Tuesday Tip

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You finished your first draft; now you’re done, right? WRONG. Not even close. Theoretically, you’re at the beginning yet again. After all, a great book isn’t written–it’s rewritten.

I’ve heard people say they don’t revise or rewrite. Shame on you. A good book, I mean one worth paying money for, has three things.

  • A well-constructed plot
  • Fully-developed characters
  • Smooth prose

Trust me, you can’t achieve those three things in one draft.

Writing requires imagination, creativity, and long hours of time. Rewriting requires less imagination and a whole lot more courage. It’s not for the weak or timid. You’ll be making big decisions. Most of us struggle to make small ones like what to order in drive-thru.

You have to decide if your protagonist is the best voice for your story; if entire scenes should be revised, removed, or added; whether characters be removed or added: whether or not your beginning works; or if the end provides any payoff.

These are the choices you have to make before you even decide does this sentence sound good?

What is rewriting?

There’s a big misconception about what rewriting is. It’s not perfecting a sentence here or there, or correcting typos, it’s gutting, hacking, and dismembering your first draft.

This might sound daunting. You’re playing doctor–God even! I’m talking total reconstructive surgery, not a botox injection.

Difference between revising and rewriting

Some people use the two terms interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing although you’ll probably do a combination of both.

To summarize: Revision is adding and deleting a few words or adding more character motivation or adding or removing description. Rewriting is deleting or adding whole scenes, deleting characters, or changing a POV.

For some straightforward and hilarious examples, see here.

How many rewrites?

There isn’t a certain number. It depends on the MS. My current MS is on rewrite number two. Planning helps cut down on rewrites.

So what’s the first step?

Back away from the manuscript and nobody gets hurt. It might be easier to make objective opinions once you’ve separated yourself from your writing. When you come back to it (say in a week or month or so), that glittering sentence might not shine anymore, or you might unearth some hidden gems.

Look at the big picture

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Ask yourself with an objective eye: What does my protagonist want? Is it clear?

What is the plot? The theme? The conflict?

Did you select the best character to be your protagonist?

Could some characters be cut or blended? Do multiple characters serve the same purpose?

Is your plot well structured? Do any side plots deviate from the main plot?

Be objective or find an objective eye

Looking at the big picture can be challenging when you’re nearsighted, and all authors are–we’re way too close to our WIP to see it clearly. This doesn’t mean we can’t try to be objective. I usually read through and make an often very long list of questions that arise, changes I want to make, plot holes (often gaping and cavernous), side plots or character arcs that are unfulfilled, and other areas of concern.

If you know something is wrong but can’t put your finger on it, consider enlisting help.

Step two: outline

Did you outline before you wrote? Even if you did, once isn’t enough. Rewrite your outline before you rewrite your MS.

You’re not mistaken. Not only am I telling you to rewrite your novel, I’m telling you to rewrite your outline. That’s a lot of rewriting–but the more prepared you are, the less you’ll have to rewrite. Planning can make the difference between two and ten rewrites.

I look back at my first outline and realize I either deviated from it for better or for worse, or I decided to change it. Don’t work off of an old outline. An outline can be your typical diagram or a detailed description of each scene and chapter. If you don’t know how to create an outline, check out this prior Tuesday Tip.

Example of a detailed outline:

Chapter one: Introduce main character, best trait, fatal flaw, ordinary world, goal, and conflict.

Scene one: Start with attention grabbing sentence. Main character is doing this . . . then this happens . . . and so on.

I’m shy about sharing my work but to give you an example of how much my beginning has changed since I started rewriting, this is how my WIP used to start.

Character (side character) discovers that a city has been destroyed and all the inhabitants killed after a very long inner monologue. Next scene takes place years later and introduces main character with major supporting side character.

Notes that I made before revision:

  • No clear main character
  • POV character doesn’t appear again for a couple of chapters
  • Info dump: Might be more interesting to slowly reveal the back story leading up to current events
  • Might be better to start with the destruction of the city from the POV of main character
  • Next scene is too jarring. Too much relies on understanding the characters and their relationship, culture, etc that can’t be summarized in a paragraph

Revised Outline: This is how it starts now (still in progress).

Main character is introduced. Reader is introduced to his world and culture. Exposition is interwoven throughout text instead of being dumped. Character goes to city and destroys it. Conflict is introduced with inciting incident and call to action. Character refuses the call. Character then answers the call to action.

It’s still in the works but what I like is that the main character starts the story. You see how the events that the other character stumbles upon unfold. You see how the main protagonist and main supporting character meet. You get to know him and his goals before the action starts.

What’s still needed. I still need a clearer definition of my character’s goals. I have a basic idea of what he wants, but I need to make sure his goals are strong enough to always be his driving force.

Step three: should it stay or should it go

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Get rid of the clutter and your manuscript is going to be fabulous

I love those home remodeling shows where they make the homeowner choose what to keep, toss, or sell from their clutter. I adopted a similar strategy for revising my MS. I read through from beginning to end, highlighting every word and sentence I want to keep. In a different color I highlight what I want to delete. In a third color what I want to keep for a different project. After I do this I can delete this version so I don’t end up with five or seven word files.

Try this. Chances are, even if an entire scene has to go, you might find a good snippet of dialogue or a wonderful description. If you can still use it, don’t lose it.

Step four: Rewrite or revise

If the scene is good, you may only need to revise: correct syntax, cut and add sentences, etc. But if you are making major changes, you might just want to rewrite. I usually rewrite the entire scene without looking at the old version, or else you just end up with a version that is only slightly different. Then combine the elements that you are keeping from the previous written scene.

Essentially how you rewrite or revise will depend on what kind of writer you are. Do you overwrite? underwrite? Based on that, you may need to cut scenes or write new ones to fill in the gaps. Do you go into too much description or need to add? Do your characters talk too much or not enough?

This is my method. There are others out there. Find the one that works for you. What are some methods that work for you? What are some tricks or tips that you use to make the process easier. Please share.

Favorite Fantasy Deaths

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Tuesday I told you how to kill and how not to kill your characters. For fun, let’s look at some of the fantasy genre’s best deaths. Those that made us laugh and those that made us cry.

The Lord of the Rings: Boromir

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Even though this list isn’t in a particular order, this one definitely belongs on the top of the list. Not only does the death of Boromir dissolve the fellowship, it proves the danger of the One Ring (for those of us who may have been questioning its power). Those who are tempted by it (Gollum, Isildur, Boromir, etc), ultimately meet their demise. All of that aside, who doesn’t enjoy a death scene where men hold and kiss each other. With all the pawing, kissing, and panting, this could have easily been a make-out scene if not for the arrows.

Dragonheart: Draco

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For a B movie, this death gets an A. Fans of the movie loved this movie for what it could have been if not for the poorly developed characters, bad acting, and bad writing. For what it’s worth, there’s emotional payoff at the end to make up for all that. You know the dragon is toast from the moment he performs the scientifically impossible feat of sharing half a heart with a human (so much wrong with this scenario). To kill the villain, he has to sacrifice himself. And worse, his best friend has to be the one to kill him. Heavy stuff. In the end, the sad, defeated Sr. Bowen ask his dead friend, “Where do we turn?” The response: “To the stars, Bowen. To the stars.” Best last words ever–delivered after death on top of that as Draco becomes a star constellation. Those words combined with the theme song made me sad and tricked me into thinking this was a good movie..

The Hobbit: Thorin Oakenshield

The_Hobbit_Battle_Of_The_Five_Armies2014720p_DVDScrx264Ok, for those of you who hate any deviation from the books, I think Peter Jackson improved the final words of Thorin Oakenshield. Those tear-jerking last words are not only relevant to the story, but to modern society. “If more people valued home above gold, the world would be a merrier place.” Those final words left me crying and nodding in agreement. I was also very moved by Bilbo’s reaction to his death, but I don’t think enough time was spent on that or the other dwarves’ reactions. I also think they should have included his funeral. Regardless, I will remember this death as one of the highlights of the film. Not enough emotional payoff or closure for the Bilbo/Thorin friendship arc, but good never-the-less.

The Princess Bride: Westley

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Well, this hardly counts. After all he was only mostly dead. But reading or watching this for the first time, who didn’t react like the little boy from the film. Fake deaths were sort of a specialty of Westley. After all, this wouldn’t be the first time he “died.” Buttercup loses him to pirates long before the pit of despair or the zoo (depending on the book or film. I prefer the movie). Another reason this is a great death. He’s topless. Notice he has a shirt in the next scene. So thoughtful of Inigo and Fezzik to remember to put a shirt on a dead guy before taking him to the house of Miracle Max. In all honesty, what really makes this a great death is because he doesn’t die, and why not? For love, of course. It cannot stop true love, only delay it a little while.

Braveheart: William and Murron

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This is a two for one. I really couldn’t pick between the two. The entire story is the result of the death of Murron. William spends the entire movie fighting for freedom, which includes certain freedoms that married people are supposed to have (wink, wink) that are denied by the English. You feel the love for his deceased wife in every scene, especially in the last scene. As he’s dying he clutches her childhood gift to his last breath and thinks he sees her walking toward him out of the crowd. That was a good emotional cleanse after watching a guy get tortured. Good end to what could have been an overly gory scene.

A Game of Thrones: Ned Stark

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I know Game of Thrones fans are very sensitive about spoilers, but at this point is Ned Stark’s death considered a spoiler? This happened in season one, people. Besides who was surprised. He was played by Sean Bean: most of his characters die! Who couldn’t love the honorable Ned Stark–except for maybe Jaime Lannister. He was a good father and husband . . . aside from the fact that he cheated on his wife. Not so honorable after all, are you Ned? Regardless who didn’t cry when they cut off his head, a scene that empowered Arya and Robb . . . and momentarily empowered Sansa. If she’d just pushed Joffrey off the building. Almost, Sansa.

A Game of Thrones: Viserys

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For those of you not familiar with the name, maybe this picture will refresh your memory. This is one of those great deaths because of the irony. All he wanted was a crown . . . and he got one. Need I say more.

Star Trek: Spock

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This is how great this death is. I haven’t even seen this movie yet, and I want to cry. That’s the power of this picture. That hand. That face. That noble sacrifice. I don’t even know what he died for. It’s particularly sad today considering as I was writing this post, Leonard Nimoy passed away. What a sad day for fantasy fans.

Star Wars: Qui Gon Jinn

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Like DragonHeart, this wasn’t the best movie, but Qui Gon Jinn is sort of the Draco of this film. He’s noble and good–sort of Jesus like. I think his death is the highlight of this film (considering Jar Jar didn’t die). Obi Wan dramatically shouts NOOOOOOOOO!!! and then there’s that thing Qui Gon does with his finger where he just taps Obi Wan’s face. It’s got all the elements of the Boromir death/makeout scene.

Bridge to Terabithia: Leslie Burke

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I think this one gets overlooked for several reasons. It’s not dramatic–heck it’s even off screen. The girl doesn’t get shot by a hundred arrows, beheaded, or drawn and quartered like our above heroes. She simply drowns. It’s so touching and sad because of how the characters react. I cried and cried while all the characters cried. I’ve only seen this movie once, and I’ll never watch it again. Too sad. Leslie is just a wonderful character you can’t help but like.

Share your thoughts. What is your favorite fantasy death? Which ones made you cry or laugh?

How to REALLY Sell using Social Media

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I posted a poll last Friday to get some feedback on whether or not social media sells. I want to thank all of you who took the time to answer the poll and supply comments. You’ve really helped my little study.

The Results are In

After gathering, calculating, weighing, studying, and cross-examining the data and other scientific mumbo jumbo, I’ve found the following to be possible truths.

  • Social media has and can be used to make direct sales
  • People do purchase books directly from social media
  • Based on the poll, most books were purchased because of a blog post (whether an author’s own blog, guest blog, re-blog, or author interview)
  • Most sales made via Twitter were made from re-tweets or tweets made by those other than the author
  • Goodreads and Facebook ranked lowest on the poll
  • Readers are more likely to purchase a book if they know the author
  • Readers are more likely to purchase a book if it is referred to them in some way

What I’ve Concluded from this Study:

If authors need social media, but social media does not sell, perhaps the problem is not social media, but who we are trying to sell too and how we are trying to sell. Make sense? All I’m saying is the problem doesn’t seem to be the platform, but how we are using it. There are countless articles online that suggest social media is not a tool nor can it be used to make sales. This may or may not be true. Based on the information I’ve gathered, here’s my plan to increase sales using social media.

  • Gain a good following (quality over quantity)
  • Advertise wisely
  • Use news, not ads to promote books
  • Increase “word of mouth”
  • Make connections

 Gain a Good Following

How many followers should you have?

How many followers should you have?

What’s the ideal number of followers you should have? There really isn’t a magic number. It’s about how engaged you are with what you have. There really isn’t one strategy for gaining followers. Some authors follow everyone who follows them to increase their followers. Their logic is: the more followers they have the more books they will sell.

More people=more sales, right?

What I don’t like about this plan is that the emphasis is on numbers. We should be focused on who is following us, not how many. If people follow you to gain a follower, they aren’t likely to buy your book.

Why Numbers Don’t Matter

The person with 10,000 followers may only have 1,000 followers who are interested in them and their books.

Likewise, the person with 5,000 may have 3,000.

See what I’m saying?

Before you sell, make sure you are selling to the right people.

Look at your followers. Who are they?

  • friends
  • family
  • coworkers

How many are writers?

The problem with selling to writers is that they may be too busy #amwriting and not #amreading.

Now this is just an idea. I have no real proof, but writers may not be the best followers to make sales.

  • Many identify themselves as–even brag about being–nonreaders
  • They are too busy writing
  • They write a different genre than you (If they don’t write it, they probably won’t read it)
  • They have no money (sorry, it’s true in most cases)
  • They don’t use social media to connect, but to promote (it’s all about them)
  • They use auto tweets (if they aren’t tweeting, they aren’t reading tweets)
  • Your tweets get buried in their feed because they have thousands of followers to gain a following

Does this sound like your followers? Does this sound like you?

You’ve probably heard this advice a thousand times: Target your market.

You might ask, aren’t some writers your market?

My thought is yes. Before you start unfollowing everyone who identifies themselves as a writer, my advice is that you should follow them anyway–not just for sales. I follow other authors for advice, to follow trends in my genre and market, and because frankly I love connecting with other writers.

If you want to follow other writers, here’s my advice: follow writers of the same genre. For instance, I used to follow writers of romance, suspense, mystery, YA, etc. Now I mainly follow other fantasy writers.

Not only do I enjoy learning about them and their books, I also purchase their books. My logic is that this should work in the reverse order. Since they write fantasy, they may buy my books as well. Will the mystery writer buy your book if you’re a fantasy writer? Probably not. It has nothing to do with your advertising campaign, they just aren’t your market.

How to Gain Followers in Your Market

Easier said than done. This is why I like Twitter. You can use the search field to type in hashtags and keywords to find tweets and tweeps related to the topic. For instance, my sister writes fantasy parody. Ideally these are the words she should use to find potential readers.

  • fantasy
  • parody
  • comedy
  • Monty Python
  • Gerald Morris
  • Terry Pratchett
  • Lord of the Rings
  • The Hobbit
  • Harry Potter

Why these search terms? Because people who like those things will like her book.

Try this out right now. See how many people you find.

Ok, you’ve found the illusive reader. Do not go all crocodile hunter on them. This is no time to poke and get in their faces. Don’t start messaging them to BUY YOUR BOOK. Follow them and see if they follow you back. If they do, great. If they don’t, it’s not over. Whether they follow you or not, the next step is the same. Be interactive.

  • comment,
  • like
  • share their tweets
  • thank them for following, retweeting, sharing, etc

They will appreciate the interaction and possibly follow you back and/or check out your profile where they will see information about your books. This could potentially result in sales. TA-DA!

I made this sound easy, didn’t I? It’s not. It takes time, but it takes less time if you put your best foot forward. What do I mean by that?

People will make an instant and usually permanent decision whether to follow you or not. Your profile is a landing page. You don’t want to turn them away at base one.

  • Have a flattering, professional, and updated profile picture and header image
  • Use your real name
  • Have a detailed bio that includes professional, social, and recreational info (writer, teacher, reader, nerd, music lover, coffee junkie)
  • Create real and interesting tweets
  • Include a URL to your website or blog

 

Advertise Wise

Everyone tells you that you must advertise or no one will know you wrote a book. They also tell you advertising is bad and turns readers off. I’m so over the contradictory advice. So let’s end this conundrum once and for all.

You MUST advertise, but you have to advertise WISE.

When you must advertise–and you must–make your ads stand out. No, this does not mean typing in all bold in screaming font. Be creative. Check out my sister’s ads on Twitter.

Example: The Knight’s Who say Ni no longer desire a shrubbery. That was my idea. Hope you like it.

Use photos, phrases, and key words to entice your followers. You want to catch their eye, make them read it, click the link, and buy.

Why Aren’t Your Ads Selling?

  • Too vague (sometimes I don’t know what the title is, what it’s about, or what genre its in)
  • Boring (I see hundreds of ads that look alike every hour. Get creative. Draw my attention)
  • No photos
  • Inconstant (You shouldn’t post BUY MY BOOK all day long, but you need to more than once a day)
  • You repeat the same ad over and over

 

Think News not Ads

To be honest, advertising is a lazy way to promote your book. We’re writers, we’re supposed to be creative. Think outside of ads to entice people to buy your book.

Let’s break it down. What makes someone want to read your books?

Information: Genre, plot, characters, ratings, author info.

Tweet about your books, not just where you can buy them, but why they should buy. Tell them snippets about your plot, the writing process, your characters, and upcoming projects. Think NEWS not ADS. Do you have a cover reveal? A book launch? Plans for a sequel? A really good review? A sale? These are all ways to gain exposure for your books without using direct advertising.

So in theory: Indirect ads result in direct sales.

This is one of the reasons why blogs ranked so high in the poll. Readers get to learn about the author and the book, enticing them to learn more. They also give you a sample of the author’s writing style. Tweets and Facebook post don’t give you the wordcount to really delve into detail about how awesome you and your book are.


 

Word of Mouth

 

People always tell you social media doesn’t sell, word of mouth does. Social media is in its own right word of mouth. A book review, author interview, or a tweet are just digital ways of saying “Check out this awesome author or this awesome book.”

So why is word of mouth so important. Because word of mouth is an indirect ad. Remember how I said indirect ads result in direct sales?

In comments, many of you expressed how advertisements or promotional material from the authors themselves turned you off or didn’t result in you buying the book. It’s viewed as being “pushy” or “unreliable.” Of course the author is going to tell you they wrote a great book. They won’t tell you it sucks.

If I told you to  buy my awesome fantasy novel, would you buy it?

Do you trust me?

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What if I told you to buy a book by someone else. I bet I gain credibility. I also bet they gain a sale.

People are more likely to buy a book, it seems, if someone else tells them about, so how can you get others to talk about your books?

  • Ask them too
  • Offer a copy of your book for an honest review: encourage them to share their review on multiple platforms
  • Pay it forward. Don’t actually pay. You should never have to pay for promotion like that. If you support others, they are likely to support you back. Check out my advice about reciprocation from an earlier post.
  • Share your reviews. Don’t tell your readers what you think about your book. Tell them what someone else does.

So tell me, which tweet would you trust?

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Make Connections

So many of you expressed how important it is for you to know the author. While I don’t believe you should always have to or do have to know the author to buy their book (Sometimes a good cover or blurb will do it for me), this is a great way to increase sales.

How connections increase sales:

  • They like you: They hope they will like your book
  • They like you: They will buy it to support you
  • They like you: Whether they bought it or not, they will tell others to buy your book
  • They like you: They will interview you on their blog which will increase your exposure
  • They like you: They will share your tweets, post, promotions, etc

How do you make connections?

This isn’t hard, people. Simply say, Hello. You will probably have to be the instigator. Going back to how to gain followers. You want quality connections. These will be people who get to know you, support you, follow you, and tell others about you. You have to earn connections.

  • Reply to tweets and post (likes are great but comments are better)
  • Send real instead of automated messages to them
  • Share their content
  • Start a conversation
  • Join conversations in progress

 

We’ve all heard it said. You can’t make sales using social media. You can make sales, you just haven’t discovered the secret. You can, you’re just doing something wrong. Ignore the noise.

Why trust what others say?

This is my theory. I’m not guaranteeing I’m right or that my plan will work. I’m simply forming a plan based on all of your wonderful feedback. You never know unless you try. So I’m going to put my plan into practice now during the release of my sister’s debut novel. I hope it works for her. I’ll be sure to let you know.

Thanks again for all of your comments and for sharing my post. Speaking of sharing, don’t forget to share information about your favorite authors. Studies seem to show your support helps.

5 self-publishing truths few authors talk about

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This is a great reality check for new authors and very relevant. Try not to be too discouraged as you read it. After all, it’s always better to be realistic than in denial.

Suffolk Scribblings

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One of the hardest thing to watch on social media is an author, usually a debut author, getting excited about their upcoming book launch and knowing they are about to get hit around the head with a hard dose of reality.

They’ve done the right things, built up a twitter or Facebook following, blogged about the book, sent copies out for review, told all their friends about the upcoming launch, pulled together a promo video and graphic, maybe taken out some adverts. The first few days after launch are filled with excited tweets, mentions of early positive reviews and chart rankings. Then, after a few days, maybe a few weeks, the positive tweets stop and an air of desperation sets in as the reality of life as an indie author hits home.

Part of the problem is that the authors most vocal on social media are those that have already seen self-publishing…

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Writing Recap and Resolutions

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During the first week of a new year, I tend to get a little retrospective before moving forward. So much happens, a lot changes, and there’s so much left undone–unless you’ve been avoiding life for the last 12 months in a  basement or bomb shelter, or you are a cat.

Personally I’ve changed a lot in 2014. The reflection I see in the mirror everyday is starting to deviate from my drivers license photo, which was only taken a little over a year ago. Hair makes a difference, I will say that. I started growing out my hair in 2014 and it went from a bob to past my shoulders in a year.

But physical changes don’t matter as much as personal growth or life changes. This year I ended a relationship and moved into a new house. Shortly after my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I just felt powerless, like someone who has been buried to their neck so people can throw stones at them. I’d say 2014 was the year that taught me life is not fair and bad things can happen to you. But in all fairness, it’s also the year that truly taught me how to be strong.

It’s also the year I found a balance between life and writing. I mean the scales are still tilted in favor of life, but I’ve come to terms with that.

I really feel like I rang in the New Year right because I spent it with people I love doing what I love: writing. I re-re-re-wrote the beginning of my current fantasy novel. I’ve been working on it for roughly a year or two now, and though it is a long way from being done, it has come a long way.

I Changed the Beginning

This time last year, the beginning of my book was a giant info dump. Although it established the conflict, it had way too much information for a reader to digest in one chapter, which was told by a secondary character no less.

My novel now begins with the main character and introduces him, his goals, his fatal flaw, and the conflict. I’m still not completely satisfied with the beginning. I don’t know exactly how it should start. I’m sure I’ll rewrite it a few more times, but it’s come a long way, and that’s what I remind myself when I feel down about it.

I Removed a Main Character

For those of you who read my Tuesday Tips, I take my own advice. Remember how many times I’ve encouraged you to remove or change characters who don’t function with your plot? I ran into a character like that. Her name was Elewyn. When I planned my story, I thought she’d be helpful to the plot, but in the long run, she was just extra noise. The only downfall is now I have a lot of rewriting to do.

I Finished the First Draft for Book 2

I only wish I could say the same for book one. I really wanted to release the first book in 2015, but I may have to wait until 2016. My goal was to have the first draft of book one, book two, and the prequel finished before publishing book one (that way if I make any major plot changes in any of the books I still can go back and make changes in the previous ones). With book two already drafted, half of the prequel drafted, and book one off to a good start, I may still be able to get something out this fall.

I Came Out of the Closet

This year I not only started calling myself a writer, I also discussed my current project with someone other than my sister. Telling my coworker that I wrote fantasy was like pulling teeth, but telling all of my followers on WordPress and Twitter about my novel was a walk in the park. In prior post, I barely teased my WIP until my sister invited me to participate in her blog tour. Not only did I have to discuss my novel’s plot, but I had to describe characters and scenes. Before I was always too uncomfortable to talk about my WIP in great detail. Now I know it’s not that scary.

Writing Resolutions for 2015

Now that I’ve recapped my WIP’s progress in 2014, what is in store for 2015. Again, I’m pretty sure publishing is out of the question, but this is the year I’d like to share my writing with readers and get feedback. I’d also like to have it fully edited and formatted so it’s ready to go at the end of this year or beginning of next.

I’m really looking forward to sharing more about my novels in the new year. Thank you all for reading and sharing in 2014.

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

How-to-be-on-the-walking-dead

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.

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.

Celebrating 100 Post with My 100 Favorite Blogs

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imagesThis being my 100th blog post, I wanted to write something special to celebrate. I was going to post a list of the 100 most popular Fantasy books of all time since I’m a fantasy writer–scratch that. Next, I considered making a list of the 100 things I love the most about being a writer, but I have a hate/love relationship with writing, so to be honest, I actually struggled to come up with 100 things–that I like. Still determined to do something in a list format, I thought to myself, why not make a list of my 100 favorite blogs.

Below is a list of my favorite blogs in no particular order. I could have ranked them from favorite to least favorite and so forth, but that would be difficult and time consuming–not to mention hurtful. If you are not on the list, I apologize. I still like you. I would love to list all 200+ blogs I follow, but 100 is the number of post I’ve written, and the number of post I’ve written is 100. 100 shall I list. 200 is right out.

Whether you are listed or not, please check out these blogs because they are amazing–and it took me a hundred years to insert all of these links . . . one by one. I’m pretty sure it took me longer to create this list of 100 blogs than it did for me to write 100 blog post. Once you’ve checked out some of my favorite blogs, feel free to comment below to share some of your favorite blogs. It’s that time of year where we should share and care, so support your fellow bloggers and give them a shout out.

  1. Book Chat
  2. One Writer’s Journey By Chris Owens
  3. 2HelfpulGuys
  4. Susan Finlay Writes
  5. Random Ramblings
  6. The Rolling Writer
  7. Books & Such
  8. Mandy’s space to space
  9. Charles French Words Reading and Writing
  10. MT McGuire Authorholic
  11. Your Writing Lady
  12. Archer’s Aim
  13. Author Mysti Parker
  14. Bluchickenninja
  15. Storyshucker
  16. No Wasted Ink
  17. Authors Interviews
  18. Princess of Light: Shining the Light for All
  19. Suffolk Scribblings
  20. Blot the Skrip and Jar It
  21. Kristen Lamb’s Blog
  22. Ana is the Bookworm
  23. Sarah J Carlson, Author
  24. Deborah Kelly
  25. Shannon A. Thompson
  26. Nail Your Novel
  27. Rather Than Writing
  28. Nicholas C Rossis
  29. Story Medic
  30. Inside My Worlds
  31. Just English
  32. Carol Balawyder
  33. Writing Is Hard Work
  34. SloopJonB
  35. A Writer’s Path
  36. The Owl Lady Blog
  37. Therefore I Geek
  38. Storytime with John
  39. Ingrid’s Notes
  40. The Writer’s Cafe 247
  41. Confessions of  Geek Queen
  42. Knite Writes
  43. Tara Sparling Writes
  44. A Tolkienist’s Perspective
  45. Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog
  46. Bare Knuckle Writer
  47. Chris McMullen
  48. Strange Writer
  49. CommuniCate Resources for Writers
  50. Write Lara Write
  51. Lit Chic
  52. Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams
  53. Ellen Brock
  54. The Nerdy Book Club
  55. Fiction All Day
  56. MJ Wright
  57. Poor Writers
  58. Inkspelled Faery
  59. Writing with Michelle
  60. Elaine Jeremiah
  61. Legends of Windemere
  62. Avid Reader
  63. Rachel Carrera, Novelist
  64. The Letter Vy
  65. Cindy Fazzi
  66. Geeky Book Snob
  67. WordDreams
  68. Words Read and Written
  69. Tricia Drammeh
  70. There and Draft Again
  71. Michelle Joyce Bond
  72. Turning My Dream Into A Book
  73. Sweating to Mordor
  74. Committed and Caffeinated
  75. My Literary Quest
  76. 101 Books
  77. Eli Glasman
  78. Jean’s Writing
  79. Random Ramblings
  80. Interesting Literature
  81. Live to Write–Write to Live
  82. The Bewildered 20-Something Writer
  83. The Write Transition
  84. Staci Reafsnyder
  85. Blood & Ink
  86. A Writer & Her Adolescent Muse
  87. The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh!
  88. Shirley McLain
  89. I Can’t Possibly Be Wrong All the Time
  90. Anibundel: Pop Culturess
  91. My Little Book Blog
  92. Carly Watters, Literary Agent
  93. Writers In the Storm
  94. Jaimie M. Engle
  95. Just One More Edit
  96. Daily (w)rite
  97. The Editor’s Desk
  98. Tipsy Lit
  99. The Girl Who Reads Books
  100. Kev’s Blog