31 Writing Prompts For August 2019

Writers Write is a resource for writers. Use these writing prompts for August 2019 to get you writing.

If you want to know how to make the best use your prompts, we suggest you read: All About Writing Prompts & Writing Practice

A prompt can be anything: a word, a song title, a name, a myth, a photograph, or a quotation.

We hope our 31 prompts for August 2019 inspire you to start a writing routine.

Writing Prompts Aug 2019

By Mia Botha

Source: writerswrite.co.za

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

Navigating the Changing Face of Book Promotion with Smart, Effective Strategies

Much like the world of publishing, book promotion is constantly changing and with it, so are the services offered by book promotion companies. What may have worked just a few years ago doesn’t have quite the same impact today. I know from experience that the surge of books we see every day in the marketplace has a real effect on how various programs work. Today’s book promotion services are less about what you’re marketing in the moment and more about the foundation you’re creating.

So, what’s working in book promotion now? Surprisingly, it’s not at all what you would expect. Let’s take a look:

Email Newsletters: While it may seem really basic, unlike social media, email newsletters are an effective way to make a direct connection to your readers. We think of social media as the main way to reach our audience but in reality, it’s not as direct as we’d like it to be. And sending an email newsletter is actually a lot easier than say, managing a bunch of social media platforms. (Here’s a guide for getting started.)

Your Reader Fan Bases: Book publishing is rapidly growing and with around 4,500 books being published daily, it is crucial to build supportive reader fan bases. In the past, we’ve relied on the blogger market to help promote books but with such fierce competition, it is getting harder and harder to get attention. What remains steadfast though is your readers. Building excited and engaged reader fan bases is a fantastic way to build momentum for your book and letting readers help you with your book promotion by posting reviews and sharing your book release on their social stream. (Want to build fans and superfans? This article shows you how.)

Going Local: Many authors approach book promotion with the goal of reaching a national audience through big media. What shouldn’t be overlooked though is local media. Local media loves their local authors and can be a great launching pad for long-term success. It isn’t that you aren’t worthy of the national spotlight, but national media is harder than ever to get. Also, many bigger media outlets use scouts who research local stories that are gaining momentum, so making waves in your local market can lead to national exposure.

In addition to local media, you may also consider doing local events, whether at a library, bookstore or gift fair. And don’t forget non-bookstore markets like boutiques, coffee shops, and other area businesses that might be interested in your topic. (Here’s some more great advice on positioning yourself when it comes to media.)

Expanding Your Goodreads Presence: Goodreads is growing by leaps and bounds and with each month that passes, it gets more robust. Now more than ever, it’s imperative to get set up on Goodreads and start networking with genre-specific groups. More than any other social networking site, Goodreads is geared toward and caters to readers. Start by being a reader. Being more involved in networking and socializing and less on being the pushy marketer will garner you much more attention and will sell you more books in the long run.

Smart eBook Pricing: Digital clutter is changing the trends of ebook pricing. While price discounts and specials are good, that isn’t smart book pricing. As an example, book pricing at launch can be slightly lower than what your regular pricing might be, as even a dollar discount can give your book a helpful bump. But eBook pricing should still be weighed against what the market will bear. I also advise against pricing an eBook over $9.99, especially if you’re just starting out. As a new author, remember that readers are taking a chance on you and might be more inclined to purchase if your book’s price feels more like an impulse buy.

Amazon Book Page: It’s easy to get outwardly focused on book promotion and forget about the all-important landing page we are sending our readers to – Amazon! Your book page on Amazon should have a clear description with white space and no paragraphs crammed on top of each other. I also recommend using your Author Central Page to enhance your book page. With Author Central, you can add reviews, an author interview, or book experts. Think of your book page as a sample of your personality with information to help the reader decide to buy your book. It can also be a terrific way to drive more reader engagement on your page.

Amazon Advertising: I had some challenges with Amazon ads (also referred to as AMS ads) when they revamped their platform and the associated advertisement algorithm, but I’m happy to report that the platform has found its footing and the ads are improving. As a guideline, you’ll want to have 400 keywords at a minimum. Start your ads at $10 a day in budget and no more than .50 cents per click until you get a sense of how the various keywords are doing.

AMS ads are great to do at campaign launch, starting them a week before the book launches if it’s on pre-order. You can also use them to promote pricing strategies, lowering the book price for a few days to coincide with an eBook promotion.

Keeping Your Social Media Footprint Small: When you try to be *everywhere* on social media, it’s hard to be engaged on all the sites, all the time. And in an age of fake followers and fake accounts, engagement matters. Even if their numbers are small, the user with the most engagement far outperforms the ones with millions of followers. This doesn’t mean less work though – you’ll still need to put the effort into the site you decide to be on. Engaging readers on one social media platform in a consistent and fun/informative/helpful way is a far better book promotion strategy than trying to be everywhere. As I always say: it’s not about being everywhere, but everywhere that matters. (For more ideas on integrating social media into your marketing, try this.)

Knowing Your Audience: Many authors I speak with have no idea who their actual reader market is. When I ask them, they’ll often say: everyone. You know who markets to everyone? McDonald’s, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, etc. But they didn’t start out focused on everyone. Amazon, for example, started out as a book site, reaching readers. It wasn’t until they built a base of readers that they began expanding out into other things. Knowing your audience is not only important when you’re writing your book, but absolutely crucial when you’re trying to market it. Zeroing in on your core reader, specifically, is key to any successful book promotion campaign. (Need help finding your readership? Try this article.)

While book promotion can seem like a daunting feat, it doesn’t have to be. By focusing your efforts into smart strategies that are tailored to your book and your audience, a successful marketing campaign can be just around the corner!

By ANGELA ACKERMAN

Source: writershelpingwriters.net

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

Walk Like a Dog

I am in a swarm of family and work this summer and even forgot to do my post on Wednesday, which dear Therese forgave. I still had no time to write a new post, thanks to conferences and family and a new book out, but here is an offering–my very first post at Writer Unboxed, dated April 23, 2008.

Almost every word is still the same. Different dogs, longer walks, but still the same actions.

——————–

 

“If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.” ~Raymond Inmon

I am a great believer in walking. Not speed walking or to win some contest; not to conquer or prove anything (although competition, too, can be good for the soul). Just plain old walking. Walking to shake out the tight spots in a body. Walking to fire up the imagination, to cure the blues, to nourish the spirit.

I especially believe in writers walking. Sitting at a keyboard for unending hours is hardly a healthy act for the body, and sitting in a single room, all by yourself with only a cup of coffee and your iPod for company hardly does a thing for refilling the well. Walking takes no special clothing, and almost everyone can do it. You don’t have to walk fast to get the benefit, or even go anywhere special. Walk out your front door and walk along your street or lane or alley or field. Walk like a dog, imbued with curiosity and pleasure in the moment itself: right now, walking!

Every day around 8:30, my chow mix patters into my office and sits down with a heavy sigh. I ignore him at first, usually, since My Writing Is Important and dogs can be walked at any point during the day. Jack disagrees. After ten minutes, he creeps closer to my chair and breathes on my side. Just that hot, hopeful breath, unbelievably annoying. Still, I can often ignore it a little longer.

At which point, he will raise his glittery gold-red paw and put it lightly on my leg. Please? Which he knows I cannot resist.

So I gather up leashes and harnesses and treats and poo bags and off we go, into the neighborhood, on a single 1.5 mile loop around the suburban park system between houses. Every day, the same walk, though we sometimes switch direction. Every day, the dogs—there is a terrier mix, too—can barely restrain their joy at getting out the door, into the world. The world! The great big amazing world! They snuffle the same bushes with fresh curiosity every day, stick their noses in the same prairie dog holes hoping this time to snare some tidbit of baby rodent. They prance along the same routes to lift their legs, offering their comments on the neighborhood dog blog.

It takes roughly a half hour. While the dogs are doing dog things, my writer brain is inevitably unknotting some little issue with the work, whether it is a sentence or a plot, a character issue or a connection. Some days I am tired and don’t want to think at all; often it is those days, when I’m yawning while the dogs snuffle over the juniper bush, that I notice something I haven’t seen. A landscape drawn in colored chalk, perhaps by a knot of teenagers who cheerily waved at me not too long ago at dusk, hoping their friendliness would distract me from the scent of burning cannibis in the air. Or perhaps I notice the border collie on the corner is sticking his nose over the fence and it reminds me of a dog I once loved, who would be a perfect addition to the character who is so flat. If I am walking like my dogs, I see the grove of aspens anew each day, and the sky, and the mountains, changing every hour.

Walking every morning this way shakes out my limbs, gets some sunshine on my face, opens the shutters of my brain and lets a freshening wind blow through. I collect images—that old leaf, that smell of pine needles, spicy and wet, the curtains hanging askew in an upstairs bedroom—and music, of birds, of traffic, of the echoey, lost sound of children playing in the distance, out of sight. When I return to the keyboard, the usual stiffness of a long-time writer is shaken out. My spine is straighter, my oxygen-enriched brain a much more efficient organ, and the work much better, and I’ve worked out some knot of tension in my body, and in the work.

Do you like to walk? Is there a time of day you like best?

By

Source: writerunboxed.com

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Leslie Malin on Nonfiction Writing and Why Your Ideas Are Worth Sharing

Nonfiction writing seems like a completely different bear than writing fiction. How do you gather your ideas and present them in a coherent, interesting way? And if someone else has written on the same topic before, should you even bother?

Nonfiction, to me, seems way more intimidating to write and, quite frankly, seems like dry work. It reminds me of textbooks and yawning through late nights in college.

In today’s article, Leslie Malin gives us some great insight into how she came around to writing her first nonfiction book and the lessons she had to learn along the way. And she reminds us that writing nonfiction requires some of the same skills as writing fiction: storytelling.

Nonfiction writing isn’t that different

After talking with this month’s interviewee, I realized fiction and nonfiction writing have a lot in common. Neither are boring to write (or read!) if you are passionate about the subject matter. Both require knowledge of story arc and characterization. Both are born from a passion for the topic and an urge to let others see your words.

And, arguably most important, both are written to provide something to the reader, whether that be an escape or a solution to a problem.

Today we’re talking with Leslie K Malin, LCSW, author of Cracked Open and the forthcoming The Work-Life Principle, about writing nonfiction.

Leslie has a forty-year professional career as a psychotherapist, Career-Life Transition Coach, human resources training and development specialist, non-profit executive in mental health and social service agencies, public speaker, entrepreneur, author, and painter.

You can find Leslie online on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or her current website. And stay tuned for her upcoming website dedicated to her second book!

Here’s how Leslie came about writing nonfiction:

Tell me a little about Cracked Open and what inspired you to write it.

This book emerged rather like a dream. I didn’t begin it with the intention of it becoming a book. I love quotations and found myself drawn to collecting quotations about failure, loss, doubt, hope, and overcoming challenges.

As my collection grew, it suddenly called to become a book. I don’t know how else to explain it. I reread each quotation and found myself writing a one-page “reflection” of each one, and kept adding. They became a meditation, a musing, a sharing of myself, a memoir of sorts.

This book became a calling for me to show-up authentically, honestly, and sometimes with a rawness that is not typical of me!

That sounds like an amazing experience with writing. Since this is so personal to you, how did you decide you wanted to publish it? What do you hope your readers will come away with after reading it?

This is an interesting question. Once it began to unfold more like a book I began sending out new sections to five friends who would read them and respond to assess if they found the writing and way of presenting the material interesting. I also joined The Write Practice and began posting my writings weekly to see how they fared in an environment of mostly fiction writers.

While, in truth, I didn’t get lots of feedback, what I did receive from three or so writers so more than encouraging and supportive. Ruthanne Reid, whom I had really grown to respect, wrote to me, insisting that I finish this book. The feedback showed me that my experience, while personal, was also meaningful and motivating for others.

What did I want my readers to come away with after reading it? As a psychotherapist and life-career transition coach and other roles I’ve had, I knew firsthand how devastated people can feel post-failure, how self-doubt can be crippling, and how fear to move forward can envelop one’s soul.

Cracked Open is for everyone. Its message is that being human guarantees failure, fear, and doubt and, rather than shrinking us, they can become the portal to discover an expanded awareness, an opportunity for unanticipated growth, and a gift of immeasurable value.

We have a lot of advice for fiction writers on this blog, but a lot of writers don’t realize writing nonfiction can be very similar to writing fiction. For instance, you have to have a problem in both types of books, and that problem must ultimately be solved. Can you talk a bit about the similarities between writing nonfiction and fiction?

I’ve never written fiction — although I’d love to one day. However, I’ve read a ton of fiction from the masters to summer beach reading. Given my professional orientation as a psychotherapist and career-life coach, writing about life, work, the highs of success, and the depths of failure, writing nonfiction seemed like a natural genre for me.

Actually, I have become far more familiar with the similarities between fiction and nonfiction as I am writing my newest book, The Work-Life Principle: Pathways to Purpose, Passion, Authenticity and Wisdom. I workshopped the first draft by joining the 100 Day Challenge. This structure created the discipline to finally write the first draft which has been inhabiting my mind for years!

After the Challenge was over, I opted to work with a fabulous Story Grid coach (still in process). She is teaching me that nonfiction also has characters that play an enormously important role in “telling the story” of the mountain climb to purpose, passion, authenticity, and wisdom.

These characters are real people whom I have worked with individually and in groups as well as conducting a number of interviews to go deeper into people’s journey, challenges, struggles, and arriving at meaning. Then, in the writing I can share their experiences, thoughts, feelings, disappointments and successes.

They make the nonfiction come alive. They are the essence of nonfiction, aren’t they!

I am also learning that the structure of nonfiction shares another common ground with fiction. It has to have an arc which builds, crests, and then resolves. While the reader knows from the beginning where we are heading, they have no idea of how we will get there, what successes and allies we will find along the way nor where the shadows and cautions to proceeding will appear. And, finally, how the entire “story” will resolve.

This learning has been significant. I can look at my work in an entirely new way. I now see it as a Dorothy in OZ journey — a hero’s journey.

Even though you don’t write fiction, do you think there’s anything inherent to nonfiction that’s harder to write than fiction? Or vice versa?

I am actually a bit frightened of writing fiction! I am not sure that I have ever believed that I have the imaginative capacity to develop a compelling storyline with meaningful characters.

Yet, there is this longing to try my hand at it, just to see what it will call forth from me. What I might discover about myself, to push through the “FEAR” and practice what I preach! Stay tuned.

What do you think is the hardest thing about writing nonfiction? 

To me, writing nonfiction has to have a specific issue or subject matter that matters to me and about which I have the experience, a point of view, and knowledge that can provide value to the reader.

Also, gaining clarity about who your audience is, forming an avatar of the perfect person who you are aiming your book towards can keep you on target and focused on the information that can most benefit as well as attract them. I have found that defining that avatar can be the most challenging piece of the process.

While I may believe that what I have to share could be valuable to many, it is definitely more compelling and relevant to some who may share an age or gender category, are at a particular stage in their lives and/or work, are in a similar socio-economic situation. It determines what kind of assumptions you may make, the kind of language you use, the stories you tell, etc. It doesn’t exclude others but it feels more of a fit for some.

You’ve mentioned before that you wrote your second book, The Work-Life Principle, in our 100 Day Book program. In that program, we focus on getting the first draft out on paper as fast as possible. Do you think that’s a beneficial process for writing nonfiction?

As I mentioned briefly above, one of the best decisions I made was to join the 100 Day Book program. Without that challenge, I wonder if this book would still be looping around in my brain!

The Challenge not only “forced” me to assign time to write, deadline and word counts to be accountable for, and helped me to just “put it down” on paper as rough and unstructured as it might be. The program taught me to let go of trying to be perfect and embrace what was to emerge.

It was a sort of brain-drain that would have time and space to be sorted out in the future. Once there is a first draft, there is a trajectory, a path, a distance and increased objectivity that I find to be invaluable.

You went into your second book with the full intention of it being a book, unlike the spontaneous emergence of your first. How was this different for you? Was the process more stressful?

The subject matter for The Work-Life Principle has been in my mind, some already written chapters, presented in an online seminar as well as in public speaking for many years. Its original title was “Finding Yourself on the Way to Work” as that is the essence of the book’s teaching.

When the 100 Day Challenge was announced, I was thinking of doing another book in the series of Reflections of Cracked Open. However, The Work-Life Principle wouldn’t let go of me and I felt that until I tackled that and finally put it down as a book that I couldn’t move onto something else. It was unfinished business and the fact that its substance has been a companion for so long meant that it demanded to be birthed.

The process has been more arduous — still is as I haven’t yet finished it, because it required more research, reading scholarly papers on the topics of work-life satisfaction, changes in needs as people reach mid-career and beyond, neuroscience and its discoveries about the brain and changes over time, and the like.

During the Challenge I only wrote down what I already knew and had thought through so that I could nail down a first draft. The research continues as does my evolving clarity about how to present the material to have impact and clarity, as well as a story-line.

I’ve conducted many interviews with people in different professions and stages in their lives to enrich the book with real-life stories and feedback from others about Purpose, Passion, Authenticity, and Wisdom in their work and careers. The interviews have been rich and rewarding but have thrown me off track from the writing.

I am on the return to writing phase now as well as working with my Story Grid editor which imposes an important but new demand.

What is the most difficult thing about writing for you? Have you overcome that obstacle and, if so, how?

Stay consistent in showing up to write.

I have a sizeable private psychotherapy and coaching practice that takes three full days of my time. Often, on my first day off I feel that I need to down-shift and do chores, etc. I also paint one day a week.

My challenge now is to take the deep dive and finish what I have begun. That means re-establishing disciple and scheduled times to write. I am returning to my editor with some set accountability dates to move forward and to perhaps take a week off from my practice and just write.

I am thinking about checking into a retreat house where there is enforced quiet and just settling in. I’m hoping that will recharge my batteries!

What advice would you give to other nonfiction writers just starting out?

Let yourself lay down that first rough, often messy, or gap filled draft. That can become the foundation of what follows. It’s a brain drain and allows you to get the material out of your head and looping thoughts and become a concrete, if unfinished, reality.

Maybe you’ll decide to publish it, perhaps you won’t — it doesn’t matter as much as working through it and building your author chops at the same time.

It’s all about the story

Whether you’re writing fiction, nonfiction, or memoir, remember that you’re telling a story. Your narrative must build, crest, and resolve, no matter the subject. This arc is what people are used to and expect. Most importantly it’s what keeps your readers turning pages!

Thanks to Leslie for agreeing to talk with me!

You can find Leslie’s first book, Cracked Open, on Kindle or in paperback now! The Work-Life Principle will be available winter 2019. Be sure to sign up for Leslie’s newsletter or follow her on social media to stay in the loop with publication news!

If you were to write a nonfiction book, what would you write about? Let me know in the comments!

By Sarah Gribble

Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

How to Overcome the Fear of Coming Out as a Writer

Are you nervous about coming out as a writer?

Maybe you just want to write for yourself and not share your words with others? It can be scary putting yourself out there.

I have that fear too – even after writing and publishing hundreds of posts and a range of books.

A short while ago, I heard something that totally changed my mind about this. Watch the short video below about the magic words I heard.

Click on the image to watch the video.

Source: writetodone.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

How Joining a Writing Community Helped These 11 Authors Get Published

I recently reached out to several writers in our Write to Publish community to ask whether joining a writing community has helped them get published, grow their audience, and make progress on their journey to becoming bestselling authors.

Getting published is an amazing, exciting process. It can also feel a little mysterious, especially if you’ve never done it before. What does it take to publish? More than that, what does it take to publish successfully—to publish a beautiful piece of writing and share it with crowds of readers?

I’ve worked with hundreds of writers as they navigated the publishing process, sometimes for the very first time. In fact, I built Write to Publish, our platform and publishing program, to help writers master publishing.

The Fundamental Truth About Publishing

There’s one fundamental truth about publishing that many writers don’t realize. Here it is:

That may sound strange. There’s this stereotype of the great author secluded away in a cabin in the woods somewhere, writing all day and night in an isolated haven of inspiration. Eventually, he emerges with a genius manuscript, sends it off to a publisher, and publishes the next Great American Novel.

Personally, I believed that stereotype for a long time. But what I’ve found, and what the eleven writers I talked to have found, is that it’s simply not true.

On the contrary, if you want to be a successful author, you need other people.

Joining a Writing Community Can Help You Get Published

Some writers knew they needed a writing community around them in order to publish their writing. Rev. Jonathan Srock, an undelivered minister who shares his stories and writing about faith at jonathansrock.com, was looking for a writing community when he joined Write to Publish. “I joined the program so I could learn how to publish my work and be surrounded by a community of authors who understood what it was like. And I’ve made some great friends along the way!”

Others discovered along the way how important community is at every step of the writing journey. Imogen Mann, a recovering lawyer who writes fiction and business documentation at imogenmann.com, says her Write to Publish community shifted her thinking about collaboration. “I’ve learned that the writing process is just as collaborative and multi-tiered as the publishing process,” she says. “This was a bit of a revelation but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense — it’s the same in any profession.”

Pharmacist and novelist Kim Williams (birdsofafeatherbooktogether.blog), credits the community she found with helping her actually follow through on publishing her writing. “Being part of a community of like-minded people is worth its weight in gold,” she says. “Left to my own devices, I may not have pursued my passion.”

Psychologist Suzanne Ruiter, who writes children’s books and articles about education at suzanneruiter.com, enjoys getting to know other writers who “get it,” who understand the joys and challenges of publishing your writing. “We writers need each other to get there,” she says. “We are busy doing a difficult job with a lot of tasks we have to get familiar with, and the best people we can find to support us are people who are learning to do so too.”

Each of these writers have connected with a community that supports them at every step—and each one points back to that community as a core part of their success.

Joining a Writing Community Is the Secret to Finding Readers for Your Writing

When I talk with writers about the importance of finding your Cartel, of building a community to give you a boost in your publishing efforts, I always hear some form of the same question:

But I want to share my writing with readers, not other writers. Why should I connect with writers instead?

I get it. We all want to build an audience of readers who will buy all our stories and books and even share them with their friends.

But here’s a truth that might surprise you: the way to build your audience of readers is to connect with other writers.

“I need to build a solid author platform and I feel that the first and best way to do it is to belong to a community of writers,” says Jane Kavuma-Kayonga, who writes stories to change people’s lives at apagefrommunakusbook834350529.blog.

Horror writer Iseult Murphy, who shares her writing at iseultmurphy.com, agrees. “I loved the emphasis [in Write to Publish] on putting together a team of writers who would support and encourage you, and you them, on your writing journey. Then, when it came to your work being published, you had a network of people to help promote your work. I loved this idea and thought I would get plenty of useful tips on how to get my work read, which I did.”

“Most writers want to be read and I can only do that by sharing and being part of a bigger community,” says author David Rae (davidrae-stories.com). “Being part of the community has made me a better writer and more professional and ambitious in my approach.”

“Actual publication is easy, but . . . getting attention to what you publish is hard,” says award-winning children’s story author Tamara Paxton, who shares her writing at tamarapaxtoncopley.com. “I learned that getting an email list, writing cartel, and reviews are everything.”

For Karen Bellinger, a creator of stories across multimedia platforms at thetimescribe.com, connecting with other writers was the difference between successful publication and shouting into the void. “This program has taught me that building a community and using it to help you craft your very best work BEFORE you hit publish is absolutely critical. Not just because it gives you the invaluable feedback needed to improve initial drafts, but because otherwise, your hard work risks disappearing into the internet ether, never to find its audience.”

When you connect with other writers, you gain access to a much wider base of readers. If you want readers to find your writing, reach out to other writers first.

Sharing Your Writing Is Hard—And Rewarding

Publishing your writing is thrilling and terrifying at the same time. When you publish, you invite other people to read your writing. That’s a vulnerable thing to do—your writing is your personal creation, after all, and you never know how people will respond to it.

One of the best things you can do is to share your writing with a few writers you trust before you publish it publicly and send it out into the world. Supportive writers will give you the feedback you need to craft your best piece of writing.

Plus, the act of sharing in a small, low-stakes setting is great practice for sharing your writing with the wider world.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, for many writers, this was the hardest part of Write to Publish.

“[The most challenging part of this process was] shyness,” says David. “We’re all self-conscious shrinking violets. Sharing work and communicating to other people does not come naturally to me at any rate.”

But he says it was worth it to be bold and share his writing. “Almost always, sharing and reading comments on your work leads to improvement and to seeing your work move in exciting new ways. And really, what is better that having someone read and comment on your work?”

Imogen and Karen agree. “Having to collaborate and ‘expose’ myself online was hard. I’m naturally a self contained person, so working with people I didn’t know was initially uncomfortable,” says Imogen. “I’ve always had to do this in my work, and it never gets easier, you just get better at dealing with it.”

“The hardest thing for me has been stepping out of my comfort zone — not just writing my stories down, but releasing them into the greater world and soliciting feedback on them,” says Karen. “Necessary as both publication and critique are if we are to improve as writers, that’s really scary!”

Jonathan appreciates the feedback and support of his fellow writers, which makes sharing more than worth it. “Having others [look] at my work and critique it is extremely helpful. . . . The kindness of other writers . . . is both helpful and welcome. They make me a better writer!”

It’s Okay to Ask for Help from Your Writing Community

For some people, sharing their writing was the hardest part. For others, it was asking for help.

“The most challenging part has been learning to ask for help from other writers. It seemed impolite to ask,” says Cathy Ryan, who writes speculative and real-life fiction at cathyryanwrites.com. But, she adds, “writers need to help each other so our voices can be heard.”

Madeline Slovenz, who writes realistic fiction for children, young adults, and open-minded grownups at madelineslovenz.com, agrees that asking for help takes courage, and that it’s absolutely essential. “I have learned that it takes courage to ask for help, but unless we can step up and say, ‘I’m excited to tell you that I’ve published a story,’ our work will sit in a digital file that is unlikely to be found.”

“Dare to ask,” says Suzanne. “Make that first step with people who are in the same position: you are not the only one who is struggling. There are very warm, intelligent other writers who also try to find their way in this.”

When You Join a Writing Community, You Might Make Surprising Connections

You never know how someone might respond when you reach out.

Iseult knew before she began that she needed the support of other writers. What she didn’t know was how to connect with authors she admired — authors a few steps ahead of her in their careers, people who seemed inaccessible until she reached out.

“Because of this course I have approached successful authors I have read and admired for years and they have agreed to talk with me — something I would never have considered before taking the course,” she says. “I have learned a lot from my conversations with them.”

It’s intimidating to reach out to other authors. But many writers are far more accessible than you might imagine, and are happy to connect with another writer.

They know as well as anyone that building an author career isn’t a solo activity. We all need community to support us along the way.

The First Step to Publishing: Find Your Writing Community

Publishing your writing is an amazing goal. But before you publish, I have a question for you:

Have you found your writing community yet?

Who will support you in your writing and publishing journey? Who will give you feedback, spur you on when you’re discouraged, help you navigate unfamiliar challenges, and celebrate with you when you share your writing with the world?

And if you haven’t found your community yet, or if you want to publish but you’re not sure how to get started, I’d love to support you.

The next semester of Write to Publish is now open. Will you join Cathy, David, Iseult, Jonathan, and more in connecting with writers and publishing your writing?

 

Your writing is worth sharing. And if it’s worth sharing, it’s worth collaborating with other writers to share it.

How do you collaborate with other writers? Let me know in the comments.

By Joe Bunting

Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

The Hero’s Journey: How to Leverage the World’s Most Powerful Story Structure

From Moses to Star Wars, the Hero’s Journey is the foundation of millennia of storytelling. How can you leverage it in your own writing?

Do you want your stories to “work?”

Writers work hard at their craft. They struggle to build a story that makes sense and delivers the goods on emotion and thrills.

And so often, even after months and years of labor, a writer can’t get their story to “work.”

There are a lot of reasons why a story might not work — why it confuses readers or fails to engage them emotionally — but one major reason a story doesn’t work is structure.

Thankfully there’s a structure you can use that has a proven track record of success. This successful record is so long, in fact, that we don’t know when it started.

That structure is called the Hero’s Journey, and it’s going to transform your writing.

What Is the “Hero’s Journey”?

Our understanding of this classic structure begins with American literature professor Joseph Campbell. Campbell was interested in the way mythology affects our lives today and began digging into myths — lots of myths.

In 1949 he published The Hero With a Thousand Faces outlining what has come to be known as his “monomyth,” a theory that all stories are, in fact, the same. That “same story” is the Hero’s Journey.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before:

A girl from the middle of nowhere wakes up one day to find that things are horrible, and someone has to do something about it. But she’s scared, and can’t bring herself to stand up and fight back . . . until the village elder arrives and teaches our young protagonist the ropes.

The girl sets out to find the source of her society’s problems, forcing her to leave. Along the way she encounters new faces, some of whom join her as companions, others of whom try to kill her or steal her valuables. She suffers some loses along the way, learning some truly difficult lessons.

Then, she and her companions find the source of evil: some kind of mighty fortress. The heroes storm the fortress and come face-to-face with the villain. The hero and the villain square off and the hero is killed or mortally wounded . . . only to use her resources to recover and vanquish the bad guy for good.

The hero and her surviving companions return home triumphant and bestow some kind of blessing, like food, rain, or peace, on the community.

If you’ve heard a story like that, then you know the Hero’s Journey.

Here are some examples.

“I Know This Story . . .”

Have you heard the story of the orphan boy living in the cupboard under the stairs?

Or perhaps the story of the girl in District 12 (the crappiest District) who would not only survive an unwinnable deathmatch, but become a symbol of liberty?

Maybe you’ve heard of the baby boy who was going to die in a mass genocide, but whose mother put him in a basket and sent him down the Nile River . . .

If you didn’t catch those, here they are in order: Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), and . . . Moses.

There are also variations of it, like the Anti-Hero’s Journey, a story arc for characters like Tony Soprano and Walter White. Either way, it’s still based off Joseph Campbell’s foundational research in The Hero With a Thousand Faces. 

So here’s the big question: Now that you know what it is, what do you do with it?

Hero’s Journey Step #1: Start Ordinary

We have Hollywood screenwriter and executive Christopher Vogler to thank for our condensed version of the Hero’s Journey. If you’re curious, his most notable credit is a film that makes explicit use of the Hero’s Journey: The Lion King. 

Fun sidebar: The Lion King and the story of Moses in Exodus have the exact same structure. Attempted rise to power, failure and flight, return and victory.

In Vogler’s simplification of Campbell’s theory, there are twelve steps to the Hero’s Journey (and I’m going to cover each one in-depth in this series, of which this post is the first).

The first step of the Hero’s Journey: The Ordinary World.

6 Common Features of the Ordinary World

Let’s take a look at the elements of the Ordinary World. Some of these are essentials, while others aren’t necessarily essential, but are common in the vast majority of Hero’s Journey stories you’ll encounter.

1. The Average Joe

Every story begins with an “Average Joe.” He or she is someone you could be, or could be near to.

Think about how simple or average Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen are, at least at first. Yes, they both have something interesting about them (Harry’s scar, Katniss’s hunting skill), but neither of these things are earth-shattering . . . yet.

2. No Parents

Another notable trope of this step is a lack of proper parents. Think about it: How many heroes do you know of whose parents are either missing, dead, or nonexistent? Orphans abound in heroic journeys.

Harry Potter’s an orphan, and Katniss has to play the mother role. Moses’s father is a mystery and he is given up as an orphan. Luke Skywalker’s parents are . . . well, you know. And Rey, in the newer Star Wars movies, is obsessed with finding out the truth of her family. More on that to come in December 2020.

3. A Disadvantageous Beginning

This has a powerful effect of bringing these heroes low. They begin at a disadvantage. How many heroes do you know of with a rock-solid family and support structure in place? There are some, but they are few and far between.

Take Peter Parker/Spider-Man, another classic orphan. He’s been adopted by his aunt and uncle (RIP Uncle Ben) because his parents are dead/missing/who knows. Even Superman, with his adopted Earth parents, feels like a stranger because his true parents died during the explosion of his home planet, Krypton. Even these mighty superheroes suffer from a trauma that human beings know all too well: the destruction of family and community.

4. A Simple, Mundane, Boring Life

Many elements of the Ordinary World are obvious. Your hero’s life is simple, mundane, even boring. He or she is often from the countryside, or lives as a stranger in the crowded, soulless metropolitan bustle.

5. Low Expectations

Other elements are less obvious. One is that no one expects anything of the hero. He is assumed to probably amount to nothing. That is, by everyone except the Mentor character (coming soon in Step #4!). It will be the Mentor who recognizes the hero’s potential heroism and talent and coaches him into that role.

6. A False Sense of Security

Another element of the Ordinary World is a false sense of security. Everything should seem, at least on the surface, peaceful and well. But in the underbelly of this world — or lingering outside its boundaries — conflict and injustice rages.

I’m reminded of the tranquil peace of the Shire in The Lord of the Rings, embodied by the jovial mood at Bilbo’s birthday party. Yet that mirthful spirit is erased once Bilbo uses his magic ring — the One Ring of Evil, we soon learn — to play a trick on everyone. From that point forward, the Shire is no longer peaceful and safe, but a fragile domain whose borders are penetrated by wraiths and wild creatures in search of Sauron’s Ring.

This, of course, is the Inciting Incident, the step where you SHOULD begin your story (for the sake of hooking your reader). But that Inciting Incident, or “Call to Adventure,” must happen in the context of a quiet, seemingly peaceful world where your hero is a nobody who isn’t expected to do much at all.

3 Ways to Create Your Ordinary World

How does this apply to the stories you’re telling? Here are elements of the Ordinary World you can use to bring your hero low before they begin the climb to greatness.

1. Upset the parent structure

To keep things fresh, don’t just “kill them off.” Maybe one is missing. Maybe the parents are divorced and mom/dad remarried, while the other is off on some adventure.

A great example of innovation within this element is Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, where Peter Quill’s journey (as an orphan, mind you) takes him back to his father with plenty of twists along the way.

2. Lower the expectations

In the beginning, no one can know how heroic your protagonist will be. Don’t fall victim to cheesy irony or heavy-handed foreshadowing. Keep your hero low, and bury him/her in the judgment of the community.

If you’ve ever lived in a small town, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The same can be said for the community, or “World,” itself. Often a community will expect nothing of itself because no one expects anything of it.

Think about that town you grew up near that was “trash.” Maybe it was your town. What effect does that have on its people?

3. Create a false sense of security

As the writer, you know conflict is coming. It has to come, either from within or without.

But the community, and possibly your hero, can’t know it yet. Everything needs to seem happy and fine. Remember that the effect of this false sense of security is suspense, a priceless effect you want to provide your readers whenever possible.

Let’s Get Ordinary

It’s time to start spicing and seasoning your storytelling with elements of this timeless and beloved story structure.

What are you working on now that could benefit from some of these archetypal elements? Why not try adding some elements to your current work-in-progress, or to a finished draft you’re struggling to revise?

And be sure to keep an eye out for my next article on Step Two of the Hero’s Journey!

What Ordinary Worlds can you think of in stories you’ve read and watched? Let us know in the comments.

By David Safford

Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Poll Results: What Editors and Agents Look For In Social Media

In prep for my Social Media Masterclass for Authors and Illustrators at SCBWI-Midwest, I posted a survey for editors, agents and art directors and 25 responded. Only one freelance art director responded (feel free browse art directors’ responses in the similar poll in 2014, which also includes responses from editors and agents), but there were 11 responses from PAL editors, 10 responses from agents, and 3 responses from “Other”. For those that don’t know, PAL stands for “Published and Listed” and PAL Publishers are traditional publishing houses that do not charge money to authors or illustrators. You can find a list of PAL Publishers on the SCBWI website. Be aware that these industry surveys are informal, and are answered mainly by those who follow me on Twitter – I posted the link to my survey on Twitter, FB and Instagram. Most respondents chose to remain anonymous or asked me not to identify them publicly; I included attribution for those who gave me permission. Thanks to all who participated!

Summary and Takeaways:

Overall, the results were very similar to my poll from 2014. In general: when editors, agents and art directors look you up online, the main turn-offs include unprofessional behaviour and overall negativity. Before they commit to working with you longterm, they want to find out more about you. Make it easy for them to find out more information about you: keep your website updated and easy to navigate, make your portfolio (for illustrators) easy to find, make it easy for them to contact you.

If you read the comments, you will notice that different people are looking for different things. Don’t feel overwhelmed! In the end, you need to figure out how YOU want to use social media. What are your specific goals? What type of connections do you want to make? You will save yourself a great deal of time and frustration if you are working toward a particular goal (rather than “my publisher wants me to be on social media so here I am”). Jane Kelly recently interviewed me about social media on the SCBWI Wisconsin blog; feel free to browse for tips. And if you’re an up-and-coming illustrator attending SCBWI-LA this year, I encourage you to apply for the Social Media Mentorship For Illustrators Award.

MORE DETAILS AND COMMENTS FROM THOSE WHO ANSWERED MY SURVEY:

**** Also see comments from my 2014 survey.

In answer to the question “How important has social media been in your discovery of new clients / book creators?“, 40% said it was somewhat important, 36% said very important and 24% said not very important.

In answer to the question “When you are considering taking on a new client / author / illustrator, do you ever research them online?“, 84% said that yes, they always research them online. The remaining 16% said that yes, they sometimes research them online.

In answer to the question “If you do online research before signing on a client / author / illustrator, has your research ever made you decide NOT to sign them on?“, 52% said that yes, they have (at least once) decided to NOT sign someone on after online research.

In answer to the question “Which social media do you tend to use most often?” (check all that apply), Twitter came out on top with 96% (not surprising, since most of the respondents follow me on Twitter) followed closely by Instagram (80%), then Facebook (56%) and YouTube (32%). Also mentioned by a few: Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Reddit. My advice: find 1-2 social media platforms that you enjoy – don’t try to be everywhere!

In answer to the question “When browsing social media, do you ever browse Stories?“, 28% said never, 24% said rarely, 20% chose “I have no idea what you’re talking about”, 16% said yes, all the time, and 12% said yes, sometimes.

COMMENTS (about turn-ons/turn-offs, what they look for, social media advice):

“I shy away from accounts that post mostly negative opinions, and anyone conservative-leaning. Other than that, humor and irony are appreciated, anything celebratory, positive or progressive, and cute animal pics. :)” – Agent

“I do like to see new work and process work as well as book promo. It’s tricky to balance but the best accounts also show personality and an awareness of other work being done in the field.”

“I primarily research new illustrators and like to see a illustration portfolio within a few clicks of finding someone on social media.” – Freelance art director

“Being inappropriate; someone who complains publicly about agents; someone who often leaps into heated arguments online; someone who is clearly jealous of successful people in the business.” – Editor

“I appreciate genuine engaged social media interactions and value authors that can do this with ease as it is incredibly beneficial for both buzz and sales.” – Jennifer Weltz, President of JVNLA, Inc.

“I look for professionalism.” – Emma Dryden, Children’s Editorial & Publishing Consultant, Drydenbooks

“I look for authors and illustrators who share their enthusiasm for what brings them joy, whether it’s a bird sighting or stumbling across an old comic book or sharing an esoteric fact in their research. I try to avoid authors and illustrators who are quick to “pile on” and express their outrage about the latest industry pariah (whether Junot Diaz, Kosoko Jackson, etc.)” – Agent

“Love when authors and illustrators interact with readers.” – Editor

“If people have a website or blog, it should be up to date. If it can’t be up to date, take it down.” – Erin Murphy, President of Erin Murphy Literary Agency

“We have to work together for a lengthy period. If you come across as difficult, rude, negative, or politically extreme it makes me think twice about working with you. There’s a lot of talent out there. Why would I put myself in that position?” – Editor

“For illustrators, extra work to see is good! For everyone, some evidence that you’re not awful and don’t just talk about writing is good, too. I just mostly want to know you are who you say you are.” – Editor

“I look for professionalism above all. I look for authors who are effectively engaging to promote their books without stalking editors by filling up their social media feeds. That’s a red flag for me. I also look always for evidence that creators are primarily focussed on developing their work and craft.” – Agent

“Writers get more of a pass on social media, but for illustrators I definitely want to see them experimenting with different styles. If the rest of their work is too hard to find, or there’s no link to a portfolio, that makes it harder to get interested.” – Agent

Source: inkygirl.com

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How to Refine Your Raw Writing Talent – by Jerry B. Jenkins

Discouraging, isn’t it?

You write a few blog posts and friends sing your praises. You dream, Maybe I’ve got what it takes to score a publishing deal.

But then you run your idea and your samples past an agent, an editor, or a published author, and the music screeches to a halt. You interpret their “meh” as a scathing critique and you’re rudely awakened from your dream.

Special Note: This is a guest post by New York Times Bestselling author, Jerry B. Jenkins. Jerry’s one of the most successful authors of our time with over 70 million copies of his books sold. Visit: jerryjenkins.com

Unfortunately, I’ve seen it over and over.

Writers ask me for feedback. I believe they want real input, but when they see my suggested edits, their faces fall.

I know they were dreaming I would say, “Where have you been? How has a major publishing house not found you yet?”

They weren’t really looking for input—they were looking to be discovered.

You might have a boatload of talent—enough to tell compelling stories in fresh ways. But if you can’t accept criticism from those in the business, you’re not going to succeed.

I’ve written and published 195 books, including 21 New York Times bestsellers, yet I still need fresh eyes on my work. And I’ve had to become a ferocious self-editor.

Writing is a craft.

That means you must build your writing muscles and learn the skills.

Writing is a craft. That means you must build your writing muscles and learn the skills.

Regardless how talented you think you are, writing takes work. Many talented athletes never become pros because they believed raw talent alone would carry them.

That doesn’t have to be you, as long as you cultivate your skills.

3 Ways to Hone Your Talent

1. Read, Read, Read

Writers are readers. Good writers are good readers. Great writers are great readers.

Writing in your favorite genre? You should have read at least 200 titles in it. Learn the conventions. Know the rules you plan to break.

You’ll become aware of what works and what doesn’t. And you’ll likely see a vast difference in your writing.

2. Write, Write, Write

Dreamers talk about writing. Writers write.

Don’t expect to grow unless you’re in the chair doing it. 

Write short stuff first. Articles, blogs. Learn to work with an editor. Learn the business. Get a quarter million cliches out of your system.

3. Welcome Brutally Honest Feedback

The fastest way to shave years off your learning curve is to seek real input from someone who knows.

But be prepared. Your ego may take a bruising.

Yes—the red ink hurts. During my early years in the newspaper and magazine business, editors tore my work apart.

But it made me the writer I am today. Without that scrutiny I don’t know where I’d be, but it wouldn’t be on any bestseller lists.

Expect to be heavily edited and learn to aggressively self-edit.

Take advantage of every opportunity to grow. Assume there is always room for improvement.

I am still learning and trying to sharpen my skills, after over 50 years in this game.

By Bryan Hutchinson

Source: positivewriter.com

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Book Promotion: Do This, Not That – July 2019

By Amy Collins

So many authors launch their first book (or second) before building a list of readers and fans and THEN start working on attracting readers. They labor under the false idea that they need a book FIRST and then they can start building their readership. I mean, how ELSE do you build a base of fans and readers until you have a book?

Well, Nicole Evelina, the author of The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy did just that. While she was working on her first book she decided to start drawing readers into her online “web.” This self-published author is now so popular with readers that when she has a new book coming out, thousands of rabid fans crash into each other buying her newest release.

So I asked Nicole to share with me:

  • What were some of the early steps that she took and found successful to help draw and attract readers?
  • How did she get started BEFORE she had a book?

What She Did

The first thing she said was that she blogged frequently long before the first book was out.

She is a writer of historical fiction so, like many novelists, had a lot of research from which to draw for her blog. According to Evelina, only about 1% of the research that she does for any type of book actually ends up in the book because she doesn’t want to bore her readers with all the details and stuff that makes up the backstory and fills the characters personality and experiences.

So for her, a blog was a great outlet for that. And to this day, her most trafficked pages on her website are some of those early posts where she wrote about Celtic life. She wrote blogs about the 12 types of Celtic marriage and another about the weaponry that that the Celts would have used. Another blog covered the way the Celts would cook…

That helped attract people to her that who were interested in historical elements and readers. She found that those interested in what they used to call dark ages, now call early medieval history, were often also interested in Arthurian legend because that’s the time period where it’s set.

She also actively encouraged those readers and blog subscribers to join her online in social media. By doing that on twitter and Facebook, she was able to reach out to friends and connections of her current online buddies. Her reach grew a little each day.

What She Does Now

ASK!

Just this week, I saw a post by Nicole where she said (in essence) “Hey folks, who’s got a blog, who’s got a newsletter, who can talk about my new book?” It was brilliant, she just ASKED! I watched a TON of people respond by saying YES.

Her book is now in the top 10 of historical fiction because these fans all jumped in and shared the posts, ads and recommendations she asked them to.

Because she has worked so hard to build a group of fans, she had a great response.

What We Should Do Now

We, too, can develop a team of readers who are willing to help us build our careers. This works for big-name authors and self-published authors alike…the key is ATTRACTION. There is no need to pound people over the head with a newsletter or offers to join a private fan group. It needs to be voluntary from readers. These readers/fans need to care about us and love us enough to want to support us.

Don’t be afraid of working this attraction angle…. I know every author out there has other authors that they love. If your favorite author asked you to read an early copy of their next book…. would you be willing to read it and post a review on, on a publication day or be willing to give it away on your blog, or share it on social media? Of course you would! So would your future fans. But they need to be ASKED.

We need to build our own team of fans and readers… even BEFORE our books are out. The reason this works for Nicole is because she is so genuine and real online. She spends 80% or more of her time online sharing truly personal items or asking folks about THEM. She genuinely wants to get to know people. I see her wishing folks happy birthday or offering condolences when somebody’s pet passes away… that’s a human connection, and it’s the stuff that builds fans. What does not work is pushing your book over and over.

You have heard me say this million times over: “Authors are not your competition. They’re your community.”

Join and build your community. If you do not enjoy social media, you have to figure out a way to build your community without it or learn to love it. And if you DO enjoy social media, you will enjoy a great deal of success. This is what it’s all about. Not hiding behind a typewriter or word processor. It’s about getting out there and being part of your community.

There you have it…. You CAN build your readership and fan base before you have a book. Honest. (And, you should!)

Source: thebookdesigner.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing