So You Want To Become A Writer? Do You Have What It takes?

The Ability to Communicate

Writing is the art of communication. You need to be able to clearly express your ideas, thoughts, and emotions when speaking or writing. As an author, one of your goals should be to connect with your readers in a voice they can understand and relate to. This requires the ability to listen to and communicate with others, ask the right questions, and clearly express your ideas in your own unique voice.

The Power of Observation

On some level, all authors possess the power of observation. An author is equal parts psychologist, therapist, researcher, observer, and intuitive. You need to be able to figure out what makes people tick. Why do they think, feel, and act the way they do? When creating a character, you have to get inside their head and truly understand why they do what they do.

To hone this skill, become an active observer of the life that is all around you. Dig into people’s inner thoughts and emotional quirks. Listen and watch. Develop your observation and research skills to document the world around you, or even create your own new world!

Reasoning and Problem Solving

As a writer, you’ll need to think of new ideas or come up with creative and original ways to solve problems. You’ll need to develop the ability to analyze your ideas and use logic to understand your characters’ strengths and weaknesses. You will also need to understand new material and information quickly and sometimes combine several pieces of information to draw your conclusions.

To help with this, develop your reasoning abilities to identify and solve problems. Make sure you can identify problems in your characters thoughts, storylines, research, and writing. Review your information, then develop and apply solutions.

Knowledge of Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation

It may seem obvious, but using correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation are important writing skills to develop for effective communication. Your readers will form an opinion of your work based on what they see, not only based on content but also presentation. Of course there are always exceptions; for example, if you are writing dialog or developing a character with a unique speech pattern, you may want to take advantage of “grammatical liberties”.


Don’t be afraid to write from your heart. Be willing to be rejected. Be willing to be terrible at first. Writing takes courage. You need to be able to go deep into your character’s psyche to get to the truth. Embrace the uncertainty fearlessly, and be true and honest in your writing. Be daring!

Practice good writing skills every time you pick up your pen or sit in front of the keyboard. Before long, you’ll master these writing skills and they will become embodied in every piece of work you produce. New York Times Best Seller list, here you come!

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Get Published Radio Interview

Apr 9, 2017

Special guests writing coach Toni Lopopolo and editor/publicist Flo Selfman join host Gerald Everett Jones and his co-hosts Cheyenne Cockrell and Thomas Page discuss:

  • How can a writer find her voice?
  • How do approaches differ for fiction and nonfiction?
  • How can an author engage readers?
  • What’s the biggest mistake authors make?
  • Is a writers’ group a substitute for a coach?
  • And more!

And, as ever, there’s lots of advice on how to get published, including the support resources at our website

This episode aired on Hella Radio, KNNN-FM 87.7 Redding, Calif.

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Neat Tricks.

‘The sinister doctor pointed a long emasculated finger …’
(Lionel Fanthorpe as Trebor Thorpe, ‘Voodoo Hell Drums’, Supernatural Stories 39, 1961)

‘I am among the last to retire, brushing my teeth with one drooping eyelid.’
(Tim Dowling, The Guardian, 4 March 2017)

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How NOT To Write (Thog’s Masterclass )

These are published authors.


Facial Dept.:
‘Her nose held the memory of Spanish conquistadors. Her skin was the color of leaves just starting to turn. And beneath her dark eyes were full lips that looked as if they’d never smiled.’
(Weston Ochse, Grunt Life, 2014)

Dept of Inspiration.:
‘An idea suddenly gurgled up in her mind.’
(Kate White, Hush, 2010)

Was It Perhaps Circular?
‘Madame Rosa’s voice dropped to a whisper. “I took Victor’s hand to read his palm. It was the life-line, Doctor … I could see no end to it. They must be immortal, those Brains!”‘
(Sidney J. Bounds, The Robot Brains, 1958)

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The Most Important Writing Skill to Master—Your Character’s Voice

Listen to this lecture presented at the 2016 805 Writer’s Conference:

Continue reading

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Want to improve your writing skills and chances of authoring a successful memoir?

Sunday NOVEMBER 13, 10:00 am – 5± pm

Click Here to Register

Now you can! Literary agent Toni Lopopolo will help you craft your manuscript into a marketable book. A former executive editor at Macmillan and St. Martin’s Press, Toni knows what it takes to get a book published. During this intensive workshop, you will work together on the skills necessary to author a successful memoir by facing what is meant by “the truth” and how to achieve “personal honesty” while pulling together the bits and pieces of memory into a dramatic narrative flow.

classToni’s methods help you master the skills necessary to become a successful published author in today’s competitive market. Fiction and today’s narrative nonfiction, which includes memoir, must grab publishing editors’ attention, keep them riveted so that they’ll read the entire manuscript and not stop when the story falters. Learn special techniques for creating extraordinary stories, in both fiction and nonfiction, to help you achieve your goal to produce a manuscript with irresistible writing that editors in publishing houses will want for the three-season lists they must fill with high-concept, marketable books.

You will practice writing scenes to break up long narratives as well as dialog recreation. You will learn how to use vivid detail, active voice, active verbs to entice and draw the reader into your story.  Then we will find the defining moments that made real life spin on its axis and change one’s life forever

You will hear your writing read aloud by the instructor with comments by other attending memoirists.   We’ll discuss the impact of your story, the sense of drama or lack of. And we’ll discuss what publishing editors look for in a memoir.

You will receive a reading list that will grow as you become a better narrative nonfiction writer.

Here are the skills we will discuss in detail during the memoir intensive workshop:

  • How to create a unique voice
  • Fiction techniques that make nonfiction intriguing and engrossing
  • The art of detachment as an author
  • The elements that give a real-life story universal appeal
  • Techniques to shape your story into a dramatic narrative compelling to readers
  • Techniques to find the essentials of story structure within the many events of life
  • How to orchestrate story, characters, events
  • How to narrow the lens to achieve focus for today’s readers.
  • What to include or leave out
  • How to edit for interest and drama
  • How to avoid reporting/documenting real life facts by using
  • Special techniques for dramatizing reality
  • If your memoir should be fictionalized and how to accomplish that.

Workshop Leader / Instructor:
Toni Lopopolo, former executive editor at Macmillan, St Marin’s Press, Literary Agent since 1991, Editor, and Writing Instructor, uses a unique teaching method to help first-time novelists master the skills needed to successfully write book-length fiction. She aids nonfiction writers to produce compelling narrative nonfiction, using fiction techniques. The workshops Toni holds for writers of fiction and memoir, offered both in person and Online, fill up fast.

Toni has held workshops at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, at De Sales University,  at the Writer’s Room of Bucks County, PA, for the Ventura County Writers Club, at the popular Tea With Toni seminars in Santa Barbara, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, for the  Greater Los Angeles Writers Society conferences, and many other venues. Her most popular lecture is: The Ten Most Common Mistakes First Novelist Make.

Toni Lopopolo

Words of Wisdom from a Major Publisher Acquisition Editor:

“Everyone has some great stories and everyone’s life is interesting, but not everyone has the skill to turn a story into a book. The biggest factor when I consider memoir is voice; without that, the game’s over, no need to read beyond page 10. Everything else is secondary. In other words, a memoir needs to have both terrific writing and a compelling story, but if the voice is mesmerizing enough, the story will automatically be compelling; it doesn’t work the other way around.”

Tracy Bernstein, Editor
NAL Books, Random House

Here is what some of Toni’s students say:

“Very glad I attended. In addition to the valuable tools you taught, you opened my eyes to an entire new way to attack the book.”  – Ken Davis, Manhattan Beach

“I want to commend you on the way you structured the bootcamp–so organized. Covered the salient points needed to hone a writer’s skills as well as show us how to recognize and avoid common pitfalls encountered along the way. Loved the exercises you had us do. Very helpful.” – Margarita de Palacios, Mexico City

“If one expects to have their manuscript published, Toni will show you how to improve your chances. She’s smart, knowledgeable and will help you perfect your writing talent.” – Alixa, Moorpark CA

“I’ve learned so much, not only about writing.  You’ve given me the confidence to continue my story, even when  I have no idea what I’m doing.  With you’re invaluable help, I’m sure to meet my goal.” – Shirley, Moorpark  CA

Workshop is limited in size. Attendees will be contacted to submit in advance of the workshop the first three pages of their story with a short description. Double spaced. There may be advanced “homework” so, sorry, no walk-ups.

Sunday November 13,
10:00 am – 5± pm

Early bird Registration for Full Day: $149
Week of the Event Registration: $199

DoubleTree by Hilton
Los Angeles – Westside
6161 West Centinela Avenue,
Culver City, CA 90230 [ map »
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Two great craft of writing workshops


Two amazing, intense workshops
focused to develop your skills
Each workshop is limited to 20 Writers.
(less than 10 places left for either workshop)

Both workshop instructors have the resumes and street creds to show you how to improve your manuscript and develop professional-level skills. Founding instructors at the 805 Writers Conference, Toni Lopopolo and Shelly Lowenkopf bring decades of experience that is fine-tuned each day through their continued work in publishing and working with new writers.

4a50bd28-400b-48f9-917d-dcb6e1d8424aToni Lopopolo, on the left, and Shelly Lowenkopf

Attend one or both workshops
Or purchase a Craft of Writing Weekend Pass: only five passes left.
Details below.
The Five Skills You Must Master to
Write a Viable Novel or Memoir

Saturday, November 5, 9 am to noon
with agent/editor/writing mentor,
Toni Lopopolo

This workshop presents the five most important skills that writers must master in order to write viable novels/ narrative nonfiction, which includes memoir. The course covers the importance of mastering Fiction Techniques for all types of narrative writing: Narrative= story. Bring the first 2 pages of your novel/memoir for Toni to read aloud, time permitting, and a list of questions to ask Toni.

The Skills in this interactive workshop include:

  • Voice—how to achieve the best voice for your character(s)
  • Point of View (all-important for voice)
  • Dialog differentiation, dialog vs conversation
  • Character—quick methods to establish character in one or two lines.
  • Self-Editing – includes: why in your scenes, chapters, novel/book you must come in late, leave early, Plus a list of important tips for today’s fiction and nonfiction to cover best self-editing techniques.


How to Open a Story, Close a Scene, and End a Novel

Saturday, November 5, 2:15 to 5:15 pm
with author, editor and USC masters of
writing instructor, Shelly Lowenkopf

Story opens in ways that plunge characters into chaos and the consequential need to make choices. Readers look for cues of something unexpected or destabilizing as they crash down on someone they can relate to, attempting to cope, followed by hints of which character will be the guide through the resulting chaos. How, for instance, Dorothy sought ways to get out of Oz and back to Kansas.

This three-hour session stresses the need to start the dramatic narrative with significant, relevant action, emphasizing with an analysis of several effective beginnings the necessary elements to engage and hold the reader’s focus, including editorial guidance for things to avoid.

Customize the conference just for you.
Buy a full weekend pass, one-day pass or individual sessions.
Only 5 special Craft of Writing Weekend passes left which includes both workshops and full Sunday conference pass.

Individual workshop – $99 until October 1
Craft of Writing Weekend – $349 until October 1
(includes lunch both days with Ask the Experts)



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