
"After writing my reflections on my journal, I get inspired to write poems and stories again. Although I haven’t finished much since I started going into more web content development work.
Aside from that, listening to good music and having conversations with my closest friends inspire me to write some more. :-)"

From Lynn:
"Exercise is a great way to jog a few brain cells around. And you’re right: it’s the perfect time to listen to yourself think. Before you know it, you’ve come up with some great ideas you wouldn’t have had if you sat hopelessly in front of your computer. :-) I personally prefer writing everything in a notebook first before launching into any writing job. Ideas seem to flow much more easily that way. And when I need to start typing it all up, I look at what I’ve written and get even MORE ideas from that."

Eva sympathizes