40 video/audio lessons that take you step-by-step from idea to finished novel, taught by an award-winning, best-selling novelist and nationally acclaimed writing teacher. Easy, understandable, foundation elements essential for every genre. Learn Skills, Secrets and most of all... Story.


A great book isn't written. . .it's rewritten. Learn how to analyze and fix your novel’s problems with this unique “self-editing” system. . .then arm yourself with over 40 Advanced Fiction Classes and rewrite your story into publication.


You’ve worked too hard to quit now. Your story is nearly ready, but now it’s time to sell your novel. Learn the steps to creating a powerful proposal, secrets to pitching, the key elements to your marketing plan, a social media primer and how to create rabid reader fans. It’s time to ignite your career.
Thank you! in typewriter

Social Media Minute—5 Tips for Using Hashtags Correctly

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Hashtags—especially for Twitter—can be incredibly valuable in helping us increase out audience. But only if we learn to use them correctly.

They’re not that hard, but there are some rules you need to follow so you’re not wasting valuable real estate in your tweets.

Hashtag Refresher

First, lets back up and evaluate the reason we’re all working at building an online presence. We are looking to deepen existing relationships and build new ones. But building new ones can be difficult if the only people we interact with are those we already know, either online or in person.

We can get a little bit of exposure to new folks by our existing connections introducing us, but that’s a time consuming way to go about it.

What if there was a way for someone to search a given social media network by topic and find new, interesting people to interact with? That would be a great way to grow our connections.

THAT, in the simplest of terms, is the purpose of using hashtags.

When you compose a social media update that includes one or two hashtags that summarize the topic—you are giving folks who wouldn’t otherwise have a connection with you—a way to find you.

Here’s an example of the correct way to do this. this is the tweet I use to share this post (minus the link):

5 Tips for Using Hashtags Correctly – via #SocialMedia

Mentor @EdieMelson #twitter 

5 Tips for Using Hashtags Correctly

  1. Don’t overload your social media updates with hashtags. The optimum number of hashtags depends on the social media network you’re on.
  • Twitter: two hashtags is best, but one or three will also work.
  • Facebook: no more than one hashtag per update, otherwise you may be unintentionally spamming your followers
  • Instagram: two hashtags is best, but one or three will also work here as well.
  1. Take time to research the best hashtags. Some hashtags are better than others. You won’t know which ones are most current unless you take time research them. The best way to do your research? Do a search on the social media network where you want to use the hashtag. You can also research a hashtag by typing it into the Google search engine and seeing what updates come up.
  1. Making up a new hashtag is fine—if you pair it with a popular hashtag. If I wanted to try to make #TheWriteConversation into a writing hashtag, it wouldn’t do me any good unless I paired it with another popular #writing hashtag. No one is going to know to search for #TheWriteConversation unless I educate them. If I just use #TheWriteConversation, it’s no more than wasted space in my social media update.
  1. Remember a space ends the hashtag. So often I see people forget and add a space in between two words in a hashtag. Once you hit the space bar, the hashtag ends. So #Social Media is really only the hashtag #Social, instead of #SocialMedia. NOTE: this is also true of the @ sign. If I type @Edie Melson, it’s just like I’m typing @Edie, and that person is NOT me.
  1. Leave some room at the end of your tweets so your hashtags aren’t cut off if it’s retweeted. Tweets are only 140 characters long. If I use all 140 characters, then if anyone retweets it, the end will be cut off because there’s no room for the retweeters information that goes at the beginning of the tweet. I try to leave 10 to 15 blank characters, but my absolute minimum is 7. This insures at least one unchanged retweet.

These are my top 5 tips for using hashtags correctly. I’d love for you to share yours. Or, be sure to leave any questions about hashtags you have in the comments section below.



Continue Reading 0
5 ways to nurture creativity

5 ways to nurture your creativity during Christmas

Hello!  I’m in the final stretch of a novel this week – trying hard to finish by Friday night, so I can spend the weekend getting ready for my kids coming home.  I plan to NOT WRITE during Christmas break.

Or…do I?

First, I’ll just admit that I’m a bit of a writing addict.  I LOVE to write, even the rough draft stages and when I get an entire day to write it’s like, well, Christmas.  But I also love my family and just hanging out with them, doing puzzles, making cookies, chatting, laughing…so I love that there are mandatory breaks in my life to pry me away from my stories.  When I am in the middle of writing a book, up against a deadline, I’m so full of excitement it’s difficult to look up.  To eat.  To speak clearly.

But, because of Christmas, my brain gets a chance to breathe.

Letting your brain breathe is essential for creativity.  Even when I’m in the middle of a book, taking a day or two off to look up, get out in some fresh air, have a fun, no-stress conversation with friends can stir up a new perspective in my story, a fresh thematic thread, a undiscovered scene.  Letting my brain breathe also breathes new life into my novel.

So, while I won’t be writing, per say, over Christmas, I’ll still be working….and here’s how.

5 effective ways to breathe new life into your creativity while you let your brain cool off.

1. Get outside. Take a walk, run, go play on a playground…just breathe in the fresh air, the sunshine, listen to the wind, smell the snow/leaves/grass.  Somehow being away from the television, the football game (but TiVo it, because, well…it’s football!), the chatter, even the smells of the kitchen will allow you hear your thoughts.  And it’s these thoughts that will allow your creativity to stir to life.

2. Listen.  Here’s the truth:  I get in trouble when I open my mouth.  So, I force myself to listen.  And not just to the happenings in the family, but the stories of the past, and particularly the details of life in the days of our elders. Listen to the rich tales of the past and let it seed ideas for your novels (especially if you are a historical writer).  Take a few notes, ask a few questions and you’ll be surprised and delighted with the things you learn and the seeds of creativity planted.

3. Read a book. Preferably a novel. I suggest reading outside your genre because it will force you to relax and simply let a great novel nurture your creative side.  Turn off your internal editor and simply enjoy the characters, setting, plot points, even theme.  Even though you are not spending time analyzing it, the elements will sit into your brain like fertilizer, and allow those new ideas to grow.  Hey, it’s Christmas – give yourself the gift of reading!

4. Read your Bible, or some other spiritually nourishing book.  I read Oswald Chambers as well as my Bible every day and the daily nourishment of spiritual truth helps me sort out the focus of my daily tasks and even my novels. But when I have a stretch of time like Christmas break, I take extra time to read something that digs deeper – a longer Bible passage, maybe study the Greek of a verse, or perhaps I’ll read a commentary on a passage. (On my lineup for this year:  Jesus is better than you imagined.  I’m already three chapters in and love it.)  It’s like getting a deep tissue massage of my soul, working out the poisons of life and letting the truth flow.  In our busy worlds, if we don’t take time to feed our spirit, we will end up thirsty, and looking to quench it in quick, even unhealthy ways. Feed your soul now, while you have a moment.

5. Go to church. I’ve had the unique opportunity the past few weeks to attend churches different from my home church.  I love the freshness of a new worship situation – even a different denomination.  Over Thanksgiving, I attended a Lutheran church with my parents and soaked in the reverence the liturgy brings to my worship.  A few weeks before, I attended a fresh young church in the inner city with my daughter, and joined the exuberant praise of the college-age students. Their buoyant joy filled my heart with a new enthusiasm for praise.  Both pastors then offered sermons that gave me story ideas and answers for scenes I was struggling with.  I was able to go home, take notes on what I’d heard, and apply them to my story.  All that “breathing time” finally bore fruit.

I don’t know what your Christmas season includes, but give your brain time to breathe, and you’ll find that you’ll return in the new year ready to tackle those NaNoWriMo edits!

Merry Christmas from MBT!

Susie May

Continue Reading 1

Avoiding The Gilmore Girls Syndrome

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of the Gilmore Girls.

I’m watching the series for the fourth or fifth time.

So, all due respect! It’s a fine, quirky show with stellar dialog.

But toward the end, things aren’t as satisfying.

The writers gave Luke a surprise daughter and made him confused about his relationship with her.

So much so, he and Lorelai called of their engagement.

We spend the next season and a half waiting for them to get back together.

And they do! (Yay!) But on the very last show!

We were denied the wedding! The full circle of their relationship.

Same with Rory and Logan.

We endure all of their ups and downs, cheer for them, yell at them, cry with them, then when Logan proposes, Rory turns him down!

Rory, who likes things planned and figured out, who knew she was going to Harvard when she was three, turned down the man she loved for three years.

The one who put her through so much! She actually turned him down.

What? We are denied, again, the cumulation of a Gilmore Girl relationship.

The final scene mirrors the final scene of the pilot:

Lorelai and Rory sitting in Luke’s diner, talking, drinking coffee, dreaming of the future.

I get it. Bookends. Ending the way the story began.

I recommend writing with bookends. Ending the book the way it began only showing the advancement of the protagonist(s).

In my book Sweet Caroline, the heroine enters the story driving a broken down ’67 Mustang toward a broken future.

She leaves the story on a jet airplane toward a bright future.

What if Caroline turned down the jet airplane opportunity and drove out of the story in her ’67 Mustang? Even if she had a promise of a somewhat better future than she did in the beginning?

I think the reader would’ve felt “blah” about the story. “Nothing changed. Nothing really happened. We just went through a series of events!”

In essence, Gilmore Girls ended the way it began. In a broken down ’67 Mustang.

What if the show ended with Luke and Logan sitting at the table with Lorelai and Rory?

What if Rory said yes and Luke and Lorelai were married?

Would it change anything about the “Gilmore Girls?”

Not at all. Those “Gilmore Girls” hooked the men of their dreams. They won! They matured, advanced and achieved.

Instead, we’re back to where they started only 7 years older.

Darn it, I want to go to Luke and Lorelai’s wedding! I want to see Rory sporting a honking big Logan diamond.

So, how does this apply to your novels?

Easy! Your characters have to mature and advance.

If they story opens with your hero and heroine fighting and not getting along, in the end, they have to get along!

I know it seems simple, of course the hero and heroine get together.

But how have you advanced their personality.

Have they had the epiphany?

Did they learn the lie was indeed a lie and embraced truth.

We’ve all read novels before where it doesn’t seem the characters changed at all. Or very little.

So let them change! Let them breathe and grow.

Even if your story is about two sisters, how does their sisterly relationship change so that the bond is deeper and broader?

The end of Gilmore Girls we see and feel they are exactly where they were in the beginning. Boring!

So, your characters have to embrace more of truth and life by the end of the story.

This is what we call “What Can They Do In The End That They Can’t Do In The Beginning?”

As you’re planning your story, even if you’re a pantser, consider, what will my character be able to do in the end he can’t do in the beginning?

In Sweet Caroline, Caroline was able to let go of the man she loved while he dumped on her and take a chance at doing something she wants instead of doing something everyone else wants her to do.

In Once Upon A Prince, King Nathaniel can face his parliament and tell them they need to reverse an old marriage law impacting only royals. He can admit he loves Susanna.

In Princess Ever After, Tanner can admit he messed up concerning his girls and bring them into his life. And heal his relationship with his dad.

See where I’m going with this?

You’ve got to deepen and broaden you character to yes, look like your character but embracing more than life.  Your characters must mature.

How do you do this?

1. Figure out the character’s problem. What do he fear? What’s the lie he believe?

2. Consider what the epiphany might be related to breaking the fear and turning the lie to truth. Like, God does really forgive. Or his father never abandoned him.

3. Then give a physical action to the epiphany. Make sense? Some how you have to “show” how they “do” in the end what they couldn’t do in the beginning. Admit something, do something, accept something.


Consider your story. What can your protagonist not do in the beginning that he’ll be able to do in the end.

Happy Writing!

Continue Reading 5