Are You Looking for NaNoWriMo Support? We've got you!

Photo by Carli Jeen on Unsplash

I finished my first draft of a young adult fiction book two days ago!

Being a finisher is such a magical feeling. There’s nothing else like it. Seriously. Nothing in the world. It motivates you and excites you to push on to the next project — and moving forward I am!

How cool would it be if I could finish the first draft of two partially written novels I’ve had sitting around for a while now before the end of the year? Before the end of the month, even? That’s my NaNoWriMo goal and I’ve spent many hours today revisiting my plot board for the second story so that I can hit the ground running tomorrow.

Thankfully I’m part of a writing community that offers LIVE daily NaNoWriMo accountability.

Ninja Writers is such a fabulous place. It’s filled with writers from every level and they’re so welcoming. Building it up is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done in my entire life, and I’m so proud of the way it continues to shape out.

Here are some ways that Ninja Writers is providing accountability for our community during NaNoWriMo and beyond:

There are so many ways Ninja Writers offers accountability support for writers — I personally think it’s one of our specialties!

Check out our daily writing sprints on YouTube.

As a part of Ninja Writers, Shaunta Grimes and I hold a 10-minute writing sprint on our YouTube channel every day at 10am EST. Our philosophy at Ninja Writers is that 10-minutes a day is all it takes to build a healthy writing routine — and we believe this so much that Shaunta and I have invited writers to watch us do it live! Our group of morning writers has written thousands of words since we started back in March and some have even finished their novels!

Not available during our daily sprinting time? I’ve created fun 10-minute timers that you can play at any time. We added a string of them into different playlists to make a 30-minute and 60-minute timer as well. If you use them, make sure to leave your ending word count in the comments! We love to see your progress.

Here’s the 30-minute playlist:

And here’s the 60-minute playlist:

The Ninja Writers Club offers a live write-in every day — sometimes multiple!

The Club is Ninja Writers’ paid membership subscription that offers you a weekly schedule of classes, workshops, and write-ins.

If you’re not familiar with our write-ins, they’re like writing at a library — everyone is muted upon entry into the zoom call and we all spend a two-hour chunk of time writing and nothing else! Basically, it’s a two-hour-long writing sprint. They are always monitored.

Protip: if you ask the host they’re almost always open to conducting shorter sprints for you.

Here’s our weekly schedule of write-ins you get access to if you’re a part of the Ninja Writers Club:

If you aren’t already in the Ninja Writers Club, what are you waiting for?? Click here to get your first month free.

We’ve started a Facebook group just for NaNoWriMo.

Want to check in with your writing community daily throughout the month of November? Ninja Writers has started up a Facebook group for that and we’d love for you to join us!

Our Ninja Writer Michelle March coordinates it for us and she’s such a great NaNoWriMo hype woman! We love her!

The Facebook group offers daily threads to keep your head in the game and we even put together a leaderboard to log your word count in. It shows how many words Ninja Writers have collectively written during NaNoWriMo. Our count so far? 250,770 words!!! 🎉🎉

Ninja Writers is committed to getting you writing this NaNoWriMo season!

You’ve got this!

Let me know what your NaNo project is this year and how it’s going so far in the comments!

(Don’t forget to claim your free month of the Ninja Writers Club.)

Adrienne Grimes is a writer and a reader of all the things. She lives in Pennsylvania with her two overbearing dogs and her doggish cat. Follow her on Instagram @bookaweekproject and catch her social media and branding classes in the Ninja Writers Guild — a community for every type of writer!



The NaNoWriMo is Coming GIVEAWAY

Hey, Ninja Writer!

Forget winter. NaNoWriMo is coming! Are you ready?

Ninja Writers is hosting a NaNo Prep giveaway in September. THREE lucky winners will each get:

  • A copy of the newest edition of Christopher Vogel’s book The Writer’s Journey. (This book is my personal favorite and the new edition has some good updates.) ($22 value)
  • Our favorite Pomodoro Technique timer. ($15 value)
  • Our favorite notebook. ($15 value)
  • Chocolate. Enough said. ($10 value)
  • And a full YEAR of the Ninja Writers Club. Already a member? We’ll add a year to your membership. ($200 value)

Click this link to join. Be sure to share the magic link you’ll get after you do with your writer friends. You’ll help spread the word about Ninja Writers AND get extra entries in the giveaway when they sign up.




How to Write Sensory Description that Will Grab Your Readers

An exercise to help you learn to write with sensory details.

Photo by Solstice Hannan on Unsplash

Sensory writing involves (surprise, surprise) bringing all five of your senses into your descriptions. It’s an important part of drawing your reader in, no matter what it is you’re producing.

Well done sensory detail grabs your readers by the . . . nose. Or eyes. Or ears. Or tongue. Or their whole body. It drags them into the story (fiction or nonfiction) and puts them into it.

Pretty much every type of writing depends on the writer being able to call on the readers five senses. In other words, it’s far less about your senses and more about theirs.

This is where writers sometimes struggle, because the touch, taste, smell, sound, sight of the thing is already in their head. Getting it out of our heads and onto the page, so that it can get into our readers heads? That’s the thing.

But to engage their senses, you need to engage yours.

So, today we’re going to walk through a set of exercises that will help you to be a more sensory writer. I’m going to complete these exercises for you, here in this blog post so that you have a good idea of what I’m talking about.

If you’d like to complete it yourself, get a fillable worksheet. It will have a whole new set of photos that you can practice with. That means you can do this whole thing twice!

Exercise One: Bread

Photo by Jude Infantini on Unsplash

The photo above is a nice loaf of homemade wheat bread. Fresh out of the oven. I love to use this example, because fresh bread is such a sensory experience.

You can do this with any picture, though. Choose a noun. Any noun. Then Google up a photo of that thing. Here are some ideas: doll, mountain, car, dog, friend, house. It really doesn’t matter. Just pick a word, Google it, then pick a photo.

My suggestion is to choose a photo that is clear and relatively uncluttered. mostly, just that thing. The noun.

So, take a few minutes and put each of your senses to work on this photo, one at a time. Here’s what I came up with.

What do you smell?

I smell melting butter, even though I don’t see it. I smell home. And Christmas, since the only time my mother ever baked bread was at Christmas. I smell soup, too, or maybe stew. What I might eat with fresh bread. The smell of fresh bread hits me mid-chest for some reason. It makes me breathe in deep and expand my lungs fully.

What do you taste?

Richness — because I would definitely put real butter on this bread. Butter isn’t in the picture, but it’s what comes to mind anyway. And maybe the sharp tang of a tart jam that hits me just behind my jaw. The taste of fresh bread is slow. Something to savor, not rush through.

What do you see?

A crisp crust, embedded with grains of wheat like freckles. Clean, uneven cuts that didn’t squash the soft insides of the loaf. A good knife must have been used. A deep color that brings to mind autumn and cooling weather. The smooth, warn surface of the cutting board. But also, my imagination kids in and I see my mother’s blue and white dishes and the big red pot I make soup in.

What do you hear?

The long, serrated knife breaking through the crust. The low hum that is impossible to stop the first bite. A knuckle knocking on the loaf to listen for hollowness. The seal on the oven door breaking. The rap of a hand against the cooled pan bottom, to release the bread onto the cutting board. The sharp inhale when the room fills with those smells after the first cut.

What do you feel?

A burnt tongue, when it’s impossible to wait for the first bite. Soft butter spreading over the soft insides of the bread, the knife just gliding over it. The crispness of the crust against my teeth.

Exercise Two: Just Words

Next, I just want you to look at each of the following five pictures and list words that relate both to it and to just one of your senses. Think of nouns, verbs, and adjectives.


Photo by Justin Snyder Photo on Unsplash Imagine that you’re in a restaurant and this is a table across the room. What do you see?

Nouns: Cell phone. Soup bowl. Girl. Boy. Artificial lights. Hand. Wood paneling. Fear. Concern. Worry. Surprise. Joy. Disinterest. Night. Late. Polka dots. Dark hair. Dressed nice. Girl next door.

Verbs: Gasping. Reading. Eating. Crying. Processing.

Adjectives: Pretty. Young.


Photo by Manuel Meurisse on Unsplash Imagine that you’re sitting by a fire on the beach, alone with one other person. What do you taste?

Nouns: Sand. Smoke. Marshmallows. Remembered kisses. Salt. Beer. Sunblock. Fish.

Verbs: Swallow. Slide.

Adjectives: Dry. Sweet. Yeasty. Intense. Nostalgic. Slow.


Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash Imagine that you’re on the Maid of the Mist, floating this close to Niagra Falls. What do you hear?

Nouns: Roar. Joy. Fear. Engine. An tour guide. History. Children. Tourists. Wonder.

Verbs: Screaming. Talking. Laughing. Vomiting (that would be me and my seasick self.) Engulfing. Surrounding.

Adjectives: Fast. Powerful. Wet. Scary. Intense.


Photo by Marcos Nieto on Unsplash Imagine that you’re standing on the street in Las Vegas at sunset just after a short instense burst of rain. What does it smell like?

I chose this picture because I want you to see how your own experiences influence your sensory writing. I grew up in Las Vegas. My experiences of the smells there might be very different from yours, especially if you’re mostly using your imagination.

Nouns: People. Cars. Good food. Alcohol. Slightly metallic. Surprisingly clean. Sage, even on the Strip. Petrichor. Occassional sharp, bad odor from another person. Occasional nice smell of another person. Desperation (cheap beer, unwashed body, buffet food.) Humanity.

Verbs: Enticing. Exciting. Promising. Inviting.

Adjectives: Fresh. Clean. Dry. Surprising. Fleeting (for the rain smell.)


Photo by Anastasia Vityukova on Unsplash Imagine this hug. What does it physically feel like?

Nouns: Comfort. Home. Friendship. Family. Safe. Love.

Verbs: Letting go. Relaxing. Absorbing. Shoring up.

Adjectives: Protective. Sweet. Sure. Tired. Secure.

Exercise Three: Get Some Practice

Now, go back to the five photos I posted here and work on Exercise One for all of them. Just write, in sentence form, what you see, smell, taste, hear, and feel. Let yourself go deep into the photo. Imagine what’s beyond the frame. What might be coming next. What already happened.

Those photos are snapshots and a snapshot is just a scene. Imagine a character somewhere in the vacinity — either experiencing what’s happening or observing it from the outside.

I’m not going to do that for each of these five photos, because this post is already crazy long. But go back and look at the bread exercise and you’ll see what I mean.

What do you smell? What do you see? What do you hear? What do you taste? What do you feel? For each photo.

Exercise Four: Put it All Together

Now, just take a look one more time at each photo. Use all the sensory input you came up with in exercises two and three, and write a paragraph. Bring in all five senses.

I wrote these on the fly. This doesn’t have to be complicated or perfect. Just get what you’re sensing out on the page.

Photo #1

Photo by Justin Snyder Photo on Unsplash

This restaurant definitely does not make homemade soup. I taste the can my dinner came out of. It was probably processed in 2002. Everything in this diner smells overcooked. Everything and every body. It’s two in the morning and the tables around me are ringing with the remnants of a good night. Except hers. She’s dressed more conservatively than any other woman in the place. I’m not even sure if she is a woman, she looks so young with her waterfall of dark hair and the easy way she holds her cell phone. Maybe she’s a girl. It’s her gasp that draws my attention. Something’s happened. I don’t know her and I have no reason to respond to her fear. The boy — definitely, he’s a boy — sitting across from her doesn’t seem to notice. But it’s everything I can do to keep it from propelling me to my feet.

Photo #2

Photo by Manuel Meurisse on Unsplash

I smell the memory of burned, sweet scent of toasted marshmallows and the very real, yeasty tang of my third beer. My head swims a little, which fits because I’m water logged and tired. There’s nostalgia in the taste of the salty air. I smell him — sweaty, but healthy and clean, too. I taste our last kiss and I wish he’d kiss me again, so this fight will end. But I hear the last hurtful thing he said ringing in my ears, still. And the crackle of the fire keeps me on my side of the sand. Close because it’s cold and I want to be warm. Not because he’s on the other side of it. He watches the ship out on the lake like he wishes he were on it, instead of here with me.

Photo #3

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

My stomach protests as we get closer to the falls. The sheer volume of mist rising from the bottom is astonishing. Almost as stunning as the wide, rushing roar of water falling from above us. I barely register the beauty though, because the boat bumps and rolls as the water gets choppier the closer the captain brings us and my whole body protests. All around me children laugh and scream and their adults gasp in wonder. I tuck myself as tight into a corner of the open boat as I possibly can and look over the edge at the water. It’s clear and even though it’s August, I know that if I fell in the cold would sting my skin. Someone speaks into a mircophone, their voice loud and tinny, and I register some history of the falls. Bile burns the back of my throat and I tilt my face up to the cool mist. The droplets soothe me a little.

Photo #4

Photo by Marcos Nieto on Unsplash

The street fills, like magic, as the sun starts to set. Hot, dry air blows away the last of a surprise rain storm. The whole thing only lasted ten minutes, but it’s left the streets clean and glimmery and the delicious earthy smell of rain that falls so rarely, it’s like magic when it happens. The air is always clean here, but it’s clearer now. The sky is impossibly big, wide open — the exact opposite of what the open casino doors promise. Music, people, the promise of luck, the scent of food from a thousand places, all poor through those broad doors.

Photo #5

Photo by Anastasia Vityukova on Unsplash

Her heart is broken and the best I can do is open my arms and offer some kind of comfort. I know her well enough to know that human touch will ground her and bring her back to herself. You’ll get through this, I whisper. The breeze steals my words and I’m not sure she hears them, but I hope she feels them anyway. She smells like a long day. There’s a rawness to her voice that breaks my heart. A little louder this time: it’s okay. You’ll be okay. I’m here.

That’s it!

Hopefully, this exercise got you into the practice of engaging your own senses. But also? It was designed to make you see how important it is to write those details in such a way that they engage your readers senses, which is so much more important.

If you enjoyed this exericse, don’t forget you can download a worksheet here.



Ninja Writers Brag Board [May 2021]

We are so totally stoked to be pulling back the curtain and rolling out the red carpet for the Ninja Writers Brag Board!

Our Ninja Writers are doing such great things! We want to brag about their accomplishments, big and small. Responses are reviewed and chosen by the Ninja Writers team and posted on the website each month based on the previous month’s responses.

Without further ado, here’s what some of our Ninjas accomplished over the past month:

I got an email from an editor asking me to write for Abbott Nutrition. (They make Ensure, Enfamil baby formula, etc.) Yay! --Julie Cunningham

Made it to Round Three, the semifinal round, of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge! Thanks, Ninja Writers, especially Juneta Key, for all the support along the way. Wouldn't have made it this far without you. --Julia Quay

I'm going to be running a game on the Cypher Unlimited Twitch channel on June 10th. Here's the link: --Samuel Kauffman

I got my online shop up and running! and I finished The Homesick Kiwi logo character that will appear on all of my different virtual real estate as well as t-shirts etc. in my shop. I finished the email bribe pdf to build my email list. I'm on day 152 of my writing streak. And I'm on week 11 of the Artist's Way. --Simon Henderson-The Homesick Kiwi

I finished the second round of edits on my book, now sending it to beta readers. --Tana L. Hutton

Kudos to all of you from the Ninja Writers team! Keep up the great work.

Are you a Ninja Writer with something good to brag about in June 2021? Let us know by filling out this form.

If you’re not yet a Ninja Writer club member, you can join for a full month for $5

A Flip-Through of My Writing Notebook

My Writer Binder. (Photo: Author.)

For whatever reason, I’m on a productivity kick so far in 2021. Not being more productive. Trust me when I tell you that I’m already very productive. If anything, I need to learn to let go a little and be okay with being a little bit less productive.

No. I’ve gotten it in my mind that I want to find productivity peace. I want to find systems that work for me. Systems that not only help me to be more efficient and productive, but that also bring me joy.

It’s an elusive thing, this productivity peace, but I’m confident that I’ll get there.

I’ve found myself going through the systems I already have in place and analyzing them. Do they really work? Are they really the best option for me? Is there something I could do that would be better?

This week, I took a really good look at my Writer Binder. I designed this system myself. It’s a paper planner that I use to organize my writing life. My career.

The Writer Binder is not a daily planner. It’s more like a project planner. I was happy to decide that this system still really works for me.

The Flip-Through

I was going to take a bunch of pictures and write about the binder, but in the end decided to just record a video. It’s too much to try to write out.

It’s only about 10 minutes long. The system itself is very simple. No real bells or whistles. It lets me manage my current work in progress, be accountable to myself for my work, and manage my ideas so that I always know what I’m going to write next.

Here’s one picture of the inside of my Writer Binder.

My Writer Binder. (Photo: Author)

In the front, I have a little printable thing with my motto written on it. (A Ray Bradbury quote: Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens.)

I also have some plastic sleeves with quotes that inspire me inside them. Some pretty things tucked into pockets, because I swear my inner child is five years old and sparkly, colorful, pretty things make her happy.

After that, I have a section for my writing plan. One for writing down possible characters, settings, and situations. One for my current work in progress. One for ideas (where I put those characters, settings, and situations together into stories.) And space for notes.

That’s it.

If you keep a writer’s notebook, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.



The Six Core Types of Income Streams

Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

I’ve always been excited by income streams.

It started with a lemonade stand I set up with my sister, Jill, on the bluff across the street from our house when we were eight and ten. We sold plastic cups of Kool-Aide to the multitudes of joggers and beach-goers who used that bluff every day.

And we made $100. In 1981.

We were rich!

Then our mother found out that our dad let us go to the bluff alone to sell lemonade to strangers and lost her mind. We weren’t allowed to do it again.

Later, Dad took us with him to conventions where he’d set up a booth to sell baseball cards. We’d bring a roll of paper towels and bottle of Windex — and make a killing cleaning glass cases for people and fetching lunch for venders who were alone in their booths and couldn’t leave their goods.

I think I was a born an entrepreneur.

But it wasn’t until I found myself a single mother with a little boy who couldn’t go to day care (he was finally diagnosed with autism at age 13) that I really found my stride as an income stream dowser.

What is an Income Stream, anyway?

It’s simple. An income stream is just what it sounds like — money (or, possibly, something you need that you’d otherwise pay money for) flowing toward you.

When I talk to people about this topic, I always start with asking them to really think about every single stream of income they have coming in right now. Every one.

Most people have more than one. Not everyone, of course, but in my experience, most do. And it changes over time.

When I was in my early-20s, my income streams looked like this:

  • Child support
  • Food stamps
  • Overnight babysitting for graveyard-shift workers
  • Selling vintage clothes on eBay
  • Freelance writing

Today, in my late-40s, my income streams are a lot different. They include things like:

  • Selling indie-published books
  • Ninja Writers membership programs
  • Writing and teaching courses
  • Blogging
  • Coaching
  • My Etsy shop (I mostly sell handmade notebooks)
  • Affiliate sales
  • My husband’s income
  • Room and board

Understanding how I got from one set of income streams to the other is a little bit like one of that word games where you have to get from ‘Start’ to ‘Finish’ by changing one letter at a time.

It took a lot of time. It took a whole lot of effort. But I’ve managed to shift the ways that I support my family away from things like babysitting and food stamps and toward exactly the kind of work I wanted to do.

Creative, interesting work that aligns with the things that matter to me.

Multiple Income Streams

I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer. And there have been times when writing provided the bulk of my income.

When I was a journalist.

When I sold a book and for a minute could stop all my other work and just be a writer.

When I was a copywriter.

But for the most part, the reason I’ve been able to be a writer and give so much time and effort to that pursuit, is because I’ve mastered the skill of managing multiple income streams.

There are six core types of income streams:

Gigs: This is work-when-you-want to. You usually work for or in conjunction with a company (Uber, Airbnb, etc.) and get paid when you choose to participate. Working as a substitute teacher falls into this category, if your district hires you and then lets you choose when to work. So do content mills that allow you to log in and choose a story to write, if you want to.

Creating: This is making things to sell, often in an online store like Etsy or eBay. You can also sell your creations in a brick-and-morter shop or at markets. Most writing falls into this category — including traditional publishing, self-publishing, and blogging.

Selling: Selling is buying manufactured things and re-selling them for a profit. This could mean anything from finding vintage items at a thrift store to buying a wholesale lot of something to resell. Picking — going to garage sales and thrift stores to pick the things that are worth fixing up for resale — falls into this category.

Teaching: Pretty self-explanitory. You have skills. We all do. And there are people out there who want to learn what you know. They’ll pay you to teach it to them. Teaching goes beyond being hired by a school district to teach in a classroom. Writing how-to books or blog posts, creating tutorial videos, online courses, teaching at your local community center, tutoring — all fall into this category.

Service: Service income streams involve doing something for someone else that either they don’t know how or don’t want to do. Things like shoveling snow, writing resumes, or offering in-home daycare. Freelance writing falls into this category.

Filling Needs: This can fit into pretty much any of the other five core types. Just look around your community (in person and online) and see where there’s a gap you can fill. For instance, my little town has no dog groomer willing to groom large dogs. That’s an income stream just waiting to happen for someone. Writing content for local businesses falls into this category.

Here’s a worksheet to help you figure out how these income stream types work for you. Once you understand the six core types of income streams, it’s easy to see how to fit together. And you start to see them — everywhere.

The Key is the Mindset

You’ll notice that I’m not talking here about income streams that are only about writing.

I get it. You want to be a writer. (Me, too.) You want to make money with your writing. But the truth is that there aren’t any income streams that I know of that are directly related to writing that are likely to produce much of an income super quickly.

And short of being an on-staff writer (say at a newspaper or creating content for a single company), it’s relatively rare for a writer to earn enough from one income stream with enough stability to not need others.

Freelancing or getting hired by a content mill are the fastest ways of creating direct income from writing that I know of. The work of blogging and self-publishing can happen quickly, but it takes time to build an audience and an income.

So — what if we change the way we think about it?

A long time ago, I adopted the idea that everything — everything — I did to earn money was part of my writing business.

I was sometimes a writer who contracted my time to a school district to provide teacher-aide service.

Or a writer who contracted my time to an addiction-treatment company to provide drug court treatment services.

Sometimes I was a writer who sold vintage clothes on Etsy or babysat for people who worked an over-night shift.

But I was always a writer first. Self-employed, even when I had a job where I was required to show up at a specific time if I wanted to keep that job. It was my choice to do that work and also my choice to work at creating an income stream to replace one that I didn’t want to continue.

Income streams are everywhere, once you know how to spot them.

I see them — everywhere. I don’t implement them all, of course. I’m already so busy, I barely have time to breath. But learning how to spot them has meant that I get to feel pretty confident that I’ll be financially okay, no matter what.

I have an underlying layer of stability, because my ability to support myself and my family doesn’t ever depend on just one source. I feel like I need to knock on wood right now. But still — I always know how to make a little extra money if I need to.

And? Over the last couple of decades, I’ve cultivated a life where all of my income streams are aligned to my purpose. Somehow, I’ve built a life for myself where all of my work involves writing or teaching or making things.

I don’t like the term side hustle very much.

I use it sometimes, because everyone knows what it means. But I think it implies a sort of sliminess that I wish it didn’t. Hustle doesn’t have to mean trying to get something for nothing or lying to people to get their money.

Hustle can also mean that you’ve got a work ethic that keeps you going, even when you’d rather stop. (Even when other people would have stopped.)

I see income streams everywhere, because I’ve trained myself to.

That happened when I was a single mom with a kid who couldn’t go to daycare. It happened because I’m an entrepreneur’s daughter and he handed me the start-up capital for a lemonade stand on the beach.

It’s almost a party trick. Give me a few minutes— talk to me about what you’re good at, what you know how to do, where you live, what’s happening in your life — and I’ll come up with an income stream or two for you.

There’s nothing wrong with a day job.

I think this is the thing that surprises people the most when I talk to them about income streams. I’m not anti-day-job. Not even a little bit.

Getting hired to work for someone else is just another income stream.

And it’s, by far, one of the most stable and reliable. If someone tells me that they need to increase their income right now, or the consequences will be dire — I know they want me to offer them some magic bean that will make their writing fill that gap.

But my advice is pretty much always the same: Go get a job.

If you’re in a place where things are unstable, what you need first is stability. So if you’re afraid you won’t make your rent, if you’re choosing between groceries and the power bill, whatever — start applying for jobs.

Just like a lawyer isn’t only a lawyer when they’re talking to a judge and a doctor isn’t only a doctor when they’re treating a patient, you’re not only a writer when you’re actively typing. You’re still a writer if you have a day job.

You’re just a writer with a relatively steady income stream.

You don’t have to work that day job forever, if you don’t want to. Just like the guy who traded a paper clip for a house — you can trade one income stream for another until you find yourself in a place you really want to be.



SEO for Writers: Why it Matters

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I’ve been preparing to host a webinar on Saturday with my friend Jackson. We’re going to present a 7-step plan to writing and publishing short nonfiction as a way to create an income stream.

As I was doing that work, I started thinking about the different parts of my indie publishing journey. If I could impart one piece of wisdom on you — on any writer who wants to earn a living — it’s this.

Writing is a service industry. Sure. It’s art. But it’s also a major form of communication and what readers turn to when they have questions. If we can figure out those questions and answer them? Readers are willing to pay for that.

That’s how we become working writers.

My Indie Experiment

I published my second short nonfiction book last Thursday. It’s all about creating income streams that will relieve the pressure off your writing, releasing it from the need to earn its keep while you’re learning.

This is all an experiment for me. I want to know if I can create a decent income stream by writing and publishing short nonfiction books on Amazon.

So far, the answer seems to be — yes.

There’s a learning curve. Some of it is steep. But so far, I’ve been able to create an income stream. My first book is earning about $500 a month, six months out. My second book is only a week old, but it’s on the same trajectory. It’s sold just about the same number of copies in its first week as my other book did.

Which means, if things continue that way, my indie publishing income will double.

There’s one thing that I think has helped me the most.

Titles matter — a lot.

One thing I’ve learned a lot about in the last six months is SEO, or search engine optimization.

Maybe you know what that is. In case you don’t: SEO involves using keywords that real people (AKA readers) are actually using to search Google and Amazon.

So, my new book? It has a little bit of a clunky title. The Ninja Writers Guide to How to be a Writer: Creating Income Streams.

That’s my new book’s title. I told you — clunky. A little awkward. But also? It has that little bestseller tag. So does my first book, with it’s equally awkward title.

My first book has been a bestseller for six months. My new book was a bestseller yesterday, when I took this screenshot.

Screenshot: Author

Let me show you why those awkward titles matter.

I wanted to call my second book Income Streams. When I went to Patel’s site that I use to research keywords — here’s what I found for ‘creative income streams.’

Screenshot: Author

Ten people search Google for that keyword every month. Ouch.

So, I shortened it and looked at just ‘income streams.’

Screenshot: Author

Better. Nearly three thousand people a month search — but the search difficulty is 66 — high. Maybe I’d rank, eventually. But it would take some time.

One more time.

Screenshot: Author

Okay. ‘Creating Income Streams’ — just a mild shift from my original ‘Creative Income Streams’ — has 110 searches and the difficulty score is 23. Patel rates that ‘easy’ as far as ranking on Google goes.

But, 110 searches? Better than 10, for sure. But not enough to drive significant traffic to my book. I’d still get the ‘Income Streams’ keyword, too.

I searched around, trying different keywords, until I landed on this:

Screenshot: Author

Oh. There we go. More than 12,000 searches. The difficulty is high — 63. But, when I went to Google to check out what exactly the competition was, I found that it wasn’t anything I didn’t think a book on Amazon couldn’t overcome.

And, I was also pleasantly surprised to find one of my own blog posts on the front page of the search results.

That’s the story of how I got to my awkward title. I wanted to use the keyword phrases ‘income streams’ and ‘how to be a writer.’

It’s interesting to note that ‘Ninja Writers’ has 140 searches a month. Not a ton, but enough to make a difference in my books sales.

I can hear you over there.

You’re thinking — sure, but what if I don’t already rank for any keywords? What if I don’t have anything existing to drive traffic to my books?

There’s no time like the present. The reason I rank for ‘how to be a writer’ is because when I wrote a blog post with 25 tips for writers, I researched keywords for the title.

I didn’t choose a clever title. Or something pretty. I chose something people were already searching for.

In other words, paying attention to SEO is actually paying attention to readers. They’re letting me (and you and everyone) know what they want to read.

They’re searching for it. Ubersuggest and sites like it exist to help us figure out what ‘it’ is. When we do that, we can write something that already has an eager audience.

Let that sink in for a minute. Especially if you’re used to writing things and realizing you’re entertaining the crickets.

That’s the real reason SEO matters for writers.

Especially when it comes to titles. But also? It matters for content. Because if you find something in your niche that a ton of people are searching for — then you’ve found something that a ton of people want.

The answer to a question, often.

And if you’ve got the ability to answer the question in the form of a short book? That’s the foundation of a nice writing-based income stream. Maybe it won’t be the book of your heart. Maybe it’s not exactly what you thought you wanted to write.

But it’s what your readers want/need. And that means they’ll actively search out and buy your book, if you give them the answer.



Ninja Writers Brag Board [April 2021]

Hey Ninjas!

We are so totally stoked to be pulling back the curtain and rolling out the red carpet for the Ninja Writers Brag Board!

Our Ninja Writers are doing such great things! We want to brag about their accomplishments, big and small. Responses are reviewed and chosen by the Ninja Writers team and posted on the website each month based on the previous month’s responses.

Without further ado, here’s what some of our Ninjas accomplished over the past month:

Finally getting traction on Medium... first time for curation, and three in a row!! One was published in Blue Insights (The Legend of El Escapo). --Kate Rader

I finished my third edit of my children's book and I have sent it to the illustrator. --Shelly A. Stewart

I just received my signed copy of a memoir where I was quoted, and am so excited. 💖 --Nicci

Registered into my first writing class starting in May and it’s fully paid.--Zully

Wrote my first article on Medium and published it in MuddyUm. Also had my first essay accepted in an online literary journal (Potato Soup Journal). It will not appear until May, so I will post the link in May (when I have one).--Alisa Childress

My quotes and affirmations book is up on Amazon. Jump Into Positivity: 35 Quotes & Affirmations That Empower Women To Love Themselves - Bumpass

4k reads on Wattpad :D --Gaby Severino

Published as a contributor to Coop

I signed the contract for Till Death Do We Wed. Book due out on February 22, 2022 (2/22/22) --Jason Wrench

I was asked to give a talk on researching and writing articles at an convention on April 23. Also, when I went to look up how many articles I've written over the past 7 years, I saw that I'd written 888 articles for the publication I normally write for, and that doesn't count the guest blogs and articles I've written for other sources. So the actual number is probably getting close to 1000. --Sarah Terzo

I completed my women's fiction novel first draft of 72140 words. The most I have every done for a single project.--Margaret Burnison

I was picked up by a publisher in England for a poetry Chapbook that'll be out this summer. --Bonnie L. Boucek

I advanced to the next round in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge AND my first story came in first place in the group I was in. I'm dancing around my living room!--Julia Quay

Kudos to all of you from the Ninja Writers team! Keep up the great work.

Are you a Ninja Writer with something good to brag about in May 2021? Let us know by filling out this form.

If you’re not yet a Ninja Writer club member, you can join for a full month for $5

Ninja Writers Brag Board [March 2021]

Hey Ninjas!

We are so totally stoked to be pulling back the curtain and rolling out the red carpet for the Ninja Writers Brag Board!

Our Ninja Writers are doing such great things! We want to brag about their accomplishments, big and small. Responses are reviewed and chosen by the Ninja Writers team and posted on the website each month based on the previous month’s responses.

Without further ado, here’s what some of our Ninjas accomplished over the past month:

I got my first Freelance gig! --Adrienne Parkhurst

I finished a short story and submitted it to Clarkesworld Magazine. :) Still waiting for word on if it's accepted or not. --Samuel Kauffman

Noon in Florida, my collection of 12 pieces of flash fiction, is live on Amazon! I've been working on it in the awesome Self-Publishing Workshop. Thousands of thanks to Shaunta, Jackson, Meg, Juneta, and everybody else for the help and encouragement along the way. Latham

I was picked to be the Sparked Ink writer for March in Paper Poetry. Michaelson

Last month I made $1,000 on Medium. This month I slacked off and didn't write everyday and will only make $400. --Manny Oitko

My article about the origin of the phrase "balls to the wall" made Page 1 of the Google search for "where does the expression balls to the wall came from?" --Jim Latham

I created a medium account, posted blogs, and linked it to my new webpage Join my newsletter and be the first non-relative! --Wendy Snyder

Kudos to all of you from the Ninja Writers team! Keep up the great work.

Are you a Ninja Writer with something good to brag about in April 2021? Let us know by filling out this form.

If you’re not yet a Ninja Writer club member, you can join for a full month for $5

Ninja Writers Brag Board [February 2021]

Hey Ninjas!

We are so totally stoked to once again be pulling back the curtain and rolling out the red carpet for the Ninja Writers Brag Board!

Our Ninja Writers are doing such great things! We want to brag about their accomplishments, big and small. Responses are reviewed and chosen by the Ninja Writers team and posted on the website each month based on the previous month’s responses.

Without further ado, here’s what some of our Ninjas accomplished over the past month:

Lindsay Redifer

My podcast episode aired this week! Please check out the podcast 20K Hertz. My episode is called Synesthesia and you can listen to it here: You can also find it on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your audio.

Marilyn Flower

Pat Flynn mentioned our podcast, STOMP! STOMP stands for Stronger Together on Middle-Pause in his awesome webinar on Podcasting!!!

Anne Springer

I have a substack newsletter up and running for my writing, including announcing my current project. I have 2 dozen subscribers. Next goal, 3 dozen.

Simon Henderson

I’ve been writing 750+ words per day for about three months, only missing my target on two days over Christmas (but still wrote). And approaching 100 followers on Medium after publishing for only a few months. Made my first 7 cents in December ;)

Lisa McCombs

My latest YA novel won a Gold Medal Moms Favorite Award last week.

Cynthia Early

I have developed my character's in my book called: The Lost Frontier

Shelly Stewart

I finished the first draft of my MG novel, The Gateway Chronicles which I've been working on for over 4 years. I also finished the first draft of my children's book, Angie, Bear and Charlie.

Debbie Walker

I googled Debbie Walker on Middle-Pause and Mrs. Google answered me back and read my info as the top featured snippet! Woo-Hoo!! For some reason, the link won't populate here. Thanks, ya'll!


$3.30 on Medium in January! I can get a medium black coffee at Dunkin!!

Vanessa L.

I received a LinkedIn text from Professor Emily Williams at the University of Pittsburgh, Bradford. She'd read my medium article "Just a Reminder: The Confederate Lost the War." As a result, she asked me to lead a lecture and discussion over Zoom for students and professors as part of their Black History Month program! I was so honored!

Kudos to all of you from the Ninja Writers team! Keep up the great work.

Are you a Ninja Writer with something good to brag about in March 2021? Let us know by filling out this form.

If you’re not yet a Ninja Writer club member, you can join for a full month for $5