Friday, April 25, 2014

This Mother's Day, Give the Gift of Recorded Memory.

Commemorative Writing

Do you have an event in your life you’d like to keep forever? Would you like to have a biographical piece of a family member’s history? Looking for a perfect present for mother’s day? Look no further! Commemorative writing includes a written segment of a person’s history. I am offering an original document that details a person’s history in a few choice events. This includes a one-hour phone session to discuss the details of the story, and one full revision.

Writing Sample

The small, naked baby cried, gasping for her first breaths of air. Petronela caught her breath as well, woozy, tired, drifting in and out of pain. She was vaguely aware of activity from the nurses, her head damp with sweat and foggy. Finally, a familiar voice. “Do you want to hold her?”

You can get…

·      A one-hour phone consultation
·      A 5-10 page original story
·      One full revision

For only $75! Only accepts Paypal.


For more information or to get your project started, email me at

About the Writer

Morgan Hufstader has been writing since she could pick up a pen. She studied writing at Sarah Lawrence College and abroad in England. She currently works as the managing editor for publishing company in Atlanta. She started commemorative writing for her own family and decided to extend the offer to other families when she saw the heartwarming effect it had on the readers.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Life After Nano: 10 Step Guide


To all my fellow nanoers, let me start off by saying: you did it!!! Congratulations! Or you went as far as you could go, which is an accomplishment in itself. As we all know, finishing is the hardest part. Even I only made it halfway through this year, unfortunately! But stronger souls than I pushed on, and you should all be proud of your accomplishments!

There is, of course, the terrifying next step. What now? Is there a life after nano? As an editor of a small publishing company, I'm here to hold you hand and tell you, yes, there most certainly is life after nano. To help you along the process, here is my ten step process to make sure your lovely nano novel (which you've poured blood, sweat, and coffee into) does not simply sit there gathering dust after November:

1. Sleep on it.

You've had a frantic month of living and breathing your own writing. It's imperative that you take the time to put the pen down, catch up on some much needed sleep, and take a nano breather. Right now, you're in an intense relationship with your nano and you both need a little personal space. Whatever you do, don't start drafting letters to publishers on December 1st. The editing process is really it's own beast, and you don't want to run a new marathon on aching feet. Give your nano some space so you can tackle the second draft with a fresh and critical eye.

2. Get a critique.

Once you've caught up on a little shut-eye, chances are, you're still not going to want to reread your entire manuscript. Hey, maybe the more ambitious of you will, and if you have that kind of motivation, go for it. Give your manuscript a full read-through. More power to you. However, chances are you're not going want to invest that kind of time back into your manuscript. In fact, trying to edit it now on your own might just make you crazy. I've been there. I completed my script frenzy (ah, the good ol' days...) and tried to instantly jump into editing without letting other people look through it. And I demolished my script. I wrote and rewrote without any real guidance and drove myself insane.

What you could really benefit from is a fresh pair of eyes. Get your friends to read it. Your family members. Your fellow nanoers. Keep in mind that the best "betas" that you can find are probably not your parents. Rather, try sending your manuscript to someone who not only knows your genre, but will also give youhonest feedback. Yes, coddling is nice, but constructive criticism is nicer.

There is, of course, the professional option. Since I owe so much to nanowrimo, I thought I'd give back a little this year. I talked my publishing company into letting me give 15% off our manuscript critiques to anyone who emails us with a nano novel. Pretty neat, eh? I will personally read through your entire manuscript and offer a 7 + page critique that will take into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of your piece, the plot structure, character development, and even identify your target audience. You can find a sample critique here. If you want more details, email me at 
morganhufstader (at) Anyway, that's just one other option if your parents aren't given you the feedback you hoped for. //shameless self-promotion.

3. Come up with a synopsis for your novel.

If you're a die-hard nanoer, you probably already have a short paragraph synopsis up there on your nano page. Still, it's very important to have a short synopsis of your novel that you can send to editors and publishers. I stress the word short because we really, really don't have the time to read summaries that go on for pages. A synopsis will let the editor/publisher do a couple things:
  • Determine whether or not your novel is the type of genre/content they publish.
  • Determine how much the author knows about his/her own novel.
  • Understand what you're trying to accomplish with your novel.
  • Weed out the sections that don't strengthen your plot or characters.
In short, summaries are your friends. Don't overlook them.

4. Don't layout your novel.

Here's a little something that most writers don't know: your word document is not your final layout if you plan on turning your novel into a printed book. Layout (cover design, interior design, book size, etc.) is its own entity. I know you want to make your novel look as stylized and pretty as possible in word, because youwrote a book and you want it to look like one, right? Well, it might look pretty, but we're just going to have to reformat it anyway to make it fit into a printed book. The best thing you can do is leave your manuscript as is; don't play with the margins, don't put little flower images on every page. Some publishers will havevery specific guidelines they want you to follow in regards to font type, size, etc. If you're not sure how to send it, Times New Roman, 12 pt, single-spaced is a good bet. Old school is the good school.

5. Spell-check your document.

Oh man. If everyone who ever sent me a manuscript just clicked the simple spell-check button once, I'd be such a happy camper. No, spell-check won't clean up all your errors. Yes, there are going to be a couple mistakes littered about your novel. But you're human. We understand that. That's what we're here for, to super-humanly clean up all errors. However, spell-check separates the teacher's pets from the detention punks. It's simple, it's quick, and it saves us work and saves you money. Win-win, right?

6. Get an editor.

Remember, your editor and your publishers are not necessarily the same. Sure, sometimes you'll find a publishing company that also offers editing services. However, some publishing companies might, at best, hit the spell-check option and call it a night. Unless you're with a publishing company that takes their editing seriously (which, granted, do certainly exist), you might want to consider hiring an independent editor. You can either go freelance or tap into an editing company that will offer you in-depth services. You want to give a publisher your manuscript in its best possible form, especially if you're looking for traditional publishing. All the hard work should be done by time you reach that stage.

7. Come up with a marketing strategy.

I know what you're thinking. Wait, I'm an author, why I doing sales? This is probably the least pleasant part of getting your book out there, but it'll give you a massive advantage when you send your book out for publication. You have your critique(s), so you should know your target audience by now. You have an edited manuscript, so you know the content is up to snuff. Now, you just have to find a way to get it out there. Here are a couple things you can get started on, even before you get your book published.
  • Start a blog detailing your writing journey.
  • Start a Facebook/twitter/all of the above for your book.
  • Connect with other authors and author services (World Literary Cafe is something of a saving grace here, they're free to sign up for and they do all the networking for you).
  • Come up with out-of-the-box ways to plug into your target audience. If your main character is autistic, work with autism-awareness groups, become an "expert" in your field.
  • Come up with a book trailer. If I know my nano audience, I bet you already have one made. Don't lie. Post it up on youtube and see what happens.
  • Pitch an idea for a sequel or a series. No one wants to invest in a one-hit wonder; if you've got more ideas up your sleeve, boast them. It'll work in your favor.
Here's the trick: you don't have to be a marketing genius. You don't have to have ten million twitter followers. But once a publisher sees that you have a direction, that's going to pique their interest. If they see that you're willing to work with them to get this book sold to as many people as possible, they're going to want a piece of that. See where I'm going with this? It gives you a leg up in the traditional publishing world and, if you decide to self-publish, gives you a map of how best to market your book and yourself (note:don't forget to brand you, because you want these readers coming back to read all the books you intend to write).

8. Get your book out there!

Finally, the moment of truth. Come up with a list of publishers that you want to send your book to and just start getting it out there. Remember, we're in the digital age, so save some trees and send your books electronically. Don't focus solely on the top book publishers either; try publishers that work specifically with your genre, or a local, small press. J.K. Rowling was first published via small press, so if it's good enough for J.K., it's good enough for you!

Tip: Copyrighting your unpublished manuscript isn't necessarily the way to go. If you copyright your first draft, you have to copyright your second draft, then your third, and that'll eat away at your bank account. Instead, ask your editor and/or publisher if they'll supply an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement). Some will even offer an NDA before you ask. Once the author and publisher sign the NDA, your work is officially protected and you don't have to worry about someone running away with it.

9. Grow a thick skin.

The truth of the matter is, there are a lot of books out there. And, these days, you have to do a song, a dance, and a magic trick to get the attention of most publishing companies, especially the big boys. Brace yourself for rejection letters and remember that this is not the end of your writing career. A publishing company may very well pass up on a great book simply because that book doesn't align with certain values the company is trying to promote. Publishing companies sometimes run like TV channels: for example, you wouldn't look for Kill Bill on Lifetime and you wouldn't expect to find Toy Story on Spike TV. Publishing companies are much of the same, only they're a little harder to feel out. At the end of the day, all you can do is continue to send your manuscript to as many publishing companies as possible until one sticks. And don't lose faith!

Of course, if you won't want to go the route of traditional publishing, you can always try vanity publishers like Createspace or Lulu. Smashwords will also get an ebook out there. If you're a self-publisher, there are some publishing companies that work specifically for self-publishers, so keep an eye out.

10. Keep writing!

No matter what, keep writing. If you've written 50,000 + words in one month, it's time to admit it to yourself: writing is in your blood. Keep the nano spirit alive and try to write a little every day, even if you don't meet your word count. Keep in touch with the friends you've made during nano and continue to support one another with your novels because, chances are, you're 50,000 words into the first act. Look at this as one of many nano accomplishments to come. I wish you the best in all your writing endeavors and I am already looking forward to next year--who knows, maybe I'll even win next time!
I hope I've clarified a couple things rather than overwhelmed already exhausted authors! If you have any questions/comments, feel free to ask them here! And if you don't know what nano is, visit and watch November take on a whole new meaning. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Put Your Character On A Treadmill!

Active vs. Passive Characters
Strong like bull...or strong like 15 pound weight.

In my first edition of writing tips, A-to-Z, I thought I'd start off A with Active vs. Passive characters. One of the main issues I find when reading unpublished manuscripts is that many first-time writers have a hard time creating active main characters. Active main characters are essential to your story. If your protagonist is not actively making changes in your story, the plot will remain at a standstill. A good main character will drive the action of the novel and move the plot forward so to keep the reader interested.

How can you tell if your main character is active? Ask yourself these questions:
1. Does his desire drive the action of the novel?
2. Is he constantly making decisions or is someone else making the decisions for him?
3. Does he seem to be forced into situations without the ability to make a choice one way or the other?
4. Do the other characters look to him for guidance?
5. Do his actions directly change the course of the novel?

If you have answered no to any of these questions (or "someone else" to question 2 for you literalists), then you need to involve your character more directly in the story. Otherwise, your novel is going to feel like a series of wild, unrelated events, which is something only expert satirists with talking flowerpots can get away with. More importantly, your novel may be feeling the Hand Of God syndrome:

Hand Of God |handəvgäd|
1. When an author forces their characters to dance around the plot of the novel like puppets, even if their actions do not correspond with the characters' personal desires or motivations.
2. When an author makes certain events happen because the author wants them to happen, even if said events do not make logical sense in the progression of the novel.
3. Anne Rice changes religions, so Lestat goes straight.

Readers, believe it or not, are smarter than that. They can tell when there's a man behind the curtain twisting all the switches and nobs. The Hand Of God will make your novel lose it's organic feel and replace it with something that feels like a means to an end. The only way to counteract this is to make sure your main character is actively changing the course of the novel in a way that makes sense. Here are five tips to making sure your protagonist (main character) is active:

1. Define your main character's want
Once you know what your main character wants, you will know his motivation. His want can be anything from the love of his life to a cup of tea. Whatever it is, make sure it's something that will motivate him, otherwise he'll spend the whole novel sitting on the couch eating Cheetos (note: your main character's want can be to get off the couch and stop eating Cheetos. Look how easy a want can be!).

2. Write a list ways for your main character to try to achieve his want (and fail).
Think of your novel as a very large learning curve for your character. All the ways I failed to create the light bulb. The more your character fails, the more satisfying it will be when he actually succeeds in reaching his goal. Come up with a list of as many things you can think of that will stop your main character from getting what he wants. They can be huge problems, small problems, silly problems, anything. These will be an easy reference that should inspire you in case you find yourself at a loss with where to go next (ex: I want to get off the couch, but it's too comfortable, my leg is in a cast, and I've got a severe addiction to Cheetos).

3. Put your main character in situations that force him to make hard choices.
The worst thing you can do for your character is to make anything easy for him. Don't let him get off scott free. Put blockades in his way. As many as you can find. Even better, have an antagonist (villain) that will constantly stop him from getting what he wants. This villain can be a real person, a group of people, or even something broad and foreboding (an ongoing war). The villain can even be a trait within the main character themselves, such as addiction or insecurity (after all, we are all our own worst enemies).

4. Have your character make the wrong choice.
Let's face it: no one likes a goody-two-shoes. If your character makes all the easy choices (right vs. wrong, lightside vs. darkside, The Beatles or Hannah Montana), you're going to have a hard time keeping the reader's interest. Give your character some grey-area decisions (freedom of speech vs. banning bigotry, personal safety vs. experiencing new things, love vs. overprotective, Oreos vs. Chips Ahoy). This is where your character will be able to show their real stripes and make some decisions the reader may not agree with. This is okay. Your character now has something to angst over and has the whole rest of the novel to redeem himself.

5. Don't let anyone force your character to do something.
Naturally, it's a lot easier to had a bunch of bad vagabonds steal your princess away from her home and force her into a new style of living, but that's not a story. The real story begins when the princess realizes that the vagabonds are not vagabonds at all, but people she has more in common with than her own family. Her personal struggle to chose her family in the castle or the "vagabonds" will be the force that drives the rest of the story. You can throw a couple hurtles at her: she falls in love with one of the vagabonds, her father falls on his deathbed and his last request is to see her return to the castle, her step-mother puts out a reward for her head and the heads of her vagabond friends if she doesn't return. No matter what the hurtles are, at the end of the day, she has to be the one who decides her own fate. Otherwise, she's a weak and wimpy protagonist and the readers can't figure out why they picked up the book in the first place.

With these five steps, your main character should be well on his way to get off that couch and into the action of the novel. As soon as he kicks his Cheetos addiction.

Trick Question: who was the protagonist in The Great Gatsby?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Is For...


In order to kick-start this blog, I thought I'd start off offering up writing tips, A-to-Z. Every week, I will write up a new post corresponding to the letters A through Z. Each post will have a theme somehow related to the letter of the week ("A is for..." etc). I will bring you new writing tips, characters advice, and other such bits of wisdom as the weeks go on. If you have a question you want answered, let me know and I will fit it in to one of the weekly themes!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Write Drunk; Edit Soberer.

A great author who wrote some book about giving up arms once said, "write drunk; edit sober." In my opinion, these are wise words to live by. Granted, I'm not encouraging every writer to down a Mojito or two before picking up the pen. Instead, I firmly believe in the power of finishing a first draft without hitting the backspace or tinkering with every sentence. The greatest accomplishment of many writers is simply finishing a first draft. Once you've completed it, then you can go back with a sober (or soberer) eye and start reworking your story.

But editing isn't easy. It's a long, painstaking process that can weigh heavy on the heart of an author. Which is where I come in. I'm a professional editor who works to make the editing process just a little easier for authors. After all, it is impossible to be completely "sober" and unbiased while trying to edit your own work--you need a fresh, new perspective from someone who how to get the best results from your writing (read: not your mother, your aunt-who-once-wrote-a-pamplet, or your best friend). I offer a variety of services for writers, such as:

Manuscript Critiques: I read through the entire manuscript and offer a 7 + page critique that will take into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the piece, plot structure, character development, and even identify the target audience. This is an invaluable tool for writers, especially first-time novelists looking to publish or submit their work to literary magazines or competitions. I provide a sample manuscript critique here.

Writing Coach: I work chapter by chapter with the author, providing feedback, comments and corrections where necessary. We worth together to correct all the weaknesses outlined in the manuscript critique. I even provide examples where necessary to get the author on the right track.

Standard Editing: I go line-by-line through the entire manuscript to weed out spelling and grammar mistakes. This involves more proofreading than actual content editing or restructuring.

Ghostwriting: I will provide ghostwriting services for any job specifications. In the past, I have done ghostwriting for the second edition of a memoir. I can ghostwrite single chapters or full projects.

These services are available not only for novels, but also for scripts and screenplays. If you interested in learning more or have questions, feel free to contact me at morganhufstader (at)