Tuesday Tip

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After several weeks, I’m finally going to revisit the editing checklist. Remember that? I posted it back in October. It’s a long inclusive list, and I haven’t even touched mechanics and grammar yet. To see the full editing checklist, click here.

Moving right along, it looks like next on the list is editing characters. You might notice after your first draft that some or many of your characters just don’t work. They may need tweaking or to be cut entirely.

Remember, these are all tips on how to go back and edit existing characters, not how to create them from scratch. That’s for a later post.

Make Sure They Have Motivation

Poor motivation, or none whatsoever, is often the culprit if you’re character is falling flat. Goals, dreams, wants, desires drive every action your characters make. Your characters’ motivation can be simple or complex, as long as it’s the driving factor.

Examples of Character Motivation

Troy

I chose this movie because A. I just watched it and B. there are so many characters with motivations that clash and cross I just had to use it.

Achilles: To be remembered forever and ever and ever and ever

Paris: To be with Helen

Helen: To be with Paris

Hector: You know what, I’m just going to use his own words: Honor the Gods, love his woman, defend his county.

Agamemnon: Take over Troy

Menelaus: Get his wife back from the Trojans and regain his honor.

Odysseus: Not die and go home to his wife

Patroclus: To fight

So how do all of these varying motivations come together? Well, they weren’t randomly selected. The movie differs from The Iliad slightly, and for this example, I’m using the film.

Agamemnon wants to take over Troy and finds an excuse to attack the city when his brother Menelaus comes to him asking him to fight with him so he can get his wife back from the Trojans and regain his honor. Helen left her husband to be with Paris who sneaks her into Troy so they can be together. Agamemnon is going to have a hard time taking the city because it is protected by high walls and Hector, the prince of Troy and the city’s mightiest warrior. Of course we know his motivation: defend, honor, love wife, etc. To insure victory, Agamemnon hires Achilles, the supposed greatest warrior of all time, to fight for him. Achilles, though he hates Agamemnon, agrees to fight because he knows anyone who fights at this battle is going to be remembered forever and ever and ever. He really doesn’t have a personal stake in the battle, which is why towards the end he decides to go home, taking his fleet with him; however, his cousin (in the book he’s just a friend) Patroclus wants to fight, so he steals Achilles’ armor and fights the Trojans. He’s slaughtered by Hector who thinks he is Achilles. Enraged by his cousin’s death, Achilles returns to the battle and kills Hector. Greek victory, right? Wrong. There are still those high walls. They aren’t simply going to crumble just because Troy lost its prince. Odysseus knows that they can’t take the city, and they will all die trying. He does not want to die. He wants to go home to his wife, so he comes up with the plan to turn the ships into a Trojan horse so they can invade the city. The rest is history.

Edit for Function

Your character’s function is to serve the plot. When you designed your main character, hopefully you didn’t just pick random traits. Design a character with your plot in mind. Chances are, when you’re planning your story you had some idea of what the plot would be or at least what would happen. Give your character attributes (strengths, weaknesses, fears) that will aid your plot.

Example: Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes. This would be a pointless fear–distracting from the plot even–if it wasn’t for the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where, in order to find the Ark, he must pass thousands of snakes in the Well of Souls. His fear is not pointless or random. It was a character trait designed to give him something to overcome. It also happens to make him more relatable and believable.

Edit for Consistency

Inconsistencies are very distracting. Make sure your character is consistent throughout the entire book.

name: This is very important. Readers are ruthless when they find mistakes, don’t make a mispelled name one of them. First things first, decide on a spelling and keep a sheet where you list your characters’ names alphabetically. If you’re not sure how you spelled a name in chapter one, refer to your sheet. If you change the spelling of a name, or the name entirely, simply use the search and replace feature to correct it.

physical appearance: I’ve read books where a character has green eyes in one chapter and then brown in another. It doesn’t seem hard to keep these facts straight. Again, instead of planning your characters as you go, plan them beforehand. Even if you never describe the color of your characters’ eyes or hair, decide what they are just in case you do. Draw a picture, cut out clips from magazines, or write out a description. Refer to it whenever you need to describe your character in narrative.

personality: It’s not enough that your characters look consistent but that they act consistent. If your character is a pessimist, it would be character assassination for them to look on the bright side of a bad situation.

To make sure all of your characters’ attributes are consistent, create a character sketch for each one. Not a drawing per se, but a list of traits or a brief description. In this include their goals and conflicts. A character interview is a great way to get to know your character. For tips on this, see Tuesday Tip #2.

So you can see what a finished character sketch looks like, this is my character sketch for Thaolas.

Thaolas is one of four children. He is blond with blue eyes. He has the body of a warrior, but he doesn’t want to fight. He was his mother’s favorite, but he is despised by his lord. He was born the night of a red moon, which is considered an unfavorable sign where he’s from. He is not his father’s heir, not suited to be a soldier, and his brother does not want him as an advisor, so he has a hard time finding his place. He is a thinker, self-punisher, and avoider of conflict. He is also very curious and likes to learn, which means he ask a lot of questions.
Too Many/Not Enough Characters

Your problem might not be the characters you created, just the number. Maybe your main protagonist spends too much time in thought because you gave her no one to talk to. Perhaps there aren’t enough background characters to make your world believable.

To know for sure if a character is hurting or helping your novel, simply ask yourself , does this character enhance or distract from the main protagonist or the plot. For more detail on this, check out this post where I discuss multiple POVs.

My number one tip when it comes to characters, plan them in advance. This will cut down on edits and rewrites.

I hope you find that helpful. Please comment below. What are some helpful tips you have for keeping character traits straight?

My Favorite Things Blog Tour

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mft-blog-tourThis is my first blog tour, The Favorite Things Blog Tour, which happens to be hosted by my sister. Check out her awesome blog as well as past participants of the tour here.

Also sharing their favorite things today:

Alison Jack

Noelle Granger

The purpose of this tour is to share our favorite characters, scenes, and quotes from our own books. It’s now my turn to share with you my favorite things. Not going to lie, I’m a little nervous–nervous being an understatment. I don’t usually discuss my writing with others, so this will be really good practice for me.

I’m in the pre-publishing stage of my current work in progress, which is a fancy way of saying I’m not done yet. It’s a three-part fantasy series. I hesitate to call it a trilogy because it really consist of the main book, a sequel, and a prequel, not three in order.

Synopsis

The synopsis, like the novel, is still a work in progress, but here goes.

What is the worth of one life? Bronwyn risk his status, his home, his very life to protect a human child–a decision that thrusts him on the border of a clash between humans and elves. To side with his people is to instigate a war they cannot win, but to side against them is to betray his lord and turn on his city.

Favorite Character

This was the hardest question to answer, especially for someone like me who has what I call chronic indecisive disorder. I have a hard enough time choosing what to get from McDonald’s limited menu let alone choosing one of my darlings. I love them all really, especially the elves. If I have to pick one, just one, like a Pokemon or something, I choose Gailodyn. Originally a supernumerary character, whose main function was to give other characters someone to interact with, he quickly became a major supporting character.

To give you a little context, he’s a character from the sequel, not book one, though he might make a cameo appearence in the first book. You’ll have to read both books if you want to get to know him better. He’s pretty much Bronwyn’s right hand man, his main supporter, and his biggest fan–but it doesn’t start off that way.

If I had to describe him using his own words, he considers himself to be very dutiful, trustworthy, principled, and steadfast. He’s really not as collected as all that. He would forget to mention, or fail to realize, that he’s overly stubborn, inconsistant, freewheeling, a little unconstrained, and very single-minded.

Favorite Scene

My favorite scene was also hard to choose because I haven’t written them all yet. The scene I picked, I’d love to share, but I haven’t written it yet, so it’s not ready to read, but I’ll try my best to describe it.

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It’s not ready for reading

To sumarize, Bronwyn and Ashby (human boy he rescues) are travelling through the passages of a cave when they find a tree that has grown in a cavern. Though the tree gets all it needs: sun and rain from the hole in the cave ceiling, the tree is a symbol of loneliness and isolation because it is existing separate from its own kind in an unnatural environment. A tree among rocks: a human among elves. It’s very symbolic. Can’t wait to finish this scene.

Favorite Quote

I don’t have a favorite quote yet. Again, it’s not finished, so for now I chose a very simple quote that I think makes a statement about conformity and my main character.

“Whatever broke inside bronwyn left the outside untouched.”

This shows how face value, Bronwyn is everything his people are supposed to be, but his incongruities exist underneath the surface though they are revealed through his actions. Throughout the book, he struggles whether to conform or go against his people’s beliefs.

There you have it, some of my favorite things. I want to thank my sister for inviting me to participate in her blog tour. Please check out the other writers and their favorite things.

Tuesday Tip

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It looks like I’ll be taking another break from the editing series to offer you guys another timely tip, because this is something that can take down any writer at any time, no matter what genre they write or how often they write. Trust me, it’s more detrimental than writer’s block.

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I’ve got a lot to do before Februrary, so right now would be a terrible–or rather–the worst time to get a cold or flu. My son and my boss were recently sick, which puts me at risk. With the odds against us, how can we as writers stay well this season?

Keep Your Hands Away From Your Face!!!!!

This is my first tip, and it ends in an exclamation mark (five to be exact) because this is the number one way you get sick–and because as a parent, I repeat this a lot. Infected hands spread germs, viruses, etc to your sinus passages through your nose, mouth, and eyes. It also works in reverse, so to reiterate:

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  • hands
  • eyes
  • mouth
  • nose

It should also go without saying that you should avoid touching other’s hands or objects people commonly come into contact with: pens, doorknobs, money, shopping carts, etc. Rule of thumb: just wash your hands as often as you can.

Emergen-C

Studies are really inconsistent as to whether or not vitamin C actually prevents illness, but most studies at least agree that it helps ease symptoms and can shorten the duration of illness. Since vitamin C is good for you, just go ahead and take it. Vitamin C comes in many forms and can be found in a variety of foods, but my sister has a coworker who swears by Emergen-C. I’m not sure how many she drinks a week, but she hasn’t missed a lot of work, so I’ll take her word for it. I drink at least one a week. So far I haven’t caught my son’s illnesses, or any for that matter in the last six months. Mind you he’s come home with pink eye, upper respiratory infections, coughs, colds, the flu, and sinus infections. I haven’t been to the doctor once this year–knock on wood. I think it’s time to give that child some Emergen-C before he ends up in the emergency room.

Cook with Garlic and Coconut Oil

People have been using garlic to prevent and treat illnesses for centuries. It’s an all-around healthful herb. You can take it as a supplement or just sprinkle it on your food.

You may already know the benefits of garlic, but have you ever heard about the benefits of coconut oil? My sister used to take a spoonful every day to prevent wrinkles. What she did or did not know was that it may also prevent illness. If you don’t like to take it plain, you can use it to substitute for cooking oil, to sweeten tea, or as a dessert topping.

Avoid Sugar

I’m not going to tell you what to eat, but I will tell you what not to: sugar. Just one spoonful lowers your immunity for hours. Definitely avoid it when you’re sick, but avoid it, or cut back, to prevent illness. I know this is difficult; it’s in everything after all.

Drink Tea and Water

Hands down, green tea is the best; I don’t care what any study says about white or black tea. Don’t you dare ruin the benefits by flavoring it with sugar either. Sweeten it with lemon juice and honey for even more immunity support.

Now there’s something you need to know about H2O. Getting an adequate amount of water will actually prevent you from getting sick.There’s water in tea you say. That is true; however, there is also caffeine in your tea. I’ve heard it said that for drinks that contain caffeine like coffee and tea, you have to divide your water consumption by half. So if you drink 8 oz of coffee, you’re really only getting 4 oz of water. Caffeine dehydrates. I’ve read some recent studies that suggest this is not the case with tea, but to be safe, up your water intake.This improves your immunity.

Stay Away From Sick People

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Easier said than done. Heck my sister just looks at a sick person and she catches whatever it is they have. Viruses can live in the air 3-7 hours. So if a friend or family member is sick, stay away. Offer to talk to them on the phone or by email. This is what social media is for. If they need soup or medicine, drop off the goodies at the door and run.

Avoid Stress

Do you feel tired, nervous, irritable? You may be stressed. Stress is one of the sickness cues. It lowers immunity, which leads to illness. It’s impossible to completely avoid stress, (the simple act of living is stressful), but it is possible to reduce it.

1. Limit Social Media: As much as I love keeping in touch with family and potential readers with Twitter and Facebook, there are times when I just dread reading my feed. Do you know what I mean? I avoided Facebook after the whole Ferguson debate, not to mention during elections, holidays, or after an episode of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones heirs. Trying to avoid spoilers, people. Do not tell me who died, for crying out loud! It’s no secret that social media messages lower our self esteem, make us feel more alone than connected, and cause us stress. Hell, I’m not even friends with my own brother on Facebook because his social media messages caused me too much stress. My advice: limit your time. One hour tops. Remove “friends” who do nothing but post their,political views/slants, religious views/bashes, or other negative content.

2. Get Sleep: If you think foregoing sleep will give you more time to write, guess again. Sleep deprivation increases your risk of getting sick which will in turn, you guessed it, negate all that extra writing time you traded for sleep.

Going back to the topic of stress, lack of sleep actually makes it more difficult for you to cope with stress.

Get your sleep and sacrifice something else like television time. Is TV really that important?

3. Read: Reading does more to reduce stress than exercise, chocolate, and meditation. Don’t take my word for it. Check out this article here.

We all know how difficult it is to write when we’re tired, busy, or just hungry. Imagine trying to write while sick. So, when the cold bites, when the flu stings, when you’re feeling bad. Simply remember this Tuesday Tip, and then you won’t feel so bad.

Stay well and writing this winter.

A Long Expected Party: Celebrating Hobbit Style!

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We partied like it was Mereth Nuin Giliath!

Last night I had a long-expected party, a Hobbit party. My sister and I just saw The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. I have so many thoughts and feelings after seeing the film, and I promise, this post contains no spoilers. Just hurry up and see it already. I will say this: If you’re hoping for a true adaptation of the book, you will be disappointed; however, if you like epic fantasy, grand-scale adventure, bloated, over-the-top battle scenes, and wizards busting ninja moves, you’ll love it.

I knew after seeing the third and final chapter, we’d be left with a little bit of a Hobbit hangover, kind of like the one we had after seeing The Return of the King, so I thought a party would be a great way to get closure and end the night.

My party hat is better

My party hat is better

I wish you all could have been there, but since you couldn’t be, I’d like to share some photos and moments from my party.

Hobbit Inspired Food

Hobbits are all about food. They eat 12 meals a day after all. Our Hobbit inspired menu included cheese, a meat log, ale, and pizza. I’m pretty sure if pizza existed in Middle Earth, hobbits and dwarves would have loved it. Elves . . . not so much.

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What’s yummier than cake, Lee Pace’s face on a cake of course. Doesn’t he look delicious. Usually I go straight for a corner edge piece instead of a center piece, but who wouldn’t want to eat the Elven King? He’s so om nom nommy.

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Frosted and Fabulous

This cake was too pretty to eat, but too delicious not to. I still have plenty of leftovers. I really wish I could share it with you.

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Eating Lee Pace’s face!

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Decorations

The decorations were pretty simple. Aside from ordering balloons, I printed off some signs and posted them everywhere. I did, however, get a little crafty. With just some ordinary paper plates and a Sharpie paint marker, I made Hobbit door plates.

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Bilbo’s door

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Smaug’s edible treasure

Check out these Party Kings

Check out these Party Kings

Games

Hobbits love games, and it wouldn’t be a party without them. We danced all night, played, “what have I got in my pocket,” told riddles, and took turns shooting Smaug with a black arrow.

My cute little bowman

My cute little bowman

Middle Earth Inspired Music

All night long, we listened to music from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogy. Six movies equals hours of Middle Earth music. It was so much fun dancing like elves and hobbits and singing along to the songs. My dance moves were a cross between Frodo and Michael Jackson because I can moonwalk.

It was quite a celebration. We partied all night like it was Mereth Nuin Giliath. I hope you all enjoyed the photos. For those of you who haven’t watched the movie, make plans this weekend to go. I’ll be seeing it again for sure. For those of you who have, what are your thoughts?

Tuesday Tip

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tip#1This week, the third and final installment of The Hobbit trilogy premieres in the U.S. Obviously my mind is in Middle Earth and not in the real world. In honor of the very last movie, I’m going to publish a series of blog post dedicated to The Hobbit, starting with this week’s Tuesday Tip: How to celebrate premiere week hobbit style.

Have a Hobbitathon

6-filmsI did this Friday with my son while he was home sick. Watching the first two movies made him feel better and got him pumped for the last one. I recommend watching all of the movies in order from beginning to end. Better yet, watch the first two installments of The Hobbit, followed by or preceded by the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. That’s almost 20 hours of movie viewing mayhem. If you’re a diehard fan, watch  the extended versions instead of the regular movies.

Plan a Long-Expected Party

You can host your own Hobbit-themed party, or you can join me this Thursday on Twitter for my Hobbit party. There will be cake, food, music, and party games all inspired by the movies. Unfortunately we can’t share food via Twitter, which is a shame because this cake is going to look and taste amazing, but we can share our thoughts on the movies, our favorite moments, pictures, and a riddle or two. Party starts around 7:00. I’ll be tweeting up a storm. I hope you’ll join me!

If you want to find a party in your hometown, check out this lineup posted on TheOneRing.net. 

Dance like a Hobbit

Do you know the song the hobbits dance to in The Fellowship of the Ring has a name? It’s called “Flaming Red Hair.” This happens to be one of the songs on my party playlist. I’m going to bust a move–and probably a toe dancing Hobbit style at my party. Don’t be shy. Grab a partner and dance your feet off . . . or maybe just have another ale.

Maybe I'll just have another ale . . .

Maybe I’ll just have another ale . . .

Say Your Last Goodbye

What better way to say goodbye than with the song “The Last Goodbye” by Billy Boyd. What an appropriate song title. This does feel like a final farewell. How many times have you or will you play this song before you hear it in theaters? My sister and I will probably be singing along with the credits like we did last year to Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire.” If you haven’t had a chance to hear “The Last Goodbye,” check out this music video.

Learn Elvish

Spanish would certainly be the more practical language. After all, you’re not likely to bump into an elf on a daily basis, but hey, people speak Harappan. What’s better than a dead language–a made up one of course! I’m sure there are a lot of guides online, or maybe even a book. There is a book on how to speak Dothraki, so anything’s possible. If you learn only one word, learn friend, which is mellon, but if you master the language, use it to have conversations you don’t want other people to hear.

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Read Tolkien

Not caught up, if you’re a fast reader, you still have time to read the entire book before seeing the movie. Already read the book? Don’t worry, I’m sure there will still be plenty of surprises. After all, we don’t know what will happen to Tauriel.

Eat like a Hobbit

The food doesn’t matter as much as the quantity. Cheese, breads, mushrooms, and meats, are good choices. Don’t forget ale and tea.

It’s not about what you eat, it’s when you eat. Breakfast, second breakfast, afternoon tea, lunch, dinner, elevenses, etc. Hobbits eat about 12 meals a day.

Dress up as your Favorite Character

IMG_12841I already dressed up as my favorite character this year for Kokomo Con. If you want to see more pictures of me dressed up as Thranduil, check out my post here. I won’t be the party king-er-queen this Thursday, however. The zipper of my robe is still broken. On the plus side, my crown is intact. You can bet, I’ll be wearing it with my party glasses.

Dress up at home, or if you’re truly brave, dress up at work or for the theater. If you dress as Thranduil, I recommend that you remove your crown so you don’t block other’s views.

Play Hobbit Games

Hobbits love games, especially riddles. Join me Thursday for Riddles in the dark. I’ll post some riddles on Twitter to see who guesses them first.

Walk Around Bare Foot

Be proud of your feet. Walk around bare foot outside, at the office, the gym . . . or at least at home.

Tolkien trivia

Test the knowledge of everyone around you with Tolkien trivia. This will be a lot of fun for fellow fans . . . and really annoying to those who haven’t seen or didn’t like the movies. Use quotes and references from the movies and books liberally, as often as possible. Drive people insane.

Enjoy Hobbit Parody

The internet and YouTube are great places to spiral into a Hobbit hole. Check out these great videos satyring the films.

Shop at the Hobbit Shop

IMG_14251Since I can’t wear my Thranduil robe, I’ve got two or three shirts on the way. This stuff ships super quick too. I love this shirt. How cool is it that Lee Pace’s face is on my boob. Haha!

Go to a Bar and Drink like a Dwarf and Sing like an Elf

IMG_12761I’m thinking about doing this. Not sure if my sister would be game, but how awesome would it be to drink an ale and start singing “I See Fire” and “The Last Goodbye.” I’ve already been to the bar dressed as Thranduil, so I’m sure this wouldn’t be the oddest thing I’ve done.

Cry

Last but not least, cry all the tears. I know I’m going to. And I know some of you are with me. What will I do on December 17 for the next 50+ years of my life? What movies will I have to look forward to? We don’t even get another Disney princess until 2016. I’ll probably have a Lord of the Rings marathon or maybe I’ll just have to finish the next epic fantasy series.

That’s a pretty long list. Should give you plenty to do while you wait for the release. Let me know how you’ll be celebrating premiere week.

Turning a Sick Day into a Writing Day

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sickToday, I took a sick day. I’m not the one who’s sick, my son is. So I’ll be playing the role of Dr Mom instead of Insurance agent. It’s hardly a day off because I’ll be busy taking care of my kid and catching up on some housework. However, I figure I’ll still have some free time between doses of Tylenol, making chicken soup, checking temperatures, and reading stories. This free time will not be wasted time.

I hate taking off sick, even if that sick person isn’t me. I hate feeling like a slacker. Since I can’t be productive at work, I’m going to be productive at home. I’m really not complaining that I’ll be confined to my house. If anything, I’m happy for the justification to stay home. Once my kid is asleep and the dishes are washed, I’ll have time to do some things I haven’t had time to do.

Read

I never have time to read. As a result, I’ve acrued $10 worth of late fees from the library. I just keep renewing–and forgetting to renew–my books until I rack up enough late fees to buy an entire book. I’d like to catch up on my ebooks, but I should probably try to finish the books from the library first. Also, being the 12th, I believe my books are due today. I can renew them online, so there’s no excuse.

Chores

There really isn’t much to do except for a load of dishes and gathering my laundry for this evening. My bedroom is still a small disaster (still nicer than most people’s kitchens, I’m afraid), but I can’t even begin to improve that until I get some more furniture. This leaves lots of time for the next item on my list.

Write

My goal is to finish the first draft of my WIP today. I’d like to get this finished before next week when I’ll lose an entire night of writing to watch “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.”

Speaking of the Hobbit. If I need a break from writing, we are having a Hobbit party on Thursday. I have a few projects to work on in preparation. I could get a head start on those and maybe even watch the first two movies in the trilogy.

I’m going to make the most of my son’s sick day. Hopefully by the end of today, he’ll feel better and I’ll be finished with my rough draft.

Tuesday Tip

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Ever wonder if people are reading your post? And if they are, do they read the entire thing? Are they just skimming? If you read last Thursday’s post (check that out here), you already know what this Tuesday’s tip is about. For those of you who didn’t read it, or just skimmed it, I’m taking a break from the editing series this week so I can talk about how to make sure your post get read. They’re called readers for a reason. Let’s get them to READ!

Why don’t people read or finish reading blog post?

  1. They don’t have time
  2. They got bored
  3. They thought it was irrelevant
  4. They didn’t see it

1. Make Your Post Quick and Easy to Read

Quick and easy: Microwave meals have been banking on this concept for a long time. Make your post the Uncle Ben’s of blog post. I’m not saying it should take less than a minute to read, I’m just saying you should make it as quick and easy to read as possible. For instance, I timed this post. It took me 4 minutes to read from start to end.

You might be tempted to go through your post and just start cutting words, but believe it or not, it can take longer to read a 500 word article than a 1,500 word article. Here are some ways to decrease reading time regardless of word count.

Headings

I used to write my post without headings, only page breaks. Headings help important information stand out. Without them, there is no structural hierarchy, nothing to cue the reader that this section is important or even what it’s about.

Bulleted and Numbered List

List are another way to make important information stand out. They break down the content into pieces. No one crams an entire king sized Hershey bar into their mouth at once. They break it off one piece at a time. Do this for your readers. This shortens the time it takes to read the post.

Not only do list cut down information and eliminate unnecessary words, they also make information easier to read and remember.

Example 1: Your post should include four things: a title, introduction, body, and conclusion.

Example 2: Your post should include these four things:

  1. title
  2. introduction
  3. body
  4. conclusion

White Space

White space is not a waste of space; it helps readers comprehend what they read. The lack of white space has the same impact as a speaker who doesn’t pause for breath during a long-winded speech. The reader won’t remember what they read, and they won’t have a chance to process it. This was another mistake I made in earlier post. I wrote big, chunky paragraphs. Compare some of my new post with older ones and you’ll see white space between my sections–like a breath of fresh air.

Font Size and Color

When choosing font, consider fonts that are easy to read, not ones that are pretty. Choose a larger font in a color that contrast with your background. Don’t make your readers squint to read fancy pastel font.

Structure

Your blog and each post should be easy to navigate. Give your post structure by dividing your content into sections. This will keep you focused as you write as well as make your post easy to read.

I touched on structure in a prior Tuesday Tip. Check that out here. The structure should look something like this:

  1. title
  2. introduction
  3. heading one
    1. text
  4. heading two
    1. text
  5. heading three
    1. text
  6. conclusion

Declutter 

Even a well-structured post with appropriate headings and readable font can suffer from clutter. What is clutter? Anything that is distracting to the reader or that slows them down.

word count: There isn’t a magic number to increase readability. My rule of thumb is to keep it as short as your average reader’s attention span. Word count depends on the topic of your post. Is it informative? Are you selling a product? On average, keep your post between 200-2,000 words. These post are more likely to be read and shared.

Read your blog post objectively. Is there anything that can be cut: a word, a paragraph? Keeping your sentences concise helps them read the entire post without skimming or stopping.  Likewise, if you get off topic or ramble, your reader will lose focus and move on.

photos: Photos should entice the reader and give them a clear idea of what your post is about. They should also support your text. Remove all unnecessary images. Not only are they distracting, they can also make your page load slower. Remember that your readers will be using different devices, and some computers or devices have slower processing speeds. I’m a little guilty of this. I love GIFS, but I should cut down on using them because they might slow down my site. Some of my readers, my sister for instance, can’t view them in motion, which defeats the purpose. What you get instead is an image that loses its impact because it’s not moving.

2. Keep Your Reader’s Attention 

Sometimes readers quit reading because their just plain bored.

It could be your tone or your topic. Just because you’re writing about something that has been done, doesn’t mean you can’t write about it in a new or exciting way.

Title

This is the first place to gain or lose attention. Make sure you have an eye-catching title. You don’t have long, literally seconds, to gain your reader’s attention.

Your Title should do one of the following

  • ask a question the reader wants answered (they’ll lose sleep if they don’t know)
  • gives a sense of urgency (You need to know this)
  • appeal to them emotionally
  • pose a problem

I have several examples of this. One being last Thursday’s post titled “Are you Going to Read This?” Apparently many of you did, because my blog has never had so many views and comments in one day. So if I had to guess what it was about this post that made people check it out, I’d say it was the title.

My second example is an article my sister shared with me titled, “Ebook Publishing Gets More Difficult from Here–Here’s How to Succeed.”

Wow, what a title. It poses a problem, gives a sense of urgency, while suggesting a solution. If you’re curious about this article–and I’m sure you are–check it out here.

Introduction

Now that you’ve enticed your reader, don’t lose them with the introduction. This is where you’ll mention the topic. Make sure this is in your introduction and not buried in the body somewhere.

3. Stay Consistent 

One of my pet peeves, and I’m not the only one complaining about this, is when a blogger isn’t consistent.

Post Regularly and Predictably

Post on the same day if you can. If a certain day doesn’t work for you, at least try to churn out the same number of post each week. Don’t create long gaps between post. For instance, my sister publishes every Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. Obviously by the title of this post you know I post a tip every Tuesday. Other than that I am working on choosing another day to post. Think of television. A show airs on the same day, at the same time every week so viewers know when to tune in.

Post Quality Content

Quantity is not as important as quality. Quality is key. Don’t start posting redundant or lazy post after offering top-notch content. If anything, your post should get better over time, not worse.

Keep Content Consistent

If you blog about writing and kids, write about both. If you say you blog about writing, don’t blog about your kids. If you say you blog about parenting, don’t blog about writing.

Facebook is the platform for your vacation pictures, religious views, and family updates, not your blog. If someone is following you for great editing tips, don’t be surprised or offended if you get little response on your post about your ten-year wedding anniversary or your cake recipe.

4. Share it

Sometimes your post get ignored because no one saw it. Use your social media to promote your blog. Tweet your post. If you’re not sure if Twitter or Facebook are helping you, WordPress has a stats section that allows you to see how many people were referred to your site by various sources. I’m not sure how accurate it is, but it’s worth a try.

Where to share?

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • Giant Billboard

To wrap this up, look through your post and see how you can make them more readable. When your post doesn’t take long to read, readers will take the time to read it.

 

 

Winner Announcement!

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We have a winner!

We have a winner!

Before I announce the winner of Thursday’s contest, I want to share some good news with all of you.

My goal was to have 300 followers by February. Not only did I make my goal, I surpassed it two months earlier than anticipated. Additionally, I hit a record of 143 views, 82 likes and 62 comments. Wow!

What is my secret for achieving these amazing stats? No secret. I just have wonderful followers. That’s right, this was all because of your shares and support, which I think is really appropriate considering one of the topics of Thursday’s post was about supporting others. If you missed that post, feel free to check it out here.

17 people entered the contest, which was more than I anticipated. I enjoyed reading all of your responses to the survey. You all gave such wonderful feedback. I’d love to give you all an Amazon gift card, but that would cost $170, which is out of my budget at the moment. Don’t worry, I’m planning on having several more contest in the near future with the release of my sister’s novel, “The Quest for the Holy Something or Rather.” To learn more about her and her awesome novel, follow this link.

So without further delay, I’d like to announce the winner of the $10 Amazon gift card.

Cue the drum role! Or just smack your hands on your desk: That makes a drum-like sound.

The Winner of the survey is Allie Potts, a writer, mother, and fellow geek. She blogs about parenthood, entrepreneurship, inspiration, and writing. Check her out here.

Congratulations, Allie! And once again thank you all for visiting my blog, for sharing, and participating in the contest.

Are You Going to Read This?

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imagesM9T4SFV6Your blog is one in a million-literally, one out of a million blogs. More like one in several billion really. On average, your blog may get anywhere from several dozen to several hundred views a day. You have hundreds if not thousands of followers on WordPress and more on Facebook or Twitter. You’ve spent days perfecting your post, inserting the best images and links. You’ve re-read it until your eyes bled. You drank enough coffee to fill a one-ton truck. You click publish and wait for the top right corner of your screen to light up like the Fourth of July. Two days later, all of your efforts have awarded you 5 likes and ten views.

This is every bloggers’ nightmare come true: The overlooked, unappreciated, and possibly unread post. Why does this happen? Who is to blame?

Sometimes it happens as a result of the following:

  • poor, lazy, or redundant content
  • non relevant topic for your audience (your kids, cat (usually plural), current events, recipes, celebrity gossip, etc)
  • boring titles and images
  • vague titles and images: The title, blurb, and image should show readers what your post is about in a glimpse.
  • weak introduction: Remember readers can only see the first 50 or so words of your post in the reader. Make these count. Don’t forget the hook!
  • you didn’t use any or enough tags
  • you didn’t share it
  • you post infrequently

Let’s say you’ve done the following:

  • you had good content
  • you put the work and time into it
  • you update your blog regularly
  • you shared on social media sites
  • you are active on other blogs

Well, either the stars were not aligned correctly in the universe or the following occurred: people just didn’t read it.

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Let’s switch places. Now you are the reader. Do you read other blogger’s post?

Chances are if you blog, you have followers and those you follow.

Why did you follow them?

  • to gain followers
  • because they followed you
  • to find readers
  • to get advice
  • because you genuinely want to read what they have to say

Kudos to those of you who selected the last one..

How much time should you dedicate to others?

In a world where it’s all about me, me, me, and not we, our focus is on promoting our own stuff while ignoring what others have to say. The result is like cafeteria noise where all of our voices are just part of a loud drone. No one is listening, and no one is heard.

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah

We’ve all heard of various versions of the 80/20 rule. This can be the ratio of content dedicated to promoting our own product vs content beneficial to our readers. I think it could also apply to how much time we spend reading, responding, and promoting others.

But that’s a lot of time to dedicate to other people, you doth protest. How will that benefit me? Remember my post about the Rule of Reciprocation? If not, check it out here. To summarize, people feel obligated to help those who help them. If you want people to retweet, promote, review, or reblog your content, start by doing these things for them.

Engaging with others builds relationships. Not only that, but you gain exposure on their platforms when you leave comments or share (which is why it’s so important to watch what you say because others see it too).

So when it comes to the blogs you follow, do you hit like without reading? Skim the post? Do you read the entire thing? Do you comment? Do you share?

How to support others

  • comment to their blog, Facebook, or Twitter post
  • follow their links and check out their author websites
  • download a sample or–better yet–purchase their books
  • write a review
  • share their cover reveals, interviews, specials, promotions, etc

I’m sorry this might seem preachy or ranty, but I wouldn’t ask this of you if I didn’t do these things myself. I work 40 hours a week, write, edit, do chores, raise a child, and help my mom, but I still make the time to support other indie authors when I get the chance. In return, they help me out in various ways like sharing my tweets or answering my questions.

The truth is, I read most of the post from blogs I follow, and do you know what I’m learning? I’m noticing a lot of frustration from indie authors who feel alone or who are not getting help from friends, family, and fellow writers. Does this sound like you or someone you follow?

Let’s see how many of you skim or read to the bottom. . .

If you read this entire post, please respond to this survey in the comments below.

  1. What is one way you can support others?
  2. What is one reason readers don’t read or don’t finish reading post?
  3. What is the title of this post?
  4. What is the topic for next Tuesday’s tip? (hint, read to the bottom)
  5. Name the movie or television show from the images in this post–or both

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This may have been where a few of you stopped reading. Let’s see who really reads to the last line. For those of you who do, I think you should be rewarded. A random commenter will receive a $10 Amazon gift card. Use it to purchase some fabulous ebooks from indie authors or whatever you want. I’ll select the winner this weekend. That gives you all plenty of time to read, share, and comment. Also, stop by and visit my blog this Tuesday when my next tip will be about–you guessed it–how to get readers to read your post. Good luck to those who participate in the contest. Now go out there and read some more post!