Back to the Beginning

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What’s worse than starting at the beginning? Starting all over again.

Beginnings are hard, usually because they start at the ending of something else.

This year marks the beginning of my 30’s and the end of my 20’s. My original goal was to publish a book by the time I turned 30, but alas, I am only starting–or rather starting over yet again.

How could I not finish a book in a decade? Well, I did, actually. I completed a draft for book one and two. I spent hours outlining, researching, writing, re-writing, falling in and filling in plotholes.

So why is there not a completed MS?

I believe your twenties are for discovery and learning.

What I discovered: There were a lot of plot holes in my writing.

What I learned: This story was good but it could be better. I also discovered that my major supporting character should really be my main character. That changes everything.

So after starting all over on the outline, yet again, I finally began the first chapter for hopefully the last time.

So I didn’t accomplish my original goal. I thought I’d be finished by now, not starting over. I didn’t publish, but I did accomplish something. With diligent research and outlining and planning, I think I will be able to write the best book I possibly can by the time I’m 40.

 

Are You Going to Read Go Set A Watchman?

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Harper Lee is no longer a one-hit wonder. Fifty years after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, the long-anticipated sequel Go Set a Watchman is available in bookstores.

Was the fifty-year wait worth it? So far, the book has received mixed feelings from critics and readers alike.

The sequel has been labeled a poor stand-alone, that it would not have even been published if not for TKAM. On the flipside, it’s also been  praised for being more ambitious.

I’m not in a hurry to read it, but I want to know your thoughts. Please take the poll or comment below. Let me know what you think.

Ask An Author

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The first Friday this month happens to fall on the first. It just so happens to also be time for another Ask the Author, the feature that puts the author in authoritative.


phpXT7GODPMMay’s featured author is none other than Charles E. Yallowitz, author of the Legends of Windemere. He also happens to be one of the first authors I followed when I started my blog back in 2013.

Back then he had two books published in his fantasy series. Now he’s up to number seven in just over two years! He makes it seem easy, doesn’t he, but planning and writing a series is hard work. Have no fear, because Charles has plenty of advice about planning, writing, and marketing a series whether your series consist of three or twenty books.


Creating and Marketing a Series

may5The Legends of Windemere series is a fantasy adventure that currently has 7 books out and is planned for 15 overall. I believe this is where people groan or run away because long series seem to scare many readers and writers. Well, they are a big challenge and I’m here to give some advice on how to create and market a long series.  (Note: All advice is personal opinion and can be discarded as the ravings of a madman that needs to get out more.)

Planning a Series

First, I’m going to talk a little about planning. I use a lot of notes and outlines to keep my series going smoothly. For Legends of Windemere, I’ve had all 15 books outlined since I finished writing the third one. This helps me create foreshadowing and get a sense of where I want the long term storylines to go. A full outline isn’t even necessary if you want to dive into the writing immediately. Maybe you only need a page of notes about what you want to happen later on or a few future events that you’re heading for. To be honest, mine tend to get changed as I go and I have to rewrite the next outline after every book I write. Still the meat of the story is there and that’s what I use to help me guide my characters to their various destinations. The truth is that every author has his or her own system of organization. Detailed outlines and character bios work for me, but there are those who create great stories out of a trio of Post-It notes.

One of the biggest challenges for a series author is continuity. You need to make sure the rules and details remain the same throughout the adventure. This is where character bios and outlines can come in handy. Even if you don’t do a full outline, future installments can be helped by jotting down important information as you move along. Take a little time to review what you wrote every night and list whatever you think you won’t remember. For example, I kept forgetting character eye colors early on and one of my heroes abruptly changed from green to blue for some reason. I had to keep a note by my laptop for a few chapters to make sure I remembered. Eventually, it locked in and then I did the genius maneuver of having something change his eye color to brown. Worked for the story, but it was one of the spontaneous decisions that caused a few stumbles in the next book. A common question in regards to planning a series is the following:

How Long Should Your Series Be?

The answer is as long as it has to be. You might be scared of readers dropping out before the end, but that happens with trilogies too. Yes, the longer the series, the higher the chance of a reader walking away. So the author has to decide if they’re writing to tell the story they want to tell or the story that they think will sell better. These are not always the same thing. I can only speak from my personal experience and I will say that I couldn’t do Legends of Windemere in less than 15 books. It used to be 12 and then I realized that there were characters whose stories weren’t being told. I write using an ensemble cast, which means I want each hero and villain to get a story to shine in. Many of them can do this within the original stories, but I had those that needed something more to evolve. Do I regret doing a series this long, which nets me a few complaints? No. I’m happy with the adventures I’m telling and that should be one of the author’s main goals. If you’re enjoying what you write then it will come through your words and draw in the reader.

Marketing a Series

A brief mention of marketing since this is an area that many authors are concerned with. I’ve found that later books in a lengthy series will not have the same impact as the earlier ones. Not unless you have a massive support system and fan following. The reason for this is because you have people going in and out of the series all the time. A person drops out after Book 3 while another picks up Book 1, but you only see how there are fewer sales for Book 4. It took me some time to realize this and then I aimed more for continuous sales across the board instead of major sales of the most recent. So I do the big marketing things on either most recent book or the first one, Beginning of a Hero. I try to do a little for the middle books too, but you’re going to see a wide variety of sale numbers in there. It’s the nature of the series beast and all you can do is keep pushing on.

Tweets, blogging, guest posts, interviews, various chat platforms, and helping to promote other authors are where you will find most of your marketing power. (Note on that last one: Reciprocation is a great thing. I’m a big believer of helping those who help me.)

All of what I said might seem like an overview and oddly brief considering a big series is a major undertaking. Well, you would be right because all another author needs in terms of advice here are the basics. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that every author, actually artist, has his or her own methods. My series is long because I focus a lot on character development, but it would be shorter if I was more concerned with the main plot. That’s just my way and it took quite a few years for me to realize that along with my specific style. So I give advice and add that this is my personal experience.

Now, is writing a long series a thing for everyone? No because it’s a lot of work and dedication with a high risk of writing yourself into a corner. Still I say follow the story and your gut. If it says a 10 book series then go along with it until you finish or find that it might work better as 5. You can always rewrite the outline.


51WkCW8ZDoL__UY250_To connect with Charles and to learn more about the world of Windemere, check out his author website and blog.

You can also follow him on Twitter or Facebook

Check out his Amazon author page here to purchase his current novels as well as learn about future projects.

Don’t forget to be on the lookout for the next book in the series.

So, Real World, We Meet Again

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I live in the real world: escape to imaginary ones–or at least that’s what it says on my twitter profile anyway. Recently I’ve spent more time in the real world than my imaginary one, which feels like being far from home. One world is filled with magic, suspense, romance, epicness, and awesomeness. The other . . . 40-hour work weeks, bills, lawyers, and other fun adult stuff. Guess which one I live in . . .

Due to the demands of the real world, I’ve either been too busy or too tired, or often a little of both to write. After working all day, running errands, paying bills, and dealing with lawyers, let’s just say I’m not in the mood to write–I could, however, go for a nap. And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing with my free time which used to be writing time.

Life is hard, but you don’t have to adult hard. For the record, I’m not telling you to de-evolve into a state of pre-adolescence. I do not condone shirking duties, skipping work, or neglecting pets and children. Functioning in the real world is about finding things that help you cope with your problems, not finding ways to avoid them.

Writing is one way I escape from life, but since I’m not doing much of that, these are the ways I’ve been coping.

Adult like a Child

To clarify, there is a difference between being immature and childlike. I can watch cartoons while eating marshmallow cereal all I want as long as I complete my adult duties. I like to think I’m childlike because I’m positive, enjoy simple pleasures, and because I like things that are considered a little out of my age level. But I am unquestionably an adult. To be frank, I get shit done, but I make it as painless as possible.

  • I write grocery and to-do list on Frozen and Dr. Suess stationary with a pen shaped like a squirrel.
  • I store my documents for my lawyer in a folder with a picture of Tinker Bell and Periwinkle.
  • I have reusable grocery bags with Disney characters on them
  • I keep an owl stress ball that lights up at my desk
  • I mail bills with fun stamps and return address labels with flamingos on them.
  • I write “Lannisters always pay their debts” on all of my checks and money orders.
  • When I leave the office I leave a note on my desktop that says “I’m Going on an Adventure!”

Those are just some of the ways I take the edge off of doing adult task.

The Wonderful World of Disney

03bIf I can’t escape to the worlds I created, I’m going to escape to the wonderful world of Disney. Lately I’ve been watching a lot of Disney movies. I grew up with these movies, but I never grew out of them.

Even if I didn’t have a six-year old son, I’d still go to the theaters with my sister to watch the latest movie. It’s not that I don’t like movies made for adults, I just don’t have the focus or energy to enjoy them or their real-world themes.

I don’t know if it’s the music or the colors, but I don’t think about my worries while I’m watching Disney movies. Not that animated characters don’t have their problems, but it’s pretty bad when you’re watching a movie and you’d trade your own problems for theirs. Save China, unite two nations, become king, free a genie, that’s nothing. Try getting my ex to pay child support.

Power Nap

catI’ve always thought the term power nap was an oxymoron. There is nothing powerful about napping. You just lay there like road kill or a potato. I’m not gonna lie, right now I need about two to three naps a day. I can’t say that I feel more rested, but I do feel less stressed, especially since I don’t nap alone. It doesn’t matter when or how often I sleep, this cat always sleeps with me, beside me, on me, under the covers, on my pillow, but always with me like a stuffed animal or a possessive boyfriend.

Music, Music, Music

frozen-meme13-1I love music. I find singing and listening to music in general to be very therapeutic. In my office, while I’m marketing, during the drive to and from work, and while I’m writing, I listen to music. My favorite music source is Pandora. My favorite stations right now are my Irish music stations, my Ellie Goulding station, and not one, but two Disney stations. Yes, I’m a little obsessed with Disney if you haven’t gathered.

Singing is stress relieving, and it’s ten times more fun when you’re belting out “Let it Go” or “I’ll make a man out of you.” Since I grew up watching these movies, I know the words by heart. It’s super nostalgic to sing “Colors of the Wind” remembering when I used to sing it while running barefoot in my back yard. Life was simpler then.

Speaking of Letting it Go . . .

Part of being an adult is making your own choices and forming your own identity. I use to worry about being judged, and so I hid a lot about what made me well, me. Elsa-image-elsa-36809047-160-200

  • Don’t tell people you like Tolkien and fantasy. They’ll think you’re a nerd.
  • Don’t tell people you write. They’ll think you’re weird.
  • Don’t buy that Frozen merchandise. It’s for kids.
  • Don’t decorate your bathroom in owls. It’s not sophisticated.
  • Don’t put toys on your workstation. It’s not professional.

Now I don’t care what others think. I don’t have time for that. I’m 28 years old, and I have a lego Legolas at my work desk, tons of Frozen stuff (I have Frozen fever), I eat Disney princess gummies and children’s cereal, and watch cartoons. I’m not immature. On the contrary, I’m a very responsible adult. I take care of my son and help out my mom, I pay all of my bills on time, and I work hard at my job. So if I come home and snuggle with a cat on a bed that has owl pillows, that’s my prerogative.

I think we all hit this point from time to time, where our real life demands as much if not more from us than our writing. I’ve got a lot to get done before I can give my full attention to writing. Of course, I’m dreading starting again after a lapse; however, I will get back in the saddle–or for those of you who have never fallen off a horse–back on the bike. I guess my advice is don’t lose connection with the real world, but likewise, don’t lose connection with the ones you create.

And speaking of losing connection, I don’t want to lose contact with my wonderful followers. Tell me, how do you cope with the real world?

Ask An Author

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If you have a question about writing, the right person to ask is another writer. It’s March already, which means it’s time for Ask an Author: the guest feature that puts the author in authoritative.


54d25dc9b6577.image March’s featured author is Kylie Betzner, author of comedic fantasy, reader, blogger, coffee lover, and my very own twin sister. For the record, I’m not featuring her because she’s family. I like to consider myself more objective than that. My sister and I give each other advice on everything: hair, clothes, dating, etc. It just so happens, she also has a lot of advice about writing, mainly how to work on multiple projects simultaneously. If I were to consult anyone on this subject, it would be her. While she worked on her debut novel, “The Quest for the Holy Something or Other.” she was also drafting books one, two, and three of her upcoming fantasy parody (tentative release in 2015). I like to think of balancing writing projects as cooking food on multiple burners, but she has her own spin. Enjoy!


The Book Factory: How to Manage Multiple Writing Projects

huge_7_36918Writers often have more than one writing project going on at once, whether we plan to or not. It can’t be helped. Our busy minds are constantly churning out new ideas and finding inspiration just about anywhere. And sometimes we just can’t wait to finish one project before tinkering with the next. I know I’m guilty of it. I’m sure you are as well. I’m not here to tell you to stop. I’m here to give you some advice on how to successfully manage multiple writing projects.

Now before we start, I just want to make one thing clear: I am not an expert; I’m a published author. I’m only sharing with you a system that works for me and some advice to make it your own. Take or leave what you will. Keep in mind the purpose of Ask and Author is for authors to share their best practices with their fellow writers. And because juggling multiple projects is something I do well, my sister requested for me to speak on this subject.

So what makes me such a successful juggler? For starters, I’ve got this great metaphor that really helps me keep things in perspective. I refer to it as “the book factory.” I know what you’re thinking: that’s a cold comparison. But the end goal is the same—to put out a product that is suitable for public consumption. And in the same way that a product—say an automobile—is manufactured on the production line through a series of sequential operations, a novel undergoes the various stages of the writing process: planning, drafting, editing, and publishing. To keep all of my projects moving forward, I try to put one project on the belt at a time and let it reach the next stage before I start the next, and so on and so forth until I have a never-ending line of projects in the works.

The key is balance, and for me it’s keeping all projects at various stages. Think about it. You wouldn’t want to have two or three projects in the editing stages; your editors would kill you! And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how exhausting it is to draft more than one novel at the same time. What’s worked best for me is having one project in each stage. While I’m drafting one novel, I’m editing another, all while simultaneously planning the next. This keeps things moving forward, so when I finish the edits on one book and begin the publishing process, I’ve already got a finished draft ready to be edited and a new one to start.

Are you overwhelmed yet? Don’t worry, that’s normal when tackling multiple projects. Here’s some advice to make juggling multiple projects more doable:

Allot a Specific Block of Time for Each Project Every Day

For those of us with short attention spans or limited free time, this method works well. For example, I drive approximately one hour to and from work each day. I might allot this time to brainstorming my upcoming projects. I have a half hour lunch each day during which I could dedicate to drafting a scene from my work in progress. This would leave me several hours in the evening to complete edits on my most advanced project.

My suggestion if you choose to try this method: schedule the time slots according to your energy level. I am most alert in the evenings after a quick power nap. That’s why I tackle the most difficult tasks then. If you’re a morning person consider drafting or editing after breakfast.

You might also schedule at least an hour for each task but no more than two or three. It’s not about spending a lot of time on a task but making use of the time you have.

Schedule Each Project for a Different Day of the Week

 Instead of trying to tackle multiple projects every day try spreading them out throughout the week. For example, I have three projects going on right now: one in the editing phase, one in the drafting phase, and one in the planning phase. And might I add I have a published work that needs some attention in regards to marketing. You have to factor that in, too. So here’s an example of how my week might work: Monday and Wednesday I might devote some time to marketing my published work. Tuesday and Thursday I might work on drafting my novel. Saturdays and Sundays might be good editing days, while Fridays, being lazy days, might be ideal for brainstorming new ideas.

My suggestion would be to keep a calendar, whether on hand or electronically. Myself, I keep a Google calendar.

Work on One Project at a Time for a Fixed Number of Days

 For those of us who would prefer to focus on one project at a time, there’s an option. Choose your most pressing project to work on first and dedicate a certain number of days to work on it. Maybe one week, two weeks, an entire month, whatever works best for you and then spend a certain number of hours each day focusing solely on that project—no tinkering in other projects. Then, when that time is up move on to the next project. You don’t have to give each project the same amount of days. Planning a new project might only take a week while drafting and editing might require at least two. Don’t expect to finish each project during that time. And remember, you’re not giving up on it, you’re only setting it aside.

Whatever method you choose, make sure you stick to it. Falling behind on one or more projects is a good way to back up your line and ensure that none of your projects get done. And there’s no shame in reducing your work load if you discover it’s too much. One of the keys to successfully managing multiple projects is to be realistic about how many projects you can handle.


 

untitledFor more advice from my sister, or to learn more about her recent and upcoming projects, please visit her blog here.

or follow her on Twitter @kbbetzner

You can find her debut novel on Amazon. Also, don’t forget to stay tuned for news on her upcoming projects.

Join me again in April for another awesome author!


 

Ask an Author Call Out

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Attention all writers,

Are you interested in sharing your writing wisdom with others?

Would you like free promotion for your books?

If you haven’t already, check out Ask an Author, the monthly guest feature that puts the author in authoritative.

Jan

Feb

March’s featured author will be Kylie Betzner, author of “The Quest for the Holy Something or Other.”

I still have many openings for the rest of the year, and I’d love to feature you.

What is Ask an Author, and Who can be Featured?

I am looking for published authors (Indie or traditional) who are interested in being interviewed. Ask an Author is sort of like an author interview, only instead of a list of questions, you only answer one, which will be tailored to your particular strengths or interest as a writer.

What will the Feature Include

  • a brief bio
  • the question
  • photos and/or videos
  • links to author websites, social media platforms, Amazon and other sites where your book can be purchased, etc.

How to be Featured

  • email me at tbetzner@outlook.com
  • include your name, genre you write, titles of books you’ve written, a brief bio, and links to your blog, social media platforms, author site, and where your books can be purchased.

I will try to get back with you within 24 hours. From there, we’ll communicate via email unless you have a preferred means. Once I have all the information I need, I’ll let you know what month you will be featured.

Tuesday Tip

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tip#1

Its vary important to spell write.

See what I did there?

I bet you can tell what today’s tip is about just from that example. You might think spell check has you covered, but it’s not full proof. Word processors can miss–even introduce–errors.

Identifying Airers Errors

The best way to identify spelling errors is the standard read-aloud method. That’s right, nothing fancy. Just read your manuscript very slowly and  highlight every word you aren’t sure of. It also helps to read backwards. Why? Because when you read, your brain will auto correct many errors. But if you read backwards, the sentence loses meaning, allowing you to notice mistakes.

Share your writing with others. If you’re afraid of the shame and humiliation that comes with sharing your writing, imagine how much more humiliating it will be when readers, not beta readers, find errors after purchasing your book. If you think they’ll be understanding, read some reviews where readers have caught misspelled words. A simple human error can be jarring to a reader, causing them to question you as a writer or even leave a scathing review.

If you think I’m being dramatic, go check out some reviews. Some reviewers even list the page numbers where they found the mistakes. That’s just pretentious if you ask me.

Like spell check, people can introduce errors into your work as well. So why let others read it? It’s not that other people are necessarily better spellers than you. However, they aren’t as close to the work and therefore won’t be as likely to correct words in their heads. Trust me, they will do a better job than your handy-dandy spell check.

Online Spell Checkers

There are a lot of free spell checkers online. I’d include some links, but all you have to do is perform a Google search. Some of these even check for grammar.

Though not free, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Grammarly. Not only does it check for spelling errors, but it checks for plagiarism as well. To be honest, if you’re going to spend the money for an online grammar checker, you might as well hire an editor.

Spelling Names

Another reason not to rely solely on spell check: spell check will assume every name in your book is a misspelled word. If you write fantasy, you know what I’m talking about. Here are a list of names my spell checker flags: Bronwyn, Ashby, Gailodyn, Thaolas, and Thanduryn. Instead of clicking ignore over and over again while running spell check, add your names to your spell checker dictionary.

Before you do that you need to make sure you choose one spelling to adhere to. My sister is bad about this. She’ll dabble with the spelling of a name, changing it midway through her rough draft. Once you choose a name, you can use the search replace feature to correct the spelling.

Create a Style Guide

The easiest way to keep names straight is to keep a list. When I was a copy editor, I recorded every name that appeared in the story in an alphabetized list. Whenever the name appeared again, I checked it against the list to make sure it was spelled the same. If not, I asked the author which spelling they preferred.

Commonly Confused Words

Some spelling problems you’ll encounter in your WIP aren’t so much misspelled as misused. Has your character ever walked threw something he should have walked through or spoken allowd when he should have spoken aloud? Below are some commonly confused words.

  • accept/except
  • aloud/allowed
  • affect/effect
  • allusion/illusion
  • all ready/already
  • altogether/all together
  • capital/capitol
  • cite/sight/site
  • elicit/illicit
  • complement/compliment
  • lose/loose
  • past/passed
  • principal/principle
  • council/counsel
  • then/than
  • they’re/there/their
  • to/too/two
  • through/thorough/threw

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and happy editing.