Too busy to blog?

Once upon a time… That is how many fairy tales begin. But my saga is not a fairy tale but rather the tale of someone who is way too busy. So let’s begin again.

Once upon a time there was an author who had a blog. Ambitiously, she vowed to post on the blog 5 days a week. But after a few months that became too much of a challenge, so she went down to 4 times a week. And for the next six or so years, she kept up with that.

Then her usual places to search for authors to feature on her blog dried up. It became too much work to keep seeking out authors. After hosting over 300 authors, she let slide her Friday Featured Author. (If you are an author and want to be featured, let me know.)

As her other obligations – bookkeeping for her husband’s law firm, volunteering for the parent-teacher association and general housekeeping/childrearing – grew, her time for blogging and writing diminished. But she still found time to post three times a week on her blog. Her aim was to do a month’s worth of blogging at a time but some how she got off that schedule.

Then it became a weekend project. “Do I have my posts for this coming week done?” she will ask herself. Nope. And she would pull out her laptop and rattle off 500+ words on a parenting topic and then another 500+ words on a writing/marketing/publishing topic. Sometimes on a very busy weekend, she would only worry about her Monday parenting topic knowing that she could write her other post later in the week.

This was all working out well until…an exceptionally busy week came about. There were PTA meetings to plan the annual spring festival, decorating days for the upcoming Valentine’s Day party that would be celebrated Friday, February 8th due to the wacky school schedule, a PTA meeting to run, books to count for the book drive at the middle school, a homeowners association meeting to attend, grocery shopping because our pantry was bare and financial reports that had to be run for the law firm.

Yeah, to say it is a busy week would be an understatement. And here it is only the middle of the week with more Valentine’s Day decorating and the actual party and a Founder’s Day dinner where she will be honored with a Texas Honorary Life Member for all her volunteering at the Elementary school.

So, back to our story, our protagonist is overwhelmed and still she has nothing written for her Thursday blog. Sure, she could try to rattle off something quickly about writing or continue her series on Writing/Publishing a novel, but it is late. She just returned from the HOA meeting and is tired. But she doesn’t want to drop any more days of posting on her blog and wants to keep up her streak of posting every Thursday since the blog began.

She pulls out her laptop, sits on the bed with her kitty beside her and types out her story with the hope that next week will be better, that she will have time to write a helpful article rather than an example of how not to be a writer. A great volunteer maybe but definitely not the desired lifestyle of an author in the midst of writing her sixth book. And while she can hope for those better, less busy days, she certainly isn’t holding her breath.

Super Easy, Barely an Inconvenience

Six years ago, I wrote about the question why and how it can improve your storytelling. As in why are your characters doing this? Why are they going here? Why would he do/say/think that? (You can read that post here.)

These are routine questions that my husband asks as he reads drafts of my novel. And while his questions are sometimes annoying, they do make my story better. And they have changed how I write because as I write, I am already looking for what scenes he is going to question.

Another way to get good at questioning the character motivation/action or plot of your work-in-progress is to check out the Pitch Meetings on the Screen Rant YouTube Channel. In this series by Ryan George, a pitchman (Ryan) presents movies to a studio executive (also played by Ryan). The movies may be current or slightly older, but either way studio exec Ryan questions and points out flaws.

When asked to explain a flaw, our pitchman sometimes answers “I don’t know,” “because,” or “because they are (or aren’t) the main character.” And sometimes a plot flaw is brushed away because it is “super easy, barely an inconvenience.”

Check out this section of the “Jurassic World Pitch Meeting.”

This “super easy, barely an inconvenience” thing happens a lot. I was watching Criminal Minds the other day. The agents opened a closet to reveal a bunch of boxes containing old records. They needed to find an old patient who may be the unsub (bad guy). Did it take them long? No, it was super easy, barely an inconvenience as they opened one box and found the file right away. I know TV shows are under a time constraint but it wouldn’t have been hard or time consuming to show their search taking longer.

Here are two other short clips that show a movie’s flaw. The first is from Captain America: Winter Soldier.

If you really want a good Pitch Meeting with lots of flaws. Check out the one for Ready Player One. (The book was better than the movie and didn’t contain a lot of the flaw that the movie did.) Here is just a snippet of the Pitch Meeting.

So, don’t take the easy way out. Give your characters challenges. And make them work for their goal. Question everything they do because your readers sure will. Rarely do people do something without a reason. And yes, that reason may only make sense to them but at least there needs to be a reason beyond it is what you (the author) want for the story. Always, look for the flaws in your story and answer the question “why” and you will add realism and believability of your story.

6 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

It is a New Year. It is the time that many people make resolutions to improve their lives. I thought this might be a good time to list some resolutions that might appeal to writers.

1.) Start (or Finish) your novel – Have you been kicking around the idea for a novel? Or maybe you have already begun one but haven’t finished it up. This is the year to get motivated and start writing. (For tips on starting a novel, click here. And for tips on dealing with writer’s block, click here.)

2.) Stay on task – Do e-mails and Facebook distract you from working? Or maybe you get caught up in marketing your books? Can you find any reason to procrastinate? Make this the year that you learn to stay on task. Make your resolution specific. Don’t just say you will “procrastinate less.” Resolve to set a timer for 20 minutes and work until the timer stops. Or vow to write for an hour BEFORE you do any marketing or checking of email.

3.) Find time to write – Maybe distractions such as Facebook and e-mail aren’t your problem. Perhaps it is the fact that you are working a full-time job, raising a family, doing charity work, volunteering at your kids’ school, taking care of your elderly parents or a host of other responsibilities we all take on as adults. It often becomes hard to find time to dedicate to writing, but most of us can easily carve out 30 minutes to an hour for writing. Get up earlier or dedicate the time after the kids are in bed for writing. Even a few minutes here and there can add up.

4.) Set a realistic writing goal – To help you stay on task or find time to write, you may want to set a writing goal. You might set an amount of time you want to write or set a number of words to write per day or week. Check out how to set realistic writing goals and stick with them!

5.) Become a better writer – You are never too old to learn something new. Even if you have several published books under your belt, there is always something new you can learn. Take the time to read a blog or a book on writing. Heck, just take the time to READ! The more you read, the more different styles and genres you read, the better your own writing will be. You can set a reading goal.

6.) Increase your marketing – Sometimes promoting your novel (and yourself) is hard. You would rather be writing…or even editing than figuring out how to market your book. Now is the time to plan your Facebook page, blog or web page or to set up a marketing campaign. Again, be specific. You want to post twice a week, send out 10 tweets or appear on 4 blogs a month or whatever you think will help your marketing plan.

So, whatever your writing resolutions or goals, just make them simple and realistic. And most importantly, write them down and keep them posted above your computer so you follow through! Happy New Year everyone, and may 2019 be an awesome year for you and your writing!

Top 10 Writing/Publishing Posts of 2018

Since this is the beginning of the year, I thought I would recap some of my better publishing, marketing and writing posts from 2018.

Writing

Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

Every story must end. At some point after your story’s climax, your characters will return to their regular lives. Before that there may be some fallout from the climax as the consequences of your character’s choices are played out.

But knowing exactly where to stop your story and what you want the last words to be are not always easy. Here are some tips to ending your novel. (To read more, click here.)

Avoiding Plot and Character Cliches

A cliché is anything that is overdone and overused. Clichés pop up all the time in movies and books. When you look at the list of cliched plots and characters, you may wonder if it is even possible to come up with something new, something original. Rest assured; It may not be easy, but it can be done.  (For more on cliches, click here.)

Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

As you work on tightening your writing, you need to remove unnecessary word and delete or change words that you might use too often. Often you don’t even realize you are using these words. (To learn more about unnecessary words, click here.)

Your Second Draft and Beyond

Now every author approaches their second draft different. For me, this is a time to check the consistency and where I can amend the story either by trimming it, fleshing it out or developing subplots.

To do this, I cannot stop on every page to fix and worry over every word. That will come later. To begin, I need to read through the first draft without stopping to correct every flaw. Yes, I may add a missing word or fix a spelling error, but I try not to get into re-writing at this stage. I want to read it straight through first. (To read more, click here.)

Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

Image result for proofreader

In the process of editing your novel, you may want to turn it others to help you polish your story. Today I am going to discuss beta readers, proofreaders, and copy editors. (To find out more, keep reading by clicking here.)

Publishing/Marketing 

Investing in an eye-catching book cover

The cover of your book is probably one of the most important decisions you will make. It doesn’t matter if you have a great story if no one is willing to pick up the book or in the case of e-books, click on the image. The cover is the first thing your readers see and is where they decide if your book is worth their time to even read the book description. (To read more, click here.)

Writing an awesome book blurb

A good book blurb is an essential element in selling your novel. Some people find writing book blurbs easy while others struggle with exactly what to say and how long to make their description. The important thing is not to dismiss this significant element in marketing your novel. (Click here to keep reading.)

Finding your Book’s Target Market

The stories about authors who succeeded without any marketing are rare. Most books, even the really good ones, will become lost in the jumble of the millions of other available titles unless something is done to make them stand out, to make them become discoverable to their target audience.

This is one thing that many authors don’t take the time to find – their target audience. It does no good to spend all your time and marketing effort to try to sell your book to EVERYONE. (To read more, click here.)

Book Promotions: Cover Reveal and Pre-Orders

As you are preparing to publish your novel, here are two book promotions that you might want to consider. Both of these are done BEFORE you publish your novel to help build excitement for your book release. (Read about these promotions by clicking here.)

Is it worth it to offer your book for free?

You have published your book and want readers and reviews. Many authors choose to offer their book for free. (It is one way to get reviews.) But should you offer your novel that you worked so hard to produce for nothing?

Well, that depends…(Read more by clicking here.)

 

Books for Writers

As a writer, you can never stop learning about the craft of writing, composing a story or using your words more effectively. Originally, I had thought to write a post last week with gift suggestions for authors – that surely would have included books on writing – but then I decided that a post five days before Christmas was a little late. So now, I am hoping some of you might be looking for a way to spend their Barnes & Noble or Amazon gift cards they received for Christmas.

So, if you are looking for some writing books to add to your library, I first suggest you check out my post on Resources for Writers. It contains many of the books I have in my own library though some of them are now out of print. However, between my birthday this fall and Christmas, I did add four new books to my collection.

These first two focus on ideas and word choice. I received them just two days ago so besides perusing them while trying to get over a cold I don’t have much knowledge about them or how helpful they will be but I am certainly intrigued by this first one.

Master Lists for Writers: Thesauruses, Plots, Character Traits, Names and More This book is a rich source of inspiration. There are lists for all types of topics that may inspire your writing or help you perfect a word choice.

The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus: An Interactive Guide for Developing Ideas for Novels and Short Stories – This is far more than a collection of simple writing prompts. It contains 2000 unique and dynamic story ideas perfect for novels and short stories of any genre or writing style.

These other two were birthday presents this past fall. I am always on the lookout for books to help add realism to my stories.

The Writer’s Guide to Weapons – Though a majority of the book covers guns which don’t work for me as a fantasy author, there is extensive information on knives. I just wish the book covered other weapons such as swords, clubs, and battle axes. But depending on the genre you write, this book may have invaluable information.

Body Trauma: A Writer’s Guide to Wounds and Injuries – This book covers what happens to body organs and bones maimed by an accident. Again, if you are writing a contemporary story where your characters have access to a hospital and paramedics, then this book has a lot of good information that can bring realism to your stories. As with the guide to weapons, I have found this one a little lacking on information for a fantasy novel but hope to glean a few tidbits I can use.

I hope these books prove helpful, and if you have any books that you turn to again and again, please leave the title in the comments below.

15 writing memes to lighten your day

Well, this is a busy month. And I hate missing a week of posting so I thought I would post some writing memes to encourage you or maybe make you laugh. Whatever. Enjoy!

We all sometimes should be writing but other things (internet, children or whatever) pull us away from it. These ones are here to remind you of what you should be doing. Writing!

But even though we should be doing it…

And sometimes creativity isn’t all it is cracked up to be…

Ahh…the writer’s life…

And most of all you need to…

Holidays work for settings and book promotions

This post is the sixty-fourth post in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

The holidays can make a great setting for a novel. And the holidays can be a good time to sell your holiday-themed story.

Writing a holiday-themed book

You can write a spooky or horror filled novel for Halloween or a sweet romance for the Christmas season. I even know an author that set her story at Thanksgiving. Of course, you are not limited to these holidays. You could set your romance or satire on Valentine’s Day. However, the appeal of a Fourth of July tale will just not have the same pull as a Christmas Holiday tale.

Christmas, by far, is the most popular holiday to write about. A quick search of books on Amazon brings up over 25,000 titles, and this doesn’t include Children’s books.

Tips to writing a Christmas Novel

  • Keep it short – Consider writing a novella or even a short story.
  • Invoke the senses – Think of snowy scenes, the aroma of hot chocolate or a baking pie
  • Think happy ending – While I know there are serious stories out there that take place during Christmas, your best bet is to leave the reader at least satisfied and for a romance that would mean ending with a Happily Ever After.
  • Publish it in time – Aim to publish your holiday novel in November or at the very latest the first week of December.
  • Promote it – Promote it not just the year it comes out but every holiday season and reap the benefits of those holiday readers.

If you write a series, perhaps you can take some of your characters and write them their own holiday story. And even if they don’t celebrate “Christmas” you can still write a story that takes place at a winter holiday. (Think Gift of the Night Fury from the How to Train Your Dragon TV series.)

It may be too late this year to get out a Holiday book, but if you invest the time now, you can have a book that will sell well each holiday season.

Promoting your book (any book) during the holidays

Cold winter nights where readers want to snuggle up with a good book or perhaps the abundance of new iPads and e-readers, there are many good reasons to consider running a holiday promotion.

Pre-Holiday Sales

If you have a book in print, you can host a holiday book signing. You can promote your book as a great gift or stocking stuffer. While folks can actually gift e-books, if you offer your book only in electronic form, you probably shouldn’t expect a lot of people buying your novel for others.

If you have an e-book, you might consider offering your book at a discount during Cyber Monday.

If you have published a Christmas or other holiday novel/novella/short story, you definitely need to run a promotion starting at the end of November/beginning of December and get it in the hands of those holiday readers.

Post-Holiday Sales

Instead of trying to find readers before the holidays, sometimes it is easier to approach the new owners of Kindles, Nooks and other e-readers or tablets. And there are quite a few others out there with gift cards waiting to fill up their e-readers.

Of course, the trick is to reach those new readers and let them know about your book sale. As with any promotion, you need to know how to reach the readers of your genre.

Another idea is to create a bundle or box set of books and offer them at a reduced price. Or perhaps get a few indie authors together and offer some of your books as a bundle.

No matter how you plan to do some holiday promoting, just make sure you take advantage of this book-buying season.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

#40 – Investing in an eye-catching book cover

#41 – Writing an awesome book blurb

#42 – Deciding on Front Matter for your novel

#43 – Deciding on Back Matter for your novel

#44 – Formatting your eBook for publication

#45 – Pricing your e-book

#46 – Selecting Categories and Keywords to improve your Novel’s visibility

#47 – Book Promotions: Cover Reveal and Pre-Orders

#48 – Publishing your novel with Amazon and KDP Select

#49 – Publishing your e-book with Smashwords or Draft2Digital

#50 – Marketing your E-book

#51 – Finding your Book’s Target Market

#52 – The importance of Book Reviews and how to get them

#53 – Is it worth it to offer your book for free?

#54 – My results from offering my novels for free

#55 – Amzon’s Kindle Countdown Deals explained and my results

#56 – Selling your book through book ads

#57 – Using a Book Trailer to promote your novel

#58 – Offering your novels or short stories as a box set

#59 – Deciding whether to offer your book as an audio book

#60 – Taking your book on a virtual book tour

#61 – Writing your Author Bio and selecting an Author Photo

#62 – Setting up your Amazon Author Page and International Amazon pages

#63 – Choosing between an Author Website or Blog