Category Archives: Writing

Creative Juice #182

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Creative Juice #182

 

Covid-19 got you down? Take your mind off it with these amazing things:

  1. The tapestry maker who took art one step further.
  2. Choreographer Twyla Tharp’s thoughts on aging.
  3. A crochet version of the coronavirus.
  4. Some beautiful quilts!
  5. What would happen if you drew every day?
  6. I have often fantasized about working on a cruise ship. Here’s the lowdown.
  7. Acquire these habits to increase your writing productivity.
  8. Underwater photography.
  9. Things to do while self-quarantined.
  10. Squirrels like you’ve never seen them before.
  11. Entomology in stitches.
  12. Steampunk sculptures.

Guest Post: Help Your Readers Write Good Reviews, by Penny Sansevieri

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Thank you to Penny Sansevieriand Writers in the Storm for this excellent article.

People reading books

Getting readers to write reviews, and encouraging them to do so, is a big part of what authors do to gain more visibility for their books. We know though that it’s not just any review, but a quality one that truly benefits your book. Quality reviews, meaning reviews that are more than “I liked this book,” can actually help to sell the book better than shorter, less specific reviews.

I’ve heard from numerous authors who have readers that post Amazon reviews, for which they are extremely grateful, but wish they were more detailed. You’ve all seen those short reviews on Amazon that say little more than “Loved this book!” While it’s fantastic that someone took the time to leave a review, short reviews like that do little to help a book along. They are often frowned upon by Amazon and could get pulled if the review seems disingenuous.

Read more about why Amazon reviews get pulled.

So how can you encourage your readers to not only review your book, but leave one that is meaningful?

First, let’s talk about what we look for in reviews as consumers. When a book has several great, detailed reviews, we tend to scan them for highlights on the things that matter to us. That’s how we often buy books. Both good and bad reviews can help us decide, and, frankly, I’ve often bought a book after I read a bad review because what the reviewer didn’t like was exactly what I was looking for. That’s why detailed reviews are not only helpful, but they’re a must for your Amazon page.

So, if you have readers who love your work but aren’t savvy on posting reviews, here are some tips you can share with those who want to post something about your book:

  • Whenever possible or appropriate, ask the reviewer to add their expertise on the topic if your book relates to nonfiction.
  • If you have identified your keywords, share them with any friends who are posting and ask them that, if appropriate, they include the keywords in the review.
  • Ask readers to post reviews that are between 100 and 450 words.
  • If a reader feels compelled to include a spoiler, ask them to post a warning first so the customer can chose to read on—or not.
  • Never, ever, ever offer to edit a review. You want honest appraisals, not watered-down reviews that all sound alike.
  • It’s important that the reviewer cite why the book mattered to them. This also personalizes the review for the reader.

To continue reading, go to the original article.

Guest Post: 5 Elements Fount in Great Titles of Books, Short Stories, and Poems; by Writer’s Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

What makes the title of a book, short story, or poem…great? Unforgettable titles like Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera or “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot help grab readers’ attention and entice them to want to read more. Though opinions may vary, Writer’s Relief has found some common themes among exceptional titles. Here are five key elements that can help your title stand out and command attention.

Common Elements Of Terrific Titles For Books, Short Stories, And Poems

The Right Number Of Words

Sometimes, a single word is all you need. A short free verse poem about a flower can effectively be titled “Petals.” However, a one-word title does not work in many cases. The key is to give enough information, based on format and genre, to draw your reader in. Typically, shorter titles are easier to remember and fit on the spine of your book better. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid a longer title if it truly suits your work. There is a lot of leeway here, as long as the title presents the work without giving away too much or too little.

Carefully Crafted

Often, titles need to be edited and considered in the same way that you edited and reworked your short story, poem, or book. We agonize over when to reveal a plot twist or where to place a comma, and we should definitely do the same for our titles. Once the information is honed, the title can really serve the work and speak to your audience!

Targets The Audience

The best titles help your work attract the right audience. This can mean including terms or references that click with the work’s genre, content, or characters. Setting the tone in your title will help you reach your readers: Most fans of True Crime or Horror may not be enticed by a title referencing cute puppies and romance, for example.

Piques Interest

What do readers in your genre look for? Treasure Island instills adventure, Pet Sematary gives us the creeps, and Gone with the Wind evokes change and transience. You can also try using a title that makes the reader wonder how it suits the genre: Think Poe’s The Telltale Heart or Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and how they subvert ideas such as honesty or mystery simply on the basis of their titles.

Completes Your Work

Your title holds a small amount of your message and intent for your audience to interpret and process. As the beginning of your interaction with the reader, the title is a sort of starting point for the journey with a work. The most important job of the title is to invite the reader inside, the way a front door can welcome someone into a home.

Having a memorable, evocative title is important—but try not to stress over the title too much. It’s not necessarily permanent! Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn notes that you can always change a book title. Check out her blog article to read about her experience with title changing.

Question: What are some of your favorite titles—and why?

Guest Post: Showing vs. Telling, by Ryan Lanz

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Thank you to Ryan Lanz and to A Writer’s Path for clarifying the difference between showing and telling.

If there was one piece of writing advice I disliked most as a new writer, it certainly was “Show, don’t tell.” Initially, I had no idea what it meant. Self-help writing blogs often toss this phrase around without examples. I even had a critique done on my writing once, and the person critiquing said this phrase several times but offered no help on what showing actually meant.

Finally, I stumbled upon a quote that changed my outlook on writing forever.

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

It clicked for me. I finally got it. At least, it was enough to where I knew what the heck those people were talking about. But I still craved examples. In this blog post, I thought it would be fun to dive into the important topic of showing versus telling. And yes, fair reader, there will be examples.

“Show the readers everything; tell them nothing.” -Ernest Hemingway

First, let’s think about why we tout showing rather than telling. Why is it so important and popular these days? Literary trends change over time, although much more slowly than, say, fashion trends. These days, the trend in commercial fiction is concise, lean writing without a lot of overly-descriptive “purple prose.” Prologues are somewhat out of fashion for certain genres. Third person limited and first-person are by far the most popular these days, when it used to be third person omniscient about 40-60 years ago. To recall third person omniscient, think Lord of the Rings and phrases like, “Little did they know . . .”

“An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.” -Steven King

In my opinion, I believe that we show rather than tell because the modern reader is pretty smart. Fiction, in some form, has been around for thousands of years. Readers have come to expect certain things when they read stories. They may not be able to name literary devices, but they are intuitive nonetheless.

Click here to continue reading this article.

Top 5 Writing Distractions—Part Two  

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Top 5 Writing Distractions—Part Two  

On Wednesday I posted about three of the top five distractions writers are likely to face. I’ll review those briefly and continue the discussion with two more barriers to writing focus.

  1. You love them dearly, but they don’t respect your need for solitude when you’re writing. You need to fulfill your duties to them, but just not during your writing time. Negotiating some boundaries is key to balancing family and writing.
  2. The phone. Turn off the ringer while you’re writing and check your voicemail and texts after you’re done for the day.
  3. Household tasks. This takes willpower, especially if the words aren’t flowing. Shut yourself away, or go to an out-of-the-house location where you aren’t tempted to do chores just to feel productive. Counter-corollary: sometimes doing something mindless (like ironing, or polishing windows) allows you to daydream and frees your imagination, giving you new ideas to add to your work-in-progress. Be ready to abandon your task and go back to writing while the idea is fresh.chores, distractions
  4. Writing tasks. We all know that writing isn’t just churning out manuscripts. There’s brainstorming, researching, outlining, rewriting, editing, marketing. And you want to network with other writers, with agents, editors, beta readers, and reviewers. You also need to maintain a vibrant presence on social media and grow your email newsletter list. It almost seems that in order to do all these things well, you pretty much do them instead of writing. But you can’t. So you have to schedule them. It’s the only way to balance your time. Prioritize what you need to do. You must write every day. Some days you can’t get started writing until you do some research, so go research—but beware of chasing tangents. Sometimes your research will uncover interesting information that may have no bearing whatsoever on what you’re writing, but you feel compelled to go deeper. Sometimes there may be a payoff in a brilliant plot twist or an entirely new direction, but usually getting off track will just waste time that you could have been spending more productively. Put a limit on how much time you devote to those other writing-related tasks, and then write.

    elements of fiction

    Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

  5. Dissatisfaction with the way your project is going. Your first draft is not going to be brilliant. That’s okay—first drafts are about getting ideas down; you develop them in more detail in the subsequent drafts. But when your third or fourth draft still seems rough, it’s easy to feel discouraged and focus instead on disappointment and dreams unmet. How do you satisfy your inner critic and get back to work again? It helps to have an insightful critique partner, someone who will read your essay or chapter and act as a sounding board for your concerns. (How do you find a critique partner?) He can make suggestions about changes or additions or rephrasing that will help you take your manuscript to the next level.

Now it’s your turn. What are your biggest distractions when you’re writing? How do you counteract them? Share in the comments below.

Guest Post: 3 Marketing Strategies Literary Agents and Editors Love to See; by Web Design Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Web Design Relief.  Whether you’re just starting out or a best-selling author, Web Design Relief will improve your existing website or build you an affordable, custom author website to support your author platform, boost your online presence, and act as a hub for your social media outreach. Web Design Relief is a division of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. Sign up for their free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit the site today to learn more.

There’s only one thing literary agents and editors enjoy more than discovering great unpublished writing: discovering great unpublished writing that’s backed by an author who is an enthusiastic self-starter.

But what exactly do literary agents love to see in a new client? How can a writer do more than merely promise enthusiasm for book marketing?

Believe it or not, there are three simple marketing strategies that can make a huge difference for writers even before they get a book published.

Lay the foundation for your future as a successful author right now, even before you start seeking publication.

Here’s how.

Writers: Three Marketing Tactics To Implement Before You Seek Book Publication

First: Define Your Author Brand

A writer with a well-defined, recognizable brand is a writer who can expect to build an audience that will buy book after book for years to come. But how can writers build their brands even before getting published?

Simple. Learn the core concepts of author brand development and how this strategy can work for you.

A strong writer brand starts with the author’s online personality and builds a focused outreach campaign based on the author’s select literary interests.

In other words, who you are as a writer—and what you love to write—makes up the spine of your author brand. With focused effort, a writer with strong, specific branding will develop a unique voice and style that pervade book after book, delivering on the “promise” of the brand with each new title so that readers can expect stories of a consistent quality. A writer’s social media posts, marketing materials, and writing all reflect the core tenets of the author’s brand.

But a word of caution: Writers may have a natural tendency to love many sorts of books written in many different styles, but a strong writer brand is usually only big enough for focusing on a single selected genre. Writers who hop around among genres tend to take on different pen names for each style of book—but that means marketing each pen name with “new author” status and building a readership from the ground up for each new book.

How will agents and editors know you have a well-planned author brand? You can certainly bring up the details of your plans and strategies in conversation. But you can also hint at them in your query letter.

Second: Have A Fabulous Author Website

New writers often wonder: What is the point of having an author website if there are no books to sell, no publishing credits to brag about, and—generally speaking—nothing to offer potential fans?

Friends, let our years of publishing experience AND web design smarts reassure you: New writers are as much in need of great websites as established veterans. Here’s why creating a website before publication can be a benefit to literary agents, editors, readers—and, of course, to you.

  • A well-designed author website shows that you’re actively paving the way for the future—a future that you’re willing to invest in. And if a writer is meaningfully investing, agents may find it easier to follow suit. After all, an author website shows that the writer has a strong expectation of publishing success—as opposed to a vague hope that someday, something good will happen. I’m going to be great at this, the subtext screams. So why not start now?
  • An author website with integrated social media feeds, a sign-up form for email subscribers, and freebies that encourage connections with fans makes it clear that you are READY to build your readership. Plus, having fan-building functionality on your author website may surprise you: You might find more people than you ever imagined are signing up to learn about your writing. But you won’t know who might become a fan until you give them the opportunity.
  • An author website lets you tell your personal story—which is HUGE for personal marketing and branding. If you’re a new writer, your author’s bio page gives you the ability to show industry pros that you’re dedicating real effort to the craft of writing by taking classes, attending conferences, and soaking up knowledge like a bookish sponge. Even if a writer has no publication credits yet, an author website is a chance to show that it’s only a matter of time.
  • Creating an author website makes you googleable—when literary agents and editors type your name into a search engine, something will actually come up. Read more: How Writers Can Be More Googleable (So People Can Find Your Writing Online) | Web Design Relief.
  • Not having a website seems shortsighted and passive. Literary agents and editors expect their writers will be active promotional partners. In fact, having an author website is as de rigueur as having a business card. Writers who don’t have author websites imply that they are simply not interested in promotion.

If you don’t have a website yet, be sure to hire a company that truly understands your goals as a creative writer and how those goals matter within the larger publishing industry. Start by checking out Web Design Relief.

Read more:

Unpublished Writers: Strategies For Creating An Impressive Author Website | Web Design Relief

How To Help Your Author Website Designer “Get You” And What You Want | Web Design Relief

In your query letter, be sure to tell literary agents to visit your author website so they can get to know you as a writer. Instead of including a basic URL address, try: If you’d like to learn more about me, see pictures from my research and travels, or check out my popular blog posts, visit my website: URL here.

Third: Create A Foundation For Social Media Success

If you enjoy posting new pictures and thoughts on social media, count yourself lucky. You’ve got a natural advantage when it comes to marketing and promotion. You’re probably already out there sharing the ups and downs of your publishing journey and inviting potential fans into your life—and that’s exactly what literary agents and editors love to see from writers.

And here’s a secret about social media for writers: It doesn’t matter whether you have fifty Facebook friends or five hundred.

What matters is your attitude: invigorated, enthusiastic, and active. You’re already laying the foundation for a thriving community of fans, friends, and followers. And this counts big when literary agents are assessing your potential success as an online personality who can command a large fan base of readers.

But if you’re the type of writer who would rather be writing books than social media posts—who breaks out in hives just thinking about sharing any information on social media—take heart in knowing that you’re not alone.

Let’s address some common insecurities (and a few straight-up excuses) that tend to hold people back from developing a strong online social media platform.

Excuse: There’s no point in trying to gather ANY fans since it’s so difficult to gather LOTS of them.

The truth: Literary agents prize the quality of your social interactions more than they care about the quantity. A writer with 5,000 friends who rarely interact doesn’t have more marketing power than a writer with only fifty friends who actively engage regularly.

Excuse: Social media is only for young people who care about frivolous things.

The truth: Though social media is certainly popular among students, older generations of adults are also active online. In fact, the majority of people who use the Internet are using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and similar platforms. And though cat videos are perennial favorites, posts that have more poignancy or substance are welcome too. Writers can choose how to make social media their own. Learn more: Tips For Targeting Older Demographics On Social Media.

Excuse: I’m worried about posting anything personal online—it’s not safe.

The truth: It’s possible to post information that isn’t personally revealing but is still engaging and interesting. All it takes is a little creativity and an eye for intriguing, sharable content. Read more: Safety Tips For Social Networking: A Writer’s Guide To Staying Safe Online.

Even if you don’t have a huge following yet as a writer, working with what you already have puts you in a great place to expand and grow.

In your query letter, you can brag to literary agents about big numbers of fans and followers if you have them. But equally as powerful is this simple statement: I’ve been active on social media and am looking forward to continuing to grow my following.

Build An Author Platform That Will Give Your Book Every Advantage

You only get one chance to make a first impression. Take the time to build a marketing infrastructure now, and you might see a bigger payoff when you do finally submit your book for publication.

And remember, we’re here to help!

Question for writers: Which of these marketing strategies seems simplest to implement? Which seem hardest?

Top 5 Writing Distractions–Part One

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Top 5 Writing Distractions–Part One

In the YouTube ad for her writing MasterClass, Joyce Carol Oates says, “The great enemy of writing isn’t your own lack of talent; it’s being interrupted by other people. Constant interruptions are the destruction of the imagination.” Yeah, that’s true, but if you’ve ever struggled to find a block of time to devote to your writing, or if while you’re working you can’t maintain your focus, then you know people aren’t the only problem. In this article I enumerate what I consider to be the top 5 writing distractions, and how to defeat them.

Top 5 Writing Distractions

  1. Family. Members of your immediate and extended family are undeniably the biggest source of interruption of creative flow. While you can’t shouldn’t disown your spouse or your children, with communication you may be able to negotiate some undisturbed time. Your family’s needs come first, but under certain circumstances their requirements may need to be delayed, such as when you’re under a deadline, or you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, or you must get down a critical wording before it escapes your memory. Your family deserves your undivided attention, so be sure you’re providing at least some on a daily basis. But, realistically, as an artistic person, even if you’re not earning money at it yet, your craft also needs focused, undisturbed time. Perhaps you can schedule writing hours (or minutes) during which you post a sign that says, “Writer at work. Do not disturb until 4:00 PM.” You’re still available for emergencies, but spell out what constitutes an emergency: blood, flames, etc. “I’m bored” is not an emergency and will result in extra assigned chores. Ditto for “I can’t find my purple socks,” “He’s breathing on me,” or “How soon is dinner?” Come on, people, be reasonable. (If your beloved family members are behaving like jerks, you have my permission to read them this paragraph in an authoritative voice.)Writer at work.
  2. The phone. If you can, turn your ringer off during writing time and let your calls go to voice mail. Why lose your train of thought to someone who wants to buy your house for cheap, or someone pretending to be the government wanting to suspend your social security number as soon as you tell them what it is? Don’t stop writing to listen to a robocall about a time share or a presidential candidate. Don’t squander your writing time catching up with the friend who hasn’t called you in two years.
  3. Household tasks. If you’re lucky enough to have private work space in your home, sometimes it’s a mixed blessing, because during lulls you remember the piles of unwashed laundry and the dirty floors and the unfiled tax return just around the corner. If your work space has a door, close it. Commit to working your allotted time; the chores will still be there when you’re done writing for the day. That’s easy enough when the words are flowing, but as soon as you hit a dry patch, you think about all the other things you could be accomplishing. So, from time to time, shake things up by going somewhere else to write. If the weather is nice, try writing in the backyard or at the park. Or bow to the cliché and go to a coffee shop or to the library. Just don’t get caught up in people-watching.

Come back on Saturday for Part Two of this article and learn how to combat two more top writing distractions.