Come over to the new website!

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Thank you for visiting Darla Writes, a resource for writers.

Here is the link to my new website that has now been launched: Click here. Be sure to subscribe so that you don’t miss a post.

I want to keep available to writers the Darla Writes posts that I wrote from 2011 to 2014. That’s what you will find here — a collection of articles that I hope will help other writers in their creative work.

Please note that, as I make the transition, you will find links within articles here that may take you back to the site. Some image links may be broken as well. Please bear with me as I make the move. Thanks!

UPDATE 1/15/17: I have now moved Darla Writes over to this hosted site. There may still be some problems with links and images, but the text is all here.


Website launch coming next month

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Home page of

Be sure to visit and leave me your email address so you can be notified when I launch the new site. It will be a place for readers, writers, and publishers to get to know me and my stories.

I’ll also have links to the articles I’ve written for Darla Writes that visitors have enjoyed the most. In fact, I plan to continue connecting and sharing with writers on my new site and other social media sites. It will be fun and encouraging to share our writing life experiences with each other.

I’ve discontinued writing new posts for this blog. For now, visit Afternoon Tea to read my latest posts. Soon I’ll be folding both that site and this one into I’ve learned a lot about the writing life over the past few years, and now I begin my focus on writing more and getting published.

Click here to sign-up for notification of the launch.

If you are a current subscriber to Darla Writes, I will let you know of the website’s launch via email. Thanks so much for your support!

Review: Ulysses III plain text editor for writers

I’ve used a keyboard for over 40 years, and I’ve been pleased with each change that has made it easier for me to produce documents. When I started typing, I had to strike a key several times to make the letter bold. My delete tool was the typewriter eraser and, later, a bottle of Wite-Out. Imagine my happiness when strike-out tape appeared. When  keyboard combinations and clicking on icons came along, and I had more time to concentrate on what I was writing rather than the readability of the document.

A few weeks ago, a review request for Ulysses III appeared in my e-mailbox. The app is a plain text editor and its goal is to make things even better for writers. That caught my attention, so I thought I’d give Ulysses a try.

I’ve grown to love the “distraction free writing” option that both Scrivener and WordPress give their users, and Ulysses promised that same type of writing atmosphere. Also, I was intrigued by its use of Markdown to format (“define”) text.

With Ulysses, the screen opens to a blank window. You will not find icons, words, and images.

All you do is start typing.

But here’s the trick: If you want to use formatting within your document (bold, italics, headings, etc.), you must type the Markdown codes to create the formatting.

Using Markdown ensures that when you export your work to another place, such as a blog post, e-book, or PDF, you will keep the formatting  that you included in your document.

Screenshot from

Instead of hitting an italics format button, you place an asterisk mark both before and after the word. Want a bold word? Place two asterisks before and after the word. For a headline level, you type the markup for that level. A list is generated in the same way.

You won’t find commands like “Save” and “File-Open” in this application. Your work waits for you in the app window.

You will find features common to all modern word processing programs, like links, footnotes, and comments. You can also add images and open panes.

Screenshot from
Screenshot from

I may need to use Ulysses for a while longer to appreciate it. At this point I don’t see the advantages to using Markdown for formatting. So far it’s only created more work and distraction for me when I write.

Perhaps this app is more useful to writers who work with multiple platforms and formats. It also has a technical sense to it that may be attractive to some writers.

We’ve come a long way with technology since I first placed my fingers on a keyboard. And that could be the reason for my reluctance to give a recommendation for this app. Though I do enjoy having a blank page and no distraction on a screen, I also feel like I’ve earned the luxury of letting the click of a button do the formatting work for me.

Ulysses III earned a spot on the Mac App Store’s “Best of 2013” list. This app is not for everyone, but if you’re curious about a writing program that calls itself “the premier writing tool for serious writers,” and “the greatest text editor the world has ever seen,” then visit the website for a free demo version with 10 hours of use.

Note: A rep from The Soulmen (creators of the Ulysses app) contacted me and gave me a full version of Ulysses III to test drive for this review. I do not receive any money from the sale of their app as a result of this review. See my Disclosure Policy.

Use movie scores as background noise for your writing time

movie-scores-writingFor some writers, when it’s time to sit down and create a story, noise is as essential as the pen and paper .

Sandra Peoples is one of those writers. She is a blogger, author, and owner of an editing service, and I discovered her recently via Twitter. Her post, “5 Options for Background Noise When Writing,” gave me an idea: listen to movie scores for a story-filled atmosphere while I write.

I imagined having one of the greatest pieces of music — the main title from To Kill A Mockingbird — playing in the background as I write a short story, a poem, or a scene for a novel. Hearing that piece would remind me to strive for excellence. I’d think about how a story can change hearts, and how well-chosen words can move a reader to tears.

And I thought about other movie scores with themes for heroes and villains, emotional ups and downs, action, location, humor, sadness, death, and triumph.

All of that “noise” going on in the background can be inspiration for creativity.

Since I usually write with my laptop (which, I’m thrilled to say, is finally a MacBook Air), I decided to check out a few of the popular online music streaming services:

  1. iTunes Radio – 24+ million songs. Free with ads or $25/year
  2. Spotify – 20+ million songs. Free with ads or $10/month
  3. Pandora – 800,000 songs. Free with ads or $5/month

My son recommended that I start with Spotify. I used his account to search for To Kill A Mockingbird and other movie scores that I’d love to be listening to while I write — like Star Wars, Chariots of FireGone With the Wind, City Lights, Lilies of the Field, Captain AmericaThe IncrediblesClose Encounters of the Third Kind, Citizen Kane, for starters. They were all available.

Since advertising is what puts the “free” in these services, you will have to endure constant interruptions if you don’t want to hand over the money for a subscription. I plan to use the free version of Spotify for a while, collect a catalog of music scores, determine which ones are worth paying for, and then purchase them via iTunes. Then, when I feel like escaping into the world of storytelling via movie magic, I’ll click “Play” and be there for hours.

Listening to movie scores while you write is just one way to get those creative juices flowing. What is your ideal writing atmosphere?

How to make it as a writer: 10 tips from author Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey 10 Tips (2)Hugh Howey is well known in the publishing world due to the huge success of his self-published Wool series, and his subsequent and lucrative signing with Simon and Schuster.

I wasn’t familiar with his work before I saw a tweet by literary agent Rachelle Gardner. I followed a link to his website and there I found his helpful article, My Advice to Aspiring Writers. 

My favorite part of the article reads like this:

“My father at the time wondered why I wasn’t spending all of my time promoting that first book. I told him I had my entire life to promote my works. I only had now to write. … This is going to sound strange, but you are MUCH better off with your 10th work exploding than your 1st work. You’ll never have quiet time to crank out quality material ever again.”

You only have now to write. That’s a great way to look at it.

Hugh Howey’s 10 Tips for Writers

I’ve only read a sample of Howey’s work, but his passion for writing and sharing his stories with the world, as well as his success story, made me curious to learn about his writing life.

At the end of his article, Howey summarized his advice with 10 tips. Here is what he says you should be doing now if your plan is to make it one day as a writer.

1. Write a lot.

2. Write great stories.

3. Publish them yourself.

4. Spend more time writing.

5. Study the industry.

6. Act like a pro.

7. Network.

8. Be nice.

9. Invest in yourself and your craft.

10. Be patient.

Most of this has been said before, but the standout on this list is #3: “Publish them yourself.” You don’t see that advice in most writing tip lists. Yet, Howey is adamant about self-publishing as the way to get started as a writer. He advises every author to “begin their writing career self-publishing, even if their dream is to be with a large publisher.” His article gives the advantages of self-publishing over traditional publishing.

Self-publishing. I’m intrigued. I even downloaded the Kindle Direct Publishing guides to take a look at the process.

Have you read any of Hugh Howey’s works? What do you think about his advice on self-publishing to begin your writing career?

To read his full article for aspiring authors, click here.

Hugh Howey photo credit: Getty Images

Twitter challenge: Find non-writing accounts to follow

Twitter ChallengeIf you only have writers and writing resources in your Twitter feed, then you’re missing out on thousands of unusual ways to get inspired.

When I joined Twitter, the only accounts I followed were writing blogs and resources, publishers, and authors. A Twitter expert suggested that I expand my reach and I took her advice.

And so, I challenge you to find at least 5 new Twitter accounts to follow which have nothing to do with writing and everything to do with inspiration.

To give you some ideas, here are five accounts that I follow.

Fact Hive

The facts you’ll get from this account are from a wide range of topics. Be warned: Some of the facts may be offensive to you as they are to me. Most of them are interesting, though, and could spark a few ideas for your stories.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Speaking of black holes, NASA tweets from both Earth and space, with photograph shares that are incredible. Do you write fantasy or science fiction? This feed is for you. Maybe your character needs an interesting job for his or her spouse. Astronaut? How about a good image to help you describe the stars? You will find amazing inspiration on this feed.

Digital Photography School

Photography is one of my hobbies, so I follow several photography communities and individuals on Twitter. Follow accounts that help you with your hobby, just for fun. Fun equals relaxation equals creativity. You can also use Twitter as a research source for your characters’ hobbies.

Central Coast McDonald’s

I visit this restaurant regularly — usually for a quick Sunday lunch. The employees there are always smiling and serve their customers well. You might not think that a tweet from a fast-food business could be of interest to a writer, but you’d be wrong.


I love cats, and this Twitter account shares photos that make me smile. And we all know what a smile can do for you and those around you. Plus you may find a great name for the cat in your story.

With these and other non-writing accounts flowing through my Twitter feed, I have a built-in break from writing work and thoughts.

But never forget: All roads — and tweets —  lead to Writing!

Will you take the challenge? Let me know in your comment.

(Note: These Twitter images are active, and a click will take you to their accounts)

Free Getty Images: Millions of quality photos available for bloggers

In case you haven’t heard, Getty Images, one of the world’s leading sources for quality imagery, has a new embed feature that makes it easy, legal, and free for anyone to share their images on blogs, websites and social media platforms.

That’s pretty exciting for bloggers like me who have always loved Getty but are not interested in spending money on stock photography. You’ll find Getty imagery “every day in the world’s most influential newspapers, magazines, advertising campaigns, films, television programs, books and online media.” And now you’ll be seeing them on my blogs, too.

There is a catch: the images include the Getty name, info about the image, and links back to the Getty website. That’s fine with me. It’s a great traffic driver for Getty in exchange for me using some of their terrific photos. Getty probably has more visitors to the website than ever before and its most likely picking up customers who would never have known about the site without this huge sharing effort.

It’s easy to use the images. After clicking on the photo of your choice, Getty gives you an embed source code that you paste to the page on which you’d like the image to appear. The image also comes with social media buttons so that viewers of the photo can share it themselves.

The search engine is fantastic with filters to find just the right photo. I’m writing a short story about a young Lithuanian girl, her father, and a special forest. I thought I’d have to be satisfied with just any father-daughter photo. Instead, I found a photo that was taken in a Lithuanian forest:

Not only am I happy to have such a beautiful photo to go with the story when I share it on my website, I’ve also been inspired to write a new scene in the story based on this photo.

To find and use Getty’s amazing library of images, visit the embed images page and start searching for the perfect photo.

10 writing tips for success from filmmaker Billy Wilder

My son has an interest in cinema and media arts, so I’m always discussing movies with him. I’ve found that filmmaking professionals offer a wonderful source of storytelling wisdom that belongs in a writer’s toolbox. From directors to screenwriters, the people who bring us stories on the screen have the same goals for their craft as we do. I follow Twitter accounts for several film professionals and find their insights to be helpful to my writing life.

For example, here’s a list of rules from Pixar that every writer of stories should read. This list has gone viral because it’s packed with great advice from a great company that produces great stories. I still watch Toy Story, and The Incredibles is one of my all-time favorite movies.

I recently came upon a list of screenwriting advice from Billy Wilder. Wilder was one of the most successful filmmakers in movie history, with his heydays in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The American Film Institute lists his movies among the top 100 American films of the 20th century.  You’ve probably seen at least one of them: Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17Witness for the Prosecution, and many more.

What can a novelist or short story writer learn from a filmmaker? Take a look at Wilder’s “Ten Rules for Good Filmmaking” and see what a writer can gain from Wilder’s experience.

1. The audience is fickle.

Fickle: “changing frequently, especially as regards one’s loyalties, interests, or affection.” Be true to yourself when you write. Don’t try to imitate the author who’s currently at the top of the bestseller list.

2. Grab ‘em by the throat and never let ‘em go.

Start your story with a scene that is a “grabber,” one that takes your reader captive and makes him want to know what’s next or why that happened, or who that is. Introduce interesting, provocative characters. And get that conflict going right away.

3. Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.

The protagonist of your story must be believable and headed towards a goal. Make her someone your reader wants to root for and see to the end.

4. Know where you’re going.

You don’t have to know every detail about your story before you begin to write it. But having a good idea of what you want the reader to think, feel, or do when he closes the book will give you direction and help you to stay focused as you write.

5. The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.

Write in a way that doesn’t make each scene seem like one more thing happening after another. Hide your points within dialogue or location. Mix things up and surprise your reader.

6. If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.

That is, see #2.

7: A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.

Good writers assume they have smart readers. Don’t spell it out, add it up, or dumb it down for them. Get them involved in your story.

(Ernst Lubitsch was another well-respected director who inspired Wilder. In fact, Wilder had a sign on his office door: “How would Lubitsch do it?”)

8. In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they’re seeing.

Give your reader fresh information. Use every opportunity to advance and enhance your story.

9. The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.

This tip reminds us that writing is a craft. It takes planning, creativity and hard work to take a reader on a journey to a satisfying end.

10. The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then — that’s it. Don’t hang around.

Wilder’s main point is that you should know when to end your story. Write it so that the reader will close the book reluctantly and want to share it with the world.

Those are my takes on Wilder’s screenwriting tips. What can you add to them? Which Wilder movies do you like? Let me know in your comment.

Ready to purchase a WordPress theme? Try Elmastudio

A sneak peek of my new site
A sneak peek of my new site

If you’re looking to purchase website theme but don’t have a lot of money to spend, then you should check out Elmastudio.

For $10.00, I bought a nice theme for I was surprised by the low cost for what I think is a quality product. Other themes I looked at ranged between $30 and $100.

The high-end themes offer more features than I would use at this point in my writing life. For now, I wanted to find one that was inexpensive yet attractive, with features that were easy to use, modern, responsive (i.e., looks good on mobile devices), and customizable. I found all of this in Elmastudio’s Oita theme.

I asked a group of friends on Facebook about the devices they use for when they’re on the Web for pleasure. It’s so interesting: People are not limiting themselves to a tablet or a smart phone, a laptop or a desktop. My poll showed that many people favor one or the other, but they own at least one mobile device.

Because of this, I looked for a theme that catered to the mobile user, and this theme’s off-canvas layout did the trick for me. It’s a minimal design — the writer’s words and photos are showcased, while the sidebar and menus are hidden but easily accessed.

Of course, I’ll be installing a number of plug-ins that will make the website even more enjoyable for visitors. But credit for the overall look and feel of my site goes to Ellen and Manuel of Elmastudio, Germany.

When will I launch Can I just say “Soon”? Until then, you can continue to connect with me here and on Afternoon Tea, Facebook, and Twitter.

You may also visit my “Coming Soon” page and enter your email address to be notified as soon as I launch the site.

I appreciate your visits, and please let me know how I can help with your own website plans.