6 Things Writers Can Do This Holiday Season

Halloween is in the distant past (as is summer), Thanksgiving is behind us, and the Christmas season is in full swing. This is traditionally the time when the publishing business slows down, folks go on vacation, the holidays consume us, and not a lot gets done until after the new year.

I’m not sure if that still holds true or not. In this age of instant communication, maybe it’s just as easy to accept or reject a manuscript at home, on the train or bus, or even in the car (in the passenger seat, of course) as it is in the office. Needless to say, every publishing house, editor, agent, and writer does it differently. Many writers self-publish these days and can work around their holiday festivities with no worries about publishing houses slowing down during the last month of the year.

Aside from wondering if this holds true, I also want to mention how easy it is to put our writing on the back burner and take it easy for a while. If that works for you, and you don’t feel guilt or pressure, I say go for it. If, though, you’re like me and would rather know you’re on top of things in your little corner of this profession, you’ll continue doing what you always do.

You’ll people-watch. Malls are great places to watch others as they run from store to store, lugging around their latest purchases and cursing themselves for not leaving their winter coats in the car. You’ll see exasperated parents, cranky toddlers, whiny teenagers, bored middle-schoolers, frantic retail employees. You’ll see men and women who truly want to be there shopping their hearts out, and you’ll see others who gladly would give you a kidney on the spot if you would just get them out of there.

You’ll eavesdrop. Everyday conversations are interesting enough, but add in the stress and hustle-bustle of mall-shopping, and you’ve struck dialogue gold. Shopping is tough from the get-go; add in a heavy coat, bags of purchases whose handles, whether twine or plastic, are threatening to cut off the circulation to your hands at any moment, the food court and its horde of hungry humans, and the lines–let’s not forget the long lines–and you’ve got some juicy dialogue to steal.

You’ll take notes. Neither of the above activities will be worth a hill of beans if you don’t take notes. Dictate what you hear and see into your phone (and you’ll have the added advantage of looking like a spy), so all those gestures, words, and whining you’ve culled from your day of snooping won’t be forgotten.

You’ll continue journaling, writing devotionals, free-writing, or whatever you do with your computer when you’re not actually writing or editing (and Free Cell doesn’t count) your latest work-in-progress, if for no other reason than to keep your work fresh and in the forefront of your mind.

You’ll keep up with your blog posts, or at least warn your readers that you’ll be back in a couple of weeks. While I don’t personally have as much time to read blog posts during the holidays as I do during the rest of the year, I do look forward to a few of them and would wonder where they went if I wasn’t told in advance. It’s just common courtesy. You might also want to write some blog posts, tweets, etc., ahead of time and schedule them with Edgar or some other site that will do that for you. That allows you the freedom of not having to worry about missing important obligations.

And finally, I sincerely hope you’ll remember what this season is really all about and enjoy yourself, your family, the food, fun, and parties, the meaningful church activities, and all the traditions that surround you and your loved ones. No, we can’t forget we’re writers and losing a month out of the twelve we get each year will no doubt cause you to do some catching up come January. But a little forethought and a few minutes each day devoted to what you do best will go a long way in keeping those January blues at bay.

Maintaining an orderly work life is important, but that pales in comparison to the memories you’ll make with your family and loved ones. A little bit of planning will go a long way in giving yourself the freedom to truly enjoy the holidays and all they entail.

Source: authorculture.blogspot.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Waterstones to Open Five Bookstores Before Christmas – Mostly in London

UK bookseller Waterstones got a lot of press last week when it announced plans to open 5 stores by the end of the year, and several more next year.

That is more new stores than we’ve seen from anyone other than Amazon, which has opened or announced 17 bookstores (16 stores, actually , plus one that isn’t official yet) in the past couple years, but what is more interesting about Waterstones new stores is where they are located.

waterstones_2867464b

Image Source: telegraph.co.uk

From The Bookseller:

Waterstones is to open five new bookshops before Christmas – with three named after the area they are based, in the spirit of an independent bookshop. The new locations are in St Neots, Epsom, Deal in Kent, Weybridge and London’s Blackheath.

The latter three shops are smaller in size and will be named The Deal Bookshop, The Weybridge Bookshop and The Blackheath Bookshop respectively. Stores in St Neot’s and Epsom meanwhile will carry the Waterstones branding.

At the same time, the company revealed it plans to open more shops in 2018, with one in Reigate already signed up and with “several more in advanced negotiation”.

The news means the retailer will have opened 20 new stores since it was bought by Russian oligarch Alexander Mamut from the HMV Group in 2011 and follows Waterstones’ return to profit for the first time under its current ownership earlier this year. At that point, managing director James Daunt told The Bookseller the chain planned to open at least 10 new stores in 2017.

The announcement will inspire confidence in the firm at a time Mamut is reportedly exploring a £250m sale of the chain via corporate financiers N M Rothschild, which surfaced last month.

The thing about these locations is that 4 of the 5 are located close to or in London (the one exception is located in the coastal town of Deal, in Kent). (Also, two of “new” stores were replacements for stores closed years before.)

Chris McRudden looked into the socioeconomic data for each new makret, and he noted on Twitter that Waterstones was essentially copying the same expansion plan that managing director James Daunt used when he still ran his chain, Daunt Books.

“Daunts built its business on locations in nice areas where people are rich enough to pay full RRP for books,” McCrudden tweeted. “James Daunt is rebuilding Daunts at scale with Waterstones.”

All the new Waterstones stores are located in areas with n excess of professionals with above average incomes, “a signal that Waterstones wants nice, safe middle-class consumers with high disposable incomes,” according to McCrudden.

“So it’s good news for the book business, I suppose. A stronger Waterstones is a bargaining chip against Amazon (not that Amazon gives a fuck, they build the Internet now). But I daresay it won’t reach a single new reader.”

By Nate Hoffelder
Source: the-digital-reader.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

On Writer Buddies & Ignoring Them

“Generally, art partly completes what nature cannot bring to a finish, and partly imitates her.” -Aristotle, Physics, Pt. 2& 8

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” -Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying.

Although the critical theorist in me would love to join a spirited debate between two old dead guys, for the sake of brevity let’s just agree that life and art are inextricable. Then as artists we can apply those truths we’ve found in life to the benefit of our work (which will then improve our life, likely resulting in the further improvement of our work, but that’s only if imitation…wait, I said I WASN’T going to join the debate).

th

In life, we have multidisciplinary evidence that it’s impossible to succeed or thrive without human contact; the same is true of art. You cannot succeed as a writer without allies and friendships. Yet the work of a writer (and I imagine most artists) is rather secluded. I can’t tell you how many times I have laughed at myself when writing a scene thinking “How would a non-socially awkward person respond in this moment… oh well, I have beta readers and normal people for that.”
There is this romantic image in the writer’s mind of a cabin in a forest somewhere which contains little besides a laptop, maybe a caffeine source, and a table near a pot belly stove. The haze of said cabin is a place from which triumphant writers emerge with completed manuscripts after the course of a week. Now, I have been to that cabin; my friend’s mom owns it and sometimes we go there for tea and the pleasant company of ignoring each other for a while. Ah…the cabin. ::sigh:: But that romantic image is not where books get made.
Isolation is the suffocating pit of self-doubt where dreams go to die. Don’t get me wrong, I understand and agree that there is a definite time to buckle your pants and close the door so you can get the work done. Managing distractions and interruptions is a skill that must be a sharp pair of scissors in a writer’s toolkit. Don’t get me started on smartphones and the “attention economy” (seriously though, google that, but not right now, you’re reading something). Some parts of the writing process are isolated and focused.  But others require external input and criticism; writers know this. I personally recommend this cool new thing the kids are doing called single-tasking (It’s pretty fringe, you’ve probably never heard of it). It’s this new wave habit where you turn of the smartphone and TV, ignore all the people that you love, and do one thing at a time. The writers that practice it, finish their books. Food for pigeons.
oscar-wild-60553_640
I’m still new at this (obviously, you should see my under-construction newbie website. Or maybe not, ha!), but there were two things that took my writing game to the next level in 2017. The first was tracking my hours. That habit showed me the limits on my “focus” time. Before tracking, I often vacillated between “I have no time to write” and “I am taking so much time to write away from my family, oh the guilt! But data doesn’t lie, and I have been averaging about 15 hours a week for 11 months because I started tracking. My two cents: Track. Analyze. See where it takes you. The second and even more helpful change I made this year was connecting with fellow writers. I’ll be honest with you; it was intimidating at first. I started out thinking, “Who am I to comment, ask for feedback, or share ideas?” Not to mention, we all have asked that dreaded question, “Am I really a writer?” I’ll let you in on an industry secret; you are. And more to the point at hand, we’ve all asked it of ourselves. That question is not so far in my rearview mirror that I have forgotten its impact. It matters; ask it; answer it.  There will come a moment when you realize how silly it is that you ever had to ask. But whether or not we admit it we’ve all asked ourselves that question. For some of us we were in junior high, but we still asked it.
Honestly, for me, connecting with authors is still intimidating. I’m writing a guest post for Author Culture today for cry-babying out loud, how cool is that? My first book is only half finished, but without the dual pedals of focused work and writer buddies, on my book-cycle (oh man that’s a terrible metaphor), my WIP would still be an intangible dream.
This writing journey, whether it’s to Canterbury, Random House, or Amazon is made better by companyae (Ha! Middle English non-conventional spelling for the win!).
I cannot stress this enough. Do the work. Write. And connect. With. Other. Writers.
Good. Now, actually show them your work. Otherwise you will likely end up arguing with Aristotle or something…
…and we all know how that ended.
Source: authorculture.blogspot.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

4 Movie Quotes Every Writer Needs

There are few things in the world as weird as being a writer. We pour ourselves into our work, giving it everything we have, pushing through rejection, overcoming one barrier after another, hoping our work will be noticed. In this strange and taxing pursuit, it’s important that we hold onto some truths that can keep us centered, inspirational quotes for writers that will remind us why we write.

Sometimes, the best place to find those truths is in movies.

Four Movie Moments for Writers

There are lots of movie moments that I hold in my head because they inspire me. Here are four movies and their inspirational quotes for writers that I’ve leaned on this week:

Quote #1

Are you crying? Are you crying? There’s no crying, there’s no crying in baseball!

—Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own

Following a bad play, the coach of the Rockford Peaches, Jimmy Dugan (played by Tom Hanks), yells at one of his players. As he walks away, the player begins to cry. Jimmy turns on the player and delivers this iconic quote.

There lots of things about writing that makes me want to cry. This week, for example, one of my books was given a very honest three-star review that exposed all of the book’s flaws.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know the flaws were there. I knew they were there. I had just hoped no one else would see them. When the critic laid them bare for the world, I wanted to cry.

What I love about the Jimmy Dugan quote is that there is profound truth behind it. Tears may feel good in the moment, but wallowing in them can blind us to truths we need to hear. In writing, just like in baseball, we need to accept our mistakes, learn from them, and get back out on the field and play the next inning.

We can be sad for a moment, but there is work to be done and we are the ones that need to do it.

Maybe it’s not a critic making you want to cry. Maybe you lost NaNoWriMo this year? Or maybe you are dissatisfied with your own work? Or maybe life is making it difficult to find the time to crank out the words.

Whatever the stressor is, just remember the words of Jimmy Dugan. Stiffen your upper lip, look in the mirror, and say, “Are you crying? There’s no crying. There’s no crying in writing!”

Quote #2

In this life, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody but yourself.

—Fortune in Rudy

In the movie Rudy, Fortune (Charles Dutton) is a wise groundskeeper and mentor to the movie’s protagonist. In one scene, Fortune finds Rudy (Sean Astin) skipping football practice. When Fortune asks Rudy why he wants to quit, Rudy explains that he quit because he wasn’t going to be able to play in the upcoming game and therefore wasn’t going to be able to prove the world that he had made it.

Fortune responds by reminding Rudy that he has zero talent and shouldn’t even be playing the game. Then he delivers the amazing line, “In this life, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody but yourself.”

I’ve published four novels and close to a hundred short stories, and still, I see the achievements of others and wonder when I’m going to become a “real writer.” I envy the money other writers make, the acclaim they get, and the attention from our peers. I envy the speed at which they publish, the advertisements they run, and the podcast interviews they do.

In these moments, I find myself in Rudy’s shoes, feeling like I should quit because the recognition I desire feels unattainable.

It’s in those moments when I need Fortune’s quote the most. I need to be reminded that I don’t do this for the praise of the crowd. The crowd is fickle and their attention is fleeting. Pursuing it is like chasing a snowflake. Even if we catch it, it disappears as quickly as it came.

We can’t work hoping for affirmation from the crowd. We need to do our work and do it well, knowing the only person we need to prove anything to is ourselves.

Quote #3

Do you really want to get him? You see what I’m saying. What are you prepared to do? And then, what are you prepared to do?

—Jim Malone in The Untouchables

In the movie The Untouchables, Jim Malone (Sean Connery) is a streetwise beat cop in Chicago. He is approached by Treasury Officer Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and asked to join Ness’s team that is going to hunt the notorious gangster Al Capone. Malone pulls Ness into a church where they can talk quietly.

Sitting in the pews, Malone asks Ness this iconic question: “What are you prepared to do?” When Ness responds, “Everything within the law,” Malone shoots back, “And then what are you prepared to do?”

While we aren’t hunting down mob bosses, we shouldn’t kid ourselves about the difficulty of the task before us. Creating art that is noticed and makes a lasting impact is hard. Few succeed. Even fewer are remembered.

It demands hard work and sacrifice. There will be late nights and early mornings no one will applaud you for. There will be pages and stories and characters you pour yourself into that no one will appreciate. And if you succeed and someone reads your stuff, there will be criticism and rejection.

This is no easy task ahead of us.

We need to remind ourselves of this so that when things get hard, we aren’t surprised. With each barrier we face, we need to keep Malone’s voice in the back of our mind.

We need the old, grizzled voice of wisdom challenging us, refusing to let us be naive. We need the questions, “What are you prepared to do? And then what are you prepared to do?” routinely put to us so that we don’t forget that, though the road is difficult, the journey is worth the sacrifice.

Quote #4

You think we need one more? You think we need one more. Alright, we’ll get one more.

—Danny Ocean in Ocean’s Eleven

In the movie Ocean’s Eleven, after assembling ten members of their team, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) are sitting in a bar watching TV. As a boxing match plays on the screen in front of them, Danny asks Rusty, “You think we need one more?” I love this quote because it reminds me that getting the right team around us is critical to our success.

It is tempting to think of writing as a solitary thing: you and your keyboard alone in an empty room. That image couldn’t be farther from the truth.

While writing does require a lot of isolated work, it can’t be done without a team of people around us. No one makes art alone. We need other writers to bounce ideas off of and give us honest feedback. We need team members to work alongside as we strive together to get our work noticed.

Just this week I listened to an online course presented by Joe Bunting and Ruthanne Reid. Three years ago, I met them when I joined the Becoming Writer community. The impact they have had on my work by encouraging me, giving me feedback, and teaching me what it means to be a writer is priceless. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without them.

I’m glad that when I started this crazy journey, I had Danny Ocean in the back of my mind asking, “Do you think we need one more?” The answer is yes.

The good news is, if you don’t have a group of writers you are working alongside, you can find them right here by joining the Becoming Writer group.

Your Writing Inspiration

Becoming and being a writer is a strange journey. We need to keep ourselves grounded with things that inspire us.

I’ve shared with you four of my inspirational quotes for writers. Now you share a few of yours with the rest of us in the comments. Give us the quote and tell us what about it inspires you.

What inspirational quotes do you lean on to keep you centered as a writer? Let us know in the comments.

By Jeff Elkins
Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

‘100 Days in Appalachia’ Nears One-Year Mark in Telling Untold Stories of Rural America

Sylvester Edwards, farmer, McDowell County, West Virginia. (Photo by Nancy Andrews/100 Days in Appalachia.)

 

If collaboration is a way for journalists to investigate the scale of a global story or focus on a patchwork of community blocks, there’s most certainly a place for it in looking at the world through the eyes of Appalachia.

“We’re not a local media outlet and we’re not a regional media outlet. We’re a national outlet about the region and with the region.”

100 Days in Appalachia is a collaborative partnership focused on reporting on a region that is more complicated than commonly portrayed by the reporting trope of “Trump’s America.” Through the partnership, the project seeks to tell the complex story of Appalachia’s people, places and lives and to look at issues through the lens of what they mean for the region.
https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F100DaysInAppalachia%2Fvideos%2F1598855853519217%2F&width=600&show_text=false&appId=449733098437941&height=336

100 Days in Appalachia is a collaborative project connecting WVU’s Reed College of Media, West Virginia Public Broadcasting and The Daily Yonder.

It was a project that was in planning stages for years, and finally came to fruition thanks to an important catalytic event.

“I think it’s sort of funny how we spent a couple years planning and planning and planning and then we just jumped in and did it. And I’m not sure that we would have benefited from any more planning than the 24 hours we took after the election to just start,” Dana Coester says.

Coester is the creative director and executive editor of 100 Days in Appalachia, based at West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media, where she’s also creative director of the WVU Media Innovation Center. She says the election was a catalyst to get things moving.

“‘Let’s just do something. Let’s just do something right now, let’s respond to this.’ Because everybody was talking about Appalachia,” Coester says. “And then we just dove into that. We wanted it to be very assertive, and narrate what was happening nationally, but through the prism of Appalachia, because in a way Appalachia was a metaphor for everything anyway.”

“We’re not a local media outlet and we’re not a regional media outlet. We’re a national outlet about the region and with the region,” Coester says.

National attention for the project and the audience that’s building from outside the region is shifting the perspective on Appalachia both nationally and internationally according to Coester.

She highlights readership by journalists and politicians as a indicator of the broader impact the project is having. Especially when some of the most viewed content from the project represents a “polarized spectrum of audience.” Those pieces include a video series “Muslim in Appalachia 360° series and an interview with “the most interviewed coal miner in America.” These projects reflect a sense of in-depth reporting in the region that will hopefully contribute to the day-by-day work of rebuilding audience that Coester considers part of their work.

“As part of the Democracy Fund work, in 2018 we’ll be conducting a series of community engagement activities throughout the region to more formally measure impact, attitudes and trust,” Coester says. “We are learning that the national media landscape over the past few years has in a way “trained” audience members to view content and outlets through polarized contexts — that you must be one thing or another on a political spectrum. Breaking that expectation and rebuilding trust is part of the challenge we’re trying to address, one piece of content at a time and through these community engagement efforts.”

Market Failure to Market Success

100 Days combines original reporting, content from writers and creators in the region, and partners republishing and amplifying each other’s work. It’s a combination that’s carried the project through 100 days and into almost a year of coverage come January.

Tim Marema, the editor of the Daily Yonder and the vice president of the Center for Rural Strategies, says that the success of and need for a project like 100 Days reflects a market failure for information in Appalachia.

“We have the same needs as any part of the United States for good journalism but we don’t have the market that supports and attracts the kind of journalism we need commercially,” Marema says.  “So this partnership between a nonprofit and an educational organization and a public broadcaster is market intervention if you will, to sort of jump start the journalism we need.”

Marema says there’s a need for national journalism in and about Appalachia, but there’s also a need for what 100 Days provides.

“It’s easier to let somebody else’s brain dictate your story when you are from the outside, and I think that people who are in the region have a better sense of what’s been covered, how it’s been covered, and what needs to be covered. And I think you need both, both rooted in the region and national as well.”

Contributing editor Lovey Cooper echoes that sentiment.

“I think in DC there is a lot of the idea that ‘If anything is going to matter it has to come through our lens first’ and we’re challenging that kind of thing, and saying that that’s definitely not the case,” Cooper says.  “It’s important to tell these stories with a sense of local history and local context and local nuance.”

Cooper is a recent addition to the team. She previously worked in DC covering policy at a couple different outlets focused on education.

“This really is a model that I think works for this kind of reporting,” Cooper says. “Because our project’s just such a wide region, it just makes sense to do things this way, to work with people who actually are living on the ground and in these small towns who we probably couldn’t physically get to come into an office and report for us.”

Support for 100 Days comes from Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the Democracy Fund with WVPB and WVU’s Reed College of Media contributing. As the project moves forward, exploring long term business models is a priority. 2018 will bring experiments in events and sponsored content with exploration of scaling the model to other regions. Coester highlights the power of cultural identity as an impetus to experiment with reader sponsorship.

An Experiment

Coester says the project works because of an engaged team that trusts and gives each other the runway for experimentation even when results are not immediately tangible. She says the partners are in frequent communication to work out the details of amplifying each other and republishing each other’s work.

“It’s messy. Everything works, sort of,” Coester says. “We work, day and night. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and also one of the funnest things I’ve ever done. This is why I went to journalism school.”

For organizations thinking of trying their own take on a project like 100 Days in Appalachia, Coester highlights that experimentation and risk tolerance are part of the deal.

“I think if you’re going to do a startup and you’re going to try to be experimental, and you’re going to try to be assertive, then give yourself permission to stumble in that,” Coester says. “There’s a big difference between newsroom operations of something that’s been in existence for a couple decades, and something coming out of nothing. So I think just being comfortable with that is essential.”

The experimentation and collaboration is paying off for 100 Days. The project is regularly publishing content about the region that goes beyond the surface observations and stories we’ve heard before. Coester says that pitches from potential contributors have grown and they now have to work hard to keep up with responding to them all. The project is leveraging the expertise of its different partners to try new stories and kinds of storytelling. The project’s photo profile series “100 days, 100 voices” by photographer Nancy Andrews strives to depict “the varied faces, passions, issues and opinions from around the region.” Coester highlights upcoming work about the role that religion plays in communities and politics as an example of digging deeper into topics that have regional significance.

“You’re in competition with everybody and that’s the natural thing for media,” Coester says. “But when the industry is as distressed as it is, and when a region is as distressed as [Appalachia] is, this seems like a really good way to create a network [where] the benefits can spread to more people.”

Heather Bryant is a journalist and the founder and director of Project Facet, an open source infrastructure project that supports newsrooms in managing the logistics of creating, editing and distributing content, managing projects and facilitating collaborative relationships. She spent her last year studying collaboration between newsrooms as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford.

By Heather Bryant
Source:mediashift.org

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Building an Author Website: The First Step to Publishing

If you’re like most writers I know, you probably dream of getting published. But as I’ve worked with writers for the last six years, I’ve found that most are woefully unprepared for what publishing actually takes, and this means that either they never figure out what it takes to get published or when they finally DO get published, they find themselves disappointed with the process and with how many books they sell.

How do you prepare for getting published though? There are several steps, but the first step is building an author website. In this article, I’m going to share a step-by-step guide to building a simple author website yourself that will support all of your publishing efforts.

building

Why Building a Website is the First Step You Should Take BEFORE You Get Published

As book sales move more and more online, a website where you can develop a relationship with your readers is essential. It doesn’t matter if your book is being published by a big traditional publisher or if you’re self-publishing. You need a website.

Why is having an author website so important? Why not just focus on free and easy platforms like Facebook and Twitter for your book marketing efforts?

  • Social media doesn’t sell books, but an email list does. You might think email is an old school way to sell books and that it can’t possibly work, but the numbers say something very different. In fact, 66 percent of people say they have made a purchase because of an email they received compared to only 20 percent of people who have purchased something from a Facebook post and six percent from Twitter. I’ve been watching this trend for years, and every statistic I’ve ever read has shown me that email is far and above the best way to get your audience to buy your book.
  • The best place to build your email list is on a website.
  • How then do you build your email list? Through your website. In fact, a simple, single-page website with an email opt-in form is enough to completely change your publishing success.
  • You OWN your website. You don’t own your social media following. Facebook does. Twitter does. Instagram does. And they can change the rules any time they want, like when Facebook changed their algorithm to only show a fraction of people’s posts. Or when Instagram did the same.

“But I’m Not Tech Savvy”: Why Anyone Can Build an Author Website

If the idea of building a website is intimidating to you, though, it shouldn’t be. I’ve built over a dozen websites and helped other writers set up a few dozen more, many in just a few hours, and even though I’m pretty savvy, it doesn’t mean you have to be to setup a simple author website.

Anyone can set up a simple author website in just a few hours if you know the right steps and don’t get overwhelmed by all the options out there.

At the same time, when I built my first website, it took me weekbecause I was doing it on my own, with no one to guide me through the process. My hope is that this guide will make the process simple enough that anyone can build a website.

10 Steps to Building an Author Website

If you read this article from start to finish and follow each step, you will have a great author website.

1. Choose Your Platform

You have many options when it comes to building a simple author website, but there are only three that I recommend.

Self-Hosted WordPress. My personal favorite is a self-hosted WordPress website (which is very different from a free WordPress.com website). I’ve been building websites on WordPress for almost ten years, and it combines ease, flexibility, and full control over your site.

You have to pay to host your website if you choose this option. That costs about $50 a year through Bluehost, which is the hosting company I recommend (you can click here to setup your WordPress website through Bluehost). Note that this includes a domain name, normally $12 a year. This is the least expensive, highest value option available.

WordPress has a number of free themes that allow you to quickly change the entire look and feel of your site. You can also purchase a paid theme (we use Divi at thewritepractice.com, and it’s amazing). Choose Self-Hosted WordPress (via Bluehost).

(HINT: I usually go with the Basic plan, paid yearly, with no add-ons. Bluehost and any other hosting service you choose will likely pitch you several add-on services for an extra cost. Personally, I always say no to all of them.)

Squarespace. If you’re not going to get a self-hosted WordPress, then Squarespace is a great second option. They have beautiful design and make it incredibly easy to set up and get started. Squarespace costs $12 a month to get started, about three times more than a self-hosted WordPress website, but they include a lot of features under that price. Choose Squarespace.

WordPress.com (free). Not to be confused with a self-hosted WordPress website (e.g. WordPress.org), WordPress.com is like the free, “light” version of a self-hosted WordPress website. If you want to get started quickly and for free, this can be a good option. I would still recommend Squarespace over WordPress.com—and a self-hosted WordPress website over both—but this can be a way to ease yourself into building an author website. Plus, it’s fairly easy to export and transfer to a self-hosted WordPress website when you’re ready to up your game. Choose WordPress.com.

Which Website Platforms to Avoid:

  • Weebly. I’ve see a few good author websites built on Weebly, but most look clunky.
  • Wix. Every author website I’ve seen built on Wix looks like it’s from 2005. Plus, their branding will be on every page. You should be advertising your writing, not your website platform.
  • GoDaddy Site Builder (or any host’s native site builder). Hosting companies are good at hosting, not creating software for building websites.

2. Register Your Domain Name

A domain name is the URL where your website lives, e.g. joebunting.com. When people type it into their browser, they will arrive at your website. All three of the platforms I recommended above allow you to register a domain name through them, but you can also register through a third party like Google Domains or Name.com (although I do recommend registering through the platform you choose above).

Your domain name is one of the first branding decisions you make as you build your website. The challenge is that as the Internet expands, more and more domains are registered and the best ones become scarce. How do you find one that’s both available and right for you? Here are a few important tips:

  • Look around before registering. Your first choice for a domain may already be taken, so it’s important to search before getting to far into the website building process. You can use Google’s Domain Search tool to quickly look through different domain options (HINT: Once you find your perfect domain, don’t register it on this tool. Instead, register it through the platform you chose above. You can always transfer domain names, but it’s an extra step that can be a little complicated.)
  • Use your first and last name (e.g. johngrisham.com). If it’s available, that is. If you write under a pen name, then your pen name would be the domain name, and if your name is difficult to spell, then you might consider writing under a pen name. If your name is not available, you can use a .me, .us, or .net domain, but I wouldn’t use .org unless you write religious or service books. I would not use a middle initial in your domain name. You can also append a word to the end of your name, like joebuntingwriter.com or buntingbooks.com. Not as good as your author name, but it can still work.
  • Don’t use your book title as your (main) domain name. Because what will you do when you write another book. It’s fine to have a simple landing page or a basic website for each book you write (like this one), but not for your main author website.
  • Don’t include dashes in the domain. Adding a dash in between your first and last name is an easy way to get your name if it’s already taken, but it makes it a little harder for people to find you. Plus, in my opinion, it doesn’t look very good.

Other Domain Search Tools:

This handy tool:

https://www.bluehost.com/web-hosting/domaincheckapi/?affiliate=joebunting

3. Find a Few Author Websites to Model Yours On

Before you get deep into the design process, find a few author websites you like to model yours on. Here are a few author websites I recommend checking out:

As you look at their sites, take notice of the main elements of each site. Here are some of the most important elements:

  • Header. The image, logo, or name at the very top of the site. Don’t be overwhelmed if you have no idea how to make images look as awesome as the sites above. These authors all have design teams, but you can easily make simple but awesome looking images with a free tool like Canva.
  • Featured Banner. Often authors will have an image with their latest book featured as the first thing you see when you visit their site.
  • Email/Newsletter Sign Up Form. This is the most important section of the site, since your email list is the main way you develop a relationship with your readers. Building your email list is the number one best marketing step you can take for your writing. I really like Brad Thor’s site especially because his newsletter sign up form is above the fold.
  • Menu. This is where you’ll get an idea of the main pages. You’ll almost always find an About page, a Blog, a Books page, and a Contact page.
  • Endorsements and Reviews. Do they have any featured endorsements from well-known authors or reviews?
  • Social media channels. Do they link to any of their social media profiles? Which channels do they feature, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest?

4. Install WordPress

From here I’m going to assume you’re setting up your website with Bluehost on WordPress

After setting up your new Bluehost account and registering your domain (see steps 1 and 2 above), it’s time to install WordPress on your domain.

1. If you haven’t done so already, after you sign up for Bluehost, you will be able to register your domain (see steps 1). If you missed this step, you can also register afterward from the Bluehost dashboard so don’t worry.

Author Website Bluehost Install

2. On the Bluehost dashboard, click install WordPress.

Bluehost WordPress Install

What’s really happening here: When you sign up for hosting, you’re basically renting a computer, just a computer that’s set up to broadcast to the internet. Your domain is kind of a like a folder on that computer, and when you install WordPress, you’re basically installing an application on that folder.

3. Click continue WordPress installation.

4. On the next page, select the domain you registered earlier in the dropdown. Leave the directory form blank.

Building an Author Website: WordPress Installation

5. Enter your login credentials. Next you’ll be asked to create login credentials (username and password) for your new website. These are really important to keep in a safe place, but you’ll also get an email with them.

6. It will install for a few minutes. After it finishes, visit your new domain’s wordpress admin screen, e.g. yourdomainhere.com/wp-admin. Make sure to bookmark this page for the future.

That’s it! You did it! You now have a new website! Congratulations!

5. Familiarize Yourself With WordPress

WordPress is fairly easy to use once you find your way around, but it can sometimes be intimidating to new users. Here are a few things to take note of:

Dashboard

This is your home base, where you can see your website’s back end at a glance and access all your settings and pages.

Admin Header Bar

At the top of your screen is an admin bar with a few helpful buttons.

  • + New. Creates a new post or page.
  • Edit. If you’re on a post or page you want to edit, you can click the edit button here to make changes.
  • Home / Dashboard button. If you’re on the dashboard, you can click this to get to your website’s home screen. If you’re on your website, then you can click this to go to your dashboard.

Dashboard Menu

This is the main way to create pages and access all the settings on your site.

  • Posts & Pages. Posts are for your blog and usually include comments. Pages are for site-wide pages, like your About page, Books page, or Contact page.
  • Appearance. There are several menu items under this that control the appearance of your site:

Theme. Change your theme here. We’ll talk about themes in a moment.
Customize. Depending on your theme, you can preview some appearance customizations here.
Menus. The menu on the front of your site is created and controlled here.
Widgets. These are things that appear in your sidebar, like an email sign up form or an image of your book cover and link to your book’s Amazon/Barnes and Noble page.

  • Plugins. One of the things that makes WordPress so great is the huge community of developers building free and paid plugins to extend your site’s functionality. I’ll mention which plugins I recommend in a moment, but this is where you will install, activate, and configure them.
  • Settings. There are a few settings you should configure at the start.

General. This is where you can change your site name and tagline, choose your time zone, and set your email address. You can leave these as the default, but I would change your time zone.
Writing. This affects how the page and post editor looks. You don’t need to change anything here.
Reading. This affects your homepage and how many posts display on your blog. We’ll come back to this screen in a moment to set your homepage, but you don’t have to do anything now.
Permalinks. This affects the URL structure, and I would highly recommend changing it to “Post Name” setting.

Plugins I Recommend Installing

There are a few plugins that are essential, in my opinion.

  1. Jetpack. Gives you great features like visitor stats, hacker protection, and spellcheck.
  2. Akismet. Blocks spam comments. Connect with your WordPress.com account and choose the free plan.
  3. Sumo. Allows you to easy add sharing to your posts and pages, that thing that floats on the side of your post with sharing icons. Also gives you powerful email subscription tools. It’s free, but you have to create an account with Sumo after you install.
  4. Contact Form 7. Create a contact form here and then copy and paste the shortcode that it gives you onto a new page that you create and title Contact.

Advanced

  1. SEO by Yoast. Analyzes your pages and teaches you how to write so that Google can better find your website. Very cool!
  2. Google Analytics by Yoast. Google Analytics is the best free tool for tracking your website users. First create a free account here, then connect to your website with this plugin.

6. Choose Your Theme

Themes drastically affect the way your site looks, so finding the right one for you is important. However, there are so many great free and paid themes it can be overwhelming. Here are a few I recommend.

Free Themes for Author Websites

PageLine. This free theme gives you a huge amount of control over every element of your website, and the best part is that you don’t need to know any code to use it. You can download it here or install it from your Appearance > Themes page.

Recommended Themes for Author Websites

You get what you pay for, people always say, and while that’s somewhat true for blogs, I think you can go a very long way with a free theme. Personally, I used PageLines for this very website for years. BUT there are a few things free themes aren’t the best at. They tend to be slower to load, for example, and not as feature rich as some paid themes. Plus, the two themes below are really cool.

Divi. If you prefer a “What You See Is What You Get” editor for your website, Divi is amazing. It allows you to edit font sizes, colors, spacing, and more all from the user-facing side of your site. After using many different themes for years, this is the theme we settled on for The Write Practice. You can get Divi here.

Tribe. A premium theme built by author Jeff Goins, this theme gives you what you need to build an author website and nothing else. Perfect if you want something simple but functional. You can get Tribe here.

Custom Themes. Alternatively, you can hire a web designer to build you a custom theme. This is a great option if you don’t have an eye for design and/or don’t have the time to do it. Designers cost anywhere between a few hundred bucks to $1,000 for an experienced designer to $3,000+ for a high-end designer.

7. Create Your Header

Headers can be a simple logo, like ours on The Write Practice. Or an image of the author’s name like Elizabeth Gilbert’s site. Or a full width image like Gillian Flynn’s site.

Building an Author Website: Elizabeth Gilbert's Header

Building an Author Website: Gillian Flynn's Header

You can hire a designer for this, but it’s easier to create these on your own with Canva than you’d think. Here’s how:

  1. Before you can start, you need to find out the dimensions your header needs. This is determined by your theme, so check your theme’s settings. For reference, Elizabeth Gilbert’s header is 308 px wide by 29 px tall (px stands for pixels, which is the most common unit of measurement for websites).
  2. Go to Canva.com, create a free account or log in with your Facebook account, and then select “Use custom dimensions” (see screenshot). Building an Author Website: Creating a Header on Canva
  3. Enter your dimensions (e.g. 308 by 40, since Canva doesn’t allow dimensions smaller than 40).
  4. Create your logo! I recommend keeping it simple for now with just your name on a white background.
    Building an Author Website: Creating a Header with Canva 2
  5. Last, download your image (preferably as a PNG file) and then upload it into your theme!

8. Add Your Core Pages

After you install your theme, don’t obsess over the design right now. It takes a long time to get a website looking the way you want it to, but for now just focus on getting the broad elements setup. Your number one goal, remember, is to build your email list, so getting the simplest website possible to start collecting email addresses is ideal.

Home Page. Your website will default to displaying a blog, but for your author website, I recommend creating a custom home page. Take a look at Step 2 for the elements you’ll want to include here: for example, a featured book image (which you can create with Canva), email list sign up form (which we’ll talk about next), endorsements/testimonials, and link to your blog. A good model for this to start is Jeff Goins’s home page, because it’s fairly simple, text based, and doesn’t require a lot of image design work.

About Page. One of your most visited pages, this is where you’ll share a short bio. As you write your About page, remember that new readers don’t care about you; they care about themselves and the books they like to read. Don’t write out your full life story. Share only the information your reader will be interested in to discover whether or not your writing will be a good fit for them.

I like Brad Thor’s About Page as a good model for this, especially his strong brand tagline: “Brad has been called ‘the master of thrillers,’ and ‘America’s favorite author.’ His bestselling novels have been published in over 30 countries.”

Books Page. Simple a page with images of all your books and links to where readers can buy them. TIP: Embed Kindle instant book previews so readers can start reading your book right from your website. Here’s how.

Contact Page. Give readers the ability to contact you by creating a page with a contact form. Start by installing the plugin Contact Form 7 if you haven’t already. A “Contact” menu item will appear on your dashboard menu. Create a new contact form or use/edit the default one that’s pre-installed. Copy and paste the shortcode into a new page that you title Contact.

Editing the Menu

Depending on your theme, the menu on your site may automatically add each page you create. Either way, it’s a good idea to create a custom menu so you can have more control over what the menu includes. Here’s how:

  1. On the dashboard, go to Appearance > Menu.
  2. Click the button to create a new menu.
  3. Add the pages or custom links you want (e.g. Home, About, Books, Contact).
  4. Click the box to choose where the menu will appear, usually primary menu or secondary menu.
  5. Save it and then go to your homepage to make sure it looks like you want it to.

9. Set Up Your Email List

Your email list is one of the main reasons you’re doing all of this, and your newsletter signup form could be considered the most important element on your website.

First, you have to choose an email newsletter provider. Here I usually recommend Mailchimp, because it’s free for your first 2,000 subscribers. Mailchimp is a great company, and a very friendly service. That being said, personally I find it to be a little clunky and hard to use. We use Convertkit, and while I highly recommend them for authors, it’s a paid service and it can be pretty expensive. Your email list is a good place to invest, though. This should be one of your first upgrades.

Assuming you’re using Mailchimp, you can learn how to create your first email list and sign up form here.

10. Celebrate!

You did it! You created your author website! And if you followed these instructions, it should have only taken you a few hours of work.

Next, you can learn how to write the perfect blog post or simply rest in the glow of your accomplishments!

Do you have an author website? Share a link in the comments so we can see what you’ve created! 

Have a question or did you get stuck? Before you leave a comment, try Googling it or asking your hosting company for help. If you’ve already done that, feel free to leave a comment!

By Joe Bunting
Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Tone in Writing: The Uplifting Tone Your Writing Needs to Reach Your Readers

 

Do you write a blog? Mentor other writers? Parent a tiny version of yourself?

Then you’re a coach!

While you may not work in a classroom or on the field, odds are you practice some form of teaching and coaching that impacts the lives of others. You might even be doing that right here at The Write Practice—if you’re in a writing group giving feedback and sharing your critique with other writers, you’re a writing coach.

And since you’re a writer, you might blog about it, consider blogging about it, or write books and other content designed to help people.

Being a know-it-all, I’ve always assumed I was a good teacher and coach. I’ve often taken that attitude into blog posts and book chapters, and then wondered why I received negative comments and feedback.

I’m learning a tough lesson about successful teaching and coaching: Tone is everything.

Because if we coach with the wrong tone in writing, we might not be coaching at all, but driving our readers away!

Don’t Be Mean, David!

Last year, I wrote a book for my subscribers called The 10 Reasons Quit Your Book.

The idea behind the book was to hit writers where it hurts: the lack of response to their work.

As a writer and teacher of creative writing for over ten years now, I have a pretty good idea why some stories work and other stories do not. I’m not perfect by any stretch, but I’ve failed enough times (and seen others fail) to know what makes a reader think, “Meh.”

I shared 10 Reasons Readers Quit Your Book with a fellow writer and judge of last year’s Winter Writing Contest. She enjoyed it and found its teaching useful, but shared a critique that really struck me.

“Your tone,” she wrote, “is rather negative, and this might deter readers.”

In other words, my tone in writing was mean.

And it would almost certainly turn readers off to my message, and to me.

Tone in Writing: The Coach’s Dilemma

I’ve found this to be a challenge with all kinds of “coaching.” How do we identify failure in our readers while encouraging their success?

It’s a tough balance. Most of our readers are probably failing at something that we are not (we may be struggling, but not nearly as much as our readers are).

But your success is the reason you’re writing the coaching post!

  • You’ve lost weight, but your reader is still struggling with diet/exercise.
  • You’ve made a million dollars, but your reader is still living check-to-check.
  • You’ve mastered story structure, but your reader doesn’t know why structure is so important.

See how this gap between master and student can lead to an alienating tone?

This is especially hard because online coaching isn’t relational. We often don’t know our readers personally. Instead, they’re often busy browsers with five minutes to absorb our words of wisdom. If every one of those words isn’t carefully designed to empower them on to victory, we will almost certainly alienate them, probably through a “negative” tone.

So how do we adopt a tone in writing that won’t alienate our readers? What tangible step can we take to achieve this?

The answer — and how simple it is — will amaze you.

3 Steps to Employ the Power of “You”

The secret to mastering a “welcoming” and “positive” tone is in our careful use of pronouns.

In education, teachers use “gradual release” to help students master a new subject. In short, it works like this:

  • I do (model)
  • We do (guided practice)
  • You do (independent practice)

In our coaching, we need to use the same structure, but with a few twists.

1. Start with first-person singular

First, always begin your coaching with first-person examples, using “I,” “me,” and “my.”

This is especially true when giving non-examples, or examples of failure.

One thing I did right with 10 Reasons was begin with an example of my own glaring failure. Then, throughout the book, I referred back to it as a reminder that I am far from perfect and have failed at the concepts before.

This is a great way to build trust with your reader before launching into the concept you wish to coach.

2. Teach the concept in first-person plural

Then, teach the content or concept using the first-person plural: “we” and “us.”

Put yourself alongside the student. Be with them and let them see themselves as on the winning team while learning.

There is a huge difference between a learner who is “below” and a learner who is “with.”

When a student is allowed to see the teacher fail, recover, and pass on this hard-earned knowledge, it makes a world of difference. That is why it’s wise to lead from a humble position, seasoning our role as Coach with the reality of our Humanity.

Then, and only then, can you deploy the trickiest of pronouns: “You.”

3. Use “you” positively

Be positive and patient with “you”

“You” is a powerful word. Unlike “we,” which subtly brings the reader into our midst, “you” keeps the reader separate and alone. It is the most dangerous pronoun, and we are wise to treat it with great care.

Unfortunately for me in 10 Reasons, I wasn’t so careful.

“Non-examples” are often fun stories to tell. They are examples of failure — easy to laugh at, difficult to empathize with. And in 10 Reasons, I often used the pronoun “you” in those non-examples!

In even the most vanilla of moments, associating “you” — who is our precious reader — with anything negative can have a powerful and discouraging impact.

And my tone in writing came off as negative, as a result. While my fellow judge pressed on through the book, I can’t count on a stranger to do the same.

So in my revision of 10 Reasons, I’m choosing to wait until the time is right before unleashing this tricky pronoun.

At the end of each chapter, I reveal the “Story Secret” that leads to success.

Only here, once the bad examples and negativity have passed, do I use “you.”

Your readers want to get better. They want to win. 

And they’ve come to you not just for content, but hope. Give it to them by casting them as the hero once you’ve finished the harsher points of teaching.

Trust me: This works! I’m about three chapters into my rewrite of 10 Reasons, and I’m noticing incredible differences in the overall flow and feel of the book.

Wait until the end, and wait until “you” can be positive.

We have to be patient with “you,” and only use it once the time is right. Otherwise its coaching power will turn negative and scare our valuable readers away.

Don’t Be Cynical

One final thought on tone must be mentioned, and it has to do with negative humor.

When giving non-examples, it’s often fun to use clever imagery and go for the laugh. Yet in coaching, readers aren’t reading our work for the humor (unless you’re Jon Acuff); they’re reading because they’re hurt, they’re failing, they’re struggling, they’re vulnerable — they’re any number of things that make them a little uneasy.

Put simply, they’re fragile.

So take a lighter approach to humor, especially when incorporating humor into non-examples; we might end up making fun of our readers’ failures without knowing it!

I’m also guilty of writing with a “tough love” tone, using bold words and blunt syntax, thinking of myself as a hard-talking football coach.

Yet most of my readers (creative writers) don’t want a football coach — they want a monk with publishing credentials!

Therefore, despite our zeal for great storytelling, we need to lead our readers with the gentle hand of a mentor, not the sour yell of a frustrated coach

.

What Do “You” Think?

So as this post on coaching comes to a close, let me ask you: What do you think? Are pronouns, especially “you,” really so powerful?

You may have already noticed, but I largely refrained from using the word “you” until now.

Up until this point, I’ve extensively given personal examples of failure and recovery. I’ve also delivered my core principles — primarily about pronouns and tone words — in the first-person plural.

“We” are mastering this together. This will help “us” reach “our” readers better.

Probably the most important thing a coach can realize is that learning never stops. I will always be a learner. The moment I finish writing this post, I will go back to my role as a learner, reading other great posts at The Write Practice.

It’s also wise to remember that our readers can offer us more than we think. I’ve often found something in the comments of my posts that challenges what I’ve written, or asks a question and exposes a flaw in the way I taught a concept. This is a good thing, a beautiful thing, for a coach to receive.

Humility is perhaps the powerful quality of a great coach, whether they’re a writing coach or a coach of any other kind. A great coach realizes that it is through failure that he or she learns, and humbly passes that on to his/her community. Great coaches are great teammates and learners, and don’t consider their wisdom something to be lorded over others.

So what do you think? Do you want to be a great coach and impact many lives around you?

I know I do. And I’m confident you do, too.

Have you ever had a coach, or coached someone in something you’re good at? How did they or you adopt a helpful tone? Let us know in the comments.

By David Safford

Source: thewritepractice.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

Getting Into Character: Fiction Writing Exercises

fiction writing

Writers are not actors, but sometimes we need to get into character.

To truly understand the nature of a character, a writer must step into that character’s shoes. You can use character sketches and descriptions while you’re creating a character, but the character will remain two dimensional until you can get into the character’s head and understand what makes them tick.

It’s harder than it sounds. Your first impulse might be to act like a puppet master, pulling the character’s strings and controlling every action and line of dialogue. But what you really need to do is scoot over and get in the passenger’s seat. Let your character do the driving and ride along as an observer. And that’s exactly what today’s fiction writing exercises will help you do.

Tips for Getting Into Character

Many artists and creative people talk about entering “the zone.” This is a state of mind in which you’re running on automatic pilot. Your right (creative) brain is fully engaged and your left (logical) brain is snoozing with one eye open. It is in this state that people often get lost in an activity, lose track of time, and produce some of their best creative work.

When you’re getting into character, it’s best to be in the zone. Tackle these fiction writing exercises when you’re calm and relaxed and willing to let your imagination override your logical thinking.

Fiction Writing Exercises for Getting Into Character

Exercise #1: Chat

Launch your word processing software and start a conversation with your character. Most of us have engaged in online chats or text messaging. This is the same idea. If chat is not a comfortable medium for you, then try composing emails back and forth between you and your character.

Before you start, you might want to come up with a list of questions to ask your character. Also, this is a great exercise to use when you get stuck in a story that doesn’t want to move forward. Simply chat with your characters to find out what’s holding them back from taking the next step.

Your chat might look something like this:

WRITER: You’re just sitting there, doing nothing. What’s your problem?

CHARACTER: I don’t know what to do.

WRITER: What are your options?

Exercise #2: Stand-in Situation

Take your character out of the story you’re writing and put the character in a difficult situation. Think of riveting scenes from books you’ve read or movies you’ve seen or use scenes from your own life.

A few quick ideas for scenes that will reveal how your character handles challenges:

  • Your character is late for an important meeting and trying to hail a taxi when there’s a sudden distraction. This could be an accident in the street, a beautiful man or woman walking by, or an emergency phone call from a desperate friend or family member. Does your character hop in the cab and head to the meeting or stop to help?
  • Your character’s arch-enemy is in grave peril and the only person around who can save him is your character. Does your character let the enemy die or save his life?
  • Your character has been grossly betrayed by a close friend or family member. Does your character forgive, seek revenge, or walk away?

Notice that all these scenarios test the character’s integrity. This is a great way to get a handle on what kinds of choices your character makes. Remember: people are not perfect and characters needn’t be either. The most interesting characters are easy to relate to, and that means they are flawed in some way.

Exercise #3: Monologue

Monologues are a great way to get inside your character’s head, especially if the story you’re writing will be in third person. This is your chance to let your character’s voice be heard.

Write a piece in first person from your character’s perspective. Choose a general theme for the monologue and start writing in the character’s voice. Some ideas for themes:

  • The character is relating a significant event from his or her past: the loss of a loved one, a major life transition, or one of those everyday moments that change everything or stay with you forever.
  • The character is faced with a serious challenge or decision and is discussing the options and what the effects of either choice might be.
  • The character is in the middle of an emotional crisis and is overcome by grief, rage, envy, or some other intense feelings.

In a monologue, you can include action cues, but try to write them into the dialogue. For instance, if the character starts crying, make that evident through the narrative. If you’re feeling really brave (or if you’re an actor at heart), try recording yourself reading and acting out the monologue. That will add another dimension and allow your character’s speech, intonation, and inflection to come through.

How to Use These Exercises

Try to pinpoint any areas where you’ve stepped in and taken over. Maybe your character said something that you normally or frequently say. Or perhaps the character did something that is out of character and reflects your behavior more than the character’s behavior. You can edit and revise until you feel your piece has truly captured your character’s attitude and personality.

Later, when you’re working on your story, you can revisit these fiction writing exercises to see if there are any clues about your character that you want to use. You may also use these exercises as you’re writing a story to help you get a better grasp on your characters.

As always, the most important thing when working through creative writing exercises is to have fun, and keep writing.

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Writing Tips: Do It Anyway

anyway

From a distance, writing looks like one of the easiest jobs in the world. You get to set your own hours. You’re not tied to a place of employment. And you spend your days making up stories.

However, writing is anything but easy. It can be thrilling, exhilarating, daunting, and exhausting. Sure, sometimes it’s easy. But sometimes it’s really hard. Sometimes you think you’re not cut out for it. Sometimes you want to give up.

But you do it anyway.

Writing is Hard: Do It Anyway

Writers can face difficulties at every twist and turn in the writing process.

You don’t know if the words are going to come out right. You don’t know if your ideas will be any good. The blank page is intimidating. Put some words on it anyway.

Sometimes a project is cruising along and then you hit a brick wall. Other times you push through a project that’s difficult from beginning to end. Sometimes you want to walk away. Work on it anyway.

You might fail. Your poem could falter. Your story could suck. Your memoir or essay could be a dud. Write it anyway.

Your poems and stories might get rejected by literary magazines. Agents might decline to represent you. Publishers might pass up your manuscript. Submit your work anyway.

Bookstores might decide not to stock your book. Readers might decide not buy it or read it. Publish it anyway.

People might read your book, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to like it. Share it and promote it anyway.

Your first book could tank. It might get bad reviews, low sales, or it could go completely unnoticed. Write another one anyway.

You may never be able to realize your ultimate dream of quitting your day job and becoming a full-time writer. Keep writing anyway.

Why Should We Do It Anyway?

Everybody writes for different reasons. I don’t write because I want to write. I would be lying if I said I love writing. Sometimes I love it. Sometimes I dread it. I write because I have to. It’s just part of who I am.

Some people write because there are stories and poems inside them that need to come out. Some write because they have feelings they need to express. Some write to share their ideas. Some use writing to process and articulate their thoughts.

And some write for sheer love of the craft.

If you’re compelled to write — for any reason — then you should face the hurdles and setbacks, the insecurities and doubts, with determination. And write anyway.

What challenges do you face in your writing? Have you ever wanted to give up? Why do you keep writing?

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Creative Writing: Skill vs. Talent

skill vs talent

Is effective and compelling creative writing borne of skill or talent?

There has always been much debate about whether artistically inclined trades are a matter of learned skill or inherent talent.

On the one hand, there is the belief that some are born with an active and imaginative right brain and are therefore better able to manifest creativity. On the other hand, some argue that creative skills can be learned and mastered.

When it comes to creative writing, I believe that skill and talent work together. In fact, I would argue that almost every writer whose work is worth reading has some combination of both acquired writing skill and natural talent.

Creative Writing: Developing Skills

We are taught basic grammar and comprehensive writing in school, and each of us learns how to form a coherent sentence or paragraphs by applying these teachings. We must learn our letters, and there is no artistic talent required to memorize a set of symbols that represent sounds. Throughout our formative years, we are educated in language, including reading, writing, and comprehension.

Some of us loved those classes. We were drawn to the written word, to novels and short stories, poetry, and thought-provoking articles and essays. We welcomed the opportunity to build better writing skills. We trudged over to the school library during recess and experienced glee when the Scholastic newsletters arrived. Books! Stories! We absorbed them, and they etched into our psyches until we too yearned to spin tales and dreamed of the day when our own names would appear under a feature story headline or on the spine of a best selling — or dare I say — Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

Yet there were those who balked at the thought of opening, let alone reading, an entire book. They preferred math or science, or perhaps art, or maybe they’d rather park themselves in front of a TV or video game console. Their reports and essays came back with low marks and someone said they lacked talent, something we aspiring writers had in droves. But what is talent if not love of one’s craft?

Developing Talent

When I graduated high school and was faced with the dilemma of what to study in college, I shunned the idea of majoring in English, because I was already a voracious reader and several teachers had called me a gifted writer as well. Why study something I already had a knack for?

But a few years later, when no other major felt quite right, I finally checked off the box for English with a concentration in creative writing. Skill and talent combined to drive this choice. I finally realized that the very reason I should study writing was because I was already good at it. By majoring in English, maybe I could become great.

It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. In the semesters that followed, I studied the classics and learned writing nuances from my instructors and peers, discovering subtleties that never would have come to my attention otherwise. I learned the value of editing and revising, and I learned the merits of voice and style. Thankfully, I was given opportunities to explore areas of writing I never would have touched on my own: proposals, screenplays, and chapbooks. I even learned how to master the creative writing process.

It’s Not Skill vs. Talent; It’s Skill and Talent

I suppose artists, musicians, and other creative persons follow a similar path — a passion honed through years of learning and practice. When people suggest that writing cannot be learned, that grammar is unimportant, and storytelling or character development is the end-all-be-all of great writing, or that a writer’s creativity is magically manifested at birth, I am given great pause. For it is pride in one’s craft and true dedication that will result in truly wonderful writing: a seamless integration of love and passion, talent, and yes, all those mechanical writing skills that must be learned.

So what’s more important in creative writing — skill or talent? I say we need a healthy balance of both. What do you think?

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing