Improve The Chances of Your Blog Being Seen!

Waldo of "Where's Waldo?" for those of you who don't know.

Waldo of “Where’s Waldo?” for those of you who don’t know.

When I started blogging, I had no followers, just like the rest of you. I just started off by making a post that said “Hi, I’m new to blogging!” then by posting whatever I wanted to blog about. For the most part, that’s writing-related posts, but I don’t limit myself to that. I also posted thoughts on other matters such as Barbie dolls and the Alex Day scandal, as well as blue Sour Patch Kids and the title of “Basic Bitch.”

While my followers mostly look at my writing posts, which is evident in the comments and views following the day I post it, the broader topics are the ones getting my blog on the top of Google. People come here looking for basic bitches, Alex Day, and motivational posts. Overall, those viewers contribute very little, never leave comments (or when they do, they’re ignorant ones like BITCH HOW DARE U SAY DAT bleh bleh blah that I filter out) and never have an account to like or follow me, but the truth is that those views are the ones we need.

I published a book in September and I’ve posted links to it EVERYWHERE. I put it at the end of my most Googled post, put it in the sidebar, have a link in the menu to my author blog… basically, if you come to my blog, you’re going to see it. I check the stats page every day and there are always clicks on my Amazon and author blog links. That means that some of the people who are coming to my blog are looking at my book! That’s great! It doesn’t matter that it’s only 5 people a day and they don’t buy it. Considering that I’m still new to blogging, I think it’s a pretty significant accomplishment.

Tips to make your blog more visible:

  • Give every post a good title. Don’t make it “This is how I do it” before going into your workout routine. “This is how I do it” means nothing to most people. “Tips For a Great Workout Routine For Lazy People” is obviously better.
  • Repeat yourself. See how I have my title for this post and then the title of this list? Both phrases can be used by Google to find me, rather than just one.
  • Vary what you post, but not too much. If your blog has no theme, you’re not going to get as many followers (unless you happen to be funny). I post mostly about writing and self-publishing, as well as book reviews, but I don’t hesitate to post something else that’s on my mind. My followers see that most of my posts are relevant, and people from Google find the non-relevant ones.
  • Comment on other blogs. Not just a “Alright!” or “Congrats!” I admit that I do that, but only when I genuinely want to congratulate the person. When you want someone to check out your blog, do NOT post “Oh hey check out my blog.” Add to the discussion with a similar problem you’ve been facing or with a polite opposing view. Not only is the blog owner more likely to check out your blog, but if it’s a bigger blog, their followers may as well.
  • Don’t be fake. You don’t want meaningless followers. Sure, it looks good to have 500 followers, but does it mean anything if they never comment on your stuff? If they don’t care about your book or your life, they’re just a number? Don’t sell your blog as a fashion blog and then critique feminism. Don’t title your blog “My Witty Ramblings” and then complain about college the whole time. Market yourself correctly so that the right people will see you.
  • Make each post the best that it can. Lots of people are turned off by bad grammar and spelling. If I click on a blog that looks interesting but they have a mistake in whatever post happens to be on the top, I click away and never return.
  • Don’t spam your followers. Have a book coming out? Then yes, feel free to mention that in ever post. However, don’t just post six posts saying, “MY BOOK IS COMING OUT.” That’s how you lose followers. Make a post about editing, then marketing, then how you’re handling your nerves. If you’re selling something, let everyone know that by making it visible, but unless it is the sole focus of your blog (as in, no blog posts, you’re just here for a business website) you need to make people want to come to your blog in the first place to see what you’re selling.

 

On an unrelated note, I almost died last night because the interstate turned to ice and I had no idea until I saw the other accidents. For those of you in the north, remember to drive safely!

Advertisements

I’ll keep writing anyway!

I'll also keep taking pictures!

I’ll also keep taking pictures!

I can’t quit my day job because I have student loans to repay. I’ll keep writing anyway.

I have one friend who thinks I’m going to sell millions of copies of my books (unrealistic) but basically everyone else just says “meh” when I say I’ve already published one book. I’ll keep writing anyway.

The attitude today seems to be that anyone can write a novel. Oh well. I’ll keep writing anyway.

I’ve only reached a handful of people with my blog, and even fewer with my book. I’ll keep writing anyway.

I might not be the next big hit, or even a hidden gem among writers. I might just be average. I’ll keep writing anyway.

My books aren’t some literary explosion of genius, they’re just meant to entertain. I’ll keep writing anyway!

There’s no daily reward for my work. I don’t save lives or change people’s outlook on life. Each word can sometimes be a struggle, and I don’t see the fruits of my labor until months after I write that first word. I’ll keep writing anyway!

I don’t have a writing nook. I don’t have scheduled writing hours that I can write. I don’t have a ritual, I don’t have time to write some days, and sometimes I feel like the real world has sucked out all of my writing energy. I’ll keep writing anyway!

My professors are not amused. Too biased. Too personal. Try to be serious. I’ll keep writing anyway!

I can’t write everything I want without giving up my real life. I’ll keep writing anyway!

I need to keep my apartment clean and make time for my boyfriend. I can’t skip showering to write, and I need to eat at some point. Sleep, too. I’ll keep writing anyway!

Life will go on. I’ll keep writing anyway!

 

A reaction to this post (check it out!)

NaNoWriMo for Newbies – Part 4, Outlining

Brace Yourselves

Unfortunately, because of a computer breaking only a month after I got it I MEAN SERIOUSLY WTF A MONTH??? malfunction this post is coming a little late, but better late than never, right? Write. (Heh, see what I did there?)

So, for me, outlining is simple. Very simple. I was taught rigorous outlining methods in middle school for our research papers. Here was the basic format:

I. Something
A. Something more.
B. Something even more.
1. Oh lala, more detail.
a. more detail about that detail
b. Ron Walrus for president 4030
2. And you gotta have at least two for each section with more detail
a. dunno
b. why
i. stupid
ii. rule
II. Something else.

Obviously, to do it with that method you just have to make the roman numerals into chapters and break down everything in the chapter. That’s what I usually do, that way I can know what happens when and look right to the next thing when I need to write on, with the roman numerals and the letters having the real action and the smaller ones having the detail I came up with when planning the scene. I did NaNoWriMo with an outline like this one year and it was the easiest NaNo I’ve ever done, hands down. Need to get ahead on your word count? Your next scene is right there. All the detail is right there, all in chronological order.

Now some of you, myself included, either don’t have time for such detail or can’t come up with so much on the spot for plot ideas. Well, that’s fine too. This year I’m going a general outline, which just looks like this.

  • Wild meets the outlaws and agrees to be the princess.
  • The Queen finds Wild and wants to behead her, but the King doesn’t. Says they need her.
  • Wild tries to sneak out but can’t find the outlaws.

Basically like that. Just all the points I can think of now, without assigning them to a chapter or putting significance in the bullet. I wrote it out (though those of you who don’t have to run to the computer lab for computer access may want to type it) and left spaces in-between bullets for new ideas that came to mind. I just bulleted my way from start to finish, though there’s an easier way to do that for those of you who are terrible at outlining.

Fill out these:

  • What happens to start the story off?
  • What is happening in the middle?
  • What happens to set off the final events?
  • How does it end?

Once you answer those, fill out the points between them, even if you don’t know anything. If you know that MC and his love interest will hook up in the second half, put that in there. Will the MC see a bad omen in the first half? Slide that in. Any ideas you take the time to write down will help you when you’re stuck and you don’t know what to write. It’ll make everything so much easier if you have some sort of outline, even if it’s just a general direction of where you want each chapter to go.

Next time I will be covering general tips for reaching 50,000 words (assuming my head doesn’t implode from the stress of not having a computer).

If you missed it, part one on plot was here, part two on your main character was here, part two and a half on your love interest was here, and part three on your subplots was here.

100 Things To Do Once You Finish Your Novel

That’s right. At the beginning of the week, I finished the first draft of Only in Whispers. It was amazing, it ended with scenes I never envisioned, and it made me realize how far my characters had come. It’s weird to not feel pressured to write constantly anymore, and whenever I’m on Facebook I think, “Shouldn’t I be writing?” before realizing that until November, I’m taking a write holiday. So weird.

Not only that, but I got my first royalty from CreateSpace for Kiss of the Fey! This is only my paperback sales since I accidentally published my eBook with a different email (so that it isn’t linked to CreateSpace), so that’ll be another $5 whenever they release that. I’m a published, paid author! And that’s enough for pizza!

Capture

Just so you all know, I still have a rafflecopter giveaway going on! I guess I’m terrible at giveaways, because no one has entered, so if you want a chance to win a free copy of Kiss of The Fey (and bookmarks!) click here.

Now that you’re all updated on my life, we can continue with the list.


  1. Tell everyone.
  2. Including people who don’t care about writing.
  3. “Oh, does that mean I can read it?”
  4. “No, first drafts are shit!”
  5. Relax.
  6. Think about all the terrible mistakes you know are waiting to be edited out.
  7. Freak out a bit.
  8. Try to relax again.
  9. Fail.
  10. Give up on writing.
  11. “Um, but didn’t you just say that all first drafts are shit?”
  12. “This is extra shit! Steaming shit! I should never write anything again!”
  13. Get a new idea.
  14. Outline it.
  15. Get excited about it.
  16. Write chapter one before feeling guilty about the novel you need to edit.
  17. “I thought you said you were never writing again?”
  18. “I lied. Isn’t this scene awesome? I’m writing about a pirate who travels through black matter and sings karaoke and steals diamonds to use as rocket fuel.”
  19. “Uh… right. You have at it, then.”
  20. Stall at chapter three.
  21. Remember you first novel.
  22. Open it back up.
  23. Read the first paragraph.
  24. Groan at the terrible errors.
  25. Stay up late into the night surface editing.
  26. “Are you planning to recycle all that?” your significant other asks, looking at the stack of paper next to you.
  27. “Oh… no. These are my editing notes.”
  28. “So you are writing again?”
  29. “STOP QUESTIONING MY LIFE CHOICES.”
  30. Tell your writing group.
  31. Smile like crazy because they are the most awesome people. (Note: If you don’t have a writing group, I suggest joining the NaNoWriMo group on Facebook. Even if you don’t do NaNoWriMo. They’re great.)
  32. Tell your mother.
  33. “Does this one have sex scenes too?”
  34. “Um… yes.”
  35. *sigh* “We can’t let your grandfather read this one either…”
  36. Remember the terrible sex scenes in your novel.
  37. Read them.
  38. Cry again.
  39. Buck up and ask your significant other for a practical lesson.
  40. “No really, it’s for research! We have to!”
  41. “You should write more books…”
  42. Write a list instead of editing.
  43. Write a list instead of planning your next novel.
  44. Write a list instead of doing homework.
  45. They can be different lists.
  46. Go to CreateSpace and create a profile for your book.
  47. Even though it’s not even a second draft.
  48. And you don’t know if you’ll self-publish.
  49. Decide that you need to establish yourself as an author.
  50. Start blogging about it.
  51. “Oh, when’s your book coming out?”
  52. “Um, what book? Untitled hasn’t even been edited yet. My main character’s sister is still named PICKLE.”
  53. Attempt to explain poor PICKLE’s tragic backstory while keeping a straight face and still calling her PICKLE.
  54. While explaining it, realize you wrote a plot hole.
  55. Rush home and open your novel.
  56. Rewrite the scene, kill off PICKLE.
  57. No one likes pickles anyways.
  58. Find the motivation to finish editing your first draft.
  59. Think you’re done.
  60. Don’t hear the experienced writers laughing at you from behind their computers.
  61. “You can read my novel now!”
  62. “Um, there are a lot of problems. Your main character either has two dads AND a mom or a dad with two names, you don’t explain how the killer escaped the first time, and there were a ton of typos.”
  63. “Noooooooooooooooooooooo. Second drafts are also shit? That’s not right! I’m a terrible writer!”
  64. *gives some space*
  65. Complain online that you will never be a real writer.
  66. Be virtually slapped by someone more experienced.
  67. Buck up and continue writing, get all the way to chapter seven of your new novel.
  68. Stall again.
  69. Go back to your first novel.
  70. Read through it again.
  71. Rearrange things.
  72. Put in more character detail.
  73. Take out irrelevant scene detail.
  74. Make your characters more consistent.
  75. Correct Microsoft Word once again about your character Wren not having a grammatically incorrect name.
  76. Realize that you have a third draft.
  77. Push it aside for a while, remembering last time.
  78. Realize that life can’t be writing 24/7.
  79. Take some time to relax with friends.
  80. “Honey, I finished your novel. I think I finally understand, the princess loves the king, but then the prince was under a love spell so he wanted to save the princess from the king, but the princess didn’t really need saving-”
  81. “Mom, I took out that subplot ages ago. Here’s the newest draft. There are dragons this time.”
  82. Crack your novel open one more time.
  83. Edit again.
  84. Then double-check for errors.
  85. Go to your writer group and look for beta readers.
  86. Contact lots of them.
  87. Send out lots of copies of your novel.
  88. Get two critiques back.
  89. First one: “The pacing was too slow.”
  90. Second one: “The pacing was too fast.”
  91. Explode.
  92. Take it with a grain of salt, rewrite problem areas.
  93. Edit again.
  94. For those with money, professional editor.
  95. For those who want to, submit to a publishing house.
  96. For those who don’t, self-publish.
  97. For those who want none of that publishing nonsense, post online for free.
  98. Advertise your book everywhere you can.
  99. Apologize to your significant other for everything you put them through.
  100. Start the process over again.

For those of you who disagree with my methods, what’s the first thing you’d do when finishing a first draft?

NaNoWriMo for Newbies – Part 3, Subplots

10703565_916866985007290_1938755099440161884_n
Okay, so the picture is completely unrelated, but I found it on the NaNo page on Facebook and I think it perfectly sums up how it feels to be a writer.

Anyways, today I’ll be talking about subplots. So, here’s all we’ve got so far with parts 1 through 2 1/2:

My story is about a fun-loving girl who needs to keep her secret hidden in order to continue impersonating the princess until the real one is found. When Wild meets Daviat, she thinks he’s boring and rude. Then, he’s assigned to guard her at all times, and they are forced to put up with each other.  Daviat proves his love when he runs away from the castle with Wild to protect her.

So, it’s hard to distinguish what is plot and what is subplot, so I’m going to call it safe and say that both the romance and impersonating the princess counts as the main plot, because they’re really tied to each other, and I can’t have one without the other. To keep things interesting, you need a subplot. Or two. Or six. Really, this being NaNoWriMo, I’m not going to tell you how many you can have (especially since my novel Kiss of The Fey has more than a few, though they are tiny) but here is a quote from another blog on the matter:

That being so, here is my formula for the maximum number of subplots, by word count, you can have in your novel (a novel being a minimum of 60,000 words).
60k words: 1 subplot (e.g., in a category romance, you might have the female Lead plotline, and the love interest plotline, which intersect)
80k: 2-3
100k: 3-4
Over 100 k: 5
James Scott Bell

So, since NaNoWriMo’s goal is 50,000 words we’ll focus on one subplot today. Because I like them so much, here’s another fill in the blank:

While (MC) (blanks), (blank) happens to (character). (Character) must (blank) to make things right.

Yes, that’s very vague, but there is so much room for subplots that it’s hard to narrow down. I’m not trying to give you ideas, but to help you translate your imagination into a paragraph you can work on to write you novel.

Here’s my fill in the blank:

While Wild learns to be a princess, the real princess is taken by the kidnappers and kept as a hostage. The real princess must survive the savage band of barbarians if she ever wants to see her family again.

Again, it’s not exact, just a general guideline. This is a reminder that there are adoptable in the NaNoWriMo forums, so if you still can’t think of a plot, a character, or a subplot, you can snatch one from over there. Here’s another example of how a subplot would fit into the fill in the blank: While MC fights the villain, she begins seeing a dark figure lurking out of the corner of her eyes. She must find the source of this shadow before she can hope to send the villain back to the dark realm. (If you want that plot, you can have it. It was from the adoptable.) 

I hope that helped some of you. Next time I will be covering outlining, and then there will be one post on general tips for reaching 50,000 words.

If you missed it, part one on plot was here, part two on your main character was here, and part two and a half on your love interest was here.

How to Self-Publish Your Novel Professionally – Step Two: The Cover

pug

Alright, so you need to find a cover for your novel. It’s all edited, but it needs an image. A strong image. A distinct image.

What you need is a book cover, and there are three ways to get one. First, let’s go the easy route. Let’s assume you have money.

Honestly, buying a cover is the easiest route. Here is where I would suggest to go for a reasonable price. (I don’t know how much covers can cost, but I know that that site makes pretty covers for a price I can almost afford.) You just need to talk to a professional and they’ll make something you love. If you don’t love it, don’t pay them for it. Just make sure that everything is reputable and don’t assume that because you’re paying for it means it’s going to be a great cover. Hey, if you give me $50 I’ll make you a cover. Does that mean you’ll want the cover I make? No.

The next one is also easier, but a lot less solid. This route is going to people and begging for a free cover. I’ve gotten a few decent covers from people at the NaNoWriMo forums who just wanted to design things for fun, but you have to make sure that everything checks out on those.

Finally, and what the biggest trouble is, we have making your own cover. Let me say right now that no matter what you do the cover-maker that CreateSpace uses is crap. Seriously. Do not use one of those covers. It screams “SELF-PUBLISHED”, and that’s not what you want people to think when they see your novel.

Here are the biggest tips I have for making your own cover:

  • Don’t just use an image off of Google. You need to know that you have the right to use that picture. You can either buy a stock image to use or find a free stock image. Obviously, the free one is free, but the ones you pay for will usually be better quality and have a bigger selection. It’s up to you which one you use. Remember, if you need more than one image, buying them can get expensive, and it’ll be worthless if you have no photo editing skills.
  • Use a LARGE image to start with. The bigger it is, the better it will look when compressed down for print. I used an image that appeared alright on screen, even though I knew the resolution wasn’t that high. When printed, the image itself looked alright, but the text looked a little blurry. I couldn’t fix the text because I couldn’t make the image bigger to increase the text resolution. I ended up needing to find a different image and redoing my cover completely.
  • Go simple. Unless you’re a graphic designer, simplicity is key. Seriously. Don’t overdo yourself. It will look terrible.
  • Get opinions on your cover. If most people like it, that’s good. If one person says “Oh, it’s obviously not done by a professional” because they already know that you made it yourself, ignore them. People always assume that self-published works are bad. Take a book and slap “Penguin” on the side and you’ve got yourself a book twice as good as the exact same thing with “CreateSpace” listed as the publisher.
  • Practice makes perfect. If your editing skills aren’t that great, remake book covers for books you already know. Try to recreate them with your own skills and free images. Once you learn the techniques that get the image you like, you’ll be ready to work on your own cover.

I was going to outline step-by-step how I made my own cover, but I figured that I would make a YouTube video instead. At least one of you better find it useful, because I may have downloaded a Trojan trying to get a program to capture my screen.

The quality is shit, but it gets the basics across. It’s 14 minutes long though. So there’s that. (There is a reason I picked blogging over vlogging.) If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I used the photo-editing program GIMP because that’s what someone recommended and it’s free. Photoshop would be unquestionably better, but I’m being as cheap as possible. I basically just made my cover with the steps in the video. Here is what my book cover looks like:

legitcover

If you missed it, part one is here. Part three will be interior formatting.

 

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?

How To Outline a Novel

There are three ways to plan a novel, in my opinion. I’ve done all three.

Method One: Pantsing it.

I don’t know if this is a thing outside of NaNoWriMo. Basically, you rush into the writing with no plan, or very little plan. You think “My character is named Anabel. She lives in Greece. Let’s write!” and throw yourself into the writing. The plot just happens. You might have more, like knowing that Anabel is going to fall in love or battle an ancient society of Athena worshipers, but you don’t know what will happen in chapter two or chapter sixteen until you get there. You just write your heart out and clean the mess up later.

I wrote Skyview Academy: Love 101 with this method. It was 60,000 words and 18 chapters of hot mess writing from high school. However, the writing was only terrible because I was still learning. The plot actually wasn’t bad. I had a friend who didn’t mind bad writing read it and she loved it. I’m still in the process of rewriting it (which I may never, ever get to). All I knew was that I wanted Abby to fall in love with Logan, but Abby was a cheerleader and Logan was a nerd. That conflict alone allowed me to finish the story, even if it will be some time before it sees the light of day again.

Method Two: Expanding a previous story.

So, you wrote an awesome short story. Or a poem. Or a novella. Someone reads it and tells you how fantastic it is. They tell you they want to read more. You smile and shake your head… but maybe they’re right. You realize that Anabel doesn’t just have to have her adventure in Greece, she could go to Egypt and battle old mummys  then land in America and battle Nicolas Cage. Rather than 10,000 words, you end up with 80,000.

I wrote Kiss of The Fey that way. Kiss of The Fey used to be Woman of Fire, Man of Ice, which used to be a novella called Princess Janoah’s Tale. I wrote the novella for a challenge that said to write a fairy-tale inspired story, and I wrote about the Beauty and The Beast. It was much simpler and sillier than Kiss of The Fey.  It certainly didn’t have any sex scenes.

Method Three: Actually Outlining.

For this method, you have to sit down and put your creativity onto the page in a very condensed form. You need to know every high and low point of the novel. You need to know that Anabel is going to be discovering her connection to the undead in the third chapter, and by the fifteenth chapter she has control of her power to get the zombies in Athens to tell her where the lost city of Atlantis was. At the beginning of chapter seventeen she almost dies, and the twentieth chapter she unveils the secret for the next book (because this sounds like the kind of thing that belongs in a trilogy, doesn’t it?)

I wrote The Art of Screwing Up: Tales of A Faux Lesbian this way. I had EVERYTHING planned out. I wrote the whole thing during NaNoWriMo, so I was plowing right through that thing. I once lost my outline and FREAKED OUT because it had everything I planned to do. I had chapter by chapter instructions, and detailed lists of what would happen in those chapters. It was so easy to write once I had the outline. I just looked at my paper and thought “Okay, follow this until I get my 3666 words for the day.”

So… which one is best?

Personally, I like to actually outline my story, but that rarely happens. I just don’t have the brain power to sit there and know when everything is going to happen. I usually go with a vague idea of where I want the story to go and write from there. This means that anything can happen. In A Game of Madness, I knew that Lord Acton was a bad guy, but I didn’t know he was so bad that he murdered babies. It just came out in my writing.

I don’t think it’s the planning that determines how your novel turns out, but your passion for that specific story. You just need to try the different methods and see what works best for you. No matter what method you use you’re still going to have to go back and edit, so the important thing is to finish the story, not to plan it how others think you should.

How NOT to self-publish

I’ve been preparing to self-publish for a while now, and at this point I’m looking to see what others like me are doing to publish their books. Nothing good, from what I’ve seen so far. While I know that there are some good self-published books out there, the ones I’m going to talk about probably aren’t them. I admit that I’ll be harping on appearance more than anything, but that has a lot to do with if your book sells or not.

Without further ado, let us start with the first thing not to do:

1. Don’t make yourself invisible. If you want to be an author, you have to be an author. You need an author page. You need a way for fans to contact you if they have questions or praise. You can’t be a name that means NOTHING.

1 2

None of the first page results show an Ava Langley that may be her. This is what should make you consider adopting a penname. Do you want to be confused with the girl on twitter who posts things like, “You’re a fucking dick go die in a hole.”?

But let’s put author in front of her name, shall we?

Well, here’s a blog, but is this the author? Oh, I guess it is.

seriously

No mention of being an author, and I missed the “my available books” at first. Clicking this doesn’t make it look like this is an author’s blog. You need it to be clear for people to connect to your as an author. I’ll admit that my pen name doesn’t show up on Google yet, but I have barely made any posts and my book isn’t available for sale yet. However, if someone found my blog, they wouldn’t be confused.

lala

Okay, well I realize that I spelled my name wrong, but whatever. I’ll fix that. MOVING ON.

2.  Don’t let your book covers look like shit. Please, please don’t. Even if you have to spend money on it or use Createspace’s cover maker or make the simplest cover ever, don’t do it. I can pick out the self-published authors by the shitty covers.

self

If you click on them their publishers are all listed as “Createspace”.  Visually, the middle one isn’t too bad, but you still can’t see the words on the cover.

Then you have one that could be good, but has been way overdone. It’s not hard to pick out bad covers.

3

There’s just too much going on and the fonts aren’t easily readable. It’s a hot mess. If you notice, I highlighted an additional part. It claims to be a top selling fantasy novel…

4

6 reviews do not a top seller make. Sure, she may have gone to the top seller’s list once her book went down to free, but that doesn’t make it a “Top Seller” because nothing was SOLD.

3. Don’t try to market your book as something that it’s not. If you say it’s a bestseller but is clearly not, people will notice. People will not be amused.

4. Don’t let the inside of your book look as bad as the outside. The interior has to be professionally done like you would see in a real book. If you don’t know how to use Word to achieve these affects, Google it. Don’t be lazy.

5

As you can see, that looks terrible. You open your book and have your copyright notice with the same page as the title and then the beginning of the story. Not only that, but the opening isn’t strong. When you know people are going to be basing the opening of your book on this bit that they see, why wouldn’t you read over it and catch something like this? (I’m talking about all the highlighted ands. Way too many in that short span.) Opening with wild action isn’t enough. It still has to be good writing that people want to read.

Normal books have these kinds of pages before the read novel starts:

.1 .2 .3 .4

Obviously a lot of us won’t have a page for reviews, but you should have a copyright page, and one with just the title, and one listing previous publications (if applicable). That’s just how books are set up.

5. Price your book reasonably. You’re not writing a masterpiece. Even if you are, no one knows it yet. You have to price your book at a price that people will be willing to buy it at.

00

Looking at the cover I can already tell that it’s not been done professionally. There is a picture of an eye AND THE EYE HAS RED EYE. I don’t know how some people can overlook these details.  But seriously, $18 for a paperback? This better be an AMAZING novel.

0

No. This is a teenager just learning how to write. When I was in 5th grade this is how I wrote. You just have to be realistic when deciding to self-publish. Is your work any good? I still don’t know if my work is good enough for publishing, I’m just going to release it and hope that people like it. However, I’m not writing for a profit. I’m writing because I love to write and I want to share my writing with the world.

In conclusion, make stuff look good. Once that’s over, things have to be good. Really, you should start with the content and end with the surface features. You want your book to look like a published book as much as it can. It should also read like one. You shouldn’t self-publish because you think you’re never going to be published by a real publisher, but because of literally any of the other reasons for self-publishing.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

What is the hardest thing about writing?

I put that question into Google to see what others thought about the hardest part of writing. Here are the top answers (one from each page).

lala1

1. Showing up. Actually starting your project. Just sitting down and getting it written.

I can see how this can be difficult. There are so many things that go into a novel that it can be hard to actually start that first chapter. You have the characters to sketch and name, you have the back story for your world and your characters to plan, you might need maps for your fantasy world or extensive research to get your period piece just right. All of these things can distract from actually getting started.

The trick to get past this is… to write. Shove everything else aside and get some words down. You can research later and use Bob, Bob1, and Bob2 in place of names until you have time to get them sorted out. When you’re enthusiastic about a project, start writing before you lose that enthusiasm.

lala2

2. Dialogue. Getting it to sound realistic with a good flow.

I see lots of people that have trouble with this. You read their dialogue and think “No one would ever talk like this.” It gets more difficult when writing historical fiction, fantasy, or anything out of the ordinary that might call for a change in dialect.

To get past this, play it safe. Write like you were talking to a friend. Try typing up a few scenes like a script to get a better handle on the dialogue or write a piece that’s only dialogue and see if your readers can still figure out what’s going on. Have others read your story while focusing on your dialogue and give tips on how to improve. Even just reading more will help you improve.

Exercise Amalgam Dart

3. Finding something to write about.

I always had trouble with this when writing non-fiction for school. Sometimes I still struggle with it. I’ll think okay, I want to write about dragons. But what about the dragons? The dragons themselves, or the people in that world? Will the dragons be good or bad? What will the actual plot be? Who are the character? What is life?

If you honestly have nothing to write about, find a writing prompt website or a plot generator. Write a short story or a silly little parody in which you replace the vampires in Twilight with gnomes. As long as it keeps you writing, go with it.

lala4

4. Not just writing, but writing something good and finishing it.

I struggle with this so much. Starting it is the easiest for me, but finishing is the hardest. The first four chapters are always easy, then getting past the fifth is the hardest. Then once I get past that point I tell myself that I have to finish the book since I put so much effort into it already. It’s the middle of the book where things really get difficult for me and I usually take a few weeks off rather than forcing myself to write.

How to fix this? Force yourself to write. Either set up a time that you’ll write each day, tell a friend to bug you about it, or set yourself rewards like every hundred words you write gets you a cookie. Just keep in mind how proud you’ll be of yourself when you finally finish that project. Won’t it be awesome?

lala5

5. Creating complex characters that win over an audience.

Is your character a Mary Sue? Is she boring, too perfect, or too bitchy? Does she complain so much that the readers will want to strangle her? Is your love interest boring and lifeless? Does your boy wizard happy to have the same personality as Harry Potter? Are your characters inconsistent, calling themselves nice one second and screaming at a child in the next?

This is a difficult one. Characterization is something a lot of beginning authors struggle with. For an example of amazing characterization, read A Song of Ice and Fire. His characters are all distinctly different and all have their own personalities. Alternatively, find a character quiz and fill it out for each character. If all the answers are starting to look the same, you know you need to do more work to make your characters unique.

What is most difficult for you? Is it on this list? Do you know of a good way to beat it?