Free Kindle Book Alert!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Hey everyone!  If you haven't read "Everything I Never Said" yet, make sure to snag a *free* Kindle copy from today until Thursday, March 1st!  Make sure to leave a review if you enjoyed it!  Click HERE to check it out!

Resource: "Successful Self-Publishing" by Joanna Penn

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Today is a quick post, but I wanted to share a great resource I recently discovered: "Successful Self-Publishing" by Joanna Penn, an indie author who has written several books to aid beginner indie authors and is a fiction author as well.  HERE is the link for her book. It is fantastic for the beginner author who isn't sure whether self-publishing is the right route for them, or the author who needs to expand their income sources.  It also involves some of the more legal sides of publishing and websites for inexpensive stock photos for covers, even links for design crews suitable for the beginner, budget-strapped writer.  I found this book to be very insightful for publishing resources, both in print and digitally.  She also includes information in her book about the writing resources she includes on her websites and a class she's develped specifically for indie authors.  For $7, this book is an extremely helpful guide for beginner authors who are seeking self-publishing tips.  I have several pages in my planner filled with only some of the resources she provided!  

What are some helpful writing books you've read lately?  Do you plan to check out any of Joanna Penn's books?  Who's planning on taking the plunge into self-publishing this year?  Sound off in the comments below!  

Romance to Make Your Readers Swoon

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's day, all!  In the spirit of the holiday, today we're going to explore some great resources and tips for writing a good romance.  Whether it's a sci-fi, crime drama, or plain romance novel, many books have a romantic relationship of some sort (whether it's the main focus or a side story is dependent on the plot), and each work differently.  However, there are a few do's and don'ts that can be all-encompassing.

First and foremost, let it be believable from the perspective of their pasts.  For example, someone who has dealt with a lot of loss, is very pessimistic, or simply doesn't care to be in a relationship won't fall head over heels immediately.  Perhaps the love interest is persistent and "wears them down" so to say, but your book shouldn't be a Disney movie in that they take one look at each other and fall in love immediately (unless your book is a certain style of fairytale or one for young children, in which a plot must be accelerated to maintain interest).  Taking Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games as an example: she struggled with her emotions and swayed between what she knew or thought was safe and what she felt (logic versus the limbic system, or emotions). It was logical that she would struggle with the desire to be in a relationship given the circumstances in which she lived. Even Han and Leia from the Star Wars franchise can be examined: Leia, a very headstrong princess, takes awhile to come around to the idea of loving the equally headstrong Han Solo, but she does (eventually, and even then, their relationship is somewhat tempestuous).

Secondly, passion doesn't necessarily mean hotheaded.  I was reading Live Fearless by Sadie Robertson last night (which is an excellent book, just not about writing) and she wrote, to paraphrase, that relational passion doesn't mean drama, but rather intensity.  This is an interesting tip not only for personal relationships, but in writing as well.  What does this mean, exactly?  It means that your characters aren't honestly passionate about each other if they're constantly fighting or "on again, off again." Intensity means that regardless of what happens to them, they still feel the same way about one another; that nothing will come between them in their love.  This doesn't mean that your characters shouldn't fight/argue, either.  That's just another facet of life, therefore a realistic addition.  Just don't overdo it for the sake of drama and the "will they, won't they" storyline.

Third, romance isn't necessarily only the gushy, feel-good stuff.  While we may enjoy reading it, the characters and their natural behavior should be more important than squeezing in as much fluff as possible.  Do your characters call each other to make sure the other got home okay?  What about a text asking how their day has been going?  Grabbing a coffee and dropping it off at the office for them when they're having a bad day?  This stuff may seen everyday, but it's the core of keeping romance around.  You don't have to write speeches proclaiming love to be romantic, but rather, simply show that the characters care for each other and want to look out for one another.  Note how it makes the character(s) feel when this occurs. That's an excellent way to integrate romance into everyday life or as a subplot without being overbearing.   Any woman (most likely your target audience, especially for a romance novel) who's been in a relationship will probably swoon at the male character who just made dinner (no candlesticks and slow music, just dinner) for his love interest or even just cleaned up the kitchen after the fact.

Finally, make sure the characters mesh well.  While you can have opposites attract as well as birds of the same feathers flocking together, make sure there are things in common.  Personalities that work well together, the English and the mathematics nerds (creative versus logical but complement each other), the grad student and the woman who dropped out of high school to start her own business--so on.  Characters who wouldn't realistically work together well in real life won't be very believable for the readers, and therefore the storyline will have much less of an impact.

Finally, check out some of these great websites for more tips on writing romance:

How to Write a Heart-Stopping Kissing Scene, from The Author Studio

How to Write Non-Cheesy Romance, from The Lexicon Writing Blog

How to Build a Romance Thread in Your Story, "Tangled" Style, from Go Teen Writers 

How to Plot a Romance Novel, from Now Novel

What are your favorite romance stories, and how were they presented from a storyteller's perspective?  

Touching an Audience

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

It's what every writer aspires to do at least once in their life: touch their audience's lives in a way that makes their work unforgettable, to make the audience reconsider their outlook on life or make them want to call up that old family member or friend just to say 'sorry.'  And, you know, it's always a plus if your reader ends up crying, too, be it from happiness or sorrow.  While the example we'll be using isn't a book, it was still written artfully and is captivating its audience every week.  (And they're probably the reason why tissues are always sold out in stores...)
Image result for This is Us
(Credit: NBC) 
Ah, yes...This is Us.  If you're a fan of the show, you probably know exactly how heartwrenching it is, and why there's just this inexplicable fascination with it.  What makes This is Us such a good story?

First of all, the story feels real.  While it is indeed fictitious, it shows an average family struggling with problems that are anything but average, but also not uncommon in reality.  The Pearson family faces addiction, miscarriage, adoption, health problems and psychological issues connected with them, the fear of failure, anxiety--while this sounds like an absolutely disturbing list, these are things that a lot of people struggle with in real life.  The siblings, even though one is adopted, struggle with familial relations.  They deal with losses that are masterfully written to strike its audience to the core, along with the aftermath that follows. 

As many fans know, Jack Pearson (the father in the story) dies when his children are 17 years old.  Understandably, these characters still have psychological scars twenty years later.  One refuses to accept his father's death, presumably because he wasn't there when the accident occurred.  Another blames herself for it because she goaded the actions that caused her father's death.  The last one is laden with responsibility and feels as though he can't slow down to heal or "wallow in the pain of loss," as his character puts it.  He chooses to celebrate his father's life, but is simply putting up barriers so he can't do anything but.  These are reactions that are very logical and important to note for writers.  While everyone deals with grief differently, it's fairly universal that you can't heal totally from devastation.  You may get better, but it will never go away or be forgotten.  It will always be in the back of your mind, and some may even be affected for the rest of their lives because of it.  When writing character arcs, keep this in mind.  Characters are oftentimes defined by their past, and the future realistically cannot erase that in totality.  It goes without saying that audiences love characters who are flawed because they are real.  Perfection does not exist in humanity, even if it is nice to think about.  Characters who are "perfect" or "flawless" are often viewed as almost robotic or too "good" and the audience can't see them or connect to them.  

This is Us also has a very unique method of storytelling.  Each episode, the plot rotates between an event that happened x amount of years in the past that is relevant to the present, then the current day.  In the upcoming episodes, it appears as if they will be paralleling the future to the present and past as well.  This is an interesting approach because it proves that the little things in life are what truly add up in the end.  Little things like spats or family days out to the beach seem to trump events such as graduation.  The audience is continually reminded that what they do on a daily basis counts, and it perhaps also reminds the audience of their own mortality and the importance of going out and doing what they aspire to do before time runs out.  This is a crucial storytelling key as well, because it connects deeply to the audience.  It's almost like a punch to the chest: what I am doing now will matter someday.  How I'm treating someone might hang on to them for the rest of their lives.  Who will I be remembered as?  This element is also present in wildly popular books:  stories were told of Bilbo Baggins' journey as well as the Fellowship, for example, and it is a somewhat common theme in the Star Wars franchise too.  Again, it brings sheer humanness and reality into play.  While it's difficult to use this exact model of storytelling in a novel, similar affects can be achieved through tasteful flashbacks (which are what these essentially are in the TV show).   

Finally, the characters react to stress in realistic ways.  When your character is faced with a war, will they bravely storm out onto the battlefield without a second thought?  When your character is faced with life and death or the decision to pull the plug on their loved one, will they have their mind made up?  How do they react to the news?  A good way to put it:  how would you react?  When put under extreme stress, oftentimes our reactions are pretty illogical because we're riding a tide of emotions.  The characters on This is Us do things such as laugh, freeze up, say things they don't mean, question or reject reality, stress eat, cry, start screaming at some poor sap who just happened to be walking by, talk to mentors or hole themselves up somewhere and refuse to talk at all.  These reactions are something probably all of us have done at some point in our lives as well, and that's what gets the waterworks going:  we (the audience) know how they feel in that exact moment, and it's terrible. 

Finally, audiences connect with This is Us because, while they have their crazy lives and ambitions, when it comes down to it, family is at the core of everything.  We identify with this because, regardless of our upbringing or who was in our lives, we all have people who at one point were "family" to us and shaped us.  Don't let your storytelling get wrapped up in the grandeur of an insurmountable, 'save the world' scheme.  Balance it out with just the right amount of family, too.  Why is your character willing to sacrifice their life?  Is there someone they're trying to protect, and who are they to the character?  Who shaped your character?  Remember, while your story focuses on a certain point in time in which your character is a specific age, they were born to someone and had a childhood of some sort like anyone else.  (Unless your plot is really sci-fi, which is okay too--explain it!) How were your characters shaped by family?  Remember that family doesn't necessarily mean 'blood relative' either.  People love a story that winds down to family.  Look at TV shows such as this one, NCIS, even Last Man Standing and Chuck: they were all very popular in their time and they all have family at the absolute core of their stories. 

There are several facets to explore with this hit drama and how its storytelling techniques are important and relevant to writers.  When you're writing, take into consideration some of these methods and how it might help you improve your story--you never know, you might have the plot for the next New York Times Bestseller in your mind! 

The Seconds Count

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Hey, everyone!  I know it's been an incredibly long time since I last posted, but college got in the way.  Yuck.  Anyway, I have plans for being a lot more active on the blog this year; not a resolution per se but a plan.  For the first post this year, we'll be talking about laying the foundation for a second book (and subsequent books) in a series you may be writing. 

When you're planning on releasing multiple books, it's important to decide how many books you plan to release, or at least how long you believe it will take to dissect the story you're unraveling.  As a general rule, novels are roughly 70-90,000 words long, with young adult literature being roughly 50-70k in length.  Novellas are about 17,500-40,000 words and novelettes are between 7500 and 17,500 words.  If you wrote your first book in the series as a novella or novelette, it is best to continue the series as such for continuity: not only is it important for your writing, but also for your marketing and publishing!  Always try to ensure that your future books in a series have the same print size, fonts/font size, and length as well as covers that correspond well, in whichever way seems best to you.  Additionally, don't begin writing a YA series and then turn it into an adult fiction series, or vice versa. 

If you already have one book published and have enough material leftover for another book (or two...or fifteen?) you should consider how you want to lay the material out for the rest of the series as a whole.  Really work out the entire plot of your story and think about how much you're going to space the events out across books.  Ideally, you'll want to end each book with a cliffhanger that will make readers itch for the next book to be released.  In the mystery genre, it can mean your characters being faced with a terrifying situation or even imminent death.  In the romance genre, it can mean your characters are either closer to their goals or are being pushed away from their goals.  Keep in mind that the term 'cliffhanger' doesn't have to mean your characters' lives are in danger, but rather that they are kept from something, namely their end goal.

While this planning may take some time and tweaking throughout the planning stage and even while writing, it's definitely worth it in the long run.  Once you've decided how much of the story you have to tell yet, it's a good idea to write out basic plots for each book so you don't forget your plans.  You can get into more detailed plotting as you prepare for each book. 

Perhaps the hardest thing to do when writing a series is deciding how to start the second book in such a way that readers are impacted as much as they were during the ending of the first.  This moment is equally as crucial and will either make or break a reader's interest in your book.  As with any book, you want to write an attention-snatching hook in the first page.  Find one that is very relevant for your series and one that fits with the characters, their current situation, and the tone you're setting for the series. 
Don't write something overly dramatic simply to catch attention.  If it seems forced, don't leave it in.  If it excites you to write about it, and you're really passionate about your opening lines, then they're probably the best for your situation.  Passion is one of the most important parts of writing--if you're passionate about it, your readers will be too. 
Do make sure your story doesn't start at a slow pace, necessarily.  And if you're hung up on your first lines, don't worry about it yet.  Start from the end of the book and work your way up to the beginning of it; by then you'll have a solid idea of what you're going to put your characters through later on!  While it may seem counter-intuitive to write the ending first, there are several good reasons why. 

Ending first: Chances are, you're pumped about what you'll be doing later on in the book as opposed to the beginning, where you're setting up for all of these events.  Writing the ending first allows you to get the creative juices flowing, and you can use this final piece to compare the first ending to in order to see how much character development has to occur between the two.  You may also think of different ways your story will go as you're writing the ending, as well as lines you might include for foreshadowing.  Ultimately, writing the ending first gives you the flexibility that perhaps isn't always presented from writing the beginning first. 

On top of the nitty-gritty writing you'll be doing, it's also important to have fun with it.  Make Pinterest boards for your books for visual aids, playlists relevant to your characters, and even write down quotes that seem relevant to your characters or your plot.  These will not only help you keep track of your goals, but also give you inspiration by bringing the characters outside of your head through external references.  On top of that, write one-shots about your characters to delve deeper into their backstory; give them meaning outside of the specific work you're planning, then allow readers just a tiny window into their backstory so they seem more realistic.  The better you understand your characters, the better your readers will understand them too.  While you don't have to publish your one-shots, keeping them around as references for characters may be helpful to your planning as well. 

Your best bet for writing a series, however, is to see how the experts have done it.  Read a lot of series and standalone books so you can decipher the important structural differences between books of a series and standalone ones.  Think about why these books are successful or impact you as a reader, and try to incorporate those values into your own writing.  Conversely, if you find a book that isn't particularly fantastic, consider why it wasn't successful.  Reading is as important to a writer as writing is; through reading we can understand our audience and how to improve our own writing, whether we've been doing it for years or days. 

What are some of the ways you prepare for writing the future books in a series?