How Do I Use a Beat Sheet?

Old fashioned typewriter for editing and rewriting your beat sheet.

Every story has a structure, and I’m sure that you already know this from watching television or reading the newspaper. It starts with a beginning; it has a middle; and it has an end. What happens between those places is where the fun is.

Every type of story has those components (or beats as we’re going to call them) and other components that fit under those headers. Even this blog post has beats.

A pyramid plot, which might be the simplest of all of them is as follows:

  • Set up – beginning
  • Conflict begins and rises
  • Conflict is at its climax
  • Conflict is ended and the story falls back to normal
  • Conclusion

The End. We all go home either satisfied with the ending or mad because it didn’t work out the way we think it should.

What is a beat sheet?

The beat sheet is a quick outline – not that nasty word again – that lays out the whole story in a simple form. When I said this post had a beat sheet to it, I meant it laid out the introduction, and then started to answer the questions we usually associate with a news story. The Ws and an H or so, with the H being the climax since it answers the question asked in the title. From there, we wrap it up with a conclusion.

Why would I use a beat sheet?

There are several reasons why you would use a beat sheet, but the number one reason is that it helps you stay on track for your story. By using a beat sheet, you make sure that your events happen in the right place of a story where it will have the most impact. The next time you read a novel, watch what happens at the 25 to 30 percent mark. Then again at the 75 percent mark. These are big beats in the story.

The other reasons are as follows:

  • It’s quicker than the more formal outline since it’s bullet points
  • It helps you focus without getting bogged down in details, which is good for those who write by the seat of their pants

You can keep your beat sheet on your desk next to you as you plan your novel or blog post. It’s your cheat sheet.

Where do I get a beat sheet?

Beat sheets are all over the internet, but you can create your own to make it fit your story. If your story is a three act story, then you can divide up your beat sheet into three parts.

Here are a few places you can get a beat sheet:

How do I use a beat sheet?

Like an outline, the beat sheet is there to keep you on track. Here is the basic beat set up for a three act story.

Beat Sheet set up:

Act 1

1 – Opening page or image – pg 1

2 – Set up the story – pg 1-10

3 – Set the theme – pg 5

4 – Catalysts to action – pg 12

5 – Debate the action – resist the action – pg 12-25

6 – Make a choice – heat up the scene – pg 25 (25 percent in)

Act 2

7 – Introduce subplot that runs parallel to the main story – pg 30

8 – Action scenes – all fun and games – running, screaming etc. – pg 30-55

9 – Midpoint – Character is either up or down – pg 55

10 – The bad guys are hot on the trail – conflict is heating up – pg 55-75

11 – Bad guys are winning – character loses all – pg 75 (notice 75 percent in)

12 – Despair – agony – hold your head and cry – pg. 75-85

Act 3

13 – Fresh start – new revelation – get those bad guys – pg 85

14 – Finish getting the bad guys and wrap up the stories – pg 85-110

15 – Closing scene – all is well in the world – pg 85


Now that you have an idea of how things are set up, the next time you watch a sitcom or a movie, check the beats to see where they are added and how they correlate to the overall story.

If you can’t find a beat sheet, then create your own based on your needs.

5 Underserved Niches in Copywriting

While searching for work, I have read a million sites, a million job applications, and a million gurus talking about getting work. I also thought that there must be some underserved niches that I could get into that might help me create side jobs along the way.

I found out that most of the underserved niches involved technical writing, and that type of writing spun off into a million splinters. I must be on the “millions” kick since I am measuring everything in the millions these days.

Technical copywriting is writing instructions as clearly and concisely as you can for people who need help understanding how to do something.

It would seem that the underserved “type of writing” is technical writing, but the underserved categories are what I was looking for.

For those who haven’t done technical writing, it is the writing behind your user manuals and other “how to” type writings, including tutorials.

In my previous life, I was a beta tester for a piece of graphic design software for many years and many versions. Along the way, I wrote tutorials to accompany the software for other users to share, so I have a solid grasp on writing tutorials, but in my real writing life of today, I only write some “how to” articles for car owners. I don’t even supply photos for the articles, so if I go back to technical writing, I want to write about a subject that I like.

Copywriting Markets that Need Writers

I think, and I use the term “think” loosely, that I have found that there is or will be a large market for copywriters and technical writers in the following industries:

Software – this may not be an underserved market, but it is always changing as new software is created and programs are updated. SaaS is a big industry as fewer people own their software and more people sign up for cloud-based software. People have to know how to use it.

Healthcare – baby boomers like me are getting ready to retire, and we need to have everything written down for us. Consider what it takes to get an MRI and write down the patient’s instructions. These are the types of things that are needed for all types of equipment, doctors, specialties, dentists, and more. Like software, technology makes huge changes in healthcare daily.

Environmental – I write about EV cars, but not on the technical side of it. There is a market for those interested in sustainable and renewable energies, as well as many “how to” articles such as gardening, composting, and anything related to getting “earthy”.

B2B – anything that a business needs to market to another business is a good place to look for work. Start with a small business in your community and work your way up from there.

Translation – if you are bilingual, there is a place for you in the technical writing industry. With businesses working globally, your skills can help them present their products to more people.

Who needs Technical Writers?

Anyone in the above-mentioned industries needs technical writers, as well as the following:

  • Technology companies
  • Manufacturing companies
  • Government agencies
  • Colleges and schools
  • Service industries

Some of the products any of these businesses may need include manuals, troubleshooting guides, employee instructions, course materials, online tutorials, maintenance manuals, safety information, product specifications, and installation manuals.

There are things to write everywhere you look. Remember reading the cereal box when you were a kid because you “had to read”? Someone wrote that. You have to find the right person to talk to when it comes time to pitch your ideas.

How do you get a Job in Technical Writing?

If you already have a background in a sector, then use that to start looking for work in other areas of the country. I come from an automotive background and write all over the world for many clients. Some I had to hunt for, some found me, but mostly, I kept writing and writing and building a portfolio.

Here are some steps you can take to get your foot in the door as a freelancer:

  1. Use your education or experience to search for work in an industry you want to work in;
  2. Build your portfolio on LinkedIn or your website and showcase your favorites;
  3. Network in your chosen field, not with other writers, but with people who share the same interests;
  4. Always look for jobs on job boards, websites, LinkedIn, and other places;
  5. Be ready with a CV and a resume for an interview that may be online via Zoom or Google;
  6. Freelancing is my thing because I hate offices and downtime, so start with one project and build from there. You’ll be surprised at what you can learn by jumping in. I made so many mistakes.

What is Healthcare Technical Writing?

While healthcare technical writing is going to be bigger and bigger every year, it’s something that you have to be well-versed in. It is the writing of content, marketing materials, and instructions for patient education, devices and drugs, and explaining medical procedures.

If you’ve come from a nursing background, this may be the place you want to start since you probably already have a strong understanding of the terminology, anatomy, and regulations used in the healthcare industry.

Even though I already mentioned this industry, I wanted to bring it up again because this is not just for anyone, but writers are needed.

Other Copywriting Markets

The following are some markets that may not be for everyone, but if you are even remotely interested in them, you can educate yourself. Particularly in the cannabis industry since it is growing exponentially with the states starting to open up cannabis for recreational use.

  • NFT
  • Cannabis
  • Translation
  • Guns and Alcohol
  • Real Estate

Many of these five are underserved simply because they are markets that require someone to go the extra mile to learn more about the industry and immerse themselves into it to become a trusted voice.

I know that I am moving towards working in the cannabis and real estate industries in addition to my automotive and insurance industries. New industries and learning are always a great way to sharpen your skills and explore new opportunities.

I hope you find your underserved industry. Check out the Barefoot Writer where you will find a lot more information on underserved niches, as well as other writing ideas. If you sign up, I will receive a small thank you from the Barefoot Writer, which helps me keep writing more!

Am I Ready for a Beta Reader?

You’ve written and rewritten your novel. You’re happy with it and think it’s ready to see an agent or publisher. You might be ready for a beta reader. Are Beta Readers Necessary?Let’s look at what a beta reader does for you:They are your best friend during the writing process. Not the alpha reader because they always find something wrong, but the beta reader is the one person you trust with your manuscript.Here’s what they do:

  • Read your draft be it a novel, screenplay, or any other written word
  • Offer feedback on your work
  • Their feedback helps improve the work and make it publisher ready
  • They point out plot holes
  • They point out any confusing areas in your novel
  • They critique the pace, the dialog, the style, and whether your character had two different shoes on  – hey, it happens
  • They help you make the story engaging and point out weaknesses

 Your beta reader will help you be a better author, as well as help you refine your work and make it the best it can be. Where can I find a Beta Reader? There are many places where you can find beta readers:

Writing communities: Join writing communities, either online or in-person and ask if anyone is interested in being a beta reader. You’ll find writing communities online, and some of them are genre specific, so if you’re writing a cozy, then check out the cozy writing group on Facebook. You can also look for local writer groups.

Online sites: There are several online sites like Scribophile, Critique Circle, and Wattpad specifically designed to connect writers with beta readers.

Friends and Family Plan: Reach out to friends, family, and co-workers that are not mad at you (reduces the negativity) to read your manuscript. Beware of people who will just say anything to please you because they love you. That’s not helpful. 

Professional beta readers: Consider hiring a professional beta reader or editor if you’re looking for more in-depth feedback on your work. Do a Google search for a professional beta reader or check out the jobs boards. Stay away from cheap rates. You get what you pay for.

​Regardless of where you find beta readers, it’s important to provide clear guidelines for what you’re looking for in their feedback.  Having a beta reader who you trust and who has a good understanding of your writing goals can be extremely valuable in helping you improve your work.

What are Some Beta Reader Questions I should Ask?

When working with a beta reader, it can be helpful to provide them with specific questions to guide their feedback. Here are some questions you might consider asking:

  • What did you think of the plot and pacing of the story?
  • Were the characters well-developed and believable?
  • Was the dialogue natural and convincing?
  • Were there any scenes or parts of the story that were confusing or unclear?
  • What did you like most about the story?
  • What did you like least about the story?
  • Were there any specific parts of the story that you felt could be improved?
  • Was the story engaging and did it keep you interested throughout?
  • Was the tone of the story consistent and appropriate for the subject matter?
  • Do you have any overall suggestions or recommendations for improvement?

Remember to be open and receptive to the feedback you receive, even if it’s not what you were expecting. Consider each suggestion carefully, and use the feedback to make your story the best it can be. Don’t forget to thank your beta reader for their time and effort in helping you improve your work.

Are Beta Readers Paid?

This is up to you. You might get better responses and critiques from a paid editor or professional beta reader, but if you trust your friends and family to be brutally honest, you can probably pay them in cookies and pizza.

​If you’re paying a beta reader or editor, be sure to discuss the terms of their service, including the cost, the amount of feedback you’ll receive, and the turnaround time for the feedback. If you’re working with a professional beta reader, you may also want to ask for samples of their previous work and get references from other writers who have used their services. 

How Many Beta Readers Should I Hire?

The number of beta readers you should hire depends on several factors, including the size and complexity of your work, the amount of feedback you’re looking for, and your budget. Here are some general guidelines:

  • For shorter works: 1-2 beta readers may be sufficient.
  • For longer works: 3-5 beta readers can provide a more comprehensive evaluation of the story.
  • For more complex works: Consider hiring more beta readers, 5 or more, to ensure that all aspects of the story are thoroughly evaluated.

It’s important to remember that the quality of feedback is more important than the quantity. One insightful beta reader can provide more valuable feedback than several beta readers who don’t understand the story or your writing goals. When selecting beta readers, look for individuals who are familiar with the genre of your work and understand what you’re trying to achieve.

Additionally, consider the possibility of hiring multiple rounds of beta readers. After incorporating feedback from the first round of beta readers, you may want to have another round of different beta readers review the revised work to see if the changes were effective. This can help you ensure that your work is the best it can be before submitting it for publication or sharing it with a wider audience.

How Long does it take for a Beta Reader to Finish?

Typically, beta readers should provide feedback within a few weeks of receiving your work. However, if the beta reader is busy with other commitments or if your work is particularly long or complex, it may take longer. If you have a specific deadline, be sure to discuss it with your beta reader and make sure they’re able to meet it.

When working with a beta reader, it’s important to be clear and respectful of their time and other commitments. Provide them with clear guidelines for what you’re looking for in their feedback and make sure you have a good understanding of the terms of the agreement. Regular communication can help ensure that both you and the beta reader are on the same page and that the feedback is provided promptly.

I hope these suggestions helped you decide whether or not you’re ready for your first round of beta readers. 

Write Your Way to Success Writing About What You Love

Time and again, I have heard teachers say, “Write what you know”. Well, what if what I know is not that interesting? I know how to make ice, but I wouldn’t write a whole column with step-outs on how to make ice. I might be interested in an ice maker, though. I also might be interested in writing about the different types of ice makers, but that’s about as exciting as watching paint dry. While it has benefits for those who are interested in buying an ice maker – and I am one of them – I cannot imagine spending a whole day or even weeks writing about ice makers.

What I can imagine spending a whole day writing about is something that I love.

I have been fortunate enough to love cars, as well as write about them. The same is true for my trivia books and my jewelry books. I love puzzles and games, and I have written crossword puzzles, word search puzzles and fill in the blanks puzzles. Most of those puzzles have been used to market a product, but the end result is I was able to write about something I love.

The benefits of writing about what you love:

  • You’re never out of ideas
  • You never get tired of coming up with new copy
  • You can talk for hours to a client about why you should write their copy
  • You never have to fake your passion
  • It doesn’t take much to get you excited
  • You want to write and write and write

I am sure there are many more benefits, but these are the ones that I run into daily, so I thought I would share them with you. I hope find something that you are passionate about and can spend your time writing and writing and writing.

AWAI helps people get started writing copy that can lead to you writing about the things you love. Here is a link to give you an idea of the programs they have available. 

Writers: Outlining Stories Made Easy

Okay, who am I kidding; outlining can be hard. I am in the middle of outlining a new novel that I already started with a very basic seven step outline, but I now want to expand. In the middle of writing it, I decided to switch genres, which is good for the novel and bad for me.

I found that outlining can be overcomplicated. I analyze too much, so some of my previous outlines got out of control as I spun the ‘what if’ wheel that caused my outline to be longer than the novel. I knew there had to be a better way.

Outlines are great for my nonfiction books, but hard for me when it comes to fiction. So, I had to really simplify it to only a few things. Here is a simple story outline example that I used and am using for my current novel/short story/novella:

  1. Hook – Married couple with conflicts
  2. Plot turn 1 – conflicts escalate
  3. Pinch 1 – Money is an issue
  4. Midpoint – they decide to get more money
  5. Pinch 2 – Greed becomes a factor
  6. Plot Turn 2 – They reach a point of no return
  7. Resolution – Greed wins

I found it best to use a short story outline template in order to write this book. However, like I said, it took its own turn while writing it, so I will need to modify my short story outline into something a little longer. The finished book will be around 250 to 275 pages, which is roughly between 250 and 300 per page.

When it comes to outlining stories, I found that if I apply the “Keep ISimple Stupid” plan, I am a better writer.  Too big of an outline stops me from creating, but with no outline at all, I am all over the place.

Outlining stories is easy if you remember that every story is simply a reaction to an event followed by a conflict followed by a conclusion. You can break out any story into a manageable outline, even newspaper articles by asking yourself: Who, what, when, where, how and sometimes why.  

How to write a quick outline in three steps:

  1. Lay out the key scenes and what they mean to the story. They do not have to be in order.  Many people have done this on index cards or sticky notes.
  2. Then start adding details to each scene.
  3. Move them where you want them.

Once you have the basics, then you can go in and add the details. There is more to outlining than just this, but for some of us, the K.I.S.S. method works best. Hope this helps you write your first outline. If you need more help or want to delve deep into outlining, then K.M. Weiland has books that will help you plot your course. Start with this one:

Is Kindle Publishing Right for Me?

This topic has been done to death by every blogger in the universe. So, why one more post? Because I’ve used Kindle publishing to publish my books, and I like it. Besides, I get to call myself an Indie Publisher by using Kindle Create to publish my book.

Seriously though, my books are all non-fiction, so that makes a big difference in the scheme of things. As a non-fiction writer, I can drill down on publishers to find the ones that fit the niche for my book. For instance, I write trivia and have a series on music trivia covering the top hits of the decade, which is considered pop culture. A lot of publishers cover pop culture. Since my books are based on U.S. pop charts, then I stand a better chance of getting them published if I limit my searches to U.S.-based publishing houses.

Those who write fiction books need to find a publisher in the genre of their choice. This is a little easier when you realize that many authors in your genre thank their agents in the acknowledgments and the publisher is on the spine and front pages.  If you decide to go the way of traditional publishing, the leads are there for you to follow.

Pros of Self-Publishing
You have total control over the outcome
You have total control over the outcome
Cons of Self-Publishing
You have total control over the marketing
You have total control over the marketing

I am not kidding about the pros and cons. 

Total Control over the Outcome–It means that you control every aspect of the editing, printing, formatting, delivery, and cover creation of your finished work. That sounds great on paper, but it adds a lot of workload to writers who only want to write.

If you’re not well-versed in editing (possibly using the Chicago Manual of Style or Associated Press Stylebook), then you might want to hire an editor. I usually do hire someone to take a look at my final manuscript before releasing a book. I am amazed at how many errors I make in the simplest of texts and editing is not my strong suit, but I hope to get better.

I also use Grammarly (an AI add-on to Word with a free version) to do at least one once-over before turning it over to someone to edit. At least then my errors won’t be so embarrassing.

I hire editors from Upwork, and there are many freelance writers doing gig work on Fivver who edit manuscripts. I have hired folks from both places and have been happy with the results.

Here are some links that might help you with the editing phase of your book:

Cover design is another part of the publishing process that you may need to hire out if you’re not proficient in Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, or Gimp. I do my own covers, and I buy my art from Creative Market or use my own photos as I did on my hiking Yosemite book. Both of my trivia books have cover art from Creative Market by the same artist. 

I will make this post a part of a series on Kindle publishing because this is a BIG topic with a lot of parts to it.

1950s Music Trivia
Think you can answer these 1950s music trivia questions?
1960s music trivia
Music trivia from the 1960s

Total Control over the Marketing–This is one of the most difficult parts of writing and publishing a book. If you thought writing was tough, wait until you start to market your book! Amazon gives us the ability to create ads from our published works. All you have to do is give them money, and they will place your books all over Amazon where they will be seen by people interested in the subject you write about. While that’s all well and good, if you have a niche book, you want to go outside to find places to advertise.

Your book might do well being advertised in traditional print magazines and newspapers, or as banner ads on blogs and websites, and other affiliate marketing bloggers. It may also do well as ads on Facebook and newsgroups all over the internet.

You will need to do a lot of research to find the right place to advertise your book since you know the intended audience. My music books would advertise well on music-related blogs or newsgroups, and my jewelry design book would do well on arts and crafts sites. The upside to ensuring that your books are being seen by the right audience is to do it yourself.

Another big positive about doing it all yourself is that it’s on your schedule and not someone else’s. If your editor suggests edits, then you can do them when you have time.

A great big negative is that there is no advance on future royalties sitting in your bank account. You must live on whatever your royalties are for your current sales. They are paid in real-time, so there is no waiting, but if you want a steady income, you have to move on to your next book as soon as you send the first one to the editor.

There is no get-rich scheme here. It is all hard work, and it can take years to write a book, but there is no reason you have to wait years to find out if the one you did write will ever get published. There is no shame in being an indie publisher, and even the big authors find it useful for smaller projects.

We’ll chat about some of the other finer points of self-publishing in the future. Until then, keep writing and get your manuscript ready for the world to read. 

Want to know more about Kindle? This book is a good place to start.

The Benefits of Writers being Readers

If you want to write, it’s probably because you spent your childhood reading. Once you discover the magic of being swept away in a great story, it’s hard to imagine yourself doing anything but writing. 

Reading can be instrumental in enhancing your writing career. 

Here are a few benefits of being a reader:

  • Understand story structure 
  • Help get a feel for what readers want in a story
  • Get  your creative juices flowing with new ideas 
  • Learn from famous authors 
  • Enhance your language skills and learn new words 
  • Explore new genres and styles
  • Learn what doesn’t work and why
  • Learn new cultures and lifestyles 

​There are so many other reasons to read, but these are some of the most beneficial to you as a writer. 

Life is busy, but make time to read. Kindle on your phone puts books at your fingertips, so when you’re waiting in line or at an appointment, you can find a few minutes to read the next chapter of a book. 

When your writing needs a boost, pick up a good book and start reading. 

Do You Need a Niche for Copywriting?

If you want to drill down on your copywriting skills, you can consider focusing on a niche that focuses on your interests. Once you decide what you want to write about – I write in the automotive industry because I love cars – you can narrow this down even further. When you narrow your focus down, it makes it easier to search for new clients.

Here are some niches you might consider:

  • Blog Copywriting
  • Article Copywriting
  • Advertising Copywriting
  • Product Description Copywriting
  • SaaS Copywriting
  • SEO Copywriting

What’s something that interests you?
I mean REALLY interests you… something you would be thrilled to write about every day and get paid to do it.
Once you have an answer, go here.
I’ll show you how you can get paid to write about it.

You can do it in your spare time… anywhere from 5-10 hours a week…

And you can generate passive income, which means it comes in whether you’re working or not… earning $750, $1,500, $3,500 or even more — month after month.

Go here to learn more about this exciting writing opportunity.

Not sure which niche you want?

​I suggest you do a Pro and Con list that can help you make that decision.

What do you like about it?
What do you know about it?
Can you make a living writing about it?
Will you be able to find clients?
How hard will it be to find your first client?

And so on. I hope you find your niche because things get a lot easier once you do.

Can You Write a Simple Letter?

Writing a simple letter could be the start to a new source of income. Maybe you write full-time like I do or maybe you want to write full-time like I do. Either way, it helps to have a lot of tools in your toolbox like having some copywriting training. I know that I saw the Barefoot Writer magazine when I was getting ready to quit my full-time job at the newspaper. I read all of these great stories about people who left their jobs and made a bazillion dollars while putting their cocktails on tables and sunscreen on their arms. Sounded great to me!

Copy and Content Writers are Needed!

I don’t make a gazillion dollars writing copy on the side, but I do make a nice little handful of change each month that is more than equal to my last weekly paycheck at the newspaper. When I add that money into my content writing, I am making a small living doing this. Will it get better? I don’t know, but what I do know is that copywriters and content writers are in demand NOW. Everyone is selling online and they all need people like you and me to write their copy. I suggest that you check out the AWAI program. They have a lot of programs that you can choose from, and it can be quite fun to do some copywriting on the side. Where else can you switch between writing about products like candles, gear shift knobs and chalk markers in a single afternoon? It’s fun and it’s always something a little different. Check out this program here:  

Or maybe you would just like to get the magazine so you can envy those writers with cocktails and toes in the sand. Check it out here:

This post was proofread by Grammarly

Writer’s Block Prompts

As we’ve discussed in the last blog post about writer’s block, writer’s block is tough to get around, and it happens to all of us.

For fun, here are some quick prompts that may get your creative juices flowing:

  • She stopped suddenly and looked up when she heard the tornado sirens begin to wail.
  • He ducked as a large insect missed colliding with his forehead. “What was that?”
  • There is a story in the newspaper about someone vandalizing gravestones.
  • Her missing cousin showed up 13 years later and had a story that was unbelievable.
  • She hung up the phone in disbelief. Who knew that she was a relative of …
  • He stared at the painting on the wall of his best friend’s living room. It looked like the original Mona Lisa, but that was impossible.

For even more fun, here are some things to ponder:

  • You just found out that you won the lottery. What is the first thing you’re going to buy?
  • You got an invitation to your high school reunion. What memories or horrors does that prompt?
  • You were looking at the stars in your telescope, and then you saw a bright object that you didn’t recognize. Who do you call?
  • Your neighbor hasn’t been seen for weeks. When is the last time you remember seeing him/her?
  • You see a boat on the horizon, and then it disappears. What do you do?
  • Your best friend calls you up to ask a favor; a big favor. Do you help them?
  • When you unload your groceries, you notice that you have a bag that doesn’t belong to you. What do you do?

Hopefully, there is something in these prompts that spins off an exercise that banishes the writer’s block.

If you still are looking for prompts, here are some of my favs: