Monday, December 21, 2015

No Rest for the Writer

By Andrea Merrell

Writer, do you ever get weary? Deadlines scream at us. Commitments nip at our heels like yappy little dogs. Protagonists march through our dreams, creating scenes and filling our head with lively dialogue … when we need to be getting that much-needed sleep. To-do lists taunt us throughout the day as we try to attend to other things that really need to be done.


The life of a writer is wonderful, exciting, and exhausting, especially if you have to juggle another vocation or various other responsibilities. If you’re like me, you never find enough time to do everything. Multi-tasking becomes the norm, and it’s hard to have that laser focus when working on an important project.

Then there’s life: jobs, housework, shopping, cooking, and family obligations. Our minds swirl with thoughts like: Hurry up! Do this now. Do that now. Keep going. Just one more chapter. Don’t stop now. Work harder. Get up earlier. Go to bed later. Meet that deadline. Skip that family birthday party. Your friends don’t need you. Work, work, work.

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: "Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved {rescued, delivered, restored, renewed, preserved, and made new}. In quietness and confidence is your strength (Isaiah 30:15 NLT).

“But I don’t have time to rest,” you might be saying. Resting can involve a week at the beach, ten minutes spent in quiet time with the Lord, or anything in between.

In Mark 6:31 (The Message) Jesus told his disciples, “Come off by yourselves; let's take a break and get a little rest." For there was constant coming and going. They didn't even have time to eat.

Did you catch that? The Lord wants us to take a break and get some rest. He longs to wash away all those things that make us weary and infuse us with His strength, His wisdom, and His peace. He wants to reorder our priorities and renew our minds with fresh, creative ideas.

Failure to take time out of the busyness of life can lead to over-scheduling, poor time management, unrealistic goals and expectations, stress, anxiety, and bad habits. These things create a chronic inner fatigue that can easily lead to burnout. 

One writer said, “If we don’t rest, we lose our way.” When we refuse or neglect to make the effort to enjoy a little downtime, we risk losing the ability to hear the voice of the One who created and called us—the One who has a wonderful plan and purpose for each of us.

Does God expect us to work hard and get the job done? Absolutely, but never at the expense of health, family, emotional well-being, or time with Him. He wants us to go the distance. When we stop and rest in Him, He will fully equip us with everything we need.

Even though we're in the middle of  the busiest holiday season of the year, be sure to take those special moments to rest and have fun. Spend quality time with the One who makes all things possible. Allow Him to direct your steps and light the path before you.


Alycia and I are so grateful for each one of our readers. We want to take this time to wish you a very merry and Jesus-filled Christmas!




(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Are You Ready for a Writers Conference?

Today's post is by Love Inspired and Revell author, Lynette Eason. Not only is she a multi-published, award-winning author, she is also a conference teacher and as of last year, a conference host. If you're looking for a small writer's conference, be sure to check out Weekend with the Writers. I've attended and will be assisting with registration this year, so I can vouch for how wonderful this conference is.

Conferences, conferences and more conferences. Christian and secular alike, they’re everywhere. So, how do you know which conference is for you?

First of all, you have to decide where you are in your writing. Are you a beginner and just getting your feet wet in the writing world? Or have you been writing a while, have entered a few contests and gotten some feedback? Maybe you're that advanced novelist who has tasted the joy—and depression—of “almost”?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Deep Thoughts on Introspection

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

The other day I was editing another manuscript. Mind you, most of the manuscripts I edit are written by first-time, beginning authors. Although, there are some of us who've written multiple novels that are sitting in a file on our computer that haven't seen the light of day, because we know we're still learning the craft of writing. And someday, we'll birth THE novel that editors will love and will want to publish right away. So in that case, this may apply to us as well.

As I'm editing along, I'm reading a whole lot about what is going on inside someone's head. And then what is going on inside someone else's head. (After a hard break, of course, since we've switched points of view.) Granted, there may be a conversation or some semblance of action in between these deep inner thoughts. But 'tis the thoughts that fill the page. One after another. And they tend to be repetitive.

If I were to write out my thoughts, they'd look something like this:

It's Thursday. God, You're so good to me. Tomorrow is Friday. Which means I can sleep in the day after that. I tire of rising at 5:00 a.m. during the week. My best sleep hours are between 4:00 and 7:00 a.m. But life doesn't seem to understand that, so I rise tired. I have to go to the store today. At least I get to buy a present. That's more fun than grocery shopping. Vic's always telling me how I take too long when I go grocery shopping. I never come back when I say I will. It's a nice time away from the house and everyone in it, but I'd rather be at the coffee shop than the grocery store if I'm going to have a few hours to myself. I have a bunch of editing to do. Will I ever have time to write again? I am going to squeeze two hours out of my day to write. That way, I'll have around 5,000 words a week. Maybe more. Maybe less. But at least it's progress. It's December. Well, I'll start doing that in January. My schedule's already full this month, and I have clients that need their edits. I want to keep my word with them. I should be editing rather than writing this blog post. I'm hungry. I need coffee. Maybe I'll go to the coffee shop today and work for a few hours before I go shopping. Yeah. That'll work. That mocha is calling my name. Warm fuzzy feelings. Maybe Lynette can meet me there. Lord, I'm so thankful for my best friends. I hope they know they mean the world to me. I'm so blessed to call them friends. I should check on my hubby. I wonder if he's not feeling well. He doesn't usually sleep in like this. Lord, thank You for him, too. Please make sure he lives a long, long life. I don't know what I'd do without him. My heart would break, for sure. Bless him today in all that he puts his hands to do. Meet him in the moments and speak to his heart. Thank You for a man who loves You and only wants what's best for me and our children. I am truly blessed.

Notice how scattered they are? Sure, you learn something about me and my plans for today, but does anything I said get me anywhere toward accomplishing my goals for today? Not really. Really, this is all a bunch of fluff.

And that's what oftentimes happens with inner thought in the midst of our novel writing. We tend to overload it. We tend to drone on about something the character is feeling or experiencing without putting them in the middle of the experience as it's happening. Instead of showing the reader what's happening around the character, we jump inside their heads and try to show it through their eyes ... but from inside, rather than in the midst of life.

Here's the key question to ask yourself when you find you've written from a deep POV (also known as inner dialogue or introspection or inner thoughts): Does this drive the story forward?

If not, CUT IT. (I know. That's so hard to do. But it must be done.)

Here's another question to ask: Is this introspection all about how the character is feeling or is it backstory?

Chances are, it is. If this is the case, CUT IT.

Another question to ask is, do I feel like my character has to think these things in order for the reader to better understand who she/he is?

Guess what? Yep. CUT IT.

Here's what to do instead:

Put your character into life. Have them converse with someone. Put them in the middle of a conflict.

Granted, there is inner conflict and outer conflict. And yes, you need deep POV for that inner conflict, but it should only come in one- or two-sentence bites. Not multiple paragraphs or entire pages.

The way to show the conflict is to have them interact with the scene around them and the character(s) within that scene. We can still show the reader what is happening inside the character, but it's better done with their body language and the tone of their conversations.

If someone picks up a chair and throws it across the room, I'm sure our reader will be able to pick up on the fact that they are rip-roaring mad. And we didn't even have to get inside the character's head to figure that out. If there's another character standing in front of him, and she says, "I'm so sorry, Jack. Peter never should have intruded like that," it's pretty obvious that a) Jack isn't mad at her and b) Jacks' mad at Peter for some kind of intrusion. And we never had to go inside Jack's head to show that.

So, the next time you come across paragraphs and pages of introspection in your writing, ask yourself those questions and see if you can rewrite the scene to show what's happening outside of the character. If not, find a friend or mentor or hire an editor who can help you get outside of your characters and get them into the world around them. Because that will bring your characters and your novel to life.

Tweetables:
Some Deep Thoughts on Introspection ... via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

Tips on how to cut the fluffy thoughts out of your novel & bring it to life via editor @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

Monday, November 30, 2015

What Do Writers Have in Common With Squirrels?

By Andrea Merrell

Winter is definitely upon us. The colorful days of autumn are gone, and Christmas is fast approaching. The days are shorter—at least they seem that way with fewer daylight hours—and we have to reprioritize our activities.

So, what does that have to do with writers and squirrels, you might be thinking.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

30 Things Writers Have to be Thankful For

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

Sometimes, as writers, we tend to focus on the negative things happening in our writing life rather than the positives. Maybe you've been waiting to hear back from an agent or editor ... for months. Maybe you've gotten discouraged as you watch the end of NaNoWriMo approach, and you've only got 15,000 words written - a far stretch from the 50,000 needed to "win." Maybe life is overwhelming, so you've had to put your pen down for a while.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I thought it would be a great time to encourage you with 30 things we writers STILL have to be thankful for.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Writing Prompts to the Rescue

Merriam-Webster’s describes prompt (noun) as: Something that reminds or prompts (verb). To prompt is to cue, stir, incite, or move to action. Let’s dig a little deeper and find out more.

A writing prompt is:
  • A word, phrase, paragraph, thought, object, or picture to give you an idea.
  • A creative kick-start.
  • A brainstorming session with your inner muse.
  • A way to overcome the notorious blank page.
  • A way to exercise your writing muscles.
  • A distraction from an intense project to get the creative juices flowing again.

A writing prompt is not:
  • A cure-all for writer’s block.
  • A magic potion that will make you a better or more active writer.
  • Something to take you away from a deadline.

Writing prompts can come from anywhere:
  • A single word or phrase.
  • An overheard conversation.
  • A sign.
  • A television program, movie, or video.
  • A child.
  • A dream.
  • Any inanimate object.

Writing prompts can be found everywhere and used anytime to get creativity flowing. Keep a list and pull it out whenever you need a boost or a distraction. Sometimes when we’re stuck on a project, it helps to change gears and work on something fun. Don’t limit yourself and—for all you natural editors—don’t try to edit, proofread, and make it perfect. 

Give yourself the liberty to be funny, serious, or totally outrageous with your words. Who knows … you might have the beginning of an article, great devotion, your first flash fiction piece, or the next best-seller. If you can’t use it, tuck it away and read it later when you need a good laugh.

Here’s your prompt for this week:

He begged for mercy, but . . .

If you’re up for the challenge, write two or three short paragraphs and leave them in the comment section. The winner will be announced on November 30. First prize is a $10 Starbucks gift card. Second place is a copy of Murder of a Manuscript: Writing and Editing Tips to Keep Your Book Out of the Editorial Graveyard.


Thanks for participating and happy writing!

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/chanpipat/Stuart Miles.)

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Edit with a Style Guide

by Bethany Kaczmarek
@BRKaczmarek

Whether we’re talking clothes or conversation or writing, everyone’s got his own style. Style is part of who you are, part of your voice. Your writing has nuances, and those make your style unique. With each new manuscript you write, certain habits of yours will be evident again and again and again.
And this is why—as both an editor and as a writer—a client style guide has become my new best friend. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

10 (Very Bad) Excuses Not to NaNoWriMo

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

NaNoWriMo 2015
Maybe you've heard of NaNoWriMo. Maybe you're wondering what on earth the writers around you are talking about. Maybe you're one of the first in your region to sign up to participate. Maybe you're sitting on the fence, unsure. Maybe you've flat out said no and refused to join in the crazy.

If you're wondering what on earth NaNoWriMo is, it's an opportunity to write 55,000 words (a great start to your novel) in 30 days. Hence, the name NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth. For more information and how to get involved, visit the NaNoWriMo website {click here}.

If you're sitting on the fence, let me give you ten reasons to say "heck no."

10. You're just too darned lazy to do it.

 9. You can't afford to miss the latest episode of any number of TV shows.

8. You ate too much candy on October 31, which left you ill on November 1, so you're already a day behind schedule. Surely you can't make up that word count.

7. You've got to start Christmas shopping. Because, there are only 8 Fridays until Christmas (and we don't count Christmas Day...so really, there are only 7).

6. You have family coming in for Thanksgiving. And since your house looks like a tornado hit (thanks to the kids), you must get cleaning. And it will take you 20 days to get it done.

5. Maybe if you had a cabin in the woods with a cozy little fireplace, you might be able to get 55,000 words on the page before November 30. But since you don't, it isn't happening.

4. You ran out of coffee. And you're only paid monthly. So you won't have coffee again until December. Who can write without coffee?

3. Your dog ate your chocolate...

2. You don't believe in good ol' friendly competition.

1. You're not a panster. Which is a lousy excuse, because you had all of October to outline your novel. So you should really get to it.

I and several of my friends are geared up and getting our words on the page. We'll be a step closer to publishing a book than those of you who have given NaNoWriMo your thumbs down. So what's holding you back?

To join me in the pursuit of 55,000 words, find me as AlyciaMorales at NaNoWriMo.org.

Tweetable:

10 (Very Bad) Excuses Not to #NaNoWriMo

10 Reasons to Refuse to Participate in #NaNoWriMo

Monday, October 26, 2015

How Teachable Are You?

By Andrea Merrell

No matter what you do in life, it’s important to be teachable. Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines teachable as: capable of being taught; apt and willing to learn. Looking further into the word apt, it means: ready, likely, inclined, well-suited, unusually qualified, keenly intelligent and responsive.

Whether you’re learning a new job, perfecting your craft, or trying to improve at your favorite hobby, you must be open and willing to embrace new thoughts, ideas, and methods to help you move forward.

This is especially true for writers. As the writing and publishing industry evolves and changes rapidly, we must keep up or be left in the dust. The Bible talks about those who are always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7-8 NKJV). We can actually apply that Scripture to every area of life.

As I prepared for my first writers’ conference, I went to a local critique group ready to publish the next best seller. My manuscript was 14-point Comic Sans, single-spaced, and full of bold words in all caps. It contained lots of exclamation points and was thoroughly sprinkled with clichés. I had even designed the front and back cover. That extra gesture was meant to put me over the top. Where it put me was back to square one (clichés intended).

The group lovingly and patiently explained proper formatting, along with many other important tips. Embarrassing? Absolutely, but I would have been more embarrassed if I had attended the conference without the benefit of someone’s guidance. My mistakes didn’t mean my words or effort had no merit. They simply meant I had a lot to learn. I could have walked away from that experience hurt, frustrated, and ready to quit before I even got started. Even though it was hard to accept and process all the things I had done wrong, I will be forever grateful to those who pointed me in the right direction.

We all have to begin somewhere. Then comes the decision to put forth the time, effort, and money to gain the necessary knowledge and skills. There will always be those who know more and have accomplished more. The important thing to remember is not to envy those people, but learn from them—their successes and their failures.

We all need teachers, instructors, and mentors. For writers, learning is a lifelong journey. It’s a process, not an event. It takes time to learn the basics and master the skills we need to make our words sing. We will go through peaks and valleys—times when the words come so fast we can hardly keep up, and times when we search for even one coherent thought. That’s when we keep pressing forward, putting pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. Here are a few ideas to keep you on the learning track.

Critique Groups

Be an active part of a local critique group. If one is not available in your area, maybe it’s time to start one. There are also groups available online. Sometimes  we have blind spots when it comes to our own writing, so getting honest feedback from others—even those less experienced than us—will help tremendously. Don’t be afraid of correction and constructive criticism. It will ultimately make you a better writer.

Writers’ Conferences
Plan to attend at least one writer’s conference—or even a local workshop—each year. This will not only help you learn new techniques to improve your writing, it will help you build a network with others in the industry. Conferences can be expensive, so start a “conference fund” and save throughout the year. Scholarships are also available for many conferences.

Helpful Blogs
Subscribe to blogs specifically geared toward writers. These helpful sites are full of information to keep you inspired and motivated. There are many, many good ones and you can do a Google search to find them. Here are a few of my favorites:

Do you have other blogs or websites you would recommend? We would love to hear your suggestions about what has been most helpful for you.

(Photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.)


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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Technically Speaking - A Few Words on Dialogue

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

There is an art to writing dialogue. I'm not sure many people who are beginning writers know that, as I see a lot of "technical" dialogue when I'm editing. So, here are a few things beginning writers should focus on when crafting banter between their characters.

1. People don't really talk in perfect sentences. Sometimes when we speak, we leave out parts of sentences to emphasize a point or because we're in a stressful or dangerous situation and we need to just get our words out. So when you write, keep this in mind.

How to learn to write it: Listen really closely to some conversations. While you're standing in the grocery line. While you're enjoying your java at the coffee shop. Waiting for a movie. (See what I did there?) Eating Thanksgiving dinner with your family. (See? I did it again.) Then practice writing dialogue between your characters and try to make it sound like people do when they speak.

2. People talk with contractions. We don't say "Do Not." We say "Don't." Unless we're making a point to our children. Then we may say something like, "Do not touch that gun." But if our kids know not to touch the firearms, we can casually say, "Don't touch the guns until we tell you it's okay." Like if we're at the shooting range.

How to learn to write it: Go back through your novel and look through your dialogue (or your non-fiction book, because this applies there too, as you need to keep the tone conversational so you don't offend someone with a directive tone). Any time you find two words that should be a contraction, make them into a contraction. I bet you'll be surprised at how many you find.

3. Most people don't speak with a monotone. Notice I said most. My high school biology teacher was an exception to the rule. Be sure your characters don't, either.

How to learn to write it: Make sure your dialogue isn't "flat." Be sure you're changing your sentence structure just like you would when you're writing action scenarios or setting. And...

4. Add dialogue beats. Dialogue tags are necessary in order for the reader to know who's speaking, but these can become redundant if that's all you're using. Adding dialogue beats (the character's action) adds a new dynamic to your dialogue. "You won't believe what happened to me..." Jane sneezed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. "Yesterday, I was in a commercial shoot with the white horse that was in The Lord of the Rings trilogy."

How to learn to write it: Find natural breaks in your characters' dialogue. Which of the five senses would they be using in this place? Would they look up or down or away due to an emotion they're experiencing (don't tell me the emotion, though)? Would they savor the flavor of the cheesecake they've craved for the last month as they've fasted eating desserts? Would they pull the hand-knit blanket closer and breathe in their spouse's scent? Put that action in the midst of your dialogue. Or before it. Or after it. Wherever it would naturally occur.

These are just a few of the dynamics of dialogue. But they're a good start to overcoming technical speaking.

Tweetable:

Technically Speaking - Dialogue Advice via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

Does your dialogue fall flat? How to fix it: {Click to Tweet}

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Brief Announcement Thanks to Spam

To our faithful followers and subscribers, especially those who comment (we do love you!):

Lately, The Write Editing has been hit with a larger-than-usual amount of SPAM.

This has happened despite our best attempts at applying filters and crossing our fingers.

As a result, we wanted to let you know that we are going to turn on that little comment thingy that requires comment leavers to enter digits or letters or a combination of both in order to inform us that you are not a robot or a person who likes to tell us how great our posts are and how much you love the way we write words because you find this post useful so you can leave your spammy link to your website/landing page.

We apologize in advance for the extra few seconds it will take for those of you who do truly love us and our posts to leave a comment. But we do hope you'll continue to bless us with your presence and comments. And, we hope to spare you from having to read someone else's spammy comment.

You truly would not believe the whacked out poem we received as a comment on Andrea's post this week. Seriously, it was almost Halloween scary! I almost left it up just so everyone could see how much this comment leaver must have been tripping when she wrote it. Whew!

With that in mind, if you are a robot/spammer/troller, please feel free to skip right over our blog. We love our readers and would prefer you not pester them with your crazy comments written in some form of grammar not taught in American schools. Thank you very much!

Sincerely,
Alycia & Andrea

PS ~ Watch the blog as we get closer to the end of 2015. We are discussing some exciting additions for 2016! We can't wait to share them with you!

Monday, October 5, 2015

What Are You Waiting For?

By Andrea Merrell

In life, it seems we’re always waiting for something. It might be a paycheck, a doctor’s report, or the birth of a long-awaited child. We wait in the dentist’s office. We wait in line at the grocery store. Sometimes we rush, rush, rush and then … nothing. That’s what I call hurry up and wait.

As a writer, what are you waiting for? Have you sent out dozens of queries? Have you submitted your work to a contest, agent, or publisher? Maybe you’ve sent your manuscript to an online critique group, and you are anxiously awaiting a response.

We all know writing is a process, not an event. When you feel called to put words on paper and share them with the world, you do whatever it takes to follow your passion and fulfill your destiny. But sometimes we drag our feet instead of doing what we know we should. Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned author, there are steps we need to take in order to see our goals and dreams come to fruition. Let’s look at a few.

Starting is the Hard Part
You love words. You have great ideas. You have stories rolling around in your head. You talk about writing. But have you actually written anything? I’ve talked to people who admit they have a desire to write, but they’re afraid—afraid they don’t have what it takes. Afraid their words will have no merit. My advice to them is: just do it. Pour your heart out on paper, and then go back and see what you have to work with. You’ll never get anywhere with a blank page.

Then Comes the Rewriting
Once you get your words on paper, then comes the rewriting. This might seem like a never-ending process, but it comes with the territory. One thing is certain: the more you write, the better writer you will become.

Now What?
Now you have something to work with and it’s time to get feedback. There are a number of ways to do this. Writing buddies, critique groups, and professional editors. The Bible says there is “safety in a multitude of counselors” and “two are better than one.” It’s amazing how much you can learn, grow, and polish your words when you get positive, constructive suggestions from others.

Next Steps
It’s time to try and find the right home for your work. It might be a blog, magazine, or a traditional publisher. Maybe you feel the need to find an agent. Whatever you decide to do will take time, effort, and commitment.

Keep It Going
Maybe there are other things you’ve been planning to do but haven’t found the time or the willpower to follow through. Perhaps you need to do one or more of the following:
  • Start a blog.
  • Give your blog/website a makeover.
  • Make a commitment to do regular blog posts.
  • Be more active on social media.
  • Join a local or online critique group.
  • Attend a certain writers’ conference.
  • Read books that will help you polish your skills.
  • Mentor someone who is just getting started.

Ecclesiastes 11:4, 6 (TLB) says, If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done … Keep on sowing your seed, for you never know which will grow—perhaps it all will. 

Whatever you have in your heart … whatever the Lord is nudging you to do … what are you waiting for? Don’t procrastinate. Begin today to follow your dream.

Is there something special you have been waiting to do? We would love to hear from you.


TWEETABLES

Monday, September 28, 2015

What is a Launch Team?

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

Does your forehead wrinkle when you hear the words "Street Team" or "Launch Team"? Do you want to hide in a cave when someone mentions that you may need to help market your book?

Publishers don't have the extensive marketing budgets they used to have to help sell your novel. Although some do still assist with marketing, they also expect their authors to sell their own books. So what's an author to do if they don't have marketing experience?

Think of your book like you think of your baby (we already do that anyway, don't we?). When our children come into the world, what do we do?

First, we call everyone. Word of mouth is the best marketing tool out there. "Hey! Come celebrate with me! I just gave birth to this beautiful boy/girl/book!"

Then, we post pictures to our social networks. We blow up Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with proof that our newest addition is so darned cute we can hardly stand it. (Think memes.)

Some of us create photo announcements and mail them to our friends and family. Then they put them on their refrigerator doors so their friends can see them. (Think bookmarks, postcards, etc.)

Can you see the similarities?

There is one tool that many authors use to launch their books that not everyone seems to know about. Today, I'd like to share that tool with you. It's called a launch team. Launch teams are also known as street teams. You may have heard the term and thought, "What on earth is that?"


A launch team is a group of about 100 people who are going to help you make your book famous. Why 100? Think of it this way: When you host a "party" at your house, the hostess will ask you to invite 10 people for every 1 person you expect to show up. It's the nature of the thing. Of the 100 you invite to assist you, maybe 25 will be your key team players. The rest will still help, but they may have things come up that prevent them from being as active as another. Give them all grace. This group is going to be made up of family, friends, co-workers, faithful readers, bloggers, and more. Think smart when you choose your team. Here are a few things you want to look for in people who are going to participate:
  • A platform of some sort. They can have a large blog following, a thousand Facebook friends, or tens of thousands of Twitter followers. Or maybe not. Maybe they ...
  • Have a career that has something to do with your novel. Do you know a medical doctor who gave you advice on what to do when your character was pushed off a cliff? Do you know an FBI agent who gave you advice on an investigation procedure? These are people to consider asking to help you promote your book because maybe they're in your acknowledgements.
  • Is your neighbor's daughter your biggest fan girl? Maybe you have a follower across the world who is constantly commenting on your social media posts. That's a good person to have on your team, because they're going to blow up their social media feeds with your book.
  • Maybe you wrote a non-fiction book and need someone to help promote it. Have any study groups given your book a practice run and had life-changing results? They would be good people to ask to help you promote it.
Think outside the box. Yes, your mom will always be your biggest fan, and she's more than welcome to participate. But try to come up with people who can get word out to people you may not think of otherwise.

Once I have my 100-person team organized, what are they going to do for me?
 
Me Reading Firewall by DiAnn Mills
  • Read the free copy of your book that you or your publisher will provide them with. This can be in e-reader format (usually a PDF) or an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy - a print copy where edits are not finalized yet) or a copy of the final print version of the book. (Note: if it's a final copy and you are sending it out, it's always a blessing to the reader if you autograph the book before you send it. It's a great place to include a thank you.)
  • Blog about it. If your launch team member is a blogger, they should put up a review post on their blog with links to a variety of places the reader may purchase a copy of the book, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributor (CBD), Parable, etc.
  • Post author interviews on their blogs. You can create a simple list of questions you're willing to answer, or they can come up with their own. You could even provide them with the entire interview so all they need to do is copy and paste it to their post.
  • Give it 4+ star reviews on the various book seller websites (see above list).
  • Review it on GoodReads.
  • Tell their friends and family about it. (Word of mouth is the best advertising ever!)
  • Give their local book store post cards or bookmarks that you will supply them with. Some publishers will design these for their authors. If yours won't (or you self-publish), you can design your own at VistaPrint. When the launch team member visits the store to drop these off, they'll check to see if your book is being sold there. If not, they may request that the store order copies for their shelves.
  • Many authors I've worked with have had their launch team assist them in creating an additional study guide for their readers. The launch team members have pulled information they've found helpful in the book and come up with a question or two or three for the author to expand on or offer as a reflection journal. 
  • Pray for you. Don't be afraid to ask them to pray for your success. Most are happy to do so.
  • Blow up their social media feeds with news of your book.
Again, think outside the box. What else could they do to help you spread the word? If your book is a novel, maybe they could recommend it for their book club. If your book is non-fiction, maybe they could recommend it for their women's study group or cell group study. Maybe you have someone super creative who loves your character so much they want to write a fan fiction piece to post on Tumblr... There is so much you can have them do to promote your book.

Here are a few more ideas for social media promotion:

A Meme I Created for Mary DeMuth's Everything Launch
  • Give your team a document they can copy and paste from. Create Twitter posts (140 characters or fewer), Facebook posts, and Google + posts.
  • Provide links to a bunch of free photos they can create memes with. Make sure you have permission to use the pictures. Maybe you're an amateur photographer and have some of your own they could use. Have them pull their favorite quotes from your book and create the memes to share on Instagram and Pinterest.
  • Have them create a special Pinterest board to share things related to your novel. Be sure they include your title in the creation of the board.

Finally, what am I going to do for my launch team members? After all, they are super amazing and helping me sell my book so I can earn my royalties.
  • Share your goals with them. Are you shooting for a best-seller list? Are you submitting for awards? Is there a certain number of books you want to sell in a period of time? Keep them posted so they can celebrate with you when you achieve these things.
  • Run contests for them to win prizes. Just like you would for your readers. Again, think outside the box. Amazon and Starbucks gift cards are great. We love those. But so are little handmade goodies that go with something in your novel or non-fiction book. Do you make jewelry? Knit? Paint? Draw? Do graphic art design? Be creative with your goodies. There is a lot you can do with little time and work involved that will be a huge blessing to your team.
  • Offer to answer their questions. Maybe they are dying to know where your character's name comes from. Maybe they want to know how to find the time to write 1,000 words a day. Your team doesn't have to be all about business. It can be relational as well, and that will keep the members motivated to help you.
  • Pray for them. Ask what they need prayer for once a week. This allows them to pray for one another, as well. 
  • Offer a copy of the book for them to give away on their blog. Many bloggers love to run contests for their readers.
  • Return the favor when it's their turn to launch a book.
Again, think outside of the box. What else can you do to bless those who've helped you?

Mom and Me With Our Tea Cups Promoting for Jessica Dotta
The key thing to remember is to treat others the way you would want to be treated. Communicate with your team. Let them know your expectations up front, but give them grace as well. If you do, you're bound to have a successful launch team.

Once you've successfully launched your book, be sure to follow up with your team every now and then. Let them know how things are going, what you've accomplished with their help, and when they can expect future projects to release with another opportunity to participate.

Finally, where would you center this team? The two formats I've seen used most are to either have a Yahoo Group for the launch team or to have a private Facebook group for the launch team. Personally, I like the Facebook groups better. It's easier for people to post and for me to find documents that have been uploaded and made available to the group.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below.

Tweetables: 
What is a "Street Team" for #writers? {Click to Tweet}

Launching a book? A few pointers on creating a successful launch team via @AlyciaMorales. {Click to Tweet}

Monday, September 21, 2015

Writer, Do Your Homework

By Andrea Merrell

I just got back from a five-day conference at the beautiful Cove in Asheville, NC. After participating in a variety of conferences over the past ten years (both as an attendee and workshop leader), I can assure you they are wonderful and necessary events for writers. But they can also be a bit overwhelming, especially the larger ones. In order to get the most out of your experience,  it’s important to be prepared.

Before attending my first writers’ conference, I was given
advice about certain items I needed to bring. The advice was great, but I went a little bonkers and was actually over prepared. The huge three-ring binder I carried around for five days—along with all the other paraphernalia I thought I needed—was heavy and so full I could hardly find what I needed at any given time—especially when meeting with editors and publishers.

My roommate (also a newbie) and I would make plans to discuss everything we learned throughout the day before we went to bed, in order to reinforce our newfound knowledge. Instead, we were so exhausted each night, we fell into bed with hardly a word.

Conferences are costly, especially if you have to travel far. You want to get the most out of your investment and doing your homework—before and after the conference—can make all the difference. Here are a few suggestions.

Before the Conference
  • Invest in business cards with contact info and a photo. These are fairly inexpensive and a must-have for networking.


  • Create a one-sheet for your project with a short synopsis (think back cover copy), your photo, and a bio.
  • Make sure you have a sturdy over-the-shoulder or roll-around bag you can keep with you.
  • Always have a pen, pad, and highlighter handy.
  • Check the conference blog or website and study the schedule, presenters, and classes. This will be a big help when it’s time to choose which will be the best fit for you.

During the Conference
  • Don’t be shy. Step out of your comfort zone and meet people. Some of them will become mentors, critique partners, and lifelong friends. Remember that there are other people who are just as nervous as you are, especially if this is your first conference. I’ve found the best way to overcome my own nervousness is to make someone else feel at ease.
  • Have your business cards ready at all times. Offer one every time you meet someone, and be sure to get one from them in return. Make a note on the back if there’s something special you want to remember about that person.
  • Don’t feel locked-in to a class if it’s not right for you. Ask God to direct you to the classes and workshops you need to attend.
  • Realize you don’t have to do everything. There will be constant activity, scads of people to talk to, materials for sale, sights to see, and places to visit (especially if you are at a conference center). I decided my second year that it was okay to skip a class or general session if I was exhausted and needed a power nap. Believe me, it helped me stay alert the rest of the time.

After the Conference
  • Give yourself a couple of days to rest and decompress. You will have a lot to digest and it will take time.
    Conferences can be tiring, not only physically, but emotionally and mentally.
  • Pull out your notes and any handouts you received. If you’re like me, you may even have a to-do list: websites to visit, people to contact, thank you cards to send, and contests to check out. Get everything in order. Go over your notes and file what is important so you can find it when you need it.
  • Go through the business cards you collected. Touch base with the new friends you made. Add their info to your contacts. Check out their blog or website and subscribe to their posts. Connect with them on social media. This is how you network.
  • Most importantly, apply what you learned. When you sit down to write (or rewrite) think about the tips and techniques you learned that can take your writing to the next level.

What suggestions can you add to the list? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/Stuart Miles, artur84, Photokanok, and anankkml.)

TWEETABLE







Monday, September 14, 2015

Watch Out for These Sneaky Prose Killers

Today I'd like to welcome Aaron Gansky to The Write Editing. Aaron has recently released Hand of Adonai, an exciting YA fantasy.

by, Aaron Gansky

Some time ago, I sent in an early draft of the first book of my Hand of Adonai series in to my agent. I’d expected a rave review; instead, I got a disappointed e-mail. “It’s too telling,” she said. “Your characters are too passive.” She sent me a list of these words and suggested I comb through the draft looking for these sneaky prose killers. Of course, the manuscript was riddled with them. Since then, I go through each of my drafts and look for these. It’s perhaps the longest stage in revision for my writing process, but it’s also the process that best benefits my prose. Here’s a list of the words and when and why they’re bad.

Watch/notice/observe/look: These weak verbs usually mean inactive characters. What’s more boring than watching paint dry? Reading about someone watching paint dry. “Notice” is often used to call reader’s attention to important information through the eyes of the character. But if we’re already in the eyes of that character, it simply becomes a superfluity. 

Just: A sneaky adverb. Okay in dialog (rarely and sparingly), but virtually never in prose. Seldom is the word necessary, and it can be eliminated in most cases. 

Then: While sometimes necessary, most prose will benefit if it’s eliminated. Especially bad when paired with other no-no words (i.e. “He walked toward her just then” contrasted with “He walked toward her”). 

That: Another tricky one that is allowable in dialog sparingly. (i.e. “It’s not that bad.”) Most commonly, the word is used to introduce a dependent clause. Common grammarians will tell you to eliminate it in these cases (i.e. “He wanted her to know that he loved her” becomes “He wanted her to know he loved her”). 

Feel/feeling/felt: These verbs are weak for the same reasons that watch, notice, and observe are. It indicates passivity and oftentimes creates a voice that’s more telling than showing. While a certain amount of telling is necessary to move the story forward, too much of it will get your novel thrown in the recycling bin. Instead, consider an action that shows the feeling. “She felt sad” becomes “She folded her arms and turned her head from him.” 

There: While necessary in some cases, this becomes prosaically offensive when followed by “is” or “was” or “were.” This construction indicates a sentence in the passive voice. Editors seldom appreciate the passive voice because it feels very telling. “There was a chair in the room” becomes “Oliver walked around the lone chair in the room.” 

Knew/know: Again, indicates a passive character. Sometimes necessary, but could be indicative of a needed change. 

Maybe: You’ll see this pop up in dialog, but it should be avoided in nearly every instance of exposition. The word weakens the power of the prose by making it wishy-washy. Most often, writers use this while establishing interior monolog. “Maybe he was mad at her” (passive). “He had no right to be mad at her” (active). Both reveal the inner workings of the character's mind, but the latter carries a stronger emotive context. 

See/saw: See notice/watch/observe. “He saw Lauren smile” becomes “Lauren smiled.” We know the characters saw this, so the introductory clause is superfluous. 

Hear/heard: See above. “He heard a shrill whistle of a train deep in the foothills” becomes “A train whistle shrilled deep in the foothills.” The reader understands that the character hears this, so the set up of “he heard” becomes unnecessary. 

Could/couldn’t: A word that generally accompanies see, notice, hear, etc. “He could see the tops of her slippers” becomes “Snow and ice crusted the tops of her slippers.” The elimination of this word provides more opportunities to show rather than tell. 

“-ly” adverbs: Adverbs, especially those that end in -ly, weaken your writing. They're a sign that the verb you're using isn't strong enough on its own. Rather than having to use an adverb to prop up a verb, find a verb that's strong enough to stand on its own.

Also, adverbs tend to call attention to themselves and away from the rest of the sentence, away from the rest of the story. You want the attention where it belongs: on your characters and plot. Not on gaudy, tacky words. As a general rule, the fewer adverbs you have, the stronger your writing will be.

(For more on adverbs, click here.)   

Was/were: Generally indicate passive voice, which you know by now is a no-no.

For fun, go through your current project and do a word find on these. Which of these do you abuse the most? If I had a dime for every time I used “just” or “that,” I could quit my day job. 

Tweetables:



In addition to being a loving father and husband, Aaron D. Gansky is a novelist, teacher, and editor of The Citron Review, an online literary journal. In 2009, he earned his M.F.A in Fiction at the prestigious Antioch University of Los Angeles, one of the top five low-residency writing schools in the nation.

He is the author of the novel The Bargain (2013, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) as well as Firsts in Fiction: First Lines and (along with Diane Sherlock) Write to Be Heard. Currently, he is writing a YA Fantasy series called the Hand of Adonai. You may follow him and listen to his Firsts in Fiction podcast at aarongansky.com

Monday, September 7, 2015

What Do I Cut When I Have Too Many Words?

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

How long should a novel be?

Most posts I've researched give the following guidelines (these are averages, so books could go a little shorter or longer, depending on various aspects):