Tag Archives: writing tools

Keeping the Writing Love Alive

You are not alone.

This week is Valentine’s Day and, all over America, hearts and flowers are on many people’s minds. Perhaps you are worrying about your secret (or not so secret) love: your writing love. Have you lost that loving feeling? Do you find excuses to avoid your manuscript?

Cosmopolitan magazine is known for their articles on keeping love alive, right? So I looked up what they have to say.

Crazy Cosmo offers advice like “Flash Him,” “Do the dishes together,” and “Outlaw Grunge Wear.”

This is not helpful, even if we’re talking about a human. However, this gem made me smile:

Share a Secret Code
Pick a word that’s likely to come up occasionally in conversation (heat, midnight, bedroom, whipped cream…) and agree that every time someone uses it, you have to touch—anything from a kiss to a lingering thigh stroke under the table.

The Real Advice

Cosmo love expert, Esther Perel, had some real advice that can work for writers:

Forever used to mean “till death do us part.” These days, though, it seems many people interpret it as “until love dies.” It just takes work, self-awareness, and communication.

Here’s what long-haul couples [like you and your glorious manuscript] know:

1. They’re practical about what matters.

In other words, see your schedule as it is. Don’t try to shoehorn writing in without a plan. If there is literally not a single hour in your schedule, then don’t write that day…and plan for that. Or wake up an hour early. Give up your lunch break at work. But making a plan is better than feeling guilty over missing a vague goal.

2. They check in with each other…often.

Even if you don’t have an hour to sit down at your computer, do SOMETHING related to your manuscript every day.

  • Look up photos of your main characters and bookmark them.
  • Write down a description for something in your scene.
  • Do some research.
  • Write a snippet of conversation.

3. They take responsibility.

This is your dream. It is your responsibility to achieve it. To take the time and do the work. It’s hard. Some days it is wonderful and some days it sucks. But a dream is still important, and it is up to you to achieve it.

You can do this.

Ms. Perel made a point in her article that hit home with me. She recomends you work toward self-awareness to ensure that your relationship (in this case with your book) is successful.

In her book Loving Bravely, Alexandra H. Solomon writes about “relational self-awareness,” or recognizing how you act within your relationship. You know your vulnerabilities, strengths, and fears. If you want a long-term bond with the person you’re with, you’ll want to see evidence that they have self-awareness too.

4. They’re direct communicators.

I took a class once by Susan Squires where she talked about how to successfully talk back to your own brain. That you must ask yourself and your characters short, direct questions.

Not “so why does the hero fall in love with the heroine over coffee at her mother’s soda fountain?” Rather, you’d ask, “What most attracted the hero to the heroine in the first place?”

You can ask yourself a simple question, and your brain will actually work on it. Let your brain do the work it can do, instead of demanding a bunch of details. That’s how you get your characters to talk to you. Complaints and complexity never made anyone want to communicate better.

Perel says, “To get their needs met, lasting duos ask for what they want. They make requests instead of complaints. ”

5. They try not to feel entitled.

Relationships are not always easy, and if you think yours will be, then you are setting yourself up to be disappointed and resentful of your partner. You don’t want to resent your writing. You love your writing.

The article says, “You need to deal with your insecurities and find ways to feel good.” (Duh.)

6. They reinvent their relationships.

Instead of thinking of forever as being rooted in the same partnership until death, think of it as having two or three relationships with the same person throughout your lives.

This one is awesome. What I hear them saying here is:

It’s okay to change a process that isn’t working for you. Don’t cling to your old ways that aren’t working and do the whole “break up and get back together” dance.

Take the time to find out what work for you, so you can enjoy your writing time.

No article on writing love is complete without quotes, right?

Keep your writing passion (quotes)

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” — Louis L’Amour

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ― Anton Chekhov

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.” — Stephen King

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” – Orson Scott Card

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou

“If the book is true, it will find an audience that is meant to read it.” — Wally Lamb

“I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.” — William Carlos Williams

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” — Anne Frank

and last but not least…

“I believe myself that a good writer doesn’t really need to be told anything except to keep at it.” — Chinua Achebe

So, I’ll leave you with that Achebe quote. The best way to keep your writing love alive is to NOT QUIT. Keep going, learning, doing, striving. At the end of that, you will have a book that you love.

I promise.

How do you keep your writing love alive? Do you have rituals or practices? Times of day when you write the best? Share them with us down in the comments!

By Jenny Hansen

Source: writersinthestormblog.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

What Kind of Writer Do You Want to Be this Year? (Let’s Find Out)

We’re already a whole month into the New Year, which can be a tricky time for people as we start to get busier and our carefully made resolutions start to drop off. Life gets in the way, and suddenly our good intentions become just that—intentions. Consider this your friendly reminder to remember what your goals are,

Not only should you remind yourself what goals you’ve set, but you should also try to think about what kind of person you want to be. What kind of writer you want to be. If you decide who you want to become, then you can make sure that all of your actions line up with your aspirations.

So what type of writer might you want to strive to be this year?

(You can pick more than one and mix them up however you like!)

A more productive writer

A productive writer makes the most of whatever time they have. Sometimes that time is four or five hours and sometimes it’s only a few minutes in the pickup zone at school. If you want to be more productive this new year, you’ll want to focus on carving out time in the day for yourself that’s for writing and writing alone.

It can help to have multiple projects in the works at once. If you only have a few minutes, you can continue working out a new idea in your head. If you have hours to yourself, that might be the time for heavy edits. Either way, a productive writer takes every opportunity to get things done.

A kinder writer

If you have the tendency to be hard on yourself, maybe this year is the time to be gentler. Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes you make. Try not to worry about the things that are out of your control, like whether or not you win a contest or how long it takes for an agent to respond to your query letter.

Writing is rewarding, but it’s also difficult. If you get bogged down in the hardships, it’s easy to forget why you started writing in the first place. Remind yourself why it makes you happy by writing what you’d love to read.

A more honest writer

I think we’re all guilty of falling into that trap of writing whatever we think is going to sell well. But the hard truth is, trends change all the time. It’s impossible to predict whether people are going to want to buy stories about vampires, societies in outer space, long-lost royalty, or feuding families. By focusing on what’s best for the market, we lose sense of who we are at our core.

Write what’s meaningful to you. There’s a reader out there for every book. Write for that reader by writing for you first. First drafts are meant to be creative and fun and low-stakes. Once you get into revisions, then you might look at your story with more of an eye toward publishing, but by staying true to yourself, your story will have that special spark.

A more disciplined writer 

Writers are always waiting for that elusive muse to come to them with a full-fledged story, but unfortunately, inspiration isn’t something we can wait for. When so much of publishing is centered around deadlines, we can’t afford to let inspiration come to us. We have to seek it out ourselves.

If you have a difficult time getting your butt in a chair or resisting the temptation of mindlessly scrolling through social media (and I’m guilty of this, too), make this the year you decide to be more disciplined about your writing. Create daily habits, even if it means you only get a little bit done each day. Commit to completing those half-finished projects sitting untouched in your files. You’ll be amazed at how much you can do with a little effort.

A braver writer 

For some, showing work to others comes easily, but for others, the very thought has them crippled with fear. If you write just to make yourself happy and you’re perfectly content to never share it with anyone, then there’s no need to go any further than that. But if you have publishing aspirations of any kind, then at some point you’ll have to take the plunge.

Writing isn’t a solitary activity, though it may seem that way. Once you’ve written a story, it takes a team of several people to help you revise and polish your work, and that requires sharing it with other others. It will potentially be uncomfortable at first, but it will be ultimately rewarding once you’re able to collaborate with someone and make your writing better. Take it step by step. Share your story with a trusted friend first, then work your way to opening yourself up for criticism.

Always work toward the better

No matter what your area of focus is this year, remember that with every word you write, you’re growing as an artist. Practice will never make perfect, but it will get you pretty darn close. Set those lofty goals and do everything in your power to reach them. I know you can do it.

What kind of writer do you want to be this new year? Leave a comment!

By The Magic Violinist

Source: positivewriter.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

Writing What You Don’t Know

New authors often hear the phrase, “Write what you know.” But what if you’re led to write a story you know nothing about? Oh, you know the characters, their goals and motivations, but what if there are elements within the story that you’re not only clueless about, they make you uncomfortable and you fear you won’t be able to do them justice?
Almost three years ago, I was sitting at my kitchen table finishing up a five-book proposal. All I lacked was a blurb for the final story in the series. I knew a good bit about this brother but had no idea what his story would be about. So, I just started writing. The next think I knew, I had one heck of a blurb. A wonderful story full of conflict. There was just one problem. It involved childhood cancer, a subject I knew zero about, nor did I know anyone who was familiar with it. But, since that last blurb was the only thing stopping me from sending off the proposal, I kept it in there and sent it anyway.

 

Now, I’m tasked with writing that book just the way I first proposed it. And while I’m still intimidated by it, an interesting thing happened along the way. God intervened.

Nearly two years ago, more than a year after I sent off that proposal, we moved from the suburbs of Dallas-Ft. Worth to a rural area west of Houston. We moved our membership from a church of about ten thousand members to one with around three hundred. And there, in our new Sunday school class, we became friends with a couple who had lost their son to childhood cancer. God was on the move.

Another element of my story I wasn’t familiar with was youth cancer camps. After casually mentioning that to another friend one day at lunch, I received a text from her a few days later telling me that a mutual friend of ours had a grandson who was working at a youth cancer camp and he’d be happy to put us in touch.
I was blown away. God was providing exactly what I needed to get this story written. Yes, I would still need to do some research online, but now I would also be able to add a personal touch to the story.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because I think there are things in here both readers and writers can glean.

If He calls us, He will equip us.

Have you ever noticed that God often likes to take us out of our comfort zones? Some would say God is testing us. However, I prefer to think of it as an opportunity to exercise faith.

I didn’t fret about that story after I sent off the proposal. No, I simply figured I would cross that bridge when I came to it. I’d hit the internet to see what I could learn and pray that God would give me the discernment I would need. But God was already at work, putting those people in my path that He knew I would need to help me write a better story.

Has God ever called you to a task you felt ill-equipped for?

 

Don’t put God in a box.

 

Sometimes I forget how big God is. He created the universe and everything in it. He parted the Red Sea so the Israelites could cross over on dry ground. If He’s big enough to do those things, isn’t He big enough to provide whatever we need at any given moment in any circumstance?

 

God is in the details.

 

The Bible tells us that God knows the number of hairs on our head. If that’s not detail oriented, I don’t know what is. Just look at God’s instruction for building the tabernacle and all of the items within it. He didn’t simply give the Israelites an overview, He gave them specifics. Everything from measurements to what types of wood, precious metals and stones were to be used. God is not into mass production. He’s molding each and every one of us into His perfect design. Our job is to remain moldable.

You can run, but you can’t hide.

 

In my book Falling for the Hometown Hero, there was something that God kept nudging me to write, but I repeatedly ignored it because I knew it was going to be difficult. It wasn’t until my third round of revisions I finally gave in and did what God wanted me to do. The result, a note from my editor saying she loved it and had no revisions. God may take us places we really don’t want to go, but in the end, His way is always better than ours.

 

Don’t shy away from a task God has given you just because you think you can’t do it. Instead, choose to believe that He is already at work preparing your way as you set out to tackle the challenge that He’s laid before you.

Source: seekerville.blogspot.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Winning Plots in the Kids’ and Young Adult Genres

Some may think that writing for kids is easier than producing stories for their adult counterparts. But the truth is that writing a great story, regardless of genre and audience, is a challenge that will test your creative, linguistic, and plotting skills. This is why you need to take control of as many aspects of your writing as you possibly can, starting with plot.

Here are 7 kinds of plots known to work well in the young adult genre and in children’s fiction. Try your hand at these plot types, and discover which works best for your story.

The Wandering Plot

This is the kind of story that develops without a clear destination or final goal for the protagonist, creating a path of action that can seem a bit convoluted and loose.

Examples

  • The Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton
  • The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney
  • The Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park

Throughout these books, you’ll notice a similar trend: young characters are forced to face challenges without really having the tools to effectively deal with them. The plot is driven by the protagonists’ continuous struggle.

Tips

To add an element of surprise to this kind of plot, you should present your readers with something simple yet unexpected in the character’s growth.

Write about a central figure whose journey is based on life’s learnings and consequences instead of any ambitious pursuit, as the latter would be incompatible with this sort of aimless hero.

 

The Straight plot

For stories with a plot that’s mostly linear, the writer decides to choose a single character within the tale and give them the spotlight. This is done by explaining why this protagonist was chosen to either carry the whole story or fall victim to it all, and how it changed them.

Examples

  • Cinderella
  • Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
  • And honestly, the great majority of children’s fantasy.
    This might be because it’s more natural for a writer to tell a tale with a well-defined timeline and clear goals for the hero, as both facilitate the writing and reading processes.

Tips

Find yourself a central figure. Develop a plot that relies completely on their presence, attitude, and actions. With this secured, you need only put pen to paper, and your story shall run straight like an arrow.

 

The Round Plot

This kind of story follows a cyclical action line, meaning that the main character goes out to engage with some kind of challenge, and ultimately returns home, back to the beginning. What varies is how much the protagonist is changed by their journey.

Examples

  • The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
  • The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

These are all stories in which the characters are sadly (or happily!) brought back to reality at the end of the plot.

Tips

If you want to give this one a try, be ready to create two of everything – two worlds, two sides to each character and, thus, two different ways in which the reader can relate to them. That way, your story can become twice as compelling.

 

The Centrifugal plot

This kind of plot starts with an explosion of action early on in the story. Everything that happens next is deeply rooted in the abundant concurrent happenings of the opening scene.

Then, the secret lies in making the readers feel overwhelmed in a digestible way, leaving them to only wonder how on Earth things will settle down.

Example

  • The Bad Beginning, the first book of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.  The narrative begins with a death that opens the way for what is indeed a series of very unfortunate events for three orphaned siblings.

Tips

Centrifugal stories draw from the healthy mess that is the simultaneous unfolding of incidents, each filling in a chunk of the final volume.

An interesting thing about this format is that every part of the plot may seem autonomous and as unattached to the others as it can be. However, the fact that the whole story-web expanded from a single original cause makes exploring the book all the more bewitching.

 

The Ramified plot

There are many plots that single out a most relevant character and stick to their trajectory almost exclusively. And then, there’s the ramified plot, which branches out to touch many more characters and experiences than a protagonist-focused story ever could. Ramification simply starts at one, or several, core points within the plot, and from there the narrative expands outwards into many more scenes, introducing people and nuances of various importance that expand and enrich the story.

Examples

  • The Hobbit
  • The Lord of the Rings

These two Tolkien masterpieces are equally vast in their storytelling and secondary plots.

Tips

By taking on a setting that is common to the entire story, your role as a young-adult-genre wordsmith is to depict each twine of action and argument that might matter to the whole picture. In detailing the life of diverse characters – or of perhaps the same one under very different lights – you can confer richness to a plot that may even be simple at its heart, but will no doubt live on in the minds of readers for decades to come.

 

The Split Plot

This plot type is founded on the presence of more than one protagonist or, at least, different important points of view that each need their own space in the story to be thoroughly conveyed.

Examples

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Tips

Stories narrated in a shifting way tend to increase the reading pace, as the chunks are more bite-sized and the eagerness to get to our favorite character’s chapter can be either motivating or frustrating. But still, it’s a very compelling form of narration that is just as common in adult fiction.

In short, create interesting personalities and always leave bits of story that need later explanation. This approach will grant you a gripped reader who’s enthralled and hopeful for an unexpected finale.

 

The Winding Plot

Many stories have a tendency to start out in the vaguest and, consequently, most unresolved moment of all. The goal in these situations is to then meet the hour of final resolution, whether that comes as a result of a fight, a discovery, a mere realization or maybe getting to a certain place. Tension shall tighten till it reaches its peak by the end of the book and then, through victory or loss, the plot will wrap itself up and deliver us a sense of completion.

Examples

  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: a novel in the young adult genre, in which the lead characters are forced into a spiral of search, doubt, and pain before they can obtain the needed answers.

Tips

If you analyze narratives like this one, you’ll realize that a generous dose of mystery and suspense is vital. It’s essential for the delivery of that single last meaningful punch that puts a restful cover over what had been a marathon of secrets with hard-earned finds.

 

Successful Plotting in the Young Adult Genre

Think of plot type as the kind of road that your characters will have to walk. Choose a kind of plot that will work well with the setting, argument, and pacing you envision for your story.

Next, draft a whole page of events that you are sure will be in your final manuscript – your favorites, those that move you to sit at the desk every day. If you bullet-list them, you’re setting a base structure for your tale while giving yourself the freedom to move them around.

If you remain well aware of the nature, construction, and possibilities you want to create in your plot, then not much can go wrong. And if it does — well, it’s because you so desired.

By Ricardo Elisiário

Source: refiction.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

A Writer’s Manifesto

Imagine sitting down at your desk to write on a day when you’re just not feeling it.

You know you have to write this scene, or reach a certain word count, and it just feels like a grind. You light a candle, or sharpen your pencils, and begin to type, hoping to find that ‘flow’ eventually by dint of sheer will.

Now imagine sitting down at that same desk with those same goals.

You pick up a single sheet of paper and read it. Suddenly, you remember your purpose as a writer: why you wanted to do this, what you hope to achieve. You see the touchstones that shape and define your voice. You have a vision of your current project as one drop in the river that is your writing life, all of which is changing the world in a particular way. You remember what, at your best, you wanted that change to look like.

A little tingle of excitement begins to build. And you begin to type.

What was on that piece of paper?! And how can you get one?

Read on!

MANIFESTO OR GOALS?

A few months ago, I realized my writing journey had become like a clifftop walk where I was only looking at my own two feet and completely missing the amazing view all around me.

I lifted my head up and decided it was time to look beyond the next goal, the next deadline, and create a manifesto for my whole writing life.

That manifesto has helped motivate, target, and unify all my writing efforts, from the articles I pitch to the individual scenes I write. I helps me get excited about where I’m going, but also about where I am.

I’d like to help you create your manifesto, too.

WHAT IS A WRITER’S MANIFESTO?

A writer’s manifesto is a highly personal document that,

  • Is about your identity as a writer.
  • Gives you a unified sense of what you want to achieve in all your writing.
  • Transcends genres and projects.
  • Is more motivating than individual goals.

Here’s mine:

In my work and my life I will be

OPENHEARTED

OPTIMISTIC

Always looking for the HUMOR, even when it is dark.

SKEPTICAL, but not cynical.

FORGIVING of my work’s flaws.

PROLIFIC and POSITIVE and always producing the next thing.

Committed to the CRAFT (read lots, analyze and share, put into practice)

Committed to the COMMUNITY (past, present and future. Part of a lineage.)

UPLIFTING (this doesn’t mean Pollyanna-is. Remember my mentors.)

A BELIEVER that ART MATTERS.

I create worlds I want to live in, and inspire others to do the same (not just on the page).

Dated & Signed

Some of that won’t mean much to you, because it is so personal to me. In fact, it may make you cringe. Yours will likely look much different, and it should.

But looking that list, I remember the process of selecting each of those values and statements, and it takes me back to a moment when I was my best self. That’s what you should be aiming for, too.

HOW MY MANIFESTO HELPED ME WRITE A SINGLE SCENE

I had goals for my recent novel: I was to write a particular scene by the end of the week.

Only I couldn’t make myself do it.

My scene dealt with important issues and the mood of the piece kept skewing somber. I was depressing myself (and, I assume, my reader) and I kept stalling.

When I pulled out my manifesto the first three qualities were: ‘open-hearted’, ‘optimistic’, and ‘always looking for the humor’. My manifesto reminded me that, for me, art is a way to create the kind of world I want to live in. And that world is not somber.

No wonder I was stalling when I was trying to write a ‘serious’ scene. That realization gave me permission to write the scene in a much lighter way, which broke my block entirely.

For you, remembering your manifesto might give you permission to go deep, to make readers cry, or to scare the pants off them.

Or it might remind you that you have no patience for wasted time, so why are you trudging though this scene, trying to describe everything from the lighting to the drapes, instead of getting your character to the fight scene?

Likewise, when I pitch articles to magazines and blogs, or brainstorm podcast topics, my manifesto helps narrow down the topic areas and the tone each piece will take. It helps me focus on the work I love.

HOW TO CREATE YOUR MANIFESTO

  1. Make a list of your current favorite writers, artists, creative people , and note what you admire about them. (In my case I wrote: Amanda Palmer, for her commitment to making the art only she can make and finding ways to get paid for it, for her commitment to openness…Mary Robinette Kowal for her pursuit of the craft of writing and storytelling, for her willingness to share, and for her ability to keep turning out stories and books, building her audience; Nick Stephenson for his calculated open-heartedness; Kim Stanley Robinson for his unique style and optimism; Neil Gaiman for the same things, and for the literary family tree he grew out of; Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams for their quirky style, humor, big ideas, and the fact that what they offer I can only get from them).
  2. Make a list of the commonalities; the things your artistic godparents share. I quickly realized that ‘optimism’,’ humor’ and ‘open-heartedness’ belonged on my list, along with a commitment to the craft and to turning out work. I also saw a strong sense that art matters, that creative works can change the world, something I realized I believed too.
  3. Write: In My Work I Will Be…and then note down all the qualities that resonated most deeply with you. (I hand-wrote my manifesto, randomly capitalizing words that I wanted to stand out, and put it on my desk. You could be more or less artistic. Frame it, or simply jot it down on a post-it or in your phone. Whatever works to keep it on hand.
  4. Sign and Date Your Manifesto. This is your commitment to yourself that you are serious about creating a particular kind of writing life. The date is important too. You may find it useful to update your manifesto as you learn and grow and change. Some of the items will remain the same, but others may change.
  5. Use It. Whenever you sit down to write a new work, pitch a new idea, or continue a piece you’ve been working on, take a quick look at your manifesto. Remind yourself of what you’re trying to achieve, not just today, but in your writing life.

Since writing my manifesto, I have a feeling of comfort and confidence that I never had before. I may not know exactly what I’m going to write today, but I know how I’m going to write.

I’m no longer faced with the paralyzing tyranny of freedom: I am not free to write cynical, mean or perfect drafts. I’m no longer free to imagine I can be unique, but instead must acknowledge my literary lineage. Whatever I write today—from this blog post, to a scene in my novel, to the podcast I plan to record this afternoon—I have a roadmap for it. I know what I’m trying to achieve and the kind of mark I want my work to leave on the parts of the world it touches.

When you find yourself struggling, ask yourself how you want to be writing. Not what characters or stories or subjects you’ll tackle or how you’ll make this scene perfect, but what you want to achieve with your writing. Pick up your manifesto and ask how you can make today’s writing align with your values.

If you can do that, you’ll stay true to your own voice, and you’ll create a vibrant, coherent body of work that touches the world in a way unique to you.

By Julie Duffy

Source: writerunboxed.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

How to Reduce Marketing Anxiety and Confusion

Before considering new marketing tactics and platforms, authors should focus on understanding their goals and assessing their resources.

 

I’ll never forget a conversation I had years ago with a colleague who runs online courses for authors. He emphasized the necessity of teaching tactics: tangible, actionable steps that students can take toward their goals. If he focused too much on big-picture strategy or abstract theory, he said, he lost attention and course satisfaction.

He was right. Few things are more powerful in teaching than sharing a step-by-step process that leads to observable results. For better or worse, however, I often err on the side of strategy—which means that students always ask me how to apply said strategy. They want to know what specific steps to take. All of us, especially today, welcome such instruction in an increasingly changing publishing environment.

Before I explore this tension further, let me first offer an example of the difference between strategy and tactics. If you’re an author who wants to sell more books, you may want to learn how to advertise through Amazon Marketing Services or Facebook, how to be active and engaged on social media, or how to podcast. Learning best practices in these areas would provide valuable tactics, but doing so sidesteps larger, strategic questions that affect your success. For instance, what are your strengths as an author and what would you be able to execute well and repeatedly? Where can you gain early or easy traction with the resources available to you? What part of the market is best to focus on? Where are your best opportunities for growth and visibility?

Some tactics may seem essential—because everyone is using them and thus they are required to play the game. But always question and assess. Is Amazon advertising going to be effective for the book you’re trying to sell (factoring in your book’s pricing, packaging, and positioning)? Is social media a suitable tool for your genre/category, given the amount of time that you have to wait to see results? Do you know enough about your target readers to understand how they discover books to read?

For example, I’m repeatedly told that I should get into podcasting because it’s big and growing. But should I adopt that tactic when it would require me to stop accepting paid work or stop other activities that are effective and even growing? Possibly—but only an evaluation of my strategy would lead to an informed answer.

Strategy questions can be difficult to answer, and most of us like to avoid grappling with them. They also require awareness—an understanding of yourself and the market. And, while you may think you know your goals, when pushed and questioned, I find many writers aren’t clear on what they want. So consider the following:

What outcomes are you looking for in the short term and long term? Consider how the short-term outcomes play into the long-term outcomes. For example, getting a book traditionally published is usually a short-term goal that can have little in common with earning a living.

Are your outcomes specific? And do you know when you’ve attained them? The more specific your desired outcome, the better. “I want to sell lots of books” isn’t as useful as “I want to sell 1,000 copies through Amazon during the first year of sales.”

What are all the possible methods you can use to reach this outcome? List all the methods you know of, no matter how unlikely you are to use them. Then try to find methods that you might not know about yet. Consider which methods you are well prepared to execute and succeed at—and this is where you may need to experiment to know for sure.

For instance, many authors are advised to use social media as part of their book launches, but they establish accounts only for the purpose of book marketing. Such authors lack the years of experience and community building that are typically required to see sales results. If social media is a critical factor for reaching readers in your genre/category but you lack a social media foundation, then a more sensible tactic is to target influencers or VIPs who already have reach.

In a great scene from Lost in Translation, Bill Murray’s character says, “The more you know who you are and what you want, the less you let things upset you.” If I could customize that for today’s authors, I’d say, “The more you know who you are as an author and what readership you seek, the less confused you’ll be about marketing.” And the less you’ll be influenced by the crowd.

It’s easy to feel anxious about your progress when you see your peers engaging in new forms of publishing or marketing and you feel pressured to join. But the more you’re focused on your own long-term outcomes and how to wisely use your time and resources, the better prepared you’ll be to consider or experiment with new tactics, adopting or discarding them as you see fit.

By Jane Friedman

Source: publishersweekly.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Sunday Writing Tip: Make Sure Your Scene Endings Hook Your Readers

Each week, I’ll offer a tip you can take and apply to your WIP to help improve it. They’ll be easy to do and shouldn’t take long, so they’ll be tips you can do without taking up your Sunday. Though I do reserve the right to offer a good tip now and then that will take longer—but only because it would apply to the entire manuscript.

This week, check how you end each scene and/or chapter and make sure you’re giving readers a reason to turn the page.

A scene break or chapter ending is a natural place for readers to put down a book, and sometimes we write it that way without considering the downsides. Characters go to sleep, they leave for a journey, they settle in to wait—they at in ways that say “pause the story here” in some way.

But when we end a scene with something that must be known—readers keep on reading. Readers who can’t put a book down even when the scene is over or the chapter has ended are ones who are going to rave about your book the next day (while yawning from lack of sleep).

Look at the ending of your scenes and chapters. Do they end with something to keep readers reading? Not just the last line, but the situation or need int he novel itself? Is there something going on readers want to see? Need to know? Must read the outcome for?

If not, tweak, trim, or shift so the break happens in a spot readers won’t be able to stop on.

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Source: blog.janicehardy.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

WITS Throwdown: Putting the “Social” in Social Media

The real title of this post is How To Put the Social in Social Media Without Losing Your Mind or All Your Free Time.

That’s a heavy promise, right? Social media does like to suck up valuable family time, writing time, down time. If you think about it as a big vaccuum that gives nothing back, you WILL be resistant to this whole “online social thing.”

This post is about how pick your online locations carefully and develop habits that help fit social media into the life you actually have. It’s about how to make connections during the time you choose to spend online. And of course, I share what I do to keep my love alive.

We’ve had two posts in this throwdown already. One from Fae, who pretty much detests it. One from Julie, who has found the one place in social media that doesn’t give her hives makes her happy.

Those two are introverts, whereas Laura and I are extroverts. All four of us have different stances on this topic. Even on the extrovert side, Laura is retired and I work more than full time.

Translation: I have two part-time day jobs that sometimes expand to three, plus writing, plus volunteering, plus an eight year-old. (Plus a very understanding husband.) Many things in life are more important than my writing and I’ve had to learn to be okay with that.

It was hard to let go of perfection and my yen to Fast Draft, but there are rewards from my overburdened schedule. A big one is my time-saving social media habits, which I will detail at the bottom of this post.

Important Note (like super-duper important): Taking the “social” out of social media defeats the entire purpose. You will resent all that wasted time. (At least I would.)

If you’ve hung out at WITS for a while, you’ve heard me wax rhapsodic about social media before. Below are several of my posts that will give you all the how-to and “what the heck is it” info you might want.

The above links are pretty big picture but there are also specifics to be had:

We’ve also had stellar tips for not getting overwhelmed on social media from veterans like Roni Loren who gave this sage advice: Only focus on the things that sizzle your bacon. Also, Colleen Story shared 7 Ways to Keep Social Media from Ruining your Mood.

And then there is little ol’ former technology-trainer me. I have a confession that won’t surprise you… I freaking love software and apps.

Love. Them.

I love the time-saving tools (although it’s super hard to beat my own kitchen timer for time management). I love the way technology connects people. I love the way Excel’s pivot tables summarize thousands of records into a table the size of your hand.

Technology is just cool.

However, time is in short supply and I’ve had to shoehorn social media into the schedule. Remember that promise from up top: How To Put the Social in Social Media Without Losing Your Mind or All Your Free Time ?

Here are my Top 5 “fit it in no matter what” social media tips:

1. The biggest trick I have is using the “in-between” time. In the long check-out line, or waiting in the doctor’s office. Waiting in the car line to pick up my kid. While I eat lunch. Just before I go to bed. While my kid reads to me (with my phone hidden from her view so she isn’t aware she only has half of my attention).

All those in-between moments add up. You’ll at least get 30 minutes a day. You can do a lot with 30 minutes! Plus, you’ve turned those boring “waiting” moments into something that is a reward (at least for me). Boorah.

2. Planning is everything. Some of your time will just be spent scrolling, liking, commenting. But a smart author plans out the week or the month, so the important updates get out now mantter how busy you are.

You can do a ton of graphics in less than an hour each week if you use Canva. Laura Drake explains how to own Canva.

3. Decide who your audience is and focus your time in their neck of the online world.

I love what this article at Contently has to say – it’s a few years old but it’s still pretty accurate.

Let’s talk strategy. You have limited time, maybe limited content, and there is a very specific audience you want to reach. Here’s a quick, non-scientific breakdown of who uses which network:

  • Teenagers gravitate towards Snapchat, YouTube, Tumblr, and Instagram.
  • Soon-to-be-wives and soon-to-be-moms are all about Pinterest.
  • Young parents and grandparents alike can be found on Facebook.
  • Business types and leaders rule LinkedIn.
  • Influencers and bloggers love Twitter, WordPress and Tumblr.

Here’s an infographic with my thoughts on the main social media apps out there. (Yes, I totally think Facebook is a huge time suck.)

Made in Canva…in about 8 minutes.

4. Set up Google alerts. You want the content you are passionate about to come to you so you don’t have to spend time chasing it down. No one has time for that. Google Alerts email the info right to you.

To set up one (or ten) of these handy alerts:

  • Go to google.com/alerts in your browser.
  • Enter a search term for the topic you want to track. As you enter your terms, view a preview of the results below.
  • Choose “Show Options” to narrow the alert to a specific source, language, and/or region. Specify how often, how many, and how to receive alerts.
  • Select “Create Alert.”

5. Don’t be afraid to schedule. Especially during busy weeks, when I don’t have time to both post AND monitor, scheduling tools let me “have it all.” I go back and forth over whether I like HootSuite or Buffer better, but here is an article that compares them both. I also used Social Oomph for a while.

Overall, I’m super happy with social media. I don’t use all the tools I’d like to use, and I always feel like I’m swimming up stream in terms of time, but notifications and alerts allow me to at least keep up with the people who are interacting directly with me. I count that as a win.

More than anything, your time online needs to be fun and productive. Find your tribe and enjoy them. If your time online is fun, you’re less likely to resent it or view it as wasted.

Now it’s your turn! Introvert or extrovert? Social media lover or hater? And what are the tricks that have allowed you to fit it into your busy schedule?

 

By Jenny Hansen

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

How Writing and Submitting Short Stories Improved My Novel

If you’re writing a novel and are nowhere near the end, why spend time on short stories? Doesn’t that distraction delay getting to the end of the current draft, a moment that always feels months away? I thought so once. One year, I wouldn’t let myself touch any other project until I’d worked on my novel every day. This lasted five months until I revisited “The End.” Again.

Why should a novel writer devote precious writing time to short stories? After five novel drafts, two years of submitting shorter fiction, and seven publications, here are my reasons.

Do Something With All Those Ideas

Not every idea deserves a novel. And there’s something cathartic about expressing an idea soon after inspiration strikes. I’m not holding my breath and suffocating the idea because I have to focus elsewhere. As powerful as some ideas feel in the moment, most are quite happy as short stories or flash fiction or poems, or being expressed at all. I now tend to start each idea in the shortest possible form. I only expand the word count if my gut and reader feedback suggest there’s more to say. In the meantime, I grow my list of stories and drafts, not only my list of ideas.

Understand the Impact of Every Edit

An effective edit rarely moves me in the same way as what inspired the story. Revising a longer work can be a dreary process because it’s difficult to grasp the impact of my efforts. This is not the case with flash fiction. Try changing a word in a 100-word story, swap sentences in 250 words, or drop a paragraph among only 1,000 words. You’ll notice an immediate impact on the entire piece. This inspires me toward better revisions by reminding me how powerful each change can be.

Feel A Sense of Completion More Often

Novel drafts take months or years to write. Short story drafts can take weeks. Flash fiction, anything under 1,000 words, can be even briefer. I’m not saying shorter work is easier to write, or requires any less thoughtful revision. But the satisfaction of reaching the end of a draft will happen sooner with shorter fiction. This can prevent listlessness after always having the same answer for “what are you working on?”

Practice Finding Comps

I read every market to which I submit. If I want a literary journal to publish my story, I not only follow their submission guidelines, but I prove I’ve engaged with what they’ve published. I do so by including the stories I read and liked in my cover letter to the editor. If they overlap with my subject matter or appeal to a similar audience, all the better.

In practice, this is akin to finding comparative titles, or comps, for a novel and citing them in your query letter. Prove that you’re thoughtful and have an understanding of the market.

Strengthen Your Query Letters

Every market where I’ve submitted short fiction requires a cover letter. Writing cover letters has taught me how to address editors, present myself, discuss my work, and highlight my accomplishments. This builds confidence in writing and revising query letters to literary agents. Growing my publication history also strengthens my credibility for the next stage of my writing journey.

Give More Than One Story A Chance

I no longer believe I have to withhold myself from other creative work to finish an ambitious project like a novel draft. Novels do take intense focus and persistence, but the reasons above led me to a new strategy.

I’m currently working on a novel during the weekdays and shorter projects on the weekend. This means that by default, the hardest thing gets the bulk of my time. Sometimes, my weekends are writing-free and the stories have to wait, but I’m always making progress.

Though my novel may take a while before it’s ready, all those shorter pieces are out there, being submitted, rejected, accepted, and in any case, read. Don’t withhold your words from the world because your magnum opus isn’t ready.

What’s been your experience juggling short and long projects?
Do you avoid multiple ongoing things at all cost?
How has one form of writing informed another?

 

Source: writerunboxed.com

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4 Ways to Make Your Writing Easier

 

Why Do We Say that Writing is Hard?

 

I don’t think writing is hard – wooden tables are, gemstones are, and sometimes my head is, but writing? No.

It’s as simple and complex as having an idea, putting words together, adding the thoughts or feelings, linking to the research, and using keywords for SEO.

 

4 Ways to Make Your Writing Easier Two Drops of Ink Marilyn L. Davis

 

1. The Idea is the Starting Point

 

If you’re writing a blog about a particular subject, you’ve always got an idea. Can you present it from a different perspective? Are you an expert on the topic? Do you have credibility when it comes to that subject? If you’ve answered, “Yes”, then maybe you’re just bored with the idea.

That happens. How many times can I write, “Recovery works” to try and encourage someone struggling with their addictions? So far, I’ve filled a lot of pages on my other blog with exactly that same message.

In all fairness, not more than 5% of the posts literally include the words, “Recovery works”, but in each of these 185 posts, that’s the underlying message or idea.

Yet, each post is presented from a different viewpoint, or for some, it’s because I wrote from the perspective of depth rather than breadth.

Breadth and depth each had distinct advantages. With breadth, I can write an overview of the idea. With depth, I’ll isolate one key element after a general statement of intent and elaborate on that aspect.

 

2. What are the Thoughts and Feelings about the Idea?

 

Much of that writing entails describing thoughts and feelings; it’s personal to me, but judging from the comments, my experiences with the topic are commonplace.  So the idea of addiction and recovery have an already established audience. Now, it’s my job to take the idea and make it fresh and new.

One of the easiest ways to get readers interested is to ask questions. So far, I’ve asked four and will ask more before I’m finished. Why? Because I know that what I think, feel, or know is limited to my experiences and there are other people out there who can supply additional information that I might find useful.

So now that boring, “Been there, done that” idea is open to others, and sometimes the What’s In It For Me principle factors here – the readers get to let me know how much they know about the topic.  I don’t know how many other posts a reader’s comments have generated, but a fair number.

Beyond my interest and a reader’s interest, there’s always room for research.

 

3. What Are Valuable and  Interesting Research Links?

 

4 Ways to Make Your Writing Easier Two Drops of Ink Marilyn L. Davis

For some of us, the idea of research sounds like the library desk with musty, dusty tomes all opened to various pages, sticky notes protruding from them, and 3 x 5 cards littering the table.

Not today. Research is a key element in any post. Why? Because it validates your argument, presents reliable information by experts on the topic, references a quote that summarizes your topic, or lends credibility to your idea.

But too many people get careless in their links – the old Wikipedia will have something about it. Delve deeper than that. If you’re going to use Wikipedia, research the references and see where that leads. I’ve used the referenced sources before and been pleased with the linked information.

Links within also lend authority to any post.  They can be external or internal. If you write on a collaborative site, like Two Drops of Ink, then see what your co-writers have to say about the topic.  You’ve added a valuable link and given them some additional exposure for their writing.

I know that two of our monthly contributors, Noelle Sterne and Peter B. Giblett will always give links that let me know more about their chosen topics. I’ve yet to find a link in any of their posts that didn’t add value.

All of these links help with your SEO as well. And while we may not always understand the algorithms that Google uses, SEO is always a factor in getting your post noticed. Click To Tweet

 

4. Can You See Me Now?

 

4 Ways to Make Your Writing Easier Two Drops of Ink Marilyn L. Davis

 

How many of you have searched for yourself or your blog? Confession, I have. And if I’m simply looking at Marilyn L. Davis, boy do I rate. However, that’s not really how most people know me. It’s the same for your blog or business. You may find yourself, but is that how the average person is looking for your site or posts? Probably not.  Granted, some names are forever embedded in our brains. Think of all the major brands.

But since most of us aren’t a major brand, how do you get your name or blog to rank on the first page of Google? Eric Enge, general manager of Perficient Digital simplifies the problem.

“Google algorithm updates in 2018 revealed that Google is intensifying its focus on evaluating the content quality and at the depth and breadth of a website’s content, said Eric Enge, general manager of Perficient Digital.

“We tracked the SEO performance of a number of different sites,” Enge said. “The sites that provided exceptional depth in quality content coverage literally soared in rankings throughout the year. Sites that were weaker in their content depth suffered in comparison.”

It’s critical to understand your readers wants and needs, and to write posts that satisfy them. Jesse McDonald, SEO specialist and director of operations for Fully Integrated Enterprise SEO Agency – TopHatRank.com. states, “It will be more critical than ever for SEOs and content specialists to focus heavily on the user intent of the keywords they are targeting while creating content,” McDonald said.

But how do you attract new readers? By understanding how people use Google, Bing, Quora, or other search engines.

Expanding on the Keywords

A big trend now is the Keto diet. Google that and you get inundated with hits. So that’s a safe keyword. But a better site will include Keto:

  1. Recipes
  2. Hidden pitfalls (of Keto)
  3. Foods allowed  (on Keto)
  4. Foods to avoid (on Keto)
  5. The science (of the Keto diet)
  6. Lose weight (with Keto)
  7. … and more.

In the WordPress editor, you can add categories and tags. So for the above, I’d add all the other aspects and probably attract readers who wanted more in-depth information, not just Keto diet.

Yoast Plug-in is a Second Set of Eyes

Yoast is a plug-in for a WordPress site. It also has an editor that gives you insight or frequently used words in your post. This also helps you determine keywords and where to strategically place them:

  • In the title – near the beginning
  • Throughout the post
  • Only where relevant

Check all the features of Yoast before you publish. There’s a lot of tips, edits, and suggestions that help improve your writing, as well as giving you a list of internal links from your site that would add value to the post.

And it’s always nice to get the little green dots – means something is right.

Will They Understand This Post? 

 

4 Ways to Make Your Writing Easier Two Drops of Ink Marilyn L. Davis

Besides the SEO, Yoast will give you a readability score. This number is based on:

  1. Flesch Reading Ease
  2. Passive Voice
  3. Consecutive Sentences
  4. Subheading Distribution
  5. Paragraph Lengths
  6. Sentence Length

And don’t forget that images offer you one more place to add keywords in the ALT text. Since search engines can’t see an image, these words act as a point of references for the search engines.

For instance, all the images for this post include the name of the post, Two Drops of Ink, and my name.  As an aside, I remember looking for an addiction image on Google, and up popped one for From Addict 2 Advocate. That reinforced the message that images are advertising in the background. Use them.

With just these four tips, you can make your writing relevant to your readers, add additional perspectives, find valuable links, and get Google’s attention.

Simplify, share your perspectives, do your research, and give your readers value in your posts.

See, it’s not hard at all.

 

By Marilyn L. Davis
Source: twodropsofink.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing