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October 2017
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Category: The Writing Journey

Denise Colby's column
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Am I really that shallow? by Denise M. Colby @denisemcolby

October 12, 2017 by in category The Writing Journey tagged as , ,

Am I really that shallow?


I always considered myself a deep person.  I can be passionate and caring and I cry at sappy stories.  I’m emphatic and wear all my emotions on my sleeve.  I love deep conversations. And I never ever wanted to consider myself shallow.  Shallow meant to me, someone who didn’t care or only thought of themselves.


But in the writing world, shallow could mean your writing is weak, not detailed, without substance. Our characters need to be selfish or see the world through specific lenses or they wouldn’t be very interesting.  We need details in all parts of story—setting so the reader can feel like they are there—and conflict or there would be no plot.


I noticed when I first started writing, my characters weren’t very defined. I had a difficult time figuring out who they would be and what they would do and when I did come up with something the details were vague.  Everyone sounded the same.  And because of that, I didn’t know where to go in my story and thus, I didn’t write very many words.


Why was that?  What was it that prevented me from creating a funny, engaging story?  Why did my characters for lack of a better word—lack character?  In my head the ideas seemed ideal, but when I put words down on the page none of it worked.


That’s when I realized I was shallow in my writing.  The thought actually made me laugh.  But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  And then I realized I had to do something about it.

To write an engaging story, I have to write things that I personally wouldn’t say or do.


See, in real life I try to think the best of people.  To not take offense or react. To be positive, and ignore the rest.  Give people the benefit of the doubt.  To not look deep into a person’s motivation, but try to accept people for who they are and not judge.


But if I wrote my characters the way I want to be, it wouldn’t make a very interesting book.  Most likely, it would be pretty boring.  (Hmm, that makes me I wonder—does that make me boring too? Oh don’t answer that…..I digress.).


Let Me Tell You Something | Denise Colby | A Slice of OrangeGoals, Motivation and Conflict


It became clear I couldn’t write my characters this way.  I had to come up with events and situations in their past to add depth, to create reasons why they acted the way they did.  To think of bad, horrible things.  To put into words bad, horrible things.  Give them words they would say, and reactions to the people and setting around them.  Gasp, maybe even have one of their parents not be so great at parenting. Or double gasp—someone has to die.


Oh but it’s so negative.  I don’t like to think in the negative.


So I fought with myself a bit until I realized that bad situations happen and that is how we grow.  I may not like it or give it much thought, but these things do happen and it’s important to have them happen in our manuscripts.


If you’re new to writing you’ll learn these three words come up quite regularly in classes and writing workshops.  Everything seems to go back to defining the GMC for each character and every writer will tell you they have to figure out what their characters GMC’s are before they can complete a book.  It matters, so spend time figuring this out.  I know for me I found it difficult to decide.  I wanted my heroine to be this, but also this, and also this.  But then she was an ‘every person’ and not unique.  And it made me so confused, I didn’t know how she would respond to any situation I put her in.  So, as I learned to narrow the GMC’s down, it became easier to pinpoint exactly how my character would react. Which in turn made it easier to write.


So, the answer to my question—Am I really that shallow? Yes, Yes I was. And since recognizing that, I’ve been able to learn more about GMC and how to go deeper in my writing, which in turn has helped me move closer to my goal of becoming a published author.

Hugs & Blessings,


Denise Colby |The Writing Journey

Although new to the writing fiction world, Denise Colby has over 20+ years experience in marketing, creating different forms of content and copy for promotional materials. Taking the lessons learned from creating her own author brand Denise M. Colby, Denise enjoys sharing her combined knowledge with other authors.

If you are interested in a marketing evaluation and would like help in developing a strategy for your author brand you can find out more here

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September 12, 2017 by in category The Writing Journey tagged as , ,

Face your Fear | Denise Colby | A Slice of Orange


What’s your biggest fear as a writer?  For some of you, it might be putting the ideas swirling in your mind into actual words on the paper.  For others, it might be pitching your manuscript or creating social media posts.  Whatever it is, we all have them.  And all that fear causes anxiety, worry, tension, panic, despair…you get the idea (we all write characters who struggle with these, right?). If you’re anything like me, my fears prevent me from accomplishing or completing some of my writing goals.


So, what do we do about this?  How do we over come these fears?


First, you must identify it.  Write it down.  What’s your biggest fear? Stare it straight in the face.  It’s not so scary once you look at it written out.


Second, define it a bit more.  Add another layer of thought to it.  What specifically about it makes you have fear.  Is it the entire thing or just a part or two.  And then ask yourself, why is it scary for you?


Third, debunk it.  Discover counter arguments to your fear.  Find out from other authors if they have experienced the same fear.  Soon you might realize this is a normal reaction to the process and you might even learn ideas to overcome your fear.


Fourth, push through it. Do one task which causes fear. Ask yourself —what’s the worst that can happen?  Find a writing partner who can encourage you and help challenge you to follow through. Note: You may have to do this part more than once.


My Greatest Fear


I decided to take a 4 x 6 index card and ask myself what my greatest fear was.  What I wrote surprised me.  In my mind, I had a general overall fear, but when I wrote it down I saw something more specific.


I don’t always sit my butt in the chair and on the surface I tell myself it’s because I don’t have time, but deep down I’m seeing now it might be because I’m afraid.  What if I sit down for an hour session and it isn’t any better than when I started?  What if I only edit through a 600 word block in that time?  I will never finish. And so on and so on….


So, for me, my fear is getting it wrong.  I want to hit the mark and soar with my writing.  I’ve entered a lot of contests and shown my work, and although I get encouraging feedback, I’m still missing the mark.  And I’m afraid it will always be that way.


So for step 2, I had to ask myself what specifically about getting it wrong meant.  Was it failure?  Afraid of what people think?


I don’t think I’m afraid of what people think so much (although I want people to like my work), as I am wondering if what I write will ever be ready to publish.  I have lots of ideas, but when I write them down, they don’t sound as great as I thought they were.  And I’m afraid no matter how much time I put in, I may never achieve my goal of getting published.


All this fear and doubt affects what I do day to day.  How I spend my time.  My mental state when I’m writing.  And I don’t want it to.


So, I need to go to Step #3 and fight back.  Who decides if it’s wrong anyway?  And how do they decide? Look at how many published authors sent in their manuscript numerous times before it was accepted.  It’s just part of the process.


See, by writing it down, I can find counter arguments to what my fear is telling me.  And it helps calm down the panic that wants to creep in. It keeps me from letting my fear stop me completely.


Step #4 says to do something to face your fear, so I need to take risks and not be so afraid of doing so.  Write a blog post even if it’s not perfect and post it.  Write a new scene and show someone. Get feedback and keep trying.  If I don’t do any of these things, I let the fear win.  There is always going to be more I can add, more to improve, so why am I waiting to hit send?  Waiting doesn’t do anything but feed my fear.


And fear keeps me from my goals. Something none of us wants.


For fun, I came up with this acronym.  As we know, fear is an emotional response.  We need to stop reacting to our fear and work on ways to work through it.  So, FACE your FEAR.  Fix And Change Every Fear from Emotional to an Analytical Response.


All so we can meet our goals.  We all have goals we want to achieve, right?


So take some time and write down what your fear is and then face it.  You just might work through that writer’s block you’ve been struggling with.


Hugs & Blessings,


Denise Colby |The Writing Journey


Although new to the writing fiction world, Denise Colby has over 20+ years experience in marketing, creating different forms of content and copy for promotional materials. Taking the lessons learned from creating her own author brand Denise M. Colby, Denise enjoys sharing her combined knowledge with other authors.

If you are interested in a marketing evaluation and would like help in developing a strategy for your author brand you can find out more here

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My 3 Favorite Apps to Use for Marketing by Denise M. Colby

August 12, 2017 by in category The Writing Journey, Writing: It's a Business tagged as , , , ,

3 Favorite Apps | Denise Colby | A Slice of Orange

Your brand is your author name. Everything we post on our website, social media or blogs help add content to that author brand.  For someone like me, still unpublished, I want to create posts that are worthwhile even if I’m not selling books yet.  Figuring out what to do can be overwhelming and time-intensive.  Here I share with you three website/apps I use that have helped save me time and mental energy.




I love the WordSwag App.  For $4.99 in the app store, you can create memes for your social media fast and easy.  You can use any photo from your phone and customize the text using either the given quotes or writing your own.  I love to quote scripture this way using a nature pic I’ve taken.  There’s even a way to enter a watermark so you can have your website listed at the bottom, branding your memes.


One of the websites I like to use is There, you will find blends of colors that make a variety of color palettes. You can select the colors you like and write down the color codes.  Color codes are universal.  In different design software programs you can type in a color code and it will match.  So anyone you hire for cover designs or creating materials can use these codes and you can have a consistent look.

Having a recognizable color scheme with your author brand is a great way to build awareness and identity across your books, website and social media. Take a look at the books you read and notice the fonts and colors used on the covers.  Then go to their website and social media and see if you see a connection.

So what are the colors you want to associate with your author name? You can select 5-6 colors from light to dark and use them in everything you create. Your website, memes for your social media, and yes, even to incorporate into your book cover designs. (You can then select additional colors for that specific series or book).

I would recommend creating a Pinterest board where you save the photos of the color schemes you like and reference back to them.

Once you’ve selected a palette of colors for your brand, write down the color numbers to use in your graphics.


Another website I love using is Canva. This website lets you create all sorts of media, including banners and social media sized for any app, to flyers, postcards and more. I created the image for this blog by uploading an image I purchased through a photo website.  You can upload your own pictures that you take or buy and you can use the color codes selected from (the brown in the image is one of my colors).  You have the choice to use existing designs or create your own.  I use this program to create memes.  I even used it to design my son’s high school graduation announcement.


Creative Challenge:  Create a free account on and create an image using a photo you upload.


If you would like to learn more about these and other programs, I would highly recommend signing up for the teachable class Author Elena Dillon has created titled Visual Content Marketing for Authors.  Take a look at  Her videos offer step by step instructions and she provides written out lessons explaining things in detail. (More information here.)

Denise Colby |The Writing Journey | A Slice of OrangeAlthough new to the writing fiction world, Denise Colby has over 20+ years experience in marketing, creating different forms of content and copy for promotional materials.  Taking the lessons learned from creating her own author brand Denise M. Colby, Denise enjoys sharing her combined knowledge with other authors.

If you are interested in a marketing evaluation and would like help in developing a strategy for your author brand you can find out more here


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What Do You Do At a Writing Conference?

July 12, 2017 by in category The Writing Journey tagged as , , ,

I have an updated game plan, thanks to my attendance at the recent SoCal Christian Writers Conference, held at Biola University. It was the inaugural year for this conference, but so many of the faculty and conference staff were old pros and brought with them wonderful insights and inspiration to share with us writers – both published and non-published.

So what goes on at a writers conference?

Not a lot of writing, that’s for sure. But there’s more to being a writer and that’s where attending a conference with other writers is so valuable.

As I reflect back on the three days I attended, I am so glad I went. If you’ve never gone to one before, here are a few opportunities to embrace when you do attend.

Form new friendships


Friendships formed with other writers is the bomb. They speak the same language and they understand what it takes to work as a writer. Depending on the conference you may find writers who write the exact same genre or you may find writers who write something unrelated (such as fiction vs non-fiction) but can share with you ideas such as how to do tasks differently. Almost every attendee is a writer and feels the same way you do about books and words. Take advantage of meeting writers while waiting in line to check-in, or in between classes, or during one of the many meals shared as a group.

Learn something new


Anyone can learn something new about the craft of writing or the business aspect of it. I took an amazing class about writing humor and learned there are specific things writers who write humor do to pull it off. It was fascinating and since I want to add laughter to my books, insightful.

Make Appointments


Most conferences offer appointments with the faculty. This is an opportunity to meet one-on-one with a professional to either show them your work, called a pitch, or ask specific questions about their career or experience. I signed up for several and even though I felt intimidated in the beginning of every single one, I walked away with fresh direction and insight of where I want to go with my writing career.

One of my meetings was with a writer with major blogging experience and I learned a few things about the right way to write a blog after she kindly read my sample and provided feedback. I walked away excited to go home and try my hand at writing my blogs better than before. Every single one of them was well worth my time and I’m extremely grateful for their time and encouragement.



Conferences are run with the help of volunteers. I volunteered during this conference. What I got out of it was so much more than what I put in. I worked the registration desk and met every single person when they checked in. I found myself saying hi to everyone as I walked around the campus and it made it easier to connect and exchange business cards. It gave me confidence to ask questions and learn more about them and what they do. Conferences are jammed with things to do the entire time, but offering to serve a little can go a long way too.

These are just a few of the things you can benefit from by attending a conference. If you haven’t considered going, I would highly recommend it. Take a good look at what sessions are being offered and if there are any faculty you would be interested in asking a question or two, even if they aren’t directly related to your genre. Who knows you might just meet your new critique partner there, like I just did.


Denise Colby |The Writing JourneyDenise M. Colby loves learning about history and reading fun, uplifting, encouraging stories that cherish and warm the heart. Combining two of her loves, she is working on her first inspirational historical romance, featuring Olivia Carmichael, a young lady who loses everything, including her faith, travels to California to teach and finds love in many different forms along the way. Passionate about all types of stories – whether they are from songs, theatre, movies or novels, Denise loves sharing these passions with her husband and their three boys. You can follow along with Denise on her writing journey at







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