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Tools of the Trade

First posted at Young Adult Books Central.

By Michelle Lynn

A painter has their paint brush. A sculptor has their clay. What does this have to do with indie publishing? Just like that painter and that sculptor, a writer is an artist. Artists create. They create beauty, tragedy, the illusion of reality. They show us how things are and how things should be.

As creators, we must use what is available to us – tools of the trade. A lot of this can be said for both indie published authors and traditionally published ones. No matter the size of the publishing house you have behind you, there are certain things you must do for yourself. Writing, for example.

Still, there are some tools that will be used more by indies who must make their own advertising graphics, choose their own Amazon key words, and handle their own marketing. I’ve listed seven of my favorite “brushes” for our form of artistry.

  1. ScrivenerEvery author no matter their publishing path can benefit from this tool and that’s why it’s at the top of my list. It isn’t free, but it is very affordable. Scrivener is a writing program. It’s used in the same way many people use Word, but there are benefits. It’s a bit more stripped down than Word, simple and easy to use. The best part about it is the way it organizes your book. These novels we write can reach into the hundreds of word pages. Have you ever forgotten something you wrote and had to scroll through the entire document to find it? In Scrivener, documents are divided into chapters that you can name and move around at will. They also provide character building templates so you never again have to wonder what color eyes you gave a character in some previous chapter.
  2. Canva Photoshop is expensive and kind of confusing if you ask me. Canva is an online tool that allows you to import images (or buy stock photos from them) and manipulate them, changing colors and adding text, to create ads or promotional images. It’s easy to use even for an image illiterate like myself. I’d be lost without canva.
  3. KDP RocketAre you wanting to write a book that has a jump start in popularity? This is called writing to market and many indie authors are doing it. KDP Rocket is a program that helps identify trends and fads in the marketplace to allow you to jump on board. That’s only one of its many features. It can also help determine which keywords would give your book the largest boost. And have you ever wondered about the kind of money certain books are bringing in? Now you can see exactly how each book in the Amazon marketplace is doing to help you decide which genre you’d like to jump into. It can be fun. The program isn’t free, but it can be worth it for indie published/ self-published authors.
  4. Social media management programs – there are many of these including Buffer andHootsuite. As authors, we’re expected to maintain a presence on so many different platforms that if we aren’t careful, all of our valuable writing time will be sucked away. These programs streamline social media. They allow you to post the same thing across different platforms with a few clicks. You can plan ahead, down to the minute, your posts to Facebook and Twitter. I can schedule an entire month’s worth of posts in about an hour. The small fee is incredibly worth it.
  5. The Emotion Thesaurus – Really, I could put the entire series and the connected website here. The Emotion Thesaurus is a book that has a page dedicated to any emotion you can imagine and describes things like body language of feelings associated with it. The series also contains books for character traits and settings. The website connected to the books is called Writers Helping Writers and has more resources in one place than you can even imagine.
  6. Calibre A completely free ebook management program that I always find some use for. As an indie, you will most likely be sending out your own review copies. Calibre allows you to convert them to any format that is requested from you so they can be read on any device. This has been helpful to me because I also help other authors by reading their work. Many of them send it in Doc format which doesn’t read so well on my Kindle. Instead of having to read on my computer, I can easily convert it to the format I need.
  7. Bookfunnel (or Instafreebie) – Do you send out review copies to your advance team? Do you give away ebooks in large giveaways? Whenever you need to send a book, wouldn’t it be easier to just send a link and then have the reader download the book on any device they prefer? That’s what these sites allow. They also let you collect emails of the people who download your book which is invaluable if you’re focused on building a large Newsletter (which you  should be).

There are so many great resources for writers out there and with the rapidly growing indie publishing industry, more are popping up all the time. None of these replace the best resource available, though. Other authors will forever be the best source of marketing advice and support as well as critiques and cross-author promotions.

The tools are out there to make a go of it in this industry. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to never be afraid to try the new ones that come along. Experiment, see what works for you. Don’t be afraid of technology and never ever think social media is a waste of time. In the crowded market, we need to be everywhere. We must make it as easy as possible for readers to see us and get ahold of our books. As indies, we don’t have the huge teams behind us, but in today’s world, some successful authors are finding they don’t need them.


Don’t forget to check out our other posts HERE.

See Michelle at the Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE.

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Character Inspiration: Dreams

Character Inpiration: Dreams by Author Lauren Mayhew

Character Inspiration Dreams - Lauren Mayhew Author - YA Author RendezvousDreams are full of people, some that pop up more frequently than others, and some who you’re sure you’ve never even met before. But all of the dreams are created by you, and each of the people in them is a character in that scenario.

Throughout my trilogy, characters and certain events have all come to fruition because of my crazy dreams. My dreams are so weird, I’m surprised my mum hasn’t sent me to be sectioned yet. On the plus side, I can get some wicked storylines and characters from them.

For example, the villain in my books is called Duana. She appeared in a dream of mine from a long time ago, dressed head to toe in black, chasing me through a shopping centre. When I say chasing, I mean that dream chase, where I’m running for my life, and she’s walking ominously behind me. Anyway, she followed me into a charity shop, where I was hiding amongst some coats on a clothes rail. She couldn’t find me anywhere, and exited the shop. It was only when she was gone that I realised I was hiding behind the coats, in the reflection of a small mirror sitting in front of them. And that’s how Liliana was born too. Two characters in one dream.

The best thing to do after waking up from a dream, is to write it down immediately. You can’t trust that you’re going to remember it in the morning. Write it down while it’s fresh in your memory, and remember to laugh at it when you read it in the morning!

Even if a certain person in your dream has the face of someone that you know, you can change that when writing. That person doesn’t need to know they inspired the character from one of your crazy dreams. It’s a secret between you and your character.

I’d love to know if you’ve ever been inspired to write something based on a dream you’ve had. Comment below!


Want more from Lauren? You can check out her books on Goodreads HERE.

Find Lauren on the YA Author Rendezvous site HERE.

This was posted on the YAAR website with the express permission of Lauren Mayhew.

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Character Inspiration: People You Know

Character Inpiration: People You Know by Author Lauren Mayhew

Character Inspiration People You Know - Lauren Mayhew Author - YA Author RendezvousThis one may seem obvious, but I think it’s worth writing about. You don’t have to copy someone that you know completely, as that may be a bit too obvious if they ever pick your book up, but you can take certain traits from them.

For example, my first book ‘Reality is in a Dream’ has two characters that are exaggerated forms of two of my old school friends. Certain events that take place in the book involving the main character, Liliana, actually took place during my time at school. It’s quite funny, because I once had a reviewer tell me that she thought these character’s actions were not believable, and yet it actually happened to me.

Obviously, you don’t need to take their names, you don’t want anyone to be offended, especially if the character is one of the villains, but certain things that they may have said, or small mannerisms are a great way to begin the development of a character.

“Write what you know.” – Mark Twain. In the case of characters, I feel this to be true. It’s much easier to write about someone that you know, rather than starting a character from scratch. If you’ve been bullied in the past, use that bully to write a character with an unsavoury nature. If someone has said something that made you feel happy, use it. It’s as simple as that.

Many authors take reference from people that they’ve encountered in real life, and use them to create some of the best characters ever written. For example, Hermione Granger is based on J.K. Rowling. Rowling herself admitted that she was so like Hermione in school, and so she put a little of herself into the Harry Potter world.

You’ll be surprised how quickly a character can blossom into something you didn’t expect, taking your story places you never thought it could go. You may start off being inspired by somebody that you know, or at least knew a long time ago, but they’ll usually end up being completely different by the last page.


Want more from Lauren? You can check out her books on Goodreads HERE.

Find Lauren on the YA Author Rendezvous site HERE.

This was posted on the YAAR website with the express permission of Lauren Mayhew.

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Character Inspiration: People Watching

Character Inpiration: People Watching by Author Lauren Mayhew

Character Inspiration People Watching - Lauren Mayhew Author - YA Author RendezvousI love to people watch. I could literally watch people all day. Some of them are just so fascinating.

Have you ever been sat somewhere, and watched a person run through a town centre? Did a part of you ever wonder what they were up to? Did you then find yourself creating a scenario in your head about what it is they’re doing? If you did, then you’ve essentially created a character. If you’ve never done this, you’re seriously missing out!

Nobody is the same, and I’m not talking about skin colour, ethnicity, or accents. Nobody walks in the same way. Some people have limps, others drag their feet, and you’ll get the occasional person who seems to bob up and down with each step taken. What gave them their limp? Why do they drag their feet? Are they bobbing because they have an anti-gravity power that makes it difficult for them to keep their feet on the ground? Too far… Maybe, but you see what I mean, don’t you?

You only have to watch someone for a minute or two, and a character will emerge from them. 99% of the time, you’ll get everything wrong about them, but they don’t need to know what you’re thinking. As long as you’ve got that one character, the spark will ignite into a story line.

Only the other day, I was out walking with my mum and my sister, and a car sped past us down the road. It had to brake quite suddenly to avoid smashing into the car in front. All of us thought the same thing, ‘What a [insert expletive here]!’ He then sped off once the car in front had turned into another road, and my mum said, ‘He must be late for his dinner.’

To which I replied, ‘Or he’s been having an affair at work, and didn’t realise what the time was. He doesn’t want his wife to get suspicious, so he needs to get home on time.”

And suddenly I have a character, and the beginnings of a story. It’s not the sort of story I would write myself, I’m more of a Paranormal Fantasy writer, but it would work for someone.

It’s so simple to spend ten minutes every day observing those around us. Some people can do some fascinating things when they think no-one’s looking!


Want more from Lauren? You can check out her books on Goodreads HERE.

Find Lauren on the YA Author Rendezvous site HERE.

This was posted on the YAAR website with the express permission of Lauren Mayhew.

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Writing Techniques to Set You on the Right Track

Writing Techniques to Set You on the Right Track - Beth Rodgers

Written by Beth Rodgers

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  So, I’ve picked up some book writing techniques over the years that I have always used to my benefit, and I hope to help you use for your own benefit.

Even as a little girl in elementary school, I wrote journal entries describing the desire I had to be an author.  Journal entries are especially helpful for those writers who are lost in their own writer’s block and need more techniques to get them out of it.

The main issue that I encounter in my own writing is introductions.  I most always end up pleased with my choice of title or opening paragraph, but they give me more trouble than they’re worth.  So, I sometimes come up with or search for story starters and poem starters as a means of helping me think of beginnings.

When I was in middle school and early high school, I was in love with the idea of learning how to write a story (I still am!).  I had fun.  Writing wasn’t a chore; it was a pleasure.  I loved learning how to write a story, an anecdote, and other styles that teachers would provide.  It was also enjoyable to increase my knowledge of literary terms, including learning to define words like “anachronism” and consider how to use those devices within my writing.  It is because of these early experiences that I feel I have garnered some expertise in the matter of book writing.  

When eighth grade rolled around, I parodied the pop culture phenomenon that was Beverly Hills, 90210 and wrote my own version: Lathrup Village, 48076.  

Your writing does not have to be yours to be inspired by you.  You make it what it is.  Find ways to pull the most useful items you have and use them to structure your own writing.

As time went on, young adult stories seemed to fit me to a tee, as I was a young adult myself. Junior year of high school was the year that cemented my desire to be a full-fledged author, as I wrote my first novel that year.  I used tips and techniques that my junior year English teacher provided me with, as well as some of my own that I had garnered from my own writing experience.  One of these tips was to watch for redundancy.  Learning to make sure that you are not becoming overly repetitive with what you have to say is important in any type of writing.

My first novel started out as a short story I had written my sophomore year.  When first assigned, it had to be 3-5 pages, and about anything we wished.  I wrote about the most unpopular boy, a main character named Phillip, who likes the most popular girl, Susie, while dealing with his best friend moving away, and gaining a new best friend while using quick wit and a caring manner.

Little did I know I would continue this young adult novel-in-the-making my junior year and add in new  characters, along with some surprise return character cameos who served to further complicate the never-peaceful teenage lives that the main characters constantly led.  

This just proved all the more that conflict sells.  People enjoy reading about the trials and tribulations of others and possess a desperate desire to see how it all turns out.  

My use of character development, conflicts, twists and turns, and a passion for my subject matter are central pieces of the puzzle that make up the book writing techniques that I use.  

TV and movies serve to delineate this point all the more.  As an avid TV and movie viewer, I am constantly spotting potential book writing techniques and strategies that writers use to keep their audiences at the ready for anything that might possibly occur.

Some TV and movie writers like to start at a season or series finale, or with a particular scene, and work backward to what they feel will be the best starting point.  Others remain mysterious and keep you guessing to see what will happen next.  This is useful in TV writing, but is prevalent in movie scripts, as they have a shorter amount of time in which to tease you with potential scenarios and keep you guessing to find out which will actually come to fruition.  

It’s amazing to look back on shows that have been on for years or have gone off the air already, and realize that the whole plotline, or at least the vast majority of main ideas, have definite ties back to the very first episode of that series.  A great example of this can be found when watching the pilot episode of Friends.  If you have watched most or all of that series, re-watch the pilot and see what I mean.

Going back in time a bit, the astute Ben Matlock and Lieutenant Columbo solidified the power of a few key phrases and wording styles as they investigated their cases and solved them with barely any trouble.

Perspective is very important in writing, especially when writing from a specific point of view.  You have to be able to see what you read, watch, and write as positive, negative, happy, sad, or a gaggle of other emotions in order to truly know that you have tried every angle to make your writing shine.

So always view your writing as a glass half full.  Watch TV and movies to see and hear the masters at work.  Read your favorite authors to investigate for yourself how great minds work.  Write a novel, book, play, or even a doctoral thesis.  Use techniques that you have learned and that you are learning as you are in the process of writing.  Open your mind and see all the possibilities that writing offers.

The ABC’s of Writing: Part 2

abcsofwritingpart2Written by Beth Rodgers

The ABCs of writing continue this month with the rest of the alphabet (see January’s post here).  It’s vital for writers to know their own ABCs so they know what they’re aiming for in writing.

 

Nostalgia.  Use experiences and memories.  Capitalize on the effects of something that happened to you, or causes that got you there.  Feed into nostalgia by remembering how you got a character out of conflict in the past.  It may help you figure out just how to solve a similar problem in a new story you’re writing.  Use nostalgia to your benefit.  Establishing a solid store of connected memories and emotions can make for gripping writing.

 

Opaque.  Don’t be too opaque or transparent.  Don’t make it difficult to understand, or, for that matter, too simple.  Leave room for curiosity.  Don’t give everything away (too transparent), and don’t keep everything a secret until the last chapter (too opaque).  Let readers’ minds wander, but give clues to maintain interest.

 

Purpose.  It may sound cliché, but writing must have purpose.  Know what you’re writing, whom you’re writing for, and why you’re writing.  This helps writers hit home with their purpose.  It’s the driving force behind the greatest writing.

 

Quality.  Quality may seem an overdone characteristic, but it’s absolutely essential.  You may have heard that quality is more important than quantity.  In good writing, this rings true.  Quantity looks good on paper (the more you have, the more work you did, right?), but the truth is that too much of something can be troublesome.  For example, you might find yourself becoming repetitive if you’ve done too much writing.  Season your writing with quality; pepper it with all the ABCs that are staples of your process.

 

Respect.  Have you ever read a book, watched a show, or listened to a song and wondered how in the name of good writing certain lines got uttered?  Maybe you’ve wondered how certain writers keep their jobs or how they continue to publish?  Respect quality writing.  Prove you know what makes good, impressive writing by reading great authors’ works and aspiring to the greatest heights with your own.  Not only should you respect others’ writing, but you should respect your own.  If you don’t respect what you do, how will others?

 

Sportsmanship.  Give your characters competitive edges.  Let them work both for and against one another to make more compelling, animated writing.  You want to keep readers on the edges of their seats by keeping characters on those same edges.  Make characters so vivid that readers are rooting for or against them as they deal with written conflicts and emotions.

 

Tact.  Watch your word choice.  You don’t want to fall into the trap of using too strong or too juvenile of language.  Gauge your intended audience and see what words and phrases best fit.  When writing dialogue, write how a person talks – not necessarily with proper grammar.  Understanding your characters will help your writing become more tactful.

 

Uniformity.  Don’t conform to normal writing approaches.  That isn’t to say that some of those approaches shouldn’t be used, because they should be.  Take into account all approaches that other writers have used to make their writing magical, creative, and interesting.  When you make your writing put on a “uniform,” you aren’t allowing it to bask in its own glory.  Let your writing take its own form.  Let it whisk you off into other worlds and help you understand your own style and approach.

 

Value.  Surely you take a vested interest in your writing.  After all, you’re penning it.  So, value your writing technique.  Trust what you know and what you write, and encourage yourself as you go.  Second, find value in your writing.  See strengths it exhibits.  However, don’t forget to look for areas to improve.  It’s the mark of a great, gifted writer when he or she can see areas that are lacking and in need of refinement.

 

Whimsy.  Make your writing fancy-free and whimsical.  Imagine new worlds.  Reach new heights or depths.  Create characters that only you have the ability to solidify through your unique technique.  Have fun, and as you do, write to your heart’s content!

 

Xylophone.  There aren’t many words that begin with ‘X’ that work.  So, go with me here.  A xylophone produces different sounds depending on the parts hit.  So should it be with writing.  Know how to hit high notes, low notes, and everything in-between.  Xylophones allow you to improvise, so try out different writing styles.  Improve your technique by testing different genres.  See what you can do to make your writing more surprising and impressive.

 

Yet.  If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?  You may not have been published yet.  You may not have perfected your writing technique yet.  You may not even know what you want to write about yet.  Notice what the key word is in all this: yet.  Nothing may have happened yet, but it may be on the verge of happening.  Don’t give up.  Keep trying.  Work harder.  Strive to higher heights; imagine thrilling scenes.  Everything good will come in time, as long as you keep in mind that it might not have happened yet, but it’s working its way there, just as you’re still working your way there.

 

Zest.  One of the most important aspects of the ABCs of writing is to have zest for what you’re doing.  You want to come across as someone who loves his or her craft, and the best way to do this is to prove your love of writing by making it part of your everyday life.  Use zest to engage in symbolism, vocabulary, and other aspects of your own ABCs that make you love what you do.

 

The ABCs of writing don’t stop here.  There are many more words that can be explored to further your craft.  You can learn to write what you like and do it well.

 

Now that you’ve read my ABCs of writing, what are yours?

A Day in the Life of a Writer Part One: Life style changes for better production

become a more productive writer

Written By

Korey Ward

Now let me begin with saying that I know everyone has their own particular way of doing things, but this is the routine that works best for me.

  1. Once I made the decision of being a published author, I knew that I had to make some changes to my lifestyle, so I may be more productive. I knew from the start I wasn’t ready to quit my day job so I dedicate my days off to my writing. When I’m not working at the hospital, I usually begin my day by waking up in the morning and drinking me a 16oz bottle of room temp water. I do this to rehydrate after hours of dehydrating throughout the night from being asleep. Your brain is made up of 75% water and when you’re dehydrated your brain gives you the sensation of feeling tired and fatigued. So drink water, my friends, it’s the first step in lubricating the “gears” so they can move at their full potential.
  1. Your body and mind are one machine, and like any machine, it needs to be taken care of and maintained properly to work at its very best. After my bottle of water and bathroom duties, I stretch for a few minutes and head to the kitchen for some hot herbal tea and oatmeal. As I eat my breakfast at the kitchen table, I look out the window and observe the coming day while collecting my thoughts and prioritizing my goals for the day. I find that having many small goals propels me forward toward the ultimate big goal. Most of us writers need to feel accomplishment and with the smaller goals it’s easier to get them done, giving you the awesome feeling of completion.
  1. I will then head to my desk where my laptop sits, waiting, mocking me, daring me to turn it on. Once on, I will go through and check my E-mails, Sales stats, and my various social media sites. I try to limit the internet time to 10 mins before unplugging my router.
  1. I find that it always helps to hit the day head-on with a plan. I usually have a set time that I want to write and then plan my day around that. For example, after my morning ritual for prepping my mind and body for the tasks ahead, I will usually write for a predetermined amount of time, and then when I feel a need for a break, I’ll set aside some time to take care of bills and other priorities I may have. Once everything is done I will head back to writing for a while until it is time to stop, rest my mind and spend some time with loved ones and doing the other things I enjoy doing.
  1. Sometimes as writers, we forget to take care of ourselves. Most of us have kids, we work, and we all have bills and household chores that all needs to be taken care of. I’m not going to lie, it can be downright stressful at times, but that’s life, and none of it is going away until we die. The good news is if you start your day off right with a plan, then you will be more prepared for the day ahead. While in EMT school I was told something by my instructor that made a lot of sense to me and sticks with me to this day. He said, “You have to take care of yourself so you’re able enough to take care of others.” I believe that applies with writing as well. You’re creative. You’re imagination exceeds far beyond the norm. That’s is why you’re a writer. You need to take care of you so you’re able to do what you do best.
  1. As Writers and even heavy readers, we are mostly introverts. A rare breed that likes to stay indoors and keep to ourselves, while only expressing our feelings through our stories. While I believe there is nothing wrong with that, I also believe it is good to get out and do a little exploring in the real world to recharge the batteries. I try to go on long walks or even hikes as often as I can. It helps me think, clears my head, and often times if I’m stuck on a problem or situation, the solution comes to me on those walks.
  1. Well guys and gals, that’s the Day in the life of me after I became a writer. Being a writer isn’t something that we do, it’s a part of who we are. It’s a life style, and we are all unique in our styles. What are some of your routines? How do you deal with stressors and responsibilities that tries to get in the way of your writing? Let me know down in the comments section. I would love to hear your story. Until next blog….Write on!

Word Count and Why It’s Important

The importance of word count in writingWritten By

Jerusha Nelson 

Words. You can mince them, mark them, eat them, and be at a loss for them. You can keep, break give and be true to your word. Something you might not do with words is count them; unless you’re a writer. But why? Why bother to count them at all? Isn’t the story done when it’s done? Word count be damned!

Word count actually is important on a very basic level – words equal space.

If you’re publishing an article in a magazine and have been given twenty inches of real estate on the page, you wouldn’t want to submit an article that clocks in at 350 words because you’ll barely fill have the allotted space. When you’re considering publishing your 450,000 word epic fantasy masterpiece you might not consider the word count, until you realize that a paperback copy is going to measure about three inches thick and weigh about 2.8 pounds. While it’s been done before and successfully, that’s a little hefty to lug around and it’s gonna take a lot more space on the shelf than 3 shorter novels. Fewer units on the shelf equal fewer units sold often too. If you self-publish you might not care, but if you’re shopping your work to agents and publishers, they’ll care so it’s another thing to keep in mind.

In other words, word count counts.

Sometimes writers struggle with the word count. Some writers struggle to increase their total word count because their completed story falls short of the goal. Other writers blow well past their aim and have to trim down their word count. We struggle to try to hit our goals of writing a certain number of words every day to reach our goals. This is especially true every November when writers across the world try to reach the goal of 50,000 words in thirty days (an average of 1667 words per day)

Luckily, word on the street is there is an easy way to get help for these struggles. All over the internet there are articles about word count; how to add, subtract, and multiply your word count. I’ve taken the liberty to scour Pinterest to find what I think are some of the best articles about word count. But don’t take my word for it, check them out yourself.

If your story is complete and you need to increase your word count, you might consider adding a subplot. If you do, just make sure it’s meaningful. Here are some tip on how to successfully add a subplot.

Want to trim down your word count? Check out this article on concise writing.

Writing for a deadline and watching your word count crawl across the page? Here’s an article about how to boost your daily word count.

Maybe you’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo this year and you’re looking for fun ways to boost your writing while socializing with your fellow crazies -um, I mean writers. Here’s a great source for word wars, sprints and crawls.

If you like these articles and want a single source to get to them all, I’ve created a pin board with all of them. Feel free to reference it and if you find other articles you’re welcome to add to it.

One final word about word count- while it’s important to pay attention to word count, the more important thing is to write the story that’s inside you and if your story is good enough, you’ll find an audience for it.

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