Combine in an interesting setting, one broad-shouldered, sensitive hero with one confident, pretty heroine.  Be certain these first two ingredients are as opposite as vinegar and soda to get good rising action.
Stir in several secondary characters and add a cupful of conflict for spice.  Continue stirring until well mixed  at least until the hero and heroine thoroughly despise each other.  If plot seems bland, add more conflict.
Now, pour the frothy mixture in a pan and pop in oven to heat things up.  Allow the tension to rise slowly until the hero and heroine realize their true love.  This should occur approximately at 2/3s of the novel's complete cooking time.
At this moment, the author must act quickly.  Open the oven door and pop their bubble with a sharp hurt, distrust, and confusion.  Everything must fall flat.  Close oven door.
Increase heat and allow the mixture of love to rise again until reaching a happy ending.  Immediately remove finished novel from the oven and let it cool.  Ice it with several layers of editing.
When it is as good as you can present it, slice it then and send out to prospective hungry editors.  Keep sending it out until you find an editor who shares your taste.
Sounds easy?  What are you waiting for?  Get cooking! 

(Or anything else in life, for that matter)

By Murray Fuhrer from Joe Vitale's exceptional book - Hypnotic Writing

Using your hand as a guide, consider the following:

Thumb: Be specific - know exactly what you wish to accomplish.  It's not enough to simply say, "I want to write a book."  To say I want to write a non-fiction book on effective radio advertising that becomes a national bestseller is specific.  Be specific!

Index: Do you believe you can accomplish your writing goal?  This is vital!  Do you believe you have the skill, knowledge, and determination to achieve your goal?  Believe you can accomplish your goal!

Middle: Are you willing to do what it takes to achieve your goal?  Are you willing to invest the time and energy?  Are you willing to have your work critiqued?  Are you willing to rewrite your work if necessary?  Are you willing to thoroughly research and determine your target audience and the viability of your project?  Are you willing to do what it takes?

Ring: Are you willing to find a better way?  If you've written half your book in first person and realize it would work better in third person, are you willing to find a better way?  Perhaps your novel would work better as a screenplay, are you willing to find a better way?  Are you willing to make your work the best it can possibly be?  Are you willing to find a better way?

Pinky: Are you enjoying the process?  Is the actual process of creation enjoyable for you?  It should be.  If it's not, look back at the previous four goals and you'll discover why.

Be Specific!
Find a better way!
Enjoy the Process!
Do what it takes!
The Perfect Query

You've got your list of article ideas all drawn up. Now, you need to send off queries so you know which assignments to start working on first. Here's a guide to lots of helpful, and sometimes contradictory advice about query letters. Use the techniques that make sense to you to develop your own winning query letter style.

View the query as a writing sample

The fact is, your query letter is the first example of your writing that an editor sees. That means that your letter must be clear, concise, convincing, and free of errors. Your query letter will make a first impression for you, and you want that impression to be a positive one.

Include a hook and a pitch

Just like in any piece of writing, an effective hook is a opening line that captures the reader's attention. So, your query letter should include an interesting opening, something to encourage the editor to keep reading. After that, you'll need to pitch your article idea.

Submit a complete package

No one likes to get a "Dear Sir or Madam" letter. Addressing a query this way also shows a lack of research skills. The first element of a complete query letter is the name of the editor being queried. Take the time to find out to whom you're writing. There are plenty of ways--call the publication on the phone or find the publisher's web site.

If you send an article manuscript along with your query, be sure to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE in manuscript-speak). And, if you want the editor to be able to reach you, make sure that your address, phone number, and email address are all printed prominently on your letter.

Consider email

As a cost-conscious, technology-literate writer, you might also want to consider submitting your query via email. Some editors like this approach; others don't. The best way to determine whether or not an email query is acceptable is to check the submission guidelines.

Learn from others

Last, but perhaps most importantly, discuss your approaches with other writers. Ask writing friends if you can read copies of their successful queries, and offer to return the favor. Colleagues can be your best source of advice. To discuss query techniques with other Freelance Writers and community members seek out your local writers group.
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It Was a Dark and Stormy Night
Establishing Mood
by Patricia Wynne

Every story needs texture.  A writer has only words to provide it.  Describing the setting in which a character finds himself can help take your reader exactly where you want him to go.  There are several components to remember when setting the mood.

The Physical Surroundings
In audio or visual presentation the mood can be set quire easily with implicit devices.  Sinister music or dark colours can suggest danger or intrigue.  A writer must describe the surroundings.  What mood do you feel with these descriptions?
The carnival grounds were empty.  Remnants of food, trampled by a thousand rushing feet, lay forgotten in the dirt.  The rides were silent and dark.  Only the wind quietly stalked the midway, circling this way and that among the shadows.
The party was about to begin.  Coloured balloons floated above the brightly decorated table.  The garden had never looked lovelier.  The roses were in bloom and the air was full of fragrance.  The sound of the doorbell heralded the first of the guests.

The Characters
The actions of the people in your story can do a lot to help establish the mood Try these on for size.
He flung his coat on the chair as he slammed the door behind him.
Her eyes grew wide and she watched in horror as...
She heard footsteps behind her.  They stopped when she stopped.
He grinned sheepishly as she slipped her hand into his.
A tear came to his eye as he remembered how it had been before she left.

The Intangibles
Other things about your surroundings can help establish the mood.  Things such as:

Time of Day
The midday sun was beating down on the lonely figure crossing the desert.
The clock struck midnight as he awoke in a cold sweat.
The work day was finally over.  He looked forward to the trip home.

The Weather
It was unseasonably warm for February.
A delicate mantle of snow had settled itself during the night.  It sparkled with a million colours in the morning sun.
The wind howled and sneaked into the room through the cracks in the wall
The air was still.  Too still.  Something was wrong.  The sky was lowering in the west and strange formations were reaching down from the clouds.

The Geography (location)
It was his first trip to Hawaii and he was as excited as a kid in a candy store. The beach was deserted now.  Summer was over.
The ocean rolled and heaved as the tiny boat tossed in the storm.
The cell was dark and damp and there was nowhere to sit.

The Demographics
The ages of the people in your story also help establish mood.  Are they senior citizens out for a lark as in Cocoon?  Are they children in a park?  Are they swingin' single?  Are they in combination?  What is their relationship to each other?  Are they in conflict?  Is there angst? (you can count on teenagers for this)  Perhaps they are just out for an adventure?  What is their income level?  What is the gender?  Ethnicity?  View of the world?  All these a elements that will contribute to the feel of your story.

The Five Senses
Describing sensations can do wonders for the mood of your story.  For example: When he awoke she was gone.  He took a deep breath.  Her perfume was still in the air.  He touched the pillow gently.  The warmth he had so recently felt was now only cold smooth linen.  He could still taste her kisses.  Was it his imagination, or did he hear footsteps in the hall?  He looked at the empty place beside him and sighed.

Adjectives and Adverbs
Remember to include colours in the parts of your story where you are trying to establish mood.  Colour evokes feelings, cool colours for peaceful scenes, warm vibrant colours for more excitement.  Give your surroundings unusual colours to catch the reader off guard.  The sky doesn't always have to be blue.  Sunsets can be anything you want.  Be like the little kid who was told by his teacher, "Bobby!  Horses are not blue!" to which Bobby replied, "Mine are."
For example: From the song "Cockeyed Optimist" from South Pacific:  "When the sky is a bright canary yellow...

References to other works of literature may help set your mood.  Terms like "Orwellian" may conjure up images of oppression for your reader.  References to well know movies, actors, or their characters may help fill out the mood.  The movie Sleepless in Seattle was shameless in its references to An Affair to Remember.  Sunset Boulevard makes a reference to Miss Haversham and her rotting wedding dress in Great Expectations.  Some examples:  I expected to hear music by Bernard Herrmann when I stepped into the shower at the run-down motel.
As I watched the ceiling fan turn slowly I felt like I was trapped in a scene from Casablanca.
He had the smile of a Cheshire Cat and the breath of King Kong.
Caution:  Don't make your allusions too obscure or your reader may miss them completely.  He or she may not be versed in the genre to which you are referring.  The more obscure works of Voltaire, Aristotle or Plato may be more than your reader can handle.

Choosing Your Words Carefully
Use a thesaurus if necessary to select the most precise word to convey your meaning.  Shades of meaning and double entendres can be created just by choosing a word with a slightly off-kilter interpretation.  Avoid using elaborate words when simple ones will do, just don't settle for the obvious or ordinary.  Similes can go a long way toward setting the mood.  Be careful, though, or your story will start sounding like a cheap detective novel.  If you want it to sound like a cheap detective novel, disregard this caution  and go for it.  Clichés can be fun but don't use them if you want to establish a serious feel to your story.  Some can be turned on end to give a new spin to your writing, like this mixed metaphor which has almost become a cliché itself: She turned to him in all her fury and shouted, "Fine.  Go already.  You buttered your bread, now lie in it!" or That's the way the cookie bounces.

Check Your Own Mood
Know where you are emotionally.  You may need to move yourself into the mood you're trying to create.  It's difficult to write melancholy when the kids are running through the house and the dog is barking.  Frustration? Yes.  Melancholy? No.

Creating a Mood as a Segue to a Surprise.
For example: There wasn't a sound as he turned the key in the lock and opened the door. It was dark.  He tried the light switch.  Nothing happened.  He could hear movement, rustling noises in the corner.  He couldn't move.  His feet felt like lead.  His hands were shaking as he groped his way toward the floor lamp.  Suddenly there was a blinding light.  "Surprise!  Happy Birthday!" yelled his friends from every part of the room.
Note:  Don't use this technique too often or your readers won't trust you after a while.

Know How Much is Enough
In most cases, mood can be created quickly.  Once it is, begin moving your story through your setting.  Add information and incorporate it into the action as your story progresses.  There is a fine line between too much information and not enough.  Some writers can get away with a lot of background.  As I recall, the first 100 pages of James Michener's Hawaii dealt with the formation of the island from an undersea volcano.   You need to find the balance that works for you and for your reader.