A Look at Vanity Presses

So a while ago, back when I used FictionPress a lot, I was approached by a vanity press who wanted to work with me. To make things simple, here was our conversation.

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Alexis being the Vanity Press, clearly.

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And I am the majestic blue-footed booby.

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I looked her shit up, thought no thank you, then decided to fuck with them.

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They never emailed me back about using my editing services 😦 Granted, I have never ever used that email address and I don’t know if it fuctions or not, but hey. The reviews DID say it needed editing.

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But yeah, my research led me to believe that they were not to be trusted.

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Also, anytime a profile has no activity then updates or is created right before messaging you is 100% shady.

However, I ignored it until I was going back through my old messages finding people who had been interested in Kiss of The Fey when I found this message, and I when I started to look up their information for putting together this post….

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And poor Lisa Alfonso is gone as well!

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Her author page is still up and someone mentioned that they couldn’t wait for the sequel, and the author replied “It’ll be out in March!” back in 2012. Someone came along in 2014 and said “I’m guessing that wasn’t March 2013 that it was coming out.”

Assuming that Lisa was a real person, not just part of the Vanity Press, I feel bad for her. It seemed like she had a really good story and she was doomed when a Vanity Press took her book, didn’t edit it so that it would actually sell, and then vanished and left her high and dry. All she can do now is self-publish since publishers only want first rights. But Believe might still be under a legally binding contract with the Vanity Press, even though it’s no longer for sale on Amazon. She just can’t sell the second book and have the first one be unavailable, so what is she to do?

The moral of the story is, NEVER trust a Vanity Press. If they try to make YOU pay to publish your book, it is not a real publisher. This is the internet. Trust no one. Always do your research!

 

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How to Choose a Topic To Write About

I sat down and though, “Hmmm, I should write a blog post. But about what? Oh, I know! About picking topics to write about! Gosh I’m clever.”

I think that what I’m going to talk about will apply to all writing, whether it be your novel, poem, essay, or blog post. Writing is just tapping into your creativity and using words to express what you mean to say. Writers who have a firm grasp on the mechanics of writing might find this easier than others, but in the end anyone can write as long as they have creativity (they might need a really good editor, though).

What I feel helps me think of a topic is just blocking out everything else and letting something come to mind. For example, I was wondering what I’ll do when I’m done writing the Fairy Curse novels. That will be years from now, but I was still a little concerned. I tried to think of how I could stay in the same genre so that my readers would like the new content without having to repeat what I already had done. I thought, “Okay, what would exist in the context of magic, medieval world, and romance. Well… witches, of course!” Then you need to expand on that. “Well, what makes my witch special? Well, how about how she uses her magic. She likes using potions to help cure the villagers around her! And she’s very choosy about her friends, her only companion is a transsexual vampire who hates people.”

It can work for essays the same way. I have to do a research project later in the semester so I was brainstorming on what I want to do. I was thinking that I should have it connect to both my majors, psychology and criminal justice, and that it should be something I can potentially connect to my senior project. I want to possibly work with juveniles, so I was working within that context. Juveniles, criminal justice, psychology…. How do people perceive juvenile offenders verses adult offenders in minor crimes? As in, who deserves to be punished more for shoplifting, a 14-year-old or a 46-year-old?

Finding a topic is just about narrowing down your choices. Say you have to write a novel about something. Anything. You don’t have any ideas, but you need to write it (we’ll assume it’s getting close to November). Alright, you can do this. I believe in you. What genre do you want to write in? Romance? Fantasy? Both? Science Fiction? Historical Fiction? If you can’t decide, just pick the genre you like reading in most. From there, ask yourself a few more questions. Do you want the main character to be male or female? Why? Will their gender be an important part of the story (females being paid less, a man being forced to join the army)? What is this person going to do? Solve a mystery? Go on an adventure? Fall in love? Navigate intergalactic high school? Outrun death? Where does the story start in their life, and where does it end? What do you want to change by the end of the story?

It’s too overwhelming if you just ask, “What should I write?” The importance is in narrowing down the questions.

As you ask more questions, you’ll get more details. It doesn’t matter if they’re good ideas or not, write them down until you have something better. At some point you’ll say, “No, it’s stupid if my character goes to intergalactic high school and is still dating a human. She’s not going to date an alien, so I guess it’s just going to be a normal high school” until all the details are how you want them (though these changes might continue well into the final drafts of your novel).

If none of that works for you, just use a plot generator. You can write about the gnome who fell in love with the ballerina dancer on Mars. Best of luck to you.

 

Does anyone else have any specific techniques they use to find inspiration?

How to Smash Through Writer’s Block

Writer’s block sucks. Seriously. There are almost 7 million results when you Google “How to get through writer’s block,” but I like to think that my advice is different. Because I’m going to tell you to suck it up.

You see, writer’s block isn’t a physical block. I’m not going to hold your hand and tell you to drink tea and take a vacation to a relaxing tropical destination. I’m going to tell you a little secret.

The only way to get past writer’s block is to write.

Now, this seems pretty obvious, but some people don’t treat it as such. They act like the only way to get past writer’s block is to do yoga and meditate until you get an answer from above on how to write your next scene. The truth is, it’s a lot simpler than that.

However, I believe there are two different kinds of writers block. First, we’ll talk about the hardest type.

“I don’t know what to write next. I have no ideas on how to continue the story!”

Alright, I know that feeling. It sucks. You get the princess out of the dragon-guarded castle, but then what? Is she going to go on an adventure? Sail the world? Fall in love?

Lots of time this type of writer’s block comes from improper planning. You get started on a story without really knowing where it’s going. This is how I first started writing back in middle school. “Oh! I know! I’ll write a story about two girls running away from an orphanage to find their real father!” So I would write them slipping out of the orphanage… walking along the highway…. then nothing. The story ended there. I didn’t know how to continue.

Unfortunately, there’s sometimes no way to salvage a story in this state of writer’s block. Sometimes your brain won’t give you the answer when you ask “What happens next?” You can try to write another story or a few poems, or to look at pretty pictures and listen to music for inspiration, but if there’s no spark, you’re not going to get anything. Some stories don’t have the potential to make it to their final draft.  It’s sad, but true.

However, maybe your story isn’t lost to the world. Visit plot generators (even though their suggestions are always completely off the wall) or visit this forum for ideas. If you know that the story started with A and ends with Z but just don’t know how to get there, make something up. Zombies, vampires, random volcano, new girl at school, a death in the family, anything. Write literally anything just to keep the plot moving. If it’s a terrible idea, you can always edit it out once you’re done.

“I’m stuck at this scene. It’s really important and I don’t want to get it wrong.”

This is the second type of writer’s block, and it can be a bit trickier. However, I’ll tell you the secret to getting that scene over with: Stop caring. Unless you’re writing an essay for the SATs, you’re going to be able to go back and fix mistakes. That means fixing the sex scene where both characters acted like cardboard ducks and rewriting the tearful confession that was so bad it brought tears of laughter to your beta reader’s eyes. Honestly, in longer pieces, it’s better to write “JESUS THEY KISS OR SOMETHING MOVING ON” and keep going than to sit there staring at the screen wondering how to word everything.

Luckily, this is the easiest form of writer’s block to get past. You just have to sit down and force yourself to write. Tell yourself you’re not eating until you finish that scene (though I recommend against this if the scene is going to be upwards of 5000 words). I had a tricky sex scene that I put off for days that I finished by locking myself in my room until I got it out there. It really hurt my writing since those were days that I had set aside specifically for writing. Had I gotten that scene out of the way, I could have written a lot more.

Basically, this is all about tough love. Suck it up and write it. Write nonsense if you have to, you can go back and fix it later. Give it a day or two to stew if you MUST, but no longer than that. Momentum is very important when working on longer pieces. If you are away from a project for too long, you’ll not only forget where you were, but you’ll forget the voices of your characters. I once stopped a project for so long that I changed a character’s name from Joy to Hope and didn’t notice until I went back through for editing. Just force yourself to write. Even if your wrists hurt and your fingertips are sore, you’ll thank yourself later.

What was the worst writer’s block you ever had, and how did you get rid of it?